Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £108,260, 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, 1921, for Expendi-
ture in connection with Public Buildings in Ireland, for the Maintenance of certain Parks, Harbours, and Public Works, for the Maintenance of Drainage Works on the River Shannon, and for sundry Grants-in-Aid.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
On a point of Order. With every possible respect to my right hon. Friend—and he knows that I do not take any points which personally affect him—I really should like to ask him why this Supplementary Estimate is being presented by him instead of by the Irish Office?
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am rather surprised that my hon. Friend did not know that the Treasury is responsible for the Board of Public Works in Ireland. In introducing this Estimate, my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Henry) would have carried much heavier guns than I can. It will be noticed that by far the greater amount in this Vote is directly concerned with the work of the Irish Constabulary. Under Item A, there is a sum of £23,500 for securing buildings in Belfast, which, although ultimately they will be required for increased postal accommodation, and for bringing together all the work of the Tax Commission, are required immediately for bringing together the Divisional Commissioner of the Royal Irish Constabulary in that district, the Commandant and Paymaster of the Force in the City of Belfast, and the Headquarter Staff of the County of Antrim Police, it being considered desirable to bring together these scattered units into one building, for purposes both of security and of efficiency. Similarly, in item B, for New Works, by far the greater amount goes to the keeping up of a depôt at Gormanstown for the Royal Irish Constabulary. Item C is one with which we are only too familiar in this country. It represents the increase in the cost of maintaining and supplying public buildings—the increase which has arisen during the last year— and it must be remembered that the Board of Public Works in Ireland has under its control practically the whole of the Government buildings for every purpose throughout that country. When you look at the figure in the original Estimate under that head, the increase is no more than that which has occurred from time to time, and corresponds approximately to similar increases with which we are familiar in this country. Under Subhead D, the money there is divided between work for the Ministry of Pensions in the equipment of hospitals under their authority and work for the Ministry 1888 of Labour in providing training centres for ex-service men. Item H (c) is recoverable from the rates, and should not be a permanent loss, and Item H (d) is a matter of compensation to tenants who were turned out of certain buildings in Dublin which were commandeered for payment of the out-of-work donation. The original claim sent in was for something like £17,000 or £18,000. It has been a long time in dispute, and has been settled at last for £2,770. The necessity of the work in providing premises shortly after the Armistice for the payment of out-of-work donation may be realised when I tell the Committee that somewhere about £900,000 has been paid out of that office. I have introduced this Estimate briefly, bringing before the Committee just an outline of the subjects of which it treats. I have no doubt various questions will be asked, and my right hon. Friend (Mr. Henry), who is more familiar than I with the details of these subjects, will reply.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I propose on another Vote to make a very considerable draft on the patience of the House, but just at this moment I will deal with the first item, namely, A, Purchase of Sites and Buildings, purchase, of premises for public Departments, Belfast, £23,500. As this is an absolutely non-political and non-partisan question, I trust I shall get the attention especially of the anti-waste party because I consider the transaction the payment for which this House is now asked to sanction is a very disgraceful one for two reasons. In the first place 18 months ago the building for which the Government paid £23,500 was bought by a Belfast speculator for £4,000. I hear constantly in this House and out of it the ever-insistent demand of English Members for the evacuation by the Government of premises in this country which are occupied for Government purposes. Here is a case where the Government are not really evacuating but taking and holding premises, paying £23,000 for them when they were sold for £4,000 only 18 months ago. That in my opinion is a Vote which will have to be justified in a much more effective way than it has been justified by the right hon. Gentleman. What happens in this case? I am not a member of the Anti-Waste League. I do not care how much British money you throw away in Ireland. It is 1889 no business of mine. It is entirely a matter for the propagandists of economy and for the anti-wastrels.
The point I want to raise is this, that not only do they pay £23,000 for premises which were sold 18 months ago for £4,000, but they proceed to evict from their business premises 20 of the leading manufacturers and manufacturers' agents in that city. These men are all opposed to me in politics. Some of the most eloquent speeches which have rung on the hustings against me were the result of the florid oratory and rhetoric of these gentlemen who have been driven from their premises. But I stand for justice. In one case soldiers came and took the furniture out of one of these manufacturers' offices and flung it on the street, and the furnishings and equipment of these offices, if they had not been removed a few hours before, would have met a similar fate. Armoured cars, the machinery of the Empire, the Union Jack under which these gentlemen had stood and flourished and grown eloquent and impressive were brought there to have them evicted, and the 20 Unionist merchants and manufacturers, one of them employing 30 or 40 women, did not get time to get down the stairs. There was a council of war to see if they could get out of the back windows in time. I do not know what the conditions are in this country, but in Belfast it was absolutely impossible for these men to get substitute premises. One man, employing 20 women, and carrying on a manufactory, could not get premises. They have had to put their furniture away, and these 20 men have now been evicted, and this is the transaction which the House of Commons is asked to give its sanction to.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The speculator I expect. At all events he will get it when the right hon. Baronet and the Anti-Waste League go into the Government Lobby and support them. I do not know whether or not the money is paid yet. Perhaps we shall have a Government crisis. Perhaps you will take your courage in both hands and come along and vote with me against this transaction, and if you do we may defeat the Government and the Ulster Parliament may never come into operation.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
They would not go out on any vote. If we cannot do it with a long pull and a strong pull and a pull altogether, let us gently push them and if it be a small majority to-day, as it was only 10 on Friday, we may be able to bring them to a sense of reality in regard to these questions. Divorce yourselves from your prejudices and come to business. This in my judgment is a transaction which should not be sanctioned by the House of Commons. There is a dual wrong perpetrated. There is the wrong of giving £23,000 for property sold for £4,000 only 18 months ago and there is the wrong done in putting these business men out of their premises and compelling them, not only to look for premises elsewhere which they cannot find, but to suspend their business. You had the spectacle of one of these Belfast merchants and manufacturers breaking the law for he actually refused to be evicted from the premises until the soldiers came and put his furniture on the street. I think you will realise the significance of this transaction and the importance of it being raised here.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I should like to ask two questions on another point in these Votes. First of all with regard to Sub-head D. Furniture, fittings and utensils, increased cost of labour and materials for the Ministry of Labour and for the Ministry of Pensions. I presume this is due to the lack of hospitals. I am not sure how far it is legitimate on this Vote to inquire of the presentative of the Ministry of Labour the exact purpose which is served by these training centres. I suppose there is no one in the House on either side who does not wish to see the fullest possible opportunity given to ex-service men in any part of the United Kingdom to be fitted by intensive, specialist, or by general training to earn his living in civilian employment. But we are always coming up against this difficulty where the question of the spending of money in Ireland is concerned. How are these men to obtain employment when they have been trained? Can the bon. Member tell me, for example, in the disturbed part of Ireland of any ex-service men who have been trained at Government training centres who have been able to 1891 obtain employment without the fear of being murdered? I do not know of such a case. I am informed on the contrary that it is practically impossible for an ex-service man to be trained at a centre of the Ministry of Labour in Ireland to obtain work anywhere, and that the only chance of an ex-service man obtaining work is carefully to dissociate himself from the fact that he ever wore the King's uniform.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I think the Noble Lord would not like to be too sweeping in his declarations. I have known hundreds of ex-service men obtain positions.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I was referring to the disturbed area in Southern Ireland. I am sure the hon. Member, as much as anyone, would be willing to help ex-service men. Many of the constitutional Nationalist party have gone to personal risk in doing so. But I am not referring to the North but to a large portion of the disturbed area. Obviously, if you are going to give the ex-service man in Ireland a chance of earning his living by intensive training in civilian life anywhere, you must give it in all parts of Ireland. If you cannot train him in the South of Ireland, you must give him an opportunity of being trained in England. Having regard to the condition of the ex-service man in the South of Ireland, I think it is right that we should have a statement from the Minister of Labour as to the steps they have taken to deal with the situation and how far in their training schemes they have been able to meet that situation.
I want to ask a question on policy with regard to Subhead C—Maintenance and Supplies, and the increased cost of labour and material in connection there-with. I am informed on good authority—on what I may call official authority—that it is the habit, again in the disturbed areas of Ireland, in connection with the erection of defences to military camps and barracks, to employ local labour. I am told by a high official who visited certain military camps where they had to set up defences by the erection of what is known as the apron system of wire defence, that 30 men were employed in putting up these defences, and that by day they were working for the Crown and by night they were members of the 1892 Irish Republican Army. I think it is a very possible and probable explanation of the reason why certain defences have not been found as efficacious as they should have been, that the labour employed is local labour, people who are members of the Republican Army or who sympathise for one reason or another with the Sinn Fein forces. I should like an undertaking that whatever Department is responsible—I imagine the Attorney-General will reply, because I suppose the labour is employed by the Irish Government—that due care is, and will be, taken that in any form of work that is done on Government buildings the labour employed is not labour that is actively or passively sympathising with those who attack the forces of the Crown, and that the lives of those who are in the barracks or the camps are not endangered.
May I join in the appeal, though I do not agree with everything he has said, that was made by the hon. Member for the Falls Division of Belfast, that the anti-waste party should give us the advantage of their views on these very important questions. We recognise the very great assistance that we derived from their presence in this House—I understand that their party has been recruited from two to three—and we value the dignity which their presence confers upon us, but I think those of us who are trying to press upon the Government more economical procedure have some reason to feel, to put it mildly, dissatisfied with the lack of vocal effort and assistance that we have hitherto received from the anti-waste party. Encouraged by a question which was put to-day by one of the members of that party as to the size of envelopes used by the Ministry of Labour, I hope that that hon. Member will be willing to take, part in this Debate.
I should like to join my Noble Friend in urging that the party which we know as the Anti-Waste party should give us a little help. We heard a great deal about their coming, but since they have arrived in this House they have helped us by their presence rather than by what they have said, and many of us are beginning to feel that the feebleness of that party is going to reveal the febleness that distinguishes the "Wee Free" section of the Opposition. It would be a sad beginning 1893 that this young party should show signs of becoming decrepit, like a section of the Liberal party, at such a very early date. On the Estimate I should like to know something about item "A," purchase of premises in Belfast. The original Estimate came to over £10,000 for purchase of site and buildings and provisional sum for the acquisition of premises for the Ministry of Transport and other Departments. When this originally came before us it was mainly for the purposes of the Ministry of Transport. Now we are told that it is mainly for the police. It would be worth while for the Government to tell us whether this change in policy means that the Ministry of Transport is reducing its policy, or does it mean that this expenditure is simply for the co-ordination of the police force and that, the Government have been able in this respect to curb the expenditure of the Ministry of Transport?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY OF LABOUR (Sir Montague Barlow)
I should like to reply to the point raised by the Noble Lord (Earl Winterton)—
§ Sir M. BARLOW
The point raised by the hon. Member for the Falls Division does not really relate to the responsibilities of the Ministry of Labour. An appeal was made by the Noble Lord to the Ministry of Labour, and that is why I intervene. The two premises affected by this Vote are premises in Belfast and some premises in Tipperary which are on a different footing. The premises in Tipperary were originally started by a local committee, and the Government is now taking them over to develop them. The whole scheme is still somewhat in an undeveloped condition, but it is in connection with the taking over and development of hospitals that this Vote appears. The Franklin Building was taken over only in August of last year. In regard to both the schemes to which the Noble Lord referred, the difficulty which he anticipates has not yet arisen. As the Committee is aware, our training schemes occupy as a rule six, nine, or twelve months, and it is only when the trainees have been through the course that the difficulties such as the Noble Lord suggests might arise. We all know, un- 1894 fortunately, the state of Ireland, and that there are difficulties, but the time has not yet arisen when in the normal course of training those difficulties have to be faced. I do not disguise the fact that there have been difficulties, but on the whole we have been able to deal with them. In conclusion, I should like to pay tribute to the excellent work which the hon. Member for the Falls Division has rendered and the assistance he has given to my Department and to the cause of the ex-service men generally by the efforts he has made on their behalf in Ireland.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Gentleman has given us a very satisfactory explanation. He says that what my Noble Friend fears has not arisen and that it will not arise until these men have been trained. He says it does not arise until the scheme has been in operation for 6, 9 or 12 months. It is absurd to go into a scheme and to spend money for 6, 9 or 12 months when you do not know what is going to happen at the end of the time. That was the hon. Gentleman's explanation. He says, we do not think that these fears will materialise, but we cannot say whether they will materialise, because the scheme has not been in operation long enough. Before putting the scheme into operation, they ought to know whether or not the result will be satisfactory. That is what I complain about in all these Government schemes. They are all so very anxious to come forward as the Salvationists of the country. They have grand schemes which are going to do all sorts of things, but in nine cases out of ten what they do is to spend money, and nothing happens, except that the unfortunate Financial Secretary to the Treasury has to come down and sooth the House into passing the Vote. The hon. Member for the Falls Division should move a reduction.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I suggest to the hon. Member that it may be better if he moved his reduction now on the first item, so that we can confine our discussion to Item (A).
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am glad to hear that, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will continue in that mood, and will do what I ask him in other matters. The hon. Gentleman has made a very serious statement. It is about as serious a statement as any hon. Member could make in this House. He says that the Government have paid £22,500 for premises which 18 months ago were bought for £4,000 by the person from whom the Government purchased them. If that is true—I do not cast any doubt upon the accuracy of the hon. Member's statement, but he may have been misinformed, or there may be other circumstances which have not been brought to his knowledge—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is so serious that I am endeavouring to support the hon. Gentleman in arriving at the real facts of the case, and if it is true that the Government have given £23,000 for a building which was bought 18 months ago for £4,000, everybody in this Committee ought to go in the lobby against the Government. That is the sort of thing we want to stop. That is the sort of reckless expenditure which arises when a Government official goes down the street and sees a building in a prominent position, which is convenient to his residence, or which he thinks will give him a certain air of importance when he enters it, so that everbody may know that he is a Government official of a very important Government Department. You cannot put a Government office in a back street, that would never do. It must be in the light of day and in the most expensive and most prominent position that can be found. That is bad enough, but if in addition to that the Government are so foolish as to give £23,000 for what was bought 18 months ago for £4,000, we have an instance of great waste, of which this House ought to show its disapproval by voting against the Government. I have great regard for the Ulster party and for the city of Belfast, but I thought they were going to have their own Parliament, and were going to deal with their own affairs. Why should I put my hand into my nearly depleted pocket in order to provide premises for my hon. Friends in Ulster. Now when strongly against my own convictions, Ulster is going to set up a Government it ought to be able to provide for it. The question raised here is 1896 very serious. If the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin) is right or any way nearly right, we ought to show our disapproval of the gross recklessness of the Government officials giving £23,000 for what was sold a few months previously for £4,000.
I am glad to see certain hon. Members calling on the ever growing anti-waste party for advice.
We are very glad to give either advice or co-operation. The fact that we do not always make our voice heard in the House or in Committee shows that we have perhaps a high appreciation of the economy of words as well as of the economy of money. There are occasions when a vote in the Lobby is as useful as a speech on the Floor of the House. This particular Estimate does show a very large additional sum required of no less than £108,000. The right hon. Baronet suggests that the hon. Member for the Falls Division should at once move to reduce Vote A, so as to concentrate discussion on that particular Vote. With all respect, I think it much better to let the discussion roam at large for a bit.
This Estimate is drawn up in such a way as to afford but little information to private Members. We have to rely on what we can elicit from the Government. Some of this additional expenditure may be essential. Some of it we think is not. But we want to find out what is in our view additional expenditure which should not be incurred. As the hon. Member for the Falls Division has not moved—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I did not move, because I understood that if I did so we should not be allowed to discuss the other items. If permitted to do so, I am quite prepared to do it now. I rose a moment ago to move a reduction, but did not catch the eye of the Deputy-Chairman.
I beg to move that Sub-head A (Purchase of Sites and Buildings, £23,500) be reduced by £10,000.
I was anxious to hear something of this matter because I know something of the city of Belfast.
1897 The right hon. Baronet has told us that the Government do not buy any sites except in important parts of a city, and we are told that in this important street in Belfast a speculator was able to buy a block of central buildings for £4,000. We are told that 10 gentlemen, substantial men, had their offices and businesses in that one block, and that one of that 10 employed no fewer than 40 women.
Then we have the complaint that this block of buildings in this growing town of Belfast which is bought by a speculator for £4,000 is in a few months sold to some Government buyer for £23,000. If the speculator had been able to do that I congratulate him, but it is a most amazing transaction, and if the facts be as stated I will vote with my hon. Friend below me against the Government.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Denis Henry)
It is a source of surprise to me to hear one who is so well known, and so well thought of in Belfast as the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin), depreciate the value of property in that city.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I have stated distinctly that I was glad they got the money out of the British taxpayer.
§ Mr. HENRY
I think that my hon. Friend will bear me out when I say that there is no city in the United Kingdom in which it is more difficult to obtain building accommodation for any purpose than in Belfast at present. I make that assertion without the slightest hesitation. My hon. Friend has not given us the source of this information as to this property which he says was acquired for £4,000, or as to the amount spent on repairs. But the Board of Works sent their official, a responsible valuer from Dublin, and he valued the premises. The right hon. Baronet drew a vivid picture of the officials going into these offices who would not be content with a mean street and would like their wives and neighbours' wives to see the magnificent premises in which they did their business. If the right hon. Baronet knew Waring Street as well as I do or the hon. Member for the Falls Division, he would not exactly compare it to Regent Street. It is an extremely narrow street.
§ Mr. HENRY
I knew that truth would at last permeate the soul of my hon. Friend, because he recognises that it is one of the most important streets in Belfast. Yet he is amazed that where 20 of the leading merchants of Belfast—Unionist merchants—have their offices, from which the Government had to evict them, £23,000 should be paid for the purchase of these premises.
§ Mr. HENRY
I am not in a position to give that information, because I go on the information given by the Department through their skilled valuers who dealt with the matter. The result is that in what my Friend recognises as one of the most important streets in the City of Belfast—it is extremely important, though very narrow. It is held by the Ulster Bank. It is the hub of Belfast, one of the greatest cities in the Universe—these buildings are occupied at present by the following Government offices: The Assistant Under-Secretary for Ireland, who is in Belfast, the Divisional Commissioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Commandant and Paymaster of the City of Belfast, the Commandant of the County Antrim Forces, and the Commissioners of Inland Revenue for Income Tax Collection, and it is ultimately hoped that it will be entirely available for all the branches of the Inland Revenue in Belfast.
§ Mr. HENRY
I do not cast the slightest imputation on the Labour party. We are dealing with another combination at present, but those are the facts. I am instructed that the Board of Works for twelve months tried to get accommodation in Belfast for the various Departments and were quite unable to do so. Ultimately they purchased these premises for £23,500 as was recommended to them 1899 by their professional advisers, and that is the position.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I think that the explanation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is wholly unsatisfactory. The question is—were these premises bought about fifteen months ago for about £4,000? All he tells us is that these premises are in an important part of Belfast and are suitably occupied by Government Departments. That is not what the Committee want to know. They want to know if there is any basis at all in what my hon. Friend says. Suppose that he is £4,000 or £5,000 out and they were bought for £8,000 or £9,000, why do the Government pay £23,500 for them? He cannot answer that question. He has not got the information. But the Committee is entitled to have the information. It is a new Committee of the House of Commons that is dealing with the matter, and the Government had better recognise it. It is a Committee which, when it asks a reasonable question, is going to have an answer. If this goes to a Division we know what will happen. The majority of Members now present will admit that the position put by those who have spoken before me, representing all parties, is perfectly reasonable. But the decision is settled by men who have not heard a word of the Debate.
I would suggest to the Government, do not put us to the test of a Division. We know what will happen. About two hundred Members will vote for the Estimate and perhaps fifty or sixty will be in the minority. The House of Commons is entitled to ask that this Vote be withdrawn. There is plenty of time, and it would be better to withdraw it until the learned Attorney-General has had an opportunity of communicating with Ireland in order to get the answer required. Probably it will be a sound answer, to the effect that there have been remarkable developments in eighteen months, or something of that sort. Instead of having a blind vote to-day, let us act for once like business men. There is no question of obstruction. Let us have a business answer to a business question. That is all we are asking for. I am glad to see the Financial Secretary to the Treasury present, as he is, after all, responsible. As he is a business man, 1900 I would appeal to him to withdraw the Vote. We could then have all the details brought before us.
§ Mr. INSKIP
It is important that the Committee should know the facts, and as to whether this building was sold eighteen months before for £4,000; but it does not follow, if it was sold for £4,000, that it was not worth £23,000 when the Government bought it. What is also important is the statement of the learned Attorney-General that officials were sent down from Dublin to value properties in Belfast. He called those officials skilled advisers. If they went down from Dublin to value buildings in Belfast it is exactly what I would have expected. They would not know that the property had been sold for £4,000 eighteen months before. What is wrong is, that permanent officials or Dublin officials should go to Belfast to value property in Belfast. Valuation is not worth the paper it is written on unless the valuer knows about transactions in a particular property. In transactions of this sort in Ireland or in England, we should not have Government officials going down to value, merely putting on paper an opinion which is probably worth nothing. People on the spot should be employed. They would know all the facts as to dealings in the property in the previous few years. Then we should not have such a state of things as that to which attention has been drawn this afternoon. Perhaps the learned Attorney-General will say whether valuers in Belfast were employed?
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Inskip), but I venture very respectfully to say that he has led us a little astray from the point on which the Committee desire information. I want to associate myself entirely with the appeal for the withdrawal of the Vote. The Committee desire to get at the precise facts of this transaction. They would not, and I would not for a moment, desire to reduce this Vote if the Government have a reasonable explanation to give in answer to the legitimate question put to them by 1901 the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin). If the Government are prepared with the facts and will give them now, we shall listen most readily. I suspect that there is a perfectly good and reasonable explanation, but until that explanation is forthcoming the Committee ought not, and I think will not, give this money to the Government.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
I think we are groping about in the dark room for a black cat which does not exist. It is not often that I raise my vokce to support the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), but I think we ought to ask the Government to withdraw this Vote. I do not want to vote against the Government, but I certainly shall not vote for them on this question. If in my own office an estimate in this form were put on my table, I would send it back to my clerks and tell them I would not look at it. It is plain that the right hon Gentleman who represents the Irish Office for the moment does not know anything of the facts of the case. I therefore emphasise the appeal for the withdrawal of the Vote. Let the Government give us the facts and we will support them if the case merits it. I have not the slightest doubt that what the hon. Member for Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) has said has been told to us in good faith, and I do not for a moment believe that there is not a good explanation of the difference between the £4,000 and £23,000, but I am not going to vote on an Estimate like this unless I know something about it.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
The point raised is a perfectly legitimate point, and requires an answer, but I would remind the Committee that the learned Attorney-General has no knowledge of the transactions to which reference is made, nor have I, and it will be necessary to communicate with Ireland to find out what are the exact facts of the case. That, my right hon. Friend will do. As the right hon. Member for Peebles said, I am responsible for this part of the business of the Session, and I know the difficulty there sometimes is if a Debate on the Committee Stage be adjourned. I suggest that the Committee Stage be taken, and on the Report Stage I undertake that the facts, which by then will have been ascertained, shall be given to the House.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am sorry that I do not agree with my right hon. Friend. There will be no loss of time by withdrawal of the Vote. I quite agree that if we were nearing the end of the financial year my right hon. Friend might press his view upon the Committee with considerable force. But withdrawal of the Vote will not involve any loss of time. We can go on to other Supplementary Estimates. If the Committee Stage of this Vote is taken now, Members of the Committee will lose control of it. On the Report Stage there is an entirely different and more narrow procedure. At the moment we are seized with the position, and the Committee is entitled to have the Vote back in the position in which it is now when the explanation of it is given. There is no intention to obstruct. If we wanted to obstruct we could not do so.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am anxious only to save the time of the Committee. I think this matter has been very fully debated, and on the assurance of my right hon. Friend that he does not mean obstruction, I am willing to withdraw the Estimate.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
Although this is a very important item in this particular Vote it is not the only item, and my right hon. Friend, I am sure, would not enter into any understanding unless with the assent of all parties in the House. I certainly intended to raise quite a different point on another item. I would concur in any agreement if it meant that our subsequent discussion was not to be confined to this particular point, but I could not enter into any undertaking to confine my observations to this particular item alone.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If my right hon. Friend withdraws the Motion without any stipulation he is not in any way injuring himself. The course of business for the rest of the week, as far as I know, is this: To-morrow we are to take the Consolidated Fund Bill, Second Heading, and again on Friday. If this Vote is withdrawn, what will happen? There is a very large number of Votes in these Supplementary Estimates which must be discussed. All that will happen will be that this particular Vote will be transferred from one position in the Supplementary Estimates to another. We cannot possibly get the whole of the Supplementary Estimates through to-night. We are not 1903 going to discuss them on Thursday and Friday. Therefore, if this Vote is withdrawn until next Monday, when the Government will be in a position to give the information required, they will not lose a single minute of time.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.