§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for additional Expenditure on the Wages, etc., of Officers, Seamen, Boys, Coastguard, and Royal Marines."
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
This Navy Supplementary Estimate for 1918–1919 is precisely the same in form, and is rendered necessary for precisely the same reason, as the Army Supplementary Estimate which has just been voted. Nevertheless, I think it due to the Committee to state the application of the pro- 291 cedure to our case. We are asking for much more than £10. What we are asking for is the right to use Appropriations-in-Aid in excess of those which were put into the Estimate. The Appropriation in the Token Estimate is £100 for each of the seventeen Votes—that is, £1,700. These Votes realised in 1918–1919 £17,000,000, and we are now going to ask for the authority that Parliament alone can give for the retention and use of £17,000,000 over and above the amount of the Estimates. The very wide margin between the amount of Appropriation, £l,700, and the substantive receipts from Appropriation, £17,000,000, is, of course, due to the Token Estimate system. We were bound during the War to adopt the Token Estimate system for the fighting Services. We could not submit to the Committee detailed expenditure in advance which we proposed for the fighting Services, because it would give valuable information to the enemy. Therefore, we took the Token Vote, and one result is this very wide margin between estimated Appropriation Vote and £17,000,000 substantial receipt. From this time onwards the margin will be very much narrower. I think it is due to the Committee, further, to say where we hope to get this£17,000,000 from. We estimate to get it from the following sources: From naval stores and fuel supplied to the Allies about £9,750,000 worth; sale of clothing to men of the Fleet, Coastguard and Reserve, £1,500,000; sale of provisions similarly, about £2,000,000; supplies to other Departments, to Allied Governments, to contractors for making-up, and to the sale of old stores, about £1,000,000; and armaments supplied to other Departments or to Allies, something under £1,000,000; receipts from various sources about £1,500,000 further. We are now asking authority to retain and spend in the financial year £17,000,000, and we bring this to the Committee in pursuance of a Minute which I would like to read. It is a Treasury Minute of 23rd January, 1888. This is the Minute:When it is proposed to incur a larger gross expenditure than has been provided for in the original Estimate, then any excess of extra receipts over the Estimate may be applied to meet such further expenditure, but the authority of Parliament has to be obtained for the application of the excess receipts just as much as for a further Grant. There has to be presented a Supplemental Estimate, in which, as in the original Estimate, the gross expenditure requiring sanction is shown, and the excess receipts 292 are abated. If the excess receipts are less than the gross expenditure, the full amount is abated and the balance has to be voted; if the excess receipts are equal to or more than the gross expenditure, so much of them is abated as leaves a nominal sum to be voted, in order that the authority of Parliament may be duly recorded.In the meantime, under the Appropriation Act, 1918, Section 5, Sub-section (1), we have temporary Treasury sanction to use in this respect as well as in Parliamentary Grants the excess of any Vote to meet the deficiency in any other Naval Vote, and later this year in an Appropriation Bill Parliament will be asked to give final sanction for the transfer which I have already described. I think I have covered the grounds fully.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
My right hon. Friend has gone into very much greater detail than his colleague who presented to us the preceding Vote and that therefore justifies me in asking him when we shall be entitled to have laid before us particulars of the various transactions of which he made some mention. It is most important. He spoke about sales of stores and indicated a very wide range of subjects with which this House is very properly and intimately concerned. He mentioned that in the course of the discussion on the Appropriation Bill this might be dealt with. He knows as well as I do that on the Debates on the Appropriation Bill they are in no sense of that close and particular kind which examination of the Committee ought to be directed to, though I quite agree our attention is not so often directed to particular items as it might with advantage be. I want to know, and I am sure he will be able to tell me, when the Committee may expect to have laid before them particulars of the various heads to which he alluded and others which no doubt are in his mind?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I wish to join in the question of my right hon. Friend opposite. This, I take it, is only a Token Vote. The expenditure of £17,000,000 covers a very large number of different items connected with the expenditure on the Navy. As my right hon. Friend said, we should like to know something more of the particulars, and we should like to know when we shall have an opportunity of discussing this question. Further, I should like to know when these items will come before the Public Accounts Committee. I venture to think, in view of the very large expenditure that has been incurred during the War, and which I feel 293 sure my right hon. Friend will see at once, that there is something in what my right hon. Friend opposite asks and, perhaps, he will now kindly give us particulars?
§ Sir THOMAS BRAMSDON
I want to ask a question, of my right hon. Friend, which I think he will readily answer. I put this question down a few days ago to the First Lord of the Admiralty. I asked him if he could let us know when the Jerram Committee's Report will be made, so that we will be able to discuss it on the Navy Votes. The First Lord said he was unable to say; they were proceeding with all dispatch, but it would not be possible to have the Report of the Jerram Committee before the Naval Vote was taken this year. This is a very important question for officers and men of the Royal Navy. They would like to know something more of that Vote and the results of it. I should like my right hon. Friend to say—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)
Order, order! The discussion is on the Estimates, and not on this.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I can only say that the main Navy Estimates will be taken probably next week. Now I come to the question raised by my right hon. Friend opposite me and another hon. Member as to what opportunity Parliament will have for following the appropriation to their proper purpose in all these moneys, these and other moneys in the Estimates. I merely referred to the Act of 1918, Section 5, as giving temporary sanction for the use of the money. I said in another Bill this Session that temporary sanction would come up for final Parliamentary sanction. This 1918–1919 Account, which would include the use of the £17,000,000, together with many more millions will be complete on 31st March. The Departmental officers will prepare the Appropriation Account or Accounts during the fall of the present year; they will hand that Appropriation Account then to the Comptroller and Auditor-General; he will examine it in the light of the reports of his officers—between fifty and sixty of whom are in our offices now and are checking expenditure—he will examine it and report to the House of Commons early in 1920. The House of Commons will then appoint as Public Accounts Committee. That Committee will take the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General on 294 the Appropriation Account of 1918–19 and examine it, calling witnesses as may be necessary, making a Report to the House of Commons during the course of the Session of 1920 and thereafter the House will be in a position to say whether or not it desires to have a Debate on the Report. The Public Accounts Committee on the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General on the expenditure of 1918–1919, that is the further check, a post-mortem check if you like, which the House of Commons will have.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Do I understand from my right hon. Friend that the only opportunity this House will have of discussing the policy which lies behind these very large transactions will be, as he very justly terms, a post-mortem check in 1920, it now being February, 1919. Is that so?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My right hon. Friend speaks as if he had made a great discovery. He knows what I am saying is absolutely in accord with Parliamentary procedure to which he has been a party for a considerable number of years.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will answer one other point. Can he tell us from his very wide and accurate knowledge of the Navy spending departments—nobody has a better grasp of it in the House of Commons, that I know from many years experience of his work—can he tell us is there any real chance within the next seven or eight months of us getting rid of this intolerable system of Token Vote?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
We shall submit as the War Office did yesterday for 1919–20 a Vote on Account. We shall submit for the information of the House as near as we can get to a provisional sketch of the course Naval expenditure will take in that Session, and we shall give to the House an undertaking to come to the House with the old pre-war detailed Estimate for 1919–1920 as they were in 1914–15. As soon as we can, say, in July, and I admit April, May and June and perhaps July, may have gone, this will be an Estimate in advance so far as the next eight months are concerned. You will get an examination by the House and Committee of the Estimates before the expenditure takes place.
Question put, and agreed to.
Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.