HC Deb 02 March 1910 vol 14 cc939-43

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £20,000, 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, 1910, for sundry Grants in Aid of Scientific Investigation, etc."


moved the reduction of the Vote by £100. I do so not from any spirit of opposition, but with a view to calling attention to the system on which these grants are made. I confess frankly, as far as Scotland is concerned, I have been heckled as to the wisdom of making those grants, and one heckler pointed out that, in view of them, he did not see much chance of getting small holdings in that district. The present grant is made on lines similar to those adopted in regard to several others. Between 1901 and 1903 no less a sum than £45,000 was voted for what was called the "Discovery" expedition. That expedition was lost, and, grave anxiety being felt, a relief expedition was organised, and before the whole thing was successfully carried through an additional sum of no less than £51,000 was voted for this purpose. Coming to the Vote, I find there is a grant of £20,000 for carrying on scientific investigations, and I understand that a further £20,000 has been promised to what is known as Captain Scott's expedition. Apart from the £20,000 to be taken in a subsequent Vote, these sums altogether amount to no less £139,000. As I said at the beginning, I do not object to this Vote, although there seems, so far as the ordinary man can see, to be very few beneficial results from these expeditions, though it is true we never know what may be the full benefit which may arise from them. My particular object is to recall the fact that similar applications have been made from Scotland for grants. Take, for instance, Dr. Bruce's expedition. From 1901 to 1904, several applications were made to the Conservative Government of that time for a similar grant to assist Dr. Bruce to carry the expedition through; but I regret to say it was refused. Since then further applications have been made for the small sum of £6,800 in order that Dr. Bruce might continue to publish the account of his voyage, and show the scientific results of it. That request for £6,800 was refused. An application was also made by Dr. Bruce, when he contemplated organising another important expedition for the year 1911, but that was refused, and he is to get no grant. I do not object to these grants being made for the expeditions organised from England, but I think it is scarcely fair that this House should lend itself to make fish of one and fowl of another. It was a very modest request that was made by Dr. Bruce for £6,800. If you take the quota contributed by Scotland towards the £139,000 it will be seen that she contributed between £15,000 and £16,000 as her share towards the cost of the other expeditions. That, I say, is not fair, and before this Vote is passed I should like to have some assurance from the Treasury that some attention will be given to this application for a grant of £6,800. I trust we may have some assurance that when the application is made in respect of the expedition which it is anticipated we may organise in Scotland in the year 1911, some attention will also be made to that application. I am not opposing the Vote on principle, but what I do object to is that you should make a difference between your treatment of applications for expeditions organised in England, and those organised in Scotland. I beg to move.


In the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, I can heartily assure my hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh that the remarks he has made fell on very sympathetic ears, when I heard that he was putting forward a claim on behalf of Scotland, in support of which the evidence is so just and fair, and certainly demands the attention of the Treasury. I can undertake, as a representative of the Government in Scotland, to make the demand upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the most favourable way that I can, in supporting the claim of Scotland for a grant. I can assure my hon. Friend that nothing will be left undone on my part in laying the matter before the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in bringing forward the claim of that part of the United Kingdom of which the hon. Member and myself are among the representatives.


With all my admiration for the Lord Advocate, I submit that in the present instance he is not exactly authorised to speak on behalf of the Committee, and I have no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh would have liked to have heard something more definite in answer to the question he has raised. A sum of £20,000 has been voted out of public funds for the support of scientific investigation, and I think it is agreed that the work done in scientific investigation in various departments by the Scottish National and Arctic Expedition is at least as great, if not greater, than that accomplished by the expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. It is on that ground, if also on patriotic grounds, that we desire to support the demand put forward by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh.


I desire to urge very strongly the request which has been put forward. It seems strange, when so much is given to scientific discovery which is organised south of the Tweed, that nothing is ever to be done for equally valuable scientific services rendered by Scotchmen. We regret that there is no representative of the Treasury here when this item comes up for discussion. We thought at least that the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary might have been here to listen to the representations of the representatives of Scotland in this matter. It is a matter on which, from obvious patriotic motives, we feel very strongly. We are, of course, glad to have the assurance that this demand will have the support of the Lord Advocate. We know how valuable his support is, and we are, of course, certain that if he put forward this demand with his usual eloquence and persuasiveness and persistence, some substantial results will accrue. We think we have also grounds for appealing on this subject to the Prime Minister, as in the recent General Election Scotland stood well by the Prime Minister. Surely it would not be inappropriate that the reward for this loyalty on the part of Scotland should take the shape of a grant towards scientific discovery. It used to be said in former days that when the North Pole was discovered a Scotchman would be the discoverer. That prophecy has not been fulfilled, but it may be reserved to a Scotchman to obtain the prize of the glorious discovery of the South Pole.


I desire, as representing a Division of Edinburgh, and knowing the strong feeling in that city on this subject, and knowing of the support which it gave when this expedition went out, to emphasise and support what has been said. The modest sum which has been indicated is one which could easily pay the debt incurred in the last expedition, and I do hope that favourable consideration will be given to it by the Treasury.


An hon. Member opposite has put this matter entirely on political grounds. I would venture to urge it on scientific grounds. As one who has been connected with geographical investigation I think there can be no question that this Scottish National Expedition has done what I would venture to say is unrivalled scientific work, and that the results, which are not even yet fully published, are at any rate as valuable as the results of much larger expeditions equipped with full national resources. Therefore I would like to support the plea put forward by hon. Members opposite, but not on the political grounds, which on a matter of this kind I am sorry to hear urged.


As one who was in favour of the grants to the National Expedition, and knowing we took a national pride in Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition, I am one of those who believe that the work done by Dr. Bruce's expedition was very excellent, and I hope that the Treasury may see fit to give some support to it.


May I be permitted to say in reply to what has been said that I am very glad the hon. Member is a very warm supporter of Sir Ernest Shackleton in his work. My sole point was that, inasmuch as the Government has given a grant for all those expeditions, that we who contribute to that grant should also have our claims considered. In view of the statement which has been made by the Lord Advocate, and as we are assured that we are going to have his powerful support in approaching the Treasury, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, and agreed to.