§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,316,770, be granted to His 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, 1903, for the salaries and expenses of the Inland Revenue Department,"
§ (11.5.) MR. O'MARA (Kilkenny, S.)
called attention to the sums paid to members of the Royal Irish Constabulary for the discovery of illicit stills. He suggested that the enormous number of discoveries was due to the reward paid, as in Scotland, where no reward was offered, only four illicit stills were discovered. As not a single hon. Member sitting upon the Irish Benches had been able to come across an illicit still in Ireland, he thought the fact that the Royal Irish Constabulary had discovered so many required some explanation. Before the Estimates next year were presented he hoped the Inland Revenue Department would inquire fully into this matter. The House last year was satisfied with the promise of an inquiry which was then given, and he understood that some inquiries had actually been carried out. The result of those inquiries he had endeavoured to elicit by Question and answer in the House, but he had been unable to obtain the result of those inquiries, and the Return he asked for had been refused. He had asked for information as to who these illicit stills had been discovered by, and whether prosecutions had taken place, but the information was refused. He protested against the way these inquiries were made, and the manner in which the publication of this information had been shirked. He could not call to mind any case in which any punishment had resulted from those inquiries. He understood that 1,826 illicit stills had been discovered, and more than 75 per cent, of them were discovered in one province, and over 600 in one county. It seemed extraordinary that under those circumstances no prosecution had followed. He ventured to assert that the same still did duty in one district repeatedly, in order that the police might obtain the rewards. When the reward was paid, the still was planted out again, and the police went out next morning and seized it, so as to secure payment of another 342 reward. In the particular district to which he referred, there were 200 "discoveries" of illicit stills, but he was assured that it was the same still in each case. [Laughter.] He was stating what he believed to be a fact. It might seem very funny to hon. Members, but after the exposure which had recently been made in the Sheridan case, this was quite a minor matter. Surely the House would be inclined to believe him, when he said that the same still had done service in 200 or 300 "discoveries" of illicit stills. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury had admitted that such was probably the case.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
No; I did not admit that.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
No, Sir. If any words of mine could be capable of such an interpretation, I can only say that they wore used by inadvertence.
§ MR. O'MARA
said he certainly understood the Financial Secretary of the Treasury to admit that there was some irregularity. In any case, the way in which this inquiry had been conducted, and its results, would lead one to suppose that the facts were as he had stated. His information was that the police had planted out this still for the purpose of "discovering" it. He was not aware that 1,826 stills had been discovered in Ireland legitimately. If all these stills had been discovered with worms and all the other paraphernalia surely there would have been more than twenty prosecutions. That seemed a ridiculously small number of prosecutions compared with the number of discoveries. He asked the Financial Secretary of the Treasury whether an inquiry had really taken place, and if so, what irregularity, if any, had been discovered, and what steps had been taken to prevent police men from getting rewards for stills planted out.
§ MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
said he had learned with absolute amazement within the last hour or two that in the past year there were some 1,800 illicit stills discovered in Ireland. He thought there was some ground for amazement, because he knew, speaking for his own district, and he believed the case was not singular, that illicit distillation, which at onetime, undoubtedly, was very common in certain out of the way districts, had almost totally disappeared. In this particular instance there was no doubt peculiar circumstances. The influence of Dr. O'Donnell had been thrown very strongly against the practice, and he had good reason to believe that in that district illicit distillation had entirely disappeared. He should be glad if the Financial Secretary would tell the Committee whether any cases had been found in the diocese of Raphoe. He awaited with very great interest the reply of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I think the hon. Gentleman who has raised the question does not quite recollect what was said a year ago, or what exactly was the nature of the statement I made. He has spoken of the inquiry which I promised as if it were to be some form of public inquiry almost in the nature of a trial or a Committee of Inquiry. He has spoken of the result of this inquiry having been kept secret, and he has given an air of mystery to it which would lead one to suspect the worst. Certainly, I am not going to shelter myself by attacking the conduct of the police. In this matter I am to a certain extent responsible. When I spoke of an inquiry I had nothing in my mind in the nature of an inquiry such as the hon. Member has described. The subject was one which was quite new to me. Hon. Members will remember that I had not been long in my present office, and having had my attention called to the subject, I was struck by the very large number of cases that occurred in Ireland. When I found that the rewards in Ireland appeared to be on a higher scale than in other parts of the United Kingdom I thought that there was good ground for inquiry, and that inquiry I 344 proposed to make myself with the Board of Inland Revenue and the Constabulary authorities in Ireland. That is the kind of inquiry which I had in my mind. It never entered my head that any hon. Gentleman would expect me to give a formal Report with regard to the confidential communications which passed, and which it would be quite impossible and contrary to practice to lay on the Table of this House. As the result of the inquiries I have made, I have not the least reason to suppose that there are any such malpractices as the hon. Member for South Kilkenny thought it right to suggest exist on a large scale. It is, of course, not possible for me to pledge myself that throughout all the United Kingdom there is not a single officer of the Board of Inland Revenue who has not committed a fault, but what I can say is that nothing has come to my knowledge to lead me to suspect anything of the kind of which the hon. Gentleman spoke. He said, speaking what he honestly believes to be true, that one still—whether originally genuine or not, I know not—was planted out 200 times or so under the direction of the Constabulary, or at their instigation, and that they, on each occasion, sought the reward for its detection. I say, then, that I am entitled to ask the hon. Gentleman to give me the information on which he makes that statement, and to put me in possession of the evidence he must have, and if there be a case of such grave misconduct, I shall do my best to bring the offenders to justice.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Are these charges to be made on the common, talk of the country side? Surely the hon. Member will see that it is not right for a Member of the House to use his position as a platform from which to disseminate charges of this grave character in this form on the strength of common rumour, which is notoriously a lying jade.
§ MR. O'MARA
The hon. Gentleman can make inquiries. I have given him the name of the town, and, if he finds the common rumour is wrong—
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
No, Sir, I will not make inquiries. I do not think it right to make inquiries on these conditions. I assumed, when the hon. Gentleman said he had this information, which he gave to the House, believing it to be true, that he had something more. I think I am entitled to ask the hon. Gentleman for something more, in order that the inquiry may be a serious one and not a farce. If the hon. Gentleman will give me any evidence which, in the opinion of such legal advisers as I should naturally call to my assistance, will show a primâ facie case for prosecution in a court of law, I shall not be slow to take the action demanded. But I decline to go on rumour, and to invite all the gossip of the country side. I decline to put these men on their trial without some better evidence that there is, at any rate, a primâ facie case against them. The hon. Member for West Donegal spoke of the surprise which he felt when he heard of the large number of seizures which had taken place. I think he was referring to the figures of a year ago. I ought to say that my opinion is that many of the seizures included in these figures are of a trivial kind. They were seizures of instruments used in illicit distillation, but it would be an abuse of language to call them illicit stills. The figures give the idea that the process of manufacture on an extensive scale had taken place in a large majority of these cases. I have no later information with regard to Ireland at the present moment before me. I have no information as to the number of seizures with regard to the special district of which the hon. Member for West Donegal spoke. I can only join my testimony to his in regard to the work Dr. O'Donnell has done, and express the hope that what he has done may strengthen the hands, and be an encouragement to others in Ireland who are seeking to deal with the evils of drunkenness. What did appear to me to be the case as the result of the inquiry I made was that rewards were paid in cases of seizures which were altogether too trivial to justify any reward at all, that the rewards paid in other cases were too high, and sufficient endeavour was not made when a seizure had taken place to 346 bring home the ownership of the article, seized to the person who was guilty. I think it is of enormous importance to do so. Having these facts in view, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, with the full assent and approval of the Treasury, proceeded to revise the scale of rewards. We abolished rewards in certain cases altogether. Those are cases of seizures of parts of illicit stills, minor parts and so on. We abolished rewards for seizures of small quantities of liquors; rewards for larger seizures-were reduced; and restrictions were placed on the charges that might be incurred for prolonged duty, absence from quarters, and mileage. I speak with a little hesitation, because, after all, I would like to see our new scheme at work for a time before expressing confidently an opinion upon it, but I think what we have done is a movement in the right direction. I am not certain but that after further experience of its working it may be right for me to bring the matter before the Board of Inland Revenue, with the view to proceeding further on the course upon which we have now embarked; but I think this is one of those matters which require rather definite information. I will act on the advice I receive from those more experienced than myself, and who are responsible for the protection of the revenue. I do not think it right to press them to go further than they have gone at the present time. I shall watch the result of that with the view of seeing whether we should carry the experiment further. I hope that the Committee will see that the pledge to give this matter my personal attention has been carried out, and that the inquiry was started by me after discussion in the House. I have had conversations with the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue on the subject. I hope this will be considered by the Committee as on the whole a satisfactory statement for the time, subject to what may be necessary after further experience. Before I sit down, lot me repeat in all seriousness what I have said already, that I regard these charges of widespread fraud against a great body of men without names, without details of the crime, without any kind of evidence to go upon, is a most regrettable proceeding. Let 347 me have the facts which you can readily understand are necessary for the investigation of the case, and I will certainly have it investigated. I believe the Committee will see that it is not the interest of the Government to shield malpractices if they can be proved on the part of anyone connected with the revenue.
§ (11.30.) MR. FLYNN (Cork Co., N.)
said his hon. friend had made a general accusation. Common rumour might be, as the hon. Gentleman had said, a lying jade, but he had ample means in his power to make inquiry. This question was brought before the House last year. The people had a most damnable suspicion about it. He used the word in the Parliamentary sense. When his hon. friend asked for a Return which would have gone towards probing the matter, the hon. Gentleman refused it. His hon. friend wished to know where the seizures took place, who made them, and the districts in which the prosecutions were held. That information was refused point-blank. There was something behind the scenes. Charges had been made against the Royal Irish Constabulary. Had they been justified within the last week. The Chief Secretary himself had admitted the charges against the Constabulary were well founded. In this case they made no specific charge against any constable or constables. His hon. friend said there were 200 cases, but if there were only 150 or 100 cases why should not an inquiry be made?
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
If the hon. Member gives me any information sufficient to show a primâ facie case I shall inquire, but I will not proceed upon common rumour. It is not a question whether there are 150 or 200 cases. If there is evidence in a single case, I would desire it to be probed to the bottom.
§ MR. FLYNN
said that when his hon. friend took the first step in the direction of probing the matter he was stopped by the hon. Gentleman himself. The Return which his hon. friend asked 348 ought to have been granted in the public interest. It was not the duty of an Irish Member to become a public prosecutor. It was the business of a Department that was well paid for. It was the business of the Constabulary in conjunction with the Inland Revenue. There were only [our cases in Scotland as against 1,800 in Ireland. Did the hon. Gentleman know what an illicit still was? He was pretty sure that the hon. Gentleman did not know. They were very difficult things to establish and keep up. The whisky turned out of these stills was so vile that no one would think of drinking it, and the Inland Revenue laws were so strict that the illicit distillation never paid. There was never more than a case of suspicion, and he pressed on the hon. Gentleman to make a public inquiry. On a former occasion the hon. Gentleman had stated that he would do his best, in conjunction with the Inland Revenue, to make a full inquiry and afterwards to make a full statement on the matter, but he had made no such full statement. All that he had said was that in certain districts in the West illicit distillation prevailed. He knew the wilds of Donegal, and he was not aware of any part of that county where illicit distillation was carried on. He thought they were justified in asking why this £3,000 was asked for, and the Secretary to the Treasury need not have assumed an indignant tone when his hon. friend called attention generally to the practice of the police in discovering illicit stills. The inquiry which was asked for should include the number of prosecutions which had taken place, and the localities where these had occurred.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said he considered that it was a gross reflection on the people of Ireland to say that there were 1,800 seizures of illicit stills in Ireland in one year. The House must recollect that this had been going on for a very long time indeed—ever since the Irish Constabulary had been substituted in this detective work for Inland Revenue Police. He did not believe anything of the kind. His hon. friend had made a candid confession that night, that in a large number of those cases there was not the slightest 349 evidence; and that in others the seizures were trivial, and did not mean the seizure of a still, but only parts of the machinery of distillation. He believed that these figures were piled up under the system of rewards that have been offered. He was glad that his hon. friend had abolished the rewards for unimportant seizures. The Irish Police in the remote country districts had not much to do. There was no country in the world, in fact, in which the police had less to do, and if this duty was imposed upon them and a reward was offered, it was only human nature that they should pile up every year figures of illicit distillation which were wholly misleading. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would give attention to that fact, because it was ridiculous to imagine that there had been 1,800 seizures of illicit stills in Ireland as compared with four in Scotland where whisky was much more prized, and where there were greater temptations than in Ireland to illicit distillation. If the hon. Gentleman would overhaul the whole system he would find that the figures would go down immediately. He made no charge against the Irish Constabulary, but they should not act unless they had absolute proof in their hands, and where proved, the offence of illicit distillation should be pressed relentlessly home. But where there was nothing but common rumour the Government ought not to take action of any kind.
§ *MR. WEIR
said he wished to call attention to the unsatisfactory manner in which the officers of the Inland Revenue discharged their duties in Scotland. For instance, the surveyor of taxes in Inverness was also the assessor for Ross-shire and Inverness-shire, and he took his information in regard to the acreage of deer forests from the landlords and the landlords' factors. It was a physical impossibility for him to ascertain for himself the value and extent of the properties. He had never seen a more shameful document in his life than a Return issued some time ago as to the value of deer forests in Scotland. It was a most unsatisfactory method of conducting business to rely on Returns made by landlords or their 350 factors, because they were not subject to any penalties for giving inaccurate information. This practice could not work well. The assessor should not be the paid servant of County Councils, as well-as the Government. The system is unsatisfactory.
§ MR. H. C. RICHARDS (Finsbury, E.)
asked if the hon. Gentleman was in order in stating that a public servant was getting tips.
§ MR. H. C. RICHARDS
asked whether the hon. Member was in order in charging him with receiving; commissions.
said that if the hon. Gentleman charged the hon. Member with receiving commissions he was out of order.
said that he must ask the hon. Member to confine his remarks to the Vote under discussion.
§ MR. WEIR
said that, but for the interruptions of the hon. Member, he would have confined himself to the Vote. He wanted the hon. Gentleman to give him some satisfactory reply that this system would cease, and that public servants would not be allowed to undertake work which it was utterly impossible for them to perform.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
admitted that he had promised the hon. 351 Member for Ross and Cromarty that he would make inquiry into the matter he had referred to. He had consulted the Board of Inland Revenue on the subject, and they told him that the duties of the Inland Revenue at Inverness were by no means too heavy for one man to discharge. He thought that he had communicated that view to the hon. Member by letter. The assessors were appointed by the local authorities, and if the hon. Member asked him to upset the whole of that system, and that no surveyor of taxes should act as assessor, even when appointed by the county authorities, then he thought that that would be a very dangerous task for him to undertake. However, he would convey the objection of the hon. Gentleman to the Lord Advocate to employing an official of the Government in collecting information as to land valuations, but personally he did not think that he would be able to persuade Members for Scotland to accept a proposal that surveyors of taxes should not be allowed to act as assessors when required to do so in special circumstances.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,314,770, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Flynn.)
§ (11.59.) Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 56; Noes, 134. (Division List No. 296.)353
|Abraham, William (Cork.N.K)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Boland, John||Jordan, Jeremiah||Partington, Oswald|
|Caldwell, James||Joyce, Michael||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Kennedy, Patrick James||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Labouchere, Henry||Rea, Russell|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.)||Reddy, M.|
|Cremer, William Randal||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Delany, William||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Leng, Sir John||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Elibank, Master of||Lundon, W.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Thomas, J A (Glamorgan, Gower|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||M'Govern, T.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||M'Kean, John||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid.)|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Moss, Samuel|
|Harrington, Timothy||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Sir Thomas Esmonde and|
|Helme, Norval Watson||O'Malley, William||Mr. Patrick O'Brien.|
|Jameson, Major J. Eustace||O'Mara, James|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Clive, Captain Percy A.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Beckett, Ernest William||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Bignold, Arthur||Ceilings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bond, Edward||Compton, Lord Alwyne|
|Arrol, Sir William||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Brotherton, Edward Allen||Crossley, Sir Savile|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire)||Cubitt, Hon. Henry|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A.J. (Manch'r)||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W (Leeds||Chapman, Edward||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Charrington, Spencer||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Finch, George H.|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Macartney, Rt. Hn. W.G. Ellison||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Macdona, John Cumming||Ropner, Colonel Robert|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Maclver, David (Liverpool)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Gibbs, Hn. A.G.H. (City of Lond.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Russell, T. W.|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Rutherford, John|
|Gordon, Hn. J.E. (Elgin&Nairn)||Maxwell, W.J.H (Dumtriesshire||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Gordon, Maj Evans- (T'rH'mlets||Milvain, Thomas||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Gore, Hn. G.R.C. Ormsby- (Salop||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)||Morgan, David J.(Walth'mstow||Seely, Maj. J.E.B. (Isle of Wight)|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||Morgan, Hn. Fred. (Monm'thsh.||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G. (Midd'x||Morrison, James Archibald||Spear, John Ward|
|Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nderry||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford)||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Mount, William Arthur||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.||Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute||Stewart, Sir Mark J.M'Taggart|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Higginbottom, S. W.||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Hebhouse, Henry (Somerset, E.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Pilkington, Lieut.-Col. Richard||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Hope, J. F.(Sheffield, Brightside||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Valentia, Viscount|
|Howard, Jno. (Kent, Faversham||Pretyman, Ernest George||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Purvis, Robert||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop.||Randles, John S.||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Reid, James (Greenock)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Lawson, John Grant||Remnant, James Farquharson||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S.||Renwick, George||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Richards, Henry Charles||Wylie, Alexander|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Ridley, Hon. M.W. (Stalybridge)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S)||Rigg, Richard|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Sir William Walrond and|
|Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Mr. Anstruther.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after midnight, and objection being taken to further proceeding, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported tomorrow; Committee also report progress; to sit again tomorrow.