§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £48,063, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1888, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I observe in this Vote items for the salaries of 12 Foreign Office messengers at £400 a-year, and for nine Queen's Home Service messengers. Looking at the other Votes, I see charges for a vast number of messengers who are not styled "Queen's messengers," but are simply called "messengers." For instance, there are five in connection with the Home Office, at the average salary of £150 a-year; at the Treasury, 24, at an average salary of £130 a-year; and at the Colonial Office there appear to be seven. I presume that these are messengers who fetch and carry about the office. But in regard to the 12 Foreign Office messengers, and the nine Queen's Home Service messengers I observe, in connection with them, another item of expenditure for journeys, including an allowance, in the case of the Foreign Office messengers, of £1 per day. Now, I want to know whether it is the fact 1373 that Foreign Office messengers are seat upon journeys from this country abroad simply because they happen to be here, and, if so, why the telegraphs should not be employed? I see that the expense of sending telegrams abroad increases enormously year after year; but, nevertheless, you have these Foreign Office messengers sent out once a-week or once a fortnight, as the case may be. I can easily understand the propriety of sending despatches by messengers which it is not considered desirable to send by post. But, surely, in regard to the ordinary despatches of the Foreign Office, it is not necessary that they should be sent in this way. I am perfectly aware that the number of messengers has been reduced in recent years; but I think that the staff might be still further reduced, and the rule should be that a messenger should only be sent off when there is really some important despatch for him to take, and which is supposed to be of a secret character. What I object to is that these messengers should be running from London to any particular place at stated intervals, whether they have important despatches to carry or not. I hardly know how they run at the present moment—whether, in the case of Berlin, Vienna, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Constantinople they are sent out once a-week or twice. As a matter of fact, I cannot ascertain how often they are sent; but I am satisfied that, at any rate, a considerable amount of economy might be effected in this expenditure. So far as the Home Service messengers are concerned, I really do not know what they are. I do not quite understand the Vote, and I fail to discover whether the expenses as well as the salaries of the Home Office messengers are included in the item of £3,400 which appears in the Vote for the year. As I do not see an item of that kind put down anywhere else, I presume that they are included; but I confess that I am unable to understand what these messengers are employed for at all. I propose to move the reduction of the Vote; but I ground that reduction on the Foreign Office messengers, rather than upon the Home Service messengers, and in order to elicit some explanation from the Government, I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £1,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Item C, £5,980, Messengers' Salaries, be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Ldbouchere.)
§ MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)
I wish to have some explanation in regard to some of the other items included in this Vote beyond that which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere).
§ THE CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member proposes to speak upon other subjects, I think he had better defer his remarks until the question which is now before the Committee has been settled.
§ MR. JENNINGS
I am quite ready to defer my remarks; but all I wish to say relates to matters which apply to the present Vote.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
The hon. Member has moved the Amendment of which he gave Notice, to reduce this Vote by the sum of £1,000, and he rests his proposal—first, on the ground that the Foreign Service messengers are not generally necessary, and that they should only be employed in very special cases. Now, this is a matter which has very often been brought before the House of Commons, and it has been held by successive Ministries that it is of importance to retain the services of Foreign Service messengers. No doubt the means of travelling have become more speedy, as well as cheaper, of late years; telegraphing is much more resorted to, and, in consequence, successive reductions have been made in the number of the messengers employed. Whereas in 1869 the number was 17 it was reduced in 1870 to 15, in 1873 to 12, at which number it stood until the present year, when a further reduction of one was made. After a careful investigation into the matter three years ago, it was thought that 10 Foreign Service messengers would be sufficient for the requirements of the Service; and accordingly it was decided to reduce the number to 10 as vacancies occurred. It is the opinion of those who have held the Office of Secretary of State recently that 10 are absolutely necessary to conduct the Service satisfactorily.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Yes, there are 11 at present; but the next vacancy which may arise will not be filled up, so that the number will then stand at 10; and when that reduction is made, it is considered that there will not be more than are absolutely required for the adequate performance of the Service. No further reduction could be suggested upon any other reason than that eight or nine would simply be cheaper than 10. I do not think the hon. Member has stated to the Committee any reason why a further large reduction should be made, and why the Service should be reduced below its actual requirements, unless, of course, the hon. Member differs from us in the opinion that it is important to send particular despatches by confidential messengers. I may remind him, however, that the other Great Powers employ confidential messengers also.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I do not know. I can only say, in regard to this country, what number is considered necessary after careful consideration, both by the late and the present Secretary of State. So far as the Home Service messengers are concerned, their services are shared between the different Offices, and the messengers themselves are employed in carrying confidential papers into the country, or, rather, some of them in London and others in the country. A great effort has been made to reduce the expenses of the Home Service messengers. The mode of conveyance has been cheapened, and other things have been dispensed with, so that there has been a reduction this year of £100 upon that head. I trust that the House, after this explanation, will not agree to reduce the Vote for messengers further. I really think that no more messengers are employed than are absolutely necessary.
§ SIRWILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I should be glad to know the number of confidential messengers that foreign countries employ, because it is my impression that they use much fewer than our Foreign Office does. I have often heard—although I do not know what truth there is in it—that the Great Powers sometimes use our messengers to send their letters. Now, I do not think that that is a service we are called upon to perform. The right hon. Gen- 1376 tleman says that there has been a diminution in the expenditure for messengers; but if there has been a diminution in one direction there has been a vast increase in another—namely, the charge for telegrams. The expenditure in telegrams in connection with the Foreign Office is something quite gigantic. As everybody knows, everything is now done by telegrams. I know that when I was at the Home Office I used to receive almost daily telegraphic announcements that some Serene Highness had arrived at some small place, the locality of which I was not even aware of. Out of the number of telegrams received daily nine-tenths were altogether unimportant, and related to matters which nobody cared to hear. Some interesting event may have happened in connection with a Royal Family in any part of Europe; there was instantly a telegram sent, and these things were printed and circulated to all Cabinets.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I must point out that the right hon. Gentleman is now discussing the next item in the Vote. The Question before the Committee is a Motion to reduce the messengers' salaries and allowances, and the telegraphic expenses come next.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I only desire to submit that as the telegraph is now largely used there is no necessity for employing the same extent of messengers. Everyone who is acquainted with the Foreign Office knows that the business is not done by despatches, but that the real business and information are transmitted almost entirely by the telegraphs. I must say that I believe the weekly messengers who were sent away, it may be to St. Petersburg or Constantinople, are really a superfluity, and I will ask the Government to consider whether the system cannot be reformed altogether, and whether something may not be done in the direction of reducing the expenditure now incurred in communicating with Foreign Powers?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I can assure the Committee that the very inquiries which the right hon. Gentleman suggests have been carefully made. No doubt it is only a natural feeling that it is desirable to effect economy as far as possible in the various branches of the Public Service. The system of 1377 employing Foreign Office messengers has been carefully revised, and the number is not larger now than has been considered necessary both by the late and the present Government. As to the great expense of telegrams, I shall have to refer to that subject later on. That despatches are no longer of importance is not the ease. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee that it is impossible and unsafe to trust entirely to telegrams, and that it is absolutely necessary that communications which are important, and not useless to this country, should be conveyed in full, and that reliance should not be placed upon Government telegrams, however convenient they may be.
§ MR. W. LOWTHER (Westmoreland, Appleby)
May I point out that many despatches sent by the Foreign Office have to be sent in cypher, and it would never do to send them by telegram. Therefore, it is quite necessary that the employment of Foreign Office messengers should be continued. It must also be found desirable to employ men in whom the Government can place reliance, and, of course, it is necessary to give them an adequate salary. Sometimes voluminous papers, documents, and confidential despatches are sent away, together with masses of Blue Books which it is found necessary to make Her Majesty's Representatives abroad acquainted with. The hon. Member for Northampton has complained that messengers are sent weekly or fortnightly to certain places. Of course, it is necessary to carry on a regular communication with Foreign Courts; and, as a natural result, messengers are despatched to the large capitals of Europe at stated intervals. I, therefore, cannot agree with the hon. Member in thinking that the Vote ought to be refused. My impression is that the sum is a small one compared with the services which the messengers render.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I suppose that the number of messengers required will depend, to a certain extent, on the amount of work they have to do. But some of the work which the Foreign Office performs can scarcely be fairly classed as work for which the country ought to pay. Not only are there expenses incurred in the employment of cabs to convey these messengers home after they have finished the Foreign Office work, but a consi- 1378 derable item in the present Vote is one to defray the expenses of messengers engaged in distributing Foreign Office papers to the newspaper offices in London. I do not know how many newspaper offices there are in London; but this item is a very considerable one. It is perfectly true that the charges in connection with this Vote are not as high as they used to be; but that fact is owing, I believe, to the attention which has been called to the matter, and which has been the means of inducing the Foreign Office to effect some economy. My contention is that the work of distributing papers to newspaper offices is not work which ought to be done by officers paid by the State. If the newspapers want the information, there is no earthly reason why they should not send for the papers themselves and pay the expense. A newspaper is simply a commercial undertaking, and if the State undertakes to distribute valuable papers to them at the expense of the country it is simply a method of subsidizing the London newspapers. I certainly object to the charge. It has nothing to do with the salaries of the messengers who are employed in this kind of work; but it is perfectly clear that if you impose such duties upon messengers the number of the messengers themselves is necessarily increased. I am of opinion that there is ample room for the reduction of the Vote.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I do not wish to enter into the question whether it is possible to diminish still further the number of Queen's messengers, although I am inclined to think that the number could be reduced by taking still greater advantage than we have taken of of the Post Office, the telegraphs, and the additional facilities which the railways now give almost every day. But, as the question has been raised with regard to the need for using Queen's messengers at all, I feel bound to say that my experience, although only short, in the Foreign Office induces me to confirm what the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State (Sir James Fergusson) has stated—namely, that we cannot altogether trust the post and the ordinary channels of communication with the conveyance of important despatches. It is perfectly true that in some countries we cannot rely upon the post, and that we must have a more secure mode of com- 1379 munication. No doubt, a good deal of important business is now done by telegraphing, and now-a-days one does not hesitate to act upon a telegram, and even to take the most important resolutions upon it. But still there are sometimes confidential letters passing which have considerable value, because they enable our officials both at home and abroad to obtain a fuller idea of a particular matter than could be given in a telegram. Therefore, in that respect the existence of the telegraph, although it facilitates the business of the Foreign Office, by no means does everything. I believe that everyone who has been in the Foreign Office will bear out the contention of my right hon. Friend.
§ MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary whether he will make inquiry as to the way in which the travelling expenses of messengers are concocted? I do not use the word "concocted" in an invidious sense in any way; but I mean that, although Parliament may be ready to pay the legitimate expenses to which these messengers are put in going upon these journeys, I understand the practice of the Foreign Office is this—that when a messenger returns home from a particular place he goes to some individual in the Foreign Office and asks him to make out the expenses of his journey— it may be to and from Constantinople, St. Petersburg, or anywhere else, and the consequence is that there is a list of allowances kept in the Office.
§ MR. J. W. LOWTHER
Yes; maximum allowances, and the messengers are paid according to a list. The messenger, however, may not necessarily have been put to anything like the expense which is actually paid. No doubt this is a small matter; but as we are in an economical mood at the present moment I think it is one well deserving the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
My hon. Friend is really labouring under a great misapprehension. I can only answer his question by saying that the Foreign Office messengers are only paid their actual outlay. Their accounts are very carefully audited. In respect of cabs and porterage, it has been found 1380 more economical to give them a fixed allowance; but as regards all other expenditure they are paid the actual outlay. In regard to what has been stated by the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), in reference to the delivery of diplomatic papers and so on to the newspaper offices by Foreign Office messengers, I may say that that practice has been done away with, and that these papers are now, as a rule, delivered through the post.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I cannot say exactly, but it is now the practice. My hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) says his impression is that the number of Foreign Office messengers now employed might be still further reduced. I can only say that while the administration of Lord Rosebery, at the Foreign Office, was going on the Department was carefully and economically conducted, and Lord Rosebery went carefully into the expenditure of the Foreign Office. He did not, however, leave anything on record to the effect that the number of messengers should be reduced. He carefully revised the charges of the messengers employed in the Home Service; but he made no suggestion whatever in regard to the Foreign Service messengers. After careful inquiry, it was the opinion of Lord Iddesleigh—an opinion in which Lord Salisbury concurred—that 10 was the number required.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make inquiry and inform the House, on the Report, whether what he has now stated is altogether correct? The reason why I ask is this. It is only within a few weeks that the question was brought before the Committee on Public Accounts, and the officials of the Foreign Office certainly did not allege that there had been any reduction.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
I believe that new rules have been laid down under which it is to be assumed that a very considerable economy will be effected in future. It has been stated by the Public Accounts Committee that the expenditure under this head is most lavish; and, therefore, I think it would be well that the Committee should be informed if my right hon. Friend can 1381 tell us what these new rules are. I believe the Foreign Office themselves admit that the expenditure is unnecessarily high; and I think that we ought to know what steps are proposed to be taken in future to correct the evil. For my part, I do not see why, on some occasions, these messengers are not required to travel second class.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I have already given the Committee the information which I received to-day from the Office—namely, that by a recent decision in regard to Parliamentary Papers hitherto delivered by hand, they will, in future, be sent through the post. My attention has been called to the liberal way in which Papers have been gratuitously distributed from the Foreign Office, and Lord Salisbury has approved of a very large reduction being made in that system of gratuitous distribution. Since that decision was arrived at, the gratuitous distribution has been reduced; but all Parliamentary Papers and Blue Books can be procured on payment of a very small charge. It has not been thought right to withdraw the privilege of the gratuitous distribution of Parliamentary Papers to London newspapers; but that is almost the only remnant of the old system of gratuitous distribution. I think the Committee may rely upon it that in future the new system will be strictly followed—namely, that, when possible, these Papers will be distributed by post, and not by messengers.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
If I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly, in the early part of his remarks he said that one of the important duties of these Foreign Office messengers is to convey Blue Books abroad. Now, Blue Books, as far as my experience goes, are more or less ancient history; and I think they might just as well be sent by parcel post, by rail, by steamer, or by some other mode of conveying heavy goods. There certainly can be no sufficient reason for sending books which are of no practical value. Not only so; but there are no State secrets contained in a Blue Book. They refer only to matters that have been practically settled, for hon. Members know very well that it is most difficult to obtain official information from the Foreign Office upon any question until after it has been altogether settled. Therefore, there is no necessity for 1382 secrecy, and these Blue Books could be conveyed abroad quite as well by post as by special messenger. In fact, the Blue Books are for sale in the open market, and foreign countries can readily procure copies of them. There is no necessity, therefore, for the expensive precautions which are now taken in regard to their distribution. Then, as to telegraphing. In many cases—for instance, the despatches sent to the French Government might be just as well sent through the Post Office from this country to Paris as by messenger, for this reason—that they only go through the Post Offices of this country and France, and as the communication is intended to be made to the French Government there cannot be the slightest advantage in observing secrecy. The same maybe said of our communications with Germany and other Continental countries. I can well understand that on certain occasions it is desirable that secrecy should be observed; but, in the great majority of cases, the despatches sent abroad are of a perfectly harmless nature, and do not influence public affairs in the smallest degree. I certainly do not see the necessity for maintaining 11 Foreign Office messengers, when the greater part of the work performed by them at present may be done equally well by means of the ordinary post or the Parcel Post, and a substantial part of the expense saved.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary has quite answered the question addressed to him by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), and the saving effected by the adoption of the new rules has not been stated to the Committee. The charge for Foreign Office messengers in this Vote is £14,000, including salaries and allowances; and it is certainly a liberal sum. The hon. Member for Preston asked my right hon. Friend to explain what reduction will be made in future upon that sum in consequence of the new rules? I should certainly like to have that fact stated generally—namely, how far the reduction will go, and also on what scale the expenses of these messengers are settled.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I should like to have some explanation from him in reference to the extent to which the new arrange- 1383 ments promised by the Post Office to the Committee on Public Accounts have been carried out and brought into practical operation. The Committee were told that arrangements were in contemplation, and would be carried out; and I should like to hear from the right hon. Baronet whether, on the whole, he is of opinion that the new scheme works satisfactorily?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I think I am able to give the right hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) the information he wishes to have. The expenses of the Foreign Office in 1885.6 amounted, in addition to salaries, to £9,152, including expenses to Vienna, Constantinople, St. Petersburg, and so on. The cost of the Home Service in connection with the Foreign Office came to £1,812. The expense of a journey to and from Constantinople is £90. The hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) says that the Blue Books ought to go by post as they contain nothing but ancient history. But apart from the Blue Books there are current Papers containing matters of the most confidential nature. It would be absolutely impossible for the Foreign Office to send papers of the most confidential nature except by very careful and trustworthy hands.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Yes, they are printed, but they are printed as confidential papers at the Foreign Office itself. An hon. Member has asked how the expense incurred in the employment of Foreign Service messengers is divided. It is estimated that there are 26 journeys to Constantinople every year, which at £90 for each journey amount to £2,340. There are 26 to St. Petersburg at a cost of £1,500, while the journeys to Paris cost £1,000 a-year. These are for ordinary double journeys; there are special journeys in addition.
§ MR. JENNINGS
The right hon. Gentleman has given some particulars about the travelling expenses of the Foreign Office messengers. I should like to call attention to the enormous sums charged for journeys much less considerable in extent than those to Constantinople and St. Petersburg, but for which an item of £8,400 appears in the Votes this year. A large portion of this sum appears to have been paid to messengers in excess of the regulations 1384 for cab hire and the like. Now, the charge itself is very high; but what makes it particularly deserving of attention is that the Comptroller and Auditor General has reported that a large part of it is spent without any proper authority. The last report of the Comptroller shows that there were 357 cases of journeys to and from the messengers' private residences—that is to say, that not content with the very handsome salaries they receive, these messengers seem to be in the habit, whenever they go from home, of using cabs at the public expense. One of the items they charge is from the Foreign Office to the newspaper offices in Fleet Street. Now, I suppose that if any Member of this Committee had of his own motion to make this journey, he would look upon the distance as a little under or over a mile, and would pay 1s. or 1s. 6d. for it. But when the Foreign Office messenger goes the distance expands to 12 miles, and the messenger charges 6s. for it, which sum the taxpayers of this country are made to pay. The method in which the taxpayers' money is dealt with has been distinctly pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General; but we have no kind of assurance that the practice has been stopped since the last Report was issued. In that Report the Comptroller says—The charge seems to embrace a distance of 12 miles or more, and the charge amounts to a uniform sum of 6s., which on the face of it cannot possibly have been incurred.I think the Public Accounts Committee ought to have given Parliament information to satisfy the taxpayers that the public money is not being squandered in the shameless manner in which it has been squandered for so many years past. Some light is thrown on this matter, I think, at page 121 of the Report of the Comptroller General. He says that on the occasion of a journey to Hatfield a uniform charge is made of 5s. for a fly, the distance being two-thirds of a mile, and that there is a charge of 2s.. in addition for porterage. Sometimes five or six journeys are made, and 7s.. is always charged from the railway station to the house. Somebody evidently gets a nice little picking out of the transaction. The Comptroller and Auditor General throws out a suspicion that the money is not paid for flys and cabs, but that it finds its way into the 1385 pockets of the Foreign Office messengers as a sort of perquisite. He implies that wherever the Foreign Office messengers go they scatter largesse around them, abundantly among all the railway porters. The presence of a Foreign Office messenger at a railway station must be the signal for general rejoicing. The Comptroller and Auditor General says that they give considerable gratuities to railway guards and porters, although the Treasury have decided that such expenditure should not be charged to the public funds. Consequently, we have no security, although this Report has been made, that the practice has been stopped. The Committee have been told by the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) that upon another occasion a distinctly irregular practice was brought to the knowledge of a Committee upstairs—namely, that a large sum of money had been paid away year after year without any kind of authority. Although the Comptroller and Auditor General decided that the payment I have referred to was improper, it may still be going on. The Report of the Comptroller says that the inference with regard to these charges is that they are looked upon as more in the nature of a fixed allowance than an actual disbursement—in other words, that whenever a Foreign Office messenger faces the danger of a journey from Whitehall to Fleet Street he may pocket 6s.. by way of perquisite, and that when he undertakes the equally dangerous journey from the railway station at Hatfield to Hatfield House he may pocket from 5s.. to 7s.. I believe there are a large number of unemployed persons to be found who would be glad to undertake this hazardous service for half the money. Anybody who will take the trouble to examine this Vote will see that the whole expenditure of the Foreign Office is conducted on the most lavish scale. That Office seems to be viewed as a sort of gold mine, and the men who get into it appear to scatter the money about with both hands. Perhaps there is no necessity that they should refrain from doing so, because the British public are always ready to pay everything they are asked to pay. In this Office alone I see that there is a sum of £11,744 expended for stationery and printing. Of course, I 1386 need not say that a Foreign Office messenger, costing the taxpayer a large sum of money in the shape of salary, cannot stir out of his house or office without having a cab in waiting for him. He must also have a fly at the station with porters and all the rest of it to assist him with his luggage, and all the expenditure, including his salary, is on a scale which, in the case of a clerk in a commercial establishment, would be considered not merely enormous, but profligate. The salaries of the Foreign Office clerks range from £500 to £900 a-year, and there is a general impression that no great amount of work is performed for the remuneration received. As a general rule, the time of a Foreign Office clerk is supposed to be occupied in sketching caricatures on the office note paper and reading The Times. For that he gets from £500 to £700 and £900 a-year, so that it may be looked upon as a well-paid occupation. The office hours are generally from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. But anyone who glances at these Estimates will see that this is by no means all that the British public have to pay, because underneath this Vote there is a statement in small type of certain charges which are called "non-effective charges" —£10,500—that is to say, that the gentlemen who are fortunate enough to get into the Foreign Office are not only sure of large salaries for doing very little, but when they leave they are provided for by the country, and receive enormous pensions. Then there is another thing which came before the Committee upstairs.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I think the remarks of the hon. Gentleman ought to be deferred until after the special Amendment which has been proposed by the hon. Member for Northampton has been disposed of. The hon. Member is now going at great length into other matters.
§ MR. JENNINGS
Then I will confine myself to the salaries and travelling expenses of these gentlemen. I wish to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary whether the charges which have been reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General to be irregular have been stopped; whether it is the practice for the Foreign Office messengers to distribute gratuities along every railway line upon which they travel, and to charge enormous sums for short journeys 1387 to Fleet Street and Hatfield? The charge of £35 for every journey to Paris is, I think, monstrous. I do not think any Member of the Committee will venture to defend it. If the right hon. Gentleman will give me the opportunity, I will undertake to go to Paris and back again for him for £5, and I do not see why the superior beings at the Foreign Office should be paid exactly seven times as much. I think that explanations are called for, and that something should be said by the Government to justify these extraordinary charges upon the taxpayers.
§ MR. LEGH (Lancashire, S. W., Newton)
I should like to point out that the journeys to Paris include the expense of the messengers in staying at a hotel. A messenger proceeds to Paris every Sunday and remains there for a fortnight. In regard to the lavish expenditure of a Queen's messenger upon his journeys, I may say that I have been constantly engaged in performing those journeys myself; and so far from my presence, either at a railway station or a hotel, exciting rejoicing with a view to the largesse I was expected to distribute, my appearance generally passed unnoticed, and excited no feeling of gratification whatever. I think the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) made some allusion to the heavy expense of a journey to Constantinople. Now, I have been upon that journey once or twice myself, and I beg to inform the hon. Member that the sum of £90 covers also the expenses incurred at Constantinople in a stay of 10 or 12 days. It also includes a very large amount of luggage, which naturally costs a high figure for such a journey. The messenger who is sent to Constantinople is always encumbered with a large amount of luggage in the shape of despatches and papers, circulars and Blue Books, which are convoyed in the ordinary Foreign Service bag.
§ MR. HANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary rather pooh-poohed the suggestion I made that some of these messengers might travel second-class; but I see there is a distinct order of the Treasury that upon all journeys under 100 miles the messenger shall travel second-class.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I am rather sorry that the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) did not put a Question to the Government before he 1388 entered so largely into the subject of the waste of the public money. There can be no doubt that the payments for porterage and fees to guards had grown up to an undue amount. For some years it had been the custom of the messengers to pay for such services at a higher rate than hon. Members would pay themselves, and from the uniformity of the charges it was suggested that they were regulated by a fixed tariff. The hon. Member has expressed surprise that a messenger taking papers to Hatfield House should require a cab to take them up. Of course, he has to take with him bags of despatch boxes, some of them so heavy that it would be impossible for him to carry them personally. Therefore, it is necessary for him to have a vehicle of some kind to take them about with him. It is further necessary to get them out of the railway station quickly, and he requires the assistance of a porter. In the same way the Blue Books are taken to the newspaper offices, and when you have a messenger going about London in this way, conveying a considerable number of Blue Books to the different newspaper offices, it is obvious that it is necessary for him to take a cab. I have already told the Committee that economies have been effected in connection with the Home Service expenses, with the result that those expenses have been reduced by at least £100 a-year. In the first place, we have stopped the issue of Parliamentary Papers by hand. Until a recent period they were always delivered by hand, but now they are sent through the Post Office. In the next place, the expenses of messengers, when they are travelling over a distance under 100 miles, have been reduced from first-class to second-class, and there has been a further reduction in the charge allowed to messengers for cabs to convey them to their private residences. It must be remembered that some of them are kept at the office until a late hour at night. They have constantly to deliver telegrams and so forth, and when they have been detained at the office until a very late hour, it has been the custom for them to take cabs to convey them home. That practice has now been altered, and they are not allowed to take cabs, except under special circumstances. It will, therefore, be seen that the notice which has been taken of these matters by the 1389 Committee on Public Accounts, has been acted upon, and that the result has been a reduction in the expenses of £100 a-year. The right hon. Member for South Edinburgh seems to have been somewhat startled when I said that a journey to Paris cost £20.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
That would be for the double journey. I said that Paris was one of the places which are technically called stations. I cannot off-hand tell the Committee exactly what constitutes a station; but it means that a messenger is occupied in travelling between Paris and London constantly. I believe that in the course of a fortnight he goes from London to Paris and between Paris and Calais four times, or twice in each week, finally returning to London, and £40 is the entire amount expended on these journeys.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I think this discussion has proved how very desirable it is to call attention to these matters. The right hon. Gentleman commenced his remarks by saying that this Motion has been made very frequently, and then he told us that there have been considerable reductions since the year 1869. Now, I made a Motion similar to this 20 years ago, and I am glad to see that there have been reductions effected. I have no doubt, if I continue to make the same Motion year after year, that there will be more reductions still. We have been told that there has been a reduction of £100 this year in the expenses of the Home Service messengers. What we want to see, however, is a reduction in the cost of the Foreign Office messengers. I am quite willing to admit that there are times and occasions when it is necessary to send a Foreign Office messenger with confidential despatches; but the mistake is in having these Foreign Office messengers sent out at fixed times in the way the right hon. Gentleman has just pointed out in reference to Paris. In point of fact they are required to make the journey whether there are despatches to convey or not. I presume the right hon. Gentleman will admit that there are occasions when a messenger goes out without any despatches at all. I would send a messenger when it is necessary; but I would not have a system of sending messengers all over the Continent at fixed times, 1390 whether there is anything for them to carry or not. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has pointed out that it is desirable to know what foreign countries are doing in the matter. Probably they employ a less number of messengers than we do, and it is suggested that occasionally foreign Ministers employ our messengers. I do not know whether that is the case now; but when I was in the Diplomatic Service it certainly was frequently the case. With regard to the journey to Constantinople, the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary says that it costs £90. Now, a ticket to Constantinople costs £38 only, and for most part of the time occupied in the journey the messenger is on board ship, and gets his subsistence with his ticket. He takes four days coming back, and I think the charge for those four days is a very extravagant one.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
He is at Constantinople for 10 days altogether; but he takes a return ticket by the Oriental express, which costs about £48.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Well, that will make 18 days, and £1 a-day for food and lodging would be £18, and that, with the charge for his fare, does not come to anything like £90. I believe the system is this—you give the messenger a certain fixed maximum allowance, and whether he spends it or not he receives the exact amount. You do not require him to make a declaration that he has spent that amount, but he gets it. It is said that sometimes a messenger has so much luggage with him that he takes a first-class place for it. I never heard before of anyone taking two places in a railway carriage because he had so much luggage. I know very well that in regard to a foreigner he will come into a carriage and take up anybody's seat with his luggage with the most reckless disregard for the comfort of his neighbours. What we ask now is that the right hon. Gentleman should look into these matters. We believe that if he would look closely into them he would be able to effect a reduction in the expenditure of much more than £100 a-year. I I believe that the discussion which has now taken place will have been useful. I do not wish to put the House to the 1391 trouble of a Division, and with, the permission of the Committee I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (2.) £26,524, to complete the sum for the Colonial Office.
(3.) Motion made and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £34,321, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1888, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council and Subordinate Departments.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
I have placed an Amendment on the Paper in reference to this Vote with the view of calling attention to the inefficiency of the present Agricultural Department, and in the hope of inducing Her Majesty's Government to consider the matter with the view of establishing the Department on a more satisfactory footing. I trust that this will be the last occasion on which we shall have to deal with a Vote so meagre in its amount as the present one. I take the liberty of making that statement, because the question is essentially one in which the question of expenditure is involved. I fully admit that in drawing the attention of the Committee and of Her Majesty's Government to this point, I am bound to show good reasons why this Department should be well arranged, and why an additional expenditure should be incurred. I do not think it is necessary that I should go through the form of calling the attention of the House to the enormous importance of agriculture; to the vast number of persons engaged in it; to the large interests involved in it, or to show that we cannot expect a return of prosperity to the various industries in England so long as agriculture remains in its present depressed condition. Those are matters which are obvious to everyone. I may be asked what good can we get from an improved Agricultural Department, and my answer is this—We have an example before us of a Department somewhat similar which is already in practical existence in another part of the Kingdom. And here I may say that England may claim to have a grievance, because we have here 1392 no Agricultural Department of the State such as the Agricultural Department of Ireland. Of course, it would not be right for me to discuss the Irish Vote now. Therefore, I will simply refer to the fact that there is a Vote for an Agricultural Department in Ireland which makes provision for dairy schools, for the appointment of a staff of professors and lecturers, and for a variety of objects in regard to which in this country we have no parallel whatever. Such institutions as the Munster Dairy Schools work admirably in Ireland; and, having regard to the condition of Ireland, it is quite certain that such schools could not have been established as private venture schools. What I propose in connection with the Agricultural Department of England is that we should have in England, Scotland, and Wales similar schools to those which are maintained by the Agricultural Department in Ireland. I am unable to inform the Committee what the expense would be; but, looking to the Irish Vote, I find that for something like the modest sum of £4,000 the Irish people are able to maintain the advantages to which I have referred. I know it will be said that it is undesirable to ask for State aid in regard to a business like agriculture, and that we ought to rely solely upon the energy which those who are engaged in it bring to bear upon it. We are now, however, brought face to face with a new scheme of technical education which is about to be introduced to the notice of the House. In that respect, perhaps, I may be allowed to point to the Report of the Duke of Richmond's Commission, which contains the following words: —We cannot forbear to express our opinion that the improvement and extension of scientific agricultural teaching, with the view to the improved cultivation of the soil, is an indispensable measure in order to secure the general prosperity of the people.That passage was contained in the Report issued in 1881, and since then we have had the Report of the Royal Commission on Technical Education, which Report distinctly points to the necessity of the establishment of an agricultural school. Looking at the condition of similar schools abroad, I believe there is no case in which they can be regarded as self-supporting; and the Royal Commission recommended that, as they cannot be self-supporting, they should be estab- 1393 lished and maintained, with the assistance of the State. Consequently, we have the opinion, not only of the Duke of Richmond's Commission, but of the Royal Commission upon Technical Education, that agricultural schools ought to be established, and that State aid ought to be given to them. There can be no doubt that if that were done great benefit would result. We know what has been the effect of the precedent set by Denmark. We all know that a few years ago the agriculture of Denmark was at a very low ebb; but by the system of dairy schools established there such a change has been brought about in the condition of things there that, in a time of agricultural depression, Denmark was able to pass through its trials with greater advantages than any other country. The people had been so admirably taught by the State dairy schools that they were able to make better butter, and to obtain a higher price for it when imported into England, than the agriculturists in other localities. It is hardly necessary to call the attention of the Committee to this fact—that, under the existing condition of agriculture, it is only under exceptionably favourable circumstances that the growth of cereals—wheat, barley, and oats—may be carried on at a profit. That renders it necessary that we should turn our attention to the products of the dairy. There are, however, many other things which the Agricultural Department might and ought to do. Experiments might be made in many directions, if there were only proper machinery and an adequate staff—experiments which can only be undertaken by a Department which has at its disposal a certain amount of funds, in order that the experiments, when undertaken, may be carefully conducted, accurately recorded, and their success duly announced, so that the whole country may reap the advantage of such experiments. Of course, the tenants of England cannot afford to do the work themselves, and the impoverished landlords are in very much the same condition. It is, therefore, impossible to get these things done without, as the Royal Commissioners have already reported, State aid being given. For instance, experiments conducted by the Agricultural Department may be of great value in the case of disease among animals. In 1394 the present Vote I see an item of £200 put down under the head of "investigations in regard to cattle disease" and "incidental expenses." In many parts of England the agricultural industry has been paralyzed by a disease which has committed great havoc—I mean swine fever. About a year or a little more ago an investigation was made in reference to swine fever by the Privy Council. But when the officers of the Department came to deal with it the Home Office stepped in, and when it was proposed that certain animals should be brought here to be dissected and subjected to medical operations the Home Office stood in the way; the Agricultural Department were snubbed; and when they required the use of some building in which the experiments might be carried on, the answer received by the Agricultural Department was that there was a difficulty in obtaining such premises. We were, consequently, placed in this position. There was a scientific Department quite ready to undertake an investigation, when another Department of the State stepped in, and, by refusing the necessary accommodation, brought the matter to a deadlock. I believe that what happened in consequence is that the matter is still waiting investigation. May I point to another instance in which the Agricultural Department not only failed to obtain encouragement, but actually met with opposition from the Government? This very year there was a meeting of statisticians at Borne from all parts of Europe, who proposed to undertake an investigation into questions connected with the tenure of land, small holdings, and so forth. The Agricultural Department invited certain eminent statisticians to represent them at Rome, and having accepted the appointment, the representatives of the Department went there, but because the sanction of the Treasury had not been previously obtained to the expenditure involved, the expenses of these gentlemen have been disallowed. Now, my contention is that if this were a real instead of a sham Department presided over by a Minister, as we were given to understand it would be, and if it were a really responsible Department, it would never have been treated in this oil-band manner. I should like the Committee to consider what the Agricultural Department is, and how it was 1395 established. It was established in consequence of a vote in this House in the year 1882 upon a Resolution proposed by Sir Massey Lopes, which, somewhat to the surprise of himself and those who supported him, was accepted by the Government of the day. It was impossible to do anything that year; but in the following year an Agricultural Department of the Privy Council was established, but it obtained no Vote; it received no grant of money, and therefore it did no work. It got nothing and it did nothing. Some years afterwards, in regard to a question as to the nature of its proceedings, its days of meeting, and what it did, I was informed that it never met, that there were no proceedings in connection with it, and that no information was obtained by it. In point of fact, the Agricultural Department, after a serious and solemn vote of this House, was a sham, is a sham, and has remained a sham ever since. I will not say for a moment that some good work has not been by the Veterinary Department in grappling with the diseases which affect animals. That Department has done admirable work, but it was in existence before the establishment of the Agricultural Department, and is really only doing the same work now that it did before. My contention is that the business of agriculture is so great and important, and is suffering so severely from depression, that something ought to be done to stimulate it. The sum we ask for is very small. I myself believe that a Vote of £25,000 would go a long way towards the establishment of the scientific investigation that is now asked for. It must be borne in mind that this expenditure has been already distinctly recommended. The Royal Commission on Technical Education, which traversed Europe in order to discover what provision is made in other countries for technical instruction, have distinctly recommended in their Report that the attention of the Government should be directed to the matter, and that an Agricultural Department should be established for scientific investigation and research. My belief is that we should have in England two or three such branches. I would have one in the North, another in the Midland Counties, and a third in the South, and I should like also to see a branch established in Scotland, and another in Wales. 1396 Those countries are certainly entitled to consideration equally with ourselves. I should like to see the Munster dairy schools in Ireland repeated and increased in number. I am satisfied that if such schools were established in a practical way, much advantage would be derived from their establishment. These farms and dairies might be established one by one, and might be associated in some way with the Royal Agricultural Society. I would also suggest that if the Department were organized in this way, there are other Departments which might be grouped and amalgamated with it. For instance, there are the Reports of the Enclosure Commission and the Land Commission. I think if the Vote for those Departments were carefully studied it would be found that there are a number of highly-paid officials connected with them who are by no means overworked. Then, again, there is the Department of Woods and Forests which might be included in the amalgamation. In that case I think it would be found that there is a large staff which might find a little more healthy occupation in the work of the Agricultural Department, which I desire to see undertaken. I merely throw this out as a suggestion. If the work were taken boldly in hand, I have no doubt the Agricultural Department would soon be placed on a satisfactory footing. There are precedents to be found at home in what has occurred in Ireland; and if you go abroad, you cannot see a country, be it little or be it great, which does not incur a large expenditure in connection with an efficient system of State-aided agriculture. The farmers of this country are accustomed to self-help, and they are anxious to go on to the best of their ability as far as they can. Five years ago this House was certainly under the impression that something ought to be done, and since then a Royal Commission has reported in favour of State aid. All precedents are in favour of my proposal. The farmers of England are a long-suffering race, and they have had a bitter and hard time of it; yet I think they ought not to ask in vain that Her Majesty's Government should give the matter their serious consideration. At present the Agricultural Department is a sham. No more work is done now than was done before it was established, and there are no more officials employed. The work 1397 now done was equally well done before the Department came into existence. In the hope that I may induce the Government to give their serious attention to the matter, I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £100.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item F, £12,567, Salaries of the Agricultural Departments, be reduced by the sum of £100."—(Sir Richard Paget.)
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) will be able to give a satisfactory answer to the appeal which has been made to him upon this very important question. Everyone admits at this moment the depression which agriculture is passing through, and it is very little that is asked from the Government by my hon. Friend, who has gone so closely over the whole question. What is required is this—that we should have a proper Department to which we can apply upon all agricultural questions—a real Department to which we can go, and to which we can explain all those wants and requirements which are perpetually arising in the present condition of agriculture. I do not think there are many Gentlemen on the Front Bench—there are some I know—who realize the present position of agriculture, particularly in the present year. Last year it was bad enough, but this year it is even worse. The depression at this moment is extraordinary. You have already given State aid to an Agricultural Department in Ireland, and you have established schools and dairy farms in that country. Why should you not adopt the same principle in reference to England? When we come to deal with questions of that kind we are invariably left out in the cold, while the people of Ireland always get what they require. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member says "hear, hear!" but if he comes to analyze the tenure of land and the whole question of agriculture he will find that exceptional legislation has been applied to Ireland and to Ireland only. I certainly do not say that such legislation is required for England, or ought to be given to England; I only ask with regard to this particular case that the same principle should be adopted in connec- 1398 tion with other parts of the country. What we are in want of now is the establishment of some system which will enable those who are engaged in agriculture to acquire a practical and technical education. We see how necessary it is that every young man who desires to become a practical farmer should have a real education in regard to agricultural pursuits, which certainly a good many of them do not get now, although they have constantly to study what they ought to do to make both ends meet. I venture to express a hope that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury will give a favourable answer to the appeal which has been made to him. There is only one other point which I desire to refer to. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Groschen), when he received a deputation the other day, said—and I am sure the country felt relief when they heard his statement—that he had the interests of agriculture very much at heart, and would endeavour to help those engaged in that interest. I am sure, therefore, that he will not grudge the very small amount of money which would be required this year in order to carry out these arrangements.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to remind him that the Irish people established the Munster farm for themselves.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
Although I do not represent an agricultural constituency, I have some interest in agriculture, and I desire to endorse the statements which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Wells Division of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget), especially with reference to the dairy interest. Coming from a dairy district, I know a great deal can be done by teaching people to make better dairy produce than they do at present. What happens now, unfortunately, is that the education given in our country villages does not give the lads and girls of those villages any interest in farming occupations whatever, and their first step is to migrate into the towns. I have certainly found that to be the case in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. In order to show the advantage which may be derived from teaching these people properly, I may, perhaps, be allowed to state to the House what 1399 happened to myself. I found my rents going down, and my tenants not making good butter and cheese. In order to give them proper instruction I obtained the services of two good dairymaids from the Cheddar district, and the result was that cheese and butter were better made, the cheese fetching 25s.. more per cwt., and the butter 2d.. more a lb. There is no reason why what has been done in that case should not be done by dairy farmers in other parts of England. I am quite sure that a great deal can be done both in the interests of the tenants and of the landlords to teach these people to make more out of the land. It only takes a gallon of milk to make 1 lb. of cheese, whether it is made well or badly, and a difference of 2d. or 2½d. a lb. in the price makes all the difference between profit and a serious loss.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I think it is nothing short of a scandal that there is no school of technical education in agriculture in the whole of England. I cannot understand why there should be so much indifference, when we all know how the agricultural interest is depressed. I hope the hon. Baronet (Sir Richard Paget) will press his Amendment to a Division, in order to show the House and the country that we agriculturists are in earnest in endeavouring to obtain from the Government some practical amelioration of our condition.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I regret that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord John Manners) is not present. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Wells Division of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget) is aware, he is detained abroad by a serious illness, or he would have replied much more effectively than I can to the speeches of my hon. Friends behind me. The Government are deeply concerned at the very serious depression which prevails in agriculture, although they are too much occupied to have much personal knowledge of details. Yet I can speak myself from personal suffering, because I have had more acres thrown on my hands than I wish to have; and, therefore, I have experienced directly the results of the depression of agriculture, so far as my own property has been affected. I have already stated to my hon. Friend, in answer to a Ques- 1400 tion which he put to me a few days ago, that it is the wish of the Government, and the interest of the Government, to do all that they can, not by the creation at once of a great Government Department, but by building up a Department, to do everything that can be done to extend the knowledge that is required in the processes of agriculture, and to give such encouragement as it is possible to give to the development of land by the adoption of the best agricultural systems. We have much to pride ourselves upon in this country in regard to the skill and knowledge and enterprize of our farmers. I am sure that any Gentleman who compares the agriculture of this country with that of almost any foreign country will be surprised at the skill and knowledge of our farmers. I am ready to admit that there may be, and probably are, many subjects, which require more investigation, more inquiry, and more exhaustive treatment than they have received up to the present time. The Royal Agricultural Society has done a great deal for agriculture by example, by examination, and by experiment, and by carrying out different methods of treatment and different modes of cultivation; but it is possible, I admit, that something more may be done, and any encouragement it is in the power of the Government to give, within reasonable limits, which afford any expectation of a profitable and satisfactory result, they are ready to give. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) referred to the improvements which he has himself effected in the management of his own affairs by the exercise of skill, judgment, and discretion. I think there are many others who might do a great deal of good in their own neighbourhood by the exercise of the judgment which the hon. Member for Preston has shown. I myself have introduced a good dairymaid into my neighbourhood with the most beneficial results. I could not understand why butter should be so much better made on one farm, and should obtain so much better a price in the market than another, until I came to see that it was due to the care, skill, and the attention of the dairymaid. We have yet, I confess, a great deal to do in dealing with the difficulties of agriculture. They are difficulties, I am afraid, which no Government Depart- 1401 ment can altogether remove; but we confidently expect that good results will follow from the technical education scheme which will shortly be brought before the House. I am not sure that the immediate expenditure of £25,000 a-year would be an entirely satisfactory way of dealing with, the subject. There are causes of depression which no Government can modify, such as climate, foreign competition, and, it maybe, the appearance of some new fly. At the present moment the English farmer has to compete with the whole world; and there are facilities by which food and produce of every description can be brought cheaply to this country from other parts of the world. There is also another cause of depression in the competition, which is the result of an abundance of capital which seeks employment at a very low rate of profit indeed. As far as the Government are concerned, it will be our aim and purpose to provide the information which my hon. Friend desires to obtain by giving to the farmers that technical education which will place them and their labourers on a par with those who are being so ably instructed in other countries. I repeat again that we are deeply sensible of the serious depression which has overtaken the most important interest of this country. When we speak of any other interest—that of iron or cotton, for instance—it must not be forgotten that the agricultural interest employs a much larger number of persons, and, there fore, demands a larger amount of consideration on the part of the State, seeing that it is altogether of greater importance than any other interest. It would, therefore, be a gross mistake, if it were possible, for the Government to be unconscious of the present circumstances of depression, or unwilling to acknowledge the conditions which now exist, or disinclined to do anything which lies in their power to assist in restoring the agricultural interest to its proper position.
§ MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
I am glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that it is the intention of the Government to pay some attention to agricultural matters. I have stated before in this House that the English farmers have shown the greatest patience under circumstances of the greatest gravity 1402 and of the most deep distress, and I trust they will find that Parliament is really anxious to do all it can to remedy the ruinous position not only of the lauded interest, but of the farmers and farm labourers. If the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will pardon my venturing to say so, I would suggest that there is not very much to be done in the way of teaching the farmer how to make jam, or how to make butter. We want something that will go a little deeper into the matter than that; and I hope that Parliament will be able to establish a more efficient Department in reference to British agriculture than we have had up to the present moment. I believe that the taxpayers of England will not grudge a reasonable amount of money for that purpose, because, after all, agriculture is one of the most important, if not the most important, of all our industries. The number of trades which depend upon the prosperity of agriculture are innumerable. An hon. Member the other day spoke of 12,000,000 of acres of land not being cultivated; and another hon. Member said that there was a very large amount of land out of cultivation which ought to be utilized. In those remarks I entirely agree; but I think it will be necessary to go much deeper into the subject before we can get that land cultivated. There is a cure for it all; but I am afraid that I should be ruled out of Order if I were to enter into it to-night. I hope that the Front Bench will give us an opportunity of discussing the subject at length on some other occasion. I hope that the patience with which the English farmers and their Representatives in this House have borne the depression which now exists will induce the Government to see their way to give us, before long, a night in which we may be able to go thoroughly into our grievances, and to suggest, in a straightforward way, what we consider to be the only remedies.
§ MR. MORE (Shropshire, Ludlow)
As the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has expressed a desire to give effect to the views of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Division of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget), I would venture to suggest to him that the most practical way of doing it, and that which would give most satisfaction 1403 to the farmers, would be to establish schools, not for dairy purposes only, but for general instruction in agricultural matters. I think it would be well, in experiments of the kind suggested, to see what can be done with farms of different sizes, say, from 50 up to 200 acres. The object in view would also be assisted, in my opinion, by the Bill which was introduced last night, which, when passed, would assist in showing what can be done with very small holdings. It is to be hoped that the proposal which has been made will be carried out as soon as possible; and I am convinced that it would be a most satisfactory way of enabling the British farmer to deal with this matter of foreign competition.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
I rise for the purpose of supporting, as far as I understand it, the suggestion made by the hon. Baronet the Member for North - West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) with regard to establishing an agricultural school in this country. I was very glad to hear the excellent remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), and I can quite confirm what has fallen from him, and I can say from my own knowledge that the example which he has shown is one which I should like to see copied. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the impossibility of spending £25,000 per annum in this direction. I will go to the extent of saying that £250,000 would be economically spent in this work. Anyone must see that something of this sort will have to be done if the agricultural interest in this country is to maintain anything like a profitable competition with foreign countries; but the hope of competition with America is altogether fallacious. The competition in America arises from two causes. The first cause of competition is, that the soil of America is more productive than the soil in Europe; and, secondly, the transport is cheaper. Anyone who examines into the matter will find that, so far from the present rates in America breaking down, they are likely to become cheaper every year. At the present time there is flour coming into the English market from San Francisco, and selling 6s.. per barrel cheaper than it can be produced in Ireland. The machinery in America is the same as is used in Ireland at the present time; but it is the transport that kills 1404 the Irish, as it also kills the English manufacture. It is not a question of railway rates in America, because the railways which compete with us are really not Railway Companies, but Land Companies, who can, if they like, bring the whole of their freights for nothing, and still pay a dividend on their capital, which arises from profit out of land that extends four or five miles on both sides of the line. Villages are springing up, and the need of railroads is increasing every year; and, as I have said, they are able to compete with us by bringing flour into this country from San Francisco without its having to pay a charge of one single cent for transport. Now, inasmuch as this cheapness of transport cannot be broken down, the hope of English or Irish agriculture competing with America is a very small hope indeed. But there is one direction in which we can improve. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to take some glory to the farmers of this country with regard to the excellence of their farming. Now, I have examined into this question, and I am able to say that the system of farming adopted in this country is far inferior to the system in Belgium and Holland, in both of which countries the land is poor; but farming has succeeded there by reason of the agricultural schools which have been established. The right hon. Gentleman may not accept that comparison; but I am sorry to say that it is exactly true that those countries I have mentioned are far in advance of us in their knowledge of the principles of farming, as an instance of which I may mention the principle of the succession of crops, which, although considered a new one here, is, in Holland and Belgium, as old as the hills. Unless you have schools you will never introduce into the farming system of this country those economies which are necessary to success, for there is a parallel between agriculture and the system which obtains in commercial houses; that is to say, it is not the amount of sales which gives the profit—it is the internal economy of the establishment. And I say it is the internal extravagant system in England and Ireland which causes the great loss to the farmer. If you had a system of agricultural education in this country you would alter all that, and that which is now loss woul4 become profit in the 1405 future. For that reason I strongly advocate the establishment of agricultural schools. Farming is different from all other pursuits. When, a man fails in everything else he turns his eyes to farming, and I know acquaintances of my own who have left the Bar and other occupations to become what are called gentlemen farmers. I know that in Ireland every man thinks himself capable of becoming a farmer; and these are the facts that account for the bad farming in this country. It is entirely due to this want of education and want of training in the dairy farms of the country that France and other countries are able to compete with us and outsell us in our own market, notwithstanding the means of transport which we have at our disposal. Some endeavours have been made in Ireland, with success, in the matter of dairy farming; but that only goes in one direction, and what we require is a large system of instruction not limited by the outlay of £25,000 to which the right hon. Gentleman alludes, but resting on a grant of such a sum as I mentioned—namely, £250,000, which outlay, I say, in the end would become a source of very large profit. I think the English Government —and especially this Government which has brought in a Land Bill—should make it their special duty to introduce the system we are advocating; and if they succeed in that one thing alone, they would leave behind them a record far more valuable than nine-tenths of the Acts of Parliament which have been passed in other times.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET
The assurances which I have received from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) are to a large extent satisfactory; but I am bound to say it would have been better if there had been a more clear and definite statement that the money which is required would be forthcoming from the public funds, because I again venture to say that the essence of this question is that funds should be found to set up an efficient Agricultural Department, and that one of the necessities of the Agricultural Department is the establishment of at least one school of agriculture. I am glad to find that my right hon. Friend is fully alive to the fact that agriculture is carried on in these days as a matter of science, It is not stationary; you 1406 cannot farm to-day as you did in times gone by; you must keep your mind open to progress; and, in endeavouring to enable our farmers to meet competition in the New World, you must furnish them with the means of carrying out their endeavours successfully. In all other countries farmers have a strong protection; they have the advantage of cheap railway rates and a complete system of agricultural education. We have none of those advantages; our railway rates are higher than the rates paid by foreigners who come into our markets to compete with us; we have no system of agricultural education; we have no protection; and if, with all these disadvantages, we have to fight our battles, it is no wonder that we go gradually to the wall. I understand my right hon. Friend to say that he is prepared to take steps in the direction of improving the present Agricultural Department; but allow me to point out that it is not long since that a Minister was obliged to say to a large deputation from Scotland, asking that scientific investigation should be made into pleuropneumonia—"I cannot help you; I have not the money." Thus the disease had to run its course; no investigation could be taken by the Agricultural Department, simply because there were no funds to enable them to deal with it. Now, I think I know the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) sufficiently well to say that, if there is a disposition on the part of the Government to give effect to what is proved to be the universal demand in this House, he will admit that the ways and means should be found that are necessary to do what is required. I do not ask you to spend one sixpence without getting full value for it; I want you to be careful that nothing shall be done which will not produce a valuable return to the nation; but I entirely agree with the hon. Member who has just addressed the Committee (Mr. Molloy), and I hold with him that £10,000, £20,000, or £25,000 is not in it. If you are going to get an advantage which is necessary, you must furnish the funds necessary to obtain it. I hope I have interpreted rightly what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has said, that in directing these steps to be taken he does so with the clear intention and know- 1407 ledge that those steps will require expenditure of public funds, and that he will not shrink from finding the necessary funds to enable this branch, at any rate, to be set on foot. If I have lightly interpreted my right hon. Friend, perhaps he will be good enough to signify assent; in which case I will ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I can assure my hon. Friend that there will not be any hesitation on the part of the Government in carrying out our engagement to inquire into this matter, and, if possible, proceeding step by step to make such an arrangement as in our judgment may be satisfactory. My hon. Friend not having given me Notice that he was about to raise this question, I have not had an opportunity of going into the circumstances as fully as I could have wished; but I give him the engagement heartily that we will examine into the question, and that we shall not be behindhand in the matter of any expense which may appear to us to be necessary to bring about a satisfactory result.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I wish to say a few words on a question alluded to by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Richard Paget), and which is all-important, not only with regard to this Office, but also with regard to a number of other Departments throughout the Service. The question might, perhaps, have been more conveniently raised on the Vote on Account; but, unfortunately, the discussion on that Vote was closured before it was complete, and in the discussion on the Vote for the Treasury the Chairman decided that that Vote was not the proper one on which to raise the question, but that it could be brought up on the specific Vote immediately concerned. Now, the question is as to the distribution of work between several Departments. I would remind the Government that the Education Office at one time was under the Privy Council and intimately connected with it; it has been separated from it for some years, and the Department is now under the Vice President of the Council with a separate Office and a separate Vote. But provided for under the present Vote are such matters as the Burial Boards and the official work con- 1408 nected with them, although the inspection of Burial Boards is in the hands of the Home Office. Similarly, with regard to merchant shipping, all the work connected with pilotage, lighthouses, and tonnage dues are dealt with by the Privy Council. But those matters are intimately connected with the work entrusted to the Board of Trade: and, therefore, you have work of a cognate nature and almost of identical character being performed in a number of different Departments. Now, I submit that that can only result in unnecessary correspondence, in the multiplication of duties, and unnecessary expenditure. I believe there is room for very considerable economy as between this Vote and the Votes for the Board of Trade, Home Office, and Local Government Board, and I throw out the suggestion in order that I may get the views of the Government on this question. I know that you will say there is a Royal Commission sitting to inquire into this matter; but it will be many years before it reports the result of its labours.
§ THE SECEETAEY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Sir HENRY HOLLAND) (Hampstead)
In the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, I think all we can say is that the matter referred to by the hon. Member for East Donegal will receive consideration. I quite agree that at first sight it does appear that the work is not altogether well distributed. As the work has arisen it has been shifted from one Office to another without sufficient consideration. This is a matter which would come under the consideration of the Royal Commission; but I am aware there is a difficulty owing to the delay which may arise before the question is reached, and, therefore, if on further inquiry it is found that it is not likely that these points will be soon brought under the consideration of the Commission, then I think I may promise on the part of the Government that they will be considered.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
It is announced that cholera has broken out in the South of Europe, and I ask whether it is intended by the Government that any further precautions will be taken in view of that fact?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I point out to the hon. Member that the 1409 subject he refers to does not come within this Vote.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
(4.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £63,107, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1888, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
It will be in the recollection of the Committee that in the last Parliament there was a unanimous Resolution of the House for the appointment of a Bureau or Department in connection with labour statistics. I want to know from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) exactly what has been done with reference to giving effect to that Resolution, and I will ask him these questions, upon the answers to which will depend whether I feel it necessary to offer further opposition to the Vote. I ask, what officials are actually employed to carry out the Resolution of the House; what are their expenses, salaries, and duties; when those duties actually commenced, and what they have each done? We were told that a large number of inquiry schedules had been prepared by the Board of Trade, and some very glowing promises were made as to the issue of those schedules. Now, I want to know how many of such schedules have been sent out; in what trades; in what proportion in each trade; and how many replies have been received from each trade and between what dates? Then we were told to believe that by the appointment of some gentleman who had been connected with one of the Trade Societies—Mr. Burnett, connected, I believe, with the Amalgamated Society of Engineers—inquiries might be made outside those in the schedules. I want to know what inquiries outside the schedules have been made; by whom and in what manner; and if any inquiries have been made of Trade Societies, and the kind of response that has been given to them; and, especially bearing in mind the promise made, what labour statistics have been collected? I believe that some of these are contained in a volume which exists at the Board 1410 of Trade, but which has not been published; and I want to know whether any of these have been published, and, if not, whether any of them will be published? Then we had rather a definite promise made by the Vice President of the Board then in the House of Commons, of some cheap kind of publication which was to be issued containing labour statistics at frequent periods. I think that would have been very useful, but there is no trace of anything of the kind; the Board of Trade does not fulfil, or pretend to fulfil, any of these objects. If the Labour Bureau is to report once in every seven years, it will not in any way fulfil the intention which I think the House had when it unanimously assented to my proposal, and it would be a farce as compared with what is being done in this respect in the United States of America and also in Canada. I want to know what is the cause of the great delay there has been in carrying out the promises of the Board of Trade? I do not want to make any attack on the present Government, and I am bound to say that the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade (Lord Stanley of Preston) has treated me with the utmost courtesy in communicating to me what were the plans of the Board; but I should like to see some more realization of these plans, because if the statistics are to be of any use they should be published rapidly and periodically. If this Labour Bureau is to be of use it ought to be useful to the extent of preventing a strike of the kind we had in the county of Northumberland, where there was a body of men more intelligent of their class than any other in the United Kingdom—strong men and industrious men, who showed good temper on the verge of starvation, in a contest in which there was an absolute disagreement between the employers and the representatives of the employed as to prices. I do not wish unduly to press the Government on this point, if I see by their answers that steps are being taken to realize in practice that which the House adopted in theory, my object being to insist that the Resolution of this House should not result in a sham.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
I must acknowledge the great courtesy of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. 1411 Bradlaugh) in giving me Notice of these questions. To the first question of the hon. Member the answer is, that the officials actually employed in carrying out the Resolution of the House are three lower division clerks at salaries of £90 each, one lower division clerk at £190, and a Labour Correspondent at a salary of £300 a-year. These are all the officials engaged exclusively on the work, but one clerk of the upper division is partially employed upon it with a salary of £300. The whole of the work is under the Heads of Departments of the Board of Trade. These are the only officials engaged in the work. Mr. Burnett gets £300 a-year. To the second question the answer is, that the number of inquiry schedules sent out was 46,000, and the number of replies received 6,000. The 46,000 schedules sent out apply to 57 different trades, each of which have one, two, or more forms of a special character prepared for it, which arrangement involves, of course, a great deal of labour. The sending out of these schedules commenced in October last, and has continued to the present time; and there are about 14,000 schedules still remaining to be sent out. The third question of the hon. Member is answered partly in the reply to question No. 2. When the whole of the schedules have been sent out, and the replies received from the trades, I shall be happy to communicate the result to the hon. Member. Then as to inquiries other than by schedule. The Labour Correspondent has made and is now making inquiries as to immigration in the East End, Trade Unions, short time in Lancashire, wages in tailoring shops, and expenditure in working-class families. The Labour Correspondent's Report has already been published in a Parliamentary Paper. The Report on Trade Unions is in the Press, and will be circulated; others will follow in due course. The Labour Correspondent has also been engaged in examining into the question of the Manufacturing Departments of the War Office, and from time to time given the Government information as to the state of employment in different trades. Question 5 is partly answered in the reply to No. 4. In addition to the compilation of wages statistics of the last 50 years—a very bulky volume —which will be published, there will be an analysis of wages in different districts. 1412 With regard to the periodical publications, we have hardly had sufficient experience yet to decide; but information as to wages has been published from time to time by the Board of Trade in The Monthly Journal. Now, as to the delay which the hon. Member appears to think is rather excessive, I must point out that there has been no real delay in carrying out the promises of the Board of Trade; the programme is being steadily carried out without incurring undue expenditure. I do not wish to detain the Committee by reading the statistics of the Bureau; but if the hon. Member likes to have them I shall be glad to place them at his disposal. The Department, although young, has been engaged in useful labour; and although the work has not, perhaps, progressed as rapidly as it is desired, it is to be accounted for by the fact that the Department has worked on an extremely wide basis. There must be great labour and correspondence, as well as expenditure of time, in a work of this kind; no undue delay has taken place, and we have every reason to believe that this Labour Bureau may became a useful adjunct in the hands of the Board, and be of great utility to the working classes themselves.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I am not at all satisfied with the answer of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade, and I will point out why I am not satisfied with it. The compilation with regard to wages for the last 50 years is one of extreme interest; but the whole of that material was in the hands of the Board of Trade at the time when I made my Motion, and I cannot help thinking that 16 months is time enough for the publication of the volume. Then with reference to the information on trades unions, which Mr. Burnett was specially fitted to obtain, the bulk of the information as to our trades unions is already in print, either in America in the Reports of the Labour Bureaus or elsewhere. Therefore, I cannot help thinking that there is some ground for complaint that the publication has not yet appeared. I can say that the American Reports with regard to the trades unions of this country are extremely full and accurate. There is one difficulty which occurs to me with regard to the schedules. I understand that the bulk of 46,000 of these have been sent out, and that there have been 1413 only 6,000 copies received. If that is so, then it is clear that the system has failed, so far as getting voluntary replies is concerned, and on that subject I shall have a suggestion to submit to the House. Then I find we have three lower division clerks at salaries of £90 a-year each, one at £190 a-year, and one Labour Correspondent at a salary of £300 a-year, and practically there bas been nothing issued in the year. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, in every one of the Labour Bureaus of the United States, with, possibly, the exception of that at Washington, the movement was initiated as a perfectly new thing; and yet within a year, with much less expense than has been incurred here, there were issued to the country statistics which, although not complete, showed a beginning. Now this information will serve no purpose for the people if it is only to reach them two years after the event. Unless it is possible promptly to communicate to the people the amount of wage which ought to be earned in particular trades, the whole of this expenditure will be utterly useless. It is of no use to go on year after year with a kind of red-tape establishment, supplying old information; and, unless we are to get something useful from it, I shall regret having put the country to the expense already incurred. Then I infer that, with the best intention, the Board of Trade has given too much occupation to Mr. Burnett outside the occupation intended for him. I think his sole occupation should have been to attend to the labour statistics; but he has been put to other duties which, although very useful, do not at all fit him or enable him to fulfil his office. Then, with regard to the Emigration Office, that is an office which should be attended to separately and distinctly. I admit that this has been exceedingly useful during the year; but it is impossible for Mr. Burnett to attend to it, as well as the one thing which ought to occupy him. Then, looking cursorily at the figures which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade has placed in my hands, I am afraid that the trades organizations themselves have not supplied on their own account the information which they ought to have supplied; and unless there is a concurrence on the part of employers and the employed in furnishing information, it 1414 is clear that, as a voluntary scheme, the whole thing has broken down. In reference to the schedules I am afraid that it has broken down, because, in some cases, the number of replies is ridiculously disproportionate. We have, for instance, only 24 replies from the printing and dyeing trade—it is an extreme case; but there are others in which the proportion of replies to schedules is one-quarter. I submit to the Government that it would be well to consider whether there should not be a short enactment, such as was found necessary in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and other States of the Union, which would have the effect of bringing forth replies which have not been obtained voluntarily. I am bound to say that the Government have met me fairly; but it appears to me that the work has been wrongly commenced, and that Mr. Burnett has been overburdened. He certainly has not performed his duty here, and I see no evidence that anyone else has done so.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I am bound to admit the amount of the information has not been collected which was desired. Mr. Burnett's duty was at first confined to the collection of labour statistics; but it was found that there was not sufficient work of that kind for him to to do, and he was therefore employed in other duties, one of which was to find out the various employments of foreigners who settled in the East End, and to check, to some extent, the information given by the Boards of Guardians. The hon. Member has called attention to a very important point—namely, that out of 46,000 schedules only 6,000 have been returned, and I quite admit that if this small proportion is all that we are to get the result will be useless. The question, then, would be, how are we to get this information? The schedules are sent to all the employers of labour; they are very carefully compiled, and if they were properly filled up the information obtained would be of the most valuable kind. But not only are they not properly filled up, but only a small proportion is returned at all. It will be a matter of serious consideration whether we ought not to introduce some sort of compulsory power with regard to these schedules, which would enable us to get a reasonable number of answers, 1415 otherwise I can only repeat that the Labour Bureau will fail, the information being too scanty to be useful. I can promise that we will endeavour to devise some scheme by which the return of the schedules can be better obtained.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I think some pledge ought to be given to me that Mr. Burnett's duties will be confined to the Department for which he is paid.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I desire to ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) for some information as to whether the Board are prepared to reconsider the decision lately announced as to the lighthouse experiments at the South Foreland? I think I am in Order in raising the question on this Vote. The facts are exceedingly brief. Mr. Wigham, of Dublin, has for many years carried on a struggle against the Trinity House and the Board of Trade in regard to lighthouse illuminants. He was engaged, first, in ascertaining the superiority of gas over oil, and after that he has been engaged in fighting the battle of gas versus electricity. I believe there is no doubt that in foggy weather that gas is superior to electricity. Mr. Wigham, I understand, was not allowed to show his best light, and the electric light was unfairly used, the beam having been localized and not thrown upon the horizon. Mr. Wigham's claim is supported by the shipowners of Glasgow, who, with our seamen, are deeply interested in the question, and I hold in my hand a Memorial signed by the former calling for a repetition of the experiments under independent authority. The objection raised to this is on the ground of expense; but I would point out that the Mercantile Marine Fund is the property of shipowners, and I cannot see why, if they are willing that the experiment should be performed, it should not be paid for out of their own money. The question of lighthouse illuminants is of enormous importance to the Mercantile Marine, and I do not think the opinion of the House will stand in the way of the experiment being repeated, or that the Board of Trade ought to continue to resist the appeals made to them by the shipowners of the country.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I rise to say that the statement of the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. T. W. Russell), that amongst the shipowners in Glasgow there is an opinion that there has not been a fair trial of Mr. Wigham's light, is true. There is a feeling that too much power is in the hands of the permanent officials, and that it is impossible to get any trials without their approval. I trust the Government will look at the Memorial presented, and that they will gratify the owners of ships to the extent of having a fair and impartial trial. The subject of lighthouse illumination is one of the greatest importance both to shipowners and seamen. The Trinity House and the Board of Trade ought to be ready to receive any useful suggestions for the improvement of lighthouse illuminants, as new inventions are always taking place from time to time, and our object ought to be to secure the very best illuminant, no matter at what cost.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I can assure the hon. Member that the question relating to Mr. Wigham's invention has received the fullest consideration at the hands of the Board of Trade, and it is not due in any way to caprice on the part of the Board that we have to say that we cannot entertain the proposal for fresh experiments, as neither the Scotch nor Irish Lighthouse Authorities have asked that they should be undertaken. The function of the Board of Trade is not to initiate, but to sanction or decline to sanction what the Lighthouse Authorities suggest. Again, I would point out that the experiments which Mr. Wigham proposes to make, at a cost of £2,000, would, in the judgment of those capable of forming an opinion on the subject, cost a great deal more than that sum. The Committee will be aware that the cost of the experiment is not confined to the one light, inasmuch as this has to be tried in comparison with other lights, and the expense must be measured by the number of competitive lights against which it has to be tried. Admitting that the experiment with one light would not cost more than £2,000, we must assume that three or four times that amount would have to be expended in arrangements for the other lights against which it would be tested. The impression seems to be that Mr. Wigham has been badly treated; but I beg to 1417 assure the Committee that this is not the case. Mr. Wigham has received £5,000 in recognition of his improvements in lighthouse illumination—that is to say, £2,500 in 1876, and £2,500 in 1884. In addition to this, his firm has during the period of 17 years ended September, 1886, made manufacturers' profits on orders from the Lighthouse Authorities, amounting on the average to upwards of £3,500 a-year, besides other indirect advantages in being advertised at the public expense in numerous Parliamentary Papers. I have asked the Trinity House to give me their views on the question. I do not propose to weary the Committee by reading their Report; but there are two or three paragraphs which I think will answer the remarks of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). It appears from this Report that the experiment at the South Foreland showed that three oil lights held their own against four gas lights in moderately thick weather up to 10 miles; it was found that the oil light was simplest in production, and quite easily managed for all lighthouse purposes, and that the expense of another experiment must far exceed Mr. Wigham's estimate of £2,000. A comparison of double quadriform gas with simple quadriform in either of the other illuminants would not be conclusive. Each must be allowed the right to show on equal terms with the other two in point of power. The Report goes on to say that—Without disparaging the opinions of the Chambers of Commerce who have urged another trial, we may urge the opinion of European and American officers, who as experts have watched the South Foreland experiments, and whose Reports practically confirm the conclusion arrived at here.The Report proceeds—If there were any real advantage to the mariner to be gained by the gas light, no thought of expense ought to interfere with its adoption; but when we find that it is a question between ten miles and ten and a-half in hazy weather, we think that the safety of navigation is well cared for, and the question of expense ought to be considered in the interest of those who are taxed to provide it.It was not thought, under these circumstances, that additional expense ought to be incurred in the interest of the country. I would point out that the only means we have of defraying the expense of experiments in 1418 the illumination of lighthouses is the Mercantile Marine Fund. I think the Committee will bear me out in saying that that fund is not in a flourishing condition, and that it is not desirable to charge upon it the cost of the suggested experiments. I think also the hon. Member for South Tyrone will agree that there has been no wish on the part of the Board of Trade in any way to prevent the due testing of Mr. Wigham's inventions; that we have tried them; and we find, on the authority of the Trinity House, that the whole question is between 10 miles and 10½ miles in hazy weather; and in view of the fact that the experiments are calculated to cost a very large sum, and further, taking into account the condition of the Mercantile Marine Fund, I hope the Committee will agree that the Board of Trade has exercised a wise discretion in not sanctioning further experiments.
§ MR. DWYER GRAY (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade has stated that the Irish Board has not made any application for further experiments. I happened to be a member of the Board, and I can say that for years we pressed the matter on the Board of Trade, and that we were met by constant objection to give effect to our views. I am inclined to think that if no further application has been made, it is because long experience has convinced the Board that it is utterly useless to do so. I think I am right in saying that Lord Meath resigned his position on the Board in consequence of the action of the Board of Trade in connection with this very business. I should like to ask one question with reference to the competition between these lights. The hon. Gentleman has said that the experiment would involve, perhaps, five times the cost suggested, because there might be five competitors. I take it that the only competition would be as between oil and gas, so that, at most, there would be twice the expenditure calculated by Mr. Wigham. But I hope that some explanation with regard to the public Company, with a very large capital, which, two or three years ago, was formed and promoted by the engineer to the Trinity House, for the sale of his own inventions, in competition with those of Mr. Wigham, will be given. Can the hon. Member tell us how much money Sir James Douglas received for the con- 1419 cession of his patent rights to the Company I refer to? Sir James Douglas is engineer to the Trinity Board, and practically they are guided by his advice; and his brother, who is one of the Irish Board, takes good care to look after the interest of oil in that position. I should like the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade to inform the Committee what is the present position of the Limited Liability Company promoted by Sir James Douglas, and the amount of trade which that Company has done with the Government, and whether Sir James Douglas is still connected with it or not?
§ MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars, &c.)
The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade appeared to me himself to make out a good case for further experiments. It was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) that a gas burner of the greatest power was not tried in the last experiments, and this has been admitted by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade; and he also says there were oil and gas lamps of greater power than those tried, and yet not experimented with. I therefore urge that the further experiments asked for should be made, in view of the fact that they will be made for the benefit of the Mercantile Marine of the country. One objection to the experiments being made is on the ground of expense, which the hon. Gentleman says would be four or five times as much as the amount estimated by Mr. Wigham. But I point out that Mr. Wigham has offered to guarantee that the expense shall not exceed £2,000. Under these circumstances, I ask, with confidence, that some inquiry should be made with a view to having the experiments repeated. I am certain that this would give satisfaction to the Mercantile Marine, who are by no means confident that the best means are at present being used for illuminating our lighthouses; and, moreover, I think that what has fallen from the hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin (Mr. Dwyer Gray) shows that there are many weighty reasons for dissatisfaction.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I hope the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade will be able to insure to hon. Members facilities 1420 for obtaining the Reports on Private Bills. Only a few extra need be printed for the use of Members of the House.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
The hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin (Mr. Dwyer Gray) has dissented from my statement that the Irish Lighthouse Authorities were not in favour of a renewal of the experiments. I will read the letter of the Commissioners of Irish Lights of the 21st of December, 1885, which runs thus—Mr. Wigham having asked the Commissioners to adopt this system of illumination (i.e., the double quadriform gas light) at Tory Island, they referred the matter to their scientific adviser, in consequence of whose Report they have decided not to adopt the light at that station, and have so informed Mr. Wigham.I would point out that the Irish authorities have never asked for a renewal of the experiments. With regard to the question whether the experiments will be repeated, the Trinity House say that the expense would be over £2,000, and I can only repeat that the only fund available is the Mercantile Marine Fund, the condition of which is such that I should not feel justified, in view of the expressed opinion of the Irish and Scotch Commissioners and that of the Board of Trade itself, in charging upon that fund the cost of further experiments. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for the North-East Division of Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell), I would point out that the reprinting of Reports is a question which concerns the Treasury rather than the Board of Trade.
§ MR. HOWELL
What is desired is that the Reports for Members of the Committee shall be available for Members of this House. Only a very few extra copies will be wanted.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The hon. Gentleman has said that the Irish Light-house Commissioners have not recommended that these experiments should be re-opened, and they are not in favour of Mr. Wigham's plan being tried at Tory Island. The hon. Gentleman has said a good deal about the amount of Government money that Mr. Wigham's firm has received. Mr. Wigham's firm have erected lighthouses and gas works all round the Coast, and I suppose that if they have received a largo sum of 1421 Government money they have given value for it. I am so much dissatisfied with the reply of the hon. Gentleman that I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000, being the salary of the Assistant Secretary in charge of these lighthouses.
Motion made, and Question put,
That the Item A, £55,175, Salaries, he reduced by the sum of £1,000 in respect of the Salary of the Assistant Secretary in charge of the Harbour Department."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 127: Majority 71. —(Div. List, No. 311.) [10.0 P.M.]
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
The first Report of the Inspector on Sea Fisheries opens out the subject of the relations between the Government and the sea fishing industry of England. I think everyone who looks into this matter will agree with me that the fishing industry is a most important one as affecting our country generally besides the men engaged in it. It is a matter of sincere congratulation that the recommendation in the Report of the Royal Commission brought to this House in 1864 has at last been carried out in the Report which is this year presented to the House, and it is a matter also of great satisfaction that Her Majesty's Government have collected and published the figures which are now before the House and the country upon this important matter. May I ask, Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade that in the future two or three distinct improvements may be made in the way in which this information is laid before us? The present year brings to us three distinct documents containing information in regard to the fisheries of this country. There is, first of all, the Report of the Inspector of Salmon Fisheries, which affects also to some extent the sea fisheries; secondly, there are the statistics, and the Memorandum attached to them, with regard to the sea fisheries; and, thirdly, there is the first annual Report of the Inspector on Sea Fisheries. It is manifest that it is not a convenient, way of bringing information before the House that there should be three separate documents of different dates and size. I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the 1422 Board of Trade will see his way to publishing one Report relating to the fisheries of England, which will be much more valuable for the purposes of reference afterwards; and that, secondly, he will see his way to give further details with regard to the sea fisheries of England. I believe that now Her Majesty's Government receive Returns from the Customs Authorities, or from the Coastguard, or from other persons in all the different fishing ports in England, with regard to the different kinds of fish brought into these ports. Now let us take the East Coast, which embraces not less than six-sevenths of the sea fish supplies of England. It is clear that the figures so lumped together, the figures from the North to the South of the East Coast, give exceedingly little local information as to the localities where the fish are, and also as to the results of the fishing along the different parts of that Coast. Then, if the different kinds of fish brought into each port were given, it is clear we should have information which would be most valuable for the purposes of comparison in future years with regard to the supply of fish and the different kinds of fish obtained at the different parts of our coast. There is a most serious statement contained in the Report of the Inspector. He speaks of the scarcity of fish, especially of flat fish, along the Coast, and of the great complaints made at some parts of the coast as to trawlers working among the inshore fisheries. I do not want to enter into the contentions as between the different kinds of fishing; but it is an undoubted fact—and I think every hon. Member who looks into the matter will agree with me—that sooner or later this question of inshore trawling along the Coasts of England must be looked at and faced. A very striking conclusion is to be drawn from the statistics which are now published. I say that the East Coast of England supplies six-sevenths of the whole of the sea fish brought into England from our own fisheries. Let us take that part of the Coast with which I am most familiar, the North-East Coast of England, which the North-Eastern Railway touches. The figures show a very remarkable state of things. During the last four years 187,000 tons of fish have been brought inland by the North-Eastern Railway; but during the 1423 four preceding years no less than 194,000 tons of fish, were brought in by the same Railway Company; 7,000 tons more fish were brought inland by the North-Eastern Railway Company in the first four years than in the last, and that is in spite of the fact which is well known to all hon. Members who have looked into the matter, and which is confirmed by the Report of the Royal Commission of 1885, that in no single industry in our country has there been such progress made in the means adopted for the carrying on of the industry. The size and the power of the vessels have greatly increased, and vast improvements have been made in the fishing gear. In spite of the additional power of the fishing vessels and of the improved implements, we see on the North-East Coast of England a distinct falling-off in the total amount of fish brought inland by the North-Eastern Railway Company. If we look into the figures more closely, we find that the Report of the Inspector as to inshore trawling is borne out in a remarkable manner. The figures relating to the small fishing ports where there are no trawlers, but where fishermen rely upon the line fishing upon the seine net fishing and the drift net fishing, are very striking. I will only trouble the House with three instances, which are well within my own knowledge. Two are the instances of three fishing villages in Yorkshire, the populations of which largely depend upon the sea fishing industry. In 1880 no less than 557 tons offish were brought inland by the Railway Company from Flam-borough. In the year 1886 the amount of fish from that place had fallen to 267 tons. In 1880, 1,046 tons of fish were brought inland from Bridlington; but in 1886 only 348 tons were brought in. In 1880, 1,103 tons of fish were brought inland from Filey; but in 1886 the amount had fallen to 407 tons. These figures show a falling off varying from a-third to one-half the amount of fish brought to shore. The effect upon the population is far more serious than the figures quoted indicate, because not only is the fish so much scarcer, but the bait the men have been in the habit of using is practically non-existent now. They formerly used some of the poorer kinds of fish, which are practically no longer to be had; and, consequently, there is serious distress in the fishing 1424 villages along the North-Eastern Coast. Now, no English Member begrudges the loans which have been given to the crofter population along the Coast of Scotland, or the loans which have been given to the Irish fishermen; but I am sure all hon. Members will agree with me that English fishermen, ought not to be entirely overlooked in such legislation as may be found necessary, not only for the good of the fishermen, but for the whole of the country. The fact is becoming more apparent daily that the Coasts of England are becoming impoverished through the falling-off in the supply of fish, and surely this is a matter which affects the whole country as well as those engaged in the fishing industry in our villages and towns. The Commissioners appointed in 1878 recommended that the Secretary of State for the Home Department should have power to issue a Provisional Order stopping trawling in territorial waters; but no attention has been paid to that recommendation by this House. In 1885 another Royal Commission was appointed, and it went most exhaustively into this question. It traversed our coasts, and gathered a great amount of most valuable information. That Commission brought back the recommendations that a central authority should be created to supervise and control the fisheries of Great Britain, and that a sum of money be granted annually to such authority for the purpose of conducting scientific experiments and collecting statistics, and that in the meantime powers be given to the Scotch Board similar to those of the Irish Board, enabling them to make bye-laws for the regulation or suspension of beam-trawling within territorial waters, and that similar powers be created for England, and that in the meantime such powers be conferred on the Secretary of State, or the President of the Board of Trade. I submit it is rather hard that when the Commission has made such a Report, and when these powers have been granted to the Scotch Fishery Board, and that the Irish Fishery Board already possess them, nothing has been done to carry out the recommendations as regards the English sea fisheries. I believe that some hon. Members are under the impression that the Scotch sea fisheries are of greater extent and value than the English sea fisheries. 1425 I have not the least wish to depreciate the great importance of the Scotch sea fisheries; but the fact is that the value of the sea fish brought into English ports is much greater than that brought into the Scotch ports. Well, now, I must respectfully ask from the Board of Trade that the recommendation of the Royal Commission should be given effect to, as regards the English sea fisheries, as it has been given effect to in respect to the Scotch fisheries. I am quite aware that the Scotch Members may tell us that the Scotch Board, as at present constituted, does not meet all the requirements of the Scotch fishermen; but it will be noticed that the Royal Commission suggested that a Fishery Board should be created for Great Britain, and I cannot but think the time will soon come when this recommendation may be usefully carried into effect, because already you have Yorkshire boats fishing on the West Coast of Ireland, and you have Scotch boats fishing all along the Coasts of England. There is much greater interchange than there used to be, and there is very little reason for the issuing of separate Reports, and for dealing in a different manner with the fisheries of the different parts of the United Kingdom. The only other argument I will venture to advance is, that at the Sea Fishery Convention which met this spring, and which was presided over by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck), a resolution was passed, almost unanimously, asking the House that in view of the recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1878 and of the Royal Commission of 1885, powers should be conferred upon the Fishery Authorities of England to regulate or suspend trawling, where it was desirable so to do. So far from there being any likelihood of any serious opposition on the part of those actually engaged in trawl-fishing on the East Coast, I know of my own knowledge that those engaged in trawling in my neighbourhood heartily support these recommendations. They believe that the inshore fisheries are being impoverished to a most serious extent, and they are thoroughly prepared to endorse the action which I respectfully ask for on behalf of the sea fisheries of our Coast. All we ask is that the powers which were conferred a year ago 1426 upon the Scotch Board should be given to the Fishery Department of England. If they are, I believe that a great advantage will be conferred on a most important industry, and that we shall be enabled to, at any rate, satisfy the fishermen of England that the justice which is dealt out to the fishermen of Scotland and Ireland is dealt out to them. I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item A, £55,175, Salaries, be reduced by the sum of £100, in respect of the Salary of the Chief Inspector of Fisheries."— (Mr. Rowntree.)
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
I am sure the Committee are very much obliged to the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree) for the information he has supplied them as to the fisheries of this country. There are two points to which the hon. Gentleman has specially alluded. He first of all spoke of the fishery statistics. I think I understood him to say that the statistics might be put into a more practical form than they are now. With regard to that, I beg to call the attention of the hon. Member to the Report on the Sea Fisheries of England and Wales, published in 1879, in which it was stated that the Commissioners had been again and again struck with the enormous difficulty of obtaining any reliable statistics and facts relating to sea fisheries. Now, of course, the hon. Gentleman thoroughly understands the subject, and no one knows as well as he does how extremely difficult it is to obtain correct statistics. He will, however, admit that in the last Return the statistics have been to some extent improved, though, of course, they are still capable of greater improvement. This is really a question of expenditure, as the hon. Gentleman knows. The only amount we had available last year for statistics was the sum voted last year for the purpose—namely, £500. That is not a very large sum for the purpose of compiling statistics and obtaining full particulars in regard to the fisheries all along our Coasts. But the Board of Trade is fully alive to the importance of the subject; and we shall endeavour, as far as we can, to improve the statistics which we shall present to the House next year. Now, I come to the more 1427 important question of trawling. The subject of regulating trawling within territorial waters is at present engaging the attention of the Board of Trade, and the Assistant Secretary to the Fishery Department and one of the Inspectors have quite recently been sent down to Morecambe Bay to make investigations into the matter, and we intend to send two other gentlemen down to the North-East Coast for the purpose of making experiments and reporting to the Board of Trade. The hon. Gentleman is quite correct in stating that in regard to Scotland there are other regulations than those which govern the fishing on our English Coasts. The Board of Trade are now considering the advisability of assimilating the regulations existing on the Scotch, Irish, and English Coasts. Of course, I cannot promise that that will be done at once; but I can give the hon. Member the assurance that we are considering the matter very seriously. I do not think I should be justified in saying more than that, or in making a more definite promise. It is a matter the importance of which we fully realize, and I promise that it shall not be lost sight of. The Board of Trade will set to work with the view of giving practical effect to the suggestions which have been made.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
The question of trawling is a most important one, and I think the Committee are under a deep debt of obligation to the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Bowntree) for the very able manner in which he has brought it under notice. At any rate, if the entire Committee do not express their obligation to the hon. Gentleman, I think that those who are in any way connected with fishing operations will be prepared to do so. Every single fisherman who does not use a trawl has assured me that trawling injures fishing very largely indeed, and I believe all scientific evidence is against unlimited leave being given to trawlers to fish our bays. I do not think that trawlers can do much harm far out at sea; but our law respecting trawlers ought to be assimilated as much as possible to the French law. On the French Coasts people are not allowed to trawl without special permission. The presumption is that boats are not allowed to trawl in the bays or close to the coast; but the French Fishery Boards 1428 can give leave to boats to trawl in certain bays, and I think that ought to be the law in England. It stands to reason that, in the first place, trawling must sweep away the fish from the inshore boats. That, I think, does not require any words to prove. They have large boats, otherwise they could not cover the distance they do. The inshore fishermen have only very small boats. They are men without capital, and I think it is only right that two or three miles of fishing ground near the shore should be preserved to them. If you allow the gigantic machines which trawlers use to sweep the ground there is very little fish left for the smaller boats to catch. The trawlers are not now merely sailing boats. I hear that on the East Coast of Scotland steam trawlers are now at work, and that such boats will soon be at work upon every other coast. They are able to fish seven days in the week, and, as I say, they sweep away the fish from the inland bays, so that there is nothing left for the smaller fishermen. That they sweep the fish away requires no proof; but now we come to a more contentious matter. The trawlers take large quantities of immature fish. These fish are of no use in the market, and though, I believe, the trawlers do throw them overboard, they very often are not thrown overboard until they are dead, or until they have been some hours on board the vessels, and, therefore, when thrown back into the sea are in such a state that they never grow up. Now, it is acknowledged that the evidence concerning trawling is very inadequate. Why is this the case? Because trawlers are so very jealous of anybody going on board them, and it is quite evident that their jealousy arises from the fact that when they trawl they destroy large quantities of immature fish. The only evidence obtained is got from men discharged from the trawlers. The question of evidence is one to which I think the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade (Lord Stanley of Preston) would do well to direct his special attention, with the view to the adoption of a rule by which trawlers should permit an Inspector to board them to witness their operations. Trawlers not only destroy the immature fish, but I think they destroy spawn as well. I acknowledge that this point is not altogether clear, and that some people say 1429 that spawn cannot be dragged up. Evidence on this point should be collected from the fishermen along the Coast. I think there ought to be established some system whereby every owner of a registered boat should have power to vote upon the question whether there should be trawlers or not in his neighbourhood. There ought to be a popular vote on this question, which is undoubtedly one in which owners of registered boats ought to have a voice, and I would give the President of the Board of Trade the power of confirming the decision. If there were this popular vote, I am convinced that a very large number of English, Irish, and Scotch bays would be closed to the beam trawlers. The Irish Members have frequently endeavoured to draw attention to this question, but their representations have been completely neglected, and the fishermen, who are anxious to prevent trawling in their bays, have been treated as if they had no right to a voice in the making of the bye-laws under which they are to pursue their vocation. Now that the English fishermen have found in the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree) an advocate of their cause, I have some hope that this question of trawling will be dealt with properly by the Government, and that there will be some approach to the present French law, which is a very good and simple one—namely, that trawling shall not be allowed in territorial waters without special permission. I may also point out that it is the universal practice of every foreign country to prevent boats of other nations coming into their territorial waters to fish. I hope the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade will turn his attention to this subject, with the view of protecting an industry of so much importance not only to the men engaged in it, but to the country generally.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
As the Representative of a fishing population, I take very great interest in this question. I am very much disappointed at the answer the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) has given to the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree). What I understand the Board of Trade to have done is to send some people to make inquiries at Morecambe Bay and other places on this question. 1430 If there is one question which has been inquired into ad nauseam, it is this question of trawling. Everybody knows that trawling does great injury to the inshore fisheries; enormous Blue Books have been published dealing with the question, and a large amount of evidence has been taken on the subject, with the result that a very clear and definite opinion has been formed that trawling does injury to line fishing and does lessen the number of fish in our bays. I trust the hon. Gentleman will look into the question, and legislate in regard to it at no distant date. It is perfectly monstrous to suppose that when it has been found necessary to confer power upon the Scotch Fishery Board with the object of preventing trawling nothing should be done as regards the English fisheries. In my own case I have had great trouble with the Scotch Fishery Board to get trawling prohibited in the Moray Firth. At last I have been successful, with the result that great benefit has been conferred upon the population. It is an absolute necessity that there should be power to regulate or suppress trawling; and I trust my hon. Friend (Mr. Rowntree) will carry this matter to a Division for the purpose of protesting against the supineness on the part of the Government respecting a question which everybody acknowledges is of the utmost importance. I hope we shall hear something more satisfactory than we have heard up to the present. What is the use of further inquiry when everything that can be said on one side or the other is perfectly well known? What the Government ought to do is to say at once that they will legislate on the lines of the recommendation of the Convention to which reference has already been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough, and which was presided over by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck). The Government, as a matter of fact, have known all about the question for months, and yet put the matter off and off. I certainly do feel very much disappointed with the way in which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade has treated this question. No more important question has been brought before this Committee upon these Estimates, and I trust my hon. Friend will go to a Division.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I rise to support, in a very few words, the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree). Hon. Members who have spoken up to this represent fishing constituencies or seaports. As the Representative of one of the most inland constituencies of the country, I wish to say that we who live inland and represent inland places are as much interested in this question as those who represent or reside in fishery districts. Anything which can cheapen the food of the people or increase the facilities by which food is carried to the people is a matter which ought to receive the best attention of the Committee. I endorse all that has been said by the hon. Member for Scarborough; and I do earnestly trust that the Board of Trade will not allow this year to go by without taking some action in the matter.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Dublin, Co., S.)
I quite agree with hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in this matter as to the necessity of dealing with this subject immediately. We have had enough of inquiries, and they have led to no practical result. I have not the slightest doubt that everyone in the House believes that trawling does injuriously affect inshore fishing, and, therefore, the interests of the population upon our Coasts. I hope the hon. Gentleman will see his way to some reform.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I can only repeat the assurance I gave to the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree), that the question is engaging the most serious attention of the Board of Trade, not with the view of putting it off, as hon. Members seem to suppose, but with the view, if possible, of giving practical effect to the various recommendations which have been made. The Board of Trade is perfectly alive to the arguments used against trawling in territorial waters; but I cannot pledge myself that trawling will be absolutely prohibited. The matter is being considered most carefully, and I have no doubt the result will be most satisfactory to all parties.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
The explanation of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) is not at all a satisfactory one. There is no doubt that he, individually, is anxious to mitigate the 1432 evils which are complained of; but we have no guarantee that his desires will be carried out. I happen to have been brought up in a maritime part of the country, and very frequently in my younger days I spent hour after hour in trawling boats fishing along the Coasts. I am perfectly aware of the fact that nothing is more injurious to the ordinary Coast fishing than beam trawling. I happened to be concerned in a case where trawlers made a very serious encroachment upon spawning beds, and in which, in addition to that, so recklessly did they carry on their work, that they dragged their boats and the implements they employ through the lines which had been set across a portion of Bantry Bay in the South of Ireland. The unfortunate local fishermen were so infuriated that, armed with sticks and hatchets, they boarded the trawlers, attacked the crew, and inflicted very serious wounds upon them. The occurrence resulted in a very expensive trial, so far as the fishermen of the locality were concerned, before the Judge of Assize. I know from the knowledge I possess that there are within certain limits of the Coast places where trawlers could ply their vocation with perfect impunity, or without doing any damage to fisheries. I agree with hon. Gentlemen who have spoken that it is very necessary indeed, in the interests of the inshore fishermen and trawlers alike, that some definite line should be marked out beyond which trawlers should not go.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
I propose to make a few remarks on a subject of equal importance to this— namely, the condition of the salmon fisheries. The change of jurisdiction from the Home Office to the Board of Trade has made many people ask what improvements have been effected in the salmon fisheries by the salmon legislation of the last 27 years. It has been remarked by Professor Huxley, when he was Inspector, in his Report for 1885, that the improvement since 1861 has on the whole been a small one, and by no means such an improvement as might have been expected. It seems to me that such a remark as that must occasion serious doubt as to the wisdom of our present legislation, and as to the way in which it has been carried out. It has, in fact, thrown the salmon fisheries not 1433 only in our rivers, but in public waters, into the hands of the riparian owners and gentry. Now, how have these people used their power? The first thing they invariably do is to require that fishermen in public waters shall take out a licence costing £5. This is the case whether the river is a large and productive one or not. I know that in Wales, in the case of small rivers and streams like the Dovey and Dysynni, the cost of the licence is the same—namely, £5 —as it is in the case of the Dee or the Severn, or some of our best fishing rivers. Much of this sum goes to water watchers, or, in other words, to private gamekeepers. When riparian owners once get bye-laws what do they proceed to do? They proceed to restrict the seasons from late in December to early in September, which makes two or three months difference; and then they keep the fishermen from the mouth of the rivers, and further make them use nets with far larger meshes than heretofore. They also prevent them taking turbot or any other sea fish, and if any of the fishermen break these bye-laws they are brought before and heavily fined by the magistrates, who themselves are the men who enacted the bye-laws. The result has been that our fishermen in small villages have been in many cases nearly crushed out. What I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) is, whether he does not think the time has come for the increase of the powers of the Board of Trade? Fishermen in public waters have no representative, in many cases, on the Board of Conservators, so that they have no voice whatever in the making or the working of the bye-laws. The fishermen, for instance, of Aberdovey and Towyn have already complained to the Board of Trade, who say they have no power to cancel, or alter, or modify bye-laws relating to salmon fisheries. Will the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade say whether he is satisfied that a licence of £5 should be exacted from poor fishermen for the purpose of paying river watchers? Inquiries are from time to time made in different localities; but these are of very little value, because the Inspector restricts his inquiry into the specific and often technical change of the new bye-law, and refuses to listen to the case of 1434 the fishermen when they bring complaints against the operation of the existing bye-laws. Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with the power possessed by the Chief Inspector, and if he is not satisfied with that power, is he prepared to take some steps in order to get the grievance remedied?
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
The powers in regard to the salmon fisheries were transferred from the Home Office to the Board of Trade in 1886; but these powers simply related to the inspection of fisheries. The main question referred to by the hon. Member relates to the administration of fisheries. Local regulations in no way concern the Board of Trade, no more than they formerly concerned the Home Office. The salmon fisheries are administered by local Boards of Conservators, and over these Boards the Board of Trade have very little power indeed.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I am not prepared to say that it would not be an advantage if the powers of the Board of Trade were increased; but at present we can only act according to the powers we have. We have the power of inspection, but the main powers in regard to salmon fisheries are vested in Conservators, and in Conservators alone. I think with the hon. Member it may be advisable to extend the powers of the Board of Trade; but further than that I am not prepared to go.
§ MR. ROWNTREE
After the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) I have no wish to divide the Committee. I can only express the hope that the Board of Trade will take steps to protect such an important industry as that of our fisheries. Many of our fishermen are starving, and I trust we shall not keep them long in an inferior position to the fishermen on the Scotch and Irish Coasts.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (5.) £172, to complete the sum for the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I desire to call attention to the enormous cost of realizing the assets in bankruptcy estates. I do not want to put 1435 the Committee to the trouble of dividing; but I have here a number of cases which seem so clear that I think the Committee will agree with me that the matter is one which requires to be dealt with in some way or other. In one case a lady was made bankrupt for a debt of £350. Her assets realized £885; but when that was realized, not a farthing of the surplus reached the bankrupt. Now, that seems to me to be an extraordinary method of dealing with assets in the administration of an estate. But I will take a list of cases which have occurred since the last Bankruptcy Act, and which, though since separately verified, were furnished to me by Messrs. Stubbs. The first case I will take—and I may say that I have furnished the Board of Trade with the references to these cases —is a case in which £677 were realized, and the costs were £.313 2s. 11d., and the trustee took £100. In the next case the amount of the assets realized was £1,728, and the cost of realizing was £955 12s. 7d. There is in the statement of accounts in that case a peculiar entry that occurs over and over again—namely, an item of £210 15s. 6d. for incidental outlay. It seems excessively difficult to deal with these incidental outlays, and to find what they represent in each of the cases. Sometimes these "incidental expenses" seem only a convenient way of covering a leakage which is not covered by any legitimate item of costs. In another case the amount realized was £569 8s. 6d., and the cost of realizing it was £318 17s. 5d. In another case the assets realized were £446 7s. 8d., and the costs incurred £244 19s. In another case the assets were £714 10s., and the cost of realizing £308 13s. 10d. Then, again, in another case, where assets of £2,423 were realized, the costs were £949 0s. 1d. I submit to the Committee that this shows an extraordinary waste of the creditors' money, and that the Board of Trade, having some authority in the matter, ought to devote its attention to preventing that waste. In one of the cases in regard to which I communicated with the Board of Trade, they replied to me that the charges had been taxed, and that it was impossible to go behind the taxation. These taxations I hold to be simply farces on expenditure of this kind in connection with these small estates. Instead of the Bankruptcy Act proving a benefit either 1436 to the debtor or the creditor, when a debtor is honest, as is shown in the case of this unfortunate lady I have mentioned, although the debt may be £350 and the assets £855, not a single penny may reach the bankrupt; and in the case of dishonest debtors it merely encourages them to act in collusion with, I suppose I must say, honest solicitors and trustees to get rid of the property which ought to be divisible amongst the creditors. I will not move the reduction of the Vote, but will wait to hear the reply which will be given on behalf of the Department.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
The cases the hon. Member brought before my notice I have carefully examined into, and, if the hon. Member will allow me, I will deal with two of them. The first case I will deal with is that of Roberts. I think that was the one to which the hon. Member alluded. The point the hon. Member refers to there is the fact that the incidental expenses amounted to £135 odd. The trustee in this case was a solicitor, and the sum charged, I believe, includes a number of perfectly legal charges, such as auctioneers' fees, rent of rooms, carriage of goods, and other items such as might well have appeared under other heads. In the other case the facts are very similar, charges being made for travelling expenses, & c. These expenses should, not really be called incidental expenses, but ought to be specified under the various heads to which they refer. This observation applies to both the cases quoted. In the second case referred to, the trustee was appointed in 1882; the assets realized £460, and the cost of realizing was £339. No dividend was paid. In 1885 the trustee himself—
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I think I am right in saying that he became bankrupt himself, and so got off in that way.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I was just going to say that. He became bankrupt, and the Chief Official Receiver took up the case. He paid creditors 20s. in the pound and 5 years' interest, and his expenses amounted to £20. About 75 per cent of all the cases in bankruptcy are administered by the Official Receiver, and for them the Board of Trade is responsible. But in cases where the estates are valued at £300 or 1437 under, unless three-fourths of the creditors appoint a trustee, the Official Receiver is the trustee. I fancy that if the hon. Member would look carefully into these cases, he would find that with those cases with regard to which he complains the Board of Trade have little or nothing to do. It is those in which there is no official trustee that this disparity between the amount of the assets realized and the amount of the costs of realizing them occurs. We have, as a matter of fact, no power to force the Official Receiver upon any bankrupt, unless under certain conditions. It would have been better, perhaps, if we had had that power. In that case the Board of Trade would have been responsible; but I believe the discrepancy between the realized assets and the amount of the money expended in realizing them very often arises from following up the very questionable principle of throwing good money after bad. There are certain expenses, in the first instance, at the very outset of the bankruptcy, which deprive the creditors of the chance of obtaining a good dividend. It frequently turns out that the expectations of the creditors turn out to be illusory, because the assets get expended, and it is only when they are expended that the disparity between their amount and the amount of the cost of realizing them becomes apparent. If the hon. Member will look carefully into the facts, and will thoroughly acquaint himself with the action of the Board of Trade, he will come to the conclusion that, so far from its encouraging excessive expenditure, it has always been their desire to reduce expenditure to a minimum. The cases in which this is not done are those to which I have called attention—that is to say, where the trustee is not the official trustee, but where the trustee is appointed by the creditors themselves. With regard to the Board of Trade disallowing costs, there are three cases in which costs are refused—in the first place, where there are no vouchers; in the second place, where the proceedings have not been taken under statutory authority; and, in the third place, where the bill has not been taxed by the Master in Bankruptcy. These are the checks against excessive charges. It is in the power of everyone who assumes, rightly or wrongly, that the costs are excessive when the bankruptcy is under the Board 1438 of Trade, to raise either of these three points before the Board of Trade, and complain of the manner in which the expenses have been incurred. I think the Committee will agree with me that these are sufficient safeguards. Whether the trustee should be compelled to be the official trustee is a question for the law to decide; but so long as he is not, it is impossible for the Board of Trade to be responsible, inasmuch as the expenditure of money in these cases depends not on the Board of Trade, but on the trustee appointed by the creditors themselves. I trust that statement will he satisfactory to the hon. Member.
§ MR. JAMES ELLIS (Leicestershire, Bosworth)
I should just like to say that, from our experience of the present Bankruptcy Law, it is an immense improvement on the old law. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) mentioned one case which would not come under the law; and our experience has been that the present law works with satisfaction. There are much fewer bankruptcies than there were before, and the realization of assets per cent is much greater than it has been in the past. I do not think the creditors have much to complain of, either with the Board of Trade, or with the official working of the Bankruptcy Law.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £20,525, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 3lst day of March 1888, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Charity Commission for England and Wales.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
I rise to move a Resolution for the reduction of this Vote, and in moving that Resolution I desire to call in question the policy of the Charity Commissioners in regard especially to one or two of their proposals. This Resolution is not brought forward in any opposition to the Charity Commissioners necessarily, but in opposition to apart of their policy. I am free to acknowledge that recently, at any rate, the Charity Commissioners have done all that they could to meet inquiries, and have acted with great courtesy towards all, so far as my experience goes, with whom they have come into contact. It is the policy they pursue to which we take exception, 1439 and it is under two particular heads that I think the public are beginning to be of opinion that their policy must be altered. In the first place, the policy of the Charity Commissioners is to destroy free schools wherever they find them. They seem to have a peculiar aversion to free education of every kind. In the next place, the Charity Commissioners have a practice, in their new schemes, of appropriating the endowments, privileges, and property, or whatever else it may be called, of the poorer classes, in order to form or create institutions for higher education for the benefit of those who are better off. Now, with respect to the policy of the Charity Commissioners on free education, I would like to quote a letter that was sent to the trustees of the Free English School at Rochdale—and I am taking this case in order to spare the time of the Committee, because the policy illustrated in one case is pretty much that generally carried out, or attempted to be carried out, by them. The letter to which I refer runs thus—They cannot admit that it is a proper use of the funds of an educational endowment to employ them in paying the educational fees of the children of poor persons. Even in the case of the poorest, who might be unable to pay the fee, the law has made other provision chargeable on the rates.That letter explains the whole proceedings hitherto adopted by the Charity Commissioners. They think that because poor people have had free education from time immemorial in many cases, it must be regarded as merely a privilege; and it is held that because under the Education Act of 1870 the poor people are enabled to come upon the rates for education, that fact is a reason why free education, should be taken away when that education is given by the endowments. Well, that, I think, is a thing which we must dispute altogether. Simply to say to poor children who have hitherto received free education—"You are to come upon the rates," is, in their minds, to class them with paupers—not legal paupers, I grant, but the situation is allied in the minds of the poor, to a great extent, with pauperism. I was for some time connected with the School Board of Birmingham, and I always found that when the poor had to get payment of their fees out of the rates, though they were assured they were not paupers, yet the taint of pauperism clung to them. Besides that, I think the 1440 Charity Commissioners are exceeding their duty in laying down the law in this fashion. It is for Parliament to say in what manner free education is to be given or withheld. The manner in which this policy is carried out in many parts of the country presses very hardly, not only upon the poorer classes themselves, but also upon that which is very valuable —namely, the sentiment of the locality. In many places the people value their free schools; they value the management of them, and are proud of their good management. I may mention, as a typical case, the case of Seaming, in Suffolk, which had a free school—a school which had been free for, I am afraid to say how many generations— indeed, for some centuries. Under the scheme of the Charity Commissioners that school is no longer free. There was no complaint as to the character of the education or the efficiency of the school; and so strongly did the inhabitants resent that transaction, that there was something like a riot for a considerable time in that neighbourhood. I am aware that the Charity Commissioners say that they gave scholarships and exhibitions tenable, to a certain extent, by the class of children who were deprived of education in the free schools, in schools of higher education. Now, let me dispute altogether both the propriety and the efficiency of such compensation. We see that that compensation does not, as a rule, reach the poorer classes at all, or to any great degree. Take this Seaming scheme, for instance, where all the children had hitherto had a free education. The district is a poor one—an almost entirely agricultural district, where the sum of 1d., 2d., or 3d. a-week is a matter of great importance to those who are sending their children to school. These poor children have been deprived of free education, and the scholarships given in its place in 1884, 1885, and 1886 were 35 in number. Well, who received these scholarships? The children of labourers in the district received 14, valued at £28; whereas the children of parents of other occupations gained 21, which were equal in value to £42 in all. Out of 35 scholarships, the children of the labouring classes only got 14, the other 21 going as I have described. I find that amongst labourers' children there were five belonging to one family; and I also 1441 find that of the scholarships given to the children of persons of other occupations, seven were secured by the children of the schoolmaster. I should say nothing against these scholarships if they were provided for in some other way; but we see that all the children who attended Seaming School are deprived of free education, and that, in return, they receive 35 scholarships in three years, 14 only of which are won by the class of children most in need of free education—that is to say, the children of the agricultural labourers. I know that the Charity Commissioners, and also those who support their views, are making desperate efforts to make out that the word "free" does not really mean free at all. They say that to suppose that free education has been given for 300 years under the old system is all a mistake. Mr. Richmond, one of the Charity Commissioners, states that the word "free" means something like "untrammelled," and "without restriction;" and in other places he says it means "a certain freedom and independence conveyed by Royal Charter." Well I do not think it is worth while to detain the Committee in trying to prove that the word "free" really does mean gratuitous. People have not been making mistakes so long, receiving free education where free education was not meant. Then we have other cases—for instance, that of Kendal, where we have a free elementary school, intended by the founder to fit poor children to avail themselves of the education given in the Grammar School. It is evident that if that education, was not intended to be free, it was a mockery to ask poor children to obtain an education to fit themselves for higher schools, because they could not possibly do it. But there is another argument held by the Charity Commissioners which, to a certain extent, has great force in it. They say that these free schools are bad schools. Very often, no doubt, they are. In such a case, there will be no objection to reforming them; but, what we contend for is, that where the schools are unsatisfactory, if the children are forced to go to the board schools, or any other elementary schools, then the endowments ought to be used in paying the fees of the children so far as those endowments will go. We say they ought not to be taken away altogether. But, unfortunately for that 1442 argument, many of these schools which have been abolished have been good schools; so far as their examination and the judgment passed upon them by the Examiner are concerned, there is nothing against them. So much, therefore, for free education; and I hope the Government, when they reply, will give us some assurance that that policy of abolishing free education where it exists will no longer be persevered in. Now, the next part of the policy of the Charity Commissioners which we object to, and which is objected to throughout the country more largely than appears on the surface, is the taking away of the endowments of the poor and the working classes in order to found high-class schools for the middle classes or for those better off. I am in favour of high-class schools and of superior education; but we must not carve them, or appear to carve them, out of the heritage of the poor. To illustrate what I mean I will take one case—and one case is as good as a dozen—I will take the case of Sutton Coldfield, in Warwickshire—a case I know very well, and the particulars of which foundation I am intimately acquainted with. Now, the poor people there have enjoyed these charity funds ever since the time of Henry VIII. They have had a form of free education; they have had clothing and medical attention free of charge, besides other benefits. The original gift was in "exoneration of the poor." But setting aside the original intention of the charity, there was an order in Chancery, made in 1825, which is comparatively recent, and about which there seems to me to be no mistake, which ought, in my opinion, to have made in the eyes of all respectors of poverty, if I may so classify them, these endowments sacred as belonging to the poorer classes. This order in Chancery begins—"This Court doth order," and goes on to state the manner in which the money is to be spent. Amongst other things, it is to be spent upon medical attendance; assistance to poor women during confinement; loans of bedding, clothing, and so on; free education; almshouses for the poor; and then there is a very curious suggestion to the effect that incases where there is any margin, the wardens—that is to say, the trustees —are recommended to loan out a certain number of cows to the poor people in 1443 order that they may provide milk for their families, which the Court says they believe will be a good way of spending the money. So that the House will see the extreme care and tenderness with which, in parochial districts, matters affecting the poor were looked after. It is in conflict, no doubt, with the somewhat narrow political economy of the present day which seems to leave out of sight the necessity of warmth, clothing, and such matters when put into the scale against wealth. But the objects specified by the Court of Chancery have been carried out with great benefit to the poor, particularly in regard to this question of education. There has been no charge of corruption in connection with this school. The elementary schools have been reported upon in the highest terms by the Department, they have won above the average of everything in the way of school grants, and altogether everything has been very satisfactory. But in 1877, by a scheme dated 1879, the Charity Commissioners came to the parish and took £15,000 out of the endowment fund for the purpose of enlarging and maintaining an ancient grammar school, which had existed in the parish for a considerable time. They not only took that money for the school, but they raised the fees of the grammar school itself, and thereby kept out the poorer classes from the benefits of that higher education. We see a large sum, something like £5,000 or £6,000, spent upon a building in which the master can receive boarders for the high school and grammar school, and the effect has been that whereas the school formerly had 100 pupils, at the present time in cousequenee, I suppose, of the higher fees, it has not 50. Therefore, even supposing that the money was not taken away from the poor, the scheme seems to have been a great mistake. But the objection I have to the scheme is this, that this sum of £15,000 should be taken out of a fund which from time immemorial has been enjoyed by the poorer classes for certain objects, in order to devote it to people of the well-to-do classes. People would think that the inhabitants of Sutton Cold-field should now be let alone in regard to these endowments, but this is not the case. A short time ago, another scheme, which happily has not become law, and which I hope never will become law by 1444 the sanction of this House, made preparations for taking £17,000 more from the endowment of these poor people for the purpose of establishing a high school for girls. The result of this scheme, if it becomes law, will be that altogether £32,000 will have been taken from this endowment fund. No doubt, the object in view—namely, that of establishing a high school for girls, is a very good one in itself, but I maintain that we have no right to establish, or to think of establishing, it by funds taken from an endowment which has been enjoyed by the poorer classes. Now, I have dealt with the question of free education so far as regards Seaming, and with the question of endowments so far as regards Sutton Coldfield, and I have illustrated the two points in the policy of the Charity Commissioners to which we object. I have designated it as a "Plan of Campaign," and I do not hesitate to designate the action of the Commissioners by those words again, because it is a system by which a few Gentlemen, with the best intentions, I grant you, go down and cast their eyes about them, and take away money belonging to the poor. You cannot get it out of the minds of the poor, and you ought not to get it out of their minds that that which they had a prescriptive right to for centuries really belongs to them—you cannot make them believe that it does not belong to them, but belongs mainly, if not altogether, to other classes besides themselves. You cannot reconcile them to that view of the question. You cannot reconcile them or those who take the trouble to examine into these matters with that view of the subject. Now, I have great hopes that the Government will give us some assurance on this head, for they are the first Government that have given sympathetic attention to the representations which have been made to them upon these subjects. The other day, they stopped the progress of the Dauntsey scheme which the Commissioners had prepared with the object of diverting money at West Lavington, from its original purpose, for doing, in fact, exactly what I have described, and what I have complained of. Their action in connection with this question entitles them, I am bound to say, and I say it the more freely because we have appealed to both sides of the House on this matter—to commendation. We have appealed to both 1445 sides of the House for six or seven years past; but this is the first time we have secured any success, and have succeeded in checking the Charity Commissioners, and of stopping interference with the original object of educational endowments in the interests of the poor. In the case of the Dauntsey School, the Government are entitled to the thanks of all the poor people of England who have endowments not yet taken away; because I think the action they have taken will put a stop to schemes of a similar kind to those which have been referred to. Of course, we are not against reforms where there are endowments which require reform. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member says "Hear, hear"; but I would remind him that it is a very different thing from reforming a charity and taking it away altogether. It will take hon. Members a great deal of time, and it will require a great deal of eloquence, I think, to convince the poor people who have endowments, that the Charity Commissioners have a right to take away their endowments, in order to establish schools for girls and boys of the middle class. The establishment of such schools is a point that the Government, in defending the Charity Commissioners, will have to answer; and I scarcely think that they will be able to do it successfully. But with regard to the reform of the charities where their character does not approve itself to modern ideas, or where it is not likely that they will prove of adequate benefit to the recipients; by all means reform them—there are plenty of ways by which they can be reformed. But one thing I do not believe—namely, that taking away those charities and giving scholarships and exhibitions can in any way meet the case. In fact, my own opinion in regard to exhibitions, if you except technical and scientific exhibitions, is that if every one of them was abolished to-morrow, the cause of education would be advanced considerably. I know eases in which these exhibitions have simply taken people of very little talent and sent them up to the Universities, and when they have got there they have not known what to do with themselves. The founding of exhibitions appears to assume that there are a certain proportion of clever children; whereas Providence does not always produce them, and some of the exhibitioners are spoiled 1446 for useful walks in life. The idea is that if you have 20 scholarships, you must make 20 clever fellows; but the supply is not always equal to the demand in the matter of clever people. Whatever scholarships or exhibitions are given, I hold that they ought not to come out of those endowments; because if hon. Members will read the evidence given before the Select Committee, and if they are at all acquainted with the governorship of grammar schools and other institutions of that kind, they will find that as a rule, or at any rate to a large extent, the poorer classes, those whom we ought to consider first, do not get any benefit. I know that there are a certain class of modern educationalists, who look upon the country as a kind of educational machine, and provided they can turn out a certain number of educational athletes, they do not care how many wasters they make, or what happens to the general average child. Well, let those people get support for the education they advocate from other sources than those which are the property of the poor. I would ask the House to excuse me for having detained it so long on this particular point; but I assure hon. Members that I could bring a great many more instances in support of my contention before them. The two points I want to ask the Government to give me some assurance on are those—that they will take steps to see that the Charity Commissioners will not destroy free education where it exists, and will not alienate educational endowments wherever they may be found for any purpose whatever from the benefit of the poor. At present these endowments are in many cases devoted to higher education, and that, I submit, is a process which is unjust to the poor, and is incapable of justification in any way.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £15,525, be granted to Her Majesty for the said Service." —(Mr. Jesse Collings.)
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has raised many very serious 1447 points of controversy, and I know there are a number of hon. Members who desire to take part in the discussion. A Committee sat last year in order to consider the subject dealt with by the hon. Member, and it has sat again this year and presented a Report. I therefore feel constrained to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to allow us to report Progress now. I move this the more particularly, because there stands upon the Orders of the Day a very important Government measure relating to technical education. I feel certain that the Government will consent to the proposal to report Progress, rather than slurring over this debate now, in order that we may proceed to consider the measure to which I refer.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. J. E. Ellis.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I think the hon. Gentleman is hardly wise in moving to report Progress at this period. The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) has made an important speech, and it would hardly be fair to him that the question he has raised should not now be considered, and disposed of by the Committee before the adjournment. If this should happen that my right hon. Friend on my right (Sir William Hart Dyke) is not able to make his statement at the proper time this evening, then it would be fitting that his statement should be made to-morrow, and as we have already entered upon the question before the Committee, I think the hon. Gentleman will see that it will be of advantage to Public Business that we should proceed with the subject on which we are now engaged.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
The right hon. Gentleman will excuse me; but I do not quite gather what he proposes. Does he propose that the discussion should proceed to a considerable length, and then if an unreasonable period for the discussion of the Technical Education Bill is reached, the Vice President of the Council should postpone his speech with regard to it until to-morrow.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I mean to say this, that we should give due considera- 1448 tion to the Vote before the Committee; and that then, having given that consideration to it, if it should happen that the hour is too late for proceeding with the Bill of my right hon. Friend, he should make his statement to-morrow.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the sum of £15,525 be granted to Her Majesty for the said Service."
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I cannot help expressing my regret, Sir, that the First Lord of the Treasury has not thought it desirable to postpone the further consideration of this very important subject; because there are a great many Members of the House who feel very strongly with regard to the policy pursued by the Charity Commissioners, and if I rightly judge, there are several Members of the Committee who are desirous of speaking upon this very important Vote. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham (Mr. J. E. Ellis) has alluded to the fact that a Committee sat upstairs last year, and during a portion of the present year, instituting a rigid inquiry into the conduct of the Charity Commissioners, and those Members who have read the Report of that Committee, and the recommendations which it made, will have seen what diversified opinions were entertained by the Committee, and how they proposed ultimately to restrict the powers the Commissioners now exercise. I have nothing, Sir, to say against the character of the Charity Commissioners. I believe all of them are high-minded and honourable men, but it happens that they all of them belong to a particular section of society, they all represent that high-class education which adorns so many of our countrymen, but there does not happen to be sitting amongst them anyone representing the poorer classes. It is very natural that they should carry out the policy which has distinguished them, because the position in society and the high character of the education which they have received tends to warp their judgments, and induce them to act as they have done. It is human nature, and I do not myself sneer at or blame them for the course they are pursuing. I think the Commission ought to contain 1449 other elements besides those of which it is now composed. It seems to me that there ought to be Members sitting upon that Commission representing the labouring classes of our countrymen. Until a Commission of that kind sits and decides upon the policy which is to be pursued, I have very little hope that the present policy of the Commissioners will be materially changed. Now Sir, perhaps, the Committee will permit me to say that I fear there are very few Members of this House, and perhaps I may add that there were very few Members of the Committee upstairs, who agree with me in regard to the application of endowments. I think that when the Education Act was passed, a very serious mistake was made. I believe that school boards, wherever they are established, ought to have been empowered to take possession of and to utilize for purposes of elementary education, all the educational endowments to be found in the area within which they exercised jurisdiction. Unfortunately that was not done. The school boards were established, and they began by imposing an additional burden upon the ratepayers in the shape of a rate, and no sooner was that effected than the Commissioners commenced to swallow up the educational endowments of the country, for purposes not of elementary education, but of higher education. In fact they began to lay hold of those endowments which we had been told, prior to the passing of the Education Act, were sacred in their nature and character, and that we must carefully respect the wishes of the "pious founder." However, from the moment the Education Act passed the wishes of the "pious founder" disappeared from sight, and the Charity Commissioners immediately commenced to swallow up the endowments for the purposes mentioned by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings). It is, I fear, too late to retrace our steps; but so far as the endowments that are left in the country, I am anxious that they should be used for the purposes of elementary education, for which purpose they were intended by the founders. I feel compelled to complain of the conduct of the Charity Commissioners, and in order to justify my statement that they have one policy for the rich and another for the poor, I will refer to two typical cases. The 1450 first is the case of St. Katherine's Hospital in the Regent's Park; and the other case to which I shall call attention will be that referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. The St. Katherine's Hospital in the Regent's Park was established in 1148, on the site where St. Katherine's Docks have since been built, or rather excavated. When the Dock Company took this land they paid the trustees £125,000 for the site, and built a new hospital in the Regent's Park. I have been at great pains to ascertain the nature and character of the duties which the Master has to discharge. So far as I can ascertain he preaches some five or six times in the year in the chapel connected with the Hospital, and he attends some three meetings of the Chapter which are held during the year. He has a magnificent house or mansion provided for him in the Park, in which he does not live. His salary is £1,200 a-year, and he receives in the shape of emoluments £792; because he does not live in the mansion which I have referred to, but lets it to somebody else, and pockets the rent. He receives a total therefore of £1,992, simply for preaching five or six sermons and attending five or six meetings of the Chapter in the course of the year. Then there are three brethern and three sisters connected with the Hospital. The brethren receive £300 a-year each, and have also a house, which in imitating the example of the Master they do not live, but let for £100 a-year and pocket the rent. I have heard these people called paupers. I will not apply that epithet to them; but I will say this, that if a poor man pursued such a course, I think it is very likely that he would be called by some such name. Then the sisters also receive £200 a-year, and have a house which some of them let in a similar way, and pocket the proceeds. There are a few scholars—boys and girls who are educated and clothed, but they are comparatively few. The income of the Hospital in 1886 amounted to nearly £7,000 per annum, but since then it has very greatly increased. In that year the Charity Commissioners instituted an inquiry into the charity. The facts that I have stated had become somewhat notorious, and the Commissioners thought it was high time to institute an 1451 inquiry. They appointed one of their body to make the investigation, and in considering the matter this gentleman brought to light the facts I have stated. He made a report to his brother Commissioners recommending certain reforms, but from that day to this, Sir, the reform have never been carried out. No attempt has ever been made to give effect to the recommendations of the Charity Commissioners. I should like to ask the Minister for Education, or the Vice President of the Council as he is called in this House, to tell us why the recommendation of this Charity Commissioner to his brother officers has never been given effect to, and why this shameful expenditure of £1,200 per annum, as well as the sum of £799, is still being swallowed up year by year by the Master, while the other payments I have mentioned still go on year by year unchecked. Well, Sir, I have pointed out the course which the Charity Commissioners pursued in regard to the wealthier classes. Is there a Member of this House who will stand up in order to justify the continued existence of such waste and extravagance as goes on in this hospital to which I am referring? It cannot be said that they have not been able to find time to carry out the reforms, but perhaps the game was rather too high for them; there are, however, other endowments in regard to which they deal in a very high-handed manner. For instance, they went down to Norfolk to a place called Scarning, where they found a school, which had been in existence for more than 200 years. During the whole of that period the labourers in the village have enjoyed the advantage of free education. Nobody asked the Commissioners to interfere. The Rev. Arthur Jessop, who gave evidence before the Committee, told us that there was not a shadow of discontent in the whole neighbourhood or district as to the way in which the endowment had been administered. From the rector downwards, everyone was satisfied with the nature and character of the education given in the village. But the Charity Commissioners thought otherwise, and they formulated no less than three schemes. Those who have read the evidence taken upstairs will have noted that wherever the Charity Commissioners have formulated schemes, they paid little regard to the wishes and 1452 wants of the inhabitants of the localities, and that frequently, in opposition to the wishes of a large majority of the people in the districts, they ultimately succeeded in forcing their schemes upon the people. This was the case in Scarning; they formulated two schemes, and ultimately forced one of them upon the people, and compelled those wretched labourers, the average earnings of whom are something like 8s. a-week, to pay 1d. a-week in the shape of school fees; 1d. a-week is a small sum, and some hon. Members may be inclined to sneer at it, and to treat it with contempt; but, in many instances, as I learned from the evidence received before the Committee, those labourers have three, or four, or five children of school age, so that it is not only 1d. a-week that they have to pay, but sometimes as much as 6d. a-week, and that is obviously an enormous sum out of the pockets of those poor people. When we find the Charity Commissioners refusing, in the manner I have just now indicated, to interfere with the authorities of S. Katherine's Hospital, leaving untouched the funds of that institution, and allowing them to be swallowed up as I have described; and when I find them pursuing a course that is full of hardships against the poor labourers of the village of Seaming, I feel that hon. Members ought to endorse my protest against the conduct of the Charity Commissioners, and vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) to reduce the Vote by £5,000. I feel very strongly on this subject, and I cannot help expressing myself in a strong manner. In conclusion, I only have to say that I hope the Members of this House will read the Report of the Endowed Schools Committee, because it contains some exceedingly valuable recommendations. If Members of the House will read that Report carefully, they will see that recommendations are made by that Committeee to curtail the powers now exercised by the Charity Commissioners, and they will find that the Committee recommend the Government to compel the Commissioners to consult the wishes and wants of the people of the various localities to which the schemes are to apply, that, in other I words, schemes shall not be forced down 1453 the throats of the inhabitants. The Vote given in respect of these recommendations was by no means a Party Vote. Both the noble Lord the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lord Francis Hervey) and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kingswinford Division of Stafford (Mr. Staveley Hill) gave their support to the recommendations I have referred to, and I hope that when the Vice President of the Council (Sir William Hart Dyke) replies, that he will say whether there is any probability of the recommendations of the Committee being carried into effect.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I hope the Committee will allow me to make a few observations on this subject, because I had the honour of being a Member of the Committee referred to, and I felt it to be my duty to give close attention both to the taking of evidence and to the whole subject brought before the Committee for consideration. First of all, I desire to make a remark as to what has been said about St. Katherine's Hospital. It is true the Charity Commissioners sent an Inspector to that hospital to make inquiries; but it is also true that immediately after that instruction was given, the authority of the Charity Commission was entirely superseded by a higher authority; because, under the direction of the Lord Chancellor of the day, other proceedings were taken, the effect of which was practically to entirely oust the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission. The Charity Commissioners are not responsible either for the past history or the present state of St. Katherine's Hospital. I admit that the condition of that institution is not satisfactory; but the remedy rests elsewhere and not in any degree with the Charity Commissioners. Now, the conduct of the Commissioners, as the Committee is already aware, was carefully investigated by a Select Committee of the House which sat during two years, and it is only fair and just to the Commissioners that the House should be reminded that the Report of that Committee was on the whole favourable to the Commissioners. The Committee made certain recommendations as I believe all Committees do; but I am sure that I am within the recollection of hon. Members of the Committee, and I shall be supported by Gentlemen who 1454 have read our Report when. I say that the general tendency of our Report was strongly in favour of the Commissioners. If I may take a solitary passage the Report says—That the principles laid down by the Schools Enquiry Commissioners, and embodied in the Endowed Schools Acts, while in some respects they must be modified by altered circumstances and increased experience, are on the whole sound and just; and, secondly, that the Charity Commissioners have in their procedure faithfully attempted to carry out those principles.Now, I call attention to the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission, because under the Act of Parliament which constituted the Endowed Schools Commission, that Commission is especially directed to adapt their policy to the recommendation of the previous Commission. I agree that it is a most rare case in the history of legislation that a Commission is appointed by the Government and the House with direction to carry out the suggestions of a previous Commission, but that direction is clearly set forth in the Act of Parliament of 1869. Then I may make one observation in passing on the work done by the Commission. Great complaints have been made as to the progress of the Commission. The Committee of this House say in the present year—The Commissioners have now got the bulk of the educational endowments of the country well in hand. The period within which their work in framing schemes may come practically to a conclusion is within a calculable distance.That entirely disposes of much of the criticism levelled against the Commissioners that they have been slow in progress and that they have not done their work satisfactorily. No doubt there has been some cessation of labour in the Welsh counties; but that circumstance is owing to no fault of the Commissioners, but to the conduct of the Government and the action of the country generally in desiring to postpone educational reforms in Wales. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) referred to scholarships and exhibitions. My experience has been that these scholarships and exhibitions have been the ladder by means of which many young people in humble positions have risen to occupy positions of great dignity and of importance in the country, and others who have not risen to 1455 any particular height of eminence have occupied positions of considerable influence, and have proved that the exhibitions and scholarships have not in their case been wasted. I do not wish to be too discursive; but I may make some allusion, I think, to what has been stated by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division, and by the hon. Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) to the effect that these endowments were meant for the poor. There is the strongest evidence that whatever may have been the case in comparatively recent times, the old endowments in most cases were meant for the inhabitants generally. These endowments were made at a time when there was scarcely any education in the country worth naming, and the intention of the founders was to light the lamp of learning in dark districts by which anyone was welcome to be guided and to seek the benefit of the illumination. As to the swallowing up of the endowments for the benefit of the somewhat wealthy classes upon which comment has been made by the hon. Gentleman who preceded me, I may remind the Committee that there is an express direction in the Act of Parliament under which the Commissioners proceed, that due regard must be had to the interests of persons who were previously deriving advantage from the endowments. And, although it is quite true that there is a recommendation in the Report of the Committee that the words "due regard" should for the future be considered more liberally in favour of the working classes, it must be remembered that the interpretation of those words was not made by the Charity Commissioners, but by the Law Courts, and that the Commissioners are absolutely bound to interpret the words according to the decisions of the Courts. Then, as regards the complaint that the working classes have been excluded from these endowments, may I remind the Committee of one statement made by the Committee in their Report, and that is—namely, "out of 2,989 scholarships and exhibitions in schools of higher grades, 1,145 were held by children from the elementary schools." That is to say, children of the working classes have in that large proportion derived advantage of absolutely free education from these scholarships and endowments, 1456 and many others although not having the advantage of that free education are, nevertheless receiving benefits from the endowments which the school have placed within their reach. Perhaps the Committee will permit me to remind them also of this circumstance. All higher grade schools are, no doubt, dealt with by the Commission; but the great majority of the schemes deal with schools of a more elementary class; so that it is not only the 1,845 children who hold exhibitions who are benefited by the schemes, but also all children who attend the elementary schools and the higher grade schools which have been reformed. Then, with reference to what the hon. Member said as to free schools, I must remind the Committee that the recommendation of the Schools Inquiry Commission were highly adverse to free education. A short statement is made in the Report of our Committee in respect to the judgment of the Schools Inquiry Commission, and our summary is in these words—Gratuitous instruction, so far as limited to secondary education as then existing in endowed schools, if indiscriminate, they regarded as mischievous.[Mr. CREMER: Secondary.] I am dealing rather with higher grade schools, which really form the great majority of those with which we have to deal in this branch of the discussion. The objection made by the Schools Inquiry Commission amounted to this—that the endowment is very soon exhausted, and that without the endowment there is no stimulus to improvement, either on the part of the teacher or the pupil, and the competition becomes languid. We have clear evidence that the case of Seaming was one of the cases in which education was not intended to be purely and wholly elementary. I shall not follow the observation of the hon. Gentlemen (Mr. Cremer) as to the meaning of the word "liber;" but I believe the word "liber" never meant absolutely without payment, that however must remain a moot point. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jesse Collings) has referred to the Sutton Coldfield scheme. I am sorry I cannot go into that question in detail, because I have not the papers at hand to enable me to do so. I may refer, however, to the paragraph in the Report of the Committee which deals with the subject. The Committee say— 1457It was shown, however, that the original gift contemplated the benefit of all classes of the inhabitants; while the scheme of the Charity Commissioners, proposing to devote a limited share of the endowments to the promotion of the higher education in the place, appropriated the larger part to the support of elementary schools, and otherwise for the express benefit of the poor.It is thus seen that the poor derive a large advantage; indeed, I believe that if it is carefully considered in all its details the scheme will be found to have the most ample regard to the interests of the poor. Then I next come to the school at Kendal, which was referred to by the hon. Member, and which was also dealt with in the Report of the Committee. That school I happen to have personal acquaintance with, and I am, therefore, able to speak of it more fully than I have been able to in the other cases. What do the Committee say in reference to Kendal School? They do not say that the working classes of Kendal have been injured by the scheme; on the contrary, the Committee say—This scheme is now in operation, and it is found that these prizes are won by boys of the same class as those who formerly received the benefits for which scholarships have been substituted.One hon. Member of this House is a member of the Trust, and I know his personal experience entirely bears out the statement that the poor are not injured, but, on the contrary, benefited by the reforms made in the Kendal School. I do not wish to occupy the time of the Committee any longer. I have ventured to go through these details and lay down certain principles. The details must be more or less wearisome, as details always are; but the principles, I believe, are sound. The principles, in a word, are to make these schools more useful to the present generation, to reform them in such a manner as to adapt them to the wants of the time, to increase and develop largely technical education in connection with them, and to take care that the endowments so reformed are valuable to deserving children of all classes of the community.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES (Gateshead)
I will endeavour to compress the observations I wish to make within the smallest limits. There is no doubt the Charity Commissioners are a most unpopular body. There is hardly an official body 1458 in the country against whom it is possible, with so much ease, to raise a storm. On the one hand, they are much restricted in their action, owing to the power of trustees; and, on the other hand, there is always the general public to complain of them when they lean too much to the cause of private interest and not to the general interests of the people. Judging from the various attacks I have heard at different times made in this House on the Charity Commissioners, it is not quite clear that they have positive jurisdiction. In the first instance, hon. Members deal with charities, and then they turn to endowed schools. The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) frequently used to make attacks upon the Charity Commissioners in regard to their management of charities; but he has now directed his missiles against the endowed schools. This is an illustration of how often these matters get mixed up. The hon. Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) has spoken of St. Katherine's Hospital. Those who read newspapers form a very vague and imperfect conception either of the jurisdiction of the Commissioners, or of the real bearings of the extremely complicated cases which are brought under notice. I sincerely hope that, notwitstanding the hostile Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Jesse Collings), no great alteration in the policy of the Commissioners will take place, and that the views which are embodied in the Report of the Committee will be strictly adhered to. I must say that I do not think it is quite fair to the Commission that you should raise, on the Estimates, an extremely vague and general statement which it is perfectly impossible at this hour of the night to investigate. If hon. Members are anxious to raise the whole question of the policy, why do they not raise it when it can be more regularly and satisfactorily disposed of than upon a Motion in Committee of Supply? I must say that the views expressed by the hon. Member (Mr. Jesse Collings) on this subject appear to be of the most reactionary kind. The hon. Member wishes to reverse, by casual Motions in Supply, the whole course of legislation which has been pursued for the last 25 years by the Charity Commissioners, and which was founded upon the Report of 1459 some of the ablest, most powerful, and greatest intellects of this country. The object of the Charity Commissioners, acting as Endowed School Commissioners, is gradually to raise the standard of education, not merely of the middle classes, but also of the working classes. The classes are certainly not clearly defined; but the object is generally to raise the standard of education. The hon. Gentleman wishes to go back to the old state of things, in which a few children received food and clothing, and very unsatisfactory education perhaps at the hands of the clergyman or the parish beadle. We know that the hon. Member's intentions are the very best; but I do not think he can have ever given himself the trouble of reading the Reports. Being so much occupied with the interests of the Scotch crofters, and now with Imperial questions, it is impossible for the hon. Member to devote his energies to these enormous subjects and to the proceedings of the Charity Commissioners as well. I have no doubt that if, in the course of the next few months, he has a little leisure, he will have an opportunity of studying the Reports of the former Commissions on this subject, and I hope his view may be thereby somewhat modified. At any rate, I trust the Committee will pass this Vote—certainly, I shall take no part in bringing about its rejection.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E)
I will not detain the Committee more than a few moments; but I must say I differ entirely from the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. W. H. James) in regard to the opportunities we have of discussing the action of the Charity Commissioners. I should like to have brought before the House the details of a scheme affecting my own borough, if any opportunity had been afforded me. The only opportunity we have of discussing this question seems to be in Committee of Supply. [Mr. F. S. POWELL: What charity is it?] St. Luke's. The immediate charge against the Commissioners is, that they do not pay that respect to local opinion in regard to the administration of charities which, I am sure, would tend to better administration. In the case I have mentioned there was no charge whatever that the charity had not been administered in the best interests of the inhabitants of the parish; but when the 1460 Commissioners brought up their scheme it was seen that they entirely altered the qualifications of the persons who were to have the administration of the charity. The qualification of the few representative trustees provided was fixed so high as virtually to disqualify all persons resident in the parish itself. When we went before the Commissioners and stated our case to them they modified the scheme a little; but we could not get them to reduce the qualification to such a level as would enable persons resident in the parish to be trustees for the administration of their own charity. I think that the sooner we take the whole of these charities out of the hands of a centralized body the better it will be. I differ from the hon. Member for Gateshead entirely; it may be going back; but I am prepared to go back. I do not believe in a central body having the administration of parish charities. I notice that charities gradually disappear out of the hands of the working classes, and are absorbed by the middle and upper classes. All our best educational endowments have disappeared; and I should like to know what opportunities there are for those who rise from the ranks to get the full benefit of such charities now. It is not for me to go into many details; but the case of one charity recurs to my mind now. I should like to know from the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. 8. Powell) some particulars concerning the Wells Charity in Hoxton. Will he tell us whether the people of the neighbourhood are getting the full benefit of the increased value of that charity? I intend to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) into the Lobby, as a protest against the way in which the Charity Commissioners ignore the local opinion in the framing of all their schemes.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (Mr. Hunter.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I venture to make an appeal to the Committee. we have been discussing this Vote now for an hour, and I think we have made con- 1461 siderable progress. I hope the Committee will consent to dispose of the Vote now. When we have disposed of it we shall be very glad to report Progress. Having regard to the period of the Session, and the very large amount of work which remains to be done, I trust the Committee will accede to my request.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
If there was any chance of finishing the discussion within a reasonable time to-night, I should agree with the right hon. Gentleman. But I know there are many hon. Gentlemen extremely anxious to speak upon this Vote, and to hear the opinion of the Vice President of the Council (Sir William Hart Dyke). I think that, on the whole, if the Government would consent to report Progress now they would be acting in accordance with the wishes of the House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Considering the time of year, and that it is now only half-past 12 o'clock, and that we have been considering the Vote for some time, the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) will, on reflection, agree with me that it is scarcely reasonable to report Progress now. I fully admit the importance of the Vote and the interest of the question; but in view of the late period of the Session at which we have arrived, and the necessity we are under to make progress with Public Business, I trust we shall be allowed to proceed.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House scarcely understands the appeal of my hon. Friend (Sir John Lubbock). There is an impression on this side of the House that the Vice President of the Council intends to introduce to-night his Bill for the promotion of technical education. [Mr. W. H. SMITH: To-morrow.] We did not understand that. If the introduction of the Bill is to be postponed till to-morrow we shall be glad to know at what hour to-morrow it is likely to come on; some of us have attended tonight in the hope of hearing the right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Hart Dyke).
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Nearly an hour ago the Committee were engaged in the consideration of this Vote, and it was then suggested that Progress should be reported, in order that my right hon. Friend (Sir William Hart Dyke) might 1462 make his statement; but as the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) introduced an important subject upon the Vote, it appeared to the Government desirable that the question which had been raised should be concluded at once by the Committee. Under these circumstances, it was thought desirable that the Vote should be disposed of now, and that the statement of my right hon. Friend in regard to technical education should be postponed till to-morrow.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
There is a Bill of a very important character referring to Scotland to come on to-night—the Earlier Closing Bill. I should like to know if the Government intend to take that measure?
§ MR. STORY-MASKELYNE (Wilts, Cricklade)
I hope the Government will listen to this appeal from Members on both sides of the House. This is an important question, and it appears to be taking a much wider scope by the manner in which it is being treated. I think it would be a great pity if we were to hurry over it. The question has been threshed out in two Sessions by as hard working a Committee as I ever sat on, and I think that hon. Gentlemen who have not read the Report of the Committee should do so, and should come down here charged with the results which the Committee arrived at. I am quite sure that if we continue the discussion it will be very late before we reach the other subject which is to come before the House. I do hope that even now the Government will relent, and will allow us to have a short discussion on this Vote on some other occasion.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I would add my appeal to the Government in this matter. I regard it as of great importance that the statement of the Vice President of the Council (Sir William Hart Dyke) on this subject should be made at an hour at which it can be reported. The question is creating the greatest amount of interest throughout the country. It has been the subject of a Select Committee, that Select Committee has sat for two Sessions; and, under the circumstances, it is most important that the debate should come on, or should be continued at a time when the public will have a chance of knowing something about it.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have no desire to place myself in opposition to the general desire of the Committee; but I think it would be a fair compromise if this debate is adjourned, that my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council should proceed with his Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
To-night. If the Committee agrees that Progress should be reported on this particular Vote, then my right hon. Friend will proceed with the Bill for Technical Instruction, and make his statement. [Cries of "Agreed!"] Then I will move that you, Sir, report Progress.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, & c.)
The Scottish Members desire that their Bill should be brought on at a reasonable time. Does the right hon. Gentleman desire the Scottish Business to go on at such an hour that it cannot be discussed?
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
The Scotch Bill to which reference has been made is a Private Member's Bill, but it was the subject of the conference of Scotch Members yesterday. At the conference it was agreed, with the concurrence of the Lord Advocate, who was present, that it was desirable to have the one question involved in it, about which there was no difference of opinion, settled as soon as possible. The result is, that all the Scotch Members are here to express their views on the matter, and I believe that many more Members are present to give expression to the opinions they entertain upon the subject. There is a large number of Members interested in these matters who have come down especially to express their views. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House knows very well that I myself have always endeavoured to act in the way he suggests—that I have always used every endeavour to advance the Business of the House; but I must say that I think it would be a great convenience to a section of the Members of this House, who do not often intrude their views on the right hon. Gentleman, and are always prepared to meet him in every way, if he would not throw back the discussion upon this Earlier Closing Bill. It would be a great convenience to have the debate on the Charity Commission postponed, rather than take any long discussion on the matter, and then proceed with the Scotch Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have not heard anything of the hon. Member's proposal until this moment. The hon. Member must be aware that it is necessary for the Government to go on with Government Orders of the Day. I think it is only reasonable that we should be allowed to report Progress, in order that we should take the Bill of my right hon. Friend dealing with technical education.
§ MR. HUNTER
I moved to report Progress because we have got some Scotch Business lower down on the Paper to discuss to-night. Now, I have to complain very strongly of the way in which the Government treats Scotch Business. It is intolerable that we should be brought here, and kept here, until 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning—morning after morning—never knowing when our Business is to come on. Here we are, in large numbers tonight, waiting for Scotch Business; and we do not even yet know when it is likely to be taken. I cannot consent for a moment to Progress being reported in order that Government measures should be taken. I cannot consent to the understanding that the block should not apply to Government Bills; and if a Division is demanded, I shall go into the Lobby against the Government.
§ MR. R. T. REID
I do not desire to see the time of the House wasted; but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury opposite whether it is likely that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council in introducing his Bill will be a very long one?
§ MR. R. T. REID
Well, if that is the case, I think the best course we could adopt would be to allow the right hon. Gentleman to make his statement.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.