HC Deb 09 June 1892 vol 5 cc663-9

62. £42,358, to complete the sum for Law Charges.

63. £24,942, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Legal Expenses.

64. £200,702, to complete the sum for Supreme Court of Judicature.

65. £4,510, to complete the sum for the Land Registry.

66. £31,029, to complete the sum for the County Courts.

67. £3,185, to complete the sum for the Police Courts, London and Sheerness.

68. £37,566, to complete the sum for Police (England and Wales).

69. £455,432, to complete the sum for Prisons, England and the Colonies.

70. £129,865, to complete the sum for Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain.

71. £24,013, to complete the sum for the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.

72. £62,742, to complete the sum for Law Charges and Courts of Law, Scotland.

73. £25,302, to complete the sum for the Register House, Edinburgh.

74. £5,935, to complete the sum for the Crofters' Commission.


I should like to ask how this Commission is getting on, and when it is likely to finish its labours. It appears to me to be high time that all the crofters had been dealt with, so far as Parliament intended—namely, with respect to the enlargement of their holdings and the reduction of rent. I should like to impress on the Commission, through the hon. and learned Gentleman, the necessity of a further reduction of rent. Two shillings an acre is too much. I have taken the opportunity of going over many of the crofts, and they seem certainly not worth more than a shilling an acre. I was pleased to notice that the crofts were kept in much better condition than was to be expected.


I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Crofters Commission are getting through their work with all the rapidity they can. One of the reasons why arrears must sometimes accrue is that the Commissioners have to personally visit outlying districts to engage in the work of valuation and to hear evidence. I am not in a position to give the hon. Gentleman all the information he desires, but no doubt he will find most of it ready to hand in the Reports of the Commission. In one Department, that dealing with the increase of the size of holdings, there is not so much to show for the work of the Commission as in the two other departments—those dealing with the reduction of rent and the working off of arrears. In those two latter departments the Commission have done good and useful work. With regard to the enlargement of the holdings I fear that in many cases the position of the crofters is such that they cannot afford to fulfil the conditions which are necessary before an enlargement can be made. I do not think the hon. Member made any objection to any particular items of the work of the Commission, the Vote for which shows a decrease on that of last year.


When we consider that in any future war we must depend a great deal for our forces on the classes of Scotch crofters and Irish peasantry, I trust the Commision will do everything to foster the class of crofters, and not to drive them away from their holdings.


I have seen the reports to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred, and have also visited the crofts. I want the Commission to get on a little faster, to reduce the rents and to enlarge the holdings. I am glad to know that a very large amount of arrears have been wiped off. The justice of the complaints made by the crofters on the point is proved by the fact that the Commission should have wiped off from five to eight per cent. of the arrears. I hope a happier time is coming for these poor crofters, when, instead of driving them to the sea or to foreign countries, we shall give them an opportunity of living decently and respectably in their own country, and shall use the land for the benefit of the country and the people instead of keeping it for sheep, deer, and sport.


I do not propose to go into the question of the policy of the Commission, but I desire to say a few words about its administration. I have received many complaints of the way the Commission appoints its assessors; it has limited itself to the appointment of people who have been historically opposed to the crofters, and there is no excuse for that. There are amongst the crofters many men as intelligent as any of the assessors; and that was not denied by the predecessor of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I do not suppose he will deny it. We do not ask that the assessors should be entirely appointed from the crofters, but that, at any rate, some of them should be. I fully admit that the Lord Advocate has no power of interfering with the Commission, but I think we are perfectly justified in bringing this question before the House as a matter of administration which requires reforming. I regret to be obliged to make these remarks about the Crofters Commissioners; but in my opinion, until it is shown that there is some connection between the evidence led and the judgments delivered, there will be no satisfaction given in this matter. The Judges of the land do not think it beneath their dignity to give the reasons for the judgments at which they arrive. Why then should the Crofters Commissioners persist in giving no reason to show there is a connection between the evidence led and the rent fixed? I think I would not be justified in allowing this Vote to be taken without expressing the opinion that there is great discontent among my own constituency and the people of the Highlands as to the manner in which the rents are fixed,, and because the Commissioners, notwithstanding the representations made on the subject, have chosen their assessors from one class of the community, which is known to be utterly opposed to the crofters in every respect.

Vote agreed to.

75. £62,648, to complete the sum for Prisons, Scotland.

(11.1.) MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

I wish to say one word upon the Prisons Vote for Scotland in connection with the inequality of the salaries of the officials in the English and Scotch prisons. There is a very great inequality of the salaries between the officials in English and Scotch prisons, and for no reason that I can see, except the general reason of the contempt of the English for Scotchmen. The duties performed by Scotch prison officials are identically the same, but the salaries are extremely unequal. I shall not go into details, but I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to say that I am in error when I affirm that either the Scotch officials are very much underpaid or the English officials are very much overpaid for performing the same work. I think this is particularly aggravating in the case of prison officialism. I do not see why prison duties in Scotland should be so much under-valued as they are. I rather think it should be the other way. I have considerable—I will not say connection but experience in scoundrelism both in England and Scotland; and I venture to say that in the particular claim for bad eminence the Scottish criminals occupy a higher position in their peculiar walk than that which is attained by the English criminals in the same direction, and in my opinion it requires a higher class of official to pay the requisite attentions to the prisoners. Perhaps I may be told corruptio optimi pessima, when I say that taking everything all round the Scottish ruffian is a person of a higher class and occupies a more eminent position of baseness than the corresponding representative of the Anglo-Saxon description; but so far from the Scottish prison official being paid in an inferior way in comparison with his Anglican rival, I think if there is to be any inequality it ought to be the other way about. I know there is one argument which will probably be used by the Secretary to the Treasury, whose serious demeanour I observe in this matter. He is always serious, but sometimes he is more serious than usual; and in this connection, as I now see him studying with great gravity the paper before him, I am aware that one of the arguments he will probably use is that in Scotland we have greater facilities for obtaining suitable men in this connection, and that therefore there is a larger market available for the selection of prison officials, and that therefore they can be obtained more cheaply in Scotland. Well, that possibly may be true; but what I want to put is this; if that be so, why do not the English prison officials open their market to the Scottish supplies? If it be true that capable men for attending to criminals are more abundant and more easily procured in Scotland, why do not they advertise in Scotland for applications to be sent in for English employment? If it be true, as is alleged, that Scottish prison officials are paid less than English prison officials because they are more easily procurable, then I ask what sort of English economy is it that they do not apply in Scotland for applicants for such situations? If that argument has nothing in it, I say that the English administration of prisons is conducted in a most extravagant manner.

*(11.11.) SIR JOHN GORST

This is a matter which has been already discussed once during the present Session, as well as in previous years; and it is extremely creditable to the patriotism of a Scottish representative that this question should be raised again. But the real fact is that there is no intention whatever to inflict any slight on Scottish nationality. There are a great many Scotchmen employed in English prisons, and Irishmen too. It is not a question of the nationality of the officers employed; it is a question of the locality of the prison in which the employment takes place. And I should say myself that the real cause of the low scale of salaries in the Scottish prisons is due to the action of the Scottish Local Authorities themselves before the prisons were taken over by the Imperial Government, because I find that as soon as the Scottish Prisons Act was passed in 1877 there was a new scale of salaries for all persons employed in prisons immediately prescribed by the Treasury; and on the whole, taking them all round, there was a rise of over ten per cent. on the salaries paid to officials in the Scottish prisons. The taxpayers are not disposed, I think, to allow an increase in salaries to take place at too rapid a rate; and I think the hon. Member who has just sat down will admit that an increase of ten per cent. all round was a very substantial increase on the salaries which the Local Authorities thought adequate for the payment of those officers. There is no allegation that the officials in the Scottish prisons are in anyway inferior to those in the prisons in London, or Manchester, or Liverpool, or in any other large town. Any suggestion that may be made to the Government with regard to the payment of salaries will receive attention; but so far as I can see no complaints of this kind have been made. If it can be shown that there is any prison in which the service is inadequate, and which is improperly conducted, by reason of the low scale of pay which is given, no doubt it would be a good ground for the Treasury to increase the scale of salaries in that particular locality.

(11.14.) MR. WALLACE

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has quite taken the point. What I wish to say is, if the Scottish prison officials are sufficiently paid for performing the same duties, I want to know upon what ground of economy the fact can be defended that the English prison officials, who perform the same duties, are paid more highly? It is not simply a Scotch question. I am not merely a Scotch Member, but I am a Member of the Parliament of Great Britain, and I speak from an English point of view. Granting all that the right hon. Gentleman has said, if the Scottish prison officials are properly paid, then the English prison officials are too highly paid, and I want to know on what grounds he defends English extravagance.

*(11.16.) SIR JOHN GORST

The salaries of the English prison officials must be raised on the English Prisons Vote. If the hon. Member thinks they are too high, and attacks the English Prisons Vote, I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department will show adequate reasons for the scale of pay of English prison officers. I ought, however, to have mentioned that so much impressed were the Government with the views of the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) on this point that a Committee has been appointed to consider the scale of pay of Scottish prison officers. If the result should be that the Committee report that the scale is inadequate, no doubt it will be increased.

(11.17.) MR. WALLACE

I am glad to have dragged that information from the right hon. Gentleman, and if he thinks the technical escape that he has made is sufficient for his defence I have no objection to his enjoyment of that position.

(11.18.) MR. MORTON

I am satisfied that this is more an English than a Scottish question, and what I want to do is to reduce the English and Irish salaries to the Scottish level. The Scottish Estimates are more economically managed all round. Although the Lord Advocate is quite as good a man as the Attorney General he does not get one half or one fourth of the Attorney General's salary. If you would allow the Scottish people to manage your business a little more you would save a great deal of money. The remedy for the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace) to adopt is Scottish Home Rule—to allow the Scotch to manage their business for themselves—and I believe he will then find that the Scottish people would not consent to increase the salary either of the Lord Advocate or anybody else.

(11.19.) Vote agreed to.

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