(1.) 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 31st day of March 1888, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Charity Commission for England and Wales.
Motion made, and Question proposed'
That a sum, not exceeding £15,525, be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. Jesse Collings.)
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I regret that the Committee did not see its way to accede to the suggestion to report Progress last evening when this Vote was reached, so that the whole of the discussion upon it might have been taken consecutively. I venture to think that this Vote, which is to cover an expenditure of £32,759 in connection with the Charity Commission, is a very important Vote; and it is quite evident from what took place last night that a very wide interest is felt in the matter to which it relates. The first question I desire to ask the Vice President of the Council is that he should briefly and concisely state what it is that the country gets for the expenditure of this large sum of money, particularly in respect of the Charity Commission. My complaint is that sufficient publicity is not given to schemes drawn up by the Charity Commission to enable the localities affected to express their views before such schemes are definitely settled; and, therefore, I think that a few sentences of explanation in that direction would be exceedingly valuable. The next item to which I desire to draw the attention of the Committee is one which appears under the head of "Non-Effective Charges." I would call the serious attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council to that item which amounts to £1,309, as against £1,208 last year, thus showing an increase of more than £100 for expenditure upon pensions and non-effective charges last year. I think that that is a very important matter.
Order, order ! That question has been raised several times before, and I have pointed out that non-effective charges generally form no part of this Vote. The question of pensions will be brought on upon the Pension Vote.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
Perhaps you will allow me to explain, Sir, this is the first time I have heard your ruling in this respect, and at once pass to 1493 an item of £7,186, which is put down as the cost of the Endowed Schools Department. The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) travelled over a somewhat wide field in the speech which he delivered last evening; but I noticed, with some surprise, that he did not allude, except vaguely, to the proceedings of the Select Committee which sat last year, and continued its sittings again in the present year. Hon, Members who served on that Committee will bear me out when I say that the Committee sat upon 37 days, and examined more than 40 witnesses, who gave evidence of great importance and interest in the matter. This year the Committee agreed, with a fair amount of harmony, upon a Report which I conceive to be of considerable weight, and to deserve the careful attention of the House of Commons. I venture to say that no one can arrive at any conclusion upon the point raised by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham without having gone carefully into the evidence which was brought before that Committee. Indeed, it is impossible to come to a satisfactory conclusion without devoting some hours to the study of the evidence given before that Committee, and making inquiry into the cases cited by the witnesses by whom the evidence was given. The hon. Member for Grateshead (Mr. W. H. James) commented upon the inconvenience of raising such a discussion as that which has been introduced by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham in this way; but I do not see that the hon. Member had any choice but to raise it as he did. It is certainly not the fault of the hon. Member. We all know that be is an amiable enthusiast, and I think the particular points he raised would have gone by the board altogether if hehad not taken advantage of the opportunity afforded by this Vote for raising a discussion. Personally, I gave close attention to all that took place before the Committee. I listened to the evidence given by the hon. Member, and to the charges which he formulated last night, and I am bound to say that, to my mind, the hon. Member did not make out his charges. I think that, to some extent, he allowed his imagination to run riot in the matter, and I am of 1494 opinion that if the Commissioners act within the scope of the suggestions contained in the Report of the Select Committee, no great amount of harm will be done. The hon. Member said that he desires reform in these matters. Certainly, the Committee was a reforming Committee, as any hon. Member will see by their Report, and I should like to draw attention to three or four points specially mentioned in the Summary of the Report. That Summary really contains the gist of the Report, and the paragraphs I desire to draw attention to were, in fact, inserted on my motion. The other paragraphs therein deal with equally important phases of the subject, but they will doubtless be dealt with by other hon. Members. The first is contained in Paragraph 12 of the Summary—It is essential to the welfare of endowed schools, not being of a special character, that the sympathies of the localities should be enlisted by giving to the people a large share in the management, by representation, either direct or indirect, through elected bodies.The Committee attached great importance to that matter; and the House of Commons, on the 18th of May last year, at the instance of the hon. Baronet the Member for Lichfield (Sir John Swinburne), carried a Resolution asserting that upon all such bodies there should be a majority of local representatives. It will be seen that that Resolution has not been carried out in the terms in which it ran. I may say that I did not vote for the Resolution, because I was a Member of the Committee; but I had great sympathy with it, and I moved a Resolution in the Committee, which appears here in the shape in which I have just read the recommendation of the Committee. This Committee will notice the expression contained in the Resolution, "a large share in the management." That is inserted in the Summary instead of the word "majority," which appeared in the Resolution carried in the House of Commons, but the expression "majority" was only lost by the casting vote of the Chairman, the numbers having been 6 to 6. We shall, I presume, agree it is desirable that the governing bodies should be made to rest upon a thoroughly satisfactory basis. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will receive an assurance from the Vice President that this recommen 1495 dation of the Select Committee will be strictly adhered to. The next paragraph in the Summary to which I desire to allude to is Paragraph 13, which is as follows: —Greater publicity with respect to the proceedings of the Commissioners in regard to schemes should be given during the initial and subsequent steps, especially in the district affected by such schemes.That paragraph also has great significance, especially in its bearing- upon past history. It was proved in evidence that in the case of certain schemes brought forward by people interested in a particular locality, some three or four years were allowed to elapse, during which nobody had the slightest information as to what was being done by the Charity Commissioners. Information was only given at the end of the inquiry, and it was contained in an advertisement inserted in one of the newspapers of the district. The Committee adopted this paragraph unanimously; and I am sure the present Committee will agree with me that it is of the utmost importance that persons in the locality should be kept informed of the proceedings of the Commissioners. Paragraph 15 is as follows:—Schemes have hitherto been unnecessarily detailed in their character. It is desirable that in their framing the wishes of the localities should be more consulted, and that in their adminstration the Governing Bodies (if in the future really representative) should be left more unfettered in their action.I attach great importance to that paragraph. It was not adopted unanimously by the Select Committee; but it was carried by a majority, and I hope that it will commend itself to the House of Commons. There has been an inclination hitherto to carry out what I may venture to call the "fads" of some of the Commissioners. I think there has been wanting in the preparation of these schemes the exercise of more robust common sense, and it would have been well if there had been a little less disposition to carry particular points to an extreme. I also attach great importance to the people of the localities being consulted, and the Governing Bodies being left more unfettered in their action. There has been a great amount of trivial interference from Whitehall with the action of the localities. The official authorities seem to think that it is perfectly impossible to find persons in the 1496 localities who are competent to manage these endowments, unless they are interfered with by a Centralized Body in. London. I do not go so far as the hon. Member for East Finsbury (Mr. J. Rowlands) in my desire to see the Central Body abolished altogether; but I know that there is a very considerable amount of supervision exercised from time to time, and I think that in regard to trifling matters, it ought to be exercised with great care and reservation. I now come to the last recommendation of the Select Committee, and it is one, I am sure, in which the present Committee will entirely agree. The paragraph in the Summary says—The responsibility of the Commission to Parliament should be clearly defined and made complete, and this might be most readily accomplished by carrying into effect the recommendation contained in the Report of the Commission on Education, Science, and Art (Administration), 1884—namely, that a responsible Minister of Education should be appointed, and should be charged with a general supervision of endowed schools.I think it is unfortunate, and I am sure the Vice President will feel it unfortunate, that he should be left to answer Questions in this House, and indicate the policy of the Government in respect of a Body over which he has practically no control. I think there ought to be in this House in respect of the Charity Commission, as in respect of every administrative body supported by public funds, some official charged, not only with the duty of answering for the Department, but with the duty of controlling it. I hope, therefore, that this suggestion of the Committee will be acted upon at an early day. I have now gone briefly through the four heads of the Summary attached to the Report of the Select Committee, in which I took a special interest. I think that what is required from the Charity Commissioners and the Endowed Schools Commissioners is, that they should be in greater and closer touch with the localities; that they should have a larger comprehension of the wants of the localities; that they should be more willing to carry out those wants; and that there should be, more or less, discentralization. I admit that in the Charity Commission, and especially in the Endowed Schools Commission, we have an able body of Commissioners saturated with knowledge of the duties 1497 they have to perform, but what is required is a little more of the breeze of healthy popular sentiment through their rooms in Whitehall. I presume that we are to have a Bill on this subject presented by Her Majesty's Government nest Session. I think it would be a great mistake if the Government any longer delayed dealing with the matter, and I shall be prepared to support Her Majesty's Government in bringing in a measure framed on the lines of the Report of the Select Committee. I hope to have some assurance from the Vice President that, pending the introduction of the Bill, the action of the Charity Commissioners will be in strict harmony with the recommendations contained in the Summary which has been formulated by the Select Committee. In conclusion, I will ask the questions which I have already indicated—namely, whether the Vice President can give the Committee any particulars in respect of what we get for the large sum of money we are asked to vote; also, whether he can assure us that in any Bill to be introduced this Summary will form the skeleton; and, further, that the Commissioners will be guided in the policy they are to adopt by this Summary?
§ MR. COZENS-HARDY (Norfolk,N.)
The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings), in moving the Amendment, condemned the present policy of the Charity Commissioners, and based his Amendment upon the impropriety of their conduct in diverting endowments from the poor to the rich. He illustrated his position mainly by the Seaming case. I think it is unfortunate that my hon. Friend did not deal with this point—what is the present policy of the Commissioners? The cases referred to were cases which arose long before the Select Committee was appointed. The Sutton Coldfield case, the Seaming case, and others, have been dealt with and disposed of long before this Committee was appointed. Then I would submit that the real questions are—what is the present policy of the Commission; to what extent are they prepared to adopt the views of the Select Committee; and to what extent have they departed from the old lines which they followed in the Scarning case? If what was done 1498 in the Scarning case represents the present policy of the Commission, I must vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham; because there the rights of the poor were seriously interfered with, and gratuitous elementary education, which had been enjoyed in the parish for over 100 years, was, at the sole will and pleasure of the Commission, destroyed. Now, the Select Committee have made recommendations which I venture to say, if carried out, will render it impossible for the Commissioners ever again to make schemes like the Seaming scheme. The 5th paragraph in the Summary attached to the Report of the Committee is as follows:—The abolition of gratuitous education in elementary endowed schools is generally opposed to the wishes of the poorer classes in the localities. It is only justifiable when the imposition of fees gives a higher and more useful kind of education to the working classes than they formerly enjoyed, and after provision made for the payment of the school fees of children whose parents stand specially in need of such assistance.I hope the Vice President will be able to inform the Committee that the Charity Commissioners, in their future administration will, in framing schemes, be guided in the main by the recommendations of the Select Committee upstairs; and if they do that, I think the objections of the hon. Member (Mr. Jesse Collings) will, to a great extent, be removed. There was another point upon which the hon. Member relied, and it is one in which I agree with him—namely, that the Commissioners have taken away endowments intended for the poor, and applied them mainly to scholarships and exhibitions which are gained, to a great extent, by the rich. I think the evidence shows that at least in the country districts; that is the fact. But there, again, there is a recommendation, and I desire to know whether the Charity Commissioners, in their future administration, will take that recommendation into consideration? I refer to the 4th paragraph in the Summary, which says—The policy of the Commissioners has been to establish scholarships in elementary schools, and exhibitions from them to schools of secondary education. On the whole these have worked well in large towns, but they are less adapted to the circumstances of a scattered rural population, and in any case scrupulous care should be taken where endowments have been appropriated to the poor, that the para 1499 mount interests of the poor should be secured in the application of scholarships or exhibitions provided out of the trust funds.I do not think that the Charity Commissioners, in the past, have quite done their duty in this matter; I think that inquiry has shown that; but if the Commissioners will carry out the recommendations of the Committee in future, I think the objections of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham will be removed. There is one other matter which goes almost to the heart of the question. The Committee, in the 9th paragraph of the Summary, recommend that—The provisions of the Acts which require 'due regard' to be had to the educational interests of persons or classes prejudicially affected by a scheme have been narrowed by judicial interpretation and ought to be strengthened.I am one of those who think—and it was the opinion of the Committee in the recommendation they made—that it is most desirable that non-educational charities should be applied hereafter to a much larger extent than heretofore to educational purposes, and that the powers of the Charity Commissioners in that direction should be increased, rather than diminished. In order to attain that end it is necessary to secure the co-operation of the localities. We cannot obtain the result, unless we satisfy the localities that when we are taking away a non-educational endowment and applying it to educational purposes, it will continue to be applied for the benefit of the class of persons for whom it was originally intended. I trust that these recommendations will be considered by the Committee of Privy Council; and I wish to know whether, in their future administration, the Commissioners will have a greater "due regard" to the interests of persons prejudicially affected by their schemes than according to the decision of the Privy Council they are now bound to have? If the Commissioners will proceed upon the lines I have indicated, the undoubted good work which they have been doing in all parts of the country will be made far more easy, and will be more thoroughly appreciated, and still greater benefits will be conferred upon the country. So much for the particular recommendations of the Committee, which can be carried into effect simply by a change 1500 of the policy of the Commissioners without any alteration of the law. I would like to ask the Vice President if the Government propose to take any steps to introduce the necessary legislation for giving effect to some portions of the Report? There are several of the recommendations of the Committee which cannot, in any way, be dealt with without fresh legislation, and I shall be glad to know whether the Government propose to take the necessary steps for that object? There is one other matter arising out of this Vote which was discussed at great length by the Committee, and upon which I should like to ask a question. I refer to the case of the Norwich Charities. Those charities afford an illustration not very favourable to the conduct and work of the Commission. It is a case in which the Commissioners, sitting in Whitehall, have attempted to force upon a large organized community a scheme which to them seems good, but which is opposed by every representative body in the City of Norwich. It is unanimously opposed by the Town Council, by the School Board, and the Board of Guardians, and I think I am right in saying there is not a single individual in the City of Norwich who is in favour of it. It is a strange thing that any Public Department should attempt to force such a scheme upon a community like that of the City of Norwich. The scheme has not yet been sanctioned, I believe, by the Vice President, or the Lord President of the Council; and I would ask the Vice President, whether he has come to any decision on the scheme, and whether he is prepared to inform the Committee what action he intends to take?
§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir WILLIAM HART DYKE) (Kent, Dartford)
I have an open mind.
§ MR. COZENS-HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President says that he has an open mind. I hope the time will soon come when he will be able to announce a decision upon the matter. The delay which has attended this scheme has prevented the due application of these important charity funds in connection with the City of Norwich for the last five or six years. One of the most important endowments in the country has remained idle for so long a time, and nothing has yet been 1501 done. If the Charity Commission and the Vice President cannot see their way to assent to the particular proposals supported by all the representative bodies of Norwich, I trust that they will at least take steps to see that the large charity funds which are available, and which are now lying idle, may be applied under some large and generous scheme for the benefit of the whole of that important manufacturing community. The sooner the matter can be approached and finally disposed of, the better it will be for everybody in that city, and one great hindrance to the work of the Charity Commission, in the Eastern Counties, will be removed. I trust that the Vice President of the Council will be able to give the Committee some satisfactory assurance upon the subject.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I must express my sympathy with the view taken by my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) with reference to the action of the Charity Commissioners. It does appear to me that the Commissioners have diverted the benefit of many of these charitable trusts from the lower to the upper classes. My hon. Friend is quite right in asserting that whatever may have been the motives for the action of the Commissioners, that has been its practical effect. It has always seemed to me that under the guise of free and open competition, the practical effect has been to lift these endowments upward, and those who had pecuniary means to enable them to educate their children have been able to bring them up to a still higher mark by the appropriation of these funds. I do not say that no poor boys get the benefit of these endowments; but the poor are always heavily weighted in comparison with those who have money, in their endeavour to keep their children up to the mark. I rose, however, to say a few words on the question of free education. It seems to me that authority has been violently prejudiced against free education, as in itself an evil. Undoubtedly the Department has been for many years hostile to it. I hope that view will now be a great deal modified. In America, as we know, the principle is that all preliminary education, must, and shall be, free, and it is 1502 free; and in this respect I think the Commissioners have acted wrongly. No doubt they have some justification in the fact that the Act of Parliament, if it does not actually induce them to go wrong, enables them to do so. Public opinion, however, has very much come round in this matter, and it is a pity that Her Majesty's Government have not come round with it. There was a scheme rejected in the House of Lords not very long ago—a scheme in which the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham was interested, and more recently there was a scheme, the rejection of which he was fortunate enough to obtain, with the consent of the Government, in opposition to the Endowed School Commissioners —the ground of its rejection was, that it was hampered with a provision for free education. I must express my acknowledgment to the Government for having met the justice of the case in that respect. It appears to me, as a matter of principle, that my constituents are very much indebted to Her Majesty's Government for having consented to do justice in the matter. An important matter of principle has thereby been established, and it is as well that the Committee should know what has been done in order that other Members interested in similar schemes may have an opportunity of doing likewise. We hope to have the assistance of Her Majesty's Government in any case of injustice. What happened in the case was this. When the Scotch Act was passed, public opinion was in favour —
Order, order ! I think it is rather an abuse of discussion to go into that subject now. The Scotch Vote is not under discussion.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I will only say that in the Scotch case, Her Majesty's Government did consent to the rejection of the scheme. I think it was in one respect an objectionable scheme, because it tampered with the principle that funds should not be taken which have been provided for the purpose of free education, though good in other respects. Reserving any detailed remarks on the subject until a more fitting occasion, I hope I may be allowed to express my very great sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, in regard to this matter of free 1503 education; my great gratification that Her Majesty's Government have become cognizant of the turn of public opinion in the matter, and that they have shown a disposition to make concessions. I am further gratified to find that they are displaying a desire to induce the House to check the Charity Commissioners when they go wrong. I hope that the Charity Commissioners themselves will take warning, and if they do not, it will be for this House to sot them right in the future, as they have done already.
§ MR. STORY-MASKELYNE (Wilts, Cricklade)
I join in the sympathy which has been expressed by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. But Acts of Parliament are not founded solely on sympathy, and when we enter into the question of the proceedings and recommendations of the Committee which was appointed by this House I am bound to join in the general chorus which comes from Members of the Committee on both sides of the House, that my hon. Friend did not entirely make out his ease. But because he did not make out the whole of his case it does not follow that there was not a great deal in the case itself. If he did not establish his charges in the most complete manner, at any rate he established many of his points upon the subject. Everyone will allow that the Report of the Committee is a valuable document. We have heard it said by several members that the Commissioners are to be blamed for not having earlier floated down the sympathetic stream of feeling that has of late passed through the country in regard to the question of free education, and so on. I must remind the Committee that the Commissioners have not to act altogether on sentiment, but that they have to act according to an Act of Parliament. I believe the Commissioners act entirely within the Act of Parliament, and that as far as they could conscientiously do so, they have done their best to interpret, the Act in the direction of the more modern sentiments on the questions they have to deal with. Therefore, I do not think that blame is to be attached to the Commissioners, and I am sorry that a debate of this kind should be raised on the question of voting money for the Com 1504 missioners' salaries. I consider that that that is an altogether false and unwise system of bringing on such a discussion. A Committee of this House on a question of Supply has to do, or ought to have to do, with questions of economy and not with general questions of great national policy. Unfortunately, we are driven to take this course in bringing the matter forward; but, as far as I am concerned, I shall go as little into do-tails and shall make my observations as general as I can. My hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham has not, as I have already stated, made out his whole case, but he did certainly make out a case sufficient to attract the attention of this House. That case is not that the poor have exactly been robbed, but that certain endowments originally intended for the whole population have been, to an undue extent, appropriated by a class which cannot be described as the poorer class. I have used the word "robbed" because that was the phrase that has been used by other hon. Members. I know that it is a very hard phrase, but it has been used not only in the localities, but in this House, and I venture to say that strong words are sometimes necessary in order to bring a question properly before the House and the country, so that when it comes to be considered by the House and the country it may be dealt with in conformity with its importance. Nevertheless, as far as robbery goes, I think the word is an exaggerated one. When I was sitting on the other side of the House, some few years ago, a discussion took place with regard to the Charter House, and I remember pointing out that that Charter House Charity had been founded for the poor alone. It has since, and that long ago, early in the history of England, become entirely diverted, and is now applied to the assistance of persons who have suffered in trade and who belong to quite another class. I only mention that case to show how early this diversion began, and it has been going on ever since. There are very strong reasons why at a moment when there is a democratic turn of power in the country these things should be at once grappled with not rashly but wisely. I hope the Committee upstairs may have succeeded in grappling with it. Whether or not they 1505 have grappled with it wisely I am unable to say; but I know they have endeavoured to do so systematically.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gatos-head (Mr. W. H. James) drew a distinction between the Charity Commissioners and the Commissioners for Education. They are practically the same persons, and as time progresses the idea that general charitable funds or endowments left for the poor, and those which are left for educational purposes, should be classed together, is coming to be entertained. I am quite aware that there is a great number of endowments all over the country which have nothing to do with education, but which are practically mischievous and useless in too form in which they are utilized now. I believe that such endowments ought to be devoted almost entirely to educational purposes. I hope that that day will soon arrive, and that when it arrives the sooner the separation of the two classes of endowments is done away with the better. As to gratuitous education, I do not think there are many who would not be glad to see education supplied gratuitously to the poor all over the country. The more I have had to do with agricultural life in England, and the more I see of the working of the school fee system, the more I am convinced that the fees are a heavy tax on the poor working man, and that doing away with them would be one of the greatest boons which Parliament could confer on him. I therefore sympathize with that part of the remarks of my hon. Friend; but if you are going to spend these endowments in giving gratuitous education throughout the country I feel bound to ask what you mean by that. Do you mean that as long as a system of free education does not exist you should pay the school fees of the children, or do you mean beyond that to relieve the rates of what is now a duty incumbent upon the ratepayer? What I repeat again is that, as far as the payment of school fees is concerned, in desiring the emancipation of the poor man from the payment of these fees, my hon. Friend has certainly many Members of the Committee with him. On the other hand, if you seek to divert generally the endowments of this country from that channel into which, by the instructions of Parliament, the Commissioners have 1506 turned them, and if you propose to divert them and to prevent the Commissioners from planting the ladder of learning for the poor child to climb up step by step to the attainment of higher education, by means of scholarships and exhibitions—if that is what you mean, I think there are many Members who will be strongly against the proposal of my hon. Friend, because, as it seems to me, the one hope for the education of the poor of this country is to lift the able boy from the plough or the workshop up to the University if you like, or to give him, what would, perhaps, be better for him, a good middle class education, to the importance of which the public mind is becoming more and more alive every day, and which is the greatest necessity of our time. I have no wish to detain the Committee further. I rose, on the one hand, to defend the Commissioners from the charge of not acting within the lines laid down for them by Parliament, and on the other to point out what, I think, their actions should be in future. I know that the Select Committee paid great attention to the subject, and I think the Government should frame a Bill upon the lines of the Report of the Select Committee, or should give such instructions to the Commissioners as would enable them to shape their steps in accordance with the Resolutions of the Select Committee.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
Although I was Chairman of the Committee to which much reference has been made, I promise not to defend its action or to go into a general discussion upon the subject of free education, which would certainly take this House all day to consider, and for which this is not a convenient occasion. The question more immediately before the Committee is whether a reduction should be made in the salaries of the Commissioners on account of any evil they have done, or any wrong they may have inflicted on any class of the community in the administration of the Act of Parliament. Now, the Select Committee were exceedingly struck, and the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham who moved the Amendment was himself struck, by the very great ability and knowledge of the subjects they have in hand which the Commissioners and the Assistant Commissioners showed in the evidence that was laid before the Com- 1507 mittee. The Commissioners had to administer a certain Act of Parliament, some modifications of which, the Committee suggested; Trot within the Act of Parliament the Commissioners have shown themselves to be thoroughly in touch with public opinion, and they have modified their action, as they have proceeded, in accordance with that touch with public opinion. At one time there was a considerable disposition to carry out the old endowments in the form of grammar schools. Probably, that was in accordance with the original foundation which contemplated grammar schools in which foreign and classical languages—such as Latin and Greek—should be taught. There is no doubt that the country and the Commissioners had a leaning to that old system of classical education; but as they have come more and more in touch with the people the Commissioners have shown a greater desire to make the schools more popular, and latterly they have made the schools more fitted for giving a commercial and technical education. I think they have acted wisely in considering that the endowed schools of the country should not be competitors with the elementary schools, but that they should be improvement schools, in which various classes of the people can get a higher education than they can get in the elementary schools. I think that I am properly interpretating the general feeling of the House, that it is only right and proper that these endowed schools should be made higher schools for improvement. Of course, it may be a question whether the Commissioners have rightly interpreted the words libera schola. A free school, according to the old charter, might mean, one free to all coiners—free from the action of the prebendary, or free from the imposition of school fees. The latter is the interpretation which the Mover of the reduced Vote accepts and argues should be adopted by the Commission. But this is not the view of legal authorities. The endowed schools, it should be remembered, were originally formed for all classes, and it is not right that the middle classes, any more than the poorer classes, should be robbed of their advantages. That is a question which was inquired into very largely by the Committee, and the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham had ample opportunity for placing 1508 his views before the Committee. I must say that the extreme views of the hon. Member did not obtain much support; but where they were moderate the Committee always endeavoured to deal with the subject in such a manner as to meet the views of all classes of people. The Commissioners were of opinion that the interests of all classes should be consulted in the way in which the endowed schools are worked, and they are progressing according as popular feeling itself is progressing in the direction of education. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend, having had an opportunity of laying his views before Parliament—views which he has long entertained—will not allow the Commissioners to suffer, because I am sure he will admit that, although his policy in regard to the action of the Commissioners differs from theirs, the Commissioners themselves continue to discharge to the best of their ability, within the Act of Parliament, the duties which have been entrusted to them.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
I must say that while I admit the great importance of the subjects raised by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, I think it is somewhat unsatisfactory that they should be discussed in this way. I am not blaming the hon. Member for having taken this course, because I am perfectly aware of the exceptional circumstances of the present year. At the same time, I cannot see how the points which have been raised by the hon. Member can be adequately discussed upon a Motion for reducing the salaries of the Commissioners. A Motion of that kind can scarcely raise all questions relating to the administration of the Commission.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
No doubt, that is so; but this is a very great, a very wide, and a most important subject, and it is almost impossible to deal with it to the satisfaction of the House in a desultory conversation upon a Vote in Supply. I am myself fully impressed with the gravity and importance of the matter; but the chief object with which I rose was to recall the attention of the House to what may be called the historical view of the question. So far, the Com 1509 mittee has only gone into the question of the endowed schools but it must be recollected that another important Committee sat upon the question of charitable trusts, and went fully into the entire question of the action of the Charity Commissioners in regard to this matter. That Committee came to a general conclusion, approving, in the main, of the action of the Commissioners. I think that fact ought not to be lost eight of. To-day we have been thoroughly occupied with the endowed schools question. That endowed schools question has a long history. There was a very elaborate inquiry into the whole subject by the Schools Inquiry Commission—a Commission which embraced within it some of the most able men in the country. That Commission collected most important evidence, and laid before the country one of the most important documents in the shape of a Report ever submitted to Parliament. What was the result of that inquiry? The next step was taken in 1869, when a Committee of this House was appointed, which was presided over by one of the strongest Chairmen who ever presided over the proceedings of a Committee—namely, the late Mr. W. E. Forster—a man who was admirably suited for the position he occupied. The result of that inquiry was that the Government passed a certain Bill which afterwards became an Act of Parliament under the tide of the Endowed Schools Act. As a matter of fact, two Bills were introduced, one of which became an Act, while the other has never seen the light. Great attention was devoted to this important question. I myself took strong views upon it, very much in sympathy with those which have been expressed by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham to-day, although I must admit that my views are at this time more Liberal than they then were. [Cries of "Hear, hear !"] I know that some of my hon. Friends opposite have good reason, if they like, to laugh at me; but I think we are entitled to laugh also, because if some of us have become more Liberal than we were, it is quite evident that some of my hon. Friends opposite have now taken up extreme Tory views. I was reminding the Committee that this is a matter which has been carefully considered by Parliament; and, acting under the pro- 1510 visions which were contained in the Endowed Schools Act, the Endowed Schools Commission was appointed, and I venture to say that the Endowed Schools Commission contained upon it some of the ablest men the country has over produced. No doubt, this Commission took a kind of colour from the circumstances of its appointment. It was appointed by a Liberal Administration—I mean the Government of 1869. The Commission went, I think, a great deal too far, and offended the public conscience of the country. The Commissioners were men of conscientious minds and men of great ability, but they did not sufficiently consider the public feeling; and the consequence was that, when the Conservative Government of 1874 came into power, one of the first things they did was to modify the action of the Endowed Schools Commission. Under that modified scheme of legislation, a portion of the duties of the Endowed Schools Commissioners was transferred to the Charity Commissioners. The Charity Commissioners have been discharging the duties of their office for the last 10 years; and, looking at all the circumstances of the case, the position of the country, and the progress which education has made, I hold that the Charity Commissioners have, on the whole, discharged their difficult and delicate duties to the advantage of the country. It is said that they had not consulted the wishes and the desires of the locality in regard to which schemes have been prepared; but that is an accusation which I altogether repel. I know it maybe said that in regard to Norwich the Commissioners were a little at fault; and I am not prepared to claim for them perfection—aliquando donnitat may be said of them; but, looking at the country all round, I maintain that they have paid the greatest possible care and attention to the feeling of the community. Looking at the whole of the facts of the case, I think the Charity Commissioners have come out of the ordeal with a clean bill of health. It must be borne in mind that the Committee was composed of men who were not in the least degree prejudiced in favour of the Commissioners, and that it was a Committee in regard to which hon. Members opposite had it very much their own way. At the same time, I think it was a per- 1511 fectly fair Committee, and of which nobody, I believe, complains. Yet that Committee supported the action of the Commissioners with certain suggestions and modifications. Let me now say just one word upon the "ladder" question which was raised by the right hon. Member who has just spoken. That is a question which I hope the House of Commons will never cease to bear in mind. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham knows the difficulties connected with it. I will not speak of robbing or of depriving the children of the poor of endowments which were originally intended for them. What I say is that it will be of much greater advantage to the children themselves that they should have an opportunity of rising through the abilities with which they have been endowed than that the means of paying the fees in the elementary schools—amounting to 2d. or 3d.—should be scattered around with a broadcast hand. The real way of helping the poor is to help them to rise in life. The meney should be given to the school to maintain the best scholars in the school, and then to enable them to go to higher schools. In that way the funds will be of much greater benefit to the children than they could ever be by the mere payment of the school fees. Therefore, I do think that, looking at that grave and important subject, the Commissioners have deserved well of the country. Before formulating any Resolution on the subject, I hope the hon. Gentleman opposite will consider it in the light of the evidence which the Committee have taken, and that he will not rest content with taking his own preconceived ideas. When a matter of this kind is formally and solemnly referred by the House to a Committee, the deliberations of the Committee should be carefully acknowledged. If the hon. Member thinks it right to raise the question any further, I hope he will raise it distinctly on the Report of the Select Committee, and that he will ask the House not to approve of the recommendations of the Committee.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I intend to support the Motion of the hon. Membe for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. I was under the impression tha he had fully made out his case last night but some hon. Members think that he 1512 has not done so. The case he attempted to make out was that endowments intended for the poor had been given to the rich. Now, you give the Chief Commissioner a salary of £2,000 a-year. There is no other Chief Commissioner with so high a salary; and the Assistant Commissioner has £1,500 a-year; and there is no other Assistant Commissioner upon any of the Commissions with so large a salary, or with more than £1,200 a-year. There are a number of Assistant Commissioners with £1,200, with clerks and salaries paid at the highest rate. The Secretary receives £1,100; the Chief Clerk £900; and the Registrar of Accounts £900. Therefore, on the ground of economy, seeing that this Commission is more highly paid than any other Commission, I support the reduction proposed by the hon. Gentleman. I also support it on the ground that the Commissioners have not carried out those schemes fairly and equitably towards all classes of the community. I find that the trustees of the endowed schools have changed the class of people who get the benefit of the endowments originally left to the poor, such endowments under the control of the trustees being used for the rich. Consequently the trustees have abused their power. The Select Committee which has been referred to was appointed to inquire into the matter, and to modify the conditions under which these trusts had been framed; but, as far as I see, the Commissioners have gone on the lines of the trustees, and have simply aided the trustees in giving endowments to the rich that were intended for the poor. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair) said that many of these endowments were left for the middle classes, and were not intended solely for the poor. Now, I have been living for the last half-a-dozen years in Dulwich, opposite the school there. That case came tip two years ago. I dare say the House is aware how the old actor—Edward Alleyne—left money for the erection of almshouses and the education of certain poor people. What have you got now by the scheme of the Commissioners, especially in regard to that portion of the endowment which was left for almshouses? That seems to have been done away with, because, under the present parochial system, almshouses are not required, 1513 and poor people can go into the poor-houses; nor is education of an elementary character required, because it can be obtained from the Parochial Authorities. You have, however, a splendid middle class school, which simply means that the money has been taken from one purpose—and the purpose for which it was originally intended —in order to be applied to another. In this case you have exhibitions and scholarships —scholarships up to £100 a-year, and the whole of them open to the children of persons of wealth, who, by the wealth of their parents, have already obtained a good preliminary education, and are then specially coached for examination at Dulwich.
§ DR. CLARK
Yes; fees alone. Nothing else. There is no maintenance of any kind at Dulwich; and under the old condition of things, before it was changed, the fees ran from £10 to £20. The result of the scheme passed by this House has been to increase the fees from £20 to £30 a-year. No doubt the Commissioners have made some reform. The head master, who formerly got £6,000 a-year, now only gets £1,200. Other masters have been pensioned off; and some other improvements have been made in the salaries of the old masters. The minimum fee now is about £20 at Dulwich. I frankly admit that in many cases money is not required, because you can now obtain, by applying to the Guardians of the Poor, assistance either in the shape of indoor or outdoor relief; and the Guardians are obliged to provide destitute children with education. The only question, then, is, what is to be done with the money? Have the Commissioners fairly applied it for the benefit of all classes? Have they applied it for the benefit of poor children? I do not think they have; and, because they have not, I shall support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. What ought to be done with the money? Of course, I maintain that as it was left principally for the poor it ought to be used for the benefit of the poor, and the poor only. If any 1514 change is to be made, let the money be applied to the benefit of all classes. I do not see why you should take one or two boys, and give to one or two families what would add to the comfort of a very large number of families. Probably the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. G. Talbot) considers that the payment of 2d. or 3d. a-week by a poor man for the education of a child is a very small matter; but when a labouring man has 10 or 12 children for whom he is required to pay 2d. or 3d. each it is a very important matter.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
I did not say that. I said that the -payment of fees was of comparatively small benefit to the children, as compared to the possibility of advancement which the Commissioners' schemes hold out.
§ DR. CLARK
I think that whatever benefit there is in free education, so far as the people are concerned, it ought to be distributed, as far as possible, so as to increase their comfort. I would even distribute it, if necessary, in the shape of food, because I know that unless you have a distinct physical basis to commence with you cannot develop the intellect of a child. I think there are very few cases in which the right hon. Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair) would be able to substantiate his assertion that the money has been left for general purposes, and for the benefit of all classes. What I maintain is that if it has been left for the poor it should be used for the poor, and the poor only. In agricultural districts it might be used for the purpose of giving agricultural education, and in towns for giving technical education. We are far beneath France, Germany, and other Continental nations in this respect, and unless we do something in that direction we shall be cut out of all the markets of the world. All the Commissioners have hitherto done has been to cheapen middle class education. I admit that that is a great boon to middle class people; and the Commissioners have done a great deal in the direction of developing middle class education—such as the establishment of high schools for girls. But my contention is that something ought to be done for the poor; and something would have been done for them if it had not been for the Commissioners coming in and interfering by providing education for middle class persons out of the funds 1515 left for the children of the poor. That is our charge against the Charity Commissioners—namely, that they have aided and abetted the old trustees in depriving the poor of their share of the endowments; and they have simply made middle class education cheaper for the middle classes, who do not require it, and who are able to pay for education, and would undoubtedly receive it if necessary. If this money is to be taken away from the poor, then I say it ought to be used for technical education, agricultural and otherwise, and not purely and simply for the middle classes, in order that their children may be sent to the Universities.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
I listened with much interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) in reference to Dulwich School, and the course which is pursued there in reference to education. The actual cost of a high-class education such as is given at Dulwich College, taking the expenses all round, comes to £18 or £20 a-year, and that cost is about the same in the endowed school of Edward VI. at Birmingham. Now, I am of opinion that this charge should be made at Dulwich College, in order that the people who receive the education should pay the actual cost of it. I think that is a fair and right principle, and I should like to see it extended to all the schools, so that those who receive the education should pay the actual expenditure incurred in imparting it. It is, however, most desirable that money obtained in that way should be expended for the benefit of the poor, who have been unjustly deprived of the advantages which they ought to derive from these endowments. The tendency of the Endowed School Commissioners has undoubtedly been to take away the rights of the poor, and to give them to classes for which they were not intended, or, at any rate, only partially intended. I think these schools should be thoroughly revolutionized in that respect, in order that the poor may enter into their inheritance —an. inheritance to which they are justly entitled. With that view a system of exhibitions has been established; but to a great extent the poor man is unable to avail himself of them, because he would be obliged to keep his child at school, when the child ought to be going out into the world to earn something to 1516 contribute to the support of the family. Therefore, I think that the exhibitions ought to give a poor child not only a free education, but also sufficient money to maintain and assist him during the time he is receiving such education. I hold that in that way we might very widely extend the advantages of these exhibitions, and utilize them for the benefit of the poor, enabling the children of the poor to get that higher education to which they are undoubtedly entitled. In order that this may be done there should be a limit to the recipients of the exhibitions. The plan adopted in Birmingham is a plan which I think may be wisely followed in other places. The exhibitions should be limited to children who have been educated in the public elementary schools. With respect to the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, I agree with it on general grounds, although I must say I do not concur in the hon. Member's wholesale condemnation of the Charity Commissioners.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER
I am glad to hear it. I think that the Charity Commissioners have very much improved in their policy during the last year or two. I believe that my hon. Friend has had a good deal to do with that improvement. He has helped them by the pressure he has brought to bear upon them from outside, and the effect of that pressure has been a great improvement, especially in reference to those charities which have come under the Act of 1882. The Charity Commissioners are now carrying those schemes out in a better spirit, and they are also adopting the principle contained in the Resolution passed in the last Parliament by the hon. Baronet the Member for Lichfield (Sir John Swinburne) and myself, which gives the control of the charities to the inhabitants of the place where the charity is situated. I think that that is a proper principle, and that it ought to be widely extended. I hope that the Charity Commissioners, in framing the schemes, will be as broad and liberal as they can, in order that the inhabitants of the locality may have the power of regulating the distribution of the charity. I may also refer to the fact that last year a Return was granted to me 1517 by the House which I hope will be in the hands of hon. Members in the course of a day or two. It shows how the Charity Commissioners had prepared schemes up to the last 12 months in relation to the Act of 1882, so far as allotments have been concerned. There have been three or four instances in which the Charity Commissioners have failed in their duty to enforce the Act of 1882 in regard to new schemes. I trust that some steps will be taken to remedy the omissions and let the land come in. I hope the Charity Commissioners will insist upon the adoption of that plan when it can be done without detriment to the charity, and that they will bring all land connected with charitable endowments under the control of the Act of 1882. I have been obliged to say those things in defence, more or less, of the policy of the Charity Commissioners during the last 12 months. The Motion of my hon. Friend is one which will probably boar good fruit, because a discussion like this is likely to produce a good effect upon gentlemen who have to discharge public duties. I trust it will have the effect of inducing the Charity Commissioners to discharge the duties they have undertaken in the most liberal spirit.
§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir WILLIAM HART DYKE) (Kent, Dartford)
I should be the last man in the House to attempt for one moment to complain of thus question having been raised or a discussion having taken place upon it. Still less am I disposed to complain of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, because I have long known my hon. Friend's particular views in regard to this question; and, at least, he has as much right to entertain those opinions as any Member of this House has to entertain his. I have been appealed to a good deal in the course of the present discussion, and I have been asked what is the exact position I hold in regard to this Commission? As many here know, it is difficult to define precisely what free education is, and some of the Members of the Committee were somewhat bewildered by the evidence given before the Committee. But if that was a matter of puzzle to them, I am also bound to admit that I am in a position of considerable bewilderment 1518 in regard to my exact position with reference to the Commission. I admit that my position is very incongruous—that is to say, that I am supposed to be a member of a Board which proposes schemes and formulates them; but I do not act upon that Board. I am not responsible for its acts, and yet outside the Commission I am asked to decide, in a judicial capacity, whether these schemes should pass or not. That is an anomalous position, which has certainly struck previous Vice Presidents. The present Lord Harrow by, when Vice President, wag certainty struck by it; and I hope before long to be able to get some hon. Member of sufficient standing in the House to take up the position and make himself competent to defend the policy of the Commissioners in regard to those schemes. I now come to the points which have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. So far as the question of free education is concerned in its broadest sense, I hope the Committee will not expect me to go into it in any way way whatever. It is a question of serious moment in regard to the educational future of the country, and it has been for many months past discussed, and a vast amount of evidence has been given with regard to it before the Committee now sitting. But my hon. Friend has raised the question of free education in another sense, and upon that view I wish to offer a few remarks. My hon. Friend says that, as a rule, the Commissioners disregard the interests of the poor as regards free education—that is to say, that the poor have, up to a certain date, received free education, and that the schemes are formulated in such a manner by the Commissioners that they lose all benefit of free education. The point urged by the hon. Member raises a great question of public policy; and although many of us have, with the hon. Member, sympathy as regards the interest of the poorer classes, it has been urged over and over again that the endowments were intended for the benefit of all classes who chose to take advantage of the schools. The general question, I submit, cannot be conveniently raised upon the present Vote, inasmuch as it involves a great question of public policy. I believe that this question must be dealt with on what is known as the ladder system, 1519 which has been most favourably regarded by some of the highest educational authorities of the day. It seems to me that there is a great difference between the change of policy indicated here and the acceptance of a policy which would altogether destroy the system by which the poor may raise themselves in the educational scale. My reply to the challenge which my hon. Friend has thrown out is that I am prepared in this matter to act within the four corners of the Report of the Select Committee on which I had the honour of sitting. The Committee do not advocate the destruction of the ladder system; but they indicate that exceptional care should be taken with regard to the education of the poor. Then they say that provision ought in each case to be made for safeguarding the conditions affecting scholarships and exhibitions, with the view of protecting the interests of the children who attend elementary schools. One more recommendation is that in cases where a higher form of education is given than that which was formerly enjoyed, the scheme should provide for the payment of school fees in the case of school children whose parents are in need of such assistance. I regard that as an important point, and, so far as the Commissioners are concerned, I say that they are aware that there has been a considerable change of public opinion with regard to this matter, and that in the future framing of schemes they will do so, having regard to that change of public opinion. That is my reply to the charge that has been made, and I hope it will be considered adequate when I tell the Committee that these schemes have to come before the Committee of Council for ratification; and I may add also that I shall have regard to the recommendations made in the Report to which I have already subscribed my name. My hon. Friend has alluded to one or two cases in which he considers that great hardship has been inflicted on the poor; but, although I join in some of the observations made by hon. Members in this discussion, I may say, speaking particularly, that I do not think the cases brought before the Committee by my hon. Friend were quite sustained by the evidence. My hon. Friend has taken the case of Sutton Coldfield. That case has been thoroughly gone into by the Commissioners; the evidence was 1520 thoroughly sifted, and one statement made by a Member of the Charity Commission before the Committee of the House of Commons was that the scheme would work out in this way—that £700 of the income would be applied to certain charitable purposes mentioned in Clause 2, £1,400 a-year would go for the maintenance of elementary schools, and the remainder of the income would be applied to the purposes of higher education, the two sums of £700 and £1,400 making together just three-fourths of the whole amount of income. That I think is an absolute reply to the hon. Member's statement with regard to the endowments being diverted from the poor. My hon. Friend has raised other questions; but, considering the length of the present discussion and the state of Public Business, I think I ought not to detain the Committee by going into them in detail. The Report takes a broad and liberal view of this question, and not only with regard to endowments; but with regard to other matters of importance it indicates a certain widening in a popular sense of the policy of the Commissioners. I have been asked how many schemes the Commissioners have dealt with in the course of the year. I have not the Report with me; but if the hon. Member will put this in the form of a Question, I shall be glad to give a careful reply to his inquiry. An hon. Member has especially mentioned one point with regard to the action of the Commissioners, which is that the persons locally interested in the schemes have not been sufficiently consulted. That is a very difficult question to deal with. It seems to me most desirable that public opinion in these cases should be sifted, and I am theoretically inclined to support any suggestion in that direction; but I do think it may be said on behalf of the Commissioners that some of the difficulty arises from those interested not moving soon enough with regard to these matters; and I know that in some cases, unhappily, serious objections have been raised after the schemes have been passed. My hon. Friend has alluded to the scheme of the Commissioners with regard to Norwich. I shall, of course, always be glad to listen to the objections which he may make with regard to this scheme; but I must say, as far as I am concerned, no positive action has been taken in the 1521 matter. My view is that we must consider the opinion strongly expressed in the locality if we wish the schemes to benefit the locality and work successfully. I can assure the Committee that, so far as I am concerned, earnest consideration shall be given to this discussion, which has been useful to me, and will, I believe, prove useful in the future to the Commissioners. I have been pressed on the subject of possible legislation in regard to the Report. I have not had an opportunity of consulting all my Colleagues; but I can promise with regard to the future that if I find it is possible to carry through a short measure relating to the questions which have been before the Committee to-day or mentioned in the Report, I shall give the subject my most serious attention. I do not at the moment like to give the Committee any positive pledge. I will, therefore, only say that I am aware it is the desire of hon. Members that there should be some legislation of the kind indicated, and upon that point I will take an opportunity of consulting my Colleagues. I should like to press my hon. Friend not to divide the Committee on his Amendment. We have had a serious discussion, and I do not think that my hon. Friend or other hon. Members who have raised objections will be able to urge that I have met those objections in an unfair or illiberal spirit. I venture to ask my hon. Friend not to press this Motion to a Division for that reason, and also because in our Report we acknowledge that the Charity Commissioners, to the best of their ability, have carried out the difficult provisions of the Act.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
Perhaps the Committee will pardon me if I touch for a minute or two on what the right hon. Gentleman has justly termed a subject of the greatest importance. Before doing so, however, I wish to remove the idea that I have brought forward this question by way of censure on the Charity Commissioners. I have stated elsewhere, with great pleasure, that the present Commissioners, or especially the two Commissioners with whom I have come most in contact, are all that one can wish as Commissioners. The Chief Commissioner is a man of the greatest courtesy and ability; but I repeat that it is not at all my object to raise anything like a sweeping censure on the Charity Commis 1522 sioners. The work which they do is of a valuable character, and the reason I raise the question in this form is because, as far as I know, there is no other way of having immediate discussion, which is essential, because there are schemes pending which embody the principle of which I complain. It has been said that the Commissioners are constrained by Act of Parliament; but I maintain that neither of the questions which I have raised is beyond their powers—that they are not bound by Act of Parliament in either of the particulars. I wish also to say, with regard to the remark of a right hon. Gentleman, that it is my object in no way that the Commissioners should act in relief of the rates; but as to the fact stated, that the scholarships and exhibitions compensate for the loss of elementary education, I refer the Committee to the evidence given before the Committee by Canon Evans and Dr. Jessop. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Cozens-Hardy), referring to the case of Scarning, said that if the policy pursued in that case were to be persevered in by the Commissioners, he would follow me into the Lobby. In reply to my hon. Friend, the case of Sutton Cold-field is exactly on all-fours with that of Seaming; it raised the same general opposition; it inflicts the same privations, and is, if anything, more aggravating to those interested. My hon. Friend has spoken of the recommendations which have been made by the Committee as being sufficient; but I want to point out that they are not at all sufficient to meet my case. One of the Motions made in the Committee was —"That the now parishes which now enjoy free education ought not to be deprived of that peculiar advantage," and it seems to me that anything contained in the recommendations of the Report will fail far short of those requirements. Then, as to the alienation of endowments, the fourth recommendation was altogether misleading and insufficient, and that remark holds good of many of the recommendations of the Committee. I wish, for a minute or two, to bring back the Committee to my two points, which it has been sought in an admirable manner to explain away, but in a manner that has entirely failed to do so. My case is that in the present 1523 scheme, and in future schemes, where free education has been enjoyed by prescriptive right for generations and, perhaps, centuries, the Commissioners shall not interfere to take away that free education; or, if they are compelled to interfere by reason of the education being of an inferior character, that they shall use the endowment for paying the school fees of the children who have hitherto had the right to free education. I am aware that the Committee in their recommendations refer to that; they say that this education shall not be taken away without providing for those who cannot pay the foes. But that will not do at all. The point is that the whole of the children shall continue to have education in free schools, or by payment for them of the fees in the elementary schools to which they are sent. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) spoke of the advantages of the scholarships which are given to the children in some of the schools, which, in other words, means that the seven scholarships enjoyed are of great use to seven persons; but, allow me to explain, those scholarships are quite as good when applied to all the children in the school as to seven. The right hon. Gentleman, I am sorry to say, has given us nothing whatever. It is true that he says that all the middle class has been considered as well as the poorer class; but allow me to remind the Committee that under Section 30 the Endowed Schools Act enumerates the purposes for which this money was left which is now being taken away for high schools, middle and upper schools, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman if any of that money can possibly belong to any but the poorer class—it enumerates doles in money and kind, which surely was not intended for the upper classes; marriage portions to poor girls, apprenticeships, and so on, matters with which the upper classes have no concern. Now, these are the endowments which the Charity Commissioners confiscated in order to make high schools, middle and upper schools, and the contention seems to be altogether wrong and untenable that those endowments can belong in any shape or form to any but the poorer class. It is a fact that in the 30th clause of the Act the Charity Commissioners are told that in any scheme which they may formulate, the edu 1524 cational interests of ail the persons of the same class of life within the same area shall be considered. I have listened to the justification which the right hon. Gentleman has quoted from the mouth of one of the Commissioners, and I am sorry to think that he should use such an argument. The contention is that, by some wonderful process of arithmetic, when you have taken away £32,000 from the poor they are better off than when they had the whole benefit of the money. The only way in which this has been attempted to be defended is that the increment of interest would be sufficient to cover the amount taken away. That, I say, is a very poor reason, because cot only the capital but the interest belonged to one and the same class. The fact remains that the poor people of Sutton Coldfield will have £32,000 taken away from them, and instead of getting their education free they will have to pay school fees which will increase in order to make up the deficiency which will result from taking enormous sums from endowments in order to make schools for the wealthier class. Therefore, I say that my two points are not within the Act of Parliament in the sense that the Charity Commissioners are constrained from dealing with them, and it is upon those two points that we shall have to vote; that is to say—first, whether the free education which exists in a certain locality as a privilege of the poor shall be taken away by the scheme of the Charity Commissioners; and, secondly, whether the doles for medical assistance, and other similar endowments which the poor enjoy, shall be taken away from them in order to create high schools for the middle and upper classes. I cheerfully acknowledge the action the Commissioners have taken in some cases, and especially that of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President, who was most anxious to put pressure on the trustees to make them do their duty, a pressure that was never exercised by anyone previously; but appeals, I am sorry to say, have before been treated with indifference, so that I feel it my duty to call on the Committee to divide upon my Amendment.
§ MR. E. HARDCASTLE (Salford.N.)
As it is my intention to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. 1525 Jesse Collings) I wish to take this opportunity of expressing my reasons for so doing. A great deal has been said upon the ladder system. Now, to the arguments founded upon that I venture to take exception. I want to know how many persons are able to climb that ladder, and I want to know why the mediocrity should be given all these privileges? I have no desire to reduce the salaries of the Commissioners; but to vote on the Amendment before the Committee is the only way in which we can bring before the House and the country what I conceive to be conduct prejudicial to the real interests of the poorer class. I have no objection to amending the system of educational endowments; that is no doubt reasonable, and in accordance with modern ideas; but I have the very strongest objection to the removal of endowments originally intended for charitable purposes to the purposes of education. There was an allusion made by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) to the almshouse portion of the endowments, and the hon. Member made use of an expression which I may say shocked me. He said that almshouses were not required in these days, because the poor and aged could go into the workhouse. Now, when we remember the great efforts made by the poor to keep out of the workhouses, I think that argument is one which ought not to be used. I say that the respectable poor have a right to all these endowments as their share of the property of the country, and if by any exceptional wave of public feeling they are diverted from the original intention, an absolute hardship is imposed on this class. It is on that ground, and not with a view of injuring the Charity Commissioners, whose conduct, I believe, is excellent, that I shall support the Motion of the hon. Member for Bordesley.
§ DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)
Allow me to remind the hon. Member that the endowments for education are seldom sufficient to supply gratuitous education for all the children of the parish, and where only a few children are selected the simple question is—Shall they be selected by competition, or by merit, or patronage? An hon. Member has referred to the Rochdale School. Looking back at the Report, I say that this is a very important school, that the recipients 1526 of the charity seem to be, on the whole, children of parents who might got education for them without assistance Now, I submit that where children are selected, by competition, not only is a great benefit done to those who receive the education, but also that those who fail in the competition are intellectually stimulated by the prospect of obtaining it. We have heard much to-day from the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) and the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) as to the difficulty of the children of the poor obtaining these scholarships when they are so heavily weighted in competition. I heard that remark with surprise, and. going back as far as 1882, I find that 1,145 children from elementary schools succeeded in winning scholarships. I find that in one instance, out of 35 scholarships awarded in three years, no fewer than 20 were gained by children whose parents were engaged in manual labour; among 101 endowed schools, that in no fewer than four schools every scholarship was awarded to children whose parents were in receipt of weekly wages. I look a little further into the circumstances of these persons who earned weekly wages, and I find that some of them are very poor, and that among them there is more than one instance of a widow earning her livelihood by her needle, whose child has been set upon the first step of the ladder which may lead him to reach the highest point of influence in the State; in another case, I find that the scholarship was awarded to the child of a person actually in receipt at the time of parish relief. I cannot help thinking that we should be acting with very grat inconsistency if we were to condemn the Charity Commissioners for having acted in implicit obedience, not merely to the Report of the Committee, but to the Statute.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 188: Majority 149.—(Div. List, No. 313.) [3.50 P.M.]
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
I wish to call attention to the present position of the City of London Parochial Charities Commission. The City of London Parochial Charities Act of 1883, which authorizes the appoint- 1527 ment of the Commission, expires at the end of 1887, unless continued by Her Majesty with the advice of the Privy Council; but in no case is that Commission to be continued beyond 1889. Now, that Commission is of the greatest importance, not only with respect to London generally, but also with respect to the Technical Education Bill which the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council has introduced. With respect to that Bill, the right hon. Gentleman indicated, and rightly, that London might very properly be put in a different category from the rest of the country. In the City of London Parochial Charities Act the very question of the provision of money for technical education is involved, and that Act also touches upon several other questions of immediate interest in the Metropolis. I think it will be of value if I point out what are the objects for which that Commission was permitted or requested to draw up its recommendations for the application of those funds. They are the promoting of the education of the poorer inhabitants of the Metropolis, whether by means of exhibitions, technical or art instruction, lectures or otherwise, the establishment and maintenance of libraries, museums, or art collections, of open spaces and recreation grounds, convalescent hospitals for the poorer classes, and generally the improvement of the social, moral, and physical condition of the poorer classes of the Metropolis. There are one or two points in which the Commissioners are requested to draw up schemes which are solving themselves by less adequate means. For example, there is a proposal on the tapis to establish a rate in respect of hospital accommodation —a charge which many feel falls better on these and similar funds. Again, the Free Libraries Act is being adopted in the Metropolis, and its further adoption will be assisted if we can get the schemes of this Act into operation. I asked an important Question on the 21st of September last year of the then Vice President of the Council as to when the Commissioners, appointed under the City of London Parochial Charities Act of 1883, were expected to make a Report, and whether they had considered the approximate amount of funds which would be applicable to the purposes indicated? To this the Vice President 1528 replied in effect that the Charity Commissioners expect to make a statement before the close of the year, and that until the whole of the statements were prepared the Commissioners could not estimate the amount of funds available for the respective purposes. So far as private inquiry, often unreliable I admit, can lead me to form an opinion, I believe I am not wrong in saying that the total amount of funds lies between £120,000 and £160,000; and by direction under the City of London Parochial Charities Act the Commissioners are directed to discriminate these funds into two categories. Until the very important point is reached to which my Question was directed in 1886, we cannot adequately deal with the special portion of the Technical Education Bill which is applicable to the Metropolis. I have been led to believe, roughly speaking, that about £70,000 or £80,000 out of the fund indicated comes under that portion which is to be applied to educational, hospital, and other purposes. The line of action of the Commission is first to make a Report as to the determinations in each case, with regard to religious and non-religious purposes; it has then to draw up a scheme for each charity, and that has to be published and go through various stages. This, the Committee will observe, will involve a great deal of time. The object I have in now calling attention to this subject is to expedite, if possible, the work of the Commission, which for a considerable time has been costing from £1,000 to £5,000 a-year. It commenced in 1883, and we have no knowledge of what progress has been made, or of the steps that are being taken. I should like also to urge upon the Commissioners the desirability of consulting, as far as possible, the views and needs of the different localities in the various portions of the Metropolis. There is no doubt that if we could got that portion of the money which Parliament has declared should be applied in the manner indicated, we might make an advance in several, I do not say in all respects, which would place London at the top of many of the other towns of the country, and more particularly in the matter of technical education, which is indicated in the Act as one of the first points to be dealt with. But I do hope that the Commission, which is now en- 1529 gaged in the first portion of its work, may soon reach the second; and in doing so—that is, in drawing up the scheme for this £70,000 or £80,000 a-year—that it may follow the general feeling expressed in this House—namely, consult the localities in the matter. I should like, in emphasizing that point, to say that any scheme for technical education, or for the general advancement of what I may call superior education in London, will have to come not from one centre, but from a series of centres, because the requirements vary with the different parts of the Metropolis. There is another point of importance to my constituents to which I wish briefly to call attention. In 1753 a sum of money, known as Webb's Charity, was left to Christ's Hospital, with the instruction that it was to educate with it three of the poorer children of the parish of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch. In 1790 Lord Chancellor Thurlow decided that the funds, which had then increased to £130 a-year, were sufficient to support six poor children; and he indicated at the time that should the funds still further increase the inhabitants of the parish were to make further application to the Court of Chancery in the matter. The funds have increased to £1,300 a-year at least, and the number of inhabited houses in the parish has increased from 3,000 to 15,000, which are, roughly speaking, occupied by two separate occupiers each, so that the amount of the charity has been multiplied by 10, and the area of persons to whom it is applicable has also multiplied by 10; but the number of children benefited by it still remains the same as when Lord Thurlow decided in the case, and the remainder of the income goes into the hands of Christ's Hospital. The inhabitants of the parish have appealed against the present re-organization scheme for Christ's Hospital; and I wish to make an appeal on their behalf to the Charity Commissioners, that they will step in to be the protectors, where funds are to be applied, of the population generally as against individual institutions. I trust the Commissioners will have such alterations made in the proposed scheme of re-organization of Christ's Hospital as shall not give the large surplus funds arising in the present case to that institution, but reserve them for the benefit 1530 of the poor people of Shoreditch, for whom there can be no reasonable doubt the money was originally intended.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I shall be glad to learn whether the right hon. Gentleman can explain to the Committee why the scheme prepared by the Charity Commissioners for the better administration of Christ's Hospital has not yet been accepted by the authorities; and whether, if they still persist in refusing to accept the scheme, he will advise the Government to appoint a Committee to consider the scheme in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee upstairs?
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
I see that there is a maximum salary for each Inspector of £800, and that, in the aggregate, we are asked to vote the sum of £2,750. I ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) for an explanation of this charge. Another point to which I desire to call attention is that for six years the Charity Commissioners have suspended their operations in Wales. I do not blame them for that, because they have acted under the advice of the Select Committee. Much of the complaint with regard to the action of those who manage the charities is due to the fact that the people in the localities have very little information as to the amounts at the disposal of the local charities, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council whether he will bring pressure to bear on the Commissioners to make further inquiries into the local charities in Wales? I think it will be seen that the state of things in Wales is very lamentable, and that many charities are slipping away from the hands of the people.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
With reference to the question raised by the hon. Gentleman on the subject of the charge for salaries, I point out there appears to have been a mistake made in the Estimate. As a matter of fact, the positions of the * and the † ought to have been reversed, and the * ought to have been placed against the charge for the Inspector. With regard to the other point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I understand the difficulty is due to a question of money. The Inspectors already on the staff have 1531 already been completely engaged in doing what may be described as the current work of the Department. There is every disposition to take up the work in the way which the hon. Gentleman indicates; but for the reason I have stated, unless special Commissioners or an additional number of Inspectors are appointed, it would not be possible at present to carry out that which the hon. Member wishes.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS
I point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is a matter of great interest that full information should be published. We have Blue Books published on many matters relating to all parts of the world; but with regard to these charities we have scarcely any information. I wish to press upon the Government, although I am an advocate of economy, that they should either increase the staff or give some other facilities to enable the Commissioners to publish this information. The Chief Charity Commissioner stated, in evidence before the Commission, that there are 55 volumes of manuscript containing much information about the charities; and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot do something to push forward the work of publication?
§ SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE
With regard to the point urged by the hon. Member for Merionethshire, I must say that I sympathize with him in his wish that information should be given with reference to the Welsh charities in view of the urgency of the question of intermediate education in Wales, and I have no doubt that the hon. Member is deeply anxious on this point. It is obvious that in dealing with a matter so complicated it would be of the greatest value to get special local information with regard to educational charities. As far as the Commissioners are concerned, it is the general desire that this should be obtained. As far as I am advised, the staff is continuously occupied with the ordinary work of the Commission. With regard to any further staff that might be required, I can only say that I will consult my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury; and if it be possible, by a small expenditure, slightly to increase the official staff, I think, without giving any absolute pledge, that it is a question which may, at all events, be candidly met on the part of my hon. Friend. 1532 The hon. Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) has spoken with regard to the scheme of the Commissioners in respect of Christ's Hospital. I am not at once prepared to take the course suggested, of proposing the appointment of a Committee, which would be a very serious step, and require much deliberation. But I may tell the hon. Member that the question has been under the serious consideration of the late Vice President and myself during the present Session, and I hope, before long, that a satisfactory result will be arrived at. The hon. Member for the Hoxton Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Stuart) has called my attention to a subject which has been previously referred to in this House—that is, the time occupied by the Metropolitan Charity Commissioners in their plan of classification. The Commissioners have first of all to prepare a statement of the property involved, and then to take the further step of formulating a scheme. As regards the delay which has occurred, I can only say that I regret that there should have been delay in a matter of such great importance; and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, this question of technical instruction having been permanently raised, it is of vital importance that some early action should be taken in the direction indicated, especially in the Metropolis. I feel, also, that we want all the subsidiary assistance which we can obtain, especially of the kind which the hon. Gentleman shadowed forth, to make our legislation, as it were, a feeding power for secondary instruction. I again express my regret at the delay which has occurred; but I have made some inquiry, and I am informed that the statement of classification of property will be in the hands of the public in about two months.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I should like to confirm what has been said by the hon. Member for Merionethshire (Mr. T. E. Ellis) with regard to the great importance of endeavouring to accelerate the action of the Charity Commissioners for the purpose of getting better information on the subject of the Welsh Educational Charities. Twenty years ago I had to act as Assistant Commissioner in Wales, and I had then the opportunity of learning a great deal, not only about the endowed schools in 1533 the Principality, but also about other charities there. Wales, as compared with England in the matter of educational endowments, is very poor; that is all the more reason why those that exist should be made the most of, and why we have a special claim on the Department to see that the charities—especially the endowed schools—should be applied to the particular needs of the people. Until the Bill is brought in dealing with education in Wales, it would be desirable that, in the meantime, these should still go on with their work—whether the Bill is brought in or not. With regard to the question of the increase of staff of the Charity Commission, I think it well deserves consideration whether, as in the case of the London Parochial Charities under the Act of 1883, the expenses that may be incurred on that account should not be defrayed from the funds of the charities themselves. The country is naturally unwilling to grant larger funds for the Charity Commission than it now possesses; but I think the difficulty to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred may be met in the manner I suggest. I am glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council that the London Parochial Charity Commissioners are advancing with their work, and that, as I understand him to say, we shall have the classification scheme in less than two months, I happen to know that an immense number of ancient records have been investigated, and that the Commissioners have been labouring at their work with the greatest assiduity; and I can, therefore, confirm the statement that there has been no unnecessary delay. At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that the time for the completion of the work is limited, and that the limit of time should not be exceeded. The applications of these parochial charity funds to be proposed by the Commissioners will excite much attention, and deserve much discussion, so that it becomes desirable that we should know their plans as soon as possible.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
We have heard that the expenditure upon the staff engaged in the work connected with the City of London Parochial Charities Fund has been reduced by £2,000 a-year. No doubt that is a very satisfactory diminution of 1534 expenditure; but I hope it is not at the cost of the actual work itself—that the reduction does not indicate that there will be any delay in carrying on the work. I believe my hon. Friend was right in saying that the cost of the investigation will ultimately come out of the charities; and, therefore, there can be no object in effecting any economy unless it is thoroughly justified by the cessation of the work. I hope that no idea of effecting economy will interfere with the completion of this important work, which will, I am sure, prove of the greatest value to the Metropolis.
§ MR. JACKSON
I may allay the fears of the right hon. Gentleman. When this Estimate was prepared the expenditure was most carefully considered; and it was only on the assurance that the staff would be able to complete the work in the period assigned, and do it efficiently, that the reductions were made.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £21,531, 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 31 st day of March 1888, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Civil Service Commission.
§ MR. EVELYN (Deptford)
Mr. Courtney, I beg to move the reduction of which I have given Notice. My object is to bring forward the case of Bertie Wilmot Mainprise, who went up, in June last, for examination at the Royal Naval School, New Cross. On Friday last I asked a Question on this subject of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton); and I gave Notice then that I would bring the subject forward in Supply. I am quite aware it may be said it is exceedingly inconvenient to bring up matters of this kind in Supply; but it must be remembered that private Members of this House have surrendered into the hands of the Government the time usually set aside to them, and, therefore, have to avail themselves of the opportunities which may be presented in Supply to raise the questions in which they are peculiarly interested, so that I must plead the same excuse as has already this evening been pleaded by the hon. Member for the Bordesley 1535 Division of Birmingham, that the matter must be brought forward in Supply or not brought forward at all. This matter has been the subject of a considerable amount of correspondence between the authorities of the Naval School on the one hand and the Admiralty and the Civil Service Commissioners on the other hand. It has attracted great attention within my constituency; and I think, Sir, it is a matter of great public moment that the proceedings of a public body like the Civil Service Commissioners should be above suspicion and reproach. If, when I have placed the facts before the Committee, any answer can be given which will be satisfactory to the authorities of the school and to the public generally, no one will be better pleased than myself. Let me add—what, perhaps, I need hardly say —I make no imputation upon the honour and integrity of the Civil Service Commissioners; to do so would be monstrous and absurd. But we require something more than good intentions from a great public body, and he who feels he has sustained an injury can hardly be consoled by the assertion that there was no corrupt motive in the action taken against him. Now, I will go at once into the facts of the case, which are extremely simple. The Royal Naval School at New Cross is an Institution which was established for the purpose of providing education and board for the sons of naval and marine officers. Since the opening of the Institution in 1833, no less than 3,000 pupils have availed themselves of the benefits offered, many of whom have distinguished themselves in the Service of the country, reflecting credit upon themselves and families and upon the school in which they were educated. This school is a national more than a local school. At the annual distribution of prizes some distinguished officer presides. On the next occasion, within a few days, no less a person than His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief will thus honour the school. The school enjoys the privilege—and this is the point I wish the Committee to note—of four nominations annually to compete for naval cadetships. On the last occasion these examinations had to take place before the Civil Service Commissioners. At the last examination which took place in June there were five nominations, be- 1536 cause an extra nomination was given by an old pupil of the school. Five boys from the school went up for the examination. Before the educational examination takes place, however, a medical examination has to be undergone by the candidates, and it so happens that of these five candidates two were rejected on the medical examination as physically unfit for the Naval Profession. Now, I wish to point out the different treatment the two rejected candidates received from the Civil Service Commissioners. One of the young gentlemen, whose name I need not mention, received the usual form of medical rejection, and due official notice of the fact of his rejection was sent to the head master of the school, the Rev. James White. In his case there was no departure from the custom, and no fault was to be found with what occurred. But in the case of the other young gentleman, Mr. Bertie Wilmot Mainprise, who is the son of a retired paymaster of the Royal Navy, a different course was pursued. No official information of his rejection was sent to him, so that after the medical examination had taken place on the 2nd of June he went in for the educational examination on the 8th of June. Moreover, no official intimation of the medical rejection was sent to the head master of the school, so that when the Rev. Mr. White received an official letter from the Admiralty, dated the 8th of June, the very day of the educational examination, stating that in consequence of the previous medical examination Mr. Bertie Wilmot Mainprise could not enter the Navy, naturally the head master and the authorities of the school were very much distressed and astonished, because it must occur to every hon. Gentleman who hears me that if the boy had been already rejected it was useless allowing him to go up for the educational examination. Subsequently—and this is the great cause of complaint—the headmaster made application to the Admiralty to allow the marks which Mr. Bertie Wilmot Mainprise had obtained on the educational examination to be published. Here allow me to remind the Committee that throughout the whole correspondence the Admiralty acted with the greatest courtesy and consideration both to Mr. Bertie Wilmot Mainprise and the authorities of the 1537 school. It is of the Civil Service Commissioners' conduct only that complaint is made. Anyone who reads the correspondence will see that the Admiralty were very willing the marks should be published, but that the Civil Service Commissioners, on the matter being referred to them, absolutely refused the publication of the marks obtained by this young gentleman. They fell back on custom and precedent, forgetting altogether that they had already departed from custom and precedent in allowing the educational examination after the medical rejection. I do not see how they can fall back on custom and precedent when their action has been altogether unprecedented. But I wish to draw the attention of hon. Members to the great injury inflicted on this young gentleman. The injury is three fold. First of all there is the misfortune of the medical rejection, which naturally was the cause of great disappointment and mortification to him; secondly, there is the suppression of the result of his examination, of which mainly I complain —that is to say, the authorities of the school complain; and, thirdly, he will be subjected in future to the imputation of having failed in the educational examination—it will be said that he went in for examination and did not pass. Now, I have one word to say in regard to the result of the medical examination. I have an idea that we can explain the vacillation and the indecisiveness of the Civil Service Commissioners, if we go on the hypothesis that they had some doubt themselves as to the result of the medical examination being founded upon substantial facts. The only letter I wish to quote is that of an eminent surgeon, Sir Edward Sieveking, who, writing to the boy's mother, said—I can discover no physical disability in Bertie Wilmot Mainprise which would militate against his being accepted for the Navy. The slight enlargement of the tonsil will disappear under naval regimen.I know nothing of the parents of Mainprise; but, at the request of the head master, I visited the school and saw this young gentleman, and he seemed to me a bright, intelligent lad, certainly rather delicate looking; but I should have thought there was nothing in his appearance that would lead anyone to suppose that he would not be made 1538 a man of by one or two voyages. Undoubtedly he was under height—his age is 12½ years, and his height 4 feet 6 inches, which is, I believe, 2 inches under the normal stature; but I should not have supposed that that was an insuperable objection in these days of torpedo warfare. There are three gallant Admirals in the House, and there would have been a fourth but for reasons best known to the electors of Spalding; and I ask my hon. and gallant Friends to tell us whether, in the long roll of our naval heroes, there have not been some whose stature has not equalled their fame? As I have said, this young gentleman, besides the annoyance of having failed upon medical examination, will also be subjected to the imputation of having failed in the educational examination, owing to the concealment of the result in the latter examination. Supposing that the examination, as I have every reason to believe from what I have heard, was a very good and successful one, the fact of concealing the result deprives Mainprise of a prize of £40 from the school, and that is the reason why I propose to deduct £40 from the salaries of the Civil Service Commissioners. I extremely regret that I have had to occupy the time of the Committee so long, and I should be glad if some satisfactory explanation of the action of the Civil Service Commissioners in this case can be given by the Government.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £24,491, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr.Evelyn.)
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for Deptford (Mr. Evelyn) will not expect me to go into the question whether the doctors who examined this boy on two occasions are right or are not; and, moreover, I do not think the Committee can expect that this House can be made a Court of Appeal in regard to medical certificates in such cases as this. I am extremely sorry that there should be even a feeling that any injustice has been done to this boy; but, according to the hon. Member's own description of the boy, I think he must himself, if he had been left to judge, have been in considerable doubt as to whether a boy who had something wrong with his tonsils, 1539 who was delicate looking, and under height, was really fitted for the Navy. I will not go into the medical question; indeed, of this particular case I know nothing whatever. The individual cases dealt with by the Civil Service Commissioners do, in no sense, come before the Treasury; and may I say, before I go further, that, on a general principle, although I have been appealed to on several occasions in regard to particular matters, I have always felt most strongly, and I feel most strongly now, that the Civil Service Commissioners ought to be an entirely independent body, subject to no control whatever from the Treasury. I can see very well that there might be great mischief if it were once admitted that, for the time being, the Political Chief at the Treasury might influence or control the Civil Service Commissioners in the exercise of their duties; it certainly would not be an advantage to the country at large. Therefore it is that I have always felt that this Commission ought to be kept strictly and entirely independent so far as their individual examinations of candidates are concerned, and that the Treasury should not in any of these cases interfere unless there is a good case shown. I am sure there would be no desire on the part of the Civil Service Commissioners that any injustice should be done to this boy, or that he should lie under the imputation of having failed in his examination. If the hon. Member desires it, I will ascertain, as far as I can, whether there are any facts which, in answer to the speech made by my hon. Friend in this House, it is desirable to publish. I think the Committee will agree with me that it is treading on rather delicate grounds to interfere with the Commissioners in individual examinations.
§ MR. EVELYN
I have to thank the hon. Gentleman for the very great courtesy of the reply he has given to me, and to say that I express a hope that marks may be assigned to Bertie Wilmot Mainprise for the educational examination. The Admiralty themselves saw no objection to the communication of the result of the examination, and surely it is only right that the result, whatever it be, should be made known. With the permission of the Committee I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.1540
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine)
I should like the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to tell us what steps the Government are taking to fill up the Civil Service Commissionership rendered vacant by the death of Mr. Walrond, by whose death the Public Service has lost one of its ablest officials. Now, we have in this Vote a larger sum for contingencies than is to be found in any other Vote in the Civil Service Estimates. No less than £1,420 is taken for contingencies, and that without any communication of the purposes to which the money is to be applied. It may be necessary for one year to take so large a sum; but as it appears for several years running I think that some explanation of the item should be given us.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
There is an item here we should have some information about, inasmuch as it shows a tremendous increase upon the item of last year. Last year £3,150 was taken for copyists, but £9,150 is taken this year. It may be all right, but I think we ought to have some explanation about it. There is another point as well I should like to mention. There is a note as follows: —The fees in respect to the open competition for the Civil Service of India which are received by this Department will also, with the consent of the Secretary of State for India in Council, be appropriated to the Imperial Exchequer, and for this purpose will be levied by stamps.That is all very well supposing the Imperial Exchequer pays all the costs, but if the Indian Exchequer pays the costs, it is rather hard that the Imperial Exchequer should pocket all the profit of the stamps. I should like to know what arrangement there is between the two Governments?
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I desire to call attention to an examination which the Civil Service Commissioners are about to hold. It has been announced that the Civil Service Commissioners will, in August next, hold an examination for clerks of the lower division, and I think that as part of that announcement it was said that this examination would be for 50 vacancies. Now, Sir, on the 10th of June last we were informed that there were 121 vacancies in the lower division, and it appeared that 72 gentlemen who had 1541 passed the qualifying examination were already waiting for places, so that that left us with 50 vacancies. Now, if the examination in August next is for.50 places, it is obvious these vacancies are thus entirely provided for. I must ask the attention of the Committee to a Report of a Committee of the Treasury which was issued in December last. It was stated in the Report that 40 per cent of the copyists—as they are called —are occupied in work requiring special knowledge and experience. Well, Sir, at that time there were about 1,500 of these copyists; the number has been slightly reduced—I think by about 30 or 40—but it does not materially affect my argument. I take, therefore, the number of copyists at 1,500, and as 40 per cent of these are engaged upon work of a superior class, it is obvious that there are, at least, 500 of these gentlemen who receive only l0d. per hour as remuneration while they are doing work which cannot be called copying. Well, in consequence of that Report a Treasury Minute was issued, and by that Treasury Minute Heads of Departments were directed to recommend copyists of admitted merit for promotion to the class of clerks of the lower division. We have never been able to ascertain from the Secretary to the Treasury how many people have been thus recommended for promotion by the Heads of Departments; but we were informed by him the other day that the claims of these gentlemen were now being scrutinized. Well, Sir, the questions to which I desire to press for an answer from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury are these. In the first place, I want to know how many copyists of merit have been recommended by the Heads of Departments; and, secondly, I want to know how he intends to provide for the promotion of these gentlemen to clerkships of the lower division? I have already pointed out to the Committee that there are only 50 vacancies, and that an examination is to be held next month, not, as the Committee will observe, an examination of copyists, but an examination of persons who will be introduced into the Service from the outside public. The question of the writers has attracted the sympathy of a good many hon. Members upon both sides of the House, and I hope these hon. Members will join with me in pressing for a satisfactory reply upon 1542 the point I have raised from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, because it seems to me that it requires explanation. If this examination takes place, it will be found impossible to fulfil honourably the engagements which have been entered into with a very deserving body of public servants.
§ MR. JACKSON
I am sure every Member of this House, certainly any Member who has had any experience of the work done by the late Mr. Walrond, will agree with me that the public never had a better servant. His was a position which it will be extremely difficult to fill with a man of equal merit and equal capacity for the position; and it is entirely due to his appreciation of that fact that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) is taking time to consider, so as to select, if possible, a man who will worthily follow in the footsteps of Mr. Walrond. One reason for great care and caution in the selection is that the Secretary has only been quite recently appointed. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) has asked for an explanation of the increase in the amount taken for copyists. The increase in the amount is about £6,000, and it is for bonuses and gratuities which are expected to come in course of payment during the present year. The Committee will remember that in the Treasury Minute of last December certain bonuses and gratuities to copyists were sanctioned. The Treasury Minute was a Minute which followed the Report of the Committee to which reference has been made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill). The Committee was appointed to inquire into and report upon the position of the copyists in the Public Service. The Treasury agreed to certain bonuses and gratuities being given to copyists who had served a certain number of years, and £6,000 is the charge for this year in respect to the bonuses and gratuities given. These bonuses and gratuities are paid by the Civil Service Commissioners, who, as the hon. Gentleman knows, find copyists for all the Departments whenever they are wanted.
§ MR. JACKSON
An annual charge. In regard to the promotion of certain 1543 writers to the position of lower division clerks, the hon. Member for Bothnal Green appears to be under the impression —
§ MR. JACKSON
I am afraid I have not made the point clear. I am quite correct when I say that this will not only be an annual charge, but that it will be an increasing charge for some time to come. It is intended that the class of copyists shall not be supplemented or increased; and therefore, as the men-copyists, who are to be replaced by boy-copyists, diminish, so this item will be diminished. In the meantime, these bonuses are in addition to the salaries paid to the copyists, not in this particular Department alone, but in all the Departments in which they are employed.
§ MR. JACKSON
I am afraid I can hardly give figures on such a point as that. I know that great complaints were made in the House at the time about the smallness of the increase in the bonuses. In regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, I may point out to him that the vacancies which are advertised have nothing whatever to do with the question, and I think he will see that this is so if he reflects for a moment. If it is the fact, as he himself has put forward, that a considerable number of copyists are now engaged in work of a superior character, and that it is the intention of the Treasury to promote a certain number of these people to the position of lower division clerks, or, in other words, to pay them for the work which they are doing, and which has been decided to be work which lower division clerks ought properly to perform, they will have to be really an addition to the staff of lower division clerks. Assuming that the existing staff of lower division clerks are engaged upon work which must be done by lower division clerks, and assuming that a portion of the copyists are now engaged in work which is properly the work of lower division clerks, clearly there must be an 1544 increase in the total number charged for Vacancies which occur in the lower division clerks will have to be filled up. It must be obvious that if a writer is doing a certain kind of work which is admitted to be work suitable to lower division clerks, and if he is promoted to the position of lower division clerk, someone else put in his position will still have to do this work that is considered to be lower division clerk's work; and, therefore, the question of the places which are announced to be open for competition does not affect the question of the promotion of writers at all. In regard to the writers who have been recommended for promotion. I may say that I announced in the House a short time ago —I think it was on the Estimates—that I hoped in the course of a fortnight that the whole work would be completed. I then stated that, in the opinion of the Treasury, it was undesirable to make any announcement until the whole scheme was complete. I believe that nearly all the recommendations from the various Offices have now been made, and that I shall be able shortly to make a definite statement. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) has referred to the note relating to the levying and disposition of the fees in respect to the open competitions for the Indian Civil Service. I understand this is the arrangement. It is true the India Office pay the fees of the Examiners, and pay also, I believe, the printing bills; but the fees paid by the candidates, which are not high, the Government here, who bear a considerable charge for the provision of accommodation of various descriptions, take. This is done according to an agreement entered into between the India Office and the Treasury, by which the Government here, seeing that the Exchequer does bear a charge fully equivalent to the amount of the fees collected, shall receive the fees.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
But 40 percent of the copyists were reported by the Committee to be doing work of a superior class. I thought I had correctly understood the hon. Gentleman to say that, provided they were recommended by the 1545 Heads of Departments, they would receive the status of lower division clerks. Is that so?
§ MR. JACKSON
I am quite certain I never said anything of the kind; and I am equally certain I never meant anything of the kind. The Treasury Minute points out that of the men recommended by the Heads of Departments to the Treasury for promotion to the position of lower division clerks a most careful selection was made. I do not wish it to be understood, for a moment, that there is any intention of promoting to the position of lower division clerks 40 per cont of the existing copyists. The system of examination has been decided upon, and every one of the copyists are eligible for the examination to get into the lower division service. There is no bar to a copyist entering the lower division except his own incapacity; and, therefore, it is felt most strongly that it would be extremely undesirable to set the precedent of admitting a large body to the permanent Civil Service without having first passed the requisite examination. It is also felt that it would be extremely undesirable that you should so largely recruit the Service from men who, although they may be doing—and I believe are doing—their work in a very satisfactory way—and I cast no slur upon them in any way whatever—have not passed the examination which it has been fixed lower division clerks should pass. Reference has been made to the charge for the Assistant Examiners. My attention was called to this very large sum, which has been an increasing sum, and when the Estimates were being prepared I made most strict inquiry into this particular item to see whether it could not be reduced. I understand the system of payment is that there is a payment of so much per examination, and that this sum is the result of a very largely increased number of candidates during recent years. One thing that struck me was that the expenditure upon the office of Assistant Examiner far exceeds the fees paid for the whole Service, and I drew special attention to this point. The answer I received was that the question had been considered on a former occasion, and that the House of Commons had set its face very strongly against any increase in the fees which are charge at these examinations—that it appeared to have been decided by 1546 Parliament that this was one of those boons which were to be given to candidates, perhaps not very well off, who desired to enter the Civil Service. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that I have my eye upon this item.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
I should like to put two final questions to the hon. Gentleman. I should like to know whether I understood him correctly to say that those copyists who will be promoted to the lower division will be in addition to the present number of clerks of the lower division? Secondly, I should like to ask him whether the residue of the 40 per cent who are now doing work of a superior character, and who will not be promoted, will still continue in their employment at the rate of l0d. an hour, side by side with clerks who are being paid £200 and £300 a-year?
§ MR. JACKSON
Sir, I think my answers to the first question must be that, assuming that no reduction can be made in the total number of clerks and of writers, the promotions made of writers to the position of lower division clerks must be in addition to the existing number of that particular class of clerks. But I am not without hope that the investigations which are going on will considerably reduce the number of clerks who are necessary to carry on the Civil Service work. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will not seek to pledge me to the statement that because, for the time being, there may be an additional number of clerks, that, therefore, the number of lower division clerks is to be permanently increased.
§ MR. JACKSON
Oh, yes. The hon. Gentleman asked me as to whether men receiving 10d. an hour will continue to work side by side with and under the same conditions as men receiving £200 or £300 a-year? Well, my impression is that there is considerable exaggeration with regard to the facts in this case—
§ MR. JACKSON
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to possess my own opinion upon the subject, notwithstanding that he may differ from it.
§ MR. JACKSON
I can quite understand that the hon. Member has a large experience in these matters; but I also have had a large experience, although I may not have been long in my present Office. It may be true that there are clerks working side by side who do not receive the same amount of pay, though practically doing the same work; but I would remind the hon. Member that if he goes into any large commercial house in the country he will find the same state of things existing. It is impossible to say that invariably two men who work side by side shall receive the same amount of pay. The Government do not want anyone to understand that that is the arrangement; but what I do desire the hon. Member to understand is that the number of writers is to be greatly diminished. It is the opinion of those who ought to know a great deal of this work, notwithstanding that the pay may seem to some hon. Members to be inadequate, that it can be done, if necessary, at nearly half the money. In that sense there is obviously a great difference of opinion as to the value of the work which is done. I have no wish to cast any slur upon those writers, because, taken as a whole, they are an extremely valuable body of men. They have failed to pass examinations, and have got themselves into the positions they at present occupy, probably because they could not get anything better to do; but, at the same time, we have a duty to discharge to the taxpayers of the country. I hope, therefore, the House will not tie our hands too much, but will leave us free to deal as fairly and as justly as we can with those men without permanently increasing the charge upon the public.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I want to make a remark with a view of illustrating the system at present in vogue in the Civil Service. The Civil Service Commissioners, in December last, held an open, competition for four clerkships in the upper division, and the successful candidates were Messrs. Harris, Crump, Gill, and Smith. Mr. Harris was appointed to the War Office in January this year; but for some time the three other gentlemen were not appointed to any Department because their services were not required. The point I wish to call attention to is this—that at the time those examinations were held 1548 there were no less than 200 lower division clerks, including those called supplementary, in London alone, who by reason of their service of 10 years are eligible for promotion to the higher division. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury stated that the Government owed a duty to the taxpayers. Well, I maintain that the holding of the examination to which I have referred was altogether unnecessary, and was increasing the list of the clerks on the books of the State—men who will be entitled to pensions at the end of their service—was a neglect of their duty to the ratepayers, and doing a wrong to a valuable body of public servants whose merits he himself has fully recognized. You have a large number of men eligible for promotion, according to the existing rules—men available for work of a much higher character than even the higher division clerks are often put to; and I say it is a waste of public money and a bad system to take on fresh hands and fresh liabilities when you already have the services of these men at your disposal.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
I had the curiosity to make myself acquainted with some of the grievances that appertain to those writers or copyists as they have been termed. Now, so far back as 1870, when it was first found necessary to introduce this body of men into the Public Offices of the State, the number was originally something like 5,000; but of that number a great many, though young, and of an age which, if they were able to pass an examination, would have had several branches of the Civil Service open to them—2,019 found their way to the Civil Service, but the total number have dwindled down to 1,400 odd. The Government are asked what will be done in the interests of 40 per cent of those occupying the position of copyists. It would be more satisfactory to Members of this House who have interested themselves on behalf of those copyists if the hon. Gentleman opposite had given a straight answer to what was put straightly to him by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill). It is evidently the intention and desire of Her Majesty's Government to chassée as many of these copyists as they possibly can, and to reduce the number of them. A great many of those men have been for a number of years in the Ser- 1549 vice, the only inducement that has been offered to them to remain is the inducement of appointment to something like 30s. per week after they have been eight years in the Service. The l0d. an hour they earn for the copying work they do is certainly a very poor inducement which is offered them. Her Majesty's Government invited those gentlemen to come into those offices; they did not place them in the ruck of the Civil Service, but put them at the lower rate of pay received by scriveners for ordinary writer's work. No doubt the Treasury say—"If you are not satisfied with the position you occupy you can go elsewhere." Well, so far as an answer like that goes, it is certainly a very heartless answer to give to those unfortunate gentlemen. Supposing they do leave their positions, and apply for engagements elsewhere, they are met with this question—"What have you been doing elsewhere?" They will reply—"We have been in the employment of Her Majesty's Government, and in receipt of Her Majesty's pay." They are asked—"Why did you leave?" And the answer they will give—"Because we wish to benefit ourselves, and earn more money."Then they will be asked —"Where are your credentials? "There they are in a difficulty, for there is a strict rule prohibiting the Heads of Departments against giving those gentlemen any credentials or testimonials which would be useful in enabling them to get positions in the outer world. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) wished to have a decided answer as to whether there was no occupation for 40 per cent of Government officials referred to. Those gentlemen have been occupying confidential positions, and doing important duties; but the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury seemed to throw a doubt on the point which was put to him. But I would observe that there are, in a great many Public Offices, gentlemen who have to read private and confidential correspondence, and have to digest that correspondence, and make entries regarding it in the confidential registers. It is idle to say that those gentlemen do do not perform important, responsible, and confidential duties. Well, in the same office there may be gentlemen writing six hours a day and receiving l0d. an hour, their work being no less 1550 degree important than gentlemen's sitting on the opposite sides of their desk and receiving £200 or £300 a-year. This, I consider, is rather an important subject to have raised. Those are a deserving class of public servants.
§ MR. O'HEA
The hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear!" Then I ask him what will he do in the interests of those persons? Will he hold out to 40 per cent of them that they shall be placed on the footing of Civil servants with the expectation of pensions when they have been a certain length of time in Her Majesty's Service? I do not wish to occupy the time of the Committee further. I think it is by no means an unimportant matter. It is essentially of importance that matters very closely concerning the interests of large bodies of Her Majesty's public servants should be discussed in this House; and favourable replies should be given by the Government when any grievances of a genuine character are brought before their notice.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (3.) £32,934, to complete the sum for the Exchequer and Audit Department.
§ (4.) £4,227, to complete the sum for the Friendly Societies Registry.
MR. J. EOWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I have found, on the part of secretaries to friendly societies, considerable complaints as to the amount of time it takes for documents to pass through the Registry Office. There is a strong feeling that the work is not done with that kind of expedition which ought to characterize it. You will fully understand the inconvenience to which societies are put when documents they wish to have passed through that office are delayed over a very long period. Several friends of mine, secretaries of societies, have made a great deal of complaint upon this matter; and I do hope we shall have some promise that this work will be expedited, and that documents will be passed through much more rapidly than has been the case in the past. There is a strong feeling abroad—though I am not prepared to go into that question at present—that when the Chief Registrar is applied to for information with regard to the bodies carrying on friendly societies' business that he does not afford to inquirers that faci- 1551 lity for investigation winch he might do. I trust we shall have a promise from the Secretary to the Treasury that in future the work of this Registry Office will be done in a more business-like and more satisfactory manner.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I beg to give Notice to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) that if, between this and next year, nothing is done to make this Registry Office more effective I shall move to get rid of it altogether, on the ground that it is pernicious, instead of being useful. At the present time there are all manner of friendly societies being registered without difficulty, although it is well known that there are some of them existing ostensibly for the benefit of their members, who are spending no less than 80 per cent of their receipts on management, reserving only 20 per cent to be paid back to sick members or the relatives of deceased members. These societies are certificated by Act of Parliament, and in that way mislead the public. These societies have been going on for years making these enormous disbursements in connection with management without the Registrar doing anything to stop it. It is true, he is not vested with very substantial powers in this matter; but then those powers he has he does not use. There is one large society called the Universal Assurance Society which possesses several thousand members, and the Board of Directors spend something like 80 per cent of the receipts in the management. An application was made by some of the members of this society as to the way in which very poor people were to get the whole affair investigated, and the Registrar, I believe, promised to institute an investigation if the members handed in £50. He treated them as the Treasury treated the crofters—that is to say, put them under impossible conditions in seeking to avail themselves of the powers already provided by law for redressing what they conceived to be their grievances. The consequence was that the thing burst up, and the result is that thousands of people who have been paying money into this society, some of them for 20 years, have lost every farthing of their savings. Now, last year the members of another largo friendly society, the Royal Liver Society, desired to obtain an investigation into its workings. They 1552 brought before the Registrar the fact that the two secretaries of the society were getting better salaries than Cabinet Ministers—that they were, as a matter of fact, receiving over £6,000 a-year each as salary and commission. Some of the poor people connected with the society who were aware of this fact wanted to have a change. The Act permits the Registrar to inspect the books of the societies; but in order to prevent frivolous applications, and in order to prevent his being put to the trouble and expense of making an investigation incases where it turned out that no investigation ought to have been held, it is necessary that the members asking for the inspection should deposit a certain sum by way of covering costs. Well, in the case I refer to, this notorious case in which the secretaries were getting between them £12,000 a-year for amusing themselves by carrying on the society, and to cover the great expense of their moving around, the Registrar refused to appoint an inspection until those applying for inspection deposited £50. The members of this society would have met a similar fate to the members of the United Assurance Society if it had not been for the fact that the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) took the matter up, and wrote about it in his paper, and himself gave these people the necessary £50. Well, an investigation was made by Mr. Stanley, who ascertained that those men who acted as secretaries hired a number of clerks, and filled up the meetings of members which were held from time to time, and who voted the salaries of the officials. Well, the result of this investigation was that those secretaries, for fear of criminal prosecutions, resigned their positions, and a new secretary was appointed at a salary of £1,000 a-year. The point is that you are allowing societies, which are not carried on in a satisfactory way, and which are not always in a satisfactory financial condition, to be registered by the Government Registrar, giving the members the impression that the enterprizes are sound, and under Government guarantee—the complaint is that, although you do this, you do not afford sufficient protection, even when complaints are made, and application is made for investigation. There are about 9,000,000 of people in the United Kingdom who belong to those 1553 Industrial and Insurance Companies and Friendly Societies, and some of those enterprises have incomes of £400,000 a-year, as in the case of the Royal Liver Society. The Prudential, I believe, has has an income of £3,000,000. If hon. Members will consider the possibilities in connection with insurance societies of this nature they will see that there is grave cause for alarm. In the event of a serious epidemic of cholera, or smallpox, or anything else of an unusual character which may carry off a large number of people of the lower classes, it is obvious that those insurance societies will find it difficult, if not impossible, to pay their death policies. And yet they are registered; that registration means little or nothing, although it is seriously misleading to the poor people who join those societies. I hold that unless this registration means something you had better abolish it altogether, so that poor people will not be taken in by agents, who may come round to them and say—"Join this society; you sea it is all right; it is registered according to Act of Parliament."
MR. BRADLA.UGH (Northampton)
I am not at all sure that it is wise—indeed, I am not sure that it is possible—to raise the whole question involved in the observations which have been made by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) on this Vote; but it is certain that in the bulk of those societies there is a system in operation which amounts to absolute fraud on the great mass of the population of this country. I have during the last 20 years had occasion to examine over and over again into the soundness of those societies, at the request of people who have applied to me for information. Over and over again I have examined very carefully into their means of existence. I have been very unfavourably impressed with the financial condition of many of these societies, and the Committee has just heard how a very large enterprize of this kind has been extinguished, and how necessary it has been for the condition of another one, which is not so absolutely insolvent, should be inquired into. It is clear that a great many of those societies would be found to be absolutely insolvent, if it were not for the practice of inducing small policy holders to allow their policies to lapse. It is with the premiums on lapsed policies that they 1554 manage to carry on their business, each renewal being on a higher scale, the holders forfeiting what they have paid in before; the agent being given as a bribe a large premium to obtain a new policy, thus encouraging the extinguishing the old one. It is perfectly true that the poor people who belong to these societies believe that the fact of registration gives them some sort of protection. This, however, is absolutely illusory, and though it may not be the time to raise this question on the present Vote, it will be needful for Parliament to take action with regard to it as soon as possible, before some horrible scandal arises in consequence of the insolvency of some of those societies maintaining themselves in a manner which is altogether to be condemned. The present practice leads to fraud on the part of the insurance societies themselves, and those who actually insure the people. They transfer the policy holders from one office to another; they specially pay to make new business, and they do this in a most reckless manner; the manager, indeed, seem to have not the slightest regard for the people they insure. The expenses of management are atrocious, and if it were possible for the members of the societies to subject the financial condition of the concerns to a sort of official audit whenever they considered there was reason to suspect that all was not well, the facts would be ascertained, and would go out to the world, and the interests of the poor investors would be protected. To require these poor people to deposit a certain number of pounds before an investigation can take place is the biggest farce which, in a matter of this kind, you could possibly put before the world. If this Office of Registrar of Friendly Societies is to continue, and be a success, they should do as, I believe, is done in the United States. When there is a suspicion of insolvency in the case of an Insurance Society, an Inspector is sent down suddenly; he audits the accounts for himself, and if he finds that anything of a questionable nature is taking place, he calmly locks up the office and hands over the case to the district attorney. This course is adopted if the accounts are found to be deficient. If such a course were adopted in this country, I verily believe that there are many directors of friendly societies who would not long continues in the business.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I think the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) has done very great service in calling attention to this matter, though I am not quite so certain that we can thoroughly deal with it on the question of the particular Vote before us. I believe that it will require the attention of Parliament at a very early date, when some of the other difficulties which stand in the way of legislative progress in this House have been removed. My experience is like that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). Hardly a day passes over in which I do not receive some application for assistance on behalf of members of friendly societies, of members who have not been able to get to the bottom of the affairs of their societies, and who, if they did, would find those societies seriously, if not hopelessly, involved. I do not know anything which has tended more seriously to retard habits of thrift than some of these poor people finding themselves very frequently in the position which the hon. Member for Northampton has described. Many of those societies, owing to the reckless system in which they are managed, find in times of depression such as we had last year, and such as we have been going through lately, that new members do not come forward, and an examination of their affairs shows them that they have become or are becoming hopelessly insolvent, and those who have put their little savings into these societies find that they have lost every penny, and in many cases awake, when they most require assistance, to the fact that they are hopelessly ruined. In many cases the agents receive so much from the societies that they absolutely themselves go on paying the premiums for weeks and months, establishing new claims upon the people themselves, even upon their household goods. I am afraid it is no use to discuss the question upon this Vote, but I am sure very good service has been done by the hon. Member for Caithness in raising the question. I am one of those who think that if this Registry Office is to exist at all, it must exist with much stronger powers than it has at present, or else it is better out of the way, as it only raises false hopes amongst the people who think that the Office gives a Government guarantee to the societies connected with it. The poor people 1556 have this impression, whereas, as a matter of fact, registration gives no guarantee whatever at the present moment of the stability of the Society so registered.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I quite agree with what has been said as to the necessity of increasing the power of the law with reference to these societies; but I do not think it is possible to test the sense of the House in the matter of this Registry on the present Vote. I think—and I have had some knowledge of this Office for a number of years past—that if there is any one Department belonging to the Government, or under the Government, in which the officials work hard and devote a large number of hours to their business, it is this Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies. They have a great number of departments, if I may so speak, under their supervision and control. The pressure which is exhibited in this Office is owing to the anxiety of the Registrar to deal with all cases as they come up. I have had many cases before him myself, but with very unsatisfactory results. I am glad the Government are taking the matter in hand to some extent, and that at an early day we shall be asked to consent to the second reading of a Bill touching one portion of the subject. But I say, so far as the Registrar is concerned, and those under him in the Office, I think they endeavour to carry out the law to the best of their ability. It is 15 years since the Act consolidating the law relating to friendly societies was passed, and since then we have had a great deal of experience in the matter. What has been shown to exist in the case of a great many of those societies, in the course of the discussion which has taken place to - day, should induce the Government to take this matter in hand, and prepare during the coming Recess a measure which will deal with the whole question of friendly societies and savings banks, outside the Post Office Savings Bank, as well as some other matters which at present come under the control of the Registrar of Friendly Societies. If the Government will do this, they will engage themselves upon a useful and valuable work.
§ SIR BERNHARD SAMUELSON (Oxfordshire, Banbury)
The point, I think, is not so much that the Registrar does not possess all the powers which he should possess, as that he is prevented 1557 from properly exercising those powers with which by law he is invested. I do not blame the Registrar of Friendly Societies, but I blame the Treasury. The fact is that in many cases the Registrar has been ready and willing to prosecute where absolute fraud has occurred; but when he has applied to the Treasury, the Treasury has refused to allow him the necessary funds. I think this is a matter which the House of Commons is bound to bring under the notice of the Treasury, and I trust that some different line of action will be taken in the future to that which has been pursued in the past. I know that cases have been brought under the notice of the Treasury in which action ought to have been taken, but in which nothing has been done—in which the Registrar has not moved, because he has been unable to get the necessary funds from the Treasury.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES (Gateshead)
I am sure the Committee will agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). I rise for the purpose of expressing concurrence in the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Banbury Division of Oxfordshire (Sir Bernhard Samuelson) to the effect that in endeavouring to remedy the state of things which at present exists with regard to the registration of friendly societies we must not rely too much on legislation. I think it will be much better, where fraud actually exists, that the Treasury and the Government should undertake public prosecutions. I have often conversed with those who, like myself, have interested themselves in the management of these societies—especially the larger ones—and they have always expressed to me one opinion and one view, and that is that they should be left alone. These societies do an enormous amount of good; it may almost be said that a great proportion of our national prosperity is owing to their work; and I should very much deprecate, therefore, subjecting such enterprizes to constant legislation in this House. I am sure that the more you institute prosecutions, and the more you offer facilities for acquiring the best possible information as to the soundness of such societies, the better. By such a course of action as that, you go a long 1558 way towards preventing the recurrence of such scandals in connection with friendly societies as those which have been described in the course of this debate.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
I have had considerable experience of the working of these societies, and I am fully acquainted with the total failure of some of them to pay up their liabilities. I agree with what has been said, that those people who pay into these friendly societies depend very much on the registration in forming their opinion as to their security. I do not know a matter in which the industrial population of this country are more interested than in the efficient protection of the money they pay into these societies in order to provide themselves with sustenance in sickness and disease. Whatever we can do to protect the funds of the poor in these respects I hold that we are bound to do. The poor are entitled to claim as much from us, and, to my mind, there is nothing the House can turn its attention to with more advantage than seeing how they can protect the funds of the poor which are set aside for a rainy day. We ought to give as much attention to the protection of the savings of the poor as we afford to the savings of the rich.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
This is not a time to go into the whole question of legislation in regard to friendly societies: but it is a time to inquire whether this Registry Office is acting in the spirit of the Act. I submit that the cases cited by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) show that the Office is not acting in the spirit of the Act when it refuses to provide proper investigation. Three conditions are imposed previous to instituting inquiries. In the first place, there must be a minimum number of applicants composed of members of the society; 500 is sufficient, however large the society is, and in a case within my own knowledge no fewer than 750 joined in an application to the Registrar to grant an inquiry. That condition is an absolute condition. The second condition is also an absolute condition, and it is that the Registrar shall be satisfied that there is a reasonable primâ facie case, and that the applicants are not actuated by malicious motives. A third condition is mentioned, but it is not an absolute one. It provides that the Registrar 1559 may, if he thinks fit, require that the applicants shall lodge a sum of money as a guarantee for the payment of costs. I submit that this condition is far less important than the two others, and that if the Registrar receives an application signed by a sufficient number of the members of a society, and there is fair reason to believe that there is a primâ facie case, then he ought to grant the application, the more so because it is provided that all expenses incidental to the inspection may be defrayed either by the members making the application, or out of the funds of the society.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Dublin Co., S.)
I cannot help thinking that it is necessary that this Act should be revised. As it stands, it does not appear to me to afford sufficient protection against fraud. There is no doubt in the world that these friendly societies are admirable institutions, and that we ought to do what we can to increase the number of the societies and to increase their facilities for doing good to the people who belong to them. At the same time, I think we must be on our guard against the possibility of any of those societies going wrong. I hold in my hand a list of the friendly societies, and I must say that it is interesting to go over it. There is nothing more remarkable than the manner in which these societies have increased in number. Between the years 1876 and 1885 the number has increased by over 5,000, and the number now in existence is, I believe, some 25,000. We have no means of knowing how many societies have been formed and have not been registered; and I think it is most important that action should be taken to remedy this, because I see, further, that there is practically very little known at the Registry Office of those societies which dissolve and break up. In 1884 there were 110 societies which gave notice of dissolution; but I believe there were a much larger number dissolved, of which no information has been afforded at all. There is another point upon which I should like to say a word, and that is as to the valuers of these societies. I think it would be a desirable arrangement if those who are placed in the position of valuers of these societies were required to belong to some public body. If they belonged to some of the English or Scotch Institutes where they have to take out special diplomas, 1560 it would be a great advantage to the public. Then I should like to say a word about the appointment of the Inspectors. They also, I think, should be qualified persons, because an Inspector is practically of no use at all unless you have some men appointed who are recognized by the public as being properly qualified to deal with such questions. Sir, the main weakness of the Act, according to this Report relating to friendly societies from which I have quoted, arises from this—that the Registry Office in London is not able to deal with all the work which it has to do. In this Office, I believe, there are only 17 hands all told, and these people have to look after something like 25,000 bodies all over England. It is preposterous to suppose that 17 men, no matter how great their ability may be, can attend to the amount of work involved in the existence of these bodies, particularly when we remember the peculiar nature of the work that has to be done. Some people contend that the State ought to take over the management of these friendly societies altogether. There are sound objections raised against such a course as that; but, at any rate, the House should take care to see the Act relating to these societies amended in such a way as to prevent all possibility of fraud, and, at the same time, to give the greatest amount of benefit to the poor people who have invested their savings in them.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
There are three points in which this Act ought to be altered. The first is this—that the Registrar should not have the option of granting or refusing an inquiry unless the sum of £60 is produced by someone belonging to the society, or some other person. In the case of the Royal Liver Society, where there were 1,500,000 subscribers, it was found impossible to collect this £50 amongst the members. They were all poor people, and they were scattered all over the country; and though they were familiar with the fact that the society was being fraudulently conducted, this £50 could not be obtained, and the Registrar refused to grant an inquiry unless that amount were lodged. Another point in which the Act ought to be altered is this—the collectors ought not to be allowed to take above a certain commission. Ac- 1561 cording to the present system, 25 per cent is taken by the agents. Some persona at the head of these societies offer sub-agents 12½ per cent for the business they introduce, and in respect of that business they themselves take another 12½ per cent. To show the extent to which this is worked, I would mention the fact that there is a brother of a Member of this House who is a collector of the Royal Liver Society, and gets 12½ per cent for business introduced. There is a third point in which I think an alteration ought to be made, which I think the most important of all. At present the auditors and actuaries are appointed by the societies. They have to send in their Reports to the Board of Trade, I think it is, or to some other Government Office, I think every five years. So long as the auditor and actuary are appointed by the society, it follows that if the society has anything to conceal, it will take very good care to appoint an auditor and actuary ready and willing to conceal that matter in a mass of figures. I think that nothing can conduce so much to putting all these matters on a sound footing as that the auditor and actuary should be appointed by the Inspector—that is to say, by the Government. You would thus have an independent audit and an independent actuarial investigation of the friendly societies of the country. If you did this, you would be perfectly certain at the end of every five years that an Inspector would be in a thorough position to judge himself as to whether anything wrong was going on in the society, and whether the affair was really as sound as its directors professed. No doubt, the auditors and actuaries appointed in connection with these societies, particularly the larger ones, are men of high position; but it must frequently be the case that their retention of their position is dependent upon the making of favourable Reports. In this way Inspectors are not always enabled to form an accurate opinion as to what is going on, and whether everything is as it should be. If the Government make these three changes to which I have referred, particularly the last one, the result would be, I think, to put these societies upon a sound footing.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I will not follow hon. Members who 1562 have spoken into the very large question they have raised. I may say that the Government is entirely alive to the importance, if possible, of doing something to improve the security of the funds in the hands of these friendly societies. I need not, however, point out to the Committee how many difficulties there are in connection with this question. It has been pointed out that, under the present system, the registration which takes place is illusory, and conveys to the minds of the members of those societies a security which does not exist. One difficulty which exists, and which Parliament will have to be very careful of in dealing with this matter is this. If you once establish the fact that a mere registration by the Government is to be a guarantee of the soundness of a friendly society, the Government will have to go a step further, and afford an absolute guarantee in the matter, and that opens up a question which, I think, very few Chancellors of the Exchequer—if I may venture to say so—would like to entertain at present. But the Government are very desirous to do everything they can in the direction of strengthening and improving the financial position of these societies. With regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) and the hon. Member for the Banbury Division of Oxfordshire (Sir Bernhard Samuelson), it is said that the Treasury is to blame in many cases for not supplying the Registrar with funds in order to enable him to undertake prosecutions. In reply I have to say this—that, certainly since I have been at the Treasury, there has never been an application made to the Treasury for funds for an investigation of this kind which the Treasury has refused to comply with.
§ SIR BERNHARD SAMUELSON
The Registrar has become so well aware that he will get no satisfaction from the Treasury, that he does not trouble himself to apply to them, but refuses to take up these cases.
§ MR. JACKSON
I do not think the hon. Member is quite justified in saying that the Treasury stands in the way, and has refused to do a certain thing, and then to go on to say—"Well, no application has been made to the Treasury, because they know very well that it would be of no use." That is what 1563 it amounts to. I say at once that I feel very strongly upon this question. I may be permitted to say that, for many years, I have taken a personal and active interest in the matter of friendly societies, and that, therefore, I am anxious to do all I can to promote their success. I think that friendly societies in this country have done an incalculable amount of good, and that they deserve at the hands of the Government, and from everyone who can help them, all the assistance which can reasonably be given to them. With regard to the question of the Registrar requiring a certain sum of money to be deposited before he will undertake an investigation—it may be £50 or £75—Iagreewith the hon. Member for Caithness that to pay an arbitrator a sum of that kind would be rather to defeat the spirit and intention of the Act than to facilitate the working of it. So far as that portion of the matter is concerned, I will undertake to call the attention of the Registrar General to it, with the view of getting some better system adopted. The question raised by the hon. Member for East Finsbury (Mr. J. Rowlands) was raised last year, and I think those who raised the question were satisfied that the delay had not occurred through the fault of the Registrar, but in consequence of communications having to pass backwards and forwards in order to correct answers which were given on one side and the other. I think I need not say more on the present occasion than to assure the Committee that the sympathies of the Government are all on the side of hon. Members who have spoken upon this subject.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
If the Registrar of Friendly Societies had instructions to send in to the Director of Public Prosecutions for investigation every case coming under his notice involving fraud, the condition of things would be much better than it is at present. Generally, in the instances that come under my notice, although absolute fraud has been committed, compromises have been entered into, for the reason that the poor people whose interests have been damaged have not been able to fight the cases themselves. If the Registrar handed cases of this kind over to the Director of Public Prosecutions, it would have the effect of curing many of the evils which are known to exist, because 1564 then the people who trade on the inability of the poor to institute legal proceedings, and who prey upon the savings of the poor, would not be able to adopt that course any longer.
§ MR. JACKSON
I think the point the hon. Member raises is worthy of consideration; and, assuming that the Registrar General is himself satisfied in these matters, I think it would be only reasonable that he should exercise some such power as is suggested.
§ DR. CLARK
I understand that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury has been in communication with some friendly societies for some time, and is considering the drafting of a Bill upon this question. Well, I should like to point out to him that in such a Bill it would be well to provide that the auditors should be appointed by the Registrar and paid by the society, and that the actuaries should be appointed and paid in the same way.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I should just like to say one or two words on this subject. I do not think that anyone who is listening to the discussion can doubt the enormous importance of it, and the necessity of something being done. This is one instance showing the importance of Parliamentary interference with regard to matters of our social legislation. It seems to me that up to this time in this country we have not had sufficient laws dealing with swindling. We have cases of fraud and cases of swindling brought before our notice almost every day, not only in connection with friendly societies, but also in connection with other matters. The law of England is old and antiquated, and is not sufficiently strong to deal with such cases. There is an extreme tendency in this country to throw the burden of prosecution in these cases on private individuals. This is too heavy a burden and expense to throw upon private persons. We are a democratic country; and I think, therefore, we are bound to devise some more efficient system whereby justice shall be done to the public through the ordinary legal channels without the intervention of individuals.
§ MR. JACKSON
I omitted to tell the Committee of a point which bears upon this question, and one which, I think, the Committee will be interested to know. The Government, holding the 1565 views they do in regard to this question, are endeavouring to give effect to them upon one branch which has been mentioned in the course of this discussion—I mean in reference to the trustees of savings banks. I intend to bring in a Bill, which I hope to be able to put upon the Table in a day or two, to facilitate prosecutions, and the instituting of inquiries where frauds have been committed or are suspected in the case of these banks.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury seems inclined to support the view advanced by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. W. H. James) that there is great danger of too much legislation in this matter. I suppose the idea is that the poor people interested in these societies can take care of themselves. But I would point out that at present there is either too much legislation or too little. There is too much legislation, inasmuch as the poor people who are putting money into these friendly societies think that the safety of their savings are guaranteed when they see that the societies to whose funds they subscribe are registered under the Friendly Societies Act. They think the Government are at their back. These poor people are not learned in the law, and they are led to believe that they get almost a Government guarantee, or, at any rate, that the Government protects them. I think that when we have got so far we are almost bound to go a little farther, and make that protection really what it has been believed to be on insufficient grounds. I do not see what danger there could be in going as far in this matter as some States of the Union go, and giving power to some responsible authority to inspect the accounts of these societies. Let some authority have power to visit these societies and examine them, and shut up the whole concern where it is found that anything fraudulent has taken place.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I quite agree with what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson)—namely, that the Government attach the greatest possible importance to this question, and I will willingly undertake, on the part of the Government, to give it a thoroughly exhaustive 1566 examination. I shall he glad to communicate with any hon. Members who take an interest in the subject, and to entertain any suggestion they may make. However, we cannot but remember that on former occasions when we have legislated on these matters we have experienced considerable difficulty owing to the attitude of the friendly societies themselves, they objecting rather strongly to anything like a compulsory audit. Large societies have particularly raised difficulties in the way of legislation, owing to the fact that they prefer not to have a Government audit. I think everyone will agree that the friendly societies are fully entitled to be heard, and that they have a right to have the views communicated to us put before the House and carefully examined. There is no interest more deserving of attention than those institutions which promote the thrift of the people. Every possible safeguard must be taken to avoid doing anything which would counteract the useful effect which those institutions are producing throughout the country. I should be extremely sorry to take any step which would discourage friendly societies from pursuing that splendid course which some of them have followed so trustworthily. They have conferred infinite benefit upon the country, and I think the country owes them a deep debt of gratitude as having shown us how capable the working clashes are of managing their own affairs in a great many instances. We will see how we can deal with the weaker bodies, and what can be done to strengthen the safeguards against fraud, while, at the same time, leaving a considerable amount of self-government still existing to the societies.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £12,797, 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 Land Commissioners for England, and for defraying the repayable Expenses to be incurred in matters of Inclosure and Land Improvement, and under 'The Extraordinary Tithe Redemption Act, 1886.'
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
This is a very heavy charge, amounting altogether, taking 1567 the Non-Effective Vote and. Stationery, to something like £37,000. Now, Sir, if I understand the account correctly, £20,000 of this is to be dealt with as expenses repayable by the parties for whom the work is done, and there is an appropriation of £10,000, being estimated receipts this year towards that £20,000. What I would call the attention of the Committee to is this—that there are £15,000 put down for office expenses, against which there is an estimated receipt of something like £4,600. I venture to think that this Department is not one the cost of which should be thrown on the public taxpayer. This Department is carried on for the purpose of facilitating certain transactions in land, certain exchanges, enclosures, and redemptions of tithes, and I certainly think it ought to be self-supporting. That principle is already recognized, because the Department requires the people who apply to have work done to pay fees. I would ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he will not consider the advisability of making this change—namely, that the fees shall be increased to such an amount as will make the office self-supporting? There is no reason why the public should be appealed to to make up the expense of carrying on an office which I admit is a very valuable one, but which should be made self-supporting.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine)
I must say that I think the way in which this Vote is presented is very unsatisfactory. The receipts are in this Vote used as appropriations in aid of the gross expenditure, thereby diminishing the liability and reducing the receipts. It is illegal in regard to the Civil Service, and ought to be stopped.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
In answer to my right hon. Friend, I have to say that I will consider the point he has raised. When the Estimates were prepared I decided to go into this matter thoroughly; but, inasmuch as there was at that particular time thrown on the Land Commissioners a very large amount of extra work in connection with the Extraordinary Tithe Redemption Act of 1886, it seems to me as though we had found quite enough work for them this year. I certainly sympathize with the right hon. Gentleman's views. As to what fell from the hon. and gallant 1568 Member opposite (Sir George Balfour), I entirely agree with him it is undesirable to have these net sums taken; but the only reason it was done in this case was in consequence of a special expenditure.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
The result of the change in the system which has been adopted in regard to this Vote is that whereas the increase in the Vote as compared with last is apparently only £2,600, yet, as a matter of fact, the increase is really over £12,000. Changes of this kind in the form of the Estimate make it almost impossible to understand the situation in which we are placed. I quite agree with the remark of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kincardine (Sir George Balfour) that the Estimate itself is open to every adverse criticism. The system of appropriation in aid is dangerous in respect of the administration of an Office which is able to avail itself of it. But in regard to this Vote for the Land Commission, on page 125 there is a new item of no less than £8,125, for the Assistant Commissioners and Surveyors under the Extraordinary Tithe Redemption Act of 1886. It is not stated how many Assistant Commissioners and Surveyors are to be employed. There are several other items put down under the same Act. It seems to me that £8,000 would pay the expenses of a large number of Commissioners and Surveyors, and it is rather to be regretted that the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote did not offer some explanation of it when presenting it now for the first time.
§ MR. JACKSON
I ought to have stated that the whole of these expenses have to be paid by the persons for whom the work is done, These officials are to be paid by fees on a scale which has been carefully revised, and it is hoped that the sum which will be received will be in excess of the amount voted by Parliament.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
There are already 51 Inspectors and Surveyors in connection with this Department, and the work which requires to be done under the Act of 1886 it seems to me can be thoroughly well done by the existing officials. I would submit that the number of Inspectors and Surveyors, even having regard to the work to be done under the Extraordinary Tithe 1569 Redemption Act of 1886, are more in number than they ought to be. The clerical staff is as follows:—There is a chief clerk, a senior first-class clerk, and other clerks; and there are all these Inspectors and Surveyors. What do the clerks and Inspectors do? Why, half their time they are doing nothing. Of course, the ordinary red tape processes prevail, and they are obliged to do a great deal of unnecessary work in consequence, but—
It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to report Progress.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Friday at Two of the clock.