HC Deb 13 June 1878 vol 240 cc1416-8

in rising to call attention to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, dated 15th March, 1878, upon the Account of money raised and issued under the provisions of the Military Forces Localization Act (35 and 36 Vic. c. 68), which was laid before the House in Parliamentary Paper, No. 121, of the present Session, said, the Report in question showed that they had no security that the money voted by the House was expended in the manner in which it was intended to be expended. In 1872 the House voted £3,500,000 on behalf of the Military Forces Localization Act; £300,000 of that sum was intended to be applied to a tactical station in the North of England. In 1876 he drew attention to the fact that it was intended to apply part of that sum to a tactical station at Alder-shot, and not in the North of England; but the then Secretary of State for War told him he had better not interfere with a subject on which he had no practical knowledge. Since then the matter had remained in abeyance; but he had now found that the Auditor General had taken precisely the same view of it as ho had when he brought the subject before the House in 1876. In his Report the Auditor General drew attention to the fact that £150,000 out of £300,000 voted for a tactical station in Yorkshire had been applied to increasing the area of Alder-shot. He (Sir Alexander Gordon) would not discuss the question whether that increased area at Aldershot was required or not. The point was, that by an Act they had voted a sum for a particular purpose; that the Auditor General thought £150,000 of that sum had been misapplied; and on that officer applying to the Treasury for their reasons for allowing the War Office so to appropriate that money, the answer they gave was—"My Lords see no reason to object to the manner in which the money has been appropriated." During the last two or three years the Departments had shown an increasing disregard of the remarks of the Auditor General, and the information which he required to enable him to do his duty to the House—whose servant he, in fact, was—in respect to the public expenditure was withheld from him, and he received no reply to his queries. The House, he thought, ought to sustain him in the independent position he took up; for, in his examination of the accounts, it was not for him to take the opinion of the Department as to the way the money was expended, but to follow his own opinion, so as to enable him to perform his duties to the House. He was responsible to that House, and not to the War Department, and they should uphold him in the course he was taking in making these Reports to them, and should insist that he should be furnished with the materials which would enable him to do his duty to the public, or they might as well cease to have such an officer at all. In addition to the sum under consideration in that Report, it would be found from the Appropriation Account for this year that no less than £476,728, out of a total saving of £617,973, had been re-appropriated to purposes of which the House knew nothing, and over which it could, therefore, exercise no control whatever.