HC Deb 11 April 1889 vol 335 cc288-303

(1.) £9,726, to complete the sum for Lighthouses Abroad.

MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr.)

A new system of telephoning has been introduced for the purpose of warning ships in time of fog. I suppose the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Jackson) has read of it in the papers, and I should like to know if he can give the result of any experiments that have been tried.


I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Member any information with regard to the interesting matter referred to. The administrative authority in this case is the Board of Trade, and I am not in a position to enter upon it.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £25,040, to complete the sum for Peterhead Harbour.

(3.) £4,000, to complete the sum for the Caledonian Canal.

(4.) £148,353, the sums for rates on Government property.

(5.) £7,500, to complete the sum for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

(6.) Motion made, and question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding £182,559, 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 Erection, Repairs, and Maintenance of several Public Buildings in the Department of the Commissioners of Public Works, Ireland, for the Maintenance of certain Parks, Harbours, and Navigations, and for Repayments to Baronies under The Tramways and Public Companies (Ireland) Act, 1883,' and for the Drainage Works on the River Shannon.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I propose, as an Amendment, to reduce this Vote by £1,192, the amount devoted to the Chief Secretary's Lodge and Garden. I find there is a considerable amount of expenditure under the Vote not only on the Chief Secretary's Lodge, but on the Vice-Regal Lodge, the Under Secretary's House, and the Private Secretary's house, and that there are items for fuel, lighting, furniture, and and so on. I believe there is a good deal of abuse in this system. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks Beach), who was Chief Secretary for Ireland, and whom I see in his place, will be able to give us some information on this subject, in all probability. I believe that when a gentleman is appointed to the office of Chief Secretary, he has to pay £1,200, or something like it—


That was formerly the practice, but it has been abolished.


I am glad to hear that; but that is an additional reason for my moving the Amendment. I did not know the practice was abolished, and thought that in some way or other the amount paid by the Chief Secretary was a set off against the item in the Vote of which I am complaining. It seems that since the Conservative Government came into office—for, I believe, the Liberal Chief Secretary paid the money—the practice of charging the incoming official £1,200 has been abolished; and I believe that during the greater part, of the tenure of office of the present Chief Secretary he has lent his lodge to somebody else. This is not, as I understand it, the object for which houses are granted for public officials. If the Chief Secretary uses it well and good, but surely he should not be allowed to lend it to somebody else. Lending and letting are very much the same thing so far as the public are concerned. The gentleman in occupation is using up the carpets and burning the fuel, and I think we ought to make a strong protest against the system. Perhaps my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Molloy) intends to move a reduction in regard to the expenditure on the Deputy Secretary's house, the Private Secretary's house and the other residences. I do not raise those matters, but I do object to this sum being spent on a house for the Chief Secretary when the Chief Secretary lends the house to a friend. I beg to move the reduction that stands in my name.

Motion made and question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £181,367 be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


Mr. Courtney, the prospect which my hon. Friend has held out of my proposing a reduction is a little too alarming for me, for it would be the first time I had taken part in anything like obstruction, and of course I would not consent to that. Taking the whole of this Vote, I may say at once that I have no objection to the necessary expenditure upon the Lord Lieutenant's house and the Chief Secretary's residence in the Park. In fact, the very presence of the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary in Ireland is one of the reasons in favour of the great question in which we are engaged. While, no doubt, a certain amount of expenditure is necessary, if you look at the figures you will be somewhat astonished. Dublin Castle, the residence of the Lord Lieutenant, and the Chief Secretary's house are already built; they are not in the course of erection; yet the amount spent under the different headings on these buildings is £5,300 a-year. I think it is almost absurd to suppose that these buildings require an annual expenditure of between £6,000 and £7,000. These contracts, given in Dublin by the Castle, are to some extent in the nature of a bribe. These contracts are being given to Dublin tradesmen and contractors, and they want not to disappoint them; they want to keep up the good feeling which is supposed to exist between a small class in Dublin and the Castle. Therefore, these contracts are not cut down; they are not supervized. In no other way could you explain the fact of between £6,000 and £7,000 being spent on these buildings.


I think the hon. Member is wrong about the amount.


I am taking the Dublin Castle residences and the Under Secretary's residence; I am taking the batch. I find for furniture, fittings, and utensils the amount of £3,000 spent annually. Surely everyone must feel that that is no more than an extravagance; it really amounts to a fraud upon the taxpayers of this country. The two residences are really only occupied a part of the time, because the Lord Lieutenant, who is a sporting character, does not miss certain opportunities given him in this country for enjoying sport. The Chief Secretary is here nearly the whole year round. His visits to Ireland are so few and far between that he is practically only a short time there. In the two residences, and in that of the Under Secretary, we have £900 a year spent on fuel alone—making a total amount for this set of residences of £8,000. We have drawn attention to this matter year after year, and, of course, we get the same answer year after year. I feel that if the Secretary to the Treasury could have exercised the same control in Dublin which he has exercised in this country, this amount would have been cut down certainly to half what it is now, I would like to know who it is that vouches for the accuracy and for the honesty of these figures, because it is quite clear that such an amount as this could not fairly be spent. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir M. Beach) who was in Ireland, will not, I think, gainsay what I have put forward in my argument, that this expenditure is not a fair one. I think we ought not to ask the taxpayers of this country to bear it, unless solid reasons for it can be given by the Secretary to the Treasury.

*SIR M. H. BEACH (W. Bristol)

As I have had some experience of these houses, and lived in one of them 4 or 5 years, I will trouble the Committee with a few words on the subject, feeling as I do in a perfectly independent position, because I know nothing of the details of this Vote. But this I can tell the Committee, that there is reason for a very considerable expenditure. The Lord Lieutenant's is a very large house, the Chief Secretary's is a good, sized one, both are old, and both need constant repair. The Under Secretary's house is of very fair size. Then there is the Castle, the Under Secretary's lodge, the Under Secretary's house in Dublin, and the Private Secretary's lodge—altogether, half-a-dozen residences included in this Vote. To the Viceregal lodge and the Chief Secretary's lodge very large and expensive gardens are attached. There is an enormous range of hothouses, infinitely larger than there is any real necessity for. But at the same time they exist, and when these things exist it is very difficult to abolish them, and the cost of maintenance is very great. Of course, on the other hand, the Board of Works make a profit by selling the produce of the gardens, the Lord Lieutenant or the Chief Secretary purchasing such of the produce as they require. That arrangement was first made when the right hon. Gentleman opposite was Chief Secretary. I can only say that, knowing the circumstances of the case as I do, there is need for a very large expenditure; and I believe that there is no extravagance on the part of the Board of Works, because it is necessary on account of the size of the buildings.

MR. CAINE (Barrow)

As I under. stand, the money has to be laid out because the buildings are somewhat dilapidated. But if you take the money spent on the Viceregal lodge and gardens, you have nearly £3,000, which is the interest on £100,000 of capital. It would be very much better to erect a new building, if that is necessary, at a cost of £100,000 than to have this heavy annual expenditure. With regard to the greenhouses and hothouse of which we have heard, I think there would be no difficulty in doing away with them, and thus saving the gardeners' wages and other expenses.


Nothing could prove more clearly how desirable it is to grant Home Rule to Ireland than the observations which have fallen from the President of the Board of Trade. He fairly stated to the House what he knew. What did he know? He said himself, "I know nothing of the details."


The hon. Member has misunderstood me. I said I know nothing of the details of the Vote, but I do know something of the circumstances of the buildings.


It does seem a haphazard—a happy haphazard circumstance—to have the right hon. Gentleman here, and I shall ask him some questions. I do not say it in any carping spirit, but I am sure the Secretary to the Treasury knows nothing about this matter. In fact, the business is not in his hands; it is in the hands of some official in Ireland. Therefore, my remark holds good as regards Home Rule, although it happens that the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with me in that view. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the large size of these residences. What do I find? I find for the maintenance and supplies and furniture and fittings of the poor Under Secretary's house the sum of £533, whereas the Chief Secretary's lodge is £781 and £286 for precisely the same items. As my hon. Friend behind me says, it is well-known that this expenditure is thoroughly corrupt; it is incurred for the benefit of the Castle; it is the patronage of the Castle. Occasionally, we have seen, Mr. Courtney, eminent Gentlemen who do not agree with us on this side of the House, going over to Ireland and coming back and boasting that they had been received and banquetted by the tradesmen of Ireland. Why, they did all that because of this expenditure. This is the sort of bribe that is given to certain tradesmen who are paraded as the wisdom, and the commerce, and the wealth—[An hon. MEMBER: And the culture]—and the culture of the country, and they grow well under it. What a hothouse business is this The President of the Board of Trade tells us that there is an enormous number of hothouses, and they require a large number of gardeners, and so forth. Where does the produce go to? The Chief Secretary for Ireland is very seldom in Ireland, so that it is doubly absurd that we should be called upon to spend thousands of pounds per annum in order to provide him with fruit out of certain hothouses in Dublin. I think the House will be convinced, not so much by the reasons which I have given. as by the reasons which the President of the Board of Trade has given, that it is most desirable that a lesson should be taught to these Gentlemen, and in reducing the Vote by the amount I propose, I am perfectly certain no one in this world will suffer, except some hungry, greedy Unionist tradesmen in Ireland.


The account is for new furniture, &c., and this year the amount is £3,000. Furniture is not a thing which breaks down every year; nor is that which is placed in these residences of other than a solid character. It is not made to look well for a year, and then go to pieces. I put it seriously to the Secretary to the Treasury whether this sum of £3,000 for furniture is not in itself absurd?


I am afraid I cannot give very mach information as to the details, but I do not admit the statement of the hon. Member for Northampton that I know nothing about the matter.


Is it necessary?


I went through the whole of the items of this expenditure, and although the amount may seem to be considerable, it does include a great deal besides what is ordinarily called furniture. It includes the repairs of the fixtures in all these buildings, which contain a great number of apartments, and the whole of the internal repairs are provided under what is called "furniture and fittings." Well then, there are the repairs and renewals of carpets and mattings, &c.




I mean such repairs and renewals as may be necessary. Then there is the question of gas fittings.


They last for years.


I do not know whether the hon. Member looks at his own bills for gas fittings, but if he does, I think he will find that they do not last for years. Then there are all the curtains, and cabinet relics of various kinds —everything connected with a house of that description; and blankets, and bedding, and glass, and china, and washing, and all those items which come under the head of "furniture and fittings." I have gone very carefully over the items of expenditure in previous years, and I would point out that the Estimates compare favourably with those of former years, because there is a decrease of £180 upon the item of the Dublin Castle residences; and there is a decrease upon the Under Secretary's house; there is a decrease upon the Viceregal lodge and gardens; there is a slight increase upon the Private Secretary's lodge, and a considerable increase for some special items connected with the Chief Secretary's lodge in the shape of repairs; there is also an increase on the Under Secretary's lodge. I can assure the Committee the items were most carefully investigated. I had an opportunity when I was in Dublin of going through them with the Board of Works, in addition to which I have had them most carefully examined at the Treasury; and I believe it is the very worst of economy to keep houses at all and not to maintain them in proper repair, because the inevitable result is that you have instead of an annual outlay, a very large expenditure which comes all in one year. Of course it is not my business, that is a question settled before, but if you are to have these residences for these Ministers and officers, then I believe it is really the best economy to maintain them in a condition of efficient external and internal repair.


A great portion of this expenditure has been on gardens and hot-houses. I do not know how much is expended on gardeners employed in the Viceregal gardens.


The salaries do not come under this Vote.

*MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh)

I admit the soundness of the general view taken by the Secretary to the Treasury, but I do not think he quite appreciates the amount asked. For these Departments in Dublin an expenditure of £10,200 is demanded, and this is an increase upon the previous year.

*MR. CLANCY (Dublin County)

It is interesting to find a Liberal Unionist objecting to any part of the policy of the Government. The hon. Member draws the line at hothouses. No wonder, seeing that the Liberal Unionists have a very considerable hothouse in Birmingham just now. I certainly agree with the Secretary to the Treasury that if these houses are to be retained they ought to be maintained in a proper and respectable manner, but they ought to be maintained by the gentlemen who use them, out of their own pockets. The Chief Secretary gets £4,000 a year, and if that is not enough for a single man he is difficult to satisfy. The Chief Secretary has not only a large salary, but he gets a large allowance for coals. I do not know what he wants with this house at all. He has no wife and family; he has no domestic establishment; he wants no home. I have a record of the right hon. Gentleman's appearances in Dublin. When he became Chief Secretary on the 10th March, 1887, he came to Ireland to be formally admitted to his office; he then immediately returned to England: He came again on the 22nd July, and he stayed one day. He came again on the 22nd of August, and stayed two days; on the 15th September, and stayed four days; on the 16th October, and stayed just about a fortnight, and the 18th December, and stayed 10 days; on Friday,. 10th August, 1888, and stayed eight days; on Saturday, 22nd October, and stayed a week—that is to say, he was in Ireland three months out of a total of 15 months. [An hon. MEMBER: 47 days.] I make out three months, though I may be overstating the matter.. I want to know what the Chief Secretary wants with this house? If I am correctly informed, he did not spend these three months—or 47 days — at the Lodge; he stayed, as I understand, at the Castle. His visits are occasional, like an angel's, though he does not appear very like an angel. If this place was good enough on these rare and casual visits I do not see why the Castle apartments should not be suitable for him always. If he was doing any good in Ireland, like other officials not connected with the Castle I could understand the necessity for providing him with a residence there. I am not going into any question of policy. I merely want to show that the Chief Secretary could have executed his business just as well in England as by going over to Dublin. On the first occasion it was necessary that he should go to sign proclamations under the Coercion Act. I believe it is not legal to sign such in London, but his second visit was avowedly for the purpose of authorizing the prosecution of the hon. Member for North East Cork and to make inquiries preliminary to the proclamation of the National League, but there was no necessity to visit Dublin for the purpose. This business could have been transacted from the office in London, and the right hon. Gentleman habitually makes inquiries from London on matters far more important than the proclamation of the League. The third visit was in consequence of the Mitchelstown massacre and the subsequent arrest of Mr. O'Brien. On that occasion certainly the right hon. Gentleman must have regretted his visit, for it was then just as he was coming away that he was served with a writ at the suit of the Galway midwife whom he had libelled in this House, and in reference to which action he with characteristic courage pleaded privilege. The next visit was to order the imprisonment of Mr. Blunt, Mr. O'Brien, and Mr. Mandeville, whose subsequent prison treatment caused the prisoner's death. But there was no need to use the Lodge on this occasion, he could have given his orders from London, and indeed he has habitually given such orders. There was no need for him to make the personal acquaintance of officials in Dublin, whom he habitually mists, whose word he takes implicitly on more important matters; and the Lodge was not needed on this occasion. His last visit was to urge a more rigorous use of the Coercion Act; and it has been observed more than once that when the application of the Coercion Act has somewhat languished, the moment the right hon. Gentleman appears in Dublin there is a recrudes- cence of official brutality and persecutions recommence wholesale against innocent and guilty alike. I quite agree with the Secretary to the Treasury that, if the house is to be maintained at all, it must be in a decent and respectable manner; but I say, in the first place, that there is no need to maintain it at all, and next, that the Chief Secretary is provided with a salary sufficient to enable him to maintain it out of his own pocket if the discharge of his duty requires his presence in Ireland.

MR. M. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)

There are several items under this Vote that invite investigation, and on which I am sure the Secretary to the Treasury will give us some information. First, I notice that the renewal of the roof of the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham is to cost £4,000, of which £2,000 is set down in the Estimates for the ensuing year. On this I would remark that it seems an extravagant sum for the repair of the roof of the dining hall. In the second place, I note that the Government have made no provision at all for the conversion of the Royal Barracks at Dublin, although there is an item of £300 in relation to another barrack. Of course I am precluded from entering into the subject, as no Vote is down for the Royal Barracks; but in passing I would. say that is a disgraceful thing to allow a state of things to continue by which soldiers are dying by scores, and not to attempt a remedy. Then, I observe an item in connection with the Albert Model Farm at Glasnevin. There are two sums to be voted towards this establishment, one of £250 for new works in connection with the water supply, and another vote bringing up the whole to about £800, Now, we have each year a balance-sheet in regard to the farm, showing profit and loss, and this gives rise to an impression that there is a considerable profit made, or a considerable contribution made towards the maintenance of this establishment. But is not this a little misleading in view of the fact that here is a sum of £800 asked for for maintenance and extension of buildings? There are besides two other points in connection with the Vote, first £700 for the works on the Clare slob lands. I noticed some time ago an advertisement in a Belfast paper that there was this land for sale, and I should like to know if the hon. Gentleman can give me any idea of the total amount of money that has been expended on those lands —they consist of about 12,000, acres I think — and what amount the Board of Works is prepared to accept for the land now. Another important item in the Vote in view of contingent proposals by the Government for the extension of light railways in Ireland, is the Vote for £12,140 as a contribution towards these undertakings. The most expensive one is the Cavan, Leitrim, and Roscommon, with a guarantee of 5 per cent. and £1,800 invested as a contribution from local rates. I would like to understand if there is any probability, near or remote, of these undertakings being able to pay their way. I am sure it would greatly facilitate the progress of legislation by-and-bye if the hon. Gentleman could assure us that there is some probability of these light railway lines being in such a position that the Treasury would be relieved of further contribution towards their maintenance. These are the principal items I wish to refer to, but there is one other I would mention, £485 asked for in connection with buildings for the Royal University. Now the principal portion of these buildings consists of a laboratory for the examination of medical students, some four or five times in the course of the year. For this purpose the expense is about £500 a year. Now there is a vote for the College of Science, and in this there is a much better laboratory and all facilities for the examination of students in chemistry and other branches. If the Royal University Senate, in conjunction with the Government, had a little more sense and a desire for economy, £500 a year might be saved by holding these examinations at the College of Science, and I recommend this for their consideration. It appears to me that an expenditure of £500 for simply examining a few students annually, which examinations could be conducted as well or better at the College of Science, is a gross waste of money. There would be this double advantage in accepting my suggestion, that the College of Science—a first-rate institution—would become better known. The professors would be encouraged, their lectures would be attended, and fees, which are now in many cases prohibitive, would be avoided.

MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

Before the Secretary to the Treasury answers, I should like to ask him for some explanation as to the Vote for the charges made in respect to payments for the expenses of the residence of the Chief Secretary. I understand the Vote is increased by about £200 this year, the total amount for house and grounds being £1,200. We have always understood that it has been a complaint of successive Chief Secretaries that they were compelled to pay charges for maintaining the grounds attached to the lodge, of something like £500 or £600 a year. Has any part of this charge been transferred to the public Exchequer, or has the increase reference to some other payments? Without entering into the question of the length of time the Chief Secretary occupies the lodge, one cannot but observe that the expense of the gardens is very large, and if a Chief Secretary is not able to spend a long time in Dublin, it does not seem worth while to maintain hothouses and expensive ranges and so on to such an extent.


I will answer the last question first. I am afraid I cannot quite remember the particulars, but as far as my recollection goes, the charge that was made was in this direction. It used to be the practice that when one Chief Secretary succeeded another, the incoming Chief Secretary took over at a valuation a certain portion of the outside garden implements and property, and this usually involved an expenditure of from £400 to £500, sometimes more and sometimes less. This was felt to be a very inconvenient system, and it was decided that the gardens, plants, and so on, which had been kept up at very considerable expense, were kept up beyond what was necessary. So it was arranged that the Government should take over the charge of the gardens, and that all unnecessary plants should be disposed of, and that the expenses should be very much cut down. Of course, the amounts realized by sales go towards meeting the expenses. As to the Kilmainham roof, the hon. Member is quite right, the estimated total cost is £4,000, half of which is expected to be expended in the coming year. The question was very carefully considered, and it was proved conclusively, I think, that the condition of the roof was becoming a source of great danger, and repairs will have to proceed as opportunity offers. The amount asked for this year is not more than will be necessary for the work. The hon. Member mentioned the Royal Barracks, but, as he says, there is no Vote asked for on this account, and it is a question for the War Office, not the Board of Works, to deal with. In reference to the Albert Model farm, I confess my own impression is very much that presented by the hon. Member. The statement of accounts presented every year does not appear to me to convey not a real debtor and creditor account of expenditure and income. I made a good deal of inquiry in reference to the expenditure, and I had the accounts investigated, and came to the conclusion that the cost was extremely high. At the same time I am told that the institution has done a very great deal of good, that, although the number of students is small, the instruction given is very valuable, the teachers are very talented, and the only regret is that the number of students is so small. I am assured that the work is so valuable that it is quite impossible to entertain the idea of cutting down the expenditure. Although it is considerable, we must continue to maintain it in the hope that the instruction given to the students will become a benefit to the country generally, and that the number of students will increase. Then I am asked about the Clare slob lands. The hon. Member says he saw an advertisement asking for tenders, and he asks me what has been the total expenditure. The hon. Member is, probably, well acquainted with the district, and the reclamation work carried on there. I visited the place myself in the autumn of last year and spent some time in company with those able to explain to me the work that had been done. 1t is certainly an enormous work. It has been more or less unfortunate in its history. and the hopes entertained in earlier days of the cost of reclamation have not been realized, but we may hope that we have now got to the end of the expenditure upon the bank which has been built. We hope we may consider it just about completed, though the cost has been more than £150,000, and I am not at all sanguine that that amount will be realized by the sale of land.


Hear, hear.


I know the hon. Member for Cavan takes a great interest in this subject, but I beg him to remember that the decision to build this bank for the reclamation of these lands was settled years ago, and is one for which the Government is in no way responsible. I am only glad to think that the enormous expenditure which has been going on for many years, and which certainly for the last few years, has been an expenditure very grudgingly agreed to by the Government, is now coming to an end. It is only fair that I should say, that although I have seen during my life a good many crops, more or less prolific, I am bound to say that, being there when the harvest was just over, and when the oats were on the ground on adjoining lands, reclaimed lands, and practically I suppose the same character of land as that which has subsequently been reclaimed, I have no hesitation in saying that in the whole course of my experience I never saw so heavy a crop upon any land as I did upon that occasion. There can be no doubt that it is very valuable land. The hon. Member asks me what I expect to realize, but I think he will see that, inasmuch as I am in the position of the seller, I would rather keep that information to myself, and endeavour to find out how much I can get for it. Another question had relation to light railways. Well, I am afraid the charge which is on the Estimates for this year is perhaps only the beginning of what may prove to be a far larger charge in the future; but Parliament has deliberately adopted this principle, and therefore, so far as the Treasury is concerned, we are bound to act in accordance with the Act of Parliament. The hon. Member asks me whether I think any of the lines are likely to pay. I do not quite know what he means, but it will be satisfactory to know that more than one of the Companies' guaranteed stock stands at a considerable premium in the market, and that, at all events, seems to indicate that the security is a good one. Although I do not wish to take too sanguine a view, I do believe that light railways will prove a great advantage to the districts through which they run, and, so far as I can judge, there is distinctly a tendency to improve, and I believe that at least three of these lines of railway will, before a very considerable lapse of time, be found much nearer a position of paying than they are at the present time. Then I am asked a question about the Royal University. That is a subject upon which the hon. Member knows a great deal more than I do, but I have made a note of his suggestion, and I will cause inquiry to be made.

Question put, and negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(7.) £17,000, to complete the sum for Science and Art Building, Dublin.


May I ask if this is to be a final vote? Expenditure has now been proceeding for ten years. May we suppose that it will conclude in the coming financial year?


I have every hope and every expectation that the work connected with the building will be completed in the financial year. In fact, I am assured that the building will be ready for opening in August, but I should not like to say that I entirely accept that statement, but, judging from what I saw when I was in Dublin last, and the representations that have been sub equently made to us, I have every reason to believe that the work will be finished this year.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported to-morrow. Committee to sit again to-morrow.

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