§ MR. ATKINSON
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, When the annual account of the Mercantile Marine Fund up to the 31st of March last will be printed; and, if he will try to arrange to get it out in less than five months in future?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD (Baron HENRY DE WORMS)
The final account cannot be presented until the completion of the audit, which cannot be for some months, as some of the accounts from Consuls and Colonial Officers are only now being received. An approximately estimated account, sufficient for all purposes, will in future be laid on the Table. Perhaps the House will permit me to add a few additional words, by way of explanation, for the past two years—that is, for 1882–3 and 1883–4—with a view to giving the House the earliest information with regard to the Mercantile Marine Fund. The late President of the Board of Trade presented an unaudited account to Parliament in the month of August. The Committee on Public Accounts— No. 267 (1880), P. 5—recommend that the account should be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General before being laid before Parliament. This recommendation will have the effect of delaying still further the presentation of the account, if agreed to, until the date when the Appropriation Accounts generally are presented—say, February following. As a means of meeting the reasonable desires of the shipowners, I think it will be well to revert to the exceptional course adopted by Lord Sandon, and lay an approximate Return on the Table of the House annually. This Return cannot, I fear, be made up with any degree of accuracy until the latter end of July or the beginning of August, because (a) the Board of Trade are dependent on three Lighthouse 1779 Boards for the accounts as to lighthouses. The accounts take nearly three months to collect and compile; (b) the accounts of Consuls for the relief of distressed seamen, now included in the Mercantile Marine Fund Account, have also to be collected and analyzed. Those for the month of March last have only just been all received. I have to-day laid the Return for 1884–5 on the Table of the House.