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rendered to the other members of the Grand Alliance by the United States would have sensibly diminished the financial burden imposed upon ourselves. That expectation has not, however, been realized. On the contrary, the burden has increased, is increasing, and is not likely to be diminished.

The problem of national expenditure, at all times of firstrate importance, has never, therefore, been so important and so insistent as it is to-day. As regards public control, the solution of the problem depends upon the proper adjustment of the relations between the House of Commons, the Cabinet, the Treasury, and the spending departments. In normal circumstances those relations are, briefly, as follows: the spending departments formulate their demands to the Treasury; the Treasury having sanctioned, modified, or rejected them is responsible for the aggregate expenditure to the Cabinet; the Cabinet is responsible to the House of Commons, and the House is responsible to the country. The first weakening in one of the links of this chain of responsibility occurred before the war, when the Treasury, hitherto the jealous custodian of the country's purse, itself became a great spending department. That the Treasury should be divested of functions which it never ought to have assumed is a primary condition of any solution of the problem under review.

These new functions of the Treasury were, however, assumed with the acquiescence of the House of Commons. Can anything be done by a reform in procedure to tighten the hold of the House of Commons upon the purse-strings; and, assuming such reform, would the House be likely to make effective use of the new machinery? On both these points there is much diversity of opinion. Since the outbreak of war, the House has admittedly lost whatever control over expenditure it formerly possessed. Estimates are presented in' token' form, and expenditure is authorized, without any control over details, by a succession of votes of credit. Is it possible, under war conditions to look for any improvement in this respect?

Though in view of the uncertainties of war it is impossible, and were it possible would clearly be inadvisable, to furnish detailed estimates of expenditure upon the army, navy, and air service, yet there seems to be no sufficient reason why, in the case of many departments, precise estimates should not be presented to Parliament. Many of the innumerable

sub-departments which in the last three years have grown out of the Board of Trade afford illustrations in point. The Committee elicited from the accounting officers of these departments an almost unanimous opinion that no real difficulty would be found in the preparation and presentation of such estimates, and that being so, it is impossible to resist the conclusion they express :

'Where secrecy is not necessary in the national interest, we consider that estimates in such cases should be presented to Parliament. The preparation of estimates, the effort to keep within them, and the prospect of their public discussion, have an influence in the administration of the departments themselves that tends to economy. The publication of the figures is useful as a guide both to Parliament and in the formation of opinion. Expenditure by Government, without effective limitation of amount or control of direction, is unsound in principle; war conditions make it inevitable in many cases; but it should not be carried beyond the point where it is really inevitable."

There is, however, a further and more far-reaching question: Is the House of Commons anxious or even competent to enforce public economy? It is obvious that, under existing methods of procedure, it lacks the power; does it also lack the will? To this question Mr. Austen Chamberlain, who knows both the House and the Treasury exceptionally well, gave, in debate, an unequivocal reply:

'There is no more wasteful body than the House of Commons, and there is no Minister or ex-Minister who will not confirm what I say, that for one economy, good, bad or indifferent, which this House have helped to make, they have forced upon him or tried to force upon him a hundred unnecessary extravagances. It is quite idle for us to pretend that the House of Commons favours economy. We do not. We hate imposing taxes, but we love spending money.'

If no help is to be got from a reform of parliamentary procedure, whither must we turn for the exercise of the control so palpably lacking and yet so urgently required? The Treasury is the centre and core of the whole financial system: it alone possesses the technical knowledge of the whole administrative machine; it is the depositary of the tradition of economy, and it is served by an exceptionally able permanent staff. May we not therefore reasonably look to the Treasury for the control of public expenditure?

To this question the Select Committee addressed itself from the outset of its investigations. It appointed, as we have seen, a special sub-committee to deal with this section of its work; but apart from that the question of Treasury supervision necessarily occupied much of the time and attention of the other sub-committees appointed to investigate the internal working of the administrative departments, and references to the matter recur in most of the six reports already presented to Parliament. What is the general impression to be derived therefrom? It is that from the moment of the outbreak of war the Treasury, inured to a system well adapted to peace conditions, found itself hopelessly overweighted, seriously undermanned, and quite unequal to the task of exercising any adequate control over old departments suddenly expanded out of all recognition, or over new departments called into being to meet new needs but devoid of administrative traditions or experience, not limited in their expenditure by the restrictions of parliamentary estimates, without the safeguard for the most part of competitive tendering, working under conditions of great 'stress.'

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The Committee add:

'There was need of an active financial supervision, watching the methods adopted, detecting mistakes, suggesting improvements, preventing competition between departments in purchasing supplies and in obtaining labour, restricting rates of profit, enquiring into the numbers and organization of the vast new staffs employed.'

Has the need been met? The conclusion of the Committee, reached after prolonged, patient, and detailed investigation into the working of the departments, and after taking evidence from the representatives of the Treasury, is as unequivocal in substance as it is obviously restrained in tone. It is: ' that the degree of control that is now being exercised falls 'far short of the needs of the case.'

Here, as elsewhere, however, the Committee was not content with negative criticism. It has admittedly aimed at being helpful and constructive. It accordingly recommended :

I. That the staff of the Treasury should be strengthened by the addition of men of ability and administrative experience from outside.

2. That a more active financial supervision should be exercised by the Treasury over the departments. This supervision should aim at ensuring the adoption of sound financial methods in every province of administration, at preventing undue profits being made by contractors, at preventing competition between departments in purchasing supplies and in obtaining labour.

3. That the Treasury should hold a series of enquiries into the numbers and organization of the large clerical staffs recruited by the various departments during the war.

4. Above all, that in the exercise of a proper financial control the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be enabled to feel that he has the support of the Cabinet, with whom the ultimate decisions rest.'

In regard to the Ministry of Munitions the Committee made further detailed recommendations:

'I. That the Treasury should give such directions with regard to capital expenditure, and grants or guarantees of allowance from excess profits in respect of capital expenditure, as would establish a definite limit for the financial branches of the Ministry, while leaving them free to conduct and settle negotiations without reference to the Treasury in each case.

2. That the Treasury, without attempting a detailed control over the terms of individual contracts, should determine from time to time the rates of profits and should satisfy themselves that the principles adopted in settling the conditions of contracts were sound.

3. That the Treasury should lend greater support to the financial branches generally in their efforts to promote economy.

4. That the Treasury should insist upon a more complete coordination between government departments in the purchase of munitions of war and the materials required for their manufacture.'

Following upon these recommendations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in January that in addition to obtaining further assistance for the Treasury, generally from men with outside business experience, he had appointed two special committees to advise the Treasury on contract arrangements and to inquire into the temporary staffs of departments respectively. The former Committee, charged with the special duty of investigating the general question of expenditure, the methods adopted in the department, the contracts, and everything connected with purchases, consists of Lord Inchcape, Lord Colwyn, and Sir Peter McLelland. The latter, appointed to inquire into the staffing of departments, consists VOL, 228. NO. 465.


of Sir John Bradbury of the Treasury; Mr. Warren Fisher of Somerset House; Mr. J. Rostern, Goods Manager of the Great Central Railway; and Mr. C. H. Wood. In regard to the Ministry of Munitions the Chancellor of the Exchequer has arranged that the Ministry shall

submit for Treasury authority all proposals for capital expenditure exceeding £50,000 on a new factory or an extension of a factory, and that all concessions to firms in respect of capital expenditure shall take the form of cash grants, to be subject to Treasury approval when in excess of £10,000 or £50,000, according to circumstances.'

Mr. Bonar Law at the same time announced that steps were being taken for securing as far as possible the co-ordination of departments in making purchases and obtaining labour, and he insisted that the Treasury had always given, and would continue to give, their full support to the finance branches of departments generally. He has, however, made no secret of his own conviction that it is not to Treasury supervision or control that we can look for the effective correction of public extravagance in time of war. No external control can, in his judgment, be effectual; we must look, on the contrary, to control from within, the control, as Mr.Asquith put it, of ' a domestic tribunal in the department itself.' As Mr. Bonar Law said in the course of the debate initiated by Mr. Herbert Samuel :

'It is quite impossible with any expansion of the Treasury staff that they could effectively control the way in which that business (e.g. the work of the Munitions Ministry) is done. I am sure of that. The most we can hope to do . . . is to try to get a good system of expenditure in those departments and, if possible, to get good men at the head to carry out those systems.'

The significance of these words, in view of the position of the speaker, himself the official custodian of the nation's purse, can scarcely be exaggerated. Mr. Chamberlain, speaking as an ex-Financial Secretary, as an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, scouted the notion that the House of Commons would or could restrain extravagance. I am convinced,' he said, 'that it is upon the departments in the first instance, and upon the Treasury in the second instance, that we must 'rely to prevent waste and to secure economy.' If, however,

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