HC Deb 22 October 1919 vol 120 cc4-11

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the total staff of his Department on the 1st August, 1914, was 4,366, on the 11th November, 1918 it was 16,882, and on the 31st March, 1919 this staff had actually been reduced by 980; and whether he will state what steps he is taking to reduce the staff to a pre-war level?


With reference to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I should explain that the figures referred to did not include the staff of certain outport establishments of the Admiralty. According to a revised statement which has now been prepared, the total staff at the date of the Armistice was 20,457 and this number has been reduced to the extent of 1,876 by the 31st March, 1919.

A further reduction of 1,738 was effected in the period from 31st March to 30th September. So far as the Admiralty Office is concerned, it is hoped to reduce the staff to a total of 7,650 or less by the 31st December next, and to a total of 5,400 or less by the 31st March, 1920.

The staff requirements of the Department are under constant review, and staff both at the Admiralty and at the out-ports is being reduced with all possible rapidity.


Is it contemplated that in March next the Admiralty will require a staff in excess of the pre-war figures?


I have not the pre-war figures. What I have said is that we shall get the central office staff down to 5,400 or less by that date.


asked the Minister of Labour whether it was necessary for him to maintain so large a staff at the Ministry, especially in view of the fact that the numbers given for the 31st March, 1919, showed an increase of over 17,000 on the numbers given for the 11th November, 1918; whether the present figures showed a considerable decrease; if not, whether he could promise very substantial reductions in the numbers employed by his Department before the end of the year; and whether he could give some approximate figure of such reductions.

The Minister of LABOUR (Sir R. Horne)

The hon. Member may rest assured that the staff of the Ministry of Labour is not excessive, and has never been excessive, having regard to the mass of new work which has devolved upon it since the Armistice. The pressure of this new work, and in particular in connection with the out-of-work donation, reached its high-water mark in May. Since then the staff has been steadily and progressively reduced, the figures for the 10th October showing a decrease of 4,487 as compared with the 31st March, and of 5,404 as compared with the 30th May. I am hopeful that the decrease may continue, but this is a point on which I cannot commit myself to any promise or prophecy.


asked the Minister of Labour the number of his staff employed on the 11th November, 1918, for purely statistical work; and whether there had been any reduction in the staff since that date?


On the 11th November, 1918, the statistical staff of the Ministry of Labour numbered 176. Later on, with the new work devolving on the Ministry and in particular the out-of-work donation scheme, it increased to 272. But by the 17th October, 1919, it had been reduced to 226, and further reductions are in prospect. I should add that these figures include the staff engaged on the collection and collation of industrial and economic data at home and abroad.

12. Captain KNIGHTS

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention had been drawn to the fact that on 1st August, 1914, the total staff employed by his Department was 187, on the 11th November, 1918, it was 835, and on 31st March, 1919, it was 938; whether this increase had since been maintained; and whether steps were being taken to reduce the Foreign Office staff to something near the pre-war level?


The figures given by the hon. and gallant Member are correct, but unless accompanied by an explanation, they are likely to give a most erroneous impression. For instance, the original staff of the Foreign Office was increased during the war by the personnel required in connection with the following Departments, none of which had a pre-war existence: Foreign Trade Department, War Trade Statistical Department, Contraband Department, Prisoners of War Department, Foreign Claims Office, and Passport Office.

Some of these Departments have since been partly or wholly demobilised. On the other hand, the staff of the Passport Office has been increased since 1914 from 3 to 256, and, in addition, the Foreign Propaganda Branch of the late Ministry of Information (representing a personnel of 74) has been transferred to the Foreign Office.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table giving the actual state of the Foreign Office staff at this time, and, as an illustration of the manner in which the work of the Office has increased during the war, I should like to add that the number of papers dealt with in the first six months of 1914 was 29,579, and that, in the first six months of 1919 the number was 95,976, exclusive of the correspondence of the Passport Office and one or two other Departments which are not actually housed in the Foreign Office building.


May I ask why it is necessary to have a passport to go to the Channel Islands?


That is a question for the Home Office.

The following is the table referred to:

Males. Females. Total.
Foreign Office 351 150 501
Passport Office 123 133 256
News and Political Intelligence Department 36 62 98
510 345 855


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he was aware that the staff of his Department was given as 14,222 on the 31st March, 1919; and whether he had been able to make any substantial reductions since that date?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Churchill)

The total of 14,222 included the civilian staff only of the War Office on 31st March, 1919. The total staff (military and civilian) of this Department on that date was 16,359, and net reductions to the extent of 4,861 were effected between 1st April and 1st October, or a total of 7,340 since November, 1918. I have given directions for putting into operation a scheme under which it is hoped that further reductions down to a total of about 8,000 will be effected by 1st January, 1920.

I must, however, point out to the House that the weekly intake of papers from the public in connection with demobilisation, and the general business of winding up of the War armies, was as recently as the end of September last 52 per cent. in excess of the maximum reached during the War itself. It is inevitable, therefore, that the delays in dealing with correspondence must be substantially increased, and the House and the public will, I am sure, make allowances accordingly.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give an estimate of the staff that will be required by his Department as a peace standard; and when he hopes to be able to make such reductions as will bring the number to such a level?


In the next financial year the British Army will have been reduced to dimensions not dissimilar from those of our pre-war Army. Proportionate reductions will Joe made in the War Office staff after making allowances for new services, and new responsibilities with which the War Office is charged. In addition there will be a considerable number of persons employed on winding up war business, as, for instance, the issue of medals and clasps, records, casualties, war claims, etc.


Can the right lion. Gentleman give us any indication of how many new Ministries will be required to house all those people who are being turned out of the War Office staff?


As the staff is reduced the accommodation will, of courser be surrendered.


asked the Minister of Transport whether lie will give the numbers of the staff employed by his Department on the 30th September, 1919?

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Sir Eric Geddes)

The total number of the staff employed by the Ministry of Transport on 30th September, 1919, exclusive of those on temporary duty during the railway strike, was 277. Of this number eighty-two have been transferred from other Departments whose duties have been taken over by the Ministry of Transport.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the names of Members. of this House who blacklegged during the railway strike?

39. Sir W. SEAGER

asked the Misister of Transport whether he can give an estimate as to the numbers of the normal staff which will be required to run his Department?


At this early stage it is impossible to form a precise estimate of the ultimate requirements of the Ministry of Transport. As my hon. Friend will see from the reply to Question 29, the number on 30th September was 277, including 82 transferred from other Departments.


asked the Under-Secretary of State to the Air Ministry whether he will state what reduction in staff has taken place in his Department, including those employed at depots, since the 11th November, 1918; and whether he is taking any steps to make further reductions?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Major-General Seely)

I am not sure what my hon. Friend means by "including those employed at depots," but I assume that this is to be interpreted as including all persons employed. Since 11th November, 1918, the numbers employed by the Air Ministry at headquarters and depots have been reduced from 68,150 to 24,700 on 30th September, 1919. These are approximate figures since all returns are not made up to the same date. Further reductions have been made since 30th September, and the process is continuing as rapidly as possible.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions whether substantial reductions have been made in the staff of his Department since the 31st March, 1919; and whether he can give any estimate f the figure which he proposes to keep in mind as representing the normal Peace staff for this Department?


The Headquarters Staff of the Ministry on the 31st March last was 15,920; to-day the Staff numbers 10,236, a reduction of 5,684. The total reduction since the Armistice is now 14,908, or 60 per cent., in spite of the fact that of the staff of 10,236, 3,000 are employed on functions transferred to the Ministry since the date of the Armistice. It is not at present possible to give the estimate asked for in the last part of the question.


May I ask if any of those people are being taken over to staff new Departments?


Some of them are engaged on new work, such as that of disposing of surplus Government property.

44. Colonel STEPHENSON

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions whether he is aware that his total staff employed on the 11th November, 1918, was 65,142, and that the figures given for the 31st March, 1919, were 35,922, a reduction of only 40 per cent.; and whether he has been able to make considerable reductions since the last date given?


The figures quoted by the hon. and gallant Member are correct, but it should be pointed out that these figures include not only the staffs at Headquarters but also the administrative and clerical staffs at Woolwich Arsenal, the Royal Ordnance Factories at Enfield and Waltham Abbey, the explosives factories, and over 200 stores and depots. The present total of the Headquarters and provincial staffs is 20,242—a reduction of 44,900, or 68 per cent., since 11th November. As I have pointed out in answer to a previous question, 3,000 of the Headquarters staff are engaged on new functions transferred to the Ministry since the date of the Armistice.


Can he say whether it is proposed at an early date to terminate the Ministry of Munitions?


As soon as the work on which it is engaged is terminated obviously there will be no need to continue the Ministry, but at present that Ministry is engaged in raising very large revenues for the Government.


Can any approximate date be given, for its demise?


It is impossible at present to say how long it will take to dispose of the whole of the surplus Government property. At present the revenue is over two millions a week from that source alone.


Can he issue some statement as to the salaries of the dismissed staff and the salaries of those who remain in Government employment?


If my hon. Friend will put a question down I will see if an answer can be given him.


Is the hon. Gentleman correct in describing it as revenue, and should it not be called a return of capital?


It was a war expenditure which we are now able to dispose of, and for which we are receiving a revenue of £2,000,000 a week.


It is not revenue.


If the House does not agree with the term I have used I will say income which we are now able to obtain and which goes into the Exchequer.


Am I right in saying that, on the hon. Gentleman's calculation of the value of the assets of which he is disposing, at that rate it will take ten years for this Ministry to finish its work?


I have never made any estimate which would justify that conclusion.

47. Sir A. YEO

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the staff of the Public Trustee in 1st August, 1914, was 433, whereas the figures given in 1919 were 1,077; whether this increase represents additional staff dealing with enemy trading; and whether it is possible to reduce the staff now to pre-war level.

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)

The ordinary work of the Public Trustee has more than doubled during the last five years, and is still increasing rapidly. This accounts for the greater part of the increase of staff. The staff engaged on work under the Trading With the Enemy Acts now numbers 211, and is fully occupied. In view of the additional duties which the terms of the Peace Treaty are likely to impose upon the Public Trustee as custodian no provision can be made for the immediate reduction of this staff.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. NORTON GRIFFITHS

Is the Department self-supporting?


I am sure it is, but I speak from memory.

Forward to