HC Deb 17 March 1932 vol 263 cc529-33

I beg to move, in page 12, line 26, at the end, to add the words: and no other payments shall be made out of the Wheat Fund unless such account and report are approved by the Commons House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty-eight days on which that House has sat after such account and report have been laid before Parliament. The object of the Amendment is to see that the proceedings of the Wheat Commission and the whole matter of the Wheat Fund are kept within the control of Parliament. We are embarking on a very novel experiment; the House is setting up this body, and we are extracting money, really by way of a tax upon certain consumers, and we shall hand it over as a subsidy to certain categories of persons. It is very necessary that the House should keep the closest possible control on this experiment. As far as I can gather, looking at the Front Bench opposite at the present moment, this Bill is a permanent subsidy. Of course, if the Secretary of State for Scotland were present it would be temporary. It is most necessary, therefore, that the House should know what is happening. Millions of pounds will be passed into this Fund and will be distributed through the Fund, and Parliament ought to keep control over it. We on this side are, perhaps, rather meticulous in insisting that these experiments in collective trading should be under the control of the House, but I do not gather from the Bill that there is any real effective power of review. The Amendment says, that not only must the accounts and reports be laid before Parliament, but that there must be a Debate on the whole subject, and that no further payments will be made out of the Wheat Fund until the House has approved affirmatively of the accounts and the report. That is a safeguard which ought to be put into the Bill. I recollect in the discussions on the last Bill dealing with agricultural matters, hon. Members opposite were insistent on the control of Parliament all the way through, and I hope that the change of sides in the House has not changed their opinion. We want to see that Parliament is not left altogether out of control in this taxing and doling machinery.


The effect of this Amendment would be to break down the whole machinery of the working of the Wheat Commission, because it will mean that from the time when the report is presented to the time when the House has passed a special affirmative Resolution approving the previous year's accounts, no disbursements whatever, even to their own staff, could be made by the Wheat Commission. That is quite an unprecedented form of Parliamentary control, and is obviously not what is intended or desired. Everybody agrees that it is only right that the Ministry, and through the Ministry, Parliament should watch this experiment and should have a report each year properly certified and audited, but the proper control of Parliament ought to be exercised in the ordinary way, namely, by its power to raise any question concerning the administration of this fund on the Minister's salary. The Minister has to approve the Estimates and the expenditure of this fund.

Constitutionally, the duties of the Minister in regard to the fund and to the Wheat Commission have been preserved, and therefore it will be open to the House at any time to ask questions about them, and it will be open to the House of Commons to review the matter in Committee of Supply on the Vote of the Minister's salary. It would be quite impracticable without breaking down the whole machinery of the Commission, to require an affirmative Resolution in this case, and the Government cannot possibly agree with the Amendment. It would mean that unless and until the Comptroller and Auditor - General's accounts and report have been approved by a special affirmative Resolution no payments whatever could be made. That is really an impractical method of providing Parliamentary control. The mere fact that the Government have assured in this Bill that the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall review the fund each year and shall make a report, is a sufficient indication that they are determined that this whole matter shall be carried on in accordance with the strict rules of national finance and of Ministerial and public control.

7.30 p.m.


This is the first time that I have intervened in the Debate to-day, but I must confess that I am not happy about the words used by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that our Amendment was unprecedented. It is unprecedented because the Bill itself is unprecedented. Consequently, if we are going to deal with the money of the consumer through the farmer, the miller, the Wheat Commission and the Ministry, we must have evidence and balance sheets in a new way entirely. Let me run through the organisations and the people who will have pickings out of this £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. There is the farmer, the individual miller, the Millers' Corporation, the Wheat Commission, the corn merchant, the poultry keeper, the Minister of Agriculture and the Government Departments concerned. All these people will receive some payments, and this Bill is designed to give them pickings. I am glad to take part in this particular point of finance. My hon. Friends have been dealing with the quota, but they think that I am capable of saying a word or two about balance sheets. There is an analogy between this Measure and the beet sugar subsidy. How long will it take, unless we carry this Amendment, before the Government Department is able to secure an audit of the accounts? It seems to me that a large number of Amendments will be required to make the Bill workable. This is the mast complicated thing I have ever seen before Parliament, and I wish to deal with the point about the accounts. Will the accounts of the Flour Millers' Corporation be audited by the Treasury?


I think the speech of the hon. Member would be more appropriate to the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." The point before us now is whether the payment should be made out of the Wheat Commission Fund before a definite Resolution has been passed by this House.


I was getting a little wide of the mark, because I wanted to prove that I knew something about the subject. Perhaps I may have an opportunity of putting my point later, because it is an important one. On the particular issue now before us our Amendment says: and no other payment shall be made out of the Wheat Fund until such account and report are approved by the Commons House of Parliament. Is the right hon. Gentleman afraid of the House of Commons? If that is not the case he ought to accept this Amendment. Altogether too much authority has been given to Government Departments by this Government. They have rushed Bills through Parliament at such a speed that I am not sure whether the Departments can digest them properly or work them, and that is one of the reasons why I am supporting the Amendment. Having said that much, I am sure I have convinced the Government that there is substance in this Amendment.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 43; Noes, 230.

Division No. 119.] AYES. [7.32 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Attlee, Clement Richard Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Briant, Frank Grundy, Thomas W. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Buchanan, George Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Parkinson, John Allen
Cape, Thomas Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Price, Gabriel
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Hirst, George Henry Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cove, William G. Holdsworth, Herbert Thorne, William James
Cripps, Sir Stafford Janner, Barnett Tinker, John Joseph
Daggar, George Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Wallhead, Richard C.
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Kirkwood, David Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Edwards, Charles Lawson, John James Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Leonard, William Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Logan, David Gilbert
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Lunn, William TELLERS FOR THE AYFS.—
Mr. John and Mr. Groves.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Atkinson, Cyril Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Balfour, George (Hampstead) Blindell, James
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Boothby, Robert John Graham
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Borodale, Viscount
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm th, C.) Bossom, A. C.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Bernays, Robert Boulton, W. W.
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton
Aske, Sir Robert William Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.
Boyce, H. Leslie Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) Ramsbotham, Herwald
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Ramsden, E.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Horsbrugh, Florence Ratcliffe, Arthur
Broadbent, Colonel John Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Rawson, Sir Cooper
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Rea, Walter Russell
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Hume, Sir George Hopwood Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Reid, David D. (County Down)
Browne, Captain A. C. Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd) Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Caine, G. R. Hall Iveagh, Countess of Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Robinson, John Roland
Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley) Johnston, J. w. (Clackmannan) Ropner, Colonel L.
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Rosbotham, S. T.
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Kerr, Hamilton W. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Kimball, Lawrence Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Runge, Norah Cecil
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Russell, Hamer Field, (Sheffield, B'tside)
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Law, Sir Alfred Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Christie, James Archibald Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.; Salmon, Major Isidore
Clarry, Reginald George Leckie, J. A. Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Colfox, Major William Philip Leech, Dr. J. W. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Colville, John Levy, Thomas Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Conant, R. J. E. Lewis, Oswald Savery, Samuel Servington
Cook, Thomas A. Lindsay, Noel Ker Scone, Lord
Cooke, Douglas Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Llewellin, Major John J. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Crossley, A. C. Lloyd, Geoffrey Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley) Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Dickie, John P. Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Somervell, Donald Bradley
Donner, P. W. Mabane, William Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Drewe, Cedric MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Duggan, Hubert John McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Stones, James
Duncan, James A. L, (Kensington, N.) McKie, John Hamilton Storey, Samuel
Eales, John Frederick McLean, Major Alan Stourton, Hon. John J.
Eastwood, John Francis McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Sutcliffe, Harold
Elmley, Viscount Maitland, Adam Templeton, William P.
Emmott, Charles E. G. C, Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Marsden, Commander Arthur Thompson, Luke
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Martin, Thomas B. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Thorp, Linton Theodore
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Millar, Sir James Duncan Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Fermoy, Lord Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Fox, Sir Gilford Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Fuller, Captain A. G. Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Ganzoni, Sir John Moreing, Adrian C. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Glossop, C. W. H. Muirhead, Major A. J. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Munro, Patrick Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Coff, Sir Park Nation, Brigadler-General J. J. H. Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Newton, Sir Douglas George C. Wells, Sydney Richard
Gower, Sir Robert Normand, Wilfrid Guild Weymouth, Viscount
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Nunn, William Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas O'Connor, Terence James Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Greene, William P. C. O'Donovan, Dr. William James Wills, Wilfrid D.
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Grimston, R. V. Ormiston, Thomas Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Wise, Alfred R.
Guy, J. C. Morrison Pearson, William G. withers, Sir John James
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Penny, Sir George Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Petherick, M. Worthington, Dr. John V.
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilst'n) Wragg, Herbert
Hartland, George A. Pike, Cecil F.
Haslam, Henry (Lindsay, H'ncastle) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Mr. Womersley and Major George
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Davies,
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.