HC Deb 05 March 1934 vol 286 cc1547-72

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £272,000, 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, 1934, for sundry Dominion Services, including certain Grants-in-Aid and for expenditure in connection with Ex-Service Men in the Irish Free State, and for a Grant-in-Aid to the Irish Free State in respect of Compensation to Transferred Officers.

3.48 p.m.


This expenditure comes under three heads. The first is connected with the Bechuanaland Protectorate. In June we asked for £140,000 grant-in-aid for the territory, and we are now asking for an additional sum of £37,000, bringing the total up to £177,000. When I presented the Estimate in June I described briefly the conditions which made it necessary. The territory has not only suffered from the world economic depression, but on the top of that it has suffered very severely during last year from the drought, and in addition there has been a severe outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among the cattle of Bechuanaland. The last named calamity resulted in an embargo being put on exports from Bechuanaland, and, as a consequence, not only has the revenue of the territory fallen by one-half, but the administration has had to go to considerable extra expenditure in combating the disease and also in alleviating the distress among native and European inhabitants. I am very glad to say that so far as those matters are concerned there has been a considerable improvement in the terri- tory in the last 12 months. Nevertheless we are asking for an extra £37,000. Something like £17,000 of that is due to the deficit on the Budget over and above the grant-in-aid already given to the territory. The greater part of that £17,000 is on account of additional expenditure in the alleviation of distress amongst the inhabitants.


Is no part of this sum due to Admiral Evans's expedition with his marines?


Part of the sum is due to that, and if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had waited I would have come to that point. As I said, the greater part of the £17,000 is on account of additional expenditure connected with the alleviation of distress amongst the inhabitants resulting from the drought and embargo put on exports. A certain amount of the £17,000 is on account of the expedition to which reference has been made. The sum, as far as we can see at present, will amount to something less than £4,000. This is being borne on the Vote this afternoon. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will see that we are not asking the natives of the territory to bear any of that expense. In addition to that sum of £17,000 we are asking for another £20,000 in order to provide the administration with fixed working capital. Normally that would be supplied out of surplus assets, but as those do not exist in the territory we think it desirable to provide the money out of a grant-in-aid rather than go in for the expense involved in a permanent overdraft at the bank, for which we have to pay a comparatively high rate of interest. That disposes of the head concerning Bechuanaland.

Then there is the question of salaries in connection with Newfoundland. The Committee will remember the discussion that we had on Newfoundland a few months ago. Three of the Commissioners were to have their salaries borne direct out of United Kingdom funds. The new form of government was formally establisted in the island on 16th February, and this sum of £1,000 is required to pay the salaries of those individuals during the remainder of this financial year. Then there is a third head in the Estimates "Newfoundland, Grant-in-Aid." The Committee will remember that when we had the discussion on Newfoundland re- cently it was made clear that further Supplementary Estimates would be required before the end of the year in order to meet a deficiency in the current financial year, including a provision for the payment of interest due on the public debt on 1st January of this year, and the greater part of this sum of £234,000 is in order to meet that situation and make up the payment of the interest on the public debt.

I think the Committee will be interested in learning the result of the conversion offer which was made at that time. One of the recommendations of the Royal Commission was that the burden of the public debt should be lightened as quickly as possible, and in order to achieve that a conversion offer was made. Although the complete results will not be known for some time, I am able to state that the response has been extremely satisfactory. The old non-trustee stock which could be exchanged were of a total value in sterling of £15,286,000. The guaranteed stock set up in respect of exchange of these securities is £14,964,000. So that approximately 98 per cent. has already been exchanged. The trustee securities came under a separate arrangement. About 25 per cent. of those have also been converted. The net result of that operation is a saving during the six months of just about £150,000. The greater part of this £234,000 under this sub-head is in order to meet the deficiency and to allow those payments of interest to be made.

In addition we are asking for a sum of £40,000 in connection with certain work of reconstruction or rehabilitation in the Island which the Royal Commission said was of great urgency. If hon. Members who have the Report of the Royal Commission with them will look at page 130, they will see that from paragraph 364 onwards the Commissioners made certain recommendations for immediate action to resuscitate the deep-sea fishery and the fall fisheries in Newfoundland. The object which they set themselves was to increase the fishing season by some four months per annum, and they made certain recommendations for early expenditure in order to carry out that development. They calculated that something like £40,000 would be required for the purpose. We are including the sum of £40,000 in this Supplementary Estimate so that development along those lines can be undertaken by the new Government, and thus the work of reconstruction and revival in Newfoundland will be put into being straight away.


Have the new Commissioners appointed to Newfoundland already started their duties?


As I stated, the new Government was installed on 16th February. The new Commissioners are there and have started their duties.

3.57 p.m.


I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

I had intended to ask first of all what the Supplementary Estimate for the Bechuanaland Protectorate was for, and what was meant by "cost of administration." All that is mentioned in the Supplementary Estimate is abnormal conditions due to drought and foot-and-mouth disease. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) drew from the Under-Secretary of State something that is not mentioned in any way, the expedition in this Protectorate, about which I think we ought to hear something more. What are the intentions? I will leave that subject to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. The statement we have here is not sufficiently explanatory, and we ought to be told more on a matter which might be a subject of controversy.

With regard to Newfoundland, we have never been told yet in this House who are the Special Commissioners who have been appointed and what are their qualifications for this particular work. Nor have we any idea how long they are likely to be engaged on this work. We have just learned that they have arrived in Newfoundland and that a week or two ago they started on their work. I hope that the Commissioners will bear in mind many of the points and recommendations of the Royal Commission that was presided over by Lord Amulree. The Under-Secretary of State has mentioned one or two things that are in the Royal Commission's Report. May I mention one or two other things in the report? Newfoundland, it was said, had been the victim of a corrupt and vicious political system for many years past, and the report contained an overwhelming condemnation of private enterprise, which had brought the Colony to its present state of bankruptcy, although the Colony was blessed by nature to withstand the world economic depression better than most places.

I want these things to be remembered by the Special Commission that has gone out to Newfoundland, because democracy has gone from the Colony and the Government is financed by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. We have already advanced £550,000, and we ought to be told what is the estimate of the total cost to be undertaken by the United Kingdom taxpayers. How many millions is it likely to take to complete the business? The people in Newfoundland are hard-working, poor and honourable. We know that the money is not provided for them. It has been provided for the bondholders, and there is no guarantee as to what is to be the result of the Special Commission. I hope that the new Government in Newfoundland will not lose sight of many of the recommendations in the Royal Commission's Report. After all, it is very likely that when the Special Commission reports, it may report to a very different Parliament from the one as now constituted. It may be, and it is very likely, that if there should be a General Election before the Special Commission has finished its work, there will be a much more critical House on this matter than there has been with regard to all this money having to be found by the British taxpayers for the resuscitation of the Colony.

We have no particular objection to helping the people of Newfoundland. Our objections have been to the methods taken by the Government, and to the people who are to benefit by their action. Therefore, I hope that the Commission will see that an economic system which has ruined Newfoundland will not be reestablished. After all the viciousness and the exploitation that have gone on, it is to be hoped that the Special Commission will bear in mind the strong points in the Report of the Royal Commission, and that they will set up a new system arising out of that report which will not simply be to the advantage of those who have invested their money in the Colony, but to the benefit of the long-suffering inhabitants of the Colony.

4.5 p.m.


I think that we are entitled to much more information than has been given to us by the hon. Gentleman opposite. First of all, in regard to what is described as a Grant-in-Aid, the hon. Gentleman did not take the Committee into his confidence, and I think he missed a great opportunity of justifying his office and the position it occupies over the people of Bechuanaland.


I would remind the hon. Member that this Vote is for an additional sum of £37,000. The main policy has already been decided, and cannot now be discussed on this Vote.


We have had no statement with regard to part of this expenditure. There was an occasion, which came to our notice during the past year, when Admiral Evans, who, I believe, is the Admiral in charge of the naval forces in South Africa, made a demonstration which drew the attention of the whole world, and rather disturbed a good many people in this country because of the display of force—unnecessary force, we believe—on that occasion, and now we find that that unnecessary display, accompanied by guns, the rattle of drums and the presence of soldiers, is to be at the expense of the Treasury to the extent of not less than £4,000. Not a word is said about that in the Statement, and we would like to know why, if a question had not been put, it should have been glossed over, and allowed to pass. I would like to know, if I am allowed to ask the questions under the Rules of Order, why the £4,000 was spent; whether any authority was given for the expedition by Admiral Evans in Bechuanaland; whether he was authorised to go under the conditions and with the accompaniment of the force which was displayed on that occasion; and whether it was necessary to spend £4,000 of public money of this country in making that demonstration of force against a people unarmed, friendly, and generally content with their relations with us. Further, there is an additional provision in the Estimate for a Grant-in-Aid of expenses of administration on account of abnormal conditions due to drought and foot-and-mouth disease. I am sure it would be a lesson of profit to the Committee if it were told exactly how this abnormal expenditure became necessary last year.


I am afraid that that is exactly a question to which I could not allow the Minister to reply. So far as the expedition under Admiral Evans is concerned, the Minister has stated that that is included in the £17,000, and, of course, it is open to the Committee to discuss that point; but, on the general question and supplementary questions relating to the Navy the hon. Member must not make comments on this Vote.


It was the abnormal measures and abnormal expenditure to which I referred. That is what the Grant-in-Aid is designed to meet, and I thought there might be some explanation as to the grant.


I am afraid I could not have made myself very clear. The question that there are abnormal conditions necessitating a Grant-in-Aid was dealt with on the main Estimate of £140,000. The only question that arises now is whether the £17,000 is required. We cannot go into the question of the original policy.


I was not going into the original policy, but was only asking for a statement as to the kind of measures adopted. If, however, that is out of order, I do not want to trespass any further, but will go back to the question of the expenses of Admiral Evans. I would ask what the £4,000 covers, and where the expense begins. Does it begin in Bechuanaland, or outside? Does it begin when Admiral Evans conceived the enterprise, or when he started the march with all the panoply of war, which was so discreditable a feature of the expedition; who authorised it; whether, in the absence of authorisation, Admiral Evans took upon himself the responsibility; and, if so, in the event of his being personally responsible, whether he could not be called upon to pay the expense himself? I think that the Committee is entitled to know very much more of this adventure. Admiral Evans must have enjoyed himself, but it is very unfair that we should pay for the pleasure of a demonstration of that kind to the extent of £4,000.

4.10 p.m.


I should like to criticise, with the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), somewhat the manner in which this Estimate has been presented. Like other hon. Members, on reading the Estimate I never imagined that it contained the sum of £4,000 on account of the expedition to Bechuanaland. The original Estimate was to deal with the bad conditions in Bechuanaland owing to drought and cattle disease, but why in such a Supplementary Estimate as we have now before us there should be hidden away this £4,000 for the Admiral's expedition, I fail to see. I do not think it is fair to the Committee that an Estimate should be presented in this way. The hon. Member has assured the Committee that this charge will be in no wise placed upon the people of Bechuanaland. If that be the case, I venture to ask why it is included in a Grant-in-Aid to Bechuanaland? I hope that the hon. Member when he replies, will give us some reason why the Estimate has been presented in this way, and some further assurance that the £4,000 will eventually find its way into the right pigeon-hole, it being now, I believe, in the wrong one.

4.12 p.m.


I, too, want to enter a protest against this extremely novel and bad habit of the Dominions Office. I cannot believe that this was originally drafted by the Office but imagine that it has been altered subsequently by the Secretary of State for the Dominions. It is inconceivable, on the wording, that it should have been intended to cover the £4,000 for Admiral Evans's expedition. Nobody could have suspected that it was included. I thought it best to ask the question to make certain, believing that I should merely be told that it was not there. Everybody reading the Supplementary Estimate could have had no conception that the taxpayers of this country were to be asked to pay for that wild-cat expedition of Admiral Evans. There are not merely two alternative ways to pay for that sort of advertisement—through the taxpayers of this country, or the unfortunate natives of Bechuanaland. There is a third alternative, namely, that it should be surcharged on Admiral Evans's salary. The story that is going about the Navy as to whether he was authorised to take that expedition to Bechuanaland.

The first question I want to ask is, whether the Department were in favour of the drafting of the Supplementary Estimate; and, in the second place, whether Admiral Evans was authorised in any way whatever to carry out the expedition? Was it known to the Dominions Office before he started that he was going to take that force of machine guns against a perfectly friendly native tribe? Let the Committee remember what really happened. It was while the House was not in Session. Khama's second son ordered the flogging of a white man in Bechuanaland because he was living on the immoral earnings of black women, after the Chief had done everything by writing to the resident magistrate to get the man removed. Immediately it got into the South African Press there was all the trouble that usually arises when any white man occupies an inferior position in relation to a black. Admiral Evans, in the absence of the High Commissioner, immediately went up with a number of marines and machine guns, disregarding the fact that there was no opposition whatever on the part of the natives. The expedition was so ridiculous that it was ridiculed even in the South African Press, where they are only too anxious to support any violent action by white against black. No defence of the expedition has been put forward anywhere. The native chief was dethroned, but, immediately, upon representations by Dominions Office, he was re-established in his position.

There was no justification for and no good results from the action of Admiral Evans, and if it was not authorised from the Dominions Office or from this country I maintain that the cost ought not to be a charge either on the British taxpayer or on the natives of Bechuanaland, but should be surcharged on the salary of the man who made himself responsible for it. Unfortunately, unless you do sometimes take drastic action against your servants all over the world, they will take upon themselves responsibility for carrying out policies which are sheer advertisement. Nothing has been or can be said for this expedition, and I would like to know whether there was any semblance of authorisation from this country for the action of Admiral Evans, and whether it will be possible to get back this money by a surcharge upon his salary or upon Navy funds.

Passing from that, I turn to Newfoundland. The Commissioners I am glad to see have taken up their work there. I gather that they are to be paid £2,000 a year each, that is £1,200 salary with 4,000 dollars allowance. I think the salary is a trifle high and that you could have got the same people for less, but what I am particularly interested to know is, what are they going to do, now that they are on the job, about the recommendations of the committee which reported on Newfoundland and its conditions? In the first place, what are they going to do to put an end to the graft, the almost glorified bribery and corruption which was going on in that Dominion? It is not enough to put three English Commissioners into the country. Something ought to be done by way of improving both the status and the morality of the civil service in that island. Are we simply sending out there a certain number of Englishmen with British traditions as to the conduct of public business, or are we going to leaven the existing civil service in the Newfoundland with a better element so that we may hope to put an end to the extremely unsavoury state of affairs which existed before we took over there? Secondly, when the Commissioners start on their work in Newfoundland will they deal with the question of the taxation of undeveloped land in Newfoundland?


I must point out to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the functions of the Newfoundland Government authorised by the recent Act of Parliament do not come up for discussion on this Vote at all. I think the discussion must be limited to those Commissioners for whose payment this House is responsible.


I was speaking on the question of the Commissioners' salaries. If we pay men a big salary we have a right to expect good work from them.


The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will forgive me for intervening again, but I think the question which he was raising was a question relating to the Newfoundland Government as a whole. I must point out to him that half the Members of that Gov- ernment are not paid by this House at all and I do not think that he can possibly criticise that Government as a whole on this Vote.


That is a very serious statement, Captain Bourne, and I do not think we can allow it to pass unargued. Surely now that we have responsibility for Newfoundland, now that we have to make the Newfoundland budget balance, now that we have the nomination and dismissal not only of the three Commissioners here mentioned but of all the Commissioners, including the Newfoundlanders, we are entitled to deal with these questions here. I submit that so long as the powers I have described rest with the House of Commons and the Dominions Office we have a right to discuss these matters here. In fact, it is our duty to do so.


The right hon. and gallant Gentleman may be right in that general statement but I think that as regards the commissioners who are not paid by this House the discussion could only arise on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State. It is he who is responsible for nominating them. The difficulty that I am in on this Vote is that we have here a Government, part of which is being paid for by this House and part by Newfoundland, and it seems to me that the occasion on which to criticise the actions of that Government as a whole would be the discussion of the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State.


This is a very important point of Order. This Supplementary Estimate includes expenditure by the Government of Newfoundland of £40,000 for reconstruction in connection with various matters mentioned in the report and recommendations of the Royal Commission. Is it not cempetent to discuss the question of how money voted to the Government of Newfoundland should best be spent and what is the most economical and best way of dealing with our liability to carry on, in that respect, the government of Newfoundland?


The hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that on this Supplementary Estimate I am in considerable difficulty. There was an original grant of £400,000 made to Newfoundland. There is a subsequent grant of £234,000 which is now before the Committee. In normal circumstances I should not regard that as a new service and therefore the question of policy would not be open for discussion at all. But I cannot forget that in this case the situation has been altered to some extent by the Act recently passed by Parliament. All I am laying down at the moment is that where action is taken by the Newfoundland Government as a whole I think we ought to discuss it on the main Estimate, on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State, because obviously he is the only person who can bear any responsibility for those of the commissioners who are not paid by this House. My difficulty is to draw the line between that part of the Newfoundland Government for whose payment we are directly responsible and that part of it for whose payment we have no responsibility at all.


May I put this consideration to you, Captain Bourne? Here is a sum of £40,000 which is being voted for an entirely new service, for something what has never been contemplated in any Estimate before. That service is concerned with the reconstruction of certain industries in Newfoundland under the authority of the Newfoundland Government. Is it not competent for this Committee now to discuss how the money so voted can best be expended and what attitude it is desirable for our commissioners—who are paid by this House—to take up as regards the influence which they can bring to bear on the expenditure of that money?


I think I have said in an earlier ruling that I realise that this Estimate, in this particular form, raises an entirely different point and that, as far as the £40,000 is concerned, it must obviously be regarded as a new service and is open to discussion as such. But it seemed to me that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was really going into a wider question of policy altogether, as to what the Newfoundland Government might or might not do beyond the limits of the £40,000. I think that a question of that sort should be raised on the main Estimate on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State because he is the only person who could be held to be responsible for the commissioners who are not paid by this House.


I think it is quite clear that on the question of voting this sum of £40,000 we are entitled to raise this point—that certain preliminary considerations must be taken into account by the Commissioners, when it is a matter of developing the industries of Newfoundland. We are all willing that money should be spent on such a purpose, even though it comes out of the pockets of the British taxpayer, but what we want to know is: Are the Government satisfied that this preliminary expenditure of £40,000 on the development of the deep-sea fisheries, is the most economical and is likely to be the most reproductive way of investing our money? These problems are strange even to us on this side of the Committee; I fear they are equally strange to the Dominions Office, and in the circumstances it might be possible, with a too generous spirit on the part of the new Government in Newfoundland, to rush us into an expenditure of £40,000 on some purpose, without being certain that that was a wise or reproductive expenditure.

The spirit of giving doles has to stop in Newfoundland. The subsidising of industries which do not pay has to stop in Newfoundland. If we are to make a success of that country, we shall have to find out the industries which ought to pay and develop them. The first thing is to get the land into the possession of the Government so that the development of Newfoundland will be the development of our own property and not the development of other people's property. I hope we shall not see there, what we have seen in the development of other territories, an enormous expenditure of public money the benefit from which does not accrue either to the taxpayers here or to the people of the country concerned, but to the benefit of the London Stock Exchange and of speculators in land who may see their derelict properties develop overnight into valuable states which can be floated on the market. It is never too early to look into and stop development on those lines, and it is essential, if we are to make a success of Newfoundland, that we should get in on the ground floor ourselves and have the Government holding the land and the minerals from which in the future dividends and returns are to be expected.

This is not a case of taking over a Colony without a debt which we can develop without great responsibility to the taxpayers. In Newfoundland we are taking over a Colony with a gigantic debt, and it is our duty to the people of this country to see that any capital sums which we spend there are invested reproductively, so that people here may recover at least the interest on the money which they are going to put into the Colony, so that the taxpayers here may not be milked as the taxpayers there have been for the benefit of vested interests and the lucky individuals who usually get a "rake-off" during these processes of development. It is admitted that Newfoundland is an extraordinarily difficult proposition for any Department to tackle, and I should be most loath to say anything which would make their task more difficult, but I believe the hon. Member and the Department are at one with me in thinking it necessary to get into that country some of our own young men of the Colonial Office type, to set the tone and to raise the level of the administration, and that it is essential to get back the land of that country for the public, as a necessary preliminary to any successful development of the latent wealth of the Colony.

4.31 p.m.


With regard to your Ruling, Captain Bourne, I should like to ask whether there were any terms of reference or instructions given to our three Commissioners, for whose salaries the Vote is now being considered, in regard to their action when they should arrive there, in conjunction with the Newfoundland Commissioners. It is an important thing for the people of this country and the Members of this Committee to know just what action is going to be taken and what instructions, if any, have been given. Our commissioners represent three out of six, so that they have a 50–50 voice in determining the policy that is to be conducted in Newfoundland.

The other point that I would like to put is a more important one. I am not sure what is included under the item K2, £234,000, but I understand that the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State said that included in it would be interest due to the bondholders, which was recently agreed to in this House. I would like to know whether any grants or any sums are included in this Estimate to relieve the immediate distress of the fishermen themselves. After all, the thing that hon. Members were most interested in, when we were discussing the Resolution that we were asked to pass some time ago, was the fact that Newfoundland was in such a state of bankruptcy that not only were the Government officials suffering, but there was terrible distress among the poor fishermen and others in that Colony. There is nothing in the Vote that I can see which shows that any immediate relief has been given to them, and I should like to know whether they are still in that condition of dire distress, if any of the amount voted has been included for that purpose, how such amount, if any, has been distributed, by whom, what is the limit of it, and how long it is likely to be needed.

With regard to the interest to the bondholders, I was interested to learn from the hon. Gentleman that a very considerable saving—he got almost enthusiastic about it—of £150,000 had been made in, I presume, reducing the interest or issuing a new form of bond. I presume that the old bond was called in and a new form issued, or perhaps the same bond was allowed to remain at a reduced rate of interest. The hon. Gentleman rather seemed to imply that the bondholders were acting so generously, by agreeing, presumably, to a reduced rate of interest, that we were actually able to save £150,000. I think the bondholders would take another point of view. I think they would consider that they had had a security which was worth nothing at all, and that this House came to their rescue, gave them a security, to which they were not entitled, at the expense of the British taxpayers generally, and said to them, "We will let you off very lightly, and if you are prepared to make some small offer to show the British taxpayer that we are getting at least a little bit back from you, it will be squared up on that line."

When the hon. Gentleman comes here and says they were so generous that they actually accepted new conditions under which we were able to make a profit of £150,000, I should think he knows, as I certainly know, that he is talking sheer nonsense. They gave us nothing at all. Everything they have got now is of value. They have a security that they never could have had if it had not been for the action of this House, and if they acted in anything like a generous spirit, it would not be a matter of £150,000 saved, but at least 50 per cent. of the entire amount that is involved. I think we could reasonably ask for that amount and then consider ourselves generous, because the British taxpayers are giving them the only security that they have got. The Commissioners' report said that the conditions out there were hopeless, that political corruption was on every hand, that land was being given away by people who had no right to give it away, that generally speaking corruption was so bad that nobody appeared in the Government service or in high office who was not in some form or other corrupt. That question has been settled by a Vote of this House, I am sorry to say, but I am sure that we are all concerned about the actual condition of the people who suffered as a consequence of that corruption, namely, the poorest section of the people in Newfoundland, and I would like the hon. Gentleman to tell us what has been done to relieve that terrible distress, and whether it can be truthfully said that the terrible poverty about which we were told a few weeks ago has in fact been relieved.

4.39 p.m.


I would like to ask a question about the Evans Expedition. I was not here, I am sorry to say, but I understand that the Under-Secretary of State said that £4,000 of this Vote of £37,000 for the Bechuanaland Protectorate was to defray that expenditure. Is the hon. Gentleman sure that he is right about that, and that he can defray that expenditure? First of all, this is a new sub-head; it is not in the main Estimate for the year. It is a sub-head which first appeared in the Supplementary Estimate of the 22nd June, and there it was taken in the form of a grant to meet the estimated deficiency on the account for the revenue and expenditure of the Protectorate, which has been accentuated by abnormal conditions due to drought and foot-and-mouth disease. That means that the grant was required for the general expenditure, but that that general expenditure was increased, the situation being accentuated owing to abnormal conditions of drought and foot-and-mouth disease. That might have covered the Evans Expedition, if it had been before June, but the form of the Supplementary Estimate does not show that that grant was for that purpose. If the form of the Estimate means anything at all, it means that the extra £37,000 is merely on account of the two items: extra expenditure on drought and extra expenditure on foot-and-mouth disease; and it does not mean that it is an extra grant for the whole of the deficiency in that public expenditure. I may be wrong, but that is what my knowledge of these things makes me think it means, and I do not believe that, in spite of the hon. Gentleman's saying that the £4,000 is to be taken out of this, it can be taken out of it. On the other hand, if it can be taken out of it, I think it is nothing less than a public scandal that that item of expenditure should be smuggled in in this form without the House of Commons being made aware of it before the speech of the Under-Secretary of State. But I am not sure that he is right, and that he will get his £4,000 out of it as he thinks he will.

4.41 p.m.


I notice that in respect of two items of this Supplementary Estimate there is this phrase: Expenditure out of this Grant-in-Aid will not be accounted for in detail to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. That occurs with regard to item J, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and item K.2, the Newfoundland Grant-in-Aid. Who is going to account to this House for the proper expenditure of money voted by this House in respect of these two services? I am sorry I was not here to hear the statement of the Under-Secretary of State at the beginning of the proceedings, but I hope I am well within the truth when I suggest that here is a sum of £37,000 to be expended, we are told, in relation to certain drought and foot-and-mouth disease requirements. What assurance is there that the £37,000 will be so spent? This House would not allow the hon. Gentleman's Department to have £1,000,000 or even £37,000 for a particular purpose without expecting from him a proper account presented, so that the accounting officers of this House would be able to assure the appropriate Committee of the House that the money had been expended for that purpose and for no other purpose. Here is £37,000 allotted to Bechuanaland. How do we know that it is to be spent in the sense that we are told it is to be spent?

The same question arises in regard to Newfoundland. I daresay these commissioners in Newfoundland will do their best to carry out the instructions of the Government, but this House is entitled to know that the money, once voted, is spent for the purpose for which it has been voted. Let me give an illustration how very meticulous this House is in regard to accounts. Suppose the hon. Gentleman's Department gets £12,000 for a particular purpose, for a particular department of services within its larger area of activities. If he has only spent £5,000 under that sub-head, he cannot adopt the rest of the money for any other purpose that he may think fit. He must return it to the Treasury. What assurance have we that the money in this Vote is going to be spent for the purpose to which it is here allotted? I gather that the hon. Gentleman did not tell us what the £40,000 is intended to cover in Newfoundland. Why should we be asked to give that amount without knowing on what it is to be expended?


I have told the Committee.


I understood that the hon. Gentleman had not. We must, however, have an assurance through the medium of a proper audit that the money is so spent, and I express a strong dissent from this provision whereby money, voted by the House of Commons, may be spent—no doubt it will be properly spent—without in the ultimate resort this House having a proper audited statement as to how it has been expended. I should like to have from the hon. Gentleman a defence of the proposition that there is to be no audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of this House. After all, it is our money, and we are entitled, having granted it as freely as we have done, to an assurance that it has been properly spent.

4.47 p.m.


I will at once deal with the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). This is the usual form in which Estimates are presented for the expenditure of money in territories overseas. It is true that under J, for instance, it says: Expenditure out of this grant-in-aid will not be accounted for in detail to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but it goes on to say, but he will be furnished by the Dominions Office with the audited accounts and with any report of the local auditor thereon. The expenditure is audited in the territory concerned. The Dominions Office is responsible for seeing that that is done, and we are answerable to the Comptroller and Auditor-General for every item of the expenditure under this head. I can asure my hon. Friend that we shall see that nothing is spent on any matter for which there is no authority from the House of Commons. That is the usual form in any case which is parallel to the items under J and K.


It is true in regard to J, but I was looking at J in conjunction with K to show the development of a procedure which I regard as undesirable. It is a rather new departure with regard to Newfoundland, and I hoped we should have from the hon. Gentleman a statement that since we are now making grants to Newfoundland in a new way we should get from the proper accounting officer of this House an audited statement every year as to how the money was spent. I was thinking of K more than of J.


I think that the position in regard to Newfoundland is adequately covered by the practice. There is a local audit done there, and we shall be responsible for seeing that the money is spent on the purposes for which it is intended by the House of Commons to be spent.


The hon. Gentleman must seize the point. I am doing my best to put a new point. Until now there has been a Parliament in Newfoundland, and I presume there has been a proper accounting officer to that Parliament. There is now only a Commission which is possessed of almost autocratic powers. It will receive grant from this country and, since there is no Parliament in Newfoundland having an accounting officer in charge of the accounts, we are entitled, as so much money is involved, to have an audit made by our own accounting officer in order to see that the money is properly controlled.


I think that the position is really adequately covered by the procedure followed in the case of grants-in-aid which we make to Governments in other parts of the world; the practice is satisfactory, and it will be satisfactory in the case of Newfoundland. At any rate, that is the answer to the question which my hon. Friend quite properly put. A number of other questions have been asked, and I will do my best to answer them. My hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) asked under what terms the three commissioners who are being paid out of United Kingdom funds have been appointed. They have been appointed in every case for three years in the first instance, with the option on either side to give three months' notice at the termination of the first or the second year. My hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) asked what specific instructions these three United Kingdom commissioners had been given by the Government with regard to carrying out their duties. Their instructions are of a general character. The Committee knows what the object of the commission form of government is. It is to endeavour to set the island on its feet again economically and politically, and, of course, our three commissioners are to do everything they can to attain that object. At present they are looking into the question in a preliminary way. They have been there for only two or three weeks and have, therefore, not been able to get very far with their actual work.

The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) put his finger on this question of the £40,000 and asked us whether we were satisfied that such a sum would be best expended in the direction which I indicated. I reminded the Committee of certain recommendations which had been made by the Royal Commission, which are summarised from page 136 onwards, with regard to the resuscitation of the deep sea fisheries and the fall fisheries in Newfoundland. I can only says that the Government have been guided on this matter very largely by the report of the Royal Commission. The Commission said that there were many other matters which ought to engage the attention of the Government quickly, and my right hon. and gallant Friend mentioned some of them and was ruled out of order for doing so. The point about this £40,000 for this particular fishery purpose is that the Commission regarded work in that direction as so urgent that the money should be made available for it straight away. We have been guided very largely by that opinion in deciding that that money should be available for what the Commission regarded as the most urgent work. This development of the deep sea and fall fisheries will definitely help the Newfoundland people, the poor fishermen, their wives and families.

It is not a case of putting £40,000 into the pockets of the bondholders; it is a case of resuscitating very important fisheries in order, as I said in my speech, to enable the fishing season to be extended by four months. The result of this expenditure, it is hoped, will be that the poor fishermen of Newfoundland will be able to earn money for an additional four months in the year during which, in recent years, they have not been able to earn any return for their labour. Therefore this is directly an effort to help the poor population of Newfoundland. My hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow asked whether there was any money out of this enormous sum of £234,000 to be paid in relief to the fishermen who are suffering poverty. The effect of that £40,000 should be to help them very materially, but the question of paying them relief in order to help them overcome the worst part of their present poverty is not covered under this Estimate. The money for any such relief is voted by the ordinary Newfoundland Budget, and it has amounted to several hundreds of thousands of dollars during this winter. Indeed, the amount has exceeded $1,000,000. That relief expenditure is going on independently of the Supplementary Estimate. My right hon. and gallant Friend for Newcastle-under-Lyme asked about other works of development and the reform of the Civil Service. I do not want to get out of order and perhaps the best thing I can do is simply to point out that the Commissioners have been in the island only since the 16th February and they have hardly had time to get very far in their investigations. They have not had time to make any reports to us by the ordinary mail which would enable us to give a report to the House of any specific recommendations. But I can report the fact that they have lost no time in going into the question of tariffs. The Royal Commission thought that the present incidence of tariffs in Newfoundland was not as happy as it might be, and the Governor has, by telegram, asked us to send out on loan two officers from our Customs Department in order to help them in that matter. These two officers have gone.

Questions have been asked with regard to Bechuanaland. The hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) asked whether we could supply out of this Supplementary Estimate £4,000 for a particular purpose which has been discussed in this Debate. I am advised that it is possible and that there will be no difficulty about that. My hon. Friends in various parts of the Committee have protested at what they described as an attempt to hide that item of expenditure in this Estimate. It was never my intention to hide it. Those who were in the Committee when I spoke will recall that I had just begun to give some of the details on which it is proposed to expend this money when my hon. and gallant Friend interrupted and asked if this item was included. In reply I said that it was and I pointed out that if he had remained in his place I had intended to acquaint the Committee with the fact that it was proposed that something like £4,000 in this Supplementary Estimate was required to pay for the expedition under Admiral Evans.


The hon. Gentleman is the last man to try and conceal anything but we complain of the wording of the Supplementary Estimate itself.


All I can say is that there is no intention on the part of anyone of the Dominions Office to be deceitful in this matter. And this Debate at any rate has brought out clearly that a certain amount of this money is required for that purpose. My hon. and gallant Friend asked under what authority Admiral Evans had undertaken that expedition. He undertook it under his own authority as Acting High Commissioner. He had full authority as such to take the action he did and to use his discretion in the matter, and no further authority was required. We were informed in the Dominions Office of what he was doing. The hon. and gallant Member will recall that it was a matter which blew up in a few hours and that action was taken as a matter of urgency. The answer to his question is that the Acting High Commissioner had perfect authority on account of the office he was holding to take the action that he did without seeking authority elsewhere.


Is the hon. Gentleman quite certain that no communication was made to the Admiralty before the expedition started?


So far as I know, the Admiralty would receive the same kind of information as we did, and at the same time. Certainly, there was no question of the Admiralty giving authority to the Admiral in regard to taking that action. I take it that as Admiral commanding the station in South Africa he had authority, just as he had as acting High Commissioner, to use his discretion in a case of urgency, and that he could——


You say that you and the Admiralty got information. Did you get that information in time to stop him, or not?


I was answering the question which had been put to me as to the authority necessary for this action to be taken, and the answer to that is that he could do it on his own authority. We have to allow discretion to those in authority to make up their minds what action is necessary in an emergency. As for his reasons for taking the action, about which I have been questioned, I think I cannot do better than repeat the terms of an answer which my right hon. Friend gave on that matter at the time. In reply to a question my right hon. Friend then said: I understand that the High Commissioner for South Africa considered that the presence of a naval escort was desirable as

a precautionary measure and by way of safeguard. Then follows what, I think, is the important point: I may mention that the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police Force were at the time largely engaged on special work from which it was impossible to release them, in connection with the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Protectorate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1933; col. 730, Vol. 281.] That is the reason for the action which the Acting High Commissioner took with regard to that matter. I was asked how the sum of something less than £4,000 which will be necessary to defray the expenditure is made up, and I will give the Committee one or two details. The expenditure which come under this Supplementary Estimate is the expenditure on that expedition apart from the pay and normal cost of rationing the naval ratings, which will be borne by the Admiralty. The sum is made up, as far as we can know at present, for the figures are not quite complete, of such items as follow: The force had to be transported by rail through South African territory, and, as far as we know, the cost of that will be £2,163. The cost of transporting them within the Protectorate itself and outside South African territory, was £1,100. Those were the main items of expenditure, plus one or two smaller sums. It is those items which we have to defray and for which we are asking something under £4,000. Whether it be to the satisfaction of Members or not, I think I have answered the questions which have been put to me, and I hope we may now get the Supplementary Estimate.

Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £271,900, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 27; Noes, 238.

Division No. 138.] AYES. [5.6 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Attlee, Clement Richard Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Stevenson, James
Banfield, John William Hicks, Ernest George Thorne, William James
Batey, Joseph Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Tinker, John Joseph
Cripps, Sir Stafford Leonard, William Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah
Dagger, George Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lunn, William Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Edwards, Charles McEntee, Valentine L. Wilmot, John
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Mainwaring, William Henry
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Parkinson, John Allen TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. Groves and Mr. G. Macdonald.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Gluckstein, Louis Halle Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Goldie, Noel B. Patrick, Colin M.
Albery, Irving James Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Peaks, Captain Osbert
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Peat, Charles U.
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Granville, Edgar Penny, Sir George
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh) Greene, William P. C. Percy, Lord Eustace
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W). Perkins, Walter R. D.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Grimston, R. V. Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Petherick, M.
Apsley, Lord Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n)
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Atholl, Duchess of Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Hartington, Marquess of Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Hartland, George A. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Balniel, Lord Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Rankin, Robert
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Rawson, Sir Cooper
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Rea, Walter Russell
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Reed, Arthur C. Exeter)
Beit, Sir Alfred L. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Reid, David D. (County Down)
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Blindell, James Hore-Belisha, Leslie Remer, John R.
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Horsbrugh, Florence Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Rickards, George William
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald Hume, Sir George Hopwood Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Broadbent, Colonel John Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Ross, Ronald D.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Jamieson, Douglas Rothschild, James A. de
Buchan, John Janner, Barnett Runge, Norah Cecil
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Burnett, John George Ker, J. Campbell Salt, Edward W.
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.) Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Leech, Dr. J. W. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Lees-Jones, John Savery, Samuel Servington
Castlereagh, Viscount Leighton, Major B. E. P. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Lewis, Oswald Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Lindsay, Kenneth Martin (Kilm'rnock) Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Linsay, Noel Ker Smithers, Waldron
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Llewellin, Major John J. Somerset, Thomas
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. (Birm., W) Lloyd, Geoffrey Somerville, Annesley A. (Windser)
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd.Gr'n) Soper, Richard
Clarry, Reginald George Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Mabane, William Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Conant, R. J. E. MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Cook, Thomas A. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Cooke, Douglas MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Strauss, Edward A.
Cooper, A. Duff MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Cranborne, Viscount McKie, John Hamilton Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Crooke, J. Smedley McLean, Major Sir Alan Summersby, Charles H.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian Tate, Mavis Constance
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)
Davison, Sir William Henry Maitland, Adam Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Dawson, Sir Philip Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Doran, Edward Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Dower, Captain A. V. G. Marsden, Commander Arthur Turton, Robert Hugh
Drewe, Cedric Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Duckworth, George A. V. Meller, Sir Richard James Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N. Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Eden, Robert Anthony Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Wayland, Sir William A.
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Elmley, Viscount Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Whyte, Jardine Bell
Emrye-Evans, P. V. Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Morgan, Robert H. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Fermoy, Lord Morrison, William Shephard Wise, Alfred R.
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Moss, Captain H. J. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Munro, Patrick Worthington, Dr. John V.
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)
Fremantle, Sir Francis Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)
Fuller, Captain A. G. Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton North, Edward T. Captain Austin Hudson and Mr. Womersley.
Glossop, C. W. H. Nunn, William

Question put, and agreed to.