§ 1. £10, Supplementary, the Mint (including Coinage).
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said he had noticed, and he had no doubt other hon. Members had noticed upon the new coinage the letters "Ind. Imp.," signifying "Indicæ Imperatrix." He was surprised when he saw this on the new coins, because he had been under the impression that under the Imperial Titles Bill the title "Imperatrix," which 36 was then assumed by Her Majesty, was to be used exclusivey in connection with India, and not in anl ease to be adopted in the United Kingdom. Looking at the Act, he had found that the coinage was especially exemped from the rule. He had laid a Motion in the form of an Amendment on the Table; but, under the circumstances, it was obviously unnecessary to move it. At the same time he must say he greatly regretted that these words had been added to the superscription on the coinage of the United Kingdom. They seemed to him superfluous, as India, to which country Her Majesty's title of Empress referred, had a special coinage of its own. In the last Parliament, once or twice Members had asked questions in regard to the coinage, but no mention had been made by the late Government of any intention of altering the title of Her Majesty upon the coins. The title of Empress was not on the Jubilee coinage, and years hence our posterity, coming to look at the Jubilee money and the new coinage, would take the impression that the title was only assumed in the present year. He did not intend to make a complaint, but he thought that the late Government ought, when questioned on this matter, to have clearly and distinctly told the House that it was intended to make this alteration in the inscription so as to have given Members an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. He thought it only desirable to call attention to the subject, because it had been a good deal misunderstood out of doors, many people believing that the inscription on the new coinage was a violation of the Imperial Titles Act— which it obviously was not.
§ SIR W. V. HARCOURT
I am not sorry that the hon. Member has called attention to this subject, because I can well understand that there may be some misapprehension on the subject amongst those who have not carefully examined, as he has done, the form of the Proclamation and the Act under which Her Majesty has assumed the title of Empress of India. At the time of the discussion of the Imperial Titles Bill there was a broad distinction drawn between instruments of all kinds which were to operate only within the United Kingdom and instruments which were to operate outside it. The general principle laid 37 down, to which the Government of the day pledged themselves, was that in no instrument operative in the United Kingdom alone would any other than the ancient title be employed, but that in all instruments operative outside the United Kingdom the additional title of Empress of India would be employed. That was not confined to the dominions of the Queen, but applied to places outside these dominions. That was the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James), who at the same time said he did not claim the exclusion of the new title from the coinage. Any one who will look at the Proclamation will see that the coins are referred to as instruments, if I may use the term, that are specially exempted from the principle limiting the use of the new title. I may remind the Committee that during the reigns of the members of the House of Hanover, that is to say, down to the middle of the reign of George III., the foreign titles of our monarchs were always upon the coinage. I hope I have explained to the Committee that the title, which has been authorised by Parliament and by the Proclamation, can be properly put upon the new coins. The point does not turn at all on whether the coin is circulated only in India or not. The Government found that that was the view taken by the late Government, and as the responsibility then fell upon us we assumed the new title on the new coinage. I had a conversation on the subject with my predecessor in office, and I mention this to show that both Governments have taken the same view.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, in so far as they were an attack upon any one were an attack upon the late Government, who, he thinks, would have acted with more propriety if they had taken him into their confidence as to the inscription to be put upon the coinage. I think a complete answer has been given in the interesting remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the inscriptions and the action of the late Government. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that the course taken by the late Government was not only legal but in accordance with ancient precedent, and in itself appropriate. 38 Under the circumstances I do not think it necessary to make any further defence of the late Government than that which has been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. E. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
did not wish to detain the Committee any length of time, but he found in estimating the loss incurred on the gold coinage that it amounted to £8,200, which was in the Supplementary Estimate. He was aware that that was only a very small portion of the total loss on the rehabilitation of the gold and silver coinage. On the last occasion of rehabilitation he believed the cost to the country was £400,000. He was aware that very shortly the House would be asked to vote £250,000 to rehabilitate the coinage. The loss on gold coinage was much more marked than on the silver coinage. The amount they had to pay on the silver coinage was only £200, whereas on the gold coinage it was £8,200. He thought it would be desirable for them to carefully inquire what reserve the Bank of England now held of the less valuable metal — namely, silver. He understood that the Bank now held a comparatively small amount of silver. He did not wish to reopen the discussion on bimetallism, but at a time when all countries were considering the subject they should inquire whether some palliative for the present state of things could not be adopted to aid the coinage of the country in the present difficulty.
§ SIR W. V. HARCOURT
I rise to Order. I put it to the Committee whether upon this Supplementary Estimate we can have a discussion of this kind as to the reserve of silver and the general currency of the world. I make this appeal in the interest of time; for it is necessary that the Supplementary Estimates and the Army and Navy Votes shall be concluded by Friday evening.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said he would refer simply to the coinage of the United Kingdom. He ventured to say that it would be advisable to lessen the coinage of half-sovereigns. The working classes preferred to have their wages in silver. He would point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and those interested in the Local Veto Bill— (Cries of "Order!"] Hon. Members would see what he meant in a moment; 39 he would point out that by decreasing the number of half-sovereigns they would be advancing the cause of temperance. Working men who received, say, 30s. a week wages, when paid in gold found it convenient to go to the public-house to procure change, and thus were tempted to spend a large portion of their earnings in drink.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said his remarks tended to show that they should coin less of the metal on which there was so much loss and more of the metal on which there was 35 per cent. profit. This was a question of burning importance to Lancashire. [Cries of "Order!"] It was astonishing how remarkably fond of Order hon. Members below the Gangway ware this Session. Last Session they had not seemed to take the slightest interest in it. He did not think it was advisable for the Government to go on wasting so much on this gold coinage. He had received a Return from the Postmaster General the other day, which threw some light on the great saving which might be effected in the country if they adopted some system of small banknotes. [Cries of "Order!"]
I do not think the hon. Member can go into these large questions on this Supplementary Estimate.
§ MR. WEBSTER
said he submitted to the Chairman's ruling, and simply wished to contend that under the present system we wasted a very large sum of money. He wished to refer to the Return given by the Postmaster General.
§ MR. WEBSTER
said he wished to save the country expense. He would put facts before the Committee to show how much the country would gain by having a paper currency for smaller sums.
I must point out to the hon. Member that a paper currency is not included in this Vote. This is really a simple question as to 40 the loss on gold coinage, and I must request the hon. Member to address his remarks to that.
§ MR. WEBSTER
went on to say that in the half-sovereigns at the present time there was a vast amount of wear and tear. A sovereign had two sides, whilst the same amount of gold when made into half-sovereigns had four sides. He thought we were wasting a vast amount of the national resources in coining so much gold, and believed it would be a great advantage to the State if more paper money were used.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
said he wished to draw attention to the new coinage. He thought it was an example of the irony of fate that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who took such a prominent part 17 years ago in denouncing the "tawdry decoration" introduced by the late Lord Beaconsfield, had now to defend the use of the abbreviation "Imp. Ind." on the new coins. He Mr. Smith), as an Imperialist, was very glad to see the development in feeling which now accepted, with scarcely a word of protest, a legend which 17 years ago would have excited the strongest feeling. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was good enough to allow the new coins to be sold at the Post Office a few days ago. Many hon. Members had availed themselves of the opportunity of purchasing them, and he thought the general verdict had certainly been that the new coinage was a very great improvement on the Jubilee coins, and for the best of reasons, namely, that it would have been absolutely impossible to have had anything as bad as they were. However, he was very much dissatisfied with the new coinage. He should like to know how much of the new coinage this year had consisted of the old Jubilee coins. He thought it would be a very great pity if the activity of last year had been devoted to the production of Jubilee coins. The bust on the new coins was much more dignified than that on the Jubilee coins, but he did not think anyone who was conversant with coins would be quite satisfied with it. A great deal too much was attempted to be crowded into the design, and as a result the sovereign was an extremely mean coin, looking very much like the counters one bought at 20 for 2d. for the purposes of whist. Any- 41 one who would compare these coins with the pristine simplicity of the classical coins would at once see the difference. He held in his hand one of the Roman coins from which the idea of the new design was derived, and it was curious to note that the old Roman coins of a pure type merely contained a head instead of the bust, and had none of the decorative details which appeared on later coins. It was not until one came to the period of decadence, from Constantine downwards, that one found in the Roman coins the wonderful elaboration which was indulged in nowadays. The older coins were designed and worked by men who were really familiar with coins, and understood the difference between a coin and a picture or a medallion. In most branches since the time of George III. our knowledge of art had much advanced, but in regard to coins anybody who looked at a coin of the time of George III. would see that we had gone back very much. The reason, he thought, was that we had no really skilled engraver now. In regard to a coin the engraver was really the most important person. A sculptor might make a design which would look exceedingly well if worked out in marble and on a large scale, but an engraver who knew what he could do within the circumscribed limits at his disposal, and could work out a design properly, was needed for a coin. Not only in regard to coins, but in reference to the art of working in metal, were we very much at our nadir, and he thought it was a pity that more attention was not given to the details of the goldsmith's art. He would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would be better to have future coins designed in accordance with the classical model, with a head on the one side, and some historical design on the other. The Jubilee coin should, in his opinion, have had upon it, instead of Royal Arms, some allusion to the golden year of Her Majesty's reign. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be ready, if he carried through the Home Rule Bill, to place some design on the coins of the year commemorating the fact. For instance, instead of having Britannia in a sitting position on a penny as Mistress of the Sea, why should we not have Britannia and Erin shaking hands and bidding good-bye to one another?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I pass over the political allusions made by the hon. Member, and I agree very much in what he has said on the subject of modern coins. It seems to me as if the numismatic art were a lost art. If we remember the fine medals and coins that were produced by all the nations of Europe at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries, and how all the great events of the time were commemorated on the splendid medals of France, Holland, and England, we must admit that our progress since then has been in a backward direction. The coins of the 18th century were executed by men of great genius, and I am glad that we still retain the George and Dragon which originally appeared upon coins of that date. If anyone wants to see a fine coin, he should look at the crowns of 1820, when George IV. ascended the Throne. They are the finest coins I know. I cannot answer the question put to me as to the particular progress made with the new coinage, though I agree that it is very much better than the Jubilee coinage. I think it leaves a great deal to be desired, and that the coins cannot be described as of a first-rate character. The head of the Sovereign is, however, of a higher class altogether than the Jubilee head. I think it is a very good thing that we have kept the old George and Dragon, and wish it had been on all the coins. I have taken care to have exhibited on the edge of the crown-piece the legend which was a great addition to the handsomeness of the old coin. All I hope is that our artists, who do so well in other branches of art, will devote themselves a little more in future to the art of making medals and coins. I have been asked how much of the gold coined during the last year is of the old type. I am very sorry that of the 18,000,000 of sovereigns and half-sovereigns already issued under the re-coinage of light gold scheme almost the whole is of the former type, but there still remain to be issued something like 25,000,000 of sovereigns during the next two or three years, and they will be of the new type.
§ MR. WEBSTER
said he had been ruled out of Order when speaking with 43 regard to the undesirability of coining so many sovereigns. The Vote was for the loss on the re-coinage of light sovereigns and half-sovereigns, and he wished to know whether he was not within his right in pointing out how that loss might be saved?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I should like to answer the question which had been put by the hon. Member,—namely, why so many half-sovereigns were coined, and why more silver was not coined. The Government would be extremely glad to have more silver coin, but the public will not take it, and at this moment there is a plethora of silver for which there is no demand. They will supply the Bank of England with any amount of silver the Bank will take, but what happens to it after it goes to the Bank depends entirely upon the public demand. Somehow or other there does not seem to be a demand for silver, although the object of the Government, who gain a great deal on the silver, and lose a little on the gold, is to put as much silver in circulation as they can.
§ MR. BARTLEY
wished to ask a question concerning Section E. The increase in the Vote was attributed partly to the expense of transmitting silver to the country from the Bank of England. He understood some fresh arrangements had been made with the object of enabling silver to be sent about the country, and he hoped that arrangement was being pushed as much as possible. He was convinced that in many parts of England there was a great scarcity of silver, and he believed people did not know that facilities were given by the Government for paying for its transmission to the country.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said the use of silver entailed a certain amount of trouble on country bankers. He hoped every effort would be made to induce people in the country to use silver to a larger extent.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
said, there were many complaints in many country districts about the difficulty in obtaining silver, and he believed many people would be glad to use more silver if they could induce the country bankers to supply it. 44 The country bankers would not do it. Would it not be possible, then, to have silver sent out to those people in the country? The Government might consider the matter, and state their intentions upon it. So far as his experience went, he would approve of some such step being taken.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
I had something to do, Mr. Mellor, with the change made by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) regarding silver. At that time no silver could be obtained in the country districts except through the bankers, and it is generally thought in the country districts that that rule is still in forces. There is a great want of silver, especially for the payment of labour, and I think a great deal of time and money, and a great deal more, would be saved if the working people were not obliged to call for change at the public-houses on Saturday night. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, in conjunction with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Arnold Morley), he might arrange to have a notice put up or circulated through the Post Office intimating the change. This would be a good way of dispensing with the intervention of the banker.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
I also want to ask a. question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretary to the Treasury. The House will observe that the expenditure is given as £10,000, and then there is an appropriation-in-aid of £9,980. What I want to know is where this £9,980 comes from? Is it a sum of increased profits at the Mint, or has it been taken out of miscellaneous revenue? The amount of profit made by the Mint is stated at £201,000, and the estimated expenses are £76,944. Out of this sum £76,900 s given as an appropriation-in-aid, leaving in round numbers a sum of £125,000 to be carried to miscellaneous revenue. But it turns out that the expenses of the Mint ares £10,000 more, and that sum must be found, being the expenditure on the establishment of the Mint. I do not understand, then, from the Estimates that this £9,980 mentioned in the Estimates represents increased profits. Has this sum been taken from miscellaneous revenue, or has it been put down to> represent increased profits?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir J. T. HIBBERT,) Oldham
The additional sum to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, is profit made on the coinage of silver in excess of the Estimate. There had been an increased issue of silver to the provinces during the last few years. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer's arrangement to pay the Bank of England 5s. per cent. for this transmission to the provinces dates from May 1889. The payments made from May 1889 to November 1892 amounted to £6,797 15s. 9d.; the amount due on the 11th March 1893 was £669 5s., making a total of £7,467 0s. 9d., being the charge on a total sum of £2,986,815. The average annual silver issues for the four years 1885 to 1888 prior to that date, and for the four subsequent, 1889 to 1892, were:—1885 to 1888, £691,184; 1889 to 1892, £1,431,014, showing an average annual increase of £739,830. The average price of silver in the London market in 1892 was 39½3/6d.; the average price paid by the Mint was the same. Silver must obviously be purchased when it is required for coinage purposes, without special regard to the state of the market. The total amount of silver coin issued in 1892 was £849,932, of which there went to the Bank of England direct for circulation in England and Wales, £691,000. During the preceding 10 years, that is, 1882 to 1891, the average annual issues of silver coin were £1,011,488. It is owing to the increase in the issue disclosed in the figures I have quoted that the increased profit has been made on the coinage of silver.
§ MR. R. G. C. MOWBRAY (Lancanshire, Prestwich)
said, the amount of silver bullion was less than it had been for the past three years, but there was increased brokerage. What was the explanation of that?
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, he wished to impress upon the Government the necessity for sending silver into the country, and he thought they ought to make arrangements to have a certain portion of silver to be distributed in the shape of wages in connection with the Government Departments. By doing this they would set a good example to employers in the country, and thus help in the adequate distribution of silver.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
said he concurred 46 that the Government could do much in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for Preston.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
The Estimate taken was not sufficient to cover the cost of brokerage. That is my reply to the hon. Member for Prestwich. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Preston, it is one that is well worthy of consideration. I do not know how the matter stands in those Departments, but I shall make inquiries and see that the matter shall be considered with a view to carrying out the suggestion.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
Who are the Government brokers? I do not think the right hon. Gentleman answered the question I put to him. If he will do so now he might also tell us who the brokers are.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I stated, in my reply, that the Estimate taken was not sufficient to cover the cost of brokerage. There has been an increase for some years past, and last year more silver was produced than was anticipated when the Estimates were being prepared.
§ DR. D. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)
said he would like to direct attention to the fact that only Unionist Members of the House had any interest in putting these questions.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
said he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had answered his question. He wished to say a few words upon different aspects of the gold question, but he did not know whether he had a right to do so now.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
said, if it was competent for him to deal with the question, he wanted to urge upon the Government the importance of having the gold of this country made of the same fineness as that of other nations. This was a matter that had often been dealt with in the House, especially by the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. S. Montagu). It was a matter that was fairly open to criticism, and he did not think it was unreasonable that he should bring it forward. He was of opinion that substantial economy would result, if they regulated the fineness of their gold to that of other countries. As many Members of the House were aware, 47 foreign gold coins were of nine-tenths fineness, while ours were of eleven-twelfths. Our sovereign was of a softer material, and wasted away faster. There was a strong case for making the English coin the same as the coin used by other European nations. He did not suggest any change in the value of the coin, but he should like to hear the views of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of regulating the fineness of the coin.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
There can be no doubt that the subject mentioned by the hon. Member is one of very great importance, but I cannot venture to say I am prepared to recommend that his suggestion should be carried out, as it would involve a great alteration in our gold coinage system. There is a great deal of truth in what the hon. Member says with regard to waste; and I may say that the waste is more in the half-sovereigns than in the sovereigns. The loss on the coinage of gold arises from the charge to the Vote of the metal required to make good the deficiency in fineness of the old light gold now being re-coined, and the dirt which is weighed with it but got rid of in re-melting. Only the actual deficiency in weight is charged in the provisions of the Scheme of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. Up to the end of the financial year the amount of light gold dealt with is estimated at £19,000,000, leaving £24,000,000 still to be dealt with. The amount dealt with up to March of last year was £19,034,000, and by the time the whole of the gold coinage has been dealt with the total will be £43,000,000.
§ MR. H. W. PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)
said he did not know much about gold, silver and copper being more in his line, and he would like to draw attention to the double-florin and ask what was to be done about it. He did not believe that any constitutional change that could be devised by the wit of man was capable of causing half so much trouble as the difficulty in distinguishing between a four-shilling piece and a five-shilling piece. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer said a man could distinguish between one coin and the other in the dark even when he was drunk, but he (Mr. Paul) found it difficult to distinguish between them in the best light when he was sober, as he was at all times. The 48 sooner the four-shilling pieces were withdrawn the better would it be for the commercial and social interests of the country.
§ SIR W. V. HARCOURT
I would just like to say in reply to the hon. Gentleman that the four-shilling pieces have been withdrawn. As regards florins, hardly any have been struck. The pieces which are now being struck are half-crowns.
§ SIR W. V. HARCOURT
The new crowns are not yet out, and I am very sorry for it, because the Committee will, I think, agree that they are the best of all the pieces. They are certainly very handsome.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
said he had just one more question to put. Now as to the coinage of silver. What price did the Government pay in 1892, and could the right hon. Gentleman say what advantage accrued from the fall that had taken place, or was there any advantage? He had been attacked as a Unionist for bringing forward subjects like this; but he could assure the House that such subjects were of great interest to commercial men.
§ SIR W. V. HARCOURT
I am not in a position to give the figures with regard to the loss on silver; my attention has not been fixed upon it. But I have some figures here that would make the mouth of a Chancellor of the Exchequer water. In 1889 the profit on the Mint was £780,000; but I am afraid those days are gone, for I find that in 1890 the profit was only £244,000, and in 1891 £236,000; and then again, the figures for 1892—I do not know them yet — will not be large. Every effort is made to get silver coin out to the country; but I some months ago saw a declaration of the country bankers that they had too much silver and did not know what to do with it. One of the reasons I have heard why there has been a scarcity of shillings and sixpences, is that bankers find it a great saving of time and trouble to give out half-crowns.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said, he wished to support the suggestion that they should employ silver more freely for paying wages at the Dockyards and in the public service generally. The men 49 would not object if they were paid in silver instead of gold.
§ Vote agreed to.
2. Motion made, and question proposed:—
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding.£36,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1893, for the Expense of providing Stationery, Printing, and Paper for the Public Service.
MR. HANBUEY (Preston)
said, this was a Vote that deserved to be very closely scanned by the House. The Department was one that was not directly represented in the House, but that was the stronger reason why they should have some light thrown upon its working. According to this Report the head of the Stationery Department stated that during the last 10 years the economy effected was sufficient to provide the country with a first-line-of-battle ship and a flotilla of gunboats. That showed the House the economy that might be effected if the Vote was properly looked into. The Secretary to the Treasury would doubtless be able to explain any questions that were put regarding the Vote. He would ask, in the first instance, was the practice still going on by which the officials of this Department were allowed to publish information which came to them through official sources, and to publish it so that they might make a profit upon it. In addition to that these officials were actually allowed certain grants. He knew that within the last few years there was a grant of £1,200 made to one official, £300 to another, and so on. That was a very wrong system and it had been condemned by more than one Committee. It was all the worse, because though these grants were made by the Department to which the official belonged, they were charged upon the Stationery Vote, with the result that the Department which really voted the money had no responsibility for the Grant. The sum of money paid for printing was exceedingly large, and while it was generally true that the House was largely responsible, as a matter of fact the House was only responsible for about one-tenth of the printing, the remaining nine-tenths being chargeable to the Departments. He should like to know on what prin- 50 ciple the Departments were allowed to give orders for printing and papers to the Stationery Office. He thought the Stationery Office should have more control over the Departments in the matter of printing, paper, and publications, for it cannot control the great waste of paper that goes on in the Public Departments, or check the great number of publications. He wished to know did each of the Departments at the beginning of each year submit an estimate to the Stationery Office, so that the Stationery Office might know the requirements of the Departments during the year; and also whether there was in each Department some one person responsible for the printing of that Department. He thought the time had come for the Stationery Office to be placed on a more business-like footing, and each Department made responsible for and have to pay for its own printing. That system prevailed in the Military and Naval Services. When any Department in these Services required stores, it ordered them from the Ordnance factories, and paid for them, and had to render an account of those stores. He thought the Stationery Office should be made a thoroughly separate Department, like the Ordnance factories, and that each Department should be responsible for the orders it gave to the Stationery Office, so that they should know whether a Department was spending extravagantly or not. There was an officer in the Stationery Office called the Superintendent of Printing, but it was found that one man could not efficiently discharge the duties of that office, with the result that printing had increased a great deal of late years. These duties of the Superintendent of the Stationery Office were that he should go to the Department when any order was given by it which he thought unnecessary, to show how it might be avoided or decreased in amount. The Controller of the Stationery Office asked last year that an assistant to the Superintendent of Printing should be appointed, and said the result would be that a saving of his salary, multiplied several times, would be effected. That was a matter which the Government might take into consideration. He should also like to know what was the system upon which the Stationery Office gave out its 51 printing to the public firms. Was it true that the printing was a monopoly, or that it at all events fell into the hands of one or two firms; and also was it put out to tender, and how long did the contracts run? Two evils resulted from the present system of giving the printing to one or two firms. One was that a large amount of over-time was worked by the workmen in these firms. There was a great objection, especially amongst the working classes, to over-time being worked unnecessarily, and he was told that the over-time worked in the printing offices to which the printing of the State was given was very large indeed. The other evil was the inconvenience to which they were habitually being put in the House owing to returns and documents being late. Over and over again Members were promised that documents would be circulated at such and such a time, and when that time came, but without the documents, the Minister to whom questions on the subject were put, had to hopelessly confess that he had no control over the printing, and could not say when the documents would be really ready. A great deal of that was due to the printing being given to one or two firms, who had so much work to do that they could not quickly cope with their orders.
SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BART-LETT (Sheffield, Eccleshall)
I notice that this Vote has increased by £36,000, which is a very considerable sum indeed. This large addition in expenditure is divided mainly into two heads—printing for Public Departments and paper for Public Departments. With regard to the printing, it is stated that there has been a general increase in the demand from many public offices. The Committee would like an explanation as to how that increase arose; £10,000 has been paid for printing this year more than last year; £20,000 of the increase is covered by paper. That is attributed to an increase in the price of paper, a statement in a footnote giving the increase as 30 per cent. during the year. I doubt if that statement can be borne out. and I should like the authority for it. It receives a curious contradiction later on in an explanatory note, which states that the sales of waste have fallen by no less than £1,500 below the average on account of the very low prices obtained. 52 If paper has increased by 30 per cent. there must be exceedingly bad management if the sale of waste shows such a fall as is stated.
§ MR. HANBURY
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend. I thought we were discussing now only the subhead for printing.
The discussion on the sub-head for paper may be rather premature, but it is not out of order.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I will not detain my hon. Friend very long from satisfying the very laudable anxiety he shows to discuss one or two of those matters. With regard to the paper supply, I am afraid that since the Committee—I don't attribute it directly to that cause—but since the well-known Committee on Stationery reported in favour of larger reductions in the expenditure, the paper supplied to this House and to the Public Department has been of a very inferior quality. I remember that in the Department of the Admiralty, to which I had the honour to be connected, there were complaints for several years of the very inferior quality of the paper supplied to it. It was very difficult to write upon; it was very easily torn, and it generally presented an undesirable appearance. Many Members must have also noticed the inferior quality of the paper supplied to this House. I admit that during the last few weeks there has been an improvement, but I have here an envelope which is not the quality of envelope that ought to be found in this House.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, there was no Department which required criticism more than the Stationery Office. More than £500,000 was spent on printing and stationery, and the Committee would like to know what value was received for that large amount of money. He believed there was a Committee regulating the supplies to the various Departments. He would like to know how that Committee worked, and what check it had over orders and the prices paid for work. Some years ago the House appointed a Committee on the subject, which had at its head the present President of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler). Great hopes were raised by the labours of that Committee; but the Stationery Vote had gone up 53 instead of down since the Committee reported. The whole matter wanted looking into by some Committee which would be responsible to the House for the expenditure. He thought the public would be very much surprised to learn from the Vote before the Committee that the price of paper had gone up during the past 12 months. The general cry of paper-makers was that the prices were so low, owing to competition, that the trade was in a very bad way, and yet the Committee were gravely told that there had been a great increase in the price of paper during the year in several classes, and that the average advance had been 30 per cent. If that were so, how was it that the price of wastes had not improved instead of falling off? Perhaps the Secretary to the Treasury would tell the Committee the manner in which this waste paper was dealt with; whether it was not almost given away, and whether, as it included Blue Books and other valuable information, it would not be better to distribute it amongst free libraries and other educational institutions of a similar kind, from which petitions were frequently received declaring that Government publications would be extremely valuable to them. He noticed that the arrangements made by the Government to encourage the sale of Ordnance Maps had led to a deficiency. That would show that the efforts of the Government in that direction were altogether unsuccessful. There was no country in Europe where Government Maps were so difficult to be obtained, or where such extravagant prices were charged for them as in this country. He thought if the Government followed the example of Continental countries, and reduced the price of the maps by one-half, and made them as easily to be obtained in towns and villages as a quire of paper, there would be four times the present sale.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, there was no doubt that paper had fallen rather than risen during the past year. Anybody who purchased paper was practically aware of that fact, and when he had seen the Vote stating there had been an increase in the price of paper, he inquired of a large publishing house—a house which bought more paper than any other house in the country—and had been informed that 54 the statement was entirely wrong. There was a certain amount of cleverness required in buying paper. If a person went to only two or three firms he would be charged a large amount; but a clever person who varied the firms from which he purchased would get the paper at much below the stated prices. If the Stationery Office did not adopt that course they would always have to pay more than they need pay for paper. He denied absolutely and entirely that paper had gone up 30 per cent. On the contrary, he could prove by the books of any publishing house in London that paper had gone down in price slightly below what it had been last year. He did not, however, agree with the argument that waste paper ought not to fall in price because paper had increased in price. It was very difficult to tell the value of waste paper, which depended very much on demand. He noticed the statement in a note on the paper that—The receipts for the sale of Stationery Office publications do not appear likely to realise the average prices of the past five years.The reason was that these publications were charged far too high. What was done was, when a Blue Book was published a calculation of what its "setting-up" cost was made; but instead of doing that the "setting-up" should be written off, and the Blue Book should be charged for only according to the value of the paper, ink, and machining, with something added for distribution. It was the old story, if they wanted to sell they must go for small profits. They put a price on these publications which precluded institutions and individuals from buying them, with the result that there was an enormous quantity of waste.
§ MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, a very satisfactory Report had been issued by a Departmental Committee on the Ordnance Survey. As the Ordnance Survey had been carried out for a hundred years under the Royal Engineers, and as he had served in that corps, he might be allowed to say that he had an especial interest in the Survey.
Order, order! I was about to call the attention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to the fact 55 that the Vote for the Ordnance Survey is not included in the Supplementary Estimate. This Estimate only includes the £2,000 deficiency due to the fall in the receipts for the sale of maps during the past 10 months.
§ MAJOR DARWIN
said, that what he wished to speak about was the suggestions of the Committee for increasing the sale of the maps, and thereby diminishing this Vote. He thought the sale of the Ordnance Maps would be increased if they were issued in a more popular form. If an hon. Member went to any district and asked for a map published by a private firm of the district he would get it on thin tough paper, in a form convenient for folding and carrying in the pocket, and coloured in order to distinguish the various features. The Ordnance Map failed to fulfil any of these conditions. It was issued on one sheet, on thick paper, liable to tear if folded, impossible to carry in the pocket without injury, and uncoloured. The Committee to whose Report he had referred suggested that the Government should undertake the publication of popular maps, a suggestion he considered worthy of being acted upon, especially as such maps would be extremely valuable for military purposes. The Committee also suggested that the book should be published and freely distributed, showing what maps were on sale by the Ordnance Survey, and he should suggest that in addition to that the Ordnance Map of every district would be hung up in the Post Office of the district. By these means the maps would become better known, and the sale would be largely increased. He thought it was the system and not the agents that was to blame for the small sale of the maps. He did not think a worse system for the sale of the maps could be introduced than the system now in vogue. It was a very difficult thing to get the maps in the country. Another grave objection to the system was that the Ordnance Survey, not being in touch with the agents throughout the country, had no means of finding out popular requirements, which was the cause of the maps not being issued in a popular form. He hoped the Government would take this matter into consideration. He was aware that the present agency system could not be changed for a year or two, but unless the subject was taken into 56 consideration at once nothing would be done when the time for changing the agency arrived.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury if he will inquire whether it is possible to issue the cheap yearly volumes of Statutes with cut leaves. As this is a work of reference, the practice of issuing it with uncut leaves is barbarous.
§ MR. HANBURY
said he wished to say a few words on the subject that had been raised, namely, the price of paper. To him it was wholly unaccountable that the price of paper should rise as it appeared to have done. He had had some figures worked out for him by a wholesale firm of stationers, and they were exactly opposite to those given by the Stationery Office. Between the years 1891 and 1892 the figures supplied to him showed a considerable reduction. In hand-made paper the price was unchanged; rough writings, price unchanged; ordinary writings, reduced 14 per cent.; second paper, reduced 4 per cent.;—he was afraid the Stationery Department were quoting the seven months of last year, and were not taking into account the three months of this year; printing in colours, reduced 6 per cent.; buffs, 6 per cent.; blotting paper about the same. He should be rather curious to know where it was possible that the 30 per cent. could come in, and the explanation of the foot-note made it more misleading, for it stated first that the return was during the seven months of 1892, and then it was stated there was a rise in the general average of the several classes of 30 per cent., but he did not know whether they took into consideration the quantity used or the quality.
§ MR. HANBURY
said they ought to have some information of the different kinds of paper on which this heavy rise had taken place. He was the more anxious to get some information on this expenditure upon paper, because, as his right hon. Friend would be well aware, the Comptroller of the Stationery himself, following up the report of a committee that sat in 1884–5, in consequence of the complaints, amounting to something like fraud, stated that for some years previous to that date large frauds 57 had taken place. Some idea of the frauds perpetrated might be gathered from the fact that in the first year of the Parliament after the Report of that Committee, nearly 5,000 reams were rejected absolutely as being something different to what they purported to be; 12,200 reams were accepted at a reduced price, and fines were inflicted, amounting to £477, for light weight. And that was at a time when only about a quarter of the paper was used that was used at the present time. But so late as 1890 he found the same thing was going on upon a much larger scale, because from that report it appeared there were over 29,000 reams rejected; 12,000 reams were accepted at a reduced price; and fines amounting to £1,105 were levied. That bore out his point that this question of the price paid for paper was a subject on which they ought to have a little more light, especially when the information afforded was so different to the private information they had. With regard to this purchase of paper, we should like to ask from how many firms the paper was purchased, and upon what terms it was purchased, and how long the contracts run. All this information was necessary, because it was evident that a large number of firms treated that Department dishonestly. He thought those who sent in paper which had to be rejected as being different to what was contracted for were dishonest, and he should like to know how the Department had treated those firms, because when they found they sent in bad articles they should be struck out of the contractors' list. They had it upon evidence that there had been a large amount of paper attempted to be foisted on the Stationery Department which was not such as was in the terms of the contract, and he hoped his right hon. Friend would be able to tell them how those firms had been treated, because until they arrived at a stage when it was impossible for these things to go on, they would never be able to conduct the Services economically and satisfactorily.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I would reply to my hon. Friend who brought forward this question on the several points he has raised. The first point he raised was with respect to the desirability of economy in the management of the Stationery Department. I am sure we all 58 agree with him in this, that in this very important and growing department we should try and aim at economy; but I go one step further and say that we should also aim at efficiency as well as economy, and that what we buy should be good and not something that was merely cheap. With respect to economy, I must say the cost of this department has been very much decreased of late years. In 1886–7, and in 1889-90 the Estimates for those years were respectively £562,000 and £600,000, whereas during the present year the whole Estimate, including the present Supplementary Vote, has been brought down to £512,000, showing a very considerable decrease, without, I hope, any loss of efficiency. My hon. Friend first asked me what was the practice of the department with regard to allowing Members of the department to publish records belonging to the department. I am informed that the officials in no department are now allowed to publish for their own profit articles based on their official knowledge; that has been put a stop to in every department of late years, and is a very proper decision to have arrived at. My hon. Friend also asks whether the departments have obtained estimates as to the amount of paper they require for the year from the Stationery Department. I am told the Stationery Office at the commencement of the year asks for Estimates of that kind and invariably receives them. The next question was whether there is a responsible person for the printing in each department. I am told that is the case, that every department has now one of their officers responsible for the printing of his particular department, and I have no doubt the delay that is sometimes occasioned in the printing of papers that are presented to Parliament would be very much worse if we had not these responsible officers. My hon. Friend opposite asks whether there is a monopoly.
§ MR. HANBURY
said he had not asked whether there was a monopoly, but whether the contracts for the stationery was in the hands of only one or two.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
It is in a few hands, but it is not a monopoly. Since the matter has been considered by the Committee and the Department, the public printing has been given 59 out in groups. Since that distribution of the printing in groups there has been a saving of cost which is very considerable indeed. It has been found that in nearly every case there is a great reduction, therefore I believe that system is a good system and one that ought to be continued, though, of course, Estimates might be obtained from a greater number of firms. The great proportion of the printing contracts are entered into after the contracts have been advertised and the tenders considered by the Stationery Department. Another point my hon. Friend referred to had reference to the cost of the paper. Before I go into the question of the paper, I should like to explain how it is that the great increase of printing arises in the Public Departments. I hold in my hand a Report from the Stationery Department which shows the departments which were answerable for the great increase, and the chief of those are the Post Office, the War Office, the Admiralty and the Patent Office. I take first the Post Office, which includes the Telegraph Service; though there is no alteration in the price of printing for that department, there is an increase for the nine months of the year since the Estimates were prepared, of £1,864 as compared with the corresponding months of last year. The Patent Office and the Admiralty again have necessitated a very great increase. The Admiralty has an increase of £5,257 for the nine months contrasted with the same period of last year. In the Patent Office there is also a very considerable increase in the cost, though I have not got the figures with respect to it, but I believe the great increase there is owing to the pressure brought to bear on the Patent Office to do away with their arrears of patent revisions, and I think we shall all agree it is most desirable to do everything we can to place the Patent Office in a position of efficiency. I now come to another matter which is requisite for all the Public Departments.
§ MR. HANBURY
asked that before leaving the question of the Public Departments the right hon. Gentleman should inform them whether the additional officer asked for by the Stationery Department had been appointed?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
Yes, he has. Now I come to a more difficult question, 60 and that is the advanced cost of the paper, and I can only, of course, speak from the report I have placed in my hands. I believe that it is quite true that the increase of cost is not the same throughout the whole of the different classes of paper; it varies according to the different classes. Paper purchased by the Stationery Department is divided into five different classes— hand-made, loft-dried, ordinary writing, secondary or inferior writing, and imperial. In the first of these classes, the hand-made paper, the increased price is not so great as in the other classes, the percentage being 11½. The greatest increase is in the loft-dried paper, which is 63 per cent., and in the fifth class there does not appear to have been any rise in price during the same period. I do not know whether I am in order in referring to this: the cost of the paper on which the Parliamentary Reports are printed is something like £8,000 a year, but that of course is not under this Vote, which refers to the Printing for Public Departments and not to the printing for the House of Commons. I do not know that I can say any more with respect to this question. I do not understand how it is my hon. Friend's information differs so much from that I received from the head of the Stationery Department; I do not suppose the gentleman who represents that Department is less able to go into the market than those who represent the private firms in the country. But there is one other matter I should like to allude to with respect to paper, and I do so because it will be a matter of pleasure to my hon. and gallant Friend opposite who takes the view that we should not make use of foreign paper. A year or two ago complaints were made with respect to the paper used in the Blue Books, and it was stated that the paper was very inferior in comparison with that used formerly, and was not of a lasting character. It appears that that class of paper is made from wood in two modes. One mode of making this paper is by grinding the wood into a fine powder, and then mixing it into a pulp, and from that is made the paper that is objectionable and inferior. The second mode of using the wood to make paper is to put it through some process of steaming, which does not cause the same injury to the paper as the process of grinding to powder. There- 61 fore, while the one mode of using wood is inferior and objectionable, the other mode is not bound to be so. The Stationery Department have decided in the future not to buy or receive any paper made by the inferior process, and therefore in the future we shall have a better class of paper for our public documents. Now I come to the statement that will interest my hon. and gallant Friend. This inferior method of making paper is one that exists abroad, and not in this country, therefore it has been decided to a large extent not to use this foreign-made paper. I have no doubt that the Stationery Department is quite alive to the advisability of using the best paper they can obtain. Something has been said with respect to the writing paper and envelopes. (An hon. Member: And pens.) And pens; and I must say I rather sympathise with what has been said. I very often complain to my secretary of the paper, and say it is not so good as it used to be. I have no doubt, if I used quill-pens, I might find the same fault with them; but I hope there will be an improvement, and that we shall combine efficiency with economy. So far as I can prevail upon the Stationery Department to carry out that principle, I shall be very glad to do it, and I shall use my utmost endeavour to see that all we buy is of the best quality.
§ MR. HANBURY
asked if the right hon. Gentleman would state what treatment had been accorded to those firms who sent in a paper that was rejected, and another paper accepted at a lesser price.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I am not aware how they have been treated; I can only say I fancy they would not have been allowed to tender again— that is the principle I should adopt, and I presume that is the principle the Stationery Department has adopted; but I will ascertain what has been done. My hon. Friend opposite spoke of the Statutes being issued with uncut leaves. I think myself it would be a great advantage to have the leaves cut; we all object very much to have the bother of cutting, and I do not think it would increase the cost very much to have the leaves cut. There is only one other matter I wished to allude to.
said before 62 the right hon. Gentleman left the question of the price of paper, he wished him to be good enough to tell them the names of those firms who tendered.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
said that from inquiries he had made in the City, there had been no increase in the price of paper, and he should like to ask if, before giving this enormous increase of from 60 to 63 per cent., inquiries had been made from other firms dealing in paper?
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
said that whilst this discussion had been going on, he had telephoned to Messrs. Peebles, in the City, who were large paper manufacturers, and they assured him there had been no difference in the price of paper during the last 12 mouths or in the previous 12 months.
§ MR. T. H. SIDEBOTTOM (Stalybridge)
said that one of the largest paper manufacturers in England, a constituent of his own, told him not a week since that he was amazed at the low-price of paper offered by foreign competitors.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said he had a Motion on the Paper to move the reduction of this Vote.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said before the hon. and gallant Gentleman moved the reduction of the Vote he would like to ask for the name of the contractor who supplied the paper that was rejected.
§ R. LENG (Dundee)
said he was a consumer of paper to the extent of 50 tons a week, and he thought the statement made as to the cost of paper, was most extraordinary. The experience of all consumers of paper was that there never was so much competition as at present, and the price, instead of going up 50 and 60 per cent., had tended in the other direction. During the past 12 months more particularly, the prices of paper had been lower than previously, and if the consumption of paper by the Stationery Office had 63 largely increased, the diminution in price he should expect would have gone far to compensate for that increase in quantity. The Committee ought to have more information as to why it was the experience of the Stationery Office was different from that of all private consumers.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
thought he could explain why the experience of the Stationery Office was different to that of other consumers. He asked just now, whether the contractors were stationers or paper manufacturers, and he was told they were stationers. The stationer was the middleman who got a considerable profit. No newspaper proprietor or publisher would go to a stationer; he would go to the mill-owner and get the paper at the real price.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I have stated that the Government have been giving up the use of this common paper, and the increased price they are called upon to pay now is for a higher class of paper. In that way I think it may account for the increase.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
What steps have been taken to get any quotations from any contractors who have not been doing business up to the present with the Government.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
The Stationery Department generally advertise for tenders for paper, or they invite a number of firms to tender for the supply of a certain quantity of paper. The Stationery Department would be glad to consider any names or tenders sent in.
§ MR. HANBURY
Will the right hon. Gentleman lay upon the Table of the House a carefully prepared Return showing the names of the firms who have had tenders?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I shall be glad to lay on the Table a Return showing the names of the firms, the amount of the paper purchased, and the prices paid for each class of paper, not only for this year but for last year.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
was much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having to some extent dealt with the question of foreign paper, but he had not done so fully. From questions he (Colonel Vincent) had put on the subject he had not gathered that there had been any considerable diminu- 64 tion in the amount of contracts given by the Stationery Office to the agents of foreign mills. He had information from a very good source that as much as 50 per cent. of the paper supplied to the Stationery Office was drawn from abroad, and although the contracts were not sent direct to the foreign mills, they were given to the agents, located in this country, of foreign firms. In many cases they were simply the agents of foreign capitalists and mill-owners who, therefore, gave no employment to the people of this country. He should be glad to know that the increased cost of paper was due to a cessation in giving these contracts to foreign firms or their agents, which had thus led to the increased use of British-made paper, but his information did not lead him to believe such was the case. Considerable attention had this Session been drawn to the paper from which post-cards and the Post Office Guide were made, which paper came from abroad. At the present time he believed some 60 bales of foreign-made paper arrived every week at Hayes Wharf in the City of London on account of the Government. That was an unfortunate state of affairs, and it was still more unfortunate in so far as it prevented a Resolution of the House of the 13th February 1891 being carried into effect. That resolution was as follows:—That in the opinion of this House it is the duty of the Government in all Government contracts to make provision against the evils recently disclosed before the Sweating Committee, to insert such conditions as may prevent the abuse of sub-letting, and to make every effort to secure the payment of such wages as are generally accepted as current wages by each trade for competent workmen.It was quite clear it was impossible for the Government to carry that Resolution into effect if the contracts were given to foreigners. Every year, following the example of the late Mr. Peter M'Donald, he had moved for a Return of the contracts given out to foreigners, and he was glad to see there was a considerable reduction in them. From 1879 to 1885, inclusive, no less a sum than £886,556 of English public money was given to foreign contractors. That was reduced something like £39,000 for last year, showing a very satisfactory decrease. But at the same time when they found a large amount of foreign paper was being received every week on account 65 of the Stationery Office, for the postcards we used in this country, for The Post Office Guide, and for other purposes, it was a most unfortunate condition of affairs, because it was clear if these contracts wore given to foreigners, the Government could have no control whatever over the wages paid in the manufacture of the articles supplied. No trades union existed abroad, the trades union rate of wages were not paid, and therefore in these contracts there wore none of the conditions appertaining to British manufacture, and which were laid down by the House as essential to fair manufacture. The hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Sydney Buxton), in a recent speech, spoke of the great injury which was being done workmen in this country by this system of indiscriminately giving out contracts to agents of foreign mills instead of to manufacturers bona fide employing the people of this country. He would quote an extract from this speech—
THE CHAIRMAN (interposing)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is going rather wide of the mark. So long as he confines himself to the price of paper, so long I think he is in Order, but when he leaves the question of the price or amount of paper, then I think he is going rather wide of the mark.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
would not pursue that subject further, except to point out that the Under Secretary for the Colonies stated that the present system of giving out con-tracts to foreigners might be cheap, but it was exceedingly nasty. The Trades' Union Congress last year at Glasgow passed a resolution on this subject, part of which he would read—
THE CHAIRMAN (interposing)
I think I pointed out that this is only a Supplementary Estimate relating to paper for a Public Department. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman confines himself to the price of paper or the amount of paper, then I think he is in Order.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
said, if it was not in Order to refer to the Resolution he would not do so. They were asked to vote £26,000 for paper, and it was perfectly obvious that a considerable proportion of that paper had been obtained from the agents of foreign mills. That was a state of affairs which ought not to be allowed 66 to continue, and if his right hon. Friend would give an assurance that he would prevent this being done in future, it would not be necessary to press the question to a Division. But if, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman maintained that the Stationery Office was at liberty either to employ home manufacturers or the agents of foreign mills, without any inquiry as to where the manufacturing process was done, or the amount of wages paid, then it would be necessary for him to press the Motion for a reduction of the Vote to a Division. He begged to move a reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item F, of £20,500 for Paper for Public Departments, be reduced by £1,000."— (Colonel Howard Vincent.)
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
The point raised in this Amendment is by no means a trivial one. When we made inquiries during the present Session as regarded certain articles supplied to the Stationery Department, attempts were made to turn the whole question into ridicule, and to minimise the point at issue. The question raised by my hon. and gallant Friend is one which I venture to think the Government will realise it behaves them very closely to consider and give a clear and definite answer on in the House. My hon. and gallant Friend's point is this: that the House by a Resolution placed certain definite obligations upon a Public Department in this Country, and this very vote the Committee is now asked to sanction involves a distinct breach of a Resolution of this House. That of course, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see, is a specific statement on a point which requires the very careful consideration of the Government, and one on which the Committee is entitled to a clear answer. The Resolution of this House which has already been referred to states that—In the opinion of this House it is the duty of the Government in all Government Contracts to make provision against the evils recently disclosed before the Sweating Committee, and to make every effort to prevent the abuses arising from sub-letting, and to secure the payment of such wages as are accepted as the current wages in each trade for competent workmen.I have a right to ask has Her Majesty's Government taken steps to carry out 67 this Resolution? Have these contracts been given only to persons who complied with the conditions laid down in that Resolution? Something has been said about tenders being made and contracts being given to foreign manufacturers. Into the policy of letting out work abroad I am not going to enter. I need hardly say I strongly disapprove of recourse being had to foreign manufacturers when manufacturers in this country are prepared to do the work. The Resolution passed, by this House renders it obligatory on the part of the Government to see that the conditions laid down in the Resolution are enforced and obeyed to the letter. What precaution has the Government taken in this respect? I understand tenders have been accepted and contracts granted to persons doing their business outside the limits of this country. Do the Government assert that this Resolution does not apply to foreign contractors? If so, I should be glad to be favoured with the grounds on which they base such an extraordinary construction of the plain language unanimously adopted by this House. I remember this Resolution was originally proposed in another form. It was altered, and I believe a very high fiscal authority, now in another place, Lord Playfair, was the draftsman of the amended Resolution. Its terms are distinct and specific to a degree, and if the Government are letting out contract work to persons, in whatsoever country they may reside and carry on business, without making it clear that the Resolution of the House must be complied with, they are committing a distinct breach of a Resolution of this House, and are guilty of gross disrespect to this House. Of course, when I speak of the Government I speak of the Government in a sense of continuity. I am not directing any special charge against the Chancellor of the Exchequer or his colleagues, but rather directing my observations with the view to hoping they will in future take care that this Resolution is obeyed. This Resolution was proposed by one of their colleagues, it received the unanimous assent of the House, including Her Majesty's present Advisers, and I am rather curious to know their view of the matter. I was in hopes that after my hon. and gallant Friend had stated his case, the Secretary to the Treasury 68 would have given us an intimation as to who the contractors are.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I offered to lay upon the Table of the House a Return showing the names of the contractors, the amount of paper bought from them, and the average price of each class of paper both for this year and last year.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to contend that this Resolution has been complied with?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I do not contend anything of the kind. I do not consider that Resolution has anything to do with the question of paper.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Now we understand each other a little better. I now understand the right hon. Gentleman to contend that the Resolution unanimously adopted in this House, designed to meet the particular class of cases distinctly pointed out at the time to the House, does not apply to the question of contracts in the Stationery Office.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Yes, Sir, exactly; to the question of paper. Does the right hon. Gentleman undertake to assert that in this Resolution there is any exemption of the commodity of paper? The Resolution is universal. I am not saying whether the Resolution was a wise one or not; that is a matter into which it would obviously be irregular that I should go at present. But here it stands on the books of this House as a Resolution in force at this moment. My noble Friend (Lord R. Churchill) very properly points out that it was a Resolution of the last Parliament—
§ MR. W. REDMOND (interposing)
I rise, Sir, to a point of Order. I wish to ask your ruling as to whether the right hon. Gentleman is in Order on this Vote in discussing a Resolution passed by this House?
Only so far as it strictly bears upon the Amendment. I did not stop the right hon. Gentleman when he was inquiring as to the contracts for paper, but now, I take it, he is travelling beyond that.
Mr. JAMES LOWTHER
Of course, Sir, I should not think of contravening your ruling, with which I entirely concur. I was entirely confining myself to this question of paper. I wish to ask 69 the right hon. Gentleman how he can account for a departure from the terms of this Resolution with regard to the purchase of paper? I ask for nothing else. I take it that a Resolution adopted by this House, until repealed by this House, has always been considered by the Government of the day, especially when the Government of the day was specifically named in that Resolution, and my contention is that the point before the Committee is whether in the contracts, for the discharge of which we are now asked to pay in this very Vote, regard has been had to the distinct obligation of a Resolution of this House? That is, I think, one of the most pertinent and pointed questions which could be addressed to any Minister of the Crown. I am not going into the policy of the Resolution or anything of that kind. I maintain that the Secretary to the Treasury has correctly represented the views of the Government in saying that the item of paper is exempted from the operation of this Rule, and I at once join issue with the right hon. Gentleman. I undertake to say that if the right hon. Gentleman has not borne this Resolution in mind when these contracts were being considered, he has committed a distinct breach of an Order of this House. I think we ought to call him to account for it. This is a clear Resolution; the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a party to the Resolution, and I defy him to get out of this, that if he lets a contract for any article which has to be supplied to the Government without due regard to this Resolution, he has committed a distinct breach of an Order of this House.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am perfectly familiar with the resolution to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, and, for my part, I am prepared to say it has no relation whatever to the question now before the House. I should like to know whether the doctrine which the right hon. Gentleman desires to lay down is that the Government of this country are prohibited from purchasing any articles manufactured abroad, because that is what it comes to?
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
I did not say that at all. I did not go into that point. What I said was this: In my judgment Her Majesty's Government, from whatever side of the House it might be formed, is bound by the specific terms of a Resolution of this House.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I say no doubt they are, but I say that the terms of the Resolution have no relation whatever to the question of the purchase of goods which are manufactured abroad. We are all pretty familiar with the views of the right hon. Gentleman, and what is the object of the whole discussion. We have spent an hour-and-a-half upon a Supplementary Vote for the purchase of paper in order to go into the whole Protectionist theory. We know perfectly well that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for Sheffield, and the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Thanet, have made this a peg upon which to hang their Protectionist view that they will prohibit the Government from purchasing abroad any goods. I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Goschen), would prohibit the Government from purchasing any goods abroad, and whether the preceding Government have regarded that resolution as prohibiting the purchase of any goods manufactured abroad? Now it really comes to that, and the only point raised here is that there has been a certain amount of paper purchased abroad, and the question is whether this resolution has the smallest relation to that question. I believe it has none whatever. There is no connection whatever between that resolution and the question before the House. Of course we cannot by this resolution regulate wages paid abroad, and the contention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman amounts to this, that the Government of this country, therefore, is prohibited from ever purchasing any goods manufactured abroad. The Government cannot regulate wages paid abroad, but the division, if there is to be one, would be on the simple question, Are the Government to be prohibited from purchasing any goods manufactured abroad? It would be absurd to suppose that the House of Commons would lay down a rule that they should be prevented from purchasing goods from abroad. It would not be in the interests of our own manufactures that we should do so. Are you going to set up a similar barrier against your own goods? No policy could be more suicidal. I hope the Committee will now proceed with the Votes. As the right hon. Gentleman knew the Army and Navy Estimates must be 71 finished by Friday next, I must object to these discussions on the protectionist views of the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member on a Supplementary Vote of this character. We do not object to goods coming from abroad; but if the question must be discussed, it ought to be raised in some other way.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (West Birmingham)
I am not going to detain the House. I just want to point out a matter which occurs to me, and I think it may tend to shorten the proceedings on this Vote. With the general drift of the remarks of my right hon. friend I entirely agree; but we are left in a somewhat anomalous and unfortunate position. The manufacturers of paper who supply the Government are also left in an unfortunate position, because, by an Order of the House they are put under all kinds of restrictions as to the wages to be paid, and other matters concerning their employés, and these are restrictions from which foreign manufacturers are free. The foreign manufacturers have, therefore, a distinct advantage over the English manufacturers so long as that order remains in force. I do hope that at a future time the House will give attention to this subject, which is of great importance to English manufacturers. I have also to say that now that we have got a clear view of the Government position, I hope the hon. Member will be satisfied, and that he will not put us to the trouble of a division.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
I must take objection to one remark of which the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has not taken notice. It would beyond doubt be intolerable that, when this House of Commons passed a Resolution on an abstract subject, such as the regulation of wages and contracts, that regulation should be held to be binding on a future House of Commons. I am anxious to be guided by high Constitutional views, but I object altogether to the view that a Rule passed in one Parliament should fetter the action of another Parliament by arrogating to that Resolution or Rule the force of law.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
said, he had no sympathy with protectionist views, but he would suggest if they wanted to begin a policy of protection that they should leave off using 72 Foreign wines. This would show whether hon. Gentlemen who held those views were in earnest. He was anxious for economy in all Departments, and understood that there was something wrong as to the cost of this paper.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
said, he was not going to say more than a word or two. He did not wish to delay the Committee, but he wished to say that he had to protest against the suggestion that he had brought forward his Motion in order to elicit a protectionist discussion. He only wanted to impress upon the Government their duty with regard to the trade of the country. After the appeal that had been made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for West Birmingham, he would not put the Committee to the trouble of a division, and he therefore asked leave to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.