HC Deb 06 March 1939 vol 344 cc1867-71

Motion made and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £611,200 be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 3rst day of March, 1939, for stationery, printing, paper, binding and printed books for the public service; for the salaries and expenses of the Stationery Office; and for sundry miscellaneous services, including reports of Parliamentary Debates.

9.48 p.m.

Captain Wallace

If Members of the Committee will look at page 31 of the Supplementary Estimate they will see this rather large Estimate set out under the different headings, and on the following pages they will see a considerable amount of detailed information in regard to them.

It seems to me that the only thing I can do, on the assumption that all Members of the Committee have read the White Paper is to deal with the items under a classification relating to the different Government Departments. £38,200 is due to the necessity for additional staff, overtime and improved scales of pay. The actual amount of this Estimate which can be put down as definitely due to the emergency of last September is £83,000. As a result of that emergency it was decided to hold in reserve greater stocks of different kinds in view of possible further emergency requirements; there were departmental stocks of £60,500 and extra Stationery Office stocks of £86,000.

Another item which goes to make up this figure is a sum of £60,000 for requirements in connection with National Service. Increased requirements for the sale of publications, including Air-Raid Precautions Department, Home Office and Admiralty, amount to £46,000. Then there is £20,000 for additional requirements of public Departments in connection with Press advertising. Additional plant required by the Stationery Office Printing Works, which has been very hard pressed lately, cost £24,000. There is an increased requirement of £259,500 which I have not been able to sort out and classify, for public Departments generally, including £197,000 for the defence services and Post Office, leaving £62,500 for other Departments. These add up to the formidable total of £677,200, which is offset to the extent of £66,000 by extra appropriations-in-aid under sub-head M. The largest amount in that sum is£40,000 due to the increased sale of Government publications, Parliamentary and other. In view of the amount of information that is in the Estimate perhaps the Committee will be satisfied with that explanation. It will be in the minds of Members that the Stationery Office have had a great deal of extra work to do lately.

9.52 p.m.

Colonel Nathan

In an entirely non-controversial spirit I should like to ask for one or two explanations on points of detail. I would like to know, with regard to item K, capital expenditure on purchase of machinery, where that machinery has been installed, if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can give me the information with due regard to the public interest. In the event of an emergency it might be desirable for the Stationery Office to have certain plant elsewhere than in London. I would not ask where it is, but whether this is an addition to the plant which the Stationery Office has in London or whether it is in some place outside London. I think that that information could be given without any detriment to the public interest. Is there in the Estimate any provision for plant and storage outside London for the purpose of the Stationery Office? Under subhead N,£3,000 additional is required for voters' lists and registers. Why has that extra amount been required, because I should have thought that a precise calculation could have been made of that item.

I observe that there has been an increase from the sale of Parliamentary Debates by £500. Every hon. Member will be glad to know that the public is taking so great an interest in the proceedings of this House, but it would be interesting to know whether that extra £500 for sales was due to any particular period of the year. Was it, for instance, due to public interest during the crisis of a few months ago, or to an increased sale spread generally over the year and thereby showing a generally enhanced interest? I was taken aback by the £4,000 additional for the sale of Patent Office publications. Is there any particular reason why the Patent Office should suddenly have leapt into public favour as a publishing concern? The additional £4,000 must be quite a large proportion of the receipts for Patent Office publications. Was there any particular reason for that increase?

9.55 p.m.

Captain Wallace

I will try to answer the hon. and gallant Member's questions as well as I can, but he will realise that if he had spoken a little longer he would have given me more time to get the information. So far as the additional plant under Sub-head K is concerned, I will not go so far as to say that it is all in London, but I can say that the plant is in the London area, and that there is no machinery with which this Supplementary Estimate is concerned outside the London area. The increase in respect of voters' lists is due to the growth in the numbers of voters in certain districts. When a new housing estate is established it means a large transfer of voters and more expense arises in that way. With regard to the Patent Office publications, I can only say, subject to correction, that I think the increase is very largely due to the fact that last year we passed two Acts dealing with patent laws, and that has meant the bringing of certain publications up to date; but I answer that question with reserve. As to the increased sales of Government publications, here, again, I cannot give any precise figures, but as this is obviously a largish sum to be in a Supplementary Estimate I think the Committee will not be far wrong in drawing the inference that the sales have taken place during more recent months.

Colonel Nathan

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give any reason for the increase of £500 from the sale of Parliamentary Debates? That is a separate item which I mentioned. It is a matter of some importance, because it is interesting to know that the public are taking greater interest in our proceedings.

Captain Wallace

All I can say is that it would appear that the increased sales of Parliamentary Debates is due to the increased interest which people are taking in the proceedings in this House, and that is a matter upon which we in all parties can congratulate ourselves. Long may it continue.

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Cartland

I apologise to my right hon. and gallant Friend for not being present when he introduced this Supplementary Estimate, but I have one question to put to him arising out of items A and B. I should like to know whether some of the loss which has been made and the extra overtime which has to be worked is not due to the fact that there is no Stationery Office in the second city in the kingdom, which is Birmingham, and whether he has considered that this loss might not have arisen if he had been able to arrange for a Stationery Office to be opened there.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding£611,200, 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, 1939, for stationery, printing, paper, binding and printed books for the public service; for the salaries and expenses of the Stationery Office; and for sundry miscellaneous services, including reports of Parliamentary Debates.

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