HC Deb 29 July 1903 vol 126 cc807-17

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient to make further provision for defraying the expenses of the purchase of Land and Buildings, and the construction of Buildings and Works, in connection with certain Public Departments, and to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of any sums not exceeding in the whole £1,790,000 for such purposes, and to authorise the Treasury to borrow for the purpose of providing money for sums to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund, or for the repayment of sums so issued, by means of Terminable Annuities for such period not exceeding thirty years from the dates of borrowing, such Annuities to be paid out of moneys to be provided by Parliament for the service of the Commissioners of Works, and if those moneys are insufficient, out of the Consolidated Fund."—(Mr. Elliot.)

MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

thought the Committee were entitled to a statement from the Secretary to the Treasury, as a sum of even £1,700,000 required some explanation before being granted. It would be greatly to the convenience of Members if such Resolutions as that now before the Committee could be placed on the Paper, as it was impossible, when they were read from the Chair, fully to grasp their nature. He should certainly oppose the Resolution, unless a full statement were made as to the purposes for which this money was required, the buildings to which it was to be allocated, how it stood in relation to sums previously voted for similar purposes, and whether it was the completing sum for the schemes for which it was required.


agreed that it would be more convenient to have the actual Bill under discussion, but the usual procedure of the House of Commons had to he followed. The sum asked for was for supplementing and carrying forward schemes of building which had been authorised for a long time, and which were founded in great part on the Report of the Committee of 1897. The schemes comprised the new War Office Buildings, the Great George Street site, a Science and Art building in Kensington, increased accommodation for the Admiralty, and the addition of a new wing to the British Museum.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

said the hon. Member had really missed his hon. friend's point. In a proposal of this kind it would assist hon. Members very much if the Resolution had been printed. There were no rules to prevent hon. Members having this notice on the Paper, and if that had been done the Committee would have been saved the exhaustive process of extracting the information which, up to the present, they had not yet obtained. He wished to point out that the Resolution that had been read from the Chair was different from the one on the Notice Paper, therefore they were discussing a Resolution which was not before the Committee, and that was not proper courtesy to the Committee of the House of Commons This was not the period of the session nor the time of day when £1,500 000 should be asked for without a notice being placed upon the Paper. Why was this proposal not brought forward at the beginning of the session, at a period when proper consideration could have been given to it, instead of bringing it in after midnight in the hope that it would be rushed through without discussion? He wished to 'inform the Government that in regard to all their Bills from now forward that he intended to protest against this mode of procedure. He wished to know what the original estimate was so far as these public buildings were concerned. There was an estimate when the original proposal was brought forward, and he wished to know whether that estimate had been exceeded. The hon. Member had stated that more offices and land were required, but he never told them whether these were new proposals and they were left to guess. It was not enough to say "Let us have this Bill, and then you can discuss the measure at a later stage." What opportunity were they likely to have to secure an adequate discussion of this Bill? It was their duty upon this and upon every other question brought forward to protest against measures being taken after midnight, more especially when they had no information given them upon which to form a definite judgment. He protested against this sum of money being asked for without any estimate being laid before them.

MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)

asked if there were other new works which were about to be commenced, and he also wished to know whether there would be a schedule to the Bill which would set out the various sums required.


said there would be a schedule which would enable the hon. Member to see at a glance all the particulars he had asked for. With regard to the introduction of this Resolution all he could say was that he had followed the invariable practice of the House of Commons.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said there were one or two other questions he should like to ask. He understood that some of the items were in future tobe put into the ordinary Vote of the year. He thought that in regard to some of those extra items a certain amount might go into the ordinary Estimates. He did not think they ought to pass this Resolution without any reason being given for this excess of expenditure. If this expenditure had been put in the ordinary Estimates it could very easily have been explained, but as it was a new Bill for expenditure on works sanctioned under former Bills surely they ought to know why the previous amounts had proved to be insufficient, and why they were now asked to pass this Resolution. He wished to know why they were going to borrow all this money, and why they were asked to sanction the borrowing of it without any statement as to its necessity. Personally he had a great objection to borrowing a large sum of money instead of paying their way as they went along, and when £1,500,000 was required over and above their ordinary income he thought they ought to have some explanation.


said he thought it would be much more convenient to consider all those points when the schedule and the scheme were before the Committee. Hon. Members could then judge of the propriety of the measures which the Government were taking. He thought this was hardly the place to raise the question of the advisability of putting this expenditure upon the Estimates. That was rather a large question, and he thought hon. Members would agree with him that it would be rather out of place to go into that question now.


asked why it was necessary after midnight, and within two weeks of the end of the session, to introduce a Bill involving the expenditure of £1,790,000. The House of Commons was not being treated properly by the Government when a Bill of this kind was thrown at it after 12 o'clock on a night so near the close of the session. They seemed to think that they had only to come down and ask £5,000,000 or £10,000,000, and that the House should vote it without consideration. Unless the hon. Gentleman explained why the Bill was not introduced two months earlier, it would be the duty of the Committee to carry on the discussion.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said there would be no objection to pass a Resolution for a reasonable sum for schemes already approved by the House, but he understood the hon. Gentleman to suggest that the money was for works they Lad never heard of before. He thought the Committer ought to have more light in regard to the new schemes.

MR. H. J. WILSON (Yorkshire, W R., Holmfirth)

said there was something more in this than met the eye. They ought to have a clear and definite statement of the purposes for which the money was wanted.


said they were only asking leave to bring in the Bill. When the Bill was brought in hon. Members Would see whether the money was to be spent properly or not. This was not the stage at which to discuss the details. He could assure the hon. Member that there was no desire to prevent the House from having an opportunity of discussing the matters dealt with in the Bill.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

said this was the proper occasion on which to ask an explanation of the purposes for which the money was to be granted. Once the money was granted they would be told when the Bill was brought forward that they could only deal with the details of the proposed expenditure. He thought that the Government, when they brought forward a Resolution of this kind, should make a statement to the Committee showing the purposes the money was for.


said the Prime Minister had suggested that this was not the proper time to discuss the matter.


To discuss the details.


said that in the ordinary course of things the Committee, he thought, would agree at once to the Resolution, but they were in peculiar circumstances at present. For the rest of the session the smaller portions of the Government business would be discussed after twelve o'clock. The suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that this was not a time to discuss the matter was a most extraordinary one. Their protest was that they were asked to pass this money without their knowing what the sum was, whether it was part of an original sum or of the whole of it, or whether it was a new sum, and without their knowing for what particular business the money was wanted. He would advise his hon. friend to take a division on the matter.


said he thought that there was some reason for the complaint of hon. Members opposite. The Committee ought to have some detailed explanation before they were asked to consent to the voting of such an enormous sum. They believed that the Government was entirely over-expending itself in public offices. If they were going to put all their civil servants in vast palaces in Whitehall, and to buy up the whole of Westminster, they were committing a tremendous mistake. He would suggest to the Secretary to the Treasury that he should accept the Motion for reporting Progress now, and that the hon. Gentleman should issue an explanatory statement showing the total cost of the public offices up to the present moment, and the addition he proposed to make to each office. If he did that he would have no difficulty in getting the Resolution at a subsequent sitting.


said the Government were not departing from the ordinary method of conducting business of this kind. They were only asking leave to bring in the Bill, which would give hon. Members all the information they required, and hon. Members would not be in any way hampered by passing the Resolution.


said he had tried three times to get an answer to his very simple question and failed. Why was this Bill not introduced at a reasonable period of the session? There was nothing in the nature of the Bill that could not have been foreseen three months ago. He thought therefore, that it was only reasonable that they should enforce their protest, and he begged to move that the Deputy-Chairman report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Whitley.)


said he would point out to the hon. Gentleman that he was responsible for the business of the House, and not the Secretary to the Treasury. He could only do his best to arrange the business in the most convenient way. The reason why the Bill had not been brought in earlier was that the session had been very fully occupied.

Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud Holland, Sir William Henry Roe, Sir Thomas
Barran, Rowland Hirst Horniman, Frederick John Shackleton, David James
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Jones, Wm, (Carnarvonshire) Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)
Caldwell, James Layland-Barratt, Francis Soares, Ernest J.
Cawley, Frederick Leigh, Sir Joseph Thomas David Alfred (Merthyr
Channing, Francis Allston Levy, Maurice Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.
Cremer, William Randal Lough, Thomas White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Mansfield, Horace Rendall Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Markham, Arthur Basil
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D. Norman, Henry Mr. Dalziel and Mr.
Helme, Norval Watson Rea, Russell Whitley.
Henderson, Arthur (Durhant) Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Fitzroy, Hon. Edw. Algernon O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens
Anson, Sir William Reynell Forster, Henry William Pease, Herbert Pike (Durlingt'n
Ark wright, John Stanhope Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W. Percy, Earl
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Fyler, John Arthur Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Atkinson, Right Hon. John Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.) Pretyman, Ernest George
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn Sir H. Groves, James Grimble Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Bain, Colonel James Robert Hamilton, RtHn Lord G (Midd'x Purvis, Robert
Baird, John George Alexander Hare, Thomas, Leigh Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A.J. (Manch'r Harris, Frederick Leverton Reid, James (Greenock)
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds Hay, Hon. Claude George Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Howard, Jno (Kent, Faver'am Robertson, H. (Hackney)
Bignold, Arthur Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton Russell, T. W.
Blundell, Colonel Henry Kemp, Lieut.-Colonel George Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford
Bond, Edward Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. Sadler, Col. Saml. Alexander
Bowles, T. Gibson (Lyun Regis Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh Saunderson, Rt. Hn Col. Edw J.
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Keswick, William Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Burdett-Coutts, W. Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight
Campbell, John (Armagh, S. Lawson, JohnGrant (Yorks, N R Simeon, Sir Barrington
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Cavendish, V C W (Derbysh.) Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S. Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S) Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J A (Worc Lonsdale, John Brownlee Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jn. M.
Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth) Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow Lundon, W. Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Macdona, John Cumming Talbot, Rt Hn J. G. (Oxford Univ.
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S. MacIver, David (Liverpool) Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire Valentia, Viscount
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Majendie, James A. H. Walker, Col. William Hall
Davenport, William Bromley Massey-Mainwaring, Hn W. F. Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.
Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.) Molesworth, Sir Lewis Warde, Colonel C. E.
Dickson, Charles Scott Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants. Willox, Sir John Archibald
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Doughty, George Morgan David J (Walthamstow) Wylie, Alexander
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Morrell, George Herbert Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Mount, William Arthur
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry) Sir Alexander Acland-
Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.) Nicholson, William Graham Hood and Mr. Anstruther.
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)
Original Question again proposed.

Hon. Members might rest assured that until the Bill was passed the Treasury would have no power to spend the money.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 34; Noes, 120. (Division List No. 196.)

MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)

said he thought the Committee ought to have some information as to what the additional works referred to were to be. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £500,000.

Amendment proposed— To leave out '£1,790,000,' and insert '£1,290,000.'"—(Mr. Soares.)

Question proposed, "That '£1,790,000' stand part of the Question."


said he thought the simplest plan would be to

accept the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, in order to enable further information to be given. It was most important that a clear statement should be made regarding the new works. New sites were apparently to be bought; but the Committee were not informed where they were to be. He would support his hon. friend's Motion.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 116; Noes, 26. (Division List No. 197.)

Levy, Maurice Roe, Sir Thomas Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)
Lough, Thomas Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)
Mansfield, Horace Rendall Thomas, David A. (Merthyr) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Rea, Russell White, Luke (York, E. R.) Mr. Soares and Mr.
Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax) Warner.

Original Question again proposed.


suggested that if the Prime Minister would agree that one stage of the Bill, either the Second Reading or the Committee, should be taken before midnight, the opposition to the present stage would then be withdrawn. Considering the amount of money involved he thought that was not au unreasonable request.


concurred with the suggestion, and said he thought that such an arrangement would tend to facilitate the subsequent stages of the Bill.


said that no doubt a considerable sum of money was asked for in this matter, and if it was distinctly understood that on other stages there should be no prolonged discussion he would endeavour to arrange for the Committee stage of the Bill to be commenced before twelve o'clock.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported to-morrow.