HC Deb 14 September 1909 vol 10 cc1928-9

asked the Prime Minister whether he would favourably consider the recommendation of the Select Committee appointed in 1903 to inquire whether any plan can be advantageously adopted for enabling the House more effectively to make an examination, not involving criticisms of policy, into the details of national expenditure, to the effect that a Select Committee be appointed; that it be called the Estimates Committee; that it be appointed continuously in the same way, and possess the same powers, as the Public Accounts Committee; that, in order to combine and unify the machinery of financial control and, as it were, to dovetail the Estimates Committee on to the Public Accounts Committee, a proportion of Members be appointed to sit on both Committees; that the Estimates Committee, with power to call for witnesses and papers, not of a secret character, should examine a class, portion, or branch of the Estimates for the current year, not exceeding one-fourth of the whole; that this class shall have been selected for them in the previous year by the Public Accounts Committee, who shall likewise notify the Departments concerned and the Treasury that the Public Accounts Committee, while preserving full discretionary power in the selection of the class or portion of the Estimates to be referred to the Estimates Committee, shall endeavour to pass systematically in review each Vote within a limited period of years; that to facilitate examination the selected class or portion shall be presented at the earliest possible date after the day of the meeting of Parliament; and that the consideration of this class by the House of Commons in Committee of Supply shall, if convenient, be deferred until the presentation of the Report of the Estimates Committee thereupon?


This is a proposal which has often been mooted. It possesses many attractions and not a few practical difficulties. I am afraid I cannot do more at present than promise to submit it to the consideration of my colleagues.


Did not Mr. John Bright make a speech in favour of this method in 1868?


I have no doubt that is so.