HC Deb 04 March 1909 vol 1 cc1692-7

The House resumed.

[The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Emmott) in the chair.]

Resolution reported:—"That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending 31st March, 1909, the sum of £910,000 be granted out of the Consolidated Funds of the United Kingdom."—(Mr. Hobhouse.)

Resolution read a second time.

Motion made and question proposed:—"That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


Will the Prime Minister state when the second reading of this Bill will be taken, and whether we shall have an opportunity of discussing it at a proper hour?


To-morrow (5th March).


To-morrow is Friday, a private Member's day. I do not wish to raise any question at this stage, but as I understand the only opportunity for discussing the second reading will be Friday, I think I must ask the House to go to a division on this question. Perhaps the right. hon. Gentleman will reconsider the position.


I must ask the Secretary to the Treasury to elucidate this matter a little further. I understand he said yesterday there is a very special necessity for this abnormal procedure. It seems extraordinary, on the face of it, that there should be two Consolidated Bills necessary in the month of March. I should like to ask him how the necessity arises? This is one of the points not easily apprehended by Members of the House who have not given special attention to it. The only man really able to deal with a matter of this kind is Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles, and in his absence I am afraid there is no one capable of treating the subject so ably as he. I understood the Secretary to the Treasury said yesterday it was very seldom that a vote was run out so low as on this occasion. I want to know why it is run out so late, and why the Government did not anticipate this call. That is the first question. The second question I want to ask him is why it was he said the Motion was brought on in the interest of strict financial purity? I should presume it is a matter of necessity instead of strict financial purity. "Sir Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice" says:— Unless a grant of supply is appropriated by Statute to the Service to which it is destined, the Treasury, unless otherwise authorised, is not capable of making use of the sum or grant from the Consolidated Fund.

Therefore, I presume, it is really not possible for the hon. Gentleman to have got the money, and therefore his appeal to the high standards of financial purity is really conforming to the strict requirement of the law. I find also that— On the advice of Mr. Pitt in 1784, and of Lord Grey in 831, the Commons resolved that the persons who acted on Supply Grants unsanctioned by an Appropriation Act, would be guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour.

The hon. Gentleman narrowly escaped the offence of a high crime and misdemeanour and impeachment. I just want to say that I confess to an error. I suggested that this sum might have been met by devoting excesses under other heads to this amount, and I had forgotten for a moment that that procedure is only applicable in the case of Civil Service Estimates to the sub-heads and not to the votes. I ask the hon. Gentleman how he could have got money if it had not been for this procedure; why the necessity for this particular procedure has arisen at all; and whether the sums available for payment of old age pensions are already depleted or will be depleted by the end of next week when the Bill will pass?


I do not think the House will expect me to enter into the explanation which I thought I had tendered rather fully to the House yesterday of the course which I hoped would be regarded as meeting a more rigid standard of financial purity than has sometimes been followed. If we had followed the example of hon. Gentlemen opposite between 1901 and 1905, I do not think we should have presented this resolution or this Bill to the House, but I thought, acting on the instructions of the Prime Minister, that it was better to revert to the higher and better standard which in the earlier days of their administration the right hon. Gentlemen opposite had followed, and to avoid any formal breaking of the financial rules which used formerly to govern proceedings in this House. It would have been perfectly possible, I am not sure whether it would not have been perfectly proper, following the example set in 1901, not to have presented this Bill at all, but I was advised that it would be a return to the older and purer standard of financial morality, and therefore I anticipate by some sixteen days the ordinary Consolidated Fund Bill. It is not possible to protract the debate except upon the very small point of the standard of financial morality and purity, but I do hope the House will give some encouragement to a return to what I believe are the better ways I have inaugurated and allow the proceedings to now terminate. With regard to the point made by the hon. Member opposite, there really is nothing in it. We have the money to go on with, but that money will be exhausted, I will not say properly exhausted, but there will be some departure from the strictest code of financial morality in this matter. If hon. Members do not wish to proceed in that path I have no desire to press it. We have funds at our disposal.


I am not going to argue the question of whether the hon. Gentlemen is following a stricter path of financial morality than his predecessor, but what I want to ask is why proceed with the second reading of the Bill tomorrow? Why get the second reading of the Bill on Friday and sit late to get it? It will not give you your money any earlier than if you get the second reading of your Bill some day next week. I do not know whether the hon. Member wishes to press the second reading of the Bill to-morrow, and I should like to have some explanation.


Perhaps I may be allowed to say that on Monday we hope to take Votes A and I on the Army, and it might take us some short time after 11 o'clock. We think it undesirable that we should have the second reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill and this £910,000 on Monday, and if anyone really desired to say anything they could say it after five o'clock to-morrow. We cannot expect a prolonged discussion to-morrow on this Consolidated Fund Bill. The House has already discussed it for a day and a half and, I believe, come to a decision.


I do not think we should allow this interesting and unique occasion to pass without congratulating the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, especially the Prime Minister, who has given him such excellent advice, in consequence of which he has taken this highly constitutional course. The object of course is to give this House in its different stages an opportunity of, in a constitutional manner, dealing with the question of this extra sum of money included in this Consolidated Fund Bill. The object of course is to allow full and complete discussion. The Government are not going to do what the late Government did, namely, deal with this money without giving the House adequate time to discuss it and go into details. How do they give that adequate time? By bringing it on in its different stages after 11 o'clock at night, and by forcing the second reading through on Friday after 5 o'clock. I think that is a way of carrying out these principles of financial purity which cannot but commend themselves to the great majority of Nonconformist consciences which so ably support the Government. I congratulate the Government upon the very effective and excellent way in which they have given us the opportunity of discussing matters in this Consolidated Fund Bill.


I cannot allow the statement of the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury to go unchallenged. He said we have had ample opportunity of discussing the items in the Vote. I distinctly stated last night that I wished for an opportunity to say something in regard to the appropriation in aid of £4,000 upon the Customs Vote. I still wish for that opportunity.


That has nothing whatever to do with it. I must say, although I have allowed very natural and proper questions to be put as to the further stages of the Bill, the question of when the further stages of the Bill are to be taken has strictly nothing to do with the passing of this resolution as to whether it is expedient to authorise the output of this particular sum of money for the Consolidated Fund.


I thank the hon. Gentleman for his explanation.


The hon. Member has no right to speak again except by the leave of the House.

Motion made, and question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 161; Noes, 44.

Division No. 23.] AYES. [11.25 p.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles
Ainsworth, John Stirling Beale, W. P. Byles, William Pollard
Alden, Percy Beaumont. Hon. Hubert Carr-Gomm, H. W.
Allen. A. Acland (Christchurch) Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport) Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.) Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.
Armitage, R. Bennett, E. N. Cleland, J. W.
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Boulton, A. C. F. Clough, William
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Bowerman, C. W. Cobbold, Felix Thornley
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Brigg, John Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)
Barnes, G. N. Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Corbett. C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)
Barran, Rowland Hirst Buckmaster, Stanley 0. Crooks, William
Crosfield, A. H. Hudson, Walter Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Jardine, Sir J. Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Jones, Leif (Appleby) Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.) Kekewich, Sir George Robinson, S.
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Kelley, George D. Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Kilbride, Denis Roe, Sir Thomas
Dillon, John Kincaid-Smith, Captain M. Rogers, F. E. Newman
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) King, Alfred John (Knutsford) Rose, Charles Day
Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Lambert, George Rowlands, J.
Erskine, David C. Lamont, Norman Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Evans. Sir Samuel T. Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Everett, R. Lacey Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Falconer, J. Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich) Seddon, J.
Fenwick, Charles Levy, Sir Maurice Seely, Colonel
Findlay, Alexander Lewis, John Herbert Shackleton, David James
Fuller, John Michael F. Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Shipman. Dr. John G.
Fullerton, Hugh Lupton, Arnold Silcock, Thomas Ball
Gill, A. H. Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Simon, John Allsebrook
Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Gulland, John W. Macpherson, J. T. Stanley, Hon. A. Lyulph (Cheshire)
Gurdon, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Brampton MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.) Straus, B. S. (Mile End)
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.) Summerbell, T.
Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Markham, Arthur Basil Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Hall, Frederick Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Harcourt Robert V. (Montrose) Massie, J. Tomkinson, James
Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) Masterman, C. F. G. Toulmin, George
Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Micklem, Nathaniel Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Montagu, Hon. E. S. Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.) Montgomery, H. G. Waring, Walter
Haslam, James (Derbyshire) Murphy, John (Kerry, East) Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Myer, Horatio Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Haworth, Arthur A. Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster) White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Hayden, John Patrick Norman, Sir Henry White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Hazleton, Richard Norton, Capt. Cecil William White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Hedges, A. Paget Parker, James (Halifax) Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Hemmerde, Edward George Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Wiles, Thomas
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Pirie, Duncan V. Wilkie, Alexander
Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe) Radford. G. H. Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)
Higham, John Sharp Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro') Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Hobart, Sir Robert Reddy, M.
Hobhouse, Charles E. H. Rees, J. D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Hogan, Michael Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.) Joseph Pease and the Master of
Horridge, Thomas Gardner Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Elibank.
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey
Balcarres, Lord Guinness, W. E. (Bury St. Edmunds) Renton, Leslie
Baldwin, Stanley Hamilton. Marquess of Ronaldshay, Earl of
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Bignold, Sir Arthur Hay, Hon. Claude George Salter, Arthur Clavell
Cave, George Helmsley, Viscount Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hills, J. W. Stanier, Beville
Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey- Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Clark, George Smith Hunt, Rowland Valentia, Viscount
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Lane-Fox, G. R. Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)
Courthope, G. Loyd Lonsdale, John Brownlee Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Doughty, Sir George Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Meysey-Thompson, E. C. Younger, George
Forster, Henry William Morpeth, Viscount
Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West) Oddy, John James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir
Gordon, J. Peel. Hon. W. R. W. Frederick Banbury and Mr. Ren-
Gretton, John Remnant, James Farquharson wick

Bill ordered to be brought in by the Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Hob-house.

Consolidated Fund (No. 1) Bill:— "To apply a sum out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the year ending on the thirty-first day of March, one thousand nine hundred and nine," presented accordingly, and read the first time. To be read a second time to-morrow, 5th March.

And, it being after half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER. adjourned the House without question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at twenty-six minutes before Twelve o'clock.