§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ £492,562, to complete the sum for Stationery and Printing.
§ * MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
There are one or two points to which I should like briefly to call the attention of the House in connection with this Vote. The first has reference to the volumes containing the Acts of Parliament. Up to the present Parliament we received a good edition of the Acts, which it was a pleasure to preserve in our Libraries, but during the present Parliament we have received three volumes of very inferior quality both as to paper and type, and although everyone will admit that such Acts ought to be preserved in a series, no two of these volumes are either the same in shape or design. I am sure it is only necessary to call the attention of the Secretary of the Treasury to this fact to ensure its being remedied. I trust that in future we shall be supplied with the best edition of the Acts, similar to the one which is placed in the Library, and that we shall have the privilege of exchanging the three bad volumes we have received. There is another point to which I wish also to call the attention of the Secretary of the Treasury. A very great saving has been effected in the cost of Parliamentary papers by the new system of distribution, which I for one quite approve of, and I congratulate the House on the prospect of effecting a real economy in that direction, but I think that the saving ought to give the Secretary to the Treasury the means of affording a substantial convenience to Members. We often want to send Blue Books to our constituents on subjects which specially interest 20 them. Speaking from an average experience I should say that the amount would be very moderate in the case of most Members, but if a Member is required to pay half-a-guinea for a Blue-book which he wishes to send to a constituent, he will probably refrain from doing so, although in many cases these Parliamentary papers are very useful and interesting. For example, there are two books of much interest to a mining constituency like mine—the Report of the Commission on the Depression of Trade, and the Report of the Commission on the Mines Acts. Both of them are bulky and expensive Blue Books, and, considering the saving which has now been effected, I would ask the hon. Gentleman if it would not be possible to allow a Member to send Blue Books and Parliamentary Papers to his constituents during a Session to the value of £5. Perhaps I ought to anticipate one argument which may possibly be used by the hon. Gentleman. Some time ago when I remarked to the hon. Gentleman that it was only reasonable that Members of Parliament should have the command of a certain number of Blue Books, the hon. Gentleman replied by asking a question, "Do you desire that they should have command of them to send to the booksellers?" I confess that when that searching inquiry was put to me I felt somewhat like the nervous lady in the crowd who was asked by a policeman to say whether she had picked her neighbour's pocket. The suggestion had certainly never occurred to me, and my experience is that, on the contrary, the great mass of the Blue Books and Parliamentary Papers we receive find their way into the waste paper-basket. I do not think there is any danger of their finding their way to the booksellers. We do not assume that the stationery in the library is put in the pockets of hon. Members, or that the silver spoons in the Tea Room afford a temptation which hon Members are unable to resist. I would therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to discuss the question entirely apart from any risk or danger of that kind, and I am sure that if that danger is eliminated he will admit that my proposal is only a reasonable one.
§ MR. A. PEASE (York)
In the contract for printing forms for the Public Departments there is a condition that 21 the contractor should have a convenient office in London with sufficient material to enable him to prepare his contract in a good and workmanlike manner, to the satisfaction of the Controller of the Stationery Office. Now, I think it is hard on the contractor that he shall not be able to conduct the printing of the Government forms in the country, but that he should be obliged to have an office in the Metropolis. I can see no more reason why a man who is in a position to contract for the printing of telegraph forms or the deposit books of the Post Office Savings Banks should be required to have an office in London any more than the contractors for supplying the police and the troops with articles of clothing and furniture. I should be glad to see a much more even distribution of the Government work throughout the country.
§ * MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I should like on this Vote to ask what has been the result of the change which was introduced last year in regard to the circulation of Parliamentary Papers. I am informed that the change has led to a considerable reduction of cost and to greater facilities and advantages being afforded to Members, inasmuch as we can get all we want without being burdened by Papers we do not want. Another point I want to draw attention to is the cost of the old expensive style of printing. I hold in my hand a book called "The Journals of the House of Commons." It is of such proportions that it is almost unuseable, and it is got up in a most expensive and elaborate style. Many of us would be content to do without it, but under any circumstances it might be got up in a less expensive manner. I have here another volume which came to me a year or a year and a half ago. It is called "The General Index;" it weighs nearly a stone, and it it is printed in such a size and shape that it will not go upon any ordinary bookshelf. Indeed, it is of such proportions that it almost requires a Hercules to manage it, and I cannot help thinking that we might print a smaller and a more useful index in a cheaper form. There is a rumour that books of this nature are not to be issued again, but I should like to hear the announcement from the Government. I should further like to know if it is 22 not possible to have all our Blue Books and Papers of one size. I find that I rarely get two of the same guage. This may be a small matter, but it certainly prevents their being kept in order. Another question is, whether there cannot be some uniformity in the issue of Parliamentary Papers; I have here three books which purport to be the same. They are very useful volumes indeed, containing the Acts of Parliament passed in each Session. It will be noticed they are all three of different sizes; one is blue and the other red, and the names of the books although they contain the same information for different years, are all different. The one I hold in my hand was issued in 1886. It is a comparatively modest volume, and is called "Public General Statutes, 49 and 50, Victoria, 1886." In 1887 the name appears to have been changed to "Public General Acts, 1887, published by authority," and last year the book was simply entitled "Public General Acts, published by authority." The system of cutting them appears to have been given up. I think as they are books of constant reference, the House might adopt some system of having one size, similar title, and one style; and further, that they should be got up in a way that would permit hon. Members arranging them on their bookshelves.
§ * SIR H. MAXWELL (A LORD of the TREASURY, Wigton)
The hon. Member for North Islington has drawn attention to the volumes for the last three years, and perhaps it will relieve my hon. Friend's mind when I say that there is no political portent whatever in the colour or form of those volumes. Until the end of 1886 these Acts of Parliament were produced by private printers, but since January, 1887, the Stationery Office has been responsible for the printing of the Acts The difference in the size of the volumes is accounted for by the fact that the volume of 1887 was cut, while that of 1888 was uncut. In future they will all be uncut. ["Oh!"] Of course, if hon. Members are of opinion that a volume is more valuable cut than uncut, we will convey that opinion to the Stationery Office, but I may remark that the bibliographic value of an uncut volume is greater than that of a cut. The hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire has drawn attention to 23 the quality of the paper on which the volumes were printed, and I think he said a better quality was supplied to the Library of the House. At all events, the volume is produced at a cost to the public of 3s., and when it was in the hands of a private firm it cost almost exactly double that sum, so that there is a considerable saving in that respect. As to the distribution of papers, the hon. Member alluded to the change which has taken place in the fulfilment of that part of our duty, and I am glad that he expressed satisfaction with it so far. It is still in the experimental stage, though we hope to effect a considerable saving in the future without inconvenience to Members. It may be admitted that it is rather a tax upon hon. Members to send down to the constituencies volumes for which payment has to be made. But if an unlimited supply were at the disposal of hon. Members without payment, it would be very difficult to instruct the Stationery Office what size of edition should be printed. Formerly, I think, the number printed of Blue Books for the full delivery list was 1,100; and for the short delivery list considerably less than half that number. Now, we have only 200 copies of each Parliamentary Paper sent to this House to be supplied to Members, and in no single instance has that number been exceeded. Therefore, there is that much saved. Then there is the suggestion of the hon. Member that each Member should be entitled to a free set of Blue Books above a certain annual cost. But I do not suppose that many Members, from the nature of their constituencies, are likely to require the same Blue Books; and I presume that, by friendly arrangements, a Member who required a dozen or twenty copies of one Blue Book would be able to obtain them from a dozen or twenty Members. In the changes made we have asked for the good-natured co-operation of the Members, and so far we have succeeded. A question was asked of the Secretary to the Treasury about the Blue Books going to the booksellers. That point has been under the consideration of the Committee. Preference is shown by certain Hon. Members to certain booksellers, who thus receive Blue Books in advance of the rest of the trade, and thereby they get an advan- 24 tage. Well, I will be frank with the Committee, and tell them exactly how the matter stands. It is the privilege of a Member, if he chooses, to notify the Vote Office to have a copy of every Paper published sent to him. I believe at the present moment there are about 80 hon. Members who receive copies of every Blue Book or Parliamentary Paper published. Of these 80 Members, there are some 20 who never see those Papers, for the simple reason that they send them direct to the booksellers. It is, for this House to express an opinion whether that is altogether a creditable transaction. As to the necessity for printers of Parliamentary Papers having an office in London, the reason is obvious; it would be exceedingly inconvenient to have to send Papers (which are generally wanted in a hurry) into the country to be printed, but there may be circumstances which form an exception to the rule, and they will not escape our attention. I think if the hon. Member (Mr. Bartley), who is a Member of the Committee which has charge of the form in which the Parliamentary Papers are issued, would give us the advantage of his advice, we shall be able to improve them.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I am always sorry in Committee of Supply to see independent Members putting pressure on the Government to increase rather than decrease the expenditure. I hope the right hon. Member for Wigton will be a little more hard hearted in reference to the demands made upon him by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire. I think it would be a very dangerous precedent to enlarge the gratuitous privileges of Members of this House, and to supply Blue Books to the Members of this House from a limited money scale would be an exceedingly bad thing. You do not know what may be done in the matter, and I heard with regret the statement as to what is done by some hon. Members. Many of us have another method of disposing of our Blue Books. Now, there is a free library in the borough which I represent, and when I have read, as I always do read, every line of every Blue Book, I hand them to the free library in the hope that my constituents will do the same. At all events, that is a course which could be adopted by borough 25 Members. I do not say that it would answer the same purpose in the case of county constituencies. I, for one, should be extremely sorry to see the practice of the gratuitous distribution of Blue Books.
§ * MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
In this Vote there is a very large increase on the cost of paper—£15,000. Whether the increase is because of the greater number of documents issued or due to the better quality of the paper, it is surely a very serious sum. My own observation would lead me to the conclusion that the paper which is in use now, as compared with the paper on which the Returns of years ago are printed, and to be seen in the Library, is by no means improved. There is another point to which I should like to call attention, and that is the extraordinary delay that takes place between the order for a Return or Paper being printed and its distribution. The delay is so great as to be almost, a Parliamentary scandal. I put a question on this subject to the First Lord of the Treasury, and he gave me a most courteous reply, and asked if I could give him any instances. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly aware that the task involves a considerable amount of labour. But I will give him two or three instances which I myself have investigated, and the right hon. Gentlemen may take them as a sample. Now, there was a Return in the early part of the Session of cases under the Criminal Law Procedure Act (Ireland) laid on the Table on the 21st February, and the Paper was not distributed for several weeks. There was also a Paper with regard to the Land Purchase Question laid on the Table on the 19th March. The order for printing was given on the 21st March, and the Paper did not get into the hands of Members until the 18th April. Then, again, the Return as to Resident Magistrates, merely a list of names occupying only two pages, was laid on the Table on the 19th March, and although the order for printing was given on the 21st March, the Paper was not delivered at our residences until the 15th April. Another Return, for which the order was given on the 15th April, is not in our hands at the present moment. I hope it 26 will be felt that I have not overstated the case, and that the attention of the Government will be directed to the matter. I am one of those who think we cannot properly perform our functions in this House unless we have full and accurate information relating to matters brought before us. I will now call attention to another matter, and that is the method of reporting our debates. There was a Committee appointed—a Joint Committee of Members of this and the other House—to look into this matter. I believe they sat eight times and examined ten witnesses in last Sessoin. They presented a Report declaring the system to be inconvenient and unsatisfactory, and though they did not recommend an official report they recommended an improved Hansard. In pursuance of that Report the Secretary to the Treasury, I presume, acting on the part of the Government, entered into a contract with a certain firm—a copy of which contract I hold in my hand—the firm of Macrae, Curtis and Co., and I notice one fact in connection with that firm as to which this House—as a point affecting its honor and reputation—should be very jealous. One of our Rules is that no one who is a Member of this House shall be interested in a matter of profit under a Parliamentary arrangement, and I believe I am right in saying that one of the parties interested in this contract is one of the Members for Kensington. Of course, I do not wish to impute anything that can be regarded as in the least improper to that Gentleman; but still there is the name of a Member of this House in connection with this particular contract, although it is the law that no Member of this Assembly shall have any interest in a Government contract. I may here refer to the fact that the printing of Hansard is considered by that firm as involving a most valuable connection, for I remember having myself received a circular asking me to take shares in the Company in the event of this contract having the approval of the House of Commons; and I have noticed that the firm is blossoming into what is called the Hansard Publishing Union, so that it is evident the Hansard Printing Company recognise among their assets of value the right of printing and publishing the debates of this House. As to how the contract is carried out I think this House 27 can hardly be satisfied. I do not think that the conditions of the contract with regard to type and paper have been carried out—that is if the conditions lay down that they should give us good paper and type. Moreover, whereas in old days we could go into the Library and see each number of Hansard with an index, all published within a very short time, now, although we have numbers of the new Hansard up to within three or four days of every discussion, they are without any index at all, so that it is almost impossible until you get a whole volume—and the first complete volume has just been issued—to refer accurately to what has taken place. My hon. Friend near me points out to me that the first volume only goes down to the 15th March this year. I do hope the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will turn his attention to the manner in which the new contract for Hansard's Debates is being carried out. I am one of those who cling to the extreme importance to our having an accurate record of our debates, I do not consider that Hansard realizes that; but I hold it to be most important that we should seek to retain the traditions of this House by preserving what has been done in the past and in earlier times.
§ * SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras)
I wish to make an observation on one point that has been already alluded to, and to say that it is no credit to the House of Commons that people who have the contract to report our Debates should be touting for subscriptions to their Company in the way they have been doing. I had over 20 applications myself, and other Members of this House have also received a large number. That is not satisfactory. We ought to ascertain that a firm which undertakes to do our work has sufficient capital to carry on the business, and that if they hope to go on successfully, they should not have to tout about London in the way adopted in this case. One further observation I have to make is this, that in some respects the reporting is satisfactory, but that though there is a considerable amount of accuracy in the reports of the observations made in this House, on more than one occasion I have noticed certain absurd mistakes with regard to names. The other day, in reporting the discussion on the opera- 28 tions of the Endowed School Commissioners with regard to the City Parochial Charities Fund, they gave the name of Mr. Anstie, one of the Charity Commissioners—a name which is well known to everybody who has anything to do with these matters—as "Mr. Anstey," spelling it "Anstey" instead of "Anstie." I trust this matter will receive the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury, and that we shall not see these errors in future.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N).
I should like to correct an impression which a remark of the hon. Baronet might convey. He said I was a member of the Standing Committee on Printing Parliamentary Papers, and that, therefore, I was to a certain extent responsible for the things I complained of. At no time, however, were these volumes or arrangements as to their printing, to which I have referred, brought before the Committee. I should have been extremely glad if the printing arrangements had been sent before the Committee. It is a mistake to say that the Committee has in past, at least, been responsible in any way for these things.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford)
I think, Sir, that some steps should be taken with regard to forwarding to the Irish Members Papers relating to Irish matters. It is very important that they should have these Papers as early as possible, and they ought not to be obliged to have to write for them, as is the case at present. Beyond this, Members ought to have the Statute Books which the Government are bringing out; they would be exceedingly useful to us if we could have them at an early date. With regard to Hansard, I think the new arrangement has introduced a great change for the better. I allude to the asterisk they put opposite the names of hon. Members who revise their speeches. That seems to be a Heaven-sent idea, because no one need now be under any obligation to revise his speeches, as everybody will know whether they are revised or not, thus conferring a boon on gentlemen, who will no longer be under the supposition that they have revised their speeches. With regard to the printing, I appeal to the Government whether they cannot get about 100 volumes of M.S. belonging to 29 the Ordnance Survey in Ireland, now at the Royal Irish Academy, put into type. They might take the money for this from what is spent on horse racing. Certainly, I was amazed to find that they had been allowed to remain in the manuscript; and had they been destroyed, or stolen, or lost in any way, they would have been absolutely irrecoverable. Remember this work was done at enormous expense, you employed the very best intellect you could get, as far as the archæological and antiquarian researches were concerned, and yet the results of the labours of those intellects are lying absolutely unknown to the general public, and exposed to all sorts of risks. Had the Chief Secretary been in his place, I should have appealed to him in this matter. As his name is detested in Ireland, I should have been pleased to have given him an opportunity of doing something which would, at any rate, secure the approval of the Irish people.
§ MR. ARTHUR ACLAND (York, W.R. Rotherham)
I wish to ask whether anything definite is being done about editing the reports of Royal Commissions. We, who are Members of the Committee, have ascertained that there is no single authority who looks after the editing of these papers. The Member for Rushcliffe has spoken of the space of time which intervenes between the order for the printing of the Papers and the issue of them, and I think that this difficulty might be avoided if there were somebody in charge of this particular duty.
§ MR. ACLAND
I think, Sir, I may raise a point as to the position which the Comptroller of the Stationery Office holds in reference to these matters.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
In reference to the remarks of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. M. Healy) as to being called upon to sign orders for Papers, I beg to suggest a remedy which I have adopted, and that is to sign a general order for all Papers to be sent. I then go through the Papers and find many matters worthy of notice, which I should have missed had I merely looked to the list of printed 30 papers sent out. In regard to the delay in the issue of papers, I hope the Government will follow the practice which has been adopted by the Australian Parliament, and establish a Government printing office. The Government printing office there prints quite as much matter as is necessary here, and I believe that with the large number of Government departments we have, the heads of departments would be able to save many thousands of pounds if we had a Government printing office. I do trust that the Government will inquire into this matter, because I feel confident that, if they do, they will establish such an office and follow the example of the Australian Parliament with, I am sure, advantage to this country.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I want some information as to the amount of this Vote. We have had a reform, and the result is a very considerable increase in the Estimate. As far as the printing is concerned, the increase is £3,000, and I cannot understand if so very much less printing has to be done, why the Estimate should be so much in excess. Then, again, there is an increase of several thousand pounds in the item for paper. I do not know what is the explanation of that, unless the Secretary to the Treasury got a hint about the formation of a paper syndicate, and so took an extra amount in the Estimate to meet the amount which that syndicate was likely to mulct the public in regard to the price of paper. With the exception of the reduction of £4,500 for Hansard, there is absolutely an increase of £21,000 on this Vote. I should like to hear the reason for this, and why, when so little is sent out, we are paying £15,000 extra for paper, and £3,000 extra for printing. Then with reference to the London Gazette. I am glad to see there is a change, and that instead of asking £2,200 for the Gazette, the charge has been decreased to £1,000. In regard to the reduction of £4,500 in the charges for Hansard, I notice we are getting 120 copies. I should like to know if those copies are required for this House, or what is done with them. In regard to the reports themselves, complaint has been made that by giving the speeches in the first person, the public is misled into the idea that the reports are verbatim. I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will give me some 31 explanation on the points which I have raised.
§ * MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
I should like to refer to some remarks made by the hon. Member for Leicester some time since, when he pointed out that under the new system of editing Hansard, all speeches are reported in the first person, which gives the impression that they are verbatim, whereas they are not. Now I have examined my own speeches, and I find that the report is taken from the Times newspaper; there it is in the third person, but it is put into the first person, and is consequently very misleading. I have not the slightest objection to my speeches being compressed into the smallest possible space—I think the more they are compressed, the better—but what I do say is that we should not have a report which, in the first instance, is published in the third person, twisted into the first person, and thereby made ridiculous. I think the system of reporting in the third person is best for ordinary persons like myself, who do not aspire to lead in this House. If speeches are to be reported verbatim, no doubt the first person reports are the best, but I think the third person is best for those speeches of which only a summary is given. I believe those who are interested in this matter will agree with me that speeches which are not really reported in full should be put in the third person. Then with regard to the remarks made by the bon. Member for Longford about the insertion of the asterisk. Now, I have found it quite impossible to correct speeches which, although put in the first person, are merely transcribed from the report in the Times, because whole sentences, and sometimes whole paragraphs are left out. I have taken the trouble occasionally to insert a word or two, but really I could not take the responsibility of correcting the speech, and I do hope that, in future, speeches which are not reported in extenso will be given in the third person.
§ MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
I wish to ask the Secretary to the Treasury a question with regard to Parliamentary Papers. Are they issued to free libraries? Although many of the blue books which are printed may not be of much service to these institutions, there are, amongst 32 the papers issued to the House of Commons, some which are of the highest value for free libraries, and I would ask the Secretary to the Treasury how the item of £100 contained in this Vote for the purpose is allocated? I venture to suggest that it seems a very small sum for this purpose, but small as it is, I should like to hear from the Secretary to the Treasury how it is apportioned amongst the various public libraries of this country. I am sure that every Member of this House would be glad if the Government could hold out a hope that this sum, if insufficient, shall be increased.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
Before the Secretary to the Treasury answers the question which has been put him, I wish in the first place to point out that the issue of the revised statutes has only progressed to the extent of one volume. You can buy this volume for seven shillings. Now a number of Blue Books, which are absolutely useless, are issued at charges as high as thirty shillings. Anybody can get these, and I would suggest that when you get a useful volume like this published at seven shillings, Members should have the opportunity of applying for them on the same terms as they have in regard to these useless blue books. And then there is the question of the translation of the Brehon Law. There is in respect of that a sum of £200 in this Vote, and although a considerable sum has already been expended, no volume of these laws has been issued for something like 20 years. The gentleman whom you have appointed to translate them into English has made application to the Commissioners to be allowed to divide the work into three volumes all of which are to be published simultaneously. Now, Sir, the result is that we shall have to wait three or four years before we see a specimen of this gentleman's work. In the first place it may be reasonably doubted if it was wise to give the task to one who, until a few years ago, was totally ignorant of the Irish language. It is hardly to be expected he would be competent to continue a work begun by the most eminent Irish scholars. However, by his compact with the Commissioners he secures absolute immunity; he gets remunerated for the work before we see what it is like. I think we may ask the Secretary to the Treasury to 33 impress upon the Commissioners the desirability of issuing the work so far as it has gone so that we may judge the character of the work. I have no confidence in the competency of this gentleman.
§ * MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
There is one point to which I wish to direct the attention of the Committee before they pass from this Vote. I hope I am in order in doing so. In the observations which we have had from different Members on both sides of the House in regard to the question of printing, we have not heard one word as to the circumstances under which the printing is executed. I should not have thought myself justified in referring to these circumstances had I not seen in his place the Secretary to the Treasury, who gave utterance some few months since to a statement that printing for the Government Establishment was being executed under such conditions as to be practically beyond the utmost powers of man. Now, Sir, I think this is a question which may fairly be commented on when such a sentence as this is uttered from the Treasury Bench. The conditions of work exceed the power of man to endure. And I should like to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, who has already answered me once upon this question, although his answer was not satisfactory, whether, in the future, the Members of this House are going to be held up to execration in the country for having assisted, or at any rate not having resisted a system of work which exceeds the endurance of man to perform? If we pride ourselves upon our humanity, I think when we come to read the Reports of the Sweating Committee, we shall come to the conclusion that, in our collective capacity as Members of the House of Commons, it is our duty to protest against being sweaters ourselves. I was glad to hear from the hon. Member for Canterbury the expression of a hope that the Government would establish a printing office of its own. I believe he is thoroughly con-conversant with the subject and with the results obtained from Government printing offices in our Colonies. I understand from him that these results are exceedingly satisfactory, and I wish to know whether we are to continue this system of sub-contracting, and letting out the Government printing with the 34 results which the hon. Member himself has characterized to this House in language which I have had the honour of repeating; and I do earnestly hope that we shall have some assurance from the hon. Gentleman that in future the Government contracts will be in such a shape as will confine them to firms paying Trades Union rates of wages, and that, if possible, an eight hours' clause will be introduced into them.
§ * MR. JACKSON
Perhaps it will be convenient if I reply now to some of the questions which have been put to me. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham raised the question of the delay in the presentation of Papers. Now, I am not prepared to deny that it is possible to make some improvement in the direction which the hon. Member suggests, but I wish to point out as clearly as I can to the Committee that there is a little confusion sometimes in the minds of Members as to where the delay arises, and as to the causes of the delay. The date of the order for printing the paper which appears on each document is not necessarily an indication that there has been unreasonable delay, even although there may have been a considerable period elapsed between the date of the order for printing and the date of the circulation of the paper to Members. It is no indication, I repeat, that there has been unreasonable delay, either on the part of the Department or on the part of the printers, for it has been the habit—and the habit may be a good one, or a bad one, but it can easily be altered if necessary—it has been found very convenient with reference to papers presented to Parliament, to present them in what is called "dummy" form. That enables the House to give an order for printing, but it by no means follows that it can be printed forthwith—and in many cases the order is actually given before a single step has been taken towards providing the information which is ordered by the Return to be supplied to the House.
§ * MR. J. E. ELLIS
In the instances I gave I ascertained that the Papers were not laid on the Table of the House in "dummy form."
§ * MR. JACKSON
If the hon. Member has ascertained that in the cases to which he referred the information was 35 ready at the time when the order for printing was given, then I think there was an unreasonable amount of delay. But I want to make it clear to the Committee that in many cases of Returns moved for by hon. Members, although the order for printing is given, the information cannot possibly be obtained for a considerable time, and that explains the apparent delay in the circulation of the paper. I may assure the hon. Member that we are taking steps to secure the speediest possible circulation of papers. Well now, Sir, reference has been made by several hon. Members to the question of the contract entered into for the printing and publishing of the debates and proceedings of the Houses of Parliament. Some hon. Members have complained that the reports are now made in the first person, instead of in the third as formerly. Well, Sir, I have no doubt—in fact I know from communications made to me by the contractors—that they are only anxious to do what is desired and to meet the general convenience of Members of the House. But I will point out, in defence of the course which has been taken, that in the Committee to which this question was referred—and possibly the hon. Gentleman the Senior Member for Northampton will well remember this—certainly one Member, if not more than one Member, laid great stress upon the desirability of what he called treating all Members alike, as some speeches had in the past had more prominence given to them than others, and had been printed in the first person, and it was the strongly expressed wish that the same treatment, as far as possible, should be extended to all Members of the House. I believe, therefore, that the contractors, in adopting the plan which they have followed, have pursued that which they believe to have been the express wish of the Committee to which the question was referred; and they have supposed that they have been consulting the general convenience of Members by adopting the practice.
§ * MR. DE LISLE
The point I wish to impress upon the Committee is that the reports of hon. Members like myself which are given in the third person in the Times are taken and twisted back into the first person, and thus purport to be verbatim, whereas they are nothing of the sort. If all speeches are 36 to be reported in extenso in the first person, so much the better for everybody; but what I object to is that a third person report should be turned into a first person report, and thereby made really a caricature of the speech.
§ * MR. JACKSON
I do not wish to press the point or to discuss it at greater length, but I am sure that the matter having been called attention to will have the effect of causing the complaint to be looked into carefully, and that the contractors will see if anything can be done to meet the wishes of hon. Members in this matter. I must not be taken as either admitting, or confirming, or denying the statement made by the hon. Member that these reports are simply taken from some other report, because it is one of the conditions of the contract, and that condition I have reason to know is complied with—that there shall always be in the Gallery reporters who are taking notes of the debates and proceedings of the House. Well, Sir, a question has been asked about the 125 printed volumes supplied by the contractors, and what becomes of them. They are distributed not only in the libraries of both Houses of Parliament, but also throughout the Government Departments. The number is the same as was taken under the old arrangement, and I believe it is necessary to meet the requirements of the various Public Departments. The hon. Baronet the Member for St. Pancras has raised a question as to the company which has the contract having touted for subscriptions. The only answer is, I suppose, that they, like most promoters of companies, have gone to the men who they think have the money and are able to subscribe. Of course, we have nothing to do with the company or with its formation. Something has been said that in the prospectus this contract was treated as a valuable asset. But I think this really has no bearing on the question. I may say I believe that, as a matter of fact, this company did acquire from Mr. Hansard, who previously did this work, his stock and plant, the arrangement also including the right to continue to use the name of Hansard in connection with these debates. My own impression is that it is rather a matter of convenience that the work should be continued under the title of Hansard, perhaps, whatever 37 money value may attach to the right to use the name. So far as the company is concerned, and so far as the Contract is concerned, the Government have followed the recommendations of the Committee. They advertised publicly for tenders, and having done so, they felt that unless very strong reasons could be assigned against it, it was their duty to accept the lowest tender. That is the course we adopted in this case. The Government took steps to sufficiently protect themselves, and to ensure the carrying out of the contract, and I am bound to say that so far as my experience goes, I should have thought that the reports are more full than formerly, and that certainly the present system is a great improvement upon that which has hitherto prevailed. Well, now, the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Bartley) referred again to the size of the volumes of Statutes, and said that the form of printing was not submitted to the Committee. We hope the Committee will deal with all these questions, and that the hon. Gentleman will make some suggestion by which some economy may be effected in the direction desired. The hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. T. Healy) spoke about the distribution of the Papers. It is open to any Member who desires to have the whole of the Papers which are presented to Parliament, to give instructions for them to be forwarded to him. We had hoped we should be able to effect some economy, and that hon. Members who really did not attach very great importance to having the whole of the Papers, would co-operate with us in cutting down the printing bill as far as possible. The hon. Gentlemen also referred to the publication of the revised Statutes. The revised Statutes are not issued as Parliamentary Papers. They are now being published under the authority of the Stationery Office, but they have never been treated as Parliamentary Papers. The custom has been for anyone who desires to possess them to buy them. The price, I understand, is 7s. 6d. per volume.
§ * MR. JACKSON
The second volume is just about to be issued. The hon. Member referred to the printing of certain Irish MS., and the hon. Member 38 for Mid Tyrone (Mr. M. Kenny) asked what payment was made to Dr. Atkinson for his work in respect to the manuscripts. I believe I am correct in saying that the work is only paid for as it is performed; that so much is paid per sheet. The Commissioners under whose care this work is being carried on estimate that £200 will be required for the work in the ensuing year, the sum taken last year. In reference to the particular manuscript referred to, I will call the attention of the Commissioners to what the hon. Gentleman has said.
§ * MR. JACKSON
To the end of the reign of Queen Anne. The hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clarke) raised the question of the increased cost of printing and paper. The increase in the Printing Department is due to the fact that when the Estimate was framed, the Stationery Office were warned by several Departments that there would be a considerable increase of work. One of the Departments which anticipated considerably increased expenditure was the Patent Office. Consequent upon the recommendation of the Committee of Inquiry, an alteration has been made in the form of the Patent Office publications, and the Office is now issuing an illustrated journal which I believe will add considerably to the cost of printing, although it will lead to great saving in the Office generally. The excess estimated in the Patent Office alone was £5,000. As to the cost of paper, there was, at the time the Estimate was framed, an evident tendency in the market to advance. Some contracts which were made at that time showed an advance on the former price of about 5 per cent on the general run of paper, and as much as 18 per cent on certain qualities of writing paper. I understand that since that time the market has shown less strength, and I hope it may prove to be that the amount which has been taken for paper will be found to be more than ample to meet the requirements. But it is quite impossible in estimating so long beforehand, and with a fluctuating market, to calculate with any degree to nicety what the actual cost will be. Now, in reference to the point raised by the hon. Member for North-East Lanarkshire 39 (Mr. Cuninghame Graham), I think there is some confusion in his mind as to what I said or what I intended to convey in answer to a question which was put to me on a previous occasion. The question was raised in the first instance by an inquiry as to the delay in printing certain papers. At that time all the estimates were being printed, and I said it, as I believed, in defence, not only of the contractors, but also of their work-people, that the contractors and work-people were straining every nerve to keep pace with the demand, which at that time was excessive, and was unusual. But I did not intend to convey that the term "sweating" was applicable in any sense or form to the state of things. Anyone who has any experience of business knows that there may come times of pressure when the workpeople are most willing to come to the aid of their employers by working longer hours. If that were not so very often it would be difficult to carry on business at all. Every effort will be made to avoid such pressure being put on the work people, but at the same time it must not be understood that the pressure is put on them without their benefiting by it. I have, I think, as much sympathy with the working classes as the hon. Member. I have had a good deal to do with working men and I know that in times of pressure they willingly do the very best they can.
§ * MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM
The hon. Gentleman has made observations calculated to induce the Committee to believe that I am not aware that the system of overtime exists in different industries. I am well aware that such a system does exist, and it is one of the objects of my life to put that system down.
§ * MR. JACKSON
That may or may not be a very good object, but I may tell the hon. Member I have known a great many workpeople who were very glad on occasions to work overtime for the extra payment it brought them.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
Has the hon. Gentleman informed himself as to whether it is reported officially in the Labour Reports of America that the Government interference with the time of employés under some pressure has tended to a reduction of the wages of the men 20 per cent all round?
§ * MR. JACKSON
I have no knowledge of that circumstance, but if the hon. Member puts it forward as a fact the Committee may well accept it as such. I was only speaking on the general question because my attention has been called to very extravagant statements which followed upon the answer I gave in regard to the delay in the printing of certain papers. As to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. Gardner) the position of matters with regard to Free Libraries is this:—The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) came under an obligation to the House in answer to an appeal made to him that he would consider the question of a free distribution of certain papers to certain Free Libraries, and with a view of carrying that object out the sum of £100 was placed on the Estimates. The plan which has been adopted is this:—That any free library making application for Papers has been invited to say what Papers would be of interest in the district, and so far as I know all the applications have been readily acceded to. I do not wish to say too much to encourage further applications, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be gratified to know that so far we have not been obliged to refuse any application.
§ * SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)
My hon. Friend has just said that the increase in the cost of paper is estimated to be something like 5 per cent, and he has also told us that there is likely to be an increase in the Patent Office in respect of printing. When we come to look at the different heads under which the charge is placed—printing, paper, parchments, binding, and small stores—we see what a very large sum of money is expended in the various Departments. In olden days we had the expenditure of each Office set out separately, so that we could compare the cost of one Office with that of another. These sums are so large that we really ought to have much more detailed information than we are able to get from the Paper now before us.
§ * MR. JACKSON
If my hon. and gallant Friend will refer to pages 165, 166, 167, and 168 of the Estimates, he will find the details of the amount expended in each Office are given.
§ SIR W. FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston Div.)
I should like to raise a point 41 in reference to the publication of the Division Lists. It would be an advantage to Members in calculating the length of debates, and also in regard to the question of pairing, if at the top of the Division Lists there could be printed the hour at which the Division takes place.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE: (Northampton)
I entirely agree with the Secretary to the Treasury that the present system of Hansard has proved satisfactory to the vast majority of the Members of the House. In regard to the little details which have been mentioned, I have no doubt there will be improvement as matters go on. But I was rather surprised at the hon. Gentleman's explanation of excess in the cost of paper. I gathered from the hon. Gentleman's remarks that the Comptroller had been told that paper had gone up in some cases 5 per cent and in others 18 per cent, and that certain contracts, based on the increased prices, had been made. The Comptroller has been humbugged by the contractors, for it is a hard and positive fact that paper has not gone up in the market during the last six months. The paper syndicate in no way affects the paper required for the House. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who holds that we ought to hesitate very much before we have a public printing department. Besides the £25,000 per annum which the department would cost, we would be providing more people with a plea for pensions further on. But it is only reasonable that when making contracts, we should ascertain whether a fair wage is paid by the contractors. The system of contracting for printing is much better than having a public printing department, with its superintendents, deputy superintendents, and so on. The real reason why there is delay in the printing of papers is that the contractor has not a sufficient amount of type. Members are sometimes kept waiting week after week for papers which they are told are in the hands of the printer. The Government ought to make arrangements with the printer for speedy work, for which they might arrange to pay a higher price. I also desire to again point out that the price of Blue Books and Parliamentary Papers is excessive. I hold in my hand a Parliamentary Paper the price of which was 1s. 4½d. It is stated to be under 12 42 ounces, but the cost of paper, ink, machinery, and printing will not exceed 2d. At the present day people go in for large sales and small profits; but I do not think the Government ought to require any profit on such papers. There are no doubt many public libraries and private people who would be glad of Blue Books and other Parliamentary Papers if they could only obtain them at a reasonable price.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
The Ordnance Survey is of great value, and I should like to know when it is likely to be completed.
§ MR. CRILLY (Mayo N.)
I think that the Irish Members have great cause to complain of the delay which takes place in the presentation of papers to the House. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe Division (Mr. J. E. Ellis), referred to the fact that something like five weeks elapse before papers relating to Irish matters are presented. It will be in the recollection of the Secretary to the Treasury that there was ordered to to be printed a paper, relating to the Ballycotton pier, and that five weeks transpired before it was completed. There is another and a cognate matter to which I would draw attention—I do not know exactly if it comes within the region of the hon. Gentleman's department—and that is the great want of regularity and uniformity, that takes place in presenting the Returns of the Irish Land Commission to the House. Some little time ago it was my duty to submit to the House a Bill upon the Irish Land question, and for some little time previously I had been following the issue of these Returns giving the decisions of the Irish Land Commission, and I found, as a rule, there was great delay in the presentation. I am quite aware that at the present time the House is in possession of the rentals fixed in January and February, but though I saw the last Blue Book four or five days ago, copies are not yet in the possession of Irish Members. I think we have just cause of complaint on this account. I do not know how it may be on English subjects, but I am quite sure that cases such as those instanced by the hon. Member for Rushcliffe might be multiplied indefinitely in which information on this great Irish Question has been withheld. I do not know who is to blame for the delay, but I hope 43 somebody will find a remedy for it. I notice that when the Chief Secretary wants to supply the country with information on some point affecting Irish administration he very readily finds the means, either by a communication to Mr. Armytage, or some other way; but there is always delay in supplying Members with information upon which they can form their opinions and base their convictions in these matters. The Secretary of the Treasury is always ready to meet the wishes of Members, and I trust he will give his attention to this matter of the presentation of Irish Papers.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I cannot but think the reply of the Secretary to the Treasury as to the delay in, and the control over, the printing is entirely unsatisfactory. The hon. Gentleman mildly says he will see if something can be done, but something radical should be done in this matter. If we question a Minister about the production of Papers, he invariably says he has no control, and we never get a satisfactory answer. I object to the system of contract, though not altogether, on the grounds urged by the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Cuninghame Graham). We work overtime ourselves, and I do not see why, when work presses, printers should not be invited to do the same; but what I object to is that by these Government contracts contractors are not bound under severe penalties to fulfil their undertakings, as would be the case if a private firm gave out large contracts. The contractor finds it cheaper to keep up a moderate staff, and we have to wait his convenience. We want more control over him, and I hope this will be taken into consideration, with the object of making a radical change in this respect. It might be possible, perhaps, to have a Government establishment where urgent work might be done with a responsible head, and other printing not so urgent might still be put out to contract. Something of this kind might be done, but nothing can be more unsatisfactory than to be told that we have no control over the printer when we are kept waiting for papers. The rise in the price of paper is, I suppose, due to the paper syndicate to which the hon. Member for Northampton alluded. There 44 has been a scare in paper as there has been in a good many other things. I hope the Government will take care to watch what is going on and act accordingly. As to the reports of our speeches, I think quite enough has been said, about Members not being reported fully, and yet in the first person; but what I object to is the system of asterisks. Looking over the report of your speech in a condensed form you, perhaps, find that the accidental omission of a "not" or a "none" has entirely reversed your meaning and you would like to correct that. But then if you do so the speech is marked with an asterisk, and you are made responsible for the correctness of the speech in the form in which it is presented. I hope the system of asterisks will be discontinued, so that you may make small corrections without making yourself responsible for the speech altogether in the form printed. In regard to the printing of the Statutes mentioned, I should like to know whether the old Scotch Statutes still on the Statute Book are included?
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
I cannot say at the moment. As the hon. Member is perhaps aware, there are many volumes of old Scotch Acts to be found on the shelves in the passages leading to the Library.
§ SIR W. FOSTER
The Secretary to the Treasury has not noticed my suggestion as to printing the times of the Divisions.
§ MR. JACKSON
I will make a note of it. It hardly rests with me, for the "Votes and Proceedings" are not under the control of the Treasury, but I will bring it under the notice of the controlling authorities.
Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,That a sum, not exceeding £22,347, 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 of March, 1890, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues, and of the Office of Land Revenue Records and Inrolments.
§ * MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I propose to move the reduction of this Vote by £1,000, and to call attention to a subject raised last year, and to the attitude of the Government then and since. The subject will be familiar 45 especially to Scotch Members—the way in which the Office of Woods and Forests have dealt with Crown rights of fishing in Scotland, more especially the alienation and sale of the right of fishing in Loch Morar in Invernessshire. The subject was brought before the House last autumn, but previous to that, in July, the Secretary to the Treasury had been asked a question as to the sale of these rights, and he said he could not lay Papers on the Table, and declined to state the circumstances of the sale. On the 8th November, in Committee of Supply, the subject was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness. Previously there had been a discussion initiated by the hon. Members for Northampton and Preston, on a variety of matters connected with the administration of the Department of Woods and Forests in England, and such a strong case for inquiry was made out that the Government agreed to appoint a Committee for the purpose. My hon. Friend (Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh), then brought forward the subject of the alienation of the Crown rights of fishing in Loch Morar, and in the discussion the Scotch Members, as was acknowledged by the Government, made out a very strong case. At first the Secretary to the Treasury was inclined to minimize and to pooh-pooh the question, but on the matter being pressed by Scotch Members the Chancellor of the Exchequer took part in the debate, and this was his language:—He was inclined to think it was an extremely important question, but he doubted whether it could be conveniently referred to the same Committee that was to inquire into the general administration and business of the Woods and Forests.That is the general Committee already granted in consequence of the representations made by the hon. Members for Northampton and Preston and others. "He would inquire as to the best means of threshing out this particular point." The Chancellor of the Exchequer further said that—In view of the feeling of the Committee he would undertake that no further sales of this class should take place until there had been ample inquiry; until they could see what was the proper policy to pursue.Well, this indicates that the Government were sensible of the impression our representations had made. The 46 Government were further pressed during the debate, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke again, when he said he was doubtful whether the same Committee which the Government would appoint to inquire into the general business arrangements of the Department of Woods and Forests, would be the best tribunal to select to inquire into the question raised by the Scotch Members, which was a matter of law in which Scotland was specially interested; and he added—I shall be disposed to think that a Committee to inquire into the disposal of Crown rights would be one on which Scotch Members would wish to be much more strongly represented than on a Committee to inquire into the general administration of the Crown Lands.Immediately after the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Division took place. I think it was the general opinion of those who participated in the debate that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was a reasonable one, and that the Committee, which the Government had already granted to inquire into the general question of the administration of the Department of Woods and Forests would not be a very suitable tribunal for enquiry into this very important, but peculiarly Scottish question. This was in November last year. At the beginning of this Session, in reply to a question, the Government said they intended to proceed in the appointment of the General Committee to enquire into the Administration of the Department, and on March 5, I put a question to the First Lord of the Treasury in regard to this particular question of the disposal of Crown rights in Scotland, and the right hon. Gentleman replied that the terms of reference to the proposed Committee on the Woods and Forests Department would not exclude the disposal of Crown rights in Scotland from investigation. Upon that I reminded him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had undertaken to make a special reference on the subject, and the First Lord added that if it should appear that a special Committee was necessary the Government would not refuse it. On March 15 I secured an opportunity between 11 and 12 o'clock to call attention to this subject and was supported by several of my 47 colleagues. Unfortunately, there was a very limited time to discuss the subject, and it was just before 12 o'clock that the Secretary to the Treasury said in a few words it was not desirable to have a separate Committee to deal with the subject; he gave no reason for coming to that conclusion but simply announced it. Naturally, I thought we should have another opportunity of pressing our views on the Government proposal to appoint the General Committee of which I have spoken, but the Motion for the appointment of the Committee was set down for the day before the Easter Recess. We were successful in preventing the Motion being disposed of a few minutes before six o'clock, and we then asked the Secretary to the Treasury not to put it down for the first day after the holidays. Although the hon. Gentleman gave me no articulate reply we quite understood that it was agreed that the Motion should not be taken. We were then surprised to find the Government brought on the Motion just after midnight on the day of reassembling after Easter, and I think it was a little unfair that we should have been deprived of the legitimate opportunity of raising the question in which we are so much interested. If our case was strong when we raised the question last year it has become very much stronger since, and what we anticipated then has been confirmed. Not only has there been this alienation of the rights of fishing in a remote Highland loch for a very small sum, but public rights covered by the transfer have passed into the hands of private landowners on the loch side. The Secretary to the Treasury expressed a doubt as to the importance of the consequences that would ensue from the sale; but since then an action has been raised in the Court of Session to obtain an interdict preventing the people who live on the loch shores from putting boats on the loch, or navigating it, except at certain fixed points. From the report of the hearing of the case in the Court of Session, Counsel for the landed proprietors declared that his clients attached little importance to the mere fishing rights; that no salmon, indeed, were ever caught, and the trout fishing was very small. So long as the Crown held the rights, people were freely allowed the use of boats, but since the alienation of 48 the rights, this right of traversing the lake has been taken away, and it is admitted that the object of the proprietors in purchasing the fishing rights was to keep off the inhabitants from the loch in order that portions of the adjoining land might be converted into deer forests. Last year we represented that that would be the case, and, though as a detail in the admistration of the Department of Woods and Forests, it may seem of little importance, it is really a special Scotch matter of the greatest importance. When the Secretary for Scotland Act was passed we tried to get the jurisdiction in such matters transferred to the Scotch Department, but were not successful, and this has happened, as we feared it would, the Department out of touch with the feeling of the public in Scotland has alienated public rights that have always been enjoyed. The terms of reference to the Committee may not preclude this Scotch branch of the Administration, but as we have found in the result of two such inquiries held during the last 40 years, this, by comparison, very subordinate part of the administration of the Department, will receive but little attention. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in November, unless we have a large proportion of Scotch Members on the Committee for the purpose, this matter, in which the Scotch people take the keenest interest, will not receive adequate investigation. We have found that the case in regard to other matters in which the Scotch part of a subject has been included in a general reference, as for instance, the subject of "Emigration" and "Town Holdings." Therefore, it is that I would earnestly press upon the Government that they should appoint a Committee, mainly or exclusively consisting of Scotch Members and examine this, to Scotland, very important subject. There are no great number of Committees sitting, and not one on Scotch matters, and we know this was to be a particularly Scotch Session. This is a matter that gives rise to the greatest interest in Scotland, and it involves large issues. We were deprived of the opportunity we were led to suppose we should have of raising the subject on the question of the appointment of the General Committee on the Department, 49 and I earnestly press the subject now, formally moving the reduction of the Vote.
Motion made, and Question put, "That Item A, Salaries, &c., of £17,087, be reduced by £1,000, part of the Salaries of the Commissioners."—(Mr. Buchanan.)
§ * MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Invernessshire)
The matter has been so fully explained by my hon. Friend that I may well be brief. I had the honour of bringing forward the Motion last year, and I think we have reason to complain that the Return promised in reference to Loch Morar is not yet in our hands. As to the general question, I am sorry the Chancellor of the Exchequer is absent (I hope not intentionally), because I think his words on a previous occasion, though as they appeared in Hansard they do not convey so strong an impression as they made on our minds at the time, yet still are strong enough to lead to the belief that a Committee of Scottish Members such as my hon. Friend has alluded to would be appointed. The position of Crown rights of fishing in Scotland is quite distinct from that in England, and it is quite impossible for a General Committee to deal with it. I appeal to the First Lord, who was present on the former occasion and seemed to appreciate our point, that he will end the discussion by granting our request.
§ * MR. E. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
I have often urged an inquiry into the subject of the rights of the Crown in regard to Salmon Fisheries in Scotland, both sea and fresh water, to place the subject clear of doubt. Only last week I placed on the Paper a Motion for a Return stating each case where the right of salmon fishing, in the sea or off the coast of Scotland, is held under lease from the Crown, showing the rent paid and the distance the right extends in the sea; a statement of the cases where the rights have been sold, with the dates of sale, and the sum paid in each sale since the transfer of the right from the Office of Woods and Forests. That Return was refused on the ground that the greater part of the information had been given in Parliamentary Paper 175 of 1886. It is true that in this Paper there is a list of cases in which the Woods and 50 Forest Department have dealt with rights in salmon fishing between the years 1851 and 1884, but it does not at all give the information I want. It does not give the original dates when the sales were made or leases granted nor the gradual increment in the rent which I know very well has taken place in these salmon fishings from year to year. Further, this list is a very long one, containing a number of salmon fisheries of the smallest character, cases where there were no rights to part with, and where there are no salmon to come up the river; and it does not make a distinction between salmon fisheries in the sea and salmon fisheries in fresh water, and it is as to salmon fisheries in the sea that I chiefly wish to obtain distinct information of the rights the Woods and Forests Office claim to have. The effect of the present arrangement is that the Scotch fishermen all round the coast of Scotland are precluded from taking the salmon in the sea. That is not the case either in England or Ireland, the fishermen being at liberty to catch salmon in the sea by means of moveable machines. The Scotch fishermen feel this to be a very great hardship, and it has been the cause of great disturbances off the coast of Berwickshire. In grants and leases of these rights made up to 1880, the rights were restricted to the three-mile limit—that is to say, to the territorial waters. Since 1880, however, the conveyances have not contained any words of limitation. Will the Secretary to the Treasury explain this? Have they become doubtful of the rights they granted within the territorial waters, or do they claim still more extensive ones? If it is only within the territorial waters that they claim these rights, why do they not say so? My own belief is that the Crown has never exercised any right of taking salmon in the sea except by means of engines fixed to the shore, and I hold that by the practice of centuries these rights are limited to such modes of fishing as are carried on in connection with the land. I trust the Secretary to the Treasury will inform us distinctly how far the Crown claim that their rights extend—whether it is intended to convey rights beyond the territorial waters of the three mile limit, or only within one mile or two miles. I would press this 51 question, and would also press for a change of decision with regard to the Return for which I have asked. I do not think it at all unreasonable to ask for it, or that it would be at all difficult to prepare it.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
I do not think the Secretary to the Treasury, or even the First Lord of the Treasury, can answer the question as to the rights of the Crown to salmon in the sea. I do hope, however, the Government will seriously consider, before refusing the Committee so reasonably asked for by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan), in order to inquire into this matter. It is a very important and difficult matter, in regard to which a large portion of the people of Scotland feel very keenly. The case of Loch Morar is only a striking example of the manner in which the Crown rights have been alienated from the people, and it shows either criminal negligence or crass ignorance of these matters. This case is only one instance of what is going on all round the coasts of Scotland, and I believe that when the day comes to inquire into the subject, it will be found that the Crown has no right to alienate these rights. The subject is not only important and difficult, but it is also a very old one. Allusion has been made to the considerable disturbances which have occurred among the people on account of this practice. I am sorry to say that in this world of ours people do not often get redress for their grievances until disturbances break out and people's heads are broken. Unfortunately, the fishing industry on the coast of Scotland is now in a depressed condition. I hear gloomy accounts of the men who have have hitherto been engaged in it. It is said that they are emigrating to other parts of the world, because they are discontented at the way in which they have been treated by the Representatives of Her Majesty's Government—the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. Scotch Law on this subject stands on a totally different footing from English Law, and we cannot expect a general Committee of this kind to deal thoroughly with grievances which are peculiar to Scotland. I hope the Government will accede to the reasonable request of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, who only asks for a Committee 52 to be appointed to inquire specially into the matter.
§ * MR. JACKSON
I am afraid the answer of the Government to the hon. Member for West Edinburgh will not satisfy him, because I believe that the decision has already been announced, to which we feel we must abide. The Government have agreed to appoint a Commitee to inquire into the general administration of the Department of Woods and Forest; and, as I have already said, this question will not be excluded from consideration. I may go further, and say that whatever Member representing Scotland is on the Committee, he will take care that it is included in the inquiry of the Committee. The Government have further agreed, at the request of hon. Members opposite, that no further action shall be taken in regard to the leasing or sale of these salmon fisheries in Scotland until the inquiry by the Committee has taken place. As far as I know, it is not contended on the part of hon. Members that that promise will be otherwise than fulfilled. Therefore no harm can arise until some further action is taken, and no action can be taken until after the inquiry has been completed. I do not deny that the question is in itself an important question, but there are other questions of right to consider, and no right will be prejudiced by any action taken by the Woods and Forests. If it is found that the Committee are unable to conduct the inquiry fully and completely, then further steps may be taken. But my contention is that the Committee will be found perfectly competent to deal with the matter, so I believe it will be found that they will deal with it in a satisfactory manner. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not press his objection, but will wait and see what the result of the investigation by the Committee is. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire, has taken a little too seriously my refusal to grant the return for which he asked. So far as my recollection goes, the right hon. Gentleman spoke to me on the subject, and after making inquiry I was informed that the whole of the information was already in print, and had been given to the House. I may say at once that if the right hon. Gentleman, 53 after having looked into the information already before the House, still thinks that this return would be useful to the Scotch Members, or to the House generally, I am perfectly willing that he should have it. I had no desire to refuse the information, but simply to prevent the duplication of returns. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a change in the practice of dealing with leases, and the sale of the Crown rights in Scotland. He asked me to say what I think of the change, and also to define the limits of the Crown rights. I am quite sure that he will not expect me to enter into questions which contain so many elements of law, and especially of Scotch Law. I understand that in 1880 some question was raised as to whether a particular limit was the right limit, as previously defined, namely the three mile limit and a doubt was raised as to whether the rights of the Crown did not extend to even beyond three miles. Since then in dealing with leases and sales, no particular limit of distance has been described, but the Woods and Forests have simply handed over the rights they possess. The question of the rights of the Crown is left in precisely the position in which it stood before, and it would be presumptuous on my part to attempt to define what those rights are. As the Government have appointed a Committee, I do not think this is the time to raise any question as to particular points of detail, but hon. Members should wait until the inquiry of the Committee is completed, or until it is proved conclusively that the Committee is incompetent to deal with the question.
§ * MR. MARJORIBANKS
I must acknowledge the great courtesy which the hon. Gentleman always observes, and I am prepared to accept his offer and to say that I do think this Return would be of great use and value. As to the question of the Crown rights in the sea, it is one which is not easily disposed of. What I desire is to obtain for the fishermen of Scotland power to catch fish in the sea. If it is the case that the Crown rights in the sea are of this extensive character, there is no necessity for any Act of Parliament whatever to make the fishermen enjoy the privilege of catching salmon. Nothing could be easier than to make arrangements by which the fishermen of any district could take out a license 54 from the Woods and Forests, giving them the right of fishing within a defined distance of the shore. If the Crown rights are so extensive they should not be confined to one class of people who employ engines for catching salmon along the shore, but the sea should be opened to fishermen generally. With proper regulations as to close time and methods of capture, they ought to be able to catch salmon in the sea with the permission and under the direct sanction of the Crown. I hope that that point will receive the attention of the hon. Gentleman and also of the Office of Woods and Forests.
§ MR. A. ELLIOT (Roxburghshire)
The rights claimed by the Crown in respect to salmon in Scotland are of a much more extensive character than in England, and the way in which they have been dealt with has given rise to very great discontent. There has also been a disposition to question the legality of the rights claimed by private individuals. I hope it will be distinctly laid down, when this Committee is appointed, that it shall be their duty to inquire into the whole of the circumstances of the Crown rights in Scotland. It would be more satisfactory to the Scotch Members if a Committee, substantially Scotch, had been appointed to inquire into the question, and that it was not to be regarded merely as a matter of detail by a Committee appointed to inquire into the general management of the affairs of Scotland. As that has not been provide for by the Government, we think the Government ought to put in the terms of reference that it is the business of the Committee to inquire into these rights which now, to a great extent, are private rights, and which are maintained or sanctioned by Charter from the Crown. I can assure Her Majesty's Ministers that the matter is one which is of very great interest to the people of Scotland.
§ * MR. SHIRESS WILL (Montrose, Burghs)
I join with the right hon. Member for Berwickshire in thanking the Secretary to the Treasury for promising a Return showing the extent of the alleged Crown rights. The case is much stronger now than it was last year for a Special Committee on the subject. The Return promised by the Secretary to the Trea- 55 sury is not sufficient now for clearing up the cause of complaint. It has now come to light that the Crown from time to time has put forward a sort of cloudy claim to the right to take salmon in the sea—sometimes to the extent of three miles out at sea, and sometimes to a less extent. It appears now that that claim has been withdrawn so far as regards any leases which are made now.
§ * MR. JACKSON
I did not say that it had been withdrawn. I said that it had not been inserted in the leases.
§ * MR. S. WILL
That means very much the same thing. The claim has ceased to be inserted, and the reason is this: that the hon. Gentleman thinks the Crown may have a right extending still further at sea than three miles. I maintain that this is a cloudy claim, and it is rendered still more cloudy by this action on the part of the Crown. How is it to be cleared up? Suppose we have a Return; what will it show? It will show the very few instances in which the Crown has asserted any such right. It will teach us nothing as to the origin of the alleged right of the Crown. It will go no length whatever in showing us what the foundation of the claim really is. The three-mile limit is a limit which exists for a totally different purpose. It is not for the purpose of defining any right of the Crown in the territory, the soil, or the fish; but it was simply the limit of jurisdiction in relation to Foreign Powers. I sincerely trust that the question will be made the subject of inquiry by a Special Committee. It rests upon entirely different considerations from any similar question in England. It is quite true that the Crown have agreed to hold their hand pending a general inquiry; but as to this right, the contention of the Scotch Members is that the Crown has no right to sell or dispose of fisheries which are vested in it simply as trustees of the public. Of late years, the Office of Woods and Forests have been selling these rights here, there, and everywhere. The matter is a special one, and should not be mixed up in any degree with the general inquiry which is about to be entered into by the Committee. I hope that my right hon. Friend who moved the Motion will take a Division upon it, to see if the Government are really in earnest in insisting upon handing over these 56 special matters to the Committee which is to undertake a general inquiry into the administration of the Office of Woods and Forests.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
I have always admired the manner in which the Secretary to the Treasury replies to any question that is raised, especially by Scotch Members. It demonstrates to my mind the great superiority of the Yorkshire over the Scotch character. When I listened to his first speech, I noticed in it a studied inability to understand the point that was put before him. But when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. S. Will) talked about the claim of the Crown being withdrawn, the hon. Gentleman fully appreciated the point, and was ready enough to say that it had not been withdrawn, but had ceased to be inserted in the lease. The hon. Gentleman disarms suspicion in that way, but he could not have made his speech without knowing the reasonableness of the point urged by my hon. Friend. He said that he would not venture to discuss questions of law, and especially questions of Scotch Law, but he ignored altogether the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said explicitly that this question could not be conveniently referred to the same Committee that was to inquire into the administration of the Woods and Forests; that Scotch questions were peculiar, and could not possibly be dealt with by that Committee. Probably, when the Committee is appointed, the Secretary to the Treasury will be the Chairman. I can imagine the hon. Gentleman examining Scotch witnesses and drafting his Report upon questions of foreshore rights and such things as "Bishops' teams." I should like to know what his idea of "Bishops' teams" is? The notion that there will be one or two Scotch Members upon the Committee is preposterous. Any one likely to interest himself in Scotch questions would be carefully excluded from the Committee, and the consequence will be that the matter will be most unsatisfactorily dealt with. I see, Mr. Courtney, from the expression on your countenance, that you are of opinion that I am wandering from the subject, and therefore I will merely say that I entirely support the views of my hon. 57 Friend the Member for West Edinburgh, and I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will see the desirability of re-considering his determination.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeenshire, E.)
I desire to express my satisfaction that the Scotch fishery questions are, and have been, during the past year receiving a little consideration, and I wish to impress upon the Secretary to the Treasury and the Lord Advocate the very strong amount of feeling which exists in Scotland with regard to the uncertainty of the law in reference to the catching of salmon. It is a subject which has been brought under the attention of the Government almost from time immemorial, and I wish to emphasize the feeling expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montrose that the Committee must be required to take a wider scope before it would be able to settle this very intricate and difficult, although at the same time interesting question. There is another matter to which I also wish to call attention. We were exceedingly obliged to the Government for giving us a Commission upon the mussel beds. That Commission has completed its inquiry, and made its Report, but as yet we have had no indication whether anything is going to be done in reference to that Report. I should like to know from the Lord Advocate what the views of the Government are in regard to it, and whether any action is to be taken upon it. Seeing that the fishing industry is of more value to the country than the whole of the agricultural interest, we ought to receive some intimation from the Government that these important questions are engaging their attention.
§ * MR. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
I regret very much the decision at which the Government have arrived. Although the declaration in the Autumn Session was not made in so many words, it was certainly understood that the inquiry would be a special one. They have kept the promise to the letter, but cannot be said to have kept it in the spirit. The inquiry they are prepared to concede is to be of a very limited character, referring only to the administration of the Woods and Forests. We desire to go a little further, and to deal with the policy of the Woods and Forests in alienating the Crown rights to the 58 Salmon Fisheries. The question is one of policy, and I am afraid that under the terms of the reference such questions will be excluded. We ought to have a Committee specially appointed to inquire into the subject. I can assure the Government that the question is assuming very great importance among the people of Scotland. The Crown lessees assert vague claims as to the right of salmon fishing in the sea, and I think we are entitled to have a declaration from the Woods and Forests as to what the rights of the Crown are. They do not declare what the Crown rights are, and if the fishermen, in the assertion of the rights they claim, get into conflict with the lessees of the Crown the Government will be greatly to blame for any serious consequences which may follow. Do the Woods and Forests claim that they have a right to all the salmon in the sea? A question of great interest to the public is at issue, quite apart from the claims of the fishermen. The fishermen are beginning to find out that they can catch salmon at a considerable distance from the shore without using the fixed engines formerly employed. If the Crown prevent them from catching salmon in this manner, they are playing the part of the dog in the manger. I think the Government would relieve themselves of a considerable difficulty if they would consent to the appointment of a Committee specially to investigate this question.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I desire to say a few words before the debate proceeds further. I think the Committee have hardly realized the engagements under which the Government have come in this matter. The Government have distinctly undertaken that no alienation of Crown rights in regard to salmon fishing will be made until the matter has been inquired into and a determination arrived at. Pending that inquiry, therefore, there can be no damage to the public of Scotland by the action of the Woods and Forests. The Government, being asked from other quarters, have granted a Committee to inquire into the administration of the Woods and Forests, and it will be impossible to exclude from such an inquiry a question relating to a very important part of the functions of that Department in Scotland—namely, the dealing with Crown rights of fishing. 59 It would also be inconvenient that two Committees dealing with the Woods and Forests should be sitting upstairs at the same time. The Government having undertaken that there shall be no damage whatever to the public pending that inquiry, I hope hon. Members will allow it to proceed, and if it appears in the course of the inquiry that the Committee cannot conduct it satisfactorily or decline to go into all the question hon. Gentlemen desire, it will then be fitting that hon. Gentlemen should come to the House and ask for another Committee. To have an inquiry going on pari passu with another inquiry into the administration of the Woods and Forests is an arrangement which I think would not be satisfactory even to the people of Scotland themselves. The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) has referred to the Report of the Commission presided over by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire. That Report was only presented in March. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will see that the Government are fully alive to the question, and are desirous that there should be no loss of time.
§ SIR G. O. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
The most satisfactory part of the utterances which have been made from the Treasury Bench in the course of this discussion is the assurance which has been given that no more grants, either by lease or by sale, will be made until there has been an inquiry.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
What I said was that we would abstain from putting forward any right pending the decision of the Committee.
§ SIR G. O. TREVELYAN
The readiness with which the Government have conceded that point shows the perfect reasonableness of the concession, and the satisfaction with which it has been received is a proof of the unreasonableness of the action of the Woods and Forests in Scotch matters in the past. I trust that the Committee which is going to be appointed to inquire into the Woods and Forests will, both in the scope of its inquiry and the personal constitution of the Committee, be qualified to investigate whether the officers of the Scotch Office should not be responsible hence forward for the management of the Woods and Forests in Scotland. In old days I knew nothing more unsatisfactory than the relation of the Woods and Forests to the 60 Scotch Members. In those days I had occasion to apply to the Woods and Forests in regard to this fishery question—a question which in Scotland attracts a large amount of interest—and I must say the feeling of the people is that they are not safe in the hands of the Woods and Forests. I quite see from the tone of the debate that a great change has been brought about by the outspoken conduct of the Scotch Members in this House, and the manner in which public opinion has been brought to bear upon the conduct of the Government. It is plain that in this case a blunder has been committed by the Woods and Forests. It is confessed to be a blunder by the promise which has been made by the Government that nothing of the same sort shall occur again until there has been full inquiry. Such a blunder could not have been committed if the Woods and Forests had been a Scotch Department—in touch with the Scotch people. I earnestly trust that the question of the control of the woods and forests will be brought before the Committee now about to sit, and, if so, I fancy it will be decided that a change is necessary.
§ * MR. S. WILLIAMSON (Kilmarnock Burghs)
I am quite sure that this public question of the right of fishermen to catch salmon in the sea is one that deserves special inquiry. The First Lord of the Treasury has said that a Committee will be appointed to inquire into the matter, and that in the meantime the fishermen will not be prejudiced in the exercise of their rights. "In the meantime," the right hon. Gentleman says. But the men are prejudiced at this moment, seeing that while there is a penalty attached to the catching of salmon within a limit of one mile from the shore, and none outside of that limit, they are yet prohibited from catching salmon outside of this one mile limit. I hope the whole question will be discussed on Tuesday next on the Motion of the right hon. Member for Berwickshire. I am perfectly sure that the people of Scotland will not be satisfied to have this burning question remitted to a large General Committee, which is to inquire principally into the administration of the Woods and Forests. They will not be satisfied unless they get the appointment of a Committee or a Commission to deal with the subject specially.
§ * MR. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrews, Burghs)
I wish to take this opportunity of endorsing the remarks which have been made by hon. Members on this side of the House. At the same time, I would like to suggest to the Secretary to the Treasury that if he has finally made up his mind that he cannot grant this second Committee asked for by hon. Members representing Scotland in this House, he may be willing, perhaps, to take into consideration a proposal that there should be a Commission similar to that presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire last autumn to inquire into the question of the mussel beds. Such a Commission might inquire into the rights of the Crown and their title to the salmon fishing in the territorial waters upon the Scottish coasts.
§ * MR. BARCLAY
I would earnestly support the suggestion of my hon. Friend. The statement of the First Lord of the Treasury is quite satisfactory that no further leases or sale will be made until the Committee shall have reported; but the Committee which has been appointed will not deal with the other important question respecting the extent of the rights of the Crown to the salmon fishing in the sea. It would, therefore, be extremely useful to have a Commission to inquire into the present method, and also as to the possibility of catching salmon in the sea without fixed engines. If the right hon. Gentleman will agree to the appointment of a small Commission, I am quite sure the Scotch Members will be satisfied to await the result of the investigation. I do not see how the question can be otherwise decided except by an expensive litigation. As the fishermen have no means to enable them to carry on a litigation, of course they will press upon their Representatives the hardships to which they are subjected. Certainly the right of catching fish in the open sea would seem to be the natural right of all fishermen, and so it is held in England, subject to municipal regulations. The people of Scotland cannot understand why there should be any difference between the law of the two countries.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
There is a Motion standing on the Paper for Tuesday next in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick- 62 shire, and it raises, I think, the whole question which hon. Members opposite desire to raise. I can only repeat the assurance I have already given that if hon. Gentlemen will allow the question to stand over, at all events until the Committee has shown whether it can deal with the subject or not, an inquiry shall be made specially if the Committee finds that it is unable to entertain the matter.
§ * MR. BUCHANAN
I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what is to be the scope of the inquiry he proposes by means of the promised Committee, and unless I receive a satisfactory reply, I do not think I shall be justified in withdrawing my Amendment.
§ * SIR G. CAMPBELL
Are we to understand that the Government will, next Tuesday, give us an answer as to what it is they propose to do? If not, we must take a Division.
§ MR. CALDWELL (St. Rollox)
I must express my regret that the Government do not see their way to grant the almost unanimous wish of the Scotch Members—namely, that they shall have a Special Committee to consider this question, which is one purely relating to Scotland. It is notorious that the law of Scotland is a matter of difficulty in regard to questions of this kind, and that the rights which exists in England and Scotland are so widely different that English lawyers would not consent to sit on a Committee on a purely technical question based on Scotch Law. What is wanted is that the inquiry should be conducted by a Committee composed mainly of Scotch Members, and the Government have given no distinct reason for refusing this request, although they have undertaken that no new leases shall be granted until the question is disposed of by the Committee. The question is, what Committee will the Government give us? It is of the utmost importance that that Committee should have the confidence of the Scottish people. There can be no reason to suppose that a Committee of Scotch Members would look at the matter from a Party point of view, or would unduly take away the rights of any set of individuals; and I think we have a right to ask that a question of this kind should be delegated to those who have some knowledge of the Scotch Law. 63 The Committee divided: —Ayes 148; Noes 218.—(Div. List, No. 112.)
Original question again proposed.
MR. NOLAN (Louth)
I wish to introduce to the notice of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen the Irish part of the question. I find, looking at the salaries, £1,135 for the Woods and Forests Commissioners in Ireland, and I should like to ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they are acquainted with the duties which those officers in Ireland have to discharge. I want to know whether the officers of the Woods and Forests Commissioners are charged with protecting the rights of the people, because I am inclined to think, from what I have seen myself, that they do not discharge this duty. Take the right of sailing on a lake. I have seen, in one instance, a lake consisting of two parts, the upper and the lower. The upper part was very small and very uninteresting, and that was the only part to which the common people had access. The lower part was large, picturesque, and interesting to a very great degree. Now, the great landlord who possessed the right of access to the lower part of the lake, drew a rope across the narrow creek which connected the two parts, and by this means kept the boats of the ordinary people from sailing on the lower part. And I have seen myself that the boats—
I understood from the discussion which took place that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests had charge of the lakes.
The Commissioners of Woods and Forests have charge of Crown properties. It may possibly be that a lake is Crown property.
The fishing as well as sailing? ["No."] Well then, Sir, as regards Woods and Forests, this is a matter which has very considerable interest to the people of Ireland, particularly at a time when employment is wanted.
The hon. Member is not touching the elements of the Vote. This is a Vote for the Commissioners having charge of Crown property.
Unless I am misinformed, the remarks I am making with regard to the mountain and forest lands of Ireland appertain to this Vote, because I am credibly informed that if they are not Crown property it arises from the fault of the Office. [Laughter.] Yes, the office of Woods and Forests, which fails to preserve the rights of the Crown. But I will postpone my remarks with reference to Woods and Forests, not that I am entirely convinced I am wrong in thinking that they are connected with this Vote. I find by the Vote that there is a certain amount for mineralogists, and I infer from this that the mines of Ireland are connected with this Vote.
I have already explained that this has reference to the charge of Crown properties, and the hon. Member's observations must be directed to mines in the charge of the Crown Office.
Very well, Mr. Courtney, I will reserve my remarks on this for some other occasion. and content myself at present with asking one of the representatives of the Government what are the functions discharged by the Irish Office in connection with Woods and Forests?
§ * MR. JACKSON
The functions discharged by the Staff in Ireland are very simple. They are, to look after the Crown rights, which in Ireland consist, mainly, of quit rents. There is a Central Office in Dublin, as the right hon. Gentleman will see on referring to his Estimates. The collection is made by the Inland Revenue.
§ MR. MOLLOY (Birr, King's Co.)
There are one or two observations which I wish to make on this Vote. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman what kind of decision, if any, has the Government come to with regard to the Royalties they are going to charge on minerals under Crown lands in Ireland. Several who were interested in a mining property, and were going to develop it, especially in connection with gold mines, are actually going to withdraw from the whole concern, in consequence of the exorbitant demands made by the Government. The amount asked by the Government as Royalty for these Crown lands is 5 per cent, or one-twentieth of the gross produce of the mines. Under such conditions as that it is impossible for any mineral pro- 65 perty in the world to be developed. In Australia, and in America, and in all great gold bearing countries, all those Royalties which were imposed at the beginning have been utterly done away with, and they find it in the interest of the country and the development of the property that no Royalties should be charged. Well, now, it is a very hard thing that just as a considerable amount of capital is about to be invested in these mines in Ireland, the Government impose a tax which prohibits any further action being taken. Of my own knowledge, I know of one case where some 20 square miles granted by the Crown were abandoned owing to the extortionate and exceedingly foolish demands of the Government. Five per cent, or one-tenth of the gold that comes out of the mine, is, so far as I can calculate, about 18 per cent or one-twentieth of a man's working in the different quarries. What can be object of the Government in asking for this enormous tax? You are constantly telling people outside this House that your aim is to promote the industries of Ireland, and you have killed this industry. You have only one mine working in Scotland at the present time, and only one in Wales; and here in Ireland, just as capital is about to be invested, you propose this stupid tax, as it seems to me, upon it. Now why should you do this in Wales and in Ireland, when in every other country in the world these taxes have been done away with? The only condition attached to it beyond that is that they must be worked. Now, the First Lord of the Treasury is present, and I will ask him whether it is in the interest of the Government or of Ireland or Wales to uphold a tax which prohibits the development of industry. It is a curious thing that you have paid away in law expenses under this Vote a sum of £11,535 in the year. What is the use of our discussing this question every year if no attention is paid to us? The question of Royalties was brought forward two years ago, and on the last occasion a promise was given me that the matter should be looked into; yet nothing has been done. I will ask the First Lord of the Treasury to say whether or not, as these two taxes bring absolutely nothing into the Treasury, and as they only stop the development 66 of property, it is worth while keeping them up. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he did not see why the middleman should make money out of the mines; that if the leases were granted to him he would make considerable sums. But this kind of grandmotherly legislation is of no use. How can you expect a man to spend money in sinking shafts in order to discover where gold is to be found, unless he has some prospect of making money out of it? I hope the First Lord of the Treasury will abolish a tax, the imposition of which prevents the development of property and the introduction of capital into the country.
§ * MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN (Merthyr Tydfil)
I should not be doing my duty to Wales if I allowed this Vote to pass without making one or two observations. I think the Woods and Forests Office is conducted in a manner which shows a great want of knowledge on the subjects which it has to handle, and more especially the subject of Royalties. In no other country in the world do such charges exist as these which are imposed upon those desirous of opening up industries in Wales. Take, for instance, my own position. I am at the present moment defending an action which has been brought by the Woods and Forests Department against me to prevent me digging a hole in my own freehold land. The Office practically says, "We are entitled to all the gold you obtain from your land, and unless you give us an exorbitant amount of the gold and silver you obtain, you shall not work there at all." It is well known to men interested in mining that the slightest possible charge will stifle the energy of the enterprise. Take, for instance, the colony of Victoria. There they found 3s. an ounce shut up about 50 per cent of the mines in that colony. The tax was entirely abolished in deference to public opinion. In America, Australia, and in every part of the world, men are entitled to work the mines by paying a nominal amount to the authorities. But it is not so here. The fact is the amount received by the Treasury as Royalties on gold and silver was infinitesimal until this industry was opened up by me. I believe the British Government received 11d. by way of Royalties on gold obtained on private land in the United Kingdom. But I 67 have paid in one year—including duty on the transfer of a property, the rent of which was £70 a year—I have, I say, paid for working one adit a sum amounting to nearly £2,300. I say this is an unjust and unfair tax on what promises to be an important industry. I know perfectly well that hon. Members opposite have Conservative opinions as to the sacred rights of property, and I know I have been accused of wanting to rob the country by taking gold out of it and paying no royalty. But we cannot work any land unless we go hat in hand to this Office and ask them respectfully whether they will kindly allow us to dig a hole in the land we have bought and paid for. This is no Party question. I want and am willing to pay a Royalty, but it must be in proportion of the profits which I derive from the undertaking and a fair proportion of the product of the land. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to a pertinent question I put to him, was good enough to sneer at what I have done, but if one mine afforded for one adit, worked one year, a sum of £2,200 or £2,300 to the State, and if, as I say unhesitatingly there are hundreds of properties in Wales and a large area in Ireland where similar mines could be profitably opened up, I think this opens up a scheme which might be of great advantage to the country. I have the greatest respect for the Gentlemen who administer the Woods and Forests Department, and they are possibly fitted to occupy important positions under the Crown, but I firmly believe there is not one man in this Woods and Forests Office who has ever seen a gold or silver mine in his life. It is the duty of the House to carefully consider this matter, and to give a chance to the development of so important an industry as that to which I have referred. I may be charged with having an interest in this matter. But before I presumed to get up and speak upon it in this House I surrendered all my Crown leases to the Crown, declining to work for so unjust and unfair a landlord. And so I have lost what little money I have expended in the development of this land, for I shall not be foolish enough to work under these conditions, neither will anyone else who has any knowledge on the subject. Let me for the sake of argument take a mine—gold, silver, or copper. If it costs 68 10s. to raise it and 10s. to treat metal worth 17s. 6d., you cannot, of course, carry on the industry at a profit. But you must remove that ore in order to see if there is better underneath; yet, while you are trying the experiment and working at a loss of 2s. 6d. per ton, the Woods and Forests Office steps in and makes you pay this Royalty, although you have been giving employment to a large number of men, and are working at a loss. I say that that is most unfair. Now, I repeat that this is not a Party matter; I do not move a reduction of the Vote for the mere purpose of lowering the salary of anybody. I should rather see them raised, for I do not believe that people get over-paid in this world. But take the position of my ground landlord in reference to a particular mine of my own. We have worked the mine for a period of one year and have got out no less than 5,300 tons of ore which has produced nearly half-a-ton of solid gold. Surely if that is the result of working one little mine for a year, the industry is one worth considering, my landlord was satisfied with a Royalty of one-fortieth, as a consideration for the lease. But then he discovered that he had no right to it, and the Crown stepped in and claimed a Royalty of one-thirtieth, with the result that this man might possibly have been ruined. I did not care about ruining him, for people in Wales are no more amiable if you insist on ruining them than they are in Ireland. I, at any rate. thought discretion the better part of valour, and therefore undertook to pay the Royalties to the Crown myself. I trust that now I have called the attention of the House to this matter, and considering that the Government have been good enough to consent to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the question of Royalties generally, this point will no longer be overlooked. It is my solemn conviction that in the near future we shall be producing in this country large quantities of gold, silver, lead, and copper, and I submit that the Government has no right to stand between the labourers, who will thus secure employment, and their industry. I would suggest that the Government should charge no Royalty whatever on gold or silver obtained in this country for a period of three years 69 from this time. I believe that would let loose a hundred thousand pounds capital for the development of this industry in Wales and in Ireland I do not want to get rid of the liability to pay Royalties to the Crown. From the day I first discovered gold, I urged on the Woods and Forests Department, that they should insist on their rights, but I believe as the law now stands, although they may claim Royalties, they have no right to enter on the land to search for gold, for that would render them liable to an action for trespass. The first instance of a Royalty was when Joseph went down to that portion of the land of Egypt the name of which I have no right to mention in this House. He there created a corner in corn, and, having done a very smart thing in that direction, the people came round him and gave him their cattle and sheep, their flocks and herds, in return for corn. The following year the people again came to Joseph for more corn. Joseph, if I remember rightly, asked what they had Co give him. They said they had nothing but land, so Joseph took the land, and then he had the whole bag of tricks in his hand, and was in a position stronger than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It being ten minutes to seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Resolution to be reported to-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.