§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
rose, pursuant to notice to move the following Resolution:—That, in order to strengthen the check upon the Government in regard to issues of money for any public service whatever in excess of the sums voted by Parliament, as well as to secure the just appropriation of every payment voted by Parliament to its proper account, a Committee be appointed, to be annually nominated by Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of revising all Estimates or accounts laid before Parliament; and that it be an instruction to the Committee to report in what way the present duties and powers of the Board of 1307 Audit should be extended or changed, with a view to render such Board responsible to Parliament alone, and the head of it not second in rank to any of the permanent Officers presiding over other departments, and also to make the present system of audit available for the purposes of the public service; and that it be a further instruction to such Committee to report to this House the exact period of the financial year when it would be desirable that the annual Estimates should be presented to Parliament, so as to enable the necessary examination of such Estimates or accounts to be completed and reported upon by such Committee before this House proceeds to sanction such Estimates or accounts by a vote of payment in Supply.The noble Lord said, it would be in the recollection of the House that at the close of last year he moved, as an amendment on the second reading of the Appropriation Bill, that the Bill be not read a second time until it was printed and in the hands of Members. So that every hon. Member might have the opportunity of seeing for himself whether it contained those checks and restrictions which are provided by the constitution. The Chancellor of the Exchequer recommended him not to press that Motion; but expressed a desire that he should bring forward the subject at all early day of the present Session. His right hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire gave him similar advice, and said—The proper mode of proceeding is to determine the matter early next Session,And said, that if he wouldMove for a Committee for the purpose of arranging the business of supply, he would be conferring an important service and deserve the thanks of the House.The House expressed its concurrence in this recommendation. He therefore considered that an injunction had been laid upon him by the House to bring forward his Resolution at an early period of the present Session. It would certainly be a mark of great carelessness and neglect not to comply with wishes so clearly expressed both by the House and by the two right hon. Gentlemen. Before proceeding, however, he must guard himself against some prejudices which were likely to arise in the minds of hon. Members. He protested that it was by no means his intention to move for a reduction in the effective force of army or navy. That was a totally different question, and need not be mixed up with the present matter of finance. It was a matter which had, year by year, to be determined by the exigencies of the case, and urged by 1308 the wisdom of the Executive. His object was, that the funds should be so wisely applied, and so strictly appropriated according to the wishes of Parliament, that the same effectiveness in army and navy might be maintained at a much less cost and burden to the country. He did not wish to diminish their effectiveness, but to accomplish a saving by means of a rigid system of expenditure. Nor, on the other hand, did he desire to tie up the hands of the Government, or leave them without funds wherewith to meet any exigency that might arise. The Resolution he now moved embodied no newfangled ideas of his own, nor did he lend himself to the theories of any enthusiasts out of doors. The Resolution which he was about to move had been taken word for word from the Report of the Committee on Public Monies; and he wished to force the Government to adopt recommendations which had been backed and enforced by a distinct Resolution of the House. The present was, therefore, not a party Motion. It attacked no Administration; it only found fault with a system. He did not hold any particular Ministry, nor any individuals before him, responsible for the evils which he believed to exist. He did not, however, expect to receive from the Government any support for a proposal so contrary to the traditions of Office and antagonistic to the prejudices of those in power; for it would limit the power and influence of the Administration. For many years a struggle had been going on between the House and the Ministry of the day as to the management of the funds of the country. Whoever opened the Journals of the House would see Motions and Amendments which were the marks and traces of the contest which had been carried on; as the maps of ancient Greece and Italy bore the Crosswords by every river and on every hill. That contest had been the nurse and cradle of our liberty. It would not cease until the country ceased to be free, and representative institutions existed only in name. The power was constitutionally in the hands of the House. But the powers of the House had been gradually filched away by the Administrations of the day. These usurpations had not advanced by great strides. They had been proceeding silently and quietly, by small and slow degrees. This might be thought strong language, but he was supported in this view by the high financial authority of 1309 a man who had won his laurels in this House, and then maintained his reputation in another place; a man who was known to have the most intimate acquaintance with the subject, for he had long been Comptroller of the Exchequer. In a Parliamentary paper, No. 52, of the year 1858, Lord Monteagle said—I deny that such confidence in the Executive is, has, or ought to be recognised in any free state. I deny that it has ever been, from the earliest times a principle adopted under the British Constitution. On the contrary, it is constitutional jealousy, and not confidence, upon which our institutions are founded, and on which the safety of the liberties of England depend,In this sense the Treasury Memorandum of 1857, after asserting that the control and check on the Treasury is purely imaginary, says that "a real check must be established instead of the imaginary one which is now supposed to exist." This check, as afterwards developed, consists in "the Speaker as the highest officer of the House," aided by an annually appointed Finance Committee. This was also the recommendation of the Public Monies Committee. He had therefore suggested in his Motion that the Committee should be so appointed. In consequence, however, of reasons which the Speaker had communicated to him in private, it was his intention to substitute for the words "Mr. Speaker" the words "the Committee of Selection." It might be asked, why not allow this Committee to be nominated like other Committees? But what would that amount to? Virtually to this, that the Government of the day would propose a check upon their own expenditure—a Committee to look into their own accounts. But if the appointment were left to the other side of the House, then it would come to this, that the Opposition would nominate a Committee to criticise the acts of the Government. It seemed to him, therefore, that this duty should be vested in an authority entirely independent of all party and faction whatsoever. He could not, as he had already said, expect a voluntary sacrifice on the part of the Government; neither could he expect support from the front bench on this (the Opposition) side of the House; neither from the Government in esse nor the Government in posse; neither from Gentlemen actually in power nor from Gentlemen that expected that they any day might receive it. Yet there were right hon. Gentlemen on this side who, whenever they were in office, had plumed themselves on the way 1310 in which they conducted their administrative duties; who had manifested their accuracy and scrupulous exactness in the management of the funds; and shown their desire conscientiously to carry out the wishes of Parliament; and who, when out of office, were constantly bringing these questions before the House and insisted upon financial accuracy being maintained, with the greatest importunacy which was possible, without actually being troublesome to the Government. He trusted, then, that from some of those right hon. Gentlemen he might meet with a small modicum of support. Yet he rested his case principally upon the support of independent Members; especially such of them as had gone down to their constituents, and been, lavish in their promises and profuse in their pledges of financial reform and financial retrenchment. Now was the time to fulfil those promises; here was the opportunity to redeem those pledges. He would, however, remind the Government that their responsibility is not less because the willingness to obey is strong. His object now was to explain the extent of the evils which he believed to exist, and then to show the remedies which at various times had been devised—the barriers of opposition which had been raised against the usurpations of the Ministry. The first remedy was the Appropriation Bill; that he would show had been sapped and undermined, and had become nearly useless. Then there was the Audit Board; that had been overridden by the Treasury (as he should prove by the evidence which had been taken before Committees of that House), and was merely a delusion and a sham. Then Committees had been appointed by the House; but their Reports had been shelved as soon as presented, and their recommendations had never been regarded. He would first say a few words to make out his case, to make, as it were, the diagnosis of the disease. He would not enlarge much on the size of the Estimates; for this was a matter on which much had lately been said. He must, however, allude to this matter in a very cursory manner. From a Parliamentary paper lately given to Members, it appeared that the sums voted in Supply in 1835 amounted only to £ 14,000,000; in 1840 to £ 17,500,000; in 1850 they rose to £ 20,000,000, and in 1860 to no less than £ 45,500,000. The sums voted annually in Supply were now more than all the sums so voted during the whole reign of 1311 William III.; they were fifty times as great as they were in any one year at the beginning of that reign. The Army Estimates alone were as great as at the very height of that fierce struggle, when we had all the Powers of Europe and America against us. Our peace was but war in masquerade; it combined the costliness of war with the carelessness of peace. He would now state the Votes for the Army, Navy, and Civil Services, taking them at intervals of ten years. In the year 1839 the sums voted for the navy were £ 5,500,000; in 1849, £ 7,000,000; in 1859, £ 13,000,000. The sums voted for the army in 1839 were £ 8,500,000; in 1849, £ 9,000,000; and in 1859, £ 13,000,000. Then the sums voted for the Civil Services were, in 1839, £ 2,500,000; in 1849, £ 4,000,000; and in 1859, £ 15,000,000. Mr. Laing, who had been Under Secretary to the Treasury, had shown in his evidence before the Committee on Miscellaneous Expenditure not only that the Estimates had increased to a most incredible extent, but that the increase had been progressive in a multiplied ratio. Between the years 1851 and 1856 the average increase was only at the rate of £ 200,000 a year; between 1856 and 1859 it was £ 275,000; and in 1859 it was £ 600,000. It became the duty then, if not the interest, of the House to ask itself why this should be. Why was the increase so rapid and so great? That question had been answered in the evidence before the Committee on Miscellaneous Expenditure. The simple answer was, that Parliament had lost its control over the funds; that the control had been usurped by the Ministry of the day. That assertion he made, not upon his own authority, but upon that of men of great weight who had been examined before Committees of the House. This control was lost in various ways; the scrutiny of Parliament was evaded by various means. He would allude in the first place to the system of balances. Mr. Laing, when questioned by Sir Stafford Northcote on that point before the Committee on Miscellaneous Expenditure, gave evidence to the following effect—Is it apparent in any account which is laid before Parliament? No, it is not; unless in the Vote submitted to Parliament it may be mentioned, as it sometimes is, in a note.Is it the fact that, from the manner in which the accounts are published, Parliament is ignorant of the fact that part of the apparent balance is already bespoken?.… Undoubtedly, the fact is not brought under the cognizance of Parliament.1312 Afterwards, in speaking of the Civil Service, Mr. Laing is asked by—Sir HENRY WILLOUGHBY: Are you aware that a balance had been left in various ways unknown to Parliament until the Committee on public monies made its investigation and reported? … and was it not in consequence of that being found out that the sum, of money of £ 66,000 was surrendered? Mr. LAING. NO doubt.In the evidence before the Committee of last year on Public accounts it was stated that as the balances were not surrendered, in the Civil Service, "There is no means of checking the accounts." In the Report various examples were given. There was a case one year of a balance of £ 43,000 remaining in hand from the Vote for Royal Palaces; and yet the Commissioner of Works came down to the House and asked for a Vote of £ 44,000, without stating that be had that balance. The whole of that £ 44,000 remained in excess at the end of the year. That £ 44,000 would, therefore, have been much better left to fructify in the pockets of the taxpayers. The Minister had asked for it, without needing it, merely to have it in his hands. Again, there was another instance, though the particulars he did not recollect, in which there was a balance of £ 650,000, which was more than all the Expenditure under that head in the year. Of course such balances became very convenient in the hands of an irresponsible power, and a useful cloak and screen from the scrutiny of Parliament. It is then an important question to ask how these balances are obtained? how are they manufactured? It appeared from Mr. Anderson's evidence last year that these balances were manufactured by every department asking for a sum greater than it would be likely to expend. He said, "Every department estimates with a view to be safe." Mr. Laing was more precise, for in 1860 he stated in evidence that every department asks for a Vote one quarter greater than the utmost which they thought they would expend. This being the fact, what was the result? What is the effect of this practice? It appeared in the evidence of Mr. Laing, that the Treasury could always order the withdrawal of the whole unexpended balances. They were then put into the hands of the Paymaster General, increasing the general balance at the Pay Office; and then Mr. Laing was asked this question, "That being so, might not the money be used for other purposes than the particular object for which the money 1313 had been voted?" and he answered, "Yes, in the hands of the Paymaster General: when it got there, the appropriation of it could not be traced further." That constituted the first means by which the control of Parliament was evaded; and yet in the finance accounts of last year no accounts were given under the head of arrears and balances, though it was by means of these balances that the control of Parliament was evaded. In fact, under that head all that was printed was this, "It is not considered necessary to print this class of accounts." He would now allude to another mode by which the control of Parliament was evaded—namely, by transfers, or misappropriations. In these cases the control of Parliament is not only evaded; its orders are directly set at nought and violated. Mr. Laing, in his evidence before the Committee on Miscellaneous Expenditure, after allowing that the rule about appropriation is "rather elastic," is asked by Sir Stafford Northcote—How soon is any application of one sum to another purpose brought under the notice of Parliament?—If it were within the same Vote, I do not see that it would be brought under the notice of Parliament.Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: If therefore the Ministers of the day wished to expend a certain sum upon an object for which they were not likely to get the consent of Parliament, they might, by taking a very small sum for that object, and by taking unnecessarily large sums for other objects, accomplish the object without the knowledge of Parliament?—… Mr. LAING: I do not know whether what is suggested could be done to any large extent. If it were done to a large extent, it would be almost certain to excite attention, especially if it were done for some unpopular object … at the same time, theoretically speaking, it is no doubt possible to a certain extent.And Mr. Anderson (chief clerk of the Treasury) gives similar evidence, that it is in the power of a department, by postponing work for which money has been voted, to obtain funds for a work (to which a Vote of Credit has been specially applied) to set free part of that Vote of Credit for the purposes of another department. In fact, it would thus be quite possible to spend £ 200,000 on elections and no one would know. The House recollected that at the end of the Navy Estimates of the present year eight cases of transfer were noticed. This occurred during March last, when the House was sitting, and when its sanction for the transfer might have been obtained; and it had the other night been 1314 declared by the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford that these transfers were effected "so as to defeat the control of the House." This was in the debate on the Report of the Committee of Supply the other night. He had heard, but he did not know whether the statement was correct, that when the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon was Secretary for War, in 1858, finding the barrack accommodation deficient, he inquired into the reason, and discovered that the £ 3,500,000 which had been voted for that purpose during the four previous years, had been transferred or misappropriated before he came into office. He had also heard that the gallant General, although he was most scrupulous in the management of his department, and though determined that not a single Vote in his department should be exceeded, was obliged to propose a Vote for a large excess occasioned by the mismanagement of those who had gone before him in the office. The next example of this evil system was the case of a whole department. The Woods and Forests was a department put openly and avowedly beyond the control of Parliament. Mr. Anderson, in his evidence, stated that—The accounts are laid before Parliament when the expenditure had been incurred, and there is no possibility of altering it. No previous sanction of Parliament is given to the items of expenditure. It is an account of money expended over which the House of Commons has no control.The building at Pimlico, as well as that at Sandhurst, which had recently been matter of discussion, was an illustration of another way in which the control of Parliament was evaded. That building was begun without the sanction of Parliament, and then a Vote was asked to pay for the expense. This Vote was objected to. Then the Minister said: This money has already been expended; besides, there is a contract for the rest, and the contractor must receive a bonus to induce him to drop his contract; then you must pay for digging up what has already been built; and this will amount to nearly the same as the whole building would cost.
Another class of Votes placed beyond the control of Parliament was the class of Civil Contingencies. This appeared from the evidence of Mr. Laing, who stated—There has been a tendency of late years, to put into Class 7 certain matters which might properly belong to other classes.1315 Then he says that once a work gets into Class 7 it never gets out again. He is then asked by Sir Stafford Northoote—Are not all sums expended on Civil Contingencies, expended without the control of Parliament at all?—Yes, no doubt; Civil Contingencies is a fund which the Treasury has a discretion to draw upon," &c.Sir STAFFORD NORTHOOTE: And therefore the effect of voting upon Civil Contingencies charges for services which might regularly be estimated, is this—that the control of Parliament over those services is practically destroyed?—No doubt; the Civil Contingencies should be confined as strictly as possible to matters which cannot be foreseen.Such a convenient class for the acquisition of power is, of course, made the most of. Mr. Laing is asked by Sir Stafford North-cote—Of late years the fact has been that the Treasury has spent more upon Civil Contingencies than the amount proposed?—Yes; I apprehend it will become necessary to transfer some large Votes to the Estimates, and yet take nearly the same sum for Civil Contingencies.Hence this class is not only bad in itself, but is an abettor and pander to other classes. Thus—Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: Is it not the case that the number of objects included in Class 7 has grown from eight objects in 1848, to fifty-three objects in 1859?—Yes, that is so.Also, Mr. Anderson says, that if we go on as we have done of late years, Class 7 will soon absorb all the rest. Mr. Laing continues, that this is the class over which Parliament should exercise the strictest supervision. Yet it is passed at the close of the Session during the Dog-days; and thus "this omnibus Class" escapes all attention from Parliament. Mr. Anderson last year, in answer to a question put by Sir James Graham, defined Civil Contingencies as "A fund to meet expenses which cannot be foreseen, for which no provision can be made and no estimate prepared." Yet he then says that "If this principle were adhered to, the residuum in Civil Contingencies would be very small indeed;" for this class contains "a very small proportion of expenses which could not be foreseen, and for which no provision could be made, and no estimate prepared." In the Report of the Committee of last year, various examples are given. For instance a chapel was bought in Paris; the House subsequently refused to, sanction the purchase, and the chapel was resold at a loss—the nation 1316 being mulcted in the difference. The Report says, "This ought to have been brought to the knowledge of Parliament." Then, there was the case of a sum of £ 37,500 given to the Monte Videan Government, no one knows why; on this the Report says, "This expenditure was incurred without the knowledge of Parliament; it might have been made from the Treasury chest, which would have brought it before Parliament." Then, again a sum was given to the King of Bonny, so that "The authority of Parliament was entirely defeated in the payment of that sum." In short, as Mr. Anderson says in conclusion, this class of civil contingencies should be discontinued, because it is a fund with which such tricks can be played. He should next advert to Votes of Credit. He had already alluded to them under the head of transfers, as a means which helped the commission of such misappropriations. They were also in themselves a means of evading the control of Parliament. It was a very great error to confound together Votes of Credit and Votes on Account. These are totally different things. The Committee on Public Monies had recommended that Votes on Account should be taken "For such services as had already been sanctioned by Parliament," in order to preserve Parliamentary control, and in order to prevent misappropriations. Such a confusion is not made in private affairs. If a tradesman presents his account and asks for money account the demand is thought very reasonable. But if a tailor, to whom you, Sir, owed nothing, came and asked for money on credit, in return for which he would engage to supply you with such clothes as he might deem suitable and necessary to your rank, position, and dighity; you would think the tailor was making a most extraordinary and indefensible proposal. Yet this is what Ministers constantly do. The Journals of this House show that our forefathers always resisted such a proposal. In 1675 there was a Resolution that "This House refuses to grant money to pay off any sums spent in anticipation." Hatsell mentions a later Resolution that "Whosoever shall advance money on the revenue shall be judged to hinder the sitting of Parliament;" and also a Resolution against "accepting tallies of anticipation." The Journals next show that when William III. proposed that a Vote of Credit should be given him to the extent 1317 of £ 1,000,000 for the purposes of carrying on the war in which he was engaged, the House came to a Resolution not to grant such a vote to a greater amount than £ 10,000. George I. also asked for supplies to concert measures against the King of Sweden who was plotting some mischief against this country. It was then urged that "It was unparliamentary to grant a supply before the occasion was known, and an estimate of the expense laid before the House." In 1727 a Clause of Credit was passed allowing Ministers to apply certain sums to meet the exigencies of public affairs. The following Protest was then entered on the Lords' Journals:—Because it is inconsistent with that part of the Bill which forbids the supplies to be issued to any other purposes than those specified; and renders ineffectual that appropriation of the public money which the wisdom of many Parliaments has thought, and we are convinced ought to be thought, a necessary security against the misapplication of it.Precedents are of use because they contain a judgment of the case apart from the passions of the day. Here is another Protest, of still greater importance, against a Vote of Credit for £ 1,200,000, in the year 1734—Because it puts it in the power of a Minister to divert any of the Supplies to whatever purposes poses he shall see fit … whereas Appropriating Clauses were introduced to prevent the secret ill use of public money; and every ten dency of breaking through them is a just foundation for Parliamentary jealousy and inquiry; and therefore we apprehend that we cannot answer it to the nation if we should acquiesce when such innovations are attempted … Monies are granted always in consequence of Estimates laid before the House of Commons, and for services specified … But this clause gives ministers such a latitude to misapply the public money, that we apprehend it to be of the most dangerous consequence.Votes of Credit, he might add, came into common use during the war which we waged against France at the beginning of the present century; but then they were accompanied by various restrictions and obstructions which clearly showed that they were, even then, regarded as a means of evading Parliamentary control. Thus, Mr. May mentions that "When a Vote of Credit is necessary in time of war, to meet emergencies," a message is sent from the Crown under sign manual to both Houses, which message is referred in the Commons to a Committee of Supply. Votes of Credit are manifestly, therefore, 1318 another way in which the functions of the House are overridden and Ministers obtain irresponsible power and control. He had now shown the great evils which existed, and traced them all to this one source and origin; namely, the want of control by Parliament. He had also enumerated the various ways in which the supervision of Parliament was evaded. He confessed that it was merely a bald and meagre sketch—a mere outline. But those who followed him, who had a much more intimate acquaintance with the subject than himself, could fill in those darker shades, and add that heightened coloring which would make the picture more true, but at the same time more terrible. He was sure that, except through laziness and inertness, the House would not connive at such a system; it would not abdicate its functions, neglect its duties, abuse its trust, and those its due control over the funds. Sir, that people deserves a tyrant which has ceased to defend its liberties; and those destroy representative institutions who sap the control of representatives. He would now allude to the barriers which had, from time to time, been raised against the usurpations of the Ministry—the remedies for the evils of which we how complain. With the view of securing that control, recourse had been had, among other measures, to an Appropriation Bill. In its very infancy, the House showed the greatest anxiety concerning the funds, and strictness in appropriating them. He found, in Grey's Debates, that Mr. Sachevrell (who assisted Lord Somers in framing the Appropriation Clause at the time of the Revolution), asserted that as early as the reign of Edward I. the money voted by the House was always strictly appropriated. At all events, there were statutes of the time of Richard II. and Henry IV. by which the Supplies were appropriated. The Commons' Journals contain a Resolution of the year 1624, to the effect that "Monies mentioned in the Act of Subsidy shall be paid as first voted." Lord Somers, also, mentions that one of the grievances, in the Declaration of Grievances of 1642. was, that "Sums of money intended for the guard of the seas are dispersed to other uses." Towards the end of that century, as the Journals testify, Sir George Downing carried an Appropriation Clause by a large majority. And subsequently Sir Thomas Littleton carried a Resolution that the money voted for ship- 1319 building "is to be appropriated and applied only as specified," and that "heavy penalties should be laid on all officers of the Exchequer, and on all through whose hands money shall pass which has been diverted from its original purpose." During that debate Mr. Sachevrell said it was "high treason to pay money to any other use than it was granted for." The House then ordered a Bill to be brought in to "appropriate the supplies pursuant to the several Votes." Sir Edward Seymour, Treasurer of the Navy, was also impeached because he lent, for the use of the army, £ 90,000 which had been appropriated to the navy. Such a transfer was deemed sufficient ground for impeachment. Soon afterwards, in 1689, the 1st of the reign of William and Mary, Lord Somers and Mr. Sachevrell were employed to draw up Appropriation Clauses. The Appropriation Clauses, as framed by Lord Somers, contained the most minute and severe restrictions with respect to the application of the supplies granted by Parliament. Lord Somers's Clauses are contained in 1 Will. & Mary, s. 2, c. i. (1689). The Appropriation Clauses (§ 45–53 and § 55) were not repeated in subsequent Acts, but were referred to in the following stringent terms (e. g. in 6 & 7 Will. III. c. 7):—And to the end the sums by this Act appropriated may not be 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), &c. … 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.This clause Was afterwards discontinued, and the following of milder form, was substituted:—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. 1320 May's Practice of Parliament, p. 538, and also in Hatsell.
In bringing the subject under the notice of the House towards the close of last Session, he had taken occasion to read the Appropriation Clause; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in replying to the observations which he then made, remarked that—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 (Lord Robert Montagu) mentioned, but the 10th Clause,And that the Appropriation Clause he, moreover, called "mere surplusage." Yet Hatsell shows that this "mere surplusage" is the Appropriation Clause, which our forefathers framed as the guardian and security for our liberties. He says also that—The strict appropriation of supplies was, at the Revolution, … made part of that system of Government which was then established, for the better securing the rights, liberties, and privileges of the country.Then, again, Mr. Hallam in his Constitutional History, wrote as follows:—From the Revolution the appropriation of the supplies has been the invariable usage.And—By a clause annually repeated in the Appropriation Act of each Session, the Lords of the Treasury are forbidden, under severe penalties, from issuing money by any warrant, except for that to which it has been appropriated.And he continues—A House of Commons would be deeply responsible to the country if, through supine confidence, it should abandon that high privilege which has made it the regulator of foreign connections.Such were the opinions of eminent authorities with respect to a clause which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had characterized as "mere surplusage;" but he thought he had said enough to show the House that the view of the right hon. Gentleman was hardly correct. Thus the House of Commons in its infancy bad struggled for the strict appropriation of supply; in the days of its strength it carried these restrictions with a high and severe hand; in the days of its decrepitude and decline we may expect it to regard lightly the result of our forefathers' struggles, and part with the ægis of our liberties. At the beginning of the present century the House of Commons, not content with the Appropriation Bill, passed a Resolution to the effect that to apply, to 1321 the navy, money voted for the army, or vice versâ, was a misdemeanour and a gross violation of the Appropriation Act. In 1846, however, the House agreed to a Motion permitting the transfer of money from one service to the other; but that was to be done only where a surplus was applied to meet a deficiency. This Mr. Anderson stated in his evidence last year he also said that the practice was illegal, and that this Resolution was passed to suit an illegal custom. Yet the change thus introduced led to great abuse, as in the case of a recent Vote for iron ships, every farthing of which was devoted to the purchase of military stores; in which case there could not be said to have been a surplus. In 1849 the conscience of the House was smitten, and the consequence was the passing of a Resolution—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.This Resolution overrides that of 1846 The latter permitted transfers between navy and army, if one service had exceeded the Vote and the other had a balance: in such a case, and in such alone, the Resolution of 1846 was operative; for that Resolution allowed the application of surpluses to meet deficiencies. The Resolution of 1849, on the other hand, altogether debars all deficiencies. Yet, the Resolution of 1846 is inserted as a clause in the Appropriation Bill to this day, because it gives a greater power to the Ministry; while that of 1849 is entirely forgotten, and has become a dead letter. In the first Session of 1857, and again in the second Session of 1859, the Appropriation Clause was left out of the Appropriation Bill. The result in 1860 was that there were 11,500 more men in the army than Parliament had voted, and the military expenditure exceeded by £ 1,000,000 the sum which had been granted by Parliament. The sum spent on miscellaneous services, moreover, exceeded the Votes by £ 310,000; it was £ 860,000, instead of £ 550,000, the amount sanctioned by Parliament. Yet, in voting the Supplies, the form is as follows:—That a sum not exceeding £ 550,000 be applied to miscellaneous charges.1322 Parliament ordered that this sum should not be exceeded, and granted the money on that condition. Yet the Government had exceeded it. Another remarkable case was that of the Vote for iron ships. At the end of the Session, Ministers came down to the House with a special Bill, and represented that, in consequence of the measures taken by the Emperor of the French to create a gigantic fleet, it was absolutely necessary that we should instantly provide ourselves with a certain number of iron ships. They said the matter was one of great urgency; and at their request the House hurriedly voted £ 250,000 for ironclad vessels. Next year the House found, to its astonishment, that not a single penny had been spent on iron ships, but that the whole £ 250,000 had been expended on military stores. Then, again, the sum of £ 519,000, which had been voted for transports, was also in the same year spent on military stores; and yet large sums had been specially devoted by Parliament, that same year, to the purchase of the most profuse amount of military stores. The next remedy which had been framed was the Audit Board; but that Board was a mere sham. Parliament, no doubt, had invested it with ample powers; but the Board was laughed to scorn by the Government. The Board did not audit the accounts of a single department. Mr. Romilly, the Chief Commissioner of Audit, was asked the following questions by the Committee on Miscellaneous Expenditure:—And practically the Audit Office has no check pon the expenditure of the Secretary of State at War; … or is there practically any detailed check upon the expenditure which the Secretary at War makes?—Mr. Romilly: There is not in our office; … there is virtually no check, except in the department itself.Then, after saying that there is no check by the Treasury, he is asked—I think you stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer signed the account which the Board puts before him, as a matter of course?—Yes. And he makes no examination of it at all?—No, certainly not.Of course, in saying this, he did not mean to impugn the right hon. Gentleman who now fills the office of Chancellor. Every one knows that this right hon. Gentleman is exceedingly conscientious and scrupulous. He trusted the House would remember that he did not blame any individuals, but only the system; and whenever he mentioned certain offices, he did 1323 not allude to the persons who fill those offices.You do not get all the accounts from the Commissioners, do you?—No, we do not get the accounts from the Civil Service Commissioners. How are the receipts for Civil Contingencies presented to you?—We do not examine the accounts of the Civil Contingencies. Do you see an account of the expenditure incurred on account of special missions, such as … Lord John Russell's mission to Vienna, or Mr. Cobden's mission to Paris?—No.From all this, the only conclusion which can be drawn is that which even Mr. Romilly himself is constrained to draw—namely, that the House of Commons and the people of England are deceived.So that if the House of Commons or the public imagine that the whole public expenditure goes through the Audit Office, they are greatly mistaken?—Greatly mistaken.Now, how is this? Parliament settled ample powers on the Audit Board, by the Act of 9 & 10 Vict. c. 92; yet those powers of Parliament are laughed to scorn by Ministers. Mr. Romilly says that they "cannot apply to any Secretary of State the power which Parliament has given them; for the Secretary of State, backed by the whole power of the Treasury, only laughs at them." He continues to say, "We have no control over the accuracy of the items." Then again, with regard to the Secret Service Money, "We do not see any of the particulars." So that of all these various departments the accounts of none are audited. In fact, the Audit Board is a mere figment or Guy Fawkes, Mr. Anderson corroborates this statement in his evidence before the Committee of Public Accounts; for he says, that out of £ 46,000,000 of expenditure the accounts of £ 40,000,000 are not audited by the Board, but only by the departments which authorize the expenditure. The Act prescribes that all papers, accounts, &c., shall be sent to the Audit Office, Now, how is this law obeyed? Mr. Romilly is asked—Do not the Treasury send all accounts to you?—Certainly not; a very large part of the public accounts of the kingdom do not come before us. The accounts of the several Secretaries of State and a great many others we never see; … the circumstances which may induce the Treasury to decide in favour of sending some accounts to the Audit Office and of withholding others are of a kind that can only be known to the officers of the Treasury … I am really unable to state what the circumstances are which induce the Treasury to send some accounts to us and withhold others. It rests altogether with the Treasury; they have an absolute discretion in the matter.—Then, in 1324 fact, the Board of Audit is little more than the right hand of the Treasury for conducting a certain service?—In many respects this is so.Nor was that all. Mr. Macaulay, another of the Audit Commissioners, stated that when the Audit Office disallowed an account, the Treasury frequently allowed it; that the power substantially rests with the Treasury, and the powers given by Parliament are practically of no avail against the Treasury. Commissary General Power also said, "that so far from the checks; on improvident expenditure being strengthened by modern changes, they have been weakened." The Audit Board was consequently worse than useless, for not only did it not examine all the public accounts, but it had to stand godfather for the evil deeds of the Treasury. There was a Resolution passed by the House in August, 1860, which was recited in the Report of the Select Committee on Public Accounts, That Resolution had been moved by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Francis Baring) the Member for Portsmouth; it was to this effect, "that the appropriation and audit of monies voted for the Civil Service Estimates is insufficient, unsatisfactory, and require early amendment." The conclusion of the Report of the Committee of last year was in these words, "Your Committee may be permitted to express a hope that another year will not pass without the application of a remedy to a state of things which the Resolution of the House has declared to be insufficient, unsatisfactory, and requiring early amendment." The Resolution moved last year by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer he had promised should have become a Standing Order; but that had not yet taken place. Besides, the Committee last year were ordered only to consider audited accounts; yet in their Report they had stated distinctly that the Audit Board was practically useless, the accounts virtually not being audited at all. Hence that Committee did not meet the requirements of the present case. The Treasury Minute of 1858, issued while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire was Chancellor of the Exchequer, would have carried out the whole of the Report of the Public Monies Committee; for it is, in fact, framed in the very words of that Report. He then also stated his intention to bring in three Bills to secure to the Audit Board the necessary powers, and to make it independent of the Treasury. No doubt, the right hon. 1325 Gentleman would have fulfilled his promise but for that unlucky Congress at Willis's Rooms, when the noble Lord opposite held out his hand and lifted the noble Lord the Member for the City of London on to the platform. The one then stood for representative Reform and the other for financial Reform, and their two hands were joined together, of course sine cerâ, in the utmost sincerity. Now, how much of the former have you ever got? They all knew where representative Reform had gone to; it had gone to the—"other place." At least the representative of representative Reform had gone there. And now, how much financial Reform will you get? Nay, how great a security for financial accuracy shall we get? for that is all we want. Where is that going to?—Well, he hoped financial Reform would go the other way. But as yet, far from getting financial Reform, they could not even get financial accuracy. What was desired was, that the Report of the Committee on Public Monies should be carried out, and that the powers delegated to the Audit Board should not be laughed to scorn. He next referred to the remaining remedy which had been devised—namely, the various Committees that had been appointed from time to time to take into consideration the Estimates. There had been Committees, as proved by the Commons' Journals, to inspect the navy, the ordnance and stores, to audit accounts, to search for frauds, to investigate the application of public monies and the employment of stores. Some of these Committees had brought to light abuses and gross misapplications of the public monies which had never been suspected. Then there were Commissioners appointed by the House to inquire into mismanagements in the clothing for the army, into contracts for clothing, into the selling of old uniforms; and also, "to inquire whether the good husbandry and economy so much talked of" was really carried into these departments Then, in the reign of William III. the Navy Estimates were referred to a Committee of seventy-seven Members, and the Army Estimates were referred to a Committee of fifty-one Members. Yet he must remark, that that King was a most powerful and somewhat despotic monarch. In these days we have not to dread the despotism, or guard against the prerogatives of a monarch. We have to defend ourselves against the far more insidious and dangerous usurpation of power on the 1326 part of a Ministry which wields both the Crown and the House in order to carry out its own objects. A few years later (in 1697) Sir Thomas Littleton made a Motion, "that all Estimates and accounts and the state of finances should be referred to a Select Committee of fifty-two Members." The Estimates were again referred to a Select Committee in 1848. The Committee of Public Monies was appointed in 1854. Mr. Anderson said of their Report, in his evidence last year—I think the recommendation contained in the Report of the Public Monies Committee is the best and the most practical, and I think it is the only working arrangement that we can really carry out.He (Lord Robert Montagu) then showed that the terms of his own Resolution were entirely consistent with and, indeed, borrowed from the Report of the Committee on Public Monies, by reading out the clauses in his own Resolution, and he corresponding clauses in the Report of the Public Monies Committee. He had shown the rapid and vast increase of the Estimates, the reckless and careless expenditure, and the loose application of the public monies. The first opposition which had been raised was the Appropriation Bill; but that had been castrated, mutilated, and bereft of all useful powers. The second barrier was the Audit Board; but the public were deceived therein. Government had worked windward of it, took the wind out of its sails, and left it sagging and drifting helplessly to leeward. The third security was in Committees; but their Reports were never listened to by the Ministry, and the evidence which they had collected was quickly shelved. The deaf adder stoppeth her ears, charm the Committees never so wisely. If the Ministers were responsible this would be of no great moment. But the Ministry were not really responsible, and the House had no real control over the public monies. Responsibility of Ministers was a term which had been accepted without investigation, and had become current without thought. If the evidence before all those Committees proved anything, it proved that Ministers were not responsible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might feel fettered; but it was only by a moral responsibility. He complained that such a thing was beneath a great nation, that it should depend on the moral character, or even the daily whim, of its Chancellors of the Exchequer. He would 1327 read three lines from M. Fould, the great Finance Minister of France. He said—For my part I attach the greatest importance to the system of transfers. 1 see in it the only practicable and effectual means of securing the public service in the absence of the Legislative Body.That is the secret of the whole system of evil of which we complain; it springs from a desire to govern without the House of Commons. It would be for that House to say whether they would lazily resign those powers which the Constitution had given them. To do such a thing would be like the act of the doting old King Lear. But to part with powers which had been intrusted to us, and committed to our care and safe keeping, would brand us black with dishonour and foul with bad faith. He did not think further argument was necessary. If it were, he would use the words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). He could not, he would not dare to use such words on his own authority, or to hint at such an awful possibility as that which the right hon. Gentleman asserted. On the 16th of August, 1860, speaking of the "lamentable and deplorable state of our whole arrangements with regard to public works," he said—Vacillation, uncertainty, costliness, extravagance, meanness, and all the conflicting vices that could be enumerated, were united in our present system. … The money of the country was wasted. He believed such were the evils of the system that nothing short of a revolutionary reform would ever be sufficient to rectify it.He did not think they had yet come to that pass. He thought a remedy might be applied without the necessity for revolution. Yet, Sir, these reforms must be made; such abuses cannot go on; the public will force reform upon you. If it be done at once, it might be accomplished in a spirit of moderation and calmness; but if the remedy were delayed, it would become the deed of violence and intemperance. It would now be the work of judgment and reason, because passion had not been called in; but if it be forced upon you by a ferment in the public mind, the result will be the victory of passion and the reward of insubordination. Cardinal Alberoni said—We submit to boundless taxes, which the idea of liberty alone renders supportable.Sir, ideas quickly fade when there is no reality to correspond. In order that that 1328 idea might be made a reality, he would now place his Resolution in the Speaker's hands, and commit it to the care of the House. But he would beseech the House to remember one thing—that the control of the purse was the source of power, and that the Exchequer was the battle-field of liberty. The noble Lord concluded by moving his Resolution, substituting the words "Committee of Selection" for "Mr. Speaker."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed.
§ SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, that as the noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu) did not appear to anticipate any assistance either from the Government in esse or the Government in posse, he (Sir Francis Baring) as chairman of the Public Monies Committee, might perhaps be allowed to ask the House to consider what would be the real effect of the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord. The House was to consider whether the proposal of the noble Lord was likely to produce the good result which he appeared to anticipate from its adoption. He (Sir Francis Baring) was firmly convinced that that proposal, if adopted, would rather tend to throw difficulties in the way of the improvements, which he, together with the noble Lord, earnestly wished to carry into effect. He would not follow the noble Lord through all the arguments he had adduced with respect to the evidence brought before the Public Monies Committee, but the noble Lord had forgotten to state that every one of the points which had been touched upon by the noble Lord had been fully considered by that Committee, and that they had themselves recommended certain remedial measures. Every possible evidence that could be brought forward on the subject had been adduced before the Committee, and there was no necessity for any further information. What was wanted, therefore, was not the appointment of another Committee, such as the noble Lord now proposed, but that the recommendations of previous Committees should be fairly carried out. The Committee on Public Accounts, which sat last year, had gone carefully through four different heads of the Estimates, and had made a series of recommendations, some of which required the passing of an Act of Parliament to enable them to be practically adopted. That had already been done, and he believed that considerable progress had been made in giving effect to the other suggestions of the Se- 1329 lect Committee. He alluded to the recommendations with regard to the Civil Contingencies and the Public Works. The present proposal would, however, throw impediments in the way of the beneficial change which he desired. The noble Lord's speech was not wholly free from a political tinge. He accused the Government of being always hostile to improvement, and always baulking the House of Commons in this matter. Now, he was bound to say that almost every improvement in the public accounts had originated with the Government. The late Sir James Graham, when a Minister, had introduced that most material check, the Appropriation Audit. If hon. Members, instead of declaiming against the Government, would look to what it had been doing, they would find that the heads of the different departments had done their best to introduce a better system of accounts. The improved arrangements in respect to the Army, the Ordnance, and the Treasury chest had all originated in the proposals of the Government. No doubt there had been some delay, although not latterly, in carrying out the recommendations of the Select Committee; yet it should be remembered that the delay had in a great measure been occasioned by the changes of Government and to the stilt more frequent changes in the office of Secretary to the Treasury which had occurred of late. Then, moreover, the task to be accomplished was by no means an easy one, but at present progress was being made in the right direction. What were the remedies suggested by the noble Lord? The noble Lord suggested that a Committee should be appointed to perform certain duties enumerated in the Resolution. They were to consider how the present duties and powers of the Board of Audit should be extended or changed so as to render that Board responsible to that House alone. That would entail the consideration of the whole question of the audit and the working of the Audit Board. Next, the noble Lord proposed that his Committee should report as to the exact period of the financial year when it would be desirable that the annual Estimates should be presented to Parliament. Now, that was just one of those difficult questions which the House had so often considered, and on which Committees had reported; but as to the inconvenience of the Estimates not being voted till July, that evil arose, to a great extent, 1330 from the practice adopted by hon. Members of bringing forward all sorts of preliminary discussions upon the question of going into Committee of Supply. The noble Lord's Resolution appeared to contemplate an examination of the Estimates by his proposed Select Committee previous to their consideration by the House in Committee of Supply. Was the House prepared for such a change as that? Would they hand over the Estimates to a Committee? and what would be the result? In the year 1848 the House had two Committees on public expenditure sitting; but, so far from concluding their work within the year, they had not completed it at the end of the second year. He did not believe it possible for any Committee to do the work which would be imposed upon them by this Resolution. He had lately heard an announcement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Government were carrying into effect the recommendations of the Committee on Public Monies. If there were on the part of the Government that anxiety which some persons attributed to them to do nothing to improve the public accounts, the Resolution of the noble Lord would furnish them with a very good excuse for doing so. They might say, "As you have adopted this Resolution, we cannot proceed to carry out the recommendation of the Public Monies Committee; we cannot make any change while this new Committee is sitting." All improvement would thus be stopped, and he very much questioned whether any Member of the new Committee would live to see any of the suggested improvements carried into effect. He could not be accused of want of interest in the present question, for it was chiefly owing to a Motion he had the honour of bringing forward that the Public Monies Committee had been appointed. He opposed the present Motion just because he thought the effect would be directly the reverse from that expected by the noble Lord. It was all very well to compare the present high rate of expenditure, which for several reasons was a necessity, with that of former periods; but hon. Members must remember that never in any former or more economic period had there been so many checks upon the public accounts as there now were. It had been said that the House never refused a Vote. That might be the case, but no one could deny that the knowledge that the Estimates would 1331 be criticised in that House, had a great influence on the expenditure of the different departments. He was most earnestly desirous that a generally satisfactory system of accounts should be in operation in all the public departments, but he did not see that that object was to be attained by adding half a dozen blue-books to the shelves of the library. The Government were not the only parties answerable for the present heavy expenditure. There was one account which, if furnished to the House, would afford some rather curious information. If hon. Members had before them a return of all proposals for additional expenditure made from time to time by non-official members, they would be astonished, not at what the Government had done, but at what they had not done. He believed that the proposal of the noble Lord would throw great difficulty and delay in the way of what was now being done to give effect to the recommendations of the Public Monies Committee, and he therefore could not give it his support.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
remarked, that having been one of the Members of the Public Monies Committee, and having attended its sittings with great care and attention, he was anxious to say a few words on the subject. He believed that the appointment of that Committee was due to a speech he had made in Supply. He remembered that the view taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day (Sir George Lewis), who represented the Government on that Committee, and also by the late Mr. Wilson, was that the ancient and constitutional control exercised by the Exchequer was useless, and caused delay in the management of the public affairs. Mr. Wilson stated an opinion to this effect—that the public money ought to be paid into one account at the Bank of England, and that the Treasury should have unlimited power to draw on that account, subject only to the control of that House. A great deal of evidence was taken by the Committee, and the result thereof was decidedly opposed to the opinion he had just cited. His own opinion was, that this constitutional control, so far from being relaxed, should be strengthened, as affording a means of ensuring the application of money to the particular service for which it had been voted. Without this control the supervision exercised by that House would be entirely useless. With regard to what his noble Friend had said on the subject of Trans- 1332 fers, he believed that unless those Transfers were allowed it would be almost necessary to keep a separate Banking Account for each department, and that the balances in the Exchequer would be unnecessarily and inconveniently diminished. The great care should be that the totals should not be exceeded. The control of Parliament by the appropriation of monies could only be carried into effect by the control of the Exchequer over the issue of public monies. But the moment the monies were issued from the Exchequer that control was at an end. The problem was, how the appropriation and application of the monies could be ensured after that. That problem could only be solved by a proper system of auditing the public accounts, and the evidence given before the Committee had proved that this Audit was at present in a most unsatisfactory state. Every public department ought to have all the powers necessary to enable it to discharge the duties intrusted to it. But the Board of Audit had not those powers; it was subordinate and practically impotent. The Board of Audit should not be a subordinate department of the Government; it should possess the same powers as in France and other Continental Countries was vested in the Court of Accounts. It should have power to summon persons and call for documents. It should have power to punish the persons who did not produce the Documents, by committing them to prison. If it possessed those powers, it would be really efficient, and have control over its own business. The Secretary of State as well as the Chiefs of other departments should be bound to account to the Board. The Board of Audit, however, had no power to enforce the production either of persons or papers, but was treated as a subordinate department of the Government, and the Secretaries of State were not considered to be subject to the authority of the Board. So, if the Board of Audit found that even malversation and peculation had been committed, all it could do was to surcharge the accountant and send back the account, which, however, might be delayed for any period of time. The Board must then report to the Treasury, and they would instruct the law Officers of the Crown to take proceedings. The Board ought to have the power of distributing its own work. At present a number of accounts came in together, and a great press of business was the consequence, 1333 while at another time there was no possibility of getting the accounts in. The Board of Audit ought to have the power of making orders on accountants, requireing them to bring in their accounts at proper times, and of enforcing such orders; and also of compelling accountants to appear and answer queries, and produce vouchers without unnecessary delay, Then the Board would have the control of its own business. He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would tell the House that some steps had been taken by the Treasury to carry into effect the recommendations of the Committee and to make the Board of Audit more efficient. If it were intended to leave the Board in its present state, it would be better to get rid of it altogether, seeing that its machinery was very expensive, while it afforded no real security to the public.
said, that the House would be led into error if it attached implicit, credence to what had been stated by the noble Lord as to the authority attaching to the Resolution he had moved. The noble Lord had told the House that the Resolution was word for word copied from the recommendations of the Public Monies Committee. He could not have claimed higher authority for his Resolution, for, comparatively short as was the time that had elapsed since that Committee made its Report, most of its recommendations had been carried into effect either by the Government or by Act of Parliament. The recent changes made in the constitution of the Pay Office, in regard to Exchequer Bills, the extension of the appropriation audit to the Revenue Accounts, and the appointment of a Committee of that House last year for the purpose of examining and revising the Audited Accounts—all these innovations had been adopted in pursuance of the recommendations of that Committee, and showed the just authority that belonged to their Report. He thought, however, that Committee would find it difficult to recognise in the Resolution of the noble Lord any recommendations of their own; for although the words were the same, the sense thereof was totally different. The noble Lord's Resolution consisted of fragments of sentences which had been extracted from the Report of the Committee, and blended together with a total disregard of the sense and the context of the passages from which they had been taken. The noble Lord read two passages from the 1334 Report, the first two or three lines of which were in conformity with the first two or three lines of the noble Lord's Resolution. The Committee then went on. to recommend that some officer from the Audit Board should be placed in the Pay Office to follow the payments that were made. The noble Lord omitted the recommendation founded on the reasoning of the Committee and substituted a proposition of his own, that a Committee of the House of Commons should be appointed for that purpose. Then, again, the Committee recommended that a Select Committee should be appointed for the purpose of revising the Audited Accounts. But what was the proposition of the noble Lord? The noble Lord had proposed that the Committee should not only revise the Audited Accounts, but also the Estimates. He need not further remark on that point than that this Resolution had no claim to be entertained favourably on the ground of authority, and that if it were at all admissible it must be upon its own merits. The subject upon which the noble Lord had spoken was of a very complicated and technical nature, and he (Mr. Peel) was not ashamed to confess that he did not feel himself able to follow the noble Lord through all the opinions which he had expressed—opinions which he believed were not in a few instances incorrect, with regard to balances, transfers, votes of credit, and civil contingencies. The noble Lord concluded by saying that he desired no other changes than those which had been recommended by the Public Monies Committee, but he would find no passages in their report which at all affected the present system of army or naval expenditure. All that the noble Lord had said with regard to the Audit Board having no control over the expenditure of those services was answered by reference to the Act of Parliament which imposed upon that Board the duty of presenting to the House an appropriation audit, making a comparison between the grants of Parliament for a particular period and the expenditure out of those grants for the same period. That Act of Parliament charged the Admiralty and the Military Department with the duty of auditing their own accounts, and the reason was, that that audit could he more efficiently carried out by those departments. He would therefore confine his remarks principally to the Civil Service Estimates, with which he was more familiar; and with regard to the expendi- 1335 ture under that head he acknowledged that the House did not possess the same full information which it had with regard to the military and naval expenditure. True it was that the Estimates which showed the expenditure which the Government desired to make for a coming year were presented to the House with the fullest details, divided into some hundred or two hundred Votes, and each Vote again minutely subdivided. But with regard to the expenditure which actually took place the House did not possess the same information. With the noble Lord's object in that respect he entirely sympathized, and was as anxious as the noble Lord could be that the House should possess the most accurate, complete, and detailed information, and that it should have placed before it every year an account showing the comparison between the grants which had been made to the Government and the amount which had been actually expended. He did not think that there was at the present day any question as to the manner in which the control of that House over the appropriation of its grants should be carried into effect. It was true that at the time the Public Monies Committee was sitting there was a question whether some effectual control might not be provided by means of checking the issues from the Exchequer. The law of the Exchequer was, that more money could not he issued on account of any grant than that House had voted for that particular purpose; and if no money were to be issued from any other source, perhaps this provision might be effectual. But the House should recollect that services were carried on abroad by means of issues from the Treasury chest, just as at home they were carried on by issues from the Exchequer. Therefore it was impossible to know at any one moment what had been issued for the public service on account of any particular grant. The conclusion, therefore, to which the Committee came was, that the effectual way to give the House a control was to wait until the payments were made, and then to have a detailed account of the outlay with reference to the grants made for the services of the year presented to Parliament. The right hon. Baronet (Sir P. Baring) had complained that there had been a delay in applying that check to the Civil Service, and undoubtedly there had been some delay, but it had been owing to difficulties of detail which could not 1336 easily be surmounted. There had been a difference of opinion between the Audit Board and the other departments of the State as to which should prepare this Appropriation Account, and before the Public Monies Committee, in 1857, the view of the Audit Board was, that it should be prepared by some other department—the Treasury, for example; and the Treasury at that time entertained the same opinion; but the view now entertained was, that that duty should devolve upon the Audit Board, because by it the accounts of expenditure were examined in detail. The noble Lord complained of certain defects in the constitution of the Audit Board, and thought that some changes should be made, with, a view to giving increased independence to the audit. But the Audit Board was, in reality, an independent department. The Commissioners held their office on a judicial tenure, their salaries were paid out of the Consolidated Fund, they were responsible to Parliament alone, and Parliament alone could remove them. With respect to the performance of their duties, they were altogether independent, nor would they tolerate any interference on the part of the Treasury or any other office. But the noble Lord said they were not entirely independent, because it was for the Treasury to determine what accounts they should audit, and it was only a fraction of the public accounts that was audited by the Board. But since the Act of Parliament required that the military and naval expenditure should not be audited by the Board, there only remained the Revenue Accounts and the Civil Service Accounts; and he believed that out of £ 11,000,000 or £ 12,000,000 of those accounts the Audit Board audited £ 10,000,000. The Audit Board acted upon fixed rules. When an account was presented to them, they required that proper vouchers should be produced; and if they were not produced, they disallowed the charges; but there might be reasons for those accounts being allowed, and a discretion therefore had been vested in the Treasury for that purpose. With regard to the proposal that a Committee should be appointed for the purpose of revising the accounts, that recommendation had been already acted upon. The recommendation was first made by the Public Monies Committee in 1857, and it would be in the recollection of the House that in the last year a Committee of Accounts was appointed, which went through several of 1337 those accounts, and which in the course of the Session presented no less than five reports. When the noble Lord complained that no improvements had been effected in consequence of those recommendations, it would be enough to remind the House that two of the most important of those recommendations had been carried out by Act of Parliament in the course of the same Session, and the noble Lord would find that other recommendations had been carried out, as far as it was possible for the Treasury to do so in the interval. The remaining proposition of the noble Lord was, that the Committee should revise the Estimates. But if it were to do that, it would do one of two things—it would either supersede the House in its duty of examining and passing the accounts, or it would supersede the Government in its duty of submitting them. Now, would it be likely that a Committee of that House would discharge the duty of revising the Estimates better than the House itself? Was it not clear that in the House at large there was to be found a greater variety and combination of talent than could be obtained in any Select Committee? If the noble Lord meant that the Estimates prepared by the Government should only reach the House through the medium of this Select Committee, then the result would be that the responsibility of the Government for the Estimates would in reality be transferred to an irresponsible body. He thought, therefore, that he had given a sufficient answer to the Resolution moved by the noble Lord. Nothing had been said by the noble Lord as to the concluding proposition in the Resolution—namely, that some inquiry should take place as to the time when the Estimates should be presented. It would be recollected that the Army and Navy Estimates were presented as early in the Session as possible; and with respect to the Civil Service Estimates, the Committee of the year before last recommended that they should be presented simultaneously with the Army and Navy Estimates. Hitherto it had not been usual to present the Civil Service Estimates till about the month of June, but last year they were presented very much earlier than usual; and in the present year he trusted that it would be in the power of the Government to present them still earlier. The Government were endeavouring to carry out the recommendations of the Committee, and to present them at the beginning of the Session 1338 in the same way as the Army and Navy Estimates. He thought that he had said enough to justify him in disagreeing from the proposed Resolution; though he was as anxious as the noble Lord that the House should possess full knowledge of the manner in which the grants provided for the public Service were subsequently appropriated; and the desire of the Government was to expedite and accelerate the introduction of a state of things under which that information would be afforded to the House.
§ MR. WHITE
said, that before he avowed his dissent from some of the opinions expressed by the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdon, he desired to tender to him his warmest thanks for the care and industry which he had displayed in the treatment of this subject, and the zeal which characterized his efforts to enable that House to have some practical control over the expenditure of the country. But he (Mr. White) must confess that the noble Lord had not satisfied him that they had great occasion to fear the aggressions of successive Administrations. He was inclined to think the fault lay with themselves—that the root of the evil was with them. It was to the supineness and the gross neglect of Parliament in regard to its duties that they owed this growing augmentation of the national expenditure. No one could deny but that they had the amplest details of the expenditure given in the annual Estimates that were laid upon the table; but, if such a thing were possible, he should be curious enough to ask for a return of the Members who read the Estimates that were annually issued. He thought their number would be very few. Unless a man bad been trained to business and possessed habits of industry, it would be almost appalling to him to have to read over the amount of information which was now afforded. He had taken the pains to go through the Estimates for this year, and those for last year. They had only had the Army and Navy Estimates this year. He found that the number of folio pages occupied with the Estimates for the Army for 1861–2 were 155, and the number of items 4,728. The number of folio pages occupied with the Navy Estimates was 107, and the number of items 1,403. In the revenue department, 97 folio pages and 2,498 items. Under the Estimates for the Civil Service, No. 1, there were 46 folio pages and 876 items; in No. 2, 54 folio pages and 1,366 items; No. 3, 77 folio 1339 pages and 2,993 items; No. 4, 46 folio pages and 1,078 items, with reports; No. 5, 82 folio pages and 764 items; No. 6, 73 folio pages and 1,857 items, with reports; and No. 7, 17 folio pages and 270 items—making a total of 704 folio pages and 17,833 items, not including 18 other papers bearing upon the Estimates, and consisting of upwards of 100 folio pages. There never was more ample information afforded to a Legislature, if that Legislature would only do its duty. Year after year there was an increasing apathy displayed in the discussion of the Estimates. The noble Lord the Member for the East Riding of Yorkshire told the House on the preceding evening that, when the noble Lord at the head of the Government was Secretary of State for War, he had to undergo a discussion extending over twenty-one nights in passing through his Estimates. But, now that the Estimates were double in amount, it seemed they were not to bestow the same number of hours as they did days in these hard-working times. One thing was certain, that each year had brought with it an augmentation of the business of the House; and therefore it might be that, owing to the accumulation of public business, the attention of hon. Members was diverted from the Estimates, which before used to be the absorbing topic. However, it was quite certain that the time had now arrived when they must do something; and it was in that spirit that he tendered his thanks to the noble Lord. They must begin to inquire what it was they could well do, and what they could well do that alone ought they to do. He thought it was important that the attention of the House should be directed to the expenditure that had gone on increasing so rapidly of late years. It was quite obvious, from some cause or another, that in the matter of Supply they went on very badly, in proof of which he would refer to the Votes in Supply. In 1852 they voted in Supply £ 22,981,609, and in 1861 they voted £ 42,180,031, less cost of revenue collection, not included in 1852, £ 4,778,574. Therefore, by a comparison of the two years, it would stand as £ 22,000,000 against £ 37,000,000 in 1861. There had likewise been a considerable increase in the Army Estimates during the same period. In 1852 they voted for the army, £ 9,408,109, and in 1862, £ 15,302,870, showing an increase of £ 5,994,761. For the Navy they voted in 1852, £ 6,705,746, and in 1862, £ 11,794,305, being an increase of 1340 £ 5,088,559. The augmentation in the Civil Service Estimates was somewhat more extraordinary. They voted in 1852, for the Civil Service, £ 4,407,754, and in 1862, £ 7,848,069, showing an increase that was almost incredible of £ 3,440,315. In 1851, the cost of the army and navy was at the rate of 15 s. per head of the population, and in 1861 it had reached 20s. per head. Then, with reference to the Civil Services, he found that, whilst in 1851 the cost of those services was at the rate of 5 s. per head, in 1861 it had reached the figure of 7 s. per head of the population. Thus, we were now spending at the rate of £ 14,500,000 per annum more than we did ten years ago, which they might say was nearly £ 1,250,000 per month in excess of the expenditure of only ten years ago. Well might the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer be compelled to point out in his last budget speech that the total interest on the savings of the nation during the last ten years had been absorbed and swallowed up in the grave of this vast expenditure. At a critical epoch in our recent history we were authoritatively reminded, and from a very high quarter, that representative institutions were upon their trial. Looking at the inordinate growth of our national expenditure, as sanctioned by Parliament, could it be long, he would ask, before public opinion would indignantly repeat that solemn warning? He thought not. And he must add that the aiders and abettors of the present mania for extravagance would be alone responsible should the masses of their countrymen be forced to believe that Parliamentary Government, as now administered, is nothing, after all, but the cunningest device which the selfish subtlety of the governing classes could contrive to extract the largest amount of taxation from the hard-working, overburdened, but unrepresented portions of our community.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, the hon. Member for Brighton has just repeated that which I hold to be a calumny upon this House. He has stated that the unrepresented classes, as he is pleased to call those who have no votes, and who are not therefore directly represented in this House—
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Then I will deal 1341 with the hon. Member for Brighton hypothetically. We will suppose the hon. Member not being present in the body, though I think I see him before me, was thought by this House to have said or rather that his shadow intimated, in a manner more impressive than by speech, that the unrepresented people of this country were oppressed by this House, which extracted from the produce of their labour the means of extravagance for the wealthy classes. But what are the facts which mark this evening's debate? Why that a Member of the wealthy classes, a noble Lord, the brother of a Duke, has proposed to this House a means of promoting economy, and the hon. Member for Brighton, or rather the shadow of that hon. Member, who is the especial representative of the unrepresented classes, as he terms them, rises in his place and endeavours to defeat a bonâ fide attempt to enforce economy in the national expenditure.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Then the hon. Gentleman seems to have changed; for I certainly understood him to say that he thought the proposal was futile, and that he did not agree in the noble Lord's suggestion. I am delighted to hear, however, that in the body the hon. Member will vote with us, although his speech has been against us. I allude to this fact, because I hold that the noble Lord has rendered a very great service both to this House and to all classes in the country; for if I may judge by the laboured exposition of the hon. Under Secretary of the Treasury, by the laborious effort which he has made to explain to the House that which it is our duty to understand—namely, the course of the public expenditure—it is perfectly clear that, unless some means are adopted to simplify the consideration of voluminous Estimates as they are presented to Parliament, not before, but as they are laid upon the table of the House by the Government, whose function it is to present them, so as subsequently to simplify the consideration of them, we shall see Session after Session empty benches just in proportion to the increased volume of the details with which we are encumbered. Now that is a practical evil which was considered in some degree by the Committee on public business, upon which I had the honour to serve. And, Sir, it is a matter which I know has engaged your own attention; 1342 because that Committee were glad to avail themselves of your advice and experience, as well as that of the noble Lord who formerly occupied the Chair of this House, in order to ascertain how it was possible to prepare these accounts, so that, when they are considered, the House might come to such specific Resolutions with respect to such aggregations of minor items of expenditure as would enable us to deal effectually with the main subjects submitted to our consideration. But, Sir, I would for a moment advert to the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir P. Baring). What does that speech amount to? It amounts to this: that if the mode of proceeding with respect to these accounts of expenditure by Parliament is to be reformed at all, it must be reformed by the Government and not by this House. Well, Sir, what encouragement had we last Session to anticipate that the Government would aid us in the task? Late in the Session, when the Appropriation Bill was brought before the House, a shadow thinner than that of the hon. Member for Brighton, was hypothetically laid before us, the mere title of a Bill, for the substance of it was not printed for the information of the House, merely the name of it appeared on the Votes; the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdon, proposed that we should not vote a Bill of the details of which we knew nothing. And what was the manner in which the noble Lord was met? He was told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in terms which the House will forgive me for quoting literally, that this Bill was mere surplusage, not worth printing, because the Government had no authority to appropriate monies to any other purposes than those for which Parliament had voted them. Now, how do we appropriate public money? If this doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman be correct, the House votes away millions annually simply by Resolution. Yes, we vote away millions by simple Resolution.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The hon. Gentleman is in error. I did not speak of the Appropriation Act; but of the Clause.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He did say the Clause; but the Appropriation Clause gives the character to the Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Well, as the Bill 1343 was not presented to us, I may be excused if I fall into some error of detail; but, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Appropriation Clause, which gives the character to and forms the substance of the Bill, was mere surplusage. Then, I ask, is it decent that the provisions relating to this expenditure, which are to have the force of law, should be voted unseen by the House? Is it decent that we should vote only by Resolution, and should know nothing of the details of the enactment by which this expenditure is to be regulated? Sir, I think it is too obvious that this is reducing the functions of the House of Commons to a farce; too obvious to need further exposition. Last Session I felt it to be my duty to object to the form in which the right hon. Gentleman submitted his Supply Bill to the House. I objected to our being asked to vote the changes of taxation, the re-imposition of a vast mass of taxation, and the repeal of a large amount of taxation in the gross; and this Session, in supporting the Motion of the noble Lord, I object to being asked to sanction the expenditure in the gross. I am not one of those who desire to revert to the blind economy of 1835. I am perfectly aware that the enormous expenditure of late years results from this, that we are obliged to make up an arrear of those supplies which are necessary for the public safety, because in previous years, in defiance of the warnings of the Duke of Wellington, and in defiance of the warnings of the most competent both naval and military authorities, we voted our taxation in the gross and as blindly adopted economy in the gross by so voting. The noble Lord opposes such blind proceedings; what he asks the House to do is to adopt no new system, but to revert to the ancient means of Parliamentary control which have existed ever since the Revolution of 1688, but have been relaxed, as I think, most unwisely. For what has that relaxation led to? It has led to this: that the Chief Secretary for the War Department told us the other night that the law is now so shamefully lax that the Government have felt themselves obliged, in common decency, to render their administration of the public money more in accordance with the purposes which Parliament has sanctioned than the law in its present state enjoins. And, Sir, there are other reasons why I am of opinion that the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdon has done the 1344 country great service by the present Motion. A great Financier has been appointed by the Emperor of the French, M. Fould, to correct, if possible, the extravagance which has grown up under the present form of government in France; and the Emperor has well chosen his man. He has appointed M. Fould to castigate his ministers; and by way of sweetening the infliction he has consented to share it himself, and to set the example of humility by kissing the rod. But what are the characteristics of the able document which M. Fould has laid before the French Legislature by the order of the Emperor? Why, the first eight paragraphs are devoted to reflections, not only upon the abuses in matters of expense under Parliamentary government, as it' existed from 1815 to 1852 in France, but to direct reflections upon the whole system of Parliamentary control over public expenditure then exercised. The events of the last lew years have taught me this. To look across the Channel for a little light on these subjects, if there remains anything unexplained in England. I have not forgotten all that then happened with respect to the commercial treaty, and how our finances were directly controlled by engagements that had been entered into by the Government with a foreign Power. I have learned to look across the Channel; and it makes me jealous when I see such tardiness exhibited in correcting the avowed laxity of our system, which suffers the transfer of expenditure from one item for which provision has been made by Parliament to another without the concurrence or knowledge of this House. Now, what is the scheme that has been adopted in France on the recommendation of M. Fould? It is this. That supplemental or extraordinary credits shall no longer be permitted to be issued by the various departments. So far that tends to a wise economy; but the other recommendation is, that the powers of the Emperor in transferring the supplies nominally voted for one department or one purpose to another department or another purpose shall be increased, and the effect will be that the increase of the total expenditure will be curtailed, and brought within certain limits, but that the Emperor will have almost unlimited control over the application of the whole of the revenue which is raised. Sir, I say that we ought to take a warning from this. It is M. Fould's function and purpose to guard the absolute power of the 1345 Emperor from all Parliamentary interference, and that is the object of M. Fould's recommendations, because these supplemental or extraordinary credits must come some time or another under the consideration of Parliament, and Parliament would naturally not deal with those credits or supplies unless it was informed of the objects on which the expenditure had been made. Thus would grow up in Prance that which neither M. Fould nor the Emperor intends, the responsibility of ministers and a system of Parliamentary control. The system of supplemental and extraordinary credits is therefore abandoned, because it would lead to Parliamentary control; but the substitute for this is the uncontrolled power of transferring credits from one item to another and from one department to another by the absolute power and at the discretion of the Emperor, for the power of so transferring is limited and controlled by very little (of any) Parliamentary responsibility. It is evident that these measures are wise and appropriate for a despotic Government; but we cannot permit them to be imitated in England, if we mean to preserve, as I trust we do in this House mean to preserve, ministerial responsibility throughout the whole course of financial action, and especially with respect to the principal items of expenditure—if we mean not to deal with Governments in the gross, not to wait until, left unsupported by the economical action of this House, each Government fills up its measure of iniquity, and then to eject Government after Government; but, on the contrary, to aid each Government in the prosecution of economy by an intelligent revision of the items of the public expenditure and thus to secure both efficiency and economy. If such is our purpose, then I see no means by which it can be better attained than those which have been suggested by the noble Lord; and if he goes to a division, I shall certainly give him my support, the more so because the only valid answer to the vague and offensive imputations which have been thrown out against the House of Commons is to show that we are practical men, that we have not lost our business habits when we enter this House, but that by such a division of labour as will render our action really effectual we are prepared to exercise an intelligent control over the public expenditure. That, Sir, is why I support the noble Lord. It is all very well to say that the noble Lord pro- 1346 poses to appoint a Committee, and that the Committee will lead to delay. Sir, no one knows better than yourself, and your evidence before the Committee on Public Business reminds me of the fact, that it is impossible for this House to act independently in these matters, except through a Committee—by that means only can we extemporize an executive to direct our independent action. After the Government have submitted the Estimates to our consideration, we may thus succeed in effectually accomplishing our duty to the country. Disagreeing, therefore, entirely with the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Treasury in his assertion that the noble Lord's proposal is not in accordance with the recommendations of the Public Monies Committee; remembering, Sir, that he has bowed to your suggestion with regard to the action he at first intended to impose upon you as Speaker in the nomination of the Committee he proposes, and thinking that he has fairly embodied the sense and purport of the recommendations of the Committee on Public Monies in the form of his Motion, I can only feel it to be my duty to support him, with the view of hastening those amendments which I believe to be eminently requisite for the public service and for the maintenance of the character of this House. I will not longer detain the House than to say that I think the Government will have no right to complain of the action of this House if we adopt this course. I am sure the noble Viscount at the head of the Government would not willingly see this House so blindly following him as to render themselves liable to the imputation of being accessory to the establishment of an unconstitutional power. The noble Viscount is said not to be greatly enamoured of reform. Now, I am one of those Conservatives who have avowed that they do not look upon representative reform as necessarily an evil. I believe that there are many portions of our representative system which need to be adjusted; and when the right time comes, I trust I shall be found acting in conformity with that avowal. But sure I am of this, that if once this House renders itself liable to the imputation of gross extravagance or of supineness; if the Members of this House do not act here upon the same business principles which they apply to the conduct of the affairs of the several localities in which they reside and to their own private 1347 affairs, we shall have to encounter a desire for a change in the constitution of this House in a sense so democratic that, perchance, the Parliament of England may he thereafter rendered as incapable as the Parliaments of Prance have, according to M. Fould, proved themselves of performing their functions with respect to expenditure and in the defence of the liberties of all classes of the people. It would then, indeed, be necessary that we should yield all these matters blindly into the hands of a bureaucracy which can be controlled only by an autocratic form of government.
§ MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH
said, that in his opinion the most important and valuable part of the Motion was that which declared that the Committee should have power to examine and report upon the Estimates. If the Estimates were referred to a small Select Committee, to be nominated by the Speaker, the Report of such a Committee would be of inestimable value for the guidance of the House in their discussions. By the existing system the expenditure was rather increased than diminished. He therefore hoped the noble Lord would not withdraw that part of his Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Treasury appeared to think that the Board of Audit had sufficient powers, but the whole evidence relative to the public expenditure showed that the Board had not those powers; and for this reason, that under 9 & 10 Vict. c. 2, the Treasury had the real control. It was left to the Treasury to determine in what manner items objected to by the Board of Audit should be presented to Parliament. The Board of Audit had been established by 25 Geo. III. with a view to the thorough control of the public expenditure; and yet, somehow or other, a thorough control of the expenditure of public money had not yet been secured. Such a state of things was a reflection on the House. He therefore should support the Resolution of the noble Lord.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I would submit to the House whether, under the circumstances in which this Resolution has been moved by the noble Lord—who is not now in his place—there is much advantage in the prolongation of this discussion, or in taking a vote on the subject of the Resolution; for the Resolution is one that, in the first place, embraces matters not only so complicated but so heterogeneous that obviously they 1348 ought to form the subject of separate debate. No two things are more distinct for all practical purposes than the public accounts and public expenditure; but the noble Lord has unfortunately combined in one and the same Resolution the appointment of a Committee to examine the Estimates before they are submitted to the House, and the appointment of a Committee to examine the Public Accounts after that has taken place. These two propositions, entirely distinct, he combines in one Resolution; he submits his Resolution in that form to the House. At the same time he says he is perfectly ready to alter the terms if required; but my hon. Friend behind (Mr. Augustus Smith) naturally gets up and says the part which the noble Lord is ready to drop is the most valuable of all. The effect of this is, that it is impossible for us to know what we are really debating and how we should express clearly the views of the House. If the question of a Committee to examine the Estimates and expenditure is to be debated, all I can say is, there never was a proposition which more entirely deserved solemn and separate discussion—a proposition more important and one cutting more deeply into the roots of our entire Executive—ay, and I may add into the roots of our political system—it is difficult to conceive. At any rate, it is a proposition most inappropriate to mix up with a discussion on the manner of rendering or examining public accounts. I cannot attempt to discuss these entirely different matters at the same time, but I will direct myself to the principal object of the noble Lord. He has shown on this occasion his own zeal and diligence; and the House will be extremely glad to see another Member of Parliament adding himself to that number—necessarily a very small number—who are disposed to give up their time and attention to the driest of all possible subjects, but which is also not the least important—namely, that of rendering and examining the public accounts, and facilitating the functions of the House with regard to the public expenditure. Now, how do we stand? I confess I did not gather very clearly from the speech of the noble Lord the precise object he had in view. If I may say so, he cast his net too wide, and included too many subjects—perhaps from an anxiety to spare the time of the House. But this Motion, if I comprehend its terms aright, includes—apart entirely from the question of the Estimates—a portion of 1349 matter which has been disposed of already, and a portion of matter which the Government have already declared their intention to dispose of. The portion of matter already disposed of is that which fell within the province of the Committee on Public Monies. I do not think that of late years there has been any Select Committee of this House appointed which has discharged its duties in a more thorough and workmanlike manner than the Committee on Public Monies. My right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) would have been justified in ranking a more pointed allusion to his own merits and services in connection with that Committee than the very slight reference he made to them; in fact, his services on the Committee give the greatest authority to whatever falls from him on this subject. But the whole question of the constitution of the Board of Audit, and of the measures to be taken for rendering complete the investigation of the public accounts is a question which has already been considered by the Public Monies Committee. That Committee has made its recommendations; many of those recommendations have been fulfilled, others are in course of fulfilment; and I submit to the noble Lord that it would be a positive obstruction to the work of improvement—because it would be actually stopping the Executive in the prosecution of the measures requisite to give effect to those recommendations—if the House were now to appoint a Committee to resume the same subject matter of inquiry, and attempt to do over again what has been done so well and so completely already. The only other effect of the Motion, as I rather gather from the terms of the first part of the Resolution—although I am not quite sure how far that is meant to be included in it—would be the appointment of a Committee to discharge the duties which were undertaken last year by the Committee of Public Accounts The noble Lord is, no doubt, aware that the Government has declared its intention to propose the re-appointment of that Committee; and, with great respect to him, I must confess it appears to me that there would be no advantage in taking its re-appointment out of the hands of the Government in order that it might fall to the share of an independent Member of Parliament. The noble Lord, indeed, states in his Motion that the Committee is to be appointed by you, Sir, But he has 1350 found out his error, and therefore he proposes to amend his own Motion by providing that the nomination should be made through the Committee of Selection. Let me therefore ask, has the noble Lord consulted the Committee of Selection on the propriety of intrusting them with this function?
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he had had no opportunity of consulting the Committee of Selection, because the Speaker had informed him of the necessity of altering the words of his Resolution only ten minutes before he rose to move it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I therefore wish to supply some information to the noble Lord. The Committee of Selection was fully consulted last year by the Government on this subject, and it declined to undertake this duty, giving for its refusal what we deemed very fair reasons. It was thought that the nomination should be made by the Government in concert, of course, with all the Members of this House of the greatest weight and authority on such subjects. Therefore the noble Lord, instead of persevering with this Resolution, would do much better if he would permit us to pursue the course which we have already announced to the House our intention to adopt, and allow us again to appoint the Committee of Public Accounts, with the view of ultimately providing for the Sessional appointment of that Committee.
Another object of the noble Lord is to propose a great change in the powers and constitution of the Board of Audit. I do not understand why we are not to let that matter rest upon the recommendations of the Committee on Public Monies. The noble Lord and some other hon. Members would seem to have got an idea of the possible powers of the Board of Audit which is quite erroneous. They appear to think that Board can become an efficient control over the public expenditure. But that is not the function of a Board of Audit. That Board is to ensure truth and accuracy in the public expenditure. In point of fact, it may be called, in one word, a Board of Verification. But it would be perfect presumption in the Board of Audit if it were for a moment to attempt to exercise a judgment as to any degree either of parsimony or of extravagance which the Government might be thought to be adopting under 1351 the sanction of this House. As to the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Sir G. Bowyer), I confess I think it entirely impracticable and out of the question. He proposes to arm the Board of Audit with coercive powers of committal for contempt, powers of commanding the departments of the Government as to what is to be done and what not to be done there. I venture to say that such a conception of a Board of Audit is wholly without precedent. Besides, the objection to it is that it would be transferring to the Board of Audit what is really the function of this House. It is in the Committee of Public Accounts—which has been appointed, and which is about to be re-appointed, if the noble Lord will allow us to do so—it is in that Committee and in its investigations that the House will have the best security for the due, speedy, and effectual examining and rendering of the Public Accounts. To the principles which have been declared by the Committee of Public Monies respecting the Board of Audit I cordially adhere. At the same time the matter is one not to be settled in a day. Many of the things recommended in regard to audit have been done; and as to the final question, how the functions of audit are to be divided between the Board of Audit and any of the other departments of the State, especially the Treasury, I think the labours and the recommendations of the Committee of Public Accounts will be the safest guide that we possibly can have. As far as the Treasury has an opinion or desire on the subject, nothing can be so agreeable to our views and inclinations as that the dignity, efficiency, and punctuality of the Board of Audit should be carried up to the highest possible degree. A point has been touched by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last on which I may say a word. The point is not embraced in the Motion before the House; but, then, that Motion is so exceedingly wide that I fully grant it allows every Member of the House the liberty of introducing ad libitum those subjects which he may deem cognate to this discussion. The hon. Gentleman referred to the payment into the Exchequer of the gross amount of the land revenues of the Crown; and he asked what was the meaning of a particular phrase used in the Report of the Committee on Public Monies. Now, the Committee would, no doubt, be able to explain the meaning of their own 1352 words, but I cannot hold myself responsible for language which I had no share in employing. As far, however, as I understand the matter, the arrangement for the payment of the gross receipts of the land revenues of the Crown into the Exchequer stands upon quite a different footing from the payment of the gross receipts from all the other sources of the public revenue, because we do not enjoy the land revenues of the Crown in our own right—we have not the same plenary power over them that we have over the funds derived from the taxation of the people. We enjoy them under a particular compact with the Sovereign, subject to the limiting conditions of that compact; and obviously the most natural and proper time for the reconsideration of those conditions is the time which we all hope is far distant—namely, on the accession of a new Sovereign. That is the plain and obvious reason why we have not felt that the recommendation of the Committee of Public Monies in respect to the receipts from the land revenues of the Crown is within our power and discretion like the other recommendations of that Committee. With regard to the other recommendations of the Committee of Public Monies which remain unfulfilled, it is, I repeat, to the labours of the Committee on Public Accounts that we look as the best guide to the Government and the surest guarantee to the House of their speedy and effectual fulfilment. Sir, I trust that the noble Lord will not ask the House to go to a division upon this Resolution.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer he heartily congratulated his noble Friend, not only on having made a very clear and telling statement, and on the pains he had usefully bestowed upon a dry and uninviting question, but also upon the substantial success he had met with in making his Motion. He confessed that until he had heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech he was in some doubt as to the course he should himself pursue in regard to the Resolution, because, while there was much in it in which he entirely agreed, yet there were different matters blended in it of so incompatible a nature that he would have felt great difficulty in voting with his noble Friend. But, after what had just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, and after the course the debate had taken, he did not think it 1353 necessary that his noble Friend should go to a division. At the same time it would not be fair to suppose—as the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if uncommented upon, might lead them to suppose—that the Motion interrupted or interfered with what the Government were doing in this matter. Its intention appeared rather to be to quicken than to retard the movement of the Government. His noble Friend desired that a Committee should be appointed for a certain purpose, and the House generally agreed in that desire. The Government said they intended to reappoint such a Committee. But he had hoped, when his noble Friend's Resolution had been so long on the Notice Paper, that two or three weeks earlier his noble Friend's object would have been substantially gained by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself moving the re-appointment of the Committee on Public Accounts. Nobody who looked at what had been done, or at the difficulties and inconveniences attending our system of Public Accounts, could doubt that the re-appointment regularly from year to year of such a Committee as was glanced at by the Resolution would be one of the most effectual remedies we could possibly secure for the evils under which we laboured. The Committee on Public Accounts was appointed late in the last Session, and was consequently unable to take up the Army and Navy accounts, or a mass of the Civil Service accounts. They had, however, investigated the accounts of the Revenue Department, the Board of Works, the Treasury Chest Fund, and the Civil Contingencies, with respect to which they made several most important recommendations, almost all of which had been adopted. He would give an instance:—That Committee had it in evidence that it had been the practice of the Revenue Departments to ask every year for enormous sums above what they wanted. In that way the Post Office got £ 60,000 or £ 70,000 more than they required. The Committee called attention to the system as an objectionable one, and the result had been that the Post Office Estimate for the present year was cut down by about that amount. That was one instance of a practical result of the labours of the Committee; but there was much which remained to be done, and he could quite understand that his noble Friend, seeing the difficulties that were still to be surmounted, was anxious to de- 1354 vise some means by which matters might be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. It was true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced his intention of moving the appointment of the Committee on Public Accounts; but though the Navy Estimates had been gone through, and those of the Army had nearly been disposed of, and though other Estimates were to come before the House almost immediately, no practical step had been taken towards the appointment of the Committee. However, though he thought his noble Friend deserved the thanks of the House for having set the ball rolling, he must, nevertheless, say that if his noble Friend found it necessary to divide the House on his Motion as it stood, he should not be able to vote with him. The objection which he entertained to such a Committee as that proposed in the Resolution being nominated either by the Speaker or the Committee of Selection was, that in such a case it would partake somewhat of a judicial character, which, though it might be very desirable for one of the purposes contemplated by his noble Friend, was not at all desirable for the other. If a Committee of that kind were appointed, and part of its duty were to revise the Estimates, in that ease the effect would be to relieve the Government from responsibility without making any other authority responsible; and thus great evil might ensue. On that ground alone he thought that many hon. Members would feel themselves precluded from voting with his noble Friend. Again, if that objection were set aside, it might be very proper to have a Committee to revise the Estimates, and another to revise the Accounts; but he did not think that one Committee would be able to discharge these duties, in addition to those others which the Resolution would impose upon them. The Resolution also declared that it was to be an instruction to the Committee to report in what way the present duties and powers of the Board of Audit should be extended or changed. To that portion of the Motion, there was, in the first place, the objection that the Committee would have enough to do without having its attention distracted by such a subject as that. Besides, the matter had been most carefully considered by the Public Monies Committee. That Committee made recommendations on the subject, and these were in a form that would enable the Government, if so disposed, to 1355 give effect to them. The subject was not one that could be disposed of in a day. He had before him the draught of a Bill which the Government of the Earl of Derby had prepared in reference to the Audit of the Public Accounts. It was full of amendments and alterations, and still he was not prepared to say that it was at all perfect, though there had been repeated consultations between the Board of Audit and the Treasury before it had been finally settled. He hoped that, after what had been said and done on the subject, it would receive the attention of the Treasury, and that a Bill would be introduced to define the powers of the Board of Audit. The Members of that Board themselves, it ought to be recollected, were not satisfied with their present position; but desired that something should be done to put them in direct relations with that House. They also required powers which they now had not. For instance, they required the power to conduct an audit of stores as well as an audit of cash. And there were many other points connected with the question of audit, on which legislation was required; but he did not think that any Committee to be appointed should be burdened with a subject like this, on which the Public Monies Committee had made recommendations, which it was perfectly competent for the Government or Parliament at once to act upon. So much as to the subject of audit; and he thought the same remark, though to a less extent, applied to the last part of the Resolution—"That it be a further instruction to such Committee to report to this House the exact period of the financial year when it would be desirable that the Annual Estimates should be presented to Parliament," &c. That was a matter of great difficulty, but he believed that the Treasury were alive to the necessity for action on the subject, and he hoped the Government were making an endeavour to bring the accounts of the various public departments into such a form as that the House might be able to deal with them as they were with those of the Army and Navy. He thought, however, that if the Committee were appointed, it would be very unwise to encumber it with that subject. What, then, was the difference between what the other portions of the Resolution asked for and that which the Government expressed their willingness to carry out? It reduced itself to nil. He quite agreed with 1356 his noble Friend that it was desirable to have such a Committee appointed by some independent authority; but, as the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out, both the Speaker and the Committee of Selection had declined to undertake the duty of nomination. It rested, therefore, with the House itself to name the Committee, for it must not be forgotten that it was the House, and not the Government, which would be asked to nominate it. The Government might take the initiative, but the responsibility of the selection of members would rest, not with them, but with the House. The course adopted by the Government in such cases was to place on the table a list containing certain names; but it was in the power of any hon. Member of the House to move the omission of any or all of those names, and the substitution of others. If the Government brought down certain Estimates, and the House examined them and agreed to them, he thought they were entitled to demand every possible facility for seeing that the money so devoted was applied and appropriated as Parliament intended. Upon that point they were all agreed, and they also agreed that the best mode of attaining that security was by the appointment of a Committee. The question was how the Committee was to be appointed—whether by the nomination of the Speaker, by the Committee of Selection, or in the ordinary way. The two first modes had been disposed of, and therefore there remained but the last for adoption. Many, however, would feel that it was undesirable to encumber the Committee with a good deal of the work mentioned in these instructions, and therefore, admitting the objections which existed to the present system of transfer and to other parts of the present system, he would suggest to the noble Lord that he should be satisfied with the pledge given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and should not press the House to go to a division.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that the reasons advanced by the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) against the Motion were not to his mind satisfactory. The subject under discussion had been before the House several times, and it had always met with an evasive answer. It was his opinion that the Crown Property would be far better managed if it were under the control of Parliament. He found, from a return which had been 1357 laid on the table only three days previously, that the Crown Revenues amounted to four hundred and eleven thousand pounds, while the sum paid into the Exchequer was only two hundred and ninety thousand. In his opinion it would be most beneficial if the Property of the Crown was under the control of Parliament, and he could see no possible objection to such a course.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
in reply said, it was not his intention, in replying, to detain the House many minutes, for there were but few points on which it was needful for him to touch. He must, however, protest against the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury. He had stated that the Motion which he (Lord Robert Montagu) had asserted to have been entirely taken from the Report of the Committee of Public Monies, had not been honestly taken from that Report—that he had taken a word from this paragraph and a clause from that; disconnecting expressions from arguments which supported and qualified them; and had thus constructed a Resolution entirely at variance with the sense of that Report. This charge was most unfair and most unjust. He appealed to the House. Had he asked them to accept a single statement of his upon his own authority? Had he not supported every assertion by argument and evidence? Had he not read out three paragraphs in connection from the Public Monies Report, asking hon. Members to follow him by reading his Resolution? Could any course be more fair or more candid than that? But what has the hon. Gentleman done, Has he appealed to your reason? Has he addressed your judgments? No. He has made assertions without proof; he has drawn conclusions without syllogisms; he has put a Q. E. D. to statements without any argument to support them. He (Lord Robert Montagu) never had rested on any influence he might have with the House. But the hon. Gentleman, on the other hand, considered his authority to be such that the House must receive whatever he chose to assert. He must have a bad case or he would not have resorted to such miserable and unworthy subterfuges. A cause may he assumed to be weak when fallacies are resorted to. For what are fallacies? They are the signals of distress of a shipwrecked cause. He has said that the Audit Board has full powers by Act of Parliament. Of course! His 1358 (Lord Robert Montagu's) complaint was, that the Act of Parliament had been ignored and overridden by the Treasury. He had proved that from the evidence of the Chief Commissioner of Audit, who said that the power of this House was laughed to scorn by the Treasury. But he left the speech, which he found it as unpleasant to answer as the hon. Gentleman evidently found it to make. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford had objected to the word "Estimates" in his Resolution. They neither of them objected to Estimates being referred to a Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer objected to the Estimates being "mixed up with the Accounts." The hon. Baronet stated that the same Committee could not attend to both Estimates an Accounts. No one had objected to a principle supported by the authority of many precedents. As it was merely a question of convenience, he was quite willing to omit the word Estimates altogether. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then objected to the Committee doing that which the Public Monies Committee had already done; and travelling over the ground which they had already travelled over. This he could not understand until he heard the speech of the hon. Baronet. Then he found that they both objected to the first instruction. The evidence which had been taken by the Public Monies Committee was either sufficient or it was not sufficient; it was either true or false. If it be insufficient or false, then surely no one could object to new evidence being sought. If it be sufficient and true, then the time of the Committee need not be wasted in taking new evidence; they can simply report upon that which has already been taken. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has rested his case a great deal upon the "intentions" of the Government. Why, Sir, we have never yet had any improvements from him. In 1860 the Miscellaneous Expenditure Committee was appointed in consequence of the Resolution of an independent Member that such a Committee should be appointed annually, Yet it had never been re-appointed, although it had reported in favour of the re-appointment. In 1861 the Public Accounts Committee was appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to examine audited accounts only. But as the Audit Board is a sham and a pretence, this Committee was merely a blind and de- 1359 lusion. Yet the right hon. Gentleman had promised that if the House accepted his Motion, he would move that it should be made a Standing Order. The House accepted the Motion; yet it had never been made a Standing Order. Then he (Lord Robert Montagu) had put his Motion on the books exactly a month ago; yet neither before nor after that time had the right hon. Gentleman shown the slightest symptom of moving in the matter. However, the matter about which he (Lord Robert Montagu) was most anxious—he addressed himself to independent, non-official Members—was this, that the control of the House should be fully maintained and preserved. There was no danger from prerogatives of the Crown. That day had long since passed away. The danger was from a Ministry who assumed all power to themselves and overrode both the Crown and this House. If we did not defend ourselves, this House, as he had shown, would become merely one of the useless appendages and paraphernalia of empire.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —AyeB 31; Noes 96: Majority 65.