Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £45,000, be granted to 'His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during au year ending on the 31st day of March, L925, for Stationery, Printing, Paper, Binding, and Printed Books for the 'Public Service; for the Salaries and Expenses of the Stationery Office; and for sundry Miscellaneous services, including Reports of Parliamentary Debates.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I desire to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is in charge of this Vote, why this extra expenditure was not foreseen, and he, of ail people, ought to welcome this inquiry on my part. This is a substantial Supplementary Estimate, and I would again draw the attention of the Committee to this long list of indefensible Supplementaries. I wish to make as strong a protest as I can against this practice, which indicates lack of foresight, and, I am afraid, in some cases, extravagance in administration. I hope we shall have a full explanation of the reason why this additional £45,000 is asked for, although it. does not form a very large proportion of the total Estimate for stationery, paper and binding, which, I believe, amounts to about £1,500,000. It is not, surely, going to be said that so many Commissions of Inquiry were set up by the late Government—which is not the case; I do not think they set up more than the previous Government—and their reports had to be printed and produced and that cost all this extra money. That is an explanation that I find not satisfactory at all. Is it that the cost of material has gone up? I do not see this in the explanation. All it says is that unforeseen requirements and the necessity of overtaking arrears of binding work are greater than was anticipated. What were the requirements which were not foreseen? What sudden demand for Government publications was made? What section of the community 1173 took to devouring blue books and sent in large orders'? I think we ought to be enlightened on this point.
As to the arrears of binding work. surely that could have been foreseen. I take it that once more the old plea of unemployment could have been brought in when the original Estimates were brought up and provision made to overtake these arrears without coming to the House for a Supplementary Estimate now. Why have we no Appropriation-in-Aid? I do not see the sub-head in the Supplementary Estimate. It is obvious that if the Government print a new series of publications—Blue Books, returns, and so on—some are sold to the public or to reference libraries. Therefore there roust be some Appropriation-in-Aid, and it is rather extraordinary that that does not figure in the return. Is any part of the expenditure due to the printing of our Parliamentary Debates? If any part of it is due to the sale of our Parliamentary Debates, I wish to put a question to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, because I think our present system is wrong, and if altered would bring in more revenue to the State. I think it is quite wrong to charge so much for the Parliamentary Debates. The reason for the charge is not so much the cost of producing the books, and taking down the Debates in shorthand.
I do not see where the hon. and gallant Gentleman gets any item for the Parliamentary Debates.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think I can show you, Sir, that in this case I am in order. I am trying to show that so much money would not be required for a Supplementary Estimate if more were made by the sale of the Parliamentary Debates.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will observe that there is no Appropriation-in-Aid. If there were an Appropriation-in-Aid for the sale of the Parliamentary Debates it would be in order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must wait until the main Vote comes on.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
There is no Appropriation-in-Aid. I have drawn the attention of the Minister to that.
The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Guinness)
There is no change in the Appropriation-in-Aid, and therefore it does not figure in the Estimate.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
was proposing to move to reduce the amount by £1,000 in order to draw attention to the point. I think you will agree, Sir, that I can bring my remarks into full order if I can show that the sales of this Government publication would be much greater and more money would come in if it were made cheaper.
I am afraid it will not be in order to argue that the Depart-merit might by some particular method make more money in other ways. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must wait for the main Estimate for that.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Until I have heard the right hon. Gentleman's reply, I do not propose to move any reduction.
§ Mr. RILEY
I should like to add my plea for a little more information as to the reason for this additional £45,000 on the three items set forth. I have no special reason for objecting to a liberal expenditure upon books and papers, being associated with the industry, but I am certainly somewhat surprised that there is so much additional money for bookbinding. I want to ask the Minister, in view of the fact that there is a decrease in the cost of materials, and also in the quantity of work done for the House, whether any portion of the £15,000 on page 6, which refers to money for bookbinding, is required for work in the libraries in the House. I ask the question for this reason, and it is a reason that makes it more surprising to find this additional Estimate. I have noticed, in going over the library of the House in the last year or so, that instead of having the books bound in sumptuous and luxurious calf en a good morocco, we are 1175 adopting the method of having them bound in cloth, which must be an enormous saving on past expenditure. It is all the more surprising to find an additional Estimate for £15,000 for bookbinding. There is also the other fact that the cost of materials is steadily doing down. Whatever the case may be with regard to wages in the printing and bookbinding trades, in materials there is a gradual, steady decrease in cost. In view of these facts we are entitled to an explanation why there is this provision for £15,000?
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
Had you, Sir, permitted the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.- Commander Kenworthy) to enter upon the topic which he ventured on, many of us might have followed his example, because I am by no means without severe condemnation of the Stationery Office. I have some suspicion of the Supplementary Estimate itself. Why is it that we have three items on which an addition is set down? I am suspicious because the deficit on each of these heads is measured at precisely the same sum. That, to me, appears a very artificial way of submitting accounts. It is utterly impossible that exactly this same figure of £15,000 should occur under each of these heads. This is an instance of the practice which has made me entertain very strong suspicions about the whole conduct of this Office, and this Supplementary Estimate increases those suspicions. The Office is carried on on small business lines, not under the immediate supervision of the Minister, as I have more than once had occasion to point out, but by a man who carries it on on the principle of a small commercial business. He finds himself not quite in a position to make the balance sheet meet. He does not consult the Minister, and give him strong and ample reason for going to him, but throws at us a Supplementary Estimate and says: "I do not know exactly what I want, but I want you to give me a lump sum of £15,000 under each of these three heads." I contend that that is a way of balancing hooks and not of showing us how the business is really carried on and on what principle it is 1176 based. The slovenly way in which this Supplementary Estimate is submitted, and the putting of exactly this large, round sum under each of these items, and not attempting to distinguish, confirms me in the suspicion I have with regard to the management of this Office generally.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I find myself in very warm sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. He will, no doubt, have observed that, on the last page of the Supplementary Estimate, there purports to be an explanation in slightly more detail, but I cannot help feeling that the explanation makes his own suspicions only the more justified and natural. See how this £15,000 under the head of "Paper" is said to have come about. We are told thatThe expenditure is expected to exceed the original estimates in the following respects, (c) Departmental Forms and Circulars, instruction Books, etc., Books, pamphlets, etc., £5,000.Two "etcs." in a sentence.(d) Departmental Stationery, Envelopes, Wrapping and Household Paper, Account Books, etc., £10,000.''I think that rather reinforces what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I think I remember that it was the unjust steward who on a particular occasion offered the advice that the thing to do was to sit down quickly and write 50. Someone has recommended that the thing to do is to sit down quickly and Ns-rite £15,000 three times over.
The explanation of this Estimate is that the original figure was cut too fine. There has been very great under-spending in the Department under review for three years running. In 1921–22 there was under-spending of £1,425,000. in 1922–23 there was under-spending of £1,125,000, and in 1923–24, in response no doubt to the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Craik) on the Public Accounts Committee drawing attention to over-estimating, a very drastic cut was made of 1,1,000,000, and even so there was under-spending of £120,000. At that time prices were falling, and the Departments were getting 1177 the benefit of the new economy methods which had been brought into force under the recommendations of the Geddes Committee.
I have not sad it yet. I have said that at the time when there was this over-estimating, prices were falling.
After that period pries ceased to fall and now, as a matter of fact, they have gone up. They are rather higher than those assumed in the Estimates a year ago. There has been in the ease of paper an exhaustion of stocks in the Government Departments. Efforts to economise caused them to look very carefully into their consumption and their stocks. but that very wholesome process has now come to an inevitable end. There has also been a considerable rise in the price of materials. As to binding, an economy took place owing to the recommendations to the Departments not to go in for unnecessary binding, but it has not been found possible to continue the new system of leaving documents unbound, because it was found they were dropping to pieces, and unfortunately a good deal of this economy has proved to he merely postponement. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) asked whether this Estimate refers to the binding of books in the House of Commons Library. The answer is no. That is borne on another Vote. The cost of books is very largely due to unforeseen demands for hooks for the Air Force. I could give the particulars, if necessary. They are small items, which could not be estimated for in advance. There is also a rise in the cost of foreign publications and an increase in the number. The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik), who takes such a close and expert interest in this subject, has his suspicion excited by the round figures. I am informed that that is merely due to 1178 a coincidence. It is much better to have an honest expectation from the Stationery Department, rather than a cooked figure, and to pretend to a closer knowledge of the exact requirements than Is possible at this stage, when the year is not finished.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) is shocked at the frequency of these Supplementary Estimates, which he thinks might have been foreseen. You cannot have close Estimates and also the avoidance of Supplementary Estimates. It is to the advantage of the country that there should be close estimating, even if it means additional Votes by the House of Commons in Supplementary Estimates towards the end of the financial year. Let me remind the Committee how serious this matter had become. In 1922–23, the Estimates laid before the House overestimated the requirements by 12 per cent. That meant an enormous sum abstracted from the pockets of the taxpayers unnecessarily, because the whole amount had to be provided in the Budget. That figure, I am glad to say, has been largely reduced, and it is probable that this year over-estimating will prove to be down to about one-third of the 12 per cent. We cannot tell exactly, but we hope it will be about 4 per cent. It is better that we should have these Supplementary Estimates, where there are satisfactory explanations if unforeseen circumstances have arisen, rather than that we should encourage and allow the Departments to inflate their Estimates, so as to avoid coming back to the House and having their affairs further inquired into.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could inform me to what greater degree additional items in the regard to stationery and printing are included in this Estimate. There grew up in the Departments during the War period, and it has been carried on since, a system of transferring what has been saved on one item to another item where there has been excessive expenditure. The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities knows very well that often on the Public Accounts Committee attention has been called to over- 1179 expenditure, where there has been no Estimate, and the money has come through some saving in another item. Again and again, the Public Accounts Committee has objected to that method of spending money.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The practice of virement is not possible except in the case of the fighting Services.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee with the right hon. Gentleman, and I know that we were constantly calling attention to that method, and more than once we were told that they claimed the right to do that kind of thing.
§ Mr. SPENCER
When there are items, A, B, C, D, F, G and H, how am I to know what saving there has been on A, B, and C? Am I to understand that if there has been any saving on "A" in these Estimates, it cannot be transferred to "B," where there has been excessive expenditure?
In the case of the Civil Service Estimates virement is allowed, under Treasury sanction, between subheads but not between Votes. It is only in the case of the fighting Services that virement is allowing, with Treasury sanction, between Votes.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I should like to know whether the Department are looking ahead to anticipated expenditure in the next few weeks? If we are to believe what we are told, the Stationery Department will be called upon to print copies of the inquiry regarding military preparations in Germany. It goes to the extent of 150 pages, according to the Marquess Curzon. I am told that it will be 128 pages, and other figures are mentioned. In any event, it is a very bulky document. These will have to be published in English and French, and there will be a large demand for it. Has 1180 this matter been foreseen, or shall we have another Supplementary Estimate?
My hon. and gallant.
Friend may rest assured that there will not be a Supplementary Estimate of that kind. He may also rest assured that Estimate has been made as to the questions, for instance, which he may ask, and the additional printing that may be required.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I put a question to-day to the Secretary for Scotland about an important Rent Commission that is sitting in Scotland. We are very anxious that the evidence of that Commission should be printed. I hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will not allow himself to be overawed by what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull. I hope he will turn a very sympathetic ear to the Secretary for Scotland. It is very important that we should get this publication, because the Press reports of the Commission are withholding many—
This is a Supplementary Estimate, and now the hon. Member is suggesting that there will have to be a further Supplementary Estimate.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I hope that the Secretary to the Treasury in this Estimate is taking into account the point that I am putting. I am anxious to persuade him that this Supplementary Estimate should have in view the publication of the Report of the Commission referred to.
It is doubtless within the power of the Secretary to the Treasury to postpone payment till after the. 31st March.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give a sympathetic car to the Secretary for Scotland in regard to this matter, and if he does so I shall be satisfied.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ NAVY SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATE, 1924–25.
Motion made and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £220,000. he granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for additional Expenditure on the following Navy Services, namely—
|Deficits on Gross Expenditure—||£||£||£|
|Vote 4.||Civilians employed on Fleet Services||14,900|
|Vote 8.||Shipbuilding, Repairs. Maintenance, etc.:—|
|Section I. Personnel||545,100|
|Section II Matériel||197,300|
|Vote 9.||aval Armaments||15,700|
|Vote 10.||Works, Buildings, and Repairs at Home and Abroad||134,100|
|Vote 11.||Miscellaneous Effective Services||319,200|
|Vote 12.||Admiralty Office||232,000|
|Vote 14.||Non-Effective Services (Naval and Marine), Men||106,960|
|Amount anticipated to be written off as irrecoverable||15,000|
|Less Surpluses on—||Gross Expenditure.||Appropriations-in-Aid.|
|Vote 2.||Victualling and Clothing for the Navy||27,300||17,400|
|Vote 3.||Medical Establishments and Services||9,000||9,000|
|Vote 5.||Educational Services||4,900||5,000|
|Vote 6.||Scientific Services||20,500||17,200|
|Vote 7||Royal Naval Reserves||37,300||1,700|
|Vote 8.||Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.:—|
|Section I. Personnel||—||82,010|
|Section II. Matériel||—||85,000|
|Section III. Contract Work||436,000||5,000|
|Vote 9.||Naval Armaments||—||449,200|
|Vote 10.||Works. Buildings, and Repairs at Home and Abroad||—||60,000|
|Vote 11.||Miscellaneous Effective Services||—||78,300|
|Vote 13.||Non-Effective Services (Naval and Marine), Officers||9,200||6,000|
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Davidson)
This Supplementary Estimate follows a series of Estimates arising out of the Sutton judgment. The Supplementary Estimate of £220,000 is provided in order to cover the liabilities of the Admiralty arising out of that judgment. With the sanction of the Treasury, the whole of the sum required is being provided and will be found in Vote 12. In the ordinary way, the Admiralty would not have had to come to the House and ask for a further sum of money, but in view of the fact that it was essential to come and ask for this supplementary sum of £220,000, the Admiralty are also asking for authority to use extra savings and in order to meet excess expenditure on other Votes. I would call the attention of the Committee to the fact that although these are not our Estimates, a great deal of the excess expenditure could not be foreseen. Out of a sum amounting almost to £800,000, a sum of £680,000 is due to the 4s. bonus which was granted to the dockyard workers and other wages increases, and £85,000 arises out of pensions increases.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ We have presented a very full Estimate. From time to time before the War, and more particularly since the War, requests have come for further information on the Estimates. When Mr. Bonar Law was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and under succeeding Chancellors of the Exchequer, efforts have been made by the Treasury in presenting Estimates to give fuller information. The Committee will realise that the Admiralty have done their best in this respect. Very full notes are given dealing with the various Votes, showing where the expenditure comes and where there are increases on the Appropriations-in-Aid.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I agree that this is a very full and informative Estimate, in which we are told where savings have occurred and extra expenditure has come about. I would not think of taking advantage of this full Estimate in order to raise the whole subjects of naval debate, but there are two points which are appropriate on this Vote. The first is with regard to Vote 5, "Educational Services." I am extremely sorry to say that the 1183 Appropriation-in-Aid under this sub-Head shows an increase. I do not know what the explanation is. I do not know whether it means that fewer King's cadetships have been given to the sons of officers who fell in the War, or to the widows of naval officers in reduced circumstances. But, at any rate, there it is. The Appropriation-in-Aid is up by some thousands of pounds. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware that I hold very strong views on this whole question of the scale of fees for these cadets. Briefly, the position is that only well-to-do people at present can afford to put their sons into the Navy. In the old days when I entered the Navy, some 20 years ago. naval officers, if they had some small means, could by great economy and saving manage to put their boy into the Navy. Of course, it is impossible now for a naval officer unless he has large private means to do so.
That is opening a question which is not in order on this Vote. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to ask how the Appropriation-in-Aid has been increased, but it appears to me that he is going on to question the policy of the Appropriation-in-Aid.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I will not develop that point. The Admiralty met this criticism to a certain extent by a few free places, but they arc confined to the sons of officers who fell in the War, and the sons of officers serving are excluded. I should be out of order in embarking on the larger question of policy. Another item to which I wish to refer is II "Marriage Allowance." The original Estimate was £1,050,000. The revised Estimate shows an increase of £22,000. I do not want to go into the whole question of marriage allowance in the Service. We had the Report of a very important Committee set up by the late Government under the Chairmanship of a very distinguished officer, Admiral Goodenough, and although the First Lord of the Admiralty quite properly declined to publish that Report, and has the right to withhold, it, it is common knowledge that the Committee reported favourably on this question, and recommended that marriage allowance should be given to officers in the Navy as they are already given to their comrades in the Air Force and the Army, and that this distinction 1184 should no longer be made as against the Service to which the Empire owes so much. Another Committee is looking into the Report of Admiral Goodenough's Committee. If it reports favourably, what does the Government propose to do in. the matter?
I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is now proposing a new Supplementary Estimate. He is proposing something which it is not vet in the power of the Admiralty to grant, or, at any rate, which it has not been decided to grant. We cannot go into that on this Estimate.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I understand that no legislation is required, but simply an administrative act by the Admiralty.
This is not an explanation of anything on the Estimate before us. It is a new Estimate which the hon. and gallant Member is proposing, and that would be, I am afraid, out of order on this Estimate.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Then I am precluded from pursuing this matter any further. I am only glad that I have been able, without going out of order, to draw attention to this matter.
The hon. and gallant Member must not assume that he was not out of order but perhaps I did not appreciate the position in time.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
If inadvertently I was out of order, I am sorry, but I feel strongly on this matter. The main reason for this Vote is the Sutton judgment. It is not necessary to say anything except that, as I am the first speaker on this side of the House on this Vote, we welcome this tardy act of justice, and I am sure that no Supplementary Estimate which has been so far presented is more justified than this Supplementary Estimate by the Admiralty to put right a very grave injustice to a very gallant body of civil servants. I am glad that the Admiralty have taken the Committee into their confidence and have given sufficient information on the Supplementary Estimate which shows that this increase is the result of the one judgment.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I rise to draw attention to one item on Page 5 under Vote 5—"Educational Services." I regret very much that we are not told in con- 1185 nection with this item how many naval cadets are actually being trained at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and consequently we are not able to estimate what is the average cost per cadet. It would be very helpful if we could know what the average cost is. Perhaps I may be able to get it before I resume my seat. I find on page 24 of the Geddes Report that in the preceding year, when they examined the expenditure in regard to his particular item, the average cost per cadet in the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, excluding any consideration of the cost of public buildings, came to the colossal sum of £462 per cadet, and die Committee said that in their opinion such a sum was far too high, and members of this Committee will cordially agree with that.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
That excludes the cost of the whole naval staff. The hon. Member must not compare it with an ordinary school.
§ Mr. JONES
I am not; I am comparing it, as the Geddes Committee compared it, with the ordinary public school. They considered £462 was most excessive, and they recommended that that amount should be reduced by about £150 per head. I wish to know what is the present average cost per cadet, so as to discover whether, as a consequence of the Report of the Geddes Committee, there has or has not been economy on this matter, and I should be very glad to have an answer to that question.
§ Sir FREDRIC WISE
I also would appreciate an answer to the question which has been put by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), and I would like to know how much the parents pay for a cadet in the naval college. Turning to Page 11, Vote 11, Sub-head O, I notice that the original Estimate, "Percentage to Banks, Loss by Exchange, etc.," was 25,000, and that the revised Estimate is £2,500, which is £2,500 less, and I would be glad to have an explanation of that.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I welcome this Supplementary Estimate for one of the reasons given by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). It is always a pleasure, no matter what Government is in power, to have a Supplementary Estimate presented to increase the wages of people who deserve it. Therefore I congratulate the Government on this Supplementary Estimate. I wish, however, to refer to the question of the construction of ships under private contract. Some of us may disagree as to the policy of building those cruisers, and some of us may differ as to whether they should have gone to private yards or not.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
To Vote 8, Section 3, "Contract Work," all the items. Every member of the Committee will, however, agree that, once the contracts have been given, land once the principle has been adopted, whatever unemployed people can be employed should be given employment at the earliest possible moment. I wish to point out that the item in regard to inspection of the work under Sub-head F' shows a decrease of £14,500. What is the reason for this decrease? I do not blame anybody, and I do not. say that the feeling which exists is right, but there is a feeling in the yards that this work is not being proceeded with in time to absorb anything like the number of men who, it was thought, were likely to be absorbed by the work. Will the decrease in this item affect the rapidity with which the work will be carried out, or will it affect in any way the standard of classification as to how the work will be carried out? It is essential that the inspection of work carried out, particularly in private yards, should be thorough. Will the decrease in this Estimate affect in any way the efficiency or extension of the work? There is urgent need for seeing that your inspecting staff is fully equipped, in order, not only that the work might be done, but that the unemployed might be as fully engaged as the capacity of the yard will permit. I remember that two years ago we had a good deal of trouble with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who is now known as the Chief Whip of the Government. That trouble was due to the 1187 fact that the work was not proceeded with as we wished in order to absorb as many men as we had anticipated. I hope that the reduced Estimate will not allow the private contractor more scope in discharging men and that men will not be employed in smaller numbers than was originally anticipated. r want to refer also to what is called the "Royal Reserve of Merchant Cruisers." I say openly that I know nothing about this particular subject. I see that it is intended to spend £8,000 more on this Reserve. Would I be presumptuous if I asked the hon. Gentleman to explain what is meant by "Merchant Cruisers"?
The last point to which I wish to refer is the Appropriation-in-Aid, Item L. I see here it states, "Recoveries from contractors in respect of cancelled orders greater than allowed for." Under that head there is £5,000 more than was originally anticipated. I wish to know how far orders have been cancelled. What is the nature of the cancelled orders? What parts of the country do these orders affect? It is important, when we are spending £5,000 more than was anticipated, to get an explanation of what the recoveries from contractors mean. Some of us who represent shipbuilding constituencies want to know what is this cancelled work, what is the reason for it, and if it cannot now be put in hand? On page 12. Vote 13, Section A, I see a reference to "Half-pay and unemployed pay," and I notice that the Government are spending £7,300 more than was anticipated. In connection with unemployed pay, I want to know how the Admiralty pay this money. Does it go only to officers, or does it apply to workmen engaged in the yards or to naval ratings, the ordinary sailor, in the same way as it applies to an officer? I put these questions with no wish to delay the Committee. I congratulate the Government on this increase of wages, and the only wish I can express, on behalf of many of the workers, is that the increase might have been even greater and the Supplementary Estimates for an even larger amount.
§ Major HORE-BELISHA
Although I cannot agree with everything that the hon. Member has just said, I thoroughly sympathise with his point of view. Seeing that there is only a certain sum 1188 of money to be spent on the naval requirements of the country, I would like to see that money spent in the national dockyards rather than in the subsidising of private enterprise.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Let me explain what I said. I said that there may be differences of opinion about the placing of the cruisers order, or where they ought to be built, but that once the House of Commons has decided on construction we ought all to agree that the work should be put in hand at once in order to absorb the unemployed.
I quite agree. I accept the hon. Member's statement. I sympathise with his point of view, which is, no doubt, that as much money as possible should be spent in the private shipyards in his own constituency. I have no wish to misrepresent him in any way. This Supplementary Estimate is, as the Financial Secretary has said, mainly necessitated by the Sutton judgment. As far as that is concerned, the dockyards are in a very peculiar position. They are composed entirely of men with a peculiar type of skill which is indispensable to the country, and their position is different from that of a great many other employés who joined up at the beginning of the War in response to a certain circular invitation—an invitation offered to those who joined up and served during the War of their civil pay during the period of their engagement. When bonuses came to be given the bonuses were withheld as not being part of the pay. The Sutton judgment has decided that bonus should have been paid to these men. But during this period most of the dockyard hands were not allowed to go to the Front. Therefore, I trust very much that the Admiralty will view their position with some generosity and consideration. When they were allowed to go they were in many cases enlisted under the Military Service Acts and were deprived of civil pay during the period of their engagement. In view of the fact that all these men were ready to go at the outbreak of War, and indeed anxious to go, but were for the most part restrained from so doing, I hope that the Financial 1189 Secretary is going to stretch the point as much as possible, and, wherever he can, to give the full benefit of these judgments to the dockyards as well as to the lads under 18—of whom there were a great many, who, of course, were not allowed to go, as they were not of age, but were subsequently conscribed in the ordinary way—and such women as joined the W.A.A.C.'s and the W.R.N.S. I hope that he will not take the narrow legal point of view in this matter.
I would like to know how much it has cost the Government to fight these cases and whether any sum is included in this Estimate, or whether it comes under another Estimate. The case cost the men a great deal of money. I see that the Financial Secretary shakes his head. I understand, therefore, that there is no sum included in this Estimate, but that it is borne in the Estimate of another Department. The Financial Secretary referred to the 4s. bonus. What categories of dockyard employés were excluded from the benefit of that bonus? Were the women, the young labourers and apprentices, excluded? If so, why were they excluded? Was it because they had no representation on the Whitley Council. and if they had no such representation will he take steps to readjust the machinery so that an increase of this sort applies to all, whether they be adequately represented, inadequately represented, or not represented at all? The hon. Gentleman also referred to the Pensions (Increase) Act. I hope to hear from him that all the increases which are due to his pensioners have now been paid. The hon. Gentleman is aware that a considerable amount of anxiety has been felt by these pensioners on account of the delay of which the Admiralty has been guilty, unwittingly, in liquidating its obligations. There is one further question. I notice in Vote 10, Sub-head B, under the heading "New Works," that as much money has not been expended as was originally estimated, and I want to know why that money has not been expended, particularly in view of the fact that it would have given a great impetus to the absorption of the unemployed in the dockyard towns. I want to know, for instance, about the berth for the floating dock at Devonport.
§ Major HORE-BELISHA
So much the better, but I want to know about this particular item of the floating dock, because I am not sure that the remark applies to that. How is that berth getting on? It has repercussions not only on the strategical position of the Fleet, but on the Navy, because the ships have to go to Rosyth, and the men have to pay their fares when they come home to Devonport on leave because the dock is not there. It is almost inconceivable to reflect that there is not one single dock big enough to berth a Dreadnought—
I understand that the hon. and gallant Member suggests that more money should be spent on this dock?
§ Major HORE-BELISHA
No; I was merely inquiring whether the money estimated for had been spent on this dock. I will not pursue that subject any further. I wish to congratulate the Financial Secretary on the great courtesy he has shown in this Debate, and in dealing with matters that. I have brought to his attention.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I would like to put sonic considerations of a more general order. As I understand it, the Vote put by the Chair is for £220,000. That, therefore, covers the whole of the items which appear in the White Paper. The figures when they are totalled up show a comparatively small difference between the Estimates of last year and the figures which will have to appear in the Appropriation Accounts and in due course will have to be met out of the revenue of this current year. But if we look at the items, not setting the one off against the other but taking the items one by one, there are some immense differences between the Estimates and the actual expenditure. So great are they, that except in the period since the War, I think they are without parallel in our Navy Votes. Since the War we know that there have been many instances of estimating that went wrong. It was difficult to foresee the market conditions and almost impossible to realise what size the Navy would assume year by year, and in the reductions that took place the pace of the reduction naturally affected the figures. But when there are such 1191 great differences as more than £500,000 under Section 1 of Vote 8, and very nearly £500,000 on the other side under Section 3, it is not enough to set one off against the other and say that the bad estimating was only £110,000 out. It was indeed £500,000 out on the one Vote and £400,000 out on the other, and it is not the difference between these two figures which is the measure of the error, but the sum of the two. So far as error is concerned, there was an error of nearly £1,000,000 on these two items alone. When we come to Votes 11 and 12 there is also an immense difference between the original estimate and the actual expenditure. Vote 12 is largely affected by the Sutton decision, but the other Votes are not affected by anything which has happened in the Law Courts. There has been one change which has affected many of these Votes, namely, the increase in the rates of pay referred to by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). Of course, no one thinks the rise in the rates of pay is improper. and the Admiralty are not to be blamed for having made a bad shot at what they anticipated would be the pay in the year 1924–25, but even if we take all the wage items out, there still remain immense differences which can only be the result of very much wider accounting and wider margins than ever occurred in pre-War days.
I do not think it unreasonable to ask the, Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to use all his zeal from the first time he sets foot in the Admiralty Department to bring the Estimates far nearer the actual expenditure than they have 'been in recent years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will never be able to budget closely if there is always to be an effort on the part. of each branch of the Admiralty to have a large balance up its sleeve. This tendency has led in recent years to immense surpluses which have gone to the reduction of debt. Whether they went to the reduction of debt rightly or wrongly is not for us to decide now, but the fact remains that these immense surpluses were not measured on any principle whatever. They were an absolute fluke and they were brought about entirely by the very wide margins taken in the spending Departments in order that they might not be held up at the end of the financial 1192 year, or in order that they might avoid such Supplementary Estimates as those with which we are now faced. On those general considerations I hope I am expressing the views of those who keep a. rather strict eye on Department accounting when I say that the feeling is very general, outside as well as inside this House, that in these times there should be far closer accounting and more exact bookkeeping than there has been at any period since the War, and that the old War feeling with regard to large figures should be exterminated as rapidly as may be.
When we come to some of the items on which there has been heavy expenditure, we can blame neither the Sutton decision nor the decision to increase the rates of pay. For instance, in Section II of Vote 8 the item for timber and timber materials has gone up from £140.000 to £170,000. Surely at a time when timber charges have been declining and the price of timber going down, particularly in the soft woods, it is very difficult to understand why such a bad shot should have been made at the expenditure over the year by the Admiralty on timber. Similarly with regard to metals. The general tendency—though it does not apply to all metals—has been downwards, and the Parliamentary Secretary should explain how it happens that with a tendency to decline, in most metals though not in all, the expenditure should have gone up by £46,000 above what must have been a generous estimate at the beginning of the year. When one comes to the miscellaneous section, one finds under Sub-head E, Section II, Vote 8, for compasses, paint materials, furniture. etc., an increase of nearly £100,000. There must he something seriously wrong in the estimating here. I imagine these are items not only for the navigation instruments but for the means by which we make our ships look smart, and it is strange that there should have been an increase to this amount. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will also give us some explanation on that point.
Under the heading of fuel for the Fleet there is an increase of £228,000. During the very period covered by this enormous increase in expenditure on fuel, coal has been continuously declining and the Admiralty have had an opportunity of placing contracts at lower rates than have been available for many years past while, 1193 as far as I have been able to ascertain, the increase cannot be accounted for by a large increase in the consumption of fuel oil, Fuel oil prices may have moved about a good deal, and it may be that the Parliamentary Secretary does not care to give the Committee the exact prices paid under this heading. It is generally known in trade circles, but I believe it has been the custom in years past not to disclose it in the House. We are supposed to be the only persons who are not to know exactly how much we pay for the fuel burned in our ships. Here, however, we have an increase on a declining market, and I should be obliged if my right hon. Friend would tell me how it arises. If we were told whether there has been any special cause for it, and why it has been found necessary to pay more rather than less for the coal and oil consumed, it would be a little more enlightening for the Committee.
I turn to an entirely different set of items under the heading of Appropriations-in-Aid. There have been some most important adjustments. For instance, under Vote B changes have been made which cover something like £175,000—proceeds from sales of ships and from supplies of stores to other Departments less than anticipated. Would the Parliamentary Secretary let us know whether this refers to the sale of auxiliary ships and old battleships for breaking-up purposes—and if it refers to the latter whether the amount was in any way reduced by the use made of the "Marlborough" for target purposes and for experiment with explosives and projectiles some six weeks or two months ago—or whether it refers to the smaller prices obtained for vessels which have been dismantled. I find at the bottom of this page a most illuminating note:Clearance of outstanding claims including final settlement of claim by an Allied Government for supplies during the War period, £274,000.That is the first of three or four items of a similar nature where adjustments have been made between ourselves and Allied Governments and the Dominions. May I ask why an item of this kind appears in these Estimates rather than being dealt with in exactly the same way as other Allied debts. Have we received payment for these materials or has payment been withheld? What is the exact 1194 position between the Admiralty and the similar departments of the Allied Governments which accounts for this large difference? An item for additional bonus to crews of fuelling crafts comes under the same heading and is part of that Appropriation-in-Aid which is provided for by adjustments as between ourselves and an Allied Government and on which the Committee is entitled to some further explanation. A similar transaction appears to be recorded in Item M of Vote 9. In this case there appear to have been large recoveries from private firms and from Dominion and Allied Governments arising out of transactions during previous years. May we have some particulars as to these transactions between ourselves and Allied and Dominion Governments on which there has been a large recovery—so large as to send up the Appropriation-in-Aid from £360,000 to over £800,000, an increase of nearly half a million under this heading alone.
My right hon. Friend might also tell us why there have been large recoveries from private firms? On what grounds were these firms requested to make such very large recoveries? What was the nature of the business dealings between the Government and the private firms which led to these large recoveries? Had there been defects in the supplies sent to the Admiralty, or what other explanation can be given of these recoveries from private firms? I understand they come under the general description of naval armaments, and there must be some explanation for them which either comes within the category of defective work or over-payment beforehand or return of materials or goods which have not been taken up by the Government but on which payment had been made. It would he well if the Committee were told the exact reason for these large recoveries from private firms as well as from the Dominions and Allied Governments. There are some other increases of a rather startling character in various items throughout the whole Votes, but I think these may be generally put down to the fact that for a long time past it has not been the custom in the various departments of the Admiralty to apply the pre-War standards of accuracy to their accounting, and I dare say something is due to the fact that an immense number of sub-heads 1195 appear which did not appear in pre-War days and these automatically increase the charge on the Admiralty Vote. In making these criticisms and inquiries, I am not actuated by a spirit unfriendly to the Admiralty. I believe if there is any Department which ought to have the money which it requires for its purpose, it is the Admiralty, but I think it necessary for the good repute of the Admiralty itself and in the interests of the more businesslike management of the whole affairs of the Navy that our accounting should be done with a greater degree of accuracy, that there should be an elimination, as far as possible, of all waste, and that, in the completion of the annual accounts, we should fine the balance between the Estimate with which the year opens and the actual expenditure, down to a narrower margin than appears in the accounts.
§ Sir F. WISE
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) has dealt with practically all the points which arise on these Votes, but I wish to ask the Financial Secretary a question on Vote 11, Sub-head D, relating to telegraphic and telephonic communications. I notice there is an increase there of £63,000, and there is also a reference in Sub-head Z to miscellaneous payments and allowances amounting to £312,300. Both these sub-heads are for war work, and I should like to know whether this is a final payment for war work.
§ Mr. AMMON
I also desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions, not by way of adverse criticism, but in the hope of receiving favourable replies. I observe in Vote 5, Subsection C, an increase in the amount of money to be voted in connection with the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth for the training of naval cadets. I should like to know whether anything is being done with regard to the scheme which was in mind to find facilities for people of humbler means in connection with the training of naval officers. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give us some information with regard to this matter and let us know if this Vote is a step in the direction I have indicated. In Vote 9, Subsection D, there is a reduction of £4,000 in respect of the wages of police forces, and this I presume is largely due to the 1196 substitution of the Metropolitan Police the newer force which has been called in to do that work. At the risk of repeating what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Major Fiore-Belisha) I wish to ask for a statement with regard to the three sections of persons who would come under Vote 12 in regard to arrears of civil pay. First, there are persons who originally volunteered to serve with the forces, who were detained owing to the exigencies of the service, but were afterwards called to the colours when the Military Service Act came into operation. The others are those who volunteered for service, were medically examined and rejected at the time, and were subsequently called up for active Service after the Military Service Act was in operation. The first section are numbers of people who were actually under age, but serving with the colours, and willing to serve, though not able, and who were called to the colours after the Military Service Act Was passed. Will they be included when this money is paid out? I put these questions from the point of view of one who has been in a like position with the hon. Member representing the Department, and of one, therefore, who has a certain amount of sympathy with him but in order that we might be quite clear on the different points.
I will first of all reply to the general observations of the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman). I can assure him that, so far as I am concerned, there is nothing which will give me greater pleasure than close estimating in the Admiralty. It is not always easy, but, as far as it lies with the Admiralty, I am quite sure we shall do all that we can to get our expenditure more or less in line with the Estimates which we present to the House. The right hon. Gentleman called attention to Vote 8, Section II, and pointed out the increased expenditure under Subheads A and b. The information at my disposal suggests that expenditure in both these cases has been due in the main to variations in prices of timber and of certain metals required by the Admiralty, the prices of which have increased. So far as the question about an Allied Government is concerned. I would call my right hon. Friend's attention to the note at the bottom of the page. This is a final settlement of a very old difficulty, 1197 which it was not anticipated would be satisfactorily settled so quickly, and although, from the purely financial point of view, it is regrettable that this sum should have to be included, it is satisfactory to think that a settlement has been arrived at with Italy in this matter. Now let me deal with the question raised—
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Can the hon. Member give an explanation of Subhead M, on page 10, which is of exactly the same nature, but, obviously, it cannot be for the same Government, and it includes private firms?
Certainly. The position is this: Ever since the War, owing to circumstances which arose during the War and the difficulty in emergencies of making precise arrangements with regard to the recovery of sums of money, due in some cases to the fact that accounts were not kept very strictly, and due in other cases to losses of ships and their papers, it was very difficult to arrive at agreements with persons against whom the Admiralty had claims, and in many cases it has been, unhappily, necessary to seek the Law Courts and arbitration in trying to get agreements with them. The result is, that from time to time these cases—I am glad to think there are very few of them left—have arisen, and settlements have been arrived at. These recoveries from contractors have practically all arisen from circumstances due to the War. We hope, and I am sure every hon. Member hopes, that these things will gradually disappear, but until they do, it is very difficult to get a close estimate.
It is exactly the came difficulty that we had over the ease of the Dominion of Canada, which is referred to on Vote 9. An agreement has been arrived at with the Dominion of Canada which was not expected, and, therefore, it was not provided for in the Estimates when they were presented to the House last year. As regards the question of Dartmouth, the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) asked for an explanation and details as to how much a cadet costs. He quoted the sum of £462 as the sum which the Geddes Committee had given. That did not include the amount of fees, which is set off against that sum, so that the net sum works out at £396.
Yes. Now, the net cost of training a cadet at Dartmouth works out at £208 per annum, made up of £314 gross, less £106 fees. It is difficult to estimate accurately, but there is an estimate now for the coming year, which brings the net cost down to £160, made up of £285 for training, less £125 for fees.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
When the hon. Member talks of the gross amount which a cadet costs at Dartmouth, does that not include the pay of the officers, all the naval side, and the marine instructors, and so on, which you would not have in an ordinary school at all?
Certainly. The gross cost includes the whole of the upkeep, the technical staff, and the whole of what are known as overhead charges.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Could the hon. Gentleman tell me how many actual teachers there are, and how many are officers as distinct from teachers
I am afraid I cannot do that off-hand. I cannot carry those details in my head, but I have given a reply to the question which the hon. Member put to me. That is the position, and so I think the cost which should be borne by the Navy Votes has been reduced, since the Geddes Committee reported, from £396 to £100, and that, from the taxpayers' point of view, is not without its advantages.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Having reduced the cost of the cadets, obviously the cadets are not getting so much tuition, and has the Admiralty accordingly reduced the fees to the parents?
No. The new entrance fees have been increased, and that is provided for in these Estimates. The fees have been increased, and the overhead charges have been reduced by a certain amount of economy, and the net result is that the cadet now is educated at a cost to the taxpayer on the Navy Votes of £160, as compared with £396 when the Geddes Committee reported. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) asked a series of questions with regard to the inspection staff, and called attention to the fact that the amount provided had not been spent, and that there had been a saving. I would 1199 like to point out to the hon. Member that the building of a ship is subject to variations from day to day, or rather at intervals. There are delays, and there were various causes which made it unnecessary to enlist the full staff provided for by the Estimates at the time, and, therefore, it is entirely due to the fact that the staff was not required in the period covered by the Estimate. It was in no sense any desire, I am certain, to prevent people being employed.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The feeling among the men is this, that the delay was caused by the employers holding up a contract, because they thought there would be lower wages operating on a particular day.
I have no knowledge of that, and I do not think I can hold myself responsible for what employers do in that way. I can only speak for the inspection of the ships themselves, or parts of them, and that is the reason why the inspection staff was not brought up to the full sum total provided for in the Estimates. The hon. Member also asked about the cancellation of orders. The reason for the cancellation of the orders to which he referred is the Washington Conference. There were certain contracts which had to he cancelled because we put our names to the Washington Treaty. May I take the opportunity of thanking the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Major Hore-Belisha) for what he said about me? He certainly is a most assiduous Member, and if ever there was a little cherub sitting up aloft looking after the sailors, I think the hon. and gallant Member might be so described. He asked me several questions, and I can only answer, with regard to the application of the 220,000 provided for expenditure arising out of the Sutton judgment, that I think he can rely on the Admiralty sympathetically applying these funds to those persons who are what might be called border-line cases. I am sure they will get full sympathy from the Admiralty. Naturally, I cannot lay down hard and fast rules, but I am sure the hon. and gallant. Member can rely on the Admiralty treating their employés with the greatest sympathy. I think I have replied to practically all the points o that have been raised, and if I have 1200 missed any, I shall read my OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, and—
§ 6.0 P. M.
I may tell my hon. Friend that sub-head D makes provision for the final settlement with regard to the user of wireless stations during the War. As to the question he asked me in regard to the wider aspect, namely, whether all War claims were settled, that, I am afraid, unfortunately, is not the case. There are still some outstanding claims, and difficulties have to be settled, but, so far as sub-head D is concerned, that also, I understand, is a final settlement.
I am sorry I have not been able to get all the information the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked for, but the arbitration award excluded women. With regard to the others, I will make inquiries.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.