HC Deb 28 July 1899 vol 75 cc792-6

3. £6,900, to complete the sum for Privy Council Office.

4. Motion made, and Question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding £27,594, 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, 1900, for the salaries and expenses of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, including the Endowed Schools Department.


pointed out that under this Vote there was one Commissioner with a salary of £1,200, and five Assistant Commissioners at £500 and £800 a year. The total staff of these gentlemen consisted of one clerk and a boy. He desired to know what the gentlemen did for their salaries, and begged leave to reduce the vote by £1,000.

Motion proposed, and Question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding £26,594, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Hazell.)

MR. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, N. R., Thirsk)

said that under the new education scheme that would shortly come into force some of these items would disappear from the Vote.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

5. £28,405, to complete the sum for Civil Service Commission.

6. £39,407, to complete the sum for Exchequer and Audit Department.

7. £4,912, to complete the sum for Friendly Societies Registry.

8. £14,400, to complete the sum for Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues, &c, Office.


Of course at this time of night I do not propose to detain the House at any length. But there is a subject to which I wish to call attention. Within the past two years the Office of Woods and Forests have resumed the practice of selling Crown rights in salmon fishings in the seas adjoining Scotland. The Secretary of the Treasury will recollect that when this subject was brought up in the year 1888 a promise was given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the First Lord of the Admiralty, that a Committee should be appointed to examine into the subject. As a consequence the Crown rights in salmon fishings in the seas adjoining Scotland ceased to be sold until the year 1896, but since then two such rights have been sold. I wish to get from the Secretary to the Treasury some explanation why this practice has been resumed after having been discontinued for so many years in consequence of the strong expression of opinion made in this House in the year 1888. The only answer I have been able to get has been that the sales have only been made in exceptional cases. But we can easily understand how any case can be made to be exceptional. What we insisted upon in 1888, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time acknowledged the justice of our demand, was that these were valuable public rights which should not be alienated from the public, and that the Office of Woods and Forests should restrict itself to dealing with them from year to year. I hope we shall get some assurance from my right hon. friend that no further sales of these rights will take place until the House has had another opportunity of examining into the matter and expressing an opinion upon it.


I do not think that any pledge was given that no sales should take place under any circumstances. Undoubtedly a promise was given that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the whole subject, and that until the Committee had reported no further sales should take place. The Committee did report in 1890 or 1891, and they suggested that a system of licences should be established. The experiment was tried, but it broke down. I understand the hon. Gentleman complains that certain sales have since taken place. I do not think he is quite correct in representing me as having stated that these sales took place in exceptional circumstances. What I did say was that the only sales which so far as I am aware had taken place were sales in cases in which our rights to these fisheries were, to say the least, extremely doubtful; that is to say there would have been great difficulty in establishing our rights, and, under, those circumstances, we parted with them.


I do not think it is very creditable to the Government that it should have adopted such a course. The Committee was appointed in consequence of there having been some very large sales; fishings to the value, I believe, of some £30,000 had been parted with during the preceding six or seven years. It was inconsequence of the alarm caused by the policy of the Government in parting with these valuable rights that the matter was brought under the notice of the House, and I do suggest it is not unreasonable that there should be a certain amount of anxiety as to whether the Government are now returning to their old policy, which was condemned by this House.


We are only selling them in cases in which our rights are doubtful.


Well, we want an assurance that the policy approved by the House will not be departed from.


I have a distinct recollection that when this matter was brought before the House a pledge was given that there should be no more sales of Crown rights in salmon fisheries. We now find sales are being made, and, so far as I can understand, those rights are being parted with for a mere bagatelle. Surely it would be better to keep them for what they are worth.


I never heard anything more thoroughly immoral in my life. Here is a Government holding certain properties to which they say they think they have no title, and so they turn them over for a consideration to some unfortunate person. Were these people told of the doubts as to the validity of the Crown title?


Yes, they thoroughly understood it.


I do not understand such conduct. If the Government had a doubtful title they should keep the property rather than sell it to other people. I suppose the real explanation is that they handed it over for a sum of money in order to avoid the odium of keeping the public off these fisheries. They preferred to transfer the trouble to private proprietors. We profess to be a moral nation, and I think that we should signify our objection to an immoral act of this character by dividing the Committee upon the Vote.

Vote agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next.


In moving to report progress I wish to say that there are two Supplementary Estimates—one for the Government of the Niger, and the other for the Incorporated Law Society, which it will be necessary to bring in. Under the Standing Orders it is obligatory that any new Supplementary Estimates shall be brought in two days before the close of Supply. I do not propose to ask the Committee to take these to-night, but I have to point out that they must be taken on Monday night. I hope that hon. Members will therefore assist us on that night in conforming with this rule.

Committee report progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

In pursuance of the Order of the House of the 17th day of this instant July, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put.

Adjourned accordingly at a quarter after One of the clock till Monday next.

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