§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £12,370, 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, 1917, for the Survey of the United Kingdom and for minor services connected therewith."
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I desire to ask a question. I presume that this refers to a survey of the United Kingdom, and means ordnance map surveys and other things, and I think that when we are at war and spending such huge sums of money is not a time to spend a great amount on the ordnance survey of the United Kingdom, and is not the time to increase the expenditure by over £5,000. It is stated that a larger staff than was anticipated has been maintained, and some explanation is needed as to why such increased sum is required for these surveys.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I would like to know how many men of military age are employed in this Department? I would also like to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to footnote H, that there has been a deficiency on the sales of £6,950. As the sales were only estimated to bring in £22,000, this deficiency represents a very large precentage, and it seems to show an extraordinary want of knowledge, when these sales were not going on in the usual way, that it was thought necessary to increase the staff. One would have thought, when the sales were decreasing, and it was evident that the public did not care much about buying these ordnance maps, that it would have been wiser to go on the old lines and not increase the staff.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir Richard Winfrey)
I may first draw attention to the fact that this Estimate has been very much reduced in comparison with previous years. In 1915–16 it amounted to £160,000. Last year it was reduced to £56,000, so that we are spending now only one-third of what used to be spent on this Department. The increase of £5,420 is due mainly to the necessity of keeping ample staffs on local work in order to meet the various heavy war requirements. This work is very heavy, amounting to 430,000 maps, which have been required on the average per month on the Western front. It was paid for, no doubt, out of the Vote of Credit, but it is necessary that we should keep an ample staff in order to deal with this matter.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
This Vote is for surveys in the United Kingdom, and I do not know what war requirements are involved.
§ Sir R. WINFREY
That is quite as the hon. Baronet says, but there are certain works of ordnance survey which cannot be neglected. The deficiency is mainly due to the falling off in the sale of ordnance maps. So great a falling off was not anticipated. The chief cause is that large numbers of map buyers were not wanting maps because they were on service or they were unable to travel, and also because of the stoppage of domestic legislation in regard 1o which large numbers of maps were formerly sold. I cannot at the moment answer the question as to the number of men of military age, but I will inquire into it and see that an explanation is given.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I think that the answer of the hon. Gentleman is not satisfactory. Surveys of the United Kingdom have nothing to do with war maps in France or anywhere else outside the United Kingdom. Therefore, I think that the explanation given must be one that has been furnished to the hon. Gentleman. The point I want to make out is that here we have the ordnance survey of the United Kingdom. It is perfectly true, as has been pointed out, that the money is only one-third of what it was in 1915–16. The money spent that year was ridiculously large. As I endeavoured to point out last year in this House, money was wasted in every direction, but I am not convinced, by the hon. Gentleman's explanation that it is necessary to spend £56,000 on surveys of the United Kingdom this year.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
May I suggest that probably these maps are required by the military authorities for the defence of the United Kingdom, and that is why this amount is required?
§ Sir R. WINFREY indicated assent.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not mind this Department supplying any maps for the purpose of defence, or anything of that sort, but if it has supplied, as I think my hon. Friend says, 430,000 maps to other Departments, were those supplied for money, or does this Department supply maps to other Departments free of charge? If that is so, obviously there is a large drain made upon the resources of this Department for those maps, and their cost ought to be credited to this Department.
§ Sir R. WINFREY
Those maps are supplied and they are paid for out of the Vote of Credit. We have to keep the staff and pay the staff to provide these maps and do the necessary work.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
This Supplementary Estimate suffers from the vice inherent in all Supplementary Estimates—an absolute want of detail. If you turn up the original Estimate you find given the exact number of the staff which it is intended to retain for the year. You find, under "Civil 471 Assistants," 1,274, which was a reduction of 425 as compared with the previous year, and that in regard to other assistants the number is reduced from 250 to 100. It would have been a very simple matter for the Department, in compiling this Supplementary Estimate, simply to state the numbers they had found necessary to retain, and, that being done, it would have been perfectly easy for hon. Members to see whether the number was reasonable or not. As it is, we do not know what the number is, we do not know the nature of the service for which these particular men are required, whether they are skilled men of a special type in their department, or are merely labourers who might be got anywhere to do the work. I do not think that that is treating the Committee fairly to offer us an Estimate which gives practically no information.
§ Mr. DILLON
I think I heard the hon. Gentleman say that these maps were supplied for the Western front. We are entitled to know whether they are sold at a loss, and, if not, should not the fact that a large number of extra maps is supplied tend to reduce the estimate? The explanation given is that the deficiency is due mainly to the decreased sale of ordinary maps. If that is so, is there another deficiency for the increased sale of extraordinary maps? The two things appear to be absolutely inconsistent. Are these maps, maps of the War area, are they made by our surveyors? Surely no country in the world is better mapped than France. There are no more skilled map-makers than the French, and there was no necessity to send over men to work at map making in France. I thought that I heard the hon. Gentleman say that the maps were supplied for the Western front. If not, what was the necessity for this extra production of maps, especially in view of the fact that, as we are told, the decreased sales of maps are the chief cause of the deficiency? Throughout the whole of this Supplementary Estimate the Government are employing what, in my opinion, is a very vicious principle, and a totally new one. In all these Supplementary Estimates first the accounts are kept in the vaguest manner as between the Vote of Credit, and these Estimates. The footnotes of the other Estimates say such and such an amount is borne on the Vote of Credit, but it is not shown how much. Of course, the portion that is transferred to the Vote 472 of Credit does not appear on the face of the Estimate, nor a full statement of the extra charges. I think one of the most important principles that ought to be observed, whether in supplementary or ordinary Estimates, ought to be that the fullest information is given of the whole of the charges of the services with which we are called upon to deal. If I look through the Paper I note that there is hardly a single one of them in regard to which that information is contained. Since the War broke out the financial work of this House has gone absolutely to smash. I do not for a moment say that you could maintain the same strict control and system of accounts in war-time as in peace time, but what I do say is this, that there is a tendency on the part of Ministers to let things go more loosely than is at all necessary, and certain forms which have been the immemorial practice of the House, ought to be adhered to in so far as is consistent with the necessities of the public service. I hope later that we shall have some explanation why, in these supplemental Estimates, the very simple form to which I have referred has been departed from—namely, that of giving on the face of the Estimates the whole of the expenditure of the services with which we are called upon to deal, together with adequate explanations.
§ Sir C. HENRY
May I ask whether this sum which is required is due to increased remuneration of the staff?
§ Sir C. HENRY
I know that it does not, but can the hon. Gentleman inform us what was the rate of wages paid in 1916 and what is the rate paid at the present time. It may be that there has been an increase of remuneration because of the rise in the prices of food and the increased cost of living For myself, I think that may account to a considerable extent for the increased sum of money required.
§ Colonel YATE
May I ask the hon. Gentleman to tell us precisely whether the Ordnance Survey work is being carried on at present as it was in pre-war days, or whether it has been reduced, and whether the establishment is now kept up of draughtsmen and others as it was? There is no information in the Paper as to what the Department is actually doing, and I think the whole House would desire to understand how matters are.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I point out that there is an explanation given in the footnote to the Estimate as to why a larger staff is necessary. This Vote is for services in the United Kingdom, and the explanation of the hon. Baronet opposite is not in accordance with the official explanation in this Paper, and I really think that we are entitled to some further explanations on this point.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Gordon Hewart)
The explanation of the item £5,420, is, I gather, threefold. In the first place, the Estimates for the year 1916 for the services in this Department, as in others, were rigorously cut down, in expectation of diminution of staff, which was not completely carried out. More than that, it was found necessary to expedite the work of completing the Ordnance Survey. Those are the two principal causes, and I mention them in the order of their importance. A third element, however, was that in consequence of the abnormal demand for maps and plans for the Army, the Ordnance Survey staff had to be employed more and more, by way of a Reserve, to facilitate that work.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
Surely, if the work of the Ordnance Survey staff was largely for Army matters, as a matter of book-keeping it ought to go to the War Office. The hon. and learned Gentleman said it was necessary to go on with the Ordnance Survey for the United Kingdom. Why was it necessary? If it was for military purposes, and not for civilian purposes, then it was defenceless to spend any of that money.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Can I get an answer to a very simple question? When a Department like this lends men to another Department, and does work for the War Office, then ought it not to be paid for that work? Can anybody on the Front Bench tell us? If not, what is the use of a Government? It seems to me perfectly simple that this Department produced maps for the War Office that are to be paid for out of the Vote of Credit, and, if that be so, why is not the money shown on the Estimates of the Department that has sold these maps? If this Department lent its men to the War Office, then the War Office should pay their salaries while they were working for the War Office, and such amount payable in salaries should appear here. As the Leader of the House himself cannot answer this question, I hope, before we come to the other Supple- 474 mentary Estimates, he will send the Whips or somebody to get someone who can answer.
§ Mr. DILLON
I rather think it is desirable to know, if this Department has been called upon to supply extra maps for the use of the War Office, whether that Department is paying for those maps or not. I presume the War Office did pay. Of course, under the usual practice, we ought to have that sum included under the Appropriation-in-Aid, but, instead of that, we find that the Appropriation-in-Aid is £5,950. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the reason is that this Supplementary Estimate is required because the Department had a great deal more to do and more maps to produce than was anticipated. What has become of those maps? Here, in the footnote, we find that the deficiency in the Appropriation-in-Aid is mainly due to the decrease for the ordnance survey maps. The question resolves itself into a very simple one—did the War Office pay for the extra maps and the extra work required or did it not? I say it is not creditable to the Secretary to the Treasury, who prepares the Supplementary Estimates, that he did not state the fact on the face of the Estimates. The House is really entitled to know that fact. If the hon. Member gets up and states that the War Office paid nothing, and insisted on getting the maps for nothing, it is as broad as it is long; but it is bad book-keeping, and against the practice of the House and the practice of the Treasury. Unless he tells us whether the War Office paid for the maps or not, the thing is enshrouded in mystery.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I listened with great attention to the explanation of the Solicitor-General, but I am afraid he made matters even worse than they were, because his explanation amounts to this, and it really is a very important point: These are Civil Service Supplementary Estimates, and the hon. and learned Gentleman says this increased Grant is owing to the fact that the Civil Service has done work for the Army. We have a Vote of Credit for carrying on the War, and are we to understand that the Vote of Credit for carrying on the War, and the money voted for the Civil Service also, are used for carrying it on? Can he tell the House of Commons that not only the money of the Vote of Credit, but money 475 voted for Civil Service purposes, was used for the Army? That was the explanation of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I really think that someone who really knows the facts ought to give us some explanation, so that the matter may be cleared up.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
The House will, of course, have much sympathy with an hon. Member who, for the first time, has to attempt to explain an Estimate which does not come under his own control and for which he has no responsibility. I think in this case the Committee might well ask that a fuller explanation should be given on this Vote on Report. Such an explanation is due to it. As far as I can make out from what has been said, the new maps which have been made have been paid for. The Appropriations-in-Aid which were expected would have been for maps which were drawn from stock—ordinary maps used in connection with the sales of great properties, extensions of boroughs, and various other matters that come into the Bills laid before Parliament. That would have been work which would have been done without the expenditure being exceeded at the present moment. It appears to be likely that where this extra staff has been required has been not so much to do work directly for other Departments as that it has been found necessary to keep up a larger ordinary staff in order that it might constitute a reserve from which the staff is provided for emergency calls which may be made upon it. I have no doubt a great deal of work has been done, for other Departments, and that that work has been paid for.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
That work has been paid for. Where the House has not been fairly treated is in not having this thing properly explained, but we have got as far as we can, and now we should insist on a proper explanation being given of this Vote on the Report stage. Although I do not wish to depreciate the financial control of this House, there are other matters more important to come forward in the next Estimate, and if we can have the pledge I have suggested I am sure the Committee will be glad to receive it.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
There are some points which have been raised in this discussion about which I am not very clear, and the Committee, I know, will 476 not expect that I should be familiar with these things. But I should like to make a claim on the indulgence of the Committee, and to remind it that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is now outside the House of Commons. It may be thought that this is not a good plan, and it certainly is calculated to make my position more difficult in the House. But the arrangement has been made because we believe the best work the Financial Secretary can undertake at the present moment is to attend to the control of expenditure. My hon. Friend near me the hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) has undertaken to represent the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in this House, and I am quite sure that he will do it very efficiently. We have all gone through a similar experience to this in ordinary times in Debates on the Estimates when the Minister in charge has been unable to answer a simple question. But I have been trying to find out, as far as I can from the information available, what the position in this matter really is. The Estimate for this purpose was cut down at the beginning of the War to so low a level that it was found afterwards it had been reduced too much and an additional sum had to be obtained to enable the work to be carried through. The reason for the additional expenditure has been given by the Solicitor-General, who informed the Committee that it was-found necessary to expedite the survey in certain parts of the country, and the Committee will easily understand how circumstances may have arisen to make it necessary for some information to be obtained in this respect even in regard to our own country in connection with the War. But the total sum involved is very small. The explanation is that it has been necessary to expedite the public service and that the Estimate originally framed having been cut down too low, this Supplementary Estimate has consequently been brought forward. But I will undertake that when the result comes up on the Report stage there shall be someone here in possession of information which will enable an answer to be given to the questions that have been put, and with that I hope the Committee will be satisfied.
§ Mr. DILLON
Nobody will quarrel with the speech to which we have just listened from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I must say, as a very old Member of the House, that, in my opinion, a more extraordinary act has never been com- 477 mitted by a Government than to appoint the Secretary to the Treasury, of all officials, from outside this House. Surely, if there is one official of the Government who ought to be in this House—and I speak with a very long experience of the practice of this House, when I say his presence is essentially necessary to the proper discharge of the functions of this House—it is the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. That is the case in ordinary times, and how much more important is it in times such as these, times when the Leader of the House has also assumed the functions of Chancellor of the Exchequer, besides other heavy responsibilities, and ought not, therefore, to be expected to give time to these detail matters! If it were deemed desirable to reinforce the Treasury by appointing a skilful financier in these times, surely he should be a subordinate to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who certainly ought to be in this House. I must, with all respect—and I speak as a man who is determined so far as my own personal action goes in the House to give the new Government every possible chance of fair play—protest against this procedure. I say the Government are not giving themselves a chance of fair play. This is part of an arrangement by which it is announced to the whole public of Great Britain that the least important part of the Constitution of this country is the House of Commons, and that anyone can answer it on questions affecting so important a part of the machinery of government as the Treasury. The Secretary to the Treasury is really the most important and responsible official of the Government, and yet he is not to be in this House at all! In the short experience we have had in watching the working of the new machinery we have run up against one or two illustrations of how the system works. We are told that the hon. Member who is going to act on behalf of the Treasury in this House will do it most efficiently, and no doubt, in so far as ability is concerned, no one could possibly do it better. But we have had an example to-day of the difficulties that are bound to arise where a man who is not in control of a Department, for which he is only acting as the mouthpiece of someone outside, cannot possibly have that close knowledge of the working of the Department which is required more particularly from the Secretary to the Treasury than from any other Department. While I am certain that this House desires to give this 478 new and most audacious and daring experiment in government a fair chance, I respectfully beg to warn the Leader of the House that if he really wants to get a fair chance for the Government he must change this arrangement, and his first, step should be to at once proceed to appoint a Secretary to the Treasury to-be in this House. He is the official upon whom one has to put pressure in order to keep down expenditure, and in these times, when we are called upon to vote vast and unheard-of sums of money, we say there should be in this House a responsible man who can answer any questions that may be out. There are other matters concerning the machinery of government which will come up on other Votes, but I do assure the House and the Leader of the House, in all good faith, that while I have a sincere desire to give the Government fair play, they cannot hope to succeed if they persist in this arrangement.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
This is the first occasion on which an Estimate has been brought before the House of Commons without the Financial Secretary to the Treasury being a Member of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech just now, dealt not only with the Estimate which is before us, but also with the general question of principle raised by the situation. I should for my own part desire to take the earliest opportunity of supporting whole-heartedly what has just fallen from the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). Of all members of the Government the one who above all others ought to be in the House of Commons, able to take part in its discussions, and able to defend the Votes himself and not through a deputy, it is the Secretary to the Treasury. We know the Government has appointed a most able man as Secretary to the Treasury. I myself have reason to know the good work he did at the Ministry of Munitions, and I am sure too, that every one of us will feel confident that the work which will be done at the Treasury by the hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin), who has been appointed a junior Lord of the Treasury and is to represent the Secretary to the Treasury here will command the confidence of the whole House, for we all recognise his ability, his industry and his facility of speech. No better appointment could have been made for the post. But the 479 House of Commons ought not to be content that the Estimates should be presented by a deputy Secretary to the Treasury, and, although we shall do our best to facilitate the hon. Member's task, still I think this occasion ought not to be allowed to pass without a protest being made in this House against the establishment of a system which I feel sure in its operation will not be found to work satis-torily.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
I should like to say a few words in confirmation of the protest made by my right hon. Friend against the absence of the Secretary to the Treasury from this House. Our whole function—the paramount function of this House—is control over the finances of the country, and the Secretary to the Treasury, who is responsible for the preparation of the Estimates, should be here to expound them. I defy contradiction when I say that never since the office of Secretary to the Treasury was established has a Secretary to the Treasury been absent from the Treasury Bench of the House of Commons. That official has been described by many constitutional writers as the Minister most responsible outside the Cabinet, and in the last Administration, in fact, the Secretary to the Treasury was absolutely a Cabinet Minister. It is essentially and eminently a House of Commons position. But now we are to have a substitute for him! What has occurred to-day shows how very material is the presence here of the responsible financial official. I think he is more necessary in this House than even the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, because he is possessed of a knowledge of detail which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by reason of the multifarious character of his duties, cannot be expected to have. I can only say that this business is unconstitutional, unheard of, and an outrage to Parliament. It suggests that this Committee does not desire to keep control over money matters, and does not concern itself about them.
§ Question put, and agreed to.