HC Deb 11 August 1882 vol 273 cc1533-6

(1.) £14,941, to complete the sum for Temporary Commissions.


said, he must congratulate the Committee and the country upon the fact that the Royal Commission on Agriculture had now finished its labours. This was a fitting opportunity to notice that the three volumes which the Commission had produced had cost the country more than £10,000 each. The cost of the Commission had been extraordinary and extravagant. The Commission had produced volumes of evidence which were of great value, and which, for 20 years to come, would probably form the most useful text-books on agriculture in this country; but whilst he thought it was impossible to over-estimate the value of this work of the Commission, he must protest against the enormous expenditure, amounting in all to nearly £40,000, which the Commission had involved. He could not fail to compare it with another Commission in this list—he meant the Commission on Technical Instruction, which, though a travelling Commission, had spent the comparatively small sum of £1,000. He deeply regretted that the work of the Agricultural Commission had led to what he could not but regard as a very considerable waste of public money.


said, as he was the only Member of the Agricultural Commission who was now present, he must ask the Committee to consider the inconsistent character of the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Arthur Arnold's) statements. The hon. Gentleman told the Committee that the evidence collected was invaluable, but that the three volumes produced had cost £10,000 each, and that was too much. The question of cost ought to be taken in relation to the value of that which had been got; the question was not how much the Commission had cost, but whether the work could have been done for less money. In what way had there been this extravagance? Was it that the Commission had been paid? Nothing of the kind. The majority of the Commissioners had received nothing, but had paid money out of their own pockets. Farmers and professional gentlemen who came from different parts of the country to work on the Commission or to give evidence had been paid their travelling expenses, and, he thought, the very moderate sum of two or three guineas a-day. The great cost of the Commission arose from the employment of professional experts who had been to all parts of the world to make inquiries, and to obtain information of a thoroughly authentic and reliable character upon the very important and multifarious subjects referred to the Commission by Her Majesty. He believed that some portion of the labours of the Commission had not yet been placed before Parliament. Some of the Returns—and the Committee must recollect that the printing of the Returns and the employment for two or three years, in point of fact, of shorthand writers, was one of the principal causes of the great expenditure—had not yet been laid before the House. [Mr. ARTHUR ARNOLD: No, no!] The hon. Member said "No, no!" as though he knew all about it. The hon. Member complained of what had been done. He could only say the hon. Member's (Mr. Arthur Arnold's) own evidence had cost the country a very large sum of money. At the request of the hon. Gentleman the Commission called him; he gave his evidence at great length, and it would be for those who read his evidence to judge of its value. At any rate, he would say there was no witness who was examined who cost the country so much as the hon. Member himself. Then the hon. Member compared the Agricultural Commission to the Commission on Technical Education, very much to the disadvantage of the Agricultural Commission. Why, the hon. Gentleman made a comparison without knowing anything about the subject! Would the hon. Gentleman say how the expenses of the Technical Education Commission were incurred? If he had gone into the matter properly, he would have ascertained that the Technical Education Commission paid its own expenses, a fact which was exceedingly discreditable to the country. The Gentlemen who were appointed upon that Commission received no pecuniary assistance from the Government, and that was a matter which it was not unlikely would be brought under the notice of Parliament on another occasion, because, without going into matters of a delicate nature, the Committee could easily understand that there might be even Members of that Commission who could not pay their own expenses. For the country to appoint a Commission and not to pay the Members of it was either to insure that only rich men should form the Commission, or to require persons of public spirit to put their hands in their own pockets and pay expenses which ought not to fall upon them. There was no kind of comparison to be drawn between the Agricultural Commission and the Technical Education Commission. Certainly the Technical Education Commission had done its labours admirably; and he thought, on the whole, the country would be of opinion that the Agricultural Commission, which had worked without pecuniary remuneration, so far as its Members were concerned, had also earned the good opinion of the country, and ought not to be criticized upon imperfect information in the perfunctory manner adopted by the hon. Member.


said, that, notwithstanding the remarks of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mitchell Henry), he was still of opinion that the evidence given before the Commission might have been presented to the House for about £3,000, instead of £40,000.


said, that for the hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee that work which had occupied three years, which required the sending to all parts of the world of highly-paid experts, could have been done for £3,000, was simply ludicrous. The Committee would know very well in what way to receive statements of that kind.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £3,711, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Expenses.