HC Deb 17 April 1879 vol 245 cc573-7

said, that as the Secretary to the Treasury could but speak once, it would be for his convenience that he (Mr. Ritchie) should, in the terms of his Notice, call attention to the delay which had taken place in the issue of the scheme for the reorganization of the Customs. The officers in that Department entered the Public Service on exactly the same conditions as the officers in the other Departments; but, for some reason or other, their salaries were 30 per cent loss. Since 1873 they had sent in Memorial after Memorial, praying to be in that respect put upon an equal footing with the others, and they had been told that their claims should receive the consideration of Government; but, owing to the changes which had taken place in the Treasury, and owing to the death of the late Chairman of the Customs, the scheme for carrying out the recommendations of the Playfair Commission had been delayed. Hopes were held out last year that a settlement of the matter was at hand. This Session, on the 27th of March, when he questioned the Secretary to the Treasury upon the subject, that hon. Gentleman told him that the principle of the scheme had been agreed to, but that some little time must elapse before the details could be settled. On the 3rd of April he again questioned the hon. Gentleman on the subject, when he was told by him that not only did those details remain unsettled, but that larger details had since arisen which required further consideration, and he now urged upon him to tell the House what those greater details were, and why they had not been considered and settled.


joined in the complaint of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), and pointed out that there was at Glasgow a large Customs establishment in which great complaint was made of the delay that had taken place, the members of that establishment being perpetually waiting for a scheme which never seemed to come to a head. He privately asked the Secretary to the Treasury on several occasions what was going to be done, and he had received promises and assurances that there should be very little longer delay. Those assurances he had communicated over and over again to the gentlemen who were connected with the Customs in Glasgow, until at last they seemed to regard anything he told them as simply absurd, because they had been deceived so often and for so long in what appeared to be their reasonable expectations. He hoped the Government would give some attention to the matter, and allow no further delay to take place.


said, he would, in the first place, reply to the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn). The question was one that had been raised before. He would remind the House that at the time of the settlement of the Crown Lands, in the reign of George IV., provision was made for passing all the surplus revenues to the Exchequer after the payment of expenses. But by a later Act (14 & 15 Vict.) a certain number of the Parks were passed from the control of the Woods and Forests to that of the Board of Works. No such provision, however, was made with regard to Windsor Park, the reason being that Windsor Park was looked upon, to a certain extent, as apart of the Royal residence. Although the expenditure referred to had been in excess of the receipts, it should be borne in mind that this case was exceptional, and that in all others the receipts exceeded the expenditure. It should also be remembered that a very large proportion of the expense complained of was incurred in the interests of the public, and out of the £26,000, £11,500 was really incurred in the maintenance of the public roads in Windsor Park. The amount was not so excessive. Under the good management of the Woods and Forests, the revenue had increased so as to be far in excess of the Civil List, and had, in fact, amounted to more than £410,000. The change advocated by the hon. Member might possibly re- duce the cost somewhat; but it would be at the expense of the interests, not of the Crown, but of the public. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) as to the reorganization of the Customs, he quite admitted that this question could not be much longer delayed. It was one' which had been under the careful consideration of his Predecessors; but the delay was not entirely the fault of the Treasury. It was long before a good basis for reorganization was found; but a scheme had now been suggested by the Customs themselves, which was receiving the full attention of the Government. It could not, however, be settled in a moment, because each branch of the Department had to make a Report stating the number of clerks required in different grades, and the reason for requiring them. They had not yet received all those Reports; but he believed that it could not be long now before the scheme was completed and inaugurated to the satisfaction of the Service.


The remarks which my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury has offered relate, for the most part, to matters not at the present under discussion. I daresay it would be a very interesting discussion to go into the whole subject of Woods and Forests, and their management. There was a very strong impression that the Woods and Forests do not produce as large a revenue as they might produce under still more efficient management than that which prevails at the present moment. But that is not the point. The point is this:—My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) called the attention of the House to this fact, that we are paying for Windsor Park a balance of £21,000 a-year in charge. Now, it is no answer that, under the settlement of the Civil List, the Crown had surrendered the full amount which previous Sovereigns had, because that is not disputed. We admit at once that the arrangements under which Woods and Forests are administered are entirely legal, and we admit that the Act of Parliament to which the Secretary to the Treasury has alluded, by which certain Parks were transferred to the Board of Works, did not include Windsor Park—we all admit that. This is quite a sufficient justification of the Secretary to the Treasury not inserting in the Esti- mates the expenditure for this Park. But what the hon. Member for Swansea urges, and what we urge, is that Windsor Park ought to be put in exactly the same position as the other Parks for which the expenditure is voted from year to year under the Estimates. Now, there is another matter on which there seems to be misapprehension. I did not gather for a moment that it was the wish of the hon. Member for Swansea that there should be any steps taken to make Windsor Park a mere place for profit. He does not wish to interfere with it as a place of recreation. Let that be understood. We are not in any way urging upon the Government that they should treat Windsor Park as a means of raising revenue. That is not the point at all. We do not want the beauty or the recreative aspect of Windsor Park to be interfered with. We do not press upon the Government that they should take some means to increase the revenue, which amounts to £5,977. That we do not want to interfere with. What my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea says is this—that, inasmuch as we pay £26,968 a-year—at least, we did last year—on account of the Park, the proper course would be that the amount should be placed in the Estimates, and that we should, therefore, in Committee of Supply, have an opportunity given us of going over that expenditure with as great accuracy and with as great a sifting as can be attained in regard to any of the other Parks which are placed under the Board of Works. I observe as to the Royal Parks, that not only are the general expenditures of these Parks detailed under different heads, but that, whenever there is an extraordinary service in these Parks, those extraordinary services are noted. Now, if the expenditure as to this Park was placed in charge of the Board of Works, and if the various items of expenditure were laid before Parliament for its sanction, and if, in addition, any proposal of extraordinary work recommended was laid before Parliament for its sanction, I have a strong opinion that the effect of that would be to promote economy, and that, I understand, would be the object of my hon. Friend. I suppose that some day the whole question connected with Woods and Parks will be gone into; but that is not the point at present. It is a much narrower point, and I must say the answer of my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury has not met the position taken by the hon. Member for Swansea; and I still hope that, on consideration, the Government will see that it will be to the interest of the Public Service that this expenditure should be brought duly under the notice and control of the Committee of Supply in the House of Commons.


observed, that as the annual expenditure on Buckingham Palace, which was in occupation by the Crown, was brought before the Committee by being included in the Civil Service Estimates, and the funds required for maintenance voted by Parliament, he did not see why the expenditure incurred in respect of Windsor Park should not be subject to the control of Parliament. At all events, it was inconsistent to allow two modes to be now followed in obtaining funds for the keep of Palaces and Parks in direct use with the Crown. The line to be drawn was that Palaces and Parks not in use with the Crown should be upheld by monies annually voted by the House of Commons, and a clear understanding arrived at as to how Palaces and Parks exclusively in use with the Crown are to be provided for.