§ (1.) £8,227, to complete the sum for the Lunacy Commission, England.
§ (2.) £36,789, to complete the sum for the Mint, including Coinage.
§ (3.) £8,966, to complete the sum for the National Debt Office.
§ (4.) £34,204, to complete the sum for the Patent Office, & c.
§ (5.) £16,190, to complete the sum for the Paymaster General's Office,1560
§ (6.) £6,077, to complete the sum for the Public Works Loan Commission.
§ (7.) £10,393, to complete the sum for the Record Office.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
This Vote is one which I cannot allow to be passed without entering a serious protest against it. The Veto for the Public Record Office includes the sum granted every year for the publication of certain historical documents that have been in course of publication now for many years. I find, among the details given here in a note, that the publication of the calendars and Public State documents commenced in the year 1857, and that up to the present day 191 volumes have been published. The original purpose for which this Vote was put upon the Estimates was to secure the publication of the State documents and calendars of the United Kingdom, and I shall be able to prove, if necessary, that for some years after the commencement of the publication the Vote was fairly distributed between the various parts of the United Kingdom. But I am afraid that the publication of the Irish Records has been gradually diminishing until, for at least two or three years past, no public record or State document has been published in Ireland at all, although the usual publications have been continued in England. I am afraid that there must have been some underhand or corrupt influence at work in the matter, for while 21 editors have been occupied on English Records, not a single editor is at present engaged on records relating to Ireland. The entire Vote is absorbed by the English work, and I ask for a full explanation of the matter from the Secretary to the Treasury.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I regret that I should not be able to make any satisfactory explanation to the hon. Member, unless I were to go into the details with which, however, I am not sufficiently acquainted. I know that the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has taken a great interest in the publication of certain Irish Records, and I have already promised him that I will endeavour to make provision for the publication of some of them which I understand to be ready and to have been approved by the hon. Gentleman 1561 himself. Indeed, the publication is recommended not only by the hon. Member, but also by those in Ireland who have charge of the business. I can only regret that I cannot give the information as to the details of the work which the hon. Gentleman has asked for.
§ MR. SERJEANT MADDEN (Dublin University)
I am glad that the hon. Member opposite has called attention to this matter. The publication of the Irish Records is a matter of great importance to Ireland, and I hope that I before the next Estimates are produced steps will be taken for providing for their issue. English records are constantly published, although they are already accessible in some other form to the historical student. But there are in existence in Ireland a large number of valuable State documents and records which are not accessible, and which it is of the highest importance that the State should publish so that they may be rendered accessible, to all who are concerned in studying the history of the country. I may mention, in addition to other records, that there is in existence in connection with Christ Church Cathedral, a book containing a number of unpublished Acts of the Irish Parliament. Those documents are of the greatest possible interest, and contain information of the utmost value with reference to the past history of Ireland. I sincerely hope that sufficient funds will be devoted to the publication of these Irish Records, and that the Government will deal with the matter in a liberal spirit. I understand that there is an annual sum of £2,000 a-year voted for the publication of similar documents and records relating to England, and I think that at least £1,000 should be devoted to the publication of Irish Records.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I have no wish to contrast the importance of a large country like England with that of a small country like Ireland; but, at the same time, I am not prepared to subscribe to the doctrine that it is of less importance to spend money on historical investigations in Ireland than upon the publication of English Records. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken has pointed out one fundamental difference between English and Irish Records. As a matter of fact, English documents are 1562 accessible to persons who like to search for them, whereas Irish Records are not. Now that the question has been raised, I think it is the duty of every Irish Member, and of every historical student, whatever his nationality may be, to urge on the Government the vast importance of inviting literary research in reference to Irish history. Nearly all the investigations into Irish history, and certainly all the investigations into Irish chronology, have been conducted not by Eng-glishmen or Irishmen, but by Germans; and I think it is in the highest degree discreditable to the English Exchequer that subjects which are fairly subjects for English investigation, should be allowed to remain in the hands of Germany. I do not know that my hon. Friend is quite right in saying that no money has been spent on Irish investigation, because I find, under Sub-heads B and C, that a sum of about £200 has been spent in. the examination of certain Irish documents. Now, I think that a very careful investigation into everything concerned with Irish history is necessary in order to correct the wilful or unintentional errors of Poole in his Irish History. It is a matter for much regret that Irish scholarship should be grudged even a small grant of the public money in this respect, seeing the large sums which have been spent in England and Scotland. I will not say that it has been money lavished or wasted, because I think it has been well spent; but what I say is that money has been more freely spent in similar work in England and Scotland than in Ireland. While I am alluding to this Vote, I must say that there appears to be a somewhat startling disproportion in the amount spent on the permanent staff and the sum spent in investigation. I find that the permanent staff cost £18,743, while in the publication of the calendars and documents themselves the sum of £2,580 only was spent. I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will be able to explain this large disproportion, which certainty does appear, at the first glance, to be very great.
§ MR. DILLON
I understand that the Secretary to the Treasury, in my temporary absence from the Committee, made some statement upon this subject, and in the course of which he intimated that he was unable to give any information in detail, because he had not got 1563 the figures. Now, there cannot be the slightest doubt that this Vote was originally taken for the publication of historical documents connected with, all parts of the Kingdom; and what I contend is, that there is a much stronger case for using the money for Ireland than for England. Let me take the matter as it stands. The calendars and volumes published in this series until recently stood as follows, the figures bringing the facts down to last year:—In the shape of calendars, 126 have been published for England, and 20 for Ireland, Journals and memorials are largely represented for England; there are no less than 176 for England and Scotland, and 8 only for Ireland. In the press, of both classes, there are 11 for Great Britain and 1 for Ireland; and awaiting publication, there are 11 for Great Britain and none for Ireland. That is the state of the figures; and it would appear that, whereas in previous years, up to a certain date, about 15 per cent of the money was given to Ireland, there is now a very limited amount indeed devoted to the publication of Irish State papers. Indeed, it would appear that some extraordinary or occult influence is at work, by which the money voted for this purpose is absorbed almost exclusively in England and Scotland—Ireland being deprived of its fair share of the grant. But these figures do not give a full representation of the real facts of the case. The fact is this—that so far from there being a strong ease for using the money in the preparation of historical records and documents in connection with England, there is an infinitely stronger case in regard to the history of Ireland. Anybody who will take up the catalogue of these publications in the Record Office will find that nearly the whole of the English publications, although undoubtedly of great interest, are mere reprints which have been put into a more convenient shape for the benefit of scholars. No doubt, that is a laudable object, and the money may be said to be applied to a useful purpose; but it is nothing as compared with the printing of documents of equal value which are at present only in manuscript, and of which there is, perhaps, but one copy in the world. I find that the documents which have been published in regard to Ireland have been largely, if not 1564 altogether, edited from manuscripts almost entirely unknown to learned men previously. For instance, Mr. Gilbert edited a number of documents relating to a treasonable conspiracy in Ireland in 1601, together with the contemporaneous history of the country at that time. It is a work of extraordinary interest; but only one copy existed in manuscript until the document was published under this Irish Vote. I have heard it stated that there are other documents of equal interest and importance actually awaiting publication, which have been edited by the same editor and by others. It seems to be monstrous that manuscripts of this kind should remain unpublished, while republications are going on which may be useful, no doubt, to English students, but which simply supply reprints of documents already published, such as the Chronicles of Matthews of Paris and others, all of which have been presented to the public in print more than once already, and can be readily obtained. There is a document mentioned by the late Sir Edward Sullivan, in connection with the death of More, which is of extraordinary value, but which is absolutely unknown to the historical student. These documents are contained in a manuscript book, of which there is only one copy, and probably there are not 10 men who are able to read it, seeing that, it is in Norman-Latin, with a large number of abbreviations, and it is only students of that period, and very experienced and learned students, who can make out the manuscript at all. Besides, it is exceedingly difficult to got men to edit records of this nature, however valuable they may be. O'Donovan and O'Curry died before their great work of editing the ancient laws of Ireland was completed. That is one of the most valuable works that exists in the whole civilized world, and I am afraid that it is now impossible to get the work completed at all. In many instances the money is voted to men who know nothing whatever of the work. The great difficulty is not so much to get the money as to get the men, and when we have the men it is shameful that we should allow them to waste their lives without utilizing their talents. I think I have made out an extremely strong case for some portion of this money being devoted to Ireland. I think I have shown that for the last 1565 three or four years there has been gross injustice done to Irish literature, and I trust that the Government will exhibit some readiness to undo that injustice, and to be generous for two or throe years to come. As to one of the books to which I have inferred, and which is, I believe, now ready, containing certain records connected with the ancient See of Dublin, I trust that means will be taken for putting it in the press as speedily as possible.
§ MR. JACKSON
I have already intimated my willingness to inquire into the facts of the case, and it will be my endeavour to deal as fairly as I can with the applications which are laid before me. When the Estimates were under preparation last October, we gave to Ireland all that was asked for on that occasion. I am told, however, that there are many existing manuscripts which ought to be published, and I have already promised the hon. Member to institute an inquiry into the particular cases he has mentioned.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (8.) £30,693, to complete the sum for the Registrar General's Office, England.
(9.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £336,260, 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 1888, for Stationery, Printing, and Paper, Binding, and Printed Books for the several Departments of Government in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and some Dependencies, and for the two Houses of Parliament, and for the Salaries and Expenses of the Establishment of the Stationery Office, and the cost of Stationery Office Publications, and of the Gazette Offices; and for sundry miscellaneous Services, including a Grant in Aid of the publication of Parliamentary Debates.
§ MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)
in rising to move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of£10,000, said: I wish it to be understood, at the outset, that I have not the slightest intention of casting any imputation upon the management of the Stationery Department, by Mr. Pigett, the Comptroller. I think there is evidence in his reports that he has made every effort to cut down unnecessary expenses, and to introduce economy into the Department; but he can go no further without the assistance of the Government and of this House. This 1566 Vote is for a very large sum—namely, £556,260, and I think there can be no doubt that a material saving may be made in it. It will be seen, under Sub-head E, that the printing for Public Departments cost £185,000, being an increase of £5,000 over last year, and of £9,100 for 1885–6. This, therefore, is obviously a rapidly increasing item, but no details are given of the expenditure. It is only stated that the Vote is for the Public Departments. In addition to the item for printing, the paper supplied to these Departments costs £120,000, as will be seen from Sub-head F; so that these two amounts come to £305,000, or considerably more than one-half of the total Vote. And, be it observed, that this printing is totally apart from Parliamentary printing, which comes under Sub-head J, and represents an expenditure of £70,000. Now, it does not appear that there is any efficient chock upon the printing for the Public Departments, and that being the ease, it is very evident that there must be great wastefulness in this branch of outlay. The Foreign Office alone gets rid of nearly £12,000 a-year in this way, an increase of more than £1,000 over the previous year. The Board of Trade cost £9,727 in 1S85-6, as against £7,779 the previous year, or an addition of nearly £2,000, besides £3,000 in connection with Mercantile, Marine, and in other forms. We are not informed how much is taken for it this year. The Patent Office and its belongings cost nearly £28,000, an addition of nearly £5,000. A mere glance at the Papers before the Committee will not throw the slightest light on the way in which this money is disbursed; but I find, on further examination, that there are over 300 offices supplied with stationery and printing, many of which may very well be left to take care of themselves. There is, for instance, a Department of "Polish Refugees' Agents," "The Liberated African Department," "The Pipe Office," "The Disembodied Militia," and so forth. Surely, if a disembodied Militiaman wants to use stationery, he ought to supply it for himself. In fact, the list of offices supplied at the public expense might be cut down by at least one-third, and the supply all round might probably be cut of? by at least one-half. Then the Parliamentary Papers under sub- 1567 head are estimated to cost £70,000. I have no hesitation in saying that it would be of great advantage to the House, and to the public, if this amount were greatly reduced. A largo part of it, under present arrangements, might as well be thrown outside into the Thames. One of the numerous penalties of being a Member of Parliament is the avalanche of Blue Books which is continually pouring upon one's head. No ordinary house will hold them; if you sell them, the proceeds do not go very far towards paying one's election expenses. Some of these books are very costly in production, they are often illustrated with coloured diagrams and expensive maps and drawings, und yet they remain quite unknown to the bulk of the people. The expense of producing them must be enormous, and out of all proportion to their value to the public. I think the Government might, with great propriety, decline more frequently than they do to produce those costly books at the public expense. They answer no other purpose as a rule than the gratification of an individual caprice. There is scarcely any public demand for Parliamentary Papers. According to the Auditor and Comptroller General, the cost of producing these papers in 1885–6 was £68,383, and the total sum realized by their sale was only £1,285. Acts of Parliament and other Papers are scattered about in an unnecessarily profuse and foolish manner. It is only justice to the Comptroller of the Stationery Department, Air. Pigott, to say that he has protested against this in the two reports he has issued, and that he has urged upon the Government the propriety of acting upon the recommendation of the Committee which inquired into the subject of making the distribution of these reports less objectionable than it is now. I am aware that some of these Papers have to be applied for, and are not issued generally; and I think that the Government might, with advantage, carry out that rule much further, and leave Members to apply for all documents without tumbling them into their houses whether they want them or not. There are special Reports printed of which the general public seldom hear, and I question the wisdom of printing them. The Exports of the Challenger expedition, for instance, have already cost the country 1568 £53,000, and very few copies indeed have been sold. They have value from a scientific point of view, no doubt; but they have been produced in a very extravagant and unbusiness-like manner, and they are not accessible to the general public. In regard to Acts of Parliament it appears from Mr. Pigott's first Report, issued in 1881, that "the free list," so to speak, was last drawn up in 1801, and he says—The municipal authorities of the "boroughs of Gatton and Dimwich—the latter a seaport of importance in the reign of Henry VIII., but now for many years almost entirely submerged—still appeal in the List as public functionaries for whoso use Acts of Parliament are supplied and paid for at the public expense.He does not tell us in his second Report that the papers have been discontinued, or how they are delivered at the submerged port of Dunwich. Perhaps the First Lord of the Admiralty undertakes that service, and will be able to throw some light upon the matter. Obviously there is considerable room for saving money in this direction. And so there is in regard to the printing of Private Bills. I think there ought to be some judicious restrictions placed upon the privilege now accorded to every Member of having any Bill he chooses to introduce printed at the public expense. There was an immense crop of Bills introduced at the beginning of this Session, of which very few remain alive now, and. some of them were of enormous length. One of them forms a good thick volume of 115 pages which, I am told, would make an octavo volume in print of more than 300 pages. Nobody is likely to road it, except its illustrious author. I would rather not mention which Bill it was, because I do not wish to make it appear that I am attacking either one side of the House or the other. Then, again, there was another Bill of 111 pages, another of 60, and so on. Not one of these elaborate measures over had the slightest chance of receiving the attention of Parliament. I may say that among the more voluminous Bills were "The Companies Consolidation Bill," "the Parliamentary Elections Bill," & c. I will now glance at the salaries, some of which appear to be very high. I say nothing of the salary of the Comptroller who, considering his duties and responsibilities, is not over paid with £1,500 a-year. 1569 But there is an Assistant Comptroller at £800 a-year, three clerks receiving between them £1,650, one with £500, 12 receiving £4,147, and so on. There can be no doubt whatever that these clerks are all greatly over paid, taking the salaries paid by any mercantile house as a standard, And it must not be forgotten that in a mercantile house the clerks would not be entitled to large pensions as these Government clerks are, no matter how little they may have done to deserve it. Therefore, I think that the high salaries paid ought to be taken into consideration when the pensions are fixed. Then the Superintendent of Printing gets £550 a-year, undoubtedly a great prize in the printing trade. There is also a deputy assistant, with £500 a-year, and an Assistant Examiner of Printing with £225, 12 a-year, together with two examiners of printers accounts who receive £400 a-year each. It would puzzle anyone to explain what duties those functionaries perform. Some of them, I venture to say, hold sinecure offices. Then I ask the Committee to look at the entry on page 150 of £1,260 for porters, followed by another probable amount required for wages of porters and boys, £4,687. Surely that is a very large amount, very loosely and inadequately accounted for in these Estimates. Women are to be paid £80, and then men, women, and boys having been accounted for, there is a charge of £1,021 for certain mysterious nondescripts described as "others." What sort of "others" can these be, and what kind of service do they render the State for £1,000 a-year? All I ask the Government is, whether they cannot see their way to make a considerable reduction in the charge for printing for the Public Departments and for the paper used, which, together, represent an expenditure of £305,000 a-year. I believe that your own officer is in favour of reducing these charges for Parliamentary printing, he tells us there can be no question as to the value of the Reports made to the President of the Board of Trade upon the working of the Boiler Explosives Act of 1882. The Act requires that the Board shall cause oven such Report "to be made public in such manner as it thinks fit." Now, in the first place, the Reports are published separately as they are received, and I think that ought to answer every con 1570 ceivable purpose. The Comptroller ays—It is difficult to understand what further object is pained by afterwards collecting the reports and presenting them, in the form of a ponderous Blue Book, to Parliament; but since the passing of the Act three collections of the kind have already been presented, and a fourth f the series, containing 96 pages of letterpress and 111 lithographic illustrations, is now passing through the press.What value they are it is impossible to conceive. They can only be sold as waste paper, or be allowed unnecessarily to fill up a room. No doubt the Reports relate to matters which involve the expenditure of millions of money; but we are told that if we wish to effect economy we must begin by looking at the sixpences. I believe there are a good many sixpences which might be saved in this Department, and I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will be able to give the Committee some assurance that the number of Blue Books issued will be considerably restricted in future. I would suggest not only that the distribution should be restricted, but that the cost of these books, which involve the production of expensive engravings, coloured prints, and so forth should be cut down, and at the same time that all the salaries should be overhauled with a view to reduction. These are the recommendations I wish to make, and I bog, in conclusion, to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £10,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £326,260, be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. Jennings.)
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.K., Rotherham)
I wish to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether still more real and effective control cannot be provided in connection with what is really the publishing department of the Government. At present, there does not appear to be any proper control or supervision in the department at all, and publications are sent out by the Government in a most unsatisfactory manner. The Comptroller might, I think, by judicious editing, do much to popularize the Government publications, and I think that in that way a good many of the publications issued might be rendered very useful. For instance, there are the Reports relating to colliery accidents, which contain information of 1571 considerable value to the districts where such accidents have occurred. If they were in the hands of a regular publishing firm, steps would surely be taken to make their contents known, and they would become of much greater value than they are now, under the supervision of the Comptroller. If these publications were in the hands of ordinary publishers—such as Macmillan or Cassells—I am satisfied that a great deal would be done to popularize them. If not, I think we might cut off a good deal of this expenditure altogether, seeing that it is entirely wasted, because what is done is not sufficiently made known. Let me take the case of the Report of the Commission on Technical Education. The Commissioners appointed to inquire into that subject have issued an exceedingly valuable Report; but the most important volume has been allowed to run out of print, and I believe there has been no attempt to reproduce it. That certainly would not have happened if the publication had been in the hands of an enterprising bookseller. The Comptroller, I dare say, know nothing whatever about the matter, and only allowed a limited number of copies to be issued. Let me take another instance. Last year, the Report of the "Accidents in Mines Commission," the Commissioner, having been at work for seven years or more, was printed. They published, inside their Report, an admirable summary of the evidence, together with their recommendations contained in about 15 or 20 pages. The Report itself, which was full of illustrations, cost 11s. 6d.; but although many of the miners who are most interested in it could not afford to pay that sum, they would gladly have purchased the summary, which might have been published separately at a cost of 2d. or 3d., and could have been circulated all over the mining districts. I asked one of the Government officials whether that could be done, and I was told that it was impossible. Therefore, I ventured to take up the work myself, and having privately printed the summary so that it might have been sold for a profit of 1½d., I have done the best I could to get it well circulated among miners; but I think that a work of that I kind ought to be done by the Government themselves through the instrumentality of a Department of this sort. 1572 They ought either to hand the work over to booksellers, who would make a good speculation out of it, to be published under reasonable control, or else the Comptroller ought to go into the subject thoroughly, with a view to popularize that part of our publications. I believe the Secretary to the Treasury fully recognizes the importance of the matter, and I am aware that the Report of the Depression of Trade Commission has been published, in a useful form, for 6d. That is quite a departure from the usual course, and as I am afraid the fact is very little known, I think something ought to be done to make it more widely known. I also think that with a little effort on the part of the Postmaster General arrangements might be made to hand over part of the windows at the post offices, so that it may be made known that useful publications of this kind are being issued from time to time. It is a work, however, in which the head of the Department ought to take the initiative; but I am satisfied that something ought to be done to make the heavy expense incurred in printing Reports of this nature really worth while. Cheap publications of this sort might be freely issued; and I think it should be the duty of some of the heads of the Departments to see how they may best be popularized and got into the hands of the public. That is a work which, as far as I can judge, the head of the Stationery Department might take in hand. I know that a good deal was said about the duties of the Office when the present Comptroller was appointed. I have no wish to allude to that matter further than to say that when a man receives £1,300 or £1,500 a-year, and is the head of a most important Department, he might do a coat deal for political education, in no Party sense at all, by helping to spread among the people information which it costs the country so much to get. I think that his attention ought to be drawn to the matter; and while I believe the present Secretary to the Treasury fully recognizes the force of these suggestions, I wish to press upon him their very great importance.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I should be very sorry to do anything to prevent the observance of strict economy in the administration of any public Department, and I certainly think there is 1573 plenty of room for economy in the Department now under discussion. At the same time, I should deprecate any hasty cutting down of our printing arrangements, although I should he glad to see the publications issued by the Government thoroughly supervized and edited. That there is a considerable amount of waste I think most hon. Members of this House will be prepared to admit; but I certainly cannot agree with the opinion which has been ex-pressed that the Parliamentary Reports, Hills, Blue Books, and other Papers issued by this House constitute so much waste paper. On the contrary, I think they contain a very valuable amount of information—so valuable, in my opinion, that I have done what I believe few other hon. Members have done—namely, gone through the whole of the publications issued by this House during the last two years. I know that it has been a somewhat labourious task; but I am able to say that I have not only gone through the Papers, but that I have made very considerable use of them. At the same time, I cannot help protesting against the way in which our Papers are issued. In many of them the same information is detailed over and over again, and I am sorry to say that very often the same information, obtained apparently from the same sources, does not always correspond in the different editions in which we find it. I think it is quite sufficient to issue for general circulation by means of a Blue Book the special information which it is considered desirable to present to the public; but it is not necessary that the same information should be published over and over again in a different form in the publications issued by this House. I did not happen to be in the House when the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) commenced his speech; but I understand that he made some observations in reference to the publication of Bills introduced by private Members, and suggested that they should be printed by the private Members who introduce them, instead of being printed at the public expense. Now, I would venture to ask whether, in many instances, these Private Bills have not paved the way for much of the useful legislation which has been passed by this House? With due deference to hon. Members on the other side, I be- 1574 lieve that within the last two years the Bills introduced by private Members have shown a considerable advance in education oven on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves. I find that many excellent measures which were strongly deprecated two or three years ago by hon. Members on the other side have now been adopted by them, and that many of those hon. Members are now acting as a vanguard, and are engaged in educating their Party, leading them on to useful legislation, when the Government they support can see their way to adopt the measures submitted to them. I certainly wish that the Government could see their way to deal more freely with some of the Bills brought in by private Members.
§ MR. HOWELL
I bow to your decision, Sir; but I think I may be allowed to say, with regard to the Bills introduced by private Members, that they are useful as indicating the views of hon. Members, and that they have considerable interest for the country. I venture to think that a number of the Bills which have been introduced here have been widely circulated among the constituencies, and they have materially helped to educate the people in every way. In regard to some of the more elaborate Reports which have been issued by this House from time to time, I must say I think something might be done to curtail the expense, which is often very considerable At the same time, I know there are great difficulties to be contended with. For instance, you must not put a power in the hands of any officer of a Public Department which will enable him to judge for himself what is to be left out of the evidence laid before a Commission or Committee. When an investigation has been conducted by a Royal Commission, or by a Select Committee of this House, I think the evidence laid before it should be published as it is. No doubt there are a number of the huge Blue Books, such as that upon technical education, and the Blue Book in regard to the Land Commission which, although, containing very valuable matter, are unnecessarily elaborate in their form, and something might be done to curtail their dimensions from time to time. I think, that a smaller number of copies of the expensive books 1575 might he printed with a supplementary issue containing- a separate digest of the evidence as a whole. Such a summary could be published at a cheap; rate together with the Report. I hope the time is not far distant when the House will be able to supervize the printing and publishing Departments of the Government, so as to curtail the expenses; but, at the same time, I hope that nothing will be done in the way of curtailment that would be likely to interfere with the full expression of opinion, called forth, in various ways, through the publication issued by the House. It is in order to preserve that full expression of public opinion that I think there should be no restriction as; to the nature of the information circulated to the public
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I trust that Her Majesty's Government will take into consideration the suggestious which have been made by the hon. Member for the Rotherham Division of Yorkshire (Mr. A. H. Dyke Acland) in regard to the distribution of Reports, of great local interest, through the Post Offices. At the present moment, local booksellers will not take the trouble to procure them. Applications may be made over and over again, for copies of the publications issued by the Government; but the booksellers make all sorts of excuses, the real fact being that there is very little profit to be got out of them, and a good deal of trouble Yet those Blue Hooks contain very interesting information, as for instance, the reports in regard to accidents in mines, and upon many other subjects. I do not see why the Officers at the Treasury should not work with the Postmaster General, and arrange that public documents may be issued all over the Kingdom and sold in the Post Offices, at the prices at which they are published. I hope the Secretary of the Treasury will take this matter into his serious consideration.
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL& c.) (Kircaldy,
I also concur in the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that the Member for the Rotherham Division of Yorkshire has done excellent service in calling the attention of the Government to this subject. I think that a great deal is required to he done in order to popularize these publications, and much might be 1576 done in the direction pointed out by the hon. Member. It seams to me, however, that in order to popularize the Blue Books issued by Parliament, not only must we have publishers to push them, but something must be done in order to make the Blue Books themselves popular. Now, it strikes me that a great many publications are issued which are not only unpopular, but are simply unreadable. An hon. Member once told me that in making a speech he always found it much easier to be long than to be short, so it is in the case of these publications. It is much easier to pitchfork an enormous number of documents before the public than to supervize them and render them readable. I think a great deal of the blame attaches to the Government themselves. No doubt, they occasionally issue documents which are not only interesting, but useful. There are, however, many documents of the same kind which they do not care to give to the House, and in other cases, they are frequently accompanied by a good deal of unnecessary padding. For instance, in the Blue Books issued in regard to Egypt the Government contrived to suppress very carefully everything that anybody cared, to know, yet they give an extraordinary amount of useless information, full of details about things it was not probable any human being cared to read. By that means they made all the volumes issued in respect of Egypt uninteresting and unreadable. Therefore if we are to popularize our Blue Books and Bills, we must begin by condensing them, and making them interesting and readable. When we have done that, we should endeavour to secure the services of a good publisher, in order to push forward the sale. In that way, I think that an enormous amount of information which is contained in these Blue Books would be popularized and would not be lost to the world, as at present. For my own part, I have been in the habit of sending the Blue Books I receive to my constituents, so that they may be made acquainted with the information published by the Government. No doubt, a good many of the Parliamentary Papers issued by this House are in the highest degree imperfect, and unfortunately Parliament has no control over its own printing, and it is with the utmost difficulty that Members are able to obtain 1577 important in formation upon any subject when an opportunity is about to be afforded for discussing a particular question in this House. When Notice has been given of a Motion, and Papers are asked for, they are very rarely produced until the moment the subject itself is coming on for discussion; and if any complaint is made, the fault is thrown upon the printers. The Government say—"We have no control over the printers, and we cannot guarantee when the information which has been promised may be published." Now, it seems to me most extraordinary that such a state of things should exist. There is no second-rate newspaper in London, or in the Provinces, which would not, in the course of 12 hours, supply this information to the public if it were handed over to it. It does seem to me very extraordinary that the House of Commons should have no control over its own printing, and in consequence the House is unable to insist upon important documents being produced within a reasonable time. At present the head of any Department is able to put off the production of important Papers by merely saying that he has no control over the printers. In many cases it is not until Parliament has been prorogued, and when the information is of no service whatever, that it supplied to the public. I trust that we shall receive some explanation as to the way in which departmental printing conducted, and who is responsible for having it done in a reasonably rapid time.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON (Essex, Epping)
Before the discussion closes, I should like to say a word or this matter; because I have, on former occasions, endeavoured to place my view on the question before a Committee of this House. I will not allude to the question of popularizing these documents, because I am afraid that in that direction we may find ourselves in a long lane which has no turning. But I think that something may be done in the way of economy in connection with the publication of Parliamentary Papers. I have ventured to suggest before, and I will do so again, whether it is not a matter worthy of consideration that the Government should leave a large number of these books to be asked for by Members, instead of circulating' them as a matter of course. At present, I am 1578 afraid that the neighbouring butterman is the only individual who derives any benefit from a large number of the Blue Books now circulated. Instead of sending all the Parliamentary publications to the residences of hon. Members, I think that Members themselves should be required to notify to the Stationery Office what Blue Books they require for their own personal use. By that means, think a considerable economy may be effected.
§ MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars, & c.)
I am of opinion that if some of the Reports and Papers issued by Parliament were published in a heap, attractive, and well-edited form, many Members would be encouraged to purchase largo numbers of copies for distribution among their constituents. Unless, however, they are put in a proper form, they are entirely valueless for general circulation. As an instance of what I mean, I will mention the sixpenny edition of the Report of the Commission on the Depression of Trade. I believe that that Report, so far as it has been circulated, has done much good; but if it had been advertized in some way, a very much larger number of copies would have been disposed of. At present many people are not aware that it can be purchased for 6d.; otherwise I have no doubt that the publication would have been profitable, and it would certainly have been instrumental in circulating important information through the country. I believe, if it is made possible that the Parliamentary literature to be issued can be obtained cheaply from this new Department—this bureau of labour statistics, I presume it may be called—it will be of great value to the constituencies.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine)
I believe that I am the only Member of the House now remaining who sat on the Committee of 1873 and 1874 on this question of the stationery. Many of the improvements that were then recommended have since been carried out. I have watched this Vote very carefully ever since, and I have certainly seen improvements effected in a variety of ways in the printing arrangements which have been made by the Government. But, considering the length of time which has elapsed since the Committee sat, I would suggest to the Secre- 1579 tary to the Treasury the propriety of taking steps for the appointment if a new Committee. If such a Committee were appointed, say next Session, I believe that it would be found practicable to carry out many of the suggestions which have been made in the course of the discussion.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
Before the Secretary of the Treasury rises to reply, I should like to call attention to a matter upon which. I asked for information at the commencement of the Session—I refer to the sale of the copyright of the Government in the publications they issue. My hon. Friend the Member for the Rotherham Division of Yorkshire (Mr. A. H. Dyke Acland) is anxious that there should be a cheap popular reproduction of the useful Blue Books published by this House, and he believes that if there were a more cheap reproduction, these Parliamentary Papers would have great educational value with the people of this country, and that they would be largely read and much appreciated. But if the Government has disposed of its copyright in the republication of its own documents, it is impossible for hon. Members to hope for such a cheap and popular republication of Government documents as is generally desired. [Mr. JACKSON dissented.] I am glad to see that the Secretary to the Treasury expresses dissent, but I remind him that up to the present moment we have had no information on the subject, although the assertion has been frequently made that the Government have parted with their copyright in Parliamentary documents. If it is true that they have sold the sole right of publishing Government Papers, for a specific sum, then I think that they have practically parted with the copyright. I hope, however, that the statement will turn out to be untrue. If these documents are published, as I think they ought to be, for the advantage of the public, the Government ought to be grateful to anybody who will reproduce them cheaply, und if the newspapers or any public associations would publish them and distribute them, I think they would do a good service. With reference to the labour publications issued by the Board of Trade, I would venture to express a hope that they will be published periodically, and at regular intervals, in a cheap form, so that they may 1580 reach the masses of the country, but not in the ordinary shape of a Blue Book. They might be issued at a very much smaller cost than the documents which have recently been published, and hon. Members would then be able to send thorn to trades union clubs for distribution among the working classes who are specially interested in such subjects. I think those documents would be exceedingly useful and very educational, and that they would practically do great service in reference to the labour question. As we are anticipating Reports in reference to foreign labour, the wages paid in foreign countries upon co-operation, and other kindred questions of great interest to the working classes, I hope some means will be taken for publishing these papers at the lowest possible rate, so that they may be largely distributed throughout the country. I know that that was what was contemplated when the Department was formed. I must congratulate the Secretary to the Board of Trade on the first fruits of Mr. Burnett's work, which I think are very excellent. There is no one who is capable of doing the work better than he has done, and I only hope that the work will be published sufficiently cheap to bring it within reach of the masses.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I did not intend to obtrude myself upon the Committee in the discussion of this Vote, and I only rise for the purpose of saying that although I quite agree with the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) as to the advantages of publishing these Parliamentary Papers at a cheap rate, I do not at all agree with him in the comments he has made upon the labour statistics which have just been issued. A publication which professes to deal with trades unions, but only deals with 18 out of more than 250, and tells very little about those which has not already been published, cannot be of much use to the people whom it is intended to serve. Unless there is some reference to the rate of wages from time to time, and if these statistics are only to be published at long intervals, I shall feel inclined to regret that I have put the country to the expense of giving them at all. I shall be glad to hear from the Secretary to the Treasury what the Government intend to do in the matter. Nothing has as yet 1581 been done to give effect to the intention with which the Returns were asked for.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
There is another point to which. I wish to direct the attention of my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury—namely, whether the cost of printing, as an article of production, has been sufficiently reduced. I believe there will be no doubt among men who have had to deal with printers' bills during the last few years, that they have been largely reduced: and. further, it is a matter of experience, that with proper and legitimate pressure, even a farther reduction might take place. I would ask my hon. Friend whether, as a matter of business, he has endeavoured to secure a reduction in the printing charges? The next point to which I desire to draw the attention of my hon. Friend is the necessity for the exercise of greater discrimination in the number of copies published. I quite agree with what has been said in regard to the valuable Report of the Commission upon Technical Education—namely, that it should have been allowed to run out of print. In the second volume there are constant references to the first volume; but when application is made for the first volume, it is found impossible to obtain it. I think it is not asking too much to urge that at an early date there should be a republication or reprinting of the first volume. The next point I wish to press is the necessity for some more careful selection of the matter of the Blue Books, Reference has been made to the abstract which has been issued of the Report on Accident in Mines, which naturally embodies a summary of a large mass of evidence. I think the attention of heads of Departments should be directed to the subject, in order to insure that the valuable parts of an inquiry should be submitted in the nature of a precis or summary apart from the larger volume containing the evidence in full, so that those who have neither the time to wade through a ponderous volume, nor the purse that would enable thorn to pay for it, should be able to obtain, in a cheap and simple form, what is likely to be of real use to them. There is another question to which I wish to call attention which has not been referred to in the course of this brief debate, and that is, that the great cause of the increase in the printing bill is the action of Parlia- 1582 ment itself. I do not refer to the printing of Returns, but to the creation of new Departments. Some reference has been made to the Explosion of Boilers Act. The passing of that Act involved the appointment of an Inspector, and. of course, an Inspector must report. If he did not, his appointment would be almost a mockery. An Inspector who gave no information would be of little service, and his influence upon the public at largo would be very little. I would venture to say that when once Parliament has appointed an Inspector it is bound to publish his Reports. I know, from my own experience in these matters, that not only the persons employed in the management of mines or as superintendents of boilers have derived great benefit from the diagrams contained in these Reports, but that much advantage has been obtained by the workmen themselves.
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I quite agree with the hon. Member for Stockport that this Vote, including, as it does, an item of £185,000 for printing and £130,000 for paper, is a very large one. What I wish to know is the mode which is adopted in the Stationery Office for submitting the printing to public competition. I may be told that it is submitted to public competition already; but the competition is that of three or four leading business houses. I do not call that public competition in the strict sense of the term, and I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will let the Committee know that in future these large contracts will be submitted to, at least, 12 of the leading business firms. I believe that if that were done we should be able to make a very large saving on that head alone. It was only the other day—I will not mention either the Vote or the specific item, but it was a Vote for a very considerable sum of money—that it was pointed out that of four firms who had submitted prices, two happened to represent the same firm, so that they obtained 50 per cent of the advantage of the tender. I think that these tenders should be spread over something like a dozen firms at least, in which case it would be impossible for a circumstance of that kind to arise. I hope we shall have an assurance from the Secretary to the Treasury that at least 12 leading firms shall have an opportunity of com- 1583 peting for the various items embraced in the Stationery Vote.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I had almost hoped that the Secretary to the Treasury had spoken before now upon the points which have been under discussion, because I am anxious to bring forward a mutter of interest which has not been alluded to by any previous speaker in connection with this Vote. I had hoped that the interesting questions raised by the hon. Members for Stock-port and the Rotherham Division of Yorkshire, as to the general expense of printing and publishing Parliamentary Papers, would have been disposed of before I referred to the charge for the printing of the Parliamentary Debates. If hon. Members will refer to page 21 of the Estimates, they will find there is a charge of something over £5,000 for the Parliamentary Debates. Now, we all know that for very many years the printing of the debates has been in the Lands of Mr. Hansard.
A separate Notice has been given in regard to the particular item to which the right hon. Gentleman is now referring, and it would, therefore, be better to reserve the discussion upon it until that Motion is made.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I myself have an Amendment upon the Paper in reference to that question. But before we reach it, I wish to say a word upon the observations which fell from the right hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). The right hon. Gentleman said that it is desirable to publish and widely circulate a great many of the Reports submitted to the House, and he suggested that it should be done at the expense of the Government. Now, I do not think that that is quite the best plan. As hon. Gentlemen well know, the mere fact of publishing a Parliamentary Paper in a Blue Book will not in any way save expense if it is desired to re-issue it in another form. The whole of the original cost of publication would have been already incurred. I think the better plan would be to have an understanding that those who do the printing of Blue Books and Returns shall not have an exclusive right to these publications, and then other pub- 1584 lishers would make it their business to go into the market and bring out, in a cheap form, such matter of that kind as may be likely to be demanded by the general public. I think the Secretary to the Treasury will find that that is not only the best, but infinitely a cheaper plan than getting the Queen's printers to republish a document. I wish, further, to ask the hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee, when he rises to reply to the general discussion, why it is that the printers take so very long in submitting to Parliament the Blue Books which are ordered to be printed. The reason I take it to be is this—that the printers employ a certain number of compositors and a certain number of boys, and find it cheaper to keep the public waiting, rather than increase the number of compositors and pay for the work upon a better scale. There ought to be some plan by which the House of Commons would not have to wait so long as it now does for these Papers. A trumpery Return, which might easily be produced in three days, is often not presented for ninny weeks.
§ MR. JACKSON
In reference to the question brought forward by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings), I may say at the outset that I am extremely glad that the Committee seem disposed to give a general support to the Government in endeavouring to limit, as far as they can, the useless printing and publication of Blue Books, and may say at once that I cordially welcome the assistance of the criticism which my hon. Friend has brought to bear on this Vote. But I would point out to the Committee that the Stationery Office is in a most peculiar position in this matter. I need hardly remind the Committee that the Stationery Office, as far as it is concerned, has, practically, no control over the amount of paper and printing which may be required by the Public Departments. I see no remedy for that the Stationery Office has been constituted for the purpose of supplying all the stationery and printing which may be needed for the various Public Departments, and I have no doubt whatever that the Stationery Office, dealing as it does with the whole of the printing which the various Departments of the Public Service require, does effect an enormous amount of economy as compared with what the result would be if 1585 each Department were allowed to control its own printing in its own way. The hon. Member for Stockport has spoken of the very large sum expended upon paper and printing for the Public Departments. Now, according to the information which I have received, not only is the paper bought by open competition, and not only are tenders invited, as an hon. Member has suggested, from at least 12 firms, but I am told that any firm occupying a reasonably responsible position, which applies to be put on the list of the firms which receive from time to time notice that tenders are being invited, is at once placed on the list, and at the present moment there are more than 100 firms on the list to whom the tenders are sent.
§ MR. JACKSON
I do not know; but I believe that some of them are manufacturers, and some of them, are merchants. I know, from my own personal experience, that it is a great fallacy to suppose that it is always an advantage to purchase direct from the manufacturer. I have known a great many instances in which it has been possible to buy cheaper from the merchant than from the manufacturer. Therefore, I do not think the Government should be limited in their dealings to the manufacturer, but that they should go openly into the market and buy where they can get the article they want at the cheapest rate whether it be from the manufacturer or from the merchant. I admit that that is a very large question, and I have a sort of conviction that there is an enormous waste in connection with the publication of Blue Books and the printing for the House, but the Stationery Office has no control over it. Let me take the case of printed Bills introduced by private Members, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport. Now, the House has ordered the printing of Bills, and unless the House reforms its own procedure, it is absolutely impossible for the Stationery Office to exorcise any real economy in the matter. I should only be too glad, if it were possible, in some form or 1586 other to limit the extraordinary amount of printing for which the public have now to pay. I readily admit that a great many useless publications are issued, and, as far as I am concerned, I should most cordially welcome any proposal that would have the effect of limiting this expenditure. I can assure the Committee that from time to time, within the last 12 months, I have myself made strenuous efforts to induce hon. Members who have moved for Returns which seem to me to be of small public interest, to accept the presentation of the Returns giving the information sought for, and thus saving the country the enormous cost of printing them; but I can assure the Committee that I have met with very little sympathy in the efforts I have made in that direction, and I should be very glad indeed if the Committee would support me in future endeavours to limit that expenditure. We have extended what is called "the short list." We have endeavoured to limit and to place on that list all such papers as we think ought to be put on the short list. But from time to time we have complaints from hon. Members that they have not received their Papers, and as they are quite within their right in putting down their names to have all the Papers sent to them, their wish must be complied with. I may further remind the Committee that in regard to the question of the Stationery Office it has been quite recently the subject of investigation, by a Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) presided, and which I believe did extremely good service in connection with that matter. The whole question was most carefully gone into, and the cost of printing, partly from the result of the labours of that Committee, in connection with fresh contracts, has been enormously decreased; something like £30,000 a-year less being paid now than was paid formerly. Therefore, what I want the Committee to understand is this—that while I sympathize with what I cannot but feel is the general impression, that the amount of money expended in these publications is enormously large, it is almost impossible to adopt any measure for limiting the amount, unless Members of the House of Commons will themselves assist in carrying out that object. My hon. Friend the Member for Stock- 1587 port spoke of illustrating the Blue Books with costly engravings and coloured plates. I need hardly remind the House that as far as the Stationery Office is concerned, and as far as the control of the Stationery Office is concerned, they are absolutely powerless in. the matter. These Reports are issued by the Departments—many of them by the Foreign Office—and all we have to do is to accept them as they are presented and sent to the Stationery Office. All other questions must be dealt with by the Department itself. I am afraid that my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Board of Trade represents a Department which is largely responsible for many of these costly publications, although, no doubt, they have great public interest, and some of the matters to which they relate are of the utmost consequence. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport made some complaint as to the employment of women and girls.
§ MR. JACKSON
No doubt, the charge for porters is very large; but I can assure my hon. Friend that these porters are fully employed and are absolutely necessary, ft must be borne in mind that the Stationery Office have to deal with an enormous quantity of paper and of publications, and that they have to meet sudden demands which at any time may come upon them from various Departments. It is therefore absolutely necessary to keep up a large staff of porters. Indeed, I am afraid that it is absolutely essential to keep up at all times the maximum staff. As to the suggestions which have been made by the hon. Member for the Rotherham Division of Yorkshire about popularizing the Government publications, and insuring a large circulation of thorn among the constituencies, I can only give one word of caution on that subject—namely, that it certainly does not mean economy. It does not moan limiting the cost of the Stationery Office, because, although you may increase the circulation, it must be borne in mind that every one of these Government publications is sold at less than cast price. Therefore, the larger the circulation the more the Government have to pay out of pocket. I entirely sympathize with the views which have been expressed in regard to the wider circulation of Parliamentary Papers of 1588 general interest, and as fur as I can give effect to what I believe to be the view of the Committee with reference to such Reports I shall certainly do so. I have given general orders to the Stationery Office in regard to this question that they are always to bear in mind that whenever a Report is of itself an interesting document, and one likely to have a large circulation, it is, wherever practicable, to be issued as a separate Paper, so that it may be obtained at a small cost. This is especially desirable, I think, in a case where the details and the evidence are voluminous, and likely to be sold at a high price. In reference to another subject to which attention has also been called—namely, the printing of Acts of Parliament—hon. Members will be aware that we have been pressed from time to time to print such Acts at a small price. Acts of Parliament have been printed hitherto, and mainly published by one firm. It is the intention of the Government, in the future, to have the Acts printed under Government sanction and authority, and sold in the same way as other Government publications, which means practically the selling of them under cost price. It is thought desirable that everybody should be able to obtain the Acts of Parliament which are passed from year to year. The hon. Member for the Rotherham Division of Yorkshire spoke of the Report of the Commission on Technical Education being out of print. I understand that that Report is out of print; but I think the fact illustrates the difficulty of dealing with this Vote—namely, that it is almost impossible to gauge exactly the number of copies that may be required of any particular Paper. There has been no desire whatever to restrict the printing of this Paper. No doubt, from time to time the Office has sailed very close to the wind in the supply, and in this particular case the demand has exceeded the supply which was prepared. I understand that the Report will be reprinted if there is any general demand for it. Before I go further, I may say, in reference to the increase in the cost of the Papers, that it was found that last year's estimate was £15,000 less than the actual expenditure. Therefore, in the present Vote, we have taken a larger sum, although not a sum equivalent to that increase, because there has been a considerable reduction in prices 1589 by which we hope to make the two ends meet. Owing to certain changes which have been, made, and the probable saving which will be effected, we have been encouraged to take a sum of £10,000 less than we ought to have taken, having regard to the increase of last year's Estimate. The demands which are sometimes made upon us in consequence of the action of Parliament are difficult to estimate accurately. Let me take the case of the Post Office. In 1883, the cost of supplying the Post Office Department on the average of the two years preceding the introduction of the Parcels Post was £67,000; but the cost of supply in the following year was swollen up to a total of £88,000. Next year it dropped to £78,000, but that sum was nearly £12,000 higher than it was before the introduction of the Parcels Post. Then, again, with regard to the 6d. telegrams; in 1885, the year in which they were introduced, the cost of supplying the Telegraph Department rose to £89,000, or £22,000 in excess of the cost before the new 6d. telegrams were introduced. Similar changes have affected the cost of supplying to the Patent Office, the Bankruptcy Department, the Ordnance Office, the Revenue Department, and several others. The expenditure has jumped up from time to time in consequence of alterations which have been made in connection with the Department. It is scarcely necessary to remind hon. Members that it is not in the power of the Stationery Office to decide what shall appear in the Blue Books; all they have to do is to print that which is presented to them. In reference to what my right hon. Friend the Member for the Epping Division of Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) said as to the Blue Books being kept until a demand is made for them, I can assure the Committee that we have done everything to decrease even the number on the short list, and we shall be very glad to carry out that decrease still further. The right hon. Member for the Bright-side Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) made some remarks in reference to the reported sale of the Government copyrights. Now, I have no knowledge of any such transaction, and I believe it to be an entire misapprehension. What the Government have done is this—the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly aware 1590 that tenders wore advertised for in regard to the right of selling certain. Government publications; but that does not prevent the Government from exercising all the control it now possesses in regard to printing and publication. There has been no sale of the copyrights of the Government whatever, and there is no restriction imposed, as far as I know, upon anybody who desires to print extracts or summaries of Government publications.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
The hon. Member has not said whether he is in favour of the appointment of a Committee similar to that which sat in 1873–4 in regard to these questions.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
I may inform the hon. Member that the result of the inquiry of that Committee was to bring about a large decrease in the expenditure.
§ MR. JACKSON
I think I have now gone through, although, I am afraid, in a very discursive manner, most of the points which have been brought forward in the course of this discussion. I trust that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport will be satisfied with having brought the matter before the Committee, and I need hardly say, that as far as I am concerned, every suggestion which has been made with a view of-reducing the very large charge which is included in this Vote will be carefully considered, I trust that my hon. Friend will now withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. JENNINGS
I said, at the outset, that I did not consider that the expenditure involved in this Vote was one which was in the discretion of the Comptroller, or that any blame attached to him in regard to it. I consider that the statement of the Secretary to the Treasury is perfectly satisfactory, and, with the permission of the Committee, I will now withdraw the Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Before I proceed to move the Amendment I have placed on the Paper, I wish to make one remark upon an expression which foil from the hon. Gentleman the 1591 Secretary to the Treasury. The hon. Gentleman told us that the Blue Books, Parliamentary Papers, Reports, and Acts of Parliament are published at less than cost price. Now, I have here, in my hand, the Report of the Civil Service Commission, and I see the price at which it is sold is 1s. 3d As this is a matter with which I am practically acquainted, I may inform the hon. Gentleman that the cost of producing this Report is much, less than 1s.3d. For my own part, I should be delighted to deliver to him 10.000 copies at 6d. each, and I can assure him I should make a handsome profit out of the transaction. The cost of publishing a document of this kind is principally the cost of setting up, and is a first cost which does not affect the remainder of the copies. As a general rule, the cost is taken in this way—for 500 copies so much, and so much for all copies beyond 500. [Mr. JACKSON dissented.] Well, all I can say is, that I should be glad to take the contract myself. I have now to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Paper for the reduction of the Vote by £2,000 in regard to the publication of Parliamentary Debates and Records. The Committee will be aware that, at the present moment, the Parliamentary Debates are printed by Mr. Hansard. I am not complaining, in the least, that they are badly printed; but what I do complain of is that this item is excessive and unnecessary. In times gone by, the newspapers did not report our debates at length. The Times and other London daily paper, owing to the exigencies of printing, had to leave off reporting half an hour after midnight, and it was arranged that special reports should be taken by Hansard's reporters from half-past 12, and also when the House is in Committee of Supply, or in Committee upon a Bill. "With these exceptions, no special reports are taken for Hansard, and the entire reports of the debates of the House, distinguishing "the House" from "Committee," are cut out of The Times and sent to Members for correction. At present, everything that occurs in "the House," whether it is before half-past 12 or after, is taken from The Times; nor does Hansard have its own reporters there the only matters they report are the speeches which are delivered in Committee—such conversations as that 1592 which is now going on. The debates having been taken from The Times, sent to Members, and returned corrected, are then printed in Hansard. Now, it seems to me that the grant to Hansard is an entire waste of £5,150. The public are certainly not voracious in regard to the eloquence of this House when it is published. Of late, The Times have been republishing weekly a report of the speeches which have been delivered in Parliament during the week. The debates seem to me to be well done, and I think this republication would suffice for all practical purposes if it was taken in by Members and supplied to the library at a price of one guinea per annum. No doubt, it will be said that The Times does not report as fully as Hansard our proceedings in Committee; but, with, all respect for hon. Members, I do very much doubt whether anything beyond what appears in The Times is worth to the country £6,000 per annum. It seems to me that the reports in The Times are quite adequate to meet every general want. However, if a different opinion prevails, nothing would be more easy than to make an arrangement with The Times to take fuller reports than those which appear in the daily paper, and to put a little more into their weekly edition. I do not know why this sum of money has been kept up at this rate, except that it has been for a long time the habit of the House to take the reports of its proceedings from Hansard. Now, I do not know what Hansard is, whether it is a "Messrs." or a "Mr.," or whether it represents anybody of the name of Hansard at all. Moreover, I am not speaking in the interests of The Times, but simply in the interests of economy. I think the whole arrangement ought to be altered. We ought to be perfectly contented with The Times reports in the weekly form, particularly if supplemented in the way I have suggested. If it is objected that there would not be the same facility of correction that there is in the case of Hansard, then I confess that I am against such corrections. I often hear wonderful things fall from the lips of Ministers. I generally make a note at the time, in order to quote it afterwards; but I very frequently fail to find the particular expression I had noted. In the revised report I find the published 1593 speech, quite different from the spoken speech. Second thoughts are evidently best. Now, if the reports of our debates are to be official reports, let us have them officially reported. I do not understand having one speech delivered hers in the House and another put on record and sent out to people in the country. I will not say that a Minister ever says a foolish. thing; but very often he says what is not a wise thing, and he thinks it may be made a little hotter by altering it. It therefore comes to this—that we are paying £5,150 a-year in order that we may have fuller reports of proceedings in Committee than those which appear in The Times, and in order that Ministers, and other eminent Gentlemen, should have an opportunity of deluding and misleading the country by correcting their speeches, and sending out to the people speeches entirely different from those actually made in the House. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £2,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £334,260, be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I submit to the Committee that the question is somewhat more important than my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) appears to think from the notice he has taken of it. What I understand is this—that Mr. Hansard received notice at the beginning of the year that his arrangement with the Government would come to an end at the close of the year, and that the Treasury would meanwhile negotiate with, other firms. If that notice is acted upon the series of Hansard will cease with the volumes that will be issued for the present year, those volumes being the last of Hansard that will over be published. I wish the Secretary to the Treasury to tell the Committee whether that is the case or not. I believe I am not overstating the present position of the matter—namely, that Mr. Hansard will not continue to issue the usual debates after the end of the Session, or, at any rate, if there is an Autumn Session, after the end of this year. If that is so, I wish to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, what course the Government propose to take? Do they propose to arrange with any other 1594 I firm for the publication of our debates as they have been published by Mr. Hansard, or are we to have, in any shape, an official publication under the I control and responsibility of a Government Department? Now, I am myself very strongly of opinion that it would be objectionable in the last degree to make the publication of the debates of this House an official publication. We have been accustomed to the system of Mr. Hansard, and so far as the correction of speeches is concerned, to which my hon. Friend has jocosely referred, I think that is a matter of comparatively small importance. I cannot altogether agree with what my hon. Friend has said, nor do I think that we can expect that what may happen in the small hours of the morning will not be better given if the speakers are allowed to correct their speeches. But there is I another matter which appears to me to be of real importance in regard to the publication of the debates of this House. If the publication is made an official one, for which Government is to be responsible, I venture to predict that it will lead to a great multiplication of Questions at half-past 4 o'clock from Members complaining that their speeches have been misreported. They will assert that instead of having said one thing, they stated another, and Questions will be repeatedly asked whether their embellishments have not been omitted. Government is every year expected to do more and more; but the idea of creating an additional Government Service for the reporting of debates is to my mind about the worst function they could assume, and I hope and believe that the Treasury have not yet come to any such decision. I think, therefore, that it is important that we should hear from the Secretary to the Treasury whether the Government have, at this moment, agreed to any form of publication other than the present. At any rate, we are entitled to know whether the publication is to be an official one, or a service such as Mr. Hansard has supplied under his arrangement with the Government. The House must not be led to suppose that there is no danger of an official publication of the debates. In the hands of the present Secretary to the Treasury, we may be pretty safe; but, at the I same time, I cannot forget that official publication is almost the invariable rule 1595 abroad where parliamentary government exists. It is the rule in America, the rule in America of our Colonies, the rule in France, in Italy, and wherever there are Assemblies to be compared with our own. Therefore, there are many precedents for it; but I think that this House should set its face against official publication. I do not think we ought to add to the responsibilities of the Government, which are heavy enough, that of having under their charge the delicate question of the accuracy of the reports of the debates. That is the only point on which I think it is necessary to have an answer, and I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will not object to give me the information I desire at once, or as soon as he can, in order that the Committee may know and criticize what it is that the Government have in contemplation.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I think the speech which has just been delivered calls for a counterblast. I trust that we are within a measurable distance of the publication of something like, decent reports of the debates of this House. The right hon. Gentleman, with all his experience of Parliamentary tactics, could only meet the objection to our present system of reporting by an admission that every Legislative Assembly in the would that can be compared with the House of Commons docs publish an official report, and the right hon. Gentleman failed to show by what process of reasoning he arrives at the conclusion that the House of Commons should differ from every other Assembly in the world. I do not know what the Secretary to the Treasury has done in regard to Hansard; but I certainly think that the present arrangement is about as stupid a form of compromise as could possibly be devised. Let me inform the Committee what that arrangement is. All speeches which are made when a Bill is first brought in, unless they are reported in some newspaper, and can be copied by Hansard; and all speeches on the second reading are not reported in full, unless they happen to have been reported verbatim in some daily paper. But when we come to the Committee stage, there is not a sneeze that any hon. Member can make that is not taken down and given by the special staff of Hansard. As the result of this system, we have this extraordinary 1596 anomalous and imbecile state of things A debate upon the Second Heading of a Bill is given in 10 or 12 pages, although the speeches are of the utmost importance; and then, in Committee, we find 20 pages devoted to the speeches which are made upon the first clause of the same measure. In fact, there is no proportion whatever in the present system; what should be reported in a line is given verbatim, whereas what should have been given verbatim is given in lines. I am not surprised that the Secretary to the Treasury and the Government should desire to put an end to such a system, which is perfectly absurd. I have never, except on one melancholy occasion, revised a single copy of anything that has been sent to me by Hansard. It is quite bad enough to make speeches, without having to read them afterwards. Therefore, my speeches go down to posterity unconnected by me; and I do not hold myself responsible for them. But the speeches made in this House are part of the history of the country, and I am surprised that so experienced a Parliamentarian as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Guilders) should not realize that fact. Let me give an illustration of it. I do not suppose there was ever a speech delivered in this House to which history looked with greater curiosity and interest than the first speech made by the late Lord Beaconsfield. Everybody knows that it was a failure, and that it wound up with one of the most self-confident prophecies soon to be realized, ever made—I mean the passage in which Mr. Disraeli declared that although the House would not listen to him then, the time would come when it would do so. That was in 1837, and since then there have been revolutionary changes in newspaper Parliamentary reporting. In nearly all the popular daily papers we now find the most imperfect reports of Parliamentary proceedings. The newspapers themselves cannot help it. They find that there are a great many things the public care more for than the long speeches delivered here. The only newspaper that attempts to report the speeches at anything like decent length is The Times. [An hon. MEMER: And The Standard.] And The Standard to some extent. But The Tunes reports are extremely imperfect, because they dif- 1597 ferentiate—it is very natural that they should—the speeches made by Members of the Front Benches. When a Minister speaks, every word is given; but if any hon. Friend below me the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) makes one of his sparkling speeches, "which would not only be read, but keenly devoured by the country, I find that not even The Daily News gives one half of it. At the time Mr. Disraeli made the speech to which I have referred, in December, 1837, there were none of the long continental telegrams we have now, and the debates in this House were reported at full length. What was the result? Mr. Disraeli was reported almost in full, and the people for generations, perhaps oven for centuries to come, who may desire to road the speech, can do so by going to one of the papers of the period; and my modesty permits me to say that there is even a more ready way of finding the speech. Weil, supposing Mr. Disraeli had come into this Parliament for the first time, and had made a maiden speech in 1887 instead of 1837, it would have been crushed into three lines, and the result would have been that future Parliaments and future generations would have no record of the remarks he made upon so memorable an occasion. I do not know what other Members think of the matter; but I regard the history even of the present time as quite as important as the history of the country 10 or 17 centuries ago. Only a few-moments ago, we wore discussing a Vote for the purpose of publishing MSS. which throw a light upon the condition of affairs in the world some centuries before, or two or three centuries after, the foundation of Christianity. I not only did not begrudge that money, but I brought to bear as much pressure as I was able to upon the Secretary to the Treasury to induce him to increase the grant; because, in my opinion, history, besides the interest which is attached to it, is the signpost, the warning, and the guide with regard to polities, as well as legislation. To my mind, the history of to-day is as important as the history of 10 centuries ago; and I think that if for £5,000, or £10,000, or £20,000—[An hon. MEMBER: Or £40,000.] Yes, or £40,000, we can secure an accurate report of all the proceedings of this House, the money will be well 1598 spent. The money would be well spent in order to preserve to future generations the words used in this House. I might be told that a great deal of rubbish would find its way into the reports; but is not that the case just now? Besides, I should like to know what is rubbish, and what is not rubbish. What a man says to-day when he is below the Gangway may be rubbish so long as he is there; but it becomes sacred gospel when he changes his place to the Treasury Bench. In the debates on the Irish Church Question in 1867—I think it was—I do not think there was a speech delivered which did not contain some reference to Mr. Disrael's utterances with regard to Ireland many years before. The speech in which he referred to Ireland as being alien in race and religion was brought forward over and over again, and I think very properly, and what did Mr. Disraeli say in reply to such references? Why, he said that at the time he made the speech it did not appear to him to excite so much attention—it seemed to him to be pouring water into the sand; but now it would seem as though the water had come from a golden god. But that put my argument into a nutshell—what a man says from any part of this House may become a part of the history, not only of the man himself, but of the country of which he is one of the politicians; and I therefore say, that though trifling and irrelevant observations may sometimes find their way into Hansard, I would take the risk of that, and I would say that this country, like every other country, ought to have something like an authentic national record of the proceedings of its Parliament. For these reasons I take an entirely opposite view to that of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken; and so long as I am in this House I would urge on the Government the desirability of conforming, in the matter of official reports in this Assembly, with the practice which prevails in every other Assembly of the kind in the world. There is one point in the statement of my hon. Friend to which I would specially allude. I wonder at my hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) proposing that The Times reports should be taken in this matter. In the first place, I say The Times reports—I do not say The Times is to blame for it, but from the necessities of the case—make 1599 an essential distinction between the speeches of different Members of this House. In the first place, an official Member gets a great deal more space than an unofficial Member; in the second place, an English Member gets a great deal more space than an Irish Member; in the third place, an Irish Member gets a great deal more space than a Scotch Member—[No, no!"]; in the fourth place, a Scotch Member gets a great deal more space than a Welsh Member—[Renewed cries of "No, no!"] Well, I will leave Scotland and Wales to fight the question out between themselves; but my experience certainly is that the Irish Members are very unfairly treated in comparison with the manner in which official and unofficial English Members of this House are treated, and that the Scotch and Welsh Members are unfairly treated even as compared with the Irish Members. I say it would be unfair to ask us to take, as an official record, reports which are prepared not on the principle of fairplay between all the Members, but on a system of preference between one Member and another. I will not find fault if the Secretary to the Treasury changes the present arrangement, unless I find that he is going to drive Hansard back into the old ruts. If he is doing that I think he is taking a very retrograde step, because many hon. Gentlemen take up Hansard I suppose in the innocent belief that they are reading the reports which are taken by the independent staff employed by Mr. Hansard. As a matter of fact, that is not the case. The only part of our proceedings now taken by Mr. Hansard's own reporters are those in Committee—I do not know whether they do not take the Report stage of the bills; but I rattier think they do. the rest of the report is cut from the different newspapers, and if the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury withdraws from Mr. Hansard the grant which he has given in previous years, the Committee stage of Bills will be reduced to the same condition as the others, and the reports, instead of being independent reports, will be taken omnium gatherum from the newspapers of the country.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
When the discussion took place on last year's Vote, I listened with very great interest and attention to what was said, with the 1600 view of ascertaining, if I could, what was the general fooling of the Members of the Committee, and I felt then, as I feel now, that the present condition of the arrangements for reporting our debates is not one which is satisfactory to Members of the House. Sir, when I made inquiries as to how the arrangements stood, I found that, although there was some uncertainty as to whether notice was necessary to be given is order to terminate the existing arrangements before any modification of such arrangements could be made, it would only be fair and reasonable that, at any rate, we should err on the side of dealing quite fairly with those who now publish Hansard's Debates. Therefore, I caused notice to be given to terminate the agreement. That was the first step which was necessary in order to enable us to act with free hands. There have been no arrangements made with regard to what should take place in the future. I was very anxious to hear what the Committee had to say. As the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool has said, there are official reports in most other countries; but I must point out that if an official report is undertaken in this country, I am quite sure that the cost will have to be enormously increased over the sum we now pay. I would go further, and say that I entirely sympathize—speaking my own personal views after inquiries on this question—with what the light hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) has said, that it would be a most unwise proceeding on the part of the Government to accept the great responsibility of publishing an official report. I think the Committee will also feel—and in this I sympathize with the views expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool—that there ought to be some record of the debates and transactions which take place in this House, and not only in this House, but also in the other House of Parliament. It must be remembered that Hansard deals not only with debates in this House, but also with debates in the other House of Parliament. I think it will be the general opinion of the Committee that something will have to be done in order to preserve a record of what takes place in Parliament, and that, therefore, some arrangement will 1601 have to Lo made. Sir, as a question of cost, I believe that in the United States, where an official report is published, the cost is, or was, about £50,000 a-year. [An hon. MEMBER: Not dollars?] No; pounds. I believe there has been some reduction obtained on that of late, understand that the following countries have official reports of debates:—Austria, Prance, Germany, Italy, the United States, Victoria, Queensland, and Now Zealand. The following have official reports—that is to say, reports published at the public cost, the work being done by contractors—in the other case it is done entirely by a staff, under the control of the Government:—Nova Scotia, Now Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and South Australia. In the following there are reports published by private enter-prize, without, apparently, any official authority being; attached to them:—Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, the Capo of Good Hope, New South Wales, and Tasmania. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Are those reports in full?] I believe they are full reports; but they are left entirely to private enterprize. Well, there are several alternatives open to us. One is to publish, an official report; another is to improve or modify the existing arrangement; and a third would be to make an arrangement with some new firm. I have said that notice was given to Mr. Hansard early, to enable the Government to act. That notice will not take effect until the end of this Session. I need hardly say, with, regard to those who are responsible for the publication of Hansard's Debates, that publication having gone on from the year 1803 consecutively and continuously, some consideration is due to them when it is proposed to break up an arrangement of that kind. I am sure the Committee will not desire in any sense to treat Mr. Hansard unfairly or unfavourably in the matter. I am not in a position to say what course will be taken; but I have listened to what has been said, and I will endeavour to inform myself still further as to what is most agreeable to the House. My own impression leans to the making of a modified arrangement, because I think there are two points to bear in mind; one is the question of cost, and the other the question of time—so that the reports will be published in good time, so as to be in the 1602 hands of Members a little earlier than they have been hitherto. But the position is simply this—that we have given notice, so that our hands are free, and we shall endeavour to make arrangements that will be satisfactory to the House.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
I beg to remind the Committee that a Select Committee, under the Presidency of the present Leader of the House, sat to consider the question of Parliamentary reporting in 1878, and made a Report in 1879. Two Reports were submitted, one of which recommended an official report of the same nature as that which at present exists; and for that 10 Members of the Committee voted. Three Members voted for an altogether official report. With regard to cost, when this Select Committee—of which I was a Member—was sitting, an offer was made by a gentleman to do the whole of the reporting of the House—I do not know that it was actually an offer; but his representation was considered of sufficient importance to be printed along with the Report of the Committee. This gentleman, who was the proprietor of a publication issued for some years called Lords and Commons, undertook to present 1,200 copies of the debates in both Houses of Parliament to the Members of those Houses, the report to appear twice a-week, for the sum of £3,500. From inquiries I myself made at that time, I came to the conclusion that a much more voluminous report than that supplied by Hansard at that time could be had for less than £5,000. Of course, there was a difficulty raised as to the responsibility of an official report; but in answer to that it was pointed out that the Government could not altogether divest itself of responsibility under the existing arrangement, looking at the large sum already paid to Mr. Hansard. I think if the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would consult some of the experienced reporters in this House, he would find it possible to organize a complete system of reporting much more satisfactory than that now adopted, at very little more than, if so much as, the present cost. I quite sympathize with what the hon. Gentleman said with regard to the consideration due to Mr. Hansard, having regard to his having carried on the publication of a report of our debates at a time when 1603 no other person was prepared to undertake the responsibility. Doubtless, Mr. Hansard's reports are considered of great value. With regard to the Select Committee which I have referred to, I myself made a draft Report which was supported at that time by a Gentleman of considerable experience in matters relating to reporting; I refer to Mr. Joseph Cowen, who was then Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. That Gentleman considered with me that it would be more satisfactory to Members of the House if there were a staff of reporters attached to the House, who would be responsible for reporting the speeches in the House. Such a staff—a most competent one—could be selected amongst the staffs of the newspapers, without the slightest difficulty. I am sure a number of gentlemen could be found who would report the speeches of Members in this House to the satisfaction of everyone. The gentleman who made the offer to which I have referred said he was prepared to undertake the reporting to the satisfaction of the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons. I trust the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will consider this matter. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) will recollect a great deal of the evidence that was given before the Select Committee. Things have changed very much since then, and probably the cost of getting out a report would be much greater now than it was estimated in those days; but I would point out that probably the development which has taken place in type-writing and other means would enable the reports to be issued much more easily and quickly than formerly.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I do not feel very strongly one way or the other regarding an official report; but I do feel very strongly with reference to the present system. I am strongly opposed to its continuance in any shape or form whatever. At the present time you have what is neither an official report nor yet an accurate report, and you spend as much upon it as would probably enable you to give an accurate report. At the present time this Report is simply a speculation on the part of Messrs. Hansard and Co., and the basis upon which they act is this—if they think they can sell a large number of their 1604 copies, they give instructions to their reporters to report more fully than they otherwise would do the speeches which are delivered. Latterly, Members of the House have not been in the habit of buying so many copies, and the result has been that Hansard has been curtailing its reports. With regard to an official report, I do not think we ought to have one under the control of the Government. The Government would be badgered night after night regarding it; but I think the report could be carried out under the supervision of a Committee—a Committee like the Committee of Selection. You might have a Committee of Reporting, and upon every question coming before that Committee the decision of the Committee should be final and binding. I do not think there would be any objection to such au arrangement as that. There is this great argument in favour of an accurate report of some kind—namely, that just as our constituents have a right to know how we vote, so, to a certain extent, they have a right to know what we say in their names here. I am not very strong on the point as to whether your report ought to be official or otherwise; but I am very strongly opposed to the continuance of incorrect reports. The junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) said the other day in reply to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) that though the Hansard report very often is condensed, yet you could not find in it what has not been said. Now, my experience has been the reverse of what I have found in Hansard. I have only opened it once this year.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I do not think I went the length the hon. Member attributes to me. What I said was that I could not understand how the process of compression could bring in words which had never been used.
§ DR. CLARK
the reporting is so wonderful that sometimes what has not been stated is put down as having been uttered. You get the reports sent to you for revision, For my own part, I pitch them into the waste paper basket, because I will not revise incorrect speeches. The speeches of hon. Members, except those who sit on the Front Benches, are so condensed that one cannot make anything out of them as to accuracy. The cost of this is a very 1605 serious matter, and, from the standpoint of expediency and economy, I sympathize very much with the remarks of the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). I think the present system is a very bad one, and if Hansard is continued next year we shall do what we did last year, and what we shall have to do in the future—namely, protest against the public money being spent upon an incorrect report sent out by a private firm.
§ MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I think it would be little short of a national calamity if the publication we know as Hansard were to be discontinued by this House. It has become so popular that, in the Dominion of Canada, the name has even been adopted for the official reports of the Canadian House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) complains of the inaccuracy of the reports; but I would remind him that hon. Members themselves are very often to blame for many of these inaccuracies. The reports of their speeches are sent to Members for revision, and Members sometimes desire to substitute for the reports so sent to them speeches which they have not made. For myself, my complaint would be not that the reports are inaccurate and too much condensed, but that matter of trivial importance—some speeches in Committee—are given at undue length. The Irish Members get a full share of the reports. I do not, so far as I am concerned, throw into the waste paper basket reports which are courteously sent me for revision; but I endeavour to make them as accurate as possible. Hon. Members from Ireland get at least their due share of reports—three-fourths of the speeches reported being theirs. I trust that, before coming to a decision and discontinuing the valuable reports supplied by Mr. Hansard, the Government will give this matter the most careful consideration.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, S.W., Bootle)
I do not often trouble the House with my opinion; this is the first time, indeed, that I have spoken in these debates. I must say, however, that though I do not very often agree with the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), having heard his speech on this occasion I can thoroughly en- 1606 dorse what he said. I frequently—in fact, I may say almost always—agree with the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury; but on this occasion, as I understand his speech, I cannot quite agree with him. I understand him to say that he contemplates—I hope he will forgive me if I am misquoting him—the possibility of handing over the reporting of speeches in this House to some unofficial source—probably to a newspaper firm. Now, I must say that that is a course I strongly oppose. I should not like the reporting of speeches in this House to be placed in the hands of any newspaper—no matter how eminent—over whom the House has no authority whatever; and 1 should deprecate the placing of the official reporting of the speeches of Members of this House in the hands of any newspaper staff whatever. There are influences brought to bear on the reporting Staff and the newspapers of this country which, under certain easily conceivable circumstances, would be adverse to the interests of the country; and I hope that the reporting of the proceedings of this House will be full, and, above all things, correct, whatever the circumstances may be. I would advocate that there should be an official report of the speeches of Members of this House kept for reference—a report which shall be correct in all respects, and which should be under the control of a Committee formed from all sections of this House. I endorse the opinion of the hon. Member who spoke last, that it would be little short of a national calamity if Hansard, which has recorded the speeches of so many Members of this House, were done away with to make way for a newspaper report as the official record of the speeches delivered in this House.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The system that has been pursued up to now is precisely the system which, according to the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston), will bring the country to ruin. There is no official report at the present moment—Hansard is practically unofficial. Hansard is a publishing firm. The reports are now in the hands of newspapers, because Hansard takes his reports from The Times. The Secretary to the Treasury made an important statement to-night. He said he had given notice to Hansard, and intended to make some fresh arrangement next 1607 year. He was anxious to hear what were the views of the Committee upon the point. Now, the Committee is not very full at the present moment, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman will acquire the full views of the Committee from the speeches make this evening. I hope the hon. Gentleman will place the matter in the hands of some Committee to look thoroughly into it before we bind ourselves to any further arrangement. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers)—I think it would be a very great mistake to have an official report. We have been told that we ought to have such a report for the use of future generations. Now, I think future generations will care uncommonly little about what we are saying at the present time. Future generations will not care to look back at our debates, and I think that even if they do we ought not to minister to their folly. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) thinks it is really desirable that there should be tin official report, and he actually quoted the figure of £10,000 a-year as the sum we ought to spend in order to make a complete historical record of our debates. The hon. Gentleman said that it would be worth while spending this £40,000, and he pointed out that if we had spent this sum for a considerable number of years past we should be able to turn to the first speech, of Mr. Disraeli. We know what Mr. Disraeli said at the end of his speech—namely, that the House would hear him someday. That was the only interesting part of Mr. Disraeli's speech. Probably the House was exceedingly wise in not listening to the speech, and probably, if we know what he said, we should not pay much attention to it. Now, you have in America a Congressional Record, and what is the result? The debates are not reported in other newspapers, and nobody reads The Congressional Record. The person would be looked upon as a lunatic who sat down to his Congressional Record, which is only published to gratify the stupid and silly vanity of the Members of Congress themselves. Let us quite understand what happens. Let us suppose that a Gentleman has spoken for five minutes, and nobody has been listening to his speech, he may move 1608 that the rest of his speech be taken as spoken and printed in The Congressional Record. If we could introduce some such system here, I should be rather inclined to vote in favour of a Congressional Record; but what I want to point out particularly is, that the public do not take an interest in this official record, but are satisfied with the reports they get in the newspapers. As a rule, a quick speaker speaks a column in 15 minutes, so that a Sitting of 10 hours' duration will yield about 40 columns of speeches. The fact is that the newspapers take a practical view of this matter; they know pretty well what the public want, and they give the public what they want. It has been, complained that official speeches are published atgreater length than the speeches of independent Members. It is only natural that such should be the case. A Minister speaks as a Representative of the entire Government; and it is more desirable, from the point of view of the public, that his speech should be reported than that the eloquence, which may be greater, of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway should be recorded. A newspaper is always having complaints from some persons that it does not report sufficiently lengthily. Constituents like to see reports of the speeches of their Members. [An. hon. MEMBER: Not all.] Not all; but some do. No doubt, a Member always likes to see himself reported as lengthily as possible; but the general public do not, and if a newspaper were to give all speeches, it would be found that there would be a very vast amount of repetition. I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to the reporters for not reporting us fully, for what would the public say of us if they did? They would see we stammer and stutter; that we very often use the wrong word instead of the right word; that we frequently do not finish our phrases; and that our phrases are very rarely grammatical. I wish hon. Gentlemen could see a few speeches reported verbatim; I wish gentlemen in the Gallery would report a few speeches verbatim, in order to convince hon. Gentlemen of the miserable figures they cut when their words are taken down verbatim. As I have said, I trust we shall have a Committee to look into this subject. I will not prejudge the decision of the Committee; but I do believe a Committee will be 1609 opposed to any official record. I look upon Hansard as a kind of middleman. Subscribe to some sort of record—The Times, if you like, or any record which is considered sufficiently full—but, in the name of goodness, I do hope we shall not have verbatim reports, and that we shall have no official record. The Amendment I have proposed has done what I wanted—namely, concentrated the discussion a little on this point; and, therefore, with the permission of the Committee, I beg to withdraw it.
§ MR. JACKSON
the hon. Gentleman haw really expressed much better than I can my views. We consider that some Committee should be appointed to consider the subject before a final decision is arrived at.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I understand that no final arrangement will be made until a Committee has been appointed and reported. Now, I only wish to make one observation. My hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) is mistaken in supposing I said I was willing to spend £40,000 a-year upon an official report. An official report would not cost £40,000 a-year, or anything like it. If the hon. Gentleman would seriously consider the question, he would rind that he could get the work done for £10,000 a-year at the very most.
MR. SINCLAIR&c.) (Falkirk,
I have a practical question to ask—namely, when it is proposed this Committee shall sit? We are approaching the end of the Session, and, of course, there is no time now to consider the subject. If the Committee is not to sit until next Session, the present arrangement must continue for some time longer.
§ MR. JACKSON
I think I had better say at once that I do not propose to appoint a Select Committee in the ordinary sense of the word; but what I propose to do is to ask certain Members of the House to form a Committee to assist the Department in coming to some decision as to what the arrangement should be in the future. Some difficulty exists in the matter. In all probability a Select Committee could not report before the end of the Session, while it is very necessary that before the commencement of next Session we should make some arrangement or other.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.1610
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. T. P. GILL (Louth, S.)
I wish that we should receive some statement from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) as to the working of the Commission on the Bre-hon Laws. I find that instead of there being a saving of £200 there is a second £200 put down, and we are anxious to know what is being done for the money. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Colonel King-Harman) informed me recently, in reply to a Question, that the translation of these laws is being conducted by Professor Atkinson, in Dublin. Now, the proceedings of the Brehon Laws Commission in the discharge of work which, I venture to think, is one of the most important literary, archæological, and historical enterprises which has ever been undertaken by any of the historical societies in Ireland, are simply scandalous—the money which is spent on the Commission at the present time is simply wasted. This Commission was first appointed in the year 1857, and it employed for the purpose of translating these laws, upon the importance of which I will not dwell, two very well-known Celtic scholars, perhaps the most celebrated Celtic scholars who have lived in Ireland during the century—namely, Dr. O'Donovan and Professor O'Curry. The system under which these scholars were set to work was such as deserves the utmost condemnation, for it has hindered and marred, to a great extent, the efficacy of the work they undertook. They were paid by the day; 10s. a-day was paid to each of the two finest Celtic scholars in Europe, and for every day they did not attend at the office in Trinity College a day's pay was stopped. They did not take vacations lest their pay should be stopped. The consequence was that both of them died early. As is, unfortunately, often the case with eminent literary men, these gentlemen were needy. They had large families, and having to work in this fashion, not being able to take a day's rest for fear that a day's pay would be stopped from their stipends, both of them died at an early age, and before their work was finished. The work began at the latter end of 1857, or the beginning of 1858. Dr. O'Donovan died in 1861, and Pro- 1611 fessor O'Curry died a year afterwards. These gentlemen were killed by the system. From the day Professor O'Curry died to the present moment, there has never been, as a matter of actual fact, one line of those laws genuinely translated. This most important subject, which requires a specialist of such skill, of such rare knowledge and rare accomplishments as these two men possessed to deal with it, has actually been in abeyance since the death of these gentlemen; and the volumes of the laws which had been published—the last was published in 1879, 18 years after the death of Professor O'Curry, and 19 years after the death of Dr. O'Donovan—are simply compilations consisting of the work of these two gentlemen. As I have said, this Commission has been re-organized. I am inclined to believe it was not re-organized until one evening last year. I and some of my hon. Friends put a Question to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury concerning these laws, because until that time since the publication of the last Report the question had never been raised in the House. Before the Commission was re-organized it had actually ceased to exist, and yet was drawing money from this House. The Commissioners had died off one by one, and only one member of the original Commission, Dr. Graves, was living. As I have said, the translation of these laws is of the greatest archæological and historical value and importance. Anybody who knows anything about these laws knows that they are studied by scholars all over Europe, because they are capable of throwing most valuable light upon the jurisprudence in general, and upon the history of the Constitutional development of the Irish people. The laws existed before Christianity was introduced into Ireland, and were codified and reedited when St. Patrick came to the country.
§ MR. AIRD (Paddington, N.)
Mr. Courtney, I rise to Order. I desire to know from you, Sir, whether the hon. Gentleman is speaking to the point?
§ MR. T. P. GILL
The translation of these laws and their publication is a work in which scholars and men who take interest in such matters all over Europe are most deeply interested. The constitution of the Commission, 1612 with, perhaps, the exception of two gentlemen, is perfectly absurd. Lord Ashbourne is Chairman of the Commission, I the Bishop of Limerick is another Member; he is one of those who, we may say, are really qualified to act upon the Commission; he was a member of the last Commission, and he is a well-known Irish scholar. Then there is Mr. Porter, the Master of the Rolls, what zeal or qualification he has for such work I do not know, neither do I know what qualification Judge William O'Brien has for such work, and so on. Perhaps Professor Ingham is another of those who may be considered as qualified for such a task; but the reconstitution of the Commission, as a whole, is absurd. As a most convincing and conclusive proof of that, we have only to consider that the gentleman in whose hands the Commission have placed the translation of these laws is Professor Atkinson, a gentleman who is assailed and jeered at by every man in Ireland who has any knowledge of Celtic literature. Professor Stokes, one of the best known Celtic scholars in the world, referring to Professor Atkinson in an article recently published in The Academy, a very well-known literary newspaper, says that Professor Atkinson is thoroughly incompetent to deal with the subject with which he has been entrusted; that he is incapable of correctly speaking, writing, transcribing, or translating three consecutive sentences of any Celtic tongue; unable to decline a common Celtic noun, or conjugate a common Celtic verb. I do not think there has ever been an instance in which failure, and incompetency, and waste has been so singularly exhibited as in the whole of the proceedings of this great Law Commission for the past 30 years. They have produced four volumes which do not contain the work of any scholar except that of the two scholars who died, the last in 1861. £200 is set down in the Stationery Vote in respect of this work. I ask the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jackson) to take some steps by which the present state of affairs may be put an end to, to take the work out of the hands of this incompetent gentleman, who has a great many qualifications as regards other languages, but who in regard to the Celtic language in which these laws are written has no qualification whatever, as the evidence of all scholars who know any- 1613 thing about the subject goes to show. I ask the hon. Gentleman to take the work out of Professor Atkinson's hands, and to re-organize the Commission—to appoint men who do know something about the subject, and who have a certain amount of enthusiasm for Irish historical matter. I trust the hon. Gentleman will place upon the Commission active Celtic scholars, of whom there are many in Ireland, and even those men from France and Germany who take an interest in the translation of these laws.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I quite agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. T. P. Gill) that the translation of these laws is a matter of the very greatest importance. The code of ancient laws contained in these manuscripts is acknowledged to be one of the most remarkable in the civilized ancient world. The original manuscripts from which these volumes have been prepared were given to Trinity College by Edmund Burke so long ago as 1790, with a request that some time or other the College authorities would have them translated. At that time no man living could understand the language in which the laws were written; no Irish scholar could translate the language. About 30 years ago there did arise in Ireland two men who, for the first time in modern, history, were able to comprehend this ancient Irish text, and a Commission was then issued for the purpose of arranging for the translation of these manuscripts into the English, tongue. My hon. Friend the Member for South Louth has described the way in which these two men were treated. There is no use, however, in going back on that now, but I say the same system prevails to-day. Nothing could be more monstrous or outrageous than to see ordinary common clerks in the Record Office at Dublin, men of no attainments beyond that of ordinary civil servants, drawing £500 a-year, and men of attainments absolutely unique, labouring 12 hours a day, doing work which no other man who had lived for 100 years could do, or any man living in Europe could do, obtaining the princely reward of 10s. a-day, a reward which was denied to them if upon, any day they failed to attend to their work. The system is a disgrace, to the people who employed them. These men passed away, and they left behind them a monument of patient labour which has not 1614 been surpassed in similar work in any country in the world. They left behind them a complete transcript of the whole of these ancient laws, gathered together from the Bodleian, the British. Museum, Trinity College, and other Colleges. They loft also a complete translation so far as they could translate the text into the English language; but considerable passages were omitted because they were not able to be certain of them. Men, however, who know nothing of the Irish language in comparison with Dr. O'Donovan and Professor O'Curry have undertaken to translate passages which, were left blank. It may be asked what do we want the Government to do? There is but one course left for the Government to take up, and that is to move the work of translating these manuscripts from the hands of men who who are about as capable of doing it as I am—to publish the work of these two Professors to whom I have referred, every word of which is worth its weight in gold. I would urge the Government to do this, and not to go on spending money recklessly, without voting money which would simply be wasted. I maintain that every word that these two Professors have written will commend itself to scholars. Scholars well know when they take the work of these two men into their hands that they have got the truth. There may be defects in their work, but the defects will not be absolute inaccuracies. Every single Hue they wrote is of great value; in their work you are certain of accuracy; and I would, therefore, ask the Government to break up the present Commission, and to give orders to some intelligent man to ascertain whether the documents as prepared by Professors O'Donovan and O'Curry cannot be given to the world. If that were done, I say the publication would be one of immense value. What scholars desire to know is, if they cannot he certain that they have got the whole truth, at any rate, that they have not got the truth mixed up with, falsehood in inextricable confusion. Let some intelligent man examine the documents and see if they are not in such a shape as they can be given to the world. If that is done the publication will be one of great value to the scientific world. There is no doubt, in ray opinion, that the money the Government is at present spending' upon this publication can be better em- 1615 ployed. The Commission who had the task in hand undertook to carry it on after the death of those who had commenced it. That Commission, however, was mainly composed of men who had no knowledge of the subject, and as; time went on the difficulties which beset them in the matter accumulated enormously. They would not, owing to reasons which I will not enter into, put the work into the hands of the next best men, who were the most capable men in Ireland of performing it. They confined the work and the money that was to be made out of it to a narrow clique in Ireland. Of course, they could not get the work done at all, under these circumstances in a decent and respectable way. They employed Dr. Hancock—a man who had no knowledge of the Irish language whatever, although he was, no doubt, very learned in other matters. Then they employed Dr. Mitchell, a person also deficient in knowledge of the Irish language. They then got a certain Professor O'Mahoney, of Trinity College, to assist them. This gentleman, no doubt, did know Irish; but I do not think his knowledge was of a very complete kind. Some years ago Dr. O'Mahonoy died, and most of the Commissioners died, and the work remained in a state of torpor, no one seeming to take any interest in it. Some years ago the Commission transferred the entire stock of original translations into the hands of Dr. Atkinson, a man who is a Professor, and who had no more knowledge of the Irish language than any Gentleman in this House. He applied himself to the study of that language a few years ago, and I believe has acquired a superficial knowledge of it. But I think that for such a man to be entrusted with the work of translation of these manuscripts—a work which has defied the most learned men of our country for centuries—is absurd on the face of it. It is perfectly ridiculous that such a gentleman as this should be entrusted with the work which has occupied the attention of the greatest Irish scholars, and has only yielded up its secrets to men of the typo of Dr. O'Donovan and Dr. O'Curry. What I object to in this matter is not alone the waste of money which occurs, because the amount is not very extravagant. My complaint is not alone that the money is absolutely thrown away, but that we are to have 1616 given to the world a publication of this great body of laws, which are of enormous importance from the point of view of the study of Irish antiquities, where absolute accuracy is of the greatest importance, and that we should have to depend entirely for accuracy and truthful translation upon such a person as Dr. Atkinson—a man who has the audacity to say that he makes such alterations in Dr. O'Donovan's translations as, it is reasonable to infer, Dr. O'Donovan, if he had been alive, would be inclined to make himself. Did anyone ever hear of such audacity on the part of a man who was not fit to tie the latchet of Dr. O'Donovan's shoe? Then he goes on at a later period to explain the system upon which he intends to carry on all the rest of this work. He points out that he is actually at present engaged in turning to account all the materials which have been accumulated by his predecessors. He say she is engaged in translating, in supplying omissions, and in correcting the errors which cannot but be regarded as blemishes. Well, these books it seems are to be published, and no one is to know what are the corrected errors and the supplied omissions of this Professor Atkinson—the errors being those of Dr. O'Donovan, and the work in which the omissions are supplied being also that of that eminent Professor. You might just as well put into that man's hands the original text of Homer, ask him to correct according to his own ideas of rhythm and sense, and to publish it to the world as the true work of Homer, in which only such corrections have been made as it was reasonable to infer that Homer himself would have made if he had been alive. Such a course of action I look upon not merely as a gross scandal and waste of time and money, but as something far worse, and I think that if the Government cannot see their way to do what I suggest they should stop this work altogether. Let the work die out—let these books be locked up in one of the safes of the Irish Academy—we should then be spared the publication of books which profess to give that which they do not give, and which in the end will be found out to be impostures, and only valuable as waste paper. The man who has undertaken this great work is not even conversant with dialects of the modern Irish, or with any of its ancient 1617 dialects. I fail to see how it is possible I for any work dealing with the antiquities of Ireland to be so feeble as a work carried on in the way I describe. Three volumes of those manuscripts are well known in Irish history, and are said to have been written by St. Patrick. I do not believe that there exists a body of ancient laws so valuable as this book Seanchus Mor, which is well known in authentic history to have Leon composed by St. Patrick when he took the laws of the ancient Kings of Ireland and compared them with the Gospels. Those laws have descended in ancient manuscripts of such a character as to lead one to believe that they were undoubtedly laid down in the fifth century. One of the books is even more ancient, and was written by one of the great Kings of Ulster who; retired to the Island of Achill, and engaged himself in this task. The value of the translations is absolutely and entirely dependent on the trust you can repose in the scholarly accuracy and knowledge of the translators. When you introduce the element of ignorance into the translations you destroy the whole value of the book, because in certain difficult passages, where a man takes upon himself to alter the translation of a scholar more eminent than himself and better acquainted with the subject, it is very reasonable to suppose that the inaccuracy is likely to be on his part. If a scholar were able to say "every word in this book bears the sanction of: such men as O'Donovan and O'Curry," he would know that the work was to be relied upon as having the sanction of the greatest scholarship Ireland was able to I produce; but when the work is "corrected" and added to by a man who has no scholarly qualifications for the work he has undertaken, the whole work must become entirely valueless. The student never can know where the translation is to be relied upon—he will always be at a loss to know whether he has the authority of the scholar, or whether he is simply under the guidance I of the ignorant person who "corrects" the scholar. I would, in conclusion, I urge the Government to do what I suggest, and to give us some assurance that either the original transcriptions and translations will be published in the form in which they left the hands of the great scholars I have alluded to, or else 1618 that the work will be suspended altogether.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I will not pretend to follow the two hon. Gentlemen who have discussed this question of the translation of the Brehon Laws; but I think everyone who has listened to these Gentlemen, particularly to the hon. Gentleman for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), must feel that there is a great deal of force in what has been said as to the desirability of setting, at all events, an accurate publication of this work in the form in which it left the hands of the great scholars who have been referred to. All I can say is that I will, without delay draw attention to the subject of tills Commission as it exists at the present time, and of the views of hon. Members who have given so much attention to the matter. Hon. Members could hardly expect me to promise more than that. I am quite sure that the views they have expressed will be received by the Commission with respect, and will have that importance attached to them which they deserve. I promised, in answer to representations which were made to me last year, to consider this subject, and it was in performance of that promise, owing to representations of hon. Gentlemen, that I made the allowance in respect of this Vote.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
(10.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £13,761, 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 1888, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Woods, Forests, and Laud Revenues, and of the Office of the Land Revenue Records and Inrolments.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
There are one or two items in this Report of the Woods and Forests Department which I should like to press upon the attention of the Treasury, with the view of putting a stop to the further sale of Crown rights either to piers, salmon fishings, or mussel fishings. In the Report for the present year I find that the Crown have been selling to proprietors the rights of 1619 fishing at two or three years' purchase, and that they are selling piers and mussel beds which are very much required by the fishermen at preposterously low prices, and there is very little doubt that before long they will have to buy them back again at ten thousand times the price paid. The fact is, these rights are being frittered away by the Woods and Forests Department. If they wish to sell these rights, let them sell at something more like a fair price, and something more like the amount for which they would be likely to get them back again if they desired to re-purchase. Do the Government think it fair to sell these valuable rights for two or three years' purchase? I see they have been selling pier rights down at Tighnabruach, in the Firth of Clyde, and in Argyllshire, In one case a man has purchased the rights for a, merely nominal sum, although probably the proprietor would ask £20,000 for the pier if he came to sell it. Some of the Perthshire salmon fishings Lave been sold at ridiculous prices. All these sales of Crown rights, indeed, which have taken place, have been at preposterous prices. The sale of mussel beds to adjacent owners has led, and will lead, to disturbances amongst the fishermen. I desire to impress upon the Government the desirability of buying back the mussel beds they have sold, so that the fishermen may not have to go to Ireland for their bait.
§ MR. JACKSON
I did not quite clearly follow what the hon. Member was referring to when he commenced speaking about these sales. I know that there have been several questions brought before the Treasury from time to time with regard to the sale of certain fishings in Scotland, and the hon. Gentleman opposite will probably know that the matter has been made the subject of a Question in this House, the allegation being that these rights have been sold for less than would have been received for them if they had been put up to auction. I have gone into the question, and I think it is quite clear that there are certain rights and responsibilities attached to certain portions of a river which it is necessary to consider. It has been the custom to sell, with the right to re-purchase, to those who own property along the shore, and it may have been very possible that, in some instances, 1620 more might have been obtained from other persons than was received from the riparian owners to whom the sales were made; but probably if such sales had been made the result would have been to damage the fishings over the whole stream, and to cause more harm than good. I have no information to give the hon. Member as to the sale of the mussel beds.
§ MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I can corroborate what the hon. Member for Caithness says about the Scotch fishermen going to Ireland for mussels for bait. The Irish fishermen are very loudly complaining of those mussels being taken away, and I know that the question is causing considerable irritation.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
I think the Secretary to the Treasury might give us some pledge that no more of the fishings which are still held by the Crown in Scotland will be allowed to go into the hands of private proprietors. Within the last year or two these exclusive rights in certain lochs in Scotland have been sold at a merely nominal figure to adjacent proprietors. Well, a strong feeling exists in Scotland on the question of fishing. The public think they ought to have the right of fishing with rod and line in the larger streams of the country, and in the larger lochs; but the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, by their action in making the fishings the exclusive property of private individuals, have prevented this. The sums the Commissioners have received for those fishings are so small that they are not worth the trouble the Treasury are taking in the matter. In any case, if they wish to make money out of these Crown rights, they should only give them on lease for a temporary period, and that only after advertising to the public generally that they are prepared to do so. I am sure that by this means they could get more money into the Treasury, and give the public much more satisfaction. There is no doubt as to what the Secretary to the Treasury says. No doubt these rights are sold under a certain contract with the purchasers; but I would not recommend the Crown in every case to go into a Court of Law to establish their title. If the hon. Gentleman will only give the public a chance I have no doubt you will find associations and bodies amongst the 1621 public—particularly amongst the rod and line fishing associations—who will very readily endeavour to vindicate the rights of the Crown as against the private owners. In the case of the mussel beds, a very great grievance is felt by the Scotch fishermen. They do not think they ought to be sold——
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
The Government, I believe, are considering the question of putting a stop to the sale of mussel beds to private individuals instead of to fishermen. If the Government have the power to do so, I trust they will intervene, so that fishermen may have the first claim upon the mussel beds. The riparian proprietor simply wants them for the purpose of making money out of them. The fishermen want them not merely for the purpose of making money out of them, but for obtaining bait to enable them to carry on their industry. In one case with which I am acquainted these mussel beds have been laid hold of by a proprietor, and considerable doubts exist as to whether he had any right to them. The fact of the matter is that the fishermen have to pay very large sums annually for the mussel beds they use, upon winch beds the proprietors have never made the smallest expenditure so far as can be ascertained. The riparian owners, wherever they can, seize upon these mussel beds, finding them to be of value, and make the fishermen pay for the mussels. Another question has been raised with regard to certain fishing rights, and I am sorry that the Secretary to the Board of Trade is not in his place in order that he may have an opportunity of learning what are the views of the fishermen of Scotland upon this subject. I trust, however, that the Secre- 1622 tary to the Treasury will transmit to the Secretary to the Board of Trade the expression of opinion which has been delivered hero to-day. I trust the hon. Gentleman will learn that the fishermen of Scotland feel very strongly on this subject. I trust that we shall have an assurance from the Board of Trade that the possession of these mussel beds will be transferred from the adjacent proprietors, who only hold them for the purpose of making money out of them, to the fishermen, who will make use of them for the development of their industry and for the general advantage of the public. It is desirable in the interests of all parties that the fishermen should be enabled to obtain their bait at something like a fair cost. I trust the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will be prepared to say that he will not allow the public rights to fishings in Scotland, whatever they may be, to be sold to private proprietors to the exclusion of the fishermen. At any rate, if these rights are sold by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests they should be put up to public auction.
§ MR. JACKSON
I certainly sympathize, more or less, with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. My own impression is that in the only cases, at any rate in recent times, which have come before me in which these rights have been sold, the sales have taken place not so much on account of the money which has been realized as with the object of giving to the adjacent owners or proprietors a greater interest in and encouragement to the protection of the fishings. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen say "No, no;" but I know that this is so in certain cases, the particulars of which I have ascertained by careful inquiry. The motives which I have explained are clearly those which have actuated the Commissioners of Woods and Forests in dealing with this question. [An hon. MEMBER: In what case?] In the case brought forward by the hon. Member who sits on the other side—a case in which a fishing had been sold. Some angling club made a complaint about the sale of the fishing—complained that they had not been allowed to compete for the purchase of it. It seems to me that, on the whole, it was the best course they could have adopted. I will take care the Board of 1623 Trade is informed of what has been said about those mussel beds.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine)
said, that in his county the salmon fishing rights had been rented by the Woods and Forests Department to the very persons who ought not to have them. Instead of being managed by these renters, these rights were sub-let to others at a considerable profit. In Kincardineshire the sea salmon fisheries were the highest in value of any other county; but no benefit resulted to the people from this profitable income to the Department. The Fishery Board ought to have the control of all sea fishings.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I rise for the purpose of calling the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to the very strong- feeling which the people of Scotland entertain regarding the rights of the Crown in Scotland to foreshore and other fishings. The people fool that these rights are for the enjoyment of the public, and that they ought to be handed down from generation, to generation as public rights. There is no reason, "why one generation should convert these Crown rights into money. At present you are confiscating the rights of your successors. There is a strong feeling, too, that the rights which have been already granted ought to be curtailed. In 1885 a piece of the foreshore was sold for £1 to a private individual, for the purpose of erecting a pier in the Kyles of Bute. I am not here for the purpose of disputing that the Crown ought to exact anything more than a nominal figure for the site of a pier; but I am here to maintain that in a matter of this kind the grant should only continue as long as the pier is used for public purposes. In the case in question the pier has ceased to be used as a public pier. Then, again, some of the salmon fishings have been sold for merely nominal sums. For instance, there were fishings on the Blackadder which had been sold for £10 and £15. I think it is a fair principle to lay down that no Crown rights should be sold. These rights may be leased for a reasonable period, and when they are leased the Crown should do what the Corpora- 1624 tions of Glasgow and elsewhere do under similar circumstances—namely, put up the property to public sale. If the Crown is prepared to make a lease of either foreshore or a salmon fishing, the matter ought certainly to be publicly advertised—a proceeding which the Corporation of Glasgow, having regard to the feeling of the people, find it necessary to adopt. In no case should a lease be granted for more than five years.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
I can give my personal assurance that no member of the public would have given £10 for the fishing at Blanerne, and that no sane man who is not connected with the neighbourhood would have given £15 for the other fishing referred to. It is up in the wilds, and no salmon are ever seen, except after a heavy spate, when one or two fish may run up. Certainly there have not been 10 salmon caught there in 20 years. It is said the gentleman who owns the property ought only to get a lease for 10 or 20 years. Men will not take such leases, and they are quite entitled, without leases, to prevent people fishing. [An hon. MEMBER: That is not the question.] There is no law in Scotland by which the public can claim the right of fishing on the rivers, nor is there any case in which the proprietor has a right of salmon fishing, except by title from the Crown or through prescriptive right. I have never heard of a case in Scotland in which the proprietor of lands, having water running through them, has not with the lands the right of fishing and the right to prevent anybody else fishing. But that gives the proprietor no right to the salmon fishings, and no one can fish there unless they have a right from the Crown.
§ MR. CALDWELL
My contention is that Crown rights either to foreshores or salmon fishings ought never to be parted with at all. There is no doubt that if a landowner has a Crown grant by prescription, that includes the right to salmon fishing. But it is equally clear that the House has power to change the law. There is no doubt that the law brought in by the landowning class, who were then the governing class, allowed Crown grants to become the property of the landlords by mere prescription. That is a state of matters which ought to be altered, and there is no reason why next 1625 Session there should not be a Bill introduced to the effect that all rights acquired by mere proscription should cease.
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
I desire to bear emphatic testimony to the strong feeling there is in Scotland upon the mussel bed and foreshore questions. As to the foreshores, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests are simply incorrigible. Crown rights are invariably managed to the disadvantage of the public. In the case of the Epping Forest, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests disposed of the hunting rights, which were of immense value to the public, for a merely nominal money value. It it had not been for the Corporation of London those rights would have been hopelessly lost to the public. It may be perfectly true, as the Lord Advocate says, that from a marketable point of view the fishing rights upon a particular river may not be worth £10; but from the point of view of the enjoyment of the general public these rights are of immense value. They are public rights, and ought not to be parted with. The Lord Advocate has not alluded to the valuable salmon fishings. I should be much surprised if he were to say that the salmon fishings at the mouth of the Erne and Tay are not worth a great deal more than £100, for which sum they Lave been parted with to landlords. I do not want to enter into details; but I maintain that the rights of the Crown as administered by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests are not private rights; they are public rights, which convey great privileges to the public, and as such should not be disposed of. The mussel beds are invaluable to the fishermen; and, therefore, every effort should be made to preserve them. In reference to the Lord Advocate's statement of law, I should like to say I own a very excellent fishing river. My father and myself were advised to keep the public out. I did not desire to contest the point. Certainly the public were thoroughly convinced they had a right, and I, as the proprietor, did not dare to stop them if I had wished to do so. These rights are indisputable. The public feeling and sentiment in Scotland is very strong that there are certain public rights in the property.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I do not think hon. Members have the faintest idea of the extent to which the 1626 rights of the public in Scotland, in respect to the mussel beds and salmon fishings, have been confiscated by the landed proprietors. I particularly invite the attention of the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) to this question, because I know he has a very anxious desire to spread happiness and contentment in all parts of Her Majesty's Dominions. I am only sorry Scotland is part of the Empire which he has not often visited, and with which he is not very familiar, or, at any rate, that Scotland, so far as this Parliament is concerned, is a place to which he has paid very little attention. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will condescend, if I may use the word without giving offence, to enter into this question, because it is a very serious question indeed.
§ MR. ANDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman is impatient. We have been discussing the mussel question, and that is a question in which I am very deeply interested, because many constituents of mina have had to pay very heavy fines for having ventured in what are called tidal waters, and dredged for mussels which they use for bait. The present state of things is a most monstrous one, and if it were thoroughly investigated it would be found that although, technically, according to what the Lord Advocate is pleased to call the law of Scotland, it may be justice, the laird has no more right to mussel beds than the Lord Advocate himself. There is another question which is quite as important as the mussel question, and that is the salmon question. Hon. Members can hardly understand the extent to which the salmon fishings have been dealt with by the Crown in Scotland. It is perfectly incredible that such a state of things could exist as exists at the present moment in the county I represent. I do not know whether the First Lord of the Treasury has ever been in Morayshire. If he has not I hope he will go there some day, because he will find there a magnificent salmon river called the Spey. During the salmon season the Duke of Richmond nets the Spey for seven miles from the mouth up, in pursuance of some alleged right obtained from the Crown. The result is that for 100 miles above——
Order, order! The hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly justified in questioning the action of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests in alienating fishing rights; but he cannot enter into the question of original title acquired long since by a particular proprietor, or into the general condition of the law of Scotland.
§ MR. ANDERSON
Perhaps I was going too far in that direction. Let me say that there is a strong feeling existing in Scotland upon this question. I am sure the Committee has arrived at the conclusion that the rights of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests in respect to Scotch salmon fishings have been grossly abused. There is a unanimous feeling in Scotland that these rights have been dealt with in a way they ought not to have been dealt with, and I hope that the First Lord of the Treasury will see that the time has come when a Commission or Committee, ought to be appointed to inquire into this important matter.
§ DR. CLARK
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) has left his place, because my reason in rising was to protest against the action of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests in two respects—first of all, in alienating the rights of the Crown and giving them to private individuals, and thereby compelling the public, if they wish to re-acquire them, to buy them back at an increased cost; and, secondly, in selling the fishery rights at the preposterously low price of two, or three, or, at the utmost, five years' purchase. Furthermore, I wish to impress upon the Woods and Forests Department the necessity of getting back as soon as possible the possession of all the mussel beds around the Scottish Coasts. These mussel beds are now let merely for profit, and our fishermen have to go to Ireland for the purpose of getting mussels to use as bait. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) has told us that when he was Inspector of Irish Fisheries it was intended to make bye-laws to prevent Scotch fishermen going over to Ireland for bait. We ask that these mussel beds shall be brought under the jurisdiction of the Fishery Board; that there shall be a close time; and that the younger mussels shall not be destroyed as at present,
The hon. Gentleman is travelling very wide of the ruling I laid down. He can discuss the alienation of these rights by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests; but he cannot enter into the improvement of mussel beds.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
we are dealing with a marine question, and it is evident that some of us are rather at sea. I think, however, that the charges against this Department have been thoroughly substantiated. It is quite clear that those mussel beds have been given away to people, and that the rights of the foreshore have been parted with in a way which deserves the consideration of the Government. The hon. Gentleman requests that there should be a Commission appointed to inquire into the alleged grievances. I really think that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson), who has charge of this Vote, ought to get up at once and accede to the request. Not only are there difficulties in connection with the foreshore in Scotland, but there are difficulties of the same character in connection with the foreshore in the South of Ireland. During the past two years we have heard a great deal of evictions in the South of Ireland. [cries of "Question!"] I am not going to discuss the right of eviction, and I merely wish to allude to it en passant. The rights of the foreshore at Crookhaven, County Cork, have been granted by the Government, for the consideration of £5 a-year, to a nobleman of the name of Lord Clinton. Although Lord Salisbury not long ago laid down the rule that it was to be either pay or quit, Her Majesty's Government have not followed out that theory; because we find that Lord Clinton—perhaps because he happens to be a noble Lord—has not paid any rent for two years, and declines to pay it. Still, the Government have not as yet thought fit to put him through the process of eviction. I dare say it would be rather difficult to evict a nobleman, or to cut him off from his rights to foreshore if the tide was in. Be that as it may, I ask from the Government some little explanation of this matter. There is only a small sum at stake, £10; but, still, what is right for 1629 the peasant ought to be right for the Peer. I hope that before this Vote is disposed of the matter to which I have called attention will receive some explanation at the hands of the Secretary to the Treasury.
§ MR. JACKSON
There is an item of £7 10s. a-year and a-half's rent, which was unpaid on the 31st March, 1886. I find that endeavours have been made to get the money since 1880 without success.
§ MR. JACKSON
I am not sure whether the process of eviction is practical. I will make inquiries as to the merits of the case.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
It is sometimes said that the discussion in the Estimates doss no good. I am not going into that question., but I want to point out that the accounts of the Office of Woods and Forests are very incomplete. The consequence is that the Department of Woods and Forests is a perfect preserve of jobbery, waste, and extravagance. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury smiles; but I think I can convince him of the truth of my statement. We are asked to vote for the Office of Woods and Forests the sum of £23,700. There is a very largo expenditure for what is called the legal branch. For instance, £2,700 is taken for salaries, £800 for fees to counsel, £400 for law stationers' bills, and £650 for incidental expenses. I merely cite this as an instance of the way in which money is in all probability wasted. The total amount received by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests is £467,589. In order to collect this sum £102,782 is expended. Besides this you have £23,000 that we are now asked to vote, £125,782 is required to collect £467,589—that is to say, the collection amounts to about 25 per cent of the receipts. I wish to conclude by moving the reduction of the Estimate by £1,000, which will represent the salary of one of the Commissioners who might, I think, be very well dispensed with. I will take Windsor Park and Woods. Well, most persons would think if we were 1630 made a present of Windsor Park and Windsor Forest we should make the two ends meet in some way; but we do not. We pay a large amount for the Home Park. Let the Committee remember that the Home Park is not included in these Estimates, which are only for the Great Park and the Forest. The total receipts from Windsor Park and Woods are £4,631; but the expenditure in order to obtain that amount is £25,873. I remember calling the attention of the Committee to this subject on a former occasion, when I was told by the Secretary to the Treasury—" But you do not consider the cost of the roads." But deducting the cost of the roads, which is £9,916, it will still be found that Windsor Park costs us £11,306 more than it brings in. Well, if the Committee looks into the matter in order to see how that figure is made up, it will not be very greatly surprised. We have a ranger and a deputy ranger, a chaplain—a chaplain for a forest!—and a junior chaplain. What on earth these chaplains do in the Park and Forest I cannot tell, and why we should pay them any money I cannot tell. We have an item for gamekeepers—I would ask the Committee to remember that—and then we have items for general management, provender for cattle, horses, and saddlery. Whoever heard of such items in connection with a park and a forest? Saddlery, harness, provender for horses—enough almost to keep a regiment. Then you have an item, food for deer, £327. I do not know why we should keep up deer. But here is a monstrous thing—food for game, £500. I have called attention to this item before, and, thanks to the Treasury, I have followed it out. The item is perfectly monstrous. Whoever heard of tenants—because we are tenants as a matter of fact—providing food for the pheasants of the landlord? No doubt tenants frequently provide food in a certain way—that is out of their unfortunate crops; but they do not make contributions of money over and above what they provide in that way. The Treasury in defence of these items can only say that this property was taken over by 1 Vict., in which 1 Geo. III. was repeated and recited, and they say we are liable for everything we were liable to at the time of the passing of that Act of Geo. III. It was stated that we took over all these 1631 charges at the time of the passing of this Act of Geo, III.; but I said at the time—"I do not know that; we may differ somewhat as to what the charges are." I pointed out—and it must be evident to the Committee—that we did not take over this contribution in respect of game for the reason that at the commencement of the Reign of George III. there were no battues, and we did not spend money in feeding pheasants. The Treasury were prepared for that and said—"Yes; that may be true, but the pheasants had in those days certain fields of buck wheat." Then it comes to this, that the pheasants in this Park and Forest have been deprived of their fields of buckwheat, and therefore they are entitled to compensation. I ask the Committee, if we are to be subjected to these charges, is it surprising that such an enormous amount goes in getting in this income? This is not the only case—we may take some other instances. The next item is for the Forest of Dean, and here the receipts amount to £9,821, and the total expenditure to £11,978. And there are several other cases of the same kind, so that the Committee will understand that the result of the figures is as I have stated. It does appear to me that we ought to register a protest against these charges. I think we are entitled to have an assurance from the Secretary to the Treasury—no doubt these items were inserted in the Estimates before the present Government were in Office, and I therefore think they are not more responsible for them than their Predecessors—but I trust we shall receive an assurance that we shall have all those charges submitted to Parliament, and that we shall have all these salaries placed before us separately. We have to bear an enormous expenditure in this way, and we should insist upon having some Parliamentary control over it. I find spread over the accounts contributions to churches belonging to the Established Church. Why, Sir, are there not Dissenters in this House? Are we to give additional sums of money to the Established Church beyond that which we already give it? It may be said—" Oh, but we pay those sums because we are in the position of the Squire." Well, let the Squire give money to the Established Church if he likes, that is no reason why we should do so. I was asked the other day to 1632 subscribe to an Established Church, but what was my reply? "Why should you come to me—go to your Bishop; get the money from him; do not ask me." So far as I am concerned, I would contribute to any Church in the world rather than to an Established Church. I thank my God that I have never given a single penny to any Established Church except as a taxpayer, and I hope I never shall. I hope I have made it clear to hon. Members, not only on this side, but on the other side of the House also, that we do require some kind of reform in these accounts. We should have paid into the Treasury a larger sum than we now receive. The expense of collecting a revenue of between £4,000 and £5,000 should not amount to £125,000, and it would not were it not for your rangers, deputy rangers, deer, pheasants, Established Churches, and all that sort of thing—[An hon. MEMBER: And chaplains.—Yes; and chaplains, as my hon. Friend reminds me. Let us have a full account, and let it be submitted to Parliament like any other Estimate, and I am certain that if that is done and these things are submitted to the control of Parliament we shall save at least £60,000 a-year. I beg to move the reduction of this Vote by £1,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £12,761, be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton really deals with these subjects as though he took a pleasure in quarrelling with certain items. It seems to be most pleasant to him to bring forward such questions as the cost of deer, of pheasants, of chaplains, and all the rest of it. I may say, as to this £500 referred to, it is the actual cost of attending to the preserving of the game, and the whole of the charges are such—as the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Swinburne) with his own large establishments will know—as are incident to the amenities of such a great Park as this is. I want to explain how it is that this £500 appears-upon the Accounts, as the hon. Member for Northampton says that the Accounts do not come before Parliament for approval. As a matter of fact, and as the hon. Member oppo 1633 site (Mr. Labouchere) knows. Parliament did not make a bad bargain when it agreed to give £500 in substitution of a charge which in 1850, or prior to that, amounted to £1,200 or £l,300 a-year. The agreement entered into was in view of a charge of three times the amount. I am told that the amount voted here does not pay the cost, and that a considerable payment has to be made out of the Privy Purse, in order to keep up the Park. Putting Windsor Park in the position of a financial concern, no doubt it does not pay; but it is also certain that Windsor Park cannot and ought not to be looked at from that point of view. It is of great service to the country, and the public get great enjoyment from it. Notwithstanding all that has been said by the hon. Member for Northampton, when he travels through the Park I am sure he likes to see the deer and the pheasants there. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: I have to pay for them.] You cannot enjoy any luxury without paying for it. I should not like it to be thought that the statement the hon. Member for Northampton has made, that really an estate which brings in between £400,000 and £500,000 a-year has to expend over £100,000 to earn its income in the ordinary sense. The cost of collecting the revenue, so far agricultural land is concerned, is regulated by the scale of payments made to the Receiver of Estates. It would hardly be fair to charge all the cost of collection of the revenue of Windsor Park the whole charges which are thrown on the Accounts. It cannot in any sense be deemed to be the cost of collection in that sense. The rates upon the income as collected range in the ordinary way from 4 per cent downwards. With regard to contributions to churches—to the Established Churches and schools, and so on—there is no use denying the fact that these lands have been managed and dealt with precisely on the terms on which the ordinary landowner deals with his own estate. Lot me say, further, that in some cases that is not only a moral obligation, but actually a legal obligation which was acquired and taken over by the Crown when those estates were purchased that these payments should be made. There are several cases where there is a legal obligation to maintain, say, the chancel of a church which is on the estate and 1634 which was bought with the estate. The estates have been bought with all the obligations and liabilities of the landowners which previously existed upon it. I know that these charges are not agreeable to the hon. Member for Northampton; but I will not put it in that way. You cannot escape from these obligations, and I do hope that the Members of the Committee will feel that in dealing with those estates we have taken over contributions to Established Churches and schools which were given for the direct benefit and advantage of the people attending them, and that we are only carrying out the obligations which each individual Member would carry out if they were obligations upon his own estate. I trust the Committee will not accept the Amendment the hon. Member has moved.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Of course, I enjoy these places that the hon. Gentleman has referred to. I have a right to do so. The hon. Gentleman says we have done an exceedingly good business, because up to 1850 we paid a much larger sum for the game than we do now. Well, my contention is that it is an abuse to pay anything on account of game. It is true that we pay less than we did in 1850, for it is admitted that we had to pay £1,200 a-year, and that now we only pay £500. But when the hon. Member tries to show that we had to pay £1,200, he has to go back to the Statute of Geo. III. under which, it is stated, we took over all these charges. Well, I defy the hon. Member to show that under that Statute there was any payment provided for in regard to food for pheasants. Therefore, we have not a word of justification for this charge. A person might think this amount is all we have to pay, but that is not the fact. Besides this £500 we have to pay for the gamekeepers, for food, for deer, and so on. I contend that we took this park over as a productive property at a calculated receipt per annum, and I contend that as tenants in taking over these estates in no case can the country have made itself liable to pay for the food of pheasants and other game. In the New Forest I think the hon. Member will find that permits are lot out for shooting, and that a sum of between £3,000 and £4,000 is made in this way. I am sure that if, instead of keeping up this Forest and its gamekeepers, the Government would let 1635 out permits to shoot in Windsor Forest, instead of losing tins amount I have referred to, we should make £3,000 or £4,000 per annum. We have this property in order to make money out of it—[Mr. JACKSON: For enjoyment.] The hon. Member says for enjoyment, but he knows very well that we cannot go on to all these lands; he knows very well that, in order to drive through it, you have to pay a guinea a-year or possess a residential qualification. He also knows that the game is shot by members of the Royal Family. Originally we did not enter into any engagement to keep up this game, and, seeing that that is the case, I do not think it is right that we should be asked to pay this money.
MR. FERGUSON&c.) (Leith,
Will the hon. Gentleman give us some information with regard to the Scotch mussel beds, about which hon. Members have several times spoken?
It is an important matter, and I wish to refer to the investigations of the Commission.
There is now an Amendment moved with regard to Windsor Forest, and until that is disposed of the discussion must be confined to that particular subject.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
With regard to the public having no admission to Windsor Forest, I should like to ask whether it is true that the public cannot go through without let or hindrance so long as they behave themselves well, or have they to pay to go through? I should also like to know how much, if anything, is paid by the State as donations or subscriptions to Dissenting churches or chapels.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I should like to say a word on this subject. I cannot corroborate what the hon. Member for Northampton says as to the game, because I have never yet been in the Forest, and therefore cannot speak from personal knowledge of the matter, but with the sentiment he expressed I desire to express my complete satisfaction. I should like the hon. Baronet who has just sat down to be satisfied by Her Majesty's Government as to how we stand in this matter. I should like to know whether the public have a free right of entry into this Park, 1636 which is supposed to belong to the public, or if they have not. It has been definitely stated by the hon. Member for Northampton that those who wish to enjoy the beauties of the Park must either pay a guinea a-year or have a residence in the neighbourhood. If that is so, I think it is a shocking curtailment of public rights. I think we should either knock off the rent we are supposed to pay for the Forest, or whatever other form of payment we make for it, or we should insist upon having our money's worth in the way of recreation. Her Majesty's Government justify the existing position in regard to this matter, on the ground that it is not merely a matter of £ s. d., but of recreation. Well, I have never heard of anyone going into the Forest for recreation. I have heard of Royal Princes and Princelings going there to indulge in the amusement of battue shooting; and while referring to those Royal personages I should like to ask whether they have to pay for gun licences and game licences or whether they are——
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Well, Sir, I will not trespass upon the domain of the Inland Revenue, but I may not have an opportunity of referring to this matter again, and I thought it was not altogether out of the way to touch upon that point. I wanted to point out to the Committee that we ought to get a good equivalent for the £385,000, Civil List, as it is called, which is paid to Her Majesty's Government for these hereditary revenues. According to my reading of the matter we only get £380,000 worth, instead of the full value for £385,000. This arrangement was entered into originally 77 years before Her Majesty came to the Throne. But apart from history in this matter, it is perfectly well known——
I must point out to the hon. Member that an Amendment has been moved in regard to the alleged extravagant management of Windsor Forest, and that the discussion upon that Amendment must be disposed of before any other subject can be entered upon.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Yes, Sir; but surely it is an a fortiori argument that we do not get an equivalent for the £385,000 we pay. However, I will not trouble the Committee with reference to what happened some years ago. I know that the memory of this House 1637 and this country is very snort. All I would say on that matter is that I will certainly follow my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton into the Lobby when he goes to a division upon this matter. I trust we shall have similar and equally interesting discussions to the present whenever an opportunity occurs. Referring to the question of the management of the foreshores——
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Oh, I understand; the question of mismanagement and extravagance in regard to Windsor Forest does not apply to foreshores!
§ MR. JACKSON
The hon. Member is under the impression that the public are excluded from Windsor Forest. I understand that it is not the case, or at any rate, I understand that the hon. Member is hardly accurate. The public are not excluded——
§ MR. JACKSON
Certainly not. I do not suppose that the hon. Member for a moment anticipated that the public were allowed to go and shoot in the Forest. If he had listened to the interesting statement made by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), he would have heard that the shooting was reserved for other persons. I believe that private residents may go into any portion of the Park.
§ MR. JACKSON
I am speaking of the Park generally; the Home Park is reserved. You can walk in those portions which are not reserved. ["No, no!"] That is the information which is furnished to me.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 143: Majority 72.—(Div. List, No. 365.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
I want to ask a question of the Secretary to the Treasury upon a subject which I mentioned last year and upon which a long discussion then took place. It is with reference to Mr. Clutton, who, I 1638 think, is called Receiver General. Mr. Clutton is largely employed in the Department of Woods and Forests, and besides that he has also appointments of a very lucrative character in other Departments, but which do not appear on the Estimates. He receives considerable salaries for certain duties connected with the Ecclesiastical Commission, but as to these salaries one is kept completely in the dark. Last year, the first complaint made was that this gentleman, who is in receipt of large sums of money on behalf of the Government, had mixed them up with his own account. I do not mean to suggest that there was anything in the slightest degree dishonest in his so doing, it was merely an irregularity. That, I understand from the Secretary to the Treasury, has been settled in a satisfactory manner, and now the Government accounts are kept separately from those of Mr. Clutton's firm. Mr. Clutton receives large sums of money every year on behalf of the Government as Receiver of Crown Rents. Now, the complaint I made last year was that the collection of Crown rents is one of the simplest matters possible, it is unlike the collection of rents of any other kind since there is no difficulty. It merely entails the sending by post of a letter reminding the parties that the rents are due, and the rents are paid at once. Unfortunately for myself, I have not got my notes with me on the present occasion, and I may be wrong in the figures I am going to state. As far as my memory serves me, Mr. Clutton receives 5 per cent for the collection of these ground rents, and last year I complained very bitterly of the enormous percentage which was given for this work, which I then showed could be done by the youngest clerk in his office. I think the amount Mr. Clutton receives by way of percentage amounts to something like £8,000 or £9,000 a-year, and last year it was pointed out that the work could easily be done by intelligent clerks receiving £200 or £300 a-year. I then suggested to the Secretary to the Treasury that this very large payment should be decreased, that it was no unfairness to Mr. Clutton to say he should do this work upon the same terms as it could be done by any rate collector in the country. The Secretary to the Treasury promised 1639 to look into the matter, and see how far a deduction might be made in the amount, paid to Mr. Clutton, more especially as this gentleman, was also in receipt of large sums of money for the collection of rents on behalf of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and also in receipt of salaries from other Departments of the Government. I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will be able to inform the Committee that this work is now being done at something like a fair price. There is another point I desire to mention, and it is that a certain number of the Crown farms which are managed by the Receiver General under this Vote are now in hand. I am given to understand that these farms have been worked under the supervision of Mr. Clutton, who is an architect and surveyor. I do not know that his profession makes him a very good farmer, but, however that may be, I am given to understand that the loss entailed by the working of these farms is a very heavy item indeed in the national finances. I cannot find anything in this Vote to guide us; to show us what the expenditure on this account is; to show us whether there is a profit or loss. In point of fact, this Vote, like every other which comes before us, is a Vote which conceals knowledge which is useful, and tells us a great deal which is not useful. There is no statement as to the rent of these farms, and we have no means of ascertaining from the Votes themselves whether the farms are worked at a loss or not. If it is true, as I am given to understand, that the farms in hand are worked at a great loss, surely it would be better to let them at no rent at all rather than they should be worked by State officials who know nothing about farming, and that a loss should be on-tailed. I hope we shall receive some assurance from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury that the percentage paid for the collection of the Crown rents has been reduced.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
I recollect very well that a very strong opinion was expressed in the House last year upon Mr. Clutton's percentage, and that the Secretary to the Treasury promised to make inquiries. I think we have a right to be informed whether the same arrangement exists with Mr. Clutton as heretofore, and if so, why? I do not see why the Commissioners of Woods 1640 and Forests should not employ a receiver of their own to collect these rents which, in my opinion, could be collected without any trouble at all on the part of an ordinary collector. we have also a right to expect from the Secretary to the Treasury some statement as to the loss which accrues from the working of the farms in hand. It is well known that some years ago there was a great scandal in connection with the management of some estates in the hands of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and, if my memory serves me right, one poor man committed suicide in consequence of the harsh treatment he received at the hands of the Commissioners. If the Commissioners are managing farms, as my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Molloy) says, at a very considerable loss, it is right we should know what the loss is. It is also right we should know whether the same arrangement as heretofore continues with Mr. Clutton, and, if it does, why some more economical arrangement has not been made?
§ MR. JACKSON
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy) has referred to the fact that last year I promised to make inquiries as to certain payments made to Mr. Clutton for the management of these matters. The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to the question in a manner as though really there was very little to do, and as though the work might be done by a clerk receiving £200 a-year. The hon. and learned Gentleman, for instance, said that all that was required was the posting of a few circulars, and that the collection of the rents entailed no trouble at all. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman knows something about land, and about the difficulty agriculturalists have in paying their rents, and I can hardly believe that on consideration he will think that the rents of agricultural tenants can be collected so easily as he has said.
§ MR. JACKSON
the right hon. and learned Gentleman has forgotten the fact that Mr. Clutton does not collect ground rents, practically he only deals with agricultural rents. In Mr. Clutton's receivership there are 52,500 acres of land. These are scattered over 18 counties, many of them situated at Con 1641 siderable distances from London. The estates are let in 1,850 holdings, exclusive of garden allotments and manorial tenancies. As receiver of the rents of these estates it is the duty of Mr. Clutton to visit the estates several times during the year. It is his duty to consider, and report upon, and assess the amount of reduction which is to be made on any holding in respect to which an application is made to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and in addition to that it is his duty to advise as to the management of the estates generally. He has not merely to collect the rents, but really to manage the estates, and for the services he renders he receives 4 per cent upon the collection. In regard to the farms in hand I did, as I promised, look into the matter, and I found what I considered to be an unsatisfactory condition of things. As the result of my inquiries a fresh arrangement has been made, because under the old system farms in hand were dealt with by Mr. Clutton or his agent buying all the tenant's stock, and then selling it and charging the commission upon the total terms. I think that was not a satisfactory arrangement. To an agent a farm, in hand entails much greater labour and attention than a farm which is in the occupation of a tenant, and the arrangement which has been made is, that Mr. Clutton is to receive a commission upon the rent which the farm has been let at. I think that is an arrangement of which no one can complain. I am sure Mr. Clutton deserves some credit for the management of these estates, because during the past year no farm has come on the Commissioners' hands. Not only that, but there have been two farms measuring together 650 acres let from those which were in hand, and at the present time there are only 1,150 acres in hand throughout the whole of the estates. I think that is proof, if proof were wanting, that the practice which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Molloy) thought we ought to pursue—namely, that we ought to let the farms at a reduced rent if we could not get tenants for them at the rent originally asked, is pursued where requisite. Tenants are being assisted where assistance is necessary by the remission of rent; of course under proper safeguards, and we do the best we can in the interests of the property. I think 1642 these facts show to the Committee that both in regard to the charges Mr. Clutton makes, and also with regard to the farms in hand, the suggestions made last year have received attention. I hope, hon. Members will regard my answer as satisfactory.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
It has been pointed out to the Committee that in all these different estates scattered over the country there are a numb or of officials who surely can collect rents. There is an official in the Now Forest with a salary and allowances of £670,who has a first assistant with a salary of.£250, and also a second assistant.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I should like to know what Mr. Clutton really receives, because I find £7,900 per annum put down for the salaries of receivers, £520 for incidental expenses, and £3,726 for surveys and plans. Mr. Clutton is at the head of the whole thing, and I think it will be found, except in isolated cases, that there are two or three persons upon the estates receiving salaries which would lead one to suppose they are in a sufficient responsible position to look after the rents. Mr. Clutton gets an enormous salary. I should like to know what the gross amount he receives is. The only tiling I can see is the sum of £4,000 or £5,000 as balance of account, &c. The difficulty we experience in dealing with these Estimates is that we cannot get at the bottom of them. There is another thing I want to point out. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jackson) said nothing about churches; but I find here an item of £4,000 towards the cost of building St. John the Baptist's Church in Great Marlborough Street. You cannot get at the bottom of these accounts, the whole arrangement of the accounts is a perfect hugger-mugger designed in order to prevent us from arriving at any satisfactory conclusion. There is nothing but waste and extravagance throughout. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us clearly what is the total amount Mr. Clutton receives.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury has told us that Mr. Clutton receives 4 per cent upon the amount collected. Does that 4 per cent amount to the £900 which appears in the account we 1643 are now considering, or is it something in addition to that?
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
It is new to me that the receivers get commission besides salary.
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON
As the owner of a largo amount of Crown property, I have always paid the rental to Mr. Higgins; but I find figures in the Woods and Forests Estimates for salary. I was alarmed when I heard hon. Gentlemen opposite state that receivers received a commission of 4 per cent, and I inquired further into the matter, and I found that this is really not the fact. I found that the rentals for the property in the Regent's Park and the surrounding neighbourhood are received by the receivers, who get nothing but salary. There is one matter I must call attention to in connection with this Vote. I very much object to surveyors accepting posts under Government, and, having all the advantages of those posts, engaging in private business at the same time. It is a most iniquitous system, and a system which keeps a great many professional men out of work. The system not only obtains with regard to surveyors, but there are many gentlemen of the long robe who also receive considerable salaries, and yet are allowed to practice in Court. I hope that an end will be put to this objectionable system, and that professional men will be paid such salaries as they can be reasonably expected to give their entire services for to the country. That is not all. The present system does not only tend to deprive many professional men of work, surveyors under Government have many advantages. They frequently enter into contracts with a quasi-authority. They frequently obtain contracts where other men would not, and they do so simply because they are in a position to guarantee certain alterations which no one else could guarantee. This has really come under any personal observation. There are many occasions on which surveyors under the Woods and Forests are enabled to guarantee certain alterations of Crown property which no other surveyor could guarantee. I can bring evidence of cases of this kind occurring over and over again. I trust that the day will soon come when those 1644 who hold these lucrative posts will be prevented from engaging in private business, and preventing many other professional men from obtaining employment.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I am very glad indeed the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Isaacson) has been able to throw more light upon this subject, for the light he has thrown upon it I am bound to say casts a very lurid glare upon the performance of this Office. We heard lately of the performance of another Office—the Metropolitan Board of Works. It seems to me that if the hon. Member (Mr. Isaacson) is in a position to substantiate what he says, we shall find that this Office is only equalled in maladministration by the Metropolitan Board of Works. Whether what has been said is true or not, these charges should not be made on the floor of the House without notice being taken of them, or without some Committee being appointed to inquire into them. I am altogether in the dark as to where we are in this matter. We have heard, Mr. Courtney, of the largo salary-paid to the Receiver General; we have heard that the Receiver for the County of Middlesex is paid £900 a-year, and that £100 is allowed him for clerical assistance. I understand the Receiver General is Mr. Clutton. If I understood the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) aright just now, he said Mr. Clutton was net paid a commission in addition to his salary. [Mr. JACKSON: I did not say so.] At any rate, he told us that Mr. Clutton receives a commission of 4 per cent upon the rental of 52,500 acres, distributed over 1,850 holdings. I suppose we may reasonably assume that the rental is something like £50,000, in which case Mr. Clutton will get £2,000 as commission upon the collection of these rents. Then we are told that Mr. Clutton has a commission on the rent for which a farm has been let, and which apparently is now being farmed at a loss. So there are three distinct sources of income for the Receiver General as far as I can understand. First of all, there is the commission of 4 per cent upon the revenue from 52,500 acres; secondly, the commission upon the rental of farms which are being farmed at a loss; and, thirdly, this £1,000 a-year salary, which, if it does not go to 1645 the Receiver General, I cannot understand whore it does go. He seems to be such a general receiver that he gets everything. This Gentleman really gets as much as our Ministers of State. He certainly gets as much as most Ministers of State, and even as much as the Lord Chancellor gets. We object to the Lord Chancellor getting £10,000 a-year, and I certainly object to the Receiver General getting as much as the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, or as the Marquess of Salisbury himself. If a public servant receives a fixed salary he ought not to have, as the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Jackson) has said, a commission in addition. I maintain, until it is conclusively proved to the contrary, that according to the figures we have been supplied with, there is this commission paid in addition to a very considerable salary. I want to know what all the different officers under the Office of Woods and Forests, for which we are asked to vote £23,761, do. So far as I can make out, the information supplied us here does not enable us to ascertain at all what this £23,761 is for at all. We have heard the Financial Secretary explaining the enormous burden of the duties which Mr. Clutton has to bear upon his shoulders. Surely that is a reason for dividing his responsibility. If the burdens are very great, let them be properly paid for, but not paid for at an enormously high price. I want to know what all these clerks, assistant clerks, and messengers are for, if they are not to assist Mr. Clutton in the great burden of administering these estates. We have got two Commissioners at £1,200 each. Surely they do some of the work. I am very dissatisfied with the explanation given by the Secretary to the Treasury, and if my hon. Friend the Member for "Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) presses his Motion to a Division, I shall have pleasure in following him into the Lobby.
§ MR. JACKSON
I am afraid that I cannot make the hon. Member understand the case. I have endeavoured to explain what Mr. Clutton's duties are. I have endeavoured to make clear that he is not the person to whom reference is here made as Receiver General. He has nothing whatever to do with the fees of the Receiver General. The gentleman who is hero paid a salary of £900 is not paid for any of this work, 1646 but he acts as Receiver for the County of Middlesex, and receives a salary with no commission whatever. I believe that the rental upon which Mr. Clutton receives 4 per cent commission is about £80,000 a-year. Hon. Members speak as though this percentage were all net profit to Mr. Clutton, but I have endoavoured to explain that in order to do the work required of him, Mr. Clutton has to keep a large establishment of first-class dorks. In addition to this Crown property which Mr. Clutton manages there is a large amount of property scattered all over the kingdom, with which the Commissioners of Woods and Forests have to deal. There is mining property, foreshore rights, Crown rights, and various kinds which are dealt with by these Commissioners, one of whom was a Member of this House—a man in whom every Member of this House had the utmost confidence upon agricultural questions. One Commissioner deals with one portion of the country, and another Commissioner with another portion. Their salaries of £1,200 each have nothing to do -with the sums which are paid to Mr. Clutton or to the other receivers.
§ MR. MOLLOY
I should like to say I am very satisfied with the statement the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) has made. I think the arrangement with regard to home farms is as good as it is in his power to make, and we know for the first time that the rents which are collected by Mr. Clutton are agricultural rents. Considering all the circumstances, I am bound to say I do not think 4 per cent is too largo a commission to pay. When I raised the question I was under the impression that these were ordinary Crown rents. I am sure that hon. Members will agree with me that this discussion has boon of some use.
§ MR. BEADEL (Essex, Chelmsford)
I was very much surprised at the observations of the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Isaacson). That hon. Gentleman appears to think that business of this kind can be carried on by salaried officers as well as it can by a gentleman who has risen to the highest position in his profession.
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON
I said nothing of the laud. I said that to my certain knowledge ground rents were received by a salaried Commissioner. I 1647 expressed no opinion as to whether he was bettor qualified than the gentleman who was paid by commission.
§ MR. BEADEL
The hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) appears to find fault rather with the salary than with the percentage paid to Mr. Clutton; but he cannot think that a man of less intelligence than Mr. Clutton is capable of doing justice in the matter of agricultural rents. The difficulties which have arisen with regard to the management of Crown property are known only to those who are mixed up with the land of this country. The agricultural interest is now in a most frightfully depressed condition; and I am persuaded that if the hon. Member for the Camborne Division had to deal with landed questions at this moment, he would, instead of reprobating the payment of 4 per cent commission, be the very first to propose that the percentage should be increased.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Allow me to explain. I do not object to the percentage, but I object to a man being paid a salary in addition to percentage.
§ MR. BEADEL
I happen to have an intimate knowledge of Mr. Clutton's business; and I can inform the Committee that it is necessary for him, in order that the work of his office may be properly done, to keep a staff—a very superior staff. I will undertake to say that, so far as he is individually concerned, that though his salary appears large, a considerable amount of the money he is paid does not go into his own pocket. In order to manage the Crown estates as they should be managed, so as to withstand criticism in this House, it is necessary that he should be above suspicion—which I venture to think all salaried servants, with the temptations which they at present have around them, can scarcely be. ["Oh, oh!"] At any rate, salaried officials would not bring the same amount of intelligence to boar upon the work of this office. Mr. Clutton is paid by a percentage upon the rents; and, unfortunately for him, agriculture being in a state of depression just now, his income is prejudicially affected, the less rent there is to be collected the less he receives in his capacity of receiver. He is really, I think, entitled to the consideration of this House; and I think 1648 he should be paid rather more instead of rather less.
§ DR. TANNER
I should like to ask what are the qualifications necessary for a man to become a Forester? I should like to know that, because I have heard that most of these men are not trained in this country, but have to go away to study forestry to other lands. Well, if you wish to treat this matter in a particular way, I do not see why, if I may be allowed to offer a suggestion, you should not turn these forests to some practical account by allowing persons to learn the art of forestry in them. That would make this work reproductive work, and, at the same time, instead of requiring money to be spent out of the country, you would be enabled to train these young men at homo, and make what is at present unremunerative remunerative. I understand, from the inquiry going on upstairs into the question of forestry, that the conclusion arrived at is that probably the only place—at any rate, the most suitable place—in the Kingdom for the establishment of a school of forestry is in the Forest of Dean, to which reference has been made.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I understand that Mr. Clutton receives 4 per cent for the rents he collects. That yields him £4,999. We hear that he has 52,000 acres to let, and surely he does not get paid in respect of that?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Then there are certain charges for surveying and for superintending the construction of buildings and certain works, the item being £1,910. It is evident that he receives payment over and above his 4 per cent.
§ MR. JACKSON
Certainly; I said the 4 per cent was the commission he received on agricultural rentals; but that over and above that he received payment for certain work. If, for instance, cottages are to be pulled down and rebuilt, or if extensive drainage works have to be carried out, or if farm buildings have to be erected, that is work in connection with the estate that would not be included in the 4 per cent. For the 4 per cent he acts as surveyor; but if he superintends work or carries out work, he is paid, of course, for making plans and superintending.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
we want to know if it is not possible to get some 1649 one to do this work for less than £6,000 a-year? Mr. Clutton receives £7,000 a-year under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He is under a Commissioner who only receives £1,200; and I should very much like to know why we pay this public servant, who is in an inferior position—why we should pay the manager of our estates—more than we are paying to our Judges, or to any single Minister of State, except, perhaps, the Lord Chancellor?
§ MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)
I venture to think that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall does not realize the facts of this case. He wants to know why in the case of a Commissioner £1,200 only should be paid, and in the case of Mr. Clutton £6,000 a-year should be paid. The reason is this—that in the case of the £1.200 salary it is purely personal. The whole amount goes into the pocket of the Commissioner without any deduction whatever; but in the case of the Surveyor of Woods and Forests he has to keep up a very large establishment himself; and I do not think there are less than 30 to 40 clerks in it. He has to pay the whole of these clerks out of his own salary. It is idle to suppose that an official who has only to collect rents should not be paid extra when he is called upon to render professional services of a totally different character.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I should like to know what hon. Gentlemen opposite, Members of the Government, pay for the collection of rents?
§ An hon. MEMBER: Five per cent.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
What do they pay in Scotland, where the people are of a more practical turn of mind? I would ask the right hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks), whom I see in his place, what in his experience is paid for the collection of rents? I am very much mistaken if in Scotland more than 1½ per cent is paid.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
The amount very much depends on the nature of the rents, and 1 should think 4 per cent for some kinds of rents was not excessive No doubt there are cases where 4 per cent would be rather high; 1650 but there are other cases where it would not be enough.
MR. MAJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
I know many cases in Scotland where a factor only receives 1½ per cent.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
It seems to me that the question here is one of monopoly. It appears that this gentleman not only hold's the office of Surveyor of Woods and Forests, but he also holds an office under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. If this gentleman has the management of the estates the salary he receives will be fair enough; but if he is paid this enormous amount merely for collecting rents. I think the payment is far too high. The amount this gentleman receives is brought up to nearly £8,000 a-year, and I think that a great deal too much. I think the office of Woods and Forests might do much better. I think we ought to protest against this monopoly of business by one individual, because whilst a man has several businesses to look after it is impossible that he can do any of them satisfactorily.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
I should like to ask what are the special duties of the Commissioners?
§ MR. JACKSON
The Commissioners look after the estates generally, and are responsible for their management, Mr. Clutton deals with a certain portion only of the estates as receiver of the rent.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
I think we ought to protest against the monopoly of this large amount of business by one individual. I will, therefore, move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £5,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £8,761, be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. J. W. Barclay.)
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
I hope the Committee will take this matter into their serious consideration. Four per sent on the rental is sufficient to pay any land agent, for superintending the pulling down of houses, the building them up, carrying out drainage works, and indeed for the whole conduct and management of an estate. Four percent is a handsome sum—a generous ium—but here we find that a Government officer is paid £ 4 per cent on the rent he collects, and an additional sum for the work he does, besides receiving an enor 1651 mous sum from another Department of the Government.
§ Question put,
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 78; Noes 150: Majority 72.—(Div. List., No. 366.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (11.) £30,967, to complete the sum for Works and Public Buildings Office.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I wish to bring to the notice of the Government one other point. I understand that there are certain regulations in respect to filling up vacancies in the clerks of the works in connection with this office, and I am informed that one of the principal regulations is that only those persons are eligible—or, at any rate, there is a limitation which excludes from competition all persons except those who have been foremen for five years in some particular business. That restriction is complained of, and I think with justice. It is argued that it tends to exclude, and practically does exclude, a great number of able men who have a practical and minute knowledge of their business as builders and so forth, and who, for some reason or other, may not have been able to attain the position of foremen. Foremen are not necessarily men with the most thorough practical knowledge of their work; and what I would impress on the Government is that you want men in office who have not merely a theoretical or such a literary knowledge as would enable them to pass the examination required, but men with a practical knowledge of the details of the work as builders, carpenters, and so forth. For it can be shown, and I have information that satisfies me that it can be shown, that in many cases foremen do not become foremen through the intimate practical knowledge that they should have of their work, but through favouritism. It follows that if you make it a requirement that a man shall be a foreman for five years before he can be qualified for competition for one of these posts, you are limiting the field of selection. In the public interest you should have a fair field and no favour, and then you could get your supply of men for these posts from those who have a practical knowledge of their work, as well as from those who have only a 1652 theoretical knowledge of it. My informant who has asked me to press this matter on the Government says that as the regulations now stand, only the sons of builders who are appointed as nominal foremen can compete for these appointments; and what we contend for is, that not only such persons should have opportunities to obtain these appointments, but also those who have practical and technical knowledge. I would ask whether the examination for these posts includes such tests as would secure that the successful competitors have practical and technical knowledge? I believe that if there were such an examination, many of those who now succeed in passing would speedily be disqualified. That is as briefly as I can state it, the complaint made in respect of this examination, and I can only say, in addition to that, what appears to be a matter of common sense—that if a man has served an apprenticeship, has worked 10 years or more at the building trade, and has studied the practical and technical part of the business, whether as foreman or not, that implies that he must have such a knowledge of the business as entitles him to have a fair opportunity of showing that he is fit for a post in the Civil Service. One great disadvantage of the present restriction is that it discourages that technical education which we are so desirous to see extended. We are just beginning to talk of giving grants to technical schools, and establishing a system of technical education. But I believe that even greater advantage would accrue from throwing open this competitive examination to those who have worked their way up, and, by long practice, have made themselves masters of their particular branch of work. If you did this, you would afford a stimulus and an encouragement to the extension of technical education which would materially assist that system of technical education that we propose to establish.
§ MR. JACKSON
I think that the suggestion made by the hon. Member is well worthy of consideration; and it will receive the consideration of the Government.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (12.) £ 10,000, to complete the sum for the Mercantile Marine Fund (Grant in Aid).1653
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
From, the figures which are before the House, one would imagine that there was little room for criticism of this Vote. It would appear to be a Vote of £40,000 in aid of the Mercantile Marino Fund of the United Kingdom. A note on page 161 sets forth that under the 45 & 46 Viet., c. 55, the Mercantile Marine Fund is charged with certain services that have hitherto been provided for by Votes of Parliament, and that, on the other hand, certain payments hitherto made into the Exchequer are now transferred to the Mercantile Marine Fund; and that the balance against the Fund is at present estimated at £40,000, and is charged upon the Votes by Section 5 of the Act for five years from 1883–4 inclusive, after which the amount is subject to revision. This is a deliberate statement that the balance against the fund is estimated at £40,000. There then follow certain accounts of receipts and expenditure, amounting to an estimated sum of £78,000 for receipts, and £84,000 for expenditure. Now, that appears to be a very simple matter; but there is connected with this Vote the whole system of making safe, as far as possible, the commercial marine of this Kingdom in their dangerous avocations round the coast of the United Kingdom. The system of light-houses, light-ships, fog-signals, and buoys are really provided for under this Mercantile Marine Fund, and the services it represents. The duty of setting up these lights, and the care of the lighthouses, is performed for the English Coasts by the Corporation of the Trinity House, by the Commissioners of Northern Lights for Scotland, and by the Commissioners of Irish Lights for the Irish Coasts. Now, there is no question about the management of these bodies. They may spend a great deal of money in the dinners which, they give at two or three guineas a-head; but as to their management of the lighthouses, buoys, and signals, the mercantile community have never made any complaint. But under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, a great change was introduced. Until that date, the three bodies I have named were empowered to collect fees from ships that passed the lighthouses; and they were, under the Act of 1854, made accountable for the receipts and expenditure in connection, with this 1654 service. The 417th section of that Act provides that the following sums shall be carried to a common fund, to be called the Mercantile Marine Fund—the fees relating to the examination, engagement, and discharge of crows; the light dues, and other sums received by and accruing to the Trinity House, the Northern Light Commissioners, and the Commissioners of Irish Lights; and the fees in connection with the receipt of wreck. Now, although the Vote to which I have referred speaks of survey fees and of the Grant in Aid, yet by far the greater part of the fund is derived from the light charges. According to the Report furnished to the House, out of an income of £624,000, including the Vote in Aid, not less than £348,000 are derived from light dues; and out of £624,000 of expenditure, the payment on account of lighthouses, &c, amounts to £411,000; so that the services mentioned on the face of the Vote are a mere bagatelle compared with the important duty of keeping up the lighthouses. Now, it is clear that if there is a large sum derived from light dues, the balance of the fund which is represented as being covered by the £40,000 of the present Vote will be materially increased, or if there is a smaller sum from light dues it will be diminished, without any reference to the items on page 161 of the Estimates. As a matter of fact, the Mercantile Marine Fund is in a condition very different from that which anyone would suppose who took the Vote and examined it by the light of the figures vouchsafed to us by the Government. When the light charges were made lighter some 30 years ago, the Government relieved the shipowners materially by an Order in Council. An abatement was made off the previous charges of 20 per cent in regard to seagoing, and of 10 per cent for coasting vessels. But since then there has been a material increase in the number as well as in the tonnage of vessels, and with that increase there was, of course, an increase in respect of the light dues until the sum recovered from the vessels was immensely beyond the necessities of the lighthouse service and charges. Successive reductions were then made in favour of the shipping interest by successive Ministers at different times. By the year 1884 the shipping interest had been relieved to the extent of 60 1655 per cent of the total amount originally chargeable for light dues, but at the end of 1884 the Mercantile Fund, in spite of these reductions, was in a flourishing condition. Then, however, unfortunately for this Vote and for the Board of Trade which administers it, there was in Office a Gentleman exceedingly anxious to curry favour with the shipping interest—the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain)—who is a great adept in catchpenny phrases which tickle the ears of the groundlings, and he, being desirous to curry favour with anybody and everybody, recklessly proposed to reduce the light dues on shipping as some of his Predecessors had done. What has been the result? There was only 40 per cent of the original light dues then levied. The shipping interest, however, was, as it always has been, clamorous for relief and for the reduction of the charges to which it was subject, and this interest induced the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to reduce the 40 per cent to 30 per cent, thereby making a further reduction of 25 per cent on the amount then payable. Now, that deduction of 25 per cent upon the previously payable charges was a very serious blow to the Marine Fund, and from that day to this the Mercantile Marine Fund has been going from bad to worse, until, I believe, the Government have found themselves obliged to borrow, or propose to borrow, about £250,000 to save the fund from disaster. The £40,000 included in this Vote by no means shows the real state of things. I complain that the present Government have not put on the face of the Estimates, as they ought to have done, exactly how the matter stands. Of course, no one can blame the Government for the ridiculous and unfettered action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham when he was occupying the position of President of the Board of Trade, but still they are responsible for the acts they have done themselves. They have, I assert, submitted to the House of Commons a Vote which has completely deceived this Committee with regard to the circumstances with which the Department concerned in the matter has to deal. Of course, it may be said that the Government are not really under the necessity of raising this money to put the Mercantile Marine Fund in funds in 1656 order that it may meet the more expensive service it has to provide for; but they could, if they liked, instead of raising the fund, re-impose the 25 per cent. Here, again, I say that the Government are to blame. Instead of having the courage of their convictions, and there is, I think, no doubt they do hold the conviction that this 25 per cent ought to be re-imposed, they seem to be anxious to get into a state of discredit with our shipping commerce, corresponding to the credit which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham obtained when he made the deduction referred to. If they can afford to go into the market for the purpose of borrowing enormous sums of money for which they have to pay a percentage every year, they ought to be able to face the difficulty, and say—"If the ship dues are reduced to so low a figure, they are not sufficient to meet the requirements of those who have thrown upon them the management of the Mercantile Marine." So much with regard to the lighthouse dues and charges on shipping. I should now like to ask the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Vote if he will explain how the Mercantile Marine Fund stands at present, and what sort of a balance is at the disposal of the Board of Trade after all these months of falling income and increased charge? There is also another point with reference to which, if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham were here, I should like to dwell, and that is with regard to the charge put down for the Receivers of Wrecks. I may remind the Committee that years ago I expostulated against what I conceived to be the mistaken policy of the right hon. Gentleman as evidenced in the change of system under which the fees and salaries of the Receivers of Wrecks were arranged. I ventured to predict at that time that the change of system which was then introduced would result in an increased charge for salaries and increased charges in other respects; but the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for West Birmingham merely pooh-poohed my utterances, although in the end it was found that he was in the wrong and I was in the right. However, as the right hon. Gentleman is not present, I will not go further into that matter. There is 1657 another point in regard to which, I hope, the present Representative of the Board of Trade Department will kindly favour the Committee with, some information. It is a point which I submitted to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade some days ago, with regard to the wages of deceased seamen; and here I may remark that this Paper which is put before us is of a very extraordinary character. Anyone who is at all acquainted with accounts will at once recognize the fundamental principle that when you have a cash account it is only possible to leave a balance at one side; it is impossible to pay away more than you have received. But this extraordinary account issued by the Board of Trade actually shows a cash balance. How it is that the Board of Trade can properly carry on its business in connection with the Mercantile Marine when its accounts show cash balances on the wrong side I really am at a loss to imagine. But I should like still further to analyze this Return, because I am fully satisfied that if the accounts of the Mercantile Marine Fund are kept in the same way in which the wages and receipts of the Receivers of Wrecks are kept the whole thing must be in a condition of hopeless confusion and muddle. They have shown a balance on the wrong side of the account, while their expenditure has been hundreds of thousands of pounds beyond their income; and yet they come before this Committee and say that a Vote of £40,000 is sufficient to balance the whole. The fact is that it is impossible for anyone who attempts to master the details of the Mercantile Marine Fund to make either head or tail of them, or to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion with regard to them. I very much regret that the noble Lord the Member for.South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) is not in his place on this occasion, because, if he were present, I should think he would use his influence in the endeavour to get the Government to agree to the appointment of a Committee next year for the purpose of inquiring into some of the Secret Service Votes in the same way as has been adopted with regard to the Army and Navy Votes in the inquiry which is now going on, and I am quite sure that if such a Committee were appointed it would find plenty of 1658 material in the Vote we are now discussing that would be well worthy of its investigation. I trust the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Baron Henry De Worms) will endeavour to afford some explanation to the Committee in reply to the questions I have submitted.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
I will endeavour to answer the points urged by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor);but I cannot promise to follow him into all the details he has laid before the Committee. In regard to this sum of £40,000, I would remind the Committee that it is no new proposal. By the 45 & 46 Vict., it is provided that out of the moneys provided by Parliament an annual grant of £40,000 may be made to the Mercantile Marine Fund for a period of five years, and after the expiration of that period, such other sum as may be determined upon. The object of this grant was to assist the Mercantile Marine Fund, which has to depend on the light dues as its only annual source of income; and in case this source of income should prove insufficient Parliament very wisely determined to grant a sum of £40,000, so as to enable the Board of Trade to carry on the necessary works around our coasts, with a view of providing for the safety of our seamen and of our trade, on which the prosperity of our country so much depends. The hon. Member has asked me to give him some explanation as to what has been done with regard to this Fund, and I think I cannot do better than read a short Report on the subject which I hold in my hand. It says—When the estimates on which the reduction of dues was made—i.e., in November, 1883—the accounts for 1882–3, which showed an excess of receipts over payments amounting to about £20,000 a-year, were taken as a basis, and the balance on the Mercantile Marine Fund was then £427,000. The abatement was increased from 60 per cent to 70 per cent which was, of course, equivalent to one-fourth of the existing dues. On the 1st of April, 1884, the light dues were reduced to the extent of 25 per cent. The estimated loss for the two years 1884–6 was £216,000; but the actual loss turned out to be £32,000 less, or £184,000. When these reductions were made it was not foreseen that the expenditure for the construction and maintenance of lighthouses would expand, In the two years the increase of outlay under this head was £140,000. The effect was to destroy the excess of receipts over 1659 payments and to reduce the balance by £276,000. The loss on miscellaneous items (receipts being short and payments in excess of average) had been £14,000. The loss by the Treasury arrangement (by which a grant of £40,000 a-year was made in consideration of this Board of Trade taking over certain duties) in. the two years had been £27,000. The total loss to the 31st of March, 1886, was £317,000. During the year 1886–7 the remaining balance of £117,000 was exhausted, and the Board of Trade were obliged to contract a loan of £250,000 from Greenwich Hospital moneys for the purpose of carrying on the works. Of that loan it was estimated that a considerable portion had been expended on the 31st March, 1887, say about £80,000. The accounts for the year 1886–7 were, however, not yet complete.Now, this Report would appear to show something very disastrous to the skipping interest; but I must remind the Committee that it has been the practice of the Board of Trade for many years to diminish the light dues whenever they found that the condition of the Mercantile Marine Fund was such as to allow it, and only to increase them when they have found that the Fund was not equal to the expenses which necessarily had to be defrayed.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
In 1872 they were increased from 50 to 55 per cent, and in 1874 from 55 to 60 per cent. They have not always been reduced, but have sometimes been increased. In some cases there has been an abatement from 60 to 55 per cent, and then there has been a further reduction to 50 per cent, after which there was an increase to 55 percent, and again from 55 per cent to 60 per cent. There was an increase in 1880, but since that time I need hardly point out that the condition of trade has been such that it would not have been possible to levy a very heavy tax upon shipping-, and to the same reason the decrease of the Mercantile Marine Fund itself may be traced. The state of the shipping interest has been exceptionally bad during the last four years, and naturally the effect on the Mercantile Marine Fund has been very disastrous. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Donegal has said that the accounts as presented do not show the real condition of the Mercantile Marine Fund, and I am bound to admit that that is the case. The reason is this—that in regard to our expenditure, we 1660 have works at present in progress, and there are the estimates for works we are bound to undertake; for at the present moment we have to pay £70,000 for the expenses of lighthouses, and shall have to incur a further expenditure of £90,000 for new works, making a total of £160,000, which, of course, does not appear in the account before the Committee, because it is not an actual outlay, but is one we shall have to make and which will appear in the accounts of next year. I must remind the Committee that on every occasion when there is a question of increased expense in connection with the lighthouses, harbours, and similar works, the Committee are only too ready to urge the Board of Trade on to make the increased expenditure. It was only the other day I had to defend the Department against an attack in reference to a proposal for increased expenditure at Holyhead Harbour, Therefore, I say it is impossible for the Committee of this House, if all these works are to be carried out at enormous expense, to be astonished at the Mercantile Marine Fund not continuing to wear that prosperous appearance which it presented some years ago. I am happy, however, to be enabled to inform the Committee that the trade of the country is improving. The amount received from the light dues is increasing, and if, as I earnestly hope may not be the case, this condition of affairs should not be maintained, it will be the duty of the Board of Trade to try some means of getting the Mercantile Marine Fund out of debt. Of course, we might pay off our debts by increasing the lighthouse tolls; but I must say that is not a thing which I should like to be called upon to do, nor is it one which I think would be at all likely to commend itself to the mercantile community. I should say that with regard to the Mercantile Marine Fund economy is misplaced. We have enormous interests at stake, and we only engage in works that are absolutely necessary; but the responsibility rests upon the Board of Trade of keeping the lighthouses all round our coasts in a state of efficiency, and when additional lighthouses are required, it is impossible for the Board of Trade to refuse them merely on the plea that they will entail considerable expense. I have now endeavoured, as far as I could consistently with the time at the disposal of the Com- 1661 mittee, to answer the questions put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Donegal. I trust that the answers I have given have been sufficient to show that there has been no wasteful expenditure from the Mercantile Marine Fund, but that the large expenditure we have had to make has arisen from causes over which we have had no control.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
The hon. Gentleman has by no means answered all my questions, although after the statement he has made I do not wish to press him further at the present moment. There is only one question I should like to put to him now, and that is with regard to the exemption of certain foreign vessels from light dues when they come into British ports for coaling purposes. A question in connection with this subject was raised some months ago, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman is familiar with it. "What was the decision arrived at by the Board of Trade I do not know, but the point was with reference to the case of a vessel which comes into a port entirely for coal, and it not being the custom to levy the usual light dues against the tonnage under such circumstances. A system has grown up lately under which, a vessel on its way, say, to New York from Havre, will put in at Plymouth or Devonport or some other English port and lay in coal for the voyage, and make for that purpose the Southern port its headquarters for the time being, but in reality doing this as an excuse for getting rid of the charge as to light dues. Now, that certainly appears to me to be rather unfair to the home shipping interest, and I know that representations have been made to the Board of Trade upon the subject. The matter was under the consideration of the Board, but whether any decision was come to on the subject I do not know, and should be glad to be informed.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
That question was fully gone into between the shipowners and the Board of Trade, and it was decided that whereas every vessel formerly had to pay the light dues, supposing it touched at one port and continued loading at another, the Board of Trade now exempt vessels if they fill up their bunkers, having partly filled at one port and completely filled up at another. In such a case the light dues formerly charged for both ports 1662 are not now imposed. This, I understand, is considered satisfactory.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
If she breaks bulk she has to pay light dues, if she does not break bulk she does not pay.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I should like to call attention to a very interesting dinner which was brought before the House some time ago in connection with the Northern Lights Commissioners. It was a dinner that cost a considerable sum of money, and it is stated that on that occasion the guests drank wine which cost four guineas a bottle. I would suggest that a little dinner of that kind is one of the unnecessary items of expenditure which might be got rid of. I only mention it now because I should like to obtain some further information upon the subject. I was not able to get a satisfactory answer when I put the question some time ago. It was an expenditure which did not approve itself to the Auditor General.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
In regard to the dinner to the Commissioners of Northern Lights, to which the hon. Member has referred, I would remind him that those gentlemen receive no salary whatever for the services they render. They have no pay at all, and they render very important services.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The hon. Gentleman speaks as if he approved of what is complained of. He seems to think that because the Commissioners of Northern Lights receive no salary they are to be allowed to go to an inn and gorge themselves in the most disgusting manner, and at enormous expense, which is to be charged to the public funds. They are, in fact, to be allowed to swill down enormous quantities of: wine—almost enough to load a ship—under circumstances such as have just been stated. I want to know whether we can raise a question on this subject upon the present Vote? If we can, I for one shall most certainly object to anything that will permit such horrible gourmandizing. If the Commissioners render services that deserve the recompense of a salary, by all means let them be paid; but do not let us assist in the encouragement of orgies such as these,
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
I do not see why, under the circumstances, the Commissioners of Northern Lights should not be allowed to have an annual dinner, and I think it exceedingly mean for my hon. Friend here to complain of their having had one such dinner. It strikes me as being very absurd to make this the groundwork of a complaint.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I ought to point out to the Committee, that in Scotland the Northern Lights Commissioners, and in Ireland the Commissioners of Irish Lights are unpaid bodies. Some expenses are allowed thorn when incurred in anything they may do, but they receive no salary whatever; and it would be very difficult to get the services of gentlemen in Scotland and Ireland of the position occupied by the Commissioners of Lights for anything like the small sum that is expended once a-year upon a dinner.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I would remind the Committee that the late Mr. Hume looked closely into this subject, and, after bringing it before this House, he moved that the Northern Lights Commissioners being an unpaid body, and having done their work so admirably, instead of having only one dinner they ought to have two. It so happens, however, that instead of partaking of two dinners, the Northern Lights Commissioners have only had one, in order to save expense to the country. I trust that after the matter has been so fully explained we shall hear no more of it.
§ MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
It has been stated that an account is presented to this House showing the state of the Mercantile Marine Fund. I do not see where the cost of administering the lighthouses is stated, and surely the account ought to set that forth. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade will explain how this is?
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
I rise to Order. I would suggest to you, Sir, that this discussion is entirely irregular.
I think it is relevant to the subject-matter of the Vote before the Committee. This is a Vote which is fixed by Act of Parliament, and under the heading of the Mercantile Marine Fund would come the charge for lights, and also the! 1664 charge for the dinner to the Northern Lights Commissioners, which, of course, comes out of the Fund. Therefore a discussion on that point may be brought within the Vote, though it may possibly be rather remote.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
The balance against the Fund is stated at £40,000, and we have already obtained an admission from the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote to the effect that that statement is misleading, and that, instead of £40,000, the balance against the Vote is some hundreds of thousands, for which they have already gone into debt.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
The question of this Mercantile Marine Fund is a matter which was brought under my attention some weeks ago, and I think that these accounts require to be most thoroughly examined. I will therefore undertake that the subject shall be thoroughly examined, and it may be that very important decisions will be come to with regard to it. There can be no doubt that the Mercantile Marine Fund is in a very unsatisfactory position.
§ DR. TANNER
After the assurance we have just received from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, might I be allowed to call attention to just one point? It seems to me a very extraordinary thing that we should be told that the Treasury has no control over these details. It seems to me that the surveyors did pass a number of ships lying at the various ports——
Order, order! This is quite irregular. The matter the hon. Member is referring to will come under the Board of Trade Vote.
§ Vote agreed to.
(13.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £30,000, 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 1888, for Her Majesty's Foreign and other Secret Services.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I have a few words to say with regard to this Vote for Secret Service. This Vote has grown 1665 up during the last 20 years from the sum of £10,000 to the very large sum of £50,000. It first grew up to £14,000, where it remained for a few years, and now it has got up to £50,000. I object to the whole system upon which this Vote is obtained. It is not asked for by Parliament, and we are not told in what Departments it is expended. I admit that there may be circumstances under which it is necessary to expend money not directly sanctioned by Parliament; but I. think we ought, at least, to know by what Departments it is used. We do not know whether the money is expended abroad or at home; whether for the Police Service or the Diplomatic Service; and that, I think, is an entirely wrong thing. We have the amount increased from £10,000 to £50,000; and, as a matter of fact, I do not think the main portion of it is spent in the Diplomatic Service. I have some knowledge of that Service, and know that exceedingly little is spent there. We may presume that a considerable amount is spent in looking after dynamiters and such like persons—those gentlemen in America whom Governments are so fond of parading here before us. If that is so, let us know it. Of course, we do not want a Minister to say "I spent so much in sending a man out to such a place," or "I devoted so much to bribing this or that man." That would be absurd; but if we are to have Secret Service money, we should not allow it to go on increasing year by year, nor should it be asked for in one grand total; it should be asked for under the heads of the different Departments who make use of it. I have given Notice of a Resolution to move the reduction of the Vote by £10,000; and I confess I should like to move a reduction by a considerably larger sum; but I am always anxious to be moderate in my demands, and suggest £10,000 as a species of compromise, and I am sure many will vote with me who would not support the reduction by a larger sum.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £20,000, be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I trust my hon. Colleague will not insist on moving this reduction, for if he does the Committee will be put to the trouble of a double Division, for I shall cer- 1666 tainly divide against the whole Vote. I divide against it on principle, and therefore ask him to withdraw his Motion for a reduction. I took the same ground last year, and do not think it necessary to repeat now what I then said; but I divide as a matter of principle, thinking that in a country like this we ought not to have a Secret Service Vote. I quite understand how it may be necessary to include different items of expenditure under the head of Sundries, the particulars of which need not be stated; but they ought at least to come under some sort of audit in connection with each Department.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
There is one question in connection with this Secret Service Vote I think of some importance; it is this. We vote every year a sum of £50,000, so we are led to suppose that sum is required. The sum was doubled at the time of the dynamite scare, and we know that then there was great expense incurred in the Detective Service; and in the state of public excitement, any Vote that was asked for was assented to. But is it not utterly out of reason to suppose that you can spend the same sum in Secret Service year after year?
§ MR. JACKSON
In the Appropriation Accounts. The hon. Member will find that there never has been £50,000 spent; the expenditure has ranged from £30,000 to £45,000.
§ MR. DILLON
It is very desirable that we should have on the face of these Estimates, when we are asked to vote this sum; the amount surrendered in the previous year, the Committee would then know the sum spent each year.
§ MR. JACKSON
The hon. Member is aware that I am already under a pledge to the House to give explanatory notes with the Estimates, and in regard to this particular Vote the note will give the actual sum expended in the last year.
§ MR. DILLON
Of course, that would be a very marked improvement, and some of my objection would be met, though my objection to the Vote cannot be altogether removed. one thing is remarkable in connection with the discussion of this Vote, and has struck me 1667 as absurd, and that is the amount of mystery with which, the Vote is surrounded. I am reminded of the habit attributed to the ostrich, of sticking its head in the sand when pursued, when I see the amount of mystery that is indicated when there is an allusion to this Vote. Of course, we do not expect a detailed return of the expenditure; but if Ministers refuse to indicate generally the method in which, the money is used, is there not one of them can got up and say—"I have examined the accounts, and I can certify that the money has been spent for useful purposes."
§ MR. JACKSON
If I tell the hon. Member what a re the facts, it may tend to clear his mind of some false impressions in regard to the Vote. I do not wonder at the impression, for unless he has examined the accounts, he might suppose from seeing the round sum set down in the Votes each year that the whole of it was expended. But that is not the fact, as going back on the figures for a few years will show. In the year 1885–6, the amount surrendered to the Treasury was £6,952 8s. 1d.; in 1884–5, the amount surrendered was £1,398; in 1883–4, £1,949; in 1882–3. £4,862; and in 1881–2, £10,471. These facts are shown on the face of the Appropriation Accounts.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
It seems to me it will be the same thing whether we take a Division on a reduction of the Vote or divide against the whole Vote; all we want is a protest. I will, with the permission of the Committee, withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. DILLON
Is there any Minister sitting on that Bench who holds himself responsible for the expenditure of the money, who will undertake to stand up and say—"This money has been honestly spent?" Is there anyone who looks after it?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The responsibility is divided between three or four different Ministers, to whom a portion of the Secret Service money is assigned according to their wants, and each Minister vouches for the money when spent. One Minister collects the demands of the Departments.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Does the Minister state for what the money is ex- 1668 pended, or is the expenditure entirely on the responsibility of the individual Minister?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 137; Noes 42: Majority 95.—(Div. List No. 367.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It will be for the convenience of hon. Members, I understand, if we now report Progress, and proceed to-morrow with the Scotch Votes in Classes II. and III.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
The English Votes in Class 3 will be postponed until after the Scotch Votes in that class?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Yes. It will be convenient, having commenced Scotch Business, to proceed with it; but we break off at 11 to take the second reading of the Technical Instruction Bill.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.