§ Resolutions [August 8th] reported.
§ MR. MONK
complained that so large a sum as £600,000 had been diverted from the purposes for which it had been voted, and expended on the Army and Navy in a manner not only unsanctioned by, but without the knowledge of, Parliament, under the cover and licence of the Appropriation Act. The House knew nothing of what had been done till last night, or rather early that morning. The Appropriation Act provided that no transfers of Votes should take place, except in cases of exigency; and it could not be contended that the appropriation of £500,000 or £600,000 for purposes other than those sanctioned last year by Parliament was a case of that sort. There was nothing to show that so large a sum ought to have been diverted from the Exchequer, to which it would in the ordinary course have been surrendered. He had called attention to this matter on former occasions, and had moved Amendments to the effect that the decision of the Treasury in all cases of the transfer of Army and Navy Votes should be laid upon the Table of this House within a certain time; but he had refrained from pressing them on the distinct promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that something should be done; but nothing had been done. The system was one which had been condemned by the Committee on Public Accounts. Parliament ought to know earlier what was proposed to be done with respect to unexpended balances. He would suggest that the Committee on Public Accounts should be increased by four Members—two to be selected from each side of the House—and that greater attention should be paid by the Committee to this most important subject.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would acknowledge that he had promised that that matter should be referred to the Committee on Public Accounts, and that it had never been taken up by that Committee. He could only urge, in excuse for that oversight, that when one had many things to carry in his memory, he found it difficult to retain everything, and through some accident that subject had not been 1694 brought before the Committee on Public Accounts. If, however, the hon. Gentleman would put a Notice down in his own name next Session, that he would move that the matter be referred to the Committee, there would then be no risk of its being forgotten. At the same time, after what had been said on the subject, he thought the Committee might properly have taken up the subject themselves. He admitted the obligation they were under to refer to the Public Accounts Committee the question, whether that practice ought to be amended, and, if so, in what respect? What was now done, however, was the same thing as had been done for the last 13 years. Under the Appropriation Act, applications were made to the Treasury for their authority to defray temporarily, out of any surplus which might be effected by savings on the Votes for a particular Department, any expenditure found to be necessary for that same Department, but which had not been provided for. He admitted that was a practice which, although convenient, was, to a certain extent, liable to abuse; because it would be possible for a Government, if it wished to do so, to take a large amount on a popular Vote and a small amount on an unpopular Vote, and then to apply the excess taken on the one to the deficiency on the other. The question was one worthy of the attention of the Public Accounts Committee.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought it would be better to have that subject considered by the Committee.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
thought there were more of these diversions of public monies from the purposes for which they were voted than the Chancellor of the Exchequer supposed. The promise given by that right hon. Gentleman was given in two different years. He had promised that if the propositions made by himself (General Sir George Balfour) were formulated, the subject would be taken up and thoroughly investigated. But though this condition was complied with, and the heads of the inquiry duly put down on the last day's Notices of 1695 the Session, yet no notice had been taken thereof. But he would give the right hon. Gentleman a reminder of the formulated propositions during the Recess, in the hope that the inquiry might be instituted by an independent Committee, and not by the Select Committee on Public Accounts.
§ Resolutions agreed to.