§ (1.) £56,706, to complete the sum for Law Charges, agreed to.
§ (2.) £162,444, to complete the sum for Criminal Prosecutions, Sheriffs' Expenses, &c.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
said, it would be well if the Government would inform the Committee what steps were being taken to carry into effect the recommendations of the Committee which had inquired into this subject. Economy ought to be effected in this matter; and when the present Government came into Office they had an opportunity of effecting economy in the Administrative Department of the Courts of Justice. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that, as long back as 1873, a Committee of the House was appointed to inquire into the Civil Service Expenditure. The Committee examined into the various Legal Departments in the country, the administration of which cost £1,750,000. After reviewing the evidence they had received, the Committee considered that all the Legal Establishments were unduly expensive; and they reported that, not only were there ample fields for economy, but also great need for improvement in the administrative arrangements; in fact, in their opinion, great service would be rendered to the public by a reorganization of the Administrative Department. Two years after that Report, he had the honour to bring this subject before the House, and he was assured by the Secretary to the Treasury that it was engaging the attention of the Treasury. On looking at this Estimate, it was impossible to observe that any results had ensued from the attention which the Secretary to the Treasury then promised to give to the matter. He hoped that, after this long interval, the Government would do all in their power to put into effect the recommendations of the Committee. At the present time, economy was so very requisite, and it would be 701 well that this opportunity should not be lost.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that what he promised last year had not been lost sight of. On the discussion of this Estimate last year the noble Lord called attention to the facts he had now re-stated; and in answer he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) could only say that a Departmental Committee had been appointed, and were about to investigate the matter at once. He was happy to say that the Departmental Committee had reported, and the Lord Chancellor had prepared a Bill on the strength of the Report of that Committee, in which he proposed to deal with the whole of the recommendations made for the reorganization of the Offices under this particular head. He trusted that that Bill would shortly be introduced, and that, in the interest of economy, the House would pass it into law.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £147,768, to complete the sum for the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, agreed to.
§ (4.) £52,809, to complete the sum for the Queen's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer Divisions of the High Court of Justice, agreed to.
§ (5.) £78,228, to complete the sum for the Probate, &c. Registries of the High Court of Justice, agreed to.
§ (6.) £9,375, to complete the sum for the Admiralty Registry of the High Court of Justice, agreed to.
§ (7.) £10,110, to complete the sum for the Wreck Commission, agreed to.
§ (8.) £31,542, to complete the sum for the London Bankruptcy Court, agreed to.
§ (9.) £366,679, to complete the sum for County Courts.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, that the Lords had before them a Bill dealing with the administration of justice through the means of the County Courts, brought in, he believed, at the instance of the Lord Chancellor. That Bill had not yet come down to this House. He begged to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General whether there was a probability of that Bill, which would, or, at least, ought, to materially affect this Vote, coming down to this House with any chance of it being passed this Session?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir JOHN HOLKER)
said, that the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman referred had come down to this House, and would be introduced almost immediately. It was a question of some little difficulty whether the Bill had any chance of passing this Session. If it were not opposed, no doubt it would be passed; but if it were opposed, he feared its chances of passing this Session would not be very great. He hoped the Bill would receive a considerable amount of approbation; and, that being so, they would pass it this Session.
§ MR. WHITWELL
was glad to see that his hon. and learned Friend was hopeful in respect to the Bill. The Bill, which had been introduced from time to time in this House by his hon. Friend (Mr. Norwood), had not had the opportunity of being passed; and, of course, he was quietly and honourably waiting until he could put his Bill into competition with that passed in the other House. He feared, therefore, that the Government measure would not make much progress until the Bills were referred to a Select Committee. It was a singular fact that in this year's Estimate there appeared a large increase in the expenses for conveyance of persons committed. Was that owing to the expenditure incurred under the administration of the new Prisons Act, or why should a very large increase take place in this respect? If the Estimate were correct, the increase in the expenses for conveyance of persons committed by the County Courts was £2,510. If an increase appeared in the number of persons committed, it would be a fact to be regretted.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
thought that an explanation would be found in the increase of the County Court business. They found that a greater number of cases were dealt with by the County Courts; and, therefore, they saw a proportionate increase in the expenses. Every year showed a steady increase in the amount of work done by the County Courts.
§ Vote agreed to.
(10.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £4,518, 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 1880, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Land Registry.
SIR, WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, his impression was that the Land Registration Department practically did no work at all; it was, in fact, one of those unfortunate failures of Law Reform. He believed that the cause of the failure was that land registration was a kind of permissive legislation; but he did not intend to go into that argument. He believed that land registration would not be successful until they made it compulsory; but, of course, they knew there were influences at work to resist a policy of that kind. But they must deal with the matter as it was; and they had got, in point of fact, a large staff to do practically little or no work at all. Unless he heard to the contrary from his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, he must incline to the impression that there was not more work than one Registrar could do. They had a Registrar receiving £2,500 a-year; and it was really absurd, in the existing state of the Court, to have an Assistant Registrar at £1,500. This was a matter in which a piece of practical economy might be effected; and, really, considering the quantity of work done, it was simply ludicrous to have an Assistant Registrar and three clerks. He had no desire to disturb the distinguished gentleman who held the office of Registrar; but to maintain so large a staff to do so small an amount of work was simply a waste of public money. One Registrar, at a very small salary, and without a single clerk, ought to do all the work required of him. He hoped they might hear from the Government that there would be some endeavour to effect economy in this instance, unless there was some chance that this Office would have more work to do.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir JOHN HOLKER)
said, this question was before the House last Session, and there was considerable discussion in respect to land registration. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) moved for a Committee to inquire into the subject, and the hon. and learned Gentleman imagined that he had hit upon a scheme for obviating all difficulty, and for making land registration a very useful institution. The hon. and learned Gentleman nominated the Committee. It was one of great importance, being composed of Gentlemen of great expe- 704 rience, and they had considered and investigated the question from that time to the present. The Report of the Committee had not been presented; but he believed that it would be in a short time. He should be glad if the Committee had hit on any mode of making the registration of land effective. He knew they had examined witnesses from Ireland and Scotland, where it was said that an excellent system of land registration prevailed; and it might be found, when the Report of the Committee was published, that some scheme was devised for making the registration of land effective—that was to say, that some scheme could be adopted, under which the persons who were owners of land could be induced to place their titles upon the register; and if persons were so induced, no doubt the present staff in the Land Registration Office—indeed, a very considerably increased staff—would be required. His own opinion was that it would be very difficult to make any scheme for the registration of land absolutely effectual, and to cause it to be brought into anything like universal use, unless they made registration compulsory. But he, for one, was not at all prepared to make registration of land compulsory. It was a very difficult question. It might be said, on the one hand, that it would facilitate the transfer of land—perhaps, to some extent, cheapen the transfer of land—yet, on the other hand, it would be a measure which would savour of arbitrariness, because they would compel a man to disclose to the world his title when, perhaps, he might not wish to do so. That, under ordinary circumstances, seemed to be a great hardship upon the owners of property. He might be wrong in the view he took, and it might be by some other way than by making registion of land compulsory that registration of land could be made effectual. It had been suggested that instead of registering the titles for land it would be a wise and expedient thing to provide for the registration of deeds through the country, and he did not think there would be any great difficulty in providing such a scheme. However, without occupying more time, he would say that the whole system was examined by a very competent Committee, and the Report of that Committee would, in a very short time, be before the House, and 705 then the House would be able to judge whether matters could be so arranged as to make this land registration a more effectual Department than at present. His hon. and learned Friend was somewhat in error in thinking there was no work for the gentlemen in that Office to do. The truth was that, under the Act of 1875, very few registrations had taken place; but under the Act of 1862—Sir Richard Bethell's Act, he believed—a good many titles had been put upon the register. As those titles had to be dealt with, they occasioned a good deal of work, which had to be performed by those in this Office. He held in his hand a Return showing what had been done between the 21st of February, 1878, and the 14th of March, 1879. Under the Act of 1875 only 13 titles had been registered during that period—or rather, he believed, only six applications had been made—at any rate, the value of the property which had been dealt with was altogether only £57,000 odd. That was not much; and he confessed that under that Act very little seemed to have been done. The fact was that the Act was not compulsory, and persons did not resort to it. Under the Act of 1862 there had been placed upon the register—including transfers, changes, and so on—608 titles; and, altogether, the value of the property dealt with was £1,238,000. His belief was that if these Acts worked thoroughly well, and if people did largely resort to registration of their titles, the present staff of the Department, instead of being excessive, would be inadequate. At all events, he would ask the Committee to pass the Vote until they had had an opportunity of considering the Report of the Committee.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, several years ago lie asked why, considering the small amount of work which was done by this Department, the Government did not take care to require that the officers of it should be required to perform other duties for which they were qualified? He considered the hon. and learned Attorney General had utterly failed with the whole ease. The hon. and learned Gentleman had pointed out that, under the Act of 1875, they had dealt with property of the value of £57,000, and, under the Act of 1862,property of the value of £1,238,000. Of course, that was no more than £60,000 706 a-year, and the hon. and learned Gentleman, having admitted that the £57,000 was a very small amount of property to have been dealt with, he must admit that this £60,000 a-year was not much more. The point which he wished to ask the Treasury was whether these officers were not to be more usefully employed than they were now? He asked that the Government should look after the expenditure, and should see whether gentlemen drawing salaries might not be employed in taking up some part of the legal business in other Departments. He blamed the previous Government, just as much as the present Government, in the matter, and hoped to see more care exercised in future as to the employment of these gentlemen.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he thought his hon. and learned Friend (Sir William Harcourt) had done good service in bringing the question before the Committee. He listened attentively to the hon. and learned Attorney General, and he was bound to say it appeared to him that there was very little doing in this Department. He thought the House ought to have some better guarantee than they had at present of the work done in these Offices. It seemed to him that the lawyers were the only people whose business was not thoroughly scrutinized, and the money which was annually voted simply for the benefit of the Legal Profession. They were the only people who got any good out of the House. He thought the House ought to be particularly careful and cautious in seeing that they did not create any more of these new Offices, or else that they should be sure to attach to them some real work to be done. It might be urged that more work might come into this particular Office in the future; but the attention of the Government had been directed to this Office on previous occasions, and he hoped they would make some serious alterations in it next year, or else that the Committee would reduce the Vote. The House did not intend that these things should be perpetuated. There were other things besides this Department which were waiting for criticism; but, as to this particular Office, he ventured to think that, unless more work was done next year, some great reduction ought to be made.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he thought the Committee were very much indebted to the hon. and learned Member who had brought the subject under the notice of the Committee, and who did it in a manner which showed he had devoted to it considerable attention. He was bound to say the hon. and learned Attorney General had entirely failed in justifying the expenditure which the Committee were now considering. The hon. and learned Gentleman told them, with perfect accuracy, what amount of business had been transacted, and he knew perfectly well that was not sufficient to employ anything like the staff for which salaries were charged. But the hon. and learned Gentleman told them that if certain things occurred possibly there might be more business in this Office; but he did not expect those things to occur. He said if registration were compulsory there would be more. No doubt, there would be; but this was not a question of compulsory registration; and he might remind the Committee this was a question which had gone on year after year. He thought the only way of dealing with these matters was to divide the Committee—that they should mark their sense of the extravagance of this Vote by proposing to reduce it. Of course, he was not going to move to reduce it to what he thought it might safely be brought down to, or he should move a reduction of £3,000 or £4,000, but he proposed to reduce it by £1,000; and he assured the Committee that if they would give him a majority in favour of reducing the Vote by £1,000, they would do more by that majority than by any amount of discussion. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), that these legal charges seemed to be those over which the House had the least control, and in thinking there were other cases quite as bad as this. He took blame to himself for having inadvertently omitted to take notice of an item just now which was covered up by other Votes, and was passed in No. 3. Legal officers were appointed who drew large salaries, and did no work for them; and if it happened that no notice was taken by a Member of the House the Vote was passed, although the matter might be one requiring the most careful attention. Something was said last year about certain legal officers, and he thought something 708 ought to be done with them by the Government. He alluded to the Official Referees, and he would call the attention of the hon. and learned Attorney General to the discussion which took place last year on that subject. With regard to the Vote now before the Committee, he moved to reduce it by £1,000, and he trusted the Committee would support him, as an indication to the Government that they called upon them to make some substantial alteration.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,518, he 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 1880, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Land Registry."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
hoped the Committee on this occasion—whatever they might do in the future—would not agree to the reduction of the Vote. He could not help thinking the House was very much to blame when it passed Acts of Parliament necessitating expenses of this kind; although it was quite true that after the Acts were passed the expenses should be brought as low as possible. However, as to the Vote now before the Committee, they had been told by his hon. and learned. Friend the Attorney General that a Report was forthcoming from the Select Committee. He thought it would be hardly courteous to that Committee if the House were to do that which might be directly opposed to its recommendations. It was possible the Select Committee might suggest a mode of throwing more work into the hands of those officers; but he deprecated a reduction of their salaries as long as they were allowed to remain as the administrative staff. He quite admitted that the expenses ought to be considered, and the Government had shown they had considered the question by the appointment of a Committee. Certainly, if that Report was in the sense of what they thought at present, some alteration in the Vote must take place another year.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, the House had already experience of the result of attempting to improve this Office. A Bill was brought in by the Lord Chancellor some years ago and passed, and then they were pressed to continue this Vote because of the probability that 709 there would be an increase in the work of the Office under that Act. That Act certainly had produced some increase; but how much? Virtually nothing. For the last 15 years they had been registering estates to the amount of £60,000 a-year, an amount which would only represent a comparatively few estates, and for that they had been paying in expenses for this Office £5,000 a-year, or at the rate of nearly 10 per cent on the full value of the estate registered. When this Office was established they were told that its expenses would be met by the fees from owners who went to it in order to validate their titles. In the face of that assertion, let the Committee notice that the amount of estimated extra receipts for 1878–9 was £6, and for 1879–80 it was the same amount, while the whole amount of registration fees was £793. An Office, in fact, which cost the country £5,400, was yielding something like £800, and the balance repaid what the country contributed for the benefit of those who availed themselves of the use of this Office. He did not think they should wait for the chance that a Report of a Committee now sitting upstairs might increase the work of this Office. No one could have said more for the continuance of the Office than the hon. and learned Attorney General; but he was sure the hon. and learned Gentleman must feel—as everyone who had listened to the debate must also feel—that the Office had not done the work which was expected of it; that the House made a mistake when it established it, and that this expenditure ought really to be stopped.
§ MR. GREGORY
thought the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had been a little unfair in his remarks about lawyers, and he claimed to speak in this matter on public grounds. It was not for him to anticipate the result of the Report of the Committee now sitting upstairs; but he thought it would be to throw a good deal more work upon this Office. If his clients were compelled to register their deeds, he certainly should advise them to register their possessory titles also, for one would be but very little more expense than the other, and would give owners all the advantages of a possessory title. For that reason, he believed that an increase in the registry of deeds would increase 710 the registry of titles also. In his opinion, the House itself was largely responsible for the failure of this Office. When the Land Transfer Bill was in Committee, he and his hon. and learned the Member for Coventry (Sir Henry Jackson) raised a discussion about the operation of it; and if the proposition they then made had been carried out, he felt certain that it would have largely increased the usefulness of this Office. They suggested that, after a certain number of years, a person might take his title off the register and get, at the same time, a declaration of title. He was certain that many persons had been prevented from registering their titles by the apprehension that if they wanted subsequently to cut up their properties the registration would be a great source of expense. With reference to the expense of this Office, another course might be adopted. They had in Middlesex a registry of deeds, while this Office merely registered titles, and he did not see why these two Offices should not be amalgamated. He must add, also, that the fact that this Office had not had any work to do was not the fault of the officials, according to his experience, for, whenever he went there, he was received with the greatest politeness and courtesy.
§ MR. CHILDERS
desired that the Committee should thoroughly understand the question before it—namely, whether a body of gentlemen who had: had for 10 years next to nothing to do should be continued without reduction in numbers. The hon. and learned Attorney General had practically admitted that these gentlemen had very little to do; but, on the other hand, they were told that a Committee which was about to report would probably make some recommendations which would give them something to do. He must say, in. reference to that, that their practice in that House had not been to find work for public officers to do, but first to ascertain the work which required to be done, and then to see that officers were appointed to do it. The other system was putting the cart before the horse. The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had given the officials of this department great credit for their affability and courtesy to him. But there was no wonder at that. The officials must have been delighted to see him, for he was one of 711 those rare visitors at their office, a professional gentleman with something for them to do. It had been suggested that this Office should be merged in the Office for the Registration of Deeds in Middlesex; but he would remind the Committee that of all offices this was about the least satisfactory. The Registrarships were unqualified sinecures. In 1867, a Committee was appointed by Viscount Cranbrook to inquire into the working of that Office; but for 12 years nothing had been done to remedy its abuses. He had not heard anything to justify the expenditure on the present Office, which could be reduced without the faintest risk of mischief.
§ MR. LOWTHIAN BELL
seconded the Amendment. The formation of the Office seemed to have been a mistake; and, if so, as it was costing the country a great deal of money, it ought to be discontinued.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
did not think the arguments of the hon. Gentlemen opposite had at all touched the question at issue. They were asked to give the Office a fair trial, and they were told that the Select Committee would recommend some change. But then the hon. and learned Attorney General had told them himself that he was opposed to compulsory registration, so that work would not be found for the Office in that way. Then, again, an hon. Gentleman opposite had recommended the amalgamation of the Registry of Deeds with the Registry of Titles. But for a Registry of Deeds they did not require a Registrar at £2,500 a-year, and an Assistant Registrar at £1,500. For registration of titles a lawyer was necessary to examine the titles; but any clerk could undertake the management of an office for the registration of deeds. They were asked to give the Act a little longer trial; but he did not see why the money of the country should be spent on the hypothetical chance that some day this Office might be wanted. He would divide with the hon. Member for Burnley.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir JOHN HOLKER)
replied, that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford was not completely exact in what he had said. He had not reported that this Office was really overwhelmed with work; but, at the same time, the Office did do a greater amount of work 712 than some hon. Members seemed to suppose. During to the period for which the last Return was made, property was dealt with of the value of over £1,283,000. According to his own view, the registration of titles could be of no use unless that registration were made compulsory, which, under our present system, was impracticable; but, on the other hand, many of his hon. Friends took a more hopeful view of the matter, and had suggested alterations which they thought would make this Office more efficient, and would bring in a great deal more work than it had at present. If the registration of deeds, which at present existed in Middlesex, were extended to the rest of the Kingdom, undoubtedly a great deal more work would be thrown on this Office. It was proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) to lop the salaries of these clerks by £1,000 a-year, which, practically, meant that the officials should be made to suffer for the sins and omissions of Parliament. It would be a wise thing, and a politic thing, to see how the Act worked after the new changes, and then, if it failed, let them propose to repeal the Act; but do not let them visit the defects and failures of the system upon the officers, who were not responsible for these faults, and who had done their best to carry out the Act.
§ MR. LOWE
said, last year a Committee was appointed to inquire into this subject, and during last Session and the present one it had taken a great deal of evidence. It had now closed that work; and, as he understood from the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), they were now engaged in considering their Report—if, indeed, they had not actually agreed upon it. He did not say what the Report of that Committee would be; but, under such circumstances, as a Member of that Committee, he must decline to to enter into the merits of the question now at issue.
§ MR. RAMSAY
had so much desire to see an effective system of land registration established in England that he should have very great hesitation in giving any vote which would do away with the system now in existence. But the statement now made showed that the system was wholly inoperative. Therefore, unless some assurance were given 713 them that, after 16 years' experience of the present system of land registry, there would be some attempt at a change and at an improvement, he should certainly vote for the rejection of the entire Vote. At present, there was simply a waste of money in this way to the extent of £5,400 a-year.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, they were told that now that the Government had had their attention drawn to this matter it was their bounden duty to see that something was done. He would suggest that the proper time to consider that matter would be when the Committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) had spoken, had sent in their Report. Then the House would be able to see what changes they recommended, and what alterations it was necessary to make. It certainly would not be fair for the Government to take the matter in hand before that time; nor did he think it would be fair either to turn round on these gentlemen and deprive them of their salaries because some hon. Members were of opinion that they had not sufficient to do.
§ MR. MORGAN LLOYD
reminded the hon. Gentleman that the issue left to the Committee was simply the Motion to reduce these salaries by £1,000; and the justification for that step was the fact that though all these gentlemen enjoyed large salaries they had, practically, nothing to do. It was not proposed to deprive them of their salaries, which would be most unfair, but only to lessen them by about 20 per cent. He opposed this Vote, for the reason that he opposed the Acts which constituted the Office. Even after their experience of the working of the first Registration Act, and of its failure, the Government secured the passing of a second Act, although he and other Members warned the House at that time that such an Act would be a failure, and that nothing could succeed but compulsory registration. He said at the time that this system would be merely an addition to the cost of transfer, and that they could not expect it to be generally adopted so long as it was permissive. It was far better to leave the system of conveyancing unaltered, unless the House was prepared to pass an Act providing for a compulsory registration of title. For these reasons, 714 he should give his support to the Amendment.
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
was quite aware that the Office, as now constituted, had not sufficient work, and on that point he was entirely at one with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), and his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). For all that, he trusted the Committee would not allow itself to be carried away by the youthful impetuosity of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). They must deal fairly with gentlemen who had given up the practice of their Profession and had taken important duties under the Act of Parliament. Although the Act had turned out ill, still they ought to give these gentlemen fair notice. They now heard that alterations were proposed which would give these gentlemen more work to do; and if those fell through, he certainly should be prepared to reduce the Vote in the next year. He certainly would do so himself in the next year, and he thought others would support him. But it did seem to him unfair to strike a sudden blow at these gentlemen, who had done all in their power to make the Act a success, and who certainly were not to blame if it had failed.
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
could not understand such an argument at all. They were asked to pass the Vote now, and were told that if that were dune this year it would be a warning for the future. But that was what they were always told, and was a principle which would prevent the House from ever rejecting any Vote that was ever proposed. Of course, the rejection of the Vote might inflict some hardship on the individual; but it was the duty of the Government to redress that, and to see that no injury was done. He must protest against the view that, in common justice, they could not propose these reductions without doing some injustice to individuals. How, if that view were accepted, was the House ever to effect a reduction in the Votes? If they thought that the Office was not working satisfactorily, it was their duty as Members to vote against this Vote, and it was the duty of the Government to see how they could best provide for these gentlemen, who, if they were no longer employed in that Office, certainly might be em- 715 ployed in some other way. He remembered the discussion when this Office was first formed. They were then told that the Office was to be self-supporting, and that so much business would come in that the fees would pay all the expenses. But they found that that was not so; and the hon. and learned Attorney General made the matter still more melancholy by declaring that it never could be so. He declared that the Office could never pay unless registration of titles were made compulsory, and he then showed that compulsory registration of titles was impossible. If that were really the opinion of the Government, then the sooner this Office were abolished the better.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
was of opinion that it would be very unjust to abolish these salaries at present. The gentlemen who received them held their posts under the authority of two Acts of Parliament. The Registrar and Assistant Registrar were both men of large practice. They were taken from them, and put into these Offices, the duties of which they thoroughly and efficiently performed. How, then, could they possibly deal in this way with them? No doubt the system of registration of titles was a failure. He said, when the first Act was proposed to the House, that it would fail; while, as to the second Act, which was proposed in order to give the Office something to do, he stated in the House that no such result could be hoped for from it. What he had said had turned out to be true, and it was what he had always expected, because no system of registration of titles ever could succeed. He was a Member of the Committee to which reference had been made, and he believed that its Report would shortly be ready. He believed the Committee would recommend, instead of a registration of title, a registration of deeds. In face of such a proposal, it would be a very rash thing to abolish this Office just at the very time when a change was to be proposed in the law, which would give it work to do.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
wished to know whether the Government intended to endorse the pledge of the hon. Member for Midhurst (Sir Henry Holland), that this Vote should not appear again in the Estimates in its present form, unless some change were made in the arrangements?
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
said, he did not pretend to give any pledge on behalf of the Government or the Party. He merely said that unless some change were made he should not himself support the Vote.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
had misunderstood the hon. Baronet. But he wanted to know what the House was sitting in Committee at all for, if salaries could not be altered? The duty of the Committee of Supply would be a farce if this argument were to apply. The argument was contrary to every principle upon which the Committee of Supply was founded; and he was surprised to hear his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) endorsing it. The country had provided a regular system for dealing with cases where Offices were abolished by means of the Superannuation Acts; and, therefore, they might vote on this question without inflicting any hardship whatever on the gentlemen composing the Office. The reduction proposed, too, was not nearly so great as would take place if the officers were abolished.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 88; Noes 140: Majority 52.—(Div. List, No. 102.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (11.) £18,690, Revising Barristers, England, agreed, to.
(12.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £11,673, 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 1880, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Police Courts of London and Sheerness.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
said, this was one of those expenses which the whole country was called upon to bear, but which properly should be defrayed by the Metropolis. He had moved on a previous occasion to reduce another Vote as regarded the charge for the police at the Patent Office; but he did not press that matter because, after the discussion, he thought there was some reason to believe that that charge really was one for national purposes. On the other hand, it could not, in his opinion, be maintained that the Metropolitan Police Courts, 717 with the exception, perhaps, of Sheer-ness and Chatham, were really maintained for national objects. No doubt, at those two last-named places, a good deal of police business did arise out of the national Dockyards there; and, so far as they were concerned, he would not trouble the House with any observations. As regarded the others, he would remind the House that in the country they had to pay for their own police courts, and, practically, to bear the whole cost of the summary administration of justice. But the Metropolis obtained from the national funds not merely funds for the maintenance of its police courts, but the money with which to build them. Only last Session, they had a Bill before them to provide money for the erection of a police court at Bow Street out of the national Revenue. Out of the national funds, also, they were paying for the new Courts of Justice, which, to a considerable extent, were the Assize Courts of the Metropolis; while, if Leeds, Liverpool, or Manchester wanted new Assize Courts, the people of the locality had to bear the cost of them. In this Vote, £14,163 was asked for; but there was a charge made elsewhere of £5,403 for superannuation allowances, which brought the total cost of the Metropolitan Police Courts up to £19,166. Against that, he was aware it was said that they should set the amount received for fees at the various police courts. The amount estimated from this source in 1879 was £19,700, so that the fees would appear to pay all the costs of the courts. The Committee must, however, bear in mind that a portion of the payments for the police courts, and the whole of the salaries of the magistrates, amounting in all to £35,500, were taken from the Consolidated Fund. It had been said that some of the business transacted at these police courts was of national importance and necessity, and he was quite prepared to admit that that might be the case in some exceptional cases. For that reason, certain amounts might be fairly asked for from the national funds; but it was not fair to charge the country, and especially the Provinces, with the whole of these payments. Unless some explanation were given, convincing him that he was in the wrong, he certainly should carry this to a Division, and he should move the reduction of the Vote by £10,000. 718 He should not feel so strongly on this subject, if this were the only case; but the present was only one of a series of Votes, in the nature of eleemosynary contributions to London and its outlying districts, made at the expense of the local authorities in the country. The Government, and its supporter's in that House, were always ready to taunt the Provinces with their lavish expenditure for local purposes, forgetting that by their Bills they had compelled them to undertake these works, and had then heaped upon them, in addition, these payments for works in the Metropolis, which ought, according to all principles of taxation, to be borne by London alone. He had always been an advocate for a re-distribution of seats, in accordance with population; but when he thought of what 20 Members had been able to do for London, he shuddered to think of what might be done by four times that number, and he supposed that would be the proportion to which London really was entitled. Not only had they secured for the Metropolis, at the cost of the nation, the great central Parks, which were part of the ornament of the capital, but they had also made the nation pay for the outlying Parks, like Battersea. Museums, Picture Galleries, and Free Libraries, which, in the country, would be paid out of the local rates, in London were erected at the cost of the Consolidated Fund. The time had come when something like a determined stand should be made, on the part of the Provinces, against this charge of local Metropolitan expenses on the Imperial Revenue, and he should, therefore, take a Division on the matter.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,763, 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 1880, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Police Courts of London and Sheerness."—(Mr. Chamberlain.)
§ MR. HIBBERT
thoroughly agreed with his hon. Friend. The time had certainly come for considering the propriety of paying for these local purposes out of the Imperial funds. Now that the question of giving certain amounts from the national purse towards the alleviation of local burdens had been considered, they ought to do something more, by taking part of this Vote from off the Imperial Exchequer and throw- 719 ing it on the Metropolis. In the country they had to pay for their police courts out of their local rates; and if they wished for a stipendiary magistrate, he was only appointed on condition that his salary was paid by the locality over which he presided. In the Metropolis it was very different. There they had £34,000 charged on the Consolidated Fund for the salaries of the magistrates; they had all the salaries and expenses connected with the courts paid out of the Imperial purse; and, in addition to all that, the country had also to pay for building the different police courts. He did think the time had come when this question ought to be really considered; and although he did not suppose his hon. Friend would be all likely to succeed on a Division, still the time had certainly come when the representatives of the local taxpayers should make a protest against the principle involved in this Vote.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
was not surprised that the hon. Member had brought forward this subject, for it had been raised again and again, and fought over and over again, on that Vote. The question simply was, whether or no the Metropolis was to be considered as an exceptional locality because it was the capital of the country, and whether or no it did not gather within its circuit so much of the life of the country, so much of the habits and customs of all the rest of England, that it was fairly entitled to charge these expenses on the general taxpayer? Certainly, these police courts had been charged on the general Exchequer ever since the year 1839; and he was not sure whether the Vote could not be traced back to 1790, and to the time when Bow Street was sufficient for all the needs of the Metropolis. For a great part of the year many of the people that London contained within its bounds came to it from all parts of the Kingdom; and it was on this ground that these charges had always been treated as national, rather than local. The question had been fought out over and over again; and, for these reasons, it had always been decided that these Votes were a general charge.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, if there was any way of convincing the Provinces that, in addition to their own heavy local burdens, they ought to pay still further to maintain the institutions of the Metro- 720 polis, the sentiments, almost approaching to poetry, with which the Secretary to the Treasury had defended the Vote, would have certainly done it. But the very circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded as justifying this charge were just the very circumstances which should seem to point out that, in common justice, the Metropolis ought to bear, to a very large extent, its own charges. It was perfectly true that a number of persons came annually to London from all parts of the Kingdom. But did they not spend a very large amount of money when they were here among the ratepayers? While, no doubt, the police courts were required, to some extent, for the work arising out of this influx of visitors, it was equally true, on the other hand, that the visitors brought with them the means of recouping the inhabitants very largely for that additional expenditure. But there was also another influx going on. A very excellent friend of his, whose son—an hon. Baronet—now occupied a seat in the House, and who, like himself, came from Lancashire, once said that the North was the best place to make money, but that London was the only place to spend it. Now-a-days, a large number of people, who had made large fortunes in the country, came to London to spend them, often living here at the very time that they were deriving large incomes from various parts of the country. All this pointed to the conclusion that the Metropolis was very wealth, and was yearly drawing to itself a larger amount of wealth, and that it was perfectly unjustifiable that, from year to year, Votes should be proposed, the effect of which was to impose taxation upon the inhabitants of the country at large, in order to relieve London from burdens of a character which other districts bore for themselves. The hon. Gentleman told them that this was an old story. No doubt it was. He himself, in the last Parliament, objected to the Vote in regard to some of these charges for police courts. He was supported on that occasion by his right hon. Friend opposite the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Sclater-Booth), who was at that time a Member of the then Opposition, and he was actually one of the Tellers. On that occasion they ran the then Government very close indeed, and there was some doubt whether there 721 would not be a tie. Of course, he did not expect his right hon. Friend to carry the enlightened opinions he then expressed to the Treasury Bench. The reason why that agitation produced no fruit was that there had not been sufficient attention drawn to the question in the country. His hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) bad spoken of the influence of the Metropolitan Members. But the interests of London were backed up, not merely by those Members, but by a large number of other gentlemen, who, though they represented country constituencies, were London men. As a consequence, the country did suffer when its interests came into collision with those of the Metropolis. It was only necessary, however, to call attention to what he believed to be a gross injustice to force the Metropolis to pay those charges which the country districts already had to bear.
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
believed that it would be no use discussing this subject so long as London was governed as at present. Who was to pay this rate, supposing it were made? Would they throw it upon the parishes, and call upon a poverty-stricken district, like Whitechapel, to pay it, or would they add the charge to the general rate of the Metropolitan Board of Works, under which they all at present groaned? So long as the machinery for managing London remained what it was at present, they would have one vestry trying to throw the charge upon another, and each evading the responsibility. Until somebody was responsible for the general management of the Metropolis, the system—if it could be called a system—would remain what it was at present.
§ MR. M'LAREN
was decidedly of opinion that the Provincial towns were used very unfairly in this matter, and that, so far from London paying nothing, it should help to pay the expenses of ether towns. If they took the two Houses of Parliament alone, and estimated the expenditure of each Member at £1,000 a-year, that gave an expenditure of £1,000,000 in the Metropolis, brought from the country; and, as everybody knew, this estimate was largely within the mark. He totally disagreed with the assumption that Londoners were burdened by the presence of strangers from the country among them. 722 On the contrary, he thought the Londoners should give the Provincial towns a bonus for the large amount of money they spent in it yearly. It was perfectly absurd to go on in this way. Only within the last few months they had been asked for something like £90,000 for the erection of a new police court. Why should the people of Manchester and Birmingham and Edinburgh pay for that police court? Why did not London pay for it, as other places had to do, when they wanted new courts? This lavish expenditure, at the cost of the country, had no justification whatever.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, it was quite true that this question had been discussed over and over again, but it had never yet been fought out thoroughly; and he was therefore heartily glad that his hon. Friend had taken the matter in hand. The question had already been discussed on Parks, Police Courts, Libraries, Museums, and Free Libraries. None of them grudged the National Museums, Libraries, and Parks; but he did object to grants for Parks in the surburban districts of London, and he had objected to it, unsuccessfully, year after year. They were now asked to pay for the police magistrates out of the national Exchequer. But, in his own town of Swansea, there was a stipendiary magistrate, who had often to decide very important shipping cases brought in from other places, and yet he was entirely paid by the ratepayers, and they got no help towards his salary from the nation at all. He hoped his hon. Friend would fight this out thoroughly. He probably would not be able to do much this year; but next year he certainly ought to offer a systematic opposition, and challenge every Vote which charged local expenses on the national Exchequer.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
would cordially support this Amendment, and any others of the same kind, as long as grants-in-aid were given. At the present time, £5,000,000 annually were distributed to the various localities, and he did protest against the continuance of those grants. They had been very largely increased since the present Government came into power; and he feared there was a great deal of favouritism in the way in which the money was spent. That could not, indeed, be helped. Any Government would be cer- 723 tain to favour those parts of the country which gave it the most support. He had suggested, instead, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should give up to the different localities certain taxes which were exacted solely for legal purposes—like the dog tax, the carriage tax, and the hawkers' and appraisers' licence duty. These taxes were levied solely for police purposes, and the Government might free themselves from all imputations of favouritism and injustice if they made this change. Certainly, otherwise, they could not stop where they were; for, year by year, they would be forced to go on increasing these grants. Since the Government had come into power these grants-in-aid had increased by £3,000,000 sterling; and he did appeal to them to free themselves from the odium which at present attached to these grants by making the change he had suggested. Nothing had done the Government more harm than their increasing Budgets, for the people would not see their explanation, that they put into one pocket what they took out of the other.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
said, that had municipal government been granted to the Metropolis generally, the municipalities would have undertaken all these matters of expenditure in connection with the police courts; but the denial of these institutions, and the delay in setting right that old grievance, made it appear to be necessary to go on contributing out of the national funds all those sums of money for purely local purposes. The Police Force was maintained out of local rates, aided by the Government grant, which the Metropolis shared in common with all other local jurisdictions; and he could not conceive why the money now asked for out of the Consolidated Fund should not be paid in the same way, unless it was that the system was to continue until some competent power and influence in the House of Commons should prevent it.
§ MR. PARNELL
joined the hon. Member for Birmingham in his appeal to the Committee to reduce this Vote by the sum stated. He also pointed out to the Committee that the case had a very much wider application than that which had been brought forward. In Ireland they had to pay out of local rates for the expenses of the police courts, and that out of local sums which were not at all 724 under the control of the ratepayers, as was the case in Birmingham. Their case was, therefore, so much the worse than that of the people of Birmingham, because they had a considerable amount of control over the expenditure of money raised for the purpose of supporting the police courts; while the people in the Irish towns and localities subject to the Grand Jury laws had no control whatever over the expenditure of money raised for those local purposes. That being the case, he thought that Irish Members might very properly join the hon. Member for Birmingham in his attempt to draw attention to this subject. He wished to know why the Metropolitan cities should get such Votes, over the towns in the United Kingdom? A Vote was taken on the Estimates for Police Courts in Dublin; but none was taken under the head of petty sessional courts throughout the country. It would seem, therefore, that the Government, for some reason of their own, had determined that the police courts in the Metropolitan cities should be helped in this manner by Votes from the Imperial Exchequer, but that the police courts and petty sessional courts throughout the country should not be so assisted. He asked that the Secretary to the Treasury should give a Governmental reason for this, if he was acquainted with it; but, if not, he (Mr. Parnell) suggested that the Vote might very properly be postponed until he discovered that reason. If hon. Members objected to vote money in the dark for purposes entirely inconsistent with the general practice and without any sort of reason in support, it was perfectly useless to say that "the practice had been going on for some time." That might be a good old Civil Service argument; but it had been noticed that the Service had been obliged to abandon, one by one, a great many of their old arguments and practices, and had to seek refuge in more modern tricks. He therefore joined the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in pressing the Government for some reason why there was this difference and inconsistency between the practice of the Government as regarded the Metropolitan cities and the other localities throughout the country. Perhaps the Chief Secretary for Ireland could enlighten the Committee with regard to his part of 725 the business, which entered into the present question in a very marked and important manner.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 74: Majority 36.—(Div. List, No. 103.)
§ Original Question put, and at agreed to.
(13.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £352,800, he 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 1880, for contribution towards the Expenses of the Metropolitan Police, and of the Horse Patrol and Thames Police, and for the Salaries of the Commissioner, Assistant Commissioners, and Receiver.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, this Vote raised the same question as the previous Vote had raised, although in a different form and not quite in the same degree, inasmuch as the Metropolitan Police Force received from the national funds a contribution larger in proportion than that received by any of the country police courts. He therefore thought it his duty again to raise the question by moving that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £100,000. The Secretary to the Treasury had very truly told the Committee that this matter had been fought out over and over again in the House of Commons; but he need hardly point out that no impression was ever produced upon the Government until questions had been fought out a great number of times; and that if opposition to these Votes had not been successful in the past it was because they had not been fought out enough. However, he assured the hon. Gentleman that they would endeavour to avoid this in future. The question was one which would excite a great deal of interest in the country; and if, up to the present time, that had not been the case, it was because the accounts were so kept, and the debates upon the Estimates so timed, that the country at large did not perceive the extent of the taxation which was really being gathered from them. In his opinion, these Votes should be opposed, not merely because they were unjust to the country districts, but because they were also demoralizing to the people of London; for which reasons he should raise the question whenever he had the opportunity.
Motion made, and Question proposed.
That a sum, not exceeding £252,800, 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 1880, for contribution towards the Expenses of the Metropolitan Police, and of the Horse Patrol and Thames Police, and for the Salaries of the Commissioner, Assistant Commissioners, and Receiver."—(Mr. Chamberlain.)
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
quite understood the point of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in the last Vote, but could not understand it in this. The present Vote stood in almost the identical position as the Votes for police in the different localities of the country, which were supplemented in aid of those localities by a grant made in each case of half-pay and clothing of the Force, and that, up to last year, was practically the mode in which it was assessed in the Metropolis. The rates, as the hon. Member was aware, might be called upon up to 9d. in the pound, which was the limit under the Act. Of this amount, 5d. in the pound was raised on the rates of the Metropolis, and the remainder made up by Government. This change, which took place about 14 months ago, was in lieu of half-pay and clothing; because, during the three previous years, it had been found that the charge amounted, on an average, to 4d. in the pound. Besides this, the amount of trouble saved in fixing the proportion was so great that his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agreed to the suggestion of a 4d. rate as a fixed sum, which, on several occasions, was found to be practically below the amount contributed when the old "half-pay and clothing" system was in force. The rate of 4d. was, therefore, substituted in London for the contribution of half-pay and clothing. This matter was purely one of account. The fixed sum had saved an enormous amount of trouble in the Department of the Secretary of State for Home Affairs.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
, not wishing to give any unnecessary trouble, asked leave to withdraw his Amendment, in view of the perfectly satisfactory explanation of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury. He had been under the impression that a larger proportion was given to the police in London than to those in the country districts.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
asked, what proportion of the rate was paid by the Imperial Exchequer for the police in the country districts? As a London ratepayer of 30 years standing, he thought that body were badly treated; and he would like to know why the Treasury had fixed their contribution at more than one-half the amount allowed by the Act?
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
hoped to make this plain to hon. Members. As he had before stated, there was an Act under which the Metropolitan Police were organized, and which fixed a 9d. rate as the largest amount which could be levied in any one year for the police in the whole Metropolis. When the first subvention was made, it was for one quarter pay and clothing of the Police Force throughout the country, and the localities had exactly the same as the Metropolis. More recently, in 1874–5, the subvention was raised from one-fourth to one-half; and the amount, as he had previously stated, in different years, came at one time to 4d. and a fraction, at another to 4½d., and at another to less than 4d. But the accounting was so complicated, and the constant checking of these accounts was so great an addition to the labours of the Department, that he had suggested to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to discard the fractions, and fix the sum of 4d. in the pound as the amount of contribution to the Metropolitan Police which, with the 5d. to be raised from the rates, completed the amount which could be levied under the Act.
§ MR. RYLANDS
considered the arrangement altogether inconvenient and unsatisfactory. He would take the case of Birmingham, Liverpool, or any other large town. The Corporations of these towns had to lay before the Secretary of State for the Home Department a statement of the number of their police force, and of the actual expenditure upon that force; if the expenditure did not, on any ground whatever, appear satisfactory to the Home Office, if the force were kept down to too low a number, or if there were any other circumstance in the management of the force which, in the opinion of the Home Office was not satisfactory, they would intimate that the subvention would be withdrawn. Now, in the Metropolis there seemed to 728 be an extraordinary arrangement in operation. It was, he presumed, under the Act of Parliament that in the Metropolis the amount of rating for police purposes must not exceed 9d. in the pound, in accordance, then, with this, the Metropolitan authorities, having power to levy the sum of 9d. in the pound, proceeded at once to spend up to it.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
reminded the hon. Member that it was not the Metropolitan authorities who did this. The whole Metropolis was, in this respect, under the management of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who satisfied himself as to the expenditure on the Police Force and its efficiency.
§ MR. RYLANDS
understood that the Home Office had the control of the Force, and could levy upon the Metropolis a sum, not exceeding 9d. in the pound, for its support. Presuming this amount to be sufficient, then, considering that at the present moment the London Police Force was costing a sum equal to 9d. in the pound, and that the subvention amounted to only 4d. in the pound—it would seem that the London Force was not subvention ed by a sum equal to the subvention of half the Expenditure granted to police forces in other parts of the Kingdom. Was that so? If not, he could not understand the case.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
would endeavour to explain. The 9d. in the pound was the amount which, under the Act of Parliament, could be levied; but if the Secretary of State for the Home Department found that an increase of the Police Force was necessary, and that the expenditure went beyond this amount, he would come to the House for their sanction to another Act, or would ask to be allowed to increase the rate. Hitherto, this amount had been sufficient; but he could assure the hon. Member that it was only sufficient for the requirements of the Metropolis. The 4d. in the pound for the subvention to the Metropolis was, as he had already pointed out, the exact equivalent proportion of the amount given by Government to the different localities, on their representing what had been the expenditure upon their police forces every year.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
contended that this was a great injustice. Instead of the Imperial Treasury contributing 9d., they only contributed 4d. in the pound; 729 from which it was clear that they only supplied one-half of the proper amount.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
pointed out that exactly the same proportion paid in the Metropolis was paid in the different localities. The one-half referred to by the hon. Member was the one-half pay and clothing.
§ MR. PARNELL
was disposed to think that one of the reasons why it had been found necessary to supplement the Metropolitan expenditure for police out of the Imperial Revenue was that a sort of fancy police force was kept up in the Metropolis. It was found that whenever police were wanted for fancy purposes in the country—such as for the Derby—the Metropolitan Police Force, like the band of the Guards, were at once called into requisition and sent down at the expense of the Imperial Exchequer. ["No, no!"] His contention was perfectly true—that a very large proportion of the cost of the police, when the Metropolitan Police were sent to such places as he had referred to, fell upon the Imperial Exchequer. It would be a very useful thing to find out how much per 1,000 of population in each of the cities—say, of London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Liverpool—it cost to maintain the police force; for he was sure it would be found that the cost of the police force of London, as well as that of Dublin—where a similar city force existed in an intensified form—greatly exceeded per 1,000 of population the cost in the other cities and towns throughout the country. He fancied it would be found that the cost of the police forces paid out of local resources in Birmingham and Manchester was probably not more than one-half, as compared with the population in London and Dublin. Before this vote came on next year, he thought it would be exceedingly useful if some hon. Member would move for a Return, in a tabulated form, of the cost per unit of the population, for the police in the Cities of London and Dublin.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (14.) £890,148, to complete the sum for Police, Counties and Boroughs (Great Britain).
§ MR. DODSON
wished to have some explanation with regard to this Vote. 730 The Committee was aware that the grant-in-aid of pay and clothing for the police in counties and boroughs was, in the first year of Office of the present Government, increased from one-quarter to one-half, and that during the few years which had elapsed since that time the amount had very nearly trebled. The grant-in-aid, which in the year previous to their taking Office amounted to £322,000 for all the counties and boroughs of Great Britain, was estimated for the present year at nearly £900,000. And this could be accounted for neither by the increase in the number of men, nor by the number of the forces certificated to be efficient. In the case of the English counties the grant-in-aid, although it was not shown by the present Estimate, had increased by nearly £20,000—that was to say, it was, in 1873, £162,000; while for the year ending September, 1878, according to the Local Taxation Returns, it amounted to £381,000. At the same time, it was obvious that the increase in the number of men during the time named entirely failed to account for the great addition to the expenditure, and to that fact he desired to call the attention of the Government. Again, while the grant-in-aid of the English counties had increased by £220,000, the police rate in those counties had only been diminished by the sum of £50,000; and it was, therefore, clear that the increased aid given to the counties must have had the effect of stimulating expenditure by lessening the burdens on the localities, and making the authorities more indifferent to them. He would remind the Committee and the Government that when it was proposed to increase the grants-in-aid of the police in the counties and boroughs from one-fourth to one-half of the pay and clothing, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had on the 16th of April, 1874, introduced the change as a merely temporary arrangement, saying—We intend, therefore, to make proposals with regard to the relief of Local Taxation in the present year. They must he regarded not as absolutely final, but as proposals which we think will meet the present emergency, and will, to a great extent, facilitate what we may have to do hereafter."—[3 Hansard, ccxviii. 657.]This was said after adverting to the proposal to surrender an Imperial tax to local authorities, and observing that it was 731 worthy of consideration, but too complicated for a new Government to attempt. Again, upon the same subject, he said—Having dwelt … upon the question of Local Taxation, I have only to say that it is a matter which will continue to engage our attention with reference, not only to the question of burdens, but to the further very important question as to the improvement of administration.He (Mr. Dodson) presumed that was said in contemplation of County Boards or municipal institutions for the counties. And, further, the Chancellor of the Exchequer went on to say—And the possible necessity of altering the present system and of devoting some branch of general Revenue for local purposes."—[Ibid., 661.]It was, of course, obvious, without expressing any definite opinion as to the merits of the scheme, that it was one which the Government intended to consider; and he thought it would, at all events, have this merit—namely, that the localities would be the managers and controllers of their own funds, and have a direct interest in economy. But under the present system of grants-in-aid the stimulus to economy was distinctly lessened, because they could dip their hands into the pocket of the Treasury and obtain relief in proportion to their expenditure. An attempt had been made last year by the Home Secretary to put some check upon the increase of the Vote; but it would be observed that the Vote went on increasing year by year. He would suggest to the Committee that if the Government were going to continue this system of grants-in-aid in proportion to the expenditure which the localities chose to incur, they should avail themselves of the control which the giving of these grants ought to confer for pressing upon the localities the importance of what he ventured to call "local centralization," in order to get rid, as far as possible, of the very small police forces existing throughout Great Britain. He felt that the Government must be desirous of arriving at that result within just and reasonable limits; and he was willing to admit that, to a certain extent, they had succeeded in carrying out the plan, although much remained to be done. There were in Great Britain, at the present time, between 200 and 300 different armies of police which, in some cases, consisted of only one man, and in others num- 732 bered up to 500 or 600. It was perfectly obvious that such a number of small forces was attended with many great drawbacks, and be was sure the Home Office must be perfectly aware of them. There was a great disadvantage in these small forces, both in point of efficiency and expense. He was not arguing in favour of a Central Police Force throughout the country, but for getting rid of these small armies, and amalgamating them with their neighbours in the counties or larger boroughs; and he maintained that since the Government had changed the system of grants-in-aid they should use the authority which the giving of such grants allowed them in dealing with the local authorities, to press upon them the advantage and necessity of this kind of amalgamation. He trusted the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, would be able to furnish some satisfactory explanation respecting the increase of this grant.
§ MR. WHITWELL
could not agree with what had fallen from the right hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson) in his wish to abolish all the police officers of the local boroughs in the country; because he had seen and tabulated, to a great extent, the large increase that had immediately followed the annexation of small and larger boroughs to the system which had been adopted by the Home Office of subsidizing the establishment the moment it came under their power. Among a number of cases he was acquainted with was one where the establishment of the eight men who were quite sufficient to do the work of the place had to be raised to 12 before the Government would give them the grant. He remembered that in the first year after the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopted, under pressure, a system of granting half-contribution or subsidy, both he and the First Lord of the Admiralty, then sitting as Treasury Secretary, promised the Committee most faithfully, in the autumn of that year, to see if something could not be done to prevent such increases.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
, having made himself acquainted in the course of several years with this subject, desired to say a few words with reference to it. He admitted that in the last few years the number of police 733 had increased; and it could not be doubted that the expenditure had also increased, in a proportion greater than the increase in the number of men; but this was due to the increased precautions which became necessary, by the people in the country being brought together at centres, necessitating additional men, as well as to the increase in the cost of wages and clothing which had taken place during the last few years. Before the grants-in-aid were increased, there had been rather a tendency to diminish the standing of the forces in different parts of the country; but the system afterwards set up, at his suggestion, gave the Secretary of State for the Home Department control of the numbers of the men, and, by keeping them in check, increased their efficiency. One force gave larger wages than the other forces in the neighbourhood; and it was for the purpose of bringing the different forces into something like harmony that the Secretary of State had adopted the present system. He believed that the system was still working well; but he could not bold out any hope that any great diminution in the force would result. The tendency in some districts was to ask for an increase to the force from the fact that they were becoming large commercial centres. While he was at the Home Office, a number of applications came to him from the Northern districts; and it was stated that it was absolutely necessary, for the maintenance of order in those districts, that the force should be increased. He believed that that increase was still going on. lie was sure that his right hon. Friends at the Home Office were keeping the expenditure in chock; but if they could once bring about an amalgamation of the small forces with the large ones, a plan supported by the Inspectors, they would produce greater efficiency, and, at the same time, greater economy in the management of the force throughout the country. As pointed out by the right hon. Member for Chester, the difficulty had always been that in small boroughs they preferred to keep their own two or three men, with, perhaps, two or three officers, rather than become parts of a central force, whereby economy in the matter of officers would be enormous. But it was found that these small places preferred to keep their little dignity of 734 a police force, and in one borough—that of St. Ives—they actually had a force consisting of one policeman.
§ MR. DODSON
observed, that the additional expenditure on the Police Force was ascribed by the Secretary to the Treasury partly to the increased pay of the men and partly to the increase in the cost of clothing. He might remind his hon. Friend that although the grant had increased the cost of clothing had diminished, and, therefore, the increase was not duo to that cause. With respect to the rise in wages, that could not be the reason for the additional expenditure; because, if there was an increase in one direction, the decrease in the cost of clothing would counterbalance that. The explanation which had been given did not at all meet the case of the English counties. The grant-in-aid of the English counties, in 1873, was one-fourth of the pay and clothing, and amounted to £162,000. From the local taxation Returns, it appeared that in 1871 the grant was, £381,000. Thus the grant had more than doubled. But in that time the increase in the number of men and the increase in wages would not account for the additional expenditure. He should like to know whether it was to be understood, from what had been said, or from the silence of his hon. Friend, that the system of grant-in-aid, which was originally proposed only as a stop-gap, was to be looked upon now as having been adopted permanently? He should like to know whether it was seriously intended to allow the local authorities to continue to control their own expenditure, and to claim a grant in proportion to that expenditure, and whether the notion of the surrender of an Imperial tax was definitely abandoned?
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that he could not be expected to go into the whole question of local taxation, nor did he think that that was the proper place to do so. At the same time, he was perfectly willing to state his own individual opinion with regard to local taxation; and he might say that he hoped to see the day when, instead of subventions-in-aid, many matters might be handed over entirely to the local authorities. He did not, however, say that the question of a police force was one that should be handed over to the local authorities, or that it was a matter in 735 which the control should be given over to the local authorities. It must be remembered that the maintenance of a police force was a matter of national concern; and it should not be forgotten that, besides the local authorities, the whole country was interested in the proper maintenance and efficiency of the police force. If the subventions in aid of the police were to be discontinued, and the control of each division left to its particular locality, in many places, such as he had mentioned, where one single policeman was kept, a very insufficient number of policemen might be maintained, and the proper regulation and efficiency of the force might be very seriously impaired.
§ MR. RAMSAY
thought that the right hon. Gentleman had done good service by drawing attention to this subject. He did not agree in thinking that the consolidation of the police forces of the small boroughs with the counties was desirable, or could be easily attained in England, because of the fact that the small boroughs might object; and even if it could be done, he thought it would be better that each separate rating area should have the control of the expenditure upon the police within its bounds. As respected the amount of this grant, in his opinion it would continue to increase unless some step was taken by the Government to prevent it. His reason for so thinking was the experience of the past few years. These grants were always increasing, and would continue to increase. They had increased by the amount of £17,000 in one year, and his opinion was that Her Majesty's Government should consider the expediency of making an alteration in the present arrangements, though it was possible, with the present Parliament, that that would be a hopeless task. The principle upon which the grants were given to the local authorities might be just; but unless the local authorities had the local control and responsibility, they lost more than they gained by means of the grant. He greatly deprecated the increase of these grants, for he did not see that there was any corresponding advantage to the country. The loss of local administration and control was of greater importance than the sum that the counties and boroughs obtained by way of grant. In 736 short, it would be better for the State to do away with the grants altogether, than to continue them in the present form. There was no advantage to the ratepayers in receiving a grant-in-aid, when the cost of the police was continually increasing; for it must be remembered that the ratepayers in counties and boroughs were also taxpayers to the Imperial Exchequer, and, by receiving the grant, they had to pay more money, without securing any control by the local authorities in carrying out the expenditure. As he had said, the loss of local administration and control was much greater than the gain. The local expenditure was sure to be greater when the grants-in-aid were received than it would be if the sum required were wholly levied in the localities, and was under their control. It was to this end he wished to make these remarks—to suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they should consider the expediency of revising the policy adopted upon this subject. He thought that great good would be done if the Government would make known its intention that no increase would be allowed on the grants beyond the sum that had been received by the different localities during the past few years. He could see no advantage in going on with this indefinite annual increase, which, he should contend, gave no corresponding advantage to the country.
§ MR. RYLANDS
wished to call attention to the fact that the grant given in aid of the police force in counties and boroughs during the last year was £890,914. During that period £452,000 was granted in aid of the police force of the Metropolis alone. Why London alone should be relieved of its taxation to about one-half of the total grant he could not understand, and it seemed to him to be a matter worthy of attention. It did seem that the grant and the subventions to London were very much in excess of the sum granted to the other parts of the country. Probably that arose from the greater number of the police force, and the greater extent in proportion to the population. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson) had referred to the gradual increase of the subvention; and he was bound to say that he looked upon this enormous 737 increase as being a very serious matter. From his experience in the management of local affairs, he was quite sure that these subventions had a tendency to do away with the desire for economy on the part of the magistrates and the members of town councils; and he thought that it was one of the most unfortunate circumstances that local administrations all over the country should show their willingness, from time to time, to accept from the Government for the time being bribes to relinquish their local administration and their local control. He did not, for one moment, wish to make any charge against the present Government, for his observations applied equally to former ones. He considered it was a most serious mistake on the part of the localities to give up the management of their public business in return for Government subventions. He did not attribute this action to the occupants of the Treasury Bench, or to any of the Gentlemen who were now carrying out this policy in Parliament, so much as to the permanent officials of the public Offices. Hon. Gentlemen would know that the permanent officials of public Departments were always pressing forward every system of centralization which gave the Department greater power over localities. Of course, that power could not be obtained unless they were prepared to give money as a bribe for the relinquishment of local administration. He objected altogether to that system, because he believed it was contrary to the public interest. He had no doubt at all that the system was very much opposed to economy; and he should be very glad to see public opinion out-of-doors brought to bear upon Members of that House in order to put a stop to the system. He was quite aware that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a speech made a short time ago, justified the policy of giving these subventions to the local authorities, by saying that at least, so far as they were a charge upon property, it was only taking money out of one pocket and putting it into the other. He altogether disputed that proposition. In the first place, they took the money out of one pocket—a considerable amount when everything was reckoned—but it was not put into the other pocket, for the local expenditure was not diminished to an equal 738 extent. But it should be remembered that the incidence of local taxation was very different to that of Imperial taxation. By these subventions in aid of local objects, property, upon which local expenditure was charged, was relieved, and the charge put upon the Exchequer was levied, to a considerable extent, upon the consumers of articles paying duty. Putting the charge upon the Imperial Exchequer was, in fact, levying it upon people of no property to the relief of some of the burdens of property. It did not appear to him that that was taking the money out of one pocket and putting it into another. These grants were being continually made, until the sum total of them swelled up to a very large expenditure, and local control and management was entirely done away with. At the same time, they formed a very considerable burden upon the taxpayers of the country. This was a most dangerous course to pursue upon the part of the Government, for it was increasing the expense of the central authority by increasing the general expense, and by relieving local rates. He thought that the only practical course for the House to pursue was to resist any measures which would increase this system; and he should be glad to see any practical scheme, either in the way which had been suggested, or by any other means, by which this expenditure should be prevented from increasing year by year.
§ MR. STEVENSON
observed, that the excuse for these grants was that they were to enable the Government to have some control over the efficiency of the police forces in the different parts of the country. The proportion of general aid to local expenditure was first one-third, then one-fourth, and now had increased to one-half. This increase necessarily increased the influence of the Government Inspectors. When the population increased, additional police were put on contrary to the judgment of the local authorities, because the Government had prescribed a certain number of policemen according to the population. That was one objection to the control being taken from the local authorities. A Bill had lately been brought in dealing with loans to local authorities so as to diminish the facilities for borrowing, and to prevent local authorities being led into an extravagant ex- 739 penditure which they would not otherwise have thought of. The reason alleged for the Public Works Loan Bill was that local taxation required to be cheeked. If it were desired to check local expenditure, nothing better could be done than abolishing these grants-in-aid. In his opinion, the whole policy on this matter required alteration re-consideration.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
protested against this being taken as an opportunity for entering into a local taxation debate. They were dealing simply with the Vote by which sums were granted in aid of local expenditure, and, in so doing, they were carrying out the decision of that House, not in that Parliament, but come to by a large majority of that House in the previous Parliament. This Vote was simply in pursuance of that decision. Of course, it was quite open to hon. Members to propose to reverse that policy by means of a Motion in that House, but not otherwise. The question of the police in the districts, and the question of local taxation generally, were quite distinct. An hon. Member had insisted that the Home Office had laid down a hard-and-fast line with regard to increasing the police according to the number of the population. So far as his knowledge went, there was no such regulation at all, nor was there any rule of any kind with regard to the number of the police. All that the Inspectors of police had to do was to inspect the force, and to see that it was properly conducted, and sufficient for the maintenance of order. From his own knowledge, he could assert that the localities were allowed to manage their own police, and that the matter was almost entirely left to them. He could give instances where the force was not sufficient for the maintenance of order, and the districts in which that happened were those which maintained their own police force, independent of inspection, and without taking the Government grant. Moreover, those districts were not officered as they ought to be when the necessity for a proper regulation of crime in the country generally was regarded. He had always advocated, and still advocated, an amalgamation of the small police forces; for, however much the maintenance of a very small force might gratify the vanity of particular 740 districts, they did not conduce to the public good.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
, having paid great attention to this subject, would like to make some observations with regard to it. The expenditure upon the police force had been gradually increasing, and in 14 or 15 years it had risen by no less a sum than £274,000. In 1878–9 the expenditure was £871,000; this, year it amounted to £891,000. These figures showed—and he had no hesitation in affirming—that there was absolutely no control over the police force. The figures showed that there was a gradually increasing expenditure throughout the country for the police force. Even in his own economical country—Scotland—the cost of pay and clothing was increasing, although it did not keep pace with the increase in England. He wished to press upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department that, in order to exercise a proper control over the expenditure, it was necessary to pay attention to the details, and look minutely into the numbers and pay of the police. In his opinion, the best plan was to abolish the grant-in-aid, and to give up the tax which was collected in counties. No proper control could be obtained over the expenditure until the whole management of the matter was left in the hands of the different localities.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that he could not assent to the doctrine of the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury, that this discussion was improper, when it had not been ruled out of Order. At the beginning of the Session the Government stated, when they took facilities for the discussion of the Estimates, that their chief reason for doing so was to give hon. Members more opportunity of discussing the Estimates. But now the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury informed them that they ought not to discuss the Estimates, except in such a way as he laid down. He thought that the hon. Gentleman was departing somewhat from his usual humble and kindly role, in assuming such a tone as that. He submitted that nothing in that debate had been out of Order, and since it had been in Order, it was not competent for him to use his high authority and position in trying to check a free debate. There were many questions which ought to be discussed; and now 741 the Government had given them greater opportunities for discussion, he pledged himself, when the Irish Estimates were reached, to use those facilities to the fullest extent, whether the Government liked it or not. He hoped that the Secretary to the Treasury would not forget his character of humbleness in talking to them.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
remarked, that he had no desire to prevent any hon. Member from discussing any part of the Estimates, and he was sorry that it should be thought that he had been discourteous in what he had said. All he wished to do was to remind hon. Members that they were not discussing local taxation generally, although the police force was a part of the question. If it were necessary to raise a discussion upon the policy of the Government in carrying out a system affirmed by a majority in the last Parliament, then what he said was that he hardly thought that was the proper time to raise that discussion. He protested against so raising a discussion as to relieving local taxation upon a Vote which affected only a part of the subject. He was very sorry if it should be thought that he had been discourteous, and he might say that he never intended to threaten any Member.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
said, that, so far as his experience went, the present system of the police was very useful and very proper. At any rate, all who came into contact with the police force must confess that the present system was a great improvement upon the former one. The police were something like a local army in the country, and wore kept up for the benefit of the nation, and he believed that the expense of the police should be contributed to by everyone. For that reason, he should support the present system. In Ireland a constabulary force was kept up by Imperial funds; and that seemed to him to be very proper at present.
§ MR. RAMSAY
wished to explain that he did not feel that the Secretary to the Treasury intended his remarks to apply to the few observations which he had addressed to the Committee. The point at which lie aimed was that Her Majesty's Government should insist upon making the amount which was now given in aid of the police the maximum. He would press upon Her Majesty's 742 Ministers that they would consider the expediency of making the average of the grants that had been given to the several cities, counties, and boroughs during the past four years the maximum amount of the subventions. In that way they would prevent discussions, such as had arisen on the present occasion in consequence of the enormous increase in the grant. It would be an advantage to the community to know that the great annual increase in this direction had stopped.
§ MR. MUNTZ
objected altogether to Imperial grants in aid of local rates. He did not think that a greater mistake could be committed by the Legislature than this system of giving grants for the encouragement of local extravagance. For many years he had wished to see the system abolished; and he thought his hon. Friend (Mr. Ramsay) was quite right in suggesting that the present grant ought to be the maximum. So long as the grant was continued in its present form the local authorities were encouraged in extravagance; and the more money they had the more they endeavoured to spend. He thought that the effect of centralization in increasing taxation was a matter that ought to be considered by the House.
§ MR. CLARE READ
thought that one of the great reasons for the increase in the amount of the Vote of which so many hon. Members had complained was the competition which went on, in so many instances, among the rural authorities, and that blame in the matter could not fairly be attributed to the action of the Government. Wherever there was a wealthy borough in a county the desire appeared to be to provide it with as many constables as possible; and it was to that cause, and the great increase in the rate of wages, that the augmentation of the Vote was, in his opinion, due.
would remind the Committee that in Ireland Governments seemed somehow or another always to contrive matters so as to create anomalies more absurd than those which existed in any other part of the Empire. In Dublin, for instance, there was a police force which was not managed by the municipality and which yet had to be paid for out of the local rates.
§ Vote agreed to.743
(15.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £359,126, 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 1880, for the superintendence of Convict Establishments, and for the Maintenance of Convicts in Convict Establishments in England and the Colonits.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he thought the Government ought to consent to the postponement of the Vote until the Report had been laid on the Table of the Royal Commission which had been appointed to inquire into the condition of convict establishments, and which he understood intended to propose certain plans with regard to their future management. Last Session, or rather the Session before, the question of convict establishments had been brought under the notice of the House, and a Commission bad been appointed for the purpose of inquiring whether some system of inspection over them would not be advisable, as well as in the case of the borough and county prisons, which were placed on an entirely different footing. The county and borough gaols were originally very much under the direction of the magistrates; and although the Act of 1877 destroyed, to a great extent, the power and functions of the visiting Justices, it still left them a certain amount of authority, and gave them certain facilities for looking after their management. But the convict establishments, which were the outcome of the system of transportation, had been introduced into England when it was found that the Colonies would no longer consent to receive our criminal population. Those establishments were new things; nobody was interested in them. They were not like the borough prisons, which had grown up with the growth of local institutions in England. They were ingrafted on the prison system of the country hastily, with little or no preparation, and with scarcely any safeguards or facilities for local inspection. Hence they were very much shut out from the light of day, and it was almost impossible to investigate any case, of which one might from time to time hear, because every one of the functionaries, from the highest to the lowest, were mixed up in a conspiracy for the purpose of protecting the present system. There was no independent inspection whatever; 744 and it was because that state of things had been pointed out that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in reply to a Motion which had been brought forward, had promised that a Royal Commission should be issued to inquire into the whole question of the management and discipline of those establishments. That Commission had been appointed shortly afterwards, and had prosecuted its labours during the Session of 1878. Those labours, he was given to understand, were almost, if not entirely, concluded, and the Report of the Commission would soon be ready to be produced. He thought, therefore, that, taking into account the long time which had elapsed since there had been any discussion on the question, it would be desirable that the Vote should be postponed until hon. Members had the opportunity afforded them of making themselves acquainted with the nature of that Report. He wished, he might add, to bear his humble testimony to the very great service which had been rendered by the hon. Baronet the Member for Midhurst (Sir Henry Holland) as a Member of the Commission. He had heard from many sources in Ireland that the hon. Baronet had taken the greatest pains in the conduct of the inquiry to investigate the condition of the convict establishments in that country, which were rather worse than the general run of those institutions. He was, therefore, thankful to him for the manner in which he had discharged a difficult and responsible duty. He would conclude by appealing again to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, he believed, fully recognized the importance of the question, to consent to the postponement of the Vote.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
could assure the hon. Gentleman that he had but one object in dealing with the establishments to which his remarks related, and that was that justice should be done, and that no punishment should be inflicted in the prisons of the country except such as was absolutely necessary. The hon. Gentleman might rely upon it that whenever the Report of the Commission was made it would, if it contained any suggestion for the improvement of the management of those establishments, receive the best attention of the Government, He hoped, 745 however, the hon. Gentleman would not press for the postponement of the Vote, or if he did so that the Committee would not sanction the proposal, for it was necessary that the salaries of the officers should be paid, and the cost of the maintenance of the prisons defrayed, otherwise the system must come to an end. The only object of appointing a Commission to inquire into the subject was that the system of penal servitude, which had been substituted for transportation, should be thoroughly investigated in all its bearings, in order to see whether discipline was fully and properly carried out, and to ascertain the relative results of penal servitude and what, as contrasted with it, was called imprisonment. No hon. Member would, he thought, believe that systematic cruelty was practised in our convict prisons; and he could only repeat that if the Report of the Commission showed that any improvement was needed, not a single day should be lost in giving effect to any recommendation upon which the Government might deem it expedient to act.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that, however severe the convict system might be, there were many prisoners who did not look upon penal servitude as being so severe a punishment as imprisonment for long-periods. In two instances which had come within his own knowledge, when presiding at Quarter Sessions within the last two years, one prisoner who had been sentenced to two years, and another to 18 months' imprisonment, had begged, in the most earnest manner, to be sentenced to penal servitude instead. It was clear, therefore, that however severe penal servitude might be—and he did not mean to contend that it was not a very severe punishment, or that the law with respect to it did not require amendment—criminals did not regard it as being more severe than imprisonment, at least in some cases.
said, the question which had been adverted to in the course of the discussion was one with regard to which he had entertained a very strong opinion for some years past. Pie had occupied the position of Recorder for many years, and one of the greatest difficulties which he had experienced in the discharge of the duties of that office was the awarding the proper amounts of punishment for the offences which he had to try. It often happened that a 746 prisoner who was brought before him was convicted of some small crime. He might have previously undergone a short period of imprisonment, also for a small offence, and there was his former conviction staring the Judge in the face. What was he, in these circumstances, to do? To pronounce a sentence of penal servitude for the full period of seven years was to inflict a terrible punishment, yet there was no power to give a less period. Those who were practically acquainted with the subject were also aware that two years' imprisonment was a terrible punishment. It had been frequently known to have driven those upon whom it had been inflicted to insanity. Yet, in many of the cases which came before him, the only alternative was between imprisonment for 18 months or two years, or a sentence to five years' penal servitude for a first offence, and seven if there was a prior conviction. The alteration in the law which was made some years ago, and which took away from Judges the power of passing sentences of three years' penal servitude, was, in his opinion, greatly to be regretted. Why, he would ask, should not that power be restored? He was anxious to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the strongest way he could, the necessity of making the change. He had not long ago the pleasure of a conversation with a learned friend of his who, perhaps, tried more prisoners during the year than any Judge in the Kingdom—as many as 150 prisoners every session (except sessions being held annually)—and he, as the result of his great experience, had informed him that the difficulty of duly apportioning punishments under the present state of the law was one of the greatest with which he had to deal. The gentleman to whom lie referred was the Recorder of Liverpool, who had authorized him to express, if ever he spoke upon the subject in that House, his strong feeling that the law ought to be altered. He hoped, therefore, that the Home Secretary would feel it to be consistent with his duty to accept an Amendment which he intended to propose in the Criminal Code (Indictable Offences) Bill, giving the power to Judges to pass a sentence of three years' penal servitude.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
said, the question was one of great interest, and that he, to a great extent, concurred in the observations which had been made by his hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down as to the expediency of enabling Judges to pass sentences of penal servitude for a shorter period than five years. But leaving that point, he should like to know what prospect there was of some adequate system of inspection being brought to bear upon our great convict establishments? Were those great, solemn establishments, with their lofty walls and barred doors, to be altogether shut out from the view of the general public? What be wanted was that there should be somebody, on the part of the public, to look into them, and to see what was the mode of life and the position of their unfortunate inmates. He, for one, regretted that the power of the Visiting Justices had been almost destroyed, and he hoped to see their authority resuscitated and re-invigorated, so that, as far as possible, there might be a constant system of inspection of those institutions. There was another point connected with the subject which he was anxious to bring under the notice of the Secretary of State, although he had no doubt it was one which was frequently present to his mind. It was well, however, that it should be mentioned in that House, in order that it might be discussed, for the discussion might bear fruit in the future. We had, in those immense establishments of which he was speaking, a certain number of criminals who were doomed to undergo different periods of penal servitude. He was aware that the humane, and he believed the necessary, mode of administering the law required that those criminals should be afforded the hope that part of their term of punishment might be remitted. He did not wish, he might add, to raise too many doubts with regard to the administration of justice; but he must say that more than once or twice or three times in the course of his life he had felt convinced that a man had been made to undergo a term of penal servitude to which, though innocent, he was condemned. There was, of course, a great deal of difficulty in dealing with such case, and he knew very well how readily the Secretary of State, and his Predecessors in Office, had responded to any appeal 748 made to them to entertain and consider cases of the kind; but then it should be borne in mind that, in some instances, the necessary money was wanting to bring forward evidence; or death, perhaps, had removed some of the witnesses, or the Judge who tried the case; the result being that the wretched convict was left to endure his long period of unmerited punishment. That being so, would it not be possible, he would ask, to have an inspection of those prisons, and a review of the cases of the prisoners, to see whether or not some of the inmates might not safely be restored to civil life? It would require, no doubt, a high authority, and the possession of a lofty mind and judgment, in order that such a commission might be properly discharged; but, in the great majority of cases, the Judge who tried a prisoner could be appealed to; he could be asked to refer to his notes, and asked to give his opinion on the case; and, in that way, all the necessary precautions might be taken, and a proper amount of care bestowed upon each case as it arose. And, though caution was necessary in restoring convicts to civil life, he believed there were eminent authorities in the management of convict prisons in whose opinion at least one-third of the prisoners who were confined in them need not be detained there. Was not that a matter worthy of consideration? Was it not a terrible burden on our consciences that all this mass of human degradation should be maintained at the public expense, without any attempt being made to find out whether among the many cases there were not some of those convicts who might, without injury to society, be restored to it, and whether there were not some who had been innocently condemned? Was not the House of Commons incurring a great moral responsibility by not endeavouring, in regard to such a question, to perform its duty in some degree?
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, there were two points mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman in the course of his remarks with respect to which he entirely agreed with him, while there was one on which he differed from him altogether. He was, and had always been, in favour of the independent inspection of convict prisons; and he hoped the Commission would recommend some 749 scheme for the appointment of independent Visitors of all those establishments. He also concurred with the hon. and learned Gentleman in the opinion that there should be, at all events in all serious cases, the most ample opportunity given to a man who was wrongly condemned to have a new trial. The most suitable time, however, to deal with that question would be when the Criminal Code (Indictable Offences) Bill came on for discussion. But he would beg to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that a man who had been convicted of a crime could always appeal to the Home Secretary without expense, and that no Home Secretary would be worthy to hold the Office if he did not most carefully investigate those eases which were brought before him. The point on which he differed from the hon. and learned Gentleman—and he did so most absolutely and entirely—was the expediency of sending a roving Commission all over the country to see how many offenders who had been properly convicted and sentenced to penal servitude might be again turned loose upon society. With such safeguards as he had mentioned against allowing an innocent man to suffer, it would be most unwise, in his opinion, that there should be any uncertainty as to a sentence being carried out after it had been passed.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
was sorry the right hon. Gentleman had not deferred his remarks for a few moments, because he was desirous of having a discussion on a matter which he had very much at heart—he meant the question of industrial labour in prisons. No doubt, the present system was a great improvement on that which formerly existed, when the course adopted with regard to prisoners assumed more of the character of retribution. But the great difficulty was how far it was possible to try to reform a criminal inside the walls of a prison without injuring the honest man outside. Now, he was afraid that in the endeavour to reform the offender they had, to an undue extent, interfered with the well-being of the honest man. ["No, No!"] The hon. Member who cried "No, no" was not, perhaps, as well acquainted as he was with the details of the subject. He knew that in the prison at Wakefield, and those in other towns in the North of England, trades had been carried on to 750 such a degree as to be exceedingly injurious to the interests of the honest working man. He would mention, especially, the mat and brush making trades. Honest respectable men had come to him, and had also gone on deputations to the Home Secretary, who had represented that they bad been literally starved out of occupation through the monopoly of what was called prison labour. For that he did not hold the right hon. Gentleman in any way responsible; for he knew he was most anxious to redress, as far as lay in his power, the grievance of which those poor men complained. The right hon. Gentleman had been good enough, when the Prisons Bill was passing through the House, two years ago, to adopt an Amendment which he had moved, in order to form the recital to a clause in that Act, with the view of preventing the unfavourable operation of prison labour in the way which he bad just mentioned. He had not very long ago, he might add, put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman, as to what was being done in the matter, and as to the total absence of any allusion to industrial labour in prisons in the Report for last year which had been laid upon the Table of the House. The answer was, that the Report did not at all apply to the present year, and that a Commission was now sitting with the view of redressing any grievance which might be shown to exist. Now, the inquiry would, he hoped, be carried out in a thorough manner. He, for one, was opposed to punishments being inflicted on offenders by way of retribution, or in any spirit of vindictiveness. The proper course was to endeavour to make a convict a better member of society, if possible, by reforming him. He would not, therefore, prohibit industries in gaols. If a prisoner knew a trade, let him follow it, and, if not, let him be taught one; but let not that system, at the same time, be carried out to the prejudice of the honest and respectable citizen who never committed a crime, and who had only his honest labour to depend upon. His attention had lately been called to the fact that there were absolutely tenders made from certain prisons for the manufacture of goods, not for the use of those prisons, or for the benefit of the prisoners, but in order that their work might go into the market and compete with that of the honest labourer outside. 751 They were seeking to reform the criminal at the expense of the honest working-man, and he protested against that system as one utterly unnecessary and unjust. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether his attention had been called to certain tenders issued from prisons in Lancashire to manufacturers, stating the price at which work could be done for them in the prisons, and whether that rate was one that would undersell the honest working man out of prison? It was a great evil, if such a system was in practice. If the right hon. Gentleman had not seen those tenders, would he make inquiries respecting them, or issue such orders as would prevent those proceedings in the prisons generally?
§ MR. HIBBERT
did not at all agree with what had fallen from the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Serjeant Simon) with respect to prison labour. He held the opinion that the more industrial labour was extended in prisons the better it would be for the prisoners, provided that the trades carried on did not undersell the trades carried on outside. He rose, however, to ask his right hon. Friend for some little explanation about the amount voted for prisoners in convict establishments in the Colonies. There appeared to be one prisoner at Malta, 36 in new South Wales, 195 in Tasmania, described as paupers, lunatics, prisoners, or prisoners' children, costing £60 a-year each, and 225 in Western Australia, costing £i00 a-year each, while our own convicts cost £48. He thought that some promise should be given as to when these grants in aid of Colonial convict establishments should cease.
wished to call attention to a subject referred to by him last year. He reminded the Secretary of State for the Home Department that he had admitted it to be most objectionable that a stipendiary Coroner should be retained for a Government prison; but in page 208 of the Estimates the salary of that officer again appeared. He begged, again, to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this fact, which had probably escaped his attention.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, the subject just referred to by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) had also been 752 alluded to by him when the Votes were before the Committee last year. The whole Vote was one which could not be looked upon without a feeling of pain, inasmuch as it dealt with no less than 10,838 unhappy persons under confinement. He proposed to reduce this Vote by the sum of £4,950, being the amount of the cost of maintenance of invalids, lunatics, paupers, pauper children, &c, in Tasmania. He could not see why money should be voted for this purpose to the people of Tasmania. With regard to the Vote in aid of the Colonial magistracy, police gaols, &c, for Tasmania and Western Australia, which latter place had the control and management of the sum of £12,000, although he was perfectly aware that these grants were to expire in 1883, he considered that it was much better that they should be compounded for by the payment of a larger sum at once. The right hon. Gentleman would probably give an answer as to whether this would be done. Another question which he desired to ask was, whether the allowance to the prison officers included superannuation allowance, or whether that would have to be credited to them when the grant ceased?
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that, so far as the convict prisons were concerned, the work of mat-making, supposed to be improperly competing with honest labour, had been reduced, and, in many establishments, entirely discontinued. This industry was mainly directed to the supply of Government offices and establishments—which was, of course, perfectly allowable. If the necessity for industrial labour existed, the articles manufactured under the system ought not to be placed on a shelf and allowed to remain; they must be disposed of. His theory had always been, as far as possible, to make use of the labour of prisoners for the benefit of the State; and he was, at that moment, under considerable contracts with the Admiralty, and was endeavouring to get the Army to make contracts with the prisons for clothing, blankets, and matters of that kind. He thought nobody could possibly object to their making what they could for the public service, provided the canon laid down by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) was always followed—namely, that the proper market prices outside were not 753 undersold; and the hon. Member might rely that the principle was not in any way lost sight of. The expenditure on the convict establishments in the Colonies was one which could not be put a stop to in a moment, for the simple reason that the men were there, and so long as they were there the Vote would necessarily continue. The reason why the expenditure was large in comparison with the number of prisoners was that though the latter was rapidly diminishing the same staff must be kept up. Even if the number of prisoners was 50, they would require the same number of men to look after them as if it was 100. Hon. Members would see, by the Report of last year, that the number of prisoners in Western Australia was 850 up to the 31st of December, 1876, and that in December, 1877, they only numbered 275. The latter number comprised prisoners, lunatics, and paupers out of employment. As to Malta and Gibraltar, he found, when he came into Office, that not a farthing was voted, as far as he understood, for Gibraltar; but the Vote of £20,000 for prisons in Malta he could not understand. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: Hear!] His hon. and learned Friend knew all about it. [Sir George Bowyer: No, I want to know.] With regard to the Coroner referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), he believed this must have been the Coroner who went to Dartmoor last year, and who was then paid by the State. But the hon. and learned Member would see that there was no Vote for this officer in the present Estimate. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury and he wore entirely agreed that it was a wrong thing that the Coroner should be paid by the State.
§ MR. WHITWELL
asked for information as to the pauper children in the Colonies charged for under the Vote?
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
explained that these were thrown upon the hands of the Government by persons who, having been sent out as convicts, had become insane. Of course, these could not be turned adrift.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
could not understand how this Vote could be postponed until the Report of the Royal Commission was in the hands of hon. Members as had been suggested by the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell). He rose for the purpose of asking the 754 Home Secretary when that Report might be expected? With regard to the subject of compensation for punishment undergone by prisoners wrongly condemned, and the discharge of prisoners before the expiration of their sentences, he was of opinion that the more certain punishment was made the more efficacious it would be, and that the only way in which a prisoner should be able to earn a remission of his sentence should be by good conduct. A sentence once pronounced ought, in his view, to be carried out. He would take the opportunity of reminding his hon. and learned Friend of a saying of the late Chief Baron O'Grady. A man, whose trial had been by various means postponed for a period of 18 months, was brought before him and convicted of a discreditable offence. The prisoner pleaded guilty, but brought a strong recommendation from the prison authorities, stating that his conduct had been of much use in the moral education of the other prisoners. The Chief Baron received that testimony with extreme pleasure; it was delightful to find that the prisoner had been so well conducted during confinement, and that circumstance ought to be taken into consideration; but he added—"I think, therefore, that as you are a gentleman who behaves so exceedingly well in prison, and so exceedingly badly out of it, the best thing I can do is to keep you there as long as I can."
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
, as one of the Royal Commissioners, stated that the evidence had been closed, and that the consideration of the Report would begin on Friday. He hoped the Report would be presented to Parliament shortly after Whitsuntide.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
drew attention to the estimated charge for 600 military prisoners, which, according to the footnote on page 205, amounted to £20,000. He could not conceive why this amount appeared under this head; it should have been debited to the War Office.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, this was the third Session that the Committee had refrained from discussing this Vote, on the ground either that a Royal Commission was about to be appointed, or was taking evidence. He suggested that, as the Report was so very near its presentation, the Committee ought to postpone the Vote until that Report was before the House. The Report would 755 be necessarily a voluminous document, and time was needed to direct the attention of the Home Secretary to those points which were considered of importance, while it would be quite impossible for him to carry out the recommendations of the Committee without undertaking fresh legislation. It therefore followed that the House should have the opportunity of fully considering the Report before it voted the money asked for on the present occasion. With that object, he begged to move that the Chairman report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Parnell.)
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
hoped that the hon. Member would not persist in his Motion to report Progress. The Committee having been through an enormous amount of evidence, their Report would require some time for its consideration; and he absolutely declined to discuss that Report until he had an opportunity of reading the evidence. He trusted the Committee would not provoke discussion upon the Report in a serious manner until the evidence was before the House.
§ MR. PARNELL
wished to point out to the Committee that unless the Home Secretary did something with a view to carry out the recommendations of the Report next Session, he would have no opportunity of doing so at all, because the next Session would be the last of this Parliament. Unless the Committee had an opportunity of discussing this Report partially, at all events, and publicly, during the present Session, legislation thereon could not be rendered a matter of any certainty. It would be very wrong that a serious question, upon which hon. Members had been working hard for a number of years, should be thrust off to another Parliament; because it was a matter of great doubt how many of those hon. Members might be returned at the next Election.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
hoped the Home Secretary would offer some facilities to magistrates to grant orders to the friends of prisoners to visit them in prison. It was very distressing to have to refer poor men and women, who 756 wanted to be allowed to see their relations who were undergoing imprisonment, to the Home Department. The stringent regulations of the Secretary of State for the Home Department were a very great hardship upon poor and ignorant people, who still had feelings of affection for their relations, even though in prison; and he trusted that some way would be found to relax them. It was almost impossible for these poor people to reach the Home Secretary at all; and that, in his opinion, was a strong reason for granting some other means for communication between the unhappy prisoners and their friends.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
pointed out that the hon. Member was discussing a subject which was not before the Committee.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
stated, in reply to the question of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), that the military prisoners were formerly charged for under the Army Votes; but that since the prisons had been taken over by the State, the cost was paid out of the Prison Votes.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
maintained that if the accounts were to be kept correctly, the charge for the military prisoners must be debited to the several Departments of the Army and Navy; otherwise the comparative cost of the different Services was erroneously estimated.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, it was not the fact that this portion of the Vote was dealt with in the sense presented to the House.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock;
§ Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.