HC Deb 06 February 1930 vol 234 cc2067-8
45. Colonel HOWARD-BURY

asked the Prime Minister whether, owing to the creation of the new Economic General Staff, it is proposed to effect any reductions in existing economic advisers to the Government?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)

No, Sir. The Economic Advisory Council has been established with the object of securing a wider and more intensive treatment of economic problems affecting the prosperity of the country than has yet been undertaken, and its creation does not involve any curtailment of existing Departmental functions in this sphere.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is already an Economic Adviser to the Government, namely, Sir Sydney Chapman, at a salary of £3,000 a year, with a staff costing £21,000 a year; can he say what is the nature of the duties of the body referred to; and does he not consider it advisable, in view of the multiplicity of advisers, to cut down some of these economic advisers?


My hon. and gallant Friend has certainly been searching in a very fruitful field, but I have been there before him, and I am convinced, having regard to Sir Sydney Chapman's duties, especially in connection with the League of Nations, that, at the present moment at any rate, until we have had some experience, it will be very inopportune to do what the hon. and gallant Member suggests.


Are we to understand that the salaries of these gentlemen are to be a new service, appearing on a new Vote before Parliament?


No; they will be included in the general Vote for the Prime Minister's Department. It is a question of co-ordination that must certainly arise. I have looked into it very carefully, and we are not in a position to come to a sound and final judgment on it at the present moment.


Will there be any opportunity, before the constitution and functions of the economic general staff are finally settled, for this House to debate or discuss the matter?


I really do not think that that is necessary. The right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, remember that, when the Committee of Imperial Defence was set up, there were a good many open problems left, and it was found that, when attempts were made to solve those open problems theoretically, mistakes were made, and that the best way to solve them was just to wait and see the working of the machine and adapt it to circumstances.


Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the essential difference between the position of the economic general staff and that of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and how far the Committee of Imperial Defence must, ex hypothesi, work in secret, whereas no such necessity attaches to an economic general staff?


It was all very carefully considered.