HC Deb 04 August 1885 vol 300 cc1051-2

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether he has further considered the advisability of appointing a Finance Lord of the Board of Admiralty; whether he can explain the precise method of controlling expenditure which actually exists at the Admiralty at the present time; and, if it be true, as recently stated in evidence by the Accountant General of the Navy before the Committee now sitting on Admiralty Accounts, that there is now no permanent official at the Admiralty who is responsible for the control of the entire expenditure, but that each head of a department controls the expenditure of that Department?


I have nothing to add to the objections I stated the other day to the appointment of a Finance Lord at the Board of Admiralty, and to them I still adhere. The method of controlling the expenditure at the Admiralty is the same as it has been for some years past. The ultimate control of the Naval Votes rests entirely with the Board of Admiralty, the Parliamentary Secretary being specially charged with this duty. The officers responsible to the Board for the expenditure out of these Votes are the heads of the spending Departments, who send in their statements of expenditure incurred to the Accountant General, who forwards their reports to the Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. I have not read the evidence of the Accountant General of the Navy before the Select Committee referred to; but he informs me that he gave the evidence with the object of making clear the different position which he, as Accountant General of the Navy, occupied to that of the Accountant General at the War Office, where that officer has authority to investigate proposed expenditure before it is incurred. At the Admiralty, the practice is to report to him the expenditure after it has been incurred. I have always assumed that the object for which the two offices were made was identical, and that as the War Office system has worked well we should endeavour, as far as possible, to assimilate to it the Admiralty system.


Will the noble Lord be prepared to give the House any assurance that no permanent change involving additional expense will be made pending the consideration by the House of the Report of the Select Committee on Admiralty Accounts?


It is competent to the hon. Member to discuss the Report of the Committee; but, in the present condition of Public Business, it would be impossible for the Government to initiate any such discussion. I cannot give the promise asked for by the hon. Member, as it will be our duty to take action upon that Report, subject to any opinion which the House may express on the Report; but if it be necessary to strengthen the financial control at the Admiralty by appointing any additional officers, of course it will be our duty to undertake this on our own responsibility.