HC Deb 04 May 1920 vol 128 c1928W

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Controller how many persons were employed at the signing of the Armistise by his Department, and how many at the present time; and when he proposes to close down completely all the offices under his control, in view of the serious deficit in his Estimates?

Colonel WILSON

The numbers including messengers and part-time charwomen, were:

At the Armistice 3,542
At 1st May, 1920 1,311.

As regards the so-called deficit, I am afraid that my hon. Friend, like others, has been misled by large headlines in the Press, and I can only repeat what I have already explained to the Press that the deficit was in no sense an under estimate, nor was it a trading loss. It represented an excess of expenditure over earnings for the year 1918–1919, and was the amount which the Ministry had to draw from the Vote of Credit to cover services for which no freight or other revenue is collected, namely, the transport of troops, stores and munitions, the provision of tonnage for the Navy and the cost of the Government shipbuilding programme. I regret that I am not in a position to say definitely when the Ministry of Shipping will cease to exist in its present form, but I will give the House all available information on this subject when the Estimates of the Ministry for the current financial year are taken.