HC Deb 28 February 1888 vol 322 cc1654-6
MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the Government propose to accede to the suggestion of the late Select Committee on Army and Navy Estimates, that it should be re-appointed; and, whether the Government propose the appointment of a Select Committee on the Civil Service Estimates?

THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

The hon. Member asks me a Question with regard to the Select Committee appointed on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) last year. I will, therefore, take the opportunity of referring to a Question of which the noble Lord has given me private Notice, so that I may answer upon the whole question of the treatment of the Estimates on this occasion. It is the intention of the Government to go considerably further than the re-appointment of the Committee over which the noble Lord presided last year. The Government are most anxious that opportunities should be afforded hon. Members of informing themselves as to the details of the Estimates, as far as it is possible for them to do so, and to have the assistance of hon. Members in regard to the creation of expenditure, which is frequently pressed on the Government in detail by hon. Gentlemen in the House by Questions and Motions; and it is the intention, therefore, of the Government to propose the appointment of three Select Committees on the Estimates—one to which the Army Estimates will be referred; another to which the Navy Estimates will be referred; and one for the consideration of the Votes proposed for the Revenue Departments and the Post Office. The Government are of opinion that it will be necessary to frame the References to the Committees in terms which will restrain them from the consideration of any questions tending to the increase of the charge for those Services. I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) has given Notice for a Committee with reference to the form in which the Estimates shall be presented, and the mode in which they shall be considered. It is intended to ask the House to concur in the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman as to the appointment of a Committee of the House to consider the extremely important question as to the degree in which modifications might, with advantage to the public interest, be made in the forms which govern the discussion of the Estimates in Committee and on Report to the House, with the view of at once effecting an economy of the time of the House, and of securing a more regular and effective examination of the expenditure of the country than has taken place in recent years. The House will see by the appointment of these various Committees that the Government is thoroughly in earnest in endeavouring to secure to Members full opportunity for an effective control over expenditure, while the Executive Government must, of course, retain undiminished responsibility for all questions of policy.