HC Deb 27 July 1874 vol 221 cc769-71

, in rising to call attention to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General upon the Accounts of the Commissioners of Church Temporalities, Ireland, and to move— That it is the opinion of the House, that careful attention should be paid to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General upon the Accounts of the Irish Church Temporalities Commission, said, he had endeavoured to understand the accounts, but could not, and that was not surprising, because the Auditor General declared he could not understand them. It was no part of his object to bring any charge against the Commissioners; but the Irish people had a large interest in the funds they were administering, totally apart from the mere accuracy of their accounts. It would be remembered that when the Irish Church Bill was introduced, the capitalized value of the temporalities of the Church was estimated at £16,000,000, and it was computed that £8,000,000 would satisfy all reasonable demands of those who had life interests in that property. Further, the late Prime Minister and the late President of the Board of Trade enlarged upon the advantages Ireland would derive from the allocation of the surplus of £8,000,000. Therefore, the people of Ireland had a reasonable claim to have the accounts properly kept. From the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, however, it appeared that, on applying to inspect mortgage deeds, he found many of them were not executed; other records were so insufficiently kept as to render it totally impossible for him to certify to the accuracy of the accounts; and under the heading of Tithe Rent Charge, it was stated that the annual statement was not completed, and had not been deposited in the Record Office; and when he asked whether a similar document for the previous year had been deposited, the reply he received from the Irish Church Commission Office merely stated that the Commissioners "did not think it necessary to supply the information asked for," because the amounts were so very small. In reference to the See of Armagh, there was a deduction of £4,100 from the revenue, and the Auditor General considered it necessary to call the attention of the Commissioners to it. Going through the Report, he found, not one, but 20 passages indicating the same result—no accurate accounts were given. In one instance an income derived from tithe rent charge, amounting to £1,300 a-year, had not been scheduled. No return was given of it; and the Auditor General had not been able to give any account of the matter at all. The state of the accounts was such, that the Comptroller felt utterly unable, with respect to some of these matters, to report to the Treasury, and the consequence was, that the necessary information could not be laid before Parliament in accordance with the provisions of the Irish Church Act. That was not a satisfactory state of things. Such laxity of conduct in connection with the business of a large public Department should not be permitted. The officers under the Church Commissioners ought to give all the necessary information for the purpose of seeing if the accounts were accurately and carefully kept, and the fund properly distributed. He trusted the whole subject would receive the attention of Government. In that hope, he begged to move the Resolution.


said, he would suggest that the hon. Member might not think it necessary to press his Motion, as it would, if acceded to, be inconvenient, and prevent the House proceeding with Supply. Neither did he think it would be for the convenience of the House that he should enter into any detail relative to the ques- tions raised by the hon. Member. The matter was one of great importance, undoubtedly, and the hon. Gentleman had been exercising his right and doing good service in calling attention to the subject. The matter stood thus—in the Irish Church Act a clause was inserted, directing that the accounts of the Commissioners should be periodically sent to the Treasury, to be forwarded to the Auditor and Comptroller General for report, and that the Report should be laid before Parliament within proper time. That course had been adopted, and they had now before them the first Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. It must be frankly admitted that, so far as the Report had gone, there were matters in it which seemed to challenge further investigation. It was impossible to carry on that investigation in a discussion in the whole House, and probably they would be of opinion that it would be most convenient to take the step which was usually taken with regard to public expenditure and the Reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General on that expenditure—namely, to refer the Report to the Standing Committee of the House on Public Accounts. If that course were taken, the Committee, which was exceedingly well qualified for the business, would investigate the matter and report to the House whether, in their opinion, there was anything in the case which required further attention on the part of the House. If the hon. Member would move to-morrow to refer the Report to the Committee, no objection would be made on the part of the Government.


said, his only object had been to call the attention of the House to the subject, and he was perfectly satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. He would withdraw the Resolution.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.