§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £3,075, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st ay of March, 1917, for the Salaries and Expenses of the War Cabinet."480
§ Mr. MacNEILL
I am sorry no explanation of this item should be given by the Leader of the House of Commons. Why is that?
§ Mr. MacNEILL
I shall listen with the greatest respect to any statement which may be made. But let me say this: Everyone of us knows that the War is on, and we want to finish it as soon as we can, but advantage ought not to be taken of the War to enter on a course of transactions which is utterly subversive of all constitutional practice. Take the case of this Vote. How is it legitimate to present a Vote for a War Cabinet? There never was such a thing. The word "Cabinet" has been unheard of. It has never been recognised in Parliamentary proceedings. A Cabinet is a body completely unknown to the law, and how can we vote money in reference to Cabinets of which we know nothing? To prove that this is not merely some little trick or fad of my own, I would like to remind the Committee that the records of the House of Commons show that on a certain occasion when a body of Members proceeded to the Bar of the House of Lords and there was considerable hustling a Committee was appointed, and in that Committee there were some recommendations from Cabinet Ministers. The expression "Cabinet Ministers" was taken exception to on the ground that such a thing as a Cabinet Minister was unknown to law. The meaning of the word is possibly "Ministers without portfolios." But that is scarcely ever heard of except in connection with small Continental Legislatures, and the Minister without a portfolio is very much like a schoolboy without his satchel or a briefless barrister without his bag.
One of these two gentlemen to whom it is proposed to vote a salary is Lord Milner. I want to say this, that this is an unparalled appointment and there is no precedent to be found in the whole history of Parliament for it. Ministers have been occasionally appointed or allowed to sit when they have been in a Cabinet before, but they have served in the Cabinet under such circumstances without fees, although not without portfolios. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in the whole Constitution there is a precedent for any gentleman being appointed to the Cabinet for the first time without previous Cabinet experience. We 481 do know that when the Duke of Wellington was at the zenith of his fame an arrangement was made for him to join the Cabinet. But objection was immediately taken to his doing so on the ground that he had never been a Cabinet Minister before, and that it would not be right for a gentleman without Cabinet experience thus to come into the Cabinet. What occurred was that the nobleman who then held the office of Lord President resigned his post and the Puke of Wellington took his place.
But Lord Milner comes in without ever having had any Cabinet experience and a salary is to be provided for him. He is doing no ostensible work for his salary. Usually salaries are voted by the House of Commons in return for some distinct and definite work. But these two gentlemen to whom a salary is being voted under this Estimate have no distinct places; one comes into the Cabinet for the first time and without office, and he is to get a salary of £5,000 a year, although he has no specinc place to which he is attached. Such a thing never has occurred before. Again and again ex-Cabinet Ministers have accepted office, sometimes at the request of the Prime Minister, on other occasions at the request of the Crown, or in deference to a definite public demand, but in no single case have they ever accepted a halfpenny of money for filling the office. Yet here in war-time, when we are being asked to curtail our expenses and when we are urging the poor to eat less food, we ore proposing to vote £5,000 a year to a great nobleman who has never done a hand's turn without being well paid for it and who has come into the Cabinet without office. Is that not a parody of constitutional government? It will be said he is a very responsible man and a member of a very responsible Cabinet of five. The last time we experimented with a Cabinet of five, the effort was not a very promising one——
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. and learned Member is going a little beyond the scope of a Supply discussion. It is not for us here to discuss the constitution of the Cabinet. He is, of course, perfectly within his right in discussing whether or not the Ministers referred to here should be voted salaries, but he is rather going beyond that.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
But this is my point of Order. I wish to draw attention to the fact that this is a new subhead. It refers to an institution which hitherto has been unknown in this country, namely, the War Cabinet. The rule in Debates on Supplementary Estimates, when a new subhead is in review, is to allow a discussion to take place upon it when it appears for the first time.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have not taken objection on the ground of this being a Supplementary Estimate, and I have no intention to restricting the discussion in that way, but the hon. and learned Member, in dealing with the constitutional point, was approaching the question in too wide, a fashion and was not relating to these Ministers without portfolios being paid salaries.
§ Mr. MacNEILL
I am grateful to the Chairman for having allowed me to say some not unconstitutional, perhaps, but irrelevant things. I will now politically embrace Lord Milner and pass on to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Henderson), who also stands here as a Minister without a portfolio, but in quite a different way from Lord Milner, he being a Member of the House of Commons. I should like to put this conundrum to the Solicitor-General, who, since he has become a member of this Administration, has been so busy breaking up the Constitution that he probably does not remember what it was before he began that process. I rather think that this office of £5,000 a year for the Member for the Barnard Castle Division makes his position in the House of Commons rather difficult, no matter what modification there may be of the Places Act, which has been dealt with two or three times in Parliament and which, I think, the learned Solicitor-General will agree applies clearly to places under the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman has no place under the Crown; lie is a Privy Councillor, and he is voted a sum of money for nothing, so far as we know. You cannot, because there is a war, upset every constitutional principle. Such a thing was never heard of for fifty years before, the introducing of two Ministers to the Cabinet, without portfolios, without having some observations and some discussion about it. No Minister was ever before appointed to a seat 483 in the Cabinet under such circumstances. There is no legal means of giving a salary, and there is no legal means by which the House of Commons can discuss that salary. If I wished, on the Estimates, to raise a discussion on the salary of Lord Milner, I could not do it. There is no method by which we could attack Lord Milner before Parliament because he has no office. There are certain offices held by certain Gentlemen, who discharge other duties that do not come within those offices. Those other duties cannot be made subject to Parliamentary criticism. The Prime Minister himself could not be subject to any criticism whatever, except the criticism that appertains to him as being a nominal official of the Treasury; but Lord Milner can get £5,000 a year and be subject to no criticism whatever. I simply say these things, because in reality all constitutional doctrine has been subverted, all ideas of constitutional propriety, all ideas with reference to this House being the great controller of expenditure have gone, and here we see this topsy-turvy legislation immortalised by such a transaction as this. It seems as if some gentleman had taken a sponge and rubbed out the whole slate of the Constitution, and substituted, apparently, a thing that is insulting to the House of Commons, derogatory to its powers, and insulting and derogatory to ourselves.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I only wish to ask one question or raise one point before the right hon. Gentleman replies. Do we understand that these Ministers are pooling their salaries in the same way as the old Ministers did? It has been so announced in the public Press, and I take it, as there has been no denial, that it is so. Of course, if after Ministers receive their money they choose to divide it amongst themselves, that is a matter for themselves and not for us. What, however, I do object to is that we are now being asked to devote £5,000 each to two Ministers when we know perfectly well that they are not going to receive it, and that they are going to divide it with other Ministers. The arrangement may be a good one or it may be a bad one. That I am not discussing for the moment. But it is a perfect farce to come to the House of Commons and ask us to Vote £5,000 to one Gentleman, £3,000 to another and £1,500 to another when we know perfectly well that these Gentlemen will not take possession of that money. How can we, 484 who represent the people, and who are primarily responsible for the public purse, vote money for those whom we know perfectly well will not get it? It is a perfectly simple question that I put. Whether, as I say, the pooling of salaries is a good or a bad arrangement, I do not know, and it is beside the point; but it is perfect hypocrisy to come to the House of Commons and ask for two £5,000 to be voted when these Gentlemen are not going to receive the money, but which is to be put into a common pool! It may be necessary when the country is in a state of war to create precedents. If so let us do it openly. If it is necessary that such should be done, put your cards on the table, and the House of Commons will do what is necessary.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
I am sure the Committee will have listened with interest to the hon. and learned Member for Donegal, because we all admit that he is an authority on the law and precedents in these matters, but I think he entirely forgets that this case is different to all precedents.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
It has arisen from the fact of a small Cabinet being appointed with two or three Gentlemen without portfolios in order that the war should be prosecuted to its fullest extent. The late Cabinet was too large. [Laughter.] Well, that was the general opinion. It was too large for business. The present small Cabinet was, therefore, appointed, and it was necessary for the prosecution of the war to have two or three Gentlemen there without portfolio to concentrate their whole energy upon the prosecution of the war. Surely this House is not going to assume a shabby position and say that these Gentlemen are to sit there without money. Why should they not have the money if they are devoting the whole of their time to the prosecution of the War, just as the hon. Gentlemen sitting on the bench below me who are devoting their time to the work? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Donegal has quite mistaken the position as to why this Vote is necessary. I sincerely hope that the Committee will not take a shabby view to-day, and refuse to give these Gentlemen the salaries due to them.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has once more trotted out the excuse which has been so 485 often brought forward throughout this war, for every absurd propostion we have entertained—we are at war! It is out of all precedent, therefore we must do something unprecedented, silly, and absurd! What is this Vote? This is a Vote for a War Cabinet. We are voting for two Ministers the balance of their salaries for the current financial year at the rate of £5,000 a year. Why should we be called upon to do so? Because we are at war! But I understood it was necessary further to economise when we were at war! It is not the first time we have had a Minister without portfolio. The late Cabinet, which it is now the fashion to decry, had a Minister without portfolio—Lord Lansdowne. He took no money. That must have been why he was discarded, because he is the one Unionist Member who has been discarded. The only possible reason for his being discarded seems to be that he received no money. Under the new regime we have two Ministers without portfolios. They must have salaries. We know perfectly well that in former days there were offices in this country without any Departmental duties. Those offices were in existence, and were filled in the time of the late Government. For example, for the greater part of the late Government's tenure of office the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster was attached to the Financial Secretaryship to the Treasury. It was well known that the Chancellor of the Duchy had no Departmental duties. Before that he had the duties of Chairman of the Insurance Commissioners. Thereby you had saving. There is another office whose holder is known as the Lord Privy Seal. He appears in all his glory in this Government. Why was it not possible to use that office? There is the Paymaster-General, who now adorns the Front Bench, and who represents so efficiently amongst us the Nonconformist conscience. He might also have been taken. These are three existing offices which might have been utilised, and the House thus have been saved the necessity of voting this sum for Ministers without portfolio. Surely at a time when economy is so necessary such an expedient as I have just suggested might have suggested itself to the Government. We all know that it has not been the case.
There was a very illuminating article in a newspaper the Sunday before this Government was formed. The writer told 486 us ail about this matter. He was speculating as to whether the present Prime Minister would be able to form a Government, and he reminded his readers of the old saying of the late Mr. Labouchere, "that a man can always form a Government when he has the liver in his pocket." The Prime Minister had the liver in his coat-tail pocket.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is not for these people that this money is being voted. We all know that there is a pool in this Government, as there was in the last. I thought it an unfortunate departure in the case of the last Government, but at least the last Government did not increase the available dividend. That is the difference between them and this Government. This Government actually makes a new sub-head in the Supplementary Vote in order to increase the dividend amongst themselves. At a time when the country is being appealed to for sacrifices for the War Loan, and everybody is being called upon to make sacrifices, we have here the example—a new sub-head in the Estimates in order to increase the amount divisible between the Members of the Government! It is a most unfortunate example. It is an example which is not excusable by the special pleading of the hon. Member who last spoke, that we are at war. Considering we are at war, that is all the more reason why we should not have an exception like this. There is another matter. We have been told that this is going to be the most efficient body that has ever governed this country. We know it is to devote itself entirely from day to day, from hour to hour, constantly sitting at No. 10, Downing Street, to the prosecution of the War. Every minute or so the First Sea Lord, a member of the Army Council, or somebody else rushes headlong in to get a decision right on the nail. It is done on the principle, "Do it now." But that is not the whole duty of the Government of this country. There are all the Civil Departments. There are not only the Civil Departments we had in peace. There is all the new bureaucracy which has sprung up like Jonah's gourd, which grew up in the night. The result is that, following the formation of the new Government, the question arises as to how these bodies are to be correlated and co-ordinated. There was this morning a very powerful article in a newspaper, 487 with which I seldom agree, dealing with this very point. It showed that the question of the correlation of these various Departments which deal with domestic administration is entirely left out of count. I do not think we can conduct the War successfully under these conditions. I think we ought, when for the first time we have this sub-head in the Estimates of the War Cabinet, to have some fuller explanation.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It is quite obvious that the subject we are discussing to-day raises the whole question of the existence and the methods of the present Government. I do not, however, suppose the House will consider this to be a good opportunity to enter upon anything in the nature of a defence which would be more appropriate to a vote of confidence in the principles on which this Government has been formed. Under those circumstances I would do my best to defend, if defence were needed, the system under which the Government is carried on. In the meantime I shall deal with not quite so wide a matter. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down took up a somewhat similar attitude to the late Government as he has done on the present occasion. We may, at all events, praise him for his perfect impartiality. It seems to me that he is going to show the same spirit in regard to the existing Government as he showed in respect to the late one. He is, in both cases no doubt, doing what seems to him best in the interests of the country. With regard to the late Cabinet, I was a member of it, and I was as responsible for it as I am for the present one, and I am, therefore, not likely myself to go out of my way to attack a Government of which I myself was a member. As regards this Vote, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Donegal indulged in a constitutional argument which I had some difficulty in following. The main purpose of his argument seemed to be, so far as I could see, to suggest that nobody ought to be a Cabinet Minister unless he had been a Cabinet Minister previously.
§ Mr. MacNEILL
My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that I said the present position was contrary to precedent. I cited the case of the great Duke of Wellington against anyone being admitted into the Cabinet without—to use the hateful expression—portfolio, who 488 had not been a Cabinet Minister before, and in charge of one of the great Departments of State. Of course, the Duke of Wellington was nowhere as compared with the great and illustrious Milner.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That may be what my hon. Friend meant. That is not what he said, as the House knows. The real point is the Vote which is down for the salaries of the two Gentlemen. I will deal first with the question raised by my hon. Friend opposite—that is the question of pooling the salaries. I know very well that it is very unpopular in many quarters of the House, perhaps with the majority of Members. But I take precisely the same view in regard to that which' was taken by the late Prime Minister. The House of Commons is entitled to vote to the holder of a particular office or to a man who is doing a particular work a salary which it thinks adequate and suitable for the work he is doing. After that salary has been received I do not think it is the business of the House of Commons, or anybody else, to ask what private arrangements are made by those who receive it. I should like to say further in regard to this matter that personally I think it is a good arrangement under present conditions. I believe the system of salaries in regard to these offices is not what it ought to be. I think it probable when the War is over the better plan would be to have a smaller Cabinet with something more of equality of salaries—amongst all those who are Cabinet Ministers. I think in one case at least—that of the Prime Minister—a higher salary than is given to the other members of the Government ought to be received. I do not think that this is the time to make changes of that kind. I am perfectly certain that at the time of the formation of the late Government, of which I was a member—and it is true of this one—that we ought to be free to select the best men for particular offices without considering the question of whether one salary is a little more or a little less. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Pringle) and the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Swift MacNeill) spoke of giving salaries to these two gentlemen as a departure from the principle of economy. I do not agree at all in that respect; I do not agree in the least. I think in time of war, or any other time, a man who is doing work for the State should be paid by the State adequately for the work he is doing, and whether or not he takes the 489 salary, or what use he makes of it, is his business, and the first duty, in my opinion, of the House of Commons in time of war or any other time, is to give to those who are doing the nation's work adequate remuneration for the work they are doing. That is my view. It may be said—indeed, it was said by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. MacNeill)—that Lord Milner and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Henderson) are doing nothing.
§ Mr. MacNEILL
Oh, does he not? I said they might be doing work, but that they had no offices whereby they could be held responsible to Parliament for the salary they drew. That is what I said, and I say so still, and I ask my right hon. Friend now to give me even one case in all history in which a man has been placed in the Cabinet with no office and drawing a salary of £5,000 or £l,000 a year.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That is rather a different point. I think the hon. Gentleman, in his speech, with that fluency which characterises him, used expressions which, perhaps, he does not now remember. My recollection is that he did say that we were asked to pay Lord Milner for, as far as he could judge, doing nothing.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That raises really, as I say, the whole question of the way in which this Government is carried on. I do not think it is the desire of the House—I should be guided in that by the views of hon. Members of the House—that we should go into that general question, which involves really the question of confidence or no confidence in the Government; but I think I am justified in saying that after the experience of a Government on ordinary lines and a Cabinet carried on under the present arrangement, the view that there is no co-ordination in the one case and that there is in the other is, in my belief, a mistake. If the House will consider what different conditions there are during the War and in ordinary times, they will see that it was quite impossible for a Cabinet meeting on an average once a week, which was as often as it could meet, 490 to attempt to co-ordinate the work of different Departments. The new arrangement may be good or it may be bad. All I ask is that the House and the country should judge it by its results and give it a chance of showing whether it is a good or a bad method, but in my belief the system of the present Government, which my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Pringle) rather satirically spoke of as involving individuals rushing into Downing Street and out of it, which is in practice only a continuation of the system which must prevail in war-time of trying to get the Prime Minister to co-ordinate, the system of this small Cabinet to which authority is delegated is a system which if properly worked will get as much co-ordination, I am sure, as is possible.
As regards these votes, no one will deny that if these men are suitable for the posts they are entitled to salaries. I need not remind the House that it would be quite possible, as these are temporary posts, to pay them out of the Vote of Credit without putting down a special Vote. I did not think that was right. I think the House should have the opportunity of seeing exactly what we are doing. I am quite sure that anyone who approves of this Government and the constitution of it will not hesitate to pass this Vote giving the salaries which we now ask. In regard to salaries, I should like to say something else. I said that in my opinion it is the duty of this House to give an adequate salary to men doing work for the nation. I think that is right. It is the business of the men who receive that salary to decide for themselves what use they will make of it. It so happens that a certain number of the members who are working in this Government have considered that they would rather not take a salary, and I think it would be right—although I have not discussed it with them—I think it would be only fair that I should tell the House who these Ministers are. No salary is drawn by the Lord Privy Seal, by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, by the Chairman of the Air Board, by the Shipping Controller or by the Food Controller, and my hon. Friend who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Food Controller felt that he would not like to take a salary. The money which they do not draw comes back to the State. In addition to that, the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords has decided not to draw his salary. The Gentlemen who have taken that course are taking it, 491 I believe, in precisely the same spirit in which, in connection with this War Loan, I have received I do not know how many donations to the State of money, to be expended absolutely for the use of the State. These Gentlemen are giving their money in that way. It is to their credit if they can afford it, but I hope nobody will consider—I may say I am drawing my own salary—I hope that no one will consider, because a certain number of us have felt that that is one way in which they could help the State, that any obligation rested on the others to take the same course.
This also I would add: The hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Swift MacNeill) spoke of this as being unprecedented, and everything he put down to the War. That is perfectly true. The War is unprecedented itself. We have got to do the best we can. We may be right or wrong, and the last Government or this Government may make mistakes of many kinds; but of one thing I am sure, and I shall be surprised if the House of Commons does not agree with me, that at a time like this we ought not to be too much bound by precedent, and we ought to take the methods which those responsible think best for carrying on the War at a time like the present. I quite admit that I have not dealt at all adequately, and do not intend to deal, with the big questions involved. I do not think this is a suitable opportunity for raising that subject.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It could be given tomorrow if you wish. A discussion of such a big subject means a vote of want of confidence in the Government.
I do not want to press my right hon. Friend for an explanation of the working of the present experiment, but I am sure he will see that the House would like to know how the experiment is working without any direct vote of confidence being involved. No doubt he will find a suitable occasion for letting us know how the machinery is working without expecting us to challenge the whole system.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I quite recognise what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I think I was right in saying that an attack, for instance, on this Cabinet of 492 five is obviously an attack on the system of the present Government. It is one of the vital factors on which this Government is formed. If the House of Commons declared that they disapproved of the War Cabinet, that would be an end of this Government. We would not alter the arrangement, for we consider it vital. I would like to say further that there were a great many interruptions at different times, but they never came in a form which would enable me to reply about the absence of the Prime Minister. If the system on which the Government is carried on is to be challenged, that is precisely one of the occasions on which I think the Prime Minister ought to be here to defend what is in fact the system on which he proposes to carry on the Government. I think that would be reasonable, but I would like, since I have mentioned the subject, to say also in regard to that that it is vital, in our estimation, to the whole system on which we propose to carry on the Government. I am not here as the deputy of the Prime Minister in the ordinary sense of the word. When he asked me to join the Government he asked me to join as Leader of the House of Commons, and it is in that capacity that I come to the House. I know perfectly well that anyone who attempts to lead the House of Commons who is not the Prime Minister will find it much more difficult than if he was, but I am perfectly certain of this, that in the way in which we are attempting to carry on the business, where we are having Cabinet meetings at least once every day, it would be utterly impossible for one man to attempt to direct the War and at the same time to attempt to direct the House of Commons. It is, therefore, an essential part of our policy, and I hope it will be found to work. That is all I wish to say except with the indulgence of the House——
Would the right hon. Gentleman mind saying whether he can—say on some early occasion—give the House information as to how co-ordination is being attained under the present system? We quite recognise, all of us who have been in office, that the entire machinery has had to be revised. A new method altogether has been adopted. Can the right hon. Gentleman not choose some early occasion for telling the House in a friendly spirit, not in a challenging spirit, how the system of co-ordination is being attained?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I shall be glad to do that, and I will make the time as far as possible to suit the convenience of my right hon. Friend opposite. I wish only in conclusion to say a word about the Supplementary Estimates. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo (Mi. Dillon) dealt largely with the fact that the Financial Secretary is not a Member of the House of Commons. I quite admit that that is not only an unusual course, but I believe it has never before happened. When the Prime Minister appointed Sir Samuel Lever as Financial Secretary he did it because he was thought to be the best man for the post. That was the sole reason. It was not then decided whether or not he would be a Member of the House of Commons, and it is quite possible even yet, if it were found necessary, that arrangements might be made for him to become a Member, but I wish the House of Commons not to be under a mistake as to the arrangements, which I hope will be found not to work so badly. My hon. Friend (Mr. Baldwin) is not here simply as the mouthpiece of the Financial Secretary. He is working almost as Joint Financial Secretary. He does not come here merely to say what he is told to say. He has experience in the Treasury of all the work that is done, and I suppose that if he is competent he will do it just as well as if he were appointed Joint Financial Secretary. In any case I am sure I am not asking too much to ask the House to give the system a little trial, and see whether or not it will work better than the previous system.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Who will present the Civil Service Estimates? It has been the practice for the Financial Secretary to prepare the Civil Service Estimates, and to present them to the House and to defend them from the criticism of hon. Members. On whom will that duty now fall?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
At present it is intended to fall on my hon. Friend with such assistance as I and others can give him.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
We shall all agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this is not a convenient occasion on which to enter on the large questions of principle which arise from the present form of the Government machinery. In the first place, and this reason is conclusive, it has been 494 ruled from the Chair that it would be out of order to embark upon such a wide discussion on this occasion. In the second place, I think most of us will consider that it is too soon yet to judge how the present arrangements are working, and although we should be glad of some suitable occasion to receive from the right hon. Gentleman an intimation as to the methods that have been adopted, I doubt whether there would be any desire throughout the House at this early stage to embark upon a discussion of the arrangements that have been recently set up. If there is to be a War Cabinet as now constituted, containing Members without departmental functions, we should probably all of us agree that in spite of the absence of ministerial functions, those members of the War Cabinet ought to be provided with salaries, and salaries upon the full Ministerial scale. Further, the right hon. Gentleman has clearly taken the proper legitimate course in putting these new salaries upon the Estimates and asking the House formally and definitely to approve of them. A legitimate ground of criticism was, I think, stated by the hon. Member for Lanark, who pointed out that it ought to have been possible to have conferred upon those Members who is was desired should serve in the War Cabinet without Departmental functions some of the sinecure offices which have been maintained as part of our Constitution for that very purpose. The present Government is not yet quite complete, and I believe the Solicitor-General for Ireland has not been appointed, but when he has been appointed the Government will consist of no fewer than eighty-one members, which is the largest number for any Administration either in this or any other country. In this House there are no fewer than fifty-five hon. Members who have Ministerial posts, and if on any particular occasion they all attended they would fill not one, but three Treasury Benches. I would go on to say that in the formation of the present Government the number of Members of the House of Commons who have places in the Administration has been increased by no less than one-third. This has been partly due to the creation of fresh Departments of State. The great increase in the functions of the Government consequent upon war developments has necessitated the creation of these new Departments, and I have no desire whatever to challenge or criticise their formation. Nevertheless, they have resulted in 495 the appointment of a very considerable number of additional Ministers, and for that very reason, I think, every effort should have been made to avoid the multiplicity of offices in other directions, and we should combine the sinecure offices of State with duties such as those of the members of the War Cabinet, who are now termed Ministers without portfolio. Lord Curzon holds the office of Lord President of the Council, and I do not see why the other members of the War Cabinet should not hold such offices as Lord Privy Seal, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Paymaster-General, or Chief Commissioner of Works, the duties of which are light.
It is not merly a question of salaries, because we are told that the Lord Privy is not to draw a salary, but it is a question of the number of Members of the two Houses attached to the Administration, which ought to be kept within as close bounds as circumstances allow. The Paymaster-General has not usually had a salary, and it seems to me an instance of muzzling the ox that treads out the corn. There is no reason why one Member should be appointed Paymaster-General and another Minister without portfolio, and it world have been more appropriate to confer the Paymaster-General upon that member of the Government who is now termed "Minister without portfolio." The hon Member for Donegal (Mr. Swift MacNeill), from his wealth of constitutional law, has challenged the present system on the ground of lack of precedent. With regard to the use of the term "Cabinet," that word first appeared in the year 1900 in official Parliamentary Papers, and, whether it has been used previously or not, I think it is a good thing that it should be used. It is a great mistake, in my view, out of deference to bygone practices, not to allow our nomenclature to square with the facts. The Cabinet is a reality, or at any rate it has been hitherto. It is an actual thing, and it is mere constitutional pedantry to pretend that it does not exist because it rests on no Statute, or to endeavour to keep the word "Cabinet" out of official papers and State documents. I am not sure that my hon. Friend is right in saying that no one has held a sinecure office without having previously been a Cabinet Minister. I had the honour of entering the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy 496 without having been previously at the head of a great State Department. That is an office which does not entail very arduous duties on the incumbent.
I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that precedents are unimportant things in these days and these times. Precedent-mongering is not statesmanship, and if we have to set a new precedent in these exceptional times, by all means let us do it. The real ground of serious and valid criticism against the arrangement contained in the Supplementary Estimates is that further posts have been created under the title of Ministers without portfolio, instead of using the sinecure offices, which have in the past been retained precisely to meet a set of circumstances, such as that which has arisen at the present time.
§ Mr. HOLT
I hope we are going to receive some explanation as to why these two Ministers without portfolio were created when we had the sinecure offices ready at hand for that purpose. We ought to be told what the occupants of those sinecure offices are now supposed to be doing. Dealing with the question of the expense, the Chancellor of the Duchy is now drawing a salary. I have a great deal of personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman who now holds that office, but I do not think it is defensible at a time like this that any person should be Chancellor of the Duchy and confine himself to the Departmental duties which in that office are almost nominal. I understand that the late Government combined the functions of Secretary to the Treasury with that of the Chancellor of the Duchy, and I presume that only one salary was paid. The salary of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster might be saved. While we all appreciate the handsome way in which some right hon. Gentlemen have not drawn their salaries, I wish to say that I think it is a very undesirable thing that rich men should occupy those positions and not take their salaries, because that is putting the poorer men who may succeed them in a very unfair position. I have always taken my salary as a Member of Parliament, and it is not fair when we are all working together that some people should appear to be very generous, when those who are doing precisely the same work cannot put themselves into the same position. There are plenty of other ways of getting rid of your money.
497 With regard to the amount of the pay, I agree that £5,000 is not a scrap too much for the men who are doing the work of the War Cabinet. Incidentally, however, Lord Curzon is doing this work for £2,000, while his four associates are being paid £5,000. That is not really fair. Of course, we all know that these Ministers are not going to get the money, and, therefore, the whole argument that they are worth £5,000 a year is absolutely unsound. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that Ministers are entitled to pool their salaries, and to say that it is nobody's business but their own what they do with their own money. Within certain limitations that is quite true, but it is not true with regard to pooled salaries. Does anyone believe that anybody responsible for carrying on a large business would have a system of pooling the whole of the salaries? What is a Government? A Government is a body of men who are pledged to act together and manage the country in a certain spirit, and it is not a satisfactory state of things that individual members of that Government should be making subventions to other members of the Government. If it is thought desirable that all the members of the Government should be paid the same salary, why not come to Parliament and say so straight out, because there would be no difficulty in doing that. If they want to pool the salaries, why not ask for a lump sum to divide amongst themselves. Whatever is done ought to be on the record of Parliament, and should be approved by Parliament. I do not believe for a moment that Parliament would ever sanction paying some of the minor Ministers in the pool something like £4,000 a year, and if Parliament would not care to do it, it is not right to do behind the scenes what you would not do openly.
In connection with the question of salaries, I would like to suggest another method of economy. It is only quite recently that the salaries of the President of the Local Government Board and the President of the Board of Trade were raised to £5,000, and that was done at a time when those officers were members of the Cabinet with a full share of responsibility for the government of the country. If those Ministers are now going to be put in a discredited or subsidiary position to the War Cabinet, I do not see why they should be paid more than the President of the Board of Agriculture, the 498 Food Controller, the Shipping Controller, or the President of the Board of Education. I do not think there is any real reason why the salaries of those two offices should have been increased when you have diminished the importance of those offices. I do not know whether we are going to divide against this Vote or not, but before it comes before the House again, as it must do for next year, I hope we shall have a much more satisfactory position with regard to Ministerial salaries, and that this House will be asked to vote the precise sums the Minister should take.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have listened to this discussion from the beginning, and, while I recognise that perhaps this is an inconvenient time to raise the larger issue, still the private Members of this House are always in the position that if we surrender this opportunity of making our criticisms, we may not get the other opportunity which has been promised. I do not feel, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer felt, that if this War Cabinet were upset that that would be the end of the present Government. I do not think we are likely to have any such luck as to get rid of it so easily. I do not believe in the present system. I think it is constitutionally bad, not so much in regard to what the War Cabinet may be doing, as to what the other unattached Ministers may be doing. The Cabinet is supposed to be responsible to this House, not only for policy, but for administration, and I take it that the War Cabinet confines itself entirely to the prosecution of the War. As the House knows, there have been appointed to various other Departments which are not directly concerned with the War other Ministers who are designated as Cabinet Ministers. I have yet to learn to what Cabinet these unattached Ministers belong, and how far what they are doing represents the considered views of the Prime Minister as the head of this supposed War Cabinet. I think we are entitled to a great deal more information than we are getting. A great deal has been made of the point, and it has never been answered, although it has been put by various speakers, as to why other men who are in posts which are sinecures are not doing other work. Could the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell us, for instance, what the Chancellor of the Duchy is doing? The Chancellor of the Duchy is getting, I suppose, £3,000 as his share of the pool. I believe the last pool was 499 bigger. The late President of the Ginger Group in this House is now in receipt of £3,000 for doing nothing as Chancellor of the Duchy. His name looks well in the list that has been gathered round the Prime Minister, but we have no indication of the work that he is doing. He used to be a great authority on the breeding of horses when he was a private Member, and we always valued his judgment on that subject. We suggested before he went into the Government, that, as the Government had bought a racing stud, and we were now breeding horses, that his great services might be used in that direction. I do not know whether the Prime Minister is using the Chancellor of the Duchy in connection with the racing stud which belongs to all of us who are present here this afternoon. We do not know. What we do know is that he is doing nothing. Earlier in the discussion on the Estimates the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that he could not say what the Chancellor of the Duchy is doing. I do not know whether he is going to be forced to admit that again.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Making magistrates! We have heard that story before. More questions have been put about the making of magistrates than about any other political question I have ever heard discussed, and if he is doing it as badly as we thought previous Chancellors of the Duchy did it, according to their politics, then he cannot be doing it well. That is very obvious. I would like to know, also, what the Lord Privy Seal is doing. If I remember rightly, he was in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was brought back from the front to take up a certain post. I think he ought never to have gone to the front. It was a great waste that the selected intelligence of the organisation side of the Unionist party should have been allowed to go away to that work, and not have been put upon some competent war work in this country. He was brought back, and in the last Government he was President of the Board of Agriculture for a few weeks. He is now Lord Privy Seal, but he is not drawing a salary which would increase the pool for the other members who are drawing salary. What is he doing? What is his job? Is he on war work, or is he connected with any of the Departments which are being set up, or which may be set up, or is 500 he looking after the timbering of the roof of Westminster Hall, in which he was GO interested when he was a Member of this House? These are the kind of questions that this House is entitled to have answered. I could go through the whole list of Ministers who are not only drawing salaries, but are having provided for them elaborate offices, at elaborate cost, in the centre of the City of London, and who are being surrounded by large staffs, the cost of which we cannot get at. I would like to draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the footnote on page 4 of the Estimates, which says:The salaries of the staff of the War Cabinet are paid out of the Vote of Credit.That is an easy way of covering up, perhaps, a very large expenditure. There are five members of this War Cabinet. I believe that the War Cabinet originally ran its work with one secretary, who took a copy of the Minutes, and that he was assisted by three or four other secretaries who had not the same access to the official minutes as the chief secretary. Now I understand that each Minister who has gone to this Cabinet has appointed another secretary. Are they paid salaries, and are there attached to them other junior secretaries to do the work? Where are they housed? I heard the other day, for instance, I do not know whether it is true—the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to correct me if I am wrong—that Lord Milner has got a suite of offices in the Hôtel Métropole or the Hotel Victoria. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer can put us right with regard to that. Is that the headquarters of the War Cabinet, or is it only Lord Milner's private office, and has Lord Milner a staff there, which he is able to increase to any extent, if and when he likes? If Lord Milner is there, where is Lord Curzon? And where is the right hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson)? We all know that the least expensive member of the War Cabinet is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A sentry-box is very cheap as a place of accommodation, and there is not much room in it for any extras, such as you may have in these other offices. Where really is the habitat of this War Cabinet? Are we going to be told what other expenses this country is going to be asked to pay for a division of this kind, which separates the Cabinet into two parts? I do not believe as an outsider, and as one who have never believed in any or either of the Coalition Governments, 501 that the War is being prosecuted any more vigorously because of this new arrangement. As a matter of fact, this new arrangement has taken a very great deal away from the power of the House of Commons, because it has put upon the Front Opposition Bench men who were in the old Government, and who were associated with the Government in a great many things that were done, and therefore cannot criticise it with any great strength. It has piled up on this side of the House fifty-five members of the Government, who are entitled to sit here and to vote with the Government every time they go to a Division. Every vacancy which has occurred in the country has been filled by the co-option of somebody who will toe the line of the Coalition Government that is in power. The average new Member who has come into this House since we have had a Coalition Government has been a Coalition man pure and simple.
§ Mr. HOGGE
These changes, at any rate, have got together a support for an arrangement of this sort which does not tend to the best kind of discussion. What I want to know, and what I insist upon knowing, if it can be told before we pass this Vote, is how much more are we committed to in this asterisk line at the bottom of the page. These War Ministers carry with them a staff. We know that that staff has been increased. We know that there was a staff before the War Cabinet was created, and that that staff was carrying on the business of any decision that required to be come to in the War Cabinet. Let us know what that note amounts to. I think we are entitled to know, and I think this House ought to keep its hand upon the extension of these offices. If hon. Members would look at the almanack for 1917 and compare it with the one for 1916—if they care to measure it they can even get the extra length of it—they will find the extension of any number of offices, any number of Government secretaries, and any number of new secretaries that are upon that list, all on the pretence that that goes to win the War. I cannot believe it, when the average man who is winning the War is paid 1s. 8d. a day in the Navy and 1s. in the Army.
§ Mr. CECIL HARMSWORTH
I think the House must have come to the conclusion some time since that very wide issues are raised by this Vote, and possibly it might be convenient for the House if a full-dress Debate were to take place at a later date. I think the House is agreed that it would be scarcely fair to the Government to traverse the whole of their policy in regard to the constitution of the Government, when it has only been in existence a very few weeks. Coming down to the very narrow issues that have been raised, I would like to say a few words about the question of Ministers pooling their salaries. I remember very well when this question was raised in the House during the existence of the late Coalition, my right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister expressed himself in terms of warning on the disposition on the part of some Members to inquire what Ministers do with their salaries. My own feeling is that when the State pays a Minister a salary, it has no earthly right to ask, nor has the House of Commons the right to ask, what he does with the money.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
In point of fact, Ministers, or any other Members of this House, if they do not choose to make it public, can do anything they like with their salaries at the present moment, and I think it is an impertinence on the part of this House to inquire what a Minister does with his salary. There is another point in connection with this matter that was referred to by the Leader of the House. I was very sorry to hear him read a list of Ministers who have announced to the Government that they will not receive their salaries. That is a practice against which I think this House and every Government ought to set its face with the utmost sternness. If I had time to turn up the reference I should be able to quote to the House some very notable remarks in that connection of the famous Edmund Burke, who went so far as to say, when this question was raised in his time, that the Government should insist upon a Minister receiving his salary, so that for obvious reasons there could be no invidious distinction between one Minister and another. It is not a point of patriotism whether a man can afford to do with- 503 out salary and announces to the Government that he is not going to receive it. On the other hand, it is an act of considerable indelicacy which may involve great hardship to a man to whom a Ministerial salary is a consideration, and, if I may venture to say so, the same thing applies equally to the receipt or non-receipt of a salary as a Member of Parliament. When a question is raised as to Ministers without portfolio I confess I share the dislike of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Donegal (Mr. Swift MacNeill) to the use of that term. But, after all, we must not be too pedantic about it. It is all to the advantage of the Government of this country that at the present juncture there should be Ministers without portfolio. I myself have long held the view, so ably expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, that these sinecure positions which are still extant should be occupied by the most important men in the Ministry. It would have been quite possible, as he stated, and as my right hon. Friend on the Front Opposition Bench stated, to reserve those appointments for the most important members of the present Government.
I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer were present. I should be disposed to make the prophecy in his case that he may find it necessary before the Government has run its course much longer to occupy a sinecure office. I do not know how it is possible for him to combine the duties of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, membership of the War Cabinet, and Leader of the House. I should like to see him myself occupying one of those dignified positions in the Government carrying with it no official duty, and which, under present circumstances, could not possibly be regarded as involving any decline in Ministerial rank. I may be permitted to say this, since so much has been said about the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, I think it is a great pity that the present Financial Secretary has not got a seat in this House. I have had some experience of the Treasury, not in an official capacity, and I see no reason why the duties of that office should not be expressed in this House with equal authority and equally to the satisfaction of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Worcestershire (Mr. Stanley Baldwin), who is 504 a man who enjoys the respect of this House and for whom we have a great regard and a high estimate of his ability. He is at present a Junior Lord of the Treasury, and if it is found impossible for the present Financial Secretary to be a member I do not see why we should not be satisfied with the discharge of those duties by my hon. Friend sitting opposite.
§ Mr. DILLON
I desire to protest against the challenge which was thrown across the House by the Leader of the House, in which he intimated that any criticism such as took place, I think perfectly fairly, in the course of this Debate, would be treated by the Government as a vote of no confidence. With all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that is a very unwise way of dealing with this question, and it is a sign not of strength but of weakness. This new system is bound to have angles and there must be-some creaking and some trouble, and the only way in which you can test it fairly is by such Debates as are taking place to-night in the House of Commons to find out how the new system is working. If we are to be met on every occasion on which this new system is being fairly and honestly tested without any desire—at least I speak now for myself—to make any special attack on the present system, which I honestly desire to work out as an experiment, a very great experiment, then I say that the Government will undoubtedly make upon the House of Commons, and upon the country outside, the impression that their system is a failure, and that they are afraid to test it openly, if the moment any difficulty arises they instantly say, "Do you propose to move a vote of censure; if so, we are ready to meet it." That is not the language or the attitude of men who have confidence in their new arrangement.
I wish, first of all, to support strongly the view which was put forward just now by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) and to dissent from the answer made by the last speaker. I cannot accept the view that it is no business of the House of Commons as to whether a pooling arrangement should continue or not. I speak with a free conscience on this matter because at the moment it was originally announced I protested against it as a most undesirable departure from the practice of this House. It is idle for men to get up and defend such an arrangement on the ground that you have 505 no right, once you have voted a salary to a Minister, to inquire what is done with that salary. That, of course, is true, if it be that the Minister is receiving his salary and can dispose of it in his own free will. Everybody knows that he does not dispose of it of his own free will, and that he enters one amongst a body who have agreed to an arrangement to which he is compelled to submit, whether he likes it or not. What would be the position of a Minister who, having got the salary, said, "I will not pool." Could he for a single moment maintain such an attitude, and would not his position under such circumstances be impossible and intolerable? Therefore, I say it is deceiving the House of Commons and ourselves if we seek to justify this system, by comparing it with the action of a mail who, having his income or salary, or whatever it may be, does exactly with it whatever he chooses himself to do.
The true parallel was put by the hon. Member for Hexham. What would be said if a great employer, the head of a great firm, selected a certain number of individuals, and having taken full note of their duties, found out that there was a secret combine behind his back by which irresistible pressure was brought to bear on men to whom he gave, say, £5,000, as being worth that sum, to pool the amount and divide it amongst those who were not justified, in the opinion of that employer, in receiving that large amount. After all, a Minister is an honourable servant of the country and the House of Commons, and it is to my mind an outrageous thing to come forward to that Table to ask us to vote a salary for a Minister, when we are informed beforehand that that money is not going to the Minister to whom we vote it, but to some mysterious pool, the conditions of which we are not informed. Let me ask the Leader of the House, is not the House of Commons entitled to know of the conditions of this pool? Is it a blind pool to which we are contributing? Is it a fact that the salaries of £10,000 raise the level of the whole pool? How much money comes out of the pool to each of the Ministers opposite? Is that really the way of doing the business of the House of Commons? We are asked in the face of the country to vote £5,000 each to two men. I am altogether for high salaries. We ought to get the best men in the country, and the salaries ought to be fixed on that basis. It is not that I grudge the salary. I do not. These two 506 offices, although there are no portfolios, are very important at the present crisis. The reason I protest is because we really do not know what we are voting, and we are asked to vote this money blind. In the old Cabinet we were informed that the pool extended only to the members of the Cabinet, barring out the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. DILLON
As they say in America, there was in the case of the Law Officers a rake off. They were not completely in the pool. The whole system I think is most discreditable, and we are entitled to know now, is the pool extended to the whole eighty-two, or is it confined to the five Cabinet Ministers? What I want to know is, what are the principles of the pool now? Does the Leader of the House really deliberately say that we are to vote this money under the impression that we are giving £5,000 to these two men when we know we are not giving the £5,000, and when we do not know who is to get the money? I think the Chancellor ought to tell us frankly what is the principle of the pool, and who is entitled, and by what title any man is entitled to a share in that pool. Is it the Prime Minister who settles it, or is it the War Cabinet, or, if not, who settles it, because I cannot understand what distinction you can make once you go outside the membership of the Cabinet, and where you can draw the line, unless you take the whole eighty-two, and then the share would be extremely small.
There is one other point on the face of the Estimate to which I take, as an old stickler for form—a rather melancholy position to occupy now—the gravest possible exception, and that is the point mentioned just now that the salaries of the staff of the War Cabinet are paid out of the Vote of Credit. I say that that is a monstrous thing, absolutely monstrous. When in the long history of wars—and this is not the first war carried on by England—was it an arrangement that the salaries of the staff of the Cabinet should be paid in this way. This is a new staff. There never was such a thing as a staff for a Cabinet before. It is a wholly new departure, and we know nothing of the size of the staff or of their salaries. In the whole annals of Parliament such a system never occurred as to start a great new bureaucracy or bureau with an unknown number of officials who may conceal in- 507 creases to any extent behind our backs, and whose salaries or conditions or numbers are not on the face of the Estimate and are to be paid out of the untold millions which we voted under the impression that we were voting for the Army and Navy and Munitions and the conduct of the War. Could anyone imagine, when we were passing the Vote of Credit amounting to thousands of millions that we were voting part of the Civil Service of the country. It is a perfectly monstrous thing, because you chose to call your Cabinet now a War Cabinet that therefore you are entitled to dip your hand into the money voted for the conduct of the War and to finance to any extent what is strictly a part of the Civil Service out of War Loan. The reason why I dwell so strongly on this matter is that this kind of spirit spreads like an infectious disease and grows rapidly. Once officials get it into their heads that this House has given up all notion of inquiry into these financial matters, then the natural tendency of human nature—and I suppose we would all do it if we were officials—is to conceal and to put in this kind of way any expenditure which they think might lead to unpleasant debate. Therefore if this Vote is passed you will find that the expenses of the administration of this country will progress by leaps and bounds until we have some new group of Members—I do not know what to call it, certainly not a "ginger" group, but some fresh group which will grow up and which will demand an investigation into the intolerable multiplication of officials, offices, and bureaux in this country. For that reason the matter to which I have alluded is one of considerable consequence. I also say, although I may not have so much support in this, that I take great exception to the whole arrangement for pooling the salaries of Ministers.
We were told by an hon. Member opposite that the new Cabinet arrangement is out of all precedent. That is admitted. He also said that the present circumstances were out of all precedent. I deny that absolutely. It is quite true that we are carrying on a very terrible war and that the existence of the country is at stake, but is the War in any respects more terrible than were the Napoleonic Wars, when the Government of the day was in greater difficulties, when the country was for years threatened with invasion, and when Eng- 508 land was brought to a position of very much greater danger than she has occupied during the present War? Therefore it is quite untrue to say that the present condition of affairs is without precedent. On the contrary, we have a precedent extending over many years. If we consult, what was done by Ministers in those days, when, remember, the country was not the democratic country it is now, but when it was governed, comparatively speaking, by an oligarchy of rich men, I venture to say we shall find that neither Pitt nor Castlereagh, nor any of the great men, who were then the leaders of what was looked upon or what became a very reactionary Government, would have attempted to do some of the things we now have to face. The present Cabinet was appointed with a desire of carrying on the War in a more vigorous fashion, and with a view to bringing about greater coordination among all the Departments for that purpose. I was no lover of the late Government. I denounced the principle from the outset, because I disliked it. Members of the new Government might remember that we on these benches, who have had a very long experience in this House of the working of Governments, prophesied that that Government would not produce the national unity it was set up specially to produce. When I hear men talking about the enormous results which this Government has already produced, I cannot help remembering that a year and a half ago, when the Coalition Government was formed, I heard the same language used—national unity, and the whole machine working with a most superb co-ordination! I denounced the principle of the late Government, but from us, the Irish party, it received full fair play; indeed, many of our countrymen think it received too much fair play, and we have to take the consequence. We stated our view, and let the machine go on. Did the Debate the other day go to show that we have in the present Government as yet attained that absolute co-ordination and smooth working of all the Departments? I do not think that was made very manifest when we were debating the other day the working of the food control machinery. I pass from that because we shall have an opportunity on another occasion of discussing that more fully. So far as this House is concerned, it is the duty of the House and the interest of the people demands it, that, without attacking the Government or 509 doing anything to impede its work, we should ask for information and endeavour to find out what are the principles upon which this new machine is working and this great experiment is being conducted, and whether it promises to work as smoothly and successfully as those who started it hoped for it.
Mr. T. WILSON
Everyone who believes in economy ought to protest against the extravagant expenditure of public money that is proposed in this Estimate. From figures given by the hon. Member who has just sat down, it appears that there are something like fifty-five Members of this House in the Government. It is a danger to the House and to the country to have too many Members in receipt of official salaries. I speak as one who hears what the working men say in connection with the Government, and who knows fully what their views are. We have had the War Savings Committee appealing to the country to save and invest money. We have had the Government appealing to the country to save and invest money. Speakers have been going through the towns and villages of the United Kingdom, urging the people to save money and lend it to the Government. What will the people say at these meetings when they are pressed to put their savings into the War Loan? They will say that the Government ought to set a better example than they are doing, and that they ought to economise in the working of Parliament. They will point out that for twelve months the Government have been taking men from their businesses, that in many instances those businesses have been ruined, that men making £5,000 a year have been compelled to give up their business and position to go into the Army. The Government ought to recognise, when the working men and business men of the country are called upon to make sacrifices such as I have described, that Members of this House ought to be prepared to make sacrifices as well.
I should like to say a word in regard to the position of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Speaking not as a business man, but from the point of view of an outsider, it does reflect on the business capacity of men in this House. I should like to put this question to the Leader of the House or his representative: There are rumours about that the reason why the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is not in the House is that he is an American 510 citizen. I should like the right hon. Gentleman either to confirm or to dispel that rumour. It is a matter that would have some effect in regard to people investing in the War Loan. It takes very little to-prevent ordinary men putting their money into the War Loan. These are questions which have been put to me at meetings I have addressed, and after a meeting has been held men have spoken to me privately, and have protested against the extravagant expenditure that is going on, not only in connection with the Army and Navy, but in all the Government Departments. They say that with a smaller Cabinet the subordinate Members of the Government should receive less salaries than they are getting. I am very glad to have an opportunity of saying a word against this extravagant expenditure in connection with the Government of the country. I am only expressing my own view, not the views of the party with which I am connected, and I am not speaking on their behalf. It is high time that an end was put to "chloroforming" of Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. LOUGH
A remark was dropped by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), to which I should like to revert if the matter is not settled by the statement of the Leader of the House. It has been said that the House of Commons is entitled to a full explanation of the proposal to pay these salaries, but that this is not a convenient opportunity to give the explanation. Personally, I should think that this is a very good opportunity.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Before we part with the money we ought to hear what the Government have to say. I would appeal to hon. Members on the understanding we have entered into with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which, so far as I can make out, was ratified by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman), that we ought not to press the matter on this occasion. I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer were here. I understood him to say that at an early date convenient to my right hon. Friend and other Members of the Opposition, this matter would be fully gone into.
§ Mr. LOUGH
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in dealing with the matter, said that this would be a question of a vote of censure. Not at all! In a perfectly friendly way the Committee might get all that we suggest it is entitled to—namely, a full explanation of this new expenditure. I appeal to my hon. Friend and others not to press the matter any further to-night. I should like to state the interest I personally take in this question. I have long thought that the greatest danger to which this House is exposed was the growth in the size of the Cabinet. A year before the War I, with some of my Friends, took part in getting together a Committee on Procedure, before which I and other Members put our views with regard to the danger involved to the House of Commons in the growth in size of the Government. Let me in a sentence show how rapidly this has taken place. In 1880 there were only eleven members of the Cabinet. All great constitutional Ministers up to that time held that the Cabinet should not exceed that number. I might quote Mr. Disraeli, Mr. Gladstone, and other great authorities. In 1886 the number became sixteen, and it was afterwards increased to twenty-four. No one said it was too small a Government. I received the statement as to the new Cabinet with joy, and said that the principles for which I had been struggling were going to be carried into effect. But although we have a small Cabinet of only five, I think the House ought to notice in connection with this Vote that this small Cabinet is more or less of a deception—I moan from the constitutional point of view. There are more Ministers than ever. I make out that there are thirty-four Ministers in the position of the old Cabinet Minister. We have heard to-night that there are no fewer than eighty-one Ministers altogether, and fifty-five in this House. But the Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministers have not been mentioned. That doubles the number. We have fifty-five Ministers, and probably fifty Parliamentary Secretaries. I think every one of them is entitled to appoint a secretary, and probably he has one. If the House wants to know the significance of this, let them look at the present Government. 512 There are over a score of members of the present Government who ascended to their high position by being Parliamentary Secretary to a Minister. It is the first step, practically, to membership of the Government, and the independence of a Member of Parliament is gone the moment he becomes a Minister and takes his salary, or, worse still, becomes Parliamentary Secretary to a Minister. My hon. Friends shake their heads, but that is because they are in the swim. [Interruption.] I was never a Parliamentary Secretary. There is nothing offensive in it. A great many Members are very proud of the position.
I only call attention to it from one point of view. It means that if there are fifty-five, and, say, about fifty secretaries, there are a hundred pledged and bound men constantly in the House of Commons. How can they be independent? The only way we can raise this question is when the number of Ministers is being increased. Here we have two new appointments tonight, objectionable for all these reasons which have been stated, and to-morrow we shall have a new Secretary appointed. The House of Commons ought to look with grave suspicion upon this growth in this body of men. It is a serious danger to the Members of the House of Commons. This House no longer retains the control over administration or legislation in this country which it had, and if you ask what is the reason why this control has been weakened and shaken more than anything else, it is the growth in the size of the Administration. You have eighty-one men. They have deprived the House of Commons of control over finance. They dip their hands as they please into the public Treasury—not for any personal purpose, but they spend what they please. They make what appointments they like. Look at the way they have put down this Vote—that in future it is to be taken out of the Vote of Credit. Why out of the Vote of Credit? Because the House of Commons will not be able to control it. The liberties of this House are in serious danger, and I am only speaking what everyone throughout our constituencies thinks at present. I am speaking for my own Constituency, and I am sure every Member who heirs me will say the same of his. There they think we have control of everything. As a matter of fact when we come here we find we have control of nothing. They take what money they please; they appoint what Ministers they 513 like; and look at the claim we had made this afternoon, that the law about the shooting of pheasants, which it is admitted it will be contrary to Statute law to alter, may be altered at the bidding of one of these new Ministers. Every day there is a fresh encroachment on the rights of the House of Commons. It seems to me this continual growth in the size of the Administration is a perpetual threat to the House of Commons and the constitutional rights of the people whom we represent here.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am simply rising to make an appeal to the House to come to a decision. It is quite obvious that we shall not come to an agreement.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Is it quite understood that the explanation which was promised in reply to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Runciman)—you promised that at an early date convenient to yourself and to him you would give a constitutional explanation or defence of the Cabinet, perhaps with the Prime Minister present.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I said I would be guided in that matter by the wishes of the House, and, to a considerable extent, by the wishes of that bench. It is obvious that the question, if it is gone into adequately, raises the whole position of the Government. If the House wishes I and other members of the Government will be perfectly ready to have a discussion. I do not regard it as a vote of censure. It is quite right to have the whole subject discussed whenever there is a general desire and at a suitable time. We have a great deal of business to do to-night, and I hope we may come to a decision. My right hon. Friend, whose eloquence carried him away, and me, too, somewhat astonished me in regard to one sentence. He said all these Gentlemen who are connected with the Ministry have sold their independence.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman has had some experience of being a member of a Government, but if that is equally true of Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers, they do not attach much value to their independence, for they have sold it for a very small price indeed. I hope the House will now give us the Vote.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
Under this pooling arrangement, how is the Income Tax assessed? Supposing, for instance, £5,000 posts are allocated, we will say, to the righ hon. Baronet (Sir A. Mond) in one case and to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henderson) in the other, there comes in a different ratio of Income Tax, with its disturbing calculation as against one Member's wealth and the other's relative poverty?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is a very interesting question, but it seems to me that it should be put at Question Time to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or his representative. It does not appear to me to rise specifically on the present Vote.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
Ought it not to be put to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is not a Member of the House?
§ Mr. DILLON
Surely the House of Commons is entitled to ask before it votes large sums of money where the money is going? That is the question the hon. Member was asking.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If that is the case, I did not quite apprehend the question. So far that question has been asked several times, and no objection has been taken.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
I am sorry my 'prentice hand has rather muddled the House. I was endeavouring to make clear that the House is entitled, as I think, to ask this question as to the "whereness" of this money. I want to know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer constantly keeps his eye on this Income Tax question as affecting these sums which are now put down as a gross sum. I want further to enter my protest against the snobbish practice which has grown up lately of rich men coming into the Cabinet, whose presence we all gladly welcome, advertising broadly and boldly that they are taking their duty without a salary. It is a reflection upon the poor men of the Government, who are not in many cases the least worthy. I hope the Prime Minister or his courteous representative, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will once and for all repudiate that. I should like the House to go further, and insist that a man who takes the duty must accept it as inseparable from his salary. If he likes to give it to a church or hospital afterwards, that is another matter; but in these democratic days it is hardly less than a piece of snobbery, because he can only do it by being 515 a rich man, to profess his scornful refusal of the salary attaching to his office. It is wellnigh an impertinence.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The point about Income Tax is a new one to me, and I think it is quite right that, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I should have notice of it. It does not divert some revenue which the State would otherwise get. I shall look into it. I hope nothing I have to say will prolong the Debate, but I do not think what my hon. Friend has just said is quite fair. I take the view myself that when I am doing work of this kind, on the whole, the State should pay a salary; but, on the other hand, I can assure him that lie is wrong in thinking that all those who have refused salaries are rich men. It so happens that some have thought that at a time like this they ought to hand back their salaries to the State. They may have taken a wrong view, but I cannot see that we have any right to take exception to a man giving money back to the State instead of giving it to a church. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is on the Votes!"] I am not sure about that, but it comes to the same thing. Ministers who do not take their salaries have intimated to us that they prefer to give the money to the State. My hon. Friend may be right in saying it is a bad precedent, but I am sure he is wrong in saying that those who have done it are rich men. I know some who are not rich men, and are not doing it from any feeling of snobbery.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That was done really without consulting them. I thought it was only right that it should be done.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Last summer a special Vote was put down for the Lord President of the Council (Lord Curzon), and it then turned out that he was not going to take his salary, and, consequently, the Vote was never put to the House. Are we to understand that in the case of the other Ministers who are not now taking their salaries that procedure is to be followed, namely, that the Vote is simply to drop out and consequently that this House will not have the constitutional opportunity, which is usually available, of expressing 516 its opinion upon the administration of the office? It is a very considerable constitutional point. I do not object to any Minister who thinks it right to refuse his salary, but I certainly object, and I believe nearly every man in the House objects, to the advertisement of it. I believe most of the men who have done this are rich men. Lord Curzon we know is rich. He has done a great deal of work. There is not much credit in a man in his position refusing £2,000 a year. There are other men in the same position, but this is a Vote which is absolutely unnecessary. It would have been rendered unnecessary if this Government had taken the course pursued by its predecessors of using the sinecure offices at present in existence for the purpose of these members of the War Cabinet. Had they done that this money would not have been required. It is simply because they have multiplied offices in older to provide for men for whom there was special reason for making provision. That is the only reason. It is not for the effective prosecution of the War. Everybody knows that there was no need to have a separate Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It has not been defended to-day. We have not had a word from the Treasury Bench on that matter. I say, in view of that, it is asking far too much of the House of Commons to vote these sums for these two men, and if anybody else will divide against it I will certainly go into the Lobby with them.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
Perhaps I might make an appeal to the Solicitor-General. I asked him a specific question, but he has not replied to it. I will not ask him to reply to it now, but I will ask him and the Attorney-General to consider what is the constitutional position of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Henderson). He is the recipient of money from the Crown under a vote of the House of Commons, but he is not the occupant of a place under the Crown. I need not say that I am not raising this question through any unkindly feeling towards the right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have the greatest personal regard, but I think his position is clearly distinguished and that he does not come under the Provision of Places Act. I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider that question.
§ Question put, and agreed to.