HC Deb 12 August 1919 vol 119 cc1253-7

Resolution reported.

"That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of any expenses that may become payable by the Board of Trade in carrying out the provisions of any Act of the present Session to check Profiteering."

Resolution read a second time.

Captain BROWN

I beg to move, at the end, to add the words "provided that the total sum of these payments shall not exceed £50,000."

I do not move this in any hostility towards the Government. I move it because I think possibly it has been an omission on their part. I have hopes that they will accept the Amendment. As we all know, before the Bill came on for its Second Reading a Memorandum of the expenditure likely to be incurred was issued, and according to the figures set out there the estimate of cost amounted to £50,000. I think the actual words were "It is difficult to estimate the cost of the scheme to national funds, but it is believed it will not exceed £50,000 during the six months the Act will remain in force." It seems to me only reasonable that the Government should let their bond be as good as their word. Let them put those same words in the Money Resolution. Of course, the object is that we may limit the expenditure under the Bill as it stands, and at the same time secure to the House its power of control over the expenditure of money required by the Government, and not leave the officials absolutely unfettered.


I rise to second the Amendment.

I think it is a step in the right direction for Parliament thus to keep control over expenditure. It is no use at a later stage protesting against the expenditure ex- ceeding the amount of the estimate. The proper plan is to fix a limit at the very beginning, and this is all the more necessary in view of the figures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave me to-day in reply to a question. He told the House that our daily expenditure now amounted to £4,250,000 sterling. That is very serious, and it certainly is the duty of the House to keep control over all new expenditure. Among the items quoted by the right hon. Gentleman I will only mention one or two. There is the charge of £7,000,000 a week interest on War Loans. That we cannot reduce without damage to our national credit. There is also the item of £2,000,000 per week for pensions. No one will want economy in that direction. I hope that our wounded and maimed and the dependants of those who gave their lives in the service of their country will always have first claim on the wealth of the nation. I hope, however, the House will accept this Amendment.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir A. Geddes)

This Amendment embodies an estimate put forward in the White Paper in a very tentative form, and the reason it was put forward in that way was that while we believe that the sum of £50,000 will be sufficient to allow of the establishment over and above the local tribunals which are contemplated to be established, and which under the provisions of the Bill will be financed by the local authorities, of some fifty tribunals to deal with various sections of trade, commerce, and manufactures. It is exceedingly difficult to forecast the amount of work which will be required in connection with the investigations that will have to be made, and it may well be that at an early stage evidence will be forthcoming which will make it necessary, for the Government to push forward the inquiry on a far larger scale. Although we do not believe it will be necessary, we cannot definitely state that it will not be the case, and in order to secure the results we are aiming at we may possibly have to spend a much larger sum than £50,000. I ask the House, therefore, not to press this Amendment. For what the Bill proposes to do the sum of £50,000 is very small, representing as it does not one farthing per head of the population, and the probability is that we shall not exceed the estimate. On these grounds, I ask the hon. Member not to press the Amendment.


I wish to say a few words in support of the Amendment. I have some knowledge of the tribunals and of the right hon. Gentleman's Department? What happened in regard to that Department? It started from comparatively small beginnings, but developed speedily into a Department which was very expensive. The cost ran into some hundreds of thousands of pounds. Regional areas were established throughout the whole of the Kingdom. In the London regional area there was a staff at Newington of very little under 600 for dealing with the regional area and enormously expensive—I do not mind saying over-staffed. Let me give my own personal experience of what happened in connection with the London Appeal Tribunal by way of showing what can be done with very careful management. We dealt with between 60,000 and 70,000 cases. There was an immense correspondence, and that dealt with the London area as one knew it. The whole of that work was done with a staff of thirty. The London regional area was larger than my area, I admit, but it was not twice the size, and I am quite positive that, with the best will in the world to restrict expenditure, if unlimited powers are given, the same thing will happen again and we shall be landed once more into a huge Government Department, unnecessary offices and unnecessary officers, and it will take you a very long time to get rid of them after the need for them is over. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to meet the House in this respect. We had the speech of the Secretary of State for War and the two speeches last Thursday from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister on the need for economy, which I need not say met with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Leader of the House. I really beg the right hon. Gentleman to accept some such Amendment as this.


May I make a suggestion? It was when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer that the custom of always

giving an estimate was adopted. The needs of the country make it more necessary now. I think it is right that the House should have an indication of what any new expenditure is going to mean in money. In giving that indication we meant that it should have some reference to the money which will be spent. My right hon. Friend explained, in making this estimate of £50,000, that he had really made a careful estimate of what he thought the expense would be. I am sure the House would not desire that he should have to come to Parliament again for increased powers. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] We should not have to come to Parliament again for increased powers if the additional amount were comparatively small. Otherwise we should not gain much by putting in this estimate, because we should always put in with a carefully-calculated estimate, but an estimate which would give us ample margin. At the same time, I recognise that we ought to put in a sum beyond which we do not intend to go, and my right hon. Friend tells me that if the amount were made £75,000 there would be no danger of it being exceeded. I think that is a perfectly reasonable suggestion, and I hope that the House will agree to it.


I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not ask for £75,000; £50,000 is quite enough with which to carry on, and I am convinced that when the House meets again after the Recess any request which the President of the Board of Trade may make on the ground of reasonably good work done will meet with an immediate response. There will be no trouble about it. If he comes and asks for a supplementary estimate, I am quite certain that this House will at once grant it, if anything like a reasonable case is made out. I do press my right hon. Friend to meet the obvious wish of the House that there should be this limitation of £50,000.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 66; Noes, 107

Division No. 94.] AYES. [11.40 p.m.
Ainsworth, Captain C. Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood) Gange, E. S.
Atkey, A. R. Child, Brig. General Sir Hill Gilbert, James Daniel
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Cockerill, Brig. General G. K. Glyn, Major. R
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe) Green, A. (Derby)
Borwick, Major G. O. Davies, Major David (Montgomery Co.) Gretton, Colonel John
Bromfield, W. Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)
Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H. Dewhurst, Lieut.-Com H. Grundy, T. W.
Carter, W. (Mansfield) Edwards, C. (Bedwellty) Hailwood, A.
Casey, T. W. Entwistle, Major C. F. Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor) Foxcroft, Captain C. Hartshorn, V.
Hinds, John Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Sitch, C. H.
Hirst, G. H. Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian) Smith, W. (Wellingborough)
Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley) Mallalieu, Frederick William Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Inskip, T. W. H. Murchison, C. K. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Johnstone, J. Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G. Thomas, Brig. Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Onions, Alfred Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Jones, J. (Silvertown) Ormsby Gore, Hon. William Tryon, Major George Clement
Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey) Perkins, Walter Frank Waddington, R.
Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander Raeburn, Sir William Walsh, S. (Ince, Lanes.)
Kidd, James Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Law, A. J. (Rochdale) Sexton, James
Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) i Shaw, Tom (Preston) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain
Lorden, John William Short, A. (Wednesbury) Brown and Mr. Clough.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Purchase, H. G.
Amery, Lieut.-Colonel L. C. M. S. Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F. Raper, A. Baldwin
Baldwin, Stanley Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr.
Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, S.) Home, Sir Robert (Hillhead) Richardson, Alex, (Gravesend)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Howard, Major S. G. Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Barnett, Major Richard W. Hughes, Spencer Leigh Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)
Barnston, Major Harry Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster) Rogers, Sir Hallewell
Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth) Jameson, Major J. G. Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)
Betterton, H. B. Jodrell, N. P. Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur
Blades, Sir George R. Johnson, L. S Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)
Boscawen., Sir Arthur Griffith- Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke) Seager, Sir William
Brackenbury, Captain H. L. Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen) Seely, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. John
Bridgeman, William Clive Law, Right Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Briggs, Harold Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales) Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)
Britton, G. B. Lewis, T. A, (Pontypridd, Glam.) Simm, Col. M. T.,
Broad, Thomas Tucker Lindsay, William Arthur Stanier, Captain Sir Beville
Buckley, Lt.-Col. A. Lort-Williams, J. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Loseby, Captain C. E. Sutherland, Sir William
Carr, W. T. Maddocks, Henry Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)
Chadwick, R. Burton Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Coates, Major Sir Edward F. Matthews, David Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell (M'yhl)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis S. Townley, Maximilan G.
Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan) Mond, Rt. Hon. Sit Alfred Moritz Vickers, D.
Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H. Morden, Col. H. Grant Wallace, J.
Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.) Morison, T. B. (Inverness) Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe) Mount, William Arthur Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Murray, Major C. D. (Edinburgh, S-) Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
Dawes, J. A Murray, William (Dumiries) Weston, Colonel John W.
Doyle, N. Grattan j Nall, Major Joseph Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) Neal, Arthur Wild, Sir Ernest Edward
Eyres-Monsell, Commander Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter) Wilson, Colonel Leslie (Reading)
Forestier-Walker, L. Parker, James Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon, Sir L.
Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke) Parry, Lt.-Colonel Thomas Henry Younger, Sir George
Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Capt.
Green, J. F. (Leicester) Pratt, John William F. Guest and Lord E. Talbot,
Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham) Pulley, Charles Thornton

Lords Amendment to be considered forthwith; considered accordingly, and agreed to.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Are we now to be allowed to have the £75,000 inserted? I understood that that was arranged; in any case that the amount should be limited to £75,000.


Certainly. I think it was a perfectly reasonable offer that the Government made. We made it, not by way of bargain, but because we thought it was reasonable.

I beg to move at the end of the Resotion to add the words provided that the total expenditure shall not exceed seventy-five thousand pounds.

Amendment agreed to.