HC Deb 10 November 1919 vol 121 cc38-41
46. Sir F. BANBURY

asked the Prime Minister what suggestions of the Select Committee on National Expenditure made in their Reports of this Session he proposes to adopt?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)

I am circulating a statement in answer to this question.

The following is the statement referred to:

Air Ministry.
Paragraph 34.
Estimates for 1919–20 were presented to Parliament by the Air Ministry before the consent of the Treasury had been obtained. This is a matter which calls for severe condemnation. Definite instructions have been given that in future no Estimates shall be presented to Parliament before the consent of the Treasury has been obtained.
Second Report.
Bread Subsidy.
Paragraph 13.
The check upon prices of home-grown wheat purchased by millers does not appear to be complete and should be revised. It is not considered practicable to examine in detail the whole of the transactions between millers and farmers. Millers are now instructed each month to buy home-grown wheat at prices which must not exceed on the average a fixed limit. Their monthly accounts are carefully scrutinised by experts, and if necessary, books and accounts are inspected locally and invoices called for.
The commission of 1s. per quarter allowed by the Grain Prices Order of the Ministry of Food to merchants and dealers supplying home-grown wheat to the mills is higher than is necessary; as all excess payments are a charge upon the Bread Subsidy this payment should be reconsidered.
The Commission of 1s. per quarter to merchants and dealers was a maximum fixed by an expert Committee. Under the arrangements made as regards the present crop it does not arise.
Paragraph 29.
A proposal to remit the extra charge for flour supplied to wholesale manufacturers of biscuits has been forwarded by the Ministry of Food for Treasury sanction. Your Committee is of opinion that this should not be authorised. It has been decided not to remit this charge, but the charge has been reduced to the equivalent of the subsidy.
Paragraph 39.
Your Committee strongly recommends that Scheme B., namely, restriction of the subsidy to a rebate to bakers on flour used in bread making and to housewives for flour used for baking bread at home, should be reconsidered and revised with a view to its being adopted. As stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewisham on the 4th instant this question is being considered, but it is doubtful whether the Committee when making their recommendation realised the extension of Government control and the amount of interference with individuals which would be involved in, carrying it out.
Third Report.
Air Force.
Paragraph 32.
The position of the Assistant Financial Secretary should be greatly strengthened in order that finance may exercise its proper influence. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has summoned periodical meetings of the financial officers of other Departments, and is considering with them methods for strengthening the hands of the financial officers within their own Departments.
The position of the Assistant Financial Secretary at the Air Ministry is similar to that of the Assistant Financial Secretary at the War Office, each having independent power of criticism and of appeal, if necessary, to the Council through the Finance Member.