HC Deb 27 February 1936 vol 309 cc970-2

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £1,249 17s. 8d., be granted to His Majesty, to make good an Excess on the Grant for Public Buildings Overseas for the year ended the 31st day of March, 1935:

Amount to be Voted.
Class VII. £ s. d.
Vote 8. Public Buildings Overseas 1,249 17 8 "

12.15 p.m.


I must apologise for having to address the Committee again. During the hours preceding this Vote I gave hon. Members opposite a certain number of good-natured buffets, but I am somewhat at a disadvantage on this occasion. I feel that I am in sackcloth and ashes, because I have to present what is known as an Excess Vote, which is a financial crime, if not of a very high degree, at least of the nature of not having a, light of one's bicycle. As the Committee are aware, an Excess Vote is required if a Department has spent money upon any service during any financial year in excess of the amount granted for that service for that year. The amount for which we are now asking in this Excess Vote really ought to have been granted for the year 1934–35. Parliament is rightly jealous of the principle that all expenditure should be estimated in the financial year, but the impossibility of doing so on this occasion arises from the fact that this sum of money is composed of small items which were spent upon buildings belonging to the Government in various distant corners of the world. Parliament has always insisted that the Public Accounts Committee should examine carefully any Excess Vote before it is presented to the Committee, and that examination has taken place. The Public Accounts Committee are satisfied with the reasons for the excess, and, beyond making a recommendation, which we are following, to try to secure more accurate budgeting even in those remote distances, there is nothing in the report to which I need draw the attention of the Committee. The trouble arises in this small sum from an impossibility which the Treasury find, powerful as it is as a Department, of making foreign architects and contractors see eye to eye with us in our strict time limits for expenditure for the financial year.


Can my hon. and learned Friend give the Committee the reference?


Certainly. The number of the White Paper is 56. Perhaps the Committee would like me to give the statement on this Vote. The actual estimate was £57,290, and £60,382 was expended, leaving an excess of £3,092. We are making endeavours to try to secure more accurate budgeting, and that this does not happen again. With that explanation of the excess, I ask the Committee to grant the Vote.


Do we understand the Financial Secretary to say that this item has already been before the Public Accounts Committee and that that Committee have made a recommendation to the Treasury, which the Treasury have approved and are to operate?


That is so. The Committee say that they see no objection. They report as follows: Your Committee recognise the difficulty of estimating accurately for a large number of minor operations conducted in places scattered through the whole world. As in this instance, however, a Supplementary Estimate for the year ended 31st March, 1935, had been taken in February, 1935, your Committee felt bound to satisfy themselves that the system of financial control was as efficient as possible. They were informed that modifications had recently been introduced with a view to enabling the Office of Works in London to obtain earlier information whenever expenditure at any point seemed likely to exceed in the aggregate a prescribed figure. In view of these facts your Committee see no objection to the sum set out above being provided by an Excess Vote.

These are the material parts of the report.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next.

Forward to