HC Deb 21 February 1907 vol 169 cc1119-31

5. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1907, for such of the Salaries and Expenses of the Supreme Court of Judicature as are not charged on the Consolidated Fund."


said he wished to ask the Attorney-General to explain why the Department over which he presided was so misinformed as to the corrupt practices at the Worcester election, which were quite notorious, that only £30 was put down for expenses when £2,000 was required. Surely it was time that there should be some re-organisation of the Department, and a protest made against the way in which its business was conducted. Particulars should be given as to the expenditure instead of its being put into a lump sum. He wished to know how much was given to Members of the Bar, and how much was spent in the preparation of evidence, and on other items; and whether, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, there had been a careful audit of this expenditure so that the money of the tax-payers should be safe-guarded. Hon. Members who had had experience of legal proceedings knew how they were at the mercy of lawyers, and how impossible it was to effect economy in their expenses. As tot he case of the Bodmin election petition, he would not trouble the Committee with the details, but it was common knowledge that corrupt practices there were not all on one side; and it was possible that, if proper steps had been taken, a good deal of public money might have been saved in connection with that inquiry. It was known that certain parties in that borough were ready to get up election petitions to provide work for the lawyers.

MR. MYER (Lambeth, N.)

asked whether it was in order to discuss a political matter on this Supplementary Vote.


said that the hon. Member could not review the policy under which those proceedings were conducted. The expenditure was incurred under the provisions of the Corrupt Practices Act.


said he would not have made the remark if he had known he was out of order. What he objected to was that the whole of these expenses were lumped together, and the Committee had no real information as to how the money had been expended. That was not business. What must be insisted upon was that hon. Members should know, first of all, that those employed by the State were properly remunerated; secondly, that there was not undue extravagance; and thirdly, that the Members of certain professions did not get better remuneration than they were entitled to. Some of these election petitions were got up to make a sort of job for the legal profession, and he hoped that in future there would be fewer of them.


said on the face of it there seemed to be a great waste of money in connection with this Vote. £2,000 was not the whole of it. The Vote was for £3,598, but £1,598 was to be taken from savings out of other sub-heads of the Vote. So far as they knew no extra election Judges had been appointed, and there was no apparent necessity for spending more money than had been already voted. There was a great deal of complaint outside about the unnecessary amount of money given to Judges for travelling expenses, and it seemed to him a wicked waste of public money to give this £2,000, which he supposed was largely made up of travelling expenses of Judges and others, in addition to the £319,000 already voted.

THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir John Walton,) Leeds, S.

said that the orginal vote of £319,066 included only £30 under this head of expenditure. That was obviously an inadequate sum, having regard to the fact that five election petitions had been before the Judges. In answer to the question why so small a sum as £30 was put down, he assumed that it was not contemplated that the expenses actually incurred would be so large. The estimate was made in the usual way, but the criticism which had been made would receive consideration. The charge of £3,598 however, he submitted, was not an extravagant one, considering the expenses incident to an election petition, and the Committee might take it that the Treasury, with the traditional economy of that Department, would not have allowed a larger sum than they were compelled to. A good deal of the expenditure in connection with an election petition was borne by the unsuccessful party and the country had nothing to do with it. The whole of this outlay was incident to the appointment of certain Judges to try election petitions and was necessary, having regard to the dignity which attached to such a tribunal. It involved the cost of keeping them for the time during which they might be engaged in the actual work of the petition. In some cases the inquiry lasted several days—in Yarmouth many days. At all events a considerable time was occupied. He was not aware of any item which should not be paid, and he thought there was no ground for criticism.


Do the Judges simply get their expenses?


They simply get their expenses.


Are these expenses £10 or £7 10s. a day?


I think it is £7.


Well, it is too much.


thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had not given a sufficient explanation when he said that this expense was incurred only for the Judges and did not involve any expense for the counsel or for the trial. The only explanation was that this sum of money had been spent on the Judges, and the hon. and learned Gentleman had not given the items. He understood that the hon. and learned Member admitted that the statement of the items was not sufficiently clear, and undertook to see that on any future occasion the Estimate should be framed in a clearer manner. He was much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for his statement, but it was a pity that such a course had not been adopted before, because it would have prevented the Committee being put in a difficult position and would have saved time. As to the lump sum, the total amount spent upon election petitions appeared to be £3,598. There were five election petitions, which would give the cost at about £700 apiece. That, of course, was a rough and ready way of reckoning, because one election petition might have lasted longer than another; but they were obliged to make this calculation for themselves. He wished to say a few words on the question of the sums which were paid to His Majesty's Judges.


said he had omitted to state that, although some of these sums went to the Judges, there were also the expenses of the Public Prosecutor, and also, possibly, the cost of the shorthand notes. What he meant to explain was that these expenses were the expenses of the Court, and did not include the fees of counsel or expenses of that kind.


said he understood that these were expenses which were given first of all to the Judges, secondly, to any person who was there to assist the Judges, and thirdly, expenses incurred for providing a Court House in a locality in which a Court House did not exist. He thought that great care should be taken to see that no more money than was necessary was spent. A Judge, like any other person, could not be in more than one place at a time, and if he was trying an election petition he could not attend the assizes. Therefore, the money which would have been spent at the assizes would be saved. What they wanted to find out was whether this money had been spent in an economical way, and he thought they were justified in raising the question because, in consequence of the way in which the Estimate was framed, it was impossible for them to form any judgment whatever. In regard to this expenditure he did not say that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were worse than their predecessors, but they looked to those benches for improvement, and for an amendment of the existing order of things. He could not congratulate the Government on the manner in which they had prepared their Estimates. He thought the Committee ought to have some explanation of whether this expenditure which they were told, was chiefly upon the Judges was justifiable or not. He thought that the Secretary to the Treasury should give some explanation of the way in which the money had been spent.


said he was inclined to think that the hon. Gentleman was right in his contention. He had, moreover, put forward his points in a businesslike manner. He thought the hon. Baronet was right in saying that he expected better business from that side of the House. Why did not the Government give them more details instead of putting down a round sum? He hoped that in future, in such a case as this, figures would be put before them which any business man could understand.


said he had no doubt the hon. Gentleman would give the best explanation he could, but obviously there were no particulars in the Estimates before the Committee, and the Vote ought not to have been taken that day unless the hon. Gentleman was prepared to furnish particulars. Up to the present moment this expenditure had been kept absolutely secret, which was not only wrong but also illegal, and upon Report he would take the opportunity of asking for full particulars of this £598, the names of the Judges to whom it was paid, and how much they received, so that he could see whether the payment was a proper one.


said they had asked the Financial Secretary to explain this riddle which had for some little time puzzled the House. As he understood, the Judges for this work were chosen by the bench itself. If a Judge was going to try election petitions it was obvious that he could not be occupied with any of the other work for which he received a salary. The question he desired to ask was, why should a Judge who was trying election petitions be paid an extra salary, seeing that he would have been doing his regular work elsewhere if he had not been engaged on election petitions?


said he was glad to be able to give the information asked for. The total expenditure for election petitions was £3,598. The actual amount spent in each case was, £340 5s. 7d. for the Attercliffe petition, £1,273 16s. 1d. for the Bodmin petition, £699 5s. 10d. for the Maidstone petition, £498 13s. 9d. for the Worcester petition, £784 3s. 7d. for the Yarmouth petition, and on the Appleby petition, which had not come to trial, £2 2s. He pointed out that on another part of the Vote there had been a saving of £1,541,and that all the Government was now asking for was the balance of £2,000. He might say, in reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, that there was no extra remuneration for the Judges concerned. The whole of this money had gone in payments to clerks, travelling and other expenses, shorthand writers, and so on.


thanked the hon. Gentleman for the information he had given. The only thing that occurred to him now that it had been given was why it had not been given before. The information itself, however, was hardly satisfactory. Although the hon. Member had given some items they were only the lump sums paid in the case of each petition. They were sums that no accountant would pass in auditing a balance sheet. What the Committee desired to know, and what they would know at some time or other, was how these particular sums had been spent, whether in any particular case there had been extravagance, and whether there had been an expenditure which ought not to have occurred.


said it was not necessary for the hon. Gentleman to point out in an Estimate of this kind that, there having been a saving on something else, it left only £2,000 for the consideration of the Committee. He said that because the hon. Member was young in office, and because he hoped the hon. Member would see that such an explanation could have no effect. What the Government had saved was nothing to the Committee. The Committee had to consider the expenditure.


submitted that the explanation of the Financial Secretary was no explanation; the hon. Gentleman had given no particulars, and therefore he should press for the particulars on Report.


asked whether the hon. Gentleman could give the details.


hoped that now the hon. Gentleman had been pressed by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House he would not ignore them in this matter.


was understood to say that he was always glad to give information for the purpose of facilitating business. He did not pride himself on the saving that had been made on this

Vote. Over nearly the whole of this expenditure the Treasury had no control at all. The only reason why he mentioned the saving was to show that the Vote they were considering was practically only £2,000. He would do his best, if the hon. Member for Sutherland cared to move for a return, to grant it.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 211; Noes, 32. (Division List, No. 12.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N.E. Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.) Kekewich, Sir George
Acland, Francis Dyke Dolan, Charles Joseph Kennedy, Vincent Paul
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Duffy, William J. King, Alfred John (Knutsford
Astbury, John Meir Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness Kitson, Rt. Hon. Sir James
Atherley-Jones, L. Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Laidlaw, Robert
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Dunne, Major E.Martin (Wals'll Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Lehmann, R. C.
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Elibank, Master of Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Erskine, David C. Levy, Maurice
Beale, W. P. Eve, Harry Trelawney Lewis, John Herbert
Beauchamp, E. Everett, R. Lacey Lough, Thomas
Beck, A. Cecil Farrell, James Patrick Lundon, W.
Bellairs, Carlyon Fenwick, Charles Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)
Bennett, E. N. Ferens, T. R. Macdonald, J.M. (Falkirk B'hs
Bertram, Julius Ffrench, Peter Mackarness, Frederic C.
Bethell, Sir J.H. (Essex, R'mf'd Flynn, James Christopher Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Billson, Alfred Fuller, John Michael F. MacNeill, John Gordon Swift
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Fullerton, Hugh MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.
Brace, William Gibb, James (Harrow) MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)
Brigg, John Gill, A. H. M'Callum, John M.
Brocklehurst, W. B. Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John M'Crae, George
Brooke, Stopford Glendinning, R. G. M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Brunner,J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Goddard, Daniel Ford M'Micking, Major G.
Brunner, Rt. Hn. Sir J. T. (Ches. Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) Maddison, Frederick
Bryce, J. Annan Gulland, John W. Massie, J.
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Meagher, Michael
Burns, Rt. Hn. John Hall, Frederick Meehan, Patrick A.
Burnyeat, W. J. D. Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis Menzies, Walter
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil Micklem, Nathaniel
Cawley, Sir Frederick Hart-Davies, T. Mond, A.
Chance, Frederick William Harvey, W.E. (Derbyshire, N. E. Montgommery, H. G.
Cheetham, John Frederick Haslam, James (Derbyshire) Mooney, J. J.
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)
Clarke, C. Goddard Haworth, Arthur A. Morrell, Philip
Clough, William Hayden, John Patrick Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Coats, Sir T. Glen (Renfrew, W. Hazel, Dr. A. E. Murphy, John
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Henry, Charles S. Murray, James
Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancr's, W. Higham, John Sharp Myer, Horatio
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Gr'st'd Hobart, Sir Robert Napier, T. B.
Cory, Clifford John Hodge, John Norman, Sir Henry
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Hogan, Michael Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Cowan, W. H. Holden, E. Hopkinson Nuttall, Harry
Cox, Harold Hooper, A. G. O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid)
Cremer, William Randal Hudson, Walter O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Crombie, John William Jenkins, J. O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Crossley, William J. Jones, Leif (Appleby) O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Cullinan, J. Jordan, Jeremiah O'Dowd, John
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Jowett, F. W. O'Malley, William
Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Joyce, Michael O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Delany, William Kearley, Hudson E. Parker, James (Halifax)
Partington, Oswald Runciman, Walter Verney, F. W.
Paul, Herbert Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland) Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek) Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)
Pickersgill, Edward Hare Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)
Power, Patrick Joseph Seaverns, J. H. Waring, Walter
Price, C. E. (Edinburgh Central Seely, Major J. B. Watt, H. Anderson
Rainy, A. Rolland Shackleton, David James Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Raphael, Herbert H. Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.) Weir, James Galloway
Reddy, M. Shipman, Dr. John G. White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)
Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Silcock, Thomas Ball White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Rees, J. D. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie Whitehead, Rowland
Rickett, J. Compton Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Soares, Ernest J. Wilkie, Alexander
Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Spicer, Sir Albert Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)
Robertson, Sir G. Soott (Bradf'rd Strachey, Sir Edward Wills, Arthur Walters
Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside) Sullivan, Donal Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Robinson, S. Summerbell, T.
Robson, Sir William Snowdon Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.
Roe, Sir Thomas Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury Whiteley and Mr. J. A.
Rose, Charles Day Thomasson, Franklin Pease.
Rowlands, J. Toulmin George
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Craig, Capt. James (Down, E.) Roberts, S.(Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks Fell, Arthur Rutherford, John (Lancashire)
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Boyle, Sir Edward Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West) Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
Bridgeman, W. Clive Hamilton, Marquess of Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.)
Carlile, E. Hildred Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford Thornton, Percy M.
Cave, George Hervey, F.W.F.(Bury S. Edm'd Valentia, Viscount
Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W. Hunt, Rowland Walrond, Hon, Lionel
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Wore. Meysey-Thompson, E. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington Claude Hay and Mr. Ashley.
Courthope, G. Loyd Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel

Question put, and agreed to.

6. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £140, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st March, 1907, for Salaries and Expenses of the Crofters' Commission."


said the Commission had been an exceedingly expensive one, when they remembered that the Small Holdings Commission cost comparatively a trifling sum. He had looked into the original Vote, which was for the heavy sum of £3,735, and he should like some explanation of what the extra £140 was for. It would have been very simple to have given some hint as to the exceptional circumstances which had necessitated this increase in the expenditure. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would be able to give them more details.


said that upon turning up the original Estimate he found that the amount put down for assessors was £20, and now they were being asked to provide an additional £140. Why was such a large additional sum required for this purpose.

THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (MR. Sinclair,) Forfarshire

said this expenditure had been necessary because the Crofters Commission was a land court with powers of revising and fixing rents. Last year they were asked by the Congested Districts Board to fix the rents on a large estate in the island of Skye. Owing to the ill-health of the chairman the Commission had to have the assistance of two assessors in the fixing of the rents on that estate. As a rule the estimate for this work was a nominal sum of £20, but owing to exceptional circumstances this year the help of two assessors had to be obtained.


said it was very unfortunate that almost every estimate should require some explanation which did not appear on the Paper. Who was the chairman of this Commission? Was it a fact that he was paid £2,000 a year, and that he had never attended a meeting of the Commission for three year? If he had not been attending the meetings surely he ought to surrender some part of his salary to meet this extra expenditure.


said in order that the hon. Member should not base his remarks upon a false foundation he wished to say at once that there was no foundation whatever for the statement that the chairman of this Commission had not attended a meeting for the last three years.


asked if the right hon. Gentleman would inform him who the chairman was, what salary he received, and how many meetings he had attended during the past three years?


he did not know whether this question properly arose at this stage, because the information that was being asked for had nothing to do with this extra amount. If the hon. Member would put a question to him he would furnish him with the information he required. Some of the items he had alluded to would be found in the Estimates. The salary paid to Sheriff Brand compared favourably with that of other officials doing similar work in other parts of the kingdom. It was because of the ill-health of the chairman of the Commission that the assessors were employed to fix rents in this particular portion of Scotland. If there was any other point on which hon. Members desired information he would do his best to provide it.

MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)

agreed that £2,000 a year was not an excessive salary for the weighty and responsible duties of the chairman of this Commission. It was a class of work for which a man of high attainments, great impartiality, and good judgment was required—a man who would command the respect of all parties coming before his tribunal. He had no personal knowledge of the qualifications of the chairman, but he was sure he would not have been appointed unless he were a man having the requisite qualifications. It would sometimes happen that a permanent official would be absent through reasons beyond his control, and in that case it might be necessary to get others to take his place. There were three Commissioners, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could explain why the absence of the chairman necessitated the appointment of two assessors. He supposed that Sheriff Brand was the legal member of the Commission, and that the other Commissioners brought technical knowledge to bear on the cases. Were the assessors lawyers employed to advise the Commissioners who were not experts in the law, or were they agricultural experts engaged to assist those already on the Commission?


said the other Commissioners were fully employed. One of the Commissioners was engaged in this work, and the other was fully employed elsewhere. This emergency was contemplated by the Act, because Section 17 empowered the Commissioners to employ such valuers and assessors to assist them as might be found necessary by the work. This was extra work laid upon the Commission by the fact that the Congested Districts Board purchased a large estate in Skye. It was the duty of the Commissioners to fix rents and settle crofters on the estate


Were the assessors lawyers?


No, they were technical valuers.


said that as this was entirely a crofting matter he wished to say a word upon it. If he had thought that there was the slightest extravagance in the matter he would at once have protested. The Crofters Commission was the one board in which in the Highlands the people had any faith whatever. The crofters were greatly indebted to Sheriff Brand, the chairman of the Commission. If work in other parts of the United Kingdom was managed as economically as that in connection with the Crofters Commission it would be better for all parties. The difficulty which sometimes arose was that the bad example shown in other parts of the United Kingdom led to extravagant demands being made even in Scotland.

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