That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,250,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1945, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; for relief and rehabilitation in areas brought under the control of any of the United Nations; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 12.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
This is a Supplementary Vote of Credit for the sum of £1,250,000,000. Since during the five years of war we have expended £24,000,000,000 for war purposes, I would like to ask how much of that we have been able to meet out of current taxation, how much has gone to what I call the National Debt, and how much the National Debt has now increased over what it was at the beginning of the war. I would also like to know what that burden means on each individual in the State, because, in a matter like this, it is just as well that every citizen should know the expenditure which has to be borne by individuals for war purposes. I do not object, indeed I agree, to everything required to carry on the war, but it is well that the public should know exactly the burden we have to carry, because this will have to be met afterwards by somebody, and unless we are alive to what we are paying now, there may be a lot of complaint when taxation comes to be borne afterwards.
§ Mr. Speaker
I doubt if the hon. Member is in Order. He is not discussing 55 expenditure, but the National Debt, and that would not be in Order on the Report stage.
§ Mr. Tinker
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I did think I was in Order, in view of the Debate which took place on Friday when the question arose of people not knowing exactly the expenditure we have to meet. I think the Financial Secretary said that people were not aware of the burden we have to carry with regard to the war. I understood from that that there was a desire on the part of the Treasury to enlighten people on the cost we are bearing. The Financial Secretary mentioned the figure of £24,000,000,000 which had been spent on war purposes, so I thought it would be wise if this morning we could have some idea as to the amount not met out of current taxation. If I am wrong, Mr. Speaker, I will bow to your Ruling, but I thought my question would be an invitation to the Treasury to give this information.
§ Mr. Speaker
I believe the hon. Member is wrong. The Treasury may want to say something, but we must discuss expenditure on this Vote and not national finance.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Assheton)
We might find a way of giving the hon. Member the information he requires on another occasion —perhaps by means of question and answer.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I was also interested in what the Financial Secretary said in regard to the amount of money that has been expended since the beginning of the war. The Debate on Friday certainly seemed to show that there are many hon. Members in this House who are somewhat uncomfortable about what the position of this country will be when the war ends. There was some discussion on the plans the Board of Trade are making at present with regard to the reorganisation of industry, and it occurred to me that while this country will be very much poorer in some ways at the end of the war, the position of other countries in Europe will be very much worse.
I wonder whether, in passing this Vote, the House should not also consider again the wisdom or otherwise of the Government policy in regard to its slogan of "unconditional surrender." Some of us 56 feel that if the Government adopted a line making it plain that while war criminals in every country would be punished, at the same time they were anxious that Germany and the satellite countries should have the opportunity of working out, in co-operation with all the countries in the world, a decent standard of life for their people, it would have been of advantage and would have led to a speedier ending of the war. At the end of the last war President Wilson's points were made the basis of the Armistice, and afterwards the Germans felt that they had not been defeated in the war. I think that was a gross superstition, and I think it is also an illusion that, if they are forced into a position of unconditional surrender, for all time the Germans will admit that they were beaten in this war. It is quite obvious that there will be excuses for the Germans after defeat comes. Just as they said they were not beaten last time, because they were stabbed in the back by social democracy, so they will contend at the end of this war, that they were stabbed in the back by the rebellion of the generals.
I think we should clear our minds with regard to this matter. It would be all to the good, and would hasten the end of the war, if a statement were made by a world statesman like our Prime Minister, the President of the United States, or Marshal Stalin, repeating definitely what was said by the Russians previously, that there is no intention of destroying the German people. It might make the German people insist on their rulers throwing in their hands. Some hon. Members are content to leave all this spending in the hands of the Treasury on the assumption that the Treasury is a very good watchdog for public expenditure. Indeed, that view was expressed in Friday's Debate, although there were others who said that the main function of this House was to exercise a careful scrutiny over all public expenditure.
I would agree that the Treasury have always proved a very capable watch-dog upon public expenditure when it is a question, for example, of expenditure on social reform, but I think the Government have been very careless in their expenditure for carrying on the war. The discussions we had on how the public interest might be better protected 57 and whether the Government system of working for so long by costings was wasteful or not made it plain that the Treasury was not such a vigilant watch-dog as one might have desired. In the matter of the pay of soldiers and the pensions paid to men who had been wounded and made useless physically by their war service the Treasury did prove a very efficient watch-dog. Again and again it has been only as a result of agitation in this House that we have been able to get more decent treatment for the men and women in the Services, and I think the Treasury would be acting much more efficiently and much more wisely if they were much more generous in their attitude towards expenditure for the wellbeing of those in the Services and much more vigilant in their watch upon contracts entered into by the Government for the provision of the various munitions of war. It is perfectly shocking that the Government have had to be driven and kicked into making concessions from time to time in the treatment of those in the Services.
At the present time many people are going out of the Services back into civil life and they are finding it very difficult to get into suitable employment again. There are also those who left their civilian jobs and went into munition work out of patriotic zeal and because of their anxiety to help the country. Some of them were ex-Service men. They have since found themselves unable to carry on in the war factories and are out of employment, and I think the Government should do much more towards rehabilitating those people and fitting them into suitable employment, granting them decent allowances until they can again be fitted into a suitable place in the community. Various cases in that connection have been brought to my notice, and when we are asked to vote this enormous sum the Government ought to be urged to be more generous in their treatment of the ordinary men and women who have given their services to the community. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary will bear that in mind.
I was not greatly impressed by some of the things that the Financial Secretary said with regard to the financial position of the country in a Debate on the Adjournment. A previous Chancellor said that people sometimes asked: "If all 58 this money can be found for carrying on the war, why could it not be found for giving our people more comfortable conditions in days of peace?" He drew the the parallel of how, when a person was ill, members of the family would make very great sacrifices in order to secure remedial treatment to restore him to health again, but I think that is no real analogy While we have spent £24,000,000,000 on carrying on the war and are now asking for £1,250,000,000 more, the fact remains that we still have the factories and the workshops and the man-power in the country. I will admit that there is a great burden of debt and heavy interest to be paid in days to come. One hon. Member has suggested that the interest on the debt will be about £700,000,000 per annum. I just wonder how much of that will be internal and how much we shall have to pay to outside creditors. I do not know whether it would be in Order, but I was going to ask if the Financial Secretary would tell us how much we owe to outside creditors and not to people in our own country.
I would also point out that as we still have this tremendous industrial capacity in the country, all this skill and manpower, that I have no doubt we shall be able to face the future in an optimistic way, unless we are crushed by a financial system which is not a reasonable financial system at all. The last thing I want to say is that I am confident that if in 1939 one country had embarked upon a five-year plan of spending £24,000,000,000 on peaceful development, that if there had been such a policy in any one country, there would have been no world war and the world would have been saved this tremendous holocaust; but in those days whenever a demand was made for expenditure in order to improve the conditions of the people and raise their standard of living, we were told that the money could not be found. It is only when we get Governments who realise that there should be the same lavish expenditure in the days of peace as we have in the days of war that we shall be in a position to make war impossible in the future.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer addresses the House, may I ask whether he can give some explanation of why on this occasion £250,000,000 is added to the usual £1,000,000,000 for which he has asked in 59 previous Votes of Credit. On a former occasion when this subject was under discussion the right hon. Gentleman or his predecessor pointed out that the House had appointed a Select Committee on National Expenditure and that the Chancellor did look to that Committee to be a sort of watch-dog upon national expenditure from the point of view of the House of Commons. On the last three occasions on which a Vote of Credit has been asked for not a single reference has been made to the work of that Committee. The Committee does a good deal of work and presents Reports, and if the House would read some of its Reports and raise matters in Debate I venture to think it would be of assistance to the Treasury and a control upon improper expenditure. I do not think that we who serve on that Committee wish to do all this work unless it is of some use and unless we feel we have got the encouragement of the Treasury—and some people think we have not—and it would be a great help if this House and all the spending Departments realised that it is only by the close scrutiny of details that it is possible to effect some form of control. I only rise to mention this because I think the time is coming when a good many hon. Members who serve on that Committee may feel that their work is not fully justified unless they do have the full support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers responsible for the vast expenditure of this country in seeing that waste is prevented.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Anderson)
I do not think the House desires to have a prolonged Debate on this item of business, but I should like to make one or two observations in regard to what has been said. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) raised a question which seemed to me to be rather far removed from the subject with which we are dealing when he challenged the policy of the Government with regard to unconditional surrender. That policy has been explained in this House on a number of occasions, and it has been made perfectly clear that what we and the other United Nations mean by unconditional surrender is surrender without negotiated conditions, without any pre-arrangement which would give an opportunity to anyone to say that a bargain had been made which had been broken. No further back 60 than the 29th September there was a Debate in this House on the subject in which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary quoted a statement by the Prime Minister which I had better read again. Speaking of unconditional surrender he said:It means that the Allies will not he bound to them at the moment of surrender by any pact or any obligation.… Unconditional surrender means that the victors have a free hand."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1944; Vol. 397, c. 699.]Then the Foreign Secretary proceeded to develop that theme. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he might refresh his memory by looking up the record of that Debate. I thought the hon. Gentleman was a little ungracious in what he had to say about the Government's treatment of the question of allowances to soldiers, dependants' allowances, wound pensions and the like. He said, in effect, that the Government have never done anything in these matters unless they were kicked into it. Let me remind him that the last very substantial concessions to long service men and officers and in respect of the arduous conditions of the Far Eastern campaign were made without any preceding agitation whatsoever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Without any preceding agitation, certainly. There had quite recently been Debates which the Government had met, after consultations with Members in all parts of the House, by certain concessions costing a substantial sum of money, but the more recent concessions were granted without any previous agitation. If the hon. Gentleman would compare the scale of allowances, whether in the field of social service, or allowances to the dependants of soldiers, that are current at this moment, with the corresponding scales at any previous time in our history, he will see that there is a very great advance indeed.
The hon. Gentleman went on to raise other matters. He talked about the hardships and difficulties confronting persons who leave the Services or go from munition work and have difficulty in finding employment. The House will not expect me to go over all these points in detail, but, again, I would take the arrangements now in operation for training and rehabilitation—the machinery that is available for finding jobs for people who are displaced 61 in the course of the war and it will be found that we have made an enormous advance on anything previously known. That is all, I think, that the hon. Gentleman would expect me to say on the subjects which he raised. One hears people talk of the scale of expenditure in the war, and asking questions as to why we cannot have a similar scale of expenditure for other purposes in times of peace. Surely, everybody knows perfectly well that the expenditure in the war, which is forced upon us, involves tremendous hardships and difficulties all round, and involves heavy burdens on those who come after us, and all that is not to be compared with conditions in times of peace.
My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) asked a question to which, I should have thought, he would have known the answer. He wished to know why we were asking, not for £1,000,000,000, but for £1,250,000,000. I did explain this in my opening statement and the explanation is quite simple. If we asked only for the usual £1,000,000,000, we should find ourselves needing more money in the middle of the Christmas Recess, so we thought it more prudent to ask for a sum of money sufficient to carry us on beyond the Christmas Recess. That is the whole explanation. I made the same explanation last year. I hope I shall not have to make it again next year.
My hon. Friend was a little hard, I think, in his suggestion that the Government have not shown adequate appreciation of the services of the Select Committee on National Expenditure of which, I know, he is a very active member. I do wish to assure the House that the Government, and the Treasury in particular, are very deeply appreciative of the service rendered by that Committee. I know, personally, of the vast amount of time and considerable effort that have been expended in getting down to the hard facts underlying our expenditure, and what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Camlachie said about the position of the Treasury in regard to expenditure has a great element of truth in it. The Treasury alone cannot control war expenditure. The control of normal expenditure is a much simpler problem, but, in war, the Treasury must have the collaboration of the spending Departments. Unless there is a proper sense of economy in the 62 spending Departments, the best efforts of the Treasury cannot prevent avoidable waste. Not only must the Treasury have the collaboration of the spending Departments; it must also have the kind of outside independent assistance that is rendered—and rendered, I say, very effectively—by the Select Committee on National Expenditure.
§ Mr. Pethick Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
The right hon. Gentleman will not forget the Public Accounts Committee, I hope.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I was going to add that just as similar bodies in the past have rendered such service, the Public Accounts Committee—after the event, it is true—by consistently scrutinising the records of expenditure has proved a most important bulwark to the Treasury in their efforts to eliminate waste, and unnecessary expenditure of all kinds. I hope after what I have just said, I shall never again be thought to be lacking in a proper sense of appreciation of the voluntary services rendered by hon. Members in such a public-spirited manner.
Question, "That this House cloth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.