§ 43. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, for additional Expenditure on the following Navy Services, namely:2137
|Vote 3.||Medical Establishments and Services||20,000|
|Vote 5.||Educational Services||…||16,000|
|Vote 8.||Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, & c:—|
|Section I. Personnel||355,000|
|Section III. Contract Work||5,366,000|
|Vote 11||Miscellaneous Effective Services||2,383,000|
|Vote 12||Admiralty Office||106,000|
|Vote 14||Naval and Marine Pensions, Gratuities, and Compassionate Allowances||228,000|
|Vote 15||Civil Superannuation, Compensation Allowances, and Gratuities||81,000|
|Less Surpluses on:—|
|Vote 1.||Wages, &c., of Officers, Seamen and boys, Coast Guard, Royal Marines, Women's Royal Naval Service, and Mercantile Officers and Men||812,000|
|Vote 2.||Victualling and Clothing for the Navy||462,000|
|Vote 6,||Scientific Services||104,000|
|Vote 8.||Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.:—|
|Section 11. Materiel||6,269,000|
|Vote 9.||Naval Armaments and Aviation||798,000|
|Vote 10.||Works, Buildings, and Repairs at Home and Abroad||109,990|
|Net Amount||£ 10"|
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
On the question of the Ministry of Shipping I want to get a definite statement from the Secretary to the Treasury, whom I am glad to see here at present, seeing he was not present when this matter was discussed in Committee as to the method by which the Government proposes to deal with the profits arising out of the sales of ships. It is within the knowledge of the whole House that during the War a large number of ships were constructed by the Government from funds raised on loan in this country. These ships, having been completed, are now being sold, as we are told by this Vote, to private persons. As I understand the Vote, the fund realised by the sale of these ships is being treated as the ordinary and normal income of the country, while the money borrowed with which to build those ships is treated as part of the permanent debt of the country. To my mind that is the most unsound finance that this or any other country could possibly adopt. Any business concern which borrowed money to build ships and then sold those ships and treated the money received therefrom as part of the normal income of the year would be on the straight road to bankruptcy. What would 2138 be manifestly unsound finance for any private company must also be unsound finance for any country. What I want, therefore, is a clear undertaking from the Government that the money derived from the sale of these ships—and they may have been sold for far more than they cost—shall be used primarily for paying off the money which was borrowed in order to build them. I do not object to the surplus being used in relief of taxation. What I do object to is the ridiculous position of treating the sale of these ships as revenued white the debt which was raised in order to build them stands perpetually against the Exchequer of the country. No Treasury official could support that, and I cannot believe it is being done by the Minister of Shipping. When this matter was discussed in Committee he assured us it was not what was being done; but anyone who reads what occurred must be somewhat suspicious of the way in which this matter has been treated by the Government.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I see the Secretary to the Treasury is in his place, and I shall be very much obliged if he will give us one of his lucid explanations of a chance remark which fell from two Ministers in dealing with this Estimate, as to what really was the effect of taking the results of realisation of those war stores and applying them by way of appropriations-in-aid. On the face of it it makes the position of the particular Department concerned one of great satisfaction as 2139 between debit and credit. I understand that some arrangement has been come to by which these realised and realisable war assets go direct to the Exchequer, and I shall be very much obliged to my hon. Friend if he will give us some explanation on that point.
§ Mr. BILLING
With reference to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) I would, if I may, join in his general protest, and I would even carry it a little further. I submit that the profits of any transaction of this kind should not be allowed to take the form of indirect taxation. I object to the principle. It is not only unsound, but it is unfair, for it enables the Department to acquire a vast amount of money. It is not only in this question of shipping, but it is also the case in reference to food and everything else, that wherever they are making profits by turning over vast sums that profit is drifting into the Exchequer, and they are having at their disposal considerably larger sums of money than they otherwise would have. Further, they are increasing the taxation of the country and bringing us nearer to that time when they will break the camel's back by putting on it the last straw. They are putting the last straw on the back of the taxpayer. It is because I consider it is not only unsound financially—and we know that the finance of all Governments is unsound from a commercial point of view—but because I realise that if any business firms continued on this course they would soon be forming a queue in Carey Street, that I wish to enter my most emphatic protest against the way in which money is being squandered. In fact, I think the Government are obtaining money from the taxpayers under false pretences, and, therefore, I trust we shall get a reply from the Treasury commensurate with the importance of the question.
§ Mr. MYERS
I should like to draw the attention to the House to two sections of this Estimate, and to point out also that this is not alone a question affecting the Ministry of Shipping, but that it also affects other departments. The first section to which I particularly wish to draw attention refers to the sale of ships, and I want to contend that the action of the Ministry of Shipping in respect of these sales has been altogether unsound policy. 2140 Public discussion which took place in the country with reference to the possibility of the Government taking hold of the shipping of the country gave rise to a great measure of hostility in some departments of shipping activity, and one Noble Lord deliberately declared that if anything of that nature were attempted the shipowners of the country would sell their vessels, would go out of business, and would leave the Government to do the best it could. At that time the Government had quite a number of ships under construction, and a very definite shipping policy had become part of the Ministry of Shipping's activities. Ultimately it was found that quite a number of vessels were on their hands and steps were taken to dispose of the boats. We find by statements in the OFFICIAL REPORT that 260 vessels, built in the United Kingdom, which cost £36,300,000 to build, were sold for £47,900,000, yielding a profit of £11,600,000. These were vessels built in the United Kingdom. 119 vessels, which were built abroad on the order of the Government at a cost of £26,400,000, were sold for £17,200,000, thereby involving a loss of £9,200,000. Taking both transactions together, the profits on the one side being £11,000,000 and the loss on the other side £9,000,000, the estimated profit on the whole was £2,400,000. Carrying the position still further, the Government had 249 contracts running for vessels in various stages of construction.
All these contracts were transferred to the Noble Lord who announced to his shareholders what the shipping interest would do if the Government took any steps in the direction of the nationalisation of shipping. Lord Inchcape was the fortunate purchaser of these vessels and contracts, and the result of that policy has been to press very hardly on the community in all directions. The distribution of these ships has resulted in numerous joint stock companies being floated, particularly in South Wales, round particular vessels, sometimes one boat and sometimes two, and the newspapers have been recording the floating of these companies round these particular vessels, and the announcement has been set forth in the columns of the newspapers that a ship had been purchased at a given price and at the current rate of freights the price of the vessel would be realised in its earning capacity in two or three years' time. In the public Press 2141 to-day we find that the Kestrel Steamship Company, with a capital of £32,000 in 1916, has made £49,000 profit in one year, and that Company is built round one particular vessel. The Globe Shipping Company, with two steamers in 1916, made profits nearly equal to the entire paid-up capital of their concern, and they have since, during three years, paid 22 per cent., 25 per cent., and 32½ per cent. The W. and C. T. Jones Shipping Company, with a capital of £280,000, have made profits in one year of £197,000, in 1916. They have since paid 30 per cent. in dividends, and their assets at present include over £1,000,000 in cash and War Loan, and numerous instances of that sort could be produced in the shipping interests of the country. I have here the names of two vessels. One, which was purchased in 1905 for £26,000, was sold in 1915 for £145,000. Another, bought m 1912 for £17,000, was sold in 1916 for £178,000.
The policy of the British Government in selling these ships has been a definitely contributing factor in the direction of the rise in freights. When we were discussing the question of the food supply the other night we were told from the other side of the House that the freights upon grain to this country were four, five, six, and ten times higher than they were before the War. The policy of the Government has assisted that upward tendency. If the Government had retained the ships which were in their possession, kept them on the water, utilised them for doing the work of the country, and entered into competition with private shipowners, they would have brought down freights in all Departments. Other countries have seen the necessity of adopting that course. The Government of Australia not only kept the ships they had, but had others constructed and also purchased ships which have been used for the purpose of doing their own work, and the result has been a reduction in freights. The Canadian Government have followed suit. They have kept their own vessels upon the water and constructed others, and others are in course of construction, and in order to challenge the high freights which were prevailing have taken action on their own behalf with very definite results. But the whole policy of the Government in respect to their shipping deals has been to play right into the hands of the shipowners. Instead of reducing 2142 freights, the Government, by their policy, have assisted to increase, maintain and sustain freight charges in all Departments. If the Government had retained the ships they had in their hands there would have been no need to ask for a loan to assist the Department. They would at least have had a share of the spoil in the profits which are being made in the shipping industry and they would have been able to earn great sums, having regard to the rate of freights at present prevailing. If the opposite effect had prevailed and the operations of the Government in shipping had resulted in bringing down freights, it would have cheapened the foodstuffs of the country and helped the industries of the country by bringing cheaper raw materials from overseas, and the Shipping Ministry, instead of being criticised and challenged, would have brought upon their heads the blessings of the entire community, because their action would undoubtedly have resulted in bringing down the price of foodstuffs and raw materials and benefiting the community in a general way.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Baldwin)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wedgwood) was anxious to know whether certain Appropriations-in-Aid would be surrendered for the purpose of paying off debts. The simplest thing for the Committee to do is to consider the financial arrangements that prevailed during the War. It was perfectly impossible, year by year, to know what the expenditure of various Departments, especially those connected most directly with the War, would be, and it was for that reason that the system of token Votes was adopted so largely. The putting down of a token Vote implied a recognition of the fact that it was impossible to prepare an Estimate, and in the same way token Appropriations-in-Aid were put down, because it was impossible to say what the value of the Appropriations-in-Aid might be. Everything that was spent during the War was charged to revenue, and it would have been impossible to earmark this or that piece of expenditure for what in commerce would have been called a capital account. The revenue which was raised in the course of the year went as far as the amount allowed towards paying for the expenditure of the year. The balance that was left over remained, and had to 2143 be paid for in some form or another by borrowing, and a large portion of that surplus expenditure must ultimately fall on the country in the shape of a loan of one kind or another. Similarly, whatever was received was received in the way of what in commerce might be called revenue; or similarly, if anything was received by the sale of something that might conceivably have been charged in commerce as a capital account, that alike was treated as cash revenue. Until the financial that is now closing, the accounts of such services as were included amongst the token Votes were balanced by the Appropriations-in-Aid, and in any case where there was a balance on the credit side, that balance went into the general revenue. In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), I may say that we have felt, and I think rightly felt, that now that we are emerging from a position of war, and now that peace has been made, it is time to put an end to that system, because under that system it is a matter of very great difficulty for Members to keep track of the various transactions in the Estimates. Therefore, for the forthcoming year, we are presenting substantive Estimates, comprising the Vote of the Ministry of Shipping, and both in regard to that Vote and other similar Votes in the forthcoming year, such considerable items as have hitherto been treated as Appropriations-in-Aid will be paid directly to the Exchequer to the credit of the general revenue of the year. If the accumulations on this account are so large that, in addition to taxation, they show a surplus, that surplus will be devoted directly to the redemption of debt, but until a balance of the national accounts is reached, these sums will be taken for revenue.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER SHAW
I rise to refer very briefly to some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers). I do not follow him in his disquisition upon the subject of the nationalisation of shipping, or on the desirability of the Government running ships in competition with private owners. Another occasion would be more appropriate for that. I will content myself by saying that I can imagine no business less fitted for that style of management than shipping, which, after all, is an international business, a business not confined 2144 to this country alone, but having ramifications, and possibly diplomatic and commercial complications in every part of the world; a business which has been built up pre-eminently upon the spirit of private adventure and enterprise, and which depends just as much upon that spirit to-day as it ever did. The hon. Member referred to certain remarks made by a certain Noble Lord. I read the remarks of the Noble Lord, which pointed out the inevitable tendency which would ensue if the policy which my hon. Friend opposite favours were adopted by this country, namely, that the inevitable economic consequence would be to drive out from this country private enterprise and initiative, and having failed to find its proper scope here, it would be forced to find its proper scope in developing the mercantile marine of other nations. I know he does not mean to be unfair to the Noble Lord. His apparent unfairness is probably due to lack of knowledge. He referred to the Noble Lord as having been the fortunate purchaser of a number of Government ships. I would like him to explain in what way the Noble Lord was fortunate in the purchase. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware of the details of the transaction.
§ Mr. SHAW
If that point was in the mind of my hon. Friend it would have been fairer to have mentioned it, because after somewhat aggressive epithets he used the phrase "fortunate purchaser," and left an unfortunate impression upon hon. Members who may not know the details of the transaction. That enterprise was carried through in no sense as a private speculation, but carried through at very great personal inconvenience and personal expense, and it was done for the public service and for the public service alone.
Sir J. D. REES
I cannot allow this Vote to pass without expressing my complete concurrence with the remarks of my hon. Friend (Mr. A. Shaw). The hon. Member opposite has spoken, as my hon. Friend behind me delicately hinted, without a complete apprehension of the situation. The fact is that, of all industries in which Government competition is to be 2145 deprecated, there is no industry which is so unsuited for their competition as that of shipping. As regards the reference to the Noble Lord, that transaction was to the last degree public-spirited. The Noble Lord ran considerable risk by performing that great public service, and it does seem to me to be a regrettable circumstance that on an occasion like this an hon. Member, perhaps unwittingly, should have conveyed an entirely contrary impression. I had not intended to speak in this Debate, but, as the hon. Member opposite has made his remarks, I take the opportunity of expressing my complete and utter disagreement with everything he said, both expressed and implied, and to emphasise the fact that he spoke unwittingly without the slightest acquaintance with the subject.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
We must not develop into a general debate on nationalisation. The only question is whether certain ships mentioned in this appropriation-in-aid should have been disposed of.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ALLEN PARKINSON
My hon. Friend (Mr. Myers) has been criticised for something unfair which he did not mean to do. At the same time there is a very large amount of truth in what he said. When Lord Inchcape made the purchase of ships from the Government, which involved a cost of £33,000,000, he reported the same to his follow-shareholders in the P. & O. Company. He regarded it as a very great bargain, and he used these words in reporting the matter to the shareholders: "I felt, as I am sure you all feel, that it would have spelled disaster all round if the Government had been obliged to run these ships on their own account, and that it was worth some trouble and risk to prevent this." Lord Inchcape here is making a statement that he got the best of the bargain, and in view of that statement, I think that what the hon. Member has said was quite justified and ought to have been accepted in a proper spirit.
§ Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
This seems to be one of the grossest pieces of waste that 2146 could be found in the whole of these Supplementary Estimates. We are apparently paying £1,500,000 as compensation to the canal companies to keep up the pre-war dividends. That is what I understand this Vote is for. Moreover, in this Vote I do not see any per contra items of receipts from canals owing to higher freight charges. As far as I can understand from this Vote, there is at present a dead loss every year on canals, and I understand that we are to continue this policy for three years more. I protest that, though it may have been necessary—I do not think it was—during the War to guarantee the dividends of shareholders in canal companies, now that the War is over it is iniquitous that the taxpayer should continue to be taxed for years to come in order to make up these dividends. If I can find anybody to go into the Lobby with me against this Vote, I shall certainly divide against the Government. There can be no possible justification for this Vote, except this, that no capitalist is to lose anything by the War. Of course, canals cannot pay at the present time, but why should we take from the taxpayer money to make good dividends for canal shareholders when we do not make good the pensions of those people who find that their pre-war pensions purchase only half their pre-war value in goods? This is a piece of class legislation in the interests of capitalist shareholders and is detrimental to the whole of the body politic. I protest against this sum being-voted in this casual way without any discussion in order that we may be committed for years to go on paying this extraordinarily high ransom to this form of capital.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of TRANSPORT (Mr. Neal)
I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend has taken the line which he has taken in resforence to this particular Vote. So far as my information goes the Vote is not in the least likely to benefit the shareholders in canals or secure them dividends. The subsidy included in this Vote is for the purpose of trying to restore something like a proper balance of transportation services in this country. The fact is that owing to the railway subsidy there was cheap transport for goods on the railways, with the result that canals and the coastwise services were being starved out of existence. It was not the question of benefitting 2147 shareholders or owners of canals that was taken into consideration. The question was, how to try again to obtain a current of traffic upon the canal and the ships which ply along the coast in relief of the congested state of the railways in order to enable the canals to pay those higher rates of wages which my hon. and gallant Friend advocates in this House and which every Member of this House has realised it is just and proper we should pay. Without this subsidy canals cannot carry on their business. The policy of the Minister since he came into office has been to endeavour to settle the balance somewhat by raising the freightage charges in respect of railway carriage.
The canals are divided roughly, as I estimated on the Estimates a week ago, into three classes. Roughly one-third are railway owned. Therefore they come into the railway account and are the subject of financial relationship between the Government and the railways. Another one-third are controlled under the provisional Defence of the Realm Act Regulations and another one-third have been uncontrolled altogether. All the canals are now asking the Minister to take them under control under the provisions of the Transport Act for the purpose of enabling them to raise their freights so that they may become something more like self-supporting. One of the most difficult problems which the Minister has to consider to-day is with reference to the future of canals. On the one hand we are told, with very influential support, that the present policy is starving the canals out of existence. On the other hand, my hon. and gallant Friend says that there ought to be no subsidy paid to these canals at all. The result would be that they would become derelict.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
A good job too if they do not pay and the railways do. Traffic should travel by the cheapest route.
§ Mr. NEAL
But I would advise my hon. and gallant Friend to consider the matter 2148 a little more closely before he forms a final judgment. There are large manufacturers on the banks of the canals who are dependent for supplies of raw materials and coal upon canal transport, and in many places canals afford a cheaper mode of transport between two different points. It certainly is an alternative mode of transport, and these are not days when the Government would be wise to scrap any form of transport which offers an alternative relief to the congested state of the railways. I have said many times in answer to questions, and in Debate a week ago, that the whole subject of canals is fraught with difficulties. If they were to be brought into a state of complete efficiency, if routes were to be established, if upon the canals there were to be put a fleet of boats owned by the canal companies, who are now in most cases trusting to the casual supply of boats owned by others, that would involve a very large expenditure with reference to that particular form of transport. All I can say is that this Vote is essential for the time being. There is no pledge that it will be continued indefinitely or even for three years. For two-thirds of the canals there is no pledge whatever. As far as the other one-third, the railway-owned canals are concerned; they stand or fail with the financial arrangement with the railway companies. This is not a new Vote. The House has affirmed previously the wisdom of these subsidies, and I shall be very glad if it will allow us to have the Vote now.
§ Mr. NEAL
We are not committed at all to a subsidy as such. That is not the correct word. We are committed to certain financial relationships with the railways for a short period longer. I have not the accurate date in mind, but, unless there be some further legislation or arrangement, I think the present arrangement expires next year. There is no committal to subsidies of canals as such. The question of trying to make them self-supporting by giving them an opportunity of raising their rates and charges is receiving the closest consideration of the Minister with the advice at his disposal, both financial and other.
Sir J. D. REES
I am afraid that I do not quite understand my hon. Friend. As 2149 far as I can make out, before the War the railways were crushing the canals out of existence. We were told that the Northwestern Railway rendered the great canal that runs alongside it unnecessary. It was there, but it was not used. I understand that it would not be in Order to discuss the Vote in aid of canals, and that it is only in Order to discuss the excess amount of £200,000. Why is that additional sum now required?
§ Mr. NEAL
I did not deal with the details, but, as to £90,000, it arises from the destruction by fire of the buildings of the Bridgwater Canal. The policy of the Government for many years has been not to insure. The Bridgwater Company was told not to insure. Its buildings, with contents belonging to other people, were destroyed by fire, and there is a charge in respect of that. The balance is due to increased wages and matters of that kind which have come along and have called for larger expenditure.
Sir J. D. REES
That explains the excess, which, I take it, is all that is relevant to this Vote, and in that case I have nothing more to say.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is quite correct. This is a small Supplementary Estimate, and not the original Vote, which would re-open the question of policy. We must confine ourselves to the question of the additional sum.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I want to ask a question with regard to railway-owned canals. Is it the intention of the Minister of Transport to develop railway-owned canals? It was in 1845—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is just what I meant. That is a question of policy which cannot be debated on this Supplementary Estimate. We must confine ourselves to the £200,000 additional that is required.
§ Mr. HOGGE
On the point of Order. The Vote for the Ministry of Transport is a new Vote, and the canals are taken under the Ministry of Transport for the first time. It is part and parcel of the new arrangement by which the Ministry of Transport will deal with the whole question of transport. In that case, are we not entitled on this occasion to discuss the policy of railway-owned canals in 2150 antagonism to the management of the railways by the Minister of Transport?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
No. If the hon. Member looks, he will see that the House has already passed a Vote of £1,230,000, and that committed the House to the policy for the present year. It can only be discussed as if there has been a change of policy since the original Vote was agreed to.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If that is not so, I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman is here to reply on behalf of the Canal Commissioners. I will, however, leave that matter. This extra £200,000 is largely explained by a grant of £90,000 in respect of a fire. We have had this kind of thing before, and the House ought to determine—this is an occasion on which we can point to a notorious example—whether it is a wise policy on the part of the Government not to insure their property. In this particular instance, the taxpayers of the country have been called upon to provide £90,000 in a capital sum which might have been covered at a very small risk with any insurance society in the Kingdom. It might be worth the while of the Government inside their own buildings to construct a scheme of insurance to carry these risks. It is obviously bad business, and certainly not respectful to the House, to include 50 per cent. of a Supplementary Estimate as damage by a fire. I would like to know whether the Treasury from the point of view of policy, have any large experience in this question of destruction by fire. I have heard Debates in this House as to whether the Government could carry on this insurance inside their own Departments. I should like to know whether that has ever been considered, and whether, in view of a large loss of this kind, the Government are prepared to reconsider their policy. There are additional charges for water. Presumably, that means water in connection with canals. There you have in an incidental sentence, the kind of thing that some hon. Members have been trying to get at in the criticism of these Estimates. The canals 2151 of this country either are worth developing, or they are not. From time to time suggestions have been made that canals might be easily closed as canals, and opened up as roads for motor traffic.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member was not in the House when It was stated that £90,000 was loss by fire and the remainder was for increased wages.
§ Mr. HOGGE
In that case, what are the incidental charges for water? It is quite an easy answer to say that £90,000 is in respect of loss by fire and the rest is in respect of wages, but what this says is that there is a certain additional charge for water, and I am pointing out that that means that the canals are being filled with water. I respectfully submit that we are entitled to ask on that sentence what is the policy of the Government with regard to these canals.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member must not dispute my ruling. This is a Supplementary Estimate, and it is quite clear that questions of broad policy must be dealt with on the Main Estimate.
§ Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."2152
§ Mr. BALDWIN
This is the first time that this Vote has appeared, and I think a few words from me would be in place. It will be within the recollection of the House that an Interim Forest Authority was set up about 16 months ago, and in the Estimates last year £100,000 was voted for their use for purposes of forestry, in anticipation of the creation of the Statutory Forestry Commission. An Act of Parliament came into being last autumn, and when that Act came into being about £16,000 had been expended of the £100,000 which was voted for the Interim Forestry Authority. Therefore the balance of that Vote was surrendered, and we may say that about £84,000 or £85,000 of the £99,000 which we have on this Estimate is a re-Vote. The Act of Parliament gave what was, in effect, a Grant-in-aid to this Statutory Commission which was set up by that Act, and the Grant was one of an amount not exceeding £3,500,000 to be expended over a period of ten years. This year is the first, and this sum, which is the first sum which will be charged against the amount specified in the Act, is the amount which is required to carry on the administration of and the operations of the Forestry Authority until the end of the current financial year. It may be of interest to the House to know the Parliamentary conditions under which this Statutory Authority acts. The Minister responsible for the Vote is the Secretary to the Treasury, because the Treasury is the Department that supervises and sanctions the allocations of the grant that is sanctioned in principle by Parliament; but there is provision in the Act that an annual account is to be prepared and presented in every year before 30th September to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The Comptroller and Auditor-General examines and criticises these accounts in exactly the same way that he examines and criticises the accounts of all the Government Departments, and he will have to present a return to Parliament showing those accounts and whatever he may think fit to say upon them, by the first of each January. Similarly, that the House may be kept in touch with the work of the Commission, it is the duty of the Commission themselves to prepare a report each year to Parliament showing what progress they are making in the great work which has been entrusted to them. What I have to speak about is the 2153 financial aspect of this Estimate, and the House will notice that the £99,000 is divided up into various sub-heads, the titles of which, I think, are explanatory.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
In answer to that, I would be glad to give my hon. and gallant Friend details, but I think details of what is being done will come much better from one of the members of the Forestry Commission who happens to be a Member of this House. There are two Members of this House on the Commission, the right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. F. D. Acland) and the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Forestier-Walker), and my right hon. Friend will be quite willing, if the House is desirous, to say something about the work of the Commission so far. But I think it would be of interest to the House to know who the Forestry Commissioners are, because in the Debate which took place in the early stages of the Interim Forestry Authority a good deal of interest was shown in that matter, and some of the names I then gave as being the names of gentlemen who might be induced to serve on this Commission met with a good deal of approval in all parts of the House. The Chairman of the Commission is Lord Lovat, the best-known forestry authority in the United Kingdom, and his salary is £1,650 a year. The Technical Commissioner is Mr. R. E. Robinson, with a salary of £1,450 a year. The unpaid Commissioners are Lord Clinton; the right hon. Member for Camborne; Mr. T. B. Ponsonby, who represents Irish interests; the hon. Member for Monmouth, who represents Welsh interests; Colonel Steuart-Fotheringham and Sir John Stirling-Maxwell, who represent Scotland; Mr. Hugh Murray, salaried Assistant-Commissioner for England and Wales; Mr. John Sutherland, who occupies a similar position in Scotland; and Mr. A. C. Forbes, who holds a similar position in Ireland. Mr. A. G. Herbert is the Acting Secretary. Any Members of the House who may be familiar with forestry work will agree with me that a stronger and more representative Commission from the three Kingdoms and from Wales could not be got together.
I do not think it rests with me to say any more. The finance, as I have said, is 2154 explained very clearly in the Estimate, and I am sure that the House will listen with a great deal of interest to the right hon. Member for Camborne when he tells us something of what this Commission is doing in a branch of work which appeals to all of us who have the interests of the country at heart. It is a branch of work that many people of all kinds and all views of political thought have taken a great interest in for many years, and many of us regard the creation of this Forestry Commission as being the creation of a most necessary body and one whose advent in this country has been too long delayed. I commend this Vote to the House.
§ Major W. MURRAY
Before the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Camborne, replies, I should like to ask him one or' two questions about the work which the Forestry Commission is doing. I should like to ask whether the State forests that have hitherto been in the hands of the Department of Woods and Forests have now been handed over to the Forestry Commission, and, if not, when it is likely that that will be done. I should also like to direct his attention to Votes E and F, which provide sums of £62,500 and £12,950 for forestry operations. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us whether any of that money has been spent on clearing land for afforestation. I presume that a good deal of it has been spent on planting operations, and perhaps he can tell us what number of acres have been planted this year, or are going to be planted before the present planting season is over. If he would go a step further, and indicate the kind of trees which it is intended in the main to plant, I think it would be of considerable interest. I put that to him because it appears to me that, in any of these big State forests, the main crop should consist of trees which are well known, which have come to maturity in this country, and which have proved their usefulness—trees, likewise, that are indigenous, rather than trees of the newer classes in regard to which so many experiments have been made. I do not mean to say that experiments are not required, but my point is that the main crop of the older class of trees in these State forests should be very much larger than that of classes like the Japanese larch and the Corsican pine, which are still in the experimental stage. 2155 Again, I know that new forests are being started here and there, but I should like to know what has been done in the way of nurseries. Has there been much expenditure in making new nurseries, and are all the trees that are being planted in the new forests all grown from seedlings which have been planted in this country? I mean by that that I should like an assurance that none of the seedlings or young plants that are put out have been brought from abroad. Then there is item F, which refers to forestry education. I am afraid I do not quite clearly understand what kind of education that is and to whom it is given, and I should be very much obliged if the right hon. Gentleman could inform us as to that.
§ Mr. ACLAND
It gives me very great pleasure to give some reply on the points that have been raised. In the first place, I should like to explain something which I am sure the House will be glad to bear, namely, that the Forestry Commission find that they will not want anything like the whole of this sum which they estimated they might require before the 31st of March. That was almost bound to occur when one was dealing with questions of acquiring property. One is continuing negotiations for property, and some titles are being considered, and so on, and it often happens that an actual conveyance cannot be signed, sealed and delivered as soon as one had hoped it would be. In connection with the main item, sub-head D, £62,500, we shall only, I think, actually discharge £25,000 in actual forestry operations, which means, for this purpose, the actual purchase and renting of land. I should like to give the House some little detail about the land that has already been purchased, the gifts of land which have been made to the Forestry Commission, and the places at which planting is actually already proceeding; and then, I think, I shall be able to say a word about the forestry education which is going on. Meanwhile, may I deal with one or two other points which my hon. Friend opposite (Major Murray) raised. He will remember that, when the House was considering the Forestry Bill, they approved of the idea that the general forestry policy of the Crown forests should be under the direction and control of the Forestry Commission, so that there might be no danger of there being two alternative and possibly conflicting policies being 2156 run at the same time by public departments. Negotiations have been going on, and it seems almost certain that the Forestry Commission will obtain the direction of forestry policy in the Crown forests; and also it may be convenient that the actual ownership of the forestry parts of the Crown estates should be transferred to them. That has not quite been arranged yet, but it may be a convenient system of securing uniformity of direction and control.
With regard to the actual trees that are being planted, I admire the hon. Member's conservative love for indigenous trees, and he will be glad to hear that the ash, which, perhaps, he will regard as indigenous, is one of the trees which we are trying extensively to plant. It is, by the way, not a native tree. The larch, which has been grown in this country for some time, although it is not a native tree, is also being planted. I hope the hon. Member will not take any objection to exotics such as the Douglas fir and the Sitka spruce. He named the Japanese larch and the Corsican pine, but we think that the merits of the Douglas fir and the Sitka spruce have been sufficiently known for certain purposes—as for instance, on rather wind-swept high ground—and that they have been established sufficiently long in this country, to warrant their being planted oven on a fairly considerable scale by the Forest Authority.
The hon. Member was anxious, also, for an assurance with regard to the seed which we are now employing in nurseries. It is necessary to get on with nursery work as rapidy as possible, and, indeed, we should go faster than we are doing if there were a larger supply of forest tree seeds. Unfortunately, however, they have been very short in the last few years, and if we had really been dependent solely on home produced seed we should have been in a very bad way indeed. There has been an extraordinarily small crop of Scots pine seeds for some time, and Douglas seed, which is one of the most promising things that can be planted at the present time, is, unfortunately, so far as this country's supply is concerned, infested to an extraordinary extent with a small white maggot. In such seed as I have collected myself in Devonshire, nine out of ten of the seeds are thus infested, and other people have collected even worse samples than that. If we had not been able to get Douglas seed from 2157 America, where it originally came from, and also from New Zealand, where it has been established for some time, we should be in a very poor way indeed.
§ Major MURRAY
My point was to ensure that the seedlings were obtained from seeds planted in this country.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I misunderstood. That is so. We have no intention of obtaining any seedlings or transplants from abroad, but we must depend on foreign countries to a considerable extent for our supply of seeds. We have sent an agent to Austria, and we are sending someone to Corsica as soon as we can. We can thus get round the trade. I would refer briefly to the actual work that is being done both in purchasing and leasing land and in getting forward on the land which has been given to us by patriotic persons. We have completed already three purchases. One of them is at Rendlesham, Suffolk. The purchased price was £17,986, which included some standing timber and a mill, which we have since sold for £10,300, leaving us to pay £7,600. That is for 2,500 acres of land. It works out at £3 per acre, freehold. The estate includes nine cottages and a very good farmhouse, and the purchase is a very good bargain. We are planting there, and shall have planted about 200 acres by 31st March. The second purchase is at Ampthill, in Bedfordshire; £2,500 for 460 acres, including 137 acres of agricultural land let at 30s. to 35s. per acre. If you capitalise that agricultural land at 50 years' purchase, you get a total very considerably higher than the amount we paid for the whole of the land, including the agricultural land. There we shall have planted nearly 200 acres by 31st March. At Brackley Hatch, Northamptonshire, we paid £2,550 for 524 acres, and 57½ acres of that is let is 45s. an acre. If you capitalise that agricultural land, it again exceeds the total paid for the whole estate, and we shall have planted about 60 acres of it by 31st March.
Now I come to the gifts. I would especially acknowledge the generosity of Major Leonard Brassey, who has leased us 830 acres of land at Apethorpe at a peppercorn rate. I should like also to acknowledge the kindness of Mr. Speaker. I wish he had been here to hear the House's appreciation of his kindness. He has presented to us 200 acres at Campsey Ash, which forms a very useful nucleus 2158 of what we believe will be a very interesting and valuable forestry proposition. Mr. Speaker's patriotism has already affected some of his neighbours. Mr. Boynton, who owns the Sudbourne estate adjoining, has also presented a considerable area, so that the two places can be worked together. Then about planting. We have already started planting—as was said, we got into working order only about November last—at six places in England, and at six centres in Scotland. The centres in England are Eggesford, Devon; Rendlesham, Suffolk; Ampthill, Bedfordshire; Brackley and Apethorpe, North-ants; and Thornthwaite, Cumberland. The six places in Scotland are Craigmyle, Gagie, Borgie, Port Clair, Inchnacardoch, and South Laggan. I think there is one centre also in Ireland, but I forget the name of it for the moment.
Let me deal next with forestry education. We are practically founding foresters' schools, for training young workmen, in the main. There are schemes for giving suitable education to men at universities to become forests officers, and we shall, no doubt, have to assist the universities in that work and in their research work. For the moment, we are only financing schools for foresters, and of these we have now seven:—In the Forest of Dean, at Burley Lodge in the Now Forest, and at Chopwell in Northumberland; in Scotland at Beaufort, Achnacloich (Argyle), and at Birnam, near Perth, for disabled men. The one in Ireland is at Dundrum. I hope I may have covered the detail in which Members may be interested. I am bound to say that under the very able and active chairmanship of Lord Lovat I think we have made good progress in the few months at our disposal, and that it may be considered as really a going concern with good prospects for the future of the country.
§ Major W. MURRAY
Will the right hon. Gentleman state the number of acres planted this year and the number that it is intended to plant?
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am sorry I cannot say The number varies from week to week, and depends on the weather and on whether we get permission to begin on certain estates.
§ Major GLYN
Can the right hon. Gentleman state whether any hard woods have been planted? As far as I gathered 2159 from his statement soft woods have been planted. One of the facts we shall have to face is that there may be a demand for a separate Forestry Commission for Scotland. I would suggest that we should take the island as a whole. Certain parts are suitable for soft woods and certain parts for hard wood, and if when the Forestry Commission starts it goes ahead with the planting of hard wood as well as soft, the afforestation of the whole island should be considered as one. With regard to the training of ex-service men, I should like to say that the training establishment near Perth is, I know, doing excellent work for disabled men. There is, however, a general impression amongst ex-service men that the Forestry Commission is in a position to offer employment now to large numbers of ex-service men, and that I believe not to be the case. I think it ought to be quite clearly explained that as afforestation increases in scope so the employment increases, but that in the initial stages there is not the room to give employment to ex-service men.
Sir J. D. REES
I did not gather how much of the £99,000 is to be expended on education, and whether it is the case that the taxpayer has now to pay the whole cost of educating young foresters or whether a subvention has to be paid. How much of this £99,000 is actually to be devoted to the education of foresters and why is it necessary to spend the money in that way? If forestry is good business on which the youth of the country might well be occupied, why cannot they educate themselves, as people educate themselves for other professions?
§ Mr. ACLAND
I entirely accept the suggestion of my hon. Friend that it would be folly to confine the operation of planting to soft woods. I fancy that probably the better way in the case of hard woods is to rely on a good acorn year rather than plant in a bad year. With regard to the employment of ex-service men, the amount of employment we can offer now is limited by the amount of plainting we can do, and that is limited by the amount of land we can acquire and still more so by the amount of seedlings available, because you cannot plant until three years after you have sown the seed. It is quite correct to say that employment will extend 2160 as the land becomes available, and seed and seedlings for the actual planting. As to the question as to why should not persons actually pay for their own education in forestry, I would point that forestry students actually do the work in the woods in which the schools are situated, and where that is in the case of private proprietors, those proprietors pay the rate of wages settled by the Agricultural Wages Board for the work that is done. The charge falling on the State is only for maintenance and salaries of the schools in which these young men are collected. In the Crown woods, such as the New Forest, the young men being taught do the necessary work, and to that extent the whole cost, of their training does not fall on the authorities. It is the fact that there is a real deficiency of technically trained forest workmen and foremen, and even if it had not been possible to make this arrangement of getting work in exchange for training, it would have been necessary for the State to secure a real supply of skilled men.
§ Captain Sir BEVILLE STANIER
There is one question I should like to ask, and that is as to the very large areas which have been felled and now are lying waste all over the country and which will have to be planted again in the future. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us if they are preparing nurseries for the seed beds, which will take three years in order to enable the plants to be planted at the end of that time. We all know that at present nursery gardeners and those who sell all these seeds have nothing like enough seed to plant, and it is up to the Government to see that the seeds are prepared ready for use in three years time.
§ Mr. F. C. THOMSON
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what scope there is likely to be under the Forestry Commissioners for men of University or higher education in forestry? Several cases have been brought to my notice where ex-soldiers and officers were started by the Board of Education, and given grants and were turned down by the Commissioners on the plea that there was no prospect of finding employment in the forestry line after they had taken a degree. What prospects are there now or likely to be for men of this type of education in the way of research, experiment and so on in the forestry schools?
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Major Earl WINTERTON
I desire to ask whether, in the Vote which deals with forestry research, special attention is being directed to a most serious disease which has affected oak trees in Surrey, Sussex and Kent? For the last two or three years oak trees in those districts have been subjected to a form of moth plague which has absolutely stripped the trees of their leaves. Some few years ago I approached the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture and asked him if he could send an expert down to investigate the very serious ravages caused by this moth. An expert was sent down from the Department and reported that the trees which were affected were trees naturally weakened in any case by the fact that they were planted in water-logged soil. I was not satisfied with that answer. In the part of the world where I live thousands of trees were affected, and in 1919 the attacks were much more serious than in any previous year, and through the counties I have named the trees were defoliated in the middle of May and June. The oak tree shows a second crop about raid-summer, and the defoliation was to some extent met by that new crop. I again wrote a very strong letter to the Department, and asked them to be good enough to send down an expert. They sent down their principal forestry expert, but although this gentleman did everything that could be done and investigated all the eases, and made an extensive tour, his report was as unsatisfying as the report in 1918. He said that very little was known of the real cause of these recurrent plagues, and he mentioned the interesting fact that in White's "Selborne" it was stated that at the end of the 18th century there was a similar visitation which lasted four or five years, and that the plague had actually killed some oak trees. I pointed, in my own woods, to trees unquestionably killed by these moths, but he said that was not so, that it was due to the waterlogged condition of the soil. As some of these trees were growing on banks I could hardly accept that report as conclusive. In my opinion thousands of pounds of potential timber value are being lost by the attacks of this moth, and I think a large portion of the sum allocated for research might go towards a chemical investigation into the causes of this 2162 attack and what step, if any, can be taken to prevent it. It is having a most serious effect upon oak timber in the South of England, and I should think it is perfectly true to say that thousands and thousands of pounds' worth of valuable timber have already been destroyed by the ravages of this moth.
§ Mr. ACLAND
There will be ground available for the lining out. There is very little scope for the employment of men on forestry who have University degrees When the authority is finally established, it will perhaps be able to absorb four or five, possibly even six, men per annum, but it would be vain to hope that the Home Forestry Service can do more than that. There is greater scope in India, some scope in the Crown Colonies, considerable scope in the Dominions, some scope with companies which are interested in big forestry propositions abroad, but not much scope in the home service. Unfortunately many students were started in the expectation that they would quite easily get jobs—70, 80, or 100 of them—and it has been very sad to have to disappoint them, but our funds are so limited that it would have been quite unreasonable and wrong for us to fill up with people who must have pretty good salaries after that length of training above what we really required for the work in hand. We have made certain appointments, but I am glad to have the opportunity to say that those who are trained in our home universities cannot expect in more than quite a few instances to be absorbed into the higher ranks of the service.
With regard to the little green moth, the caterpillar of which destroys the leaves of the oak tree, I was aware of the interest of the Noble Lord (Earl Winterton) on the subject; I was aware that he had been told that the actual death of the oaks that he was particularly interested in was thought to be due to the bad conditions under which they were cultivated and to the waterlogged condition of his ground rather than to the actual ravages of the moth, because I think it is generally believed that, although the ravages of the moth are extremely serious, and have gone on and been known for years—the records go back beyond White's "Selborne," they go back to Cobbett, who dealt with the question—they do not very often cause the actual death of the tree. I believe 2163 that what old Cobbett said is probably quite right—that where you have a late frost which nips the leaves when they are just coining out, that in a way half cooks them and withers and shrivels them and makes them a prey to the caterpillars. It is a perennial plague, for which nobody has discovered any possible cure so far; but where you have a series of years with late frosts, that predisposes the young shoots to the ravages of the caterpillar, and then you get a very large amount of caterpillars turning into chrysalides, and the chrysalides turning into moths, and a large number of eggs laid for next year, and a corresponding crop of caterpillars, then I am bound to say we do not regard it as one of the most likely or promising grounds for immediate research. To do anything like the disinfection of the oak woods of this country, which is what it would come to, would be an appalling task, probably necessitating the painting of every branch and twig and treating the ground underneath. We know it is a considerable plague, which undoubtedly checks the growth of the oak tree, and I can only promise to take note of the Noble Lord's suggestion, and bring it to the notice of those more competent to deal with it than I am.
§ Major COURTHOPE
I thought I should have been able to say I agreed with every word of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but I must bog to differ most profoundly from the last word that fell from his mouth. I am not a scientific expert in any sense of the word—I am only an interested amateur—but I have made some study of the ravages of tortrix vlridana the caterpillar of which does the damage. I think I can offer him some evidence which will induce him at least to reconsider his opinion that birds have nothing to do with it. I have no hesitation in saying with confidence that the ravages of the last three years of this caterpillar were due to the deliberate relaxation of the Wild Birds Protection Orders which took place in the War, owing to alarm on the part of the farmers about sparrows. I have no word to say in favour of the house sparrow, 2164 and the farmers' complaint was really aimed at sparrows and pigeons, but slaughter fell upon the insect and caterpillar-eating birds to the very great damage, not only of our agricultural crops, but of our forests. The right hon. Gentleman opposite knows that on my property in Sussex the oak is of good quality. As a matter of fact, it was oak specially selected as being the best in the country for the purpose of the restoration of the roof of Westminster Hall, and so great was the importance attached to getting this oak that special steps had to be taken to protect me, because I refused to take the risk, as a Member of Parliament, of supplying it to the Government, and the oak from this property is now being, and has been for the last seven or eight years, used for the restoration of the roof of Westminster Hall. The bak of which I am speaking is not grown on water-logged soil, but fine soil. During the last three years—particularly in the last two years—the oak woods, where there is an absence of decayed or hollow-trees, have been absolutely stripped bare year by year by this pest, but in the park and round the house, where the old hollow trees have been preserved, and are full of starlings, and the birds have not suffered from the relaxation of the Wild Birds' Protection Orders, there has not been the slightest sign of defoliation, and during the nesting season, when the young birds are being fed, you can see processions of old starlings returning from the woods, which were full of these caterpillars, with bunches of the pests hanging from their beaks to feed their young. They kept the trees in which they lived clean from the beginning, and they have not suffered. I only mentioned this as proof positive—because it is proof positive to me—that the birds were an insurance against the ravages of the caterpillars. There may be certain contributory causes, but they do not produce the caterpillar, and the remedy, as we know, is the destruction of the caterpillar, and for that purpose we need the birds. I hope this will be borne in mind by the Forest Authority, and that they will take every step in their power to convince the other Departments concerned that with two or three exceptions wild birds need all the protection they can get. They should urge upon the sparrow clubs—that in many cases do so much harm—a 2165 rule that the bringing in to sparrow clubs for payment of the heads and eggs of the birds that are not the destructive ones, should be a definite disqualification, and that the schoolboy who brings in the head or egg should lose marks instead of gaining them. I can see no other way of preventing the destruction of the wrong bird.
To turn from this subject for a moment to the general policy of the Forestry Commission, I should like to preface my few sentences by saying that I suppose if there is anyone in this House who may be expected to criticise the Forest Authority it is myself. I happen to be president of the two organised Forestry bodies in this country whose instinct and nature it is to be critical of authority and impatient that more is not done in a shorter time. I have also been asked to fill the position of Chairman of the Consultative Committee of Forestry for England under the Forestry Act, and my duty in that capacity is essentially that of a critic. I only say that because I hope these prefatory words will give a weight which perhaps otherwise would be absent from what I am going to say here. It is this: I have been in the closest touch with the work, not only of the interim Forest Authority before the Forestry Commission came into being, but with that of the Forestry Commissioners since they commenced their official existence. Lord Lovat and his colleagues have invariably put all their cards on the table, and I believe I am fully informed of all their doings. From the point of view of the critic I can say that their beginnings have been absolutely sound. We have seen in the Press complaints that they have not produced a new world in forestry in no time at all, and so on. They would have made a great mistake if they had attempted to rush their work. I believe they are absolutely right and deserve the confidence of this House for the care and caution with which they have approached the difficult problems they have to face. I hope the House will support the Forestry Commissioners so long as they proceed on the sound lines on which they have commenced. I trust when criticism is offered it will be constructive and helpful rather than destructive and hindering. It is with this desire that I have intervened for a few moments, and occupied the time of the House.
§ Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
Sir J. D. REES
On this Vote there is provision for extra clerks to do extra work. May I suggest that among that extra work they should do something for a class whose claims are rarely represented in this House, I mean parents. It is extraordinarily difficult for a parent to discover from public offices anything connected with the methods of entry into the public service. First he has to mark down some public servant from one of many books of reference; then he has to stalk him to his lair in one of the deep recesses of the many public offices near here; or he has to lie in w[...]t for him in his hour of leisure—it may be at luncheon at his club—and when all these processes have been fulfilled he still is in doubt very often as to what he shall do with his off-spring. This is really a serious matter. Owing to the War it has been more difficult than ever to follow all the varied regulations which guard and sometimes repel entrance to the public service. It is necessary that they should be simplified, and it is extremely desirable that amongst these extra clerks some of them should devote their energies to preparing a plain, clear, straightforward, and ambiguous statement as to the best methods of securing entry into the Civil Service and of enabling the younger generation to qualify themselves for admission to the various branches of that service. If my hon. Friend can give me some assurance that he will issue instructions to that effect I, for one, will be very grateful.
§ Mr. HOGGE
There is provision in this Estimate on account of the increased number of attendances for examination of demobilised soldiers, and I want, if I may, to get some information from my hon. Friend of the reasons that govern the action of the Civil Service Commission in this matter. The House will remember that when a large number of men joined the Army they were promised that when they came back they would have facilities to enter the public service. As far as I can gather, there is one restriction which has been placed upon these men which weighs very heavily in a large number of cases, and that restriction is one by which the Civil Service Commission refuse 2167 the right to a demobilised soldier to sit for these examinations unless he has had what they call continuous education up to the age of 18. The whole point depends on the definition of the words "continuous education". In some cases which have come to my knowledge it has "been laid down that a lad who, after leaving school at 16, has completed a couple of years in an evening continuation school, or in technical classes, has been held to be not entitled to be considered as a boy continuously educated up to the age of 18, and, therefore, he is deprived of the right to sit for the Civil Service examination. Then there is a second point, and that is the question of the colleges and institutions which are recognised by the Civil Service Commission as qualified. I have known quite a number of cases in which a student who has been given to understand that he can continue his education at a certain college has, after working there for a period of six months or a year preparing for the examination, found that the college is not qualified, and the man who has served has thereby lost a considerable amount of time. Of course, examiners have been put on because of the numerous candidates. Obviously, there must be more numerous candidates after demobilisation than before. But what is the real reason of depriving any man who is eligible to pass the examination from sitting for the examination? Why should it be that unless a man passes through certain definite channels he is not eligible to sit for the branches of the Civil Service that ought to be open to open competition? I should like to have some substantial reason why, after these men have done their share of the bargain, the Government should step in and say, unless they have had what they call continuous education up to 18 they are not entitled to sit.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
With regard to the figure my hon. Friend alluded to, of course his assumption is correct. The extra money has had to be spent on extra examiners because the number of those who present themselves for examination has been a great deal larger than was anticipated when the original Estimate was made up. With regard to what he said about certain colleges not conferring certain rights on a candidate, if he cares to bring any case 2168 before me—for although I have had many letters in connection with the work of the Civil Service Commission I have no complaints on this particular score, or if he brings under my notice any educational institution which he thinks is being treated unfairly—I shall be only too pleased to look into it. With regard to the question of restriction, of course there are two sides to the matter. The number of eligible candidates compared with the number of all posts which are open have been out of all proportion, and it was a matter of considerable difficulty for the experts who went into this matter, members of the Civil Service Commission and members of the Civil Service who are most familiar with staff requirements and appointments to staff, to try to devise such limitations with regard to age and attainments and so forth as to give the fairest chance to the greatest number to obtain positions in the Civil Service, bearing in mind at the same time that if no limitation is put on, the whole system of examination might be swamped by the numbers who would compete and the number of disappointments must have been correspondingly great. I was very much struck by some of the answers I have had to give where the numbers that come up to compete for the Civil Service are very great and for the different classes of examinations that are held the vacancies are very small. I can assure my hon. Friend that in all these matters of restriction, whether it is with regard to what he calls continuous education or with regard to age, there is nothing in the limitation that prejudices ex-Service men in any way.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I do not think so. I have said that on the point raised by the hon. Member I shall be glad to discuss the matter with him. I have not come across cases where the ex-Service man, qua ex-Service man, has been prejudiced. I believe that the rules which have been made give the widest possible opportunity to competitors, having regard to the limited number of places available.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The House is very much obliged for the careful explanation, but surely this is a matter that might have been answered by the Minister of Education. This is a question of great importance to the people 2169 concerned, seeing that ex-Service men are being prejudiced. I know that the Minister of Education is looking after two Departments, the Education Department and the India Office; and, while I do not suggest any lack of courtesy on his part, I do think that some protest should be made against the continued absence of Ministers when Estimates are under discussion and subjects are raised which require explanation.
§ Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. HOGGE
There is one item in this Vote under Sub-head (a) which suggests that some explanation is necessary. A sum of £665 is to be provided for increased requirements for temporary clerical assistance owing to prolonged absence of some of the staff in His Majesty's Forces and in other Departments. It is about a year and a half since the Armistice. Why are these members so long absent from the Department? Have you got them back now, and are we likely to save on this head after 31st March?
§ Mr. BALDWIN
The hon. Member will recognise when I point out that the original Estimates were prepared a year ago, that it was quite impossible to say how and at what place the service Departments would be demobilised. Demobilisation went on all through last year, and in a few cases is only being completed now. I have no reason to believe that this particular portion of the Sub-head will appear again. I would ask the House to remember that this really covers the case of men who might reasonably have been expected to ask to be demobilised promptly, but for whom, owing to various delays during the 12 months, it has been found necessary to provide in making up the accounts which will clear the cost to this Department until 31st March.
Ninth Resolution agreed to.
Tenth Resolution read a Second time.
§ Question proposed. "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. HOGGE
In this Vote there is an increase of no less than £35,000 for increases in staff consequent upon new 2170 services undertaken by the Office of Works subsequent to the preparation of the original Estimate. The Supplementary Estimate does not say whether these are temporary posts or whether this £35,000 is the foundation stone of a large new increase of Estimates consequent upon these new services. Therefore, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman what are the new services, how many of the staff are employed on account of them, whether any of them are permanent or whether there is any prospect of a contraction of the sum under this sub-head?
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Sir Alfred Mond)
I am glad to give the information asked for. The demands are due to an increase of staff, mainly in the architectural division, where there is an increase of five architects, 17 assistant architects, and 40 draftsmen. The new services for which the staff are appointed are as follows:—Ministry of Labour—Acquisition and adaptation of factories and hospitals for the training of demobilised non-commissioned officers and men of His Majesty's forces. This work necessitates two architects, six assistant architects and draftsmen. The next service is Ministry of Pensions, training centres and hospitals for which more than £570,000 was included in a Supplemental Estimate last July. This work necessitated an additional staff of two architects, six assistant architects, and twenty draftsmen. For the Ministry of Health my Department has been asked to undertake duties in connection with the conversion of houses into flats in certain boroughs, which involved an addition. of one architect and five assistant architects. The total is five architects, 17 assistant architects, and 40 draftsmen. In reference to the question whether the increase is only temporary, I do not look forward to any immediate reduction, but rather the other way. The work of my Department is continually increasing. I looked it up the other day, and the increase is 150 per cent. on the pre-war figure. The House will realise that much of the work of all these now services—hospitals, sanatoria, training centres, etc.—is technical work which falls upon my Department, and, of course, you must provide an adequate staff to carry it out well. I am fairly well acquainted with the detail work of 2171 my Department, and I can assure the Committee that the people who are getting these salaries are doing a remarkable amount of very good work, and are not getting excessive remuneration.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
Everybody knows that during the War the staff of the Office of Works increased enormously, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, since the Armistice was signed, a very considerable number of the temporary staff has been discharged? If not, then these architects, assistant architects, and draughtsmen might easily be turned on to the work to which he has referred. It seems to me that stricter supervision ought to have been exercised over the staff that the right hon. Gentleman had during the War. Of course, if any large number of them had been discharged since the Armistice it will account for the taking on of the extra temporary staff to do this work, but, if he has at present the staff that he had during the War, and particularly during the last two years of the War, then I fail to see the necessity for increasing the staff of architects, assistant architects, and draughtsmen to meet the demands of the other Departments of the State.
§ Sir A. MOND
My hon. Friend is confusing two entirely different things. I am asking for a Supplementary Estimate for our establishment. A great deal of the work done by the Office of Works during the War was not borne upon the Estimates of my Department at all; most of the work referred to was done by the Ministry of Munitions, whose salaries and expenses never came into my Vote and therefore would form no basis of comparison.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the architects employed by his Department during the War have been retained?
§ Major BARNETT
Will the right hon. Gentleman give us some information as to how far this additional staff is housed in the parks? During the War the residents in the neighbourhood of Regent's Park saw the Park occupied for necessary purposes, but since the Armistice they have seen a mass of new buildings put up. These parks are intended for public use and ought not to be occupied permanently in this way.
§ Major BARNETT
I was asking my right hon. Friend to say how far these people are housed in the park.
§ Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Major GLYN
I rise to ask whether I should be in order in drawing attention to the salary of the Under-Secretary of Dublin Castle.
JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Lord E. Talbot)
I beg to move, "That the Consideration of Resolutions 17 to 43 be now adjourned."
I understand it would be convenient to the House if we started to-morrow with the Law Charges Vote.
§ Resolutions 17 to 43 read a second time, and postponed.
§ Postponed Resolutions to be considered To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.
§ ADJOURNMENT.—Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Commander Eyres-Monsell].
§ Adjourned accordingly at Sixteen minutes before Eleven o'clock.