HC Deb 02 March 1920 vol 126 cc323-45

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a supplementary sum, not exceeding £207,900, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, for expenditure in respect of diplomatic and consular buildings, and for the maintenance of certain cemeteries abroad.

Sir J. D. REES

The First Commissioner of Works has been exposed to some rather unreasonable criticism, and I do not expect him to go into all the details. But I note that there is an item for new-works at Harbin, by which I suppose is meant Kharbin, the capital of Manchuria. Why was it necessary to purchase a new site for the Consulate there? One knows that Manchuria has been rather in the limelight of late. Still, this expenditure does seem to require some explanation, seeing it is in that remote part of the world. Then I notice No. 10: "Teheran, conversion of stables into garage, £555." Are there now roads there for motor-cars, or is there merely a road to take our representative from his house at Teheran to Gulchek, his summer quarters? This seems unnecessary expenditure, and I should like what information there may be about it. I come to Item 11: "The Hague, alterations to Chancery, £230." Once there used to be very busy Hague Conventions, but as they have proved to be disastrous failures and accomplished nothing that they were designed to accomplish, and as the present—I will not say fashionable—proposal is to put everything under the League of Nations, which, it is hoped, will be more successful, I should rattier like to know why it is considered necessary to have further alterations to the Hague Chancery? I should have thought the tendency there, in view of the decrease of functions, would have been to decrease, and not to increase, expenditure; also, in view of the League of Nations, and not Hague Conventions, being in favour with those who believe that the affairs of nations, and matters of peace and war, can be satisfied by this kind of function and this class of aspiration! I turn to Item 9: "Morocco, purchase of the freeholds of the Consular buildings at Casablanca, Rabat, and Mogador." The affairs of that State are generally of such a fluctuating character that between the time of the acquisition of a freehold and its use those concerned might perhaps be required to be in a totally different situation. I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman can satisfy my curiosity in these various particulars.


Other Members of the House are not going to be quite so kind to the right hon. Gentleman, the First Commissioner, as my hon. Friend has been. It is highly probable, in regard to this Vote, there may some criticism. In the absence of anti-waste Members of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—I am referring specifically to the one anti-waste Member who was elected on that issue. As he is not present this afternoon some of us have to deal with the matter. There is also the Labour party, who have made speeches and have voted in favour of increasing the expenditure. I do not think we can look to them for much criticism against the increased expenditure that is being put upon the country by the present Government. Opinion in the country is declaiming against the Government as a profligate Government, and suggesting that this expenditure is helping to keep up the price of food. It is, therefore, the duty of the other Members of this House to criticise the Government in regard to the various items of expenditure. I hope some other Members will criticise the votes with perhaps greater ability than I myself am able to do. In respect to the question raised by my hon. Friend beneath me (Sir J. D. Rees) I am somewhat hazy as to the geography of Manchuria. Perhaps the First Commissioner can inform us as to whether this site for a new consulate is still in our hands, or whether it is in the hands of the Soviet Government—[An HON. MKMBER: "The Chinese!"]—or whether it is now in Bolshevik territory? I rather fancy that the money has been recklessly expended, and that it is useless to this country. However, we do not know that when peace has been made with the Soviet Government, but that it may come in useful.

Possibly the principal item the House will criticise this afternoon is the expenditure of £220,000 for the Peace Conference in Paris. Throughout the whole country there is a feeling against the absolutely reckless and extravagant way the Government ran the Peace Conference, and the huge staffs that were located in Paris hotels. Either two or three hotels were taken completely over for the period of the Conference. I should like to ask the First Commissioner the exact position we are in now in Paris? Have we still any of these hotels, and have we still staffs engaged there? This is an important question and one which the House has every right to know about. I should be glad to hear how the right hon. Gentleman can justify this huge expenditure in Paris.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down preached a sermon to the members of the Labour party on this side of the House, accusing them of making speeches and supporting expenditure. But he himself made a speech on a similar subject and voted in the same lobby with the Labour party in favour of spending money. I should like to put several questions, which, I think, is the best way of getting at matters in view of the experience we have had this afternoon. In connection with the maintenance of "certain cemeteries abroad," may I ask are they all related to the war cemeteries recently created on the battle front? Then with regard to the Peace Conference in Paris, why is this put down under the letters D D—and hon. Members will notice the curious use of these words in describing expenditure? The total is £220,000. If hon. Members will look at the expenditure they will see it is divided into a curious number of heads. We are told, in the first place, that the money was required for rent of premises. What premises were taken in Paris for the purposes of the discussions of the Peace Conference? Then we have the item "furniture." Was it impossible to find a house furnished, and what furniture was required for these premises? Could it not have been taken from one or other of the hotels in this country which were commandeered?

There is the Item "alteration to buildings," which seems to me to be an extraordinary waste of public money for a function of this kind. One would have thought it was, surely, possible for the few weeks for which this was necessary to find buildings to carry on the work without subjecting them to alterations' This seems to me to be a reasonable criticism. Not only were these things apparently required, but there was "erection of temporary buildings, and other services incidental to the provision of accommodation for the British delegation to the Peace Conference." What were these incidental services? One heard at the time—it was difficult to get information from Ministers—that large numbers of people went over to Paris who, some of us think, were not required there for the purposes of the business. We were told about the typists that went over to the Peace Conference being given a certain money allowance with which to clothe themselves, in order, I suppose, that they might keep up the dignity of the British Empire while they were in Paris! What money was wasted in this particular way? Was it not possible to do the thing in a much cheaper fashion? Anyhow, here are five items, running up to a quarter of a million of public money, which my right hon. Friend managed to squander. As a result of that he has not even brought back—though this is a subject I cannot discuss on this Vote—the peace that the Conference set out to achieve, and in connection with which they spent this money.


There are one or two further explanations I should like to ask for. We found it very difficult to ascertain what this £3,800 was required for. There is here a reference to the maintenance of certain cemeteries—


Perhaps I may save the time of the Committee if I explain that in these estimates the heading is taken from the main vote of the year, but only the items for which additional money is required are brought in, and only these matters are open for discussion on the Supplementary Vote.

6.0 P.M.


The next question I wish to ask is to what extent the hon. Gentleman exercises personal supervision over this expenditure in Paris. Did the right hon. Gentleman assume responsibility for carrying out the arrangements, or are they done by some other Department. I am glad to see that the amount of £35,000 was obtained as the proceeds of the sale of some premises at Kobé, but I am not very pleased to see that amount set down as an appropriation in aid. I have found in the course of various inquiries that these appropriation in aids are liable to considerable abuse, because when a department has revenue either from sales or windfalls this brings into their coffers large sums of money which leads to extravagant expenditure. I want to know whether the expenditure of this money has been sanctioned.


I wish to say a word or two about this item of £220,000 for the Peace Conference in Paris. If hon. Members will look at the Vote they will see there was no original estimate for this, and it is practically a new service. There being no original estimate, I cannot understand what a revised estimate means, because there cannot be any revised estimate under those circumstances. As far as I can remember this Conference started some time in December last year, and was over by about May or June. At present the Peace Conference is going on in London, and I do not know whether we are spending another £220,000 in the same way. At present there is very little going on in Paris in this connection, but I want to know what is being spent there at the present time under this heading. What has happened to those temporary buildings which are referred to? Have they been parted with or pulled down? It is a good many years since I was in Paris, but when I was there there were always plenty of rooms and houses to be got, and why it was necessary to erect temporary buildings or to alter buildings I cannot conceive.

After all, at the end of a great war, when we have gone through the worst times this country has ever gone through, these people might have economised in these matters in Paris. There was no need to build all these temporary buildings, and buy all this furniture, and spend £220,000 to make a great show in Paris. I would like to know if this amount covers such things as champagne, food, balls, and dances. We have been told that balls were given to which English people were invited. I think those representing this country might have taken that money out of their own pockets, and not put it to the expense of the taxpayer. This is really a very serious thing, and I am glad that the Committee has had an opportunity of criticising it. One hon. Member has asked whether this is all the expenditure, and I have heard a statement that it is still going on. I should like to know how much is going on, and when it is going to stop, and whether we are going to be given full particulars so that the House and the country may know what has been spent on joy rides in Paris. We want a full explanation. I am sorry there are no representatives of the Liberal Party present to support economy.


I think it would be better for me at this stage to deal with some of the questions which have been addressed to me, and about which information is required. I will deal with the last question first—namely, the cost of the Paris Peace Conference. I thought hon. Members would want some explanation of what appears to be a very considerable sum of money for the accommodation of the Peace Delegates who went from this country to attend the Conference. It has been my duty to find accommodation for a staff of 600, and for the members of the British Delegation and the Indian Delegation. We took five-hotels and three other premises, and two of these were exclusively used as offices Two large hotels we had to fit up as offices.


The Americans only had two hotels.


I think the Americans had more and they spent more than we did. We had to do an enormous amount of work. It was necessary, both for the convenience of the delegates and the important position we held, that our representatives should be placed in buildings of some standing as regards their situation. I daresay this could have been carried out somewhat more cheaply, but we ought to remember that we were-looked upon as the leading Power there. Some of the other smaller Powers did not hesitate to occupy expensive buildings during the course of the Conference, and I do not think it would have been fitting if the British Government had gone for accommodation into some of the suburbs of Paris. We had the Hotel Majestic, the Villa Majestic, Hotel d'Albe, Hotel Baltimore, Hotel Astoria, Hoted la Pérouse, 46, Rue la Pérouse, 23, Rue Mitot, and printing tents at Auteuil. We undoubtedly did the thing not only very well, but we did it with extreme care. It was laid down that hotels should be run by British labour, and that only British subjects should be employed, in order to avoid any leakage of information. That involved taking other premises for the staff, and all this helped to swell the expense. The Government decided that it was most important we should have our own printing machinery and our own printing offices entirely under our own supervision at Paris, so that highly confidential documents would be in the control of British officers. My Department had to undertake all this work at short notice. They did not know when the Peace Conference was to take place, and, therefore, this provision had to be made quietly and in a short space of time. Thanks to the courtesy of the French Government, we were enabled to erect on the Auteuil Steeplechase Course huts of the old Army pattern and to establish our printing machinery there. Thus all the documents were under our control, and the temporary buildings referred to in the Estimate are those particular huts which fulfilled so useful and interesting a rôle. I should say, in view of the remarks of some hon. Members, that I was not responsible for the clothes of the typists, or for the dances or for the bands. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or champagne!"] No, nor for the champagne.


Then what does the Estimate cover?


The items for accommodation are made up as follows:—Rent £133,000, maintenance £12,600, reinstatement £48,651, fuel £9,600, staff £5,550, and miscellaneous over £10,000. The Hotel Majestic was a very large and somewhat expensive building, but it must be remembered that we were not in a position to commandeer hotels in France as here. Still the French Government assisted us in every possible way to obtain what we required at reasonable figures. It should not be forgotten that it was almost impossible to get a room in Paris. That is borne out by recent experience, and we certainly could not have found accommodation for the staff by tailing casual rooms and odd hotels. We had to deal with the thing in a large manner and take hotels. We did not take the most expensive in Paris. We contented ourselves with the Majestic and the other hotels I have mentioned. Then we had to take out a good deal of furniture. Much of the office furniture had to be brought from this country. It was absolutely unobtainable in France I inquired whether it would be possible to get the furniture in Paris and found it was not. Indeed it was much more economical to bring it over from here and re-sell it when finished with. I should like to read the items showing the rents of the various hotels in francs:—Hotel Majestic, 3,000,000 francs; Villa Majestic, 145,000: Hotel d'Albe, 200,000; Hotel Baltimore, 213,000; Hotel Astoria, 711,000; Hotel la Pérouse, 23,700. The maintenance cost £12,000 and reinstatement £48,600. The question of reinstatement was a very serious and difficult matter. I can assure the Committee that the negotiations were carefully conducted in order to obtain the hotels on the best possible terms. Every care was taken, and when an hon. Member asks whether anybody was responsible, I can only tell him that my Department had over in Paris an architect who worked with great energy and efficiency, and did his best to save money and to carry through matters as economically as possible. A great part of the secretarial staff of the office were taken up with this work. With regard to the question of economy, it was not possible for us to lay down the necessities of the staff, nor what its number should be. That was a matter which had to be decided by a higher power than my Department. We had to provide the accommodation and to carry through all the negotiations in regard to compensation and reinstatement. I repeat that every possible care was taken to arrive at as cheap results as possible.

Captain WILSON

Have we now evacuated all these hotels, or are we still "carrying on" in Paris?


All the hotels have now been evacuated. I do not think we retain any at the present time. There are some smaller buildings which are being retained for the purposes of offices in view of the work still going on there, work which will probably continue for a considerable time But all the large hotels have been handed back, and so far as they are concerned the transaction is closed. Members should know that the transaction were carried out in large part with the rate of exchange at a little over 33 francs.

I have been asked question with regard to the Consular Offices. I will deal with the case of Harbin first. This is a most important port, and it was found perfectly impossible to obtain a residence for the Consul and his family. It was, therefore, decided that the best thing to do was to buy a site, and the Consul, finding a favourable opportunity and a favourable rate of exchange, did so, and the site has now, with the consent of the Treasury, been taken over. With regard to Teheran, I understand that our representative there now uses motor cars, and it has, therefore, become necessary to erect a garage. In regard to Morocco, the position is very serious. The buildings occupied at Casablanca, Rabat and Mogador were held for the Arabs for use as Consular buildings only. The French have now taken over the lands administration, and have offered to the British Government the freehold on favourable terms, the figures representing less than a quarter of the value placed on the land alone. This will enable His Majesty's Government to deal with freehold properties of increasing value in the event of the Consulate having to be removed outside the old native town, a matter even now under consideration.

Then I come to the Hague Chancery. The alterations there consist of making a new entrance to the Chancery, as hitherto there has been only one entrance for both the Legation and the Chancellerie—a very unsatisfactory arrangement indeed, and we are providing an additional entrance for Chancery business only. The sanitary accommodation, too, was very unsatisfactory, and various alterations had to be made. I am afraid these services have been very much cut down, and I have no doubt that in the future further demands will have to be made in respect of them, for the condition of many of the Consulates is anything but satisfactory. Of course, the increased cost of building in all countries has affected the Estimates. I was asked one question about an Appropriation in Aid regarding the sale of the freehold of the Kobe Consulate. There is no connection between the £35,000, the proceeds of that sale, and the £11,600 for proposed works. The hon. Member also suggested that the Department got an Appropriation in Aid and promptly spent it on something else. But he overlooked the fact that this did not appear in the Estimates at all. My Department never spends any money without Treasury authority. I do not know that any Department does. Therefore, there is no reason for suspicion.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I very much disagree with the hon. Gentleman (Sir J. D. Rees) on the question of objecting to this expenditure on consulates. In many cases our consulates are a disgrace to the country, and I am delighted to see that some expenditure is being made on them, especially in the East, where a good consular building uplifts our prestige. I hope the Committee will not grudge that. As for the explanation we have had of the expenditure at Paris I do not think we can blame him at all. He had to find accommodation for this swollen and extraordinary staff. I hope the Committee now understand the feeling of a man who, after a terrific orgy the night before, in which a lot of damage has been done, is presented with a very long bill, having unnecessarily spent a lot of money on champagne and entertaining unnecessary people. That is the position in which we find ourselves, and all we can do is to pay with as good a grace as possible, and thank our stars that we have not to pay more, because if any Member on this side of the House at the time of the Peace Conference had thought of criticising it he would have been howled down as sure as I am standing here.


I am sure the Committee are obliged to the right hon. Baronet for the careful and detailed explanation which he has given of the expenditure at the Peace Conference, but I think there are still one or two questions on which they would like further satisfaction. He said we did the thing very well. I think the general impression of the Committee will be that the people in Paris did themselves very well. I should like to know whether the account we have here of £220,000 for accommodation is a final account. That did not appear to me clearly from the right hon. Baronet's speech. He told us that certain hotels had been evacuated, but I did not understand whether it was the case or not that any further account for accommodation would be presented. The right hon. Baronet referred to the resale of furniture. I want to know whether that re-sale has taken place or not, and if it has, where it appears in these accounts as an Appropriation in Aid. If there has been a re-sale of furniture I take it it ought to appear in these accounts as an Appropriation in Aid, and I do not find it. The right hon. Baronet has taken some credit to himself for the fact that the exchange worked out on the average at 33 francs. What would have been the Bill to be presented if it had been at the normal? We are asked to provide a sum of £220,000 in sovereigns. If it had not been for the favourable exchange I suppose the bill would have been for £300,000. That is not a point on which the right hon. Baronet has any reason to take credit to himself. It is a very fortunate accident for us that we are not being asked today for something over £300,000 instead of £220,000.


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £50,000.

An hon. Member has twitted the Labour party with going out into the country and crying out against the waste of the Government, yet when they are face to face with a Vote they are prepared to vote for the Government continuing to spend money. So far as the educational grant is concerned we were prepared to support the Government in their endeavour to establish a hostel at Kew. Other hon. Members were opposed to that scheme, yet upon this item, which is far larger and which is far more unsatisfactory, they are not prepared to take any definite step to force this to a Division. I notice the conspicuous absence of the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge), who laboured this question of £3,800, and now that there is a question of at least £220,000 for a certain item in connection with the Peace Conference, he is not here to challenge it at all. [Interruption.] I would not have made the remark had I known he was called away for that purpose, and I unreservedly withdraw it. If this is taken to a Division, I am quite convinced that the Labour party will vote against this extraordinary sum. I have no means of ascertaining how far it was essential to take a staff of 600 people to carry out that very important work, but it seems most extraordinary. Then we have been told that the best hotels in Paris were taken, and enormous sums have had to be paid for the purpose. We are prepared to go into the Lobby, I feel certain, with the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), if he will move a reduction of the sum. He and others are standing out for economy, and are looking to the Labour party, which is crying out for economy, and which is said to be voting for large sums of money. If I knew the rules of the House, I would move to reduce this sum.


It is very simple. The hon. Member only has to say, "I move to reduce the sum by £100."


I am much obliged for the information, and I beg to move that the Vote be reduced not by £100, but by £50,000. If we are going to have economy we had better make a start and have real economy, and not quarrel with small sums for educational purposes while letting sums of this character go by. Here is a sum for accommodation alone which would have more than paid the services of 3,000 workmen for a week in any great undertaking in this country. We are opposed to paying this enormous sum for the accommodation of those who attended the Peace Conference, and if we are going to go in for economy it should begin at home amongst those Ministers who are responsible for carrying on the Government, and I take it they are responsible, notwithstanding the fact that the right hon. Baronet says he could not avoid this, and he had to find some sort of accommodation. I take it he found the best accommodation he could in Paris to uphold the prestige of the country and it is for that purpose that we are paying this Bill of £220,000. It means not only that the heads of the Government have been housed in the best hotels he could find in Paris, but all the subordinate staff has been housed in the best hotels also. I take it the most up-to-date rooms and the finest furniture have been acquired, and that is the way this Government is spending the money of the country.


The answer to the point made by the last speaker is, that so far as the last Vote of £3,800 was concerned, the money had not been spent. This House had control over it, and many of us say that at a time like this requiring economy, the money should not be spent. In the present instance, however, we have a Vote of £220,000 where the money has been spent and all that we can do is to pay the bill.


Has this House passed the money beforehand?


No. The whole of the £220,000 has been spent and it is, therefore, idle for the hon. Member to move a reduction. We have to pay the bill. What I would ask is, why was not a supplementary estimate presented before now? Why did the right hon. Gentleman take upon himself to spend this money and incur these liabilities without any authority from the House? The practice is much too frequent. I also want to know whether this is a complete estimate up to the end of the financial year, or whether there will be a further estimate for the buildings which are still occupied for the remainder of the financial year?

Captain LOSEBY

I dissociate myself from what appears to me to be niggling criticism of this Vote of £220,000. I protest against the idea that British delegates, considering the part that Great Britain has played in the War, should be housed somewhere in the back streets of Paris. We have the honour of this country to uphold, and I am told, not by anyone who supports the Government, but from an independent source, that we have every reason to be extremely grateful to our representatives in Paris, not only to those in high places, but to all our representatives at the Peace Conference. When one takes account of the colossal task that these delegates had to perform and the manner in which it was performed, I do not think that we ought light-heartedly to indulge on these Estimates in charges suggesting great extravagance; charges in which I do not believe there is one word of truth. I am glad that the Government saw fit to house our delegates as they should be housed, and I protest against any charge of extravagance.


I do not propose to say anything about this item of the Peace Conference. It would not be proper for me to do so. I am very grateful to the last speaker for what he has said. I want to speak on another point in regard to Item B, which consists of a sum of £11,230 estimated for under two heads; in the first place the anticipated loss in exchange on remittances to China, Japan and Persia, and the increase in the cost of building work there. I take it that the building work there is only the ordinary structural repairs, and that the sums to be expended are only the ordinary payments for building work. I have nothing to say in regard to the Estimates for the increase in the cost of building. I presume there, like it is all over the world, the cost of building must have increased. Neither have I anything to say by itself as regards the item for the anticipated loss on exchange. It is quite clear that where silver payments have to be made, as in the Far East, where the currency is silver currency, there will be a loss on the exchange. Would it not be a little more accurate to show this anticipated loss in exchange not on this account, but in the account of the Treasury Chest Fund? I believe that the original intention in instituting the Treasury Chest Fund was that it should operate precisely in cases of this kind. Among ether things, its function is to do that which in ordinary business is carried out by what is called an exchange account. Any man who conducts a large business involving different currencies always creates an exchange account. In the course of time the practice has gradually grown up under which it has been accepted that the Treasury Chest was only for payments for the Army or the Navy in out stations abroad. Is that not rather a departure from the original intention in regard to the provision of this Treasury Chest Fund? I looked up the Act to see what was said when the Treasury Chest Fund was established. The Treasury Chest Fund is a sort of annual bank, which is opened and closed every year for the purpose of laying down money for expenditure on public services abroad. In recent years it has come to be regarded as a fund to be expended only on naval and military services, but I believe that is wrong The Act says: The Treasury may employ the Treasury Chest Fund in making temporary advances for any public service The…… Treasury shall at the same time prepare an account, showing for the same financial year the profit and loss arising out of the employment of the Treasury Chest Fund during the year, whether from exchange, expenses of remittance of specie, or otherwise howsoever, showing clearly that it was originally intended to be used, not merely for naval and military services, but for all public services, and in the second place that it was contemplated that it would be used for the purposes of an exchange account. It is perhaps too much to expect that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury can give an explanation offhand of this rather obscure point, but if he can tell us anything I shall be grateful. If I am right in my contention that this was the original intention of the Act, will it be considered desirable in future to try to revert to that practice rather than adhere to this practice which has grown up in recent years, and which I believe to be the wrong practice?


This question of the Treasury Chest is like the trumpet of an old war, and it reminds one of the discussions in the happy days long ago when the right hon. Baronet used to hold an enthralled House on that very technical and abstruse subject. I think the short answer is that the operations of the Treasury Chest are conducted with such places abroad as have stationed there officers of the Treasury Chest. There are eleven such stations dotted about in various parts of the world, and it is quite true, as my hon. Friend says, that to-day the bulk of the transactions that go through those officers are transactions in connection with the payments of those sections of the Army and Navy who are stationed in the remoter quarters of the globe. Officers of the Treasury Chest Fund are generally military officers, who are paymasters very often, and specially selected for this work, and whose duty it is to report direct to the Treasury in England of the transactions that take place through them. You cannot conduct this business where you have no appointed officer. Therefore, in such cases as are referred to the business has to be done by letter. For the purposes of the Committee the practice that we are following in this Estimate is the more convenient. The usual practice is that where there is a Treasury Chest officer the business is transacted through him, but where there is not a charge is made direct to the departmental account and brought up in Committee in this House in the usual way. In this particular case we are dealing with countries, such as Persia, China and Japan, where the exchanges have been rapidly going against us. Provision, therefore, has to be made in this account for the loss that may be expected owing to the rapid loss on exchange since the contracts were made. If the loss is greater than anticipated a further Supplementary Estimate would be necessary, but if the loss is less than anticipated that would be a saving in the Vote and would be returned in due course to the Exchequer. We have here a plain statement on the face of the Vote of what we may expect to lose owing to the peculiar conditions of the currency, and I think that is much the more straightforward way of dealing with the matter. People know what is happening. If an account like that was hidden in the Treasury Chest Account, I do not think there is one hon. Member who would understand it except my hon. Friend who has raised the question. My hon. Friend is the only Member of the Committee, now present, who has made a study of this subject and who would be able to pick out this particular item in the Treasury Chest Account. I hope the explanation I have given has been satisfactory, and that the Committee will be content to leave the matter as it is.


So far as the Treasury Chest is concerned, I think the explanation of the hon. Gentleman is perfectly satisfactory if only we could understand that when there is a gain on the exchange that gain would come back to the Treasury. We all know in connection with these Votes that when any Department makes a profit or a saving on a Vote, that saving is not returned to the Treasury, but is used by the Department in further extension of expenditure on that Vote, and that savings of that nature on these small Votes enables the Department to spend more money. In old days, when we had very few Supplementary Estimates, the Government would never have dreamed of putting a charge like this in a Supplementary Estimate. It is only when we have seventy or eightly of these Supplementary Estimates that we have a charge of this nature put in a Supplementary Estimate.


The general money conditions in that part of the world must be considered. This great rise has occurred since the Estimates were introduced.

7.0 P.M.


The great rise will mean an increase in the size of the Vote. If the rise were small you would still have to have a Supplementary Estimate. But I rise to deal with the expenditure in Paris in connection with the Peace Treaty. I do not agree with the proposition that the honour of England depends on the amount of splash that we make in Paris, and the amount of hotel accommodation provided for the representatives of this country.

Captain LOSEBY

I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that it was not reasonable to suggest that the representatives of the British Empire should be otherwise than properly housed.


The representatives of England would be more suitably housed in dingy surroundings more in consonance with the home conditions than in palatial hotels called the Majestic on one side, and the Astoria on the other. The Americans provided hotel accommodation for their representatives in the Hotel Crillon, and these representatives both slept and carried on business in that hotel. But we had the Majestic for our people to sleep in and the Astoria for them to work in, and if a person went to the Astoria looking for someone he would be told that the person was in the Majestic, and if he went to the Majestic he would be told to go to the Astoria. The simplification of having one hotel resulted not only in economy but in a great deal better despatch of business.


Is it not against the factory laws of the country to work and sleep in the same building.


The hon. Member has never seen either the Astoria or the Majestic, or he would not compare them with factories. It was difficult enough to get at a Minister there, even when one went to the right hotel. We have got before us an account for more than £220,000, but that is by no means the full bill which we have got to pay. We have taken no account here of the bill which was run up by the Admiralty. I understand that the First Lord kept a flat there permanently, though he only visited it once or twice. Then there is no account of the War Office expenditure in Paris or the Food Ministry expenditure or of the salaries that were spent there. The House should have figures showing the total expenditure. It was much more like £2,000,000, and before we vote this sum representing this much larger item, we ought to be told what the larger item was.

Our conduct of affairs in Paris was extremely extravagant. Advantage was taken of the work going on there, for a great many people to take unnecessary trips to Paris at Government expense. If rigid economy had been exercised by the Treasury, and still more so by the different departments concerned, the country might have been saved nearly half a million. Unfortunately it was not until the expenditure was nearly over that the outcry for economy began in this country in August, 1919. I shall support my hon. Friend if he goes to a Division to emphasise the fact that I have nothing to do with this extravagant expenditure in Paris. The hon. Member opposite said that as the money was spent it was useless to oppose the Estimate. To adopt that view would be to surrender the rights of Parliament. To say that expenditure must be passed sub silentio because the money had been spent would be surrendering a power that it took Parliament centuries to acquire. The very essence of bringing Estimates before us is to show that the House has control over the expenditure of money, even though in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the money has been already spent.

I wish now to refer to the strange case of Harbin where we are acquiring a site for a consulate. The hon. Gentleman said that it was not in Russia but in China. Though it is not technically Russia, yet the coinage used in Harbin is Russian roubles. I should have thought that £5,600 in British money would not only buy a consulate site, but at the present value of the rouble would buy out the whole town of Harbin. In any case speculation in land in Harbin must be a risky matter at the present time, for though it is not technically in Russia the population is Russian and the sentiment of the working class is extremely Bolsheviki, and I hope that the Government will exercise restraint in going in for land speculation in that particular town. I imagine that Harbin is governed by the British, American and Japanese consuls. They are the autocrats of Harbin, the de facto governors of the town, and would like to be housed well. It is the habit in China for all our representatives to have magnificent compounds. The legation at Pekin covers, I should think, two hundred acres. It has a magnificent compound, originally arranged for defence, but that is no reason why in Harbin we should go in for the same sized accommodation. We do not want an elaborate fortified compound. Fortifications of that sort merely invite attack. When we speak of land for £5,600, what exactly is the area which we have acquired for this consulate site? The reduction of the Vote deals primarily with Paris, but may be held to include this expenditure on the consulate in Harbin.


I have hunted through the various documents in order to find what are the other items of expenditure which were incurred at the Peace Conference. I am not sure whether any representative of the Government will be able to tell us what money we have already voted. When I look at the Foreign Office Vote, I see that obviously the amount of money put down there is quite insufficient for the purpose. Obviously, it is for the convenience of the House that we should consider as one proposition the expenditure of Government money at the Peace Conference. We should be able to consider it as a whole, and have a complete picture of it. This would save a great deal of time If all the money spent at the Peace Conference were spread over six Estimates, we should probably have six Debates on the one subject; whereas a general Debate on the subject would be more desirable. The Government should tell us exactly what the expenditure at the Peace. Conference was, in order that the House may come to a conclusion as to whether the expenditure was reasonable or not.


I wish to join in protesting against the extravagance of

the Paris expenditure. We cannot undo the evil that has been done, but this is the first time that the Vote has been before the Committee, and it is the only opportunity we have had of making a protest against it. We believe all the accounts to be grossly extravagant. Many of us have not been able to go over to test for ourselves, but from reports that reach us there is no doubt that a large amount of money has been spent on a huge staff, and if we judge results over there by what we see at home, we know that a Government department in seeking accommodation for itself and its staff does not run on ordinary business lines, but seeks to magnify the dignity of its office all the time. I may recall to the House that, when one Ministry had to go to Leeds last year on a matter which did not require a large staff, a big hotel was commandeered and a huge staff was taken down there, and it was obvious to all the people in that district that there was an extraordinary expenditure of public money on what was purely staff work, which was of no utility. If that was the principle on which work was done in Paris we have reason to make this protest. We all agree that the dignity of the Empire and of the position which we like to hold must be maintained, but as the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wedgwood) has so well said, that does not consist in the amount of splash which we make and the amount of extravagance which we have. Therefore, as a protest and a warning to the Government to say "Do not do it again," I hope that the hon. Member who moved this Amendment will go to a Division. We all yield lip service to economy, but when it comes to a test we should show the sincerity of that lip service in the Division Lobby.

Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £157,900 be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 64; Noes, 222.

Division No. 29.] AYES. [7.15 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon F. D. Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield) Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)
Adamson, Rt. Hon William Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely) Grundy, T. W.
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.) Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)
Bennett, Thomas Jewell Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe) Guest, Major O. (Leic, Loughboro')
Bramsdon, Sir Thomas Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Hallas, Eldred
Briant, Frank Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedweilty) Hartshorn, Vernon
Bromfield, William France, Gerald Ashburner Hayday, Arthur
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Galbraith, Samuel Hayward, Major Evan
Cairns, John Glanville, Harold James Hirst, G. H.
Cape, Thomas Gould, James C. Hodge, Rt. Hon. John
Holmes, J. Stanley Sexton, James Wignall, James
Irving, Dan Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Lunn, William Sitch, Charles H. Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray Smith, W. R, (Wellingborough) Williams, John (Glamorgan, Gower)
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Spoor, B. C. Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Marks, Sir George Croydon Stanton, Charles B. Wood, Major M. M (Aberdeen, C.)
Myers, Thomas Swan, J. E. C. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Redmond, Captain William Archer Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Richardson, R, (Houghton-le-Spring) Tootill, Robert Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. Spencer.
Roundell, Colonel R. F. Waterson, A. E.
Royce, William Stapleton Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S. Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot Morison, Thomas Brash
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Morrison, Hugh
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)
Ainsworth, Captain Charles Gilbert, James Daniel Murray, Major William (Dumfries)
Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Neal, Arthur
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington) Nelson, R. F. W. R.
Atkey, A. R. Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar Newman, Colonel J. R. P, (Flnchley)
Bagley, Captain E. Ashton Gregory, Holman Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Baird, John Lawrence Greig, Colonel James William Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)
Baldwin, Stanley Gretton, Colonel John Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Griggs, Sir Peter Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood. Gwynne, Rupert S. Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark
Barlow, Sir Montague Hailwood, Augustine Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.
Barnett, Major R. W. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Parker, James
Barrle, Charles Coupar Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry
Barton, Sir William (Oldham) Hamilton, Major C. G. C. Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Hanna, George Boyle Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich) Harris, Sir Henry Percy Perkins, Walter Frank
Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West) Haslam, Lewis Perring, William George
Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston) Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.
Blair, Major Reginald Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Pilditch, Sir Philip
Slake, Sir Francis Douglas Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Pollock, Sir Ernest M.
Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F. Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E. Pulley, Charles Thornton
Bowles, Colonel H. F. Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Raeburn, Sir William H.
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Hills, Major John Waller Ratcliffe, Henry Butler
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Hinds, John Rees, Sir John D. (Nottingham, East)
Brassey, Major H. L. C. Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central) Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)
Breese, Major Charles E. Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian) Reid, D. D.
Bridgeman, William Clive Hopkins, John W. W. Remnant, Colonel Sir James F.
Broad, Thomas Tucker Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)
Brown, Captain D. C. Home, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead) Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)
Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H. Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster) Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Hurd, Percy A. Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)
Burdon, Colonel Rowland James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Rodger, A. K.
Butcher, Sir John George Jellett, William Morgan Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)
Campbell, J. D. G. Jodrell, Neville Paul Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Johnstone, Joseph Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, putney)
Carew, Charles Robert S. Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke) Seager, Sir William
Carr, W. Theodore Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John
Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Shaw, William T. (Forfar)
Cautley, Henry S. Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly) Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin Kellaway, Frederick George Simm, M. T.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Chadwick, R. Burton Kidd, James Stanler, Captain Sir Beville
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Birm.,W.) King, Commander Henry Douglas Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Steel, Major S. Strang
Clough, Robert Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.) Stephenson, Colonel H. K.
Coats, Sir Stuart Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd) Stevens, Marshall
Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale Lloyd, George Butler Strauss, Edward Anthony
Cope, Major Wm. Lloyd-Greame, Major P. Sugden, W. H.
Courthope, Major George L. Lorden, John William Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Lort-Williams, J. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Dalzlel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton) Loseby, Captain C. E. Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Lyon, Laurance Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester) Tickler, Thomas George
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern) Townley, Maximilian G.
Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham) M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W. Turton, E. R.
Donald, Thompson M'Micking, Major Gilbert Vickers, Douglas
Doyle, N. G rattan McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury) Waddington, R.
Duncannon, Viscount Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Wallace, J.
Edwards, John H. (Glam., Neath) Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.) Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) Marriott, John Arthur Ransome Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.
Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M. Mason, Robert Wheler, Major Granville C. H.
Falcon, Captain Michael Matthews, David White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)
Farquharson, Major A. C. Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C. Whitla, Sir William
Fell, Sir Arthur Mitchell, William Lane Wild, Sir Ernest Edward
FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A. Molson, Major John Elsdale Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)
Foreman, Henry Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M. Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J. (Richmond)
Forrest, Walter Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Winterton, Major Earl
Weimer, Viscount Yate, Colonel Charles Edward Younger, Sir George
Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West) Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Woolcock, William James U. Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L. Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth) Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.

Question put accordingly, and agreed to.