§ Resolution [27th May] reported.
§ Resolution read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
moved that the Vote be re-committed. The Vote, he said, was brought on at 10 o'clock on Saturday morning and it was represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that it was absolutely necessary that it should be taken, and that it was a Vote which might be passed without much discussion. As a matter of fact, this particular Vote required to be very carefully scrutinized and canvassed by the House. Year after year it had been rapidly increasing. In 1875–6 it amounted to £2,950,000; but that was a great deal more than was really required, inasmuch as at the end of the financial year the War Office had in their hands no loss than £95,000. In 1876–7 the Estimate went up to £2,997,000, and again there was a surplus. The increase went on, and in 1877–8, including the Supplementary Estimate, the Vote was £3,188,000; but this sum was in fact exceeded by no less a sum than £282,000. In 1878–9 the Estimate, including the Supplementary, amounted to £3,800,000, and this was exceeded by £500,000. In 1879–80 the original Estimate was exceeded by £2,000,000. In 1880–1 the Estimate fell to £2,790,000; and now the sum asked for amounted to £3,500,000. Now, the War Office authorities had already obtained under Vote 1, £4,500,000. The present Vote would put them in possession of £8,000,000. The total of the Army Estimates for the year was about £16,000,000, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) wished the House to understand that it was absolutely necessary before the end of the second month of the financial year that one-half of the Army Estimates should be voted. It seemed to be perfectly impossible that the War Office could require that 50 per cent of the whole of the Army expenditure should be voted so early in the financial year. It was hardly reasonable that a Vote which, 1760 covered almost every ground of Army administration should be taken at 2 o'clock in the morning. The Vote was for food, forage, fuel, and light, lodging allowances, field allowances, grants for home and abroad, besides miscellaneous sources—in fact, it was difficult to understand what part of Army administration might not be affected, at any rate, by the Vote. It was a Vote which might very properly provoke criticism; but the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War represented that it was just the reverse. Some Members in the House on Saturday morning expostulated; but the Secretary of State for War seemed to think it was exceedingly unreasonable of them to do so. The hon. Baronet the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (Sir Henry Holland) went so far as to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should be content to take one-half of the Vote, and leave the other half as a ground for raising any criticism which might appear on some subsequent occasion to be called for. If the right hon. Gentleman had agreed to this suggestion, he (Mr. A. O'Connor) would not have raised a single objection. The noble Lord the Financial Secretary to the Treasury did not urge any of the Civil Service Estimates, on the ground that it was too late an hour. It seemed extraordinary that when it was too late to take the Civil Service Estimates, which in amount did not equal this single Vote, the Secretary of State for War should press on this Vote. When the Vote was brought on the Committee was scarcely in a mood to consider the Vote properly, and the consequence was there was a great deal of heated discussion, which did not conduce to the proper appreciation of the subject. Included in the Vote were a number of items, which might fairly be criticized, especially under present circumstances. There were charges for the continuance of soldiers upon work which certainly Irish Members could not be expected to countenance. It was only fair the House should consent to have the Vote re-committed, to admit of proper discussion He now moved that that course should be adopted.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. O'Connor) seemed to think the Vote was passed on Saturday morning after a short discussion. As a matter of fact, the discussion occupied from 1 o'clock to 5; and that, notwithstanding the importance of the Vote, could not be considered an inadequate consideration. After the long discussion on Saturday morning, and after a responsible Minister of the Crown, supported by his Predecessor in Office, had declared that it was necessary the Vote should be taken at once, it seemed unreasonable that it should be further postponed.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the greater part of the Sitting on Saturday morning was occupied in discussing the Motion for Adjournment. On account of the lateness of the hour no report of the proceedings of the House could be made; and although, no doubt, a large majority of the Members were in favour of granting the money, it was not wise to set aside the established and very salutary custom which had heretofore been looked upon as almost the law of the House—namely, the custom of considering Votes of such large sums at an early hour of the evening.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution agreed to.