HC Deb 25 May 1894 vol 24 cc1286-98

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £4,897,350, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895, viz.:—

Harbours, &c, under Board of Trade, and Lighthouses Abroad 2,000
Peterhead Harbou 2,000
Rates on Government Property 15,000
Public Works and Buildings. Ireland 30,000
Railways, Ireland 7,000
United Kingdom and England:—
House of Lords. Offices 8,000
House of Commons, Offices 12,000
Treasury and Subordinate Departments 14,000
Home Office and Subordinate Departments 18,000
Foreign Office 14,000
Colonial Office 6,500
Privy Council Office and Subordinate Departments 3,000
Board of Trade and Subordinate Departments 30,000
Mercantile Marine Fund, Grant in Aid 15,000
Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade
Board of Agriculture 5,000
Charity Commission 7,000
Civil Service Commission 7,000
Exchequer and Audit Department 10,000
Friendly Societies, Registry 700
Local Government Board 30,000
Lunacy Commission 2,500
Mint (including Coinage)
National Debt Office 2,500
Public Record Office 3,000
Public Works Loan Commission 2,000
Registrar General's Office 7,000
Stationery Office and Printing 100,000
Woods, Forests, &c., Office of 4,000
Works and Public Buildings, Office of 9,000
Secret Service 9,000
Scotland:— £
Secretary for Scotland 2,000
Fishery Board 4,000
Lunacy Commission 1,000
Registrar General's Office 500
Board of Supervision 1,500
Lord Lieutenant's Household 1,000
Chief Secretary and Subordinate Departments 7,000
Charitable Donations and Bequests Office 300
Local Government Board 15,000
Public Record Office 1,000
Public Works Office 6,000
Registrar General's Office 2,000
Valuation and Boundary Survey 3,000
United Kingdom and England:—
Law Charges 18,000
Miscellaneous Legal Expenses 10,000
Supreme Court of Judicature 65,000
Land Registry 1,300
County Courts 4,000
Police Courts (London and Sheer-ness) 500
Police, England and Wales 5,000
Prisons, England and the Colonies 90,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain 66.000
Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum 4,000
Law Charges and Courts of Law 17,000
Register House, Edinburgh 6,500
Crofters' Commission 1,000
Prisons, Scotland 15,000
Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions 12,000
Supreme Court of Judicature, and other Legal Departments 18.000
Land Commission 11,000
County Court Officers, &c. 21,000
Dublin Metropolitan Police, &c. 10,000
Constabulary 270,000
Prisons, Ireland 20,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools 25,000
Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum 1,000
United Kingdom and England:—
Public Education, England and Wales 1,360,000
Science and Art Department, United Kingdom 115,000
British Museum 37,000
National Gallery 4,000
National Portrait Gallery 500
Scientific Investigations, &c., United Kingdom 5,000
Universities and Colleges, Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales 22,000
London University
Public Education 275,000
National Gallery 1,000
Public Education 300,000
Endowed Schools Commissioners 150
National Gallery 500
Queen's Colleges 1,500
Diplomatic Services and Consular Services 90,000
Slave Trade Services 1,500
Colonial Services, including South Africa 15,000
Subsidies to Telegraph Companies,&c. 15,500
Superannuation and Retired Allowances 100,000
Merchant Seamen's Fund Pensions, &c. 1.300
Savings Banks and Friendly Societies Deficiency
Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances, Great Britain 600
Pauper Lunatics, Ireland 40,000
Hospitals and Charities, Ireland 5,000
Temporary Commissions 9,000
Miscellaneous Expenses 1,000
Diseases of Animals 10,000
Highlands and Islands of Scotland 5,000
Repayments to the Local Loans Fund
Hobart (Tasmania) Exhibition, 1894–5 1,000
Total for Civil Services £3,527,350
Customs 40,000
Inland Revenue 60,000
Post Office 650,000
Post Office Packet Service 170,000
Post Office Telegraphs 450,000
Total for Revenue Departments £1,370,000
Grand Total £4,897,350"


said, he had given notice to reduce this Vote by £2,000 in order to obtain some explanation. The strong objection he had with regard to the Vote of £2,000, as put in the present Estimates, for the Kitchen Committee was that, as far as he was aware, the Committee had refused to give them any balance-sheet or particulars with regard to the expenditure of money; and he thought, therefore, he was right in asking the Committee of the House to refuse to grant money unless under the conditions that they had proper accounts submitted to them in the ordinary way. As far as he understood the finances of this country, they had properly-audited accounts and full details given them with reference to every item of the £90,000,000 of money expended by the Government except the Secret Service Fund. If the details furnished were not sufficient, the Government were always willing to give them further details. lie wanted to know why the Kitchen Committee, this one small authority in connection with their finances, should refuse to give particulars? Was it because they were ashamed or afraid of something that might appear in the accounts to the detriment of somebody? He did not say that that was the case; but when this House had ordered inquiries with regard to particular accounts, it had generally been because the parties were ashamed of their own accounts being seen. He knew that some Members of it claimed that the Kitchen Committee was a close corporation, and need not give any accounts to anybody; and he believed they claimed that, as they were an unpaid Committee, they ought not to be asked to present their accounts. Other Committees doing a great deal more work than the Kitchen Committee had no objection to furnishing accounts, so that the House and the country generally might know what they were doing. It would be no trouble to the Kitchen Committee to present these accounts. With regard to the contention that it was not a public matter, he would point out that they did a great deal of public business. They had their bars up- and down-stairs, and all about the place; they sold as much whisky and other refreshments as they could, and made as much money as they could. There were great complaints with regard to the somewhat extravagant charges made to the British public in connection with the supply of refreshments; there must be a great deal of profit made, and on that, if on no other ground, they had a right to see what this Committee were doing. A great many of the public asked why should they be called upon to pay £2,000 per annum in connection with a business on which there ought to be a large amount of profit, considering the prices that were charged. They had got to bear in mind that the Kitchen Committee had no rent to pay; the House supplied coal and light and a number of other things in connec- tion with these services, and made no charge. There were no licences to be paid for, and consequently there ought to be a very large amount of profit instead of the Kitchen Committee asking for this £2,000. He had been told that he could have a private view of the accounts, but he refused any such thing. What he wanted was to have a balance-sheet presented in a proper and straightforward manner, so that all Members of the House, as well as the public—who had to pay in connection with the Public Purse— might judge if this business was carried on in a proper and efficient manner. Although they were asked to vote £2,000, he noticed it had been stated in the public Press that they did not pay their waiters properly. They had been told that this extra £1,000 a year was asked for for the purpose of paying the waiters; but as they did not see the accounts, they did not know how the money was expended. Unless he got a satisfactory assurance that in future the accounts would be presented in a proper and business-like way, he should press this matter to a Division, and, with the view of showing that he wanted to know something about it, he begged to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £2,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Item of £12,000, House of Commons Offices, be reduced by £2,000."—(Mr. A. C. Morton.)

* MR. HERBERT (Croydon)

said, he noticed that the hon. Member for Peterborough had not taken any exception in the remarks he had made to the increased grant which now, for the first time, was £2,000 instead of £1,000, but he had arraigned the action of the Kitchen Committee all round on the general ground that with regard to every account or every sum put down in the Estimates the House was entitled to have full particulars. He should say, to begin with, as the House of Commons very well knew, this Committee was formed year after year from all Parties in the House, almost every section being represented in order that the representation of that Committee might be representative of the whole House, and he imagined that the very object of having the Committee appointed at all was to relieve the House from the very great and responsible duty of looking after a very big business. It was more convenient that a big business of this sort should be conducted by a Committee sitting upstairs rather than that the business should be carried on in the House.


I am not asking for that.


said, he would remind the House that the accounts were submitted not yearly but quarterly to the Auditor General, and the Committee had a quarterly balance-sheet presented to them and a close eye was kept by the Committee on all the accounts presented to them. In justice to the management, he must say that the Committee had received no complaints, but a large amount of praise from the experts in the Auditor General's office as to the way in which the accounts were kept. The Committee had discussed the question of publishing their accounts, and bad come to the conclusion that, in the interest of the working of the Committee, it would be extremely unadvisable that they should be published to the House.


Has a vote been taken upon it?


did not think a vote had been taken upon it, but during all the previous years up to this, although they had taken no actual vote upon it, that had been the unanimous opinion of the Committee up to this year, and he hoped soon to be able to say that it was the opinion of the present Committee. In running a business of this sort there were a great many things they were not the least ashamed of; but which, in the course of trade, it would not be advisable to have published in all the newspapers. Anybody who had experience in a large business concern would bear him out in what he said. The hon. Member also said that either he considered, or the public considered, or the gentlemen of the Press considered, that in a big business of this sort very large profits must be made. He would so far break the rule which the Committee had laid down in this instance as to inform hon. Members what had been the large profits made by the Kitchen Committee during the years 1887 to 1893 inclusive. In the year 1887 the net profit was £46 12s. l0d.; in 1888, £4 2s. l1d.; in 1889 there was a net loss of £25 14s. 9d. In 1890, a record year, the nett profits were £323 4s. 3d. In 1891 the net loss was £93 3s. 10d., and, in 1892, £141 5s. l1d. In 1893, up to June 30, the nett profit was £359 l1s. l1d., but the fatal results of an Autumn Session brought them down to £6 14s. 5d. on December 31. These figures would show that the alleged large profits was rather a case of imagination on the part of the writers. Everybody knew, who had watched the business in this House, that, however carefully they might work the business, it was so uncertain, and the. Committee had such difficulties to contend with—having in many instances to prepare meals for several hundreds, when perhaps only 60 or 70 might sit down—that they could not secure anything like the profits which might be secured by a restaurant or a club, because the business was not a continuous one. There was a further difficulty which did not take place either in a club or a restaurant—namely, that the House did not sit on Saturday or Sunday, so that at the end of the week they had two days on which there was no business at all, whilst there was a considerable amount of expense to bear. Again, during the Recess they had also a considerable amount of expense whilst they had no business. The Committee had asked for this extra £1,000 because they found there had been considerable complaints upon a subject which the hon. Member had referred to—that was, the wages of the servants. A great deal of misrepresentation had been going on about this subject, and in justice to the demand of the Committee for this extra £1,000 he should like to state that whilst under the system which had prevailed up to the present year the Kitchen Committee only received £1,000 a year towards the wages of the servants, the wages paid last year amounted to £3,957. The result was, that in order to make up the deficit they had to make a profit on what they sold. The extra £1,000 asked for would be devoted to the payment of higher wages. The wages of the waiters on the permanent Sessional staff averaged about 30s. a week, a rate which was sufficiently high to attract good men. In addition to that the food they received was valued at 12s. 6d. a week. As to the waiters who came in on the job, the Committee came to the conclusion that if the regulation with regard to the abolition of gratuities was enforced it was only fair that the men should receive some increase in wages, and an increase of 1s. an evening had been given. The Committee had now settled to give them 3s. 6d., instead of 2s. 6d. an evening as formerly. These men came in about 6 o'clock or a little later. He thought that was fair remuneration, and, so far as he knew, the men did not object to it. Of course, they could not be paid 5s. a day—which were the wages of a skilled artizan—and the 3s. 6d. for the short time they were employed was considered very fair remuneration. Returning once more to the question of the accounts, he would add that they were audited quarterly and were very carefully looked after. He would be perfectly willing to show them to the hon. Member if he desired to go through them, provided that he did not utilise the information for publication in the Press or otherwise. He hoped the House would grant the extra £1,000, because if the Kitchen Committee got it they would be able to do more for the comfort of Members who dine in the House.


asked whether the hon. Gentleman would take the opinion of the Kitchen Committee with regard to the Returns?


said, the only reason why he did not ask the House to come to a decision with regard to the Returns, when the question came up a short time previously, was that he could not then speak on behalf of the Committee on the matter, as it had not been considered by (he Committee. Since then, however, the question had come before the Kitchen Committee.

* MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)

said, he desired to thank the Kitchen Committee for the great trouble they must necessarily take in discharging their duties. Some improvements might be made in the kitchen service; but as one who dined in the House very frequently, he thought, on the whole, considering the difficulties of the service, that the dinners were very fairly done. But he could not understand why there should be any objection to the publication of an abstract of the accounts of the Kitchen Committee. What was wanted was a Return, such as was issued by all clubs, of the expenditure of the year, showing to Members in what directions there ap- peared to be a little parsimony, or a little extravagance, or a little bad management on the part of the Kitchen Committee; and when they came to consider that this money voted by the House was in addition to coals, gas, plant necessary for the cooking operations for the convenience of Members, they would see it was a matter in which, to some extent, the public had a legitimate interest. This subsidy might not be the best way of paying Members—he thought Members, if paid at all, should be paid in the proper way, and then pay themselves the full cost of their luncheons and dinners in the House; but so long as this contribution was made towards the luncheons and dinners of Members, some account— he did not say a detailed account—should be given to the public of the expenditure of the money. In saying that, he should be very sorry if he were understood to convey that there was even the slightest doubt or suspicion of the Kitchen Committee in the minds of any Members; for no feeling of the kind existed in any part of the House.


said, he would be quite satisfied with what was called a club return. In fact, he sent the Kitchen Committee a copy of the balance-sheet of the National Liberal Club as an idea of the sort of thing he wanted. He did that because the National Liberal Club was the biggest and best club in London. *MR. HERBERT said, the cases were hardly analogous. The balance-sheet of a club was distributed amongst the members of the club at the general meeting, and as a rule did not go beyond the members. But the balance-sheet of the Kitchen Committee, if published, would be made public, which would be extremely inadvisable.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

said that, after the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Eccles, it seemed to him that unless the accounts were published there would be an idea abroad that they were in the habit of feasting in a grandiose sort of way at the expense of the public. His hon. Friend said they were getting cheap dinners as a sort of payment for their services. He did not understand the thing in that way. He understood they paid the real prices for their dinners; but it often happened, owing to changes in the business of the House, that dinners were provided which were not consumed, and this £2,000 went to cover the waste. He had not the slightest desire himself to see the accounts; but when he heard the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee say that there were some reasons why the public should not see the details of this expenditure of public money, he could not help thinking that the only possible objection was that there was so much liquor drunk by Members, and by gentlemen who come down to the House on business, that the public would be perfectly horrified when they heard the amount of liquor that was consumed there. Under the circumstances, he thought some sort of a Return, such as that given by clubs, should be submitted to the House.

MR. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrews, &c.)

said, as a Member of the Kitchen Committee, that Members were wrong if they thought the whole of the money expended by the Committee was public money, and that therefore it came under the same category as other moneys voted by the House. So far from that being the case, a considerably larger sum was paid out by the Committee in wages alone than the amount of the annual grant received on account of wages. He would have no objection to the publication of a club balance-sheet; and he should be glad to hear whether the Secretary to the Treasury had any advice to give to the Committee on the subject. Ho would like to point out to the Committee that if this grant was withdrawn, or even if it were retained at the old rate of £1,000 a a year, the Kitchen Committee would be obliged to charge considerably higher prices for provisions and liquors supplied to Members or to charge table money.

MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)

said, as a Member of the Kitchen Committee, that he believed there was nothing to conceal in the accounts of the Committee; and he had always thought—though in this he was in a minority on the Committee—that there should be published some sort of balance-sheet such as was supplied to members of clubs. He would remind those Members who seemed to think that the Kitchen Committee were making large profits that when the catering was done by outside firms, prices were much higher, and very little profit was made by the caterers. He succeeded on the Committee, as the re- presentative of the Irish Party, his-old friend and colleague, the late Mr. Joseph Biggar. The Irish Party had endeavoured to obtain representation on the Committee to the extent of two Members, which they thought they were entitled to, because of their numbers; and, failing in that, the Party nominated Mr. Biggar as their representative. Mr. Biggar had not been on the Committee very long, when the Irish Party were informed that if they only withdrew Mr. Biggar they could nominate any two Members they pleased; but this they refused to do, with the result that Members generally had benefited by Mr. Biggar's labours.


said, he desired to say a few words in response to the invitation of the hon. Member for St. Andrews. His own personal feeling was trust in the Kitchen Committee. The Kitchen Committee had considered the question and had come to the conclusion that it would be indiscreet and unwise to publish the accounts; and having full confidence in the Committee, he would give way to their wishes in the matter. But, at the same time, he thought a case had to some extent been made out for the publication of the accounts. He did not suppose there were many Members who wished to look into the accounts, but perhaps the Kitchen Committee might see their way to give some information which would satisfy the hon. Member for Peterborough and any other Member of the House who was anxious to be informed on the subject. He thought the House generally was very much indebted to the Kitchen Committee for the great trouble they took in the matter, though he was quite sure this work was anything but pleasant.


said, he could not make any pledge without consulting the Committee, but he would sec whether the Committee had any objection to publish some sort of accounts, which, without going fully into details, would satisfy the Resolution the hon. Member for Peterborough had placed on the Paper.


I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, whether the Committee have been using Canadian mutton and Australian lamb, and that they refuse to give these details in order that they may not hurt the feelings of Members representing agricultural constituencies?

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

said, they were told the extra £1,000 now asked for was to increase the wages of the waiters. Last year the House of Commons was charged with sweating its waiters. It was said they were paid only half what waiters received in other places. The defence of the manager of the Kitchen Department and the Kitchen Committee was that the men were paid 2s. 6d. and that they made another 2s. 6d. in tips. Many Members complained of had attendance in the dining-room because they did not give tips. But it was time to stop this grant altogether. He thought Members ought to pay the full value of their dinners, and not to "sponge" on the nation in this way in order to get 2d. or 3d. off the price. He hoped they would have a strong Chancellor of the Exchequer who would refuse to give the money.


said, the subject was very important, for unless Members could digest their dinners they would not be able to digest the affairs of the nation. He denied that Members were "sponging" on the nation. They did not get as good or as cheap a dinner as they could get in a club notwithstanding the grant, while 40 per cent. was added to the price of wines by the Kitchen Committee. He thought the waiters should be paid better wages, because it was not pleasant to be looked at during dinner by men who were badly paid or badly fed.

MR. DARLING (Deptford)

said, he was entirely in favour of stopping the subvention for dinners in the House of Commons. No one on his side of the House stayed to dine there except on exceptional occasions, so that they had nothing to lose by the stoppage of the subvention. If the money were stopped the dinners would be reduced to the level of the National Liberal Club, and if that were done he was sure that even hon. Members opposite would dine elsewhere.

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

I must protest in the strongest manner against two hours of the House of Commons being wasted in discussing tips, when we have no time to discuss the great Imperial matters of the nation.


said, that in the first place the discussion had not taken two hours, and in the second place—


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."


I wanted to withdraw the Motion.

Question, "That the Question be now put," put. and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, and negatived.

Original Question again proposed.


said, be regretted the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not present, but the Secretary to the Treasury would be able to answer the point he wished to raise. On Monday they were discussing building on vacant sites, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissoner of Works had said they could do nothing without the consent of the Treasury. Everyone would admit that these sites ought to be utilised—


said, it was not in Order to go into the question of vacant sites on a Vote on Account.


said, it was out of Order, and called upon Mr. Lough.


I want to move a reduction.


The hon. Member cannot do so now.