HC Deb 28 May 1897 vol 49 cc1561-90

5. £19,576, to complete the sum for House of Commons Offices. Agreed to.

6. Motion made, and Question proposed: — That a sum, not exceeding £132,859, 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 expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments.

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

asked whether the President of the Board of Trade intended to take action on the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on the administration of the Mercantile Marine Fund, advising the reorganisation of the Fund. He noticed there was an enormous amount of money spent yearly in bringing home distressed British seamen from abroad; and he thought the House should be supplied with information as to the causes which lead to this expenditure. He would also like to know when it was likely the House would obtain the promised Return of merchant seamen. A Return had been supplied to the Departmental Committee on the Undermanning of Ships, but there was the greatest possible difference of opinion between various competent authorities as to its accuracy, and as the Registrar General of Merchant Seamen had better opportunities than anyone else for preparing such a Return, he hoped the completion of the one on which he was now engaged would be facilitated in every way.


joined with his right hon. Friend in pressing for the Return of merchant seamen. He was quite unable to conceive on what methods the Returns of the Board of Trade, on this subject were prepared. They seemed to be got up anyway or anyhow. Certainly the Return of merchant seamen was absolutely delusive.

*MR. CUMMING MACDONA (Southwark, Rotherhithe)

said he must join issue with his hon. Friend on the subject of the Board of Trade Returns. A very remarkable instance of Board of Trade Returns had been published that morning in its Report on the loss of life at sea, which reflected marked credit on the Department. That Report had given the fullest details in admirable form, accompanied by several maps of a most artistic and useful character.


said his hon. Friend the Member for Lynn Regis was always rather severe in his criticisms, but he did not always mean what he said. [Laughter.] He was sure the Returns which were prepared by the Board of Trade were prepared with the greatest care. With regard to the mercantile marine he could assure the right hon. Baronet opposite that as full a Return as possible was made, and the right hon. Gentleman admitted the difficulty of making such a Return as he asked for. He would, however, look into the matter and see what could be done. With regard to the administration of the Mercantile Marine Fund, undoubtedly the whole system was rather anomalous and out of date. He had hoped that it might have been possible to have dealt with the matter in the present Session, but such a reconstruction or reorganisation as was suggested could not be carried out unless they had a larger contribution from the Treasury, and that was not possible this year. He hoped, however, that he should be able to deal with the matter next Session, and, although he did not commit himself to every detail of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, he hoped they would be able to proceed somewhat on those lines.


thought the President of the Board of Trade might have given more assistance to the Home Office in the dispute between the cabdrivers of the Metropolis and the railway companies. The Board of Trade was the Government Department which had to deal with the railway companies, and if the right hon. Gentleman would use his influence with them perhaps an amicable settlement might be arrived at. The cabdrivers and proprietors were all united now, and were most anxious to arrive at a settlement, but the railway companies by standing too stiffly their rights and a little more than their rights had prevented it. With regard to the service of workmen's trains in the metropolis in the early hours of the morning there were one or two lines which treated the matter reasonably, but only one or two. The consequence was that the vast population of Londoners who travelled by these trains had to submit to great hardships. He suggested that the time at which these trains ran should be extended. He suggested that in the Return which was made of the trade of Great Britain and Ireland the trade of Ireland should be given separately. If this were done the value of this excellent Return would be greatly increased.


asked whether and portion of the £800 which had been spent in fees and expenses under the Conciliation Act of 1896 had been spent in respect of the Penrhyn quarries dispute. He noticed that £2,800 was asked for the Light Railways Commission, and he wished to know if any of the light railways were in progress. He thought the salary of the right hon. Gentleman was inadequate— [laughter]—having regard to the many duties he had to perform. He called attention to the overcrowded state of railway carriages, especially in and around London.


That is a matter over which the President of the Board of Trade has no control.


asked if the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour to introduce legislation in order to bring about a better state of things.


said that was as much in the power of the hon. Member as of the Board of Trade.


said he should have then to adopt other means of bringing the matter to the notice of the Department. He complained that the Patent, Office took money without any inquiry, sometimes permitting 50 patents for the same article, and moved to reduce the Vote by the sum of £1,000.

[After the usual interval, the Chair was taken by Mr. JOHN ELLIS.]

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

joined in the appeal of the hon. Member for Islington to the President of the Board of Trade to renew his mediatory efforts in connection with the Privileged Cab question. The President of the Board of Trade had some Parliamentary control and some official regulation over the railways, and it seemed to him that if the right hon. Gentleman would again appeal to the managers of the railway cab companies he had not the least doubt that his efforts would be successful. The other day a director of one of the largest railway companies went so far as to say to him that if the cabmen would terminate the dispute and return to their situations as heretofore, he could almost guarantee that the railway companies would be prepared to make some settlement and some satisfactory compromise with the striking cab drivers. He believed that if this view was properly exploited by the President of the Board of Trade the dispute might be terminated on terms advantageous both to the travelling public and to the railway companies, and certainly satisfactory to the cab drivers. The reason he pressed this was because the railway companies, while declining to accede to the abolition of the privileged cab in railway stations, had been driven to adopt an interchangeable privileged cab system, which was in itself a step in the right direction. That should indicate to the President of the Board of Trade what the views of the companies were. It indicated that the privileged system had broken down, and had broken down, to some extent, with the concurrence of the railway companies themselves. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade would seize every opportunity of trying to persuade the railway companies to meet the men, and if they declined he should endeavour on his own initiative to do for the travelling public, by the abolition of the privileged cab system, what he had so well endeavoured to do for the Bethesda quarrymen. When he reminded the Committee that the cabmen had spent £20,000 on this dispute, he thought they would agree that that was an indication that they had some grievances, and when the fact was taken into consideration that the cab masters were on the side of the men, he thought he had shown sufficient reasons why an effort should be made to bring this dispute to an end as soon as possible.

MR. M. AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)

desired to raise the question of the appointment of a correspondent for agriculture in Ireland. He put a Question to the President of Board of Trade on that subject last year, but although he expressed himself sympathetically, he believed that nothing had been done up to the present. The fact that out of the entire population of Ireland 78 per cent, were entirely dependent on agriculture showed there was a strong case for an independent correspondent for Ireland. From time to time reports had appeared in the Labour Gazette, regarding the position of the agricultural labourers in England, Scotland, and Wales, but during the past four years only on two occasions had there been any direct reference to the exact position of the agricultural labourers in Ireland. It was very necessary that they should have a direct representative from the Board of Trade in Ireland. Under the present system the gentleman in England paid a cursory visit to Ireland, and made a, report on the then existing condition of affairs, and that single visit did him for the entire year, but what would do in March would not do in September; and he asked the right hon. Gentleman that, as he required regular reports from England to be supplied to the Labour Gazette, he should also direct that an independent report of the agricultural condition of the labourer in Ireland should be supplied to the same journal. He would also point out that while four general reports had been supplied from Wales, not a single general report had been supplied from Ireland. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to see his way to appoint an independent, correspondent for Ireland.


said that it would be interesting in have from the right hon. Gentleman what had been done under the light Railways Act—how far the Board of Trade had approved of the applications that had been made under the Act, and how far it was working satisfactorily.


said he wished to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the treatment of certain of the Wexford pilots. He understood that the Board of Trade had the power to pass certain Provisional Orders making alterations in pilotage districts, and sometimes these Orders very materially affected the vested interests of pilots. There was a Pilotage Provisional Order before the House this Session, and that had reference to the harbour of Rosslare. That harbour was only used by the steamers of one English company, and up to the present it had been necessary for any steamer going into that port to take a pilot on board. A Provisional Order was the process of being passed by which the district was to be altered, and by which ships would be allowed to go into that harbour without taking a pilot. He was not concerned to argue the question whether that was right or wrong, but he wished to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether it was fair to treat the Wexford pilots in this way? He was given to understand that the Order would very seriously affect their earnings. The Wexford pilots were 19 in number, and if the port of Rosslare, which was at the entrance of the Wexford harbour district, were freed from pilotage, much of the trade would be taken away from Wexford. He thought that, in the circumstances, it was only fair that the Board of Trade should make the Wexford pilots the ordinary allowance which in such circumstances was usually made, he would be glad to know what was the intention of the Board of Trade with regard to these pilots.

CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

said he wished to make an appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury, or rather to the President of the Board of Trade, with reference to a very deserving though small number of public officials. He referred to those who were known as abstractors in the General Register and Record Office of Shipping and Seamen. They had to perform work of a by no means light class, which could not be done by men who had not a certain amount of experience and mental training. So far back as 1867 a Committee was appointed to deal with the organisation of this office, and they decided that the work done by these clerks, then called writers or verifiers, was such as was done by clerks of the lower division. In 1887 another Committee reported that the whole organisation of the office should be placed on the basis of a lower division office. In 1889 the authorities at the Treasury departed from the views of the Ridley Commission, and placed these clerks in the category of what were known as abstractors—in fact, made them, so to speak, a class by themselves. By this all they gained was a new name and a maximum increase of, £9. It was true that they were also put on the Pension List, but their pension was a very visionary one, and in accepting it they had to surrender a claim which they had to a gratuity of £100. In 1892 or 1893 they presented a memorial to the Treasury, and in 1895 they went to the head of their Department, Sir Courtenay Boyle, and he frankly admitted that they were doing work similar to that being done by other clerks in the same office who received a very much higher salary. It was also admitted that their rate of increment was very small. Encouraged by this statement, they again asked the Treasury in 1895 to consider the advisability of opening a certain number of posts in connection with the Mercantile Marine Office to them. The grievance of these men was that, as public servants performing somewhat high-class clerical work, they might expect, after 22 years' service, to receive the magnificent stipend of £150. There were only 17 of them, and they were serving in an office with 30 other clerks, and the total cost of the office showed that the 30 senior clerks received in salary six times the amount received by these men. What they felt most acutely was that they could never rise to a higher position. He thought the Committee would admit that it was scarcely fair to keep a few men doing practically the same work as others at a lower rate of pay, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was not possible that something could be done to remedy the grievances to which he had called attention?


said that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had begun his remarks by appealing to the Secretary to the Treasury, and although he subsequently corrected himself and appealed to him, he thought that, on the whole, the grievances to which the hon. Gentleman had called attention were a matter for the Treasury. This case was another illustration of the fact that, although the House of Commons in the abstract always desired economy, yet in individual cases of this kind hon. Gentlemen were to be found urging on the Treasury an increase of pay all round. He did not dispute the fact that the gentlemen referred to were competent for the work which they did. At the same time he disputed the assertion that they were doing work which was the same as that done by others who were more highly paid. Even if it were so, that was a circumstance which occurred in every department of business. However conciliatory they might wish to be, it was impossible to go- on raising salaries in the way that had been suggested. Two men might be sitting side by side at a desk and doing work which appeared to be very much the same kind of work; yet one of the men was a man who would anywhere command better wages than the other. As far as these gentlemen were concerned, it must be remembered that they were put in a better position than they at one time occupied. At one time they had no permanent employment, and were entitled to no pension. Now they had a permanency, and their salaries would rise to £150 a year. He did not hesitate to say that he should be glad if they received higher payment; but he did not know that the payment was inadequate for the work done, and certainly theirs was a better position than they were in a few years ago. The hon. Member for East Mayo had brought forward the question of the pilots of Rosslare. Not having known he was going to refer to that question, and being unable to bear in mind all the details of a great Department like the Board of Trade, he was not in a position to give as sufficient an answer as he might desire. His impression was that the Board of Trade had little or nothing to do with the matter; it was a matter dealt with by the Pilot Board of the district, of which he believed the Board of Trade nominated one member.


was sorry to interrupt, but both sides had been arguing out the matter before the heads of the Department at the Board of Trade during the past week.


said no doubt the Board of Trade had some power, as they were bringing forward a Bill in the House of Commons; but he thought they were acting ministerially on local initiative. If the hon. Member had mentioned that there had been a conference at the Board of Trade on the subject he would have said what he now said—that he would make inquiries as to what took place with a view of endeavouring to see if anything could be done in the direction desired. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Islington thought he was not sufficiently severe on the railway companies. He should like to know what the view of the railway companies was. [A laugh.] He confessed that he did not attempt to be severe with them; that was not his function. He thought his duty was best done by being, if possible, on good terms with the railway companies. The powers of the Board of Trade over the railway companies were extremely limited; but he was bound to say that with hardly a single exception the representations they made to the companies were generally very fairly considered and very often their recommendations were acted upon, not because the Board had any power, but the railway companies knew that they could not afford to be indifferent to the wishes of a Government Department representing the public. He had no reason whatever to complain of the way in which the railway companies received the representations of the Board. They must all remember a recent case in which the intervention of the Board of Trade had the effect of preventing what would have been a deplorable strike. That intervention was in no way resented by the railway company; on the contrary, it was welcomed, and the result was highly satisfactory to all concerned. So that when the hon. Member talked about his not being sufficiently severe to the railway companies, he must remember that most of what they could do was by way of persuasion. With regard to the matter of the maps, he had already said that he thought it a matter of great importance to the trading community that they should be published as they were before, and he had every hope that the railway companies would accede to it. ["Hear, hear!"] Then with regard to the cab strike, to which reference had been made by the same hon. Member and by the hon. Member for Battersea. The latter had referred to the fact that he had during the strike made some representations to the railway companies. He confessed that he had some sympathy with the cabmen in the effort they made to get rid of the disability under which they laboured. He had a soft corner in his heart for the London cabmen. ["Hear, hear!"] They sometimes heard him much abused, though not so much in recent years as of old; but, as far as he was concerned, he had rarely mot with a case of incivility in a cabman; on the contrary, he had often had occasion to be very much satisfied with the way in which he had been treated by them. ["Hear, hear!"] If he could have been of any assistance in the late strike, he should have been glad. He did communicate with the railway companies, but they stated that they could not accede to the men's demands without causing great inconvenience to the travelling public, and when a great company managing its own affairs made a statement of that kind, the head of a public department with no power to enforce his views could go no further. He knew that the Home Office endeavoured to bring about a settlement; and he was glad to hear from the hon. Member for Battersea that there was a disposition on the part of the railway companies, now that the strike was over and the battle won, to give terms that would be acceptable to the cabmen. If he could do anything to assist to that end, he should be glad if his good offices were available. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Islington asked for some information as to the operation of the Light Railways Act. The position was this. Twice a year, in November and in May, the Light Railway Commissioners considered the applications made during the previous six months. In the first six months the number of applications for light railways was about 36. Nearly all had been dealt with. Inquiries had been held in almost every case, and as far as he knew the results had been eminently satisfactory. To illustrate the working of the Act in the reduction of costs in connection with railways, he might mention that last Session a railway was applied for in the ordinary way and the Bill was withdrawn. The railway was to have cost £400,000. Application for the same line was made to the Light Railway Commissioners, and after a two hours' inquiry the scheme was passed; and the whole cost of the line and expenses, instead of £400,000, would now be only £60,000. That alone was a sufficient indication of the enormous advantage that was likely to accrue from the Act. ["Hear, hear!"] He was not quite sure how many applications had been received in the second period up to the present moment; but a month ago he understood that the number amounted to about 50. It would be seen that the Act was working satisfactorily and economically. There would naturally be some delay in issuing the first orders, because it was rather a complicated proceeding and it was necessary to be extremely careful in drawing up these first orders, as they would probably be taken as models for the rest; but there was no reason to think that any unnecessary delay would occur. He would be sorry to hold out any hope that the Department would be able to separate British trade returns from Irish trade returns, for he was informed that such a separation would lead to considerable complication of accounts, and would not serve any very useful purpose. He would, however, inquire further into the matter. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty had put various conundrums to him, and he would endeavour to answer them. The sum of £800 to which the hon. Member had referred was the amount which it was expected would be required to meet charges which might become payable in connection with the working of the Conciliation Act in the ensuing year. Then the hon. Member asked how he accounted for the increase in the amount taken for special services. The largest apparent increase was the item of £2,000 for fees and travelling and other expenses in connection with special inquiries. That was, in fact, a transfer from the Treasury Vote and not an increase. It was considered to be better financially that each Department should be answerable for the amount which it spent than that the Treasury should be responsible for the whole amount. The money was required for the purposes of the various Departmental Committees now sitting at the Board of Trade. There was also an increase of £730 due to the expenses incurred in connection with the transmission of seamen's wages from certain Continental ports. Under this system the wages were taken from the seamen and transmitted to their homes. That had been done at Dunkirk, and the result had been so satisfactory that it had been resolved to extend the practice to three other Continental ports. Everyone who desired the welfare of our seaport communities must be glad to hear of these arrangements. Then £600 was expenditure in connection with light railways. This expenditure would be made up for by the fees received. The hon. Member for Limerick had expressed dissatisfaction with the Labour Gazette. Differing from the hon. Member, he believed that the information given in the Gazette was very much prized, and was of great service. The hon. Member had asked him to appoint a Labour correspondent in Ireland. The circumstances in Ireland were, however, essentially different from the circumstances in England or Scotland. He had inquired into the matter, and he could assure the hon. Member that if he believed that the results which the hon. Member anticipated would follow from the employment of a correspondent in Ireland, he would gladly make the appointment; but from information received by the Board of Trade, he considered that the appointment would not have the valuable results which the hon. Member expected.


expressed satisfaction with the right hon. Gentleman's reply to his representations.


said he maintained that one or two posts in the Mercantile Marine Office ought to have been given to the abstractors. It was true that they had not entered the service by open competitive examination, but they had proved themselves capable of doing the work.


said that the Board of Trade could not ride rough-shod, so to speak, over the rules of the, Civil Service. It was not in the power of the Department to do as the hon. Member wished. He had, he found, omitted to notice one, point which had been raised. He was surprised that any complaint should have been made with regard to the fees charged in the Patent Office. Those fees, as the Committee knew, had been largely reduced with the best results. They were now extremely moderate, and could not be said to bear hardly upon inventors. The scale of fees was arranged in such a way as made it extremely easy for an inventor to obtain his patent, and the present plan had given great satisfaction. He did not say that a time might not arrive when even still more liberal treatment might be accorded to patentees, but it was too soon as yet to contemplate a change. A considerable amount of money was being spent in improving the accommodation at the Patent Office, there being every desire to encourage inventors.


insisted Hint the Patent office ought not to be a profit-making Department, and, as a pro lest against the existing system, moved to reduce the Vote by £1,090. The receipts of the Office were now £205,000, of which only £60,000 was spent in the office. There was therefore a profit of £145,000.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon, Boroughs)

thought it unfair that inventors should be penalised for the benefit of the revenue.


said that great care was taken to render it easy for an inventor to protect his patent. Any inventor who desired to protect his patent could have protection for nine months for,£1. He could have four years' subsequent protection for £4, and as he went on he paid, £1 for every year. Thus for £14 he secured protection for 14 years.


expressed the opinion that some examining body should be set up, in that a poor inventor might be informed whether his patent was of any value or not before he was involved in any further expense.

COLONEL MILWARD (Stratford-upon-Avon)

could not see that there was the slightest hardship in regard to the fees which were charged at the present moment. Patents, as they all knew, formed very valuable property, and they were extremely valuable to the inventor when they were worth am thing at all. If the State received a small sum for fees on patents, he was sure that must be recouped many times over if the invention was a success. As far as the system of examination was concerned it was carried out in America, but not, he believed, to the satisfaction of the inhabitants. It was impossible for any board of examiners, however clever they might be, to state at once, or, for that matter, even after examination, whether there was not something which had escaped their attention, which anticipated the patent. There was no real cause of complaint, and he hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would withdraw his Amendment.

COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)

was also of opinion that the hon. Member for Ross-shire had no real ground to complaint. He had had a good deal to do with patents, and he knew that the fees which were paid for researches, etc., to patent agents, came to a great deal more than had to be paid to the Governmen. Very often those researches were eminently unsatisfactory, and he must say that a system whereby a man might pay a patent agent a large sum of money, pay a trifling fee to the Governmen, and then find the patent was not worth the paper it was written upon, because it had been anticipated, was not altogether satisfactory. With regard to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had last spoken had said about America, he had had to do with many American patentees, and they all seemed to be much better pleased with their own system than with that of this country. The great initial expense in patents did not come from the Government, but from the private investigations an inventor made himself before he found out whether his patent was valuable or not. He thought if the President of the Board of Trade could devise some improvement in this public Department whereby a patentee, poor or rich, could have some ground of security that his patent had not been anticipated, it would be one monument to the right hon. Gentleman's political memory which would last longer than many of the useful monuments he had himself erected.


observed that the hon. and gallant Colonel had hit one of the blots of the patent system, and had asked for a suggestion to remedy the extravagant prices which poor inventors had to pay to patent agents. At the present time, mainly through the lack of a register of patents properly undertaken by the Department and brought up to date, many workmen would go and pay their initial fee for provisional protection, would effect their patent, go back again, and through the absence of a register of patents which everyone ought to be able to have access to on payment of a trifling fee, would be lured on to develop patents which a register of patents would at once have shown them had already been anticipated. He would suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that he should consult with the chief of the Patent Office —a well-informed official—and see whether it was not possible, even at a cost of £1,000 or £2,000, to have a register of patents, by means of which protection could be given to many poor, and also rich, patentees, who would thus be saved from the sharks and patent agents who frequently made many hundreds of pounds out of rich inventors by urging them to continue patents and developments of patents which they would discontinue doing were the patent agents to tell them the truth, or the inventors to have the means of finding it out for themselves.

Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £131,859, be granted for the said Service."

Motion, by leave, withdrawn. Original Question put, and agreed to.

7. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £29,215, 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 a grant in aid of the Mercantile Marine Fund.


urged the desirableness of having Norwegian lights fixed on the coast of Ross-shire. They were now in use on the coast of Argyllshire.

CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)

asked whether the Board of Trade had nearly completed the communication between one lighthouse and another and the stations on the mainland, and whether electric communication with the lightships had been satisfactorily effected.


asked for some information with regard to the electric communication with lighthouses, how far the system had gone, and what was to be effected in the ensuing year.


moved, as an Amendment, "That a sum not exceeding £25,000, be granted for the said Service." He referred to the establishment of electric communication between the lighthouses and the mainland. This experiment had now been going on for upwards of four years, and they had by no means reached finality. Every expert who had considered the subject and the Report of the Commissioners had shown that the experiment was most unsatisfactory and had led to no good result. The money would be better used to increase the number of lighthouses or fog signals so as to prevent accidents than in useless attempts to establish communication between the lighthouses and the mainland. The money spent on communication between lighthouses and the shore should be made to go as far as possible, especially as regarded Scotland. The Scotch coasts were notably deficient in lighthouses and fog signals. The secretary of Lloyds, writing to the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, stated that the experience of Lloyds proved that the best means of diminishing loss of life round the coasts was the establishment of lighthouses and fog signals, which prevented casualties, rather than of telegraphic installations, which only availed after a casualty had taken place. Merchant shipping increased round the coasts of Scotland, and especially the north coast, every year. At present there was no fog signal between the Atlantic and Aberdeen. He moved to reduce the Vote.


said he understood the hon. Member to advocate that all means of electrical communication between lightships and the shore, for the purpose of signalling, should be abolished. His argument that the money should be spent on lighthouses was one that the Committee should not consider. If more lighthouses were wanted they should be provided, but the question whether electrical communication was good or bad must stand by itself, apart from whether more lighthouses were wanted. The Royal Commission of 1892 recommended a large number of electrical communications on our coasts, which had since been completed, and other recommendations would be carried out without delay.


said he could not understand that anyone who knew the situation in which lighthouses and lightships were should desire that they should be cut off from communication with the land. In the outlying sands on the east coast of England it would be the salvation of thousands of lives a year if there was electrical communication with the lightships. He suggested that the President of the Board of Trade might inform himself as to the interesting experiments which had been initiated by an Italian scientist for transmitting electricity without wires or apparatus along waves of ether. That was a direction in which some money might well be spent in the hope of avoiding prospective expenditure hereafter. He trusted the hon. and gallant Member would not persist in his proposal to give up the attempt to establish most necessary and useful communication between lightships and the shore.


remarked that if the Government would give an assurance that they intended to strike out fresh lines and investigate the recent discovery of Martoni he would be delighted to withdraw his Amendment.


mentioned that £600 of the money asked for in the Vote was for experiments in connection with the system of communicating through space.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

8.£8, to complete the sum for Bank-ruptcy Department of the Board of Trade.—Agreed to.

9. £34,291, to complete the sum for Board of Agriculture.


asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether the Department had considered the advisability of extending the facilities for the voluntary use of the tests which were applied in Denmark and France in regard to tuberculosis. The results of the experiments on the Continent certainly tended to establish the accuracy of the test in the great majority of instances, and its general adoption would enable agriculturists to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy animals in their herds. Whatever might be the report of the Royal Commission, there could be little doubt that the general adoption of the experiments, which had been carried out with some success by the hon. Member for Midlothian on his estate in Scotland, would result in enormous saving to farmers at comparatively little cost. Had the Department considered the advisability of not waiting till the Report of the Commission was issued and of providing the means of carrying out this test in different parts of the country under supervision by the Board of Agriculture? Such a step would be a great boon to agriculturists. Only a short time ago the president of the French Shorthorn Society had written to the president of the Shorthorn Society in Great Britain stating that English stock could no longer be imported for sale to France, because the breeders had refused to sell their stock under this test. At least one-fifth of the stock of the country was contaminated by this disease, and its extermination would mean millions of pounds in the pockets of English agriculturists.

MR. LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)

said that as he introduced this subject to the notice of the House of Commons, and as the largest cattle market in the kingdom was in his constituency, he felt he had some right to speak on the question. It was only reasonable to wait for the Report of the Commission before expecting the Department to do anything. The test which the hon. Member referred to was quite as much a Local Government Board as a Board of Agriculture question. The chairman of the Commission was now busy preparing his Report.


said that he wished to make a suggestion with regard to the cultivation of orchards. He suggested some time ago that a commission of inquiry should be instituted into the state of the orchards in the principal cider-producing districts of England, and that the Government should establish certain experimental farms in those districts. As a result of these suggestions a gentleman had recently revived the cider industry in Kent, and last February celebrated there what was called "Arbor Day"—an institution well known in America, where it had produced the best results. Arbor Day was instituted in the United States by a private individual 25 years ago. The notion was warmly supported by the Government, and on the first celebration over a million trees were planted; and a great number each succeeding year, so that in some parts quite a change had been effected in the appearance of the country. The gentleman who had started the institution at the village of Eynsford, in Kent, had done so with the intention of promoting the planting of vintage apples and pears in that county. He (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke) was invited on the occasion, and after the trees had been planted a meeting was held, at which two resolutions were passed. One was:— That, in view of the importance of the cider industry to this country, and the capability of vastly extending it to keep pace with the growing demand for genuine English cider, this meeting urges the appointment of a Commission for the purpose of inquiring into the condition of our orchards all over the kingdom, and the establishment by the State of experimental farms for the cultivation and dissemination of approved varieties of vintage fruit. The other resolution was: — That this meeting urges the importance of encouraging the planting in Kent of vintage varieties of apples such as were formerly abundant in the county, and the introduction of prime cider fruits, many of which are also excellent keepers and cookers. Copies of the resolutions were sent to the President of the Board of Agriculture. They elicited the following reply: —

"Board of Agriculture,

"4, Whitehall-place, London, S.W.,

"26th March 1897.

No. 582/97.

"Sir,—I am directed by the Board of Agriculture to thank you for your letter of the 3rd inst., communicating to me resolutions adopted at a meeting, held at Eynsford on Arbor Day,' 27th ult., and I am to say the Board take note of the various views expressed. The Board are in hearty sympathy with any well-directed efforts which can be made for the improvement of orchards in this country, but they are not at present disposed to think that they themselves could, with advantage, take action in the particular direction indicated. The appointment of a Royal Commission would scarcely appear to be required in order to bring to light the bad condition of certain apple orchards in the cider-making counties, and it is understood that the measures necessary for their improvement are already, as a rule, within the knowledge of fruit-growers.

"Nor do the Board think that the intervention of the State, with regard to the supply of young trees of good descriptions of vintage fruit would be well justified, inasmuch as such trees can readily be obtained at reasonable prices through the ordinary trade channels.— I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

(Signed)" T. H. ELLIOT, Secretary.

"E. D. Till, Esq.,

Priory, Eynsford, Dartford.

Sympathy was always largely kept in stock in the Government Departments— [laughter]—but, as the above letter showed, steps were invariably taken by the Department to find plausible reasons for not doing the thing they declared they were in complete sympathy with. The reply of the Board of Agriculture did not thoroughly satisfy the gentleman to whom it was addressed, and he wrote to the Board on April 1, 1897, as follows: —

"I thank you for your letter (582/97) by which I regret to learn that your Board are not able to take action in the direction of the resolution passed at the public meeting on February 27th. I have found extreme difficulty in obtaining good 6 ft. standards of both apple and pear of vintage varieties, and indeed had to place inferior sorts instead of the superior descriptions I wanted, such, for instance, as Foxwhelp, Dymock Red, Kingston Black, and Joeby Crab; neither could I get Barland nor Taynton Squash pear trees.

"If, with your wider experience, you will kindly tell me where good specimens of these or other proved varieties are obtainable, I shall be greatly obliged. I fear you take too favourable, a view of the situation as regards supplies of young trees, except possibly from French nurseries.—I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully,

"E. D TILL."

A month elapsed before any answer came to that letter. Meanwhile, Mr. Till had applied to all known dealers, and had found that the trees could not be supplied. The reply of the Board of Agriculture was as follows: —

"Sir,—I am directed by the Board of Agriculture to advert to your letter of 1st inst., and with reference to your request to be referred by this Department to fruit tree growers or dealers from whom you could obtain good specimens of young cider apple trees. I am to say that the Board do not see their way to depart from their practice of abstaining from selecting or recommending particular persons or firms."

The Board, therefore, took a month to state what the established practice of the Department was. [Laughter.] It was evident that the Board had endeavoured to find mil whether the statements they had made in their first letter could be substantiated, and, finding they could not, the Board fell back upon "the established practice" of the Department. His friend, sending him the above letter, wrote: —

"I enclose the reply of the Hoard of Agriculture. They abstain from recommending particular persons or firms! A rich excuse for ignorance."

When people applied to him for information as to where they could get good cider—as the Chairman of Committees lately did him the honour of doing—[laughter]—he sent them a printed list of addresses and let them make a choice for themselves, and if the Board knew where those trees were to be obtained 'they could have adopted some such plan as that. The only explanation was that when the Board made the statement they had no foundation whatever for it. On last Monday he received a letter from a Mr. Gray, an official in the British Consulate at Christiania—apparently a very intelligent and able young man. He hoped he would not injure the young man's chances of promotion by slating those facts in his favour. [Laughter]. This gentleman told him that a person of some importance at Christiania—in fact, a member of the body which in Norway corresponded with Parliament—was desirous of trying English cider. He had tried Norwegian cider, and did not like it.[Laughter.] But he was about to give a political dinner to his constituents—[laughter]—so that Members of Parliament had their trials there as well as lure—[laughter]—and wanted some samples of the English article; and if he liked the samples he was prepared to propose that the duty now imposed on the importation of eider into the country should be reduced. Suppose he had written to this gentleman and said that to recommend makers of English cider was contrary to his established practice, what would have happened? Why, there would be no prospect of the introduction of English cider into Norway. Us, however, gave the gentleman the name, of a firm, and the samples he required were despatched to him. He had recently also had a request from a gentleman in Denmark to send him English cider, with a view to its introduction into that country. If these people had not happened to know of his humble existence they would naturally have applied to the Board of Agriculture, and if they had done so the Board, after waiting a month, would have replied that the practice of the Department would not allow them to give any such information. In that way the opportunity for the opening up of what might be a considerable trade would have been lost by the action of a Government Department. In America they acted in a very different manner, and in Canada also. He had suggested that the Board of Agriculture should establish experimental farms in tins country. In the United States there were 50 experimental farms, and there were some in Canada also. To show the practical use of these farms he cited the case of the State of Iowa, where it was found that the winters were so inclement that the apple trees were often destroyed. The Government thereupon sent a director of agriculture, accompanied by a Canadian horticulturist, to Russia, where in one of the coldest provinces, the Province of kasan, they found not only varieties of apple, pear, and plum trees which could be cultivated with profit in the cold climate of Iowa, but also forest trees which would give these fruit trees the necessary shelter. That was the proper sort of Board of Agriculture—["Hear, hear!"]—and that was what the people here wanted. Experiments necessarily implied failure, and the ordinary farmer could not afford to run the risk of failure. The Government, however, could afford to run tins risk, and there was no doubt that agriculturists in this country might greatly benefit by these farms All that the farmer had to do in the States, or in Canada, was to go or write to the experimental farms in order to find out what fruit trees he could plant with the best chance of success on his farm. Not only so, he could have at cost price whatever trees he wanted. The cost of these five experimental stations in Canada was £8,000 a year in a poor country, against England's miserable £7,000 or £8,000 a year. What he wanted the right hon. Gentleman to do was to follow the example of our Colonies, and ask the Treasury, not for £8,000, but for £80,000, a year.

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

observed that the last speaker had given the Committee some very useful information with regard to apple growing and eider making. He had a small matter which he wished to bring before the President of the Board of Agriculture, and it was this—he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not issue some circulars to the farmers in the west of England, not to induce them to plant fresh trees but to take care of the apple trees which they had got. ["Hear, hear!"] Nothing was more depressing to his mind than to go through the west of England now and to see the careless way in which these trees were being treated. The Board of Agriculture had done nothing in the way of giving advice to the farmers and labourers as to the best known methods of preserving their trees. This was a small but a very important matter, and he hoped the President of the Board of Agriculture would turn his attention to it. In the west of England the farmers thought very highly of Mr. Walter Long, and his name had a power greater than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Secretary to the Treasury, or anybody else. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman might also give his attention to the preservation of kestrels. These birds which were very useful indeed in the destruction of vermin were becoming very scarce, while complaints were arising from many quarters in the west of England as to the great increase of rats.


also supported the suggestion of the hon. Member (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke) and referred to experience in India. Reference had been made to the transit of animals from Ireland. The evidence which came before them went to show that animals suffered far more in crossing the Channel from Ireland than cattle which came from Canada. The Committee of which the hon. Member for Brixton was Chairman, paid special attention to the question of the transport of animals across the Channel. Reform was needed, and he hoped the responsible Minister could assure them that he had the matter under consideration.


asked the President of the Board of Agriculture to say what had been done to promote agricultural and dairy education, for which provision was made in this Vote. More than one deputation had waited upon the right hon. Gentleman to ask him to introduce legislation which would put the law with respect to dairy-farming in a more satisfactory condition, because Irish dairy producers were seriously hampered by the present state of the law. Reference had been made in the course of the Debate to the serious loss incurred by farmers in the West of England by the depredations of rats. He had a valuable suggestion to make to the President of the Board of Agriculture. There was a little animal indigenous to Ireland—the Irish terrier—which was the best rat-killer in the world, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could do something to adjust the financial relations between Ireland and England—[laughter]—by spending some money in encouraging the breed of Irish terriers and sending the dogs to those parts of the West of England which were infested with rats. [Laughter.] If the right hon. Gentleman were willing to adopt that suggestion he could give the names of several breeders of the best rat-killers in the world. [Renewed laughter.] He approved of experimental farms, but he did not think that they ought to be confined to experiments in fruit-growing. They ought to cover every branch of the agricultural industry. One of the principal advantages that would arise from such a farm as that indicated by the hon. Member opposite would be that it would place at the disposal of farmers in different parts of the country the grasses that they should sow, having regard to the particular soil and climate of the district. The sum of £8,000 which they voted in this particular year was only a drop in the sea—it could do practically no good. He thought that £80,000, or even a much larger sum might be extremely well spent in improving the condition of agriculture. He thought everyone would admit that what agriculturists were suffering from was mainly ignorance. How was it that the dairy farmers of Denmark were beating out of the markets of London and other places the dairy farmers of Devon and Ireland—simply because the Danish Government spend a large amount of money every year on the agricultural expert education of their people, and in carrying out these experiments. To forward the agricultural interests of their people they had in thin country a Danish Commissioner, an officer of the Government, paid by the Government, whose business it was to safeguard the interests of Danish produce all over Great Britain, and to report periodically to his Government which were the best markets for any particular kind of produce. Here the Government had done practically nothing up to the present time to teach the British agriculturist how to farm his land. He knew a great deal had been done to safeguard the health of the flocks and herds in this country. He admitted that a good deal had been done in the direction of stamping out the plague of tuberculosis and pleuro-pneumonia, but with the exception of that one particular piece of good the Board of Agriculture had done nothing practically to benefit the agriculturists of Great Britain, and nothing at all to benefit the agriculturists of Ireland. He found that little or nothing had been done either by the Board of Trade or the Hoard of Agriculture to improve the conditions of the transit of cattle from Ireland into this country, although there was no subject more worthy the attention of either Department. If right hon. Gentlemen would go down to any of the ports of this country and go on board ocean-going steamers which brought Canadian and American cattle to this country, and steamers which carried cattle between Ireland and England, they could not fail to be struck by the difference of the accommodation provided in the two eases. The Irish cattle traffic would never be satisfactory until some Government Department insisted that cattle boats should be cattle boats, and passenger boats passengers boats. ["Hear, hear!"]


, referring to the remarks of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke), said he thought it was very doubtful whether it should he left to a private individual to foster an industry like the cider industry, which he believed had a large future before it. He had been requested by a large number of his constituents to mention to the President of the Board of Agriculture the bearing of the muzzling order on the working of sheep dogs. They hoped that it would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to make some modification in the order in favour of sheep dogs, as it was found very difficult for these dogs to work properly now.

MR. G. WHITELEY (Stockport)

said that the complaint he always had to make against agriculturists was that instead of adopting the methods of other trades, instead of working out their own salvation, and themselves conducting the experiments necessary to develop their industry, they were always calling upon the Government to do something for them, and to spend money on their own particular industry. He did not think it was desirable that their demand for £80,000 should be agreed to at present. Last year the Government gave a sum of £2,000,000 to the agriculturists, and surely that should suffice for some little time. From rates to rats was an easy transition, and he was sorry to hear that rats were making such depredations in the West of England. He thought the best thing would be to issue an order that all rats should be muzzled. [A laugh] He thought that would meet the case.


said that the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had asked whether the Board of Agriculture were prepared to take any action of their own in anticipation of the Report of the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis. The Report would be, he believed, in their hands before long, and, pending that Report, he was certainly not prepared to make any recommendations as to Government interference in reference to this question. The hon. Member told the Committee it was a very serious question, and if it were so serious, it would certainly be a very hazardous thing for any Government Department to take stops affecting the agricultural community, unless they had behind them the recommendations of the Commission and the evidence upon which those recommendations were based. The suggestion of the hon. Member was that they should act somewhat in the same way as the Local Government Board acted in the supply of lymph—that they should supply tuberculine for voluntary use by agriculturists. That was a suggestion which he might entertain if it were shown to him that at present there was any practical difficulty in the way of agriculturists, if they wished to make experiments, obtaining the necessary means. But he saw no evidence of any such practical difficulty. For instance, the work done by the hon. Member for Midlothian without Government assistance was of the greatest possible value to his brother agriculturists, and reflected the greatest credit upon him. Pending the Report of the Royal Commission, he was not prepared to suggest that any definite steps should be taken by his Department. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought the majority of the recommendations that had been made to him had been in connection with experimental farms. No doubt there was a great deal to be said for experimental farms, but he was quite sure there was something to be said against them. He did not envy the lot of a President of the Board of Agriculture, who was responsible for them. He did not know what his lot might be in the various assemblies to which his hon. Friend behind him had referred, whether in the Colonies or in foreign countries. But he did not envy the lot of a President of the Hoard of Agriculture in that House who was responsible for the conduct of eight or ten experimental farms in different parts of the country. He knew that it was no easy matter to satisfy British agriculturists on any particular question; but he was quite certain of this, that if the Government conducted experimental farms with a view to showing farmers how to farm their laud, the practical result would be that every agriculturist in the House or out of it would tell them that "whatever they did know, they did not know how to cultivate land"—[laughter] —and nothing but disastrous results would be attained. He confessed that he listened with regret to the ready way in which hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House and in all parts of the country were found to talk about British agriculture as if it stood at the bottom of the list with regard to the agricultural products of the world. To listen to some of them, one would think that British agriculturists were the most ignorant and incompetent in the world. Whereas he did not think there were any producers in the world with whom the British agriculturists could not compete, both in the quantity and in the quality of his produce—| "hear, hear!"]—and be believed that he was able to put on the market an article superior to that produced by any country in the world. How was this excellence obtained? And that it had been attained he had never heard gainsaid, Had it been by Government assistance? Had these experimental farms in other countries enabled those nations to produce a better article than we produce in England? He cared not whether it was their brethren in Canada, or the agriculturists of foreign countries. Take any kind of produce—potatoes, cheese, butter, crops of all kinds—take them either in quality, size, or general character —the British agriculturist had always more than held his own. That had been due, not to Government experiments or Government interference, but it was the result entirely of his own energy and initiative, and the risking of his own capital.[Cheers] His hon. Friend behind him was anxious that they should undertake experiments in growing cider apples. He understood the suggestion was that they should set up experimental farms in order that upon them there should be grown a particular kind of apple, so that this kind of fruit tree might be supplied to those who applied for them. He was sorry that in the correspondence which had taken place on this subject, either the hon. Member or his Friends should have had to complain of any delay on the part of the Board of Agriculture in replying to their letters. But he was bound to say that this was the first time he had ever heard it laid down in that House that it was the primary duty or in any sense the duty of a Government Department to supply the public with the names of shops where they could get an article of the best character. Further than that, he could not conceive anything more undesirable or more to be avoided than that a Government Department should identify themselves with the advertisements of particular wares or manufactures, or of shops where these could be bought. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friend dwelt on the difficulties in the way of getting these particular fruits. Yet he told them that in Kent a certain farmer had revived this expired industry with most successful results. Surely they could do in Hereford what had been dune in Kent. He could not believe that the eider industry, if it was not a prosperous one already, was going to be carried on in a success if it could not be developed without a Government Department setting up fruit gardens. A dozen or more other industries were constantly brought under this notice as being suitable subjects for experiments on special farms. But there was no other country in the world that, varied so much in respect of soil and climate as England did, and what might be suitable for production on one experimental farm would be unsuitable in another. Therefore, to meet all the suggestions that were made from 20 to 30 experimental farms would be required. Complaint had been made that only £8,000 a year was spent here by the Government on agricultural education, as compared with £100,000 spent in Canada; but it should be borne in mind that here it had been resolved to work in the first place not through the Government but through private enterprise, which was only to be supplemented by the help and action of local authorities in the shape of County Councils. When hon. Members said that nothing had been done by that House or the Government to assist agriculture by finding money for experiments and for improvements, they forgot or ignored what the House had done. Not long ago £160,000 a year was voted for technical and agricultural education, and that money was expended by the County Councils. Let hon. Members ascertain whether the duties entrusted to the County Councils were properly performed; and if they were not, let hon. Members take steps with a view to making the County Councils spend the money in a inure useful way. It could not be said with truth that the Government had not provided money for these purposes. He was not a believer in the system of experimental farms carried on by the Government, but he did believe in experimental farms attached to agricultural colleges and similar institutions, and he would gladly do what he could to assist educational centres, county councils, or great agricultural colleges to obtain land in order that practical instruction in agriculture might be given to students. He agreed that, it was unfortunate to find how greatly orchards had been neglected in many parts of the country, and he would consider the advisability of issuing a circular or leaflet on the subject. He deplored the destruction of kestrels and owls. Their annihilation was unsportsmanlike and injurious to the farmers' interests, because they destroyed many agricultural pests. A leaflet had already been issued on this subject by the Board of Agriculture, but he would see whether anything more could be done. In regard to the transit of cattle from Ireland, he was glad to say that there had been a distinct improvement. Last year he secured the assistance of four additional inspectors, who had been hard at work ever since their appointment. There was room for further improvement, but he was not at all sure that the damage entirely was done in the cross-channel stage of the journey. He and the Chief Secretary for Ireland were at the present, moment engaged in an inquiry into this branch of the question, and with the aid of the officials concerned they hoped to be able to obtain information which would enable them to see if it were not possible to effect such changes in the transit of cattle as to secure that they were carried humanely, and also delivered in a condition that would insure their commanding the best prices. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had mentioned certain matters of detail in connection with the muzzling of sheep dogs. The mailer should have his attention, and he hoped soon to be able to communicate with the right hon. Gentleman. ["Hear, hear!"]


remarked that the leaflets which had been issued by the Board of Agriculture had proved of great value to agriculturists. He should like to ask the President of the Board if he could see his way to include among them a translation of the very interesting and suggestive report of Professor Bang, the great Danish expert in tuberculosis. When he was in America he found that this work had been issued through several States of the Union, and that it gave in a careful and concise form the results of experiments which were of great service to agriculturists.


said he would be glad to consider the suggestion.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

Back to