§ (1.) £7,201, to complete the sum for Science and Art Department Buildings.
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (Yorkshire, W.R., Rotherham)
I should like to take this opportunity of asking the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) one or two questions concerning the Normal School, South Kensington. I desire to know what the condition of that School is at the present time, because, if we mean to have a Technical Education Bill, if we mean to turn to account the great Polytechnics which are being established in London with the assistance of the Charity Commissioners, we must provide capable teachers for the technical schools. The great centre for the training of technical school teachers is the Normal School, the condition of which I cannot help thinking is grievously unsatisfactory. Now, Sir, it is mainly a question of buildings. You have got some of the best scientific teachers—professors, whose names are well known in the world of science; you give them good apparatus—all that I fully admit; but your buildings are so choked that it is utterly impossible for the school to compare with any other great school—even with those at Manchester, at Leeds. or that supported by the Admiralty at Greenwich. If you go into the Chemical Department you will find such a crowd of students, and such an insanitary condition of things, that if it prevailed in any ordinary elementary school, Her Majesty's Inspector would at once reduce the number of passes on the ground that there was not a sufficient number of cubic feet of air for each student or child. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman is willing to admit that the industrial and commercial welfare of this country is considerably bound up with the important question of technical education. But, Sir, I would willingly see the Science and Art grants reduced, if the amount of the reduction could be devoted 25 to the improvement of our Normal School. I will make this suggestion even. I think there is a sum of £1,000 a year spent on a short summer course of lectures, lasting three or four weeks. I doubt whether that money is productive of very much benefit, and I think it might be laid out to greater advantage if the building were improved, say, at the outlay of the capital sum represented by an annual income of £1,000. When professors from other countries visit our Normal School at South Kensington, they are amazed that England in its great central school of teaching provides such an inadequate building. In 1852, in the Queen's Speech, it was said that we were to have the highest type of instruction and the most perfect training. I believe it was intended that that should be so, but the building is now not nearly large enough for all the subjects which are taught in it. Originally, I think it was intended to be devoted to one subject; but now we have taught in it physics, chemistry, mineralogy and astronomy, and, in fact, all scientific subjects. A little laboratory has been built on the other side, in which the Professor of Physics can teach the elementary students, and in regard to that, I may say that it is at one and the same time the cheapest, most simple, and ugliest of structures. It might have, been wiser, perhaps, to have spent money on a more permanent structure, and, at any rate, it must be admitted that the school cannot long be carried on in its present building. We have there the very best material for teachers; a professor informed me that there was a better class of students than could be found either at Owen's College, Manchester, or at the Victoria College at Leeds. Then you ought to give them good opportunities for pursuing their studies. At present it is impossible to carry out some of the higher physical experiments, and you do not encourage these students to follow up the more advanced researches in their fourth year, simply because there is no room for the purpose. I venture to say this is a penny wise and pound foolish policy. If we are going to provide technical instruction throughout the country, as we have been told twice in the Queen's Speech it is intended to do, we must not neglect the provision of teachers and of giving professors, 26 who are eminently capable men, every opportunity of doing justice to the young people who go to them for instruction. I know well enough that the Secretary to the Treasury will give us very little hope. I suppose he thinks the chief object and aim of man is to ask for nothing from the Treasury, but I have some hope that the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works will afford us some assistance—that he will bring to bear his unbiassed judgment upon educational matters, and will help us to make this Normal School even more successful than it has been in the past. I think there is some reasonable ground for asking for an improvement in the building in which the school is carried on, because it will relieve the professors, who cannot now do their duty towards the students and towards the country.
§ *SIR HENRY ROSCOE (Manchester, S.)
I wish to be allowed to add my confirmation to the remarks of the hon. Member who has just spoken. He has not said a word too much as regards the condition of the Normal School, and as regards the accommodation in that school compared to that which I know exists in schools of a similar character on the Continent. It is really a disgrace that we in England should have to put up with this condition of the Normal School. I know every corner of the place; I know in every department the students are crowded, and, indeed, the Professor of Chemistry told me he was almost ashamed to take high fees from the students when he could only afford them such poor facilities as regards accommodation as exist in the school. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will take this matter into his gravest consideration. Before long I hope we shall have a Technical Education Bill brought before the House, but of what use will it be unless we can obtain competent teachers? We cannot get such teachers unless we have proper facilities for training them. It must be remembered that in other countries, in almost every centre of population, Normal Science Schools exist, yet this is the only Government school of the kind in this country. It was built for one purpose, and it has been converted for uses for which it was not in the least fitted, and I do feel that the honour of the country is at 27 stake, and that we ought to put up with this state of things no longer. There is plenty of space for a proper building on the west side of Exhibition Road. As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, a portion of the land has already been offered to the Government; the site is an admirable one, and a really efficient School of Science might, at no very great expense, be erected. A large number of inquiries have been made into this subject by Committees of this House, and all have agreed that something should be done. May we not hope, Sir, that the Government will really attend to this matter, and say, whether, or not, they cannot put the Normal School in a satisfactory position? I do not think I can altogether support the views of my hon Friend the Member for Rotherham with regard to the summer classes. I believe they are of very great value, inasmuch as they are available for teachers who cannot come up at any other time, and who devote their holidays to attending this course of lectures. I do not think it would be a wise thing, in any shape or way, to reduce this most important work of the Normal School; but I believe if money were expended in erecting a suitable building, it would be well laid out, and would produce the best possible return. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will pay attention to this subject, and will impress upon the Government the great value which scientific men throughout the country attach to this matter.
§ *MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I should like, Sir, to support the remarks of the hon. Members who have just spoken. I think it is a very discreditable thing that the buildings in South Kensington are not being completed with greater rapidity. When we consider that the Estimates for this year contain but a sum of £400 for work, alterations, and additions, it does seem to me a most unsatisfactory state of affairs that year after year these buildings should be left in the state in which they are. Now, Sir, it is part of a very much larger question than the mere Normal School; and in regard to that School, I must say I am very glad to have seen what a success it has proved. I think it is time a is matter was taken in hand, and that the School was placed in a proper building. think if it were 28 taken up by the present Government it would be a step in the right direction. There are many means by which the necessary money could be obtained. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman who suggests that the summer course of lectures should be discontinued in order to supply the funds. I agree with Sir Henry Roscoe, that they are a most important branch of the work which is being performed, but if we cannot have an additional grant, I would suggest that we might for a time stop the purchase of specimens and provide money in that way. There is one question referred to by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and that is the subject of fees in the Normal School. I venture to say that those fees are rather too high, and the subject ought to be very carefully looked into, for you must consider that we are supposed to be training men who shall teach in our various schools, and fixing the fees so high really precludes many from attending at all. Finally, I would urge most emphatically on the Government that they should boldly grapple with the whole subject, and not be afraid of spending a sum of, say, £200,000, which might be necessary to complete the magnificent building which we have at South Kensington.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith)
Without going into the technical details of the question, I should like to support my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham in the description which he has given of these buildings at South Kensington. It must be quite evident that the accommodation there is wholly insufficient for the number of students; and, having regard to the increased demand for scientific education likely to be made upon the teaching staffs in the future, I think there should be no hindrances in the way of providing as much accommodation as possible. I do not agree at all with my hon. Friend, however, in his suggestion that any reduction should be made in the expenditure. I believe we ought to make up our minds to spend a good deal more upon institutions of this character. I do not see why, in this country, we should not have establishments equal to those at Berlin and Zurich; and I sincerely trust that this school will be taken in hand and finished upon some regular plan, and that we 29 shall have an institution worthy the capital of this country.
§ *THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. PLUNKET,) Dublin University
I do not think this is the occasion to raise any debate on the general policy of the Education Department in reference to the South Kensington Institutions. I remember that last year the debate on this Vote had special reference to the physical laboratory, and, as a result, the Government took energetic action, and even presented a Supplementary Estimate on their own responsibility. It is admitted that the result of their efforts has been satisfactory to those who are interested in that matter; yet now it is attempted to make out a strong case against the Government for inactivity.
§ MR. ACLAND
I did not intend to say that nothing had been done. My complaint was that the physical arrangements had completely broken down.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
My humble duty is to provide what is ordered by the Government, and the hon. Member has no right to lay against me his complaints upon the general policy with regard to the increase of accommodation. He has asked if I myself have inspected the buildings. Of course I have. I have visited them several times; and I may mention also that the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Vice President of the Council, and others, made since these questions were discussed last year a most careful visit to every part of the building. One of the conclusions arrived at was that, before additional buildings were erected, it would be a good thing to get rid of a good deal of the material filling up the Galleries existing at the present time. Directly that suggestion was made we were, of course, met with protests from the authorities at South Kensington, but eventually a Committee was appointed to examine and report on what may be done in this direction. Before the buildings can be enlarged we ought to await the Report of that Committee. I can only add that as soon as the Education Department can persuade the Treasury that fresh buildings are necessary I shall be only too glad to give every facility in my power. But it must be borne in mind that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington was already protested 30 against the large sums which have been expended at South Kensington, and the Government has to stand between financial reforms on the one side and enthusiastic advocates for the development of South Kensington on the other. They are, therefore, bound to go carefully to work. They will, however, give careful and respectful consideration to any suggestions which may emanate from hon. Members on both sides.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I think the Government has adopted a wise course in appointing a Committee to investigate the condition of the Galleries on the western side of Exhibition Road, for I have always been of opinion that they are crowded with many objects of no very great utility. I should however, be glad to hear of whom the Committee is composed. With regard to the buildings on the other side of Exhibition Road, most people would be very glad to see them completed in a style worthy of the nation, because they contain collections of the greatest value and beauty, and it is discreditable to the country that they should be left in the condition in which they are. But some general plan should be decided on before the Government are asked to spend a large sum of money upon them.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
Are the Committee to have power to weed out both the Science and Art collections? Of whom is the Committee composed?
§ *MR. PLUNKET
Mr. —, Lord F. Hervey, Lord Rayleigh, Sir Bernhard Samuelson, Sir Douglas Crawford, and Sir Henry Roscoe.
MR. G. A. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)
The right hon. Gentleman has not informed us if the Committee will have control over the artistic collections.
§ SIR HENRY ROSCOE
Perhaps I may say the Committee is appointed to deal with the Science collections alone, not with the Art collection.
§ MR. CONWAY (Leitrim, N.)
It is satisfactory to know that the Government are taking steps to investigate the state of affairs at South Kensington, and that hon. Members on both sides of the House are taking lively interest in the technical education of the country. But that is not all that is wanted. We know that all work and no play is just 31 as bad for the students as all play and no work, and I think we are bound to see that they are provided with suitable amusement. Now there are some good lawn tennis grounds. The inclosures are reserved for the permanent officials of the Department. I think it would be well if the Government, through the First Commissioner of Works, would at intervals give an opportunity to the students in South Kensington to avail themselves of these areas.
§ MR. KENRICK (Birmingham, N.)
There is no doubt that the buildings on the east side of Exhibition Road are insufficient for the work done by the Department. The building from which is sent out all the objects lent to the local museums is a most miserable place, indeed, it is hardly weather proof. No merchant dealing in the most common objects would have such a miserable place from which to dispatch his goods. Again, at one time there was a Gallery specially assigned to the Exhibition of Works executed by Art students in what is called the National Competition. The object of the Exhibition is, of course, educational. Teachers in the Art Schools all over the country visit the Exhibition for the purpose of ascertaining the position other schools take in the National Competition, and to learn what the shortcomings of their own schools are. Now-a-days the Exhibition, instead of being in one room, so that the work of the various schools can be easily compared, is scattered about the ordinary museum. It is very difficult indeed for any visitor to form a general idea of what is sent up from the country. This is one of the points it is very desirable the Department should attend to. I very much regret there is no Representative of Art on the Committee which has been appointed, because Art is quite as important as Science.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
I will consult the Vice President of the Council on the matter, which does not come within my Department.
§ *MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I sincerely hope the Government will not much longer delay the commencement of the work necessary to finish the buildings on the east side of the road. The incomplete state of those buildings is 32 no credit to the Administration of the country.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
I think my hon. Friend (Mr. Conway) is entitled to an answer upon the point he has raised. I know the Vice President of the Council was in the Lobby half a minute ago. Surely he can be consulted at once?
§ *MR. PLUNKET
It is not a matter over which I have any control whatever, but I will make a representation on the subject to my right hon. Friend the Vice President.
§ MR. M. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I see the Vice President sitting behind the Treasury Bench. If he would come forward and explain the matter, he would, no doubt, considerably facilitate business.
§ *THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir W. HART DYKE,) Kent, Dartford
I was serving upon a Committee upstairs, and left the Committee Room to answer three or four questions in the House. Having done that I returned to the Committee, and now I have had to leave again. I really have not the faintest idea of what has taken place in the House.
§ *SIR W. HART DYKE
said: I will make a thorough inquiry. Perhaps the most practical way of raising the question will be upon the South Kensington Vote. Between now and then I will make inquiries, and be prepared to make a statement to the House on the point.
Vote agreed to.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,That a sum, not exceeding £8,847, 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, 1890, for the Maintenance and Repair of the British Museum and Natural History Museum Buildings, for Rents of Premises, Supply of Water, Fuel, &c., and other Charges attendant thereon.
§ *MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
The Leader of the House just now appealed to hon. Members to facilitate the progress of business by passing the Estimates as speedily as possible. Under ordinary circumstances I should be quite willing to accede to the request of the right hon. Gentle- 33 man, but I think the nation ought to be congratulated on the manner in which the Estimates are now being discussed, and on the very different state of things obtaining now to that which formerly obtained, when millions of money were voted by a handful of Members without any, or at least adequate, discussion. I think it is well for the country that there are a body of Members determined to deal with the Estimates as they ought to be dealt with. I beg to move the reduction of this Vote by £500. Under ordinary circumstances I should be exceedingly sorry to see the amount this House votes for the purposes of instruction reduced by one farthing. I am anxious to increase the amount we vote for the instructive and constructive forces, and to diminish the sum which we vote for the destructive forces. By the present reduction I desire to protest, as I have done for the last three or four years, against the system of sweating which obtains in our Government institutions. I complained last week of the system of contracting for human labour which is in force in this building. The same system obtains in the British Museum and in the Admiralty Department, and I said last week I should feel it to be my duty to continue to move reductions upon these Votes until our natural and just request is acceded to. I find I made a mistake last week. I was too generous towards the Government contractor. I said that the contractors supplied certain plant and tools, and that in consideration of this they were allowed to make certain deductions of from 16 to 20 per cent from the wages of the employés. I find, however, that the plant and tools are supplied by the Office of Works, and therefore there is not the slightest justification in the world for the continuance of this system of sweating, and I shall be exceedingly glad to know from the right hon. Gentleman the grounds upon which these contractors are allowed to make these deductions from the wages of their employés. Now, in addition to cleaners, dusters, gardeners and others who perform menial work at the British Museum, and who are employed through contractors. These are also the men employed in the catalogue department, and these men too are subjected to the sweating system. Messrs. 34 Spottiswoode have for years been permitted to supply a number of workmen and boys in the catalogue department of the British Museum.
§ *MR. CREMER
Then I shall be under the painful necessity of moving another reduction later on. I simply referred to the state of things in the catalogue in passing, to show that Messrs. Brass are not the only contractors at the British Museum who make large deductions from the wages of the men they employ. I have to complain that since I have brought this question forward two or three years ago, the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works has entered into another contract. I believe it has been made for three years with Messrs. Brass. Therefore, I cannot content myself with indefinite promises on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that he will consider the grievances of these workmen. I want a distinct assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that when the present contract ceases, he personally will enter into no further contract, either with Messrs. Brass or anyone else. Of course, he cannot pledge his successors, but if he will give a distinct pledge that the system of which I complain and the grievance under which these men labour shall be ended so far as he is concerned, I shall be perfectly satisfied, and will not press my Amendment to a Division.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item B of £3,300, for the Maintenance and Repairs, be reduced by £500."—(Mr.Cremer.)
§ *MR. PLUNKET
The hon. Member has, in his opening remarks, said that the nation is to be congratulated in the way in which a handful of Members are determined to thresh out the Estimates item by item. Possibly that may be the hon. Member's view, but I hold a different opinion. I think the public are turning away with weariness and disgust from the proceedings of this House—["Withdraw"]—because of the way in which comparatively unimportant matters are discussed at great length, and the public time is deliberately wasted. I am not speaking of the action of the hon. Member on this special occasion; but I refer to the con- 35 duct of a handful of Members who, as they openly tell us, are determined to thresh out the Estimates item by item. And now I wish to deal with the particular point the hon. Gentleman has raised, and which he has stated with fairness. Let me, in the first place, remind the Committee what happened on the last occasion, when I think the subject was brought forward by the hon. Member for Northampton. The hon. Member suggested that I should make some endeavour to rectify the grievance complained of in regard to labourers and others employed within this House; and he pointed out that here we had special opportunities for rectifying the grievance, because we had a staff of officers by whose assistance it would be more easy than it would be in other places to carry out some change. I promised the hon. Member for Northampton that, so far as this particular set of employés was concerned, I would do my best to find out some way of escaping from the apparent anomaly which existed here. But that is a comparatively small question to the one the hon. Member for Haggerston has now raised. What does the hon. Member expect me to do? The contract with Messrs. Brass for general maintenance and repairs must run for two years. Even supposing I admitted to the full—which I do not—all the statements of the hon. Member, I have no power to interfere. There is no use in giving a vague promise that I will enter into no such contract in future. What I have undertaken to do—and it is the utmost any Minister can be expected to do—is that when this contract terminates the whole question of such employment by the Government shall be as carefully as possible considered with a view to giving, as far as we can, effect to the very natural feeling which has been expressed—namely, that no advantage should be taken of Government contracts to the injury of those who may be employed under the contracts. This is a very difficult matter to deal with. I have always understood that the system of contract by open competition was admitted almost universally a true, sound system upon which this kind of Government business should be transacted; and it is impossible for me to say it shall be changed until the question has been gone into carefully, as I promise it shall be. I trust that, under the circumstances, 36 the hon. Member will not think it necessary to go to a Division.
§ MR. A. WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)
I think the right hon. Gentleman has rather confused the matter. We are not now dealing with large works of construction, but with what may be called the domestic part of our Administration, with the daily work of the ordinary labourer employed by the State. As I understand my hon. Friend, he desires that the employés in Government institutions should be paid first hand, just as we in our own farms or places of business pay the people we employ. When we are charged with wasting public time because we inquire into these apparently minor matters, I have to answer the right hon. Gentleman that I have looked to the record for a year or two, and I find that time after time objections have been made and met in the same way as they have today. I declare when I find this so often repeated I feel tempted to interfere a good deal more in the future in these matters. I have looked at the report of the proceedings last year, and I find the same objections met with the same dilatory answer, that the matter should be looked into. Now, if the question is a difficult one, that is no reason why it should not be grappled with; it will not become easier by being put off. Are-we to have a categorical answer "yea" or "nay" to the question we put? Unless we have a decided promise that every contract when it ends shall not be renewed by the right hon. Gentleman—if he is in office then, as I hope he may not be—then I hope my hon. Friend will divide the House on this question.
§ *MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
I do not wish to trespass on the time of the Committee; but I am rather at a loss to understand whether a private Member is at liberty to moot such questions as this, if, in. Committee of Supply, he is to be accused of wasting time when he does so. The First Lord of the Treasury seemed. to indicate, a short time ago, that Members who put down Motions dealing with matters of this kind were simply doing so with a desire to obstruct public business, in order to prevent the Government getting Supply; and now, after a very indefinite promise, it is expected that this matter shall not be pursued. Now, I should like to 37 know what all this investigation into the system of sweating by the Committee of the other House is to result in We do not spend so much money and occupy so much of the valuable time of noble Lords simply in order to publish a Report; and I fail to see how a system we all condemn when exercised by private firms should be condoned when exercised by ourselves in our collective capacity. It is about time, I think, that we set an example in our State Departments. If we are not going to set the example ourselves, we have no right to point the finger of scorn at firms who are called "sweaters" upon evidence that comes out before the Committee sitting in "another place." What are we to understand in this matter? Are we always to be behind every other corporate body that exists in the Kingdom upon this matter. The County Council and the School Board of London were no sooner elected than they endeavoured to grapple with the matter, although they have not the authority we have. They have passed resolutions dealing with kindred matters to this. Are we, the House of Commons, ever to beLetting I dare not wait upon I would,Like the poor cat i' the adage.I am exceedingly glad that the hon. Member, representing a working-class constituency, has seen fit to move in this matter, and he has my hearty support in what he has said. I venture to hope that all future contracts will be most severely overhauled, and, if possible, not only the hours of labour will be carefully limited by the Government, and the conditions made such as will not only satisfy capitalists and the State, but that the conditions as affecting the men who do the work will be considered.
§ *MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I should not have risen, but that I do not think the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman should be allowed to pass unnoticed. The right hon. Gentleman's objection — and there is something in the objection—is that these discussions, taking item after item, will make the work of the Committee impossible in the House of Commons. Yes, but if that be so, what is our discussion of Supply to be? I agree that with the huge number of Votes to be disposed of, that if this 38 kind of attention is given to each vote it will render it impossible to take the whole number of Votes through Committee within the allotted Parliamentary time, but is there to be no discussion at all? Is it because the work will become impossible there shall be no such critical examination of expenditure? Does not the answer of the First Commissioner amount to this, that an investigation should be conducted by a number of small Committees dealing with these votes before they are submitted to the Committee of the House? Would not that avoid waste of the time of the House on each individual item? The Government have the means of setting up such machinery. We have not had the same amount of investigation as took place last year. Several Committees sat last year, and we were much indebted to their labours though, the Committees were, I think, too large, and necessarily occupied too much time to be useful in settling the current Estimates for the year. A number of smaller Committees dealing with these Votes would do the work much better, and there would then be no complaint of undue encroachment on the time by elaborate discussion in Committee of the House. I can understand the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman waiting here hour after hour, for the passing of Votes to which he does not attribute so much importance as some hon. Members do, but I do not think his language is justified, though I feel the difficulty of his position. Much of the old passing of Estimates in this House was in the nature of a farce; and I do not even now believe it is in our power to reduce a Vote. Our discussions are solely useful as illustrating some grievance, either against individuals or a system which we have no means of raising otherwise. I trust the right hon. Gentleman, in consideration for such Members as myself, will reconsider his censure, for I may truly plead that at no time, and under no circumstances, have I ever tried to waste the time of the House, or the Committee, but I conceive that I have a duty not to allow this to pass without challenge. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman may see fit to modify his phrase about weariness and disgust.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
I rise without a moment's hesitation to assure the hon. 39 Member that I had no notion of referring to him, and that I think, of all Members sitting opposite, he is perhaps least open to any such charge. What I said was simply in answer to what appears to me the most misleading general statement of the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Cremer), and I did not refer to the course taken in this instance. I expressly said on a previous occasion that this whole question should be considered, but that it was impossible for me to rescind or largely to modify these contracts. While I repeat my statement on the general question of obstruction, I wish to make it perfectly clear. I do not, for a moment, question the right of the Committee to discuss any item with the bonâ fide intention of bringing into prominence some particular view. What I deprecated was a system that would make it impossible to get through the Estimates properly at all. As to the suggestion that some classes of the Estimates should be considered in a preliminary way by small Committees, there is, in my opinion, much to be said in favour of that. Once again let me say that I had not the slightest intention of making any reference to the hon. Member for Northampton, who has just spoken; what I said was on account of the general statement of the hon. Member for Haggerston.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has somewhat amended the statement in his first speech. We can only use the machinery at our disposal for criticizing the rules submitted to us. We are not responsible for that machinery. If it is cumbersome, then no Government could be better employed than in its improvement, and in providing some method for facilitating this examination of Estimates, and forwarding the business of the House. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have clearly grasped the position taken up by my hon. Friend; he seems to confuse the question of contracts such as these with contracts in which the contractor has to supply technical knowledge and skilled labour, a large staff and plant. These contracts we are discussing are merely contracts for the employment of unskilled labour, that might easily be directed by officers of the Department. What would be thought of a proposal 40 to carry out this system to the extent of providing a librarian or attendant in the Library of the British Museum? Offer such employment to contract and the thing becomes ridiculous at once. But, except in degree of employment, the relations are the same between such employésand the Department and others employed about the building. Our objection is clearly defined. We object to this letting out of labour to contract when there is no work for the contractor to do, no supervision, no expenditure upon plant, no capital, and when no knowledge or skill whatever is brought to bear. Surely there is a clear distinction between giving cut contracts such as these and giving out contracts for work such as erecting a building or building a ship. All we want is a clear statement that the Government have arrived at an opinion that this system of contract for human labour is wrong. We have made up our minds, and intend to force home our opinion, for we know the importance of this matter to those employed under the system. No contradiction has been given to my statement last week that 4s. 6d. a week is in some instances deducted from a man's wages. Can hon. Members imagine what this means? Some of us have had to work for a weekly wage, and know what a serious inroad on much larger earnings than these men get such a deduction is. We have called attention to the evils of the system; we tell you from practical experience that direct employment can be given, that the effect of these contracts is serious deductions from the men's wages, and we ask that the Treasury shall declare that the system shall not go on when present contracts have ceased.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I quite agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that we can only make the best use of the machinery at our disposal, but I also think that we are responsible for the mode in which we use it for making it effective in a practical business-like manner. The hon. Member has clearly drawn the distinction between the two classes of contracts which I think the First Commissioner will appreciate. These contracts simply mean that the officers of the Board of Works are saved from the trouble of employing this unskilled labour, but at the expense of the 41 wages of the men who do the work. The right hon. Gentleman says that the point was not brought to his attention last year, but he is aware that a Committee of the Lords has been sitting for the last twelve months, and public attention has been drawn to the evils of what is called the sweating system in a manner it has never been called before. I think the time has come when the House of Commons should make its voice effectively heard on the subject. I am happy to say that the Committee engaged on the work of building the Imperial Institute have passed a resolution declaring that in no part of the building shall the "sweating" system be allowed. I see the difficulty of the First Commissioner; there are existing contracts that must be allowed to run out. Now, as I understand, a week ago he invited an expression of opinion from the Committee whether these contracts should be renewed on their present basis. Well, owing to the unfortunate mode in which our decisions are taken — Gentlemen crowding in to take part in a Division and knowing nothing of the conditions of the question—many Members voted entirely against their own convictions and desires. They thought it was an ordinary Motion to reduce the Government Vote, and they voted in support of the Government. I will venture to say that had it been really understood that it was not a question of a substantial reduction of a Vote, but the expression of an opinion that the Government had asked for, and which the House was prepared to give, disapproving of the "sweating" system and declaring that as soon as it could reasonably be done an end should be put to it in relation to the work in Government Departments, then I think the numbers in the Division would have been very different. But let me point out to the hon. Members who are moving in this matter that I do not think any particular good will result from taking a Division on this Vote. We have made our protest and ask that the First Commissioner should pledge himself that he will not renew these contracts without the distinct approval of the House of Commons? Having that I think we may be satisfied. It will solve the difficulty, and prevent the question arising on subsequent Votes, if the right hon. Gen- 42 tleman will promise that a Select Committee shall be appointed to consider the whole question of these contracts before they are renewed. A fairly representative Committee will come to a far better conclusion than the officials of the Board of Works. My sympathies are strongly with the hon. Member for Haggerston. The sweating system is one of the greatest evils of the day, and we should condemn it in whatever shape or form we find it. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to terminate this controversy by promising the Select Committee to which I have referred.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
I should like to remove one misapprehension under which the right hon. Gentleman labours. What I said the other day was that I invited an expression of opinion as regards the persons employed about the Houses of Parliament, for I felt that if this House thought these persons should be employed directly by the Government, and not through a contractor, that was a question on which their views ought to have exceptional weight. But as to the general question of these contracts for maintenance and repair of all Government buildings, that is not so easy a problem to solve as some hon. Members seem to suppose. It has always until now been thought that it is the best and most economical arrangement to invite contractors by open competition to undertake work, and pains are taken to secure that the contractor employed should be respectable and solvent, and then we hold him responsible for the work. Another reason why the Government has been obliged, in dealing with those public buildings in London, to employ a contractor is that there sometimes occur sudden exigencies which require the putting on of a number of hands and engaging an amount of labour which my Department has no machinery for calling together for a short job which must be done at once, except at a. grievous expense to the country.
§ *MR. CREMER
The workmen whose case I represented are not casual hands, but have been engaged, many of them, from five to 20 years.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
I am replying on the general question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), who asked if I was prepared to state that the principle of carrying out these opera- 43 tions by contract should be abandoned, and I was stating some of the difficulties in the way. Again, we must realize this that—as soon as the Government become the direct employers of this labour, pressure will be put upon them at every point in dealing with the men. You cannot dismiss a man or engage another man in place of one who falls sick without pressure being brought to bear by Members of Parliament or through them on the Government to do this or that. I do not mean to say that such representations made might not in some cases be fair and just; but I do mean to say that the pressure which might be brought to bear by Members in many instances might not be beneficial, and not in favour of economical expenditure. Other difficulties would arise with which I will not now delay the Committee. I have, however, undertaken that the whole matter shall be fully and fairly reviewed, and that when the contract expires it shall not be renewed without the Government being prepared to justify the grounds on which they act. Every word used in this debate shall be carefully weighed and considered. I cannot pledge myself that no new contract shall be entered into; but the whole nature of the service, and the engagement of labourers to carry out the work, shall be carefully and fully gone into again. I can give no pledge until there has been this examination, for I do not know how the difficulties of the case can be met; but I think the pledge I have given should satisfy hon. Members.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not able to meet us half way. I think my hon. Friend would be willing to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton; and if the Government would promise that before the contract comes to an end an impartial Select Committee shall be appointed to inquire into the whole question, the difficulty would be met and both sides of the House will be satisfied. There are difficulties in the way of working without these contracts; that is admitted; if there were not, there would be no need for this discussion. What we ask for is something more than a mere official promise upon which absolute reliance cannot always be placed, 44 though I quite acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary to the Treasury have every desire to carry out what they undertake. The appointment of a Select Committee would be satisfactory, I think, on both sides, and our unanimous decision would be an earnest of the intention of the House of Commons to tolerate no introduction of the sweating system into Government work.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON,) Leeds, N.
I should like to satisfy hon. Members that the promises of my right hon. Friend are not what are called the mere usual official promises. The question is one which contains a good many difficulties, and since it was raised a week ago it has been the subject of very grave consideration by the First Commissioner of Works and by the Leader of the House and his colleagues. I think everyone must admit it is extremely desirable to avoid defining those particular cases to which the hon. Member for Haggerston refers. If the men have been employed continuously for twenty years—
§ *MR. JACKSON
Those cases, I should think, it would be perfectly simple and easy to meet. I have given some personal consideration to this question, and have had some experience in dealing with questions of organization and with working men. The position in which we find ourselves appears to me to be one which has been forced upon us by the action of Members of this House—I do not say whether wisely or unwisely—and by the very strong desire which has been expressed in recent years that everything should be done as cheaply as possible, and, as far as possible, under the severest light of open and public competition. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Cremer) has seen the schedule of prices framed by my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket). That schedule contains a list of every article that can possibly be required by the Department as the result of the experience of a great many years; and the Office of Works, by means of its expert officers, has attached to the schedule the prices which are believed to be the market prices. Included in the schedule are 45 the prices of labour for different classes of work. It seems to be almost impossible, without committing the grossest extravagance, to avoid calling in outside labour to do particular kinds of work, but I think the whole tendency is in favour of all work for which a separate tender can be obtained being put up to public competition. All extra labour which is of a kind that requires constant employment may, of course, be met by adding to the staff of the Office of Works, and probably the class of men to whom the hon. Member has referred would come within that category; but when the Office of Works is called upon in an emergency, or requires for a short time a number of men belonging to a particular trade, it would be the grossest extravagance to keep them upon its staff after they have done the work required of them. I think a solution of the difficulty will probably be found in adding to the permanent staff what I will call the minimum number of men who are required to discharge certain duties, calling in from the outside, on reasonable terms, such as may be necessary to meet exceptional demands. What, however, I really rose to say was, that the hon. Member may be assured that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Plunket) in giving the assurance which the House has heard, has not done so lightly. The matter has been under the consideration of the Ministers of the Crown, and I think the Committee will admit that whilst it may relieve the Government of a great many difficulties, it is the duty of my right hon. Friend and his Department in the first instance to consider whether they can find a satisfactory solution.
§ *MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I am sorry that the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) has not been acceded to by the Government. I have not yet exhausted the information which has been supplied to me, nor have I made out as bad a case as I could have presented. I could prove to the Committee that 25 per cent has been deducted from the wages of workmen, and 50 per cent from those of boys. I did not myself suggest the appointment of a Committee, because a great deal of the information that has been supplied to me has been supplied by the men themselves, who have a 46 great fear that their names may be divulged. They have, in fact, told me they have been threatened that if they make any statement they will be discharged from their employment; and they, therefore, approach the consideration of the subject with fear and trembling. The evils I complain of are, however, so general—extending to the Admiralty and the British Museum, and, I fear, to other Government Departments—that I shall be quite willing to accept an offer on the part of the Government to inquire into them, and I hope that these poor men will run no risks in the future by stating their case. The necessity for some inquiry will be apparent to anyone who has heard the conflicting statements made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Plunket). It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman does not understand the difference between ordinary and extraordinary contracts. We do not object to the ordinary, but only to the extraordinary contracts. The right hon. Gentleman says the question is surrounded with a great deal of difficulty. It seems to me, however, that he is not quite the proper authority to express an opinion upon that point, or to get rid of the evils to which reference has been made. A Committee of Inquiry might possibly help the right hon. Gentleman to a solution of the problem, and to remove from his mind the prejudice which, I fear, still lingers there, and which renders a solution in the interests of the men almost impossible. If the right hon. Gentleman will state that between now and the time when the Admiralty Vote comes on the Government will seriously consider the advisability of assenting to the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), I shall not, on the present occasion, press my Amendment to a Division. I have endeavoured to meet the right hon. Gentleman in an impartial spirit, and I hope he will meet us in the same manner.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
I think the hon. Member will see that I could not give the undertaking which he asks for without consulting my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) and the Members of the Government. I can assure the hon. Member that it will be a great relief to me personally 47 to have the responsibility of settling this question taken off my shoulders. I can, however, under present circumstances, only say that I will submit his suggestion to my colleagues. If they should come to a conclusion unfavourable to his contention, it will, of course, be in his power to raise the question again on a future occasion.
§ *MR. CREMER
Under the circumstances, I shall, with the permission of the Committee, withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) whether any decision has been come to with regard to extending the electric lighting in the British Museum, and also with regard to opening the Museum at night?
§ *MR. JACKSON
It has been decided to extend the electric lighting in the British Museum, and to make the experiment of leaving the Museum open at night.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I understood that a promise was made that the first experiment in opening after nightfall was to be in the Natural History Museum.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
Well, words were used which almost amounted to a promise. Before I sit down, I want to make one protest against the philippic with which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) commenced the discussion in reference to the alleged obstruction of the proceedings of the House. It seems to me that the occasion chosen by the right hon. Gentleman for making that speech was singularly inappropriate. Yesterday, hon. Members, in their generosity, assisted the Government to the point of dereliction of duty, and allowed a large number of Votes to pass without one word, in order to facilitate the progress of the business of the House.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
This is not the first time that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to deliver a philippic against us on the score of obstruction. We protest against such insinuations. I was last night only absent from the House for a short time, and I was perfectly alarmed when 48 I came back and found how much progress had been made. It may be very pleasant for the Government to rush through the Estimates, but it is not the business of hon. Members to allow Vote after Vote to be obained without consideration.
MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
I wish to know whether the Item for Official Residences in this Vote is a very heavy one?
§ *MR. CREMER
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question with reference to the supply of furniture and articles of a domestic character. I want to know who supplies the furniture? Last year there was some suspicion that the furniture was supplied by some particular firm who was favoured with the orders of the Government, and a pledge was given that in future the various furniture contractors should be invited to supply it by tender. I should like to know whether that promise has been fulfilled, and whether the same principle applies to all other Government Departments?
§ *MR. PLUNKET
I promised last year that I would make out a list of firms who might tender. I had such a list made, but I have never been asked to produce it to the House.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
The point is this. Is the supply of furniture open to competition or not? An hon. Member who is connected with a very large firm has told me that that firm was never allowed to be put on the list, and it seems to me that the list is founded too much on favouritism.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
We are only too glad to have the competition of all the good firms. I can now, if it is desired, give the names of the firms that have been invited to tender, and I shall be glad to add the names of any other firms that the hon. Member may suggest.
§ *MR. CREMER
I hear with some amazement that the system, though an improvement on the old one, is still that of a close corporation, and that the firms placed on the list are selected. All the firms should in my opinion be invited to tender.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Does the right hon. Gentleman refuse to state that he-will consider the possibility of advertising 49 in the ordinary manner, so that all the firms may tender? If so, will he give us any satisfactory reason why he considers that cannot be done?
§ *MR. PLUNKET
Any firm of any strength or solvency that applies to us shall be added to the list; but I do no care about throwing the matter open to public competition, because we then might have tenders from insolvent firms.
Question put, and agreed to.
(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed,That a sum, not exceeding £23,702, 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 1890, for Diplomatic and Consular Buildings, including Rents and Furniture, and for the maintenance of certain Cemeteries Abroad.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I think we are entitled to complain of the large sum, £4,200, required for the Embassy House at Paris, and it is a question whether we are wise in buying such buildings. I think we ought to make proper allowances to our Ministers abroad, and leave them to take what houses they like and furnish them for themselves. I have no complaint to make of Lord Lytton personally, but I find that whenever a new Ambassador is appointed he is not content with the Embassy House as he finds it, but requires structural improvements which are very costly. In this case there are three items—£2,300 for structural repairs; £500 for ordinary maintenance and repairs; and £1,400 for renewal of decorations and furniture. I do not know whether the Committee is aware that when a gentleman is appointed au Ambassador he receives an outfit. But for what does he receive It? It is in order that he may do up his house and make all necessary arrangements for occupying it. I think we ought to put our foot down upon this constantly recurring expenditure for alterations and repairs. If we give our Ambassador a house he ought to take it as it is, and do all that is necessary to repair and maintain it—having, as it were, a kind of repairing lease while he remains in it. The Embassy House at Paris is a very fine and large building, and costs the country an enormous sum of money. If sold or let it would realize £5,000 or 50 £6,000 per annum. For my part, if I could, I would do away with Ambassadors everywhere, but, under any circumstances, I do not think it is necessary to expend a large sum of money in keeping up houses for them. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £3,000 in respect of the Embassy at Paris.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item I, Paris, of £4,200, be reduced by £3,000."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ MR. A. WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)
Can the First Commissioner of Works give the Committee any idea of what the original cost of the house was? £4,200 is required this year to keep it in repair, but what was the original cost?
§ *MR. PLUNKET
I cannot, at this moment, give the original cost. The date of the purchase goes back as far as 1814. But with regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), it is, no doubt, a question whether our Embassies generally should be provided with houses, or have an allowance given them to provide houses for themselves. But there are some capitals in which all are agreed that our Ambassadors should have houses provided for them, and such a capital is Paris. The French have provided their Ambassadors in every great capital with houses to live in and represent the country at the same time. As to the increase of the charge for the Embassy at Paris, it arises from the circumstance that the late Lord Lyons was a man of very simple habits, and he only made use of a very small part of the Embassy House. It was discovered when his successor was appointed that even the rooms which Lord Lyons had inhabited were in a very bad state of repair. I thought it right to send over to Paris two of my most experienced surveyors, and it was found that a great part of the house was in an absolutely dangerous condition, and was almost falling to pieces. Very considerable structural repairs were necessary, as to several of the floors and ceilings. The timber in some parts was found to be seriously affected by dry rot. That is the real explanation of the increased charge for repairs. Hon. Members may rest satisfied that the greatest possible care has been taken to reduce the expense.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman has given the Committee a description of the repairs which have been executed, and it would appear that nothing has been done which was not actually necessary. It is absolutely necessary that a large amount of money should be expended, in order to prevent the decay of this very fine building, which was bought at the Peace of Paris. I believe that it is true economy to maintain the building property, and I shall be glad to support the Vote.
§ MR. LEGH (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
Speaking from some experience, I may say that, unless a considerable sum is spent upon this building, it would, in a short time, tumble to pieces. The only alternative plan to the voting of large sums of money for structural repairs is that the present site should be sold. Posssibly as good a site might be obtained elsewhere. Personally, however, I should be very reluctant to part with the present Embassy House, which, both in its situation and in every other respect, is suitable to all requirements.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I hope that the Committee will not be deluded by the arguments which have been advanced. My hon. Friend says that this a very old house, and something must be done every year to keep it in order. The Committee ought to know, however, that a sum of £500 a year has been devoted every year to the maintenance of this house for a long term of years. By referring to the Estimate the Committee will perceive that a sum of £1,400 is required for the renewal of decorations and furniture, and last year a similar sum was expended for the same purpose, including ordinary maintenance and repairs. Surely that sum ought to have been sufficient to keep the house going, and if dry rot has got into the building somebody ought to be punished for it. What becomes of the money spent every year for ordinary maintenance and repairs and the renewal of decorations and furniture? The fact is, as I have said, that these houses cost too much. If you spend £500 per annum in keeping a house in structural repair, it ought to be sufficient. Whenever a new Ambassador is sent out upon a new mission there is always this expenditure. In this case we are told it is the dry rot; 52 but it is the Ambassador. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Legh) has thrown out an excellent suggestion, namely—that we shall sell this house if we can get £200,000 for it. In that event I should be willing to enter into a contract to lodge the Ambassador, and lodge him well, for £2,000 a year. The whole of this extra expenditure is due to the change of Ambassador, and I think we ought to protest against it. When an Ambassador is appointed he gets an outfit of £2,000 to enable him to purchase spoons, but it is a sum which really goes into his pocket, and, in my opinion, it ought to be done away with.
§ MR. A. WILLIAMS
I should like to have some account of the cost of the German Embassy in London and the cost of keeping an Ambassador here. The charges imposed upon the country for our Ambassadors are, in my opinion, perfectly monstrous. We not only give our Ambassador at Paris a house, but we allow him £500 a year to maintain it and keep it in repair. That ought to be an ample allowance.
§ *SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
I have had the opportunity of having considerable experience in maintaining large houses, and I think it is a wise policy to buy houses and not to rent them. The Embassy House at Paris was bought at an extremely low price, and is now of far greater value than the price we paid for it. It is suggested that we should sell it. That is not the principle on which we ought to proceed. Our Ambassador at Paris ought undoubtedly to be suitably lodged, and for keeping up this particular house £500 a-year is by no means excessive. Moreover, it must be remembered that the expenditure does not depend on the Ambassador, but on the gentleman sent over from the Office of Works, who has to decide from time to time what ought to be done. I think the sum asked for is moderate, and I do not think the matter is one which ought to be dealt with in a niggardly spirit.
§ MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
Allow me to point out that the principal part of the Vote is for structural repairs and alterations, and only £500 for ordinary maintenance and repairs. I agree with the hon. Member behind me that it would be much better to purchase Ambassadorial residences than to hire them. I am afraid that 53 the hon. Member for Northampton would find it very expensive to hire residences for our Ambassadors. It is much better that the houses should, as far as possible, be purchased, and not hired.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
There is one weak point in the argument of the hon. Member for South St. Pancras (Sir J. Goldsmid). Although £500 a year may not be an excessive sum to pay for ordinary maintenance and repair, it ought to be sufficient, if properly applied, without necessitating further expenditure.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 121; Noes 228.—(Div. List, No. 68.)
Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
The next item in this Vote is for the Embassy at Rome; and here we have another Ambassador who is putting the country to extra expenditure. The ordinary expenditure is £250 for maintenance and repairs of the Rom an Embassy, but here we have a charge of £500 for renewal of furniture and decorations, and a further charge of £250 for a new entrance and approaches to the Embassy House. I have watched this outlay in Rome for some time. If I remember rightly, when our first Minister went there, the charge was £500 a year for a house. But in course of time he became an Ambassador, and, as a matter of course, an Ambassador, having a large salary, wants to spread himself out. It was then thought necessary that he should have a special house, and we first of all bought the site and inclosed the ground. We gave a large amount for the site, and devoted a large amount for the house. Then we decorated the house and furnished it. After that the Ambassador cast his eye on a garden, that which was attached to the house not being deemed large enough. Then it was said that there was a wood near the garden, and somebody might build a house in the wood that would overlook the garden, and now we have the result of all this in the approaches—I daresay, through the woods. I think the time has come when a stop must be put to all this, and when we must bring home to the Foreign Office the necessity of telling our Ambassadors, when they are sent out to their Embassies, that they must 54 really accommodate themselves to the house, and not have the house rearranged in order that it may be accommodated to them. The expenditure here is very large, this year being £1,000 in excess of the ordinary outlay. I remember that when we bought the house we were told it was structurally so well built, and that the furniture was so excellent, that we had made a great bargain, and we should not be called on to spend any large sum of money on either for years to come; and yet, in a very few years, we are called on to spend £500 for renewal of furniture and decorations. All this is mere waste, and I, for one, do not share the opinion of the Chief Commissioner of Works that the country looks with indignation on those who move reductions of the Estimates. I do not know what the view of those who send the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House to Parliament may be; but I know that portion of the people of this country who send Radical Members to Parliament rather like us to look into the Estimates. I am not going merely to swallow gnats—I am going to strain at camels and gnats, too; and the view I take is the view of my constituents. If it were not, I should think it my duty to educate them to that view. The only way in which we can induce the Government to meet us in these matters is by constantly calling attention to them — not, perhaps, by taking Divisions, because we never win a Division against the Government; but we know that if we keep to our point, whenever an Ambassador wants to make au extra expenditure, the Government say to him, "Pray do not ask for it, or we shall be having a great deal of bother with those miserable Radicals." I beg to move, Sir, that this Vote be reduced by the sum of £1,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item J., Rome, of £1,250, be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ *MR. PLUNKET
There has undoubtedly been the increase which has been pointed out in this Vote, but I think I can satisfy the Committee that it is necessary. The fact is that the Embassy House at Rome happens to be in a part of the city in which there has of late years 55 been a great deal of improvement and building going on, and the entrance, which has hitherto been in the front, was in a very narrow street, and was found, under the altered circumstances, to be neither convenient nor suitable for those who had business at the Embassy. That is the reason why this extra expenditure in regard to the entrance has been incurred. With regard to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton has said about the furniture, it must be remembered that that furniture was bought twelve years ago, and that is a considerable period. As the matter has been carefully looked into by the Surveyor, I hope the Committee will agree that the expenditure has been necessary, and will refuse to accept the Amendment.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
On the last occasion I voted with the hon. Member for Northampton, on the general principle, when in doubt vote against the Government. On this occasion I cannot vote with him, for I consider this a very moderate sum charged for the Embassy in Rome, in connection with which there is no unnecessary ostentation. Now, when I went to see the Ambassador, I must say that the approach to the Embassy was not of an extensive or ostentatious character; in fact, when I came to the door, I hesitated to knock, thinking I had made a mistake, and that it was not the door of the Ambassador. I do not think an expenditure of £250 or £500 is a large amount to spend upon the entrance to the Embassy in the country of our good Allies the Italians.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Twelve years ago we spent £250 in making that door, and now we have to spend £250 on another new door, in order that my hon. Friend may walk through it. I hope there was no attempt at a covert attack by hospitality on the virtue of my hon. Friend. But I am very much afraid that it is the case. I was brought up in the Diplomatic Service, and we were always pestered at that time by Englishmen coming, and they used to have letters from the Foreign Office. We used to call them soup tickets. We used to give them a dinner. We found that if we did not give them a dinner there was some trouble in the House of Commons. I hope my hon. Friend has not 56 been seduced from that stern virtue which characterizes him by one of these soup tickets. We have before us for the last 12 years all the expenditure in regard to these Embassies. The Chief Commissioner of Works admits that this expenditure would not have been incurred but for the change of Ambassadors. I believe it is admitted that while Lord Savile was at Rome he kept a very good Embassy; but if an Ambassador chooses to have an extra number of children or servants, I do not see why the country should pay for them. I suppose what was sufficient for the late Ambassador ought to be sufficient for the present.
§ *MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbishire)
I, too, have been to Rome, and, like my hon. Friend, I went to the British, Embassy. I can assure the hon. Member that I did not enjoy, and, therefore, was in no way corrupted by the hospitality which he seems so much afraid of. But I am bound to say that there was a general opinion among the English there that their Embassy was the shabbiest in the place. I do not think the expenditure is at all extravagant, and that it meets strictly the needs of the case.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
Before this is put, might I draw a comparison between the expenditure at Washington and that at Rome? The expenditure we are called upon to pass in connection with the Embassy at Rome is £1,250; when we turn to Washington, the capital of the United States, I think that the simplicity which is practised in Washington should be observed at our other Embassies in the interests of the taxpayers of this country.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 102; Noes 246.—(Div. List, No. 69.)
Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford)
I wish to call attention to the item of £9.000 for building a new Consulate a Tangier. I observe that the old building is expected to fetch £4,500. I have never been to Tangier, but I have always been led to believe that the Legation is one of the best houses in the place, and perfectly suitable for the Consul General who resides there. It has been occupied for many years by Sir Henry Drummond Hay. Inasmuch as last year the Committee rejected a 57 proposal for building a new Legation at Cairo in place of the present one, and as I understand the present Legation at Tangier is a very good one, I move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £2,000, for the purpose of giving the First Commissioner an opportunity of explaining the item.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item S., £2,195, Tangier, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ *MR. PLUNKET
It is quite clear from the Report of the Surveyor—a most trustworthy and competent public servant — who has reported on this building at Tangiers, that it would be impossible to oblige the Minister to reside in the old house in its present state. The Surveyor reports that it is surrounded by high buildings; that some of the outhouses and the gaol are in an insanitary condition; that the office accommodation is insufficient; and that, structurally, it is not capable of improvement; that there is no suitable house or site to be had inside the town, and the only alternative, therefore, is to purchase a site and build a house on the high ground outside. That will cost about £9,000; but that sum will be reduced by the £4,500 which, it is expected, will be obtained for the old building. I may mention that Sir Drummond Hay had resided in a villa of his own outside the town while Consul General there, and did not live at the Consulate except for about one month in the winter.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I do not wish to press the Motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I should like to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs a question as to the meaning of Subhead "T," under which there seems to have been a large purchase of land adjoining the site of the Consulate of Zanzibar. Does it mean that Her Majesty's Government are going to have a larger Consulate, in consequence of their increased activity in that part of the world?
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
The item for a new building at Tangier is a large one; and I cannot 58 help thinking that every argument that can be adduced in favour of the State providing a permanent residence for its Ministers in North Africa applies much more strongly to the building at Cairo than to that at Tangier. There has been an amount of shilly-shallying on the part of Her Majesty's Government in their policy in regard to the establishment of a suitable residence for our Consul General at Cairo, which is not inconsistent with the character of their general policy in Egypt. A site was bought for a new residence, but it was not made use of, no buildings being erected upon it. The French Consul in Cairo lives in a palace, whilst ours has to hire a building as best he may; and. altogether, if there is a central locality in which it is desirable for the British Representative to live in respectable style, and where it is desirable that we should build a residence for him, I should select Cairo as that locality. With regard to the Consulate at Zanzibar, I should like to ask whether it is maintained there for any useful purpose? We see that Count Herbert Bismarck has just paid a visit to this country, and that Colonel Euan Smith has been recalled on leave, doubtless to consult Her Majesty's Government as to our policy in Zanzibar—
Order, order The hon. Member is not entitled, on the question of Consular residences, to enter into the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
I was going to ask whether, under the circumstances, it was worth while maintaining Consular buildings at all in that part of Africa? However, I will not pursue that matter any further.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
In continuation of what has been said by my hon. Friend as to the provision of a residence for the Consul General in Cairo, I beg to say I am one of the last men anxious to make our residence in Egypt more permanent than it is at present. I should like to see Her Majesty's Government quit Egypt bag and baggage, but whether we leave it or not we have important interests in that country, and it is right that our Representative should be properly housed. Our Representative at Cairo lives in a hired house, of the unhealthiness of which he has reason to complain, his 59 wife and children having been ill there. The French Consulate—and I speak with knowledge on the matter, having made a visit to Cairo—is a magnificent palace; and though I do not desire to see this country attempt to rival French magnificence, I think it behoves us to see that our Representative at Cairo has a proper and healthy residence. Our position in Cairo is so difficult owing to the Capitulations and the difficulty of punishing foreigners, that it has been found impossible to establish a decent sanitary system there—
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I think I have shown, Sir, that I am coming to the point. On account of the insanitary condition of Cairo, the hired house: there are all unhealthy. Our Consul General lives in one of these, with the result I have mentioned. I understand that a Vote was brought forward by the Government to test the willingness of the House to build a residence for the Consul General at Cairo, and why that residence has not been built I do not know. I do not wish to take up any position that would seem to imply that I favour extravagance, but having been in Egypt, and having visited the Consulate, I do think there is a primâ facie case for providing the Consul General with a respectable residence.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
I am able to speak from some experience of the insanitary conditions of the houses in Cairo, and especially of the house of Sir E. Baring, which is something of the whited sepulchre class, and which may, one of these days, contain dead men's bones. It is important that in Eastern countries some decent state should be kept up.
§ SIR W. T. MARRIOTT (Brighton)
Some time ago Sir E. Baring might have had a piece of land at a very reasonable cost, but the opportunity passed, and now he lives in a very insanitary house. Our Representative, especially in such a country as Egypt, ought to be as well housed as the Representative of any other country.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
I trust that the Committee will not allow itself to be influenced by Gentlemen who have been recently in Cairo, and have probably enjoyed the hospitality of Sir E. Baring. The hon. Member for Kirk- 60 caldy must have forgotten his facts. This question was raised several years ago, and the Cabinet decided, after most careful consideration, that it would be unwise to build a house in Cairo. A change of Government took place, and negotiations were entered into for the purchase of a piece of land for £5,000, but, in view of the feeling in this House on the subject, the Government decided not to build a house, which decision met with the approval of both sides. It is now sought by a sort of side wind to raise a question which really involves the subject of increasing the Estimate. This matter has come upon us with surprise. With regard to it I hold a contrary opinion to the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I believe these houses are extravagant in their inception, their completion, and their maintenance. I remember fighting about the question of a house in Berlin. We were assured that £50,000 would be sufficient, but the £50,000 grew to £70,000, and that to £100,000. In every one of these cases it would be far better to hire a house. I am only expressing my own opinion in this matter, but, certainly, this Cairo question was fully considered and settled on a previous occasion.
§ *MR. PLUNKET
I will not go into the question of a new Consulate at Cairo, which is not now the subject under debate, that matter having already been discussed last year, when it was, for the time at least, decided in deference to the strong expression of opinion on the part of the House. As to Zanzibar, the money asked for for the purchase of land has nothing whatever to do with the general policy of this country in that part of the world. The Consulate is situated close to the shore. There is a piece of land in front of it, which, if not acquired by us, would be acquired by other people, and, if it were built on, the sea breeze would be excluded from the Consulate, which in that climate would render it impossible to occupy the house.
§ *MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, South)
I desire to ask a question as to the item for cemeteries. There has been some difficulty with the Italian authorities in regard to the cemetery at Rome, and the subject is one in which many Members of the House take great interest. Will 61 the Under Secretary of State be good enough to tell us whether the matter is satisfactorily settled?
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) Manchester, N.E.
In the course of municipal improvement in Rome it was thought desirable that a broad road should be made, which required for its completion that a part of the Protestant cemetery should be taken. Representations were made to the municipal authorities on behalf of England, and these were backed up by Germany, who had sympathy with the desire of this country to prevent the remains of Keats and Severn, and other celebrated Englishmen from being disturbed. The Italian Government were appealed to and the municipality of Rome, and eventually it was arranged that certain remains would be removed with all respect, but that those of celebrated Englishmen would be enclosed suitably and handsomely. All difficulties being removed, Her Majesty's Government expressed their acknowledgments both to the Italian and German Governments in the matter for the assistance given in preserving memorials very dear to many people in this country.
§ MR. A. PEASE (York)
I should like to ask for an explanation of au Item under one of the sub-heads of this Vote—namely, for the Consulate in the Nyassa district at Zomba, the Item being £50. I am under the impression that there is no Consulate at Zomba, and that there has not been one there for some time past. As we are not likely to have one there in the immediate future I do not think the House should be asked to vote money in this way.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
There is no intention to abolish the Consulate at Nyassa. It is somewhat of a Consulate in partibus, as we have no territorial jurisdiction, and do not exercise a protectorate, but it is thought desirable to continue the Consulate in order to maintain law amongst the British residents of whom there is a small community which it is hoped will continue to flourish. The Consul is, however, temporarily employed at Zanzibar. There are not only the ordinary Consular Courts there, but also a Vice-Admiralty Court, and great additional labour has been thrown upon 62 the Consular staff owing to the blockade and the operations which have been carried out for the suppression of the Slave Trade.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
The impression prevails in Scotland that if ever a Consul could be wanted anywhere it is at Nyassa. There is no spot in the world where it is more important we should have a Consul than at Nyassa, and I think we ought to mark our disapprobation of the withdrawal of the Consul at such a juncture as the present by moving to reduce the Vote.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
I am able to give an explanation which will, per-to haps, induce the hon. Member not move his proposed Amendment. The Consul at Nyassa had been allowed a short and well-earned leave of absence, and on coming back to his post he has been placed for a time at Zanzibar, for the reasons I have mentioned.. During his absence the duties of the Consulate at Nyassa are ably discharged by the oldest and a most respected resident, Mr. Buchanan. It is very often necessary in remote places that Consuls should be temporarily replaced by well-known and respectable residents, and I feel sure that British interests have not at all suffered by the temporary discharge of the duties by Mr. Buchanan. The hon. Member may rest assured that there is no intention of withdrawing permanently the Consul.
§ DR. TANNER
I should like your ruling, Sir, upon one point. We have discussed the cost of the Embassy at Paris. In the course of his remarks the First Commissioner of Works made certain statements as to money spent upon the Paris Embassy. While he was speaking I went to the Library to look up certain facts, and when I returned I found the matter had been disposed of. I should like to know whether it is not possible for me to 63 lay the facts and figures I have collected before the Committee.
The hon. Member cannot recur to the item.
Original Question put, and agreed to.
(4.) £8,286, to complete the sum for Harbours, &c., under the Board of Trade.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
Upon this Vote I should like to ask the Government whether they have yet made up their minds with regard to the completion of the Holyhead Harbour? The work of constructing the harbour has been going on for 50 years, and has cost the nation something over a million and a half sterling. The harbour is a remarkably fine and even magnificent one. It affords every year refuge to between 2,000 and 3,000 vessels, but it is not yet finished, and its want of completeness greatly lessens its value as a harbour of refuge. It comprises 267 acres, but of these 50 acres are rendered completely unavailable for ships during storms, because the rocks at the entrance have not been removed. The clearing away of these rocks was part of the original design of the Government, and I think it has been repeatedly urged, not merely by the great Steamship Companies, but by the engineers of the Government, who have from time to time reported on the harbour, that the work should be taken in hand. I brought the question up two years ago, and in reply the then Representative of the Board of Trade admitted it would be a great advantage if the work could be completed in the manner suggested. The present President of the Board of Trade (Sir M. Hicks Beach) last year, in answer to a deputation, admitted it would be a great advantage if the work were to be undertaken. What I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether the Government will undertake that the work shall be taken in hand without delay? It may be an expensive matter, but the work will have to be done, and the sooner the better. The right hon. Gentleman has said that Sir John Hawkshaw estimates the cost of the work at £250,000. I have it on very good authority that this is an exaggerated estimate, and if the right hon. Gentleman still adheres to Sir John Hawkshaw's Report, I have to ask that he will lay it on the Table of the House, so that it may be examined
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
I am sorry I have nothing to add to what I said on this subject last year. I do not at all deny that the removal of the rocks would be an advantage to the harbour of refuge at Holyhead, but I cannot admit that the removal of them can be effected for as little as the hon. Member supposes. My predecessor in office obtained an estimate of the cost of the work, and it amounted to a quarter of a million sterling. I cannot recommend that the work should be undertaken at such a cost as that. I have no reason to suppose that the estimate of Sir John Hawkshaw is too great, but, as I said to the deputation which waited upon me last year, if anyone can show me any ground for believing that the work can be more cheaply done, I shall be very glad to consider it. The estimate was made before I went to the Board of Trade, and I do not quite know the circumstances under which it was obtained.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
I should like some explanation of the item of £3,000 for the repair and maintenance of the wooden pier at Holyhead. This seems to be an expenditure which has been incurred annually, and I should like to know how long it has to last? Residing as I do in a seaport town, where there are a large number of such wooden structures, I know that they cost a good deal. The expenditure of this money annually seems to me to be wilfully throwing money away.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
in the case of the Dover Harbour, I see that the resident engineer gets a house, and salary and allowances, amounting to £900 a year. Besides this officer, there is a piermaster, and many other officials. We ought to be told something about this resident engineer. I do not see that at Holyhead there is a resident engineer, but I find a harbour master instead, who receives £450 a year. I should think the piermaster at Dover and his assistants could do all the work that is required.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
The resident engineer at Dover has other work besides attending to the Pier. But if the hon. Member will look at the opposite page of the Estimates, he will see that the Dover Pier more than 65 pays for itself. With regard to the pointraised by the hon. Member for Mid-Cork, I am afraid that the expenditure of £3,000 upon the wooden pier at Holy-head is necessary, though it may seem very heavy.
§ DR. TANNER
There is another item in regard to which I would like a word of explanation. There is at Holyhead a Superintendent of Works who receives £300 a year. There are no works going on there. Is this another sinecure for some supporter of Her Majesty's Government?
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
Holyhead is a very expensive harbour to keep up. The breakwater requires continual watching, and I am sure the salary of this gentleman is well earned.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal)
All the items in this Vote seem to be very extravagant, and to indicate a strong tendency towards jobbery. I am perfectly certain that if there was no sum on the Estimates for the Holyhead Harbour, the London and North-Western Rail way Company would find it incumbent upon them and to their interest to keep the harbour up.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
It is no answer to us to say that Dover Harbour pays for itself. If it pays, so much better for us. I see that £1,200 is set down for repair to the harbour, gas, &c. I suppose we may safely take the repairs at £800; therefore we actually pay a resident engineer £900 for looking after repairs which do not cost more than £800. If that is not monstrous I do not know what is.
Vote agreed to.
Resolutions to be reported to-morrow; Committee to sit again to-morrow.