HC Deb 18 June 1897 vol 50 cc373-89

4. Motion made told Question proposed,— That a sum, not exceeding £19,923, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, for the salaries and other expenses of Temporary Commissions and Committees, including Special Inquiries.


said the Vote for commissions was one he always viewed with good deal of suspicion, and was one which had been frequently mentioned on formar occasions. On the present occasion he should like the Secretary to the Treasury to tell them what the Colonisation Board did. Personally, he believed it hail been a total failure.


presumed that, in using the word "failure," the right hon. Baronet referred to the failure of the effort to colonise certain people from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland who were settled in Canada. A good deal of money had been lost on this scheme, but the expenses of this Board hail little to do with the actual expenses of the scheme. The sum in the Vote was a payment to the Board to report as to how that scheme was going on and to watch, as it were, the progress of the colonisation scheme, and to trace, as far as possible, the history of the various emigrants. It was a very small charge in comparison with the very large sums which had been spent on this rather unfortunate scheme, but it was absolutely necessary, while the scheme existed, to have somebody to watch it and to report to the Government.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

was of opinion that it would be a foolish thing to throw tiny more money away on this foolish scheme. For the last ten years they had been spending from £300 to £800 a year upon two sets of crofters that they sent out. Some two or three years after they were sent out he went himself to look at the Colonies, and at the first one he went to see he found that every one of the houses hail been deserted. They had all given up their holdings, and the men were working as labourers in the neighbouring timber yard. This Board was appointed for the purpose of getting back some of the two sums of £10,000 which had been spent, but they had got none back. It had been all lost. In the place where some of the people did remain he believed they were ultimately sold up for arrears of taxes, so that the experiment both at Killarney and Saltcoats had been dead failure, and to keep up this Board and to pay for the officials seemed to him to be the height of folly. The experiment hail been a failure; why not leave it alone? Unless the Secretary to t he Treasury were prepared now to let the thing drop altogether he should be compelled to take a Division against the Vote.

SIR J. LENG (Dundee)

said it had been rumoured that it was intended to bring the Scottish Universities Commission to an end, but he wished to point out that that Commission had not yet completed its work. Hon. Members might have seen in The Times recently an article referring to "the academic crisis in Scotland," as it was called. The University Commission passed certain ordinances confirming an agreement for affiliation between the University College in Dundee and the University of St. Andrews. The college in Dundee was established under a recent and most handsome endowment of £130,000. It began its work under most hopeful auspices. Its professors under that endowment were men of eminence, several of whom had been promoted to the first professional seats in the country. The establishment of the college was especially looked forward to with hope on the scientific side, and also as a means of setting up a medical school in Dundee. They had a splendid hospital, with a large number of beds, and no better hospital could be found in the country for medical students to attend. It would also be a great relief in some respects to the overcrowded classes in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, although the scheme of affiliation was entered into on the part of the College authorities, after very considerable negotiation and correspondence between them and the University, the medieval party in the latter resolved to oppose association with the new college in the town—a comparatively old town with very large modern developments. On technical grounds the University obtained a decision in the House of Lords against the strict legality of the first ordinance. The matter then came before the Committee of the Privy Council, and the decision of the Privy Council, although not in all respects favourable to Dundee, yet cleared the way for a joint agreement between the old University and the new College. But the University party determined, with all its wealth at its back, to worry and harass the Dundee College by protracted expensive litigation. Practically refusing to recognise the decision of the Privy Council, they again, on technical grounds, brought an action in the Court of Session, Edinburgh, which opened a vista of long-continued litigation. There might be an appeal to the House of Lords, a second decision might be appealed against, and litigation might go on for years. In the meantime, the purposes for which this admirably administered college at Dundee was established would be practically frustrated, and funds which should go for the improvement of the college were diverted by this expensive litigation, and the council of the college, consisting of authorities of the town, professors, and representative men of the district, were continually- worried and harassed. The Ordinance, which had been appealed against in the House of Lords and brought under the notice of the Committee of the Privy Council, was the work of this Universities Commission, and, as one of the Representatives of Dundee, he made bold to say that the work of the Commission would not be completed until it had framed and was able to enforce its own order for the affiliation of Dundee College with the University. It would be most unfortunate if the Commission were not maintained until it had completed this work. If the Commission had shown more firmness, perhaps litigation might have been averted, but he did not blame the Commission; it was composed of a number of eminent and able men, who, no doubt, had done what they considered best under the circumstances. But they would not have finished their work until they had established the validity of their own order. He therefore brought this matter under the notice of the Treasury, and, not seeing the Lord Advocate in his place, he hoped the Secretary would be prepared to give an assurance that the Universities Commission would be maintained at least until this work was fully completed.


referred to the Historical Manuscripts Commission. No doubt the Commission had done useful work, and historically useful material had been published, but he suggested that a little more care might be exercised in the selection of matter for publication. He would like to know the conditions under which these manuscripts, when printed in book form, were distributed and sold; whether there was any return for a large public expense. He had read most of the publications, and his personal opinion was that too much of the matter consisted of historical gossip of no great value. He also desired to know how far the researches of the Commission extended. He observed that most of them were private papers, but he believed there were a great many valuable manuscripts in the House of Lords. Would they conic within the purview of the Commission?

CAPTAIN BETIIELL (York, W.R., Holderness)

hoped the advice would not be taken to invite the Commission to be more restrictive in their selection. Their work as carried out was most useful.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

understood that the Universities Commission would be continued for some months longer until the Commissioners could deal with points yet remaining unsettled, including the matter referred to by his lion. Friend the Member for Dundee. It was quite time the relations between the University of St. Andrews and the Dundee College were settled. Much money had been spent in litigation, and the position of the college remained uncertain in relation to the Universities grant. The Commission had to determine the proportions of the grant to the Scottish Universities, and it would be an unfortunate thing if the Commission should cease while its work was incomplete.

MELLOR, (York, W.R., Sowerby)

without going into the whole question as between the University and the College of Dundee, said the statement of ins hon. Friend behind him was amply justified by the facts. So far as he understood, the college at Dundee was admirably situated, had an able staff, and it was much to be regretted that means had not been found to stop the costly litigation to which it had been subjected. He hoped that the Commission might be continued in order that the college of Dundee might be relieved from this litigation and assume its proper place as a college affiliated to the University.

MR J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkealdy Burghs)

desired to emphasise what his hon. Friend had said with regard to the period of time during which this Commission had existed. Three or four years ago he got a pledge from the right hon. Gentleman who occupied the position now occupied by the right lion. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, that this Commission would probably report within the succeeding few months. Now the Commission for some extraordinary reason had gone on year after year, and the House had been asked to vote money for rather high salaries for certain officials, and as far as lie had been able to see, the public had obtained no corresponding advantage front the expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman himself, if he were on that side of the House, would make some strong remarks as to the period during which the Commission had existed, and lie was sure lie would not recede from the position he took up at that time. Rightly or wrongly, there was a feeling in Scotland that the Commission had gone on a little too long. No doubt there were some points still unsettled but every Commission could find points to settle if certain officials were anxious that the Commission should not be dissolved. He hoped the right hon. Gentlemen would take care, if the Commission Were to go on any longer, to see that some work was done. ["Hear, hear!"] it was very nearly time, in his opinion, that the Commission came to an end, and lie hoped the right hon. Gentleman would facilitate that as soon as possible. [Hear, hear!"] With regard to the Did Age Pensions Commission, he wished the right lion. Gentleman could tell them if there was any information of what the Commission was doing. Since its appointment there had been no public intimation whatever of the proceedings of the Commission, and he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would be able to tell them what it had been doing, and when they might expect some report. ["Hear, hear!"]


entirely agreed that it was time the University Commission came to an end. The Treasury had done their best by cutting down the Estimates last year to four months' salaries, and this year to three months'—a pretty clear indication of their view as to the continuation of the Commission. They had even gone further, and had turned the Commission out of their old quarters. But until the pending litigation was concluded—and he believed the question between Dundee and St. Andrews was the only one really left open—he was afraid the Commission must be continued. The staff and salaries should be cut down as much as possible, but it was absolutely necessary that the skeleton of a Commission should be kept in existence, until a decision was come to upon the one point not yet settled. With regard to the Colonisation Commission, he hoped the hon. Member for Caithness would not divide the Committee. The Government were as anxious as himself to bring the Commission to an end; but it was of real importance, as long as there were any settlers whose interests had to be guarded, that they should have the means of doing so. He agreed, however, that the expenses should be cut down as much as possible. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had put questions with regard to the Historical Manuscripts Commission. In the first place, he had asked whether the work of the Commission extended to the House of Lords. Up to the end of last year there was upon the Vote a charge fur calendaring, the MSS. of the House of Lords; but he thought the charge ought properly to fall upon the House of Lords Vote. The work was done by the officials of that House, and of course the cost should be paid out of that Vote. There had been a parallel instance in the case of the Council Office. His hon. Friend had also asked a question as to the distribution of what he ventured to describe as the very valuable Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission. It had been suggested that a little more care might be exercised in selecting what was published. He did nut profess to have read the Reports, but lie had occasionally looked into them, and he regarded them as most valuable historical records, and he should be sorry to see their volume diminished. But it did strike him that such valuable documents ought to command a fair public sale. They ought to do something, in the first instance, to make the Reports more popular. He hail suggested to the Master of the Rolls that, as this was a work that would go on for a considerable time, it might be handed over to the Record Office, instead of leaving it in the hands of what was called a Temporary Commission. But he was bound to say the reply of the Master of the Rolls on this point was convincing. There were a number of persons of considerable influence on the Commission who were able to get private owners of manuscripts to give permission for their being calendared, which permission might not be so readily given to permanent officials. The hon. Member for Oswestry, at the beginning of the Session, put a question as to the order of publication and the numbering of the volumes. He had arranged that this should be altered, so that manuscripts belonging to any particular collection would follow each other in consecutive order. There was an idea also of printing them on a little better paper. There was a certain amount of waste arising from the fact that because technically these volumes were Reports of a Royal Commission they had to be circulated gratuitously to Members of both Houses. He thought Members should in future be required to pay for copies if they required them. [Dissent.] He could not see why, on a merely technical ground, these Reports should be distributed wholesale. [HON. MEMBERS: "Only on application!"] The applications had been very considerable; nearly everybody had applied for them.

*MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

said the reply of the right hon. Gentleman on the question of the Colonisation Commission was extremely unsatisfactory. He said the matter would be settled as soon as possible. But when would that be? It was quite ten years ago that the Commission was appointed. He wanted the right hon. Gentleman to tell him what the Secretary to the Commission did for his £100 a year? What, also, did Mr. Borrowdale, the agent in Canada, do for his salary? He was paid £250 a year for attending to the interests of a few settlers, and £75 was allowed him for travelling expenses. He pressed for a promise that these salaries should be reduced. If any useful work were being done he should not object. But as practically no work was done by these persons, unless the right hon. Gentleman would promise to take immediate steps, not in the far future or as soon as possible, but immediate steps, for a substantial reduction of these salaries, he should go to a Division on the Vote.


remarked that fresh information had been supplied by the hon. Member who had just sat down, who assured him positively that nothing was being done by the Commission; but he might say that the information was very different from that which lie received officially. He did not want to throw doubt on the accuracy of the hon. Member's statement; but naturally he looked into the Vote carefully before submitting it to the House, and he could assure the hon. Member that his statement that no good work was being done by the Commission was a surprise to him.


would like to know what had been done. He had been watching the Commission for the last ten or a dozen years, and he did not know that at present anything at all was being done. Some eleven or twelve years ago several gentlemen, including the Lord Provost of Glasgow, formed themselves into a Committee, subscribed money, and asked for powers to enable them to try an experiment in colonisation; and a considerable sum was given them for the purpose of aiding that experiment. What had been the result of the experience of ten years? Several years ago he was himself upon a Select Committee of that House to inquire into the matter. He found the evidence so conflicting t hat he thought it best to go over to Canada and sec for himself what the condition of things was. He went over there seven or eight years ago. He first went to Saltcoats, and he found, as he stated at the time, that everyone of the cottiers who had gone there had given up his place arid gone away to labour in the timber trade, in which they were doing much better; so that the place was abandoned years ago. As far as Killarney was concerned, which had been the most successful settlement, a number of people were still there; but the last information he had was that they were going to be turned out for not paying their rates. They got credit from the merchant, took expensive teams, and bought expensive machinery, and for years they had been hopelessly crushed by debt, and a large number of them had given it up for something else. There were very few of the settlers left to look after, so that it was practically useless paying an agent £5 a week to look after half-a-dozen people. The Government should recognise that this money was practically lost, and agree to wipe it off.


entirely agreed with what had already been said, that it appeared desirable that, if possible, the present state of things should come to an end. But there was still some work to be done in Canada, owing to the very fact that the matter had been such a failure. There was, as had been said, Government money and Government payments to be recovered from the settlers, and the Government were doing their best to get the money. Those settlers wanted very careful watching indeed; they were bolting in every direction, and this money was employed in keeping a careful watch.


They could not give you a penny in the pound.

MR. ALEXANDER URE (Linlithgow)

observed that he had had occasion to investigate the position of the litigation over the Ordinances with the view of seeing what could be done to bring to an end this lamentable state of affairs. No doubt the litigation was a very serious difficulty in the way of achieving the end which the Member for Kirkcaldy and lie desired. The litigation had for its object the setting aside altogether of some Ordinances that were passed by the University Commissioners. The Secretary to the Treasury had said that the litigation had been going on for some time; unfortunately that was not so. If it had been going on for some time they would have cherished a reasonable prospect of its speedy termination. But the present state of the litigation was only commenced this summer, and so far as he was aware no progress had yet been made in the Court of Session. If a decision were obtained before the Court rose, which it did on the 20th of July, the case would no doubt, judging by past experience of litigation, be taken to the Appeal Court. The judgment of the Appeal Court would be obtained some time in the winter session, and after that the unsuccessful litigant had a period of two years during which he might consider the question whether he was going to appeal to the House of Lords. That was a very lamentable prospect. Was there no remedy for the mischief? Some time ago the Member for South Edinburgh asked the Lord Advocate whether the attention of the Government had been directed to this matter, which was virtually a public calamity in Scotland, and whether anything could be done. The Lord Advocate said the attention of the Government had been directed, and something would be done, but they had heard nothing further. So far as he could see, if the litigation were to proceed, all that the Government could do was to pay the expenses of the people on whose side their sympathies lay. But even if they came to the assistance of the offenders, that long vista of legal proceedings would have to be gone through, and they would still have a prolonged delay before an end was brought to the business. If unfortunately the pursuers were successful, the Ordinances would be set aside, and some body would have to be brought into existence to pass Ordinances. He would suggest as a remedy that the Government should bring in a Bill of a, single clause, validating all the Ordinances that had been passed by the Commissioners. If that were passed the University Commissioners might be dissolved, and the affiliation between the College of Dundee and the University of St. Andrews would be completed. Some Members might say that that would be an unwarrantable interference by Parliament with a court of law. That might be so, but if they were all desirous that the Ordinances should be sustained, why should the course he suggested not be taken? The challenge of the Ordinances was made upon purely technical grounds. ["Hear, hear!"] On their merits nobody disputed that the Ordinances were calculated to bring great advantage both to Dundee and St. Andrews, and he said advisedly that the challenge was on purely technical grounds. Therefore this House ought to have no hesitation in interfering to bring to an end a most unfortunate state of matters and to a speedy conclusion a serious litigation which had been going on for long, and which might otherwise go on for years more.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

trusted the Secretary to the Treasury would reconsider his decision with regard to the circulation of historical manuscript Reports. The expense of circulating a copy of each such Report to Members of Parliament could not be very great, and he hoped steps would be taken to secure this being done, so that the Reports might reach public libraries and similar institutions.


was in favour personally of distributing volumes of Blue-books of interest even more largely than, they were among public libraries and similar institutions in large towns. He would point out that the calendaring of manuscripts and the issue of the calendars would go on for a very considerable period. It was by a mere accident that they happened to be the Reports of a Royal Commission, and that they were treated as ordinary Blue-books and distributed to Members of that House. They were valuable documents, which might very well be distributed among the constituencies, but he did not see why they should receive exceptional treatment which was not extended to any other volumes. There was really no reason whatever for putting the historical Reports upon the same footing as ordinary Blue-books. The latter were required for the ordinary business transactions of the House, but these historical documents stood on a totally different footing, and were entirely unconnected with the business of Parliament. He did not, therefore, see why the Treasury should be called upon to incur expense in connection with the distribution of such documents.


observed that this was an exceedingly small matter for the Treasury to concede. The right hon. Gentleman said he was perfectly desirous of assisting Members to circulate these valuable documents among their constituents, but he wanted hon. Members to do this at their own expense. The way the right hon. Gentleman could give practical effect to his desire on that point was by allowing, at any rate, one copy of such Report to each hon. Member for circulation. He moved the reduction of the Vote by £100 in respect of the Historical Manuscripts Commission.


held that the Secretary to the Treasury should be supported in this matter. There was much less to be said for distributing the Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission free than for distributing free the Reports of "Hansard." The Reports of the Commission had nothing to do with the business of the House, but "Hansard" was part of the equipment of a Member of Parliament, and Members of Parliament who were not well off could not afford to pay for it.

*MR. LECKY (Dublin University)

said that one consideration that should not be forgotten was that these Reports had been distributed for many years, and their production and distribution was pretty nearly the only service the Government did for history. The House of Commons was not much addicted to history beyond a certain limit, the usual time limit being the earlier speeches of the Colonial Secretary or the Leader of the Opposition. [Laughter, and "Hear, hear!"] This, however, was a year of historical retrospect, and the Treasury should not signalise it by the great innovation of denying to the House one of the few privileges of the kind it possessed. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea Boroughs)

said that if the Committee divided he should support his hon. Friend the Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs. The expense to the Treasury in connection with the distribution of these reports was not the printing of a few additional copies for distribution among Members of the House. The real expense to the Treasury was the Commission itself. It could not materially add to the expense of the Commission to distribute 670 additional copies. It was absurd to say that they would cost ten shillings each. Let the Treasury not make itself more unpopular in historical and scholarly circles than it was at present.

MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, S.)

said he had long been in favour of the distribution of "Hansard" to Members free, and he hoped that on some future occasion he would have the support of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. If the Secretary to the Treasury were not careful he would be known as an enemy to art and literature. He had already distinguished himself with regard to South Kensington in respects that had not commanded approval, and he regretted that he should object to the free distribution of these Reports.


said Parliament had to vote money for this and other Commissions, and its Members had a right to have Reports of the Commissions to see what they were doing and whether Parlia- ment were getting value for its money. If the Report of one Commission were to be denied them they might as well be denied the Reports of all Commissions. Every Blue-book they sent to their constituents cost them 5s. or more, and the cost of sending Blue-books and Parliamentary Papers was governed by the number of institutions and constituents applying for them. Nothing like 670 additional copies would be required, and the cost would merely be that of paper.

MR. LEONARD COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

opposed the Amendment, saying, that pleasant as was the privilege of studying the Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, it was purely a privilege which they could not say they had a right to as Members of the Legislature. He contended that the Reports of the Commission were not in the same category as reports relating to the condition of different industries, populations, or public questions.


defended the Secretary to the Treasury as merely practising in office the economy in these matters which he advocated when he was in Opposition. The prices of the volumes issued by the Historical Manuscripts Commission were low, and, as they did not relate to proceedings that formed any part of the business of the House, there was no reason why Members who were interested in them should not buy them themselves. He commended his right hon. Friend for the course he had taken. It was strictly in accordance with the principles of economy which both of them had always preached when in Opposition. [Laughter.]

*MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

pointed out that the price of the last volume issued by the Commission was 2s. 6d. Therefore, even if every Member applied for a copy the total cost would he only £84. Every one must admire the spirit of economy which was beginning to show itself on the Treasury Bench, but it was somewhat belated, and was exhibited on a rather small scale. ["Hear, hear!"]

The Committee divided: Ayes, 81; Noes, 138.—(Division List, No. 239.)


said he would have liked the right hon. Gentleman to be still more definite with regard to the item to which he had called attention. He would have liked the right hon. Gentleman to give a pledge that it would not appear on the Paper again. There were no more honest people in the world than the Highland Crofters, and he bad the facts from them. These poor men were taken nut at a time of year when they were unable to plough the hind, and so lost a year, and food had to be provided for them during that time. An agent of the Colonisation Board encouraged them, and took them out a year too early. He hoped the Committee would have an intimation from the right hon. Gentleman that this expenditure would be reduced or abolished. If they did not get such an intimation, he would be under the necessity of moving the reduction of the Vote.


desired to point out that the Congested Districts Board for Ireland was included in this Vote. Surely there was not a Temporary Commission? Then the last item was £7,500 for Commissions not specifically provided for. What were those Commissions? It was very extraordinary that out of a sum of £30,000 there should be so large an item as £7,500 without any explanation at all. There was also an item of £12,500 for other Departmental inquiries also unexplained. He would be glad to know whether it was not possible to prepare the Vote with greater care, so that every item included might be fully explained.


said that the Vote covered a great number of Temporary Commissions appointed merely for the purpose of delaying or preventing legislation. He especially referred to the Licensing Commission. He would like to ask when the Sugar Commission was likely to report.


said he was told that every effort was being made to enable the Report to be issued. With regard to the Congested Districts Board, it was a Commission to all intents and purposes, and he did not think it was at all unusual that Commissions of this character, even when they lasted as long as this one, should be treated as Temporary. With regard to the unexplained item of £7,500, to which the hon. Member for Islington had called attention, a margin was always allowed under this Vote to meet expenses of Commissions which were not otherwise provided for.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

5. £3,279, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Expenses.


wished to point out that there was a great increase in the expenses under the item Lord Chamberlain's Department, namely, from £2,900 last year to £5,050. He would be glad to know the reason of this.


said he believed it was in connection with the Jubilee.


said that a note explained that it was required to meet the cost of preparing Orders of the Garter, Thistle, Distinguished Service Orders, and other similar matters. He always understood that the fees paid by the recipients of these Orders compensated for the cost.


This is in connection with forthcoming Honours in connection with the Diamond Jubilee.


said there was a Scotch item which he had thought would disappear, namely, the salary of the Printer's Reader to the Bible Board of Scotland. He believed there was a pledge some years ago that the expenditure on this Board was to be abolished. He thought the Board ought to be abolished altogether. At any rate, the gentleman who acted as Clerk to the Board surely could not have very much to do, and might also do the work of the Reader. He would like to know why the Board was still going on?


suggested that the hon. Gentleman should raise the question on Report, as the Lord Advocate was not now in his place.


then referred to the practice of giving Queen's Plates to be run for in Ireland. A number of plates used to be voted for Great Britain, but the money was now devoted to a much better purpose by the Royal Commission on Horse-breeding. An Irish Commission had now been appointed, and he thought it would be wise to do in Ireland what had been done in Great Britain.


said provision was made in another Vote for money to be devoted to horse-breeding in Ireland.


said a Commission had been appointed in Ireland, and they would report. The change was made in Great Britain after the Commission had reported.


Yes but the Irish Commission has not yet reported, so the occasion has not arisen.

Vote agreed to.

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