HC Deb 18 March 1892 vol 2 cc1229-48
Royal Palaces and Marlborough House 6,000
Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens 15,000
Houses of Parliament Buildings 6,000
Admiralty, Extension of Buildings 5,000
Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain 9,000
Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain 5,000
Diplomatic and Consular Buildings 6,000
Revenue Department Buildings 56,000
Public Buildings, Great Britain 30,000
Surveys of the United Kingdom 40,000
Harbours, &c, under Board of Trade, and Lighthouses Abroad 4,000
Peterhead Harbour 3,000
Caledonian Canal
Rates on Government Property 90,000
Public Works and Buildings, Ireland 40,000
Railways, Ireland 30,000
United Kingdom and England:—
House of Lords, Offices 7,000
House of Commons, Offices 5,000
Treasury and Subordinate Departments 15,000
Home Office and Subordinate Departments 15,000
Foreign Office 6,000
Colonial Office 7,000
Privy Council Office and Subordinate Departments 2,500
Board of Trade and Subordinate Departments 25,000
Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade 3
Board of Agriculture 8,000
Charity Commission 7,000
Civil Service Commission 7,000
Exchequer and Audit Department 10,000
Friendly Societies, Registry 1,500
Local Government Board 27,000
Lunacy Commission 2,000
Mercantile Marine Fund, Grant in Aid
Mint (including Coinage) 10
National Debt Office 2,500
Public Record Office 4,000
Public Works Loan Commission 1,500
Registrar General's Office 10,000
Stationery Office and Printing 65,000
Woods, Forests, &c. Office of 6,000
Works and Public Buildings, Office of 8,000
Secret Service 6,500
Secretary for Scotland 2,000
Fishery Board 4,000
Lunacy Commission 1,000
Registrar General's Office 1,500
Board of Supervision 1,500
Lord Lieutenant's Household 1,000
Chief Secretary and Subordinate Departments 7,000
(5.10.) MR. LENG (Dundee)

I rise to move the reduction of the Vote for the Treasury in order that I may enter my protest against the Treasury, and more particularly the Chancellor of the Exchequer, obstructing what the right hon. Gentleman himself declared was the policy of the Government by refusing to give effect to the proposals of the Board of Trade for the reduction of the renewal fees on patents. Late last Session, in Committee of Supply, I directed attention at greater length than I usually address the House on this subject. In regard to the time of the Committee I shall not repeat the details; but I might remind hon. Members that largely in consequence of the wise legislation initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in making the terms of payment easier and spreading them over the 14 years of the duration of the patent, there has been of late years a large and rapid increase in the Revenue, so that for the year 1890 the surplus of receipts over expenditure was £110,000; but the fees are still higher than in any other country on the face of the globe. In the United States they average only 8s. 5d. a year for 17 years, while in the United Kingdom they are £11 a year for 14 years. In the United States the total sum for a valid certificate of patent is only £7 10s.; in the United Kingdom, for a patent which merely gives a locus standi for a lawsuit, the charge is £154. In the United States the number of applications for patents is double the number, while the patents issued, the income from the fees, and the expenditure, are all more than double those in the United Kingdom. The States also have a Patent Fund of £650,000, while we have no such fund. Last July I quoted letters showing that the fees charged in this country, after the fourth year, cripple the poor inventor, the struggling mechanic, the industrious artizan. Numerous memorials from inventors and manufacturers, largely signed, have been sent to the Board of Trade against this tax on brains. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has assisted in voting money for technical education; while on the other hand by these heavy fees on patents, he taxes those who are applying that technical education in the progress of inventions on which the manufacturing and commercial prosperity of the country largely depends. After I had spoken the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) supported my appeal. He observed. These fees are a tax on inventions, which, after all, constitute one of the greatest sources of national wealth, and it seems to me that a more inexpedient tax than this could not be imagined. Inventors, as a class, are poor men, and one result of these high patent fees is that in order to be able to pay the fees they are in too many cases compelled to place themselves in the hands of rich men, who secure the greater portion of the profit of successful inventors. Then the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade (Sir M. Hicks Beach) made a very fair and sympathetic reply. He admitted that the estimated surplus for 1891 was £116,500, but urged that more money would have to be spent on the abridgments of the specifications, and some on the re-construction of the Patent Office. The right hon. Baronet then said. My view is that we should consider whether a reduction may not be made in the tees charged in the interval between tour and eight years, so as to extend the cheap protection now given for four years to a longer period. I think that what should be done is to make the fees low for a certain number of years, during which the patentee can continue to look about for opportunities to work his patent. Now, in reply to a question put by me on Monday last, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the President of the Board of Trade made no promise that the fees would be reduced. That is a singular version to give of an expression of views by a Member of the Government, the head of an important Department, which I certainly accepted as a promise at the time, and on the strength of which I withdrew my Motion to reduce the Vote for the Board of Trade. Are we to understand that it is a mere "pious opinion" which the President of the Board of Trade expressed, and that what he said did not bind the Government? That clearly was not the view of the right hon. Baronet himself. The President of the Board of Trade showed that he considered he had given a promise, for, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own statement, the President had submitted proposals to the Treasury for the reduction of the fees, which proposals he would not have submitted if he had not considered that the Government were bound in honour to carry them out. I believe that the proposals of the Board of Trade would have been satisfactory to the class of men on whose behalf I mainly contend for this reduction. Those men are the pick of the working classes; men who observe the defects of the machinery amongst which they work, and endeavour to remedy them by their ingenious inventions; men who, after spending their days in the workshops, devote their nights to study, attending technical schools and classes, and endeavouring to work out unsolved problems in mechanics, in chemistry, and in science. How inconsistent it is to tax such men to swell this surplus of upwards of £100,000! Why should the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after granting large sums to advance technical education, show this grinding and obstructive spirit in declining to reduce the tax levied by the Patent Office on those who are technically educated? I think the right hon. Gentleman does not adequately appreciate the importance of the subject. I can assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer, from letters I have received from inventors in all parts of the country, that great interest is felt in the question by large numbers of intelligent men, and that the course taken by the Government is being closely watched. Unless I receive an assurance that the subject will be satisfactorily dealt with, I shall be compelled, however reluctantly, to divide the Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Item, Treasury and Subordinate Departments, be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Leng.)

(5.20.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square

The hon. Member is really representing the action of the Treasury in alight which, I venture to think, is not entirely just. He speaks of the obstructive policy of the Treasury. He bases his remarks largely upon a reply I made to a question which he put the other day as to whether these fees would be reduced in the course of the present financial year. I told him that certain proposals had been submitted, but I said no more than that the fees would not be reduced during the present financial year. I will not enter into the general argument which the hon. Member has put, before the House, but the policy of reducing these fees has been accepted by my right hon. Friend, and, as the hon. Gentleman suggested in the question he put the other day, I have also assented to his general policy. But the hon. Gentleman will see—and probably thisishiscontention—that the fees for patents are to a certain extent in the nature of a tax. It is a tax which he wishes to see repealed. But the repeal of taxation and the lowering of fees are general steps that can be taken only under certain conditions; and the granting of relief must of course depend, to a great extent, upon financial considerations. I think the hon. Gentleman will scarcely be entitled to say that it was obstructive policy on the part of the Treasury that they did not assent immediately to taxation being repealed, but waited to see what was the state of the finances. The Treasury in this sense is simply the general taxpayer of the country. What we have to see is that we have sufficient means for carrying out what the House assents to. Whether we can part with a source of income and repeal a tax is a matter which must be carefully weighed when the financial arrangements for the year are made. There is no intention to go back from the general spirit which we have indicated. There is no wish to obstruct the repeal, but it must be dependent, to a certain extent, upon financial considerations.

(5.25.) MR. WATT (Glasgow, Camlachie)

I wish to bring under the notice of the House a fundamental question. I venture to say it is a matter of as great importance as that which the hon. Member for Dundee has raised. The inventors of patents are very much indebted to the action the hon. Member for Dundee has taken during the last Session and this, and what I wish to ask the President of the Board of Trade is, "What is a patent?" Friends of mine outside the House might think I was labouring under softening of the brain after 15 years' connection with patents, and having expended something like £50,000 in relation to patents, when I ask such a question.


Order, order! The Question before the House is the reduction of the Vote. So far, the hon. Member's observations are not connected with that Vote.


Could I put myself in Order by moving a reduction?


There is a Motion before the House.


I am sorry to interpose in a discussion upon a matter of such importance as that which my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee has brought before the Committee; but it was my intention, when you first took the Chair and read the Vote which is now before the House, to rise at once for the purpose of moving that Progress should be reported. We have had a long discussion to-day upon the course of business, and I regret that the attempts that we made to arrive at an amicable and reasonable arrangement of business for one reason or other failed. We are left in this position: that while the matter of the disposal of this evening has been undoubtedly decided by the vote of the House, yet there is one matter of which this House has still control, and that is whether the Vote on Account should take precedence of the last Supplementary Estimates. Now, we have fully stated our views on this subject earlier in the day. The Supplementary Estimates, the last of which is now before us, have taken constitutional precedence at this time of the year. There is no doubt urgency on legal grounds in passing the Supplementary Estimates. It so happens that the last Supplementary Estimate, which has been kept back by the First Lord of the Treasury on purpose that the Scottish Members should have an adequate opportunity of discussing it, is now the only one which we have to deal with, and it is one certainly which will not be properly dealt with if it is allowed to dangle at the end of the Vote on Account, and to be brought on in the small hours of the morning. The Vote on Account is undoubtedly subject to no such emergency. The Vote on Account refers to the business not of this year, but of next year; and the First Lord of the Treasury, in the course of his remarks, having spoken of the necessity for embodying the amount of this Vote in the Appropriation Bill, I asked him explicitly across the Table whether he could say that it was necessarily legal that it should be embodied in the Appropriation Bill. He could only say there was a great inconvenience in not proceeding with it. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say there is any legal necessity of urgency in regard to the Vote on Account, that there is that urgency on the other Vote. I appeal to the House that on that ground we should have the best hours of this day, and not the worst, for the purpose of discussing a Scottish question of the greatest importance, and which is urgent, and that the Vote on Account should be taken at such other times as the House can find to be convenient. It is for that purpose, and not for any purpose of delay, that I shall conclude by moving that you report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Campbell-Bannerman.)

(5.30.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I am almost ashamed to address the House again, as I have nothing to say which I have not said before; and, listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I think he has merely repeated to the Committee what he had formerly said in the House with the Speaker in the Chair. I have endeavoured to prove to the House that it is of great public importance that a Vote on Account should be taken. I shielded myself behind the opinion expressed by the very highest authority on the subject, and I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to allow us to bring the Vote to a conclusion.


In the whole of this protracted Debate we have never heard one word from the right hon. Gentleman to explain why the natural order which was always followed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian, of bringing the Supplementary Estimates to a conclusion before taking the Vote on Account, has not been followed in this case. It was the natural order. It is admitted that for the one there is legal urgency, and for the other there is no legal urgency. That is putting the cart before the horse; and the right hon. Gentleman cannot be surprised, if he chooses to have that method, that the locomotion is of a very tardy character. If the right hon. Gentleman put the horse before the cart he would find that our business would go on much more rapidly. I believe even now it would be a very good thing for him to allow the Scotch business to come on in that which is its legitimate Parliamentary place. What the great public inconvenience would be caused by postponing the Vote on Account for three or four days the right hon. Gentleman has not stated. I do not know myself—I do not think he will find it very easy to answer what my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling has proposed, that the Parliamentary proceedings should be taken in their Parliamentary order. I must say I think there is good foundation for his appeal upon that subject.

(5.35.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (&c.) Leith,

It was understood some days ago that this Scotch Estimate would be taken on Friday at a convenient hour when there should be a discussion; but the Scotch business has been put out of its proper place, and we have lost the opportunity of having an important discussion; and it appears that we are likely to lose the opportunity of another discussion. This management of Scotch business will no longer be tolerated by the Scotch Members in this House. They will be found as capable as any other section of the House to assert their rights and safeguard the interests of their constituencies.

(5.38.) DR. CLARK

If the First Lord of the Treasury could only have told us that he had something to say, instead of saying that he had nothing to say, he might be able to get on with the business. The right hon. Gentleman has not told us why this unusual course has been taken.


I did not happen to be in the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling was speaking, and did not know of that point. As to why this course has been adopted, I wish to say, in reference to that that I have always stated during the whole week and in the hearing of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that it would be a highly inconvenient course if we were to take the Supplementary Vote before the Vote on Account, and no individual Member ever said a word of protest against it.


The right hon. Gentleman's statement is, to some extent, satisfactory; but still he does not say why this should be done. This Estimate should have been taken last year; but, in order to wind up the Session earlier, it was postponed, and now it is to be taken in the morning instead of in the evening at a convenient hour. This is a new policy brought forward by the Government, and they must expect that it will be opposed by a large section of the Scotch Members There is no reason in the world why this Vote on Account should be taken to-night. I do not think such a course as has been taken will tend to facilitate Public Business when the right hon. Gentleman has no reason whatever to give for the course—not a single legitimate decent argument why this Vote on Account should have preference.


I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is because the Scotch Members feel that they have not received that courteous and considerate treatment which they think they had a right to expect from the right hon. Gentleman that they have found it necessary to make themselves not altogether pleasant to the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon.


The right hon. Gentleman has not announced any reason or advanced any argument whatever why this transposition of the Votes should have taken place. It was the expressed intention of the Government to have taken the Supplementary Vote last night if possible. It is perfectly plain, that from the state and condition of the House at the present moment, that more interest is taken in the Scotch Supplementary Estimate than in the Vote on Account, because there are more Scotch Members present; and I think that, after the curtailment of time that has taken place, it would be very injudicious of the Government to further curtail the time at the disposal of the Scotch Members.

(5.43.) MR. D. CRAWFORD

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury did not know that the question we had been pressing upon him when the Speaker was in the Chair was why the Vote on Account had got precedence of the Scotch Supplementary Vote. However, he appears now to have that point brought home to him, and I think the answer he has given is a very regrettable answer, because, although I am sure it was not intended by him, it is an evasive and a disingenuous answer. He said a few days ago that he proposed to set down Scotch Votes for today; but at the same time intimated that the Vote on Account was to be taken, and I say that is a disingenuous answer. The essence of the arrangement was that Scotch Members were to have an allotted time for the discussion of the Vote in which they take so much interest. It was not the essence of the arrangement that the Scotch Vote was to be postponed till after the Vote on Account. No honest man can say that that was the meaning of the arrangement which was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman and which was accepted by us, and I do not think that this is a thing which the right hon. Gentleman would seek to press upon anyone except his own countrymen. Last year we were promised ample time for discussion, and now the time is taken away from us. It is a very great injury and a very great injustice, and certainly will not in the long run be calculated to save time or to advance the interests of the Government.


It is important to take the Scotch Vote first, because, if the money is given to Scotland in relief of local taxation, we will then protest against the action of the Treasury in voting money for the Irish teachers in Ireland in spite of our resistance. We want to know what is to be done with the Scotch money before we discuss the Irish Estimates.


If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will look at his own answer to the Member for the Stirling Burghs on Monday last, he will see that, however he may have guarded himself, it was a fair deduction on our part to assume from his answer that this afternoon was to be devoted to the discussion of this Scotch Vote. I have consulted the Times and read his answer. It is perfectly true he did not say absolutely that the day would be assigned to Scotch Members. He guarded himself at the end of his statement by making the arrangement conditional upon the progress of Public Business throughout the week, but he did not make the Scotch Vote to-day depend upon the passing of the Vote on Account last night. He said nothing about that.


Read my answer.


Unfortunately I have not brought the library file of the Times with me.


Here is what the right hon. Gentleman said:— On Thursday the Government will take the Vote on Account, and on Friday they will take the Scotch Vote for Education.


Read on.


That is all.


The right hon. Gentleman now says that he is departing from the arrangement because it is obviously to the convenience of the House. What is his reason—sic volo, sic jubeo. There is no other reason that I can see. When the right hon. Gentleman has longer experience of his office, he will see that this is not the best way of getting business through this House. It is nothing less than an insult to the Scotch Members. We do not ask them to give up Government time. Let him consult those who have gathered here to-day in expectation excited by his own words.

MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

The Scotch Members were brought down this afternoon at the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman expressly to discuss a most important question affecting Scotland. It is quite true the right hon. Gentleman qualified his statement by the language of a general condition; but this condition must be construed according to the reasonable practices of the House, and I venture to say that, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman, no Leader of this House would ever construe promises in the manner in which he has done. It is impossible to carry on the business of this House, if promises deliberately made are to be cast aside at the whim of the right hon. Gentleman. He casts us aside because we have only 70 votes; if we had 500 he would not do it. The people in Scotland are taking note that the treatment they are now receiving is only consistent with what they generally receive at the hands of a Tory Government, by whom Scotch business is either pushed into a corner or taken in the early hours of the morning. The Scotch people are getting an object-lesson as to the necessity of some arrangement by which Scotch Members may transact their business without the incubus of the right hon. Gentleman. If he desires to make any progress let him come at once to the business of the afternoon.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 127; Noes 202.—(Div. List, No. 44.)

Question again purposed, "That the Item, Treasury and Subordinate Departments, be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Leng.)


moved, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair," but the Chairman being of opinion that the Motion was an abuse of the Rules of the House, declined to propose the Question thereupon to the Committee.

Question again proposed.


I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100. The Treasury has been very deficient in affording us information in supplying documents or in making any calculation with regard to this sum of £90,000, which was voted at 2 o'clock in the morning, after most of the Members were away. They first made a set of calculations in 1879, then they made another set of calculations, and, at the end of last year, they made still another set of calculations. I think that is a very gross case of bungling on the part of the Treasury. The second point is, that, having made these calculations, they rushed the Vote in the House of Commons, and, when asked for their calculations, said they were not yet made out. They have been asked in what mode the calculations were made, and they have not been able to supply the information. The whole allotment of the £90,000 has been grossly bungled by the Treasury. They have not been able to put any Papers before us to enable us to check this calculation either by ourselves or to submit it to some actuarial examination. It would be a good thing to reduce this Vote by £100. It would make the Treasury more careful in future. And if they take power to allot the money to Ireland after consultation with the Irish Members, they will see they have been doing wrong, and will put it next time in a more businesslike manner.


I beg to support the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend to reduce this Vote. I am supporting the hon. Gentleman's proposal for a reduction of the Vote because I think we have had nothing sufficiently satisfactory in the way of explanation.

(6.17.) MR. MORTON

I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given a satisfactory answer. I have taken some interest in the matter of inventions, and last year the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks Beach) promised a deputation which waited on him more than was asked; but I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer refuses to allow him to carry out what he promised. I hope the hon. Gentleman will go to a Division unless he gets a promise from the Treasury that the President of the Board of Trade will be allowed to fulfil his promises. As I understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he said that it was possible that something might be done some day, but at present the Treasury refuse to sanction it. I think we are entitled to some definite statement from the Treasury as to what they intend to do.

(6.20.) MR. LENG

To a certain extent the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer modifies the statement he made on Monday last. To that extent I am glad to accept it, but the right hon. Gentleman is not sufficiently definite as to the time when that which he admits is the policy of; the Government is to be carried out. The plans submitted to the Treasury by the President of the Board of Trade would be satisfactory to the poor inventors, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make such representations to the Treasury that in the incoming year effect will be given to them. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to state that the policy he announced last June will be carried out; if not, I shall be compelled reluctantly to divide the House.


I was not in the House when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke, and so am not aware of what he said. But I can assure the hon. Gentleman that something will be done in the matter during the coming year, and no effort shall be wanting on my part to carry out what he desires.


After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

(6.25.) MR. SEXTON

The hon. Gentleman has received a satisfactory reply from the President of the Board of Trade, but the hon. and gallant Member for Gal way (Colonel Nolan) has moved to reduce the Vote for an equally cogent reason. He addressed himself to the Secretary to the Treasury. I know the outlines of the case to which he referred, and in one way or another we will debate it in the House. There is another question I should like to refer to, and that is the responsibility of the Treasury for giving information to the House; and this is so important that I give notice that I shall, on the Appropriation Bill, raise my voice against the scandal of this appropriation of £90,000. I want to know if we are going to have the necessary information. The salary of the right hon. Gentleman for two months is before the House, and we are entitled to inquire if he performs his duty. He is not performing his duty to the House. On the 29th February, when this Vote was in Committee, we made certain demands for information, and the Vote was closured, but the postponement of Report till the 14th March indicated the intention of the Government to obtain that information, if obtainable. We asked who was the auditor who made the valuation in 1885. We are entitled to an answer. It was admitted that it was the same person who made the valuation in 1890, but his personality was not revealed. I have made the discovery of this man of genius, but I should like my research confirmed. In this Vote there is a sum for the Superintendent of the Teachers' Pension Office, Ireland, and the gentleman who holds that office is also principal and actuary of the War Office; he gets £900 from the War Office, and £200 from the Teachers' Pension Office. I find also a sum of £60 for assistance in preparing the quinquennial valuation of the Teachers' Pension Fund. Now, we have this genius revealed; he is the principal and actuary of the War Office. I think it would be desirable to keep him at the War Office. It is his bungling which necessitates this Vote of £90,000, and at the proper time I shall move to reduce his Irish salary by £30. This gentleman and these clerks, having daily care of the Pension Fund, made an error of an enormous sum in the valuation, which is only now found out. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that in 1885 there was not sufficient experience. This gentleman had had five years' experience when he made the valuation, and has been in charge of the office every day since then. I challenge the Administration to produce such an exhibition of incompetence and neglect as that a man should have been seven years in discovering a mistake that he made in 1885, and we ask for his removal from that office. Why has no balance sheet been supplied? Are the Irish Members entitled to no information? I ask that the Report be laid upon the Table so that we can see how this man performed the extraordinary financial somersault which produced a surplus in 1885 and a deficit in 1890, and showed that the fund had gone back £380,000 in five years. If he had told the Treasury that the fund was in low water we should have been saved £90,000; but the Treasury, knowing nothing of this, saw a lump of Irish money lying around, and very naturally seized it. I ask for that Report, and I shall use all my energies and all the Forms of the House to prevent progress being made with the Appropriation Bill until this Report is laid on the Table. I also claim that we should have the Report of the three actuaries who have enabled the Treasury to say that they are assured that there is a deficiency in the fund of £190,000; and if these Reports are not presented, I shall contend that the Government is trifling with the House.


The hon. Member has had the fullest information that we are in a position to give him, and it was impossible for the actuaries to examine into the whole of this matter and present their Report before the 31st March. The Government undertook to see what information could be got before the Vote was taken, and adjourned the Report for a week in order to enable us to obtain information which would justify us in saying that this fund was insolvent. The actuary reported one state of things in 1885 and another in 1891, and it is necessary to have an exhaustive inquiry as to whether this fund is solvent or not? I have endeavoured to comply with the demands of the hon. Member, but it is quite impossible to lay on the Table the two Reports which are actually sub judice, and are now being examined by the actuaries. Still, I can assure the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) that the moment this examination is concluded I will lay the Reports on the Table.


The right hon. Gentleman has described this examination as sub judice, but an assurance has, I take it, been given by the actuaries that the fund is insolvent. Where is that Report, if it was in the form of a Report?


That assurance was the result of a letter I wrote with the object of supplying information which the hon. Gentleman desired. The hon. Gentleman wanted to be assured that there really was a deficiency, and with a view to meet him I put it to the actuaries who are conducting the examination—"Assure me, if you have got far enough in your investigation to know, whether there actually is a deficiency." The assurance I have received from the actuaries is practically set down in the Paper. "The Treasury are assured that there is a deficiency of at least £190,000." I am not an actuary, and I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is either, but he seems to think that a preliminary Report is impossible. I can only say that the Chairman of this Committee of Actuaries told me that he was able to say, from the investigation he had already made, that he had no doubt whatever that there was a deficiency of £190,000 at least. He could not say whether it was more, but that was the minimum deficit. I am perfectly well aware that this is a very meagre and insufficient Report on a very important matter, but I put it as the best Report I could give. I have stated the facts of the case very much as I stated them the other day, perhaps a little more precisely and more carefully, and I have given the assurance received from the Committee of Actuaries that the deficiency does really exist. At the present moment it is impossible to give any further information, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Irish Members shall have the fullest possible information on this subject as soon as this Committee has concluded its investigation and made its Report on the two Reports in question.


And what about the money taken?


There is no doubt there is a deficiency, but I should be out of Order now if I discussed the disposal of the money. I must confine myself to the particular branch of the question which is before the Committee. Every effort will be made to lay before Parliament the most detailed information so soon as this matter has been considered and reported upon by the experts, and so soon as the Treasury have complete detailed information which ought to be laid before the House.

(6.42.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)

The extraordinary part of this is that the idea of obtaining this £90,000 must have been conceived by the Treasury four or five months ago, but since that time the actuaries have made no Report whatever to place before this House. If the actuaries have made a Report, why cannot we have it? If they have not, why has the £90,000 been taken? I am bound to assume that this actuary knows nothing whatever about the matter, or he may know and still be subservient to the Treasury and come to any conclusions they wish. In any case we ought to have this Report, and we have still a chance before the Appropriation Bill.

(6.45.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

Can we have the name of this celebrated actuary? I sympathise with the desire of hon. Members that Ireland should be relieved of the services of this gentleman, but I object to English administration being left saddled with the individual. If this actuary received £900 a year, then that is exactly £900 a year more than he is worth. If he has made such a muddle in reference to an Irish Fund, he will do a similar thing in War Office business some day.

(6.46.) MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)

My hon. Friend has done some service in discovering that the actuary whose error has given rise to all this inconvenience is a pluralist. It seems that under successive Governments he has been allowed to multiply his offices, and being engaged on War Office pensions is allowed to work for the Irish Education Office, and fails in a calculation that any accountant's clerk in the City would successfully undertake. Not only is he inefficient, but it seems he is allowed two assistants to do the work, and now we are to have further expenditure on account of a committee of experts to correct the errors made by the actuary. Public service is done by drawing attention to these matters, because large as this Vote is, the transactions at the War Office are, I suppose, still larger. The actuary, however, continues his services, and his errors remain undiscovered for years, until a Government Department has to get a committee of actuaries to help it out of the muddle it has got into. A disgraceful state of affairs is disclosed.

(6.47.) Mr. A J. BALFOUR

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but the CHAIR-MAN withheld his assent, as he thought the Committee were prepared to come to a decision without that Motion.

Question put, "That the Item, Treasury and Subordinate Departments, be reduced by £100."

(6.50.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 194.—(Div. List, No. 45.)

It being after Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House at Nine of the clock.