§ House in Committee; Mr. FITZROY in the chair.
§ (1.) £3,461, Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he objected to the Vote, as most monstrous. He hoped that some reason would be given for taxing the people of this country to the amount of this Vote for the exclusive benefit of the Established Church, which was already possessed of ample funds to defray all expenses connected with it. Surely it could afford to pay Commissioners, whose sole duty was to protect its own property. Every principle of justice was opposed to such a vote as this, and he felt it his duty to divide the Committee upon it.
Motion made, and Question put—
That a sum, not exceeding £3,461, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray a portion of the Expenses of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England, to the 31st day of March, 1857.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 66: Majority 100.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £16,022, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Salaries and Expenses of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, to the 31st day of March, 1857.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, he wished to know whether it was the intention of the Government to introduce any measure to carry out the various schemes set forth in the last Report of the Charity Commissioners? More than a month ago he had himself called attention to the state of the charity called the Sherburn Hospital, in the county of Durham, which, in consequence of the death of the master, had 857 been in a state of abeyance for nearly two years. He had received a letter from the chaplain of the hospital stating that, whilst they had been waiting for legislation, a fourth of the occupants of the hospital had died, while many repairs, of which the institution stood in need, were left undone, because there was no one in authority to sanction the outlay. It certainly seemed strange that a great war with a country like Russia could be commenced and brought to a close in a less period of time than it took, the Government to regulate a single charity.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, it was not altogether different from the ordinary course of events that large and important questions should be settled in a much shorter period of time than was taken up with the arrangement of comparatively minor interests. No doubt the delays in regard to the settlement of those local charities upon a satisfactory basis was in great measure owing to a want of power on the part of the Charity Commissioners. However, the question had engaged the attention of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and it was his intention shortly to introduce a Bill on the subject.
§ MR. LIDDELL
Can the noble Lord give a pledge that the Bill will be introduced during the present Session?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I may undertake to say the Bill will be introduced during the present Session.
§ MR. INGHAM
said, he believed matters would have been in a much more forward state had it not been for the jealousy of Parliament in preventing the Charity Commissioners from sitting in Parliament. Had they been allowed to do so, they would then have had some one in the House willing to attend to the preparation of Local Charity Bills.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he thought that the Commissioners attended to charities which did not require their attention, while they neglected those into which they ought to inquire. The charities of Coventry were administered satisfactorily by the Commissioners appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and nobody wanted the interference of the Charity Commissioners. Two of the charities required some change, and the alteration proposed by the Lord Chancellor's Commissioners met with almost universal approbation; but the Charity Commissioners, who knew nothing about the wants of the population, dis- 858 agreed, and persisted in recommending a plan of their own. He thought it most unjustifiable to pay a Commission for acting in opposition to the wishes of the people and doing mischief, and therefore he should move that the Vote be reduced by £2,632, with the view of making the amount of it the same as last year.
§ SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
said, he thought there was much reason to complain of the arbitrary spirit with which the Charity Commissioners had dealt with local charities, besides in many instances acting in exact contravention of the wishes of the founders. Some time ago he had presented a petition signed by upwards of 1,000 inhabitants of the town of Spalding, in Lincolnshire, protesting against the manner in which the Commissioners had dealt with a local charity of theirs. It appeared, from investigation, that a former inhabitant had left a sum of money to be distributed amongst the poorest of the population, either in fuel or in doles of money. Well, the Commissioners proceeded to found a school out of the produce of the charity, and although the inhabitants pointed out that they already possessed an endowed grammar school, while there were other schools well supported, supplying adequate means of instruction to both rich and poor amongst the 9,000 inhabitants comprising the population of the town, no notice had been taken by the Commissioners of the remonstrances of the inhabitants, and there the matter remained.
said, he did not see that the diminution of the Vote would have any tendency to improve the working of the Charity Commission. It was utterly unfit for the work it had to do, and the House should determine whether it should have its powers increased, or whether it should be altogether abolished. The whole thing was at present in a very unsatisfactory state, great evil arising from delay in obtaining a sanction by Bills to the schemes of the Charity Commissioners, and the expense and delay were now even greater than under the former system, when the sanction was given by the agency of the Court of Chancery. He wished to know whether an attempt would be made by the Government to give validity to the schemes of the Charity Commissioners, and also to improve their powers of working? He considered that the Government were bound to give a clear intimation of their intentions.
§ MR. BAINES
said, that his connection with the Charity Commission was but of recent date, and he had no personal knowledge of some of the cases which had been brought under the notice of the Committee; but he certainly would have been prepared to give explanations respecting them, had it been previously intimated to him that they would have been referred to. In answer to the question put by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Headlam), with respect to the schemes of the Charity Commissioners, contained in their last Report, he could state that it was the intention of the Lord Chancellor forth with to introduce in the other House five or six Bills for the purpose of obtaining legislative sanction to the schemes relating to Dulwich College and some other charities. Short as had been his connection with the Charity Commission, it was long enough to convince him of this—that no men could exert themselves more strenuously and zealously in the performance of their duties than the Charity Commissioners. They felt that the law under which they acted was in an unsatisfactory state, and that the powers given them were in some respects extremely limited. An Amendment of the Act was promulgated last Session, but that was by no means sufficient to remedy the evil. If he should have the honour of retaining his connection with the Charity Commission, he should feel it his duty to bring in some measure to improve the powers of the Commissioners.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the mode of dealing with this matter. He was much satisfied that the subject had been brought forward; but he did not see how cutting down the Vote would have any bearing on the subject. No doubt some cases had arisen which had created considerable alarm, he might say, in many minds. The Commissioners apparently had got some kind of hobby in their minds in respect to some of those charities. Instead of seeing the charities of England properly administered, according to the obvious intentions of the founders, the Commissioners appeared to be determined to apply them all in the general way of education. They Were in this difficulty—suppose the Commissioners had the absolute power of dealing with the charities without coming to Parliament, the House might reasonably complain that they could not stop this mischief. He, therefore, thought that the necessity of coming to Parliament was a 860 very wholesome check. They were now somewhat advanced in the Session; and those Bills spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) were not as yet introduced into the other House of Parliament. He (Mr. Henley) had only to express a hope that they would be brought before the House of Commons in time to enable them to discuss their merits with that gravity which their importance demanded. If they were held back, however, until the last fortnight or three weeks of the Session, it would then be impossible that they could receive that care and attention from that House which they deserved. He had been in communication with some of the people of Coventry, and they quite confirmed what had been stated by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams). He was very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) the representative of the Commission in that House. Whatever body the right hon. Gentleman was a Member of, would derive great weight from his high character and position. His great talents and judicial mind, when applied to the business of the Commission, would be of great public service, because he was the last man that was likely to be led away by any particular fancy as to the distribution of those funds. There was one matter which was not in a very satisfactory position in the Estimates; there was an item of £3,400 under the head of "inspection."
§ MR. WILSON
said, the increase in this year's Vote was rendered necessary by the increased work which the Commission had to do. When the Commissioners were first appointed, they only employed as many clerks and inspectors as were absolutely necessary for the duties to be performed; but as their work developed itself each year and the range of their operations was extended, an increased staff was necessary in consequence. Last year they had thirty-six officers, while this year they had forty-six, and that was why the Vote was so much larger.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, he hoped that the Commission had not lost sight of the Sherburn Charity, but that it would be provided for in the Bills which were about to be brought forward.
§ CAPTAIN STUART
said, he must beg to express his satisfaction at the announcement which had been made by the Government of the intention to introduce measures during the present Session for 861 sanctioning the schemes already decided upon.
§ SIR JOSEPH PAXTON
said, he objected to the manner in which the Commissioners got the information on which they founded their Reports. He thought that they should take down the evidence of parties in the places where the charities were situate. In the case of Coventry, they did not take that course, and the consequence was, that they had made a Report which the inhabitants entirely repudiated, and it was acceptable to no one.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, that with reference to the five or six measures that were to be introduced upon this subject in the other House, he believed that they would be sent down to the House of Commons in the dog-days, when it would be perfectly impossible to give them proper consideration. It was quite clear from what they knew of the feeling of the people in regard to those charities, that the movements of the Commissioners would be more closely watched than those of any other body. Now, what he wanted to know was, what was the cause of the delay in the introduction of those Bills? Four months of the Session had now passed by, and yet those measures, they were told, were not yet ready. In respect to the financial part of the question, it appeared to him that it turned very much on the question of inspection. He had not heard from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) any statement to show the necessity of this increase of £2,000 or £3,000 for inspectors. The number of inspectors in this kingdom had increased to an alarming extent. We expended £5,250,000 upon the civil service, out of which we paid a large sum in the way of superannuations. Unless the right hon. Gentleman could give very strong reasons for so great an increase in the way of inspectors, he thought that the Committee would neglect their duty if it did not support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Lambeth.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that the Charity Commission had started with a very small number of clerks. At present, however, there was employed under it a greater number than in the Home Office, and exactly the same number as in the Colonial Office, where the business of our forty-eight colonies was transacted. Of the three additional inspectors whom it was proposed to appoint at the salary of £800 per annum each, he (Mr. Williams) 862 understood from authority that could not be doubted that one of them was a country attorney who had been an active electioneering agent for some Members in that House.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that they had voted last year £5,000 for the Solicitors' Bill, and £5,000 more in the present year, although no Bill of the kind had as yet been received. He thought it was a bad system to be voting this money for two years together, in the absence of the examinations of any accounts for which the money was given. He would beg to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman opposite to the point he had just alluded to, and to inquire the reason why no explanation had as yet been given of it?
§ MR. WILSON
said, that the Bills referred to by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire did not apply to the Charity Commission at all; they were connected with the business done under the authority of the Lord Chancellor. Those additional inspectors were appointed, because it was found that the two inspectors previously employed were utterly inadequate to the work that devolved upon them. With regard to the number of clerks employed, the Commissioners had shown the greatest anxiety to keep them down to the lowest possible number; but the increase during the present year in the number was occasioned by the immense amount of work that was to be performed.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he should wish to have some explanation as to the respective duties of the Court of Chancery Commissioners and the new Charity Commissioners.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that the existing Commissioners would gradually supersede the former Commissioners in respect to the work remaining to be done under the latter; but the former Commissioners would still have the power to put the Attorney General in motion in reference to those proceedings that could only be conducted in Chancery, and in connection with those proceedings it was necessary to have a solicitor.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, that the Vote for the Commission last year was £12,390. The payments made by the Bank of England, on account of the Commission, had been during the past year £13,502. He wished, therefore, to know how there could be a balance of £750 as stated in the Votes to the credit of the Commission?
§ MR. WILSON
said, the balance was in the Treasury, and not in the Bank of England. Of the payments made, some were for the expenses of the preceding year, and consequently their amount exceeded that of the Vote.
§ SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
said, he should like to know if all those charitable estates were gradually to merge into the Charity Commission, what was to become of the properties that were locked up in Chancery, a portion of the proceeds of which had been devoted to the payment of costs incurred? There was a vast number of estates locked up in the name of the Attorney General.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he would ask then, whether they were to understand that no further suits could be instituted in the Court of Chancery without the direction of the Charity Commissioners?
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he did not think that there remained any cases in which the former Commissioners had reported that proceedings had been taken. As to any new proceedings, the present Commissioners would supersede the old.
§ MR. KNIGHT
said, he must congratulate the parties interested in those charities, upon the accession of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the Commission. The present conduct of charity suits had given rise to great dissatisfaction, owing to the enormous expense with which they were attended. Returns of the cost of those actions from 1821 up to the last year, showed that the amount disbursed had been constantly increasing. During the period between 1821 and 1835, when Mr. Hindes had charge of these proceedings, the sum expended was £21,503, or at the rate of about £1,500 per annum. The corresponding item for the next six years, up to June, 1841, was £19,193, or equal to £3,199 a year. This augmentation occurred under Mr. Parkes' tenure of the office of solicitor, and from this last-named date to December, 1847, the costs of these suits still further increased, the amount expended on them during that period being upwards of £39,000, or not less than £6,140 per annum. Mr. Fearon then succeeded to the office of solicitor, when the annual cost at first rose to £8,400, and during the last four years, ending March, 1855, the sum actually reached 864 £10,500 per annum. From these facts it would be seen, that since Mr. Hindes had had the conduct of these suits, the expense had increased sevenfold. Great dissatisfaction was the natural consequence of such a state of things. In the case of a school charity in his (Mr. Knight's) own district (Worcestershire), the matter was taken in hand by Mr. Parkes, and, owing to the delays which occurred in the course of the proceedings, the charity was extinguished for a period of fourteen years, and costs exceeding £1,200 were incurred. He thought it absolutely necessary that the law officers connected with public establishments of this description should be paid by salaries instead of by fees, for it would then be their interest, as well as their duty, to bring any legal business in which they were engaged to as speedy a conclusion as possible. Mr. Fearon might be animated by very good intentions, but it was his interest, under the existing system, to promote rather than to discourage litigation. He (Mr. Knight) believed that the solicitors to nearly all the great public bodies in England and to most of the Government departments were now paid by salaries instead of by fees, and he did not see why the same principle should not be adopted in the case of the Charity Commission.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he was not anxious to continue the present discussion, but he felt that he should be wanting in common justice if he did not say a word in behalf of one of the most meritorious officers in the public service— he meant Mr. Fearon. If the Committee chose to put that gentleman on a salary, of course it could do so; but surely it could not be ascribed to Mr. Fearon that Parliament had passed a Bill appointing Commissioners, and that a vast increase of business had resulted therefrom. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Knight) seemed to complain that Mr. Fearon had superseded the ordinary relators in charitable causes; but if that were so, it was entirely in consequence of the measures of Parliament itself. It had been found that the proceedings in charity matters in relators' suits were attended with the most abominable abuses, and that such suits had frequently been got up by attorneys with the view of making costs out of them. So far, then, from desiring to see the Charity Commissioners deprived of the authority now vested in them, and these suits left to the mere optional proceedings of private relators, he believed they could not do better than per- 865 sist in the course which Parliament had deliberately adopted; and it was also his opinion that no man was more competent to discharge the duties of his office than Mr. Fearon. If, however, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Knight) wished for inquiry as to the manner in which the business of the charities was managed in the Attorney General's office, and would move for a Committee on the subject, he (the Attorney General) would be happy to second the Motion; and he had no doubt the result would be to show that there was no public officer more entitled to their thanks than Mr. Fearon.
Motion made, and Question put—
That a sum, not exceeding £3,390, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Salaries and Expenses of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, to the 31st day of March, 1857.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 40; Noes 146; Majority 106.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (3.) £1,911, Statute Law Commission.
MR. LOCKE KING
said, he had made so many complaints against the Statute Law Commission that it would not be necessary for him to say much upon the present occasion. If the Government were determined that no reform should take place, they could not adopt a more effective plan for accomplishing their purpose than that of continuing the Commission in its existing state. He could only characterise the Commission as a "complete delusion" on the public. In 1853 no less a sum than £7,500 was voted for it, and a kind of promise was then made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, that it really was to be a working body of men. At the same time, the Lord Chancellor, in another place, stated the outline of a plan for clearing the Statute Book of certain Acts which were completely useless, and for bringing the written law into a uniform shape. Since that period other sums had been voted for the Commission, which made the total expenditure nearly £12,000, but up to the present time not a single result had been obtained. At one period there was a working staff attached to the Commission, consisting of three learned Gentlemen—Messrs. Rogers, Anstey, and Coode—well known for their great desire to effect a reform of the Statute Book; but at the end of the first year they were discharged, certainly not for having done little, because they 866 laboured most zealously in the work. The present Chief Commissioner was Mr. Bellenden Ker, who had been a member of the Commission since 1853, and had received the greater part of the sum already voted by Parliament. He was also for no less a period than seventeen years on the Criminal Law Commission, which cost the country £50,000, also without a single result. Surely the Committee would not think that such a state of things ought to be continued. Since the abandonment of the plan laid down by the Lord Chancellor, the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk (Sir F. Kelly), in February last, with a great flourish of trumpets, had asked leave to introduce two Bills for the consolidation of the Statute Law; but those Bills had not yet made their appearance, and he much doubted whether they would be passed, even under the most favourable circumstances, during the present Session. The hon. and learned Attorney General, in his memorandum recently laid on the table of the House, suggested a most admirable plan for the reform of the Statute Book. His hon. and learned Friend adopted that plan which nearly every sincere law reformer sought to obtain—namely, the expurgation from the Statute Book of all that mass of obsolete laws with which it was at present incumbered. At the end of his paper he expressed his conviction that the necessity for a consolidation of the Statutes being now so strongly and so generally felt, Parliament would readily supply whatever funds might be required for its accomplishment, if once convinced that the work was undertaken in earnest and with a reasonable security of a speedy and satisfactory result. The hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to say that he saw no reason, if a sufficient number of able hands were employed, why the work should not be achieved in twelve months; while he was convinced that if we proceeded in the present manner, twenty years would not suffice even for its imperfect completion. Such was the deliberately expressed opinion of the Attorney General, and there could be no doubt that he was right. Parliament, he felt assured, would gladly grant almost any sum that might be asked for the consolidation of the Statutes, provided it were assured that the duty would be efficiently discharged; but he certainly did object to vote sums year after year without anything being done. The present constitution of 867 the Commission was radically defective. It was well known that the first Commissioner, who received a salary of £1,000 per annum, did not devote his whole time to the work, and it might also be questioned whether, looking at his antecedents and his ordinary occupation, he was the fittest man for the place. What the country wanted was, not a useless Commission, consisting exclusively of the favourite of some Member of the Government, but a really effective body, able and willing to reduce the Statute Book into something like shape. There were between 200 and 300 Acts relating to the Poor Laws, which required consolidation. A digest had been prepared of these laws, and he had moved for a return of it, but by some mistake an incorrect copy had been printed, and although he had pointed out the fact, the incorrect copy was that subsequently issued for circulation. It was, of course, perfectly useless. A correspondence had taken place between the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Coode on the subject, in which Mr. Coode offered a digest of those Acts. That correspondence was excluded from the Return. He begged to say that he had no personal motive whatever in making these observations with regard to Mr. Bellenden Ker. He did not even know the gentleman by sight.
§ MR. BAINES
said, he had the honour of being a member of the Statute Law Commission, and he hoped the Committee would allow him to make a statement in reference to the observations of the hon. Member for East Surrey. He could not help saying that on several occasions, when the Statute Law Commission was under consideration, notwithstanding the disclaimer of the hon. Member (Mr. L. King), the hon. Member had shown a hostile feeling towards Mr. Bellenden Ker. He was quite convinced that the hon. Gentleman was acting under a sense of public duty; but at the same time he believed that he was labouring under some misapprehension as to the conduct of Mr. Bellenden Ker. The hon. Gentleman had evidently implied by his remarks that the Lord Chancellor had exercised his patronage in regard to Mr. Bellenden Ker from personal friendship towards that gentleman. He (Mr. Baines) had the authority of the Lord Chancellor for saying that Mr. Bellenden Ker had no personal claim on him, nor any other claim beyond that which his well-known ability naturally commanded. The reason why the Lord 868 Chancellor adopted the services of that gentleman in the Statute Law Commission was this, that Mr. Bellenden Ker had been engaged for a number of years in the Criminal Law Commission, and on which he had shown considerable ability. The hon. Member for East Surrey had said that there was no result from that Commission. He (Mr. Baines) would appeal to many hon. Gentlemen of the legal profession, now Members of that House, whether there had not been some most important results. If there had not proceeded many new Acts of Parliament from its labours, much preliminary matter had been produced, which must ultimately result in several Acts of the greatest utility. To say, therefore, that there had been no result from the labours of the Criminal Law Commission, was to state what was not borne out by fact. When the present Statute Law Commission was proposed, his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor thought he could not do better than avail himself of the ability of the same gentlemen who had been employed on the Criminal Law Commission; he accordingly engaged the services of Mr. Bellenden Ker. The hon. Member for East Surrey had said that Mr. Bellenden Ker did not give the whole of his time to his work, but he gave full half of his time to his work. He (Mr. Baines) would appeal to the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk (Sir F. Kelly), whether the conduct of Mr. Bellenden Ker had not been such as to justify the trust reposed in him by the Lord Chancellor. He (Mr. Baines) believed that that gentleman had discharged his duty in a vigilant and able manner. If, indeed, they looked at the number of Acts of Parliament already passed in consequence of the labours of the Commission, he admitted that they were not very numerous; but if they regarded the Acts that were likely soon to pass, they would be of opinion that a very different result had proceeded from the Commission. A great deal of labour had necessarily been devoted by the Commission in the preparation of Bills to be brought before Parliament. He would now state to the Committee what bad been the labours of the Commission. The question the Commission had to inquire into was a very complicated one, and the duties of the Commissioners were of a very laborious nature. There had been the consolidation of the National Debt Act, the Landlord and 869 Tenant Act, the Master and Workman Act, the Law relating to Prisons, to Stamps, to the Statute of Limitations, to Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes, the consolidation of the Criminal Law, consisting of eight Bills under those heads. Then there were the following subjects also dealt with—namely, Offences against the Person, Offences against Property, Malicious Injury to Property, Forgery, Treason, and other Offences against the State; and the law of General Procedure. On all these points Bills had been prepared, and other Bills in regard to other subjects of the law were in forward preparation, such as the consolidation of the law of Carriers by Land and Water, and the law of Aliens and Denizens. The classification of these Statutes brought him to another part of the labours of the Commission of very considerable importance, which was embodied in their second Report. In that Report they stated that their attention had been called to a most important subject—namely, the appointment of a public officer, or of a Board to revise current legislation. He was glad to say that some most valuable suggestions had been made by the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), as well as by the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk (Sir F. Kelly). Those suggestions were taken into consideration by the Commission, and in their Report the Commissioners had stated a plan for the purpose of carrying into effect most of the objects which he had mentioned. After the various labours to which the Statute Law Commissioners had devoted themselves, it could not in justice be said that there had been no results from the labours of that Commission. He trusted that he had said enough to satisfy the Committee that the Commissioners had been judiciously exerting themselves in the prosecution of their arduous and valuable duties. They were, however, still most diligently exerting themselves to carry out the objects for which they were appointed, and when they finally closed their duties, he trusted it would appear that their labours had not been thrown away.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, he was by no means sorry that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) had taken that opportunity of depreciating the labours of the Statute Law Commission, for it would afford him an opportunity of addressing a few words to the Committee 870 on the subject of the Commission. He was quite ready to confirm all that had fallen from his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baines) respecting the very great merits of Mr. Bellenden Ker. He ventured to say, without fear of contradiction, that it would be totally impossible to effect any of the great objects for which the Commission was appointed without the aid of Mr. Bellenden Ker. That gentleman had attended every meeting of the Commission, and he had dedicated a great deal of his time, which he might profitably have employed on other business, to business relating to the Commission, but which did not fall within the scope of his duty. The salary paid to Mr. Bellenden Ker, which if even doubled in amount would still be inadequate, was paid him for services rendered to the Lord Chancellor in advising upon all Law Bills, without which assistance it would be quite impossible for the noble and learned Lord properly to fulfil all the duties of his high office. Quitting that personal subject, he would now call to the notice of the Committee what the Commission had really done. During the first one or two years of its existence, the Statute Law Commission, although it failed to do anything that could be called a consolidation of any definite portion of the Statute Law, did much which facilitated the task of those who were now engaged in that work. They had directed the preparation of Consolidation Bills upon several important and complicated subjects, and also of various indexes of obsolete, expired, and repealed Statutes, and other Statutes that ought not to remain on the Statute Book. At an early period of the present year the Commissioners perceived that, however useful might be the consolidation of Statutes upon particular subjects, yet the time was come when it was necessary to determine upon some fixed and practicable plan in order to bring the chief objects of their labour to a successful issue; and accordingly, in March, the Lord Chancellor invited the members of the Commission to bring forward any plans they might have formed for the complete consolidation of the Statute Law. He (Sir F. Kelly) submitted a plan, and the Attorney General also intimated his intention of submitting one, but, in consequence of the pressure of the hon. and learned Gentleman's other duties, he had stated that he was unable to bring it before the Commission for some weeks. His (Sir F. Kelly's) plan was considered by the Commission, 871 and it was agreed to proceed upon it, and instructions were given to prepare two or three Bills upon very important subjects. Some weeks later the Attorney General produced his plan, and upon examination it was found that everything that was proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman which was practicable had been proposed, and was actually being carried into operation under the other plan previously adopted. The Statute Law of England was at present spread over no less than forty volumes, containing upon an average 1,000 pages each. Through those volumes enactments were scattered without order or arrangement, sometimes embracing ten or twelve, or even as many as twenty, different subjects in a single enactment. The object of the Statute Law Commission was to get rid of those forty volumes with all their defects, and to substitute some five or six volumes which should contain the whole Statute Law of England, reduced to about 300 Acts of Parliament, each Act embracing a single subject, but the whole of that subject. Those 300 Acts again were to be reduced into classes, each constituting a complete class of the Statute Law. The reason why no Bill had been as yet laid by the Commission on the table of the House was this, that it was found necessary to collect one or two classes, and to collect the whole of the Bills that would come within those classes, before proceeding with a single Bill. The Criminal Law—that which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General considered most important—had been first taken in hand. That law had been divided into classes, forming in the whole eight Bills, which Bills, with the exception of the whole of one and a part of another, he (Sir F. Kelly) had revised from beginning to end. Those Bills only awaited the revision of Lord Wensleydale and Sir John Jervis—two members of the Commission—and would be laid on the table of the House in a few days; and when they should have been so laid on the table, hon. Members would be able to form an idea of the difficulty which the Commissioners had had to encounter at every step, and they would at the same time have an opportunity of judging whether the consolidation of this one class did not afford the strongest ground for hoping that the whole work would be completed within the time specified. He hoped the statement he had made would satisfy the hon. Member for East Surrey, that, so far from doing nothing, the Sta- 872 tute Law Commission had done much towards the achievement of a great national undertaking, and as a proof of it he might say that the Sleeping Statutes Bill, introduced by the hon. Member himself, was the result of the labours of the Statute Law Commission, and was in fact taken so literally from a plan of theirs that some errors which had been detected by him (Sir F. Kelly) had been adopted by the hon. Member in his Bill. So far from the Statute Law Commission being open to reprehension or suspicion, they had done all that could be done by a body of learned and distinguished men, and that which they were doing, if they were permitted to do it, by the support of Her Majesty's Government and of Parliament, would be the achievement of one of the greatest national undertakings ever executed in this country.
§ MR. WATSON
said, he was quite prepared to vote the money asked by her Majesty's Government, but at the same time he required an assurance that it would work some good. The Commission, which had now been sitting three years, had done nothing in the world. Enormous sums were paid for the Criminal Law Commission, which was employed for many years to consolidate the Criminal Law, but no fruit had ever yet been obtained from the labours of that Commission. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly) told them in the month of February there was no difficulty in consolidating, the great difficulty being in codifying, and he now said there was nothing but difficulty in consolidating. The hon. and learned Gentleman asserted that in eighteen months he would not only prepare, with the assistance of his friends, but pass through both Houses, a perfect consolidation of the Statute Law of this country; but now, according to his account, there were nothing but difficulties on all sides. He took the liberty of repeating what he had said privately at the time, that if the hon. and learned Gentleman did in eighteen years one-half what he said he could do in eighteen months he would be entitled to a higher statue to his memory than the Duke of York's. He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General would let them know what was really doing in this business. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. L. King) proposed first to ascertain the obsolete laws and laws out of use, and to expunge them from the Statute Book, and then to begin consolidation. Until that 873 was done, nothing, in his opinion, could be done; and they had not taken the first step. But the hon. and learned Member (Sir F. Kelly) said it was beginning at the wrong end to take out the repealed Statutes, and they ought to begin to consolidate before they knew what there was to consolidate. He conceded that the difficulties in consolidation were immense, the ancient and modern Statutes being full of contradictions. He wished to see them not only consolidating the Statute Law, but making positive enactments out of the unwritten law, and then, and not until then, would they have the law brought into a scientific state. The learned Judges upon the Commission were constantly employed in the high duties of their profession, and one good head constantly employed, and with efficient subordinates, would be worth the whole fourteen members of the present Commission.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, he could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that certain Gentlemen were at present, and had been for some weeks, engaged in the work of expurgation of obsolete Statutes. Seventeen or eighteen Bills had been prepared, any one of which would take any hon. Member six months to frame, and they were nearly ready to be laid upon the table. The difficulties surrounding the question were immense. When he brought forward the question early in the present Session he said it would be necessary that he should have the support of the Government, and that they should undertake to supply the funds. Six weeks afterwards the question was brought under the notice of the Cabinet, which had given the necessary authority. Since then not an hour had been lost. From twelve to fifteen barristers had been constantly employed, and as fast as they had prepared Bills he had been engaged in revising them. As soon as possible those Bills would be laid on the table.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he fully agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Suffolk (Sir F. Kelly) that Mr. Bellenden Ker had been unjustly attacked. It was true he received £1,000 a year, but he had assured him (Mr. Malins) that, if he were relieved of his duties, he would most willingly relinquish his salary. He was perfectly satisfied, looking at what Mr. Ker's private practice as a conveyancer would be if he were not so engaged, that, so far from deriving any advantage from his appointment in a pecu- 874 niary point of view, it was a disadvantage to him. He therefore regretted to hear the hon. Member for East Surrey renew his attacks this year upon that gentleman. His hon. and learned Friend (Sir F. Kelly) spoke of the great difficulty which attended the consolidation of the law, and as if there were no digest which could guide the profession to all the really important Statutes. But it should be remembered that several learned gentlemen had prepared valuable works, either with respect to their professional views or their own emoluments. There were, for instance, certain collections of Mr. Evans and Mr. Chitty, which had been ably edited by Mr. Welsby and Mr. Bevan, and by referring to which the practitioner could find brought together all the laws on certain particular subjects. He had not the slightest doubt that a great deal might be done by the Statute Law Commission, but he believed that the difficulties which beset its operations were very great. In the short Report made by the Commission two points of great importance were touched upon. The first was the appointment of a Minister of Justice, or some such officer, to superintend the passing of any Bill on the subject through both Houses; the second was the classification of the Statutes, and he thought that, if the recommendation of classifying them every year were adopted, it would be a great advantage to the public as well as the profession.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he wanted a little explanation as to the expenditure of this sum of £1,911, and how far it would advance the object of the Statute Law Commission. He thought the Committee could not make a greater mistake than by giving money to a gentleman for one service, while he had a salary for performing another. That was the position of Mr. Bellenden Ker. It was said that Mr. Bellenden Ker rendered great service to the Lord Chancellor; but if so, he should be paid as legal adviser to the Lord Chancellor, and not in some other capacity which he did not fill. He entertained great doubts as to the possibility of any codification of the Statutes. He thought one of the first objects of the House of Commons should be to amend its system of legislation. He wished to know whether the fifteen gentlemen of the Statute Law Commission, who were said to be on the work of codifying the Statutes, were paid or were amateurs?
§ MR. BOWYER
said, he did not rise to 875 object to the Vote. He would willingly vote ten times the amount proposed, if a business so important to the public service would be thereby placed upon a satisfactory and efficient footing. The staff of the Commission consisted of a Commissioner at a salary of £1,000; a second Commissioner at £600; and a clerk at £100; which, in the aggregate, amounted to a sum rather less than what was paid for the staff of the National Gallery. He had latterly voted against a sum of £22,000 proposed for improvements in the parks. Now half of that sum would suffice to consolidate the Statutes in a proper manner; but that, he believed, would never be done until it was made a department of the State, and a proper number of persons were appointed to do the work.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that, since 1853, a sum of £11,000 had been expended for the purposes the Commission had in view. The Statute Book contained, he believed, 17,000 Acts of Parliament, in forty volumes, but of these only some 2,500 were operative, the remainder being for the greater part obsolete. There was, therefore, only about one-sixth of the whole which required revision, thus reducing the forty volumes to something like seven, and that was the amount of work which eminent gentlemen described as fraught with such difficulties that the human mind was unable to perform its task. He believed that the difficulties had been very much exaggerated, and he trusted that the item would be disallowed.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he wished to know what benefit the country had derived from the money which had been expended in the attempt to consolidate the Statutes? No doubt there was a certain amount of difficulty in the undertaking, but, if properly managed, it could unquestionably be accomplished. The difficulties which would attend the consolidation of the law of this country would not be as great as those under which the Roman Code was framed, nor as those under which was drawn up the Code Napoleon, which, with all its imperfections, was a model of legislative wisdom. As to the present Commissioners, he did not think—and he said it with the utmost respect—that the Lord Chancellor had sufficiently estimated the importance of the task, nor did he think that Mr. Bellenden Ker was the person best fitted to preside over the Commission. In his 876 opinion the best method of accomplishing the task would be, instead of having a Commission composed of eminent men who entertained contradictory opinions, to have two or three eminent men, aided by an efficient staff, under the guidance of one person. There was no difficulty in the case which might not be easily surmounted in four or five years by pursuing a right system. He would be prepared to vote a very considerable sum of money for such a purpose as that; but with regard to the present Vote he looked upon it as money not merely thrown away, but as money expended in a manner that was positively mischievous.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he considered that the desirability of codifying the law was a question, and perhaps a doubtful question, for a nation like England; but there was no question as to the fact, that it would be most unwise for Parliament to profess that a code ought to be drawn up, unless it was prepared to set seriously about the task. Now, as to the performance of that task, he could only say that it appeared to him no nearer to completion than it was three years ago. It had been said that the present Commission had been very successful; but in order to be successful three things were necessary. The Commission, in the first place, to have been successful, ought to have been able to consolidate the law clearly; in the second place, they ought to have been able to obtain the approval of Parliament for the Statutes which they proposed; and thirdly, those Statutes ought to have received the approbation of the Judges. Now, had the Commission performed their task to the satisfaction of any one but themselves. It was surely most desirable that the House of Commons should have some prospect of this work being speedily accomplished. The hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk (Sir F. Kelly) had stated that certain Bills had been introduced which might prove exceedingly useful if they only received the support of Her Majesty's Government. Now, he willingly confessed that was a point of the most vital importance. The task was one of great importance, and one which required great authority for its execution. It was by no means matter for despair that with regard to some portions of the Criminal Law the late Sir Robert Peel had, with the assistance of his own law officers and of a gentleman of great ability, Mr. Gregson, been able to introduce and carry 877 a very clear law upon the subject. Afterwards, when it became desirable to mitigate the severity of the criminal code, he (Lord J. Russell) had introduced various measures upon the subject, and he had been greatly assisted in the task by the Criminal Law Commissioners, and one of the Judges had assured him that the Judges generally were satisfied with those measures. In order, however, to carry measures of that character, it was necessary that some Minister of the Crown should undertake the matter, and that the Government should not merely undertake to support those measures, but that they should consider those which they approved as their own, and should use all their influence to carry them into law. If a number of Bills were thrown upon the table of the House providing for the consolidation of the law, not supported, or rather adopted by the Government, he should despair of their success. One of the greatest men of modern times—the late Emperor Napoleon—when he was first Consul, and when he was engaged in considering the provisions of that code which would ever be a monument of legislative wisdom, was in the habit, from ten o'clock in the morning until five in the evening, of taking counsel with his law officers and discussing its provisions. After the articles had been framed according to the sense of the majority of the Council, they were sent to the different departments of France for the consideration of the tribunals. Now, he (Lord J. Russell) thought that, in like manner, after the subject had been fully considered by those who were selected for the work, the product of their deliberations might be submitted to the Lord Chief Justices, the Master of the Rolls, and other high legal authorities. To employ those high legal functionaries in the initiatory labours was to put them in a position that could hardly be useful, but their services would be of great value if they had the supervision and, if necessary, the correction of the work of others. Even three times the expense at present incurred would not be thrown away if, by such means as he had hinted at, those separate Bills, having the approval of the highest authorities, were brought into Parliament under the sanction of ths Government. Whether they were brought in by the Home Secretary, the Solicitor General, his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or by a Minister of Justice, let it be understood that 878 they were the measures of the Government—that it was their object seriously to improve and reform the Statute Book—to make that the principal business of the Session—and that they were prepared to form a code on which the reputation of the country might be staked. If that were done, then we might expect the production of such a code as could be placed in competition with that of any other country in the world. As to the particular plans which had been brought forward he would express no opinion. It might be that the plan of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General was better than that of the Commissioners, or that the plan of the Commissioners was better than that of the Attorney General. On that matter he gave no opinion, but he would most earnestly repeat the view he had expressed, that on a question of such serious importance the labours of those appointed to discharge this duty ought to be submitted to the highest and most competent authorities, and then such a reform of the Statute Book would be obtained as he felt assured would satisfy the House of Commons and the country.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, he wished to say a few words on the question under consideration which he must admit was one of paramount importance, though much that he intended to say had been anticipated in what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for London. He must of course believe that the mode of procedure which had been adopted was the best that could be followed considering the high authority on which it rested, and he could with great sincerity bear testimony to the zeal, energy, and industry which the Statute Law Commission had exhibited; but it was unreasonable, within so short a time, to look for anything as the direct fruits of their labours. The results of their exertions would be produced in a short period in a collected form, and therefore he thought that a great deal of what had been said was unseasonable in point of time. When the question was first mooted in 1853, he had doubted whether the object could be effectually completed by a gratuitous Commission. He did not think that the House of Commons would in the first instance have been willing to assent to the method by which it was conceived the object could be attained. His hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General and himself thought that the best thing to do would not be to 879 make a mere consolidation of the Statutes, but to codify the law; but their views were overruled, it appearing that the Commission were in favour of the mode now adopted. Let hon. Members look at the paper of business of that day, and then say what chance there was of any measure of legal reform receiving the attention of that House during the Session. He therefore contended that Government were not answerable for the alleged delay that had been commented upon by the hon. and learned Member for Leominster. The Commission had been industriously collecting materials, and a number of consolidated Statutes would shortly be laid before Parliament. Much had been said about the slow progress that had been made, but it should be borne in mind that the members of the Commission could not devote to its duties the whole of their time, having their own proper offices to attend to. The duties of the Commission could only be discharged by each of the Commissioners directing such time as they were able to command to the superintendence of the labours submitted to them. Those duties, however, had been performed most zealously, and those who complained that nothing had been done could hardly have taken a view of all the circumstances. With regard to the gentleman appointed to superintend the labours of the Commission, there could be no imputation more unfounded than that his appointment emanated from an undue exercise of the Lord Chancellor's patronage. The Lord Chancellor selected him chiefly because he had discharged with fidelity his duties on the former Commission. Supposing the course taken to be a right one—and he was bound to snppose it was—no person could more efficiently have promoted the objects which the majority of the Commissioners had resolved on than that gentleman. Undoubtedly he should have been glad if the House had recognised the appointment of a great officer charged with the duty of amending the law, but the mode of proceeding by Commission had been deliberately adopted, and the result obtained was more than might have been expected. He could assure the Committee that the Commissioners were prepared to submit to Parliament Bills which would fully justify the representation made of their labours, and he therefore thought that it would be unreasonable to refuse the Vote now asked.
MR. LOCKE KING
said, he trusted 880 he need not assure the Committee that there was nothing whatever personal in his motives in this matter: but, unfortunately, some hon. Gentlemen, when they had a bad cause to defend, were apt to impute personal motives. His complaint was, that this Commission and the Commission which preceded it, the Criminal Law Commission, had spent enormous sums of money and done very little. With respect to the Sleeping Statutes Bill, he was willing to admit that he stole that out of the Report of the Commission, for it had been sleeping there so long that he thought it right to tear it out of the Report and introduce it to the House. He would state a reason for the Committee not agreeing to the proposed Vote. By a return distributed that morning it appeared that the actual balance in the hands of the Statute Law Commissioners on the 30th of April last amounted to £3,029, and he saw no ground why the Committee should now add to that sum.
Motion made, and Question put—
That a sum, not exceeding £1,911, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Salaries and Expenses of the Statute Law Commission, to the 31st day of March, 1857.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 70; Noes 54: Majority 16.
§ Vote agreed to, as was also (4.) £6,900, Civil Service Commissioners.
(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £8,152, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Salaries and Expenses of sundry temporary Commissions, to the 31st day of March, 1857.
§ MR. BLACKBURN
said, he should move that the Vote be reduced by £900, as the travelling charges of the Endowed Schools Commissioners (Ireland) appeared to be excessive.
§ MR. WILSON
said, he would beg to ask the hon. Gentleman to say what salary the Commissioners would have left if they had to pay their travelling expenses, which the hon. Gantleman appeared to think they ought to do out of their salaries?
§ MR. BLACKBURN
said, he had been misunderstood. The salaries had been fixed at £200, but had been raised by this Vote to £500. He did not propose to reduce the travelling expenses, but the salaries to the amount originally fixed by Act of Parliament.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (6.) £21, 842 Patent Law Amendment.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he must complain of the large sum paid under the Act, especially the sum of £8,400 paid to the present Attorney and Solicitor Generals for patents, and £702 for their clerks. He must also complain of the amounts paid to the Irish Attorney and Solicitor Generals for patents. He fully admitted that men of eminence should fill those offices; but he thought the sums paid to them under the Act excessive. He considered the time was come when patents might be done away with.
§ MR. WILSON
said, that three years ago, a Bill was passed for the improvement of the Patent Law, and at that period the law officers made a great sacrifice of the fees to which they were entitled by Act of Parliament. They were entitled to a fee of ten guineas on each patent, but by the new law it was fixed at six guineas, and the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls were empowered to reduce the amount of the fee. Two years subsequently it was reduced from six guineas to three guineas, the sum which the law officers now received. The amount of the Vote was £21,842, and the sum which had been paid into the Exchequer was £90,000, and, therefore, the public were the gainers to the amount of the balance.
§ MR. CHEETHAM
said, he thought it monstrous that the mechanical ingenuity of the country should be taxed to the amount of £90,000 a year.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (7.) £13,500, Board of Fisheries in Scotland.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he expected that this Vote would certainly have disappeared by this time from the Estimates altogether. There was a time when those fisheries required encouragement, but that time was certainly passed. They were never in a more prosperous state than at present. The hon. Under Secretary of the Treasury stated last year that the Vote was to cease, and he now asked for an explanation of its continuance?
§ MR. WILSON
said it was the intention of the Government to have expunged the Vote from the Estimates; but on further inquiry it was found impossible to do so this year. He proposed to take the Vote for the ensuing year for the last time, and 882 to issue a Commission to inquire if the continuance of the Board was necessary, more particularly with reference to the "brand," and if so to make it self-supporting.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that after the explanation of the hon. Gentleman, he had great pleasure in withdrawing his opposition to the Vote.
§ MR. FERGUS
said, he thought they were not justified in maintaining such a Board at the expense of the public. Had the hon. Member for Lambeth divided the Committee he would have supported him.
§ SIR ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL
said, that the only objection to the Vote which he had heard as relating to piers and harbours was that it was too small. He fully acquiesced in the proposal to issue a Commission of Inquiry, although he had no doubt the result would be the continuance of the Board in some shape or other.
§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
said, he had been informed that one effect of the Board had been a great increase in the herring fishery on the east coast. In 1829 there were exported 85,000 barrels of herrings. In 1855, 350,000 barrels. He had also been told that the "brand" was regarded by foreign purchasers as a proof of quality. He was glad that the Government was not going to abolish the Board but to inquire.
§ MR. BLACKBURN
said, as a Scotch Member he thought the Vote was indefensible. The Government last Session gave the House to understand that the propriety of discontinuing it should be inquired into; but it was not until November that the Treasury sent down a minute on the subject to the Fishery Commissioners. The Board made a long and somewhat irrelevant reply vindicating its existence, as of course all Boards would do. He had seen a letter written by a large herring curer at Anstruther, who gave it as his opinion that the development of the trade was due to causes wholly irrespective of the Vote, which he thought might be withdrawn not only without detriment, but with positive advantage to private enterprise.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he wished to 883 know in what shape, if any, the Vote was likely to come before the Committee next year?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he must beg to explain to the Committee that, exception having been taken to the Vote last year, the Government then admitted that it was open to serious objection, and promised that it should be carefully considered before being again submitted to Parliament. During the recess the subject was examined accordingly, and the Government, being of opinion that the principle on which the grant was founded was untenable, and that it ought not to reappear in the Estimates, made a communication to that effect to the Fishery Board. The Board in reply, perhaps not unnaturally, defended the Vote. They made strong remonstrances to the Treasury, which were supported by many hon. Gentlemen connected with Scotland, sitting on both sides of the House. It was represented that this question involved not merely the "brand," which belonged to an antiquated system, but was connected with piers and harbours in the small ports on the coast of Scotland, and affected a branch of trade which afforded the means of subsistence to a very considerable class of the poor population of that country. Under such circumstances the Government were unwilling to take a course which they were told by persons fully acquainted with the subject might be attended with very serious results, but they determined to propose the Vote this Session, and to send down to Scotland a Commission to make a close investigation and to report to the Treasury, who would then decide whether the Vote should again be submitted to Parliament, or whether it should be altogether discontinued.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, it seemed to him that there was such a considerable discrepancy between the explanations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Treasury that he now felt it his duty to divide the Committee.
§ MR. WILSON
said, he had stated that a Commission would be appointed upon the distinct understanding that, if the brand was to be continued, such a fee should be paid as would defray the expenses of the Board and render it self-supporting, and that if the Vote should appear in the Estimates another year it would be in such a form that no expense would be entailed upon the country.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
said, he 884 wished for some explanation relative to an item of £200, and another of £100, for two of Her Majesty's ships which had been employed in the north of Scotland in connection with this fishery which he considered a scandalous job.
§ MR. WILSON
said, the two vessels were old ships of the Navy, employed in the police of the fisheries.
MR. E. ELLICE (St. Andrews)
said, that the employment of these ships, so far from being a scandalous job, as asserted by the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton, was essential to the interests of a very large portion of the Scotch community. He could not agree with what had fallen from the hon. Secretary of the Treasury, respecting the object of the proposed Commission. He thought that the Commission ought not to be a foregone conclusion, and that the Government ought not to commit itself to any opinion. It ought to take the Vote for the present year, and wait the Report of the Commission before taking any further decision. He thought, therefore, that they should not be told previously what the Government intended to do. The matter affected a very large class of his constituents. He willingly admitted that the principle of the brand was indefensible, and could only be kept up by an appeal ad misericordiam. The herring fishery was carried on by persons in remote islands, where it was impossible they should be known elsewhere by their names, and when the article could only be known and bear its price by means of the "brand." The matter was but little understood, and on that account he would press upon the Government to institute the inquiry by an impartial Commission, to see if the "brand" was necessary or not. The "brand" could only be kept up upon the distinct recommendation of a Commission. He did not defend the "brand," he required only that it should be fairly examined into. The herring fishery was a peculiar one, it was carried on only at a particular time of the year. It was only by proper police and abstinence from confusion that the shoals were prevented from escaping. It was therefore essential that a proper police should be maintained. It was likewise necessary there should be harbours of refuge under such circumstances; and he thought that, as Ireland had been benefitted during the last ten years to the extent of £70,000 or £80,000, while Scotland had received only £17,000 or £18,000 for harbours for fishing pur- 885 poses, it was but fair that Scotland should receive a further share.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he wished to know whether he was to understand distinctly that the various items composing this Vote of £13,500 would hereafter disappear from the Estimates?
§ MR. WILSON
said, he could only repeat the statement which he had already made, that the Report of the Commission would decide whether the Vote should cease and the Board be abolished, or whether the Board should be continued upon the principle that a fee should be charged for branding equivalent to the sum now imposed upon the public for that purpose. Under no circumstances, however, could the Vote be entirely given up, for, whether the Board was abolished or not, it would still be necessary not only to continue the pensions and allowances granted to retired officers, but to provide compensation for the present active officers of the Board. He might state, as an additional reason for continuing the Vote for another year, that contracts had already been entered into with continental purchasers for the delivery of herrings next season with the Government brand.
MR. LLOYD DAVIES
said, he hoped the Opposition to the Vote would be persisted in. It was most absurd that such a large sum should be annually spent in assisting in the catching of Scotch herrings.
said, he wished to know what the Government would decide, if the proposed Commission reported in favour of the Vote?
§ MR. WILSON
said, the Commission could not Report in favour of the Vote as it stood, for the question would go to them upon this basis, already determined by the Government, that the expenses of the branding system should no longer be imposed upon the public.
Motion made, and Question put—
That a sum, not exceeding £13,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to pay the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Fisheries in Scotland, to the 31st day of March, 1857.
§ The Committee divided:— Ayes 162; Noes 39: Majority 123.
§ Vote agreed to. House resumed.