§ 1. £26,719, House of Lords Offices.
§ (11.30.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I wish to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he has considered the question I brought before him recently 655 as to the high fees charged on Private Bill procedure in the House of Lords? Has he any explanation to give the House?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON,) Leeds, N.
I have examined the table of fees charged, and compared them "with those charged in this House. I believe that the statement I made on the last occasion is substantially correct, i.e., that although the fees are collected on a rather different system in the two Houses and vary in amount at the different stages, yet in the aggregate they amount to about the same sum in each case.
SIR G. CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
I must say that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is a comparative and not a positive statement. What we complain of is that the fees are too high in each House, and constitute a severe charge on the promoters of Private Bills. They amount to more than the sum which is expended in the Private Bill Department, and in addition to that they are opposed in the case of non-contentious Bills. I may give an instance. A tramway was projected in my own borough, and the promoters had to deposit a certain amount. The Bill, however, fell through, and it became necessary to bring in another Bill in order to get the deposit out. Heavy fees were charged on that Bill. Was not that most unreasonable? I hope the Treasury will revise the scale of fees.
§ MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)
I should like to ask the Secretary to the Treasury for information as to the mode in which tickets admitting strangers to view the House of Lords on Saturdays are issued? From what I can gather the public enter by one door; an official distributes tickets to them as though he were distributing bills, and these tickets are collected from them by another official, who stands in sight of the distributor. Could anything be more ridiculous?
§ MR. JACKSON
I am sorry to say I have had no information on the subject, but I shall be glad to obtain any the hon. Member desires.
§ *(11.36.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I want some information with regard to the charge for Private Bills. I wish to get a reply to the question from the Government. We are told that the fees received considerably 656 exceed the cost of the proceedings. I notice that the fees received in the House of Lords amount to £22,000, and it is clear that that amount is not spent on Private Bill procedure. Will the Government consider the possibility of reducing the fees? If they do that, they will enable Bills to be brought in without unreasonable cost being incurred, I hope the Government will give an assurance that they will consider that point. I have to call attention to another matter. I see there are 16 doorkeepers and messengers in the House of Lords, and only 18 in the House of Commons. If that number is sufficient here, surely 16 are not required in the Upper Chamber.
§ *MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
Two years ago an admission was made that either the Librarian or Assistant Librarian of the House of Lords had something like eight bedrooms at his disposal, and if I rightly remember, it was promised that the matter should be inquired into, it being evident that as a bachelor he could not require so many bedrooms. Has any change been made in the allocation of the rooms?
Order, order? The hon. Member is entitled to discuss the salaries of the Lord Chancellor and other officers of the House of Lords, but he cannot raise the question of their appearance at the Bar here.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £33,592, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which wilt come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Salaries and Expenses in the Offices of the House of Commons.
§ (11.40.) DR. CLARK
I should like to ask as to one point, if I am not out of order. I do not know who is responsible for locking the doors and preventing us going out when a Division is called. Some years ago we could not go further than the outer door, but now we are allowed to go into the Inner Lobby. Surely we might be allowed to go into the Dining Room or Tea Room. In the days when the fate of a Ministry depended often upon a single vote it might have been important to enforce these stringent rules, but during the last score of years there have been no such probabilities, and as the present system often leads to one losing his train I think it might be relaxed.
Order, order! The present system is prescribed by the Standing Orders of the House, and the question can only be raised on a Motion to amend those Orders.
§ *MR. MORTON
On this Vote I must again put my question to the Government as to whether they will consider the possibility of reducing the fees charged in both Houses on Private Bills?
§ MR. JACKSON
Of course it will be my duty to represent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Treasury the views of hon. Members on this subject. The question is one which would require very great consideration, and I am not sure that I have much sympathy with the hon. Member's desire to reduce the fees.
§ (11.44.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I quite agree that it is not the duty of the Treasury to set about reducing its income unless good cause is shown, but I do hold that this question of Private Bill legislation is one deserving attention, and I hope the Government will consider the advisability of next Session appointing a Committee to deal with the subject. The heavy burden which is cast upon the promoters of Private Bills constitutes a very great grievance. For instance, many communities in want of a harbour come here for Parliamentary powers. They have great difficulty in raising the funds necessary for the undertaking. They often are supplied out of the earnings of the people and the contributions of the individuals concerned in the working of the harbour, and the difficulty is increased fees charged in both Houses. I believe 658 that the revenue from this source ranges between £50,000 and £60,000. The imposition of these fees gives rise to another evil besides that of inconvenience. Strong and overbearing corporations such as railways dominate the weaker parties, although they may have the worst possible case, simply because they can afford to pay the high fees. I submit that the State ought to make no profit on these fees where the Bills deal with undertakings beneficial to the general community, and, indeed, I do not think there would be any objection to abolishing fees altogether in such cases. I hope the Government will promise an exhaustive inquiry into this matter.
§ (11.50.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I wish to put a question as to the Refreshment Department. I have been told that some of the waiters in the Dining Room receive very small wages; that, in fact, they are taken on by the job. Surely that is not a proper policy for this House to pursue. We ought to discourage such a system, even if it cost us a few hundred pounds more every year. Will some member of the Kitchen Committee give the Committee some information on the point?
§ MR. JACKSON
As far as the Treasury is concerned, its duty is simply to pay £1,000 a year for the expenses of the Department, the management of which is in the hands of the Kitchen Committee, and I do not think it would be wise for the Treasury to interfere with that body.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
This is a valuable object-lesson. I appealed for information to the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee. The Secretary to the Treasury-gets up and says the Treasury cannot interfere, but the Chairman of the Committee, who is close by, remains silent.
§ MR. HERBERT (Croydon)
I was not in the House when the hon. and gallant Member commenced his remarks, but I may point out that on the Kitchen Committee all sections of the House are represented. The question of wages has been considered by the Committee on more than one occasion. The Committee will be glad to hear privately any suggestions which the hon. and gallant Member for Galway may wish to make; or we should be glad to welcome his assistance on that body another Session.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I think we ought to have an understanding about this. We are sent from pillar to post. We are, it appears, open to the charge of sweating our unfortunate waiters. We call in Tom, Dick, and Harry, and we get bad waiters, simply because we get them on the cheap. Although there is a Kitchen Committee, I say that this House is primarily responsible. We hear a good deal from the working classes about "sweating" labour; surely we ought not to lay ourselves open to the charge of sweating our own servants. The Secretary to the Treasury says, "I give £1,000 a year and wash my hands of it." Well, I go so far as to say that if £1,000 a year is not enough to avoid sweating our waiters then we ought to pay more. I am by no means satisfied: my conscience is not easy. I am not satisfied to shelter myself under the pleas of the Secretary to the Treasury and the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee. I hope the Treasury will consider this matter seriously.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I do not rise to prolong this gastronomic séance; but I do hold that hon. Members who are compelled by their duties to dine here should have an efficient service in the Dining Room. I ask whether in any third-class restaurant in the purlieus of Soho you would find provided night after night from the month of February to the end of July nothing in the shape of vegetables but spring cabbage and haricot beans. Beans may be very good food for horses, but I do not think that is a satisfactory dietary for this House.
It being Midnight, 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.