HC Deb 15 March 1883 vol 277 cc639-51

(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £3,606,800, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charge for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884, viz.:—

Great Britain:—
Royal Palaces 6,000
Marlborough House 1,000
Royal Parks and Pleasure Grounds 20,000
Houses of Parliament 7,000
Beaconsfield Monument 500
Public Buildings 30,000
Public Offices Site 5,000
Furniture of Public Offices 2,000
Revenue Department Buildings 55,000
County Court Buildings 6,000
Metropolitan Police Courts 1,500
Sheriff Court Houses, Scotland 3,000
New Courts of Justice, &c. 9,000
Surveys of the United Kingdom 50,000
Science and Art Department Buildings 4,500

British Museum Buildings 2,000
Natural History Museum 3,000
Harbours, &c. under Board of Trade 2,500
Rates on Government Property (Great Britain and Ireland) 75,000
Metropolitan Fire Brigade 2,500
Disturnpiked and Main Roads (England and Wales) 35,000
Disturnpiked Roads (Scotland) 5,000
Public Buildings 30,000
Royal University Buildings
Science and Art Buildings, Dublin
Lighthouses Abroad 2,000
Diplomatic and Consular Buildings 5,500
House of Lords, Offices 6,000
House of Commons, Offices 6,000
Treasury, including Parliamentary Counsel 10,000
Home Office and Subordinate Departments 15,000
Foreign Office 10,000
Colonial Office 6,000
Privy Council Office and Subordinate Departments 4,000
Privy Seal Office 500
Board of Trade and Subordinate Departments 25,000
Charity Commission (including Endowed Schools Department) 5,000
Civil Service Commission 7,000
Exchequer and Audit Department 9,000
Friendly Societies, Registry 1,500
Land Commission for England 4,000
Local Government Board 50,000
Lunacy Commission 2,500
Mint (including Coinage) 20,000
National Debt Office 2,500
Patent Office 5,000
Paymaster General's Office 4,500
Public Works Loan Commission 1,500
Record Office 4,000
Registrar General's Office 12,000
Stationery Office and Printing 90,000
Woods, Forests, &c, Office of 4,000
Works and Public Buildings, Office of 8,000
Mercantile Marine Fund, Grant in Aid
Secret Service 6,000
Exchequer and other Offices 500
Fishery Board 2,500
Lunacy Commission 1,000
Registrar General's Office 2,000
Board of Supervision 3,000
Lord Lieutenant's Household 1,000
Chief Secretary's Office 6,500
Charitable Donations and Bequests Office 300
Local Government Board 10,000
Public Works Office 8,000
Record Office 1,000
Registrar General's Office 3,000
Valuation and Boundary Survey 6,000
Law Charges 17,000
Public Prosecutor's Office 600
Criminal Prosecutions 34,000
Chancery Division, High Court of Justice 26,000
Central Office of the Supreme Court, &c. 20,000
Probate, &c. Registries, High Court of Justice 14,000
Admiralty Registry, High Court of Justice 2,000
Wreck Commission 2,500
Bankruptcy Court (London) 7,000
County Courts 20,000
Land Registry 1,000
Revising Barristers, England - -
Police Courts (London and Sheerness) 2,000
Metropolitan Police 100,000
County and Borough Police, Great Britain 1,000
Convict Establishments in England and the Colonies 90,000
Prisons, England 70,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain 70,000
Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum 4,000
Lord Advocate, and Criminal Proceedings 10,000
Courts of Law and Justice 5,000
Register House Departments 6,000
Prisons, Scotland 20,000
Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions 20,000
Supreme Court of Judicature 15,000
Court of Bankruptcy 1,500
Admiralty Court Registry 200
Registry of Deeds 3,000
Registry of Judgments 500
Land Commission 30,000
County Court Officers, &c. 15,000
Dublin Metropolitan Police (including Police Courts) 25,000
Constabulary 250,000
Prisons, Ireland 30,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools 25,000
Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum 1,100
Public Education 550,000
Science and Art Department 60,000
British Museum 25,000
National Gallery 1,000
National Portrait Gallery 500
Learned Societies, &c. 3,500
London University 2,000
Aberystwith College 1,000
Deep Sea Exploring Expedition (Report) 1,000
Transit of Venus, 1882 500
Public Education 110,000
Universities, &c. 3,500
National Gallery 400
Public Education 150,000
Teachers' Pension Office 500
Endowed Schools Commissioners 200
National Gallery 300
Queen's Colleges 2,000
Royal Irish Academy 500
Diplomatic Services 60,000
Consular Services 60,000
Suppression of the Slave Trade 1,500
Tonnage Bounties, &c. 2,000
Suez Canal (British Directors) 400
Colonies, Grants in Aid 5,000
South Africa and St. Helena 1,500
Subsidies to Telegraph Companies 9,000
Cyprus, Grant in Aid - -
Superannuation and Retired Allowances 120,000
Merchant Seamen's Fund Pension &c. 1,000
Pauper Lunatics, England - -
Pauper Lunatics, Scotland - -
Pauper Lunatics, Ireland 65,000
Hospitals and Infirmaries, Ireland 4,000
Friendly Societies Deficiency - -
Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances, Great Britain 800
Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances, Ireland 600
Temporary Commissions 6,000
Miscellaneous Expenses 2,500
Total for Civil Services £2,916,800
Customs 100,000
Inland Revenue 100,000
Post Office 100,000
Post Office Packet Service 120,000
Post Office Telegraphs 270,000
Total for Revenue Departments £690,000
Grand Total £3,606,800

said, he thought this was a question which, as proposed, might give rise to considerable discussion. Everybody knew that in respect to the Civil Service Estimates a Vote on Account must be taken. It was not clear, however, for what length of time that Vote ought to be taken. He knew it had been customary in former years to take Votes on Account for two months; but, under the New Rules, and other circumstances, it was questionable whether it was necessary to take it for so long a time. It was always understood that this Vote on Account was to be of a limited character; and he should have thought that, without detriment to the Public Service, it might now be taken for a shorter period than two months. He hoped the Government, without any Amendment being proposed, would consent to reduce that amount, so that the Vote on Account might not be taken for two months, but for, say, one month.


said, the Vote which was now asked on account was, practically, for two months, though, literally speaking, it was for seven weeks. He was not aware that a Vote for less than two months had ever been taken. On one or two occasions a Vote for three months had been asked for—once by their Predecessors. The Government could not possibly, under the circumstances, ask for a Vote on Account for less than two months. There was no possibility of their being able to get anything in regard to the Civil Service Estimates which would justify them in saying they would not require a Vote of Credit for so long. Therefore, he could only say that, while conforming to what he promised the Committee just now—namely, to take as many Votes in Supply as early in the Session as possible, he must press for a Vote on Account for two months.


said, that when he was Secretary to the Treasury the present Chancellor of the Exchequer himself insisted upon a reduction of the time of the Vote on Account from two months to six weeks. There was very great difference in the circumstances of the present year from those of any year which had gone before. This year, when Supply was put down it could be proceeded with from Vote to Vote. The reason why Governments had found it impossible to make headway with Supply was that on the Motion for going into Committee, private Members could raise discussions on other subjects. The Prime Minister, in moving the New Rules, referred to the advantage of Supply being taken much earlier in the Session. What he thought the Committee had a right to expect was not that there should be no Vote on Account, but that a Vote should not be taken for the whole of the Civil Service Estimates except for a very limited period, and that no second Vote should be taken until some progress had been made in the earlier Classes of the Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew better than he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) did what the prospects of the Government were with regard to their own Business; but what he contended was that, under the circumstances of the present year, the experiment of taking a Vote for a month or six weeks should be tried. He was satisfied that if the right hon. Gentleman would take off one-fourth of the Vote, he would be supported by the Committee.


said, the House had been given to understand that if private Members gave up the facilities they previously enjoyed for raising discussions on going into Committee of Supply, that very mischievous practice of the Estimates of the year being relegated to a late period of the Session would be brought to an end. That was one of the advantages which was constantly urged on the Ministerial Benches during the passing of the New Rules through the House, and the Government had now an opportunity of carrying into practice the principles they had laid down. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it would be absolutely necessary that a Vote on Account should be granted. That everyone admitted. It was, however, also said that a Vote on Account was necessary now, because of the early occurrence of Easter. But the Committee must bear in mind that the Vote on Account they were now asked to grant would practically carry them up to the 1st of June. That could scarcely be necessary. He did not wish to move the somewhat crude Amendment, that the Vote be reduced by one-half; but if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consent to take a Vote for half the amount now proposed he would find he could do so without detriment to the Public Service, and he would certainly find no objection raised by the Committee. There was no desire to hamper the Executive Government with regard to the management of the National Services; but there was a desire that the Government should so regulate the amounts they asked for as to insure to the House of Commons practical control of Supply. They had hitherto been familiar with the practice of having the Estimates hurled at their heads at the latter end of July, or in the month of August; but they were assured solemnly by the Prime Minister that that would not occur again if the House gave him the power that he asked for under the New Rules. He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see his way to meet the wishes of the Committee, and thus allow the discussion to terminate in an amicable manner.


said, he hoped the Committee would recollect that the circumstances of the year were somewhat exceptional. They were not, however, exceptional exactly in the direction which had been stated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They were exceptional in this respect—that Parliament had sat up to the very eve of Easter without a single Government measure having passed a second reading. He had no doubt that at some future period they would hear of the mismanagement of Business, and the waste of the time of the House by the Government. He should be glad to know in what way it was possible to have prevented the present state of things? He did not complain that 11 nights were occupied by the debate on the Address; and he did not suppose it would be denied that since then their time had been almost exclusively taken up by the necessary discussion of Supply. The consequence was they had now arrived at a period of the Session when it was absolutely necessary some progress should be made with the legislation the Government had proposed. He did not suppose there were any hon. Gentlemen opposite who desired that the Session should be distinguished by no legislation whatever; therefore, they would be scarcely unwilling to afford the Government an opportunity of taking the opinion of the House on some of the legislative projects which they had laid, and wore desirous of laying, before the House. He trusted the course the Government now proposed to take would be assented to by the Committee.


said, the noble Marquess had certainly made a most melancholy confession when he admitted that, despite the reform of the Rules of the House in the way the Government, not the House, wished, the Government were in the deplorable plight that they had not yet succeeded in obtaining a second reading of any one measure. The noble Marquess now said—"Let us postpone the Civil Service Estimates, in the hope that we may be able to ask the House to consider some of the measures which hitherto we have been unable to bring before its notice." He (Lord George Hamilton) did not think such an issue ought to be put to them now, because what were the facts of the case? This Vote on Account was not merely for a long period, but it was a Vote on Account for by far the largest Civil Service Estimates ever yet presented to the House of Commons. Ever since the present Government had been in Office the Civil Service Estimates had not been taxed in the House. The consequence was they had increased at an unparalleled rate, and they now amounted to £3,000,000 more than they were when the late Government left them, and to £1,600,000 over the last Appropriation Account. If this fact were combined with the knowledge that the House of Commons had during the time referred to no control over the Estimates, cause and effect were brought very close together, and the Liberal Party, if they chose to sanction the increased expenditure, would be responsible for it. It was well known that if certain items once got upon the Estimates they generally remained there, and constituted a permanent increase of expenditure. As the Government must have a Vote on Account, if they could not undertake that the Estimates would be discussed during the next two months, then he thought the Committee would do well to grant a Vote on Account for one month only.


pointed out that the New Rules made it impossible for hon. Members to raise a debate upon any subject in which they took an interest, except upon the Address to Her Majesty; whereas it used to be open to any Member to raise such questions on going into Committee of Supply. The Government now took Mondays forgoing into Committee of Supply without Question; and not only had they obtained Mondays, but Thursdays also. The Committee would recollect that the Prime Minister said last year that it was not the duty of the Government to keep a House on private Members' nights; and the consequence had been that last Session the House was counted out on six successive Tuesdays. As the Government would not give Members any help in bringing forward their questions on Tuesdays, and as they had no power to raise them on going into Committee of Supply, Members were entirely in the power of the Government, having no means of advocating and defending their opinions. Under the circumstances, they had but one course to pursue, and that was to take every opportunity which the Forms of the House presented of exercising the very small privileges left to them. Such an opportunity occurred on the Address; and if the Government had passed Rules which rendered the course he had indicated necessary to private Members, they had no right to complain that the Opposition had availed themselves of the Constitutional opportunity which then presented itself for bringing forward questions in which they took an interest. There was no other course open to them; and he considered it unjust and improper, on the part of the Government, to twit the Opposition with the debate on the Address.


said, this Vote on Account was not larger than had been asked for by the late Administration on one occasion.


said, the Vote on Account which the late Government were allowed to take was £1,200,000. The Estimates then were very much less than the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman.


said, the Vote was accurately stated by the right hon. Gentleman at £1,200,000; but only that amount was taken for two months, because a considerable sum had already been voted.


said, he felt that the Government which came to the House from time to time for Votes on Account for the purpose of managing Public Business confessed that it had driven itself and the Business of the country into a corner. He wished to point out how extremely important this Vote was which they were now asked to grant, and which would, no doubt, be granted. Having voted the £3,660,800, the Committee to that extent, and possibly to a much greater extent, would have diminished their proper control over the Votes; because when, at a future time, they came to criticize the Estimates, they would he told that they had already voted the sum in question, and that it was impossible they could now deal with the subject-matter of the Votes. Supposing that objection were raised to an Estimate, how were the Committee to deal with it when they found that a large sum on account had already been voted? This was putting the House and the country in an unfair position with regard to the Estimates. He put it to the Government that, owing to circumstances over which they had very little control, the Estimates of last year were brought forward so late in the last Session that it was absolutely impossible to discuss them properly; and it was, therefore, the more incumbent on Members of the House, in regard to the Estimates of this year, to see that there was no extravagant item in them which was not submitted to full examination. Speaking for himself, he repudiated entirely, and with some degree of indignation, the charge that it was the intention to discuss the Estimates at such a length as to obstruct legislation; but if there was in the mind of the noble Marquess or the Government any such idea, it was easy to deal with it in this way. Let the Estimates be put before the House at the proper time; and if there were any unusual delay, or unfair and unnecessary criticism, it would then be time to charge Members with delaying the Estimates for the purpose of obstructing legislation. He thought hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House had a right to complain, when the Government charged them with dealing with the Estmates in such a manner as to prevent the discussion of Government Bills. He put it as strongly as possible to the Government, whether they would afford an opportunity for discussing the Votes properly when they next came forward? And he could answer for it that, so far as he was himself concerned, and he believed he might say so far as hon. Gentlemen on those Benches were concerned, they would be submitted to perfectly fair and even generous criticism.


said, he thought he could give the hon. Member exactly the assurance asked for; because the rule was laid down in 1866, and ought to have been, if it had not been, rigidly observed, that the taking of a Vote on Account did not preclude objection to, and indeed refusal, of any new Vote. It was well understood that the taking of Votes on Account involved no new principle; they were asked for every year in connection with the Civil Service Estimates.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had apparently understood the observations of the hon. Gentleman who preceded him in precisely an opposite sense to what he (Mr. Lowther) did. He had not understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the House would be precluded from objecting to any new Vote, but to ask that the promise of an opportunity for discussion should be given before any Vote was given at all. The impression now conveyed was that if they consented to as Vote on Account they would hear nothing more of these Estimates. The noble Marquess himself had stated that the next two months were to be employed in getting on with legislation.


said, he had stated nothing about the Estimates not being submitted to further consideration during the next two months.


said, he had not supposed that the noble Marquess referred to the fact that no progress was being made in legislation for the purpose of indulging in historical retrospect only. He (Mr. Lowther) presumed that the Government hoped to make progress with legislation through the Vote now asked for, and he considered that this view was not an unfair construction to place upon the words of the noble Marquess. That being so, hon. Members were, he thought, entitled to ask for an assurance that they would have an opportunity of discussing the Civil Service Estimates within the next two months. The proposal did not appear to him an unreasonable one, and he hoped it would be acceded to, in order to obviate the necessity of moving a reduction of the Vote.


said, hon. Members opposite appeared to be under some misapprehension as to the Civil Service Estimates. The increase this year was about £1,300,000 more than for the year 1880, and the four heads of Elementary Education, Irish Police, Land Commission, and Grants in Aid, including the contribution to Main Roads were more than enough to account for it. The Grants in Aid this year were nearly £1,000.000 more than in 1880; and if hon. Gentlemen opposite took these facts into consideration they would see that the whole argument on which they based their opposition to this Vote fell to the ground. He trusted that the Vote would be allowed to pass.


said, he thought the justice of the case would be met by giving the Government one month's Supply. They would have Mondays and Thursdays in every week after Easter for bringing forward the Civil Service Estimates; but his feeling was that if they allowed the whole Vote to be taken that evening, seeing that there were four or five Government Bills to be considered, read a second time, and probably dealt with in Committee, the Prime Minister would come down after Easter and ask for another Vote on Account, alleging that it was absolutely impossible to proceed with the Estimates in the then state of Public Business. Under the circumstances, he felt it his duty to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £1,660,800.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,000,000, ha granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charge for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884."—(Sir Walter B. Barttelot.)


pointed out that the proposed Vote was presented in one form by the noble Marquess, and in another by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman treated it as a matter of course that a Vote of two months' Supply should be taken, because it had been taken on former occasions. That, however, was a principle against which, he thought, the Committee ought to protest in the most solemn way, especially as under the New Rules there was no necessity for a Vote on Account. The noble Marquess, on the other hand, had approached the matter in a totally different spirit, by saying that the Vote should be granted under the peculiar circumstances of the present Session. He trusted the Government would be able to promise an opportunity for the discussion of the Estimates before the Whitsuntide Recess.


said, it was the invariable custom to take a Vote for two months on account. He could only say that, nothing would surprise him more than to find they could not get, at any rate, one evening in the week after the Recess for the discussion of the Civil Service Estimates; and, unless something extraordinary happened, he assumed that the first evening after the Recess would be devoted to their consideration.


said, the Government had stated that there had been no opportunity up to that time of taking the second reading of measures in which the country and the House were interested. But he pointed out that this had been altogether an exceptional year, inasmuch as Easter fell much earlier than it had fallen for many years past, and the Session had commenced a week later than usual. The consequence was, naturally, that the Government had less time in which to carry on its Business before Easter.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 59: Majority 21.—(Div. List, No. 37.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrew, at Two of the clock.

Committee to sit again To-morrow.