§ (4.) £450, House of Commons Offices.756
§ (5.) £3,730, Foreign Office.
§ MR. RYLANDS
I wish to call the attention of the Committee to an item in this Vote, which, I think, is one that requires careful explanation and elucidation. For several years past the expenditure of the Foreign Office for telegrams has been very large indeed; and when complaints have been made in Committee of Supply, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has, on several occasions, given a distinct undertaking that the Foreign Office would make a careful examination into this expenditure with, a view of ascertaining whether there was any possibility of reducing it. Now, the expenditure under this head in the present Vote includes an additional sum of nearly £3,000, the original Estimate of the Foreign Office telegraphic expenses having been £10,000—thus making £13,000 altogether. I do not know whether hon. Members, who have only recently had an opportunity of reading the Blue Books laid on the Table of the House since the new Parliament assembled, have read the Blue Book upon Foreign Affairs. It is important that they should do so; and they will find that a number of despatches are stated to have been received by telegram. Of course, it is necessary that the House of Commons should vote the money required to pay for the telegraphic charges of the Foreign Office. But our complaint, year after year, against the Foreign Office is that they have encouraged our Ministers abroad, and that they themselves at the Foreign Office have adopted the same plan, in sending despatches by telegraph when there is no absolute necessity for telegraphing. I have no wish to occupy the attention of the Committee by giving special instances; but I certainly wish to press upon hon. Members that a perusal of some of the telegrams which appear in the Blue Book recently laid on the Table of the House justify my assertion that they are such as no business man would ever have dreamt of incurring the cost of sending by telegraph wire. Nearly the whole of them might just as easily have been sent by the Foreign Office through the post, and the expense of sending them by telegraph wire saved to the country. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) will, I am 757 quite sure, bring his mind to bear upon this point when he has had more experience of the duties of the Office to which he has recently been appointed. His Predecessors—the right hon. Member for Chelsea and Lord E. Fitzmaurice—promised me that they would do so. My hon. Friend is fresh to the Office; and I hope he will bring new zeal and energy to the discharge of its duties. I ask him to look at the number of telegraphic despatches which have been sent to the Foreign Office from Constantinople, and which are contained in the Blue Book laid upon the Table in connection with the Mission to the East of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. I am ready to stake my character, as a business man, when I say that a great number of the despatches to which I refer are of a nature which renders it utterly absurd that the country should be called upon to pay heavy charges for telegraphing from Constantinople and elsewhere. If they had been sent by post it would equally have answered every good purpose. Of course, in commenting upon the matter, I do not include messages of such importance as to render it necessary that with the quickness of a flash of lightning they should be made known to the Marquess of Salisbury. What I complain of, as an evidence of want of care on the part of the Foreign Office, is that no attempt appears to have been made by the Representatives of that Department to bring sufficient pressure to bear upon our Ministers abroad to send their despatches by post in writing instead of sending them by telegraphic wire. Hon. Members will see that the total sum charged for the Foreign Office telegraphic despatches has been increasing from year to year; and I think it is high time that some attention should be directed to the subject with a view to the correction of the evil. It is plain that we carry on the business of the Foreign Office in a most extravagant manner. We have not only, in this Vote, charges for additional messengers, but also an enormous increase in the payments for telegrams. I would press strongly upon the Committee that this additional sum of £2,910 for telegrams ought not to be granted without some explanation from Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
This Vote is one which appears to require serious explanation from those in charge of it; 758 and I think it must be read in connection with the Vote for the Diplomatic Service, which appears on page 26 of the present Supplementary Estimates. I think the Committee ought to know, before they are called upon to agree to this Vote, how much of this charge of £2,910 for additional telegraphic charges is connected with the item of £12,500 for telegraphic expenditure on page 26. It appears to me that, although the total sum taken in the Estimates for the year for these telegraphic expenses was £10,000, the Foreign Office have managed, in the course of six months, to add to that sum a total increase of £15,410, being £2,910 which appears in the present Vote on page 9, and £12,500 which appears on page 26 in connection with the Diplomatic Service. The wording of the two items gives no information to the House or to the Committee, because the entry is simply "telegraph expenses consequent on the state of affairs abroad." Both items are similarly worded, and I think that before we vote these sums we ought to be told how much of each Vote is for telegrams in connection with the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. We certainly ought to have some information to show the Committee how this enormous increase has arisen, and how it has been found necessary to exceed the charge of £10,000 already provided for by the tremendous sum of £12,500 in one Vote, and £2,910 in another, in the course of six months. Unless some explanation is given, I shall feel it my duty to move the rejection of the Vote.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. BRYCE)
I entirely concur in the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) as to the necessity of carefully watching the expenditure of the Public Departments of the country. No doubt it is most important that, as far as possible, economy should be observed in all these matters; and I believe it is the desire of those who represent Her Majesty abroad to observe due economy in all their transactions. This is a Supplementary Vote for the Foreign Office, and relates only to telegrams which have been sent abroad. If hon. Members will examine it, they will see that the charges which appear in the Vote are entirely for telegrams sent by the 759 Foreign Office abroad; and I can assure them, from my own experience, short as it is, that in the Foreign Office itself very great pains are taken to keep down the expenditure on telegraphing. Of course, it is impossible for the Department at home altogether to control the discretion of our Ministers abroad; and it must be recollected that circumstances have recently occurred in the South and South-East of Europe which have, to a certain extent, led to increased expenditure in this respect—I mean the war between Servia and Bulgaria, and the delicate position which this country has been placed in with regard to Servia and Bulgaria and Greece. In addition, there has been frequent necessity for telegrams to and from other parts of the world—as, for instance, to China. But most of the increase, no doubt, has been due to the Servo-Bulgarian and Greek Questions. In regard to the charge for messengers, I may inform the Committee that the service of messengers to Constantinople was reduced from a weekly to a fortnightly service in 1883; but it was deemed necessary, in the time of the late Government, to increase the service to a weekly one. It has now, however, been again reduced to a fortnightly despatch. I hope the Committee will see that whatever criticisms are necessary upon this question, and especially upon the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, to which I understand the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) desires to call attention, had better be reserved until we reach the Vote for the Diplomatic Service on page 26. I am afraid that it is impossible for me, at this moment, to tell him how much of these telegraphic charges is due to the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. I cannot say, without further inquiry, what data exist at the Foreign Office upon which we could distinguish these charges from those for other telegrams. The hon. Member will also bear in mind that there have been many telegrams sent to Constantinople and Egypt, some of which come under the head of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission, while others do not.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Would it not be better that in future the telegrams to and from the Foreign Office should be given separately? Why should we 760 not specify what the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has cost us for telegrams? It appears to me that to have two items, one for the Foreign Office and the other for the Diplomatic Service; to tell us that we are to look to the Foreign Office Vote for the cost of telegrams from Ministers and to another Vote for the cost of telegrams to Ministers is only confusing. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) will, no doubt, find many reforms to make in the Office; and I venture to suggest that this is one of those to which he should direct his attention. Another reform I would suggest is with regard to messengers' travelling expenses, the total amount of which for the year is £9,320. The greater number of letters sent to Constantinople might just as well be sent by post as by messengers; and I say you ought not to have a messenger sent there every fortnight; you ought to have a messenger sent only when you have matter to communicate which it is absolutely necessary should be kept secret. I say this from practical experience at Constantinople, because I have served there, and I know that Ministers abroad often write something in order that it should be sent by Queen's Messenger. I remember that when I was in Constantinople Sir Henry Bulwer thought he wanted some pills—he was always taking medicine—and he sent home a despatch for the purpose of getting them; we counted up exactly what was the cost of sending the messenger to England and back; and we found that the cost to the country for this box of pills amounted to a little above £300. If the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will establish a rule that instead of having messengers going out at fixed times they should only go when there is something to send by them which cannot be entrusted to the post, I am certain that this charge, which amounts to £9,000 a-year, would be reduced to £3,000 or £4,000.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs does not do justice to his Department. The hon. Gentleman asks me to reserve my criticism until we come to the Vote for the Diplomatic Service on page 26; but I shall be unable to do that unless he is 761 prepared to tell me, with some degree of precision when that Vote is reached, what is the cost of the telegrams from Constantinople and London in connection with Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission. Unless the hon. Gentleman gives me that pledge I shall feel it my duty to oppose the Vote.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. BRYCE)
I must inform the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) that I am not at this moment able to state what proportion of the charge for telegrams is due to the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. I can, of course, make inquiries, and will do so if the hon. Gentleman wishes it, although it may possibly turn out that there would be some difficulty in ascertaining, because many telegrams may have been sent to Egypt respecting which it would be hard to say whether they ought to be deemed to belong to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission or not.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I wish to make one remark on what fell a short time ago from the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who for three or four years has constantly brought up his service under Sir Henry Bulwer and the story of his pills. Now, I served under Sir Henry Bulwer, and I say it is a libel upon him to refer to him in this way. Poor fellow! he has gone now; and, speaking from personal knowledge, I say that no public servant ever served his country better than Sir Henry Bulwer. I protest against the hon. Member's constantly bringing up this subject of the pills because he was in the Diplomatic Service at Constantinople. I was there at the same time, and I entirely dissent from the remarks of the hon. Member. But, with regard to this Vote, I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs one question. There are two distinct Votes for telegrams in these Estimates—one for the Foreign Office and the other for the Diplomatic Service—and I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman if he can tell us whether out of this Vote a considerable sum of money has been expended in connection with the special Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff to Constantinople or Egypt? It will clear the ground if he will tell us that; and I would point out to the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler), as 762 well as to the hon. Gentleman, that it would be far better, instead of having two Votes as there are here, that the Votes for the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service should be amalgamated; because then the House would know exactly the vast sum of money expended on the telegraphic service of the country, which amounts to more than £100,000 a-year. I think if the hon. Gentleman can give an assurance that this will be done, it will go a long way to remove the confusion which exists.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs misunderstands me. I assume that every telegram sent to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff is recorded, and that the cost of every telegram to and from Constantinople and Egypt is also recorded for the purpose of making up the total we are asked to vote. It seems to me, therefore, that there can be no difficulty in furnishing the information desired, and, consequently, that there is no reason why the Government should not give it. I beg to move that the debate on this Vote be adjourned.
§ MR. BOURKE
I wish to state to the Committee what I know about this Vote, and to say, with respect to the inquiry of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), that I think it a very reasonable one in view of the form in which the Vote is given to the Committee. I have no doubt that if the hon. Member will give Notice to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs he will be able to obtain the detailed information which he desires. It is a fact, which, of course, everyone connected with the Foreign Office knows, that every telegram is noted at the Foreign Office; and it is, therefore, perfectly easy to make out a list of the different telegrams sent to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. There may possibly, however, be a little confusion, owing to the fact that while Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has been in Egypt he has performed functions connected not only with his particular Mission, but with his general business in Egypt. Nevertheless, as I have said, the desired information can easily be obtained at the Foreign Office. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not persevere in his opposition to the Vote. I am certain that if he asks the Question of my hon. Friend on another day he will get the 763 information which he desires. With reference to the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Blackburn (Sir Robert Peel) that it would conduce to the clearer understanding of the Vote if the two Estimates were put together, I am afraid that it would not have that effect. The object of keeping the Votes separate is simply to show the expense incurred for telegrams in England and the expense incurred abroad; and of course if they were mixed it would lead to great difficulty.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
Mr. Courtney, I move the adjournment of the debate on this Vote, and shall persist in that course unless I get an undertaking from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the details of these items will be furnished.
It is not competent to the hon. Member to move the adjournment of the debate in Committee. The course of the hon. Gentleman is to move that Progress be reported.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I ask pardon for proceeding in ignorance of the Forms of the House. I repeat that unless the promise is given I shall have to move that Progress be reported.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. BRYCE)
If the hon. Member will put a Question on the Paper asking for the information he desires I will do my best to got that information.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (6.) £500, Colonial Office.
§ (7.) £31, Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. RYLANDS
There is one point in connection with this Estimate to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. C. T. D. Acland). I see that by this Supplementary Estimate there is a charge under B for Chief Official Receiver's Office to meet possible necessity for increased staff, amounting to £2,101, and under C for Country Receivers paid by Fees and Commission, to meet possible increase of remuneration amounting to £5,780, making a total additional sum required of £7,881 over the Estimate of 1885–6. Now, I presume that although this is put down as possible increased expenditure, there is reason to suppose that it is an expenditure which has been actually incurred, and that it 764 comes within the present financial year. It is quite clear that it would not be correct to include here the possible expenditure of next year, which should, of course, come forward in the Estimates of 1886–7. I understand, however, that the fees will meet the expenditure in question. The hon. Gentleman will probably be able to give some information on this subject.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. D. ACLAND)
The reason for bringing this Vote before Parliament in this form is that it shows the total expenditure for 1885. The sum of £1,164 originally voted by Parliament, it was believed, would have been sufficient for the expenses of the year. With regard to the additional sum required, there is no doubt that the whole of the amount will be received and handed over to the Exchequer in the ordinary course. The Treasury is authorized, under the Bankruptcy Act of 1883, Section 77, to pay over to the Board of Trade, in aid of the Vote of Parliament, out of receipts from fees and dividends on investments, any sum which may be necessary to meet the charges incurred by the Board of Trade for salaries and expenses; and, as I have said, there is no reason whatever to doubt that the whole of this sum will be received and paid into the Exchequer during the year. The present Supplementary Estimate of £31 has been presented for the purpose of bringing the facts clearly before Parliament.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (8.) £2,371, Charity Commission.
§ (9.) £2,100, Civil Service Commission.
§ (10.) £7,490, Local Government Board.
(11.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,430, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, for the Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Secretary for Scotland.
§ MR. RYLANDS
I should like to say one or two words on this Estimate. The Vote before the Committee is a new one. It is the first time that we have been called upon to pay for the expenses of the Office of the Secretary for Scotland. I believe the amount asked for is only a very small part of the expenditure, and 765 that when we come to have the full amount to be expended next year it will very considerably exceed the moderate sum now upon the Estimates. I suppose hon. Gentlemen from Scotland consider it necessary to have a Central Department for Scottish Business; but, for myself, I am bound to say that I greatly doubt whether it is desirable to take that Business from the Home Office, and in a way that must lead to a very large expenditure. But what I wish to draw attention to is the fact that we are constantly putting new officials in every Department of the State; we create new Departments or we enlarge existing Departments; and we bring new men into the Service, but we never seem to take any steps to utilize supernumeraries—that is to say, we are constantly pensioning the officials of various Departments, and we never consider whether these persons can be made available for the Public Service. The item of pensions is increasing so largely that I hope Her Majesty's Government will see that steps are taken, in connection with the retirement of public officials, to secure their services when they are required. I do not speak of the retirement of men past the age of service, but of those who are retired at an age when they have work in them. There are many who, having been, retired, cannot get back into the Service, because all the vacancies are filled up with new men, who originate a new charge for salaries, and, in course of time, have to be pensioned in their turn. I dare say the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler) can, with regard to this Vote for the Office of Secretary for Scotland, give us some little information as to what the expenditure is likely to be for carrying on this Department.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. H. H. FOWLER)
I quite agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands) in his remarks with reference to the unsatisfactory working of the pension system. I entertained the view when I sat below the Gangway, and I say now, that when a man is employed by the State, and is paid by the State, the State has the right to fix the work he shall do; and if the State has the right to discharge him, it has the right to appoint him to such other duties as he can perform. I say that it is not right that a man should be pensioned off at once 766 simply on account of the abolition of his office. That is my view, and I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley that I shall endeavour to uphold it to the best of my power. The principle which my hon. Friend advances has been carried out in connection with this Office. That was exactly what the late Government did when they appointed Sir Francis Sandford to be Under Secretary for Scotland. His pension amounted to £1,333 6s. 8d., and he is now only drawing £500 on account of that pension, so that there is a saving of £833 6s. 8d. of salary by that appointment. With reference to the staff of the Department, that was settled before the present Government came into Office; but we shall do our best rightly to estimate what the cost will be. The Vote may have a tendency to increase; and, no doubt, it will become a question for the House to consider ultimately what is the entire amount necessary to carry on the Scottish Business. There is one item which does not appear on the Vote, and to which I think the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley ought to be called, and that is the rent of the office. I believe that a very valuable building, which would earn a large amount of rent, has been devoted already for the Secretary of Scotland Office. When the Estimates come forward later in the Session with reference to Public Buildings my hon. Friend will have an opportunity of raising and discussing that question; but the Vote now before the Committee is simply to provide for the working of the Office since October last.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
The Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler) has referred to the question of rent as an expense which should be put against the Office of the Secretary for Scotland. The house referred to is known as Dover House, and it is one which I took a great deal of trouble to obtain as an office for the Secretary for Scotland, and also as an office for myself and my Successor in the position of Lord Advocate. I carefully examined that house for the purpose of seeing whether it was fit for use as an office; and I came decidedly to the opinion that no sane man would take it for what it was then intended—namely, a residence—without an expenditure vastly in excess of what the rent of the house would be 767 in the next 10 or 14 years. The sanitary condition of the house was such as to make it quite unfit for a person who would use such a house as a residence, although it might be quite fit for a Government Office.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Edinburgh, Central)
I trust the Committee will not, in any degree, be influenced by the remarks of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) in regard to Scottish Business. Considering how large a Revenue Scotland yields, how loyal and peaceful are its inhabitants, and how little Government money is spent across the Border, I think this money should be voted without one dissentient voice. As to the building in which Scottish Business is now conducted, I visited the place the other day, and I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) in having secured such an excellent office. I remember when the Scottish Business was relegated to the third or fourth storey of one of the Home Office buildings—to a very small and dingy room, little else than a slum, and in which it was a perfect disgrace for any important official of the British Empire to transact business. But it was still more disgraceful for Scottish Business to be centralized in such an insignificant place. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) has questioned whether Scottish Business would be done more efficiently under the new régime than under the old. My experience of only a few days is that it is very much more efficiently done than before; and I have not the slightest doubt that my Friends from Scotland, when they see the fine building in which the Scottish Secretary's and Lord Advocate's Departments are now located, will be well pleased in the way in which the Business is now being done there. Although I always raise my voice for economy, I think this is a very proper expenditure; and I hope, therefore, that the Vote will be passed unanimously.
§ MR. RYLANDS
I should be the last Member of this House to oppose the wishes of Scotch Members. I have the greatest regard for them and their Business in the House of Commons, and I can assure the hon. Member that I could not for one moment desire that Scotchmen should not have the best oppor- 768 tunity for carrying on their Business, I am not an authority competent to form a confident opinion as to whether the Scottish Business will be more efficiently performed under the new system; but it is by no means necessary to show one's attention to Scotland by spending money which is not required to be spent. The point is, whether or not it is necessary to do so; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) has not shown any very great regard for the Scottish officials, because he has told the Committee that they had been placed in a house under such sanitary arrangements that no private individual would live there, because he would probably be carried off by typhoid fever or diphtheria. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not give the exact facts with regard to the sanitary condition of the house; but I can tell hon. Members that our experience in the House of Commons is that when we begin to spend money on the sanitary improvement of Public Offices, we often go on to a very much larger expenditure than we at first imagine, or is justifiable. However, that will come on when we reach the Vote for Dover House. My hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury has touched on what I wished to call attention to—namely, that a large establishment is growing up. It is all very well to say that this money should be voted unanimously; but it is not necessary to show our affection for Scotland by spending £20,000 or £30,000, when probably £5,000 would be sufficient.
I was very much, moved by the logical and patriotic appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. J. Wilson); but the matter to which he referred was not one which touched on the economy of the house in question. It touched upon the conduct of Scottish Business; and I much regret that the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. Trevelyan) is not in his place to give the Committee some information on the subject. The Secretary to the Treasury has referred to the experience of Sir Francis Sandford in another Department—that is to say, the Education Department. The Scottish Secretary is now the President of the Education Department for Scotland. In the Education Department, as formerly constituted, Sir Francis Sandford was for a 769 long time chief; and that Office was organized in accordance with certain rules, amongst which there was one against the functionaries of the Department interfering with public affairs. I believe there was a Circular signed by Sir Francis Sandford to the effect that no person connected with the Office should mix up in any political matters, or interfere in any public meeting; and so rigidly was that rule enforced that on one occasion an official who was present at a public meeting, having ventured to second a vote of thanks to a Member of a former Liberal Administration, was hauled over the coals for infringement of that Circular. During the last Election the question of free education was before the whole Empire, and prominently before the people of Scotland; and in the heat of that Election Sir Francis Sandford came down to Glasgow, and in connection with the opening of some schools he made a startling speech upon free education—not only upon the subject generally, but he took up a speech in which the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella), then the Vice President of the Council, had expressed his adhesion to free education. Sir Francis Sandford criticized the speech of the right hon. Gentleman most minutely, and went very strongly in the opposite direction. Of course, I am not going to discuss free education upon this Vote; but I think I may be permitted to point out that if it was wrong in an official in the Education Department, as administered by Sir Francis Sandford, to mix himself up in public affairs, it was doubly wrong for the most important official in the new Ministry to transgress the rule he had laid down elsewhere. I think the Committee are entitled to some expression of opinion upon the subject from the Government. There are various matters of interest to servants in Public Departments which those servants very naturally desire to bring to the notice of candidates for seats in this House. For example, there is a very vital question affecting the police—namely, that of superannuation; but the police had been laid under such stringent orders that none of them ventured to put a question to any candidate at any public meeting; and anything they did ask regarding the views of candidates on that subject was asked privately, or in accordance with the stringent rule 770 laid down for their guidance that they should not interfere in public matters. The same thing occurred in connection with the Postal Department. The Post Office servants had their grievances, and they desired to obtain the opinion of candidates regarding their grievances; but they, also, had been laid under such stringent orders that they were afraid to put questions in public. What I maintain is, that a Democratic House of Commons should insist upon one law being applied to public servants in whatever capacity they serve the Crown. If to do a given thing is not proper for a policeman, it is not proper for an Assistant Secretary; and if it is not proper for a telegraph clerk, it is not proper for Sir Francis Sandford; if it is not proper for an official of the Education Department to take part in political discussion or in public meetings, it is doubly improper for the man who laid down the rule to transgress it himself. I think we are entitled to an expression of opinion on the part of the Government on this point. A rather important question is involved, and I see no better opportunity of raising it than that afforded by this Vote.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I should like to make an explanation, as I was rather misunderstood by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). I do not wish it for a moment to be supposed by Members of this House that those who are now in office in Dover House are being subjected to any danger from unsanitary arrangements. It was not likely I should have spent a few months in the Office if I had the least suspicion it was in any such condition; but what I wished to lay before the Committee with regard to that establishment was this—that it was in such a state when I first saw it that while it could be very easily turned into a Government house by removing the bad sanitary appliances in different parts of the house, it was quite unfit for a residence for any person, nobleman or noble lady, as it was formerly, who might have wished to take the house at a rent from the Government. I believe that one reason why it stood tenantless until we got into it was that people were very suspicious as to the state in which it was; and I am not the least surprised, judging from what I saw, that that was so. In reference to what has been said 771 by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), I think I am justified in saying a word for my right hon. Friend Sir Francis Sandford. I am sorry that this Vote should have been made a peg on which to hang an attack on that right hon. Gentleman. I understand that what the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Cameron) wishes to impute to my right hon. Friend is that while he was an official in a Public Department he took part in what was really a political discussion, and expressed views contrary to those which had been expressed when he was Secretary to the Education Department. Well, Sir, if that were true, it would be a serious charge; but I think the hon. Member will see in a moment that his observation is hardly a correct one to make in regard to my right hon. Friend. The question which was under discussion by Sir Francis Sandford, at the meeting at which he spoke, was that of free education. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that——
I said that Sir Francis Sandford went down to Glasgow, made a long speech on free education, criticizing and attacking the speech made a few days ago by his former Chief.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
That is exactly what I understood the hon. Gentleman to say. No doubt, there are some questions which become, to a certain extent, political, because they can only be worked out by the finances required being obtained by Votes in this House; but it would be a lamentable thing if questions in regard to education were not to be discussed by everybody merely because something had occurred to bring education into the political field. I think the question of free education is one which all men ought to be able to discuss quite freely everywhere. The only reason assigned for maintaining that the question was in any sense a political one was that if the result which some people desired was to be attained it could only be by Act of Parliament. I have yet to learn that that makes any question connected with education a political one, in the sense that it is not to be freely discussed by public servants. Certainly, I should regard it as a very great misfortune if upon educational subjects the voice of such a man as Sir Francis Sandford was to be silenced.
§ MR. E. R. RUSSELL
The right hon. and learned Gentleman's (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald's) observations appear to me to be singularly unfortunate, when all our recollections of the character of the recent political contest are quite fresh. There was no more dangerous question than education in most of the constituencies of the country; and I can corroborate what has been said by my hon. Friend and Colleague (Dr. Cameron) in respect to Sir Francis Sandford's speech in Glasgow. That speech did produce an unfortunate effect; it was very generally regarded as an intrusion of which a gentleman in his position should not have been guilty; and I think, also, it was an inconvenience to which Gentlemen who were standing for seats in Parliament ought not to have been subjected from anyone in the position of a permanent official. As the conduct of Sir Francis Sandford has been referred to, I will venture to say now what I should have said some time ago had not my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) risen before me—namely, that it does appear to me not desirable that the arrangement of offices in a new Department such as this of the Secretary for Scotland should be prompted solely by considerations of economy. The Under Secretary for Scotland has had, as we all know, a very brilliant career in the Civil Service. He holds a very distinguished position; but I imagine that he received his pension because his services had reached a point at which they might be suspended. If it was desirable that Sir Francis Sandford should be brought into the service of the country again, I should have thought he might have been employed with much greater advantage in an Office of less novelty, in an Office of less importance, in an Office in which it was of less consequence that good and firm traditions should be established by some permanent official likely to occupy his position for a long series of years. These seem to me to be considerations of much greater importance than the saving of £500 which is derived from the pension which Sir Francis Sandford enjoys. At any rate, I rejoice very much that my hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) has entered this protest against an incident which, I repeat, was regarded with just reprobation when it occurred, and which, I venture to say, 773 was not merely a deviation from the ordinary punctilio, but an act liable to produce the greatest inconvenience, because candidates for seats in Parliament ought to be free to discuss political questions and educational questions at an election time without intrusion from those whoso position may give them exceptional advantages in the discussion of such matters.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. J. Wilson) in any such notion as that of giving effect to Liberal views when they affect any part of a constituency or of the country. I think we ought to practise economy all round, and unless we do that we shall have no success whatever. I shall not go into the question—the rather heated question—which has been raised in regard to an important official connected with this Department; but I do maintain that it is very much to be desired that there should be some uniformity in respect to the action allowed to public officials. There is no doubt that a certain portion of our public officials are put under the most severe restrictions with regard to any expression of public opinion; while others, enjoying positions which from their very nature ought to cause them all the more to observe neutrality upon public questions, seem to take advantage of those very positions to ventilate their political views. The attention of the Government should be directed to this matter, so that there should be no difference in respect to the expression of public opinion between those who receive £1 a-week and those who receive £1,000 a-year; it is strictly unfair that the one should have his mouth closed, while the other should be allowed to speak as much as he liked. In this respect an impartiality should be shown which is not now shown. Nothing was more conspicuous during the recent Election than that certain State-paid persons acted as prominent agents for their own political Parties; while others were not allowed to give a vote, or even to speak upon public questions. My chief intention in rising, however, was to express the opinion that the Treasury's attention should be directing to economizing, by means of centralizing the Office of Secretary for Scotland as much as possible, the expenditure of money on the transaction of Scottish Business. I hope 774 that by means of centralization we may have a more efficient system of business introduced in Scotland without, necessarily, the expenditure of any more money. The discussion we have had will do good; but, in the circumstances, I think we ought now to allow the Vote to pass.
It appears to mo that the advancement of Scottish Business would be much better promoted by the appearance on the Front Bench, during the discussion of Scottish Business, of some official connected with the Scottish Department than the establishment of offices. I asked for some expression of opinion on the part of the Government on this very point—whether what is law for a policeman or a telegraph clerk shall be regarded as law for a permanent official in a higher capacity? I maintain that all classes of public servants should, in the eyes of this House, be treated in one and the same manner. If Sir Francis Sandford is well qualified to give an opinion upon an educational question, I do not see how the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) can deny that policemen and telegraph clerks and Post Office employés are equally well qualified to give intelligent opinions on questions affecting themselves. I contend that the same rule applies to public servants in all capacities. When Sir Francis Sandford laid down this rule for his subordinates he was bound to attend to it himself; and unless I get some explanation I shall regard it as my duty to divide the Committee. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £500.
Motion made, and Question put,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,930, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, for the Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Secretary for Scotland."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 110: Majority 58.—(Div. List, No. 7.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (12.) £100, Lord Lieutenant's Household, Ireland.
§ (13.) £159, Valuation and Boundary Survey, Ireland.