HC Deb 08 March 1888 vol 323 cc678-83

Supply—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) 149,667, Land Forces.

The FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. Smith) (Strand, Westminster)

I would appeal to hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House to allow this Vote for men, and also the Vote for money, to be taken to-night, when I assure them that this is absolutely necessary for the Public Service. A full opportunity will be afforded on a future occasion, for the discussion which hon. Members may desire to raise. I exceedingly regretted having been compelled to make the last Motion. That Motion was not prompted by any discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman who rose on the opposite Benches (Mr. Murphy); but, under the circumstances I have referred to, it was impossible for the Government to accept a continuation of the discussion. There will be, as I have remarked, and the Government will do all in their power to promote, full opportunity for discussion of the Estimates in the public interest; and, therefore, having regard to the short time at the disposal of the Government, I trust the Committee will allow these Votes to be taken.


I hope, on the undertaking given by the right hon. Gentleman that there will be a future opportunity for discussion, that the Committee will allow these Votes to be taken. It would be a very bad beginning of au economical career if we were to pass the Votes for the men and money without any discussion. That would be a singular way of inaugurating a reformed Army Scheme. But as it is distinctly understood that there will be at an early day an opportunity of raising all questions that it may be necessary to raise, I do not think it unreasonable that the Government should be allowed to take the Votes to-night.


said, he had, of course, nothing to do with the question referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) as to the necessity of a general discussion on the Votes which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House desired to obtain that evening. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that a general discussion was most desirable; but from the point of view of his hon. Friends and himself they did not ask for any such discussion. At the same time, he could have wished that the First Lord of the Tresaury had made his appeal a little sooner. He was quite sure that neither his hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of the City of Dublin (Mr. Murphy), nor any other of his hon. Friends, had any desire or intention of preventing the Government obtaining these Votes to-night; but his hon. Friend, very legitimately, had put a Motion in his name on the Paper, and the right hon. Gentleman, without making any appeal to him, which he thought under the circumstances he might have done, on his rising at once proceeded to apply force—he had taken that course before making that gentle appeal to the better feelings and spirit of hon. Members which he had since very properly made. He did not object to the tone of the right hon. Gentleman, but he thought that appeal might have been made sooner. With regard to the special question in which his hon. Friend was interested, he trusted he would now be allowed to make the observations which he desired to make, and which would not have occupied many minutes, which, so far as he (Mr. Parnell) conceived, would not have prevented the Government from taking these two Votes, and which, he submitted, his hon. Friend had a right to make.

MR. MURPHY (Dublin. St. Patrick's)

said, he had to thank his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) for clearing away the obstacle to his being heard on a subject on which he was about to offer some remarks when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House applied the Closure Rule. He should now, in the fewest possible words, call the attention of the Committee to the subject on which he had before intended to address the House. First, with regard to the system in connection with the appointment of a surveyor and as to the place where the quantities should be taken out for contracts for new works to be carried out in Ireland. Since he had put his Notice of Motion on the Paper, that question had been very much simplified by the fact that a resident in Dubin had been appointed as Surveyor for the new barracks to be erected in Dublin. With regard to the quantities, the result of these being taken out in London was that it involved the bringing over of the gentleman who was elected by the contractors to act as surveyor, at considerable loss of time and at considerable inconvenience, to do the work in London which could be more satisfactorily per- formed on the other side. There was only one other case, as far as he could learn, of the quantities of a large work in Ireland for the War Department being taken out in London. In that case an Irish surveyor was elected by the contractors to measure the work in connection with the surveyor of the Royal Engineers. The latter gentleman worked, of course, only the limited number of office hours, and as the work had to be done jointly the Irish surveyor found that it was impossible for him to spend such a long time away from his home, and he accordingly found it better to pay another man in London to do the work, and went away himself. This system was, therefore, a practical exclusion of Irish surveyors, and it appeared to have been only once done before, the rule being to take out the quantities in the district where the work was to be done. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to look into this matter. Then as to the second point of his Notice of Motion, which related to the use of materials for works under the War Department in Ireland, which were imported across the Channel, he had asked a Question on this subject of the Secretary of State for War the other day, and it was the unsatisfactory answer of the right hon. Gentleman which had induced him to put this Notice on the Paper. He had no doubt, however, that the right hon. Gentleman gave him a perfectly bonâ fide answer as far as he was himself concerned upon the information supplied to him. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the stone required for the very extensive works to be erected in Ireland must necessarily be brought from Yorkshire. He (Mr. Murphy) held in his hand a letter from one of the most eminent architects in the United Kingdom, to the effect that if the Secretary of State for War could see the kind of stone which came from the Mount Charles quarries, in Donegal, and which was being used for the Science and Art Buildings and National Library in Dublin, he would change his opinion with regard to that durable and useful stone; that he had used this stone in buildings in Dublin, and had no hesitation in giving the palm to it for durability, and that its introduction into England was simply a question of enterprize. As he gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's nodding assent that he would take this matter into favourable consideration, he would not further delay the Committee. He had now only to thank the Committee for their attention, and to submit these points to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War.


said, he regretted the hon. Gentleman had not had an opportunity of bringing forward this subject earlier. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that there was no desire on the part of the Secretary of State for War either to drive contracts out of Ireland, or to use other than Irish material where it was possible to do so. The system of open competition had been adopted in the case of certain contracts, because the system of limited competition was expensive, although the work was well done, and because open competition was the rule at the War Office. With regard to the use of Red Mansfield stone, that stone was only made use of for ornamental dressing, which was a very small portion of the whole work, and the Secretary of State was quite willing to put into the specifications, "Best Mansfield stone, or stone of similar colour." If the hon. Gentleman was able to show that the stone from Donegal was on an equality with the Red Mansfield stone, the War Office would be unwilling to enforce the latter, and there would be no disinclination to meet the views of the hon. Gentleman as far as they could.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

said, he refrained from moving the Amendment standing in his name on what he understood to be the distinct statement of the First Lord of the Treasury, that the House would have another opportunity of discussing the subjects referred to in the Notices of Motions on the Paper.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £4,977,000, Pay and Allowances.


said, he hoped that he was correct in understanding that there was a distinct promise on the part of the Leader of the House, that another opportunity would be given for discussion?


There is a distinct understanding that, as has been the case on other occasions, an opportunity will be afforded for discussion.

Vote agreed to.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock.

Committee to sit again To-morrow.