Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,779,937, 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 Stationery, Printing, Paper, Binding, and Printed Books for the Public Service; for the Salaries and Expenses of the Stationery Office; and for sundry Miscellaneous Services, including Reports of Parliamentary Debates."—[NOTE: £900,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
This Vote has not received any consideration in Committee of Supply for some time, and as it is, in itself, an index of Government and Departmental activities is deemed advisable to have an examination of the Estimates now before the Committee. The Vote this year is for £2,679,000, and the gross total amounts to no less than £3,454,937. The expenditure on this Department in 1913 was £1,059,000. Therefore there is an increase of £2,400,000. That, it is true, is a reduction on last year's Estimate. But if you go back to the year before that, I think that in round figures the sum for stationery and printing was about £5,000,000. That was when all the Departments were in their happiest and most flourishing days. A Select Committee was appointed to examine into Publications and Debates Reports, and that Committee issued a Report which was ordered to be printed, in August, 1921. The unfortunate part of these reports is that very often they relate to the expenditure of a year previous, and, though they contain valuable information for the preceding year, they do not give any real guide to current expenditure. But there are one or two points in connection with that Report which are apposite to the present Estimate.
If the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will look at paragraph 3 he will notice that the Committee, in their Report for 1920, suggest this very common-sense reform, that in every Department a small Departmental Committee should be set up which would meet periodically to revise the publications, and to review expenditure of public money on them, and that there should be a much closer relation between the Stationery Office and the Department for which the Stationery Office works. That recommendation was followed by two or three of the Departments, but in the case of others it was not adopted. When the Minister replies will he tell the Committee whether that sensible recommendation is now adopted by all the Departments, and if not what Departments have not adopted them, and what reasons there are for not following out what has been done by other Departments? Then there was another recommendation made, that where a Department received stationery from the 1164 office it should be informed at once of the-cost so that it should get to know the cost at a date not later than 14 days after its delivery. That sounds a very sensible-suggestion, but I would make another suggestion, that when the Departments send their order they should ask for an estimate of the cost just as an ordinary business man does. It seems to me that, before you close an order, you ought to know what the cost is going to be, instead of finding out 14 days after you have had the supply of stationery. This is rather typical of the way in which Government Departments compare with private business concerns. If this were forced upon the Departments, so that they should feel what their responsibility is with regard to expenditure, not only in this, but in many other matters, I am certain that tens of thousands of public money would be saved to the public Exchequer in any year under any Government. I wanted to know whether that recommendation has been carried out by the Departments as a whole. Then there was a recommendation No. 6 relating to Government advertisements, that Members of the House of Commons should be added to the Advisory Committee on the subject. I would like some answer to be made on those points.
Passing to the Vote as a whole, it seems an enormous sum, four years after the War, that we should be spending on our stationery and printing two and a half times as much as we spent before the War. For perhaps 18 months after the War there was a very large number of War Departments. But some of them have been closed down, and others are almost in a moribund condition with regard to their activities, or at least let us hope they are. What reason can there be for this very large expenditure so much in advance of the year before the War, when Governmental activity is, I should hope, very much on the decline, and when, as is the case this year, the cost of material and wages and all the ordinary important factors which go to make up a total price are very much less than they were 14 months ago? All those facts have been brought into consideration in the Estimate now presented to the Committee.
In Class II, Vote 31, page 216, we find particulars of the cost of stationery for the various Departments. I am not sug- 1165 gesting that the Under-Secretary can answer for these Departments, and therefore I will not criticise that part of it. I notice that the Home Office in 1919–20 spent on stationery and printing £10,041, but in the completed year 1920–21 the expenditure was £14,000. The Board of Trade spent £54,000, a reduction of about £4,000 on the previous year. The Department of Overseas Trade, which has been very much criticised, spent no less than £10,366 in 1920–21 on its printing, or within £4,000 of the total of the Home Office. The Minister in charge of this Vote happens also to be Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. It seems alarming that the Home Office, with its extraordinary range of activities, should have spent only £4,000 more than the Department of Overseas Trade for the whole of its stationery and printing. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Transport is present. I notice that in 1920–21 the Ministry of Transport spent on stationery and printing £15,282.
These Estimates, after all, are one of the symptoms of the activity of Government Departments in showering forms of various kinds upon the long-suffering public, and I am sure that where you find a shrinkage of the Votes in a Department, it is a symptom of less interference with the subject than we have had for some time. That is a very satisfactory state of things for the average citizen of this country. I would be glad if my hon. Friend would reply to these questions and satisfy me and other Members as to the reasonableness of the Estimate laid before us. There is one item which shows a large increase during last year. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) is to deal with it. It is for printing, paper, binding, etc., for the Houses of Parliament. The Vote for last year was £100,000; this year it has gone up to £105,000. That seems to me to be a large sum, and an increase of £5,000 during a time of great financial stringency wants a great deal of justification.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir ROWLAND BLADES
In the temporary absence of the hon. Member for South Islington (Sir C. Higham), I am Chairman of the Debates Committee. I would like warmly to support the last speaker in reference to the Report of the Select 1166 Committee of 1921. I do not propose to add to his remarks. On one point I would like to have an assurance from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. The State Printing Works at Harrow are being maintained on trial for three years from June, 1920, to June, 1923. Is it not possible, some time before the latter date, to have a thorough inquiry, preferably by a Departmental Committee, to ascertain whether it is necessary to continue those works?
I had put down an Amendment for the reduction of these Votes under the heading F (Parliamentary Debates and Records). I wish now to associate myself with the criticism made by the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean). I hope that later there may be some justification for figures which outside this House would be regarded as colossal. On page 210, for instance, over and above the considerable amounts there shown as paid, there are very heavy sums for bonuses, although these are gathered up at the foot of the column. A bonus of nearly £100,000 is being paid. The criticism I have to make is not merely that, generally speaking, there is too heavy an expenditure upon this Vote, but that where a small economy has been effected the economy has been made in the wrong place. I draw attention to the Vote under the heading F on page 213, where, in relation to Parliamentary Debates and Records, there is an anticipated expenditure of £33,500, against £38,500 in the previous year. If Members will turn to page 214 they will see that it is estimated that this year there will be received from the sale of Parliamentary Debates £5,000, against £2,750 in the last year. That, of course, is an addition of £2,250 to the Appropriations-in-Aid. I ask the Committee to consider whether that small economy is worth the making.
The question has been raised in this House on one or two occasions, whether or not the raising of the price of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Parliamentary Debates is a wise economy. Questions were put on the subject before I became a. Member of the House, and in my recollection they have been put since I became a Member. From the answers given I have learned that the average number of copies of the OFFICIAL REPORT circulated last year was 3,200 daily. 1167 Taking the whole year through, the average was 3,200 a day. The figures for the present year show a substantial reduction. In answer to a question which I put a few weeks ago, it was stated that 1,700 REPORTS were gratuitously circulated and 800 were sold. That is a total of 2,500 daily as against 3,200 every day last year. I assume that reduction may be explained by the fact that the price has been raised from 3d. to 1s. I was informed in answer to a question which I put, that the price had been raised on 4th December, 1921. I asked whether the raising of the price had been sanctioned by the House, and the answer was, that it had been done without any reference to this House, but I was assured by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that an opportunity would come for raising this matter when the Stationery Vote came up for consideration.
I suggest this is something more than a question of the difference between paying 3d. and paying 1s. for the OFFICIAL REPORT; that it touches the history of the House and goes back to grave constitutional questions. The reporting of the proceedings of this House, so that the public outside might be aware of all that is taking place within its walls, is a very old matter, and one which has occupied the attention of the House for generations. As far back as 1641 a Member of the House was sent to the Tower, because he dared to publish reports of the proceedings of the House, and the book which contained his publication of the proceedings was ordered by the House to be burned by the common hangman. Later on, in the year 1771, there were very fierce discussions in the country, and there were tumults, even within the House, before the principle was secured that all that happened within these walls should be reported to the public outside. I believe that on one occasion in one sitting no fewer that 23 Divisions were taken, when the printers were brought before the House because they had dared to defy what were called the House's privileges at the time. It was Edmund Burke who, after the 23 Divisions were taken, said thatPosterity would bless the pertinacious-ness of that night.The principle was established in later years, and I was interested to look up a report on the matter earlier than that to 1168 which the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) has referred. He referred to a Select Committee which reported on the matter a year or two ago, but I have been looking up a report on the question which was made to the House in the year 1835. There was then appointed a Select Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Joseph Hume, the famous economist of that time. One of its Members was Sir James Graham and another was Mr. Gladstone. The Report of that Committee marked a new step in the history of Parliamentary publications, because, after very careful and exhaustive inquiry, the Committee came to the conclusion that it was a right thing to make readily available to the public outside, in the cheapest possible form, all reports of Proceedings within Parliament and all Parliamentary Papers. It was considered that the economic price should not be the deciding factor, but that the determining consideration should be the ease with which the public outside could make themselves acquainted with all that happened within. One of the Clauses in that Report read in this way:That the Reports and the Parliamentary papers printed for the use of the House should be rendered accessible to the public by purchase at the lowest possible price for which they can be furnished. That a sufficient number of copies should be furnished for that purpose.There was another Resolution which said that it was the duty of the Legislature to offer the greatest possible facility to the distribution of Acts of Parliament, and the Committee went on to say that the economic price should not be the determining factor. It seems to me that whoever decided that the price of the OFFICIAL REPORT should be raised from 3d. to 1s. ignored all those considerations. Probably he did not know he was interfering with grave constitutional issues. Probably he had no record of the decisions of this Committee in 1835, but surely, in these days, it is more and more necessary we should give the fullest opportunity fur everyone outside who is concerned to see what is happening here. The newspapers are giving less and less attention to this House, and some newspapers have to be searched very carefully to find if the House has been sitting at all on the previous day.
The "Pink 'Un" is perhaps about the average; it may be that the "Pink 'Un" does make some references to the Debates in this House, but even if one turns to the more expensive newspapers, I think it will be agreed that their reports are so much shortened, that it is impossible for one to properly follow all that has happened in the House unless he gets the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate. A distinguished Member of the House, Mr. Leonard Courtenay, used to argue that the importance of this House was not so much as a Legislative Chamber, but as a deliberative and consultative chamber; that this should be a House in which all great public questions come up for full discussion. If we regard the House in that way, then more importance should be attached to the distribution of the OFFICIAL REPORT. I have had complaints made to me, and perhaps my experience is not peculiar, by those who, up to December of last year, availed themselves of the cheapness of the REPORT. Only a few days ago a gentleman spoke to me about the matter, and said he had had the REPORT sent to him every day, but found the additional expense too heavy for his slender purse.
I should like to see, if possible, every club and every public institution, and every library, have the OFFICIAL REPORT available for all who cared to consult its columns. I have been spoken to on the matter by trade unions in the part of the country from which I come formerly they got these Reports, but some of the smaller branches cannot now afford them. Is the economy worth making? They propose to save £l,250, but I submit in saving that, they are to some extent cutting off a supply which we ought to maintain. We want to quicken interest in the proceedings of this House and not to damp it. The fullest opportunity should be given to those whom we are here to serve, of seeing all that is done, of reading all the Debates and of acquainting themselves with the Votes cast by their representatives. While I associate myself with the general criticism of the increasing expenditure, running to tens of thousands of pounds, I deplore this small economy of £1,250 and, as this is the first opportunity we have had of considering the matter, I hope the Committee will express its opinion upon the question, so 1170 that we may know whether this increase in the price of the OFFICIAL REPORT is the desire of hon. Members or not.
§ Mr. HAYWARD
There is one question I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary. The increase in the price of the OFFICIAL REPORT and of all Government publications is very great, and it is one which has created a sense of grievance among a great many people who, for business and other purposes, purchase these publications. I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman will tell us that the Government are charging the public with the increased cost of these publications. If that is to be the reply, I ask the hon. Gentleman if he will define exactly what is included in the increased cost? In me first instance, all these publications have to be prepared for official and for Parliamentary use, all the type has to be put up, and if the public is charged with the extra cost of setting up the type, which has to be paid for in any event, then, I suggest that that is an unfair charge to place upon those who purchase outside copies. All the preliminary costs have to be borne in any event, and I suggest that if the public is going to be asked to pay any extra cost, the only extra cost with which it should be charged is that of drawing off the copies and not that of the original preparation of the copies. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote if he will tell us whether the public is being charged any of the extra cost of the original setting up of the type and the original preparation of the publication.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
I should like to support that part of the criticism that has come from this side of the Committee, especially from my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot). It is a surprising thing that when we should require, as we certainly do require, an educated democracy, when we want the people of the country to follow the Debates in this House, and particularly the detailed discussions of certain Measures, important and otherwise, that take place within its walla, we should put what is now practically a prohibitive tax upon the publication of the OFFICIAL REPORT of this House. I belong to a trade union, which the hon. Gentleman himself will find, if he looks through the records, regularly purchased this OFFICIAL REPORT when it was only 3d. per copy. They 1171 naturally, at the present time, wishing to make all the economies possible in the administration of their work, had to consider whether or not they would continue taking in this Report, and they decided to discontinue its purchase. I think this is stupid economy. I believe it would be to the advantage of the community generally and of the business of this House if every free library in the country were supplied with a free copy of this publication. There may even be trade unions, and it would even do good to some of the commercial classes, who are equally ignorant of ordinary political affairs, if they had upon their tables and in their offices every morning the correct Report of the discussions that take place in this Chamber from day to day. It cannot be good economy to stifle the opportunity of the public to become acquainted with the details of the different Measures and discussions in this great Assembly.
The newspapers, as has been suggested, do make some kind of a report, some of them very meagre, nearly all of them one-sided. It depends upon the point of view that they take. It does not matter whether it is the "Daily Herald," or the "Times," or the "Daily News"—the whole of them just publish scanty reports, and even where they make more voluminous reports there is still the same partiality in the excerpts that they take from the discussions and speeches of the Members of this House. They never give opinions that they think might injure the particular view which they take of a political question, and for that reason I think it is false economy to try by prohibitive charges to prevent the public from becoming acquainted with the actual statements that are made in this House. I am afraid there is another reason than economy for this policy that is being pursued at the moment. Naturally, an ordinary Member who has not to take on responsibilities and who is in a more irresponsible position is delighted to get his speeches reported in his local Press and for his people to know as much about what he has done as is possible. In fact, some Members, even in spite of the cost of the OFFICIAL REPORT, now take good care that their local Press is provided with it every morning that their name happens to be mentioned, and you will find that the ordinary private Member 1172 is naturally anxious to get his views and those of his colleagues stated as extensively as possible, but I am afraid that the moment you get on to the Benches opposite and there is the possibility of your constituents knowing exactly the view and the side you take in public discussions in this House, the moment you hold, as it were, a responsible position and have to hunt in packs instead of on your own, the wish is father to the thought to keep from those whom you represent, as far as you possibly can, the views and the causes and the principles that you happen to be supporting at the moment. I am afraid that this attempt on the part of the Government to prevent the public, especially the poorer section of the public, becoming acquainted with the discussions and the Debates in this House from an impartial point of view is not altogether on economic grounds, but is possibly on grounds of personal and governmental advantage.
I am very pleased that the hon. Member for Bodmin has brought this question forward. I think it would be a great mistake on the part of this House, few Members as there are present during this discussion this evening, if we allowed the Government, just because they have had the Committee presided over by the right hon. Sir Eric Geddes, dealing with economy, practically to prohibit the public from getting a cheap Report of the Debates of this House. I think it would be a grave mistake if there was not somebody at least to put forward the other view. I am certain that, if this matter could be put to the public, not merely to Members of this House, but to the whole of the trade unions of the country and to all the other local and important societies, even party organisations—there are a hundred and one institutions that one could think of—they would agree that it would be good policy, for the purpose of politically educating the populace that has got eventually to decide the Government of the country, not to curtail the expenditure by a few hundred or thousand pounds, as is suggested, by limiting the opportunity of gathering and gaining this information, and it would be a good investment, even, to extend the possibilities of the general public becoming acquainted in detail, to a greater extent than they can 1173 now, with the affairs of the country as they are discussed and dealt with in this House.
This is not a party question. I would not like it to go to a, Division, because I have no wish to vote against the Government on this particular item. This is not a party question, and I am sure the hon. Member for Bodmin, who raised it, did not do it from that standpoint. If one could obtain the opinion of the House generally, hon. Members would be found to agree with the argument he has put forward, that it is our business, apart altogether from the question of expense, to make the Debates of this House as widely known as possible amongst those who eventually will have to decide the general policy of the country. For that reason I ask the representative of the Government who will reply, to understand that, while only one or two hon. Members may venture this opinion to-night, it is certain they are representing an overwhelming proportion of the active political partisans and citizens of the country when they demand that no mere question of the economy of a few hundred pounds should be allowed to put greater obstacles than hitherto in the way of the people becoming informed on public questions.
§ Mr. WISE
I wish to ask a question with regard to the raw material for the Stationery Office. That raw material is paper. The only reference I see to paper is or Page 213—Paper for printing and for official correspondence; paper to be bound into account books.The cost for 1922–23 is £772,000, compared with £1,400,000 in 1921–22. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary for the Home Department where the paper is purchased. There are many countries abroad where you can purchase paper, and it make a vast difference to the Estimates where this paper is bought.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
The Committee has been very friendly in its criticisms of this Vote, and I shall endeavour to reply to the questions which were put to me, first of all, by the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean). He very fairly asked whether certain of the recommendations of the Select Committee which reported in August, 1921, have been carried out. The recommendation contained in 1174 paragraph 3, to the effect that every Department should set up a small Departmental Committee which would periodically revise publications and review expenditure upon stationery, and that there should be an officer of liaison between the Stationery Office and the Departments, has been carried out. Hon. Members will see that the effect has been to reduce in almost every case the amount of expenditure on stationery in the various Departments. Attention was drawn in particular, also by my right hon. Friend, to the large expenditure by the Overseas; Trade Department. A very few moments consideration will convince hon. Members that that Department, of all places, engaged as it is in endeavouring to push British trade, must necessarily require a great deal of printed matter. It is sent abroad with the object of pushing British trade. That is the explanation of the relatively large amount of money spent by that Department in stationery.
With regard to the Board of Trade, my right hon. Friend compared the cost of 1919–1920 with that for 1920–1921. During those years there was a considerable increase both in wages and in the cost of paper, but the Estimates this year are down. My right hon. Friend referred to the accounts for those two years, and he noticed the increase, which is attributable to the cause I have stated. The hon. Member for Epsom. (Sir E. Blades) asked about the inquiry which is to be held after three years' experiment of Government printing. It is perfectly true that we have undertaken that such an inquiry should be held, but I suggest that it would be premature to hold it until we have had what we asked for, namely, the experience of three years. Until that period has elapsed it would be unwise and would not be a fair test of the experiment to hold the inquiry. As to the nature of the inquiry, about which the hon. Member also asked, the Treasury are at this moment considering that question, but they have not yet come to a decision. The pledge to hold an inquiry, however, is absolute, and there is no question that it will be held. I suggest to him that an inquiry to consider the result of a three years' experiment cannot fairly be held until you have three years of that experiment to go on. 1175 For that reason it would be wise to allow such a period to elapse before holding the inquiry.
The major part of the criticism was directed against the increased price of our OFFICIAL REPORT. I must say I sympathise with hon. Members who find it more expensive than it was to supply their constituents with an authentic and verbatim report of their speeches. I should like at once to relieve my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) of the suspicion which apparently has grown up in his mind that this action has been taken because hon. and right hon. Members who happen to sit on this side of the House, or upon this bench in particular, are less anxious for their constituents to read what they say than those who have the fortune to occupy the other benches. We all know, however, that this is an entirely ephemeral arrangement, and that other hon. Members will eventually take their turn on these benches. Therefore, that has nothing at all to do with the decision. What has confronted us has been the difficulty of economising. It becomes a stock part of our proceedings that, whenever the Government suggests an economy, not one but several hon. Members are at once down on the Government and vigorously attack it. They say, "You must economise, but you must not economise in that direction." That is all very fine.
I have had only a very short and temporary experience of the office where economy is to be effected, but if you refuse and ignore £5,000 here, £10,000 there, or £1,000 elsewhere, your economy vanishes in a very short time. I agree, however, that it would be far more satisfactory if it were possible to distribute the OFFICIAL REPORT. I hope hon. Members are correct in thinking that there is such a tremendous demand for reading it. I do not venture to argue that at the present time. Speaking seriously, we are in a very difficult position so far as money is concerned. It is seriously contended that if people are really anxious to read the OFFICIAL REPORT they cannot afford to pay something approaching the cost of the publication?
§ Mr. NAYLOR
Is the Under-Secretary suggesting that the price charged for the OFFICIAL REPORT represents the cost? Is there not rather some margin of profit so far as the Stationery Office is concerned?
§ Sir J. BAIRD
The position in regard to that is this. The cost of production has risen greatly, as is understandable. As has been stated in replies to questions in the House of Commons, the Reports of Debates have been sold in the past at considerable loss. The cost of production has risen greatly, and before the price was raised in December last the average loss on each copy of the House of Commons Debates had increased from 3¼d. in 1909 to 7¼d. in 1921; and the loss on each copy of the House of Lords Debate had increased from 1½d. in 1909 to 4¾d. in 1921. Last year the whole field of pricing and distribution of Government publications was carefully reviewed, and it was decided that the price should be raised in order to cover a greater proportion of the cost of production. The price of the Reports of Debates was accordingly raised to Is., which, allowing for the usual trade discounts and overhead charges, reduced the loss per copy to 1¼d. for the House of Commons Debates, and turned the loss on the House of Lords Debates into a gain of 1¼d. per copy. On account of the disproportion between the sales of Commons and Lords Debates, however, there still resulted a small deficit on the two Reports taken together.
Are we to understand that 1,700 copies are distributed gratuitously every day, and that 300 are sold? Do we understand that the 800 which are sold are expected to cover the cost of those gratuitously distributed?
§ Sir J. BAIRD
Of course, there must be a loss on those issued to Members of the House, and what the public pay does not meet the whole cost of production. 1177 I ask the Committee to reflect that this is not the only economy in this Vote. My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles did not draw attention to the decrease all along the line in the matter of printing paper and binding.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
But the right hon. Gentleman did not call so much attention to these satisfactory items as I should have expected him to do. The items raised by my right hon. Friend include not only the cost of the Votes and Proceedings and the Journals of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but they also include the cost of paper and binding for the two Houses, which amounts to a considerable sum. Last year the Vote did not cover the cost incurred, and that is why these additional sums have been put down. What the right hon. Gentleman raised in regard to increases is a striking exception in the general list of reductions which are shown under almost every head of this Vote. I trust the Committee will not press this particular Vote to a Division on the ground of the charge that is now being made for the OFFICIAL REPORT. I have tried to explain the reasons which have led to this charge being increased. I admit the inconvenience, but it is no greater than the inconvenience which has been caused in relation to a large number of other matters in which economy has been practised.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I have been called out of the Committee, and I have not heard what my hon. Friend has said in reply to these points. I shall, however, sec his reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
The Committee is greatly indebted to the hon. Gentleman for the details he has given us in reply to the discussion. I am wondering, however, whether his argument is altogether sound in connection with the printing and the pricing of the OFFICIAL REPORT. I understand his explanation is that in regard to the producing and selling of the OFFICIAL REPORT the public are expected to bear the whole cost of production. That is to say, the public are called upon to pay in the higher price charged them for the privilege enjoyed by hon. Members of having a 1178 presentation copy. That may be quite a pardonable experiment on the part of the Stationery Office, but I am afraid it is not quite sound. It is no more sound than it is fair to expect the public thus to pay for privileges enjoyed by Members of this House. Far be it from me to suggest that Members of this House should be charged for their copies. I believe they are entitled to a free copy, but if the public are to be expected to bear the cost of printing those copies which are presented to Members of the House, why should not the same principle be applied to other publications that are also presented free to this House? Possibly it is so applied. Possibly the high prices we see marked on many valuable Parliamentary Reports issued from time to time are accounted for largely by the fact that the Stationery Office are endeavouring to make the public pay for the copies presented to Members of this House.
Apart from that aspect of the question, may I put a practical point to the hon. Gentleman? I presume he is aware it is one of the peculiarities of the printing and publishing trade that the larger the number of copies sold of a publication the more one is able to give for the money, and the smaller the price charged the larger is the number of copies printed and published. I understand the present price of the OFFICIAL REPORT is one shilling. Supposing the principle of making the outside public pay was so extended that 2s. 6d. was charged, the right hon. Gentleman would soon find that fewer copies would be purchased by the outside public. If 5s. were charged, fewer still would be sold, and if we went to the point in the experiment of charging 10s. per copy, in all probability not a single copy would be sold to the public, and that would mean that the Stationery Office would derive no revenue whatever from the sale of the OFFICIAL REPORT. That is one side of the question.
Now let us take the other side. Suppose a charge of 3d. per copy is made. When the initial expenses of publication are once paid for, when the printing machines are running, one can continue to print at a very considerably reduced cost, and can produce at that reduced cost a very much larger number of copies. I am quite certain that if the price were reduced to such a sum as to attract the public to buy, you would get a big demand 1179 for the copies, and it is quite possible you would have to print such a large number of copies as would produce an increase of revenue to the Stationery Office, a sum much in excess of what is now got from the present price of 1s. I commend that suggestion to the notice of the hon. Gentleman. He will there find a means of increasing the revenue of the Stationery Office by the sale of the OFFICIAL REPORT at a price which will enable a very much larger number of copies to be purchased by the public, with the result probably that Members of this House will be able to have two free copies instead of one out of the additional revenue.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
I think the Committee learned with some astonishment that the outside public has to pay in the price they are now charged for the OFFICIAL REPORT for the copies handed over to Members of Parliament. I am quite sure the Committee would not expect the public to get printed copies at less than cost price, but it is going to the other extreme to suggest that the whole cost of printing the 2,500 copies daily should be defrayed out of the amount derived from the 800 that are actually sold. I suggest to the Minister there are other economies to be effected in the establishments connected with the Stationery Office, establishments which are being run at much greater cost than in pre-War days, and these economies alone would enable the public to get the copies that they desire at cost price without having to pay for something which they do not receive. I submit, apart from the question of the unfairness of paying for something which they do not receive, that it is in the interest of public life that what goes on in this House should be better known than it is. I am not speaking of the interests of individual Members who send their copies down to their constituents, but I do know there are a large number of organisations in many towns which are glad to get these copies and follow the reports of our proceedings very carefully indeed. It would be a great pity to curtail the interest that is taken in our proceedings. It is far too little as it is, and I think the Government ought rather to encourage a wider interest in all matters in the interests of economy and of good administration. I hope the Minister will reconsider this question of 1180 price, if not now at any rate before next year's Estimates are decided upon. Let him see whether the public cannot have these copies at their net cost without being called upon to pay for our copies.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I should like to say a few words in support of what has fallen from my hon. Friend. I submit that the copies of the OFFICIAL REPORT ought to be sold to the public at as low a charge as possible; indeed, they ought to be sold at cost price. Hon. Members who sit on these benches have not the privilege of a great Press behind them, and we feel that what we say in this House, whatever value may attach to it, should be made known to the public. The public ought to be acquainted with what is going on inside this Chamber, and the only way in which the efforts of some hon. Members can be made known to the public is through the circulation of the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is therefore essential that it should be on sale at a reasonable price. As the hon. and learned Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) said just now, the matter has been fully discussed by a Committee set up for the purpose, and that Committee came to a conclusion which the Government has turned down, and now these exorbitant prices are being charged to the general public. Many societies which desire to have the OFFICIAL REPORT cannot afford to pay the price now charged, and we ask that, in fairness to the House, there should be placed at our disposal all the records of the doings of this House in such a form and at such a price that the general public of this country can make themselves acquainted with what is transpiring here. I trust my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to the Home Department will take this matter back to his office, go into it more fully, and consider whether the cost, which is infinitesimal compared with other great costs of the country, does not also compare favourably with the good that would result. If the Government are right it would be to the advantage to the people to know it, although I acknowledge if they were wrong it would be to their disadvantage. On the other hand, we ought not to be ashamed or afraid of anything we do here, or afraid that the general public should not know it.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
Perhaps I might answer some of the questions that 1181 have been put to me with regard to this Vote. If hon. Members will look at page 213 of the Estimates, they will see that Parliamentary Debates and Records, which last year cost £40,000, are estimated this year to cost £35.000. On the next page, if they look at the heading, "Appropriations-in-Aid," they will see, under the head of Sales of Parliamentary Debates, that the amount received last year was £2,750, while it was estimated that this year it would be £5,000. Let them note the contrast. The cost is £35,000, and we get a £5,000"Appropriation-in-Aid."Then hon. Members talk about charging less.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
Hon Members, I think, should remember that we are including ourselves, that is to say, the copies we each receive.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that for that £5,000 paid out the public gets more than a return? [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite right!" and "No, no!"]
§ Sir J. BAIRD
I think that question would cover a wider range than we are entitled to deal with in the present issue, which is the rather narrow issue of the Vote for the Stationery Office. I put it to my hon. Friends opposite, is it worth while going to Division for a matter of this sort? The total number of sales when the price of the OFFICIAL REPORT was 3d. was 1,400. The total sale now that the price is 1s. is 700—that is half. The hon. Gentleman opposite shrugs his shoulders in despair at the fact of only 700 copies of the OFFICIAL REPORT going out. He wants adequate and verbal and textual reports of everything said in this House published. Seriously, I put it to the Committee that that is not a proposition that need go further. It is only a short while ago that there was no such thing as a daily OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings of the House. It is quite a modern innovation. Yet the public only took advantage of this priceless privilege to the extent of 1,400 when they could get it for 3d. Perhaps the hon. Member opposite thinks we ought to reduce it to three halfpence per copy, or perhaps charge nothing.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Sir J. BAIRD
I honestly do not think that even if the hon. Members opposite occupied these Benches that they would be disposed to supply copies of the OFFICIAL REPORT free. We are discussing economy. In this respect it is a very small matter. But economy is a horrible thing—I quite agree. It is, however, a thing we have to attend to. I have heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles make some of his most impassioned and eloquent speeches on the subject of economy. I want to anticipate carrying out some of this economy, and to begin the policy of the Government in this respect. As to the very pertinent and important question put to me by the hon. Member for Ilford (Mr. Wise) as to where we get our paper from, may I say that the ordinary supplies of paper for quantities as at the moment required are obtained by tenders which are received only from paper mills in the United Kingdom? With a few exceptions, the whole of the paper required by the Department is obtained in this manner, and is issued, as demanded, for office use or to the printing and binding contractors. Invitations to tender are issued to English, Scottish, and Irish makers indiscriminately. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Welsh?"]
§ Sir J. BAIRD
The supplies for use in Scotland being required to be delivered at the Edinburgh branch of the Stationery Office, and those for England and Wales to London or Manchester. I think that answers my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. CHARLES WHITE
I desire— [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"] My remarks will be more lengthy if I am subjected to interruptions by hon. Members who come into the Committee with their courage higher than it has been during the afternoon. Let me say at once that all these little miserable economies of the Government are highly detrimental to the public. The electors ought to have the opportunity of judging Members of the House and Members of the Government by their works. I remember when I went to Sunday school reading in the Old Book: "By their works ye shall know them." Do the electors get to know exactly what happens in this House? It ought to be 1183 as easy as possible to get the whole truth of what happens here. It is, I admit, very often a difficult matter to get the whole truth from the Government Benches. The OFFICIAL REPORT, at any rate, is a publication which gives the whole truth of what actually happens here and gives it without comment or prejudice. It gives the whole policy of the Government and their lack or prejudice. One would have thought that this Government of all the talents and all the virtues would like it to be known to every person what exactly they are doing.
We are told they are a Government that gets things done. They do get things done—in a very bad way It ought to be as easy as possible to get into the hands of the electors exactly what happens both on the Government side of the House and on this side. Yet we see the price of the OFFICIAL REPORT raised from 3d. to 1s. Why, it is more than the price that beer has been increased! More than the price of any commodity that I know of The Government have a subsidised Press which re-
§ lates anything there is to their credit, and if there is nothing to their credit then they invent something.
§ Mr. WHITE
I was only showing how important it is, which other speakers have shown without being interrupted—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order !"]—how important it is that every elector should know in the best possible manner what happens in this House. Pensioners, trade unionists, taxpayers generally, should know that exactly, from the only authentic source they can get it, at as cheap a rate as possible, and I sincerely hope we shall go to a Division, and this miserable little economy, which is detrimental to the public of this country, will be shown up in the only way we can show it, that is, in the Division Lobby.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,779,837, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 59; Noes, 143.1185
|Division No. 216]||AYES.||[10.7 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Naylor, Thomas Ellis|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Grundy, T. W.||Poison, Sir Thomas A.|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hall. F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Robertson, John|
|Bromfield, William||Halls, Walter||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Cairns, John||Hayday, Arthur||Smith, W. R, (Wellingborough)|
|Cape, Thomas||Hayward, Evan||Sutton, John Edward|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Swan, J. E,|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Hirst, G. H.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davies. Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hogge, James Myles||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Irving, Dan||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Finney, Samuel||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen C.)|
|Foot, Isaac||Kenyon, Barnet||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Lunn, William|
|Gillis, William||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Graham, O. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Murray, Dr, D. (Inverness & Ross)||Mr. R. Richardson and Mr. C. White.|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Myers, Thomas|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bruton, Sir James||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)|
|Armitage, Robert||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Elveden, Viscount|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R||Evans, Ernest|
|Atkey, A. R.||Casey, T. W.||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Falcon, Captain Michael|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Clough, Sir Robert||Fell, Sir Arthur|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Colfax, Major Wm. Phillips||Ford, Patrick Johnston|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Foreman, Sir Henry|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Forrest, Walter|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Fremantle. Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Gee. Captain Robert|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Dawson, Sir Philip||Gibbs. Colonel Georqe Abraham|
|Briggs, Harold||Ednam, Viscount||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Goff, Sir R. Park|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Macquisten, F. A.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Hallwood, Augustine||Mason, Robert||Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney)|
|Hamilton, Sir George C.||Matthews, David||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Middlebrook, Sir William||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Stewart, Gershom|
|Hinds, John||Morrison, Hugh||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Sugden, W. H.|
|Hope, Sir H.(Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn.W.)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Neal, Arthur||Taylor, J.|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Parker, James||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Houfton, John Plowright||Perring, William George||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Waddington, R.|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Pratt, John William||Wallace, J.|
|Jones., G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Purchase, H. G.||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Randies, Sir John Scurrah||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Kidd, James||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|King. Captain Henry Douglas||Remer, J. R.||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir p. (Chertsey)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Lockor-Lampson. G. (Wood Green)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Lorden, John William||Rodger, A. K.||Wise, Frederick|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Loseby. Captain C. E.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Seager, Sir William||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Mc Curdy.|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James: I.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.