Ministry of Transport.

National Expenditure. – in the House of Commons on 1st March 1922.

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The first item with which I deal is the Ministry of Transport. There are no recommendations made for a further reduction of the expenses in connection with the Ministry of Transport. In the present year the Estimate has been £403,000, and the revised Estimate for next year is £243,000, and that is accepted by the Committee on National Expenditure. Since that the Department has suggested further economies and the Estimate has been brought down to £211,000. The Geddes Committee recommended that the Ministry should be transferred to the Board of Trade. That may ultimately be the right thing to do, but there are many things which the Ministry of Transport have still to wind up. There are many things which can, by statute, only be done by the Minister. There is now an acting Minister of Transport, but he is not costing the country anything, because he is doing the work gratuitously. There will be no saving in transferring to the Board of Trade at the present time, except that which would be involved in the salary of the Under-Secretary. That is the whole saving which would be effected.

If it were quite certain that the Board of Trade is the best home for whatever Ministry conducts the operation of transport, then we might resolve now that the transfer should take place, but we do not think the matter is so clear. There are many things which the Ministry of Transport docs at the present time which could not suitably be performed in the Board of Trade at all. For example, they deal with the question of roads, and roads certainly do not come within the ordinary purview of the operations of the Board of Trade. They would be much better dealt with really under the Ministry of Health, which deals with local authorities. —[Interruption.]—I am suggesting to hon. Members considerations which show that it would be unwise to arrive at sudden conclusions at the present time, as to how you are going to deal with this Ministry. We think it would be better to take some time to consider the whole matter in connection with what we must consider soon, namely, a large reorganisation of Government Departments. There might be much to be said, for example, in favour of uniting the Ministry of Transport with the Post Office, and having a Ministry of Communications. I do not know whether that recommends itself to anybody, but it has been strongly urged. I am only suggesting that to show that there may be many points of view, and it would be better to get the right one rather than to act precipitately now.