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March 21, 1862, the House of Commons was informed by
the chancellor of the exchequer (Mr. Gladstone) that,
while it was most desirable to carry out this recom-
mendation as strictly as possible, these estimates could
not be presented with the same regularity as those for
military and naval services ; inasmuch as their complete
preparation depended not merely on other public depart-
ments, but upon members of commissions, governing
bodies of institutions, and even on others who gave gra-
tuitous services to the public ; and that, if the House
laid down any fixed rule on the subject it would be
complied with, ' but the effect would be that the mis-
cellaneous estimates would be imperfect, and the prac-
tice of presenting supplementary estimates one of the
greatest financial evils the House could endure would
of necessity prevail.' s Nevertheless, the civil service
estimates for 1866-67 were laid upon the table, in an
improved shape, on February 16, 1866, being within
sixteen days of the meeting of Parliament ; those for
1867-68, on February 13, being within eight days of
the commencement of the Session ; and those for 1868-69
with equal promptitude. But, owing to the change of
ministry in December 1868, the civil service estimates
for 1869-70 were not presented until April 12, 1869, a
vote on account for two months having been previously

r Treasury Minute of Dec. 23, p. 170.
1858, in Coin. Pap. 1800, v. 39, pt. i. Hans. D. v. 165, p. 1930.



CONTROL. OF PARLIAMENT OVER SUPPLIES. 741

taken in Committee of Supply.* But the estimates for BS
1870-71 and for 1871-72 were each presented before
the end of March.

The civil service estimates for 1872-73 were not in
the hands of members until March 22, 1872. This
delay arises because ' it is considered better to wait till
as near as. possible the close of the financial year ' (i.e.
March 31), in order to ensure greater accuracy." The
late period of the session to which the introduction of
the estimates, prior to 1876, was animadverted upon in
the House in 1877. v The estimates for 1877-78 were
presented on February 9.

But under the new system of financial accountability
by which the estimates are voted as early as possible,
and no balances are carried over from the preceding
year, supplementary estimates have become a regular
and unavoidable part of the financial system. If not
resorted to a chancellor of the exchequer must needs
make use of the civil contingencies for every unexpected
demand. But the preference, if possible, should be given
to supplementary estimates, rather than to the civil con-
tingencies, for the latter fund is not submitted to Parlia-
ment until after the money is spent. w It is sometimes
necessary to present the supplementary estimates early
in the following session, before the expiration of the
financial year. When this is done it is customary to
take a vote in supply to make good excesses in ex-
penditure beyond the grants for the current year. x
But the vote may be divided into two or more votes if
required, or amendments proposed to omit or reduce
particular items in accordance with the usual practice
in Committee of Supply. 7 Supplementary estimates ought,



1 Hans. D. v. 195, pp. 524, 544. (0. of E.), Ib. v. 228, p. 1105.

u Ib. v. 210, p. 393. * Hans. D. v. 205, pp. 308-323;

T Ib. v. 233, p. 120. v. 209, p. 2003.

w Mr. Lowe (Oh. of Exch.), Ib. v. r Ib. v. 199, pp. 1570-1579 ; Com.

210, pp. 604-607. Sir 8. Northcote Tap. 1870, v. 48, p. 559.



742 THE ROYAL PREROGATIVE.

strictly, to be confined to charges rendered necessary
by the legislation of the session. 2
Supple- r r ne objection urged by Mr. Gladstone in the fore-

mentary . J . e J .

estimates, going remarks against the practice Oi supplementary
estimates is one that he has repeatedly pressed upon
the attention of Parliament. In 1862 he stated that he
regarded such estimates ' with great jealousy. Though
very plausible in theory, he thought that in practice
nothing tended so much to defeat the efficacy of parlia-
mentary control as the easy resort to supplementary
estimates. To render this control effectual, it was neces-
sary that the House of Commons should have the money
transactions of the year presented to it in one mass, and
in one account. If it is to be a set of current transactions,
with a balance varying from time to time, the House
would never know where it was. If supplementary esti-
mates were easily and frequently resorted to, the House
would be obliged, in self-defence, to appoint a permanent
finance committee.' a

In 1876 the supplementary estimates for civil services and
revenue debts which were presented on March 10, in addition to
the original estimates voted in the previous session for the service
of the year ending March 31, amounted to 2 4 4, 9 9 \L, and the votes
in supply to make good excesses actually incurred in the original
votes for this year amounted to over 23,585?., besides about 240,000?.
of deficiency on the aggregate grants for naval services. The
Committee of Public Accounts comment upon this unsatisfactory
result of the year's finance in their First Report of March 24, 1876,
and state that new regulations have been framed at the Admiralty,
from which it is anticipated that no such excess of naval expendi-
ture will hereafter occur.

The gradual augmentation of the general adminis-
trative business of the country, which has taken place

Hans. D. v. 198, p. 1003 ; v. 203, 1673 ; v. 185, p. 499. But in regard

p. 1466. to suppl. estimates submitted early

Com. on Pub. Accts. Com. Pap. in a session, to make good deficiencies

1862, v. 11, Evid. 1571. Also Hans, in grants of a previous year a prac-

D. v. 169, p. 1860. And debate on tice now invariable see Mr. Ayrton's

suppl. estimates submitted by Mr. observations, Hans. D. V. 194, p.

Diraeli, in 1 866, Ib. v. 184, pp. 1292, 539.



CONTROL OF PARLIAMENT OVER SUPPLIES. 743

since the peace of 1815, and which is a proof of growing
national prosperity, is unavoidably accompanied by a pro-
portionate increase in the demands of nearly every de- '
partment of the civil government an increase moderate
in each instance, but amounting to a considerable sum
in the aggregate. 1 *

The increase to the civil service estimates is also
attributable to additional duties imposed upon govern-
ment by recent legislation in the supervision and control
of various branches of industry ; to increased grants
in aid of education ; for the prevention of crime ; and
to the transference to the annual estimates of large
items of expenditure previously charged upon the Con-
solidated Fund or the Civil List, and not directly cognis-
able by the House of Commons. These additional
expenditures of government have often given rise to
imputations of extravagance which probably, in some
cases, have not been unfounded, and has naturally led Proposed
to various expedients, on the part of financial reformers, [^g 11011
to effect reductions in the same. The constitutional public ex-
course of appointing a Committee of Public Accounts F
will be noticed in its proper place. Such committees,
however, are necessarily limited to the investigation of
past transactions, and to the consideration of questions
arising out of the management of financial matters by
the executive government.

Not content with legitimate enquiries into past ex-
penditure, attempts have occasionally been made to

b See statement of votes and ex- from 1868 to 1873 about 1,500,00(V.,
penditure for civil services from 1835 Com. Pap. 1874, v. 35, p. 161, &c.
to 1869, Com. Pap. 186b-9, v. 35, p. For a comparison between the civil
1138 ; Ib. 1868-9, v. 42, p. 627, &c. service estimates in 1853 and in 1877,
The actual increase in these estimates see Hans. D. v. 233, p. 658. H.
(after allowing for transfers of Mann, Cost of Civil Service, Statist,
charges, debiting of departments with Soc. Jour. v. 32, pp. 40-47. Re-
expenditure which was formerly paid marks on increase of navy estimates,
out of growing produce of taxes, &c.) Hans. D. v. 192, p. 48.
between 1848 and 1868, was in e Com. Pap. 1868-9, v. 85, pp.
round numbers somewhat less than 1138-1141. Hans. D. v. 233, pp.
6,000,00(W. ; and the further increase 659-662.



744



THE ROYAL PREROGATIVE.



mitt', e



Prece-
dents.



induce the House of Commons to appoint select coin-
revise the mittees to revise the estimates before they should be sub-
estimates. m j tte( } to t h e Committee of Supply ; but these attempts
have been uniformly unsuccessful. In one or two in-
stances, during the reign of William III., we read of the
estimates, with other accounts, being referred to a select
committee ; d but since the doctrine of ministerial responsi-
bility has been properly understood, no such proceedings
have been permitted, as the following cases will show :

On March 16, 1835, Mr. Hume moved to refer the navy estimates
to a select committee, prior to their being submitted to the Com-
mittee of Supply. The chancellor of the exchequer (Sir Robert
Peel) opposed the motion, declaring that ' it is for the executive
government, from the information it receives from all quarters, dip-
lomatic and otherwise, to judge of what the country ought to bear,
and then to submit that opinion to the approbation of the House.
The government might be required to form their judgment upon
facts which it might not be consistent with their duty publicly
to disclose, and they are bound to ask, in some instances, for not
personal but political confidence from the House. To entrust all
this to a finance committee would be to transfer the duty of the
monarchy to the House of Commons.' e Sir James Graham, a leader
of the Opposition, also opposed the motion, and it was negatived by
a large majority. A few days afterwards Mr. Hume moved that
the army and ordnance estimates be referred to a select committee,
with a view to the reduction of expenditure, and for other purposes.
The motion was opposed by Lord John Russell, the leader of the
Opposition, and it was resisted by Sir Robert Peel on the ground
that the executive government commands means of information
which neither the House of Commons nor a select committee can
have access to, and it is their constitutional province, on their own
responsibility, to propose what the exigencies of the public service
may require. Mr. Hume expressed his willingness to concede to the
discretion of the government the amount of force to be maintained,
but this did not satisfy Sir R. Peel, who pointed out the serious
objections which existed to a transference of the constitutional
revision of the whole House over the estimates to a committee of a
few members, who could not exercise an efficient control, and whose



* Hans. D. v. 165, p. 1325. D. v. 146, p. 64. See also Grey,

Mir. of Parl. 1835, p. 364. And Parl. Gov. p. 78; Mill, Rep. Gov.
flee similar remarks by Mr. Disraeli, p. 90.

when hi Opposition, in 1857. Hans.



CONTROL.- OF PARLIAMENT OVER SUPPLIES. 745

assumed jurisdiction would nevertheless practically operate to with- Prece-
draw the supply votes from the beneficial scrutiny of the committee dents.
of the whole House. After some further discussion the motion was
withdrawn/

In 1857, a similar motion, to refer the army estimates to a
select committee, not being seconded, fell to the ground.^

In 1847, notice being taken that 'a constant increase was
going on in the miscellaneous estimates, which required some
efficient check,' the government were asked to consent to the
appointment of ' a committee, or other tribunal, to which the said
estimates could be submitted, previously to the House being called
upon to vote them in committee of supply.' The first lord of the
Treasury (Lord John Russell) admitted that ' there was great room
for enquiry, and early in the next session he hoped that a select
committee would lay down some principles on which in future it
would be safe to proceed.' 11 Accordingly, on February 22, 1848,
Lord John Russell himself moved for the appointment of two com-
mittees, one to enquire into the expenditure of the navy, army
and ordnance, the other into the miscellaneous expenditure of the
country. These committees were restricted in their enquiries
within constitutional limits ; the government did not propose to
abandon their discretion and responsibility in regard to the force
required to be maintained in any department of the public
service, but, with this proviso, they invited the fullest investiga-
tion into the details of the public expenditure, with a view to
reductions to be made in future estimates. 1 Notwithstanding
the difference of origin, these two committees were substantially
the same as the finance committees which are now annually ap-
pointed by the House of Commons, and which have never sought to
interfere with the estimates for the ensuing year, as laid upon the
table of the House by command of the sovereign. Nevertheless,
great public advantages have resulted from the labours of these com-
mittees, in the simplification and improvement of the estimates in
future years, as well as in the reduction of the public expenditure.

On March 11, 1862, another attempt was made to induce the
House of Commons to control the estimates, by Lord Robert
Montagu, who moved to resolve that, in order to strengthen the
check upon the government in regard to issues of money for any
public service whatever, in excess of the sums voted by Parliament,
as well as to secure the just appropriation of every payment voted
by Parliament to its proper account, a committee be appointed,
to be annually nominated by the Committee of Selection, for the

' Mir. of Parl. 1835, pp. 588-592. Ib. v. 96, pp. 1057-1076 ; v. 101,
Hans. D. v. 145, p. 843. p. 713.

h Ib. v. 94, p. 185.



746



THE ROYAL PREROGATIVE.



Prece-
dents.



Motions
for reduc-
tion of ex-
penditure.



Prece-
dents.



purpose of revising all estimates or accounts laid before Parliament,
with instruction to consider of improving the present system of
audit, and also to report to the House the exact period of the
financial year when it would be desirable that the annual estimates
should be presented to Parliament, so as to enable the necessary
examination of such estimates or accounts to be completed and re-
ported upon by the said committee before this House proceeds to
sanction such estimates, &c., by a vote of payment in supply. This
proposal that the estimates should undergo revision by a select
committee was strenuously resisted by the government, as cutting
at the root of our present political system. Any such committee
would either supersede the House, in its duty of examining and pass-
ing the accounts, or it would supersede the government in its duty of
submitting them. It would lead to a transference of the responsi-
bility of the government for the estimates to an irresponsible body.
The motion was negatived, on division, by a large majority .J

And here it may be suitable to refer to a class of
motions which, although they do not concern the esti-
mates for the current year, are, nevertheless, intended
to effect a prospective reduction of the annual estimates,
and to express the constitutional opinion of the House
of Commons in regard to the increase of the public
expenditure.

On July 16, 1849, it was moved by Mr. Henley to resolve, that a
reduction of ten per cent, be made in all salaries in all the departments
of government, at home and abroad. The motion was opposed by the
chancellor of the exchequer, who contended that the public servants
were not more highly paid than was necessary to their adequate
remuneration. After debate, the motion was negatived by a large
majority. But on April 12, 1850, on motion of Lord John Russell
(the prime minister), a select committee was appointed to enquire
into the salaries and emoluments of offices held, during the pleasure
of the crown, by members of Parliament, and also into the salaries,
fees, and pensions of judicial officers, and into the cost of the
diplomatic service. This committee made a valuable report on the



J Hans. D. v. 165, pp. 1306-1359.
See also General Peel's remarks on
question of referring estimates to a
select committee, Ib. p. 940. On April
13, 1863, a motion to refer part i. of
the civil service estimates (on Public
\Vorka) to a select committee was



negatived. See a similar case on
May 26, 1864. On April 3, 1865, a
motion to refer the whole civil ser-
vice estimates to a select committee
was proposed, and withdrawn after
remarks from secretary of the Trea-
sury. Hans. D. v. 178, p. 717.



CONTROL OF PARLIAMENT OVER SUPPLIES. 747

duties of official persons of the highest rank, but generally adverse Prece-
to a reduction of salaries. 11 dents.

On March 10, 1857, Mr. Gladstone moved to resolve that,
' in order to secure to the country that relief from taxation which
it justly expects, it is necessary, in the judgment of this House, to
revise and further reduce the expenditure of the state.' The
House of Commons had, a few days previously, censured the govern-
ment (which otherwise possessed the confidence of the House) for
the conduct of affairs in China, and the government had determined
to appeal to the country by a dissolution of Parliament. In order
to enable them to carry on the public service until the assembling
of a new Parliament, ministers applied to the House of Commons
for a ' vote on account,' for four months. Having no objection to
this course, and admitting it to be just and customary, Mr. Glad-
stone was yet of opinion that the proposed estimates were excessive.
He accordingly sought, by this motion, to compel the government
to re-consider their estimates before the re-assembling of Parlia-
ment, and to submit them, with considerable reductions, to the
judgment of the new House of Commons. The House did not
concur with Mr. Gladstone as to the propriety or expediency of
this motion, and it was negatived without a division.

On June 3, 1862, Mr. Stansfeld moved to resolve, that the
national expenditure is capable of reduction, without compro-
mising the safety, independence, or legitimate influence of the
country. In amendment, Lord Palmerston (the prime minister)
moved that the House, sensible of the necessity of economy, is at
the same time mindful of its obligation to provide for the security
of the country at home and the protection of its interests abroad,
and that it observes with satisfaction the decrease already effected
in the national expenditure, and trusts such further diminution,
may be made in it as the future state of things may warrant.
Besides this amendment, no less than five other amendments, either
to Mr. Stansfeld's, or to Lord Palmerston's motion, stood upon the
notice paper. One of them (Mr. Walpole's) was regarded by Lord
Palmerston as equivalent to a vote of want of confidence ; he there-
fore suggested that it should have the priority. The members who
were about to propose the other amendments agreed to withhold
them ; but Mr. Walpole declared that he did not intend a vote of
censure by his motion, yet, after Lord Palmerston's statement re-
specting it, he was not prepared to encounter the responsibilities
which would be entailed by the success of his amendment, and
therefore he would not move it. Lord Palmerston, in justifying his

k Com. Pap. 1850, v. 15, p. 179. taken forgiving effect to the recom-
See Treasury Minute of May 20, 1851, mendations of this committee. 2b.
recording the steps which have been 1851, v. 31, p; 379.



748 THE ROYAL PEEROGATIVE.

Precr- own amendment, said that he hoped that the government would next
deats. year be able to present diminished estimates to Parliament. After

a long debate, Lord Palmerston's amendment was carried by a large
majority. In the two following sessions, upon opening the budget,
the chancellor of the exchequer referred to this resolution, and
showed that the government had succeeded in effecting considerable
reductions in the estimates for the ensuing year, with a reasonable
hope of further retrenchment in future. 1 Upon the accession of
the Derby administration to office, in 1866, Mr. Disraeli, the new
chancellor of the exchequer, took occasion to advert to this resolu-
tion, and to assure the House that the financial policy of the govern-
ment would be framed in accordance therewith.

On February 11, 1864, Sir H. Willoughby called the attention
of the House to the enormous increase of taxation and expenditure
within the last few years. The annual average of the public ex-
penditure during the years 1842 to 1846 was 50,250,000^., whilst in
1864 it amounted to nearly 70 millions. This amount of taxation
was levied in a time of peace, and was entirely independent of the
local taxation, which amounted to nearly twenty millions additional !
In giving his explanations on this subject, the chancellor of the ex-
chequer stated that, owing to the great increase in the items of the
civil expenditure, the task of the Treasury in controlling the same
had become increasingly onerous and difficult, and could only be
effectually performed when the government was sustained by the
House of Commons in its efforts to resist additional expenditure.' n

On March 1, 1864, Mr. Marsh moved that the civil service and
miscellaneous estimates had been, for many years, rapidly increasing,
and ought to be reduced. After explanations from the secretary of
the Treasury as to the causes which had occasioned this increase, and
rendered it unavoidable, a brief debate ensued, which ended in the
withdrawal of the motion.

On February 26, 1866, Mr. White moved to resolve, that the
expenditure of the government has, of late years, been excessive ;
that it is taken in great measure out of the earnings of the people,
<fec. After a long debate, the motion was withdrawn.

On February 18, 1873, Mr. Vernon Harcourt moved, that the
present rate of public expenditure is excessive, and should be re-
duced, with a view to the diminution of the public burthens. An
amendment was proposed by government to appoint a committee of
inquiry into civil service expenditure, to which the House agreed.

The first classification of the miscellaneous civil ser-



1 Hans. D. v. 170, p. 200; Ib. v. m Ib. v. 184, p. 1289.'

174, p. 588. Ib. v. 173, p. 477.



CONTROL OF PARLIAMENT OVER SUPPLIES. 749

vice estimates was made in 1824. A new classification
was made in 1843, which still continues in force. But
pursuant to the recommendation of the Committee of
Public Accounts in 1867, the various sub-heads are now
classified for the purposes of the appropriation audit,
so as to define the expenditure to be controlled and
accounted for by each department of state.

The estimates of the supplies required by government Contents
for the service of the year are divided into separate estimate*.
votes, or resolutions, which appropriate specified sums
for services specially defined, and for the period of one
year. Some of the votes are for very large amounts,
but, practically, there is no more difficulty in dealing
with such votes than with any others, inasmuch as each
vote is accompanied, in the printed estimates, with a
list of the particular items, or heads, of expenditure,
which are intended to be defrayed out of the same. In
addition to the information thus afforded in regard to
the proposed expenditure, the printed estimates contain
numerous explanatory tables and notes, in relation to
particular branches of expenditure : and preliminary
abstracts, lists of accounting departments, and state-
ments of grants in aid of local taxation and expenditure.
The estimates are now submitted to the House of Com-
mons in much greater detail than formerly, in order to
meet the increasing demand for full and accurate in-
formation upon all matters which concern the public
expenditure. 13

Considerable improvements have recently been made
in the framing of the army and navy estimates.* 1 The



Com. Pap. 1808-9, v. 35, p. 1137. ' Rep. Sel. Com 6 , on Navy, Army,

Estimates for 1877-8, Civ. Serv. and and Ordnance Estimates. Com. Pap.

Revenue Dpts., 138 votes; army, 1847-48, v. 21 ; 1849, v. 9; 1850, v.

25 votes; navy, j 7 votes ; total, 180 10. Rep. Com 6 , on Pub. Accts. Com.

votes. Pap. 1864, v. 8, p. 340 ; Ib, 1865, v.

P Hans. D. v. 167, p. 56; Ib. v. 10, p. 41.
171, p. 322.



750 THE ROYAL PREROGATIVE.

estimates for miscellaneous civil services r are now-
arranged under seven heads, or classes, of subjects,
Civil viz.: 1. Public works and buildings; 2. Salaries and
Service expenses of public departments ; 3. Law and justice ;



Online LibraryAlpheus ToddOn parliamentary government in England : its origin, development, and practical operation (Volume 1) → online text (page 71 of 85)