HC Deb 07 December 1920 vol 135 cc1911-4
59. Captain TUDOR-REES

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now in a position to publish the Reports of the Committees set up to inquire into economy in public Departments?

62. Mr. T. THOMSON

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can see his way to publish the four Reports submitted by the Committees set up to consider the staffing of Government Departments in time for the Debate in the House which the Government has promised on the question of public expenditure?


The Reports of the Committees on the staffing and methods of work of the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Royal Commission on Sugar Supplies will be laid to-day, and will, I hope, be available on Thursday. As regards the Report on the Ministry of Munitions, I received yesterday the following letter from Lord Inverforth: On my return from America on Saturday last, the 4th instant, I saw for the first time the Report of the Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. A. M. Samuel, M.P., appointed by yourself to examine into the staffing and methods of work of the Ministry of Munitions. I am quite sure that Mr. Samuel and his colleagues did not mean to be unfair, but I submit that it was impossible for them to arrive at an appreciation of the work of the Ministry without hearing evidence from myself, from the Chairman of the Disposal Board and the Chairman of the Establishment Committee. On the 13th September I sent a message to the Committee to the effect that I wished to give them every possible assistance and to personally afford them the fullest information. I was not, however, called. Moreover, the Chairman of the Disposal Board, Sir Howard Frank, was never asked to give evidence, neither was Sir John Ferguson (joint general manager of Lloyds Bank), who acts as Chairman of the Establishment Committee of the Ministry, an executive body which meets weekly and reviews the number, functions and salaries of every portion of the staff. In view of the reference to the Committee to consider the staffing of the Ministry, his evidence would have been obviously of the first importance. In the similar case of the Raw Materials Department, owing to what appears to me to be a misunderstanding, Sir Arthur Goldfinch, the director of raw materials, did not give evidence before the Committee. I therefore feel bound in justice to myself and to my colleagues to ask you to suggest to Mr. Samuel that the Committee should meet again and hear my evidence, as well as that of the gentlemen referred to above, and any others whom it may be necessary to call, to enable them to get a clear view of the work of the Ministry as a whole. I at once communicated this letter to the Chairman of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel). He immediately expressed his willingness to re-assemble the Committee and has taken the necessary steps. I desire to express the thanks of His Majesty's Government to him and his colleagues for undertaking this additional labour and to express my regret that owing to unfortunate misunderstandings they were not furnished with all the evidence which they ought to have had.


Will the right hon. Gentleman now consider the advis- ability of setting up similar economy committees for the War Office and the Admiralty?


I have been considering that, and I am not prepared to come to a decision at the moment. I was in communication with my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War on the subject some time ago. He asked for a little time to turn round, amidst his multifarious duties. I shall extend the invitation again shortly.


When an economy committee is proposed for the Admiralty and the War Office, why should there not be one for every Department?


The Departments selected, on the advice of the Finance Committee of the Cabinet, have been the Departments about which we felt the least assurance at the moment.