HC Deb 19 February 1917 vol 90 cc1084-5

Resolution reported, "That a sum, not exceeding £25,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1917, for a Grant-in-Aid of the Government Hospitality Fund."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I think we ought to have a little more information than was given to us the other night. I listened very attentively then to all the Debate upon this Government hospitality. I am sorry the First Commissioner of Works is not here, because I think it is especially a matter in which he takes a hand, and I am sure he does it with great dignity, affability, and success, and possibly some of us may some day, in some way or other, share the hospitality which I am sure we all feel towards the many distinguished foreigners who come to the country at the present time. But this Vote, as I understand, has not been taken for some years. It is not an annual Vote, but it is made just once in a way, and then the sum left at the end of the year does not go back to the Treasury, but is a sort of standing balance that will go on from year to year. I would like to know how long it is expected that this sum we are now voting will last. Do we now entertain so many distinguished foreigners that the money is going very quickly? Is due economy exercised in war-time? I hope there will be a little further information on this point as to whether it is anticipated that the amount now being voted will last, say, for a couple of years.


I think, perhaps, the hon. Member is entitled to an answer from the Government. What I would like to ask is this. It says: Any balance of the sum issued which may remain unexpended on 81st March, 1917, will not be liable to surrender. Does the fact of printing this note in small type make it so? I should have thought there ought to be some operative words.


I am sorry the "First Commissioner of Works is not here to reply to the points raised. With regard to what the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) said, of course he knows perfectly well it is quite impossible to say what demands may be made on this Vote in the forthcoming year or the forthcoming two years. The immediate reason for our application to the Committee for this sum is in view of the forthcoming Imperial Conference. That will bring a number of distinguished statesmen to this country, and they may be here for some time That, undoubtedly, will make some inroads on this amount. How long this sum lasts entirely depends on what other gatherings of a similar nature or of representatives of the Allied Powers may meet in London. With regard to the question put by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), I am not sure I can give him all the information he requires, but I would remind him that the practice in the past has been for this Committee to vote a certain sum, and that sum remains to be drawn against until it is expended. There has been no Vote taken for four years. The last was in the financial year 1912–13, and there is sufficient balance on that Vote to cover the expenditure until just now, when, as I have said, in view of the forthcoming Imperial Conference we are obliged to ask the Committee for what is in effect a further Credit.

Question put, and agreed to.