§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said, he desired to raise two points connected with the administration of the Board of Trade. The first was in reference to the delay in presenting the Report called for at his instance from the Embassy at Berlin, dealing with the manufacture in German prisons of goods for the English market. The Report, he understood, had been received at the Foreign Office some time since, and the delay in presenting it had hindered the efforts that were being made to restrict the importation of these goods. That importation had been condemned by the Trades Council of London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Huddersfield, and Leeds, and the public were entitled to 389 know the difficulties that might stand in the way of its restriction. In connection with this matter he had also to complain that the right hon. Gentleman had not sent for the Commissioner of a trade journal called the Hardwareman, who had made inquiries in Germany on the subject, and who was prepared to give the result of his personal experience. He was sure this gentleman could have put the right hon. Gentleman in possession of more accurate information than the Ambassador at Berlin. At any rate, they were entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman to make public the Report which the Ambassador had made. The other point to which he wished to call attention was in reference to the administration of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887. That Act had been productive of a great deal of good, and had stopped to a large extent the importation of foreign goods bearing British marks. In accordance with the recommendation of a Committee, which, in 1890, inquired into the working of the Act, Parliament had placed the duty of instituting prosecutions in the hands of the Board of Trade, and his complaint was of the lax way in which the duty bad been carried out. The specific case to which he desired to draw attention was in reference to the recent importation at Leith of 6,000 chisels made in Germany and bearing a Sheffield mark, thus purporting to have been made by the most expert edge-tool artizans in the world. The chisels were seized by the Customs Authorities and sold by auction at very much below their value. This, he held, inflicted serious injury on Sheffield and Birmingham. It supplied the Edinburgh market for some time to come, and it led to the purchasers there being furnished with badly-made articles. His contention was that the Customs Authorities ought to have communicated with the Board of Trade, and that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have inquired whether a prosecution lay against the importer. He asked that the importer's name should be disclosed, believing that its publication would have a deterrent effect. It was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to be zealous and vigorous in this matter in the interests of British trade, and to endeavour by putting the law in operation to prevent such cases as this occurring in future.
§ COLONEL HOWAED VINCENT
said, he had sent a letter to the right hon. Gentleman asking for the name.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
said, the Correspondence Department of the Board of Trade must be as defective as its Executive Department. He had sent the right hon. Gentleman a letter from one of the leading firms connected with this trade, in which the writer showed clearly how much the edge-tool industry in Sheffield was affected by the action taken by the Board of Customs. In sending the right hon. Gentleman that letter he had pointed out that the public mention of the name of the importer would in all probability have a deterrent effect. It was perfectly impossible to suppose that these importers did not know perfectly well how these articles were marked. In all probability they gave the order that the goods should be marked in this manner, and it was, therefore, the bounden duty of the right hon. Gentleman to take vigorous action in the matter. He could not too strongly impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of devoting his attention to those matters, and of doing what he could to revive that depression which had existed unfortunately for the last two years in almost every branch of home industry. When they found no less than 26 Trade Societies reporting at the present time that trade was bad, when they found that exports of British and Irish produce were £26,500,000 less in the first two months of this year than in the corresponding period of 1890 lie held it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to pay attention to the wishes and the aspirations of the artizan population in these matters, and to do nothing whatever which could possibly injuriously affect them. The artizan population had a strong feeling that the importation of German convict labour injured them in a very serious manner. He was anxious to hear what the right hon. Gentleman had to say as to why the Report from the Berlin Embassy had not been presented to Parliament, and why, at any rate, the right, hon. Gentleman had not responded to his wish that 391 he should see it. The right hon. Gentleman knew his deep interest in the matter, and yet the document had been kept back from him. It had been put away in the pigeon holes of the Foreign Office, probably labelled" not to be presented until Parliament rises." Then if it was too late to inquire into the importation of these chisels at Leith, he at any rate urged the right hon. Gentleman to come to a better understanding with the Board of Customs on the question. The Board of Customs, he believed, was well administered, and its officials were capable of carrying out their duties, but the right hon. Gentleman should not sit quietly by while these articles were being fraudulently imported, but should make vigorous exertions to restrain this traffic in the future. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to do what he could to promote the interests of British trade by bringing the penalty of the law, and the greater penalty of publicity, to bear against those who imported articles fraudulently marked in defiance of Acts of Parliament, and to the detriment of the free labour of this country.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BRYCE, Aberdeen, S.)
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield had, if he would allow him to say so, wasted a great deal of indignation upon an exceedingly simple matter. He had repeatedly told his hon. Friend that the only reason why the Report obtained from Berlin was not presented was because it was thought better to present it along with Reports from other countries for which the Government had asked. That was a matter of every-day occurrence. It had been the invariable practice, when they had a number of Reports on the same subject, to present them together.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
said, the importation of these prison-made goods was mainly, if not entirely, from Germany.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, Prussia was not the only part of the German Empire. Reports were being received from the other German States, as well as from France, and the Report would be much more valuable if they were all published together. He had no reason to believe that he could have obtained any additional information from the Commissioner of the Hardwareman, even if he 392 had seen him, and besides, it would have been entirely irregular for him to have had communications of that kind. When a Department wished to have information as to what passed in foreign countries, the proper channel of information was Her Majesty's Representatives there. To pass by those Representatives and go to a private individual would be at variance with the best traditions of the Diplomatic Service. In regard to the administration of the Merchandise Marks Act, he had, since the hon. Gentleman spoke, caused inquiries to be made, and found that a letter had been received at the Board of Trade from the hon. Member, but he was not aware that it contained any request for the names of the consignees. In any case they could not have been given, because the Board of Trade did not know them, and there was not time to communicate with the Commissioners of Customs. He had not the latest statistics of prosecutions with him, but he had seen them recently, and there had been a considerable number. In the particular case referred to his information did not bear out the statement of the hon. Member that the word "Sheffield" was on the goods. The Commissioners informed him that they seized them because they bore the words "Warranted cast steel," implying that they had been made in England. The hon. Member asked why the Board of Trade did not put the law in force, but he did not seem to realise what the provisions of the Act were. The Act enabled the Board to institute prosecutions whether the goods were exposed or offered for sale, or whether they were in possession of the person. These goods were neither exposed nor offered for sale, nor were they in possession of the consignee; therefore, the Board of Trade could not institute a prosecution. The action of the Commissioners of Customs was, as far as he could ascertain, in strict conformity with the law. He had no authority to say to them how they were to dispose of seized goods. He hoped he would always be vigilant in carrying out any duties with which the Legislature had entrusted him. If, in these cases under the Merchandise Marks Act, the Cutlers' Company of Sheffield, a very influential body, had made application for a prosecution, that application 393 would have been very carefully considered by the Board of Trade, but he did not gather that they had done so, and he believed the reason why these applications were not more frequent was that British manufacturers wore of opinion that prosecutions often did more harm than good by calling attention to the foreign articles. He expressed no opinion as to whether that was right or wrong, but it was a view which was largely held. While the Department and the Government would be anxious to give the House all possible information, he could not assent to the view that the importation of convict-made goods did any serious injury at present to British trade even in particular instances. The amount of foreign prison-made goods imported was infinitesimal compared with the quantity of goods produced in this country; but they had promised to get all the information they could, and that information would be presented at the earliest possible moment.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
was very sorry to say that on this occasion Supply had been probably worse scamped and rushed through more hastily than in any period during his time, and, of course, that was an additional reason why they should be particular at this stage. As far as they on that side of the House were concerned, they put off a number of matters, both in Committee and on Report, at the special request of the Ministers, and therefore right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Beach had no right to complain if hon. Members took the opportunity of mentioning any of these matters to-day. He could not say that the Army and Navy Votes had not been discussed, but with regard to the Civil Service there had been practically no discussion at all. It was well to bear in mind that the expenditure under the Civil Service covered almost every question connected with the social and trade life of this country, and therefore they could, if they had time, have raised many important questions in which the people were interested. They had been deprived of the opportunities for properly considering the matters. There were two ways of discussing the Estimates—one on the policy of the expenditure itself, and the other with regard to the economy. He had endeavoured to make some observation 394 on the economy of the expenditure from time to time, but during this Session he had hardly had a single opportunity of asking the Committee to consider the policy of the expenditure at all. He had always held that at least 10 per cent, of their money was wasted. He thought they might have more efficiency with at least £10,000,000 less spent on the Estimates during the year, and he should be glad if the Government would allow him an opportunity of considering all these Estimates from the economical point of view. He could not complain that Ministers were not present to answer any questions he might be allowed to put, notwithstanding it was at their request he did not raise them in Committee of Supply. He should like to have received some answer from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War about the case of Surgeon Major Fox. He noticed in the papers that somebody was accused of endeavouring to get this officer out of the way in the same manner as an attempt was made to get rid of Surgeon Major Briggs. Of course, he did not know whether this statement was true or not, but it was his duty to ask the Secretary for War whether it was true or not. The charge was a serious one, and ought to be answered as speedily as possible. He should be out of Order if he were to attempt to consider the question of the House of Lords with regard to their policy, but with regard to the expenses of the House of Lords he desired to say a word or two. He gathered from the Estimates that the other Chamber cost the people of this country over £105,000. There were other sums which were directly placed on the Consolidated Fund, but in the Estimates there was this sum of over £105,000. They were told that the House of Lords paid its own way. That could not be correct, because although he made a mistake in stating the amount of fees received, he found from the corrected Estimate that the amount this year was about £21,000; therefore, how any newspaper or anybody else could make it out that the Lords paid their way he did not know. But even if they did take fees these fees came from the people, and, therefore, they had only got to look at the expenditure. What he said himself, without regard to any policy at all, was that this 395 was more than it was worth, and the people of this country ought not to be called upon to spend such a large sum for practically doing the work over again. He might add to that the expense the people were put to in getting through what was practically a second Committee doing the same work over again, and on purely financial grounds he should personally like to see some alteration. They had been told during the last week that it was not right for them to consider the question from the financial point of view, and that if they had a grievance they ought not to attempt to punish the officials in another place because they objected to anything else. Undoubtedly they did not want to punish any officials whatever, and he had no doubt that if any charge were made these officials would be properly pensioned off. But what they said was that it was the regular, ordinary, Parliamentary, and constitutional way of raising objection to anything they desired to object to by refusing Supplies. If he remembered rightly, this House was brought into existence for the purpose of providing Supplies, and only providing them if they approved of the objects. Therefore, if they objected to the way in which the Supplies were spent, their proper policy was to refuse the Supplies, and so get rid of what they objected to. If the Government could find any other way out of the difficulty, that was their business and not his, and whether it was Government or other expenditure that he objected to be should take the constitutional course of objecting to Supply. He desired to ask one or two questions of the Home Secretary, who, unfortunately for the people of this country, was in charge of the Metropolitan Police. He was personally desirous that the police should be handed over to the London County Council or some other Municipal Body as soon as possible; but in the meantime the Home Secretary was responsible for the conduct of their business, and he wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, why he refused to have the police stations in London properly assessed? Speaking with some authority in the matter, he declared they were only assessed at one-half the proper amount, and he should like the Home Secretary to compel his officers to act fairly in to these matters. Another 396 question as to which he should have liked some answer from the right hon. Gentleman was as to the fees that were charged to Justices of the Peace on their appointment. The Home Secretary recently sent out a Circular in which he suggested that two guineas should be charged each Magistrate on his being sworn in. He objected very strongly to that charge. At the present moment, so far as England and Scotland were concerned, no Justice of the Peace on his appointment could be legally charged anything beyond 2s. or 3s. He knew they had been charged three, four, and even up to 10 guineas; but that was not a legal charge, and those who had refused to pay had been made Magistrates all the same. Within the last few months the Home Secretary had sent out a Circular in which he practically said to the Benchers that they should fix a fee of two guineas. He objected to their friends being fined two guineas by their own Home Secretary; he objected to a penalty being put upon them because they happened to be appointed upon the nomination of the Radical Party as Radicals. He was very sorry the Home Secretary was not present to answer him. There were one or two other matters to which he should like to direct attention. He wanted to get some assurance from the President of the Board of Trade that he would move a little faster in putting pressure upon the Railway Companies to afford greater facilities to workpeople living in the suburbs of London. He threw on the Minister the responsibility for the fact that some of the Companies were not doing what they ought to do. All that was asked was that passengers with workmen's tickets should be allowed to travel as late as 8 o'clock in the morning. Some of the Companies, including the Great Northern, had made this concession; why were not the Great Eastern and other Companies compelled to do it? The Board of Trade, he was afraid, was too much under the influence of Railway Companies and vested interests. He wanted to know why the Board of Trade gave him notice that, as an administrative act, they would oppose his Return Tickets Bill?
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
replied, some four or five months ago. He did not ask the Board of Trade their opinion, 397 but they sent him this notice. Of course, he did not desire to make his right hon. Friend personally responsible; he was only treating the Board as a Board. As he had said, he did receive notice that the Board of Trade would oppose his Bill, and he wanted to know why? because the Board of Trade ought to assist him rather than oppose him. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Board of Trade, he had succeeded in getting his tramways clause imposed upon all the London Companies except one, and he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would take care that it was inserted in all the Provisional Orders he had to do with. He thanked the House generally for what they had done, and also the House of Lords, for on this question he found the House of Lords more liberal than the Board of Trade. He thanked Parliament for having assisted him in passing this tramways clause, and preventing Companies imposing additional fares on Sundays and holidays on the workpeople of this country. He wished to address one or two questions to the Foreign Office, and he wished particularly to complain of the grant of £20,000 a year to what was called the British Bechuanaland Railway. Some months ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a distinct promise that, before the Government were committed to this, Parliament should have an opportunity of considering the matter. They were then requested not to delay the holidays by discussing the matter in Committee of Supply; and in these circumstances he asked that the matter might be put off till next Session. As a matter of fact, the Minute relating to this matter was only laid on the Table on the 9th of August, and it was a farce, therefore, to contend that there had been a proper opportunity of considering and discussing the matter. They had not had an opportunity of considering the matter, and were not going to have. He supposed his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would say that something must be done or could be done on the responsibility of the Government. That was an old Tory idea, and not a Radical idea. They wanted, before the Government were committed on these matters, to have an opportunity of discussing them, and they had a perfect right to insist upon this. He hoped the 398 time would arrive when an independent Committee from both sides of the House would consider these questions before the Government wore allowed to commit themselves and the country. He believed as long ago as 1880 the right hon. Member for Midlothian said that the time would probably come when such an arrangement would have to be made. He did not admit the right of the Government to commit them at all, unless they had got their previous consent. He could not admit that right except in a case of emergency, and this was not one. A Radical Government would find that the Radicals of this country would not allow their money to be squandered on Public Companies and Company promoting in foreign lands. He hoped his hon. Friend would agree to postpone this matter, and he did not think he could do otherwise, as the hon. Gentleman must admit that the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not been acted upon. He further trusted the Government would not commit the country to any further expenditure in Uganda during the Recess. In this case they had been told that nothing would be done without the sanction of the House, but as a matter of fact there had been no opportunity of discussing the large sum now voted. Unfortunately, some Members of the Cabinet were in favour of a Jingo policy, and so we incurred a large expenditure abroad while refusing to spend money for the improvement of trade and agriculture at home. The Radical Party would have nothing whatever to do with a Jingo policy. They had had too much of it during the present Session. The Government had too often thrown over their own supporters and depended upon the Opposition for their existence, and he warned them that the Radical Party would not put up with this. He hoped they would have an assurance that the Government would not commit them in regard to this railway or as regarded compensation to the Company. The Company had no claim to compensation, for having speculated they must, take their chance, and if they had squandered their money they must not look to the ratepayers of this country to make it good for them. He did not see the Postmaster General present, and he should have liked to address one or two questions to the right hon. Gentleman. Complaints 399 had been made that the Postmaster General objected to combination among the men. He had heard that the War Office also objected to combination. He could not understand that at all. He considered, of course, that the workers in those great Government Departments ought not to be allowed to abuse the right of combination; but when the Government admitted the right of workmen outside the Service to combine, he could not see why they should refuse to allow men inside the Service to combine, He would, therefore, like to know from the Postmaster General why he had refused to allow postmen to combine for the purpose of securing what they thought; were their rights? With regard to the Brentford Schools' cruelty cases, he desired to say that many hon. Members were desirous of discussing that matter, but could not do so until they got the Report of the special Inspector. He was not sure whether that Report had been issued yet; but on account of the way Supply had been rushed through they had not had an opportunity of discussing the question, and of seeing that the poor boys of those schools were protected from cruelty, whether from nurses or anyone else, in the future. The question of the Christian Brothers might be considered a purely Irish question; but as he happened to be—as a member of the Corporation of London—part owner of the City of Londonderry and the City of Coleraine, he considered it his duty to look into this question of the Christian Brothers. Therefore, he had done what had been done by few Members—he had gone over the schools of the Christian Brothers in Londonderry, within the last fortnight, saw their emblems or pictures, and could not possibly understand why those emblems should be advanced against giving the Brothers the assistance they ought to have from the State. It was said the Roman Catholics were ignorant and were improperly influenced by their priests; but if that were so, the responsibility rested on the Government until they provided adequate means for the education of the children. It might be said that education had been made compulsory in Ireland. But it was nonsense to talk of compulsory education in a country where there was not sufficient schools, and where the Government would not assist 400 those who were willing to provide the schools. Speaking, therefore, with some knowledge of the matter, he trusted the Government would before long do all that was necessary to complete the system of primary education in Ireland, whereby every child in Ireland would be afforded the facilities for education which were enjoyed by every child in Great Britain. He desired to say a few words on the Consolidated Fund Bill. He did not at all like this system of appropriations in aid; he preferred to have the money specifically voted by the House of Commons, and he was afraid that the system of appropriations in aid would be so extended by successive Governments that the House of Commons would soon have no Supply at all to consider. In conclusion, he would say that he hoped they would never again have this scamping through Supply which had been adopted this Session. The first duty of hon. Members was to consider the expenditure of public money, and as on that expenditure rested, to a large extent, the comfort and happiness of the people, they ought to be allowed full opportunities for considering it.
§ MR. BRYCE
, replying to the remarks of the hon. Member on the subject of workmen's trains, said the Board of Trade were as anxious as any body of men could be to provide full facilities for working men in the matter of cheap trains. They had, by continual representations to the Railway Companies, obtained nearly everything which, under their statutory powers, they could at present obtain, and had made representations to the Companies to induce them to go even beyond what their statutory powers entitled the Board of Trade to ask. He could assure the House that the Board of Trade felt the hardship that was inflicted on workmen in the matter, and they were anxious to do everything in their power to improve the present state of things.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he knew nothing personally about the Return Tickets Bill; but if any such notice of opposition had been given he suggested that it must have been merely in the belief that if the Railway Companies were pressed any further they would withdraw the facilities already given, and which the Board of 401 Trade had not the statutory power to enforce.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. S. BUXTON, Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said, he desired to answer his part of the general catechism of the lion. Member for Peterborough. With regard to the Bechuanaland Railway, he submitted that the opportunity promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for discussing the matter had reference to discussion in Committee of Supply, and the contract between the Company and the Government had been laid on the Table three weeks ago. That opportunity had been afforded, though the time had been unavoidably curtailed this year, so that no promise of the Government had been broken in regard to that matter.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
asked whether the hon. Gentleman meant to say that the Government, in taking up the time that should be devoted to Supply, had not deprived hon. Members of discussing this matter?
§ MR. S. BUXTON
said, the only opportunity that could be given for discussing a matter of this kind was in Supply; and though that opportunity had not perhaps occurred in any adequate sense this year, owing to causes with which the hon. Member was familiar, no complaint could be brought against to the Government in regard to it. As to the contention that the guarantee should be submitted to the House before it was practically ratified by the Government, such a course might be possible under a system for a general Committee to discuss colonial and foreign relations; but at present the only practicable course was that the Government should carry out the agreement on their own responsibility; and if the House should choose bow to the opinion of the House. He fully believed that, instead of the railway being the cause of any additional charge being thrown upon the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, it would by aiding in 402 the development of the country benefit to them in the future.
§ MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
said, he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough that the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year gave a pledge that the House would be given the opportunity of discussing this question with regard to the Bechuanaland Railway. The question was perhaps of less importance in one way, as the matter could be raised year by year, and he thought it only right that notice should lie given to persons who might be inclined to invest in the shares of the railway; that a large number of Members objected to the scheme, and would protest against it every year for the 10 years the guarantee would last. But he rose principally to call attention to a matter connected with Irish affairs, and which deeply concerned a large number of his constituents. Under an Act passed in 1883 certain light railways were constructed in Ireland with a guarantee of 5 per cent. to the shareholders upon the baronies through which those light railways ran. By that Act the Treasury was also to give a guarantee of 2 per cent., not to the shareholders, but to the baronies—that was to say, the baronies paid the shareholders 5 per cent., and that the baronies received from the Treasury 2 per cent. That system was from the beginning a most wasteful one. If the Treasury guarantee had been given directly to the shareholders, it would have brought in £66, and therefore the baronies, after the balance of 3 per cent., only got 33 per cent., so that they were really given a guarantee of a far larger sum than was supposed. It was a wasteful system, but the greater number of the light railways were built under it, and it had brought a very heavy charge on some of the poorest districts of the country. In the County of Leitrim, near his own Division, where the valuation was very high—much higher than in the South—the people were paying 2s. in the £1 county cess for a railway line. He asked English Members to consider what that meant. He saw nothing to compare to it in Great Britain, and naturally the people complained. There had been talks of a 403 strike against county cess, and he would not be surprised if there were strikes against the county cess. There was one way out of the difficulty, which occurred to the Directors of the railways so far back as six years ago: That was, commuting the Treasury payment by a capital sum, and reducing the capital proportionately with the consent of the shareholders. The Directors pressed this claim on the Treasury six years ago. He knew that four years ago Lord Kings-court and a deputation representing the different railways came to London and pressed this scheme on the Treasury. The Member for Leeds (Mr. Jackson) then said that in the existing condition of Government business they could not bring in the Bill which was necessary, and he added that he had no objection in principle to the scheme. In 1893 he (Mr. Knox) and some of his friends introduced a Bill on the subject. He frankly admitted that that Bill did not meet with the general consent of all the Companies, but it passed its Second Reading, and could get no further. He made it his business immediately afterwards to see if a scheme could not be devised which would meet with the approval of all the interests concerned. He saw a gentleman in London who represented the greater part of the share capital, and saw the Directors of the Cavan line. They saw the Treasury officials on the matter, and he had to say that although the Irish Members had to find fault with the Treasury several times, yet in this matter they had been treated by the Secretary to the Treasury and the officials with the greatest courtesy and with a strong desire to afford the necessary relief if they could do so. In the end a Government Bill was drafted and introduced into the House, which he believed would have reduced the charge on those unfortunate districts by about one-third. That was a very important matter; but in consequence of the action of the present Chief Secretary, the poor farmers in these districts would have to pay 8d. in the £1 more county cess than they otherwise would have to pay. It was a permissive Bill. Nothing could be done under it except by Order in Council. The consent of the Lord Lieutenant, the consent of the Treasury, the consent of the Company, and the consent of the Grand Jury were all 404 necessary, and when he stated that fact he thought it was plainly evident the Bill could inflict no injustice on anybody. The Member for South Tyrone, who represented the district through which the Clogher Valley line ran, was in favour of the Bill, and so also was the Member for South Antrim, who was a Director and large shareholder in the line. He (Mr. Knox) believed there was not even one Irish Member, be he Tory, Unionist, or Nationalist, who had a word to say against the Bill. Under those circumstances, it was not to be wondered at that the Bill passed through all its stages in that House without opposition. Afterwards some gentlemen came over from Dublin to protest against it. He did not know what their protest was; it was made in private, and there was no opportunity of answering it. He wished to put this extraordinary fact on record that those gentlemen who came over—those Dublin stockjobbers—had been able to do more to move the Irish administration than all the Irish Members of all sections. The Bill had passed the House of Commons, and if there had not been a House of Lords it would now be the law of the land. If the House of Lords had been ended, as the Chief Secretary said he wanted to have it ended, his constituents would have now been relieved of a considerable portion of the burden they had to bear. The Bill had gone to the House of Lords, but it had got no farther, because, although the name of the Chief Secretary was on the back of it, he had used his influence to prevent it going any further. He felt keenly about this matter. He asserted that this was a discreditable business. It was a most unfortunate and regrettable fact that a Bill supported by every Irish Member should not have been pressed on because a mere handful of Dublin stockbrokers had brought objections to the Bill which they had not dared to put forward in the public Press.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, New-castle-upon-Tyne)
The hon. and learned Member has used a very strong expression for which he has only been able to give a weak justification, or no justification at all. He used the expression "discreditable." I do not know what view the hon. and learned Member takes of what is creditable or discreditable to 405 a Minister, but I think that "discreditable" is a rather strong expression to use unless the hon. and learned Member is able to back it up by some more substantial justification than he has been able to give to the House. He said that I used my influence to prevent this Bill from passing in the House of Lords, because pressure had been put upon me by some stock-jobbers from Dublin. What kind of authority has the hon. and learned Member for making any such statement? As far as I know, no pressure has been brought to bear upon any Member of the Government by any set of stock-jobbers in Dublin. I have seen no stock-jobbers from Dublin. I do not believe I know any stock-jobbers in Dublin, and I do not know that I should be any the worse if I did. What are the facts? The Bill was introduced into this House last week, and undoubtedly passed through all its stages, and was sent up to another place. The hon. and learned Member proceeded to attach some odium to the House of Lords in this matter, and also made an attack on myself for having used my influence to prevent the Bill from passing through the other House. I take the responsibility, and I have to entirely relieve another place from any blame in the matter. At the time that the Bill passed its Second Reading I was not aware that there were considerable numbers of persons interested in these financial proposals to whom the Bill was unsatisfactory. But knowing that, the obvious course was to keep back the Bill until an opportunity was afforded to those persons to submit their objections. I do not know how far the hon. and learned Member was literally accurate in stating that all the Irish Members in the House are in favour of the Bill. But, even if it were absolutely true, that is not enough. A Bill of this kind being objected to by persons possessing substantial interests, it is clearly my duty not to allow the measure to be hurried on and a step to be taken which may afterwards be regretted. No substantial injury will be done by postponing the Bill. This is a Treasury affair. But, with the approval of the Treasury, at the very beginning of next Session a Committee shall be appointed to examine the proposals in the Bill. This will take a very short time. There will be very 406 little delay. The Bill will go through the Committee with or without amendment, and will then pass the two Houses without any loss of time. It seems to me that the persons interested will find themselves without any substantial injury. I hope that, the hon. and learned Member will feel that he has used language which is too strong in regard to myself, and will see that in the action I have taken I have been doing my best for all parties concerned.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, it appeared to him that the House was much indebted to the Secretary to the Treasury for the prompt and efficient manner in which the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee had been carried out in regard to appropriations in aid. Those appropriations in aid were becoming of great importance, amounting now to £7,750,000, which was 10 per cent. on the total expenditure voted by the House. The Auditor and Controller General was right in recommending that these appropriations in aid should be distributed in the Appropriation Act. Of course, it was not expected that the Government would carry out the change in the present measure, but the Treasury had carried out the alteration with its usual promptitude and efficiency. He would only suggest that in future the manner in which the figures were presented should be altered, so as to show the separate items under each head of service.
MR. HERBERT LEWIS
I desire to draw the attention of the House to the Vote on the Public Record Office. That Office contains a large mass of documents relating to Wales, which are uncalendared and unindexed. At the present rate a very long time must elapse before the necessary work of calendaring these manuscripts has been completed. This question is entirely apart and distinct from the calendaring of ancient manuscripts in the Welsh language. I have to acknowledge the fair and kindly spirit in which the Financial Secretary to the 407 Treasury has met us in regard to that branch of the work. All I ask him to do now is in any future appointment that may be made at the Public Record Office to consider the claims of Wales. I am informed that neither in the Public Record Office nor the British Museum is there a single official who knows enough Welsh to understand the place names and other Welsh words which occur in these documents preserved at the Public Record Office. Educationists in Wales constantly call for the production of a good Welsh history. Without disparaging in any way the efforts of those literary Welshmen who have in the past written histories of their country, I may say that there is at the present time no Welsh history written from the modern critical standpoint. Only the other day one of the most distinguished historians in the country lamented this fact. He said that if he wanted to know the relations between Owen Gleudower and the Pope he knew where to find the materials; if he wanted to know the relation of the Welsh Chieftain with the King of France he knew where to lay his hand upon the necessary information; ho could even discover his relations with the Spanish pirates; but when he came to the relations which existed between him and the Court of England, he was entirely at a loss for the necessary material. I am aware that complaints may be justly made from other parts of the country as well as from Wales with regard to the slowness of work at the Record Office, which appears to be overcrowded with documents and undermanned with officials. But the need of Wales is a special need, and a good history of Wales cannot possibly be forthcoming until the materials to which I have referred have been collected together and indexed. To show the real interest that is taken in this question, I may mention that a private Society has undertaken the publication of specimens of the Ruthin Court Rolls, probably the finest set of Court Rolls in existence. They throw a flood of light upon the social usages of the people during the Middle Ages, and yet it has been left for a Welsh Society, which contains several Members sitting on both sides of this House, to undertake the expense and the work of publishing these documents. No better proof can possibly be given of the 408 practical interest which is taken in the matter or of the genuineness of the appeal that I am now making to the right hon. Gentleman. At present we only ask him that he will carefully consider in any future appointment that may be made the claims of Wales, and that during the Recess, or early next year, he will consent to meet a deputation of Welsh educationists to consider the practical steps to be taken to carry out the object they have in view.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir J. T. HIBBERT, Oldham)
I can assure my hon. Friend that I appreciate the friendly spirit in which this matter has been brought before the House, and I promise to take an early opportunity to confer with the Keeper of the Record Office on the subject. The Welsh Records will, however, have to take their turn with other very valuable Papers in the Record Office. I hope that arrangements will be made which will be satisfactory to the hon. Member.
§ MR. LITTLE (Whitehaven)
said, he desired to call attention to the phrase in the Appropriation Bill which sets forth that the Commons "cheerfully granted" the Supplies for the year. With respect to the vast majority of the items dealt with in the Bill, he offered no objection to them; but he wanted to point out to the Government why it was that, as a Liberal Member, he objected to the special item for the salaries of the officers of the House of Lords? They had had from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary for Ireland two arguments with respect to this sum for the services of the Peers—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is out of Order. It is entirely out of Order to allude to the constitution of the House of Lords upon the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill, or to any action that the Lords have taken with respect to any Bill that has been before Parliament. That is an ordinary Rule of Parliament. There have been previous occasions on which it has been held to be out of Order to make any attack upon the action of the other House on the Second Reading of this Bill. The hon. Member would be in Order if he is prepared to say that the number of officers who discharge the business of the House of Lords is more than sufficient for the purpose, or that 409 "the sum with which they are remunerated is more than adequate. No reference to the action of the House of Lords upon any Bill that has come before them would be in Order.
§ MR. LITTLE
I think, Sir, if you will just remember from the words which I have addressed to you at this moment—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman has clearly indicated his intention, and I must inform him that he is out of Order.
§ MR. LITTLE
Perhaps you will allow me to say, Mr. Speaker, that I had not referred to any Bill, and did not intend to—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman had distinctly indicated his intention to refer to what had been said by Members of the Government upon the subject of the House of Lords.
§ MR. LITTLE
I was going to refer, Sir, to the fact that the Chief Secretary had said that to object to the expenses of the House of Lords was a trumpery matter. That is the point upon which I was going to address the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is the very point upon which I rule the hon. Gentleman to be out of Order. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that these expenses are trumpery matters. What he did say was that this was a trumpery case on which to hang a cause so great, and that if that grave issue were to be raised it should be raised in some more proper and constitutional form than merely to refuse to grant the salaries of the officers of the House of Lords.
§ MR. LITTLE
If you, Sir, rule, as I understand you do, that one cannot object to these salaries being voted by the House of Commons, of course I accept your ruling. But as I understood it, Mr. Speaker, your objection was to one's discussing the action or policy of the House of Lords, and that is what I do not intend to do. The point to which I wished to draw attention was this—that as a Representative of a constituency which objects to these expenses for the House of Lords being granted by this House, I was prepared to vote against the Appropriation Bill as a whole unless the Government would give a promise that this item for the House of Lords would not appear in next year's Appropriation Bill. Of course, Sir, if you rule that I am out 410 of Order, I should not seek to pursue the question. I was not, however, going in any way to refer to the House of Lords or their policy, but simply to deal with the question whether the appropriation of money for the House of Lords was a desirable object.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member cannot move the omission of an item in the Appropriation Bill, and therefore he is out of Order.
§ MR. LITTLE
I was simply raising the question as to whether this item for the Lords should appear in the Appropriation Bill at a future time, because, unless the Government will state that it shall not, I should be prepared to vote against the whole Appropriation Bill. If you rule, Sir, that that is out of Order I must at once bow to your ruling.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already expressed my ruling very distinctly, that any allusion to the action of the House of Lords on any Bill which has passed this House would be entirely out of Order. If the hon. Member intends to mulct the House of Lords for any action they have taken, I repeat that that would be entirely out of Order.
§ MR. LITTLE
Then, Sir, I shall draw attention to another matter—namely, the action of the Government with respect to Bills which have passed through this House. I wish especially in this connection to mention the Employers' Liability Bill, and to ask the Government what steps they intend to take. I should like to have from them some definite statement as to whether they intend to re-introduce an Employers' Liability Bill next Session?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry again to come into collision with the hon. Member, and to rule that he is out of Order. It is not in Order upon the Appropriation Bill to refer to any legislation for next Session.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN (Montgomeryshire)
said, he desired to draw attention to the grants for University Colleges in Great Britain. He did so because he imagined that some misconception existed in some part of the country as to the extent and nature of the work which was done by these Colleges in Wales. There was some suggestion that the country did not receive full value for the £12,000 a year now voted for this purpose in Wales. The 411 misconceptions to which he referred were divided into three. The first was that those Colleges situated in Wales were not really Welsh Colleges—that was to say, that though they attracted a certain number of students from Wales on the whole their students came from other parts of the United Kingdom, and that, therefore, these funds to provide education might just as well be spent in England or in Scotland, as in Wales. As he was connected officially with two of the three Colleges, and had some knowledge of the working of the third, he was able to say that that was not the case. There were, it was true, a certain number of students from England and Scotland, and other parts of the United Kingdom in these Colleges, but the great preponderance of students were Welsh. So far as it was possible for institutions of higher education to be distinctively national, they were Welsh Colleges and not English, in the same way as the Colleges in Edinburgh and Glasgow were Scottish institutions, and not English institutions. In the course of the Debates on the Report of the Estimates, it was suggested that there was no certain information obtainable as to the nationality of the students in the different Colleges, but he was in a position to state that at Aberystwith and Bangor, careful Registers were kept, and that they showed that the large majority of students were Welsh. He had not been able to get the actual figures for Aberystwith, but those for Bangor he had. It appeared from them that there had been 513 students since the College was founded who were either of Welsh parentage or came from Wales itself, and only 124 who were from England or other parts of the Empire; and he knew that the figures of Aberystwith would show a similar, if not a larger, proportion of Welsh students. Though it would be unnecessary to go through a list of those who had profited by the teaching of these institutions it would be acknowledged that it was something to have produced, as Aberystwith had done, the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury—whose name he only gave as an instance of the men sent forth by the Welsh Colleges. And as to the number of students in the Welsh Colleges, it was said that the number was smaller than the number who 412 attended similar Colleges in England and Scotland. The English Colleges no doubt showed a large number of students on their books, but these were obtained by counting in continuation students and extension students. But if these English and Scottish Colleges included students of that kind, it would be only fair to give credit to the Welsh Colleges for students who attended in very large numbers courses of extension lectures which these Colleges had been giving for many years. If they took as a real test of the work—the University character of the work—the numbers of students who attended as day students, they would find that Welsh Colleges had no cause whatever to be ashamed of their numbers as compared with those who attended the English Colleges. In England and Scotland—excluding London—the average attendance of students of that class in the Colleges was 355, whereas in Wales the corresponding number was 227. If they took the population of England and Scotland, and compared it with the population of Wales, they would see that there was a far larger proportion of day students attending Welsh Colleges in proportion to population than those who attended the English Colleges. Then, again, taking the other test given in the Blue Book of the number of students attending two or more courses of lectures or attending for more than 125 hours in the course of the academical year, he found that the average number of students, under these figures, were in England and Scotland 197, whereas the corresponding average in Wales was 207. That was actually a larger average attendance of students taking the longer courses in Wales than in Great Britain. He was not prejudging the question as to the value of extension lectures or of evening lectures, but he was pointing-out that the proportion of students receiving University and higher education in the Welsh Colleges excelled rather than fell short of the corresponding proportion in the Colleges of England and Scotland. He excluded London, because King's and University Colleges had been working for 60 years, and had the huge population of the Metropolis to draw on as well as the population of the United Kingdom. Notwithstanding that, even for London, the figures were not so very much greater, so far as he could judge, 413 than those for Wales. Unfortunately King's College did not issue Returns in such a form as to show the courses taken by the University students, the figures for the school and the College being lumped together. University College, however, gave 770 day students and 458 who took three or more courses. Then it had been suggested that the Welsh Colleges were over-staffed. If efficient higher education were to be given a large and varied staff of Professors and other teachers must be provided in the different branches of the various Faculties. Judged by that standard the Welsh Colleges were, if anything, under rather than over-staffed, and the actual amount of work done by the Professors and lecturers was very great. Then in regard to the proportion taking degrees to the total number of University students, judged by that test the Welsh Colleges and Owen's College stood far and away at the head of the list, the proportion for the English and Scotch Colleges being 66 per cent., and for the Welsh and Owen's 90 per cent. What he had said would be sufficient to show the House that at all events for this grant the country received thorough value for its money. He would only add that the incredulity shown as to the nature of the work done in the Colleges seemed to be a part of the general ignorance of Members opposite of matters affecting the Principality. On behalf of the Welsh Colleges he cordially invited those Members who were interested in Higher Education to go down to visit these Colleges, and they would then see for themselves that the work done there, both socially and intellectually, was at least as good as that done by their sister rivals throughout the Kingdom.
§ MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, he could not let the Debate close without making reference to the promises given that the claims of the Highland crofters would be dealt with. He must protest against the treatment of the crofters by the Government, and hoped they would take an early opportunity of redeeming their pledges. He was sorry the Lord Advocate was absent, for he desired to point out the great need for the appointment in the Highlands of Sheriffs, Sheriff Substitutes, Sheriff Clerks, and Procurators Fiscal, who could speak Gaelic. At present many of them had no knowledge whatever of that language. 414 He should also have been glad to hear from the Secretary for Scotland whether he had made demands on the Treasury or Admiralty for increased means to deal with trawlers which were causing so much destruction to the fisheries on the coast of Scotland, and especially in the Highlands. Perhaps the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would state why the rates paid by occupants of apartments in Royal Palaces only amounted to £1,350, the same as last year. The general experience was that rates increased—they certainly did not diminish; and he should be glad to know why there had been no increase in the valuation of the apartments occupied in the Palaces? In regard to the exemption from rates of houses occupied by foreign Representatives, he would have no objection to that if our Representatives abroad were treated in the same way and likewise exempted from payment of rates. The sum expended on Royal Parks this year was £90,000, and against that the item for sale of venison, &c., &c., was only £301. Surely there must be something radically wrong. Then £3,500 was charged for additional furniture, whilst no account was taken of the discarded furniture. Some statement of it should be given. In conclusion, he again expressed a hope that the Government would see justice done to the Highland crofters.
MAJOR JONES (Carmarthen, &c.)
wished to impress on the Representative of the Board of Trade the importance of doing something during the Recess in the way of raising the standard of education for master mariners and mates intending to enter the Merchant Navy. In this country they had, for the last 40 years, been practically marking time—certainly they had not been making progress like other countries. They were really at the foot of the ladder among the commercial nations of the world in regard to this matter. They could not help being pressed by foreign countries in the way of bounties and subventions, but education was a matter entirely in our own control. The right hon. Gentleman might do something on the petitions of the Shipmasters' Association, a body numbering some 9,000 men.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
said, he understood from the Speaker's ruling that they could not discuss the action of the House of Lords 415 on the Vote of £41,595 for the House of Lords' officers. Would it be in Order to move to omit the amount of the Vote?
§ MR. SPEAKER
You cannot move to omit an item on the Appropriation Bill. The Bill is to appropriate the Supplies already granted. If the hon. Member thinks that the number of clerks in the House of Lords is excessive or that their salaries are too high, he would be in Order in discussing that. But, as I stated before most explicitly, it is a common and well-known ruling from the Chair that to question any action the House of Lords may have taken in reference to a Bill or to animadvert on the position of that Chamber in the Constitution is out of Order on the Appropriation Bill.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.
§ Whereupon, in pursuance of the Order of the House of the 16th instant, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock.