HC Deb 15 March 1955 vol 538 cc1121-2
46. Mr. Yates

asked the Prime Minister if the Government have yet considered the second special report of the Select Committee on Estimates in which the Committee is unable to accept either the allegations of inaccuracies or detailed critcisms contained in Command Paper No. 9377; and what action the Government propose to take in this matter.

The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)

Command Paper No. 9377 contains the comments of Her Majesty's Government on the Seventh Report from the Select Committee on Estimates and announces that certain action has been or will be taken by the Departments concerned. The views expressed in the Second Special Report from the Select Committee on Estimates have been noted, but Her Majesty's Government do not consider that they are of such a nature as to require a further reply.

Mr. Yates

Is the Prime Minister aware that, although I was not a member of the Select Committee that submitted this repudiation of allegations published in the White Paper, I have been able to detect no fewer than 12 inaccurate or unjustifiable statements appearing in it, and, in those circumstances, will any useful purpose be served by the Government declining to allow the House of Commons to debate these important matters?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, we have debates in the House of Commons and the Select Committees appointed by the House of Commons have their duty to make reports, but continued disputations between the Government and Select Committees do not at present form a prominent part of our procedure.

47. Mr. Yates

asked the Prime Minister what steps the Government propose to take to curb the large expenditure overseas incurred by all Government Departments which now exceeds £200 million.

The Prime Minister

It is the Government's policy to keep Departmental expenditure overseas to the lowest level, consistent with the United Kingdom military and other commitments. Such expenditure is therefore under continuous review and no special measures are contemplated, beyond those which have long been customary and valued under our present system.

Mr. Yates

Does the Prime Minister recollect that in 1945 he sent a minute to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which the Treasury appear to have lost, in which he requested that the Treasury should resume effective control before this expenditure had reached the present astronomical figure? Why is he now so ineffective in being able to control this ever-increasing expenditure?

The Prime Minister

We should all like to do so, and a very searching inquiry and examination has been made as a result of the Report of the Committee. No doubt the interest which the hon. Gentleman is taking in the matter will contribute to the zeal with which it is being pursued.

Mr. H. Morrison

Would the Prime Minister kindly explain the relationship between the amount of military expenditure and the amount of expenditure on the overseas services? Do they necessarily run side by side?

The Prime Minister

I could not do that on the spur of the moment.