HC Deb 26 February 1877 vol 232 cc1023-41

said, that as the Notice to which he had already referred was not on the Paper, he would state its terms before he proceeded to make any remarks upon it—namely, On Civil Service Estimates, to call attention to the want of proper explanation of the Civil Service Estimates, and to move, That it is desirable that proper explanation should be given by a Member of the Government before the House is asked to consider such estimates.' The expenditure under the head of Civil Service Estimates was increasing largely year by year. He found on reference to the Papers which had been laid before the House that for the year 1874-5 the amount of Civil Service and Revenue Estimates was £20,073,000; that for 1875-6 the amount was £20,360,000; while for 1876-7, the year just about to close, it was £21,356,000—showing an increase of about £1,000,000 on the expenditure of the previous year. Then he found that in the Estimates which were now placed on the Table for the service of the year that was about to commence the amount of expenditure was £21,750,000. Under those circumstances, and when there were placed on the Paper Supplementary Estimates reaching to about £500,000 sterling in the Civil Service and Revenue Departments, he thought it was time that the House and the Government should adopt a more regular course of proceeding with regard to those Estimates. It might be that there were many items comprised in the Estimates of which hon. Members and himself might cordially approve; but, in his opinion, it was desirable that an explanation should be given of an expenditure which was now so largely increasing. That explanation should not be dependent on casual Questions from lion. Members, but should be one carefully prepared and studiously arranged and considered by a responsible Member of the Government. The Army Estimates were explained by the Secretary of State for War, and the Navy Estimates by the First Lord of the Admiralty, as the responsible heads of those Departments; but one looked in vain in the records of past years for any explanation of the Civil Service Estimates, excepting in regard to the Educational Department. It was right that there should be a careful explanation of the Estimates connected with Education, which were growing largely from year to year; but that head did not comprise all the large Services which belonged to the Estimates now upon the Table. There were, for instance, the Estimates for the Diplomatic Service and for Public Works, none of which ever received anything but the most casual explanation. The system adopted was this—The Secretary to the Treasury, doing what lay in his power to get through the work, brought on the Civil Service Estimates at any odd times, and if by chance there were very few hon. Members in the House, various items were hurriedly run through. Then hon. Members who had been absent at the time, but were specially interested in those items, would subsequently get up and start discussions upon them with other items of small importance, because the Government had given no explanation on subjects of greater moment, and were thought to be running through the items too perfunctorily and rapidly. That inconvenience could easily be obviated. If the Secretary to the Treasury or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the commencement of every Session, or on the first occasion when he moved that the House should go into Committee of Supply, would give a careful detailed explanation of all the Estimates connected with all the large Departments to which the Civil Service Estimates applied, the result would be not only to improve the position of hon. Members in regard to their knowledge of these Estimates, but also very materially to facilitate the transaction of Business by giving to each Estimate its relative position and importance. If such an explanation were given, there would be far less captiousness on the part of hon. Members in discussion, and far greater facility for the Government to make progress with the Estimates than could be expected as matters now stood, for the existing system of antagonism to the progress of the Estimates was almost entirely due to the want of explanation of the details of those Estimates. Now, to turn for a moment to the Supplementary, and run through the principal items. There was a sum of £41,000 for the new Courts of Justice above the sum voted last year; £69,000 for Public Offices, £47,000 for the purchase of Winchester House, and £21,000 for providing Consular Buildings abroad and a house for the Embassy at Rome. There was an increase in the Estimates of the Treasury and Foreign Office of £10,000, of the Board of Trade £10,000, of the Local Government Board £10,000. In Class 5 there was an increase of £56,000 for the Diplomatic Service, and the Consular Service in South Africa, so that including the remainder of the charges, the grand total of the Supplementary Estimates under the head of Civil Service and Revenue for the year, was £545,000; and that large figure of itself was a sufficient justification for asking why it had not been the practice to give proper explanation to the House and the country of the large expenditure under that head, before the House was asked to consider the items in detail. But there was another reason for the practice now recommended. When the House went into Committee, the proceedings were conducted on strict rules which prevented a Member from discussing general policy on particular items of expenditure, and it was desirable that hon. Members should have explanation not of the particular sum under each Vote, but of the policy of administration which guided the Department in the matter. There had been no such thing on the records of the House hitherto, and it was quite time that some such plan as that now proposed should be adopted. Again, it was not quite certain whether the total estimated expenditure under the head of Civil Service and Revenue Department for the ensuing year — £21,750,000—would cover the whole amount that would be required. Additional Estimates would be put forward in the course of the year, probably to the extent of some £230,000—a much lower figure than that taken for some years past. The total of the Civil Service and Revenue Estimates might therefore be calculated to amount, in round numbers, to £22,000,000, or to a proportion of from one-third to one-fourth of the total expenditure of the country. Was not this fact sufficient to prove the desirability of the course recommended? There were several increases requiring explanation—for instance, in the Law Department he found an additional expense in the Bankruptcy Court of £12,000, and for police stations scattered through the whole country £52,000. There was an increase in the Administration of Law and Justice of £90,000; an increase in the Vote for Education, and in the Colonial, Consular, and Foreign services, but on the other side it might be said there was a decrease in the Vote for the Stationery Office of £319,000—this decrease however he feared was more imaginary than real, inasmuch as it might be converted into an increase by some hon. Gentleman moving for Returns and thus putting the country to expense—a result which he apprehended all the more as he found that an hon. Friend of his had caused over £1,000 to be laid out in that way during the last year; and inasmuch also as in nearly every previous year there had been a large Supplemental Estimate under this head. There was, therefore, some justification for asking that a proper explanation of that expenditure should be given by one of the Members of the Government before the House was invited to consider the items in detail. Such explanation was suggested by a variety of facts, which he had alluded to, showing an increase or a decrease, in the Estimates before the House—such an explanation as it was impossible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give in his annual Financial Statement; but which the Secretary to the Treasury could give in what might be called "The Annual Civil Service Statement," on behalf of the Government. If such a course were adopted he believed the result would be at once to afford valuable information to hon. Members and the country, and to facilitate the progress of Business. On the whole, it appeared to him that it was not right for the House of Commons, who had the control of the public money, to vote away carelessly and without proper investigation these large sums of money for this vast expenditure, and it was for that reason he brought forward his Motion. It might be objected that there were plenty of "statements" already, but the answer to that was that this great expenditure of £22,000,000—so large a proportion of the whole expenditure of the country—demanded attention from the House and the country. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment.


in seconding the Amendment, said, he thought that they were indebted to the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) for having brought the question under their notice, as under the present arrangement there was a danger of a good deal of expenditure in the Civil Service being incurred without sufficient consideration. If the suggestion of the hon. Member were acted upon, it would operate as a check upon expenditure of a carelessly extravagant character. They ought to be informed by the Secretary of the Treasury of the special reasons justifying any increase of expenditure in the various Departments before going into Committee of Supply. Proposals involving any great increase of expenditure ought to be fully discussed, and the necessity for vigilance in keeping down expenditure was especially necessary at the present time, as he thought that a grave charge might be very fairly made against the Government, that they had made a practice of exceeding their Estimates to a. much more serious extent than their Predecessors. Besides the Supplementary Estimates, amounting to above £500,000 for the Civil Service, he feared there might be large excesses for the Army and Navy over the Budget Expenditure, as estimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If so, that would make the Budget Speech of the right hon. Gentleman a farce, and the House would not be able to rely upon it in future. The Chancellor of the Exchequer when he brought forward his Budget calculated that the 1 d. which he was about to add to the income tax would not only make good the deficiency of revenue as compared with the estimated expenditure, but would give him at the end of the financial year a surplus of £380,000; but that anticipated surplus would be more than swallowed up by the Supplementary Estimates for Civil Service alone.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is desirable that proper explanation should be given by a Member of the Government before the House is asked to consider the Civil Service Estimates,"—(Mr. Goldsmid,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


thought his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) had done a valuable public service by bringing this matter forward. Sitting where he did he need hardly say that his remarks were not made in any spirit of hostility to Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, he was of opinion that a debate of this kind was calculated to strengthen the hands of any Government, because if there were any branch of the public expenditure over which that House had, and ought to have, control, it was the expenditure on the Civil Service. For his own part, he could not see any valid reason why the Civil Service Estimates should not be introduced to the notice of the House by the responsible Minister of the Crown, with an explanation similar to that which attended the introduction of the Estimates for the Naval and Military Expenditure. No argument as to the safety of the country could be made with reference to the Civil Service Estimates as might be made with reference to the Army and Navy. For the alarming growth of the Civil Service Estimates the House of Commons was mainly responsible, and therefore it was essential that hon. Members should carefully watch their increase. He thought sufficient care was not always bestowed by the Departments in framing the Estimates. As far as the Supplementary Estimates were concerned, they being in the nature of ex post facto demands, the supposed check of that House was a delusion, and they were things which hon. Members should very jealously watch and very closely challenge. The increase under the head of the Board of Trade he supposed was due to the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act. Therefore the Minister had nothing to do but to say" You insisted on our undertaking this duty, and you must pay for it." He pointed this out as an illustration of the way in which the action of the House tended to swell the Civil Service Estimates. The mode in which these Estimates were now discussed and dealt with in Committee of Supply was a peddling one and unworthy of the House. If a full statement were made when they were brought forward, the House might then challenge them broadly, and with greater propriety and dignity than at present. As it was, there was much ground for some of the statements made by his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester


said, he fully agreed with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Eslington) that his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) had done good service in bringing the matter before the House. He also thought the House was indebted to the noble Lord himself for the assistance which had been rendered to the discussion of it, and who very much undervalued his own services to the Public Accounts Committee. It might, perhaps, be objected that the subject was not a new one, and that some 20 years ago, when Mr. Wilson was Secretary to the Treasury, an attempt was made to bring the Civil Service Estimates at one view before the House, and that attempt was not regarded as a success. He trusted the Government would not object to the Motion, but if they objected on that ground, they should bear in mind the great difference existing between the Civil Service Estimates then and now. He was not quite sure whether the expenses of the Revenue Departments were at that time charged on Revenue or voted by Parliament. At any rate, these expenses required just as much watching as the Civil Service Estimates proper, and the amount of the latter Estimates had enormously increased. In 1852 the amount of the Civil Votes was £4,400,000. They rose slowly till, at the end of the Crimean War, they reached £6,000,000. They were now something like £22,000,000. Though it might not have been thought worth while to submit these Estimates at one view when they amounted to £4,000,000, the case was different now when they amounted to more than the Army or Navy Votes, and to nearly as much as the two put together were a few years ago. It would be of great public interest and advantage, therefore, to have from the Minister an explanation as full as was given with regard to the Army and the Navy. The Estimate which the House was now called upon to consider was a very large Supplementary Estimate indeed. The year before last the aggregate amount of Supplementary Estimate voted in the year of the original Estimate and before the 1st April of the following year was £527,000. Last year the aggregate was £532,000. This year it amounted to £756,000—namely, £211,000 voted in the year of the original Estimate and £545,000 in the present Session, and it was very much greater than anything of the kind that had been asked for before. On one occasion, during the late Administration, when the Supplementary Estimate was £252,000, the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Admiralty protested against what he called "illusory Estimates." If they were illusory when the supplemental Vote was £252,000, what must they be when it had risen to the present amount? Then, again, the circumstances of the financial year rendered it peculiarly necessary that before voting £545,000 they should first know whether they had the money. He said this, because it appeared from the weekly statement published by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that already at the end of the 11th month of the financial year there was a deficiency of £176,000 on the four principal sources of the public income—Customs, Excise, Stamps, and Taxes. It was true the Miscellaneous Receipts showed pretty well, but if upon a falling Revenue in other respects the House was called upon to vote this £545,000, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should tell the House how matters really stood, and whether there would be a sufficient amount of money in the Treasury to meet this drain. On the other hand, in addition to the present Supplementary Estimates, it appeared from the Appropriation Account for 1875-6, that there was an excess in Navy Expenditure which would have to be made good before the close of the financial year. They ought to be informed whether or not there was an excess in the Army Expenditure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might possibly be able to show a saving upon other items, but he ought to explain the effect of so large an excess upon his Budget Estimates. There was another reason why a statement from the Minister as to civil expenditure, as a whole, was wanted. Formerly the House only received these Estimates piece - meal, some parts as late as in June or July. He (Mr. Childers) in 1866, for the first time, consolidated them in one book, and this was laid by him on the Table in that year before the end of February. He desired to compliment the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury for having still more expedited the Civil Estimates; for he had, in point of time, beaten the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, and was absolutely first in the race; and, having won that race, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would come forward triumphantly and give the House the satisfaction not only of seeing the whole of the Estimates laid on the Table at one time, but also of hearing a speech from him in explanation of them.


said, this was a matter on which the House should review its own action. The House was responsible for the increase of these Estimates to four times the amount at which they stood 25 years ago. This enormous increase indicated a change in the administration and in the constitution of the country. He thought that now that the Civil Service Estimates were combined in one volume they should be referred to a Select Committee, so that individual Members of that House should not be dependent for their knowledge upon that which the Government thought fit to accord. In that way, the House would be able to learn what part of the policy which Parliament had adopted and sanctioned was responsible for that enormous increase.


said, he fully approved the suggestion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) that the House should do something for itself in this matter, and not leave so much in the hands of the Government. He had himself been foolish enough one time to propose that the Estimates should be sent to a strong Committee upstairs. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) was then in office; but it was considered by several Members of the Government better to leave things as they were. It was all the same what Ministers were in power, hon. Members of the House were not allowed to know anything, for once comfortably seated on the Treasury Bench, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would give no more information than they could possibly help. He would like, however, that they should be masters of their own proceedings, and know something of what was done. He had tried to get some information about these matters, but it was of no use. No doubt some men of more ability had been more successful in their efforts, but it never came to much. The House, as a rule, did not care about finance; when the Estimates came on there was a general run of hon. Members out of the door, and anybody who interfered in the subject was voted a "bore." Neither, it seemed to him, did the public care, and when they saw an account of the proceedings in the newspapers next day they generally remarked that a good deal of the time of the House had been taken up to very little purpose, for that no saving of money had resulted. How could any good be done by individual Members against a Ministerial Bench well manned and amply provided with powder and shot? He had thought over this matter again and again very carefully, and the conclusion he had come to was that the only way in which the House could be master in this question was by sending the Estimates to a large Committee upstairs. He could not see the use of getting a speech from the Treasury Bench, as was proposed, on the subject of these Estimates, as right hon. Gentlemen would simply get up and give what they called an explanation, but it would be a mystification. The Supplementary Estimates were very large this year, and they were all for things that ought to have been foreseen and spoken of last year.


said, the question under debate was a very important one, and an attempt had been made by a Predecessor of his, who had with great advantage to the country filled the office he had now the honour to hold, to carry into effect the proposal now made by the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Gold-amid) for which the House was indebted to that hon. Gentleman. There was no observation more true than that successive Secretaries of the Treasury and Chancellors of the Exchequer would derive very great advantage from any amount of criticism on the Estimates presented for their consideration. But former Secretaries of the Treasury had to complain, as he now complained, and it was the great difficulty, that the economy of the House of Commons was so fitful, uncertain, and irregular in its application. Very frequently, too, the criticisms of hon. Members were applied to Estimates, the consequence of legislation which was forced upon successive Governments by public opinion and by individuals who influenced public opinion. In that way a certain policy was forced upon the country and upon Parliament, and the result was they were committed to a course of proceeding which involved very large expenditure, and for which subsequently the bill must be paid. His hon. Friend had asked the Government to give him a full explanation of the Civil Service Estimates, and had drawn attention to the very considerable increase in their amount from year to year. There was the greatest desire on his own part and on that of the Chancellor of the Exche- quer that that information should be granted; but it was not wise that they should disguise the difficulties which surrounded a statement of this kind. The Votes comprised in the Civil Service Estimates were 150 in number, and they travelled over seven different classes. They began with Public Works; they went on to deal with the Public Offices, Police, Education, the Diplomatic Service, and Superannuation Allowances, and Miscellaneous, Special, and Temporary Objects, and concluded with the Revenue Departments and Postal Services. He thought he need only refer to the experience of his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) when he said it would require a very lengthy speech to do full justice to the circumstances in which it was necessary for the Government to ask Parliament for an increase in every Department over the Estimates of the previous year. But all he could say on behalf of himself was that an effort should be made to comply with the spirit of the recommendation of the hon. Gentleman, and with what appeared to be the general desire of the House. He thought he should best consult the convenience of the House if he did not deal at any length with some of the remarks of his hon. Friend. He would reserve himself for another opportunity if he might say so. But reference had been made to the largeness of these Supplementary Estimates. He must ask his right lion. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) and the House to recognize the great zeal of the permanent officers of the Treasury who had assisted him in the preparation of these Estimates. Though those officers were thoroughly loyal to every Government, and it was by their assistance that he was enabled to lay Estimates on the Table a few months earlier than usual, yet he would remind the House there must necessarily be less foresight than if they were presented in April. He did not apologize for the Supplementary Estimates. It was the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to submit Estimates which he believed would be sufficient for the purpose; but, on the other hand, it was not his duty to make allowance for contingencies which he had not fully in view and which he did not believe would require expenditure. No doubt the largest demand of the Government was for Public Works, but they would explain themselves. It would be seen that they had been obliged to ask for a large additional Vote for the Courts of Justice. It would be recollected that towards the end of last Session he stated that he would have to ask for a further sum early this Session, if he found greater energy used by the contractor in order to forward the work. He thought his lion. Friend would recollect that he distinctly gave notice of the probability of that demand. There was also a large sum for the purpose of providing further accommodation for the War Department. He thought there were very few hon. Members who were not aware of the difficulty of the War Department at the present time and who would not admit that the Government were compelled to find accommodation to relieve that Department from the present crowding of clerks and servants. There was also a Vote of £59,000 for the purchase of land in Great George Street and King Street, but his right hon. Friend would explain that. With regard to the other items in the account, he hoped the House would allow him to explain them when the House went into Committee. They were very numerous. Some of the items would be explained by his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. J. Lowther); £30,000 would be asked for the suppression of the Slave Trade. That item was explained in the Estimates themselves. He would not now detain the House, but when these Estimates were arrived at he would be happy to give satisfactory information with regard to them.


said, it was desirable that, as far as possible, expenditure should be submitted in one Estimate at the commencement of the year, and it should be as exact as possible. He had drawn the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer two years ago to the growing tendency of these Supplementary Estimates for the Civil Service. Within the last few years they had increased considerably. In 1870-1 they amounted to £447,000; in 1871-2 to £419,000; in 1872-3 to £298,000; in 1873-4, when there was a change of Government, to £648,000; in 1874-5 to £1,267,000, but £500,000 of this sum was paid over in aid of local rates; in 1875-6 to £597,000; while in 1876-7, as far as they knew, they amounted to no less than £762,000. This was a question quite distinct from that of amount of expenditure. It was a question of care and accuracy in framing the Estimates for the year, and of firmness in adhering to them. Some Supplementary Estimates were almost inevitable, but they should discourage the growing tendency of these Estimates as much as possible.


believed that the practice of surrendering balances into the Exchequer explained to some extent the increase of Supplementary Estimates. He, therefore, complained not so much of the Supplementary Estimates as of the amount of the Estimates in gross. The Revenue did not increase to the same extent as the Expenditure, and if that state of things continued, everybody could see what the result would be. He strongly recommended that a small Committee should be appointed which should sit upstairs and check the Estimates with the Government. It was impossible for private Members to criticize them with any effect when they were introduced in the House.


thought that the division of responsibility between the Government and a Committee sitting upstairs would hardly recommend itself to the prudence of the House, neither would it answer in its working. He wished, however, to put a question to the Government on a particular point —namely, why the Report of a Committee appointed by the Queen to inquire into the condition of the War Office and the Horse Guards had not been laid on the Table, so as to enable the House to judge whether those buildings were or were not in a fit state for habitation?


maintained that if the various annual Estimates were drawn out with that careful exactness which ought to follow from an accurate acquaintance with the requirements of the several Services, there would be no necessity for having Supplementary Estimates to anything like the extent to which they had been carried within the last seven years; and he regarded that practice as an indication of insufficient information and defective control on the part of the Government, as to whether the requirements of the public service, when the original Estimates were framed, had been duly attended to by the responsible Heads of Departments. It was clear upon the face of it, either that less money than was necessary to carry on the public service had been voted lastyear, orthat the House was now called on to provide funds for purposes which, in the main, could have been forseen or might have been postponed; and it would have been better had the difficulty been boldly faced either by increasing the grants when the original Estimates were prepared, or by refusing the requests in the Supplementary Estimates for more money. It was most objectionable to permit officers of the Government, nominally under the control of the Treasury and of that House, to spend money in excess of the sums voted, and then to come to this House in the last month of the year to grant additional funds, and thus constrain the House of Commons to recognise the exercise of a power which was quite illegal. They ought to have an inquiry of a very stringent nature made whenever they had a Supplementary Estimate placed before the House. At the time that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) was Chancellor of the Exchequer Supplementary Estimates were rare. Unhappily a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the London University (Mr. Lowe) of the necessity for Supplementary Estimates had, he feared, led to the Departmental Heads making out these additional money demands to a greater extent than in former years. He deprecated in the strongest manner throwing on the Secretary of the Treasury the sole responsibility for explaining the Civil Service expenditure. This was a task too great for any one mind to perform. He held that the Vice President of the Council should explain the Educational Estimates; and the Under Secretaries of State for the Colonies and Foreign Affairs those relating to the Colonial and Diplomatic Services; the Chancellor of the Exchequer those of the Revenue Departments; that the Chief Commissioner of Works ought to give an account of the expenditure of his Department; the Postmaster General, in turn, should give a similar account, explaining to the House the details of the extensive and varied operations of his office; and so on through the different Departments. He also thought there should be, instead of a verbal explanation, a printed statement from each Department of the variations in the proposed expenditure on each Service, giving those minute details which require to be carefully studied at leisure in order to be properly understood. Without it the Estimates might in some respects be liable to misinterpretation, and appear on audit to be falsified on account of the difficulty of deciding as to the exactness of the appropriation of each particular sum for the specific Service to which it applied. But the greatest and best remedy was the appointment of a Select Committee to examine the details and arrangement of the Estimates, and the explanations furnished; not with a view to relieve the Treasury of any responsibility; but rather to see that the Treasury had done their duty in controlling the expenditure and supervising the arrangements of the Estimates.


observed that at least three questions had been raised in the course of that discussion. First, that some Minister of the Crown should make a general statement in regard to the Civil Service Estimates, as was done in connection with those applying to the Army and to the Navy; secondly, and it was not a new proposal, there was an argument as to the propriety or impropriety of having Supplementary Estimates; and, thirdly, a point which had been briefly raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) was as to whether they were in a financial position this year to vote that sum of money. On that he must respectfully decline to be drawn into giving by anticipation something very like a Budget speech; and although he might state that the Revenue had not been coming in under certain heads as satisfactorily as he had hoped, yet there were, on the other hand, several compensations. Therefore, he would not now take up that challenge further than to say that he had no reason to doubt that when they came to the end of the year they would be able to present a very fair result for the year; and as regarded those Supplementary Estimates they had reason to expect savings, and considerable savings. Then, with. respect to Supplementary Estimates generally, he thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) put the case fairly when he said that if they adhered to the principle of surrendering every year the balance upon the Votes taken, they could not altogether avoid having Supplementary Estimates. No human being could well foresee at the beginning of the year everything that would come into the expenditure in the course of the year. When formerly they had the power of carrying over what was not spent in one year on a Vote to another, they might have been independent of such Supplementary Estimates by always keeping a balance in hand; but now the system, with the approval of the House, had been altered. Either provision must be made by Supplementary Estimates for unexpected expenditure, or the Government must ask at the beginning of the year for more than they wanted, which he was sure the House would agree with him in thinking was an objectionable course to adopt. A Minister who had £100,000 more at his disposal than he actually required, would be more likely to spend that sum than if he had the prospect of a Supplementary Estimate before his eyes. Therefore, he did not disparage the remarks which had been made against Supplementary Estimates; on the contrary, he was glad to hear them, and he could assure the House that the Government were anxious to avoid Supplementary Estimates as much as possible. It was no doubt true, to a certain extent, as had been shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson), that the Supplementary Estimates of the present Government were heavier than those of their Predecessors. For that, however, their Predecessors were in some degree responsible, having incurred liabilities for which they had not made sufficient provision. Another reason for the increase was that new services had been undertaken the exact expense of which it was not easy to estimate. In all these matters, however, inquiry was necessary and useful, and it would even be well if some hon. Member in the course of the Session would call attention to the growth of Civil Service expenditure. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) he would say that although it was plausible enough, it was doubtful whether it would really work well. He did not say it was not worth trying; but, at any rate, it was an experiment that required careful consideration. Indeed, his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) and he would consult together to see whether the experiment could be made. They had, of course, a general knowledge of the demands made on the public purse, and no doubt it would be possible for them to indicate where the excess and where the decrease under the various heads were to be found. But such a statement, he thought it right to say, could not go very deep, ranging as it would do from the construction of buildings to our colonial policy, and the Secretary to the Treasury in attempting it might put the House into a somewhat inconvenient position. Any satisfactory discussion would be impossible on so shallow and superficial a statement as the one in question would necessarily be. But it was said the House did not want to enter into a discussion, but to have a general view of the financial situation, discovering the nature of the Estimates. Well, that was an object which could be better attained by a printed statement than by speeches in that House, and his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury would this year, as he had done last, prepare a Paper showing in a convenient form the amount of the Civil Service expenditure, together with the Estimates of the Revenue Department for the past and coming years. He might add that his hon. Friend would also endeavour, in moving the Civil Service Estimates of the year, to make some general statement such as that suggested, though, of course, he would not be able to go very minutely into certain Votes. Under these circumstances, he hoped the hon. Member for Rochester would not press the Resolution, and that he would allow the House to go into Committee.


said, that after the promise given by the right hon. Gentleman he would withdraw his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.