§ On the Vote of £104,748, to complete the sum necessary to defray the salaries and expenses of the Board of Trade and subordinate departments,
*MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.) rose to call attention to several questions affecting the administration of the Board of Trade, and first to the duties discharged by the recently appointed Sub-Inspectors of railways. That was a most important reform, that men acquainted with the nature of railway work by their own experience, who would therefore have special weight, should be appointed to deal with and inquire into fatal and other accidents to railway servants, which were not ordinarily dealt with by superior officers of the Board of Trade department, and particularly to inquire into the causes of fatal accidents to individual railway servants, apart from the large train accidents, which were inquired into as a matter of course by the regular inspectors of the Board. He remarked that the main object with which hon. Members and those connected with labour associations outside
the House had urged upon successive Governments the adoption of this reform by the appointment of sub-inspectors, was that practical railway men should inquire not only into ordinary accidents, but most of all into fatal accidents to men whose daily work they understood. He had been met by refusals, and to strengthen their case he had himself moved for a return of those individual fatalities to railway servants, and the figures furnished in that return were so striking, and reflected so discreditably on the policy of the Board of Trade for many years past, that the return made it impossible for any Government or for the Treasury to resist any longer the appointment of additional inspecting officers. The return showed 4,615 fatalities during the ten years from 1884 to 1894, and that in only eight instances were inquiries held by the Board of Trade. When his right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) acceded to the demand on behalf of the department over which he then presided, there was reason to hope that these sub-inspectors would be employed mainly and chiefly for the purpose they had at heart. But since the sub-inspectors had entered on the full discharge of their duties, no loss than 148 railway servants had been killed in accidents of this nature, and in only twelve of these fatal accidents had there been any local investigation by these inspectors. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. C. T. Ritchie) to do his best to meet the defect disclosed by the present state of the law, which provided that, in the case of fatal accidents, it was only in those cases where the Coroner considered that such an exceptional state of circumstances was disclosed as to call for the presence of an inspector of the Board of Trade, that the Board of Trade was represented at all at the inquests held in the case of these railway servants. It was entirely in the discretion of the Coroner whether the Board of Trade should be represented on railways, whereas, in the case of mines it was provided by s. 48 of the Mines Act, 1887—
(1) … The Coroner shall adjourn the inquest unless an inspector or some person on behalf of a Secretary of State is present to watch the proceedings.
(2) The Coroner shall, at least four days before holding the adjourned inquest, send to the inspector for the district notice, in writing, of the time and place of holding the adjourned inquest.
(5) An inspector shall he at liberty at an inquest to examine any witness, subject, nevertheless, to the order of the Coroner.
His contention was that in the case of these fatalities on railways the law was inadequate, and that the least that should be done would be to place railway men in the same position as miners. The Regulation of Railways Act, 1871, s. 8, provides:—
When any Coroner in England holds or is about to hold an inquest on the death of any person, occasioned by an accident, of which notice for the time being is required by or in pursuance of this Act to be sent to the Hoard of Trade, and makes a written request to the Board of Trade in their behalf, the Board of Trade may appoint an inspector or some person possessing legal or special knowledge to assist in holding Such inquest, and such appointee shall act as the assessor of the Coroner, and shall make the like report to the Board of Trade, and the report shall be made public in like manner as in the case of a formal investigation of an accident under this Act.
The Coroners ought not, he contended, to be the guardians of the railway men. The Board of Trade ought to be the absolute judges as to whether their inspectors should attend the inquests. Not only should the law be promptly altered in the interests of the railway men, but the whole intention of the appointment of sub-inspectors was defeated unless the policy of the Board of Trade was directed to inquiring officially into the death of each of these poor men, and the Committee had a right to require that the department should do so. If the right hon. Gentleman would state what had been done by the sub-inspectors he thought it would be of advantage. He believed these sub-inspectors had been of great use in dealing with less serious accidents and injuries occurring in the ordinary work. In the examination of goods yards also, he understood they had been of very considerable service, and had made valuable recommendations, which, he was glad to know, had been cordially accepted by the railway companies themselves. But his complaint was, that they had not been made sufficient use of in regard to fatal accidents—the most important class of accidents. He would like to ask whether the Board of
Trade was not prepared to add one or two more sub-inspectors to carry out the policy he had indicated, of inquiring into the more serious accidents. The right hon. Member for South Aberdeen had said that the reports made by the sub-inspectors of the Board of Trade would be communicated to the public in some form or other, but the Board of Trade had not come to a positive decision as to the precise form in which they might most usefully be communicated. It was essential for producing the maximum of safe working on railways that these reports should be made public, so that the public might know the circumstances, and the causes to which the accidents were attributed. This would have the effect of awakening the Railway Companies, where there was any hesitation in dealing with these questions, to a more prompt policy of reform. He did not think it would be necessary for these reports to be presented in a detailed and exhaustive form, like the reports of the Head Inspectors as to train accidents. But he would suggest that a short and clear statement of the nature and causes of such accidents, and of recommendations made, in somewhat the same form as in the reports of the Inspectors of Mines, should be included in the Returns of Accidents. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he was prepared to give effect, in the next report on accidents, to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee as to the best form of making returns, in order that returns by the various Companies should be strictly uniform, and of the most effective character as statistics of accidents. In regard to the question of railway rates, he pointed out that, under the Act of 1894, a large number of complaints as to railway rates increased since 1892 had been lodged at the Board of Trade last year. They had since been considered and dealt with under the Conciliation Clause, Section 31, of the Act of 1888, by the Board of Trade. He asked the right hon. Gentleman if he could give any indication as to the stage at which the majority of these complaints were now standing, and whether the Board of Trade would facilitate the consideration of these questions, so as to arrive at a solution at the earliest possible moment. There was
a wide and growing feeling in the country with regard to further legislation on the question of preferential rates on foreign produce, and there was a very strong feeling that agriculturists and traders who had to send goods for short distances were practically being mulcted by the railway companies, and made to bear the burden of cheapening the cost of carriage on foreign produce, and were thus, to a large extent, being excluded from the great centres of trade in this country. He hoped these questions would receive sympathetic treatment from the right hon. Gentleman in the future.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
hoped the President of the Board of Trade would do all that lay in his power to the appointment of railway inspectors, but he was afraid that some of the difficulties were almost beyond the powers of the Board of Trade. He thought many of the accidents arose from the structural defects of the carriages. In America the Pullman car, which was universally used, allowed the coupling of the carriages to be done mechanically, and thus many accidents were avoided. He asked the right hon. Gentleman if the Departmental Committee of the Board of Trade, appointed by the late Government to inquire into the manning of merchant ships, would make a report. He thought it was very desirable that the Select Committee which was appointed to inquire into the new system of fog signals, should also make a report; he thought there were enough Members of that Committee still left in the House to come to a decision, and he believed there was very little difference of opinion among them. Having referred to the importation of milk.
said, the President of the Board of Trade had absolute control over the importation of certain articles of commerce, and ho had the power to prohibit certain articles that were not marked under the Merchandise Marks Act. [Cries of "No."] If the right hon. Gentleman had some power of that kind he should be glad to receive some assurance from him on the subject.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
asked when the report of the Committee 689 on the Manning of Merchant Ships might be expected. There was a great deal of interest taken in the matter by the Mercantile Marine and shipowners, and any information on the subject would be very gladly received. As to the re-appointment of the Committee on Fog Signals, he doubted whether a sufficient number of the Members of that Committee had survived the General Election as to be able to present a Report which could be regarded as authoritative and thoroughly satisfactory, and under those circumstances he thought it would be better to postpone the matter until next Session. With regard to the railway sub-inspectors, his experience at the Board of Trade was more than enough to satisfy him that those officers were extremely useful, and were doing valuable work in the interests of the public, as well as of the railway servants. He would remind the hon. Member for Northamptonshire that an inquiry by a sub-inspector was not necessary in the case of every accident. The Board of Trade had full power to hold an inquiry in every case, whether fatal or not, in which the circumstances made it desirable to do so. If there was anything in the case which made technical evidence necessary, or which required elucidation on particular points, a sub-inspector was sent at once to supply it. The causes of many accidents were obvious, and official inquiry into them was therefore unnecessary. He could assure the Committee that the permanent officials of the Board of Trade were fully alive to the importance of this matter, and that a sub-inspector was sent to investigate the circumstances of an accident whenever it was thought further light ought to be thrown on the case. The reports of the sub-inspectors had been found in many cases to be extremely valuable in calling attention to points which might escape the notice of persons not engaged in, or not acquainted with, railway working, and in suggesting remedies for the prevention of accidents. He was bound to say that the Board of Trade had no reason to complain of the conduct of the railway companies in this matter, for they had always shown readiness to follow out, if possible, any recommendations that were made as the result of the inquiries held.
§ * MR. CHANNING
said, he had no wish whatever to make any reflections on the administration of the right hon. Gentleman at the Board of Trade. What he complained of was that, through defects in the law, railway servants did not receive as much protection from inspectors of the Board as was given to miners in the cases of fatal accidents.
§ MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
desired to draw the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the important question of preferential railway rates, for the great body of traders looked to that Department to act in their interest in this matter whenever it was possible for it to do so. It was hoped that in the next Session a Bill dealing with this question—
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
submitted as a point of order that the question of preferential rates with a view to future legislation could not be raised on this Vote.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
asked whether an hon. Member was not entitled, on the question of preferential rates, to ask the President of the Board of Trade for a pledge that he would deal with the matter.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said, the general rule in cases of this kind was that, so far as the administrative action of a Minister was concerned with any particular question, that question might be discussed. But a question of future legislation could not be properly discussed on the Vote for the salary of the Minister.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he would only further express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman would take every opportunity in his power of diminishing the preferential rates.
§ MR. J. A. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
wished to say a few words with reference to the appointment of the railway sub-inspectors. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire appeared to think that the Board of Trade should send a sub-inspector to inquire into every case of fatal accident on the railway, but there were many cases in which it might be unnecessary to do so. The proposal meant more than, perhaps hon. Members would suppose, and this might be shown by the number of fatal accidents that occurred on our railways. During the 691 last 14 years the average number of fatal accidents yearly was 500, and of nonfatal accidents 2,500, making a total of 3,000 accidents every year—amostserious fact. Railway servants suffered much less from what might be called train accidents than from accidents of a different class, and the object of appointing sub-inspectors—who were railway men possessing technical knowledge of the work—was to endeavour, if possible, to diminish this appalling number of accidents. In that respect the Board of Trade had, with the means at their command, done excellent work for the public. Though it might not be necessary to make official inquiry in every case, yet the circumstances of every accident were brought to the knowledge of the sub-inspectors, and investigation was made whenever the facts seemed to require it. When it was found, for example, that more than an ordinary number of accidents occurred on a particular line, or in shunting operations in a particular yard, a sub-inspector visited the locality and ascertained for himself the reason, or cause, of the unusual number of accidents. Not unfrequently it was found that a goods yard was insufficiently lighted, than which there was no greater danger to railway servants, and means were taken to get the defect remedied. All the work now discharged by railway servants was subjected to the inspection of those officers, and whenever an accident occurred which, in their opinion, ought not to have happened, or which was not properly explained, they immediately instituted an inquiry, and it was by those means that it was sought to reduce the present appalling death-roll through railway casualties. After all, prevention was better than cure, and it was in this direction that the work of the sub-inspectors was most useful. They were performing their duties admirably, and he was sure he could say that the officials of the Board of Trade were as anxious as any Members of that House could be to do all they could to diminish the number of accidents. He was sure that the President of the Board of Trade would be only too glad if an end could be put to this terrible death-rate, and that he would appoint more sub-inspectors if necessary. They were not expensive officials and did 692 their work with great efficiency and success.
§ * SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee),
said, that they had heard more than once in that Debate that prevention was better than cure. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. Mundella) as to the number of accidents that occurred on railways every year showed that the railway companies had still a great deal to prevent. The majority of accidents occurred to shunters when engaged in coupling. Some time ago he brought to the notice of the Board of Trade an exceedingly ingenious arrangement for the self-coupling of carriages. The Department would render a great service to railway servants if it were to invite engineers to submit for approval a self-acting coupler. He wished to know whether the President of the Board had any means of controlling the speed of railway trains. They had all read in the last few days of the railway race between London and Aberdeen. Every day now there was a competition between the companies to do the distance in the shortest time. Every morning a dash was made to get first to Kinnaber. The trains were driven at speeds of 70 and 80 miles an hour. Reference was made on a former occasion by the hon. Member for Batter-sea to the strain imposed upon the engine drivers and guards, but there was also a great strain upon the engine and carriages. At present it was seen from the accounts that there was to be no limit to the speed of these trains. Every morning a record was being made. If this kind of thing went on he feared that some day there would be a tremendous smash, involving great loss of life, and exceeding any railway disaster which had ever harrowed the public mind. If there was to be no limit of speed, it should be remembered that there was a limit to human powers and the strength of material. Giving the railway companies all credit for their desire to test what speed could be reached, they expected the right hon. Gentleman, if he possessed the necessary powers, to take care that these competitions were not carried beyond the line of safety. Coming to safety of life at sea: on the subject of bulkheads he would like to refer the right hon. Gentleman 693 to the Report of the Bulkhead Committee, which sat two or three years ago. That Committee made a number of excellent recommendations, but hitherto no legislative effect had been given to them. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take them into consideration with a view to legislation, Another matter to which he desired to call attention was the crowded condition of the excursion steamers on the Thames. Two evenings ago he saw one of these steamers, and could not help thinking that in case of accident the loss of life might be exceedingly serious. He knew that, by the Board of Trade Regulations, life-saving appliances must be kept on board these vessels, but he also knew from actual observation that these appliances were not inspected as they ought to be. There might be a sufficient number of boats on board a ship, but it did not follow that they were in good condition. They were exposed month after month to the heat of the sun, and when placed in the water would probably leak like sieves. Then the means of lowering them wore often very insufficient. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would take steps to ensure that the life-saving appliances on these vessels were kept in good order. On the river They, two nights ago, a man on a steamer either fell or threw himself overboard, and his life was lost because a boat could not be lowered in sufficient time to rescue him. He congratulated the right hon. Member opposite, who was so thoroughly familiar with commercial questions, in his appointment as President of the Board of Trade. He was afraid that the right hon. Member was perhaps not equally conversant with maritime matters, but he was convinced that every question brought before him would command his close attention.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
said, that everyone who knew how high the death-rate was among railway servants and how very low the death rate was among those who travelled by railways in proportion to the number of journeys taken, must recognise that it was reasonable that the protection given to railway servants by modern legislation should be great. Protection ought to be given, not as it used to be in the interests of the public alone, but in the 694 separate interests of the men themselves. He raised no objection to the appointment of sub-inspectors or to the increase of their number, if that should be deemed desirable. It would, however, be only right to make conditions respecting these appointments. In the first place, a mere sub-inspector should not be held competent to hold inquiries of a judicial or quasi-judicial character, conferring a power to compel the attendance of witnesses, and to issue coercive process. In the second place, these sub-inspectors should occupy as impartial a position as possible. They would be concerned chiefly with the collection of information and the preparation of reports which would probably be considered confidential. If they were to be men who had been in the service of railway companies, it would only be fair that some inquiry should be made into the circumstances under which they had terminated their railway connection, in order that the public might know that they were not actuated by any animosity against a railway company.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty),
asked whether the Board of Trade had power to compel the Highland Railway Company to use continuous automatic brakes on their passenger lines, and if the power existed, whether it was exercised. He also wished to know whether the Board of Trade had taken any steps to abate the foul atmosphere on the underground railways of London. Two years ago, he said, this matter was brought up, but nothing appeared to have been done. With regard to the leading officers of the Board of Trade, his experience of them was that they were not in all cases so energetic and anxious to put things right as one would expect. On one occasion he brought under the notice of Major-General Hutchinson what he contended to be a dangerous platform of a certain railway station, which was constructed on a curve, and he got a letter in reply to say that the station could not be altered. It was only by pressing the matter on the Board of Trade and the railway company, and by sketching out a plan himself, which was adopted later on, that the objectionable arrangement was altered. Now, the officers of the Board of Trade should do their own work, and it should not be necessary for 695 a Member of this House to do their work for them. As to the practice by which the observations of a railway company were read off by the Minister as a sufficient answer to a question put in the House of Commons, he characterised it as unbusinesslike and absurd.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. RITCHIE,) Croydon
was sorry the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down should have considered it necessary to cast any reflection on the officers of the Board of Trade, because he was satisfied, even from his short experience of them as President, that they were not open to the strictures the hon. Gentleman had passed upon them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
thought that the hon. Gentleman spoke in more general terms of the officers of the Board of Trade than, perhaps, he was aware of, and his reflections were not, he believed, well founded. As to the so-called absurdity of sending questions affecting the conduct or liability of a railway company to the company for their observations, he was of opinion, on the contrary, it was a fair and proper thing they should have an opportunity of making such observations as they desired when any accusation or complaint was made against them. And if the hon. Gentleman supposed that the observations so received were accepted as sufficient, he was under an entire mistake. These were carefully analysed, and if it was considered that the answer was a sufficient or quasi-sufficient answer, then the House of Commons was put in possession of the reply of the accused company or individual. That was a practice which he thought would meet with the approval of the House of Commons. ["Hear, hear!"] But it was only one of the steps taken by the Board of Trade in order to satisfy themselves and the House of Commons with regard to any question raised. When the hon. Gentleman said the Highland Railway Company did not use continuous automatic brakes he presumed he spoke from knowledge. The statement was not altogether in accord with the information in the possession of the Board of Trade, 696 but he could assure the hon. Gentleman that if the complaints he made on this matter turned out to be well founded—inquiry should be made at once—then the Board of Trade would take such action as they thought desirable in the interests of the public. Then, with regard to the underground railway, he rather thought that if the Board of Trade were to embark on a campaign against foul atmospheres, they might begin a little nearer home [Laughter], but he was afraid that neither in regard to this House nor the underground railway, had he Board of Trade the power which the hon. Gentlemen desired them to exercise. As a frequent traveller himself on the underground system, he would only say that, if the Metropolitan Railway consulted their own interests they would endeavour to take steps to put an end to that which was a general complaint by all who travelled on their line. ["Hear, hear!"] On the question of sub-inspection, he desired to associate himself with he observations of the right hon. Gentleman his predecessor in office. In all natters which tended towards the safety of life, whether of railway servants or any other class, he hoped the hon. Member for East Northampton would permit him to associate himself with him in an earnest endeavour to bring about a diminution of those accidents which they all deplored. He thought, however, that to nave a dual inquiry into the particular class of cases referred to would not be satisfactory. It would involve a considerable amount of expense, and he did not think the cases came within the same category as mining accidents. Wherever a fatal accident occurred, and it appeared to the Board of Trade that there were circumstances which removed it out of the ordinary run of accidents, then the Board of Trade directed an inquiry. But in a great number of cases no such circumstances arose. There was no reason to suppose that the inquiry before a coroner and with a jury did not really bring out all the facts of the case. All these matters were most carefully watched at the Board of Trade, and wherever there was anything out of the ordinary course an inquiry was directed. He was glad the hon. Gentleman was satisfied with the manner in which the sub-inspectors had conducted the inquiries which had come before them 697 up to the present. Since last November there had been inquiries by sub-inspectors into 45 fatal accidents—a very large increase in the number the hon. Gentleman stated to the Committee—and 187 inquiries into cases of injury. It was satisfactory to think that the Board of Trade had attention specially directed to this considerable number and had special inquiry made in the matter. ["Hear, hear!"] He agreed with his predecessor that this was not only valuable in itself, but the inquiries were also valuableas bringing to the knowledge of the railway companies much information which they readily availed themselves of, and the ultimate result was that arrangements were made by the railway companies which prevented these fatal accidents. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter should not be lost sight of, but should be carefully watched by the Board of Trade with a view to securing special inquiry wherever it seemed necessary. ["Hear, hear!"] He would at once fall in with the suggestion the hon. Member had made as to the reports of the sub-inspectors, and would take care that in the next published Report there should appear summaries giving adequate information of the reports of the sub-inspectors.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
Will the right hon. Gentleman also furnish what information he can as to the structural changes, following these reports, which were made by the railway companies to obviate such accidents? That is the best result of the work of the inspectors.
§ MR. RITCHIE
would undertake to see if the information could be supplied. The hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne had asked him about the Manning Committee. He was told that the Report of the Committee had been drafted. As to the Committee on the rule of the road at sea, he was told the position was this. Before Parliament dissolved the whole of the evidence had been taken, and there only remained the consideration of the Report. No one would like more than he to see that investigation pursued and the Report presented, and he had been making every effort to see whether it was possible to get together a Committee in the present Session, composed of the old remaining Members, with some other Members 698 added, in order that they might obtain a Report. But he feared he must abandon all hope of being able to do that, because, although all the Members from the Government side of the House remained, five Members from the other side had disappeared [Laughter] and out of those who remained more than half had paired, so that it would be hopeless, he was told, to attempt to get together a quorum during this Session. He quite agreed with the late President of the Board of Trade, that if they were to have a Report it must be one which would carry weight, and it would never do to have the Report issued from a small remnant of the Committee. He had, therefore, come to the conclusion that it would be better to refrain from attempting to proceed further with this Committee during this short Session, but at the very commencement of next Session he would ask the House to again appoint it, with a view to coming to a conclusion upon a subject of very great and pressing importance. As to the question of side-lights, they might hope for a speedy Report on the subject. The hon. Member for Dundee had alluded to a self-coupling arrangement, and had rather suggested that the Board of Trade should take that or some other self-coupling scheme under their protection, and, ho presumed, should advise railway companies to adopt it. To do that would be for the Board of Trade to take upon themselves a responsibility they had always declined to adopt. The railway companies must take upon themselves the responsibility of obtaining the best instrument with which to carry on their work. These companies were, in his opinion, very enterprising people, who would avail themselves of the best means possible to them for the purpose of making the safety of their lines greater than it was. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friend had also referred to the race to the north between two railway companies, and had asked if that was a matter in which the Board of Trade could exorcise a power of control. There, again, he did not think the Board of Trade had any power of the kind his hon. Friend suggested, nor did he think it would be wise for that Department to lay down rules as to the speed of trains, or to take upon themselves a responsibility they could not fulfil. It would hardly do fur a public 699 Department to make recommendations they had not the power of enforcing. He could only hope that the common sense of these two railway companies would speedily put an end to what he was sure most hon. Members who had not much experience in these matters thought was attended with a certain amount of danger. ["Hear, hear!"] He himself did not speak as an expert, and he believed it was contended that there was on increased danger by the increased speed, but, whether there was or not, he was afraid it was a matter where the railway companies must act entirely upon their own responsibility. His hon. Friend had also asked him if he had seen the Report of the Bulkhead Committee. He had seen that Report, and he must say he thought it would be highly in the interests of the public if the recommendations of that Committee were adopted. The hon. Member had asked him if he would introduce legislation compelling all steamers to be fitted with bulkheads. Before the Government could propose legislation of so drastic a character as that, there ought to be a very strong public opinion behind them. He was bound to say he thought the time would arrive when it would be for the Government to consider whether some step in the direction the lion. Gentleman desired ought riot to be taken. He believed a great advance was being made by ship owners and shipbuilders in the matter, and such being the case, it would be rather unfortunate for the Government to propose legislation of the compulsory character suggested, although he did not shut out from his purview the possibility of something being done in that direction by legislation at some future time. As to the suggestion that the life-saving apparatus on board steamers should be frequently inspected with a view to testing its efficiency, this was a duty which already belonged to the Board of Trade, but ho would take special care that inquiry was made into the matter without delay. Two hon. Gentlemen had raised the question of railway rates. He took no narrow view of the importance of the matter. He did state the other day, in answer to an hon. Member, that the interpretation of the Act with regard to preferential rates was a legal question, and as to that he believed there could 700 be no possible doubt. His hon. Friend the Member for Preston, asked—Are you going to rest simply upon that position; don't you propose to take any steps at all in order to do something' for the agricultural industry which is suffering so much at presentThere were two methods which might be adopted—the one was the passing of some legislation of a drastic character, and the other was the making of friendly representations to the railway companies themselves. He confessed he was opposed to worrying great industries, whether they he railway or any other industries. He did not believe that, in the long run, very much good resulted from what he might call a policy of worry, but he did believe a good deal could often be done by a policy of conciliation. It was quite evident to him, and it must be evident to everybody who had studied the subject at all, that the interests of the railway companies and of the traders, whether agriculturists or not, were identical. ["Hear, hear!"] For its prosperity a railway company must depend largely upon the prosperity of the whole trade of the country, and that trade could not be in a prosperous condition if the agricultural industry was depressed. Feeling the great importance of the question, he hoped, before the House met again, to take some steps with the view of seeing whether, by some friendly arrangement and agreement, reductions might not be made in the rate of carriage which would give some amount of satisfaction at least to the agricultural industry and others. The Great Eastern Railway Company had begun, or were about to try, the experiment of very considerably reducing the rates between station and station. He trusted that such an excellent experiment would be a success and be largely followed by other railway companies. In conclusion he had only to say ho should endeavour, while at the Board of Trade, to listen to and to carefully consider all questions that were brought before him, from whatever quarter they might come. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. HAYELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
said he was delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman say he had read the Report of the Bulkhead Committee. There had been a very 701 recent illustration, of the value of bulkheads; for it was quite evident that, had the Seaford not had substantial bulkheads, many, if not all, of the souls on board that vessel would have been lost. There was still a great annual loss of life at sea, and he, as a practical seaman, maintained that it, or much of it, could be prevented. He hoped the new President of the Board of Trade would not be afraid to speak out plainly to the shipping companies of the country. There were shipping companies—such as the Cunard and White Star Companies—of whom all ought to be proud. Those companies conducted their business on proper lines, and with due regard to the safety of the people on board their ships. Often the attempt was made to prove that the loss of life at sea was decreasing every year; he thought the loss of life in the case of a certain class of vessels was largely on the increase. If, for instance, they excluded the large liners, and confined their observation to the cargo or "tramp" steamers, it could be proved most easily that the loss of life was on the increase—or, at least, as large as over. Much could be done by the Board of Trade to lessen the loss of life if they would only grapple with the question in a determined manner. Sailors and firemen did not want any favour; but they did ask for justice and fair play. If an improvement could be made with a view to reducing the loss of life, they expected the Board of Trade to insist that it was made. He would like to know, for instance, whether the right hon. Gentleman could give any promise that at an early day some alterations would be made in the matter of the accommodation provided for merchant seamen. Under the Merchant Shipping Act, it was only necessary to provide for each seaman 72 cubic feet of air-space in the cabin; the Royal Commission recommended 120 cubic feet. By law a convict was allowed 380 cubic feet, and a pauper over 600 feet. Surely a sailor or fireman ought to be provided with as good accommodation as a convict. Better accommodation meant an alteration of the law; but the right hon. Gentleman himself could bring about an improvement on the 72 cubic feet by requiring the ironwork in the interior of the forecastle to be entirely sheathed with wood. In the matter of the ventilation of a ship's 702 forecastle, he did not believe there had been any improvement during the last 40 or 50 years. Frequently the only ventilation was obtained from the doorway. Again, in a largo number of steamers the lamp lockers were inside the forecastle, and the fumes from those lockers the men had to breathe. Explosions had often occurred in the lockers, and a considerable number of the crow had, in consequence, either been burnt to death or suffocated. Water closets were frequently placed against the doors of the forecastle, with unpleasant results. Why did not the Board of Trade attend to these matters? There was a regulation that there should be sufficient natural light in the forecastle to allow a man to read a newspaper in any part of it; but that was a regulation he rarely found complied with on the hundreds of ships he visited yearly; and the men had to keep lamps lighted night and day. He also knew some ships sailing the coasts with the road from the forecastle so narrow that one man was sufficient to block it, which was a great source of danger in the event of a collision or of any sudden mishap. Surely the Board of Trade had sufficient power to insist that this passage was constructed on such principles as would serve a reasonable chance for the men in the forecastle to escape in any sudden emergency. Much could be done, even under the existing regulations, to considerably reduce the loss of life at sea. For instance, the Board of Trade had sufficient power under the Merchant Shipping Act to secure that no sailors or firemen who did not understand orders given in the English language should be employed in the service. But foreign sailors and firemen, unacquainted with English, were constantly engaged; and as a consequence, there was great confusion in emergencies at sea, because these men, not understanding the orders of the officers, did not know what to do. In the Merchant Shipping Act there was a section which provided that at the signing on of a crew the agreement must be read to the men, and its terms must be understood by them. But how did the Board of Trade fulfil their duties in that respect? He had seen crews composed of seven or eight nationalities signing on at Cardiff, and although not two out of every ten men understood a 703 word of English, the officer of the Board of Trade went through the farce of reading the agreement to them in English. This sham, which was an everyday occurrence at every port of the United Kingdom, ought to be put an end to. The right hon. Gentleman had said he believed the Board of Trade officers thoroughly inspected the life-saving appliances on board ship. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that on most of the ships he visited the boats had not been out for years, and if required, they could not be got over the sides in three or four hours, not to speak of 15 or 20 minutes. He was not referring now to passenger ships. On these steamers the lifeboats were well looked after, and were put over the side in the presence of the Board of Trade officer. His observations applied entirely to the "tramp" or cargo steamer. He once challenged the captain of one of these steamers that he could not get out his boats in four hours. The captain tried it on, and it took four-and-a-half hours before the boats were over the side. Seeing that they had in every port of the kingdom a Board of Trade Surveyor, he thought it was the duty of those officers to see that the life-saving appliances of every ship were in proper working order before she were allowed to leave port. He also wanted to know whether the Board of Trade intended to compel ship owners employing Lascar seamen to give them at least 72 cubic feet of space each, enjoined by the law. It was a disgrace to ask a man to live even in 72 cubic feet of space. But the poor Lascar was compelled, in spite of the law, to live in 36 cubic feet of space. The matter was become most serious in the interest of British sailors. Ship owners, finding they could stow away a large number of Lnscars in a small space, were employing them in preference to British seamen. He believed there were about 20,000 Lascar seamen in the British mercantile marine; and as there were about 26,000 other foreigners in the service, by-and-bye the British sailor would become so scarce, that he would be regarded as a curiosity. He thought the Admiralty ought to encourage the growth of British seamen is the mercantile service. If they did not they would regret their neglect if war broke out; for it would be no use to 704 have the ships if they had not also got the men to work on board them. He would like to know whether the President of the Board of Trade could give the number of ships whose provisions had been inspected during the past 12 months. He was very sorry the Act applied only to vessels going on long voyages, because the ships whose provisions really required looking after were ships engaged in the foreign trade in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the Baltic. With regard to the quantity of food, there was no law which allowed the Board of Trade to regulate the supply of food to the crew, but the Board supplied articles of agreement, which set forth certain articles, such as beef, pork, rice, and so on. He thought it was a mistake for the Board of Trade to force a scale of that kind without putting in the quantity of food that ought to be supplied. As the Board of Trade had no power to enter the quantity, it would be better not to mention the items at all. Next Session he intended to introduce a Bill—which he hoped the Board of Trade would support—to fix a reasonable provision scale. Much difficulty was created on board ship by the fact that the men did not get the proper kind and quantity of provisions. If the ship owners would only be reasonable in the matter, without being extravagant, it would be better for the ship owners as well as for the men. On the lines where the men were well fed, they kept the same men for several years; but where the men were not well fed, they were glad to leave the ship at the end of every voyage. He was glad that the President of the Board of Trade had promised to consider the question of supplying statistics as to the number of accidents occurring on ship-board. He saw no difficulty, because, according to the Merchant Shipping Act, masters were compelled to report all cases of accidents occurring on their vessels. These returns were sent to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen; and he was sure it would be a great revelation to many when these statistics were published, because the number of accidents was enormous. One case in particular had been brought under his notice. The steamer Joseph Soils, of Hull, left that port a few weeks ago for 705 the Baltic laden with coal. A man was sent to the hold to trim the cargo, and while there he struck a match, and a serious explosion followed inflicting severe injury on the man. It appeared that there had been ventilators to the hold, but they were broken some time ago and the holes plugged up. It was the duty of the Board of Trade to see that vessels were properly fitted with ventilators; and he should like to know why that was not done in this case. As the sailor was not able to get compensation under the Employers' Liability Bill, it was hard on them to be injured in this way. They looked to the Board of Trade as their great-grandmother; and it was a shock to them when the Board neglected its duty. As to lifeboats, it was remarkable that, though the Board of Trade was required by the Merchant Shipping Act to maintain out of the Mercantile Marine Fund an efficient Lifeboat service, with proper crews and equipment, nothing was done. He said nothing against the Lifeboat Institutions, which had done the work fairly well; but he failed to see why seamen should have to depend entirely on a voluntary system. In every town there was a fire brigade maintained by the public authority; and no one would think of defending our voluntary fire brigades. The life of the sailor was as good as any other man's and as valuable to his wife arid family. Yet in spite of this requirement having been on the Statute Book over 40 years, the Board of Trade now only maintained one lifeboat, and paid the part cost of another. Thousands of lives were risked every year on the coasts, and nothing was done. Probably it was because the sailors in the port had had no representative of their own in Parliament. He hoped the Board of Trade would give consideration to the matter; because, unless they did their duty, he should take every opportunity of bringing up the question again and again. The money would come out of the Mercantile Marine Fund, to which the Shipowners contributed.
§ * MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said that on the Vote for the Salary of the President of the Board of Trade, he desired to call attention to the right hon. Gentleman's action, contemplated or commenced, in regard to 706 the importation of foreign prison-made goods. That subject occupied a very prominent place in the electoral addresses of the supporters of the Government, and yet not one of them had addressed a question to the Government about it. The other night, in answer to a question, he was informed that the President of the Board of Trade had been in communication with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who had communicated with foreign Governments. In the last Session, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham said that this was a question of supreme importance; that our national industries were being ruined; and that it admitted of no delay. The whole case of the supporters of the Government was that these prison made goods could be stopped, and should be stopped, at the ports of England. But now those gentlemen began to appreciate the difficulties of the position. Instead of attempting to stop the importation at English ports, the Government were asking foreign Governments to stop the exportation at their ports. Was it not evident that the same class of difficulties which attached to one course of action attached equally to the other—the difficulties, namely, of distinguishing between goods made in prison and goods made elsewhere. And if we, who, according to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham were so profoundly interested in keeping out these goods, either could not or would not prevent their importation, was it reasonable to expect that the Governments of Germany, France and Switzerland, who had on interest in the matter, would be able or willing to prevent their exportation. The case of Germany was probably the most important of all foreign countries. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware of the fact that the case as regarded Germany was complicated by these facts—that the administration of German prisons was not an Imperial affair. The prison administration was in the hands of the Local Governments of the States which composed the German Empire, that was to say in the hands of 26 separate Local Governments. Therefore the Foreign Office had to deal not with one Government, but with 26 separate Governments. The point was I referred to in a despatch from the Foreign 707 Office in Berlin. He (Mr. Pickersgill) might say parenthetically, that the matter had been treated by the President of the Local Government Board as if the idea of communicating with Foreign Governments on this question was entirely new. Most hon. Members of the old Parliament were aware, on the contrary, that there was a somewhat bulky White Book which contained a large mass of correspondence in the past between our own Government and Foreign Governments on this subject. We had asked for certain information, and the Minister at Berlin replied:—The inquiries in the first instance have been limited to Prussia, and there will be some difficulty in collecting the materials required oven for Prussia alone, and naturally much more if the enquiries are extended to the other States of the Empire.If there was this extreme difficulty and delay in obtaining information then, how much greater was the prospect of protracted delay, even assuming the German Government to be friendly, in securing the concerted action of no fewer than 26 independent authorities? Did the Government think that the German Government would be particularly anxious to help it? The German Government would throw upon the British Government the onus of excluding prison-made goods from its ports of entry. He drew this inference from the line of reply adopted by the German. Government in its communications. Complaints had been raised, for instance, as to the most improper proceeding followed in German prisons of affixing the trade marks of Manchester firms to prison goods. The subject was investigated and the German Minister denied that the marks of Manchester firms had been affixed, but he admitted that the trade marks of foreign firms (not English) had been affixed to the goods; and he added:The Prussian Minister of the Interior had forbidden this practice in future. The assertion that goods of the above description had been imported into England was in itself improbable in view of the English law of Merchandise Marks. If any doubt still exists in England on the subject the British authorities would doubtless be in a position to make further investigations at the English ports of entry. The Imperial Government do not feel called upon to make any further inquiries into the matter, 708 more especially as certain articles in Manchester and Birmingham papers make such unfair attacks on German industry that the conviction is forced upon us that the agitation has different objects than to ascertain the truth.What was it that the German Government even with the best intentions in the world could do for us? What was the system of prison labour in Germany? Many hon. Members were aware that there were two main systems. The first was the contract labour system in which a man from the outside came into the prison and supplied the plant and the machinery, getting the labour of the convicts, and disposing of the surplus produce of the prison labour. According to the terms of the contract with the German Government he disposed of the surplus produce absolutely at his own discretion, subject only to the limitation in some cases that the produce must not be sold within 10 miles of the prison of origin. The other system was the State system, under which the State supplied the plant and the machinery and disposed of the surplus product to small merchants who might or might not export eventually; but the German Government had no means of being acquainted with the final disposition of the goods when the sale had been effected. There was now, and had long been, going on in the interests of German industries a great agitation against the product of the prison labour of Germany being put on the market, a great agitation created by the working men of Germany against the system of prison labour. But the German Governments had resisted the force of that agitation. Was it reasonable to suppose, therefore, that those Governments which had so long withstood agitation would now, by prohibiting exportation, take action to intensify competition with their own free subjects? No Government could do that; it was unreasonable to ask the German Governments to prohibit the exportation of those goods, while the goods, in spite of local agitation, were competing with the products of their own free subjects. The only alternative, therefore, would be for the German Government to put an end absolutely to its long-standing system of prison industries.
The hon. Member has on doubt given very careful consideration to the action of the German 709 Government with regard to goods made in Germany, but I fail to see how he connects that action with the President of the Board of Trade in this matter.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
In this way. The right hon. Gentleman announces a certain policy. I am showing the absolute futility of that policy by putting forward reasons in regard to which it cannot be reasonably supposed that the German Government could possibly consent to the representations which the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to make.
Any change in the policy of the country would have to be carried out by Statute, and the proper time to discuss that question would be when, if ever, the right lion. Gentleman brings forward a Bill for that purpose.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL
The case is not hypothetical. I raised this question the other night, and I was met with a flourish of trumpets, characteristically, by the President of the Local Government Board, who announced that the President of the Board of Trade had, through the Foreign Office, entered into communications with the German Government on the subject. I am criticising that administrative act, and I am endeavouring to show the absolute futility of such a proceeding. Rightly or wrongly (the hon. Member continued) the German Governments had stood to their present system of prison industries. They believed that the substitution of manufactures for the old treadmill system had a beneficial effect on the morality of the prisoners, and they regarded them as a most important factor in the social reformation of the occupants of the prisons. It was most unreasonable to suppose that the German Governments, in addition to the practical difficulties he had set out, could lend an attentive ear to the ridiculous representations which were going to be made to them. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) had attacked in a most unusual manner, I think I may say in a vulgar manner, the late President of the Board of Trade, sneering at him as one who received fees and was not able to announce a policy, saying that he, at all events, had a" prescription" to deal with prison-made goods. Now, however, the right hon. Gentleman and his immediate dependents 710 accepted fees to the tune of £9,000 a year, which was a high price to pay for a prescription, but the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had done absolutely nothing to show what his prescription" was like.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, he was not in the least surprised that the late elections in London and elsewhere had stimulated the activity of the hon. Member, and had roused his indignation. It was said that one of the great planks of the Tory platform at the late Election was the stoppage of prison-made goods. He pointed out to the hon. Member that they had the resolution of the House of Commons, and he thought they might be excused if they put that resolution into effect without waiting for the report of any Committee. He was not going into the subject so as to arouse the indignation of the hon. Member by speculating on what the German or any other Government might do. One thing was certain, if the Resolution was to be effectively carried out, it would undoubtedly require legislation. That was not kind of work they were likely to do in the present short Session. Then the question arose, were they to leave the matter altogether alone? The Committee had not yet arrived at any conclusion, but, as he had said, it was not necessary to wait for the Report of the Committee in order to give effect to the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman opposite thought that the proper course was to appoint the Committee; but the present Government did not think so. They regarded the Resolution as being binding upon them. They were unable, if they desired, to legislate. Surely under these circumstances the hon. Member might think it a praiseworthy thing that they should say to the German and other Governments,These goods an; being sold here. Do you think it a neigh bourly thing that you should send thorn here when you prevent them going on your own market?
§ * M.R. PICKERSGILL
It is absolutely untrue that the German Government prevent these goods being put on their own markets. They are only prohibited within 12 miles of the prison of origin.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
That is a limitation to a certain extent, but Germany is not 711 the only country which placed restrictions on these goods. ["Hear, hear!"] Then he said without hesitation that the working classes regarded with some indignation the importation of goods made in foreign prisions; when prison-made goods were not allowed in their own markets. [Hear, hear!"] Therefore it was, he thought, a praiseworthy step for the Government to approach foreign Governments in a friendly spirit on this matter. They had considered it to be their duty to enter into these negotiations, and, even if it were productive of no good, there was surely no ground to complain. He tried in vain to ascertain from the speech of the hon. Member whether he was or was not in favour of the importation of these goods. The hon. Member said that Germany would snap its fingers at the Government, but let him tell the hon. Member that, if there was any chance of the negotiations being successful, speeches like his in the House of Commons were not likely to assist, but the reverse. [Cheers.] As to the great loss of life referred to by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, it was deplorable. The hon. Member had made suggestions which were valuable, and some of them were at present under consideration, although he did not think they would have the effect he supposed. As to excluding foreign seamen from British ships, that was impossible.
§ MR. J. HAVELOCK WILSON
said, that his suggestion was that all foreign seamen or firemen on British ships should understand the English language.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, that would practically exclude foreign seamen ("No")— well, a large number of them. If they tied down the merchant shipping industry they would drive the trade, to some extent, away. As to the cubic feet of space allowed to Lascar seamen, he reminded the hon. Member of the Indian Act, under which the space was much less, and it was well known that Lascars could make themselves happy and comfortable under conditions and circumstances which would not be agreeable to English sailors. The Merchant Shipping Act said that certain expenses were to be defrayed out of the Mercantile Marine Fund, so far as they were not paid by any private person. It was admitted that the National Lifeboat Society did their 712 work fairly well, and yet the hon. Member said—Disestablish this organisation, discard their voluntary gifts, and put the expenses which they meet upon the public funds.Such a proposition was not at all likely to find favour with the Committee. If the work were inefficiently done, if there were good cause of complaint, then there would be some grounds for the proposal. In answer to the hon. Member, he said the Merchant Shipping Act did not impose the duty upon the Government; they found the service was provided for out of voluntary funds; and it would be impolitic to take the matter out of the hands of the society. If the money were taken out of the Mercantile Marine Fund, it could only be at the expense of some other service, performed by the aid of that fund, such as the proper surveying of ships or the lighting of our coasts; and the lighting was not so good that we could afford to divert money from that fund to purposes that were otherwise provided for.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said, he wished to ask two questions. The first was whether the statement which the right hon. Member had just made applied to Indian prisons, in which goods were made that were sent to foreign countries, competing with their industries to an extent far exceeding the examples which had been given of interference with the industries of this country. The second question was whether the Government would prohibit the manufacture in our Indian prisons of carpets for exportation. He understood that splendid carpets, made in Indian prisons, were to be found in one of the palaces of the German Emperor, and also in Windsor Castle, and that these carpets were of a quality which could not be produced anywhere else. As to the lifeboat question, it was discussed at some length in the late Parliament; grievances were alleged with reference to the lifeboat service, and abundant evidence was adduced to justify inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman would do well to give sympathetic consideration to a matter which so much affected the lives of sailors and travellers by sea.
§ * MR. J. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
challenged the hon. Member 713 for South-west Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) to make the same speech in his own constituency. At the General Election no question stirred the working classes so much as this did. In his own constituency, he knew from personal inquiry that the mat-making and brush trades had been very injuriously affected. He looked to the Government to do something to stop this terrible mischief; and he did not care very much how it was done. The President of the Board of Trade had a wide acquaintance with the men of East London, who wanted to earn an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. This unfair competition pressed hardly on many of them, and stopped it must be. It was only courteous that in the first instance representations should be made to a friendly Power like Germany. It would be bad enough that goods made in our own prisons should compete with honest free labour. The people of the United States did not allow a single article made in their own prisons to compete with free labour outside. There would be a storm of indignation in that country if prison-made goods entered into competition with other goods as they did in this country. He looked with confidence to the President of the Board of Trade to stop this evil. As a London Member, he was pledged to the eyebrows that some steps should be taken to find a remedy, and to spur on the Government if they showed a lack of energy in dealing with the question. He did not say this by way of threat, because he believed the Government was the best we had had for some time; but he represented one of the poorest constituencies, in which this competition was very severely felt; and he appealed confidently to the Government to find a remedy. If there were difficulties in the way, Statemanship existed for the purpose of dealing with them. If friendly representations failed some more drastic steps must be taken to put a stop to the evil. With a confidence, which he believed would not be misplaced, he looked to the right hon. Gentleman to keep this matter before him, and by some means to stop this unfair competition with our own free honest labour.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, the President of the Board of Trade had admitted that for his part he did not know how 714 the policy of stopping the importation of prison-made goods was to be carried out. The late Government recognised the evil and said they had not got a remedy. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham then said—Let the Government resign and we will find a remedy, but we are not going to lend our prescription while they take the fees.He went on to say—It is not right or proper that the Government should sit there and say they have no remedy.The late Opposition had now got the fees, and what was their prescription? It was the sending of post cards or letters to foreign Governments, fishing for a remedy which they themselves were unable to find. [Opposition cheers.] The plain truth was they had no more policy than the late Government had with regard to this question. If they had one why did they not state it? Their policy was simply to write to foreign Governments and for a time stave off the demands based upon the expectations which had been held out at the General Election. The Committee had heard with satisfaction what the right hon. Gentleman had said about railway rates, which, at all events, was not a Party question; and anything he could do to meet the grievances complained of would be heartily appreciated in the constituencies. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
said, there could not be any dispute as to what was the policy of the late Government on the importation of prison-made goods; they minimised the importance of the question, and said the importation of prison-made brushes was so small that it could not have any injurious effect upon the brush trade of this country; and they offered to appoint a Committee, which was objected to on the ground that enquiry would involve unnecessary delay, while it was possible to take immediate steps to avert the mischief. The late Government, finding they were not supported by their own followers, reluctantly gave way and assented to the carrying of a Resolution which imposed upon them the duty of dealing immediately with the question of restricting the importation. The late Government did nothing, or, rather, they appointed 715 the Committee which had been refused by the House. The late Government had five months in which to deal with the matter and they did nothing; but this Government was expected to take action in a few weeks.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
But there might be more than one, and the first might have to be followed by a second. No Government could well avoid trying first what could be done by amicable appeals to the Governments of other countries to consent to the cessation of a practice which was injuring our home trade. Bare courtesy required that we should approach other Governments, before we took any further steps, at all events to ascertain whether they were willing to prevent the exportation of prison-made goods. But the "resources of civilisation" were not exhausted [laughter]; and he could assure the hon. Member behind him that the pledge which he gave to his constituents, and which others gave in their private capacity, was a pledge which the Government was prepared to carry out. But in view of the fact that they had made representations to foreign Governments, it would be most improper that he should indicate what further steps they might take in case the results of those representations proved to be unsatisfactory. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government were quite in earnest; they had considered how this importation might be restricted; and they would take steps to restrict it if their present operations proved to be insufficient. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. BRYCE
said, that a matter of infinitesimal dimensions had been dealt with at the General Election as if it largely affected the trade of the country. He would not say anything that could injuriously affect the correspondence with other countries; it would not be fair to the Government to do so; and he could not say that at that moment they were entitled to ask the Government to say what their further remedy was to be. As to the Committee which he appointed, he believed it was a necessary Committee, composed of impartial and capable men whose enquiries were likely to throw light on the subject. It was appointed, not merely to ascertain 716 the extent to which prison-made goods were imported, but also what measures could be taken to stop them; and the Government were quite entitled to say they would wait for the Report of that Committee. Any Bill they could bring in this Session would be of a tentative kind. The whole matter had been dealt with in a way which was out of proportion to its importance. As he had said before, there were only one or two trades, and those not important ones, that were in any way affected. That conclusion would be arrived at by any one who read the correspondence which had been presented to the House. He believed the injury done to the brush trade was extremely small. The importation affected one or two trades only, and, as far as he could ascertain, the possibility of dealing with the evil, such as it was, by restrictive measures, involved consequences disproportionate to any evil sought to be removed. Therefore the opportunity of commenting on the tactics pursued at the General Election would arise again, when probably they would have the further prescriptions of the Government before them.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said, that hon. Members opposite had exhibited a new-born interest in the question which they did not manifest in February, when he carried the Resolution, on which the late Government ought to have taken action at once. They appointed a Committee and did nothing.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
asked why he was told that now for the first time? Why was not that allegation brought before the Committee? He traversed the statement now made as being directly contrary to fact. No question was raised in the Committee as to the origin of that brush which he produced in the House. This, however, was not a personal question between himself and the right hon. Member for 717 Aberdeenshire; it was a question of the injury done to British trade by the importation of the labour of foreign convicts. The Committee was appointed in defiance of the House of Commons. Colonel Bridgman, who then sat for Bolton, did all he could to secure that the Committee should sit every day, in order that information might be obtained quickly; but the late Government did not sympathise with this object. Now, the late President of the Board of Trade told them that this was an infinitesimal matter, and that the injury to British trade was extremely small. What did he know about it? If he knew all about it, why did he appoint the Committee? If he had so much information, why did he not lay the facts before the Committee? Had the right hon. Member read the Report of the Committee? No. It was appointed to gain time. It sat as seldom as possible, and called as many witnesses as possible, and everything was done to stave off inquiry and prevent the late Government acting on the unanimous Resolution of the House of Commons. The Member for North-East Bethnal Green had developed an interest in the matter because he found how much it was appreciated by his constituents, and another good reason was the extremely narrow majority by which he was returned to this Parliament. [Cheers.] He, himself, was convinced that the President of the Board of Trade was genuine and sincere when he said he was determined to deal with this question. In his address to the electors of West Bristol, he said that the immigration of pauper aliens and the importation of foreign prison-made goods were questions of pressing importance. The House must therefore put the fullest confidence in his dealing with this question, and was he to be blamed because, in conjunction with the Prime Minister, the first day he went to the Board of Trade he tried by friendly negotiations to stop the importation of prison-made goods? On the contrary, he was deserving of every praise, and those who represented the trades deeply affected were extremely grateful to him and the Prime Minister for the zeal they had shown. The Report of the Committee, and the evidence given before it, would show that this was not a small matter. It might affect comparatively few trades, but those 718 trades were suffering severely by the importation of prison-made goods. Many were unable to obtain employment, or only earning 5s. or 6s. a week with the greatest difficulty. Yet the right hon. Member for Aberdeen said this was a matter of infinitesimal importance. It was a growing trade which must be stopped. The present Government would stop it, and do that which the late Government failed to do.
§ * MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
remarked that it had been said that during the recent Elections no question had stirred the hearts of the working men of London like this of the importation of prison-made goods. Then they must have been a pigeon-hearted lot. What did this great electioneering cry "boil down" to? It was to be solved either by a Committee of the House taking evidence, or the Government writing polite notes to foreign Governments. When the Committee on the subject reported, it would be found that a mountain had been made of a mole-hill. This importation did not affect our trades or industries, except in the smallest degree. The hon. Member went on to draw attention to the salaries of inspectors of railways. They seldom visited Ireland, and through their imperfect supervision the Scull and Skibbereen and Tralee and Dingle Railways were a disgrace. After the former line was passed by Major Hutchinson, of the Hoard of Trade, the permanent way was so badly laid and ballasted that exasperated travellers often had to get out and push the trains on. Owing to the steep gradients on the Tralee and Dingle line, a terrible accident occurred soon after the line was opened, by which several persons were killed and others injured. The effect of the accident was to smash the rolling stock, and damages were claimed against the Company which ultimately fell upon the barony and plunged it into hopeless debt. The consequence to the barony had been very serious, and he hoped that the matter would receive the careful attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. This line had been opened under the authority of a Government officer, with the result that this accident had occurred and the barony had had to suffer for his neglect or incompetence. In the circumstances he 719 did not think that it would be unfair to ask the right hon. Gentleman to put some pressure upon the Treasury to take steps to relieve this unfortunate barony from the debt in which they were involved through no fault of their own. He should also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question as to the present condition of the Fastnet lighthouse. Some three or four months ago a promise was made by the late Government that the matter should be inquired into. He did not press the right hon. Gentleman for any specific declaration on that occasion with regard to this subject, but he desired to impress upon him that the question was of great importance, seeing that the lighthouse to which he referred was the last that ships sighted on leaving these shores for America, and was the first that they saw on their return voyage across the Atlantic. The lighthouse was placed on a very dangerous coast, and therefore he hoped that the best attention of the Department would be given to its condition.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
said, that he only rose for the purpose of making one or two observations on the subject of the importation of foreign prison-made goods. That Committee had no right to intefere with the importation of foreign goods of any kind. He objected to any restriction whatever being placed upon the rights of the British consumer to purchase goods in the cheapest market. He recollected the time when upon exactly the same grounds objection had been made to the importation of foreign sugar in respect of which a bounty was paid.
* The CHAIRMAN
Order, order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he must confine his remarks to matters connected with the action of the President of the Board of Trade. This has been a very wide discussion, covering a great number of subjects, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman to conform to my ruling.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
said that he had no intention of running counter to the Chairman's ruling, and therefore he would not pursue the subject.
§ * MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
said, that he desired to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the importation 720 of impure petroleum and paraffin oil which was a source of great danger to the community. A large quantity of that oil was of an impure character, and was consequently most dangerous, and within the last few weeks a very serious explosion had occurred from its use in the town of Elphin, near were he lived in which two lives were lost and several people were injured. He had been told that the Home Office had no control over the importation of such oil and therefore he now addressed himself to the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The matter does not come within the cognizance of my Department. The Board of Trade has nothing to do with it.
* The CHAIRMAN
I think that the hon. Gentleman must make it quite clear in the first place that the Board of Trade is concerned in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, speaking with full authority, has said that the Board of Trade has nothing to do with the subject. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to prove by quoting the words of an Act of Parliament that the Department is responsible for the importation of this dangerous oil; otherwise I must rule that his remarks are out of order.
§ * MR. TULLY
said that he would read the principal provisions of the existing Acts of 1871, 1879, and 1881, which were as follows:—(1) Petroleum is defined to include any rock oil, Rangoon oil, Burmah oil, oil made from petroleum, coal, schist, shale, peat or other bituminous substances, any products of petroleum, or any of the above-mentioned oils (1871, Section 3); while petroleum, to which the Act applies, is defined to mean not all petroleum (in the ordinary sense of the word), as it has done in the former Acts (see ante), but only such petroleum as gives off, when tested by the D bel close test, an inflammable vapour at less than 73° Fahrenheit (Act of 1879). (2) A detailed system of testing is provided, whereby the degree of inflammability is to be determined (1879, Schedule 1). (3) The owner or master of every ship carrying petroleum to which the 721 Act applies is required to give notice to the harbour authority on entering any harbour (1871, Section 5). All harbour authorities are required to frame and submit for confirmation by the Board of Trade by-laws regulating the places of mooring of ships carrying petroleum, and the places where they are to land their cargoes, and the times, modes of, and precaution to be taken on such landing. The Board of Trade have power on default of any harbour authority to make by-laws (1881, Section 4).
§ * MR. TULLY
said it went further. He contended that the Act had been evaded, and that oil of an illegal and inferior description was being admitted. In Tuam, for instance, a few months ago, a house was burned through the inferior quality of oil in a lamp, and the safety of the entire town endangered. A lady had been killed this week at Cleffoney, in the County Sligo, from the same cause.
interposing, said, that as far as he had been able to gather, the section quoted by the hon. Member referred entirely to the control of ships arriving with petroleum on board. If the hon. Gentleman had any case of that sort to refer to, he might be in order; but the general control of petroleum did not rest with the Board of Trade.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said that it was a very natural error into which the hon. Member had fallen. The Board of Trade had to control the bye-laws of the harbour authorities, but, once those by-laws were approved, all connection with the Board of Trade ceased; the administration of bye-laws being in the control of the local authority.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said that his department had no power to enforce the by-laws. This and other departments having once approved of bye laws, it lay with the local authority to carry them out.
Any question of administration of by-laws cannot possibly be dealt with on this Vote. I would refer the hon. Member (Mr. Tully) to Section 7 of the Act which he quoted to me, in which it is distinctly laid down that the regulations with regard to the storage of petroleum fall within the control of the local authority. I must therefore rule any further discussion of this subject to be out of order.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon District)
desired to know whether the Board of Trade were prepared to appoint a labour correspondent for North Wales, where there were at present no statistics with regard to labour movements, wages, and matters generally affecting the capital and labour in that part of country. He trusted that the President of the Board of Trade would be able to give some satisfactory answer with regard to that question. He thought it important that labour correspondents should be appointed in all parts. Proceeding to deal with the administration of foreshores by the Board of Trade, he remarked that he had raised the question last year, and thought he elicited a distinct promise that the foreshores should not be alienated without prior notice to the local authorities. At Cardiff and Swansea, for instance, he knew of very valuable foreshores being sold to strangers, without the local authorities having had the option to acquire them. He raised the question again now, because he believed that the undertaking which he elicited from the Department last year had not been carried out. He asked the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) for an absolute undertaking that orders should be given to the representatives of his Department not to sell foreshores without first giving the local authorities the option of acquiring them. No substantial part of the revenue of the Board of Trade was, he asserted, derived from these alienations. His own view was that it was a mistaken policy to part with foreshores at all. ["Hear, hear!"] He knew that replies had been returned by the Board of Trade to local authorities who had applied to lease the foreshores that the Department 723 did not part with them to local authorities, who, without having rights over the foreshore were without the power of enforcing regulations of order or even of decency at some watering-places. He desired to ask the President of the Board of Trade, first, whether he would give positive instructions that foreshores should not be parted with to adjoining owners, or other private proprietors, without giving a prior option to the local authorities to purchase them, or to lease them, if only for a short term, or from year to year. Secondly, he would ask whether, in watering-places and small towns, he would give instructions to representatives of Departments to enable the local authorities to acquire leases of the foreshores, this being the only possible way in which those authorities could enforce order thereon. The third point which he wanted to call attention to was that of the inspectors fisheries. He was not complaining that the sum allotted to them was too large. On the contrary, he was sorry that the Government had not made it larger. But, as at present conducted, this inspection of fisheries was a perfect farce. In the last report of the inspectors of fisheries, he found that about the only thing they had done in regard to fresh-water fisheries was that they had sanctioned the imposition of licences in two or three cases. That was about all. He would like to know whether the President of the Board of Trade would do something to make the inspection much more real than it was at present.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbigh, W.),
said, that in the column with regard to the agricultural condition of the various districts throughout the kingdom there was no information as to the agricultural condition of Wales. He urged that the question of inspection of fisheries was one of practical importance in Wales.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, that as to the first point which had been raised the Board of Trade were not at all responsible; their inspectors saw that the rolling stock was sufficient, but with regard to the gradient of the line they had no authority whatever. As to the question of a Labour Correspondent in North Wales he had not lost sight of the matter, and had been in communication with the head of the Department in connection with the matter, 724 and he knew that he was doing his best to find a Correspondent who would be satisfactory. With regard to the fisheries he understood that the administration of fisheries lay in the hands of local authorities. As to the question of the foreshore, it was the invariable practice of the Board of Trade to approach the local authority before any alienation took place, and nothing was done until they were convinced that it would be in the public interest. If the hon. Member had any particular case which he desired to put before him he would be glad to inquire into it. In regard to the question raised by the hon. Member who had just sat down he would see whether the omission in regard to agriculture in Wales could be remedied.
In reply to Mr. LOUGH—
said, the hon. Member was not in order in making an attack upon the Indian Government on this Vote.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, the right hon. Gentleman had not answered him with regard to the granting of leases of the foreshore.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
referred to the question of harbour accommodation in the western fishery districts.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, if the hon. Member had some particular place in view and would make representations about it he would inquire into the matter. The policy of the Government in regard to these harbours had been not that they should contribute money for the harbours, but that they should make advances to the local authorities, or in some cases to companies, at a low rate of interest, to enable them to make the harbour required for fishery accommodation. Where there was a primâ facie case he would certainly send down an inspector.
§ * MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint District)
thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his promise with regard to the appointment of a Labour Correspondent in North Wales. He (the speaker) had raised the question repeatedly in the House, and he was gratified to find that at last his representations would receive attention. With regard to the distribution of the "Labour Gazette," he asked that the publication should be placed in Library of the House.
§ Mr. J. G. WEIR
pointed out that there were four Assistant Secretaries, whose salary was £1,000, rising to £1,200 per annum. One of these gentlemen had received £300 from the Mersey Dock Board, and, he thought, the Government were entitled to the whole of their services. If the Board of Trade wished to impose additional work on them, and the work was worth more money, that would be a different matter, but the present system, he contended, was altogether bad. He criticised the appointments held under this Vote.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said it was not uncommon for a man to receive a personal allowance which, when the office became vacant, did not necessarily attach to that, particular office.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
hoped the Committee would agree to the Vote. The matters referred to by the hon. Member were not such as could be considered while the present occupants held their offices.
§ * SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
called attention to the great cost of obtaining Provisional Orders for harbour improvements. It was extremely unsatisfactory that a large portion of the money collected to improve harbours should be taken for fees and legal expenses before one penny was spent in carrying out the objects of the Provisional Order. The Scotch Fishery Board, he believed, felt very strongly in the matter. They had 726 a small allowance from Parliament to assist in maintaining and providing small harbours, and in trying to administer this money to the best advantage in any particular case they were met at the outset by large legal expenses. He believed a large part of the expense charged was absolutely unnecessary, and he was confident that if the Board of Trade would undertake to carry through the Provisional Orders, great saving might be effected. The money to improve harbours was obtained in sixpences and half-crowns from the hard-working fishing population, and the people naturally complained when they found that much of the money went into the pockets of the lawyers in obtaining the Provisional Order. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee an assurance that he would look into the matter.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, that under the circumstances the hon. Gentleman would not expect him to make a long statement on the matter. The Provisional Order system was set up to cheapen the mode of obtaining an Act of Parliament, and so long as Acts of Parliament were required, certain formalities would have to be gone through. He had not been long enough at the Board of Trade to ascertain the nature of the charges in connection with that Department, but he would undertake to look into the matter.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, he had not been sufficiently long at the Board of Trade to enable him to express any strong views on the question. He did not wish to say anything that might appear to reflect on what had taken place, or to give promises which he might not be able to carry out; but the hon. Member might be assurred that, having brought the matter under his notice, he would give attention to it.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, he wished to draw attention to an item in the Estimates in connection with the Labour Department of the Board of Trade, which he was surprised had not attracted the notice of hon. Members. He referred to 727 a charge of £3,700, stated to be "Allowance to the Comptroller for remuneration to skilled investigations, and for clerk hire." The sum did not appear in the Estimates for last year, and absolutely no explanation of the item was given in the present Estimates. He understood that the sum was allowed to an official, himself in the Civil Service, and in receipt of a salary, for the engagement of clerks from the outside, who were not in the Civil Service, and who became really the personal clerks of the Comptroller. He objected to this system as very unsatisfactory and open to great injustice.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, this was a matter that came under his cognizance when he was President of the Board of Trade, and he might explain that the money was incurred in connection with the Labour Department, because it was found necessary to engage the services of experts and men of special qualifications outside the Civil Service. The Department was a new one, and in the opening work it was desirable to obtain exceptional skilled aid. At the same time he was ready to admit that the principle acted on in this case was one that should not be extended.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
said, that if he thought the arrangement was merely a temporary one in connection with the Labour Department he should have nothing more to say; but he found that the same system had been going on, and was growing in the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade.
§ DR. TANNER rose to speak, when
§ DR. TANNER (Cork County, Mid.)
said, he was very anxious to draw attention to the medical arrangements on board our mercantile ships. The question, was a very important one, affecting the lives and health of seamen and passengers, and though he had no wish to delay the Vote, he was anxious that the matter should not be lost sight of. He had brought it before the House several times, but he would gladly remain content on the present occasion if the right hon. Gentleman would give him an assurance that he would direct his attention to the matter.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he should be delighted to confer with the hon. Gentleman, in order to see whether anything could be done in the matter.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote for £21,000 to complete the sum for the Mercantile Marine Fund (Grant in Aid),
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he should be glad to supply the hon. Member with the information on Report, but he could not do so then, and he again appealed to the Committee to allow the Vote to pass.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £16 to complete the sum for the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade,
§ MR. WEIR
expressed the hope that the President of the Board of Trade and his Department would give more attention than had been given hitherto to cases of improper management of public companies. When the criminal prosecution of directors was advisable, he hoped there would be no hesitation in taking proceedings. The affairs of the Bank of the River Plate were, he believed, still in the Official Receiver's hands. The Secretary of State for India was a director of that Bank, which came such a crash. In his opinion, Members of the Government who were in the receipt of salaries ought not to be associated with public companies.
§ DR. TANNER
asked for an explanation of the increase of the item for the Inspector General's Office in Bankruptcy. The increase amounted to £332.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said that, in a large department like the Inspector General's Office, a variation of £300 in an expenditure of £13,500 was not a variation justifying much complaint. The employment of one additional clerk would account for the variation. The increase, he might point out, was more than counterbalanced by a saving of £600 in 729 another direction. Taking the Estimate practically as a whole, it was this year the same as last.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £64,029, to complete the sum for Board of Agriculture,
§ * MR. H. LEWIS
strongly complained that sufficient money was not expended on agricultural education in the Principality of Wales. The evidence given before the Royal Commission on Agriculture had shown that that industry was in an extremely depressed condition in Wales. He thought a good deal could be done to mitigate agricultural depression by making proper provision for agricultural education. He did not put this forward as a panacea for agricultural distress, but he said the experience of other countries amply proved that in agricultural education they had found, if not altogether a panacea, at all events a very great measure of alleviation and relief of the agricultural distress from which they had suffered. In Bangor College, where agricultural education had been commenced, a great amount of good work had already been done. Good progress in agricultural education had been made in Wales, but owing to the lack of adequate Government support it did not compare in the slightest degree with the value of the work done in the same direction in Finland, a country which resembled Wales in point of population. Not very long ago Finland, from the agricultural point of view, was on the verge of ruin. The methods of agriculture were extremely primitive, and the tenants who had purchased their holdings did not receive on an average one per cent, on their outlay. The Finnish Diet took the matter in hand, and established no less than 16 agricultural schools, 18 dairy farming schools, 2 schools of horticulture, a school of forestry, and also an institute of forestry. They had not one agricultural school in Wales; in dairy-farming schools they were outstripped by Finland; they had no school of horticulture or of forestry, nor had they an institute of forestry. There were also in Finland a grooms school in which those who devoted themselves to the breeding of horses received theoretical and practical instruction; a cattle-breeders' school, 730 and other institutes of a similar character which were subsidised by the Government. The work done by the Government of Finland in this respect had stimulated private societies to do an immense amount of work in the same direction. An agricultural interest had been established, consisting of a number of specialists experienced in all branches of agriculture, and whose knowledge was always at the service of everyone engaged in agriculture, thereby rendering inestimable services to the farming community. There were also five agricultural chemical and seed stations in various parts of the country, where, for a small sum, soil, manure and fodder could be analysed, and where the peasantry could watch practical experiments in every branch of agriculture. That was an example of what could be done in a small country by the Government for the promotion of agriculture, and he ventured to impress on the right hon. Gentleman the advisability of doing something in the same direction for Wales. If the Government were pledged to anything they were committed to support agriculture in every possible way. He hoped, therefore, the Minister for Agriculture would be able to see his way to very largely increase the grants that had hitherto been made to agricultural colleges in Wales. The work done by those colleges had been such as to justify the confidence of the right hon, Gentleman's Department, which had been expressed in the most unmistakable manner again and again. Bangor had been the pioneer in this good movement, and the work done there had assisted the Government to make up its mind to help similar institutes in other parts of the country. The unhappy state of agriculture demanded that a great deal more should be done for agricultural education, and having regard to the excellent work done in that way in continental countries, and the great benefits that accrued there from to the people, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would give the matter his most serious attention.
§ * SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
said, he would support the appeal made by the hon. Member who had just sat down, but he would give it a more extended application. What the hon. Member said with regard to Wales might be said with regard to the whole of the United 731 Kingdom. They heard much about agricultural depression; he believed that it existed, but it existed much more in the south of England, in Wales, and in parts of Ireland than it did in Scotland. But he thought that throughout the whole kingdom much advantage would accrue from a well considered system of agricultural education. How was it that while they heard so much of agricultural depression, more particularly with regard to the county of Essex, that there were several classes of imports of agricultural produce from the continent of Europe which were not only steadily but very largely increasing? He had just taken the figures from the Statistical Abstract with regard to the article of butter. They show that the imports in 1892 were in value £11,935,190; in 1893 they had increased by three-quarters of a million to £12,753,593, and last year they had risen to £13,470,419, being an increase of £1,500,000 in these three years. Taking the total of our imports from the Continent of Europe, butter, margarine, cheese and eggs, for these three years, they had increased from £24,859,576 to £25,768,657. Now surely there must be something wrong there. Could this be anything but a reproach to the agriculture of England? What was there in the circumstances of Essex, and other counties not far from the metropolis, whose consumption of these articles was enormous, what reason was there in nature why the agriculturists of Essex and these other districts should not at least be equal to the agriculturists of Denmark, of Sweden, and of France who had to pay the cost of export from their own country, and all the charges of conveyance and commission, and yet who were able to take the market for these articles of production from our local agriculturists. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the advantages derived in Finland from the system of agricultural education established there. Take the case of Denmark. While they heard, and he very much regretted to hear, complaints from the representatives of Ireland of the diminution both in the production and the demand for Irish butter and the very low prices obtained in the Cork market, how was it that Danish butter commanded the very best price in all the English markets? The answer 732 was that the Danes, a people very similar to ourselves, very much our own race, had for years had a system of agricultural education, and the outcome of that was seen as the outcome of all kinds of technical education amongst intelligible people, was seen in decidedly beneficial, practical, profitable results. The figures with regard to Danish butter should be proclaimed in every agricultural newspaper; and at every agricultural meeting agricultural members should endeavour to impress these figures upon their hearers. Year after year during the few years he had sat in the House, he heard a continually increasing volume of declamation with regard to agricultural depression. What did they find with regard to Denmark? So recently as 1892 the exports of Danish butter to this country were only £4,848,735. He said "only," but that in itself in the year was a very large and very remarkable sum. But in the following year, 1893, it had increased to £5,278,875, and last year it reached £5,843,954, being an increase of almost precisely one million sterling in the exports of butter alone from that little country to the United Kingdom. Not only had we that illustration of the advantages of agricultural education, but we had a similar one in our own great Dominion of Canada. They had in recent years devoted especial attention to the production of cheese; they had applied the factory system in regard to milk; they had taken the best qualities of English and Scotch cheese, and had endeavoured to work up to them, and he was informed by those who dealt in these articles that they even surpassed our own best makers, with the result that the value of Canadian cheese imported, increased from £2,493,625 in 1892 to £2,688,946 last year. If Denmark could send increasing quantities of butter; if Canada could send increasing quantities of cheese, and if along with these we imported such large values as upwards of three millions sterling worth of margarine and three and three-quarter millions worth of eggs, was there not room for English and Welsh and Irish farmers to recover these markets, and by their increased skill, and by their application to regain what we ought never to have lost? There was too great an inclination, and he was sorry it was far too often encouraged in the House, 733 always to be appealing to the Hercules of the State to draw the cart out of the rut into which it had fallen. There should be truth spoken; there should be honesty and candour in dealing with our agriculturists, and in telling them to look to themselves, to rely more upon their own intelligence and on their own thrift, because he feared that very much of the depression of which they heard was owing to the common tenant-farmer apeing too much the manners and habits of the landed proprietor: going day after day throughout the week to all the neighbouring markets, and joining the hunt in the hunting season; his daughters playing the piano and going to the county balls. [Laughter.] Yes, he believed these were facts. The present class of farmers, and farmers' wives and daughters, were not such as they were 30 or 40 or 50 years ago. They needed to go back to their kitchens, and to their dairies, and to look after their poultry more than they had done, and if they did that he believed we should hear much less of agricultural depression. He had alluded to the progress of Canada with regard to the production of cheese. But we owed very much to the people of that great Dominion. Most of them were our brothers. They were akin to us; they were part of our own race and our own people, and the President of the Board of Agriculture probably knew to what he was about to allude. He was there to declare, in face of the House and of the country, that the Dominion of Canada, the Government of that Dominion, and more especially the able Minister of its Agricultural Department, had not received justice, either from the late Government, to which on this question he spoke as frankly and as firmly as he intended to speak now to the Government opposite, or from the present President of the Board of Agriculture. He said, speaking earnestly and with conviction, that he never had believed and he did not believe that there was any real and solid ground for the exclusion of Canadian cattle from this country. This Scheduling Order for the compulsory slaughter of many splendid animals at the port of landing was an injury to the great body of agriculturists throughout the country, who 734 would be the better to have the example. And it was especially an injury to the agriculturists on the east coast of England—Norfolk and Suffolk—and, more particularly, to those great, enterprising, and, in the face of the agricultural depression, thriving counties—the counties of Perth, Forfar and Aberdeen—which had thriven very much through the intelligence of their tenant-farmers, and whom, while they were talking about agricultural depression, they were injuring as much as they could by depriving them of the steady and large profits which they had made from the importation of store cattle, which they were willing to undertake, with all its alleged risk, declaring that they did not believe there was any risk whatever in the importation of these cattle. He did not know that the right hon. Gentleman had had time since he entered on his present position to read a document which he (Sir John Leng) commended to his careful consideration. He feared it was too much the case with all right hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Treasury Bench, whether it was manned by those who were now in Opposition, or by those who now occupied it, to lean too entirely and exclusively on the opinions and guidance of the heads of their departments. If he were in a similar position, he would give the greatest respect and attention and consideration to whatever the permanent officials said, but he would at the same time apply his own careful judgment and consideration, and he should think he was in duty bound, in the interests of the country, to exercise an independent and a judicial discretion upon their views. He would not weary the House by reading any lengthened extracts from the Report signed by Mr. Angers, the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, dated January 31st, 1895. He might just mention one or two points from it. It set forth that the total number of neat cattle shipped from Canada to this country since 1880 was 1,393,589, and that there had been found, in the case of about a dozen animals out of 193,860 slaughtered at the port of landing since the fall of 1892, certain lesions which the Board of Agriculture in this country held to be indicative of 735 pleuro-pneumonia. But it went on to say:—That the lesions stated to have been found on the lungs of animals after landing in England or Scotland, after having been carried, in some cases, from the north-west plains of Canada, near the base of the Rocky Mountains, a distance of between 2,000 and 3,000 miles to the seaport, subject during such carriage to detention arising out of waiting for railway connections, the animals being sometimes confined for several days in stockyards before embarkation, and necessarily packed in close compartments on shipboard, where sometimes, despite the utmost care under the regulations, they are in some weathers subject to insufficient ventilation and other forms of hardship, it being only after the animals have endured such trials that the lesions in question can be discovered.The Report goes on to assert that the result of these travelling difficulties was to produce what was known as "transit pneumonia;" that that transit pneumonia, though having very similar appearances to pleuro-pneumonia, yet was essentially different, there being all the difference between an ordinary case of a bad cold and contagious influenza; that the injury was confined to the cattle that it would not infect or affect other cattle. There was one case, the Parkhill-Londores case, in which it was alleged—though Scotch experts and Scotch veterinaries had steadily and consistently asserted that the allegation was inaccurate and without good grounds—that a neighbouring animal was infected. The Report concluded very much in these words:—It has never in any part of the Dominion been known; no trace of it even has been or can be discovered. This declaration is made after very earnest special search by veterinaries employed for the purpose by the Canadian Government.That was the view of the Canadian Government. Scotch feeders relied upon the opinions of their able veterinarians, who, in point of professional skill and ability, would, as all Scotchmen did in their various professions, rank in the very first class, and yet their opinions had been treated with something like scorn and contempt, not by the right hon. Gentleman, but by both his predecessors. Those gentlemen had asserted, and asserted in vain, that the disease alleged to be pleuro-pneumonia in these Canadian cattle was not contagious pleuro-pneumonia, and they had asked the Board of Agriculture over 736 and over again to submit it to a complete test. Two enlightened Scottish farmers residing at no great distance from his constituency, had offered to place their farms at the disposal of the Board, to turn these cattle in amongst their own healthy animals. They were prepared to take the risk. They said, "Here we have our herds, bring your Canadian pleuro cases and put them in, and then, if they do infect our cattle, we will admit that we were wrong and will approve of the action of the Board. But the Board and its experts would not agree to that reasonable offer." The Canadian Government had over and over again invited the Board of Agriculture to send over experts at the Canadian Government's expense, in order that they might inspect the cattle all over the country. Pleuro-pneumonia was a disease which could not be long concealed; and if the experts reported unfavourably, then the Canadian Government would be satisfied. But the Board of Agriculture had always returned a non possumus, in spite of the fact that the highest living veterinary authority, as well as the Scotch and Canadian experts, were against them. It was very little use appealing further to the right hon. Gentleman. [Ministerial cheers.] He had heard those cheers before from Members now sitting on the Opposition side of the House. But no cheers of that kind would alter the conviction of the intelligent farmers of Scotland. They might be overborne by numbers, but they would continue to believe that this question was determined by the misguided views and in the interests of the English breeders. He was an Englishman, but he had lived long enough in Scotland, and knew too well the views of the Scottish agriculturists, to permit this Vote to pass without entering an emphatic protest against the course which the Board of Agriculture had adopted.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OP THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
said that, if it were a question of numbers overriding the views of the hon. Member, it would not be numbers of votes only. Had the hon. Gentleman informed himself as to the number of cattle in the different parts of the country where the restrictions were advocated and where 737 they were not advocated? There were six counties in Scotland and three in England where opposition to the restrictions existed; and whereas, without making any deduction for those parts of these counties where the regulations were approved, there were only 624,000 cattle of all ages contained in them, there were no less than 10,781,000 cattle in the rest of the United Kingdom, where there was not only no opposition to the restrictions, but where they were regarded as the only safeguard left to the farmer, and as giving the only chance of enabling his industry to flourish. [Cheers.] The hon. Gentleman argued that, in these days of agricultural depression, this difficulty ought not to be placed in the way of agriculture where it was still thriving. Then how much less ought any difficulty to be placed in the way of agriculture where it was by no means thriving? [Cheers.] If anything at all was to be done for agriculture in this country, the health of the cattle must, in the first place, be protected. If the farmer believed that there was the risk of disease, his industry would be paralysed, he would dispose of his young stock before it was marketable, and he would be prevented from attempting an occupation which was capable of being made profitable. Although he regretted that the interests of those whom the hon. Gentleman represented should be injured by the regulations of the Board of Agriculture, yet he felt compelled, in the interests of the vast majority of agriculturists in this country, and in the interests of nearly 11 millions of stock, as against little more than half-a-million, to continue those regulations so long as there was any reasonable risk of disease. [Cheers.] As to the suggestion that the Board of Agriculture ought to embark on some other means of finding whether its advisers were right or wrong, he would admit that those responsible for a public department ought not to be guided exclusively by their permanent officials. But he also strongly held that, as long as they believed their expert advisers to be competent and honest, they should abide by their advice on technical and scientific points. What would be gained by the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman? If another inquiry were instituted, and its conclusions 738 differed from those of the Board, there would have to be a third inquiry to decide between the two. If that were to be done, what was the use of a Board of Agriculture with skilled and competent advisers? The evidence on all grounds was against those whom the hon. Member represented, and he hoped the House would support the Department in continuing the regulations from which alone could be derived any hope for the future prosperity of stock and stock-breeders in this country. [Cheers.]
§ * MR. J. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W. R., Keighley)
asked the Government to grant some further addition to the fund allocated for technical education in order to promote education in relation to agriculture. He said that he was practically engaged in the work of agricultural education, having, to some extent, the control of technical instruction in the West Riding of Yorkshire. It was a wide area and there were a large number of trades and occupations looking to the Technical Instruction Committee for a portion of the grant. Certainly agriculture had not been by any means neglected. There had been lectures and demonstrations of various kinds, dairy and horticultural work, and trial plots had been provided for the farmers to try different kinds of seeds and manures. Further, small garden plots had been instituted in connection with the elementary schools, so that the children might know something of the elements of agriculture. A large amount of money had also been spent in giving instruction to teachers in the elementary schools for the same purpose. But it was very desirable to have a higher class of agricultural work carried on. The Yorkshire College had, with the East and West Ridings, taken upon themselves the institution of an agricultural college for that part of the country, and by that means it was expected that considerable advances would be made in the scientific knowledge of farming. College buildings and a small farm had already been obtained; but the difficulty now was in relation to funds. Therefore, he appealed to the Government that they should in future make some provision for a larger grant in this connection. The funds, he suggested, might be more wisely distributed than as set forth in the Estimates. A large amount was 739 spent in the collection of statistics, which were of doubtful value; and while out of the whole expenditure of £124,000, £75,000 was charged for Grants in Aid for Diseased Cattle, much less than,£8,000 was paid for the teaching of such knowledge as would go far to prevent the occurrence and spread of those infectious and epidemic diseases, which caused such a large charge on the Department.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (Yorkshire, E. R., Holderness)
supported the request made to the right hon. Gentleman, that he should, if possible, assist the Yorkshire colleges to extend their scientific agricultural education. As scientific investigation made progress, there could be no doubt that agriculture would profit, and he doubted whether money could be better spent than in endeavouring to assist the Yorkshire colleges. The hon. Member for Dundee said that the farmers had lived too extravagantly. No doubt in times past farmers were better off in order to support a particular style of living than they were now. But the sacrifices farmers had made had been tremendous, not only in altering the system of education to which they had been accustomed, but in sending their sons and daughters to a different class of school from that in which they had been educated themselves. It was, therefore, ungenerous as well as unsympathetic to accuse the farmers of a desire to live too extravagantly, or to educate their children too well.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
supported the appeal for more liberal treatment of the agricultural colleges of Wales, especially Bangor College. The travelling Inspectors of the Board of the Agriculture in Wales did not understand the language of the people. The census returns showed that the vast majority of the monoglot population in Wales were drawn from the agricultural districts. It was, therefore, ridiculous and unfair that an inspector should be sent to these districts who did not understand Welsh, and who could not explain to the people, say, the reason for having swine and cattle slaughtered. Men went down to inspect who really knew nothing about the work they were called upon to discharge. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would look into those matters. He 740 could not expect him to do it at once, but he felt confident he would look into it.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS
said, as his hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon had already pointed out, although they in North Wales were fully aware of the good work done for Bangor College, they felt it was not able to do anything like the work they wished it to do. The district he had the honour to represent was purely agricultural. They had established in Denbigh a dairy school, which was well attended, but a dairy school in Denbigh could only serve a small district. On that ground he thought they had a right to appeal for a more generous grant in future. If it was necessary to encourage agriculture in any part of the Kingdom through grants, he believed that they in Wales had a special claim. Though prices had but little improved during the last 80 or 90 years, rents had advanced 51 per cent. In other countries, as the Committee well knew—in America, France, Belgium and other countries—very much more money was granted every year for the purpose of encouraging agriculture and agricultural education than was granted in England. For instance, while in England and Wales £8,000 was granted, in France £131,000 was devoted by the Government for that purpose. In Belgium, a smaller country than Wales, £34,000 was granted. He hoped that the question as a whole would meet with favourable consideration.
MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen West)
desired to associate himself with the remarks which had been made with reference to the ignorance of the Welsh Members shown by the inspectors of the Board of Agriculture. He had experience of the great hardship to which farmers were subjected owing to the inspectors not understanding the language of the people, and he hoped the President of the Board of Agriculture would when the opportunity arose take into consideration the fact that the inspector should have some knowledge of the Welsh language. He wished to say one word with regard to agricultural education. The amount of the grant to Aberystwith was £800, and he ventured to say that sum was quite inadequate 741 for the purpose. The work covered five or six counties, all purely agricultural counties, and £800 was a mere trifle when compared with the work. If a larger grant was given, he was sure the results would be most satisfactory. Agricultural education was to his mind most important. They ought to commence it in the elementary schools. The education would probably be superficial, but it would stimulate interest in the subject in the minds of children. Agricultural education formed a subject of serious consideration in the intermediate schools, especially the Welsh schools, in agricultural districts, and money ought to be used for the purpose of carrying it on in colleges where higher education was given. There was one other observation he had to make, and that was with regard to a report issued by the Board of Agriculture giving information as to what the Americans did, more especially in reference to agricultural education. In America there was an experimental agricultural station, which might be advantageously adopted in this country. In this institution milk, and the different kinds of food for cattle, and agricultural produce, were analysed, as well as plants and herbs, and the results of this analysis were afterwards published for the benefit of the agricultural community generally. He was sure that, if the right hon. Gentleman would give his consideration to this and the other subjects he had mentioned, some good would be done to this great industry, the advancement of which they all so much desired.
§ MR. G. MURNAGHAN (Tyrone, Mid)
said, he approved very strongly of the recommendations of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, but he desired especially to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the country from which he came depended almost entirely on agriculture, and they had not got a Board of Agriculture in Dublin. If such a Board were granted to Ireland at an early date, it would be a great boon to the people, and would be much appreciated by them. In the constituency from which he came there was not one single manufacturing industry. All the people depended on agriculture for a livelihood, and many of them being ignorant, and probably not capable of taking out of the soil all that it was able to give a 742 Board of Agriculture would be a great boon them. It would, he thought, raise the conditions of the agriculture of the country to a very much higher grade.
I do not think the hon. Gentleman can raise the question of the establishment of a Board of Agriculture in Ireland on this Vote. That is a matter of general policy. All the hon. Member can do on this Vote is to challenge the administrative policy of the Board of Agriculture in England.
§ MR. MURNAGHAN
apologised if he was not in order, but being a new Member he was not altogether conversant with the proceedings. He would only say further that he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would do all he could for Ireland in anything that came under his supervision.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS,
dealing with the question of Welsh-speaking inspectors, said, that the principle for which he had always contended, in this and in all other departments, was that officials who came in contact officially with a Welsh-speaking population, should be able to speak Welsh. He drew the attention of the late President of the Board of Agriculture to this question, and the right hon. Gentleman had said that the inspectors were appointed for England and Wales collectively; but that did not remove the grounds of his objection. The late President had promised him that he would do something in the direction of remedying the evil at the first opportunity he could get, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman opposite would be able to repeat that assurance.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
supposed that his right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury was in his place to act as a sort of watch dog, to prevent any of the increases that had been suggested. They were now giving £8,000 for this agricultural education, and as far as he was concerned he should oppose any further grants under this Vote. He remembered that, six or seven years ago, when the cause of Welsh and other Colleges was brought forward, the House in a weak moment appointed a Committee and gave them £15,000. What did he discover last night? That, having made these grants, they were now going to lay down regulations for carrying out the work, and to appoint inspectors. 743 Thus year by year a larger and larger army of officials was created. All that his hon. Friends behind him had been asking for they got in the Science and Art Department. There were in London experts for the teaching of agriculture, and students could come to London, go through the course, and then teach what they had acquired in classes in the country. Instead of increasing this Vote they ought to try to lessen it; and, indeed, we ought to economise our expenditure on education by improved organisation. The same schools were examined by elementary inspectors and by science and art inspectors. All our education ought to be concentrated in one Department, and if it was, a good deal could be saved by better organisation. This was one of the Votes that grew year by year. There appeared to be £3,000 extra for the collection of statistics; but whether it was increase or a change in the arranging of the Estimates he could not make out. Such changes prevented comparisons being made between one year and another. In 1889 an assistant secretary was appointed in the office of the Minister of Agriculture; it was to have been a temporary appointment; it was marked as one not to be filled up in the case of a vacancy; and one would suppose that the temporary purpose for which this appointment was made must have been fulfilled by this time. In six or seven years this Vote had jumped up from £35,000 to £132,000, and since 1889 the salaries and wages had risen from £12,600 to £34,000.
§ * MR. FLYNN
said, that the expenditure for the collection of statistics was £45,600. Some of this money would be more usefully spent in sending practical men to the ports where cattle were imported and landed under conditions that were a disgrace to the carrying companies and to this Department. Cattle from the colonies were often landed suffering from pleuro-puemonia. If the Board of Agriculture was not extended to Ireland its officers should be sent there to see what went on at the cattle exporting stations, which was a disgrace to the Board and the Veterinary Department in Dublin. This would be more useful than tons of Blue-books, reams of foolscap, and any amount of red tape. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ DR. TANNER
pointed out various discrepancies in the amount of the salaries of officials connected with the Veterinary Department, and invited the President of the Board of Agriculture to explain them.
§ * MR. LEWIS
desired to urge that the policy of the Board of Agriculture in regard to compensation for the slaughter of fever-infected swine should be seriously reconsidered. The Maelor district of Flintshire had no markets of its own. The markets were in the adjoining county of Salop, and pigs taken to markets in Shropshire could not be brought back to the district they came from under the present regulations, because Shropshire had been scheduled as an infected area. The consequence was that dealers held back until the close of the market day, and then they were able to buy pigs at "knock down" prices. The inhabitants of the district had suffered great hardship, inconvenience, and loss in consequence. The regulations with regard to swine fever needed modification all over the country. He thought that the system of dealing with this matter in country areas had been found to be a mistake. Numbers of people having small holdings had suffered great loss and inconvenience under that system. He thought that the time had arrived when there ought to be a reversal of the policy that had hitherto been pursued. It was not the Department but Parliament that was responsible for that policy which had cost the country an enormous sum, and had inflicted terrible suffering and hardship upon the agricultural community, through the restrictions which were imposed upon the removal of swine. Poor people who were compelled to find money with which to pay their rent, were obliged to drive their swine into lanes and bystreets, because they were not permitted to take them into the open market, with the result that they were forced to sell their animals at a great loss. He did not think that the results of the policy sanctioned by Parliament two years ago justified the Department in continuing to impose these restrictions upon the removal of swine which were so disastrous to the agricultural community. Of course he could not expect the right hon. Gentleman to make any 745 definite statement upon this subject on that occasion, but he might rely upon it that from all parts of the country where these restrictions were in force a great outcry was raised against them.
§ * MR. WALTER LONG
said, that he thought that it would be more convenient that he should deal with the question of swine fever in the first place. It might well be that the result of the Board performing their duty by imposing restrictions upon the removal of swine had caused great inconvenience, discomfort and loss to the owners of swine in the country, but the Committee must be aware that such a result was unavoidable. The hon. Member had asked him whether the result had justified the continuance of the restrictions. He was glad to be able to inform the hon. Gentleman that the loss occasioned by the disease during the nine weeks ending August 10, as compared with same period in 1894, had fallen from 1,415 in Great Britain to 9,89, and in Ireland from 1,960 to 726. He was bound to say that he could not accept the responsibility for putting an end to the efforts that had been made by his predecessors in the Department to exterminate the disease, notwithstanding that complaints had reached him from many parts of the country with regard to the hardship which the restrictions imposed upon the removal of swine had occasioned to their owners. He, however, could say that he would do his best to minimise the inconvenience and loss which the owners of the animals suffered. In giving such an undertaking he thought that the hon. Member would admit that he was doing all he could at the present moment. With regard to agricultural education, if his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would provide increased funds, he should be most happy to administer them in such a way as to benefit agriculture. He thought that what was required was not so much to increase the vote as between different colleges, but to increase the total sum spent upon agricultural education. With regard to changes in salaries, the sum of £1,000, which used to be paid to the Director of the Veterinary Department was now spread over the other offices. The £1,000 would disappear from the 746 Estimates of the future, but increases had been given to other veterinary officers, those increases being derived from a portion of this £1,000, while a gross saving of about £100 had been effected. The Member for North Cork had referred to the question of cattle transit, which had been already inquired into by the Committee, who made certain recommendations. A new order had recently been issued, which might, he hoped, have some satisfactory result. He himself had already inquired into the position of things, and he was satisfied that there was room for considerable improvement in the health and sanitary surroundings of these animals. It was, therefore, his intention to arrange that inspectors, when available, should go from this country to Ireland and back again in order to be able to see the actual surroundings of the animals on the journey. As the hon. Gentleman was aware, however, it was very desirable not to do anything which would lead the shipowners to increase the cost of freights. The traffic was a tender one, and, although he was determined that everything that could be done in justice and in reason for the health of these animals should be done, yet he would deprecate anything being said or done which would frighten people and lead to a decrease in the trade in store cattle between Great Britain and Ireland. In conclusion, he had to thank the hon. Gentleman who had criticised these estimates for the sympathetic tone which they had adopted, and he hoped that between them they might be able to do something for an industry which had suffered so severely from depression.
§ DR. TANNER
asked how it was that certain veterinary inspectors had been increased, whereas the salaries of veterinary inspectors at home ports appeared the same? Whereas the consulting veterinary officer got his £200 a year, these most important men at the ports received only the same as before.
§ * MR. WALTER LONG
said, that the inspectors at the ports were paid a fixed salary, while the travelling inspectors were paid on the ordinary Civil Service scale, with increments of different amounts, and their salaries increased automatically. The gentleman to whom the hon. Member referred had been head of the veterinary department, and the 747 department would have the advantage of his services for consulting purposes.
§ * MR. FLYNN,
referring to the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion to send inspectors on cattle boats, pointed out that the inspectors ought not to be too well known to those engaged in the trade.
§ * MR. WALTER LONG
said, the increase of £3,000 was a sum of mom voted this year for a return as to small agricultural holdings. He hoped the return would be presented very shortly.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £23,148 to complete the sum for the Charity Commission,
MR GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, Thirsk and Malton)
said, it was quite true there was an increase in the Salaries and Wages Department, which was, however, more apparent than real. The larger part of it was due to the fact that two Assistant Commissioners had been appointed under the Act of 1892 to deal with charities in North and South Wales. The counties of Wales had with great liberality untaken to repay under that Act a very large part of the expense, so that the money would eventually come back to the Treasury. There had been also a natural increase in the salaries of officials who had been a long time at the Commission, but that had been partly accounted for by certain economies. Another increase in salaries was due to the fact that there had been an enormous amount of work thrown on the Commission by the Parish Council Bill.
§ DR. TANNER
said, that was exactly the point he was going to raise, only he had thought it would come better from the hon. Member, whose name was not altogether unconnected with law charges. He pointed out the different items in the Estimate for these charges, in which there was an increase.
§ MR. DALZIEL
asked the hon. Member if the recommendation as to the composition of the Commission, suggested in the Debate in the House last Session, were on record at the Commission Office.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
said, he would make inquiries as to that matter. In regard to the law expenses, it was true there was an increase, but it was hoped that the money would not be required, in which case it would be returned to the Treasury. He did not think the sum of £1,500 for law expenses was a very large item when there was a sum amounting to £50,000 or £60,000 to be dealt with.
§ DR. TANNER
said, he must apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but he could not help rising when the hon. Member raised an objection to the law expenses in connection with the School Department, with which he was known to have some acquaintance.
§ * MR. LEWIS
said, it was distinctly understood, with reference to the question of intermediate education in Wales, that the Government had undertaken to introduce a Bill this Session dealing with the endowment of one particular locality in Wales. He wished to ask the Leader of the House whether he would be prepared to bring in a measure in the present Session to enable the Welsh people to secure their Central Board of Intermediate Education, a matter which was of infinitely greater importance to the Principality than a Bill dealing with one particular parish only. He thought it was possible so to arrange matters that such a Bill might be regarded as non-contentious.
said, the question of the introduction of such a Bill would more properly be raised under the Vote for the Education Department.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that in the circumstances it would be out of order for him to reply to the question of the hon. Member.
§ Vote agreed to.749
§ On the Vote of £23,297 to complete the sum for the Civil Service Commission,
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he desired to make some observations on this Vote, and, seeing that it had been arranged to take Report of Supply at half-past 11 o'clock, he would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House might now move to report Progress.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, it wanted some time yet to the half-hour, and it might be utilised for Supply.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, he would ask the Committee to meet him half way. If it was agreed to pass some uncontroversial Votes, he would consent to postpone the Vote before the House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, his remarks would not extend beyond the half-hour, and perhaps he had better proceed. He wished to draw the attention of the present Government, as he did that of the late Government, to the character of the examinations to which, under the competitive system, candidates for admission to the Civil Service were subjected. He regarded the matter as one of great importance, because the Civil Service had now become the profession of a large number of the most highly-educated young men in the country. The main objection which he had to the examinations was the disproportionate value which was attached to the knowledge of Greek and Latin. He had been going through the Civil Service Guide of Mr. Ewell, one of the best authorities on the subject, and he found that for English language and literature 500 marks were given, and 500 marks also for English composition and precis writing. But for the language, literature and history of Greece 750 marks were given, and the same number of marks for the language, literature, and history of Rome, while for French and German only 375 marks were allowed in each case. It was his opinion that the study of the classics in our universities, colleges, and schools was carried on much further than was necessary, and led to the 750 neglect of more useful knowledge. There were, he dared say, many gentlemen in that house who were graduates of English universities, and well acquainted with Latin and Greek, but who would be quite unable to carry on a conversation in French. The reason why foreigners were so often able to compete successfully with Englishmen in the competition for a livelihood in this country, was their far greater command of modern languages. Nothing was more palpable than the fact that, in respect of a knowledge of modern languages, the Englishman lagged disgracefully far behind the scholars of other countries. He knew that in attacking Latin and Greek as the basis of education, he would come into collision with our established and cherished doctrines. He was not alarmed by that, however, because he had rarely known a Latin or Greek scholar of the first class who was not convinced that he had misspent a large part of his youth in acquiring a knowledge of languages which were useless to him in the struggle for life. He might mention that the late Lord Sherbrooke, himself a great classical scholar, joined in the crusade against the dominance of Latin and Greek. He did not agree that those languages formed the best basis of culture. A man who knew three or four modern languages was, in his opinion, better educated than one who had a superficial knowledge of Latin and a wholly insufficient knowledge of Greek, and few men had more. He believed that a washerwoman in Athens would laugh in the face even of Professor Jebb if he were to attempt to address her in the language which he taught. Mr. Frederic Harrison, one of the best Greek scholars in the country, was unable to make himself intelligible to anyone whom he spoke to in Greece. Meeting a young girl on a hillside, one day, he ventured to address to her words which were well known as occurring in one of Byron's poems, but the maiden did not understand. The allotting of 750 marks to Greek and Latin in Civil Service competitions was a great absurdity. Why should only 500 marks be given for English literature, which was quite as fine as either Greek or Latin literature? Another point to which he wished to draw 751 attention was the desirability of frequently changing the examiners. Crammers studied the examination papers very carefully for a succession of years, and if the same examiners set the papers year after year, were able to stuff students with the information which would probably be required from them. The result was that a really ignorant competitor was often able to beat a student having a far wider and better education. The next matter for consideration was the character of examination papers. The late George Henry Lewes, who had an exceptionally wide knowledge of English literature, and many other subjects, used to say that he would have been unable to answer the examination papers put before his son when he competed for a post in the Civil Service. He would read one or two questions from examination papers set for youths between 18 and 21 years of age. A question in an English paper was—Show that Shakespeare has laid the scenes of each of these plays among surroundings that harmonise with the plot.Now, he would like to see an essay written by the Secretary to the Treasury, when 18 years of age, in 2½ hours on that question, although he was doubtless a very earnest and profound student of Shakespeare. Another question was—"Write an essay on one of the following subjects:—(1) Chinese civilisation." How many Members in the House could write an essay in 2½ hours Chinese civilization?—"Or (2) 'Westward the course of Empire takes its way ;' or (3) The influence of the progress of material civilisation on the prosperous condition of the fine arts." [Laughter.] He asked the right hon. Gentleman, between this and next Session, to look into this matter in order that these great public examinations, to which so many young men looked with ardour and zeal, should in future be conducted in a much more rational manner.
§ * THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
had no difficulty in answering the hon. Gentleman that before next Session he would look into this subject. To a large extent he sympathised with the hon. Gentleman's views. Of course he recollected also that there was a great 752 deal to be said for the study of Latin and Greek as a test of mental capacity. [Cheers.] There were, no doubt, certain professions and callings for which it was not so requisite that a candidate should be crammed up with a certain amount of knowledge as that opportunity should be afforded of seeing what his mental capacity, and on that ground there was still a great deal to be said for Latin and Greek in these examinations. The hon. Gentleman urged that, in order to avoid the possibility of the candidate knowing what sort of papers were likely to be set, there ought to be frequent changes of examiners. That, he believed, was a system which was carried on by the Civil Service Commissioners, and it was with that object that, instead of having a large number of permanent examiners, there were so many assistant examiners, who were changed from time to time. He would undertake to bring the matters referred to by the hon. Gentleman before the Civil Service Commissioners, because most of them were practical suggestions, and the House was indebted to the hon. Gentleman for bringing them forward.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.) (at 11.37) moved to report progress, complaining that the First Lord of the Treasury was not fulfilling his engagement himself to make the Motion at 11.30.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
So far as I am concerned, I wish to say that the right hon. Gentleman has acted in a perfectly frank and fair manner.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
believed the hon, and learned Gentleman was not in the House during the short discussion a quarter of an hour ago.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Quite so; and all I say is that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not here.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I do not pretend to understand the differences of hon. Gentlemen opposite. With these controversies I do not meddle at all. I am ready, however, to fulfil my engagement at once, but I would make an appeal to 753 the hon. and learned Gentleman whether we might not take this and the two following Votes, which are not controversial, in order that on Monday we might begin with the Vote for the Local Government Board. I leave it to him to decide that point.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that he must abide by what he had stated. The decision arrived at the previous night should be adhered to to the letter, and under these circumstances he moved to report Progress.
§ Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again"—put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.