HC Deb 01 August 1850 vol 113 cc653-9

(8.) 210,877l. Stationery, Printing, &c. Public Departments.


objected to the grant. He found that all that Ireland had received during the year in stationery amounted to 300l. How was that to be accounted for? By the fact, that the paper was chiefly made in London, and transmitted at great expense to Dublin. Thus, the Irish tradesman was robbed of his profits and his right to the printing and making of stationery for Irish use. The same principle was carried out in the Stamp Office, the law courts, and all the public departments in Dublin. He was told that this was right in carrying out the spirit of centralisation; but towards the people it was a gross injustice, and an injustice too towards the people of England, for the work could be done cheaper in Dublin, and also it would then cost nothing for transmission. He begged the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this subject. He believed that if Ireland had her fair portion of these enormous contracts, the result would have been, instead of 300l. for stationery, it would be somewhere about 80,000l. In the name of his constituents and his countrymen at large, he protested against the continuance of the present system as regarded Ireland; and he desired to know why Ireland should be deprived of this benefit? If Ireland was to be considered an integral part of the empire, she ought to have her fair share. Was the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that a resolution of the Lords of the Treasury, or of some department of the Treasury, existed, declaring that all the printing for the public departments of Ireland ought to be executed in Dublin, and not in London?


said, that if the right hon. Member would look at the estimate, he would see that the vote was for the whole amount of printing and stationery for the whole country, including the great amount for England, and reckon- ing the Parliamentary printing. There was the obvious cause of the apparent inequality complained of by the right hon. Gentleman. But the whole of the paper and printing for Ireland had been supplied through Irish factors and stationers. There was a stationer in Dublin who furnished the articles and executed the printing of the reports of a great many of the commissions and public boards in that city. These were printed by the Queen's printer, and sent over here by him. There were on the table of the House a great many reports which had been transmitted in a printed form from Dublin. So the Queen's stationer furnished the offices in the same manner as in London. He was not aware of the existence of any such Treasury resolution or minute as that referred to by the right hon. Member, but he would make inquiry into the subject.


denied that to be the case, and alleged that there was no such office in Ireland as the Queen's stationer. There was an office, indeed, conducted by Messrs. Grierson and Son, as the Queen's printing-office; but their occupation was chiefly confined to printing the Dublin Gazette, and an occasional small order from the Government. In one year the total amount of printing paid for by the Excise Board of Ireland did not exceed 51. Where was the printing for that board performed, for printing it was compelled to have? He hoped the Government would make inquiry of Mr. M'Culloch, who was at the head of the Stationery Office, but was no friend to Ireland, and that the Irish tradesman would no longer be defrauded, but that printing for the Irish Government would be given out where it ought to be done, namely, in Dublin.


had been chairman of the Committee on these subjects, and he found, by the evidence taken before them, that in Scotland the public printing had amounted to 13,000l. a year, and that it could be done in London for 4,000l. While the Customs and Excise were different establishments in Scotland and England, the case of Scotland might have been different; but when the Excise and Customs in Scotland were put under the same board, it was found that the quantity required by Scotland could be sent down at the amount of saving he had mentioned, and the office of Queen's printer in Scotland was put an end to. There was 100l. for the catalogues of the National Gallery, which were sold at the doors for 1d. a piece, and which therefore ought, he presumed, to pay for the expense of printing them. There was also a sum of 6,500l. for the London Gazette, for the printing of which he understood a contract had been entered into some months since. He desired that the accounts of the Gazette should be made public, that the House might be better able to judge of the charges made on account of it. There was also a charge for the sheriffs' court in Scotland, which was a patent office maintained by fees, and another for the Edinburgh Gazette. He suggested that the price of the London Gazette ought to be lowered, the effect of which, he believed, would be to quadruple its sale. There was also an item of 2,000l. for the promulgation of Acts of Parliament. In 1806, it was determined that a copy of every Act of Parliament should be lodged in every court of justice in the country, and 5,000 Acts had been distributed in accordance with that rule; but he believed that the magistrates of the various courts generally put the Acts in their pockets, and that they were not deposited in the various courts of justice at all. He would suggest that every public office should have copies of Acts of Parliament on paying for them, and the charge might be entered in their accounts. He proposed to strike out the different items he had mentioned.


said, that the great object for some time past had been to bring the different departments connected with the printing of public documents into one, and to place it under the control of one responsible officer, and a saving of 42,000l. had been effected by that means. He was rather surprised to hear the objections just raised by his hon. Friend, as they were directly in opposition to a system which he had himself recommended, namely, that they should take away these charges from each particular department, and put them under one general responsible head. If they were now to act upon the advice of his hon. Friend, they would be undoing all they had done, and would have been devoting a great deal of time and money in a most unavailing manner.


must tell his right hon. Friend that "none are so deaf as those who are unwilling to hear." It was needless to tell him (Mr. Hume) of the advantages of having all the public printing under the management of a single department, because he was the chairman of the Committee who had recommended the adoption of that plan. He only complained of the unnecessary expense incurred in certain departments. The War Office, for instance, was supplied with stationery at a price 300 per cent above what need be paid. His suggestion was, that there should be one office, but that each department should be charged with the amount proper to it. However, he did not want to apply that principle to public offices, but only to trading concerns like the London Gazette.


thought that the amount which would be saved by not promulgating Acts of Parliament would be small, and that it was not a point on which a saving ought to be effected. A greater saving was to be made by the manner in which the accounts were consolidated, than by any reduction in the cost of printing. There should be less printing, but that which was printed should be more available for use than the enormous volumes which were now printed. The Home and other departments of the Government should follow in this matter the example of the United States, where the public accounts were laid on the table of the Senate before the 10th of June last, including not only all the items which our accounts gave, but agricultural, shipping, and other statistics in the utmost variety of detail. In this country small returns were constantly called for, which would not be required if complete accounts were supplied at an earlier date.


said, that the delay of which the hon. Member complained, arose, as far as the Board of Trade was concerned, from the length of time that was required to procure returns from the colonies and foreign countries. He (Mr. Labouchere) had communicated with the Secretaries for the Colonial and Foreign Departments, and they had undertaken to procure from the diplomatic agents abroad the statistical information which was required.


said, that the Government of this country did not render its consular establishments abroad so available for the transmission of commercial information as the Governments of other countries.


said, that very considerable improvements had been made, and were still progressing, in the mode of printing the Parliamentary papers; and, among other features, in the preparation of abstracts, in which items alone a saving of 8,000 l. had this year been effected. He could also state that, by fresh arrangements with the printers to the House, a reduction of 10 per cent in the cost of printing had been effected this year; and that a further reduction of 10 per cent would take place next year. Still the whole system of Parliamentary returns and papers required the closest observation. There seemed absolutely no discrimination exercised on the part of Committees of the House as to printing evidence, and papers, and reports; everything, good, bad, and indifferent, was sent off to the printers, whereas very much that was printed might quite as usefully remain in manuscript. He saw among other items of this estimate 1,000l. for the Railway Board; this appeared to him a very unreasonable charge.


said, that no printing for the Government offices could be executed without authority from the Secretary of State, and such authority was never given without due inquiry. With regard to the printing for the Railway Board, it was merely an estimate, and might not all be expended.


wished to ask a question respecting agricultural statistics. He thought it very desirable that they should be obtained, and as full as possible. They bad already had them from Ireland, and they were very striking and valuable.


said, that if the Irish Government printing were left in Dublin, he would undertake that it should be done 20 per cent under the English charges.


said, that the charge for the printing of the catalogues of the National Gallery was the balance over the produce of the sale.


would ask, upon whom were the effects of a diminution of printing and other expenses to fall? Was it to be upon the working people or their employers? There was a strong feeling pervading the great body of the working classes in this metropolis with respect to the contract system which was so largely carried out. He thought it would be very unfortunate if that system were extended further.


said, that if they had a California under the table, there might be some force in the noble Lord's observation; but seeing that the taxes came principally out of the pockets of the working people, he did not see how they could be served by wasting these taxes. But the object for which he had principally risen was to renew a petition he had made last year in favour of the octavo form in printing Government papers. It had already been tried, and had proved very successful. The booksellers had discarded the old quarto form; nobody would buy quarto volumes, and they had no shelves in their libraries for them. He believed that the substitution of the octavo form would cause a saving of 20 per cent, and he did not see why it should not be adopted.


pressed for an answer to the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of Dublin.


said, he could not place much confidence in such volunteer offers as that of the right hon. Member for Dublin.


could inform the hon. Member for the West Riding that the Printing Committee were trying the experiment of the octavo form with every prospect of success. He was also glad to know that the same experiment was being tried in another place.


hoped that in adopting the octavo form, they would not make the figures too small. At present old eyes had much difficulty in deciphering them.


could corroborate his hon. Friend, especially as regarded the prison returns.


hoped that the octavo form would be that hereafter employed in printing Parliamentary books. As to these publications themselves, he observed hon. Gentlemen were exceedingly apt to indulge in easy sneers upon blue books and their contents, but in his opinion there were no works sent from the press which contained a greater body of continuous and valuable information: whether for depth of investigation or amplitude of detail, he would back the blue books against the great mass of literature—productions that assumed much higher pretensions.


said, it appeared the cost of printing for the military in Ireland was somewhat less than 700l., though there was a force of 36,000 men in that country. The charge for printing for the constabulary, who numbered only 12,000 men, was, however, 1,000l.; and there was another charge of 1,700l. for "police." He should like to know what was the difference between constabulary and police in Ireland? Although the charge for printing for the Irish Poor Law Com- mission was 2,000l., in the amount required by the English Commission there was an additional or supplementary charge in this vote of 1,500l. "for the Poor Law Commissioners." He thought the Government ought to afford the Committee some explanation on these subjects.

Vote agreed to.