§ 72 and 73. Sir H. NIELD
asked the Prime Minister (1) whether, in view of the attitude of the chief permanent officials of the Ministry of Pensions towards local committees, as shown by their action towards the Ealing Committee, and of the fact that the personnel of the Committee recently set up to inquire into the systems and methods of administration of the Ministry of Pensions consists largely of officials whose conduct is impugned, in order to secure the confidence of the public, he will consider the desirability of substituting other persons, and particularly those representing disaffected areas, for the Permanent Secretary and the two Assistant Secretaries of the Ministry, so that they may give evidence, and not sit as the judges of matters arising in respect of their own administration;
(2) whether he is aware that upwards of 10 weeks ago the Director-General of Local Administration of the Ministry of Pensions, acting under an Order of 4th September last, made under Section 5 of the War Pensions Act, entered into possession of the premises of the Ealing local pensions committee, assumed the sole control of all financial administration, and completely paralysed the work of the local committee; that they have remained in such possession and control for upwards of 10 weeks, during which time they have installed nine clerks, who purport to be wholly engaged in investigating the transactions of the committee, notwithstanding that the Ministry had had 82 visits of inspection or audit between 1st January and 24th April of the present year, in respect of which no allegation of irregularity has yet been made save as to 2id. deficit in petty cash; if he is aware that no particulars have been given to the local committee or its officers of the failure to keep proper accounts on which the Order of 4th September purported to be made, and that in consequence of this treatment and the waste of public money, especially in view of the present burdens of Imperial and local taxation, the borough of Ealing has resented this treatment, and the fact that resolutions of the committee calling for a public inquiry have been wholly ignored by the Ministry, from whom not the least semblance of justice can be obtained; and whether, in view of the injury which 22 is being thus caused to the Government by the waste of public time and money, as well as the treatment of the local committee, he will ensure that a full public inquiry should be held at once into the whole matter?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of PENSIONS (Major Tryon)
My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, has asked me to reply. I do not at the present time propose to reply to these questions, which are of an argumentative character, in view of the fact that I am informed that matters affecting the administration of pensions by the Ealing Committee are the subject of investigation in a public department, other than the Ministry of Pensions, whose possible action in the matter I do not desire in any way either to hamper or influence. My postponement of a reply to the hon. and learned Member's questions is not to be taken as in any sense admitting the accuracy of the statements involved in the questions.
§ Sir H. NIELD
Is the right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister, alive to the fact that the obstinacy of this department is losing him very considerable popularity in the country, and will he see that the Ministry of Pensions gives reasonable answers and not wait 10 or 12 weeks and still decline to inform the local committee what is the offence charged against them?