HC Deb 22 March 1892 vol 2 cc1536-54


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

(12.18.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

This Bill among other provisions authorises the Treasury to make an advance in accordance with the Resolution in Committee of Supply of £90,000 to be allocated to the Irish Teachers' Pension Fund, and we object to the issue of the money for such a purpose. This amount of £90,000 has already been devoted by Parliament to the service of education in Ireland. Irish Members have been extremely unfortunate in regard to this Vote. When it was taken in Committee of Supply we were absolutely in the dark as to the condition of the Fund to which it is proposed to allocate this money; we had no particulars of the Report on the Fund, nor had we knowledge of the personality of the individual from whom the Report proceeded; and while engaged in the effort to obtain information which ought to have been laid before us before the Vote was presented in Committee the discussion was prematurely ended by the application of the Closure. When the Vote was reported it became impossible for me to make the statement I desired to make, and practically, though this is almost the last stage of the financial operation, it is the only opportunity Irish Members have had of laying their case before the House. I avail myself of this opportunity to protest most earnestly against the alienation of this Fund, contributed by Ireland to the Imperial Revenue, and which Parliament has thought fit to give back to the service of Irish education—to no other purpose whatever. Parliament is bound in honour and honesty to devote this money to the cause of Irish education, because, in the Budget of last year, it was accepted by the House as a grant for that purpose, and the proposal was assented to by Irish Members. You are committed to the arrangement by a Parliamentary compact of the utmost stringency; you are bound by that compact, from which we, on our part, decline to release you. This money should have been voted last year, and why was it not voted? The Secretary to the Treasury, in a burst of candour, said he did not know to what use to put the money. Well, there need be no difficulty in finding a suitable use for it. True it is that last year the Government did not like the trouble to advance a suitable or convenient scheme for the application of the money, but why are we to suffer for their delay? Last year when this Vote should have been taken the Government had no idea of applying the money to the Teachers' Pension Fund in the way now intended; but in the course of the winter, and having time to cogitate the fact that they happened to have this Irish money lying unused, proved too strong a temptation. The Treasury had a difficulty to meet; and they determined, in an utterly unconstitutional manner, to appropriate this money, because they thought Ireland too weak to resist them. The Parliamentary compact bound the Government to devote the money to the service of Irish education in the current year, and I say the Government have no more right to divert this money from the service of the year to meet a deficiency in this Fund that may arise in the course of the Twentieth Century than they have to divert any other Vote from the service of the year. In policy and honesty the Government were bound; but by this diversion of the Vote, the first result of your policy, intended for the benefit of education in Ireland, will be to inflict an injury on Irish teachers. Free education was announced a year ago, and from the moment it was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer it became more and more difficult in some parts of Ireland to collect school fees or obtain local contributions. Teachers during the past year have suffered serious loss by the diminution and, in some cases the cessation, of the payment of school fees and of contributions from local sources. Yet, in the face of this, you are going to take this money, intended by Parliament for the help of the teachers and the assistance of education, to make good a Fund which may not be in need of assistance for 40 years. The money should be applied to the immediate service of Irish education, and what is the reason you divert it to the Pension Fund? We have no information; we are as completely in the dark now as we were when the statement was made on 29th February. Not a Report has been laid on the Table, not a speech has been made to assist us to appreciate the actual position of the Fund. No copy of the Report of 1885 or of that of 1890—no communication from the Committee of Actuaries appointed to examine the assets of the Fund has been put before us. The Secretary to the Treasury explains that the Report is subjudice. I confess there is novelty in the plea. I have heard of questions in which the liberty of a man was concerned being sub judice, but never have I beard of a Report being withheld for such a reason. Well, though the Report is sub judice, that does not deter the Treasury from a definite application of this money. Is it not irrational to advance this plea, and yet to devote this money for the purpose of a fund where it has not been ascertained that a deficit exists? We have not a scrap of information to show us the money is needed for the purpose. It appears that an actuary has informed the Treasury that a deficit may arise at a future time, and I say on such a ground as that there is not sufficient justification for this appropriation. How was the Fund constituted? From a sum of £1,300,000 from the Irish Church surplus and subscriptions from the teachers. The Fund has nothing to do with the taxation of Ireland. The Treasury have had the Fund entirely under their control, and the Treasury are responsible for the original error, and for the effect of that error. It was an actuary from the War Office, appointed by the Treasury, who reported on the condition of the Fund, and upon his Report the rules were made. On the faith of the obligations undertaken by the Treasury the teachers made their subscriptions. The Treasury had the Fund under their control; they accepted the valuation made; they incurred fresh expenditure, they are bound by their rules to make good the deficit, if deficit there is, from Imperial sources, and not from money dedicated to Irish uses. It is an outrage, I say, to take this money from us to make good the future deficit. Is there a deficit at all? Perhaps hon. Members do not understand the point, and I cannot blame them if they do not. I have looked into the matter with such information as I can collect, and I find the Fund is not only solvent but prosperous. The capital sum of £1,300,000 remains untouched. The interest at 3 per cent. is £39,000, and the teachers' payments are £10,000 a year. There is, therefore, an income of £49,000. The charges last year were £36,000, and there is, therefore, a surplus revenue of £13,000, and, with the accumulated surplus since the Fund was founded in 1880, there should be £1,300,000 in hand. But the Secretary to the Treasury will say that, taking into account the future operations, the ultimate liabilities will leave a deficit of £190,000. That is to say, before the claim of each contributor to the Fund is satisfied there may be a deficit. That refers to a period 40 or 50 years distant; and this sum, which Parliament has set aside for the education of the year, is to be taken away from the purpose for which it was intended in order to correct an error for which the Treasury alone are responsible and to provide for a possible deficiency somewhere about the year 1940. Why take this £90,000? Assume there is a deficiency at the end of 40 years. At simple interest you would double the amount in the period after which the necessity for its use would arise, and it is obvious that at compound interest a much smaller sum than £90,000 would be sufficient to meet any deficiency that may arise. You have a precedent for dealing with such a contingency. Two years ago there was found to be a deficiency in the Constabulary Pension Fund. What did the Government then do? Did they appropriate Ireland's share of the Probate Duty, the Excise Duty, the Licence Duty, or any of the rebates made for taxation to Ireland? No; they placed on the Estimates a sum of £150,000 to be voted from Imperial sources to put that Fund in a solvent condition, and why not do the same thing now? You have taken advantage of the financial arrangement by which this Fund was established. When the interest on £1,300,000 from the Church surplus was devoted to purposes of the Teachers' Fund, you abolished the Vote of £8,000, which, until then, had annually appeared in the Estimates for the Fund, the Imperial Treasury saving £8,000 by the transaction each year, or £96,000 since 1880, and yet you come on this Irish Fund of £90,000 to make good a supposed deficiency your own egregious blunder has caused. What is the opinion of the teachers as to this allocation? By an unusual proceeding in Committee, the Chief Secretary interposed and read a telegram, purporting to come from the executive body of the teachers in Dublin, in which that body were represented to have passed a resolution approving of this appropriation of £90,000. But the executive body never passed such a resolution. A committee of that body passed a resolution in favour of the Education Bill as explained by the right hon. Gentleman. When the proper time comes we shall be able to show reasons why we differ from this approval. But my point is, that the telegram had reference to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the Bill.


The telegram made reference to the £90,000, and, as I understand, the teachers were under the impression that the allocation of the £90,000 was to be made in the Bill.


The teachers were under the impression that the addition of the £90,000 would have the effect of reducing the amount of their subscriptions to the Fund or of increasing their pensions. Here I have copies of resolutions from members of bodies representing national school teachers in Ireland, one and all condemning this appropriation of an Irish Fund to purposes from which they will receive no benefit, and which was intended for the current needs of education. I strongly and earnestly appeal to the House, even at this late stage, not to proceed with an act of misappropriation of Irish money, which is as unjust to the people of Ireland as it is discreditable to the House. I make an earnest appeal that this sum should not issue from the Treasury, but should remain until it can be allocated in proportion as bonus to teachers, and distributed to meet the needs of education in the ensuing year. I therefore think, in the circumstances, that the money should remain with the Treasury.


This matter has been already so thoroughly discussed that I am afraid I cannot add very much to what I have already said. With regard to the hon. Member's last suggestion, that the money should remain with the Treasury, he must be aware that unless the money is disposed of, it would have to be applied on the 31st March as a payment to the National Debt, and, therefore, the money would be gone so far as Irish purposes are concerned. I shall answer as shortly as I can the observations of the hon. Gentleman. There was no pledge whatever given to Parliament that this money should be allocated for Irish education. All that the House and the Members representing Irish constituencies have a right to expect is that the money, which is equivalent to the sum which was given for freeing schools in England, shall be allocated to some Irish purpose. Nor is it correct that there is in Ireland at present a great falling off at the schools. I am told by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland—


How does he know?


; Order, order!


I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, on his official responsibility, that the falling off has been only 1,500 in 1,750 schools in Ireland, and that in the model schools there has been no falling off at all. Is this an Irish purpose to which this money is to be voted? Anybody who reads the Memorandum which I have laid on the Table of the House will have as good an idea as can be conveyed of the actual state of affairs. I want to call the attention of the House to the fact that this Fund is a separate Statutory Fund created in 1879 out of the Irish Church surplus, and fed since then by the contributions of the Irish teachers themselves. The hon. Member has repeatedly, in the course of these Debates, spoken of the egregious blunders of the Treasury, and in particular has attacked an official as though he had committed some monstrous blunder. I really think language of that sort is very unjust to the Public Service. I invite hon. Members to wait until the Reports, with the opinions of the Committee of Actuaries, are produced. In 1885, owing to an error as to expectations of the future, the Irish teachers got a benefit to which they were not entitled. Surely it is a proper application of the money applicable to Ireland to pay now what was not paid in 1885. I cannot think so badly of the Irish school teachers as to believe that they wish to have, at the expense of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, a benefit which, if they have it at all, ought to come out of the Irish money. The sum which the Committee of Supply allocated to the Irish teachers will go to meet a deficiency which at present undoubtedly exists, otherwise the benefits to be derived from the Fund will be diminished or the amount of the subscription will be increased. The money will help to make the Fund solvent. It will give the teachers the advantage of better terms in securing their pensions. The hon. Member spoke as though the deficiency was only a deficiency in prospect. It is a deficiency which exists at the present moment. It is too late to make any other application of the Fund in the present year. The money has been voted, and the Report of the Resolution of the Committee of Supply has been agreed to; and if the money is not placed at the credit of the Pension Fund in the present financial year, it will go, as I have said, to meet the National Debt.

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

The Secretary to the Treasury has twice in his speech raised the bogie that if this money is not applied to the Pension Fund it must go to the Consolidated Fund. This bogie is really of no consequence whatever. The Government can allocate the sum as they please with the majority they have; but they would probably be supported by the Opposition, and they would be supported by the Irish Members, if they followed the suggestion of the Member for West Belfast, and allocated the money to the teachers either by way of salary or capitation grant. The reason why the claim is made is this: You gave £800,000 for education in England for six months, and you will give a proportionate sum to Ireland. But the £90,000 in question here comes from Irish money. We contributed 11 per cent. to pay the English teachers for the six months. You are, however, going to put this £90,000 into the Treasury. I remember the noble Lord the Member for Paddington pointed out that a man who was just one grade above a born idiot could grab money to meet the National Debt and the expenditure of the year. If any one is above this grade of a born idiot he will find a still simpler plan. By a large majority he can create Irish balances and apply them to the Treasury balances, and Treasury surpluses. This money affords a good balance to the English Treasury, but it is no benefit whatever to the Irish teachers. We have resisted it in every possible way. Without any information whatever from the Treasury we have been told that this money must be applied to make good the deficiency. The Irish Members have been told they must be very careful what they say as to the actuary. I think the language of the Secretary to the Treasury is too severe. What are you going to do with a gentleman who in 1885 makes one calculation, and then six years afterwards declares it is wrong by a considerable amount. I think any man who does that should be held up to scorn before this House. Hon. Members are not paid for making these calculations, but the actuary is paid. Do you think I would have given you my vote on the English Education Bill if I had thought Ireland was to be treated this way? I know I could not have stopped the Bill, but I could have kept you a few days longer from passing it. I thought the Irish people would have got an equivalent to what the schools and the teachers and the parents in England got. How can the Ministry come forward and say they are governing Ireland according to Irish popular opinion when they only rely on 16 Members against 85. I do not believe these 16 care about the measure. I think they are voting simply because they do not like to vote against the measure. From a Party point of view I think they are highly to be applauded, but we are not acting from a Party point of view. If you had allotted this money in any way to benefit the teachers, we would have voted with the Government. Many of us are ready to show we will do that on financial questions. Your present proposal as to the application of the money is one of the consequences of our having the same Exchequer. We have no means of checking the account. You are simply plundering the whole people. This £90,000 was specifically promised to us, and it has always been held out as a proof that the Government meant to keep their promise to the letter, but they certainly have not kept their financial promises to Ireland in the spirit. Ireland has not got its fair share of the money voted. This particular sum will be of no use to the teachers. They repudiate it as being utterly valueless. You have confiscated this £90,000 to add to your Treasury balances. Of course, I am perfectly well aware the money is not absolutely lost, but it is absolutely lost to us. It goes to the Imperial Exchequer, and it is the same to us whether you apply this £90,000 to the Teachers' Fund nominally or apply it to the extinction of the National Debt. This is Irish money, and you should have voted it in accordance with the wishes of the large majority of the Irish Members.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

; I think it is not unnatural that the Irish national teachers, who are an under-paid body, should wish to have money direct. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) has spoken to-night as if the Treasury were responsible for this deficit and for the insolvency of the Fund. Well, the actuary is, no doubt, responsible for the mistake. What has caused the difficulty is, that after this imaginary surplus had been created by the actuary fresh advantages were given to the national teachers, and it is by reason of the fresh advantages which were given to the teachers out of this imaginary surplus that the insolvency has been created. I say, whether the national teachers took that into account or not, we are bound to take it into account, and to let the national teachers understand that the insolvency of the Fund arises because of the fresh advantages that they have received out of this imaginary surplus. I put it to the House in this way. What the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir J. Gorst) stated is perfectly clear. He made a comparison of assets and liabilities of the Fund, and the hon. Member for West Belfast says, "That may be all very well. Your liabilities are not due immediately; they are due in the future." All I can say is, that if the hon. Member for West Belfast had responsibility placed upon him either in an Imperial Treasury or an Irish Treasury, and began work in that kind of way, I do not think he would go very far before he was pulled up. The real question is whether there was a deficit or not. We are informed that a deficit exists, and we are informed of the cause of it. I hold that we have a right to tell the national teachers that they have got advantages out of the imaginary surplus, and, so far as I am concerned, I intend to support the Government in their endeavour to make that Pension Fund solvent. I disagree with what the hon. Member for West Belfast said in the beginning of his able speech. He seemed to think that this matter had been hustled through the House by the Closure. I was present in Committee of Supply, and we spent three hours upon this subject before the Closure was imposed. On Report of Supply we spent two hours more upon it. By a reason which I regret, the hon. Member for West Belfast was on that occasion prevented from speaking; but to say that the matter has been pushed through the House is to go too far.

(1.5.) MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)

If there were advantages given to the teachers, they were based on a false financial position for which the Treasury was responsible. It is all very well for the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) to say he wants to make this scheme financially sound. So do we, but we do not want to take away that which is intended for an immediate advantage to make this scheme financially sound. The actuary made his calculation upon the fact that £8,000 were given out of Imperial Exchequer to the Pension Fund. His calculation must have been based upon that, because that contribution is stopped. It would appear as if his calculation was based on the fact that that was to continue, but it is not continued. How has the error arisen? We are left so completely in the dark, that we have to guess as to the manner in which this error was made. If what I have stated be not the case, then surely the Secretary to the Treasury should tell us how the error was committed. But here we have the fact that there was a deficiency of £8,000 a year up to the year the Pension Fund was constituted; and indeed to make good the position we are now in by that, you propose to take away that which ought to be applied to an immediate educational advantage, and apply it to this deficiency. It should be remembered that we are dealing with a body of men who are not well paid. We are dealing with men whose claims have been over and over brought before us, and who are admitted to be the worst paid members of their profession in the United Kingdom. I can assure the Government that there is in Ireland a very strong and angry feeling with regard to the course taken by them in this matter.

(1.8.) MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

; This question has two branches. There is one which concerns the Irish Members, and I submit that there is another question which involves the English and Scottish Members, and that is whether there has been towards the Irish people good faith in this matter. We have already had it by anticipation, and when the General Election comes, a great deal will be made by many hon. Gentlemen opposite of the fact that the present Government has given free education to England and Wales and Scotland, and they will represent that as of very great value to the people of this country. But if that is so, and if the present proposal of the Government be adopted, what can be made of your claim to having done equal justice? Where is the case of treating Ireland with equal justice and with simultaneity with the rest of the United Kingdom? The course which the Secretary to the Treasury has been obliged to resort to is not worthy of the House of Commons. With regard to the deficiency in the Teachers Fund, it has been known for some time, but we have no Papers laid before us which will enable us to deal with this one question. Whence is the necessity for this hurry in voting this money before the case has been properly submitted to Parliament? Although the matter in one aspect is a small one, in principle it is a very important one, and you have given in it an additional illustration and instance of the gross unfairness with which Ireland is treated whenever she comes to be dealt with separately in this United Parliament. I should not have thought that a Government which has regard for its own consistency, or a Parliament which is going before the country on the ques-of the maintenance of a united system of government for the whole country, and in which the affairs of Ireland should have due consideration, would have presented such an illustration of their inconsistency—a proceeding than which in my judgment there has been nothing more unfair or shabby presented to the House of Commons.

(1.12.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon, &c.)

I do not think that this Bill ought to be allowed to pass without some attention being called to the question of the gold mines in Wales. I will make another appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to enforce the execution on the property of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Pritchard Morgan). This was essentially a case in which some indulgence should be shown. The hon. Member for Merthyr has been engaged in developing the gold mines in Wales for some years, and the Government allows him to spend scores of thousands of pounds of his money in erecting machinery, and in other necessary ways to bring about a development, without in the slightest degree interfering with him. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had put in his claim at the very start, the hon. Member might have come to other terms with the landowners, or he might have dropped his operations. This is not a matter which is personal to the hon. Member for Merthyr. It affects a considerable population in this particular district of Wales; and it affects a new industry which, if it be properly dealt with, may become one of great importance. I call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Report of Her Majesty's Inspector of Metalliferous Mines in North Wales, not as referring to the hon. Member for Merthyr, but as a matter of general public interest. The Inspector says— The bold effort which is now being made with excellent machinery to treat still poorer quartz deserves all possible aid and encouragement from those who have the interests of the Principality at heart; for, if it is once proved that the mining of poor quartz in Wales can be made to pay a fair profit, a portion of the capital now flowing out to the Colonies and foreign countries will be diverted to home enterprises. On the other hand, if any untoward circumstances were to cause the Morgan Mine to be stopped, all hope of profitable gold mining in this country would be given up by the public. I fear that the rather harsh action that the Government has taken in this case will have the effect of stopping the Morgan Mine, which is really a very important experiment in gold mining in North Wales. I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to afford some indulgence in this matter, and as I feel that some discussion will be necessary, I move that the Debate be adjourned.


I shall not put that Motion. It is an abuse of the Forms of the House.

(1.15.) MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)

I wish to refer to the action of the Woods and Forests Department with regard to the conditions which it imposes upon mining operations in Wales. A few years since, an application was put in by a miner to be allowed to mine for gold on a property in North Wales belonging to Mr. C. R. Williams. This application having been made to the Woods and Forests Office, a letter was written to Mr. Williams telling him an application had been made for the right to mine on his property, and that if he chose to put in an application himself the Woods and Forests Department would consider it in preference to that of the stranger. Mr. Williams said:— "I know nothing about mining, and I declined to enter into mining operations." The Woods and Forests replied—"If you will not mine on your own estate, which has cost £40,000, we will give authority to this stranger, this outsider, to come into your property and mine." Mr. Williams issued a manifesto, which was circulated throughout the district, and influence was brought to bear in some quarters with this result; that a licence was granted to Mr. Williams striking out all the labour clauses in the lease; and a compromise was affected between the landowner and the Woods and Forest Office by which £1 per annum was to be paid for 30 years, and 600 or 700 acres of land containing valuable minerals, the property of the State, were to be locked up for that period of time. I do not consider that consistent conduct on the part of the Woods and Forests Department. What I want is consistency and uniformity in the action of the Department. I object strongly to the Woods and Forests Office saying that one man is to pay a thirtieth part of his product, and another is to pay a twentieth. We have been voting this money for five or six years, and I think it is high time the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made up his mind as to what he is going to do. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not willing to deal with the matter, I appeal to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who knows something about this subject, to express his opinion upon it. There is a very serious phase of this question, and it is this: that the owner of the soil and the mine are absolutely precluded from entering into an agreement to work the minerals on terms of mutual profit and advantage, because the State steps in and prevents such an agreement being carried into effect. I put a straight question to the right hon. Gentleman the other day. It was this:— In the event of a mining industry, at a cost of £90, producing £100 worth of material, in other words, in the event of 10 per cent. profit being made on the product, docs the Government take two-thirds of it? Of course it does. Is there any other industry in the country that could be carried on under such conditions? It is impossible to carry on the gold mining industry in Wales if the Government insist on taking two-thirds of the profits. Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware of this fact that statesman though he may lie, he has totally disregarded the true principles of Free Trade and he is even abandoning a principle which some of his supporters would like to see adopted, namely, the principle of protection. There are hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of gold extracted from foreign ores in Swansea every year. These foreign ores are brought into Swansea and the extraction of the gold is carried on there, and yet there is absolutely and practically a tax on the raw product of this country. If they charge us a proportion of what we produce after the operation has taken place of bringing the material to the surface of the earth, it is obvious that they are literally and absolutely protecting, encouraging and supporting the mines of foreign countries as against the mines of this country. The right hon. Gentleman has been the sole cause this week of the discharge of 60 men in North Wales from their employment, and the wives and families of these men will probably bless the right hon. Gentleman in the end.

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

Notwithstanding that the time is unfavourable for entering into the subject at large, I must endeavour to correct the impression the hon. Member seems to convey as to the position of the Treasury in this matter. For information in respect to the hon. Member's personal case and to the general question, I may refer the House to the evidence given before the Committee appointed to inquire into the administration of the Woods and Forests. The hon. Member speaks as if the Treasury represents a body whose object is to extort from those who work the mines profits to which they are entitled. But the Treasury represent the taxpayers of the country; and the question is, what is due to the taxpayers, and what is due to the speculators who discover mines?


Mining on his own land.


Yes; but in the minerals beneath, the taxpayers have an interest, and it is that interest the Treasury are bound to defend. The hon. Member says that the taxpayers' share is so large that gold mining is practically impossible. But the hon. Member knew when he undertook his operations what the share of the taxpayers would be; and notwithstanding that knowledge, and his estimate of what his share would be, the hon. Member was able to sell his rights for a very large sum.


The right hon. Gentleman will excuse me. This is scarcely fair. I have sent to the fight hon. Gentleman a financial statement showing him that I am £50,000 out of pocket by my operations, and I have offered to submit him proof of this.


That is not the point.


It is the point.


Order, order!


I believe that some of the persons engaged, and, finally, everybody suffered very considerably over the transactions, and that is the point the hon. Member makes against those whose interests we have to defend—the taxpayers—in respect to the concessions made to those who work the mines. We have to see that the concessions made do not simply enable those who have gold on their land to sell that land at an enhanced price. It is our duty to see that proper precautions are taken in that respect, and that is one of the difficulties in the case. The hon. Member speaks as if he only had been maltreated, but the taxpayers have also suffered.




I am not prepared at the moment to enter into the matter, and have to rely on my memory. In some of the matters to which the hon. Member called attention before the Court, and again on appeal, the law was so entirely against him that counsel were not called upon to defend the Treasury. The remark was made from the Bench—I have not the actual words—that the Court gave costs to the Crown because the Judges thought the taxpayer should not be called upon to pay costs incurred in an action which was brought to deprive the taxpayer of a portion of his rights. However painful the duty may be, if a Judge gives such an opinion, distinctly stating the action was such as ought not to have been brought, I must say it is scarcely justifiable for an Executive Government to forgo the costs which the hon. Member was condemned to pay. I need not enter into the question; there are two sides to it. While the Government are anxious to give every encouragement to the development of gold mining in Wales, and with that desire have made concessions in many directions, at the same time it is only right, in view of the important public rights involved, that we should, before proceeding further in the direction of concession, await the Report of the Royal Commission. If meantime we can take any steps, not with reference to the hon. Member particularly, but with regard to the gold mining industry, to prevent cessation of work, we have the greatest desire to do so. The hon. Member opposite has made an appeal with regard to the Morgan Mine.


The right hon. Gentleman will understand I make no appeal. I want no mercy.


The hon. Member wishes to be a Welsh Hampden, but I am now referring to the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd-George), who referred to the Morgan Mine. The hon. Member is no longer connected with the mine which bears his name.


I must correct the right hon. Gentleman. I am the largest shareholder by far. I object to be told that I, having started the mine in North Wales, am no longer connected with it. As a matter of fact I own nearly half the mine.


I was informed that the hon. Member had nothing to do with it. I may observe that the costs incurred were not in connection with that mine; and therefore I say, in reply to the hon. Member for Carnarvon, that I do not see that the action of the Executive can interfere with the working of the mine, and I hope the mine will not be closed. I can only repeat that it is our duty to look to the interest of the taxpayer in these matters.

(1.36.) SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

Would it not be worth while, to prevent the stoppage of work, to put the tax or royalty, or what you may like to call it, on the net profits and not on the gross output?

(1.36.) MR. T. ELLIS (Merionethshire)

I should like to emphasise the appeal of my hon. Friend. I think the Government have not quite realised two points in connection with this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not referred to one: that for three years, while capital was being spent on the mining property in Merionethshire, no warning, no notice was sent to my hon. Friend by the Woods and Forests Departments. A large amount of money was being spent on labour and on the setting up of expensive machinery, and yet no notice was sent by the Woods and Forests Department. But, when my hon. Friend began to obtain the fruit of the expenditure of capital and labour, then the Woods and Forests gave warning. Another point upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given no answer is that it is admitted that since the passing of the Act of William and Mary no judgment has been recorded in reference to this law, and the hon. Member in taking action really did a public service in getting a declaration on a law made 200 years ago, on which there had been no decision whatever. I hope the Government will listen to the appeal made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd-George) that proceedings should be stayed until the Royal Commission or Mining Royalties shall have made its Report, and the Government have decided their action on the recommendations that may be submitted.

(1.40.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

My knowledge of the subject is derived from this Debate, and I must say I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given a very convincing answer.


I said it was not possible for me to give an answer at this time.


Well, I must deal with the matter as I find it. It comes to this: that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of the Crown, is imposing a fine on gold-mining operations in Wales, and in other parts of the country, which practically makes work impossible. Of course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must defend the interests of the taxpayers, but I do not think that anything could be more foreign to the interests of taxpayers than that an important industry like this of mining for gold should be so handicapped by demands on behalf of the Crown as to make carrying on the work at a profit impossible. A Royal Commission is now conducting an inquiry. Has it not occurred to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he might have suspended proceedings against my hon. Friend—or putting him out of the matter altogether, not knowing him in the transaction—looking only at the gold-producing industry in Wales, and perhaps in Ireland, might he not suspend operations against this industry until the Royal Commission shall have made its Report? I must say it seems to me a matter of great concern that a large number of men should be thrown out of employment, and that an act of discouragement should be taken against an important native industry by the proceedings of the Crown in this matter. It is all very well to talk of the interest of the taxpayers, but surely it is highly to the interest of taxpayers that every form of industry should be stimulated, not discouraged. I can claim no special information on this subject, but I must say I think my hon. Friend has made out a case showing that an important industry is imperilled by a tyrannical exercise of the power of the Crown.

(1.45.) SIR J. PULESTON (Devonport)

Having some knowledge of the Principality, I can assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there is a very deep feeling in Wales on this subject, and not confined to any Party. There is a general, and I may say, an universal, feeling that this is a matter calling for very serious attention from the Government. A good deal of credit is due to the hon. Member who has endeavoured to develop the industry which has already given employment to a considerable number of people, but which, under the present condition of things, cannot be conducted with success.

(1.47.) Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 124; Noes 48.—(Div. List, No. 51.)

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow, at Twelve of the clock.


I hope the House will not object to the purely formal stage of Committee being taken as first Order to-day.