HC Deb 19 February 1917 vol 90 cc1071-4

Resolution reported, "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 the 31st day of March, 1917, for the Survey of the United Kingdom and for minor services connected therewith."

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


The Leader of the House, when this Vote was in Committee of Supply, promised there should be some body hero on Report stage to give us in formation which was lacking on that occasion. I would like to know if there is any Minister present in a position now to do that?


As there appears to be some difficulty in obtaining the presence of Ministers to give the information we desire, I may be doing the Government a service if I occupy the time of the House until the Minister concerned is found. It will be remembered that when this Vote was in Committee there was a considerable amount of discussion on it which was largely due to the universal ignorance displayed by the occupants of the Front Bench. There were at the moment something like half-a-dozen Ministers present, and three of them spoke, but not a single one who endeavoured to enlighten the Committee on that occasion was in possession of the necessary information. The hon. and learned Solicitor-General (Sir Gordon Hewart) spoke on the Committee stage, and made a very interesting and well-phrased speech, but it did not contain much information, and as he is now silent I am inclined to think his mind is, at the present moment, as much a blank as it was then. The hon. Member who represents the Board of Agriculture (Sir R. Winfrey), who is understood to be an authority on this subject, has, I know, evinced considerable anxiety to be present at this stage of the Vote, as it was understood that he would obtain some information from the Department which would enable him to answer our questions. Perhaps his absence at the resent moment is due to the fact that the Report stage has been brought on at this moment very unexpectedly. We know the circumstances which have led to a change in the evening's programme, and we are aware that the Prime Minister was to have made a speech this evening on another important subject, and that therefore this particular Vote might not have been reached. But business has been facilitated. I see the Leader of the House and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture are now in their places, and I trust that the latter Gentleman is in a position to give us the information which was promised in Committee. As I see he has a long document in his hand, I will not stand between him and the House any further.


I regret I was not able when this Vote was in Committee to give all the information that the House desired, but I hope I can do so now. The expenditure on the survey of the United Kingdom in the year prior to the War was £210,900. The amount was reduced very considerably last year, when it fell to £174,920. This year it was felt that a further reduction should take place, and so the Director-General sent in an estimate for this year's expenditure of £96,430. However, after a conference with the Treasury, that was further cut down to £56,030, so that it will be seen that the expenditure this year is £56,000, as compared with the pre-war expenditure of £210,000; and I may say that out of that £56,000 no less than £21,000 is balance of pay to men in the forces, so that really the net expenditure in this Department this year is £35,000, as compared with £210,000 before the War. The result naturally was that the staff had to be very largely cut down, but whilst the staff was being cut down exceptional demands came from the front, and some of the staff had to be recalled. Other reductions of the staff, instead of being immediate, as it was hoped, had to be spread over the whole of the financial year, and this accounts for the excess of expenditure on this Vote of £5,420 over the original estimate. It really means that instead of this Department being able to save £40,400, they have only been able to save £34,980. Still the saving is very large. It will be seen how much it has been when it is compared with the pre-war expenditure, and really the War reduction in this one Department is £164,500.

I was asked something about the staff the other day which I was not able then to reply to. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), I think it was, asked me with regard to the staff. Before the War we had a staff of 2,070 men. To-day that has been reduced to 1,054, and we have 779 of the men now serving in the Army. I was asked how many men were of military age. I find that of the 1,054 which we now have in this Department there are only twenty-five in England and twenty-five in Ireland who are fit for general service at this moment, and of the twenty-five who are in England five are under notice to join the Colours, and we are asking for substitutes in order that the other twenty may join at the earliest possible moment. That disposes of the whole twenty-five in England. With regard to the twenty-five in Ireland, eight have been rejected by the military, and the remainder in Ireland are not subject to compulsion. If the House will allow me for a moment I will refer to the enormous work which this Department has done throughout the year. The average number of maps printed is something like 20,000 a day, and these maps have to be printed in five colours. To show how necessary it is to be prepared for all eventualities and contingencies that may arise, I would mention that the appointment of the war agriculture committees the other day by the Board of Agriculture necessitated our supplying them with no fewer than 11,000 maps very quickly, and it is because of this fluctuating demand that it has not been possible to lay down a rigid war establishment in this Department. It has been necessary to keep a sufficient reserve of staff, and therefore we have to revise our estimate, and we find that we are spending £5,420 more on the staff than we originally hoped to do. The other item refers to the sale of maps, and I did explain that pretty fully. The reduction in the sale of maps to the general public is natural in war time, but the reduction has been larger than we anticipated. We estimated that we should sell something like £22,000 worth of maps, but as a matter of fact we only expect now to sell about £15,000 worth.

Resolution agreed to.