Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £936,845, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for Expenditure in respect of Customs and Excise, Inland Revenue, Post Office and Telegraph Buildings, in Great Britain, certain Post Offices Abroad, and for certain Expenses in connection with Boats and Launches belonging to the Customs and Excise Department."—[Note: £468,400 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
Before this Vote is passed, I want to ask two or three questions. I find, on page 70 of the Vote, that it is proposed to adapt 1559 the premises of the Royal Mint for use as a King's Warehouse, etc., and to make alterations there to provide additional accommodation for clerical staff of the Custom House. The total estimate for that work is £10,000, and the Vote required this year is £7,000. Following on that, I find that for works of a major kind in this connection, estimated to cost between £500 and £2,000, the figures are, for London, for 1927, £600, for England and Wales, £l,525, and for Scotland nil. The questions I wish to ask—
§ Mr. BROWN
Page 70, Class 7, Vote 12. I presume that the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote can say why it is required to adapt premises at the Royal Mint for use as a warehouse, and what goods are to be stored there on behalf of the Customs of the country. Secondly, I should like to know the extra amount of clerical staff which has now come into being and the growth of which necessitates this extra accommodation for the Customs Department at the Royal Mint. There are two subjects in which the electors of this country are specially interested. One is in getting rid of superfluous War Ministries, and the other is in checking new growths of new Government Departments and officials. I presume that this is due to the new tariff arrangements under the Safeguarding of Industries Act and other Acts, and I should like to have information as to the number of officials who have been appointed there, seeing that there appears to be no necessity in Scotland for them, perhaps because the Scottish people are too poor to buy these goods, or too honest to smuggle them in.
§ Mr. KELLY
With regard to the item on page 70 for water, light and heat, I am anxious to know why it is that the Office of Works—I take it that this comes under the Office of Works—has now decided to discharge so many of these employes and hand over to contractors the work of lighting and the repairing of lighting apparatus. I raise this question in view of the action, which I am sure cannot be quite appreciated by the Government, in discharging men who are 1560 engaged upon that work, and discharging them when they were within three weeks of the period which would entitle them to their gratuity. This means that these men must now work for another seven years before they become entitled to a gratuity. The question I am putting is, why is this work being handed out to contractors at this time? Why are these men being discharged?
§ Mr. KELLY
With regard to the Revenue Departments, there are two items for water, light and heat, and I understand that that work is now being handed out to contractors, when formerly it was done by those who were in the direct employ of the Office of Works. Not only is this work "being handed out, but, even if contractors are able to do it better, it is being done in a way that cannot be considered creditable to those in charge of these works. Men are being discharged within three weeks of entitlement to their gratuity, and are being told that, when they are reverted to other positions, they must wait another seven years before they will be entitled to any consideration from that Department. I hope the Minister will make some statement with regard to this change of policy in the Office of Works.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
Before a reply is given, I wish to supplement the inquiries that have already been made with one or two figures. It is somewhat remarkable, in this year of difficulty, that an increased amount is required for the collection of inland Revenue, of £19,050. It is said that every picture tells a story. I think we might add to that by saying that" 'very figure tells a story, and the story that these figures tell is a very interesting one. The Chancellor of the -Exchequer seems to be engaged in expending all the money he possibly can this year in the hope that next year and in subsequent years, when he will be very much nearer an appeal to the country, he will be able to show more favourable figures. It is evident 1561 on every hand that there has been no attempt to collect revenue because there has been no—what is colloquially called—Income Tax squeeze! at all this year, but the expenditure on the Income Tax spending Departments has gone up by no less than £19,650. That, as the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) says, is, apparently, due to the extra expenditure in the collection of the new duties under the Safeguarding of Industries Acts, but why is it necessary to spend all this money on new Income Tax services this year, when there has been no attempt to increase the amount of tax collected? I think it ought to be made quite clear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is engaged in cooking this year's Budget in order to make next year's Budget a more favourable one. He is not engaged in a legitimate enterprise at all, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member who represents the War Office, though I am sure he will have a difficult task to explain this away, will make some attempt at it before he votes this sum of money.
§ Captain KING
I do not propose to try to explain the policy of the Government or to give hon. Members the number of employes and officials who are employed in the Departments other than the Office of Works. I may explain to the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) that the increase in buildings required by the Customs House is to meet the extra officials who have been taken on to deal with the silk and other duties imposed in the last Budget. As far as the Office of Works is concerned they merely have to provide buildings for such officials as have been taken on by the Departments themselves under the approval of the Treasury.
§ Captain KING
The Office of Works merely supplies accommodation for the staff which has been increased at the request of the Departments concerned under the sanction of the Treasury.
§ Captain KING
I have been making inquiries, but I cannot find any trace of the dismissals to which the hon. Member refers. If he will kindly send particulars to me, I will have inquiries made and let him know. Question put, and agreed to.