HC Deb 15 July 1915 vol 73 cc1092-5

Whereupon the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod, having come with a Message to attend the Lords Commissioners, the Chairman left the Chair.

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners. The House went, and having returned,

Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to—

  1. 1. National Registration Act, 1915.
  2. 2. Kilmarnock Gas Order Confirmation Act, 1915.
  3. 3. Irvine and District Water Board Order Confirmation Act, 1915.
  4. 4. Western Valleys (Monmouthshire) Joint Sewerage Board Act, 1915.
  5. 5. Prescot Gas Act, 1915.
  6. 6. Spennymoor and Tudhoe Gas Act, 1915.
  7. 7. Skegness Urban District Gas Act, 1915.
  8. 8. Rotherham Corporation Act, 1915.
  9. 9. Chelmsford Corporation Gas Act, 1915.
  10. 10. Lurgan Urban District Council Act, 1915.
  11. 11. Port of London Act, 1915.
  12. 12. Sutton District Waterworks Act, 1915.
  13. 13. Aberdare Urban District Council Act, 1915.
  14. 14. Northwich Gas Act, 1915.

Supply again considered in Committee.

[Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]


(resuming): When the proceedings were interrupted I was drawing the attention of the Committee to the fact that this year we are proposing to spend £25,463 on the salaries of revising barristers. The point I was putting to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was a perfectly sound one, that this money ought not to be voted until we have determined what the register is going to be this year. These revising barristers have it within their power to say whether a man shall or shall not be upon the register, and I know that it is contemplated by the Government in connection with their Registration Bill that so far as Scotland is concerned the register as it stands ought to be the register for the time being. If that is so, it is obvious that there cannot be work in the register for England and Wales to call for this sum of money. Here, therefore, is another case where I invite my right hon. Friend to economise.

In these miscellaneous legal expenses there is another item which interests me from the point of view of the nature of the expenses incurred. I notice in 1915–16 the amount incurred in arresting fugitive offenders in foreign countries has been very considerably reduced. As a matter of fact the Government is only asking for £400, instead of £800 they got last year for this purpose. I do not know what the definition "foreign" really means here, but there are some neutral countries at the moment which we would never speak of in the sense of foreign countries to which criminals at any rate can fly. It is obvious that although it will be rather inconvenient for a person to take himself to many countries in Europe at the moment in order to escape arrest, there are other countries more remote from Great Britain than any of these foreign countries to which these criminals could fly. I do not know whether this reduced amount in the Vote means that there is a great diminution in the type of crime that originally necessitated a Grant of £800. We are all interested just now, for instance, as to whether a certain individual who has fled to one of these countries is to be arrested and brought back. I hope that my right hon. Friend is satisfied that he is taking enough money under the circumstances. There is another point in regard to wreck inquiries. I notice here again that the sum is very much less this year than it was last year. I am all in favour, as my right hon. Friend has discovered this afternoon, of paring down the Estimates, but in this instance I would point out that this year the total Estimate for wreck inquiries is only £4,500 compared with £6,250 in 1914–15. Is that sufficient? Does this money provided for wreck inquiries cover, for instance, the money that will be required for the inquiries relating to the "Lusitania" and the "Falaba." My right hon. Friend will see at once that the long inquiries that have been conducted in regard to the "Lusitania" and the "Falaba" are comparable to the very large inquiry that followed in 1914–15. The reduction this year is £1,750. I am not sure that my right hon. Friend has taken enough money. The two last points I have put means an increase in expenditure of £2,000, even if he were to make the sum as it was before, but I have pointed him a way in which he can get that extra money out of revising barristers' salaries. These revising barristers are political appointments, usually political jobs, and economies could easily be exercised in that direction this year, and possibly for the period of the War. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will give us some explanation in regard to revising barristers, and that he will tell us whether he thinks that £4,500 will be sufficient for these wreck inquiries, assuming that wreck inquiries will include such matters as the sinking of the "Lusitania."


I think my hon. Friend will understand that in framing these Estimates the preparation has to be made late in the autumn of the preceding year, and it is quite impossible to take into account all threats, warnings, and mutterings. We have got to frame our Estimates in accordance with the statutory obligation to meet the objects already approved by Parliament on which money has to be spent. At the present time it is statutorily necessary to appoint a certain number of revising barristers. At the present moment it is statutorily necessary to compile a register of voters both for municipal and Parliamentary purposes. It may well be that in the course of the financial year, Parliament in its wisdom shall otherwise determine. In that case this Estimate will be larger than the actual amount required, and there will be at the end of the year a total saving which will accrue to the benefit of the Treasury and, therefore, to the benefit of the taxpayer. But we must take the law as it is, and not as my hon. Friend has good reason to believe that it may be. That answers the point in regard to revising barristers.


Have the revising barristers been actually appointed?


The appointment of the revising barristers dates from the summer assizes. In regard to the arrest of fugitive offenders in foreign countries, I can assure my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) that we have no intention of allowing people to escape because we have not voted enough money. I can also assure him that the cost of arresting them does not depend upon the size of the offence or the importance of the person. It happens that those who are responsible for advising the Treasury in these matters have come to the conclusion that it will cost less to arrest offenders this year than usual, partly because there may be fewer of them, and partly because there are certain geographical areas in which it may be difficult to affect an arrest. If these misgivings are not justified, and if it costs more to arrest them than is provided for in this Vote, it will be necessary to confess that we have made a mistake, and to come to the House for a Supplementary Vote. In any case no offender will escape because enough money has not been voted. The same remark applies to wreck inquiries. It may well be that the amount voted in this Estimate for wreck inquiries will turn out to be insufficient in view of what was happened since the Estimate was framed, and if so, we shall have to ask my hon. Friend and hit, colleagues in the House of Commons to vote a little more money.

Question put, and agreed to.