§ £7,000 Miscellaneous Legal Expenses.
§ MR. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, there were some manifestations of impatience and annoyance from the other side of the House when the discussion upon this Vote was carried over from Tuesday last. If justification were wanted for adjourning the discussion, that could be found in that very impatience, and he might further say that the conversation which had just taken place on a matter of personal explanation, increased the necessity for treating the subject as one of considerable Parliamentary importance. The impatience to winch he alluded proceeded from his endeavour to put certain questions to the Government and from the failure of the Government adequately to appreciate the soreness of the public mind in reference to certain circumstances connected with the case of Jabez Balfour, and its indignation at a signal defeat of justice. That failure of the Government to appreciate the attitude of the public mind was evinced on Tuesday in more ways than one. In the first place he protested against the doctrine laid down by the Attorney General, who he thought might have treated the subject with greater gravity than he did—that there was a total absence of continuity between the action of an Attorney General and his successor or predecessor. The learned and distinguished predecessor of the Attorney General, when questioned in the House as to this case, said he could not be answerable for the action of his predecessor.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said he was speaking now of the late Attorney General, who, it would be remembered, said he could not be answerable for the action of his predecessor, and the answer of the present Attorney General was in the same direction. Such a doctrine, however, was not consistent with Ministerial and Parliamentary practice. He felt bound to say that, even if it were possible for the Attorney General to plead either from want of records, or on the doctrine of non-continuity of administrative responsibility, that it was impossible for him to answer, still in this case he might stretch a point on account of the public feeling he had referred to. If that doctrine were accepted, then Ministerial responsibility would become attenuated until it became beautifully small and disappeared altogether. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs made an admirable statement so far as it went, but really it was a starting-point to ask for further information. The Committee were glad to hear that the vigour of Her Majesty's Government had obtained the ratification of the inchoate Treaty of Extradition. They were also glad to learn that the Government were seconded—and there was no reason to doubt the loyalty of the Argentine Government—that in putting pressure on the Provincial Government to have these proceedings against Jabez Balfour effectually prosecuted, they had the support of the Argentine Federal Government. What he wished to criticise was the statement of the Under Secretary as regards this prosecution in its latest developments, that the Government could not be expected to make inquiries or communications. To that position he took exception. He did not call upon the Government to put vexatious questions.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir E. GREY, Berwick-on-Tweed)
I did not mean to imply that. What I intended to say, and what I think I said, was that Her Majesty's Government have no means of knowing the details of this action or of investigating them, for these could only be gone into in the Provincial Court. I did not mean to imply that we 575 could not make all possible inquiries before the case was tried.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, it was not necessary that vexatious questions should be put to Argentina which might compromise the dignity of that Government, and still less that any question should imply doubt of the bona fides of that Government; but, considering that Her Majesty's Government had for many months an experienced officer representing them in the territory, and that he had lately returned and would be replaced by another, and seeing that we had a Consular officer also, he could not altogether assent to the proposition that the Government had not the means of getting more information than they seemed to have got. Having the means of getting it, it was their duty to get it and above all to show that they had got it. He made no comment as to whether the charge was genuine or not, but proceeded to give further examples of the points which were not cleared up on Tuesday last. Two facts he gathered from statements then made which carried with them some reassurance—first, that Jabez Balfour was in custody, and not merely under a technical arrest from which he might escape; and, secondly, that the local prosecution if not taken on the initiative of the Provincial Government was managed by the Provincial Government. That was not all they wanted to know. Of course, every prosecution must be on the initiative of the individual sufferer, but was there any serious probability that the energy and means of giving testimony would be effectively forthcoming? The prosecution was being managed by the Provincial Government, but was it assisted by the resources of that Government, or was the animus, or want of animus in the matter, left to the individual prosecutor? The hon. Gentleman spoke of the legal vacation having interposed unexpected and regrettable delay. In this country criminal proceedings were not interfered with in this way, though civil proceedings might be. He was bound to say that one did hear rumours about this case which one would be glad not to hear, such, for instance, as that the papers necessary to the Salta prosecution had been lost: and all would be glad to know what the nature of the 576 charges brought against Jabez Balfour in Argentina were. He thought the Government had no reason to complain if, in a matter which gave rise to so much public uneasiness, hon. Members wished to emphasise the inquiries that were being made, by attributing to them as much Parliamentary importance as they could.
MR. JESSECOLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley),
hoped that Members on both sides of the House would do their best to extract from the Government something more satisfactory—something more evidencing their determination to get at the bottom of this matter—than they had hitherto produced; for, although they might get this Vote, that would not finish the matter, because the numerous victims look to the Government to do something in their interest, and in the interest of public morality. The feeling in the matter was very strong, and he was sure it would increase until something more definite was done by the Government. The replies given on Tuesday night on behalf of the Government were most unsatisfactory. The Attorney General turned his mind to charges, which he did not understand to have been made, of bad faith on the part of the Government, and of their having winked at the escape of Balfour. The charge made was that the Government had shown a certain laxity in the pursuit of this question, and he was bound to say that the feeling which largely prevailed outside, and to a great extent in the House, would be greatly confirmed and increased by the inadequacy of the replies from the Front Bench. The reply of the Under Secretary was eminently unsatisfactory. The hon. Gentleman said that the Government were going to conceal nothing. If they had told the House all they knew, the charge of laxity and want of determination in carrying the matter through had been abundantly proved. It was quite true, as the Under Secretary had said, that there was a provincial Government in Argentina that overruled the central Government, a sort of Home Rule Government that paralysed the action of the law of the land. The Attorney General said that the charge against Balfour was some sort of fraud on a brewer. The House would like to know whether it was a real charge or a collusive charge, made to 577 defeat the law, whether Balfour was arrested on that charge or whether he was left free to enjoy himself, as it appeared he had been. They would also like to know, when Balfour took up his residence at Salta, and what steps had been taken by the agents of the Government in Argentina to ascertain how the case was proceeding. They were told by the Under Secretary that the Government had no knowledge of the matter, and, further, that they could not know anything about it. It was simply playing with the House to talk in that manner, and he hoped that an attempt would be made to extract a promise that there should be a fresh departure and an energetic effort made to bring about a settlement. He felt sure that if the Scotland Yard authorities had not been hampered by the Government they would have had Balfour back long before this. There was an impression outside the House that if the Government were to speak to the Argentine Government in a certain tone and let them know that, instead of pursuing this matter in a perfunctory manner, they treated it as a matter of the highest importance which they were determined to prosecute with energy, Jabex Balfour would immediately make his appearance; but so long as it was carried on from month to month with no more energy than was displayed in the speeches of the Attorney General and the Under Secretary, Jabez Balfour would never come back. He hoped the House would get from the Front Bench an undertaking in a different spirit, and he trusted that his hon. Friend the Member for Deptford would go to a Division if only to mark the fact that both sides of the House of Commons had a living sympathy with the hundreds and thousands of victims who had been reduced to penury and want, and that the House, whatever the attitude of the Government might be, would do its very best to get this man back to take his trial for what he had done.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir K. T. REID, Dumfries)
said, that it was the desire of the Government to give all the information they possessed on this matter. He understood on Tuesday night that there was a suggestion of laxity in the proceedings with regard to this person, by which he was enabled to go away and stay away. So far as his 578 remaining in Argentina was concerned after he first got there, that was a matter on which the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had spoken, and in regard to which he said —and he was quite certain it was the truth—that every effort that could be made had been made to secure his return. It had been suggested that there had been proceedings of a collusive and criminal character in Argentina, but a moment's reflection would show that, that could not be prevented or controlled from England. Those proceedings were exclusively under the jurisdiction of the Courts in Argentina, and they had decided that they could not surrender this individual until he had answered the criminal charges made against him in that country. As to the suggestion that there had been laxity in allowing this man to go abroad in the winter of 1892, shortly after the Liberator and other Companies had failed, the matter came into the hands of the Official Receiver of the Board of Trade for the purpose of inquiring into the whole of the circumstances. When the Official Receiver determined that there was ground to prosecute Hobbs and Wright, neither he nor the Attorney General of the day was possessed of materials which afforded ground for criminal proceedings against Jabez Balfour. Hon. Gentlemen could have no idea of the complexity of this case. He had himself had to go through enormous masses of correspondence. When Hobbs and Wright were prosecuted on comparatively simple issues extracted from the great volume of matter that existed, there was no material that would warrant proceedings against Jabez Balfour, or enable Her Majesty's Government to commit him, or to interfere with his liberty in any way. In December 1892 Hobbs and Wright were arrested, and immediately after that Jabez Balfour left the country. Everyone familar with criminal proceedings knew that if there was no material for initiating criminal proceedings against a man, he could not be detained. From the moment when materials did come into the hands of the Attorney General, he felt the utmost anxiety that the proper course should be adopted. In point of that, it was then impossible to get Jabez Balfour back, and the difficult question which had to be considered was, what time to select for taking steps 579 against any directors of other companies who were connected with these affairs. It was hoped from month to month that news would come of the order for the extradition of Jabez Balfour, and that he would return. It was, however, not till October 1894 that the final order of extradition was made by the Court of Appeal, and then succeeded those other criminal proceedings in Argentina, to which it was decided precedence should be given. As soon as it became apparent that a further delay of an indefinite character was to be interposed before the extradition, the proceedings against other directors were ordered. They were ordered in the beginning of January, and were now going on. It was not until December 1894 that the Law Officers came to the conclusion that it was hopeless to expect the return of Jabez Balfour until further delay should have occurred. The informations against the individuals charged were prepared partially before December, and the final directions for a prosecution were given on January 9 of this year. There was thus a delay on account of the hopes entertained that Jabez Balfour would be brought back to stand his trial with the other parties, but that delay had done no harm at all, because the parties charged had all appeared, and were now before a police magistrate. He believed that any hon. Members who had taken part in that discussion would probably have acted in this matter, if they had been responsible, just as successive Attorneys General had acted. There was no Member of the Government who would fail to sympathise with those who had suffered losses through these defalcations, but it would ill become one who would probably have to conduct the prosecution against the parties charged to express any opinion. as to their guilt or innocence. There was no Member of the Government who did not desire that Jabez Balfour might be brought back to this country as soon as possible, in order that he might either be acquitted or convicted before a court of justice.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
explained, that hon. Members on his side of the House had no wish to blame in any way the Law Officers of the Crown. Their accusation was against the Foreign 580 Department, which was showing a want of political energy and diplomatic capacity. South American Republics shared largely the characteristics and disposition of Eastern peoples, and every man who had served in Asia knew how much diplomatic pressure by such a Power as England could effect. It was his opinion, therefore, that if the voice of England had spoken in proper tones to the Argentine Republic, Jabez Balfour would have been given up long ago. Mere feeble correspondence would not avail, for the Government of Argentina would be anxious to keep him in the country as long as he had money to spend in its law courts. What was the character of the provincial tribunal which was detaining Jabez Balfour? The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had exposed the ignorance of his Department in this affair; but, at all events, the Argentine Government could be asked specifically what were the charges brought against Jabez Balfour in the Provincial Courts. They would then be able to judge whether those charges were real and earnest, or shadowy and unsubstantial. Supposing there should be any collusion on the other side of the Atlantic with the object of keeping Jabez Balfour there, how easy it would be for him to plead guilty to some charge before a Provincial Court, and then to escape while undergoining some nominal imprisonment! In that case we might never see him again. There was a deeply-rooted suspicion in many minds that, while there might be parties in Argentina who were interested in keeping Jabez Balfour there, there were also persons in this country who were similarly interested. That House, which was the grand inquest of the nation, ought not to be satisfied with such speeches as had been delivered from the Treasury Bench, and as a Sovereign Assembly it ought to insist upon the Government taking more vigorous measures.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
asked, whether they were to understand that information, which was not in the possession of the authorities in December 1892, had reached the law advisers since that time. He referred to information which had enabled them to formulate charges against certain parties. The hon. and learned Gentleman 581 would remember that, in the month of November 1892, a Report was issued from the Board of Trade, but was not made public. There was an idea in many people's minds that that Report itself contained sufficiently grave material to warrant the taking of proceedings. It would be interesting to know whether it was upon information subsequently obtained that the proceedings now going on had been initiated.
§ SIR R. T. REID
replied that he had been informed from official sources that when Hobbs and Wright were arrested and Jabez Balfour fled there was no material before the Public Prosecutor which would have warranted additional criminal proceedings.
§ SIR R. E. WEBSTER
thanked the hon. and learned Gentleman for his statement. It was important, because it disposed once and for ever of the idea that prompter efforts might have been made to bring Jabez Balfour to justice. As to the conduct of the Foreign Office he could say nothing except that he quite understood that it was no easy matter to arrange affairs of this kind when one had to deal with South American Governments and Courts of Justice.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said, that various complaints had been made this evening to the effect that he had not given certain specific information in his former speech on the case of Mr. Jabez Balfour. And, first of all, in reference to the complaint of the hon. Member for Kingston, as to want of diplomatic energy, as to making the voice of England heard in such peremptory terms as should secure the surrender of the man who was alleged to have committed a criminal offence, he begged him to remember that under the late Government, as was fully stated in Parliamentary Paper No. 193, Argentine Republic, there had been instances where they had been unable to secure a surrender. What was more, the late Government were unable to secure the execution of an Extradition Treaty betwen Argentina and the Government of this country. The present Government had improved that position. They had secured the ratification of a Treaty, which had now come into force, and which had never existed before, because the Legislature of Argentina had not been willing to sanction its 582 ratification. That, at any rate, was some evidence of diplomatic energy and activity on the part of Her Majesty's present Government. The proceedings against Mr. Jabez Balfour under the Extradition Treaty, he admitted, seemed to him to be prolonged—he could not say unduly so, because he was not sufficiently cognisant of the legal and constitutional arguments involved; but certainly to a greater length than Her Majesty's Government wished. They had cost large sums of money, but they were eventually decided in our favour. Subsequently a charge had been brought against Mr. Jabez Balfour in the Provincial Court of Salta, and the construction put upon the Treaty was, that the Provincial Court was entitled to investigate that charge before they surrendered Mr. Jabez Balfour to the Federal authorities. The charge was, that Mr. Jabez Balfour had entered into a contract to purchase a brewery, or into such a contract connected with a brewery, that he bound himself down to pay a considerable sum of money to a certain individual on a certain date last year, that he failed to pay, and that he entered into the contract under an assumed name.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
thought the amount was £30,000. The reason why he did not enter fully into details regarding this charge in his former speech was that that was not the real point of the difficulty. The difficulty was, that the Procurator Fiscal in the province of Salta insisted on pressing this charge, and said it was necessary to have the charge threshed out.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
replied, that that was perfectly true, but the difficulty remained that the Provincial authorities insisted oil pressing the charge in their own Court. Now, Her Majesty's Government had represented to the Federal Government that there ought not to be delay in finishing the case one way or other in the Provincial Court; and the Federal Government, which has strictly prescribed constitutional relations with the Provincial authorities, had more than 583 once pressed that view upon the Provincial authorities. If the case ended in favour of Mr. Jabez Balfour, the Provincial authorities were bound to surrender him to the Federal authority, who, in turn, were bound by the decision under the Treaty to surrender him to us without any delay. As to whether there was any chance of his escape while under this charge, whether this was or was not a collusive action, whether there was undue delay in pressing this case—these were matters which concerned most intimately the honour of the Argentine Government. The point on which it was right and sensible and just that Her Majesty's Government should concentrate their efforts was, that there should not be delay in either convicting or acquitting Balfour of the charge. There would be no reluctance on the part of Her Majesty's Government to press that point. He had only to add, on the general question, that though he did not know whether Mr. Jabez Balfour was innocent or guilty of the charges brought against him in this country, but having regard to the nature of those charges—that he was alleged to be the cause of bringing ruin and misery, deep and widespead, into many homes, even in remote and poor villages of the country—in the interests of justice and for the satisfaction of everybody throughout the country, who had suffered under the effects of that which he was alleged to have been the cause, it was of the first importance that he should be surrendered and brought to trial in this country.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, his hon. Friend had brought the point at issue very clearly before the Committee, but what the House of Commons wanted to know was whether the new charge brought against Jabez Balfour was a collusive charge or not. Surely, with the information at their disposal, the Government could form a pretty clear idea upon that point. They must have made up their minds whether this charge, which bore a most suspicious appearance, to say the least of it, was or was not collusive. Because, look at the position, not only in regard to Balfour, but every other criminal who escaped to the Argentine Republic. The Under Secretary made it very properly a boast that the Government had been 584 able to obtain the ratification of an Extradition Treaty. But the Treaty was a dead letter. For the moment the Government applied for the extradition of this particular person under the Treaty, some trumpery and ridiculous charge was set up in the Provincial Court, and he was, thereupon, withheld altogether from us. The Under Secretary said the Government would press the case; but, unless the pressure was of a very different kind from anything exerted up to the present time, it was perfectly certain it would be of no avail. But suppose that this new charge was brought to trial, and suppose Mr. Jabez Balfour pleaded guilty—why, he might have arranged his fall, he might have chosen the bed on which he was to lie, he might know the sort of imprisonment which this Provincial Government would extend to him; and in this way the matter might be so conducted by callusion with the Provincial authorities that, after Mr. Jabez Balfour had pleaded guilty in Argentina, he might escape with practically no punishment, and we should never be able to get him back to this country. An hon. Friend near him suggested another possibility, which was that as soon as Mr. Jabez Balfour had been acquitted upon one collusive charge a new collusive charge might be brought, and so on ad infinitum. He would be the most heavily charged man in the world, but the result would be that he would never be punished for any single one of those charges. The practical question was, what ought to be done. He thoroughly agreed with the hon. Member for Kingston that these countries were extremely susceptible to the opinion of European countries, and that in Argentina especially, they were likely to be particularly susceptible to the opinion of the British House of Commons and the British people. Now, had the Federal Government, under the Constitution of Argentina, no control whatever over the Procurator Fiscal?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
was understood to say that they had no control over the Procurator Fiscal of the Provincial Government.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Therefore, as far as these proceedings were concerned, the local Government was absolutely independent of the Federal 585 Government, and the local Government, under this system of home rule, might make absolutely of no avail a solemn international agreement of the Federal Government. He wished they had known that two years ago. It would have been a most admirable illustration. But, even if such were the case, he would still submit that the Federal Government must have a good deal of moral influence with the Provincial Government, and would be able in some way, financial or otherwise, to make its opinion respected. Therefore, he still thought our first duty was to make our opinion known and, if possible, respected by the Federal Government. Under ordinary circumstances it was quite true that they did not interfere at all in civil and criminal proceedings in another country, but when their subjects were concerned, when great interests were involved, when there was reason to believe, either that there was collusion or improper and illegal practices or unnecessary delay, or where there was an evident intention to evade the treaty—in all these cases there had been made solemn protests. Up to the present time there had been nothing apparently but the most ordinary diplomatic intercourse. They thought it time that that should cease, and something stronger should be said. They thought if the Government even made an appeal to the commonsense and good feeling of civilised Europe, in regard to matters of this kind, it might be to some effect. It was a perfect disgrace for any Government, which called itself civilised, to be sheltering a criminal or one who was accused of such offences as this man. All this ought to be brought out by the Government. If it were really powerless it should be clearly manifested that everything had been done, the conduct of the Argentine Government and of the Provincial Government should be made clear to the world, and that should be followed up by the strongest terms in which Diplomacy ever indulged. That was the point at issue between the two sides, and unless they could have an assurance from the Government that much stronger action would be taken in the immediate future—and not in so many months or years hence—he should certainly follow his hon. Friend opposite into the Lobby.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
remarked, that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had attempted to ride off on the point whether, under this Treaty, extradition could be granted. But there was a larger and more important question, which was whether, Treaty or no Treaty, under international comity they should not be able to get this fugitive from justice? For years they had no Extradition Treaty with Portugal, but whenever they wanted a criminal who had fled to that country, he was handed over to them under the comity of nations. In this particular case the Government said they could not get Jabez Balfour, because there was difficulty about the Extradition Treaty. But he was offered to them. The Minister for Foreign Affairs at Buenos Ayres, writing on 25th February 1893, said:—If you present a demand for extradition, accompanied by the offer of reciprocity, this Ministry will hasten to comply with it, provided the necessary documents are enclosed therewith.So that two years ago, this Ministry might have had Jabez Balfour if they would have promised, on their part, to return any Jabez Balfours from Argentina, who might be in this country. Under these circumstances, it was not possible for the Foreign Office to shelter itself under the Treaty. The hon. Baronet had said that the late Government tried to get a fugitive after the Treaty had been signed, but before it was ratified, and failed. Yes, but that was a fugitive of the vulgar ordinary dimensions—a common-place forger, named Cope—whilst this was a criminal of colossal and national dimensions; and the effort that would have been adequate for a Cope was, by no means, adequate in the case of a Jabez Balfour. He did not know upon what construction of the Treaty itself it was possible for the Argentine Government to refuse the extradition of Balfour at this moment. He presumed it was under Article 4. But Article 4—which was monstrously mis-translated, as was invariably the case with these documents in the Foreign Office—said:—If a person claimed, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, or on the part of the Government of the Argentine Republic, should he under examination (the word should be detained, the Spanish word being detenido) for any other crime, in the Argentine Republic or the 587 United Kingdom respectively, his extradition shall be deferred until the conclusion of the trial, and full execution of any punishment awarded to him.But, when he was claimed, Balfour was not detained or under examination. This new charge was not made for months after he was claimed by the English Government, and it was not until the claim of Her Majesty's Government was admitted by the Federal Government, and the order of extradition had been issued by the Federal Government, that the present charge was made. How was it possible, thereupon, to apply Article 4 to the case? Under no possible construction could it apply, and under this very Article, as well as under the rest of the Treaty, Jabez Balfour ought certainly to be given up to Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Baronet had claimed credit for the ratification of this Treaty, but if the Extradition Treaty was to be of no more effect than this they had better have none at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had shown how, by a succession of charges made one after another, in case Jabez should have the misfortune to be acquitted on one he would get his friends to make another, and the result would be quite interminable. When they were making a Treaty with the Federal Government, and when they knew that the Federal had no control over the Provincial Government, the business of the English Government was either to make an Extradition Treat with each of the Provincial Governments, or else require, as a preliminary to their Extradition Treaty with the Federal Government that it should make one with each Provincial Government, otherwise the Extradition Treaty might be valueless or might be defeated by the perfectly honest but mistaken action of the Provincial Governments. The hon. Baronet, as he had said, claimed credit for having secured the ratification of the Treaty, but he should rather come down to the House in a white sheet and express shame and regret at having made such an illusory and delusive instrument. The ignorance of the Government had been most considerable and most ample throughout this business. On the 31st January 1893, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not know that there was 588 any case against Balfour for fraud. When the right hon. Gentleman was asked why he had given the Chiltern Hundreds to Jabez Balfour, he replied: "I had no means of knowing he had committed a series of frauds." Well, everybody else knew that, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not. The Treaty had failed, and the expenditure of the £6,400 had failed. This sum had been very badly expended, for he would undertake to say that any competent financier who had to get Jabez Balfour back to this country would have got him back for £4,000 or £5,000 without the slightest difficulty and without any Treaty whatever. The fact that the Government had spent £6,400, and were still without their absent friend, proved that they did not know how to spend the money of the country. He thought the Government were becoming aware of the importance of this question. He noticed that the Under Secretary was very warm in his answer the other night, and he now understood the reason. The hon. Baronet in his guilty conscience knew he had failed where he ought to have succeeded. He knew the hon. Baronet was as able a man as they had had at his post, but like all other Under Secretaries he was the plaything, the victim, and the slave of the Office, and the failure was the failure of the Office. But this £6,400 had to be provided by the House. He, for one, would be no party to providing money for a failure of this kind, and if his hon. Friend went to a Division he should certainly vote with him. There had been and still was a serious and grave aspect of suspicion over the whole of this case, and that was the reason why not less, but more caution should have been exercised by the Government, and why not less, but more ability should have been shown. He believed that if the Government had exercised proper pressure on the Argentine Republic, Jabez Balfour would have been in this country long ago. The Government sent ships to ports of other countries in order to protect or enforce the claims of British subjects, and surely they could show equal energy to obtain so great a criminal as this.
§ MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
observed that the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had not 589 very distinctly told them what he wished the Government to do. So far as he understood the hon. Member, he said he, as a competent financier, would be ready to take a contract for the return of Jabez Balfour to England, and he explained to them how he would do it. He would go in command of a ship, or a yacht, or something of that sort. He had no doubt the Government would enter into reasonable terms with the hon. Member if he would do the thing cheaply and effectively, and with some sort of guarantee that he possessed all sorts of facilities for bringing back Jabez Balfour, or for joining him in Argentina. The hon. Gentleman had blamed the Government for not having agreed to the proposal of the Argentine Government, that they would give up Balfour on condition that the Government of this country would equally give up any Argentine fugitive from justice who had come to England. They knew perfectly well that political matters were mixed up with the offence of every fugitive from justice from South America, and he was, therefore, glad that the Government did not take upon themselves the obligation to surrender such offenders. The hon. Gentleman also complained of the Chancellor of the Exchequer having said that when he gave the Chiltern Hundreds to Jabez Balfour, he had no means of knowing that he had committed any offence. But what means of knowing could the right hon. Gentleman have had? The right hon. Gentleman might have read in the newspapers that something had occurred in connection with the Balfour Companies, but it would be absurd if, on a general statement like that, the Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to give Balfour the Chiltern Hundreds. In fact, he was very glad the right hon. Gentleman gave the thing to Balfour, because it relieved them of the presence of the man. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham seemed to be under the impression that Balfour had necessarily escaped by getting a collusive action brought against him. But how did the right hon. Gentleman know that?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said it was perfectly true that Balfour was the sort 590 of man to get up collusive proceedings; but, on the other hand, it was extremely probable that, having arrived in Argentina, Balfour commenced to rob there just as he had robbed here; and, therefore, it was not at all clear that the proceedings were collusive. He would point out further, that the Argentine Republic was in this matter precisely in the same position as the United States. If we were to demand the extradition of anyone in the United States, and if the Attorney General of any particular State were to bring an action against that individual, the United States would be obliged to wait until he had purged himself of that particular offence before they could take measures to have him sent back to England. The same provision existed in all our own Extradition Treaties. Therefore, though he should be very glad to see Balfour brought back to this country, he could not see that the Government had been in any way remiss in the matter.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said, there was just one new point raised by the hon, Member for King's Lynn to which he desired to reply. The hon. Gentleman said that two years ago the Argentine Republic were ready to extradite Jabez Balfour if the Government promised reciprocity. But if the Government had done so they would have given a promise they could not have fulfilled. In the very same paper from which the hon. Gentleman quoted, there was a communication from Lord Salisbury as Foreign Secretary, dated 16th September, 1890, in reference to the case of James Cope, who was wanted for forgery and embezzlement, and had escaped to Argentina. Lord Salisbury pointed out that in applying for the surrender of Cope, the Government were not in a position to promise reciprocity, because the law of extradition did not enable them to extradite fugitives from Countries with which Great Britain had not concluded treaties.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
said, Lord Salisbury, nevertheless, concluded his communication by asking for the surrender of Cope as an act of international comity. Why did not the present Government do that in the case of Jabez Balfour?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Because the Argentine Republic refused to surrender Cope as an act of international comity.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, he thought this matter should be debated without the introduction of matters which prevent hon. Members from taking an impartial view of it. He failed to grasp the significance which the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs seemed to attach to the refusal of the Argentine Republic to surrender Cope in the time of Lord Salisbury's Government. The Liberator frauds were of world-wide notoriety, and he hardly thought it probable that the Argentine Republic would be likely to have treated an application for the surrender of Jabez Balfour on the same ground as they treated the application for the surrender of an obscure criminal, of whose existence the rest of the world were unaware. He might appropriately, by way of illustration, mention that there was an international reciprocity prevailing amongst the sporting communities of the world, by means of which a person guilty of an offence against the turf laws of one country, was debarred from exercising his calling in any other country; and it was only fair to the Foreign Office that it should be known, as evidence of difficulties to be contended with in the case now under discussion, that the only country in the wide world in which this international system of turf comity did not prevail, was the Argentine Republic. It fell to his lot a few years ago, while discharging official duties in connection with the chief turf authority in England——
Order, order. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that his argument does not apply.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
only mentioned the matter to show that there were difficulties in the way of the Foreign Office in dealing with the public spirit and public opinion of the Argentine Republic which he was bound in fairness to state. But he should add that he believed that if some firmness had been displayed by the Government the surrender of this criminal would have been long since attained. Some earnestness of our intention to obtain the surrender of Balfour should have been shown to the Argentine Republic. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton asked what evidence there was that the charge now preferred 592 against Balfour in that country was collusive. Why, the charge—some trifling alleged fraud—was the laughingstock of the world. It was a notorious fact that the witnesses on which the public prosecutor relied had run away, and that therefore all his evidence had disappeared. The House expected some assurance from the Government that when those bogus proceedings against Balfour came to an inevitable collapse they would see that that individual did not remove himself to some other and more secure part of the Argentine or some of the other neighbouring Republics. The Member for Haggerston made some statements which he thought he was justified in making, as to the supply of funds to Jabez Balfour from a particular source, and he did not understand that the denial which was given to imply that some assistance had not been afforded from some source or other during the absence of the fugitive. He thought prompt and immediate steps should be taken—without anything in the shape of coercive action or naval demonstration, such as his hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn expressed his readiness to contract—to show that we were in earnest in the matter of this surrender.
§ SIR D. H. MACFARLANE (Argyll)
said that there was not sufficient evidence to justify Her Majesty's Government in charging a friendly Government with deliberate fraud. The whole gist of the question lay in the absence of proof of collusion on the part of the Argentine Republic. They, most of them, believed that it was not altogether a straightforward prosecution, but they were not able to prove that, and therefore Her Majesty's Government had practically no power, and it was useless to discuss the question at great length.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
asked if the Report of the proceedings which took place at Salta would be laid upon the Table. He thought it was very necessary that hon. Members should have an opportunity of reading them. Neither side of the House, he thought, made any charge against the Argentine Government. The real fact was, as had been stated by Mr. Welby, at Buenos Ayres, the good fame of the Argentine Republic demanded that 593 the country should not be used as a refuse for criminals. If this matter were pressed energetically on the Federal Government of Argentina he believed Jabez Balfour would, before very long, be extradited.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said, the matter had now arrived at a point at which the public had a right to expect that there should not be longer delay in dealing with the case. As soon as the point had been reached at which the proceedings should terminate, or any serious cause of complaint that delay had occurred arose, they should be prepared to publish papers.
§ SIR A. K. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said the whole principle, in dealing with extradition, was based to a large extent on the degree and character of the offence. He heartily concurred in what had been said as to the excessive tenderness on the part of other Governments and our own in dealing with matters of extradition. Why should there be any unwillingness to surrender criminals? It was the duty of the Foreign Office to be vigilant in securing the power of extradition. There were some cases in which extradition treaties did not exist between our own and foreign countries, and he hoped that there would be no delay in obtaining these treaties.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
asked the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs if an efficient watch was being kept over the fugitive. He had read statements in the newspapers to the effect that the inspector in charge of the case had returned to this country, but he supposed arrangements had been made for another to take his place?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said another officer immediately took the place of the inspector who had left Argentina. He thought he ought, in order to prevent any mistake, to say that of course the responsibility for the detention of Jabez Balfour must rest with the Argentine Republic, and that this country could not possibly exercise any administrative power in Argentina.
§ MR. C. J. DARLING (Deptford)
said he did not think the majority of those on the same side of the House as himself were satisfied that the Government had done as much as possible to secure the extradition of this accused person, and under the circumstances he 594 thought it was absolutely necessary to go to a Division on the matter. The other night, in answering his remarks, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs appeared particularly anxious to have it understood that he, and others acting with him, were perfectly satisfied of the honesty of Her Majesty's Government in this matter. He, of course, could never have intended to impute any want of honesty to them. Why, one of the last acts of Mr. Jabez Balfour before he went away was to constitute a company that had for its object the guaranteeing of the honesty of persons in positions of trust and confidence. In the formation of that company there were associated with Mr. Jabez Balfour two Members of the present Government, and Mr. Francis Schnadhorst. How was it possible, then, to doubt the honesty of those who were prepared to guarantee the honesty of others? He concluded by moving to reduce the vote by £5,000.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 106; Noes, 167.—(Division List, No. 21.)
§ MR. H. S. FOSTER (Lowestoft, Suffolk)
wished to put a question to the Government with reference to the very peculiar case of Dr. Herz. The money of the British taxpayers was still being spent in maintaining the arrest of Dr. Herz, and apparently in perfectly futile proceedings. He would repeat the question which had been already asked whether the Government could not bring in a short Bill to enable the Bow Street magistrate to go to Bournemouth, where Dr. Herz was lying ill, and hear the case there, or make a representation to the French Government expressing their opinion that the time had come when the proceedings against this man should be dropped. Apart from the cruelty inflicted upon the man himself, he thought some decisive course should be taken in the matter.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT, Derby)
said, the Government were fully alive to the expense and inconvenience of the present situation, and they would carefully consider what course could best be taken for bringing the matter to a termination.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)
complained that the Estimates gave no details of the kind of expenses, legal and otherwise, charged in connection with the extradition proceedings against Jabez Balfour. Usually a footnote was inserted giving the items, but it was absent in this case. No information was given to show how much of the sum charged in the estimate was expended in the actual extradition proceedings, or how much of it was absorbed in Home Office expenses.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, the sum of £4,000 or £5,000 seemed to be an enormous amount for counsel's fees in this abortive attempt to secure the extradition of Jabez Balfour. Had the money been paid to Argentine counsel or to English counsel sent out to conduct the proceedings? At any rate, the money had been spent in unsuccessful litigation, and in the circumstances the Committee ought to have further information.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
wished to correct a misapprehension under which the Attorney General laboured, in his reply on Tuesday night. He did not accuse the Government of winking at this case. That serious charge was made by the hon. Member for Haggerston, who sat behind the Government. His charge was that the Government had shown considerable and even gross neglect of opportunities, which a keen and active Government would not have lost, for preventing Jabez Balfour from escaping from this country, and thus of avoiding all these expenses. The Report of the Official Receiver was made in October or November 1892, and was in the hands of the Board of Trade some time before Jabez Balfour applied for the Chiltern Hundreds. The general fact was brought to the knowledge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the application for the Chiltern Hundreds, but when the right hon. Gentleman was pressed in January 1893 to explain how he came to allow this notorious person to receive the Chiltern Hundreds, and why the Government did not take steps at least to have him watched, the Chancellor of the Exchequer could only say that he had no alternative but to grant the Chiltern Hundreds. That, however, did not explain the inaction of the Law Officers 596 and the Board of Trade during the period after the Official Receiver's Report was made. Someone must be responsible. Hon. Members would recollect how the House was put off during the whole of last year with flippant answers to every question addressed to the Government on the subject. Sixteen months were allowed to pass before the Government made up their minds to prosecute those responsible with Jabez Balfour for these alleged frauds. He did not blame the present Attorney General, but one or other of his predecessors must be responsible, as well as either the present or the late President of the Board of Trade. It was impossible that the Government as a whole could escape responsibility for the delay in attempting to prevent Jabez Balfour's escape; possibly for delay in pressing the Argentine Government for his extradition; and, certainly for delay in deciding to prosecute those who were responsible with Jabez Balfour. It was on account of that delay that he had charged the Government with neglect, and that charge he repeated now.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said, he was in error in stating £30,000 as the sum involved in the proceedings against Jabez Balfour at Salta. He ought to have said £3,000.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir J. T. HIBBERT, Oldham)
assured the hon. Member for Islington that he did not desire to say anything in the least offensive to him. The hon. Member objected to this expenditure, because he said it was abortive. This £4,000 was paid to a first-class counsel in Argentina, in respect of all law charges there. To say that the efforts of the learned Gentleman were I entirely unsuccessful was not quite correct, because he succeeded in obtaining a decision that Jabez Balfour could be extradited under the Treaty.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
asked whether the action in reference to the £3,000 at Salta, was not a civil action?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said, he understood there was a civil action. It had been withdrawn, but inasmuch as Jabez Balfour entered into the contract under an assumed name, he was on that ground charged with fraud.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, that that comes to this—that the civil action 597 having been withdrawn, nothing remains but this charge of fraud trumped up by the Procurator Fiscal?
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Surely, that is most absurd. There ought to be the strongest protest agains these proceedings.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
asked whether Jabez Balfour was under detention on the charge of using a false name, because, under the Treaty, that was the only bar to an application for extradition.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
Then it comes to this—that the only thing that prevents Jabez Balfour from coming back to his friends is, that he has used a false name in Argentina.
Mr. JAMES LOWTHER
said, he did not quite understand the Under Secretary's statement that the police officer now charged with the special duty of watching Jabez Balfour, had no administrative powers. Of course he did not suppose that Balfour was in the custody of this officer, but what was the officer's position? Had he any authority from the Federal Government or the Provincial Governments, or any means whatever of watching Balfour's movements. Did he "shadow" him? Was his status and position recognised in any way, either by the authorities of the Republic or of Salta. There was a general belief that as soon as these collusive proceedings were at an end the vigilance of the Salta authorities would cease and Balfour would become a free man.
Mr. JAMES LOWTHER
said, Balfour had been handed over by the Federal Authority to the custody of a rival and independent authority. He desired to make quite certain that the Government recognised the facilities for escape which this position offered, and he, therefore, asked what means the English officer had at his disposal to prevent escape.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said, the inspector of police was sent out to bring 598 Balfour back without delay when he was handed over. But the sole responsibility for Balfour's detention in the Argentine Republic rested with the Government and the authorities of that country. Any attempt on their part to interfere with the administration of the Argentine Republic would bring about a very serious international question in which they would be entirely in the wrong.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said, it now appeared that Jabez Balfour had been taken from the Federal, and been placed in the custody of the Provincial, Government. Was the Government going to take any steps to prevent the escape of the culprit from the Provincial Authorities before the Federal had an opportunity of rearresting him? Could the Under Secretary give the Committee any assurance upon that point?
§ MAJOR L. DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
wished to know whether Balfour ever was in the charge of the Federal Government, because if he was, and they handed him over to the Provincial authorities instead of extraditing him, there was a distinct ground for interference.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the Foreign Office did not know whether this was a collusive case or not. But, having regard to all the appearances, were they endeavouring to ascertain whether there was collusion? He could not imagine any mercantile house dealing with the Argentine Republic, and having an agent in the country, being in doubt about the matter for a single moment. They would not have had a shadow of doubt after six months, and without spending anything like the sum the Government had expended. The point he wished to press was whether the hon. Gentleman would point out to the Argentine Government the fact that appearances were such as to produce the unanimous impression in this country—with the solitary exception of one hon. Member in the House—that there was collusion. That was not an impression which should be created between one friendly power and another. Further, would the hon. Gentleman endeavour to see that no more actions of this kind occurred? He thought the Committee was entitled to have an 599 answer to the question which the previous speaker had put.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)
thought it a remarkable fact that in spite of the prosecutor having withdrawn from the case, the Provincial Government should still carry it on. As yet they had had no information from the hon. Gentleman on that point. Was it a usual practice for other Governments to carry cases on after the prosecutions had been dropped? The whole of the crux of the matter was whether there was collusion or not, and as yet there had been no information given the Committee stating that the case would be carried on in a bona fide manner to the end. The Foreign Office seemed to be as ignorant about the matter as they were, but he hardly thought that was really so. Was it in accordance with the usual practice of the Provincial Government to continue prosecutions after the prosecutors had ceased to act?
§ MR. P. A. MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)
asked when the fresh charge was started. Was it before or after the Federal Government had expressed their willingness to hand Balfour over, because if it were stated subsequently the fact would have a very strong bearing on the question of collusion.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
was not quite certain, but believed they were started subsequently to signing of the extradition order. As to the question of custody, Jabez Balfour had been in custody in the same place all the time he had been in custody. The provincial authorities were bound to surrender him to the Federal authorities as soon as the case was decided, but as to the other point which had been raised, the hon. Member was practically asking him to accuse a Foreign State of being engaged in collusive proceedings. The Government had taken those steps which they considered right to take, and it must be recollected the merits of the case had to be gone into in accordance with the due legal process of the Argentine authorities. They could not go behind those legal forms, but they had asked that there should be no undue delay in the settlement of this matter.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
did not want the hon. Gentleman to insult the Argentine Government; but surely his diplomatic powers were not so limited that he 600 was unable to convey to that Government the impression existing in this country. The Government ought to have taken steps before to ascertain whether there had been collusion, and have put pressure upon the Salta Government to bring this matter to a conclusion. As that course, however, had not been taken, he felt justified in moving the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
wanted to know whether the Government was represented by a watching brief in these proceedings, because he could imagine no better way of being able to judge whether these proceedings were real or not. A large sum of money, something like £4,000, had been spent in the matter, but he could not make out what had been done with it. How did the Provisional Government get hold of Jabez Balfour? The hon Gentleman had told them the Federal Government had him in custody originally, but had the Provisional Government got superior powers of arrest?
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY
said, they were entitled to an answer to the question—what had been done for the money? No one would pay a lawyer £4,000 or £5,000 and neglect to inquire what he had done for the amount paid him. Outside, people were very anxious to know all about this transaction.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said, he had dealt with this point twice before. His view was, that this was not a point on which they had a right to press the Federal Government. What they had a right to press was, whether the legal forms had been carried out with as little delay as possible. The expenditure of £4,000 was due to the necessity of engaging Counsel to make an application which was contested at every point. The point was as to whether, under the Extradition Act, which came into operation after Jabez Balfour was in the country, he should be given up or not.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY
said, his question had not been answered. Could the Under Secretary assure them that the usual course had been followed, or was the practice adopted simply ad hoc? If this was the case, it looked like collusion.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 131.—(Division List No. 22.)
§ On the Supplementary Vote of £35,000 for the Relief of Distress in Ireland,
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
explained that the Government had taken this Vote out of its usual order. The previous evening the Chief Secretary stated to him that he was obliged to go to Ireland, and his right hon. Friend asked him whether he could place this Vote in an early position for to-day. He was anxious to meet the wishes of his right hon. Friend, and accordingly he had put the Vote down to come after the Vote which had just been taken, due warning having been afforded by a notice to hon. Members on the Notice Paper. The Chief Secretary remained in the House until halt-past six o'clock, and as the train left shortly after eight o'clock he was compelled to leave the House. But his right hon. Friend had asked him to appeal to the Committee to take the discussion on this Vote, not at present, but when the Vote on Account came on. This Vote on Account would be brought forward in the course of next week. The Chief Secretary had been obliged to go to Ireland, where he would obtain additional information on this subject, and his right hon. Friend felt sure that he would be better prepared to deal with the subject after interviewing representatives from different portions of Ireland, than he would have been had he remained and taken charge of the Vote to-day. He trusted, therefore, that considering the distress in Ireland, and the position in which his right hon. Friend had been placed, the Committee would agree to postpone the discussion until a future stage. In the Vote on Account, £33,000 would be asked for this relief in addition to the present sum, and thus there would be the fullest opportunity afforded for discussion.
§ MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
said, he should be sorry to appear discourteous to the Chief Secretary, who, no doubt had important business to attend to in Ireland; but he could not refrain from reminding the Government what had taken place in the House during the past two or three Sessions. The Closure had been moved on certain occasions, and on each occasion very important 602 matters remained to be brought before the House; but the only reception which had been accorded to the complaints of hon. Members was that they could not discuss those questions then. He was prepared, however, notwithstanding the previous attitude of the Government to make an offer. It was to this effect, that if the Committee postponed the discussion on this important Vote, would they undertake to give sufficient time to discuss the question on the Vote on Account? The Vote on Account contained a number of other items, and if the parties who were interested in the earlier items chose to discuss them for the greater part of the allotted time, then his experience had been that the Closure was applied, and the subsequent Votes received no discussion whatever. Hon. Members interested in those Votes had no alternative but to discuss them in August or late in the Session; and to this course they strongly objected.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
undertook that an opportunity would be given to discuss this portion of the Vote on the Vote on Account.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
hoped that this would not be done at the expense of other subjects. The right hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, aware that there were other subjects of great importance due for discussion, and for which no other legitimate opportunity was afforded other than the Vote on Account. The offer of the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, came to this, that the House was to devote the time which might be disposed of on other subjects to this Vote, which the Committee had an opportunity of dealing with now. There was an item to which he was prepared to call the attention of the Committee—namely, the large proportion of what in the commercial world was called "expenses of management." More than one-seventh of the whole Vote came under this head. That subject alone would need a close scrutiny on the part of the Committee.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
Hon. Members would have the same opportunity of discussing this question on the Vote on Account.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said, that after their experience of last year, it must be understood by the Government that the Opposition could not allow any opportunity of discussing this 603 important matter, or any aspect of it which could be raised in Committee, to pass by. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not think that he desired to obstruct; but he was anxious to know when the Government expected to take the Vote on Account.
§ MR. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY
pointed out that on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman might not be master of the situation. It was impossible for him and his hon. Friends to banish from their minds the recollection of what had occurred on previous Votes on Account, and the unexpected eagerness developed by hon. Gentlemen supporting the Government in the earlier and less important items to discuss them so fully that the opportunity had been taken away from other hon. Members to seriously debate later items on which it was desirable to have a Debate. He suggested that a discussion might be secured if the Government would undertake to allow it to be taken on the Report of the present Vote. The item might be put down as the first order, or at least not taken later on some evening than a reasonable hour. There was another way in which the Government might secure a discussion—namely, by leaving this item out of the Vote on Account and bringing it forward as a separate Vote altogether.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY
hoped that the Government would not listen to these suggestions. The Committee had now obtained possession of this Vote, and it was competent to discuss it at this moment. It was no use whatever to have any more understandings. The Opposition had been treated very badly by the Government on the Vote on Account during the past two years; they had always been closured, and their experience led them to suppose that the same thing would happen this year. The Government might promise not to closure the Vote on Account, and yet, after all, they might arrange to take it, as they had done before, on the last day before the holidays. He hoped, therefore, that no bargain would be made, and that the Committee would at once proceed to discuss the Vote.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, that the mention of Vote 604 on Account had a very uncomfortable sound to the ears of Members of the Opposition. During the last two years he and his hon. Friends had been deeply dissatisfied with the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in respect of this Vote, which had either been closured or put down for a later day; and in various ways the Opposition had been precluded from discussing the Vote on Account. They desired to raise several important questions, and this consideration hindered them from giving up the opportunity they now possessed of discussing the Vote.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY
said, that practically the whole time of the House had been given to the Government, and this was the only opportunity they had of discussing these points. Members of the Opposition were continually accused by the Government of raising obstructive questions, but they had no opportunity of raising certain questions except on the Estimates. Last year he had several points he wished to bring up, but he was closured. There was the great question of Education, the question of Mr. Sadler, and others which would take a considerable time on the Vote on Account. This present Vote was one which not only concerned Ireland but England. It was a large Vote to confer certain advantages upon Ireland. No doubt the expenditure was wise and good, but they must remember that there was such a place as England, and England had to find this money. Ireland did not find it. When questions affecting the English agriculturist were raised the Government ignored them. He represented a poor district in England which would have to find its share of this money (a district in which there was much distress and want of employment) and he claimed that he had a right to take the only opportunity he had of raising the questions he desired.
§ MR. EDWARD CARSON
hoped, as this was a large Vote some fuller explanation would be given than appeared on the Estimates, of the purposes for which it was intended. At present they had only the bald and naked statement that it was "for the relief of distress in Ireland." He would like to know on what principle the districts were selected in which the money was to be applied; what the districts were, and what special case had been made out on behalf of each. 605 A gentleman residing in the locality brought to his knowledge the other day that, in Killarney, there was a large amount of distress existing which was almost unparalleled in other parts of Ireland, and he undertook that, on the first opportunity, he would ask for some definite information as to the amount of distress existing there. He was particularly anxious to know what reports were made to the Chief Secretary before £29,500 was paid to the various districts and what was the ratio of distress in those districts. He presumed that they could get that information and a detailed account of all that had been done with the £29,500. For his own part, as an Irish representative, he must say, from all the reports that had reached him, that he was not inclined—if the money was properly spent on permanent works—to think that it was at all ill spent. He did not at all agree with his hon. Friend behind him as to poor districts in England subscribing largely to these funds in Ireland. For his own part he should be glad to see the £29,500 increased to £100,000 or £150,000. The money would be very acceptable in Ireland, having regard to the statements made from the Ministerial Benches during the progress of the Home Rule Bill as to the bad way in which Ireland had been treated in the matter of finance. Passing from that, he came to the £5,500 required for the salaries and expenses of inspector and others specially employed. The expenditure of £5,500 in administering relief works to the extent of £29,500 seemed to be an extravagant proportion. How had the £5,500 been spent? He assumed that it had been spent through the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board in Ireland had already a large and efficient staff. They had several inspectors in every county in Ireland, who were permanent officials getting substantial salaries, and these Inspectorships were much sought for. Was he to be told that when they spent £3,000 or £4,000 extra in a county—and he supposed the £29,000 representd so many thousands per county—it was necessary to add to the large staff of inspectors that existed already; and that before they could dole out this money for relief works it was necessary to appoint additional inspectors to carry out the works? There 606 were quite sufficient permanent inspectors in Ireland to spend—not only £29,500, but three times that amount, if necessary; and he hoped before the Vote was passed the Secretary to the Treasury would see that the Committee were entitled to something more than the bald statement that £5,500 was to be paid to persons specially employed. He wanted particularly to know, if permanent inspectors had been employed, whether they had so much work cast upon them that they were unable to carry out this extra expenditure in the various counties. He should certainly be amazed to be told that their work was so great in the various counties where distress prevailed that they were unable to carry out these works. With whom rested the appointment to these inspectorships, which seemed somewhat lucrative, and what were the qualifications of the various gentlemen who were appointed to them? Had they been appointed temporarily, or had the permanent staff been added to! The sub-heads, giving the details of the Estimates, really supplied no information at all. He must not be taken as in the slightest degree opposing the expenditure of £29,500 in Ireland. He was glad it should be spent there. It was little enough, judging by the accounts he received of distress prevailing. With regard to the distress in England, English Members could call attention to that at the proper time, and he submitted that it had nothing to do with this grant for Ireland. To put himself in order he would conclude by moving the reduction of the Vote by £5,500 the salaries and expenses of the inspectors and others.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
reminded the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University that these inspectors were nearly all Conservatives and sympathisers with the Tory policy in Ireland. The Irish Local Government Board, in appointing these inspectors, often appointed land-grabbers, and persons of that kind. If the hon. and learned Member were in favour of this expenditure on relief works in Ireland he showed it in a curious way by moving the reduction of the Vote by the amount of salaries of persons whom he might console himself were sympathisers with his Party in Ireland.
§ SIR. T. HIBBERT
regretted that the Chief Secretary was not present to explain the details of the Vote. But in his right hon. Friend's absence he would do the best he could. He was surprised that his hon. and learned Friend, while expressing sympathy with the object of the Vote should have proposed to reduce it. They all knew that money expended in relief works, whether in Ireland or elsewhere, wanted carefully watching and looking after. This was not more necessary, however, in Ireland than anywhere else. There was always a liability when State money was given for any purpose—not only relief of distress—that some of it might be wasted, and he, himself, thought the appointment of these extra inspectors was very necessary to see that none of the money was wasted. His hon. and learned Friend seemed to suggest that only £29,500 was being spent upon the relief of distress in Ireland. The amount proposed to be granted for the purpose was £80,000. £35,000 was to be taken now, and in the Estimates for next year there would be a further sum of £45,000. This money was required owing to the failure of the potato crop, which was more or less serious, he was informed, in about 50 western unions. Therefore, the whole of this money would have to be spent during the next two or three months. It was desired to give relief to those who had lost their potato crops, and also to provide seed for next year. As to the sum of £5,500, it was to be thus divided:—£4,000 was allotted for the salary and expenses of 15 seed inspectors, who would hold office for a limited period. They were each allowed Three Guineas a day while at work, including hotel expenses; and on Sundays the payment was reduced to One Guinea. Then three temporary inspectors were provided for at the rate of £300 a year each, 15s. a night being allowed for hotel expenses. These gentlemen would not remain for the whole year, but only as long as they were required for the expenditure of the money. Contingencies were reckoned at £300, and thus produced a total of £5,500. With the money which had been already granted, there were now 64 relief works in actual operation in the northwest and west of Ireland, distributed over the unions of County Mayo, 608 County Galway, and County Donegal. There were none at present in the Kil-larney district. The number of families benefited by employment on these works was 3,500, representing 17,500 individuals. The earliest works were begun on January 28, in Ballinrobe union, and were followed at intervals by the others. Additional works would be opened in four other unions in Counties Mayo, Donegal, Cavan, and Galway. The works now in progress consisted of the repairing and fencing of public roads, and, in some cases, of the making of new roads. The reports furnished to the Government were those on which the different relief works were based, and showed the unions where the relief was most needed. On the information at present before the Government there seemed to be no sufficient reason for anticipating the occurrence of abnormal distress in Clare, Limerick, Kerry, and West Cork, and at present works there had not been begun. So far, the measures adopted by the Government were intended to afford relief to the class of small farmers who had been deprived of their means of subsistence by the failure of the potato crop. It was not intended that the works should deal with chronic distress. He had shown that the money asked for was likely to be properly spent; and for his own part, he did not in the least object to having a large staff to supervise the expenditure of the money. Where public money was being spent, such supervision was necessary, because the experience of the past showed that money spent in relief works had been wasted right and left. Though £5,500 seemed a large sum for the management of the relief works, he believed that it was a wise expenditure, and that it would lead to economic results.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, that he had given notice, earlier in the Sitting, that he should move a reduction on this Vote, but he hoped hon. Members for Ireland would not think that in so doing he was showing hostility to the Vote. He was aware that the distress in certain districts of the west of Ireland was chronic, and that as long as Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom, the one country would have to 609 help the other. But he represented an agricultural constituency, which was almost as much in need of extraneous help as any part of Ireland, and he wished the Government to remember that there were distressed districts outside of Clare, Kerry, and Donegal. What his constituents resented was not that this money should be granted to Irishmen, but that a distinction should be made by the Government between Ireland and other agricultural districts. What was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander. The Government neglected what opportunities they had of assisting Essex last Session.
The hon. Member is going further than the lines which I indicated. The discussion must be confined to this Vote.
§ MAJOR RASCH
said, that if the Government would take the condition of his constituents into consideration in the future he would be satisfied.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY
said, that the argument of his hon. Friend applied also to the town population in England. He did not for a moment grudge this relief to Ireland, and he had no doubt that the money would be well spent. But it did strike him that the claims which Ireland had upon the Ipmerial Parliament for relief works was considerably lessened by the fact that the Government now in power was pledged to remove the Parliamentary connection between the two countries. The claim did not stand on so good a foundation as that for relief works in England, Scotland, and Wales. How was it, when there was distress both in Ireland and England, that means were found of relieving that distress in Ireland, and of finding work for the unemployed, while it was constantly declared that such relief would not be afforded to the unemployed in England? The Committee was entitled to some information from the Government as to the precise nature of these works. In this Vote there was no precise information. They were told as to roads; but what were the other works that were indicated? The statement was a great deal too general; and he complained strongly of the way in which these Supplementary Estimates were drawn up. The information given was of the most meagre description. A long list of 610 names of places had been read; but as he did not know the places the names did not convey any definite idea to his mind. They had not before them a fairly sufficient statement of what the works were to be. He wanted to know the nature of the works precisely, so that if an emergency of the same kind arose in England or Scotland, we might know what kind of work we should be able to provide for Scotch or English unemployed. Parliament was fairly entitled to know how far experiments in Ireland might be made applicable to the other two countries. He did not expect from the right hon. Gentleman the same information that might be given by the Chief Secretary if he were present. It was candidly admitted that the sum allotted to management was a very large proportion of the whole; and, owing to the technical form in which the Vote was presented, there was no reason why a much larger proportion should not be taken for management without the consent of the Treasury. The rule in these cases was to divide a Vote by sub-heads, and then, with the consent of the Treasury, money could be transferred from one sub-head to another; but in this case there were no sub-heads, and, therefore, double the sum stated could be spent on management, without obtaining sanction from the Treasury.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY
thought that this Vote required a good deal of consideration, in as much as so large a proportion of the money was to be taken for salaries £35,000 was asked for in one sum for the relief of distress in Ireland, yet no less than £5,500 was to be expended in salaries. In this case the Treasury had gone out of their way to put the items in one lump sum. Of course they were willing to do anything they could for the relief of the distress in Ireland, but to spend 20 per cent. of the Vote in salaries seemed to the ordinary business man somewhat peculiar. He was a member of the Committee which was sitting to consider the question of the relief of the distress in this country, and one of their chief difficulties was to find some means by which that distress might be relieved; but here, without any Committee or any investigation at all, this very large sum was being voted by the Government for the relief of distress in Ireland. He had always heard that one of the main principles insisted on was 611 that Ireland should be governed in exactly the same way as England, but here they had a very large Vote for the relief of distress in Ireland, while, although there was an immense amount of distress in England, no Vote was proposed to be given for its relief. This money was to be supplied by those in England and Scotland who were at the present time in extreme distress owing to the condition of trade, and he considered it a serious question whether these large Votes should not be considered on the principle that the United Kingdom was one country, and whether large measures of relief should be granted to Ireland when they are not granted to England? Those who represented English constituencies had a right to say that, as the money had to be raised by public taxation, the same principle ought to apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. He was not himself an advocate of large relief works. He thought that the result of them was extremely doubtful. Anybody who had had to do with charitable work could say that there was nothing in the world more difficult than to apply large sums of money wisely and well. The Committee ought, therefore, to have some definite idea of how this money was going to be expended. Having made charitable relief a study for a long time, he could say that one of the great difficulties in Ireland at the present time was that the people had come to depend on outside assistance on every occasion on which distress arose. The Committee ought, in his opinion, to require from the Government absolute and precise information as to the way in which this money had been expended, and whether it had been expended in such a way as would tend to foster habits of thrift and industry, rather than to make the inhabitants of Ireland more and more dependent on relief.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY (Stockport)
suggested that as this money was advanced proportionably by the United Kingdom, some consideration ought to be given to the question of how the finding of the money would affect the industries of the country, which at the present time were so very much depressed. The right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee that part of the money would be devoted to providing seed potatoes. He would put it to the right hon. 612 Gentleman whether the distress which existed in agriculture in Ireland was comparable with the distress in Lancashire or in the tin-plate trade in South Wales?
MR. G. WHTELEY
was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman, as a Lancashire Member, say that. At any rate, this money had been found proportionally by the United Kingdom, and such a vote had indeed the most peculiar significance at the present time. One had heard recently the vote of money advocated to assist distress in this country. Many had declared that such votes were a financial failure, but now the position was being given away. A precedent was being set up which might have to be followed in this country. This sum of £70,000 was to be given to Ireland, a country very much smaller than Great Britain, and which contributed a comparatively small sum to the national Exchequer. With reference to the amount to be paid for the supervision of the works undertaken, he asked whether in any private business the expenses of the management of an undertaking would be between 16 and 20 per cent. It was monstrous that the cost of the supervision of these works and of the disbursement of this money should be anything like 20 per cent. of the sum of money voted. Over £1,000 a year, besides travelling expenses, was being paid to the inspectors engaged in administering this fund. Their work was not comparable with that of a borough surveyor in a provincial town, who obtained for his services only £600 a year. The Chief Secretary for Ireland ought to consider seriously whether so very costly a staff was necessary for the distribution of this Irish distress grant. It had often been urged by Committees of that House that sums of money ought only to be advanced to relieve distress when they were met by equivalent grants from the local authorities or the Unions of the districts in which the money was to be spent. The voting of this money would benefit local authorities throughout Ireland, for road-making would be undertaken at the expense of the taxpayer instead of at the expense of the local ratepayer. If the local authorities had to contribute themselves a sum equal to that obtained from this grant they would 613 be interested in seeing how the work was done, find in all probability the improvements would be affected at a more moderate cost for supervision than was at present contemplated.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
said, they were all ready to treat Ireland with generosity and kindness. [An Irish MEMBER: "Oh!"] They were not at all disposed to refuse money for the relief of the Irish distress, but they could not shut their eyes to the fact that this was a very large sum that was asked for, and that the cost of distributing it was to be extraordinarily large. He wished to contrast the conduct of the Government in dealing with Ireland with their conduct in dealing with England. There was distress in England, but instead of proposing to give England £70,000, the sum ultimately to be given to the Sister island, the Government only gave us a Select Committee. That was not a just distribution of benefits between the two islands. He wished to know how much of this money was to be expended on road works and how much on other works. Fishing was one of the most important industries in which Irishmen could engage, and in following that industry they had sometimes suffered through the want of adequate harbours—no doubt also sometimes through want of assiduity. Was any portion of the sum to be voted to be applied to the maintenance and repairs of fishing ports? Unless a fisherman could go to a suitable port with his catch, all his labour was thrown away.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
explained that a great portion of the works undertaken were road works, but there were also cases of work on piers. For example, in the Clifden Union a protection wall was being built against the sea, and a pier was being repaired.
§ Sir J. T. HIBBERT
Yes. A great deal had been said about the form of the Estimate and about the sum which was put down for expenses and the salaries of officers. The Estimate was based upon a Supplementary Estimate laid before the House by the right hon. Member for 614 Leeds (Mr. Jackson) when the late Government was in Office. If the Estimate was good in those days it ought to be good in these, although he admitted that they ought to improve upon the methods of the late Government. He would therefore take care that there should be no risk of further increased amounts being put down for salaries or for the payment of additional inspectors without the authority of the Treasury. He would do his best to protect the interests of the taxpayers. Generally, he might say that the question whether it was desirable to spend money on relief works in England and Scotland was not now before the Committee; the question was as to spending money for relief works in Ireland. These works were pressing, urgent, and necessary. Large masses of people, through the unfortunate weather of last year, had lost the whole of their potato crop, and had nothing to depend upon, and they must either starve or get relief from the State. Of course they might go to the workhouse, where they would be provided for, but he thought all parties desired to treat Ireland in a sympathetic way, whether they had Home Rule or not. And he should say that those who opposed Rome Rule ought to be the first not only in voting this money but even in giving a larger grant than was proposed by the present Government.
§ MR. J. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
concurred entirely with the remark of the right hon. Gentleman as to the duty of Unionists, in connection with Votes of this kind, to deal not only justly but even generously with any demands that were made upon Parliament from Ireland. But the position of English Members was not made easier for them by the action of the Government or even of hon. Members from Ireland, for when the hon. Member for King's Lynn began his speech with a remark in a similar sense, it called forth no recognition from Irish Members of the spirit in which it was made, but a jibe and a jeer from one of their number.
§ MR. J. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
went on to observe that English and Scottish Members, who were conscious there was much and bitter 615 distress among their own constituents, had a hard ease to answer when they were asked to vote public money, to which their constituents had to contribute, for the relief of distress in Ireland, whilst at the same time it was declared that this House could and would do nothing for the relief of distress in this country. The only protest made against the Vote had come—not from a Unionist, but from a supporter of the Government. For the Government's own justification, as well as for that of hon. Members, he wanted to know what was the distinction they drew between distress in England and distress in Ireland. Why was there to be £70,000 voted for Irish distress whilst no Englishman need apply for any? The Government said these people for whom this money was to be voted had exhausted their supplies, and were in a state of destitution. Why, in his own constituency he knew of people who had never been fortunate enough to have any supplies against bad times, who were absolutely dependent from week to week on what work they could get, and who, owing to the frost, had been out of work and in a state of destitution for weeks past. He asked for information to assist him to explain to these men, when he met them again, why this exception was made in favour of Ireland.
§ SIR J. LENG (Dundee)
said, one would suppose, to hear the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down and others, that the House of Commons was about to embark upon a new departure in dealing with distress in Ireland. It seemed a little inconsistent, and not a little strange, that they would not give to Ireland the management of her own finance and would not intrust Irishmen with the power to deal with their own distress. In this matter the Government was only doing what previous Governments had done and what hon. Gentlemen in former years had supported. Legislation for Ireland would continue to be exceptional, whatever Government might be in power, until they confided to Irishmen themselves the control of their own government, and the power to meet such claims as were now made upon the Imperial Parliament.
§ MR. T. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
declared that the question of the hon. Member for East Worcestershire was so much in 616 the nature of a challenge that it was hard for Irishmen to sit silent. The hon. Member, who was but a young Member of the House, and probably not, a very experienced student of politics, seemed to consider there was a prima facie case for considering Great Britain and Ireland on a common level, in regard to their claims for the mitigation of distress, by subvention from the public purse. He wished to tell the hon. Member with all respect that the reason why Ireland stood in a different position was because Ireland, which, when she was left to her own guidance, was a tolerably prosperous country, was plundered by England, which took upon itself the management of Ireland's affairs and the expenditure of her money. And he wished to remind the House that the ordinary public revenue of Ireland before the Union was 5s.; now it was 34s. The result of the Union had been to increase fourfold the burden upon Ireland. Taxation, Imperial and local, exhausted the resources of Ireland, left the people no means of accumulation and no means of dealing with her own distress; and it was because of the system which had been imposed on Ireland, against the will of her people, that Irishmen were obliged to come here, and, in the guise of beggars, ask for a miserable dole out of their own money for the relief of their own distress.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote for £10 for Salaries and Expenses in connection with the County Courts,
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY
expressed his satisfaction at seeing, by the mere fact that a Supplemental Estimate was required, that these Courts were being used more and more every year. He would urge upon the Government the desirability of moderately increasing the jurisdiction of such Courts. He did not think that at the present moment the number of persons who had the opportunity of obtaining redress in them was anything like as large as it ought to be, and if their jurisdiction was extended cases could be then tried of much greater importance, as far as the money value was concerned, than it was possible to try in the County Courts now. He 617 hoped it was the intention of the Government to add to the efficiency of these very valuable Courts, which were much resorted to by smaller suitors, and whilst increasing the jurisdiction enjoyed by the County Court, Judges, their Courts might be made the stepping-stones to their filling higher places on the Judicial Bench.
§ MR. CYRIL DODD (Essex, Maldon),
on a point of Order, desired to know if it was competent for the hon. Member to raise the question of the whole policy of the County Courts on a Supplementary Vote for £10? It was an important question, and one which, he agreed, ought to be raised at whatever was the proper time for raising it.
§ MR. HANBURY
May I ask whether it is not the fact that not only on the Supplemental Vote, but on the main Vote on the Estimates, we only vote a small surplus amount like this? I contend, therefore, that if we cannot discuss this on a supplemental we cannot discuss it on the main Vote.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
May I also point out that, although we are only voting £10, yet the increase of expenditure during the year has been no less than £20,000?
§ THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. H. J. ROBY)
I think on a Supplemental Vote merely for paying a small amount, in excess of the amount, already provided, that this matter ought not to be raised. The general question should be raised on the main, and not on supplemental Estimates.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY
desired to raise the point as to whether the charges in these Courts were not very excessive. The Vote was for £10 to meet an expenditure of £20,010, and they had £20,000 received as fees. The whole Estimate for the year was £444,030, and no less than £430,000, or nearly half a million of money were received, in fees. That being so, were not the real costs to those who had to use the County Courts very excessive as compared with the costs incurred by litigants in the other Courts? Small litigants had frequently complained to him that the expenses of the County Courts were very large in proportion to the money services rendered. A great many of the plaints in County 618 Courts were for small debts, and it was worthy the consideration of the Committee whether they were justified in making these small litigants pay practically the whole cost of the law charges which had to be defrayed in carrying on these Courts. He would ask whether some plan could not be adopted by which the excessive number of little charges would be relieved, so that the costs to smaller litigants might be lessened?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, the hon. Member for Preston asked whether increased jurisdiction should not be conferred on the County Courts. He did not say that was not a question to be discussed and considered in that House, but it was, he thought, too large a question to raise on a Supplemental Estimate for such a small sum. With regard to the complaint by the hon. Member for Islington, he quite agreed that a large amount was received as fees for suitors in the County Courts, but great advantage and economy had been derived by small suitors from the establishment of the County Court system. Previously they were obliged to pay much greater expenses in their suits than was the case now; and though he would not say there were not cases amongst small suitors in regard to fees which were not worthy of consideration, still this was a matter for the consideration of the Lord Chancellor rather than of the Treasury. It was a legal, involving a financial, point. Without saying it was not a matter which should not be considered, he did not think that at the present time any very great grievance existed with respect to the amount of fees, because for 1894 there was an increase of 17,000 plaints as compared with 1893. That did not look as if the fees prevented people having recourse to the County Courts. This large increase might have occurred to a great extent owing to the depressed state of agriculture and trade all over the country. In depressed times people were more pressed for money, and the result was that more County Court suits were instituted for enforcing the payment of outstanding debts. There was no doubt the people liked the County Court system, and they took advantage of it to a very large extent.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY
was much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for 619 his explanation. He had told them that it was owing to the general depression that there had been so many more suits. Hut inasmuch as the expenses were paid by these people upon the one side or the other, one side must lose and pay them, so that it really meant that very small suitors were paying nearly £500,000 a year for the collection of small debts. That raised the question whether, in regard to the smaller plaints especially, some relaxation might not be made in the matter of fees, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman rather agreed with him upon the subject.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
asked whether it was not time to put a stop to this system of paying Officers by fees, and pay them by salary instead?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
replied that, as far as was possible, the Officers of those Courts had been placed on salaries. But it was not found possible to do so in all cases, and that was why the fee system was, to some extent, still retained.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, that in the City of London, where the Municipality managed the Court, and did not pay its Officers by fees, there was a large profit out of the Court, whereas there was a loss on all the Courts controlled by the Crown. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be better to place all those Courts under the charge of the Municipalities?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that, undoubtedly, the salary system was much the better. He would like to know whether the fee system prevailed to any considerable extent, and why it was thought necessary to continue it?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
replied, that the matter was entirely under the control of the Lord Chancellor, and not under the control of the Treasury. He had no objection to drawing the attention of the Lord Chancellor to what had been said on the subject.
§ Vote agreed to.