HC Deb 15 June 1868 vol 192 cc1602-9

Resolutions [June 4] reported.


said, that on Thursday week, when the Votes now reported were taken, he took occasion to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what period the Government proposed to take Supplies, The right hon. Gentleman was not in a position to answer him then; but on Monday night he stated that he proposed to take them for twelvemonths. It was not his (Mr. Childers') intention to make any objection to Supplies being taken for that period; but be wished to point out that the arguments adduced by the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion would, if accepted as valid, establish a precedent which might be dangerous on future occasions. He desired also to note briefly some of the expressions which fell from the right hon. Gentleman whilst he was making his statement, and which he could hardly have intended to bear their literal signification, He said he did not know why the Government should not receive the same frank and honourable treatment which had been received by former Ministries under similar circumstances; but he was sure his right hon. Friend did not mean to impute that there was anything but frank and honourable treatment in the putting of the Question as to the time for which Supplies were to be taken, As soon as the Government had definitely made up their minds as to the period for which the present Parliament would last, he asked, stating that it was not a party, but strictly a constitutional Question, what course they would pursue, having regard to former precedents; and he did not mean to insinuate that his right hon. Friend either had departed or would for a moment depart from that uniformly straightforward course which in this and all other matters he pursued. In reply to the Question the right hon. Gentleman gave reasons why the Government would not follow the course which had been pursued on former occasions, but would ask for Supplies for the whole period of twelvemonths. He (Mr. Childers) had cited the precedent of 1841, and quoted the speeches of Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell, in which they said they followed the precedent of 1830; and his right hon. Friend said the precedent he had quoted was not applicable, and if it were it would not point to the conclusion that the Supplies should be taken for nine months, for in 1841 Supplies were granted four months before the time when a dissolution was possible, to last two months after the time when Parliament would meet again. That, however, was not strictly correct, because the Supplies were voted on the 7th of June, and the dissolution did not occur till the end of the month, so that the Supplies were really voted only for three months after the dissolution. As the House met in that year on the 19th or 20th of August, he admitted that there was a difference of some ten or fifteen days between that time and the time which would have elapsed had only nine months' Supply been granted on the present occasion; but at the same time he must say that the reasons adduced by his right hon. Friend were not reasons which could on constitutional grounds be adopted by the House. His right hon. Friend had said that in 1841 a Vote of Want of Confidence had been passed, so that the Ministry of that day could not carry through the House the measures which they deemed important for the public welfare; but that on the present occasion there had been no such Resolution, and although the Government had been defeated on one important measure, they had, with the acquiescence of the House, proceeded with other important Business. Now, that was not a correct description of what had occurred during the present Session. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, when describing the circumstances under which the dissolution was about to occur, distinctly said that he had told Her Majesty that his advice and that of his Colleagues was that Her Majesty should dissolve the present Parliament and take the opinion of the country as to the conduct of her Ministers and the question of the Irish Church, and he added that no business would be taken except in connection with the Reform Acts. Therefore, his right hon. Friend was not correct in stating that this was simply a dissolution on one particular question in regard to which the Government had been defeated. He wished, however, to point out that whenever a dissolution had been announced, whatever had been the reasons for such a step, the invariable and constitutional principle had been acted upon, and the existing Parliament had not been asked to grant more Supplies than were necessary to carry on the public services until the new Parliament met. His right hon. Friend, in speaking on this subject the other day, had only alluded to the precedent of 1841, but he wished to call his right hon. Friend's particular attention to that of 1830 which he (Mr. Childers) had quoted. In 1830 there was no Resolution adopted by Parliament either of want of confidence, or approval of a policy which the Government could not support. The dissolution was caused by the King's death; but the Government and the Opposition were equally anxious to lay down the constitutional principle that that dissolution having been notified to Parliament the result followed that Supply should only be granted for the period of the existence of the then Parliament. In June, 1830, Sir Robert Peel distinctly stated that a Vote on account would be not for the whole year, but for such time only as the circumstances rendered necessary, and on the following 2nd of July he remarked that the taking of Votes for a limited time was a pledge that Parliament would be assembled at an early date. The simple question which arose in the present instance was whether, if Supplies were now voted for nine months, there would be time in December next, when the Parliament was to be called together, to take the remaining Votes, Now, if Parliament met on the 8th of December he confessed it would be impossible between that day and Christmas to go through the necessary forms for taking additional Voles for the financial year. Four or five days would be occupied in swearing the new Members; it was a tedious process to sot up the Committee of Supply in a now Parliament, and it would be necessary to pass a new Appropriation Act. He therefore admitted that the reasons of convenience given by his right hon. Friend were conclusive, and that if Supplies for nine months only were granted it would be impracticable to obtain a fresh Vote in December for the remaining quarter of the year; and accordingly although he was of opinion that Government were wrung when they urged that the cause of the dissolution had anything to do with the taking of Supply, he should not offer further objection to the Votes being taken for the whole twelve months.


assured the hon. Gentleman that he had not intended to make any remarks to which exception could be justly taken. He believed that the words he had used on a former occasion would not bear the interpretation which the hon. Gentleman had put upon them. He had merely said, "Why should the frank and honourable course pursued in 1841 be departed from now?" In that year the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons stated openly the intention of the Government to call a new Parliament, and the Leader of the Opposition accepted that statement and relied upon it most implicitly. He certainly was of opinion that a like course should be taken now, and that the statement of the Government ought to be accepted without question. He was still unable to agree with his hon. Friend that the precedent of 1841 was applicable to the present case, because the House then determined that the ordinary Business should not be carried on until the autumnal Session, and therefore there was an opportunity towards the close of the year of proceeding with the regular Business; and fully discussing the Estimates. But this year the Government were not in a position to appeal at once to the new constituencies, and, therefore, the two cases were by no means parallel. As to the precedent of 1830, the dissolution was then caused by the decease of the Sovereign, and entirely new arrangements had consequently to be made for the transaction of the Business of Parliament.


said, the House would observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) were perfectly at one with regard to their practical conclusion, and it might, therefore, be deemed unnecessary that he should prolong the conversation; but the principle involved has of great importance, and it was even possible that the proceedings of the present Session might be hereafter referred to as a precedent. Therefore it was expedient that not only should a certain line be taken, but the reasons for that line should be recorded. He agreed with his hon. Friend that it was on the whole convenient that Supply should be voted for the entire financial year; but he felt bound to demur to the reasons which had been urged by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the adoption of such a course the right hon. Gentleman had asserted that the dissolution in 1841 ought to be regarded rather as an interruption of the Government with a view to the resumption of Business in the autumn. But this was not by any means the case, as, in point of fact, the ordinary Business was not resumed during the autumnal Session, Nothing was done in the way of what might be termed ordinary business except the passing of a Bill about the Bishop of Jerusalem. Then, the importance of the precedent of 1830 did not seem to be duly appreciated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That precedent showed, in reality, that the principle of voting Supplies for a; limited period was the deference paid to the authority of the new Parliament by the expiring Parliament. He was not at all; prepared to admit the distinction drawn; by the right hon. Gentleman, for he did not think the Constitution recognized anything but this—that when an adverse vote was given on any vital point the Government had the power of dissolving, or might elect to resign. He would not go into the question of what were the particular reasons that justified the alternative of a dissolu- tion. That was not the matter to be discussed at the present moment; but when the Government recognized it all arrangements should be made for dissolution. There were not two seta of circumstances applicable to such a situation. In 1841, the right hon. Gentleman says that the conduct of Sir Robert Peel was frank and honourable in accepting the declaration of the Government; but that was accompanied by a guarantee in the voting of the Supplies only for a short term. It involved no confidence, no reliance, and was entitled to no other praise than that of propriety or prudence, because the promise given by the Government was accompanied by a practical measure which absolutely insured the fulfilment of the promise.

Vote 8. £511,324 (Public Education in Great Britain).

MR. POWELL moved that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £1,500. He found that the expense put down for the preparation of the examination papers amounted to £3,000; while there was another item for inspection and examination which amounted to £5,450, and another of £2,800 for travelling expenses. He thought these items were excessive, and he wished to have some explanation concerning them, and for that purpose he moved the reduction of the Vote.


said, he wished to call attention to the mode adopted of remunerating those persons who examined art collections for the South Kensington Museum. He had been invited to examine a certain collection which the Heads of the Department thought of purchasing; and after sending in his Report he received a cheque for £5 5s., which he need hardly say he returned. He thought such a plan as that was rather dangerous, and liable to great abuse; for cheques for such professional services were showered abroad right and left.


said, that the Examiners of King's College and other Colleges, and the Examiners in the Science and Art Department at South Kensington, were not paid out of this Vote. They received no salaries, but only fees in proportion to the number of students they examined. The Vote last year was exceeded, and this year the number of schools examined and of pupils presented for examination had very much increased This year 300 science schools were examined in different subjects of science, having 851 classes and 14,000 students under instruction, of whom 8,000 presented themselves for examination. The examinations, which were in 24 branches of science, were held at 275 centres; 1,154 examinations were thus held, and 13,113 worked papers were returned. The Examiners by whom the examination papers were prepared and by whom the worked papers were looked over were some of the most eminent men in the country in their respective subjects. They were Mr. J. Anderson, Professor Ansted, Mr. Buckland, Professor Bradley, Rev. B. M. Cowie, Dr. Frankland, Professor Huxley, Dr. Percy, Professor Ramsay, Mr. Warrington Smyth, Dr. Thomson, Dr. Tyndale, and Rev. Joseph Woolley. In art the professional examiners were the President of the Royal Academy, Mr. Maclise, R.A., Mr. Horsley, R.A., Mr. Westmacott, R.A., Mr. Leighton, A.R.A., Mr. Digby Wyatt, and Mr. Marshall, F.C.S. In art the examinations were very large; 125,000 papers being issued. The cost and preparation of all those papers was defrayed by this Vote. He was sorry he could not hear what was said by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. E. Potter). Indeed, he could hardly catch a word that fell from him, further than that he had been asked to give his opinion on some collection; but he would make inquiries, if the hon Gentleman would give him Notice of his Question, and let him know the result.

First twenty-four Resolutions agreed to.

Vote 25 (£19,377, Miscellaneous Expenses): Resolution read a second time.


said, he wished to draw attention to the item of £6,070 for "robes, collars, and badges." He thought that persons who received Orders ought to pay for their own investiture. He believed, however, that English Orders were sent to some countries in which they were not appreciated as much as we might suppose. At all events, he thought it was monstrous to call on the taxpayers of the county, in one year, to disburse so large a sum for ornaments, for whomsoever they were intended, or whether they were prized or not. As this item had been £1,500 on the average for some years past, he moved the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £4,500.

Amendment proposed, to leave out "£19,377," and insert "£14,877,"—(Mr. Lusk,)—instead thereof.


said, it was quite true that the average of the item for robes, collars, and badges had been about £2,000 for some years past; but at intervals of a few years a larger amount was required in order to replenish the stock of decorations. Of the item of £6,070, a sum of £1,500 was to replace the decorations which had been distributed to Knights of the Bath. He admitted that the largest portion of the item objected to by the hon. Member was not very regularly placed in the Votes for this year. It ought rather to have appeared in those of last year; but the account for this service last year had not been rendered in sufficient time to put them in the Votes of the Session of 1867, or even in the Vote for Civil Contingencies presented in March last. A sum of £3,000 was for investing the Sultan, the Emperor of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, and Prince Arthur, with the Order of the Garter. He might observe, too, that some few years ago Her Majesty had been pleased to dispense with the statutes which required the heirs of deceased knights to return the decorations of the Orders, as it was thought desirable that these decorations should he left as heirlooms in the families of the knights.


said, that the portion of the item which was for expenses properly chargeable last year ought to have been included in the Vote for Civil Contingencies.


said, he had already explained why it had not been so included.

Question, "That '£19,377' stand part of the Resolution," put, and agreed to.

Resolution agreed to.

Subsequent Resolutions agreed to.