HC Deb 06 March 1924 vol 170 cc1782-4

Ordered, That a Select Committee be appointetd to examine such of the Estimates presented to this House as may seem fit to the Committee, and to suggest the form in which the Estimates shall be presented for examination, and to report what, if any, economies consistent with the policy implied in those Estimates, may be effected therein.

Ordered, That the Committee do consist of Twenty-eight Members: Mr. Ackroyd, Mr. Black, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Charleton, Sir Henry Craik Captain Viscount Curzon, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Hannon, Mr. Harmsworth, Mr. Haycock, Mr. Hoffman; Mr. Pethick-Lawrence, Mr. Mackinder, Sir John Marriott, Sir William Mitchell-Thomson, Mr. Mond, Mr. Murray, Sir John Pennefather, Sir Philip Pilditch. Mr. Rose, Mr. Arthur Michael Samuel, Sir Archibald Sinclair, Mr. D. G. Somerville, Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay, Mr. Graham White, Colonel Penry Williams, Sir Fredric Wise, and Mr. Andrew Young nominated Members of the Committee.

Ordered, That Seven be the quorum of the Committee.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House.

Ordered, That the Committee have power, if they so determine, to appoint one or more Sub-committees, and in that event to apportion the subjects referred to the Committee between the Sub-committes, any of which shall have the full powers of the undivided Committee; and that Four be the quorum of any of the Sub-committees."—[Mr. Griffiths.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Committee do report any evidence taken by the Committee or by any of the Sub-committees to the House."—[Mr. Griffiths.]


I desire to move, to leave out the word "do" and insert instead thereof the word "may." My reason for moving this Amendment is that the Committee on Estimates have a roving commission to inquire into the Estimates, and it is very desirable, if they choose, that they shall take evidence anywhere where they can get it, and I do not think it necessary to lay upon them the duty of reporting to the House all the evidence which they may take. If they choose to get information from people who do not wish to be quoted or wish to have the publicity of being put forward in Parliamentary Papers, I do not know why this information should be withheld from the Committee. They can make what use of it they think fit. To require that they should report it may be to limit their usefulness if the effect in that they are not to have any information in certain cases if they do not report in full to the House.

Mr. GRIFFITHS (Treasurer of the Household)

I regret that the Government cannot accept this Amendment, and I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw it. We have met him in an objection which he has raised for the last fortnight. He wanted members from the Public Accounts Committee, who investigate audited accounts, to be members of the Estimates Committee. That was conveyed to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister has increased the number from 24 to 28 in order to meet the point put forward by the right hon. Member. Now, after we have agreed through the usual channels to meet the views of the right hon. Member, he asks the House to withhold all the information and all the knowledge that the Committee obtained. I hope that the right hon Member will not object any further. We have tried to meet him as far as we possibly can.


It is evident from the speech of the hon. Gentleman that he has not understood the meaning of my Motion. Until I am sure that the Government are possessed of my intention I cannot withdraw.


Does the hon. Member persist in his objection?


I would suggest that the Government should put this down.


I have no desire to go against the general convenience of the House. The Estimates Committee is an essential part of the financial machinery of the House. It is the case that the Government have met me on one important matter, but that was not the whole of what I think is required. I saw that the difficulties of the Estimates Committee were likely to be so great that I declined to go on it myself. It will do the Government no harm if the Committee can go ahead. If the Resolution be now passed in this form, all that will happen is that the Committee will report or will not report their proceedings as they think fit. At any time this additional Resolution can be carried. Therefore I am in the hands of the House.