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.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I hope we shall hear something from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to the remarks made on the last occasion, when we had this Vote before us, by one of the Welsh Members, in regard to the action of the Treasury in crushing out the development of the Welsh goldfields. To pursue the present system of royalties must result in their not getting anything like what they ought to get, and it will prevent this young industry from developing. That system is, to demand a certain amount on the gross proceeds of the mining, and that is similar to asking rent for land per acre irrespective of the character and situation of that land. Whether you work lodes yielding 5 oz. of gold to the ton, or lodes only producing 5 to 10 dwts., you ask the same royalty, though in the latter case there is no fair return for capital invested. The Transvaal gold fields were a rising industry, but would have been crushed by the action of the British Government, and it was only when the Boers resumed control again that their great development took place. I believe that not only in Wales, but in Scotland and Ireland, there is a field for this industry, and that gold can be found to the great benefit of the country and to the commerce of the world. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stopped anything of the kind, and I understand that the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Pritchard Morgan) has thrown up his Crown leases.
§ * MR. JACKSON
That has been said, but I think it is a mistake.
§ DR. CLARK
The hon. Member said so. I think it would be a good thing to have an inquiry by Committee into this subject. We ought to have a Gold Law similar to that which we have in our Colonies to deal with this matter. I know that in Caithness and in other parts of the Highlands gold can be found in the silt of the rivers, and that men working it can make from a pound to thirty shilling a week. But they are entirely in the hands of the Government 583 officials and the factors of owners like the Duke of Sutherland, whose action sometimes puts a stop to the work. The Crown has the right to these Royal minerals, but prospecting for them should be regulated by law, as is the case in the Colonies.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER) (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square
I had not the advantage of hearing the remarks of the hon. Member for Merthyr, but I gather from previous discussions that the operations he is engaged in warrant the action taken by the Treasury. Under a system of competition it is difficult if we are to prevent favouritism to proceed in any other manner than by accepting the offer of the highest bidder. It is unfortunate if subsequently the person whose offer is accepted finds he has paid too much for the privilege of working. We have every desire to promote these undertakings, and there is no wish to exact the uttermost farthing, but unless competition is to be a farce we have no alternative but to accept the highest tender. However, I will once more look into the matter, and see if there is any preferable system.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I am afraid that the range of vision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in these matters is excessively limited, and that his knowledge of the Gold Laws in gold-producing countries must be not very extensive. The condition of the whole of this question of royalties is a disgrace to this country, a condition of things which I believe I am right in saying is not to be found in any other country in the world. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer supposes, with his knowledge of mining industry here and in other countries, that all the system of royalties to private individuals as well as to the State does not hamper and restrict mining industry in this country, all I can say is the sooner he learns what has been done in other countries, and what might be done here, the sooner and the better will he be able to discharge one of the responsibilities attaching to the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, I am not going to quarrel with the system of paying royalties on minerals in this country, whether gold or otherwise, to the Government of the country. That, so far as I under- 584 stand the matter, is a proceeding not inconsistent with that theory of naturalization of the land,which a great many of us on this side conceive to be the proper solution of the Land Question. I am entirely in favour of the State receiving something in the way of royalties for minerals taken from our native land, which I recognize as the property of the nation; but what I complain of is that, in addition to such royalties, there is an additional royalty paid to the individual in whose land the gold is found, placing a double incubus on the mining industry.
The only question of royalties open upon this Vote is in relation to the action of the Department.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I am giving my reasons for an alteration of the present system and for an inquiry on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend who has just spoken. I do not, Sir, wish to question your ruling, but I would submit that I am entitled to give a reason for such an inquiry, and for some modification of the system of royalties that this new or resuscitated gold industry in Wales is hampered with. I am not going into the general question of royalties. I hope we shall have an opportunity at a later date, but I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman who has expressed himself as willing to look into the matter that he should go a little further and study from a textbook on the subject what has been done in other countries. The Gold Law of the Transvaal is perhaps the most perfect to be found in any mining country, for I happen to know it was carefully elaborated after inquiry into the state of the Gold Mining Laws of every country in the civilized world. If the right hon. Gentleman does not feel disposed to accept the suggestion for a Select Committee, will he undertake that this subject shall form an integral part of the examination into the general question of royalties, which is to be entrusted. as I understand, to a Royal Commission. Of this I have not heard much, and I should like to know whether the Commission will have specific power to deal with all questions affecting gold and silver money in this country. I can corroborate what has been said by my hon. Friend that a great many industries in other parts of the country 585 besides Wales are stifled and impeded. I am sorry I am precluded from going into details to show how the Crown and private royalties combined prevent development of the gold mining industry in Sutherlandshire. Loss must accrue to the Exchequer, over which the right hon. Gentleman presides like a guardian angel, if private owners are permitted—
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I am not going into the question of private royalties.
The hon. Member is diverging from the point—the way in which the Crown exercise the right.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I did not understand that was the specific point to which I was tied down. I thought I could deal with the general question of the royalties to the Crown. I do not wish to trespass on forbidden ground. All I wished to say was that the gold mining industry is impeded in every part of the kingdom. The Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks it necessary to adopt the principle of competition, and says to prevent favouritism the highest offer must be accepted. That may be so. I am not against the general principle of public competition, nor would I suggest anything likely to increase that private jobbery which we know is inseparable from Tory administration, but I certainly do not understand that there is no alternative to placing on the industry a scale of royalties too heavy for it to bear. We must recollect the great competition now going on; the produce of gold in South Africa is increasing rapidly, and we should do everything we can to develop the industry here. The right lion. Gentleman said, as I understood, he did not consider that there was any grave ground for complaint because the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Pritchard Morgan) had sold his mines for a very large sum to a company. I had the pleasure the other morning of discussing that matter with my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr, who showed me some of the specimens of gold from Wales. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to comfort himself with the reflection that my hon. Friend made a good thing out of this business. I hope he has done so. But the right hon. Gentleman may not be aware that the 586 outlay of my hon. Friend has been very large. I am given to understand that my hon. Friend has laid out no less a sum than £100,000 in his endeavour to make something of this mining industry. This I consider to be one of the most patriotic efforts we have heard of in recent years. English capitalists are only too ready to invest their money in every part of the civilized or uncivilized world, and it is a very great satisfaction to know that there are capitalists in this country ready to sink large sums of money in the endeavour to do some good to the industries of the country. Therefore, the fact that he has invested his money is an additional reason not that he should be heavily taxed, but that his patriotic efforts should be recognized, and that what can be done without unduly sacrificing the interests of the nation should be done for the purpose of encouraging him to carry on his patriotic efforts. I am not opposed to the principle of State royalties, but I think that if we cannot at once get rid of the additional incubus and burden of royalties, we ought, at any rate, so to arrange the scale of royalties as to impose the smallest burden possible upon a struggling industry like this gold mining industry. I have said these few words with the object of backing up what has been said by my hon. Friend, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer can give us some further assurance that the question will be considered by the Royal Commission which I understand is to be granted for the purpose of discussing the question of royalties.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol)
We have heard a good deal of fault found with the mode in which these royalties are assessed, and, if I understand rightly, a great improvement could be made in respect of Crown royalties. I think that encouragement should be given to the finding of gold in this country. Although I do not believe that much gold will be found, yet, I think, that is all the more reason why those who are making the attempt should be encouraged. I would suggest that the royalty should be upon the gold discovered. One of the greatest difficulties is experienced in dealing with the sub-holders of land, and it does seem to me that they should not be an obstacle 587 in the way of working these minerals at a fair and reasonable rate.
The hon. Member is travelling away from the point. The hon. Member has heard me twice warn another hon. Member, who was pursuing the same line of argument.
§ MR. COSSHAM
I was wishing to ascertain whether any arrangement could be made by which the Government could get possession of and work the metals without private individuals standing in the way. I find in connection with this Vote of £28,000 that the sum of £9,000 [An hon. MEMBER: £11,000] well,either £9,000 or £11,000, is for legal expenses. Such an amount absorbed in legal expenses appears to me to require very considerable justification. I see that the addition to this charge this year is something like £3,033. I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will be kind enough to give some explanation of this large amount for law expenses.
§ * MR. JACKSON (Leeds)
The total amount charged for legal expenses, including all the leases granted and all the legal arrangements, and all the conveyances that have to be made. [Mr. COSSHAM: They are paid for.] No. The legal branch deals with them, and I do not think that the amount is excessive. With reference to the mining royalties, I may remind the hon. Member that it has been agreed to appoint a Commission on Mining Royalties generally, and these royalties will not be excluded from the consideration of the Commission. Several hon. Members have raised the objection that the amount of the royalties is excessive. There are two answers to that. In the first place, it would be very difficult for the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to accept half the sum from one individual when there is another man willing to give twice as much. If there is one man willing to give 1-15th, it necessarily follows that they ought not to take 1-30th. The other answer is that the Commissioners would be perfectly willing, if it could be shown that there was inconvenience or waste, or that the value of the property was diminished to a lower point than reasonable to the adventurer, to re-consider the terms.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's County, Birr)
Mr. Courtney, I have it on the authority 588 of a Member of this House that he had taken up a large number of leases of royalties for the Woods and Forests, and that he had found it so absolutely, impossible to work them under the conditions imposed that he had returned the whole of the leases to the Department.
§ * MR. JACKSON
The fact is not known to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. The leases had not up to this morning been returned to them.
§ MR. MOLLOY
I can only give you the authority of a gentleman who is a Member of this House. He told me the royalty charges were so-great that he was obliged to return the leases. Perhaps it may be that the leases are now on their way. The example of all other gold-bearing countries will prove the practical inconvenience that must arise from these very large charges. Australia and America and other gold-bearing countries which started with royalties have absolutely abandoned them, whereas in this country, where a certain number of people are seeking to develop gold mining, a charge is made which renders it impossible to go on with the work. In foreign gold-bearing countries a charge of 5s. or 10s. for each registered claim is made, on condition that the property shall be worked and not kept idle. You ought to be guided by the experience of Australia, America, and other gold-bearing countries, which, having started by charging large royalties for gold, have abandoned them and contented themselves by charging a few shillings for registering a claim and requiring that the property should be worked. But the Secretary to the Treasury says—" Why should we give a reduction of half or even of less when we find there are a large number of people who are willing to give the whole?" The hon. Gentleman knows that whatever charge he likes to make there are a certain number of people who would accept the terms in the hope of getting something for themselves; but I say that that is not the class of people you would desire or who are likely to do any good. I know that in Ireland at the end of the last century the Government dealt in the same way with the gold interest there. The mines were then being worked by the peasantry, and in the course of a year and a half they actually 589 washed out something like£90,000 worth of gold. The Government then took the matter in hand and charged a royalty. What was the result? Why, that from that day to this not a single penny piece has been made, and a large loss was created by the action of the Government. Again, in Wales only 30 or 40 years ago a similar gold industry was started at a well-known mine, but the moment they came to difficult ground, when the production was much less than at first, the royalties charged by the Crown absolutely ruined them, and they had to abandon the development of the mine. There is no reason in these charges, and the only attempt to answer the arguments urged against them has been that made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year, the reason he gave for maintaining them being was that if the Crown did not keep them up some middlemen would step in and make money out of the industry. Was there ever such an argument as that? Why, the right hon. Gentleman knows that in every business there must be middlemen, there being in most cases the manufacturer, the wholesale buyer, and the retailer; and it is impossible to get rid of the middlemen. Therefore the reason given by the right hon. Gentleman was only an excuse invented on the spur of the moment, because he had no better one to put forward. Now, on the one hand there is the loss the industry has sustained through the action of the Government; while on the other hand the Government make nothing by the course they take in this matter. The result is that the industry is being killed, and in order more particularly to draw the attention of the Government to their most ruinous and unreasonable conduct, I will move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £200.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £22,147, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr.Molloy).
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan)
I may state that I have not any gold mines myself, but that as far as I can judge gold mining is a very poor business in these countries. If there is only a very small quantity of the ore in the quartz or earth taken out of the mines, a correspondingly low royalty ought to be asked 590 I think it would be well if the Government agreed to give short leases and low royalties for a few years, in order to encourage speculators to try for the gold that is to be had; because unless there is some profit, no one will be induced to risk money in making an expensive examination as to whether the gold exists in sufficient quantities to pay for the outlay. These are very speculative times, and I have no doubt that if a low rate of royalty were charged, the result would be, that people would be induced to take the risk. People will not be inclined to take very long leases on such a speculation, and I am sorry the Government should insist on leases of that kind. Probably ere long, an agitation may arise against the present system of royalties, and it would be wise on the part of the Government to anticipate that by the adoption of a more reasonable course.
* MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN (Merthyr)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that I have sold all my mining interests and netted a large sum of money. I deny the accuracy of that statement. I have not sold any of my freehold property, but on one of my leaseholds I have capitalized. What I complain of with reference to the action of the Woods and Forests Department is that they will not allow me to develop the property-freehold I have acquired in North Wales without going to them for a license, and paying for it. I say that that is unfair and unjust and not the way to encourage enterprize. The Crown does not claim the right of entering on land and working the mines itself; but it claims to prevent the removal of gold and silver on to the high road outside the limits of such land. That is what is claimed, but what I believe is the only right of the Crown under the Statute of William and Mary is to have the right of pre-emption at a price fixed by the Statute of George II. at£25per ton. Inasmuch as the Morgan Company have 100,000 tons of ore which is ready at the present moment, I should be glad if the Woods and Forests Department would comply with the letter of the law and give a cheque for £2,500,000 and take the ore away. But instead of doing this what do they do? They file a Bill against me to prevent my 591 searching for gold in that portion of Wales where no gold exists£I mean that situated where my own residence is. That action was commenced on the 26th April, 1888, and although I have endeavoured by every means to bring the case on for trial, they hamper me in every possible way. The other day the Crown, through its solicitor, (who is paid £1,200 or £1,500 a year for looking after the interests of the Woods and Forests), was ordered by the Court in the ordinary course to find security for £5—a merely nominal matter—and I am now to be compelled to contest an appeal to full Court as to whether or not the Crown should do what every other litigant does and enter into that security. This is the way the proceedings are being delayed. The other day I wanted to surrender an old license and take out a new one for a stated period; and for surrendering the old license and obtaining a new one they charged me the sum of £32 11 s. If that is the way to encourage industry (where the Crown has no legal rights whatsoever), what course of conduct would they adopt if they desired and determined to injure it? Now, Sir, I should like the House to understand the position of the matter, and to know what I have paid the Crown in actual money. We have produced in the twelve months ending March, £32,919 worth of gold from 5,297 tons of quartz, the yield of which was 1 oz. 18 dwts. Now, the royalties paid to the Crown in hard cash amounted to £1,104 10s. 5d. I do not include the royalties paid to the landlord. The Stamp Duty on the transfer of this property, which was worth nothing until £30,000 was expended upon it, was £802; the income tax on dividends £262 10s., and I myself paid £125 income tax, the total sum thus paid to the Government being £2,294 0s. 5d., or over £50 per week has this industry been taxed so far as one single mine is concerned. Now, I say that that is exceedingly unfair and unjust, and if any man, as the law now stands, owning a piece of land in Wales, desires to dig a hole in order to see if there is any gold in his property he must first pay a sum of seven guineas to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. Not long ago these Commissioners sent to me a form to fill up, and I will read it in order that the 592 House may judge of the way in which that body is carrying on its business, and whether it is doing so in a proper manner. This is how the form reads:Amount of store or vein stuff raised from— acres of land," "amount of visible gold stored," "visible gold delivered to the small machines"—and I am at a loss to understand. what is meant by small machines—"poor ore delivered to machines," "result from the poor ore.I do not understand that either. In answer I wrote to the Woods and Forests Commissioners—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th February. If I were to fill up and certify the document which you have sent me, it would necessarily be of a most misleading character. I have not stored. 6 cwt. of visible gold, nor have I delivered one ton of visible gold to any small machines. I must confess my ignorance as to what small machines' mean, and if I may be pardoned for saying so, I think it absolutely necessary, if accounts have to be rendered, that the forms. should be altered in every respect. I hope to have an interview with Lord Salisbury at an early date, to obtain from him an expression of his views upon the subject of royalties and. returns generally.I then received a communication telling me I might alter the form in any way I liked. Here is another communication I received on the 31st December, 1888, in answer to one in which the Commissioners of Woods and Forests having written to me asking the conditions of the law, I had forwarded them a copy of the Act of William and Mary—
"Dec. 31, 1888.Sir,—I am directed by Mr. Cully to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th inst. enclosing a copy of the Act William and Mary, cap. 6, in which you state there is mentioned. auriferous and argentiferous ores, and upon which you founded your statement, that the persons who work lead mines have to give notice to the Crown that they have ores to dispose of. Mr. Cully is obliged to you for sending the copy, which, however, I am to return, as the Act is well known to Mr. Cully, and had been referred to before his previous communications were sent to you. Mr. Cully finds no provisions in it requiring persons who work lead mines to give notice to the Crown that they have ores to dispose of, neither is it the practice for such notice to be given. The Act gives the Crown the right of pre-emption at certain prices of copper, tin, iron, or lead ores, but it does not mention these ores as auriferous or argentiferous. I am, Sir,Your obedient servant,J. RUSSELL SOWNAY.Now, Sir, in order to show the manner in which the administration of this office 593 is conducted, I may say that the law is clear and unmistakable. Where gold or silver is obtained mixed up with iron, copper, lead, or other base metals, the Crown have no earthly right to it. The only right they have is the right of preemption at £25 per ton, and I ask this House to consider, whether or not the Woods and Forests Office is carrying out its duty efficiently or properly, or whether or not the House would be justified in saying that the Vote shall be reduced by a small amount for the purpose of expressing an opinion as to the administration of the Department. I say that this mere circumstance of the one incident I have related to the House, that of £32 11 s. being charged for nominal licenses to entitle one to search for gold upon private land, is a fact which ought to be taken into consideration by this House, and which I submit justifies the Committee in reducing the Vote in the manner which has been proposed.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, E.)
I venture to address a few words to the House, because it was my good fortune about thirty years ago to be the Finance Minister of the Colony which has produced, I believe, the largest amount of gold, and I am personally acquainted with the legislation on the subject which has been referred to by the hon. Member for King's County in his short account of the policy pursued in the Colonies on this matter. During the first few years the gold mining was carried on in the colony, a good deal of difficulty existed in regard to the claims of the Government, and at last a decision was arrived at as to the best manner of charging for gold belonging to the Crown. In the first instance it was endeavoured to obtain the revenue by means of imposing a tax of so much per month upon all those who were employed in the industry. That tax, in the first place, was as much as 30s. per month, but it was found to be onerous and impossible to collect, and then the Government after the appointment of a Royal Commission, established a royalty amounting in the first instance to 2s. 6d., and afterwards to 1s. 6d. per ounce. This was collected for some years, and then was found to prove obstructive to those who were engaged in the industry, and therefore after trying these different experiments 594 the colony did what I believe all the colonies in which gold is obtained have done—they came to the conclusion that it is impolitic to attempt to charge these large sums, whether by way of personal payment or by way of royalty, and at the present time all these Acts have been repealed, and all that is done is to obtain licenses from the Crown for working any particular districts on plots of land which are marked out by the proper authority. There is no tax whatever either upon individuals or with respect to the gold thus obtained, and this system has been found to be the most advantageous to the public, and the only system under which the industry can be carried on with success. I would venture to suggest to the Government—and I do not know to what extent the history of the gold colonies is known to the Treasury or to the Woods and Forests Office—but I would advise the Government to follow some such system of granting licenses without imposing any charge upon individuals or in respect of the amount of gold obtained. I would not advise them to attempt to raise the revenue—and I had no idea it was so much as that which has been described by the hon. Member who last spoke. I understand from him that a revenue of as much as £2,000 was paid in respect of gold won by one company. I do not know whether the Treasury have ever had this matter under consideration, but I think that the experience of other countries, and the failure of the attempts to raise revenues in the way I have indicated, ought not to be forgotten, and that in regard to the gold mining industry in Wales and in Ireland, which might be carried on with great public advantage, I would venture to hope that some such change as I have indicated will receive the approval of the Government.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I have listened with great interest to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Undoubtedly the Treasury are not fully informed as to the legislation which prevails at the present moment in the Australian Colonies upon this subject. Now, the question is the proposal to reduce the Vote, but I should like to point out that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests are trustees of the public Revenue, and are bound to adopt all the means in their power to 595 obtain revenue without oppression in the exercise of the rights of the Crown. Any hasty vote, therefore, on the part of the Committee would be a very serious matter, and would impede rather than promote the consideration of the question. A Committee has been formed to inquire into the administration of the Woods and Forests Department, and this question might be most usefully considered by that Committee. We should then acquire information which would guide the Government and the House in the decision to which they may ultimately come on this vexed question. It is clearly the duty of the Government of the day to guard the interest of the country at large, and we should not be wise in hastily or rashly giving way to a sense of injury or a difficulty which might be thrown in our way. I trust the House will be satisfied to let that question come before the Committee which will be appointed in the course of a very few days, and which has been granted by the House in order that the whole matter may be thoroughly, impartially, and judicially inquired into, and then we shall be able to make such recommendations as seem best in the interests alike of those engaged in the industry and of the State, which has a deep interest in it, as well as of the community at large.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
The First Lord has granted a Commission on Mining Royalties, as well as a Committee to inquire into the working of the Woods and Forests Department. Now the hon. Member for Merthyr complains, as I take it, that while the Committee and the Commission are pursuing their inquiries, he is having his industry broken up by harassing legal proceedings. Surely it is only fair that while the inquiry is proceeding he should not be subjected to this pressure.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I am sure there will be no desire on the part of the Government to press hardly on any individual while the inquiry is proceeding. I, however, think it is hardly right that an individual, though he is a Member of this House, should appeal to it on a question which ought to be decided in a Court of Law. If any good and solid ground can be given for a stay of proceeding, no Department of the Government will oppose it.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the hon. Member for Merthyr has not appealed to the House on his own account. Surely if a grievance can only be raised by detailing personal experiences, hon. Members are not to be debarred from bringing before the House oppressive measures which may be taken against an industry like this. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury was in the House when my hon. Friend was explaining that he complained not that those proceedings had been instituted against him, but that in certain minor details the representative of the Government was proceeding in a manner which must strike everyone as oppressive. Surely it was not for the Law Officers of the Crown to force an appeal on a peddling point such as an order in Chambers that they should, like any ordinary litigant, give security for £5. Now I wish to ask what kind of Committee the Government intend to appoint, and whether it will have power to take evidence as to the mining laws of foreign countries? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has admitted that there is lamentable ignorance on the part of the Woods and Forests Department, and it is absolutely necessary we should have light thrown on the whole system of mining laws, both in this country and abroad.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has not followed the statements I made in the House on this subject. The Royal Commission will have full power to inquire into royalties and their economic effect in this country, and also specially to inquire into the practice in those matters in the Colonies and foreign countries. As regarded the Committee of the House it will have unrestricted power to inquire into the administration of the Woods and Forests. I do not think that any powers could be wider than these.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I think the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman very satisfactory, and hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment. The hon. Member for Merthyr, who is the pioneer of the industry in this country, has been compelled to throw up all his Crown leases.
§ * MR. JACKSON
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I can 597 only repeat that the Woods and Forests are not aware of his having done so.
§ DR. CLARK
The hon. Member himself said that he had thrown them up. I think we are in a more satisfactory position as the Select Committee and the Royal Commission will be able to thresh out the different aspects of the question, and the Government will know what the law is and will gain experience from the blunders committed by our Colonies and by foreign countries in the past. They ought to be able to get a fair royalty.
§ DR. CLARK
They ought to have a fair share of these royal metals, but the fault of the present system is that the same rent is charged for all classes of land. The same royalty is placed upon ore which yields 5 ounces a ton as upon that which yields 5 pennyweights a ton, although the cost of producing is vastly different. In that way the industry is being crushed. I am glad the Government have granted that inquiry, which I hope will result in some of the wealth which is lying waste in the rivers of Sutherlandshire being utilized, for there are many places where a man might earn 30s. a week by simply washing the sands on the river beds.
* MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN
I understand that on more than one occasion in this debate a statement has been made to the effect that I have not surrendered my Crown leases. The House is unfortunately somewhat ignorant on this subject. The facts are that there are private lands and Crown lands in which I am interested, and upon both of these the Commissioners of Woods and Forests insist on a license being taken out. On one property, in which I am not solely interested, I have not thrown up my Crown lease because I am not in a position to do so, but in all other instances I have thrown up my Crown leases, or take notes as they are sometimes called, and have informed the Woods and Forests that I will not continue tenant to so unjust a landlord. The hon. Member who last spoke has indicated the real sources of the difficulty. On one occasion I communicated with the Commissioners of Woods and Forests informing them that I had treated 100 tons of ore and have produced only 4½ 598 dwt. of gold per ton. That gold was obtained at a loss, and I asked them consequently—Are you still determined to charge a royalty upon gold obtained at a loss, and thereby increase the loss? The reply was that there was no earthly reason why the Crown should forego its rights. I say that the Woods and Forests Commissioners are incompetent to administer the Department. As far as I am concerned, I will not ask my hon. Friend to press his Amendment. All I asked is that the Government will kindly lend an ear to that matter. The ground of my complaint against the Government is that the question before the Court of Chancery is delayed by appeals about such paltry matters as giving security for £5. All I want is that we should come to trial and have the question decided. I do not ask any favour or affection of the Government, for I am sure that if I am wrong and the Woods and Forests right the country will take sufficient interest in the matter to induce the House to deal with it, and with the question of royalties on gold and silver in particular.
§ MR. J. G. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
The First Lord of the Treasury has protested that cases of private oppression should not be brought forward in this House. I think, however, we have a right of complaint when the Crown on being ordered to lodge security for £5, take the matter before a Superior Court at the expense not only of the Crown, but of the hon. Member for Merthyr. This is the way in which law costs are heaped up by the Officers of the Crown; they manufacture costs in order to put money into their own pockets and into the pockets of their companions. I think it is the duty of this House to enter a protest against such conduct, and I think the Government ought to caution the Law Officers of the Crown against sanctioning litigation in similar instances, unless there is a clear case of its necessity.
The Committee divided:—Ayes, 71; Noes, 116.—(Division List, No. 120.)
Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. LYELL (Orkney and Shetland)
I wish to refer for a moment to a matter affecting Orkney and Shetland. Certain portions of land there have been sold by the Commissioners of 599 Woods and Forests, and we do not know what has been done with the proceeds. A rumour prevailed at the time in the district that the money was used for the purpose of providing Londoners with Regent's Park, and the inhabitants of Orkney naturally felt that it should have been devoted to local purposes instead. I wish to hear some account of these funds, and to have an assurance that the money shall not be allocated to purposes outside Scotland.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol)
In consequence of the unsatisfactory explanation given as to the legal charges, I venture to propose the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
Motion made, and Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £21,347, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Handel Cossham,)—put, and negatived.
Original Question again proposed.
§ DR. CLARK
Will the Government take into consideration the question I raised last year about the large farms on Crown land in Caithness, and will this matter be dealt with by the Select Committee?
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I cannot imagine that anything connected with the actual business of the Department is not included in the reference.
§ * MR. JACKSON
I do not wish the hon. Member for Orkney to think I am discourteous towards him, I am sorry I have not the particulars necessary to enable me to answer the question raised by the hon. Member, but I will make inquiries. I can, however, give the hon. Member an assurance that it is not likely the money derived from the sale of the lands in Scotland would be expended in London, and, certainly, it could not be expended for such a purpose as Regent's Park.
Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,That a sum, not exceeding £42,250, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Works and Public Buildings.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
I move to reduce this Vote by £100. I feel I am hardly doing my duty in 600 limiting it to that small amount, but there is no man in this House more generally liked and respected than the First Commissioner of Works, and I can assure him that I feel for him the highest personal regard; hence the small monetary penalty I wish to impose on the result of his misdeeds. Now, Sir, it seems strange that I should have to stand up here as the guardian of public rights against hon. Members on the other side, but I complain that the right hon. Gentleman has handed over an important and historic monument, Dunblane Cathedral, from the custody of the Office of Works to that of an utterly unknown body, the Board of Manufactures in Scotland. Sir, I feel that I need not apologise for introducing this important subject to your notice. I know yonr admiration for these historic and antiquarian relics. I have had the pleasure of reading a speech of yours, delivered in Cornwall, in which, referring to the survival of an antediluvian war dance, locally known as furrying, you stated that if you happened to be in the district on the 5th of May you yourself would go a furrying. Now, Sir, Dunblane Cathedral is an institution which is older than the days of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, dating back to the time of the Culdees, while as a piece of architecture it has thrown Mr. Ruskin into ecstasies. Yet the right hon. Gentleman proposes to deprive us of this national property. Under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act the First Commissioner was authorized to advise with the Board of Manufacturers for the custody and preservation of this among other ancient monuments, and the result has been that the right hon. Gentleman, discovering that there were certain knotty points involved, handed over this national property to the Board of Manufactures. It appearing to some persons that there was, not sufficient church accommodation in the district, it was proposed to spend a modest sum of £3,000 to erect an additional church, but some person, wishing, I suppose, to immortalize his name by the destruction of this noble monument proposed to give £20,000 for the purpose of converting or perverting the cathedral into a parish church. Now Sir, the Board of Manufactures has been entrusted with the administration of the money, and I believe they are 601 about to commence the work. The objections to that are three-fold. I contend that the right hon. Gentleman had no right to hand over this property to the Board. The proposal has roused the ire of the Nonconformists, who consider it a piece of gross aggression on the part of the Established Church heritors, and it has given rise to the greatest indignation on the part of archæologists and antiquaries, who protest that the conversion scheme will utterly destroy the architectural beauties of the fabric and make of it a mongrel building. The windows are no common windows. The architect has taken for his model the leaves of forest trees, which are placed in picturesque and tasteful arrangement, and he has constructed a window of which Ruskin speaks in glowing terms, and which is the admiration of all who see it. To put glass into such windows would destroy them. This was a church intended for a double service, whereas under the Presbyterian ritual there is but a single service, and so the church would be inappropriate for the purpose for which it is required. The right hon. Gentleman will tell me that architects have approved of the scheme. I know a number of architects have allowed their names to be appended to an approval of the scheme, some of whom have since had cause to change their views. I have been furnished with a letter from one of these gentlemen, a man of very high architectural eminence in Glasgow, in which the writer says, that everything that could be done to maintain the present ruined structure in the most perfect way could be done for a few thousand pounds, that£5,000 would be spent on restoration, and£20,000 in its destruction. So evident is that to anyone who takes the trouble to inspect the spot that my hon. friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Mr. Haldane) who originally proposed to support the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman on the assumption that it would restore and perpetuate these windows, came back converted from a visit during the Easter holidays. I only regret that my hon. friend is not here now to join me in resisting this barbarous proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. I am perfectly certain the great concensus of opinion in Scotland is against it. Of course there are 602 certain interested persons who are in favour of the scheme. There are the heritors who are ever willing to save this money, and there are some bigoted Churchmen who think that the people should belong to the National Church, and who would be very glad to have this particular place degraded into a parish church. I urge upon the House the immense importance of insisting upon proper constitutional procedure in a matter of this kind. If the First Commissioner of Works wishes to part with national property in Scotland the proper Department to whom he should hand it over is the Scotch Office, and not a mongrel and an altogether unsuitable and unknown body like this Board of Manufactures. I only propose to move a small reduction of the right hon. Gentleman's salary, partly because of my personal regard for the right hon. Gentleman, and partly because I should like hon. Members to feel themselves in a position to vote for the reduction without doing him any harm. I beg to move the reduction which stands in my name.
Motion made, and Question proposed "That Item A, Salaries, &c., be reduced by £100, part of the Salary of the First Commissioner."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ * THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. PLUNKET, Dublin University)
I certainly have nothing to complain of in the spirit in which the hon. Member has discharged his ordnance against me, but I think I shall be able to dispose of the objection which he has raised to the course which has been pursued by the Government, especially by the office which I represent, in reference to Dunblane Cathedral. In the first place, he said I had no right to hand over to the Board of Manufactures this ancient Cathedral. [Dr. CAMERON: "No constitutional right."] The hon Member must know perfectly well I did it under a Statute which gives me a perfect right to do it. But I think the ground the hon. Member intended to take up was that the body to whom Dunblane Cathedral has been handed over was not the right kind of body to whom it should have been entrusted. The name of that body is slightly misleading. But, although the title is peculiar, this 603 is an ancient body created in 1727 by Royal Charter, and is composed of 18 or 20 of the most distinguished persons of all political parties who can be discovered, I believe, in all Scotland, and, so far from its being a body hitherto unheard of, it has in its charge the National Gallery of Scotland, the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, the Antiquarian Museum, and all the buildings which are the receptacles of those great artistic treasures. I do not think, therefore, that one could find a better body in Scotland to hand the cathedral over to. What I have done has been done after long consultation, not only with the Board of Manufactures, but with the Secretary for Scotland, and one principal reason why I did not hand it over to the latter was that the Secretary for Scotland is always more or less a political personage belonging one political Party or the other, and my object was to find a body which should be removed from all suspicion of political or religious partizanship. The second objection of the hon. Gentleman is that no precaution has been taken to secure the burial rights of the parishioners. The parishioners are neither placed in a better nor a worse position as regards their rights of burial by the transfer. I deny that the Board of Manufactures are at all likely to act in any way opposed to the interests or rights of the parishioners, but, even if they do, the parishioners will have the same means of redress before the tribunals of the country as they have always had. In the third place, the hon. Member says that this proceeding has raised the ire of the Nonconformists. I have no reason, except the statement of the hon. Member, for thinking so. A deputation waited upon me composed of persons of all political Parties, among them being the Member for Dumbarton (Sir A. Orr Ewing) and the Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane), and with two such Gentlemen on one deputation I felt myself protected from any imputation of partiality on grounds of Party politics. I am told that what I have done has excited the indignation of archæologists, but I am assured, however, by other archæologists that it is an excellent thing. I have sent my own surveyor, and the restoration has also been examined by the Archæological 604 Society of Great Britain and some of the leading architects of Glasgow, and they all express satisfaction with the manner in which the work has been carried out. I have seen my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire, since he visited the place during the Easter recess, and he certainly did not give me the least idea that he himself has been at all alarmed in the subject. He merely stated that some persons on the spot had become alarmed by statements made in the public press, and he expressed his intention of making further inquiries on the subject.
§ * MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I rise to make an appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury, at which I think he will not be surprised. At Question Time to-day he promised that the Report of the Home Office Vote should be taken at 10 o'clock. It is now forty minutes past that hour. I therefore beg to move to report Progress.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. J. E. Ellis.)
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I hope hon. Gentlemen will allow this Vote to be taken.
MR. G. A. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
The discussion can be taken on Report.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
No; to-morrow. It was understood we should take two Reports of Supply, beginning at 10 o'clock; but for the convenience of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I agreed to postpone the second Report. I thought, therefore, it was reasonable we should go on some little time longer with Supply itself.
§ * MR. J. E. ELLIS
I understand there is not the slighest expectation of the discussion of this Vote being soon concluded, as several hon. Members desire to express their views about the policy adopted in regard to Dunblane Cathedral.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton)
For official reasons it may be necessary from time to time to postpone the discussion of a Vote until Report; but I do not think it is a practice which ought to be encouraged.
* DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeen)
I think it is very important that the adjourned debate on the Home Office Vote should be taken at an hour when there is some chance of its being reasonably fully reported. On a former occasion grave accusations were made against two scientific gentlemen; it is only right they should have a proper opportunity of replying.
MR. G. A. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
My objection to the Vote which was under discussion before the Motion to report Progress was made is that it is undesirable that any buildings under the control of the Crown should be handed over to private bodies.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not insist upon taking this Vote; he has already got fifty-five minutes more than his strict due.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I do not think there is anything more unprofitable in the House than discussions as to reporting Progress, and therefore, if the House does not wish to go on with the business, I will not oppose the Motion to report Progress.
Question put, and agreed to.
Resolution to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock.
Committee also report Progress; to sit again. To-morrow, at Two of the clock.