HC Deb 20 March 1917 vol 92 cc716-9

(2) The council concerned shall, at such times as the Local Government Board may direct, submit to the Board an estimate of the administrative expenses proposed to be incurred by the local committee for such period as the Board may direct, and the Board shall consider the estimate, and shall, if and so far as they consider the estimate reasonable, approve the estimate, and thereupon there shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament at such times and in such manner as the Treasury may direct, sums equal in the aggregate to one-half of the expenses incurred not exceeding one? half of such estimate as so approved, and the sums so paid shall be paid to the council.

(6) Where in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section two of the Naval and Military War Pensions, etc., Expenses Act, 1916, the council of a county or borough or urban district have, before the passing of this Act, made, or hereafter make, payments towards the administrative expenses of any local committee or district committee appointed under the principal Act incurred in respect of the period before the passing of this Act, and the aggregate amount of such payments exceeds the one-half of the administrative expenses of the committee for such period, a sum equal to the excess shall, if and so far as the Local Government Board have sanctioned or may hereafter approve such expenses, be repaid to the council out of moneys provided by Parliament.


I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave, out the word "one-half"["one-half of the expenses"], and to insert instead thereof the words "two-thirds."


I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has taken this matter up. Although I desired to sec the Treasury paying three-fourths, I am quite sure that the Committee generally will agree that the right hon. Gentleman has done all he can to meet us, and we should very gratefully accept the proposition he makes, that the Treasury should pay two-thirds, and leave one-third to be paid by the local authority. I should like to call attention to one matter which perhaps he may bring before the Statutory Committee, which body will now, I think, be more under his control, and that is that the local committees in the counties feel that if the demands that are being made upon them at the present time in connection with some of the circulars which are being sent down are con- tinued, there will undoubtedly be a very large increase in the administrative expenses. Circular 30, in connection with records and cases, has been sent down requiring monthly returns and three-monthly returns and an enormous number of returns which, when sent from the local committees to the sub-committees, although there are a large number of voluntary helpers, will inevitably lead to paid assistants in all the sub-committee districts. If you are to have this paid assistance forced upon you in connection with demands made from the central office, undoubtedly the administrative expenses will largely increase, with a consequent higher demand upon the rates and taxes. As the Minister of Pensions has taken this matter up, I hope that he will take steps to see that no more returns than are absolutely necessary are required. I think the monthly returns represent an excessive demand, and I hope that some means will be taken to limit what must become a considerable source of expense.


I desire to express regret that the right hon. Gentleman has accepted the Amendment pressed upon him in Committee. He has fallen into the error of imagining that the speakers in this House always express the views of the House. He has forgotten that there are many silent Members, and on the occasion in question the silent Members were backing him up in the position which he orignally took up, namely, that this expense should be divided half-and-half between the Treasury and the local authority. He ought to have discounted, with his knowledge of affairs, a good deal of what was said on that occasion, because each of the hon. Members who spoke visibly and audibly spoke from a brief. They had all got some brief from their local authority. Naturally the local authorities were very anxious that the expenses of this measure should be taken off their shoulders and put upon the Treasury. I do not believe that the hon. Members who stated those views believed in their heart of hearts that it was wise that the local authority should have very little expense and that the Treasury should have most of it. As my right hon. Friend said, when he brought in this half-and-half principle, there must be a check upon the expenditure of local authorities. Every one of us who has had any experience of local authorities knows that if there is not a sufficient check on them their expenditure is lavish and not as economical as it ought to be. I think that the idea was to stick to the half-and-half arrangement in most cases, but in the case of poor counties such as some in Ireland and in Scotland—I suppose there is no such thing as a poor county in England— there ought to be some prevision whereby the half payable by the county might be reduced and the balance borne by the Treasury. I hope that my right hon. Friend will remember in future that a majority of those who are silent in the House differ in view very often from those who speak.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: Leave out the words "one-half" ["not exceeding one-half"], and insert instead thereof the words "two-thirds."

In Sub-section (6) leave out the words "one-half" ["exceeds the one-half"], and insert instead thereof the words "one-third."

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended in Committee and on re-committal, considered.