§ (6.) £658, Supplementary, Foreign Office.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I notice that on this page reference is made to the Vote for Law Charges, Class III., Vote 1. I find there is a charge for £2,000 for Counsel to Law Officers on Foreign Office matters. But there is a further note on that page, that it is paid by fees for consultation on foreign business. If you take from the Law Charges Vote the £1,000, it will, of course, effect an apparent saving of £1,000. But I wish to know what becomes of the other business with regard to which the same counsel is consulted, and with regard to which he gets further fees. Will those fees be paid from the Foreign Office Vote or from the Law 768 Charges Vote? Is it intended to abolish the existing Vote and transfer the officer from one office to another? Is there a reduction of the salary of the present officer; and, if so, what compensation is to be given him for the loss which he sustains? I shall be glad if the right hon. Baronet will give the Committee some information on these points.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
This matter, Sir, was settled in the time of the late Government, who decided that the legal officer should retire, and that a new officer should be appointed at a salary of £1,000 a-year, who should give his whole time to the office. This Vote of £658 is necessary to pay the balance of his salary for the present year. I hope this explanation will be satisfactory to the hon. Member.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
Are we to understand that there is a corresponding saving on Class III., Vote 1?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
No, Sir. We do not say this year, because we have to pay the balance of the salary of the retiring officer; but in future there will be a saving of £1,000 a-year.
§ (7.) £10, Supplementary, Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
Mr. Chairman, this appears a very simple Vote—only £10—but in reality it involves a charge of £14,000. The charge is apparently met by an appropriation to an equivalent amount of £14,340, but in reality it is no justification for the charge. It is as much a drain upon the Exchequer as if there had been a substantive Vote for a similar sum. The £14,340 is received in respect of fees and other incomes incidental to the administration of the Bankruptcy Act. The principal item on which the present increased Estimate is based is that for Country Receivers paid by fees and commissions. Now, the history of that item is remarkable. In the year 1884–5 the sum of £33,000 was reckoned upon as the sum to be paid to Country Receivers; but so far from that being necessary hardly more than two-thirds was required. £10,000, in fact, was sur- 769 rendered as not needed. The Estimate of the following year was £33,000 again, supplemented by a further Vote of £5,780, making £38,780, and that is about the amount which was expended, so that already you had an increase from £23,000 to £38,000 in one year. But we have now a much more remarkable increase. The £38,000 has now gone up to £45,000, with this curious result that whatever increase you may have in the fees derivable from the Bankruptcy business of the country, all is to be swallowed up in further fees paid to Country Receivers and to other officers connected with the administration of the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade. When this form of estimate was put on the Paper I objected to it as of an unsatisfactory character, but it was said that the fullest information would be given. Anyone who does not take the very greatest possible care to follow out in detail the whole system connected with the working of the Bankruptcy Act can have not the least notion of what this means. I object to the way in which the Vote is submitted to the Committee, and I trust that full and satisfactory explanation will be given of the astonishing increase under sub-head D. But what is proposed more astounding, is this. At the bottom of the page is to be found an item of £1,900 to meet additional charges for stationery under the new Bankruptcy Rules. Now that is an increase of more than 50 per cent upon the Estimate as originally presented. The first Estimate under this head was £3,700, and the Estimate for last year was similarly £3,700; but so far from this being insufficient there was a surplus of £598 last year. How is it there is an increase of more than £50 upon the present year? It is because we are told there are new Bankruptcy Rules, but I certainly cannot understand what the new Rules can be to involve an increase in stationery to this amount.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
Mr. Courtney, I admit that the hon. Gentleman is thoroughly acquainted with the working of the Bankruptcy Act. He has taken great interest in it, and he has served upon the Public Accounts Committee, and devoted great attention to the accounts connected with the administration of the Bankruptcy Act. He 770 asks me for an explanation of the sum set aside to meet the increased scale of remuneration to Country Receivers paid by fees and commission. The simple answer to the question is that it was found that the scale of remuneration by fees was totally inadequate, and that many who thought they would be able to do all that was required of them, and earn at the same time that to which they were entitled as professional men, found that the remuneration was so bad that they preferred relinquishing their positions to holding them under such disadvantageous circumstances. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) will turn to the Report of the Board of Trade presented to Parliament this year, he will find the increased scale which it was found necessary to substitute for the old scale; and he will find on examination that the difference of £12,000 is easily accounted for. He knows, I think, that the Country Receivers are not paid, or have not been paid, by any salary, but have to depend entirely upon commissions and fees; and that, as I have said, the commissions and fees proved so utterly inadequate that it became necessary in the interests of common fairness that they should be increased. Hence the great increase in the Estimate presented to Parliament. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the enormous work done by the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade is paid for without one single penny charged coming out of the Treasury. It is paid for by fees, and there is no charge whatever upon the Treasury. The hon. Gentleman knows the amount of work that is done; and, therefore, I think he will agree with me that the Department cannot be called a very extravagant one. It is a new Department, comparatively speaking, and we are aware that at the time it was formed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) that right hon. Gentleman had to obtain the services of many very eminent professional men who were not Members of the Civil Service, and who were, perhaps, more lavish in their expenditure than they might have been had they been accustomed to the severe râgime of the Civil Service. Take all this into consideration, and the amount of work which the Board of Trade does, and I think 771 that, although it may appear to hon. Gentlemen at first that these items are very large, it must appear to the Committee that the explanation I have been able to give with regard to the £12,000 increase in the remuneration to Country Receivers is satisfactory; and that we were not extravagant in giving this increased remuneration, but that originally the remuneration of these gentlemen was over-estimated and fell far below that to which they were entitled. Now, with regard to the £1,900 increase in respect of stationery. I have asked for an explanation of the item, and the explanation given to me is that owing to the New Rules and the vast number of forms and circulars which have to be sent about the country, it was absolutely impossible for the Board of Trade to make any approximate estimate of what the expense of the stationery would be. I find that the £1,900 is really rather under than over the mark of that which was required to defray the great expense attendant upon the printing and circulation of the forms and circulars in question. I think I have touched upon all the points which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) has raised, and I hope I have succeeded in showing him that there is no room to charge the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade with extravagance, and that although these sums seem large they are simply and solely the result of the very heavy work thrown on the Board of Trade.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say in effect that the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade have so successfully plundered bankrupt estates that they are able to pay in fees and commissions to Country Receivers alone almost exactly double the amount that was necessary two years ago.
§ MR. P. MCDONALD (Sligo, N.)
Mr. Chairman, I object to the increased scale of remuneration paid to Country Receivers, but I do so on very different grounds to my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor). I object as an Irish Representative to Ireland being called upon to bear any share of this expenditure, inasmuch as the advantages arising out of he expenditure do not in the least 772 benefit my country. I have raised the question in this House before now, and got a reply from the right hon. Gentleman the then Secretary of the Board of Trade, to the effect that the Government would extend the present English practice to Ireland, but that they were strenuously opposed by six Irish Representatives. But I may point out to the Government that five of these so-called Obstructionists have no longer a seat in the House, and that consequently the position of the Government has grown to the smallest possible minimum.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is travelling very wide of the Vote. This Vote only relates to the Bankruptcy Law in England.
§ MR. P. MCDONALD
I was endeavouring to explain that we have to bear our proportionate share of these increased items of £12,000 for Country Receivers and £1,900 for stationery to meet additional charges under the new Bankruptcy Rules. I for one protest against the increase.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
These sums are not raised by taxation in Ireland, but they are raised by fees in England.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I think the position taken up by the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) has not been met by the reply of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade. He has confined himself to mere general statements. Anyone who has any knowledge of business transactions will admit that an increase, whether it be in salaries or anything else, of from £33,000 in one year to £45,000 in another, requires some little detailed explanation. This the Secretary of the Board of Trade has not at present given.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
There is another remark which occurs to me in consequence of the explanation given by the Secretary of the Board of Trade. I understood the hon. Gentleman (Baron Henry de Worms) to speak as though there was no cost to the country in respect of the remuneration of these Receivers, because the amount is paid out of fees; but surely he reckons the creditors as having some slight interest in the matter, and whether they pay it to the tax collector or pay it in fees to the Court, it is a matter of very little difference to them how their money is frittered away. What I would suggest 773 to the Committee is that we ought to be even more careful in voting an excess of this kind so put to us. It looks as if there was a disposition on the part of the Government to allow larger fees than necessary for the administration of justice because those fees are not paid directly by them. I see that shakes the stern mind of the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson), and I dare say that it was a misapprehension on my part. Since I have been a Member of this House I have received many letters from creditors, who have asked me to take the earliest opportunity of exposing the way in which estates in Bankruptcy are frittered away, and this is the only opportunity I have had.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
In answer to the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), I have to say that the increased fees are the result of the increase of bankruptcy business. We have to deal with a great number of bankrupt estates, and the fees attendant upon the business are very large. Last year the amount of the fees was £155,818, including the interest of money awaiting to be applied. The fees which were paid originally to Country Receivers were quite inadequate, and not only that, but the old system was considered unsatisfactory. That was the opinion of many judges, and the opinion of a large portion of the public, and for that reason the Board of Trade decided that the scale of fees must be increased, and the result is only adequate to the requirements of the Department.
§ MR. LANE (Cork County, E.)
I am quite sure that if the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) had the misfortune, as I very often, I am sorry to say, have had of looking at this question of fees from a creditor's point of view, he would come to a very different conclusion from that at which he has arrived—namely, that the Receivers are underpaid. If the hon. Gentleman, or any other Member of this House, will ask any traders who have the misfortune to become creditors in connection with bankruptcy cases in the English Courts, he will find that nine out of every ten will tell him that the Receivers are overpaid rather than underpaid. The right hon. Gentleman (Baron Henry de Worms) has just said that £155,818 was received last year, but that this 774 sum included interest upon money paid into Court. I would like the hon. Gentleman to state what the amount of that interest is, because one of the greatest hardships which creditors have to complain of in connection with bankruptcy cases is the great difficulty there is in getting the dividends, or any part of them, out of the hands of the Receivers. In fact, so long have creditors to wait in some cases that they actually give them up altogether, and forget all about them; if they do not keep constantly writing to these officers to hurry on the business, there is no chance whatever of despatch being observed in the conduct of bankruptcy proceedings. I never knew before that there was such an item in the bankruptcy accounts of the Board of Trade as interest on balances. That explains, perhaps, to a very large extent the reason why the dividends are not distributed more quickly. Naturally, the Department will not put pressure on the officers to distribute dividends when the dividends lying to the credit of the Board of Trade produce a certain annual revenue. There is one point I should like to press upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman (Baron Henry de Worms). He said that the great increase of over 50 per cent on the cost of stationery during the past year is owing to the new Rules. Now, Sir, I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has seen the new forms which are being issued this year in connection with bankruptcy cases in English Courts, but, if he has, I think he will agree with me that the large expenditure in this Stationery Department is owing altogether to the immense and unnecessary large size of all forms issued in connection with bankruptcy proceedings. I think it would be worth the hon. Gentleman's while to look into this technical detail in connection with the working of this Department; because I am sure he will find that all the forms used in connection with the Bankruptcy Court could be reduced by one half their size, and, therefore, one half of this expenditure in the Stationery Department could be saved. The first thing that struck me when I saw these large forms coming to my office was that the size of them would necessarily involve a very large increase in connection with the expenditure upon bankruptcy proceedings. Everything connected with this Department is of very I great importance, to the mercantile com- 775 munity in the country, and I ask the hon. Gentleman (Baron Henry de Worms) to give his attention to these two matters: firstly, that the sums paid in to bankrupt estates should not be allowed to accumulate too long in the hands of the Receivers, or in the hands of the Department; and, secondly, the unnecessary large size of all the forms that are now issued in connection with bankruptcy affairs.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lane) for the suggestions he has made. Coming from him, who has great practical experience, they are most valuable. Perhaps he will see his way to confer with me on the matter; but, at any rate, I promise the Committee I will look into the stationery question, and see whether any reduction of the £1,900 can be made. I am sorry to say that I have not got such figures with me as enable me to say what is the interest derived from monies paid into Court. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that there should be no delay in paying over the amounts due. The hon. Gentleman knows that the great object of the new Bankruptcy Department, which has worked very well, was to expedite the proceedings in bankruptcy, and I think he will agree with me that to a very large extent bankruptcy proceedings have been expedited.
§ MR. LANE
No doubt affairs in bankruptcy have been very largely improved from the trader's point of view since the Board of Trade has taken them in hand; but there is room for still further improvement, and especially in that particular matter which is of most vital importance—namely, prompt payment of dividends.
§ Vote agreed to.
(8) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £4,595, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Civil Service Commission.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
This Vote on account of the Civil Service Commission includes a charge of £2,600 on account of "bonuses and gratuities to temporary copyists under the Treasury Minute of the 776 22nd December, 1886." I am afraid there is no one in the House at present who can say whether the Treasury Minute has yet been generally circulated and published, or whether it has been laid before the House; and if it has not been laid before the House, it appears to me a rather strange proceeding to come and ask for a Supplementary Estimate on these terms without the House being made acquainted with what those terms are; although from the wording of the Vote I have read it would appear that the temporary copyists are to be generously treated, yet as a matter of fact the very reverse is the case. The treatment which this item represents is of the meanest and most petty description. I do not know who is responsible for the Treasury Minute itself, or for the Minute which was submitted to the Lords of the Treasury before the Minute itself was issued; but of this I am satisfied, whatever he may be, or whoever he may be, he is a man of mean and sordid mind, utterly unfit to have the consideration of personal claims for justice, perfectly unfit to be allowed to sway the judgment of men in the responsible position of the Lords of the Treasury. Now, these temporary copyists are, perhaps, that portion of the public servants which is most badly and most unfairly treated. The injustice of their case is notorious, so notorious that no man, official or non-official, can be found to any longer contest the proposition. The Treasury themselves have been obliged to admit that their attitude with regard to these copyists is utterly indefensible. It was foreseen long ago that the position would be indefensible, and so far back as the year 1878 a Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to consider the question and report upon it. I venture to ask the indulgence of the Committee while I cite a few words from the Report of the Committee. This Committee was appointed to inquire whether the writers appointed before 1871 had suffered any wrong or injustice by the cessation of the system of progressive rate of payment. They considered the question, took evidence, and made a Report, and they dwelt principally upon the terms of the Order in Council of the 19th August, 1871, under which the writers 777 then existing had practically three courses open to them. The first was that they might retain their employment in the same department only so long as their services might be required at the rate of pay they were receiving on the 19th of August, 1871, without any addition thereto on account of services following that day; or, secondly, they might accept a gratuity and retire from the Service; or, thirdly, having accepted the gratuity, to remain in their employment as writers at 10d. per hour. Many did accept the gratuity, and remained, because they were utterly unable to do anything else, having for years been in the Government Service. As a matter of fact these men were either forced to accept the gratuity and leave the Service, or to accept the gratuity and continue service at the miserable stipend of 10d. per hour. In the Admiralty they had been receiving 6s. 6d. a-day for six days in the week, with a rise of 3d. a day for each year's service. In the Customs their rate of pay averaged from 5s. 6d. to a maximum of 8s. 6d. In the War Office they went up to 7s. 6d. a-day after 10 years' service, and in other Departments they had rates of pay far exceeding what is now allowed. The Committee goes on—Previous to the Order in Council of August 1871, the heads of Departments had the power, which in every instance they exercised, of recommending their meritorious writers for increase of pay. Since the promulgation of the Order in Council this power no longer exists, so that the heads of Departments are no longer allowed to recommend these writers for more pay. As regards the duties of the writers now, it is in evidence that they are the same as they were before the increments were stopped, the writers being then employed on work of a responsible character, and sometimes in superintending and instructing others in their duty. In many cases it may be said that their work was that of clerks on the establishment.I can speak from personal knowledge; I have seen many clerks receiving 10d. per hour who were worth infinitely more than established clerks receiving £600 or £700 a-year.The pay of 10d. an hour was fixed on the supposition that the work of the writers was of a mechanical character, such as copying.And then the Committee concluded—Having considered all the matters brought before them, your Committee are of opinion that the restoration of the system of progres- 778 sive rate of payment will best meet the requirements of justice, give contentment to the writers, and promote the efficiency of the public service.From that day to this nothing whatever has been done in that direction for these men. They were reported upon by the Playfair Commission in 1876, and the Playfair Commission reported that the copyists throughout the whole Service would not exceed something like 100. That they were to be a kind of shifting balance, going from office to office as the exigencies of the work demand. What is the fact? So far from finding that 100 writers will do, there are now—and, I believe, have been pretty constantly since that day—no less than from 1,000 to 1,200 writers. What is the work these men do? They are not men exclusively employed as a 10d. an hour salary would appear to suggest; but they are men who have been continuously employed for five, six, seven, eight, 10, and 15 or more years. Still they are treated as merely temporary copyists, dismissible at a minute's notice, and not eligible for more than 10d. an hour for six hours a-day—30s. per week as the utmost they can obtain. Now, the Treasury, or the Civil Service Commission, having got its men into the Public Service, utilizes them in any way in which they can. I perfectly admit that very little blame, if any, can be attached to the heads of rooms or subdivisions in the different Departments. They are obliged to despatch the work for which they are responsible, and in order to do so they must make use of such material as they find at their hand; and, therefore, every head of sub-division or of branch will naturally turn to the despatch of any work whatever men he finds available, altogether irrespective of the status or pay of the men. And the consequence is that, on and off now for 15 years, during the whole time since this Committee of the House of Commons reported, we have had writers employed upon work far different from that for which they were engaged—far different from that which is recognized as proper work to be paid for at 10d. an hour. The writers do not complain of being put upon superior work. I dare say that, especially to the intelligent men anong them, it is a relief to be put upon superior work. But what they complain of is, that if they do object to 779 the injustice of being put on this work at 10d. an hour they are instantly dismissed. They dare not refuse to take the work. They know that the head of a branch would at once say—"Then we will dispense with your services;" and these men have absolutely nothing before them in the world. They complain of being put to superior work if they are not paid anything like the rate of pay which other men more fortunately situated can command. At last the Treasury has been obliged to admit, as they do in this Minute of which I have got a copy—I have obtained a copy from a private source. The Committee appointed by the Treasury reported that they were forced to the conclusion that copyists had been employed to a greater extent than was contemplated by the Playfair Commission. That alone shows that they are a valuable class of public servants. The Committee further find that though nominally for temporary service, the copyists have in many cases been serving continuously for long periods in the same Departments. They found that there are from 1,000 to 1,200 now in the Service, and they say that probably 300 are employed merely upon copying. They admit that three out of every four men are doing work better than that for which they were nominally engaged. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) shakes his head. I will read the ipsis-sima verba. "Mere copying may employ, according to their estimate, about 300 registered copyists." Three hundred appears to me to bear the same proportion to 1,200 as one does to four.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
Surely, 300 out of 1,200 can hardly be calculated as three out of four.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
The hon. Gentleman cannot have heard me correctly. The Committee say "mere copying may employ, according to their estimate, about 300 registered copyists." 300 out of 1,200, or 25 per cent. Well, the other men are employed upon something better than mere copying, and these men number 900, and 900 is to to 300 as 3 to 1. It is, therefore, clear that 900 out of the 1,200 are engaged in superior work. Further on, the Committee say that—Of the remaining work about 40 per cent of it is mostly of a mixed character, the duties 780 of each copyist being partly mechanical and partly such as requires some special knowledge and experience.They say, further—It may, therefore, be accepted that about one-third of the work entrusted to copyists is of a higher order than that for which the pay of 10d. an hour, fixed by Order in Council in 1878, is intended.Now then, mark the spirit by which my Lords are moved. My Lords agree with the conclusion of the Committee, that the conditions of service are not so unfavourable as they are sometimes represented to be, and that the men have a fair chance of obtaining better and more permanent positions in the Civil Service. They do not say a word about the fact that the men are debarred from the permanent Civil Service, and, at present, by the bar of age. But that is not all; my Lords of the Treasury think that the mea have a fair chance of obtaining better and more permanent positions in the Civil Service, or elsewhere, and—That those who have been unable to obtain such positions could not command in the market better terms than they now obtain.I should like to know what terms the gentleman who drafted this Minute would be likely to get in the open market for his services? What would any of the permanent superior Staff of your Public Offices be able to obtain in the public market? These men can be obtained, no doubt, as temporary copyists at 10d. an hour; and why, because there are so many thousands and tens of thousands out of employment; because times are bad; and because a starving man cannot haggle about the rate of remuneration, when, if he refuses what is offered, he must go into the workhouse. It is the workhouse and the distress which is enabling you to treat these men so unfairly; but if it is true that you can obtain a large number of men at 10d. an hour, it is equally true that you can fill the whole of the Public Departments with men quite as good as you have now in them at one-third of the salary. Why should you apply this test to these men, who have no power to state their case, without personal danger, which you fail to apply to any other portion of the Public Service. Well, this Committee goes on to say—But it is not improbable that such men have only taken copying employment because they, for one reason or another, have failed to secure 781 better positions in early life; and the market value of their services, as tested by their success, can hardly be put higher than, that which they earn.If that is so, if my Lords believe what they write, they have no business at all to improve the position of these men, as they propose to do; but they have admitted that this is not true. They make as strong a case as they can against these men; they affect to believe that the Treasury case is absolute, and admits of no qualification, and then they affect, out of grace, to concede something. Now, we shall consider what it is they concede. The Committee reported that about one-third of the work now done by copyists is superior to that they were intended to do, and what do my Lords do? They calculate the services of these copyists, and find that one-third of them have had more than eight years' service; and they say that because one-third of the copyists throughout the Service are doing work superior to that they were engaged to do at 10d. an hour; and because, also, one-third of the copyists have had more than eight years' service, we will, to make up for the anomaly, and to put things straight, give a bonus to those who have had eight years' service. The fact is this, that of the writers in the Civil Service it is not altogether the men of long service who are doing the superior work. There are many men who after a year or two's service have been put upon work of a very responsible character. Therefore, to give to a poor old fellow, who may not be worth more than 10d. an hour, a gratuity because he has been eight years in the Service is no satisfaction to those copyists who are doing superior work though they have not been eight years in the Service. The man who drafted this Minute was not only a man of mean and sordid soul, but most stupid and incompetent. He does not know how to deal with the business which comes before him, and it is a great pity that the Lords of the Treasury ever consented to listen to his suggestions. Now, what are his suggestions? They are that after copyists have been in the Service for eight years they shall be allowed a gratuity. And I am sure I shall rather startle the Committee by making known to them the extent of the generosity of the Treasury. After a copyist has been doing superior work for eight years he 782 is to be allowed a gratuity of 30s., that is a penny a day, and when he has had nine years' service he is to be allowed a gratuity of two-pence a day. And so does it go on, if he is allowed to continue in the Service, year by year increasing. But so careful is the Treasury of the Public Money when this kind of service is to be paid for that there is a clause specially put in preventing anyone getting a gratuity of more than £50. [Mr. JACKSON: Per annum.] Yes, the maximum gratuity is £50. But one copyist has calculated that he will reach the age of 97 before he ever receives the maximum. That is the way this Treasury, so ready to squander tens of thousands of pounds upon buildings on the Continent, and hundreds of thousands and millions in unjustifiable aggression abroad, treat men who serve them well. The whole story is a disgrace to the Administration, and I doubt very much whether there is a Government in Europe, however poor or new, that would have been capable of so dirty a transaction as this is. The House of Commons has inquired into it already. The Committee of 1873 has said that these men being continually employed for long periods at responsible work ought to receive an increase in their rate of pay. That appears to me to be a most reasonable proposition. It is one which is acted upon in every other branch of the Public Service, whether Civil, Military, or Naval. Why these men should be excluded from it I cannot understand; but this proposal of the Treasury, instead of meeting the grievance, is practically an insult to a body of men who have deserved well of the State, because if they had not they would have been forced to retire long ago. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £2,600, being the amount set down for bonuses and gratuities to temporary copyists under the Treasury Minute of 22nd December, 1886.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,995, be granted to Her Majesty for the said Service."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I am rather in a difficulty to know what it is the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) really desires. He has com- 783 plained, and complained in terms that are more forcible than polite, of the action of the Treasury in connection with this matter.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I hope the hon. Gentleman did not take it to be personal. It was not meant to be so.
§ MR. JACKSON
I know the hon. Gentleman too well to imagine that he meant what he said to apply to me personally. But to speak of the action of the Treasury as dirty is not a very polite way of speaking. The hon. Gentleman has quoted from a Minute which has not been circulated to the House, but which has been presented to a Commission of which the hon. Member is a member.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I think I am entitled to the protection of the Chair from the insinuation which is contained in the observation of the Secretary to the Treasury. It is perfectly true that the Minute in question has been furnished to the Civil Service Commission, of which I am a member. It is perfectly true that I have seen it so in print, but the paper from which I read was a manuscript copy, which was made before the Minute was supplied to the Commission at all. If what the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jackson) says means anything at all, it means this, that I being a member of the Commission, have used documents which came into my power or possession as a member of that Commission in a way in which I had no right to use them, and have quoted them in this House before they could have become available in the ordinary course. If that is so I beg to give the most emphatic contradiction to the statement of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. JACKSON
I have not the slightest desire or intention to cast upon the hon. Member any reproach for having obtained a copy of this Minute. But what I was about to say was that this Minute, as he knows, has been presented to a Commission of which he is a member, and that that Commission will presently have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the action of the Treasury in regard to this particular class of persons. They will also 784 have an opportunity, if they choose to avail themselves of it, of having evidence supplied to them by members connected with these services, and therefore it seems to me, perhaps, a little premature to express the very decided opinion which the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) has allowed himself to express. The hon. Member spoke of the Treasury in terms which certainly were not very complimentary, and spoke of them as having taken advantage of the distress in the country for refusing to do to this class of men justice. Now, Sir, surely the hon. Member knows perfectly well that there never has been the smallest difficulty in obtaining men for the position of writers, even during the period which was considered the period of the greatest prosperity in the country. It has nothing whatever to do with the distress in the country that the present wages are paid to the writers. I will go further, and I will tell the hon. Member that I have just as much sympathy with these writers as he has. It became my duty to deal with this, one of the most difficult questions which it would be in the recollection of the House has been before this House for a long time, and with which, apparently, successive Secretaries to the Treasury have refused or neglected to deal. I admit that the position which these writers occupy is not one which is very satisfactory. I admit, also, that the rate of payment is exceedingly low; but I maintain that a man who is in the position of a trustee of public money is bound to see, as far as he can, that the public money is not wasted, and that prices higher than market prices are not paid. [Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR: In all cases.] In all cases, I admit. Now, Sir, what are the facts in regard to these copyists? The hon. Gentleman said, and he would apparently lead the House to believe, that there was great difficulty in these men obtaining better employment. He knows perfectly well, if he has read the Minutes, that out of 5,000 copyists who have entered the Service, only 1,468 of them remain in the Service at the present day. Of these 1,027 have retired, most of them avowedly, and the rest presumably to obtain better employment; while permanent employment in the Public Service has been obtained by 2,109. The hon. Member 785 knows that there is no bar to these men passing into the higher divisions of the Service except the bar of being unable to pass the examination which is necessary. [Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR: Age is a barrier.] But most of them have entered the Service at an age at which they could have passed into the permanent service. [Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR: There were no vacancies.] But if they had passed the examination they would have got positions in the permanent service when vacancies occur, and, therefore, so far as that point is concerned, I think it may be taken as absolutely disposed of. Sir, I admit, as I have said, that these men occupy a position which is not satisfactory. The Treasury, recognizing that fact, have taken the only practical step they could take to prevent the continuance of it for any very long period of time; and they have decided, as the hon. Member knows, that the list of writers shall be closed, and, in fact, no further applicants shall be placed on the register. I am not at all sure that the action of the Treasury is not the more cruel of the two, and a great many men are thereby prevented from joining the Service and earning 30s. a week, which the hon. Member seems to despise, for I believe there are thousands of men in this country who are competent to do this work, and who would be glad to do it at a time like this at 30s. per week. Sir, the hon. Member spoke of the conclusion at which the Treasury had arrived. The object of the Treasury was as far as possible to do justice within the limits of the line which they had laid down for themselves—namely, that they were not justified in spending the public money lavishly. They endeavoured, as far as they could, to find a reasonable line, so that the men who may continue in the employment may continue to improve their condition, and to receive a higher rate of pay; and although it may seem a long time before these men reach the maximum, you have it in evidence that the Supplementary Vote which is now before the Committee is for £4,595. This is expected to come in course of payment in the course of the coming year. The estimated cost of the small bonuses to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) referred, coupled with the gratuities which may become payable to those who voluntarily retire, repre- 786 sents at least £6,000 a-year; and I say, Sir, that those who are responsible for the finances of this country owe a duty to the taxpayer, and that the advance under this particular class of £6,000 a-year is not an advance which is to be despised or to be considered small. I know that, whatever was done, it would be impossible to give entire satisfaction. I believe that the closing of the register may have a good effect upon many of these men. The hon. Member must not forget that the position of writer has been sought for by young men partly as a means of subsistence for the time, and partly as a training ground within which to learn the duties which they had to perform to enable them more easily to pass the examination for the higher divisions of the Service. And it has been because it has been so valuable to young men who have used it for this purpose, that there has been such an enormous number of candidates always waiting any vacancies which may occur. I do not deny for one moment that the question is one beset with difficulties. It is beset with difficulties, and any question will be beset with difficulties wherever you have a larger number of candidates than you have places to give to them. I maintain that it is our bounden duty, as far as we can, while doing justice to the Service, to prevent the waste of the public money in paying for services more than their market value.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
I cannot agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) that we should do right to vote against the appropriation of this sum of £2,600. We should be acting contrary to the interests of the writer class if we refused to take this sum, though we may only consider it an instalment of justice. We have certainly just grounds for hoping that when the case is thoroughly threshed out before the Commission, something better than that now proposed will be obtained. Of course I fully appreciate the motive of my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor); he has taken a very great and intelligent interest in this question from the very beginning, but nevertheless, I cannot go the length of voting with him against the granting of these bonuses and gratuities. It has been said that whilst evidence will be admitted before the Commission it will 787 be of a somewhat restricted character. I trust we may receive the assurance from the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson), that the question of the writers will be fully and adequately discussed before the Royal Commission; it certainly is expected that the Commission will afford every opportunity of thoroughly threshing the question out. Now, I want to take issue with my hon. Friend (Mr. Jackson) on one point. The whole tenour of his speech was that we must be careful not to increase unnecessarily the calls upon the taxpayers of the country. My contention is, and always has been, that the reorganization of the Civil Service would, instead of entailing any additional burden upon the taxpayers, really result in a large saving of money. I have on one or two previous occasions illustrated this by quoting the figures of the Return which you, Mr. Courtney, were good enough to grant me when you occupied the position of Secretary to the Treasury. Anyone who will take the trouble to study the figures of that Return will see that all the little reforms wanting in the Civil Service, including the writers, would be fully and adequately met with advantage to the State and with satisfaction to all concerned, not at the expense of the State, but at a very considerable saving of money to the State. We are not prepared to admit that the Civil Service of this country is carried on on the basis of supply and demand. If it is so, let the principle be applied all round—in the highest as well as the lowest grades of the Service. We consider that the most efficient men in the Service are those who have fixity of tenure, those who feel that by entering the Civil Service they are provided for for life, and that it is necessary for them to devote all their zeal and energy to the Public Service. That is the right principle upon which the Civil Service should be carried on, and my hon. Friend (Mr. Jackson) will excuse me for saying that the doctrine he has advanced—the doctrine of supply and demand—is, as applied to the Civil Service, an entirely new and novel one. I do not remember that the doctrine was ever advanced by Her Majesty's Government before the great interest in the case of the Lower Division Clerks and in that of the writers sprung up a couple of years ago. It is said that the writers are not to be increased in 788 number. It was supposed by the Play-fair Commission that the writers were a diminishing body; but as a matter of fact they have been an increasing body. By engaging these writers continuously, and by setting them to superior work, we only raise in them false hopes. I believe that by the Treasury Minute to which reference has been made, it is admitted that one-third of the writers are doing work of a superior character. What is this superior work? The superior work that a writer who gets 10d. an hour does is the work of the clerk, sitting by his side, who gets £300, £400, or £500 a-year. That is admitted by my hon. Friend (Mr. Jackson), and by those who acted with him in the production of this Treasury Minute. This Minute either goes too far or not far enough. It would have been perfectly intelligible to have issued no such Minute. As it has been admitted that one-third of these men earning 10d. an hour are doing the work of clerks who are on the permanent establishment, and who earn from £300 to £500 a-year, I could have understood a proposal to make them an allowance commensurate with the work they do. The Government refuse to recognize the superior work per se, but offer the men who have been eight years in the Service 6d. a-week extra. I cannot but regret the issuing of a Minute such as this because, as I say, it either goes too far or does not go far enough, and it operates unjustly in regard to a large portion of the men. I regret very much that my hon. Friend has not seen his way to justify another and a better conclusion.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
I do not know that there is anything more charming than to see the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) rise in his place, when jobs of an enormous character are being carried out, with no better argument to call to his aid in answer to an appeal on behalf of the poorest paid body of clerks in this or any other Service—the argument about the duty of those who are entrusted with the guardianship of the national purse. Why does he not make use of that argument when dealing with the lavish manner in which money is spent to buy a house at Cairo, and to provide funds for a Special Commissioner to the East. The hon. Gentleman in his open- 789 ing remarks said he does not understand what my hon. Friend desires. Well, for my own part, I think the speech of my hon. Friend was perfectly lucid. It was certainly understood by every other Member of the Committee, and when the Secretary to the Treasury says he cannot understand it I am bound to regard the position of the hon. Gentleman as peculiar, seeing that having made that statement he immediately proceeded to answer the arguments of my hon. Friend. The Secretary to the Treasury has passed over one little point with regard to the Minute which has been read here this evening. He asks—"Why discuss this Minute since it will be sent before the Royal Commission?" But for the past 15 years you have put off the claims of these miserably paid Civil servants always on the same ground—that there is a Commission or Committee or some other body examining into the case. Year after year the claims of these people have been brought forward in Committee of Supply. The subject has been brought forward in the House by way of Motion. Year after year the same stereotyped answer is given—"Oh! we cannot give you a definite answer now because the subject is just going to be considered by a Royal Commission." I should have thought that the Government had enough Commissions on their hands without taking one for these subjects. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury justifies the small and insufficient pay of these hard working officials on the ground—and the Committee will admit that this is the most astounding of all his arguments—that there is no difficulty in obtaining men for these positions. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether there would be any difficulty to obtain men to fill the position he holds? If the post of Secretary to the Treasury were to come to competition would there not be plenty of Gentlemen come forward on that side of the House to compete for it? And is there any difficulty in obtaining men for the permanent staff of the Civil Service? How many men apply for every situation vacant? Why just as many, if not more, as apply for these minor offices. Do you account for underpaying these clerks by the fact that they are easy to get? If not why do you refer to there being no difficulty 790 in obtaining men. The Secretary to the Treasury admits in almost a tone of humiliation that these officials are underpaid. Then what is he going to do with regard to them? He refers to the Commission, and again deals for a few minutes with the duties of a trustee of public money. He states that they have had 34,000 applications for these positions. Why, how many thousands of applications have you had for positions in the higher grades of the Service? You have actually had more. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury did not for a moment touch upon this extra pay which my hon. Friend told us these writers are to receive—he made no defence whatever of this paltry 1d. per day which is to be paid to the men who have been so many years in the service of this country. It seems that the men are to get an advance of 1d. a-day one year and another 1d. a-day another year. It was not worth your while holding an inquiry into the matter if you have nothing more generous to offer than 1d. a-day to these hard working servants of the Civil Service. Then, there is another point—this gratuity of £20 which you propose to give to some of these men. What is the object of that? Is the payment of a few paltry pounds supposed to be an inducement to the men to leave the Service? That amount would not support them for more than two or three months, economic as they might be. Then the work they did in the Civil Service would have to be done by someone. Who is to do it if these men leave? The Secretary to the Treasury admitted that these men are not doing the work for which they were originally retained. He admitted, and this Minute admits, and the Report of the Committee admits, that a large number of them are employed on the work of the higher grade—in doing work that the permanent officials would do if there were enough of them. The Secretary to the Treasury shakes his head. Why it is in the Report, and he admitted it in his remarks when he had the dispute as to whether 300 to 1,200 was the same as three to one. He admitted that these writers who do the superior work of permanent officials are to be induced to retire. The money which is to be offered them is simply a bribe to retire. The hon. Gentleman says—"They will have the opportunity of obtaining employ- 791 ment in the open market." Why I should have thought that the experience of a gentleman connected with the Government as to the training for the Civil Service in this country would have made it impossible for such a statement as that to come from the Secretary to the Treasury. The Civil Service training in this country, as everyone who has any knowledge of the subject is aware, renders it impossible for an old Civil Service employé to obtain employment in the open market. These men, after leaving the Government Service, hardly ever obtain any other employment, because they are so entirely incapacitated for it. The purely mechanical method of working which prevails amongst the lower orders of the Civil Service renders a man who has been in that Service a few years incapable of being of real assistance in a mercantile office. It is impossible for such a person to compete with the regular employés in the commercial service. So that when you have had these underpaid men in your service for eight or 10 or 15 years, and then tempt them to retire by the offer of a miserable gratuity of a few pounds, you are simply sending them to starvation. ["No, no!"] Someone says "No, no!" but I ask those who have had experience of the Civil Service whether what I say is not the fact? I ask, further, whether, if a man who has been in the Civil Service goes to a mercantile office and asks for employment he is likely to get it? He is not; none of them are likely to obtain employment unless they take to literature, and it is needless to say that only a very small fraction of them can do that. What the Secretary to the Treasury has said, in short, is no answer to the claims of these men, and I trust my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) will go to a Division to mark our sense of the bad and ungenerous way in which these writers have been treated for so many years.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Sir HENRY HOLLAND) (Hampstead)
As the Committee is perhaps aware, I feel great sympathy for these Civil Service writers, and having more than once advocated their cause in this House, I should like to say a word now. I would respectfully submit that this discussion is somewhat premature, for this reason that great reliance has been placed on the Treasury Minute, 792 but up to now that Minute Las only been seen by two Gentlemen—namely, the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) and my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson). The Committee generally have not had an opportunity of studying it. That Treasury Minute has, as I understand, been brought before the Royal Commission, who will have full power to report upon it. If there is any doubt on that point, I may say I am authorized to state that the question of the position of these Civil Servants is open to the Commission to investigate. I am at a loss to understand why hon. Gentlemen, who support the cause of of these writers, wish to reduce the amount of this Vote by striking off an item which must tend to improve the position of these writers, although it may appear to some not to go far enough and not to deal satisfactorily with the case. I fail to see why Gentlemen who are advocating the cause of these writers should reject a scheme which awards an amount of about £6,000 per annum, and which, to a great extent, admits the difficulties of the question and the goodness of the case of these Civil Service writers. It may be that the £6,000 does not make a sufficient provision; it may be that the remedy that is proposed is not sufficiently sweeping; but that will be a matter which the Commission can investigate. How we, sitting here this evening with no knowledge of the Treasury Minute, can investigate the question thoroughly and satisfactorily I am at a loss to know. I would most respectfully suggest, therefore, that the case of the copyists would be, to a certain extent, prejudiced by a hostile Division on the Treasury Minute. I would suggest that it would be well to stop this debate, which, as I have said, is somewhat premature, and to adopt the offering of the Treasury, reserving to all who are interested in the case, the right of examining into the Treasury Minute, and the case put before the Royal Commission.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I can quite understand the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down making the suggestion he has offered to the House. It is a very natural suggestion to come from one who does not know the contents of the Treasury Minute. That 793 Treasury Minute, if acted upon now, will commit the Committee to a certain line—it will precipitate a line of conduct from which there will be no retreat afterwards. This Vote is not only for bonuses for men of a certain length of service who remain in the Service, but it is also for gratuities to be paid to men who leave the Service under the Treasury Minute. One of the terms of the Minute under which these gratuities are to be given was to the effect that any man accepting a gratuity, if hereafter he could, by examination, prove himself fit for higher service in the Civil Service, would, before he could be appointed to such higher service, have to repay to the public the amount of gratuity which had been paid to him on leaving the lower grade. So that an unfortunate writer who accepts a gratuity of £20, and then, six months afterwards, by the exercise of patience and toil, succeeds in passing through a competition, is not to be allowed to reap the benefit of so passing by entering into the Service he has proved himself fit for, without surrendering the £20 upon which he has had to live during the intermediate six months. It is perfectly impossible for the Committee to pass this Vote, and then to say that the question still remains open for consideration. The situation is irrecoverable once you commit yourselves to this Vote. But I imagine that for the Government to come down here and ask the Committee to vote a sum like this, before the terms upon which it is founded have been laid before us, is a course open to much greater objection than can be raised to any other part of the scheme of the Treasury. If this decision is premature, why do we not postpone the Vote until the discussion can be maintained with advantage? But I would undertake to show to any man of reasonable and fair mind, who will have the patience to listen to the facts of the case—I will convince him by giving 20, or 30, or 80 instances of living men—that the terms of this Treasury Minute are most inequitable. I will use no stronger language than that. With regard to the strong language of which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) complained, I am very sorry that he should have thought he had reason to object to the terms I employed. It is not necessary, I am sure, 794 for me to disclaim any personal application of those terms. Such a thing never entered into my thoughts. I do not feel now that the hon. Gentleman is responsible for the difficulty; and I am certain it is a Gentleman of a very different class of mind from the hon. Member to whom this Minute is to be traced. But the Committee cannot appreciate the proposals involved in the Vote at the present moment. If the Vote is taken, the line of conduct adopted by the Treasury will have been sanctioned, and there will be no retreat. The status of the men who remain in the Service as writers will be compromised. If I could see my way fairly in discharge of my simple duty, as a Member of the House, knowing the facts of the case, to do so, I should be glad to withdraw all opposition to the Vote, hoping that, on a future occasion, the matter would be dealt with; but the proposal that the matter is now before a Royal Commission, and may be well left to that Commission, is most futile. That Commission will probably not report for a couple of years to come; and, at the most, can only report from time to time on comparatively small sections of the whole question. Probably upon the point we are discussing, its Report will not cover more than the question of the grant provided for in this Vote. It appears to me that there is nothing left for the Committee to do but to protest against the iniquitous way in which these writers are treated by dividing against the Vote.
§ Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH (Hants, Basingstoke)
I am surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies (Sir Henry Holland) referring to the Royal Commission on the Civil Establishments as though their proceedings are such as will relieve the Treasury from the difficulty of dealing with the question of the position of these writers. I cannot agree with the view that the grievances of the Civil servants are in any way before the Royal Commission. At all events, I have accepted a post on that Commission on a very different understanding. It was offered to me on totally different grounds; and it was with the greatest surprise that I heard from the right hon. Gentleman that a large portion of the time of the Commission was expected to be employed in listening to the grievances of these clerks. Already a great 795 deal has been done to embarrass the prospects of the Commission of arriving at an early decision; and it seems to me that if we are expected to go into these questions, as the right hon. Gentleman indicates, those prospects are likely to be a great deal nore embarrassed.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
It seems to me that we are in a great difficulty, after the speech of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, and in view of the remarks which fell from the Secretary for the Colonies, who was formerly Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I had hoped to hear some favourable response to the proposal to postpone this Vote to another day. I should not like to reduce the Vote, as it would be taking away from the Civil Service writers an instalment of that advantage which we hope is in store for them in the future. I had hoped, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. H. Fowler) last year, that the subject of the position of writers would be thoroughly threshed out in the Treasury Minute. The question arose before the Royal Commission was thought of at all, and I came to the conclusion, when the Commission was set on foot, that we should have the case of these clerks, with other cases, thoroughly threshed out. But, in view of the remarks of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, I do not know where we are at all. I do hope that for the present, at all events, this Vote will not be pressed to a Division. If it is so pressed, it will place those who desire to support the Government in a very difficult position indeed. I trust the proposal for the postponement of the Vote will be accepted.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, East)
As the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Puleston) has referred to me, I may be allowed to point out what was the position of the matter when the late Government left Office. I am speaking under some difficulty, not having heard the whole of the discussion this evening. I would point out, however, that the Minute was not prepared or contemplated when I left Office. The Minute I had occasion to allude to was in reference to Lower Division clerks. I stated to the House, I think, on the last day of last Session, that I had appointed a Departmental Committee to examine into the whole 796 question of the writers, believing that they had a very substantial grievance. Pending the Report of the Committee, I was not prepared, however, to express my opinion upon the matter. There was then before the Treasury a Minute dealing with another and totally different branch of the subject—namely, the grievances and claims of the Lower Division clerks who are permanent members of the Civil Service, and who complained of their position as compared with that of the Higher Division clerks. We have also the complaints of the writers who are not permanent members of the Civil Service, but are only casually and temporarily employed. Then a Royal Commission was announced to us with reference to Civil Service expenditure; and after I had accepted a post on that Commission, on the same understanding as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sclater-Booth), I was astounded to find, towards the end of the Session, that the whole question of the Lower Division clerks was to be referred to the Commission. If I had contemplated that course, I should have been in favour of that which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies (Sir Henry Holland) recommended from this Bench last July—namely, that the case of these persons should be heard before a Committee of this House. I do not hesitate to say that nothing has been done which will tend more to neutralize the effect of the inquiry of the Commission in the sense in which the Commission was formed, than the adding to its duties of this question of the position of the Lower Division clerks. The question of the writers is not before the Commission, and does not come within its purview. As a member of the Commission, I am speaking the sense of that body; and I think I am speaking the sense of the right hon. Gentleman opposite when I say that we shall all object to this additional work being cast upon us. We have endeavoured to do the best we can with reference to the Lower Division clerks; but we cannot undertake to deal with the question of writers, seeing that it in no way forms part of the duties we undertook. I am sure I should be happy to do all in my power to assist the Secretary to the Treasury. I know the difficulties which surround him, and the pressure which is brought to bear upon him in connection, with matters of 797 this kind; hut, as this is simply a Supplementary Estimate, I would put it to him whether it would not he better to withdraw the Vote at the present time, and leave it to come up again next year. So far as the Royal Commission which is now sitting is concerned, you have heard one of its members from the other side of the House, and now you have heard me—another of its members—repudiate the idea that the body, under the terms of its Reference, can be called upon to consider the case of these writers.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I am afraid after the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, it is incumbent on me to say that this day the Commission did take this point into consideration. I should not be dealing frankly with the House if I did not make that statement. But so far from the Government intending the Commission to deal with this question, and so far from their believing that it would, some time after they had appointed it they issued this Minute without waiting for the Report of the Commission.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
After what the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said I should like to explain how this matter came before the Commissioners at all. The right hon. Gentleman has said—and I invite the Committee to listen to these remarks—that as he had undertaken, and as the Committee will remember, he appointed a Departmental Committee to thoroughly consider the question of the writers. Sir, that Committee did carefully consider the question of the writers, and this Minute is the embodiment of the unanimous Report of that Committee. Therefore, Sir, so far as the Committee has any weight you have their unanimous opinion that the proposal contained in this Minute is fair and equitable under the circumstances. The Treasury, when the Committee had reported, considered their Report and framed this Estimate. The Treasury considered themselves bound by the fact, which I believe was thoroughly recognized, that the Civil Service Commission was at liberty to inquire into any and every question connected with the Civil Service. One of the first things they did was to lay before the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the Civil Services 798 a copy of this Minute to show what the Treasury's conclusion was. Sir, I think the Government must take their stand upon this Minute. The question has been fully and carefully considered, and this Minute embodies the view of the Government upon the question. They have no desire to prejudice in any way the opinion of the Royal Commission. They have submitted this Minute to the Commission in the hope that the Commissioners will consider it and, if necessary, will make a recommendation upon it. If they make such a recommendation I am sure the Government will be very glad to give it every consideration possible. Sir, it is no use going back upon this question. It has, I assure the Committee, been most carefully considered, and to refer it back again would not be to improve the condition of the writers. My own impression is that little as is the amount in this Vote, to refer it back would involve an additional burden on one branch of the Service, and one branch of the Service, let me remind the Committee, which is not a branch of the established Civil Service of the country. These men take the position of writers in the full and complete knowledge that their occupation and employment is only temporary. That must be clearly borne in mind; therefore I say that when you consider that this is an additional charge of £6,000 a-year to this very limited and temporary employment, hard as the measure is to these men, under all the circumstances justice has been done.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury has just answered hostilely to himself a previous speech made upon this Vote. Earlier he advised the Committee that the Minute referred to by the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) was not before the Committee, and that we could not deal with it, and now he says that the Government take their stand upon it. If the Government take their stand upon it, I submit that it is most unfair to put the Vote to the Committee without letting the Committee have the Minute on which the Government so take their stand.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
By way of explanation I should like to say that I was not present at the meeting of the Commission to which the Member for East Donegal 799 referred, and that, therefore, I was not aware that the Commission had touched this question. I would ask what is the position of the Government, and what is the position of the Commission? The hon. Member opposite says he is going to take a Vote that practically endorses the Minute. Surely then, the Commission is not going to sit as a Court of Appeal against the decision of the hon. Gentleman? I think the Government might themselves decide the question. It is not a matter for the Royal Commission. If we endorse the policy of the Government, are we, who are not Members of the Government, and who, some of us, are not even Members of the House, to sit in judgment at the Commission on the decision of this Committee?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's,) Hanover Square
The answer is that it would seem better that no expression of opinion should be taken against one side or the other. That is precisely the point put by the Secretary to the Treasury.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It would be against the interests of the writers themselves that the Vote should be postponed. The Treasury are of opinion that these bonuses should be given. They will be given; but if, in the future, the Treasury should consider that this Minute is not effective, we shall be able to change it and give higher gratuities. It must be obvious to the Committee that it will be against the interests of the writers themselves to have these sums struck out. As to the Commission itself, I am sorry that there has been a misunderstanding. I should be glad to hear from the Chairman of the Commission and other Members authoritatively what they consider their duty in the matter. Bodies of this kind usually show a stronger inclination to extend than to narrow their authority. However, there is no desire on the part of the Treasury to place any duty upon the Commission which does not legitimately belong to it.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
We are asked to vote on this question by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, on the ground that the Royal Commission will thresh the matter out. The right hon. Gentleman expressed some surprise that we should have any doubt whatever as to this being a subject which will come 800 before the Commission. Well, we have very good reason to doubt it. We find here to-night two influential Members of the Royal Commission who altogether repudiate that the Commission has anything whatever to do with this question. May I be allowed to state that I had some conversation with the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, before this Royal Commission was thought of, on the subject of appointing a Parliamentary Committee to inquire into the question of Civil Servants. The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) expressed himself upon that occasion in favour of carrying out what was practically promised at the end of last Session by the then Secretary to the Treasury, and his Predecessors, in pursuance of the decision of the House of Commons. The Chancellor of the Exchequer came to the conclusion—I hope I am not doing wrong by repeating a private conversation—that a Parliamentary Committee was the best thing. On further considering the question, however, and the other questions coming out of it, the noble Lord decided to enlarge the scope of the inquiry, and to turn it into a Royal Commission. Since then I have heard—as we hear a good many things—what has been stated here tonight, that this question of Civil Service clerks, particularly the writers, is absolutely repudiated by some Members of the Royal Commission. I understand that there are three Members of the Royal Commission in the House. We have had expressions from two to-night. We are asked to go to a Vote on the understanding that this Minute will go to the Royal Commission. It is said that we must look upon this Vote as an instalment, coupled with the very generous remarks we have heard from the Representatives of the Government, that something better might be hoped from the Royal Commission. That, in view of the contradictory statements made, places some of us on this side of the House in a position of considerable difficulty; therefore, I would again appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury to postpone the Vote.
SIR JULIAN GOLDSMLD (St. Pancras, S.)
The Committee is certainly placed in a difficulty, if the Government do not consent to postpone the Vote. I took part for several years in an agitation on behalf of the Civil Service 801 writers, therefore I may claim to be allowed to say a word in the discussion. We are told that the amount placed in the Supplementary Estimate is based on the Report of the Committee which was appointed to consider this matter and which has been embodied in a Treasury Minute. But that Minute has only been seen by two Members of the House—the hon. Member on this side (Mr. A. O'Connor) and the Secretary to the Treasury. The Committee is asked to endorse the Minute by voting the sum of £6,000. My view of the matter is this. The Vote may be right, but we ought to see the Minute before we agree to it. I am anxious that the Civil Service writers should obtain more liberal payment, and therefore I do not wish to stand in the way of this Vote for more money. It would, consequently, be difficult for me to vote one way or the other. I do not know what reasons the Secretary to the Treasury has to give against the postponement of the Vote, but it certainly appears to me that he should postpone it, and that before he brings it on again he should give hon. Members an opportunity of seeing the Minute upon which his proposal is based. I would urge the hon. Gentleman to postpone the Vote.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)
I hope the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will follow the advice given to him on both sides of the House, and postpone this Vote. I am very much afraid if the Vote is decided to-night that when the writers make their demand in the future they will be told, "Oh! you have received your £6,000 and must rest content. The question is closed; you have got what you expected, and need not ask for anything more." I have taken great interest in this subject for many years. I have asked repeated Questions of various Secretaries to the Treasury with regard to it, and I have always been told that a Committee is sitting or that some other inquiry is proceeding. But we have never seen any Report of any Commission or any Minute of any kind. This, I think, is the first time the Committee has been asked to vote a sum of money without seeing the Minute on which the Treasury based their opinion. I hope after all that Ministers will accede 802 to the request of hon. Members, and will consent to postpone the Vote.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I would point out to the Committee that we continually vote money without the Minutes on which the Votes are based being placed before I may inform hon. Members that I would gladly undertake this—If the Committee will pass this Vote and give to these writers the boon which they will find in this increase of remuneration, the Minute shall be produced and laid before the House. I will also undertake that the question shall be further examined. I will communicate with the Royal Commission and see whether they care to undertake that examination, and if they do not, I will see that it is further examined by someone else.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
No, I will not undertake that for this reason, that I do not think that a political body is the best body for dealing with the salaries of Civil servants. There is a constant and not unnatural complaint of the increasing cost of Government, and it must be remembered that a large number of Civil servants, like others, have votes, and if Parliamentary pressure is brought to bear the Estimates will continue to increase. I would make this appeal to the Committee, that they should not insist upon political forces dealing with this question of the writers, but that they should place confidence in a further inquiry and leave me to communicate with the Royal Commission and see whether, notwithstanding the protest made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. H. Fowler), they are willing to undertake this inquiry. If they are not I will undertake that the matter shall be inquired into further, although not by a Committee of this House.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I am sure the Committee will recognize that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown himself ready to meet the case of the writers in all fairness. I do not myself see that under the circumstances he could have done very much more than he has done. I only desire in asking leave to withdraw my Motion for a re- 803 duction of the Vote, to draw attention to one sentence in this Minute which is pregnant with importance. It says that copyists who may be called upon to retire with a view to reducing the number on the Register, or for any other cause than that of misconduct or refusal to serve, shall receive a gratuity calculated in the manner aforesaid. That contemplates the compulsory retirement of some of these men. They are to receive a gratuity, and are to be sent about their business. That is the way I read it, and that is the way the copyists read it. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in considering this matter, he will take care that those who are threatened with dismissal shall be reinstated. With regard to Parliamentary pressure being put upon Members by Civil Service clerks who are voters, I may say I do not believe that amongst my constituents in East Donegal there is a single Civil Service clerk.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY (Lancashire, N., Blackpool)
lam sorry I was not in my place during the earlier part of the discussion, for I understand that reference has been made to the Commission of which I am Chairman. It is no doubt true that many Members of that Commission have viewed with astonishment, and perhaps even with despair, the fact that they find themselves obliged to face, amongst many other things, this difficult question of the Civil Service writers. In justice to the Commission, I must say that in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. H. Fowler) and my right hon. Friend on this side of the House (Mr. Sclater-Booth), they did to-day consider the question of the writers attached to a particular department. I do not know what we may be able to report to the House as the result of the first part of the inquiry we are making, but undoubtedly we did deal with the writers of one department, which, as one of the clerical departments of the State, we are now examining. It was our duty according to the Reference to us to consider the question of the writers as much as any other portion—I will not say of the clerical establishments, because the writers are not technically a part of the clerical establishments of the country—but of the Civil Service. I do not know whether ultimately the Commission may not 804 have to make some application in regard to this question, but, undoubtedly, we have, up to now, had under our consideration certain grievances of clerks connected with one of the public offices. We did think it necessary to summon before us gentlemen representing writers attached to the War Office. We heard from them some evidence in connection with the special grievance they allege they are suffering under. I wish to assure the Government and the Committee that whatever ultimately we may think it our duty to represent as to the magnitude of the inquiry we have begun to conduct, we have at all events so far acted up to the belief that the terms of our Reference do not prevent us from considering the case of the writers.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
(9.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payments during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board, including various Grants in Aid of Local Taxation.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I see that this is a charge for medical inspection in cholera districts, and I should like to know how it has arisen?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr.RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
In 1884, certain expenses were incurred in connection with the inspection of some of our ports in order to prevent the importation of cholera. In 1885 again it became apparent that there was considerable danger of cholera spreading through the country; and it was proposed by the Local Government Board that the inspection which had been confined to the ports should be extended to inland towns and sanitary areas, where it was believed that the sanitary arrangements were of such a character, that if cholera were introduced it would produce great disaster. We consented to five extra medical inspectors being appointed to go round and inspect the sanitary arrangements of all the sanitary areas throughout the Kingdom. It was found on investigation that no less a number than 500 of these sanitary areas required to be inspected. The Sanitary Authorities gladly welcomed the inspectors from the 805 Local Government Board, and were ready to adopt the precautions which the experience of these inspectors enabled them to make. I think that the result has been in every way satisfactory. Well, Sir, these inspectors were appointed for a year. That year expired in February, 1886. By that time the whole number of areas had not been investigated or visited, and a further application was made by the Local Government Board to the Treasury to sanction the employment of the inspectors for a further period of six months. When that period expired it was found that there were still some further districts to be examined, and I made application to the Treasury for a certain extension of time which, I said, should not go beyond the 31st of last December. The Treasury consented, and by the 30th of November the whole of the areas had been visited and everything which it was thought necessary to do was done. The whole matter is now closed. I am satisfied that the visitations, and everything that has been done, has been fraught with advantages, not merely of a temporary, but of a permanently beneficial kind. Many improvements have been adopted in consequence of the advice given by our inspectors to Local Authorities regarding the sanitary condition of the districts.
§ MR. RITCHIE
No; it did not extend to Ireland. The total amount expended in the present year has been £4,400, in 1886 it was over £6,000, and in 1885 £1,000. The amount altogether is over £11,000. It has not been necessary for the Local Government Board to ask the House of Commons for the whole amount of this £4,400 for the present year, for there have been sufficient funds remaining in their hands in connection with other subjects under the Local Government Board's Vote to enable them to meet the expenditure.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
Has the inspection been confined to Great Britain, or was Ireland included? Was there a parallel inquiry for Ireland?
§ MR. RITCHIE
The area of the jurisdiction of the Local Government Board over which these inspectors were sent is confined entirely to England.
§ MR. RITCHIE
No. The Local Government Board of Ireland, I may say, 806 is entirely under the control of the Irish Office.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The statement made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is extremely interesting; but what I complain of is that this inquiry should have been altogether confined to England, as if England is the only part of the United Kingdom that is ever likely to be attacked with cholera. It is remarkable that you should spend £1,800 on the sanitary arrangements of England out of the Imperial funds whilst leaving the localities in Ireland to bear the expenditure themselves. Why should that be? Why should we in Ireland pay for inspection out of our own pockets? Whenever in England you have cargoes coming into your ports from foreign countries where cholera may exist, you have inspectors and doctors to see that no infectious diseases are imported by means of rags or things of that kind. You have made this an Imperial matter, as one can see from the Estimate. In Ireland, however, we have had to put our hands into our own pockets in order to prevent infection reaching us. The soul or body of an Irishman is no better than that of an Englishman, and we, therefore, cannot understand why it should not be protected in the usual way out of the Imperial funds. In this matter you give us a kind of Home Rule that we cannot understand. The whole question of the prevention of the importation of contagious diseases no doubt is one of considerable interest. No doubt you have in England very extensive ports. No doubt it was necessary to incur great expense at Hull, seeing that that is a port very near Germany, whence it was feared that cholera might come; but in Ireland we also have ports where diseases might be brought in, and why should we have to pay for preventing them from being brought in out of our own pockets? I would like to ask the Irish Secretary as to ports like Derry, Belfast, and Dublin; whether infection might not have been brought in there if it had not been for the precautions taken by local doctors? Seeing that £1,800 has been expended in England, I should say that about £600 has been spent in Ireland, and I would ask whether the local rates of Ireland will be disembarrassed to that extent?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
This item in the Estimate is for inspectors who have been appointed to keep out infectious diseases from abroad. The importation of cholera was principally feared from Spain, and I imagine the inspection would mainly take place at those English ports trading with Spain and the South of England. If any Irish port was similarly situated, and had a similar claim, no doubt the cost of inspection there would fall on the Imperial funds. As the hon. Member has called my attention to the subject, I will make a point of inquiring into it, and will do my best to see that the charge is fairly distributed.
§ MR. P. McDONALD (Sligo, N.)
As a Dublin trader, I would point out that we have direct trading communication with Spain. Scarcely a day passes that some Spanish vessel does not enter the port of Dublin. I am aware, as a Member of the Dublin Corporation, that we made an order last year, when the introduction of cholera was feared, for the expenditure of a certain sum out of our local means, to meet the danger that threatened us. I cannot understand, therefore, why, when these expenses for inspection in England are paid out of the general fund of the Empire, we in Ireland should be called on to pay them out of our own resources. I consider we have a just and proper claim upon the Government in this matter, and the right hon. Gentleman said that if we could show that we had that he would see that it was satisfied.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was present during a great part of the speech of the President of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board stated that the inspection was extended from the ports to the inland areas. The Chief Secretary's promise, however, only covers ports. Will he extend it to inland places? I would point out to him that Ireland is just as susceptible to cholera epidemics as England, and that in 1849, when cholera swept over Europe, Ireland was severely visited.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
There is a Question I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Sir 808 Michael Hicks-Beach) on this subject, and I trust he will afford me a satisfactory answer. In many of the Irish ports we went, owing to the recommendations of the doctors, to considerable expense, such as was never deemed necessary before, in order to prevent the introduction or the spread of cholera. I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if we are able to lay before him a satisfactory explanation of the expenditure we have thus been put to in Ireland, in the shape of doctors' fees, and also in the erection of a hospital for the purpose of arresting the advance of cholera, he will give the matter his best consideration, in order that we may be reimbursed the amount we have been called upon to pay?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH)
I have only to say, in reply to the hon. Member, that the expense to which he refers is one that is common to both England and Ireland.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the expenditure which has been referred to was also incurred by us in Scotland. We there took all due precautions against the introduction of disease, by means of the rags brought over from the Continent, for the use of the large paper works; and as a good deal of expense was thrown upon us in that way, I should be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether, in the event of any allowance being made, such as is asked for by the Irish Members, Scotland will not also have her share conceded?
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
It would be a very easy matter to reduce the claim made in respect of the expenditure incurred by Ireland, on account of precautions against the introduction of cholera, to pounds, shillings, and pence. I think it will be generally admitted that it is one of the first cares of every Government to take precautionary measures against the introduction or spread of any epidemic disease like that of cholera; and when one portion of Her Majesty's Dominions is put to a large expenditure on this head, and that expenditure is charged on the Imperial Exchequer, I contend that the other portions of Her Majesty's Dominions have a right to take exception to anything which has even the semblance of 809 favouritism. I may inform the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant that last year the Corporation of Cork, to which body I have the honour to belong, had under its careful consideration the precautions necessary to be taken for the purpose of preventing the introduction of cholera. This matter engaged the attention of that body for three or four successive meetings, the point they had to consider being, how they could take the most effective steps not only to prevent the possibility of the appearance of the disease, but also to prevent its spread in the country, should it unfortunately gain admission to our coasts. The Sanitary Authorities of the City of Cork took all the measures they deemed most advisable under the circumstances. I may remind the Committee that the Port of Cork, in the same way as many of the English ports, has a considerable trade not only with all the European ports, but with, all the ports of the civilized world. In the prosecution of this trade, Spanish vessels and vessels from all those countries in which cholera did prevail, came into Cork Harbour, and I may state that I have myself frequently seen the yellow quarantine flag hoisted upon foreign vessels coming into the Port of Cork. My idea was that there might be cases of fever or small-pox or some other infectious disease on board, but the doctors who went on board were charged with the duty of seeing that there were no cases of cholera, and they were paid by the Local Authority. In fact every possible precaution that could be taken was taken by the Cork Sanitary Authorities to prevent the possibility of the outbreak of cholera or any other infectious disease. We paid all the expenses thus incurred out of our own pockets, and yet we are now asked to contribute towards the cost of the precautionary measures taken by England. I think that this is a matter which the Irish Representatives have a right to question and take objection to. This country is a far richer country than Ireland, and ought to pay the expense of whatever measures it may have been called upon to take with the view of preventing the introduction of cholera or any other epidemic disease.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
I am 810 afraid from what has fallen from hon. Members who have just spoken that I have not made myself fully understood in the remarks I have previously offered to the Committee. It would appear from the observations to which we have recently listened, that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House are of opinion that Her Majesty's Government have undertaken in England to perform certain duties which in Ireland are performed by the Local Authorities. [An hon. MEMBER: And in Scotland.] In England and Scotland there is a duty imposed on the Local Authorities as to the performance of those functions which hon. Members representing Irish constituencies have said are in that country performed by the Local Authorities—that is to say, it is the duty of the Local Authorities to provide hospitals and to take all necessary precautions against the importation of cholera or any other epidemic disease. What has in reality been done is that certain medical inspectors were temporarily engaged by us for the purpose of going over the country and advising with the Local Authorities as to the best means by which the importation and spread of disease might be prevented. This is what we have done and we have not gone beyond it. The Imperial funds at the disposal of Parliament are not in any way called upon to contribute towards the expense of performing duties which properly devolve upon the Local Authorities in England as well as in Scotland and Ireland.
§ MR. RITCHIE
There is no corresponding Vote for Ireland. Hon. Members need reminding how this question arose. There was a good deal of cholera in Spain and in the South of Europe in places whose ports were, by means of their shipping, in very direct communication with our British ports; and looking to the fact that great danger was thus created with regard to the importation of that disease, especially in the case of some of our largest English ports, Her Majesty's Government thought it necessary to send inspectors to our different seaports with a view of seeing what course the Local Authorities were about to pursue in order to prevent the importation of disease. In the course of their investi- 811 gations it became apparent to those medical inspectors that it was desirable to extend the inspection in which they were engaged to the inland towns, can only assume, as the reason why this inspection was not extended to Ireland that the Irish authorities considered that the sanitary condition of the ports am inland towns of that country was of a satisfactory nature, and that it was therefore, unnecessary to take that course. I may, however, say that there is no longer any necessity for the continuance of the expenditure thus necessitated. The whole of it ceased on the 30th of November, and there is no intention on the part of the Local Government Board to go into further expenditure in connection with that matter.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
] wish to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) that what the Irish Representatives complain of is that we in Ireland have not had the inspection he refers to.? We do not want the Local Government Board to go on with the inspection now; but I think the right hon. Gentleman can hardly say that we are so well off in Ireland that there is no chance of our having any disease imported there. Therefore, I do not think that Ireland ought to have been left out in the cold when measures of inspection were taken with regard to England. Medical advice has its value, and, of course, has to be paid for, and it does not seem to be fair that a distinction should be made between the two countries.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I wish to offer a few words with regard to this Vote, in reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie). I think we perfectly understand the case which he has put before the Committee; but what we complain of is the unequal treatment that has been dealt out to the ports of England and Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has stated that he will cause inquiries to be made; but I am somewhat astonished to find that the right hon. Gentleman, who has twice occupied the position of Chief Secretary, should stand in need of such an immense amount of inquiry in order to make himself 812 acquainted with the state of the facts in regard to the sanitary condition and arrangements of Ireland. Surely, it ought not to be necessary that Irish Members should stand up in their places in this House for the purpose of informing the right hon. Gentleman that there is a trade going on between the ports of Ireland and those of foreign countries by means of which cholera or other diseases of an epidemic character might be imported. It has been stated that this is so with regard to the Ports of Dublin, Cork, and Waterford; and, further, that there is no port in the kingdom which has a more direct connection with the ports of Europe than the Port of Cork. It is also a well-known fact, and ought to be known to the Chief Secretary, that every Poor Law Union in County Cork has had to contribute to the cost of the intercepting hospital established in the Port of Cork. I was serving as a member of the Harbour Board of that port at the time the cholera epidemic broke out on the Continent, and I know that we took all possible precautions to prevent the importation of that disease. The Harbour Commissioners trapped up all the sewers leading from the City of Cork to the river, and took every conceivable measure to prevent the admission or spread of cholera, so far as might be, by any internal arrangements of a sanitary character. They also went to the expense of erecting an intercepting hospital, and they advised the medical inspectors of the port to quarantine all vessels coming from infected ports. What we have to complain of is that we had no advice from the medical inspectors, who, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, were appointed in England for Imperial purposes. We never saw the face of one of those men in Ireland, and I say that we have every right to object to this unequal treatment. If we in Cork are to be subject to the same laws, rules, and regulations that are applied for Imperial purposes to ill other large ports with regard to the preservation of health and the prevention of the importation of epidemic disease, we say we are in duty bound to complain of the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government; and that we are acting within our just rights in criticising this Vote, and pointing out that 813 in future, whenever it may be deemed necessary to ask for additional grants of money of this nature, the Government should take good care to apply to the ports of Ireland, and its sanitary condition generally, the same principles as are applied to the ports of this country.
§ CAPTAIN COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
I do not see that there is any unequal treatment. Speaking simply from my own knowledge, I may state that the medical inspectors appointed by the Local Government Board gave every possible assistance and advice to the Boards of Guardians; and, if there was need in England for additional medical advice which was not deemed requisite in Ireland, the fact is one which only shows that the Local Government system in Ireland in this particular respect is better than that of England.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I think some Members of the Government ought to explain, before we agree to this Vote, how it is that this unequal incidence of charge has been brought about; because, as it now stands, it will be seen that the English Local Government Board take care that in regard to England the Imperial resources should be called upon to pay the local expenditure incurred in this matter, while the Local Government of Ireland have made no effort to secure for that country a similar result. This is a sufficient proof that the Local Government Board of Ireland is not so fully alive to the performance of its duties as that of England. It is to me a surprising fact that a sum so large as £9,867 should be asked for from the Imperial Exchequer for a national object in England, and that the Irish taxpayers, who have had no similar consideration, should be called upon to contribute their quota without any chance of obtaining the slightest relief. We are told by an hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Captain Colomb) that there is no unequal treatment here. It is useless to argue with any hon. Gentleman who is so absolutely blind to the facts as to make such an assertion. The case before the Committee is one in which it is clearly shown that the Imperial funds have been resorted to to the extent of nearly £10,000 for the purpose of defraying certain expenses incurred in England; while in Ireland, although expense has had to be incurred for similar objects, 814 the amount has to be paid locally, and the Imperial Exchequer is allowed to go scot-free. I should like to be informed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary why it is that no steps have been taken by the Local Government Board in Ireland on this question?
§ MR. BARRY (Wexford, S.)
I think the Irish Representatives have a right to demand of the Government an explanation of the fact that whereas in England, where you have Local Authorities possessing greater powers than similar Bodies in Ireland, it has been deemed necessary to supplement their action by the appointment of special medical inspectors in order to deal with a dangerous question; in Ireland, where exceptional measures have also had to be taken, the whole of the expense has been left to be borne by the Local Authorities. It occurs to me that the matter would be fairly met if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would promise the Irish Members that any additional expenditure incurred by the Local Authorities of Ireland with a view of meeting the danger arising from the possible importation of cholera, should be refunded to them from the Imperial Exchequer. In order to bring the matter to a test I will move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £1,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £800, be granted to Her Majesty for the said Service."—[Mr. Barry.)
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I am somewhat surprised that there has been no answer made to the appeal put forward on behalf of Scotland in regard to this matter by the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont). I hardly think it is quite fair to Scotland, that when such a point has been put by one of the Scottish Representatives, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) should treat it with contempt and refuse to say a word. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the question we are now discussing in reference to Ireland has equal force in its application to Scotland, and I hope he will condescend to state to the House the reason why similar precautions to those taken in England were not adopted in regard to the Scotch ports.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
In Scotland, we have Local Authorities, who deal with these ques- 815 tions in their own districts; and we have in Scotland, a Board of Supervision, which supervises the action of all those Authorities. In Scotland, the Local Authorities pay all the local expenses, and the Imperial Government pays the expense of the Board of Supervision for supervising the Local Authorities. In regard to the apprehensions aroused as to the importation of cholera, the Board of Supervision took what steps were necessary with a view to preventing the admission of that disease; and, if additional expense were thereby incurred, it would be borne by the Imperial Exchequer. In England, there are Local Boards which are equally bound to deal with these matters in their different districts. Those Local Boards, again, are supervised by the Local Government Board, and any additional charges it has had to incur in preventing the importation of cholera must be paid out of the Imperial Exchequer. In England, what was done was this—the Local Government Board took special precautions in order to ensure that the Local Authorities were performing their duty in regard to this important matter. It seems that the action thus taken was deemed necessary in England and was not deemed necessary in Scotland or Ireland, so that no extra expense is thrown on the Imperial Exchequer in respect to those latter countries.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I can assure the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson), and the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont), that I have not intended any discourtesy to Scotland. After all, this question—as I think I shall be able, in a very few words, to show the Committee—is not one that ought to detain us for a single moment longer. The supervision of the Local Authorities in England is performed by the Local Government Board, and in Scotland the corresponding body is the Board of Supervision, while in Ireland there is the Local Government Board for that country. Each of these bodies is responsible to its own country for the manner in which it discharges its functions. It is assumed that in view of the possible advent of cholera, each took proper precautions. I know that the Scotch Board of Supervision took precautions; that the English Local Government Board, when I was in it, like- 816 wise took the precautions which my right hon. Friend the present President of that Board (Mr. Ritchie) has described; and also that precautions were taken by the Local Government Board of Ireland. But the whole of the danger from cholera which then existed is now over; it has passed away. Experience has shown that each of the Boards has done its duty admirably and with complete efficiency; and how either Ireland or Scotland can consider itself aggrieved that more money has not been expended in those parts of the kingdom in addition to what was spent in England, I am at a total loss to discover. I hope my Scotch Friends will understand that if a Supplementary Vote is not asked for Scotland, it is not because the Board of Supervision in Scotland has in any respect failed in its duty; and I doubt not a similar statement can be made with regard to the Local Government Board of Ireland.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I trust that my hon. Friend the Member for South Wexford (Mr. Barry) will not persist in the Amendment he has moved. I have no doubt he is quite right in the complaint that the precautious taken in England were not also taken in Ireland; but I would point out to him that if this Amendment were carried, the implication would be that precautions ought not to have been taken either in England or Ireland. I trust that one of the results of this debate will be that if, in the future, the cholera epidemic should threaten the United Kingdom once more, all necessary precautions will be taken in England, Scotland, and Ireland. At the same time, I do not think we should teach, the lesson that the amount spent—and, I think, legitimately spent—in England should be reduced. I hope, therefore, my hon. Friend will be satisfied with the debate that has taken place, and will be induced to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) has spoken as if cholera always broke out at the commencement of the financial year; but I think a little reflection will convince him that that epidemic is a visitor that never waits for any particular season. The point, however, before the Committee is this—in England you have incurred the expenses 817 necessary to prevent the importation of cholera, and have charged them on the Imperial Revenue; in Ireland we have incurred similar expenses, and have had to meet them ourselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has said he will look into the matter; but what will he do when he has looked into it? We have had to incur these expenses in Ireland; and why? Because circulars were issued by the Local Government Board, of which the right hon. Gentleman is the head, pointing out the necessity of incurring them; and whereas we in Ireland are called on to defray the charge locally, in the case of England the Imperial Exchequer is to be burdened with the expenditure. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will see this distinction, and that he will be prepared to grant, in the case of Ireland, the amount of the charge which in England is made an imperial one.
§ MR. P. McDONALD (Sligo, N.)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) will be able to make a statement to the Committee such as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has made—namely, that he believes the Local Government Board in Ireland has done its duty. I should also like to hear from him a reply to my statement as to Dublin being in direct and almost daily communication with the ports of Spain from which the importation of cholera might have been apprehended. I know that in my own case weekly consignments are received from Spain, and one of these is an article which is said to be very likely to be the medium of introducing that epidemic—I allude to the consignment of raisins. I believe it is in the raisin-growing districts that cholera generally prevails. I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he will do the same justice to the Port of Dublin as he has done to the ports of England?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
The point I wished to put before the Committee was the bearing of this matter upon the Vote. I understand the Local Government Board in 1885–6 found it necessary to incur expense in the appointment of additional inspectors to prevent the importation of cholera from abroad. It was not found 818 necessary to do that in Ireland. [An hon. MEMBER: Why?] I will tell the hon. Gentleman who asks why. The Irish Local Government Board have sufficient assistance at present to enable them to do this work without appointing additional medical officers. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, the proof of the pudding, after all, is in the eating—the cholera did not reach the shores of Ireland in 1885–6. All I can say is this—that I will make inquiries at the Irish Government Board, and if it can be shown to me that the Local Authorities in Ireland incurred any expense in this matter of a kind similar to that for which this Vote is asked, I will press upon my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) the desirability of proposing a Vote to Recoup them. Further, if there is an insufficiency of medical inspection in connection with the Irish Local Government Board to prevent the importation of cholera or other infectious diseases from the South of Europe, I will see that the evil is rectified before any possible opportunity can arise for such inspection being required.
§ MR. BARRY (Wexford, S.)
After the statement we have heard from the Government, I will withdraw my Amendment. In this country the prospect of an epidemic of cholera was greatly feared as a national danger, and the Government took proper steps to meet it; but in Ireland the Local Government Board went on in their usual happy-go-lucky way. If the cholera came, well and good. [Laughter.] Yes, well and good; that was the position they took up. No exceptional precautions were taken by the Irish Local Government Board for dealing with this great danger. However, after the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) I will withdraw my Motion.
§ MR. E. R. RUSSELL (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I think we Scotch Members ought to have the same promise from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour). I do not think the hon. Gentleman above me, who was so ill satisfied with the operations of the Local Government Board in Ireland, has satisfied the Scotch Members that so far as Scotland is concerned he has any reason for envy. 819 There appears to be a sort of auction going on between the two Secretaries. After what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has said, I think we ought to have an assurance that some inquiry will be made in Scotland; and that if it is found that the Local Authorities have incurred expense in this sanitary inspection for the prevention of cholera, steps will be taken to recoup them from the Imperial Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have any very distinct notion of what has been done. My own impression is that the system that has been adopted has been too happy-go-lucky—to quote the words of the hon. Member for South Wexford (Mr. Barry). At any rate, if there has been expense incurred in Scotland, there should be a special Vote for that country as well as for England and Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall do my best to make any expenditure which, as he says, ought to fall on the Imperial funds, fall on these funds.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I should like the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) not to be limited to the question which I think is in his mind—namely, to medical inspection. The Irish Local Government Board have officials living in Dublin—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is now travelling outside this Vote in discussing the organization of medical inspection in Ireland.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I did not intend to do that, Sir. All I wished to do was to correct a mistake made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who appears to think that the medical inspection in Ireland is sufficient and capable of discharging all the duties that the medical inspection discharges in England. I think that if expense has been incurred through the Local Government Board communicating with the medical practitioners and the Local Authorities asking them to take precautions, that expense should be included in the finance of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.820
§ (10.) £107, Supplementary, Secretary for Scotland's Office.