HC Deb 26 July 1922 vol 157 cc639-43

Resolution reported, Whereas it appears by the Air Appropriation Account for the year ended the

Number of Vote. Air Services, 1920–21, Voted. Differences between Exchequer Grants and Net Expenditure.
Surpluses. Deficits.
£ s. d. £ s. d.
1 Pay, etc., of the Air Force 116,839 0 11
2 Quartering, Stores (except Technical), Supplies, Animals, and Transport. 236,706 10 9
3 Technical and Warlike Stores 1,434,883 9 0
4 Works, Buildings, and Lands 388,670 17 2
5 Air Ministry 15,885 8 11
6 Miscellaneous Effective Services 17,677 19 7
7 Half-Pay, Pensions, and other Non-Effective Services. 989 3 9
8 Civil Aviation 148,850 5 7
9 Experimental and Research Services 14,472 10 2
Balances irrecoverable and Claims abandoned 46,657 13 8
Total 2,357,297 6 3 64,335 13 3
Net Surplus £2,292,261 13 0

Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I desire to have some explanation about this Resolution. Why is it that only at the end of 1922 we get this Resolution as to accounts ending on 31st March, 1921? Secondly, what is actually done with this surplus? Is this money going to be used for the Air Service? Thirdly, who takes credit for this item of £148,850 surplus on civil aviation, and will that money be in addition to the money provided this year?

31st day of March, 1921, and the statement appended thereto, that the aggregate expenditure on Air Services has not exceeded the aggregate sums appropriated for those Services, but that, as shown in the Schedule hereto appended, the total differences between the Exchequer Grants for Air Services and the net expenditure are as follows, namely:

£ s. d.
Total Surpluses 2,357,297 6 3
Total Deficits 64,335 13 3
Net Surplus £2,292,961 13 0

And whereas the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury have temporarily authorised the application of so much of the said total surpluses on certain Grants for Air Services as is necessary to make good the said total deficits on other grants for Air Services.

That the application of such sums be sanctioned."

The SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Captain Guest)

The explanation is very simple. The accounts relate to the period of 1920–21 and the deficits amount to only £04,335, while the surpluses amount to £2,357,297. The latter mainly arise from under-spending in Votes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8. As to the deficits. £17,677 is due to the transfer to a special sub-head set up, under Treasury direction, of expenditure incurred on behalf of various Russian Governments in previous years. The other item of £46,657 is money overspent, and arises out of the rapid demobilisation of officers and men, to debtor balances on non- effective airmen's accounts, and in respect of barrack damages. In the deficit column the amounts are not very great, but the surpluses are very great. The surpluses are handed back to the Treasury, and this is the Parliamentary form to give permission to do so.

Captain W. BENN

The right hon. Gentleman will realise that he does not excuse deficits by drawing attention to surpluses. I would like information about these sums spent, he tells us, on various Russian Governments. We have been told no sums are being spent on Russian Governments.


The right hon. Gentleman was, apparently, apologetic with regard to the year being 1920–21. What does this item mean "Balances irrecoverable and claims abandoned, £46,657?" If they have been abandoned, why have they been abandoned, and what are they?

Captain GUEST

I passed rapidly over them. They are for over-issues of pay owing to the rapid demobilisation of officers and men. That is one of the main items of the £46,000. My hon. Friend will appreciate that when you demobilise 30,000 officers down to 3,000—which is the process which took place between 1918 and 1920—it is clear that a. certain number of payments Were made to officers and men leaving the force who were afterwards untraceable. There is no doubt there are occasions when the Government must sacrifice its legal right of trying to press for these outstanding debts. The second item is the deficit balance on non-effective airmen's accounts, which is quite simple. When a. man is on the effective list, he receives a certain rate of pay, but when, owing to casualty, sickness or otherwise, he drops in the scale, he is only entitled to a lesser rate. There have been occasions when the Government have thought it reasonable not to press outstanding claims against men who suffered in this way. The third item is in respect of barrack damages. That is a case where the Government have thought it reasonable to cut their losses. For the purpose of

bookkeeping the Treasury enforces upon us a system by which all losses are shown as well as surpluses. The surplus side I do not think needs explanation. They are on certain Votes and are handed back to the Treasury. That we have had the advantage of using these surpluses in the current year is not correct. As regards the Russian Governments, that goes back to a period in Air Ministry affairs with which I am not well acquainted. There must have been occasions when certain units were there engaged in handling situations with which the Air Ministry had been brought into touch. That is a subject with which I am unacquainted.


The Minister of Air has got up and explained to the House that he has no knowledge of the method in which certain sums of money were expended. It is a matter which has often been alluded to, and we have tried to find out by question and answer how far this country has been involved from time to time in the assistance given to the various people in Russia who were attempting to set up Governments. This is the first time I remember that across the Floor of the House a Minister has admitted that certain sums have been expended for this purpose. I do not want to delay the House for a single moment; it would not be fair at this time of night. We can divide upon it in order to show how we deplore the loose way in regard to these accounts. Either the Air Force did or did not assist in one or other of the adventures which sought to overthrow the Russian Government. The Minister for Air knows this House well. He is always willing to meet it, and he has been quite frank. I invite him, before we challenge a Division, and in order that we may not challenge a Division, to tell us precisely what this means.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolutions."

The House divided: Ayes, 131; Noes, 18.

Division No. 255.] AYES. [12.43 a.m.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Barnston, Major Harry Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff) Breese, Major Charles E.
Armstrong, Henry Bruce Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Brings, Harold
Atkey, A. R. Betterton, Henry B. Broad, Thomas Tucker
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith- Brown, Major D. C.
Barnett, Major Richard W. Bowyer, Captain G. W. E. Bruton, Sir James
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Hinds, John Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Hood, Sir Joseph Pratt, John William
Casey, T. W. Hopkins, John W. W. Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead) Remer, J. R.
Chamberlain, At. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.) Hunter, General Sir A, (Lancaster) Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Coats, Sir Stuart Inskip, Thomas Walker H. Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Jameson, John Gordon Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Cope, Major William Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Klnc., King, Captain Henry Douglas Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur
Curzon, Captain Viscount Larmor, Sir Joseph Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale) Shorn, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Lindsay, William Arthur Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)
Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry Lloyd-Greame, Sir P. Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Doyle, N. Grattan Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n) Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Du Pre, Colonel William Baring Lorden, John William Steel, Major S. Strang
Ednam, Viscount Lort-Williams, J. Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.
Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath) Lowe, sir Francis William Stewart, Gershom
Evans, Ernest Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith) Sturrock, J. Leng
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M. Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon) Sutherland, Sir William
Falcon, Captain Michael Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)
Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W. Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Ford, Patrick Johnston Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Maryhill)
Forrest, Walter Manville, Edward Tryon, Major George Clement
Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot Mason, Robert Vickers, Douglas
Fraser, Major Sir Keith Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz Wallace, J.
Ganzoni, Sir John Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J. Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor
Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Cot. J. T. C. Waring, Major Walter
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.
Goff, Sir R. Park Murchison, C. K. Williams, C. (Tavistock)
Gould, James C. Murray. Rt. Hon. C. D. (Edinburgh) Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E. Murray, John (Leeds, West) Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.
Guthrie, Thomas Maule Nail, Major Joseph Windsor, Viscount
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Neal, Arthur Wise, Frederick
Hallwood, Augustine Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Young, E. H. (Norwich)
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G. Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)
Hamilton, sir George C. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Parker, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.
Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike McCurdy.
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Hirst, G. H. Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk) Hogge, James Myles Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.) Waterson, A. E.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Mosley, Oswald Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Grundy, T. W. Sitch, Charles H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough) Mr. Stanley Holmes and Mr. Foot.

Question put, and agreed to.