§ MR. JOHN DEWAR (Inverness-shire)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he has been made aware of the dissatisfaction in scientific circles at the impending closure of the observatories at Ben Nevis and Fort William owing to the lack of support of Government of these institutions; and whether he will order an inquiry to be made into the distribution by the Meteorological Council of the annual grant of £15,300, so as to secure that an adequate allowance be made to these stations of scientific observation; 520 and whether in the meantime arrangements could be made for an interim maintenance grant pending the results of such an inquiry, so as to avert the interruption of the continuity of the meteorological records of the country.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he was aware of the interest which this question excited and ho had looked into the history of it. He confessed that he started with considerable prejudice against having an, inquiry into the action of those scientific gentlemen who had been good enough to assist the Government in the expenditure of this money; but he found there was such an inquiry held about twenty years ago, in which an hon. friend of his, who now took great interest in the subject, took a leading part. The Committee recommended in their Report that the inquiry should be repeated from time to-time, a recommendation that had not been followed. In the circumstances it would be right to have an investigation, and to repeat it from time to time. This would involve no slur or slight on the Scientific Committee who allocate the funds. He observed that this was assuming an almost international question, but he did not think that the risk of Ben Nevis being deprived of the observatory implied any insult to Ben Nevis, or through Ben Nevis to Scotland; it was a purely scientific matter, and ought so to be treated.