§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, he would ask the Financial or the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury if the Government would be so good as not to bring on the Vote for the Attorney General to-day?
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. T. E. ELLIS, Merionethshire)
said, he hardly thought that any agreement of the kind suggested could be made at this period of the Sitting. In the course of the afternoon, when they saw what progress was being made, some statement might be made as to the Votes to be taken.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that perhaps the hon. Member forgot that the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised that no important Vote would be taken. ["No, no‡"] Yes; the right hon. Gentleman gave the House a pledge that no important Vote would be taken late at night or at an inconvenient time. After 6 o'clock would be "most inconvenient" on a Saturday Sitting.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not recede from any pledge he had given the House. No doubt an agreement would be arrived at in the course of the afternoon.
1. £22,460, to complete the sum for Colonial Office.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he rose for the purpose of obtaining from Her Majesty's Government some more satisfactory statement with regard to their policy in the Transvaal than they had hitherto succeeded in obtaining from Ministers. Since he had the opportunity of addressing the House on this subject a few weeks ago he had received a great deal of information from the Transvaal and from persons who wore interested in the Transvaal, who had relatives there and large pecuniary interests in that 1491 country. He was assured by all his informants, most of whom were previously unknown to him, that the statements which he made in the House on the previous occasion were not at all exaggerated, but were rather below the mark, as to the dangerous and critical position of affairs in the Transvaal, and as to the oppression and injustice with which British subjects were being treated there. Of all the melancholy and humiliating events of recent years, that of the Transvaal was associated with the most sad and deplorable memories. He said that for the purpose of convincing the House that the Government and the English people owed especial reparation to British subjects who were resident in that country. Thirteen years ago their interests were betrayed, hundreds of them were ruined and driven from their homes, and their fortunes practically confiscated. Ever since that time British residents in the Transvaal had been subjected to much oppression and many humiliations. The words used to him by a prominent British resident was that he never would have imagined that British subjects could have been so bullied and cowed in a foreign country as they had been in the Transvaal during the last 13 years. [A laugh.] This was hardly a subject for laughter. Anyone acquainted with the Transvaal would be able to bear out this statement. Within the last few years a very considerable change had taken place in that country. The gold discoveries in the Raandt and other districts had given great impetus to British colonisation, and had led to the establishment in that country of thousands of British subjects, who now actually outnumbered the Boer residents. The result of that migration had been that the Transvaal, instead of being in a bankrupt condition, had become one of the most flourishing portions of South Africa. The Transvaal Treasury was full to overflowing of money paid by British residents, who were developing its great natural wealth. The surplus of the Transvaal Government for the last two or three years had been about £1,000,000 a year. The amount of British capital now invested in the Transvaal was at least £100,000,000, and British subjects paid 19-20ths of the whole taxation of the country. He would take the three principal points of oppression to which British residents 1492 were subjected. In the first place, they were denied the privilege of getting the franchise. They were perfectly willing to obtain their rights by constitutional means. Many of them were willing to become citizens of the Transvaal; they had committed no act of outrage or rebellion; our fellow-countrymen there had done nothing more than to hold peaceful meetings at which they protested against the injustice to which they had been subjected. Within the past 12 months the Boers had undertaken a course of special oppression and attack on the rights of our fellow-subjects. The Boers had passed a law which prevented a foreigner from becoming enfranchised unless his father bad been naturalised. Numbers of British subjects had been commandeered, and when they had been released on the demand of Sir H. Loch, they were turned adrift 200 miles from their home without any means provided them for getting back. When he had put a question on the subject in that House the hon. Member the Parliamentary Secretary to the Colonial Office had replied that he would make no inquiry into the matter, as to do so would be to throw an imputation upon the Boer Government. Surely it was his duty to have inquired into a matter of that kind. The question he asked was put in perfectly proper terms to the hon. Gentleman. He asked him if certain statements were or were not accurate, and if, having made inquiry, he could state that they were untrue. If the hon. Gentleman had been able to do that he would not only have justified the Boers, against whom these charges were made, but he would have inflicted some confusion on him (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett). The statements he was referring to were made by a gentleman writing under his own name to The Scotsman on July 22, 1894, and were to the effect that not only were British subjects forcibly taken to the front to render personal service, but they had to provide horse, saddle, rifle, ammunition, and eight days' provisions at their own expense. That was the last straw; so the British residents formed themselves into a Defence Association and appealed to the British Authorities for protection. On Sir Henry Loch's remonstrance, President Krüger ordered the release of the men who had been commandeered. They were accordingly 1493 released on the open veldt, but they were not even supplied with food and other necessaries, and if it had not been for friends would have starved, for they were set at liberty 200 miles from home, without any moans of getting back. Yet the Transvaal Treasury had a surplus this year of £900,000 paid out of British pockets. This was a deliberate statement made by a gentleman in his own name, and he had in support of it many other letters and extracts from Transvaal papers. Yet the hon. Gentleman would not even take the trouble to inquire whether the statement was true or not. He thought it most discreditable to the Government that they should allow such an attitude to be taken up by one of their number. This was not the only way in which British subjects were persecuted in the Transvaal. They were denied the franchise, and although personal commandeering had now been withdrawn, they were still subject to commandeering for food and supplies.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
If the hon. Member will be patient I will. I have a statement, dated July 22, that the whole of the British residents in the Lydenberg district have been subjected to a levy of £5 and £15, according to classes.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. S. BUXTON, Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
There are two descriptions of commandeering, and that for food and supplies applies equally to burghers and foreigners. British subjects are now exempt from personal commandeering, but they are subject in other respects to the same commandeering for food and supplies as burghers and foreigners.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that that was exactly the point in dispute. He thought the hon. Gentleman was mistaken, and that when he got fuller information he would find that British subjects were still liable to commandeering for food and supplies up to the amount of £15. Of course, if that form of commandeering was withdrawn, all the better. Then there was a special War Tax which, he believed, was imposed on all residents in the Transvaal. He now turned to the most 1494 oppressive action on the part of the Transvaal Government—namely, the prohibition of the right of public meeting in the open air.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, the Volksraad had passed a law which was unparalleled in history, except perhaps so far as Russia was concerned. The Committee would hardly believe that that law forbade all right of public meeting in the open air to British residents in the Transvaal. The hon. Gentleman said it also applied to all other foreign residents, but the number of them was comparatively small.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I beg pardon. Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that of the foreign residents in the Transvaal one-half are not of British origin?
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I differ from the hon. Gentleman entirely. I say that nearly four-fifths are British.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
suggested that the hon. Member should speak later, and produce his evidence. This law forbade all outdoor assemblies of foreign residents, and also all processions and demonstrations. It gave the Boer Police power to break up such assemblies by force. Even indoor assemblies of more than five persons were prohibited. Some 13,000 British residents signed a Petition to the President of the Volksraad asking for the franchise, but it was ignored. This gagging law was passed in the Volksraad by 17 votes to six. So that a majority of 11 Boer burghers had absolutely silenced thousands of British residents, who were building up the wealth and prosperity of the Transvaal. When the British residents held a meeting to draw up their remonstrance, he was informed that 500 armed Boers rode amongst them and threatened to shoot them unless they immediately dispersed. That was the sort of treatment to which British residents were subjected. Surely it was such as no civilised country in the world would submit to. They were being deprived of the most elementary privileges of free men. Had the Govern- 1495 ment told the House they would do their best to relieve their fellow-subjects in the Transvaal from these disabilities, this question would not have had to be pressed. But what was the line taken up by the Under Secretary for the Colonies? He had gone out of his way to justify the Boers.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
repeated that the Under Secretary so acted, and that he had done so over and over again. He had encouraged them in their present acts of injustice towards British subjects. In reply to a question the other day as to whether the franchise had been denied to all British residents, the Under Secretary first stated that "the Government had no official information on the subject." Such an answer evaded the question.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
, continuing, said, that the hon. Gentleman was asked whether we had any Representative in the Transvaal through whom information could be obtained, and he replied—We have all the information we require, though we have no special official information.Surely that was evading the question. He now slipped the extra adjective "special" in in addition to "official." Then the hon. Gentleman was asked a third time—Is it or is it not the fact that such a law has been passed.And so at last he was forced to answer—I believe such a law was passed.Why could be not at first have said straightforwardly that such a law had been passed? He knew perfectly well that it was so, and he therefore did try to evade the question. There was, however, one answer the hon. Gentleman gave calculated to do still more serious injury to our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal. The Under Secretary for the Colonies had admitted that the right of open-air public meeting had been denied to British subjects in the Trans- 1496 vaal, and that the right of indoor meeting had been restricted. The right of meeting was, in fact, refused to more than five persons.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
Yes, coercion of the worst kind, because it was without any provocation, for our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal had been guilty of no crimes; they had not committed murders; they had not mutilated cattle; they had not boycotted their neighbours. They had been perfectly peaceful, and yet they were subjected to a gross and unparalleled Coercion Act. The Under Secretary had said thatwhatever might be the merits or demerits of these restrictive enactments, the South African Republic appeared to be acting within their rights in passing such laws.Why did the hon. Gentleman encourage the Boers in that way? Why did he thus stimulate them to disregard in this outrageous manner the elementary rights of man and the liberties of British subjects? The policy of the hon. Member was totally wrong. By his statements the Boers had been led to believe that Great Britain was actually afraid of them, and were therefore encouraged to continue in their oppressive conduct. He was not saying that on his own authority; he was saying that on the authority of dozens of persons who were well acquainted with the Transvaal. The Government should bear in mind that they were not dealing with a highly civilised people. He wished to say nothing unnecessarily harsh against the Boers of the Transvaal. They were, no doubt, valiant; but as a people they were singularly ignorant. They had held supreme power over the native tribes surrounding them, and often had used that power in a most tyrannical and cruel way. Now the Boers were trying to deal with British subjects in the same way. Statements such as had been made by the Under Secretary strengthened the Boers' belief that they were invincible, and the result was that the position of our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal grew more and more unbearable. The Government, no doubt, wished to maintain peace, but the course which they took was not really calculated 1497 to accomplish that purpose. It was likely to encourage the Boers in their aggression and in their oppression of British subjects, until the position became intolerable. Then the British Government would be confronted with the necessity of interference. The right way to ensure peace and to protect our fellow-subjects was clearly and firmly, but courteously, to point out to the Boers that encroachments upon the rights of British subjects would not be tolerated. The danger Ministers were incurring by their weakness was very great indeed, for they were creating a terrible feeling of bitterness and exasperation among our fellow-subjects. The time must come when all the mischief and wrong done in 1881 by the capitulation after Majuba would be undone, when the old state of affairs would return, and when the whole of South Africa would be under the British flag. How this was to come about he would not presume to say, but such a time was approaching beyond a doubt. The irresistible enterprise, industry, and governing genius of the English were asserting themselves in spite of the failures, errors, and betrayals of British Governments. What the Government had to do was to see that British rights in these regions were firmly and effectively upheld. If British subjects were informed that the Government would not allow the Boers to take from them their just privileges there would be no necessity for a revolt. The danger was that our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal, who were brave men, with English blood and English hatred of oppression, and far more civilised than the Boer burghers, might be driven by intolerable oppression into taking precipitate action. The best way to prevent that was for the Government to give both the Boers and our British fellow-subjects in the Transvaal to understand that they would support the rights of British subjects. Only by that means, in his opinion, could a sanguinary collision be prevented in the Transvaal. He deprecated the language used by Ministers in that House, which amounted to a practical encouragement to the Boers to proceed with unjust legislation, as causing infinite harm to British interests. By their weakness and vacillation the Government were prejudicing the interests of peace. He appealed to Ministers to try to promptly realise the gravity of the 1498 situation, and the fierce exasperation now felt by our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal. These were law-abiding men, to whose industry the Transvaal owed its prosperity. They were men who were maintaining the credit and honour of this country under the most trying circumstances, which men were entitled to the practical and effective support and protection—support which it was the duty of the British Government to give all British subjects abroad.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.G., Holderness)
said, he did not feel to the same extent as the hon. Member who had just sat down the fears and apprehensions which he had expressed. Nevertheless, it was true that some of the recent acts of the Government of the South African Republic had been very inimical to British and foreign interests in that territory, and ho thought the Government of the Republic ought to be made to understand that acts of the kind could not be tolerated for long by the foreign population to whom the prosperity of the Transvaal was entirely due. The protests of the foreign population were quite intelligible, but it would be an error to suppose that that population had the slightest intention of submitting once more to the rule of Downing Street. That was about the last thing they would think of doing. He did not think that a revolution in South African affairs would be at all a desirable event. In his opinion it would be a most satisfactory evolution of affairs in that part of the world if the different countries south of the Zambesi were to confederate, so that in future they should form one country. He thought it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to warn the Government of the South African Republic that the steps they had taken could not be allowed under the peculiar circumstances existing in the country, seeing that they were directed against the very men to whom the Transvaal owed its prosperity, and who were free men accustomed to certain laws and privileges.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, the position was one of deep interest to the country at large and to that House. It was a remarkable thing that there should be so much apathy in the country as to what became of British subjects and British interests abroad. There was a time when 1499 a matter of this kind would have been regarded with a keen feeling in the country, and when the Government would have been impelled to take strong steps to protect British subjects. What they complained of in the present case was that the Government did not seem to consider it to be their first duty to find out, or to take proper means to find out, what sort of treatment British subjects were receiving in various parts of the world; nor did they take notice of information that they received from outside sources, but disregarded all unofficial statements, and permitted all sorts of excuses being made by Foreign Governments for placing British subjects in an inferior position. We were now suffering from the Nemesis of our policy of some years ago when we allowed the Boers to think that a Boer was better than an Englishman, and to trample upon the British hag, and neglected to use the might of Great Britain to maintain our right position in the Transvaal. The time had long gone by when an Englishman, in any part of the world, could say Civis Romanus Sum. Foreigners had been allowed to trample on the rights of the British subjects without any reparation being obtained. Take the case of a German in any part of the world. He knew well enough that if he was the recipient of treatment to which his Government took exception he would receive the authoritative support of his Government. The same thing was equally true in the case of Frenchmen. If the Government would not stand by British subjects abroad and support their protests against unjust treatment it was obvious that (hey were preparing the way for the downfall of the British Empire.
§ DR. CLARK
said, that the alleged facts of the hon. Member for Sheffield were the merest fictions, and he would rather take the opinion of his hon. Friend the Member for King's County, because he was a British subject with great experience in the Transvaal; he had mingled among these people, and he spoke from personal experience. The hon. Gentleman who denied the facts set out obviously knew nothing about the matter, and his complaints were not worthy of consideration. Ho asserted that British subjects were terribly misgoverned in the Transvaal and could not 1500 get the franchise. But if the laws of the laud were referred to it would be found that there was no country in the world where foreigners got privileges and rights of that character quicker than the Transvaal. Any foreigner after two years' residence could vote in elections to the Second Chamber of the Legislature, and after five years he could vote in elections to the First Chamber.
§ DR. CLARK
said, he knew what the laws were, because they were submitted to him before they were passed. With regard to commandeering, unless a man was willing to be commandeered his farm might be burned and he would probably be murdered. So that it was necessary he should join in mutual self-defence. As to education in the Transvaal, no States in the world spent so much on education as the Boer States in the Transvaal. He hoped the questions at issue between the Transvaal and ourselves would be settled by the Colonial Office in an amicable spirit, and that the change which must take place in the Transvaal, by which persons now regarded as foreigners would become citizens, would be accomplished without much friction.
§ * MR. S. BUXTON
said, he quite agreed that it was unquestionably the duty of any Government, whether Liberal or Conservative, to defend British interests wherever they might exist, and that where the rights of British subjects were unjustly infringed to see that they had justice. He also agreed that it was largely due to the enterprise and energy of the British inhabitants of the Transvaal that the country was in its present prosperous position. He, however, felt bound to say that such a speech as that of the hon. Member for Sheffield, whatever his intentions might be, could only tend to create difficulties which otherwise would not be encountered in seeking to obtain a satisfactory solution of questions arising between this country and the Transvaal Republic. As everybody was not a Member of that House, and perhaps there were a certain number of persons outside who might attach weight and importance to the statements of the hon. Member—although, of course, Members of the House knew what 1501 amount of weight and importance to attach to them—he felt it necessary to say that he was confident the hon. Member in no sense expressed the opinions or feelings of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who usually sat on the Front Opposition Bench. He had only that day received a letter from a correspondent of the hon. Member in Edinburgh—a letter the style, stamp, and temper of which were faithfully reflected in the speech of the hon. Member. The writer was a specimen of the correspondents of whom the hon. Member had spoken. He abused the "villanies" Liberal Government and those whom he called "the bloody Boers," and accused the foreign residents in the Transvaal of cowardice for not having taken up arms before.
§ * MR. S. BUXTON
said, it was at all events a curious coincidence that the style and stamp and temper of the letter were reflected so faithfully in the speech of the hon. Member that ho (Mr. Buxton) took it for granted that not only had the hon. Gentleman read it, but digested it. Perhaps some of the expressions contained in the letter could hardly be used in a Parliamentary sense, but he knew that the extra-Parliamentary utterances of the hon. Gentleman accorded very well with those that appeared in the letter. He took this to be a sample of the kind of correspondence which had come into the hands of the hon. Gentleman, and of which he had spoken. But he would not go further into this matter, except to say that the hon. Member had to-day made almost identically the same speech that he made the other day. Therefore, ho did not wish to detain the Committee by going at any length into the questions which were then raised and the statements made thereupon. It was no part of his duty, nor was it his intention, to defend the South African Republic against the attacks of the hon. Gentleman. Still, after all, it was the duty of some responsible person to say something in explanation of the action of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman had touched upon the treatment of the prisoners who had been commandeered by the South African Republic. Ho had seen and read what had appeared 1502 in the papers upon the subject, and he thought it was perfectly clear that the whole expedition was conducted in a way that would shock our War Office, both as regards commissariat and transport. The Government of South Africa commandeered under exceptional circumstances—that was to say, that everybody had to provide their own arms and other necessaries—but the prisoners who refused to serve were not treated with anything like barbarity or inhumanity. What happened to them was that they were placed in the same position as other burghers who had been commandeered. He was aware that it was said that the prisoners were turned adrift 200 miles from their homes, but the fact was that they were offered the use of wagons, which they declined to accept. There was nothing whatever to show that the prisoners were treated with inhumanity.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
reminded the hon. Gentleman that the only complaint that he made was that these prisoners were turned adrift 200 miles from home.
§ MR. S. BUXTON,
continuing, said, that while it was true that British subjects, like the burghers, were still liable to the War Tax, the special military contribution levied on British subjects alone had been withdrawn.
§ * MR. S. BUXTON
said, that the particular commandeering consisted of nothing more nor less than the contribution of the War Tax, which was levied on all the inhabitants alike. What the British subjects had contended for was exemption from special military contributions, and he was glad to say that Her Majesty's Government were dealing with the Boer Government in a friendly way in regard to this matter, with the result that they had been able to secure the two points that they desired—namely, the personal exemption of British subjects from commandeering, and also from special contributions of goods and money. With regard to the law directed against meetings, while no Government of this country would ever think of introducing a law exactly on all-fours with that which obtained in the Transvaal—except, of course, as regards Ireland‡—he should like to point out to the Committee that 1503 the same law was practically in force in England with regard to the holding of meetings. The fact was, that that law was in some respects even less stringent than the law which prevailed in England at the present time, for, whilst it required six persons to constitute a meeting in the Transvaal, only three persons were necessary to constitute a meeting in England. It differed in prohibiting all outdoor meetings. In regard to the question of the franchise, he regretted — as he had previously stated—the stringency of the system in the Transvaal, and thought the restrictions upon foreign residents were unfair. The hon. Member for Caithness was wrong on the point. Two years only, it was true, were required to vote for the Second Volks-raad—which had, however, no power— but no less than 12 years to obtain a vote for, or to be elected to, the First Volksraad. But, as to active interference in the internal affairs of an independent State in reference to these and other matters, he thought hon. Members ought to be very careful how far they recommended such an extreme course. Apart from the question of commandeering, the Government had received no representations from British residents in the Transvaal that they desired the Government in any way to interfere in the internal affairs of the Republic. It was the desire of the Government to deal with the Republic in a frank and friendly spirit. As Englishmen, they could express a hope that their British fellow-subjects in the Transvaal might be treated with fairness and consideration; and the Government would always be ready to do all in their power to ensure that result. But he could only repeat that nothing made these friendly arrangements more difficult than the sort of speech—the sort of abusive speech— that had been uttered by the hon. Gentleman opposite. [A cry of "Oh‡"] Yes, the hon. Gentleman's speech was abusive of a friendly country with which Her Majesty's Government were in constant negotiation, and he believed that those who were customarily responsible for voicing the opposition to the Government policy would have dealt with this matter in an entirely different way to that which had been adopted by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken.
MR. DALZIEL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
said, he could not agree with the statement made that the position of affairs in the Transvaal two mouths ago was of no importance. He certainly thought that at one period of the crisis the situation was a very serious one, and as far as British interests were concerned, likely to cause the gravest anxiety. President Krüger had been unsuccessful in obtaining certain rates he had levied on the chiefs resident some distance from Pretoria. He (Mr. Dalziel) had some friends in a bank in Pretoria, and he believed that a very large number of gentlemen hailing from his constituency were engaged in business there. One night these British subjects had a summons issued on behalf of President Krüger, demanding that within 24 hours they should appear at a certain place with horse, ammunition, and rifle, and sufficient provisions to last for a certain period. These men were resident in the Transvaal, but were denied all voice in the administration of the country, and the result was that they objected to this action on the part of the President of the Republic. He must say that when British subjects were ordered within 24 hours to go out and fight for President Krüger when German, Italian, and Belgian residents were exempted from the operations of this commandeering it could not be regarded as satisfactory by any man who was a Britisher. The whole pivot of the question seemed to be that all other foreign residents were exempted from the commandeering, whilst the British residents were subject to it. He must admit that on the facts being laid before the Secretary for the Colonies he did everything that could be done to induce President Krüger to recede from his original position, and he thought the result had justified the line of policy adopted. The result of the negotiations was that in future this commandeering had been rendered impossible as far as British residents were concerned, and he heartily congratulated the Under Secretary for the Colonies upon the present position of the question.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that two statements made by gentlemen opposite were personal to himself and required an answer. The Under Secretary for the Colonies had adopted a course which was rather popular with 1505 him and some other Members of the Government, and had made a personal attack upon him. He could easily retaliate upon the hon. Gentleman in the same way and perhaps with a little more effect; but he thought that such methods of warfare were unworthy of the House. He had never made a personal attack upon any Member in the House or out of it. [Cries of "Oh‡"] He had vigorously attacked the policy of the Government and their acts, but had never made a personal attack upon a political opponent. The remark of the hon. Gentleman that his (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett's) statements had little weight in the House was quite unworthy of him, and he (Sir E. Ash-mead-Bartlett) only mentioned it to express his contempt for such methods of political warfare. The hon. Gentleman, however, got a few cheap cheers by making these personal remarks, and he supposed, therefore, he would continue to make them. The hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) had accused him of uttering fictions. The hon. Gentleman's statements with regard to the franchise had just been shown by the Under Secretary himself to be absolutely incorrect, and the hon. Gentleman had not attempted to prove that he (Sir Ashmead-Bartlett) was wrong except only as to his statement with regard to the proportion of British people in the Transvaal. It might be that the hon. Gentleman's estimate was right, but he (Sir E. Asbmead-Bartlett) adhered to his own estimate; and certainly, even if his estimate was wrong, that was no ground for bringing a charge of uttering fiction against him. The hon. Gentleman (Dr. Clark) was himself utterly wrong in regard to the franchise, and in his speech he had entirely ignored the question of the right of public meeting as well as the recent law which so restricted the franchise that for the future no foreign resident could obtain it unless his parents were naturalised before him. The Committee must have listened with some surprise to the Under Secretary's statement that the law of England resembled the law of the Transvaal with regard to public meetings. In the Transvaal all right of procession or public meeting out-of-doors was denied. Was there anything like that in this country?
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, there was no analogy. In this country there was a free right of public meeting out-of-doors unless it happened to obstruct the traffic in a thoroughfare. There was no right of outdoor meeting in the Transvaal, and indoor meetings had been restricted to five persons. [An hon. MEMBER: What about Ireland?] As to Ireland, such laws as had been passed restricting to a limited extent public meeting had been passed on account of the grave state of crime and outrage in Ireland. Our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal had been guilty of no outrages. They had not boycotted or shot landlords or tenants or mutilated cattle. Yet, because they had dared to assemble to pass a peaceable remonstrance against the privilege of the franchise being withheld from them, this stringent and oppressive law denying them all right of public meeting had been promptly passed by the Boer Volksraad. He repudiated all desire of causing disturbance in the Transvaal, and he denied that the speech he had made earlier, or the policy he had recommended to Her Majesty's Government, would cause disturbance or war. The course which the Government had pursued in this House, the policy defended by the Under Secretary just now, the policy greeted with cheers by gentlemen below the Gangway, was the policy which was certain to cause disturbance and war in the Transvaal and elsewhere. The Members of the Government were untaught by all previous experience They had tried the same policy a dozen times within the last 20 years, and each time it had landed this country always in great difficulties, and often in war. The policy of timely firmness, combined with courtesy, was the true policy of peace, and it had been proved to be so over and over again. Until the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Buxton) and his colleagues recognised that these constant surrenders, these weak answers, these half-hearted remonstrances, these timid justifications of the encroachments of Foreign Powers, were not either the honourable or the peaceful policy, there would never be any protection for our fellow-subjects abroad, and there would be the greatest risk of involving this country in disturbance and ultimately in war.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
wished to obtain some information re- 1507 specting a deputation which he believed was sent by the Queen of Swaziland to Her Majesty's Government. Ho desired to know whether the deputation had ever reached this country, and, if so, what had been the outcome of its mission? He asked the question, because certain Papers had been placed in his hands which indicated that the deputation before it left Swaziland entertained some very strong opinions regarding allegiance to the British Crown, the sanctity of the promises alleged to have been made to the British Crown, and their unwillingness to come under the sovereignty of the Boers. This information had been placed in his hands confidentially, and he could not vouch for its accuracy, but he should like the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Buxton) to give some information on the subject. The hon. Gentleman had previously stated that the Swazis would not be compelled to come under the Boer sovereignty unless they were really willing, and he wished to know whether the Government would take steps to assure themselves as to the reality of the sentiments entertained by the Swazis in reference to a possible transfer of their allegiance from the British Crown to the Boers?
§ * MR. S. BUXTON
There was a deputation—not a very representative one—which came down as far as Natal and saw Mr. Shepstone, the eldest son of the late Sir Theophilus Shepstone, and then returned to Swaziland. Sir Henry Loch recently instructed Colonel Martin, our Representative in Swaziland, to get the Queen-Mother to send down a representative deputation to the Cape. This she gladly did. The deputation—a very representative one—saw Sir Henry Loch and went back. It is now probably in communication with the Queen-Mother. As regards the question of Swaziland, I have more than once gone into it in some detail in this House, and I do not think my hon. Friend would wish me to do so again; but as regards the rights of the natives, I may say that we shall do our best, as we have done in the past, to protect such rights as they have. It must be recollected that, as a matter of fact, very unwisely probably, but, rightly or wrongly, the Swazis themselves have practically given up nearly the whole of their rights in the country and their independence. That was the Sir R. Temple 1508 position we found when we came to deal with the question, and, without going into particulars, I can only say that, as regards the remaining rights of the natives, we shall do our best to protect them.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
pointed out that although Swaziland was not, part of our territory we were bound by the strictest engagement under the Convention of 1884 not to allow the country to pass into the hands of the South African Republic.
§ * MR. S. BUXTON
I understood the hon. Baronet the Member for Kingston (Sir R. Temple) to speak about the handing over of the property of the British Crown to the Transvaal, and what I denied was that in any sense of the term Swaziland had been British territory. I quite admit our engagements, and it is because of our engagements that we shall do our best to protect the remaining rights of the natives.
§ DR. CLARK
said that, as a matter of fact, Swaziland used to be part of the British Empire; but by the Treaty of 1881 it was separated from it, and by the Treaty of 1884 the Transvaal agreed to recognise its independence. He trusted that in any final settlement the rights of the Swazis to the land, and especially to the waterland, would be looked into. He was not prepared to admit that a native King could give concessions affecting the well-being of his people for a bottle of rum or for nothing. The only thing he was interested in, so far as Swaziland was concerned, was that when bringing about a settlement the rights of the natives should not be overlooked.
§ MR.MACDONA (Southwark, Rotherhithe)
said, he rose to congratulate hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House upon having amongst them a Member like the Member for Kirkcaldy, who advocated a spirited policy as regarded our foreign relations. He (Mr. Macdona) had had similar letters to those the hon. Member had received from his constituents, complaining of the intolerable state of tyranny under which British residents lived in the Transvaal. He hoped that the evidence they had had today of the existence of some backbone amongst the supporters of the Government would not wear away too soon.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, that what he had meant was that he had evidence to show that the Swazis entertained a sentiment of allegiance to the British Sovereign, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would be quite sure as to the existence or non-existence of that sentiment in the hearts of these people before they consented to the transfer of their allegiance to the Boers.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, the final settlement of the Swaziland question had been postponed for six months. When did that period expire?
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
asked if the hon. Member was in a position to give an assurance that the Swaziland question would not be settled before the next meeting of Parliament? It was important that the House should have an opportunity of discussing the matter before a final settlement, was effected.
§ * MR. S. BUXTON
said, he was not in a position to give such an assurance. A certain Treaty had been made with the South African Republic, and had been before the House many months. Every opportunity had been given to the hon. Gentleman and to others to discuss, but no objection had been raised to, its terms. If within the next six months the Swazis were prepared to accept it the Treaty would become valid.
§ MR. WEIR
wanted to know what right British subjects had in the Transvaal? The subjects of one country going into another country and residing there must be prepared to obey its laws. If those laws were not in accordance with his views it was not for him to object. The Transvaal must be permitted to settle its own internal affairs. Fortunately, the present Government did not favour the old Tory policy of big countries endeavouring to slaughter little ones—a policy which sometimes led to such mishaps as that of Majuba Hill.
§ * MR. S. BUXTON
said, that with regard to the gold standard of British Honduras, he dared say the hon. Member was aware that they were agreed that there should be a gold standard there, and the matter was still under consideration. They would hurry it on as fast as they could, and he hoped that such a standard would be in operation within the next six weeks or two months.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, ho thought everybody who desired to see the British Empire maintained must have looked with great hope and satisfaction upon the recent Conference at Ottawa. He would be glad to know whether the Government could make any statement as to whether they intended to take steps to carry out the ideas there expressed for knitting together the different parts of the British Empire, particularly the essential one as to the promotion of telegraphs and lines of steamers.
§ * MR. S. BUXTON
said, that was a very important matter, and one which was of very great interest to the Mother Country as well as to the colonies. He agreed with the hon. Member in the hope that the Conference was a step in the direction of closer connection between the Mother Country and the colonies. Her Majesty's Government followed the proceedings with great interest, but the hon. Member would understand that, as they had not yet received Lord Jersey's Report, they had not come to any conclusion. He hoped to be able to lay that Report before the House at the earliest moment, in order to give Members an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with it before next Session.
§ Vote agreed to.
2. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum not exceeding £100.757. 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, 1895, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments.
§ * MR. DODD (Essex, Maldon)
desired to call attention to a matter relating to the Railway Companies and the conduct of the Board of Trade with regard to the powers they possessed. The Board of 1511 Trade had, in relation to railways, very large and extensive powers, and as a rule these powers had been used by the Board of Trade wisely, with considerable firmness, and, at the same time, with moderation. But in the case to which he was going to call attention there had been an exception to the rule. The Board of Trade by the Act of 1873 had certain powers of dealing with cases of undue preference in the carriage of goods on railways. The Acts forbade unfairness on the part of Railway Companies against any particular individual or any particular class of goods. It was common knowledge that at the present time there were, as there had been for many years past, considerable complaints made with regard to preference. Some of the complaints were unfounded; but there were, undoubtedly, instances where the complaints were well founded, and where undue preference was shown to foreign as against home produce. There was a section of the Regulation of Railways Act, 1873, which said that the Board of Trade might appoint a person to take up the case of the traders and bring the matter before the Railway Commissioners where the complaint was one of unjust and undue preference. That Act had been in force for more than 20 years, and he did not think the Board of Trade during the whole of the 20 years had ever put in force that section or appointed any person to represent the traders. It was not because the traders had made no complaints or that there had not been serious ground for complaint, but because the Board of Trade had a system of declining to act on the power given them by that section. That legislation remained untouched, but there had been fresh legislation which, to some extent, altered the position of the Board of Trade. By the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888, a clause was introduced stating that if a person sending goods by railway was of opinion that the charges were unreasonable he could make complaint to the Board of Trade. Under Section 31 of the Act of 1888 it became the duty of the Board of Trade, upon receiving such a complaint, to call the parties together and endeavour to arrange matters and assist them to come to terms. That was generally called the Conciliation Section. Since these two Acts were passed a third had 1512 been added to the Statute Book which would shortly come into operation, and which provided that in future in regard to litigation before the Railway Commissioners no costs would be awarded to either side. In other words, if the Railway Company succeeded they did not get costs; if, on the other hand, the trader succeeded he would not get costs. The effect of that would be that traders in the future, going before the Commissioners whether right or wrong, would have to bear their own costs. That being so, it became very important that in future the Board of Trade should put in force the power of taking up the trader's case, which, as he had shown, they possessed. His present complaint was that they had failed for 23 years to put that power in force, and he was of opinion the failure to act would continue unless pressure was put upon the Depart-m ant. The section of the Act of 1873 would clearly, if acted on, give the traders very important relief. The position of affairs would be that the trader would first try the conciliation to be exercised by the Board of Trade, and if it failed he would be able to get the Board of Trade to back him up and take the case before the Commissioners. The fourth Annual Report of the Board of Trade contained an account of the complaints made under Section 31 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888, and gave the results achieved by conciliation. The figures showed that the number of complaints dealt with in the year was 75, of which 21 were still under consideration. The Report went on to state—In 24 instances the intervention of the Board of Trade led to no result. In 12 instances out of the 24 the Board of Trade decided that they could not take any further action after receiving the explanations of the Company. In five instances the issues involved were of too great importance to be dealt with under Section 31, In two instances in which complaint was made of the allowance made by the Railway Company for the provision of private owners' waggons, the Board of Trade, at the request of the complainants, exercised the powers conferred upon them under the Railway Rates and Charges Order Confirmation Acts, 1881 and 1892, of referring the disputes to arbitration, and appointed the Railway and Canal Commission in each case to act as arbitrator. Up to the present these are the only disputes which the Board of Trade have been called upon to refer to arbitration under the Acts in question. In three instances the Board of Trade could not take any further action owing to the decision of the Companies; in one of these the Company 1513 stated that they were prepared to defend their action if necessary before the Railway Commissioners, and in the others the disputes related to the charges on traffic from private sidings, a subject to which I refer later on in this Report. In one instance the question involved was a legal one, which has since been decided in the Law Courts in the complainants' favour. The remaining instance is one to which I must specially call attention on account of the attitude adoped by the Railway Company. Particulars of this case are set out in the Appendix, from which it will be seen that the Great Northern (Ireland) Railway Company refused to attend a conference suggested by the Board of Trade, contending that the question involved a legal issue which could not be disposed of under the Conciliation Clause. The Company persisted in their refusal, in spite of the pressure exercised by the Hoard of Trade to induce them to attend, and I regret. therefore, to have to report that the Board of Trade were thus denied the opportunity they thought reasonable of making an endeavour to bring about an amicable settlement of the dispute. This is the first occasion on which I have had to report the unwillingness of a Railway Company to discuss a complaint before the Board of Trade.He thought he had said enough to show that conciliation wasapt to fail, and might fail, because the Board of Trade had not used the rod which they had in their cupboard, and which they had kept in their cupboard for 20 years—namely, their power of going before the Railway Commissioners, and taking up the traders' case, and, notwithstanding their general character, the Board of Trade deserved a certain amount of censure for not having taken up the cases of the traders in these and many instances which must have come under their notice. He should like to have sonic explanation of why they had not adopted this course in the past, and some assurance that they intended to do so in the future. It became even more important for the future than it had been in the past, now that the expenses incurred by the trader who went before the Railway Commissioners must be defrayed by himself whether he won or lost. His other complaint with regard to the use by the Board of their powers was in respect of the hours of labour of railway servants. With regard to the hours of railway servants, the Act of 1893, regulating their hours, allowed servants of Railway Companies to send in to the Board of Trade any complaint as to excessive hours to which they were subjected. There had been complaints from the public, and some complaints, in certain specific instances, from the servants 1514 on certain lines. There was a provision in the Act requiring that the Railway Company, where there was a complaint which at first sight appeared to be well-founded, should be called upon to submit to the Board of Trade a schedule showing the hours their servants were employed, and upon that the Board of Trade had power to deal with them somewhat as in the earlier Act by what was in substance conciliation, and thus endeavour to bring about a better state of affairs. If this effort at conciliation failed there was a provision which enabled the Board of Trade to take tip the case of the servants before the Railway Commissioners. His complaint with regard to the conduct of the Board of Trade in relation to this Statute was one which he made with more hesitation than the complaint he made with regard to the earlier Statute, because the Act had only been in operation a short time, and the date had not yet come when it was the duty of the Board of Trade to submit a Report of their proceedings to Parliament, and, therefore, he was speaking only from the best evidence of what could be gathered from various isolated instances. He thought that complaints were received as early as January or February of this year, and with regard to some of them, he believed in regard to all, where the Railway Companies declined to accede to the views of the Board of Trade, no steps had boon taken to bring the matter before the Railway Commissioners. He spoke with hesitation, because he had no information at first hand, but they had seen or heard nothing of these cases in the Courts; and his belief was that the power of bringing the long hours before the Railway Commissioners and getting them put a stop to by their decision had never yet been made use of by the Board of Trade. It seemed rather a long time to play with a complaint from January down to the present time. A little more energy on the part of the Board of Trade with regard to the hours of railway servants would do no harm. He trusted that in this matter, and also in the other matter to which he had referred, and which was of great importance to the traders of this country, the Board of Trade would act with a somewhat more vigorous hand in putting in force the powers with which they had been entrusted by Parliament.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
, though heartily concurring with the general attitude of the President of the Board of Trade in reference to railway questions, had noticed both under the administration of the late President and —though to a less extent—that of the right hon. Gentleman who was at present at the Board of Trade, a too strongly-expressed determination not to exercise even those powers which they possessed for the protection of the rights of the community. He was not prepared to impeach the principle of that inaction, which was expressed as a desire to maintain an impartial attitude in dealing with railway matters, and to recognise that all Railway Companies were great traders carrying on an industry which was very essential and important to the commerce of this country; but its application had been too indiscriminate. And not only had there been an indisposition to undertake new duties in that direction, but he agreed in the criticism of his hon. Friend as to the inaction of the Department in exercising powers which they undoubtedly possessed under the Railway Regulation Act of 1873. When this indisposition of the Department to assume the responsibility of taking care of the interests of the traders was expressed, he thought the Department forgot that the opposite principle had been conceded in two recent Acts, and the obligation placed upon the Board of Trade to defend the interests of the community. In the Railway Rates Act and the Merchandise Marks Act the Board of Trade was invested with the responsibility of protecting the rights of the community as against certain classes. It was not to be forgotten that Railway Companies in dealing with traders possessed enormous advantages. They had a thorough organisation, permanent legal and other officials, and when as by the present Bill it was proposed to exempt them from the payment of costs it should be remembered that Railway Companies practically incurred little or no costs, because their permanent staff conducted their legal operations for them. On the other hand, traders were under compulsion to take legal advice and have legal representation, and that might become, under the section, a very great burden. It might be said that the Conciliation Clause seldom failed, 1516 and that, therefore, there was no reason for the Department taking further action. He thought the Department should be reminded that the principle of their own Bill at present passing through the House was that resort to a tribunal was not to take place unless conciliation had been previously appealed to to effect the purpose. That assumed that conciliation must fail in some cases. He acknowledged the great benefit of the Conciliation Clause, which had done much good, but it wanted a sanction, and there was no power to carry out any determination which might be arrived at by the Department as conciliators unless accepted by both parties to the dispute. They had now for the first time, by the Bill before the House, a right to resort to a tribunal on the part of the trader. Railway Companies had ceased to be judges in their own cause and in matters affecting their own interests, and that principle which was the great gain to the traders in this Bill was not only conceded, but would assuredly be extended in the future. There was a vast responsibility committed to the Board of Trade in taking care that the interests of the traders were adequately represented and vindicated, and he hoped that under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman this responsibility would be recognised, for where-ever powers were already conferred, as they were by the Act of 1873, it would be an abdication of a plain duty if the Board of Trade failed to protect the interests of the public. He hoped those powers would be exercised by the Board of Trade, for it was only such a Board that could fully and adequately place the facts before the tribunal.
§ MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, he desired to bring under the notice of the President of the Board of Trade a case of illegal railway fares. In March, 1893, he asked a question with regard to the railway fares of the Metropolitan District Railway, which appeared to him to be illegal. The President of the Board of Trade promised to move in the matter, but no action was taken until August. Shortly before August he wrote to the Board pointing out the facts; asking whether the fares were or were not illegal; and whether, if the fares were illegal, the Board could take action 1517 in the matter. He got a letter dated 10th August, 1893, in reply which said—The Board of Trade have no power and no means to undertake to bring such a matter before a Court of Law at the instance of a party aggrieved.That was a distinct statement from the Board that they had no power to interfere in the matter. When the Estimates came up in September, 1893, he drew the attention of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in the Presidency of the Board of Trade to this statement in the letter of the Board; the right hon. Gentleman made no attempt to uphold that statement; on the contrary, he said he would look into the case, and if he found the charge well-founded he would direct a prosecution against the Railway Company, thus distinctly showing that the Board of Trade had the power which the Board stated it had not in its letter of the 10th of August, 1893. He allowed the question to sleep a little while; and in September last asked another question, when he got the answer that the matter was under consideration. He allowed another interval to elapse: and now, having first drawn attention to the matter 17 months ago, he thought he was entitled to receive some information on the point. He thought it a most serious matter that the Board of Trade should have absolutely forgotten the Act of 1844—which was called the Cheap Trains Act—which gave them the power, in a case where a Railway Company was acting in excess of its powers, to notify the Attorney General to proceed to get an injunction to restrain the Railway Company in their illegal action. The Committee would understand that in the case of a Railway Company like the Metropolitan District Company,' where the fares amounted only to a few pence, an aggrieved party would hesitate before he himself took legal proceedings, which might cost thousands of pounds; and, therefore, unless the Board of Trade interfered, the Railway Company would continue to act illegally with impunity. It might be that the Metropolitan District Railway Company were charging legal fares; but he did not believe they were. He believed their first-class fares were illegal; and as to the third-class fares, with which he was more concerned, he believed they were also illegal, but he was not certain. But if his con- 1518 tention was right this Railway Company had, since he had taken up the matter, got £10,000 out of the public illegally; and if that was correct it was really time that the Board should act. If, on the other hand, he was wrong, he thought that, having raised the question three times in the House, he should be distinctly told that he was wrong. Though he had spoken strongly, perhaps, on the question, he should say that he had never anything but courtesy to acknowledge from the Board of Trade whenever he had occasion to approach it.
§ * MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said, he did not intend to continue the discussion on the railway rates. He would only say on that subject that they were all indebted to his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade for the ability and the conciliatory temper with which he had facilitated the negotiations between the traders and the Railway Companies in the matter of the Railway Traffic Bill. But he rose principally to put a few specific questions to his right hon. Friend on other matters. He wished to know when they might expect the Report of the proceedings of the Board of Trade under the Railway Hours Act? With regard to the long hours of railway servants in signal-boxes, it was notorious that the Railway Companies were adopting most improper, most unfair, and most objectionable tactics in evading the spirit and the intentions of the House of Commons in that great declaration. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman when dealing with this question would bear in mind the strong words of one of his predecessors at the Board of Trade—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol—in his Draft Report for the Railway Hours Committee in 1892. That, right hon. Gentleman did not for a single moment contemplate the possibility of the hours of the signalmen being raised. The right hon. Gentleman in his Report drew the attention of Parliament most strongly to the important and onerous duties of the signalmen; and pointed out the urgent necessity of dealing with them in a generous manner; that none of them should work more than 10 hours; that many of them should work only eight hours, and that even fewer hours of labour in some cases would be advisable. Those; remarks showed the spirit in which the Committee's Report was pre- 1519 pared and adopted by the House, and also showed the intention of Parliament in passing the Railways Hours Act; and he therefore hoped that his right hon. Friend would be able to assure them that the Board of Trade were doing everything in their power to defeat any attempts at the evasion of the Act on the part of the Railway Companies. From cases which he had recently brought before the House it was clear that the Companies were endeavouring to make a saving in their wages account by raising to a 10-hour day many signal-boxes which had been worked for years on eight hour shifts, and they were doing this, although the work at these boxes was not less but greater than before. In the case of one railway it was shown that while the hours of the men were formally reduced for week-days, the Company adopted the shabby trick of imposing extra Sunday duty on the men. That was a course of conduct which his right hon. Friend should visit with all the pains and penalties at his disposal. He understood that the Board of Trade did not feel itself free to act under the powers given it by the Railway Hours Act, with a view to shorten the hours of railway servants, unless a distinct and definite complaint of long hours was laid before it by the railway servants. It seemed to him that the interpretation of the Act left it perfectly within the power of the Board of Trade if it obtained information in any way whatever, on behalf of the railway servants, to take all the proceedings authorised under the Act, in order to shorten the hours of labour. He also thought it would be a great satisfaction to railway servants if the right hon. Gentleman—from his place in the House — assured them that any representations made by them, or by anyone on their behalf, under the Act, as to conditions and hours of employment, were treated with the most absolute secrecy by the Board of Trade. It was within his knowledge that the Railway Companies had tried to obtain information of the persons who had made representations to the Board of Trade; and therefore he thought his right hon. Friend ought to take the most stringent precautions to prevent any disclosures in the matter. He also wished to ask whether the appointment of Sub-Inspectors of Railways would be promptly 1520 carried out? That was a point of the most urgent importance in the daily lives of railway servants. From figures he had recently obtained in a Return, it appeared that out of 4,615 railway servants killed during the past 10 years, there had been inquiries by the Board of Trade in only eight instances. They required practical railway men to investigate these fatalities, and to be able to state from their own experience their probable causes. It was a matter in which there was a special danger of the Railway Companies endeavouring to influence the Board of Trade to appoint men who would really be the nominees of the Companies. He knew perfectly the feelings of the railway servants on this question, and he could assure his right hon. Friend that the whole power of usefulness of those Sub-Inspectors would be destroyed if there was the least suspicion of their absolute independence, and if they were suspected in any way of representing the Railway Companies rather than the men. He trusted his right hon. Friend would see his way, in appointing these Sub-Inspectors, to choose not only practical railway servants, but men who enjoyed the fullest confidence of the railway servants and their Organisations.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, one remark had been made in the course of the Debate which was liable to be misunderstood. It was said that to a great extent the difference between the railway charges on foreign goods and on British goods was owing to the fact that foreign goods were conveyed in far larger quantities. But that was not so. There was a case pending before the Railway Commissioners which would show that the high rates charged on British goods as compared with foreign goods could not be explained away by any question of large or small quantity; and he himself, when he asked a question on the subject of one of the Railway Companies, was told that there was no rule regulating the amount of the charges according to the quantity of goods carried. The preference given to foreign goods was based entirely on different grounds; and could, as he had said, not be explained away by any argument as to large or small quantities. He thought hon. Members had a right to make a few general observations on the conduct of the Government in dealing with railway 1521 matters that came under the control of the Board of Trade. The complaint he made was not against the President of the Board of Trade personally; but he should say that he thought the right hon. Gentleman should put his foot down and insist on securing for his Department a larger amount of the time of the House than was allowed to him.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order‡ The hon. Member can only call attention to the administrative acts of the right hon. Gentleman. It is not in Order to refer to what he has done or not done in the House.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
I desire to call attention to a matter in reference to the Railway Rates Bill which is now passing through Parliament.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he would pass to a point which was clearly within the limits of the administration of the Board of Trade. There had been a disposition for some years on the part of the Board to assume a supposed impartial position between the traders and the Railway Companies, or, as it was described, to hold an even balance between them. He thought that was a mistaken attitude on the part of the Board. The duty of the Board of Trade was to see that traders were not unfairly treated by the Railway Companies; and that duty could not be properly fulfilled if the Board took up the position that they were bound never to interfere between the traders and the Railway Companies. The theory of the Board of Trade seemed to be that the traders had sufficient protection against any injurious action by the Railway Companies in the competition and rivalry between the Railway Companies themselves. But the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that with regard to the question of charges there was now no such thing as competition amongst the Railway Companies. The Companies were welded into one organisation on this question; while on the other side there was necessarily a very loosely-organised body of traders, and under the circumstances he thought it was the primary duty of the Board of Trade to see that traders were not oppressed by the Companies.
MR. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)
hoped that the interests of agriculturists would not be lost sight of by the Board of Trade on this question of railway rates and charges. It was comparatively easy to organise the traders to tight the Railway Companies; but the farmers by the very nature of their industry were widely scattered over the country, and it was most difficult for them to combine against the rich and powerful Railway Companies. There was the greater reason, therefore, why the Board of Trade should keep a vigilant eye on the interests of the agriculturists. He desired to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to a matter on which he had asked a question before—namely, importation of printed and lithographed matter into this country. The right hon. Gentleman had told him on the former occasion that be did not believe there was any amount of this matter worth speaking of imported from abroad. But he (Mr. Farquharson) had learned that one place of amusement in London had imported £7,000 worth of pictorial mural advertisements from the United States. The right hon. Gentleman then told him that if he could get this information himself there was no need to ask it of the Board of Trade. But surely it was the duty of the Board of Trade to keep an account of the exports and imports of the country; and if no restriction could be placed on the free importation of such matter, at least the printers and lithographers of the country, who were starving for want of work, had a right to know the extent of this importation. He, therefore, asked the right hon. Gentleman to say that in future there would be a separate account of the printed and lithographed matter imported into this country kept by the Board of Trade. There was another point, and one of even larger importance, on which he desired to interrogate the right hon. Gentleman. That was the question of coal strikes. He should say that he had no connection with coal in any shape or form. He thought the right hon. Gentleman could not be fully alive to the intense suffering caused by those coal strikes through the country.
No; unless you bring home some wrong administrative action, the Board of Trade has no responsibility in the matter.
I was going to point out the want of action on the part of the Board of Trade in the matter.
Then I must be silent in the matter. There must be some means, surely, of bringing the matter before the House.
§ MR. WARNER (Somerset, N.)
said, that for the last 12 months the Board of Trade had been telling them that it was looking after the railway rates. But what had been done by the Board was very little; and, further, it was very un satisfactory to find that the position taken up by the Board was that of arbitrator between the House and the Railway Companies, instead of putting into effect the desires of the House with regard to the Railway Companies. The position taken up by the Board of Trade in reference to the Railway Companies had been too weak, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to assure the Committee that some more drastic measures would be taken. If the right hon. Gentleman urged that he had no powers, he was sure the Committee would——
§ MR. WARNER
said, he was referring to the hours of railway servants, and was only showing that the Board of Trade had not shown sufficient energy in its administration of the Act recently passed on the subject. That Act was supposed to have given sufficient powers of control. As yet, the Board of Trade had done little or nothing under the Act.
§ MR. WARNER
said, then, at a events, the results of their work were no 1524 as yet forthcoming. Every Member of the House knew of numerous cases where railway men worked overtime. At the same time, they were very grateful for so much as had been done. He knew that on the Great Western Railway, where there was a great deal of extra traffic in the boating season, the servants of the Company had often to work for very long hours during the summer time. Men had also to work on alternate Sundays, although extra pay might be given, and that was one of the ways in which Railway Companies evaded the law.
§ * MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
reminded the Committee that when this question first arose he criticised the way in which the Railway Companies had attempted to deal with it, and he urged the fixing of a maximum of eight hours' work in the signal boxes. They were then assured that the right hon. Gentleman would do his best to get the excessive extra hours of work reduced. On that understanding he did not go to a Division. He thought that the measure had, in some cases, effected a great deal of good. The Chairmen of three large Railway Companies had announced to their shareholders that in consequence of their compliance with the requirements of tin Act and the recommendations of the Board of Trade with regard to reduced hours of labour, it had been necessary to increase their staff of servants by one third in many grades. That was al very well as far as it went, but the improvement was confined to three or four o the largest Companies, and in many case: there had even been evasions of the Ac by these same Companies. The Inspector of the Board ought to take steps to preven a continuance of the evasive expedient to which recourse was had on some of the smaller lines, which did not pay good dividends. That, of course, was not; consideration to be taken into accoun in matters where the lives of passenger might be jeopardised on those lines. I some cases where extra signal boxes has been erected, the number of hours has been raised from 8 to 10 on the supposition that the amount of work was reduced. That sort of thing ought to be stopped by the Board of Trade. I other cases where the total number of hours per day or per week had been 1525 reduced, the Companies had broken through the six-day-week rule and had adopted a seven-day-week with Sunday work. In other words, what the workmen had gained at the short hours spigot they had lost at the Sunday work bung-hole. The men contended that the Board should not wait for representations to be made by the Trades Unions to them, but "off their own bat" ought to make inquiries into the way the Companies had been evading this Act. The sooner they did that the better for all concerned. It was to the interest of the public that on lines like the Loudon, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, where the excursion traffic was very large, the men should not be overworked. No man was as vigilant in the discharge of his duties as he ought to be if he was underpaid and had to work for an excessive number of hours. Trains were sometimes sent under the charge of assistant guards and uniformed men who had to be away from their homes 16 hours, with the lives of hundreds of people in their hands, without receiving a single extra penny for their Sunday's work. He urged the President of the Board of Trade to appoint as Assistant Railway Inspectors three or four men who had practical experience as railway servants. To them railway employés would be able to make representations which they would hesitate to make to Inspectors receiving£600 or £800 a year, who did not belong to their class and were unacquainted with their modes of thought and their habits. While thanking the House for having passed this railway servants' hours Act, he must urge that there was still room for improvement, and what other Boards had done the Board of Trade ought to be able to do with equal efficiency.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BRYCE, Aberdeen, S.)
was glad to acknowledge the way in which the efforts of the Board of Trade had been recognised, and especially what had been said by hon. Members with regard to the courtesy they had received even when the Board of Trade had not been able to accede to their requests. The hon. Member for Essex began by complaining that the Board of Trade had not used sufficiently the power which it had under an Act passed a good many years ago to take proceedings on behalf of traders. That complaint was echoed 1526 by several other speakers, particularly the hon. Members for Preston and Islington. He would state candidly the reason for the attitude of the Board of Trade. The Act had not been enforced since 1873 under many successive Administrations, though a great number of cases submitted by both Parties had been decided, and that fact he thought, considering the number of men who had filled the office he now occupied, raised a presumption that there was some strong reason why this weapon had been allowed to remain in the scabbard. One reason was that the Treasury did not think it right that the Board of Trade should put the country to the cost of legal proceedings except in cases where it was obvious that redress could not possibly be obtained unless that were done. It had been suggested that the Board of Trade should support the case of traders before the Bail way Commissioners when they had failed to come to terms. But the adoption of this plan would be the most certain method of destroying the whole benefit of the Conciliation Clause. That was the conclusion the Board of Trade had come to. Justice had scarcely been done lo the results of the conciliation proceedings of the Board of Trade. He believed they had been of great value in preventing resort to the whole armoury of legal procedure. In many cases not only had the complainant gained the object in view, but he had been saved heavy legal charges. Considering the position in which the Board of Trade stood under the Conciliation Clause, and the duties they had to discharge towards the Companies, the Board would make a great mistake if they made themselves too frequently parties to the disputes between the traders and the Companies. What the Board had no legal power to do they were often, perhaps in 99 cases out of 100, able to do by moral influence with the Companies, and if they assumed a permanently hostile attitude to the Companies they would lose a great deal of the advantage their position now gave them to obtain from the Companies more than they had the right by law to demand. Another point had been made by the hon. Members for Essex and Northampton in relation to the Railway Servants (Hours of Labour) Act of 1893; the Board had constantly, since the Act was passed, been engaged in taking proceed- 1527 ings under it to make the Companies' hours of labour shorter and more in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Whenever it was brought to the notice of the Board, even in the most informal way, that excessive hours were being required, the Board of Trade deemed that sufficient to necessitate inquiry into the case for the purpose of taking action. He thanked the hon. Member for Batter-sea for the tribute he had paid to the good work done under the Act by the Board; but he wished to remind him that the Board of Trade could not exceed the powers given to it by Parliament, and had to be careful to keep within them, or it would be liable to be pulled up, and if the law needed amendment it would be for Parliament to give the Board further powers, but he could assure the Committee that the powers Parliament had given in the interests of the railway servants and the travelling public would be used in every way. Nothing would be wanting on their part in that direction. He would say a word upon another subject. The hon. Member for Battersea mentioned the desirability of making provision for relays of men. The Board had been considering that point, and also the question with regard to appointing new sub-Inspectors who should be practical men. One of the last acts of his right hon. Predecessor was to obtain the consent of the Treasury to appointing his own Inspectors. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire might rest assured there was no reason to fear that the Railway Companies would be able to put off upon the Board their own nominees. Some 600 or 700 applications had already been sent in, and the Board were now sifting the names. No attempt had been made by the Railway Companies to suggest the appointment of particular persons, and a selection would be made of the best men among the candidates. The hon. Member for Leek called attention to the Metropolitan Railway Company; but the Board were endeavouring to satisfy themselves on the subject with competent advice, and there had been no needless delay. The point had certainly not been lost sight of. He hoped at the next opportunity for answering questions upon the subject that he would be able to supply the necessary information. The other points which had been mentioned 1528 by the hon. Member for Dorset would also be considered.
§ * MR. E. H. BAYLEY (Camberwell, N.)
called attention to the attitude of the Board of Trade with regard to the saving of life at shipwrecks round the coasts. He said the Board of Trade was responsible for this work, but the duty was relegated to a private Society—the National Lifeboat Institution. This Society, which usurped the province of the Board of Trade, consisted of a secretary and other officials, who out of subscriptions were paid salaries unprecedented in liberality for a charitable institution. The Society did its work most inefficiently, but made up for its inefficiency by a vast amount of self-praise and glorification. Whenever a lifeboat accident or break down, or scandal took place, and a Board of Trade inquiry was ordered, the Board, instead of sending an independent and impartial man to make it, sent down an official of the Board of Trade and associated with him an officer of this very Society whose conduct he was questioning. What would be thought of the Board of Trade if, when a railway accident occurred necessitating an inquiry, the inquiry were made through the Railway Company's station-master? He thought such an independent inquiry should be made in all these cases as would be satisfying to the public. When a scandal occurred in a hospital would the inquiry be entrusted to the Secretary or Treasurer of the Hospital? The public would not have the slightest confidence in such a tribunal, but this was exactly analogous to the policy of the Board of Trade when there was lifeboat mismanagement. A particularly shameful instance of this sort of thing occurred in December last. A wreck took place off the coast of Lincolnshire, and six sailors were drowned. He had conversed with coastguardsmen and others, who told him they saw the sailors clinging for hours to the rigging and waiting for help. A lifeboat was on the beach, and a short distance away the crew were regaling themselves in a public-house, Where they remained for hours, until the ship went to pieces, and they returned home. A Board of Trade Inquiry was ordered, and the usual farce was gone through. An official of the Lifeboat Institution, who was an Inspector of the very lifeboat in question, 1529 was appointed to conduct the inquiry, and with him was associated, for the sake of appearances, a Captain Wilson, of the Board of Trade. He (Mr. Bayley) took the trouble to go down to Lincolnshire to attend the inquiry, and he never witnessed a more disgraceful mockery of a Court of Justice. Respectable eye-witnesses of the wreck were not examined, whereas the crew were called one after the other, and their statements as to not seeing the wreck, &c, were accepted as gospel. The Court reported that there had been no negligence on the part of the crew, but that the coxswain of the boat had committed a blunder in not going to the rescue of the shipwrecked vessel. Fancy allowing six sailors to be drowned, and then mildly speaking of a blunder having been committed‡ Not content with whitewashing the lifeboat crew, the Court had the incredible meanness to attempt to throw the blame on Mr. Dawes, the coastguard officer, who had been actively at work during the storm in saving lives from another wreck. The inhabitants showed their contempt for the Report by holding a public meeting in honour of Mr. Dawes, and presenting him with a testimonial. He particularly blamed the Court for not taking the evidence of Mr. Gilbert Holden, Lloyd's agent, a gentle man of great respectability, who was an eye-witness of the whole scene, and who repeatedly urged the crew to go to the wreck, and also Mr. and Mrs. Adlard, who again and again remonstrated with the crew. On his return to London he published in the newspapers an accurate report of the facts in opposition to the Board of Trade Report, and the rector of the parish wrote confirming his accuracy, and he believed that every inhabitant of the place was prepared to do so. This system of appointing paid officials of the Lifeboat Institution to investigate their own management was worse than jury packing. It was the culprit appointing his own Judge, jury, and counsel. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman wished to do what was right, and he hoped that he would stop these bogus inquiries in future, which put the country to expense, and only threw dust in the eyes of the public.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, he knew he should not be in Order in raising the question of the Scottish miners' strike at the present time; but inasmuch as the right hon. 1530 Gentleman had interested himself in an official capacity in the negotiations which had taken place with a view to a settlement, he desired to ask him if there was any likelihood of those negotiations being attended with a satisfactory result? Had ho followed the precedent set by his predecessor, in connection with the recent strike in England, of appointing a Commissioner of the Labour Department to make inquiry and collect information in regard to the dispute? He also wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he had received information which induced him to believe that the obstacle in the way of a settlement of the strike, which had now been going on for eight weeks, was that the masters refused to receive and hear the representatives of the men? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to assure the Committee that there was even now some hope of a meeting being arranged between the masters and the men. He was sure that if the right hon. Gentleman could bring that about, it would be a source of general satisfaction throughout the whole of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman would agree with him that the matter was one which should be, if possible, settled without the least delay.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he did not desire to detain the Committee for more than a few moments; but as representing a railway servant constituency, he wished to express a hope that the Board of Trade would do its best to see that the Act passed last year was carried out. The special matter he desired to call attention to was as to the Railway Companies in London providing cheap trains for workwomen during longer hours than was at present the case. So far back as the 1st of March he had put a question to the President of the Board of Trade, who had promised to call attention to the matter. He (Mr. Morton) had presented a Memorial from lady Guardians in the East of London, and had got a promise from the right hon. Gentleman that the matter would be attended to. As a matter of fact, nothing had been done, and he was afraid the Board of Trade did not intend to exercise their powers. The Board of Trade had power to enforce this if they liked. The Memorial was sent to the Board, presided over by 1531 Sir Henry Oakley, and an evasive answer was returned. It was necessary that the Board of Trade should do something to enable these workwomen to travel to London at a later hour than at present. And he should like to know why the Board of Trade had given him notice that they would oppose his Return Tickets Bill? Why should they take the trouble to inform him that they intended to oppose a useful Bill of that kind? He should have thought that the President of the Board of Trade, if he wished to do his duty, would have assisted him in this matter. He should be glad to have information on this point. He heartily supported the hon. Member opposite who had spoken on the subject of lifeboats. The time was coming when something would have to be done in this regard for the protection of the lives of our sailors and sea-faring population.
§ * MR. WEIR
said, he agreed that the Board of Trade was a most important Department; and ho desired to call attention to the salaries paid, especially that to the President of the Board of Trade. He considered that the salary of the President was inadequate, and that the Department itself was undermanned. He wished to know whether anything had been done with reference to the complaints he had lodged as to the action of the autocratic Highland Railway Company? Something was to have been done last year with regard to this Company, which was paying 6 per cent, on its ordinary stock, but nothing had been done. Another point he wished to refer to was the spaces between the platforms and footboards of the railway carriages on the Metropolitan Railway stations. Owing to the action he had taken in one or two cases the Railway Company had diminished the space; but he wanted to know what the President of the Board of Trade was going to do in connection with other stations on this and other railways? He was sorry that his time did not enable him to go round on a general tour of inspection. Then on another point he had asked a question, as to the sanitary condition of passenger steamers at Glasgow, and had been told that the Board of Trade had not a sufficient staff to inspect the sanitary condition of these steamers. If the staff was not sufficient, the Board of Trade should apply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1532 for further funds. Another subject he desired to mention was the cost of patents. The outgoings of the Patent Office, he found, were £57,000, while the receipts amounted to £189,700. Could not the right hon. Gentleman see his way to the adoption of some plan under which inventors would be no longer charged such heavy fees for patents? The fees, he was aware, had been largely reduced of late years, but he thought they might be still further reduced with advantage to the public.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he could assure the hon. Member for Ross-shire that the Board of Trade was in constant communication with the Highland Railway Company as to the various objectionable features in their administration that he had called attention to. These matters would not be lost sight of. And the Department was doing all in its power as to the complaint against the Metropolitan Railway Company. The question of workmen's trains had engaged the attention of the Board of Trade, and they had been in communication with the Railway Companies on the subject. He invited the hon. Member to come to the Board of Trade some day and see either himself or the officials of the Railway Department, and lay before them details of the proposed scheme, so that the Department might be able to examine it with the hon. Member.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he should be glad to do this; but he had gone to the Board of Trade six mouths ago, and had offered all sorts of evidence, and finally had sent in a Memorial from lady Guardians in the East of London.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, that everything had been done which could be done. The Department, at least, was not in possession of the points on which the hon. Member wished it to take action. On the whole, the Board of Trade had not shown an unreasonable disposition in the matter. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for Camberwell, he could not assent to the view he took of the Mablethorpe case. Ho had gone carefully through the Report of the Inquiry at Mablethorpe. The case had been attended with great difficulties. A number of wrecks occurred about the same time in this district, and the crew of the lifeboat about whom complaint was made, and the horses, had been on duty for 48 1533 hours. It was impossible, therefore, to expect the men to start out again without taking some refreshment. As far as he could gather, the Inquiry was a perfectly fair one, and he thought it was not unreasonable to allow an officer of the National Lifeboat Institution to be present at the Inquiry at the same time as the officer of the Board of Trade. It was that officer's duty, as well as the duty of the officer of the Board of Trade, to make inquiries, and there was no reason to think that the officer of the Board of Trade was unreasonably influenced by the presence of the other official. There was no desire to exonerate the Lifeboat Authorities from blame. It would not be proper at the present time to go into the question of the Lifeboat Institution except to say that it was an Institution deserving the attention of the public. While speaking with reserve on the question of the miners' strike in Scotland—the communications on the subject had been confidential—he might say that from the first there had been complete information as to the progress of the strike. The Board of Trade had taken every step to enable it to understand the full significance of the movement, but communications were now passing between himself and persons in Scotland, including the Lord Provost of Glasgow, on the subject. He thought that the most important point first to be gained was to obtain from the parties an assurance that they were willing to meet together. So far he did not understand that anything had emanated from the masters amounting to a refusal to meet the men. Having regard to the great interests involved, and the extreme suffering undergone by those concerned in the strike, and their families, he trusted that the masters would feel that nothing should be wanting on their part to facilitate an amicable settlement. On the whole, he thought there was no reason at present to take a gloomy view of the position.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, that in regard to workmen's trains the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade bad now put the matter in a very unfortunate and false position. Two months ago the right hon. Gentleman replied to a question, and said that he was proceeding to do something. He had never asked for further information; 1534 and after waiting for six months, now; at this late hour, when everybody was leaving town for five or six weeks, he said he was waiting for more information.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, that the Board of Trade had refused to receive a deputation on the subject of workmen's trains on the ground that they had all the details they wanted. He felt inclined to move a reduction of the Vote in order to enter his protest against the statement of the President of the Board of Trade that he was waiting to hear from him, when the fact was that he had actually refused to receive a deputation.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, he had to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the statement he had made, and he would only express the hope that he would continue to use his best endeavours to bring about a meeting of the masters and men who were concerned in the Scotch mining strike.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, he wished to bring forward a matter of some local importance, as to which he asked the President of the Board of Trade a question the other day, i.e., the notice issued—apparently with the sanction of the Board of Trade — prohibiting the removal of sand from Criccieth Beach, because of damage and injury to adjacent land. The right hon. Gentleman, in answering the question, stated that he had received complaints from the Local Board among others, and that an inquiry had been made into the cause of the complaints. But, having written for information on the point, he had been unable to discover that any public inquiry had been held at all. If one had, it must have been of a singularly partial and one sided character, and he held that in a matter in which the public interest was involved— as well as the interest of the local landowner—the inquiry ought to be perfectly-impartial, and the Board of Trade Inspector should take evidence not merely from the owner of the land, but from the public generally. His complaint against the Board of Trade was that it had acted not in the interests of the public, 1535 but in that of the landowner solely. And he feared that this was the general practice of the Department, because from the evidence given before the Welsh Land Commission by Mr. Cecil Trevor the action in the Criccieth case was only a repetition of what had occurred previously at Anglesey. The usual course was that when a complaint was made by a landowner that the removal of material from the foreshore was likely to damage his property, the Collector of Customs was asked to report if a primâ facie case was made out for the ground of apprehenson, and if the Board satisfied themselves that a primâ facie case was made out that removal would damage the property, they allowed the owner to issue a notice in the name of the Board prohibiting such removal, and gave him authority to use the name of the Board in prosecutions. In the Anglesey case a farmer drew sand and gravel from the shore near the residence of Sir Gr. Meyrick, who made a complaint, and the Board, having apparently satisfied themselves there was a primâ facie case, sanctioned the issue of a prohibition. With this the farmer refused: to comply, and the Board further authorised the prosecution. The County Court Judge, before whom the case came, made careful inquiry and visited the spot, and in the result decided that there would be no risk of damage to the land in the immediate future. Consequently, the decision was against Sir George Meyrick. It happened that the farmer claimed a prescriptive right, otherwise, as was the case usually with the general public, he would have had no locus standi. In the Criccieth case it was possible that no prescriptive right could be claimed, and he ventured to submit that in such a case the Board of Trade should not interfere, because if any legal rights of the landowner were infringed, he had his legal remedy against the builder. Why should the Board of Trade interfere more in the interest of one man than another? It was a very important matter to the little town of Criccieth, for on the shore were the building materials formed, and with the prohibition there would be a great hindrance to building operations. If the Local Board made representation of damage to the land, the Board of Trade would be justified in 1536 interfering, but as a body they had not made such representation as regards Criccieth, and the landowner ought consequently to be left to assert his own legal remedy against the builder. What had occurred was, as he was informed, that two or three members of the Board had made representations, because they were interested in the land, but the Board, as a Board, had not interfered. As a matter of fact, there were some very large boulders on this foreshore, and it was in the interest of the public that they should be removed, in order to clear the beach for boating purposes. But this case only demonstrated the general way in which foreshore rights were dealt with. Another illustration he found at Cardiff, where the administration of the Board of Trade had been in the interest, purely and simply, of the Marquess of Bute. The Marquess seemed to have set up a claim to the foreshore near Cardiff, as indeed he seemed to set up claims to most things near there. The foreshore was, of course, most important to the growing town of Cardiff, where development was most rapid, and docks were built year after year. Of vital importance to the town of Cardiff was the foreshore, but what did the Board of Trade do? The Marquess of Bute set up a legal claim, but took no steps to enforce it, not even taking possession, and then the Board of Trade actually compromised the claim, selling 1,200 acres of foreshore to the Marquess for £6,000. That was simply monstrous, and what aggravated the offence was that the people of Cardiff knew nothing of the matter until they discovered that their rights had been bartered away for this nominal sum months after the transaction occurred. He would like to press this matter, because there was a similar instance now going on near Swansea, where the Board seemed terrified at the prospect of litigation with the Duke of Beaufort or some such Duke. They were not taking the slightest step to protect the Town of Swansea, and he ventured to suggest that it was the duty of the Board to consult the Local Authorities before taking any such steps. The right hon. Gentleman should understand that there was no justification for the bartering away of public rights in this shameless fashion. He appealed to the President of the Board 1537 of Trade to give him some guarantee that a bonâ fide local inquiry would be held at Criccieth, where the interests of the public as well as of the local landowner were involved.
§ MR. E. H. BAYLEY
said, he was sorry to have heard the reply of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the lifeboat inquiry, because it was entirely different to the information he possessed. He got his information first-hand from the people on the spot; he published it in the Press, and it had never been disputed. On the contrary, it had been confirmed by the rector of the parish, who was prepared to take any trouble to secure that justice should be done. He had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have shown himself more sympathetic, and not have been ruled by that miserable system of red-tapeism which had apparently controlled his views on the subject. He should, under the circumstances, at the proper time, move to reduce the Vote by £33, the cost of the Mablethorpe inquiry.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
Will that prevent our moving a reduction in Class III., in regard to the Commercial and Labour Statistics Department?
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. A. O'CONNOR)
The Motion for a reduction on that item should precede one for the reduction of the item containing the costs of the Mablethorpe inquiry?
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, he thought they ought to approach a question like this from a broader point of view than his hon. Friend appeared to occupy. No doubt in all great public institutions mistakes were occasionally made. The Lifeboat Institution did very valuable service, and if they gave the vote suggested by the hon. Member it would certainly be misinterpreted. It had been suggested that the officials of the Institution were too highly paid, and a complaint had further been made that when the Board of Trade sent down an Inspector to hold an inquiry the Institution was allowed to send one of its own officers. But surely they were entitled to take such a step in order to watch the interests of their own organisation, with a view to improving it wherever possible. This was a voluntary Institution, which received a vast amount of money from the public, and he believed, looking at its 1538 history, no other Institution had done such valuable work.
§ * MR. E. H. BAYLEY
said, the hon. Gentleman had entirely misinterpreted the object of the Motion. He did not propose to ask the Committee to vote on the merits of the Lifeboat Institution or the services it had rendered. He was simply asking the right hon. Gentleman for a pledge that future Board of Trade inquiries should be conducted by independent and impartial persons.
said, he was afraid that he had not understood the hon. Gentleman, He was perfectly willing to give such an undertaking. The result of the inquiry held was that censure was passed upon one person employed by the Institution. He did not think that the presence of an officer of the Institution necessarily prejudiced the inquiry. For his own part, however, he would undertake that any future inquiry should be full, exhaustive, and searching, and would do his best to secure that that was so.
§ MR. E. H. BAYLEY
said, his complaint was that this inquiry was presided over by an officer of the Lifeboat Institution.
§ MR. BRYCE
It was conducted by a Board of Trade permanent official. Surely it is not unreasonable that the Institution should have some person present to report on the conduct of their own employés. I have given my hon. Friend an assurance that the Board of Trade will be guided by its own officials' opinion in the future.
§ MR. E. H. BAYLEY
I am sorry to say I cannot accept that as altogether satisfactory. I beg to move to reduce the Salary of the President of the Board of Trade by£33.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £33, in respect of the Salary of the President of the Beard of Trade."—(Mr. E. H. Bayley.)
MR. HERBERT LEWIS
said, that with reference to the question of foreshore administration raised by his hon. 1539 Friend, the Board of Trade should act in a most circumspect manner in these cases with a view to the public interest. It seemed to him that in the Criccieth case the action of the Board was directly adverse to the public interest. The same applied to the sales of foreshore at Cardiff and at Swansea, and the more they looked into past transactions in regard to our foreshores the more they saw a record of jobbery. The public had a right to have fuller information as to the intentions of the Board of Trade when it was proposed to dispose of foreshore rights. In regard to the foreshore at Cardiff and Swansea, there had been a large portion of the foreshore disposed of without consulting the Local Authorities. There had been altogether 123 transactions of this kind, and they ought to see that the Board of Trade maintained a continuous policy in regard to all such dispositions of foreshore property. These transactions could not be too jealously watched. By the present system of not causing inquiry into such matters the Board of Trade were allowing national property to be alienated.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, that the hon. Member for Carmarthen burghs gave him no notice of bringing forward this subject. He might say generally that no one was more opposed than he was to public rights being infringed upon, and he thought that whatever was done in these matters the Local Authorities should be consulted. He was willing at all times to make inquiries. As regards Criccieth, it was a fact that a representation was made from the Local Board on the subject, but it was found that a sea-wall was required in order to protect land behind it, as it would be found that the land was being undermined.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, the representation was inquired into, and evidently a primâ facie case was made out. All would agree that the land must be protected, and it was the object and the duty of the Board of Trade to see that that was done. There was, so far as he was concerned, no intention to abridge the foreshore rights of Old England and Old Wales. He confessed, on the contrary, to feeling a keen interest in their maintenance. The Board of Trade had always adopted a practice of consulting the Local Au- 1540 thorities, and whenever a primâ facie case was made out the Department prevented the disposal of the foreshore. It was not always desirable to remove boulders from a beach, because there might be cases in which they were a more efficient protection of the land behind than was afforded by ordinary sand and shingle.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
(who was received with impatient cries) said, that there was great haste apparently, but this was the only opportunity they had of raising grievances, as it was not their fault Supply had been so long delayed, and he trusted the Government would be good enough to give them what information was asked of them. He agreed that the powers of the Board of Trade with reference to foreshores ought to be administered entirely in the interest of the public, and that notice ought to be given. Now, would the right hon. Gentleman promise them a local inquiry into the Criccieth case, and as to whether the removal of boulders would injuriously affect the land. Would the Board of Trade listen to the representatives of the public as well as the owners of the laud?
§ * MR. LITTLE (Whitehaven)
said, there had been some most shameful transactions by former Presidents of the Board of Trade in regard to the foreshores which had been sold to neighbouring landowners. There was also one in which the foreshore of Southport had been sold to a neighbouring landowner over the heads of the Corporation of that borough, and he thought they ought not to allow the Vote to pass unless they were first assured that in the case of future alienations of foreshore public interests should have the first consideration.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, that he remembered joining with the Member for Derbyshire, which he then represented, in a Division against a certain alienation. When he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster he laid down the principle that there should be no alienation of foreshore except for public purposes and after reserving all public rights. He would consider as to granting an Inquiry into the Criccieth case.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT
said, it was a very material point that notice should be given in all cases to the Local Authority.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would promise that notice should be given to the Local Authorities before there was any sale of a foreshore?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
asked whether, in the case of a landowner making a claim to a foreshore, the right hon. Gentleman would undertake not to compromise the claim before notice had been given to the Local Authorities, in order that they might have a chance of fighting the case at their own expense?
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said, he wished to call attention to the growing practice of the Government Departments to publish trade journals. He said that The Board of Trade Journal had caused much annoyance in the newspaper trade. He had asked the President of the Board of Trade to state the cost of production, the circulation, and the revenue derived from advertisements, and the right hon. Gentleman had replied that he could not furnish the information. Such an answer was very unsatisfactory, and would not be tolerated in any business firm in the world. Surely the right hon. Gentleman need not hesitate to give them the figures with regard to advertising, and so on. The Journal had no office rent to pay; its information was supplied for nothing; and it circulated free through the post; and with these advantages it 1542 competed unfairly with ordinary newspapers. He would like to hear from the President of the Board of Trade what was the intention of the policy of the Government in regard to these publications in the future?
§ MR. E. H. JONES
said, that The Board of Trade Journal paid neither rent nor contributors, and converted the Consular Service into a corps of blackleg journalists. There was no reason why the Board of Trade should put itself into unfair competition with ordinary newspapers.
§ * MR. JOHN BURNS
said, he hoped that the President of the Board of Trade would defend the admirable journals and papers which had been issued by the Government Departments, to deal authentically with such subjects as labour and agriculture, in regard to which a good deal of ignorance prevailed. Trustworthy information on these matters was necessary to the public, and it very often could not be supplied by papers which were in nine cases out of 10 conducted merely for the sake of earning a profit. It was only incidental that the ordinary weekly newspaper conveyed information, and accidentally, at times, the truth.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, it was a mistake to suppose that The Board of Trade Journal competed with other newspapers. It was started purely in the public interest, to do that which could not be done in any other way. He could not give the information asked for by the hon. Member for Canterbury. The Journal was edited and prepared by members of the Department, and it was impossible to say what proportion of their salaries were chargeable to the Journal. The information contained in the Journal was supplied by the Consular Service, and the cost of that, again, could not be estimated. Advertisements were only taken to save the public purse. He was glad to think that there was a general feeling in I he country that these Government publications were doing useful service.
said, be had no objection to the publication of this Journal, but he thought they might at least be told what the circulation of it was. Surely that fact must he known.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said, he could not help thinking that there was evasion on the part of the Board of Trade Department. The question which he had asked was a very simple one indeed; could they not be told what was the cost of production of The Board of Trade Journal, and what was the revenue from advertisements? These were things about which there could be no doubt.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
said, he must press for some information. Was there any cost incurred in regard to editorial work?
§ * MR. WEIR
asked what was being done to provide a lighthouse which was much needed on the Flannan Islands, which were situated to the west of the Butt of Lewis, in a remote part of the Hebrides, and urged that steps should be at once taken, if nothing had yet been done, to carry out this necessary work.
§ MR. BRYCE
The question of this lighthouse has engaged the attention of the Board of Trade for some time on the representation of the Northern Lights Commissioners. There is an increasing traffic round the North of Scotland, and we have it on the highest authority that the erection of a light there would have the effect of enabling vessels coming from America round the North of Scotland to make land more safely. Nothing prevents us carrying out the wishes of the Northern Lights Commissioners except the cost. The cost is now estimated at £20,000, which is a great increase on the former Estimate, and is a very large sum to spend on one lighthouse. We recognise that the building of a lighthouse at this point is one of those things that ought to be done at an early date. A Committee is to consider the question of the lighthouses round our coasts, and if the Report of the Committee should enable us to put the Mercantile Marine Fund in a better position than that which it occupies at present, I shall be very glad.
§ * MR. WEIR
pointed out that it would be quite impossible to spend £20,000 in the first year, and suggested that the Board of Trade should spend £5,000 in the first year and proceed with the work gradually. The site was in a wild and dangerous spot, and the work could only be carried on during the fine weather.
§ MR. M. AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)
said, he desired to draw attention to the dangerous condition of the Fastnet Lighthouse. The Irish Lights Commissioners had directed the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the matter, but he was afraid that it had received the same amount of attention that the Calfrock Lighthouse did some 30 years ago. At that time proper attention was not given to the representations made respecting the dangerous condition of that lighthouse, with the result that there was a very serious calamity. It was with the hope of preventing a recurrence of such a calamity that he wished to direct attention to the urgent necessity of taking some action with regard to the Fastnet Lighthouse. On Thursday the Cork Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution calling upon the Irish Lights Commissioners to take immediate action in the matter in connection with the Board of Trade. Public Bodies in Dublin had done the same, and as the Fastnet was directly in the way of the Atlantic liners and the Channel steamers leaving Cork Harbour it would be most unfortunate if any accident occurred, as it would be bound to have very serious results. He wished to know what course the right hon. Gentleman intended to pursue in the matter?
§ MR. BRYCE
This matter is by no means new to me. The hon. Member was one of the deputation which waited upon me on the subject, and I am in constant communication with the Irish Lights Commissioners with respect to it. There is no more important light around our coasts than the Fastnet, and the possibility of any accident happening to it is one which nobody in the House could contemplate without the greatest alarm. I can only say, however, that the matter is receiving our constant attention, and that the only difficulty standing in the way of dealing with it is the difficulty of money. I must assure the hon. Member on one point—the position of the lighthouse is quite as good now as it was some eight or nine years ago.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork)
Is that I the result of any further inquiry made by I the right hon. Gentleman?
§ MR. BRYCE
It is the result of inquiries I made after the deputation waited upon me on the matter. I propose to have further communication with the Commissioners on the subject, and if it is necessary I will make further inquiries, as I am quite sensible of its importance. The expense of rebuilding this lighthouse is estimated at £70,000, and that, of course, would be a tremendous drain upon the funds of the Commissioners. We are therefore obliged to consider very carefully whether we can undertake immediately so great a work. Every possible care, however, is being devoted to the consideration of the subject.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 3. £21,000, to complete the sum for Mercantile Marine Fund (Grant in aid), agreed to.
§ 4. £20, to complete the sum for Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade.
§ * MR. WEIR
said, be wished to move the reduction of the Vote by £5, in order to call attention to the conduct of the Receiver in Bankruptcy in dealing with Companies in liquidation, and also with reconstructed Companies. He could not understand why Jabez Balfour was ever allowed to escape from this country. He thought that if the Official Receiver of the Court of Bankruptcy had used more energy and greater diligence Balfour would not have been allowed to escape.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £30,510, to complete the sum for Board of Agriculture.
MR. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)
said, that to judge from the attitude of the Government and the President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Gardner) one might suppose that agricultural matters were in a most prosperous condition, that villages were full, that farmers were doing well, and that the President of the 1546 Board of Agriculture had nothing to do Everybody knew that the contrary was the case, and he thought the President of the Board of Agriculture ought to have done many things he had not done. Whenever Members had brought for ward matters in connection with agriculture——
That is not in Order. The hon. Member must confine himself to the administrative action of the Board of Agriculture.
Then I will deal at once with the question of the administration of the tithe laws of this country.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. H. GARDNER, Essex, Saffron Walden)
I beg pardon; I have nothing to do with the administration of the tithe laws in this country.
All I know is that when I wish to find anything out on the tithe question I have to go to the Office of the Board of Agriculture.
said, there was an expensive staff kept at the Board of Agriculture Office mainly to deal with tithe questions, and any question with reference to tithe was always referred to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture. His point was that owing to the right hon. Gentleman's remissness in dealing with the Tithe Acts the whole benefit of them had been lost to the agricultural interest. He wished to give instances in point. Sometime ago there was a discussion in the House on the Agricultural Estimates, that discussion being closured after two hours by the right hon. Gentleman himself.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I must call attention to the fact that the hon. Member must bring some administrative act against the President of the Board of Agriculture.
said, he would proceed to do so. An Essex landowner, Mr. Bence, farmed two small farms, the annual values of which were £52 and £37 10s. The tithe he was called upon to pay——
* THE CHAIRMAN
This has nothing to do with the President of the Board of I Agriculture. Is the hon. Member asking for some alteration in the laws?
I am in the course of dealing with the right hon. Gentleman's administrative action. On these two farms this gentleman has been called on to pay tithe to the extent of £17 in one case and £14 19s. in the other. Under the Tithe Act which the right hon. Gentleman has to administer——
§ MR. H. GARDNER
I beg pardon. I do not wish in any way to escape criticism or to shorten any remarks the hon. Gentleman has to make about me, but I have no control whatever over the valuation of the tithe.
All I know is that I have referred this matter to the Board of Agriculture, and that the right hon. Gentleman's subordinates there have to administer the Act. This is a matter which must be threshed out on some occasion, and it may as well be threshed out now as at some other time.
* THE CHAIRMAN
The Board of Agriculture has nothing to do with this part of the law in regard to tithe. They have only got to do with the redemption of tithe.
I should like then to know who is responsible for the administration of the Tithe Act? It is vain to say that the Board of Agriculture does not deal with tithe questions. They have tithe maps of every part of the Kingdom in their Office. Here is this man who, if the tithe laws were properly administered, would not pay on more than two-thirds of the annual value of his holding. He obtained the total remission of his Income Tax——
* THE CHAIRMAN
This is not in Order. The President of the Board of Agriculture has nothing to do with it. If the hon. Gentleman persists in bringing forward a matter with which the President of the Board of Agriculture has nothing to do I must request him to resume his seat.
Well, if the President of the Board of Agriculture has nothing to do with the administration of the Tithe Acts I will resume my seat.
§ * MR. EDWARDS
said, he wished to draw attention to the question of agricultural education in Wales. He submitted that the grant made was very inadequate when the condition of this country was compared with that of other countries. He found that in other countries enormous grants were annually made for agricultural education, but in Wales the sum was altogether too small. It bore no comparison to the amount granted to England, though Wales more than England depended upon agriculture. Wales was a poor country with few manufactures, and her County Councils,' unlike those of England, were unable to give substantial aid to agricultural education. The grant given to the University College at Aberystwith compared unfavourably with the grant given to other Colleges. The Aberystwith College administered to seven counties which were agricultural and poor; therefore, any proposal to improve the agricultural education of the Principality ought to meet with the cordial and hearty support of the Government. No doubt the Bangor, the other North Wales College, got grants, but they did not administer as much as did the Aberystwith College to the wants of the Principality. Though the Report of the Education Department had not yet been issued, he was aware that there was an increase in the amount of the grant made this year. But that was no reason why they should not ask for a further increase. The first grant of £250 was made three years ago, and the progress was so great that by the end of the first year £500 was given. So thoroughly had they taken the work of agricultural education in hand that they now deserved another grant from the Board of Agriculture. He was constantly told by his constituents that the great trouble they had to face was the want of labour, and the complaint made to him was that the children who attended intermediate schools were brought up in such a way that when they left they had a distaste for agricultural pursuits. This compared very badly with the condition of things in France, where there were 79 schools where practical instruction in agriculture could be obtained. The sons of farmers and peasants could in these schools learn the practical work of farming. It appeared to him that when a 1549 complaint was made that when the children in the intermediate schools left they gave up agricultural education it was time they did something to enable boys in Wales to have practical instruction in these matters. This instruction would improve the farmers and make them better men, more capable of tilling the ground and of making it productive, and would, in a measure, prevent the drain of labour which went on from the country into the great towns. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture would see his way to meeting his request. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had passed a Bill putting taxation upon land, and he would ask the Government to give some of that money for the education of the agricultural population, in order to keep them on the land.
§ * MR. H. GARDNER
said, he was in entire sympathy with the hon. Member in his desire to promote agricultural education in every possible way. He would remind the hon. Member that there was a large grant made annually to County Councils which might be expended on technical education, such as dairy and other agricultural education, and which was usefully spent in this manner in many counties every year. He hoped these grants would continue. With regard to the Aberystwith College, he did not think he had been ungenerous towards that institution since he had been in Office. The sum total at his command was simply £8,000; that sum of £8,000 a year was all that he had allocated to the various Colleges and the other Agricultural Institutions that required assistance: £8,000 was all they had to spread over Scotland, England, and Wales. When he first had the honour of occupying the position he now held he found that in 1891–2 £1,000 was all that was given to Wales. In the first year of his Office, in 1892–3, he raised that to £ 1,300, and increased it to £1,500 in 1894, and he thought hon. Members from Wales would admit that, having raised the grant to Welsh Colleges by 50 per cent, and given Wales £1,500 out of the £8,000 at his disposal, he had not done so badly with regard to Wales. But what had he done for Aberystwith College? He found that in 1891–2 the grant was £250. When he came to consider the important 1550 work done by the College and the important work it might do for agriculture in the country in which it was situated, he felt justified in raising the grant in 1892–3 to £500, or just double, and he had increased it by £200 since, so that the College was now in receipt of £700. Various Colleges in other parts of the country, to which he need not call special attention, had had their grants increased, though there were Colleges that did not get so much as £700. He hoped he had satisfied his hon. Friend that upon the whole Wales was not so badly treated.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, that on behalf of his hon. Friend and himself, he wished to say he made no complaint with regard to the general attitude of the right hon. Gentleman towards the Welsh Colleges; he thought, considering the means at his disposal, the right hon. Gentleman had treated them liberally; but that was not their point, their point being that the proportion of the entire sum which was available for agricultural education was exceedingly small. He found the Committee was asked to vote £46,000, and out of that sum £33,000 went in salaries, and only £8,000 went towards agricultural education. He thought the disproportion between the two sums was exceedingly marked, and the right hon. Gentleman would do well in the future to take steps, not to reduce the salaries, of which he did not complain, but to increase the amount that was given towards agricultural education. He understood that it would not be in Order to move an increase of the Vote; but to show the necessity of an increase in the Vote he would make another criticism. He did not offer any criticism with regard to these Colleges, as he thought they did a certain amount of good; but he thought something more should be done to teach the agricultural population of the country improved agricultural methods, such as improving the vitality of the soil, and that sort of thing. For instance, he did not see any Estimate for a model farm, and he found that in every other country in Europe model farms were provided by the Governments out of the sums placed at their disposal by the State. In this country they spent £8,000, whilst in France they spent £131,000; in Belgium, a smaller country than ours, and not nearly so important, they spent £34000; 1551 Austria-Hungary £60,000, and Prussia £65,000. In these European countries they not only delivered lectures, but they had model farm schools all over the country for teaching the best methods of agriculture. They also taught forestry, whilst they had no School of Forestry in any part of Wales. For the purpose of teaching the people the principles of agriculture, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer was likely next year to have a good surplus, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to devote some portion of it towards improving the agriculture of the country.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I would like to say that I have had to meet £3,500,000 for the Navy, but that is a fleabite compared with what I would have to meet if I had to provide for model farms. I could not undertake to go into a speculation of that description.
MR. HERBERT LEWIS
said, he would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that in Wales the County Council had to provide for a system of intermediate education, and that very little was done for agricultural education. The Welsh Members were of course extremely grateful for the advance already made, but it was simply an instalment of a great debt that was due from England to Wales in that respect; they would be able to prove, if called upon, there was a very great debt due to Wales, and what they had received was really only an instalment of that debt. There was just one other point, and that was in reference to swine fever, in regard to which he had received a large number of communications from various persons in different parts of his constituency. He realised the difficulties of the position of the right hon. Gentleman, but he wished to ask him whether he could give the Committee any information as to the success attending the precautions hitherto taken against swine fever?
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
, on the same subject, said he would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give them some statistics upon the matter, and state whether the districts made any money contribution towards the fund for suppressing swine fever? [Mr. H. GARDNER: No.] That was exactly the point he wanted to know. He was told there was a rate in Ireland 1552 for the purpose, and he wanted to know what was going on in England. He could not help observing that there was a deal of extraordinary language talked about fleabites. Mr. Disraeli once called the National Debt a fleabite, and now the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that £3,500,000 was a fleabite as compared to what model farms would cost. He should like to hear some details in regard to this matter, as he thought they did a great deal of good. It did not trouble him much whether England had these model farms or not, though he would be glad to see them established in England, as they might then have a chance of getting them in Ireland.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
thought it would be satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture would supplement his statement by informing the Committee what other Colleges that were not fortunate enough to be situated in the Principality of Wales shared in the grant and the amounts of them.
* MAJOR JONES&c.) (Carmarthen,
said, his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture referred to the £10,000 that was to be given to Aberystwith College by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he would remind him that that was to make good what had been destroyed by a fire. They had been told what the right hon. Gentleman had done for them, and they desired, as far as possible, to strengthen his back against the insidious attempts made from the other side to force upon him the policy of protection; one time urging the marking of bags and another a duty on wheat.
§ * MR. H. GARDNER
said, that several questions had been asked him which he would endeavour to answer. One was with reference to swine fever, the importance of which he fully recognised. No one regretted more than he did the inconvenience and loss which had been caused in some districts by the very difficult task the Board of Agriculture had to carry out. All he could say was that no one would be better pleased than he should when the time arrived—he hoped it was not far distant—when the general aspects of the disease, and the success that was follow- 1553 ing their efforts, would enable them to remove the restrictions which he had been obliged to impose. The Committee would remember that the duty of carrying out the suppression of swine fever was passed by a unanimous House, he could assure the Committee that the officers of the Board of Agriculture were doing their best to grapple with this disease, and hoped that before a very long time had elapsed they would be able to grapple with it successfully. The hon. Gentleman opposite asked him a question as to the grants in aid of various Colleges. Well, the Yorkshire College at Leeds had £800, the Durham College £800, the Cambridge and Counties Agricultural Education Committee £400, the University College, Nottingham, £200, the Reading College £150, the Bath and West and Southern Counties Society (for research and experiments) £400, the Eastern Counties Dairy Institute £350. In Scotland, the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College received £600, Edinburgh University £450, besides £100 for the Forestry Class, the University of Aberdeen £200, the Scottish Dairy Institute, Kilmarnock, £250, the Highland and Agricultural Society £200, the Aberdeen Agricultural Research Association £100, the Dounby Science School, Orkney, £25. In addition to this, the Board gave two grants, £175 and £150, for special classes in Dairy and Forestry Instruction. His hon. Friend might add those up, and he would find that Scotland had not got the best of it.
§ MR. H. GARDNER
said, that if the hon. Gentleman would turn to the Act that gave them the power, he would find that a large grant was given for the purpose, and, as in the case of pleuropneumonia and other diseases, if that grant was exceeded the excess was paid out of local taxation.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, that on the last occasion either the right hon. Gentleman or the Minister representing agriculture in Ireland told him that it was not, and he wanted to know whether the money was paid over by the districts.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he was talking about England, as he could not on this Vote talk about Ireland, and he wished to know if certain districts were locally taxed in support of this in the present financial year.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he wanted to know whether any part of it was paid by local taxation in the district, and whether it was collected by Imperial officers or not?
§ MR. H. GARDNER
said, he could not answer the question, the hon. Gentleman must ask the President of the Local Government Board. His impression was that it came out of the general fund. The grant in aid was given from the Imperial fund towards the relief of local taxation.
§ Vote agreed to.
6. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £90,145, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Change which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE moved that the Chairman report Progress, for the purpose of merely asking how many Votes it was proposed to take to-night. The Local Government Board Vote, the Registrar General's Office Vote, and the Woods and Forests Vote would give rise to considerable debate, and he wished to know whether it was proposed to press these matters on to-night?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)
§ MR. R. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
said, he also wished to ask whether the Government proposed to take the Scotch Votes to-night?
§ MR. R. WALLACE
said, there were questions raised upon the Secretary for Scotland Vote that might lead to considerable discussion. He thought him- 1555 self it was time to report Progress, as they had done very well to-day.
§ * SIR J. T. HIBBERT
Of course it may be modified by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it is intended to take all the Votes in Classes I. and II. remaining, down to the Local Government Board Vote, which is postponed, and to take the Votes in Class III., omitting the first Vote, and all the Scotch Votes, excepting No. 1 and Vote 13 for the Crofters Commission of Scotland. With respect to the proposal of my hon. Friend, I may say that I am quite prepared to discuss with him the Registrar General's Vote and the Woods and Forests Vote, and I do not know there is anything really contentious in them. I hope he will not insist on his Motion.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, he did not object so far as the Woods and Forests Vote was concerned, or any other in Classes II. and III., but he would press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to leave out the Registrar General's Vote.
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
If my hon. Friend desires the question to be postponed I will not stand in his way. We are anxious, and there is a general feeling, that we should get on with Classes II. and III. So far as I can ascertain the view of hon. Gentlemen with reference to the Votes it is that we ought to confine ourselves, as far as possible, to Votes that are not contentious, and if there are questions on particular Votes that require discussion they will not be taken. Under those circumstances, I hope we may be allowed to get on with Classes II. and III.
§ MR. R. WALLACE
asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would postpone the Scotch Votes, or at all events the Fishery Board Vote and the Secretary for Scotland's Vote?
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would listen to the appeal to postpone the Secretary for Scotland Vote, as this Vote afforded the first opportunity they had had of discussing the administration of Scotland, and it would be hardly fair to keep them here several hours.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I am quite ready to offer my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland as a victim, to 1556 my hon. Friend, as a sort of Saint Sebastian. We desire to confine ourselves to Votes that can fairly be disposed of. It is necessary for us to get the Votes that have been mentioned already to-night as we have some important Votes to be taken on Monday, and if we are to bring the Session to a conclusion it is necessary for us to go on. The Government are desirous of meeting the views of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. I am bound to say we have received great consideration from gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, and I only hope we may receive half as much from hon. Gentlemen on this side, and if so then I think we shall succeed in accomplishing the object we have in view. I hope, having made those concessions we shall not be asked to make any more.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
asked the right hon. Gentleman not to take the Lost Office Vote to-night.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
There is no intention to bring that on; my hon. Friend will have a very big gun to discharge on this subject.
MR. DALZIEL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
thought the offer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the Scotch Votes was, on the whole, fair, but he would ask him to go one step further and take the Scotch Fishery Board Vote on Monday. He thought very little discussion would be raised upon it, but there were one or two points to be considered, and as the other Votes would take several hours to discuss it was useless for the Scotch Members to remain.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I think my hon. Friend who has just spoken has had his fair share of the time of the House, and I hope he will not think it necessary to continue much more of it, because if half-a-dozen Members take the same share we must sit here for another month. If it is considered that the Scotch Fishery Board Vote will not take 1557 long I will throw that in. I hope now that we may regard the bargain as complete.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it was intended to sit very late, or whether it was necessary to keep them for the Tramways (Ireland) Bill?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That does not depend upon me. We must sit as long as is necessary to get through what remains after the reduction that has been already mentioned.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ DR. CLARK
remarked that the Vote included a number of charges for inspection and other matters which were charged on the Imperial Exchequer, and which in Scotland were entirely defrayed from the local rates. He objected to paying for all the particular services in his own country, and also paying, in addition, a portion of the English rates. He should like to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Government would be prepared to take up the consideration of the financial relations between England and Scotland?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
, in reply, said, at the time the Government undertook to have an inquiry into the financial relations between England and Ireland he was asked that there should also be an inquiry into the financial relations between England and Scotland. At that particular period he was busy on the finance Bill, and besides that heavy work the officials at the Treasury had to prepare the items of expenditure for the Irish Committee, so that, as he stated at the time, it was impossible for them at the same moment to prepare the figures in respect to the financial relations both of Scotland and Ireland and also with respect to the Finance Bill, and that therefore the Government could not take up the matter of the financial relations of Scotland then, but that they would do so as soon as possible.
MR. HERBERT LEWIS
asked whether the Government had in contemplation an inquiry into the financial relations between England and Wales?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
called attention to a recent appointment of a Poor Law Inspector in South Wales. He said that when the vacancy arose it was urged upon the Government that it was very desirable a gentleman should be appointed who had a knowledge of the Welsh language, but the Government paid no heed to these representations, and appointed a gentleman who did not possess this requisite qualification. Again, Wales constituted one district, which was far too great for one Inspector. He urged the desirability of dividing North and South Wales, and of appointing as Inspector some gentleman who was thoroughly conversant with the Welsh language.
§ DR. CLARK
observed that under the head of district officers he found the cost was about £50,000, and the fees only reached £40,000, showing a loss of £10,000. Surely something might be done to increase the fees of the audit for instance, so as to wipe out this loss, and make this branch of the work of the department self-supporting. In Scotland it was done entirely by the Local Authority.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. SHAW-LEFEVRE, Bradford, Central)
said, he had no knowledge of any present vacancy for an Inspector in Wales, but if a vacancy should arise he certainly would bear in mind the question the hon. Gentleman had raised as to the desirability of such Inspector having a knowledge of the Welsh language. He would also bear in mind the suggestion of the hon. Member as to the division of Wales into two districts, and without giving any undertaking he would promise to consider it.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
7. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £272,505, 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. 1895, for Stationery, Printing, and Paper, Binding, and Printed Books for the Public Service, and for the Salaries and Expenses of the Stationery Office; and for Sundry Miscellaneous Services, including Reports of Parliamentary Debates.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
rose to move to reduce the Salary of the Controller of the Stationery Office by £500. He desired to call attention to the conditions under which the Government printing was carried on, and to ask for protection for the men engaged in that work. He would like to recall to the memory of the Committee the terms of the Resolution with reference to Government work which was passed in 1891 by the late Government and confirmed by the present Government in 1893. In the first place, it stated that, in the opinion of the House of Commons, it was the duty of the Government to make provision against the evils of sweating; to impose such conditions as might prevent abuses arising from sub-letting; and, in the third place, to see that such wages were paid as were generally accepted as current in the district. He thought that the Government printing was carried out, so far as it was done in London, in a way which brought it in conflict with the third provision of the Resolution of the House of Commons. The first provision was rather vague, and dealt with sweating. The second and third were clear and concise, setting forth that it was the duty of the House to prevent as far as possible subletting, and to see that the wages which were generally accepted in the locality as current should be paid for the work that was done. With regard to the Government printing in London, they wore in a somewhat peculiar and strong position. There was in London a scale of prices for printing work agreed to, to a very large extent, by those who were engaged in that business. He referred to the London scale of prices which was agreed to in February, 1891, by both masters and men, a copy of which he had given to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Vote, and a copy of which he would be pleased to give to any Member who might desire to see it. According to the scale of prices agreed to mutually between masters and men he found that about 600 of the great printing establishments of London on the one hand, against 24 on the other, paid a scale of wages mutually fixed in the list to which he was referring. Attached to the print of the list itself they found the names of some of the largest printers in London, and they saw not only the names of great private firms, but also of nearly all the daily papers published in 1560 London. They had not only the sanction of these large businesses, but he believed some of the great Representative Bodies in Loudon, including the London County Council and the School Board, observed the same rule, and insisted that their printing should be done under the clauses provided in the London list of prices. He thought this provided exactly all the conditions which were demanded in the Resolution passed by the House of Commons. Yet what was the fact in regard to Government printing? At least three-fourths of the Government printing was done by one house, which maintained for that purpose an establishment outside this arrangement altogether, and declined to pay in that establishment the wages mutually agreed upon by all the other great masters in London. He referred to Messrs. Eyre & Spottiswoode. The circumstances would appear more extraordinary when the Committee was made aware that they had got one house which did observe the rule as to the payment of wages which he would refer to as the Loudon scale of prices, but in the second house, in which most of the Government work was done, they refused to accept those prices. He thought it would be recognised, seeing that this one firm did £200,000 worth of Government printing a year, that there was a primâ facie case for interference. He would remind the Committee that they had had most distinct pledges on this subject, not only from the late but from the present Government. He would particularly recall the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. The right hon. Gentleman stated that it was the wish of the present Government to be in the first flight with regard to its treatment of its employés. He (Mr. Lough) recalled that expression of his more than once, and the right hon. Gentleman explained that when he said the first flight he did not mean that the Government should be ahead of the general bulk of employers, but that the Government should be abreast of the general body of employers in any district and should not lag behind. What he (Mr. Lough) wanted to ask with regard to Government printing was that the Government should cease to lag behind and should put itself abreast of the large bulk of employers in the district—so far, at least, as the work done in London was concerned. 1561 The question might be asked why the Government refused to do this, which it seemed to him they were clearly bound to do by the Resolution of the House of Commons? He (Mr. Lough) and his colleagues were able to answer that question, because they tried to gel this matter settled in order to avoid taking up the time of the House by a discussion on the Estimates. A month or six weeks ago he had the honour of introducing to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury a deputation on this subject, and after he saw the deputation the right hon. Gentleman wrote a reply which had been widely published in the daily papers, and which he would recall to the memory of the Committee. That reply practically consisted of two arguments. It said, in the first place, that the wages paid by Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode were not sweating wages. There was a sentence used very carefully there which said that, taking the work all round and the conditions, the wages paid were as good as those paid in other houses under like conditions. Now, they did not want to take the work "all round" or examine what was paid under "like conditions." The very object of having a scale of prices was to provide protection for the workmen, and what they wanted was that this great firm which got so much Government work should adopt the simple plan of complying with that scale of prices which was universally recognised in the trade outside themselves. On the point as to whether they had paid fair wages or not he had been dealing with facts. He was told with regard to this, that they paid 7d. or 7½d. per 1,000 ens, which was a halfpenny less than other houses paid under the scale. If that were so, it amounted to 6 or 7 per cent. He had been told that with regard to overtime they did not observe the regulations of the trade. He was also told that, with regard to what was called advantageous work, the men did not receive as much consideration as did the men with other firms, and he heard that in the matter of binding the wages were not good. He did not want to go into details. His argument was this: The firm said they were outside the London scale of prices, they declined to work with other employers and come inside the scale; and because they declined to come into line with other employers, 1562 therefore they put themselves outside the Resolution of the House of Commons. There was one other argument in that letter. The right hon. Gentleman said that it had always been the policy of the Government to hold the balance even between the Trades Unionists and the free labourers who were outside the Union. Now the deputation, as far as he (Mr. Lough) remembered, did not raise that question at all, and he did not raise it that afternoon. He did not want the Government, to depart from that policy of their own of maintaining a perfectly even stand between Unionists and non-Unionists. What he wanted to impress on the mind of the Government was this: Whether the men were Unionists or non-Unionists, they should be paid fair wages within the meaning of the Resolution of the House of Commons, and he said the Government would do best in dealing with this matter if they did not generalise at all or make any points about the duties of or to the workmen. The workmen, as far as he understood, were able to take care of themselves. What the Government had got to do was to take care of themselves, to carry out the Resolution of the House of Commons, and to try and fulfil the pledges they had given. He wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he was willing to make this a fair house within the meaning of all the other houses in London and carry out the pledges he had already referred to? He hoped when the right hon. Gentleman came to answer him he would not say anything about Unionists or non-Unionists. Let them leave that entirely aside, and simply ask that whoever should execute this branch of Government work should be paid the wages current in the district. He thought he had dealt sufficiently with the rather unsatisfactory letter which the deputation received in reply to their just claim. There was another difficulty in carrying out the Resolution in this particular matter. The right hon. Gentleman had said that some contracts lasted for 10 years, that they were entered into in 1886, and did not expire until 1896. He would like to remind the Committee that if anything was to be done to prevent a renewal of long contracts of this kind, now was the lime to do it. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, when 1563 he replied, would be able to announce that the Government were going to take such steps as regarded the future contracts as would prevent these evils being renewed. He wished also to ask the right hon. Gentleman wore there any other contracts going on at the present time as well as these long contracts, which lasted for 10 years? He held in his hand a form of contract issued by the Treasury, and on it the House of Commons Resolution was printed. He was afraid, so far as this particular work was concerned, it was a Resolution that was more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Why was this printed on the contract form? Why did it exist for printing if contracts were not being given out from time to time? He would like the right hon. Gentleman to deal with that proposition. It was currently supposed there were other contracts going on from time to time, and he wanted a promise from the right hon. Gentleman that he would see that the work should be paid for under the London scale of charges. The announcement on the contract form as it now stood was not sufficient, and he would suggest that beneath the Resolution of the House of Commons it should have some such words as these—In this contract the words 'such wages as are generally accepted as current' shall be taken to mean for all work executed in London, the wages fixed in the London scale of prices signed and mutually agreed upon at the Stationers' Hall, between representatives of the London masters and the London men.He hoped he had not kept the Committee too long. He would sum up by putting four questions to the right hon. Gentleman. Firstly, as regarded these printing contracts, did the Government or did they not recognise the London scale of prices which was observed so widely throughout the Metropolis, 90 per cent. of the trade observing it? Secondly, did the House of Commons Resolution which he had quoted not require that the London scale should be paid for such work of this kind as was executed in London? Thirdly, whether the right hon. Gentleman would give a pledge to insert in all new contracts which the present Government or he might agree to some words requiring that the current wages in Loudon should be paid? and, fourthly, would the Government take steps to see that when the present long contracts expired, in any future contracts that might be entered 1564 into for a term of years the same provision was inserted and observed? He could not sit down without admitting that the right hon. Gentleman who represented in this matter the Treasury Bench had mot both the deputation and himself at all times with the greatest courtesy. He thought they had persuaded him of the justice of their claim, but he felt that he (Sir J. T. Hibbert) had to deal with an exceedingly cast-iron Department, though one that, in some respects, very well represented the permanent Departments of this country. He could not help saying that in this matter of the consideration of the wages of the humbler classes the Department had displayed a want of sympathy. He saw that the salary of the Controller was £1,500 a year. He did not say that that was too much, or that he was not a most capable officer. But he said that in regard to the humbler workmen in their employment who did not get a large salary and had no pension they should at least pay them fair wages, and, with a view to increasing the sympathy of the Controller with his workmen, and of giving his right hon. Friend an opportunity of replying to the points he had raised, he begged to move the Amendment he had put down.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Controller." —(Mr. Lough).
§ * THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir J. T. HIBBERT, Oldham)
I think it will be considered desirable that I should reply at once to this question after the speech which has been made by my hon. Friend, and that I should state what is the position of the Government in respect to this question. I do not at all complain of what my hon. Friend has said, or of the questions he has asked me as regards the future. But before I deal with the questions he has put to me and the remarks he has made, I should like to bring before the Committee the fact that the printing contracts were made in the year 1886, during the time of the late Government, and those printing contracts were all for a term of 10 years. These contracts are seven in number. They were not all taken by the firm to which he has referred—Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode—but some of them were 1565 taken by houses that are called fair houses. I believe that the Government printing was divided into seven groups at that time, and four out of the seven contracts were taken by Union houses, one by the great firm of Hansard and Son, two by Darling and Son, and one by Harrison and Son. So you see that Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, having taken over the business of Hansard and Son, hold three of these contracts, while the other three Union houses hold the remainder. The estimated value of the contracts taken by the Union as compared with the non-Union houses is as follows: The three taken by the Union houses are £49,588, as against £50,000, the value of those taken by the non-Union houses. I merely mention those figures to show that there was competition when these contracts wore invited, and that they were not all taken by the house of Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode. The question is, what is the position of the Government with respect to these contracts? They were taken, as I have said, in 1886 for 10 years, and they do not expire until December of 1896, so that they have two and a half years to run, and my hon. Friend has asked me to agree to the proposal he has made—namely, that I should agree that no future contracts should be made except upon the basis of the Loudon scale of prices. He is asking me, as I think rather unfairly, to undertake a decision upon that matter. I am at present Secretary to the Treasury. Of course I do not think that I shall be Secretary to the Treasury—I think it is very improbable—at the end of the two and a half years, when these contracts expire. All I can say with perfect freedom is that that would make four years' work at the Treasury, which I do not think I am quite likely to agree to undertake. Be that as it may, the Committee will agree with me that I could not undertake to pledge my successor, and I cannot undertake to pledge the Government which may be in Office with respect to the proposal which he has made. But I am quite prepared to meet my hon. Friend a great way. I do not say I can give him all he asked, because I do not think it would be fair for me to do so, seeing that the contracts do not expire until the end of 2½ years. But I am perfectly willing—and I think it will he much the best way of dealing 1566 with the question—to agree that a Select Committee shall sit either the next year or the year after to consider this question of the printing contracts, and to see in what way, in future, they shall be given, so as to come within the provisions of the Resolution passed by the House of Commons in 1891. I should like to give what I think should be the form of Reference. Of course, I do not mean to commit myself nor any person who holds my place to the exact words, but I think a Reference of this kind would meet my hon. Friend's proposal—To report whet her the present system of issuing invitations for tenders and of making contracts for Government printing effectually secures due compliance with the terms and spirit of the Resolution of the House of Commons of the 19th February, 1891, with regard to the wages to be paid by the contractors, and whether, and if so what, improvements of the system is called for.Something like these words are what I should suggest. My hon. Friend has referred to the letter which I sent to the deputation which I received, and he has said that that letter was unsatisfactory. I dare say that a large number of persons might view it as unsatisfactory. I wrote that letter with the information I had before me, and I do not know that I could have done otherwise than write as I did. It had been said of Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode that they were not paying the London scale of prices, but I was informed by that firm that they were paying wages equal to the London scale of prices, and I felt it was my duty to put that statement in my letter so that it might go before the deputation. Since I wrote that letter, in July, I made further inquiries. I have seen two members of the firm, and I have also inquired more particularly to got full details of the wages paid in that establishment; but though I asked and pressed for details to bear out what the firm stated to me, I must confess I have not been able to get these details, which I think I ought to have if I am to make myself responsible for the act of that firm. Having arrived at that conclusion, I ask myself how far ought I to go to meet my hon. Friend, and my answer is that I offer this Select Committee, which shall take what evidence they think proper, and shall consider how these contracts shall be given in the future. If that Committee think proper to recommend that these 1567 contracts shall only be given to firms which agree to pay the Loudon scale of prices, well and good. I think that would be a very satisfactory arrangement for all parties. But whilst I say that, I must also say that I do not consider myself to be in a position to give any such undertaking, or make any such proposal. I admit this—that a large proportion of the houses engaged in book-printing in the Metropolis are what are called "Union houses." I believe that in 90 per cent. of the total number of those houses both masters and men accept the London scale of prices. That is a very strong factor; and it is a factor that must have due effect given to it by any Committee which considers this question. Of course, I leave the matter to them; but I will go a step further, and say that I consider that any new contracts that are made before the Committee reports ought to go on terms which would be within the spirit and the words of the Resolution of this House. I trust that undertaking will be sufficient for my hon. Friends, and for the Committee. I can assure them that I have given the greatest attention to this subject. There is no question connected with my duties at the Treasury which has taken up so much of my time, or required so much of my time, and upon which I wish to act as fairly as possible than this question of the rate of wages to be paid by Government contractors. I could have gone into the question at much greater length; but I do not think it is necessary at this time of the night; and I trust the way in which I desire to meet the case will be approved of by the Committee.
§ SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, that as a member of the deputation who waited on the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, he desired to thank him for the disposition, at any rate, which he had evinced to meet all reasonable requirements in the matter. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough) that the letter written by the right hon. Gentleman was not satisfactory on certain points; but that letter had been reconsidered in the light of new facts, as he understood, and now the right hon. Gentleman had come to a conclusion which, on the whole, having regard to the difficulties of the position, would probably meet the case. They had allusions that afternoon to the condition of 1568 the lithographic trade. They had it pointed out that very large quantities of posters were imported into this country. He believed that statement was correct, and he believed the true foundations of commercial prosperity were—fair wages paid, and good relations established between employers and employed, although having regard to the terms of the Resolution of the House the Government had not succeeded in setting the best example in the matter. The question was not a question of Unionism or otherwise. It was simply a question of acting on the Resolution of that House, which said that the current wages of the trade should be paid in Government contracts; and so far as he was able to gather from representations which had been made to him by his constituents—many of whom were engaged in this trade—Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode themselves in one of their establishments—though not in the other—had adopted the scale of prices which had been accepted by a very large portion of the trade. The only difficulty was in connection with the existing contracts, and that difficulty, so long as these contracts lasted, was insuperable. He believed the right hon. Gentleman had done his best to persuade the contractors to a modification of the terms. He thought that modification might have been made wisely, and in the end economically. But if the right hon. Gentleman could not persuade people to do so, he (Sir A. Rollit) did not know who could, having regard to his persuasive manners towards Members of that House. The right hon. Gentleman had promised a Committee to consider the whole question of the printing, and to devise a system of contract under which the. Resolution of the House would be carried out. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman, for though he had not wholly realised all that they wished—for that was beyond his power—he had offered a solution of the difficulty which they ought all to accept.
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, there were few recognised rates of wages so clearly understood as the scale of prices of the Loudon printing trade; and, that being so, it would be extremely easy to fulfil the Resolution which the House adopted some time ago, when new contracts were going to be made with respect to Government printing. There could be no doubt that the letter 1569 which the right hon. Gentleman wrote some time ago was wrong in some of its expressions as to facts; and though the right hon. Gentleman had not been able to get from the firm the exact facts of the matter, there had been furnished to him by the Society of Compositors some of the leading points of difference in the prices paid by Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode and the London scale of prices he would only mention two of the points. The price for composition per 1,000 "ens" under the London scale was from 7½d. to 11½d. The price per 1,000 "ens" for composition, whether in small or large type, paid by this firm was only 7d. Again, under the London scale, overtime between 7 and 10 o'clock was paid for at the rate of 3½d. per hour, and afterwards at a still higher rate; but there was no overtime, except for all-night work, allowed by the firm in question. Those were clear departures—be would not say from the London scale of prices, because that might be the scale of a small body of trades—but from the London scale as paid by 90 per cent. of the printing trade of London; and he would urge on the right hon. Gentleman, if he was prevented from touching existing contracts, to at any rate take steps, with regard to contracts made in the meantime, to have the London scale of prices clearly recognised as the fair wages generally paid in the trade in London. The printing trade of London had been enabled to work with great smoothness on account of the mutual arrangements come to by the agreement of masters and men on this scale of prices; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would recognise and would understand that the Government could take no fairer step in the matter than simply to recognise that if they adopted that scale they would be acting up to the Resolution of the House.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
said, that as the constituency which he represented happened to contain practically the whole of the printing trade—for he had over 1,000 electors connected with the trade—he desired to say a few words on this subject. Some time ago he formed one of a deputation which waited on the right hon. Gentleman, with reference to the bookbinding trade, to complain of the action of one of the most important of the firms who did this class of work for the Government in taking the work out of London into the country to a place 1570 where there was a firm which employed a large amount of female labour. This firm got women to do what was generally known in the trade as men's work, at, of course, a lower rate of wages. The men looked upon that as another form of sweating, and as being opposed to the Resolution of the House of Commons. He bad received during the past week scores and scores of letters from his constituents on this subject. They failed to understand all those niceties of reasoning; they looked at the question from their own standpoint, and as it would seem that a large portion of the Government work was done by unfair houses they naturally complained. They, therefore, asked the Government to give a pledge that the work would only go to those houses which paid a fair rate of wages, and if that pledge was given they would ask for no more.
§ MR. LOUGH
said, he wished to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had met them in a very sympathetic spirit. He was sure the Committee would recognise that the right hon. Gentleman had gone a step further than in his letter, and had made, on the whole, a very fair proposal. He had examined the proposed Reference to the Committee and he found that really covered the matter so far as the contracts running for a long period were concerned. He desired to thank the right hon. Gentleman for having so fairly met them in that respect. But he would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would add one word more on another point. He thought sufficient evidence had been laid before him to prove that the London scale of prices was universally adopted throughout the trade; and they asked of him that while in Office, in the case of any work not covered by the long contracts, he would see that the wages paid were according to the London scale. He assumed that the Committee which the right hon. Gentleman would give them next year would report before any new contract for a term of years was entered into.
§ MR. M. AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)
said, that last year on the Irish Estimates he questioned the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury as to the conditions of work in the Government printing offices in Dublin. Unfortunately, be was not successful in impressing upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity for some reform in those offices; but this time he stood on surer 1571 ground. The House had adopted a Resolution against sub-letting of Government contracts, and he would show that in the case of the firm with which they were now dealing there was sub-letting. He was struck by one observation made by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said the firm would not go into details. But being a practical printer himself he could go into details, and he would show that there was no Department of the Government more difficult to shove on in the path of reform and progress than the Stationery Office. The conditions of work in the firm of Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode could be stated in a few words. The work was first put into the hands of taskmasters on behalf of the firm. Those taskmasters then settled the prices for the work, and they went around to the "clickers" (which was a technical term in the trade for deputy-foremen) of the various companionships consisting of from 15 to 20 men each, and asked them the price for which they would do the work. Now, here was a system of subletting far more pernicious than that condemned by the Resolution of the House of Commons, for the workmen themselves were placed in competition with each other. It did not require a Committee to see the gross injustice inflicted on the associated employers of London by this system. Again, with regard to wages, what was the position? While the price paid for composition per thousand "ens" was 7½d by the associated employers, only 7d. was paid by Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode. Here, then, was a very gross violation of the Resolution of the House of Commons in favour of the current rate of wages being paid under Government contracts. Surely the right hon. Gentleman need not wait for the deliberations of a Select Committee to prevent those abuses of the Resolution of the House. In the new form of contract in Her Majesty's Office of Works for London and district it is expressly declared that—The contractors shall not assign or underlet the contract or any part or parts thereof, without the consent of the Commissioners being first obtained, and shall not make a subcontract or sub-contracts for the execution of the work of any part or parts thereof, or—and it was to this he wished to call the particular attention of the right hon. Gentleman—or employ any taskmaster in or about the works or repairs.1572 That was the case for the Society of Compositors; and they thought that without waiting for a Committee they should have an express declaration that the system adopted by Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode was detrimental to the interests of the compositors, and was contrary to the Resolution of the House; and that it was high time for the Stationery Department to make a more energetic attempt to grapple with this question, and not to wait for a Committee whose deliberations may extend over a series of years and end in nothing. Before he sat down he might acknowledge with thankfulness the help given to them by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. S. Buxton) in all matters affecting the printing trade.
§ * MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said, the previous speakers had given at much length and with great accuracy the reasons why some action should betaken in this matter by the Secretary to the Treasury. He knew the House was anxious to get away; and he should not, therefore, go over the ground which had been traversed by hon. Gentlemen before him, and which, in the main, he endorsed. But he wished to point out to the House that this was not only a question that dealt with the wages, hours, and industrial conditions of the printers and men engaged in the stationery, printing, and bookbinding in connection with the journals, papers, and other documents that were required for this House and the various Departments of the Government. If the Committee which the Secretary to the Treasury had promised them simply dealt with wages, hours, and conditions of employment—though these were very proper questions for inquiry, he must say that from the House of Commons point of view that would not be sufficient. He trusted that that Committee would not sit longer than throe or four months, because it could well do the whole of its work within that period. He trusted that the Committee would consist of practical men, and that the Secretary to the Treasury in the nomination of that Committee would avail himself of the technical and export knowledge of the printing trade now in the House. He also trusted that the terms of Reference to that Committee would go much further than the right hon. Gentleman had proposed. He would tell them why. He believed that the system under which the printing was done 1573 was, economically and intrinsically, bad. He believed that the system of contract needlessly harassed the officials and oppressed the men, and that if another system were adopted the public and the ratepayers would be benefited; the House of Commons would got its printing done much cheaper and much better; there would be better binding—work that would last would be turned out; employment would be spread over a larger number of men, and a large sum of money would be saved which was now spent in printing such a large number of Government Reports, documents, and Blue Books, which speedily went to that bourne from which no traveller returns—so far as those things were concerned—the waste-paper basket and the cheesemonger's shop. He therefore asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not widen his Reference to the Committee, go that the Committee would inquire whether the House of Commons should not abolish the contract and lender system for printing and bookbinding altogether and do its own work itself? He wished to direct attention to the gross extravagance of the Stationery Department. That Department was established for the purpose of superintending the printing under the contract system, and to do that it received an amount equal to the revenue of a small European State, for the Treasury paid over to that Department over £600,000 a year. More than that, they found that there was an annual increase which ran from £7,000 to £14,000. Last year it was £14,000, which, if properly spent, he admitted, was a good sign; for the amount showed a tendency to increase rapidly as the desire for information spread amongst the people. This enormous sum was divided up between about 12 contractors, of which two or three got the bulk of the printing, one firm alone getting £250,000 of the sum. How was the Vote for the Stationery Department divided up? For printing for the Public Departments there were £186,000; paper for same, £167,000; binding, £60,000; printing, binding, and paper for the two Houses of Parliament, £77,000; small stores, £58,000, and Stationery Office publications, £25,000; so that £592,000 were spent, or were supposed to be spent, in London alone? What happened under this system? The contracts were signed 1574 for a long term of years, and the conditions would not permit of one firm doing all the work, though it would be of advantage to the officials, he was told, if it could be done by one firm. Contracts were made for five and ten years, the result of which was that paper being reduced in price considerably every year—the price of paper to-day as compared with 10 years ago being 75 per cent. cheaper, generally speaking—large profits went to the contractors on the paper that they supplied, small though it was; whereas if the work were done by the Government the markets could be utilised and the printing could be done much cheaper than it was done at present. As apart from paper being reduced in price, nearly all the other accessory materials were reduced as well. The salaries, wages, and allowances of the Stationery Department amounted this year to £26,730, being an increase of £580 on last year. They paid, independently of that, £3,500 for horses, carts, and carriages employed in carrying this contract printing about. They contracted for books in this way: suppose 100 Reports of a certain character were wanted in January, that number was printed by the contractor at a high price; in the course of the year more copies were required, and perhaps an order for 3,000 copies was given, for all of which they paid at the original price per 100, whereas every practical printer knew that the price of the 100 copies ordered in January was from 40 to 75 per cent. higher than if 3,000 copies were taken right off. That was typical of other instances. Then look at the salaries paid in the Stationery Department. The Controller was not a practical printer; he was, he believed, a gentleman who left the Bar, or rather the Bar left him; and begot £1,200, and £300 in lieu of a residence surrendered. The Assistant Controller got £600; and he found that for the superintendence of the Government printing 15 persons took between them £7,679. He ventured to say that Eyre & Spottiswoode, Harrison, Vacher, or any of the other great printing firms, did not pay for the practical superintendence and manufacture of the million's worth of work they turned out every year the average salary that these men divided up between them simply for examination alone. Remember, also, that the bulk of the men were not 1575 practical printers, and that the knowledge they possessed was merely theoretical. To the professional staff £2,840 was paid. So that there were for purposes of supervision 59 persons to look after the contractor, considerably in excess of what would be required if without the contractor the work was done by Government direct. Passing from the extraordinary amount of money paid for supervising the contractor to the eon-tractor's work, he would take first the Postmaster General's Department. He frequently saw Postmasters in different places, and had asked them about their printing and stationery. That, he found, was very unsatisfactory. The general complaint of Postmasters throughout the country was that the Post Office Guides were not got up as they should be. The Guide was very badly got up indeed, and, so to speak, it was difficult to see the paper for the ink on it. Taking as a specimen the one issued by this particular Department in July, 1894, if it were to be put into the hands of any practical printer, he would say at once that it was a piece of work for which from its appearance good wages could not have been paid, and that it must have been produced under conditions which allowed of the work being scamped. Next came the Reports issued by the Army Medical Department. Here, again, was a book produced for the Government under the contract system, and he would ask anybody to compare the Army Medical Department Report for 1892 with any of the documents produced by the United States Government in their own Government Printery with direct employment of labour—employing their own men. As he believed that this was the only branch of the United States administration that he ever praised in his life, he hoped the Committee would take it on this occasion for what it was worth. He had, next, one of the United States Departmental Reports; it was an admirable work, well got up, and any one would admit at once that there was no comparison between the character of the printing produced at the Bureau of Labour at Washington and the heap of Blue Hooks issued from Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Next, he would go to the Mines and Minerals Statistical Report for 1893. It had just come to hand, and he said again if any practical printer looked at that Report, 1576 either as to the quality of the paper, printing, make-up, and, he might say generally, the industrial and mechanical character of the Report, it was not to be compared for a moment with similar work produced elsewhere—for instance, in New South Wales. Here in this country, where they produced vast quantities of minerals by millions of tons annually, we sent out a Report issued by the Government which, as compared with the Report produced even under the contract system in New South Wales, was a positive disgrace; and beyond question no comparison whatever could be instituted between the two books, and the superiority of the New South Wales Report over that which was produced for the English Government was indisputable. Going a little further—to New Zealand—it was the same thing; and it was just the same throughout the Colonies and in other countries. He had got at home—he was not able to bring them all down to the House—something like 30 or 40 official Reports and Blue Books issued by various Governments throughout the world; and whether they came from New South Wales, New Zealand, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, or the Bureau of Labour in America, wherever the documents were printed directly by the Government in their own Printery there was no comparison as to the quality of paper, type, make-up, and general appearance and character of the work. He earnestly appealed to the Secretary to the Treasury whether, in face of all this, he would not allow this Committee to widen the scope of its Reference—whether it should not be made a little more exhaustive, so that the House might see whether by an investigation into these matters they could not see their way to adopt some other system whereby perhaps more money would be spent on the production, in a better form, of really valuable Reports, while at the same time effecting a great saving in almost useless and badly-produced works. It was not merely Trades Union rates of wages that he asked for, but the adoption of a better means than this tender-and-contract system, and so getting better work done. That was what they, on behalf of the actual workers, asked of Her Majesty's Government; they asked it so that working overtime might be abolished: and the work to be done would 1577 then be spread over a Larger number, and done under better conditions. That was very necessary in the printing trade. There was not a trade in London where the physical conditions were worse than among the compositors, printers, machine-minders, and printers' devils. Printing was done in Loudon for the Government, under conditions of gas-laden atmospheres, unhealthy surroundings, insanitary conditions, and long hours which the Government ought not to allow. Yea, more, if good workshops could be found for war material at Woolwich, model workrooms should be found under Government for its own printing. Therefore, from every consideration alike of economy, health of employés, and greater efficiency in the printing done for these Departments, he trusted the Government would do something to accede to his request. He came now to the last point which he had to mention, and that was in connection with the Committee work. What did they rind there? They found the same system of contract with regard to the shorthand-writing, which was sub-let and farmed out in a most extraordinary manner. Let him give an instance. Supposing they were sitting on a Private Bill Committee upstairs on any particular day. What happened? Not a single word or line of the evidence taken before that Private Bill Committee had reached the hands of the compositors and printers until 7 or 8, and more frequently 9, o'clock at night. Now that ought not to be the case. The printing for that House ought to be done under different circumstances, so that the notes taken by the shorthand writers could be sent away to the printers as was done on all newspapers. The notes should be sent off early enough for proofs to be produced, so that the Committee clerks upstairs, and others, might have an opportunity of seeing them before 9 or 10 o'clock at night. What did the newspapers do? If there was any particular incident or occurrence in that House as late as 1 o'clock in the morning all Fleet Street was apprised of it two hours afterwards. If that could be done by the newspapers, surely the printing of their Private Bill Committee work ought not to wait seven or eight hours—until 8 or 9 o'clock at night; but the printers and compositors should be able to get the work earlier, and instead of having to work through the night and walk home they 1578 should be able to catch the last trains and get away to their homes. The existence of the present condition of things was entirely due to our scandalous system of farming out the shorthand work. The shorthand writers upstairs were supposed to be the servants of a firm which had the practical monopoly of this particular work, for which they were paid at a rate which amounted to 20s. per Times column. Any one of those shorthand writers only got 11s. 3d. as a maximum price per column if he wrote out his notes himself. He never could get more than 11s. 3d. If he dictated the notes he only got 10s. per column. What did that mean? The man who got the contract and farmed it out again got a sovereign for the 11s. 3d. which he paid to the actual shorthand writer. The contractor's answer to that before the Committee was—he had the evidence in his hand—that he paid 6s. 3d. more out of the sovereign for expenses; but it was the opinion of everyone engaged in that business that that 6s. 3d. should be knocked down to 2s. or 2s. 6d. Then there was an attendance fee paid, and for simply saving that he was the employer of the shorthand writer the contractor got 50 per cent. of the attendance fee—the servant of the man who had the monopoly getting an attendance fee only of 10s. 6d. per day for his work upstairs. That was the kind of farming which went on, and which this House ought to stop. They gave a monopoly to Mr. Gurney, who, as contractor, made 50 per cent. out of what the shorthand writer earned; and even if it were admitted that he was entitled to reckon 2s. 6d. for expenses, there was a clear case of 6s. profit out of every sovereign which he was paid by the Government. That was independent of the 10s. 6d. he took for attendance. A better system should be introduced by the Treasury. They ought to have a staff of shorthand writers of their own working upon a rota, and those men should be paid the customary, or what might be called the Trades Union, rate of wages. They should be paid for the work they actually did, instead of getting only half the money paid for it; and Her Majesty's Government should not allow one man to have a monopoly of this or any other work under such conditions. That was one of the bad effects of the contract 1579 system of doing the Government work. He appealed, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman to widen the scope of inquiry by the Committee and to give them the opportunity of going into the whole matter. Of course, he did not expect a promise from the Government, through the Secretary to the Treasury, that any great change would be made at once, because this was no doubt a very important question indeed. It involved an expenditure altogether of nearly £1,000,000 sterling, and the Cabinet would have to consider it. This would have to be made a Government question before they could resolve on a new departure and say whether in shorthand writing, in printing, or in supplying stationery they would not have their work done absolutely by Government servants under the best conditions, in the interest of good work and efficient economy.
§ * SIR J. T. HIBBERT
Sir, I think we are all indebted to the hon. Member for his able contribution in this matter. I am sure everyone will admit the great amount of experience and practical knowledge be has brought to bear upon this question. He has afforded us a great deal of information in the different departments of work he has dealt with. With respect to the most important point, that of the Government undertaking its own printing, that is, of course, a serious matter, and I am glad to hear from the hon. Member that he recognises it is really a very important departure. It is, I think, a question very well worth consideration, and deserving of every attention both by the Treasury and by the Cabinet itself, as to whether any change should be made. I hope, if on consideration they should be willing that this important general question should be referred to the same Committee, to be inquired into with the question of printing, that the hon. Gentleman will be a Member of that Committee, and that he will help to bring forward the question and have it thoroughly threshed out in every way. All the other points he has mentioned are also, I think, well worthy of consideration. As to the cost of printing Blue Books, I admit that it is very great. We waste a lot of money every year on Blue Books; for, while some are unquestionably of great value, others are almost worthless; and I think with a little more care we might arrange to have fewer Blue Books issued, and so be able 1580 to spend more upon those which are produced. That would be to the advantage of the public in every way. England, I quite agree with the hon. Member, ought not to be behind other countries, and even our own colonies, in this matter. Then, with regard to the Reports of Committees, I think they should be brought up earlier, and that as far as possible the night work now necessitated should be avoided by employing a larger staff in issuing the Reports. In that way the night work might be to a great extent avoided. All those are points which are well worth consideration, and I would go as far as to say that the employment of men in the way mentioned by the hon. Member should be made a point of reference to the Committee. I think there is a great deal to be done in the direction of such an inquiry; and if the Committee has upon it gentlemen who understand these different branches of business, I believe we shall be able to go some way towards doing a great work for the benefit of those concerned, while at the same time economising the funds of the State. With regard to what was said by the hon. Member for Dublin as to sub-letting contracts, we cannot, I am afraid, interfere, as to the sub-letting of any part of the work in any way, with the holders of existing contracts. The hon. Member will, I think, fully admit that. No doubt a great deal has been said on the subject. It is frequently urged that the plan of sub-letting is very objectionable, and that we ought to give facilities for the recommendations that have been made on the subject to be carried out. I can only say, in respect to the scale of prices for work done under our contracts, that during the time I am in Office I will take care that every consideration shall be given to what has been said by hon. Members on the subject.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
asked whether public tenders were invited for stationery, and, if so, what were the means employed to give publicity? No reference was made in the Votes to quill pens, of which thousands were supplied to the Government Departments. When once they had been dipped in ink they never, so far as he was aware, made a second appearance, and he should like to know what became of them after they had been once used?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
stated that the tenders for stationery used in the Government Departments were invited publicly from all the firms which were on the Stationery Office list. There were several hundreds of these firms, and they each received an invitation. Any firm desiring to be placed on the list sent in an application for that purpose. The quills, after being discarded, were generally remade and used elsewhere; they were not wasted in the way suggested.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, they were all utilised. They were not sold and purchased again by the Departments.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
asked whether, in the contract for paper, there was any condition that the paper should be manufactured in this country?
§ * SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, there was not, but about three-fourths of the paper was manufactured in this country. It was not bought, in any case, from foreign firms.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 8. £11,743, to complete the sum for Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues, &c, Office.
MR. LLOYD-GEORGE&c.) (Carnarvon,
desired to call attention to the stripping of the Welsh hills of timber by the Office of Woods and Forests for State purposes. He urged upon the right hon. Gentleman that some portion of the revenues of the Department should be devoted to new plantations. He further suggested that a Departmental Committee should be appointed to inquire into the practicability of the re-afforestation of the Welsh hills, and also as to the best methods of carrying out that object. He also asked for information as to the conditions under which mining and sporting rights were granted in Wales. No information was given as to steps taken for the protection of the rights of the public in their own property. Hundreds of thousands sterling had been expended on public property in Wales without any information being given to the public. Another point was that the Woods and Forests Commissioners should not be allowed to alienate public property. One or two circumstances had occurred of what appeared to be gross acts of jobbery, one 1582 being in reference to a very interesting old historical ruin. The Woods and Forests Commissioners had actually sold that ruin and the rock on which it stood at Ormsby Gore for £175. That was really an outrage upon the public. He was simply citing that case in illustration. The evidence was given in January last, but no information whatever was given even to the Local Authorities. Though an action had been commenced nothing had been done since in the matter.
§ MR. EDWARDS (Radnorshire)
stated, that Continental countries were spending millions a year in re-afforesting, and England, being the greatest consumer of timber in Europe, ought to follow that excellent example. Some of the best timber used in the Welsh collieries came from France, and there was no reason why as good timber should not be supplied of native growth. In regard to the letting of sporting rights, the Woods and Forests Commissioners should take the same care of public property as would be taken if it were in private hands, and the best possible price should be obtained by the local agents on behalf of the Department.
MR. HERBERT LEWIS
said, that the rights of the public had been enormously diminished, and it was the duty of the Government to take care that the process should not go on. Steps should also be taken for re-afforestation, because in the past Wales had for national purposes been denuded of its great forests. Since 1851 the Commissioners had sold their ancient charges to the amount of £151,000, and they had only invested out of that a little over £41,000, so that there was a balance due to Wales of £110,000 uninvested. Without going further into the large body of evidence, which could easily he brought forward, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would grant an inquiry into the matter, in order to prevent the waste at present going on.
§ * SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, he must congratulate his hon. Friends upon their having a sympathetic Commissioner of Woods who was responsible for the management of property in Wales, and he was glad to be able to say that he had from him a Report on this matter of planting in Wales, which was under consideration at the present time. The Commissioner proposed to make a per- 1583 sonal visit to Wales for the purpose of ascertaining by actual inspection in the several localities how far they were suitable for tins purpose, and whether the circumstances of soil, and situation, and so forth, offered a reasonable prospect of return on the expenditure. The question had advanced so far, and as the proceedings involved the expenditure of money, they would have to bring the proposal before the Treasury, and it would have to be considered by them. He had suggested that Mr. Stafford Howard should undertake this work; that he should himself be responsible for the work, that he should go down to Wales, visit, various portions of it, should hold open inquiries al certain places in different parts of Wales, giving full notice of his visit, and should then ascertain how far the feelings of the inhabitants of the district were in favour of the scheme. He thought hon. Members were to be congratulated on the fact that Mr. Stafford Howard had taken up the question, and he had no doubt he would be able to work it out to something effective, so as to carry out the wishes of the hon. Members who had spoken on the subject. He believed the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs referred to the question of Farren's Quarry, and he was glad to be able to inform him that that quarry was in a better position. It was let for 20 years from the 5th of January, 1890, and the lease expired in 1910. There was a certain rent of £50 a year payable to the Crown. That rent was regularly paid, so of course there was no chance of taking possession of the quarry so as to oust this tenant. The royalties were 1d., 3d., and 6d. per ton on the respective kinds of stone got from the quarry. This lease, it seemed, required two men to be kept at work, and at the date of the latest Report by the Crown Mine Agent seven men were at work. He did not know whether the hon. Member was aware of the fact, but he believed the lessees were in negotiation with the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for the site of a pier to be used in connection with the work of the quarry. If that were so, it looked as if they were intending to work the quarry in a much better way than they had hitherto. Of course, the Crown had other quarries in the neighbourhood which they would be glad to let to other 1584 tenants. With regard to the question of the appointment of landowners as stewards, which was raised by one of his hon. Friends, he should be very glad to inquire of and confer with the Commissioner upon the subject. He rather agreed with much that his hon. Friend stated upon the matter, that it was not quite a desirable kind of appointment to make to this kind of work. In respect to the alienation of property in Wales, he did not think the Commissioner would have any desire to do that unless they had had good offers for the property. But he would confer with the Commissioner as to whether any notice should be given of any intention to alienate property. Then there was the question of sporting leases. He bad asked for a Report upon that matter, and be was told that in the last six years there had been 15 cases of sporting leases. There had been a renewal of old leases, but no lease was renewed without an independent and fresh valuation. They had relet seven of the old leases, but it was upon a new valuation. In the case of the other eight, those were advertised, but he was sorry to say that the plan of advertising them did not seem to be very successful. For some of these eight no tenders were received at all in answer to the advertisements, and for others there was only one answer, so that in no case was there any competition. What the Commissioner was asked to do was to make as good an arrangement as he could for sporting rights. He could assure his hon. Friends that they had a sympathetic Commissioner, and he trusted they would make use of him whenever be went down to any place for the purpose of making inquiries, and that they would confer with him on the various subjects that came within his province.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, that on the forestry question he was so thoroughly satisfied with the answer he had received from the right hon. Gentleman that he did not propose to pursue the matter any further. So far as he was concerned, he did not require a Departmental Committee, so long as it was understood that the Commissioner would take the matter up, and have open inquiries in different places. With regard to the quarry, he did not attach any blame to the right hon. Gentleman for what had been done. It 1585 was a Unionist job. He understood from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that there was a pier which the tenant proposed to erect there for the purpose of developing the quarry, and he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would see that the Commissioners imposed terms upon him in regard to this pier to carry it down to the water's edge. He should like to know, with regard to this old castle there was in Criccieth, whether there was any clause in the deed to preserve the public rights, and, if there was, whether any steps were taken by the Commissioners to protect those rights?
MR. HERBERT LEWIS
said, there was just one point to which the right hon. Gentleman had not alluded in his reply, and it was one of very great importance to Wales. Crown property to the value of over £150,000 had been sold in Wales, and the investments only amounted to about £41,000, and he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would bear that fact in mind in dealing with Wales, seeing that Wales had sustained a loss of about £110,000 by the transaction. He begged to thank the right hon. Gentleman most heartily for his reply generally.
§ MR. EDWARDS
said, that while thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the reply which he had given him with regard to the leasing of sporting rights, he should like to ask him to look into the matter carefully, because he found in one case that during the last 20 years the lease had been renewed to the same person. It was clear that the intention of the Woods and Forests Commissioners was that the leases should be open to competition.
§ * MR. WEIR
said, he desired to move the Motion which stood in his name. This was that the Vote should be reduced by the sum of £50, and he did this with the object of getting some information from the right hon. Gentleman regarding the granting of licences for salmon-fishing in the Highlands of Scotland. On the 28th of March of last year he made an effort to get some information on the subject. He was then informed—Much dissatisfaction exists amongst the fishermen around the coasts of Scotland on the subject. The Government have it in contemplation to arrange for licences being granted to fish for salmon, and other fish of the salmon-kind, in places around the coasts of Scotland, where the right of salmon fishing has not been already granted to private individuals.1586 Later on he asked the Secretary for Scotland another question on the same subject, and the right hon. Gentleman then said—He was glad to say that there was a spirit now in the Office of Works—a reforming spirit he might call it—and since Mr. Stafford Howard had been at work he had shown a desire to adopt a policy which would be pleasing to the House of Commons.He was very much gratified when he obtained that information from the Secretary for Scotland, but he wanted to know what progress was being made. It was not enough to say that efforts were being made. It was time, since March 1893, that something positive should be done. An advertisement was an excellent mode of intimating these facts, but it was no use advertising in The Times or in any other paper which did not come within the reach of the people who were interested in this matter. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that notices should be sent round to the post offices, and possibly to the schools. If the notices were sent to Highland schools, there would then be a better opportunity of the parents of the children attending those schools getting information as to the prospect of securing licences for catching salmon, or fish of the salmon kind. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give them such information as would encourage him to withdraw the Motion he had put down, because he had no desire to detain the Committee one moment longer than was necessary. But this was a matter of vital importance to people in his constituency. Prosecutions were taking place every day, and persons were sent to prison because when they were fishing for other kinds of fish a salmon or fish of the salmon kind came into the fisherman's net. He hoped they would have licences freely issued over the Highlands of Scotland, and indeed all round the coasts of Scotland, where the law was so bad that it was a penal offence to take a salmon out of the sea.
§ * SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that in reply to his hon. Friend, who thought nothing had been done in this matter, he had to tell him that a great step had been taken, and he must live in hopes of more being done hereafter. Very few of the leases from Crown salmon-fishings had fallen in recently, but the great bulk of them would fall in in November, 1894. 1587 Of those licences for salmon-fishing that had expired 29 were in Argyllshire, 8 in Ayr, 8 in Inverness, and 5 in Ross. Advertisements were inserted in the newspapers in Scotland, in the way most likely to come under the notice of the people most interested, inviting applications for licences, but he was sorry to say that the results in the way of applications were not very satisfactory. Printed lists of the fishings had also been widely circulated. Many inquiries were made, but only two applications had been received for all these licences, and of these one had been granted, and the other was ready for delivery on payment of the fee. That was one step. He had also to inform his hon. Friend that the Commissioner, Mr. Stafford Howard, had himself been to Scotland, and had visited most of the fishings where the leases would fall in in November. He had had meetings with the fishermen and other inhabitants in the villages, and had discussed with them the terms on which the licences for these fishings should be granted. The Commissioner was now preparing a scheme for granting these licences at certain places, and he hoped his hon. Friend would give them some credit for action in this matter.
§ * MR. WEIR
asked if the right hon. Gentleman had considered the desirability of adopting any other plan than advertising. He had had to admit that advertising in newspapers had not been a success in Wales nor in the northern parts of Scotland, and he begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would consider the desirability of testing another plan—that of putting notices into the post offices and schoolhouses?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, it was quite impossible for him to supply the hon. Gentleman with all the information he wanted. He had given him all he possessed.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
If the hon. Gentleman will write me a note, it 1588 will be much more effective than putting a question.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
Is the right hon. Gentleman able to say whether these licences are granted for a long number of years? I want to know whether the effect of them is to tie up the property for a long number of years?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 9. £28,566, to complete the sum for Works and Public Buildings Office.
§ MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said, he desired to ask a question of the First Commissioner of Works. The Committee would remember that some weeks ago he put a question to the right hon. Gentleman as to whether there could not be added to the statues of a historic character which they already had a statue of Oliver Cromwell, and the way in which that question was received in the House, and the notice——
I must point out to the hon. Member that this cannot be gone into. It does not arise on this Vote.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 10. £16,000, to complete the sum for Secret Service.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he did not rise to move any reduction of the Vote or to detain the Committee for more than a minute. He wished simply to say what he had always said on this Vote. He protested against this Vote for Secret Service, because it was used for corrupt purposes.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, that this Vote illustrated the injury done to the 1589 Public Service by keeping back the Estimates till discussion was impossible. It was a perfect scandal that a Vote like this should pass absolutely without discussion, but in the present state of the House no effective discussion could take place. There were many questions on which public discussion was desirable and he hoped that some steps would be taken to allow this particular subject to be discussed on Report.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said, he wished to supplement the protest of his hon. Friend against the delay in bringing on the Estimates. They had to deal with a Revenue of something like £100,000,000 sterling, and he did think it ought to be arranged to take Supply the first thing in the Session, leaving the ornamental part of their work for later. It was positively indecent the way in which the work was now done.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 11. £3,155, to complete the sum for Lunacy Commission, Scotland.
§ 12. £2,470, to complete the sum for Registrar General's Office, Scotland.
§ 13. £4,754, to complete the sum for Board of Supervision for Relief of the Poor, and for Public Health, Scotland.
§ 14. £2,264, to complete the sum for Household of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
§ 15. £939, to complete the sum for Charitable Donations and Bequests Office, Ireland.
§ 16. £3,007, to complete the sum for Public Record Office, Ireland.
§ 17. £19,770, to complete the sum for Public Works Office, Ireland.
§ 18. £8,637, to complete the sum for Registrar General's Office, Ireland.
§ 19. £5,171, to complete the sum for Valuation and Boundary Survey, Ireland.