HC Deb 05 November 1959 vol 612 cc1310-27

[Queen's Recommendation signified.]

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).

[Major Sir WILLIAM ANSTRUTHER-GRAY in the Chair]

Motion made, and Question proposed. That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the allowance payable to Her Majesty's High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, it is expedient to authorise the charge on the Consolidated Fund of any increase attributable to the said Act in the sums charged thereon under the Lord High Commissioner (Church of Scotland) Act, 1948.—[Mr. Maclay.]

8.50 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Are we not to have an explanation of the Money Resolution from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury? It is discourteous to the House, especially to Scottish Members, that the representative of the Treasury who has come here to move a Money Resolution does so without a word in explanation of what appears to be a rather complicated matter.

Has the hon. Gentleman read it? Does he know what it is about? Before we approve the Motion, will he say exactly where the Treasury comes in? Does it supervise the accounts of the Lord High Commissioner? To what extent does the Treasury look into the expenditure which is incurred, for example, in connection with the Palace of Holyroodhouse? There seems to be a considerable mystery attached to the accounts, and nobody seems to know anything about it.

Will the Financial Secretary tell us why the Ministry of Works does not appear to be responsible for the opening of the Palace? I do not know how far the Minister of Works understands what goes on in Holyroodhouse, but according to the accounts of the Department the Minister of Works is really responsible for the opening of the Palace. When I take visitors to Holyroodhouse I find the Palace open and staffed. Surely we ought to be told why it is necessary or the Lord High Commissioner to incur the expenditure of opening a public palace. It seems grossly unfair to the Lord High Commissioner.

I should like the Financial Secretary to attempt to unravel the mystery which seems not to be understood by the Solicitor-General for Scotland. Does the unfortunate Lord High Commissioner have to enter this sum of money in his Income Tax return—if so, it is a gross insult to Scotland—and claim the money back by an expenses application? The whole thing seems to me to be carried on in a slipshod manner.

We know that the Treasury exercises a very close scrutiny of education and other expenditure in Scotland. The Secretary of State always gives us to understand that the Treasury is enemy No. 1. Why is it that it is only now that it has been discovered that the Bill is necessary? What does the Money Resolution mean? I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has some difficulties in his new position, but he ought to have been briefed. He should realise this, for he himself has struggled with the Treasury in the sphere of education. Has the Treasury attempted to reduce expenditure in Scotland on this item? Does it adopt a hostile attitude to this expenditure? Can the hon. Gentleman provide the answer which has not been supplied by the Solicitor-General for Scotland?

We have great sympathy with the Financial Secretary because this is not the last time that he is likely to get criticism from Scottish Members. We very carefully examine everything connected with expenditure, and we now ask him to show that he really has been at grips with the problem. He is the Mover of the Money Resolution, and he must have known that this debate would arise. It seems almost incomprehensible to me that he could come and just nod and expect Scottish Members to agree to the Money Resolution. He should have treated the House more courteously and at least given some explanation of his Money Resolution instead of simply asking us to accept it without explanation. We now have a new Financial Secretary; is he deaf and dumb, or is he a mouse?

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

Before we pass the Money Resolution, will the Secretary of State for Scotland tell us about this business of accounting which I raised, I hope courteously, earlier? The right hon. Gentleman will agree that the Solicitor-General for Scotland was either unaware of the way in which the money was allocated, or was unwilling to inform us; and the latter was hardly likely.

There are bound to be occasions when the Secretary of State allocates money to the Lord High Commissioner for the pursuance of his functions and when, at the end of the Assembly, some money is left. That money should be paid back into the Consolidated Fund and not held over. It cannot be held over by the Lord High Commissioner, because he completes his duties at the end of the Assembly and is succeeded on the following year by someone else. There must be provision for any surplus to be paid back to the Consolidated Fund.

It is not enough to be told that civil servants and the Purse Bearer discuss provision for the coming year in the light of the cost of the previous year, then recommending to the Secretary of State what allowance should be made. I understood from what was said from the Government Front Bench that all the money allocated in the first year was spent. In that case, the civil servants and the Purse Bearer had no difficulty in discovering the cost for that year—unless some extra money was spent and the hat had to be passed round to make up the balance.

We know that £4,000 a year has been allocated since 1954, that it has not been enough and that someone has had to make up the balance. We are now being asked to vote more money and it is only right that hon. Members should ask precisely those questions which the right hon. Gentleman's civil servants put to the Purse Bearer: how was the money spent and for what purpose is the extra money necessary?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland said that people who receive invitations come from all walks of Scottish life. That is very nearly true where garden parties are concerned, but it does not apply to lunches and dinners, as the Secretary of State will no doubt agree. I do not want to indulge in any kind of class bickering, but there are many working-class people in Scotland who are loyal adherents to the Church of Scotland and who have expressed some concern about this matter.

All we are asking is that before we pass this Money Resolution we should be assured that there is a system of accounting, and that the Secretary of State makes himself responsible for it. He told us that there would be no relaxation in the strict standards of economy. That can be the case only if someone accounts to him. If the right hon. Gentleman belives that it is necessary to be satisfied that strict standards of economy are observed in the expenditure of this money, he must not be surprised if hon. Members are equally concerned that there will be strict standards of economy. Hon. Members can only know that if there is some accountability to Parliament.

9.0 p.m.

We in Parliament attach great importance to the examination of public accounts by a Select Committee of this House. We have been accused by every hon. Member on the Government benches of being the spendthrifts in our society. We have been accused of being the people who spend money without asking questions. The right hon. Gentleman must not be surprised that we are asking him questions and are concerned about how public money is spent.

Before we pass this Money Resolution tonight I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us the assurance that he will provide all hon. Members with the appropriate document showing how this money is spent by the Lord High Commissioner, the different purposes for which it is spent, and satisfy us that in future the bills will be met by an official rather than by the Lord High Commissioner. I cannot believe that if the Lord High Commissioner gets a cheque for £7,500, and spends a lot of it in ten days, he controls the expenditure himself. He cannot do that. It must be done by an official. There must be a system of accounting. Why has there not already been an undertaking that the system of accounting will be made available to Members?

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) said. The information that I gained during the speech of the Solicitor-General for Scotland was very inade- quate. We are being asked to vote an annual sum of £7,500. We ought to have had more information about the kind of expenditure that has been incurred during the last few years.

We have been told that during the last few years it has cost more than the money that could be voted for this purpose. Why have we not been given the details? We have been told by the Secretary of State that this has been going on since 1954. Surely a committee consisting perhaps of some former Lord High Commissioners, a representative of the Treasury, and people from the Scottish Office, should have been set up a long time ago to go into the whole business of the cost of hospitality incurred in carrying out the duties of Lord High Commissioner. The committee should then have reported to the House giving the fullest details of the expenditure over the last few years so that we could consider whether the Government are justified in asking for this extra money.

All that we have is a ridiculously inadequate Financial Memorandum on the front of the Bill which does not give any reason why the extra money is required. The Bill has been sprung on us. There has been no public discussion of it. There was no indication in the previous Session that a Measure such as this was contemplated. It was not mentioned in the Gracious Speech, although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has pointed out, it is connected with the Crown itself. The Bill has been sprung on us in the first week of the new Parliament and we have not been given the facts on which to base our judgment.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has not behaved properly in this matter. We should have had more information. Let us look at the meagre facts that we have managed to extract across the Table from the Solicitor-General. He told me that roughly half the cost went in opening up Holyrood Palace.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. William Grant)

I said that half the cost went on entertainment.

Mr. Thomson

Half the cost went in entertaining. This means that at present roughly £2,000 out of £4,000 goes in this way. The Solicitor-General said that there were two garden parties, to each of which 3,000 people went. Is that correct?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

There was one garden party, which was attended by about 3,000 people, and a large reception on the Friday night, for which I cannot give the figures of attendance, but which always strikes me as being extremely crowded.

Mr. Thomson

Very well. Let us assume that 2,000 people go to that reception. That means that 5,000 people are entertained on those two occasions.

I do not object to entertainment on that scale, because it is given to a reasonably representative gathering. The hard-worked and underpaid parsons can go there with their wives and daughters, as can the leaders of the Kirk. I can only guess what the cost is, but if it is said that it costs roughly 2s. 6d. a head it means that the cost is still well under £1,000. That leaves well over £3,000 still unaccounted for. This sum goes in two ways. A sum is required to open up Holyrood Palace and to provide accommodation for the people living there during the ten days when the Assembly is in session, and the rest of the money goes upon the more private forms of entertainment.

Let us consider what justification there is for spending money on opening up Holyrood Palace. It seems a very cumbersome and expensive method of providing accommodation for the Lord High Commissioner and his guests. I have no experience of Holyrood Palace, although I have been told that it is extremely cold and that it is an expensive place to live in. I do not suggest that it is one of the perquisites of the Lord High Commissioner to have to spend ten days mere. In the old days Prime Ministers used to be summoned to Balmoral, and in Victorian diaries, kept by Gladstone and others, there are some accounts of the Arctic rigours involved in living in Balmoral. When the Home Secretary publishes his diaries we may have an interesting account of his sojourn in Holyrood Palace last summer.

I turn now to the money which is spent upon more private entertaining, on lunches and dinners to a more select group of people. As far as I understand it, this entertaining is primarily an excuse for what is now called the Establishment—the Scottish Establishment—to enjoy entertainment at the taxpayers' expense. The guests on these private occasions are not representative in the same way as is the general body of guests at the garden parties and receptions. We require a good deal more information about this private entertainment at the taxpayers' expense before we can possibly say that it is justified.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is a great national occasion. This year it played a notable part in the public life of our country, by its historic debate upon the problem of Nyasaland. It is a solemn and earnest occasion, and it is a little incongruous to find it accompanied by the provision of private entertainment to a select group of people, only a small minority of whom can be actively concerned with the general work of the Assembly itself.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

When I raised the issue of taxation on the Second Reading of the Bill, I raised a point which the House now realises is of first-rate importance, because the resulting discussion has revealed the complete incompetence of the Front Bench in dealing with the matter.

The Secretary of State and the learned Solicitor-General show an ignorance of the Bill which they have to conduct through this House that is colossal. Quite honestly, when the Second Reading debate on the Bill began, I did not for one moment imagine that such ignorance could exist amongst Ministers in regard to a Measure which they had to present to this House. When the Solicitor-General rose to reply, he said to me, in dealing with the points I raised, that the issue of taxation did not arise, despite the fact that the Bill says as clearly as words can put it that this is a sum of money which is being paid out to a particular individual.

Now, the Solicitor-General says that it is to reimburse him. Those are the words he used. That means that the Lord High Commissioner incurs the expense, and, having incurred it, he is reimbursed, and, consequently, if that is the actual state of affairs, the question of Income Tax does not arise. He is merely being repaid now for money that he spent earlier on his public duties.

I am not one to grudge a single penny of the money that is spent. I agree that the dignity of the Scottish Church is something that we must uphold, but I still say that I do not think that dignity is always upheld by money and money alone. While I do not quarrel with the amount, I do quarrel with the hopelessly inefficient attitude of the Front Bench of this Government. The money is reimbursed. If the sum is being reimbursed for past expenditure, what is the purpose of the Bill? The Bill has no purpose at all, and it ought not to be before the House, because we are not dealing with last year's expenditure.

We are dealing with money that is expected to be expended in two Assemblies that will take place next year. We are anticipating a sum of money, and hon. Members on both sides in a minute or two are to vote that sum of £7,500 on the recommendation of the responsible Minister from the Treasury. There is no reimbursement whatsoever in that. We are to give a person money, and if we are giving money to an individual, how he uses it is within his own discretion. We do not know what happens to it, because we have no assurance that there is any system that prevails to account for the money.

9.15 p.m.

Quite honestly, I am not well disposed towards this idea of accounting for the money. I would rather see the Lord High Commissioner going ahead with his job, carrying it out within his own discretion, spending the money that he feels is necessary and ought to be spent, and then saying to the Secretary of State for Scotland, "There is what I have spent," and getting the money reimbursed to him, as the Solicitor-General has said. But that is not the procedure which is being adopted, and now we are 10 hear the representative of the Treasury telling us to vote a sum of money to be given to an individual. If that is to happen, the issues which I raised during the Second Reading debate have not been dealt with by the Government Front Bench.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

If the Secretary of State would rather speak now, I will gladly allow him to do so. We are in Committee and we can speak as often as we like.

I am sorry that we are not to have the advice of a representative of the Treasury because this is essentially a Treasury matter. We are dealing with the Money Resolution and not with the principle of the Bill. I should like, first, to ask the representative of the Treasury whether this is the new pattern for Money Resolutions. If it is, then on behalf of all back bench Members I wish to thank him. I do not know whether he has read it. He will appreciate that although my hon. Friends have been talking about £7,500 and about an increase of £3,500, there is no such sum mentioned at all.

For the benefit of hon. Members who have come to this House for the first time after the recent General Election, I would say that they must appreciate that when we discuss Bills and think that we have a fine Amendment and put it down on the Order Paper, we sometimes find that it would cost some money to implement the terms of the Amendment. Then we go back to the Money Resolution and find that we are tied by it and cannot argue the case out. We are ruled out of order because what is proposed in the Amendment conflicts with the Money Resolution. But look what this Money Resolution says: That, for the purposes any Act of the present Session to increase the allowance payable to Her Majesty's High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, it is expedient to authorise the charge on the Consolidated Fund of any increase … "Any increase." In other words we have now a free hand in the Scottish Standing Committee. I hope I am right in assuming that this matter will go to the Scottish Standing Committee. I am sure that something of such a Scottish nature will be dealt with there rather than on the Floor of the House. It would be fine if we could get some guidance about the intention of the Government on that point.

It means that a free hand will be given to the Scottish Standing Committee to increase this sum, if it wishes, from £7,500 to whatever it likes. I must say that the Treasury is showing a rather strange and unknown quality of generosity in the way in which it is trusting the House. That is something which it has not done before. I remember that on matters relating to crofters and to red deer during our discussions in the last Parliament, when we wanted to do something useful we were told that we could not because it was outside the Money Resolution. But here we have the most generous Money Resolution that I have ever seen. I wonder whether the Treasury drafted this one or whether it was drafted by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I have a feeling that it was drafted by the Lord Advocate—it may well have been.

Why is it that although a ceiling of £7,500 is fixed in the Bill, the matter is absolutely unlimited? Was it the intention that this should be put to the Scottish Standing Committee and that the matter should be thrown open to the generosity of the Scots to increase the sum to, say, £12,000 or £15,000? I hope I shall receive a reply from the representative of the Treasury because we are now discussing something which is outside the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland. This is a Treasury matter.

There is a chance for Scottish plunder here. So far as I can see, we could vote £1 million. It would be entirely open to the Scottish Standing Committee and to the House, of course, on Report and Third Reading, to put in any sum hon. Members wish. I should like to know if I am right in that assumption and, if I am right, whether this was done deliberately? Was this new-found freedom provided deliberately? Is it the pattern for future Money Resolutions? If that is the case, I am sure the Treasury will earn the gratitude of all back benchers who wish to move Amendments in Committee which will cost money.

We are entitled to an answer in respect of that. I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland is not going to reply, but that someone else will give us the benefit of his wisdom and that, whichever sum is suggested, he will say how he justifies granting it. He can do that only by demonstrating not the principle of the Bill but exactly how he will decide on what sum of money it should be. Is there any suggestion of over-estimation in some cases and, if so, what is to happen to the unspent money?

I hope we are to get an answer from the Treasury. We have had a fruitless evening trying to get information from the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Solicitor-General for Scotland. The Solicitor-General has already declared his interest in respect of the Bill. I am sorry he did not do that at the start of his speech. I hope we shall now have a fresh mind on this subject to tell us exactly how he is going to justify, by strict rules of accountability, any annual sum paid out, with his concurrence, by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I hope he will tell us if it is by an error of calculation that the Government have not mentioned a sum at all but are leaving the Scottish Standing Committee free to fix a sum. Does that mean that the Treasury is prepared to trust the Scottish Standing Committee to fix any sum? Is there to be any ceiling to the generosity that could be legislated for by the Scottish Standing Committee with the eventual support of the House? I hope the Treasury appreciates that this could be very dangerous.

The Scottish Standing Committee will be very different from that in the last Parliament. In the last Parliament the Conservatives had a majority of hon. Members from Scotland. At the start of the last Parliament they had 36, we had 34 and there was one Liberal. Today we have 38 and there are 31 official Tories. They are very much in the minority now, and the majority of hon. Members representing Scottish seats in Scottish Standing Committee will be those on these benches. If the Scottish Standing Committee votes a very much higher sum, that will be the wish of the majority of Scottish hon. Members. Then the Secretary of State will have the ignominious task of coming to the House and depending on an English majority to overturn the will of the Scots.

Did the right hon. Gentleman have that in mind when he gave this freedom to the Scots to act in this way? There must have been something in the mind of the Treasury when this was suggested. It is being proposed tonight that the Treasury should authorise the charge on the Consolidated Fund of any increase, not just the sum which is at present mentioned in the Bill. That can be raised as much as hon. Members wish and the Treasury will accept it. I am entitled to ask if that was in the mind of the Treasury at the time—whether it was prepared to see this sum, which at present is fixed, raised higher? I hope we shall have the advantage of the advice of the Treasury in respect of what was its will. So far is I can see, the Secretary of State for Scotland has nothing to do with this Money Resolution. It emanated from the Treasury. It is signed only by the Treasury. I hope that the Treasury will be answerable to the Committee as to exactly why it is in this form.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I am astonished at the revelations which have been made to the Committee. I have been in public life for thirty years, sitting on finance committees of all kinds of local authorities and when we have been asked for simple statements on financial accounts we have usually been able to obtain precise information. Here we have an extraordinary state of affairs. It makes me ask whether these accounts are audited. If they are, surely there ought to be no difficulty in giving the details. We ought to be told what is the precise expenditure.

Local authorities would never dream of passing these accounts without asking for some explanation. I hope that we shall receive an explanation which will clear this matter up, otherwise we shall have to probe it further. How was it discovered that this extra money was needed? Surely at some stage someone applied for a rise. Who was it? Was it the ex-Lord High Commissioner and, if so, what were the reasons?

I should be the last to end the duties of the Lord High Commissioner while having a feeling that we were indebted to a noble Lord for expenditure. We have been told that during past years the £4,000 which we gave was not enough and that the money had to be made up from some mysterious source. I should hate to think that some impoverished duke, marquis or lord has had to dip into his own pocket to pay the bills. I should like to know that the House has fulfilled its honourable obligations. I do not want any ex-Lord High Commissioner to think that the House of Commons is mean and miserable and owes him money.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland was asked how many people were invited to the garden party and how many went to it. That is a question which he should be able to answer without difficulty. I read an account in the Scotsman of this garden party, which said that 8,000 people attended it. In previous debates we have talked about 5,000 or 6,000. Now we are told by the Solicitor-General that it was only 3,000. If only 3,000 people were admitted to the garden party, that rather destroys the argument in favour of the Bill. There is such a wide discrepancy between 3,000 people and 8,000 people that somebody must have gate-crashed. Can it be that 5,000 people wandered into the garden party and dined and wined at public expense? If so, that is a direct encouragement to everybody in Edinburgh to turn up at the garden party, because apparently no check is being kept on the expenditure.

9.30 p.m.

It is not a question of a small difference, say, between 3,000 and 3,500, for we should not argue about that. The question is whether 5,000 people gate-crashed the garden party at Holyroodhouse and, when this was discovered, we had the Bill. Is that why we have the Bill? We ought to have a clear explanation which will satisfy not merely the politically minded but every chartered accountant in Scotland, otherwise they will say, "How do the Government handle their accounts?"

These mysteries ought to be cleared up, otherwise we shall have to ask questions about them in Committee. I do not want these questions avoided. Will the Secretary of State, the Solicitor-General for Scotland, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury or any other of the functionaries present answer these three specific questions? When did they receive an application for a rise? From whom did it come? Was it from the Lord High Commissioner or somebody else? No local authority would say, "We will give you a rise", unless it had previously had an application for a rise.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland and the Secretary of State have given incomprehensible figures. Surely some figures have been kept during the last three years. How long have people been attending the garden party for nothing and without invitation? The whole business shows a lax attitude to what the Home Secretary described as a most important Bill.

That brings me to the question of entertainment at the garden party. I read in the Scotsman that on one occasion 97 guests were invited to the dinner at Holyroodhouse. Surely somebody kept an account. Or did people get into the dinner without invitation, too? I suggest that the Secretary of State and the Solicitor-General for Scotland should obtain, for the Committee stage, the audited accounts for the last three years and allow hon. Members to inspect them. Surely they have been audited.

That is what we do in local authorities. When I was first on a town council the accounts were passed round the table for any member to see. Before the county council passes the accounts there is an explanation of the expenditure. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman knows that this is the normal procedure of local authorities. Yet here nobody can give answers; we are told that the Bill is urgently needed, and yet nobody knows exactly what is its financial basis. If the Secretary of State cannot provide the information now, I ask him to send to St. Andrew's House and Holyroodhouse and then to let us have the accounts for the last three years in order that we may understand them. This is a serious matter, because we want to exercise the closest possible scrutiny of the Government's financial transactions.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

A number of responsible questions have been asked and I will try to deal with them. First, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) asked a question about the Money Resolution. If he will read the Money Resolution in conjunction with the Bill he will see exactly what it means. It reads: That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the allowance payable to Her Majesty's High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, it is expedient to authorise the charge on the Consolidated Fund of any increase attributable to the said Act …

Mr. Ross rose

Mr. Maclay

I am sorry. I cannot give way now; I am explaining the position to the Committee.

The only Act to which this is attributable at the moment is the Measure to which we have just given a Second Reading. It will be for the Chair in due course to determine what is possible under the terms of the Money Resolution. The drafting is very clear, as far as I understand it. It should be read very carefully. I know that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock has read it carefully, but he may have omitted to connect it with the Bill before the House. It is exactly the same as the previous one.

Mr. Ross

I am quite capable of appreciating that. After all, we are debating the Money Resolution and we are asking what it means. Am I right in suggesting that we now have the power in Committee to increase the amount simply because no specific sum of money is mentioned in the Money Resolution?

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member will discover that the position is the same as under the 1948 Act. When we reach the Committee stage of the Bill we will discover how the Chairman interprets the provisions of the Money Resolution in relation to what is properly payable.

Mr. Ross

It cannot be interpreted in any other way.

Mr. Maclay

That is the hon. Gentleman's view.

I was then asked how the sum was to be fixed each year. My right hon. and learned Friend gave a fairly full explanation, and I will not go over the same ground. There are annual discussions between the Secretary of State, his officers and the Purse Bearer acting on behalf of the Lord High Commissioner. Speaking from my own experience, since I have been Secretary of State I have personally gone through the details of this very carefully indeed in trying to decide what is the proper sum which should be available for the following year.

As hon. Members have pointed out, as I have myself, in recent years it has become clear from the very beginning that the whole sum of £4,000 would be necessary. I do not know the practice of my predecessors, but I assure all hon. Members that it is a matter to which I have paid personal attention every year since I have been Secretary of State. So there is no question, as one hon. Member appeared to be implying, that the Secretary of State was content to leave this for others to do for him. It is a personal responsibility on the Secretary of State and it is one which is carried out with the greatest care.

I have also been asked what happens if there is a surplus. To my knowledge, in recent years there has been only one year when there was a surplus over the amount agreed in advance by the Secretary of State in consultation with the Treasury. That does not necessarily mean the total sum that is potentially available. It is the amount agreed in advance for one year. There was a surplus in only one year. There were exceptional reasons which will be in the minds of most hon. Members. It was 1952. That sum being on the Consolidated Fund, what happened in that case was that the Lord High Commissioner of the day allowed the surplus sum to be carried forward to the next year, accordingly reducing the sum which was necessary to be found in the following year.

The simple answer to the main question of why is this rather interesting form of accounting and providing the money used in this case is that, as I think will be agreed by the whole Committee, in a question of the representative of the Queen to the General Assembly to the Church of Scotland it would not be right or proper to insist on the detailed type of specific accounting which is proper for other matters. That point was argued at some length in the 1948 debate.

Mr. Emrys Hughes rose

Mr. Maclay

I cannot give way now. I entirely agree with what the sense of the debate in 1948 was. I think that it applies today. It is a different form of providing money and a different form of accounting, I agree, but it has been felt for a great many years that this is the right way to do this and I do not think that the Committee, with any sense of responsibility, would wish to change it.

One other point raised, I am sure with the best of intentions and seriously, was the question of the entertainment at other than the great occasions. On those occasions when I have been present at the small gatherings—because they are small they cannot be as widely representative—I have always been enormously impressed by the remarkably wide range of nationality, geographic origins within Scotland, and the range of trades professions, walks of life, etc. An hon. Member shakes his head, but I can speak only from my own personal experience. I believe that, quite rightly, the Committee would not expect detailed lists to be submitted by the Lord High Commissioner of those whom he intended to ask, or had asked.

I have attended relatively few of these functions, but I have been most impressed by their effect of bringing together people of all walks of life—at the small gatherings as well as the large—and of thus giving them an opportunity to meet which they otherwise would not have had. I believe that the serious speeches that have been made express exactly what serious-minded hon. Members would want. There is an immense desire, I know, on the part of the Lord High Commissioner that the widest range of contacts should be made through and with the help of the dignity of this high office—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

But can the Secretary of State explain something that he has not yet explained? Are these accounts audited, and are they audited by the Treasury—or by whom?

Mr. Maclay

I have explained that this comes under the Consolidated Fund, and if the hon. Member will pursue his researches into the operations of the Consolidated Fund he will discover that it operates in a quite different way. My belief—indeed, my knowledge, is that the accounts are audited, but not by a Government Department. This is a matter between the Lord High Commissioner and his Purse Bearer. The arrangements they make for the expenditure of the money are made between them, but the whole of the sums involved for any succeeding year to the current year do come before the Secretary of State—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The right hon. Gentleman has said that the accounts are audited, so they must obviously be audited by someone. They are not audited by a Government Department. If he cannot give an answer at once, will he undertake to send us one? Who audits the accounts, and who pays the auditor?

Mr. Maclay

These are all matters between the Lord High Commissioner and his Purse Bearer. The Lord High Commissioner makes his own decision on how he handles his own affairs but, by long practice, the Lord High Commissioner, and the Purse Bearer, who is the appointee of the Lord High Commissioner, handle these matters between them.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the allowance payable to Her Majesty's High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, it is expedient to authorise the charge on the Consolidated Fund of any increase attributable to the said Act in the sums charged thereon under the Lord High Commissioner (Church of Scotland) Act, 1948.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow.