HC Deb 10 December 1925 vol 189 cc649-50

asked the Prime Minister whether, in order that everything possible may he done to secure reduction of Government expenditure, he will consider appointing a group of independent committees, each, containing one Member of Parliament and two business men, to examine and report to him on the various Departments?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Churchill)

I would remind my hon. Friend that in recent years Departments have been examined and reported upon by various Committees similar to those suggested, and also by the Geddes Committee and the Anderson Committee, consisting of such eminent business men as Sir E. Geddes, Lord Incheape, Lord Farringdon, Lord Maclay, Sir Guy Granet, Sir Alan Anderson, Sir Herbert Lawrence and Sir Peter Rylands. At the present time a further comprehensive inquiry is being made into every Department and every branch of national expenditure by a special Cabinet Committee and also by the Colwyn Committee. In these circumstances I do not think farther Committees of the kind suggested could serve any useful purpose.


May I ask, with all respect, in view of the very favourable results arrived at by the Committees enumerated by my right hon. Friend, does be not think that the present Cabinet Committee, in the very onerous duties it has undertaken, might be insisted by an independent Committee such as I have outlined?


I do not think we should gain any assistance from an additional Committee at the present time.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOSEPH NALL

Could not arrangements be made for the Estimates Committee to consider in detail some of the more important Estimates before they are considered in Committee of Supply in this House; and is it not the fact that the Estimates Committee usually functions after the Vote has been passed?


That is a rather far-reaching question, and I think notice ought to be given of it.


Have any of these committees of inquiry examined in detail the work performed by individual civil servants and decided whether it is perforated in the most efficient way; have they inquired as to whether the system of correspondence is the most economical, and would the right hon. Gentleman consider an inquiry of that kind?


These matters have been and are at the present time subject to examination.


Since the right hon. Gentleman has admitted the value of a committee of business men, will he experiment with a committee of non-business men?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a strong feeling in the country that any committee which depends very largely on the departmental heads for suggestions cannot be expected to make any drastic proposals for economy?


I have no reason to suppose—indeed I have the strongest reason not to suppose—that the permanent heads of the different Departments will not loyally support their official Parliamentary chiefs in the concerted effort which is now being made to check the growth of expenditure.