HC Deb 27 July 1885 vol 300 cc177-9

(21.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £18,142, 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 1886, for the Salaries and Incidental Expenses of Temporary Commissions and Committees, including Special Inquiries.


said, the Committee had reason to complain that the cost of Temporary Commissions was never placed on the Estimates at an early period in the operations of these Bodies. It was not long ago that the House had had to provide £35,000 as the cost of the Royal Commission on Agriculture. He would now appeal very strongly to the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury—now that they had a Government in power which seemed likely to institute those Commissions in all parts of the country—to have an estimate as to the cost of a Commission placed before the House when such Commission was appointed. In the case of the Commission on Agriculture, the House had been committed to an expenditure of nearly £40,000, without being able to give any opinion upon the subject. It certainly seemed to him desirable that the House should not be led into heavy expenditure unawares.


said, an hon. Friend of his, who was not now present, the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Atkinson), had on the Paper an Amendment to this Vote. In the hon. Member's absence, he (Mr. Whitley) would call attention to the question which would have been raised by that Amendment. It had reference to the Royal Commission on Shipping. Now, those who represented the shipping interest in the House felt that to publish the evidence in part was a very great hardship on the shipowners generally. So far as he knew, the Royal Commission had received the evidence of the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade only; and though he was afraid the House had no power over the Royal Commissioners, yet he did feel that it was a great hardship that the evidence taken up to the present time should be published, and probably used for electioneering purposes during the Recess. They felt that it was very unjust that this evidence should be published in part before the whole of it was taken by the Royal Commission. Under the circumstances, his hon. Friend had placed on the Paper a Motion to reduce the sum by what they considered would be the cost of the publication. It certainly seemed to him (Mr. Whitley) most unjust that in the present state of this question only one side of the evidence should be published over the length and breadth of the country. The shipowners ought to have had an equal opportunity of making their views known. He was told there had been great difference of opinion amongst the Commissioners on the subject of publishing this evidence, and that the shipowners had voted against it; but he did maintain that to place one side of the evidence before the country, before the other side had been adduced, was most unfair to those interests which had been attacked. He begged to propose the Amendment which his hon. Friend would have moved had he been present.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum not exceeding £17,942, 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 1886, for the Salaries and Incidental Expenses of Temporary Commissions and Committees, including Special Inquiries."—(Mr. Whitley.)


said, that, as the hon. Member supposed, the Government had no power over Royal Commissions. He was informed that a certain amount of evidence on both sides had been taken; and if there had been anything like unfairness, the responsibility for it rested with the Commissioners. He, therefore, hoped the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion—which, presumably, was only brought forward to enable him to raise a discussion. He (Sir Henry Holland) did not think it would be possible, in the Estimates, each year to put down an item beforehand as to the cost of the Royal Commissions which might be instituted. The House could always learn from Ministers what Commissions were likely to be appointed and the names of the Commissioners.


said, they had on the Treasury Bench a Member of the Commission on Shipping, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), and from him they ought to have heard something in reply to the statement of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Whitley). The case of the shipowners was particularly hard. It would be remembered that when the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) brought before the House his Bill dealing with shipping, out of which this Commission had arisen, he had occupied nearly the whole night in making out his case against the shipowners; and the shipowners, although they desired an opportunity of representing their side of the question, were never allowed to do so. The Commission was appointed, certain witnesses had been examined, and the proceedings had been published without waiting for the evidence of the shipowners to be given; and he certainly thought the matter was one which called for some protest and explanation. If the hon. Member (Mr. Whitley) went to a division, in order to record a protest against this course of conduct, he (Mr. Tomlinson) should vote with him.


said, the hon. Member had referred to him, and in reply he had to say that he was not at liberty to disclose in that House the proceedings of the Commission. He had heard the observations of hon. Gentlemen, and he could assure them that there was a large majority on the Commission who desired to do what was fair and reasonable. When the proceedings of the Commission were disclosed, it would be found that there was no foundation for the suspicion of unfairness on the part of the Commissioners.


I do not press the Amendment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(22.) £3,868, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Expenses.

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