HC Deb 01 March 1938 vol 332 cc1035-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council.

9.57 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Lieut.-Colonel Colville)

This Supplementary Estimate, and the one that follows, are both occasioned by the same cause. They are due to an increase in salaries under the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937. Whatever hon. Members in any quarter of the Committee may think about that increase in the salaries of Ministers, that is a point that we cannot discuss on this Vote. The fact is, that the increase took place as from 1st July, 1937, which was after the time when the original Estimate was framed. Therefore, the Privy Council Office Vote has to bear an extra charge of £2,250. This extra expenditure is partly offset by certain savings, leaving an excess of expenditure of £964, which is the gross amount asked for. It was estimated that the receipts from judicial fees, etc., would produce 14,400, but it is expected that they will exceed that figure by not less than £954. The sanction of Parliament is required to apply these additional receipts in deduction from the extra expenditure that has been incurred. Those are the reasons for the Token Estimate of £10.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

As I understand it, the additional sum required is due to the Lord President of the Council. During the last few days the Lord President of the Council has taken another office and but for that fact the whole of this sum would not have been required. Has that fact been taken into account and does the change of office affect this Supplementay Estimate?

Lieut.-Colonel Colville

Any change that has taken place will be taken into account, but it does not affect this Token Estimate.

9.59 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I should like to emphasise the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). All the Members of the Cabinet were, according to the decision of Parliament last year, to be paid salaries of £5,000 a year. A particular Nobleman at the present time holds two offices, each of which in normal circumstances would carry a salary of £5,000 a year. For part of the period covered by this Supplementary Estimate, the two offices will be held by him. As I understand it, he is going to draw only one £5,000, as from the date of his appointment to the second office of Foreign Secretary. How does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that that saving in expenditure is going to be shown? It seems to me that if we vote this money to-night it will be possible for the Lord President of the Council to draw, up to 31st March, a salary of £5,000 in respect of that office. There was no need to introduce the Supplementary Estimates in regard to the position of Foreign Secretary, because that was already covered by the salary of £5,000 attaching to that office. I do not see that the example given by the Financial Secretary covers this point. It has been stated in the Press that the Noble Lord is not going to draw two salaries. That being so, why is it necessary to bring forward this Supplementary Estimate to-night, because presumably the saving is far more than £10?

Lieut.-Colonel Colville

There is no question of the Noble Lord drawing two salaries, but it is necessary to make provision for the salary attaching to this office. This is only a Token Vote of £10, but unless we brought that token sum forward to-night for confirmation, we could not apply the extra receipts as Appropriations-in-Aid.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

Could the Financial Secretary offer any enlightenment on the item on page 4, on which it appears that the rise in salary in this financial year has meant a Supplementary Vote of £2,250, which is partially offset by savings? I wonder what those savings can be. Whose salaries have been saved? We were without a Foreign Secretary for a little time. Has that resulted in a saving to the Treasury during the period of the vacancy? If so, there is at least some small satisfaction to be derived from the events through which we have passed; or has there been a reduction in some other salaries in order to provide the extra money required to pay the increased salary of the Lord President of the Council? The House would certainly not approve the increase of the salaries of Ministers if it meant reducing the salaries of lower-paid officials. It is difficult to see how savings in salaries could occur in such a way as to be an offset in the Supplementary Estimate.

Lieut.-Colonel Colville

The hon. Member has not a close knowledge of Civil Service conditions, otherwise he would not suggest that one could so readily reduce the salaries of the staff. There is no question of the salaries of lower-paid officials being reduced in order to find money to offset the increase brought about by an Act of Parliament. Changes have taken place in the staff, and new staff coming in on the minimum of the scale have brought about a considerable saving. If the hon. Member will look through the matter in detail he will find that these civil servants begin at a certain rate of salary and mount by increments to a higher figure. There has been no deliberate attempt to offset the increase by a reduction in other salaries but changes in the staff have caused this saving, owing to the fact that new members of the staff have come in at a lower point on the same salary scale.

Mr. Silverman

This is a Supplementary Estimate and surely the authorities concerned must have known the state of the staff at the beginning of the year and how many officials they would require and what new officials were likely to come in at the lower point on the salary scale. We are told that this saving of apparently £1,300 or £1,400 has been made because people who were higher than the minimum have ceased to draw salaries and their places have been taken by junior officers, lower down on the salary scale. Could not all these things have been estimated for originally? Those facts should have been well within the ambit of such investigations as are made into these matters. The fact that a Supplementary Estimate has been necessary may mean that one was at fault in suggesting that the salaries of other officials were cut down. But it also seems to indicate the possibility of people who were at the top end of the scale being retired, in order to get in people at the lower end of the scale, to make this saving.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council.

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