§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, I rise to move the postponement of the second reading until the Bill be printed and in the hands of Members. A great many assertions have been reiterated last year with regard to the fact that it is the peculiar function of the House of Commons to look after all Money Bills, and to superintend the application and appropriation of the funds which come out of the pockets of the people. This responsibility—and, undoubtedly, it is a serious responsibility—certainly rests upon this House alone. Last year we refused to allow the House of Lords to share it. But, if this be our peculiar function, how do we exercise it? If this responsibility rests upon us, how do we discharge it? If this trust be imposed upon us, and on us alone, do we fulfil that trust intelligently and honestly? What is the real state of the case? The Lords, part of whose duty this is not, have refused to vote for the second reading of any Bill until it is in the hands of Members; they object to pass a measure without knowing what that measure is. But what is our practice? Year by year this Bill has been allowed to pass the second reading; to go through Committee, to pass the third reading, and eventually to pass the House without having been printed and put into the hands of Members. The House, consequently, could not be aware whether it was in the correct form or not—whether it contained the restrictions and restraints demanded by the Constitution, or whether certain clauses were omitted so as to give the executive a full scope, and an uncontrolled sway, over the funds of the country. It had been urged that it was useless to print this Bill, as it was always exactly in the same form every year. Was that the case? In the first Session of the year 1857 (to go no further back) the Appropriation Bill contained the usual Appropriation clause. But the Appropriation Bill of the noble Viscount's Government, passed in the second Session of that same year, contained 1737 no such clause; it even had a clause (§ 26) which repealed the Appropriation Clause of the Bill of the preceding Session. What was the consequence? The sums that were voted by Parliament were exceeded, The army grants were exceeded by £1,050,000, and the navy grants by £133,383. This money was not only spent without the sanction of Parliament, it was expended against the expressed wish of this House; yet, as the usual clause had been omitted from the Bill, no remedy was left in our hands. Again, in the first Session of 1859, the usual Appropriation Clause was contained in the Appropriation Bill of Lord Derby's Government. It was passed, however, without having been in the hands of Members; but the Lords refused to let it go to the second reading without having been distributed. In the second Session of that year, when the noble Viscount had come into office, the Bill was again brought in without the Appropriation Clause; and it again contained a clause (§ 22) which repealed the Appropriation Clause of the Bill passed by Lord Derby's Government. And what, again, was the result? The army at the end of the year was found to contain 11,500 men more than had been sanctioned by Parliament; and in order to meet this additional expense, the War Department appropriated other funds to the purchase of military stores: they took £200,000 which had been voted for the building of iron ships; and —519,000 which had been voted for transports. This Appropriation Bill did not contain the usual Appropriation clause; and yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, in reply to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Hankey), that it was in the usual form! The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not perhaps to be much blamed for this, because this Bill is never prepared in his office. Neither he, nor any of the Ministers, are more able than any other Member to know whether it be correct or not. They cannot, therefore, be responsible to the House for its correctness; they cannot answer for its containing the necessary restraints over the executive. But then this fact proves the whole case which has to be made out; if the Ministers cannot be answerable, then clearly we must have the Bill in our own hands; and we must not allow that responsibility, which we would not permit the House of Lords to share with us, to devolve upon some subordinate officer of the House of Commons, It has been objected that to print this 1738 Bill would occasion both a loss of time and an increased expense. But both these objections are easily answered. For the Bill must be printed before the Lords will receive it; and it is well known that the difference, both as to expense and as to time, between the printing of six copies and the printing of 600, is very slight indeed. Besides this, six copies of the Bill have actually been printed, and lie in the office; and yet they refuse to issue them to Members. This is, indeed, a matter of great importance. But the question assumes a far greater magnitude when the constant tendency of all our legislation during the last few years is taken into consideration. Any one who will glance at the pages of a very able periodical which is edited by Mr. Toulmin Smith, must come very quickly to the conclusion that a centralizing tendency prevails in nearly every Bill which is brought before the House. We seem to be getting very fast into the bureaucratic system which caused the great French Revolution of 1792. Formerly the whole government of the country was carried on at parochial boards and by county authorities. Even the taxes were collected in the parishes by parochial officers, and handed into the Treasury by the sheriffs of the counties. The farmers and gentry who executed these functions received no payment; they did it all as a labour of love, or rather as part of the duty which they owed to their country. Now, these local boards have been replaced by central boards in London; and paid officials have taken the place of unpaid farmers. Thus it is that the Civil Service Estimates have been so enormously increased. This, however, is a minor matter, and does not bear upon the question before the House. What is of far greater importance is this: these farmers were not at all under the influence of the Cabinet; they always did that which, after mature discussion, seemed best for their own parish. It made no difference to them which party was in power. Now, on the other hand, the paid functionaries who have taken their place are appointed by the Minister, are paid by the Government, and can be removed by the Minister. They are, therefore, entirely at the beck and bid of the Minister: they are all in his power. The tendency of modern legislation is to establish more of these central boards, and to increase the number of these functionaries. Thus the patronage of the Minister is being continually augmented. He is daily getting 1739 things more and more into his power. We are, in fact, gradually drifting into an oligarchy, and settling down under the iresponsible control of a Cabinet—a body not recognized by the Constitution. I do not bring this forward in a party spirit. The one side of the House is no more to blame than the other. The tendency of our legislation has been the same whichever party has been in power. The front bench on your left, Sir, as well as that on your right, seeks to increase its own power and augment its irresponsible control. The Conservatives used to pride themselves upon defending the local self-government and fighting for the ancient municipal institutions of the country. But we, too, have lately been tempted to centralize as well as our opponents. But, Sir, if this be so, is it not more than ever important that the House should prevent the Cabinet from obtaining also an irresponsible control over the funds supplied by the people, by omitting all those restraints which the Constitution has imposed? Should we not try to stop a system which has been so silently but so steadily growing and gathering strength? Our forefathers were very particular about this matter on which we have grown so lax. Just after the Revolution of 1688, Lord Somers framed some Appropriation clauses with the greatest care. But it is wrong to call that period a Revolution; for it was not a subversion of the Constitution—it was a return to the ancient state of things, and a revivifying of the Constitution. During King James's reign an oligarchy had obtained an irresponsible power. But there was this difference between that time and our time: the cabal of that day shore the people of their liberties, but did not infringe upon the prerogatives of the Crown. The Cabinet of this day robs the people of their ancient liberties, and also arrogates to itself the prerogatives of the Crown. In 1688, when the ancient liberty was again restored, Lord Somers —the mention of whose name is enough to command respect for all he did—drew up certain Appropriation clauses, in order to bar any future infringement of the liberties of the people in that quarter. A Parliament was summoned and passed this Act. It is the 1 Wm. & Mary, s. 2, c. i. The Appropriation clauses (§ 45–53 and § 55) were not repeated in subsequent Acts, but were referred to in the following stringent terms:—And to the end the sums by this Act appro- 1740 priated may not he diverted or applied to any other purposes than are hereby declared and intended, Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the rules and directions appointed and enacted in one Act (1 Will. & Mary, Sess. 2, c. 1) intituled 'An Act for granting to their Majesties an aid of two shillings in the pound for one year, for the speedy payment of money thereby granted into the receipt of the Exchequer by the collectors and receivers, and for the distribution and application thereof and keeping distinct accounts of the same and all other provisions, pains, and penalties and forfeitures thereby enacted in case of diversion and misapplication of any money thereby appropriated, are hereby revived and enacted to be in force and shall be practised, applied, executed, and put in use for and concerning the distribution and application of the said sums hereby appropriated as fully, amply, and effectually as if the same were here again particularly repeated and re-enacted.'When this good practice fell into desuetude I cannot state. But at the present day the clause which is in vogue is as follows:—The said Aids and Supplies provided as aforesaid shall not be issued or applied to any use, intent, or purpose whatsoever other than the uses, intents, and purposes before-mentioned or for the other payments, appropriation, or application directed to be made or satisfied thereout by any Act or Acts or any particular Clause or Clauses for that purpose contained in any other Act or Acts of this Session of Parliament.That is the clause which is given in Mr. May's Practice of Parliament, p. 538. This was a matter upon which our forefathers exercised a great deal of strictness. A reference to the Journals of the House will show that Edward Seymour, Esq., Member of this House, was impeached on Saturday, Nov. 20, 1680, for eluding the Appropriation Act. A Committee was appointed, which reported on the Thursday following. And the House passed a Resolution declaring that such a misapplication is a sufficient ground for impeachment. On May 15, 1711, several Resolutions were passed to the effect that the application of even an unexpected surplus is a misapplication of public money, it not having been previously sanctioned by Parliament. On Jan. 12, 1784, a Resolution was carried, declaring that even after Votes in Supply have been passed, yet for any Minister to sanction the payment of these without an Act of Appropriation previously passed—Will be a high crime and misdemeanour, a daring breach of a public trust, derogatory to the fundamental privileges of Parliament, and subversive of the Constitution of this country.In latter years, however, this House has become far more negligent and lax. For in 1845 a clause was introduced into the 1741 Appropriation Act by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) to give the Treasury power to alter the relative amounts of the grants for the army and navy, provided the whole sum total were not exceeded. Yet on March 30, 1849, the following Resolution was carried:—When a certain amount of expenditure for a particular service has been determined upon by Parliament, it is the bounden duty of the department which has that service under its charge to take care that the expenditure does not exceed the amount placed at its disposal for that purpose.We learn, also, from Mr. May's Practice of Parliament, that it used to be customary to vote an instruction to the Committee on this Bill to receive a clause of Appropriation; and that this practice was discontinued in 1854. Thus it was that we find an entry in the Journals to the effect that the title of the Bill had been changed in Committee. For instance, in the Journals, vol. 109, p. 479, there is this entry—Mr. Bouverie reported, That the Committee had gone through the Bill, and had amended the title thereof; which title is as followeth:—A Bill to apply a sum out of the Consolidated Fund, and certain other sums, to the service of the year 1854, and to appropriate the Supplies granted in this Session of Parliament.It will be seen at p. 473 that the original title of the Bill did not contain the words "and to appropriate the Supplies," &c. Thus, until the year 1854, the House of Commons took measures to insure that the Appropriation Bill contained the usual restrictive clause; but since that time the Bill has not been printed and placed in the hands of Members, although there is no security that the usual form of the Bill is maintained, and the House remains in ignorance whether the Bill contains the Appropriation Clause or not. In 1857 and in 1859 it was omitted. On March 11, 1861, the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) moved an Amendment to the question that you, Sir, do leave the chair, which he withdrew on obtaining a distinct promise from the Government that they would not alter the Appropriation of any sums. Nevertheless, as the Bill is always drawn without their cognizance, this House should ascertain that the Bill is in the proper form, and should not allow such an important responsibility to devolve on a minor officer of the House. If, therefore, we desire honestly to discharge this responsi- 1742 bility; if we would fulfil the trust imposed upon us by our constituencies; if we would redeem some of the many pledges which we have given, or if we would but emulate the self-respect entertained by the Lords and refuse to be led blindly in the dark, then we shall insist upon getting this Bill into our hands before we vote that it be read a second time. We, on this side of the House, glory in the name of Conservatives. Of what are we Conservatives, if not of the ancient practice of local self-government and of the time-honoured municipal institutions of the country? Those on the other side of the House profess a love of liberty and call themselves the friends of the people. Are they friends but in name and in empty profession—merely verbum tenus amici?—or do they entertain any real anxiety to defend and preserve the rights of the people? If so let both join in stopping the progress of a baneful system which has been silently but steadily growing.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "be" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "not read a second time until it has been printed and in the hands of Members," instead thereof.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that about five years ago a clause had for the first time been introduced into the Appropriation Act calling upon the Government, on the presentation of the Army and Navy Estimates to mention a deviation which, might have taken place in the expenditure from the objects for which the money was voted in the previous year. Ho wished to know whether such a clause was contained in the present Bill?
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
felt obliged to the noble Lord, the Member for Huntingdon, for having brought the matter forward. He, however, took objection to the Bill on other grounds than those which the noble Lord had stated. He had obtained a return of the amounts voted in Supply and in Ways and Means in 1860–1, with an abstract of the manner in which those amounts were set forth in the Appropriation Bill of 1860–1. It showed that the sum £60,123,174 had been voted and paid, and what he wished was that it should be made intelligible in the Appropriation Act itself what were the amounts that had been voted in Committee of Supply. He had taken the liberty of suggesting a mode by which the Act could be made more intelligible by an alteration of the marginal reference. As they were 1743 given at present he would defy any Member to make out the total amount which had been voted during the year. "What was the objection to the alteration? He had made inquiry of the officers of the House, and was referred to Mr. Jones, who said he could not alter anything in the Appropriation Act, not even the marginal references, without the sanction of the Speaker. He had referred to the Speaker, and was given to understand that the alteration could not be made under the present form of procedure. He could not understand what the objection to the alteration was. It seemed to him to be a very simple thing. It did not interfere with the body of the Bill, but simply with the marginal references, and he should be very glad to hear what was the objection to it. He thought hon. Members should be able to understand what were the sums voted and what had been done with them from the Appropriation Bill itself; but he hoped, at least, in the beginning of the next Session the finance accounts would be in the hands of Members so as to enable them to understand the application of the sums voted.
wanted to know out of what funds the sum of £206,000 voted the other night as excess of military expenditure had been paid. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his financial statement at the commencement of the Session, stated that it would not be paid out of the revenue for this year. It could not have been paid out of the Vote of Credit of last year, because that Vote, according to the Appropriation Act, was applicable only to the payment of sums authorized by Parliament last Session. The charge must have been met in some way or other, and he should like to know in what?
said, there could be no doubt about the question of military excess. What he stated in his financial statement was that no provision would require to be made for that excess in the finance of the present year, inasmuch as it consisted of money which had been already paid. He did not understand the gallant General to dispute the fact that it had been already paid. Of course, therefore, it could not enter into the finance of the present year, having been paid out of the issues of the year to which it now stood as an excess. [Mr. PEEL: 1860–61.] His right hon. Friend, who understood the matter, would probably explain it to the House. He did not think 1744 that the observations of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Hankey) with respect to the Appropriation Bill were applicable to the present stage of that measure. The hon. Member thought that the structure of the Bill might be improved. That was a matter well worthy the attention of the House, and all he could say was that any suggestion upon that subject would, doubtless, be favourably entertained at the proper time — namely, either in Committee on the present Bill, or upon some convenient occasion next Session. The noble Lord opposite (Lord R. Montague) had truly stated that it was not for the Government but for that House to say how the Appropriation Bill should be dealt with. For his own part, he did not object to the Motion of the noble Lord on the ground of expense, because the question of the cost of delivering 600 copies of the Bill, if it were desirable on public grounds that it should be so delivered, was an utterly unimportant consideration. His objection to the Motion was one of a very different character. When the noble Lord said that the Bill should be delivered, he did not, of course, mean that it was to be regarded simply as so much waste paper. The noble Lord, doubtless, intended that it should be carefully examined by hon. Members, and that the multitude of figures which it contained should be subjected to a rigid investigation. For that purpose some time must be allowed; because a Bill of thirty-four pages could not be presented to hon. Members in the forenoon, and they should be asked to discuss it in the afternoon; in fact, what with the time which must necessarily be given to the officers who prepared the Bill, and to the printer who printed it, and that which must be allowed to hon. Members to consider its various clauses, he probably was not far wrong when he stated that five or six days must be interposed between the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill and the Motion for the second reading. Such was the addition which, if the Motion of the noble Lord were agreed to, must be made to the length of the Session. Now, everybody knew that when the Appropriation Bill came on there was a very great, and certainly a very natural anxiety on the part of hon. Members that it should be proceeded with from day to day, and therefore the real question before the House was whether the Session should be lengthened by about a week for the purpose of enabling those who might feel inclined to 1745 check the figures contained in the Appropriation Bill. The practice which the noble Lord now sought to introduce had not been adopted in cases where it might have been acted upon without adding to the length of the Session. No proposal was made to print the Consolidation Bills passed during the course of the Session, though they gave authority to the Government to issue £27,000,000; nor had the noble Lord required 600 copies of the Exchequer bills Bill to be delivered to hon. Members, though both of these might have been printed without interfering with the length of the Session; but in the only case in which the noble Lord proposed to have the Bill printed there would be that inconvenience which, according to the present course of business, would, he feared, be thought a very serious one by the House. At all events, he would suggest to the noble Lord that, instead of making such a Motion as the present, he should bring the matter forward at an earlier period of the next Session, when the House would have the opportunity of considering fully the amount of inconvenience likely to be incurred. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) estimated the advantages from the course proposed very low, but that might not be the opinion of the House, and it would be for the House, and not for the Government, to lay down the course of procedure in matters of this kind. The apprehensions of the noble Lord on account of the liberties of England were mainly connected with the fact that in two particular years one of the clauses of the Appropriation Bill, which the noble Lord called the Appropriation Clause, was omitted. But if any clause in particular was to be called the Appropriation Clause, it was plain that it was not the clause which the noble Lord mentioned, but the 10th Clause, which provided that the monies coming into the Exchequer should be appropriated, and were thereby appropriated as the House had directed. His impression was that that clause, although it might be inserted as a declaration of constitutional principle, was, in point of law, mere surplusage, because the Government had no authority to appropriate those monies to any other purposes than those for which Parliament had appropriated them. In other years to which the noble Lord referred, a difficulty arose in connection with the wording of that particular clause on account of the fact that there had been two Parliaments in both 1746 those years—1857 and 1859—before the Appropriation Act was passed, and that was the ground of the omission of the clause. He would therefore suggest to the noble Lord, if he thought the subject worthy the attention of the House, to bring it forward on a future occasion, when the House might see how to reconcile those views with its convenience, which he thought was that the prorogation should take place as soon as possible after the Supplies had been granted.
§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
said, the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire was very complete according to the present mode of conducting business; but the question was whether that mode was the proper one. The effect of the noble Lord's proposal would, no doubt, be practically to prolong the Session for a fortnight, but why should it be necessary to bring in the Appropriation Bill the moment the last Vote in Supply had been taken? In his opinion at least a fortnight should be interposed. The proper mode of proceeding would be next Session to determine beforehand how this part of their business should be transacted. If his noble Friend would at the commencement of next Session propound a scheme, or move a Committee for the purpose of devising the best scheme for arranging the business of Supply, so that the House should have an opportunity of comparing the Appropriation Bill with the Votes of Supply, he would be conferring an important service, and would deserve the thanks of the House.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, that if the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer proved anything, it proved that the Appropriation Bill was perfectly useless. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said they were bound to vote for the second reading of an Appropriation Bill, of which they knew nothing, merely because the Government managed matters so badly that hon. Members might be kept in town for a period that might not be convenient. He wanted to know why the Appropriation Bill was to be dealt with upon a principle different from other Bills? It was generally understood that they ought not to be called upon to vote for the second reading of a Bill which they had not read over. Now, he said that this Bill was of so much importance that the business of the House and country should be managed in such a manner that the Bill could be dealt with 1747 as other Bills, and Parliament ought not to be called upon to vote for a thing which they knew nothing about. This Bill was not a mere blank sheet of paper, but was a measure intended to put an actual check upon the way the money voted by Parliament was expended by the Government—it was very different from the Consolidated Funds Bill, for the simple reason that it was an Appropriation Bill. The noble Lord had been asked to bring the matter forward next Session, and to propose a scheme of his own. Now, though it might be very well left in the hands of the noble Lord, yet it was the duty of the Government to take it up, and he should like to have a pledge from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or some other Member of the Government to that effect.
§ MR. HENNESSY
wished to know who was responsible for this Bill. Unlike other Bills, it did not state by whom it was prepared, and brought in.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It was brought in by Mr. Massey, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Peel.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
would not recommend his noble Friend to withdraw his Amendment unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to give some pledge that such an irregularity as he thought had now taken place should not recur. It might be for the convenience of Gentlemen on the Treasury bench that Parliament should be prorogued as soon as possible; but, so far as those who sat on the Opposition benches were concerned they were quite prepared, if necessary, to sit there for a month longer, in order properly to transact the business of the country.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, that no irregularity whatever had occurred. The Appropriation Bill had been prepared and introduced just as its predecessors had been for the last fifty or one hundred years. The form was prescribed by the House, and no sort of objection had ever been taken to it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were, it seemed, quite prepared to sit another month longer; but what advantage would there be in sitting another month in order to do something in a different mode from that which had been the in- 1748 variable practice of that House, and to which no substantial objection could be urged?
§ MR. SPOONER
reminded the right hon. Gentleman that the subject had been discussed last year, and if his memory did not deceive him, a pledge had been given that the irregularity which then occurred would not be repeated. If the Appropriation Bill were not a farce, he hoped something would now be done to correct what he thought a serious anomaly.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
apprehended that the Votes in Supply during the Session were the real appropriations, and constituted the substance of the Appropriation Bill. The Votes were brought by the Executive Government before the Committee of Supply and discussed in Committee, and each Vote was, in fact, an appropriation. But, technically speaking, it was necessary to have an Act of the Legislature, and in order to that the Votes were combined in a Bill appropriating them to their several destinations. The preparation of that Bill had always been considered, very properly, the act of the clerks of that House. It involved nothing but a clerical function. There was nothing in the Bill on which any discretion could be exercised. It had never been until lately the practice to print even a single clause; but a few years ago there was a request made that one or two clauses might be printed, and they were printed. To represent the present mode of proceeding with the Bill as an innovation and unconstitutional was a simple delusion, and as wild a chimera as ever entered into the brain of any Member of the House.
§ MR. AYRTON
thought the objection to this mode of proceeding came very properly from the noble Lord, who he believed, was a descendant of the illustrious financier with whom the Appropriation Bill originated. It was certainly important to observe that the Bill had been altered in its terms without the knowledge or sanction of the House. ["No, no!"] He was merely stating what was a matter of fact; and the denial only showed how necessary it was, as a matter of precaution, that the Bill should be printed. He thought the reasons alleged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer against that course were conclusively in favour of the recommendation of the noble Lord, for the House had been degraded during the last two Sessions by the course 1749 pursued by the Government of postponing Votes in Supply to so late a period of the Session, when they were hurried on, morning and evening, without Members being able to give that attention to them which it was right they should give. He really thought the Bill should be printed in order that the Government might be compelled to submit the Votes in Supply at a period when they could receive due attention. He could not agree that a Vote in Supply authorized the expenditure of public money. That could only be done by Act of Parliament, and since the Votes had been thus hurried by the Government it was highly necessary that the House should possess the opportunity afforded by the Appropriation Bill of again taking the sense of the House on any particular Vote which had not been properly considered at the time it was passed. He was astonished at the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis) and denied that the Bill was a mere form. It was, he apprehended, quite competent for a Member to challenge any of the Votes in the Bill, and to divide there-upon. It might not be desirable to divide the House upon the present occasion; but he hoped that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would in a future Session bring forward the Votes at a proper period, so that there was time to discuss them. If the representatives of the people possessed any function in that House, it was surely that of checking the frightful expenditure and the extravagant waste in which the Government now indulged.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
There can; be no greater aggravation of an injury than to accompany it with mockery, and there can be no greater injustice than for those who have inflicted an injury to make that injury a subject of reproach to those who have suffered by it. The hon. Gentleman reproaches the Government with not bringing on the Votes in Supply at an early day, and finishing them sooner than at present. That reproach comes from independent Members, whose interposition of preliminary Motions every night upon which we go into Supply raises the interminable discussions which are the real cause of our finishing Supply so late. I must say that is a reproach which I think, upon reflection, my hon. Friend will find applies to other parties than the Government. We began Supply as early as we could, and if it has spun out until the end of the Session it is because hon. Gen- 1750 tlemen—and I do not blame them—having a great number of topics to call attention to, select the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair to go into Committee of Supply as a fit opportunity for raising discussions. I do not blame them, but still we ought not to be reproached for the delay. The hon. Member also found fault with us for saying that a Vote in Supply is an authority to issue the money. No one doubts that the moment a Vote in Committee is passed the Government is empowered to spend the money. It is quite true that for the purposes of audit the preliminary sanction of the three branches of the Legislature is necessary, and that is what the Appropriation Act gives; but that Act does not alter a single Vote. It is a record of past transactions, and does not afford the House an opportunity of altering any Vote. No one supposes that in the Appropriation Act we can increase or diminish any Vote. It is simply a form that is required by the Constitution, but it is not a Bill to give rise to any discussion.
thought, from the time the conversation had taken, that they were getting into an awkard position. The Prime Minister told them they could not deal with any article in the Appropriation Bill. He (Mr. Henley), on the contrary, thought it was competent for any Member to take the sense of the House upon every one of the items in that Bill, and for the House to determine whether it should be struck out or not. The Secretary of War as well as the Prime Minister spoke of the Bill as a mere form; but that was putting the question in a strange and inconvenient light. An hon. Gentleman made a Motion upon going into Supply the other night, which the Speaker ruled to be out of order, and he (Mr. Henley) then said publicly, and without contradiction, that the hon. Member could raise the question upon the Appropriation Bill. If the Bill was a mere form, and the Exchequer was entitled to issue money simply upon a Vote in Committee, that was a view for which he was not prepared. It would have been better if this question had been raised earlier, so that the officers might have had time to prepare the Bill for printing; but he could not see what difficulty there would be in preparing the accounts as the Votes passed through the Committee of Supply. It was not as though the whole of the Votes in Supply were reported in the last nights of the Session, for most of 1751 them had been reported long since. He hoped, however, that his noble Friend would not press his Motion upon this occasion. It would probably be convenient to adopt some course like that he had suggested at the beginning of the next Session. He thought the Prime Minister hardly felt the importance of the statement he had just made; he had always understood it was the privilege of any Member of the House to propose to strike out a money Vote on any stage of the Appropriation Bill.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
explained that he did not at all dispute the power or right of the House to make any alteration it pleased in a Bill as it passed through its several stages; but it had never been a custom, by alterations in the Appropriation Bill, to rescind the previous acts and Votes of the House.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Tomorrow.