§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question,
That a sum, not exceeding £827,450, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924.
for Expenditure in respect of Customs and Excise, Inland Revenue, Post Office and Telegraph Buildings in Great Britain, and certain Post Offices abroad.
§ Question again proposed.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Colonel Leslie Wilson)
The Government hope that the Committee will be able to give them Votes 8, 10, 9 and 6, and, as I understand that these Votes are in the main non-controversial, I trust that the Committee will be able to grant them without a very long discussion. I understand that, if these Votes be granted, it will enable the Office of Works to get on with the building, and it is very desirable that they should be able to build economically. If we can get these Votes without much delay, we shall then be able to proceed to the Committee stage of the Army (Annual) Bill at, I hope, an early hour.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £50.
I do not think that, in these hard times, we can let a Vote for such a very large sum of money go through without one or two explanations from the Government. Hen. Members will observe that a very large sum indeed is taken for new works, and I think we should be informed a little more fully as to the necessity for these new works. I am not quite sure which Minister is in charge of this Estimate, but, whoever he may be, I should like to ask him to explain to me one or two matters. We are told that this Vote is necessary in order that the building work may be continued. Does that mean that, should the unfortunate dispute in the building trade unhappily come to a head, and should there be a general national stoppage, the Government will be able to get on with their building programme? I should be very much surprised to hear that they will, and, therefore, there is not the urgency that there is represented to be for these four Votes. The urgent problem is to try and get the building dispute settled one way or the other. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman who raised this matter at Question Ti me that the Government are showing their usual ineptitude and idleness in this matter. They are not showing sufficient energy at 1419 all, in the opinion of many of us on this side of the House.
Further, I noticed that the work of the Customs and Revenue has been considerably increased. In deference to the pressure of certain mistaken hon. Members opposite, the Government have put all sorts of obstacles in the way of the free ingress of commodities into our ports, and I should like to know whether their heavy expenditure on alterations, removals, new furniture, and the rest of it, has anything to do with that, because it would be extremely interesting to know whether the policy to which we on this side object so much has a still further objection, namely, increased expenditure in bricks and mortar for the Revenue Departments. This is a very relevant question at the present time, because the Government have been so misguided as to declare their intention of taking another Bill, the Merchandise Marks Bill, which, of course, I should not be in order in discussing now, but which I think will give rise to a need for extra accommodation and extra expenditure on Custom's premises, furniture, removals, and so on. To come down to details, I think that, in these times of great financial stringency, when, as I believe, the citizens, lieges and subjects are hampered in their natural business, it is very wrong that so much money is being spent on new Post Office buildings. After all, the population has not increased to such a very great extent.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
If the hon. Gentleman will follow me and explain better than the Government can the reasons for this Vote, I shall be very delighted. I am only asking for information. I am not trying to make any party capital out of this, but am simply exercising my right, and, indeed, my duty, as an individual Member, in scrutinising all Government expenditure. I object to any expenditure on this Vote with the exception of that for unemployment relief works. All expenditure of money for unemployment relief I am prepared to pass without any further scrutiny; but we cannot pass without scrutiny a Vote of nearly a million and a quarter, which is mostly for new building works—bricks and mortar for the Post Office. Why, for 1420 example, it should be necessary to expend this great amount on the Post Office at Brighton I do not know. I do not see either of the Members for Brighton here. It would be very interesting to know why £34,000 is required for the new post office at Brighton. The population of Brighton has not increased so tremendously since the War, and neither has the amount of letters. I do not think there is justification for that nor do I see why Luton should have a new post office at a cost of £37,000. They burnt down the Town Hall the other day but not the post office, and why we should pay this amount I do not know. As regards my own constituency, there is not a penny in these Estimates for new buildings and the population and the importance of the port have increased very much in recent years. I shall therefore most certainly expect some explanation of these new works and buildings. I do not make these remarks in any hostile spirit to the Government. They have received sufficient buffets, slings and arrows and misfortunes lately without my adding to them, so I will temper the wind to the shorn lamb. [Interruption.] I am quoting from the good book—my hon. Friend is not familiar with it—which talks of the shorn lamb. I do not wish to go into this but lambs are shorn to make certain decorations for women's clothes, as I can explain to my hon. Friend.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman appears to be under the impression that this is a Vote for the Board of Agriculture.
§ Mr. OLIVER
I wish to draw attention to the waste of public money through employing labour on Government maintenance work through private contractors. I understand there are over 1,800 workmen employed by the Office of Works, who are in every sense Government employés. They work continuously on Government work. Whether the contractor is one person or another they continue to do the same job. They are not casual employés in as much as many of them have been working on this job for as long as 30 years, and the only difference between the employés employed directly by the Government and the 1,800 in question, is that one is paid by the Government direct and the other is paid through a private contractor.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am not quite clear that the hon. Member is not out of order, neither am I clear that he is. This is a Vote for Customs, Excise and Inland Revenue buildings. Does the hon. Member state that these men are employed on these buildings? If it is a matter of general policy it should come on the salary of the secretary of the Office of Works.
§ Mr. OLIVER
Decidedly I can say they are employed on these works. Eighteen hundred men are employed by the Office of Works in the main on the jobs specified in this Vote, and the waste of public menu comes in here, that 7½, per cent. on the wages paid is paid to the profit of the contractor, which represents roughly, on every thousand men employed, in a year's time £14,000. That is a matter for which some justification should be given to the House. The magnificent results which have been obtained by employing labour direct during the past two or three years should be an incentive to Government Departments to employ labour wherever they can without the intervention of private contractors. In Derby we have just concluded a contract which two years ago was thrown open to tender and £45,000 was the lowest of nine tenders which were sent in. We were able to induce the Corporation to do the work by direct labour, and instead of paying out £45,000 we have been able to do it at just over £30,000—a net saving to the ratepayers of £15,000. That applies in many hundreds of instances which could be cited during the past two years by different corporations. Why do the great firms employ labour direct whenever they can? Why do Messrs. Lyons, the Mac Fisheries and the Imperial Tobacco Company employ their labour direct when they can? For no other reason than that they are business firms with business men at the head. They do not do it out of love or benevolence, but because it is a sound business practice, and I hope the hon. Gentleman in charge of this matter will be able to give us some assurance that this practice will be discontinued and that these men will be employed direct in the future.
§ Mr. G. SPENCER
I should have been very pleased if the hon. Baronet in charge of the Vote had given us some explanation, because, so far as the Post Office is concerned, there is no Department 1422 which has over-estimated during the last two or three years as it has. No other Department has brought before the House immature schemes which have not been ready to be fully carried out. In this Vote there is a sum of £51,500 for Thread-needle Street branch post office rebuilding. In 1921, £50,000 were put down for this building and not a penny of it was expended. We are entitled to an assurance from the Minister that if he is going to budget for this building, which has been on hand for two or three years, the work is going to be undertaken. This is not the only instance. I think I am right in saying that in the year.1920–21, the total Vote passed by this House was £702,940, and only about 50 per cent. of that sum was actually spent upon the work. We are entitled to ask the Minister whether he can say that the whole of this £800,000 in the present Estimate asked for in regard to building is actually required during this year. I ask because most of the spending Committees act upon a principle which would not find general acceptance in this House. Most of the Departments claim that if a Vote is passed in this House, and if any amount of that Vote is not used for the object for which it was voted, they have a perfect right to take that money and spend it upon some other object, so long as they do not exceed the total Vote.
§ Mr. SPENCER
My hon. Friend shakes his head. Upstairs I have heard, and my hon. Friends have heard, of cases where, with the Treasury consent, money that was voted for one particular object has been appropriated for another object, so long as the total Vote is not exceeded.
§ Mr. SPENCER
My hon. Friend again shakes his head. If he will read the accounts and the minutes of the Public Accounts Committee he will see that what I am stating is a fact, and that it has been done by Treasury consent. If that is so, and the Departments take up that attitude, we ought to be very careful in scrutinising every conceivable item of expenditure that comes before us. That is the reason why I ask whether all this money is required. Can the hon. Gentleman say, as head of his Department, that if we pass this Vote to-night the money 1423 will be used this year for the object for which it is voted? If he cannot do so, I respectfully suggest that his Department has been very remiss in informing him as to the amount of money that will be required.
§ Mr. W. GREENWOOD
Can the Minister consider the question of re-establishing something which, so far as I know, the public have not asked to be discontinued, namely, can he re-establish the Sunday delivery of letters?
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I thought that as we were dealing with Post Office buildings, I could mention the subject of letter delivery.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I want to draw the attention of the Committee to some details in regard to what is called maintenance and repairs. There are huge sums of money lost every year to the people of this country in this way. I will give an illustration. Most of the floors in the Post Offices are laid with wood blocks. These floors give way, and certain parts have to be repaired. What then happens, contractors in and around the district receive through the post a long envelope, containing one sheet of printed matter, with certain instructions as to the conditions of labour. Sheet No. 2 contains the name of the Post Office at which the repairs are to be carried out, and underneath is some printed matter drawing attention to certain conditions of entry. Then comes the real kernel of the communication. Instead of asking those who have knowledge of such things to call and inspect the repairs necessary, the Department sets out how many blocks of wood may be required, and asks the contractors to quote the price per dozen. These blocks have to be laid in bitumen, and the schedule sets down the pounds of bitumen that will be required. One generally finds that the printing of the matter contained in the envelope and the clerical work that must necessarily be entailed in sending out these forms costs much more than the actual repair of the floor.
The people engaged in this kind of work are used to laying floors, and they 1424 know that, for instance, when a square yard of blocks are loose it happens that when you begin the work of lifting the loose blocks the whole floor begins to move, and twice or three times the space that was originally required to be repaired needs to be repaired, because of the loosening bricks. Further expenditure takes place because the man who is successful in obtaining this "huge" contract has to interview the superintendent engineer and he, not having full power, has to consult his superiors in order to know whether it is possible to grant the extension of the repairs. Therefore, you have the clerical staff that sends out the envelopes, the clerical staff of the contractors who are competing for the work, and you have the superintendent and inspecting engineer, and all this means expense. If we had any sense at all, we should have a different way of carrying out these repairs, which would save money. Instead of waiting until more than one or two blocks got loose, we should attend to these at once, and save perhaps the expense of having to repair yards of floor space that would come loose. Moreover, by buying the blocks in large quantities and putting them into store we could save 50 per cent. on the cost of the wood alone, and if we stored the bitumen we could save 75 per cent., because when you put the contractor down to quoting for a few pounds of bitumen, it makes the thing ridiculous.
I give this detailed illustration, not to show that there is a lack of skilled men in the employment of the Government—the engineers are all capable men—but to show the policy which these men have to carry out. They are trained men of great skill, and imagine the indignity of compelling them to take part in sending out for pennyworths and twopennyworths of this, that and the other thing in a national organisation such as the postal service. It is not stupidity either. It is more than that. It is an organisation of certain men who are in power to militate against the possibilities that lie behind the nation having its repair workshops in proper centres. If you had these centres you would be in the position of showing private enterprise that you could beat it both in regard to prices and to workmanship, and by the workmanship I do not mean the actual work carried out, but I mean the workmanship of the man who 1425 knows how to adapt and do a thing in order to save greater waste by letting it go further.
This method that was adopted by the Government, which is said to be in the interests of economy, is just one of these stupidities put out in the name of economy which have necessarily increased expenditure. I do not ask the First Commissioner of Works to take advice, but I ask him to become acquainted with the facts in relation to this class of work. If he takes the time to go into the details, he will find that the Departments are at the moment compelled to go out for smalls, and if you are on a job and decrease its size, you are bound to increase the cost, whereas with a staff of your own men and being able to take your districts in proper order the men can be used to the best advantage, whereas at the present moment, having all the contractors visiting, and all the Estimates sent in, you find under the Regulations that someone has got the job. He misunderstands some little thing. He finds that there is a mistake in the work. Then he is asked to bear a loss. Sometimes he is not. Sometimes there is a way out.
I would ask those in charge of work like this to consider these things from a practical point of view. I give this experience in order to guide those who have not been fortunate enough to have that experience. I ask sincerely that something should be done in this direction in order to save the great waste that is going on now in the maintenance and repairs section of the work. With regard to new buildings, you go through the same process. You have all the men examining plans, going to the site, getting to know how far they have to cart the stuff, getting to know if there is any possibility of getting a cut by buying some materials near the site from somebody else; but, worse than that, if they are in a big city and the work happens to be in the country, not a sub-let, but something worse, trying to get some arrangement with some local person in order to keep a watchful eye over what is taking place. That is always unfortunate. You can never depend on a proxy when it comes to a question of this kind of work, and skilled and keen as the Government men in charge of Post Office work are, they have to depend largely upon the clerk of works in charge of the job. Here again 1426 you have got a fine set of men as clerks of works, but these men have not all the power which they should have. A clerk of works who knows his business ought to be in full command in the absence of his superior, whether he is a visiting superior or a permanent one. He ought to have a great deal more power, and be fully acquainted with the class of work, and if the First Commissioner of Works will do something in the direction which I have suggested, he will effect great saving and produce a much better class of work, so far as the Government are concerned.
§ Mr. LINFIELD
I am not fully conversant with the procedure of this House, but it does appear to me that, as we are voting very large sums of money, we should have in the first instance some sort of explanation. We are asked by the First Commissioner of Works, and I think also by the Postmaster-General, to vote £368,000 for proposed new works, and apparently, unless attention is called to the various items of expenditure, no information will be accorded to us. We should have full details before we vote. We should have some explanation of these items before we are asked to discuss them. Otherwise we might spend, not only one night, but several weeks, if we are to do our duty to the taxpayers. If we are to study real economy, we ought not to vote this large sum of money without having the fullest information as to the necessity for the expenditure. In most towns there are separate buildings for the carrying on of Government business. In many cases, I understand, the tax collector provides his own office. There is a very large amount of inconvenience to the general public, who are bandied about from one place to another. When new buildings are being constructed would it not be desirable to consider whether the necessities of the various Departments could not be brought together in one building. A very considerable amount of money might thus be saved in rent, upkeep, and office expenses. I am glad to see that the Postmaster-General has now arrived. Perhaps he will give the explanations for which I have asked.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Sir John Baird)
Before the discussion proceeds further, perhaps it would be well if I cleared the ground by 1427 making a statement. If the suggestion of an hon. Member opposite were applied to every Vote we certainly should not get through the Votes in a year. If the last speaker would study the details which are furnished with the Vote, he would observe that the fullest possible information is given. Although the sum for new works in connection with the Post Office, namely, £368,000, is undoubtedly large, it is £107,000 less than last year's total. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too small."] I anticipated that there would be that difference of opinion in an otherwise united opposition. We have done the best we can to meet the requirements of the nation, so far as we understand them. The point raised by the hon. Gentleman was one which I admit occurred to me when I first tackled these Estimates and saw the very large sums which had to be re-voted. What occurs is this: the need for preparing estimates a long time ahead makes it very difficult to estimate as accurately as could be done if the interval were shorter. For example, we had to begin in September to estimate the expenditure for the year beginning in the following April. In addition, there are all kinds of things for which we have to make allowance, such as legal difficulties with regard to the acquisition of sites, labour difficulties, and so forth. There is this to be remembered. When the money has been voted and it has not been spent, except in rare cases it returns automatically to the Treasury for the reduction of debt. It would, of course, be much simpler for the Department if we could do what the hon. Member has suggested, that is to say, when there was a balance on one Vote and a deficit on another, adjust the finance in that way. That would be simpler from a Departmental point of view.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
Though the present arrangement is inconvenient for the Department, it is doubtless sound from a national point of view.
§ Mr. G. SPENCER
On this particular point the Comptroller and Auditor-General says:At the date of my Report formal Treasury authority had not been received for the application of surpluses on certain sub-heads to meet deficits on other sub-heads in the case of certain Votes.1428 That was where the Estimate had been exceeded or where the money had not been spent.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
I would very much like to be able to do that. Before we can spend any money we have to get Treasury sanction. Only in certain cases do we obtain permission from the Treasury to use the money in another way. Two speakers in the Debate have expressed a wish that we should employ direct labour to a greater extent than we now employ it. I could not identify from the description of the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) the particular places where the incidents he referred to had occurred, and I would be grateful if he would let me know more about them.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Would it satisfy the right hon. Gentleman if I produced to him envelopes containing the information
§ Sir J. BAIRD
On the question of direct labour I cannot go as far as the hon. Member would like. We already employ a great deal of direct labour. We employ, on maintenance work mainly, 2,426 people in London. They are mostly engineers, park-keepers and night watchmen. Building work is done through contractors. Contrary to the view of hon. Members opposite, we hold that that is more economical and sounder business. There is, first of all, the question of plant. If the Government undertook all its building operations, it would have to invest in immense quantities of plant. Hon. Members can see in St. James's Park now some interesting examples of up-to-date plant. I am very thankful that I am not responsible for looking after some of these curious, but very useful appliances, for I could not guarantee to employ them constantly throughout the year. Surely it is advantage to pay someone to produce these curious and useful articles, and to use them, and after the work is done to be able to forget all about them without any further expense being entailed.
1429 Then there is the uncertainty which undoubtedly would affect the men, as to whether or not they would get constant employment. I can imagine a great deal of difficulty and trouble arising if it became necessary to discharge large numbers of men who had been employed for a considerable time previously. Then there is the question of headquarters charges—charges for the supervision of work, for the measurement of work, for the preparation of accounts, and for the hundred and one items connected with big building contracts. Without going further into details, I may say quite frankly we do not think that it would lead to efficiency or economy if the Government were to embark further than they have already done in the employment of direct labour. I wish to deal with some of the other points raised. With regard to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened the Debate, I do not think I need say much, except that he seemed to take it for granted that we are in for a labour dispute. I hope we are not, and I am certainly not going to proceed on the basis that on that account we should refrain from putting before the House the Estimates for my Department, which employs a large number of men. I hope a dispute will not take place. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. G. Spencer) asked a question with regard to the Threadneedle Street Post Office improvements. That is the post office which deals with Stock Exchange work, and the amount of work done there is very large indeed. In 1914 no less than 2,343,000 telegrams were sent from that office alone, and in 1921–22 that number had been increased by over 100,000. That one figure shows the immense volume of work which is dealt with. If I may be allowed to explain this case in some detail, I think it will be found to answer a great many of the other questions which have been put as regards the need for works of this kind. I quote from the report in regard to this post office:The office is very insanitary. Great trouble is experienced with the rats which frequently gnaw through the cables. The drains are affected and the staircases have to be shored up.Does anybody suggest that these are proper conditions under which to expect people to work? Is it suggested that you are going to get efficiency under such 1430 conditions Is it suggested that there is anything improper in spending money in putting into order a building which is in the condition I have described?
§ Mr. G. SPENCER
That was not the point which I raised. My point was that in 1920–21 you estimated for £50,000 and did not spend a penny. Are you estimating again for what you are not going to spend?
§ Sir J. BAIRD
I quite agree that the hon. Member raised that point, but he must allow me to tell the story in my own way. I wish to make as good a case as I can, and I think I will be able to satisfy the hon. Member and to relieve his mind on that point also. The question of the cost of these works is a legitimate one to raise. If hon. Members will turn to page 39 of the Estimates they will find there the full story. The amount of the Vote for Threadneedle Street Post Office in 1922–23 was 260,000. The same Vote this year is £28,000, and the further amount required to complete the work is £21,500. All that is voted this year is not £51,000, but £28,000, which we hope to spend in this year, but whether we shall spend it or not I cannot say, for the reasons I have given. If hon. Members will next turn to page 46 they will see an item:Deduct for works which may not be carried out during the year, £.50,000.We deduct that lump sum to meet the contingency that we may not be able to carry out all the works necessary, and all I can say is, having regard to the circumstances I have narrated, these Estimates are as close as we have been able to make them. We first estimate as closely as possible, and we then proceed to take off a lump sum so as to be on the safe side, and not to take more than we can help out of the pockets of the taxpayer. Apart from certain detailed questions, I think I have dealt with the main points raised so far. I hope that hon. Members will believe that my hon. and gallant Friend the Financial Secretary was saying nothing except the naked truth when he suggested that we wanted these Votes at the earliest possible moment. Obviously, hon. Members are entitled to know all about expenditure, but when they have satisfied themselves on these points I would draw their attention to the fact that it takes us some time to make contracts. Some hon. Members 1431 desire us not to make any contracts at all, but I hope they will recognise that that is the system, and we have to work according to the system. If we get these contracts made, it means employment, and that is a good thing. Further, if we can get on with the business now, early in the year, we can make better contracts than at the end of the year, and we shall get the work in hand at a time when progress will be more rapid and more satisfactory than if we have to wait until later in the season. From every point of view it is very desirable to get these Votes through. There are four main Votes in which the greatest amount of money is involved and what I am saying applies to them all. I trust that the House will recognise that there is no intention on our part to seek to avoid discussion, but I put this point of view before the House, because it will enormously help the efficiency of my Department if we can get these Votes through quickly, and it will enable us to put in hand a great deal of work which will afford employment.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The First Commissioner of Works has dealt with the question of the Threadneedle Street Post Office, but I think he is not thoroughly conversant with the facts of the case. I understood him to say it was necessary to spend this money because the drains were out of order and the office was dirty.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
May I be allowed to intervene. I did not suggest for a moment that £28,000 was to be spent because the place was dirty. Obviously there is a great deal more. My right hon. Friend is perfectly well aware of the conditions in the Threadneedle Street Post Office, because he was Chairman of the Committee which investigated the details. I understand the Public Accounts Committee after going into the question were dissatisfied with the former proposals and suggested that other steps should be taken to deal with the congestion and other difficulties. We have gone into that matter very carefully, and have come back to the conclusion that the only satisfactory way is to carry out the improvements which we propose.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My right hon. Friend is quite right in saying that I was the Chairman of the Committee and we 1432 went into this whole question last year, and made recommendations. The real facts of the case are these. It was originally intended to spend £80,000 upon this post office, but I am glad to see that as a result of our intervention, the £80,000 has been decreased to £21,500. While on that subject I should like to take the opportunity of congratulating the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Mr. Linfield) upon the sudden conversion to economy of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. As a rule they are only too anxious to spend money. However desirable it may be to undertake expenditure, you cannot do it if you have not got the money. To go back to the Threadneedle Street Post Office, the original proposal on the part of the Office of Works or of the Post Office was to spend £80,000. The site of this post office is limited by the fact that on either side are large and important building which cannot be acquired, and therefore the only way in which the post office can be extended is by adding to its height. It was proposed to add three stories, at a cost of £80,000, and when they had done that it was proposed to let two stories to the adjacent insurance company, which apparently wanted further extensions. The view taken by the Estimates Committee was that, in these hard times, it was not worth while to spend the taxpayers' money in order to let what was erected by the taxpayers' money to an insurance company, and we therefore went down ourselves and examined this particular post office.
It was extremely dirty and had a very uninviting appearance, and I should not think there had been any paint or whitewash put on it for a considerable number of years, but everybody knows very well that with a little paint and whitewash you can improve the appearance of almost any building. It then appeared that the postal servants were in the habit of having their meals in the middle of the day at this particular post office. We inspected the kitchen facilities and also the rooms in which they had their meals, and there is no doubt that they were not at all suitable for such a purpose. The Committee was unanimous upon that point, but in my experience in the City, extending over a considerable number of years, I do not remember any office or any firm where space is restricted giving their employés their meals in the office. 1433 They had to go out to get them. There are two solutions to this situation, either that they should go out and get their meals, as every other clerk or official does in the City, or that there should be a smaller extension, say, of one story, instead of three stories, that the kitchen should be put on the third story, the new story, and that the story which is now used for kitchens and refreshment rooms should be devoted entirely to refreshment rooms.
I did not myself measure the frontage of the building, which is a very fine building of stone, and very substantial, but I should say I am not wrong in thinking that the frontage is not more than 50 feet, and it seemed to me to be a most extraordinary amount of money to spend on a building with such a frontage, even if you were going to put three stories on, which I hope the Government are not going to do. I should like to know how many stories they are going to put on, and whether they intend to let them off after they have erected them, not to use for Post Office purposes, but for private individuals. I should like an assurance from the Government that they do not propose to do that. It, is possible that there might be a certain amount of alterations required in the interior of the building, although I do not think there was any great necessity for any considerable alterations in the interior. I admit that if the meals are to be given in the office, there must be new accommodation for that purpose. Then comes the question of the drains. If they are bad, they must be put right, but to talk about spending £50,000 on a building with a frontage of not more than 60 feet, if as much, is rather a tall order, and I imagine that any private individuals could put their drains right for a very much smaller sum than that.
The result of all this was that the Select Committee on Estimates recommended that £25,000, I think it was, should be spent. They made that recommendation with one dissentient. Naturally the architects and the people who are going to he employed do not want to spend less than £50,000, if they can avoid it. It is not their money, and no doubt it is very pleasant to have a very fine building. I remember the official who showed me over the building when I went with the other Members of 1434 the Committee. He seemed to be very efficient and very anxious to do the best he could for the service, but one of the arguments he advanced seemed to me to be an extremely foolish argument. He said, "Look at this hall, in which the messengers have to bring their telegrams. Many cable companies have marble halls, and it would be very much better for our business if the, office boys could bring their telegrams to a much finer building than this." My answer was that the heads of the offices in the City or the managers of banks who send office boys or messengers with telegrams do not care whether they are delivered in a marble hall or in an ordinary building, and really do not mind if the building is dirty, their only concern being that the telegrams should be sent off as quickly as possible. I am glad that the Select Committee on Estimates have succeeded in reducing the Estimate for this particular post office from £80,000 to £51,500, but if you are going to set up a Committee on Estimates, surely the Government ought to pay some attention to their recommendations, and if the Government found that their recommendation was a wrong one, or that there were reasons against it, surely the proper course would have been for the Government to have sent to me or to the secretary of the Committee stating that they found on the whole that they could not agree with our recommendation, whereas all that has been done is that an amount has been put down on the Estimate, which apparently the House is expected to pass.
There are many other items on which I myself have not had the experience that I had in this particular case, but which, I think, demand a certain amount of explanation. I see that the total cost of the Brighton new sorting office and telephone exchange is put at £34,228, whereas the amount voted last year was £25,000. I do not know whether I am right in thinking that that means instead of decreasing the Estimates this year they have increased them by something like £9,000. The total estimate for works and service at the Brighton new sorting office and telegraph exchange is £34,228. Am I right in thinking that another £9,200 is going to be spent? If that be so, is it because the works have been extended? I cannot conceive it can be for any other reason. The same thing occurs in Coventry, where the works are 1435 put down as a total estimate of £26,763, against £15,000 voted. Again, something of the same sort occurs at Crewe and at Halifax. There is a very large vote of £144,700, for Mount Pleasant. That is only for the first section—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I will leave that to the hon. Member. At Mount Pleasant, for the new letter sorting office (first section) erection of superstructure, the amount is £144,700. That seems an enormous sum for the first section, and merely the superstructure. Am I right in supposing that when that is erected, at a cost of £144,700, there will be a considerable amount of money spent in filling up the interstices of the superstructure? Even then you will only have got the first section. I should like to know how many sections there are going to be, and what will be the total cost of that building?
I hope I have not wearied the Committee by going into all these small details, but we must remember we have got to cut our coat according to our cloth. I should like to have a very much nicer house than I have got, and to spend an amount of money on doing it up. I do not do so because my right hon. Friend takes all I have got in taxes. I looked forward, with very great pleasure, to seeing the new Government on that Bench, because I thought they were going to be economical. I know the difficulties they are in. [HON. MEMBERS: "They realise it too! "] Hon. Gentlemen on the other side immediately get. up and clamour for more money. Though it is unpopular, I feel that it is so necessary, if we are ever to get back to our old prosperity, that we should be economical at the present moment, that I venture to draw the attention of the Committee to these few items.
§ Mr. AMMON
We heard, with a good deal of pleasure and interest, a speech which the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London delivered on a similar Vote last year. Almost word for word, he has reiterated the same arguments and has made the same references to Threadneedle Street and other buildings. I gather that the main thread of his complaint is that his friends the private contractors are getting far too much money for the work they are doing 1436 for the public. When the right hon. Gentleman referred to the marble halls, which seemed to excite some hilarity among his supporters around him, the natural retort is, why, if the Eastern Telegraph Company think it good enough to carry on their business under such circumstances, is it not right for the Post Office, carrying on a similar business, to have equal or somewhat similar methods?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If one particular private company, which happens to be the bête noire of hon. Gentlemen opposite, happens to be foolish, there is no reason why the Government should be foolish.
§ Mr. AMMON
We never say that the companies are foolish. They are only too wise, and we want the Government to follow them, at any rate so far as the housing of their staff is concerned. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that anything would do for the staff to have their meals in—[HON. MEMBERS: "No! "]—and that they could do with anything, so long as they happened to be public servants. [HON. MEMBERS: "Exactly the opposite! "] The right hon. Gentleman made reference to the fact that other employés are able to go outside and get their meals in eating-houses. He evidently is not aware that servants of the Post Office do not have the same meal release as servants in private houses; that they are very much shorter; and that it is arranged for the convenience of the Department, as much as of the people, that they should have their meals inside the building themselves. These servants are always on duty. The reconstruction of Threadneedle Street was due long even before the War broke out. It was then felt to be necessary, and was admitted by the Department long ago. It has been delayed ever since then, with the result that business is cramped, and that the staff have to work under conditions which ought not to be expected of them. Over and above that, the War itself brought a tremendous amount of additional Business to the Post Office. Almost every increase in public facilities, whether in regard to Unemployment, Health Insurance, and so forth, has been worked through the Post Office. That calls for a greater demand, both for the staff to deal with it and for the necessary administrative expenditure. These sort of things must be taken into account. The First 1437 Commissioner of Works is not quite so simple as to wish us to think that it is absolutely necessary to have this Vote to-night. He has had a Vote on Account that would enable him to carry on, even if he did not get this Vote to-night. I imagine he will not be in any difficulty through finding himself held up because be has no supplies—
§ Sir J. BAIRD
I have only got a Vote on Account for certain definite works. This is all for new works.
§ Mr. AMMON
We will not hinder anything the right hon. Gentleman has got in hand. I am sure he will get his money for new works to-night. I am bound be say I had hoped there was going to ha more money, in order that new work might be carried on. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) criticised some of the Votes, and mentioned Brighton sorting office. I know he was not making any adverse criticism of the staff, but that he wanted information. I had the misfortune, some years ago, to be employed in the Brighton office, and I know the wretched, insanitary, beastly hole it was; so much so that it was then a cause of complaint among the inhabitants of Brighton. If that same office be still in existence, I think the Post Office ought to be prosecuted for permitting a nuisance in that town. No money could be more wisely spent than in removing that office and in supplying that watering place with a post office suitable to its needs and able to cope with the increased work there.
I want to turn to some of the Votes in the Estimates. I note, on page 43, among the amounts to be expended, a reference to a large sum of money for the Mount Pleasant New Letter Sorting Office. The work of that Office was put in hand before the War broke out. It was found necessary to carry it out, owing to the new policy which the Post Office had adopted of largely centralising the work. I think this is the largest Post Office in the world at the present time. Certainly it will be the largest in Europe when it is completed. It is the chief Transit Office of mails in this country, and also of foreign mails. The lack of accommodation at that particular office has seriously handicapped the work of the Post Office, and no doubt accounts for some of the 1438 complaints raised in questions in this House from time to time. Had that work not been obstructed, it could have been done at very much less cost. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Middleton) on 21st March asked a question of the Office of Works as to the amount of money advanced for an additional storey to the Central Telegraph Office, and it was admitted that the sum of £10,000, which had been voted, had been surrendered. If it were thought advisable to give sanction to this payment, on what ground is it now found necessary to surrender it? Is not the demand equally as great?
§ Mr. AMMON
It is in the Estimate for the offices of the London district. I am suggesting it should now be included, but if that be not in order, I will rest content with having raised the point. I find on another page that there is a reference to the Cardiff office, but there is no money placed opposite it. As the Postmaster-General himself admitted on the 19th March that there was great need for post office accommodation, why is this to be deferred, as I understand, till 1924–25? I hope I am wrong, but if I am, the Postmaster-General must he more wrong.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
This is a question affecting a Vote which is to come on next year. It is quite possible that on another Vote for my salary, the hon. Member may be entitled to discuss the fact that the work is not being done this year. But the answer I gave the other day was that there is no Vote put down for this year, and it would be impossible for me to answer the point now, if it were raised.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is only in order to refer to matters raised in this Vote. When the salary of the right hon. Gentleman comes before the House, that will be the time to deal with the question of omissions.
§ Mr. AMMON
There is a reference to this, but no money against it, and that is the point to which I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. If the office be actually mentioned in the 1439 Vote, although there is no money against it, I suggest that it is permissible to raise the question.
§ Mr. AMMON
On page 44 there is an item, "Cardiff: Post Office Alterations," the sum required for which is £2,400. In reply to a question on the 19th March, the Postmaster-General admitted that the Post Office facilities and the building there are inadequate for the work that is being done. I want to suggest that the sum of £2,400 is totally inadequate.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member is entitled to ask why that sum, which was voted, was not spent, but I do not think he can go further than that.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
It was voted and spent last year, but in order to compare last year's expenditure with next year's Estimates, it has to appear on the Paper.
§ Mr. AMMON
I am obliged for the information. Evidently the Vote of last year was wholly inadequate to meet the circumstances, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman may see his way to find the funds necessary to give the required facilities. I might also ask whether it is for plant or for structural alterations. I am sorry that, within the limits of order. I cannot raise the question of new Sub-Post Offices and so on, but I hope that Post Office facilities will be increased to an extent commensurate with the growth of business, and that the buldings will in some way approach to the dignity of those of private enterprise which have received the commendation of the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury).
Captain ARTHUR EVANS
I want to call attention to two or three items on page 47, under the head of "Removals," about which I think the Committee would be interested in having further details. I see for the year 1923–24 it is proposed to spend a sum of £4,700 for removals, and, under the sub-head of "General Post Offices and Branch Offices, London District," the total is £2,375. Do we gather that it is the practice of the General Post Office to have removals often in various districts? Is it the practice to remove a Post Office from one corner of the street 1440 to another when the Department thinks fit? In any case, before voting such a large sum for removals, I think we are entitled to ask where those removals are taking place, and why they are taking place.
§ Mr. R. MURRAY
I desire to express agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) with regard to the amount of money being expended as a whole on the post offices in the country. I do not suppose any hon. Member can question the immense importance of the Post Office system to the country. My objection is not that money is being spent, but that it is not being spent fairly and equitably in relation to different parts of the country. I represent one of the constituencies belonging to that neglected and down-trodden country Scotland. Our willingness to meet the expenditure of English and Welsh Members of this House results perpetually in Scotland sending across the Border sums of money for which she receives no equivalent. So far as these accounts are concerned, I find that we are suffering, and I think the Postmaster-General ought to take very seriously into consideration what can he done in regard to removing some of these Scottish disabilities. On page 46, under the head of "Maintenance and Repairs," we find that in the London district £117,050 is being asked for, but, so far as offices in Scotland are concerned, the total to be expended is £19,000. I know, of course, that London is immensely the more important place, so far as Post Office work is concerned, but, while that may be true, and although the population to be served in London may be greater, I suppose even hon. Members opposite will know that the Scottish area is larger than the London area. The number of offices and districts to be served is immensely larger, and I think it will be seen that, so far as proportion is concerned, that if £117,000 is necessary for maintenance and repairs for offices in the London district, that the Scottish offices are not being maintained or repaired in the condition which they ought to he when £19,000 is regarded as sufficient. I know many Scottish offices, and many districts, and I know that the post offices are in a disgraceful condition. I know postmasters who have been clamouring for years for work to be done—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I am not prepared at the present moment to go into the matter of repairs and maintenance which are not on my Vote. I submit to you, Mr. Hope, that if it can be shown that I have acted inefficiently or improperly, or have not given sufficient attention to the Scottish offices, that that is a question which cannot be raised on this Vote. My hon. Friend the First Commissioner has undertaken certain work on behalf of the Post Office, but he should not be required to answer for, it may be, defaults on my part. The hon. Gentleman opposite will have to attack me when my Vote is put clown at the request of the front Opposition Bench. The complaint that has been made as to, it may be, acts of omission on my part, are acts that I am quite prepared to deal with at the proper time and to give an answer to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have already mentioned that sins of commission or omission on the part of the Post Office can be dealt with upon the Vote of the salary of the Postmaster-General. But in the matter of buildings put up at the request of the Postmaster-General criticism must be directed to the Office of Works, which has authorised or constructed those offices, and not to the Postmaster-General for not authorising the construction or maintenance of other offices.
§ Mr. MURRAY
I think, Sir, I am entitled to follow with my explanation. I am not suggesting criticism as to anything that is not in these accounts. We are asked to authorise, the spending of £19,000 for Scotland and of £117,000 for the London district. I think, therefore, I am entitled to draw attention to the fact that. either too much generosity has been given a on the one hand or too much niggardliness is being observed on the other. May I point out further that if you look further at the same page you will, in the item (" Works costing between £1,000 and £2,000), find the same thing repeated. London district is credited with £2,000, England and Wales with £15,000, and Scotland with not a single penny. Am I not entitled to ask why Scotland is being neglected in a matter of this kind? If we go further down this page 46 of the Estimates, and take, "Minor works not exceeding £1,000," we will see that the London district has 1442 £12,600 placed to its credit, there is £19,250 for England and Wales, and for Scotland the total of £2,260!
§ The CHAIRMAN
I presume the hon. Member will ask a question as to why this is so, and doubtless the reply will be that the Scottish post offices are much better repaired.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
When the hon. Member has been here a little longer he will doubtless recognise the great superiority of the Scottish offices.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
The offices in Scotland are maintained in better condition and repair, with less work and less expenditure than is required for upkeep and maintenance in this country.
§ Mr. MURRAY
That is a very funny argument, but we are not here to listen to funny arguments. I am here with a very serious mission. My country is suffering, and I am going to try to find out why. Turn back in the Estimate to the "Works in Progress," and you will find a long list of new offices for England and Wales and London. There are 30 in progress. So far as Scotland is concerned there are only four.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
On a point of Order. I submit that this Vote is concerned only with the offices which the Postmaster-General has asked the Office of Works to put up, and to which the Postmaster-General has got Treasury assent. I submit, therefore, that it is not in Order on this Vote to discuss the absence of post office accommodation which I have not been asked o construct.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member may object to the construction of too many post offices in England, and the inference that he will not be able to develop, must be left, to the intelligence of the Committee.
§ Mr. MURRAY
Shall I be in order if I quote Robert Burns? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes" and "No."]. The national Bard, in an address which he wrote to the Scottish representatives at St. Stephen's, urged that they should seek to have injustices against his country removed, and he said:
Paint Scotland greetin' ower her thrissle,
Her mutchkin stoup as toom's a whistle.
1443 The present representatives from Scotland are not so much concerned about the mutchkin stoup, but they are just as concerned as the poet to see that Scotland is fairly treated.
Let me give one more illustration of what I am complaining about. It is suggested that the climate has something to do with the necessity for repairs, but that has nothing to do with proposed new works—not works in progress, but new works. There are 23 proposed in these other areas, and only one for Scotland. It is proposed to spend £3,500 on the head post office in Glasgow. Does any individual suggest that so far as Glasgow is concerned its necessities are covered in the matter of postal facilities and accommodation by this sum of £3,200?
§ Mr. MURRAY
The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City or some other Member spoke of expenditure at Dundee. I venture to submit, in spite of the interruption which is taking place, a good deal of it with the possible object of trying to throw Scotsmen off the trail of some money—not always an easy task, for once we get our noses there, we can follow it up—but I suggest to the Postmaster-General and others who have submitted these accounts that they have been carrying out the time-honoured and long-established custom of taking from a Scotsman all the money he has and giving him nothing in return. If we are going to pass this Vote I hope the warning which I have given will be taken notice of in the future.
§ Mr. FOOT
I have listened with interest to the speech which has just been delivered by the representative of a distressed and inarticulate country. I also listened with interest to the speech made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), and there is nobody in this House whom we listen to with more pleasure. But as the right hon. Gentleman spoke this evening I happened to remember a speech very much on the same lines made 12 months ago by the right hon. Gentleman, and I have refreshed my memory in regard to it by looking up the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is quite true that the right hon. Baronet does not say one thing to-day and another 1444 thing to-morrow. I note that in that speech he made a reference to "cutting your coat according to your cloth" and his argument was, "We cannot afford to do this sort of thing at this moment." He gave us a pathetic account of his visit to the Threadneedle Street Post Office, and I believe that if we go on for another five or ten years the right hon. Baronet upon the Post Office Vote will be ready to give us an account of his visit to Threadneedle Street.
I notice on the previous occasion to which I have referred he referred to Brighton and he has done so again to-day. He has also referred to Coventry, and 12 months ago he did the same thing. He has also referred to Crewe to-night and 12 months ago he referred to that town. He seems to have faith in the old saying that if a British jury is to be convinced the same thing is to be said 12 times, and no doubt in the end he will be able to convince those who are sitting on the Treasury Bench. Really on all these matters the difference between us is the way in which we ought to spend our money. Some months ago in the last Parliament the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London was urging a larger expenditure on the Army, and he suggested that we could provide more money for the Army by cutting down our expenditure on education.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. FOOT
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon that. It is quite true that he does not change, and, as I was pointing out, the only difference between us is as to whether the money can be better spent upon the building up of great armies, or upon giving the children of this country a better opportunity of being educated. The reason I am going to support this Vote on this occasion is because there is some provision in it for the county of Cornwall. There is an item down in this Estimate for a new post office at Bodmin, and I mention this as being an illustration of the wisdom of the Postmaster-General in spending money in order to wipe out old dilapidated buildings which in many cases are a discredit to the Post Office. The expenditure here is one which we have pressed for time after time because, for a good many years, in the capital town of Cornwall, there has 1445 been a post office which has been a discredit to the country. Surely it is a wise plan that public money should be spent at a time when there is a great need for employment. I think we ought to so regulate things that public money might be, pent on public works at a time when unemployment is greatest. I think there ought to be some better control in order to see that such a result is secured. For these reasons I intend to support this Vote, and I congratulate the Post Office upon the enterprise it has shown.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
I appeal to the Committee to allow this Vote to pass, because it provides a large sum of money to be spent on new works which cannot be put in hand until this Vote is agreed to. I would point out that a large amount of this money will go in wages, and I ask hon. Members if they cannot see their way to let me have this Vote before 11 o'clock, because that would enable me to do a great deal towards relieving unemployment. In reply to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) about Brighton, the £25,000 asked for is in respect of a telephone exchange and the amount for the post office remains at £34,000. As regards Mount Pleasant, I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has not received any information on that subject, but the reason is that it comes under another Department and I will look into that matter. I understand that the Postmaster-General has already given reasons why he found it impossible to agree to the recommendation which the right hon. Gentleman submitted. As far as I am concerned, I can only carry out the plans for completing the requirements of the Post Office.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Hon. Members on this side of the Committee have no desire to retard the development of the work which the hon. Gentleman contemplates, but, on the other hand, we are entitled to criticise the expenditure of public money and particularly to direct attention to expenditure which, in our judgment, is of a kind that demands criticism. I would be grateful for the opportunity to direct the attention of the Committee to the inadequate postal facilities in Bathgate, which is in my constituency, but I understand I am precluded.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
This question can be more suitably discussed on the Estimates.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I understand I was precluded from raising so important a question from the point of view of my constituents because of the ruling of the Chair, but I would remind the Committee that, although we are precluded from directing attention to the sins of omission of the Postmaster-General with regard to the construction of new buildings not mentioned in this Vote, we are entitled to refer by comparison to such items. I direct attention to the item on page, 45 relating to fittings to be provided for the Glasgow head office. The hon. Gentleman said these were necessary because of the importance of the department in that city. We thank him for what he proposed to do in this connection, but would remind him at the same time that for a long time the conditions in the Glasgow head office were anything but desirable and. were a subject of much adverse comment on the part of the trading community in that city. It is pertinent to enquire why £3,500 should be spent on fittings, when other adjacent districts are enquiring anxiously about facilities which they believe are necessary to the trading community in their own centres. I would submit the hon. Gentleman is bound to furnish a satis factory explanation to this House as to why £3,500 should be spent on the fittings of Glasgow head office having regard to the refusal of the Postmaster-General to spend minor sums elsewhere which are much needed.
I would direct attention to what is by no means a parochial affair, but affects the world itself. On page 34 I find a reference to the Imperial Wireless Chain, and I observe that during this evening no reference was made, to this matter by hon. Members or by the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Vote. I do not profess to be well versed in the subject itself, but there has been much comment in the public Press with regard to the whole subject of wireless telegraphy, and the question I wish to put to the hon. Gentleman is, whether the reduction in the sum for the next financial year is due to the intention of the Postmaster-General to limit the facilities provided, or is it because of any private firm undertaking 1447 to some extent, even in a limited manner, the provision of wireless telegraphy?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must not discuss the question of wireless telegraphy, which has nothing to do with new buildings.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I submit with very great respect that to ask a question with regard to the reduction of the amount to be expended in the next financial year on the Imperial Wireless Chain—an item mentioned in the Vote—is surely relevant to the subject under discussion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "] Since the Chair has ruled otherwise, I accept the ruling with due humility. I would direct attention to other items which I think are of vital importance. On page 34 reference is made to expenditure on fuel and household article. I observe the reduction contemplated is £37,000 approximately. In 1922–23 the expenditure was £197,000 approximately. Next year it is proposed to expend £160,000. In my judgment, this is not a reduction which can be contemplated with equanimity, having regard to the drastic reduction in the cost of fuel, lighting and cognate articles. We all know that the cost of coal has undergone a very great reduction, similarly with electricity, gas, and so on, and in view of that, surely the reduction contemplated is hardly consistent with the very great reductions which have taken place in the price of those necessary articles.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull may believe himself competent to discuss the question of gas—I speak of illuminating gas—but, knowing something about production of illuminating gas, certainly in the city of Glasgow I know that the price of gas for lighting and also for heating has undergone a great reduction, and that applies to all parts of the country, and there can be no doubt that the price of fuel has been reduced. I respectfully submit to the First Commissioner that the reduction in the Estimate for the next financial year is not so great as it ought to be, consistent with these circumstances, and I think we are entitled to an explanation. Are we to assume—I put the question without any levity—that there is to be a greater consumption of fuel and light in the next financial year than during the last financial year. There appears to be no reason why that should take place, and I am rather inclined to suggest that the First. Commissioner is somewhat out in his estimate as regards this item. There are several other items which, I think, call for criticism, but I agree that the contemplated expenditure on relief work, which will provide employment for many men, is expenditure with which we are in full sympathy, and, therefore, I forbear from any further criticism.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £827,400, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes. 147: Noes, 247.1451
|Division No. 80.]||AYES.||[10.17 p.m.|
|Adams, D.||Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Hancock, John George|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Darblshire, C. W.||Harbord, Arthur|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Davies, David (Montgomery)||Hardie, George O.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Harris, Percy A.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hastings, Patrick|
|Barnes, A.||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Batey, Joseph||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Duffy, T. Gavan||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Duncan, C.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Bonwick, A.||Dunnico, H.||Herriotts, J.|
|Bowdler, W, A.||Entwistle, Major C. F.||Hirst, G. H.|
|Briant, Frank||Fairbairn, R. R.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan. Neath)|
|Broad, F. A.||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Brotherton, J.||Gosling, Harry||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)|
|Buchanan, G.||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Buckle, J.||Greenall, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Burgess, S.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Greniell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth. Pontypool)||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)|
|Cairns, John||Groves, T.||Jowitt. W. A. (The Hartlepools)|
|Cape, Thomas||Grundy, T. W.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Chapple, W. A.||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Lansbury, George|
|Charleton, H. C||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Lawson, John James|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Leach, W.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Lee, F.|
|Linfield, F. C.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thornton, M.|
|Lowth, T.||Riley, Ben||Tout, W. J.|
|Lunn, William||Ritson, J.||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)||Turner, Ben|
|M'Entee, V. L.||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|McLaren, Andrew||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Warne, G. H.|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|March, S.||Saklatvala, S.||Webb, Sidney|
|Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Salter, Dr. A.||Weir, L. M.|
|Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Scrymgeour, E.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Maxton, James||Sexton, James||Westwood, J.|
|Middleton, G.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Wheatley, J.|
|Millar, J. D.||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Morel, E. D.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Whiteley, W.|
|Muir, John W.||Sitch, Charles H.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Snell, Harry||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Murray, B, (Renfrew, Western)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Newbold, J. T. W.||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)||Wilson, H. J. (Jarrow)|
|Nichol, Robert||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|O'Grady. Captain James||Stephen, Campbell||Wright, W.|
|Oliver, George Harold||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Sullivan, J.|
|Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Phillipps, Vlvian||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Lieut. -Commander Kenworthy and|
|Potts, John S.||Thome, W. (West Ham, Pialstow)||Mr. Shinwell.|
|Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell||Hohier, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Herry page||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||DavidsonJ.C.C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Massley)|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Houfton, John Plowright|
|Bialrd, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Ballour, George (Hampstead)||Davison, Sir w. H. (Kensington, S.)||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hudson, Capt. A.|
|Banks, Mitchell||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Hume, G. H.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Ednam, Viscount||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul|
|Becker, Harry||Ellis, R. G.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel|
|Berry, Sir George||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||King, Capt. Henry Douglas|
|Blades, sir George Rowland||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Blundell, F. N.||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Brass, Captain W,||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Lorden, John William|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.||Lorlmer, H. D-|
|Briggs, Harold||Foot, Isaac||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Forettler-Walker, L.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Foxcrott, Captain Charles Talbot||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Bruford, R.||Ganzonl, Sir John||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Bruton, sir James||Garland, C. S.||Maddocks, Henry|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Goff, Sir R- Park||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||Margesson, H. D. R.|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Hosdew||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Mercer, Colonel H.|
|Button, H. S.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Cains, Gordon Hall||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l. W.D'by)||Molloy, Major L. G. S.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Halstead, Major D.||Molson, Major John Elsdate|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Harrison, F. C.||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Harvey, Major S. E.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hawke, John Anthony||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Honnessy, Major J. R G.||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Clayton, G. C.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nesbitt, Robert C.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hewett, Sir J. P.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Seals||Hiley, Sir Ernest||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Cope, Major William||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Paget, T. G.||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Pease, William Edwin||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.||Tubbs, S. W.|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Penny, Frederick George||Russell, William (Bolton)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney||Waring, Major Waiter|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withlngton)|
|Perring, William George||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wells, S. R.|
|Philipson, Hilton||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Pielou, D. p.||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Sandon, Lord||White, Lt.-Col. G. O. (Southport)|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Willey, Arthur|
|Preston, Sir W. R.||Shepperson, E. W.||Winterton, Earl|
|Privett, F. J,||Shipwright, Captain O.||Wise, Frederick|
|Raeburn, Sir William H.||Simpson-Hinchcliffe, W. A.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Raine, W.||Skelton, A. H.||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Smith. Sir Harold (Wavertree)||Wood, Maj. Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Somerville. A. A. (Windsor)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.||Worthington Evans, Rt. Hon, Sir L.|
|Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Stanley, Lord||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Renter, J. R.||Steel, Major S. Strang||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Reynolds, W. G. W.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.||Sturrock, J. Leng||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Gibbs.|
|Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chrtsy)||Sutcliffe, T.|
Question, "That the Question lie now put," put, and agreed to.
§ PUBLIC BUILDINGS, GREAT BRITAIN.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,281,100, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for Expenditure in respect of sundry Public Buildings in Great Britain, not provided for on other Votes."—[Note: £865,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
In putting a few points in connection with this Vote, I must apologise for my temporary absence on the last Vote. I shared that absence with nearly every single representative of his Majesty's Treasury except for the Patronage Secretary, who does not claim to have any knowledge of these matters. I was also in company with the Postmaster-General, who was absent. I should like to know why the taxpayer has been mulcted in £5,500 in respect of Brompton Cemetery. I understand that the funerals at. Brompton are paid for, that the ordinary charges are made, and that the paupers who are buried there are paid for by the Poor Law authority in whose parish they die. Why is it necessary to pay this amount in respect of this cemetery? There is also an item under Subhead E for the maintenance and repair of ancient monuments amounting to £40,750, compared with £35,000 odd last year. What are these ancient monuments? I could 1452 understand ancient castles and historic buildings being preserved, but they come under Subhead D. I hope that no money is being spent on the hideous monuments which disfigure London, of by-gone monarchs, statesmen, poets, and others, which are an eyesore, and have lost their significance. A great many of them might very well be removed. Is this extra taxation due to a change in the circumstances of so many of the owners of historical buildings, who are not able to keep them up owing to the iniquitous taxation imposed on them by the present Government? I hope for sympathetic support. from the historical party opposite, who have long been defenders of the landed classes of this country. This sum of £2,100,000 is a substantial sum. The country is poor. There was complaint to-day about the low payment of a very deserving class of the community, the ex-service Civil Service. If we can only afford to pay them very small salaries, we must look very carefully into this heavy expenditure of over £2,000,000 on public buildings, and these thousands of pounds on ancient monuments. If you cannot, afford to give more than £6 a year towards workmen's houses and can give nothing towards parlour houses, I am very much opposed to the expenditure of £2,000,000 on public buildings without some justification. The amount has decreased from last year by £500,000, but that is not a great amount in view of the serious financial state of the country and the taxation which is penalising all classes.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
One of the most important items in this Vote, in which everybody is interested, is the fourth item, on page 57, £74,700 for unemployment relief. If the money is not voted, the money cannot be spent. In almost every other case there is a substantial reduction. The total reduction is almost £500,000 on a Vote of £2,500,000. If the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) had pursued his examination more carefully he would have been in no anxiety about Brompton Cemetery. It is true that. we are to spend £5,500, hut if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had turned to page 65 he would have seen that under Appropriations-in-Aid we get £7,000 from Brompton Cemetery. That is not altogether bad business.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman quite saw my point. Why do we not charge to the relatives of those who are buried such fees as will cover the upkeep of the cemetery?
§ Sir J. BAIRD
We do. Whereas we propose to spend £5,500 for upkeep, we anticipate receiving £7,000. That As a saving to the taxpayer of £1,500. I was asked a question about ancient monuments. These are monuments which are handed over to my Department under the Ancient Monuments Acts of 1913. I do not think we are yet so poor that we can afford to neglect ancient monuments which have played a large part. in the history of our country. The monuments in London are mostly not very ancient, and they are not under the charge of my Department. Among the important ruins which have been taken over recently are Norham Castle; White Castle, Monmouthshire; Spofforth Castle, Yorkshire; Ewloe Castle, Flintshire; Warkworth Castle, Northumberland; Huntley Castle, Aberdeenshire; Incholm Priory, Fife; Netley Abbey, Hampshire; Furness Abbey, Lancashire; and Grosmont Castle, Monmouthshire. There are others, no doubt equally interesting. This Vote covers a large number of buildings and works of importance. There are the Admiralty Chart factories, the two anthrax disinfecting stations at Liverpool, the Mercantile Marine Office in Liverpool, the completion of offices at Acton for the Ministry of Pensions, alterations and adaptations at the Royal 1454 Mint, works at the Tower of London, work at Swansea, at the Stationery Office, the Patent Office, and so forth. These are the main items in the Vote. There is a reduction all round with the exception of a very few cases. There is the unemployment relief work; there is the repair of ancient monuments, with which I have dealt, and there are disposal expenses. These arise because we have certain plant which was in the hands of the Disposal Board and which was given over to us to be disposed of. The Disposal Board, unfortunately, did not dispose of all the plant and we had to undertake the disposal of a certain amount. There is also a small increase in the matter of removals, but that is a fluctuating sum and obviously one cannot be sure of the amount required each year. I am prepared to answer any question on details, but I hope hon. Members will see their way to give me the Vote for the reasons I have mentioned.
Captain A. EVANS
I wish to draw attention to the item on page 66 under the heading "Services Arising Out of the War," which is described as follows "Expenses of disposal of equipment, etc., surplus to requirements," and the amount is £12,400. In this connection it is interesting to note that at an auction held by the Disposal Board a short time ago, a serviceable aeroplane was disposed of for the sum of £2 10s. [An HON. MEMBER: "Two aeroplanes! "] No, my information is that only one was sold for that amount, but I am quite prepared to accept the suggestion that there were two. In view of the state of the national finances at this period it is an extraordinary unhusinesslike procedure to ask the House for £12,000 for expenses incurred in selling serviceable aeroplanes at this absurd and ridiculous price. I submit that these aeroplanes should be withdrawn from sale if a reasonable reserve price is not reached.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I was looking for a reference to the matter in the Estimate, but. I cannot find any mention of aeroplanes.
§ Mr. G. SPENCER
I wish to ask some questions with reference to the Anthrax 1455 Disinfecting Station at Liverpool. If I am correctly informed, the original contractor for this building would not bind himself to erect all the apparatus by a certain date. The firm which had the original contract, being either unable or unwilling to erect a particular press which was required, by a certain date, the Department, without consulting the Treasury or any other competent authority, entered into a second contract. They had to pay a certain compensation, I believe, to the first contractor, because the contract more or less was broken, so far as he was concerned. When this was brought to the notice of the Treasury, they refused to give sanction to the spending of the money for the second contract., the Auditor-General stating:The Treasury furnished me with further correspondence on the subject, which shows that their Lordships have declined to give covering sanction to the expenditure incurred under the second contract, on the ground that their previous approval was not asked for—a variation involving the taxpayer in additional expenditure.Does this particular Vote include the amount which is owing to the second contractor, and have the Treasury now given sanction to something which they objected to in the first instance? If so, why have they changed their mind?
§ Sir W. DAVISON
I should like to ask a question in connection with Brompton Cemetery, which has already been alluded to, and which is in my constituency. I should be glad to know whether the cemetery fees have been increased to produce this large revenue of £7,000, and, secondly, if that is so, for what reason these fees have been increased. Finally, I should like to know whether, if economies have been made in connection with the burials in Brompton Cemetery, the people of Kensington are not. entitled to receive the benefit of economies made in connection with their own funerals.
§ Mr. LINFIELD
I wish again to protest against the manner in which large sums of money are being voted. We have £2,500,000 being voted now, and the only reasons that have been advanced up to now are, in the first place, that the sum is less than last year, which is not a very sound reason for voting £2,500,000—and I hope the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) 1456 will again join me in this protest, although it might endanger my seat in the next General Election—and secondly, that we must obtain the Vote by 11o'clock.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
We cannot go on with this Vote after 11 o'clock. Unless we get this Vote by 11 o'clock. it falls for this occasion.
§ Mr. LINFIELD
Some of us are reluctant to deprive the right hon. Gentleman of the Vote, but I think hon. Members will feel that, in the interests of the general taxpayer, we ought to have more information than we have had. I shall protest on every occasion when money is voted in this way.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
As so much has been said about Brompton Cemetery, I should like to say that I hope no objection will be taken to the amount spent there, and I appeal especially to the Welsh Members opposite, as George Borrow was buried there, and the least we can do is to look after the grave of a great man like that. I would also mention that my own grandfather was buried there. I wish to draw attention—last year. on this same Vote, I drew attention to it—to the Furniture Vote, on page 64. I see that £65,000 is now going to be spent for the general supply of new furniture and fittings (tables, chairs, presses, racks, etc.). I cannot think why, in the world, the Government want to spend money, year after year, on this matter. I happen to have worked in a Government office during the War. I saw stacks of furniture being taken into Government offices, and saw furniture being taken out. We have luckily shut up some Government offices, and there ought to be plenty of chairs, presses, racks and bottles, for which we have paid. Now we find "baskets, glasses and china" in the Vote to the amount of £2,150. I raised this point last year, and I shall never be satisfied until the Office of Works appoint a Committee to look into the stores of furniture and other equipment. they have in hand. The Government Departments ought to be made to do with what they have got, and ought not to spend money every year. Though I shall vote for this Vote, I think it is thoroughly bad management that we should have, year after 1457 .year, to put down more money for furniture and other things of which, I am perfectly certain, we have an ample store.
§ Mr. J. JONES
As a large amount of this Vote is in connection with the building industry, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what is going to happen in the case of the building trade dispute, which has a direct bearing upon the amount of the money to be voted? A large number of contractors are interested in cemeteries, because their grandfathers were buried there. I wish they themselves were buried at the same time as their grandfathers. The quantity of furniture that may be in Government offices has evidently provided profit for the people who have sold furniture. They-were very anxious, during the War, to make money at the expense of the nation. They made money, and they unloaded the stuff off on to the Government. Now they are grumbling about the expense. They are the people who provided the furniture, who caused all the extra expense, and who made excess profits. Now they are grumbling about having to pay for it.
§ Mr. JONES
I know. Next year, any year, will do. So far as I am concerned, I want to know how much of this £2,000,000, that is to be paid out in this Department, will go to building contractors who are going to throw their men on to the streets? Are the Government going to support them? Are the contracts going to be kept on, in spite of the breach of the agreement? An agreement was entered into, but the Government themselves, who are the principal parties to the concern, in connection with this Vote will not give us an interpretation of the agreement., which is supposed to be a document. The Kaiser has been denounced with regard to "a scrap of 1458 paper." Is not a trade union agreement, between workmen and employers, just as much a legal document as any Treaty made between nations?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I would ask the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) if he is connecting his argument in regard to the building trade contractors with this particular Vote?
§ Mr. JONES
Certainly, Sir; I thank you for the correction. I am trying, if I can, on this Vote to ask what the Gevernment are prepared to do in the event of a lock-out in the building trade. Some of the greatest contractors in the building trade in Great Britain are involved in this Vote—Government contractors because the hon. Gentleman himself has mentioned the fact that they are now carrying out certain contracts on behalf of the Government. Am I allowed to ask this question—whether these contractors will be kept to their contract? Are they going to be permitted to lock out their men, in spite of an agreement which some of the greatest lawyers in the country have said stands for law, and are the Government going to back them up, or are they going to see that the work is carried out in spite of the decision of the employers? I am asking that question with all due deference, because we are not going to sit down quietly and see legal enactments, which have been entered into by reasonable people on all sides, broken. There are hundreds of thousands of pounds involved in Government work now going on, and if on Saturday these men are to be locked out, we say that the Government are taking sides against the men. Is the Government going to take any steps to protect a legal agreement entered into between the workers end employers in an industry in which I happen to be interested?
§ Sir J. BAIRD
The works in progress are under contract, and there is no strike clause in those contracts.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
There is no strike clause in the contract, and certainly it is a very open question whether or not we could hold contractors to that contract. They are not posting the notices in our contract, and if they can carry on by the existing wages, we hope they will do so
§ Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,281,000, be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.1460
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his-Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.