HC Deb 27 July 1874 vol 221 cc792-6

said, he wished to put a Question of which he had given Notice to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Up to 1867—that was during the time when the Colonial Office administered the government of all the colonies of the British Crown—the staff of that office consisted of one Secretary of State, one Parliamentary Under Secretary, a permanent Under Secretary, and one Assistant Secretary. In 1867, Sir Henry Holland was appointed as legal adviser to the Colonial Office at a salary of £1,000 or £1,200. In 1870 Lord Granville applied to the Treasury to turn the appointment of legal advisor into an assistant Secretaryship, pointing out that there was not sufficient work to occupy the legal adviser's time. That change was agreed to on behalf of the Treasury, and Sir Henry Holland was appointed as a second Assistant Secretary at £1,500 a-year. With that he believed there was no fault to find. The next step was, that less than two years ago, it was necessary to place the Colonial Office under the new Order in Council with regard to competition, and the office was rather weakened at the lower and strengthened at the upper parts, a third Assistant Secretary being appointed; so that whereas when the Colonial Office governed all the colonies it had only one Assistant Secretary; now that the colonies governed themselves, it had three. Moreover, the Home Office, which governed England, and had something to say to Scotch and Irish affairs, had no Assistant Secretary at all. If that third Assistant Secretary was unnecessary, there was not only a waste of £1,500 a-year, but the arrangement was fraught with other evil consequences, because the Parliamentary officials were relieved from the proper work of that office, and were only "crammed" for particular cases. Thus they lost a most powerful and useful means of educating future statesmen. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by asking Whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would explain why a third Assistant Secretary had been appointed to the Colonial Office, although the number and salaries of the persons employed in that office were settled by agreement between the Treasury and the Secretary of State on very liberal terms less than two years ago?


said, the appointment had been made, because it was very strongly represented to the Treasury by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that though the establishment which had been arranged for the Colonial Office was strong enough in the clerical department, the secretariat, and particularly the legal branch of it, was not sufficiently strong for the duties it had to perform. It had also been strongly urged upon the Government that the duties of the office could not be effectually discharged without further assistance. The fact that certain of our colonies were self-governing had in some respects increased, rather than diminished, the amount of correspondence and the difficulty of questions arising between the colonies and the mother-country. It was comparatively simple to arrange questions in which the Crown was supreme, but not so easy when—as in the case of the Dominion of Canada, for instance—the colony had almost the power of an independent State. In such cases assistance of a superior character was required, and an efficient staff was necessary in order to secure despatch and accuracy. Therefore, when the Earl of Carnarvon asked for the extra assistance, the Treasury took into consideration the recent re-organization of the Department, and it occurred to them that the salaries paid to the principal clerks were such that the holders of the offices ought to be able to render such assistance as would make it unnecessary to add to the secretarial staff. The answer was, that the gentlemen likely to fill the offices of principal clerks would not possess the legal qualifications necessary to meet the case. The Treasury, while disappointed at the fact that the re-organization of the Department had not strengthened the office to the degree that was expected, were not prepared to take the responsibility of refusing the assistance which Lord Carnarvon said was necessary; but at the same time they expressed an opinion that the re-organization ought to be reconsidered, especially in reference to the appointment of principal clerks. They had in consenting to the increase now asked, stipulated that the fourth principal clerkship should not be filled up till the total cost of the office had been reduced by a certain amount, and that no one of the offices should in future be filled without a special reference to the Treasury, who should consider whether the appointment was necessary.


said, he wished before the House went into Committee, to express his opinion that the Attorney General's explanation of the course of the Government in reference to the Judicature Act and the Amendment Bills was very unsatisfactory. The whole statement amounted to this—that there was not time in the present Session to pass the Amending Bill; but if that was so, the Government was alone responsible. The Bill was one of the measures mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, and as late as the 8th of Juno, the Prime Minister mentioned it as one of those which the Government intended to press forward and pass this Session. The fact, however, was, that the Government had preferred to push forward legislation in reference to which no promise had been given, and to drop that which the House and the country expected to see proceeded with. Already the House had dealt with the greater part of the Bill in Committee, and if it was to be dropped, the time had been wasted. As he had suggested on Saturday, there would be ample time to pass the Bill by the 10th or 12th of August, if the question as it affected Ireland was postponed until next Session.


contended that the last suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman could not be carried out. The Bill was not intended to amend the Act of last year, but to constitute one Imperial Court for the Three Kingdoms, and it was of great importance that that Court should be constituted by one Bill, and not by separate measures. He objected to any discussion or consideration of the question of the appellate jurisdiction separately for England.


observed that he had not suggested that the cases of the three countries should be taken sepa- rately. If the amending Bill were proceeded with, the Imperial Court which it proposed would be a perfectly good one, without reference to the Judicature of Ireland Bill.


said, there was a proposition made by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, that the clauses relating to Ireland should be left out; but that was impossible, because, in whatever manner the Imperial Court of Appeal was constituted, it would remain the final Court for all three countries, and therefore although Ireland might at present be omitted, its form and character yet were of vital importance to Ireland. He could not assent to the suggestion that a Bill relating to this country should be passed, even with the undertaking that it should be afterwards extended to Ireland and Scotland. When the Government came to appoint the Judges of the Imperial Court, they must be influenced by the consideration whether appeals from Ireland and Scotland were to be disposed of by it. They could not proceed with the Bill, therefore, under the idea that it was one in which the Irish Members had no interest. That being so, the questions which arose on the several Amendments on the Paper—and some of them were of great importance—must be discussed, and it was obvious that they could not be adequately considered at this period of the Session.


rose to address the House, when—


said, he must remind hon. Members that to discuss the provisions of a Bill on the Question for going into Committee of Supply was irregular.


, referring to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to the Colonial Office, said, that the arrangement proposed would work injuriously to the clerks in the office, who had a right to expect preferment in the order of their appointment. A slur would be cast upon their character, if they were passed over and a gentleman from another Department promoted over their heads.


hoped the Government would not act upon the economic suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London. The office in question was not overmanned, and when the alterations which had been referred to were made, the offices of chief clerk and précis writer were abolished, and no additional expenditure had been entailed. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would reconsider the answer he had given to the Colonial Office, and that he would not tie down the additional Under Secretary with any economical suggestions.


said, with reference to colonial matters, he had the honour of being a Member of the Committee that received evidence on the subject. The hon. Member who had just sat down had stated that he believed that no additional expense was incurred in the reconstruction of that office. Well, he (Mr. M'Laren) remembered that the evidence given before the Committee showed that there was a small addition to the expense; but it was alleged that the benefits were so great of the supposed reconstruction, that eventually savings would arise therefrom, and the Committee, although with some apparent reluctance, did not report upon that subject. But the Committee were at the same time told that in order to effect the so-called economical reconstruction or arrangement, two gentlemen had agreed to retire, though the witness could not tell them what were to be the retiring allowances. He found, however, by the Papers before the House, that one of those gentlemen (Sir George Barrow, Bart.) retired on £1,063 13s. 4d., and the other (Sir Henry Taylor) retired on £1,160; so that, first of all, there was a small increase in the expenditure of the office, even as reconstructed, and then there were those two sums amounting to £2,200 as an additional expense, and now there was a third additional expenditure by the officer now appointed—an appointment which the Committee were led to think would not be necessary. He thought it right that the House should know these circumstances as regarded the retiring allowance.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.