Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, 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, 1930, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Dalton)
This is a very small sum, and I hope that it will not lead to an unduly long discussion, although, of course, I am prepared to answer reasonable questions with regard to it. This sum is required in respect of those expenses of the Naval Conference which fall upon the Foreign Office Vote. Other expenses of the Conference fall on other Votes, such, for example, as the one which we have just been discussing, and other Votes into which it would not be in order for me to enter now. I want to emphasise, however, that those expenses of the Naval Conference which fall on the Foreign Office Vote amount only to £10 net additional.
I will explain how that £10 is arrived at. The Estimates in this case, as in the last, are based on the assumption that the Naval Conference will last for two months. On that assumption, the additional charges falling on the Foreign Office Vote in respect of the Naval Conference will amount to £5,990, as against which savings have been made by the Foreign Office on their original Estimates to the extent of £3,980, and an additional Appropriation-in-Aid will be payable in respect of increased passport fees over and above our Estimate to the amount of £2,000. The reason these figures do not appear in the White Paper is that I have 1706 lumped together certain figures in order to give a clearer view of the total transaction. The figures in the White Paper are divided between various sub-heads. Thus, in the case of Sub-head A, Salaries, Wages and Allowances, we have an additional charge of £3,800, as against which we have an anticipated saving on the original Estimate of £2,500. £3,800 minus £2,500 gives £1,300, the figure shown on page 5. Similarly, with regard to the other sub-heads. We have brought about these savings as the result of careful administration of the Foreign Office and, consequently, we see at the foot of the page, the total original net Estimate, deducting the Appropriation-in-Aid, £202,120, requires now to be increased only by £10, making it up to £202,130. That is the general basis on which this Token Vote is calculated.
I am prepared to answer any further questions, but I trust hon. Members will feel that the Foreign Office, at any rate, is conducting its affairs with considerable economy and is able to offset the additional and unexpected charge when the Estimates were drawn up last year by means of savings not then anticipated and by this increase in passport fees, which is welcome as indicating an increasing inclination of our people to travel abroad.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £5.
I move this reduction in order to obtain information about these accounts in detail. I listened with considerable apprehension to the hon. Gentleman's self-congratulations upon the increase of the passport fees, and in a moment or two I will direct his attention to what I think is rather a blot upon this Estimate instead of being something for him to congratulate himself upon. I hope he will give a reply which will satisfy my hon. Friends and myself, in which case perhaps we shall not take the reduction to a Division. The first item on the Vote shows an addition to salaries of £1,300. I was amused at the hon. Gentleman saying that as against the increase of £5,900 there was a set-off of £3,900, represented by savings, and that therefore there was only an increase of £2,000, which was paid for by an increase of passport fees. The fact of the matter is that with all his savings 1707 he is asking for more money. He is spending more, and he is getting it paid for by selling more passports.
The first item is an increase of £1,300. I do not take much exception to that. The next is messengers' salaries—£325. I do not take very much exception to that. Incidental expenses show another increase of £400. I pass by that. Then we come to his own telephones—an increase of £1,385. The telephones, I assume, are paid for in cash. This is not the case with postages. The other communications, telegrams, are not charged upon the Foreign Office Vote. They come under the Diplomatic and Consular Service and come to a very considerable amount. Telegrams alone come to £45,000. The country, therefore, is not getting its telegrams cheaply, but has had to pay £45,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "Book-keeping!"] That is true, and I am inclined to think this paying by one office of the State into another—taking out of one pocket and putting it into another—may affect some sort of check upon wastage, because a record is kept of telephones and telegrams, and may, perhaps, be a healthy way of dealing with business. If you look into the Post Office accounts, you will find that, although these telegraph and telephone charges appear as cash, no less than £3,900,000 appears as the amount due by various Departments to the Post Office, and to that extent il falsifies the postal surplus of £9,000,000 which we are told the Post Office earns. But that is not quite germane to the discussion.
Now we get to the anticipated savings on Sub-head C, Messengers' Travelling Expenses. How do we get a reduction of £1,400? I see that in the original Estimate we had got them down from £19,600 to £17,890. I do not quite see the point in respect of the messengers' salaries going up by £325. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will deal with that point. He puts up the messengers' salaries by £325, and for the same service gives us a saving of £1,400 on messengers' travelling expenses. No doubt an explanation can be given, and he will perhaps give it to the Committee. The gross total for which he asks is 1708 £2,010, and he gets it by Appropriations-in-Aid, a sum of £2,000 under Section G, leaving us to find £10. I would ask him whether he can justify in this Appropriation-in-Aid a greatly increased figure for passports. If he will look at passports Appropriations-in-Aid in page 8 of the Estimates, Class II, which appeared under my name in February, 1929, he will see there the passport accounts for 1928—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On a point of Order. I do not want to embarrass the hon. Gentleman, but I think that this point should be settled. Are we entitled on this Supplementary Vote to discuss the question of passport fees? Is not the only subject before us the extra sum required for services with which the Foreign Office deals, and the savings made in the passport department are not the subject of discussion? Are the principles on which the passports are granted a subject for discussion now?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The point which I was taking is this: The Appropriations-in-Aid are mentioned in black and white. The extra sum provided is £2,000, and in the estimate the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs drew the attention of the Committee to the fact that this £2,000, grafted on to the £10, totals the amount for which he is asking. I do not think that I am out of order, but I submit myself to your ruling, Mr. Snell.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
We are discussing a Supplementary Estimate of £10 towards the expenses of the Foreign Office. Does the question of the saving of £2,000 in connection with passports justify us in having a Debate on this Supplementary Estimate as to whether the saving is a proper one or not? Is not the subject which is before us one as to whether the Foreign Office are justified in asking £10 in respect of their work in this connection?
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Has it not been laid down repeatedly by the Chairman of Ways and Means, and more especially by Mr. Hope, who used to occupy the position, that we could not discuss the main Question in this way, but simply the narrow limited issue of the particular amount concerned?
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
This is a most important point, because we are not only discussing the £10 but the question as to 1709 how that £10 is arrived at. It is only possible to do that by going to the original Estimate. If hon. Members will look at the Estimate they will find that there is an original Estimate and a revised Estimate, and in the third column is shown the additional sum which is required. If hon. Members take the three figures, make the necessary additions and subtractions, they will see how the Minister arrives at £10. Therefore, are we not entitled to deal with the additional sums required?
§ Captain CAZALET
Did not the Minister himself, in introducing this Estimate, carefully draw our attention to, and ask us three times, to look at A, B, D, E and G, which are the particular items in page 6, and specifically invite us to ask further questions on any of these figures? Therefore, if we are going to be out of order in asking these questions, surely the Minister was out of order in asking us to do so.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
The Minister may not have been discreet in the way in which he introduced this question, but it is clearly out of order to discuss on this Supplementary Estimate the question of policy on passport fees. It is in order to discuss how the amount asked for has arisen.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I was proposing to carry out your wishes. The additional amount is £2,000. I have seen the amount rise from £102,000 in the Estimates of 1928 to £107,000 in the Estimates of 1929, and now we bring it up to £109,000. I want to know what is the actual increase in respect of passport fees. I can scarcely credit that it comes to such an amount as to give a round sum of £2,000. What are the actual receipts? I cannot say—it would be discourteous—that I do not believe it, but I should find difficulty in believing that £109,000, which to a penny gives you an increase of £2,000, would allow you to come down to the House for £10. The coincidence is very remarkable. For that reason, we have a right to raise the question. In any case, it is deplorable that there is this rise in fees for passports.
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was with me at Geneva four or five years ago when I took some part in a Debate of which he was a spectator, and we did all we could to 1710 bring down the charges for passports and induce other nations to do the same. I do not like to see this amount increasing. The late Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, my right hon. Friend the late Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and myself have striven for the removal of the charges. We do not like to see these increases on passports. They are a clog on the "Come to Britain" movement. I know that the money is not raised from passport control abroad, because we have a special amount coming to us from that. In page 56 of the main Vote there is under passport control abroad a sum of £40,000, but that has nothing to do with this particular point. We are anxious to sweep away passport charges. We ourselves tried and failed to get accommodation from other nations to reduce passport charges.
The hon. Member is discussing the broad policy of passports, and that is not permissible on this Vote.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I will not discuss the policy, but will deal with the amount raised by the passports. I think that passports are too dear, and, because they are too dear, they have given this big amount.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
If I am out of order, all I can say is that it is very bad policy. That sums up my view without being out of order, and I appeal to the Under-Secretary of State to try and bring down the price of passports. Another question with which I want to deal is Telephones (E), in regard to which we are asked to vote an excess of more than 50 per cent. on the original Vote. In the past, when we had an increase upon an original Vote of 50 per cent. it used to cause a considerable amount of discussion in the House. Here you have telephones springing up from £2,500 to £3,910. If these are all inland telephone calls, as I suppose they are, because overseas telephones will be debited to the Diplomatic and Consular Services, it means that we have had a quarter of a million more calls. We know that this is a very talkative Government, but a quarter of a million extra telephone calls is rather a big order. Have they arisen in connection with the Naval Conference and 1711 the other Government Conference which has taken place recently? There must be some justification for this enormous increase. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State, in his reply, will justify this increase, and also deal, as far as he can within the limits of Order, with the other point that I have raised.
§ Captain BOURNE
There are one or two questions of detail which I wish to ask. Under sub-head "B" there is an increase of £345 in respect to messengers' salaries. In the original Estimate, I notice that there are 15 King's messengers, 10 King's messengers (temporary), 10 King's home service messengers, and two unestablished office keepers. I should be much obliged if the Under-Secretary will tell us in which class the extra salaries were required, whether they are temporary or permanent and whether they are required for home service or for service abroad. Under the heading "Incidental Expenses" an increased sum of £400 is required. Is this increased provision required in connection with the Naval Conference? I notice from the original Estimate that the sub-head "Incidental expenses" includes an item, "Housekeeper's and Doorkeeper's disbursements," £160, and also an item, "Carriage of official books and papers sent as parcels," £30. Although I can well understand that the presence of the Naval Conference in London has increased the number of confidential documents sent as parcels or otherwise, I can hardly believe that the increased amount would cover the amount in the Supplementary Estimate of £400. There is also an item in the original Estimate for uniforms for office keepers and doorkeepers, £350. Have any new doorkeepers been provided, and have they been provided with new uniforms?
There is an item Miscellaneous, including travelling expenses, amounting to £215, an item which has been constant. It was the same amount in the previous year. I do not know whether there has been a great increase in travelling, but on looking at the Estimate as originally presented it is difficult to see why the incidental expenses should have increased by over 50 per cent. on the original Estimate. There is an anticipated saving of £2,000 under sub-head C, Messengers' Travelling Expenses, which embraces the 1712 expenses of journeys, including subsistence allowance to foreign service messengers while abroad, the amount being £17,890 as against £19,500. I understand that a considerable part of this expense is accounted for by the transport of diplomatic books between London and the various capitals. I should like to know whether the reduction in expense under this head is due to the reduction in the cost of travelling abroad, or whether the Foreign Office are sending fewer King's Messengers abroad and trusting more to the post offices of the various countries for the distribution of diplomatic documents. If my memory serves me aright there is one King's Messenger who travels to Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow, and another to Paris and Vienna, thence to the Balkan capitals and Constantinople and back again. Are we sending fewer King's Messengers abroad?
Under sub-head G, Appropriations-in-Aid, there is an increase with respect to receipts from passport fees of £2,000. I have a suspicion that the increase is a good deal larger. The Appropriations-in-Aid over and above the amount needed to balance the accounts of the Department disappear into the insatiable maw of the Treasury, and only so much is shown in the Estimate as is necessary to balance the account. Will the Under-Secretary tell us how much is the increase and how the increases come about, especially as I understand that on certain short distance journeys between this country and France and other countries on the Continent there are short-period passports. I am glad that there should be, because that means that more British subjects are travelling abroad. I should like to know how many new passports were presented.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
Under subheads A, B, D and E there are increases asked for of varying sums, and I should like a little information on two points. First, in regard to the messengers. I understand that the supplementary amount of £325 is due entirely to the increase occasioned by the Naval Conference now sitting in London. I should like to know how many more messengers were required and what exactly they do in connection with the Conference. With regard to the question of the telephones, the extra amount of £1,385 re- 1713 presents a large increase, which I understand, again, is entirely- occasioned by the Naval Conference. Does that mean that the telephone calls, for example, such as calls from here to Washington, are being paid for out of this Vote? Does it include, for example, wireless telephone messages and telegraphic charges for the delegates to the Conference communicating with their home Governments? Does it include the provision of private lines from the hotels in which the delegates are staying to the Conference and the Embassies, and does it entail fresh staffs and a new exchange to deal with this traffic occasioned by the Conference? It is such an enormous increase, representing a 50 per cent. increase, that the Committee is entitled to detailed information.
Although we are agreed that there should be every facility for the delegates at the Naval Conference, we ought to examine carefully a bill of such magnitude. I would like more information in regard to the incidental expenses, which have increased by £400 owing to the Naval Conference. I hope the Minister will give us a little detailed information on these points, because it is a good deal of money to be asked to provide for these expenses, and the Committee is entitled to know how it is being spent. I am sorry the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has gone, because he was very anxious on the point of economy, and he and I would be as one in this case, because we would count every penny on the Hospitality Vote and look very carefully at every penny being spent under these heads.
§ Captain CAZALET
I want to respond to the invitation of the hon. Member in charge of this Estimate, and put one or two questions. It would have been wiser on his part if he had put down on the Vote those figures which he gave us. It would have made it much clearer, and our arithmetical faculties would not have been taxed to the same extent. As I understand, the savings which the Foreign Office have been able to effect during the past year are £3,980, whereas the only savings one can discover by glancing at this Supplementary Estimate are the savings under Sub-head C, which deals with messengers' travelling expenses, which is only £1,400 instead of the £3,980 which was the actual savings the Foreign Office was able to effect. It 1714 is very satisfactory from every point of view that the Foreign Office was able to effect this very large saving. With regard to messengers, I gather that the term "mesengers includes King's Messengers, and the messengers who stand about or run about, as an hon. Member has said, in Whitehall, and some of whom have had blue uniforms this year, and have had to carry about an additional number of boxes. My hon. Friend asked why the expenditure of King's Messengers has been diminished in the last year. Do any of our King's Messengers now proceed by aeroplane instead of by train to their various destinations? It is obvious that you need have only one King's Messenger sent to the far-off parts of Europe once a week or once a fortnight if he goes by aeroplane, instead of having to send twice a week or twice a fortnight by train, because of the shorter time spent on the journey. The efficiency of the telephone system throughout Europe is also increased, and obviates the necessity sometimes of sending King's Messengers with despatches and boxes.
Then we come to the extraordinary increase in the telephone charges. I do not pretend to deal with the interruption of the hon. Member who deplored the inefficiency of the telephone system here. Has this increase been caused by the inefficiency of the telephone system in this country? Owing to that inefficiency it may have been necessary to have new lines. As we know, it is necessary to call up two or three times in order to get into communication and, as far as we know, we are charged for each of those calls. That, on a bigger scale, might quite easily account for a considerable proportion of this figure. One would like to know from the Minister if the telephone experience of the Foreign Office is similar to that of many hon. Members on these benches and on the benches opposite. I presume the telephone account is a book-keeping account, and that no money passes, as the Foreign Office is a Government Department.
There is a point in regard to passports. Are these fees which are paid for passports and visas on passports to foreign Consulates put down to the account of the foreign Consulate, or are they credited to the Foreign Office? On that matter might I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to a fact which has been disconcerting many minds in this country dur 1715 ing recent months? Are we not losing many passport fees which we ought to receive owing to the system which has sprung up in recent months of passengers going on week-ends to France and the Continent without passports? It is, of course, only a small point, and I hope it is in order. We have here an estimated increase which the Foreign Office is to receive from passport fees, and I am suggesting that, if they looked into this matter, their receipts would increase. I have not seen you rise, Mr. Dunnico, but, as I think that you are very carefully listening to me on this point, I will not go into it in further detail. The hon. Gentleman cannot be oblivious to the national disquietude which this state of affairs has aroused in this country during the past few months, and if our minds could be relieved on this subject we should be very grateful. I should be grateful if he could give us a little information on some of these points.
§ Mr. HASLAM
There are two points about which I should like to inquire in regard to this Vote. The first is the question of passports. I see that receipts from passport fees have exceeded the original Estimate by £2,000. These passport fees and the passport system are very trying and very irksome, and, considering the distance we are from the War—
No, I have already ruled that questions of policy cannot be discussed. I understood the hon. Member was simply asking why the passport fees had exceeded the original Estimate.
§ Mr. HASLAM
That is what I was pointing out. A sum of £2,000 has been extracted from these unfortunate people who travel abroad under most unpleasant and difficult circumstances, and seeing the irritation that is caused to the ordinary traveller by this passport system—
§ Mr. HASLAM
I will not pursue it further. I think I can ask the Under-Secretary whether he can make some reduction in fees?
I have made it perfectly clear that we cannot discuss any question of policy. The reduction of passport fees is a matter of policy and cannot be discussed on this Vote.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I think a certain amount of confusion has been caused by the Under-Secretary himself, who talked about increased fees. Does he mean that the fees are being increased or that the receipts from the fees have been increased? [Interruption.] They are two different points. I took down the words of the Under-Secretary of State. He talked about the extra sum due to increased fees. If the fees are being increased I think my hon. Friend is quite entitled to raise that point.
§ Mr. DALTON
I think I can put the misunderstanding straight at once. It is described in the accounts as:Increased revenue and passport fees.Actually the fees have not been altered. The number of persons securing passports have increased and, therefore, the total revenue from fees has increased.
§ Mr. HASLAM
The Under-Secretary has given me the explanation I wanted, and I will not pursue the subject, although I regard it as of some importance. Am I to understand that the increase in telephone charges is due entirely to the Naval Conference? The amount is £1,300 for the Naval Conference, but the total increase is £1,385; there must be, therefore, other items to come into the account. I should like to ask whether there has been an increase in telephone communication to continental countries, to foreign capitals by the Foreign Office. That is a point on which the House should have some information.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
Sometimes in a comparatively minute point one discovers interesting facts. This is really an exceedingly interesting and useful inquiry. We have discovered that there is a surplus of £2,000 in passport fees. One is rattier mystified as to how it has come about. Is it because more British people travel abroad or because more foreign subjects have visited this country? It may be due to the increased 1717 facilities for travelling in Russia which His Majesty's Government have given. More people may be going to Russia owing to the increased friendship between the Soviet Government and ourselves, and it may be that more Russians are coming to England. I should like to know the explanation of this increase in passport fees. We may discover a great deal from this line of inquiry, and we should be all satisfied if the Under-Secretary will pursue it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] If hon. Members opposite want to raise a point of Order, I am quite willing to give way. The Under-Secretary might analyse these figures and discover to which countries there is an increase in the number of British travellers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I see other hon. Members are now saying, "Order, order!"
The hon. Member will please address his remarks to the Chair and not to hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I heard hon. Members say, "Order, order!" and I was about to say that I am quite willing to give way on a point of Order. I should like to know how this increase of £2,000 in passport fees has been brought about. It is quite possible to evade the passport rules and travel abroad without any passport, and the figure might well be more if cases of evasion could be detected. One has read of such cases in the newspapers. This is a most important question and behind it lies the much larger question of British enterprise and travel abroad.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I should like to express my gratitude to the Under-Secretary for his intervention a few moments ago on the subject of passports. Hon. Members who are not very skilful in following the complicated details of this matter were able to follow him a little easier. I presume he has fortified himself with a knowledge of the facts of the case and will be able to tell us exactly how this increase has occurred. My hon. Friend wants to know how many persons went to Russia. Quite frankly that does not interest me in the least. I want to know whether there has been an increase in passports between this country and South America, and whether there has been any increase in trade be- 1718 cause of this increase in passports. I have made a point which might be quite useful to the Government.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
On a point of Order. Is it not out of order to discuss the use of passports at all on this Vote? I submit that the only reason why £2,000 is put down as an increased estimate from passports is to enable hon. Members to talk about the particular subject for which the Supplementary Estimate is designed. In our accounts it is in order to transfer savings from one sub-head to another, with the consent of the Treasury. In order that the Committee may have an opportunity of deciding where the savings are to be spent a token vote is put down. There is nothing here to show the increase from passports during the year. The increase is probably far larger than £2,000.
The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
Hon. Members are entitled to ask how this increase is brought about, but to go beyond that is really an abuse of the rules of the House.
On a point of Order. This is not money that we have actually received, but money that we expect to receive. Perhaps it would be as well if the Committee were given information as to where it is expected that this money will come from.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I was only following strictly your earlier ruling, Mr. Deputy-Chairman. Sub-head E deals with telephones. We were told just now that there had been a certain increase here, and I think it has been stated that the increase is due to breakdowns. Were those breakdowns due to the new automatic machines or not? Or is the explanation that there are a certain number of additional women Ministers now, and that the ladies of the country are known to chat over the telephone and to take longer about it?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am willing to withdraw anything that can be considered in the least offensive. I was merely exercising a naturally inquiring disposition.
I must ask hon. Members to put reasonable questions. We do not want the Debate to become frivolous.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am sorry if in any way I have trespassed in the matter. I come next to a most serious point. Subhead B refers to messengers' salaries. When one turns back to the original Estimate one finds that these messengers are King's Messengers. I cannot be certain as to where the increase is taking place. I understand that a great deal of work is done in carrying despatches between this country and other countries. Surely the fact that the Naval Conference is sitting in London must mean that a great deal more of these communications are made in London itself, and for that reason it would seem that there should be a decrease in the amount of the Estimate.
Next there is Sub-head A. In the original Estimate I find that at one time there was an historical adviser. When a conference as important as the Naval Conference is taking place, is any historical record kept of what is going on? If additional money is spent we ought to see that some part of it is used in getting such a record. I object to these Supplementary Estimates in the form in which they are presented to us. I think I have seldom seen a Supplementary Estimate so badly drawn and so vague. It has apparently been drawn up with the intention of not letting the Committee know precisely what it deals with. I hope that we may have a chance of voting against it, because I regard it as quite needless, and it seems to indicate that the Government have no real control over the matters with which they are supposed to be dealing.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I should like to have some explanation about the telephone bill in this Estimate. Hon. Members opposite will recognise that this relates to a subject in which I have taken a deep interest. It is a matter of some importance, because the increase in the telephone account of the Foreign Office reaches the extraordinarily big figure of £1,385. There is a note which informs us that this additional expense is in connection with the Naval Conference, but one feels that this explanation cannot be quite accurate. After all, the Naval Conference has only been sitting for about a 1720 month and a simple sum will show that, if this amount has been spent on increased telephone calls in London, it means that the Foreign Office has been indulging in over 14,000 extra calls every day. The Conference, obviously, cannot be the explanation. I hope that the explanation is that the Foreign Office, all the year round, is doing more of its business on the telephone, particularly as regards the long-distance routes to the Continent and America. Of course it would be easy to run up a very large telephone account in calls to America, at the rate which the Post Office charges for that service.
I believe it would be a great economy of time if the Foreign Office made use of the trans-Atlantic telephone service to a very large extent and I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that some of this money, at any rate, has been spent in that way. If it pays business men to use the trans-Atlantic telephone, surely it would pay the Foreign Office to do so. There is not only the trans-Atlantic service but also the service to Geneva. Special lines have been laid to Geneva and I think one was laid at the request of the Foreign Office. I hope the Foreign Office is making good use of it. If this increase is due merely to penny calls in London in connection with the Naval Conference there has been a gross waste of money somewhere. If on the other hand the Foreign Office is making more use of long distance telephones I welcome the fact, because it means that Foreign Office business will be done more quickly than it has been in the past.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DALTON
I will do my best to enlighten the various hon. Members who have put question to me on this subject, but since several hon. Members in succession have raised the same points, it may be more convenient if I take these points, not with reference to particular speeches but with reference to particular subheads of this Vote. The additional charge for messengers' salaries under Sub-head B has no relation to King's Messengers abroad. This is a matter of getting additional messengers for the work here in connection with the Conference, and it may be of interest to the Committee to know that the Substitution Board, which operates in relation to the Civil Service vacancies, has supplied 1721 us with six additional messengers for the period of the Conference and their salaries, including overtime and incidental expenses, are met in this Vote. With regard to the expenses of messengers travelling abroad, in respect of which we have made a saving, there has been no appreciable reduction in the amount of travelling abroad, but there has been an appreciable reduction in railway fares and this saving is due to that reduction in fares and not to a reduced number of journeys.
I was asked to give more particulars about the incidental expenses under Subhead D. These include payment for the services of certain interpreters and translators who have been engaged in view of the additional translating and interpreting required at the Naval Conference. Some, who are normally in the employment of the League of Nations, have come from Geneva, and one or two have come from Belgium. Their travelling expenses and the payments made to them while they are here are included in the incidental expenses. There is another item in these incidental expenses to which I may refer. It is a small item but, after all, incidental expenses consist of a large number of small items. That is an item for additional travelling expenses for secretarial staff, including the provision of conveyances for taking home some of the women staff who are detained very late at night on duties connected with the Naval Conference. I am sure the Committee would not grudge a payment of that kind which represents £175 or nearly half of these incidental expenses.
In regard to telephones under sub-head E referred to by the Noble Lord opposite—who is such an expert by reason of his past experience in connection with these subjects—I may say at once that this additional payment of £1,300 odd is not due to additional calls. It is due to the provision of special telephone facilities at St. James' Palace where the Conference is sitting. A sum of £500 is due to the facilities povided at St. James' Palace for the delegates and their advisors and a further £760 is due to facilities provided for the Press. It may be known to the Committee that a large number of Press representatives are in attendance in connection with the Conference. A considerable part of this telephone ex- 1722 penditure is due to various engineering expenses and operating charges and also the salaries of the office attendants who have been brought to St. James' Palace in connection with this work. It may be well to explain that no foreign calls are included in this item. Calls by foreign delegates are not included, these being paid for by the delegates themselves.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Can the hon. Gentleman say how many instruments have been installed at St. James' Palace?
§ Mr. DALTON
I could not say off-hand, but if the Noble Lord is anxious for that information I will find out and let him know. With regard to the passports, keeping within the rules of order laid down by your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Young, I think I can answer in general terms the direction of the increased flow of British applicants for passports, and this point may be of some interest to the Committee. More than half the increase in the requests for passports arises from the increase in the quota now allowed for British migration to the United States of America.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
Does the hon. Gentleman refer to the actual increase received or the increase appropriated?
§ Mr. DALTON
The increase of which we have experience, which has allowed us to modify our Estimate. The increased Estimate is due to the fact that we find that there has been a considerable increase in the applications for passports, and of the increase more than half is in respect of the United States.
§ Mr. DALTON
I am not giving way until after I have finished my sentence. I was saying that more than half of the increase which I have explained is in respect of applications of British subjects to travel to the United States of America, and we attribute that—I do not think there can be any doubt that we are right in so doing—to the increase of the quota of British immigrants now admitted by the United States. With regard to the remainder, it is not possible to select any one particular country, neither Russia, which is the special interest for the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Marjoribanks), nor the South American 1723 countries inquired about by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), but that half of the increase is very evenly divided between a very large number of countries, no one of which shows any predominance.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Could the hon. Gentleman tell us what the actual increase in receipts for passports has been? I understand that this is only a token Vote. What is the actual increase under the item of passports?
§ Mr. DALTON
The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps allow me to put it in this way. I cannot give, in the middle of the financial year, figures which would be of great value, but the general position is this, that we found that the demands for passports were going up, and the increase to date has made us feel justified in increasing our estimate of revenue under this head by £2,000. Estimates are naturally done in round figures, and it is very unusual to put the odd shillings and pence.
§ Mr. DALTON
I will answer the right hon. Gentleman's question if he will retain his seat. I said that slightly more than half the increase was due to passports for the United States of America, and the right hon. Gentleman asked if that half is a percentage. Of the increase that we have experienced, more than half is in respect of the United States, and the remainder, something less than half, is widely dispersed among a very large number of countries.
§ Mr. DALTON
I desire to give an answer to the right hon. Gentleman, and the answer is that there has been an increase of applications for passports. I am debarred through the rules of order from going into other matters, but I am answering the question as to how this additional Estimate has been arrived at. 1724 It is, in our view, a modest estimate of the increase which we thought would be shown by the end of the financial year, and we have found that the increase of persons applying for passports is, in respect of slightly more than half, due to emigrants to the United States and, in respect of the rest, it is widely dispersed—
§ Mr. DALTON
I have already told the right hon. Gentleman that an Estimate is an Estimate, and that this has to be in round figures. £2,000 is the figure which has been assumed by the officials of the Foreign Office whose business it is to estimate these things to be the likely increase for the financial year. If the right hon. Gentleman asks precisely how many additional passports have been applied for in respect of any country, I am afraid I must say that I have not got that information.
§ Mr. JONES
I did not ask that. The hon. Gentleman said that half the increase of the amounts received for passports by the Foreign Office was due to passports to America. I ask what is the sum that he had in mind when he said that. If he can give me the half, I can tell the whole. I am not asking about the increase in the numbers of passports, but what increased money has been received for passports.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I should not have risen but for the fact that a simple question, which is within the rules of order, inside this Estimate, and admits of a plain answer, has not been answered. My right hon. Friend asked, not about the numbers of passports, nor about the direction of passports, but we are entitled to know something about the figures here. If the Committee will turn to the Civil Estimates, Class II, Vote I, they will find that the sum which was to be appropriated in aid in the original Estimate was £102,500. That is included in this Supplementary Estimate in the figure of £107,608. Now we have a revised figure of £109,608, and we have an extra sum 1725 of £2,000 appropriated, but the total appropriation in aid of £107,608 covers more than passports. It covers the refund of the salary of an officer seconded to the League of Nations, an officer serving as Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, and other officers seconded to the Dominions, to the total of £4,928. It also covers fees received for attesting signatures and legalising documents. All this is within this sum.
The hon. Member brings down a Supplementary Estimate, and really he cannot treat the Committee in that cavalier way. Hon. Members are entitled, in pursuance of their duties to their constituents, to put to the Minister plain straightforward questions, and they are entitled to receive straightforward courteous answers. I put to the hon. Member the question which he said he has answered, but which he did not answer. His answer was a diplomatic evasion. I have a great admiration for the talents of the hon. Member with regard to diplomatic evasions. He knows a great deal about secret diplomacy, but this is not an occasion for it. This is an occasion for straightforward financial answers to straightforward financial questions. I ask the hon. Member, since his Department has appropriated in aid £2,000 extra in respect of passport fees, what is the actual sum in excess of the Estimate which I have read out in respect of this particular Appropriation-in-Aid? If he can give us that answer, well and good. If he cannot give us the answer, where is the Financial Secretary to the Treasury?
§ Mr. DALTON
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) has given me a large number of other items included in the Appropriation-in-Aid, but the only items in this total in which we estimate an increase, or in which a change of any kind is expected, is in respect of passports, as I have already explained. There are various salaries and so on, and they are going on without any change in our establishment. Consequently, the only change here is in respect of these passport fees. The hon. Gentleman puts to me a question as to the number of persons travelling, and so on—
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I put no such question; that would have been entirely out of order. We are not concerned with the numbers, but with the amount, and we are entitled, when an Appropriation-in-Aid is made in a Supplementary Estimate, to ask the hon. Gentleman what is the total increase?
§ Mr. DALTON
It is clearly indicated to the hon. Gentleman here that the increase which we estimate is £2,000.
§ Mr. DALTON
That is because we anticipate an increase of revenue of £2,000, not exactly, but as near as we can estimate. A previous Chairman has ruled on this question of passports, so there was a rather narrow field for discussion, and I have endeavoured to keep within the rules of order. In doing so, I have explained that a little more than half is in respect of the United States, and the remainder is in respect of different countries, all of which show an upward tendency. Beyond that, I cannot enlighten the hon. Member. If be chooses to ask for figures which have to be dug out, I can get them, but I cannot give additional information of the kind suggested at the end of the Debate.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The whole of this Appropriation-in-Aid of £2,000 is due to an increase estimated in the receipts from the sale of passports, and yet we have heard from the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) that this is an increased Appropriation-in-Aid, and is part of the same Vote which covers salaries of certain Foreign Office officials, one of whom, when the Estimate was framed, was seconded from the Foreign Office as Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. That gentleman has ceased to be Private Secretary and has reverted to the Foreign Office, and, therefore, in presenting this Supplementary Estimate showing the Appropriation-in-Aid of £2,000 has he not shown £2,000 for passports, plus £500, or it may be £600, for the restoration to Foreign Office charges as against Prime 1727 Minister's office charges for the present Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office?
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
I was very much surprised to hear the view the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Leif Jones) took upon constitutional rights. As one who is getting to be an old Member of this House, I would like this point to be thrashed out. It is evident that the right hon. Member for Camborne does not agree about the token Vote with the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I am not going to make any hostile observations, but on this point we ought to know where we are, so that we can carry on our Debates in a regular way and without any doubt about the position. My view is this. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that if the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs had put down £2,010 instead of £2,000, there would have been no duty put upon the Government to come down to the House of Commons to get an authorisation. I entirely disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. My view is this, and he must agree, after having taken trouble to think the matter out: If a Department has a gross Vote of, say, £1,000, made up of a Supply grant of £900 and an Appropriation-in-Aid of £100, the £100 requires Parliamentary sanction as much as the Supply Vote. If that Department during the year has, as happened in this case, spent not £1,000 but £1,200, while the Appropriations-in-Aid amount to £300, and have increased, just as they have done in this case, a Supplementary Estimate must be presented to Parliament for sanction for the excess on the gross Vote. The fact that the original Supply grant had not been exceeded is treated as irrelevant. I think, therefore, the right hon. Member for Camborne is wrong, and I hope that you, Mr. Young, or someone else in the House who know these matters better than I do, will give a ruling.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I fear I did not make myself clear to the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) or to the Committee. I entirely agree with what he has said. The Government must come to Parliament when the amount required is more than the original total estimate. My actual point in discussion with the Under-Secretary was that the amount of 1728 £2,000 was chosen that the extra expenditure might amount to £10, that is to say, that there should be special extra expenditure which would bring the matter before the House. He might have brought in £100 or £500, any sum would do, but if the money was spent by the Department, which would be a wrong and unconstitutional practice, there would have been no Supplementary Estimate to bring to the House. The Vote shows this special sum derived from passports in order to arrive at the £10 which enables the House, under old constitutional practice, to discuss the Estimates.
§ Captain PEAKE
I am not at all satisfied with the explanation which has been given by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in regard to this £2,000. The hon. Member told us that this amount was the estimated increase in the receipts from passports. Now we all know that the fee for a passport is 7s. 6d.
§ Mr. KELLY
On a point of Order, Mr. Young, may I remind you that the Deputy-Chairman, when the question was raised as to whether we could discuss on these Estimates the matter of passports, ruled it out of order. I now ask you, Mr. Young, whether it is in order for the hon. and gallant Member for North Leeds (Captain Peake) to discuss the question of passports?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Robert Young)
The hon. Member has not given me time to discover how far the hon. and gallant Member is going in relation to the question of passports. I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that he cannot discuss the value, price or use of passports.
§ Captain PEAKE
My point is that in estimating the excess as £2,000 in regard to receipts from passports the Under-Secretary must have made a mistake. There is either one passport too many or one passport too few; there is either 5s. too little in this estimate or 2s. 6d. too much.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
I am afraid that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has failed to give satisfaction to my hon. Friends on the points which they have raised. I would like to ask a question in reference to Item A. As far as I could follow the explanation of the 1729 hon. Gentleman, he skated very skilfully and very quickly over that particular item, and commenced with Item B. I can well understand his reason for avoiding this item, but we are certainly entitled to some explanation as to why an additional sum of £1,300 is required for salaries, wages and allowances. Of course, the Committee generally is aware that we recently entered into diplomatic relations with the Soviet Government of Russia—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must point out to the hon. Baronet that this expenditure for salaries, wages and so on has nothing to do with the Soviet Government, and I must ask him kindly to keep to the subject of the Vote.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Baronet had applied himself to the Estimate, there would have been no need for that kind of conjecture. It is perfectly clear.
§ Mr. PYBUSrose—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would ask hon. Members to consider the dignity of the House, and to keep to the question before the Committee. If the hon. Baronet will look at the Estimate, he will see that it is for an amount that is required to cover additional expenditure in connection with the Naval Conference.
§ Sir B. PETO
I quite appreciate, Mr. Young, and am grateful to you for, your Ruling, but the White Paper states that this precise sum of £1,300, neither more nor less, is what is required for increased salaries, wages and allowances in connection with the Naval Conference. I thought that I was in order in calling the attention of the Committee to the fact that at any rate it was very strange that there should be no other demand on the Committee for any increased expenditure other than that connected with the Naval Conference.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Baronet has no right to call attention to anything of that kind; he must confine himself to this Supplementary Estimate.
§ Sir B. PETO
In those circumstances, confining my remarks to the narrow issue of the Naval Conference, I would like to ask whether this Token Vote represents an estimate—obviously it is a round figure—and whether it is the last that we shall hear of expenditure in this direction? I should like to know for how many months this sum will provide for the additional salaries in respect of this Naval Conference. It has been going on for a considerable time, and the expenditure up to date seems, considering the results so far achieved, to have been rather considerable. In any case, I think the Committee are entitled to some explanation from the Under-Secretary as to why the Government come to the House at this particular moment. They have plenty of time before the end of the financial year, possibly at the termination of the Naval Conference, if we are so happy as to see it end before that, to present a Supplementary Estimate for a definitely ascertainable sum, and not merely for a round sum. Obviously, this is not the completion of the account, and, if it be an actual estimate of the expenditure per week or per month in salaries, wages and allowances, I should like to ask what is likely to be the expenditure in the current financial year on this item? At least we are entitled to know why at this particular moment it is necessary to be in such a hurry to ask the Committee to sanction this particular item of expenditure. We are left in the dark. The Under-Secretary started by dealing most minutely with questions regarding telephones and passports and things of that kind, and then left the matter quite vague. Before we pass from this Vote I think we are entitled to ask the hon. Gentleman for what period this £1,300 will provide; whether he can give us any estimate of what the total will be; and, particularly, why the Committee is asked to spend its time in considering a Supplementary Estimate which is only the first of, possibly, many that will be required before we come to the termination of these long drawn out deliberations.
§ Sir JOHN GANZONI
Hon. Members, with the best intentions, have been falling into a grevious error. We are not dealing with a matter of constitutional practice. It is a very simple issue of fact. This well-attended House is like a jury, 1731 which generally does deal with the facts, leaving the law to the judge, in this case represented by you, Sir. Is not the whole difficulty in this case just this, that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with whom I am sure in this matter we have the greatest sympathy, has totally failed to explain successfully to the right hon. Member for Cambourne (Mr. Leif Jones) the remarkable phenomenon that there should indeed and in fact and in sooth be an increased demand for passports to a country where prohibition is in force?
§ Mr. R. A. TAYLOR
On a point of Order. May I draw your attention, Sir, to the posture of the Noble Lord the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield).
§ Major HARVEY
I must again say this is a very serious matter. I am dealing with the finances of the country.
§ Mr. McSHANE
On a point of Order. I want to ask you, Sir, with the congestion of business as it is, whether the people whom we represent are going to be proud of this House of Commons in treating matters like this as they are doing.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That certainly is no point of Order. The Chair is not responsible for the procedure of business. It is responsible for keeping order and, up to the moment, the hon. and gallant Gentleman is in order.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not raising a point of order. The only point of Order he can raise must have regard to the business under consideration.
§ Major HARVEY
I only want to raise one particular point. It is a question with regard to the messengers. I am given to understand, from what I read in the Press, that there is a probability of this Naval Conference being postponed for some considerable time and I am wondering whether these messengers will continue to be employed.
§ Captain EDEN
It would be the greatest possible mistake if the Committee were to allow itself to be rushed into a decision without a more adequate reply than we have heard from the Under-Secretary. I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman for a very much more adequate and explicit explanation of the increase of the cost under item A than he has yet honoured the Committee with. Upon what is this figure based? How long, for instance, does he presume that the Conference will last? May we look to this as a Supplementary Estimate which at least will cover the remainder of the financial year? That is a point to which we might quite reasonably expect an answer.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman must assume that. He will see that it is a Supplementary Estimate of the amount required for the year ending 31st March, 1930.
On that point of Order. The Supplementary Estimate is required for the year ending 31st March, but if you will look at the sub-beads you will find that it is to meet expenses incurred in connection with the Naval Conference. The Naval Conference is now sitting, and we should like to know the date to which this Estimate was made up. We are definitely told that this expenditure has already been incurred, and we should like to know definitely what length of time is covered by the Estimate, and whether the Minister intends to introduce another Estimate to cover the period to the end of the year.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Hon. Gentlemen must assume that the documents which are placed before them are correct, no matter which party may be in office. It is a Supplementary Estimate for the amount required for the year ending 31st March, 1930. If there should be another one required, that would be brought in. That matter is not now before the Committee.
§ Captain EDEN
I am obliged to you, Mr. Young, for clearing up that most important point. At the same time, I do not think that it is unreasonable to ask for a rather fuller explanation than that which has been given to us in view of the changed circumstances in the consideration of international affairs.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
My hon. Friends behind have expressed themselves in regard to their doubts, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will show his usual courtesy and give proper attention to what has been said. Although his reply is not on the whole satisfactory, he has given us some information, and I do not wish to be ungracious. I, therefore, beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.