HC Deb 22 February 1872 vol 209 cc865-6

asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee of Public Accounts of last Session, any and what steps had been taken by the Treasury to examine into the system of audit of Army Accounts, and to acquire control over the Salaries and Office Expenses of the Court of Chancery?


, in reply, said, the right hon. Gentleman was doubtless aware that evidence had been given before the Public Accounts Committee to the effect that the word "may," in the 29th section of the Exchequer and Audit Act, ought to be read as "must." The Government had taken the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on that question, and they had given an opinion that the word "may" ought not to be read as "must," but that it was a matter of discretion. Consequently, the Government had given instructions to the Auditor General to consider whether he ought not to enter into a more minute audit of the accounts of the Army and Navy, and the Auditor General had declined to do so; and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had appointed a Special Committee to inquire how far the Treasury should exercise the power given them by the same section of calling upon the Auditor General to make the required audit. As to the second Question, respecting the Court of Chancery, he found that the difficulty in the way of doing what was wanted, not only in the Court of Chancery, but in other judicial estimates where the salaries were very high, consisted in the terms of Acts of Parliament which placed it out of the power of the Treasury to exercise the same control as they did over other Departments. It would require an Act of Parliament to enable Government to do so; but it was an Act which would meet with considerable opposition, and in the present state of Public Business he was not prepared to introduce it.