Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £;7,500, be 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, 1926, for Expenditure in respect of Diplomatic and Consular Buildings.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Before we pass this comparatively small Estimate we should have an assurance from, the Minister in Charge of the Vote on one or two points. What I am about to say may seem a little contradictory. Helsingfors is the capital of one of the new States resulting from the world upheaval, and it undoubtedly requires a suitable building as a Legation for our Minister. I have always urged that our diplomatic and consular representatives should be suitably housed in buildings that will uphold the dignity of our country abroad, and be in every way worthy of the King's representative. I suppose the Government have satisfied themselves that the new building that has been taken over is suitable for the purpose. Two winters ago I passed through Helsingfors on my way to Russia, and, what I suppose most Members of Parliament do when they are in a foreign capital, I paid a visit to our representative. The house in which he was housed was suitable and well-situated, and quite up to the standard which is desirable.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
It was not a steel house. It had been the house of a Finnish nobleman. It was not ostentatious, but was well suited for the purpose. It had been taken over by our Minister. Why was it necessary to pur- 892 chase another house and to give up this house? Why go to the great expense of equipping, furnishing- and decorating a new building? If there is a suitable explanation, I am quite prepared to be guided by the hon. Member in charge of the Vote. While I do not wish to see our Ministers housed in other than suitable and proper buildings, I think in this case some explanation is required. Had the old house to be given up, or was it found unsuitable? The amount of money involved is considerable. The total Estimate is £22,500. These are times when the utmost economy is required in every Department, and it rests with Parliament to force the Government to economise even in small matters. This may seem absurd when we vote millions without discussion, but it is necessary that the Committee should assert itself, and ask for a full explanation of this extra expenditure of £22,000.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
We are only asked for £7,500, but the total Estimate for the proposed work is £22,500.
§ The CHAIRMAN
On Supplementary Estimates the limits of discussion are very narrow. The hon. and gallant Member must confine himself to the amount of increase, except in the case of a new service.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member will be perfectly in order in confining his remarks to the Helsingfors consular building.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I must not allow myself to be led away by my fervent desire for economy. There is a principle involved here, and I hope a full explanation will be forthcoming.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
My name is down on the Paper to move a reduction of the Vote by £100. I wish to know why we should be asked to vote an additional £7,500. While we agree that provision of this kind has to be made, we cannot understand how it is that such a large sum should be expended on this house. 893 Instead of our being asked for a supplementary sum there ought to have been some saving. What does this house comprise? Why is it necessary to have such a large residence? What particular use is made of it? Although I have been a Member of this House for some time, I am not conversant with all that is essential in a Legation house. It will be information to me to know why this large sum of money is to be spent.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Godfrey Locker-Lampson)
Owing to the indisposition of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, I have been asked to take these Votes to-day, and I will do my best to answer questions. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut-Commander Kenworthy) is quite right when he says that this work is necessary owing to Finland having become an independent State. It is very necessary that our representatives abroad should be housed in premises no worse than those of any other nation. Our Minister up to the moment has been accommodated in a house that has been rented at a very big rent. We have been paying for the house £1,200 a year, and we have also had to pay—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman must confine himself to the reasons why another £7,500 is required, not the reasons for having a separate Legation. That was passed last year.
§ Mr. GILLETT
On a point of Order if we look at the previous Estimates, we find that this is an entirely new Estimate, of which this Vote is only a part. I cannot find any record in the past Estimates of any building devoted to this purpose
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
Perhaps I can explain. As a matter of fact, this is a new building. The sum in the main Estimate was for the payment of rent of the Legation premises. This is an Estimate for a new building. We have been paying £1,200 a year for a leased house, and in addition we have had to pay £250 a year for Chancellery offices. Therefore, in all up to now we have been paying for our premises £1,450 a year. That is rather a heavy burden, considering the nature of the premises. Since the main Estimate was agreed to by the 894 House last year, we have had a very favourable offer for the purchase of a house for £16,146. We bargained, and we got the offer down by no less than nearly half-a-million Finnish marks. My information is that it was a very good bargain indeed for this house. It is a very suitable house, but this was the condition that was laid down. They said, "We make you this offer, and it is a good offer. We consider it a very reasonable offer, but you have to make up your minds whether or not you accept it, because if you do not accept it more or less straight away, it will be withdrawn." The total cost of the purchase and the adapting of this house is £22,500. The house has to be adapted to a certain extent for the purpose of a Legation. There is hardly any accommodation for servants; there is no garage; and there is no room for a chauffeur.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us for what the £16,000 is being paid? He says that this is very good value for the money, but that the house does not possess this, that and the next thing that we usually find as the ordinary appurtenances of a house of about £5,000 value.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
This house is a most suitable house, in a suitable position for our Minister, but in order to adapt it for a man in that position representing a great country it was necessary to undertake certain additional expense. Up to now we have been paying, as I said, £1,450 a year as rent for other premises. The total expense in connection with these new premises is £22,500. If you capitalise the rent paid hitherto it means about £30,000, instead of the £22,500 which we are now proposing to spend. Therefore, there is an actual saving on the fact that we are going to purchase new premises and to discontinue the rent of the old premises.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I wish he would tell us more about this house, £22,000 seems to me a tremendous sum of money for a house that has no servants' quarters and no garage. Could he tell us, on the positive side of the matter, how many apartments there are, whether there is any ground attached to the house, and 895 minor points of that sort? Then this Committee would be in a position to say what the premises are worth.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am afraid that I cannot give my hon. Friend the information as to the exact number of rooms. My point was that this house was a very suitable house for a legation. But when a private house has suddenly to be turned into a legation, where your representative has to live, you necessarily have to make certain adaptations. You may have to alter the arrangement of the rooms so as to get proper chancellery offices. That means that you have to alter rooms in other parts of the premises. The actual adaptation in this case will cost about £5,000. We have been paying £1,450 a year as rent, and that capitalised is about £30,000. The balance, therefore, is on the right side.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I would put it in a different way, £22,500 at 5 per cent. comes to £1,125. That is to say, you are saving about £350, and not the thousands mentioned.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
Like the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, I have been to Helsingfors recently, on my way to the same place as he visited, namely, Russia. I took the opportunity of calling on our representative at Helsingfors, and I found that the premises in which he was accommodated were barely adequate for our representative in one of the important new countries on the Baltic. Speaking now in Another capacity as a Member of the Public Accounts Committee, I would say that the saving on this proposal is some £350 a year, which represents a capitalised sum of £7,500. It is very much better that this country should have freehold premises in a place like Helsingfors, than that we should be liable to be turned out of premises at short notice by a local landlord. I am very glad indeed that this transaction has been brought about.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
I wished to raise a point which may not be strictly in order, on the Vote for Public Buildings, Class with reference to the gate under the Admiralty Arch.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I think the Committee has not been supplied with sufficient information. We are proposing to vote £17,000. The anticipated savings are in connection with other services, and will arise whether we give this Vote or not. Therefore, we are taking about £17,000 under this Vote, a sum sufficiently large to engage the attention of the Committee seriously for a few minutes. I am inclined to think that for the total sum suggested, even in a capital city, you ought to get fairly substantial premises. This Committee ought to be as careful in these matters as an ordinary municipality. An ordinary municipality, if asked to spend £17,000 on the purchase of premises, would want to see drawings of those premises. Those of us who believe in economy believe that the only way to effect economy is to examine every penny of expenditure that is submitted. Here is a proposal which seems excessive. It may be that all of us who criticise the proposal are wrong, but for the moment we are without adequate information, and we ought to have that information before we pass the Vote. We all agree that our representatives abroad ought to be housed in a way befitting the dignity of the great nation they represent. It is no fault of his that the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs has not had the opportunity of obtaining full information to place before us. I hope, therefore, that it will be arranged for this Vote to be postponed until adequate information is forthcoming.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I associate myself with the remarks of the last speaker. I am not altogether satisfied that the importance of Helsineors justifies the proposed expenditure. So far as I can ascertain, the number of British vessels entering that port in 1924 was 23, against 11 during the previous year. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be good enough to give us further information, especially with regard to the anticipated savings on other new works services.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
When the Under-Secretary replies, may I ask him to answer the following questions? Why are the anticipated savings subtracted from this particular amount. I observe other Estimates. Is it because the hon. Gentleman felt that in this case there 897 was a certain extravagance in the amount, and that it would be as well to make some reduction? On whose ipse dixit are new premises bought in all these foreign countries? It is very natural that an ambassador or a minister of any kind should be inclined to form an exaggerated idea of his own requirements. Is there any form of outside advice which would be available in such circumstances for checking the estimates and the requirements of foreign ministers?
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am very much disappointed at the way in which the Estimate has been received. The charge usually is that the Government are spending an extra amount of money. In this Vote we are actually reducing our annual expenditure. I am asked what the savings are. We are asking for £7,500 actually, as there are savings on other works. Those other new works on which we are saving are at Monte Video, Tokio and Canton. We save a considerable sum of money on those other Votes.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
It is in very good repair. I hope that the Committee will now give me the Vote. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) said he thought that we ought to have drawings put before this Committee. It would involve enormous labour and trouble to have drawings put up in the House in all such cases as this. I hope my hon. Friend will have confidence in the Government and that he will take it from me that in the Foreign Office we are doing our best to maintain the strictest economy with due regard to the requirements which we have to meet.
§ Mr. REMER
I bow to no one in my respect for the hon. Gentleman, but that does not say that I am going to accept everything that is put forward by him as the mouthpiece of the Foreign Office. We know that the hon. Gentleman's Department is notoriously extravagant, and a great many other Departments are also notoriously extravagant. To come down to the House this morning and to find over £5,000,000 worth of Supplementary Estimates, of which this is one, fills me and a great many other Members with alarm.
§ Mr. REMER
I intend to do that, Sir, and to speak to each one in turn. I observe that in this Supplementary Estimate there is an anticipated saving on other new works and services amounting to £9,500. I am sure that if my hon. Friend had devoted that energy to cutting down expenditure which he ought to have devoted, this figure might have been very much larger. He has told us that this building is being purchased to replace a rented building. Why are we spending capital in this way? In our present position, spending capital is a more serious thing than spending an annual sum. If we are spending capital, we have assets to put against that capital. Why, then, is the whole of the capital sum being spent in one year? In any business concern, if they were making an estimate like this, they would put the outlay to the capital account and spread it over a period of years. As we have assets against the sum which we are asked to spend, is it not reasonable to ask that at least a portion of the sum should be spread over five, six or ten years? I am not satisfied in this matter. I know that in regard to this Department, and a great many other Departments which have Supplementary Estimates, it will be said that everything possible has been done to cut down waste. A question was put to-day by my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Storry Deans), which brought out the fact that certain Departmental officials receive 40 working days holidays exclusive of Sundays and Bank Holidays. I think that is most extravagant.
§ Mr. REMER
It applies, Sir, to the anticipated saving on other new services of £9,500 which is mentioned in the Estimate, because my contention is that if these holidays were reduced to the number which is normal in business, fewer people would have been required and the saving would have been much larger.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If that principle of debate were admitted we should have a general discussion on every Supplementary Estimate.
§ Mr. REMER
That is what I would like to have, but I recognise the force of your remark, Sir. My point is that my hon. Friend might have devised means of avoiding this Supplementary Estimate altogether. My chief blame does not rest upon the Financial Secretary to the Treasury but upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who talks a great deal about economy. It would be a good deal better if the right hon. Gentleman acted more in regard to economy. I would impress upon members of the Government that this matter cannot be delayed. We cannot allow this extraordinary over-expenditure to go on, and those of us who have misgivings about the financial situation—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member seems to be anticipating the speech which he will make on the introduction of the Budget.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I also regard this as an extraordinary Estimate. I observe that £17,000 is to be paid for this house in Helsingfors. That is an appallingly big sum, and the only justification put forward is that the Government used to pay a big rent. If they were paying £1,400 a year as rent previously, that was far more than they ought to have paid. I do not know what house rents are in Helsingfors, but you can get an awfully big house anywhere for £1,400 a year. The fact that such a rent was paid is now quoted in order to show that this capital expenditure is a saving of money. The hon. Gentleman justifies present extravagance by past extravagance. His position reminds me of the man who rang the town bell and when asked how he knew the hours at which to ring it, said he knew them from the town clock, and when he was asked how he set the town clock, he said he did so according to the times at which he rang the town bell. I doubt whether a sum of £22,000 or even £17,000 down, is not a bigger sum than the £1,400 a year rent. Not even in 900 Helsingfors are houses immortal. There will be wastage. This house will probably last as long as the new houses in Scotland, but we do not know what sort of house it is. I think the demand for the production of Pans and drawings is perhaps excessive, but the hon. Gentleman ought to provide us with a photograph, because this house must be something very remarkable having regard to the price. If the same money were expended in this country it would purchase one of "the stately homes of England."
§ Mr. PETHICK - LAWRENCE
The Under-Secretary has made two defences of this expenditure. The first is that he had an unprecedented opportunity because of the enormous reduction in the purchase price which the vendors were willing to take, and I think he quoted"the sum of half-a-million Finnish marks. The Committee may have looked upon that reduction as being substantial, but as a matter of fact it is well under £3,000 and the magnificence of the saving is somewhat reduced when that fact is appreciated. The other defence is rather peculiar. The Under-Secretary says it is a mistake to think that we are spending money at all, and that in point of fact the Committee are called upon to thank the Minister for reducing the liabilities to which the country is subject. It is a new doctrine that where an annual payment is replaced by a capital sum, we are to assume that there is a reduction because on some hypothetical basis of calculation the capital may be worked out to be a smaller figure at certain rates of interest. Before accepting that doctrine we ought to know the exact basis on which the calculation is built up. I think the hon. Gentleman said the house is freehold. Is the land freehold?
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
In that case we may take it that this is a permanent asset, but then there is the question of dilapidations and if this were a purchase of a house and piece of land in this country the question of sinking fund would have to be taken into account. Over and above these points there is the question of whether in 10 or 15 years time this building will be suited to the purpose for which we are obtaining it. It may be found too small. All these speculative points ought to be taken into 901 account. It is a new doctrine that we should spend an additional sum of £17,000 on the ground that it is really an economy. That doctrine might be applied in other fields and I doubt whether it would then be accepted by hon. Members opposite. There are many items of public expenditure which we on this side think desirable and we might maintain that expenditure on these matters represented economies—one case for instance is that of education—but hon. Members opposite would not agree with us.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
I think the amount of the estimate is very large for the purpose stated. We have recently been told—and we realise the truth of the statement—that by great economy and heavy taxation this country has returned to a gold basis and brought the £ sterling back to par. We are told also that we gain when we purchase things in foreign countries where less sacrifices have been made and where the taxation has not been so heavy. It would seem by that reasoning that this sum of £22,500 sterling represents a much larger sum in Helsingfors. What is the equivalent in Finnish marks of this very large sum of British capital? If it seems large to us, it must be very much larger when rendered into whatever is the equivalent in Helsingfors.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Commander WILLIAMS
Naturally most thinking people in the House rejoice in the fact that the Government are going to have a permanent house in this town in a new country, so that British interests can gradually be built up round the legation. It must be obvious that is not extravagance and I should have allowed this Vote to pass without any comment but for one very suspicious fact. When we were told that the British Government in this matter had made a good bargain in a foreign country I became suspicious. The British Government makes good bargains when it is taxing its own citizens but very rarely does the British Government make a good bargain with the taxpayers in other countries. When I heard that statement I was reminded of what used to happen four or five years ago. Then if there happened to be a piece of particular extravagance, we were always 902 treated to a wonderful dissertation on the advantages of the extra expenditure. However, I will not go into that. I should like to know clearly what has been put aside for depreciation in connection with the purchase of these premises, and, in the second place, who paid for the upkeep previous to our purchasing it. I should like to know who paid for the upkeep when we were tenants. It is unfair to say that you have made a saving of £350 if in the old days we had a landlord who paid a great deal towards keeping this old building in a first-class state of repair. I think we ought to know who paid for its upkeep in the old days and also have some sort of estimate as to depreciation.
§ Mr. GILLETT
There is one question I should like to ask the Under-Secretary. When he speaks of a saving, does he mean that the expenditure on this building is being disposed of during the next financial year or does he really mean that there as an actual saving? I notice there is an item for the rebuilding of the Embassy in Tokio at a cost, I think, of about £300,000. Nothing has been spent before this year on this scheme, and the Minister now tells us that the whole of this scheme is being given up. The effect of that policy would be, of course, a saving. On the other hand, if he means that the scheme is delayed, then it is only a postponement of the expenditure for a few months. I should like to know whether that is the real interpretation of his speech when he talks about saving or whether we are to have any real saving on the scheme?
§ Major PRICE
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether, before the price was agreed upon for this particular building in Helsingfors, the opinion of a competent person was obtained as to its value?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I should like the Under-Secretary to address himself to the questions which were put to him by the hon. Member for Bridgetown (Mr. Maxton), which he has not yet answered to our satisfaction. I should like him to tell us how much was actually paid for this building. It does not appear in this Estimate; and I should also like to know the sum estimated to put it into a decent state of repair. If all we have got is what the Under-Secretary described then we have only bought a shell, we have 903 only bought walls. I should like to know whether we have, in fact, bought a house. It is also certainly well for us to know what sum the actual alteration will cost and the size of this house. It is said that we shall save £1,100 or £1,300 which we have hitherto paid as rent. But it may be argued that we have been paying far too much in rent, therefore it is no reason for arguing that we should now buy this particular building. The least we expected was that the Under-Secretary would have told us what it is exactly they have bought and the actual size of the house. His reply may be reassuring to hon. Members opposite, but it is not reassuring to us. We have no confidence in the Government. It seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer claims to be saving about £9,500 but at the same time he is spending £17,000. If that is what is called economy then the economists in the Government are left-handed.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I hope the Committee will allow this Vote to go through after I have answered the questions that have been addressed to me. The Committee, I am sure, does not think I am spending money on something which is quite unnecessary. After all this proposed expenditure is most desirable. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) seems to think I am answering for the Foreign Office. Really, I am answering for the Office of Works. The Office of Works are not in the least responsible for the policy that may be laid down by the Foreign Office. All we have to do when we are asked to see that there is a proper Legation at Helsingfors is to carry out the work as economically and as efficiently as possible. What did we do? We sent an architect to Helsingfors to look into the whole question. He is a very experienced man. He went out to Helsingfors, saw these premises and also other premises, and when he had this offer he made a provisional bargain, came back to the Office of Works and reported that it was a good bargain and that the premises were very suitable for the purpose for which they were intended, although they would require a little alteration. Do hon. Members suggest that we should have neglected the advice given us by the architect? I think it would have been most extraordinary. The hon. Member for the 904 Gorbals Division (Mr. Buchanan) asked me a question about savings. It is perfectly true that the savings in this Estimate are not what we should call permanent savings. They are savings for this year owing to certain unavoidable delays in carrying out works of construction abroad. The hon. and gallant Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) also asked whether a sum for depreciator was included in the amount. As a matter of fact it has never been the practice of the Department to put in any amount for depreciation.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am afraid I cannot answer that. It never has been done, no sums for depreciation are included in the calculations. The hon. and gallant Member for Torquay also asked whether we had been paying for the upkeep of the building. Yes. There were other questions put to me which I thought I had covered in my first statement. It is not correct to say that we have purchased a shell. The house is a perfectly suitable building, with certain adaptations, for a Legation, and these alterations will cost about £5,000. It is a very suitable and substantial house, in first-class condition, but if it is turned into a Legation accommodation will have to be found for an extra number of people and the Chancellery offices, and you have also to build a garage. As I have answered all questions of this kind before, I hope the Committee will now allow us to have the Vote.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Before the Question is put, may I ask this question? If we have gone to the trouble to send out an architect to make an inquiry, then there must be some report. Will the Under-Secretary tell us the dimensions of this building, the nature of the interior and the amount of ground which is attached to it? We have not had this yet, and I am going to oppose this Vote until we get this information.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am sure the Committee does not want to divide against a Vote of this kind. It is a perfectly reasonable Estimate, and I will 905 try and get the details asked for by the Report stage. I am afraid I have not got them at the moment.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am always ready to listen to kindly appeals from the Front Bench, but this is the first Supplementary Estimate. It is the beginning of a new Parliamentary year during which we shall have to consider the spending of hundreds of millions of pounds, and I can imagine the same type of appeal being made to us: "Oh, let this go through; we can assure you it is quite all right." I have not, been used to the spending of huge sums of money, but to pay £17,000 for a building in a place like Finland seems to me to be a large amount. I sometimes read advertisements of houses for sale, and when I read the specifications of a house for sale I find that you can get a good house situated in a, central part of London, much less in Helsingfors, for a sum of money like £17,000. I have asked twice in the course of this Debate for the acreage in which this, house stands. I have asked also whether it is centrally situated, how many apartments there are; and all I am told is that it is a good substantial building, generally suitable for the purpose. I am not told a single solitary thing that a business man would like to know. We are told what it is not. We are told what it has not got; that it compares favourably with the building we previously had. Can the Under-Secretary tell us whether it is the same expert who advised us to take the leasehold of the building, which he now says is not worth £1,200 a year, who is now advising us that this building that we are asked to build is value for the money?
I think our attitude towards this first Supplementary Estimate is going to be decided with reference to our attitude on future Supplementary Estimates and Estimates, and I am not prepared to accept the nice explanations of the hon. Member opposite. I recognise that he is in an unfortunate position, being asked to deal with another man's Estimates, but, from another point of view, he is specially qualified to look after this Estimate, because it is an Office of Works expenditure necessitated by Foreign Office demands, and he, I think, is probably the only man in the House who, during the year when these negotiations 906 were in progress, has been definitely associated with both these Departments. Therefore, he cannot make a plea ad misericordiam, I think is the correct phrase. He cannot beg to be excused on the ground that he has no responsibility in the one Department, because he has had responsibility in both Departments, and I think he ought, instead of forcing this to the Division which I think is very likely to take place, either to get something in the nature of a specification of this place, giving us some definite idea of the size of the house, the amount of the land, and the situation of the house, or else withdraw the Vote until some more convenient season. Although my speech is finished, if it will aid the hon. Member in carrying his consultation through to a successful conclusion, I will go on and offer him congratulations on his recent transfer—
§ Mr. W. BAKER
The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) made one of the most important points possible in the course of the discussion, because he elicited the statement from the Minister that the items marked "Savings" are not savings at all, but merely postponed expenditure, and I want to ask that we may be given -an assurance that in future Estimates it will be made perfectly clear whether a reduced expenditure is due to savings or merely to postponement. I should also like to ask one small point with regard to the policy of the Department regarding architects. I understand that an architect went to Helsingfors in order to report on this building. May I ask whether, in the case of the postponed works which were enumerated by the Minister, the architect was sent to Tokio and elsewhere in order to report as to the desirability of postponing? One final point The figure of £22,500, is, I think, enormous, having regard to the greatly depreciated currency in Finland. If I understand the matter aright, the Finnish mark was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25 to the £ in pre-War days, and, taking a rough figure, it is now somewhere in the neighbourhood of 190—between 189 and 190—and I say that that 907 depreciation of currency has to be borne in mind when you are endeavouring to fix the value of this house.
§ Major CRAWFURD
There is one consideration which has not been brought forward in the course of this brief discussion, and that is that it seems to me to be improper that a sum of money like this should have appeared in the Supplementary Estimates at all. I was very much impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxtor), who said that he was not himself accustomed to deal—nor am I—with thousands of pounds, but it seems to me that £22,000 is a, large sum of money for a Legation building in a town of the size and importance of Helsingfors. Quite a-part from that, it seems to me that this being a capital sum, a sum of money for a service which is going to extend over a number of years, it should not be the kind of sum to appear in a Supplementary Estimate. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) drew a distinction in responsibility in this matter between the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I cannot accept that distinction at all, and I think it is largely the responsibility of the Financial Secretary, who was then in the Foreign Office. It was his business, presumably, to prepare the Estimates for the year, and his officials ought surely to have known that this purchase was or might be in contemplation, but they failed to present to this House the expenditure of a comparatively large capital sum in the Estimates for the year, leaving it to be presented in a Supplementary Estimate, where, as is obvious from the Debate we have had, the actual sum to be expended is wrapped up and concealed by a number of other items which confuse the real amount at stake. As has been said by a previous speaker, if this House during the Session is going to take a, proper line on questions of economy and scrutinise every small item, I hope this will be pressed to a Division as a protest against this type of Vote being brought forward as a, Supplementary Estimate.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
An hon. Member opposite made a suggestion that one ought to differentiate in the Esti- 908 mates between savings that were permanent and temporary savings. I will make a note of that suggestion, and see what might be done, possibly, in the future. In regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), we have got plans at the Office of Works and reports showing the nature of the negotiations and the transaction. I have never heard of a request before in this House that plans of this nature should be produced—I do not say they ought not to be produced—but if the hon. Gentleman thinks the plans ought to be seen before the Vote is finally passed, I will guarantee that we will produce plans to the House on the Report stage, and will show them to hon. Members who may wish to see them.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am sure that, after the discussion we have had and the courteous explanation given by the hon. Member who has just sat down, he will not take it amiss from us if we vote against him on this Estimate. These Supplementary Estimates are now becoming the curse of the financial year, and we cannot take too early an opportunity of protesting against them. We are glad to hear there are so many hon. Members on the other side who have taken this matter to heart, and we hope they will go into the Lobby with us on this question.
§ Sir JOHN MARRIOTT
In the hope of shortening the discussion on these Estimates and others, may I say that it seems to me that a large number of hon. Members who have addressed the Committee to-day seem to be under a misapprehension as to the nature of the public accounts? The public accounts of this country are cash accounts; they are year to year accounts, and that is the reason, if I may be allowed to offer the explanation which my hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench did not offer, in regard to the question about depreciation. You cannot have questions of depreciation entering into these Estimates when they are cash accounts from year to year.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Ronald McNeill)
I feel constrained to speak in consequence of what fell from the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), who intimated that the Supplementary Esti- 909 mates were really becoming the curse—I think his expression was—of our finance. I venture to take a very different view, because, as he knows., and as my hon. Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Marriott), who has just made a most apposite remark on the nature of our finance, is also aware, but as many hon. Members of the House do not seem to be aware, nothing would be more easy than to avoid Supplementary Estimates. It is the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is to over-estimate. I do not know that I should be in order in referring generally to these Supplementary Estimates, but I should have no difficulty whatever in showing that they are, so far from being, as my right hon. Friend says, a curse, a most healthy sign in our finance. I could show, if I had the opportunity—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the right hon. Member cannot take the opportunity just now of ranging all over the public accounts.
§ more than that I think, as the various Votes are reviewed by the Committee, they will find that the reason, and the only reason, why we are having this Vote, and almost all the Votes which will be subsequently examined, is because we are now so closely estimating that we are getting back to the accuracy which prevailed almost invariably before the War, but which has been very largely departed from in recent years, with very bad results. I hope the Committee will take the view that the reason why we are having these Supplementary Estimates is simply because the Government have resolved this year—and these Votes are a proof of it—that they would not put on the taxpayer a 6d. more than was absolutely necessary, and that they would rather come to this House again for a Supplementary Vote than take too much at the beginning of the year, with the consequence that the money would have to be surrendered at the end of the year.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 254; Noes, 130.913
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[5.29 p.m.|
|Acland, Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Fielden, E. B.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Forrest, W.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Albery, Irving James||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Frece, Sir Walter de|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Chapman, Sir S.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Christie, J. A.||Gates, Percy|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Atkinson, C.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Gee, Captain R.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Clarry, Reginald George||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham|
|Balniel, Lord||Clayton, G. C.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Goff, Sir Park|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Grant, J. A.|
|Bonn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Berry, Sir George||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Cooper, A. Duff||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Blundell, F. N.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Brass, Captain W.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Harland, A.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Daizlel, Sir Davison||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Sornerset, Yeovil)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Burman, J. B.||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hills, Major John Walter|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||England, Colonel A.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Holt, Captain H. P.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Moseley)|
|Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Murchison, C. K.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Huntingfleid, Lord||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Nuttall, Ellis||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Penny, Frederick George||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Plicher, G.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Kinloch-Cooke. Sir Clement||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Tinne, J. A.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Preston, William||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Radford, E. A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Raine, W.||Waddington, R.|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Ramsden, E.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Loder, J. de V.||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Remer, J. R.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Lougher, L.||Remnant, Sir James||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Lumley, L. R.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wells, S. R.|
|MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Ropner, Major L.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Macintyre, I.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.- Colonel George|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sandon, Lord||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Savery, S. S.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Wemersley, W. J.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Merriman, F. B.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Shepperson, E. W.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Skelton, A. N.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Moles, Thomas||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. H. (Ayr)||Smithers, Waldron||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Major Cope and Captain|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Spender Clay, Colonel H.||Margesson.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gibbins, Joseph||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Gillett, George M.||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Gosling, Harry||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)|
|Baker, Walter||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Montague, Frederick|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Morris, R. H.|
|Barnes, A.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Barr, J.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Batey, Joseph||Groves, T.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Grundy, T. W.||Owen, Major G.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Paling, W.|
|Briant, Frank||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Bromfield, William||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Potts, John S.|
|Bromley, J.||Hardie, George D.||Purcell, A. A.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Harris, Percy A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hayday, Arthur||Riley, Ben|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hayes, John Henry||Ritson, J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Clowes, S.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hirst, G. H.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Compton, Joseph||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Connolly, M.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Scurr, John|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Sexton, James|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Kelly, W. T.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kennedy, T.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Kirkwood, D.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lawson, John James||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Snell, Harry|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lindley, F. W.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Dennison, R.||Livingstone, A. M.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Dunnico, H.||Lowth, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Lunn, William||Stewart, J. (St. Reilox)|
|Fenby, T. D.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Mackinder, W.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Windsor, Walter|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Westwood, J.||Wright, W.|
|Thurtle, E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Whiteley, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Townend, A. E.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Varley, Frank B.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)||Allen Parkinson.|
|Wallhead, Richard C.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|