HC Deb 02 April 1897 vol 48 cc414-25
DR. CLARK (Caithness)

rose to call attention to the present system of votes and grants for local purposes in England, Ireland, and Scotland, and to move— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the amount and proportion of moneys expended out of the Exchequer for local purposes in each division of the United Kingdom and how far the financial relations established by the sums so contributed are equitable to Scotland.


The hon. Member's Amendment should be amended by leaving out the words "the Exchequer," and substituting "moneys provided by Parliament," so as to make it clear that he does not refer to expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Fund by statute, which would be out of order on the present Motion.


said that he would so amend his Resolution. He therefore proposed to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the amount and proportion of moneys expended out of the moneys provided by Parliament for local purposes in each division of the United Kingdom, and how far the financial relations established by the sums so contributed are equitable to Scotland. He said that in all the local services in Scotland the officers were only paid about half the salaries of the same class of officers in England or Ireland, and yet no equivalent was given to Scotland. He would give examples. The cost of the Local Government Board in England was £181,000; in Ireland, £131,000, and in Scotland, £11,000. Scotland had always been in favour of economy, but while her expenditure was economical, that for England and Ireland was extravagant. [Nationalist cries of "Oh"] At the Scotch rates, the English Local Government Board would only coat £70,000. The first cause of the difference was the higher salaries paid to officials in England and Ireland. The Vice President of the Local Government Board in Ireland received £2,000 a year; the head of the Scotch Board only received £1,200 a year. In England the principal clerks began at £650 a year, and rose to £800. In Scotland they began at £400, and rose to £500 a year. Then a number of items in the English Local Government Board Vote were not included in the Scotch Local Government Board Vote, but were defrayed out of local resources. For instance, there was the audit, which it was clearly the intention of Parliament should be paid by the local bodies. This involved a cost of £10,000 a year, although the audit fees had twice been raised. Then there was poor law inspection, for which £3,000 a year was paid. When the change was made in 1886, it was intended that all these grants should cease. Every one of the Scotch grants had disappeared from the Estimates; most of the English grants had disappeared; but none of the Irish grants had disappeared. The payments in respect of Poor Law schools and metropolitan vagrant wards ought to go. He wished the English and Irish expenditure to be levelled down to the Scotch. There was the same disparity of salaries in regard to the Secretaries of the three count lies. The Home Secretary's establishment was £123,000; that of the Irish Secretary, £42,000; and that of the Scotch Secretary £11,000. Although he had brought this matter before the House for the last 10 years, Scotland had been given no redress. As to the Prison Services, the chaplain or surgeon in a Scotch prison was paid £200 a year; the same officials in an English prison were paid £400 a year. Even the assistant surgeons in the English prisons began at £250. The Irish chaplains and surgeons received from £350 to £400 a year. The theory was, that living in Scotland was cheaper, and that Scotland was a poorer country. Then why was the poor country mode to pay all the heavy taxes of the rich country? The police magistrates and the police in Dublin and London were paid out of the Estimates. If police magistrates were unfortunate enough to live in Edinburgh or in Glasgow not a single penny was paid by the Imperial Exchequer towards their maintenance. Parliament was paying over £300,000 a year for police in England and Wales, and the whole cost for Scotland was £1,000, which formed an item in the Vote of £11,000 for the Scotch Secretary's office. They were paying one and a-half millions for police in Ireland, about £300,000 for police in England and Wales, and only £1,000 for Scotland. He submitted that both London and Dublin ought to bear the cost of their own police. There were other services in England and Ireland for which Scotland got no equivalent. There was paid by the Exchequer for the Royal College of Science of London £18,400, a considerable portion of which went in scholarships, and for the Royal College of Science of Dublin, £7,000 for teachers and scholars, but not a single penny was paid to analogous bodies in Scotland. It was said, in reply to that, that Parliament voted money for the Scotch Universities. No doubt Parliament voted £42,000 for the Scotch Universities. Why? Because they were compelled to do so, as it was a burden taken over by the Treaty of Union. Scotland took over her share of the National Debt, and England took over the Scottish burdens, of which this was one, and placed it upon the National Exchequer. Scotland wanted an equivalent for these contributions to science in England and Ireland, so that Scotch boys might have the same chance as English and Irish boys had of being educated at the expense of the State. All Scotland got for science was simply the rent of the rooms of the society which belonged to the Government. Their complaint was not so great now, since the introduction of the new system of finance, by which these local grants were to cease, and in lieu thereof, each nation was to get a percentage, according to the sum paid into the Exchequer. If that was carried out, there would be a few hundred thousand pounds voted less, and money would be found from local sources, registration in Scotland was entirely defrayed from local sources, but in England and Ireland it was defrayed partly from local sources and partly from the Imperial grunt, £21,000 for England and £4,000 for Ireland. Why should that not be a local charge in both countries. Again, in connection with (he now arrangement, when the tax was placed upon liquor it was pointed out to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer that England would be paying 66 per cent, and getting 80 per cent., that Scotland would be paying 19.4 and only getting 11, and Ireland paying 14.1 and only getting 9 percent. The then Chancellor admitted that the burden he was placing on Scotland and Ireland was greater than the return they would obtain, and he agreed that a Select Committee should be appointed to consider the matter as between the three countries. He was sorry to say he had to accuse the late Chancellor of the Exchequer of want of good faith in connection with that Committee. He put down the Committee, night after night during the Session of 1890, and it was only on the last days of the Session, on the third stage of the Appropriation Bill, that the Committee was appointed. It sat for one day. Next year it never sat at all; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer so used the forms of the House that, although he was successful in the ballot, he was prevented bringing the question before Parliament. The Chancellor of the Exchequer got his money, hut he never gave Scotch Members their Committee, and the Committee never sat at all, except for the one day of a former Session, to which he had alluded. The late Government came into power then, and they were pressed to appoint the Committee. A year passed; nothing was done, because the time was taken up with the Home Rule Bill. The following year, in virtue of one clause of the Home Rule Bill. The question of the amount to be paid by Ireland towards Imperial expenses came up, and a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the financial relations between England and Ireland. Besides, the Treasury was busy getting up the Budget, and the Treasury officials were giving evidence before a Royal Commission. The result was that the Committee had not been appointed, and they did not know what the fair amounts were which had to be paid. There were, however, certain facts before them. Of the total revenue collected, 76 per cent, was collected in England, 12.7 per cent, in Scotland, and 9.8 percent, in Ireland.

But Ireland only got 9 per cent., Scotland 11 per cent., and England got 80 per cent. There was a theory that the payment was different from the collection. That might be, but the question required to be threshed out by a Select Committee. The first Return given was different from the present; every financial Return hail been different from its predecessor. Last year they voted for Scotland one and a-half millions of these Estimates, England ten and a-half millions, Ireland £4,045,000. As things stood at present, the taxation per head in Scotland was higher than either in Ireland or England. It was because in Scotland they drank too much whisky, unfortunately. What they wanted for Scotland was an equivalent grant equal to the prodigality and extravagance shown in England and Ireland.

* SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)

seconded the Amendment. He said he thought that the attendance that afternoon after they had been three days mostly in a crowded House discussing the financial relations of Ireland, was an illustration of the patient, forbearing, and uncomplaining character of the Scottish people. [Cheers.] Some hon. Members thought that in the recent discussion a strong case was made out showing that Ireland was over-taxed to the extent of between two and a-half and two and three-quarter millions sterling. He thought it was very easy to show that if there was a strong case for Ireland there was a very much stronger case for Scotland. He held in his hand a concise statement, prepared, he believed, by Mr. Chas. Waddie, of Edinburgh, and published some time ago, to which he had seen no answer, certainly no contradiction. The statement brought out that while the general expenses of Government in Scotland was less than two millions— the precise figure being £1,919,000—the strictly corresponding expenses in Ireland, the population of which was only 700,000 more than that of Scotland, were £1,580,370. So that, if the offset that was spoken of was taken into account, the offset of expenditure in Ireland was very much in excess of that in Scotland. The net amount of the Inland Revenue in Scotland was ten millions and a quarter, from which, if they deducted the expenses, there was a balance of £8,328,330 remitted to the Imperial Exchequer. On the other hand, the total of the Inland Revenue of Ireland was only £6,895,000, while the expenditure on its local government was £4,586,000, so that there was only transmitted from Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer, £2,309,000. These figures were, perhaps, sufficiently striking to go far to establish the case set up by his hon. Friend, but they by no means exhausted the case for Scotland. Taking the Inland Revenue of Scotland and comparing it with that for England and Wales and for Ireland, and then also taking the gross for the United Kingdom, these facts were brought out, that Scotland was, taking it per head of the population, by far the most highly taxed part, of the kingdom, and contributed by far the largest sum relatively to the Imperial Exchequer. The total of the Excise, Estate Duty, Stamps, Income and Property Tax, and House Duty and Land, for Scotland was £10,247,000; dividing that by the population, 4,033,103, it yielded £2 10s. 9½d. per head. There were no figures approaching that for the other parts of the kingdom. The corresponding figures for Ireland showed a revenue of £6,895,000, a population of 4,704,750, and the amount per head of £1 9s. 3½d., or £1 1s. 6d. less per head than in Scotland. They heard of England always being put forward as a rich and wealthy country. Did it contribute in proportion to its richness and its wealth as much as Scotland? Not all. Its population was 29,001,018, dividing its total Inland Revenue of £54,363,615 by that population the yield was only £1 17s. 5¾d. per head, as against £2 10s. 9½d. per head in Scotland. These facts were striking, the result was almost directly the converse of that brought out by the representatives for Ireland. Scotland paid no less than £2,604,712 per annum more than her share, and if they compared that with Ireland, the amount of the excess paid by Scotland was £4,335,585. He thought that these' figures, which hitherto had not been challenged, did, along with those brought forward by his hon. Friend, establish a very strong primâ facie case for the Motion. He did not appear as an advocate for extravagance, nor did he wish the1 salaries of the officials in Scotland to be largely increased. But at the same time he saw sitting by the side of the Chancellor of the Exchequer an official whom they all highly respected, and to whom they thought only justice was done two or three years ago when his official salary was brought more into correspondence with that of the Law Officers in Ireland and in England. They thought, in the case of the country which was paying more than its share to the Imperial revenues, that its officials ought not as a rule to be paid less than those in England, and certainly in Ireland. It was not the fact that the expense of living in Scotland was relatively so much less than either in England or in Ireland. In the large cities the expenditure, he should say, was quite equal to that in the large cities of either England or Ireland, and the minor officials of the Government, because they were a thrifty, frugal and saving people, who, however small their incomes might be, managed to save something, ought not to be punished and penalised for their good qualities. Why should prison warders and many other officials in Scotland be paid so much less than in England? There was no justification for it, and they were not advocating anything extravagant when they said with regard to such matters—with regard to police superannuation, for instance— that Parliament ought to be equitable, having regard to similar payments in England. He would listen with some curiosity to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's remarks. They only wanted what was fair and just as between the different parts of the country. They were not claiming for Scotland anything that was not her proper share, and they trusted that the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with the question would give full weight to the considerations that had been placed before him.


said the hon. Member who had just sat down had referred to the very small attendance on the present occasion as compared with that in the early part of the week as an evidence of the patient and uncomplaining nature of his countrymen. He should be very sorry to detract from any credit to which they might be entitled on that account, but his impression was that Scotchmen, like everybody else, were ready enough to complain when they had any real cause of complaint, and that, if there was a reason for the comparative lack of interest in the Motion, it was because there was not the cause of complaint in Scotland which the hon. Member for Dundee supposed. [Cries of "No, no!"] The hon. Member for Caithness had argued generally that Scotch officials were not paid at the same rate for services precisely similar to those which were required in the other two parts of the United Kingdom. His own impression was that there might have been something in the general lowness of income in Scotland as compared with England, which might have led to a lower scale of salaries throughout the public service. That, he apprehended, if it were so, would extend to the salaries paid by local authorities as well, and he did not see why, if persons in the service of the local authorities in Scotland were paid at a lower rate than persons in the service of the local authorities in England, those employed by the Government should enjoy an advantage denied to their brethren in the local service. But the hon. Member himself admitted that there had been of late years an improvement in this respect, and he personally did not object to a levelling-up of the payment of Government officials in Scotland, where it was perfectly clear that they were underpaid for their services as compared with English officials. The hon. Member went on to argue that certain payments were made in England and in Ireland from the Exchequer which were not made in Scotland, and he instanced, in the first place, the payments for the audit of the accounts of local authorities, which in England were made through the Local Government Board Vote. He fancied the reason why there was no similar payment for Scotland was that there had been no similar central audit hitherto of Scotch local accounts, and he apprehended that if such an audit were established there might be a fair claim on the part of Scotland for any payment of this kind that was made in England. Then the hon. Member went on to say that large payments were made for the police and for magistrates in London which were not made in Edinburgh, the metropolis of Scotland, but this was the first time he had heard that Edinburgh required any thing of the kind. As large a part of the payment of the Scotch county police was borne by the general taxpayers as was borne in the case of England.


Not a penny is borne by Parliament. Ten years ago it was taken away, and we got our share of the probate duty. We are spending our own money.


said that was precisely the case in England. Both in Scotland and in England the payment of certain specific services from the Exchequer was abolished, and instead of that much larger grants were made out of the probate duty, and subsequently out of the beer and spirit duties. The one kingdom was treated in precisely the same way as the other in that respect. If the hon. Member thought it was not, that might be a fair matter for inquiry, and he would come very shortly to the best way of conducting that inquiry. With regard to grants for scientific purposes and matters of that kind, he hoped he did not regard the question solely from an English point of view in saying there should be larger payments comparatively for these services in the metropolis of the United Kingdom than in either the metropolis of Scotland or of Ireland. Coming to the speech of the Seconder, he admitted that, if the hon. Member really believed in the extraordinary figures he had quoted, he did not wonder that the hon. Member thought there was a very great grievance. He obtained those figures from a protest which had been issued by the Scottish Home Rule Association, and which he said had never been contradicted, and seemed to think, therefore, must be correct. This remarkable document stated that, whereas Scotland paid inland revenue to the amount of £10,247,000, only £1,919,000 was expended in the public service of Scotland, and that £8,328,000 was transmitted to England—going, as anyone might suppose from reading the protest, into the pockets of the English taxpayer. Then a comparison was made with Ireland, and it was shown that the net amount of inland revenue collected in Ireland was £6,895,000, that £4,586,000 was expended in Ireland, and that £2,300,000 was transmitted to England. In the first place he was bound to say he did not think he ever remembered seeing a document which purported to be a statement of finance more inaccurate and more misleading than this particular document. ["Hear, hear!"] It jumbled up in the most extraordinary way different charges obtained from different Blue-books, and omitted others entirely from the account. He would take the expenditure first. It included items for police, superannuation allowances, and for pauper lunatics taken from the Local Taxation Account, while they purported to be drawn from the Votes of the House. It did not include the items on the Consolidated Fund, such as the salaries of Judges and sheriffs, and it omitted certain Scotch services, such as the Universities and the Science and Art Department, and other expenses provided for from the local taxation revenue. As an account of expenditure it was entirely misleading. He would give his account of the expenditure taken from Parliamentary Paper 336 of the year 1896. From that Paper it would be found that the civil government charges met by the Exchequer revenue in Scotland were £2,749,000, to which they had to add the cost of collection, £355,000, and the Post Office services, £1,040,000, making a total of £4,144,000 as against the £1,919,000 given in the document from which the hon. Member for Dundee quoted. The Revenue Returns in that Paper were even more misleading than the expenditure. The whole item of Customs revenue was absolutely omitted. Everybody who had really studied this question knew that it did not depend upon the amount of revenue collected in Scotland, but upon the amount paid by the inhabitants of Scotland, after making the necessary allowance one way or the other in calculating what was really paid as compared with the amount collected. The Parliamentary Paper which he had quoted in this way reduced the amount of revenue paid by the people of Scotland by £2,400,000 below the amount named by the hon. Member for Dundee, and the net result was that whereas in England the people paid £2 11s. 9d. per head in taxation, in Scotland £2 9s. 3d. per head was paid.


asked if the calculations in the case of the English revenue were made in the same way as in the case of the Scotch revenue?


said the calculations were made in precisely the same way. The final result would appear to be from this paper that, with regard to the true revenue of Scotland, to the local expenditure of Scotland, and to the Imperial contribution of Scotland, under each of these three heads, the amount attributable to Scotland was about 10½ per cent. of the aggregate total for the United Kingdom. He did not think that was very unfair to Scotland. The hon. Member asked them to appoint a Committee to deal with this particular question, but he thought the hon. Member forgot the promise that had already been made by the Government. They had promised a Commission to deal with the case of Ireland, and they had advisedly added to the reference words which would include an inquiry into the position of Scotland with regard to the very matters which the hon. Member had brought, under their notice. ["Hear, hear!"] The second head of that inquiry had regard to the expenditure on Irish local services, and that had to be compared by the Commission which it was proposed to appoint with the corresponding expenditure in England and in Scotland, and all three heads of the reference related as completely to Scotland as they did to Ireland, or to England itself. He was quite sure it would be futile to endeavour to conduct two inquiries of the kind at the same time by two different bodies, and he therefore hoped that the House would feel that the inquiry which had been already promised was not only sufficient but better adapted for the purpose of the hon. Member than that which he desired. Whatever might be the position of Scotland in this matter, whether it were fair or unfair, at any rate the truth would be better ascertained, and he hoped it might be ascertained, by the inquiry which they proposed. [Cheers.]


did not think any Scotsman, however violent his patriotic feelings might be, could find fault with the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman had addressed them. ["Hear, hear!"] He had indeed traversed some of the statements brought forward by his hon. Friends, but had done so in a sympathetic way, and had admitted that a great many of those points might be the subject of further and close inquiry. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood the object of his hon. Friend and those who thought with him. They might be of opinion that there were certain public services in Scotland which were somewhat underpaid, yet it was from no desire to obtain for their country larger or more expensive establishments that they brought this subject forward; but in order to show the House that Scotland was, in their opinion, unfairly dealt with, because of what they considered the somewhat expensive establishments maintained in other parts of the Empire, for which naturally they had to pay their share. It might very well be that the rates of payment in certain services in Scotland were fixed in consideration of the cheaper conditions of life which probably existed at the time, but he was by no means sure that nowadays the circumstances would justify the substantial difference in the rates of payment in the two countries. The right hon. Gentleman had distinctly stated that it was his intention to include the whole of this subject in the reference to the Royal Commission that was about to be appointed, which confirmed the assurance which had been given them by the Leader of the House some weeks ago. There was a good deal of force in what the right hon. Gentleman had said as to the inconvenience of having at the same time two inquiries almost on the same matter, and they knew now that this matter would be further dealt with, and that they would at least understand how the case stood in regard to the financial duties and obligations of the three countries. ["Hear, hear!"]


asked whether there would be a proportionate number of Scotsmen on the Commission.


said they certainly hoped to have Scotch representation on the Commission.


asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

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