Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £9,000, 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 a Grant-in-Aid of the Government Hospitality Fund.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence)
This is a Supplementary Estimate which, I think, will not give rise to any controversial issue. The two items which have-resulted in our having to ask for this additional sum of £9,000 are set out in the White Paper on page 4. One of the items is the expenses of the Dominion delegates to the Expert Committee on the Operation of Dominion Legislation, and the Sub-Conference on Merchant Shipping Legislation which met in London last autumn. The other item represents expenses in connection with the Naval Conference which is now sitting in London. These two items taken together are anticipated to account for something in the neighbourhood of £10,500, and of that sum £1,500 can be met out of the original Vote. Assuming that this Supplementary Estimate be granted, there will remain a small balance to meet any further unexpected contingency before the end of the year. If any hon. Member wishes to put questions to me, I shall be prepared to satisfy his curiosity as far as is compatible with the limitations always recognised in a Vote of this kind. In this hospitality we are, of course, the hosts, and on a host there are certain limitations imposed which prevent that meticulous examination which might be given to some other matters. Within those limits I shall be happy to supply the information for which anyone asks.
§ Mr. ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
I rather think that the Financial Secretary's airy manner indicates a new frame of mind on the part of the 1683 Treasury in dealing with things in this large way. No doubt everything that the Financial Secretary has said is perfectly in order, but I do not think that his manner is indicative of the Treasury's frame of mind. It was not in my time. Then we had to submit to the scrutiny of every farthing. Curiously enough, last night I looked at the original Estimate which I brought before the Committee on 19th February, 1929. At that time we increased the hospitality grant. I would draw the Committee's attention to the fact that this is a grant-in-aid, and that there is a good deal of money to be spent apart from this sum.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
There is no reason why there should not be. When we go abroad other countries show us hospitality, and there is every reason why we should show hospitality to them. At the same time we must have proper Treasury accounts. In 1923 the Estimate was £12,000. I pushed it up to £15,000, because we had to spend £17,319. As the Financial Secretary will remember, I had in hand £4,788 unspent, which I was able to use in order to make up the difference between £15,000 and £17,319. The Treasury is not obliged to surrender anything that it does not spend; it puts any unspent balance into its pocket and carries it forward. When I see a jump, first from £12,000 to £15,000, and now from £15,000 to £24,000, I say that here is almost an alteration in policy.
Although we do not intend to divide on this Vote, I think we should have some explanation as to how this jump from £12,000 in 1928 to £24,000 to-day has been brought about. When the Financial Secretary says that he has had to entertain those connected with the Expert Committee on the Operation of Dominion Legislation, the Sub-Conference on Merchant Shipping Legislation and the Naval Conference, it is all very well and quite true, but year by year the amount of entertaining done by the Government does balance itself off. There is not much difference year by year in the amount of hospitality that we have to show. I rather suspect that when the Treasury asks for £24,000, it is putting a little aside, to use a colloquialism—is hoping that it will not spend it all, but will be 1684 able to put some of it into a long stocking to be held over for a contingency. Here we have what may again turn out to be over-estimating.
There is one other thing with regard to the hospitality fund. There used to be someone who overlooked the expenditure on hospitality—a housekeeper. What arrangements have been made now? Have there been any improvements in the methods by which the housekeeping expenditure is overlooked by the person responsible? It is necessary that there should be same supervision of the expenditure of money on entertaining. We have had to look very closely into one matter dating from a year ago. I hope, therefore, that there will be greater supervision over this fund than there has been in the past. I have not made any hostile comment on the Vote, and I and my friends do not propose to divide against it, but we are entitled to an explanation of the few points that I have put.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
The Financial Secretary gave an invitation to the Committee to ask questions, and there are one or two that I want to put. At the outset let me say that I have no desire to oppose this Vote. Indeed, if the Financial Secretary thought that he needed more money and it was reasonable that the money should be provided, I should support his demand. But I think the Committee would like to know in detail how this money is being spent. We have an item here for the London Naval Conference, which is an epoch-making Conference. I am sure the whole Committee would wish our traditional British hospitality as hosts to be properly shown. But we have to cut our coat according to our cloth. I would like to know how much of this £9,000 is actually being spent in connection with the Naval Conference. I would like to know if this sum includes the hotel expenses of delegates. I notice that the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary shakes his head. I would ask him further if it includes the provision of transport, such as motor cars for the delegates, because that, presumably, would amount to a considerable sum. I would also like to know if there has been any question of alterations at St. James' Palace involving an expenditure of money in order to make it suitable for the sittings of the Conference and 1685 whether any provision has been made for the refreshment of the delegates during the sessions of the Conference. It such provision has been made, we should like to know whether the delegates are provided with refreshments free, whether the catering is done by contract and whether it has proved entirely satisfactory.
I do not think we would like that our friends from abroad should go away with any feeling that adequate provision had not been made for their creature comforts during the sittings of the Conference at St. James' Palace. I am sure that the Committee would also be interested to know whether, if there is a refreshment buffet at the Palace, it has been thought necessary in deference to the views of the American delegates that it should be entirely dry, or whether our visitors from other countries are able to obtain alcoholic drinks if they so desire. It seems rather hard to deprive the representatives of other nations of anything of this kind for which they wish, simply in order to make a gesture to the United States and I am sure that the United States would be the last nation to wish that we should do so. Finally, may I ask the hon. Gentleman if the Government are contemplating any mass entertainment of the delegates as a whole, either when the Conference finishes or at some period during its sessions. It seems to me that it would only be fitting that the British Empire should give some such entertainment to all the delegates and I am sure that the Committee would support any Vote for that purpose.
§ Captain CAZALET
In response to the invitation of the Financial Secretary I wish to raise some points on this Vote. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) has mentioned the question of the provision of refreshments at St. James' Palace. Is there any truth in the story that a buffet was started at the Palace for the benefit of the delegates and that because we desired to show courtesy to our American visitors it was decided that it should be a dry buffet, with the result that it was so unattractive that it failed and the caterer refused to carry it on at a loss. As a teetotaller myself I think it highly creditable that we should wish to pay a tribute to the characteristics of our 1686 American friends, but if it involves a considerable loss to the caterer I think we ought to have exercised a little more-care combined with consideration. It may be that the circumstances are not as I have stated, but that is the story which is being circulated, and it would be a good thing to inform this Committee of whether it is true or not.
I cannot quite understand what this Fund is. I take it that there are other governmental hospitality funds. One is constantly noticing in the papers, and I, for one, am very glad to see it, that one or other of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite has been entertaining on behalf of the Government, various distinguished representatives of other countries. That is quite fitting and proper, but I should like to know whether the cost of those entertainments is included in this Estimate or whether this Estimate is something separate from and in addition to other hospitality funds which various Departments have at their disposal. Within reasonable limits, I agree that we must not survey and criticise this Vote with the minute attention that we would give-to other Votes.
§ Captain CAZALET
We have no objection to money being legitimately spent on the entertainment of distinguished foreigners or representatives from the Dominions or Colonies coming to this country, if we are told more or less how the money is spent; but to ask £9,000 and give no information whatever about it, seems to be asking rather too much. We read recently of a big reception at the Admiralty. I do not know how many of my hon. Friends opposite were invited to it. I think very few of those who sit on this side were invited, but we are not complaining of that. All we want to know is if the cost of a reception of that kind is included in this Vote, or does it come under the Vote for Admiralty expenditure? I know that there is a most excellent, competent and efficient Government entertainment officer with offices in the Treasury building—I do not know his technical name. Does his salary come under this Vote? I am not making any criticism of any kind in reference to this official, and I do not desire to know what his salary is, if it is not 1687 considered proper that the Committee should be informed, but I think we should know whether or not there is some other governmental fund out of which these various expenses are met and to which this present grant is supplementary. If it is an additional grant we have a right to know where this £9,000 has gone.
I presume that the Conferences on the operation of Dominion legislation and on merchant shipping legislation, to which the hon. Gentlemen referred, are finished and therefore we may take it that all this extra money is being spent on the Naval Conference. Speculation is rife as to how long that Conference will last and I think it highly probable that a larger sum than £9,000 will be required before it ends. I understand that it is quite untrue, and I hope it is quite untrue, that the British Government are paying the hotel expenses of the various delegations. This expense would be considerable owing to the size of the delegations, because I understand, that the Japanese delegation numbers about 100, while those of the United States and France are each well over 70. However, as I say, I understand that the British Exchequer is not to be responsible for their hotel bills. While one does not wish to pry too deeply into the expenditure under this Vote, I think we are entitled to more explicit and detailed explanation of the points I have indicated.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I wish to direct attention to the contrast between the attitude of hon. Members opposite towards this Vote and the critical attitude which they take up towards other Votes. All three hon. Members who have spoken on the other side, have assured the Committee that they do not wish to probe into the details of this Vote or to examine it in the minute and careful fashion in which they would examine any other Vote. I remember when the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) sat on the back benches and before he reached the exalted position which he afterwards occupied. He and one of his colleagues, who is now, I am sorry to say, no longer among us—I refer to the late Sir Frederic Wise—were two very active Members of the Conservative party, both on the Opposition benches and on the back benches on this side, 1688 and they watched every shilling and every penny of expenditure and criticised it. If only £10 were being granted as unemployment benefit or in connection with any matter of that kind, they gave it the closest scrutiny. Now it is a matter of £9,000 for guzzling. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is what it is. You may modify it if you like, and call it what you care, but this £9,000 is for nothing else but guzzling.
Let me be quite frank about this. Everybody attending this Conference is, comparatively speaking, well-fed and well-clad. They all have incomes, perhaps not great incomes but they have, like myself, incomes which assure them of the minimum standard of life. They are assured of food, clothing and shelter and the man who asks for more than that is, in my view, engaging in guzzling. The sum of £9,000 which is now being asked from the State is for the purpose of giving more food to people who are already well-fed—food which, in most oases, is not good for them. I think this Vote is indefensible. I cannot see the logic of the kind of business which seems to be growing up. We call people here to the London Naval Conference which is supposed to be, primarily, a business assembly. Why is it that whenever people are gathered together for business purposes you must feed them? [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite know perfectly well what I mean. I do not refer to feeding them in the ordinary sense, but why cannot people dine in their ordinary fashion and pay for their own food themselves in the ordinary way? [An HON. MEMBER: "Lyons!"] Better men than they have gone to Lyons—
§ Captain CAZALET
Might I ask the hon. Member how he defines guzzling? What is the difference between feeding and guzzling?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I will try to explain to the hon. and gallant Member. As I see it, the ordinary Member of the Conference is getting his food in the ordinary course, but, in addition to that, they are invited out at night or during the day to extra functions where food on a lavish scale is provided. That to me represents nothing but guzzling. I cannot see why the London Naval Conference cannot conduct its business without all these functions. Let them do 1689 their business and go home. Why is it necessary for all this entertaining? As far as I can see, the last Labour Government in 1924 spent about £9,000 or £10,000 on entertaining, which is less than half the expenditure now proposed and I cannot see why we are spending £24,000 now. I might mention, by way of analogy, that on a previous occasion we passed £40,000 or £50,000 in order to extend the Unemployment Insurance Act for about a month or six weeks and we were told then how difficult it was—how, indeed, it was almost impossible—for the Government to find that money. We could not find a few thousand pounds for the unemployed, but apparently we can with ease find this money for extra entertainment for which no reason has been shown. An hon. Member opposite said that if the amount were more he would welcome it gladly. Hon. Members would gladly vote more for extra feeding and extra luncheoning of their particular friends—
§ Captain CAZALET
The whole point is that we have not heard what this money is for. The money is not necessarily being spent on food. It may be on telephones or motor cars or hotel expenses. We want to know the way in which it is being spent.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The hon. and gallant Member ought to remember his own speech, because it is only about five minutes since it was delivered.
§ Commander SOUTHBYrose—
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
One at a time. I will take on the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) later if he likes. I was saying that the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) ought to remember his own speech and that he was talking about a bar at the Palace. If he was talking about the bar, he has been at one.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The hon. and gallant Member talked about the entertainment at the Admiralty Conference.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Yes, and he talked about hotel expenses. They are all of them things requiring food, and I would 1690 ask him to have some regard to his own speech. Now, if the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom wants an interruption, I am ready.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
The hon. Member quoted me as saying that I would be prepared to support the Government if the Vote was more, but he did not perhaps pay quite a good tribute to his own memory, because he might have gone on with the quotation from my speech and said that I added, "if it was considered necessary and proper to have more," and that of course would mean that it was justified. I think the hon. Member might have added that.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The hon. and gallant Member says he would vote for more if he thought it justified, but if his own Front Bench leader's opinion be correct, that we should not examine the Vote too closely, how will he know if it is justified? As a matter of fact, in this hospitality business, we have to take it on trust. Once you go out with your hospitality, it ceases to be hospitality, and you stop examining it detail by detail, and there is no use the hon. and gallant Member saying it is hospitality and then saying he would examine it in order to see if it was justified. If it is going to be hospitality, it must be entrusted to the people who administer it. Therefore, the two statements hardly coincide.
My view is that the spending of this sum by a Labour Government is indefensible, when there is terrible poverty in the country. I am sure a better, a more useful way could be found, and it is an indefensible spending of public money. Whether the sum be large or small, it has not been spent on an absolute social necessity at the moment, and this Government ought to spend money on only one object, and that is on absolute social necessities. Any sum of money spent outside of that is, in my view, socially indefensible, and I think the sum asked for here is indefensible and ought not to have been incurred, but that the delegates ought to have provided their own hospitality and the Government spent the money in a more useful social fashion.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I hope the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) feels that he has relieved his feelings by the speech he has just made, but I hope he 1691 will forgive me for saying that the Committee cannot be expected to take him very seriously. He is merely making a little outburst to appear in the Glasgow papers to-morrow morning, but not even his closest friends have taken the trouble to support him in his protest.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
My closest friends at the moment happen to be the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who is not well, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), who is speaking at Stockport. I am quite sure the Noble Lord is telling an untruth when he said my closest friends would not support me.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I think the Clyde has a stronger voting and debating strength on occasions which they really care about than they are showing in the Chamber at this moment.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Three just men among all the crowd, protesting against this guzzling! I should like to say why I do not desire to demur in any way from the sum that the Government are asking, because they assure us that the money is required in connection with a very important international conference, and on a matter of that sort it is not the desire of this Opposition at any rate, whatever may have been the desire or practice of previous Oppositions, to inconvenience or incommode the Government when they -are acting as the representatives of the nation in a great international conference. But the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is quite mistaken if he thinks that, while we approve of the money being spent on this subject, we wish to abrogate the duty of the Opposition to inquire exactly as to how it is being spent.
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I should like to say that I think he was just a little bit casual in his explanation to the Committee. He told us there would be a certain amount of money left ever—he did not know how much—he hinted broadly that he was over- 1692 budgetting, and he treated the Committee, I thought, a little bit in an offhand manner. I should like to ask him exactly how much of this money is required for each of the three conferences. Surely he can tell us that. He can tell us how much is required for the Expert Committee on the Operation of Dominion Legislation and the Sub-Conference on Merchant Shipping Legislation, because both of these conferences, I think I am right in saying, have concluded their labours, and, therefore, all the expense in respect of them is terminated.
I venture to hazard the opinion that the amounts required for those two conferences will be very small indeed, if anything at all, because I think they had been allowed for in the Estimates of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel). The bulk of this money, I believe, is required for the London Naval Conference;, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman will deny that.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCEindicated dissent.
§ Viscount WOLMER
If the hon. Member will give us the figures, I shall be much obliged. In regard to what has been said by the hon. Member for Gorbals and other speakers, I should like to point out that this figure of £24,000 does not in the least represent the total amount which the Government are spending on hospitality and entertainment, or, in the very beautiful word of the hon. Member for Gorbals, guzzling. I think practically every Government Department has its own entertainment fund. I can tell the Committee that the Post Office, at any rate, this year has spent over £20,000 in entertainment—the Post Office alone—and what the Foreign Office has spent, I do not know. Therefore, this £24,000 does not by any means represent the total amount that is being spent on entertainment by the Government. We have to face the fact that a large sum of money has to be spent or entertainment. I will not say that I am glad the Labour Government are spending more than the Conservative Government, but I should like to say I am glad that they desire to continue the same standard of hospitality that has been shown in the past. While we may desire that that standard should be maintained, we, certainly have a duty to know exactly how the money is 1693 being spent, and I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will give the full particulars which have been asked for.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
The Committee has really been engaged in the task of trying to make bricks without straw. On a Supplementary Estimate like this there has got to be an attempt made to make ourselves believe that there is going to be a Debate. Statements are bandied about from one side to the other, and it causes one to wonder what the people who receive the hospitality that is paid for in this Supplementary Estimate would be inclined to think. To me, at any rate—and I cannot pretend to rise to the height of some of the hon. Members opposite—it seems just a little bit disgusting. Supposing we, on this side, were to ask whether the delegates to this or that conference were to be supplied with fish and chips, or sausages, or something like that. The whole thing seems to savour of meanness. It is a painful and a pitiable thing to raise a Debate on a question like this, where, after all, there is no hospitality unless the hospitality is dealt out to people who are over here in just the same way and for exactly the same reasons as it is dealt out to people from this country when they visit other countries.
It is not so long ago since a number of representatives of this country went to America, and I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind that when they were at Washington they would be entertained by the Government of the United States of America in a proper and befitting manner; and even my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who criticised very severely what he called this guzzling, has had, I am sure, sufficient experience of life to realise this, and possibly even he has entertained people in his time, as I have always entertained people. We do not reckon up whether it is going to cost 6d., or 9d., or 1s. 6d.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
Exactly, but here we are dealing with matters affecting the State as a State, and if that applies when people from this country receive hospitality abroad, surely the least we can do is to return that hospitality in exactly the same spirit to visitors here. I think a great attempt has been made to magnify 1694 a mountain out of a pimple, and it seems to me that the sooner this Supplementary Estimate is done with, the better it will be for all concerned.
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
I quite agree with the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Duncan), who has just sat down. I am glad we should have had from the back benches opposite a reply to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who has put the whole Committee in considerable difficulty. Anybody who might wish to give any hospitality might be afraid to do it for fear of leading people into the temptation of guzzling. The hon. Member should not let his imagination run away with him as he did when he said that the Government should spend nothing at all except on social services. I understood from this side of the House that one of the reasons why the Government were so anxious for the success of the London Naval Conference was in order to be able to save enough on the Naval Estimates to have more money available for the social services, and, from the point of view of the hon. Member for Gorbals, it would have been better if this Estimate had been three or four times bigger, in order to bring a more pleasing atmosphere into the Conference, and thus bring about the desired result.
The object of having these little debates on the Supplementary Estimates is very useful, because they allow the House at regular periods of the year to cast a few inquiring glances at Estimates and Votes which on normal Supply days never get a look in. It is as well for the House and the country to know something about the administration of one Department and another in its smallest, as well as in its largest, political aspects. That is why it is good that we should devote even only a few minutes to inquire what is covered by a Vote like this, and to give the Minister responsible an opportunity of telling the Committee exactly what is involved. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) said quite rightly that two of the three conferences mentioned in the explanation have expired. The Expert Committee sat from 8th October to 4th December, and it is rather curious, incidentally, that the first reference that has been made in the House to one of the most important Imperial Committees that have been set up in recent 1695 years, is made when some small part of the Government Hospitality Fund is required to pay for the hospitality extended to that Committee. The fact that that Committee was set up as a result of the Imperial Conference of 1926—and this also applies to the Merchant Shipping Conference—makes me wonder why it did not come in the ordinary Estimates. Negotiations for the Conference had been going on for a long time, and it must have been clear at the time of the main Estimates last year that it was going to take place. There was, therefore, no occasion for a Supplementary Estimate.
The bulk of the Estimate must be for the Naval Conference, and I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman this question. The Noble Lord the Member for Alder-shot said that other Departments have entertainment funds, but what happens in the case of a Minister who goes abroad, and is entertained very lavishly, as, for example, the Prime Minister was when he was in the United States? A Minister in other countries usually returns some form of hospitality. That kind of thing happens to Ministers who go to Geneva frequently, and it happened in America. Are payments for this hospitality, which are perfectly proper in order to help Ministers in their public capacities, financed out of this fund, or does the fund merely pay for the hospitality to foreigners in London? If it is not extended in this way, it might be worth the while of the House to consider extending it. At The Hague Conference, for instance, the Chancellor and the other Ministers were there a long time, and the entertainment involved must have been very considerable. I do not mean their ordinary expenditure for housing and so on, but entertainment. Would any part of the cost come out of this fund? The fund was originally set up to be the means by which entertainment could be offered in London to distinguished visitors. It is now extending its scope very considerably. It is important to see that our guests are treated in the best possible way, and are shown as much as possible of English life, because that will colour their views of us as a country when they get home. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will let us have a little more information with regard to the fund, and tell us whether that little beanfeast 1696 which took place at a public-house in Lewes in the presence of the Foreign Secretary and the Soviet representative, was paid for out of it?
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
The Debate has been rescued from an informal atmosphere by the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I was waiting for him to make that speech, for he has made it before on other occasions. I heard him make it when we were discussing the purchase of masterpieces for the National Gallery, and he said then that it was wasteful expenditure when people are starving. It expresses a simple point of view, and he made the same point to-night. He said that it was scandalous for us to throw money away in this fashion while there are people who really need food and drink. If he really persists in this view, he will proceed to a Division, and, if he does that, he will be giving his vote against employment, because this money is not thrown away; it is employing people who otherwise would not be employed.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Would the hon. Gentleman suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that the way to decrease unemployment is to increase this hospitality?
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I would not be willing to advise the Lord Privy Seal in that way, but, if the normal method of spending money in entertaining were stopped, we should throw a good many people out of employment.
§ Mr. MESSER
If that is a logical argument, how many more would we put in employment if the money spent were given direct to them?
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I cannot answer that question at short notice. The interesting speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals was followed by a speech from the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Duncan). He was ungrateful to us on this side of the House, because our criticism has not been carping; it has been sympathetic. If we were mean, as the hon. Member said we were, I do not know what the hon. Member for Gorbals was. This Estimate really raises the whole question of host and guest. Hospitality has been one of the deepest ingrained sentiments since civilisation began, and it is appropriate that at the 1697 largest Peace Conference in the history of the world, we should entertain our guests decently and properly. It is very unfortunate that there should have been even one Member of the House of Commons who should have expressed himself in the way that the hon. Member for Gorbals did. The Peace Conference is in the interests of himself and his friends, who are here to support him in the greatest cause that humanity knows. I happened to be in America and saw the way in which his leader, the Prime Minister, was entertained by that country. One could not help feeling sorry that it was not the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) who was there, but one was proud, and grateful to the American nation for entertaining the head of our Government in the way that they did. It is only proper that we should repay, as far as we can, the kind of spirit that they showed on that occasion. I felt that some protest ought to be made from this side of the Committee, as well as from that side of the Committee, at the attitude of the hon. Member for Gorbals, and, having made my protest, not too greatly, I can sit down with a clear conscience.
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
I do not propose to criticise in the slightest degree the expenditure of the money which we are now asked to vote, but I want to raise what I regard as a somewhat important constitutional point. Hon. Members will notice that £5,000 has been advanced out of the Civil Contingencies Fund. There are two funds out of which moneys are advanced before its expenditure has been actually sanctioned by Parliament, one being the Civil Contingencies Fund and the other the Treasury Chest Fund. I would like to hear from the Financial Secretary what really is the exact difference between those two funds, from this point of view. I would also like to know what is the amount of the Civil Contingencies Fund at the present time. During the War that fund amounted at one moment to no less than £120,000,000. Of course, it does not amount to anything like that sum to-day. I should like to know. Is there any limit to that Fund? Is there any limit to the amount which can be issued from the Fund at any moment? Is there any particular source from which 1698 the Civil Contingencies Fund money is obtained? I would also like to know who fixes the amount which may be paid out. This is really important, because I fancy—although I do not know whether I am right in saying this—that the difference between the Civil Contingencies Fund and the Treasury Chest Fund is this, that in the case of the Civil Contingencies Fund—
§ The TEMPORARY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Snell)
I am afraid the Civil Contingencies Fund is not in order in this discussion.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
Of course, I will obey your Ruling, but in a note to the Supplementary Estimate it says that £5,000 has been advanced from the Civil Contingencies Fund, and a corresponding amount of this Vote is required to make repayment to that Fund. My point is that the money was issued from that Fund without sanction from this House. I think that is an important issue. I do not say the money ought not to have been advanced on this particular occasion, but I think Parliament ought to be very careful of this privilege. It is essential to know how big the Fund is, who issues the money out of the Fund, and whether any limit is placed—
§ Mr. STEPHEN
On a point of Order. Can the right hon. Gentleman go on discussing the Civil Contingencies Fund generally? Cannot he discuss only this particular contribution, and not the Fund as a whole?
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
May I make this submission on that point of Order? In my opinion my right hon. Friend must be in order, because on page 13 of the Supplementary Estimate it states quite specifically that £5,000 has been advanced, and although my right hon. Friend is not going into the principles which govern the Civil Contingencies Fund he is asking, in effect, what right the Treasury had to pay that money out.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Further to that point of Order. I would submit that there is no objection to the right hon. Gentleman asking why the money was paid out; but what I drew attention to was the general discussion of the Civil Contingencies Fund.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I may have gone rather wide and begun discussing 1699 the general principles of the Civil Contingencies Fund, but, I will now limit myself to asking the Financial Secretary under what Parliamentary authority that £5,000 was issued, by whom it was issued, and whether there is any limit to the amount for which the Hospitality Fund may draw upon the Civil Contingencies Fund. I raise this matter because I think it involves an important point of principle.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I will reply to the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman while it is fresh in the minds of the Committee before I deal with the other subjects raised in the Debate. The Civil Contingencies Fund and the Treasury Cheat are entirely separate and have got practically nothing to do with one another. The Treasury Chest is quite outside this Vote. It is mainly used to enable persons in foreign parts who are responsible to this country to hold a certain sum of money in foreign currency with which to make disbursements in those foreign countries, or to dealt with exchange in this country.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
But money is only issued from the Treasury Chest Fund after a Parliamentary grant has been made. Is not that so?
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
The Treasury Chest is a kind of balance which has to be held in various places in order to enable payments to be made—payments which are in the ordinary course of fulfilling the wishes of Parliament. That really is quite a separate matter from that with which we are dealing, and I only refer to it to get rid of a confusion which I think may have been in the minds of the Committee even if not in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman.
The Civil Contingencies Fund exists for the precise purpose which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to call in question. It exists for the specific purpose of enabling the executive of the day to devote money to a certain object before the precise authorisation of Parliament has been obtained, and the conditions which operate are two: First of all the total of the Civil Contingencies Fund must never exceed £1,500,000; and in the second place the payments must be brought before Parliament on the earliest available opportunity. With regard to the particular item before us, the autho- 1700 risation of Parliament is really implied, because we have had a Hospitality Fund for many years, and it is understood that the Government are authorised to provide hospitality as it may be required. If hospitality in excess of the original Estimate has to be provided at a time when it is not possible to bring a particular Vote before Parliament, it is provided temporarily out of the Civil Contingencies Fund on the understanding that at the earliest available opportunity the matter will be regularised, if necessary, by a Supplementary Vote. I think I have dealt with the constitutional point raised by the right hon. Gentleman. It is correct, as stated in the White Paper, that £5,000 of this additional £9,000 has already been found out of the Civil Contingencies Fund; and therefore when this money is voted, £5,000 will be used to pay back the Civil Contingencies Fund, leaving £4,000 available for the other purposes of the Vote, on which money has not yet been expended. I think that is clear.
I am glad that most of the speeches have been in favour of this expenditure, the only exception being that of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and I will say a few words about his criticisms later on. In the short speech I made at the commencement of the Debate, I said that I should be willing within certain limitations to reply to questions put to me. But it would not be in order for me to reply to all of the points which have been raised. Broadly speaking, the money voted on the original Estimate has been spent for the purposes for which it was originally voted. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) and the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crook-shank) appeared to assume that the expenditure of the Expert Committee on the Operation of Dominion Legislation must have been voted on the original Estimate, but that is not the case. That particular conference had not been envisaged in February of last year, and therefore no money was taken in the original Estimate for that particular hospitality, and the amount required for that purpose in this Vote is £6,000.
With regard to the Naval Conference, we cannot judge how much that will cost because we do not know how long it will 1701 last, but the amount put down has been estimated on the assumption that the Conference will last two months and on that estimate the total figure will be about £4,500. Thus, as I explained to the Committee when I moved this Vote, the combined amount required is £10,500, but £1,500 of that is found from the margin of the original Estimate, and therefore that leaves a sum of £9,000 still to be found. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) thought that we were putting up a reserve for the purposes of next year, and be was quite right when he stated that the balance was not surrendered each year to the Treasury. In fact, there was a balance of £333 from the previous year and it is estimated that there will be a balance of £739 at the end of the year assuming the Naval Conference lasts two months. Of course, if it lasts less, the balance is likely to be greater and vice versa.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
Take the case of the President of the Board of Trade who has gone to Geneva. On what Vote does that expenditure come—I mean the cost of the journey and allowances for living?
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
That is not relevant to this Supplementary Estimate, but I am quite willing to try to answer the question, though it is not strictly in order. As far as I am aware I do not think that the expenses incurred by any representative of this country abroad come under the Hospitality Vote, but I give this answer with reserve as I speak from memory only. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) asked a question about the details of the hospitality provided at the Naval Conference, but those are the sort of details which we do not as a rule give in minute particulars for the reasons I have already mentioned. The hospitality for the Dominions Conference included the hotel expenses of the delegates, while the hospitality in the case of the Naval Conference does not include the main hotel expenses of the various delegates, but it does include other forms of hospitality. I think that information will be sufficient and I will leave the matter there.
§ Captain CAZALET
I am not asking the Financial Secretary to range over the whole question of the hospitality 1702 fund. What I want to know is who is in control of this expenditure. Is it the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or a Government hospitality officer who decides what can be spent and what cannot be spent?
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I am sorry that I forgot to answer that question, among the many points that were put to me. I meant to do so. In the case of this Fund, the actual control is rather unique. A Treasury official is, in the first instance, the person who deals with these questions, but only, I think, after sanction by the First Commissioner of Works. Any Government Department that wants money from this Fund has to go to the First Commissioner of Works. He sanctions the expenditure, and the money is accounted for to the Treasury in the way that I have described. As the money is accounted for to the Treasury, it has been the universal custom for a great many years that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and not the First Commissioner of Works, should be here to deal with the question, and that is why I have to trouble the Committee on these occasions.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
It is subject to the same kind of control, but the personnel is different. There was some question with regard to other hospitality. That is somewhat outside this particular Vote, but perhaps I might just deal with the question in general terms. Many Members of the Government have to find hospitality that comes out of their own personal pockets, but there is a certain amount of hospitality that is incurred by Government Departments.
With regard to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals, I want to say in the first place that he is perfectly entitled to state his point of view, although it is not my point of view, and 1703 I strongly disagree with it. It must not be assumed that all this money is spent on food, or even on board and lodging. It must be remembered, for instance, that motor cars are very often required, and I think that everyone would agree that that is a perfectly necessary expenditure where delegates come to a conference and have to be taken about to different places; and probably my hon. Friend would agree to some extent, though not perhaps completely, that delegates should be afforded some opportunity of meeting one another at receptions and so on, which are a necessary part of any conference of this kind. I think that my hon. Friend visualises an entirely different world from that in which we live at the present time, but we have to take the world as it is. We have to take visitors coming from foreign countries as they are, and I think the Government would be very foolish, taking the world as it is at the present time, to cut down these expenses to such a point as to injure the value of the purposes of a great and important Conference such as this Naval Conference is, in order to save a few thousand pounds. [Interruption.] I think that the majority of the Committee will consider that this money is well spent.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I am not at all against hospitality, but I heard a distinguished visitor to London say that he has not been able to do any business here owing to the very fine time that he is having every day and every night. There must be some official who is in charge of the expenditure which comes out of this Fund, though I take it that the First Commissioner of Works is ostensibly responsible. I should like to ask whether the official in question is left to say that there shall be a "do" to-night, another "do" to-morrow night, and so on. Can he have a free hand to institute festivities without discussion with the First Commissioner of Works, or is it the First Commissioner of Works who really institutes these festivities?
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
The position is precisely similar to the position in the case of any other Department. The person responsible is the First Commissioner of Works, and, for good or ill, he takes the praise or bears the blame 1704 for whatever is done. Of course, as everyone knows, Ministers have many occupations, and a great part of the work has to be left to the permanent officials, but all the major decisions must be taken by Ministers, and theirs is the responsibility. In this particular case the expenditure is subject to more than the ordinary checks. In the first place, there is the decision of the head of the Department that wants to organise the hospitality. Then there is the decision of the First Commissioner of Works; and, finally, there is the decision of the Treasury. Meticulous care, therefore, is taken to see that the money is not wrongly spent.
§ Sir CLIVE MORRISON-BELL
The explanation which the hon. Gentleman has given will probably satisfy the whole Committee. His remarks at the commencement brought to my mind the old Treasury Chest, which, as I remember very well, used to be the subject, 20 years ago, of an annual speech by Lord Beaverbrook when he was in this House.
§ Mr. BENSON
On a point of Order. Is it permissible to discuss the Treasury Chest Fund on this Vote?
§ The TEMPORARY-CHAIRMAN
I must draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that this is a Supplementary Estimate dealing with a quite specific matter, and that the discussion should not wander from the exact purpose of the Vote.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Surely, in view of the starting of the new party, the hon. Baronet should be allowed to say something on this Estimate?
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
I was not going to discuss that question at all. It was only that the remarks of the Financial Secretary brought back to my mind the annual Debates that we used to have on the Treasury Chest in years gone by.
I wanted to say a word or two on the point raised by the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Duncan), who has just left the Committee. He seemed to resent the fact that hon. Members on this side of the Committee were asking the Financial Secretary for some further details with regard to this Fund. He approved of hospitality being shown to these visitors, as I think we all do, but I think we ought to protest from this side when 1705 hon. Members opposite raise an objection to our asking for a certain amount of information, because, unless my memory is at fault—and I am sorry that the hon. Member is not here to correct me—I have a sort of recollection of a speech delivered by the hon. Member from these very benches on this particular Fund. I am glad that his change from one side of the House to the other has brought about such a very mild point of view on this question.