§ Bill, as amended, considered.
§ Clause 6.
§ (4.43.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I have already expressed my views on this subject in Committee, and should not have done so again if it had not been for the fact that this matter came on at the dinner-hour in Committee, and that this clause—which is a very important one—was called on directly after the Chairman had returned from tea, there were not half-a-dozen Members in the House, and though a count was moved, a special and somewhat unusual circumstance prevented the House being counted. A little discussion took place between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself, and, though I was supported by a large number of Members on a Division, I think it only right now to give other hon. Members who were not present an opportunity of discussing this important subject, if they are inclined to do so. I am inclined to think that this Bill is the most important one Her Majesty's Government are likely to pass this Session. It involves a large amount of money, and settles the policy of the country as to localisation of the Forces; but the Government have tried to slip it through with very little discussion. The Second Reading was taken on a Friday night before the holidays; and it was brought forward in 338 Committee at the dinner-hour, and on Friday last Her Majesty's Government tried to take it without Debate, after 12 o'clock, which was not allowed. I trust that to-day the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton and several other Members will avail themselves of the opportunity of making some observations. The Bill enables Her Majesty's Government to borrow £4,000,000, not this year but in years to come, so that the matter is to be taken out of the control of Parliament. I will not raise the question as to how the money is to be disposed of, as I did in Committee.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE,) Lincolnshire, Horncastle
I rise to order. I wish to ask if the hon. Member is speaking to the question, which is Clause 6.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I am only submitting to the House why I will not raise again the questions I raised under Clauses 4 and 5. Clause 6 is a clause which enables the Government to borrow money in future years, if they should require it. This year they are to spend £300,000 out of the surplus of the year. I have no objection to this being spent on barracks, and if it is employed in taking up land at Aldershot for the purpose of establishing camps of exercise it will be beneficial; but I object to power being given to the Government to borrow money, not because they do require it, but because they "may" require it. That seems to me an altogether un-constitutional proceeding, which has been condemned in former years—a system of cooking the accounts for the purpose of making them look better than they are. I beg to move the omission of this clause, in order that if other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen choose to take note of the matter, they may have an opportunity of doing so.
§ Amendment proposed, "To leave out Clause 6."—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ Question proposed, "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill."
§ (4.52.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
This affords an opportunity of raising a protest against the policy of borrowing £4,100,000, at a time when a much larger sum is being paid off for reduction of debt.
§ (4.52.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's,) Hanover Square
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has fallen into the same error as the hon. Member who preceded him. This year we are not borrowing at all. When the hon. Member says we are borrowing, and at the same time paying off debt, he forgets that that does not apply to the present year, and that it is only a hypothesis as to coming years.
§ (4.53.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
It does not apply in the present year; but that only strengthens my argument as to future years, because you propose this year, when you are paying £400,000 for barracks out of the surplus, to borrow money for use in future years.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
Yes; and that altogether irrespective of the amount of debt paid off during the year, or of the amount of the Revenue. I called attention in the Budget Debates to the expenditure in the present year as compared with the amount provided in the Estimates for the Army and Navy, but I received no answer from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It seems to me he cannot be aware of the figures I called his attention to. A Return which was given to the House a short time ago, on my Motion, shows that no less than £6,800,000 will be expended in the present year over and above the Army and Navy Estimates, making a total expenditure for the year of £38,321,000, a larger sum than has ever been spent before in this country when the country was not actually at war. Of that £6,800,000,£4,570,000 is to be borrowed, and it, therefore, seems to me that at the time the Chancellor of the Exchequer came before the House and announced his surplus of £3,500,000, there really was no surplus at all, but a deficit of about of £1,500,000. I must protest altogether against this system of borrowing whilst you are paying off debt. It enables the Chancellor of the Exchequer to claim a surplus when there is practically no surplus at all. I believe the proposals in the clause to be thoroughly unsound finance. They disguise altogether the real expenditure of 340 the country, and I believe the true and the wisest course would have been to have provided for the expenditure within the year only, so that the House and the country might know what the real expenditure will be. I doubt whether the total sum of £4,100,000 will be expended in less than eight or nine years. We have to erect barracks over many parts of the world—at Bermuda, Gibraltar, Malta, Ireland, and other places, and I doubt whether the work will be finished in less than eight or nine years. It would be possible, by spreading the cost over such a period, to provide £300,000 or £400,000 a year to meet it without taking these borrowing powers.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ An Amendment made.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I do not know whether the House will allow this Bill to be read a third time. It is very desirable that the measure should pass as soon as possible.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
As it is a Money Bill it would not be proper to take the Third Reading on the same day as the Report stage.
§ Bill to be read the third time tomorrow.