HC Deb 25 February 1870 vol 199 cc858-61

Order for Committee read.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Appointment of Financial Secretary of War Office.)


said, he was desirous of further information concerning the precise duties to be imposed on the Financial Secretary. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say yesterday evening that the Clerk of the Ordnance would prepare and be responsible to the Secretary of State for the Estimates. Now, he desired to know whether the duties of the Financial Secretary would clash in any way with those of the Under Secretary of State; also what distinction the right hon. Gentleman drew between the responsibility of the Clerk of the Ordnance and of the Financial Secretary? Then how could the Under Secretary of State have any position at all unless he were in some way connected with the Estimates, and, in the event of his sitting in the House of Commons, how would his functions be distinguished from those of the Financial Secretary? The House ought also to be informed why it was considered necessary that this new financial officer should have a seat in Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that he required assistance in conducting the business of his Department in the House; but nevertheless it had not been explained why the right hon. Gentleman deemed it expedient that the Financial Secretary should go out of office with the Government. It appeared to him that it would be a very serious and important change to make so many of the principal officers in the War Office removable with the Government. A parallel had on the previous evening been drawn between the War Department and the Admiralty; but it ought to be borne in mind that although the Secretary of State for War must, in order to save time, have assistance in conducting business in the House, yet he was a great officer in himself, and was not at all in the same position as the First Commissioner of the Treasury or the First Lord of the Admiralty.


said, he should be extremely happy to give the desired explanation, though he feared it would be a mere repetition of what he stated last night. It was, in his opinion, desirable that the Financial Secretary should have a seat in the House, because it was highly important that the control and superintendence of the House of Commons over the finances should be immediate and direct. Everyone who was acquainted with the weight of the financial business transacted at the War Office must acknowledge the necessity of having an officer particularly charged with information to assist the Secretary of State and make explanations in that House. The Office, he feared, might break down, even in time of peace, and he was convinced it must do so in time of war, unless increased assistance were provided. The proposed new officer would not have sufficient authority unless he occupied a seat in that House, and was in direct communication with it. With regard to the distinction between the two officers, he would remark that he did not state yesterday evening that the Clerk of the Ordnance would be responsible for the whole of the Estimates. On the contrary, he said that he would only be responsible for the Estimates for the Control Department, or rather for their first preparation, and that for the final review of the Estimates the Secretary of State would be responsible, he having previously received the report of the Financial Secretary. That appeared to him to be a very clear distinction, and one which it was very important for many reasons to maintain. Then with regard to the Parliamentary Under Secretary, he had before stated that in all probability the Secretary of State would usually sit in this House inconsequence of the great expenditure of the War Department; but whichever House the Secretary of State sat in, the Parliamentary Under Secretary would be the principal representative of the Department in the other House. With regard to the number of Parliamentary representatives of the War Department, they were much more numerous a few years ago; and it had been frequently stated in the course of these discussions that much greater economy would have been effected in the Department if so much diminution of Parliamentary power had not occurred. He thought there was some truth in that remark, and believed that if the changes proposed by the Bill were adopted, great economy would be the result, to say nothing of other advantages.


said, that when he was at Downing Street an investigation was going on with regard to the War Office, and he twisted, therefore, that he might be allowed to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions. One of the great points formerly raised had reference to the relations which ought to subsist between the Controller-in-Chief and the gentleman who undertook the financial arrangements under the Secretary of State. After some discussion between the Treasury and the War Office, it was agreed that there should be an officer at the War Office to look after the financial arrangements, and that he should be equal in authority to the Controller-in-Chief. It was also laid down that he must be a civilian. Mr. Douglas Galton, who held that office before the Control system was established, had quitted the War Office, and been appointed to a situation in the Office of Works. He wished, therefore, to know whether the office which that gentleman had held had been abolished, and whether one of the new officers was to be considered as occupying his position? He wished also to learn from the right hon. Gentleman whether the Financial Secretary would have co-ordinate authority with the Clerk of the War Office; whether all matters of expenditure would be submitted to his observation before they were reviewed by the Secretary of State; and, finally, whether he would always be a civilian?


said, that the office previously held by Mr. Douglas Galton would not be filled up, and the Financial Secretary would discharge the duties. It was intended to define the precise nature of the duties of the several officers by Orders in Council, which would be laid upon the table. He could not recollect how far the duties precisely answered to the Treasury Letter to which his right hon. Friend referred; but he was certain that the intention was to make the officers of equal authority and rank, and the final financial form of the Estimates would come under the notice of the Financial Secretary. He must, however, guard himself against being supposed to say that any of the business would be done twice over, and that what was done by one officer would be done over again by another. But he did intend that the financial control should be complete, and that the Secretary of State should be the person to decide in case any question for decision should arise.


said, his right hon. Friend had not distinctly answered the question whether the Financial Secretary was always to be a civilian, as proposed in the Treasury Minute, and accepted by the War Office?


said, he was not aware that it was intended to appoint any one but a civilian. At any rate, whoever was appointed would be a Member of that House, and would, he trusted, enjoy the confidence of Parliament.

Clause agreed to.


said, he wished to ask whether there had been any correspondence between the War Office and the Treasury upon this subject; and, if so, whether it would be laid upon the table before the discussion on the Bill was resumed?


said, in reply, that the principal official correspondence related to the formation of a Committee, of which Lord Northbrook was the Chairman, and his light hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) was a member. When their Report had been considered by the Government, it would be laid upon the table—certainly before the third reading of the Bill.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.