HC Deb 02 June 1942 vol 380 cc555-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Sir R. Tasker

I want to raise an objection to this Clause and to call the attention of the Committee to the very extraordinary position in which the House will be placed by this Clause. A careful perusal of the Clause indicates that the House will no longer exercise control over money. I suggest to the Minister, for his consideration, that it would be in accordance with the usual practice if, in line 12, the words "the Treasury" were deleted and replaced by "the House of Commons." The Committee ought not lightly to pass a Clause of this sort, which would surrender to a set of Treasury officials the whole of control over finances. What will be involved? Nobody knows. The Minister cannot tell us what money will we involved; the Treasury cannot tell us; but if one takes a comparable case of the Ministry of Works and Buildings, there has been elicited the fact that 13,150 people are employed by that Ministry. No one will deny that this Measure will eventually cover more than ten times as much work as is covered by the Ministry of Works and Buildings, and if ten times the staff is to be employed, there will be huge amounts of money under the control of the Treasury and over which the House will be able to exercise no control. The proposal is an amazing one to put forward, and I attribute it to the loose wording of the Parliamentary draftsmen. Before pressing the Committee to agree to the Clause, I ask the Minister to take these matters into consideration and to give the Committee some more enlightenment as to what is really meant by the provision.

Mr. H. Strauss

I think the hon. Member for Holborn (Sir R. Tasker) has unnecessary apprehensions. This Clause is in accordance with the usual form, and in fact a precisely similar Section is already in force and is the statutory provision under which the Minister is acting at the present time, namely, the Ministers of the Crown (Emergency Appointments) Act, 1939, Section 3 of which is in similar terms to the Clause now under consideration.

Mr. Davidson

Does that deal with Parliamentary Secretaries?

Mr. Strauss

As I explained on the Second Reading, the position is that the matter is already within the control of the House through the annual Appropriation Act and, of course, the Vote for the Department, but it is customary, when setting up a new Ministry, to insert a Clause of this kind, although not strictly necessary, to remind the House that it does involve moneys provided by Parliament. I think the real effect of the provision is almost precisely the opposite to what the hon. Member for Holborn fears. It makes clear that the House will exercise control through the proper machinery for the purpose, and that is really all there is to it. I do not think hon. Members would wish me to trouble them with numerous precedents, but the provision is in common form and is the appropriate provision when a new Ministry is set up.

Mr. David Adams (Consett)

Are we to understand that the House will have the right to reject, if necessary, excessive expenditure under this head?

Mr. Strauss

It will have the same powers as it has always had on Votes and on the Appropriation Act. The hon. Member is aware of what can be done under the annual Appropriation Act.

Mr. Davidson

I take it that any Member of the House will be at liberty to ask a question with regard to the salary of any particular official appointed?

Mr. Strauss

I think that is so, but it is not for me to give any ruling about what may be asked in a Parliamentary Question. The House has its methods with all the Departments, and no change has been made in this respect.

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