HC Deb 07 November 1939 vol 353 cc35-6
Sir Archibald Sinclair

(by Private Notice)asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can now make any statement on the appointment of a Committee on National Expenditure on the lines suggested in the Motion on the Order Paper in my name and the names of hon. Friends?

[That a Select Committee be set up, similar to that appointed by Parliament in July,1917, to examine the current expenditure defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament for the Defence Services, including Civil Defence, and to report what, if any, economies, consistent with the execution of the policy decided by the Government, may be effected therein.]

Sir J. Simon

There are two Motions on the Order Paper, that to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, and another in the name of my hon. Friends.

Hon. Members will recall that in the course of my Budget speech, and on other occasions, I have emphasised the importance which the Government attached to economy in administration, and I have instanced a number of measures which the Government had taken with this object in view. These measures included, for instance, the appointment of highly qualified and experienced business men to particular Departments for the purpose of securing that all new proposals were framed and all operations conducted on the most economical basis. I mentioned also that investigations on the spot were being undertaken in certain Departments by business men, and representatives of the Treasury and the Department concerned, acting in association. This procedure will be further developed, though naturally the timing of these investigations requires careful consideration in the case of new or rapidly expanding Departments.

While, however, I believe that our procedure is already becoming effective and will rapidly grow in effectiveness, I appreciate the desire of the House to make its own contribution to an end we all have at heart. The Government consider that this object would be best attained by setting up a Select Comittee on National Expenditure with terms of reference which would broadly follow those under which the Select Committee was set up during the last war. The Select Committee would deal with expenditure connected with the war whether civil or military.

The Government will be prepared, at an early date, to propose the appointment of a committee on these lines. The exact terms of reference should, no doubt, be considered in consultation with the various sections of the House, and if my proposal is generally approved I shall be glad to have this matter put in hand.

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