§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £9,817, to complete the sum for the Fishery Board, Scotland.
§ MR. CRAUFURD moved that the Vote be omitted. No doubt in the Report made by the Commissioners who had inquired into the Civil Departments in Scotland no distinct recommendation was made as to the Fishery Board; but he thought that anyone who had read the evidence would agree that the Fishery Board was not one which it was necessary to retain. The business of that Board consisted of two main branches—the management of the brand of herrings and the administration of the grant to the harbours. The harbour grant amounted to £3,000 a-year. It might 150 be said with regard to the branding that that was not a charge upon the country, but that it was paid out of the fees. The principle, however, was the same. It was the last remnant of a system of protective Government guarantee that in old times was much approved, but which had since been thoroughly denounced, and had been departed from in every other case except this. It was true that the Commissioners reported that they were not prepared to recommend the abolition of the brand; but careful consideration of the evidence could not fail to prove that it would be very beneficial to the fishery trade if the brand were removed. As to the other branch of the business of the Fishery Board—the administration of these small grants out of the £3,000 for harbours, this grant had been in existence since the Act of George IV. The Treasury had no control whatever over the application of the grant, and no Report was made to the Treasury or to that House on the subject. All that was done was that Parliament voted the sum every year and the Board spent it. The hon. and learned Member instanced the case of the harbour of Anstruther, for the construction of which Parliament had authorized the expenditure of £35,000. Of this sum, £16,500 had been advanced by the Public Loan Commissioners, and the Fishery Board had been authorized to grant a further loan of £6,500 and to expend a further sum not exceeding £12,000 out of the monies annually voted by Parliament. But the Board, without any sanction from the Treasury have for the last ten years applied the whole of the annual grant of £3,000 for this harbour, and thus have spent upon this harbour £11,000 or £12,000 more than they were authorized to do. Every penny of this money had been thrown away, for the whole of the works had been swept away in a late gale. If branding were abolished and the grant discontinued the raison d'étre of the Fishery Board was gone. There was another matter. The Secretary to the Fishery Board, who was a valuable public servant, ought not be prejudiced by any such change. But he was also Secretary to the Board of Manufactures, and derived a portion of his salary from each Board. Now he (Mr. Craufurd) would suggest that if the Fishery Board were abolished, there was no reason why 151 the Secretary should not continue to receive his whole salary as Secretary of the of the Board of Manufactures, or, as that Board should be more properly called, the Board of Arts and Science. The hon. and learned Member then moved the rejection of the Vote.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that as to the question of the herring brand, a Paper had been laid upon the Table, from which it appeared that the first suggestion for its abolition came from the Government of the Netherlands, who stated, through their Ambassador in London, that they were ready to do away with the brand provided the British Government simultaneously abolished their brand. The Board of Trade replied—I have to request that you will state to his Lordship that the Board of Trade hold opinions against the principle of branding herrings. They will be disposed to agree with the Dutch Government that the system should be put an end to by both Governments; but they cannot do that without reference to the Treasury, which is directed by the Lords Commissioners to say that they hold the system of branding in Scotland to be quite indefensible. But they fear that press of business will preclude them for taking measures for its abolition.Now, when a foreign Government condemned that system, and our own declared it to be quite indefensible, and the Treasury said they kept it up temporarily only because they had not time to abolish it, their course was clear—they had only to stop the Supplies, and he should support his hon. and learned Friend in his Motion to leave out the whole Estimate.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) that this Vote for branding was the last lingering remnant of protection. He agreed with his hon. and learned Friend that it would be very beneficial if the herring brand were abolished—the Scotch herring fishery would exist in spite of brands—and he was glad to find that persons who had formerly been opposed to the abolition of the brand now said that they thought that if due notice were given the Government would take a wise step in getting rid of it. What the hon. Member for Edinburgh had said in respect of the official correspondence with the Netherlands Government was quite correct. He felt it to be quite impossible for the present Government to defend the brand. He proposed that two years' 152 notice should be given of its abolition, so that the trade might make the necessary arrangements for its cessation. With respect to the grant for harbours, he was not quite sure that he could agree with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ayr. The grant had been the means of doing a great deal of good, and he was not at all disposed to go to the length of his hon. and learned Friend and abolish the Board altogether; but he did think that expenditure of this kind should be laid before the House, and that they should know from year to year what was done by those who were spending the public money; and the more so because he admitted that the administration of the grant by the Scotch Fishery Board for the last two or three years certainly required investigation. The Scotch Fishery Board had spent in various ways about £45,000 for Anstruther Harbour; but they were in debt, the harbour was not finished, and, what was worse, it was tumbling to pieces. Mr. Hawkshaw had been sent to examine the works and see what should be done; and, although he had not yet presented his Report, which would probably be in the hands of the Treasury in a few days, he had written a letter stating—apart altogether from his other recommendations, which he had not had time fully to consider—that it was absolutely necessary to spend about £8,000 at once on the harbour, in order to prevent the pier and harbour works from tumbling into the sea. He (Mr. Baxter) had replied to Mr. Hawkshaw's letter that it was quite out of his power to sanction that, that too much money had already been spent on that harbour without the authority of Parliament, and that he could not authorize the outlay of a shilling upon it until the opinion of the House of Commons had been expressed. He hoped his hon. and learned Friend would not think it necessary to oppose the Vote this year. He promised that steps would be taken to abolish branding in two years; and that before the Estimates were again presented to Parliament they would consider what measures it was requisite to adopt in regard to the duties hitherto performed by the Scotch Fishery Board.
§ MR. GORDON
said, he certainly was not surprised at the willingness shown by the Secretary to the Treasury to make a change with reference to branding and 153 also to the Fishery Board, because when about 18 months ago, upon the representation of his hon. Friends the Members for Ayr and Edinburgh, a Commission was issued by the Government to investigate, among other matters, the necessity of maintaining the Fishery Board and what were its duties, the present Secretary of the Treasury was one of the chief accusers of the Board, and gave the Commissioners to understand that his view was that it might be altogether superseded and its functions intrusted to other authorities. He might, however, state that the duties of the Board were not confined to the branding of herrings and superintending the application of the grant for harbours, but extended to the police to be maintained at the different stations of the herring-fishery, to the numbering of the boats, the charge of the nets, and also matters under a recent Act relating to the navigation. The duties were important. He might mention also a curious matter. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, being then Secretary to the Admiralty, stated, in his evidence before the Commission, that the police duties might be performed efficiently and at no expense under the superintendence of the Admiralty, and that the other duties connected with the numbering of the boats and taking charge of the nets could be performed by persons under the Board of Trade or the Customs. When, however, the Board of Customs were applied to on the matter, the answer it gave was that those duties could not be transferred to its officers without necessitating a great addition to the force of that department, and probably an expense not less than that paid by the Crown under the present system. Then as to the transfer of the police duties to the Admiralty—the First Lord was applied to—and the answer received was that—He (the writer) was commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to say that the question had been considered by their Lordships, but that it appeared to them that if any change was made in the present arrangement it should be in the opposite direction to that proposed, as the duties of police were at variance with ideas in accordance with which H.M.'s ships were manned, and such employment of the men in H.M.'s ships would be neither economical nor in accordance with the interests of the service. Their Lordships would therefore prefer that these duties should be performed in some other way.154 That, he thought, was tolerably conclusive. There was nothing like giving a dog a bad name, and on that principle "branding" had been called "the last rag of Protection." The effect of the process was not to give any "protection," but merely to provide an authorized certificate from competent officers that herring had been properly cured. Branded herring fetched a higher price, was sold without trouble or expense, and an excllent trade was thus carried on without litigation. Branding involved no expense to the country, inasmuch as the herring curers paid for it, and the pecuniary result of the transaction was to leave a balance in the hands of the Fishery Board. It would create very considerable discontent in Scotland if the Treasury bench persevered in their determination to abolish the system of branding. The herring trade in Scotland was a very important one, and furnished employment to upwards of 70,000 persons—a large number of whom were boatmen, who would be available for our Navy in time of war.
§ MR. ELLICE
said, he did not rise either to support or oppose the branding system—but he did say that the system had worked admirably in times past, and the herring trade had prospered greatly under it; nor was he aware that any dissatisfaction had been expressed by any of the parties interested in the trade—and many of those most largely interested were amongst his constituents. Although he felt that it would be of but little use for him to gainsay the decision of the Government, he only hoped that the course they had adopted in this matter would not prejudicially affect a trade which gave employment to such a large number of the poorer classes of Scotland. It had been stated that by branding the herring casks the Government were preserving the last rag of Protection; but he, on the contrary, regarded the branding of those casks in the same light as he did the branding of gun barrels. The latter stamped the character of the weapon, and the former the character of the contents of the cask. The stamping of the gun barrels was paid for by the manufacturers, and was a certificate that the gun might be safely used, and the herring brand was paid for by the curer, and was a certificate that the contents of the barrel were wholesome food. As to the economical 155 argument in favour of the abolition of the system, all he could say was, that while the whole expense of the Fishery Board of Scotland was £5,837, the fees paid to the Government for branding amounted to £5,003 per annum. Therefore, in the event of the system of branding being abolished, the result would be that the Fishery Board, which would be obliged to be kept up for other purposes, would have to be paid by a sum to be voted by the House. Then as to the question of the harbour grant, in his opinion the amount of the grant for forming, repairing, and maintaining the small tidal harbours along the eastern coast of Scotland, which were of so much importance to the preservation of the lives and boats of the fishermen engaged in this hazardous trade, so far from being diminished, ought rather to be largely increased. They had to deal with a very large, a very poor, and a most industrious population, on whom a most important supply of wholesome food to the general community depended. The persons who risked their lives in that hazardous calling were all poor people, and one of the chief duties of any Government intrusted with the affairs of this country was, it seemed to him, to encourage and protect that useful class of persona. It had been the policy of the Government for many years past to spend a small sum only—in his opinion a great deal too small a sum—in erecting, repairing, and preserving small harbours of refuge for the fisheries of those people. It was perfectly well known to hon. Members that the whole east coast of Scotland, on which the fisheries chiefly lay, was wholly open and unprotected by any natural harbours, and that it was upon these small fishery harbours, which were mostly tidal, that the safety of the boats and the fishermen engaged depended. And he must say that, as far as he was aware, the Fishery Board of Scotland had expended the small and inadequate funds placed at their disposal in a manner that had given general satisfaction. With respect to the harbour of Anstruther, for the construction of which sums had been borrowed on the authority of Acts of Parliament, he trusted that some satisfactory explanation would be able to be given for the partial failure of the works that had been commenced 156 there. Looking to the eminence and character of the Government engineers employed, he had no doubt such an explanation could be given; but the result had been that over £50,000 had been expended; there was a considerable sum still due to the contractors; and a further sum was required to put the works in such a state that they would afford adequate protection. When the Anstruther Harbour was completed it would be of the greatest advantage to the population of that coast. It ought to have been completed in three or four years; but the engineers had been controlled by a want of funds. As the Government made a bargain with the people of Anstruther, and took possession of the only harbour they had for the purpose of constructing a new harbour, it was the duty of the Government to see that no further delay should occur in the completion of that harbour.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, he rose to confirm the statement of the hon. Member for St. Andrew's. He would not have the Committee suppose that this was a case in which the inhabitants and fishermen of Anstruther alone were concerned. The whole of the very large fishing population upon the cast coast of Scotland, and upon the cast of Fifeshire and the Lothians, was exposed to very severe weather, yet along the whole of those shores there was but one harbour—Dunbar—to which fishing boats could run for shelter. Up to the present time no doubt the Anstruther Harbour was a lamentable failure; but as about £49,000 had been expended upon it, energetic efforts ought to be made to complete the harbour. The very fact that the harbour works had so signally failed was a proof of the violence of the storms to which those coasts were exposed. As to the question of branding, it was not denied that the whole expense was paid by the fish curers and fishermen themselves. Had it been paid by the public he might have had considerable doubt whether they should have been called upon to continue a system which gave a manifest advantage to those who dealt in the articles marked by this particular brand. But as the expense was borne by the dealers themselves, and they were willing to pay for what they considered a certificate of character, there was nothing unreasonable in continuing it.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
saw no reason why the Fishery Board should be attacked. On the contrary, he thought it one of those institutions which ought to be very much strengthened; and if Her Majesty's Government had proposed to make it a large grant of money he would have supported the proposal. Probably one cause of the failure at Anstruther was the attempt to project now piers into the sea instead of excavating the harbour behind the piers already in existence If the latter plan had been adopted the Government might, with the expenditure of one-tenth of the sum which had been already laid out, have now had a practical and useful harbour; whereas by attempting to run the piers into the sea they met with or occasioned seas or cross-currents the force of which they had not calculated. There was another thing connected with our fisheries which he should like to see the Fishery Board employed in carrying out. He should like to see the Fishery Board supplied with funds to enable them to place model fishing boats at particular points on the coast, so that the fishermen might be gradually induced to abandon the low freeboard boats which were the cause of so much loss of life. When the Duke of Richmond was at the Board of Trade he had the pleasure of communicating with him on the subject, and he had no doubt that if the noble Duke had remained in office a little longer the suggestion would have been carried out. There was a third point, and that was the police which it was necessary to maintain at these harbours. His hon. Friend the Member for the Wick Burghs (Mr. Loch) would bear him out as to the enormous number of fishing boats which went to sea every night, and that almost every casualty arose from collisions. Sometimes no fewer than 1,100 or 1,200 boats went to sea at night—so that the necessity of maintaining a police along the coast became apparent. There was also the encroachment of foreigners to guard against. As the Fishery Board was within a very narrow amount of being a profit to Government he could not conceive any good reason for reducing or altering its scope or making the changes asked for. On the contrary, he saw good cause for granting more money to carry out its objects, and he felt quite sure it would be to the advantage 158 of the community if such additional grant were made. The discussion as to the brand had been exhausted, except as to one point, and that was the anxiety of the Dutch Government to get rid of the brand. The Dutch were famous as a nation for perseverance, astuteness and other good qualities, and especially for looking after their own interest, and as the Dutch herrings were the only her-rings which competed with ours in foreign ports it was a matter of the greatest importance if they could get us to abandon the brand. As long as our herrings went to the Continent with the Government brand, they were looked upon as equal to the Dutch; but if you abolished the brand the Dutch herrings would bring a higher price. The Dutch honing brand spoke for itself as the Scotch herring brand did. He should cortainly oppose the Amendment.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, the question of the brand was a most important one. He was decidedly opposed to its removal. Confidence was given to consumers in all parts of the world by the present system; but if the brand were taken away the confidence of the consumer was shaken or abandoned, and consequently the consumption was reduced He believed it to be a fact that no less than 10,000 boats went out from Wick fishing every year, and he maintained it was an act of public policy to encourage a fishery which produced seamen in such numbers and of such a character; because in a case of emergency no better man-of-war's men could be found than the men who were engaged in herring fishing in Scotland.
§ MR. LOCH
said, he did not think the Government could have given the brand question the attention which its importance demanded, else they could not have arrived at any such conclusion, as that to which they appeared to have come. The experiment was a very dangerous one, for it affected a class of the population who could but little afford to stand the risks attending it. The Northern districts of Scotland were in habited by a very poor and humble class of persons, who had few resources of their own, and but limited means of obtaining labour at home; and it was to the herring trade they looked for their means of living from year to year. It was with the interests of those poor and helpless people that this experiment would come 159 into contact if the Government persisted. The brand was of very great value to the fish curers. Our principal foreign customers were the Germans, and the herrings were sent to them certified with the Government brand. Now, in those countries the Government brand was looked upon as of far greater importance than any private brand would over be. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Baxter) had spoken about some communication between this Government and the Dutch Government. He said the Dutch Government were prepared to put an end to their brand, on condition that we put an end to ours. The offer was simply ridiculous. The Committee would be surprised when he told them the proportion between the herring trades of the two countries. In 1855 the Scotch herrings exported to Germany measured 388,000 barrels, while the Dutch herrings were only 1,800 barrels; yet with such a difference, it was proposed that we should meet them half way. It had been argued that the effect of the brand was to remove the inducement of the Scotch curer to improve the quality of his herrings. That was a mistake—it was the interest of the curer as it was of every other manufacturer to produce the best article he could. The effect of the brand was to certify that the barrel contained a properly prepared article; and without it the barrels would have to be opened individually to ascertain the quality. The brand was of most importance to the poor fisherman, for it enabled him to get the same price for his article as his wealthier rivals. If he complied with the conditions of the Government and got the brand, his herings were as valuable, and commanded as high a price in Germany as the herrings of any of the great curers. Do away with the brand, and they would confine the traffic to the great curers.
§ MR. MACFIE
said, his constituents were interested in this question, and they had shown their interest in two ways. In the first place, they intrusted him with a Petition to the House in favour of the maintenance of the herring brand, and in the next place they had deputed a gentleman thoroughly conversant with the entire subject, to make the Government acquainted with their feelings respecting it. That gentleman had told him that the abolition of the brand 160 would cause a depreciation of £100,000 a-year in the herring trade. It was not a question of protection—it was the principle of maintaining for the advantage of a very important existing trade the benefit of a trade-mark which had been established almost from time immemorial. If they took away that, they would greatly depreciate the value of the Scotch herrings, and they had the truth of that in the statement in the correspondence with the Dutch Government—that the continuance of the brand would lead to the price of Dutch herrings being as much below the Scotch as the Norwegian. Not a single Commission had ventured to recommend abolishing the brand. On the contrary, they had had the most emphatic testimony as to the advantage and almost the necessity of maintaining the brand. When they found that a system of business had been established, and had succeeded, 6urely it was a piece of infatuation to make a change.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that it was not to be wondered at that the Members for the Northern fishery burghs should oppose any proposition for removing this remnant of protection; but history showed that the parties most interested in the events were always the worst judges of what was good for them. He should support the abolition of the branding, believing that it was opposed to the principles of free trade, and that it was of no real advantage, but rather the contrary, to those whose interests it was supposed to protect. The Dutch had used a brand, and if it was the cause of the herring trade flourishing in Scotland, why should it not render the Dutch trade also flourishing? Yet the Dutch trade was rapidly declining. The last census showed that the population of Wick was declining. That did not look as if the system was doing them much good. The abolition of the brand would give an impetus to free trade principles and explode an antiquated notion. The superior quality of the article would, he maintained, continue to bring the best price after the brand was abolished.
§ VISCOUNT ST. LAWRENCE
, knowing something of an Irish fishery connected with Howth, could bear testimony to the fact that the system of branding was regarded as extremely advantageous.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, that after the reply which had been given by the Secretary 161 to the Treasury, he would not press his Motion to a division. He hoped his hon. Friend would at once issue the notice to which he referred.
§ MR. ELLICE
, referring to the remarks which had been made with respect to Anstruther Harbour, pointed out that the Board were constantly in communication with the Treasury, and that they could not spend 6d. out of the annual Vote which they received without the consent of the Government. Some portion of the works were very magnificent and substantial—only some parts were inferior, and it was these that had given way.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
wished the hon. Member the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Baxter) and the Mover of the Motion for the omission of this Vote (Mr. Craufurd) to distinctly understand that there was not a general concurrence of opinion amongst the Scotch Members in what they were about to do, and if the brands were to be removed, it was not to be supposed that such was the general desire of the Scotch Members.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £23,800, to complete the sum for the General Register Office and Census, Scotland.
§ (3.) £4,503, to complete the sum for the Board of Lunacy, Scotland.
§ (4.) £13,286, to complete the sum for the Board of Supervision for Relief of the Poor, Scotland.
(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £4,731, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1872, for the Salaries of the Officers and Attendants of the Household of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and other Expenses.
§ MR. RYLANDS
rose to move the rejection of the item for Queen's Plates. It appeared indefensible in regard to the administration of the public revenue to vote this sum of money in the Estimates. They had got rid of a similar Vote for England, and last year they abolished the Vote for the Queen's Plates in Scotland. He therefore moved that the present Vote be reduced by the sum of £1,562 6s. 2d., the amount proposed to be given for Queen's Plates in Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Item of £ 1,562 6s. 2d., for Queen's Plates, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, that the hon. Gentleman was wrong in his statement that Queen's Plates had been given up so far as England was concerned. No Vote was ever taken for Queen's Plates in England, as the money came out of Her Majesty's Privy Purse; and, as for the Queen's Plates in Scotland, they were abandoned at the request of the representatives for Scotland. It was a matter of considerable importance to maintain the breed of horses in Ireland for the purpose of mounting the cavalry, and, consequently, he objected to the withdrawal of the item for the Queen's Plates.
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
said, he would vote for disallowing this item; for if it was wrong to vote money for Queen's Plates in Scotland, it must be equally wrong to vote money for Queen's Plates in Ireland.
§ MR. BAXTER
observed, that the simple reason why the Government allowed the Queen's Plates as respects Scotland to be removed from the Estimates last year was because the general opinion of Scotch Members appeared to be in favour of that course. Not a single Member from Scotland, in fact, rose in his place to object to the omission. No similar opinion, however, had been expressed on the part of the Irish Members, and therefore the Government had retained the Vote.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
was in favour of continuing the Queen's Plates in Ireland, and he hoped to see them restored to Scotland. The omission had occasioned the greatest possible dissatisfaction.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that the Vote for Queen's Plates in Scotland was struck out of the Estimates without a division; and he and the few Scotch Members present assented on the distinct understanding that the same principle was to be applied to Ireland. The Vote for Ireland had, however, re-appeared in the Estimates, and he should Vote against it, for he thought that it would now be most unjust to make the Scotch people contribute towards the expense of Queen's Plates in Ireland.
§ MR. HERMON
hoped that the hon. Member for Warrington would insist on the omission of the item for Queen's Plates in Ireland, which had nothing to do with the encouragement of a good breed of horses. If the Irish Members desired to have a prize offered for racing in that country, let them subscribe the money out of their own pockets, and let the prize be called "The Irish Members' Plato."
§ VISCOUNT ST. LAWRENCE
considered that it would be peculiarly inopportune to negative the Vote in the present year, since there had been, in consequence of the late war on the Continent, a great drain of horses from Ireland.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he had no objection to Queen's Plates in the abstract, nor to racing—on the contrary, he was rather fond of the latter—but had a great objection to Parliament voting money for horse-racing in Ireland when it voted none for that purpose either in England or Scotland. If Irishmen or Scotchmen wanted to have Queen's Plates, let them go to the Queen and ask for them.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, if the hon. Member for Berwick shire (Mr. Robertson) brought on a Motion to restore the Scotch Vote he had no doubt he would be supported by a majority by the Irish Members. The omission of the Scotch Vote had not given satisfaction, because he had himself heard certain Scotch Members say that one or two Scotch representatives had been a great deal too ready to take money out of the country against the wishes of the people. The Irish were a sensitive people, who had, rightly or wrongly, a feeling that frequent attempts were made in that House to diminish the few privileges they enjoyed; and he did not think it was worth while, for the sake of the small sum now in question, to lend any countenance to that feeling.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he was astonished at Irish Members coming there for that paltry sum; and asked why, if they wanted Plates, they did not put their hands in their own pockets like gentlemen and subscribe for them.
§ MR. MURPHY
said, he would certainly vote for the restoration of the 164 Scotch Vote, as he objected to its withdrawal last year; and he hoped the Scotch Members would to-day support the Irish Vote. Moreover, it would be unjust to withdraw it this year, as a Queen's Plato had, on the faith of it, been advertised to be run for at Cork some two months henco.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, the hon. Member for Warrington had moved the reduction of this Vote on the ground that a similar Motion had been carried for Scotland last year. In his opinion, however, that was a piece of gross hypocrisy on the part of his countrymen last year; and it was no reason why they should do an act of injustice to Ireland now. He would vote with the Irish Members in favour of these Queen's Plates; and hoped they would support the proposal to restore them to Scotland when brought forward next year.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, that not only was a Queen's Plate advertised to be run for at Cork two months hence, but two or three of those Plates had already been actually won by horses this year; and as they could not expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find the money out of his own pocket, he asked from what fund the winners were to be paid? It was a great pity that the Scotch Plates had been abolished; and it was rather a singular circumstance that the first gentleman to raise the question of their abolition was an Irishman, the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Pim). He agreed in much that the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) wished to do in the way of economy, but hoped he would not persevere in his present Motion—a very unsportsmanlike proceeding. That Vote did a great amount of good in creating sport, of which the Irish were very fond, and in bringing people together at a social gathering from various parts of the country; and it would be very unwise, suddenly and almost without notice, to take away a paltry sum like that given for such ft purpose. Many hon. Members who were interested in this question were absent, and he believed that the hon. Member for Warrington would best consult the wishes of his Irish friends about him by withdrawing his Motion.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
hoped that the Government would announce some 165 decided line of policy with regard to this matter, and would either restore the Vote for the Scotch Queen's Plates or abolish the Votes for Queen's Plates altogether.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the conduct of the Government had been perfectly consistent in the matter, inasmuch as they had consented to omit the Vote for the Scotch Queen's Plates, because the Scotch Members wished them to do so, and they proposed to retain the Vote for the Irish Queen's Plates in deference to the wishes of the Irish Members.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
could hardly believe his ears. He was astonished to find that anyone professing to be such an economist as the right hon. Gentleman should endeavour to get the Committee to agree to the Vote under discussion by such a low subterfuge as he had resorted to. And he would observe that it was not on the Motion of a Scotch Member that the Votes for the Queen's Plates in Scotland had been withdrawn.
drew the hon. Member's attention to the fact that it was un-Parliamentary to charge an hon. Member with having had recourse to a low subterfuge. [Laughter.]
§ MR. KINNAIRD
explained that he had applied the expression to the right hon. Gentleman's argument and not to his person. The right hon. Gentleman was totally incapable of being low. It would be easy enough to meet the objection of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) by adopting the course which had been taken last year with regard to the Scotch Queen's Plates, and bringing in a supplemental Estimate to enable the Government to find the funds for those Queen's Plates which had already been either run for or advertised.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, he wished to make one or two remarks upon the subject under discussion before the Committee went to a division. It was unfortunate that the withdrawal of the Vote for the Scotch Queen's Plates had been supported by one or two Scotch Members who were supposed to represent the voice of the Scotch Members generally, who, in fact, had no real objection to the Vote, while the great bulk of the Scotch people 166 regarded the abolition of these Queen's Plates with regret. A distinction was to be drawn between the great assemblages of gamblers and blackguards at race meetings in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis and the social gatherings of the peasantry and the farmers at the races in Ireland to witness an innocent English sport. The chief defence of this Vote was that as regarded both Scotland and Ireland these Queen's Plates were formerly a charge upon the hereditary revenues of the Crown, which, having been now brought into the public Exchequer, the charges upon them had to be voted by Parliament every year. He should vote in favour of granting the money for the Plates, because he thought that our Irish fellow-countrymen did not get a great deal in this way—and that, although we were always anxious to show our sympathy with them in many respects as a nation, they did not get the same advantages as we did, such as the benefit derived from a Royal residence. While we were spending thousands upon the embellishment of the Metropolis it was unfair to begrudge the Irish people a paltiy £1,500 per annum for their amusement. He trusted that the House of Commons would not be indisposed to continue the grant.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, that he would just remind hon. Members on the Conservative bench that he had been told on the highest authority (Mr. Disraeli), that one reason why "the Irish were not contented was that they are not amused." There was much more truth in this saying than at first sight might appear, as was often the case with, what fell from the right hon. Gentleman. It was true enough that Ireland was too sad to be amused, and a little reflection would show that the national games and sports of the great mass of the people took their tone and in a great measure depended on the presence and examples of those in higher stations of life. In England and in Scotland, in every village there were rural sports in which the residents of the neighbourhood took their part; but in Ireland there was but little of the kind. There were so many non-resident proprietors, and so much of the soil belonged to absentee landlords and public companies, that these social influences were greatly wanting, and perhaps races might be said to form the only national pastime. Racing in Ireland 167 was not like race meetings in England—an occasion for extensive gambling and drunkenness; but the people took the greatest interest in the sport itself, and very often you may see their ministers of religion watching over and participating in the pastimes of their flocks, and by their presence preventing much that was evil, and showing that religion and amusement were not necessarily divorced from each other. He did hope, and, indeed, did not doubt, but that the Committee would confirm this grant, and not in a narrow-minded spirit interfere with national pastimes, to which the people were much attached.
§ MR. CONOLLY
thanked the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock for the generous sentiments he had expressed towards Ireland.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: — Ayes 75; Noes 133: Majority 58.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (6.) £20,935, to complete the sum for the Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, of Ireland.
§ (7.) £300, to complete the sum for the Expenses of the Boundary Survey, Ireland.
§ (8.) £1,793, to complete the sum for the Charitable Donations and Bequests Office, Ireland.
§ (9.) £27,168, to complete the sum for the General Register Office and Census, Ireland.
§ (10.) £77,211, to complete the sum for the Poor Law Commission, Ireland.
§ (11.) £3,514, to complete the sum for the Public Record Office, &c., Ireland.
§ (12.) £ 19,822, to complete the sum for the Office of Public Works, Ireland.
§ (13.) £33,810, to complete the sum for Law Charges and Department of Solicitor to the Treasury.
§ (14.) £157,173, to complete the sum for Criminal Prosecutions, Sheriffs' Expenses, &c.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
observed that the Vote included £3,000 for clerks of assize, and about £5,000 for officers of the same character called Judges' associates. The clerks of assize performed duties on circuit, and the associates performed duties in town. They were gentlemanly, easy offices, and it was not surprising that some of the 168 holders of them bore the names of eminent Judges who presided over the Courts to which they were attached. He did not mean to complain of those officers; but he hoped that in any now scheme that might be introduced for the administration of the law, these offices, which were in the nature of sinecures, would be abolished, and that any person taking one of those offices in future would be informed that he took it upon the understanding that it would probably be abolished, in which case he would not be entitled to compensation.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that inquiry would be necessary before anything could be done with regard to this subject. He would, however, assure the hon. Gentleman that the subject should not be lost sight of.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, the subject had been already investigated, and the Government had sufficient information.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that having regard to the great changes that might be made in the administration of the law, it might be desirable to introduce a Bill providing that persons who might be appointed to offices in that Department should not be entitled to large claims for compensation in case of the abolition of their offices.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he must deny that the appointments referred to by the hon. and learned Member for East Sussex (Mr. G. B. Gregory) were appointments in the nature of sinecures. One of the gentlemen referred to bore the same name as himself. He happened to go the very circuit to which that gentleman was attached, and, so far from his office being a sinecure, he had a great deal to do, and did a great deal. The salaries of these offices, if they were revised, might probably be reduced; but it was a great advantage to the public that these offices were held by gentlemen of some position. They were the heads of large staffs—of some six or seven persons engaged in the administration of the law, and they caused the work to be done expeditiously, harmoniously, and courteously to all concerned.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he must complain of the hardship inflicted on jurors, who were required to give their 169 services for days, or weeks, or it might be even months, and at the end of that time only received the remuneration of a single sovereign. It was not just to take men from their business without some sort of compensation.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (15.) £133,202, to complete the sum for the Court of Chancery.
§ MR. HUNT
, as Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts, said, he wished to call attention to a matter which had transpired in the course of their investigations. It appeared that, notwithstanding the Act passed in 1869 that the Treasury was to be a party to all alterations of salary in connection with the Court of Chancery, the Lord Chancellor, under previous Acts, claimed the right to make alterations without the consent of the Treasury. The salary of a Chief Clerk of one of the Judges in Chancery had been increased from £1,200 to £1,500 a-year without the three years' probation required by one of the Acts. It was pointed out to the Lord Chancellor that a subsequent Act had been passed which, in his (Mr. Hunt's) view, modified the operation of the previous Act, allowing the increase of salary without any probation whatever; and it was stated that in a certain case a clerk had his salary raised from £1,200 to £1,500 a-year after a fortnight's service, on the certificate of the Judge that the clerk had discharged his duty to his entire satisfaction. That was a great scandal, and the Committee wished to prevent its recurrence. The Lord Chancellor, however, gave reasons why the proceeding might be defended, if a competent person could not be obtained at less than the maximum salary. But in that case the Lord Chancellor ought to get an Act passed to increase the salary of Chief Clerks. He wished to ask whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government had been called to that paragraph in the Report of the Committee on Public Accounts which said that it was desirable that the Treasury should be a party to all alterations of salaries and office expenses of the Courts of Law, and which recommended that the Treasury should institute an inquiry into the operations of the Act on the subject?
§ MR. SINCLAIR AYTOUN
said, that 15 & 16 Vict. c. 80, empowered the Lord 170 Chancellor to direct that the salary of any Chief Clerk might be increased from time to time until it amounted to £1,500, provided no such increase was given until the Chief Clerk had been in office three years, and had obtained a certificate that he had conducted himself to the satisfaction of the Judge, the increase to be by annual sums of £100. By 23 & 24 Vict. c. 49, s. 12, the Lord Chancellor was empowered, upon certificate of the Judge, to order that the salary should be increased to the full amount in a somewhat different manner. The Lord Chancellor took the view that by 23 & 24 Vict, he was enabled to increase the salary without any probation whatever. The opinion of the Controller and Auditor General, however, was different, and was to the effect that the Lord Chancellor might, on the proper certificate, make the entire increase, not by separate hundreds running over a period of three years, but at once, after a probation of three years, and that appeared to him the correct view. It appeared monstrous to argue that a clerk, if he obtained the required certificate, might have his salary increased to the full amount after only 14 days' service. He regretted that the Committee of Accounts had not expressed in stronger language their sense of the unpopularity of the transaction. In his opinion, it was nothing less than a misapplication of the public money.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was sure the Committee would feel very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and to the Committee over which he so ably presided, for the statement which he had made respecting the existence of a state of things which no one would wish to continue. He should take care that inquiries should be instituted into the matter, and he might say that he would do so with the utmost confidence, as there was no one more willing to listen to reason than the present Lord Chancellor, or one more anxious for the good of the public service. Some little inquiry had been made already, but it could not be completed until after the passing of the Chancery Funds Bill.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again this day.171
§ And, it being now five minutes to Seven of the clock, House suspended its sitting.
§ House resumed its sitting at Nine of the clock.