HC Deb 10 August 1876 vol 231 cc978-81

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1(Issue of £28,703,043 out of the Consolidated Fund).


said, he did not wish to detain the Committee, but he confessed that he should like to have some little more explanation than had yet been given with regard to the question which had been brought before the House by the hon. Member for the City of Dublin with regard to the distribution of advertisements among the newspapers. In olden times the giving of Government advertisements—


The hon. Gentleman is not in Order in calling attention to this subject on this clause.


said, the clause included every Vote of money, and included the very Vote for this money. He apprehended that put him in Order; if not, he would wait until they came to another clause. But he apprehended this clause appropriated the whole money for the year, and unquestionably the money paid for advertising. He believed he was in Order.


The Question has not yet been put—I put this clause to stand part of the Bill. If the hon. and learned. Member wishes to proceed now it is an unusual course. It would lead to much discussion if any item of expenditure were to be discussed while the clause is in this position. The more usual practice is to raise questions of this description before going into Committee.


said, that even if there was an appearance of his being out of Order, it was owing to the new form in which the Appropriation Bill was framed. Surely he would be at liberty to proceed in a clause under which the money whose expenditure he wished to criticize was being appropriated. In the olden time these advertisements were a sort of subsidy to the Press. There were some curious passages in Lord Castlereagh's despatches as to the uses which were made of newspapers; but he thought they ought to establish the principle, and also to act upon it, that the advertisements should be inserted in papers for the sake of attracting public attention, and not for the sake of subsidizing any paper. It was obvious that was not the case now; but he believed that advertisements were given as a matter of favour, according to a list prepared by some persons at head-quarters. He did not complain of this Government in particular, but of all Governments; and he did think the time had come when they should abandon the practice he had referred to, and when advertisements should be put in the papers for the sake of publicity only, and not for the sake of the support they gave to the current Administration, and. those advertisements should not be withdrawn because the paper did not support them. He should like to have some assurance that the bad practice would be abandoned, and that abandonment would be another addition to the good changes which the present Government had founded. If not, he should take an opportunity next early Session of bringing the matter before the House.


I fear I can give no more information then I did yesterday. As a matter of fact, the only advertisements over which I have control are those which are issued from the Chief Secretary's Office, and those are inserted in The Freeman's Journal. I do not control the advertisements issued by the War Department or other Departments, and that is all the information I can give.


said, his observations were not directed to the right hon. Baronet's Department in particular, but he complained of the general system.


thought a Return ought to be laid on the Table of the newspapers to which Government advertisements were sent. There was no difficulty in furnishing that information, for a list of all the newspapers usually appeared in the Circular Orders of the Army, and if he did not err, a list had just appeared in the recent Army Circulars, which hon. Members could buy. No doubt, the political Party in power did vary the lists of newspapers in which Government advertisements could be inserted, but all the power rested with the Treasury. It had been, and still was, a petty political kind of bribery, which both political sides should now repudiate. Both Parties favoured their respective newspaper advocates; and if the Liberal papers received more advertisements than the newspapers which supported the Conservative side, it was because the newspapers were in general more numerous than those of the other side. It was, however, a paltry affair, and injurious to the public interests, for notices should be sent to papers which could give the greatest circulation.


said, that fortunately or otherwise he was a newspaper proprietor, and so far as his experience went it was exactly the contrary of what the Chief Secretary had stated to be the custom. He believed it was notorious that when the Whigs came into Office they had a lot of papers to which they gave their advertisements, and when the Tories were in office they gave their advertisements to others. It was a most objectionable practice, and was derogatory to the Press. Government put their advertisements in the papers for the purpose of selling their wares or getting what they wanted. Their object should be to bring their intimations well before the public. This principle was not acted upon. He knew newspapers in this country that had been almost entirely supported by subsidies got from Government. He could not speak exactly as to the figures; but he believed there was something like £50,000 paid for advertisements in the year, and a great proportion went when the Conservatives were in Office to the Conservative newspapers, and when the Liberals were in Office to the Liberal newspapers. As an instance of the absurdity of this practice, he found a Government advertisement for iron ware in a paper in the North of Scotland, with a circulation of about 400 copies; and he had seen advertisements in papers on the West Coast of England for Newcastle coals. This was not done for publicity, but for the support of Party newspapers. There were some papers which, like certain politicians, took their colour from the atmosphere around them; but these were exceptional, while what he had stated was an absolute fact, that Conservative Governments gave their advertisements to Conservative newspapers, and Liberal Governments gave theirs to Liberal newspapers, utterly irrespective of what was required in the interests of the nation.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 (Treasury may, in certain cases of exigency, authorize expenditure unprovided for; provided that the aggregate grants for the navy services and for the army services respectively be not exceeded).


moved that the clause should be so amended as to provide that Notice should be given to Parliament within 10 days of the appropriation of money by the Treasury in cases of emergency to any of the public services of the country.


pointed out that the defects of the clauses in the Appropriation Act had already been under the notice of the House, and Notice of the changes needed therein had already been given, and as he had understood from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, an inquiry would be granted next Session, in order to remedy the kind of shortcomings by the spending Departments, which had been brought before the House, in the case of the naval expenditure, the Admiralty having largely exceeded the estimated sums without the permission or knowledge of the Treasury.


thought the suggestion an important one, but urged that its consideration should be postponed until next Session.


suggested that the whole subject should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee.


said, his intention was to deal with the question in the way suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment, to be read the third time To-morrow.