§ (1.) £10,726, to complete the sum for the Natural History Museum.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £7,193, 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 1884, for maintaining certain Harbours, &c. under the Board of Trade.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he was very glad to see that this year there was a distinct reduction of expenditure under this Vote. These harbour questions were, however, likely to be complicated; for, instead of the Harbour Department of the Board of Trade being entrusted with the management of all harbours since they had been removed from the control of the Admiralty and handed over to the Board of Trade, the Home Office was now about to undertake the management of these harbours of refuge proposed to be formed by convicts at Dover, Filey, and Peterhead. On a matter of this kind he thought it was out of all question that a Department having so little technical knowledge as was possessed by the Home Office should be in a position to involve the country in a large, possibly an enormous, expenditure for harbours of refuge. He, therefore, strongly objected to any expense being incurred in reference to Dover or any other harbour, because, in his view, that port ought to pay its own expenses; and if national interests required the construction of costly harbours of refuge, the nation ought to have complete plans and a carefully-prepared Estimate, with a scheme of management, laid before Parliament. There were some harbours, however, which were not so happily situated as far as self-sustaining capacity was concerned; and, therefore, he was not able to see why the funds to be spent on the harbours of refuge should not be spared 983 in order to make the commercial harbours what they ought to be. He hoped that while, on the one hand, a stride had been taken in the direction of reform and economy in regard to harbours, a mistaken economy would not be allowed to interfere with expenditure which, in the long run, was the truest economy in improving the commercial harbours of the country.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
wished the hon. Member the Secretary to the Treasury to say, when he rose to answer the question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down (Sir George Balfour), whether the Government had made up their minds, or had considered even, whether they intended to lay out any money at all on Dover Harbour? The question of Dover Harbour was discussed at length in the House last year, when there was a Private Bill in reference to it before the House. The question which the House had then to consider was whether it was wise or prudent to allow a Bill of that kind to pass at the instance of a private Company of promoters, in preference to taking a matter of the kind into their own hands. He should certainly have thought that it would have been not only wiser, but more in accordance with the habits of statesmen, to have taken a matter of the kind into their own hands, and so dealt with it as that the harbour could have been made suitable not only for commercial ships, but for large vessels of war suitable for national defence, such as a Government ought to make provision for in a harbour like Dover, regarded in the light of its geographical position relatively to the Continent of Europe. The President of the Board of Trade, some time back, made a long statement in the House on this subject; and, in the course of that statement, he said that no definite conclusion had yet been come to with reference to the intentions of the Government. He could not help thinking that it was time some definite conclusion was not only formed, but formulated.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, the large question of making Dover Harbour or not making it was still under the consideration of the Government; and no conclusion had as yet been arrived at on the subject. Therefore it was that he was not in a position to make a statement to the Committee on the subject. 984 A statement of the kind which was apparently wished for by the hon. and gallant Gentleman might be possible when the Committee reached Class III. of the Estimates, which related to convict labour; but it certainly could not be made until then. It was not unlikely that a large harbour of the kind to which he had alluded would be made at Dover, or, at any rate, that Parliament would be asked to vote funds necessary for the purpose; but, until that time came, it was necessary to maintain the existing harbour and quay, and the cost of this alone was that which the Vote now proposed was intended to cover. With regard to the other questions which had been raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, there were many matters which had yet to be decided upon by the Government; but he could assure the Committee that no one of them had been lost sight of for a moment.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
asked whether he was right in supposing, from what had been said by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, that the question involved in the Dover Harbour business was to arise on the Vote for providing the amount uecessary for the maintenance of Convict Establishments?
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, there was a Vote of the kind which would be brought forward, and upon which the Dover Harbour question could be most properly discussed.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he could not allow the remark of the Financial Secretary as to the intention of the Government to take the discussion on the proposed harbour of refuge at Dover on an obscure Vote for £ 10,000, or the Convict Vote to pass, without making known this fact—that an undertaking had been given by the Government that the question of the immense outlay for constructing a large harbour of refuge at Dover should be fully discussed, or that an ample opportunity should be given to hon. Members who wished to fully discuss it in a proper and formal way. He should, therefore, feel it his duty to protest against the supposition that such opportunity was given by bringing the question forward on the Convict Vote for the sum necessary to pay the charges for Convict Establishments.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he thought the course proposed by the Government, of taking the discussion in reference to Dover Harbour on the Convict Establishments Vote, was a most unfair one, and was not only unfair, but amounted to an absolute violation of the promise given by the Government, that the matter should be discussed at a time when a full attendance of Members might be present in the House.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, this was a matter of very considerable, he might say serious, importance, and one which, judging from experience, might involve the expenditure of very large sums of money. It would, therefore, be unfair, on the part of the Government, to ask Parliament to agree to the Vote without having had previously a sufficient time for deliberation and discussion on the subject. He understood that such opportunity would be afforded when the Votes in Class III. were reached; and he hoped the Government would take the occasion to give to the Committee much fuller information than it had at present on the subject.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, before the Vote was agreed to, he wished to express a very strong hope that the Government would lay more Papers on the Table with reference to this matter. As far as he had been able to understand the matter at present, the Vote in Class III., to which reference had been made, would, practically, commit Parliament to the making of a harbour of refuge in Dover—a difficult and complicated business, in which there was so much involved that too much care could not be taken before a responsibility of the kind was undertaken. It was, in the first place, important that there should be a proper understanding with the existing harbour authorities at Dover. Long and difficult negotiations had already taken place with regard to the making at Dover of harbours, not only of refuge, but of defence; and this had been found to be a very difficult and complicated matter—so difficult and complicated, in fact, that successive Governments had taken it up, and been compelled to lay it down again. He, therefore, thought it extremely desirable that the Committee should have the fullest oppor- 986 tunity of considering the information which the Government had been able to obtain, as well as the conclusion at which they had arrived. The expenditure involved would not certainly be less than £1,000,000; and he did not think the Committee should be asked to assent to such an expenditure upon the mere statements of Gentlemen so distinguished as either the President of the Board of Trade or the Secretary to the Treasury. To do this would be to involve the country in an expenditure which might turn out to be both hasty and ill-judged.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he wished to know whether the Convict Establishment, which he understood it was intended to create at Dover, was intended to be for the reception of convicts from the whole of the Three Kingdoms?
SIR GEORGE ELLIOT
said, that five or six years ago a Select Committee of the House expended a great deal of time on the subject of Dover Harbour, or, rather, the making of a harbour there. He was himself a Member of that Committee; and he remembered that after having had before them, as witnesses, a number of gentlemen pre-eminent on questions of that kind, the conclusion at which the Committee arrived was that the amount of £600,000, which was stated in the Bill as being sufficient for the completion of the scheme, was altogether inadequate—a harbour at Dover being necessary, not only for commercial, but for military and naval purposes. He did not rise to oppose the present Vote—although he thought the amount asked for should have been atleast £1,000,000; but rather for the purpose of protesting against a Vote of the kind being passed in Committee of the House in a slipshod way. There was one other suggestion which he would make, and it was this—a Joint Committee of both Houses was now sitting in reference to the proposal to tunnel the Channel between France and this country. It was, of course, impossible for him, or for anybody else, to say what the result would be of the deliberations of that Committee, who were giving great attention to the matters which had been entrusted to them; but he thought it might be wise to wait for the Report of the Channel Tunnel Committee before coming to any definite conclusion as far as the harbour was concerned.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, this particular Vote only seemed to involve the expenditure of a very small sum of money; but the total amount which had been expended on harbours was something very much larger than many Members of the Committee seemed to think or to know. On Holyhead Harbour, for instance, there had been spent—by the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and the Treasury—no less than £1,902,000, and the expenditure was still going on. At Dover there had been spent more than £867,000, and large sums had been spent in other places. These items, or many of them, could not be traced, unless hon. Members had the patience to go through Parliamentary Papers of a voluminous character. Harwich Harbour, too, had had large sums spent upon it; and, in his view, it was a harbour which did not in any way justify the spending of public money upon it. The Harbour Commissioners could not even pay the interest on the loans which were made to them; and he would, therefore, move to reduce the Vote by £430, set down in the Estimate for Harwich Harbour.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £6,763, 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 1884, for maintaining certain Harbours, &c. under the Board of Trade."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he thought the Committee would scarcely assent to the reduction which was proposed, inasmuch as the amount was necessary to pay the interest on the loan made by the Public Works Loans Commissioners.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
pointed out that the loss on account of Harwich Harbour, instead of diminishing, went on increasing; and he saw no reason why a harbour, which was practically worthless as a commercial speculation, should be maintained out of the public funds.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 120: Majority 101.—(Div. List, No. 101.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
wished to express his thanks to the right 988 hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith) for the correct view he had taken of the question of Dover Harbour. In 1873 the Liberal Government proposed to expend a sum of £10,000 on the construction of new works in connection with Dover Harbour. Their proposal was resisted by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), and it was only carried by a majority of 2; and at a later date he himself (Sir George Balfour) and the late hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Leith) almost succeeded in outvoting the Government on the subject. A change of Government took place in 1874, and the late Conservative Government took more wise steps than their Predecessors. They appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the subject, and anybody who had read the Report of the proceedings of that Committee would find that the practical result of the investigation was the condemnation of the proceedings previously taken by the Liberal Government. He believed he was correct in stating that if the present scheme of the Government were to be carried out in a way to fulfil all the conditions formerly laid down by the Admiralty as regarded the area and depth of water being sufficient for a fleet of war ships, the cost of the proposed harbour of refuge at Dover would be very little short of £5,000,000. He therefore wished the country to be aware of the full responsibility which might be thrown upon them, seeing that the smallest area of six fathoms of depth could not be less than 1,000 acres, and that that space could not be obtained at a less cost than £5,000 per acre He again thanked the right hon. Gentleman opposite for what he had stated. He quite adopted the view of the right hon. Gentleman, and he hoped the Government would be able to deal with the question in a practical and statesmanlike manner. If any hon. Member desired to have a thorough knowledge of the question, he would ask him to read the Report of the proceedings of the Select Committee of 1875, and also the views expressed at a later date by Lord Beaconsfield in regard to a Motion made upon the subject by Lord Granville.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, it appeared to him that the increase in the Vote for Dover Harbour was a very large increase. He wished to know if the hon. 989 Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was able to offer any explanation upon the subject? He was sure the Committee would be glad to receive any information the hon. Gentleman could give. In particular, he wished to know why the resident engineer at Dover Harbour received so large a salary as £650 a-year?
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he had no special information to give upon this point; but he believed that the salary of the resident engineer at Dover had been paid for many years, and he was informed that it was not more than adequate for the services rendered.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that £650 a-year in the shape of salary, and £600 for allowances, might not be more than sufficient compensation for a man of the ability of the engineer of Dover Harbour; but, at the same time, why did not the Government remove that gentleman to some other place, where his abilities would be of more value, and send a cheaper man to Dover Harbour? That all this money should be spent upon a small jetty at Dover seemed to him to be most extravagant.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, he wished to call the attention of the Committee to the question of the over-loading of the boats which made the passage across the Channel between Dover and Calais. He wanted to know if it was not the duty of the harbour master to report all cases of the over-loading of passenger vessels between France and England, which he believed to be constantly occurring? There was also most inadequate provision made for securing the safety of the passengers in the event of an accident. He had asked a Question upon this point some time ago, and he was told that an inquiry would be made and instructions given to the proper authorities to watch over the matter, and that a statement would be made to the House upon the subject. What it apappeared to him might reasonably be done was this. The harbour master, although his attention had been called to the matter on several occasions, bad not, as far as he knew, made any Report to the authorities in regard to this overloading, and in regard to the want of lifeboats and other apparatus for the saving of life in case of accident. He was able to speak upon the matter from personal experience. Last year he went 990 over from this country to Paris, and the boat at Dover was loaded with Indian mails under the very eyes of the English harbour master. The mail packages were so extensive that they blocked up the entire space on deck up to the captain's bridge.
wished to point out to the hon. Member that there was no officer of this kind—in fact, there was no harbour master at all at the time the hon. Member was now alluding to.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, there might not have been a harbour master; but there was certainly a pier master, who superintended the loading of the mails. He was unable to say whether the officer was traffic superintendent or pier master; but, at any rate, there was an officer told off to superintend the loading of the mails, and he (Mr. Molloy) would take the present opportunity of telling them what the experience was which he derived upon the occasion he was referring to, in regard to the overloading of the packets. Before this particular boat left Dover Harbour, the mail packets were piled up in the centre of the dock, so as to fill up the whole intervening space between the two paddle boxes, and it was utterly impossible for anyone to pass for the space of two hours, and even the sailors themselves had to climb over the paddle boxes when they wanted to pass from one end of the vessel to the other. He believed that an officer was paid a high salary to look after the mails and the safety of the passengers; but on that very occasion considerable difficulty was experienced in crossing over the Channel, in consequence of the manner in which the mail packets were accumulated and carried. There were also a large number of ships crossing the Channel in different directions at the time, and it required considerable attention on the part of the captain to avoid a collision. He did not mean to say that any collision actually occurred—only that it required great attention to avoid an accident. Had a collision occurred, it would have been utterly impossible for the great majority of the passengers to have been saved. He was quite positive that the number of passengers carried on that occasion far exceeded the number for which the boat was licensed. The cabin was full, all the couches were full, the upper couches also were full; and there 991 was a great crowd of passengers on deck. Indeed, the vessel was choked up so much by the mails, that there was really not elbow room for the passengers, and they were obliged to stand packed up like herrings in a box, instead of enjoying the comfort which ought to be given to passengers crossing the Channel. It seemed to him that the only way of drawing attention to these matters effectually was for an hon. Member to make himself a little disagreeable. If that were not done, no attention was ever paid to his complaints. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would get up and give a smooth answer. He would say the matter should be looked into, and he would give some kind of an explanation which really meant nothing, and nothing whatever would be none unless the hon. Member complaining made himself disagreeable. Under those circumstances, he begged to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £200, which was the salary, he believed, of the harbour master.
asked the hon. Member whether he meant the salary of the pier master, or that of the traffic superintendent?
§ MR. MOLLOY
Then the resident engineer or the actual officer in charge. He would move the reduction of the whole Vote by the sum of £150.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £7,043, 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 1884, for maintaining certain Harbours, &c. under the Board of Trade."—(Mr. Molloy.)
§ MR. J. HOLMS
said, he could hardly think that the hon. Gentleman would persist with a Motion for the reduction of the Vote. He thought the Committee were indebted to the hon. Member for drawing attention to the subject of overloading. This Vote, however, was for building and maintenance, and not for the personnel of the Harbour. He confessed that it was most desirable to be made perfectly clear that nothing in the shape of over-loading occurred. He would take care to communicate with 992 the proper authorities, and see that their attention was called to the matter. He fully admitted the serious evil to which the hon. Member had called attention.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, he was under the impression that the Vote included an allowance to a traffic manager for conducting the business of the two Railway Companies.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, it was stated in a foot note that an allowance was included for the traffic managers. The Estimates were certainly not clear upon the point. They generally appeared to include an allowance for a traffic superintendent, but not a salary for a traffic manager. He should, however, like to know what was the object of having a resident engineer at Dover at all? It was quite true that Dover Pier often seemed to require more or less repairing, owing to the nature of its construction; but the remedy for that would be to construct it properly, and then it would not be necessary to keep an engineer permanently on the spot looking out for accidents. He wished to know what wore the services of the engineer for which they had to pay the sum? He should also like to be told why some better arrangements could not be made to place the Harbour under the control of Parliament, or some responsible authority? He thought the present mode of dealing with the question—namely, the voting of money to be subsequently repaid by the Railway Companies—involved an unnecessary waste of the time of the Committee.
§ MR. J. HOLMS
said, that the engineer was appointed at Dover Harbour to superintend the works which became necessary in consequence of the storm of 1877. That storm led to a considerable amount of new work becoming necessary, and an engineer had been employed there since. The Committee would observe that the Vote was increased by something that had happened at the bar.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he was glad that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Holms) had returned to his place, because when a question was put to the Secretary to the Treasury some time ago, in reference to the salary paid to the engineer, it was quite impossible, 993 from the answer the hon. Gentleman gave, that he could have been properly informed in regard to all the details of the matter. It appeared that the Committee were in the strange position of being required to pay an official at Dover Harbour for the purpose of attending, among other things, to the loading of passenger boats; but that, notwithstanding, those passenger boats were habitually over-loaded. Recollecting the line the Board of Trade had recently taken, and the letter which the President of the Board of Trade had written accusing the shipowners of recklessly sacrificing human lives in the pursuit of unholy gain, it was rather remarkable to find that the Board of Trade themselves had special superintendents for whom they asked the Committee to vote salaries, but that, nevertheless, they were open to the same charge in an aggravated form.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, he had been asked by the hon. Member (Mr. J. Holms) not to press the Amendment. He would be perfectly ready to withdraw it if he got a satisfactory statement from the Government; but the statement just made was exactly the same as that which was made by the President of the Board of Trade at the commencement of the Session. For the last four years attention had been called to the subject, and nothing had been done. Letter after letter had appeared in the newspapers; and now to-night, in order to get the Vote through, the hon. Member, in answer to the complaints that were made, said—"I will see about it, and I will write a letter." He (Mr. Molloy) had no confidence in promises of that kind. If the hon. Gentleman would promise the Committee that he would not only write a letter, but see that the evil was remedied, that would be a different thing. As to writing a letter in order to ascertain what the facts were, he did not see what better information the hon. Gentleman could desire than that which he (Mr. Molloy) had already given to him from his own personal experience. He had no wish to put the Committee to the trouble of a division; but unless the hon. Gentleman would make a clear and definite promise, he should certainly divide.
§ MR. J. HOLMS
said, he thought that an inquiry ought to be made into the allegations of the hon. Member, and he 994 would undertake to make a full inquiry.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, that was only a repetition of the answer that had been given. The hon. Member promised to make inquiry into the facts which he (Mr. Molloy) had stated. But what was the use of making such an inquiry when he (Mr. Molloy) assured the hon. Gentleman that his statement simply referred to a state of things which he had seen on board one of these ships?
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, the Committee were asked to vote a sum of money for the payment of the salary of an engineer who had really nothing to do. In the first place, they were called upon to expend a sum of money upon Dover Harbour, and then to pay an engineer for seeing that it was expended. He failed to see that the engineer would have any professional work; and he, therefore, thought that it was not desirable that they should pay a salary of £650 a-year for the services of this gentleman. The hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. J. Holms) might be able to explain why they were asked to vote this sum of money as a salary to an engineer; but he (Mr. Ramsay) saw nothing in the Estimate itself which showed what this sum of £650 a-year was to be voted for, seeing that the Government asked for a very insignificant sum to be expended upon the harbour.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, it seemed to him that the Treasury had gone back entirely from the position they had at first taken up. In the first place, when the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy) pointed out this blemish, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Holms) said the Government were very much indebted to his hon. Friend for having called attention to the matter. They had now, however, reconsidered their position, and they wanted to make more inquiry into the facts of the case. Surely, that was a distinctly retrograde movement. When the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) called attention to the engineer's salary, the only explanation that could be given by the Secretary to the Treasury was that the salary they were asked to pay this year had really been paid for some years back, and he did not know why it should not be paid for some years to come. That was all the explanation that was given to the Committee on the subject. His hon. Friend 995 proposed a reduction of the Vote; but he (Mr. O'Donnell) thought the Vote ought to be postponed altogether until the Treasury Bench were able to know something about it. In that event, they might have a much better guarantee for reform. If there were a division, there might or might not be a majority in favour of it. He thought it was most likely that those who were in favour of the Motion of his hon. Friend would be in a minority, but nearly a quarter of an hour would be spent in taking a division. The Government would, no doubt, gain the Vote; but the country would not get any reform. He thought it would be better to postpone the Vote until a future day, so as to enable the Government to give the Committee information as to the nature of the duties of the traffic superintendant, and in that ease the House would be able to proceed with the matter in a business-like manner. The course they were now asked to take was simply like throwing out a sort of Will-of-the-Wisp to lure them from the path of reform. If an inquiry were instituted, he presumed that an officer of the Government would be taken down to Dover Pier at some time when the packets were not over-crowded, and then they would be told that the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy) was labouring under an entire hallucination; and next year they would find the Secretary to the Treasury stating that the salary was paid for a number of years past, and he failed to see why it should not continue to be paid for a considerable number of years to come. Certainly, the best way to enable the Treasury to become acquainted with the matter would be to postpone the Vote until they could communicate with Dover and ascertain what the real facts of the case were. In that case Her Majesty's Government would be able to enter upon a path of reform with full information on the subject in their possession.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
submitted that the Committee had discussed this Vote long enough. ["No!"] He did not think there would be any advantage derived from continuing the discussion. In regard to the question of the resident engineer, he wished to point out that the harbour of Dover had cost a great deal of money to the country in various ways, and it was necessary that there should be an engineer to judge what 996 its condition was. To bring the question nearer home, he would ask Irish Members what they would say if there was no engineer at Kingston Harbour, or at Holyhead? What would be said if there was no engineer to look after the works in Plymouth Harbour? He was of opinion that it was their duty to maintain a resident engineer at all these places. Then, again, as to the question of the over-loading of the mail packets. He had nothing to do with the service; but he had crossed the Channel several times, and he was able to say, from experience, that the service was well and ably performed, allowance being made for the difficulty of crossing. He would ask if any accident of consequence had happened to any of the boats engaged in that service? He did not think they could be told of any accident of a serious character. They ought, therefore, to give praise to those who performed the service, especially when they remembered that it was conducted in a chopping cross sea; that the harbour which they had to make was a very small one; and that altogether the service was a most difficult one to perform well. He would ask any hon. Member to go back for the last 10 years and point to any serious accident that had happened. It was all very well to bring charges that were without foundation. If there was any fault to find it was that they had not a better harbour, and that was a fault which attached to the country itself. So far as the pier master was concerned, the country did not pay for his services, but the Railway Companies paid for the maintenance of the roads across the pier. All he asked was that hon. Members should not find fault unnecessarily and without occasion.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he had no wish to find fault with the pier master, or any other gentleman who performed that work; but he should like to know in what condition this harbour and works on the pier now were? He saw in the Vote that the amount formerly asked for repairing damages was asked for no longer, so that he might fairly presume that the repairs had been completed. The question he wished to ask was, whether the pier was actually completed, or whether the works originally contemplated were still going on? He did not say any- 997 thing as to the engineer's salary, because, in regard to works such as those at Dover Harbour, he imagined that a resident engineer would always be necessary, in order to see that damage was not done, and to superintend the necessary repairs. All he wished to know was whether the contemplated enlargement of last year was still going on, or whether the works were terminated?
§ MR. J. HOLMS
replied, that the estimated cost of the repairs which it had been necessary to make was £41,000. They had actually been completed at a cost of £22,828; and he did not think there was any prospect of a further demand being made upon the Exchequer.
§ MR. GILES
remarked, that Dover Pier was practically finished, and he thought it was necessary to have a resident engineer. The work had cost about £2,000,000. ["No!"] He believed he was correct in saying that the actual cost was £1,900,000. ["No!"] At all events, the cost amounted to a very large sum of money. They could never foretell when they were going to have a storm; and it was always desirable, when a storm did come, that there should be an engineer on the spot to be able to look after anything that might happen. He hoped the Committee would not agree to dispense with the services of an officer of that kind, when experience had proved that the services of a resident engineer were absolutely necessary.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
observed, that the War Office had incurred very large expenses in connection with the fortified works at the end of the pier at Dover; but a resident engineer would have nothing to do with works of that kind. The expenses for the Dover Pier batteries were charged in the Army Estimates, and the officer whose salary was now in question had no control over them whatever. In regard to the repairs which had been spoken of in connection with the pier, they were very ordinary repairs, and involved work of a very simple kind, and needed because of the damage done to the parapet of the pier by the storm of a few years ago. He believed that the works had been washed away owing to improper design in laying out the pier, so as to expose it to the direct instead of the oblique action of the waves. If the pier had been properly laid out, as the 998 experienced engineers of the Mediterranean so carefully planned their breakwaters, the force of the waves would not have been sufficiently strong to have damaged the works. He had long been of opinion that the services of a resident engineer, at a salary of £650, were not necessary. He had no wish to find fault with the individual himself. Reference had been made to the works at Holyhead, but the superintendent employed there only received £350 a-year, and at Kingston Harbour he believed the person in charge of the engineering works was paid £3 3s. a-week; both of these being sums very much below that received by the resident engineer at Dover Harbour. He, therefore, thought that his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Molloy) was quite right in objecting to this salary being paid to the traffic superintendent at Dover.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he thought the explanation which had been given in regard to the employment of these engineers was very unsatisfactory. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk) spoke of the works at Kingston and Holyhead. In regard to Holyhead, he did not find any charge for the salary of an engineer there, although the work at Holyhead was much larger than that which had been performed at Dover. In the one case, however, there was no permanent charge for an engineer, while in the other there was a charge of £650 a-year. He believed that, strictly speaking, the question which had been raised in regard to this particular Vote did not specially refer to the engineer at all. It referred rather to the traffic superintendent, and the pier superintendent. It seemed to him a remarkable arrangement that an officer employed to superintend the steamboats should be paid by the Government, and should also be paid by the Steamboat and Railway Companies. He thought that any superintendent employed at the instance of the Government should be altogether independent of the people who conducted the traffic, and that he should not be in their pay at all. They might just as well ask the Railway and Steamboat Companies to superintend their own work, and make a Report to the Government as to whether the work was well and properly done, as to employ a superintendent at all under such circumstances. So long as they continued the 999 present system he was afraid they would have Reports in all cases that the vessels were not over-loaded, although it was a well-known fact that they were. There was another observation he wished to make in regard to what he had himself seen. He had had the experience of several Sessions in that House in regard to Secretaries to the Treasury, and the manner in which they explained the different Votes which came before the House. He specially remembered two Secretaries who were always prepared to give very full and accurate information with regard to the Votes—namely, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) and the late lamented Lord Frederick Cavendish. But since thon—and the present Secretary to the Treasury was no exception—the hon. Gentlemen who had filled that Office had displayed considerable ingenuity and skill in not giving the information which the Committee desired. He rather suspected that the Government knew a great deal more than they were inclined to tell; and he would suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite that when a question was asked in future they should give as much information as they could to the Committee. Such a course would be more satisfactory to the Committee, and would probably enable the Business to go on with more rapidity.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 16; Noes 82: Majority 66.—(Div. List, No. 102.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (3.) £136,880, to complete the sum for Rates on Government Property.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
asked for an explanation in regard to this Vote. It seemed that there was a decrease upon the Customs property included in the Vote. Would the Government explain how that reduction had been brought about?
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that he was unable at present to explain the cause of the reduction; but he would make inquiries, and give the information to the hon. Member. He thought it might, in a large measure, be duo to the changes in the Customs and Inland Revenue Establishments, which rendered certain 1000 buildings no longer useful, and, as a general rule, they had been disposed of.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
asked if the hon. Gentleman would be able to give an answer upon the Report stage of Supply?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £7,500, to complete the sum for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that upon this Vote he was anxious to make a few observations in regard to the condition of the security at present afforded to the Metropolis against fire. He did not propose to detain the Committee at any length with the few words he desired to say; but it was necessary, at all events, to show that he had some reason for stopping the Business of the Committee upon this Vote; He did not desire to move a reduction of the Vote, and his reason for not taking that course was that he thought, in all probability, his argument would tend to show that a larger amount, if there was to be any contribution at all from the State, ought to be contributed in aid of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The experience he had derived from the investigation which took place a few years ago by a Committee of the House, of which he was Chairman, afforded sufficient evidence to show that this great City was not protected from fire in the way in which it ought to be, looking at the value of the property involved, and the amount of life annually lost from the effects of fire. In making this assertion he wished, first of all, to say that he did not mean for one moment to east the slightest imputation upon the existing Fire Brigade. They were a body of men who had done their work in the most able and most gallant manner possible. His whole contention was that they were over-taxed in that work, and that London was not sufficiently protected, either in the number of firemen or the amount of the appliances placed at their disposal. They had only to recollect the amount of property at stake. Only two years ago the value of all the property in London was estimated at £1,620,000,000. All this property was intrusted to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to protect from the ravages of fire. In 1882 the serious fires recorded in London amounted to 164, while the 1001 slight fires numbered 1,762, making a total of 1,926 fires in that year alone. There were in the same year 36 lives lost and 175 endangered, which was more than the average of the five previous years. In the five years previous to 1882, 129 lives were lost and 794 were endangered. He merely mentioned these facts to show that the amount of danger from fire was hardly sufficiently realized, and that people did not estimate what was going on in their midst. The annual loss, both of life and property, was certainly something which ought to make them reflect seriously whether the means available for dealing with fires were sufficient, and whether the sum contributed by the State towards the maintenance of the Fire Brigade was adequate. As far back as 1876, Captain Shaw, who was the able head of the Fire Brigade of the Metropolis, stated before the Select Committee that to give a fair security against fire in the Metropolis he should require 169 stations, 200 fire-escapes, 330 engines, and 931 men, and he put the cost of a Brigade of these dimensions at something like £120,000 a-year. Now, what was actually the force at the disposal of the Fire Brigade last year, recollecting what Captain Shaw said was absolutely necessary to afford security? The force in 1882, instead of amounting to 167 stations, amounted to 70; there were only 124 fire-escapes instead of 200; 159 engines instead of 330, and only 736 men instead of the 931 which Captain Shaw considered necessary. When they remembered that in the protection of life and property from fire the great thing was to arrest its progress at the earliest possible period, he thought the Committee would see that this question of stations in the Metropolis was one of the most important items they had to consider. If they could multiply the stations largely, and distribute them well over the Metropolis, the probability was that engines might be brought to bear upon a fire at such an early period as to reduce the damage to very slight dimensions, and many of them, instead of being serious, would be numbered in the list of slight fires, many of them being extinguished by buckets of water, instead of requiring the aid of fireengines at all. This and other questions, especially that of the number of men at the disposal of the Metropolitan 1002 Fire Brigate, weighed very strongly upon the Committee in giving their decision. It was shown conclusively that nearly the whole Brigade was swallowed up by by one large fire. That happened at the fire at the Pantechnicon. Captain Shaw stated, alluding to that fire, that he was not prepared to say what might have happened if another great fire had broken out in the Metropolis at the same time. Large fires were constantly occurring now, and there was considerable danger of their getting entirely beyond the power of the present Fire Brigade. It was a question, therefore, that might well be considered, whether the present appliances for extinguishing fires were not upon so limited a scale as to be a source of danger hereafter? As he had said, there was the danger of a large part of the Force being swallowed up by one serious fire; but there was also another danger which arose from the constant overworking of the men, and which prevented the Brigade from being maintained in an efficient condition. The Select Committee, in 1877, had it put before them, over and over again, that men had been worked from 92 up to as many as 120 consecutive hours. One witness stated that he had not been in bed for four days and three nights, but that he had been compelled to he down in his clothes, and was liable to be called up again at any moment. The whole tendency of the Evidence went to show that, unless the whole force of the men was largely increased, the work imposed upon them was of so severe a character that it was utterly impossible for them to keep pace with it. The Metropolitan Board of Works was at present the authority which had the direction of the Fire Brigade, and was that a body which could in a proper manner carry out the duties intrusted to them? They could only do it at a cost which was enormous. Even for the limited security which they at present gave against fire the Metropolitan Board of Works spent something like £120,000 a-year in keeping up the Fire Brigade; and if they were to enlarge the Force, it must necessarily cost an enormous sum to build a sufficient number of stations for the whole of the Metropolis simply for giving London that protection which it was fairly entitled to. He thought the Committee which formerly sat upon this question, and the Committee which sat in 1877 1003 and 1878, had come to a right conclusion when they reported that the Fire Brigade, instead of being attached to the Metropolitan Board of Works, ought to be a branch of the Police Force of the Metropolis, and for this reason:—The Police Force of the Metropolis had 158 stations, which could be, without difficulty and at a very small expense, united to the 70 existing Fire Brigade stations; and in that case they would have at once an additional number of stations actually larger than they were told was necessary for providing a fairly efficient Force. But, beyond that, they had the advantage at the present moment of 339 other standpoints scattered over the Metropolis at which constables were permanently placed, or at which they could be at a slight cost permanently placed. Captain Shaw admitted that appliances for the extinguishing of fire might be placed at these standpoints; that the police constables would avail themselves of the appliances so placed, and would use them at fires in a way which would tend to render the application of the larger material of the Brigade unnecessary. They would be able, by employing the police, to have a certain addition of 158 stations and 339 other points where appliances for the protection of the Metropolis from fire could be placed, and from which they might be used; and he believed, if that were done, they would be able to bring a fire so completely under control as to diminish very largely the number of serious fires which were constantly occurring in London. Beyond that, it must be remembered that in case of an emergency they would at once get over the difficulty now experienced owing to the limited number of men who formed the Fire Brigade, because the reserves of the police would be called in aid, and in any great emergency there would be additional men available. The only objection which seemed to taken by the police authorities of the Metropolis—Colonel Henderson and Colonel Fraser—was that there would be a divided responsibility. Now, there was great danger of something of that kind occurring; but the difficulty might be avoided by making the Brigade a branch of the Police Force under the Commissioners of Police. He was certain that the only real remedy for the complaints made in regard to efficient protection from fire was that they should take away the con- 1004 trol of the Brigade from the Metropolitan Board of Works, not because that Body had not administered it to the best of the abilities they possessed—that was to say, their power of raising money from the rates—but because, by the transfer, they would get the efficiency they required and deemed to be necessary for the protection of London from fire, and they would get it at a cost which would be infinitesimal. They would, furthermore, provide that the work should be done in a way which should secure the complete efficiency of the Brigade. The Metropolitan Board of Works would have at once to build 99 stations, and to add 355 men to their present Force, in order to bring it up to the strength they required by the system which they themselves suggested; whereas the Commissioners of Police would have at their command the full strength of the Metropolitan Police, and all the men that were necessary. He had no wish to delay the Committee at any length, and he did not want to go, as he might have felt disposed to do upon a Motion, into a number of arguments which might be brought forward in support of his view of the matter. He had no wish to delay the progress of Supply on a question of this sort, beyond bringing it before the Committee. He had endeavoured, first of all, to show the value of the property, which was enormous, and also the amount of life which was at present annually sacrificed. Secondly, he had endeavoured to show, in regard to the efficiency of the existing Fire Brigade, that they were now attempting to protect the Metropolis from fires with a much smaller force than Captain Shaw admitted some years ago to be necessary. Further, he had shown that by making this transfer they would secure a force greater even than Captain Shaw had contemplated; that they would get ample security for the protection of the Metropolis, and that they would obtain it without incurring any extravagant cost. There was another advantage he might mention which would be derived from the transfer of the Fire Brigade to the Police. That advantage was this. The police area throughout the Metropolis was a far wider one than that of the Metropolitan Board of Works. By the transfer of the Brigade to the Police the operation of the Brigade would therefore 1005 be extended beyond the limited area of the Metropolitan Board of Works. All that area which was beyond the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Board of Works was not attended to by the Fire Brigade at present; but, by this transfer, it would be brought under the protection of the Brigade, and would obtain the same security as that which was afforded to the centre of the Metropolis. He was quite aware that he might be told that the discussion of the question was not opportune at the present moment, and that it ought to be left until the great work of reconstructing the Government of London was undertaken. But, in regard to that matter, he was quite aware, from the little experience he had had of that House, that if they waited until the measure was before the House, after having undergone the ordeal of being created in a Government Office, and then properly thought out by the House itself, they would have to wait a very long time indeed. He was also satisfied that after such a measure had been introduced, if this question should happen not to have been specially dealt with, it would stand very little chance of being satisfactorily considered. It was with that view that he was anxious to call the attention of the Committee to these points, and to suggest to the Committee and to the Government in any reconstruction or alteration of the Governing Authority of the Metropolis the Fire Brigade, at all events, ought not to be intrusted to the control of a separate body. There was already existing a Force with which it might be incorporated with advantage, and by which the security of life and property in the outlying parts of the Metropolis would also be insured. He believed that any hon. Member who studied the Evidence taken by the Select Committee in 1877 would arrive at the conclusion which he had arrived at.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
said, although he appreciated the manner in which the hon. Baronet had handled this subject, he was bound to say that on every point which he had brought before the Committee he was in the unfortunate position of entirely disagreeing with him. He would remind the Committee that on a former occasion the hon. Baronet, in speaking on an Amendment, was counted out in the midst of 1006 a panegyric on the Metropolitan Board of Works; and it seemed hardly consistent that he should complain of the action of the Board on the present occasion. It appeared to him that the hon. Baronet had taken a mistaken view of this subject from beginning to end. The number of deaths from fires in the Metropolis had nothing whatever to do with the question; but he would give a list of those which bad occurred during the last few years. There were 25 deaths in 1878; 32 in 1879; 33 in 1880; 40 in 1881; and 36 in 1882, which gave a total of 166 in five years, during every one of which the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and all the appliances connected with it, were increasing. The causes that led to that number of deaths were various in their character, and showed that, in most cases, they were not preventible by any increase in the numbers or efficiency of the Brigade, but were due to accidents or carelessness, apart from any fire on the premises. Children fell into the fire, spirit lamps were upset, and explosions of gas took place, besides many other things which led to loss of life, which no Fire Brigade could prevent. The Estimate for the Brigade made by Captain Shaw in 1865 was £75,000, an amount which was afterwards cut down to £50,000. The number of men he asked for at first was 574; then it was 416; and in his third estimate it was 277. The number of engines in the first estimate was 330, in the second 140, and in the third 129. The number of stations in the first estimate was 157, in the second 125, and in the present estimate they were 57. At this moment they had 576, or two men more than Captain Shaw asked for originally; 160 engines, including four floating engines; 54 permanent stations and 12 moveable stations. The estimated expenditure of the present year was £105,116. They had also accessories of a very useful character. Since the first Motion was brought forward about the Fire Brigade, they had in use the telegraph and the telephone. They had 13 waggons for street stations, and two trollies, ladder trucks, 50 telegraph and 13 telephone wires, 13 fire alarums, and 576 firemen of all ranks. He said that these appurtenances added enormously to the efficiency of the Fire Brigade, and enabled it to cope with fires in the most prompt manner; and 1007 he would go farther, and assert that the Metropolitan Board and their Fire Brigade had ably and thoroughly done their duty. The percentage of serious fires had been reduced from 34, at which it unfortunately stood under the Companies, to 25 in 1866, to 11 in 1876, and to 9 in 1882. He asked the Committee what better test there could be of the efficiency of a Body charged with putting out fires, than to say they had done their work in the best possible way? He maintained that the Metropolitan Fire Brigade had done their best; and, if that were so, how could it be said that it was advisable to transfer their work from the Municipal Authority to a Government Department? It appeared to him that the present proposal was similar to one of the ideas lately brought before the House in regard to the theatres—that was to say, it was proposed to take away from the Municipal Authorities duties which properly belonged to them, which they were carrying out progressively to the best of their ability, and transfer them to a Department of the Government, the members of which, with all respect to that Department, were not the proper persons to have them, and who were wise enough to say that the Municipal Authorities could better do the work, and that if they should prove incompetent to deal with it they should go to the Government and ask for assistance. He admitted that the Committee referred to by the hon. Baronet did recommend the transfer of the Fire Brigade from the Metropolitan Board of Works to the Police; but they gave their opinion, he was bound to say, in direct opposition to that of persons fully qualified to form a correct judgment in the matter. He had no wish to take up the time of the Committee; but if hon. Members wished it, he would read to them the evidence of Sir Edmund Henderson and Colonel Fraser. Both those gentlemen agreed in the opinion that if the authorities did what his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) now advocated, they would simply turn good policemen into bad firemen, and good firemen into indifferent policemen, and thus make a great hugger-mugger of the whole concern. Therefore, it was to be hoped that the Metropolitan Fire Brigade would be allowed to go on as they were; stopping fires, protecting lives, saving them in fire-escapes and in other ways, 1008 all over the Metropolis, and risking and losing their own lives for the public good in a manner that all must admire. The Committee had gone against all the evidence given before it except that of Captain Harris, who was in favour of the transfer of the Fire Brigade to the Police. He thought the evidence of Sir Edmund Henderson, Colonel Fraser, and Captain Shaw, the latter of whom had certainly said nothing in favour of the transfer, should have weight with hon. Members in dealing with this question. The hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) intimated that Captain Shaw had been in favour of the transfer of the Brigade to the Police; but he gave that an unqualified denial, and he had the authority of that gentleman for saying he had never made any such statement. He hoped the hon. Member would be satisfied with that denial; and, for his own part, he should remain of opinion that every witness of weight who gave evidence before the Committee was against the transfer of the Brigade to a Department of State which did not want it, and which had quite enough to do already, without undertaking additional duties that properly devolved on the Municipal Authorities.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that, after a municipal experience of 25 years, he was able to assure the hon. and gallant Baronet who had just spoken, that he agreed with every word he had used with regard to the question before the Committee. In his own town they had taken these functions out of the hands of the Police and placed them with the Fire Brigade, since which it had worked better and more economically. But he wished to go back to a question that he himself and other hon. Gentleman on those Benches had raised on several previous occasions. Why was the Consolidated Fund to pay towards the ratepayers of London a contribution which it did not pay to the ratepayers of any other town in the country? Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, and other great centres had to keep up Fire Brigades out of their own rates. He contended that the Metropolis should defray the cost of its Fire Brigade out of its own rates, and not come upon the taxpayers of the country generally to do it for them. As he had already said, the question had been before the House and 1009 the constituencies throughout the country again and again; and he felt so strongly the injustice involved, that he would divide the Committee against the Vote altogether.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
said, he could quite believe that the Metropolitan Board of Works did everything they could to put a stop to fires. They were entitled to speak of the increased efficiency which resulted from the use of the telegraph and telephone. But it would certainly be more by good fortune than arrangement, that they could deal effectively with two great fires at the same time. Suppose the fire at the Pantechnicon and that at Humphrey's Wharf had taken place together, he asked whether it would have been possible to put them out at the same time? Would not one of these have been left to itself? [Sir JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG: Certainly not.] If the Metropolitan Board of Works had sufficient funds and a sufficient force at their disposal for the complete discharge of their duties, why did they now obtain the sanction of the Treasury to the introduction of a Money Bill, giving them power to tax the London Fire Offices to a large extent? In the olden times the matter rested in this way. The Fire Offices paid on their own account certain sums which they were willing to subscribe towards the putting out of fires; they also supported engines of their own, and did various other things for the same object. Now, as the Fire Brigade sent their engines to any fire that occurred, it followed that the assured were paying for the unassured; this was felt to be an anomaly, and it ended in the whole matter being put into the hands of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the Companies agreeing to pay them the money they originally paid—namely, £24,000 a-year. But why was the attempt to tax those Companies made, if the system of the Metropolitan Board of Works was above all question? Captain Shaw, in his original estimate, had proposed that the number of men should be 574—the very least that would be of use; and the hon. and gallant Baronet, 15 years after that estimate was made, spoke of it as a merit that two men had been added to the Force. Since that time he believed the Metropolis had increased in size to the extent of one-third, and it was now 1010 seven years ago that Captain Shaw recommended the employment of a force of 931 men. With regard to the unqualified denial of the hon. and gallant Baronet on behalf of Captain Shaw, to the effect that he had never stated that he was in favour of a transfer of the Brigade, he would refer the Committee to the evidence of Captain Shaw, given before the Select Committee—Question 1,056. He considered the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had done a public service that evening in bringing this matter under the notice of the Committee; and he trusted, before it was too late, that his proposal would meet with the support to which it was entitled.
§ SIR CHAELES W. DILKE
said, with reference to the point raised by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), the contribution was not an estimate of the present time, but of the year 18G5, when the amount of £10,000 was sanctioned and fixed by Act of Parliament. The hon. Member spoke as if this sum represented the whole or, at all events, a large proportion of the expense of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade; but that was not the case. The cost of the Brigade in 1865 was £57,000; and at the present time the £10,000 in question only represented a small portion of the entire cost of £108,000. He must admit that he thought £10,000 was an exaggerated estimate for the time, when it was originally made in 1865. But it was not so now. The amount at which it was fixed in 1865 was stated to be on account of the large number and great value of the public buildings, which were scattered over a very large area of the Metropolis, and which were at that time excluded from the payment of rates. With regard to the question raised by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), he entirely agreed—and he spoke as representing the opinion of the Secretary of State for the Home Department—with what had fallen from the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg). That hon. and gallant Member had informed the Committee that on a former occasion the hon. Baronet opposite had been counted out in the midst of a panegyric on the Metropolitan Board of Works, and had said that he had no right to complain of the Board on account of 1011 its action at the present time, arguing that it was unfair to entertain the proposal to hand over to a Government Department, however able, duties which properly belonged to the Municipal Authorities. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) could not imagine a more centralizing measure than to hand over to a Government Department the control of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The hon. Baronet said the Police ought to be the Authority in matters relating to fires. He could only say that such was not the opinion of the Fire Authorities, the Police Authorities, or the Home Department. The hon. Baronet had quoted Captain Shaw, but that gentleman was opposed to the change, as were also the Commissioners of Police, and the Chiefs of the City Police; and it followed, therefore, that all those who best knew the working of the existing system were against the alteration which the hon. Baronet proposed to introduce. The hon. Baronet asked if the Metropolitan Board could properly discharge the duties required of it in the matter of fires? The answer to that was—"If they cannot, you ought to get a Board which can." The hon. Baronet made a point, on behalf of his view of the question, by saying that the Police area was much larger than the Metropolitan area; but that appeared rather to tell in an opposite direction. The Police area was so large that it included vast tracts of agricultural country, altogether beyond the Metropolis, and he could not think that safety in the Metropolis would be insured by sending the police engines down to the limits of the Police area. It must be remembered that the duties of the Police in relation to fires were wholly different from those of firemen. That distinction was clearly pointed out in the General Orders. The primary duty of the Police was to preserve order, and to preserve life and and property; and it was to be regretted that year by year other duties were being thrown upon them which were calculated to diminish their efficiency for the purpose they were intended to fulfil. In the matter of fires, the Police were charged with the duty of giving alarm, of rescuing life and protecting property, regulating traffic, and keeping the ground clear for the operations of the firemen. Without the aid of the Police the firemen would be altogether unable 1012 to operate, and it must not be understood that the Police had not already their clearly defined duties with regard to fires. Again, the men of the Fire Brigade were selected on account of certain special qualifications for the duties they had to perform. The great majority of them were sailors; they were accustomed to climbing, and were, therefore, the better able to rescue life, and do what was needful for the preservation of property at great heights; and, on the whole, they were men of a very different character to those who formed the ordinary rank and file of the Police Force. In a city with a population of 4,000,000 crowds collected at fires with extraordinary rapidity; and not only was this the result of curiosity, but amongst the persons who so collected there was often a considerable number of thieves, and a great amount of pilfering took place in consequence. There was also the danger of the crowd taking advantage of the confusion caused by the fire to break into property in the neighbourhood. If the police were held responsible for the management of the Fire Brigade, he took it that, in practice, the result would be that the Fire Brigade would be nominally under the direction of the Commissioners of Police, while, as a matter of fact, it would remain an entirely separate body; in other words, there would be a state of things similar to that which now prevailed.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, the right hon. Baronet had not quite understood him. His proposal would not in any way interfere with the existing duties of the Police. He proposed that the 158 stations of the Police should be availed of, and that the reserve men at those stations should be employed in case of fire.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the suburban reserves were, as a matter of fact, called upon already in the case of fires of sufficient magnitude to render that course necessary. He could not believe that the amalgamation of these two separate bodies—the Fire Brigade and the Police—would produce any saving, or tend to increased efficiency. There were three large towns in which the Fire Brigade and the Police were one organization. In Manchester the Brigade did not form a portion of the Police system; it was under the control of a Watch Committee, and for purposes 1013 of discipline it was under the Chief Constable. In Liverpool the Eire Brigade and the Police were one force. Now in Liverpool, it must be remembered, the Police Force was very much larger in proportion than it was in London; it was, indeed, larger than the Police Force and the Fire Brigade together. If, therefore, Liverpool were taken as an example, there would be no saving whatever. The Returns showed that the Liverpool system was more costly than the separate system; whether or not it was more effective, without further local information it was, of course, impossible to say. They had also the testimony of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that the separate system had proved to be more economical as well as more effective in the town which he represented. He believed that enough had been said to show that there was great doubt as to the wisdom of the plan proposed. It was the opinion of the Government that the Metropolitan Fire Brigade was a very efficient organization; and he was not disposed to believe that any administrative improvement could be effected by the transfer of its functions to the Police. There seemed to him ample scope already for all the Police could do in the discharge of their duties, without putting further duties upon them. He thought that perhaps something more might be done in the direction of controlling fires, by keeping at the police stations such apparatus as hose, reels, buckets, folding ladders, and other appliances that could be used with effect before the arrival of the Brigade; and in that limited sense he considered that the hon. Baronet had made a valuable suggestion to the Committee, and one which ought to receive attention at the hands of the authorities. He was also of opinion that it would be wise to instruct constables in the use of the means of saving life and property, so that their aid in this respect might be available until the engines arrived on the ground. With regard to telegraph communication between the Police at distant stations and the Brigade, that was already in operation to a certain extent, and increased rapidity of communication was the result. The system was extending, and the adoption of the suggestion under this head would simply mean the continuance of what was now taking place. 1014 The usual complaints were not of delay in the arrival of the Brigade, but of the difficulty of getting a proper supply of water; but that was not a matter that could be dealt with by placing the Fire Brigade under the control of the Police, because it was really connected with the Metropolitan water supply. But the hon. Baronet would know that in the City a large number of fires were put out by means of the hydrant system that had been established. This work, however, was complicated, and could only be done by thoroughly trained men. The beats of policemen had often to be changed; and, as that was necessary, it was hopeless to expect them, when they took a new beat, to know the position of all the hydrants and fire-plugs at a moment's notice. He doubted whether such amateur firemen as the Police would necessarily be could be of much use in an emergency; and, on the whole, he thought that it had been shown to be desirable that the arrangements with regard to the Fire Brigade should be left in the hands of the Metropolitan Board of Works.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
said, the discussion had taken what he considered rather an irrelevant turn. He had been a Member of the Committee of which the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had been Chairman, and he felt bound to confirm what had been said by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg), who probably know more about this question than any other Member of the House as to the opinion of the Members of the Committee. He wished the Committee to understand this—that, for very good reasons, no doubt, the people of London were perfectly well satisfied with the Fire Brigade. They had a good, an excellent, Fire Brigade, and it was no use to tell him anything to the contrary, because he was a Londoner, and knew something about London; and, besides that, was Chairman of one of the Metropolitan Fire Insurance Offices. He did not want to see the Fire Brigade under the Police. The Fire Insurance Offices being satisfied with the present management of the Brigade contributed between £25,000 and £30,000 towards that management. [An hon. MEMBER: £24,000.] Well, £24,000, be it so. The public in taxes 1015 paid £105,000, and were perfectly satisfied. If all those most interested were satisfied, why should they turn the Brigade over to the Police? It was said that if it were under the Police it would make its appearance at fires with greater rapidity; but that he absolutely denied. Did hon. Members know how rapidly it attended a fire? It was on the spot within two or throe minutes of an outbreak of fire, frequently when very little of a fire was to be seen, and it was utterly impossible to accelerate its speed. See how well the Brigade managed at the great Wood Street fire, and at the big fire at Whiteley's in Westbourne Grove! The engines were on the spot immediately after the discovery of the fire at Whiteley's; but the goods were of such a highly combustible character that, in spite of all possible efforts, the conflagration got such hold in so short a space of time that all the men could do was to prevent its spread to other buildings. At the great fire in Bermondsey the engines were rapidly on the spot; no one could find fault with the men. The hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had a preconceived notion that the Police were the best persons to have to do with the extinguishing of fires; but he (Sir Andrew Lusk) did not understand why the hon. Baronet thought so. It had frequently been shown that a good policeman would make a bad fireman; but the hon. Baronet had a contrary notion, and adhered to it tenaciously, and endeavoured to convince those who differed from him against their will.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, the hon. Baronet would forgive him for reminding him that out of a Committee of 27 he had been in a minority of 2.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
said, the hon. Baronet had carried the Committee with him because the Members of it liked to defer to him as much as they could. The hon. Baronet, however, had failed to carry him (Sir Andrew Lusk) with him. The public were well served with a Fire Brigade, although hon. Members must not run away with the idea that he believed it could not be advantageously extended. If they wanted a larger Brigade let them increase its size, taxing the public for the additions. The public would pay as they did at present. He would not say they did 1016 not require advice gratis from hon. Members; but he would say this—that those who paid for the service of the Fire Brigade should be intrusted with the management of it. In spite of the enormous value of the property of the Government in the Metropolis—the New Law Courts, the Houses of Parliament, the Palaces and Public Offices, & c.—all that the State contributed towards the expense of the Brigade was £10,000. If they contributed according to the value of their property, the sum they would pay would not be £10,000, but £30,000. Why should not the Government be asked to contribute more than they did? He would not say the sum they contributed now was paltry; but he would certainly say that they should contribute their fair share according to the amount of their property. It was to be hoped that the answer the hon. Baronet had received from the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works would be suffcient, and that he would rest satisfied, and never bring the question forward again. He would advise the Committee to go on now with the next Vote.
§ MR. DICK PEDDIE
said, he did not suppose that, after the explanation given by the President of the Local Government Board, his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton would press his Motion to a division, The President of the Local Government Board had reminded the Committee that the payment to the support of the Metropolis was provided for in an Act of Parliament. It seemed to him that, in these circumstances, the proper course was not to refuse the Vote, but to repeal the Act; and he hoped the Government would bring in a measure to that effect when they came to be in a position to carry any measures at all. There could be no doubt that there was a growing feeling in the country against the grants made from Imperial sources for the benefit of the Metropolis, and he did not think that the reason for continuing such a payment in this case made it more defensible than other grants of a similar kind. That reason was that the Government had a good deal of property in London. But there were other proprietors in London besides the Government, and he did not see why the Government, anymore than any other proprietor, should be called on to do more than to pay the 1017 rate on their property. There might have been a good reason for voting a large sum towards the Fire Brigade when Government property was exempted from rates; but now that was done away with all reason for continuing the grant was gone.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
said, that if the money paid by the Government was not paid as a rate upon the Government buildings, his argument was wrong to a great extent. He believed, however, that it was in respect of Government buildings.
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
said, the question was whether the contribution of £10,000 was a fair payment to enable the Brigade to meet its expenses? There was a Metropolitan rate of a halfpenny in the pound, which produced from £105,000 to £110,000, and the Eire Offices contributed £25,000. As to what had fallen from the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) with regard to the advantages of transferring the duties of the Fire Brigade to the Police, it seemed to him that the proposed change would be an unfortunate one. It must be an advantage to have specially trained men in a service of this kind. An incident occurred last year which would have convinced anyone of the truth of this statement. Captain Shaw had asked him to go down to Greenwich one Sunday to observe the efficiency of the men, and he had accepted the invitation. The men were dressed in their best clothes, and least expected to be called on duty; but on the fire bell being rung, in two minutes, less ten seconds, every one of the men was dressed, the engines were got ready, the horses were harnessed, and everything was in thorough preparation. This was enough to show the efficiency of the Brigade as at present constituted; and it would be a woful mistake, without any fault to find with the Brigade, to transfer its duties to some other Force; especially would it be a mistake to transfer them to the Police, after the able speech they had had from the President of the Local Government Board. Each body had its particular office and duties—the Police to preserve law and order, and the Fire Brigade to protect life and property from fire. The amount paid by the Government was relative to the amount of their property, and the contribution of the Fire Offices was a very fair one, considering the magnitude of 1018 the interest they had in the protection of property from fire. If anything, the contribution of the Fire Offices should be increased.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that as he was the only Irish Representative in the House at the present moment, he must be allowed to say a word on this subject. The question was, what right had London, more than any other part of the United Kingdom, to a special grant? So far as he could see, it had none. He failed to understand why London should have a special grant any more than Dublin, or Belfast, or any other large town in the Three Kingdoms. As had been pointed out already, the Government Offices bore their share of local taxation, and he failed to see why local authorities should not have assistance in meeting the expenses of their fire services. The Insurance Companies, very justly, paid a portion of the expense; and if all property was insured, no doubt it would be fair for them to pay the whole. He could not join in opposing the Vote.
§ Vote agreed to.
(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £165,000, 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, 1884, in Aid of the Cost of Maintenance of Disturnpiked and Main Roads in England and Wales during the year ended on the 25th day of March 1883.
§ MR. BIDDELL
said, he had questioned the Government on the subject of this Vote last year, and wished again to put a query to them—namely, whether the applications for the money were much less this year than last year; and whether the Estimates had been founded on the number or the amount of the applications? Also, he should like to ask whether the Government had power to distribute this money differently, for under the present system the distribution was singularly unequal, many parishes that paid very low rates being materially assisted, while all help was refused to other parishes paying very high rates. It frequently happened that in respect of roads, formerly turnpike roads, costing £20 a-mile to repair, half the amount came from the county and a quarter from the Government, leaving the amount for the parish to pay 1019 reduced to £5 a-mile, which was, of course, much less than the repairs cost. Before the Vote was agreed to, he should like to known something about it. He desired the Government to divide this money in a much more equitable manner than it was at present divided.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that before they went any further, perhaps he might be allowed to correct the hon. Member who had just spoken as to the amount paid this year being smaller than last year. That was not the case. If they would look at the amount actually spent they would see that it was smaller last year than this. The increase was simply owing to a natural increase. As to the second question, whether, with the consent of the Treasury, they would be able to alter the conditions on which the grants were given, he supposed the Government could make an application to Parliament based on a different system. The hon. Member, however, had made no suggestion as to what the system should be; and it seemed to him (Sir Charles W. Dilke) that, no matter what the system was, they would have cases of individual hardship—that was to say, there would be a variation as contrasted with population or property, or any other test they liked to take, between one area and another. The system adopted last year was one of an elastic character, and seemed to him to be as good as any one that could be devised. At any rate, he had never seen nor heard of a better one. He had heard complaints of the working of the system in different counties, but had not, up to the present, seen a better system.
§ MR. RAMSAY
regretted that they should have to enter on a discussion of this subject at the present time, for he had expected when the present Government came into Office that they would not have adopted this system of Government grants in aid for objects which should be provided for by the respective localities. There was another view to take of this. Though the grant, on the whole, might be no more than equal to the demands made upon it, yet on the next page they found a very small amount put down for Scotland. He did not desire to discuss the Scotch Vote, but only to compare it with the £200,000—the gross amount—asked for England and Wales. The Vote for Scotland was not a seventh part of that amount, though, taken either by 1020 taxation, population, or area, Scotland was more than one-seventh of England. He could not, as a private Member, move to increase the Scotch Vote, and he could not now move for details as to how it was to be distributed this year. Last year he was successful in obtaining some information which, if it showed nothing else, demonstrated the impolicy of placing the management of the affairs of Scotland in the hands of those who knew nothing about the law and practice in that country. He felt it was necessary to make a protest against a Vote of this kind, and to point out that unless the grants were given equally to all parts of the Kingdom, the House was guilty of a distinct wrong in passing them. He would propose, with a view of placing the Scottish people somewhat on the same footing as the English, that instead of granting £165,000 they should vote £140,000, or a reduction of £25,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £140,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will coma in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884, in Aid of the Cost of Maintenance of Disturnpiked and Main Roads in England and Wales during the year ended on the 2otU day of March 1883."—(Mr. Ramsay.)
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
said, he was not satisfied with the economical principles of the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay), who, whilst not objecting to the Vote for England, moved its reduction because that for Scotland was not large enough. Would the President of the Local Government Board state on what principle the distribution was made? The Vote was introduced for the first time last year. It was then £250,000, but this year it was reduced to £200,000. Certainly the dismantled turnpike roads had not decreased, but, on the contrary, had very much increased, and it would be very satisfactory to the country generally to have a statement from the President of the Local Government Board as to the principle on which the Vote was distributed. He would say to the right hon. Baronet, what he believed was known to the Committee generally—namely, that one of the grievances of the present day was the enormous amount people were taxed for the maintenance of roads. These roads were channels of communi- 1021 cation between one part of the country and another, and a large amount of loss had been occasioned to those who held road debentures in consequence of the disturnpiking. For many years the policy of the Department had been to take these roads up, and make communications from one part of the country to another carriage free. Last year a grant in aid was proposed, and, at the fag end of the Session, £250,000 was stated as the amount they thought the Government ought to contribute for the purpose. This year the amount was reduced to £200,000; and though the statement of the President of the Local Government Board might be correct, in many instances he did not believe the knowledge of the public grant, or the principle on which it was allocated, were made known. It would be greatly to the advantage of the public, as well as satisfactory to the Committee, if the right hon. Gentleman would give some information on this subject.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, there was a statement made last year which fully explained the matter, and there were Papers laid before the House which gave the principle of the distribution of the grant. This statement, for the convenience of the Committee and of the hon. Baronet who asked the question, he would repeat. They had to distinguish between three classes of roads—firstly, County roads; secondly, Quarter Sessions roads; and, thirdly, South Wales roads. By an Act of 1878 half the cost of all highways disturnpiked after 1870 fell upon the counties, and power was given to the counties to add main roads to the list. The sum thus paid was between £300,000 and £400,000. Last year the Government made a proposal to the House which had the effect of throwing on the Votes in Parliament half of this half, or a quarter of the whole cost of the disturnpiked highways. The grants for 1882–3 were based on the payments actually made in 1881–2. With respect to Quarter Sessions, Boroughs, and Metropolitan roads, Parliament assumed a quarter of their actual cost; and as to the third class there was a different system, Parliament assuming half the sum which since 1870 had been paid by the counties. These were the three plans—in the case of each class one system was adopted. As to the comparison 1022 of the amounts for last year and this year, that estimated or suggested to the House last year was £250,000, which included the sum for Scotland; but, roughly speaking, £50,000 of that might be said to have been returned. This year the amount taken was £225,000, or£200,000, exclusive of Scotland. That, he thought, answered the question put to him by the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that this Vote would be more properly entitled "a Vote for giving assistance out of the Consolidated Fund to landlords whose rents were in arrear" than "a Vote in aid of disturnpiked and main roads." He would ask the Committee for a moment to consider the principle on which turnpike roads were originally made. The great bulk of the Vote was in aid of turnpike roads in counties, and the only figures the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had given were as to the aggregate cost of turnpike roads. From time immemorial the cost of the roads in the parish had devolved upon the parish. Something like 100 years ago, there was discovered a necessity for better means of communication, and the turnpike roads were constructed by means of a turnpike trust, which was empowered to levy tolls on persons using roads until the cost of making them was defrayed. Then, and not till then, the turnpike roads formed part of the parish roads, and the cost of maintaining them was thrown on the parishes. He was not defending this system. He was willing to admit that when these trusts came to an end it was a very empirical method of dealing with the roads, to throw the cost of maintaining them on the parishes. The parishes were often very small areas, the extent of road passing through them being considerable—very disproportionate to the size of the parishes. The system adopted in this country was different from that of Ireland and the various nations of the Continent. In Ireland and other countries, the whole cost of the roads, whether they were called turnpike or parish, was thrown on the county; and that, he believed, would have been the best and wisest system to have adopted in England. What was their position now? Why, at a time of great agricultural depression—though no greater than prevailed in the mining and manufacturing 1023 districts—the agricultural interest, being disproportionately represented in the House, was in a position to come and ask for a contribution out of the Consolidated Fund towards the maintenance of county roads, whilst nothing was asked on behalf of the other interests in towns and boroughs, although those interests had to construct roads and streets at enormous cost for the benefit of the whole community. In towns and boroughs the roads had to be paid for out of the local rates. ["No, no!"] He begged pardon; the Government did not assist in the maintenance of these roads. There were a few boroughs in England with turnpike roads running through them—they were so few that he could almost count them on his fingers—which were aided; but the amount they received was so small that it was a mere bagatelle, compared with the total amount paid by the Government, and with the cost of the roads and streets in the towns. On the last occasion that this subject was brought before the House, he was challenged as to whether he could name a turnpike road running through Liverpool or Manchester, in respect of which a charge was made on the Consolidated Fund. He was not very well acquainted with these places. The town he was best acquainted with was the one he represented—namely, Wolverhampton. That town had a portion of a turnpike road running through it, and the charge upon the Consolidated Fund in respect of it was about £200; whereas the real cost of maintaining the roads of the borough was £6,000 or £7,000. Why were the ratepayers in counties, whose rates were less than those towns, to receive aid from the Consolidated Fund, whilst the heavy ratepayers of the towns, who had suffered more from commercial depression than the counties, received none? He did not advocate throwing the whole cost of the maintenance of the roads of the country on the Consolidated Fund; but why, he would ask, were they to take out of the Consolidated Fund £250,000 in order to put it in the hands of the least taxed class in the community?—because the ratepayers in the counties were taxed to nothing like the amount that ratepayers in the boroughs were taxed. This assistance to the agricultural interest was one of those sops which were thrown to Cerberus last 1024 year. He was sorry this sop was thrown last year, and he certainly should give the Committee an opportunity of saying whether or not it should be thrown this year.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had put the roads in boroughs in the same position as the main roads in the agricultural districts. In reality, they were not in the same position. The roads, for which a contribution was asked, were links in the great chains of communication from one end of the country to the other. They were originally constructed, not for parochial purposes, but as main arteries of communication, to promote Imperial objects. On this footing they were projected and constructed; on this footing they were maintained; and on that principle the Committee was asked to make this contribution. He had had some experience of this matter. When he practised before Committees he had to deal with case after case of turnpike roads, and found that generally they wore constructed out of money advanced on the faith of tolls, many of them by the landowners. In many cases the tolls became insufficient for the maintenance of the roads, and the persons who had constructed them sustained considerable loss, the country, of course, getting the benefit of that loss. The question was whether the Government should pay for their maintenance now that the tolls had been abolished? And in considering this it was necessary, as he had said, to bear in mind that those roads were not constructed for parochial purposes. They had been constructed at the expense of private individuals for Imperial purposes, and handed over to the country, and all the country was asked to pay was the expense of repairs. He had had some experience, too, of roads through boroughs. The desire of the borough authorities had always been to throw the liability in respect of the roads further and further back—that was to say, to include as much of the main roads within the boroughs as they could. There were many instances of turnpike roads constructed at the expense of private individuals who had no connection with the borough, having become streets by the extensive borough boundary. For these, they had only to pay the cost of maintenance inside the boun- 1025 dary. The boroughs certainly had no right to complain of the liability they were under. All that was now asked for was a contribution towards the main arteries, which had been constructed, not for parochial or local purposes alone, but for public purposes and uses.
§ MR. DUCKHAM
said, he was sorry to hear a discussion raised on this matter. The arrangement made had been a sort of compromise, by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having proposed to put a tax on carriages, gave this subvention towards the turnpike roads—or towards the maintenance of the main roads of the country established under the Act of 1878. As a rule, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was very accurate in the views he placed before the House; but, on this occasion, he was the reverse. The main roads were not confined to the turnpike roads of the country, but extended to every market town and every borough in the Kingdom which had its own separate Quarter Sessions. [Mr. RYLANDS: You are quite mistaken.] He was not mistaken in what he was stating. If the authorities in the different counties had not put into operation the Act of 1878, it was their fault, and not his inaccurate speaking. The Act of 1878 extended the through roads of the country through every borough in the Kingdom which had a separate Quarter Sessions. [Mr. RYLANDS: You are wrong.] He begged the hon. Member's pardon. He was quite right, as the hon. Member would see if he would take the trouble to read the Act. They had it, on very high authority, that the main roads of the country had not been maintained altogether by real property, but that personal property was also liable. That was a matter he was not going to enter upon further than to make a bare allusion to it; but he was supported in his view by a speech he had had the pleasure of hearing from the Prime Minister. He (Mr. Duckham) was certainly very much surprised at the remarks the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had made, and hoped that the Committee, if it divided, would not do so according to the lines laid down by that hon. Member. The agricultural condition of this country was very different now from what it was 100 years ago. With regard to a comparison between rates paid 1026 by urban and suburban ratepayers, he could speak with a considerable amount of experience; and he was sure that equity required that the grant which the Committee was now called upon to make was not in excess of what should be given. If some parts of the Kingdom had not put in force the Act of 1878, the fault rested with the local authorities, and not with the Government. Those who had put the Act in force had adopted the plan of rates for the main roads. There were only a few towns which had Quarter Sessions, and he found that rates were of more advantage to the ratepayers in boroughs than to those in the counties.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, he had always been of opinion that there should be some relief in a way which would relieve all the ratepayers—say, for lunacy or poor. Of course, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had said, this grant was nothing less than a sop to Cerberus; but he should have said that at the time, and shown that the Government, instead of dealing with this question on a bold and intelligible principle, had simply given way to agitation. It could not, however, be denied that the agitation was founded upon grievances which fell very heavily upon certain interests. The hon. Member's complaint now came quite too late, because the Government were not going to give any further assistance to the agricultural interest in lieu of the one which he would withdraw.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he thought that in consequence of the clamour made by the agricultural interest for some relief, the Government in a weak moment had given a certain sop to that interest. When the Government first proposed to increase the tax on carriages, such opinions were expressed from the Benches below the Gangway that the Government withdrew the proposal. There was no speaking about it in public, but private intimations were given, and if the proposal had been pressed Members on those Benches would have voted against it. Being quite unable to carry that tax, which would have been most injurious to an important branch of manufacture, the Government then proposed to give a substitute. He forgot exactly the circumstances; but the matter was brought forward very late in the Session, and adopted when everyone 1027 was in a scramble, and there was no opportunity to discuss the proposal of the Government. If there had been a suitable opportunity, he and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton would have opposed it ab initio. Why? Because they regarded it as one of those objectionable charges such as had been fastened from time to time on the Consolidated Fund in the interest of owners of property. It was very nice for them to dip their hands into the Consolidated Fund; but what was that Fund? It was a Fund to which the working classes of this country contributed a very large share. [An hon. MEMBBR: No, no!] No! The working classes contributed a large proportion of the Customs and Excise, and it was upon thorn that the country gentlemen were seeking to fasten burdens in order to relieve their own shoulders. He objected altogether to this Vote. He had not heard the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay); but if his speech had been correctly represented, his Amendment was meant as a protest against the insufficiency of the grant for Scotland. He hoped that was not so; but he would very much rather join with his hon. Friend if he would withdraw his Amendment and join in voting against this Vote altogether, as that was the best way of dealing with it. If the hon. Member would withdraw and vote against the English Vote, he would vote with him upon the Scotch Vote. Then no party from England or Scotland could complain. He really believed that if this side of the House would, on this occasion, exhibit some of the independence that used to exist in the House, and which he should be glad to see again manifested, and if they would join with him and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton in resisting this Vote, he believed at the next Cabinet Meeting on Saturday the Government would congratulate themselves on the result. It was contrary to the principles of the Prime Minister to propose a substitute of this kind. He hoped his hon. Friends would assist the Government in getting out of the false position in which they had placed themselves by granting, in a weak moment, this substitute of £200,000. Hon. Members should read the Mid Lothian speeches as to the proper mode of relieving local burdens. Was it consistent with the Prime Minister's principles to give a lump sum of 1028 £200,000 for the relief of the counties? Not at all. If assistance was to be given it should be in a different form. He should be glad if, by rejecting this Vote, the Committee would put an end to the practice of hon. Members who constantly cried "Give, give!"
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he thought the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was almost quite alone in his action. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had promised to support the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) in a Motion to reduce or strike out the Vote for Scotland; but he feared the hon. Member for Falkirk would not give a willing assent to that. In answer to the hon. Members for Wolverhampton and Burnley, he could only assure the Committee that this must be looked upon as, in one souse, a temporary grant. It was a grant which was subject to revision, or to a complete change in its nature. It was subject to the general consideration of the whole financial relations of the State, and the counties and the various parties in this country, which must take place when the subject of Local Taxation was examined. He hoped and believed that the question of Local Government would come before the House for consideration at an early period; and, whenever that question was dealt with, undoubtedly it must be dealt with not as one of local government alone, but of local finances, and the relations between the local and the Imperial finances. Therefore, this matter must be looked upon as a temporary grant which must continue until these relations were revised. As to the manner in which the grant was at present distributed, the hon. Member behind him had put before the Committee the principles upon which the difference occurred between one locality and another. The rates were, of course, divisible into two great classes—namely, those for local traffic, and those for through traffic on the main lines of communication between the large towns. With respect to the first, they were specially to the advantage of the particular localities. As to the second, the principle that the cost of maintaining the main roads ought not to fall upon the particular localities through which the roads passed had been recognized since 1870. The Act of 1870 provided that the cost of maintaining these roads, 1029 so far as such roads were included in the highway district, should be borne by the fund of the highway district. In 1878, by the Highways Act, a further step was taken in the same direction. By that Act the cost of maintaining such roads in case of separate highway districts was transferred to the county rate, subject only to the condition that the road should be certified by the surveyor to have been maintained in a proper condition. One effect of that had, therefore, been that the roads had been maintained in a good condition, and that was a considerable result. By the same Act the county authorities were empowered to declare their roads, whether they were disturnpiked roads or not, to be main roads, and a moiety of any such road should be maintained in the same manner as a disturnpiked road under the Act of 1870. As to roads which were distinguished as main roads, they varied considerably in different parts of the country, and that was the cause of the variation of the grants, to which hon. Members had called attention. He knew that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had a very strong opinion upon these grants, and, generally speaking, he concurred very much with the hon. Member in his view against a system of substitutes. It was not a system of which he could approve; but, at the same time, as he had distinctly stated, the Government looked upon this as a temporary grant, and not as one which, in the long run, could be satisfactory, or which should be permanent. They regarded it as one which should continue only until the system of local taxation was dealt with.
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
said, the argument seemed to be that parishes were bound to maintain the roads in their districts; but to show the poverty of that argument, he had only to mention that these roads were not parish roads, but main roads, constructed for through communication for the general advantage of the public in cheapness of carriage. The mails were carried as they never could have been otherwise, and Parliament had very much constructed these roads at the expense of the whole community, in order to obtain the great benefits in which the whole country participated. It was monstrous, then, that they should throw what was 1030 for the benefit of the whole community on the localities, and ignore all the expenses now thrown upon them without any local benefit, but with some inconvenience, for the general good. It was not merely the parishes that were interested, but every individual could, at this moment, indict a parish for the non-repair of these roads. The public had, through Parliament, sanctioned the construction of these roads; the public had had the advantage of the roads; and it was monstrous that the public should not contribute in any shape to the maintenance of the roads. Whether the allocation of part of the Government funds was to be temporary or permanent was beside the question at this moment. These great expenses had to be borne, and the whole community ought to bear a portion of them.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he took it that the object of the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) in his Amendment was to secure that this contribution to the main roads should be given in the same proportion as the subsidy to the Scotch high roads. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had not taken notice of the objection raised by the hon. Member for Falkirk; and he thought the right hon. Gentleman should state upon what grounds the allocation between the two countries was made. The difference between the English and Scotch grants was as eight to one, whereas the fair ratio between the two countries would be as six or seven to one; but, however that might be, the Committee had a fair claim to some explanation from the President of the Local Government Board, or from the Lord Advocate, as to the way in which the money was allocated, and as to why a very much larger proportionate sum was given to England than to Scotland. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) in his opposition to the principle of these grants in aid, and should vote with him; but he was not sure that the Scotch Members would accept the advice of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands).
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he could assure the hon. Member that he knew very little about the Scotch part of the case. When this Vote was revised last year, the control of the whole matter was placed in the hands of the Local 1031 Government Board. The result was that the whole country rose in insurrection on the subject; and it appeared that, of all the Public Departments, the Local Government Board was the most unpopular in Scotland; and Scotland entirely repudiated all interference by the Board in regard to this grant, and the result was that the Board had had nothing to say to the Scotch part of the case. That was the reason why he knew little of the Scotch portion of the grant for this year. Last Session the Scotch grant fell very much short of the amount expected, but the principle upon which it was distributed was precisely the same as that which had prevailed in Scotland; and he assumed that the falling off was caused by the general average in Scotland, in the same way as in England it had told against certain counties to the benefit of others. Some counties in England had come worse off than others in connection with these matters, and so he supposed Scotland had suffered in the same way.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, this Estimate was a fair specimen of the mode in which money for public purposes was voted in that House. They had heard from the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) that the working classes of Great Britain were taxed in order to lighten the burdens on the shoulders of the landlords; and they had had the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) objecting to the Vote because it was disproportionate to the amount given to Scotland. Those hon. Gentlemen argued as if England and Scotland alone contributed to the Fund from which this grant was made; but he would remind the Committee that there was a certain Island not far from these shores, the inhabitants of which also contributed to the Consolidated Fund, although they had no place whatever in the scheme of subvention. The Committee were asked by the hon. Member for Falkirk to reduce the Vote to an extent that would make it bear the same proportion to English taxation as the Scotch Vote did. Without discussing the inequality which, in the case of Scotland, the hon. Member conceived to constitute an injustice, he (Mr. A. O'Connor) asked the Committee to consider the grievous injustice involved in the Vote to the people of Ireland. When they compared the local taxation in Ireland with that in Eng- 1032 land, it would be found that it was not England or Scotland which should receive assistance, but Ireland. The valuation in Great Britain in 1870 was £104,000,000, and in 1880 it had risen to £135,000,000, an increase of 30 per cent; while in Ireland, in 1871, the valuation was £13,200,000, and in 1881 it stood at £13,700,000—that was to say, the value of property in Ireland that could bear taxation had increased only at the rate of 4 per cent, the increased wealth of England during the same period being more than seven and a-half times as great. But in that time the population of England had increased immensely, while in Ireland it had gone on steadily decreasing, the condition of the people having become very much worse. During the year 1871 there were in Ireland in receipt of relief under the Poor Law 282,000 persons; in 10 years that number had gone up to 590,000. So that the pauper population of Ireland had in a decade increased by almost 50 per cent, while the pauper population in England had gone down very much, in face of the greatly increased valuation of property which he had already shown. In that state of affairs it was plain that it was Ireland that required assistance from the Imperial Treasury, not Scotland or England. But when they came to the particular subject of the maintenance of roads, the inequality appeared very great, because in England, out of a total local taxation of £20,800,000, he found that the highway rate only amounted to £1,021,000; whereas in Ireland, out of a total local taxation of £3,371,000, no less than £333,000 was paid from the Grand Jury Cess. It was perfectly plain that to omit Ireland from the list of communities receiving grants from Imperial taxation, while Scotland and England were included, was most unjust. He had no wish to detain the Committee unnecessarily; and would only remark that he should vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk as a protest, on the part of Irish Members, against the utterly indefensible demand that the Consolidated Fund should contribute to the maintenance of English and Scotch roads, while their own community received no assistance of the kind whatever.
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
said, he was obliged to the hon. Member for Falkirk 1033 (Mr. Ramsay) for the proposal he had just made, and he should certainly vote in its favour if he thought fit to divide the Committee upon it. He agreed with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that if it was necessary to come at all upon the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of maintaining disturnpiked roads, Scotland ought to have her full share of the grant. His own opinion was that roads were best paid for by means of tolls, because, in that case, they were kept up by those who made use of them; and therefore he regretted that in a short time every turnpike in Scotland would be done away with. That was the work of the late Conservative Government, and would never be forgiven by persons in his own county. The feeling was so strong that, under the circumstances, he was astonished to find himself there to tell the tale.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, the Vote was another illustration of the power and skill of the landed interest in the House of Commons. He was surprised that hon. Gentlemen should so easily fall into a trap designed to enhance the value of their property by the landed class, at the cost of the taxpayers of the country. It must be obvious that every relief of this kind given out of the Consolidated Fund was really a scheme for the maintenance of rents in the country. He felt this constituted a real Irish grievance, and he regretted his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) was not there to deal with it. If Scotch Members felt it necessary to get up and propose a reduction of the Vote, on the ground that the grant to Scotland was disproportionate to that of England, how much more must Irish Members be justified in objecting to the Vote on the ground that no relief whatever was given to the Irish ratepayers, although they had to bear their full share of Imperial taxation? He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had informed the Committee that the Vote was only a temporary one, and that its removal from the Estimates was awaiting the settlement of the larger question of Local Government and the re-arrangement of county finance. No harm would be done, in his opinion, if his hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk went to a division 1034 upon the Main Question, in order to express, on behalf of the great majority of the taxpayers and the heavily-taxed working class, their feeling against the Vote; but he hoped his hon. Friend, seeeing that the point he had raised was a very small one, would not put the Committee to the trouble of dividing on his Amendment.
SIR E. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the landowners were perfectly ready to bear their hereditary burdens; but when the Government placed upon them extraordinary rates for matters not originally contemplated, it was expected that some alleviation would be proposed.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that, at all events, they persuaded the House of Commons to pass the Bill. A point which ought not to be overlooked was that a great number of these rates were imposed, not for local, but Imperial purposes, and therefore ought to have been borne by the Imperial Exchequer. It was useless for the hon. Member opposite to get up and say this was not the case. Whether the aid was to be given by subvention or not was of less importance than whether the purpose of the outlay was an Imperial or a local one. The burdens that were of a local character could easily be arranged for. He was acquainted with parts of Scotland in which the Roads and Bridges Act had done a great deal of good, and he was certain the time would come when the people of Scotland, as a whole, would thank the late Government for passing that Act.
§ MR. CROPPER
said, he hoped the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk would not be pressed. Certainly he thought the feeling of the House, when this proposal was originally made, was that it was a fair way of meeting an acknowledged difficulty. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. A. O'Connor), he wished to point out that the Irish people were free from certain assessed taxes which the people were liable for in, England, and which it was to be hoped would soon be given up for local purposes. It must be remembered that the subvention did promote efficiency in the case of the roads, because it was only given on proof that they were well kept up. He thought the discussion had been 1035 of use in causing it to be understood that the grant was only a temporary one.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he desired to say a few words in answer to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth). He did not intend to enter into the whole question of roads; but if there was one thing more than another which the tenant farmers required, it was an alleviation of their burdens, so far as the main roads of the country were concerned. He remembered sitting on a Committee with reference to turnpikes many years ago, and the question came before them as to the Bradford, Kirk-stall, and Leeds road, and the farmers in that district protested that it would be most unwise to abolish the turnpikes, and why? On each side of the road there were mills as thick as possible all the way along, and at the back there were tracts of agricultural land, cultivated it was true, but which, as at the present time, were not paying very well. There might be times when there was distress in our manufactures, but even then those engaged in those industries were only rated for the buildings they occupied; but the farmer, under any circumstances, would have to bear the burden of the roads, and he thought no greater case of hardship could be illustrated than the one he had referred to. He, therefore, failed to see how it could be alleged that this paltry £200,000 was going to benefit the landlords. It was the scantiest and barest possible justice; and if the President of the Local Government Board had not some more satisfactory scheme to propose in the way of giving more of the public funds to the support of the main roads, some very strong complaints would be made and great disappointment would be felt.
§ MR. BIGGAR
contended that the ratepayers in Ireland laboured under a greater grievance than those in Scotland in this matter of maintaining the roads out of the Consolidated Fund. But he also objected, on general grounds, that the charge on account of the disturnpiked roads was not legitimate, because those roads, which before the establishment of railways were of very great importance, were not now used to anything like the same extent as before. They were formerly used as main roads; but now they were only used by the ratepayers of the district. Such things as 1036 long distance journeys by road, by cart, or waggon, were now out of the question. It was the farmers who got the benefit of the abolition of turnpikes, because, although they had the almost exclusive use of the roads, these were, to a large extent, maintained by the manufactures in the various districts.
§ MR. H. T. DAVENPORT
said, if he had with him the Returns furnished to him by the President of the Local Government Board of the amount of money paid by the various highway authorities in Staffordshire, he believed they would supply a contradiction of the statement of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that the towns were not benefited by the Vote except to a very small extent. Of course, he did not rise to oppose the present Vote of £200,000, because he thought that, as a matter of fact, it was not large enough. He understood from the President of the Local Government Board that the whole of the £220,000 voted last year had been spent; but as he believed there was a large number of parishes entitled to payment under this head which had not yet received any money, it was only fair to suppose that if £220,000 was not enough to meet the claims of last year, the £200,000 now asked for would also be insufficient for the purpose.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, the question raised by him was not, as the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) supposed, one of minor importance. The question was, were Members for Scotland to take the means open to them of endeavouring to secure proportionate equality in the distribution of these grants when the Votes came before them? Under the circumstances, he felt it his duty to divide the Committee on his Amendment.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he did not wish to put the Committee to the trouble of dividing twice, and he therefore proposed to take the decision of the Committee on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Falkirk as indicative of the view of the Committee on the Main Question.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 162: Majority 113.—(Div. List, No. 103.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.1037
(6.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £20,000, 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 1884, in Aid of the Cost of Maintenance of Disturnpiked Roads in Scotland during the year ended Whitsuntide 1883.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, he should like to receive information from someone connected with the Home Office as to what steps were taken to regulate the distribution of this amount. He endeavoured last year to bring under the notice of the Government the injustice done to Scotland in this matter; and he felt now that unless they got some assurance that the grant would be distributed on a different principle to that which had been adopted in the past, they would not be justified in voting the money for the maintenance of the roads in Scotland. Many of the counties of Scotland had never had turnpikes in them, and the Local Government Board had framed a Rule to the effect that none of the roads that were disturnpiked before a prescribed date should receive any part of the grant. It was understood that the grant should be given for the maintenance of disturnpiked and main roads, and these ran all through Scotland. The late Member for Haddingtonshire, Lord Elcho (the Earl of Wemyss), got the roads in his county disturnpiked; but, because that occurred before the prescribed date, the county did not get a sixpence. It was not the case that boroughs through which main roads passed had not made representations to the Local Government Board. The borough he represented (Airdrie) had done so. It had claimed to have a grant in respect of the roads that passed through it, which were maintained by its ratepayers, and not by the county, as they were wont to be. He felt that unless they obtained from some person on the Treasury Bench an explanation of the manner in which the grant was to be allocated, the Committee would do well to reject it altogether.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
said, it had already been explained more than once that evening that when the grant was made last year it was regarded as of a temporary nature. For that reason it was administered by the Local Government 1038 Board. The grant went back much farther, in so far as Scotland was concerned, than it did in England; but it was true it had left out certain counties which bad anticipated the more recent legislation, and had themselves promoted Acts by which tolls were abolished. The amount actually appropriated to Scotland, he believed, was somewhere about £20,500. They were fully sensible that there was a fair case for the consideration of the grants which were left out of the allocation of last year; and, accordingly, the Vote asked for this year, and which would be administered under the direction of the Home Office, was £25,000, or £4,500 in excess of what it was last year. The hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) would see that this left a considerable margin. He was not in a position to say in what manner the money would be disposed of; but he could assure the hon. Member that the case of these counties was under favourable consideration. It was to be hoped the hon. Member would not insist on opposing the Vote, for if he did he would be resisting the granting of the means whereby the claim he made might be satisfied. He (the Lord Advocate) hoped the Committee would not have to divide on the matter.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, he did not think the statement which had been elicited from the Lord Advocate was at all satisfactory. The £4,500 which the Government saved from Scotland last year was justly due to those counties from which the grant had been altogether withheld. Unless, however, they could get an assurance that money would be allocated to all the counties which were not included last year, he must oppose the Vote. He did not think the ratepayers derived the benefit from these roads that it was supposed they did by hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Conservative Benches. These grants were illusory. They were allocated by gentlemen who did not know the position of the districts; and, unless they could get an assurance that this £4,500 would in future be allocated for the behoof of Scotland, he did not think it would be right to let the Vote pass. Unless he got some more definite assurance than that which he had yet received, or some more satisfactory explanation, he must resist the proposal. The original Estimate of the Government with regard to 1039 Scotland was for £40,000; but, instead of getting the whole of that amount, Scotland, as he understood, was put off with less than half the whole amount. He would, therefore, if it was competent for him to do so, move the postponement of the Vote until they received from the Government some definite rules for the allocation of the money. Without that, the Scotch Members could not rest satisfied that the money would be justly distributed.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
said, he was sure the hon. Member for Falkirk was right in what he had stated. Certain counties which had taken the initiative in this new system of road legislation were entirely cut off from all benefit in the Vote. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate said he would take the matter into his favourable consideration; but that was a phrase they were quite familiar with. They knew very well what "favourable consideration" meant. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was, no doubt, perfectly sincere; but hon. Members were apt to be suspicious of vague promises of this sort; and, unless they obtained a more definite assurance than they had had, that the counties which had taken the initiative in the matter would receive that consideration which was no more than their due, he should feel himself justified in going with his hon. Friend (Mr. Ramsay) in this matter.
said, it seemed to him the argument of his hon. Friend (Mr. Ramsay) was rather illogical. He should have thought an hon. Gentleman representing a Scotch constituency would have admitted the truth of the proverb, "Half a loaf is better than no bread." He, like the hon. Gentleman, was against grants in aid, and should have been glad to have voted with him against the grant altogether, believing that these grants did no good, and always led to extravagance. He (Dr. Cameron) was opposed to them in principle; but if there was one thing which made them bearable, it was that they should be distributed to all parts of the Kingdom alike. If it was desired to give the Government more time to consider the subject, the proper thing to do would be to move to report Progress; at any rate, he could not go with the hon. Member in opposing the Scottish Vote after the English one had been passed. 1040 In addition to the complaints of some of the counties, the boroughs believed they were hardly dealt with; but, as Scotland was going to contribute its share of the grant in aid in respect of English roads, he did not see why they should hesitate to take what they could get for Scotch roads. The hon. Member, he thought, might very well move to report Progress.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, the course adopted by the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) certainly astonished him. The hon. Member had proposed a reduction of the last Vote because, as he said, he wished to bring the amount voted for England into proper proportion with the amount voted for Scotland; but he had never told them he had it in his mind to move the rejection of the Scotch Vote altogether. Having done that, he (Mr. A. O'Connor) failed to see where the disproportion existed in the hon. Gentleman's mind. He had voted with the hon. Member in the last division, the object of the hon. Member being to bring the amount granted to England into fair proportion with that granted to Scotland. He would propose to do the same with the present Vote—namely, attempt to bring it down to a fair proportion with the amount voted for Ireland; and, as he found that there was to be nothing granted to Ireland, it was a fair thing to reject the Vote altogether. It would not be illogical to ask the hon. Member and his Friends to go with him into the Lobby on this matter. The objection which had been taken by the hon. Member had been answered by a Member of the Government; but no one had attempted to urge on the Irish Members, in reply to himself (Mr. A. O'Connor), that Ireland had got a single penny by the passing of the last or the present Vote. He presumed it was not from want of courtesy that he had not been answered, but from inability to find a suitable argument. In the absence of any such argument, he had no option but to insist upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Falkirk being put and voting for it.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 202; Noes 12: Majority 190.—(Div. List, No. 104.)
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.