asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the Federal Council of the Malay States recently curt down the railway Estimates from 21,000,000 dollars to 14,000,000 dollars with certain Supplementary Votes; that, in spite of this Vote, which was given in the usual constitutional manner on the Budget in the Federal Council, the Railway Department ignored the Vote and proceeded to spend money much in excess of the amount voted; whether a Committee of Inquiry has investigated the matter; if so, whether it has reported and to what effect; and what action does he propose to take?
I am aware that the construction programme for 1921 of the Federated Malay States Railway Depart- meat was cut down approximately as mentioned before the Estimates were submitted to the Federal Council. Owing to the impracticability of cancelling certain important contracts, for the most part involving considerable disbursements by the Federated Malay States Government in this country, and owing partly to the reluctance of the Government to increase unemployment at a time when there was pressure for relief works owing to the general trade depression, the sum voted was exceeded by a large amount. The matter was explained in the Federal Council in December last, when a Supplementary Vote was passed. A retrenchment Commission composed jointly of official and unofficial members was appointed, with my approval, early in the present year to investigate the expenditure of the Federated Malay States Government Departments generally. Their Report has just been presented to the Government, but I have not yet received a copy. I shall, of course, await the Report before taking any action.