HC Deb 17 February 1873 vol 214 cc568-73

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £6,000, Gunnery Inventions, Captain Scott, R.N.

(2.) £9,620, Supplementary sum, Harbours, &c.

(3.) £3,260, Supplementary sum, Metropolitan Police Courts.

(4.) £1,250, Acquisition of Lands (Palace of Westminster).

(5.) £51,666, Supplementary Sum, Stationery, Printing, &c.


said, that before this sum was voted he should like to receive some explanation with regard to it from his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury. It appeared from the Appropriation Act of last Session that the sum voted for the Departments was £396,000, being an increase of £26,000 on the preceding year, and now the Committee was asked to vote £51,000, making an addition of £76,000 in the same year for the article of stationery alone. It was true that in 1871 there was a Supplemental Vote, bringing it up to £400,000, but this year they were called upon to vote £448,000. If increase of expenditure was to go on at this rate, there would be no end to it. He wished to ask how far it was due to the increase of public business in Parliament, and how far to the public Departments themselves. Had not the time arrived when some attempt ought to be made to regulate this expenditure, and ought not a Committee to be appointed to control or diminish the enormous quantity of useless Papers that were distributed to the Members of both Houses? There were often printed Returns that were of great value to particular individuals, and for purposes of reference; but they need not be sent to all the hon. Members of both Houses; and in many cases, if 100 copies were printed and left to be applied for by those who required them, it would be found that that number was quite enough.


said, so far from objecting to the hon. and learned Member calling attention to this matter, he was exceedingly obliged to him for doing so, because it was one which demanded attention. The responsibility for the increase depended very little, indeed scarcely at all, upon the Treasury. At the same time the increase which took place from year to year in this kind of expenditure could not be prevented unless the heads of the Departments concerned and the House of Commons took up the matter and dealt with it themselves. In consequence of action that was taken last year, the attention of the Committee was more than once called to the enormous cost of printing Parliamentary Returns and Blue-books; and it would be found that in that item, during the past year, there had been a considerable falling off, as he hoped there would be in future Estimates. It was not in the cost of Parliamentary printing that the enormous increase had occurred, but he was sorry to say it was owing to the daily increasing demands of the public offices throughout the country in regard to printing. It seemed as if there was to be no limit to the enormous expenditure which was every year incurred in printing public documents connected with various public Departments throughout the country. Some step ought to be taken, by the appointment of a Committee or otherwise, to endeavour to stop the increasing expenditure for stationery. Part of the apparent increase in this Vote, so far as it was due to two sums of £6,500 and £4,000, was a mere matter of account; but this was comparatively a small matter, and practically the Vote was increasing year by year, and every year, at this period, there were demands which necessitated Supplementary Estimates. He should be glad to co-operate with the hon. and learned Member in any practical course that might be suggested, as he believed the Vote was capable of great reduction.


said, that he hoped that the conversation might lead to his hon. and learned Friend moving for a Committee on this subject. He believed that the matter was one of detail, and that a Committee might reduce the expenditure of the Departments as the action of that Committee last year had reduced the printing of the House.


said, he did not quite understand whether the Vote was for expenditure actually incurred or whether it was to be incurred. If it were to be incurred, he thought he might help his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury by moving that the Vote be reduced. And in order to raise the question, he would move that the Vote be reduced by £20,000.


said, he did not think that would be a wise course to pursue. Most of the money, if not all, had been spent, or arrangements had been made for spending it; and the consequence of making a reduction now would be to swell the Estimates for next year. He thought the general object of the hon. and learned Member could be attained in a more practical manner.


said, that there had been errors in the Estimates of the Stationery Department for the last two or three years. Last year that Department took not only a Supplementary Estimate for the year ending March 31, 1872, but also an excess Vote for the year ending March 31, 1871, the excess Vote being £13,800, and the Supplementary Estimate £25,000. When a Department made an under-Estimate, or spent money in excess of its Estimate, it would be well to allow the excess to be reported by the Audit Office, and then it would have to be voted as an excess; but to bring forward an official Estimate at the close of the financial year was to condone an excess, and to defeat the practice of estimating the public expenditure.


said, he had already made a suggestion in the proper quarter, and it had been adopted—namely, that the heads of the various Departments should be communicated with, in order to ensure more accuracy in the Estimates, and a reduction in the expenditure.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Vote agreed to.

(6.) £14,000, Supplementary sum, Police (Counties and Boroughs).

(7.) £730, Supplementary sum, Miscellaneous Legal Charges.

(8.) £20,000, Supplementary sum, Colonial Local Revenue.

(9.) £6,000, Supplementary Amount, Tonnage Bounties and Bounties on Slaves, &c.


said, that although these payments were made under an Act of Parliament, there was no sufficient check on such bounties. The arrangement, as he understood it, was this:—if a cruizer captured a slave vessel, though there might be no slaves in her, the cruizer could claim prize money on the amount of the tonnage of the vessel so captured; and if, on the other hand, there were slaves in her, the cruizer might, in order to take advantage of the greater bounty, charge the prize money on the number of slaves, instead of the vessel's tonnage. He believed irregularities had occurred in former years, and inasmuch as the slave dhows on the East Coast of Africa were exactly the same kind of vessel as those engaged in lawful commerce, he suggested that the bounties paid should be only for the slaves actually captured. The advantage he now pointed out had been taken and might be taken again, and there was also reason to believe that ordinary vessels engaged in legitimate commerce had been captured as slave ships, and confis- cated. All this showed that the prize money should be paid on the number of slaves actually captured, and not on the tonnage of the vessels. He presumed that the officers and men were paid like those in Her Majesty's service in other parts of the world and he therefore altogether objected to the system; but if the system was to be continued, the bonus should depend on the number of slaves captured. No temptation should be offered to men employed on those seas to make captures of vessels which might actually be employed in legitimate trade. He therefore hoped the attention of his hon. Friend would be directed to this subject.


said, the views taken by his hon. Friend much commended themselves to his judgment, and the Government would give itself to the subject and exercise caution, but he did not think that anything had occurred recently to justify an interference with the existing rule. He hoped that in a few years, as the result of measures which were being adopted, this Vote would disappear entirely from the Estimates. The civilized nations of the world had put an end to the slave trade on the West Coast of Africa, and he trusted that the result of recent measures would be to put an end to the slave trade on the East Coast.

Vote agreed to.

(10.) £1,395, Guarantee (Mediterranean Extension Telegraph Company).

(11.) £18,536, Supplementary sum, Miscellaneous Advances, Civil Contingencies Fund.


called attention to the sum of£16 0s. 10d.charged in this Estimate for the maintenance of Manuel Vacca, a pirate chief, who was imprisoned at Ascension. This piratical chief, like a bad shilling, was always turning up, for he had appeared for small sums varying from £4 to £46, and amounting in all to £120 in the Votes of five successive years, during which time his annual imprisonment appears to have ranged from three to 12 months. He thought that he ought no longer to be thus specially distinguished in the ornamental Votes for Civil Contingencies, but should be treated like any other ordinary convict imprisoned in this country. There was another item in this Vote to which he wished to draw attention—the item of £400 to Mr. Ross for his Parliamentary Record. He had not a single word to say against the Parliamentary Record. It was a most useful publication, and very much appreciated by Members of the House. But he wished to ask a question with reference to another publication which was published chiefly for the use of the Members of the House. He referred to Hansard, which recorded the debates of Parliament in a very voluminous and authentic form. He found that Mr. Hansard and his family had published their Parliamentary Debates for a period of between 60 and 70 years. The debates which originally occupied one or two volumes a Session now extended to five; it was well-known that in a pecuniary point of view their publication was no longer in any sense remunerative; and if it had not been for Mr. Hansard's patriotism and his wish to benefit the public he might have long since fairly ceased to publish these invaluable reports. He did not see how they could expect Mr. Hansard to produce these volumes at a pecuniary loss, at the same time that serious public inconvenience would be entailed by their discontinuance; and the question he had to ask was, whether there was any intention of inserting an item in the Estimates for Hansard's Debates similar to that given to Mr. Ross' Parliamentary Record. He spoke without having any communication with Mr. Hansard—but he hoped the subject would be taken into consideration.


said, he could not share in the wish of his hon. Friend, that the pirate chief should be brought home to this country. The small sum which appeared in the Estimates was simply for his maintenance as a prisoner at Ascension; and he (Mr. Baxter) preferred that he should remain there until he was taken to a better world. With regard to the other question of his hon. Friend, the Vote to Mr. Ross for his very valuable Parliamentary Record was the result of an agreement, and it would in future be included in the Stationery Vote. He could not hold out any hope of extending the Vote in the same direction to Hansard.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.