Sir DONALD MACLEN
I beg to move "That the Vote be reduced by £100,000,000."
I propose to confine my remarks to the domestic side of our expenditure. The world aspect received a considerable amount of attention yesterday, and was covered fully and adequately by my right hon. Friend and Leader (Mr. Asquith). But whatever is necessary abroad or is necessary at home, there can be no question whatever that unless we have increased production and very much increased economy there can be no hope of recovery. It is on the question of domestic economy in public expenditure that I have put down this Amendment. It is, I think, an unprecedented Amendment, but we live in abnormal times, and it is emphatically necessary to take strong measures to meet the needs of the moment as they are developed before us. I would like first to draw attention to the letter of the Prime Minister, which was despatched to the various Departments on August 20th of last year, and to make that the text of the remarks which I propose to make. In that letter he says:The state of the national finances is such that only what is indispensable to sound administration ought to be maintained. Everything in excess must be ruthlessly cut down. In the interests of economy we must be willing to content ourselves with the second best where the best is too costly.The first point about that letter which I wish to make is this, that it was addressed to the Departments in August last year just in time to ensure that the Departments should give full consideration to 2058 it, and would have ample opportunity in framing their Estimates to give full effect to these directions—I think that that is not too strong a word—of the Prime Minister that everything in excess should be ruthlessly cut down, and that in the interests of economy we ought to content ourselves at the present moment, at any rate, with the second best where the best is too costly.
I do not think that I exaggerate when I say that Members of this House and the public were considerably shocked when they read the Civil Service Estimates and grasped the fact, so far as the normal mind can grasp these figures of hundreds of millions, that the Estimate for the year 1920–21, the second year of peace, was £557,000,000, six times the sum for 1914, entirely apart from the Navy, the Army and the Air Service to which of course I cannot allude to-day. It is true that the direction has been effective to the extent of about £93,500,000, but that is more than accounted for by either the reduction or cessation of some emergency services. For instance, loans to Allies come down from £147,000,000 to an estimate of £36,000,000; railway agreement from £60,000,000 to £23,000,000; bread subsidy from £50,000,000 to £45,000,000; coal mines deficiency from £26,000,000 to £15,000,000. So we are left to this obvious fact, that there is no cutting down on any scale, let alone ruthlessly, which is appreciable to the ordinary mind in the great permanent Departments or in those great new Departments which have been created since the War. What we ought to do now is to copy the example of the Navy and the Army in demobilising the fighting forces. We want to demobilise the forces of bureaucracy in this country. We are in the second year since the War and though there have been some indications recently in the Press of large diminutions in the numbers of the staffs of some Departments, that does not seem to have reflected itself in the cost.
What this Committee has to determine in its examination of the financial policy of the Government as regards domestic finance is this: as to whether the Executive is in any real material practical sense carrying out the directions given by the Prime Minister to the Departments in August of last year. There are some exceptions which one should naturally make as between the productive and non-productive services, and I for one would 2059 regret profoundly any decrease, in so far as it is not caused by the removal of extravagance, in the Education Vote, and of course we are fully committed to dealing not only justly but generously with the question of pensions. But I would like to direct attention to one or two things which have come before us during the past week or two as showing clearly that there is no real will to economise among the Departments. The first I take is what I think hon. Members will remember quite well. Last week we had the question of the buildings. It was only by the overwhelming expression of opinion by the Committee that very reluctantly the Executive were compelled to limit the Estimate which they brought before the Committee to the acquisition of land and to postpone the cost of the building. Take another—the Supplemental Estimate for the Ministry of Agriculture. The Supplemental Estimate is rather more than 50 per cent. of the original Estimate for the year. That is, they were 50 per cent. wrong in their calculations as to what the cost was to be. But I would specially direct attention again to one of these items, showing, as I am submitting, the spirit in which the Departments are working. Hon. Members will recollect the expenditure under S.1. Corn Production Act of 1917. Somebody got an attack of nerves in the office of the Minister of Agriculture, and said that there was going to be such a fall in prices that we ought to have a survey at once to see what the State would have to pay the farmers under the bargain between them and the State.
I am not an agriculturist, but the figure under this head on the Estimate was a pretty glaring one. To my surprise, my urban view of the situation was backed up by every agriculturist who spoke in the Debate. They all agreed that the expenditure was wholly unnecessary, and that, if the Ministry had taken the trouble to inquire from any person who really understood and took a calm view of the situation, they would have been told that there was no fear at all of the State being called upon to pay; but on the machine went, and accordingly they appointed 1,000 inspectors at £100 each, and it cost, in addition, £20,000 in travelling expenses and subsistence allowance, making a total of £130,000, all of which was thrown 2060 away. That is a clear case of the lack of spirit of economy in these Departments. I will take another instance, the Ministry of Transport. We moved a reduction of the Headquarter Staff. That Ministry has been in operation for five or six months, and it has already cost the country £136,500 for the Headquarter Staff. We asked the Parliamentary Secretary, who, in the regrettable absence of his chief, spoke in the Debate, what was the policy. We asked him what all the eleven Departments, with the seven Directors-General, and all the necessary gradations of official rank below those generals, were for and what they were doing. He said that the major work was to consider what should be the policy, but they had replied to 2,000 queries. He added this cautious observation, that people really ought to write to the railway companies who were carrying on, as always, with a certain amount of efficiency, and that it was no use writing to the Ministry. Where is there any evidence of a ruthless cutting down of expenditure or a contentment with the second best where the best is too costly? These are things which make the country restless, dissatisfied, and determined, in so far as they can through us here, to have a change in these methods of administration.
We had the Food Ministry before us yesterday. That is one of the Departments that show a decrease. They have some reductions there, but the headquarter staff for 1920–21 still numbers 1,437, as against 1,909 in 1919–20. You might take any one of these Departments. I have given two or throe which occur to me as worthy of illustration. If you take them all and go through them steadily, you will find the same thing. Practically, they snap their fingers at the cries of the overburdened taxpayer. They will not go until they are made to go. It is very largely the same with the permanent Departments, with their swollen staffs and still prodigal expenditure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer over and over again has said, "Let us work to the normal year." You will never get a normal year until you make it so. If you drift along in this way waiting for Departments to demobilise or reduce themselves, you will never approach the normal year. It is because I feel that so strongly that I am urging the House to take the initiative itself. You will never get the Government 2061 to do very much. They are all very busy and the pressure upon each Department and each Minister, of course, is to keep the whole thing in being. It is for this House to realise its financial responsibility to the nation. My colleagues and myself, since the very first day of this Parliament, have been hitting as hard as we could on this subject, but so far we have made little impression on the Government, although there has been a swift development of public indignation to which the Government seem very largely impervious.
There is another question to which I wish to draw attention. It is a necessary part of war that there should be huge accumulations of stocks held by the various Departments. Of course, the right thing to do when those stocks are realised is to apply them to the reduction of the Floating Debt. I have before me a clear cut example of what is happening. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries bring in aid the receipts from the realisation of the tractor and horse ploughing schemes and matters of that kind, amounting to a total of £559,700, and the Minister of Agriculture, referring to some of the items, congratulated himself upon the fact that they could bring in these realisations in aid. Of course, it tends to departmental extravagance when they know that they can practically balance by bringing in realisations of capital. What business could live on those terms for six months? Yet that is what every Government Department that has had anything to do with capital expenditure during the War and that has these surplus stores is doing. There is no concealment about it; it is here on the face of the Estimates themselves.
What is the remedy? I am glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer here. I am going to suggest to him a remedy. Although he has refused it, I tender the medicine to him once more. Bring the House of Commons into partnership in these matters of expenditure and carry into effect the recommendation in the Ninth Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, with which my right hon. Friend the Junior Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has had a very close and honourable career. The hon. Member for Oxford City (Mr. Marriott) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how far they were prepared to 2062 carry out that Report. There was a very large number of recommendations, but the particular question to which great importance was attached was the proposed Estimates Committee. I have said it before, but I am going on saying it, because some time or other we may make some impression. That recommendation was one of the most powerful that has ever come before this House. It had the expressed approval of Mr. Speaker, of the Chairman of Ways and Means, and of the Clerk of the House. I carefully examined the proposal, and, so far as my experience of six or seven years in the Chair adds any weight, I also agreed to it. My right hon. Friend and Leader (Mr. Asquith) also agreed to it when he was asked his opinion.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
The approval of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was a very qualified approval. The proposal was directly disapproved by Mr. McKenna, an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by myself when I also was more happily situated than at present, and was an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think no verbal evidence was even taken. A questionnaire was sent out, and some of them answered, but the matter was never pursued by examination.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Yes, I accept all those qualifications, but do not in the least alter my' opinion on the matter.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am not quite certain if my memory is correct, but may I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he himself did not give evidence before the Committee last spring upon this very point?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I remember being before the Committee, but I do not remember giving evidence on this point. I think the report to which my right hon Friend is speaking was founded on a questionnaire sent out by Mr. Herbert Samuel.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
There were two reports. Another Member of the Committee is here, and he confirmed me in saying that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was there and was questioned.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not think that I qualified the opinion that I quite definitely stated in my answer which was ignored by the earlier Committee just as 2063 was Mr. McKenna's opinion. I only intervene because I do not wish it to go forth that the whole weight of financial authority, particularly those who have been personally responsible for the finances of the country, was in favour of the proposal. I am anxious for anything which will make for better control over the finances, but my objections to this proposal are that it trenches on the pre rogative of the House of Commons in a way that hon. Members do not realise, and that it will not give effective control over expenditure
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for his qualification of the statement which I made. The House will pass its own judgment of the matter as it now stands. The proposal received the authority which I have indicated, and it had the disapproval of the authorities which my right hon. Friend has intimated to us. He speaks of ex-Chancellors of the Exchequer. My right hon. Friend and Leader is also an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, and no doubt even he has imbibed some of the prejudices of the office. Of course, the Treasury do not want to lose any sort of authority that they possess, and are naturally jealous of the House of Commons. I am making a House of Commons point. They have been making, quite rightly, a Treasury point. The reply which they gave was this:In their view—His Majesty's Government—its adoption would lessen the responsibility of Ministers and would tend to weaken the control of the Treasury over expenditure.What effect has that control over expenditure had over these swollen Estimates? If that be all that Treasury control can do, we want something to help to strengthen the Treasury, and the right way to do that is through the House of Commons It is the only body which is left to help my right hon. Friend in his daily struggles, which I am sure are numerous and fierce. I should myself have thought that he would have said: "This is the very thing that I want. The House of Commons is always on to me for increased expenditure. I will bring them in by means of one of their Committees, and throw the responsibility on to them, so that they will not be so ready to press me for further grants in this or that direction, because their own 2064 Committee will have an added sense of responsibility, and will assist me." No, we come back to the old financial position, and I am hoping, some time or other, to drag or dynamite my right hon. Friend out of that. It is the real point. I am sure that some time or other he will thoroughly realise the immense importance of getting going once again in its entirety the full sense of responsibility of the House of Commons over expenditure, I know it is an immense advantage, and this is the way to get it.
I come to my final point, that is an explanation, if it is needed, of the size of the reduction which I have moved. The total sum of the Estimate, as I have pointed out, is 557 millions and a half, and the Government is asking for a sum of 241 millions on account. I do not think I am far wrong when I say that that represents about what is needed to carry, on for about five months. Meanwhile, of course, some Estimates will be passed to assist the Treasury in the approval by Parliament of the various funds which are asked, but where will that carry the Executive to? It carries them on to the 16th August. Therefore, it will be seen that, having this authority from the House of Commons, they are practically independent of us, except in so far as the Estimates come up from time to time. We know what happens on the Estimates, A small band of economists from all parts of the House fight on these Estimates, and the Minister stands firm. He is all right; he knows that perfectly well. The division bells are rung, and in comes a well-drilled battalion and supports the Government. Why need the Minister bother? In the end, under the Standing Orders, all the Votes pass, millions and millions of money as the minutes go by, under the guillotine.
The position I am putting to my right hon. Friend is so abnormal that I do not think the House of Commons is justified in trusting the Executive for five months. The House ought to insist on Having from time to time opportunities of a general review such as we have had to-day and yesterday. They should come back to us and ask for another of the necessary amounts to carry them through, if they have not got already sufficient grant from the Commons itself. I therefore take the sum of £100,000,000, which, after a rough calculation which I have made, will, I 2065 think, necessitate the Government coming back again to the House of Commons somewhere in June. I think that is quite a plain, ordinary, common-sense business proposal. They are asking us here for the large sum of £241,000,000 on account. We are not satisfied—I think I am speaking the mind of the majority of the House of Commons, whatever party they belong to—they are disturbed about these swollen Estimates. We say, "Carry on for three months and then come back to us again, and we will have an opportunity, and it is the duty of the House of Commons to keep this close check on the Executive and the expenditure of public money." It is for that reason and because of the fact that the existence of the House of Commons, its essential power, is finance. Our liberties from the King are on finance, and we are in danger of losing our liberties to the Executive over finance. The House of Commons must wrest back its responsibility and rise to the height of its duty in this matter. It is because of that I am moving the reduction which stands in my name.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I anticipated that my right hon Friend was going to take a rather different line, and I had not contemplated taking part in this Debate myself, but I feel that as far as my right hon. Friend's observations were addressed to me—and in particular, in this matter, they were addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—he and the House may consider that it is proper I should make some reply on behalf of the Government. Let me deal, first of all, with what is, I think, a very minor point, one more of form than of substance. My right hon. Friend considers that we are asking too much in asking for five months' supply. The point of substance in that is that the House of Commons should retain its control over the Government, and I submit that, as a matter of fact, under present circumstances the House does retain that control, even though they have already voted a large vote on account. I think it is much more convenient for the House to have the time available for financial discussion and to have that time employed on particular estimates than in a series of general debates of the character that we have had to-day and yesterday. That may be said without underestimating the importance of such a Debate as that of yesterday, 2066 which I think did much to clear the air, largely thanks to the speech made by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) which in more skilful and sonorous language repeated speeches many times made from this Bench. Largely thanks to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, it helped to put the real position before the country, and to sweep away mists of misrepresentation and misapprehension with which controversy has been clouded.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
At any rate, there was nothing in my right hon. Friend's speech, or only one passage—to which I shall have to allude presently, because it has formed the substance of his right hon. Friend's and colleague's speech—which might not have been delivered, and which in substance has not been delivered, already, and more than once, by Members of the Government. With the substance of it I found myself in general agreement with my right hon. Friend. What I have more than once tried to impress on the House and the country was put with unexampled force and in a way which excited all my admiration. Of course, the Opposition can, at any time, secure an opportunity for general discussion if they want. They have more than once done so. They will have it on the Budget, and will use it; but, in the meantime, I must express surprise that my right hon. Friend is so anxious to deprive the Government of its resources. I thought it was held by himself and by those who represent him in the Press, that this Government was tottering to an early fall. I should have thought he would have been glad, and rather grateful than otherwise, for the provision of resources for some time for the Government which is to succeed it.
I now come to the proposition which my right hon. Friend made, that we should appoint a committee on estimates. Let me say at once that I am as anxious as he is to revive, if it ever existed in times of which he or I have memory, the Government control or to create a Government control, of the House over finance. Nothing could be more important for the Government than to associate the House with it in the control of expenditure and to instil into the House some portion of their own strong feeling that rigorous 2067 economy is necessary. The whole difference between my right hon. Friend and myself is whether the particular procedure which he recommended is compatible with our Parliamentary customs and with the rights of the House of Commons in other respects, and would be efficient for the purpose in view. I will be quite frank with the House and with my right hon. Friend. I approach this question under the circumstances of the present day with the desire to recant the evidence which I have submitted to the Committee, and I find myself unconvinced that the Committee have found a solution. I cannot do that. Let me take first of all the position of the House of Commons. It is no good having a Committee to examine if the House is going to Vote the Estimates while they are still under examination and before the Committee has reported. Is the House ready to postpone its own examination, its own control until this Committee or these Committees have gone through all the Votes and made their Report? Is the House willing to do that in regard to the main Estimates of the year? Could you possibly apply that system to Supplementary Estimates introduced in the early part of the Session which had to be carried and embodied in the Appropriation Act before 31st March?
Then, passing from that question, which concerns the rights of the House of Commons, every advocate of this scheme has laid it down that the Committee must not interfere with policy. That is the prerogative of the House of Commons. We are doing it. Every item is to come before the Committee, but we are told that it is not to interfere with the control of the House of Commons. We have heard right hon. Gentlemen and other Members of the House reiterate the opinion that expenditure depends upon policy, but if you tell the Committee that it is not to touch policy, how can it control expenditure? It could not do it. If it were to make an exhaustive inquiry, it would occupy the labours, I think, of two or three Committees. What is still more important, it would require the continuous attention of the officers of the Government, the representatives of the Departments, and perhaps the Minister, to make a meticulous survey of all the details of expenditure and to find out minor savings which ought to have been discovered in the Departments in the first 2068 place, or in the second place by the Treasury. That, I am afraid, is the limit of the Committee's usefulness. There is another point, and that is the way in which it would add new difficulties to those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Treasury control. All my experience goes to prove that if the House of Commons exercised that right of detailed examination, it would exercise it as often in the direction of new expenditure as it would in trying to cut down the Estimates.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
All experience shows that a Committee, though primarily appointed to make economies, would, if established, bring forward recommendations for new expenditure.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
There was a Committee of that sort before, of which at that time I was Chairman, and I am glad to say we never, under any circumstances, recommended any new expenditure.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Baronet is probably one of the few Members of the House who can truly say that in his long membership of the House he has never sought on any occasion to increase public expenditure. I think that would be true, also, of some of my right hon. Friends opposite, but the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the City of London, comes nearer to the ideal. Although this Committee did resist the temptation to introduce new expenditure, I do not believe that if such a Committee were permanently set up it would be immune from the temptation which besets a Committee of this House to introduce new sources of expenditure. I ventured some time ago, in answer to the questions by Mr. Herbert Samuel, to say that financial control never has been and never will be conducted by the House of Commons itself; that it could only be conducted in the Departments, and, if outside of the Department, in the Treasury, and that anything which lessened their authority would be detrimental to the interests of economy. I am quite certain that the establishment of this sort of Committee would lead to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury being beset by a new form of demands by the spending Departments. At present the Chancellor of the Exchequer uses the House of Com 2069 mons as a shield, but if a department of this kind was in existence the department might say to him, "Let us make our case before it; do not you turn us down and prevent us from taking the judgment of the Committee upon this or that proposal." The Committee would be used by the Department, not for the purpose for which it was intended, not to strengthen control, but for breaking down the control by going all over it again. That would not do.
I do not think we shall find salvation in that. We shall find it rather in the self-restraint exercised by Members of this House which may induce the Members to forego their demands at the expense of a little display of courage and temporary unpopularity, subservience to bodies of their constituents or agitations in the Press for the expenditure of public money. Speaking sometime last year, I said it was necessary to decrease Government expenditure, and I had to answer criticisms which had been made. I said that an hon. Friend had presented to the Prime Minister a memorial signed by more than half the Members of the House in favour of increased pensions to ex-Government servants. I said I had refused that petition, and I asked the House to support me; but the House did not. Ten days or a fortnight ago it refused me that support by a majority of two to one. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken was absent like others. The origin of this heavy expenditure is not the Government nor the bureaucracy, although it is quite true, as has been said, that if you set up a tremendous machine and get it going it does not soon lose its momentum and it is difficult to stop it; but it is not the Government nor the bureaucracy, it is the continuous demand from this House, from Members of this House who do not resist the proposals, which make the constantly-increasing expenditure necessary. They bring these proposals to me, and I resist a great many of them. Many of them come before Ministers, who also refuse them, and others are resisted by the Treasury. We do our best to administer the finances of the country prudently and economically, but in order to do so we must have the support of the House, and the blame must not be put upon our shoulders. If you do not support us, it is not fair to attribute all these misfortunes to the Minister who happens to be in charge. The blame must be on 2070 your shoulders, I turn from that part of the speech to the question of the Civil Service Estimates, as presented to the House, which were the basis of the right hon. Gentleman's speech just now. In the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (the Member for Paisley) yesterday he did not deal with much detail, but to-day the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with small details rather than with the broad aspects which were treated yesterday. I am not going to follow him into any rehash, if I may so call it, of the Debates on the Supplementary Estimates. The individual responsible Ministers were present to answer for their particular Departments, and I do not think that anything that I could add upon these matters of detail would better cover the ground.
But I would like to say a word or two about the total of the Estimates, because I think my right hon. Friend who spoke to-day and the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Paisley, yesterday, have scarcely appreciated the character of these Estimates and how such a large sum is made up. May I give the House a few figures? It is difficult to avoid figures in a financial statement. The total of the Civil Service Estimates is £557,474,000. Of this total, £43,600,000 is for the Ministry of Shipping and Munitions, as explained in the Note on page 6. It is simply a matter of accountancy in accordance with the recommendations of the financial officials and a Committee of this House, and its object is to secure that these large sums shall not be appropriated in aid of the Vote, but shall appear in the gross expenditure and find their way direct to the Treasury. Therefore, £44,600,000 is a matter of accountancy and nothing more. I next come to the question of subsidies, on which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Paisley, spoke. There is £45,000,00 for the bread subsidy. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to deal with that, and I heartily agree with what he said, that the sooner we get rid of these subsidies the better. I agree that they conduce to conceal the real facts of the situation from the country and that they put a most onerous burden upon the State and on the national finances. Therefore I agree the sooner they are got rid of the better. I had hoped last year that we should be able to get rid of them absolutely about the end of the coming harvest, but I am doubtful about that now, because the prospects 2071 pects are not so good as I had been led to believe. It is my opinion that the continuance of these subsidies is not justified except so far as they are a temporary measure to prevent an equally temporary rise followed by a fall. If prices are going to remain for a considerable time at a higher level than the price at which the loaf can be sold, I agree that the price of the loaf will have to rise again and the subsidy will have to be diminished to that extent.
In addition to this £45,000,000 for bread there are £15,000,000 for the railways. I think he was under a wrong impression when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) spoke of that. It is not a subsidy; it is really a debt, and a debt incurred by himself. It is part of the payment of the arrears for the maintenance of the railways, which was arranged very properly in an agreement by him when the railways were taken over at the commencement of the War, and therefore it is not a subsidy, it is a debt, and a debt incurred by him, by the Government and left by the right hon. Gentleman to us. Then there are £15,000,000 for coal. He treated that as a subsidy, but £3,000,000 of it is delayed expenditure under the agreement of 1918. Twelve millions of that sum was advanced and is repayable with interest from the new coal account, and it will be more than covered by the repayment this year. I am talking all along of the new financial year, but that applies to the previous year. I am taking the year in which the sum is applied. In that respect I have followed the advice of my friends and have excluded these specially large appropriations from the Vote so as to bring the receipts direct to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and therefore £12,000,000 out of the £15,000,000 should have appeared in the Vote for the Civil Service Estimates of the year.
§ Mr. FRANCE
As to the £23,000,000, is it not true that it is partly caused or wholly caused by the increase of the pay of railway servants since the arrangement referred to was entered into?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
My hon. Friend is under a complete misapprehension. It is quite distinct from the charges for increased pay; it is for maintenance and renewals not carried out during the War because labour and material could not be 2072 used on our home roads. £36,000,000 is loans for Allies, of which £18,000,000 is in respect of repayment due by the Allies to British Government Departments for war services. £10,000,000 is for relief loans to Central Europe. How much of that will be spent I cannot say. We have agreed to provide up to £10,000,000, but not exceeding half of what will be supplied by America. I am not taking my right hon. Friend as criticising any of these items. The balance is a re-vote of grants for relief and reconstruction and so forth allocated in 1919–20, but not spent this year. I proceed now to deal with additions to expenditure made by the House in full knowledge of what they involved after I had made my financial statement last October, telling them that new expenditure meant new taxation, and that I thought I saw my way to balance income and expenditure provided there was no new expenditure, but that if new expenditure was required, new revenue would have to be provided.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
In his balancing of the accounts does the right hon. Gentleman include War realisations?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I will come to that in a moment. The House has sanctioned £10,000,000 additional charge for old age pensions. Of that, £8,200,000 accrued in the year with which we are dealing; £11,500,000 for housing; a sum additional to the previous cost of war pensions of £29,000,000, following the recommendation of the Second Report, I think, of the Select Committee of this House. They always land me into large expenditure. £3,000,000 is accounted for by War bonuses to Civil Servants granted since October last in accordance with the decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Board, and, of course following the general trend of wages and salaries throughout the country. £15,000,000 is increased expenditure on education—a subject which I am forbidden to treat as one in which economy is permissible by both my right hon. Friends. Out-of-work donations, resettlement and training of ex-Service men accounted for £22,000,000. I exclude for the moment from the total of the sums which I have enumerated the additional £2,900,000 for pensions. Excluding that, the items which I have explained account for £222,300,000 out of the Estimate of £557,000,000. I exclude pensions because 2073 that small addition, of course, is but a fraction of the charge for War pensions; the total for the coming year is £123,000,000. Add £123,000,000 to £222,300,000 and you get a round figure of £348,000,000 out of a total of £557,000,000, of which I do not believe that one penny is challenged under present circumstances, unless my right hon. Friend is prepared to say that we ought to have abolished the subsidy on bread forthwith and brought the price of the loaf in one bound, not to the neighbourhood of 1s., but to the neighbourhood of 1s. 3d.
What is the moral that I draw? It is that general statements as to the enormity of this expenditure are based, in the first place, partly on misapprehension of what the expenditure is—i.e., of lack of appreciation of accountancy operations introduced in deference to the wishes of this House; that, in the second place, a large portion of the sums I have enumerated is due to purely temporary charges which are not challenged; and that the balance of the sums I have enumerated, the £348,000,000 out of the total of £557,000,000, is not challenged under present circumstances in any quarter of the House. It is, therefore, in the remainder that my right hon. Friends must find their reductions. I invite my right hon. Friends to tell me any service now being rendered which they are prepared to recommend Parliament to dispense with. I invite them to tell me any method either by the abolition of a service or otherwise by which I can save what they consider to be an adequate sum. I would be content if they would put their finger on a practicable means of saving £500,000. I would be most grateful. When they have done that I will listen to them with even greater interest when they urge economy in the House and when they try to convict me of not having done my duty in the survey of national expenditure.
I do not know whether I am trespassing too long on the patience of the House. If not, I would like, as this Debate is in some respects a continuation of that of yesterday, to say a few words further about the speech of my right, hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). Undoubtedly the great problem that we have before us is the reduction of the 2074 floating debt, because until we have reduced the floating debt the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not his own master; he has not control in his own house. We have passed, as I said I hoped we should, the peak of the National Debt. We have begun the reduction. I have ceased to borrow in order to balance current expenditure. My right hon. Friend asked whether, in the income which I counted to balance expenditure, was included the sale of surplus stores and the realisation of assets remaining over from the War. That is, of course, so. I have stated it on more than one occasion, and I submit it is a legitimate thing as long as there is a large remnant of direct War charges, such, for instance, as the railways, such as the loans to Allies to meet their indebtedness to us on account of the War Relief Fund of Europe., and, I might add, the bread subsidy. While there is this extraordinary expenditure I contend that I am entitled to bring in aid of it the extraordinary revenue which accrues to me by reason of the cessation of the War.
I have ceased to borrow to meet current expenditure; I do not propose to borrow any more for that purpose. But I have to renew my maturing debt when it falls due. I have been able, in the course of the current financial year, to make a great reduction in Ways and Means advances. Ways and Means advances are a pure creation of credit by the Government, on which the banking community in the normal course of business builds a second and third storey of credit. They are the source of the inflation of credit, which itself is the source of the inflation of the currency and the first step in the vicious circle in which we have been moving. I have made a great deduction in Ways and Means advances.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend. The figure varies from day to day and from week to week, and I am a little afraid to name it. Had I known I was going to be asked for it, I would have had the figure before me. It may be taken that I have made a very considerable reduction in Ways and Means advances, and I will use every effort to avoid recurring to them. But, as I said a moment ago, as long as there is this large floating debt I am not my own master. If the Treasury Bills run off I have no other resource but recourse 2075 to Ways and Means advances. That brings me to the fact that I require co-operation in every quarter in order to maintain the policy on which the Government have set their hearts of first stopping further inflation and then beginning gradually to deflate. I need the co-operation of the financial community. What has happened is that as fast as I have stopped creating credit they have been creating credit, and that the extent of the advances made to trade and to private individuals is such as to endanger and to reduce the amount of Treasury Bills.
I cannot view without some concern the extraordinary expansion of business in the promotion of companies. If I was sure that all this money really resulted in increased production I should find some consolation, but I am convinced that the time has come when a part of it creates only increased competition for the limited supplies of labour and material which are ail that are available. I must say that I think those who are capitalising and recapitalising old businesses on the basis of present inflated profits are entering upon a most dangerous course, are taking a great responsibility, and are laying up for themselves, if they continue to hold any interest in those concerns—and certainly for those whom they induce to come into the businesses as well as for the country at large—a very perilous future problem. I venture to take the opportunity to utter that word of warning and to invite financial circles in the broadest sense to realise that the deflation which they have called for cannot be carried out by the sole action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Government, and that the prevention of the evil needs their co-operation and as stern a criticism of the demands for credit which are brought to them as I am expected to exercise over the demands for credit brought to me. I hope I have not travelled beyond the proper lines of this Debate. It is, as I have said, a continuation of the Debate of yesterday, and a very useful Debate in my opinion from which the Government have everything to gain, and for which they may well be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in an extremely difficult 2076 position, and in the remarks I intend to make, I do not in any way desire to criticise him. I sympathise with him very much when he said that a fortnight or three weeks ago, notwithstanding the request not to embark on fresh expenditure, the House by a majority did so. I quite agree that the House of Commons is really a rather extravagant body, and I regret very much what took place on that occasion. May I make this remark, had my right hon. Friend come down himself on that occasion and spoken—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If that is the spirit, what is the use of talking about economy and endeavouring to save money? We might, if it is, just as well go home and save ourselves the trouble we are taking to-day. I do not, however, think that the House as a whole would agree with the remark of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I desire to refer to the question of the Estimates Committee. An Estimates Committee was set up in the year 1910 or 1911, when the present Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think there was some discussion with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and certain other hon. Members who desired to set up this Committee. I saw that right hon. Gentleman and the present Prime Minister on the matter. The whole question then was, should we be interfering with the policy of the Government and taking responsibility of the Government on to our own shoulders? I think there was a unanimous feeling that we should not deal with policy. Even though we did not, let us take this case. Say that the Estimate for the Labour Exchanges was two millions, of which one million was for the erection of new offices, we could not interfere with the policy of the Labour Exchanges, but what we could do is this. We could look at the buildings and see whether the work could be carried on in the old buildings instead of erecting new ones, or we might find that ten clerks were employed to do work which could be performed by eight. We could submit those matters to the House, and it would be for the House to decide if our recommendations were to be followed.
2077 When this Estimates Committee was first set up there was considerable doubt on the part of the then Prime Minister and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer as to whether it was a wise thing to do. After it had been set up, it was renewed every year without any objection on the part of the Government until the year 1915 when the War broke out. At the beginning of that year the late Mr. Gulland, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, came to me and said, "The only Committee we will set up this year is the Estimates Committee unless you would rather it was not set up," I said, I did not see what Estimates it would have to deal with as everything was being done by vote of credit and there would be no Estimates, and therefore in those circumstances I did not see the necessity for it. Who recommended that it should be set up?It was the Select Committee on National Expenditure presided over by Mr. Herbert Samuel, a prominent liberal who had occupied Cabinet rank. He took a very great deal of trouble over it and sent out questionaires to the leading officials and they were unanimous as to the setting up of the Committee, with a slight difference from what it was before, which would, I think, have increased its efficiency. After the last election, a Select Committee on National Expenditure was set up, and of which I was elected chairman, and that Committee unanimously came to the same conclusion as that which was arrived at by the Committee over which Mr. Samuel presided. During the investigation one of the chief officials of the State, a leading accountant, said to me, "The only chance of the House of Commons exercising anything like supervision over the Estimates is to set up the Estimates Committee again." During the time I was Chairman of the Estimates Committee I met a large number of officials, and the gentleman to whom I have referred is one of the most efficient in his particular line. He told me privately that the only way to keep an efficient check over the expenditure of the country was by the setting up of the Estimates Committee.
I want to make an appeal to my right hon. Friend to accept the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I do not know if the House realises what it means. The right hon. Gentleman who moved said that it was 2078 an unprecedented Amendment, but I do not think that is so I have not had time to look up the different dates, but my recollection is that over and over again the House has refused to give the Government a Vote on Account for more than a certain period. I believe in the old days of Mr. Gladstone, when I first came to the House, and when there was a good deal more economy amongst Members than now, it was a common thing on the part of the Opposition, of whichever side, to say, "We will not give the Government a Vote on Account for more than a certain time in order, if we see there is extravagance going on, that we may have a check over the Government and require them to ox-plain." My recollection is that the period usually was from six weeks to two months. I remember well when a Vote on Account for four or five months was proposed, the horror of the old financial experts at giving such a long period without control to the then Government of the day. I am not particularly wedded to any date, but I think three months is quite sufficient to give an advance to the Government to enable them to carry out the particular work which they have in hand. I hope my right hon. Friends will take that request in the spirit in which it is made. Whether he will see fit or not to accede to it I cannot say, but I trust that he will, at any rate, give it his serious consideration. I do not think it will hurt him in the least, and it will give an earnest and an indication to the country that the House of Commons is really desirous of doing something towards economy, and that the Government are willing to assist them. These Civil Service Estimates are for the huge total of £557,000,000. I took the opportunity to obtain a White Paper, which I would recommend hon. Members to procure in the Vote Office, as it is sometimes rather difficult to get, which gives the Imperial Revenue collection and expenditure for Great Britain and Ireland, beginning, I think, with the year 1819 up to 1918, just 100 years. I turn to the expenditure on Civil Service Estimates for the year 1910–11, and the year 1911–12, that is before the War. I do not know what the House thinks the amount was, but it was 58 millions, as against the present Estimate of 557 millions. At that time the dead-weight debt of the 2079 country was in round figures 650 millions, and the dead-weight debt at present is roughly 8,000 millions, or actually, I think, 7,900 millions. So that, roughly speaking, while the dead-weight debt has increased tenfold, the expenditure on the Civil Service Estimate has also increased tenfold.
There are certain factors which ought to be brought into account. First of all, in this 557 millions there is a sum of 123 millions for pensions to soldiers and sailors and their dependants, owing to the War. That, of course, is one of those items which we have got to meet. I think there can be no criticism on that item, except to say that I hope that the Minister of Pensions, human nature being what it is, is very careful to see that no frauds are committed by people who have applied for pensions. I am not at all sure that there are not some. There is that £123,000,000. An hon. Member says that amount will be less every year, but I remember what happened in the American Civil War, and instead of being less, it grew in the most extraordinary way. If you take that off, it leaves £434,000,000, as against £68,000,000. Then you have got to take off the alteration in the currency, to which my right hon. Friend alluded, so that, speaking roughly, the really comparable figures are £58,000,000 and £400,000,000. But surely that is enough in all conscience. If it was on the Army or the Navy, which are insurances against trouble, I should not so much object, but I cannot see what we gain by spending this enormous sum on the Civil Service. I know a, large number of people are being employed, and I am sorry for them if they have to lose their work, but I really think, in the situation in which we now find ourselves, it is absolutely necessary that some attempt at economy in this direction should be made.
There is an item, "Employment Exchange and Insurance Buildings, Great Britain (including Ministries of Labour and Health)," £2,054,800, against £1,146,700 last year. Why is it necessary to spend double the amount of money on buildings this year compared with last year? I believe a large number of Members of the House and of the public are curtailing their expenditure very much. I am doing it myself: I am curtailing my 2080 expenditure, and I do not like it, but I have got to do it, and that is what the Government have got to do, and that is what these officials ought to be made to understand, that even if the room is a little uncomfortable, or cold, or hot, in the state in which we now are, they cannot be having model buildings with every possible improvement at the present moment. The very next item is "Public Buddings, Great Britain," £4,523,300, as against £3,906,050 last year. There seems to be a mania for building, and whether or not this is good for the housing of the working classes I will leave to the hon. Members opposite. The Ministry of Health is down for £27,572,797—does that include houses?—as against £6,650,590. That seems to me an enormous increase; and then there is the Ministry of Labour, £25,000,000, as against £7,000,000 last year. Really, what on earth can the Minister of Labour be doing to spend £26,000,000 this year when he was content with £7,000,000 last year? I do hope my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment and that the House will really give some attention to this ever-recurring expenditure. I admit my right hon. Friend is in a very difficult position, and, as far as my small efforts are concerned, I shall be only too glad to assist him. Look at the price of Government stock in the papers to-day. How are we to go on with prices falling like that and expenditure going on as it is? The only thing which will pull us out of the fire is rigid economy by everyone in the House and out of the House.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I am sure that all of us who happen to be young and, I am afraid, very inexperienced Members of this House are always grateful to the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down for his speeches on public expenditure. They are to many of us probably the best education and training in Parliamentary experience that we could obtain, but I am specially grateful for the speech which he has just delivered and for the references he has made to the bearing of expenditure on social reform. It is commonly imagined, I am afraid, not only by many Members in this House, but also by many writers outside, that Labour Members are committed to prodigal expenditure on State lines and that we have little or no regard to the tremendous debt which may be piled up and to the consequences of 2081 that debt upon production and economic enterprise at large. This afternoon, if I may, I wish to try to make it perfectly clear that that is not the case. The Labour movement in this country, and I should think also in this House, fully appreciates the gravity of the tremendous expenditure upon which this country has been called upon to embark, and we fully appreciate its meaning in industry and in commerce. We do not defend from any point of view extravagance or waste, but we do argue strongly that in existing conditions at least a certain amount of expenditure is necessary and is justified in order to avoid, as we believe, a much heavier outlay in days to come.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) made a very strong point of Parliamentary and Treasury control, and on that head there cannot be the slightest difference of opinion among the Members of this House. Parliamentary control, our hold over expenditure and over taxation, are, of course, enshrined in the history of this country, and with that history is bound up, as we readily recognise, a very great deal of the liberty which we enjoy, but I think all of us must be impressed by this consideration, that both in Parliament and in the local authorities at the present time—one might say in representative institutions at large—the number of men and women who systematically devote their minds to the study of expenditure and taxation is comparatively small. That being so, huge sums are voted by Parliament and by the local authorities with very little debate, and very often, if one may say so respectfully, with very little understanding indeed. As a remedy, I have seen it argued, not only in labour but also in other circles, that we could profitably embark in this country upon some wide decentralisation in expenditure, that is, that we should confer greater powers upon the Departments, greater powers upon the local authorities, and indeed greater powers on representative individuals themselves. I confess frankly that I am unable to share that view. I think that both in the raising of money and in the expenditure of money there must be a very large element of centralisation, and I shudder to think of the state of affairs which might emerge in this country if we conferred such powers on local bodies as 2082 led to a competition in expenditure, and led to their vying with one another in schemes of outlay, the result of which I firmly believe would be very much worse than the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.
The alternative to me seems to be quite clearly that the control in Parliament and by the Treasury must be real, that we must try to educate not merely ourselves, but also the public, to the importance of the question, and beyond that that the control, particularly by the Treasury, should be intelligent. I do not use that phrase in any offensive sense, but I will make it perfectly clear by a simple illustration. We who are young and inexperienced in this assembly are impressed by the fact that the Treasury very often sanction huge sums of money, the expenditure of which we do not quite follow or understand, and then on some minor, but nevertheless perfectly necessary item, you find Treasury consent withheld. In my own City of Edinburgh quite recently we were engaged in training in a general subjects class a comparatively large number of discharged and disabled men. We trained them in that general subjects class until the vocational training to which they were to pass was available. A time limit of six weeks or thereby was placed upon our enterprise in that direction. The vocational training was not available at the expiry of the period I have named, Treasury consent was withheld, and we were compelled to turn into the streets and on to unemployment donation a number of men who had served their country in the War, had suffered in the process and were undeniably benefiting by the general and preparatory education which they were receiving under that scheme. I venture to think that an illustration of that kind, humble and minor as it may appear to be, rather weakens the faith of many of the people in the localities of this country in, shall I say, the intelligence of Treasury control.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded in his speech to the place of subsidy in the vast sums which we were called upon to spend. There again there is a common assumption that Labour is tied to the policy of subsidy, and that we should employ it quite largely if ever we happened to be in power in this country. I am travelling, perhaps, beyond the limits of this Debate in discussing policy 2083 at all, but I may be permitted to make it perfectly clear that here again Labour is well aware of the disadvantageous and mischievous results of subsidy of almost any kind. We regard it as a financial, and an economic disease. We believe that it blinds the people of this country to the real position, not only of national finance to a Very large extent, but to the real position of the industry which is subsidised, and we would say that it might be better, and probably would be better, in the long run that a much higher price should be paid for an article rather than that we should subsidise an industry over a long period of months or years. But the situation which faces us is one very largely of expediency. We have got to chose between some national expenditure for the time being in a subsidy, or such increased price in commodities as would lead to increased demands for wages all round, and, above all—and perhaps it is more important—to such pressure on the life and well-being of the unorganised masses of this country as would really be more costly to the State in the long run than the subsidy which the State is called upon to pay. On that head, and with particular reference to the millions of money for subsidies included in the Vote we are now discussing, we should say that it is better policy to try to keep down prices, if we possibly can, in other spheres and in other commodities, and to maintain for the time being some subsidy, such as that on bread, to keep down its price until we can withdraw that in the midst of falling prices elsewhere, and so make the burden of an increased price for the loaf rather more easy to bear for the great body of our population. That is, roughly, our policy. Admittedly it is a very debatable point, and admittedly one of expediency in a difficult problem of that kind.
I come now from the labour point of view to attack, if I may, the policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) and the Liberal leaders who are associated with him in this campaign. I feel quite frankly that there is something hollow and unreal in these demands for diminished expenditure, for ruthless economy, for the cutting down of all outlay from the public purse, especially when they are not able to suggest one sphere in which substantial reduction can be effected. I do think the Chancellor of 2084 Exchequer is entitled to ask where a reduction can be effected, and if we on this side cannot point out where a reduction can be forthcoming, then I think we should moderate the gale which we allow to blow on the Treasury Bench. We are all agreed upon the general principle of national and private economy. There can never be any doubt on that point at all. We as a State have had to pour out millions and millions of money, no doubt, for the quite necessary purposes of the War. Before I come to the second part of this argument, the point on which I really differ from the Liberal Members, I should like to admit at least a part of their argument, because I am satisfied that we are carrying into peace conditions a good deal of the spirit and tendency of the expenditure of the War. Some of us have had an opportunity of studying, not merely from without, but also from within, the practice and the policy of large Government departments during the trying years through which we have passed since 1914. We knew in these departments the cost was relatively unimportant. The supreme end everyone had in view was victory in the campaign in which this country was engaged, and the theory which seemed to pervade the minds of very large classes of men and women committed to economic measures was that we should pour out all the money possible in Order that success should be achieved. Now the victory has come, and we are in the second year of the peace, and we must ask ourselves whether there is any grave danger that we are continuing in existing circumstances the spirit of these departments during the war itself. I venture to think that that is true. There are many people who are still thinking in terms of a wartime scale of expenditure, and they are not effecting the rigid public and other economies which might be effected with perfect safety to the people of this country at this hour.
But, having made that admission, and having recognised that these circumstances obtain, I want to try to draw a distinction—the old distinction which is drawn by every political economist—between expenditure upon which there is no return, and expenditure which yields in the long run a real return to the State which gives it birth. My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles has moved a reduction of £100,000,000. 2085 There cannot be the slightest doubt that if his Motion were carried, there would be at least a temporary interruption—I shall not put it higher than that—in the expenditure necessary for great schemes of social reform on which we are now engaged. At all events, if the reduction did not hit these schemes, its influence and spirit would be felt in that direction. I object to this campaign of reduced expenditure so far as social reform and amelioration, is concerned. I do not accuse my hon. Friends for a single moment of trying to prevent all expenditure on these very necessary subjects, but I do say that the spirit of their campaign would seem to be directed against their fulfilment. It is to that I object. If we suppose for a moment—and I am quite willing for the time being to leave my Friends, and take it on broader lines—that expenditure on housing is cut down, that expenditure on necessary schemes of social reform is cut down, I do not suppose any Member of this House would dispute that in the long run the country would pay far more than it is called upon to pay now. We in the labour movement feel very strongly the close bearing of housing on industrial production, and that a great deal of the expenditure on education, for example, is rendered futile by the housing and other conditions under which the people live. I am willing to admit that that view is not confined for the time being to our own ranks.
If we keep that in view I think this becomes perfectly clear, that for the time being this country is called upon to pay a very heavy burden, that the generation of which we are members must carry a disproportionately heavy load, not merely of the financial provision which requires to be made, but a great deal of material and human effort which is necessary if we are to pass through this crisis successfully. I think we are also entitled to ask that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should say at this hour whether the limits of taxation have been reached. We all recognise that if the taxation of the individual is carried beyond a certain point, it penalises and paralyses industry and output and general progress. But I do not think that anyone, taking the evidence of the Royal Commission on Income Tax on the one side or the revelations of many of the Committees who have examined war-time profits on 2086 the other side, would dispute that there is still a large taxable reserve, or still a large foundation upon which we can rear a structure of taxation which should help the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the country materially at this time. Personally, I should say that the economists who are now arguing that taxation can be carried beyond its present high limits—we must all admit that they are high limits—are probably on safe ground, and in the coming Budget and, in every consideration of the national position in finance, I should like to see that kept clearly and definitely in view.
There is only one point I should like to emphasise in conclusion. A week or two ago, in a Debate on housing in this Chamber, some of us tried to argue, when the question of raising money by local bonds or on national lines was under consideration, that a very great deal of capital at the present moment was being diverted to things which were not ministering in the best way either to the efficieney, the health or the happiness of the people. If I may say so respectfully, I am glad to find that argument corroborated this afternoon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. He drew attention to the tremendous number of companies which are being floated now, and to the very large amount of capital which is being subscribed, and he indicated in conclusion that, a great deal of that capital was being applied to purposes which were not of immediate or urgent need in the State. I venture to think that there is no Member on the Labour Benches who would not subscribe to that view. These are all important considerations in any scheme for the rehabilitation of our national finances. I desire to make it perfectly clear that in any well-considered scheme of improving those conditions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer may count on the support of the Labour Members, provided always he does not sacrifice that expenditure which we believe to be necessary for the urgent social reforms of the hour.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HILDER
No one could have listened to the speeches that have been delivered in this House both yesterday and to-day without coming to the conclusion that the case for real economy has been made out. I have felt that I would be lacking in my duty to the Government which I support, and to my 2087 constituents whom I represent if I did not take this opportunity of calling attention to the grave state of public feeling regarding the continued lack of a sound policy of economy. I have received scores of letters each day, as no doubt other hon. Members have, and they threaten all kinds of things if we do not do our utmost to bring economy home to the Government. They have the idea that Parliament is not doing its best to try to improve the financial position of the State, and to endeavour to bring down the ever-increasing cost of living to the workers. It is not generally understood outside this House what the difficulties are which face the Government in this great work of reconstruction. Making all allowance, however, there are certain things which could be done at once to relieve the enormous expenditure to which this country is committed and to bring down the high cost of living.
I am going to concentrate my remarks on one item in the Service Estimates amongst the unclassified Votes, relating to the Ministry of Munitions—a sum of £27,323,000. No one appreciates more than I the good work done by the Ministry of Munitions during the War. They organised the national resources to supply our men in the field. Therefore I would not lend a willing ear to any charges of extravagance made during the War. But since the Armistice things are very different. The Armistice makes it our duty to insist on the most rigid economy and the winding up of all purely war-time Departments. No doubt there are many in Government Offices who desire to perpetuate some of these things. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. Therefore we cannot expect them to propose to commit suicide. Our urgent and unpleasant duty, however, as custodians of the people's money is to insist that the generous view of expenditure taken during the War must now come to an end. The Ministry of Munitions at the present moment is holding up many million pounds worth of commodities needed by the community, not only in this country, but in almost every nation of the world. These goods should be sold. The policy of holding-up is due to the want of business knowledge of those who are in control of that Department. They have prevented big business deals which ought to have taken place a long time ago. 2088 The direct cost to the country last year for the custody and disposal of surplus stores was something like £42,000,000. The indirect cost was the rise in prices-owing to the holding back of these goods—in the necessities of life, and this has added very considerably to the loss. The total value, this month, of stores held by the Ministry of Munitions is something like £700,000,000—a pretty large sum—the amount of our indebtedness to the United States.
I was very glad to see a statement that a sale of aeroplane stores has taken place with something like £100,000,000 involved. I hope the statement is true. The only comment I make is that it should have, or might have taken place a year earlier. I wish to impress upon the Government the necessity of getting rid of all these stores. They will benefit the revenue considerably, and there will be a saving in the cost of custody. It does not pay for the Government to dribble out stores as they are doing at the present moment. It is not their job. They ought to deal with the matter in a wholesale way. It is not only guns, explosives, and such-like articles that the huge stores represent. I believe about 90 per cent. of them are leather, pottery, furniture, textiles, building materials, and machinery. Note the financial loss in these things, and of the surplus stores held by the Ministry of Munitions, and deal with it side by side with the return of imports from abroad, principally from America, and hon. Members will see that we have been importing identically the same kind of goods which we held, and still hold, in very large quantities. In 1919 we imported nearly £12,000,000 worth of iron ore, scrap-iron, and steel. The Ministry of Munitions have a very large quantity of these. In the same year we imported £36,000,000 worth of iron and steel manufactures. The Ministry of Munitions is stuffed with goods of the same description. Let any hon. Member look around his constituency at some of the timber dumps belonging to the Ministry of Munitions; yet we imported over £72,000,000 worth of timber. We imported over £35,000,000 worth of textiles, excluding silk, whilst in the Ministry of Munitions are vast quantities of cloth and fabrics prepared for our Armies, and those of our Allies, and also for the women auviliaries of our Forces. I do not wish to burden the House with further figures, but I 2089 should like to say that I desire to insist on sales being effected. Big deals have repeatedly been refused, due to the opposition of the Ministry of Munitions.
I do not advocate that these commodities should be thrown away at a sacrifice price, but the greater portion of these stores consist of commodities which are in very great demand, and any business man will tell you that it is an easy thing to sell goods required by all the world, and probably, too, at very good prices. It is necessary to apply sound business principles to the work of salesmanship. I claim that we have not done it, and are not now doing it. I would suggest to the Government that though the task may be painful, that they should decide to make a clean sweep of the Ministry of Munitions. I would give the disposal of surplus stores to a small body of, say, three business men of first rank. The first should be a great administrator, the second a big banker, thoroughly understanding the question of the exchanges, and the third should be a man of big experience in the wholesale trade. I would fix a limit of time, say 12 months, and would insist that these goods should be disposed of within that period.
By doing this we would do away with the enormous expense of custody. If nothing is done pretty drastically this will go on year after year. The sale of these goods would pull down prices by releasing promptly commodities required by everybody, commodities such as are in the list I have here—building materials, machinery, tools, stores, army boots, textiles, chemicals, metals, foodstuffs, and bicycles—a very long list indeed. The machinery can easily be converted from its War-time uses to create commodities for peace purposes. Let me give one particular instance. I understand that the firm of White and Poppe, of Coventry, made an offer of something like 70 per cent. of the pre-War cost for the buildings and machinery which they were operating during the War in making shells. This offer was refused; why I do not know. But I do know that the Ministry of Munitions refused to allow that firm to go on maintaining that machinery in running order. The fact is, that a Government Department is not fitted to discharge the duties of dealing with large surplus stores. A business scheme is much better. The Ministry should call together some of the 2090 principal manufacturers and let them take over from the Ministry of Muntions the goods which have been manufactured. The price could be arrived at by arbitration, or, in any other way that might be advisable. Possibly it might be a business for 25 per cent. to be exported. This would help to bring down the exchanges. I consider that the Ministry of Munitions is not an efficient body for this work.
Just one more point—that is the case of an offer which was made in connection with Salonica. I believe it was a very big offer, running into many millions. It was refused on the ground that there was no prompt cash settlement. I ask hon. Members whether it is not better to get rid of these stores, which are only costing us money in custody, and sell them for money payable over a period, than to keep them as they are when they must be deteriorating very much. I have no desire to embarrass the Government in any way in their anxious task of reconstruction. But I do wish to point out one of the most obvious economies, and a step which, if taken, would ease the situation all round, reduce the number of useless officials, bring down the prices of commodities, and help to cheapen the price of food by having its due effect on our foreign exchanges.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
May I, with the leave of the House, answer a question which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Paisley, put in the course of his speech. It may be convenient for the House to have the answer at once. The right hon. Gentleman asked by what sum the Ways and Means advances have been or would be reduced in the course of this year. I should not like to attempt to name an exact figure for the year, but I think I may say it will not be less than £150,000,000, and it may be in the neighbourhood of £200,000,000.
§ Mr. ACLAND
In the first place I should like to remove, if possible, a slight misapprehension on the part of an hon. Member who spoke from the Benches behind me as to what might be the effect if this reduction were acceded to by the 2091 House. I may tell him at once it would not have the effect of stopping social reform. This is a Vote on Account and the effect would only be that, instead of the Government getting all the money they need to carry on till August next when there will be no further chance of criticism, they will have to come back to the House during the Session for a further Vote on Account, and that will give the House another opportunity of criticising their policy. I hope that statement may reassure my hon. Friend if he has any conscientious objection to supporting the reduction of the Vote in the division lobby. I have been trying to think over the question as between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his critics, and I think the right hon. Gentleman had some title to put upon the House of Commons some blame for negligence in the matter of securing economy of expenditure. In the first place, there is undoubtedly the fact of the small attendance of Members in Committee of Supply. But the defect goes further than that. It has been in recent years a practically universal custom, when using the days which are allotted to Supply, not to devote them to criticisms of the Estimates but to debate questions of policy. These days have been utilised as field days by Ministers to explain the glories of their Departments and the rest of the time has been used by Members in criticising the Minister's policy. I believe if the House is really disposed to criticise expenditure, it would do better if, as the Opposition has the power to do—no doubt in unison with the general feeling of the House—it selected for discussion during the 20 days allotted Supply, definite items on which they wish to criticise the amount of expenditure in the Estimates. Very often a Supply Day passes when nobody opens up the actual body of the Estimate which is laid before the House. It would be well if those who are responsible for selecting the Estimates to be discussed, would make common cause with other persons in the House who are interested in economy. We might then have a better chance of using our opportunities to advantage.
Members should be able to apply themselves to the figures of the Estimates and to try and justify a reduction of expenditure. But under present circumstances they are rather set to task of making 2092 bricks without straw. There is no preliminary examination of these Estimates. If any such investigation were made the Estimates could be intelligently examined by a small expert Committee, assisted by a highly trained officer, as was recommended by the Public Expenditure Committee in a form as to which we have already had some discussion this afternoon. It is that which I wish for a few moments to deal with. I have tried to make some study of this question. It is unfair really for the Government or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as was done this afternoon, or for the Secretary for War as he did a fortnight ago, to challenge the House and say, "Will you kindly put your finger upon a particular item of expenditure which you need reduced?" We think we can indicate a method of reviewing Estimates, or of enabling the House to review Estimates, which would bring particular items under review, but the Government by deliberately refusing to act upon the recommendations made over and over again by Committees of this House, providing for a different system of attacking the Estimates, have taken a course which makes its unfair for them to challenge us to produce particular items which can be criticised. The scheme which was placed before the National Expenditure Committee in 1917, really consisted of two parts which, however, hang together. The first part was that there should be a remodelling of the Parliamentary Estimates and accounts in such a way as to make them really significant and useful as an index of administrative economy. The second was, that there should be a standing Select Committee on Estimates, assisted by a permanent officer of the House—an Examiner of Estimates—which would investigate and report on the Estimates before they were finally dealt with in Committee of Supply.
The first point has not hitherto been in any large measure before the House, but it is just as important as the second, because the present form of Estimates is really the result of history and not of scientific accounting methods. It has been, in the course of our history, very necessary to prevent the King from devoting money which was intended by Parliament to feed the Army, to increasing the numbers or improving the clothing of the Army. Therefore, the whole of our Estimates have been devoted to the direct 2093 appropriation of cash for particular payments, and they show the expenditure on particular subjects, such as—taking the Army, for example—on pay, food, fuel, buildings, and so on. But they stand in no relation whatever to the purpose of the expenditure or the results obtained from it. Therefore, the plan which was recommended by the Committee was to substitute the arrangement of the Estimates under "objects" for the ordinary arrangement under "subjects." Again, taking the analogy of the Army, we, should be able under such a plan to get at the annual cost of a garrison or a regiment, or, in the case of the Navy, of a ship of war or of a squadron, in so far as the subject matter admits. It is not applicable to all Estimates, but, at any rate, you would be able to see, when considering the Estimates for transport, what was the cost of transport per mile, or, in examining the Estimates for hospitals, you would be able to get at the expenditure per bed per day, and you would thus have some definite measure of the results obtained from the expenditure. That would, of course, involve a re-arrangement of our accounts, and, to some extent, a re-arrangement of the figures to come before the House of Commons. It involves the substitution of commercial for historical accounts, accounts which are really the survival of historical causes. You would have to have a statement on a commercial basis showing the income, and expenditure pertaining thereto, as apart from the Government basis of cash receipts and payments taking place within the year. Of course the scheme provided for the maintenance of the present cash basis for sums actually voted and included in the Budget.
Some progress has been made on these lines. The Army Estimates have been remodelled, and if and when they are published they will be on the new lines. The new Cost Accounts have been started in units of the Army, with, I think, very excellent results, because last year, in the Fourth Report of the Committee, they renewed the recommendations they had previously made, after taking evidence of the progress of the scheme in the Army, which showed, according to their Report, that Army officers were adopting a totally new attitude towards economy, and were initiating methods of saving, because the cost account became a 2094 human document, showing something of the real results of the expenditure. Again, that scheme of business accounts for the nation, if followed up, would enable the results to be put before a Committee of this House, before they came down here for criticism.
Then I come to the other side of the Report of the Committee which has been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) and by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). They both agreed, I think, that there should be a National Expenditure Committee, and that there should also be an Estimates Committee set up. It is interesting to recall what were the opinions of Members and Offcers of this House who have had long experience of these methods. You, Mr. Speaker, pronounced quite definitely on that point You said you believed that a Committee on Estimates selected from among real advocates of economy would have a salutary effect, that Government Departments had a wholesome dread of the Public Accounts Committee, and that it was to be hoped an Estimates Committee would also establish a funk among them. Further, you added that the advocates of economy got no look-in because they had no tie binding them together and no influence over the Whips. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, who was in the Chair only a few minutes ago, held the same view, and so did my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles. Sir Courtenay Ilbert was also in favour of the proposal. That is a very great body of the most experienced opinion of this House, which entertains apparently none of the fears the Chancellor of the Exchequer has suggested this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman has quite definitely, in an answer he recently gave, turned the idea down. I want to offer to the House some arguments why his view ought really not to be accepted as final, and why this House should continue to press for a proper Estimates Committee to consider the Estimates, with the help of a trained officer, before they are dealt with on the floor of the House.
The argument on which the scheme has been rejected by the Government were four-fold. They were, that it would lessen the responsibility of Ministers to Parliament, that it would weaken the control of the Treasury over expenditure, that such a Committee could not deal with 2095 policy, that policy after all governs expenditure, and that an Examiner of Estimates would merely duplicate the work already done by the Treasury with a staff which needs a salary of £150,000 a year. I am afraid I cannot accept any of those arguments. The proposition that the Minister's responsibility to Parliament would be lessened, because Parliament became fully informed of the particulars, is a proposal which really only requires to be stated to be disproved. I believe that if the Estimates were subjected to skilled review before they came to this House it would result for the first time in the Minister becoming really responsible to an informed Parliament, instead of, as now, being very largely irresponsible. Take what happened the other day. I do not want to discuss the War Estimates, because that would not be in order. But when the Secretary for War asked us to specify items on which we wished to make a reduction, we only had three lines of Estimates before us on which to do it. There was really no Estimate for the War. Office at all, but a vague expectation was held out that one might be presented to Parliament. How much better would it have been to have had an Estimate presented which had been examined by a skilled Committee! Such a challenge as that to which I have referred could not have then been thrown out. It was, under those circumstances, really a farce.
The Minister, I think, would become infinitely more responsible to Parliament if there were that sort of review. I think there has been to some extent a misunderstanding as to what those Committees would do. It has been thought sometimes that a Committee of that kind would claim, as certain French committees do, to make amendments in the Estimates which involve new proposals or policy, but that was totally foreign to the scheme, which very carefully maintained intact the principle that no expenditure can be proposed except by a Minister in the name of the Crown. It was also thought in some quarters, again as a misconception, that the Select Committee on the Estimates would replace the Debates in Committee of Supply, in which the Minister, of course, has to face the whole House; but that also is not the scheme of the proposal at all. The Committee of Supply would merely have before it, 2096 when it came to tackle the Estimates, the Report of the Committee which had been made upstairs with the help of the expert assistance which it would have got.
The second argument was that the Treasury control would be weakened by the setting up of these Committees. The right hon. Gentleman said that a Minister who wished to get his schemes approved would say, "Let them have a run for their money. Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer approve them, and let me see if I cannot get them through the Estimates Committee of the House of Commons." The idea that Treasury control might be weakened is based on the idea that there is in most of these Estimates something that really can be called Treasury control. Again, I would ask, what Treasury control could there have been over that £125,000,000 for the Army? They cannot have controlled that Estimate. It has not been presented to them. It has not been published. It has not been prepared. Merely some total has been agreed to and the Estimates have to be worked out to agree with the total. There cannot be anything in the way of real Treasury control which could possibly be weakened whatever this House might do. My experience as Financial Secretary to the Treasury and in other offices tends to show me that strong Ministers of spending Departments who are really powerful in the Cabinet can take liberties with the Treasury and that they might not be able to take those same liberties if they had to face an examination of Estimates by a Committee of the House. One of the difficulties that one experiences is that, as far as correspondence with the Treasury goes, the views of the Departmental Financial Officer, who often could suggest ways in which the Ministers' policy could be carried out with less expenditure, are not and cannot be laid before the Treasury. The only views which are laid before the Treasury are the views of the Minister, and if the Minister is strong, even if the Treasury objects, he gets his Estimates through the Cabinet because he has a stronger personality than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary. But if it were known that the Financial Officer would be examined, as of course he could be, by a Parliamentary Committee so that the actual facts and administrative bearings 2097 on the question would sooner or later become known to the public, it would in your phrase, Mr. Speaker, establish a function, and Ministers would be rather afraid of putting into their Estimates things which now they "an get through the criticism of the Treasury, but might not so easily get through the criticism of a small Committee of this House. There is this, too, which my experience of the Treasury suggests, that the present form of Treasury control of spending Departments rests on the correspondence between the officers of the Department concerned, and deals, no doubt, with principles and intentions and anticipations, but it never comes into contact with the actual facts and results of expenditure, and if you had these actual cost results worked out where it is possible to work them out, you would got far more effective control than the present control by the Treasury, which is based merely on elaborate regulations and limitations. The new plan of having really significant Estimates and accounts and of their examination by Select Committees has to be viewed as two cognate and collimated proposals, and if the accounts were presented in better form, intelligent criticism by the Committee would soon be a very valuable aid to the Treasury and no interference with its powers at all.
The right hon. Gentleman's third point was that it is policy really which governs expenditure, and that Committees of this kind should not be allowed to interfere with politics. I think that statement about policy governing expenditure is rather a dangerous half-truth. I believe large sums of money are continually being wasted because you select ill-chosen means for well-chosen ends. I believe very often, while allowing the Minister to obtain the end he requires, you can economise considerably if you will really examine into the means and adopt much the least expensive means for carrying out the policy which is wanted. We all agreed during the War that there was to be a bountiful supply of munitions of all kinds to the armies in the field, but that does not mean at all that we necessarily agreed to what we all know in many cases were absolutely reckless methods adopted for putting that policy into force by the Munitions Department which often resulted in a deplorable waste of money. I believe examination of officials before a 2098 Select Committee with reformed Estimates before it would disclose facts as to what points of policy were really embodied in the Estimates and what were not, and that the total result would be that the Minister, when he came to meet the House here, would deal with a well-informed House instead of with a House which really cannot be informed at all as to the principles on which the Estimates had been built up. At present, the House has absolutely nothing but what the Minister chooses to tell him, and there is no real examination worth anything of the figures in the Estimates. They might just as well be Token Votes so far as our present system of real financial criticism is concerned.
Then there is the final point, that the examining of Estimates would really duplicate the work of the Treasury. The Treasury examination of the Estimates of spending Departments, where it is carried out at all, consists mainly in securing that the schemes of expenditure provided in the Estimates are in accordance with Treasury authority and that the details, such as establishments and rates of pay, are not varied without Treasury authority. It is an examination for the purpose of securing that the Estimates are really those of the Government and not those of the individual Ministers. But what is aimed at in this proposal of an Estimates Committee is something quite different from that. What we aim at is not control of Ministers by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though that is important enough We aim at controlling the expenditure of the Government by the House of Commons, which is quite a different thing having a quite different importance, for which there is really no adequate machinery at all at present, and the work of the examining of Estimates would be directed to that end. I think it will not be difficult to select an officer with actual experience of spending Departments and their ways and methods, and he, I think, could do wonderful service to the House and the country by acting as a secretary to the Estimates Committee, explaining to them the subject matter of the Estimates and assisting them to select points for criticism and lines of examination before the evidence of witnesses was taken.
Those are some suggestions that I make really to respond to the challenge that the 2099 Chancellor of the Exchequer issued when he asked for practical suggestions. Until the Government has some method of real examination of the Estimates along the lines that the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) has so often recommended as chairman of an important Committee, it really cannot be said that the Government has done all that it can to help the House in real examination of the financial proposals which are put before us. We know that the Debates in Committee of Supply tend more and more to fall into the hands of the advocates of increased expenditure and that it cannot by itself provide an examination of the administrative and economic merits as distinct from the policy of the Estimates, and it is rather a pity that the Government has turned down really constructive and thoroughly worked-out proposals for giving that real control of expenditure to the House which is one of its chief historical and constitutional functions. That cannot be done under our present system. I think it can be done under the system which has been several times recommended to us, and even at the eleventh hour I would urge that the question may be reconsidered and that the policy which has been so often and reiteratedly recommended by an experienced Committee of the House may still be accepted by the Government.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
The hon. Member for South East Essex (Lieut.-Colonel Hilder) had what he described as an obvious remedy for certain expense. It is one of those cases where, as often happens, the obvious is wrong, and the obvious is more likely to be wrong when it is merely obvious to a person who looks at the establishment from the outside. The Ministry of Munitions has always been considered to be fair game for anyone who wants to accuse the Government of extravagance, and it is one of those cases which it is perhaps a little difficult to answer. One does not often get such an opportunity of pointing out one or two errors which critics of the; Ministry of Munitions are led into. I served in the Ministry for twelve months. I was there at the time of the Armistice and for a little afterwards. The work of the Ministry of Munitions at present is not merely a matter of disposing of surplus stores. It is all very well to say wipe off the Ministry of Munitions altogether and hand over the stores to a body to 2100 dispose of. That is not all that would have to be done. The Ministry of Munitions was concerned in immense financial business undertakings through the War, financing manufacturers, controlling them in regard to their arrangements, and arranging for enormous extensions of business for the purpose of producing, war materials, with the result that, when the Armistice came, the Ministry was left with a very large amount of Government money outstanding owing by firms who had used that money in the national interest, and it was, and still is, the business of the Ministry to see to preserving that money and recovering it, and in many cases the recovery of that money, advanced for the purposes of the War, depends very largely indeed on the undertakings to which it was advanced being seen safely through the difficult transition from war work to peace work. That is a matter which takes a long time. It will not be over in many cases for years. Unless an expert staff of business men looks after that particular work the country will not only lose enormous sums of money, but you may have an immense number of failures which will be a very-great disaster to the industrial life of the country. We are all anxious to economise, while on the other hand hon. Members are being called upon by their constituents for further expenditure in various ways. One of the reasons why the Government can be and has been accused of extravagance by the man in the street has been that the Government has been driven during the War to engage in work which in peace and in normal times it has no right whatever to do. The Government has been engaged in industrial business and in business of various kinds. Where you have Government money involved you cannot have the efficiency that you would have under private enterprise. Where the expenditure of every penny has to be scrutinised by different Departments you must necessarily have an immense waste of labour and money. One of the quickest ways of getting back to something like a normal year will be so far as we can to clear up as quickly as possible all these legacies of the War which have left the Government controlling, managing and interfering in industrial businesses which ought to be left to individuals and to bodies of individuals under private enterprise rather than to the Government.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
If the right hon. Member makes up his mind to go to a Division on this Amendment, I shall certainly follow him into the Lobby. I do not know whether other hon. Members feel as I do, but I must confess that I am getting very hopeless about this question of Government economy. I do not see any signs that the Government do really intend to reduce expenditure in the future to any great extent, and I do not see that any ordinary Member of Parliament has any chance of influencing the Government except by his Vote in the Lobby An ordinary Member of Parliament, an ordinary Back Bencher like myself, does not really have any influence by making speeches in this House or by making speeches in the country, or by writing in the Press. The only real influence which an ordinary Member of Parliament has in this House is by voting in the Lobby against the Government if he feels that he is justified in doing so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked to-day whether suggestions could be put to him for saving even £5,000,000 out of this colossal Vote of over £500,000,000. It would be perfectly easy to suggest a way in which far more than £5,000,000 could be saved. You have only to take the question of these new insurance offices. That entails an enormous expenditure. I have been talking to various heads of the great friendly societies during the last few weeks and they tell me, without a single exception, that they are perfectly prepared to take on the whole administration of the new unemployment insurance so far as their own members are concerned. I believe they could do it perfectly well. They have the whole organisation which they now use for health insurance, and they tell mo that in their expert opinion they can perfectly well deal with it. Instead of that, you are going to duplicate the organisation and yon are going to have these vast buildings and an enormous number of paid jobs created all over the country which are perfectly unnecessary. There is one suggestion where millions of money might be saved every year.
There is also an item in the Ministry of Munitions for a Vote of £27,000,000 or more. I cannot conceive why we want to pay £27,000,000 to the Ministry of Munitions. It is incredible that you want £27,000,000 for the Ministry of Munitions 2102 two years after the War. What is the Ministry of Munitions doing at the present moment? I understand that the only duty of the Ministry of Munitions at the present moment is to get rid of its surplus stores. My, right hon. Friend opposite made a proposal which I think is a very sound one, that three gentlemen should be appointed, of business ability, of banking ability and of technical ability, at the head of a small staff and that they should get rid of the whole of this stuff as soon as possible. Yet we are asked to spend no less than £27,250,000 on the Ministry of Munitions in the coming year. I cannot understand it. It seems incredible that that sum is really required. I hope the Financial Secretary will be able to enlighten us on the matter. We could also save money in the Ministry of Transport. The other day there was a long Debate on the Ministry of Transport, and I was very sorry the Minister of Transport was not present. I understand that he is ill, and I am sure he has the sympathy of the whole House. It was very unfortunate that he was not present, because in that Debate it was pointed out that enormous numbers of expensive appointments had been made in his staff for absolutely no reason at all, so far as we could understand. It was quite unprecedented so far as any Government Department was concerned, with the exception of three, in the whole Civil Service. You could save in that respect.
One notices that whenever the Government is in a difficulty they either accuse the Press of fostering an agitation or they accuse the House of Commons. I am getting rather tired of Government attacks upon the House of Commons. We were told to-day by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we ought to exercise a little self-restraint. He said, "If hon. Members will not support the Government in their efforts to economise, the blame is on their own shoulders." That is a very vicious doctrine. If hon. Members will not support the Chancellor of the Exchequer it is the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to resign his appointment. If any Departments ask for money from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not want to get the money, but the Cabinet insists that the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall give them the money, then it is the business of the Chancellor of the 2103 Exchequer to resign. It is very unfair for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come down here and try to shift his responsibility on to Members of this House. We have not that responsibility. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is of opinion that money that is asked for to be spent is wrongly spent, then it is his business to tender his resignation to the Prime Minister. Something really must be done to cut down expenditure. No case has been made out to-day for the expenditure of over £5000,000,000 of money on the Civil Service. I believe that this expenditure set a very bad example and is leading to much extravagance outside. I believe it is leading to a great deal of discontent also. We know perfectly well that it is not the cause nor the main cause of high prices, but it is certainly a contributory cause of high prices, because it is leading to extravagance. Therefore, for these reasons, if the right hon. Gentleman goes into the Lobby on this Amendment I shall be very glad to give him my support.
§ Mr. HOPKINS
I suppose there are very few hon. Members who do not regret the size of the Estimates. Most Members have the idea that the Estimates ought to be less than they are. It is equally true that no private Member can usefully or effectively criticise a single item in the Estimates, because we have not, and cannot get, the details that will enable us to do it. It is very difficult, therefore, for us to criticise. It is also very difficult for us to vote for a large general reduction of the Estimates unless we are prepared, like the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, to vote against the Government. The Government make these matters, necessarily, a matter of confidence, and, much as we may desire that the Estimates should be reduced, we cannot be absolutely certain that they can be reduced. Therefore, it is very difficult to vote against the Government. One thing that has struck me very much since I have been a Member of this House is the extraordinary idea that exists in the country that the House of Commons has control over its expenditure. The House of Commons has no control whatever. The private Members have no power of control whatever over the Estimates. The Estimates are put before them, and they are defended by the Treasury. We have a pious hope that the Treasury is exercising control over the Departments, but 2104 we cannot be sure that that control is strong enough to be effective. I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in these days when economy is so important, to say to the heads of Departments that he will see them damned first. Of course, saying that in polite Treasury language. There may have been, and I hope there have been, strenuous fights behind the scenes. If the Treasury had not fought for economy in connection with these Estimates, perhaps they would have been even higher than they are. We have no certain knowledge of the struggles which may have taken place behind the scenes. If they have taken place, the results are, at any rate, disappointing.
It appeared to me that the remedy suggested by the right hon. Gentleman a few moments ago, of restoring Parliamentary control by having a Parliamentary Committee on Estimates should be adopted. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman held that view when he was sitting on the other side, or that he would hold it if he were again sitting on that side. But to the private Member it does seem that something in that direction is the only way in which Parliament can have some control over and knowledge of the expenditure of the taxpayers' money. Yesterday we had from the right hon. Member for Paisley what struck mc as a very remarkable statement. He said that the increase in currency has nothing to do with high prices, that that view was nonsense, and that anyone who held it was uninstructed or only partly instructed. I have the misfortune to fall into those categories in his view, because I think that there is not the slightest doubt that inflation such as has taken place in our currency has a great deal to do with the cost of living and even with the size of the present Estimates, because these Estimates would not be nearly so high if it were not for the increased cost of living making it necessary to pay very much higher salaries and bigger bonuses compared with normal times.
When you increase the currency, particularly when you increase it with a paper currency which has neither gold nor goods against it, the price of commodities must rise, and this rise, this inflation of our currency, has a great deal to do with the adverse rate of exchange against this country. Owing to that adverse rate of exchange we are paying more in currency for every article which we purchase from 2105 abroad. A magnificent wheat crop has just been harvested in the Argentine, but when we come to purchase it we have to pay some 30 per cent. more at the present rate of exchange, because our currency is depreciated in the international markets. That is a very serious matter, and one which I should have thought it would have bean the first care of the Government to endeavour to rectify. To put our exchange right three things must be done. We must have a surplus, and a large surplus, of revenue over expenditure. That surplus can be produced only in one or both of two ways—increased taxation and increased economy. We must also endeavour to rectify the balance of trade, which is now so heavily against this country. That is also a question of taking one or both of two courses. One is by the heavy restriction of unnecessary or partly unnecessary luxuries imported into this country, and the other is by increasing our exports. If we can do both, so much the sooner shall we reach the goal. Finally, the object of having this large surplus and rectifying the balance of trade is that we may withdraw from circulation the unnecessary currency which we have in use, and burn it or pulp it. If we withdraw so many millions of money, and burn it every month, and the world believes that we are going on with that same policy of restoration, we shall find our exchanges improve abroad even more rapidly than by the amount of the surplus notes which we destroyed.
I do not think that the people of this country, who have been used for so many generations to an absolutely sound currency, have really understood the present position. Before the War we had, I think, a note issue in this country of something like £30,000,000. To-day we have something like £450,000,000. Although owing to the higher prices and the increased wages, we do require more currency in circulation, we do not require anything like the amount of currency which we have in circulation. Clearly, it ought to be reduced. A large portion of that currency is not backed either by gold or goods, and has no real value whatever, and does depreciate our currency in the international markets of the world, and causes us to pay high prices when we purchase abroad. It is bad for our prestige, and affects the cost of living of everybody in the country, and accounts partly for the enormous size of these high 2106 Estimates, which are due largely to the high cost of living. I do not think that I shall have the courage—maybe it is lack of courage—to follow the hon. Member for Wood Green into the Lobby in favour of the proposal to reduce the Estimates, because I have not got the certainty that this large reduction can be made. If I had the knowledge which enabled me to be certain that that or even a smaller reduction could be made, I would not have the least hesitation in voting against the Government.
Mr. J. W. WILSON
I rise briefly to express the hope that the Government will at least on this occasion make some reply in winding up the Debate to-night. As a House of Commons man I feel disappointed that during these two days which we have spent, yesterday on the question of high prices, and to-day on the question of Government extravagance, departmental extravagance, the Government may not have felt that the Debate had any such damaging effect as to render a reply necessary. Still it is not as a debating society that we are met here. We are met here largely to suggest anything which may be done to allay the general unrest and suffering which the high prices now prevailing are causing, and to reassure in some way the country. The Prime Minister was here a great part of yesterday. Many of us hoped to hear him before dinner. Others expected that he might have replied later on, or if not he, then at any rate my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, as the subject of Debate was of more interest than any other subject to the country at large; but the Debate simply petered out after dinner, as all present felt, into hilarious jeers and laughter, on a subject which is so serious, which is admittedly causing unrest throughout the country, and is the basis of many of the greatest economic upsets that the country has ever seen in the matter of wages, while the country finds it increasingly difficult to recover those exports and that foreign trade which financial experts are constantly telling us is the one way to rectify the exchange which is against us. In addition the present slate of affairs is an almost intolerable burden upon the large voiceless mass of humanity in this country who do not belong to unions, do not earn high wages, are on the borderland of poverty, and have no one to champion 2107 their cause. Surely the Government, in spite of the vast majority, which may make them independent of a few dozen of us who may vote against them in the Lobby at the end of a Debate, should put up some of their best men to take the opportunity of reassuring the country, if it can be reassured. Their silence is ominous. Surely we may hope to be able to give some guidance from these walls to that mass of people outside and that at least it may not be said that this House treats it with frivolity or with contempt.
Colonel LAMBERT WARD
I wish to support the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Peebles, because it is only by supporting a Vote for a drastic reduction like this that we can hope to make those economies which, in my opinion, are necessary for the economic welfare of this country. We cannot go on indefinitely spending money which we have not got, and at the present time we have not got the money to pay this enormous expenditure. It is quite true that we have a mass of very inflated credits, and we have got paper money, but that is not wealth, as we find out quickly enough when we try to spend that money in foreign countries, especially in foreign countries to the West. Unfortunately I am not sufficiently well-educated in high finance to be able to criticise thousands of millions as the right hon. Member for the City of London has done, but if I may be allowed to criticise for a few minutes in humble thousands I shall feel that I have done my duty to the constituency which I have the honour to represent. Certain items appeared in the Estimates of the Ministry of Transport which were touched on very lightly by the right hon. Member for Peebles and the hon. Member for Wood Green. Those Estimates provide for no fewer than seven permanent officials, each of them with a salary of between £3,000 and £4,000 a year. At the same time I think that there are only three other permanent officials in all the other Government offices whose salaries are in excess of £3,000 a year. One can easily imagine the discontent and the dissatisfaction which that sort of thing must cause amongst the permanent officials in the older and, in my opinion, the more important Government offices, and it gives them a handle to demand 2108 further rises in salary, which the country at the present time cannot afford to give.
At the present time the country in general, and the Government in particular, are wilfully shutting their eyes to the fundamental relationships which exist and must exist between wages and prices and between the cost of living and the cost of production. They are wilfully raising salaries and at the same time they are wilfully raising wages, quite apart from the fact that they are not doing any good thereby, because the purchasing power of those salaries and wages depreciates every bit as quickly as they attempt to raise it. Surely it is pretty obvious in the world in which we live at the present lime, when the world-demand for almost every commodity is in excess of the supply of that commodity, and particularly when, under present circumstances and from the point of view of production, practically the whole of Europe is, so to speak, out of action, that the governing factor in the case of any article is the rate of wages which is paid in producing that particular article. At the present time we are not in a position to buy those articles from abroad. Take, for example, coal. The wages of the miners have been trebled during the last five or six years, and the price of coal has gone up three times and more. Take the price of bread. The agricultural labourer's wages have been put up by the Wages Boards at least double to what they were during the prewar period, and the price of broad has been almost exactly doubled. It would be much better if the Government would be frank. Let them say definitely: "We believe that it will produce greater content amongst the people to have wages high, even though the cost of living is also higher than before, rather than to attempt to reduce the cost of living if it will mean bringing down the cost of wages also." If the Government believe that let them say it, and I, for one, am rather inclined to agree with them. But surely it is nothing more nor less than hypocrisy to pretend that they are doing their best to reduce the cost of living on the one hand when, on the other hand, twice during the last fourteen or fifteen months they have stabilised wages at their war level by Act of Parliament and when Wages Boards are putting up wages practically daily. It is a vicious circle, which I know is hard to break, but it will have 2109 to be broken sooner or later, or else the position of this country will be no better than that of Austria to-day, where things have not doubled or trebled but have been put up forty times and the cost of living has gone up exactly forty times also.
With all due humility, I am not criticising in millions, but I should like to offer one or two suggestions as to how quite minor and small improvements might be effected. It seems to me that at the present time some of our establishments abroad are being run on unnecessarily lavish lines. One still sees much too much khaki uniform in the streets and restaurants of Continental cities. One expects to see it in the occupied areas, and also on the lines of communication through Belgium, but what is all that khaki doing in France?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we are now discussing Civil Service Estimates. There is no khaki in that.
With all due respect, I should like to submit that a soldier bringing home the Foreign Office letter-bag is, temporarily at any rate, in the employ of the Foreign Office.
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker: Again, in a certain Continental capital which shall be nameless we have at the present time a Legation, a Consulate, a Passport Office and a Military Mission, each of which is occupying a large and expensive building and employing a large and very expensive staff. Surely we might follow the example of the French, who have centralised all these four Departments in the one building, and thereby effected a great gain in economy without in any way sacrificing efficiency.
Every effort should be made to improve the exchange value of the British currency. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury will probably smile, and suggest that that is a counsel of perfection. I know it is very difficult, and it is up to the people of this country to help the Government in that respect by buying as little as they possibly can from abroad, and by getting that which is absolutely necessary to buy from abroad from those countries where the exchange is favourable 2110 to us, and not from those where the exchange is adverse. We are only now beginning to understand what an important part the condition of the exchange plays in the cost of living. We see in Germany and Austria, where the exchange is in our favour, the cost of living mounting almost hour by hour, and in countries like Holland, where the exchange is in their favour, the cost of living has, although very little, already commenced to go down. Therefore, I implore the Government to do all they can to improve the financial condition of the country. That financial condition will rot be improved by bringing forward bloated Estimates such as we are confronted with to-day. I would ask the Labour party to support this Amendment, and I would remind them that, although it is the taxpayer who will directly pay this cost, it is the consumer who, in the long run, will have to suffer.
We have been discussing enormous Estimates this afternoon, amounting to a total of £557,000,000. This huge amount, as the House well knows, will be raised almost entirely by direct taxation. We have lost altogether our proportion between direct and indirect taxation. This afternoon I got from the Exchequer a statement that we have, at the present moment, something like 3,500,000 effective taxpayers. It will be on that 3,500,000 people that the main part of the burden will be laid. I would like to ask the House what good it would do this 3,500,000 people to read tomorrow this Debate of to-day? Will they get much comfort from this Debate? How fortunate it is for all the Members here in this House that hardly any of those 3,500,000 people, who represent with their wives and families the most intelligent part of the population, and total something like 12,000,000 people, that they will not have the opportunity of studying this White Paper. Suppose a small taxpayer, with between £800 and £1,000 a year, to whom the visitation of the income tax collector is really a terror, sees on this White Paper that the Government are at the present moment spending £27,000,000 odd on the Ministry of Munitions; supposing he turns over to page 6 and sees Railway Agreements, £23,000,000; Coastwise Transport Subsidy, £978,000; Coal Mines Deficiency, £15,000,000; and items of that sort, what would he say? He would say, "Surely this Committee is 2111 not worthy of our trust for not taking the Government sternly to task for these swollen Estimates." I agree that it is practically impossible for we back benchers to make much effective protest. The only effective protest we can make is to go into the Division Lobby. During the last six months, I suppose I have addressed more public meetings, composed almost entirely of taxpayers, than any hon. Member in this House I know the feeling these people have. It is one almost of despair; it is despair, anger and mystification. I would suggest that the Government should take the people into their confidence as far as they can; that they should tell them the truth, and explain the necessity for these things, openly and candidly, and why we have to spend £27,000,000 on the Ministry of Munitions. Give the reasons, and if you do that they may condemn you, but they will trust you. Up and down the country, wherever I go, there is a feeling that this Government is wasting money and that it could save money. I believe the Debate we had last night on the question of the increased cost of living will largely remove the doubts in the minds of the average taxpayer, but this Debate to-night will not. We have a far worse case with regard to economy to-night against the Government than we had in the case of coal. Against my will I shall go into the Lobby against the Government, in support of this Amendment.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I speak from a point of view entirely opposite to that of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I am of opinion that the general tone of this Debate will do as much harm as good. I believe that the general acceptance, by hon. Members of this House, that the Government has boon extravagant, is calculated to do harm and is an injustice to the Government. I protest, as I did before, against the danger that may arise from this type of Debate, and in particular I would refer to a remark that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Chamberlain), who twitted this House that it was always preaching economy, and then, a few days later, passing Resolutions that entailed greater expenditure on the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he regretted 2112 that he was not present the other day to give an example when the House voted in favour of increased pensions to the police. I presume he referred also to pensions for the blind. That case was as well presented as it could have been by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who, almost with tears in his eyes, protested against the extravagance of this House in alleviating the position of the blind. This House, as a House, has not protested, as far as I am aware, on any occasion against expenditure on ameliorative reform. It has protested, although I have not been one of those who protested, in regard to administrative extravagance. But this campaign in regard to economy has, I say again, been exploited by selfish people, deliberately and for their own object, to stifle reform to which the Government of this country is pledged. I protest against that, as it is a great danger. I am going to refer—otherwise I should have had no excuse for rising—to one particular item of £3,000,000 for increases of pensions for discharged soldiers. I protest against that, that £3,000,000 should have been £5,000,000. Had we redeemed our pledges, it would have been £5,000,000, and it would have been if this particular campaign had not been exploited in a manner in which it should have been exploited. In the Select Committee we had to tackle the case of a soldier's widowed mother. What have we promised her? We stated to soldiers, when the war was on, that no man, nor anyone dependent upon him, should be in a weaker position owing to the fact that he had served his country. Then comes the economy campaign. We say, "Here is a dependant who is getting 5s. a week," and then it is put to me, as it was in regard to the police—another moral obligation—and in regard to the civil blind, "How can yon preach economy and then ask for £5,000,000," or whatever the amount may be. My sole object in rising is to prot st against this perfectly right and proper economy campaign in regard to administrative extravagance, to which I am not an accusing party, being wrongly applied to measures of ameliorative reform which this House in its wisdom has decided upon. I say it is prostituting a right and proper campaign.
The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Robert Home)
I had not intended to take part in this Debate, and would not do so were it not for an appeal that has been made to me. Some comment has been made from some of the back benches on the other side of the House in relation to the Government's action. I hope the House will forgive mo for repeating, as I shall find it necessary to do, some of the arguments used both yesterday and today, because I have become very conscious of the fact that not all those hon. Members who have been speaking while I have been in the House during the last hour have taken the trouble to listen to the Government's reply upon these questions, with regard to which they say they are so much agitated. There are various considerations with regard to the rise in prices which may be described as platitudes. In the Press this morning some of them have been so described. But you do not get rid of the trouble by describing it as a platitude. For example, it is a platitude that the main cause of the rise in prices is a shortage of commodities; but when you describe that as a platitude you have not got rid of the shortage You have still got to go on, and get the production which will relieve the shortage. Again, it is perfectly obvious what the reasons for the shortage are. Every great war has ended with a period of high prices, and the reason is that, if you divert large bodies of men from ordinary peaceful avocations, and put them to the business of destruction, you are lessening the power of the world to produce, and you end with a shortage which necessarily results in higher prices. In order to point the moral of what I am saying, let me take one or two very obvious examples.
Wheat is high in price at the present time, for very obvious reasons. One of the greatest wheat-producing countries in the world from which we drew supplies, namely, Russia, has not sent us a ton of wheat for a prolonged period, and the same is the case with regard to Rumania and Hungary. Similarly, with regard to cotton, the production last year was 3,500,000 bales short of the pre-war prodraction. Again, in the case of sugar, the production this year is 3,000,000 tons short of pre-war production. That shortage, with a demand still as great as ever, and in some cases greater than 2114 ever, necessarily produces high prices. May I labour this point just a little more. When people cry out that the Government must take drastic action with regard to these matters, they forget that they ace dealing with natural phenomena, which follow inevitably upon the causes which have produced them. You might as well ask the Government to take drastic action to stop a hurricane, or prevent a snowfall. It is perfectly true that in a hurricane you may advise people to take in sail, and I daresay that is part of the advice which some hon. Members have been giving us to-night; but to suggest that you can prevent a hurricane, or in some way suddenly get rid of it, is a futile sort of proposition to put before any practical body.
Let me refer for a moment to the prices of things like wheat and sugar and cotton, and see how little any Government can do. In order to eliminate any question of high freights, lot us take the price of wheat in the country of its origin; and, in order to get rid of any element which is dependent upon inflated currency, let us take it at the gold price in its country of origin. Wheat, before the War, sold free on board at New York—what is commonly known as No. 2 Hard Winter Wheat—could be bought there for 8 dollars; in 1920 it cost 20 dollars. That is to say, wheat in the country of its origin, and at gold prices, is 2½ times as dear to-day as it was before the War. Nothing we can do can alter that fact; nothing we can do can make wheat cheaper in America. Take, again, the case of sugar. The price of sugar, free on board in Cuba, prior to the War, was 2 cents per lb.; to-day it is over 10 cents per lb. That is to say, sugar in the country of its origin costs five times as much to-day as it did before the War, and nothing that this Government can do can alter that fact. Then, in the case of cotton, before the War it could have been bought f.o.b. at New York at 12 cents a pound; to-day it costs over 40 cents to purchase the same pound of cotton. Nothing that this Government can do can alter that fact. And so one could go on through the whole schedule of the raw materials which we are compelled to purchase from abroad. I hope, therefore, that the House will realise, and that the country will understand, that these are the inevitable consequences of a great War, in which labour has been diverted 2115 from peaceful avocations, and that that cannot, either by legislation—
On a point of Order. Are we discussing the price of food, or the Civil Service Estimates?
§ Sir R. HORNE
If I am travelling away from what the House would wish to hear, I am at least doing what I was asked to do by some hon. Members. I do not propose to labour this matter; I am only pointing out, and I hope I have done so with sufficient brevity and sufficient clearness, that these are circumstances with which no Government can contend, and I hope the people of the country will realise how limited are the powers of the Government in controlling natural causes and natural consequences. It has also been said that the rise in wages has been great, and that, undoubtedly, is another cause of the rise in prices. Coming to the Estimates which have been put before the House, and upon which the Amendment arises, the chief argument in connection with Government extravagance is, as I take it, that, if less is spent on the part of the Government, that would immediately have an effect in reducing the cost of articles sold to the people. That is a matter which the House will perhaps allow me one or two moments to explain. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), in his speech yesterday, made the remark that increased currency is not truly the cause of high prices, and I noticed that in some of the newspapers this morning that statement is not entirely understood. At the risk of wearying the House by pointing out what, perhaps, is an elementary consideration, I would venture to say quite briefly what my understanding of that position is, and what is its bearing upon the Government's expenditure. When the Government borrowed money during the War, as it was compelled to do, it borrowed it from the Bank of England. What immediately followed upon that circumstance was that cheques were drawn upon that account at the Bank of England in favour of Government contractors who were doing Government work. The immediate result of that operation was that the contractor passed his cheques to his bank, and there 2116 was created at his bank a deposit of his portion of the amount which the Government had expended on him. The subsequent transaction was this, that in order to enable the contractor to pay wages he demanded currency, and you had to create a certain amount of currency, not necessarily equal to the amount of deposit, to enable him to pay his wages. In that way what the Government borrowed from the bank became distributed throughout the country, partly in the form of currency and partly in deposits of these various contractors at their banks. In the ordinary case where the bank gives a loan to a customer that loan is given against goods, but in the case of the money which was borrowed by the Government there were no goods against the amount which was lent, for the reason that, as soon as the goods were created, they went into a process of destruction. The result is that to-day you have all this new credit created by the Government borrowing without any goods against the credit.
You have in the hands of the people a certain amount of currency notes and of deposits in banks, against which no goods exist at all. The purchasing power of the people has been enormously increased, on the one hand, while no supplies of goods have been increased, on the other hand, and as soon as you have a large purchasing power with a small quantity of goods against it, obviously the price of goods rises in proportion to the amount of money there is. The result is what is commonly known as inflation of currency, inflation of credit, and higher prices for commodities. It also works out similarly in relation to foreign exchanges, because you have not got the goods to give in exchange for the goods you have to purchase outside the realm. The result is that everything you buy becomes dearer, for the reason that you have not the commodities to give in the ordinary process of mercantile exchange. In the end, we reach the position that everything we buy costs us far more than it did before the War. I agree at once that in order to put that position right you must not only cease to borrow, but you must also pay off your debts. I need scarcely inform the House, because the point has been laboured several times, that we have already reached the point of paying off debt. The peak of the debt has been reached and we are now below 2117 it. In the first three months of this year we have succeeded in paying off an appreciable portion of our debts, and, at the same time, we have reduced the amount of the notes in currency. We all hope that we shall be able, by the prosperity of the country, to go on with that very necessary process.
I turn now to a point with which an hon. Member on the other side is obviously more concerned—the question of Government extravagance. I have listened to two very interesting speeches during the last two days upon this question. I at first thought the speeches indicated that the forces of opposition Liberalism in this House had not yet succeeded in achieving unity of command, but afterwards I came to the conclusion that perhaps the battle scheme had developed according to plan. The scone reminded me of what was not uncommon on the Western Front in France during the first winter of the War. One afternoon, for an hour, a big gun boomed innocuously, and next day the Highland Brigade went over the top; but owing to the fact that the big gun had not done any damage, the gallant Highlander was generally held up op the enemy's wire. I hope my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir D. Maclean) feels no anxiety on that subject. We shall be very glad to receive him, and to treat him kindly. Perhaps some day we may even capture the big gun. The pattern of our ammunition seems to be of the very same type which it fires. Leaving the field for the forum, I should like to say that I do not feel myself in a position to make any comment of value upon the speech of the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). I was so much engaged yesterday in listening to a great master of speech, that I am afraid for a time my critical faculties were dulled. At the end of it, however, there came back to my memory a phrase from one of the speeches in the Paisley campaign, and so far as I can recollect, it ran something like this:Let us not indulge in historical platitudes, in climbing heights or seeing visions.I suppose that that had reference to some recently-disclosed climbing propensities on the part of Lord Haldane. The orator went on to say:Let us settle down to the serious and humdrum task of rescuing the nation from the danger of its present financial position.Well, I suppose, to-day we have had that hum-drum task, to some extent, performed 2118 by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Maclean). It is a humdrum task, but, believe me, all the Ministers of the Crown have been daily engaged on it for a very long time. The result may not seem to the House to be very satisfactory, but at least it is the best that we have been able to do, and I would ask the House to have some consideration for the great difficulties with which we are confronted. There is no doubt that our financial position is very difficult, but what the House and what many people seem to expect is that, although in all other relations of life we have to pay more for what we purchase, somehow or other a Government Department must be able to purchase the same thing for the same price as before the War. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley said yesterday that he noticed the Civil Service Estimates in the old Departments had increased in almost every instance. There is a very good reason for that. During the War the wages of every man in this country have been increased. Is it to be supposed that although the rest of us have to spend more on our food and raiment, the Civil Servant can by some miracle purchase his clothes and his food for the same price as he had to pay before the War? It cannot be done.
In addition to that fact many of the old Departments have taken on functions which they never had before. For example, the Colonial Office has a scheme for the emigration and settlement of discharged soldiers. That is a new burden since the War, and one which must be paid for. Similarly the Education Department is dealing with discharged soldiers at universities, and the Board of Agriculture is making provision for discharged soldiers obtaining an opportunity of making a living on the land. All of these things add to the Civil Service Estimates. There was some criticism by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite of some of the items in what looks like a very large bill of £557,000,000, but I would beg the House to realise how that £557,000,000 is arrived at. One item alone is £123,000,000, for pensions to soldiers and their widows. Is there anybody in this House who would reduce that amount? Add up the amounts which are concerned with the resettlement of soldiers and sailors who fought for their country—amounts for their training, out-of-work donations, etc., all of which the country promised to undertake for 2119 them—and you will find that the amount for these alone comes to £22,000,000. Is there anybody who grudges that amount? Education accounts for an increase of £15,000,000. I take it that no one questions that amount either? Housing, about which everyone is concerned, is represented by £11,500,000. 1s there any Member who will go to his constituents and tell them he has voted against that amount? So I could go through innumerable items. There was an amount for the Ministry of Munitions which was questioned. If my hon. and gallant Friend had read the note he would have understood what that was. He did not take the trouble to read the note. The fact is that in the past the Ministry of Munitions Estimate has been inserted in these accounts at a nominal figure, and the reason was that the Ministry has been making enough by the disposal of surplus stores to pay for its running; but in the present year, owing to protests of several Members of the Committee, it has been put in at the actual amount it is estimated to cost, and instead of the sums that are received in the course of its transactions going to the Ministry of Munitions, they will go direct to the Exchequer. The result is the item we find here of, I think, £27,000,000. That will be far more than wiped out by the amounts realised from the transactions of the Ministry. So it ought to be, but it is not an increase at all in the amount which is being given for the Ministry.
§ Sir R. COOPER
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what 17,000 officials are doing to-day in the Ministry of Munitions?
§ Sir R. HORNE
That is no doubt a very proper question in the proper place, but it is not the point I am dealing with now. Whether or not the Minister of Munitions, for whom I am not responsible, is employing a greater staff than he ought, these are wholly unjustifiable protests, as the staff has not been increased by that £27,000,000 at all, and the account has only been put in a different form. The same exactly is true of the item which deals with the Ministry of Shipping. The House will understand that these two items amounting to £43,000,000 are put in a different form, and are more than compensated for by the revenue received by those two Departments. There is a sum of £45,000,000 for 2120 the bread subsidy. Members may take different views as to whether there should be bread subsidies or not, but I think most of us at the present time would not be willing to do away with the bread subsidy altogether. At any rate, that is an amount which no doubt will disappear in the future. The item of £15,000,000 with regard to the Coal Controller is really an advance to the Coal Controller to the extent of £12,000,000, and is repayable with interest, in the course of the year. It is not going to be a permanent charge or even a charge in this year. There are £36,000,000 to Allies, and I do not suppose there is anybody who takes the view that we can get rid of these obligations. I have gone through all of the items I have heard mentioned and some more, and what I have stated is enough to explain a very large portion of this total of an amount which undoubtedly is somewhat large.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley finished his speech yesterday with a note of optimism, and I should respectfully like to join myself with his point of view. The financial position in this country is no doubt difficult, but there is no reason cither for apprehension or despair. At every stage of the country's history people have been troubled about the debt they had to pay after a great war. There is a very notable chapter in Macaulay's "History of England" in which he describes the origin of our National Debt and what the opinion of the people was at each stage. He points out how when the Debt was £50,000,000 at the time of the Peace of Utrecht people were in dismay as to how they would pay that amount He remarks:At every stage in the growth of that Debt the nation had sot up the same cry of anguish and despair. At every stage in the growth of that Debt it has been seriously asserted by wise men that bankruptcy and ruin were at hand.Macaulay describes how that despair grew when the Debt rose to £80,000,000 and in the time of the first Pitt to £140,000,000. He relates that David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, taking, as was proper, a parsimonious view of the situation, expressed his profound belief that we would never get rid of the burden of this Debt, and he was pressed to say:Better for us to have been conquered by Prussia or Austria than to be saddled with the interest of £140,000,000.2121 Macaulay goes on to narrate how after the Napoleonic wars the Debt became £800,000,000, and comments:It may now be affirmed without fear of contradiction that we find it as easy to pay the interest of £800,000,000 as our aucestors found it a century ago to pay the interest of £80,000,000.I have not pointed out the increase of the Debt and the ease with which it has boon borne, for the purpose of leading anybody to believe that we ought to be careless with regard to our national finances. What I wish is not to inflate the currency of optimism, but rather to deflate the note of pessimism which is sometimes prevalent. In my view the country at the present moment stands on the edge of great opportunities. The whole world is anxious to obtain our goods. Our works and factories are overwhelmed with orders, and it only requires peace and activity in industry in order to bring about a state of great prosperity. The conditions are better than they have been at any time since the Armistice. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) ought to be congratulated by the House and the country on the successful stand that they have recently made for a peaceful solution of difficulties in politics and industry. If that spirit prevails and if we all combine to do our duty both in working and in saving, then I believe that we shall achieve in the near future great progress and prosperity. There are some people who are still troubled about our present condition, and undoubtedly we have troublesome times ahead. Our task is nothing less than to reconstruct a broken world. I am certain, however, that no one need despair of our country. Its recuperative power is as great and as expansive as the indomitable spirit of its people.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I do not know that I have ever listened in this House to a more interesting speech than that which has just been delivered. I think, at any rate as far as his preliminary remarks were concerned, they have been exceedingly sincere and exceptionally inspiring. I would take this opportunity of congratulating him upon the tributes that he paid to two of the Members of the Labour party. The right hon. Gentleman called attention to some of the large amounts of money which were being spent upon 2122 the various Departments. He mentioned especially the Ministry of Pensions, and on that our point of view is that we think the amounts ought to have been larger in order to do justice to our broken soldiers and to pay our tribute to the women left behind to cater for the children Reference was made by an hon. Member to the amount to be spent on unemployment insurance, and as to that we say it would have been far better to solve the question of unemployment and in that way save that expenditure. I listened very carefully to several hon. Members who offered criticism of the Ministry of Transport. I would remind those hon. Members that the Ministry of Transport is part and parcel of the Coalition policy. I think that the criticism levelled against that Ministry is not so much to increase the efficiency of the Government's policy as it is to make every conceivable attempt to cripple that Department to the detriment of the community. There is one item in the Civil Service Estimates of of £560,000 for emergency services. I do not know exactly what that means, and I think that the House, before it is asked to vote such a large amount, should have some explanation.
I have risen specially in order to call attention to an item in the Home Office Vote of £200,000 for secret service. The Chancellor of the Exchequer early in his remarks invited us to say which service he could cut down. As far as the secret service is concerned, this is an opportune time for cutting down expenses in that direction. I am not going to be so foolish as to say that at this moment you can completely wipe out that expenditure of £200,000, but I do submit that there is the opportunity to lower it by at least 50 per cent. Here is a vast amount of money which is utilised for mean and despicable objects, which cause division, strife, and disunity among the ranks of industrial toilers of this country. To my mind it is not only a waste of money, but it is a waste of manhood, that men are prepared to sell their souls for a mess of pottage, and a waste of money and manhood to put forward a Vote for this money for the despicable work of espionage. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with questions affecting the international situation. He told us of the difficulties of America, and referred to the situation as far as Russia was concerned. In the course of his remarks 2123 he told us that not one ton of wheat had for a long time come to this country from Russia. Who is responsible for that? We on these Benches, at any rate, can take no responsibility for it. If that fact to a large extent is responsible for the high cost of living, then the Government's policy as far as the blockade of Russia is concerned, stands condemned. In order to meet the situation and these Estimates, the Government should remove that blockade and immediately secure some wheat for this country, and that will have a tendency to lower the cost of living and be beneficial to the country as a whole. I would like to say in conclusion how much I appreciated the concluding portions of the Minister's speech. I hope he will see his way clear to give to the Home Secretary my expression of opinion in regard to the Secret Service, that he should endeavour to reduce the Vote from £200,000 to £100,000; and if the whole of the Departments concerned will take seriously into consideration every small amount, we may at any rate secure some noticeable reduction in the Estimates in the coming year.
Mr. T. THOMSON
The Minister of Labour, in his defence of the Government, suggested that those who supported the Amendment would be reflecting on the social programme of reconstruction which the Government are proposing, but I submit that that is not necessarily so. I do not think you will find in the speech of the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) one word of criticism against the valuable social programme of reform which the Government have outlined, but there was very drastic criticism of waste and expenditure in the Departments, and the further purpose that the House should have the opportunity of reviewing from time to time the various activities of the Government, no matter how necessary they may be. We should all agree that it would be false economy to cripple or reduce the social reforms with regard to pensions, with regard to insurance benefits, or with regard to other admirable proposals of the Government, but when you come to the Ministries of Munitions and of Shipping, I submit that the right hon. Gentleman's defence was not altogether sound. He said that these huge sums, amounting to £43,000,000, were less than had been spent 2124 before, hut, surely, such a sum shows an extravagance and an establishment of a bureaucratic kind which is altogether uncalled for in these days when national economy should be the first purpose. The right hon. Gentleman stated that in addition to rigid economy it is most necessary that we should obtain increased production. I would like to draw attention to the Government's policy, or want of policy, with regard to one of the larger industries on the north-east coast, namely, the production of iron and steel. The Minister said it was very necessary to re-establish our foreign exchange, and that one reason why the exchange is so much against us is the excess of imports over exports. We have all seen in the trade returns for January and February that, unfortunately, the balance of trade, instead of being increasingly in our favour for those two months as compared wth December, is going in the wrong direction.
What are the Government doing with regard to the question of increasing our exports? On the north cast coast we have our iron industries starved because of the lack of facilities for obtaining coke in order to make iron and steel, and at the same time the Board of Trade are permitting the export of coke in large quantities from the Durham and Northumberland ports, going out of this country and Gripping our own industries, keeping our own blast furnaces and iron and steel works on a limited production, whereas if the coke, instead of being exported, was used in those works, we should be able to increase tremendously our export trade in iron and steel. The Minister said the world is clamouring for our goods. We have a plant here working to only half its capacity because the Government allow to go out of the country the very coke fuel for those works which it is necessary they should have if they are to increase their output. The Government say we are getting for our coke £6 or £7 a ton, and that that is going to swell our exports. On the other hand, if that coke were used to make the finished iron or steel, instead of getting £6 or £7 a ton for our exports, we should get £12 for pig-iron, £24 or £30 for rolled steel, or £60 a ton in the case of sheets. Therefore, I say that if the Minister of Labour would look into that and see that our home industries are fed, we should be able to increase our exports and find greater employment for those employed in those industries, and we 2125 should thereby be able to restore the balance of trade, which is such an essential factor in production, I would respectfully urge the Minister of Labour to look into that matter, in order that our trade exports in the coining season may increase and that the balance of trade, which is so much against us at the present time, and which is increasing the inflation of credit, should be rectified.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I desire to make a very strong protest against the position in which the Members of this House are placed in dealing with the Estimates now under discussion. We are asked to-night to vote £240,000,000, and there is only one item, one of £1,500,000 in connection with the Board of Trade, for which there are any details available. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour appeal to the House to point out where the Government might be saving money, how can Members of this House possibly do such a thing when they are asked to vote an enormous sum in regard to which they are not permitted by the Government to have the smallest vestige of knowledge what the money is for? That is particularly applicable to the case of the Ministry of Munitions. I do not understand that the £27,000,000 for that Ministry, of which £12,000,000 is now wanted, has anything to do with the disposal of goods, but that the money is wanted for the expenses of the Department, for the establishment it maintains, and for its 17,000 officials, who are engaged on work which, I venture to think, no Member outside the Government can possibly understand. When an appeal is made to the public in general to economise in every possible direction, it is a very serious matter indeed that there should be a widespread belief that the Government is doing almost the opposite, and it makes it very difficult for hon. Members in their constituencies to do what the right hon. Gentleman very properly demanded that they should do, and that is to realise the difficulties of the Government, and to realise that the Civil Service Estimates, like every other expenditure in this country, must cost more or less double what they did before the War. We realise that, yet we feel that there are many directions in which, with a proper will and determination, large sums of money could be saved.
2126 One case was raised by an hon. Member to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer, and which I see is being brought to the notice of the public generally, and that is the £2,000,000 which is being asked for Labour Exchanges. Quite apart from the question as to whether Labour Exchanges in themselves really do serve a great purpose in industry, and for the benefit of labour, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that, under present circumstances, when the Government is appealing for labour to build houses which the community want to live in, the Government might at least make some temporary arrangement which would obviate that expenditure of £2,000,000. There is one other point that has not been referred to, so far as I know, in this Debate, and that is the Profiteering Act Department, for which £180,000 is asked in those Estimates. I say, cut out that £180,000 absolutely, or, alternatively, and preferably, make your Profiteering Act a reality, and make it of some service to the community in general; at any rate, let it be a real check upon the claims that are made throughout the country that there is an enormous amount—an unreasonable amount—of profiteering on the part of employers and capitalists. My last remark is just to remind the Government and my right hon. Friend that some time ago there was a very capable Committee appointed to consider the question of finance, and it gave, I believe, a unanimous recommendation that before Estimates are presented to the House, some Committee of able men should have the opportunity of examining those Estimates and informing themselves sufficiently to enable—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that that subject has been discussed two hours already this afternoon. The hon. Member must not travel over the same ground.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I am sorry I was not aware of that, as I was not in the House until about three hours ago. All I would say on that matter is that the appeals made to the Government in that direction should receive serious consideration, or, alternatively, the Government should realise the unfair position in which Members of this House are placed, and should consider what steps should be taken to enable this House to carry the responsibility, which it ought, of passing the 2127 Estimates, or else of being in a position to stand up and criticise the Government with a real knowledge of the facts behind them.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Might I remind the House that, by arrangement, the Division is to be taken at a quarter-past Eight? I hope the House will adhere to that arrangement.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Might I appeal to my hen. Friend, who was a Member of the Committee? He agreed, and we agreed, that we should divide at a quarter-past Eight. The whole advantage of an arrangement of this sort is that the arrangement shall be kept.
§ Mr. BILLING
As 65 seconds still remain, may I appeal to the Government not to judge the strength of the feeling in this country in connection with profiteering by the weakness of the criticism of the Opposition? That is by no means a measure of the strength of the feeling. At the same time, may I appeal to them not to be stampeded by newspapers, but really to endeavour to view the position of the new poor in this country, the men with fixed incomes, and set thorn an example by cutting their coat, as these men are obliged to do, a little more in accordance with the income of the country?
§ Question put, "That '£241,040,000' stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 258; Noes, 80.2129
|Division No. 60.]||AYES.||[8.15 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Addison, m. Hon. Dr. C.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hickman, Brig. Gen. Thomas E.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Hiloer, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hohier, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Denison-Pender, John C.||Hood, Joseph|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Duncannon, Viscount||Home, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Edge, Captain William||Hudson, R. M.|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Elveden, Viscount||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Falcon, Captain Michael||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Jesson, C.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Jodrell, Neville Paul|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Johnson, L. S.|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Forestier-Walker, L.||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Kelly, Major Fred (Rotherham)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Gardiner, James||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr|
|Brassey, Major H. L. C.||Gardner, Ernest||Kidd, James|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||King, Commander Henry Douglas|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Gilbert, James Daniel||Kinloch Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Briggs, Harold||Glyn, Major Ralph||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Goff, Sir R. Park||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Gould, James C.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Grayson, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar||Lister, Sir R. Ashton|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Gregory, Holman||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Casey, T. W.||Greig, Colonel James William||Lloyd-Greame, Major P.|
|Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Lonsdale, James Rolston|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Guest, Major O. (Leic., Loughboro')||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Birm., W.)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Lyie, C. E. Leonard|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Hallwood, Augustine||Lynn, R. J.|
|Churchill, Ht. Hon. Winston S.||Hail, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Lyon, Laurance|
|Clough, Robert||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camiachle)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Macmaster, Donald|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Haslam, Lewis||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Cope, Major Wm.||Henderson, Major v. L. (Tradeston)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Rae, H. Norman||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Ramsden, G. T.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Maddocks, Henry||Rankin, Captain James S.||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Raper, A. Baldwin||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Martin, Captain A. E.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Taylor, J.|
|Mason, Robert||Roes, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Matthews, David||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Remnant, Colonel Sir James F.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Mitchell, William Lane||Renwick, George||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Moles, Thomas||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Vickers, Douglas|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Rodger, A. K.||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Rogers, Sir Hallewell||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Morison, Thomas Brash||Rothschild, Lionel de||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Morris, Richard||Royden, Sir Thomas||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Morrison, Hugh||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Mount, William Arthur||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Samuel, A. M, (Surrey, Farnham)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Murchison, C. K.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustavo D.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Neal, Arthur||Seager, Sir William||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Nield, Sir Herbert||Simm, M. T.||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Parker, James||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Pearce, Sir William||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Pennefather, Do Fonblanque||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Porring, William George||Stanton, Charles B.||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Starkey, Captain John R.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.||Steel, Major S. Strang||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Stevens, Marshall||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Pulley, Charles Thornton||Stewart, Gershom||Lord E. Talbot and Capt. Guest.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayday, Arthur||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Hayward, Major Evan||Robertson, John|
|Atkey, A. R.||Hinds, John||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hirst, G. H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton-||Irving, Dan||Sexton, James|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Johnstone, Joseph||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Spoor, B. G.|
|Briant, Frank||Kenyan, Barnet||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Bromfield, William||Lawson, John J.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Cairns, John||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cape, Thomas||Lunn, William||Tootill, Robert|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wallace, J.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||MacVeagh, Joremiah||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Mallalleu, F. W.||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)||Wignall, James|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Myers, Thomas||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Finney, Samuel||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Galbralth, Samuel||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Nicholl, Commander Sir Edward||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||O'Grady, Captain James||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Hallas, Eldred||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hancock, John George||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Mr. Hogge and Major Barnes.|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
Question put, and agreed to.