§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, having regard to the peculiar circumstances under which the Acts 1 Will. and Mary, c. 30, s. 1, and 5 Will. and Mary, c. 6, were passed, in the years 1688 and 1693, respectively, and the causes that led to the legislation embodied in those Acts and their amending Acts, he will consider the propriety of suspending the proceedings for the recovery of costs, in the case of the "Attorney General v. Morgan," until after the Royal Commission on Mining Royalties and Way-leaves have presented their final Report?
§ MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that 60 men have been discharged from the Morgan Gold Mine lately, in cones- 1677 quence of the Directors of the Company being unable to treat the low grade ores of that mine at a profit; and whether in view of the fact that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has given notice that he will to-day bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the management of the Woods and Forests and Land Revenues of the Crown, he will postpone the sale of the property of the honourable Member for Merthyr until the Royal Commission on Mining Royalties have reported and he has decided what course should be adopted to finally settle such questions in the future?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I desire to make it clear to the House that there are two entirely distinct questions involved. One is the question of the amount of royalties to be charged on Gold Mines in Wales and the system under which they are charged; the other, the question of the payment of the costs given against Mr. Pritchard Morgan in the litigation between him and the Crown—litigation directed not against a particular system of royalties, but against the claim of the Crown to any property whatever in the output of gold. With regard to the first of these two questions, the hon. Member for East Bradford asks me a question of fact about the Morgan Mine. I have no information as to the number of men who have been discharged from the Morgan Mine, nor whether they have been discharged in consequence of the company being unable to treat the low grade ores of that mine at a profit. But I am informed that the ores which have been recently worked there are of a low grade, so low that if the sliding scale which has been offered had been accepted, the royalty charged would only have been 1–100th of the product. The questioners on this subject have ignored the fact that this very low royalty has been offered. However, if it is contended that the scale offered still impedes the working of the mines, I am anxious to find a modus vivendi between the Woods and Forests Department and the Mining Companies till the Royal Commission has reported, and I think I see my way to such a method. The royalties recovered are of small amount, and I trust that an arrangement can be 1678 made with regard to them. But what I am on no account prepared to do is to accept the principle of profit-sharing till I learn the views of the Royal Commission on this system. But this question of the amount of royalties to be charged and the system under which they are charged has absolutely no connection with the legal proceedings in which costs were given against the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil; and the Report of the Royal Commission, whatever it may be, cannot affect the question at issue in that case, in which the title of the public to any share in the output of gold was attacked. In the conclusion of his judgment, Mr. Justice North, after referring to the extremely liberal terms (as he considered) offered by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for Mr. Pritchard Morgan to accept, continued as follows:—This he has deliberately refused to do (that is to accept these terms), and has claimed and still claims the entire produce. In other words, the whole contest has arisen from the persistent endeavour of the defendant to prevent the application of part of the Public Revenue of the country to its legitimate purposes, and to divert it into the pockets of himself and his fellow-shareholders, and he says it is against public policy that this attempt should be resisted. The Attorney General has in this action been wholly right from the beginning, and would be entitled now, if he desired it, to an injunction as asked against the defendant. He has not thought it worth while to do so, as the defendant has, since the action was commenced, sold the Gwynfynydd Mine to a company, who have received a Crown licence to work, and are duly paying the royalty thereunder; but the defendant has persevered in his unfounded assertion of right, and has required that the action should be brought to trial in order to decide who should pay the costs of it; and, as I hold that he has been wrong throughout, I must adjudge that he do pay the plaintiff's costs of the action. It was said that the Crown ought not to have costs against the subject, but I do not see why not, nor why the Revenues of the country should bear the expense of the successful resistance to an attempt by the defendant to misappropriate them.Against this decision the hon. Member appealed unsuccessfully, and Lord Justice Lindley said in his judgment—I regard this case as one in which the owner of a gold mine is seeking to strain the Act for the purpose of depriving the Crown of its well-known rights.In the face of such judgments as these I do not feel that it would be right for 1679 the Government to withdraw their claim for costs, which would be tantamount to handing the hon. Member a cheque out of the Public Purse for a debt incurred in a suit so characterised by two Courts. But I observe that hon. Members do not ask me to forego the claim, but to postpone it. The hon. Member has himself repeatedly stated his wish for an execution, and has also repeatedly said that he made no appeal for the remission of costs. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil courts the martyrdom of an execution in his house; but I sympathise with hon. Members who desire to postpone his enjoyment of this coveted distinction. I should be willing to postpone the sale of the hon. Member's goods—announced for Saturday—if it were possible, not till the Report of the Royal Commission is published—for that Report cannot affect the case—but for such a reasonable time as may enable the friends of the hon. Member to consider whether different counsels may not prevail. But I am advised that if the Crown were to withdraw the writ now it would forfeit its claim to the costs altogether, and that the sale cannot be put off without the concurrence of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. If he would agree that if the Crown withdraws now it might enter again later on under the same writ, I am advised that the only risk incurred would be that of the goods being disposed of in the meantime—a consideration which I am prepared to leave out of account in the case of the hon. Member. But the matter is urgent. If any friend of the hon. Member who desires the postponement will communicate at once with my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury with such assurances from the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil as are indispensable, I shall be most glad to instruct the Woods and Forests to postpone the sale.
MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the judgment of Mr. Justice North. I would ask him if he has seen these observations:—"If the Crown has a a legal right and claim, I must give effect to it whatever the results are. Any remedy for the grievance alleged 1680 to arise wheresoever must be sought elsewhere."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Certainly. The words which the hon. Gentleman quotes show that Mr. Justice North considered the action ought not to have been brought, and that it was an action which he was obliged to condemn in strong language.
MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN
I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has read the judgment of Mr. Justice Fry?
MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is a fact that the law is in this condition. It is not known in any part of the world that gold is obtained unless associated with tin and other metals, and I want to know if, as the law stands in this country, a stone containing part of tin and part of gold belongs to both metals?
MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether an application was made to the Woods and Forests Office by a person other than the freeholder for licence to work for gold on the Dolmelynllyn Estate, near Dolgelly, Merionethshire; whether a communication was made to the owner by the Woods and Forests Office, asking whether he, the freeholder, would accept a licence to work for gold; and, if not, that a licence would be granted to the applicants; whether, after certain correspondence, the owner of such land having declined to accept a licence upon the usual conditions of working, a licence was granted to him in which such working conditions were omitted, the result being that the lands of the Dolmelynllyn Estate, and the gold, the property of the Crown, are locked up for a period of 30 years, at a nominal fixed royalty to the Crown of £1 per annum only; and whether similar licences have been, or are likely to be, granted to other landowners in Wales or in Ireland?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Application was made by a person, other than the freeholder, for a licence to work for gold on portion of the Dolmelynllyn Estate, near Dolgelly, and the freeholder, who had previously been in communication with the Office of Woods on the subject of a lease, was thereupon written to, and he ultimately took a lease of the mines Royal within his ancient freehold, and the owner's urgent request that he should not be compelled to work for gold in it was acceded to. If he did work this mine he would work it on the ordinary scale of royalties. In this case the greater part of the land was in the nature of residential property. Similar leases or licences have been granted to some other landowners.