HC Deb 29 May 1891 vol 353 cc1324-8


Order for Second Reading read.


Perhaps I may may be allowed to say just a few words in explanation of this Bill. It is a very simple one, dealing with one or two small reforms which I think will be acceptable to the House. In the first place, it proposes to give us power to abolish the office of Receiver General, this having become possible by reason of the vacancy created by the death of Sir A. Slade. It has been thought that the time has now arrived to make the system in the Inland Revenue the same as that which prevails in the Post Office and the Customs Department. The result will be a saving of £l,500 a year. Clause 2 deals with Appropriations in Aid. Up to 1881 the system of dealing with extra receipts was not uniform in the various departments, and the Public Accounts Committee had been for some time calling attention to the fact. In 1881 a Treasury Minute with regard to Appropriations in Aid with regard to the Army and the Navy was considered by the Public Accounts Committee and adopted. Since that time there has been a considerable step taken in the direction of using these extra receipts and appropriations by way of reduction of the Estimates rather than paying them into the Exchequer and dealing with the money twice over. There is now no statutory authority on the Controller and Auditor General to audit these accounts, and, though he does so, it is thought desirable to settle the matter by imposing the duty upon him. The Bill also proposes to make a slight alteration in the adjustment of certain annuities which is consequent on the conversion of the National Debt. Clause 4 gives power to deal with the money for the light railways in Ireland. The House will remember that power was given to the Treasury to spend £600,000 as a capital sum under the Act of 1889, or an equivalent sum in Annuities. Power was also given under the Act of 1889 to spend the balance of £40,000 a year given under the Act of 1883. The balance remaining can only be used in the form of Perpetual Annuities. The Government are of opinion that in contributing, as they are doing, towards the capital cost of these railways that capital cost ought not to be contributed in the form of Perpetual Annuities, but that there should be power to pay either a capital sum out of the loan or to allow Terminable Annuities not exceeding 10 years, and in that way shorten the period during which the whole of the capital contributed by the Government will be paid. I think the House will approve of that. The other portion of the Bill practically abolishes the preachership of the Rolls Chapel. It has been found necessary either to pull down or seriously alter the Rolls Chapel, and therefore it is proposed in this form to abolish the preacher-ship, which is worth some £200 a year, payable out of the Consolidated Fund. I hope I have sufficiently explained the provisions of the Bill, and will now move its Second Reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Jackson.)

(4.5.) MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)

I wish to make a few remarks on this Bill. The mandate to the House is to amend certain provisions of the law with respect to charges on the Consolidated Fund. That is a large and vague order, and may, perhaps, justify the irrelevancy of the subjects the Bill deals with. Practically the proposal of the Bill comes to this, that we are substituting a capital sum for certain annual sums of £20,000 and £40,000, which appears to me to involve a capital sum not of £600,000 as stated in the Bill, but of £666,666.




I think it does; at any rate, that is how I read the Act. There are in all five or six distinct proposals, including one to disestablish and disendow a fragment of the Church of England. I do not object to that proposal, but I propose to add to the miscellaneous contents of the Bill myself. I desire to move, either by way of Amendment or by way of Instruction to the Committee, that certain other charges shall be taken off the Consolidated Fund —namely, the charges relating to the inferior order of Judges in Scotland, in England, and in Ireland. If such a proposal is not relevant to the Bill, I protest against the present contents of the Bill, on the ground that if they are held relevant it would be giving power to the Government to do that which a private Member is not allowed to do. I am not going to oppose the Bill I have risen simply for the purpose of getting a position for myself in respect of the Amendment I propose to move.

(4.15.) MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)

I do not rise in opposition to this Bill, but to elicit some information relative to the 5th clause. I have searched in the financial accounts of last year to see how this sum is expended, but I have been unsuccessful. I observe that Clause 5 proposes to discontinue on the next vacancy the preachership. I want to know what is to become of the readership and the other offices. I should have rather expected—possibly that is still to come—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, an old Oxford man, would have shed a tear, perhaps even have pronounced a funeral eulogium upon the preachership of the Rolls Chapel, remembering as he will the famous sermons of Bishop Butler, and remembering also a recent occupant of the office, Mr. Brewer, one of the most able and learned historians of England in my time. If there is no congregation, and the chapel requires to be removed, then I think this is a very desirable and useful reform, though I regret the loss of an ancient office and the abolition of what might have almost had a place among the list of ancient monuments.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I would point out on the financial question, that the Treasury ask power to limit the capital sum to £600,000, which reduces the annual sum accordingly. They will take the whole balance by way of a capital sum; and such a financial arrangement, sanctioned by Parliament, is not open to serious question.

MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

If the chapel is to be pulled down, there is one special question I would like to ask. It is whether some special care will be taken of the beautiful monument erected in the chapel in the reign of Henry VII., one of the finest monuments of the early part of the 15th century. If the skill of Bishop Butler s not strong enough to preserve the chapel, at all events let us preserve that little monument against harm.

(4.19.) MR. JACKSON

I believe the readership and the preacher ship have been united for some time, so that the one office will be abolished with the other, and inasmuch as the charge is on the Consolidated Fund, legislation is required. I stated that the chapel was to be pulled down, but in doing so I was looking a little into the future. Anyone who is acquainted with the enormous growth of requirements upon the Rolls Office must know that eventually the chapel will have to be pulled down; but it is true that there is a tender regard for the ancient structure, and the interesting monument to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. For the present the chapel is to remain, and passages and communications will be so arranged and dovetailed that the necessity for pulling down the chapel will be avoided.

MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

On referring to Sub-section 1 of Clause 4, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee that the sum required is £666,000.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.