§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, the necessary degree of efficiency and economy can only be effected by reducing the De- 1717 partments of State to nine in number and constituting them as follows:
- Chancellor of the Exchequer, Financial Secretary, Paymaster-General, five Lords Commissioners.
§ Agriculture and Fisheries:
- Minister, Agricultural and Forestry Secretary, Fisheries Secretary, Works and Lands Secretary, Duchy of Lancaster Secretary.
- Minister, Navy Secretary, Army Secretary, Air Secretary, Non-effectives and Pensions Secretary, Supply and Civilian Services Secretary.
§ Dominions and Colonies:
- Minister, India Secretary, Dominion Secretary, Colonies, Secretary, Trade Secretary.
§ Industry and Trade:
- Minister, Transport Secretary, Labour Secretary, General Post Office Secretary, Ports and Navigation Secretary, Home Trade Secretary.
- Minister, Diplomatic Secretary, Consular and Trade Secretary.
- Minister, Attorney-General, Solicitor-General, Home Affairs Secretary.
§ Education and Health:
- Minister, Education Secretary, Health and Housing Secretary, Insurance and Pensions Secretary.
- Minister, Lord Advocate, Solicitor-General, Under-Secretary."
§ I apologise to the House for the length of this Motion, but it may interest the House to know that the Motion has brought a certain amount of pleasure to at least one member of the Reporters' Gallery, as it helps him to lengthen the daily column which he reports of the proceedings of the House. I should also like to thank the Government for, in the middle of the Debate on this most important Trade Disputes Bill, finding time for a Motion on a subject which so many of us, not only on this side of the House but all over the country, consider to be of vital importance, namely, economy and efficiency in the Government Departments. My reason for bringing forward this Motion is to endeavour to find some form of economy which will benefit, not only trade, but also agriculture. Agriculture is in process of being ground down by the weight of taxes and rates which agriculturists have to bear. Labourers are on a low scale of wages; farmers and agriculturists, as is shown in the return of Lloyds Bank, are overdrawn to the amount of, on an average, £800 per account; and landlords are fulfilling their 1718 obligations out of moneys and interest provided in industry and enterprises other than agriculture. This necessitates drastic economies, and I submit to the House that economy, to be effectual, should begin at the top.
It is, perhaps, merely of academic interest to mention that the rise in the staffs of the Government Departments in the last 150 years is due, as we all know, to the increase of population in a country which is geographically and agriculturally only large enough for about 6,000,000; and the administration of that increased population naturally involves an increase in the staffs. The aggregate figure for an economic staff might be arrived at by some form of mathematical calculation. This Motion proposes that the State Departments should be reduced to nine, instead of the existing 22, and the head of the Government, who now deals with 22 Departments, and takes a great deal of unnecessary responsibility, would then find that his work and his responsibility would be shared out among his Ministers. He has, in effect, if not in theory, to make economies by the rearrangement of staffs, and to transfer responsibilities between competing Departments, a function that would be much better carried out by a Minister if Departments of similar interest were grouped together. Under the system which is proposed, the Minister in charge of each Department would be able to take decisions as to the transfer of staffs according to the transfer of work, and generally to prevent one Department from being overworked while another had not enough to do. At present, each Minister maintains his staff and his office, and the staff of the Department, if I may say so, do a lot of unnecessary, though very often excellent work, in order to justify their existence. Some Departments create staffs in the country districts in order to justify their existence. In fact, they act like a snowball, and perhaps I might describe it by this parody:
Ministers have secretaries, with no one there to bite 'em;
Heads of staffs and under-staffs, and so ad infinitum.
§ I suggest that there is a very general feeling all over the country to this effect, but it needs a considerable amount of investigation to prove it. One Minister in charge of several Departments would 1719 no longer have the incentive to justify the importance of his position among a lot of competing Ministries, and he would be able to fulfil his proper function, which is to carry out the requirements of the country with the best possible means at his disposal. At the present moment, every Department, every Minister, every Secretary and every Under-Secretary can see the possibility of economies in every Department except his own. I think it is human nature not to approve of cutting down anything in which you are interested. It is suggested that the first step would be to persuade any redundant civil servants to retire, offering them inducements in the same way in which the Army and the Navy offer inducements at various ages. Pensions should be universal, and on a similar system, and so also, perhaps, should the age of retirement. I should like to point out quite clearly to the House that there is no suggestion in this Motion as to the composition of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister and the Chief Whip are not even mentioned, and it is particularly desired by those who support the Motion that the question of the size of the Cabinet should be kept separate from that of the number of Government Departments and their administration. The nine Departments mentioned would be presided over by Ministers, as shown in the Motion, who would be paid as such, and under whom there would be Secretaries corresponding generally in emoluments and rank to the present Under-Secretaries. I may mention that the Motion was sufficiently long without putting the word "Under-Secretary" instead of "Secretary" in each case. Both Secretaries and Ministers should, it is suggested, be Members of one or other House of Parliament. The representation of Ministries in the House of Lords would, naturally, be at the decision of the Prime Minister, according to the talent available and the special necessity for direct representation of the particular Department in the other House. In this respect no great change in the existing system is indicated, but the arrangement would, I think, admit of direct representation of the nine Departments of State in both Houses. The distinction between the responsibility of Ministers 1720 and Secretaries to Parliament would be that, while the Minister is always responsible for the whole of his Department, he would be responsible entirely for policy, leaving the Secretary to be responsible for details of administration. I should like to say here that I often think that more use could be made in Parliament of the Parliamentary Secretaries, who are, so to speak, acting Ministers of State capable of answering questions and dealing with the Departments in Parliament.
§ It is a matter of interest to notice the Haldane Report of 1918 on the machinery of government, remembering that the Committee was in fact under the influence of a four years period of war, and the influence requires considerable discounting. While the above Committee were influenced by the War and the out-of-date machinery of government, discovered during the War, the object of this Motion is to indicate a method of efficiency and economy suitable for peace conditions. What we specially want now it to carry out the social reforms of our people and of our Empire. I think the Empire after the War, about the time of the Haldane Commission, was rather lost sight of and for this expansion of trade a prosperous agriculture, as well as close ties with our Colonies and Dominions, are necessary, and naturally of course industrial peace at home and peace abroad. A cheap rate of interest is required for financing agricultural and trade enterprises. I hope very much that one of those who come afterwards will deal with the question of the cheap conversion of loans, because nothing it so crippling to agriculture as the fact that it cannot borrow at a rate that makes it worth while.
§ If I may turn now to the Ministries individually, I will take first of all the Ministry of Defence. I should like to deal with the great argument which has been advanced against grouping the Services into one Ministry. The Ministry of Defence is a post which is too important for one man. One man, they say, cannot decide these grave State issues. As a matter of fact, one man always does decide these great State issues, and that is the head of the State, the Prime Minister. If it is not the head of the Government, it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we ought to take off those shoulders this unnecessary burden which could be so well borne by a Minister of 1721 Defence. These great decisions in regard to the Services are too weighty to be in the hands of the head of the Government alone and they are not the proper function of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it is not in the best interests of the nation that they should in his hands. How can a Chancellor of the Exchequer decide if a battleship or a cavalry regiment, or an airship shall be cut down to make economy, or how can he decide, if more national defence is wanted, whether it should be the Army, the Air Force or the Navy? We know that the present Chancellor has unrivalled experience both in the War Office and in the Admiralty, but other Chancellors cannot expect to have the same luck, or the nation cannot expect to have the same luck in having Chancellors with his experience. We on this side of the House have found a man, the present Prime Minister, who is big enough to control the destinies not only of this party, but of the country during the present industrial and other turmoil, and with the talent at our disposal on the Front Bench, and some of the other benches, I am convinced that we can find a Minister of Defence capable of administering that office.
§ The proper function of a Minister of Defence would be to decide how far airships could take the place of cruisers. During the last War it took 14 cruisers a month to catch the Emden. Another question he could decide is whether these costly experiments in airships are justifiable. The Air Minister naturally says they are, but I suggest that the decision is a matter for the Minister of Defence. No doubt anyone who is interested in a Ministry of Defence coming after me will find many other illustrations. The Service Departments have charge of a considerable amount of land for the erection of barracks and other buildings, and I suggest that this should be placed in charge of the Minister of Agriculture. This would cause considerable economy in administration. I suggest also that it is time to anticipate the demise of the Ministry of Pensions, especially in view of the fixing of the seven years' limit, and pensions, together with the retired pay of officers and men, should be under a secretary. I suggest also that the civilians engaged by the Services in supply and hospital services should be controlled by another secretary. This will leave the Army and Air Services to carry 1722 out what are after all their proper functions, namely, to secure the efficiency of the defensive arrangements of their particular arm, leaving them comparatively free from unnecessary administrative routine. I do not go so far as to put all the Civil Service under one Department, though I am not at all sure that that is not the final goal towards which we should aim.
§ Now may I say a few words about the Ministry of Agriculture. At present the Minister is not on a level, as regards pay or importance, with the other Ministers, and this is a distinct disadvantage to agriculture because, naturally, when we get a good Minister he is looking for promotion, and it should not be promotion to leave the Ministry of Agriculture. It is suggested that in addition to being the agricultural adviser the Minister of Agriculture should be in charge of all Government buildings, in fact an estate agent. I am interested to see the representative of the Forestry Commissioners here and I hope he will not disagree with me. He should also be a drainage expert as far as it affects the land acid navigation above tidal waters, and coast erosion and sea defence should be entirely under him. If those matters are in his charge, it would be comparatively easy to find a dividing line between his functions and those of what is now the Board of Trade, which I propose to call the Trade Ministry. At present coast erosion and sea defence are largely the concern of the Board of Trade and the dividing line is extremely difficult, with consequent duplication of work. Duplication at present to a certain extent avoided by the almost complete neglect of coast erosion and the comparative neglect of sea defence. If we turn to another Department, the Dominions and Colonies, I am convinced that the time has now come when we should recognise the increased status of India by the reduction of the Minister and the Under-Secretary to one Secretary. I venture to suggest that a possible increase of work would justify the continuance of an Overseas Trade Secretary under the Dominions and Colonial Minister. He would thus be able to continue the good work that has been done by the Department of Overseas Trade, together with the good work of answering trade inquiries and Reports on the standard of produce carried out by 1723 the Imperial Insttitute under the able ministration of Sir William Furse. I suggest also, that Colonial trade will be better co-ordinated if the Indian Department is merged with the Colonial Office. I think we should get rid of a great many watertight compartments by so doing.
§ I want to deal, for a short time, with education and health. I notice that there are one or two hon. Members who are keenly interested in health to follow me, and I therefore proceed to deal with this question with a great deal of diffidence. In my opinion, education and health should go together. Health should be taught in the schools, and I think it should be taught in the schools under one Minister. The difficulties of overlapping between health and education were recognised in the Haldane Report on the Machinery of Government. The proper function of the Ministry of Health has lately been considerably side-tracked by the present importance of rating and valuation, by the Poor Law and by the housing shortage. This is probably a temporary phase of the functions of the Ministry, and the question of pensions and insurance will tend to become automatic. I should like, in passing, to refer to the good work that has been done by both of these Ministers. They have been round to see for themselves. I know that the Minister of Health has been round to a great many of the agricultural constituencies in order to see rural housing conditions at first hand. As an agricultural Member, I welcome the fast that he has been the only Minister of Health who has been round to see rural conditions for himself, and, what is more, he brought his staff with him. The more all staffs get out of their armchairs and the seats of the mighty to come to see working conditions themselves, the better.
§ The last Department I want to say something about is Scotland, and, as the Seconder of this Motion is the Member for a Scottish division, I enter upon this matter with considerable trepidation. I have put down Scotland in the Motion practically unaltered so as to express its status. I see that a prominent Member of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), is going to speak on the subject. I suggest that it would be much 1724 better for Scotland, and in the interests of economy generally, if the Scottish Ministry and Scottish Departments were merged with the corresponding Departments in England. There is a great deal of duplication in going from one Department to another. That is, perhaps, a criticism which comes better from an English Member than from a Scottish Member, for I know that Scottish Members are very jealous—perhaps naturally so—and desire to keep their Departments and Secretaries intact. The economies carried out by the cutting down of Ministers and their staffs are often rather jeered at as being merely £10,000 or £20,000 or £100,000 economies, but we ought not to neglect them on that account. If this scheme could eventuate, the effect on efficiency and economy anti the machinery of Government right through the country would be such that economies of millions of pounds would take place, not only in the Government to the benefit of the taxpayer, but also through local government to the benefit of the ratepayer.
§ I wish to make one further suggestion. The need is often felt of a supervising Commission with full authority to act and with automatic economical functions to point out extravagances as soon as they occur in all departments. The difficulties are well known. I hope that some hon. Member will give his views on this question. Economies and extravagances at present are the cockshy of political parties. "What can the country afford?" is met by the latest attraction required for the political voter. The Courts of Justice were at one time similar political cockshies. Justice is now automatic and constructive all over the kingdom, and, indeed, is practically the same over the whole Empire, free from political trammels. As an example of a country whose justice is influenced by politics I would quote the United States. Will the time ever come when automatic expenditure by Government Departments will not be at the mercy of the early Budget and the political panaceas of the moment, but will be a matter of routine following established formula? If that aim can be pursued, I think we should take the first steps now, because the prime need of our people is not only industrial peace but a lightening of the burden of taxation and rates.1725
I beg to second the Motion.
In associating myself with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage), I must congratulate him on his good fortune in drawing this Motion and also on the very able way in which he moved it. As an old colleague of his, I am grateful to him for giving me an opportunity of seconding this Motion, but I regret that my lack of experience in financial matters prevents me dealing with that side of the question as fully as I should like to do. The lead given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the reduction of Departments has encouraged us to put forward the suggestion for a reduction in and consequent reorganisation of the great Departments of State to nine. The Debates on the Budget Resolutions have clearly shown that the only effective economy can be attained by policy. I trust, therefore, that though the reductions of Departments may not show a very material and immediate reduction in the stupendous sum voted annually, it may, at any rate, suggest an effective means to the Government of the day of securing a reduction in spending desire and spending power, by limiting and concentrating the number and activities of those Departments responsible. Could this be combined with a simplification of the procedure and difficulties incumbent on the annual presentation of the Estimates, such steps as we propose may be in the right direction. Speaking from the moderate experience which I have had, during my career in one of the spending branches of the Army, I feel that the difficulties and insecurity of annual Estimates prevent the consideration of forward schemes of expenditure which would produce effective results with material saving as against the unavoidable objections to proposals for limited projects necessary in the limits of a financial year.
An examination of the proposals which we put forward shows no change in the Treasury, Foreign Office and Scottish Office, and little in Agriculture, with greater change in the Colonial Office, Home Office, Ministry of Health and Board of Trade, and the institution of the much debated Ministry of Defence or Organisation, by which the Estimates and expenditure of the Fighting Services may 1726 be co-ordinated. I will only deal briefly with the Departments affected. In regard to agriculture, to group the expenditure on the Office of Works and on all Crown Lands under the Ministry of Agriculture seems a reasonable proposition, and in absorbing the Office of Works and concentrating the administration of Crown lands economy must result, coupled with relief to the expenditure incurred by the separate Land Branches in various Departments at the present time. Attention is also invited to possible economies in agricultural cooperative societies and farm settlements. To the Colonial Office, India is added, and to the Home Office the Law Officers of the Crown, where I am sure they will find congenial surroundings, coupled with economy. To the Ministry of Education and Health—which I should like to see revert to its former title of Local Government—can reasonably be added the Board of Education, owing to its close connection with health and housing, also the Pensions Ministry, where the falls in its barometer will be compensated for by prospective rises on recent legislation in connection with social services. The Ministry of Industry and Trade will be augmented by the Transport and Labour Ministries and the Post Office, and it would, I am sure, give early consideration to the Government Trading Accounts. Scotland remains unchanged. As a Scottish Member, I rather fear to tread in the direction indicated by my hon. and gallant Friend, lest I should initiate another Home Rule trouble. Therefore, I will leave that part of the discussion to others who may follow.
I propose to ask the attention of the House in some detail to the subject of the Defence Ministry, and to invite attention to the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) on 3rd May, 1922, submitted a Bill (Bill 106) to subordinate the three Fighting Services to a Ministry of Defence. The Geddes Committee had recommended a Ministry of Defence to the Cabinet about five months previously. I would also like to refer to Sir Henry Wilson's remarks about that time in connection with the necessity of our having a Ministry of Defence. He said:The Air is not to be under the Army or the Navy, nor is the Navy to be under the Army or the Air, nor is the Army to be under anybody except itself, but they are 1727 to co-operate. The word 'co-operation' translated into action is the way to lose war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1922; col. 1354, Vol. 153.]I think that anyone who has had experience in this direction will probably agree with the remarks of the gallant gentleman who was a Member of this House. The Prime Minister at that time, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), said that such a Ministry was impossible, as a super-Minister would be necessary. I hope that the proposals which I am about to unfold do not come within that category, as I do not propose any change from the structure at present existing of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and others who are called in to act as a Defence Council of the Empire, as is done now, beyond possibly superseding the committee of the chiefs of staff for an Imperial General Staff in the Ministry of Defence. It has been argued that the Committee of Imperial Defence might well take the place of the Ministry of Defence, but it has no executive authority, nor has it any responsibility to this House. This leaves for consideration the best means of dealing with the co-ordination of the expenditure of the Fighting and Defence Services, a subject which I can approach with more confidence and perhaps more information. It is easy to argue that reductions can be made in these Estimates, but it is difficult to allocate them unless the problem is considered as a whole.
The Anglo-Saxon ideal may be expressed in three words—liberty, prosperity and security; the rights of the individual man and of the individual State are its foundations, and on these rights is the prosperity of the British Empire founded, and on account of this prosperity it is secured. As a general principle, each Dominion and Colony should maintain domestic peace within its frontiers and not by physical force from home, and thus enable Imperial forces to be withdrawn as they come of age. It is interesting to know that each great foreign war has given a new lease of life to the Imperial partnership in a manner unapproached in any former Empire. This has established certain well-defined principles on which the Empire has been built up, namely (1) the establishment of domestic peace; (2) the 1728 maintenance of the balance of power; (3) the establishment of secure frontiers; (4) the maintenance of the command of the seas; (5) the self-government of self-controllable Colonies. This necessitates the co-ordination of the defence forces of the Empire, which means securing two fundamental principles:
and also two economic principles:
- (1) That the safety of each part of the Empire is the concern of the whole and of each separate part.
- (2) That the duty of each part of the Empire is to assist whichever part is threatened or attacked:
In order to accomplish this the following principles are essential:
- (1) That each part of the Empire must exercise complete control over all its forces and resources during peace time; and
- (2) That the cost of an Empire war should be borne proportionately by the whole Empire in ratio to the realisable wealth of each independent part.
Briefly, this means that the policy inaugurated by the Defence Council of the Empire—I am very insistent in regard to that, as I do not disturb the existing structure in that respect—requires a Ministry of National Defence at home, and in each independent part of the Empire. This or these Ministries of National Defence should be organisations co-ordinating in their turn the three Service Secretariats, which should control their own internal administration. The duties of the Ministry of National Defence can be classified as follows:
- (1) The defence forces must be so organised, equipped and trained as to form one combined force.
- (2) A combined force requires centralised direction and decentralised administration.
- (3) Direction is dependent upon policy, which is the function of the combined Governments of the Empire.
- (4) Execution is dependent upon plan, the formulation of which is the function of the combined Governments of the Empire.
- (5) Administration is the function of each part which is called upon to put the plan into operation.
A war or defence policy conducted on such lines must necessarily produce efficiency in the Empire and at home, and economy by its control of the apportionment of the necessary funds to the services, which when separately administered, as at present, cannot avoid competition and overlapping and consequent waste of effort and in expenditure. As the Service Secretariats would consequently be concerned in administration and organisation only on the plans and funds allotted, Commanders-in-Chief could more effectively replace the War Councils of the present respective Ministries, and thus ensure a further promise of efficiency and economy by a closer effective control of the various branches represented in the present councils. These suggestions do not constitute any change of principle, and do not conflict with the responsibility of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in defence, a risk not unlikely in former suggestions for a Minister of Defence. The proposals do not suggest any economy entailing drastic upheavals like those who plead for the abolition of a separate air organisation and its absorption by the Army and Navy, but promise efficiency and security in Empire and home defence schemes, coupled with expenditure based solely on the estimated cost necessary for carrying out those schemes.
- (1) To assist the Government in arriving at a defence or war policy
1729 It will be noted "not to formulate" in order not to disturb the existing structure in that respect.
- (2) To convert this policy into the general plan to the respective Secretariats.
- (3) To estimate the cost of carrying out the plan, and to apportion money and means to the Service Secretariats accordingly.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
We are told that we live in an age of slogans, and I suppose there are not many hon. Members who have taken any part in national or local elections who have not at one time or another referred to the question of efficiency and the way to obtain it. We get that slogan in this Motion to-night. The same arguments which have been used by the Mover and Seconder of this Motion could have been put forward in support of the establishment of a dictatorship in this country, and the reduction of Ministries to one, all under one head. I can quite understand that the hon. and gal- 1730 lant Member who moved it had some difficulty in finding a Seconder, for I can hardly expect there is An hon. Member in this House who would be willing to support a Motion of this particular nature. There are some phases of this Motion, however, which hon. Members on this side would be willing to support if we could get a division upon them. It is proposed to abolish the Secretary of State for India, and with the present Secretary of State for India in charge there are no doubt many Labour Members who would vote for its abolition at this moment. The same may be said for the Ministry of Health, which it is also proposed to abolish, and for the Ministry of Labour. These are all parts of the Motion. I wonder how many Under-Secretaries there would be in the Government if this Motion was carried. It is quite impossible to count the number of men who would be necessary for the various Departments. I cannot see any economy in this Motion, and I do not think anyone can show anything in the nature of efficiency in it. There is a need for more co-ordination between Ministers on various subjects, and, as a matter of fact, I shall be voting for a Bill on Friday to co-ordinate a good number of existing Ministries which deal with the question of unemployment. I think coordination of that kind is very desirable. The Motion gives prominence to the Ministry of Education over the Air Ministry, and I see that it distributes the administration of trade over quite a number of Departments. I want to put in a word not necessarily for economy as expressed in the Budget speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer but because I believe it is in the interests of economy that we should not abolish Departments that now exist. Ever since I was a boy taking part in trade union work, we in the miners' movement have urged the necessity for a separate Mines Department, and ever since 1880 the Miners' Federation have been urging that the Mines Department should be controlled by a Cabinet Minister.
We have not reached that position yet, but we have a Mines Department, and it will be to the disadvantage of the mining industry if that Department is abolished and placed with some other Ministry, I suppose with the Home Office, though I cannot see any connection be- 1731 tween the Home Office, as it is constituted—dealing with questions of ceremonial, the hanging of individuals who have committed murder, and the deportation of other people—and the mining industry and I do not think such a Department is one which ought to deal with the mining industry of this country. There are more than 1,000,000 employed in that industry, indeed, one-tenth of the population is concerned with it. Ever since that Department was established, the work has been done far more efficiently than before, and now that we are so much concerned with welfare work in the industry, producing millions of pounds a year to be used for welfare purposes, it has become a, very important section of the Mines Department's work. There are other matters on which we should like to see the Mines Department more concerned than it is at present, and instead of voting for the removal of this Department, or its transfer to some other Department of State, we shall do all in our power to retain it as it is, improve and develop it, because we feel that the industry is of such importance that it should have a place in the Cabinet and be represented by a Cabinet Minister in this House.
I do not want to go over the whole of the arguments because this matter will be open for discussion before anything of a definite character takes place. Take another Department of State; the Overseas Trade Department. This country is an exporting country. We have been called the workshop of the world, though I do not think that will be left to us in the future. Our exports, I know, have gone down in recent years, but that is not due to the fact that we have coordinated in one Department all matters dealing with overseas trade. I cannot imagine how business men in this House who have paid high compliments to the work of that Department in the past, and who would do so to-day in private, can vote for the removal of the Overseas Trade Department. Prior to the establishment of that Department, the trade with foreign countries was in charge of the Foreign Office, and trade with the Dominions and Colonies was in charge of some other Department. During the last few years, we have built up a Department which has established itself in the minds of all business men who, I 1732 believe, defeated the Geddes Committee when that Committee wished to abolish it some years ago. Now the associated chambers of commerce have passed a resolution urging the retention of the Department. If you are to distribute trade relations between this country and other countries over various Departments, you are not going to assist trade. We, on this side, are as much concerned with the development, encouragement and improvement of foreign trade as any hon. Members in this House. We realise that it brings employment to our people, and there is no cure for unemployment except work.
It is good for us to know that we have our consular arrangements made through the Overseas Trade Department, that we have our trade commissioner arrangements made through it. If we could have a display of the work which the Department has done to bring trade into this country, I think few people would vote for its abolition. It has been copied by other countries. Germany and the United States have built up Departments which are modelled upon it, and the Department in America is in charge of one of its greatest statesmen. It has representatives throughout the whole world, and they help to secure, in competition, trade which in by-gone days came to us. If we are to retain our trade with other countries, and we make the best goods in the world, it is important that we should retain the two Departments concerned. I do not imagine that the hon. and gallant Member who moved this Motion is going to a Division on such a ridiculous proposal, and I feel confident there are not many Members who will support this Motion, which is based on the arguments of the Mover and Seconder for the establishment of a Ministry of Defence. Where they are going to put the head of the Navy I do not know; they are to deport him somewhere and give his authority to someone else. I do not suppose there is to be a Division on this Motion, but, it there is, I shall give my vote against it as a proposal which will be to the disadvantage of good government in this country.
§ Sir PHILIP PILDITCH
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has dismissed this Motion and the very interesting speeches in which it was intro- 1733 duced as a mere slogan. It is not a bad slogan either. What attracted me to sit here to-night was the slogan of efficiency and economy. It is perfectly clear that my hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Motion would neither of them expect to get a united vote, even from this side of the House, on a Motion which states that efficiency and economy can be effected by constituting a government of nine persons. They have only to look down the Order Paper, and they will see other notices showing that they would not get anything like a decisive or unanimous vote even on this side of the House. Other hon. Members on this side have similar Motions, and they do not want a Government or a Cabinet of nine; they want a Cabinet of five. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) desires the Cabinet reduced to five, and another hon. Member wants a similar Government of five, but not the same five as the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire. As soon as an hon. Member puts forward a Motion for some specific item of economy, that concentrates opposition, not only from the opposite side of the House but from his own side, and it gets turned down. The fact is that economy is a matter primarily for the Government. I cannot help thinking that this Motion, and the other Motions to which I have referred, are very largely reactions from the speeches which we have heard in the Budget Debate. Right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Opposition Bench disclaimed any desire to effect anything in the nature of serious economy. They want more expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) said he wanted, provided the objects were sufficiently good, to spend more money. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) takes the same view, but I have some recollection that he said something not far away from it.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
I never made such a statement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley was specifically referring to social services, but he pleaded very strongly for a reduction of other expenditure
§ Sir P. PILDITCH
Quite so. You got suggestions that instead of economy, 1734 there should be expenditure upon certain objects, and the Labour party wished another £100,000,000 of money to be ear-marked for social services. I am not at all surprised that the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) treated this Motion as a negligible matter and a mere slogan, when his party are committed, and its leaders and those who speak for it, on the lines I have suggested. It is very largely the re-action from that which has made so many of my hon. Friends bring in Motions directed towards finding ways by which expenditure can be reduced. I do not think this House by individual Motions of this kind can produce economy. This Motion, as it appeared on the Paper, seemed to be purely an economy Motion, but before the speeches of the Mover and Seconder had proceeded very far one found that they were speeches directed towards improvements in administration which did not necessarily mean reductions of expenditure. I was much interested particularly in the speech of the Seconder of the Motion who dealt in such an interesting manner with questions of Imperial defence and the like, but what interests me most in regard to this Debate, following as it does upon the Budget Debate, is that having got our expenditure from what it stood at during the War, down to something like £788,000,000 three years ago, it has since then been gradually rising and now we have topped the £800,000,000 mark and reached the figure of £833,000,000.
We have to keep before us two things. We have to see if it is possible to get back to the £800,000,000 mark, but unless this House is very careful in the way it deals with this question of economy, we shall find ourselves let in for a permanent expenditure considerably more than the figure of our present expenditure unless some definite means can be found of checking it. As I said in a previous Budget Debate, there is no royal road to economy except by the action of the Government itself backed by an economical House of Commons and by instructed economical feeling in the country. I like the way in which my hon. Friends brought in the word "efficiency" as well as the word "economy." I do not desire economy at any price. You can have economy 1735 sometimes at too high a price, but there are periods in the history of this country in which every proposal involving expenditure demands to be considered very closely indeed. I do not think it will be possible to get down to what the present Foreign Secretary described in 1919 as the normal Budget, that is, £800,000,000 per annum unless we can get some change in the general system under which the Government will work in co-operation with the House and the country in this 1736 matter to save expenditure where possible. I suggested last year that the experiment of the Government themselves, namely, the Economy Committee, was a very successful experiment. I do not refer to the Geddes Committee, but to the Economy Committee.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ The House was adjourned at Twenty-three Minutes after Nine of the Clock until To-morrow.