HC Deb 29 July 1876 vol 231 cc72-4

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [18th July], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair" (for Committee on Navy and Army Expenditure, 1874–5).

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


desired to call the attention of the House to the practice which had grown up recently both at the Admiralty and the War Office of appropriating the excess of certain Votes, not exhausted, to other Votes for which the money had not been originally voted. It was true that the Appropriation Act gave power to the Treasury, in cases of emergency, to sanction the payment of such excesses, providedthey did not amount in the aggregate to more than the sum voted for the Department in which the excess occurred, but the practice involved a very serious question. When the Admiralty took possession of these excesses in order to cover a deficiency, the control of Parliament was effectually withdrawn from the expendi- ture of the money, even though the sanction of the Treasury were obtained. In some instances, application was not made to the Treasury for its sanction for several months after the sums had been irregularly expended. He thought that before any surpluses were so appropriated a statement should be made by the Department that it was not in its power to have brought in a Supplementary Estimate, while Parliament was sitting. The Committee on Public Accounts adverted to the large deficit on the Navy Estimates for 1873–4, and expressed an opinion that the serious attention of the Admiralty should be given to the circumstance; and yet, notwithstanding their objections, a deficit of £238,000 had occurred in the Estimates for 1874–5. The Committee also observed, as they did in their Report of the previous year, that the circumstance of the insufficiency of the provision for the year was not brought under the notice of Parliament before the close of the financial year. He preferred this as a charge against the First Lord of the Admiralty. It was true that the First Lord said he was kept in the dark on the subject until it was too late to bring in a Supplementary Estimate. But whose fault was that? The Department was solely responsible for it. The Committee said in their Report— The Accountant General was examined, and he accounts for the delay or omission to bring the deficit under the notice of Parliament, on the ground that it was hoped the deficit apparent in some Votes would be, on the whole, counter-balanced by the surplus on others, and that this hope was disappointed. The Committee went on to say— Your Committee think it right to call attention to the habitual use made by the Admiralty of the powers of applying, with the consent of the Treasury, the surpluses of certain Votes to meet deficiencies on others. This course of proceeding, unless strictly guarded, must to a great extent render nugatory the control of the House over the Votes. That was the question he wished to bring before the House. The control of Parliament was taken away from the sums expended on the Navy. He regretted that the First Lord had left the House, when he knew that he intended to bring the question forward. The practice of which he complained was contrary to constitutional usage, whereas it was absolutely necessary that the House of Commons should keep a watchful eye over the public expenditure. Some alteration was imperatively called for in the 4th and 5th sections of the Appropriation Act, and there ought to be some further supervision, beyond that of the over-worked officials of the Treasury, in regard to the expenditure, which had not been sanctioned by Parliament.


said, that as the point was likely to lead to discussion, and as the Prime Minister had stated that no Business to which there was any opposition would be taken, he would agree that the debate should be adjourned till Monday.

Debate adjourned till Monday.

House adjourned at half after Two o'clock till Monday.