§ On the Vote of £20,000 Grant-in-Aid of the expenses of the Royal Commission for the British Section of the Paris International Exhibition of 1900,
§ *MR. E. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)
I understand, Sir, that the amount which the Government propose to Vote at the present moment is £20,000, and the amount of the Vote altogether is a sum of £75,000. But I cannot help thinking that this is inadequate, and not at 1587 at all in accordance with what other countries are doing. I am told that £68,000 will be immediately required by the French Government on account of floor space expenses, leaving only the ridiculously small sum of £7,000 to meet all other expenses. On the other hand it is stated—and I believe with truth—that the German Government have already set aside a sum of £245,000 for the purpose of their exhibits at Paris. Well, Mr. Lowther, if that is the case, it seems to me that the House ought to Vote a larger sum than £75,000, especially when we remember that the Germans are our greatest competitors in trade, and that they are spending this £245,000 in the interests of the traders and manufacturers of their own country. In 1877 the British Section cost £126,000, which is much more like the sum we ought to be prepared to spend on this occasion. I, for my part, feel bound to say that the Government might allow the Commissioners to a great extent a free hand, relying on them that they will not be extravagant, and see that the interests of this country are properly represented. At least we ought to be prepared, if really necessary, to give as much money as the Germans are giving. Of course, I am quite aware, Mr. Lowther, that there are many people who say that exhibitions are of very little good. I can only say that if that objection is sound the Government should spend no money at all. They ought to decline, as far as the Government is concerned, to take any part in the matter. On the other hand, if the Government believe that exhibitions are good for trade, they ought to be prepared to spend what is necessary. Therefore, to obtain an expression of the intentions of the Government, I beg to move that the sum be reduced by £100.
§ MR. T. C. T. WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
I hope that the Government will be able to consider this question. It has been a very serious complaint among the traders of the country that we do not advertise our goods, and we are often being told that our trade is being driven away to foreign countries. But one of the great faults we make is that we do not advertise sufficiently. We live in an age when nearly every trade almost depends upon advertising. The moment a busi- 1588 ness leaves off advertising its sales begin to fall off. There is no way of advertising more successfully in foreign countries than by spending money on exhibitions. I, therefore, hope that this will be taken into consideration, especially when we come to consider that our rivals, who have driven us out of many markets all over the world, and are competing with us to a very large extent, are prepared to put down the enormous sum of just upon a quarter of a million. We are just voting £75,000 to compete with other nations, and the result will be that their goods will be ten times better known than ours. Most of our goods, for want of proper advertising, will not be accepted at all, or only the worst kind of exhibits. I hope the Government will reconsider the sum put before us, and that something will be done to satisfy my hon. Friend's suggestion of increasing it, because there is no better way of advertising in foreign countries than by displaying our best exhibits in exhibitions there. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give us a satisfactory answer.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. E. HICKS BEACH, Bristol, W.)
In reply to the hon. Member's complaint, I have only to say that I am not myself a very ardent admirer of these exhibitions, particularly when they are initiated by countries who do their best to keep out our goods from competition with their own. But, however that may be, I think everybody will agree that it is essential that we should be represented at Paris in 1900, and that having decided that we are to be represented, we should be generous in regard to our expenditure. I have looked back to ascertain what has been the cost of the representation of this country at previous exhibitions, and having made such comparisons as I could, it appears to me that, taking into consideration the fact that, of course, this contribution—whatever contribution we may decide to give—is only for the United Kingdom, and that, in addition to it, donations will doubtless be given by India, and by some other of our Colonies which will be represented, the sum of £75,000 will probably be 1589 a sufficient sum for this country to devote to that purpose. But I know the view is entertained—and, I believe, entertained by Members of the Royal Commission itself—that that sum is not likely to be sufficient, and I expect before long, that I shall receive a statement on this matter, giving, no doubt, reasons why this exhibition cannot fairly be compared with some that have been held in the past, and asking me, so far as I am concerned, to be as liberal as possible. I can assure the Committee that I am not inclined to be anything else but liberal, and I shall feel it my duty to ask Parliament for whatever sum that may appear necessary for a proper and adequate representation of this country at the forthcoming exhibition.
§ DR. G. B. CLARK (Caithness)
I do not think so much space is required in this exhibition as in the past. Many of our manufacturers are not going to send their patterns over to be copied by the French and other countries, or to allow them to see our designs, so I do not think there will be very many spaces required, because it has now become a form of advertisement which is too costly, and does not bring in an adequate return.
§ *MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
I want to make one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman with the view of having a proper Report made of the exhibits. I think the right hon. Gentleman should insist in return for this money, upon someone sending in a Report of all the exhibits of this country, and such a Report ought to be a great deal better done than anything we have had in previous exhibitions. These things are frequently left to private enterprise, and we have to suffer accordingly. The Commissioners should arrange for a very careful, full, and elaborate Report of all new inventions and exhibits of every kind from every country, more especially from remote countries, which would be found specially valuable to some of our small traders who may not be able to pay the heavy expense of sending their own exhibits.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Supplementary Vote £96,200, salaries Post Office Telegraph Service.
§ Agreed to.
§ On Supplementary Vote, £100,000 Redemption Land Tax Government Property,
§ MR. A. F. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will tell me how much of the Land Tax is still outstanding on the Government property? I should like to ask if he could also tell me how much Land Tax has been redeemed by the public during the last year? As the Committee will remember, the Act of 1896 gave that tax at 30 years' purchase, and if he will tell me how much has been redeemed, and at what cost, I shall be very much obliged. I should also like to know whether this sum includes the expense of relieving Land Tax as the capitalised sum existing before that redemption.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am afraid I cannot give my hon. Friend the particulars he asks for at the present moment.
§ DR. CLARK
I wish to point out that it is determined by Article 9 of the Treaty of Union that when a certain sum is raised in England from Land Tax and taxes of this kind, a proportionate sum shall be raised in Scotland; that is, that there shall be a Scotch quota as well as an English quota. Consequently, under this legislation, and by this Vote, you are reducing the quota of Land Tax to be paid by England by this Supplementary Vote of £100,000. There will be that much less paid by England, and, in consequence of that, the sum raised in Scotland being the same Scotch quota, ought to be reduced proportionately.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The hon. Member misunderstands the reason of this Vote, for it has nothing whatever to do with the Treaty of Union. There are certain amounts of land in different parts of the country held for Imperial purposes and subject to Land Tax, and it is to the advantage of the taxpayer that this tax should be redeemed at the rate laid down in 1895, as if it were not redeemed it would be possible for the local Commissioners of Land Tax, from time to time, to raise the assessments as the value of the Government property increases. Therefore, it is our duty to ask the Committee to adopt this Vote, which has nothing whatever to do with the Act of Union, which lays down a certain sum to be paid by way of Land Tax in England and Scotland, of which sum a very considerable amount has been redeemed.
§ DR. CLARK
The amount has constantly been decreased by purchases. The amounts are determined by the quota paid in England. It was raised in England in one way, and in Scotland in another. There was a change made by the Act of Union, and under that change there is £100,000 less paid in England, and the amount paid in Scotland is the same whatever this special grant may be. The only thing is that under the Act that change was made this £100,000 a year means £11,000 or £12,000 to Scotland. It is not easy to say that the Treaty of Union has been broken. It has been modified, but never broken. But this is a non-constitutional way of modifying that Bill, and it was done not for the purpose of modifying the article but to give relief. The quota so rose or fell in England or Scotland, but a certain proportion was to be paid by England and a certain portion to be paid by Scotland. It is clear there is to be £100,000 less paid in England than there was before. But to what extent this sum may come in I cannot say. All I have done is to bring the question before the right hon. Gentleman. There is a very important principle involved, and that principle has been broken, because by agreement there has been a modification of 1592 that Agreement. It has not been done for the purpose of modification, but of relieving certain places.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I rise to order. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Vote.
§ MR. WARNER
Has the Land Tax been redeemed on all the Government property, or is it only a small portion of it? Does it free all Government property? There is another question which strikes me, and that is that this money ought to come out of the debt. This is an investment of £100,000, because the Land Tax is paid year by year out of the income of the Government. If you invest this £100,000 you will leave the Government to pay it year by year, and it really ought to be considered as an investment of £100,000, and ought to go into the capital account instead of the income account. We ought to know whether to charge it to the income of the year or to the capital account.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think I have been extremely careful in the matter. I have redeemed the charge out of income, instead of by a number of instalments extending over a number of years. With regard to the other point, I think there will probably be over £50,000 worth of the tax to be redeemed, but I cannot tell you exactly at the present moment.
§ MR. JAMES CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid.)
Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer say how much is in Scotland and how much in England?
§ MR. CALDWELL
How much has been the loss to the Treasury in consequence of the redemption of the Land Tax under the Finance Bill? How much have you lost in consequence of it in England, and how much in Scotland?
§ MR. WARNER
I want to know with regard to this £50,000 still to be redeemed, whether it is the intention of the Government to redeem it in the same way, or could the Chancellor of the Exchequer give any reason why the rest has not been redeemed?
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It will probably be done in the same way, and would have been done now if the redemption could have been completed within the financial year.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On Supplementary Vote £45,000 for Salaries Post Office Savings Banks,
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
These buildings have already cost over £300,000, and the necessary additions would come to another large amount. The idea, therefore, is to have an entirely new Savings Bank in the West of London, where the site will cost £45,000, which we are now asking for, and the cost of the building will amount, I think, to £180,000. The result of that transaction will be that we shall get a new Savings Bank which will be sufficient for all purposes for the next 10 or 15 years. We shall keep the present building, which may be taken over by the Post Office for Post Office purposes, and this will avoid further sums being spent.
§ MR. LOUGH
We have got this Savings Bank, but I do not understand whether any share of this is charged against the Savings Bank Revenue, or is it against the Post Office Revenue? If 1594 this is charged against the Savings Bank Revenue, I think it is a sufficient answer to the criticisms about the Savings Bank losing money, because if it is to provide items like this without taking it into account like other banks, it is not a fair comparison with other similar institutions. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered fully this interesting statement about putting the new Savings Bank at West Kensington, and I should like to ask him if it will be just as convenient where it is proposed? Perhaps he has fully considered the matter.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I fully approve of the system of distributing these buildings all over the Metropolis.
§ MR. HANBURY
I think the work will be done just as well on the new site as on the old, and it will cost a very great deal less in the West than it would in the City.
§ DR. CLARK
I presume, then, that the Government will take a piece of land of about three acres. [Mr. HANBURY: About five acres.] It will be that land behind Olympia, so that it will be near Addison Road Station, and people coming in from the North may get to it there, either by the North Western or the South Western trains. I think that is probably a very wise policy. The Post Office Savings Bank Department is looked upon as an entirely different class of Post Office work. In most cases it would be very advisable that you should have all your Post Office buildings together. Still, it is a great saving if you look at the standpoint of pure air, because you have on the one side a large open space, and on the other this large park of Lord Holland's, which will be a good reason for keeping it.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I am quite in accordance with the views expressed by the Secretary to the Treasury in having these buildings erected in different parts of London. I think it is a very unfortunate thing that so many admirable, valuable public buildings in London should be centred in certain districts. When you are dealing with a 1595 locality like Hammersmith, where there is a very large population, and, to a certain extent, a poor population, compared to other parts, I think the Government have exercised a very wise discretion in reference to this matter. If it is necessary to have certain buildings of Public Departments in London, I think it is necessary that they should be distributed as fairly and as equitably as possible, without interfering with the general work of the Department—not so much from the point of view of the London ratepayer as from the point of view of the general taxpayer of the country. We know perfectly well that the opinion on the part of London is that the Government ought to put up expensive buildings on expensive sites, and, so far as regards expensive buildings on expensive sites, I think it ought to be a matter of even and equitable distribution. What takes place after you have put up these buildings on the valuable site? Down comes the local taxpayer upon you, and in consequence of the very generosity which you have shown in giving a valuable site and in putting up an expensive building, he asks you for a large sum of local taxation in respect of that expenditure. That is exactly what we have met with year after year. The Government buildings are every year increasing, and the local taxation which the Government is paying to the local authorities in London, in respect of the very generosity in giving them a good site and expensive buildings, is greatly increasing also. I cordially recognise the wisdom of the Government on the present occasion. I think that what has been proposed in this matter should not escape public notice. I think the Government ought to be congratulated as having made a new departure in this matter, and made a very wise departure, and I hope it will be followed up, so that wherever in London we can get useful buildings cheaply for the public service, it should be done as much as possible, because I think it is most unfair that directly the Government has erected at the public expense buildings upon valuable sites, the local ratepayer comes down upon them and charges them an enormous amount of taxation.
§ The CHAIRMAN returned after the usual interval.1596
§ On the Vote for £1,290,000 Supplementary Army Estimate for Capitation Grant to Volunteer Corps, for Transport, Remounts, and Additional Expenditure on Army Service,
§ MR. H. V. DUNCOMBE (Cumberland, Egremont)
said: On this Vote for a certain amount of money, which is granted every year to Volunteers, I want to refer to a suggestion which was made by the hon. Member for Camberwell (Major Dalbiac) in the Session of 1895 regarding the distribution of the capitation grant. His suggestion met with the approval of those who had the interests of the Volunteers at heart, and it also met with a sympathetic answer from the Financial Secretary. He suggested that the capitation grant of 35s., given to every man who makes himself efficient to the extent of nine drills, should be divided into two classes, one of which might be called the "efficient grant," by which every man who attends his nine drills should receive £1, and the other the "proficient grant," consisting of 50s., to be given to every man who attends 25 drills. A good many men now earn that grant who are really not quite qualified to earn so large a sum, and if the suggestion my hon. and gallant Friend made on that occasion were carried out, the War Office would find very little difference. They would certainly get much better value for their money. I wish to urge that upon the attention of the Under Secretary of State for War. There was another point raised again in 1896 with regard to the difficulty of Volunteers spending their capitation grants to the best possible advantage. The Volunteers, as far as aid is concerned, have absolutely no funds at then disposal, except the capitation grant allowed them by the Government. Of course, occasionally a corps have officers who give a large amount of money, especially those in some of the large cities; they start subscriptions, and largo sums are received. That is a matter for themselves. But in the case of others there is no such fund, and they have nothing to fall back upon except the capitation grant. If the men do not make themselves efficient the corps is deprived of the capitation grant. There should be 1597 ranges upon which the men could at least do their class firing, and I maintain the corps should not be expected to provide these for themselves. But if one range is closed, we have to provide another, so that the men shall be able to become efficient, and to do this we have to touch the capitation grant. It appears to me that the discussion of this Vote affords the only opportunity for bringing this question before the House. Well, Sir, a case has arisen with reference to my Volunteer battalion in Yorkshire. Through no fault of our own our range was closed, and we had to provide another. If the matter had remained there, no more would have been said, but, instead of allowing us to make our own arrangements, the War Office entered into negotiations which have thrown a very much greater expense upon us than we should otherwise have incurred, and it is with regard to that expense that I wish to address a few words to the Committee. The Corporation of Scarborough, being desirous of improving the district, were compelled to close our old range. We took some land about a couple of miles from Scarborough to make a new range. It was then suggested to the War Office that, if they would allow us to remove the heavy guns and stores to the new range, the Volunteers might make it suitable for their purpose, and we approached them to know if they were willing to do that. This was agreed to, and the range was accordingly purchased and rendered suitable, and the money was practically expended for the benefit of the War Office. We were perfectly willing to incur this expense, on the faith of the undertaking of the War Office, but, having closed one range and opened another, we are told, on applying to the War Office for reimbursement, that it cannot carry out its undertaking. The reason given was that the use of the new range could not be sanctioned because there might be a difficulty in using it at all times. Why, Sir, at the present moment it is open to anybody to close the old range. If anyone chose to do that, it would render it useless from the beginning to the end of the year. Moreover, the old rifle range is only 400 yards in extent. The one we made at our own expense is 800 yards. The range now used for heavy gun firing is right in the track of the whole of the navigation 1598 coming from Scarborough Harbour to the North Sea. The range we purchased is not in the track of any vessel that comes anywhere near Scarborough. There was a difficulty about a footpath crossing the new range, but that has been arranged by the District Council. But in consequence of the action of the War Office, after all we have spent on this range, we find it thrown on our hands. That, Sir, is what the War Office calls encouraging the Volunteer force of this country. I hold that in that force we have one of the best reserves. The men are prepared to make financial sacrifices for the good of the force, but I say that this is one of those cases which tend to discourage them. By doing what we have we obtained more ground for the War Office than otherwise they would have got, but they declined to remove the heavy gun firing there. I have shown the Committee that the range we are now using can be closed by any private individual at any time. The range which we have made has been carried out on the War Office plans, as drawn by their own officers, and now, when we ask them—in order that the Corporation of Scarborough may make their improvements—to carry out their arrangements with us, they decline to do so. The men are doing their best, and are making personal sacrifices—I am not now speaking of the officers—to provide the War Office with a competent Reserve, and I say it is not encouraging to have this range thrown on their hands. I, therefore, move to reduce this Vote by the sum of £1,100.
§ MR. J. BRIGG (York, W.R., Keighley)
I would support the hon. Member. If the Volunteer force is to excel, we must encourage it in every way. We can make the force of the very highest service as a fighting machine. Every opportunity and every encouragement to practise should be given to them. We know that in largo towns where there are large bodies of Volunteers very great difficulty is experienced in finding proper ranges for practice in the immediate neighbourhood, and it is very inconvenient for corps to travel long distances, especially 1599 when we consider the habits and occupations of the men. They are for the most part skilled artisans, and they make great sacrifices to make themselves efficient in order to be able to take their places in the field. For that reason I support the hon. Member, especially with reference to this particular range, of which I know a great deal. The present range is a possible danger to the whole of the surrounding district, and ships passing to and fro could hardly escape the range of the shell fire. I hold, Mr. Lowther, that the Secretary for War should give this matter his attention, and thereby encourage those who have been sacrificing a good deal of their own time in order to make up what I may call a deficiency in the Army. I beg, therefore, to support the Motion. I am not acquainted with the particular facts of the case stated by my hon. and gallant Friend, but I do hope the Under Secretary of State for War will be able to afford him and the hon. Gentlemen opposite satisfactory assurances on the subject which they have brought forward. Well, Mr. Lowther, I am anxious to call the attention of the Committee to an important matter, affecting the whole of the Volunteer force in England, but it would not be proper for me to do so in connection with this Amendment, and perhaps I may have an opportunity of doing so after the proposed reduction relating to this matter has been disposed of. I will only now press upon the right hon. Gentleman the extreme importance of doing everything he possibly can to provide ranges for the Volunteer corps, because upon that depend chiefly their utility and efficiency, and their power of earning the capitation grant.
THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. ST. JOHN BRODEICK,) Surrey, Guildford
Perhaps I may here be allowed to reply to my hon. and gallant Friend, as this discussion appears to be confined to the particular point he has raised. Now, my hon. and gallant Friend had adopted a rather peculiar course in this matter. He was good enough to bring this question of the range at Scarborough under my notice in the latter part of last week, when he introduced a deputation, which went into 1600 the question as between the War Office and the Volunteers. That was, I think, on Thursday night, and now, on Monday evening, my hon. and gallant Friend comes forward and hurls accusations broadcast against the War Office of treating men who sacrifice themselves and their money for the country with procrastination and insult. He says that when the question arose of removing the heavy gun firing, the Volunteers were ready to do all they could in the matter, but only met with a repulse, as we refused to have anything to do with them. Now, I must submit to the Committee that that is an unreasonably short time in which to expect that intricate and important questions can be settled, as between the War Office and any corps, between Thursday and Monday evening.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Oh, quite so; but, I think, not in regard to the War Office at all. It is a very simple question in reality, and it is one which yet causes the War Office a great deal of difficulty all over the country. We have at Scarborough, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, a range provided, and we have also got, rather in the centre of Scarborough, a site where the rights of firing have been exercised for a long period of time. Well, the War Office are perfectly content with their present range for heavy firing, but the Corporation, having regard to the fact that Scarborough is a residential centre, to which every class of visitors go from year to year, suggested that it would be desirable to remove the heavy gun firing from the centre of the town. The War Office are most anxious to meet the Corporation in the matter. The present site is extremely valuable, and, as I understand, the Corporation were willing to provide another site in order to relieve themselves from the firing in the centre of the town, which we could share with the Volunteers. The Corporation have spent money on the range, but when we came to negotiate we discovered that there was, in front of the range, a footpath which was very much frequented. What, practically, the Volunteers asked us to do was to accept 1601 the Corporation purchase of a site, and run the risk of whether we should be able to fire over the footpath.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Not al all. With great respect to my hon. and gallant Friend, at present we have not got a footpath in front of us, and we have certain rights which we have been using at all times. The Corporation, last October, in reply to a letter addressed to them from the War Office, suggested that, as there would be great difficulty in getting the consent of the Law Courts to close the footpath, or even to close it during actual firing, it would be better to let the matter stand over until an Act of Parliament could be proposed, and the necessary legislation carried through. My hon. and gallant Friend hurls these accusations against the War Office, but why am I to come down to this House and ask it to spend money, after having assisted to provide money towards the change of range, for the purpose of pressing upon the inhabitants the closing of the footpath which they may have the best reasons for keeping open? I think it is unreasonable to put that upon the authorities. On the other hand, I need not say our greatest desire is to settle the matter, and retrieve the Volunteers from further difficulties if we can. As soon as we can get the necessary assent to the closing of the foot path, and have made such arrangements as are fair to both sides, at that moment we shall be ready to hand over the present ground and change our range and accept the Volunteer range. All I can say is that our desire is equally strong with that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to bring the matter to a rapid conclusion. I agreed with him, I think, on Thursday, at the interview with the officers, and I trust we shall see our way out of the difficulty without reference to the denunciation which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has hurled against me, and which I do not believe an be made good. We shall endeavour as quickly as possible to relieve the Corporation with regard to heavy firing in the middle of the town, and to see 1602 that the Volunteers get their range, by putting all parties square, and making proper arrangements with the inhabitants. I hope that will satisfy my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ MR. DUNCOMBE
AS to what my right hon. Friend has said with regard to attacks made personally upon him, I hope it is hardly necessary for me to say that nobody who has the honour and pleasure of his acquaintance could possibly make a personal attack upon him. Nobody supposes that he is personally responsible, but I do venture to suggest that there have been delays in this matter with which, the right hon. Gentleman himself is utterly unacquainted, and it was only when this matter was threatened to be brought before the House, that he himself was supplied with anything like full information. When I used the word "insult" it did not refer to anything that had happened between us—very far from it, for we have received nothing but kind consideration at his hands—but to the way in which officials for whom he is responsible to this House have treated those with whom they had to make arrangements, ft is only when these matters are brought before the House that we have any sort of apology made by the Minister responsible. I may say that everything was going perfectly smoothly until five or six days ago, when the matter was brought to my notice, with regard to the letter from the War Office; and if I had not brought the subject on to-night I should have had no other chance of bringing it on this Session, and the War Office officials would have had another 12 months' delay. There was another matter last year that I let slip, and I had not another opportunity for raising it during the Session, and that is the reason why I brought this subject forward to-night; but after the assurances which the right hon. Gentleman has given to the Committee I do not feel justified in pressing my proposal for the reduction of the Vote.
§ The Amendment was withdrawn.1603
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
There is a matter to which I am very anxious to call the attention of the Under Secretary of State for War with reference to the Dum-Dum bullets. We are informed that they have been served out in large quantities to the new force which has been formed for service in West Africa, a force which may be most unhappily brought into conflict with the troops of a civilised Power. The subject has already attracted attention in the French Chamber, where it was raised by way of question the other day.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
Order, order! If the hon. Member refers to the use of the Dum-Dum bullet, I do not think it arises under this Vote.
§ MR. DILLON
Allow me to draw your attention to the fact that there is a sum of £158,000 for ammunition.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
That is not for the so-called Dum-Dum bullets, but for ammunition made in England, and not ammunition made in India.
*THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS,) Birmingham, S.
These are the ordinary bullets.
§ MR. DILLON
Are they confined in use to India, or is it true, as we have seen—["Order!"]—this is a perfectly proper subject, and it will have to be debated. Is the hon. Member in a position to assure the Committee that none of this money will be spent—either in supplying the troops in India with Dum-Dum bullets, or issuing them to the troops who have gone to West Africa?
That is precisely the assurance I would give the Committee. The bullets to which the hon. Member refers are made in India.
§ MR. DILLON
But is it or is it not the fact, and it is important that it should be stated, that these Dum-Dum bullets have been served out to the British troops sent to West Africa? It has been stated positively in the Press, and it is very important that we should have an authoritative statement from the War Office, as to whether that is or is not the case, for it is going to be a matter of discussion in the French Chamber in the next few days.
I think I disposed of that point when I stated that the bullets included in the Supplementary Estimate are the ordinary bullets.
§ *MR. D. F. GODDARD (Ipswich)
The other night, when this question came up for a very short time, I had to ask a question with regard to the capitation grant, and the answer I received did not appear to me to be very satisfactory, so that I should like to put it again, until I get something rather clearer on the subject. I asked how it happened that there was this large amount for capitation grant—I may remark that I have no objection to the capitation grant at all, and I would just- as soon see it increase as not. That is not my point in the slightest degree, but it is simply a matter of how it is treated financially. I asked how it was that there was an item of £257,600 for it given in the Supplementary Estimate. The answer I received, as I understood it, was that only half of the grant was put on the Estimates last year, and hence it was necessary to put the other half in this Supplementary Estimate before the financial year ends. I am bound to say that that does not at all appear to me to agree with a sentence which appears in the Memorandum of the War Office referring to this matter. At the bottom of page 4 of the Memorandum it says—This sum does not represent the total expenditure which we propose to incur, as half the amount due for the Capitation Grant of the Volunteers will, as last year, be obtained by a Supplementary Vote during the current year.1605 So half of the grant for next year is to be obtained by this Supplementary Vote, which we are asked this evening to pass. Well, that seems to me to be a strange way of keeping accounts. I know it is said you must have this Supplementary Vote, because you want the money by the 1st of April, or something of that sort. That is the answer which the hon. Gentleman gave to me, but surely that is really not necessary, because if that is all it could very well be done by a Vote on account. It was only the other night that we passed a Vote on account of over £13,000,000 for the next year. What I wish to show is the confusion of accounts arising from what I cannot help calling, as it seems to me, an illegitimate use to make of Supplementary Estimate altogether. It is financing in a piecemeal way, and it makes it impossible for us to understand the accounts at all. It seems to me that, when we take up the Estimates for the year, we ought, upon these Estimates, to be able to see clearly what has to be expended on the different departments during the year. But that is not the case. You open this very Estimate for the capitation grant, and yon see in the Estimate for next year a sum of £259,500. Is that the capitation grant for the year? Not at all. We are asked this evening to vole a, sum of £257,600 in excess of that, and it forms part of the Estimate. I am quite aware that it will not make any difference in the balance whether these two items are taken together, equal, roughly, to half a million of money to be expended, but it confuses the accounts, so that when you look at them in this way it is impossible to say what is really the expenditure during the year. Well, I think that, when half the amount appears in a Supplementary Estimate, and one half only in the Ordinary Estimate, it causes a confusion of the accounts, which ought not to be allowed. I think I have very good justification for making a protest on these grounds. That is not a special thing, but it is becoming a regular method for dealing with the accounts—I cannot help calling it a very vicious method of dealing with the accounts—that should be rectified. And my position is strengthened by the return which has come into our hands relating to Supplementary Estimates voted between April and August during the past 1606 five years moved for by the hon. Member for North Islington. You see on the face of that return how this system is gradually growing up and increasing year after year. In the year 1893, from April 1st to August 2nd, there were no Supplementary Estimates at all. In the next year, 1894, there was a sum of £52,500. In the next year, 1895, there was £86,000; and last year there was a sum of not less than £1,692,388 passed in Supplementary Estimates, of which Votes nine were closured under the new rule dealing with supply. Well, I think on the face of it, anybody will say that is not the way in which the national accounts ought to be treated. There should not be these complications of account. I have mentioned the capitation grant, and I wish also to speak of two other accounts which appear in this Supplementary Estimate in the same year. There is Vote 8 for the clothing services, for which a sum of £220,000 is asked. I do not intend to criticise this amount. I am not saying it is too much or too little. I am not saying anything about the amount, but I am speaking of the way in which it is treated. There is a partial explanation of this £220,000 in the footnote, and it is a very partial explanation. If you turn to the Estimate for the year, I think I can show how confusing this system really is. There is shown, in this year's Estimates a decrease of £35,000 over last year's Estimates. Is that a fact? It is what anybody would gather who looked at the Estimates, but it is not so at all, because here we are asked for £220,000 which either belongs to the current year or to next year. If it belongs to the current year it must be obvious that the decrease is not £35,000, but £35,000 plus £220,000. That involves a sum of £255,000, which is very considerable and requires explanation. But if, on the other hand, this sum of £220,000 for which you are asking is not for the current account, but for next year, you have not got a decrease of £35,000, but an absolute increase of £185,000 in your Estimates. That is what I mean when I say it is very confusing to keep accounts in this way. Then you take Vote 9. There you have an enormous Supplementary Estimate of £413,000. Now, I am bound to say, in the first place, that I do not think that is a 1607 proper way to treat Supplementary Estimates at all. I can well understand that there must be Supplementary Estimates sometimes, as, for example, when there is a special expedition arising after the Estimates have been formed, and when an extra amount is required. But surely it is not necessary to have such an enormous sum as £413,000? Again, if you take the Vote on page 60, it shows that, there is a, decrease on next year's financial Estimates of £103,000. Is that the fact? It, is not at all the fact. You are asking for £413,000 in a Supplementary Vote. Does it belong to the current year or to next year? That is the question to which I wish to have an answer. If it belongs to the current year, it is mot a decrease of £103,000 but a decrease of that amount plus £413,000, which is a very serious difference, and justifies anybody in calling the attention of the Committee to it, and asking for some explanation. But it does not belong to the current year. There is a note which shows that the excess in this Vote is partially due to delay in the delivery of stores by contractors, which should have come in course of payment in 1896–7, and partly to the execution of orders in excess of those contemplated when the original Estimate was framed, and to the provision of an increased stock of materials, so that part of this Vote, if not all of it, on account of next year's Estimates, and this converts a decrease of £103,000 into an increase of £309,800; but whether it is a decrease or an increase it appears to me that I am perfectly justified in asking for an explanation of it. So much for that point. I hope I shall receive some satisfactory answer as to this way of dealing with the accounts, and I do not sea any real reason why the accounts should not be perfectly plain and simple. It seems to me that, when we take up our accounts, we ought to be able to see at a glance what we are spending. But we cannot do that with, accounts so confused. Going back to some questions of detail in the Supplementary Vote, there are one or two questions I should like to put For instance, here is the capitation grant. Vote 5. as to a special capitation allowance of 2s. for each efficient Volunteer, £16,300. I noticed last year that, it was 1608 £ 11,000. Why is there this large increase? When you look at the account, it is not accounted for. The men, as stated here, are 217,000, but last year they were 222,000. There is also a sum of £5,400 for stationery, postage, etc., and I wish to ask if it is necessary to put this in the Supplementary Estimates? Why not put it in the ordinary Estimates instead of the Supplementary Estimates? These matters should receive some attention, because this system of Supplementary Estimates seems to be very much abused in the House, and the sooner it is put a stop to the better will it be for the business of the House.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think, if the hon. Member had had previous experience of the practice of this House, and had also studied in detail the Memorandum circulated by the Secretary of State for War, he would have found a sufficient explanation of his question. It has been the custom for many years past, I when there has been a considerable surplus in the financial receipts of the year, to charge that surplus with some Supplementary Estimates if there are public grounds for anticipating the expenditure. I think I shall be able to show exactly I what has been done in this case, why it has been done, and why there have been exceptional reasons in the current year for action of this kind. What has been done? A sum of £260,000 has been placed upon the Supplementary Estimates for the Capitation Grant for the second half of what I may call the Volunteer year. That is so much the better for the Volunteers, for the payment will be anticipated by a few weeks. It is obviously of importance to the Volunteers that the payment should be made as soon as possible, and therefore it is to the public advantage that this amount, should be inserted in the Supplementary Estimates rather than in the Estimates for next year. With regard to £500,000, the I balance of £766,000, by which the Supplementary Estimates are charged for the expenditure of the coming year, as is fully explained in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War, that is for the purchase of clothing and stores, to be paid for in the current financial year, which will practically relieve the ordinary Estimates for next year. It 1609 is to the public advantage, having regard to the reasons which justify Her Majesty's Government in proposing so this House a considerable increase in the Army, and therefore a corresponding increase in clothing and stores, that the clothing and stores be provided at as early a moment as possible. We think we have acted in the interests of the public service in ordering that clothing and those stores some months before the usual time, and bringing them for payment into the current year. The exceptional circumstances of the year, from a financial point of view, have no doubt led to a much larger amount than usual being proposed to be voted in this way in the Supplementary Estimates. Only the other day the House was informed by the First Lord of the Admiralty that there has been a saving of no less a sum than £2,270,000 on the Navy Estimates in the current year. That amount was proposed in the Estimates of last year as essential to the service of the year; it has been voted with unanimity by the House, and it would have been expended, so far as the Government were concerned, if only the progress that might reasonably have been expected had been made with the ships under construction. Owing to the entirely exceptional circumstances of the dispute between the engineers and their employers, which could not have been anticipated, and over which neither Government nor Parliament had tiny control, that progress was not made, the money could not be expended, and therefore the money will fall into the surplus of the year, and twelve months hence would naturally be used for paying off debt. As that money has not been expended, we shall have to impose upon the Estimates of next year an additional amount of £1,400,000, and I would ask the hon. Gentleman if he thinks, after the vote of this House, after the demand by the Government for this exceptional expenditure, after the sum necessary for that expenditure has been taken from the taxpayers, that it ought to go to pay off the National Debt, and that another sum, for precisely the same purpose, should again be extracted from the taxpayers next year. That appears to me to be a proceeding which we ought, as far as possible, to avoid, and therefore I proposed—and 1610 I am taking the whole responsibility upon myself—to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War that, as this saving has occurred in naval expenditure, he should, as far as he thought it was in accordance with the public service, anticipate the Votes for 1899 by the purchase of stores and clothing, and by the payment of this Volunteer grant, out of the revenue of the current year, instead of imposing it on next year's taxation. That is the explanation for which the hon. Member asks, and I hope he considers it satisfactory.
§ MR. WILLIAM WOODALL (Hanley)
The Committee is indebted to the hon. Member for Ipswich for having brought under the notice of the House the new financial conditions which are presented to us in the Supplementary Estimates. There must be very few Members of this House who do not regard the Supplementary Estimate as something which is called for in order to make up the necessary expenditure for the current year. We have now learned from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is an expedient, to which he gives his authority, for relieving the necessary expenditure of the coming year, and for enabling him to dispose of his surplus.
§ MR. WOODALL
I am under the impression that never before has the House been confronted with Supplementary Estimates on so large a scale or covering so much ground. The Committee is being launched into a system which is comparatively novel, and which none of us think is free from a certain danger. The Estimates of the current year, approved by the House, ought to show the expenditure for that year upon the different services, and I shall be very much, surprised if the Comptroller General does not bring under the notice of the Committee of Public Accounts this comparatively novel innovation upon our Constitutional methods. I should like very much to make perfectly clear what is the process which has been adopted with regard to the Volunteer sanitation grant. We are supposed to pay that grant in advance, and it appears to me to be a very happy thought when the 1611 Government determined to pay in advance, by way of Supplementary Estimates, half of the grant presumably accruing to the Volunteers for the following year. But what the Committee ought to have made clear was why, having once started by giving an allowance of 50 per cent. to the different Volunteer corps throughout the Kingdom, that payment should be repeated. I should like to know that these contracts were made for goods which will be delivered into the stores before the 31st March. There is a very large sum for ammunition, and I should like to know-how much of that £158,000 is for stores to be delivered, and which will be delivered, before the 31st March. I put a question the other night, on the rising of the Committee, as to the contracts of the Government for ammunition, and I should like to know how far these contracts with outsiders have been satisfied, and how far the Government has been able to rely for assistance upon the great houses of Birmingham, because there have been very unpleasant rumours that some of those manufacturers have been doing a roaring trade with some of the Queen's enemies during the past year, and that while these contracts with foreigners are satisfied, the ammunition of the War Department has fallen into arrear. Of course, I have no right to speak with any knowledge of the subject, but it will be a satisfaction if the Government will give us some assurance on the point. But I protest that the mere fact of the happy accident of the Chancellor of the Exchequer being in possession of a surplus which he desires to dispose of before making his arrangements for the current year is no justification for anticipating the expenditure of the year by giving an inflated Supplementary Estimate like this.
§ MAJOR F. C. RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I have listened with the greatest interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Hanley, and I wish to say a few words with reference to the Cavalry remounts. As hon. Members know, the Cavalry are remounted by a system under which the Colonel and the veterinary surgeon buy horses from dealers. Certain statements were made in another place by Lord Ribblesdale and Lord Wenlock about the system, and we are supposed to know 1612 about our buying horses from dealers, and so encouraging horse-breeding throughout the country. That has only been a pious opinion. I should like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he might adopt the much better system which exists in Austria-Hungary, where they breed the best Cavalry horses in the world. They have a system of depôts started by the Emperor Francis Joseph in 1866. There are nine in Hungary and eight in Austria. Sires are bred at these depôts; they are sent round to serve mares at farms all over the country, and their produce is bought by the Government at prices ranging from £16 to £32 for Cavalry and £28 for draught horses—practically £26 for Cavalry and £28 for draught. No horses are bought under five years old, and none of them are kept over eight years; they are not kept over the age of 13. Ten per cent. of the Cavalry and 12 per cent. in the Artillery are cast every year. In our service in this country, we are buying horses supposed to be four years old, but they very often are not. The horses stay very much too long in some of our Cavalry regiments, particularly in some of the Life Guards. I venture to suggest that the Government should start a number of remount depôts in Ireland. I cannot see why they should not. We hear a good deal about Irish farming and Irish industry. The Irish fanner is not in a position to pay a good price for a good sire. He gets an indifferent horse, and with the loss on produce the middleman gets a profit and the Irish farmer practically nothing at all. The expense would not be very great, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual sense, will agree with me that it is more advantageous to pay a little more for a desirable sire than to pay a fair price for an indifferent one. With reference to the question of forage, when I had the honour to be on the other side of the House, and the hon. Gentleman sat here, we were always talking to the Government, saying that they bought their straw from France and their hay from the Argentine. It seems to me that the present Government are doing precisely the same thing, though I have no doubt they have excellent reasons for doing so. I cannot see why they should buy their forage from abroad, and why 1613 they should not buy it at home, so as to do what they can for the English farmer. Having slated these few questions in a moderate form, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give them his attention.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
There are two points on which I wish to make some inquiry. One of them was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken. That is the question of remounts. A. certain amount of money is taken in the Supplementary Estimates for these remounts, and I should like to know how far this is an increase of horses in the present year, and how far it is an increase in the next financial year. The Committee are generally disposed to agree in the view expressed by the hon. Members on both sides of the House that we are short of horses in this country, and the questions in this Session have brought out the extent of that shortness. The numbers are really smaller than they appear to be. I want to know how far this Supplementary Estimate has made good those numbers, or how far it is a preparation for any increase which may take place in the next year. The other point concerns the allowance to Volunteer officers. I want to ask the Under Secretary, following up the question put to him by another hon. Member to-day, what are the hopes of the Government in regard to an increase in the efficiency of Volunteer officers. I imagine that most Volunteers themselves will admit that they have officers only a little over a, half of what is needed, and of that half about a half are not what can be called thoroughly efficient. Now, in answer to a question, the right hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that an increase is already taking place. I want to know whether the present arrangements are really giving an increase in the number of officers. In the last figures published, the deficiency is extraordinarily great in different parts of the country. In one regiment in Lancashire, for instance, they have only five captains out of eight, and no subalterns at all. The question seems very important, and I am sure the Committee will be glad to know the extent of that improvement, and whether it is likely to be continued. 1614 Another question to my mind is whether the Government ought not to take the clothing of the Volunteer regiments into their own hands.
In answer to the question put by the hon. Member for Hanley, I would say that he should bear in mind, as regards the complaint of the Volunteers, that the Government have endeavoured to meet it, and that whereas they were supposed to pay in advance, they were in reality paying arrears.
In meeting that complaint, instead of giving the Volunteers in the year 1896–97 the sum which I put roughly at half a million, they gave them three-quarters of a million. The Volunteers acknowledged that to be an important concession, and it had the effect it was intended to have, of removing a considerable number of the financial difficulties from which they suffered. In making that payment of £750,000, it was convenient to the Exchequer at the time that two-thirds of the grant should be paid by Supplementary Estimate in the preceding year, so that £500,000 was paid in the preceding year, and £250,000 in what I may call the current year. When the spring of the following year came round it was expedient, as was explained at the time, to make a half grant again in the preceding year, and so in the following year only half the grant was taken, and that remains until the present time, and is continued in the present Estimate. The point to bear in mind is that the Government did make a £250,000 gift to the Volunteers, and all the financial arrangements that have taken place since that time have reference to that fact.
There is nothing permanent in this life. I cannot, of course, say whether it will be permanent, for it depends upon a higher financial authority than I possess.
§ MR. WOODALL
Is that the policy determined upon by the War Office, or 1615 is it dependent upon the exigencies and the circumstances of the Exchequer?
It may be convenient that half that sum should be paid on the 31st March instead of on the 31st April. How long that will continue to exist is more than I am prepared to say. The right hon. Gentleman raises two points of detail upon which I would like to say a word. He alluded to the sum of £16,300, which appears in the Supplementary Estimate, as against the special capitation for efficient Volunteers, and so forth. He says it is considerably in excess of the amount of the previous Estimate. That does not happen to be the case. The fact is that in the previous Estimate the two sums were separate. The two shillings grant and the one shilling grant appeared as separate items, and if you put the two items together the real difference is only between £16,500 and £16,250. That is only a difference of £250, and that is about the ordinary fluctuation of things. In regard to other items to which the hon. Member called attention, there is an apparent decrease of £3,500. The apparent discrepancy in the figures is due to the fact that only £4,500 (instead of £11,000) was taken for this Service in the Supplementary Estimate of 1896–7, so that it was necessary to take £17,500 in the 1897–8 Estimates to make up the sum of £22,000, which it was estimated would be required for this allowance. The £14,000 now taken represents the half of an estimated expenditure of £28,000, so that there is really a considerable increase on the item. Then, Sir, my hon. Friend behind me raised the question of forage, and in answer to that I would desire to say that the Government have impressed upon commanding officers the desirability of purchasing forage from local sources, as far as it is possible to do so. To a very large extent, forage has been purchased from local sources. The difficulty is that it is found that certain forage cannot be procured from local sources at the usual prices, and the local contractors have, in a considerable number of cases, been offered the supply of forage, but their tenders have been higher than those at which the forage can be purchased elsewhere, and they have in many cases declined the contract for it, under 1616 the circumstances, saying that the amount paid was insufficient. I would call my hon. and gallant Friend's attention to the fact that, after all, this question of forage is probably not so serious as he seems to consider. I have some figures here which I should like to quote to the House.
§ COLONEL A. LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
We do not care so much about the prices of forage as that forage should be purchased from home growers.
That is the whole point. I suppose in forage, as in other matters, the price is an essential part of the transaction. I suppose, in conducting his own affairs, my hon. and gallant Friend pays some attention to the question of price. I would like to explain to the House if they will permit me, the real extent of the grievance. Now, in Great Britain—I exclude the Irish supply—in Great Britain in the year 1896–97, out of a, total supply to the troops of over 120,000,000 pounds of forage—oats, hay, and straw—65 per cent. was homegrown, and only 35 per cent. was foreign. The total cost of the whole supply of Great Britain was £209,800. Now, I have a calculation worked out to show what it would really amount to in England. I will take the whole supply, and deal with the whole of the 120,000,000 pounds. [An Hon. MEMBER: That is pounds in weight.] When we talk of forage we do not speak of £ s. d., we refer to pounds in weight, of course. I put the total at 120,000,000 pounds, in weight, of forage. Now, 65 per cent. is home-grown, but I will leave the home-grown out. The average yield per acre in the last 10 years in Great Britain for oats, hay, and straw—and I have got these figures from the returns of the Board of Agriculture—represent a total in acres of: Oats, 30,000; hay, 16,000; and straw, 5,000 acres.
The total in Great Britain, under oats, is 3,000,000 acres, hay 6,000,000 or nearly 7,000,000, so that, supposing the whole supply of oats had been bought from 1617 foreign sources, instead of 65 per cent. being bought from home sources, that would have represented only one-hundredth part of the whole acreage under oats in Great Britain. As regards hay, it would have represented only one-four-hundredth part, so that, after all, the question of foreign forage is, as I ventured to say at the start, of much less importance than some hon. Members appear to suppose. But I repeat that, as far as possible, as far as the prices will permit, the home sources of supply are had recourse to, and it is only because there would be a considerable addition to the Estimates if foreign supplies were altogether excluded, that the War Office does not bind itself to obtain home-grown forage exclusively.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I should like to ask the hon. Member to explain how much the capitation grant to the Volunteers is, and how much was voted in the ordinary Estimate for 1897–98?
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
Taking the figures with regard to forage for 1896–97, the percentage of home-grown and foreign, would the right hon. Gentleman kindly give the figures for 1897–98 to show whether there has been any improvement in the proportion of home and foreign produce consumed during these years?
§ SIR J. COLOMB
With regard to forage, can the Financial Secretary to the War Office give us any figures for 1897–1898, to show whether there has been any improvement in proportion of home to foreign produce consumed?
The figures I have given show the proportion for the year 1897–98. It represents the ordinary state of things, and generally corresponds to the figures for each year.
The consumption of home-grown produce, the figures of which I have just given to the House, represents the year to which the figures have particular reference.
§ MR. WOODALL
As a matter of fact, has there been a change in the policy of the Department with regard to these contracts or tenders?
Certain changes have been made with regard to the contracts in ordinary use in Ireland, to meet the views of the Irish contractors, but no other change has been made. If there is anything vicious in the existing system, it is inherited from the late Government.
§ *SIR A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, S.W., Ormskirk)
Before the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer be forgotten, with regard to the Supplementary Estimates, I should like to say one word upon that matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer explained that, owing to the shortcomings of the contractors in not fulfilling their engagements, he had a surplus of something like two and a-half millions to dispose of. Under ordinary circumstances that surplus would be paid into the Exchequer, and would go in reduction of the National Debt. Now, Sir, I quite sympathise with what my right hon. Friend said—that it would be taxing the ratepayers twice over for the same purpose if, in consequence of unfortunate delay on the part of the contractors, the money which was not paid in one year had to be surrendered, and new taxation imposed the next year for the same object. That difficulty arose during the time of the Government with which I was connected. The contractors failed to earn the money provided in the Estimates. That money was expended to a certain extent as is proposed now—in support of the wants of the existing year. The right hon. Baronet opposite was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and the Admiralty came under the severe lash of his censure for venturing to spend the money thus unearned in other directions and in the saving of the expenditure of the following year. Now, Sir, the result of that proceeding was the Naval Defence Act. The main object of the Naval Defence Act was to prevent that surrender to the Treasury of the unearned money of contractors; that it should be carried over from one year to the next, and thus double taxation be prevented. This is a good opportunity of urging upon the Treasury that the proper course 1619 would be to endeavour to make some arrangement by which this money could be ear-marked; for if there is a sum of money which would otherwise have been earned by contractors, not earned by them in the year, instead of surrendering it, it should be put to a suspense account for the payment of these contractors in the following year. Now, it is an exceedingly wasteful sort of Supplementary Estimate. When the Departments get towards the months of September and November they ask for Reports from the various officers. How much is this contract going to earn, and how much will that contract require? Estimate them all and find out if there will be a surplus of a large sum of money. Rush into the market and press contractors to take orders for ammunition—say, four or five hundred thousand pounds; I say that there cannot be the same care with that great haste with regard to the prices then as there would be if it were purchased in the beginning of the year. And why is it done? Simply to avoid this double taxation, and I think this is a great opportunity for endeavouring to impress upon the Exchequer that we want another system, and that any money unearned by a contractor should be ear-marked and carried to a suspense account and be available for the following year.
*SIR. U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, N.E., Clitheroe)
I think that the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has furnished, in the concluding words of his speech, very good and adequate reasons for the action which he says the Public Accounts Committee took when he was in office. He attacked me because the Public Accounts Committee, over which I had the honour to preside, dropped upon the Department in which the right hon. Gentleman served for having used money which had been provided for one purpose, for a totally different purpose—a proceeding totally contrary to the Rules laid down by Parliament. I do not at all regret the action which we took. But the right hon. Gentleman himself pointed out, from his own experiences as an official, how mischievous it is for one Member of a Government—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for example—to ap- 1620 proach another Member of the Government, and say, "Here is so much unexpended money; pray manage to spend it on something, in buying metals, etc.," things which the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly well acquainted with when he was at the Admiralty; and when persons in the position which he filled are asked to spend money in such a way, it was pointed out how badly that money is expended if, at the last minute, the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes to him and begs him to spend the money somehow. I do not think I need at all to defend the action of the Public Accounts Committee—an action which year after year has been most useful for protecting the interests of this House and the interests of the taxpayer, because the right hon. Gentleman has himself furnished us with the best reason for the action of that Committee. Nor will I follow the right hon. Gentleman into the particular recommendation which he made of passing on money from one year to another, and not having each year self-contained. If there were any fear of that advice being followed, then it would be indeed necessary to attack the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman advanced. I only desire to draw attention to the fact that by his closing sentences he has completely demolished the arguments with which he commenced his speech.
§ COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT
Before the Committee approach this large sum of £203,000, I think, perhaps, there ought to be some assurance from the Under Secretary of State for War that an effort will be made to improve the organisation of this enormous force, and not only the organisation of this enormous force, but also improve their armaments and equipments.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The general question of the Volunteer Force does not arise, and the hon. and gallant Member must wait until the Volunteer Vote comes on in due course.
§ *SIR H. FOWLER
In the year 1896–1897, the Government proposed that there should be a considerable increase 1621 in the capitation grant to the Volunteers. In round figures, a half a million per annum. [Mr. BRODRICK: No: a quarter.] Well, a quarter of a million per annum. The Government then stated that before the financial year 1896–1897 commenced, it was desirable that certain sums should be paid in advance. They got a Vote of £250,000: then the Vote was taken for £500,000 in the course of the ordinary Estimates. Then the statement upon which that Vote was granted was, that in the following year only £250,000 would be asked for. According to the answer that the hon. Member has just given to me, the Estimates for 1897–1898 would only include £250,000 taken for that purpose. Before the year 1897–1898 is closed, the Government come and get another £250,000, apparently to repeat twice over the system of paying in advance. They get an extra £250,000 in 1896–97, and now they are asking for another £250,000 in 1897–98. I know, Sir, there is no real excess—I am quite aware of that. I know that the Government are putting out the policy of payment in advance, but what we are face to face with in this system is that there is an entirely new departure in our finance—that we are copying the French system—we are not charging the expenditure of the year to the income of the year, which has been the strong point of our finance in years past, and has been our protection for the control of our annual expenditure. Now, practically, we are voting hundreds of thousands on military expenditure to-night which are really payments which belong to next year, in order to absorb a surplus. I am not going to argue whether it is right or wrong to absorb a surplus. The late Secretary to the Admiralty made a proposal to the House, which I do not think he would have proposed a few years ago—a proposal for carrying forward balances and ear-marking for certain expenditure. The Government of that day would not listen to that, but now you are doing precisely the same thing in a more insidious manner, and in a manner by which the House loses its control over the expenditure of the year. The right hon. Gentleman who is going to answer me will perhaps 1622 be kind enough to answer this question: Are you, or are you not, voting out of the money received by the taxation of the year 1897–98, a part of the expenditure which belongs to 1898–99? If you are, you are violating every principle of finance which has been followed out by this country for the last 25 years.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down did not hear the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The principle of the right hon. Gentleman appears to be that, if the country on one portion of the national service—say, the Naval Service—is unable to spend in one year the sum of money voted for that Service, that it must not be used for any other portion of the national defences for the same year. Here we have the sum of £2,200,000, and I suppose that £2,200,000 must be applied to the reduction of the National Debt, and next year the taxpayer is to be asked to vote another £2,200,000, which has already been levied from him, to carry out the services which, by an Act over which the Government had no control, was postponed from one year to another. The scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has the effect that we are preventing the taxpayer from providing money twice over. I think the right hon. Gentleman was peculiarly unfortunate in the illustration which he took of the Volunteer Capitation Grant. I should like to make this matter quite clear to the right hon. Gentleman. The first occasion on which our financial principles were violated, according to the right hon. Gentleman, was in 1896–97, in March; in that year the Government, in view of the long controversy as to whether it should be paid in advance, paid the extra £250,000. In addition they gave £250,000 in advance for the then current year in March, and the remaining £250,000 in April. What they did that year they have done again this year. This is not a payment in advance in the ordinary sense. The Volunteer year begins on November 1st. So the £250,000 we are now paying in March is paid four months after the year begins. We did this in 1896–7, the same in 1897–8, and the same in the present year. I believe that to end the financial year on March 31st is a most unbusiness-like proceed- 1623 ing, for you force people to bring up, by hook or by crook, everything they can. [Sir H. FOWLER: The taxes are paid in at that date.] So the taxes are, but the taxes are levied, and levied by definite rule. We cannot, however, carry out contracts by definite rule. Under the present system you are often hurried, in order that this 31st March rule may be observed. Although the Committees of the House have always upheld the system, there is no doubt it has led to a great business inconvenience. It has been said that the expenditure of the year is not confined to the income of the year, and the Supplementary Estimates have been spoken of as novelties; but that is not so. I remember these Supplementary Estimates since I entered the House, with, I think, the exception of one year; and, so far from these Estimates being the exception, they are the rule. But the Committee may rest assured we have made arrangements in good time which will secure the articles for which we now take money being supplied in due course before the close of the financial year.
§ MR. WOODALL
The Committee were assured by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, finding himself in possession of a surplus, he had arranged with the War Department to expend it within the year. The right hon. Gentleman spoke just now of the inconvenience the Service suffered by having to hurry up the contractors to deliver stores before the 31st March, but, on the other hand, it ought to be remembered that contractors are bound by certain conditions of their tenders, and everything they supply is subject to inspection under the ordinary rules. What the Committee ought to sedulously guard against is that money voted ought not to be expended simply to prevent it coming back to the Treasury. I hope that what has been said to-night will not be altogether without effect in guarding against a procedure which is in distinct violation of the old traditions of the House.
§ MR. R. G. VERNEY (Warwickshire, Rugby)
I have only entered the House in time to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that 35 per cent. of the forage for the horses of our troops comes from a foreign source. I am not going to enter into the grievances of the British 1624 farmer, but I will call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this fact: that when the Warwickshire farmers read this statement to-morrow morning they will express unqualified dissatisfaction at the attitude he has taken up. Everybody knows that the best way to protect the British farmer is to encourage him by buying his produce. I sincerely hope that the Government will see their way to do that. We have been told that there has been a reduction of the foreign produce which has been imported by the Government for the Army. Although it is a reduction of the original amount, I do not regard that with a feeling of satisfaction, because if after the reduction the percentage is brought up to 35 per cent. it is not half enough. I hope the day will not be far distant when the farmers will know that the Government Departments are the first to encourage them to produce hay, corn, and everything necessary for the horses' fodder, and that the time will come when we shall see the War Office buying the whole of that which is necessary in our own country.
§ MR. WARNER
The Financial Secretary has assured us that 35 per cent. of the forage is foreign and 65 per cent. is British. Will he, to make the matter clear, give us a statement as to the percentage three or four years ago? Because we have a statement in acreage, and so much ought to depend upon the amount an acre produces. What we want to know is the proportion of the percentage at the present time and what it was three or four years ago. We do not want to go into statistics, but we want to get the true proportion of the foreign forage that comes for the purposes of our Army. There is a curious statement in the papers this morning about the troops on active service in Egypt having worn their boots through. There is something wrong in the replacing of the old boots, and I should like to know from the Under Secretary for War that this is not due to the mismanagement of the War Office.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
The Under Secretary for War may be a good soldier, but he is a most monstrously bad financier. I agree with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton with regard to keeping our accounts—beginning and ending within the year. 1625 If this proposition is to be adopted, will the War Office submit to a reduction—I suppose it would be a pro rata reduction? If so, there is no force in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. I submit that this is an exceedingly important matter. The whole foundation of the finances of the country rests upon this: that you should raise the whole finances by a Vote for the year; that if there is in that year a surplus, that surplus should be returned, and applied to the reduction of the National Debt. Then the right hon. Gentleman says Consols are very high, and he does not want to buy them. That may be, but what I wish to point out is that that absolutely strikes at the root of the financial system of the country, and that if that contention is to be adopted we shall have to find some new system altogether. Of course, when we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer such as we have now we may still feel safe, but suppose right hon. Gentlemen opposite cross over to these Benches; I do not know what state of confusion our finances will be in. I trust the House will not be led away into adopting these vagaries of finance. Here we have a Supplementary Estimate of £1,250,000 brought forward without any pretence that an emergency has arisen such as would justify it, and when we ask for an explanation we are told, forsooth, that it is convenient, and that, if not spent, the amount would go to the reduction of the National Debt. That is exactly where it ought to go, and, if it does not, then there is an infringement of the sound principle that the finance of the year should be contained within the limits of the year. The right hon. Gentleman says the 31st March is an inconvenient day. Well, fix another day, the 1st April or 1st January. But whatever it is, that is the day that marks the close of one financial year and the beginning of another. That is a solemn and essential principle, which ought not to be departed from.
§ CAPTAIN G. R. BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
I should like to ask if it would not simplify discussion and prevent misunderstanding to adopt the principle already adopted with regard to capitation grants—namely, to make the Volunteer year coincide with the financial year?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I am afraid that that would be impossible. A great deal of the Volunteer work is done at Easter, and if you get, as you would do according to the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, two Easters in one financial year, it would upset the whole of "their arrangements" for efficiency. It would be impracticable.
§ *MR. GODDARD (Ipswich)
As a protest against what I consider the dangerous financial policy enunciated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,289,000, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Goddard.)
§ MR. WARNER
I hope the Financial Secretary will give some answer to the question raised as to the purchase of stores locally.
Instructions have been given to commanding officers to purchase locally, as far as possible, and I understand that the percentage of local purchasers of stores is now considerably higher than it was this time two years ago. With regard to the question the hon. Member asked as to the boots supplied to the troops serving in Egypt, I have ascertained that the bad wear of the boots was due to the fact that the road which the troops had to take through the desert consisted of rocky slate, which not only destroyed the boots of the soldiers, but injured the hoofs of the horses. The same thing happened in 1889 under the same circumstances. But there is a very considerable supply of boots in this country, and there will be no difficulty in replacing those that have been destroyed.
§ MR. WOODALL
I think I am entitled to an answer to the question I put with regard to ammunition. Is it true that-certain contracts have been given to houses, which I need not particularise, that, there has been delay in delivery by those houses, and that fresh contracts have been entrusted to them, while at the same time these houses have been vigorously supplying foreign Governments?
It is the fact that at the beginning of the year supplies were in arrear, but all arrears will, I hope, be made up by the end of the year. With regard to the particular houses to which the hon. Member refers, I know of no indulgence such as he alleges having been given to any firm.
§ MR. WOODALL
Has not a contract been given to a great Birmingham firm, although that firm is in arrear, and is continuing to supply large quantities of ammunition to a great militant foreign Power.
§ MR. H. C. RICHARDS (Finsbury, E.)
I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman whether the boots about which we have heard so much were supplied direct to the forces of the British Army or through the Egyptian Government, and whether they were sent from England or from a foreign port.
They were boots made in England, of first-class quality, hand-made, of the usual description supplied for foreign service.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 174.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again on Wednesday.