§ MR. E. JENKINS,
in rising to call attention to the last Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the accounts of the Irish Temporalities Commissioners, said, he was prevented by the Rules of the House from making the Motion of which he had given Notice—That certain questions arising thereon be referred to the Committee of Public Accounts, with instructions to examine into the same and report to this House.He had to complain of the unsatisfactory relations existing between the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Commissioners, who, from the tone which they adopted with reference to ordinary criticism, appeared to prefer that no examination should be made into their accounts; and also of the reply which had been given him (Mr. Jenkins) in a tone of cynical reserve by the Treasury Bench, when he had asked a Question upon the subject, to the effect that the Treasury could not interfere even if there was any necessity to do so. But the Treasury had interfered in the matter by sanctioning the publication of two He-ports criticizing and impugning the action of the Comptroller and Auditor General. If public accountants were hereafter to be permitted to publish criticisms upon the manner in which the 1304 Comptroller and Auditor General discharged the function of examining public accounts, it would be a most grave abuse. The only matter which he desired to be cleared up was that with reference to the limitations of the functions of the Auditor and Comptroller General and of the Irish Church Temporalities Commissioners, between whom a very grave dispute had arisen as to the limitation of their respective functions. He thought it was a most unfortunate state of things, and that it was time to put a stop to it. On the one hand the Church Temporalities Commissioners said that plenary powers were conferred upon them by the Irish Church Act, and that their decisions were final; and although the Auditor General was appointed to audit their accounts, they insisted that when they had made an order he could not go behind that order and say whether the accounts were right or not.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH,
speaking for the Treasury, as a Member of the Select Committee on Public Accounts, deprecated discussion on matters which were not before the House, but which were under the consideration of that Select Committee. The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General was considered, paragraph by paragraph, by the Committee, and witnesses examined as to the statements contained in the Report; and he believed that the draft Report of the Committee upon the subject had been prepared by the Chairman. With regard to the controversy to which the hon. Member had referred, the Treasury had no power to interfere, the proper judges in the matter being the Public Accounts Committee. The Treasury had, however, thought it right to consent to the Commissioners reporting to the House upon the mode in which they had conducted their operations during the past three or four years; and when that Report was before the House, it would be the time for discussing these questions.
§ MR. LAW
vindicated the conduct of the Commissioners maintaining that they had only defended themselves when attacked the in several Reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The Commissioners, he added, were always anxious that their accounts should be thoroughly and properly examined; and it was to be observed that the Reports 1305 in which they had answered the charges of the Auditor General were made at suggestion of the Lords of the Treasury, who, doubtless, thought it was but common justice to give them some opportunity of explanation. As to the complaint of the Auditor General that those against whom he made serious charges should be allowed to say a word in their defence, he must say it was characterized by a great deal of simplicity.
§ MR. WHALLEY
pointed out that the hon. Member's object was to draw attention to the profuse manner in which the Commissioners appropriated these monies to the dependents and connections of the Church in Ireland. It was no answer to that to say that the Commissioners were all highly respected and respectable Gentlemen. If these monies had been appropriated in an unwarrantable manner—if there had been jobbery with regard to their distribution, it was a proper question to be brought before that House. To all intents and purposes these were public monies, and if more had been given to curates, deans, and incumbents than they were strictly entitled to, the hon. Member ought to receive the best consideration of that House for having brought the subject under their notice.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
said, that the hon. Member for Peterborough was mistaken in stating that this was public money. Unfortunately it was not, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see that it was more justly appropriated. He could only express the great regret which would be felt in Ireland when they found that hon. Members on neither front bench supported the hon. Member for Dundee in his inquiries into this matter.