HC Deb 31 July 1903 vol 126 cc1084-99

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J W LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]

Clause 1—

Amendment proposed — In page 1, line 5, to leave out from the words 'shall be,' to end of line 6, and insert the words paid out of money to lie provided by Parliament.'"—(Mr. Wyndham.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."


said the Amendment now proposed completely changed the character of the Bill. As originally introduced it was open to the gravest constitutional and financial objections, but certainly the major part of thoseobjections would now be removed. Instead of being placed as a permanent charge on the Consolidated Fund, and withdrawn from the control of Parliament, the grant was now to be placed on the Estimates. To enable that to be done an Act of Parliament was not required in the natural course of things, and he assumed the necessity in this case was due to the framework of the Land Bill. But while the Bill was less objectionable than before, it now made an addition to a series of Estimates which was open to serous criticism. It introduced, in fact, a large new grant-in-aid. Grants-in-aid, when small and for specific purposes, such as those for the National Gallery and certain scientific societies, were not very objectionable; they afforded a convenient method of granting public money. But of late years they had enormously increased, notwithstanding the protests of the Public Accounts Committee and the recommendations of the Treasury. Last year the grants-in-aid amounted to £3,600,000, and in addition to that there was £4,000,000 for the Transvaal. The objection to the system was that the money was withdrawn from all the safeguards provided by practice and the Constitution, and handed over to a Department or an individual, without any question being asked, to be expended practically without control. He regretted the Chief Secretary had found it necessary to resort to this form of Estimate, but he acknowledged the readiness with which the right hon. Gentleman had entertained the objections held to the original form of the Bill.


said the circumstances of Ireland were peculiar, and unless recourse were had either to a charge on the Consolidated Fund—the method which he had abandoned—or to a grant-in-aid, Ireland would suffer, and suffer gravely. Last year a large sum was allocated in England to purposes which in that country were ripe for assistance, and, unless an equivalent was secured, Ireland would for some years lose aid which was timely, and indeed overdue. It was, in the first place, to protect Ireland from that loss, a loss which in past years she had frequently had to suffer, that he had felt it his duty to recommend the Committee to adopt a fiscal method which, he admitted, was peculiar, but which was essential in the peculiar needs and necessities of Ireland.


thought it a good thing for Ireland that the Chief Secretary had introduced this Bill, because, although as the money was to be placed on the Estimates the measure was not in one sense necessary, yet it made it clear for all time that Ireland was entitled to this grant, whereas if the Bill were not in existence Ireland would probably in the future, as had happened in the past, be done out of a great deal of the money to which she was justly entitled. The Amendment now moved undoubtedly carried out the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman and gave to the Irish Members a voice in the allocation of the money, and at the same time made it perfectly clear that if the total sum was not expended in any year the unexpended balances would accumulate, and be safeguarded for Irish purposes.

MR.T.W.RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

said that the Bill marked a new departure, but so far from objecting to it he desired to see it carried further. In the proposal he detected the germ of an Irish Exchequer—the reservation of Irish money for Irish purposes. The only drawback was that it placed in the hands of Dublin Castle a purse into which the Irish Government could dip for any purpose they chose. However, he had weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the scheme, and he thought the former certainly outweighed the latter.


thoroughly sympathised with the remarks of the hon. Member for King's Lynn with regard to grants-in-aid: they constituted a most inconvenient and objectionable form of giving public money. As to the proposal in the Bill, if money was to be given and set apart in this way for Irish purposes, it would be necessary to give Ireland a governing body to decide how-the money should be spent. The continuation of this policy must end in Home Rule.


asked whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give his attention to the general system of grants-in-aid.


said he entirely sympathised with the view expressed by the Treasury that grants-in-aid ought to be carefully watched, and made only for specific objects. This particular case, however, was very exceptional, and it would only lead to gross extravagance if the authorities were compelled to spend the whole of the money within the year. It was really in the interests of economy, though he quite admitted it was a considerable departure from the usual practice.

Question put, and negatived.

Question, "That those words be there inserted in the clause," put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 12, after the word 'shall,' to insert the words 'subject to the provisions of any Act of the present session relating to Irish land purchase.'"—(Mr. Wyndham.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said that whatever might be said about Trinity College there could only be one feeling in regard to the congested districts.

MR. KILBRIDE (Kildare, S.)

pointed,out that in the case of Scotland, as the number of children attending school increased the amount of the equivalent grant would also increase. Accordingly, he was not so sure that by the present grant Ireland was being treated fairly, and Irish children would be worse off than Scotch children, because this Bill stereotyped the sum at £185,000 per annum. If the number of children attending school in Ireland increased, they would consequently get less per child instead of more, as was the case in this country. If his contention showed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer any inequality of treatment, he hoped it would induce the right hon. Gentleman, at this stage, to put the matter right before the Bill was passed, and thus secure that Irish children would not be placed at any disadvantage.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.)

said that tins point also related to Scotland. England got the grant under the Act of last year, and it was based upon so much per child. Consequently, it would increase every year if the number of children attending school increased. He thought that on this principle Ireland ought to have her grant arranged to increase automatically like England, and provision should be made to accomplish this. Otherwise next year they would have a larger sum while Ireland would be limited to the stereotyped amount of £185,000. This inequality would be sure to give rise to a discussion on the Estimates every year. He thought it would be a great mistake now to put Ireland in an inferior position. When they were drawing the money out of the Consolidated Fund, and applying it to certain purposes, he could understand that something might be said in favour of a fixed amount instead of a variable sum, but now that they had brought the matter into the Estimates there was no reason why Ireland should not have her share, more especially as they were now allocating the money by Act of Parliament. They would have a balance for Irish purposes, and whatever amount they had it should be an equivalent to that of England and Scotland. The matter should be put before the Committee now instead of waiting till next year. Ireland, was getting this money not as a matter of compromise but as an equivalent in regard to population, and she was receiving a specific sum arrived at upon a specific basis.


said the observations made by the two hon. Members who had last addressed the Committee showed that there might be reason to object to the principle upon which this grant was being made. He confessed that ever since he was Chancellor of the Exchequer he always had a very strong objection to the system of equivalent grants, because when they had made a grant for a certain purpose to England they were obliged to make proportionate grants to Ireland and Scotland, quite irrespective of whether they needed them or not. Therefore, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when they increased the payment for primary educational purposes in England, by a grant-in-aid of voluntary schools and other schools, he declined to treat it on the basis of equivalent grants to Scotland and Ireland, but he agreed to devote certain sums to various purposes, for which money was required, in Scotland and Ireland, those purposes not being necessarily educational, but purposes for which money was required. He was sorry that the Government had not dealt with this matter in the same way. Indeed there was a pledge given to both Ireland and Scotland on account of the large grants made last year for primary education in England. That relieved the voluntary subscribers or the ratepayers in England of a liability which previously had been imposed upon them; but it did not follow to his mind that a precisely similar grant for a precisely similar purpose should be made to Scotland or Ireland, either on the old basis of 80, 11, and 9, or on the basis of population, which was a new basis altogether. What he should have liked to have seen done would have been this: Seeing that a grant was made last session to England, the educational necessity of Ireland and Scotland should also have been considered, and money proposed in the ordinary Estimates in order to meet such necessities. He had seen something of Irish education, and to tell him that no more money was required for the purposes of primary education in Ireland was to tell him what he did not believe. What had happened in this matter? For many years past a large proportion of the salaries of the elementary teachers in England had been met either by private subscriptions or from the rates. The effect of the Act of last session was that a considerable proportion of that sum would in future be met by Parliamentary grants. What had happened Ireland? For years and years past complaint had been made that the teachers in Ireland were insufficiently paid. What had been the answer? Simply this: "If so, you ought to find more for the payment of teachers from local sources, as done in England and Scotland." Now that England had been relieved Ireland should be relieved also, by securing the better payment and education of teachers. That would have been the way in which he would have liked to have seen this matter dealt with, but the Government had coupled this question, which was purely educational, with a question to which it did not belong— the cost of the Irish Land Bill of this session. So far as regarded a portion of this grant, which was proposed as a grant-in-aid of the Irish Land Bill, that was a flea-bite upon the Exchequer as compared with the large sum which would have to be found by the taxpayers of the country, no doubt with the goodwill of the House towards the carrying out of that Bill. Whatever his right hon. friend expected to get out of this £185,000 for the purposes of the Land Bill, he very much wished that he had dealt with the cost of the Bill in the Bill itself, leaving this money entirely alone. He did not wish to oppose the Motion the Government had made. He would only say that he regretted that two things which appeared to him entirely different had been mixed up in this way, and he hoped that the House and the Government would not consider that all the needs of elementary education in Ireland had been met, and that nothing more would be required in future.


said his right hon. friend spoke with very high authority and very great weight upon the question they were now discussing. He was well aware of his right hon. friend's objections to the principle of equivalent grants, and he had hoped that in a measure, if not altogether, he had met some of those objections by the very devices which had been adopted in the Bill. The great objection to the equivalent grant was that it was proper to spend money in England for a particular purpose, and therefore the Government were asked to spend money for the same purpose in Ireland, whether it was proper to spend money for such a purpose or not. If he were to take the suggestion of his right hon. friend, that a more proper course would have been to have voted on the Estimates this year whatever sum could wisely and properly be expended on primary education in Ireland, he must say that he could not have been responsible for framing such Estimates without almost the certainty of being guilty of extravagance. It was not quite so simple a matter as his right hon. friend appeared to think. He suggested that the whole, or at any rate a great part of the legitimate set-off to Ireland, could have been allocated to increasing the salaries or providing pensions for national teachers. But recently a change had been made in the position of the national teachers of Ireland. He did not mean to say that they were satisfied—no body of public servants were satisfied—with the terms they received, but their position had been improved of recent years. The new system under which they were paid was on its trial, and he believed that in the long run it would be found satisfactory. He should have considered it an act of extravagance to have hastily given this money to the national teachers of Ireland. There were many other points in the education of Ireland which deserved attention quite as much as the national teachers. He had said before, and he said it now, that Ireland did not need perhaps precisely the same kind of education as was properly given in England and Scotland—countries embracing so many industrial centres. The system of education in Ireland, and the financial basis on which it rested, was entirely different from the system in England. In Ireland the Government already gave the capitation grant in respect of all children, and the aid from the localities was almost non-existent.


said he did not mean to imply that any grant to Ireland should necessarily have been confined to increasing the salaries of teachers. What he did suggest was that the grant should have been confined to educational purposes, and that the Land Bill should not have been mixed up with it.


assured his right hon. friend that if he could have got the money required under the Land Bill without coming on this grant, no one would have been more pleased than himself, but that was outside the bounds of practical politics. The general sense of the House was that, in view of the great expenditure on English education, the legitimate claims of Ireland would have to be considered. If Ireland desired land purchase so much—well, that must he considered her particular and imminent claim; there might be no good in a grant in respect of education at all until the need had been shown, and until it had been proved that the money could he wisely and economically expended. He was not in a position to say that be would go bail for the economical expenditure of the money if now placed on the Estimates for Irish education. English education stood in need of further financial assistance; but looking at the position of Irish education—to a great extent owing to the practice hitherto pursued—on the last occasion, when it was felt right to give a large equivalent to Ireland to be devoted to education, Irish education was so backward that it was not ready to receive it. England had local government ten years before Ireland, and it was easy to develop technical instruction under the auspices of the locally-elected bodies, so that Ireland, in order to get a set-off on that occasion, got the large sum of £60,000, which was handed over to intermediate education. It was admitted by those who administered these grants, and it was a matter of common knowledge, that they had more money than they knew what to do with. With all these complications before one, and knowing the necessity of economical administration, he felt that Ireland must either lose the money or that the money must be handed out imprudently, and in a way that would give no gain to Ireland. It was for these reasons that this Bill was brought in in its present shape. The argument of the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark contained two assumptions. The first was that education in Ireland was parallel in all particulars with that of Scotland; and the second that the population was increasing in the same way. He much regretted that that was not so, though he hoped that some day it might be the case. So long as the population was stationary or decreasing it was necessary to get the money down by Act of Parliament instead of getting it year by year.


said the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer had raised the question how this money should be spent in Ireland. He was sure there was not a single Irish Member who would not agree with the right hon. Gentleman as to the need of further expenditure in Ireland. He understood that what they were doing now was not at all to decide how the money should be spent in Ireland, but whether it should be set aside for Irish purposes. Everyone agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be very much better if this comparatively small fund had not been trenched upon at all for the purpose of land purchase. But in this, as in other matters, they could not have everything their own way, and they recognised that the Chief Secretary and the Government had been obliged in this matter to make a certain amount of compromise and to have part of this fund set aside for the purposes of the Land Act. With regard to the rest of the money, £110,000 would be available for Irish purposes. He personally would not say that there was any great necessity for the expenditure of every shilling of that amount on primary education, but when they came to decide on the Estimates how the money was to be spent that would be the time, as he understood, to put forward their views as to whether it should all go to educational matters or whether some of it should be used for other purposes. At present, what they were securing was that Ireland should not be done out of what she was entitled to. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted the great need for the expenditure of money in Ireland. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would be the first person to agree with the Chief Secretary that Ireland had not always been properly dealt with. If they were to go on the old system of simply giving to Ireland an equivalent grant which could be spent for some purpose, Ireland might not be ready for that expenditure, and the result would be that she would lose it every year, or until she was ready to spend it on education. They were now securing for Ireland £185,000 a year beyond all question or doubt. How that was to be spent, apart from the purposes of the Land Act, would be an open question for future discussion.

Question put, and agreed to.

MR. DELANY (Queen's County, Ossory)

moved an Amendment, the object of which was, he said, to enlarge the scope of the measure so as to enable the diversion of a small portion of the grant to works of arterial drainage. He had time after time called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the question of the River Barrow, and to the necessity for drainage operations in connection with it, and he therefore hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would avail himself of this opportunity to have the matter attended to.

Amendment proposed— After the word 'Development' to insert the words 'Arterial Drainage.'"—(Mr.Delany.)

Question proposed, "That those words be inserted in the Bill."


said that it would be inconvenient for the Committee to discuss every single proposition which could be brought forward for the application of this grant. He had used the widest possible Words in declaring that it should be devoted to the improvement of the economic conditions of the country, and he ventured to point out that arterial drainage was one of those economic conditions.

MR.LEAMY (Kildare, N.)

said he thought his hon. friend had done quite right in bringing this matter forward. They were sick of appealing to the House and to the Irish Government on the question of arterial drainage.


said he was as anxious as anyone about arterial drainage, and he might mention the case of the drainage of the Bann as a very pressing need in the north of Ireland, but he wished to utter a caution against loading the Development Grant with works of that kind. The whole problem of arterial drainage, including the Bann, would have to be dealt with, and it would require a very large expenditure indeed. A great deal of money had already been sunk in these works and practically thrown into the water, because no good had resulted. He suggested that this was a question in regard to which the Irish Members on both sides of the House should unite together next session and insist upon consideration for a general scheme of arterial drainage, securing from the national Exchequer a fair share of the expense, and also securing that the various interests involved should bear a reasonable contribution.


said Ire sympathised with the views expressed by the last speaker. He considered that when the arterial drainage was undertaken it would require more money than could be provided out of the Development Grant He and his colleagues in the north of Ireland were, as the Chief Secretary knew, deeply interested in the drainage of the Bann, and that was one of the first great arterial drainage works which ought to be carried out. He did not know the case of the South so well, but so far as the North was concerned he knew the unfortunate people in the neighbourhood of Lough Neagh had already paid over £120,000 to have their lands flooded every year, and not only had they been drowned out but their claims had been drowned out. He agreed as to the desirability for united action to obtain a remedy for this grievance.


said his right hon. and gallant friend knew that he had devoted not a little attention to the question of the drainage of the Bann, and he again appealed to the Committee not to occupy time in discussing the various proposals for the expenditure of this grant, or else they would never be able to get through the work in a reasonable time. Let them first make sure that the money would be available for Irish development.


said he was quite satisfied with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and begged to ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said he had wished to proposean Amendment in line 23, which dealt with the arrangement for allocating and auditing the grant. As the clause now stood, he thought it gave too great powers to the Treasury. It left it to the Treasury to settle nearly everything, to say what should be done with any unexpended portion of the grant, and to decide whether or not there should be any audit, and he thought the decision probably would be that there should be practically no audit. He did not think it was a proper power to leave to any Department of the State. It was a power which was intended to be, and, in his opinion, should be exercised by such a body as the Public Accounts Committee, which represented the House, and was not appointed by the Government or composed of official nominees or subject to official influence. He, therefore, suggested that the regulations referred to in this part of the clause should be made, not by the Treasury but by the Public Accounts Committee, or that the Treasury should have the assent of that Committee to any regulations which it might make. He begged to move.

Amendment proposed— In line 23, to leave out the word 'Treasury' and insert the words 'Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons,' "—( Mr. Gilson Bowles.)

Question proposed, "That the word Treasury' stand part of the clause."


hoped his hon. friend would not press the Amendment. He was aware that he held very strong views as to the duties of the Public Accounts Committee, and as to the control which should be exercised over the expenditure of public money, but he asked him not to select that measure as affording a fitting opportunity for giving a first demonstration of his financial theories. He might tell him that every shilling spent under the Bill would be reviewed by the Public Accounts Committee of the House, although, of course, a year after it had been spent. It was necessary that the Irish Government should come to some proper arrangement as to the auditing of the accounts. Suppose, for instance, £20,000 was devoted to some educational purposes in Ireland, and some other sum of money to assist economic development, it was clear that the Irish Government must make some arrangement for those two purposes, and that there must be a proper audit of accounts in respect of them. The Treasury would stand at their right hand to guide them, and ultimately the accounts would have to be submitted to the Public Accounts Committee.


said there was one very serious objection to the proposal of the hon. Member for King's Lynn which had not been pointed out by the Chief Secretary. The Public Accounts Committee had the duty of examining the accounts of the various Departments and reporting thereon, and the hon. Member now proposed for the first time in the history of this country to confer upon it functions which the Committee had not been called upon to exercise in the past. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman what was the meaning of the words regulations as to the accumulation of money. He understood that the Treasury might make regulations with regard to audit and other matters; but he did not understand what the regulations with reference to the accumulation of money meant. Would the Treasury have the power to say whether money was to be accumulated or not?

MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)

asked if he rightly understood the right hon. Gentleman to state that the Irish Development Grant Account would be audited by the Controller and Auditor-General.


said he thought that was quite clear, because they were proceeding by way of Estimate. The money would be appropriated in every financial year, and would be reviewed by the Public Accounts Committee. With reference to the Question of the hon. Member for Dundee, there was no novelty in the proposal in the sub-section. The Congested Districts Board in Ireland and the Agricultural Department had certain moneys at their disposal to be devoted to certain purposes, but their steps were, to a certain extent, guided by the expert assistance of the Treasury. A Department might make a proposal to accumulate money which might not be of the best possible character. All such proposals would be submitted to the Treasury just as the Estimates were submitted year by year for Treasury criticism. The words were put in at the instance of the Treasury, and he himself took no exception to them. The Treasury could give very great assistance with regard to the proper allocation of funds for various purposes, though those purposes would be decided by this House in Committee of Supply.


asked if he might then take it that the accumulation would be in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant under the direction of the Treasury.


said that the whole financial structure would be arranged with the advice of the Treasury.


said that he thought he might withdraw his objection. It arose from the nature of the grant; because it was not an ordinary Estimate subject to the ordinary rules under which balances were surrendered at the end of the year. If he rightly understood his right hon. friend however, the Government now undertook that the Vote should be submitted to the Controller and Auditor-General and would consequently come before the Public Accounts Committee. If that were so he would withdraw his Amendment.


said that was so.


said that the right hon. Gentleman could not be expected to give an authoritative answer to such Questions. These were Questions which ought to be addressed to the Treasury; and a representative of the Treasury should be present.


said he thought the criticism of the hon. Gentleman was captious. It was for the right hon. Gentleman to say what course he would adopt. He asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed— in page 1, line 26, to leave out Sub-section (4) and insert the words '(4) Any estimate presented in respect of the unit payable in any financial year shall show the amount of the estimated balance to the credit of the Ireland Development Grant Account at the beginning of the financial year, and also the proposed application of the sums to be issued out of the account in the financial year.'"—(Mr. Wyndham.)

Amendment agreed to.


said that the Chief Secretary stated that it was better, in the interests of Ireland, that the equivalent grant should be circulated on a basis of population. For this purpose England, Scotland, and Ireland were practically a partnership. Previous grants, however, had been estimated without reference to population. For this purpose England, Scotland, and Ireland were practically a partnership. One partner drew out a certain amount of money from the Imperial funds, and it was fair that the other partners should get equivalent sums. It was not necessary that Ireland should draw it out in proportion to population. Supposing Scotland was asked to base her grant on the number of children in voluntary schools in that country. That would not be fair to Scotland, because she had comparatively few voluntary school children as compared with England. Next year Ireland would have to pay increased taxation. England might draw a larger sum; and, in that case, Ireland would have to pay a portion of the increase. Why should not Ireland have her equivalent grant fixed? The population of Ireland was decreasing; and it was absurd to say that her grant should be fixed on the same principle as applied to England and Scotland. It might be favourable to these countries; but it was obviously adverse to Ireland. If a certain proportion was fixed, then the grant would rise automatically as the grant to England increased.


said he had no hope of being able to convince the hon. Member; but he should like to convince the hon. Member for South Kildare that Ireland would receive better treatment under the Bill than she would receive had the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark been Chancellor of the Exchequer. The basis of previous grants was calculated on the quota given to the Imperial Treasury by the three countries. That was unfavourable to Ireland, because as taxation increased, a smaller quota was made by the poorer country as compared to the quota paid by the richer country.

MR. FLYNN (Cork Co., N.)

said he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman was quite accurate. He had always understood that equivalent grants were not based on the quota contributed by each country, but on the aggregate amount distributed in the proportion of eighty, eleven and nine. When Lord Goschen was Chancellor of the Exchequer he was pressed over and over again for some information with reference to the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland; and then, for the first time, the Treasury put forward a proposal that grants of this kind should be put on the basis, not of the quota contributed, but in the proportion of eighty, eleven and nine of the aggregate amount of the probate duty grant. When Ireland made any demand in connection with the Local Government Act, the relief money was based not on population but upon the eighty, eleven and nine basis. It would be most disastrous to Ireland to have this based on the population. He submitted the proper way was to take the precedent of the agricultural grant.


Then you would get £150,000 instead of £185,000.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 306.]