HC Deb 09 March 1938 vol 332 cc2075-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £12,737 9s. 6d., be granted to His Majesty, to make good Excesses on certain Grants for Civil Departments for the year ended the 31st day of March, 1937:—

Class and Vote. Amount to be Voted.
CLASS VI. £ s. d.
Vote 2. Mercantile Marine Services 10 0 0
Vote 15. Works and Buildings in Ireland 1,464 14 11
Vote 4. Superannuation and Retired Allowances 11,262 14 7."

1.29 a.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Lieut-Colonel Colville)

Let me say one word on the subject of Excess Votes. Normally any excess expenditure on a Vote can be foreseen with some degree of accuracy and provision is made in such cases to cover this by a Supplementary Estimate during the year to which the Vote relates. Occasionally it happens, however, that the fact that there will be an excess does not become apparent until it is too late to pass a Supplementary Estimate through Parliament. In such a case the accounts for that year show net expenditure in excess of the amount voted by Parliament. The position then disclosed is brought before the Public Accounts Committee which acts as the faithful watch-dog of Parliament in financial matters. That Committee makes a special report to Parliament on the circumstances, and the position then has to be regularised by a Vote in Supply for the amount of the excess. The Committee's report in relation to these 1936 Votes has been before hop. Members for some time. I am presenting three Excess Votes to-night. I would like to draw attention particularly to the third one. This excess accounts for almost the whole of the total figure of £12,737. It occurred on the Vote for Superannuation and Retired Allowances and was due to abnormally heavy expenditure on additional allowances during the last quarter of the year, particularly in the month of March. I am speaking now of the year which ended on 31st March last. It is always difficult to forecast exactly the amount that is required for these allowances. The payments are due on retirements from Government service, and it is difficult to forecast exactly the amount required. During the month of March last year a considerably larger sum than was expected had to be expended on these additional allowances. The matter was reported on by the Public Accounts Committee, and I would like to refer to their report in conclusion. The committee agreed that such expenditure was very difficult to estimate, but they asked the Accounting Officer to consider whether steps could be taken towards the end of each year to ascertain whether an excess over estimate is likely to be anticipated in order that a Supplementary Estimate may be applied for if necessary and an Excess Vote prevented. The Public Accounts Committee recommended that such inquiry should be made each year. That procedure is being adopted and, as the Committee will be aware, I have already presented to the Committee—and it has passed the Committee stage—a Supplementary Estimate for this year for the same purpose in order to avoid an Excess Vote on this year's Vote. With these explanations, and having in view that the Public Accounts Committee say at the end of their report that they see no objection to these sums being provided by Excess Votes, I hope the Committee will agree to the Vote.

Sir S. Cripps

I am very glad that the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee on this point is to be adopted, as it seems to us to be desirable.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.