§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £55,800, 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, 1913, for Expenditure in respect of Diplomatic and Consular Buildings, and for the maintenance of certain Cemeteries Abroad."—[Note.—£30,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I have a few questions to ask the hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Vote (Mr. Wedgwood Benn). First of all I would like to congratulate him upon the fact that, at any rate, this Session—I was going to say for the first time in the history of the Government, but I am not quite certain whether that is correct—this Vote shows a decrease. I do not know whether that is to be attributed to the activities of the hon. Gentleman in view of the old adage, "New brooms sweep clean." There is a decrease of £12,965 which, I think, is satisfactory. It is not a very large decrease, but still we have to be thankful in these days for small mercies. At page 29 there is an item of £6,000 for the "Provision of reception room in Agency House" at Cairo. That sounds to me to be rather a large amount, especially in these days when reception rooms should be kept to the smallest possible size, and when money should not be lavished in ostentation and luxury. Why spend £6,000 on a reception room? It is not in the ambassador's house, but in the agent's house. Who is the agent, and for what does he want a room which is to cost 20 £6,000? I think if we are to exercise a little economy, we might commence it in this direction and cut down the cost of the reception room. Probably in order to do that, I shall move the reduction of the Vote by that amount.
We come now to Dakar, which, I understand, is in Senegambia, and I see that £250 is given for the provision of a tennis court. What sort of a tennis court is it? Why do you want to pay £200 for it? I should have thought that these officials would occupy their time looking after their duties instead of playing tennis, and therefore, I think, that that item should be taken away. For the provision of stable accommodation at Petropolis there is an expenditure of £735. I do not disagree with that. I think that horses are much nicer than motors, but in these days of motors I do not know why we should spend money on stable accommodation, if, as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board informed me once, I am archaic in my mode of progression. There is a big item here of £22,250 for the erection of a new Legation House at Sofia. I do not know whether building is expensive in these parts, but no doubt the hon. Gentleman will give a satisfactory explanation of this item. There is an item of £395 for installation of hot and cold water supply, baths, etc., at Seoul. Is this a new supply? Had they no bath and hot and cold water before? Why are you going to spend £395 on it? It may be said that these are small points, but that is not so, because unless this House keeps a check on these matters of expenditure the tendency of hon. Gentlemen opposite is to have an easy time, and when a Consul wants a tennis court or a hot-water bath on most modern construction it is much easier to say "yes" than to refuse it. We do not object to expenditure that is really necessary, but to the extravagant expenditure that is incurred in these matters. At page 31 we have—Urgent and unforeseen works and works and alterations of a minor character. Maintenance and repairs: maintenance and repair of building and state room and chancery furniture (including new works of a minor character not exceeding £20) and charges attendant thereon, including the maintenance of grounds and gardens at certain missions, the supply, renewal, and maintenance of plate, the supply of safes and furniture, coal, gas, oil, etc., to certain offices, allowances to certain ministers, fees to local architects and superintendents, and other incidental expenses.All this comes not to a few thousand pounds, as might be thought, but to £36,794. This is a very large sum, and we should have more definite information 21 than is given in this summing up. We are informed in a foot-note that—the Vice-Consul at Madrid receives £50 a year, the Registrar of the Zanzibar Court £25 a year, and the Translator at Lisbon Legation £20 a year for acting as local superintendent of works.These seem, to be very modest salaries and come to less than £100 altogether, and, therefore, do not account for much of the item. For these reasons I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £6,000.
§ Lord ALEXANDER THYNNE
I wish to support the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of London in reference to the reception room in Agency House, Cairo, not only on the merits of this particular proposal, but also taken in conjunction with the rest of the Estimates which have been submitted, and the way in which the Government are proposing in many cases practically to put up new offices. I submit that in several of these cases no case has been made out that the construction of new offices and buildings is necessary or that the sum asked for is not in excess of the requirements. Anybody who has been to Montenegro and recollects the old Legation House will certainly consider that some justification is required for the expenditure of £3,250 on the adaptation of that house. We have rebuilding of the Constantinople Embassy House at Therapia £20,200. I quite admit that it is some time since I was there, but when I had the pleasure of going there and seeing the different Government buildings belonging to the different nations whose Embassies have summer residences, it struck me that the summer residence of the British Ambassador compared favourably with the summer residences of the Ambassadors of other nations. I do not suggest that in fourteen or fifteen years it may not have become necessary to spend a considerable sum of money in improving the Embassy House. All I am asking is that the Minister in charge should give some justification for the expenditure of such a very large sum of money as £20,000. I come next to the completion of the new Legation House at Mexico, a sum of £14,470. Then there is the erection of a summer residence at Ramleh, in Egypt, for the Agent and Consul-General. I think this is the first occasion, certainly the first I have noticed, of a proposal for a summer residence in Egypt. I understand the matter was under the consideration of the Committee last year. Then there is the erection of a new Legation House in Sofia; another new Consulate at Changsha, one at Dairen (£7,500), and the rebuilding of 22 the Vice-consulate at Hakodate. And I would call the attention of the Committee to the very considerable sum which the Government are asking it to authorise for these new buildings, offices, and residences in different parts of the world—places whose names many of us cannot pronounce. I would ask the Committee at the same time to remember that at many, if not all, of those places there have been for a very large number of years buildings and offices which have fulfilled their purposes with more or less satisfaction. I should have thought that a Government which prides itself on the economy of its administration would have used greater circumspection in submitting estimates of this character. The last item to which the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) referred is the sum of £36,794.
We do not know how that money is going to be spent; for all we know, it might be an estimate submitted for the purposes of the Secret Service Vote—we have no means of knowing. If only in the interests of good accountancy, I think we ought to have some particulars of how this money is to be allocated. I certainly have very strong objection to voting such a sum to be scattered by this particular Department, probably one of the most extravagant Departments of the administration, among such varied purposes as repair of buildings, the improvement of Chancery and State Room furniture, the maintenance of gardens, and the maintenance and renewal of plate, and then bringing in such matters as fees to architects, without telling us the class of architects or of what nationality they are. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, I have always felt, when I have seen some of our buildings abroad, that it has been a great misfortune not only in the interests of the buildings themselves, but even more in the interests of the architectural profession in England, that we do not more often employ members of the Institute of British Architects to put up some of our buildings in Continental capitals. Then we have allowances to certain Ministers. I do not know whether that is in accordance with previous practice—I have not been long enough a Member of this House to speak on the point—but I think it a very pernicious practice, whether new or old, and the Committee have certainly a right to detailed particulars of how this sum of £36,794 is to be spent.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I do not know whether the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) intends to go to a Division, but if the answer of the Government is unsatisfactory and he does divide the Committee I shall certainly support him. The hon. Baronet has given us in the course of his speech a very interesting résumé of various items which are to be dealt with this afternoon under the particular Vote which is under discussion; and he has raised some questions which in my opinion are of very considerable importance. In some instances, no doubt, the actual sum which is involved is not large, but the principle which the hon. Baronet has stated, and which he has emphasised on many previous occasions, is an important one, namely, the necessity of taking every opportunity of investigating so far as possible, in the very limited time at the disposal of Members of this House for this purpose, the actual way in which public money is being spent. It is a matter of very great regret to me that hon. Members who sit on the other side of the House very rarely indeed effectively criticise the manner in which public money is being spent. They are perfectly silent, taking no part whatever in these important discussions, and merely sit there ready, when opportunity occurs, to follow their leaders unquestioningly into the Lobby, not for the purpose of economy, not for the purpose of restraint upon the expenditure of public money, which is so necessary in these days, when every year there is an enormous increase in the general expenditure of the country, but in order merely to give an unquestioning party vote in support of those to whom they give unquestioning obedience. I am not going to follow the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) into all his observations, very just observations, with reference to these various sums which are asked for, and which are to be expended in different parts of the world. In the course of his speech the hon. Baronet ranged over the British Empire, and he dealt with the erection of buildings and so forth from China to Peru. But one or two points occurred to me in the rapid survey I was able to make of these various items when I came to the House this afternoon. There are one or two items which the hon. Baronet did not deal with, but on which I think I am justified in asking one or two questions in view of the rather remarkable demands which are being made upon us in respect of this particular Vote. I am rather sur- 24 prised that the item to which I am about to refer escaped the attention of the hon. Baronet, because he has a remarkable way of hitting upon those items in which there is anything of an extraordinary or exceptional character, and of at once drawing the attention of the Committee to the details in order to elicit an answer from the Minister in charge of the Vote. I see that the sum of £150 is asked for the erection of a new kitchen and covered way at Boma. I should be very sorry if I were asked to give an accurate statement of Boma's exact situation. It shows the difficult position the right hon. Gentleman must find himself in when he has to deal with the erection and maintenance of these buildings situated in all parts of the world.
We recognise that the right hon. Gentleman is in a difficult situation, but, at the same time, we say we are entitled to make these inquiries as to the definite allocation of those sums of money, in order that he may satisfy us that it is being spent in a proper manner, because these small sums, to which perhaps sufficient importance is not attached, do represent very large principles. It is our duty whenever occasions like this arise, and it is, unfortunately, only very rarely that they do arise, to examine the details, so that we may see that the money is being properly spent. I notice that this sum of £150 for a kitchen and covered way is a re-Vote. I would like to ask if hitherto the domestic business of this residence has been carried on without a covered way. Why is it necessary now. It seems to me that in a country of that kind with such a climate a covered way is perfectly unnecessary. Since they had the opportunity last year of building this covered way how have they done without it for the past twelve months. I pass to the Vote (No. 6) for the erection of a new post office and prison at Casa Blanca. Why should we, the representatives of the British people, be asked to sanction the allocation of a considerable sum of money for the construction of a prison. I think we shall require some very definite information as to the necessity for a prison at this particular place. As I understand it is situate in Morocco, and it appears to me to be rather extraordinary that our money should be required for the purpose of constructing a prison there. No doubt a new post office will be a very desirable addition to the amenities of life at Casa Blanca. I have no doubt it is extremely necessary 25 under the changed political circumstances, and in the increase of trade which will, no doubt, result from the change of administration which I understand is taking place in that country, and that the post office will afford greater convenience for the native population which will probably use it. As to the second item, I think it is most undesirable that in this particular country we should vote money for the building of a prison until we know exactly who will be put into the prison and under what form of trial those prisoners are to be condemned. The question of a tennis court at Dakar has been very effectively dealt with by the hon. Baronet, the Member for the City, and it will certainly be interesting to the House to learn why it should be necessary to make this expenditure of £250 for the provision of this court in order to afford exercise to the British subjects in that locality. I think it was the Noble Lord the Member for Bath, who referred to the erection of a new summer residence at Ramleh. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, before deciding on the construction of this new residence at Ramleh, which happens to be a place I have—
§ Mr. SANDYS
I am sorry. As it had been alluded to by the Noble Lord the Member for Bath, I thought I should perhaps be in order in making some additional observations on the question. I am glad there is no money provided for a heating apparatus at St. Petersburg, and I should have strongly criticised it if there were. I think we are entitled to ask why we are asked to consent to a sum of money amounting to £500 being allocated to the acquisition of new sites in China, Japan, and Corea. The sum seems to me rather moderate for the purpose, but at the same time we are justified in asking where those sites are actually situated, what they are being acquired for, and whether a careful investigation has been made as to whether the sites chosen are the best that could have been selected taking everything into consideration. We all know that on previous occasions, unfortunately, the Government in their purchase of sites for the purpose of erecting Consular and Diplomatic residences have not chosen as wisely as they might. I have many cases in my mind of places which I have visited, and where it is quite evident that the sites 26 for Consular and Diplomatic purposes have been singularly ill chosen. I do hope, with the selection of sites for which this money is asked, we shall have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the best possible advice has been obtained, and that he will give some indication as to why it is necessary that those new sites should be selected. I quite agree with the observations made by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City and the Noble Lord the Member for Bath as to the large sum of £2,500 which we are asked to sanction for "Urgent and unforseen works, and works and alterations of a minor character." I think it is the duty of the Government to make their calculations as carefully as possible, so that we may not be called upon to pass Votes of this character, in which we grant large sums of money without knowing to what purpose that money is to be applied. I therefore strongly support the request of my hon. Friend that the hon. Gentleman should give us some indication, even though it be of a very general character, as to what he anticipates will be the ultimate employment of this money. With regard to the "maintenance and repair" item to which allusion his already been made, I notice there is an increase of nearly £1,000 as compared with last year. The Vote includes items of a very varied character—maintenance of grounds and gardens at certain missions, the supply, renewal, and maintenance of plate, the supply of safes and furniture, coal, gas, oil, etc., to certain Consular offices, allowances to certain Ministers, fees to local architects and superintendents. It is very unsatisfactory that all these items should be lumped together, and that we should be asked to vote so large a sum as £36,794 without any definite allocation being made to the different items. As the sum has been brought down to the very pound, the items have evidently been worked out in detail, so that the hon. Gentleman will be in a position. and I hops he will do so, to give a full and adequate answer to the remarks made by the Noble Lord the Member for Bath.
What are the "allowances to certain Ministers?" That is a very vague statement. Who are the Ministers who are going to receive some additional allowances which are not to be given to other Ministers? On what ground are these special sums of money to be allocated? The use of the word "certain" implies that some Ministers are not to receive these allowances. On what grounds have the 27 "certain" Ministers been selected? With regard to "other incidental expenses," that is a very unsatisfactory way of rounding off a demand of this character. The hon. Gentleman may not be able to say what those other incidental expenses are, but he will be in a position to give particulars of the items to which I have referred, and we shall then be able to make our own estimate as to what the other incidental expenses will come to. The next item is "Maintenance and repair of certain cemetaries abroad, including the pay of custodians." It is very desirable that we should keep up these cemetaries for which we are responsible in various places abroad, but why has the expenditure under this head increased? It is only a small increase, but we are entitled to criticise any increase and to demand an explanation. Under sub-head "Rents, insurance, etc.," there is a sum "including China rents," for which £3,835 is asked. I hope the hon. Gentleman will explain what those China rents are. There is a substantial increase in the whole amount under this head, the figures being £8,233 as against £7,851 last year. Is that increase in regard to China rents, or is the sum for China rents a stationary figure? Is the increase on "rents, municipal, and State taxes, etc.," spread over all the items named, or has there been an increase on one particular item, and, if so, which? According to a note in reference to certain expenditure in respect of buildings in Persia and Siam, for which provision is made in this estimate, a portion is recoverable from the Indian Government. Has it been recovered from the Indian Government? I do not like the word "recoverable." There is a certain implication of doubt which requires some explanation. I hope the hon. Gentleman will state exactly how much is recoverable from the Indian Government, whether this sum has been, as a matter of fact, recovered in the past, and whether he has every belief that the Indian Government are prepared to accept their responsibilities and pay the sum as it becomes due in respect of these particular buildings. I do not presume to detain the Committee any longer, because there are other Members more qualified than I am to discuss these questions, and also because I hope that hon. Members on the opposite side will break through that rule of silence which Appears to be imposed upon them in regard to these estimates. [HON. MEMBERS: 28 "No, no."] I am only referring to the general course of these Debates on previous occasions—for it has certainly been characteristic that most of the criticisms in regard to public expenditure has come from these benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] It is a subject on which we all ought to be deeply interested. I do hope some hon. Members opposite will take the opportunity of intervening in this Debate, and of putting some questions in regard to the expenditure of public money. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his reply, will be able to give a satisfactory explanation, but, as I said, if the explanation is not satisfactory, I shall certainly support my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London if he takes this matter to a Division, as I hope he will do. I trust also that some support may also be forthcoming on a Division from hon. Members on the opposite side.
§ Sir J. D. REES
When I saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer enter the House just now I hoped that a mood of glorious repentance had come over him, and that he, the ringleader in the riot of expenditure, had come here to hear these criticisms, and to see if he could in any way assist in, or, at any rate, contemplate, such reductions as may be suggested. I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friends who have preceded me—at any rate in general, if not in every detail. I will endeavour, with such knowledge as I have of the different items, to run through them, and to make brief remarks upon them. I would pass over the new kitchen and covered way to the kitchen at Boma, if it happens, as it may be, that this is required in order that the Resident's dinner may not be, cooled before it reaches his table. I think that is possible from what one knows of places similarly situated, so I will not delay the time of the House, which we are all anxious to economise, by making any remarks on it. When we come to Cairo I must say that since I can remember a very expensive and elaborate Residency for the Consul-General has been built, not in the time of the present Government—I am not making any remarks about that—but the building is an extremely sumptuous building, and I confess I cannot understand why now—for I presume the Government are responsible for this particular Vote—the sum of £6,000 is required simply for the provision of a reception room. 29 From what one knows of the foreign representation in Cairo, it does not need a room as big as Westminster Hall, or something of the sort, to accommodate the representatives. Neither, I think, are they in the habit of meeting for round table conferences at the house of the British Consul-General. This provision of £6,000 is, I think, at the very least worthy of some explanation at the hands of the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Vote. I confess I see nothing here to vindicate the need of this expenditure. At first sight it looks an extremely expensive item.
My hon. Friend the Member for Somerset made certain remarks upon the provision of a post office and a prison at Casablanca. He made no objection to the post office, but he did not like the prison. If this prison is really occupied by any person convicted of an offence, it is extremely possible that he will immediately be released upon petition from those who are interested in him. For that reason I should like to associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friend, and to ask for an explanation as to why a prison is necessary in Casablanca? It seems to me that those particularly qualified to spend their time in prison in these days are least likely to get there, or, if they get there, are most likely to get out. For this reason the item certainly requires explanation. Why is the British Government going to provide a prison in a remote and solitary locality like this? There is a sum of not less than £3,500 for the purchase and adaptation of a Legation House, including an electric light installation, at Cettinjé. Why is this required in an Arcadian, mountainous region like Cettinjé, where the inhabitants get up when it is light and go to bed when it is dark, a place where there is no night business, and which is, in fact, about the most absolutely remote, and least urban place in which even the British Government is represented? I can imagine no place that less needs an installation of electric light, unless, indeed, it is to show the Montenegrins some illumination at night, in which case I should suggest that the expenditure should very properly fall upon the Prince—I think he is called the King now—rather than upon the British Government. There can be no place, even in the wide limits of the British Empire, where I should imagine this expenditure is less required than in this village of Cettinjé, situated as it is upon a mountain. Coming to Constantinople, 30 for my part I cannot regret that in all parts of the world the representative of Great Britain is the best housed. I am not inclined at all to regret that. Nor, as a Member of Parliament, should I grudge the expenditure on that head, particularly in Turkey. I think it is desirable that our Ambassador should have, as he has, not only a fine palace in Constantinople, but an agreeable country residence upon the Bosphorus at Therapia. Nevertheless £20,000 seems to be a fairly large sum, because it must be remembered that this house is only a very short distance from Constantinople. It is not a place necessarily occupied for any great length of time by the Ambassador and his staff. I think the estimate of £20,000, and the provision in the present year of £5,000, which I notice is the final allocation, and will complete the matter, a rather large provision. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Gentleman for an explanation of this large provision.
The next item I would mention is the erection of a new Legation House at Sofia. It would not be in order to criticise the estimate of £22,000, because that must have been already passed in a previous estimate—in fact, the estimate is a slightly altered one. It seems that £10,000 will be expended in the present year, leaving a further amount of £5,000 for the future. I do not think that any very magnificent buildings are required at Sofia. I am inclined to think that our representative there, who I hope is the best housed—I feel very certain he is—will continue to be that. At the same time this is a rather large provision, £22,000 for a house, which is positively palatial in a place like Sofia. I should like to be assured that this estimate has really received some criticism and some attention, and that it has not been adopted as it is; that the Government are assured that £10,000 is really required, and that it is necessary that the scheme should be carried out on its original and rather extreme lines. The next item refers to Persia. It is the sum of £625 to provide for the deepening of the water kenats at Gulahek. I raise no objection to the house which is an extremely modest one. It is a little change to the hillside from the heat and dust of Teheran in the summer. I raise no objection, I say, but it certainly would appear that the water kanats should be kept clear at less expense. It appears to me that a man ought to be sent down to 31 clear out the man-holes, which should always be kept in working order in Persia, where these kanats are an ordinary feature of the irrigation of the country. It should hardly require so large a sum as £625 in any one year for coping with this. At the same time it must be admitted that the place is not much more than a very good garden and a small modest house. I would not therefore like to criticise too strongly or severely an item like that, nor would I say much about the servants' quarters for the Consular buildings, because in the East servants are accommodated away from the house, particularly the kitchen which is often some distance from the house. For that reason this expenditure may be really justifiable.
I notice an item for additions to the Supreme Court buildings and Consular offices in Shanghai. £3,000 are to be spent out of an Estimate of £4,000. I really venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, if I might, that, seeing the present fluid condition of everything in China, seeing that nobody knows what will happen there, what will be the future situation of Shanghai, or what will be our future position in Shanghai, that the Government might well consider whether this is a moment to spend £3,000 on a Supreme Court, when the very jurisdiction of that Supreme Court may possibly disappear as soon as those additions are completed! The same remark applies to the acquisition of new sites in China, Japan, and Corea, though the application probably applies in larger measure to China. Really we have no guarantee at all at this moment that China may not adopt a land policy—well, really something like that which was suggested—I do not say necessarily with the concurrence of the Front Bench—to the electors of North-West Norfolk. In the present state of affairs in China no folly would be too great. Everything is in a state of absolute disorder, and you might find some raids taking place, and those concerned saying to those in occupation, "This land was bought by the British Government for £500; we will give it to you for occupation for 500 pence; that is our policy." There is nothing to prevent that. At a time like this it is worth considering whether money should be spent on the acquisition of sites, at any rate in China, whatever may be the case in Japan and Corea, where I do not particularly fear that the land policy advocated in North-West Norfolk will be adopted.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I am very obliged to the hon. Baronet for informing me and the House on this point. I needed the information, that the land system of China is comparable, in fact identical, with that which the hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Norfolk recommended to the intelligent electors there. Then comment was made by my hon. Friend below me upon the Item of £2,500 for urgent and unforeseen works of a minor character and alterations. It does seem a large amount to lump together, but, nevertheless, when you consider the field to be covered perhaps it is not one of the items calling for adverse criticism. For my part, I would not myself press criticism, although I agree with it upon that point. Coming to Item B, "maintenance and repairs," I shall endeavour to avoid referring to subjects with which my hon. Friends who have preceded me have already dealt, but I should like to say with reference to the maintenance of grounds and gardens that in many of these entries we are dealing with tropical countries and a garden in a tropical country is an exceedingly expensive luxury. It is not like a garden in this country. No doubt the labour is cheap, but then you have to get very much more of it, and when you come to the question of irrigation you are up against an exceedingly expensive item, and I hope the hon. Gentleman on the Government Bench who for the time being has the burden of State upon his shoulders wilt agree with me that this item for gardens should be nicely scrutinised in this Estimate.
The next Item is the "supply, renewal and maintenance of plate." There was a time when Ambassadors leaving this country took with them, at the public expense, magnificent services of silver. I do not suppose in these days these services of plate are supplied or renewed at the public expense, but I should like to know how much of this large item of £36,000 is for the supply, renewal and maintenance of plate. Also, I should like to know what plate is provided, whether it is electro-plate or silver, and how far the ancient custom has been kept up. I think that matter is worthy of the attention of the House in the interests of economy. I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by some of my friends in regard to the allowances to certain Ministers, not in the least with the object of 33 diminishing them, but only with the object of finding out what they are. I believe I would vote for every one of them, because it is extremely important that our Ministers abroad should have every comfort they require. They deserve it, and I should be the last man to vote against their allowances; but, as I say, I should like to know what they are, because then the Committee would have an opportunity of comparing the allowance made to one Minister with that made to another, and of deciding in its generosity, which knows no bounds, that the allowance made to one Minister should be made universal in its application, and that this sum of £36,000 should be immediately doubled.
Coming to the item for "maintenance and repairs of certain cemeteries abroad," I should like to ask whether the cemetery of the Crimea, is included. It is a very desirable thing that it should be kept in a proper condition. I found myself that it is kept in very good order, and I should like to know whether that is one of the items referred to in this Vote. As regards other cemeteries I do not know what they are, but I think our efforts should be directed to keeping our Ministers and staffs out of the cemeteries and making them comfortable in their Embassies. The next item is "China rents," referring, no doubt, to the country, not to the substance, but the item is ambiguous, and I should be glad to know what China rents, amounting to £3,835, really are. Then as to Appropriations-in-Aid, "rents, sale of old materials, etc.," £l,238. I can understand how rent is an expenditure, but it is difficult to understand how the sale of old material is an expenditure. [An HON. MEMBERS: "It is receipts, not expenditure."] Then this receipt is disguised under an unusually ambiguous official designation, and it seems difficult to make out what it is. I think it would be better and clearer if these amounts were deducted from the totals above, and then it would leave no doubt in the mind of those called upon to look into these matters as to what they really mean.
Then there is the final note in reference to commitments for certain expenditure in respect of buildings in Persia and Siam and a sum recoverable from the Indian Government: I should like to know if this is expenditure upon the Legation at Teheran. I refer to item 14. I believe the Legation was built at the expense of the Indian taxpayers, but I was not aware that repairs were divided between the Indian 34 and British taxpayers, and I associate myself with the desire of my hon. Friends to have information upon that subject. I apologise for having been so long in referring to these items, but I have not referred to one subject with which I have not some personal acquaintance, and for that reason I hope the House will pardon me for having ventured to take up so much of its time. I say, in conclusion, that every item in these estimates is worthy of attention. The public expenditure has rushed up with such appalling, dangerous and disastrous rapidity in the last four or five years as to amount to a danger and disaster of the first magnitude. What will happen in consequence of that and further commitments and the unfathomable expenditure to which the Government has committed the country I, for one, cannot think, but dealing with the concrete subject before the House it is obviously the duty of Members, if they have any knowledge of the particular matters in these estimates, to endeavour to the best of their ability to urge the Government to practise economy, which appears to be, even if they had every other virtue, one to which they do not make the slightest pretence.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD BENN (Lord of the Treasury)
I shall endeavour to reply as briefly as I can to the points raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite upon this Vote. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) raised, I think, the most important point, that is expenditure in connection with the Agent's House in Cairo. That is the item of £6,000 for a reception room. The hon. Baronet is well aware that the position occupied by the British Agent in Cairo is different from that of the representative of any other country, and it is very important that the house he occupies, which is not an Ambassador's House, as the hon. Baronet seemed to imagine, but an Agent's House, should befit the dignity of the position; and I do not really think that the hon. Baronet would wish to reduce the Vote in respect of an addition which is so essential for the purpose of maintaining the dignity of the British Empire.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
What did he do before? Where did he receive those people before this room was built?
§ Mr. W. BENN
This addition is necessary in order to bring the house up to date. It is important that our Agent should have a house suitable to his condition in Egypt.
§ Mr. W. BENN
That may be so, but it does not affect the matter. It is essential that the house should be in keeping with the dignity of the British position in that country. If hon. Members opposite wish to reduce the prestige of the British Agent in Egypt they are, of course, quite right in moving a reduction. The hon. Member also referred to the tennis court at Dakar, for which there is an item of £250. As the hon. Baronet knows, it is an extremely unhealthy position, and it is very important that proper provision should be made for the health of the Consul at that place. A more important point raised and dealt with by hon. Members opposite had reference to Sub-head B for maintenance. It is quite true that this figure of £36,000 is lumped together in this Vote, but it is equally true that all the details are subject to the inspection of the House at the Public Accounts Committee, and the reason they are not sub-divided in this Vote is that it is practically impossible to form any heads under which these maintenance charges could be properly valued. The matter has stood like this for many years, and I am not aware that anyone ever proposed to subdivide the items under Sub-head B. The item is for cleaning, papering, painting, and repairs, and all the charges which necessarily fall upon the Office of Works in connection with the maintenance of buildings included under this head. There is a slight increase. The Legation House at The Hague has been renewed, and extensions have been made in the servants' quarters at Tokio, for which provision was made.
The hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Sandys) raised one or two questions which I shall endeavour to answer. The Consul House at Boma had to be enlarged because the Vice-Consuls from various other stations find it necessary to come to Boma. It is quite true this particular item has been repaid from last year, but the reason is that unfortunately the Office of Works Vote was not taken in this House until last August, and there was not sufficient time to get suitable tenders. If this Vote is given by the Committee this afternoon, as I hope it will, hon. Members may rest assured that this money will be spent in the course of the present year. The hon. Member also spoke of the prison and new post office at Casablanca, and he asked who the prisoners might be. Of course that is a question rather difficult for me to 36 answer. The provision of the post office is necessary, not, of course, for the native population, but for Europeans who have dealings with this country. As to the item for sites in China, it is necessary in order that some money may be in hand for the provision of sites.
§ Mr. W. BENN
I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Member any further information. I presume it is one building for the post office and the prison.
§ Mr. W. BENN
I should be only too glad to give any information I can, but I cannot say more on this subject now. As to the China rents, they are for premises in China, and the increase about which hon. Members asked is due to contributions made towards administration in certain quarters in Pekin where previously no proper arrangements were made, and the Government have now made provision to see that the work is properly carried out. The hon. Member (Sir J. D. Rees) asked about the cemetery in the Crimea and the answer to his question is in the affirmative. As for the sums paid in respect of buildings in Persia the Office of Works pays for their construction, and provision is made for that in the Estimates.
§ Mr. W. BENN
For all the buildings which fall on this Vote. The Noble Lord the Member for Bath, who made a very interesting speech, was, I think, very unfortunate in the items he selected. He criticised the provision made for a new house at Cettinjé. The Supplementary Estimates for that house have already been passed to enable the work to be carried out. With reference to the item of £260 for electric lighting I do not know on what ground objection is taken.
§ Mr. W. BENN
The Noble Lord also referred to what he called the unjustifiable expenditure upon a new house at Therapia. As a matter of fact, a fire occurred in the Agent's House at Therapia, and I would like to know if, when a house is burnt down, the Noble Lord 37 thinks it is a suitable place for the British Ambassador to reside in?
§ Lord A. THYNNE
That is not what I questioned. What I criticised was the expenditure of £20,200 upon a house which was not a main residence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] The hon. Member has misrepresented my point. This large sum of money is required to build a summer villa for the British Ambassador on the Bosphorus.
§ Mr. W. BENN
I believed the Noble Lord said in his speech that he had been to Therapia, and that he had found the house satisfactory. What I am pointing out now is that since the Noble Lord visited Therapia a fire has taken place at this house, and that is an expenditure which could not have been foreseen by the Office of Works. This item of £20,000 is required to rebuild a house which was burnt down.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
What I am asking the hon. Member to justify is the expenditure of such a large sum as £20,200 for building a summer villa for the Ambassador on the Bosphorus.
§ Mr. W. BENN
The Noble Lord is now raising an entirely new point. If he thinks £20,000 is too large a sum then he will be justified in proceeding to the Division Lobby. The real question is whether this House should be looked to in order to maintain British prestige in those places abroad, and that is the reason why we are asking the Committee to vote this money. As for the criticisms made by the Noble Lord dealing with the new house at Hakodate, I am not quite sure whether he said that we were asking for an excessive sum, but I would remind him that in this instance also a fire has taken place.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
The hon. Member has been very lucky in being able to invoke a fire in two instances in order to justify these particular Estimates, but I do not think he has met my point with reference to the £20,000. What is asked for here is simply a summer villa, and there is no question of British prestige being involved in a small village on the Bosphorus. There is another serious point the hon. Member must give some satisfaction upon, and that is a very large item of £36,000 which, in a very airy way, we have been told is required for the general purposes of maintenance. Although we do not regard the administration of the Office of Works with very great 38 confidence, we are quite willing to vote them a lump sum to cover the expenses of maintenance, but where such an excessive sum is required I think there ought to be some explanatory minute attached to it. It is no good pleading precedence in previous years, because however old a practice may be it does not follow that it becomes any the less pernicious by age. There are two specific points upon which we have asked for information. The first is the question of allowances to Ministers. What allowances and what Ministers? I think we are entitled to know if this is mainly an Estimate required for maintenance. Why is this question of allowance to Ministers clubbed into it? My second specific point is the fees of architects. That is not a mere academic point, and I have not raised it to take up the time of the House. There are hon. Members on this side of the House very much concerned indeed upon this question. When we go abroad and look at the Embassies and Legations belonging to the British Government, we like to see monuments of British skill, and we should like to see the Embassies in the great foreign capitals and the smaller commercial towns of Europe and Asia built by British architects. We believe that we have architects just as competent to plan those buildings as Continental architects. This would be a great encouragement to a great profession which seldom receives justice at the hands of public authorities, and, least of all at the hands of the Office of Works in this country. I think the hon. Member in charge of this Vote ought to give us some particulars in regard to this expenditure. There is the question of the supply, renewal, and maintenance of plate. Specific questions were asked upon that point, and they were not dealt with. There is also the maintenance and repair of the furniture. We have a distinct purpose in view in wanting information on these points, because people who have seen some of the furniture supplied by the Office of Works in different capitals of Europe, do not feel any confidence either that they buy the most suitable, the most decorative, or the most economical kind of furniture. I think one might say, without doing any injustice to the Office of Works, that the ugliness of the furniture which they are in the habit of putting into public buildings is only equalled by the extravagance of its cost. I hope on these points the hon. Member will be able to give us a satisfactory explanation in order that we 39 may not be driven to divide the Committee on this Vote. The very scanty information which the hon. Member has been able to afford the Committee leads me to the conclusion that he has on this occasion come down to the House without his crib.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
As the replies given by the hon. Member are not at all satisfactory I must ask the Committee to proceed to a Division. I should very much regret if our Agent in Egypt should be placed at a disadvantage, but I do not consider that the explanation given on this point is satisfactory. Unless I am mistaken, this Agent was appointed as long ago as 1885 or 1886, and he has held the same important position from that time until now—a period of twenty-seven years. If he has been able to hold the position of Agent in Cairo for twenty-seven years without this room, why should it be necessary suddenly to provide such accommodation at the present moment? I asked the hon. Member to justify that point, and he did not meet it at all. As a matter of fact he merely evaded the point by saying that it was very necessary that the position of our Agent should be maintained. I really cannot see that this room is necessary to maintain his position. He has been there for twenty-seven years without this room and I really do not see why he should not continue without it. I am sorry there is not a single hon. Member opposite supporting those on this side who are now endeavouring to save the taxpayer a little money. At other times—especially at election times, and notably in 1906—hon. Gentlemen opposite were very strong upon economy, but when a question arises like this, which is a question of paying wages to working men, I should have thought the Labour party would have taken some part in the Debate.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think I am correct in saying that I never referred to the Labour party until a few moments ago. I think the explanation about the tennis court is most unsatisfactory. The hon. Member said this court was necessary for the health of the Consul who lived in an unhealthy place. I never knew before that lawn tennis was necessary to cure illness. I have played at tennis myself; but I never found it necessary to spend £250 upon a 40 tennis court. With regard to Boma, surely the hon. Member gave his case away? If it was necessary to have this covered way, why was it not done last year, and how has the person concerned got on during the last year? This is not the first time he has been there, because this is an old Agency or Consulate, and as I really do not think that the hon. Gentleman has given us any justification for that expenditure, I feel bound to ask the Committee to go to a Division.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
If I support the hon. Baronet in going to a Division, it will not be on the items of the tennis court, or the room at Cairo, or the house at Therapia, but I think there are many other criticisms that have been made, and that have not been sufficiently answered, to justify us in going to a Division. Speaking from personal experience, I should say tennis is one of the best curatives for sickness any man can have, and I do not think £250 is a very large sum for making the sort of tennis court necessary in that climate. I can quite understand that a reception room is necessary to the growing importance of the position of our Consular Agent at Cairo. I may say, in comment upon all these criticisms with regard to the buildings in which our representatives in the East are housed, it is more important in those countries that the visible and material evidences of dignity should be unmistakable, than it is in the West. The Noble Lord (Lord Alexander Thynne) said it was some time since he visited Constantinople, and I think perhaps he has forgotten really the character of the Ambassador's residence at Therapia. It is really nearly as much an Embassy, and has to be so used, as his residence in Constantinople. He is there in the summer, and he naturally has to perform all the functions of an Ambassador, and he has to entertain there. It is really misrepresenting the necessities, and the character of the Ambassador's residence at Therapia to describe it as merely a villa in a country village on the Bosphorus, and I do not think £20,000 is at all an excessive sum for the building of such a residence.
§ Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £49,800 be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 50; Noes, 117.41
|Division No. 91.]||AYES.||[4.50 p.m.|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Gastrell, Major W. H.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gilmour, Captain John||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Barnston, Harry||Goldsmith, Frank||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Beckett, Hon. William Gervase||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Burn, Col. C. R.||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington)||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, N.)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Hardie, J. Keir||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Cassel, Felix||Henderson, Major H. (Abingdon)||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Jowett, F. W.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Kimber, Sir Henry|
|Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Macmaster, Donald||F. Banbury and Sir J. D. Rees.|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Newman, John R. P.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Morison, Hector|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Neilson, Francis|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Barnes, George N.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Hayward, Evan||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Higham, John Sharp||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hinds, John||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hobhouse, Rt. Han. Charles E. H.||Pointer, Joseph|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hogge, James Myles||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Radford, George Heynes|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Hudson, Walter||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Cameron, Robert||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Roch, Walter F.|
|Cotton, William Francis||Keating, Matthew||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Crooks, William||Kerry, Earl of||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molten)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lansbury, George||Snowden, Philip|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Spicer, Sir A.|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Lyell, Charles Henry||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Doris, William J.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||M'Callum, John M.||Webb, H.|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Falconer, James||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Mason, D. M. (Coventry)||Whyte, Alexander F.|
|France, G. A.||Mond, Sir Alfred M.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Morgan, George Hay||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Morrell, Philip||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.