said, he rose to call attention to the account recently presented to Parliament, "of the Receipt and Expenditure for Army and Militia Services for the year ended 31st March 1862," and to the excess of expenditure on Vote 2, and the reasons assigned for it; to inquire whether this expenditure includes the Native Indian Troops employed in China during that year; and, if not, to ask in what account and in what shape that expenditure is brought under the notice of Parliament; and to ask whether the payment of those Troops during the present year is a matter of account between the Indian Government and the War Department, or the Indian Government and the Treasury? His object in directing attention to the subject was to show the total want of control on the part of the House of Commons over the expenditure of the country. Under the present system the House did not, in point of fact, receive any authentic information as to the prospective outlay. The Ministers who were responsible for the different Departments brought forward the Estimates for the coming year; and if by any adroit arrangement of the figures, they could show an apparent diminution as compared with the preceding year, they claimed great credit to the Government for economy. Being perfectly aware that the Estimates could not be brought to the test of actual results until a considerable period had elapsed—in the case of the Army Estimates about two 1449 years and a half—the Ministers of course had no hesitation in giving a bold denial to any criticism on the correctness of the Estimates. When the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck), some time back, complained that the functions of the Committee of Supply were a mere farce, the noble Lord at the head of the Government replied that the reason for the paucity of objections was, that the Estimates were framed with great care, the money laid out in the most economical manner, and such full and satisfactory explanations were asked for and given that no unreasonable Vote could be passed. How far that was true hon. Members could judge when they had heard his statement. In 1861, when the Army Es-Estimates were brought forward, he endeavoured to show that the apparent reduction of £180,000 in the Votes for the Army and Militia was a perfect fallacy He pointed out that it was produced, in the first instance, by the Vote for fortifications being provided for by a loan, and also by an insufficient sum being provided for the pay and allowances of the troops There was then in India a much larger number of men than was required, and it was almost certain that the Indian Government would not continue to pay for them during the whole year, but would return some of them on their hands Again, there was no estimate of the number of Indian troops in China. The Under Secretary, however, stated that the Secretary of State had paid the deepest attention to the subject, that the Estimates were quite right, and that he (General Peel) was quite wrong. Now the accounts were produced. He found that on Vote No. 2 alone there was an excess of expenditure of £361,000, and that excess was accounted for in the Return on precisely the same grounds as he had himself pointed out to the House. The regimental charges comprised in that excess, amounting to £311,000, arose from the return home from India of the 1st battery. 13th brigade of the Royal Artillery, and the 64th and 73rd Regiments, and the employment of certain other batteries of Artillery in China, for the subsistence of which Parliament made no provision; from the increased charge for good-conduct pay, the result of the operation of the Royal Warrant, dated 1st March 1860; from the continuance of batta and Indian allowances to the troops serving in China; and from the saving on the pay of men wanting to 1450 complete the establishments. If it had not been for the Votes of Credit for China, the attention of the House would have been called to the subject long ago. There had been three Votes of Credit. The first and second had been restricted by Act of Parliament to the expenditure of the financial year for which they were granted; but, unfortunately, that restriction had not been extended to the third Vote, and, consequently, the Government had been able to spend money without the sanction of Parliament. It appeared, from a Return for which he had himself moved in the present Session, that of these Votes of Credit there still remained in the Exchequer upwards of £500,000. He had asked in the simplicity what the Government intended to do with that sum, and was told in reply that in reality there was no money in the Exchequer, but simply an authority to spend so much without application to Parliament. Surely, however, the time had elapsed for these Votes of Credit. The House had been assured that the war with China was over, that five regiments had been brought home from China, and that a still further reduction would take place. That was neither the time nor the place to go into details and figures, but he wished to know whether any Member of the Government, or anybody else, could point to a Paper or Return, showing the number of Indian troops employed in China from 1858 up to the present moment, their charge, and how they had been paid. He had sought in vain for any such Return. Surely the House had a right to know bow these Indian troops had been paid. Perhaps they had been paid in a lump sum out of the Votes of Credit without the knowledge of Parliament; but, in that case, be need baldly say, there was an end to the control of that House over the expenditure. The last question he had to ask was, whether the Indian troops were to be paid that year by a direct account between the Indian Government and the War Office, or by an account between the Indian Government and the Treasury. If the troops were to be paid by the Indian Government, the account could not be rendered within the financial year, and the same results would follow as before. He observed, in the paper before him, that there were certain savings which might be used to meet excesses of expenditure; that was to say, the Government might spend a further sum of money without the authority of the House. The so-called savings were 1451 mainly on the Vote for Stores, and had been effected by the non-completion within the financial year of the contracts for guns, which, however, would have to be paid for next year.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, the Secretary of the Treasury, in answering a question he had put to him that night, had said that half a million of dollars of Chinese compensation money which was in the Treasury in 1846 had been expended, he supposed, on the war in China. He (Colonel Sykes) wished to know how, when, and where it had been expended?
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, his right hon. and gallant Friend justly complained of the want of control of the House over the expenditure of the country, and in the course of his observations he adverted to a former discussion which had taken place on the subject, in the course of which he (Mr. Bentinck) had applied the word "farce" to the voting of the Estimates. He was not prepared to contend that "farce" was a strictly parliamentary word, but having used it he was prepared to abide by it. Indeed, there could be no broader farce than for a deliberative assembly to undertake to perform a most important duty without the slightest intention of going through with it. His right hon. and gallant Friend had given a case of what he considered to be a want of control over the expenditure, and he ascribed it to the manner in which the Estimates were framed and brought forward. But, without disputing that view of the case, he (Mr. Bentinck) was inclined to think there was another and far more powerful cause of the evil and grievance complained of. The real reason why the discussion of the Estimates was nothing but a farce arose from the fact that the House, when in Committee upon the Estimates, were never willing to deal with any matter brought before them upon general principles. Everything was pre-arranged, certain crotchets were put forward by individual Members, and there was a total absence of any independent action in the House. This arose from the desire of the occupants of the two front benches to check all independent action. The result was that they were able to force through the House Estimates of the most objectionable character. In making these remarks, he did not apply them more to one side of the House than to the other. The holders of office and the expectants of office were alike interested in keeping up the state of things to 1452 which he referred. His right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) was personally exempt from the charge, and, no doubt, wanted everything connected with the Estimates to be treated in the clearest and most straightforward manner, but he must pay the usual penalty attached to the keeping of bad company; and so long as he continued to sit on the front opposite bench, he must share with others the blame due to those who were responsible for the absence of independent action. Until the independent action of the House could be roused—until hon. Members ceased to be mere party hacks, hounded into the lobby, right or left, as the case might be—until hon. Members resumed their rightful position of free and independent representatives of the people, the system complained of would continue to prevail. The House had lately witnessed an attempt to exercise independent action in defiance of an arrangement which had been come to between the House and the noble Viscount, the leader of the House, whose absence they so much regretted. He (Mr. Bentinck) confessed he did not think this a happy mode of exercising independence; but if he might venture to hope that it was a premonitory symptom of a more independent course of action in the House, he should rejoice at what had occurred, for he did not think that any one would venture to argue that it was a creditable position for the representatives of a great country that they should, when the most important of all their duties was to be exercised by them, degenerate into a mere set of what he had justly termed party hacks, without independent action or will, and without zeal or energy to deliberate, or to defend the pockets of their constitutents. He trusted that what had fallen from his right hon. and gallant Friend, with the advantage of his great influence in the House, would be a warning to the House not to pursue the discreditable course which had been followed in voting the army Estimates, but that it would lead a large number of Members to exercise an independent control over those Estimates.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he wished to know to what extent Parliament had any control over the government of India. The Government had lately substituted for the Indian navy that of Great Britain, and he should like to know how far they intended to proceed in that course, because he, for one, protested against the 1453 maintenance in India of armies and navies without the authority of Parliament.
MR. T. G. BARING
said, he would remind the hon. Baronet that this year, for the first time, the whole expenditure for the depots of the Indian army in this country had been included in the Estimates; and also that no money could be spent upon the navy which had not been voted by that House. Against the remarks of the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) it did not become him to de tend either the front bench opposite or the independent Members upon whom the hon. Gentleman reflected when he called the discussion of Estimates a farce But he remembered that when on one occasion he brought forward the Estimates for the War Department, he was subjected to a very rigid and painful examination upon all points, and that so far were independent Members from exhibiting any indifference that they showed a disposition to ask questions and call for explanations upon every matter that was involved in the Estimates. He also remembered that in the course of the discussion they had one or two very close divisions, proving that hon. Members were not so ready to follow the Government into the lobby as the hon. Member for West Norfolk seemed to suppose. He would suggest to that hon. Gentleman that he should himself study the Estimates, and bring his ability and experience to bear upon the discussion, rather than, after they were passed, try to bring the House of Commons into discredit with the country—a discredit which, from his experience, he could assert that it did not deserve to have cast upon it. The attack upon the leaders of the hon. Gentleman, if he might presume to call them his leaders, had been answered by the course which the right hon. and gallant Officer (General Peel) had pursued. He had never scrupled to comment upon the Estimates, or, what was still more valuable, upon the accounts which were afterwards presented to the House. With the remarks which the right hon. and gallant Office) had made upon the accounts for the year 1861, in which he had the honour to move the Estimates, he could only concur so far as most cordially to admit that he had no right to complain of the course which was taken when those Estimates were submitted to the House. The gallant General said upon that occasion that the Vote for men would not be sufficient to cover the expenditure. On several subsequent 1454 occasions he repeated that statement. He had now said that the accounts corroborated that assertion, and showed that £360,000 had been expended in excess of Vote 2 for the pay and allowance of the army, and he had implied rather than stated that that excess had been covered in some mysterious manner by the Vote of Credit for the expenses of the Chinese war. There was no doubt there was that excess upon Vote No. 2, that the main part of it was caused by the operations in China, and that it had been met to that extent out of the Vote of Credit. There had been no secret or mystification about the matter. On several occasions he had stated, in answer to questions put by the gallant General, that neither the Staff in China nor the troops which were retained in that country in excess of the ordinary establishment were included in the Estimates which he moved in 1861. The House must not, however, suppose that any money had been appropriated from the Vote of Credit otherwise than fairly and honestly, under the authority of Parliament, because the Appropriation Act of 1861 contained the following clause:—Out of all or any of the aids or supplies aforesaid, there shall or may be used and applied any sum or sums of money not exceeding £1,000,000 to defray the expenses consequent on the naval and military operations in China beyond the ordinary grants for the army and navy services.Therefore there was a clear and distinct power to pay the expenses which he had always told the House were so to be paid. A list of those expenses was given at page 2 of the "Account of Receipts and Expenditure," and the total amount applicable to Vote 2 was £215,637. Therefore, the House would see that the main part of the apparent excess upon Vote 2 was not in reality an excess at all, because it was expenditure which was foreseen, and for which provision was made in a Vote of Credit distinct from the Estimates of the year. He did not mean to say that the Estimates for 1861 were completely accurate, but they were, as had been shown by the accounts, more accurate than any which had been presented within the few years preceding, including those of the gallant General himself. He himself bad nothing to do with their preparation, having gone to the War Department only a few weeks before they were laid upon the table. He was therefore a fair judge in the matter; and it was due to the reputation of Lord Herbert to say that no Secretary 1455 of State for War had ever introduced more improvements into the mode of preparing Estimates. Up to the autumn of 1860, the Estimates and the accounts were prepared in separate departments. It was evident that such a system must have led to great inaccuracies in the Estimates. That system was altered by Lord Herbert; the preparation of the Estimates was transferred to the Accountant General's Department; Mr. Whiffin, one of the assistant Accountants General—a very able officer—was engaged upon them, and they were made unusually accurate. The general result was, that including the supplemental Estimate, there was a saving of £217,430, which was restored to the Exchequer. To return for a moment to the question of men. The right hon. and gallant General knew that his whole argument depended upon the number of the regimental establishments. The regimental pay and allowances in the detailed account are separated from the rest of Vote No. 2. Taking regimental pay and allowances alone, there was inserted in the Estimates of 1861–2 the sum of £4,212,644 from which was to be deducted £127,597, for the pay of men "wanting to complete the establishment," leaving a total sum of £4,085,047 voted for regimental pay and allowances. The expenditure for regimental pay and allowances was £4,247,211, and contrasting this with the amount provided, an excess of £162,164 was shown. From that excess must be deducted the pay and allowances of the troops in excess of the establishment in China, which was provided for out of the Vote of Credit. That amounted, according to the best calculation he had been able to make, to £80,000, and left an excess, consequently, of £82,164. He was quite prepared to admit to the right hon. Gentleman that the expenditure for regimental pay and allowances, as compared with the Estimates, showed an excess of £80,000; but that amount was certainly not considerable out of a total Estimate of more than £4,000,000. The excess was accounted for in part by the unexpected return to this country of two regiments, which were sent home by the Indian Government early in the financial year, without notice, thereby disarranging all previous calculations. Recruiting was immediately stopped, in order that the number of men in the army might not rise above the proper limits; and that stoppage continued till the month of November 1862. In order to give the House an idea of the 1456 effect of stopping recruiting, he might state, that the number of recruits for infantry and cavalry of the line raised up to November in the year 1860–1, was 13,600; while in the year 1861–2 the recruits raised during the same months were only 1,730. Had the stoppage of recruiting continued, he asserted, without fear of contradiction, that under ordinary circumstances the army would have been brought down to very nearly the average for which provision was made in the Vote, and thus there would have been no excess whatever. But it became necessary to reinforce the troops in Canada, and accordingly recruiting was allowed again to proceed during the month of November. He did not think the sum of £6,000 taken in the Supplemental Estimate was quite sufficient to meet that addition to the army. He felt diffident in placing his own statements in opposition to those of so very high an authority as the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but he would read to the House an opinion expressed by the lamented Statesman who last filled the post of War Minister; and the House would feel confident that it was not a statement put forward to meet a difficulty or to make a point, but uttered because at the time he made it the right hon. Gentleman was convinced of its truth. Sir George Lewis, speaking on February 17, 1862, said—The number of men was in excess of the Vote during the earlier months of the year, and therefore it became necessary for the Department to take steps for reducing it, in order that the number should be short of the Vote in the latter part of the year, and in that manner that a balance might be established. Accordingly, the recruiting of men was stopped in the summer, and the number was allowed to fall below the establishment." [3 Hansard, clxv. 404.]On the 3rd of March in the same year Sir George Lewis again said—It so happened that the alarm of war supervened, and from this cause the number voted for the whole year might to some extent have been, exceeded. If the calculations had not been defeated by that accident the numbers voted by Parliament would have been strictly complied with." [3 Hansard, clxv. 974]That was a statement which he ventured to think fully equal in authority to that of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The Estimates impugned were more accurate than any which in recent years had been laid upon the table. So far from there having been any mystification in respect to the Vote of Credit, the increased expenditure in connection with the China 1457 war was distinctly within the cognizance of Parliament, and covered by a clause in the Appropriation Act. It was impossible, at the time, to foresee that security and confidence would be re-established in India so soon after the mutiny, that the Indian Government, without informing the Government at Home, should feel itself at liberty to send home two regiments more than had been estimated for. He need hardly say, that when Estimates were brought forward, it was impossible to tell precisely how many men there would be during every portion of the course of the whole year. Regiments returned sooner or later than was expected, and all that could be done was to obtain the nearest possible average. When the right hon. Gentleman himself was Secretary for War, he by no means observed that stringent accuracy with regard to numbers which he required from the present Government. He did not complain of that, for there had been changes in the system, and the right hon. Gentleman had not the same opportunities as those now charged with the preparation of the Estimates and the control of the expenditure.
said, that during the whole year he never exceeded the prescribed number by a hundred men.
MR. T. G. BARING
challenged the right hon. Gentleman to deny that at one time the numbers were at least five thousand above the vote which was taken. In that computation, of course, he included the embodied militia. The House would understand that the remarks which he had offered were not in defence of any Estimates he himself had prepared; no blame attached to himself in the matter. But he felt bound to say, in defence of those who had been charged with the conduct of the Department, that he did not think the strictures of the right hon. Gentleman were at all borne out by the facts of the case.
said, he did not agree with his right hon. and gallant Relative that the accounts of the military expenditure for 1861–62—considering that it was a year of war and the termination of a war—were altogether unsatisfactory. The sum spent exceeded the sum voted by about £260,000. But £270,000 of the expenditure of the year was directly traceable to the China war, and was therefore properly chargeable on the Vote of Credit taken in that very year. His hon. and gallant relative would hardly contend that it was in contemplation to include the whole expenses 1458 of the China war in the Estimates for 1861–62.
said, the sum of one million was expressly taken for the purpose of meeting the expenses of the China war. The question put by his hon. and gallant Relative whether the excess of expenditure on Vote 2 included the cost of the native Indian troops employed in China, he must answer in the negative. It was impossible when the Estimates were presented to form any probable conjecture as to the cost of the Indian native troops. Those troops were paid by the officers of the Indian Government, as would appear in the expenditure of the year when the accounts were ready. The only reason why a detailed statement had not been laid before Parliament was that an examination of the accounts for 1861–2 had not yet been completed. The money for the payment of the Indian troops was obtained from the Treasury chest in China. The Estimate for the native Indian troops was this year included in the Army Estimates; and, although the money was expended by the officers of the Indian Government yet the accounts would be presented to Parliament.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he thought that his right hon. and gallant Friend had done good service in bringing the question before the House. It was important to find out how money voted was disposed of, and that could only be done by referring to the accounts, which were not produced until nearly two years after the money had been expended. He could not quite concur in the laudation the hon. Member for Penryn (Mr. Baring) had passed on those accounts; he found that there were blots in them; and he hoped that the House would be shy of voting money on credit, except under special circumstances, and then only for a limited period of time. They learned from the statement of the hon. Under Secretary that there was a discrepancy of £80,000 in the accounts, and he believed it was more. He should like to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the matter was not so far altered that any excess of expenditure must be brought before the House in the shape of a separate estimate. He believed it was not in the power of a Department, except for a limited period of time, to take money from one Vote and expend it on another. If the case in question had occurred this year, 1459 he believed that under the change in the Appropriation Act it must have been brought before the House. He remembered perfectly well, that when the Estimates for 1861–2 were brought forward, a distinct allegation was made by his hon. and gallant Friend that the amount was not sufficient; and the Government had incurred a heavy responsibility in contending that the Vote was sufficient, when it was palpably clear, as events had proved, that it had not. In the detailed accounts there appeared payments that were not in the Estimates, and that was a most important matter. He should like to know by what authority £13,000 or £14,000 had been paid on account of the German settlers at the Cape. There was not a single atom of information relating to it in the Estimates, nor was there a Vote taken for it. It was a grave and serious matter when the chief of such an important department as the War Department had no seat in that House. What right had the War Office to spend the money without the authority of the House? Any attempt on the part of the War Office to spend army grants on civil purposes struck at the principle of the power of the House. He hoped that when such occasions arose, some severe censure would be passed by the House on those connected with the War Office, who ventured to exercise an authority so dangerous to every recognised constitutional principle. He, for one, was glad his right hon. and gallant Friend had brought the matter before the House, because it had been shown that Votes passed for one purpose were still applied to another.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the House ought to be thankful to any hon. Gentleman who undertook the irksome task of challenging matters of account. He thought, however, that the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon had taken rather a gloomy view of the subject, when he omitted to refer to the means which the House possessed of improving its control over the expenditure. He could assure the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Willoughby) of that which was matter of notoriety, that the Government had no longer any authority to sanction the transfer of a sum of money from one Vote for the purpose of meeting an excess in another direction. The demands of the public service were so vast and extensive that it was impossible the exact sum required in each case should always be demanded. There was, 1460 however, a temptation in every Department to call for large sums for services that were popular, and small sums for others that were not popular; and it was therefore desirable that the attention of the House should be directed de novo to any transfers and excesses of the kind when they occurred. The Treasury could provisionally give their sanction to such transfer, but a distinct application must be made to the House, and without a distinct Vote of the House no such transfer could be allowed.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, before the conversation terminates, perhaps I may be allowed to recall to the memory of the House the exact position which my right hon. and gallant Friend has taken on this subject. What he wanted was that the audited accounts for 1861–2 should be laid on the table, in order that it might be seen whether he was justified in the criticism he made on the Estimates of 1861, the justice of that criticism having been flatly denied or impugned by Her Majesty's Government; and I think my right hon. Friend has entirely succeeded in his object. I do not at all deny the truth of the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and it is very satisfactory to the House that such alterations have been made in the manner of conducting the financial affairs of the country, but that is no answer to the point urged by my right hon. and gallant Friend. In fact, the hon. Under Secretary has admitted that there has been an excess, and he has alleged that there are extenuating circumstances; but those circumstances have really no weight in this instance, because all those points were anticipated by my right hon. and gallant Friend at the time, but were not acknowledged by the Under Secretary. For instance, the hon. Gentleman says the excess is not so great as it has been stated to be, and he reduces the excess by making a deduction for the extraordinary expenditure incurred in the return of regiments from India; but my right hon. and gallant Friend pressed on, the Government and the House at the time the Estimates were under consideration that a proper allowance had not been made for the inevitable return of these regiments and he was contradicted. Well, but, says the Under Secretary, we have done nothing with the Vote of Credit for China which we were not justified in doing under the provisions of the old Appropriation Act. No one for a moment pretended that the Government would deal 1461 with a Vote of Credit except in a legal and constitutional manner, but that is not the point which was urged at the time by my right hon. Friend. He called upon the Government and the House to consider that there were inevitable expenses which must be incurred on account of the proceedings in China, and what was the answer of the Government? It was, "Oh, no, nothing at all of the kind; the war in China is concluded." To-night also the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has reminded the House of the remarks he made at the commencement of 1861 upon the question of men, and the Under Secretary has questioned the accuracy of that statement. The Under Secretary says that—The right hon. and gallant Member anticipated that there would be an excess of the numbers voted, and he founded his statement on the roll of numbers on the 1st of February last.That was exactly what my hon. and gallant Friend did two years ago—he anticipated an excess. Now, let the House observe the answer of the Government at the time. I read it, that the Under Secretary may not suppose I am colouring a statement. Mr. T. Baring could assure the Committee that—The subject had received the careful consideration of Lord Herbert and the Commander-in-Chief, and no difficulty was anticipated in so regulating the numbers as to bring them within those for which provision had been made." [3 Hansard clxi. 1999.]To-night my right hon. and gallant Friend has shown that the criticisms he made in 1861, the accounts being now audited and laid on the table, were sound and just criticisms, and that the answer given this evening by the Under Secretary is unsatisfactory and beside the question. There is no occasion to vindicate the character of Lord Herbert, which nobody has impugned, or the general ability of the administration of the War Department under that eminent statesman. What we wanted was an answer to the statement, if its accuracy were questioned, of my right hon. and gallant Friend. He has really received no answer; and he has proved that the criticisms he made on the Estimates in 1861 were accurate, and were distinguished by that sagacity and foresight which mark the character of his mind.