§ 1. £25,680, to complete the sum for Colonial Office.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
desired to express the extreme 677 pleasure with which he had heard the declaration of the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies that Her Majesty's Government had seen their way to stopping any forward movement against Lo Bengula for the present; that the South African Company had acquiesced in the advice; and that therefore the danger of a bloody war in South Africa between the European settlers and the natives was for the moment averted. He wished to impress upon Her Majesty's Government, however, that in order to preserve the peace in South Africa not only was great vigilance required on the part of the Colonial Office, but a most active and energetic policy was necessary. Nobody in this country knew the real cause of the quarrel between Lo Bengula and the British settlers. In all these quarrels between Europeans and natives one never heard more than one side of the question, and the natives' case was not stated. He was sorry to see signs of a desire in some quarters to get up a feeling in this country against Lo Bengula, and to hound the Government on and induce them to indulge in a disastrous war. Nobody knew what the causes of the quarrel with Lo Bengula were; but, reading between the lines and drawing upon one's experience in disputes of the kind, he felt sure that the Government would exercise the most wise and salutary influence if they turned a deaf ear to any proposal for an attack upon Lo Bengula. He could not help improving the occasion by pointing out the great dangers and difficulties of the policy which allowed of the existence of Chartered Companies. He had some right to speak on the subject, because he opposed most vehemently the first Charter of the kind ever granted, that to the North Borneo Company, and took the sense of the House against it. He had the support on that occasion of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour) and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill). The affair in South Africa was an example of the serious dangers to which the granting of Charters to companies of this kind in uncivilised territories gave rise. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary had wisely refused to respond to a challenge thrown down by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), and to state the general policy of the Govern- 678 ment with regard to Chartered Companies. He (Sir J. Gorst) did not believe the Government had any policy on the subject, or that any Government ever had. British Governments had drifted into one Charter after another, and he had no doubt the granting of such Charters would continue until it landed Great Britain in some national disaster, when the country would wake up and the reign of Chartered Companies would come to an end. If a Chartered Company could be left entirely to itself and allowed to suffer the consequences of any injustice or unwise attack made upon the native races, it might, perhaps, govern as wisely as Her Majesty's Government. Every Chartered Company, however, knew that it had the Government at its back. The South African Company knew very well that if it made an attack on Lo Bengula, and he in retaliation slaughtered British settlers, the Government would have to interfere. The policy of Chartered Companies seemed to be one of drifting into national responsibilities which were sure to involve this country in the greatest difficulties whenever the affairs of any Company arrived at a critical position. The position of things in South Africa was an object lesson to this country. If the present strained relations resulted in war, this country would have to lavish its blood and treasure in bringing to a successful conclusion affairs in the initiation of which it had no hand whatever. The Government had not sufficient control over the Companies to prevent them quarrelling with native Chiefs, but the Companies had sufficient control over the Government to force them to come to their assistance and to save themselves from the consequence of their injustice or bad policy. He hoped that vigorous action on the part of the Government might avert the danger at present threatened in South Africa. There was nothing more important to the British settlers there than the maintenance of peace. He hoped the Government would lay the present peril to heart, and that either this or the next Government would arrive at a definite policy about Chartered Companies before a national disaster occurred.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. S. BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
Per- 679 haps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to thank him for the tone he has adopted in his speech. It compared very favourably with the big-drum beating we had from the hon. Member for Sheffield (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett) last night, and I think it will tend, as far as a speech can tend, towards the result we all have at heart—namely, the maintenance of peace in South Africa. I am afraid, however, I must not take quite such a sanguine view as the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the possibility of averting a war. I hope and believe that war will be averted, but at the present moment it is impossible for me to make any strong statement on the subject. Both the Government and those who are responsible for the work of the Chartered Company are at the present moment working in accord for the maintenance of peace, and I think the result will be to maintain peace. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that what must be deprecated at the present moment are the excited, warlike, and bloodthirsty letters and speeches emanating, I am sorry to say, to a large extent from those who ought not to preach war—I mean missionaries in some parts of Africa. The danger we run at the present moment is that those who are on the spot, many of them being naturally in an excited state of mind, many of them being hot-headed and perhaps not under the proper control of those in charge of the country, may by some indiscreet act get us into war. Unfortunately there always has been, especially in South Africa, a party which has been in favour of these native wars, because unhappily a large number of the people obtain very great pecuniary advantages from such wars. I think it was Sir C. Warren's army in 1884 which was called the "Salvation Army," because nearly everybody in South Africa made a good thing out of that war. There are some who speak as if these raids were a new thing, and as if it were the duty of the Government and of the Company to carry out a crusade against Lo Bengula and the Matabele on account of their recent action. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J, Gorst) says we only hear one side of the question. I am glad to know that in this case we have received through Sir Henry Loch a great deal of information from Lo Bengula himself, and also from Mr. 680 Collenbrander and others living at his kraal. I said last night, and repeat now, that the blame, as far as there is blame, is by no means all on one side, and that while I do not say there was justification for the raiding of Lo Bengula's impi, as far as Lo Bengula is personally concerned he is anxious to live in friendly terms with the whites, as far as we can judge, and that the officer in charge of the impi exceeded his orders in interfering with the white men. I say at present that there is no justification for an aggressive movement, and I am sure that those in charge for the Chartered Company are not in a position to make such a movement. The Government thought it their duty to step in and to say that, at the present moment at all events they would prohibit any aggressive action likely to lead to war in South Africa. As the right hon. Gentleman has truly said, a war if it takes place cannot be necessarily confined to Matabeleland and Mashonaland. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the position of Chartered Companies and their relations with the Imperial Government. I declined last night to discuss the general policy respecting Chartered Companies, because I did not think this a happy or appropriate occasion on which to do so. I may say, however, I agree very much with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. I agree that we have very much in the past drifted into these Chartered Companies, and the experience we have now had of their action is not so encouraging that it is likely any Government will give further Charters. There is, however, this to be said in discussing the question, and it certainly was brought before the Government of the day with regard to the British South Africa Company—namely, that if that Company had not undertaken at the moment the administration and opening up of Mashonaland possibly the Government was not in a position to undertake that responsibility, and the territory might have been lost to the United Kingdom and absorbed in the Transvaal. That we shall all admit would have been under the circumstances a great mistake. I am bound to say that the present position in these days of Chartered Companies, whose responsibility, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, breaks down just when we want it to be effective, is a great anomaly. 681 As far as the British South Africa Company are concerned, they informed me that they are prepared to carry out their responsibility. I can only trust that, thanks to the moderate desires and actions of those responsible for the proceedings of the Company, and thanks I must say to the action of the Government supported by this House, the great danger may be averted, and that a war which would be a very serious one for South Africa will not take place.
§ MR. E. H. BAYLEY (Camberwell, N.)
wished to refer to a question relating to Gibraltar. In the first place, he must protest against the mistake that was usually made in referring to the people of Gibraltar as inhabitants of a fortress. As a matter of fact, the guns were placed on the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, and the Colony was at the foot of the hill. It was as inaccurate to say that the people were living in a fortress as to say that the people of the City of London were living in the Tower of London. In the Colony of Gibraltar about £60,000 a year of local taxation was raised, and up to two years ago the ratepayers had a voting power over the expenditure of their own money. Local affairs were managed by a mixed Sanitary Board, consisting of Commissioners partly appointed by the Governor, and partly selected by him from a list of names submitted by the Grand Jury. The ratepayers now complained that two years ago, by a stroke of the pen, they were deprived of their representation on the Board, which was made to consist entirely of the officials nominated by the Governor. The reason why this action was taken was that the ratepayers' representatives on the Board declined to be parties to a flagrant job, which was being forced upon them by the official members—namely, the spending of £50,000 on a scheme for driving a tunnel through the rock in search of water. This scheme had now been dropped. It was said in opposition to the proposal that no water would be found, that the cost would be enormous, that a better supply would be obtained by surface collection, and that the tunnel would render the rock no longer impregnable. The Government had now to some extent retraced their steps by giving the ratepayers a representation of four members, the remaining five being nominated by 682 the Governor. As the ratepayers paid two-thirds of the taxation, they were entitled to two-thirds of the members, or six out of the nine. As it was, however, they were in a minority, whilst the official members consisted of men not necessarily taxpayers or persons holding any stake in the Colony, and who might be here to-day and gone to-morrow. He contended that the principle that taxation and representation should go together, which the Liberal Party upheld in the House of Commons, should be made to apply to all the Colonies of the Empire.
§ MR. S. BUXTON
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his speech, because I am sure he has the same desire as we have to meet the views of the ratepayers of Gibraltar as far as is possible. I must, however, point out to him that when we came into Office, and considered the questions dealing with Gibraltar, there were five subjects in which the ratepayers seemed to be interested. The first was the question of the restoration to the Grand Jury of the privilege of nominating the panel from which the unofficial Commissioners were selected. That privilege we granted with great pleasure. The second was that the Commissioners should have the power of appointing their own Chairman. That was also conceded. The third was the separation of the office of Colonial Engineer from that of Engineer to the Sanitary Board and other offices, and giving the Commissioners power to appoint their own Engineer. That was conceded, as was also the fourth request—namely, that the power of the Governor to veto the construction of a work by the Board and of requiring the Board to defray from the rates the cost of public works now executed by the Commissioners should cease. Finally, it was asked that in future the Colonial Secretary should cease to be a Member of the Board. On that, as on the other points, we were able to meet the ratepayers. There was a further point in which they considered they had a grievance, and I am bound to say I think it was a very serious one. It related to the question of the water and drainage scheme. That is very much a question of engineering, as to the details of which we ourselves are hardly in a position to speak; but the conclusion we have come to is that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the question 683 of the sanitation, and the water supply of Gibraltar, and that on that Commission the ratepayers should be directly represented, not only by their own Chairman, but by one of their non-official members. Finally, there is the question of proportional representation on the Sanitary Board. At this point I must draw attention to one fact, which I think my hon. Friend omitted—namely, that in the original proposal of the deputation of ratepayers it was stated that the question of representation might easily be solved in a manner satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government if the other matters they referred to were conceded to them. We have met them as regards the other matters; but Her Majesty's Government cannot give them a majority on the Board. Rightly or wrongly, we have felt hound to treat Gibraltar as a fortress rather than as an ordinary Colony. I agree with the general principle as to taxation and representation, but we say that the principle cannot be carried out fully here, for we are bound to treat Gibraltar as a fortress. We have no-desire and no intention to control the proceedings of the Sanitary Board by the official majority unless in matters which affect defence. There is perfect liberty in other matters—the official majority in all the cases can vote as they like, not being bound by any official view. The Police Magistrate the other day was put on to the Board temporarily to take the place of another official member on leave. This was done under a misapprehension of our desires. We certainly do not desire, in the case of a temporary absence of an official member, to show distrust of the Board by appointing another and a temporary member. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied that we have endeavoured to meet his views and those of the ratepayers on this question.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he had nothing to say in reply to the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. It was only right the Government should take care and look at the matter from the official point of view, but he did not think they would press their views further than were necessary. His object in rising was to know what steps had been taken to remedy the crying grievances existing in 684 the Crown Colony of St. Helena? He hoped something had been done in regard to these grievances. He did not think the decrease of the population was a matter for regret, but it had transpired that there was great disproportion in the number of women and children and that of men. His suggestion was that the Government should make use of the assistance of the Admiralty to carry off some of the surplus population to South Africa. There was another matter to which he wished to call the attention of the Under Secretary. It was with regard to the Bahamas, and the statements which had been made and circulated among Members by Chief Justice Yelverton, to the effect that the administration of justice was grossly corrupt, that the Members of the House of Assembly were influenced by bribes, and that only six out of the 29 Members in the House were not related to, on connected with, one another. He had had an interview with the Chief Justice, which he found to be extremely painful. He cared nothing for the Bahamas, but when such charges had been made by such a high legal officer it was right that a Commission of Inquiry should be appointed to investigate the accusations on the spot, as had been done in Jamaica in the case of Governor Eyre. The charges were certainly of a very grave character, and he need not recapitulate them, but they were certainly entitled to some reply on this question from the Government. He repeated, that the charges might be true or false; he did not know—he hoped they were false—but, at all events, there should be a proper inquiry into them. Either they were true or false—if true, then there should be a proper reform of administration; if false, then the Chief Justice should be dismissed. That, he thought, was a demand which the Government could not resist. The question was not a Party one; it was simply that it was alleged that a moral sewer existed; if that were the case, then they ought to cleanse it.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
We have all listened with great interest, I am sure, to the speech which we have just heard. This is, Sir. an advantage, at least, we shall have in this discussion those who take an 685 interest in the circumstances. The matter would have come upon us by surprise. For some months past we have been deluged by letters, by questions, and by newspaper paragraphs with respect to the matters to which my hon. and gallant Friend has called attention. Although the questions came from different parts of the House, and the letters appeared under different signatures, and some with none, every one of them was due to the intervention of the person with whom my hon. and gallant Friend had that interview which he described as extremely painful. Unlike my hon. and gallant Friend, I feel a great interest in these Islands. A relative of mine happens to be there, and I have heard very much about them. Now, let me, in the first place, assure my hon. and gallant Friend that in spite of the insinuations which have been made there is no general discontent or dissatisfaction in the Bahamas. The feeling is general that the present Governor has performed his duty very much to the advantage of the islands. These are not charges, but very disgraceful calumnies and insinuations. A charge is made against the Legislative Council. Well, Sir, in the Legislative Council, which consists of nine Members, there is no such connection between the Members as has been alleged; but in the Legislative Assembly there are persons who are connected by relationship that did not lead to corruption. That, Sir, is natural. When the population is small it is not possible to obtain competent persons without taking some who may have some sort of relationship with one another. It is more likely that should occur in a place where the population is small than that it should happen here with us. There is a population of, I think, 45,000, only 12,000 of whom are whites. How can you select fit men for a Legislature in a community of this kind without running the risk of choosing from amongst those who are related? I say, Sir, it is not possible—we must take them as we find them, which is largely among those who have relationship one with another. It is only by cowardly insinuation that we are told that this relationship is a disadvantage. I say that the greatest advantage has accrued from the present system. What I complain especially of is the fact that 686 these cowardly insinuations should be made by a public officer—though on half-pay, he is that—at a time when the Governor was absent, at a time when no fair reply could be made. We have heard that this place is a moral sewer. I would like to read my hon. and gallant Friend the remarks made by Lord Herschell (Lord Chancellor of England) when these matters were before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Lord Herschell said—With regard to the documents which you are about to refer to, headed 'Notes by the Chief Justice of the Colony.' They consist in large part of a number of scandalous allegations about a great number of people in the Colony, and have no possible bearing on the questions of law which have been referred to this Board. They cannot be allowed to remain here on record in this case, because it is impossible to allow a reference of this sort from Her Majesty to be made the vehicle of disseminating scandalous matter of that description.I hope, at all events, to take my part in preventing the Committee of this House being made the vehicle of disseminating without contradiction that same scandalous matter which, of course, the Privy Council refused to entertain. I want to say a word or two about the Governor of the Colony, who, I think, is the chief victim of these abominable allegations. I have only recently made the acquaintance of Sir Ambrose Shea, but in consequence of the interest I have in the Islands I have been able to learn a good deal about him. These Islands were of a most God-forsaken character until quite recently. At the time of the Civil War many of the people made considerable fortunes, but, like other fortunes easily acquired, they were not properly spent, and I think very little really permanent benefit accrued to the Islanders by the profits then made. Since that time the Islands had been going down, and only two industries were carried on. One was the sponge industry, which is very laborious and brings very little profit to those who undertook it. The other was the fruit industry, the profits of which vary considerably according to the climate. The inhabitants consist largely of people of colour, who are very good-tempered and contented people, and deserve a much better fate than they have met with. But for years past they have almost been starving in consequence of the trifling amount of 687 employment they have been able to obtain. Sir Ambrose Shea, unlike other Colonial officials, was a man of business before he became an official, and he entered the Colonial Service late in life. As soon as he became Governor he set to work to improve the condition of the inhabitants. He was struck by a plant which was regarded as little better than a weed, but which he thought would produce a very good fibre. I do not say he discovered the plant, but it is certainly owing entirely to his individual energy and action that the help of a number of capitalists, some from America and some from this country, has been secured for the purpose of experimenting with this plant. Thousands and tens of thousands of pounds are being spent, and it is certain that the experiment will be carried out on an adequate scale and with every chance of success. I am not so sanguine as the Governor himself is as to the result that will be obtained. The attempt is, in my opinion, a great speculation, but whatever its results, the benefit to the Islands of trying the experiment has been enormous. Even if the experiment fails large sums will have been spent and a large amount of employment given to the poor people, whereas if it succeeds much work will be provided, and no doubt the Colony will become one of the most prosperous in the West Indies. All this has been done by one man, and I say that, in the interests of the Public Service, when you find a man goes beyond the red tape of his office and initiates an industry for the purpose of benefiting the people he ought to have the sympathy and support of this House and the full confidence of his employers. He certainly ought not to be made the subject of scandalous and absolutely baseless insinuations.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I absolutely acquit my hon. and gallant friend of having acted unfairly. I am sure these circumstances were unknown to him, and I am certain that be will agree with me that a man who has done work of this kind deserves commendation and ought not to be made the subject of such attacks as Mr. Yelverton has published throughout the land. This Mr. Yelverton has made attacks on almost every person of position in the Colony. 688 Mr. Yelverton is Chief Justice of the Bahamas—that Colony has been most unfortunate in its Chief Justices. They are appointed by the Home Government, and I cannot help wondering what genius of discord presides over the appointments of Chief Justices of these small Colonies. The late Chief Justice—the gentleman of the murder case—has been alluded to. He got into hot water in reference to that case, and so great was the feeling of the Colonial Office with regard to his action that he was retired on a pension, which this unfortunate little Colony has to pay to this day. Thus you have a Chief Justice forced upon the Colony, or appointed without reference to the Colony, by this country, and when the Chief Justice misbehaves himself and the Colonial Office recognise that the appointment is a mistake, it is not this country which pays the cost, but the Colony. After this experience the Colony begged the Local Authorities to be very particular in the gentleman who was to succeed the late Chief Justice, and at the suggestion of the Colonial Office they raised the salary of the Chief Justice from £700 to £1,000, in order to have a really first-class man. Just a word about the title of Chief Justice. Chief Justice is a big word, but in the Bahamas it means a very small thing. The Chief Justice has no Judges sitting with him; he is the only Judge in the Colony, and not only is he Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but he is the Supreme Court. There are a number of Magistrates who are paid astounding salaries, varying from £50 to £250 a year, and I believe they do justice quite as well as can be expected under the circumstances, and upon the whole their decisions have given satisfaction. The Chief Justice is required to review the decisions of these inferior Courts, and to take the more serious cases. I only regret that we should have to use the title of Chief Justice, because there are some people who are carried away and swelled out with the importance of the name that is given to them. I believe that if Mr. Yelverton had been called a Magistrate he never would have made such a fool of himself. It is only because this briefless barrister who was sent out there has been swaggering about ever since with the title of Chief Justice that he has been swelling 689 himself like the frog in the fable until he has gone very near to bursting. Mr. Yelverton was appointed by the late Government. When he went to the Colonies the first thing he did after being there 14 days was to ask for leave of absence, and he was absent for 4 months. Even the short period of 14 days was enough to show some of the peculiarities of this judicial authority. Ho is an eccentric person, and one of his eccentricities is that he has a terrible fear of anything in the nature of a contagions disorder. The mere report of a contagious disease within 100 miles of him fills his mind with terror. I do not say he fears for himself, but he is afraid because of his office. A Member of Parliament or any other ordinary person might die of disease; but if disease should attack a Chief Justice there is no knowing but that the constellations might fall. Accordingly during the 14 days of his first visit he wrote to the papers that there was going to be an exhibition in Jamaica, and that the passage of people to and fro might be the means of importing disease into the Colony. He therefore begged the authorities to take the utmost precautions against the importation of disease. I do not wonder that the colonials thought this was an extraordinary performance for this gentleman to indulge in. In 1891, the second year of his appointment, he again obtained leave of absence, and was absent for five months. I may say that the Colony does not object to his absence. What the Colony objects to is the presence of this gentleman, and I believe that, had he been away even longer, no complaints on that score would have come from the Colony. He returned, and again he exhibited a great number of peculiarities, which, in the opinion of the colonists, tended to lessen the dignity of the Bench he was supposed to adorn. He wrote letters to the newspapers, and engaged in controversy on every conceivable subject, and he took the opportunity given by his position to deliver allocutions from the Bench, which are extremely humorous performances. I must refer to two of them. On one occasion he delivered from the Bench a long speech, in which he said that on a recent occasion he had delivered a judgment in favour of a man of colour in the island; that thereupon the grateful 690 man of colour had attempted to corrupt the Bench by offering him a present of six pine-apples, and, with an expression of horror at the conception the man must have had of the character of the Chief Justice, he stated for the benefit of all whom it might concern that he had refused the gift, and he said it was necessary to call attention to the matter, so that the Resident Justices might understand that the Bench must be preserved pure and incorruptible. Well, this was thought to be a display of virtue which was quite unnecessary. It was thought that the Chief Justice might have refused six pine-apples without making such a fuss about it. Later on he wrote another letter to a newspaper. It appears that 500 tons of coal were being imported into the Bahamas for the use of the lighthouse service. The Chief Justice wrote to the local newspaper to say he had heard with alarm of the intention to import this coal. He had reason to believe that coal contained the germs of malarious disease. He did not think it beyond the bounds of possibility that this coal might contain the germs of yellow fever, and that the whole of the Colony might be affected. He therefore entered his solemn protest against the suggestion that 500 tons of coal should be stored at Nassau for the use of the lighthouse service. I do not know how my hon. Friend, if he had been living in the Colony, would have viewed these continual outbursts from this judicial authority. The colonists were not without a certain kind of rough humour, and after this display on the part of the Chief Justice there appeared an anonymous letter in a local paper signed "Colonist," of which I must read one or two paragraphs. The writer says—Search the annals of the Bench of every country, of every age, and I defy creation to produce a more noble, more self-denying, and more virtuous exhibition of a tender conscience than was afforded by our Chief Justice in refusing to accept a gift of pine-apples! Some cynic has said, 'Every man has his price.' It is assuring to this community to know that the 'Fount of Justice' in this Colony is above the price of even one dozen pine-apples. Mr. Yelverton's noble words of scornful renunciation should be graven in letters of gold upon the walls of every Magisterial office in this Colony; then, and not till then, will sweet potatoes, pigeon peas, &c, cease to exert their baneful influence on the administration of justice in this Colony. But should we be selfish 691 and confine the influence of such virtue to the limited area of this Colony? No, Mr. Editor; 1 and others cherish the hope that this beautiful incident will become historical, and the whole world be benefited by this last and greatest proof of the purity of English justice.The letter goes on to say—A great many people of this city are mean enough to say that he should risk his valuable life to attend to the duties of his office in summer as well as winter—they contend that the day of non-resident officialdom is over, and that a man should reside -in the Colony that pays him his salary—the law allows six weeks leave of absence, and Mr. Yelverton should be subservient to that law if to no other.It goes on with the following ironical remark:—Fevers, like thunderstorms, have their uses in West Indian Colonies. Fever is regarded by the natives as a merciful provision of Providence to clear the atmosphere of the Civil Service of some officials who are exhaled and emanate from Downing Street.By those of us who are well acquainted with the humours of political life in this country, I think it will he agreed that, although we may not necessarily approve the good taste of this communication, it does not go nearly as far as our newspaper editors go every day of their lives. On the publication of the letter, the Chief Justice summoned the editor of the paper, Mr. Moseley, to his Court. He demanded that the editor should give up the name of the colonist who had written such an abominable letter. The editor refused, and the Chief Justice proceeded to find him guilty of contempt of Court and to deliver the judgment of the Court. I could not possibly read the whole of the judgment, which fills several pages of the pamphlet I have before me, but really it is a most noble allocution. He says—You have grossly insulted this Court and the administration of justice. You talk of the combined wisdom of Governor Shea, Providence, the Board of Health, and the Chief Justice, whom you satirically describe in the second paragraph of your article, quoting from the judgment to which I have referred, as an 'English Barrister,' and to whom you mockingly allude as a 'luminary of the English Bar.'He goes on—This is your way of criticising the action of the Chief Justice with regard to the case for Eleuthera, to which I have referred. Comment is needless. Had it been the language of some idler from the Shambles I should not have been so astonished. And, then, in that language of mocking admiration which you demean yourself 692 into publishing, you go on to give the Chief Justice what you (or your vulgar correspondent) call words of warning.Continuing, Mr. Yelverton says—Then comes a most horrible paragraph, the wish being evidently the father to the thought.And he goes on to quote the remark about fevers being like thunderstorms, and adds—You go on to suggest that officials should be sent to live in unhealthy offices here, so as to expedite their deaths, and then, in a similar foul strain, in a Colony where it is essential that the law should he maintained and respected, and human life guarded, you wind up a letter which I forbear again to criticise by what you or your correspondents are evidently pleased to consider an insulting allusion to myself and others connected with the Government of the Colony. What is the universal opinion as to such a production? There is but one, and that is emphatic condemnation. This Court is glad to see that, notwithstanding insidious attempts (and the Court is alive to what goes on around it), the heart of the Colony as an integral part of the British Empire is sound.After the explanation of the circumstances the Chief Justice proceeded to sentence the editor of the paper, for contempt of Court, to be imprisoned during his pleasure, and then to pay two separate fines, and he was to be detained in custody until the fines had been paid. The editor accordingly went to gaol. There was, as may well be supposed, the greatest indignation in the Colony, and a very near approach to a public riot. A deputation, consisting of all the principal inhabitants of the Colony, including five ministers of religion, and a number of Magistrates and Members of the Legislative Assembly, waited upon the Governor, and asked him to release the editor. The Governor very properly telegraphed home to ask whether he had the power to exercise the clemency of the Crown, and thereupon he released the prisoner. There was great rejoicing in the Colony at his action, and flags were displayed in the streets in honour of the occasion. The Chief Justice, furious at the interference of the Governor, not only came home to England to raise before the Privy Council the question whether the Governor had power to release the editor, but, as circumstances have shown, endeavoured to calumniate the Governor and every man of influence in the Colony on account of the view they took of his very extraordinary proceeding. The matter came 693 before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and the view they took of it may be gathered from certain interlocutory observations made by some of the Members of that tribunal. The Lord Chancellor said—The point to be considered was whether it was contempt to suggest that an occupant of the Bench was wanting in wisdom or was foolish.Lord Watson said—He should be sorry if every person who happened to call him a fool, in respect of some judgment he had delivered, was to be held guilty of contempt. It would depend on the circumstances.The Lord Chancellor further said—If a Judge stops into the arena of newspaper criticism, you cannot regard a letter written in the course of a newspaper controversy in the same light as what I may call a volunteered attack.In conclusion, after having heard all the arguments, both for and against, the Court came to the conclusion, firstly, that the letter signed "Colonist" was not, in the circumstances, calculated to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice or the due administration of the law, and, therefore, did not constitute a contempt of Court, and that Mr. Moseley was not guilty of contempt of Court in refusing to give up the name of the writer; and, lastly, that the Royal prerogative did extend to such cases. Therefore, the Judicial Committee gave their decision against the Chief Justice. Well, I think I have said enough to justify the Governor of the Colony in the action he has taken, and also to show the Committee the character of the person who now constitutes himself his traducer. I want, in conclusion, to ask some questions of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies. I have not one word of criticism or complaint to make use of respecting the action of the Colonial Office in this mater. They have treated the Chief Justice with consideration, but they have meted out complete justice to the parties. But I wish to point out that the situation at present is intolerable. This man has now been absent from the Colony since June in last year. During the whole of that time he has been receiving half-pay from the Colony. Formerly this payment was voted by the Legislative Assembly. That Assembly has given the Government distinctly to 694 understand that, whatever the circumstances, they will not pay another farthing. But the Colonial Office, who have no money at their disposal, have, until the Chief Justice is disposed of, to find half-pay. They have found it by charging it to the Crown funds of the Colony, so that it is exactly the same thing as though it were paid by a Vote of the Legislative Assembly, as the Crown funds belong to the Colony, and not to this country. We have no right to pay out of their money a Chief Justice whom they would not have at any price. I must say I think the time has come when this interregnum ought to be closed, and the Colony should be told what is in future to be the position of the Chief Justice; whether he is to be sent back or not, and whether they are to be called upon, in meal or in malt, to pay his salary. The Chief Justice, who is at present a public official, is writing to the newspapers letters containing these calumnious assertions. I wish to know whether this is in accordance with the Regulations of the Public Service? Then, Sir, I ask my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, as far as he is aware, there is any foundation whatever for these exceedingly dishonouring charges which the Chief Justice has brought against the Governor of the Colony and against other responsible and respectable persons? I would only say, in conclusion, that I hope my hon. Friend will confirm the opinion I have formed that these charges are groundless, and that they have only been made as an afterthought in consequence of the difficulty into which the Chief Justice has got himself. I will ask the Under Secretary whether, in such circumstances, it can be contended for a moment that a man who has behaved in this way, who has provoked and insulted and libelled so many of the chief persons in the Colony, can possibly be allowed to return to the Colony in the important position of Chief Justice, and whether, under these circumstances, he is in a position to announce that some change will be made in respect of him?
§ MR. LITTLE (Whitehaven)
observed that there was a question of principle underlying this case. The first point he desired to touch upon was in regard to Judges in the Colonies having unlimited 695 power of committing for contempt of Court. That was considered a very grave power, even in England, and within the last quarter of a century, even in the Supreme Courts in England, there had been cases in which there had been grave doubts as to whether that power had been rightly exercised. When they came to these small Crown Colonies, when men were appointed Chief Justices or Justices, some of whom had never had the conduct of a civil action of any kind whatever in the course of their practice at the Bar, and when they gave to these men the same power of committal for contempt of Court that was given to the Judges of the Supreme Court in England, he need hardly point out that grave injustice had been frequently done. Let any lawyer in this House take the Privy Council cases for the last 20 years, and, on consideration of the cases in regard to committals for contempt of Court, he would come to two conclusions: first, that in many of these cases the Judges in. these Crown Colonies had done substantial injustice in cases in which they had committed people for contempt of Court; and, secondly, that in some cases that substantial injustice could not be remedied. He mentioned the case of a newspaper editor, who was also a barrister, who was committed for contempt of Court, and imprisoned for a lengthened period, besides being fined. During the time of his | imprisonment his wife died; and when he came out, having been imprisoned in this not too healthy climate, he himself died within a short time after he had received the decision of the Privy Council that he ought never to have been committed at all. Ho could mention other instances not so serious, but which, at any rate, went to show that such a power ought not to be placed in the hands of men appointed in this way. This matter about committal for contempt of Court had been the subject of dispute for years between the Colonial Office and some of the Crown Colonies. One of the Crown Colonies passed a legislative Act and sent it home to the Colonial Office. This Act contained a number of very valuable provisions, giving a man a right to trial by jury, and, among other things, it limited the power of imprisonment for contempt. The Colonial Office, however, was, he believed, still 696 squabbling with that Colony over the question of whether the Act should be passed in the form it was sent over or not. He suggested to the Under Secretary that the time had come when they ought to have a general Act with regard to every Crown Colony providing against this arbitrary power of committal for contempt of Court, and he hoped the Committee would receive an assurance that the subject should be considered. He believed that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham had perfectly satisfied the Committee that there were no grounds for the charges made by the Chief Justice. He (Mr. Little) had friends in a neighbouring Colony, and the information he had received in regard to this matter convinced him on this point. Again, he was satisfied that if the Chief Justice had had a case at all he would have been able to have found amongst his brethren of the Bar in that House one who would have taken up his case and placed it before the Committee, and the worst possible point against the Chief Justice was that among the innumerable lawyers that overcrowded the House he had not been able to find one to put his case before the Committee. Dealing with the position of a Chief Justice in the Colonies, he pointed out that while the Chief Justice in a number of cases investigated was outside the Legislative Council, yet in some of the Colonies he had a most extraordinary way of having representatives inside the Legislative Council. For instance, he had the power of appointing men to be Receivers in Bankruptcy whose accounts he had to supervise, and the moment these men were appointed they were simply and purely the servants of the Chief Justice in the Legislative Assembly. The Colonial Office ought to purify the administration in these Crown Colonies by putting an end to such a state of things, which had often resulted in transactions not creditable. The hon. and gallant Admiral had referred to the Jamaica Commission. Within the last 12 months the Colonial Office had sent out a Commission composed of Sir William Markby and Sir Frederick Pollock, and that Commission with regard to another of our Crown Colonies recommended the retirement of two of the Judges, and another was transferred; and if there had been any reason for anything of that sort in this instance, the Colonial Office would 697 have acted in the same way. All who read the evidence given before the Commission to which he referred must come to the conclusion that more supervision was required in these Crown Colonies than the Colonial Office at present exercised in regard to Judges. In that case it was clear that the Chief Justice year after year had been acting in a way contrary to all ideas and all practice of justice, and that another Judge had acted in a way which made him practically the echo of the Chief Justice. But all this had gone on for years, and five years before the Commission was issued there had been complaints from the Chamber of Commerce of Tobago with regard to the administration of justice in that island. He would suggest that instead of having the expense of a Commission, with this long delay before these things could be properly investigated, it might be desirable to establish, in the case of these small Crown Colonies, something in the shape of a Judicial Visitor. That was to say, instead of the Colonial Office getting Reports at home, and endeavouring to form a judgment, a man of judicial experience should be sent out to the Colonies, not to investigate specific charges, but in order to supervise the administration of justice, by seeing that things were being conducted in a proper and orderly manner. From the Report of the Commission to which he had alluded, it was perfectly manifest that if anyone with the experience of the administration of justice had gone to the Colony and investigated the proceedings, the whole thing must at once have been put an end to, instead of having been a source of expense and trouble for a period of five years after the charges against the Chief Justice had been seriously made to the Foreign Office.
§ MR. GODSON (Kidderminster)
, as one who had practised at the Bar for a good many years with Mr. Yelverton, desired to say a few words for him. His statements might be accurate or inaccurate, but everyone who knew Mr. Yelverton would recognise that he would not have made the statements he did if he did not himself believe in the truth of every word of the charges he made. He (Mr. Godson) was sorry to hear the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham took up the other side of the question. He himself 698 was not going to weary the Committee by going into either one side or the other. He took a very serious view of the whole case. Certain facts had been alleged on the one side, and certain facts had been alleged on the other. They were totally inconsistent and contradictory, and that was the very best argument for the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry perfectly independent of all parties, and framed upon the precedent of the Commission to which the last speaker had referred. He did not think there was any foundation for one of the attacks made by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham upon Mr. Yelverton—namely, that these facts were not laid before the public by him or on his behalf until he had had this adverse decision in the Privy Council. In fact, Mr. Yelverton had, soon after his arrival in the Colony, laid these facts before the Governor, who had referred the matter to the very Attorney General whose conduct was impugned. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that Mr. Yelverton could not return to the Colony. Possibly, practically not. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, the question of his right to commit for contempt for acts committed outside the Courts having been decided against him, it would make his return unpleasant; but there was, theoretically and technically, nothing whatever to prevent Mr. Yelverton taking up his position again. He admitted that Mr. Yelverton made a foolish mistake; but there was no imputation whatever against Mr. Yelverton's character in any way, professional or private; therefore the assertion made by the Member for West Birmingham was not strictly supported by the fact. It was most important that in all the Colonies, and more especially in a poor one, the Legal Advisers of the Government should be perfectly independent men, and there was nothing more injurious and likely to bring about a miscarriage of justice than that a man in any way connected with the island should be appointed to a responsible legal position. That was the objection he had to the gentleman who occupied the position of Attorney General in this case. He should be free from bias and local prejudice. The Attorney General in this Colony was closely connected with the leading citizens. In one 699 case he had to prosecute his wife's nephew. He could not imagine a case in which a man would be more likely to go astray. Again, take the case in which he prosecuted a man for stabbing another man. It was clear that it was a case of either murder or manslaughter, but the Attorney General, to whom the prisoner appeared to be somewhat distantly related, took good care he should be tried for neither of these offences, and presented a bill from the Grand Jury—which in that island was the Attorney General for the time being—for a very minor charge. The then Chief Justice (Mr. Austin) must have felt that the offence was a very grave and serious one, or he would never have imposed the sentence of two years' imprisonment, the highest sentence the law allowed. He was glad to hear that a gentleman had been sent over by the Colonial Office to take up a judicial position in this Colony who would be independent of any local feeling. He thought that was a very wise and judicious proceeding on the part of the Colonial Office. He would urge that this Attorney General should be removed from the position he occupied, for it was perfectly clear he could not do justice as between the Crown and friends and relations of his who might be brought into trouble. He trusted the Government would grant this Commission, and that they would also give it power to report generally upon the manner in which legal proceedings were conducted in that Colony.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (Longford, N.)
said, it was not often his fortune to agree with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, but on this occasion he fully concurred with almost everything the right hon. Gentleman had said. He did not intend to go into this long controversy as to the Chief Justice's conduct and the various legal questions connected with it; he only wanted to bear his personal testimony to the integrity and high character of Sir Ambrose Shea. He was the only Colonial Governor he knew of under whose influence and care a Colony had grown up from something like bankruptcy to a condition of actual and increasing prosperity. This result had been brought about in a great measure because of the watchfulness, foresight, and the close 700 and strict business management of Sir Ambrose Shea, who was entitled to every consideration and respect from that House. He only rose to offer his humble testimony to the character which Sir Ambrose Shea bore, and the opinion which all those who knew him had long; formed of his integrity and abilities.
§ MR. S. BUXTON
In regard to the question of the distress in St. Helena, to which the hon. and gallant Admiral referred in his opening remarks, I cordially sympathise with the view he has laid before the Committee. We deplore the falling-off in the trade of St. Helena, and the unfortunate distress which exists in that island. The hon. Gentleman called my attention to what had been done by the Admiralty, and asked whether we intended to take further steps in that direction. I think I have shown already that we have taken steps, and he will be glad to hear that the other day one of Her Majesty's troopships did take off four families—in all 22 souls—from the island to South Africa. This, I hope, is only an instalment; and I may tell him that, as far as we have any control in the matter, we shall take care that these persons taken by the Admiralty shall not be just the able-bodied ones of the family, but the family as a whole. That was, I understand, the case with those taken the. other day. With regard to the question as 1o the Bahamas, there are one or two points on which I should like to say a few words. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Little) spoke of the power which is given into the hands of Magistrates and of Judges in small Colonies of inflicting punishment for contempt of Court, and I am bound to say, from my short experience at the Colonial Office—quite apart from this particular case—it does seem to me there is often a monstrous abuse of this power on the part of the Judicial Authorities in our Colonies. If we can see our way to curtail that power—and we have already done something in that direction—I am sure it will meet with the approval of those who are interested in these matters. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham when he said that it is a great mistake in this case—as in others—that these Judges—and they are gentlemen, after all, of no great authority or position—should be 701 endowed with the title of Chief Justice. In this particular case, as well as in others, the Chief Justice is a mere name. He has really no Judge under him, and he is the supreme and sole Judge of that particular Colony. I think that in this, and in other cases, it has tended to give an undue idea of their powers and authority, and tends, to that extent, to do some harm. I do not know that I can agree with my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Little), who, I understand, wants a sort of Inspector of Judges to go round the different islands examining judicial grievances. I think that would lead to great difficulty, and would result in making matters worse than they are at the present moment. I am bound to say in regard not only to the case before us, hut other cases, that I do think the Secretary of State ought to have much fuller power than he at present possesses of removing Judges on his own initiative if he thinks they have done anything wrong. It is quite right that in England the greatest possible sanctity and power should reside in the person of the Judge; but when it comes to the small Colonies and the class of men sent out there, I think there should be a much more expeditious way of getting rid of bad subjects than there is at the present moment. With reference to the particular case to which our attention has been called this afternoon, I cannot follow my right hon. Friend in regard to the position of Mr. Yelverton. He will easily understand that, his case being before the Privy Council at the present moment, it would not be right or expedient on my part to enter into the merits or demerits of Mr. Yelverton as a man or Chief Justice. In regard to one question he has raised in reference to his salary, I can only say I feel as much as he does, or as anyone interested in the Colonies can do, the very unfortunate position in which the Colony has been placed by the delay that has taken place in deciding this particular case of Mr. Yelverton. But I think he did give credit to the Colonial Office for having endeavoured to expedite matters. We were, however, confronted with difficulties; it was with the utmost possible difficulty we could make any progress; every step we have taken had to be taken under the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown, and such delay as 702 may have occurred has really been due to exceptional or necessary courses, and certainly in no sense has it been according to our desire or intention. I should like to see the question settled as soon as possible; but until it is settled I do not see how it can be taken otherwise than that the Colony should pay the salary. There is no fund from which it can be paid; but I hope the delay will not be long, and that the Privy Council will soon have come to a conclusion. As regards the speech of the hon. Member below the Gangway, he brought forward some cases of general administration. I am glad to be able to avail of this opportunity of paying tribute to the great ability which Sir Ambrose Shea has shown in the discharge of his duties as Governor of the Bahamas. I quite understand that the hon. and gallant Member (Admiral Field) has not fathered the charges which have been made, but it, is greatly to be regretted that the charges have been made.
said, he was most careful to guard against the possibility of fathering the charges. He only sought for information and inquiry.
§ MR. S. BUXTON
Yes; I understood that, as I have said; but it is a pity these charges should have been made without inquiry. The hon. and gallant Member asks that we should grant an inquiry. I am bound to say that the Colonial Office has given the matter attention for a considerable time past; and we ask the Committee to leave the responsibility in the hands of the Colonial Office. No case has been made out for so serious a measure as a Committee of Inquiry. I deplore, Sir, that in the past judicial posts in these small Colonies have been filled up by relatives of those in power in particular Colonies. It is impossible, however, to remedy that just now. What would be the advantage of a Committee of Inquiry in that case? For the purpose of dealing with these posts on account of relationship? We intend in future to put in outsiders rather than those in the island, and I do not think we can go further than that. There would, therefore, be no advantage to be gained by a Royal Commission or any Special Committee. Well, now, Sir, reference has been made to the late Postmaster General of the Bahamas. 703 That is a lamentable case, but the evidence against Mr. Smith for seduction and abduction has not been held to be conclusive, Mr. Smith was ultimately aquitted of the charges made against him; but, Sir, the circumstances of the case rendered it impossible that he could be reinstated. Then, Sir, there are the charges made in connection with relatives of the Attorney General of the island. It has been conclusively proved that there is no foundation for those charges. That is all I need say. I now ask the Committee to leave the responsibility of the government of this Colony in the hands of the Colonial Office. Any specific accusation will always receive careful attention, and, while I do not think there is any difficulty to call for this inquiry that has been asked for, I am sure the House will acknowledge that we are doing our best to prevent a recurrence of these scandals, and I hope that the matter will be allowed to remain in our hands.
said, he must protest against the way in which the Under Secretary had censured him for not having inquired into the truth of the charges he had brought before the Committee. He had had no means of doing so. He had read the statements laid before him, and he had had an interview with the Chief Justice, and he only brought the matter before the House for the purpose of securing inquiry.
§ MR. S. BUXTON
said, he did not censure the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He merely expressed a desire, if he recollected aright, that there should have been inquiry before such serious matters were brought before the Committee in this form. He thought it was somewhat hard that accusations of this kind should be brought before the House, and that not even a primâ facie case should be made out in respect of them.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
said, a considerable time had elapsed without having this matter dealt with, and he would express a hope that the Colonial Office would not delay much longer.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
said, it was the bounden duty of the Chief Justice to have had these charges investigated at once by the Colonial 704 Office. Had he taken the proper steps they would not have remained over so long.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he had just a few words to say about the large contribution for Imperial purposes of the Straits Settlements. These Settlements had to pay the whole of the cost of their defences, and he thought that was unjust. The contribution had recently been raised from £50,000 to £100,000. It seemed to him strange that because Singapore occupied a most important position it ought to have this exceptional charge thrown upon it. The Straits Settlements had recently spent £80,000 upon fortifications. They practically paid one-fifth of their revenue for these purposes, and in order to do so had to draw upon their fund which was reserved for sudden contingencies, and had also to stop public works. This was not fair treatment in the case of a Crown Colony. Even in proportion the Straits Settlements were not fairly treated. He fancied the War Office was the offender in the matter, and he should like to hear from the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any remonstrance had been addressed to the War Office in respect of the grievous burdens which had been imposed upon these Crown Colonies? They should be able to find a fair solution. The position as it stood was not fair, and he hoped they would have information on the subject.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
said, he wished to say in a few words that, in his opinion, no case had been made out for exempting this wealthy Colony from paying for its own expenses.
§ SIR J. GORST
replied, that the complaint of the hon. Member for Preston was that Singapore had not only to pay the cost of defending Singapore, but also to contribute a large portion of her Revenue to defending the British Empire.
§ MR. S. BUXTON
said, that the delay in the case of the appeal of the Chief Justice of the Bahamas being heard before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was due to the length of the list of causes in that Court. The question as to the amount of the contribution of the Straits Settlements was under consideration. The contribution had been raised to £100,000, but it was 705 only to run for three years. The Colonial Office was very anxious to deal liberally with the Colonies. However, all questions of this kind had to be considered by the Colonial Office in consultation with the War Office, and the Treasury and the Colonial Office had to abide by the decision come to by these Departments.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies had not told the Committee what was the cost of the military charges against Singapore. It should be remembered that the troops were kept at Singapore not only to keep the native population in order, but to preserve a great Imperial strategical position. Nobody would deny that Singapore ought to pay her own military charges; but what the colonists complained of was that they should be made to pay also the cost of maintaining this strategical position, which was, of course, a purely Imperial matter. The real point was to ascertain what the amount of military charges at Singapore might be, including the coaling station, which must be Imperial. If the House knew this amount, then it could judge whether the sum of £100,000 imposed on Singapore was fair or not. This question was an extraordinary instance of the vicissitudes not only of human affairs, but of human sentiment. Singapore was once included in the Indian Empire, and it then had to pay no Imperial charges whatever. But the British merchants and traders residing there thought they ought to have the status of a Crown Colony. Their wishes were acceded to, and as a consequence they had to pay Crown Colony charges. They had now begun to lament the step they had taken, and with them it was a case of "out of the frying-pan into the fire," and they realised the proverb of King Stork and King Log. But that was no reason why they should not be protected and relieved of burdens which they were not justly called upon to bear.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I find myself entirely unable to agree with the views expressed on this matter on this side of the House. I have had occasion to go carefully into this matter, and I would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies 706 not to listen too favourably to these views.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that before the next Vote—the Vote for the Privy Council—was put, he wished to explain that it was the intention of the Government to move to reduce the Vote by £1,000 in respect of the salary of the Lord President of the Council. The full amount of the salary had been put down on the Votes, because it was impossible to say at the time they were prepared how long the present arrangement would last, or how long the present Government would remain in Office. But, as six months had now elapsed, the Government were able to reduce the Item for the salary of the Lord President of the Council by half.
§ MR. HENEAGE
asked whether, if the Secretary to the Treasury moved this reduction, he would be precluded from moving the Amendment of which he had given notice—namely, the rejection of the entire salary of the Lord President of the Council?
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £7,533, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1894, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council and for Quarantine Expenses.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, his object was to abolish altogether the salary of the Lord President of the Council. At the time the Minister for Agriculture had been constituted, he objected altogether to any fresh taxes being put on the Votes on account of the new Offices, because he held that there were some sinecures that might be abolished, and the money paid in salaries for these sinecures devoted to the Agricultural Department. He held the opinion that the Office of the Lord President of the Council had become a sinecure, just like the Office of Lord Privy Seal. It was stated by the Secretary to the Treasury that although £2,000 was asked as salary for the Office, the money was not drawn 707 by Lord Kimberley, and would not be drawn by him so long as he also held the Office of Secretary for India. If Lord Kimberley could perform the duties of the Secretary of State for India and President of the Council, anybody else could perform the duties of the two Offices also; and if Lord Kimberley did not want to draw the salary, nobody else would require to draw the salary. He therefore objected to the salary altogether. He held that the Lord President of the Council was not required at all. He thought the Office should be abolished, and the duties attached to it transferred to some other Office. The Lord President of the Council a few years back was not only an officer of a very high rank, but he had important duties to perform. He was responsible for everything connected with agriculture and education. Now he was responsible for neither, for there were two separate Offices and Ministers for Agriculture and Education. In fact, now the only duty attached to the Office of Lord President of the Council was a ceremonial duty. It might be said that the Office was a very ancient Office, and that on that account it ought to be continued. The same thing was said when he proposed the abolition of the salary of the Lord Privy Seal; but after a time that salary was abolished, and the Office of Lord Privy Seal was now held by the Prime Minister in addition to other Offices. The outcry had also been raised against the abolition of the Office of Judge Advocate General. It was said that it was a high and ancient Office, and that they could not possibly get on without it. But the Office was abolished, and they had got on without a Judge Advocate General for years—or, at least, there was no one in Parliament held the Office. He did not want to take away all the salary of the Lord President of the Council. He would like to see a rearrangement of the salaries attached to the various Offices of the Government in accordance with the duties discharged by each Office. He thought it was monstrous and ridiculous that Ministers like the President of the Board of Trade and President of the Local Government Board should have only the same salary as the Chief Commissioner of Works, the Postmaster General, the Secretary 708 to the Admiralty, and the Secretary to the Treasury. He begged, in conclusion, to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000 in respect of the salary of the Lord President of the Council.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £1,000" (Salary of the Lord President of the Council).—(Mr. Heneage.)
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I very much sympathise with my right hon. Friend as to the abolition of sinecures. The Office of Lord Privy Seal is a sinecure, but the Office of Lord President of the Council is not. Orders in Council are extremely numerous, and require a responsible Minister to answer for them. The fact of one Minister discharging two Offices and only drawing the salary of one, as in Lord Kimberley's case, is not a sufficient ground for abolishing this ancient Office. If the argument of my right hon. Friend were to hold good, it would follow that the Office of First Lord of the Treasury ought to be abolished, because it has sometimes been held by a Minister who at the same time was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Under these circumstances, the arrangement which has just been indicated by the Secretary to the Treasury is solely of a temporary character.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
said, he would like to see the Office of the Lord President abolished and its duties distributed among various Departments. Each Head of a Department should, moreover, be answerable for all Orders in Council which were issued in relation to his special Department.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, his sympathies were divided between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby. On the one hand, he could not help recollecting that the Lord President of the Council held an Office that was of the highest antiquity and of great importance. There was a time when no act was done by the Crown except with the consent of the Privy Council. At that time the Lord President of the Council was a person of great importance, but at present the Lord President of the Council was but a mere shadow of his former glory. Under these circumstances, it seemed to him that the time had 709 arrived to put an end to the Office. The Lord President of the Council had nothing to do, and in doing that he was assisted by a large number of other persons. Restricting his observations to the Lord President, he was unable to see what duties he could possibly perform. He could see no reason for the President, or for such Office, or for the messengers; and unless a better case were made out for this shadow of a name than had been made up to the present moment, he thought the Committee would be inclined to carry out the policy the Government were pledged to by reducing the salary as proposed by the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage).
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that oven if they took away the salary, they could not by that means abolish the Office of Lord President. They ought to look at the question in a broad spirit. The present Government had in its ranks the noble Lord who held the Office of Secretary of State for India, who had also undertaken the duties of Lord President of the Council, and who, therefore, did not require any salary in respect of the latter Office. But only six months of the present year had gone past, and supposing they reduced the salary as proposed, and then, before the other six months were over, another Government was to come into Office, or the present Government made a re-arrangement, it would create great difficulty in dealing with this question upon its own merits. To his mind, the chief objection to the proposal of his right hon. Friend was that it tied the hands of the present Government in case of a re-arrangement of Offices, and it also tied the hands of any other Government that might come into Office and might wish to have the Offices arranged in a different way. He thought there were strong reasons why the salary should not be taken away; and if the arrangement continued to the end of the next six months, of course the remainder of the salary would fall into the Exchequer. He did not say whether there should not be a general re-arrangement of Ministerial salaries. That was a large matter for the consideration of the Cabinet and, perhaps, for an inquiry by a Committee of that House; but he ventured to say they could not deal 710 with it on a Vote for the salary attaching to the Office.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
ventured to think that while economy was perfectly right in practice—and many small economies would, in the aggregate, provide funds for some very useful purpose—still that economy might be carried too far. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the Committee that there were many and important, if not laborious, functions attached to the Office of Lord President of the Council. This Minister had frequently to attend Her Majesty on business which could not be performed without the functions of the Sovereign. He had to explain to Her Majesty very many important matters of State, and, moreover, there had been many Lord Presidents who had taken a very considerable share of the work of their own Department and done good and useful work in the administration of education. He would put it to the Committee whether it was not desirable there should be an Office in which a statesman of long experience and high standing should be placed without his being charged with very onerous functions? He was quite sure the Office of Lord President had generally been filled by a statesman whose counsels could not well be dispensed with in the Government, and who, perhaps, would no longer have undertaken an Office which was charged with heavy Departmental duties such as belonged to the Post Office. The noble Lord who at present acted as Lord President of the Council had such great experience that no doubt he might be able to conduct the duties of both Departments without being too great a tax upon him. But it might not always be convenient to place in the Office of Secretary of State for India a Minister who could perform the Offices of both Departments; and it might be readily conceived that there might be times when the duties of the Secretary of State for India would be so absorbing that it would be impossible to perform the functions of President of the Council in addition. For his part, he recognised the appropriateness of the views expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he thought it would be a great mistake to abolish the salary of the Office.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he had been asked what was the business of the President of the Council. The President of the Council was still the head of the Education Department, and represented it in the House of Lords. He was supreme in the Department if he thought it right to interfere. To practically revolutionise the organisation of the head of the Department was a matter that ought to be done with full consideration. It was an extremely important question. They could not, after a five minutes' conversation, knock off the head of the Department.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
said, it was quite clear, from what had been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the post of Lord President of the Council was not a sinecure. He desired to call the attention of the Committee to quite a novel point, which he thought worthy the consideration of Committee of Supply. They had here a nobleman performing the functions of two important State officers—the Secretary of State for India and the Lord President of the Council. The salary of the Secretary of State for India was paid by the Indian taxpayer; the salary of the Lord President of the Council was paid by the British taxpayer. As the duties of the two Offices were discharged by the same individual, there was obviously an opening for economy. The whole of the economy was for the benefit of the English taxpayer, and no corresponding benefit whatever was to be derived from it bv the Indian taxpayer.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, if he rightly understood the matter, the Government were not going to pay any of this salary during the current year; and if they could get an assurance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that during the Recess, or at any other reasonable time, the Government would re-consider the whole question, they ought to be satisfied for the present. It appeared to him that if a Minister who had to lead the House of Lords and take charge of the whole affairs of India, with its 280 millions of people, was also able to undertake the duties of Lord President of the Council, there could not be much to do in the latter capacity. He wanted to see this Office done away with, and the Minister of Education, or whatever 712 Minister did the work, should get the salary, if it was necessary to pay any salary. The Lord President of the Council was one of the Offices created years ago for the purpose of giving the money of the taxpayer to some nobleman or other person belonging to the West End of London. Such Offices should be abolished, and the salaries given to those Ministers who had to do the work, and who were responsible to Parliament. He gathered that, although the Government were not going to pay this money, they were going to keep it on the Vote. This was a dangerous thing to do, because if the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer were over-influenced by somebody who wanted a good salary and nothing to do, he might be led astray. Again, if the Department had got the money to spare on one item, they might spend it on another about which Parliament would then know nothing, because they would not be asked to vote it, which was a very objectionable practice.
MR. POWELL-WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
said, that as a reason for this Vote they had been told that the Lord President of the Council was really the head of the Education Department; but it would be interesting to know to what extent the Lord President of the Council had really, in later years, been accustomed to take upon himself any responsibility for the actual work of the Education Department, or had any active work in shaping its policy. All the real work was done by the Vice President.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, there was no doubt that the Lord President exercised a most active influence, and really he might say he was almost the principal factor in the Education Department. The Education Department was a Committee of which the Lord President was the head.
asked, under the present Government, what part did the Lord President actually take in relation to the work of the Education Department? If he took little or no part in the work of the Education Department, it was evident that his services were not necessary. What would be the difficulty in making the Vice President President and giving him the full responsibility for the work of the Depart- 713 ment. The proposal of the Government was that the Committee, by its decision to-day, should leave attached to this Office a salary of at any rate £1,000 a year; but unless they could show more substantial reasons for this course, and could show that work was really performed in connection with the Office, the Committee would act wisely in declining to grant further salary to the Lord President.
§ MR. BARTLEY, who spoke from many years' service in the Department, said, it seemed to him that it would be altogether a mistake to leave the position of this matter as it was. The Lord President of the Council was nominally the head of the Department; but, as a rule, he did not take an active part in its administration, the educational work of the country being left to the Vice President under him, particularly if the Vice President happened to be a strong man. But the mischief came in here—the Lord President would want to interfere very often without knowing all the circumstances, and he very often did so interfere. The Vice President was the real head of the Education Department, to which his whole work was devoted; but instead of being; as he ought to be, the absolute head, he was only the second head, and the Lord President could now come down and interfere with the educational work as to the circumstances of which he might know nothing. This anomaly would have to be done away with, and the Vice President, who did the work, would have to be the head of the Education Department instead of having this sham head.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he never intended to abolish the Office of Lord President, because it was absolutely necessary that there should be that Office, as its occupants had certain statutory duties to perform; but what he did contend was that these duties were so few and occupied so little time that the Office could very well be combined with another Office; and, therefore, there was no necessity for giving two salaries to two men to do the work. The Secretary to the Treasury had told them that the Government wanted this £1,000 in case the present holder of the Office declined any longer to keep it, and they had to appoint someone else. If this contingency should occur, the 714 Government had a Minister at the present moment with absolutely nothing to do—namely, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who could hold the Office until the end of the year, so that the Government would not require the money. His idea had always been that the men who did the work should have the credit and also the power. If the Government did not want the money, why could they not accept his Motion? If they would not, then half a loaf was better than no bread; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would undertake to say the money should not be used, he would not put the Committee to the trouble of dividing.
§ MR. NAOROJI (Finsbury, Central)
pointed out that the Secretary of State for India performed certain other duties for which rich England saved £2,000, and made poor India pay him £5,000. What the Government ought to have done would have been to have given a corresponding relief to the people of India for utilising the Secretary of State for India, whose services belonged entirely to India. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take care that such an injustice should not be done.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he regarded the present arrangement as altogether temporary; but he could not give a pledge that this money should not be used. It was not intended to be used; but, supposing there was such a catastrophe as a change of Government, he could not give any undertaking which would bind the succeeding Government. All he could say was that there were many circumstances connected with this Office which required consideration.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he would not put the House to the trouble of a Division; but next Session he hoped to bring forward the question, with the view to having the whole of these subjects considered by a Committee.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
objected to the item of £1,623 for quarantine expenses, which he characterised as one of the most indefensible abuses which 715 existed in this country. On the Motherbank in the Solent there were four old battleships, with a superintendent, a mate, and a small staff of seamen who cost £1,153. There was never anybody in these ships but six or seven ancient moss-grown mariners who had nothing to do except keep the ships clean. Nobody used them, and people wondered why on earth they were there! They were there because 1,000 years or so ago some foolish person conceived the idea of quarantine. In these days such a relic of barbarism should not be kept up. Quarantine was not only useless, but it was positively mischievous and dangerous. It was useless because, if they were going to have yellow fever and the plague or other evil things imported into this country, they would not come by the Motherbank, but by the Dover and Calais boats which ran four, five, or six times a day, and carried thousands of passengers. Therefore, if quarantine was a proper method, it would be quite useless to keep up this establishment at Motherbank. Quarantine was only kept up by foreign nations in order to furnish them with a cheap method of taxing foreigners by requiring fees to be paid to their Consuls by ships for visé-ing Bills of Health. He did not think any gentleman would get up and defend the system of quarantine at all, or this form of it represented at Motherbank. If there was to be any form of quarantine at all it was not the Privy Council that should undertake it, but the Local Government Board. At the present time the Local Government Board was stirring in the matter, for they were going down to different ports and ordering certain things to be done in order to carry out the system of quarantine, the expenses for which had to be borne by the Local Authorities. These particular four ships with the superintendent and moss-grown mariners, together with expenses for the hire of boats, &c, cost £1,623. He believed nobody could defend such an outlay, or show that it had ever been of the slightest use. He believed it was a mere survival from the time of George IV., which had been allowed to go on until now, when he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would consent to the reduction of the Vote by this sum. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,623 for the quarantine expenses.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That £5,910 be granted for the said Services."—(Mr. Gibson Bowles.)
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that the quarantine establishment to which the hon. Member had referred was set up under an Act of Parliament passed a considerable time ago. He admitted that public opinion had changed very much of late years with respect to quarantine, but this system at Motherbank only applied to two very serious diseases—namely, to yellow fever and the plague, and affected no vessels except those coming from the West Indies and Central and South America. There were Conventions with Poreign Powers in respect of this station, and it would be necessary to consult them before they could abolish it, and, moreover, legislation would be necessary. His hon. Friend said these four vessels were never used. He was sorry to say that was not the case. Five ships had been in quarantine for yellow fever from the year 1889 to 1892—which was coming very near to the present time. One ship was in quarantine in May, 1889; two in April, 1891; one in January, 1892, and one in February, 1892. Then, again, with respect to the cost of maintaining these vessels, he was informed that the Customs had the service of the men when they were not engaged in quarantine duties, so that they were in continuous occupation. That being so, it was not such an extravagant and wasteful matter as the hon. Gentleman seemed to think. Again, there was a provision in this Vote for the inspection at Liverpool, Southampton, and certain other ports, under stated conditions, of vessels coming from the countries he had named by a medical officer, which acted as a prevention against the admission of the two diseases. The service was kept up by Statute, and it would be impossible to alter it without legislation. If the hon. Gentleman wished to raise the question he would suggest he should do so next Session by bringing forward a Motion for a Committee of Inquiry.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
was quite disposed to adopt the course suggested. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if it was compulsory by the Act of George IV. to keep these four ships going, but as he read the Act there was nothing whatever 717 in it to prevent this reduction being made. Moreover, such a system could not be effectual as a prevention of disease, as the enormous passenger traffic was left untouched by these quarantine arrangements. He would, however, acting on the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, withdraw his Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £108,090, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1894, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments.
§ CAPTAIN NAYLOR-LEYLAND (Colchester)
said, he had one or two matters to bring before the Committee in relation to this Vote. He would like to address, first of all, some observations with regard to the new Labour Department of the Board of Trade. This Department ought to be of the greatest use to the workmen of the country. He appreciated what had been done. But there had been sins of commission and omission. They had heard at the last Election of the appointment of a Minister for Labour—a Minister for dealing with labour questions alone? That would be the natural outcome of the creation of a Labour Department. What had been done in this direction? Nothing. All that the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella) had done was to change the name of the Commercial Department into that of the Department of Labour. After doing that the right hon. Gentleman came forward and said—"See what a good boy am I!" They ought to have a responsible Minister for Labour, but the right hon. Gentleman had practically done next to nothing. There was only one Department of State which was bound to look after labour as matters now stood, and, for his own part, he was grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what had been done. There were four things which the Department did, and four things only, and it seemed to him that if nothing else was to be expected they had better not have such a Department. The first point was the issue of 718 The Labour Gazette, a monthly publication which no doubt contained a great deal of information, and which would be useful if circulated amongst trade centres. The other three points—and this was an extraordinary thing—were all matters of inquiry. It had been said that this was essentially "a Government of inquiry," and that was true. The Government forgot that the first duty of Parliament was to legislate, and whenever they were asked to do anything they always declined to legislate, and said—"We are going to inquire." The second point in the operations of the Department was to undertake special inquiries into important subjects bearing upon labour. It was not at all necessary to have a Department of the State to do that, for if there were subjects connected with labour that required inquiring into, a Select Committee, a Departmental Committee, or a Special Commission would be sufficient for the purpose. The third duty of the Department was to carry out such inquiries as might be ordered by Parliament from time to time, and the fourth duty was to issue a Report of its proceedings. If the President of the Board of Trade were to get up and tell the Committee that these four points covered all that the Department could do in the interest of the working classes, as a Member of the Opposition he was glad to hear it, but from the point of view of the labouring classes it was a circumstance to be regretted. If they wished to make this Department a reality and not a sham, they should take away whatever work connected with labour other Departments had to do, and place all the work under the jurisdiction of a responsible Minister. They should, for instance, take the factory legislation out of the hands of the Home Secretary, they should take the Board of Hygiene from the Local Government Board and the Labour Correspondence from the Board of Trade, and they should relieve the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office of all their labour business, and when they had done that they might be said to have a nucleus of the proper Labour Department. They would then have a Department which would have the confidence of the working class of the country, and that was one of the first things which a Minister for Labour ought to possess. He contended, there- 719 fore, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite was guilty of the sin of omission in not having set up a proper Department of Labour. All the right hon. Gentleman had done had been to take the Commercial and Statistical Department as it was and add to it four Inspectors. His next point against the right hon. Gentleman was his sin of commission. He had 25 Labour Correspondents, as to whose appointment he was to be congratulated, but he could not be congratulated on the method he had adopted of appointing these gentlemen. They were in every sense of the word Government officials, and they received Government pay of from £15 to £20 a year. The very first thing that ought to be demanded of them was that they should occupy the position of Government officials, and be non-political in every sense of the word. But what was the fact? Why, that 17 of them were without doubt Gladstonian Liberals. He could find out nothing about the other eight, but it was quite likely that they were of the same political complexion. In one case in his own district a man named Joseph Robinson took a van through the Harwich Division. He held meetings in every village, and said to the villagers—"You are going to have an election very soon. If you vote for the Gladstonian candidate you will get £1 a week wages, and a 3d. loaf for 1d. The rich will become poor, and the poor rich." Shortly after that—three days as a rule—the Radical candidate for the Division went into the village, and said—"Mr. Joseph Robinson was here a day or two ago, and told you about the Radical candidate, who was going to give you £1 a week in wages. I am the gentleman of whom he spoke." No doubt this was fair political warfare, but what he objected to was that after the General Election—directly the President of the Board of Trade came into Office—the first man he appointed as Local Labour Correspondent was this man Joseph Robinson. This was showing a regard for one's political friends, and an appreciation of their merits which was startling. But Mr. Joseph Robinson's case was only one out of 17. The abuse of which he complained had been 17 times repeated; and though he believed that Mr. Robinson had resigned, that did not get them away from the fact of his 720 appointment. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade would be able to say, in the first place, why Mr. Robinson had been appointed, and, in the second place, why he had resigned. He did not wish to be hard on the President of the Board of Trade, for he believed that "evil communications corrupt good manners." He was very much afraid that the right hon. Gentleman had been associating lately with the Chancellor of the Duchy. If that was so, he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that he had a most dangerous associate, because, if there ever were flagrant cases of the appointment of political allies to Government offices, they had been perpetrated recently by the Chancellor of the Duchy. He begged to move that Item A be reduced by a sum of £1,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £1,000."—(Captain Naylor-Leyland.)
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member who had last spoken with regard to the appointment of Labour Correspondents. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for the appointments whoever actually made them; and they reflected anything but credit on the Department. In Birmingham a gentleman of great ability had been appointed, but a gentleman distinguished by extreme partisanship, who had brought serious accusations against the Small Arms Factory, every one of which had been disproved. This gentleman's reports would be read in connection with the individuality of the writer. This gentleman's great merit no doubt was that he had the honour of doing his best to defeat him (Mr. Jesse Collings) at the General Election. A hundred men could have been selected in Birmingham, each perfectly qualified to furnish the necessary information, but the appointment had been made as a reward for services rendered to the Gladstonian Party. Then as to The Labour Gazette. People who understood these subjects must laugh when reading the monthly reports of some of the Labour Correspondents He did not understand the majority of the Reports, but this was the sort of thing that was reported about Birmingham— 721Engineers and machinists are slack; there is an improved demand for bedsteads; galvanised iron makers are receiving good orders.These contributions to The Labour Gazette were little jerky paragraphs, which did not contain as much information as the daily papers of Birmingham, the latter obtaining their facts from merchants, manufacturers, and others—sources of information to which the Labour Correspondents, as a rule, were not admitted. To his mind the Department had been lowered through the way it had lent itself to political partisanship.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, it was not a question of what their Party did. If the hon. Member referred to the Unionists he would challenge him to bring any charge against them.
The Question before the Committee has reference to a reduction of Item A—the salary of the President of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for all appointments made, and every branch of the Administration came under review. He now wished to raise a question of great importance to the shopkeepers of the United Kingdom; he referred to the administration of the Weights and Measures Act of 1889. This might appear, at first sight, to be a matter which did not affect the general public, but really great inconvenience was occasioned by this administration, and great annoyance was given to shopkeepers and manufacturers. No doubt the President of the Board of Trade and the Board of Trade generally were anxious to do the best they could for the administration of the Act, but the complaint was that they took too much of an official view of the grievances complained of. This was not a question of securing just weights and scales and measures, for they were all agreed as to the necessity of that. Parliament had interested itself in the matter from the earliest times, and there were 40 or 50 722 measures on the Statute Book dealing with it. The Act of 1889 said that—Weighing instruments shall be stamped and certified by an Inspector under this Act.Now, the grievance was that when a weighing instrument was stamped—at the place at which it was made or anywhere else—if it was taken into another locality that stamp was no longer of any use. The local Inspector insisted that he should put a stamp on, and, therefore, the weighing instrument was stamped for the second time, whether or not the balance were just. He had read the Act of 1889 carefully, and he did not think it required this second stamping. The difficulty arose, he thought, from the model regulations which the Board of Trade had issued, and that, he believed, was the opinion of the hon. Member for North Hackney, who had spoken some time ago on this subject, and who had given it most careful attention. The Act of 1878, which had not been repealed, was, he believed, referred to in the Act of 1889 as the principal Act—
The matter the right hon. Member is referring to comes under the Item I., K., or L., but the present reduction is moved on Item A.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, they had pursued this matter up to the point of the President of the Board of Trade saying "aye" or "no" to the remedy proposed. Therefore, they were concerned with a pure act of administration, for which the President of the Local Government Board was responsible. The Act of 1878 said that the stamping of any weight or measure by an Inspector would hold good in any part of the United Kingdom until such weight or measure was found to be unjust, and that the weight or measure should not be liable to be restamped. He was aware that that applied to weights and measures, but would the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade say whether the non-extension of that to scales and weighing instruments was not an oversight? Was it deliberately intended that scales and weighing instruments should be excluded? If so, that opened up another question. But seeing the frequent reference to the Act of 1878 as the principal Act, it seemed to him 723 that the omission was accidental. Beams and scales were made in Birmingham, London, Bristol, Liverpool, but principally in Birmingham. In these cities the beams and scales were sent to the Inspectors—who were trained men having staffs under them—and were duly stamped and certified as correct. That might be on a Monday. They were sent on the Tuesday, say, into Dorsetshire. The moment they arrived at their destination, the Inspector there said—I do not care whether they are just or unjust—they bear the stamp of the Inspector of the place of manufacture, a properly-qualified man, and therefore, presumably, the instruments are just, but I must put my stamp on them as well, and failing that being done you, the owner, are liable to fine and punishment.He would mention the two cases which happened near Birmingham. When the notice was sent out requiring tradesmen to have their scales seen to under the Act, one tradesman sent all his scales to the Birmingham Inspector to have them verified and stamped. That was done at the cost of 60s. Another tradesman sent his scales to a maker to have them adjusted who in his turn sent them to the Inspector's office to have them duly stamped. These two sets were returned and within a week the Inspector of Balsall Heath, just outside Birmingham, sent to these tradesmen to tell them they were liable to punishment unless he put his stamp on the instruments. That was the first case. The second occurred at a place called Sturchley, about three miles from the centre of Birmingham. A chemist desiring to have his scales accurately adjusted sent them to a manufacturer to get them put right and stamped at the Birmingham office. When they were returned he was told by the Inspector at King's Norton that he must send his scales there to be stamped, as the Birmingham stamp was no good. It was obvious that these tradespeople were subjected to serious delay, expense, and annoyance by the arbitrary action to which they were subjected. He had to-day asked a question as to whether the weighing instruments used in the Government offices, in the dockyards, and the Post Offices were liable to be stamped by local Inspectors, and the reply was no, they had an Inspector of their own. How would that work? If the dock- 724 yard authorities purchased goods in Portsmouth or Plymouth they would be weighed in scales bearing two stamps, but they would be weighed again in the dockyards to see if they were right in scales which did not bear a second stamp, and which, therefore, by the ordinary standard which applied to tradespeople, were illegal. The Act of 1889 aimed at doing away with anomalies, and he believed that to a large extent it did remove them, but the fault was with the administration.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
(interrupting) said, he had been most unwilling to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but the matter in question was one the Board of Trade had nothing to do with. It was under Statute. He should be most happy to consider what the right hon. Gentleman had to say, and he could assure him that he (Mr. Mundella) was the last person to put any obstacle in the way of trade. The Local Authorities made the bye-laws under which this re-stamping was required, and without altering the Statute it was impossible to change those bye-laws. The County Councils in the country districts were responsible for the bye-laws.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, this statement brought him to the point. The bye-laws were revised by the Board of Trade, and rightly so, because the nearer they approached to uniformity in this matter of weights and scales the better it was for the trading community.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he complained that the right hon. Gentleman took an official view of the matter, and the object of this discussion was to try and induce him to look at it from a trader's point of view. When the right hon. Gentleman was convinced, he was sure no one would be more anxious to get rid of the difficulties which existed, and which referred not only to Birmingham manufacturers, but to the various trades in the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out on a previous occasion that scales and weighing machines were liable to injury in transit, and that, therefore, they should be examined and stamped in the district in which they were used as well as the district in which they were made. In reply to that it was only necessary to point 725 out that the greatest care was taken in 'packing them, the work being entrusted to none but the most experienced and skilful packers. There was considerable liability to injury, however, in sending the machines in the carriers' carts from the tradesmen's premises to the places of business of the local Inspectors. Weighbridges and platforms it was, of course, necessary to adjust and stamp after they were fixed, for they were machines that had to be sent away from the manufacturers in parts, and that required to be built up afterwards. No doubt the local Inspector was the proper person to stamp machines of that kind. Some definition should be adopted to separate the two classes of scales. It was not for him (Mr. Jesse Collings) to suggest a definition. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had got over greater difficulties than that, and no doubt he would be able to provide a satisfactory definition if he took the matter in hand. But, certainly, these were matters which carried great annoyance to the traders throughout the country. The powers of the Inspectors varied, and the lives of the shopkeepers in many districts were made a burden to them, for they had to submit to the harassing regulations rather than incur that which would almost mean ruin to them—namely, a report that their scales were unjust. In a letter he had received on this subject from Birmingham the writer said—Mr. Mundella does not appear to understand our grievance. Our contention is that there should be one fixed standard in testing weighing instruments, and that an instrument stamped by an Inspector in one district should not be rejected in another on account of its not having the local stamp.He went on to say—It is an extortion and an injustice.The tradesmen of the country had other grievances. For instance, it was complained that the Inspector in Plymouth had refused to verify balances, saying, in the first place, that all scales should have the borough number on them; and, secondly, that the balances registered the weight in two places. Well, to his knowledge, for the past 40 years balances had always registered the weight in two places. Some of the Inspectors did not know their business. He was aware that 726 they had to pass an examination—those employed after the passing of the Act—but they were not all acquainted with the properties of different kinds of weighing instruments. This question was thought of far more importance in Germany, France, and other Continental countries, where they had a Commission of scientific men to determine the qualities and properties of different weighing instruments as they were invented. But in this country it was all left to the Inspector. Take an instance. There was a scale used in nearly all Post Offices—a modern invention, which was extremely nice in registering called the "accelerative scale." In some districts in Yorkshire and the North of England the Inspectors recommended that scale as being good; but there were other places in which the Inspectors warned the traders that if they used that sort of thing they would not stand it. His contention was that this matter should not be left to the Inspectors, or, at any rate, there should be some appeal to the Board of Trade. There was a scale borrowed from the French called the "vibrating scale," which was still more nice and accurate; but this, like the others, was subject to the opinion of the Inspectors whether it was good or not. As to the remark of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that this was a question of Statute and not of administration, he would remind him that the Board of Trade had already, in answer to an appeal made to it, issued regulations putting an end to a grievance. The same thing should be done in regard to inspection. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that he had power over all the bye-laws and regulations that any Local Authority might choose to make. First of all, these regulations must be submitted to the Board of Trade to be amended or rescinded. If the Board of Trade would insist upon the rules all over the country being made uniform, the traders would know what they had to put up with. Most of the existing rules had been passed directly after the Act came into force, and when there had been little experience of its operation. No doubt the rules were as good as could be passed at the time. But since then there had been an enormous amount of experience 727 of the working of the Act, and he thought it the duty of the President of the Board of Trade to frame the regulations in accordance with that experience. The big towns from which the scales were issued in the first place, all possessed capable Inspectors, and the weighing instruments were stamped by those officials. The Inspector in a small district should not be allowed, for the sake of the fee, to say—"I do not care whether your scale is just or unjust; and even though it has been verified by a capable Inspector, I will test it again, and put a second stamp on it, and if you do not submit I will summon you before the Borough Justices, and have you punished for using an unjust scale." The last time this subject was raised he was asked—"Do not you want scales to be examined by Local Authorities at all?" Yes; when a scale got old it should be examined locally, re-adjusted, and stamped. But this was not a matter of adjustment; it was one of pettifogging and unnecessary interference with scales already adjusted and stamped.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I can quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman, representing as he does a great centre of industry where these weighing machines are made, should have thought it his duty to bring the matter at some length before the Committee; but I would express the hope that the question may not be much further pursued, because it is one of a far wider character than is covered by the Vote now before the Committee, and there are many other points in the Vote to which hon. Members desire to call attention. What the right hon. Gentleman has really done in his speech this evening is to reiterate the principle which deputations from Birmingham brought before me when I was President of the Board of Trade, which may be a good principle in itself, but which is quite contrary to the Weights and Measures Act of 1878 and the amending Act of 1889. The principle which the trade of Birmingham desire now to establish is the principle of the central administration of the Weights and Measures Act as against local administration. [Mr. JESSE COLLINGS: Not at all.] The right hon. Gentleman desires there should be, as in Germany, a Com- 728 mission which shall inspect these different weights and measures and weighing machines.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
When I referred to the Commission I referred only to the giving an opinion on any new invention, or new kind of scale which modern scientific and mechanical skill might have invented, and I argued that we should not leave it to these Inspectors to say—"This is a new thing; I do not want it." That is quite a different matter.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
I really know; I have had it all before me. They desire there should be a central and not a local administration of these Acts. [Mr. JESSE COLLINGS: Not at all.] At any rate, he wishes that the stamp of the Inspector at Birmingham, which is the centre of the trade, should run throughout England. He wishes that the Inspectors in other parts of England should perform their duties in the same way as the Inspectors of Birmingham, and that they should be as competent as the Inspectors of Birmingham. He complains they are not so. The whole of his speech, I will venture to say, pointed to the administration of these Acts under central control. That is contrary to the Acts themselves. It might be a very good change, and I am not arguing whether it is or not, because this is not the time to do so. When I brought in the Amendment Act of 1889 I deliberately determined to base that Act on the system which I found in existence, because I was quite sure that if I had attempted to take from the Local Authorities the powers they possessed under the original Act I should have had no chance of passing that amending Act. Take this point of stamping weighing machines. The right hon. Gentleman proposes practically to deprive the Local Authority, say of my County of Wiltshire, of the power to stamp weighing machines in their county, although under the Act they are responsible for the administration of the Act, and for seeing, through their Inspectors, that the weighing machines are correct. That is what is suggested, and that they should take in all cases the stamp of the Inspector at Birmingham, where the weights are made. That is depriving them of the authority they 729 now possess. He wishes, as I have said, further control by a Central Authority over all these Local Authorities in the matter of their bye-laws—in the matter of their Inspectors and their qualifications. I do not desire to enter into this question of Central Authority, but I do hold very strongly that what the clients of the right hon. Gentleman really wish would not be attained; and even if it were possible to comply with their request as to stamping their machines, they would still press for a further approach towards central administration, and that could only be achieved by an entire alteration of the existing laws.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I may say I have been asked by my constituents to support my right hon. Friend in his application to the Board of Trade. I think my right hon. Friend who has just spoken has somewhat misapprehended the intention and object of the right hon. Member for Bordesley. Certainly we do not desire that this system should be centralised in its character. What we desire is that the practical working of the system should not be changed from what it has been for a very long course of years. Within very recent times—in fact, the period during which my right hon. Friend has been at the head of the Board of Trade, the working of the system—I am not saying the law—appears to have been changed.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I can assure my right hon. Friend it has not been changed in the least. The regulations are just the same.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I did not say the regulations had been changed. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman listens to what I say he will understand me. I said the working of the system appears to have been changed. I am not now talking of the Board of Trade, or any interference by the Board of Trade. As a matter of fact, until very recently, scales which had been stamped in Birmingham were not required to be stamped a second time at Plymouth. But now, under the existing working of the system, Birmingham and Plymouth are just as far apart, just as far separated, as France and England, and the stamp which has been put upon the scales in Birmingham by a qualified official is treated as abso- 730 lutely of no value whatever by another qualified official in Plymouth. That is calculated in a most serious way to interfere with trade. My right hon. Friend says—and I quite believe him—that it is not the object of the Board of Trade to interfere with commerce. Of course it is not. It is their business to facilitate commerce, and whenever any difficulty of this kind arises to find some practical way to overcome it. I do not know whether it is due to a change of opinion among the Local Authorities, or what, but undoubtedly there has been a change in the practice. There is no pretence, as my right hon. Friend opposite appears to imagine, on the part of Birmingham to say that the Local Authority at Plymouth is not to be allowed to examine a scale, and is to take for granted the correctness of a scale because it has the Birmingham mark. They may test the scales as often as they like, and if found to be incorrect they may see that an alteration is made. What we complain of is, that without going into the question whether the scale is correct or not, they insist upon putting a second mark upon it and obtaining a second fee. And if you can suppose the same set of scales, as might happen to be the case, in the course of one month went from the North of England to the South they might pass through the jurisdiction of five different Local Authorities and every Local Authority would affix a separate stamp and take a fee. That is perfectly ridiculous and absurd. There is no objection to any one Local Authority ascertaining that the stamp of a previous Local Authority has been correctly affixed, but then they ought not to demand when they find the scales correct either a fee or the right to stamp a second time. I hope I have made it clear what is the contention of the Birmingham trade, and I think it will be found to be the contention of every other locality in which this particular article is manufactured. The difficulty has only arisen of late. I am not complaining of the Board of Trade. It may have arisen from local circumstances, a sudden excess of zeal on the part of Local Authorities on finding out a field where they might gather fees. But whatever be the reason, it is the business of the Board of Trade to find a remedy. When I went to the Board of 731 Trade the present Lord Farrer told me that, although the Board of Trade was not the first titular office, it was the proud boast that everything they did was done on commercial principles and the principles of common sense. I hope that has not changed. Here is a common-sense view of the situation. Under existing circumstances trade is being seriously hampered; it was not hampered before. I admit there has been no alteration of the law, and, so far as I know, no alteration of the regulations of the Board of Trade. But if under the law an interference with trade has arisen, owing to new circumstances which did not arise before, it is the business of the Board of Trade to remove it. We do not want to centralise the matter or interfere in any way with the right of the Local Authority to deal with matters within their own province; but it is perfectly ridiculous to treat every Local Authority as if it were an absolutely separate Kingdom in itself, and as though a Local Authority in one place was competent to take absolutely no notice of what was done by a Local Authority in another place, especially when each of these Local Authorities is working under statutory regulations, which insure that the work shall be done by qualified officials. I hope my right hon. Friend will not give anything like an official answer to this, but will promise to look into the matter with a view to finding some remedy for what really is a considerable grievance.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I think I had better dispose of this matter at once, as there are other subjects which Members of the Committee are anxious to reach. I can only confirm what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir M. Hicks-Beach). When the Act of 1889 was passed it gave powers to the Local Authorities to make bye-laws regulating both the use of scales and weights and measures. Weights and measures need not be re-stamped, but scales were specially omitted. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Jesse Collings) says that if I was familiar with what was done at Birmingham I should know that a scale always arrived in an accurate condition at its destination. I would remind him of a letter of complaint which 732 he sent to me not long ago in which these words occur—Scales are made to such a nicety that they very easily get out of order.County Councils have almost invariably, under the Act passed by my right hon. Friend opposite, adopted this bye-law, which I am advised they have a statutory right to pass—In any district where there is a properly certified Inspector, and where the offices are open to the public every week-day, the Local Authority may require that any weighing instrument lawful to be used for trade in their district shall be treated and stamped by their Inspector, although such weighing instrument may have been stamped in the district of another Local Authority.When the right hon. Gentleman a few weeks ago brought this matter under my notice I referred to what was done by the Local Authorities. And do let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that they have a right to protect the consumer, and a very important duty is incumbent upon them in that respect. I took up the last Report of the London County Council with respect to this question of the Weights and Measures Act. They say—The Acts require that all weights, measures, and weighing instruments shall, before being; used in trade, be verified and stamped by an Inspector of Weights and Measures, and during the year the numbers of these appliances dealt with by the Council's staff were as follow:—Number of weights verified and stamped, 228,628; number of measures verified and stamped, 456,280; number of weighing instruments verified and stamped. 22,684; number of weights rejected as unfit for stamping, 28,614; number of measures rejected as unfit for stamping, 171,913; number of weighing instruments rejected as unfit for stamping, 5,094.Twenty per cent. of the number, therefore, were rejected. Surely it is of the utmost importance to London that the County Council under this Act shall carry out that careful inspection which they have done hitherto, and which is so essential in the interests of the consumer. Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that even these figures I have quoted are much below the figures for the year before. Instead of being 22,000, as this year, the number last year was 53,577. The large number in the earlier year, as stated in the County Council's Report, was due to 733 the fact that the requirement for verifying and stamping weighing instruments had only recently come into force; and, as those appliances already in use are gradually verified and stamped, a reduction in the number must take place, as new scales only will require to be stamped. No doubt there has been some complaint, and I should be only too happy, if I could see my way without injuring the consumer, and without depriving the County Council of the duty they owe to their own constituents, to prevent, or relieve from, this necessity of re-stamping. I see some difficulties in the way, and I do not want to make promises I cannot fulfil. Suppose, for instance, that the Inspector examines a number of scales, say in an ordinary shop, and finds some accurate and some inaccurate, and gets the whole properly re-adjusted. What is the best way of testifying that they are re-adjusted so that when another Inspector comes round he may know they are in good condition? Why, that on such a date they were duly re-stamped by the Inspector, and surely there should be some mark upon them to show that they were accurate and in good condition. That is really what is practically being done. I am not in a position to break the law, however harsh it may be with respect to some of the manufacturers, but I am most anxious to relieve manufacturers of any difficulty in respect of the transmission of weighing instruments and scales, and, where accurate, to avoid the necessity and cost of having them re-stamped. I will submit the Act as it now stands to the Law Officers of the Crown, and ascertain whether the Local Authorities have the right to re-stamp or not. If they have, it will be my duty to inquire whether the re-stamping is considered by the Local Authority a matter of such importance that the Act must be adhered to or not. I respectfully say that, after all, this is not a matter of administration, but a matter of the construction of an Act of Parliament, and I do not think I can at once, on the demand of the right hon. Gentleman, reverse the practice of my predecessor in the working of the Act for the last four years. I can only promise my right hon. Friend to deal with the case in a reasonable 734 time, and after a proper investigation the whole matter shall receive attention.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
Two stamps are not required, but the Act gives power to make bye-laws requiring re-stamping.
said, the President of the Board of Trade did not quite realise what the right hon. Member for the Bordesley Division asked for. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the testing which took place, say by the London County Council, with a view to ascertain whether a consignment of scales from Birmingham were accurate or not. But, supposing one of these scales was sent to Croydon, the person endeavouring to sell it without the stamp of the Croydon Authorities was apparently liable to a penalty. That appeared to him to be perfectly ridiculous, and it was doing the work twice over. The right hon. Gentleman said the law required this to be done, that the Local Authorities had power to insist on it. But the bye-laws and regulations under which the Local Authorities acted required the assent of the Board of Trade, and that being so, this was a matter of administration by the Board of Trade, because the Board of Trade ought to have the power to prevent obnoxious legislation, having no practical utility, being insisted on in their bye-laws. It was not sought to do anything which would diminish the protection the consumer received in relation to the accuracy of the scales, hut what was contended was, that the necessity of insisting on these repeated tests was an unnecessary interference with the trade of the country, which the Board of Trade ought to stop.
§ MR. M. AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)
wished to make a few observations in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Captain Naylor-Leyland), and the Member for the Bordesley Division (Mr. Jesse Collings), as to the appointment of local labour correspondents. These appointments had been persistently attacked during the Session, but he, as a representative of the working population, heartily endorsed the action taken by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who had earned the gratitude of the workers 735 by appointing these correspondents to give an insight into the condition of the industrial population. He was inclined to think, if they went a little below the surface of this question, it would not be difficult to find the cause of the attacks on these appointments. He thought it was because there was not enough of the Birmingham mixture in them, rather than any desire to advocate the cause of the workers, which actuated the attacks of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on these appointments. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Jesse Collings) had declared there was a good deal of political bias in these appointments, but he thought, if they only looked at the miserably small salaries of £15 or .£20 a year paid to these men, that the House had little right to raise the question of politics with regard to them. There were 25 correspondents in the United Kingdom, and the total income of the whole of them was only £500 a year. He thought the best answer to the attacks of gentlemen in the House of Commons was the fact that not a single complaint had been made by any single Trade Society in the United Kingdom against a single one of the correspondents appointed. They had met with the general approbation of the workers, and he would therefore deprecate altogether the attacks which had been made upon them. The Member for Bordesley Division talked as if these appointments almost threatened the Empire. If the correspondents were all sound Tories, he wondered would so much be heard about them. He did not think so, and he would only hope that the number would be extended, and that the salaries would also be taken into consideration by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade, since the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman, and indeed all Departments of the Government, had done all in their power to further the interests of the workers in the United Kingdom, and he saw no cause for the complaints made by hon. Gentlemen in that House.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that he had nothing whatever to do with the selection of the labour correspondents. A Committee of the Board of Trade, of which the Comptroller was Chairman, and of 736 which Mr. Burnett was also a member, made that selection, and the names, irrespective of Party politics, were then submitted en bloc to him for his approval. He had never heard of Mr. Joseph Robinson until he heard of his resignation. He could not understand what ground of complaint could be made against the labour correspondent at Birmingham, for Mr. Burnett had himself gone down there and selected him. It was monstrous to say that these appointments were flagrant political appointments, and he was certain that if his predecessor came back to Office he would not interfere with one of them. As to the permanent officials, there had been three additional labour correspondents appointed. One was a very able lady, who had taken University honours; another was Mr. Drummond, a well-known working-class leader and a Conservative; and the third was a gentleman about whose politics he knew nothing whatever. It had been said that 17 out of the 25 labour correspondents we're Gladstonians. That was very much the proportion of Gladstonians amongst working men generally; and he had no doubt that that proportion would go on increasing. But whatever the correspondents were, their appoinments were due to no action on his part. He would challenge any Member to say that The Labour Gazette had shown any tinge of partiality in respect of political or labour questions. Under these circumstances, he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite had no cause of complaint.
said, he thought the President of the Board of Trade had taken the criticisms about the payments of these labour correspondents somewhat too seriously. For his part, he would be the last to accuse the right hon. Gentleman of any Party feeling in the matter. He did not care twopence whether the labour correspondents were Radicals or Conservatives, so long as they were the best men for the posts, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman had used his patronage very well. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to turn his thoughts in another direction. The right hon. Gentleman was the father of the Mercantile Marine. The Mercantile Marine was not virtually under the guardianship 737 of the right hon. Gentleman, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman and all concerned with the Board of Trade ought to give their consideration as to how far the Mercantile Marine could be made serviceable to the nation in the crisis of a great war. The right hon. Gentleman had some able advisers. Above all, he had a distinguished naval officer in his service, and he wanted the right hon. Gentleman to put that officer into the Intelligence Department of the Admiralty with the view of settling, as it was suggested by Lord Charles Beresford in a recent address, the question of trade routes, and forming a plan of action for the merchant ships in the event of war. He wanted the right hon. Gentleman to direct the naval officer to consider this question in concert with the Admiralty. There was another important question to which he desired to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Lord Charles Beresford, in the address already referred to, had stated the signalling in the Mercantile Marine was deplorable. In fact, there was hardly anyone in the Service instructed in signalling. Lord Charles said that, in order to test the signalling of a Mercantile Marine, he signalled 32 merchant ships in the course of a voyage, and only seven of the 32 took the signal in and answered. In a time of war, if a cruiser could not make itself understood by the merchant ship, the result might be deplorable. Signalling was, in his (Admiral Field's) opinion, bad enough in the Navy, but in the Mercantile Marine it was very bad. He thought that one officer at least in every merchant ship should be educated in signalling, and should be able to pass an examination in signalling—
said, he could not accept the hon. Member as an authority on the subject. He thought a distinguished naval officer like Lord Charles Beresford a more competent judge. There was a Report on lighthouses and the inspection of lighthouses furnished to the House, in which it stated that the light on the Deal Pier Head and the lights on the Dover Admiralty Pier were insufficient, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would see that the recommendations of the Report were 738 carried out. He also wished to know whether anything had been done to carry out the recommendations of the Light Commission upon lighthouses and lightships with regard to establishing electric communication between lighthouses and lightships from the shore?
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said there was no item in the Vote under consideration more important than the item relating to the inspection of ships' provisions under the Act of 1892. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether Inspectors had been appointed under the new Act, and what were the ports at which it was proposed to station them? He also wished to know what progress had been made with the building of the Patent Office?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he could assure the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne that there was a most perfect understanding between the Admiralty and the Board of Trade on the subject of trade routes for merchant ships. He could also assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that instructions were given and examinations held in signalling in the Mercantile Marine, and that all merchant vessels ought to be in a position to respond to signals. But he intended to make further inquiries in the matter. On the subject of lighthouses and lightships, the whole of the lightships were attended by Trinity House, and there was nothing in the Vote for that Department, while, as he had stated the previous day in answer to the question, a good deal of work had been done in establishing electrical communication between the shore and the lighthouses. It was intended to lay on the Table a Supplementary Estimate for the work. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, on the subject of the inspection of ships' provisions, he had to say that as soon as he came into Office he gave his immediate attention to the Act which had just been passed. Steps were at once taken to obtain a competent class of Inspector in order that the Act might be put into proper operation. A staff of 14 Inspectors had been appointed, and they were stationed at the five principal ports of the country—London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff, and Shields, and they had definite instructions 739 that the inspection of the provisions of all ships were to be carried out. Between July 17 and September 2 of the present year 273 ships had been inspected, and in 96 cases provisions were condemned, while 13 ships had some slight defect in their provisions. When these defects were pointed out to the shipowners they were at once remedied, and indeed he hoped to be able to carry out this most important matter in connection with the comfort and well-being of seamen without making it burdensome or oppressive to the shipowners. Only one vessel had been detained, and that only for a short time?
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
asked whether it was only proposed to appoint Inspectors for the ports mentioned?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, it was found to be very easy to send an Inspector to any port when necessary, and it was believed that the 14 Inspectors would be able to carry out the whole work. With regard to the Patent Office he had not the information required, but he would obtain it, and give it to the right hon. Gentleman on Monday.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said he only wanted the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention to the matter.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, it was somewhat difficult to follow the course of the Government in this matter. After listening to the right hon. Gentleman he had come to the conclusion that, at any rate, the appointment of Labour Correspondents had been handed over to a Committee the political convictions of which were pretty well known, and behind which the right hon. Gentleman sheltered himself.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
It is very unfair to say that political opinions of the Government have never governed anything which they have had to do, and it is not fair to say that we have acted from political motives, or that I have endeavoured to screen myself behind them. As far as I am concerned, I do not know their political opinions. I am responsible for every officer in the Department, whatever his opinions may be.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said, he would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the case of Mr. Giffen. Did the right hon. Gentleman not know Mr. Giffen's politics? The right hon. Gentleman's 740 ignorance was sublime. He would not, however, pursue that subject, though he could not follow the gallant Admiral in dismissing so lightly the undoubtedly important question of the manner in which these Labour Correspondents had been appointed. He, however, desired to refer to the subject of electrical communication with lightships, and to the fact that in this matter a large number of the recommendations of the Royal Commission had not been acted upon. He would like to have an explanation of this. The right hon. Gentleman, not content with the Royal Commission appointed by the previous Government, nominated a Departmental Committee, apparently to whittle down, as far as possible, the recommendations of that Royal Commission. He did not think the subject had been properly considered. It was of the greatest importance that they should have proper facilities in every respect as to saving life. The whole subject relating to these lifeboats and lightships was of great importance, and he hoped the recommendations made on the subject would be thoroughly carried out. He need not refer to the well-known cases of the Enterprize and the Sea King, or to the many instances in which the absence of communication had led to lamentable loss of life and property. The Commissioners specified five vessels which they recommended should be immediately connected, but the Government proposed to ignore three-fifths of those recommendations.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, he wished to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the great advantage derived by the steamers of the most important Steam-Packet Companies from the telegraphic communication which had been established between Tory Island and the mainland. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to undertake that, until the Royal Commission reported, if any accident should happen to the cable he would not allow the telegraphic communication to suffer. He thought his request in this matter was very reasonable. There were many great advantages gained by what had been done; and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would recognise the importance of this communication in such a way that it would 741 be possible for them to have it continued without possibility of interruption. He hoped the undertaking to which he referred would be carried out.
§ MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, he would like to ask what were the difficulties which the Board of Trade experienced in bringing the Cheap Trains Act into operation? When he called the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the fact that the fares on the underground railway between Earl's Court and the Mansion House were illegal, the right hon. Gentleman said he would have the case examined by a Committee of the House. That Committee never reported, and the illegal fares were still being charged. In reply to a second communication on the subject, he was told that the Board of Trade had no power to bring the matter before a Court of Law. He believed that the Board of Trade had the power, because the law declared that they "shall" undertake a prosecution in cases where it was needed. It was practically impossible for private persons to undertake these prosecutions. The first and second-class passengers were season-ticket holders, and the third-class passengers were not in a position to institute prosecutions of this sort, so that the Railway Companies could practically in the case of small fares defy the law unless the Board of Trade stepped in and saw that the law was properly enforced. Section 17 of the Act of 1844 provided that where a Railway Company was acting in excess of the power given by such Act, and if it should be to the public advantage that the Company should be restrained from so acting, the Board of Trade should certify the same to the Attorney General, who should take proceedings to restrain the Company from acting in an illegal manner. In 1864 certain maximum fares were laid down by the Company, but they were charging above these fares, and in all the correspondence no one had been able to point out under what powers the excess fares were being charged. The Company stated that in certain cases they were really charging under the fares, but that could not be an excuse for charging over the maximum in others, though it might be an excuse to come before a Committee and ask for a re-arrangement. He 742 thought it was evident it must be to the public advantage that the Board of Trade should interfere when illegal fares were being charged. Under the Act it was incumbent upon the Board of Trade to take action in such circumstances, and he should like to know why they had not done so?
§ SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
desired to put a question to the President of the Board of Trade on a matter of some importance, and which the right hon. Gentleman would remember having been concerned with a short time ago, when a deputation waited upon the President of the Board of Trade in reference to an Amendment of the Trade Marks Department. The proper administration of that Department was a question of great moment to the trading community. He ventured to say that on the occasion of the visit of this deputation there was disclosed to the right hon. Gentleman an amount of delay, laxity, and confusion not altogether consistent with the proper management of the Department, and which was not completely explained by the head of the Department present at the time. The right hon. Gentleman gave his cordial assistance, and said he would take the earliest opportunity of going into the question. He hoped they might now receive the assurance that the Department had been put on a different and improved basis.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
desired to ask a question on this Vote. He thought he was right in saying that the expenses of the Patent Office, as shown by the published Estimate, were calculated for the year at £59,861, and the receipts were shown at £183,000. Then there was a note to the effect that the Patent Office publications would add another £6,000 to that. That meant that while the expenditure was, roughly speaking, £60,000, the receipts from patents were expected to reach £189,000, and the difference was the profit derived by the State from inventors, which amounted to £130,000 a year. It was perfectly certain that public opinion would not allow that profit to go continuously into the Exchequer, and the question was what way should it be disposed of? He did not know what view his right hon. Friend took, but when he (Mr. J. Chamberlain) was at the Board 743 of Trade, a Patent Act was passed by which the sum for initiating a patent was most considerably reduced, so that at the present time a provisional specification could be obtained for £1, and a patent for one year for £5. That he entirely approved of, but he held then, and he had always held since, that it would be most undesirable largely to reduce the fees upon the later terms of a patent. The late President of the Board of Trade took a different view of the matter, and the subsequent payments were, under his management, very considerably reduced. He was of opinion that such a course tended to allow a number of useless patents to remain and interfere with further invention; and his own view was that while they should allow an invention to be secured for a short time for a very small sum, and afterwards, unless the patent proved itself to be of sufficient value to justify considerable further payments, it was very much in the interest of the community at large that the patent should lapse, and he would continue the higher payment for the later period. His interest in the matter was this: Having got this balance of £130,000, he was afraid great demands would be made upon it to reduce the subsequent payments which he thought the Government would be unable to resist. He would much rather that some of that money, at all events, should be spent on what, he believed, would be a much more valuable policy—namely, in proceeding more rapidly with the publication of specifications and abstracts. He shared any blame there was to be borne for it; and although they did something in his time at the Board of Trade to accelerate matters, he did not contend they did all that might be done, and successive Governments were somewhat to blame; but it was something like a public scandal that such publications had been so long delayed. He thought, with the enormous profit in the hands of the Treasury, something might very easily be done to secure a much earlier publication of these specifications.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (who was very indistinctly heard in the Reporters' Gallery)
was understood to say that he thought the change made by the Member for West Birmingham in the direction of reducing 744 the initial cost of a patent was extremely wise, as had been shown by the result. In consequence of that diminution of cost, there had been a great increase in the number of patents. He agreed, also, that the later patents were patents which ought to pay the full fees. This diminution had resulted in the receipts being something like £87,000 less last year. [Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN: There is still a profit.] Yes, there was still a profit. Without pledging himself to any course, he might say he thought the patentees who had the advantage ought to pay some of the tax. He was quite anxious to facilitate as much as possible the use and introduction of inventions, but at the same time some benefit should go to the State. With regard to the early publication of specifications and abstracts he was entirely with his right hon. Friend. He also thought they should be a better quality of publication, those now issued having, in his opinion, become very shabby and quite unworthy of a country like England. He considered they ought to take steps to make the drawings and illustrations more creditable. With respect to the Royal Commission on Lighthouses they made certain recommendations, but it was impossible to carry out all these at once. The duty devolved on the Board of Trade and the Post Office to carry out these recommendations, and they appointed a small Committee to consider them and Report upon the best method of carrying them out. He had asked the members of the Committee not to wait for a formal Report in regard to the matter, but to make a Report as soon as possible, and then a decision would be at once arrived at. With respect to the question of illegal fares on the Metropolitan Railway, he had not been able to satisfy himself that the fares were illegal. Several Acts overlapped each other, and under these the Company claimed that the fares were legal. Care should be taken to look into the whole matter, so that it might be put on a satisfactory basis. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Islington (Sir A. Rollit) had asked as to the administration of the Trades Mark Department, and he could assure him that the matter was being vigorously taken in hand, and a searching inquiry made into 745 it. He hoped they should now be able to take this Vote.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
desired to say a few words on the question connected with the electric communication of the shore with lightships, because he was responsible for the appointment of the Royal Commission. He understood from the right hon. Gentleman that although he could not, of course, carry out all the recommendations of the Commission at once, yet he would do what the Member for Thanet desired, and carry out this particular recommendation connected with regard to lightships as soon as possible.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
With reference to the question of his hon. Friend (Mr. Macartney) as to Tory Island, her hoped the right hon. Gentle man would bear in mind that a great distinction existed between maintaining this communication for the purpose of light and for the purpose of sending messages. The cable on Tory Island was established by Lloyds purely for trade purposes, and he did not think the Government ought to impose on the general taxpayer the burden of retaining communication for trade purposes, and, therefore, as the Royal Commission was appointed merely to consider the question of communication of this kind for the saving of life and property, their Report on Tory Island would be from that point of view. Any communication for trade purposes should be paid for by the shipowners.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the observations he had made on this subject. He could only say that as guardian of the public finances certainly there were circumstances at the present time which made him very unwilling to indulge in Supplementary Estimates, and one of the rare exceptions he had made had been in favour of these lightships. A Supplementary Estimate for £10,000 had been laid on the Table that day to establish communication with the lightship on the Goodwins. He would appeal to the Committee to allow the Vote which they had been discussing to pass, and he would then promise, at 12 o'clock, to report Progress and proceed with the Report of Supply.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
, said, he had set down on the Notice Paper a Motion for the reduction of the Vote. He only wanted to call the particular attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the repeated omission of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade to put pressure on the London, Tilbury, and Southend Railway Company, to obviate a danger which existed in consequence of which several deaths had occurred at Tilbury Docks, one fatal accident occurring only last week. The Railway Company ran four lines of railway through the dock, which lines were absolutely open, there being no guard or fence, gate or watchman, and accidents were continually occurring. He and his constituents had not only memorialised the Board of Trade, but they had written continuously and memorialised the Tilbury and Southend Railway Company but without result. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would take steps to compel the Company to obviate this scandalous danger.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that as regarded signalling there was an admirable national code of signals which the Mercantile Marine used, and in the use of which they were fully competent. No doubt the electric communication with lighthouses was very advisable, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not fix his whole attention on that and divert it from the rule of the road at sea.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
asked the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex to accept his assurance that the Board of Trade had again and again put pressure on the Tilbury Railway Company in respect to the matter he had mentioned, and they had done so only during the present week. He should be very happy to communicate the result to the hon. Member.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 4. £16, to complete the sum for Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade, agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.