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Orders Of The Day

Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1922

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Supply

[11TH ALLOTTED DAY.]

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]

Civil Services And Revenue Departments Estimates, 1922–23

Class Ii

CABINET SECRETARIAT.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £30,571, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Cabinet Offices and of the Committee of Imperial Defence, including the cost of preparation of War Histories."—[NOTE: £23,000 has been voted on account.]

I beg to move that Item A. (Salaries, wages and allowances, £32,048) be reduced by £100.

The Vote to which I ask the attention of the Committee is confined to the Cabinet Secretariat and not to the Committee of Imperial Defence or to the War Histories, which form a part of the general Vote coming under the head of the Cabinet Secretariat. This is the first time that this most important innovation in the practices, or, rather, the usages of the Cabinet has provided an opportunity for discussion in the House. I confess that I am rather in the position of a man who is going for the first time over the course and has no personal experience of the hazards. I have never been a. member of any Cabinet, and, therefore, anything I have to say with regard to the Cabinet must be subject to necessary deduction because of my lack of experience of its operation. But I lave been for a considerable time in this House, and for a great many years I have taken a very keen interest in the Constitution and constitutional history and practice of the Houses of Parliament. With regard to the Cabinet Secretariat, and, indeed, the Cabinet itself, I am reminded of what was said by a very distinguished lecturer on medical science, when he met his students one day. He said, "Gentle- men, we have now arrived at the consideration of the spleen. Nothing whatever is known about the functions of the spleen. So much for the spleen." As far as this House is concerned, nothing whatever is known about the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat, but I hope that to-day considerable information will be forthcoming with regard to it. To those, who take any interest in the Constitution of our country, it is a matter of the greatest importance that any constitutional change should be well within the knowledge and confidence of the House of Commons.

The Constitution is unwritten, except in one particular, to which, no doubt, some reference will be made later. It is the growth, not of logical principles, but of the practical knowledge and usages of public men in Parliament assembled. From generation to generation changes, subtle often but most important and vital, have been made, without due public information and adequate discussion in the House of Commons. In a very interesting and able article in "The Nineteenth Century," my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) has a striking description of the growth of the Constitution, and he speaks about its "evasive fluidity" and of its development in that kind of atmosphere. There can be no objection, therefore, to the Secretariat of the Cabinet merely on the ground that it is new. The real question we have to consider is: Is it useful? In its usages, is it in conflict with other useful, important vital parts of our Cabinet system? That is the issue, and that is the question to which I propose to address myself. Its mere newness is no objection whatever in my mind, because if our Constitution is to go on developing as it has developed in the past, there must be from time to time changes which are consistent with, and not too far in advance of, the needs of the time.

The secret of the effectiveness of the British Constitution is its almost complete fusion of the executive and legislative functions, distinguishing it very definitely from the Presidential system, at any rate as that system obtains in America. I lay this down with much respect to the House: that it is of vital importance, if we are to preserve intact the distinction between our Cabinet system and the Presidential system, we should see that this House loses none of its authority, and none of its control over the Executive Departments of the State. It is of the greatest importance that the House of Commons, as the trustee of the Constitution, should examine with great carefulness any new development such as this. The Cabinet has no legal foundation at all. That, I think, is common ground among constitutional authorities. Mr. Lawrence Lowell, an American authority and one of the most distinguished writers on our Constitution, said of the Cabinet:
"It is an informal body, unknown to the law, whose business it is to bring about cooperation among the different forces of the State, without interfering with their legal independence."
Another definition given by the same authority is:
"It is an informal and permanent caucus of Parliamentary chiefs of the party in power."
That definition is pretty well known to us. The importance of the Cabinet being entirely and solely composed of the Parliamentary chiefs is a point to which I desire to make special reference. The responsibility of the Parliamentary chiefs to Parliament and this House is of immense, indeed of overwhelming importance. Power is passed from the King to the Commons; power is largely passed from the Commons to the Cabinet, arid power is passed from the Cabinet to the Prime Minister. In that respect we have a duty with regard to the Prime Minister of any Government, for I need not say I mean no special attack upon my right hon. Friend here. I am discharging what I think is a House of Commons duty in urging that we should examine these things because we are at a starting point. We do not know what sort of Government may take the place of the present Government, or the Government which succeeds it. It is the constitutional duty of the House of Commons to examine this matter and see where we are going. I have laid it down, and I think I have a large amount of assent to it, that the power of the Prime. Minister is rapidly and, as I think, not wisely, being increased. I say it is not right in the interests of the nation that more power should pass into the hands of the Prime Minister. Otherwise, what will happen? We shall, inevitably, be driven to an imitation of the Presidential system.

It is because I believe profoundly in the control of the House of Commons over the Cabinet and the Prime Minister—and we are, after all, servants of the people—that I make a definite point of this immediate question. Having, with great submission, laid that down as the basis of my remarks, I wish to examine the growth of the Secretariat. It arose, I believe, out of the War, and it may have been, for aught I know, because I have no personal experience of it, a very useful and very necessary Department to set up during the War. However, it was set up after 1916, and I think it is the special creation of the Prime Minister and his own idea of how government should be carried on in that respect. He takes sole responsibility for the innovation. What briefly is its history? The Committee will forgive me if I go into some facts and figures. The first appearance of any sum in this connection is in a Supplementary Estimate in 1917 for £3,875. That was only a proportion of the salaries of two Ministers without Portfolio, and was presented under the heading of "War Cabinet." In 1918–19 this Vote was for £10,000, representing the full salaries of the two Ministers without Portfolio and a note was appended that the salaries and expenses of officials and clerical staffs were paid out of the Vote of Credit of 1918–19. In 1919–20 the Vote was still under the heading, "War Cabinet," and it was £39,845, including the salary of one Minister without Portfolio, and for the first time there was set out in the Estimate a staff of 19, in addition to an item for allowances for clerical assistance, making altogether a total of £11,000 for clerical assistance. In 1920–21 the Vote, for the first time, was changed to "Cabinet Offices," substantially in the form in which it is presented to the Committee to-day, and was for a sum of £35,535, with a specified staff of 136 and no payment for a Minister without Portfolio. In 1921–22 the Vote was for £41,000, and the staff was 116 in number. In 1922–23, the present Estimate which we are now discussing, it is for £32,048 and a staff of 114. It will be observed that the staff has grown from 19 up to 114 in this year, and the very considerable sum of £32,048. The Committee, I am sure, would like to know as precisely as possible—I do not ask for details, but in a general and substantial sense I ask the Prime Minister to the Committee today—what this Secretariat does, what functions it performs within the ambit of Cabinet duties. I have turned to the Geddes Report, and I find that they make no comment on it from the point of view of extravagance, but they say this:
"The Cabinet Secretariat, which constitutes the major part of the Office, now performs secretarial duties for the Cabinet itself, for Committees of the Cabinet, and for vari's Conferences, international and otherwise, in which the Cabinet is chiefly concerned. It also has certain duties in connection with the League of Nations."
What I would like the Prime Minister to tell me is this: Why cannot the duties in connection with these Conferences, international and otherwise, to which the Geddes Report refers, be discharged by the Foreign Office? What reason is there for a new Department with officials very highly placed and, for aught I know, having none of the traditions or trained experience of the Foreign Office? Why should they be found handling these International Conferences? Is there any objection to the Foreign Office? What is the reason that the Foreign Office is out of the picture, so to speak, and, if it is the case, why does this Secretariat take its place? I should like an answer to those questions. Then I should like to know what relation the Secretariat bears to the Parliamentary departmental chiefs whom we have here in the House. With the exception of the Lord Privy Seal, and one or two other Ministers whom, at the moment, I cannot call to mind, who have no great permanent Civil Service with which they co-operate, the great majority of the members of the Cabinet have permanent civil servants by their side, and civil servants who, criticised as they are from time to time here—and I am sure they do not object to that—stand without equal in the world for efficiency and probity. How far does the Cabinet Secretariat cut into or take away from their duties, in the case, say, of any of the great Departments of State, such as the Ministry of Health, the Army, the Navy, the Foreign Office, and a whole range of others?

What need is there for this new Department? That is the point I want to get at. What use is it? I am not objecting to its novelty at all; I want to know what functions it discharges, what are the defects of the existing Departments which it replaces, and what is the future of this Secretariat. If it is simply for carrying on or winding up what is left of the, War, it is only lingering unnecessarily on the stage, like some other remnants of the War are still lingering, but, as far as I can see by looking at the Estimate itself, it looks to me that it is intended to become a permanent part of the Cabinet work. I have no doubt the Prime Minister will give us his answer to these questions. Of course, I am making no personal reflection upon the capacity of these gentlemen at all, but I want to know if they are working as a. sort of liaison officers between the various Departments of State and the Cabinet, because that is a new departure altogether, and it must be justified in Committee of the House on its usefulness. Let us take the test of experience. We have had about three years of it. How far has the Cabinet Secretariat bettered legislation? Is our legislation any better? Is there greater co-ordination between various Departments? What improvement is there in the legislative output in quality? Anybody can turn out quantity, but what improvement is there in quality? I think the quality of the legislation put out is inferior to what we used to have. At any rate, we did not have to repeal Acts within two or three months of them getting on the Statute Book, and we have had several instances of that in quite recent times. In what respect has it improved, if this has come within the ambit of its operations, the question of finance or economy—a pretty bad record as far as the Government is concerned? Perhaps the Cabinet Secretariat has this in its favour, that without it things might have been much worse. All I can say is that it would be rather difficult to have things much worse in many respects than they are. How far has the Cabinet Secretariat bettered our operations in the field of foreign policy? I cannot say, as far as my own personal opinion is concerned, that they seem to have made any very great improvement upon the way in which foreign policy used to be handled—the old-fashioned way. I see no improvement there. I have laid before the Committee as briefly as I could some questions which T have no doubt the Prime Minister will answer, but once again I say that the importance of the discussion this afternoon cannot very easily be over-estimated. It is the duty of the House of Commons to watch with the most jealous care any innovation which tends to take away from it its prime duty of maintaining absolute control over the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and all the Departments of the Civil Service. It is for that purpose that I have initiated this discussion and moved the reduction.

4.0 P.M.

The right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat confessed, with the modesty which is natural to him, that he was under some disadvantage, inasmuch as he had had no personal experience either of Cabinets without a Secretariat or of Cabinets with a, Secretariat. I am one of those who sat in a Cabinet under the old system, when no agenda was prepared of the business to be laid before us, and when no record was taken of anything that passed in Cabinet or of any decision that was taken by the Cabinet, except such records as might be embodied in the letter written by the Prime Minister to His Majesty and which was seen only by the Prime Minister and the Sovereign, and who has sat under the new régime when we have a Secretariat, and I say with confidence as my opening observation that no one who has had experience of both systems, and who at the same time sees the enormous addition to the work of the Cabinet which has taken place in recent years, would for one moment think of going back to the old unbusinesslike system which nothing but the comparative simplicity of the matters to be dealt with in those days rendered possible at all. My object is to answer the questions which the right hon. Gentleman has put to me. Will he permit me this observation? He was not very certain, as he himself said, of the hazards of the course over which he was playing, but he was exceedingly anxious to "bunker" his opponent. [Laughter.] Have I got the wrong word? At any rate, the modest role which the right hon. Gentleman assumed for himself was to elicit information from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) could hereafter base the main attack. I propose to offer the information with all the impartiality of one who cannot claim to have been the prime mover in the establishment of the Secretariat, and then it will be open for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley to take the floor and call up in due course my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to answer for his sins.

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles pointed to two or three possible dangers which he thought might be involved in the creation of the Cabinet Secretariat. He dwelt with reiterated emphasis on the importance of maintaining Parliamentary control over the Ministers and the heads of all Departments and over the Government as a whole. I entirely agree with him. He seemed somehow to think that Parliamentary control was impeded or impugned or impinged upon by the fact that the Cabinet had a Secretariat.

May I say that I will endeavour to inform my hon. Friend. That is the first fear that some hon. Members have, that in some way the Cabinet Secretariat will remove the Departments, or Ministers, or the. Government as a whole from Parliamentary control. I confess that my difficulty is to see how any Secretariat could do that. Is the Secretary of State for War removed from Parliamentary control because there is a permanent Under-Secretary of State and a large staff in the War Office? Is any Minister removed from Parliamentary control because he has a large staff of civil servants under him? How on earth can the control of the House of Commons over public affairs be affected adversely by the fact that a record is kept of Cabinet proceedings and that Cabinet decisions are noted and recorded, instead of being left to the individual memory of the Ministers as they leave the Cabinet Room?

Then I understand the right hon. Gentleman is anxious lest the effect of the Cabinet Secretariat should be to exalt the Prime Minister, not my right hon. Friend, but the Prime Minister of the day, into a position of pre-eminence that he has never yet occupied, and should make him, not as he has always been and as Prime Ministers have always been proud to assert that they were, primus inter pares among their colleagues, but of some different rank, and give him a control of the Cabinet which is novel, unprecedented in our past experience, and, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, injurious. I can assure him that that is not the effect of the Secretariat. May I make one general observation? I was discussing the development of Cabinet procedure, in view of a Debate that was held some little time before Easter, with my Noble Friend the Lord President of the Council, and, among other things, he touched upon the position of the Prime Minister among his colleagues. My Noble Friend the Lord President observed that he had now had a considerable Parliamentary experience, and he had never known a Prime Minister who was not accused either of being a mere cipher or tool in the hands of some stronger colleague or a tyrant who dominated over the Cabinet. These are old charges.

If I may be permitted to express a personal opinion, I would say that the position of the Prime Minister has always had special weight in Cabinet deliberations, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley would be disposed to dispute it. But what his actual position is and what his influence is and his authority is, depends upon the man himself. Does anybody think that my right hon. Friend is more all-powerful in the Cabinet to-day than Mr. Gladstone was in some of his Cabinets, or than Lord Beaconsfield was in his great Cabinet, or than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley was in the Cabinet over which he presided? I do not believe that is so, though I do not want to detract from the influence which my right holy Friend has with all of us who sit in council with him, and which we readily acknowledge. But, be that as it may, how does it affect the question of a Cabinet Secretariat? What does the Cabinet Secretariat do? What is the effect of having this record of the Cabinet? May I bring before the Committee what the position is? I suppose that up to the time of the War things had not differed very much from what they were when I sat in Cabinet under the Lord President of the Council in the years 1903 to 1905. I should doubt whether in any one year there were more than, say, 40 Cabinet meetings, or one Cabinet a week.

Yes, I said before the War. I am contrasting before the War, not with during the War, because that is an interlude with which we are not concerned for this particular purpose, but with after the War. Before the War, I suppose, 40 Cabinets a year was about the normal number—one a week during the Session, none during the early part of the Recess when Ministers were accustomed to take a holiday, and then further meetings for the purpose of preparing at leisure the legislation of the next Session. Contrast that with what has happened within the last two years. During the War, the War Cabinet, or the War Council which, under various names preceded the establishment of the War Cabinet as such and which effectively directed the War, met, I suppose, practically every day. But look at what the Cabinet has had to do since the War. In 1920 there were 82 Cabinet meetings in 1921 there were 93, and in the first five months of the present year there have been 32. In addition to that, there are the Conferences of Ministers, in effect Cabinet Committees, the Home Affairs Committee which is now a Standing Committee of the Cabinet, to which a large amount of business is relegated, a Finance Committee, and various Sub-Committees of the Cabinet. Excluding the Sub-Committees, there were something like 200 meetings in 1920, over 160–170 I think—in 1921, and some 60 in the first five months of the present year.

Those are Cabinet meetings and important Committees, like the Home Affairs Committee, or Committees dealing, say, with Ireland. I think the Sub-Committees in the main are on minor matters. I am not quite certain how that is divided up. Taking the Cabinet Conferences, and Committees of all kinds, there were 332 in 1920, 339 in the next year, and 190 in the first five months of this year. We are forced by the amount of business to devolve a great deal more work on Committees. How are you to co-ordinate the work of these Committees? How is the Cabinet itself to keep any control over them unless a record be taken of the work of the Committees and unless that record be avail- able with the decisions of the Committees for the consideration by the Cabinet? So far from the effect of having this record taken being to increase the power of any individual Minister, be it the Prime Minister himself, it is an essential feature for the preservation of control by the Cabinet as a whole over the general affairs of the nation. The Cabinet Secretariat has no executive function, has no administrative function, displaces no other Department and does the work of no other Department. Its business is to act as a Secretariat, to bring the business of the Cabinet before the Cabinet in proper form, to take such notes of discussions in Cabinet, or Cabinet Committees, as the Cabinet may require, to record the decisions of the Cabinet, and to see that those decisions are communicated to the Departments which have to execute them. If a decision is taken upon a question of military policy—I will say of military administration rather than policy, because military policy would be very probably drafted in the Committee of Imperial Defence—of military administration, it is the business of the Secretariat to see that that Cabinet decision is communicated to the War Office.

The Minister is present, but instead of it being left, as it was in the old days, to each individual Minister to carry away his own interpretation of the decision to which the Cabinet had come, and then to instruct the Department, there is now sent to the Minister himself the recorded decision of the Cabinet for execution in his Department. It is a much more precise, and much more businesslike form, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley will, I think, have in mind cases where the system of trusting to the memories of individual Members broke down, and, but for the existence of the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence, might have led to grave consequences in our history. At, any rate, in the first place, the decision is not made, or taken, or executed, by the Cabinet Secretariat. That is no part of their functions, but it is their business to see that the decision is properly recorded, and that as so recorded it is communicated to the Minister of the Department concerned. That has, incidentally, a great advantage. When the decisions of the Cabinet have to be recorded, the decisions have to be clear. I have known Cabinets break up under the impression that they had settled something, and every Minister going away asking his neighbour what was the decision to which they had come. The institution of a Secretariat makes that impossible, because the decision must be recorded, and, if not clear, the Secretary has to ask, "What have I to record?" That is of more consequence than some of those who have not sat in Cabinets would be led to suppose.

What relation, the right hon. Gentleman asks, does the Secretariat bear to other Departments? It is in the main recruited from other Departments by officers who are seconded from other Departments to the Cabinet Secretariat. For instance, when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer I secured that there should be permanently attached to the Secretariat an official of the Treasury, not always the same official, but that there always should be one official of the Treasury whose business it would be to see that financial questions were not brought before the Cabinet, or before a Cabinet Committee, until the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had an opportunity of considering them. Similarly, in regard to the League of Nations, the whole of the League of Nations' work is under the charge of an official of the Foreign Office, seconded from the Foreign Office to the Cabinet Secretariat for that particular purpose. My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles asks, "Why did you put the League of Nations' work under the Secretariat at all? Why did you not leave it entirely to the Foreign Office?" It is a very natural question to ask, but I think the Committee will agree that there is a very good answer. In the first place, the League of Nations intimately concerns the Dominions, and the Dominions prefer to correspond with the Cabinet Office. More than that, the League of Nations is not merely a Foreign Office concern. An immense part—I am not sure even the larger part—is concerned directly and immediately with other Departments than the Foreign Office. We had to consider what was the best receiving and distributing channel for this new business. We settled that the Cabinet Secretariat was the best Department for the League to correspond with. The Cabinet Secretariat, then, is responsible for sending the communications received to the Departments concerned, for obtaining the reply which those Departments would advise should be sent, and for seeing, before those replies are sent, that the reply of one Department is properly co-ordinated with that of another, and that you do not get contradictory answers from two Departments in one Government. That, again, I venture to say, is a very common-sense and convenient arrangement.

The right hon. Gentleman asks, "Has this Cabinet Secretariat bettered legislation?" It is not its business to better legislation. "Has it bettered finance?" It is not its business to better finance. The business of legislation is the business of Ministers; the business of finance is the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury and Ministers at large. "Has it bettered foreign affairs?" It is not its business to deal with foreign affairs. That is the business of the Secretary of State and the Foreign Office. Those questions are based on a misconception of what the duties of the Cabinet Secretariat are. Its duties are to receive from Ministers or Departments notification of questions on which Cabinet decisions are required; to see that the papers which the Cabinet has to have before it, before it takes those decisions, are properly presented; to record so much of the discussions as from time to time they may be directed to record; to take note of the decisions, and to communicate them to those who have to execute them. But they are not themselves authorised to take the initiative in any matter of administration, in any matter of legislation, or in any matter of executive action. I think I have pretty well covered the ground—I hope I have—raised by the right hon. Member for Peebles. Let me just add that the same staff which serves the Cabinet Secretariat serves the Committee of Imperial Defence, and that is really not an accident. When the Committee of Imperial Defence was founded, it was obvious at once that it must have a Secretariat, that it must have records if it was to perform the tasks which it was intended to perform. During the War, the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence served not merely the War Cabinet as constituted in 1916, but it served those various Committees of the Cabinet of my right hon. Friend which, under various names, did, in fact, direct the daily conduct of the War so long as the right hon. Member for Paisley was Prime Minister, and now an extension of that Secretariat is applying the same method, with, I venture to say, the same beneficial results, to the business of the Cabinet as a whole.

As my last word, I do want to impress upon the Committee the immense development of Cabinet work in the course of the last few years. The task of government has become much more complicated. The number of international, as well as of national, conferences, have become much more numerous. It would be quite impossible, by the old form of verbal communication and report at a weekly Cabinet meeting, to keep the Cabinet in any sort of touch with the mass of material which now passes before Ministers in Committees and in Council, unless you had adopted a businesslike secretarial system. There is only one other thing I want to say. I am not sure it is necessary, but some words slipped from the right hon. Member for Peebles which make me feel I cannot conclude without saying them. Of Sir Maurice Hankey, as Secretary both of the Committee of Imperial Defence and of the War Cabinet, I need not speak. He is known by reputation, at any rate, to this House, which has accorded him its thanks for the great services which he rendered during the War, and to which testimony has been borne both by my right hon. Friend opposite and the Prime Minister—the Member most intimately associated with him. Of the rest of the staff, I only desire to say that they are the same kind of men as those who discharge responsible positions in the Civil Service, imbued with the same high sense of duty, the same strict attention to the obligations of secrecy and confidence, and that I count myself fortunate, as one of the Ministers who has the advantage of their services, in having men who will work with such devotion under any pressure, for any length of time, at any hour of the day or night, which the exigencies of the Ministers may require.

I need hardly say that I associate myself with every word my right hon. Friend opposite has said in the concluding part of his speech as to the character and the efficiency of the eminent State servants—military, civil and naval—who are members of this Cabinet Secretariat, and, in particular, no one has more reason than I have to join in any tribute—and no tribute can be too high—to the eminent services which Sir Maurice Hankey has rendered this country during the War and since. I think we were singularly fortunate in finding such a man in such a position at such a time. My right hon. Friend started his speech by suggesting a Machiavelian compact between my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate and myself—some elaborate pre-distribution of parts with some sinister and malignant object for the discredit of the Government. He is quite mistaken. I have had a larger and a longer experience than anybody else now sitting in the House in Cabinet Government. My sole interest in the matter is not that I object to necessary changes, for I quite agree there must be innovations and developments in the constitution and the Cabinet system, but I am endeavouring to discuss impartially and dispassionately whether the case has been made out for the addition of a new Department, consisting, as we are now told, of 114 persons.

May I interrupt to say that in that number are included charwomen and others. You are not considering only the actual Secretariat.

The figures are here in the Paper I hold in my hand. It is true that there are 14 charwomen—though I am not for the moment discriminating—but the total cost is something like £32,000. I want the Committee to look at the matter dispassionately, to take its mind back, leaving out the war conditions, and the subsequent peace conditions, and going back to normal conditions. I want the Committee to go back for a while. I have sat in the Cabinet under three Prime Ministers. I myself, when I succeeded to the office, held it for a longer continuous term than any of my predecessors over the past century. My first chief was Mr. Gladstone—a man of unrivalled experience and knowledge of public administration. I am perfectly certain that the practice pursued by Mr. Gladstone, inherited by him from Lord Palmerston and Sir Robert Peel, and adopted, as I have every reason to believe, by Lord Salisbury and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the practice that prevailed for certainly 60 or 70 years in regard to Cabinet Government, was approved by the knowledge and experience of all these illustrious men. What was its essence? Its essence was this. Corporate Cabinet responsibility maintained, not as a despot, or even as a master, by the Prime Minister, though inevitably he was the central and most authoritative figure. In practice all the heads of the great Departments of State once or twice a week, and always once, met the Cabinet in Council, contributing their share of information and advice, and so, after discussion, decisions were come to. The essence of the whole thing was mutual confidence, and not only that, but absolute secrecy. The secrecy was so well maintained, in theory at any rate, and I think in fact also, that I believe in practice no one ever opened the door of the chamber except a Cabinet Minister. There were no messengers. No note was kept of the proceedings by anybody except the Prime Minister. There were occasions when a furtive kind of note was taken, Members taking an independent note of their own, but that was always regarded as a breach of the unwritten law, and the Prime Minister of the time had more than once in my time to exercise the very invidious function of admonishing, privately of course, the peccant Minister for his breach of that unwritten rule.

I only mention this to show that the whole thing was treated absolutely as a confidential council by responsible Ministers of the Crown. The result was, as my right hon. Friend has said, that the only record of what took place was the record made by the Prime Minister himself, and his duty, as I think is well known, was to write in his own handwriting a letter to the King describing exactly what had taken place and what resolutions had been come to. I do not know that that record was ever wrong. A copy of that message sent by the Prime Minister was made by the private secretary to the Prime Minister and was kept in the archives and is there now for purposes of history. That was the only kind of authentic record of what took place. That may seem to my right hon. Friend unbusinesslike. It worked very well. It worked well enough for Mr. Gladstone, for Lord Beaconsfield, for Lord Salisbury, and for their degenerate successors! I do not believe I have ever known a serious instance, during the whole of my long experience of public affairs, in which there was any serious subsequent difference of opinion as to what had taken place at the Cabinet. I am perfectly certain, if T may venture to say so—for I have not had experience of the new system—that Mr. Gladstone and Lord Beaconsfield would have shuddered in their graves at the thought of an outsider being present and taking notes of what was going on. They would have considered it a breach of the fundamental practice of the Constitution. I am not at all sure, having seen these gentlemen—and know them to be very competent people —I am not at all sure that they send any more accurate record than in the old days when it was written more informally under the system to which I have referred. That was the system which prevailed up to the outbreak of the War.

Side by side—and that was the essence of Cabinet Government—side by side with this system of Cabinet deliberations which resulted in the determination of the ultimate policy of the Government, both in legislation and administration, we have allowed during the last 25 years to grow up, I think very wisely, an institution created mainly by the effort of that distinguished statesman, my predecessor, now unfortunately removed by the mischances of fortune to another atmosphere, the Earl of Balfour—side by side there has grown up the Committee of Imperial Defence, which, I think, quite rightly adopted a different system. The Committee of Imperial Defence had no executive powers, absolutely none. Everything it did was subject to the ultimate approval or disapproval of the Cabinet of the day.

In the course of the complexity of European diplomacy and the international situation, and the increasing importance which rightly attached to the co-ordination of the Naval and Military Councils the Committee of Imperial Defence was brought into existence as an informal body. It was presided over and selected by the Prime Minister of the day. Some Members of the Cabinet are always members of the Committee—and the Committee had the advantage of the co-operation of eminent naval and.military men. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Down (Field-Marshal Sir H. Wilson) and I spent many pleasant hours together there. We had the heads of the Army and the Navy, the Foreign Office, and other Departments present, and when the Dominion Premiers came over here we always made it a point for them to sit with us. Sitting there as a co-ordinated body, we came to decisions of very great importance. They were recorded by the Secretariat, and in due course were circulated to Members of the Cabinet

I believe that that was a system which worked very well. It preserved ultimate Cabinet responsibility in all matters either of policy or of administration, and at the same time a careful record was kept of what had taken place at the Committee of Imperial Defence, so that the Cabinet might be informed constantly and kept informed of the kind of problems upon which they ultimately had to decide. It is desirable to have clearly before us the system which prevailed up to the outbreak of the War, and, indeed, after the War—but I will say something about that in a moment. I do not believe any of my illustrious predecessors would dissent from the opinion which T now express, as a result of experience, for it is about 30 years since I first entered the Cabinet. The system was not slovenly nor unbusinesslike, nor, in practice, did it lead to misapprehension or confusion. That was the way under the party system, whatever party might be in power. We all knew of course, when the War came, that some changes, necessary and important, might be needed in procedure. We established the War Committee at a very early stage—I think almost immediately after the outbreak—which took over to a large extent the functions of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Experts were present, and we always had the leading representatives of the Army and Navy present, and a record was kept of their proceedings. If you consult the writings of any historian who deals with the history of the War you will find in the records of that Committee a complete record almost day by day of all the military and naval decisions, and I think that was a very necessary step, because you could net constantly be referring these matters to the Cabinet. Cabinet responsibility, Cabinet conferences, and the right of the Cabinet in all cases to take ultimate decisions was never impaired.

I am speaking of what normally happens, and that is what happened during the War. I am not criticising the bringing into existence of this Secretariat during the remaining years of the War, but the question which the Committee has now to consider is, does it now serve any useful purpose commensurate with its numbers and its cost? I would like to ask what is the reason why we should not revert to the normal conditions of the system which served us so well in days gone by. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has minimised the functions of the Secretariat to an almost undue extent. As he has presented the case to the Committee, they are really reduced to the functions of a conduit pipe simply conveying and communicating decisions taken.

Under these circumstances, why should this very substantial staff be maintained. It was a thing entirely unknown before the War, and there is no such thing wanted during peace. We are now under peace conditions, and are we to be told that for the mere purpose of making quite certain that a member of the Cabinet who has been present at a consultation with his colleagues has not misunderstood, through haste or through stupidity, the decision arrived at that you must have this enormous staff, because it really is an enormous staff, to make quite certain that true records are kept. The thing does not admit of argument. lf, of course, you are going to assign to the Secretariat some functions other than that of a mere pipe for the clarifying and conveying of decisions already arrived at, then I say it is a usurpation of the functions which have hitherto been discharged so well by our most competent Civil Service. Although I am not in the least degree wedded to old ways to such an extent that I would not gladly accept any administrative innovation which I thought was a real improvement, I cannot see that any case has been made out, either in the arguments of the Lord Privy Seal or in our actual experience during the last three years of the working of the Departments of State, to suppose that we have got any value for the money we have been asked to spend in this connection.

I intervene in this Debate through no desire to indulge in any wanton criticism of an institution, which has certainly served a very useful purpose. I do not quarrel with the existence of some machinery for preparing agendas and reporting the decision of the Cabinet, and I am not sure that I regard the secrecy of the Cabinet and the exclusion from the Cabinet of all outside persons as essential or necessary. I want to approach this question only from the point of view of whether the Cabinet Secretariat at the present moment is a sound piece of administration and whether it works in with the rest of the Government proceedings, or whether it is not fundamentally a confusion which leads to this Secretariat doing an enormous amount of harm, not due to the inefficiency of its members—I join my humble tribute to everything that has been said as to their efficiency and the way they have performed their almost overwhelming task during the last few years—but owing to the fact that they are in a fundamentally anomalous position as part of the machinery of government.

The Lord Privy Seal assured us that this Secretariat had no executive duties, that it acted only as a co-ordinating agent, and was merely a channel of instruction, but, surely, that is not the case. I grant that it has no executive machinery, but, unfortunately, it has executive functions. The Lord Privy Seal admitted this, because he said that the Secretariat had been used by the Cabinet as a co-ordinating medium in matters in which the Dominions were concerned. What does that involve? If the Cabinet Secretariat be the sole channel of communication between the Government and the Secretariat of the League of Nations, what happens in a case like that of the Opium Convention? That subject was deliberated upon many times before the War and in the case of this Convention, the Foreign Office obtained the view of the India Office and other Departments before the instructions of the Government were given to the delegates at that Conference. Now, when the League of Nations considers the Opium Question, the Cabinet Secretariat corresponds with the India Office, the Colonial Office, and the Board of Trade, and secures the views of those Departments.

On a question like the instructions to be given to our delegates at the Conference on the opium question, does that question go before the Cabinet, and are the instructions drafted by the whole Cabinet in Committee? Surely not! Who drafts them? Who is the Minister to whom the Cabinet Secretariat is responsible? Is it responsible to any one Minister? It is said that in regard to matters connected with the League of Nations the Lord President of the Council is responsible, but I would like to ask what executive authority is conferred upon the President of the Council? Again he has no executive department, and if he does anything it must be done through the Secretariat. He approves the instructions finally drafted by the Secretariat of the Cabinet and dispatched by them to the Government delegates, and any necessary correspondence with the Secretariat of the League of Nations is also carried through by the Secretariat of the Government. That is an executive function, and you cannot get away from it.

I have taken a minor instance as an illustration, but I could give larger instances. I have taken this case in order to show that, in regard to a question upon which there is no controversy, this Secretariat has taken over executive functions from the Foreign Office. The question is whether the discharge of such functions by the Secretariat of the Cabinet is a good thing or a bad thing. The Lord Privy Seal says quite rightly that the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat are recording functions and not executive. The Cabinet Secretariat grew up from the Committee of Imperial Defence which was essentially a deliberative body and not an executive body. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) mentioned his own War Committee in the early stages of the War, and he said that it took over the functions of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I think that is not perhaps quite correct from this point of view. After all, there are two distinctive kinds of co-ordination essential in time of war and even in time of peace. There has to be a co-ordination of plans, but there is a totally different question involved when it comes to the co-ordina- tion of executive action. It was because of your War Committee control of executive action that you had all the evils that attach to the absence of unity of command. In order to get real coordination of executive action you must have concentration of responsibility and unity of command, and the gross failures of our foreign policy in the early stages of the War were due to the fact that the Foreign Secretary of that day neither had nor desired to have any prime responsibility, still less sole responsibility, for our foreign policy abroad, and our foreign policy was at every step considered in Committee and no decision was arrived at. On this point I am afraid that I cannot agree, with my small experience of Government action, with the view on this point which has been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley.

5.0 p.m.

The present Prime Minister set up the Cabinet Secretariat for the purpose of remedying the incapability of the Cabinet to co-ordinate executive action. I think the setting up of the Cabinet Secretariat was a fundamental mistake, is as much as it did not touch the root of the error, but, in fact, confirmed and intensified it. I do not regard the Secretariat so much from the point of view of the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), as being a creature of the Prime Minister, but it is a very grave question whether you are not carrying Committee Government by the Cabinet to such a length that you either come to no decision at all or leave the Secretariat to come to a decision for you. That is the danger. What happened when this Secretariat was set up? At first the Secretariat did not assume any direct executive function. It confined itself to somewhat haphazard interference with the work of other bodies, but later on it was forced to take direct executive responsibility. When you come to executive action you must concentrate the responsiblity somewhere. You did not concentrate the responsibility for foreign policy in the Foreign Office but you concentrated it in the Cabinet Secretariat. I remember when, at Christmas, 1917, I had to enquire into the exact position in regard to matters in Palestine. I found there was no one at the Foreign Office in whom the responsibility was vested, and I had to go to Whitehall Gardens to consult a late Member of this House, well known to and highly respected by the Members of this House (Sir Mark Sykes). I would not for one moment venture to criticise his work, but that hon. Member was managing the whole policy of the Government in Palestine, and was responsible to no Minister at all. He was responsible to no individual and, at most, he was responsible to a Committee.

That kind of thing still continues. It operated in a tremendous degree at the Peace Conference. I am not blaming anyone for it. At the Peace Conference a very large part of the action of the Government was carried out by the Cabinet Secretariat direct. I think the Prime Minister will admit that. Take, for instance, the moment at which the Hungarian revolution was in full swing. We had to deal, and deal rapidly, with the Rumanian and Hungarian Governments, and we had to take quick decisions. The instructions and communications from the Council of Four that went to these Governments went, not through the Foreign Office or through our representatives at their respective capitals, but were sent direct by wireless to those Governments, and the Prime Minister may remember the somewhat strange result when the Rumanian Government, having received the wireless message, made no reply at all. When, subsequently, our Minister there communicated with it, the right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Government was able to make the convenient excuse that the message had never been received. That indicates the danger to which such informal methods of foreign policy are exposed. I am not criticising, but anything I am saying in this direction could be duplicated a dozen times.

The Cabinet Secretariat are in an impossibly anomalous position. They have no executive machinery, but often on matters of foreign policy they have to take executive action on questions on which they are not well informed, and they have to take it in such haste that they have no time in which to consult the Departments most concerned. I would like to repeat a question which I asked the Prime Minister some six months ago in regard to the case of Upper Silesia, which was referred to the League of Nations. It was so referred at a meeting of the Cabinet Secretariat and there was considerable doubt as to the exact position of Great Britain and France in relation to it, because in one case both the British and French votes would have been required for a unanimous decision and in the other case they would not have been so required. As a matter of fact the question was referred to the League of Nations without any reference to any particular article of the Covenant, without any indication as to what the terms of reference were, and also without any indication of the legal position of Great Britain and France under the terms of the Covenant. Is it conceivable that any Department really equipped to be an executive Department, working under an executive Minister responsible to the Cabinet and to this House, would have so bungled that very difficult and important question as to refer it to the League of Nations without these vital particulars? But this is the kind of thing which is happening day after day in matters of foreign policy. You will never get a sound foreign policy until you concentrate the responsibility for it. I care not one jot whether you concentrate the responsibility for your foreign policy in your Foreign Office or in some new Department under the Lord President of the Council created under the Committee of Imperial Defence. I make no criticism whatever of the Cabinet Secretariat. I am not here to praise or to blame. I am here simply with the idea of insuring that the administrative machinery of the Government shall be sound, and, to secure that, I say you must concentrate your responsibility. You cannot go on cutting your foreign policy into lengths and allowing the Foreign Secretary to deal with the question up to a certain point and then finding it disappear from his grasp in the same way as the Irishman on his way to market with a pig found it constantly disappearing into a public-house.

There is no offence intended either to the Irishman or to the pig. What I am protesting against is the constant chopping and changing in the locus of your responsibility. I want to guard Departments of the Government so that they may not suffer from the intervention of the Cabinet Secretariat on behalf of the Cabinet on some question with which they are dealing. With re- gard to the question of recording Cabinet decisions, of course, it is true that the adoption of that policy makes it much more difficult for the Cabinet to rise without having come to any decision. At least, the Cabinet will come to some decision, although I have known many instances in which Cabinet decisions drafted by Cabinet Secretariats have subsequently been altered by subordinate Departments. There may be a distinct advantage in thus recording decisions of the Cabinet, but think, on the other hand, of the disadvantages of the system. We all know that minutes of Conferences are only of real use to those persons who are present at the Conferences. They do not constitute a sufficient guide to people who have not been present. These Cabinet minutes go to the Department as formulated, instead of, as in the old days, the Foreign Minister going back to his Department charged with the opinions of his colleagues, knowing their views and the reasons why they came to a particular decision, and consequently having a larger discretion and more flexibility of action than can possibly be the case when he is tied within the four corners of a formula taken down by the Cabinet Secretariat. I say that is a very grave disadvantage which tends to delay and hamper executive action at the moment when swift action is most essential. So much for what is done by the Cabinet Secretariat.

But what of the things which that Secretariat does not record? You have now less record in matters of foreign policy than you had under the old régime. You have many more conversations taken part in by the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister of which no record is kept than you had in the old days. The Prime Minister will remember what happened in relation to the case of the Island of Yap. There is a Minute taken in relation to that but if a decision was come to it certainly was not recorded as such, and the Minute led to endless disagreement as to what had actually been decided upon. The same thing has occurred in reference to many other matters of foreign policy as to which no record has been kept.

That was recorded, and therefore I am giving it as an instance of a record made of a meeting of the Council by the Secretariat; but, because it was made as a Minute, and that was thought to be sufficient, endless disputes arose as to its actual meaning. If I were asked to give an instance of an unrecorded decision overriding the executive Department, I think I might mention, without indiscretion, the arrangement between the Prime Minister and M. Clemenceau at the end of 1918 with reference to Mosul. I think that no record of that ever reached any executive Department of the Government. No record of it existed in the Foreign Office. I would ask if that does not amount to a usurpation, whether wilful or not, of the functions of the executive Department by this Cabinet Secretariat? That is inevitable so long as the Cabinet attempts to discharge corporately as a Committee so many duties, and to keep so tight a control over the discretion of individual Departments. As I have said, I am not making these observations in any carping spirit, but I wish I could induce the Government, which I follow, to understand a little the feelings of some of us who do support it, and who have an ideal of a dignified, regular and systematic foreign policy; who have an ideal of this country as the fountain-head of policy for the healing of Europe, but who believe that those waters should flow in fixed and known channels; who believe that the Government's mistakes, for which they are criticised so often, are not mistakes in the conception of policy, and that the Government's aims are essentially right; but who believe that in one way or another the administrative and executive execution is muddled and weakened and divided and distributed between multifarious agencies. That is the gravamen of our complaint, and of our appeal to the Government that they will not be led astray by the idea, which I am sure is entirely false, that this Secretariat represents a great co-ordinating machine by which the whole policy of the Government may be made consistent and be made to harmonise. On the contrary, it is the addition of another Department, a semi-executive Department, a Department which to a large extent is utterly unco-ordinated with other Departments. It is the addition of a fifth wheel to a coach which has been driving very heavily through the sands of difficult roads, and which is in danger of sticking altogether unless it is properly reconstructed.

It has occurred to me that somehow we were able to dispense with this considerable Department before the War. Apparently we could do without it at a time when we were a rich country, but, now that we are a poor country, not merely are we to have this Department at the present time, but it is to be fastened upon us permanently. I rather gathered, before this discussion commenced, that it was simply a temporary expedient, but, from the statement that has been made by the Lord Privy Seal, it looks as though it is to be a permanent Department, and the right hon. Gentleman's speech took the form of a justification of that. I know that a case can be made out for the retention of any one of these officials, and, indeed, for the retention of all of them; but is there any one official for the continuance of whose office some brief could not be presented, particularly when the brief was probably prepared by the official himself? I want to call attention to the number of officers here involved. There are no less than 114, and they are summarised by the Geddes Committee as 11 administrative, 47 clerical, 22 typists, 20 messengers and 14 charwomen. So far as the charwomen are concerned, I think their services might very well be retained, for I have no doubt that there is sufficient débris and trouble to be cleared up, so that, perhaps, a better case could be made for them than for the many others who are included. Like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), I have had the opportunity of reading the illuminating contribution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) in the current "Nineteenth Century" review. He has made it clear that we are concerned here with one of the gravest innovations which has been made in recent years. It is a little difficult for us to understand how great the change is. My submission is that, if there is to be a grave constitutional innovation, it should be made, not in a fit of absence of mind, not casually, not simply by the appointment of a number of officials whose salaries are put down for consideration, but that such an important change should be adopted deliberately and advisedly and as a result of careful discussion in the House of Commons.

That is my main point of criticism. A new Department is being established, involving an expenditure of as much as £32,000 in the course of the year, a Department comprising over 100 people in more or less important positions; and that has been done, not as a result of a deliberate resolution, but casually, and, I think, thoughtlessly. The danger in this country is that the bureaucracy is becoming stronger and stronger, and at the same time the House of Commons is becoming smaller and smaller; and the question that is being put, I think, very generally, is: When is this expenditure to decrease; when is it to vanish? Is there any necessity for us to go on year after year spending something like £32,000 upon a work which is only justified on the grounds stated by the Lord Privy Seal, who explained that the duties of this new Department were, (1) to bring notifications from the Department concerned to the Cabinet; (2) to see that the papers were properly prepared and presented; (3) to see the the proceedings were properly recorded; and (4) to take a note and communicate that note to those who have to execute the instructions? Although the Lord Privy Seal was expressly urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles to explain what the work of this Department was, I think that that was all he could state. I wonder what the taxpayer would have to say about it if he were presented with these four headings, comprising the duties of this new Department, and told that there is to be spent, in those four directions, no less than £32,000 in the course of the year? Is there anything in that explanation that will lessen the taxpayer's grievance against the House of Commons, as the trustee of the public purse, and against the Government? I should like to know the total expenditure since the Armistice in this direction, not merely as far as salaries are concerned, but in special allowances and in the provision of offices and office accommodation. I think the Committee would be a little disturbed, and I am sure the country would be, if they knew all that has been spent in this direction since the Armistice. I would ask the Committee to have some consideration for the unfortunate man who at the present time is harassed in his business and who has to find somehow or other the money to meet the demands of the tax collector. It means that thousands of people in this country have somehow to stint themselves and deprive themselves in order to meet the needs of a Department the justification of which has certainly not been established to-day. It means that the small taxpayer has to deny himself in some way or other—

These remarks might be made on every item of expenditure. The hon. Member must really confine himself to the Secretariat itself.

I accept your direction, Sir. My object is simply to call attention to this expenditure of £32,000, and to ask that, in any further explanation that may be given this afternoon, we may have explained to us in fuller detail what is the business of this Department which involves the country in so heavy an expenditure. I believe that there is a growing indignation against increasing expenditure, and I would ask the Government, who have been professing economy for so long, to exercise that economy in this direction.

I sympathise with the opinions of the hon. Member who has just sat down, but I think we have to discuss to-day something rather more definite and rather more important even than the very important matter of saving this £32,000 a year. I was deeply interested by the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) with regard to the difficulties that have arisen from this new Secretariat in the very difficult and troubled waters of foreign policy. The Noble Lord, however, seemed to me rather disposed to treat lightly certain other difficulties, and to condone certain other aspects of this Secretariat, which I venture to think are fraught constitutionally with the very greatest dangers. We have had a most interesting Debate mainly, from the Front Benches, in which we have had the personal experiences of two of our most notable Members of the Cabinet. The experiences of both have been abundant, and I am certain that both were anxious to give us a reflection of those experiences as true as possible to life. But what an extraordinary thing it is that these two Cabinet Ministers, recalling to the Committee their own experiences, are in such absolute disagreement with regard to the main features of the transactions in question. This is really a matter which I think the Committee will judge to be of very vital importance, and, while quite admitting the impartiality, the frankness and the openness of the statement of the Lord Privy Seal, I cannot say that in my mind his arguments availed in the slightest degree to remove my objections to this new Department. What were the reasons that he gave? The first was that, which we have had reiterated almost to satiety, of the enormous increase of Government business. Are we not really getting to the end of this continual repetition, with vehemence and emphasis, by every Minister in every year that passes? I suppose that from the time when Noah came out of the Ark, the passions of men, their fights, their aims, their objects, their occupations, their desires, their longings for peace, their preparations for war, have been just about as numerous as they are even in the present advanced age. The difficulties of government cannot be very slight at any time, and, if they have become increased in complexity, are we quite sure that that is not sometimes due to the interference of government in spheres where it would be far better to leave the ordinary citizen to manage matters for himself; that they do not add to their work by ceaselessly finding out some new contrivance by which they can interfere with trade and regulate our lives and remodel the world. Let the Government try to pursue the aim of a little simplicity. When I listened to this defence by the Leader of the House. I was tempted to ask why is it, after we have gone on for generations on a certain system, they suddenly find in the year 1919 that there has been such an increase of work as to necessitate a fundamental alteration in the plans by which they are going to carry on the government, and suddenly find that the vital business of the country cannot be carried on unless they establish a new and altogether unheard-of Department of the State? We all, and no one more than I, admire, respect and appreciate very highly the value to the nation of the great Civil Service. It is not likely that I am going to run it down. But the Civil Service has definite functions beyond which it ought not to be allowed to go. The Civil Service can administer great administrative Departments of the State, because we know that nine-tenths of its work is not political at all, and does not vary according to policy. Let them beware that they do not take the Civil Service out of its proper function into the domain of politics.

I want to ask one or two questions which are of fundamental importance with regard to this new Cabinet Secretariat. We have never discussed it. We have never really had any full explanation of it, and I do not think we had any very lucid explanation of it from the Lord Privy Seal. Is this Cabinet Secretariat, now admitted for the first time into the secrecy of the Cabinet, drafting the Minutes of the Cabinet—and that is no slight business and will put no slight power into their hands—to be continuous or is it only to be temporary? Is the Cabinet Secretariat, which has presumably been linked in sympathy with one Cabinet, which has been present at the most intimate discussions of that Cabinet, which has heard the various phases of shifting opinion, the compromises probably suggested, the yielding on the part of one Minister to the urgency of another—all those little touches which when you are present at an intimate conference really give character and colour to that conference—is this Secretariat, conversant with all these domestic troubles of one Cabinet, to go on to the next Cabinet and perform the same duties? We were not told. Why are we not told? The dilemma is insuperable. If they are to go on I think, if they are possessed of a sardonic temperament, they will find some amusing experiences in comparing the talks and the discussions of those fleeting beings who will pass across their vision like the slides of a magic lantern: here to-day, away to-morrow.

More than that, what about their minutes? Are these minutes to be for the use of the Cabinet as it exists only, or are they to be saved and carried on for their successors? I want to know that. We have never been told, and not even to-day have we found any enlightenment on the point. It is very important. But I say, value your civil servants, and trust their fidelity. They have been anxious in the past to play the game, and to maintain the highest rules of honour. But you must not put into their hands matters that do not properly belong to them. The business of the Civil Service is administration and not policy, and if you create a Secretariat which is to be the repository of intimate fundamental political decisions, and which is to be permanent, and you hand these on from time to time, is is not perfectly certain that the interpretation of these principles will rest with the Secretariat? Anyone who has been at the head of a Department can tell you that, without seeking it, by almost spontaneous and irresistible force, he contrives generally to guide the policy of his Department. He does so, of course, subject to the superior control of his political chief, but I am betraying no secret when I say that everyone with experience knows that he must really hold the reins very largely in his own hands. But it is a very different thing when you make him the confidential repository and the interpreter of the deepest secrets of policy, going down to the very roots of that policy.

I distrust fundamentally this attempt to run into the grooves of routine and transmitted Minutes the free and untrammelled political principles which have been guided, not by civil servants, but by the leaders of the nation in the Cabinet and those who represent the spirit of this House. It is those leaders of the Cabinet, who derive authority from this House, who are immediately responsible to this House, who must direct the main policy of this country. You require Minutes, the Leader of the House tells us, because Cabinet Ministers cannot be trusted to remember what they have decided from day to day. It was an almost pitiful picture that the Leader of the House drew of his colleagues in the Cabinet who left the Cabinet and came back to it perfectly uncertain what they had decided. I have sat on many Committees and governing bodies, but I never found it was very difficult to know what decision, whether it was in my favour or against me, my colleagues gave and I have not found that my colleagues on these various bodies were so feeble in memory or so inaccurate that they really did not retain an impression of the decisions come to. I do not see why a Cabinet, composed as I have always believed—a belief I shall cherish to my dying day—of the leading intellects and leading powers, not only in this House, but in the country, cannot possibly come to a clear decision, remember that decision and agree with one another as to what that decision is without having recourse to a Cabinet Secretariat. In the old days secretaries to the Privy Council were mere servants. They became the heads of the great Departments of State because they were the conduit pipes through which orders were conveyed.

Very well. Here we are now entrusting the most important principles of our constitutional growth—vital principles of policy—into the hands of what after all will be a new Civil Service Department. They are to interpret them and to convey to the other Departments the decision which the Cabinet Ministers, we understand from the Leader of the House, find themselves incapable, from defects of memory or other reason, conveying to their own Departments. Do you think that that body, with its political head, who must be the Prime Minister, will not exercise an authority over all the other Departments of the State? I think this new movement is one to curtail the independent responsibility of Cabinet Ministers. It is one to put into the harness of administrative machinery the free principles which have hitherto prevailed in our Constitution, and which have been the very first virtue of that Constitution. It is to impose a hard and fast line of administrative routine in place of that personal element which has given us all our great leaders in the nation, all those who have guided us throughout the various phases of our history, those who have known how to extricate out of difficult and perplexing deliberations the real point which is of importance, and which they have held up as a star to guide them. I do not think that a Cabinet Secretariat which will crib, cabin, and confine that policy according to the rules of written minutes will be a good substitute for our past Constitutional practice and elastic advancement. It is the letter that killed, but the spirit that keeps alive, and I think this destroys the spirit of the Constitution that keeps us alive. I think you are doing a great deal by this Secretariat to kill the spirit and to make the letter dominant in our Constitution.

My right hon. Friend who has just spoken has made a very interesting speech. On this subject he speaks with a great deal of authority, being, as we all know, a student of our Constitution of great eminence. I am not sure that I do not think he takes a little too serious a view of the constitutional aspects of this question. He drew a picture of the Secretary to the Cabinet gradually arrogating to himself more and more powers until he displaces the present Constitutional authorities of this country, in much the same way as the Secretaries of State, who originally were simply Secretaries, and the Lord Chancellor, who, I believe, was originally merely a Secretary, have gradually arrogated to themselves the very great administrative and executive powers which they possess. No one can tell what will happen in the long future, but I do not think that in the immediate future we need fear the despotism of Sir Maurice Hankey. I am not sure that it would not be a very good form of Government, for I am one of those who share to the full the admiration that has been expressed from both Front Benches for the ability and devotion of that distinguished public servant. I do believe, however, that this development is one which ought to be watched with great care, and I am rather disposed to think that it has already gone further than is of advantage to the Constitution of the country.

My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal represented the Secretariat as merely a means of recording the decisions of the Cabinet and of the Committees and Conferences which take place with increasing and bewildering frequency nowadays, and as having no power beyond that. My experience of Cabinet Government is very small, almost insignificant I am afraid compared with that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). Therefore I express with diffidence a view which differs from his on a matter regarding the old system of Cabinet Government; but I must in honesty say that my very short experience of Cabinet Government under the old system, which was only about a year, led me to the conclusion that some record of the decisions of the Cabinet is a desirable thing. I do not quite share the view of my hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal that it constantly happened that Ministers went away without knowing what they had decided; but I think it did sometimes happen that the discussions went on until it was very late and then the Cabinet broke up without coming to any very definite conclusion. That may have happened sometimes. The fact that there is somebody there to put on record what has been done or to record the fact that no decision was come to, does in itself help to clarity and definiteness of decision. I should not, therefore, be disposed to blame very severely a system by which the actual decisions of the Cabinet were recorded, but I would not have it go any further than that. Unless I am very greatly misinformed, it is the practice, not only to record the decisions of the Cabinet, but to record the views expressed by various Members of the Cabinet in the course of the discussion. I shall be corrected if I am wrong in that statement. That is what, I understand, happens. To that I have the strongest objection. A Cabinet discussion ought to be absolutely free, and any attempt to record the expressions of one Cabinet Minister is, I am convinced, deleterious and not advantageous. It has also a number of subsidiary disadvantages, into which I need not go, one of which is that certain Cabinet Ministers probably find greater pleasure in seeing their opinions recorded than other Cabinet Ministers, and consequently the greater part of the discussion may be carried on by one or two Members of the Cabinet of the day. I would not have any record of the discussions, but I would have a record of the decisions of the Cabinet. Of course, that would have to be approved not only by the Prime Minister, but by other Members of the Cabinet who took part in the decision.

I am coming to that. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to develop my argument. I want to say what I think is good in the system. I understood from the Lord Privy Seal—it was my own experience, and I think I am entitled to say that—that it is the practice of the Secretariat to settle the agenda of the Cabinet. That seems to me a function which should be carried out with the greatest possible caution. It is a very dangerous function to entrust to anybody, and I am inclined to think that it ought not to he done except by the Prime Minister himself, who should dic- tate to the Secretariat what he desires to be put upon the agenda, if you are going to have any agenda at all, particularly now that so many matters come before the Cabinet, and such constant meetings of the Cabinet take place. My right hon. Friend rather terrified me by enumerating the great number of meetings of the Cabinet which have taken place during the past year. I do not think that is a good thing in itself. I think it is a bad thing. It means that the Cabinet are deciding more and more what ought primarily to be left to the Departments to decide, subject, of course, to review, if the matter was thought to be of sufficient importance to require review. If you have some agenda, it, is evident that the position which a particular matter may have on the agenda may make the difference between getting a decision or not getting a decision. If it is low down on the agenda, and other matters take a long time, it will not he reached. It is too large a responsibility to leave to any permanent officials to say—if that is done; I do not know whether it is done—what should be the order of the matters which are to come before the Cabinet.

My right hon. Friend, in an interruption, said very truly that 80, 90, or 100 officials were not necessary merely to record the decisions of the 'Cabinet. Anyone who has followed affairs closely and has listened to this Debate must have arrived at the conclusion that the Cabinet. Secretariat does a great deal more now than merely record the decisions of the Cabinet. My right hon. Friend enumerated not only the Cabinet meetings, but the various Committees. There is the Home Affairs Committee, which sits constantly, and is a kind of secondary Cabinet, and there are a very large number of international Conferences. All these are apparently, I will not say guided by the Secretariat, because that would be going too far, but apparently the secretarial work of all these bodies is done by the Cabinet Secretariat. What inevitably happens is that, say, a Committee is appointed to deal with a particular subject. At the end of the first discussion it is suggested that a decision on particular lines might be taken. The Secretariat is then asked, I suggest, to draw up a report. That is a great deal more than recording a decision. It is suggesting a decision. That becomes a very important matter. It may be a matter dealing with home affairs or foreign affairs. That report ought not to be drawn up except by the Department which has to carry it out, and if it is drawn up by any external body, however highly skilled—I quite admit everything which has been said in favour of the Secretariat—it will end in confusion unless it is drawn up under the supervision of the Department which is to carry it out.

May I give an example of what I mean from the Department of the Foreign Office, to which the hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has referred, The Noble Lord instanced the Versailles Conference. Let us take the Genoa Conference. We were told that there were 91 members of the British Delegation, and three or four of them came from the Foreign Office. The Secretariat, who had to do the whole business of putting into form what was done at that Conference, came, not from the Foreign Office, but from the Cabinet Secretariat. I cannot think that that separation of foreign affairs, that direction of foreign affairs, that administration of foreign affairs, can possibly succeed. As I understand it now, our foreign affairs are managed by three Cabinet Ministers. There is the Foreign Secretary, who manages a certain number of things, with the Foreign Office. At least, I suppose he does. There is the Prime Minister, who deals with all the International Conferences himself, and he is assisted in dealing with them, not by the Foreign Office, not; by any Parliamentary Chief of the Foreign Office—no Parliamentary Chief of the Foreign Office was at Genoa at all. That was due to accident—but assisted mainly by the Secretariat. Then there is the League of Nations, which so far as this Government is concerned, is under the Lord President of the Council, with one seconded member of the Foreign Office, who has nothing to do with the Foreign Office now, but has been seconded from the Foreign Office in order to assist the Lord President of the Council. The whole of the rest of the departmental duties are discharged by the Cabinet Secretariat, at least, so I understand.

6.0 P.M.

My right hon. Friend has said that the League of Nations has to deal with a number of matters which are not connected with the Foreign Office. Of course that is true, but all these matters, sooner or later, come round to the Department of Foreign Policy. My Noble Friend the Member for Hastings gave the instance of the Opium Convention. We can take others. When you are dealing with matters affecting other nations, sooner or later you have to deal with the Governments of those nations. The moment you have to deal with those nations you come to deal with foreign policy. It is vital that these matters, like the Opium Convention, or matters of much more direct concern, as for instance the discussions on Albania or Upper Silesia, should be dealt with through the Foreign Office, even if they are dealt with by the League of Nations. It is almost impossible to defend a system by which you have foreign affairs split up between three Cabinet Ministers.

I cannot believe that it will work well. I cannot see that it has been of advantage in the direction of foreign policy in this country. Not only have we the difficulty alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik), but it seems to me that there is a real danger in this system of the diminution of Departmental responsibility. You have more and more this government by Committee and Ministers, with a kind of Department of the Secretariat to discharge so much of the administrative duties as are necessarily discharged by a Secretariat. The result is that when we ask in this House who is responsible for a particular policy, you find it increasingly difficult to put a finger upon the Minister who is responsible, and find an increasing tendency to evade the control of this House and of public opinion, because we are not able to assign definite responsibility to a definite Minister, and we see that in a number of ways.

Naturally, having so little official experience as I have had in foreign affairs, I take my example from foreign policy, but take the extraordinary amount of secrecy in foreign affairs so far as this House is concerned. It was the usual practice before the War in any important foreign matter after a few months to present Papers to the House giving a full account of the correspondence. Not only the actual decisions which had been arrived at, not only any formal agreements, but the full correspondence, and the correspondence meant a great deal, because it meant a record of a great part of all the conversations that had taken place between the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador, despatches by the Foreign Minister to his representative at the Court in question, and the consequential despatches from the Ambassador giving the purport of what had occurred in the discussions. Now we get very, very little. I think that one of the reasons is that you have now got that elaborate system of recording the minutes of these conversations by the Secretariat, which are vital matters and which are very difficult to present in their entirety to the House, because constantly they consist, as has been stated quite recently, of confidential matters.

One of the worst defects of the present system is the tendency of the Secretariat to take over the duties or some of the duties of the different Departments. It is inevitable that that should be so. You cannot avoid it. There again you have this system of committees dealing with all these multifarious activities in the country, and the Secretariat dealing with the Committees. It is inevitable that the Committee will rely on the Secretariat for such assistance as ought really to come from one of the Departments. The Secretariat in consequence take over that Department. That has happened constantly in certain Departments for foreign affairs and with an unfortunate effect. I do not believe in the exclusion of the Secretariat. It developed very naturally from the events of the War. The right hon. Member for Paisley described how it has developed. I dare say that it was desirable from some points of view during the War. I see no objection to the mere record of the decisions of the Cabinet being kept. I think that that may be of advantage. But to go further than that, to extend it to the degree to which it has been extended, still more to assign to it definite departmental duties is, I am sure, a most unfortunate departure in our constitutional system, and if it proceeds further it will lead, I am afraid, to grave confusion in the public service.

In the defence of the Cabinet Secretariat to which we have listened, I think that the Lord Privy Seal very much minimised the importance of its function. The very size of this Vote shows surely that this body performs far more important work than merely recording the decisions of the Cabinet, and it seems to me rather to be a machine whereby the Prime Minister has brought about, partly under the stress of War necessities, and partly by following the line of least resistance, what amounts to a revolution in our system of government, a revolution involving a great breach in our Parliamentary traditions arid a very great blow at our historical safeguards. By means of this system the Prime Minister, and to a lesser degree the Departments, have come to be far less under the control of the House of Commons than they used to be before the War. The position of the Prime Minister, in foreign affairs at least, closely resembles the position of the President of the United States much more closely than it resembles the position of the Prime Minister under the British Constitution before the War. The chief engine in this revolution has been undoubtedly the Cabinet Secretariat. By its means the Prime Minister has been able to take over the administration of foreign affairs to a great extent from the Foreign Office and to impose his own personal views.

The foreign policy of a Government is the least suitable for the handling of ignorant amateurs, however brilliant they may be, and it is notorious that the most glaring of our mistakes in foreign policy, as for instance the Near Eastern impasse caused by our encouragement of Greece in claims which were not merely unjust but were far beyond her capacity to enforce, are really due to the unwillingness of the Prime Minister to listen to the Foreign Office, and his reliance on guidance which necessarily will be a reflection of his own views. In domestic policy as in foreign policy this Presidential system ignores all pre-existing conditions and all the traditions of our public Departments, and has brought about the most disastrous turns of policy, and greatly impaired the responsibility of Ministers for their own Departments. After all Civil Service traditions count for something. They may be tied up sometimes with red tape, but experience in these complicated matters of Government cannot lightly be entirely disregarded.

As to the constitution of this Secretariat, I do not know whom it consists of at the present time. I know that they were originally all amateurs out of touch with the Departments. Yon might have picked out men who had great departmental knowledge, and got liaison in that way between your recording body and the Departments, but you have at its head a soldier, a very brilliant soldier, whose services we all recognise. You had as his assistants a paymaster from the Navy responsible for the naval side, a shipping expert with no civil service experience whatever, responsible for shipping, and a university professor responsible for labour and home affairs. You had a soldier, again, a very brilliant soldier no doubt, but a man with no political experience, responsible for Indian administration, and you had three very capable Members of this House responsible for foreign policy. I do not know whether now we have got a different kind of personnel. But by taking people from outside, as has been done, you will find that they are out of touch with public Departments. The Lord Privy Seal told us this afternoon that this Secretariat have got no executive function. Strictly speaking, he may be accurate, but surely the very fact that they do interfere, necessarily, to impose the decision of only a small section in the Cabinet must to a great extent reduce executive responsibility on the part of the Departments. Formerly these Departments were the repository of executive responsibility, and in effect now you have two channels of executive action. You have, on the one hand, the Department, and on the other hand the Prime Minister working practically through an executive of his own, acting in some cases parallel to, and in other cases above, the Department.

We do not know nowadays who is responsible. I do not suppose that anybody in this House, except the Prime Minister and one or two others on the Government Bench, can tell us who is responsible for instructions to the Reparation Commission. Perhaps we shall be told that this afternoon. It is because of this new system that the definite responsibility is slipping away from the cognizance of this House. The League of Nations business goes on parallel with other Departments directly under the control of the Secretariat. Certainly until recently, the decisions nominally of the Cabinet have really been arrived at by a small section of its Members. From what we heard this afternoon, Cabinet responsibility is now largely exercised by small sub-committees and their decisions are imposed on the Departments without any Cabinet decisions whatever in the old sense. We had a very startling picture this afternoon from the Leader of the House. He told us how Cabinet Ministers used to walk away really not knowing what had been decided, and asking each other what had been settled, and what decisions had to be carried out by the Departments. You have got out of this trouble apparently by leaving decisions to the Secretariat. Surely that must reduce Cabinet responsibility, and the direct responsibility of Ministers at the head of the great Departments. There are 114 of these officials, or 100 if you leave out the charwomen. It is perfectly well known that they prepare the ground for the Cabinet. They work out the reports, and in that way they must inevitably largely cut into the old responsibility which used to be carried out by Government Departments.

It seems to me that the Cabinet Secretariat has so multiplied the power of the Prime Minister that he now dominates the Cabinet in a way that not even his great vitality and energy could have achieved under the old system. I cannot believe that it is in the public interest in this way to detract from the status and responsibility of departmental Ministers. I do not object to personal government because of the present repository of that system. If we are to have a dictator, no doubt the Prime Minister, by his quickness, is more capable of dealing with all these questions than perhaps anyone else. But I do hold that the system is bad, and that the best government of this country can he achieved only by many people working together under a. system of clear and definite Cabinet responsibility. The Leader of the House told us that the scope of Government has now so grown that Cabinet Ministers are physically incapable of attending to the general business on the Cabinet in the way that they used to do, and they are unable to keep in touch with what goes on, in addition to running their own Departments. If that be so, surely the remedy is not to alter our system of Government to suit an overgrown bureaucracy, but to cut down that bureaucracy so that it will fit into the old frame of Cabinet responsibility. I believe that many of our present discontents are due to this system of personal Government, which has displaced collective Cabinet responsibility. I believe that the system has been able to grow up only by means of this Cabinet Secretariat, and that the abolition of that body would bring about advantages far beyond the actual money which might be saved.

Unlike a number of those who have taken part in the Debate, we on the Labour Benches, with the exception of a very small number, have no experience either of the old system or the new. Therefore, I approach the question from the point of view rather of an outsider looking at a plain business proposition. I recognise that I am to a considerable extent stripping it of all that historic and sentimental interest with which the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) so eloquently clothed it. Not withstanding his eloquent plea for the continuance of the old system and my own sentimental regard for the traditions and customs of the past, I am glad that this change has been made in our Parliamentary system. I hope that it will become a permanent part of our constitutional development. A system that provides for no agenda of business and no record of business done, and no co-ordination, in my opinion, and in the opinion of my colleagues, is not in keeping with the spirit of the times. No man or body of men, however good their memories, can depend absolutely on their memories when dealing with big national and international questions. None of our national institutions of any size or importance conducts its business on those lines. Take, for example, any of our public bodies or public companies, or our poltical parties and our trade unions. They have their agenda of business and they have a record taken of the business done. That is done for the purpose of enabling them to co-ordinate their business to a far greater extent than would otherwise be the case. Trusting to the memory of the individual Minister is a most unbusinesslike proceeding.

This change is, indeed, a step in the right direction. I do not think it will even lessen to any degree the sense of Ministerial responsibility. The keeping of a correct record of the proceedings of the Cabinet will in no sense lessen the individual responsibility of various Ministers. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R Cecil) said that the system would lead to some Members of the Cabinet getting their ideas placed in the Minutes of the Cabinet to a larger extent than others, and consequently they might have a greater share in the history of their time. I would remind the Noble Lord that Minutes are not kept for the purpose of giving expression to the ideas even of the Prime Minister, much as the present Prime Minister may dominate his other colleagues. If we are to take some of the statements made this afternoon as expressing the situation, the Prime Minister does dominate his colleagues to an extraordinary degree.

Minutes are kept for the purpose of recording the decisions of the Cabinet as a whole and not for recording the opinions of the Prime Minister. The step taken since 1916 is a step in the right direction. At the same time we think that the machinery set up for the purpose of recording the decisions of the Cabinet and passing it on to other Departments for co-ordination, is too elaborate and extravagant. We do not think it necessary to spend so huge a sum as £32,000. In certain cases too high salaries are being paid. We would like the Government to give particular attention to that phase of the matter. So strongly do we feel that too much money is being spent at a time when the country can ill afford it, that if a division be taken we shall go into the Lobby to register our protest against the expenditure. At the same time, as far as the system is concerned, we approve of the system.

I think that my right hon. Friend who has just spoken came to a somewhat impotent conclusion. I do not, however, propose to follow either his conclusion or his arguments, because I think he showed pretty clearly that he had no very firm apprehension of the spirit which has hitherto dominated the working of a Constitution, which is unique, and especially unique in its flexibility amongst the Constitutions of the world. Many of us en this side of the Committee are grateful to my right. hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), not for the first time, for bringing the subject before the attention of the Com- mittee. No more important subject has been discussed in connection with our current Estimates. There are very few opportunities given to the House—at any rate I have known of very few—by which the light of Parliamentary Debate is thrown on the working of the mysterious machinery of the Constitution. I say "mysterious," though I have been amazed at the acquaintance which many non-official Members of the House have shown to-day with the inner working of that Constitution. I have said "mysterious;" I might have said non-existent, for the greatest of French publicists declared in a famous passage that the peculiarity of the English Constitution was that it did not exist. However, whether mysterious or non-existent, I am very glad that light should be thrown upon it.

We are asked to vote over £32,000 for this Cabinet Secretariat. We have been told that it consists of 114 persons. I take it that the question which the Committee has to decide is whether that money is being well and legitimately spent, and whether the new development, which undoubtedly it represents, is one to which the House ought to give its sanction. As the House is well aware, I am always averse to spending one penny of the public money more than I can help. I am also very strongly averse to any innovation which might have the effect of upsetting the delicate equipoise of our Constitutional machinery, and more particularly that part of it which controls the executive Departments. As the right hon. Member for Peebles said, the hinge of that machinery centres in the Cabinet. At this stage I shall not, as he did, enter upon a discussion of the principles which underly the working of that machinery. It must suffice to call the attention of the Committee to two of these principles which are of very great importance in the present connection. The first is the principle of Departmental responsibility, and the second is the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility. I suggest that it is on that apparently contradictory foundation that the whole Cabinet system rests. The question for the Committee to decide is whether that foundation is really threatened by the growth of the Cabinet Secretariat. Undoubtedly, this is a very serious innovation. It is common ground with all who have taken part in this Debate, that it is a serious innovation, but the question for the Committee to determine is whether or not the innovation is justified. I suppose it is generally admitted that even before the War the existing machinery of Government was ominously creaking; at any rate, that was the deliberate opinion of one or two of those who have had most experience of the working of our Cabinet system. I remember Lord Lansdowne, speaking in another place in June, 1918, said:
"We have a right to regard the old Cabinet system as being so to speak the very 'hub' of the political machine. … but oven before the War the machinery had begun to creak."
On the same occasion another Noble Lord, the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, said with even greater emphasis:
"I do not think anybody will deny that the old Cabinet system had irretrievably broken down both as a war machine and as a peace machine."
He described in terms very much the same as those employed by the Lord Privy Seal this afternoon the way in which the Cabinet system in his opinion had broken down—how there was no order of business, no agenda, and no record of decisions arrived at. He said:
"The Cabinet often had the very haziest notion as to what its decisions were; and I appeal not only to my own experience but to the experience of every Cabinet Minister who sits in this House and to the records contained in the memoirs of half-a-dozen Prime Ministers in the past, that cases frequently arose when the matter was left so much in doubt that a Minister went away and acted on what he thought was a decision which subsequently turned out to be no decision at all or was repudiated by his colleagues. … Ministers found the utmost difficulty in securing a decision because the Cabinet was always congested with business."
I think it right for an unofficial Member to quote that testimony to show that at any rate he approaches this question with an open mind. Then came an experiment during the War, and it was known as the War Cabinet system. I may point out that by an innovation which many of us who are constitutional students welcomed, two Reports of the War Cabinet Committee were submitted to this House. I am not going into the history of that very interesting experiment, but I will call attention to a prediction made in another place by my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, He said:
"I doubt whether it will be possible to dispense with the assistance of a secretary in future. …. I think that a record and minutes of the proceedings will have to be kept. Lastly, I hope for a very considerable development of the system of devolution and decentralisation of Government work which I have described."
I have already said that it is common ground that the new departure which we are discussing is one of very grave significance, and I submit to the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister that the House is entitled to know in some detail the methods by which the business of the State is to be carried on under the new departure which they are now recommending to us. I venture to put to the Prime Minister one or two specific questions. We have heard from the Lord Privy Seal that regular minutes of the proceedings of the Cabinet are now taken by persons who are not members of the Cabinet. The first point on which I desire enlightenment, and on which I hope we may have an assurance, is: What is the character of these minutes? That minutes should be taken may be a reasonable proposal, but do the minutes record anything further than the ultimate decisions at which the Cabinet arrives? Do they or do they not record the means by which the decisions are arrived at, and, in particular, do they or do they not record the opinions of individual Members of the Cabinet? That is the first specific point on which I, like the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), would like an assurance from the Prime Minister. The second question is: Who has access to these minutes? The third question is one which was raised with very great propriety by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir Henry Craik). Are these minutes to be handed down from Cabinet to Cabinet, are they to become part of the public records of the country, or are they to be regarded as merely personal minutes of the existing Cabinet, to be destroyed when that Cabinet goes out of office?

Then there is a question as to the position of the staff. Are we to assume that the staff, for whom the Committee desires to make provision this afternoon, consists of permanent civil servants? Are the Members of the Cabinet Secretariat permanently on the Civil Service establishment? That is a question to which I hope we shall have a specific answer. That point also was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities, either in his speech or in his article, and the Committee will desire to know if the individual officials for whom they are asked to make provision will remain as permanent officials of a permanent Department or if they are personal to the administration which they serve? That is a constitutional point of very grave significance. The Committee will probably desire information on another matter, and that is as to the relations of the Cabinet Secretariat with the regular administrative Departments. I gathered from the speech of the Lord Privy Seal that the decisions of the Cabinet in regard to a particular Department—say the India Office or the Foreign Office—are communicated to that Department by the Secretariat.

The language I used may possibly have been misleading, but the fact now is, that the decision of the Cabinet is communicated to the Minister of the Department which that decision concerns.

That is to say, it is communicated to a Minister who is himself a member of the Cabinet and who, one would imagine, should be able to carry away that decision by his own unaided capacity. He is reminded of the conclusion at which the Cabinet has arrived, and he is reminded of it through the Secretariat. If that be the case, it is surely obvious that a wholly new conception of the relations of the Cabinet with the Departments is insinuating itself by this means into the arcana of the Constitution, and I submit respectfully that this new system can hardly fail to react upon the relations between the Prime Minister and his colleagues. I need hardly remark that in what I am saying I make no reference whatever to the present occupant of what is now called the "office" of Prime Minister, though that in itself is entirely a new term, as far as I know. I am discussing the matter purely in the dry light of the abstract. It can hardly fail to be the case that this new Secretariat will, as I have said, react on the relations between the Prime Minister and his colleagues, and for this reason. For the first time in our history the Prime Minister has become the head of a Department. That is the real significance of this new departure. Of course, we have had Prime Ministers before who were heads of Departments, but they were not heads of Departments as Prime Minister. Lord Salisbury, for example, was at one time head of the Foreign Office while Prime Minister, and Mr. Gladstone was head of the Treasury. They have been heads of Departments, but never heads of Departments qua their office of Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is the titular First Lord of the Treasury. You would have astonished Mr. Gladstone very greatly if you had told him he was not the head of a Department.

I need hardly say that I am perfectly familiar with the fact that not only Mr. Gladstone, but many other Prime Ministers, including the present Prime Minister, have been First Lords of the Treasury, but that is not my point. Does anybody pretend—does my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal really pretend—that Mr. Gladstone, as First Lord of the Treasury, was the political head of a Department?

I am very much surprised that my right hon. Friend should make that point. Of course, Mr. Gladstone was head of the Treasury when he coupled the offices of Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer; of course, Lord Salisbury was the head of a Department when he coupled the offices of Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, but I suggest that neither Mr. Gladstone nor Lord Salisbury was head of a Department by virtue of his office of Prime Minister. I think that is a substantial point, but if the Committee approve of this Cabinet Secretariat, then we shall in future have a Prime Minister who is a Departmental chief by virtue of his Premiership. I am very far from saying that that may not be a right and a proper development, but it is a new and an exceedingly important development, in regard to which the House of Commons, I submit, is entitled to the fullest information. Speaking, of course, only for myself, I want to say this, that if a Divi- sion takes place this afternoon—I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is going to press his Amendment to a Division or not—but my own vote in that Division will depend entirely upon the amount and upon the nature of the information vouchsafed to the Committee in the course of the Debate. I am not at all prepared to say that it may not be right that a new Department should be set up, but I am perfectly clear about this, that this Department—for it is a Department—must stand to other Departments in a wholly new relation, one which so far has been entirely foreign and alien to the spirit and to the working of our Constitution.

Judging from the speech of the Lord Privy Seal, we should be led to suppose that this new Secretariat was merely a. Secretariat in the very narrowest-sense of the term, but a medium of communication is very apt to pass into the machinery of control, and the Committee will decide whether it is proper to interpose between the Cabinet and the administrative Departments this new machinery of control. We have had the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, speaking with something of inside experience of these matters, and we have had very pertinent questions raised—for example, as to the control of the question of reparations. We want to know in whose hands that important question is at the present time. Ls it in the hands of the Cabinet Secretariat, is it in the hands of the Foreign Office, or is it in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The Committee is perfectly at sea as to the responsibility which is to attach to any particular Minister in that relation, and, of course, that is only an illustration of many other points. The Lord Privy Seal has attempted to assure the Committee that we are making a mountain out of a molehill, and that the functions of this new Cabinet Secretariat are perfectly modest, perfectly simple, and unimportant. That is how things always start in our unwritten and flexible Constitution, but there is an old, well-worn proverb which in this connection I recall: "Obsta principiis." I do not say that we ought to obstruct that new development, but I do say that the price of our abstention must be an understanding of the principles to which we are now asked to assent. So far, I am unconvinced by the speech of the Lord Privy Seal, and I say frankly that my own vote will depend on the nature and the amount of the information vouchsafed to us by the Prime Minister.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Marriott) has put a very serious responsibility upon me by saying that his vote depends upon my improving upon the admirable speech made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

I am afraid I cannot promise to do that. My right hon. Friend has given us a very lucid explanation of the Cabinet Secretariat, to which I have nothing to add, but I will answer specific questions which have been put by my hon. Friend, and if, perhaps, my answers satisfy him, we may have him in the Lobby with us to-night. I am very glad that we have had this discussion. It is the first time, I think, we have had a discussion upon what is a very important departure. I do not like to call it a Constitutional departure, but it is to a certain extent a departure in the mechanism of the Constitution, and its ordinary working—an interesting one and, I venture to say, one that will not be departed from. I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen not to be in too great a hurry to criticise this, because, although there may he no record of speeches in the Cabinet, there are records of speeches delivered here in this Committee, and criticisms which they direct against this machine may he quoted against them. If and when they are called upon to discharge the responsibilities of Government, I venture to make the prediction here to-day that they will continue this machine, and will be very glad to utilise its services to the full, without any change, except to the extent that the change may be an improvement and an addition to it.

As to my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) having had a longer experience, I must challenge him. I think, on the whole, I have had a longer experience than he of Cabinet responsibility. However, his experience has been quite long enough. I have had 17 years of it. I have been in four of these Administrations, and I have no hesitation in saying that whenever there be a change of Government, the next Administration will be glad to utilise the services of the Cabinet Secretariat, that they will continue them more or less in their present form, and not only that, but that if they were to do otherwise, they would soon find that they had committed a fatal error, and would be glad to revert to the practice which we have initiated.

It has been assumed by some speakers that this Secretariat has got some mysterious functions, that they are the means of—what shall I say?—of developing a new system of personal Government, of usurping the functions of Departments, of enabling the Prime Minister, by means of an improvised Department, to override the decisions of the old and established Departments. No man who knew anything at all about it could possibly talk like that. They are a. recording Department, they are a communicating Department, they are a means of transmitting to Departments the decisions, not merely of the Cabinet, but of the very considerable number of Cabinet Committees which have always been set up in every Administration but which, of course, have been multiplied considerably since the War, because of the greater complexity of the problems that have arisen in this and in every other land. Beyond that, they have no other functions.

As for writing reports, the reports of these Committees are not written by the Cabinet Secretariat. They are written as a rule by the Departments which are most specifically concerned in the questions under discussion. The Cabinet Secretariat simply transmit. They copy, and that involves the addition to the staff. You talk about 114, but it means that there is a considerable copying staff, and if they did not do the work of copying, it would have to be done in the Departments. There would be no saving; you would simply disperse the work if you scattered this Department altogether. There is no business concern throughout the world which could be run except with a Secretariat of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman said, and said truly: "Well. Mr. Gladstone did without it; Lord Beaconsfield did without it." Of course, it is very difficult to answer that without appearing to say: "Well, we know better." But that is really not a fair position in which to put anyone who is defending an innovation. Were he to go back, he would find that there were no telephones, no telegraphs—none of the means of communication which we have now. It is no use saying that these things were good enough for Chatham, and that therefore we ought to go along in the same way, because the great men of the past were able to do their work much better than we are without the addition of these artificial means of expediting and transmitting reports with lightning rapidity.

Questions have been put to me by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, first of all, with regard to the record of the discussions. There is no record of any individual speeches—none. The record is purely a record of the fact that there is a discussion, the time of the discussion, and then the decision arrived at. But there is no individual opinion recorded at all. In fact, I should say it is the kind of record that would have been sent in the old days by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) to the King after a Cabinet was over.

7.0 P.M.

Another question is this: "Who has access to the minutes?" The Minister concerned, of Course, has access, and any Minister has access to those minutes, but outside that nobody has any access to them at all. The other question is as to whether the minutes will be transmitted. I am not sure that any decision has been taken upon that matter, but I should have thought that the argument was certainly in favour of their being transmitted, because they are treated as confidential documents. They could not be published, and I think it is desirable that the next Administration should know exactly what happened in respect of certain discussions and decisions at some period in the past. It would also help to preserve the continuity of policy, which is very vital in the administration of a great country like ours. I think the balance of argument is in favour of transmission, and against destroying, the records when a Government goes out of office. The third point is whether those who are engaged in the work of this Secretariat are the personal servants of the existing Administration, or whether they will continue afterwards. That depends upon the next Administration. Our idea is that they are in the position of civil servants. They are not political officers; they are civil servants. They are Government servants, and our view is that, just as Sir Maurice Hankey represented us on the Committee of Imperial Defence under Lord Balfour, afterwards under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and then under my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, and as he still continued to be secretary when I became Prime Minister, the same thing would apply to the Cabinet Secretariat. That is the view we take, and that is the answer. I think I have answered the four questions put by my hon. Friend, and I hope satisfactorily.

I will now reply to a few of the criticisms which have been directed against this experiment. With regard to the expense, the matter was looked into by the Geddes Committee. Hon. Members will see from the Report that the Committee came to the conclusion, after hearing what the Treasury had said, that they did not recommend any interference in the matter. The Treasury had constantly, reported upon it, and I am perfectly certain of this, from what. I know of the way in which they worked—it is a very hard working Department—that, they could not carry out their work efficiently unless they were staffed to the extent to which they are staffed at the present moment, and that if any attempt were made to cut down expenditure, there it would only be an interference with the efficiency of the Secretariat. It may be said, "Have no Secretariat at all"; but there is nothing to be said for having an inefficient Secretariat. At the present moment it is a very efficient Secretariat, very helpful to the work of the Cabinet; and any hon. or right hon. Friends of mine who look forward to the prospect of relieving us from our present. responsibilities and worries will find it extremely advantageous to have the Secretariat when that blissful moment arrives—blissful for both sides.

I come to the first criticism. I think that is on the ground of secrecy. It is suggested that when you departed from the old precedent of not allowing anyone to enter the Cabinet room except Cabinet Ministers, you imperilled the secrecy of Cabinet decisions. There are many things I could say about that upon which I do not wish to dwell, but, I am perfectly certain that if Cabinet decisions have ever been revealed, they have not been revealed by any member of the Secretariat. There have been Cabinet revelations, not recently, but in the past. I have heard of revelations of what happened in Cabinets before there was any Cabinet. Secretariat. These accidents will happen occasionally; but may I point out that the machinery of the Cabinet Secretariat is the machinery of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I have been a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence for a good many years. I was a member before the War. Some of the matters which were discussed there were not merely more momentous, but a revelation of them would have been more dangerous than the revelation of the vast majority of questions that are discussed at Cabinet meetings. Matters which necessarily must be discussed by the Committee of Imperial Defence were discussed before the War—what would happen in the event of war with country A, country B, country C, and country D. They had to be discussed, but it was of most vital moment that there should be no inkling, not merely of the effect of the decisions arrived at, but that it should not even be known that these questions had been discussed, because it was full of peril to our relations with other countries that you should have discussions of that kind. Yet the Secretariat was not merely present, but took a full note of what took place. If you could trust the Secretariat with matters which involve peace and war between great nations of the world—and trust them because there has never been the slightest suggestion that anything ever left that room—I think we can trust them with regard to the hundred and one questions that come up every day for discussion inside the Cabinet.

So much for the question of secrecy. The bulk of the attack was made on the ground that it is imagined that this Secretariat is a machine to enable the Prime Minister of the day to get control over foreign policy. There never was a more futile suggestion. If the Prime Minister of the day wanted to control foreign policy, this is not the way to do it. This Secretariat has nothing whatever to do with the control of foreign policy. In his very interesting speech delivered earlier in the course of the Debate, my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) gave two or three illus- trations. He was under the impression that this Secretariat, somehow or other, meddled in foreign policy, and that they took upon themselves to discharge functions which ought properly to have been discharged by the Foreign Office. The first illustration he gave was in regard to Yap. That had nothing whatever to do with the Secretariat except to the extent that the Committee of Four, in Paris, took Sir Maurice Hankey as their Recorder, and there could be no greater compliment paid to a British official. The Secretary of the Conference was a Frenchman, and both M. Clemenceau, Mr. Orlando, President Wilson, and naturally myself, took Sir Maurice Hankey, at the suggestion, I think, of M. Clemenceau, as the Recording Secretary of that Committee. I think that is a very great compliment to Sir Maurice Hankey. He took a record of the provisional decisions at which we arrived. I do not quite understand what my Noble Friend suggests. Does he suggest that the moment a provisional decision is arrived at, a document ought to be written out and signed, there and then? That would have been impossible. You could not have conducted business upon that line. There were hundreds of decisions to be taken, and you could not have adopted, and written down and signed them. You had to get the provisional decisions, then the draftsmen had to operate, and then they had to be pieced together. Then you came to your final decision.

What happened in the case of Yap? A decision was arrived at. It was recorded by Sir Maurice Hankey, and it was sent to each of the Four, including President Wilson. I think he acknowledged the receipt of it, without any protest at all; and there never was any protest, I believe, until later on, when trouble arose in America. It is unfair to Sir Maurice Hankey to say that the trouble arose through him—very unfair.

I never blamed Sir Maurice Hankey. I was merely using it as an illustration of the danger of relying too much on minutes in matters of foreign policy.

What else could be done? Here is a record. Was no record to be kept? Is it the Nob Lord's complaint that a record was kept, or that a record was kept in the form of a minute? I should like to know how it could be kept, except in the form of a minute? I know the Noble Lord wishes to be fair, and I think he will see that that is rather a false point to take. I come to the second point which he took as a matter of criticism against the Secretariat. He said that the late Sir Mark Sykes—I agree with everything he said with regard to that very gifted and fascinating personality, and I remember how deeply we all felt his loss in Paris—was there representing the Secretariat dealing with the question of Palestine, and that it ought to have been dealt with by the Foreign Office. As a matter of fact, we never appointed Sir Mark Sykes for that purpose. He was appointed by Lord Grey, and the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which defined the boundaries of Palestine, Mesopotamia and Syria—the Agreement which committed us more or less to this line of action—was an Agreement arrived at before the present Government came into power. He was appointed by Lord Grey before this Secretariat ever came into existence. He was a Foreign Office representative, and continued to be a Foreign Office representative to the end. He was never, to my recollection, on our Secretariat at all: he was in the Foreign Office then, and remained in the Foreign Office to the day of his death.

He was a Foreign Office official, appointed by the Foreign Minister; and the Foreign Minister who appointed him was Lord Grey. It. is very unfair that something which was done by Sir Mark Sykes when he was a Foreign Office official should be attributed to Sir Maurice Hankey, or to the Secretariat.

I do not wish to interrupt, but that is not an accurate statement. He had a room in Whitehall Gardens. I went there.

Whitehall Gardens was not in existence at the time when Sir Mark Sykes was fixing the policy in Palestine. He was appointed, I repeat, by Lord Grey; the Sykes-Picot Agreement was signed by M. Briand, the French Foreign Secretary, and, I think, by Lord Grey, as Foreign Secretary, Sir Mark Sykes acting on behalf of Lord Grey as Foreign Secretary. That had nothing whatever to do with the Cabinet Secretariat.

Of course it was continued by the present Government, certainly; but the appointment was a Foreign Office appointment, and not the appointment of the Cabinet Secretariat. Whatever fault may be attributable to the Secretariat or to that policy, it was not a policy of the Cabinet Secretariat. Whatever they did, they did only under instructions from the Government to carry out the policy to which the Foreign Office had committed themselves, under the present Administration.

The other point is with regard to Silesia. My Noble Friend brought a very serious charge against the Cabinet Secretariat in regard to Silesia. He said, as I understand it, that the decision which was taken at Paris did not make it clear, first of all, under which Article of the Covenant of the League of Nations the question was to be settled. His second charge was that it was communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat to the League of Nations. Neither of those two charges was correct. I have had an opportunity, since my Noble Friend made his speech, of communicating with the Foreign Office upon this subject. In the first place the decision was arrived at with Lord Curzon and myself representing the British Government, and every expert we had was a Foreign Office expert. Sir Harold Stuart was there in regard to Silesia. The third expert I forget, but he was, I think, a Foreign Office expert. The decision was taken, upon the advice of these experts, to refer the matter to the League of Nations, the terms of the reference to be drafted by the legal experts of the Foreign Office. The expert who represented us was, I think, Sir Cecil Hurst. Sir Maurice Hankey had left Paris. So had I. It was entirely in the hands of Lord Curzon and his experts. They agreed upon their reference:
"It was decided on the application of Article 11, paragraph 2, of the Covenant of the League of Nations."
The actual paragraph of the Covenant of the League of Nations was singled out in a reference drafted by the Foreign Office experts, and, so far from it, having been forwarded by Sir Maurice Hankey. it was forwarded by M. Briand. Sir Maurice Hankey and his officials had nothing whatever to do with it from beginning to end. If there was a muddle—and I do not say there was—the Secretariat had nothing to do with it from beginning to end, and I hope my Noble Friend will see that he quite unwittingly brought a very unfair charge against the Secretariat in respect of Silesia. They had no responsibility whatever. It was done by the Foreign Office, and by the Foreign Office alone.

I only attacked the Ministry. I am not attacking the Secretariat—the permanent Civil Servants.

That really will not do. The Noble Lord's charge was, first of all, that the particular Article of the Covenant was not indicated. I have it here—Article 11, Paragraph 2. It is said that the Secretariat submitted the reference to the League of Nations, and that they bungled it. I am quoting the Noble Lord's own words. They had nothing to do with it. It was done entirely by the Foreign Office, by Foreign Office legal experts, by the Foreign Minister, and was submitted by M. Briand, and not by the Secretariat. So that my Noble Friend's facts are absolutely wrong from beginning to end, and I think it is fair to the Secretariat that that should be stated.

The other point is with regard to Reparation. I am told that one of the troubles of the Secretariat is that you do not know what Department is dealing with any particular question. There has only been one illustration given of that difficulty, and that is Reparation. I have never found any difficulty on the part of Members of the House. Whenever they put questions about Reparation, answers have invariably been given by the Treasury. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is primarily responsible for looking after that Department of Government business, and he has always answered questions with regard to it. It is perfectly true that questions have also been addressed to me, and I have answered in the course of debate, but that is on the general question of policy. The Prime Minister is not supposed to be responsible for every Department, and the partcular Department which deals with Reparation is the Treasury, as to which there cannot be the slightest doubt. Of course, any communication with foreign Governments invariably goes to the Foreign Office, but it is my right hon. Friend who is primarily responsible for advising the Government upon the policy and he is in communication with the French Government and with the Reparation Commission upon that subject. There never has been any difficulty.

This, however, illustrates the difficulties of foreign policy under present conditions. There are so many questions we have under discussion with foreign countries which are really not Foreign Office questions, but primary questions. Reparation is one of the questions which disturbs the economic conditions of the world. It is one of the questions which, no doubt, from time to time imperils the peace of the world, but it is a question of finance. It is a question which could not be conducted by the Foreign Office. It could be conducted only by the Department which has financial experts at its command. Take the Conferences we have had recently. Take Washington. Washington was a Conference in reference to the question of armaments. There were other questions. There were questions that were purely Foreign Office questions, but they all depended upon an arrangement arrived at with regard to battleships, cruisers and submarines, and those were the questions which occupied most of the time of the Conference.

I say that, in those circumstances, we were properly represented there by a Minister who had experience of foreign affairs and experience of the Admiralty, and who was also responsible for the Japanese Treaty. When you come to Genoa, there were very few purely Foreign Office questions discussed. There were questions of finance, questions of property, and certain questions that involved armaments; but the ordinary questions of diplomacy were not the questions which came up in discussion. And yet there was a. large staff of Foreign Office experts there, who, whenever there were questions affecting the Foreign Office, were invariably summoned to our aid. I am only calling attention to this to show that the Secretariat have nothing to do with this matter. Take all these questions at Genoa. When you came to financial questions, there were the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his staff. When you came to trade questions, you had the Par- liamentary Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, and the Secretary of State for War to assist him. But the experts who dealt with the matter were not experts of the Cabinet Secretariat—not one. The experts were the experts of the Departments themselves.

It is no use the Noble Lord shaking his head. I am telling him the facts. I was there. We always had the experts from the particular Departments concerned. There were no experts who gave us more help than those from the Foreign Office, and we relied a good deal upon them. But the Secretariat had nothing whatever to do with policy. They dealt with records. They transmitted copies of documents to us. They summoned the meetings of the experts; they summoned the meetings of the British Empire Delegation, when we wanted to have a Conference with all the representatives of the Dominions and of India; they kept records. But they had nothing to do with policy. My hon. Friend, in his speech, appeared to be afraid, not so much of what had happened, but of what they are going to do, and that they will interfere with the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Board of Trade and the War Office. They are doing none of those things. They are quite loyally and fairly discharging their tasks within the limitations laid down. They are assisting the Government in co-ordinating the work of those Departments, when, as anyone who has had experience of office knows, half-a-dozen Departments are concerned in a subject more or less equally, it is very important that you should get some sort of communication in circumstances of that kind, and that you should have some impartial Secretariat to keep a record of the proceedings, and to report to the Cabinet. That is the position.

My hon. Friend was very severe about "amateurs" interfering in politics. I wonder what is an amateur? Every Minister is an amateur. The British Constitution is based upon the setting of amateurs at the head of Departments run by experts. Why, the very system of trial by jury, which is the greatest of our institutions, is the setting up of amateurs to judge, on the advice of experts. There are countries where they set experts at the head of Departments, and I ask hon. Members who have read hooks on the War to look at the two systems on the Continent. In Germany you had the system of experts at the head of Departments. In the end, the complaint of every book I have read on the German side is that their system broke down when it came into conflict with ours. There is a good deal of nonsense talked about amateurs. When does a man cease to be an "amateur"?

No; I have seen experts who are unfit, even doctors who are quite unfit, although they pretend to be experts. That is not the point. I have had for 17 years, as part of my business, to read the Foreign Office dispatches, and to take part in every Foreign Office Debate in four Cabinets. I do not say that makes me an expert, but I should like to know when an amateur ceases to be an amateur, and becomes an expert. Does he become an expert by making speeches criticising foreign policy? Is he more expert than those who have had a close acquaintance with foreign affairs for 16 or 17 years, and for six or seven years a very intimate acquaintance? I have met on the Continent of Europe Foreign Ministers. Some of them have had fairly long experience; many of them have not, but all I would say is this: It is not a question of whether you are an amateur or an expert; it is a question of experience—experience of affairs, experience of men, experience of the world; and the question of whether you have the capacity to make the best use of that experience. If you have not, well then, 17 years does not make you an expert. On the other hand, if you have, you do not require so many years as that, with the advice of the best experts in the world.

The Noble Lord says that what he wanted was not a different policy. He approved of the aims and objects of our policy, but he yearns for the hood old dignified ways. Yes! What he calls the "dignified channels" in which we sailed so easily to the cataract of 1914. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am not talking about this country, but about the methods of the world. What is the meaning of the League of Nations, except that? What is the meaning of it? If we approve of the old methods, what is the point of altering them by setting up the League of Nations? It is the ease that the world wants a change from the old methods. I am making no comment upon any particular Minister or otherwise—I am simply contrasting one system with another. I am entitled to do so when there is an attack upon the present system. No! The world wants different methods.

Oh, I dare say. The hon. and gallant Gentleman would do it very much better.

I dare say. But we are here discussing different systems. When it is an attack upon men, we are prepared to defend ourselves. But we are now discussing rival systems. The Cabinet Secretariat has nothing whatever to do with any question of policy. It is purely a recording machine. If my Noble Friend opposite wants to raise the bigger issue as to whether there

Division No. 137.]

AYES.

[7.37 p.m.

Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.Gretton, Colonel JohnPolson, Sir Thomas A.
Adalr, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Raffan, Peter Wilson
Adamson, Rt. Hon. WilliamGrundy, T. W.Reid, D. D.
Ammon, Charles GeorgeGuest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)Remnant, Sir James
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert HenryGuinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.Rendall, Athelstan
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W.D'by)Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
Banton, GeorgeHenderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)Robertson, John
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Barnes, Major (Newcastle, E.)Hirst, G. H.Rose, Frank H.
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)Holmes, J. StanleyRoyce, William Stapleton
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Irving, DanShaw, Thomas (Preston)
Bramsdon, Sir ThomasJohn, William (Rhondda, West)Spencer, George A.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Johnstone, JosephSpoor, B. G.
Burdon, Colonel RowlandJones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Cairns, JohnJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Sutton, John Edward
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)Joynson-Hicks, Sir WilliamSwan, J. E.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)Kennedy, ThomasTerrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.Lambert, Rt. Hon. GeorgeTerrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)
Craig, Captain C C. (Antrim, South)Lawson, John JamesThomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryLocker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Curzon, Captain ViscountLunn, WilliamThorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)Tillett, Benjamin
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)Macquisten, F. A.Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)Marriott, John Arthur RansomeWignall, James
Entwistle, Major C. F.Mills, John EdmundWilliams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Erskine, James Malcolm MonteithMosley, OswaldWilliams, C. (Tavistock)
Finney, SamuelMurray, Hon, A. C. (Aberdeen)Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Foot, IsaacMurray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Roes)Windsor, Viscount
Foxcroft, Captain Charles TalbotMurray, Hon. Gldeon (St. Rollox)Wintringham, Margaret
Galbraith, SamuelMyers, ThomasWood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Gillis, WilliamNewman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)O'Connor, Thomas P.

TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—

Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)Lord E. Percy and Mr. Hogge.

ought to be different methods in the communications between nations, then, I think, he will not find many to agrees with him that we should go back to the old system which plunged the world into war—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—before it knew that it was near war. An alteration in the system is one thing, and it has nothing to do with the subject which is discussed to-day.

Yes, the Noble Lord's idea is that I should be attacked upon all these questions, and not be allowed to answer. It was irrelevant, but I did not protest against it. I was not in the least concerned about it, bat I am quite prepared to answer on the proper occasion. I say now, finally, upon the subject which is under discussion: This is a machine which is an improvement upon the past. It is a machine which, I venture to predict, no responsible Minister, when he has got the chance, will cast away.

Question put, "That Item A ( Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 111;. Noes, 205.

NOES.

Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherGanzoni, Sir JohnNeal, Arthur
Adkins, Sir William Ryland DentGee, Captain RobertNewman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Agg-Gardner, Sir James TynteGeorge, Rt. Hon. David LloydNewson, Sir Percy Wilson
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Gibbs, Colonel George AbrahamNicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)
Atkey, A. R.Gilbert, James DanielNorman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry
Baird, Sir John LawrenceGilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir JohnO'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGreen, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark
Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Partick)Greenwood, William (Stockport)Parker, James
Barker, Major Robert H.Grenfell, Edward CharlesPearce, Sir William
Barlow, Sir MontagueGuest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Philipps, Gen. Sir I. (Southampton)
Barnett, Major Richard W.Hailwood, AugustinePilditch, Sir Philip
Barnston, Major HarryHamilton, Major Sir C. G. C.Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray
Barrand, A. R.Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryPownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)Purchase, H. G.
Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund RobertHarris, Sir Henry PercyRae, Sir Henry N.
Bellairs, Commander Canyon W.Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)Randles, Sir John Scurrah
Bean, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Walford)Rankin, Captain James Stuart
Bennett, Sir Thomas JewellHilder, Lieut.-Colonel FrankRaw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.
Betterton, Henry B.Hinds, JohnRemer, J. R.
Bigland, AlfredHohler, Gerald FitzroyRenwick, Sir George
Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)Holbrook, Sir Arthur RichardRichardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Blades, Sir George RowlandHope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn,W.)Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Blake, Sir Francis DouglasHopkins, John W. W.Rodger, A. K.
Barwick, Major G. O.Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-Hotchkin, Captain Stafford VereRutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Bowles, Colonel H. F.Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerSamuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.Hurd, Percy A.Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur
Brassey, H. L. C.Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Breese, Major Charles E.Inskip, Thomas Walker H.Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveJackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)
Brittain, Sir HarryJephcott, A. R.Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John
Britton, G. B.Jesson, C.Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)
Broad, Thomas TuckerJodrell, Neville PaulShortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Brown, Major D. C.Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)Simm, M. T.
Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney)
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. GeorgeStanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesKelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)Stanton, Charles Butt
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.Kidd, JamesStrauss, Edward Anthony
Casey, T. W.King, Captain Henry DouglasSturrock, J. Long
Cautley, Henry StrotherLaw, Alfred J. (Rochdale)Sugden, W. H.
Chadwick, Sir Robert BurtonLewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)Lloyd, George ButlerTaylor, J.
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Chey, Sir William WatsonLorden, John WilliamThomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Clough, Sir RobertLowe, Sir Francis WilliamThomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)
Cohen, Major J. BrunelLowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Conway, Sir W. MartinM'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.Townley, Maximilian G.
Cope, Major WilliamMacdonald, Rt. Hon. John MurrayTurton, Edmund Russborough
Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)Waddington, R.
Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)Mackinder, sir H. J. (Camlachle)Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor
Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.Macnaghten, Sir MalcolmWaring, Major Walter
Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.Watson, Captain John Bertrand
Dean, Commander P. T.Mallalieu, Frederick WilliamWeston, Colonel John Wakefield
Doyle, N. GrattanMalone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)Manville, EdwardWilson, Field-Marshal Sir Henry
Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)Martin, A. E.Winterton, Earl
Elveden, ViscountMeysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.Wise, Frederick
Evans, ErnestMiddlebrook, Sir WilliamWood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.Mitchell, Sir William LaneWood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)
Falle, Major Sir Bertram GodfrayMolson, Major John ElsdaleWorsfold, T. Cato
Farquharson, Major A. C.Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred MoritzYeo, Sir Alfred William
Fell, Sir ArthurMoreing, Captain Algernon H.Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)
Fildes, HenryMorrison, Hugh
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.

TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—

FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.Munro, Rt. Hon. RobertColonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.
Flannery, Sir James FortescueMurray, C. D. (Edinburgh)McCurdy.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Murray, John (Leeds, West)

Original Question again proposed.

I beg to move, "That Item F (War Histories—Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £1,000."

Hon. Members will have noticed that this Vote falls under three sub-heads. There is not only the Cabinet Secretariat, and the Committee of Imperial Defence, but there is a third item, War Histories. I think I shall be able to give a very good illustration of the way money is being spent quite unnecessarily at the present time. If hon. Members will look at the Paper they will observe that this Department has a staff of no less than 36 persons, and is costing over £13,000 yearly. It is almost incredible that such a very large staff should be required two, three, or four years after the end of the War. I want to ask how long is this particular work on War histories going to last? I do not think we can afford a continuation of this War Histories Department. I do not say that it is not useful and it may be that these historians will turn.out histories which will be very valuable, but in all such cases as these the first question we should ask is, can the country afford this luxury at the present moment? If it cannot, that kind of expense ought to be terminated at the earliest possible moment. The whole of this Estimate has a very unsatisfactory look about it. I see that you have five messengers, and six charwomen to look after a staff of 25 other persons. What really is the output of those historians and 19 other people? Gibbon, without any help at all, turned out an admirable history of 20 volumes dealing with the whole of the Roman Empire, and I have no doubt that Gibbon's History will form a far more readable work than the histories of the War which will be turned out by those 36 persons who are now engaged upon it.

I am sorry that this business has not been left to private enterprise, and it is a great pity that a Government. Department should have undertaken to turn out a history of the War at all. It would have been much better to have given private enterprise an opportunity of seeing the documents that might be necessary, and to have afforded them all the requisite facilities for producing these histories. I think it is a great pity that this work should have been taken away from private enterprise and made a Government concern and practically an official document. I should like to ask what other countries are writing histories of the War? I very much doubt whether France, Italy and Belgium are spending anything like the same amount that we are asked to spend upon writing a history of the War. Are we quite sure that in spending this money we are not duplicating the efforts made by other countries in this connection? In the White Paper which has been issued we are not told how these historians are getting on with the work or what has been done. In any case I think there ought to be a time limit placed upon their work, and notice ought to be given to the people engaged in this work that they ought to close down this Department after a certain period of time. Unless I can get some kind of promise from the Chancellor of Exchequer—

I really cannot reply, because I failed to hear the point put by the hon. Member.

That is really not my fault, and I cannot repeat what I have been saying. I wish to inform the Chancellor of the Exchequer that I shall feel bound to press my Amendment to a division unless he is able to give me an assurance that the War Histories Department is going to be closed down in a very short time, because we cannot at the present time afford to keep a staff of 36 people, costing the country over £13,000 a year. I shall press my Amendment to a division unless it can be proved that such expenditure is absolutely necessary in the interests of the country. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to assure the House that this Department is going to be closed down.

I think this Amendment ought to receive the support of everybody who is in favour of economy. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment made his point quite clear that this work could much more easily have been carried out by private enterprise and probably we shall be the only country in the world spending money producing a history of this kind. If this history had been left to a newspaper to bring out in instalments I think much more could have been effected from the point of view of economy. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer will look at the items on page 19 of the Estimates which deal with the War Histories section he will see that £28,000 have been spent on the preparation of these histories, and so far as the Committee knows up to the present there has been no product from that effort, and I have not even heard of any preliminary volume being published. It. may be that this is a private history being prepared for the purposes of the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Force, and it may not be meant for public consumption at all. At any rate, my right hon. Friend will be able to inform us upon this point.

If the Chancellor of the Exchequer will look at the number of officials, the nature of their work, and the salaries paid to them, I think he will see that some explanation is due to the Committee with regard to these individuals. The first official is called a Historian and Secretry, and he receives a salary of £800. That is an inclusive salary, and I do not know how much is for secretarial work and how much is for historical research, but perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us. I am inclined to think that it must be secretarial work, because the second item provides for five historians, and I should like to know something about them. One of them receives £1,000 a year, and another £800. A third gets £600, and there are two historians at £500 each. Consequently, there are five historians engaged on this epic work, which we have not seen any evidence of at all so far. In the footnote it says that the salaries of two of these historians are provided for six months only, and I would like some explanation of that. I would like to have some information about the historians who are engaged on this work. Who are those five men, and what qualifications in particular have they for this task?

There are some other items which require a little explanation. Hon. Members will notice that there is a chief clerk employed who draws £500 a year. There are also two directors of branches who are drawing £150 a year each more than the chief clerk. I would like to know what are those branches? There must be two branches, otherwise there would not be two directors. Really we have three branches, namely, the land, sea, and air forces, which were engaged in the War. I do not know whether those two branches deal with all those three services, but there are two directors of branches, and they are assisted by four senior assistants, each of them receiving a salary of £50 a year more than the chief clerk of this important Department. These five historians and their attendant satellites require five messengers, I suppose to carry messages from one historian to the other, because each historian has a messenger and each historian has also a charwoman, and apparently there is one charwoman left over.

8.0 P.M.

We find the Chancellor of the Exchequer making a great Budget announce- ment assuring the country that he is saving money at every point whilst in regard to this item, in a couple of years you have spent £30,000 providing five historians with five messengers and six charwomen. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot give us some idea as to what substantial economies can be effected in this Vote, obviously we must divide the Committee. I would like to ask if there is any reason why this Estimate should be pressed forward at this moment? Is it not possible to postpone this? Although the right hon. Gentleman and the Government may think it necessary there should be a history of tins kind, I would ask if it is not possible to postpone the work for the time being. After all, the more remote the writing of the history of the War is from the events that are to be described, the more valuable is the work likely to be. I think my right hon. Friend will agree with the generally accepted axiom that current history is not sound in its judgment, and that the best histories are those which are written at a period remote from the events they describe.

I think it rather regrettable that my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge), who takes such a great interest in this matter, should not, have shown an earlier appreciation of the existence of such an organisation as the War Histories Department. This Department is not a new Department. It was started by a Government of which my hon. Friend was a devoted adherent.

If I am wrong in saying that he was a devoted adherent of any Government, may I take it he is a devoted adherent of his own opinion? In 1906 the necessity for compiling appropriate history, so far as military conditions were concerned, was recognised, and there was at that time attached to the Committee of Imperial Defence an arrangement by which a history of the South African War was to be compiled. It was given the function under a Liberal Government, of which my hon. Friend was a detached or semi-detached supporter, of considering also from a military point of view the lessons of the Russo-Japanese War. In 1914, before the Great War, with which we are mainly concerned, that organisation had already succeeded I compiling a reasoned survey of the Russo-Japanese War. If these smaller wars were considered proper material from which lessons might be learned, how much more important in that respect the Great War through which we have just gone? Surely there are lessons to be derived from that Great War which are of much greater importance and more vitally necessary to be learned than could have been learned from preceding wars? The Department has, in fact, been dealing with a greater war than any with which the world has been previously concerned. My hon. Friend, who moved the reduction, referred to the number of people engaged in this Department. I would ask him to remember this, that in this particular organisation there have been working people who otherwise would have been engaged in the War Office or in the Admiralty. My hon. Friend must know it was incumbent upon the various commanders in the field and others to keep notes with regard to the experiences through which they passed, and these reports all had to be collated for the purpose of providing a history of the War, which would be valuable for succeeding generations. This has necessitated the employment of a certain staff of clerks and others. While the more subordinate people would undertake the work of compilation of the various documents, it necessarily required people with knowledge and skill to understand the drift of the matters with which the documents dealt, so as to give a reasoned history of the great episodes through which we had passed. My hon. Friend the Member for Fast Edinburgh was bold enough—and it is only persons who are in complete ignorance who can be so bold—as to say that nobody else in the world is doing this kind of thing to-day.

I know my hon. Friend put his remark in the form of a question, as he had more sense of responsibility than the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, who allowed himself to make a categorical statement rather than to indulge in a form of interrogation. As a matter of fact, this small British staff is doing work which in France is being done by an organisation, consisting of between 30 and 40 officers and about 70 clerks and typists. The real fact is that every nation involved in the War has realised the supreme importance of compiling an adequate history of the War in order that appropriate lessons may be drawn from what has taken place, and in order also that subsequent generations shall know not merely the result of the colossal events through which we have passed, but shall also learn something of the deeds of individual battalions and of various army corps, so that there shall he a record of those acts of heroism of which the nation will be proud in the cycles of time through which it will pass. My hon. Friend referred to the salaries of the historians. He pointed out that there was one official receiving £1,000 a year, another in receipt of £800 a year, another £600 a year, and two £500 a year. He asked for certain information which I can give him. The name of the gentleman employed at the salary of £800 a year is Mr. C. Ernest Fayle, and the reason why his salary is provided for six months only is that he is expected within that time to complete the work on which he is engaged. Similarly, Mr. Archibald Hurd, who is employed at a salary of £500 a. year, is expected to complete his work within six months. Sir Julian Corbett, who is engaged at a salary of £1,000 a year, is preparing the Naval History of the War, which is to be produced in five volumes, two of which have already been published. In that respect we have been really more expeditious than our contemporaries who are dealing with the military history of the War in France. I cannot say what, if any, profits are expected to be made, but we may all hope for the best in that respect. I think these are all the detailed questions which I need answer.

It cannot be anticipated that this Department will be closed down at an early period of time. How can it be suggested when we are dealing with a history of the most colossal War the world has ever seen, that it is possible to close the work down at an early date. If my hon. Friend reflects on it he will agree it is unreasonable to ask for any such assurance. Like all the other nations who were engaged in the War, we are anxious to learn what lessons we can from it. Is it going to be said we are to have a Committee of Imperial Defence which is to be entirely without any guidance with regard to the events that took place in this War? Are we to ask that Committee to come to a decision with regard to future preparations for defence without having before them any history whatever of the War through which we have passed? I think my hon. Friend will recognise that that is an entirely unreasonable proposition. We have begun this history, we have carried it through so far with a much smaller staff than is engaged on similar work in France. My hon. Friend can have my assurance that we shall carry it out with the greatest possible economy, and, in view of that, I think he might well refrain from pressing his Amendment.

My right hon. Friend has made certainly a very reasonable reply, but I am afraid I cannot withdraw my Amendment, and I will tell him why. I think, in the first place, a matter of this kind ought to have been left practically to private enterprise. No doubt it was the duty of the Department to tabulate to a certain extent the information it had, and to give every facility to bonâ fide selected persons who wished to write a history of the War. It was

Division No. 138.]

AYES.

[8.15 p.m.

Adamson, Rt. Hon. WilliamGalbraith, SamuelRaffan, Peter Wilson
Ammon, Charles GeorgeGillis, WilliamRichardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Banton, GeorgeGraham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)Robertson, John
Barton, Sir William (Oldham)Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Rose, Frank H.
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)Grundy, T. W.Royce, William Stapleton
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Guest, J. (York, W.R., Homsworth)Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Bramsdon, Sir ThomasHall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)Spencer, George A.
Bromfield, WilliamHirst, G. H.Sutton, John Edward
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Irving, DanSwan, J. E.
Cairns, JohnJohn, William (Rhondda, West)Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)Johnstone, JosephThomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)Kennedy, ThomasWhite, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Lunn, WilliamWignall, James
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D.(Midlothlan)Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)Mills, John Edmund
Entwistle, Major C. F.Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)

TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—

Finney, SamuelNield, Sir HerbertMr. G. Locker-Lampson and Mr.
Foot, IsaacParkinson, John Allen (Wigan)Hogge.
Foxcroft, Captain Charles TalbotPolson, Sir Thomas A.

NOES.

Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherBarrand, A. R.Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive
Agg-Gardner, Sir James TynteBartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund RobertBrittain, Sir Harry
Atkey, A. R.Betterton, Henry B.Britton, G. B.
Baird, Sir John LawrenceBigland, AlfredBroad, Thomas Tucker
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyBirchall, J. DearmanBrown, Major D. C.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.
Barker, Major Robert H.Blake, Sir Francis DouglasBull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Borwick, Major G. O.Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.
Barlow, Sir MontagueBoscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-Casey, T. W.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gurbals)Bowles, Colonel H. F.Cautley, Henry Strother
Barnett, Major Richard W.Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton
Barnston, Major HarryBreese, Major Charles E.Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)

the duty of the Department to do its best to give every such facility. But the question we have to ask ourselves is whether the country in the present state of its finances can afford this thing. I certainly feel it cannot. We are hound to save every possible penny, and therefore I am afraid I must press my Motion to a Division.

Before the Amendment is put, may I ask whether those who are writing up the history of the War are supplied with Government information that could not be handed over to private individuals?

I should not like to speak confidently on that question, because I am unable to reply at a moment's notice. But I feel quite certain that Sir Julian Corbett has had placed at his disposal material which could not have been put into the hands of private persons.

Question put, "That Item F ( War Histories—Salaries, Wages and Allowances), be reduced by £1,000."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 67; Noes, 146.

Cheyne, Sir William WatsonHurd, Percy A.Renwick, Sir George
Coats, Sir StuartHurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Cope, Major WilliamInskip, Thomas Walker H.Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)Jephcott, A. R.Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)Jesson, C.Rodger, A. K.
Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. GeorgeRutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Doyle, N. GrattanKidd, JamesSassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)King, Captain Henry DouglasScott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.Lloyd, George ButlerShortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Farquharson, Major A. C.Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Fell, Sir ArthurLorden, John WilliamStanton, Charles Butt
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John MurrayStrauss, Edward Anthony
Flannery, Sir James FortescueMcLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)Sturrock, J. Leng
Ganzoni, Sir JohnMacnaghten, Sir MalcolmSugden, W. H.
Gee, Captain RobertMacpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.Taylor, J.
George, Rt. Hon. David LloydMallalieu, Frederick WilliamThomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Gibbs, Colonel George AbrahamManville, EdwardThomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Gilbert, James DanielMeysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir JohnMiddlebrook, Sir WilliamWaddington, R.
Gould, James C.Mitchell, Sir William LaneWallace, J.
Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Molson, Major John ElsdaleWalters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor
Greenwood, William (Stockport)Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred MoritzWard, William Dudley (Southampton)
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.Moreing, Captain Algernon H.Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Murray, Rt. Hon. C. D. (Edinburgh)Warren, Sir Alfred H.
Hallwood, AugustineMurray, John (Leeds, West)Watson, Captain John Bertrand
Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryNeal, ArthurWilliams, C. (Tavistock)
Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)O'Neill, Rt. Hon. HughWindsor, Viscount
Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)Parker, JamesWinterton, Earl
Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)Parkinson, Sir Albert L. (Blackpool)Wise, Frederick
Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel FrankPeel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)Worsfold, T. Cato
Hinds, JohnPurchase, H. G.Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Hops, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn,W.)Randies, Sir John Scurrah
Hopkins, John W. W.Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.

TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—

Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)Reid, D. D.Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.
Hotchkin, Captain Stafford VereRemer, J. R.McCurdy.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Class Vii

Ministry Or Health

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £13,512,562, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Health; including Grants and other Expenses in connection with Housing, Grants to Local Authorities, etc., sundry Contributions and Grants in respect of Benefits and Expenses of Administration under the National Health Insurance Acts, 1911 to 1921, certain Grants-in-Aid, and certain Special Services arising out of the War."—[NOTE: £9,000,000 has been voted on account.]

After the prolonged and somewhat exciting Debate which the Committee has had this afternoon, on a subject of, perhaps, more general interest, though of less financial importance, than the Estimates which I have the honour to place before the Committee, I have a certain feeling of difficulty in coming down to the more prosaic, if not less important, subject of the Estimates of the Ministry of Health. In presenting these Estimates, I thought that it might, perhaps, interest the Committee, and would serve a useful purpose, if I shortly pointed out the results of the recommendations of the Geddes Committee, and the extent to which we have been able to meet them in this year's Estimates. The Estimates, of course, are made somewhat more difficult to follow by the fact that there are various items coming into and out of them which are of a more or less transient and extraordinary character, due to services arising out of the War; but the net upshot of the reduction which I have been able to effect in these total Estimates for 1922–23, as compared with those for 1921–22, is £1,732,000. In arriving at that figure, I have done some-what better than the recommendations of the Geddes Committee. The Geddes Committee recommended a net estimate of £22,100,000, and I have been able, on a comparative figure, to make an actual provision of a little over £22,062,000, or about £37,000 less than the recommendations of the Geddes Committee. In arriving at that figure the totals of the various items do not, of course, necessarily agree. The principle I have endeavoured to follow in framing the Estimates of this year has been that while understanding the necessity for perhaps calling a halt in what I might call the essential health services of the country, I at any rate, did not agree to any reduction of services which are already in existence, and which have established their utility, and which it would have been anything but a real economy in any way to diminish.

The problem that presented itself to me was to endeavour, while carrying out economies of the character I have indicated, to preserve to the best of my ability, and I think I may claim successfully, the vital services of public health, such as tuberculosis, maternity, child welfare, and venereal disease, at least at the efficiency of past years, and even to endeavour somewhat to improve upon it. In order to achieve this, I have found it necessary to make very considerable reductions in the administrative cost of the Department, and I am glad to say that I have succeeded, with the assistance and loyal co-operation of those working with me, in reducing the staff of the Ministry of Health from a maximum of 6,462 in 1920–21 to 4,134 on 1st April, 1922—a reduction of no less than 2,300. I have succeeded, secondly, in decreasing salaries, wages and allowances in my Estimate for the year by £680,000 below the year before and I am still in hopes of effecting further economies during the present year, and economies in other directions, such as travelling allowances, a total saving in administration of £780,000 below the expenditure in 1921–22 and £155,000 below the recommendations made by the Geddes Committee. That saving has enabled me to exceed on vital services, such as tuberculosis, maternity and child welfare, the Geddes Committee recommendation and yet keep below the total. I have fortunately been able also to increase the Appropriation-in-Aid on administration account, and the saving on administration expenditure compared with 1921–22 is no less than £863,000, or £265,000 compared with the figure of the Geddes Committee. Of course a considerable amount of this saving is due to two large items, a reduction in the very large and expensive staff which the big housing programme involved, which I have been able to reduce with the diminution of the ambitious and perhaps over ambitious scale on which the whole question has been equipped and organised from the beginning. Further, of course, I have benefited undoubtedly by the automatic reduction which is due to the fall in the bonuses owing to the fall in the cost of living. Quite apart from that, we have effected a considerable number of reductions, both by concentration of offices, by not filling up vacancies n a number of cases, and by generally endeavouring to reduce expenditure. The housing expenditure, of course, this year is considerably greater than it was last-year. It automatically increases. The more houses get completed the greater the expenditure falling on the Treasury naturally becomes under the schemes, where anything over a 1d. rate falls on the local authority. The White Paper, shows that there is an increase of no less than £4,600,000 over last year's deficit on the housing grant of £5,000,000—a total sum of £9,630,000. In addition to that we have provided for a subsidy to private builders of £2,500,000, so that the total Estimate on housing is no less than £12,150,000. I should like to repeat that sum because, while no doubt many who would like to see an extension of the housing programme are impatient at the slowness of the policy I have adopted, £12,150,000, when you come to look into it, is a fairly staggering figure to fall on the Government for housing in any one year.

Then, of course, in insurance, I have succeeded in achieving certain economies. The bargain I made with the doctors last year for a reduction on their payment per patient saves us about £1,000,000 per annum. The economy under the Bill I introduced, relieving the Treasury of the extra grant for medical benefit, is estimated at somewhere in the neighbourhood of £1,600,000, and there are other economies which bring the saving up to £3,000,000. On the other hand, I have to set against that an increase of £500,000 in the Government grant to Health Insurance, owing to two causes. One is the increased amount which has been taken during this year owing to an estimated increase in sick benefit, and secondly, as additional benefits are now coming into operation, the Government grant on that subject automatically increases. The net saving will be about £2,500,000. When I come to tuberculosis, I have an increase in the provision over last year of something like £250,000 over the recommendations of the Geddes Committee. Last year we found our Estimate was exceeded by over £500,000, and we had to take a Supplementary Estimate for that purpose. I think the Supplementary Estimate was £570,000, and the original Estimate was £1,200,000. This year we are lower in actual expenditure by several hundred thousand pounds. We have been able to do this owing to the general fall in cost of materials, food, and other things, which of course, enables local authorities to maintain the same number of patients at a less cost. That applies, of course, to some extent to the expenditure on tuberculosis.

In maternity and child welfare again I have an actual decrease on last year. Of all the health services I do not know any which renders more valuable results. Of all the social work done in this country it is the one which is giving us the most satisfactory results, and one would like to be in a position to spend even more money on it and extend it much further than it is being extended to-day. Still, it is being extended and it covers a large amount of the country. I have been able, by economies effected in other directions, even in these hard times, to take advantage of very generous offers which have been made by the Carnegie Trustees in several cases. I have felt it to be a great pity to lose opportunities of that kind, and I have strained every nerve, in framing the Estimates, to endeavour to meet all these cases, and I believe I can say, speaking from recollection, that all these cases have been met and we have been able not only to maintain our grants, but actually to extend our operations even on a modest scale. For venereal disease we have kept at much the same figure. In regard to grants for welfare work for the blind the estimate is down by a small amount. There is only one new service which appears in the Estimate for the first time, and that is a sum of £450,000 for unemployment grants under the St. David's Committee schemes. This is for the payment of loan charges on schemes which the local authorities have incurred under the St. David Grants scheme in connection with unemployment. I will deal with that at a later stage of my statement.

One of the policies which we have adopted in this year's Estimates in order to enable us to carry out our services as economically as possible, and to meet the criticism of the Geddes Committee, in which I felt there was a certain amount of justice, in regard to the subject of percentage versus block grants, has been, as far as possible, to work out a rationing system for this year's Estimates on services like tuberculosis and other services in which we really are in partnership with the local authorities. The difficult task of my Department is to estimate ahead when we are in partnership with other people whose expenditure we do not really control, and who frame their Estimates at a different time of the year from the time when we frame our Estimates. The Committee will be aware that the Treasury have appointed a very important Committee to inquire into the whole subject of block grants versus percentage grants, and I am not going to discuss a matter so far-reaching in its importance as the work of that Committee will be, but in the interval, pending the Report of that Committee, we have taken time by the forelock, and have worked out a rationing scheme which has been accepted, on the whole, by the local authorities with great loyalty. It has had one interesting result of bringing into line a good many local authorities whose expenditure, when contrasted with that of similar bodies doing similar work, proved in many cases to be considerably more expensive than was justified. That led to a general comparison and revision.

There is a tendency, when they know that somebody else is paying part of the money, for people to think that the other party is paying it, and one gets a sort of mutual stimulus to expenditure which does not lead to economy. The local authority may say, "Do not trouble, the Ministry of Health will pay." On the other hand, the Ministry of Health official, equally enthusiastic, may say, "Do not trouble, the local authority has to pay." That is one of the difficulties of dealing with matters of this sort. There is no doubt that by a carefully-thought-out system we are able to carry out very considerable services very efficiently, and in doing so we are enabled at the same time to point out to the local authorities where their expenditure appears to he unnecessarily high, and we have succeeded in getting a kind of fixed estimate, which we know will not be exceeded. The expenditure may, by many people, still be considered of a very high, I might even say of an extravagant, character; but there is nothing new in the fact that there are people who look at any expenditure on the improvement of the condition of the State as an unnecessary expenditure. I have been interested to find that that discussion has gone on for a very long time. A very good Conservative, the late Lord Salisbury, wrote in the "Quarterly Review" in January, 1861:
"People who rail at, our growing expenditure forget that it is the nature of all well-governed States to improve, and that improvement in a Government, like improvements in an estate, is almost always a costly process. It is possible to govern cheaply by the simple expedient of governing badly; but efficient government implies efficient machinery, and efficient machinery must be paid for. We cannot, therefore, share the anticipations of those who look for any material reduction in the cost of our civil Government. If it were to take place we should regard it as a morbid rather than a healthy sign. As England increases in population and activity she can no more safely forego the increased expenditure upon government than the railway can increase in traffic without a rise in its working expenses."
Those were the views of the great Conservative leader, written 61 years ago, and that statement is as obviously true to-day, perhaps more so, than it was when it was written. What we have to lo, and what we endeavour to do, and what I hope the Committee will support me in doing, is to endeavour to obtain the utmost value for the money we spend, and in that direction I think we have further to go. No Department of the state has an unlimited amount of money to spend upon any service, and it is not infrequently forgotten that money spent extravagantly means that you do not, over as much ground an you otherwise would. Therefore, knowing that the resources of my Department are limited, I am endeavouring to see whether we cannot with the same amount of money obtain a wider sphere of results than as obtained in the past.

I will now deal in some detail with a new of the questions which have a bearing upon the Estimates. The first question is he general housing position, so far as the Government is concerned. I have given he figures in reply to questions so often that I am afraid hon. Members must be getting rather tired of hearing them. Perhaps I may summarise the position very briefly. The number of houses authorised to be erected by local authorities and public utility societies on 26th May as 173,600, leaving a margin in hand not yet allocated of 2,400. The number of houses completed on the 1st May was 7,661, under construction 47,100, and still to be started 21,237. Private builders: Number of certificates issued, 42,514; number of houses finished, 32,928; outstanding certificates (A), 9,586; total housing provision already made, 140,589; further houses authorised, 77,925. The question has often been asked as to what will be the position when the period of this housing provision comes to a close. The extraordinary change which has taken place with regard to the prices of houses during the last 12 months, and of which I will give some examples in a moment, modify the whole position and alter one's ideas of the whole subject so as to make me extremely chary in prophesying or committing myself at the moment to any new course of action.

In May, 1921, the average tender price for a non-parlour house with three bedrooms was £697. In November, 1921, it was £577. In May, 1922, it had come down to £384. In the case of parlour houses with three bedrooms, the figure in May, 1921, was £813. In November, 1921, it was £660, and in May, 1922, it was £400. You had a very large; fall in both cases, and in the latter case a fall of more than one-half. A year, ago the lowest, figure approved for a house with three bedrooms was £603, and the lowest tender recently obtained was £298. I am quoting now the figures for houses and not including, for the moment, land, sewers, fencing and these other charges, but if you include the land, and those other charges it would bring the £298 up to £350. The Committee will see from these figures that we are likely to reach, though we have not already reached, what I would call an economic level of houses. There is no reason to suppose that the cost has reached as yet its bottom.

One thing of which I am convinced is that, however careful you are, the State is not a cheap builder. It does not get cheap building done. Even local authorities, building on their own account, would get better and cheaper results than a Government Department. Private enterprise certainly is doing it at lower prices and can find labour ready to take lower wages for that work than is possible in our case. So you are almost in a market where private enterprise can be taken as on the way to resume its normal position. But it must be remembered that before the War the amount of building done outside of private enterprise, in spite of the large powers which local authorities had under the then existing Acts, was very small indeed. The houses which we have built fill a considerable gap in the matter of satisfying the housing problem. Therefore you have to make up your mind how far private enterprise can come in, and how rapidly in order to take up its proper function, or how far you can afford or ought, by a system of artificial subsidies, to keep up the prices and produce artificial conditions in reference to the cost of houses. That is a very difficult problem.

I know well that I am often represented as a hard-hearted individual who has no interest in the problem and no care for the people who want houses. That is an accusation which is easily made and difficult to refute. Looking to the ultimate end, and not merely perhaps to the present moment, to anyone who has any responsibility for a problem like this, nothing is more certain than that a policy of restriction has produced a condition of things which is already helping the problem to solve itself. A policy of inflation, if continued, would almost certainly have bankrupted the country, and would have practically made the provision of houses in future impossible except on the most extravagant terms, and for that reason it is a matter of regret that a check was not called earlier. We should then have been let down with a much lower figure, and should be in a position to do a great deal more to-day.

In the state of things which prevailed everybody connected with building profited, from the man who carried bricks in a hod to the man who made the bricks. All had a good time. If they had not had such a good time it might have lasted a little longer, but that is a very real problem. My information in many directions is, not exactly with reference to this class of houses, but with reference to what I might call the cheaper middle class houses, that private enterprise has begun to resume in many parts of the country, and a number of public utility societies are beginning to resume or are considering the resumption of operations without any Exchequer subsidy. I have spoken to the heads of a number of the largest of them. All are beginning to operate once more. The movement is a growing one. When I spoke on this question on the Estimates last year I ventured to express the opinion, which I hold very strongly and have endeavoured to carry out to a considerable extent when I have had the opportunity, that it is the function of large employers of labour to deal with the housing of their employés as much as with any other portion of industrial work which they were carrying out. A man has no right to go and create a demand for housing by developing an industry in a certain district and throw the burden either on the ratepayer or the taxpayer.

I am glad to say that a very interesting and important scheme is being worked out, and is now coming into operation to some extent, largely due to the ingenious efforts of my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General (Sir Tudor Walters). There is a, combination of some of the leading colliery owners of this country to form an Industrial Housing Association with a capital of not less than £1,000,000 with the object of supplying 2,000 houses a year for five years in connection with large collieries and undertakings in North Wales, South Wales, Derbyshire and Northumberland. I mention that because in some colliery districts to my own knowledge, and the knowledge of hon. Members opposite, the housing conditions are certainly worse, perhaps, than in any other part of the country. I have never understood why an industry, in which, on the whole, there is a profit to the owners, and in which the workers obtained a wage far above the average, should suffer from had housing conditions. That association will lease these houses to the collieries at an economic rent. The collieries will then let the houses to their employés at such rents as they think reasonable, and probably at lower rents than they pay for them. It will probably pay them to do so. Any cost of that kind will be carried by the colliery companies and not by the association. The members of the association are working without a Government subsidy of any kind. They are quite satisfied to do so. They hope to borrow part of their capital from the Public Works Loans Commissioners, who of course, have funds available for the purpose of helping public utility schemes of this kind.

I am very glad that a start has beer made in this important direction. I hope that the example set by this ingeniou scheme, with the help of a number of very public-spirited men—Lord Aberconway is chairman of the company, and many Members of this House are working for it without any remuneration—will be followed and extended. I am certain that in that direction a great deal can be done, and will be done, towards a solution of the problem. In the meantime there are one or two aspects of the question where our present housing scheme will allow of some elasticity. Local authorities in some cases, not perhaps in as many cases as one might expect, have sites developed, roads made, and land purchased under Government assisted schemes. I am proposing to assist local authorities in utilising the sites or in disposing of them to private builders, so as to stimulate building by private enterprise. Other ideas have been under consideration. Hon. Members have in the past drawn attention to the legislation for the relief of buildings in New York from taxation. I followed that suggestion with great are and some sympathy. The application of such methods to this country is not easy, for our legislation is very different. The question whether or not we shall exempt from local rating for a number of years houses that are built under proper conditions is not unworthy of consideration. It is very largely a question for the local authorities to consider. They must decide whether or not the long run it would benefit them to sacrifice present revenue for future advantage. There are many difficulties in he execution of such a scheme, and ose difficulties cannot be dismissed without very careful consideration.

.0 P.M.

I notice that the Building Societies association had a meeting on 8th June. I noticed that in his speech the chairman as very strong in urging the Government to refrain from making excessive panic contracts that interfered iously with the building industry. His speech tended to confirm statements which have been made to me by others. Last year, in speaking on the Estimates, I ed to make it clear that the more a studied the question, the more one came convinced that the problem of ms and the question of housing, hough they are connected, are by no ans exchangeable. You might build very large number of houses, a number far in excess of any effective demand, and yet find yourself still with slum areas occupied by a certain class of people. That view is based on many years' study of this problem. We are anxious, however, to make progress with the clearance of slum areas. Last year I asked for £200,000, maximum, per annum, which was to go towards the deficits of local authorities engaged in clearing slum areas. Such schemes are slow to mature, and progress is not, perhaps, quite as fast as one would like. The Ministry of Health has approved schemes already, or schemes are in preparation, involving commitments for £60,000. These schemes include three of the worst areas in London—Brady Street, Ware Street, and Sophia Place, Poplar. Hammersmith has a scheme, and is asking for no subsidy. The scheme will require very careful scrutiny. There is, however, the right spirit at work, and schemes are being considered. In the provinces, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham are proceeding with schemes. Negotiations with local authorities on other schemes are pending. Here, again, the fall in the cost of housing may have a very material effect. The more economically you can build houses, the less the deficit of local authorities must of necessity be.

On these slum clearance schemes everything except the product of 1d. rate falls on the Treasury. That does not seem reasonable. As a matter of fact, there are local authorities anxious to contribute more. It is, perhaps, going outside the Estimates, but I would like to say that if legislation is introduced at a later date to deal with this subject, I hope the House will give me power that will enable me to deal with local authorities that are ready to act more generously. I believe that in co-operation between the Ministry and the local authorities the hope of the future lies on this very difficult question. The question of how far local authorities should undertake responsibility under the Housing Act is a question which should be carefully considered. I have had a few estimates made which I may mention here incidentally. I find that, on a rate of one-tenth of a penny in the pound, London could finance 2,000 houses, Liverpool 170, Birmingham 150, and Manchester 250. One-tenth of a penny in the pound is a very small increase of the rates, and local authorities who are this question ought to seriously go into the question of how far, even at the present time, when we know rates are high, they ought to take this burden upon their own shoulders. That was the intention of Parliament. It was not intended that the State was going to undertake indefinitely the responsibility of housing. I do not think anybody ever advocated that or ever intended it. We always insisted that the State was to come in, more or less, as a kind of stop gap. Some think it stopped the gap too little, and others think it stopped the gap too much. Conditions have changed and changed rapidly, but we must really see that these are functions which have always belonged to local authorities, and never to the central Government.

We have worked out the figure in relation to the annual loss on the houses. We have assumed the annual loss on the houses to be £9 per house, and the figure naturally deals with the annual loss.

Then it means that London could do 2,000 houses per year, and go on doing 2,000 houses per year.

It means that a rate of one-tenth of a penny in the pound in London would meet the annual loss on 2,000 houses. That, however, as I have said, is only an estimated figure, and it is possible that we might get a figure even lower than that. Another point of importance is that of continuing Section 25 of the Housing Act, 1919, which is of great assistance in regard to local bye-laws, and has in itself proved a considerable stimulus in dealing with the housing question. There are a number of other important questions which I ought to cover, but I feel some difficulty in view of the fact that there are a number of hon. Members anxious to speak and I do not wish to monopolise the time of the Committee. On the other hand, there are certain questions of a general character with which I feel bound to deal. I wish to say a word of praise, at any rate of appreciation, regarding the work done by the boards of guardians throughout the country in the extremely difficult problem with which they have been called upon to deal, in view of the prevalence of unemployment. Taking the position as it is throughout the country, I think it provides a remarkable testimony to their public spirit, their administrative capacity and their general ability in handling the situation. Though it did seem at one time as though we were threatened with the downfall of the whole. Poor Law system, I think we may now assume that time has passed.

No, no. I think my hon. Friend is putting it too high, but they have done a great deal of valuable work and I am acknowledging it. I wish on this occasion to express my recognition of it, which is shared by all those who like myself, have had to live with this problem for a long time and have endeavoured to assist as far as we can in the solution of the problem. It has been extraordinarily difficult, especially in industrial districts, and we all recognise the very large amount of able and devoted work which has been done. I hope we have tided over the worst of i and are getting into smoother waters, Some criticism has been made of the Ministry for not interfering more i Poor Law administration up and down the country. After all, the system of the administration of relief is a matter for the local authorities concerned, and I am only called upon to intervene or exercise any pressure when anything done contrary to the settled principles of the Poor Law as generally understood and carried out in this countr or when people ask me to help find further money and when, there fore, the credit of the Governme becomes involved. I do not wish go into the question of what are to principles of the Poor Law, although there seems to he a tendency toward controversy on that matter in certain quarters. They are, I think, on to whole, thoroughly well understood as thoroughly well carried out, and where they are not being carried out, I do think it is because they are not under stood, but because there is a desire introduce another system which, while may have merits, is not the British P Law as laid down and understood in laws of this country.

I wish now to refer to the question unemployment relief work, in which I sure hon. Members opposite are interested. This scheme has been in operation for a considerable period, and, on the whole, I may say it has been one of the most satisfactory experiments we have made in our endeavour to relieve unemployment. I am glad to tell the Committee that a careful inspection made by technical officers of most of the work which is being done throughout the country for relief purposes, either by direct labour or otherwise, shows that it is, taking it all round, being done more satisfactorily than might be expected in the case of work of this character so far as utility is concerned. Of course, we do not get that degree of efficiency which one would expect if one only employed people who were used to the work. We find an average of efficiency of 60 to 65 per cent. I recently ventured to say that I fixed the average of efficiency at 75 per cent., and I am glad that it has worked out so correctly. The results are extraordinarily good, having regard to the fact that 30 per cent. used to be looked upon as quite a favourable result in regard to relief work. Any deficiency which exists is not due to the people not endeavouring to do the work, but to their not having experience of the work, and, on the whole, the report is very encouraging. The local authorities under this scheme have already had loans approved for something like £18,000,000 for work, some of which is finished, while some is still going on. Employment has been provided direct for 680,000 men-months, and indirect for about an equivalent amount. That is to say, work has been provided for about 1,300,000 men-months. We have raised about £18,000,000.

The work undertaken, of course, has generally been of a public utility character, and this work is independent of the Road Fund, which is employing very large numbers of people and is apart from the public utility, local authority work with which I am more directly concerned. On the whole, I think it may be considered a success, and steps are being taken to see how far a further scheme is either necessary or possible. We have issued a circular recently to local authorities suggesting a consideration of the probable unemployment position in the autumn and winter, and the preparation and examination of draft schemes by the Unemployment Grants Committee during the summer, so that we can have concerted measures ready next winter if they are considered necessary. A certain amount of work wants to be kept going, and directions have already been given for approval, if necessary, of works not exceeding a capital value of £2,000,000 immediately, but we want to take a wider purview of the whole situation and to work out, in conjunction with the local authorities, schemes which will take some time to mature, in order to see what their ultimate cost might be and how far the necessity may arise. It is not my province, and it is not within the Estimate, to deal with the whole of the large question of unemployment. I am only dealing with that section which comes under the Vote.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to state, for the information of the Committee, the position of the Government in regard to further steps to encourage relief work, seeing that the money is nearly done now?

I have just stated that £2,000,000 further is authorised where it is immediately required, as an interim period, while the other schemes are being considered.

It applies pro tanto or even more so to Scotland. I have referred, in answer to questions which have been put to me at various times, to the very interesting foundation which I am pleased it has been my good fortune to he in a position to commence towards the establishment of a School of Hygiene in London in connection with the University of London and which carries out the recommendations of Lord Athlone's Committee which was appointed in January, 1921. The need for a Central School of Hygiene and Preventive Medicine has, of course, long been felt, and the necessity for and advantage of concentration is one of which all those who have studied the subject are fully convinced. The teaching of this very important subject, important not only to the metropolis, but all through the country and the Empire and the world at large, has been carried out in 10 medical schools, which really cannot specialise without necessary accommodation for research and the necessary staff for research, which is so very vital, and which is important to my mind, for the future—the most important work perhaps that medical science has to do. The recommendation was made, and it was endorsed by the University Grants Committee and the University of London, and a scheme was drafted by a Departmental Committee appointed by myself. One difficulty we met was finance, but fortunately, in this case at any rate, we got the assistance of America. The Rock-feller Institute, which possesses very large funds and a very large heart, and takes a very big view of its obligations on the subject of health, kindly promised us a sum of two million dollars, or £400,000 if the exchange does not depreciate too rapidly, in order to found an institution for this school in London, and on condition that we found the money for staffing and maintaining the school. I got a promise, if I could do it for £25,000, that I could have the money, and a site has been bought and steps are being taken to erect buildings on the land and arrange a curriculum and work together with other associations, and I hope that in the course of a couple of years that this very important service will be started, which will really, in conjunction with the School of Tropical Medicine and the Lister Institute, do much to relieve disease both in this country and throughout the Empire and will be of international benefit.

The next subject I want to say a word about is the position of our hospitals. The Committee will remember that I introduced a Supplementary Estimate last year, as the result of Lord Cave's Committee, for £500,000 in order to relieve the urgent want of our hospitals. Lord Cave did extraordinarily great service in his work on that Committee, which laid the foundations of an organisation which, under the very able and enthusiastic administration of Lord Onslow, is really going to enable us to continue our voluntary system. We have up to the present distributed money where it is required, but I am glad to be able to say that. I think, on the whole, the position of the hospitals in London is rather better than it was estimated it would be at the time that, Lord Cave's Committee reported. Lord Cave's Committee estimated the deficit to be more than, I am glad to say, it has burned out to be. The deficit for 1921 is going to be considerably less, I understand, than in 1920. Of course the cost of materials and wages and everything coming down has affected the voluntary hospitals, and it is a very creditable thing that, despite the cost of living and the high taxation, the flow of subscriptions to our hospitals has not really substantially diminished. They have really been more heavily hit by their increased expenditure than by the decreased charity of the population. The total grants up to date from the Hospital Commission are £103,000 in London and £39,000 in the provinces, or £142,000 altogether. The rest of the money is still in hand. The most important part of the work already achieved is not merely the question of the money, but of the organisation. We have largely succeeded in establishing a network of Committees throughout the country on a county basis, working not merely in regard to the collection of money, but also undertaking the very necessary work of co-ordination.

Anybody who has studied the Report of Lord Cave's Committee must come to the conclusion that there was a great deal of overlapping and want of fitting in of our hospitals as they stood. We want to prevent that, and to produce a better system. The county committee system has been established generally for administrative counties and county boroughs with a population exceeding 250,000. There are 52 committees in England, Scotland, and Wales already formed and working, and six will be completed shortly. Representatives are nominated by the county councils, the county borough councils, there are two or more hospital representatives nominated by hospitals in the area, two or more representatives of the medical profession, and normally five nominees of the Commission. These committees really form bodies which are going to do very good work, and very good results indeed have already been obtained by them. There has been a remarkable increase in the incomes, particularly in Oxford and Devonshire. The mass contribution schemes are leading to very remarkable results. The Oxford scheme, initiated by the Ratcliffe Infirmary, has shown what can be done in rural areas, and the example is being copied elsewhere.

It is very heartening and encouraging to find examples of what can be done by local enthusiasm for our hospitals, both in our large towns and in agricultural areas. I am sure that the experience of so many men who unfortunately had to be in hospital during the War has done much to help. It is much more likely that you will get more from the small contributor. We live in an age when the rich are far too poor to support anything.

The rich cannot support much for any length of time. In putting the hospitals on a sound financial basis you will really do much better by spreading your burden over a large number of people than by relying on an occasional successful bet at Ascot. The British Hospitals Association is doing excellent work. I should also like to say a word of thanks to the approved societies for what they have done in contributing out of their valuation surpluses. They also are coming into line, because they are the people who benefit very directly from the work of our voluntary hospitals.

I do not think so. The more economical they are the less sickness pay they have to pay out.

I think there is a good deal of room for improving administration, but that is another question. I have dealt roughly with the question of the hospitals. I am glad to say that the outlook is encouraging. The work is proceeding and the voluntary system I hope we can say will, with the encouragement it is receiving, survive. This splendid institution will go on doing good work, such as it has done in the past, and perhaps it will do even better, because it will be more co-ordinated and more people will take an interest in it.

There is one subject which has moved this House a good deal, on which I must say one word, and that is the question of county borough extensions. Since 1888, 103 extensions of county boroughs have been passed, 60 by Provisional Orders and 43 by Private Bills. Twenty-two new county boroughs have been created. The policy of this House has been to favour the extension of borough councils under the provisions of the Act of 1888, and we have proceeded along the lines of well-established precedent which, on the whole, has worked well. There is no doubt, and I do not disguise the fact, it would be folly to do so, that a different spirit has come over the House at the present time with regard to this subject. The whole matter of the principle of the Act of 1888, and what Parliament meant to do by it, are very seriously questioned. I, personally, have been devoting a considerable amount of time to the very difficult and important question of local administration. We had a proposal last winter from the County Councils Association for the appointment of a Royal Commission. I had hoped that we might have avoided that rather lengthy process by endeavouring to obtain a united programme from the two rival bodies, the County Councils Association and the Municipal Corporations Association. With that aim in view, I invited them to a conference with some of my officials to see whether we could find a common platform and formulate a common policy. We had a number of conferences, and very interesting they were. Both sides put their ease with their customary ability, skill, argument and wit, but I am afraid I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that no amount of meetings will reconcile the fundamental differences between them.

That being the case, I do not propose to proceed on the lines of conferences, but by the method of a Royal Commission to which I understand both sides are now agreeable. The question of when the Royal Commission should be appointed is one which requires further consideration. There is a Royal Commission on London Government now sitting. It might perhaps be wise to let them conclude their labours before another Royal Commission on the subject is appointed. This is a point on which I am not expressing any final opinion, but it is a matter for further consideration. In the interval we should call a halt, and I should like to take advantage of this occasion to give notice, so far as the Ministry is concerned, that no contentious proposals for the extension of boroughs and the creation of new county boroughs will be entertained by the Ministry in the meantime. That is the only reasonable thing to do. It is obviously mere foolishness to encourage an enormous expenditure of the ratepayers' money until we are in a position to decide; until then all this money really goes for nothing, and all this expenditure is thrown away. I certainly am not going to be responsible for encouraging anything of that kind. Personally I am very doubtful in regard to the whole question of whether Provisional Orders are really at all adapted for cases of big centres like Leeds or Bradford, but that is a question which the Royal Commission will have to go into when it is appointed. It is time that the whole problem was very fully considered. Since 1888 the old county council areas have altered. You have county council areas which have become even more important and more industrialised than are the boroughs. It is very important that the Commission should report in order to see what ought to be altered and how much alteration in legislation is needed. In the meantime we will proclaim peace between the parties, so far as the Ministry is concerned.

I must thank the Committee for having listened to me while I have endeavoured to cover, however imperfectly, a large number of important points, which I thought were points of general interest that I ought to lay before the Committee. I have no doubt there are many more points—in fact, I know there are—which interest the Committee, and about which they may desire me to say something, as I shall, to the best of my ability, when the occasion arises. The policy of proceeding on lines of economy, while seeing that no real damage is done to our essential services, will be continued, I can assure Members of the Committee, so long as I have the honour of representing the responsible position, and, indeed, the glorious and magnificent position of Minister of Health.

I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.

I am sure all Members will sympathise with the Minister that this most important Vote should come on at the fag end of a sitting. I venture to say that no Vote that can come before this House is of greater importance than the one the right hon. Gentleman has laid before us this evening. It is a matter which touches the whole of the nation at the very heart, and the range of subjects with which he has dealt shows that there is matter here not merely for an hour and a half's debate, but for more than one sitting, and that it is, of course, impossible to attempt to touch even on any one subject adequately. While I am sure the whole Committee will welcome the economies in administration foreshadowed, and the business ability which the right hon. Gentleman has for carrying them out, the Committee will regret where economies result in the curtailment of those social services to which the Minister referred so sympathetically. As an illustration, I cannot but think that the reduction in the amount allotted to maternity and child-welfare of some hundreds of thousands of pounds, is one that will seriously affect those services throughout the country. The Minister has said that he was not anxious to do more than cry "Halt!" I would submit to the Committee that many of these services—maternity, child-welfare, the treatment of tuberculosis in sanatoria, venereal treatment—are services which are as yet in their infancy. They are only beginning to grow and develop, and by crying "Halt!" the right hon. Gentleman is not merely curtailing the ordinary annual growth of an established system, but he is seriously limiting the growth of services which have only recently come into being, due to that bigger recognition of the social responsibility which appertains to the whole of us. Therefore, I do regret that at such a time, when we should cherish, more than any other, the child-life of the nation, when the best of the nation's manhood has been mown down by the ravages of war, he should in any way cut down the grants made to local authorities for services which are absolutely invaluable.

I should like to refer especially to the question of housing. The right hon. Gentleman suggested—and I am sure what he has suggested will be received with disappointment throughout the country—that to make good that enormous shortage of houses which still exists in the country, those who are wanting houses must depend upon private enterprise, and he gave, as a justification of that statement, the fact that the cost of building had fallen to £350. Does the Committee really think that £350 for the, cheapest, class of house, with land, road-making, and sewers; to-day forms a basis for rental which can be paid at the present time? The right hon. Gentleman suggested that private enterprise could do better than the State. Might I remind him that the great majority of houses that are being built for municipalities are being built by private enterprise under the keenest competition? My limited experience in my own district from builders and others is to the effect that if a man wants to build a house today, he cannot get a tender as low as the municipality can get when they want to build 300 or 400 houses. That is the practical experience of those who are trying to build houses to-day. I have a letter from the local builders suggesting it is impossible for them to build on economic lines, and that they can do nothing at the present time.

But take this house of £350 which the Minister gave. We know perfectly well that whatever may be done by private enterprise in some directions, the local builder cannot borrow his money as cheaply as the State or municipality, and he wants a bigger return on his, money, too. The small private builder is not satisfied to wait for 60 years before getting his capital redeemed and the property repaid, and I submit he cannot borrow to-day under 6 per cent. He wants to get his money back in 30 or 40 years, or possibly sooner, and, taking all these factors into consideration, the small private builder will want a return of from 9 to 10 per cent. before he is going to build a large number of houses speculatively at the present time. That is what builders in the district with which I have some acquaintance say. To get 10 per cent. on £350 there must be a rental of 13s. 3d., and if 8 per cent.—and allowing for redemption of money, collection of rents, empties and incidental expenses appertaining to cottage property, no one will do it under 8 per cent.—he will want 10s. 9d. per week. Adding local rates, which at present amount from 20s. to 30s. in the £, you have a rental of 17s. 6d. a week, at least, in every industrial area where the shortage is the greatest. Wages are down in most districts to about 40 per cent. above the pre-War level, and possibly less. The people who are getting these wages got houses in pre-War times at rentals of from 3s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. a week, according to the class of house they wanted, free of rates. To-day, according to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, the tenant will have to pay 17s. 6d. per week, while his wages are no more than 40 per cent. above what they were before the War, when he could get his house at a maximum rental of 6s. 6d. Does the right hon. Gentleman, with his business ability and general appreciation of the situation, really think that private enterprise is going to make good this abnormal and terrible shortage? He admitted the Government must come in as a stop-gap, but the point at issue is: why should the Government stop now?

In 1919 the Prime Minister said that 500,000 houses were necessary to make up the appalling need. The Minister himself has told us that there are only 176,000 houses going to be provided, and for the rest we must look to private enterprise; but at what price? Let the hard-hearted financiers consider it even from the narrow point of view of pounds, shillings and pence. If you allow this appalling overcrowding to go on as, for example, in my own town, where I knew that over 25 per cent. of the population are living in an overcrowded state—over 2,000 families have not a house to call their own—they are living two, three, four and five families in a house; and that is simply the ordinary condition of things in every large industrial area—if,. I say, you allow this appalling overcrowding to continue, and children to grow up, with impoverished health and unable to get the necessary freedom and fresh air, to produce a decent manhood and a decent womanhood, you are piling up for the State a legacy of certain ill-health for which you will have to pay dearly in the future. Therefore, I submit that it is a penny wise and pound foolish policy to cry out for a halt now.

On this question of cost I submit that even on the showing of the Minister he has not provided the number of houses for industrial areas which his Vote would warrant. The Vote is for £9,630,000. He has told us that £130,000 of that is for slum redemption. That leaves, say, 9½ millions to build 176,000 houses, but he has given us very little information as to how he has arrived at these figures. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us later how it is that he is going to spend 9½ millions of money and only produce 176,000 houses. He gave us some extraordinarily interesting figures just now. He said that in May, 1921, he was getting a certain sized house, one with three bedrooms, for £697. In November of last year the price had fallen to £577, and in May of this year it had further fallen to £384, and he gave us just now a figure of under £300 as the price to which this class of house had fallen.

The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman was not getting them at £1,500.

The hon. Member for the Mossley Division (Mr. Hopkinson) is misinformed once again, for in reply to a question which I put the other day to the present Minister, he said that the highest price ever paid for any house was £1,288, and that was due to the abnormal conditions in regard to the site. The Geddes Committee took the figure of £1,100, which is the price evidently taken to arrive at the amount of 9£ millions, because if you multiply 176,000 by the loss the Geddes Committee estimated on the £1,100 you get the 9½ millions. Surely that figure will not bear investigation.

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that I spent days investigating these figures, and I am sorry to say that all the economy I was able to effect has been able to reduce them but very little, because the number of houses which have been built for the State at the cheaper rates bears a very small proportion to the total number of houses.

I was only wishful to draw the attention of the Committee to the conflict between the figures of the Minister to-night and the figures shown in the Geddes Report. Only 68,000 had been completed on the 1st October when the Geddes Report was written. There were 68,000 in course of erection. The Minister has told us that in May, 1921, the average price was only £697, while it was £577 in November, just after the Geddes Committee Report was framed. How, in the world, can you get an average price—I ask the Committee to consider it—of £1,100 for the whole of the 176,000 houses when you have during a part of that period average prices varying from £697 to £830?

I think my hon. Friend knows that I pointed out very carefully that the figure was not going to be lower than £300 per house for the land, etc.

Is my right hon. Friend serious? Is that another example of his arithmetic? He suggests that £300 per house is to be added for road making, sewerage, and so on.

The land is not at an excessive price in this particular case. The price of land works out—I speak from memory—but I think I am correct—at not more than £200 per acre. As you have 12 to 18 houses per acre you cannot add more than £10 to £15 per house for the land. Then as to the cost of the roads and sewers, the right hon. Gentleman told us himself that it was another £52. I submit it is altogether fantastic for the Minister to give us this figure of £300.

I should like to correct that figure. The average is from £170 to £180 for the land, roads, sewers, and other charges—architects and so on.

I can only say that the revised figure of £170 which the Minister now gives us is considerably larger than in the district of which I have some knowledge. I went to see the Ministry the other day. We were discussing various figures and the figures then given us for roads, sewers, etc., were considerably less than the figure the Minister himself now gives. I am speaking in the presence of many practical men who know the price of things, and I think they will bear me out that £200 per acre for land working out at £10 to £15 per house plus the cost of the roads, sewers and so on, are about what I have stated. Be that as it may be, I do submit to the Committee that this figure of 9½ million pounds as the cost of 176,000 houses, some of which have not yet been begun, is altogether a fantastic figure. I submit that without exceeding these Estimates a halfpenny the Minister could give permission to the local authorities to erect a larger number of houses than he has done up to the present. I hope he will not yield to the temptation to save some hundreds of thousands of pounds or a million in view of the circumstances. That saving would be effected at a deadly cost to the well-being of the country as a whole. You have a most appalling state of things when you find decent artizans crowded together with two and three families in one house, with people sleeping, living and eating in one room and rearing little children, and this is a poor reward after the promises made to these people by Ministers and hon. Members opposite at the last election that they would provide houses.

I understood that the Minister of Health gave the Geddes Report their figures, and they show that 6·8 per cent. is the cost of interest and redemption of loans. Since then there has been a fall in the bank rate of 1½ per cent., which means that we are saving 1½ per cent. on the houses for which the money has been borrowed since that time. The 6·8 per cent, is based on the 60 years period, whilst the greater part of the money which has been borrowed is on short term loans. The housing bonds were taken out for five and ten years, the local loan stocks were issued at an average of 15 or 20 years, and to suggest that the whole of this money should be taken on a 60 years basis at 6·8 per cent. is simply playing with the question. On that alone there is a very big saving, because even 1½ per cent. reduction in f he cost of borrowing the money means a saving of several shillings per week in the rental.

I hope the Minister of Health will revise his figures with regard to the estimated cost of land, sewers and road making, and also with regard to the financial charges on money that has been borrowed, and then see whether, by the expenditure of this £9,500,000, he cannot provide another 100,000 houses for the immediate needs of congested areas. He suggested that the municipalities might do this for themselves. These municipalities have great responsibilities even in normal times, but owing to the Government stopping them building during the War, and the shortage caused by action of the Government, it is up to the nation and the Ministry of Health to make that shortage good now by providing with State assistance the houses which are so badly needed for the health of the people, and which private enterprise cannot possibly provide for some years to come.

10.0 P.M.

I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the case of a hospital at Sevenoaks which confines its work to the care of children suffering from hip disease. This hospital has been admirably administered, and is admitted to be a most excellent institution. It receives these poor crippled children who spend most of their time lying strapped down on boards, and they receive enormous benefit from the healthy surroundings of Sevenoaks by what is known as the sun treatment. A great many of the local people not only contribute money towards their support but they give their services. The patients whilst there have been provided, so far as their state of health would allow, with a system of education provided by volunteers. I have a doctor's certificate to the effect that the education given at this hospital is sufficient for the purpose, and quite as much as the patients are in a state to assimilate.

The matter I am going to raise has been a subject of controversy in the newspapers. There is a lady residing there who possesses a university degree and has been used to teaching, and she states that the education given at the hospital is quite efficient and sufficient. The patients at this hospital come from different districts, and more than half of them come from the county councils of London, Middlesex, Kent and Surrey. The Minister of Health, by some arrangement made with the Board of Education, has now declared that this hospital shall not receive the patients from these various county councils outside unless it provides for the 40 patients it receives from those bodies two certified teachers at a cost of £400 a year. So long as that requirement stands it means the closing of this hospital, and putting an end to all the good work that is being done.

No doubt the Committee would like to know how the Minister of Health is entitled to do that. It is done in this way. Before the grant from the local authorities whose children come from these outside county council areas can pay such fees as they do pay, namely, 24s. a week for the treatment they receive at the hospital, the hospital has to be approved by the Minister of Health to he a suitable place for them. Until it is approved in this way these county councils cannot pay for their children, and the effect of that will be that the hospital cannot take these children and it will have to close, because it cannot raise anything like £400 a year. These children come from London, Middlesex, Kent and Surrey, mainly from crowded areas. Before they came to this hospital they were receiving no education at all and they were not provided with hospital treatment. I cannot believe for a moment that the decision which has been come to is the act of the Minister of Health himself, and I believe it has been foisted upon him by some arrangement with the Minister of Education.

The result of all this will be that a great many of these poor children will be deprived of this most beneficial treatment, and will be left in their homes without any medical treatment or educational training. To my mind this is bureaucracy run mad. Hospitals take no part in education, and they are not there to provide education. If anybody agrees with me that with regard to children in this terrible state of health and stricken with this awful disease the first duty of the community is to see that they have efficient medical treatment, if they think that in addition the State should see that they have educational training, then I say that it is not for the hospital to provide that training, but it is the duty of the Board of Education or the local authorities themselves.

I ask the Minister of Health on what ground he justifies his conduct? What is handed over to his care is the health of the children—not their education. If he does consult the Minister of Education, who thinks the children should have a better education than they now get—and I am able to prove it is a good and efficient education—why does not the Minister of Education himself provide the desired education, or why does not the Minister of Health call on the local education authority to see that the children are properly educated? I am making this appeal on behalf of this hospital. It is to my mind an outrage that the Minister of Health, who is charged with the duty of looking after the health of the children, should be responsible for a plan which will inevitably close this hospital and will deprive these children of the great benefits they are now getting, and that for a mere fad. It is, I repeat, a case of bureaucracy run mad, and unless we get some concession in this matter I shall feel it my duty to move a reduction of the Vote. May I add one further word? There has been correspondence in the "Times," and a suggestion has been made that only one certificated teacher should be insisted upon instead of two. I say that that suggestion is equally impossible, because the hospital is not in a position to raise even £200 for that purpose.

As the hon. Gentleman has raised quite a special point, perhaps it would be as well for me to clear it out of the way so as leave the ground free for general discussion. I should like to put the real facts with regard to this hospital before the Committee, especially as it has been so difficult to make the hospital authorities understand the actual position. There has never been any demand for any certificated teacher to be appointed for the hospital. What was demanded was that some teacher should be engaged in order to deal with the children in the hospital who are of school age.

I have a letter from the lady in charge of this hospital in which she says she was told very curtly that two certificated teachers were required for the occupants of the 40 beds, and when she retorted that it was not her duty to find certificated teachers she was informed that she could easily get them by advertising for them. That is the lady's own statement.

There is a conflict evidently as to the facts. There is no foundation for the statement that either the Minister of Health or the Ministry of Education has ever required the appointment of two certificated teachers.

I am speaking for the Middlesex County Council, which has sent patients to this hospital, but which has been prevented from sending certain children because there is no certificated teacher attached to it.

These statements, coming from two hon. Members, of course require further investigation, but, after all, they really deal with past history. I have made it quite clear in my correspondence with the hon. Member on the matter that a demand has never been made for the appointment of certificated teachers. If one has ever been made, it has, at any rate, been withdrawn. It should be remembered that in institutions of this kind, children of 10 remain for as long as two years, and it is therefore necessary that they should be provided with such education as is possible in their condition. If the hospital takes in children which are not of school age, we are not concerned about their education but if it takes in children of school age, then surely it is not unreasonable to demand that a child who may be there detained for two years should receive some education. It is obviously not the function of the Board of Education to do this, but it is the function of the local authorities who are charged a certain amount per child, I believe the amount is 24s. per week. If that charge were increased by 3s. it would be possible out of the increase to pay the salary of a teacher and thus to meet the requirements of the local authority. That seems to be a practical business suggestion and I cannot understand what difficulty there is in adopting it. I am not in the least anxious to do anything to disturb this very excellent institution. Far from it. But on the other hand we must realise that as a child of school age may be detained there for two years, it would not be right that it should not be provided with any education whatever. I think the suggestion I have made is one that could easily be adopted, and an uncertificated teacher would suffice to meet all requirements. I should be glad to assist those responsible for the administration of the hospital in this matter, but I suggest they should be willing to slightly increase their charges in the way I have suggested.

I want briefly to reply to some of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. The cost of each child in the hospital is 29s. per week. The local authority pays 24s., so that the additional 5s. per week has to be met by voluntary contributions or by support from friends. I hope the Committee will understand that these children are, for the most part, too ill to receive education. They are being treated under the sun cure system. The hospital has been specially constructed with verandahs for that purpose, and children lie out on these verandahs. Class teaching in their case is an absolute impossibility. At present there is a rota of educated ladies in the neighbourhood who come in and give such instruction as these poor, suffering little children are able to take. It is quite true that they do stop there as long as 20 months, or even two years, but the average, I am told, is 218 days, and for the most part during that time they are utterly unable, by reason of their physical suffering, to take advantage of anything like education. An educationally interesting talk by the ladies who go there is all that they are able to take, and I venture to think it is unfortunate that the Ministry, acting probably in conjunction with the Board of Education, have prohibited the county councils from sending any child that is not of school age. I have here a list of the patients who have come in from 1917 to 1922. There are 19 patients, one of the age of four, and the others of ages ranging from five to 17. It is impossible to say, "If you do not take children of school age we are not able to deal with you at all." It is a case of exercising reasonable discretion and acting sympathetically and reasonably. If that were done the hospital would have no complaint, but would continue its beneficent work, to the great advantage of these children, and I hope that the Ministry will not insist upon a requirement which, after all, is only a matter of pedantry.

It is a pity to spoil the beautiful picture which the Minister of Health drew with reference to the boards of guardians. I certainly heard with very great pleasure of the amiable and amicable, relations which exist between the right hon. Gentleman and the boards of guardians of the country, but it does not tally with my experience. I was present at a conference of hoards of guardians last Friday in South Wales, and I should not like to tell the right hon. Gentleman the opinion that the guardians have in regard to his administration. He reminded me of the celebrated Frenchman, M. Coué, who was over here a short time ago, and who said that the crisis had passed and things were now becoming all right. It would seem that these necessitous areas have only to keep on repeating, "Things are coming all right; the crisis has passed," and then they will have no more trouble, no more poverty, and no more wretchedness. It is a pity to spoil the picture that the right hon. Gentleman has drawn with reference to these areas, but I have some figures here which do not tally with the description that he has given. These figures refer to the South Wales area, with which the right hon. Gentleman should be very familial. In Merthyr Tydvil the rates in 1913–14 were 10s. 4½d. in the £, and in 1921–22 they are 30s. 5½d.; in Abercarn they were 10s. 2d., and are now 20s. 10d.; in Abertillery they were 11s. 2d., and are now 37s. 3d.; in Ebbw Vale they were 12s. 8d., and now are 36s. 1d.; in Nantyglo Blaina they were 10s. 7d., and are now 31s.; while in the Rhondda Valley they were as low as 7s. 9d., and are now up to 26s. 6d.; in Tredegar they were 10s., and are now 30s. 5d. And so I could go on, practically over the whole area of South Wales. There is not the slightest doubt that in these areas the local authorities are almost bankrupt, and yet the right hon. Baronet has drawn such a glowing and loving picture of the amicable relations that exist between him and these local governing bodies. The condition of these bodies is due to the policy adopted by the right hon. Baronet. For the last 18 months, when we have had from one to two millions unemployed, the Minister, one would have thought would have come to the aid of these great necessitous areas, but he has taken every opportunity that has presented itself of evading his obligations. During the whole of this period these areas have been refused help from the Ministry. The unemployment problem has its origin in the War. The War arose out of a national emergency, and this unemployment problem has arisen out of this national emergency. Yet the right hon. Baronet, ever since he has been in office, has been putting the burden of unemployment upon these necessitous areas, until to-day we have practically 100 local governing areas on the verge of ruin and bankruptcy.

The right hon. Baronet very sensibly, from his own point of view, refused to refer to these areas in his very long speech, and it is my duty to give him some figures with reference to them. I take as a commencement the Bedwelty area, where there are from 7,000 to 8,000 who have been unemployed since February, 1921. This union is over £70,000 in debt. The amount of relief estimated for is £3,800 per week, but the expenditure is £6,500 per week. The right hon. Baronet congratulates himself on the way in which the guardians have assisted him, but he cannot be ignorant of the fact that there is such a revolt against his administration that these local governing bodies that he has flattered himself have such love for him are going over the top of his head to the Prime Minister because or the maladministration of his Department. In Nantyglo and Blaina there are six collieries. Four of them have been idle for the last 16 months. Three thousand of the population have been unemployed during that period, and only 1,500 have been employed. Out of a population of 16,000 81 per cent. are in receipt of outdoor relief, and this is because the right hon. Baronet has insisted upon pursuing a policy of putting this unemployment problem upon the local authorities. In these areas the rates have gone up from 100 to 200 per cent. and the rents, of course, have gone up in proportion. This affects not only the working class in these areas, but the industries in the areas. At a meeting in Bedwelty last Saturday we had the secretary of the Ebbw Vale Company present, and he stated that in 1914 the rates on a ton of steel amounted to 7d. while to-day the rates are 7s. 6d. per ton. Therefore, the policy which the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing is driving these areas into financial ruin, chaos and bankruptcy. I protest against the policy of the Government in shirking their responsibility arising out of unemployment caused by the War, and shelving the responsibility upon bankrupt areas where they are unable to face their difficulties.

In the Nantyglo and Blaina area the following sums were outstanding when the Finance Committee met on 22nd May, 1922, and since that date the amounts have steadily increased—general district rate, £6,446; water rate, £1,158; house rents, £1,934. The rateable value of the area has decreased from £53,000 in 1913 to £36,000 in 1922. A sum of £5,000 is owing to the bank, which refuses to loan any more money, and the Council have had to give notice to all their workmen, because they are unable to meet the weekly wage bill of about £150. In Abertillery the amount outstanding on the poor rate alone is £42,000, on the supplementary rate levied last September, £4,000, and on the district rate, £17,000. The total sum outstanding was £134,612, and there have been 1,500 unemployed there since 1921.

When I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the condition of the Bedwelty area, he said that the scale of relief in that area was extravagant. I have here a copy of the scale of relief, and I will leave it to the Committee to judge whether or not the scale is extravagant. An unemployed man is paid 10s. per week. His wife receives 10s. per week, and 8s. 6d. is paid in respect of the first child, 6s. 6d. for the second child, and for the third or more children, 6s. When we consider that the cost of living is 80 per cent. higher than in 1914, it is nothing less than an insult to these people to say that this is an excessive amount of relief. Owing to the policy that is being pursued between the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour in simply paying unemployment benefit for five weeks and then stopping it for five weeks, people are being driven to the parish to ask for parish relief. To say that 8s. 6d. a week is an excessive amount for a child to live upon, even up to the age of 14 or 15, is a monstrous statement for the Minister of Health to make. He ought not to bring accusations of this character against a body like the Bedwelty Board of Guardians, when there is no shadow of foundation for the statement. This condition of things is the result of the policy which has been pursued persistently by the Government.

The whole of the country is filled with indignation against the Ministry of Health. I believe that we shall have a deputation here in London on the 20th of this month to see the Prime Minister, of the largest and most representative character that has even been seen in this city. The right hon. Gentleman has told the Committee that everything is going on well with the local governing bodies, and he has gone so far as to thank them for the support which they have given him. He ought to make himself acquainted with the condition of the country before making such a statement. It is not pleasant for me to say the things which I am saying about his Department. I would much rather praise it. But it is impossible to praise a Minister who has such a policy as he has. I hope that the Committee will force the right hon. Gentleman to recognise that this unemployment is a national obligation, and not a local burden. The amount of misery in these areas is indescribable, and the position taken up by the Ministry is indefensible. What, will be said if the House of Commons levied a taxation 50 or 80 per cent. higher in poverty-stricken areas than in wealthy areas? That is what is done in reference to local taxation in this country. Who can take pride in statesmanship like this which bankrupts 50, 60 or 100 local governing bodies, which insists on them raising loans when their credit is long since exhausted, and which refuses to take upon itself the obligation that it ought to face, and which are the result of the national policy that has arisen out of the War?

I should not have intervened in the Debate but for the statements made by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) on the housing question. The statements are so absurd that any practical man must wonder where he gets his information from. He has worked out that houses built by private enterprise bring in 17s. 6d. per week. Suppose they do, then under municipal and Government enterprise they are as high as £2 2s. per week.

That may be. Then again he stated that before the War, many houses were let at from 3s. 6d. to 5s. 6d., but these were not economic rents. Houses all over the country were being let at much under economic rents. Prior to the War nearly all agricultural houses were let at from 1s. to 2s. a week. Is not that giving something away? The fact is that when you come to the question of giving something away, the Government have been doing a lot in that line with regard to houses. Whose fault is it that more houses have not been built? The working-man's fault. What is he doing to-day? He is working for less money than he earned in 1918 and 1919, and he is producing double the work. If he had only put his shoulder to the wheel in 1918 and 1919 he could have maintained his high wages, houses would not have cost nearly as much, and there would have been more houses to go round. I cannot understand the British workingman. I always had the idea that he liked high wages. But when he gets them he does not put production into his work. It does not hurt any working-man to do a fair and reasonable day's work. The Minister has stated that we were coming near the time when houses could be produced economically. I do not agree with him. When I see that he is to subsidise houses this year to the extent of £12,427,000 I hold that it is utterly impossible for economic conditions to rule. I see that there is an increase of over £4,000,000 in the cost of house grants towards the deficiencies on housing schemes for the current year. So it will go on.

We are now approaching the time for repairing the extraordinary houses that have been built. We have adopted every wild cat scheme for building houses, and in the case of many of them the expense of upkeep will be a great deal more than the rent received. That will be the burden. The country is saddled with an enormous expense which will increase. What did we see when the Minister of Health decided that he would not produce the large number of houses originally proposed? Prices began to fall directly, because he had cornered the market for material and for labour. The profiteers got to work, not only the builders and the material merchants, but the British working man. The working man was the biggest profiteer of the lot, for when he was paid the money he did not deliver the goods. He wanted medical examination, for there was certainly something wrong with his head. When he got a big wage he should have held on to it, for he could have maintained his high wages if he had only worked hard and put his best leg forward. I would urge the Minister to adopt the suggestion of the Geddes Committee and get rid of these houses, even if he gives them away. That would be a saving to the nation. The country is saddled with this expenditure for years and years, and it is extremely important to get rid of the houses. The Geddes Committee was wise in suggesting that they he sold for less than their cost.

We have heard to-day that houses are now being built for about £300 each, whereas many houses of the same class, some of them in the London area, cost something like £1,700. Probably there has to be added to the figures given to us, something for roads and sewers. What the country has to consider, is the serious question of what is going to be done with these houses. When the Minister of Health was appointed to that office, I suggested to him he should get rid of these houses, even if he let them go at half or one-third of their cost. Now I have come to the conclusion that he would be in pocket if he gave them away. Anybody who has practical knowledge can see what is going to happen in the near future with the huge amounts which will become necessary for repairs. Going through the country, I see repairs already being executed on houses built under these fantastic schemes. Had the houses been built of good, plain, solid brick, they would have lasted many years, but these houses have been put up with all kinds of material, and many of them will last but a few years. If, in 20 years' time, it is not necessary to re-build a large number of them, I know nothing about building.

Yes, they will become slum property; they will fall to pieces. That is why I am pressing on the Minister to get rid of them at all costs. The increase this year is not all for houses. It is also for what the local authorities are spending. You have promised to give them everything with the exception of a penny rate, and at a certain period you will have to stereo-type that. When that portion of the Act comes to he put into force, it will be a very serious matter for the Treasury. I hope before that time we shall have got rid of these houses and arrived at some practical scheme of dividing them out among the people and of not being responsible for their upkeep.

I wish to ask the Minister, or whoever replies on his behalf, a question with regard to the water supply of the country. Some years ago I urged upon the then President of the Local Government Board the necessity of making a general survey of the water supply of the country, so that when authorities come to Parliament for powers, they would be confronted, as it were, with very general and accurate information in the hands of the Government as to the facilities available not only as to the particular Measure then proposed, but as to the needs of the country as a whole. The necessity for some such survey has been accentuated by the drought of last year and the shortage of water this year. I should like to know, in the first place, if that survey has been undertaken, and if, as I hope, it has been undertaken, what progress has been made? In the second place, I am sure the Committee and the country will be glad to know what steps the Ministry of Health is taking with regard to the shortage of water; whether they are assisting local authorities, and whether, with the special knowledge which they must have, they can state if there is any ground for real apprehension as to shortage of water in the immediate future.

The speech of the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Lorden) convinces us that our presence in this House has done some good, because we have converted him to the principle of sharing out, and in so far as his proposition of sharing houses out amongst the people is concerned, we will enthusiastically support him whenever he brings forward such a proposal. I want to associate myself with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. G. Barker) in connection with the position in which a large number of the necessitous areas find themselves. It is all very well for the Minister of Health to throw bouquets to members of local authorities, but I wish he had been living in the same districts that we have been living in during this period of unexampled unemployment. I wish he had had men coming round to his door clay after day and night after night telling the most terrible stories of their poverty and their misery and asking what he could do to assist them in their trouble. We have done our best in the East End of London, but we have not got many bouquets for it, although to-night it is very nice to hear from the Minister that things are very nice in the country, but after all in what position do we find ourselves in our own districts? Our rates have nearly doubled in the period, and this is a most extraordinary thing. One local authority has been able to economise and reduce the rates, but the other local authority that has this problem of unemployment to face has been compelled to put the rates up by leaps and bounds, so that what we have saved on the swings we have lost on the roundabouts, and I suggest that you have no right to place upon authorities of our character and industries such as ours the terrible responsibilities which come as a consequence of circumstances over which they have no control.

We in West Ham are not responsible for the fact that we have a huge riverside population. We are not responsible for the fact that out of eight parishes comprising our area, seven of them are purely working-class, and every man and woman in the place have to earn their breakfast before they can eat it, and most of them see more dinner-times than dinners. These people are called upon to bear a burden out of all proportion to their relative situation, whilst other parts of the country more favourably placed are able to escape such responsibilities. Now we have reached this position, that our rates have reached their possible ultimate limit, and we are £600,000 in debt. When we go to the right hon. Gentleman he is very sympathetic. I know his heart bleeds, but it, does not bleed much. We are told we can borrow money. Fancy a bankrupt going to borrow money. There have been gentlemen who have gone to gaol for trying to raise money when they had nothing to raise it with.

We are in this position now, and we are not the only authority. There used to be a time when we and Poplar were the only places in this position, but now there are over 100 local authorities face to face with the possibility of bankruptcy—great cities that have been well administered in the past, but they have had to face the music. Nobody will say that the city of Newcastle-on-Tyne is administered by wasters or wastrels or Bolshevists. It is administered by some of the greatest business men in the country, and to-day they are face to face with exactly the same position as we are in in the so-called wastrel districts of the East End of London, and yet all we get from the right hon. Gentleman is "Live horse, and you will get grass. It will be better after Christmas."

We are not living on hopes, but we are not prepared to die in despair. We are face to face with a position which the Government will be compelled to face eventually, and whilst they are conferring at Genoa or anywhere else they may go to, they ought to get down to brass tacks in this country. If we are compelled to stop giving relief, as we shall be sooner or later, to the people who want it, you will have a different kind of conference to face from any you have had up till now, and different issues will be raised. The unemployed of to-day are not the unemployed of 20 years ago, with whom I used to March through London, and upon whom everybody used to look as people who would not work.

To-day the unemployed contain in their ranks some of the finest mechanics and workmen this country has ever produced. There are men in my own constituency who never knew what it was to be unemployed in their lives before who have been out of work for two years now. They cannot get even the hope of a job. They are outside every factory and every engineering shop and every dock. Thousands of the best workers in the East End are being turned back every morning without any possible hope. Yet we are told we have to shoulder this responsibility because we live in a poor district. The time has arrived when we may tell the Minister of Health that, although we may share our houses and other things, we have to get down to the actual problem of how to re-organise the life of this nation so that the men who can produce the wealth shall have an opportunity of doing so. We have reached a stage when we have produced too much. We were able during the War to provide for everything. Think of all the materials required to defeat the enemy. We have a bigger enemy now to fight, the enemy of misery and poverty among our people. The same organising genius which enabled our powers in the course of a few years to conquer the greatest military nation the world has ever produced should now be set to work to give our people the same opportunity to obtain work.

We are not here to apologise or to ask for favours. We want the best organisation of the people. I do not ask the Government to give something for nothing. If they cannot deal with this problem, what are we paying them for? There are 19 of them drawing £5,000 a year each, when there are other men more useful than they are starving for want of work. We are not asking for doles, but we are not going on for ever starving. They tell us that because they give 15s. a week to keep the men alive they are generous, when it costs 25s. a week for a single man to get a lodging. They tell us it is too much to give £3 a week to a man with six children, when he has to pay 17s. weekly for his rent. Yet the Government are putting all this burden on us. They think they are generous, but the first chance the people have got at an election, they will find that some of those who talk so glibly in this House will not be so ready to face the people whom they profess to represent. In 1918 you said you were going to do something for the people, and in 1922 the people will remember it when they get an opportunity of recording their opinion.

It is a most unprecedented course for the Government to put down the Ministry of Health Vote as the second Order of the Day. It is one of the most important Votes which we have to consider. It amounts to over £22,000,000. The first Order of the Day, the Cabinet Secretariat Vote, ran on until 8.30 o'clock. The Minister of Health then made a most important statement, not in the least too long, but his speech lasted about an hour and a quarter. Do the Government really expect to get this Ministry of Health Vote to-night?

I am glad to know that, because, if they did expect it, they would have to move the Closure to get it. I want to raise a point in support of my hon. Friend's Amendment to reduce the Vote by £100. I wish he had made it rather more than that. I want to ask a question about the way in which the accounts of the Ministry are presented to Parliament, printed and published. I have here the accounts of the National Health Insurance Department, which are a document of 72 pages. They were published about six weeks ago, and when published they were practically two years out of date. They are the accounts for the year ending 31st December, 1919. They are, there- fore, over two years out of date, and practically useless from the point of view of public information. A day or two ago I saw a copy of the "National Insurance Gazette," the editor of which made these remarks about the accounts which had been sent to him:

"Quite recently we received the National Health Insurance Fund accounts for the year ending 31st December, 1919. We do not allege delay by the authorities, for we know quite well that the Department is most efficient, but really we cannot give space to review complicated accounts over two years old. So far as we are concerned, these accounts are waste of money."
I believe that the editor, in writing that, is absolutely correct. I cannot imagine what use these accounts can be to the public, two years old as they are; and I would like to point out to my right hon. Friend that it is not in the least necessary to publish them. He is not obliged to do it by Act of Parliament. Section 54 of the National Health Insurance Act, 1911, says:
"The accounts of the National Health Insurance Fund shall be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General in such manner as the Treasury may direct."
All that is necessary is that these accounts should form part of the general accounts of the Ministry of Health, that a short summary should be made, and that it should be available for Members if they want it. The present document is not in the least necessary, and it is an absolute waste of money. What has this very large document of 75 pages cost the taxpaper? These tabular statements are extremely expensive. I understand that they are about the most costly process in the whole printing trade. I am not at liberty to give away any private information, but perhaps my right hon. Friend will inquire from his own officials under the Gallery what they think about this publication, and I guarantee, if he takes the advice of the officials in his own Department, they will agree with what I am saying, that these statements are absolutely unnecessary so far as public information is concerned. They are not only unnecessary, but they are not in accordance with the Act. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend, when he comes to reply, will deal with that point, and try, so far as possible, to make this small economy. My hon. Friend has proposed to reduce the Vote by £100. I think that this unnecessary document must have cost at least £100. Therefore, if my hon. Friend goes to a Division, I shall be perfectly justified in going into the Lobby in supporting him.

I desire to join with those in supporting the reduction of the Vote—

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders mere read, and postponed.

Adjournment

Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Colonel Leslie Wilson.]

Adjourned accordingly at Three Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.