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tice, and observations thereon in tive votes of the balances themselves

T. Smith's Parl. Eememb. 1861, p. were passed through Committee of

135. See also Mr. Butt's motion on Supply. This gave rise to much

March 19, 1877. angry comment. Jb. v. 169, pp.

Hans. D. v. 200, p. 1583. 1953, 1967 ; v. 170, pp. 105-109.

P Ib. v. 170, p. 108. On this " Ib. v. 181, p. 1780 ; and see Ib.

occasion, through some casual in- v. 195, p. 523; v. 197, p. 1440; v.

advertence, it happened that later 200, p. 1583 ; v. 205, p. 1034; v. 211,

on at the same sitting of the com- p. 1049.


On May 28, 1868, May 25, 1871, June 25, 1875, and on June 28,
1877, a second vote 'on account' of the civil services was taken,
the former vote, which was to defray these services in the one
case for two months, and in the other for six weeks only, having
been exhausted, so that a further advance, for a limited period,
became necessary because of unavoidable delays in proceeding upon
the estimates. But such a practice, however unavoidable under
certain circumstances, is admitted to be objectionable. 1 "

While the government are solely responsible for the Responsi-

,. J . i TT bilityfor

propriety and extent of any application to the House to gra nt of

grant supplies, the Commons are themselves responsible
for voting the same. 8 The House looks to the executive
to state what is wanted, and to make known to them all
that is necessary to satisfy them of the expediency of the
grant. If the information communicated be not full and
satisfactory, it is always in the power of the House to
withhold the grant of any particular item until they are
satisfied with the reasons given for it. fc

It is the uniform practice of the House if, upon re- increasing
consideration on the report, it is thought expedient to storing an
increase the sum granted in Committee of Supply, or to l
restore an item which had been rejected therein, to re-
commit the resolution for that purpose. 11

On July 18, 1870, sixteen votes in Committee of
Supply, which had been incorrectly taken for higher
amounts than had been intended, were severally amended,
upon the report, by substituting the proper sums. v

It is the peculiar province of the government to decide
upon the several amounts required to carry on the public
service and to maintain the credit of the country at home
and abroad. None others are equally competent to form
a judgment on this question. On the other hand, the
vigilant oversight which is constitutionally exercised by
the House of Commons over the public expenditure is a

r Hans. D. v. 192, p. 1010 ; v. 206, 111.
p. 1309 ; v. S25, p. 628. 3 Hats. Free. p. 180 ; Hans. D.

Ib. v. 10], pp. 1192, 1748, 1770. v. 150, p. 1502.

* Smith's Parl. Reineinb. 1862, p. r Ib. v. 203, p. 465.


Effects of continual check upon ministers, and serves to prevent
suppiy S on profligate and extravagant outlay , w which, in times past,
ex 6 pu ( ! ) - lic when this control was less stringently applied, was of too
ture. frequent occurrence. The debates on the estimates,
though generally but thinly attended, have been produc-
tive of incalculable public advantage.

The late Joseph Hume was pre-eminently distinguished, through-
out his long parliamentary career, for his untiring vigilance and
patient labour in the cause of economy and retrenchment. Ade-
quately to fulfil such a duty, time, energy, and labour must be
devoted to the wearying, irksome, and self-denying work of becoming
thoroughly acquainted with a vast mass of details, by following from
point to point every item of public expenditure, and bringing to
bear upon it the force of independent judgment and the light of
public opinion..*

For, while it is impossible for a numerous representa-
tive-assembly to scrutinise details of expenditure, and
to form an accurate opinion in regard to all the items
embraced in the estimates, equally devoid of extrava-
gance or parsimony, nevertheless the moral influence
which is exercised over the government by criticising
the votes submitted for adoption in Committee of Supply
is a more efficient and desirable restraint upon improper
expenditure than even the formal rejection of particular

Thus, on February 26, 1863, the government would have been
defeated on an amendment to omit an item of 134,000. for iron to
armour-plate wooden ships, had not Lord Palmerston given a
distinct pledge that no more of such ships should be built without
the express sanction of the House. 2

w See Smith's Parl. Rememb. 1861, 2166. It was placed in the Library.

P. 154; and Ib. p. 146, Chatham Ib. v. 186, p. 816.

Dockyard. y Sir S. Northcote, in Hans. D. v.

x Mr. Gladstone's eulogy upon Mr. 165, p. 890. Mr. Childers, Ib. v. 192,

Hume, Hans. D. v. 181, p. 1134. p. 938.

In commemoration of Mr. Hume's z Ib. v. 169, p. 853. See a further

great public services, the House of discussion on the same subject on

(Join, requested that his bust might March 12, 1863. And see Sir K.

be placed within the precincts of Peel's remarks on the Irish ' Agricul-

the House. Ib. v. 184, pp. 485-494, tural vote.' Ib. v. 179, p. 1251.


The function of the House of Commons, in matters con-
of supply, is to exert a watchful but general control l^ie
over the executive government, with a view to prevent E the

11 i i i -111- House.

unnecessary outla} 7 , and to check abuses in the public
expenditure ; leaving to the ministers of the crown the
responsibility, which properly belongs to their position,
of asking for such supplies as the necessities of the state
require, and of enforcing to the utmost a strict economy
in the use of the funds entrusted to them. a

In the new edition of Lord Grey's valuable essay on Parliament-
ary Government (pp. 115, 221), he points out the evils arising
from the weakness of ministers in the House of Commons,
as exemplified in the extent to which votes in supply have
become less the expression of the deliberate views of the servants
of the crown as to what would be best for the public service
than of the opinion entertained at the moment by a fluctuating
majority, a state of things which must unavoidably engender jobbery
and reckless expenditure of the public treasure. b

In point of fact, since the introduction of parlia- items m
mentary government, it has only been on rare and mates re-
comparatively unimportant occasions that the demands ^f ct l d by
of the crown for supplies for particular services have mons.
not been complied with. As a general rule, whatever
sums ministers have stated to be required for the use of
the state, the Commons have freely granted.

In proof of this the following instances may be cited from the Prece-
parliamentary proceedings since 1857, as being the only cases where- dents -
in particular items in the annual estimates have been rejected by the
House of Commons in Committee of Supply :

On May 10, 1858, an item of 73,000. for the erection of a new
military hospital at Netley was negatived. On June 3, 1858, an
item of 1,0001. to defray the salary of the registrar of Sasines was
rejected. But next day, on report of the resolutions, the House
directed that the resolution which had contained this item should be
re- committed. Whereupon, on July 15, it was re -voted with the
addition of the salary previously struck out. c On July 13, 1858,

See Grey, Parl. Gov. new ed. Hans.D. v. 161, p. 189; v. 165, p. 940.
88. c Hans. D. v. 150, p. 1494. (Joiu.

b And see Ld. Grey's Speech in Jour. v. 113, pp. 211, 314,320.



of par-
by the

the House, on the report of resolutions from the Committee of
Supply, disallowed an item of 3001., to defray the salary of
the travelling agent of the National Gallery. On August 1, 1859,
the vote of 2,361?. for the Statute Law Consolidation Com-
mission was rejected.* 1 In 1860, the following items were re-
jected : On July 23, 1,2001. for erecting a building to hold the
Wellington funeral car ; on August 3, 1,600?. for two statues of
British sovereigns in the new Houses of Parliament; on August 14,
800?. for extra clerks at the Board of Trade ; and on August 15,
the vote to defray the salary of paymaster of civil services in
Ireland was reduced by 1,000?., but this was agreed to by the
government, as they contemplated the abolition of the office. 6 In
1861, the government submitted a smaller vote (340/.) for the re-
moval of the Wellington car to the crypt of St. Paul's, which was
agreed to. The vote for the statues in the new Houses of Parlia-
ment was also again submitted and agreed to. f In the same year,
on June 6, the navy estimates were reduced by 3,225?., being an
item for the extension of the Chatham dockyard, a work which, if
sanctioned by the House, would have occasioned an ultimate ex-
penditure of over 900,000?. In 1862, on March 6, a vote of 10,787?.
for enlarging the Royal Military College at Sandhurst was negatived,
but upon the report of the resolutions, the one which had contained
this item was re-committed, and upon satisfactory explanations
from government, the vote, as originally proposed, was agreed to on
March 13. On April 28, a vote of 5,000?. for Highland roads and
bridges was negatived. In 1863, on June 4, an item of 400?. for a
clerk of the works at Constantinople was rejected ; on July 2, a
vote of 105,000?. for the purchase, &c. of the Exhibition buildings at
South Kensington, was negatived ; % on July 10, a proposed item
of 6,000?. for expenses connected with the Thames Embankment
Bill of 1862, being objected to, was withdrawn. In 1864, on May 2
(upon motion of the secretary of the Admiralty), an item of 5,000?.
intended to be applied towards the construction of a dock at Malta
was negatived, to admit of further information being obtained as to
the proper site of the dock, agreeably to suggestions made by Opposi-
tion members in the House of Commons ; h on May 30, a vote of
4,000?. for the erection of a lunatic asylum in the Isle of Man (but
in the following session this vote was again proposed and agreed to),'
and on June 6, a vote of 10,000/. (on account of a total estimate of
150,000?.) towards the erection of a new National Gallery at Burling-

d Smith's
p. 150.

Parl. Rememb. v. 2,

Ib. 1861, p. 132 ; Hans. D. v.
1GO, p. 1325.

f Hans. D.v. 164, pp. 151, 170.

g For an account of rejection of
this vote, see 19tli Oen. v. 2, p. 66.

h Hans. D. v. 177, pp 1164,

' Ib. v. 179, p. 597.


ton House, were severally negatived. In 1865, and in 1866, all the
supply votes submitted by government were agreed to by the House
of Commons. In 1867, on July 22, the vote to defray expenses of
suppressing the slave trade was reduced by 7001., with a view to
occasion a reduction of the naval squadron on the west coast of

Independently, in the first instance, of the Committee Bills in-
of Su pply, there is another mode of initiating proceedings J^nejf
for the grant of public money namely, by the introduc- charges
tion of Bills for the construction of public works, the
establishment of new institutions, or for other purposes,
that necessitate, to a greater or less extent, new charges
upon the people. Sometimes the government is autho-
rised by such Bills to undertake the construction of cer-
tain public works, the cost of which is to be defrayed
out of the Consolidated Fund. k

But on July 30, 1866, in deference to objections made by members
of the House of Commons to the introduction, late in the session, of
a Bill to provide for the construction of certain additional works
connected with this great scheme of national defence, the government
withdrew the Bill, and agreed to proceed next year in the ordinary
form of presenting an estimate for these works, and voting the same
in Committee of Supply. 1

But usually such Bills contain a clause providing
that the charges in question shall be defrayed ' out of
moneys to be voted by Parliament.' Hitherto it has
been customary to permit Bills of this description to be
introduced by private members, without reference to
the government ; but this practice led to so much
irregularity that, in the session of 1866, a new standing Must be
order was adopted, requiring the recommendation of Bended
the crown to be given before the House will entertain by the
any motion that will involve a charge upon the public
revenue whether direct or out of moneys to be provided

J Hans. D, v. 188, p. 1900, 2074; Acts, passed in 1860 and following
and see Ib. v. 200, p. 833. years to 1869.

k See the Fortifications Expenses ' See post, p. 770.



for ad-
vance of

by Parliament. 111 This order is intended to place the
responsibility for such Bills, if not their initiation, in the
hands of the government. But, under any circumstances,
it will be incumbent upon the House of Commons to
exercise a strict oversight and control over measures of
this kind, as well as over the direct financial proposi-
tions of ministers.

Sometimes the House of Commons, either with or
without the previous recommendation of the crown, as
the case may be, agrees to address the crown to advance
money for some particular purpose, with an assurance
that the expenses to be incurred will be afterwards
made good by the House. But this practice is only jus-
tifiable under peculiar circumstances, which have already
en^a^ed our attention in a former part of this work. n

DO -l

Contracts There is. yet another method whereby it has been
services. 10 customary for public expenditure to be either pledged or
actually incurred by government to amounts in excess
of that which has been actually voted by Parliament
namely, by means of contracts, or other engagements,
entered into for the construction of public works, or the
performance of particular services for the public benefit.
Such contracts necessarily pledged the government to
prospective payments for a series of years, while the funds
required could only be obtained by annual votes in Com-
mittee of Supply, or by special Acts passed from time to
time, granting the necessary sums, the consent of Parlia-
ment to the continuance of the contract being assumed
from their concurrence in the initial payment proposed,
while their vote has been given, perhaps, in total igno-
rance of the terms of the contract itself. The attention
of Parliament was first directed to the irregularity of this
practice, and to the necessity for the exercise of a more
riid control over this branch of expenditure, in the year

See ante , p. 095.

See Hans. D. v. 171,

n See ante, p. 099.
402 406.


1859, in consequence of certain objectionable transac-
tions regarding contracts for postal and telegraphic ser-
vices that then transpired. A committee was appointed
by the House of Commons on the subject, and their re-
ports led to the adoption by the House of various reso-
lutions and standing orders, to be hereafter enumerated,
which were intended to assert and maintain the right of
the House to control the execution of such contracts.
By these rules, ample provision has been made to secure
that full information shall be given to the House when Require
any such contracts have been entered into, and that they pr o v ^a"of
shall invariably contain a clause declaring that the con- the House
sent of the House, either expressed or implied, is neces- mons.
sary to give them validity. Although at present these
rules merely extend to the case of certain specified
contracts, it has been admitted, by the highest authority,
that the executive has no constitutional right to make a
contract which shall be binding on the House of Com-
mons. 1 * It may, therefore, be safely assumed that here-
after no contracts, involving any considerable amount of
public expenditure beyond that which has been granted
for the service of the current year, will be carried out
until the sanction of Parliament has been obtained on
behalf of the same.

In fact, in the session of 1862, the constitutional con- Contracts
trol of the House of Commons over contracts received a 3 "

still more extended application, and was embodied in an works -
Act of Parliament. In a previous session (that of 1860),
the House had resolved to grant the sum of two million
pounds to construct necessary works for the fortification
of the British coast; and, in 1862, a Bill was brought in
to provide for a large portion of this expenditure. On
July 10, in committee on the Bill, a clause was proposed
by Sir Stafford Northcote to declare that any contracts to

P Mr. Gladstone in Hans. D. v. 157, p. 1412 ; and Ib. v. 189, p. 702.
And see ante, p. 488.


be entered into by government for this service which in-
volved the expenditure of a greater sum than that which
had been already voted by Parliament must be previously
approved of by the House of Commons. The ministry,
at first, opposed this clause. The chancellor of the
exchequer remarked that ' the practical wisdom and the
good or bad economy of such contracts was a matter on
which the House of Commons, as a deliberative assembly,
had not the opportunity of forming an opinion in the
same way as the executive government ; and it was not
according to usage that the government should be able
to relieve itself of its special responsibility with regard to
these contracts by a resolution of the House of Commons.
The responsibility of the government would be better
preserved by giving the House the power of interfering
with these contracts before they became valid than by ask-
ing the House to approve each of them by a resolution.' q
On a division, the clause was negatived by a majority
of five. On July 14, however, the ministry announced
their acceptance of this provision/ It accordingly ap-
pears in the statute to the following effect : ' That it shall
not be lawful for the secretary of state to enter into any
contract involving the expenditure of any sum greater
than that for which the authority of Parliament has been
specifically obtained, without inserting therein a clause
requiring that such contract shall not be binding until it
has lain for one month on the table of the House of
Commons without disapproval, or be formally approved
of within that period. 8 The object of this clause is not to
insist that every contract entered into by government for
the construction of these works shall be first submitted
TO be laid for the approval of Parliament, but that no such contract
shall be made for a greater sum than has been actually

ment. voted without the previous knowledge and consent of the

Hans. D. v. 168, p. 199. ' 25 & 26 Viet. c. 78. 2. See

Jb. pp. 290, 635. Smith's Pad. Rememb. 1862, p. 149.


House of Commons, so that the government may not be
able to bind the House in such a way as to prevent entire
freedom of action whenever a further appropriation is

Moreover, in regard to the expenditure to be incurred
on behalf of these fortifications, it has been distinctly ac-
knowledged by the government that, while they would
be fully authorised to enter into contracts to amounts
not exceeding the total estimated cost of the works, the
general scheme of which had been sanctioned by Par-
liament, yet that the carrying out of any such contracts
must depend upon the consent of Parliament to vote the
sums required to make good the same, from time to
time." It was also stated that, with this additional grant, Contracts
* no new works' as to the prirciple of which the House ^ r ^ w
had not already pronounced would be undertaken ; and
furthermore that, when the schedule of the Bill was
under consideration, it would be competent for any
member to move ' that a particular work should not be
continued.' v The cost of these fortifications, as originally
estimated by the Palmerston administration, was a little
over five million pounds. From time to time, fresh
grants, to make up the appropriation for this service to
the required amount, were voted by Parliament. Mean-
while the estimated cost of the works grew to upwards
of seven millions. w But though additional sums of money
were asked for to execute the works, ' the number and
nature of the works to which the assent of Parliament
had been given ' remained unaltered.

In 1866, however, the newly-appointed Derby
government were of opinion that some extension of the
works was desirable. Accordingly, towards the close Fortifica-
of the session, they submitted a Bill to the House of S^fts!"
Commons to sanction the commencement of a new work,

* See Hans. D. v. 168, pp. 187- v Hans. D. v. 176, pp. 1533,
203 ; 16. v. 176, p. 1533. 1873.

u Ib. v. 172, p. 688. w See ante, p. 426.



and to authorise the expenditure of 50,000/. on behalf
of the same. The money itself was not required, inas-
much as there were sufficient funds in hand, which had
been saved from former grants for fortifications. But
it was necessary to obtain the sanction of Parliament to
this change in the appropriation. The ex-chancellor of
the exchequer, and other leading members, strongly
objected to this Bill, for various reasons, but principally
on the ground that the proposal should have been made
' in the estimates at the commencement of the session,
or at a time when the House was able to give its best
attention to the subject.' Whereupon the government
agreed to withdraw the Bill, and ' to proceed next year
in the ordinary and convenient form of presenting an
estimate for these works, so that the House would have
a fair opportunity of discussing the necessity for them.' *
In April 1867, a Bill was brought in to empower the
government to redistribute the moneys granted by the
Act 28 & 29 Viet. c. 61, pursuant to a revised estimate
appended thereto, and which forms the schedule of the
Act, as passed (30 Viet. c. 24). This Bill was introduced
upon mere motion, as it made no new appropriation for
fortification purposes. In the same session, however,
another Act was passed, based upon resolutions agreed
to in a committee of the whole, granting an additional
sum of 800,000/. for fortifications, the same to be ex-
pended in accordance with a detailed estimate annexed
to the Act (30 & 31 Viet. c. 145). And in 1869, by the
Act 32 & 33 Viet. c. 76, a final grant was made of
1,510,000/. to complete the works, and authority given
to abandon certain works previously sanctioned by
Parliament, but which had not yet been commenced.
In 1865, pursuant to the recommendations of the

* Hans. D. v. 184, p. 16G9- to undertaking of new works without

1677 ; v. 185, p. "289. See also direct sanction of Parliament, see

case of Harbours of Refuge, Ib. v.l 91, Com. Pap. 1868-9, v. 6, p. 531.
p. 1000 ; and ante, p. 433. In regard


Select Committee on the Royal Dockyards in 1864, and Dockyard
with a view to the more economical and expeditious
completion of certain works for the extension of the
dockyards at Portsmouth and Chatham, the government
obtained authority from Parliament for the Admiralty
to enter into contracts for a term not exceeding five
years, the maximum sum to be payable on behalf of
any such contract not to exceed 250, OOO/. in any one
year ; the same to be defrayed out of moneys to be
voted by Parliament, year by year, during the con-
tinuance of the contract ; a copy of every contract
entered into under this Act to be laid before both
Houses of Parliament within thirty days after it has been
made, or within thirty days after the next meeting of
Parliament, if such contract was made during the recess/

On March 20, 1865, the House of Commons was in- Postal
formed, in answer to a question, that the new contract
with the West India and Pacific Steamship Company, for
carrying mails to Jamaica, &c., being terminable at six
months' notice, had no clause suspending its operation
^until it had been one month before the House. A copy
of the contract was nevertheless laid upon the table. 2

The following narrative of the proceedings of the
Committee on Packet and Telegraphic Contracts in 1859
and 1860, and of the action of the House on their reports,
will throw additional light upon this subject, and will also
point out the steps that have been taken by the House
to impeach the validity or expediency of any contract.

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