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Government Departments

Volume 236: debated on Monday 10 March 1930

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Overseas Trade Department

42.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if he will state the nature of the reorganisation at the headquarters of his Department and the number of new headquarter appointments, with the approximate additional cost, consequent upon the creation of eight new posts in the commercial, diplomatic and trade commissioner services?

The chief features in the reorganisation at the headquarters of the Department of Overseas Trade are:

(1) The creation of a special section to deal with trade investigations at home and overseas;

(2) the appointment of a Deputy Comptroller-General, together with an additional director, making four directors instead of three, and proportionate increases in each other grade in the Department.

The approximate increased cost of strengthening the headquarters staff is estimated at £15,000 for the first year.

Is the hon. Gentleman making any special efforts to open up this marvellous Russian trade that he used to talk about?

Will a Supplementary Estimate be necessary this year, or will the first charge fall on the next financial year?

44.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department what are the duties of the special commissioner; and whether the appointment has yet been made?

Mr. Beale, at one time His Majesty's trade commissioner in Canada, and later in New Zealand—at present general manager of the Travel Association of Great Britain and Ireland—has been appointed special commissioner for trade investigations overseas, and his appointment will take effect from the beginning of April. Mr. Beale will, in collaboration with overseas officers, undertake special investigations in markets overseas where British trade has declined, or where investigations may lead to increased export trade.

Ordnance Survey Department

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that a form of military conscription exists in the Ordnance Survey Department under which lads are only allowed to join the Department by undertaking to enter the Army on reaching the age of 18; and whether he will consider taking steps to abolish this system in a Government Department maintained by civil vote?

I can assure my hon. Friend that no form whatever of military conscription exists on the Ordnance Survey. The strength of the Royal Engineer Survey Companies of the Ordnance Survey Department is at present much below the authorised establishment, and arrangements are, therefore, made to engage only those boys who intend to enlist in the Royal Engineers on reaching the prescribed age of 18.

The military strength has been below the establishment for three years, and there has been no special order in the matter.

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture under what circumstances authority was given to increase the ultimate strength of the military personnel employed in the Ordnance Survey Department to that of a battalion; and whether he is aware that the effect of such an increase will result in the further depletion of the civilian staff beyond the numbers contemplated as a consequence of the recommendation of the Committee on National Expenditure?

The three Survey Companies have recently been reorganised into a Survey Battalion, but no alteration of establishment was involved by this change. The establishment of the companies was raised six years ago, however, on military grounds. The present strength is still much below that authorised. No civilians have been or will be discharged either on account of the increase made six years ago or on account of the reorganisation. The Committee on National Expenditure did not recommend any definite proportion of civilian staff on the Ordnance Survey.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as vacancies arise in this Department, they are filled by increasing the military strength?

The hon. Member is misinformed. All that has happened is that the military proportion is much below its strength, and it is being recruited.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why the work of the Ordnance Survey, which is cartographical and essentially civilian, should be carried on by the military?

The point is that the Royal Engineers have survey companies, and these companies are below their strength.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the preponderating part of the work of the Department is of a commercial character?

I am well aware of that fact. The fact is that in these particular survey companies there are 299 men on the strength, while the authorised number is 450.

Navy Estimates

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether it is proposed to introduce this year's Navy Estimates before the conclusion of the present Naval Conference; and whether he will consider the desirability of introducing a Vote on Account and presenting the final Estimates after the Conference?

I have been asked to reply. As my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, the Navy Estimates for the ensuing year have now been presented to the House. The alternative course which he suggests was strongly deprecated by Mr. Speaker when it was last adopted in 1922, and it has not been considered that present circumstances are such that the Administration need seek the consent of the House to such an exceptional procedure.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would be very difficult to discuss these Estimates and that they are the biggest Estimates of any Department of the Government? It will be very difficult to discuss them adequately.

I really do not see where the difficulty comes in. My hon. and gallant Friend suggests that the discussion upon them might be postponed until after the end of the Conference which cannot now be very long. We all hope for a happy outcome of this Conference, and, if the results should justify a further reduction in the Estimates, then there is nothing to prevent the matter from being considered.

Is it a fact that a debate on the subject at the present time would either be mainly unreal or extremely embarrassing?

I do not see that it is either unreal or embarrassing. The Estimates are before the House, and an opportunity will be presented to the House to discuss them.