HC Deb 10 February 1913 vol 48 cc649-58

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, 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, 1913, for the Salaries of the Office of Public Trustee."


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do now report: Progress, and ask leave to sit again." I think it is time when the Committee might usefully postpone its deliberations until to-morrow. I will give my reasons very shortly. First, it is now after Twelve o'clock. It might be argued that this is Monday, the first day of the week; but it is not the ordinary first day of the week, because we have had a Saturday Sitting, and Members are not as refreshed as they usually are when they come back to the House on a Monday. Speaking for myself, I feel as though it were the eighth day of last week instead of the first day of this. Secondly, we have voted a good deal of money this afternoon, at the rate of about £350 per minute since Four o'clock; and, thirdly, I think it is too late to keep the Committee up correcting the mistakes of various Government Departments who grossly under-estimated the expenditure in their original Estimates.


I hope I may appeal to the Committee not to do anything of the kind. The sole reason for proceeding with these Estimates is for the general convenience of the House. The only alternative, as the Prime Minister pointed out last week, is to sit next week. [HON. MEMBERS: "Saturday Sitting."] I do not think that would be for the general convenience of the House, certainly not judging by the attendance last Saturday. The Debate is proceeding in a perfectly tranquil and pleasant fashion, and the speeches are quite clear and intelligible. The big controversial subjects have all been disposed of. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, the subjects that have involved considerable questions of policy, such as the Insurance or the "Titanic" Estimate have been disposed of, and I am quite sure the Committee is perfectly willing and fit to continue a sane and reasonable discussion of this public expenditure.

I want to point out that if on any Vote there is any matter which was not thoroughly debated or reported this evening it can be discussed when it comes up again on the Report stage. It has been a very usual thing. I am not trying to go into any controversial point. It was done last year, and I believe in previous years. Hon. Members agreed that certain Votes should be passed quickly in the Committee stage; that not having been fully discussed in the Committee stage, they should be debated at some length on the Report stage. If the Report stage proves insufficient for Debate of some of these points they may be discussed on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill on the next day, and if omitted from that discussion they may be brought up on the Third Reading of the Appropriation Bill. There are, therefore, these two or three days on which they can be debated, and, therefore, I ask hon. Members whether they cannot see their way to finish the Committee stage on these Supplementary Estimates to-night. It is not so much to the advantage of the Government, as for the convenience of the whole House. Without the conclusion of the Committee stage to-night, it will be impossible for the business of the House to be finished this week.


I do not agree that the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill gives an opportunity for the effectual discussion of the remaining Supplementay Votes. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill the discussion is switched off from one subject to another and that there is not the advantage of seeing the Minister opposite and nailing into him the point you wish to insist upon, and compelling an answer to the points you have raised. With regard to the convenience of the House I must say that I do not think it matters very much whether we adjourn on Friday or Monday. We have been here thirteen months and if you multiply thirty by thirteen you get 390 days. Really it does not matter whether we sit 390 days or 391 If the right hon. Gentleman had said three months ago that we should adjourn, then it would have been a different matter altogether. I think it is necessary that we should not discuss these important matters, which still remain, at an early hour of the morning. The right hon. Gentleman said that all the controversial matters had been passed, but I must remind him that one of those remaining is the Civil Contingencies Fund. That is a very vital and important question and if we go on we should probably be discussing it at Two o'clock in the morning. I think he should postpone that Vote at least until tomorrow. There is also the Treasury Chest. I think that is a fair proposal. He sees the amiable spirit in which we are at the present moment and I think he should respond in the same spirit.

Captain CRAIG

May I point out the very great difference between offering us a discussion on the Report stage of the Supplementary Estimates and having a full discussion in Committee. As every hon. Member knows you cannot probe financial matters to the bottom on the Report stage. You can only speak once in moving a reduction and the consequence is that you have to make a more or less set speech. In Committee where you have question and answer across the floor of the House you can get very much quicker to the real point. With regard to the alternative of sitting next week that is what we have been urging upon the Prime Minister from time to time, because that alternative means that you will get proper discussion for these very important subjects. Nobody can pretend that these important subjects can be properly discussed at this hour, or, probably, during the whole of this week. Business of great importance has to come on upon these Estimates, not only to-night but to-morrow night. The consequence is that Bills are brought in in a most unfinished state. We had an example of that last Thursday, when the Chief Secretary, after a long, tiring day, moved the Second Reading of a Bill of far-reaching importance, and although stating that it was an agreed Bill, explained that he had to cut out Clauses 1 and 2. It is impossible to have proper discussion at this late period of the Session, with the result that legislation is slipshod, and further legislation is necessary in a future Session to correct the mistakes made by tired legislators.

The right hon. Gentleman said that all the important points were disposed of, but my hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) has given an instance of one question he desires to raise, another hon. Member wants to discuss the Treasury Chest Vote, and my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Baird) desires to discuss the Vote for Colonial Services. That contradicts the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that only trivial matters remain for discussion. If ever a case was made out for reporting Progress, it is made now. As to a Saturday sitting my hon. Friends and the Nationalist party will agree that seldom has there been a better discussion than the one we had on Saturday last, when everybody felt free to protest against the Government's action. No one can deny that it was conducted in good temper, with the result that the country was informed as to the views held on that important matter. If the business cannot be finished by Saturday, let us sit next week. In these days of prolonged Sessions, what does it matter if we begin a fresh week, so long as the work we are sent here to do, and are paid for doing, is properly done. The Government's plan is to do the work badly; ours is to earn our pay, stay on, and legislate properly.


My reason for supporting this Motion is that I have been taken by surprise by your ruling, Sir, and I wanted an opportunity of investigating the matter. I have no doubt your ruling was perfectly right—


The hon. Member cannot discuss my ruling.


I was so much taken by surprise that it was impossible for us to continue the discussion on the lines upon which we started out. I very strongly object to these Supplementary Estimates being rushed. We have in this Paper a list of the mistakes of the Government Departments. They have over-estimated and they have under-estimated. They have made mistakes with regard to Appropriations-in-Aid and they have made mistakes, both up and down, with regard to sums wanted for the different Departments. It has been the invariable practice in past years to give abundant opportunity to go into these questions of the Supplementary Estimates. I have looked through the reports of several years gone by and I find that no Government has ever sought to curtail discussion or to try to evade points which have been raised. This is the first time that there is a decided attempt on the part of a Government to shirk investigation into their mistakes. They have deliberately announced the House is to adjourn, if possible, on a certain day, and they have sought to push the business up against that day in such a manner as to evade a proper discussion upon this series of errors disclosed in the Supplementary Estimates. It is shabby behaviour.

I do not know that any right hon. Gentleman opposite is more responsible than another, except perhaps the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Masterman). It is clear that he has not exercised that care over the expenses incurred by his colleagues which he ought to have exercised. One thing I particularly complain about is the way that this Paper has been prepared. In past years we have always had the items given us showing what the different sums really consist of. On this occasion it has been considered sufficient to lump them altogether, to give the total amount and to give a more or less misleading note underneath as to what it is about. A certain sum is put down as being incurred under the Fugitive Offenders Act. When you look at it and the explanation you find it has not been incurred under that Act, but in consequence of some of the treaties with foreign countries being different from others. We have got to pay, not as was explained from the Treasury Bench, but on an entirely different head. I am using that

Division NO.594.] AYES. [12.25 a.m.
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Dalrymple, Viscount Pollock, Ernest Murray
Aitken, Sir W. M. Gibbs, G. A. Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.
Baird, John Lawrence Greene, W. R. Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby),
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gretton, John Sanders, Robert Arthur
Bird, A. Hope, James Fitzaian (Sheffield) Sandys, G. J.
Bridgeman, W. Clive Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Carlile, Sir Edward Mildred Hunt, Rowland Talbot, Lord E.
Cassel, Felix Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)
Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)
Clive, Captain Perecy Archer Meysey-Thompson, E. C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Eyres-Monsell and Captain Gilmour.
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian Pete, Basil Edward
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Meagher, Michael
Acland, Francis Dyke Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Millar, James Duncan
Addison, Dr. C. Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Molteno, Percy Alport
Allen, Arthur Acland (Dumbartonshire) Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) Morgan, George Hay
Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Muldoon, John
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Munro, R.
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Hayden, John Patrick Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.
Barnes, George N. Hayward. Evan Needham, Christopher Thomas
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Hazleton, Richard Nolan, Joseph
Beck, Arthur Cecil Henry, Sir Charles O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Higham, John Sharp O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Bentham, George Jackson Hogge, James Myles O'Doherty, Philip
Boland, John Pius Holmes, Daniel Turner O'Dowd, John
Booth, Frederick Handel Howard, Hon. Geoffrey O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)
Brady, P, J. Hughes, Spencer Leigh O'Malley, William
Bryce, J. Annan Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Cawley, H. T. (Heywood) Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe) O'Shee, James John
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) O'Sullivan, Timothy
Clancy, John Joseph Jowett, Frederick William Outhwaite, R. L.
Clough, William Joyce, Michael Parker, James (Halifax)
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Keating, Matthew Parry, Thomas H.
Cotton, William Francis King, J. Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A, (Rotherham)
Crumley, Patrick Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon,S.Molton) Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Cullinan, John Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Pointer, Joseph
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Lardner, James Carrige Rushe Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Dawes, J. A. Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West) Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
De Forest, Baron Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th) Pringle, William M. R.
Doris, William Levy, Sir Maurice Radford, G. H.
Duffy, William J. Lewis, John Herbert Reddy, M.
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Redmond, William (Clare, E.)
Falconer, James Lundon, T Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone. E.)
Farrell, James Patrick Lyell, Charles Henry Rendall, Athelstan
Ffrench, Peter Lynch, A. A. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Flavin, Michael Joseph MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Gladstone, W. G. C. Macpherson, James Ian Robinson, Sidney
Glanville, H. J. MacVeagh, Jeremiah Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Goldstone, Frank McGhee, Richard Roche, Augustine (Louth)
Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) McKenna. Rt. Hon. Reginald Scanlan, Thomas
Griffiths, Ellis Jones M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs, Spalding) Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) M'Micking, Major Gilbert Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Sheehy, David
Hackett, J. Marshall, Arthur Harold Sherwell, Arthur James
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook

point as an illustration of the slipshod and misleading manner in which these items are brought up. At this hour it is reasonable that we should adjourn in order that we may have an opportunity of looking further into these items, and especially in view of the decision already given from the Chair.

Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 32; Noes, 158.

Smith, Albert (Lancs, Clitheroe) Wadsworth, J. Wiles, Thomas
Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim) Wason, John (Cathcart (Orkney) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Sutherland, J. E. Watt, Henry Anderson Young, W. (Perthshire, E.)
Sutton, John E. Webb, H. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Tennant, Harold John White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)
Toulmin, Sir George White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Ure, Rt. Hon, Alexander White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Verney, Sir Harry Whitehouse, John Howard

Original Question again proposed.


I assume it is a very small amount of increase we are asked for on this Vote, but I think it will be generally conceded that it is a very important matter. When you come to refer to the original Estimate it will be found that that Department of the Public Trustee is very largely self-supporting. As I was responsible principally in this House for the opposition to the Act which appointed the Trustee, and, I confess, did my very best to oppose its being passed, I think it is only reasonable I should take this opportunity of admitting that, having had some experience of the working of that office, it is carried on in the most efficient and excellent manner. A good many of the anticipations which many of us formed in regard to its general working have not been achieved. It is a very excellent thing to see we are asked for so little both on the original Estimate and on this Vote. In this Estimate there is evidently only a nominal sum of £10 affected.

I take it that the object of preparing Supplementary Estimates in this rather surprising manner is to give that opportunity which the House ought to take to deal with these matters of the office and the expenses in the office of the Public Trustee. It is very satisfactory to find that we have still got £14,000 or £15,000, more of fees, in addition to the amount that is voted and that these fees are practically all profit. I do not think that anybody could reasonably object to pass this Vote which only asks us now for £10 in a formal manner in order to authorise the closing of the accounts of the Public Trustee. I am very grateful to you and to the Committee for allowing me at this late hour of the morning to say a few words of appreciation of the very excellent manner in which the Public Trustee and his staff are carrying their onerous and exceedingly difficult, on many occasions, duties cast upon them. It may not be known generally that a vast quantity of the cases that come to the Public Trustee are cases of great complexity and difficulty. I am very grateful for the way in which the Treasury have put this Vote. They need not have asked for £10, but seeing that they are giving £1,000 in extra salaries I have not the slightest doubt that the extra wages this represents have been very well earned.


Before the Vote is passed, I would like to ask whether the hon. Member who has just spoken is right in saying that this sum of £14,000 represents a real profit to the State from the beginning of the Public Trustee? Will the right hon. Gentleman responsible for this. Department state the actual profit to the State by the appointment of the Public Trustee?


I could not do that on a Supplementary Estimate. I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the tribute he has paid. This is merely a token vote in order that the House may be conversant with the fact that there is a great expansion of work—more salaries to pay; more fees to receive.

Question put, and agreed to.