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ORDER OF REFERENCE.

[Thursday, 11th February, 1926]-Public Accounts, Ordered, That the Committee of Public Accounts do consist of Fifteen Members.

Committee accordingly nominated of,-Mr. Walter Baker, Sir Gervase Beckett, Mr. Briggs, Captain Craig, Sir Henry Craik, Mr. Gillett, Mr. William Graham, Sir Robert Hamilton, Mr. Harmsworth, Sir John Marriott, Mr. McNeill, Mr. PethickLawrence, Colonel Assheton Pownall, Major Salmon, and Sir Fredric Wise.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.

Ordered, That Five be the quorum.-(Colonel Gibbs.)

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The cost of preparing for publication the Shorthand Minutes of Evidence taken before the Committee was £238 7s. 7d.

The Cost of Printing and Publishing this Report is estimated by the Stationery Office at £828 7s. Od.

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THE COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS have made progress in the matters to them referred, and have agreed to the following FIRST REPORT :

Your Committee have to report that during the year ended 31st March, 1925, expenditure in excess of the amount voted by Parliament has been incurred as follows:

STATEMENT OF EXCESSES.

CIVIL SERVICES, 1924-25.

A STATEMENT of Sums required to the Voted in order to make good Excesses on certain Grants for Civil Services for the Year ended 31st March, 1925.

Three Hundred and Eighty-Seven Thousand One Hundred and Four Pounds Nine Shillings and Seven Pence.

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Diplomatic and Consular Buildings.-It was explained to Your Committee that this excess was due to expenditure on Embassy and Legation Houses, involving a charge in excess of the provision made and that it is impossible to estimate accurately expenditure incurred abroad, exact figures not being available. until accounts are received after the close of the year.

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CLASS VI. VOTE. 4.

Ministry of Pensions.-This excess is due to the fact that the expenditure incurred by Overseas Agents (Dominion and Colonial Governments, &c.), which it is difficult to forecast accurately, was considerably in excess of the estimate.

NAVY, 1924-25.

One Hundred Pounds.

STATEMENT of the amount by which the Navy Grants for the Year ended 31st March, 1925, were exceeded as regards Gross Expenditure.

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The detailed statement presented to Your Committee shows that there have been excesses of Gross Expenditure under certain Votes amounting in all to £364,646 4s. 11d. Authority is sought to apply surpluses on Gross Expenditure under other Votes amounting to £318,794 1s. 5d. towards meeting this deficit. The net deficit on Gross Expenditure is thus £45,852 3s. 6d., which it is proposed to meet to the extent of £45,752 3s. 6d. out of surplus receipts, leaving the net amount to be voted £100.

Your Committee see no objection to the sums as set out above being provided by Excess Votes.

SECOND REPORT.

THE COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS have made further progress in the matters to them referred, and have agreed to the following SECOND REPORT:

GENERAL.

1. Out-turn of the Year.-The Public Accounts Committees of recent years have commented on the extent to which Departments have over-estimated their requirements, with the consequence that large sums voted by the House of Commons have fallen to be surrendered at the close of each year.

2. For the year 1923-24 there was a distinct improvement over the two previous years, though, as stated in the Second Report of the Public Accounts Committee 1925, there was still room for much improvement. Your Committee are glad to learn that the expectations of further improvement held out to them last year have been fully realised, inasmuch as the total amount to be surrendered on account of all Supply Services for that year proves to be 3.5 per cent. of the total net grant of £417,055,000, namely:

1924-25.

Qs. 3758-63 and para. 4 of C. & A. G.'s

Report.

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et seq.

3. Your Committee were informed on behalf of the Treasury that the out-turn for 1925-26 is expected to be even closer still. 4. Classification of Estimates.-Your Committee have had Qs. 7764 under consideration the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Estimates 1926 in their First Report, concerning the re-classification of Civil Votes. They concur in the regrouping proposed in paragraph 9 and the Appendix to that Report.

5. War Services.-Your Committee are glad to learn that the Q. 3698. work of the Surplus Stores Liquidation Commission and of the Shipping Liquidation Department is drawing to a close, and Q. 4179. that it is expected that the business of each will, with small exceptions, be completed by March 31st next.

*Includes, for purposes of comparison, the surplus of ordinary receipts, payable to the Exchequer.

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Qs. 52035215.

Qs. 239, 2763, 7985; App. 3.

Qs. 558-612.

6. The business of winding up the Food Liquidation Department and the Clearing Office (Enemy Debts) is complicated by legal difficulties, but Your Committee feel confident that all possible steps will be taken to expedite the despatch of outstanding questions.

7. Co-ordination of Purchases.-Your Committee have made inquiries from various Accounting Officers, in this and earlier years, as to the nature of the co-ordination in regard to the purchase of supplies, and particularly of clothing, which are required in generally similar form by a number of Departments. They learn that so far as the Fighting Services are concerned there is a regularly-constituted Contracts Co-ordinating Committee, and that the meetings of this Committee are attended by representatives from other Departments, e.g., the Post Office, whenever matters likely to affect them are discussed.

8. Your Committee consider it very important that the advantages of co-ordination and of bulk-purchase should be widely appreciated, and they would suggest that the Treasury might investigate the position with a view to satisfying themselves that these principles have been carried as far as is reasonably possible, and that no further centralisation is desirable.

PARTICULAR ACCOUNTS-CIVIL SERVICES
AND REVENUE DEPARTMENTS.

LABOUR AND HEALTH BUILDINGS, GREAT BRITAIN.

9. Accommodation for Labour Exchanges.-The Select Committee on Estimates 1925 (First Report), drew attention to the unsuitable and in many cases costly sites occupied by Labour Exchanges (paragraph 8), and recommended that further consideration should be given to the possibility of disposing of the more costly offices at present in use, and the selection of less costly and more appropriate positions.

10. Your Committee have taken evidence on this subject from the Secretary to the Office of Works, the Department responsible for supplying the requirements of the Ministry of Labour, and he has furnished us with a memorandum (Appendix 9) outlining the present policy.

11. Your Committee are glad to learn that the Ministry of Labour are now content with sites in less important thoroughfares provided they are centrally situated, and that in connection with the current programme accommodation in prominent main streets will in many cases be supplanted ultimately by other premises in less important positions. They trust that this new policy will be steadily pursued.

12. Your Committee note further that, now that the position in regard to Employment Exchange accommodation is stabilised, the Office of Works with the approval of the Treasury, is

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