rose, pursuant to notice, to call attention to the want of control on the part of the House of Commons over the naval and military expenditure of the country. After having given notice of his intention to submit this subject to the consideration of the House, he found that his hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) had taken up the matter and introduced the question to the House. Notwithstanding, however, that fact, and that a discussion arose on the occasion, he thought the subject so important that it could not be too frequently urged upon the attention of her Majesty's Government. It appeared to him that nothing Could be more unsatisfactory than the position in which the House, stood as regarded the control of the money voted for the naval and military expenditure of the country. In point of fact, the House exercised no control whatever over this expenditure. They all professed themselves to be advocates of the strictest economy, and he had no doubt those professions were sincere. But what steps did they take to carry them into effect? He could assure the House that the observations he was about to make were dictated by no party feeling, and were not meant to apply to any particular Government, far less to any individuals. If any fault attached, it lay with that House generally for not having exercised a more effectual control over the expenditure. It was true they had always the Estimates before them, and it might be said that the House had the power of reducing the Votes. All he could say in reply to that was, that the exercise of that power involved a degree of responsibility which he for one should be sorry to share. It should be recollected that the Estimates were always proposed on the responsibility of the Government of the day, and that they alone were fully competent to judge of the number of men required during the course of the financial year. He looked upon the Estimates for the Army and Navy as implying to a 940 certain degree a vote of confidence in the Government, and he could not well understand upon what grounds the House could take upon itself the responsibility of refusing them. He did not suppose that any Ministry could remain in office if their Estimates were materially interfered with. It had frequently been suggested that the Estimates might be referred to a Select Committee of the House. To such motions, however, he had been always opposed, believing that it was peculiarly the province of the Government to decide upon them; that the Government alone were competent to form a judgment upon them; and that they were responsible for the number of men necessary to maintain the efficiency of the service, and for the means of providing for them. A Select Committee could not possibly be supposed to possess all the information necessary to guide them to a proper judgment in the matter, and he should be sorry to see the security of the country dependent on an irresponsible Committee of the House. Moreover, he thought it would be anything but promoting a wise economy to authorize those Estimates to be framed by a Select Committee of the House. The main portions of the increased Estimates had arisen from the Resolutions of the House. It appeared to him, that if they delegated to a Select Committee the power of framing those Estimates generally, the result would be a considerable increase in the expenditure of the country. For example, a rule had been laid down with regard to reliefs; namely, that every regiment should be called on to serve ten years abroad and five years at home; but if that rule was fully carried out, they would require a very large increase of men. The House had also approved of the report of the Army Sanitary Commission, which recommended a space of 600 cubic feet to each soldier in the barrack dormitories. Now it was obvious, that if such a recommendation were acted upon, it would involve a great increase of expenditure for further barrack accommodation. The Estimates, as laid before the House, do not embrace all the demands made by the various departments in military districts; they are cut down to the lowest point consistent with the efficiency of the services. Indeed, he thought a larger amount might not only be asked for with a due regard to efficiency, but also on the score of economy. A Select Committee would have great difficulty in resisting a demand for outlay 941 founded on a Resolution of the House, and based upon the principles of economy. He thought, therefore, we must always be prepared to consider the Estimates as proposed by the Government; and his experience told him there was little hope of materially reducing them, and that it would very rarely be desirable to do so. He thought it most objectionable that they should have Supplementary Estimates. Supplementary Estimates, in his opinion, should always be avoided as much as possible. They deranged the whole financial arrangements of the year, and the Estimates for the year ought to pro vide, as far as can be foreseen, for the services of the year. There was no objection, as far as he was concerned, to the form in which the Estimates were laid before them. There were, however, grave objections as to the manner in. which they were appropriated. He thought that the audit of the expenditure should be expedited as much as possible. It generally took eight months for the audit of the Admiralty Estimates and thirteen months for those of the army. Considering the facilities of communication that now existed, he thought it might be effected within a much shorter period; but be the time sooner, or be it later, he would have the audit of the expenditure submitted to a Committee of that House. That Committee should be called upon to examine the expenditure, and to compare the sum voted with the expenditure, with the view of seeing whether the number of men voted had been actually raised; what money had been transferred from one service to another; and if such transfer had taken place, they should inquire whether the money so transferred had been actually a saving, or merely arose from a postponement of the service for which it had been voted. The adoption of such a course would lead to accuracy in the Estimates and economy in the expenditure far more than by referring the Estimates themselves to a Committee. They had the Estimates laid on the table of the House, and the Estimates of the former year to compare with them. But neither the House nor the Government knew whether the Estimates voted for the former year were sufficient for the purposes for which they bail been voted. It would be much better to have the Estimates of the previous year that had been audited before them. [Sir GEORGE LEWIS: The accounts?] He meant the audited accounts. With regard to any 942 account of the expenditure of the money they would be called upon to vote to night, if any very industrious or inquisitive Member should two years and a half hence—say at the end of 1864—search very diligently in the library of the House, he might then find an audited account of the expenditure of the money voted this year: but, whatever the excess of the expenditure might be, or whatever transfers might have been made from one service to another, he ventured to say he would never be able to attract the attention of the House to it. It would have been met by Supplementary Estimates, by votes of credit, or by transfers of votes; and as the House would not be called upon to vote any further sum in regard to those Estimates, its attention could not be enlisted to the subject. It might be asked, what was the use of a control over expenditure which could not be carried into effect until eighteen months after the expenditure had taken place? He admitted it would have no effect on past expenditure, but it would have the greatest possible effect on the expenditure for the future. The next improvement that he would suggest would be an alteration in the Appropriation Act as regarded the manner in which sums were permitted to be transferred from one service to another. At present the heads of the departments were obliged to obtain the sanction of the Treasury to such transfers. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them last year that the Treasury had neither power nor responsibility in the matter; that if the money were there, and was required by one service, it was the duty of the Treasury to sanction the transfer without coming to the House. He (General Peel) did not mean to say that this power of transfer might not be necessary in some cases, but he would leave the power and the responsibility with the Secretary of State or the First Lord of the Admiralty. If, for example, they had more men than they had money to pay, it would be certainly necessary that this transfer should he made. Those transfers, however, never took place until near the end of the financial year, when the Votes were exhausted. But Parliament was always sitting at the time, and the Secretary of State might come for the sanction of Parliament, and not act upon the sanction of the Treasury, for those transfers. If Parliament were not sitting, he might make the transfer; but it should 943 be imperative on the Secretary of State to report the circumstance to Parliament when it assembled. This system, of course, would only apply to what was voted for the naval and military services. Another improvement he would suggest was, that no service of the past year should be paid for out of the money voted for the service of the present year. Nothing was more easy than to obtain the postponement of the delivery under contracts until after the expiration of the financial year; and then the money so voted for this purpose might be applied to another purpose. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty gave them an instance the other night, when he told them that a sum of £50,000 which ought to have been paid in the one year became a charge on the next year.
Exactly. He had known a case, not of £50,000, but of hundreds of thousands, which became a charge on the ensuing year; and he doubted much whether they should have heard anything about the matter unless the Government had been obliged to come down to the House for a Supplemental Estimate. He did not mean to say that the money had been improperly expended. On the contrary, he thought that the large outlay for the last few years on the military and naval services had placed those services in a state of efficiency which redounded much to the credit of all the departments. He believed that the expenditure had been most economical—had saved the country the necessity of going to war, and that the state of preparation in which the country had been found had saved us the expenditure of many millions. He did not object to the expenditure that had been incurred, but that the House had not that control ever the money voted which it ought to have. For instance, from the years 1858 to 1861, Indian troops were employed in China who had had never been voted by that House, and had never been included in the Estimates. He had the greatest doubt whether the provisions of the Mutiny Act could be applied to men so engaged and not included in the Act. What he meant to say was that the men who had been so employed were employed without this House having authorized such a proceeding. They were paid for in one lump, and no account that he knew of had ever been given to the House of that ex- 944 penditure. Surely that was not a satisfactory state of things. With reference to the transfer from one Vote to another, he might state that in the financial year 1860–1 the sum of £250,000 was voted for iron-plated ships, No portion of that money, however, was employed during that year for that purpose; the whole was transferred to the expenses of the Admiralty on account of the Chinese war; and that portion of the Vote of Credit which the Admiralty was to have had was transferred to the army in order to meet their expenditure, which greatly exceeded the Estimates. Again, £250,000 was voted this year for the same purpose, to which he understood only a portion of it was applied; another portion had been applied to some other object. Thus the House might go on voting money for a specific purpose over and over again, and it might be transferred to another purpose over and over again. They had nothing to do but to take up the Estimates and look, for example, at the Vote for barracks, fortifications, and civil buildings; they would see how much money had been voted, and how small the portions were which had been expended upon the objects for which it was voted. What had become of the balance? This system ought surely to be put an end to. The House should have a more direct control over the expenditure of the country. He was perfectly aware that those things could be better discussed in Committee than across the table of that House. He should have moved for a Committee if he did not think he should be interfering with a motion of a noble Friend of his (Lord Robert Montagu) which was to come on next week. To that motion, however, shaped as it was, he could not give his assent. If his noble Friend would change the terms of his Motion, and move for a Committee to consider how a more direct control could be given to the House over the expenditure of the country, he should give him his support. He did not profess to be a great economist. He thought that the best economy was true efficiency. Nothing however could be more unsatisfactory than the present position of the House in respect of those matters.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, it was remarkable what coincidences of opinion were to be found between Gentlemen who were in office and Gentlemen who expected to be in office. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had been Secretary for War 945 justified the extraordinary expenditure for the army asked for by the present Secretary for War. To him (Mr. Williams) the Estimates proposed for the Army this year appeared perfectly incomprehensible, when he looked at the circumstances of the country and compared them with those of former times. The Estimates for the army this year amounted to £15,300,000, independent of the Militia Estimates; and if the latter were the same as last year, it would make a total expenditure for army and militia of nearly £16,000,000. Some expectation had been raised that they should get a reduction of a million. Nothing could justify this expenditure but a preparation for war, and the amount of the present Estimates exceeded the Estimates for the year in which preparations were made for the Russian War. And yet Her Majesty by Her Commissioners had assured the House that her relations with all foreign Towers were perfectly good. An hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Baillie) had complained that he (Mr. Williams) was constantly comparing the expenditure of late years with that twenty years ago; but the only instance that the hon. Gentleman brought forward to justify the extravagant expenditure into which they had fallen was the increase of our Colonies: but those Colonies had not required an increase of 5,000 men more than they had when the expenditure was so much less. Now, taking the period from 1822 to 1852, the expenditure proposed for the present year was nearly double the largest amount expended in any of those years. In 1830, the last year of the Tory unreformed Parliament, when the Duke of Wellington, the greatest soldier this country had ever produced, was Prime Minister, the amount actually expended on the army was only £7,238,000. In the first year of the reformed Parliament, when Earl Grey was Premier, the amount required was £7,900,000. In another very remarkable year, where one of the greatest Statesmen, as well as the greatest General of the time, was in office—the year 1835—the amount expended for the army was £7,550,000; and in the year 1852–3, the last before the preparations for the Russian war, the army expenditure was £8,540,000—very little more than half what was required this year. The expenditure upon the army and navy which was now proposed would amount to £27,500,000; but if the present Government could carry on public 946 affairs with the same amount of expenditure as had taken place under the four Governments which he had mentioned, there would be a saving in those services of something like £14,000,000 this year. The amount of force of a military character maintained in Great Britain and Ireland, inclusive of militia and volunteers, but, exclusive of the force in India and the Colonies, was extraordinary. He calculated it at 400,000 men, taking the militia at the number of last year, and the volunteers according to the latest report. In respect of the Volunteers, he regarded that body of men as most valuable. It had inspired a sense of security into the minds of the most timid—the oldest of old women now thought themselves perfectly secure from invasion; and though there was now an attempt in some quarters to throw cold water on it, he believed that it deserved the highest respect and confidence. He wished to know what was the reason of this great accumulation of military force year after year? Invasion' by the Emperor of the French was made a bugbear, but he doubted whether any French Sovereign could be named who had had a greater desire than the present Emperor for peace and friendship with this country. hi the present Estimates the amount to be expended on the Colonies was astounding—it amounted to £3,718,000 for the army alone; and what was spent, in addition, on the navy for protecting the Colonies, on colonial bishops, en clergy of various denominations, on magistrates, governors, and other official, increased the amount to £4,700,000; and what they contributed towards that vast sum was no more than £109,000. It was most unjust that the people of this country should be taxed for the protection of communities which would be perfectly aide to take care of themselves if they would only follow the noble example which had been set them by the Volunteers of Great Britain. There was a time when the commercial relations between the mother country and the Colonies were reciprocally advantageous. But that had now ceased. The Colonies were now in no way constrained to take their manufactures from this country, but had the liberty to purchase in the cheapest market, and could impose any amount of duty on what might be sent from this country; he knew not that Great Britain derived any advantage from them, except the patronage exercised by Her Majesty's Ministers of appointing the governors; but 947 he must not be supposed as desiring to sever the connection between the Colonies and the mother country. The fact, however, was, that the only benefit that we derived from them was the patronage, in the shape of governorships, which they placed in the hands of Her Majesty's Ministers for the time being.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he was sure the House would be thankful to the right hon. and gallant General (General Peel), and also to the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford North-cote) for having called attention to this difficult and important subject. It showed their zeal as financial reformers; because on all hands it was admitted that the Army and Navy accounts were the most correct and the most strictly kept of all the public accounts. That, therefore, was the most unfavourable ground that a financial reformer could take up. The inference which must, however, be drawn from this was, that it required a much less knowledge to make a successful attack on the miscellaneous accounts and the other Estimates. He was, however, not about to enlarge on that point at present, because that was the subject of the Motion that he should bring on next week, in virtue of the notice which he had given on the 11th of February. He desired, however, to remove a few of the prejudices that might be raised in the minds of hon. Members by the speech of the hon. and gallant General. The first thing he said was that he objected to a Committee of that House being appointed for the examination of the Estimates. Now, that had been a constitutional practice of a very old date. Committees had been appointed frequently in former years for the examination of the Estimates, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year said that the only way of meeting the wishes of the House—the only mode of fulfilling the recommendations of the Public Monies Committee—was to appoint a Committee, to be annually appointed in that House, to take into consideration the Army and Navy Estimates. [Mr. PEEL: The Accounts, not the Estimates.] He was nearly certain that the right hon. Gentleman said "Estimates." He was not, however, sure that this was the case. The thing to be considered, the right hon. Gentleman below (General Peel) had said, was whether the audit of the accounts could he expedited, and that ques- 948 tion should be submitted, and that alone to the Committee. But the first thing, he (Lord Robert Montagu) apprehended, was, to consider whether the audit itself was efficient or was not efficient. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman had read the evidence before the Committee on Miscellaneous Expenditure he would have seen that the Audit Board was a mere delusion, and that they did not really audit the accounts at all. Some of the heads of accounts were submitted to them, and they added them up to see if they correctly added. He (Lord Robert Montagu) did not believe that they even saw the vouchers. Mr. Romilly, the Chief Commissioner of the Audit Board, said that the accounts could not be got from the Secretary for War, and he said that Parliament was greatly mistaken if it supposed that the accounts were efficiently audited. It was useless, therefore, to talk about expediting the audit when that audit was a delusion. They would be only expediting the influence of a delusion. Something should therefore be done to obtain a correct audit of the accounts. The right hon. Gentleman (General Peel) had alluded to a vote of £250,000 for iron ships that was taken in 1859. Now that would show how these things were done. The Minister went down to the House at the end of the session, and was in the greatest hurry for the Vote, which he brought forward in a special Bill. He said the Emperor of the French was building iron ships at such a rate that it was absolutely necessary that we should enter into competition with him, and strive to rival him successfully in that race. The hon. Members for Birmingham and Lambeth both objected, but their objections were overridden, because it was considered that there was no time to be lost in building these ships. What then was the astonishment of the House to find that not a single penny of the vote of £250,000 was expended on iron plated ships, and that all of it was transferred to military stores? Other cases might be cited which were even worse; but he (Lord Robert Montagu) would defer his observations on that subject until his Motion next week, when the whole question would be laid before the House. The gallant General had said he could not support that Motion in its present form. He was sorry for that; and from the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) he feared he 949 was labouring under a similar intention. He (Lord Robert Montagu) had, he acknowledged, prepared the Resolution with out consultation with any Member of the House, He had, however, taken it bodily from the report of the Public Monies Committee. He therefore was not responsible for the terms of his Motion, and he really would not like to change it unless the House expressed a strong opinion on the subject. There had been frequent promises of financial reform from the other side of the House, but there bad never been any fulfilment, nor any steps taken towards that end. In 1859 there were empty promises of financial reform; in 1860 there were similar promises of financial reform, and in 1861 they had two such promises. On the 8th of February the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down to the House and said (hat the only way of meeting the wishes of the House and of fulfilling the recommendations of the various Committees, was to appoint a Committee annually; he moved for the appointment of such a Committee, and promised the House, that if that Motion were granted, he would then move that the appointment of that Committee should become a Standing Order of the House. That promise had never been fulfilled to that day. He (Lord Robert Montagu) thought it rested with the independent Members on the other side of the House—Members who professed so much to their constituents, and were so lavish in promises to restrain the reckless expenditure. This was growing worse and worse every year, and he (Lord Robert Montagu) rejoiced when he heard the speeches of the two right hon. Gentlemen, because, as there had teen plenty of empty promises from the other (the Ministerial) side, without performances, they were going now to get performances on that (the Opposition) side of the House even without any previous promises.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
The speech of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams) in favour of limiting the expenditure for the defence of our Colonies might advantageously have been reserved until to-morrow, when a special Resolution upon that very subject will be submitted to the House. As to the remarks of the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) upon the general question of the control exercised by this House over the Army and Navy expenditure, I can only express my opinion that 950 if he investigates the matter more closely he will find that many of the defects he believes to exist are imaginary, because there can be no doubt that, as far as the army and navy are concerned, the check of this House is very complete. The speech of the gallant Gentleman may be regarded as a sort of epilogue to the proceeding's of the Committee on Public Monies which sat two years ago, and of which I had the honour of being a Member. Our object was to assimilate the practice with regard to the. Civil Service Estimates to the practice with regard to those for the army and navy. It was admitted that the practice in the Army and Navy Estimates was, as far as the check of this House is concerned, almost perfect, and the difficulty was so to arrange the votes of the Miscellaneous Estimates as to bring them under the same rule. That rule is, if the money voted is not expended within the year the power of expenditure granted by the Vote ceases. For instance, if £100,000 is voted this year for a barrack, and it is not expended before the 1st of April next, the power is gone, and the War Department cannot spend the money until it is revoted by this House. When the year has passed away, and all the payments made within it have been calculated together, the expenditure is audited—for it then becomes an account, and not an estimate. The noble Lord who spoke last (Lord Robert Monttagu) said the Government were guilty of a breach of faith in not moving the reappointment of a Committee which sat last Session. [Lord ROBERT MONTAGU: In not making it a Standing Order.] I know nothing about a Standing Order. I believe it is the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to move the reappointment of that Committee, and then the audited accounts for the army and navy can be referred to it. But let the House observe the great distinction between an audited account and a payment upon estimate. All the payments made by the Government in the course of a year are in the nature of cash payments founded upon the authority of this House. When payments are made they become matters of account, and then they are audited by the Board of Audit. It has been said that some payments have been made for service in China in excess of the Votes of this House. My firm belief is, that the Executive Government never does make any payment in excess of the Votes 951 of this House. If it does, it is certainly liable to impeachment. It is possible—though I have no personal knowledge that the fact is so—that some regiments on the Indian establishment may have been serving in China, and their pay may have come out of the Indian treasury. It is also possible that their pay may have come out of the Vote of Credit for China; but that any English regiment serving in China should have been paid without the authority of Parliament I hold to be utterly impossible, and I venture to affirm that the statement which has been made rests upon some delusion or misapprehension. The House may be assured that no Executive Government, to whatever party it may belong, ever knowingly makes any payment in excess of the Votes of this House. There may be wasteful expenditure—expenditure over which the Government has not sufficient control from the distance at which it is incurred, or from some other cause; and I am afraid, indeed, that when hostilities are going on no Government can find means of preventing undue expenditure. It is impossible at such times to hold the purse-strings quite close, I appeal to any Gentleman who knows what expenditure in the field is, whether it is possible to exercise a strict Parliamentary control over it; but that any executive department knowingly sanctions any payment in excess of the Votes of this House I do not believe, and I feel satisfied that if any such case appears to exist it will be found upon investigation to be a mistake. Having made these remarks, I trust the House will now go into Committee of Supply.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
believed the light hon. Gentleman was in considerable error as to the impossibility of troops being employed without the cognizance of Parliament. It would be found that during the Chinese war a regiment had been employed through the agency of the Commissariat chest.