HC Deb 24 May 1886 vol 305 cc1829-31
MR. ALBERT GREY (Northumberland, Tyneside)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, What are the sums of public money handed over annually to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, apart from his salary; whether any portion of such money is exempt from the scrutiny of Government audit; whether it is true that a large proportion of such money is regularly applied to electioneering or party purposes; and under what Act or Votes the power is derived which places such money at the disposal of the Parliamentary Secretary?


A sum of £10,000 is handed over annually to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury under the Act 1 Vict. c. 2. This sum is granted for Secret Service, and the expenditure of it is in consequence not subjected to the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The money being granted for Secret Service, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has no information as to the objects to which it is applied. The sum in question is placed at the disposal of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury under the authority of Section 15 of 1 & 2 Vict. c. 2, which enacts that it shall be lawful for the Commissioners of the Treasury to direct the issue out of the said Consolidated Fund, to such person or persons as shall be named in any warrant or warrants under their hands to receive the same, the sum of £10,000 in each and every year, to be applied to the same purposes and under the same authority as the sum of £10,000 per annum formerly charged upon the 4th Class of the Civil List for Home Secret Service has heretofore been applied. The subject of Secret Service has been before the Committee of Public Accounts, and it has also been before the late and present Governments, and a Treasury Minute has been passed, of which the following are the material portions:—After a recital that the Treasury has had under consideration the remarks made by the Public Accounts Committee in their second Report, dated July, 1885, on the expenditure out of the Vote for Secret Service, and also of the sum charged for the same purpose upon the Consolidated Fund, and after a statement that under the arrangements made with regard to this Vote, in pursuance of the Exchequer and Audit Act, the duty of the Treasury is practically restricted to obtaining from the Ministers who expend the money, certificates of the amount spent, to serve instead of vouchers for the expenditure, the Minute proceeds— In pursuance of this duty, my Lords propose that this certificate should in future be worded as follows—'I hereby certify that the amount actually expended by me, or under my directions, for Secret Service in the year ended 31st March 18—, was £ . and that the balance in my hands on the said 31st March was £ . And I further solemnly declare that the whole of the sum so expended has been paid for purposes to which, in my belief, Parliament intended that Secret Service money may be applied, and that no part of the same has been paid for any service which has been or could properly have been provided by an ordinary Vote of Parliament.' My Lords further consider that it will be right to extend the rule which applies to Voted Secret Service to the sum charged on the Consolidated Fund for similar purposes; and they will instruct their Parliamentary Secretary accordingly.

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guilford)

May I ask if any balance has ever been surrendered; and, if so, what balance was surrendered on 31st March last?


I informed the House that, being Secret Service money, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is in a hopeless state of ignorance on the subject.

MR. BOORD (Greenwich)

What is the date of the Treasury Minute?


I cannot give the exact date, but it is within the last six weeks or two months.


The hon. Gentleman stated that the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury were to say by warrant to whom this money was to be paid. I would ask has any warrant been signed by them saying it is to be paid to the Financial Secretary?


Since Mr. Burke passed the Act, in 1782, it has always been paid to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Treasury.

MR. MITCHELL HENRY (Glasgow, Blackfriars)

In consequences of the answers of the hon. Gentleman, I beg to give Notice that on the earliest opportunity I will move— That it would be an abuse, and contrary to public policy, that any money raised by taxation should be expended by the Government of the day for election purposes.