House Of Commons
Tuesday, 29th July, 1873.
MINUTES.]—SUPPLY— Resolutions [July 28] reported.
PUBLIC BILLS— Ordered—First Reading—Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act (1870) Amendment* .
Committee—Four Courts Marshalsea (Dublin)* —R.P.
Committee—Report—Telegraphs ; Railway Regulation ; Expiring Laws Continuance ; Gas and Water Works Facilities Act (1870) Amendment* ; Constabulary Force (Ireland) ( re-comm.)* ; Royal Naval Artillery Volunteer Force* ; Sanitary Act (1866) Amendment (Ireland)* .
Considered as amended—Slave Trade Consolidation* ; Local Government Provisional Orders (No. 6)* ; Statute Law Revision* .
Considered as amended—Third Reading—Public Health Act (1872) Amendment* , and passed.
Withdrawn—Tribunals of Commerce* ; Clerical Justices Disqualification and Justices of Peace Qualification* .
The House met at Two of the clock.
West Riding Magistracy
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If he is aware that in a district of the West Riding, consisting of the important and populous townships of Pudsey, Idle, Calverley, and Farsley, with a population of 29,214, an area of 8,447 acres, and a rateable value of £81,153, there is only one magistrate, a clergyman, who usually resides, not in the district, but in the township of Leeds?
in reply, said, the facts stated in the Question of the hon. Member were substantially correct; but he was informed that there were sittings twice a-week at Bradford, distant about four miles, with good railway communication. There had been no local expression of a desire for more magistrates and no complaint of inconvenience from the existing state of things. If there were any such desire, it should be conveyed to the Lord Lieutenant or the Lord Chancellor; but, considering the population of the neighbourhood, perhaps they could not do better than combine to appoint a stipendiary magistrate.
asked if the right hon. Gentleman was aware that no railway passed through any one of the parishes named?
said, he was not; he knew only what he had been told in the letter sent him by the clerk of the peace.
Railways—Railway Passengers' Communication—Questions
asked the President of the Board of Trade, Upon what grounds the Board of Trade have further extended for one month the period of use of the rope system upon the Railways of the United Kingdom; and, if this extension is not intended to be final, what course the Board or the Government will pursue to ensure a compliance with the Act of 1868 as to a proper means of communication between passengers and guards, which it was the intention of Parliament should be provided for the safety of travellers?
in reply, said, he had extended for a month the period of use of the present rope system, in order to give time for the expression of opinion by railway companies upon a very different rope system in use in the United States, in which the rope is conveyed through the carriages inside under the roof. On the 1st of August he should withdraw absolutely the sanction of the Board of Trade to the ordinary rope system, and would leave, as he was bound to do, the companies to propose other means of communication, instead of it. For the present he should be ready to sanction the American rope system.
asked the right hon Gentleman, Whether his attention has been again drawn to the failure of the cord system of communication between passengers and guards on Railways; whether he has, in accordance with his statement on the 13th June, 1872, withdrawn the provisional approval given by the Board of Trade to that system; and, whether there is any hope that the electric communication will soon be established on all Railways?
in reply, said, the electric system of communication had succeeded upon some of the lines on which it had been tried, and it was equally true that it was attended with difficulty in its application on lines where the trains were frequently separated. He could not say how far the withdrawal of the old rope system would bring about a larger adoption of the electric system.
Army—Retired Adjutants Of Militia And Volunteers
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether he will insert the words "late Adjutant" in the "Army List" after the names of the officers who, having been Adjutants of Militia or Volunteers, have had conferred upon them the rank of Major on retirement, or whether he will place these Officers in a separate list; and, whether he will allow these names to appear in the Index of the "Army List" as is done in the case of all other Field Officers who have served, throughout their service, under the provisions of the Mutiny Act?
in reply, said, that if there was any general wish on the part of the officers in the direction indicated in the Question, he was not aware of any reason why that wish ought not to be gratified.
South Kensington Museum—Natural History Museum
asked the First Commissioner of Works, Whether the public have ever had an opportunity of judging of the plans now being carried out in the construction of the Natural History Museum; and, if not, whether he would permit plans or models to be exhibited in any place to which the public have access?
in reply, said, that the plans were annexed to the contract signed by the contractor, and could not, therefore, be submitted for public inspection. The contract and plans were required at the Office of Works, and it was quite impossible to make an exhibition of them.
said, there could be no difficulty about exhibiting copies of plans.
said, that would require copies to be made. The making of copies would take a considerable time, and would involve expense. [Cries of "Photographs."] A plan would not be an expensive matter; but it would take a considerable time to make copies of the whole.
said, he did not ask for all the details. The plans would be quite sufficient to enable the public to judge of the general character and effect of the building proposed to be erected. He should be glad to know if the plans might to this extent be shown to the public?
said, that a mere plan, as distinct from elevations, could be easily prepared in a short time. The drawings and elevations, to be of any use, must be complete, and the preparation of complete copies would take a considerable time. As the contract was signed for the execution of the works, and could not be altered, he did not see that it would be of any particular use to the public to see them.
said, it was with the view of enabling the public to form a judgment upon the elevation that he was anxious they should see it. There was no difficulty in obtaining photographs, which, for this purpose, were equally as good as the originals. He wished to know whether photographs could be submitted for the inspection of the public.
asked, whether the elevations and designs were generally the same that were exhibited for a short time in the Library of the House of Commons at the close of the Session before last; and whether, if they were the same, they had been altered in consequence of the rise in prices, or for any other reason; and, if so, what was the extent of alteration in the general appearance of the building?
said, that some change was made in the plans after they were exhibited in this House. If the noble Lord wished to know the details, he should be happy to state them if the noble Lord would give Notice of a Question.
said, he was sorry to have to press his point; but he should like to have an answer as to whether copies of the general plans and elevations would be submitted for public inspection? If it was inconvenient to the right hon. Gentleman to answer now, he would give Notice of a Question for to-morrow.
The hon. and gallant Member had better give Notice.
Then I give Notice at the present time.
Diplomatic And Consular Service—Foreign Representatives In Morocco—Question
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether his attention has been drawn to a statement made by Mr. Consul White, in his Report on the Trade of Morocco, that
whether Sir John Hay, our representative in Morocco, shares in and has repeatedly urged the same opinion upon Government; and, whether the Government can hold out any hope of their taking the matter into consideration, with a view of removing our Embassy to the capital, and securing personal communication between our representative and the Sultan?"In Morocco the foreign representatives reside at a considerable distance from either of the capitals of the empire, and but seldom or never see the Sultan or any save one of his Ministers; and that, so long as the absence of personal intercourse between the representatives of Foreign Powers and the Sultan and his Court continues to exist, it is hopeless to expect useful reforms in the government, or any considerable extension of the trade or civilization of the country;"
Sir, Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to change the residence of the British Mission in Morocco, which, if recommended by Sir John Drummond Hay, would not, it is believed, be agreeable to the Moorish Court, and would entail increased expenditure. There are, besides, countervailing advantages in the residence of the British Minister being at a seaport. Her Majesty's Minister is enabled, under existing arrangements, to obtain private interviews with the Sultan, and reported lately that the results were satisfactory.
France—The New Commercial Treaty—Question
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Treaty between France and this Country, which is reported to have been under consideration by the Parliament of France, is intended to continue, or to establish for some years, obligations binding upon this Country with respect to certain portions of the Revenue analogous to the engagements under the Treaty of 1860; and, if so, whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to consult this House with respect to such engagement?
Sir, it will be seen by the Treaty of which a Copy was laid on the Table of the House yesterday, that it is not intended to continue, as binding on this country, the provisions with regard to tariffs in the Treaty of 1860 beyond 1877, when the Treaties between Great Britain, Austria, and Germany are terminable. The new Treaty provides that it shall be terminable on the 10th of June, 1877, when that with Germany is also terminable. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will address the latter portion of his Question to my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government.
asked the Prime Minister, whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to consult the House upon the provisions of the Treaty?
said, the state of the case was this—the Government had no such intention, because we were not really contracting any new binding engagement which bore on the tariffs or on the commercial law of this country with regard to exports and imports. When the French Treaty was made in 1860, the House of Commons was consulted upon it in full, and if the Government had been extending its terms it might have been matter for serious consideration whether they should not again consult the House of Commons upon it. In consequence of the French Treaty of 1860 other Treaties were made with Austria and Germany, which gave to them the full benefit of the French Treaty down to 1877, the Treaty with Germany expiring on the 10th of June, 1877. What the Government had done was to prolong the French Treaty until the latter date, and as the French Treaty gave to France the benefit of the Most Favoured Nation Clause, the prolongation of the French Treaty constituted no new engagement.
asked, Whether, if it should be found that the terms of the present Treaty varied from those of the Treaty of 1860—that variation extending to the Most Favoured Nation Clause—the Ministry would reserve to the House of Commons the opportunity of considering any variation from the Treaty of 1860?
in reply, said, the hon. Member would have a more satisfactory means of judging of the matter when he read the Treaty than he could afford by any verbal information. But he might say there was no such variation as the hon. Member appeared to suppose. There was no alteration whatever in the tariff terms of the Treaty. Its ratification would depend on the assent of the French Assembly, which he trusted would be given.
National Education (Ireland)—Teachers In Irish Workhouse Schools—Question
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Why the National School Teachers in the Workhouse Schools in Ireland are not paid for results in addition to their salaries, as is done in the case of the Teachers in other National Schools in Ireland, and the Teachers in the Workhouses in England?
in reply, said, teachers in workhouse schools in England and Wales were not paid in the same way as the National School teachers in the workhouse schools in Ireland. In Ireland the Workhouse teachers were paid directly by the Local Government Board, and without any reference to the results of the teaching or the efficiency of the schools under their management. He had no doubt it would be an improvement to introduce the English system in some form or other; but he must guard himself against admitting that any payment made for results should be a payment in addition to the salaries of the teachers.
The British Museum—Duplicate Books—Question
asked the Right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, Whether it is possible for the Trustees of the British Museum to furnish for the information of the House and the public, a Return of the number of Duplicate Books in the Library of the Museum; and, whether there would be any objection to such Duplicates being distributed among the Free Libraries of the Country?
in reply, said, there was in the Question an ambiguity as to the meaning of the word "duplicate." The Trustees of the British Museum had always rightly considered that there were three particulars in which what might be termed duplicates in a private gentleman's library would not be superfluous in the Library of the British Museum. In a great National Library it was a matter of primary importance for literary people to have the means of referring to variations in the different works, and time variations in different editions. Again, there were in the British Museum three collections at least which had been given to the nation as integral collections—namely, the King's, the Grenville, and the Bankseian Libraries; and there might be in those collections duplicates which must be preserved distinct from the general library books in the Museum. Moreover, it was for the general advantage of readers that there should be duplicate copies of some books which were in great demand, as it often happened that more than one student required to consult them at the same time. Roughly estimated, the duplicates in the Museum amounted to between 10,000 and 12,000 books, subject to deductions on account of each of the categories to which he had referred. To compare all the books in the British Museum for the purpose of ascertaining whether they were duplicates or not would be a labour of months, if not of years. Under these circumstances, it would not be possible for the Trustees to furnish a Return of' the superfluous duplicate books in the British Museum with a view to their distribution among the Free Libraries of the country.
Post Office—Cape Of Good Hope And Zanzibar Mail Contract
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, What course he proposes to take with respect to the Contract for Mail Services between Zanzibar and the Cape, in consequence of the Report of the Select Committee on that subject?
Sir, it is the intention of the Government to give the fullest effect in their power to the Report of the Committee. They are not, of course, unaware of the great difficulty of the task, from the manner in which the question has been left; and when they state that they will endeavour, to the utmost of their power, to give effect to the Committee's Report, they trust that they will receive the assistance of the House.
Elementary Education Department—New Code 1873—The Music Fine—Question
asked the Vice President of the Committee of Council for Education, If he will suspend the operation of sub-section d of Article 32 of the New Code 1873, commonly known as the Music Fine, until there has been an opportunity for further discussion next Session?
in reply, said, that neither he nor the Committee of Council on Education had any power to suspend the operation of any Article of the Code after it had once received the approval of Parliament. He might add that the Department saw no reason to disapprove of the regulation as to music.
Parliament—Business Of The House—The Post Office Balances
"That the House will proceed, this day, with the Motion relating to Post Office Balances, of which Notice has been given, after the Order of the Day for a Committee to consider of Her Majesty's Message."
Motion agreed to.
Hrh The Duke Of Edinburgh—The Queen's Message
Message from Her Majesty [28th July] considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
Queen's Message read.
said: Sir, the practice in the House of Commons on occasions of this nature varies somewhat from the practice which is adopted in the House of Lords; and it is right that I should make an explanation to the Committee on the subject. The usual practice of the House on occasions of this nature is to vote an Annuity without presenting an Address. In the House of Lords, where there is no Annuity to be voted, and the House waits for the communication of a Bill from the House of Commons, the course taken is to present an Address. In the instance of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, an Address was also presented by this House; but I believe I am pursuing the regular and established practice, from which in such a matter we certainly should not wish to vary, in proceeding to propose an Annuity in the case of a Prince who is not the Heir Apparent to the Throne. But, Sir, although the House will not be called upon by the Government to present a formal Address, assuring Her Majesty of the sentiments with which it has learnt the purport of the communication which Her Majesty has been pleased to make, I am quite sure I do not misconstrue or overstate the general sentiment when I venture to express my conviction that it is a communication which has been received, not only with those emotions of loyalty which, upon all occasions, govern us in our relations with the Crown, but likewise with a solid and a lively satisfaction, so far as the contents of the communication itself are concerned. This is an occasion on which a Marriage has been arranged, which, in the first place, presents to us that feature of all others, in my judgment, the most indispensable and the most satisfactory for a Royal Marriage—namely, that it is a Marriage which has been contracted, and which is to he solemnized on grounds of human and personal affection. So far as this country is concerned, I trust we have passed by the day when it was found necessary to enter into engagements of this kind without that great, indispensable, and I may well call it, consecrating, element of personal attachment. It is upon that most solid basis that the present union has been founded, and it constitutes the first and strongest reason for our wishing that it may be crowned with every blessing during the lives of the Illustrious Persons concerned. I may also say that, although in the vicissitudes of history the time came when we were compelled from special circumstances to regard the Russian Empire as a hostile State, yet God forbid that we should contemplate the recurrence of such a period—or, what is still worse, that we should accustom ourselves, or allow ourselves, to cherish sentiments of hostility or suspicion against a Power with which we are in alliance. I rejoice—and I believe the House and the country will rejoice—at the formation of this new tie of amity between two great Empires; and, permit me to say, that if we were to exercise a choice as to the period of time at which we could desire that a relation of this kind should be formed between the Imperial Family of Russia and the Royal House of the United Kingdom, we may well be pleased that it has happened in the reign of an Emperor like His Imperial Majesty, who has already signalized his sway—not by schemes of reckless aggrandizement, nor by mere pomp and display in the face of a too easily admiring world, but by that one great act of legislative wisdom and humanity which stands almost without a parallel in history, and which is of itself enough to make a reign not only honourable, but illustrious—I mean the emancipation of the serfs of Russia. Lastly, I rejoice that it falls to me to make this proposal at a time when, even within the last few months, the Imperial Government, under the direction of its Illustrious Head, has given to us more than one practical assurance of its desire to pursue a friendly policy towards this country. Now, I come to the proposal which I am going to submit, and which I trust—indeed, I entertain not the smallest distrust; I feel confident—will meet with the approval of the Committee. It will be recollected by the House that this is the closing portion of a transaction which awaits its full consummation. In the year 1866 it was my duty, on behalf of the Crown, to ask the House of Commons to grant to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, then Prince Alfred, an annuity of £15,000 a-year upon his coming of age. That was done by an Act of the same year, cap. 8, and there were two special observations with which my statement on that occasion was accompanied. One was, that if His Royal Highness should at a future time contract a marriage with the consent and to the satisfaction of Her Majesty, it would probably be the duty of the Executive Government of the day, whatever it might be—at any rate, I prepared the House to expect they would find it their duty—to make to the House a proposal, with a view to some increase of the income which was then so freely granted to His Royal Highness. The second special observation with which I accompanied the brief statement I then made was a reference to the fact that His Royal Highness is heir to a Principality abroad—namely, the Duchy of Saxe Coburg-Gotha; and accordingly in the Act of 1866 a Proviso was inserted, that—
Of course, it need not be said, with regard to the power of Her Majesty and of Parliament, that such power, considered in the abstract, requires no reservation; but it is customary in many classes of Bills to insert a notice of this kind, which disposes of any question of good faith which might be involved in the matter, and makes the reservation of the discretion as well as of the power of Parliament perfectly effectual for its purpose in case the occasion should arise for the exercise of that discretion. The proposal which I shall now make is—"In the event of his said Royal Highness succeeding to any sovereignty or principality abroad, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty or her successors, with the consent of Parliament, to revoke or reduce the said annuity, by warrant under the Sign Manual."
The Proviso which I have read would not be represented in the Resolution which I invite the Committee at present to accept; but it will be inserted in the Bill, which in due course will be founded upon the Resolution, the practice being, as those who are conversant with our method of conducting business know, that in Parliamentary Resolutions it is usual to state the general proposition, and that any limitations are for the most part introduced into the Bill when it is laid before the House. That is the first and the principal branch of the proposition which I have to make in the name of the Government. The second branch relates to that contingency which we all trust either may never arrive, or may be a very distant one. That contingency is the widowhood of the Illustrious Princess; and my second Resolution will be—"That the annual sum of Ten Thousand Pounds be granted to Her Majesty, out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, towards providing for the Establishment of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, the said annuity to be settled on His Royal Highness for his life, in such manner as Her Majesty shall think proper, and to commence from the day of the Marriage of their Royal Highnesses, such annuity to be in addition to the annuity now enjoyed by His Royal Highness under the Act of the twenty-ninth year of her present Majesty."
This is, I think, the first occasion upon which it has been my duty, or the duty of any Minister during the present reign, to make a full and final proposal to Parliament having reference to one of the Members of the Royal Family not being the Heir Apparent. And although I am fully persuaded that the House will not think that the proposal I have made is one requiring very special or elaborate justification, I may say one or two words upon its amount. A good many years have now elapsed since the Government of Lord Palmerston took into its consideration the general subject of a provision for the children of our Sovereign and the Prince Consort, and Lord Palmerston endeavoured to arrive at something like a consistent and general, though it could not be absolutely a binding view—except for that Government—as to the manner in which it would be proper to proceed in making these provisions. One question, indeed, which has been raised by some persons is, whether these provisions should be made by Parliament at all. Upon that question I do not propose to enter. We discussed it at some length when it was my duty to ask for a grant from the Legislature upon the occasion of the marriage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise. The arguments in favour of such a provision appeared to me overwhelming and conclusive to such a degree as to put the matter out of possible doubt as room for fair controversy. They were seconded by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, were supported by other Members of the House, and were felt to be of such a nature that it is totally needless; and, if needless, it would be officious and impertinent on our part to revive any such discussion upon the new proposal we are now making. With regard, however, to the amount of the provision, what I wish to say is this—It is quite possible that those who refer to some former precedent may find occasion for criticism and objection, either from one point of view or another. Cases may be discovered in which larger grants have been asked from Parliament, and possibly have been obtained. Other cases will be found by those who have diligence enough to search for them in our Parliamentary records, in which, perhaps, grants not quite so large have been given. At this time of day—when I think Parliament has shown a great consistency of view, as well as great moderation of view, upon this subject—it is not necessary for us to go back to times when the arrangements between the Crown and Parliament with reference to the support of its dignity and the support of the junior branches of the Royal Family were much less well understood and regulated than they now are. We have, passed, happily, froth a state of things in which the Civil List, settled at the beginning of a reign, represented no final arrangements at all, but was liable to be disturbed from time to time by new applications to Parliament. We have passed out of that irregular state of relations into one in which with some—I may say with great—success something like rule and method have been introduced. And what we have endeavoured to has been—both in former years and upon the present occasion—to look back to the general effect of our records, and of the cases which they bring before us, and to the general equity and reason of the case, in fixing the proposal which it will be our duty upon our responsibility to submit to Parliament. I think that those who are disposed to examine the matter upon such a basis as I have endeavoured to describe will think that the provision which we now ask Parliament to sanction—a sum of £25,000 a-year—is a provision which, while it does not err on the side of parsimony, certainly does not err on the side of excess. If that be so—and I believe that will be the general feeling of the House and of the country—I venture humbly to remind the House that the readiness and cheerfulness of a gift like this adds to its value. I would even make an appeal to that very small proportion of the Members of the House of Commons who—I have no doubt actuated by the most patriotic motives—have on a former occasion raised objections not merely of amount, but directed to the very foundation of the proposal. On the occasion of the marriage to which I have referred—the marriage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise—we thoroughly sifted and discussed the principle involved in these grants, and the question of principle was decided not by a mere majority of this House, but by what I may almost presume to call a moral unanimity—a majority approaching so nearly to unanimity that there would be no discredit and no deviation from public spirit—on the contrary, there can be nothing but consideration, courtesy, and taste—in recognizing the decision of the House upon that occasion, and in forbearing to revive the discussion. I think the general feeling will be that this proposal is one which, on the ground of its reasonableness and moderation, may safely be commended to the approval of the House; and if it is one which may be safely commended to the approval of the House, the gracefulness of the act will be much increased, and our own feelings of loyalty and attachment to the Sovereign and her Family will be spared what, even at the best, amounts to something like a painful jar, should it prove upon the present occasion that we can, without difference of opinion, go forward with this offering in our hands, and lay it at the foot of the Throne, adding to it our fervent prayer to the Disposer of all Events that the marriage which is about to be con- tracted, as it has been founded on right principles of mutual attachment, may be crowned with all the happiness of which such a union ought to be both the pledge and the fulfilment. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving Resolutions."That Her Majesty be enabled to secure to Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, in case she shall survive His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, an annual sum not exceeding Six Thousand Pounds during her life, to support her Royal dignity."
The Resolutions having been formally proposed,
I rise, Sir, to second the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I feel sure that he did not assume too much when he said that the marriage announced in Her Majesty's gracious Message has afforded great gratification to the House and to the country generally. These are not clays when dynastic alliances much affect the fate of nations; but, at the same time, we cannot but rejoice that the friendly feeling which exists between the two countries will be cemented afresh by this alliance. With respect to the amount proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, I think that the terms in which he has alluded to it are amply justified. Had the right hon. Gentleman proposed even a larger amount than he has thought proper to do. I feel certain that this House would cheerfully have granted it. At the same time, in those matters we look to the direction and guidance of the Government, and I feel satisfied that in proposing the amount the right hon. Gentleman has done on the part of the Government, he has had due regard to all the circumstances of the case. I can only echo the sentiments which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed, and hope that this alliance between these two Illustrious Houses may be followed not only by the happiness of the principal parties concerned—His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Marie—but that it will give satisfaction to Her Majesty and to the other Members of the Royal Family.
said: Sir, although a very humble Member of this House, I have thought it my duty to rise to protest against the proposition made by Her Majesty's Government, as being unwarranted by precedent, and wholly uncalled for, by the circumstances of the case. ["Oh, oh!"] I can only say—and I say it with a sincerity that I think ought to find credit even in the minds of those who disagree with me—that it is a painful thing to me that I cannot respond to the appeal of the Prime Minister. ["Oh, oh!"] I am by no means so fond of standing alone or of occupying an unpopular position, and nothing but a deep sense of duty compels me to take the decision of the House upon this question. I have been informed by the highest authority that it is most in accordance with precedent and the custom of the House that any opposition to a Vote of this nature should take place not at the present stage, but on the second reading of the Bill that will be brought in. I am quite aware that those who agree with me are few in number, and may be a small minority, and it is neither my inclination, nor would it be morally right in me to attempt any factious opposition to the measure. I therefore content myself with giving Notice that on the second reading of the Bill I shall raise a discussion, and take the sense of the House upon it.
On a former occasion some statement was made to the House by the Government with reference to the religious convictions of the Illustrious parties. ["Oh!"] I know that it will be in accordance with the feelings of a large number of persons that some communication should be made to the House on that subject; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to do so. ["Oh! Oh!"]
It may be well, because other persons may fall into the same misunderstanding as the hon. Member has fallen into, that I should say that the Constitution of this country does not, as a general rule, investigate those matters connected with personal religious convictions, either within the precincts of the Royal Family or out of it. It is quite true that under the Act of Succession security is taken against the possession of the British Throne by a person professing a particular religion. That security is taken, not on the ground of what is properly religious in that religion, but on account of political dangers which were conceived—and I hope I will offend no one if I say rightly conceived—to attend the profession of that religion when the Act was passed, in conjunction with the occupation of the British Throne. That was the ground, I apprehend, beyond all doubt, of the Act of Settlement. That being so, it is obvious that the question of the hon. Gentleman goes beyond that ground; and if I were to undertake to answer it I would be forming a precedent for an investigation which, in my opinion, would be equally odious in itself as it would be wholly unjustifiable. I hope, and believe, that what the House of Commons intends to do is to respect religious convictions wherever it finds them; and, at the same time, I trust that I do not very far deviate front the principles which I have laid down in this instance, when I express my confident belief and expectation, from the nature of the arrangements that are in course of being made upon this occasion, that the marriage about to be contracted will be productive of no difficulties whatever, and will in every respect be found to give satisfaction to the country.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to concur with those Members of the House who think that the Question of the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire (Mr. Holt) is anomalous and unusual. I beg to remind the House that on the occasion of our being asked to make provision for Her Majesty upon her marriage, and also upon the occasion of the marriage of the Prince of Wales, questions analogous to that of my hon. Friend were put. I hold in my hand the reply of Lord Palmerston, to whom on one of these occasions I put the Question, after consultation with that noble Lord. Although on this occasion we are providing for the happiness of a Member of the Royal Family who is not the Heir Apparent, still I think that the question of my hon. Friend, seeing that the children of this marriage might possibly become Heirs Apparent to the Throne, is quite justifiable and ought to be answered.
asked what day the second reading of the Bill to carry the Resolutions into effect would be taken?
replied that at the present period of the Session, in accordance with precedent, they proposed to proceed with the Bill de die in diem. The Second Reading would be made the first Order for to-morrow.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
Post Office (Balances)—Telegraphic Department—Misappropriation Of Funds—Resolution
, in rising to move—
said, that no one knew more than he did the great advantages the public derived from the services of the Post Office. He was sure he only spoke the feelings of the House when he said in the words of the Committee of Public Accounts, that the organization of the Department was admirable and its administration skilful. It afforded the maximum of advantage to the public, and returned to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the maximum amount of money compatible with the duties it had to perform. Having said so much, he only regretted that he should have to complain of irregularities committed by any person connected with the Post Office. In laying the history of the case before the House he preferred to quote the language of those better qualified than himself to express an opinion on it. He might cite the language of the Committee on Public Accounts, he might cite the language of the special Commissioners appointed by the Treasury to inquire into the matter, or that of the Committee on Public Accounts; but he would rather quote words, which could not be gainsaid, used by the Government itself in their description of the offence. A Bill brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary of the Treasury—persons who were not likely to state the case higher against themselves than needs be—aud which was read a second time last so that the Preamble might be deemed to have received the assent of the House, contained those words, the like of which certainly could not be found in the records of Parliament—"That this House, having considered the Reports of the Select Committee of Public Accounts, records its disapproval of the conduct of the Post Office in respect of the misappropriation of balances therein mentioned; and is of opinion that the control of the Treasury over the Post Office as a Revenue Department having proved inadequate for the earlier detection and rectification of such irregularities requires to be more watchfully exercised,"
Well, this Preamble was his case. Was there ever a stronger case put before the House? If possible, two observations which he had to make would lead it still stronger. First, it was not a single act of the Treasury or any Government official; it was not a matter which came upon them by surprise; it was not a matter done in one month and settled in the next. It was not an act which the Treasury could not have discovered at the proper time, nor was it a mere inadvertence; but it was a deliberate and wilful misapplication, going on for a long time, of moneys which should have gone front one fund to another. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his examination before the Committee, said—"Whereas by the Telegraph Act, 1869, and the Telegraph Money Act, 1871, the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, in this Act referred to as the Treasury, were authorized to raise for the purposes of the said Acts any sum or sums of money not exceeding in the whole eight million pounds.… and whereas an estimated sum of about £812,800, part of the Post Office revenue which ought to have been paid into the Consolidated Fund, has been improperly expended for the purposes of the said Telegraph Acts, and it is necessary that funds should be provided to make good to the said Fund the sum so improperly diverted from it."
when the the right hon. Gentleman said "but" there was sure to be something coming—and he went on to say—"The distinction that I should take would not be so, much as to the quantity of the loan that remained to be paid the money still due to them, as to their going on knowingly and wilfully to do it. I can conceive that it may have been possible for them to have got to this £200,000 without being aware that they had exceeded; and considering the largeness of the transactions, and the great allowance that ought to be made for an office like the Post Office, struggling with a new subject like this, I would be disposed myself to look leniently on anything of the kind, even to a large amount; but—"
The sum had now grown to £812,800. Secondly, it would have been bad enough had it been a case of applying money urgently needed for the service of the year in excess of the annual Vote; but it was the deliberate pursuance of a policy of improperly spending the money in hand on capital account, practically putting Parliament aside, instead of waiting for its sanction for further capital. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose examination might be regarded as a kind of Confessional Unmasked said upon this point—"where there is no reasonable excuse to be offered is, I think, that after being aware that they had exceeded the sum by £200,000, as stated in the letters and memoranda, they should then go on to take £700,000 (£812,800); I am really not aware what excuse can be offered for that."
There were thus two aggravating circumstances—the Act was a deliberate and continuous policy, and the money was not for the ordinary service of the year. It would naturally be asked how the money was obtained? Now, the Post Office, in addition to its postal business, issued money orders, collected money for the Revenue, and received Savings Bank deposits, thus having large sums of money which ought to be applied as soon as conveniently could be done to certain accounts. Its balance in hand was generally£160,000, a portion of this, however, being balances outstanding in the various post-offices in the kingdom, while the bills sent up by postmasters had sometimes a little time to run. The actual balance was kept in one account at the Bank of England, and as regarded the postal business, the entire receipts had to be made over to the Treasury, all the expenditure being met by the Votes of Parliament. As to the telegraphic receipts, the 19th section of the Telegraph Act directed that the gross revenue should be paid into the Exchequer to the account of the Consolidated Fund, and that the expenses incurred with the sanction of the Treasury, in working, maintaining, or extending the Telegraphs, should be paid out of the moneys to be voted by Parliament. The Act establishing Savings Banks empowered the Post Office, with the sanction of the Treasury, to regulate the transfer of the deposits to the National Debt Commissioners, in order that they might bear interest, and save the State the loss which would accrue if they remained in the hands of the Postmaster General. Such regulations were accordingly issued, the effect being that the transfers were to be based on summaries of the daily receipts and withdrawals, compiled in the Money Order Office and forwarded by the Controller of the Savings Bank Department to the Receiver and Accountant General. At first a weekly transfer would be sufficient; but if a daily transfer were required, it could readily be made. That was an excellent rule for carrying on the Post Office Savings Bank. The money was to be handed in weekly, and the rule contemplated the time when there should be a daily transfer from the Savings Bank to the National Debt Commissioners. Now, the Act of Parliament which enabled them to make these rules had an express Proviso that these rules should be laid before Parliament. The rules were divided into two parts—public rules and rules with regard to internal arrangements. For some reason they laid before Parliament those rules which related to the public, but not those which related to the internal administration of the Savings Bank; and, unfortunately, he thought, for this case, among the rules not laid before Parliament was the rule requiring transfers to be made in the way he had pointed out. What was the consequence? When he came to deal with the relations between the Treasury and the Post Office, they would see how the fact of the Treasury not laying these rules before Parliament affected this case. They not only broke the rule, but did away with it, and made another rule. Instead of weekly balances, paid over by the Post Office Savings Bank to the National Debt Commissioners, they said "the gross collection should be paid over as frequently as may be desirable." From the breaking down of that rule, which ought to have been carried out, a great deal of the mischief now complained of had practically arisen. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: What is the date?] The 13th of September, 1861. What had been the result? The transfers to the National Debt Commissioners in 1862 amounted to 55; but when they came to the time of the Telegraph Service the transfers became gradually less; and instead of 55, as in 1862, the transfers were in 1871 16, and in 1872 only 13. Looking to the balances kept in hand, the difference appeared still more striking. In 1862 the first balance kept in hand was £12,000; in 1863 the balance kept in hand was £15,000; but when they came to the formation of the Telegraph Service there was a sudden jump. Instead of £12,000 or £15,000, the average monthly balance kept in hand was in 1870, £119,000; in 1871, £264,000; in 1872, £268,000; and when they came to the disclosures now made, the balances held in hand were something like the enormous sum of £430,000. Of that sum the Post Office was the trustee; and by the mode in which it had been treated considerable loss had been occasioned to the Savings Bank funds. So far as the Treasury Commissioners made out, the result of the transactions of the Post Office in this matter had been a loss to the Savings Bank funds in interest to the extent of £5,000. It had not affected the security of the depositors in the Savings Bank, because they had a guarantee for their money; but the loss to the Savings Bank funds in interest amounted to £5,000 a-year. He had rather understated than overstated the facts; but, he asked, did not these facts appear practically to bear out his Motion? Of course, there remained in the background the question of who was responsible for this state of things? He thought the House was quite clear that this was a bad state of things, and that it ought never to have existed. If proper control had been exercised on persons in the employ of the Post Office and the Treasury such a state of things never could have existed. Something had been said of the responsibility of the Audit Office. He was not going at length into that matter, which had been gone into very fully by the Commissioners of the Treasury; and what they said was that at that time the Audit Office had not the power of going into the audit of anything spent on the capital account, although their attention might probably have been called to the reduced amount of money paid over to the National Debt Commissioners. But there was a sum of £382,000 which was placed to Revenue in the Spring of 1872 which did immediately attract their notice, and they called the attention of the Public Accounts Commissioners to it. They said it ought to have gone to capital account. It was practically through the Audit Office that the true scent was given and followed up. So far as the National Debt Commissioners were concerned, they had nothing to do with the Telegraph money—although they might have been surprised, supposing the Post Office, a very improving office, that so very little money came into their hands—but they had only to receive the money that was paid to them—whether the amount was the right amount or not was a question for other hands. They had no means of finding out anything in the shape of misappropriation of balances, or tracing it in any way, before the money came into their hands. Who then was responsible? He would first consider very shortly the case of the Post Office itself. By the 14th section of the Act of 1868, which enabled the first loan of £8,000,000 to be raised, the stock so created was directed to be placed in the Bank of England to the account of the National Debt Commissioners; the Postmaster General was to draw the money from the Bank of England, and was responsible for it. In 1870 the Act was passed to extend the Telegraph to the Isle of Man and other places; but in 1871 rather an extraordinary matter occurred, to which he must call attention for a moment. It was found in 1871 that more money would be wanted. When the Government came to balance up in March, instead of having spent £7,000,000, they had overspent that sum by £200,000 or £300,000. The balance was only made up at the Post Office at the end of 10 or 11 weeks. The result was the Post Office applied for more money. One would have thought the Postmaster General would have been the person to communicate with the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon a question of money; but, instead, the officials of the Post Office, without, in the first instance, saying a word to the Postmaster General, wrote, not to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but to the Controller of the National Debt Office, Sir Alexander Spearman. Why should the underlings of the Post Office do that? The best advice Sir Alexander Spearman could have given would have been "Consult your own superior;" but he referred them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The matter was laid before Parliament, which in that year granted £1,000,000. So ended 1871. He now came to 1872. Early in March in that year the Committee on Public Accounts traced the application to Revenue of the £382,000 which ought to have gone to the capital account. Mr. Scudamore had said in 1871 he should be able to show that the Department was on the eve of fulfilling its promises to Parliament and the public, and yet in 1872 he found himself in this financial difficulty. He communicated with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose private secretary, Mr. Rivers Wilson, wrote to Mr. Scudamore asking for further information as to what would be required. In reply, on the 20th of March, 1872, Mr. Scudamore sent a memorandum stating that £8,000,000 had been granted by Parliament and rather less than £8,200,000 laid out—£6,640,000 in purchases and £1,500,000 in re-arrangements and renewals. He went on to say that the arrangements to be completed were of very little moment, and that the extensions which remained to be carried out were very inconsiderable; that an additional outlay of from £100,000 to £150,000 would meet the requirements of the service; that the capital account might be closed at the end of the coming financial year; that a Report would be in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in two or three weeks; and that, in addition to the further sums required on capital account, a Supplementary Vote of from £120,000 to £130,000 would be required for the working expenses of the year. Mr. Scudamore on the same day wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and referring to a letter written in June, 1871, and to the Act of Parliament, and the application made by the Department for a portion of the sum authorized to be raised by the Act, said he now began to see that the sum authorized to be raised would be required before the termination of the financial year to make good the sum which had been expended, and that, in fact, the sum of £400,000 would be required to make good the sums expended in the purchase. The capital account up to that time had never been properly stated, but Mr. Scudamore said that it was in course of preparation; that a good deal of it was in the printer's hands; and that it would be laid before the Committee on Public Accounts. That was in March. Autumn came, November and December passed, but no capital account was presented; and it was not until 1873 that the capital account was finally made out, and a great deficit was discovered. Must it not be held that the Post Office, in daily spending capital and saying nothing about it, had been guilty of a grievous neglect of duty? He could not help saying that Mr. Scudamore's zeal had greatly overrun his discretion in the management of this matter. In his examination Mr. Scudamore said it was entirely through his labours that the difficulties bad been overcome, and that the irregularities only were remembered. He now came to another part of the case. It was desirable to find out who was responsible for the manner in which the Post Office had acted. No doubt the mischief in this ease had arisen from the fact that the whole management was left to Mr. Scudamore without any proper supervision being exercised over him; but if the officers of the Post Office were to be left to themselves, to do exactly what they liked, what was the use of a Postmaster General? The Treasury Commission, who went carefully into the subject, laid down the duties of the Postmaster General in these terms"The money exhausted was not a Vote in Supply, but a loan authorized by Act of Parliament, and when that was expended there was only one legal and constitutional course—that is, to go to Parliament for a fresh loan. The inference that because a loan was exhausted payments must be made from the balances is so far from being inevitable that it never entered into the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor of any person in the Treasury, that such a course could possibly be contemplated. The reason is plain. A necessity for money does exist in the case of ordinary expenditure for the daily business of a Department, but not for capital expenditure, which cart, and therefore ought to, wait till money has been legally provided for it."
Therefore the Postmaster General was bound to look to the efficiency of the Post Office Service, and if there were irregularities he was responsible to the House for them. It might fairly be asked whether the Postmaster General had actual personal knowledge of what was going forward, or whether it was purposely concealed from him? The pre- sent Postmaster General was appointed early in 1871. Seeing that the Telegraphs had just been transferred to the Post Office, which was entrusted with £8,000,000 of money, he ought on his appointment to have made inquiry as to the state of the accounts; and when in June, 1871, it was found that the Post Office had overspent the money voted by several hundreds of thousands of pounds, and was obliged to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a further loan of £1,000,000, it was his bounden duty to have made himself fully acquainted with the state of the facts at that time. When Mr. Scudamore was asked if a letter which had been written was communicated to the Postmaster General, he stated that the circumstance was communicated to him before the letter was sent, and that a fair copy was afterwards laid before him, and that he made no comment either of approval or disapproval, probably believing that the matter was one for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with which he need not concern himself. At all events, that was a warning to the right hon. Gentleman that the Service required narrowly watching, and having been warned of this over-expenditure, it was his bounden duty to see that nothing of the kind happened again. The question was, whether the Postmaster General knew what occurred in the Spring of 1872, and whether he was cognizant then of the fact that the Post Office had overspent itself in 1871, and had incurred a further expenditure of £200,000 in March, 1872? At all events, after the warnings of 1871 and 1872, the right hon. Gentleman ought to have exercised great discretion and judgment in carrying on the business of the Post Office. Was the Postmaster General aware in March, 1872, of the correspondence which was passing between Mr. Scudamore, Mr. Rivers Wilson, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Why, it was clear that at that time the Postmaster General had distinct notice from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this correspondence had taken place."The Postmaster General as the head of the Department is responsible for its constitution and efficient administration, and, under the rule which governs every other Department of the State, the permanent officers of the Post Office can have no authority independently of him. The Secretaries give directions in his name and under his authority, and though in a large Department like the Post Office they must often act upon their own judgment; they only do so with his permission."
This overspending of £200,000 of the public money without authority was no light matter; and yet the letters which had passed between the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Postmaster General, Mr. Rivers Wilson, and Mr. Scudamore had all been lost with the exception of one small scrap of the correspondence, and both the Postmaster General and. Mr. Scudamore had entirely forgotten this letter. The Postmaster General, in his evidence, said he presumed the reply must have been satisfactory to him, because he had never mentioned the matter to Mr. Tilley, whom he always consulted when a difficult question arose, and because it had not aroused his attention to the matter. It was not surprising, if the correspondence of the Post Office was conducted with this want of regularity and order, that these irregularities had taken place. There was another extraordinary matter which strengthened the whole ease against the Postmaster General. The correspondence having gone on for some time, the whole matter was fully inquired into, and in 1873 Mr. Scudamore brought up a memorandum, which was forwarded to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, accompanied by a note from the Postmaster General. In that note the Postmaster General tells the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he regrets very much that the Treasury had not been consulted as to the expenditure of the capital account, and that the proper forms had not been drawn."I had forgotten," said Mr. Scudamore, "that this note had been sent to me but I find I sent a reply to Mr. Rivers Wilson on the 21st of March, I have no doubt, however, that I told the Postmaster General what I told the Chancellor of the Exchequer."
This clearly showed that the Post Office authorities were not aware of the real nature of the transaction. They were not aware how grievous an error they were committing by applying the balances in the way they did. No doubt they thought that, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had whitewashed them in 1871 and. 1872, he would go on whitewashing them. Having disposed of the case of the Postmaster General, he would now say a word about the Treasury. The same Act of Parliament which gave the loan said it was to be disposed of according to the order of the Postmaster General, with the sanction of the Treasury. Now, if the Postmaster General chose to allow his subordinates to correspond with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to waive his own authority, he could not expect the business of his Department to be well carried on. If, on the other hand, the Chancellor of the Exchequer interfered with the business of the Postmaster General, he could not expect that it would be carried on as efficiently as it ought to be. It was singular that the Financial Secretary of the Treasury was never mentioned in the correspondence, and that the Treasury Accountant did not vouch for the accuracy of any of the accounts. The Postmaster General gave evidence before the Public Accounts Committee to show how badly the interference of the Chancellor of the Exchequer worked. The right hon. Gentleman had some plan for the better investment of the savings of the poorer inhabitants of the country, and this was mentioned to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. One would have thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after taking the subject into consideration, would have framed some regulations in regard to it, and sent them to the Postmaster General for his approval. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer did no such thing. He consulted Mr. Scudamore, and a code of regulations was drawn up, and was in force for several months before the Postmaster General had any sort of idea of the matter. Under the Act of 1869 the Treasury was responsible for seeing this money was properly applied. If the two Departments were connected the Treasury ought to keep a sharp eye on the Post Office, because it was practically a Revenue Department. In 1871 Mr. Scudamore informed the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Post Office owed the Exchequer £330,000 for Telegraphs, and other large sums to their own balances, and that he could not state that the sum then asked for would be all that would be required, nor could he state the precise limits of future requirements. Did not that give the Chancellor of the Exchequer fair warning that in 1871 it was a dangerous service, and that more money had been expended than ought to have been? On the 26th of July in that year the Telegraph Bill was brought in. It passed through all its stages without a word of explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Post- master General, or the Financial Secretary of the Treasury, although a full explanation ought to have been given after the full warning which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had received. He received another warning in 1872. In that year he was made aware that another sum of £200,000 more than ought to have been spent was being expended. The right hon. Gentleman knew that the balances of the capital account had never been rendered. He had asked for them two or three times; but he had allowed himself to be hoodwinked, and they never were rendered, until the discovery was made by the Committee on Public Accounts in 1873. In point of fact, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had interfered where he ought not to have interfered, and he had never consulted the Postmaster General where he ought to have consulted him, thus practically taking upon himself the whole responsibility. The Postmaster General ought to have discovered what was going on from the Savings Bank balances, for how could such a stun as £430,000 be allowed to remain in the Bank, when £50,000 would have been quite sufficient for all the requirements of the service? In submitting the present Motion to the House, he (Mr. Cross) maintained that every word it contained was true. He asked the House to affirm nothing that was not contained either in the Report of the Treasury Commissioners, or the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts. But he was not content to rest his case either on one or the other; he rested it on the evidence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, and every word of his Resolution was taken practically from the evidence given before the Committee of Public Accounts by the right hon. Gentleman. He asked the House—"Forms!" exclaims the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his evidence, "it is no question of 'forms.' How could the Post Office suppose that by going through any number of 'forms' the Treasury could have sanctioned such proceedings?"
This word "misappropriation" was used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer no less than four times in his evidence. He was asked the following question:—"Having considered the Reports of the Select Committee of Public Accounts, to record its disapproval of the conduct of the Post Office in respect of the misappropriation of the balances therein mentioned."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer properly and wisely replied—"I quite agree with that." The House was asked by his Resolution to disapprove, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had disapproved, the conduct of the Post Office in respect of the misappropriation of balances. Then the Resolution went on to say that the House—"We (the Committee) go on to say, so far as those balances consist of Savings Bank deposits, such dealings must be held to amount to misappropriation of a peculiarly serious character."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave three answers before the Committee, in which he admitted that this was his own opinion. In answer to Question 2,085, he said—"Is of opinion that the control of the Treasury over the Post Office as a Revenue Department having proved inadequate for the earlier detection and rectification of such irregularities, requires to be more watchfully exercised."
He was asked again (Question 2,060)—Why, no answer having been received from Mr. Scudamore, the matter was allowed to run on till the month of March, 1873? The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied—"In candour, I am bound to say that I think we were to blame in that respect." A third time he was asked (Question 2,063)—"I am afraid that in the multiplicity of affairs our attention was not directed to that as it ought to have been. I frankly admit that."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied—"I think so; that censure is just." If these were the words of the right hon. Gentleman, how could the House refuse to go as far as he himself went? He was told—although he could hardly credit the rumour—that the Government were not willing to accept his Amendment, but that they had resolved to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock); but the Motion and the Amendment, though they differed in words, were in substance the same. Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer appoint a Committee to consider what was the difference between the two? He regretted that the House had not got before it at the same time two or three other Reports from Committees on the state of matters at the Treasury. If the terms of his Motion were true, why should not the House accept it? If untrue, he was ready to strike out any portion of it. It was the duty of that House, where a fault had been committed, to put its finger on the blot. Here the fault was with the Post Office and the Treasury, and the House was bound to do what it could to stop such practices for the future. The real meaning of the Amendment was that, although the House was sorry for what had happened, it would not blame anyone, and that some further alteration was required in the law to prevent a repetition of such proceedings. But everything that had happened might have been prevented without any alteration of the law if the Post Office and the Treasury had exercised a proper control. He abided by his Resolution; and if, as he believed, it was true, he trusted that the House would affirm it. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution."You agree, then, with what is suggested in the 171st paragraph of the Treasury Commissioners' Report—'It may be questioned, indeed, whether the Treasury did not trust too implicitly to the Post Office, and whether it sufficiently exercised its right of control?'"
in seconding the Motion, said: I cannot, Sir, regard this as a party question, and I have agreed to second this Motion, because I consider it to be a question removed from all party considerations. I cannot understand how the Public Business can be carried on if this House declines to express its opinion when such transactions as those referred to by the hon. Member opposite have taken place. I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said as to the conduct of the Post Office. I think that the cause of the whole difficulty is that the Postmaster General has allowed his subordinates to do his work. If he had really conducted the business of his Office himself, these things would not have happened, for he would have remonstrated against the misappropriation of balances, and he would have insisted on a stop being put to these irregularities. Mr. Chetwynd, the Receiver and Accountant General of the Post Office, has given evidence before the Committee of Public Accounts, which throws much light on the conduct of the Office. At p. 185 of the last Report, he says, that early in 1871 he knew that "a large sum was due from the Telegraphs to the Post Office;" and, at p. 131, he says he told Mr. Scudamore "that we were making large advances;" or, in other words, large sums were being spent out of Post Office revenue and out of Savings Banks balances, to forward the Telegraphs. Mr. Scudamore again admits that he spent the money "knowingly," and he says he informed the Postmaster General in January, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in June, 1871. I wish to refer again to the letter of 3rd June, 1871, for the language used in it was well calculated to arouse the suspicions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. After saying that they wanted £610,000, and that they owed of it £330,000 to the Exchequer "for Telegraph revenue," Mr. Scudamore says, "the remainder we owe to our other balances." Now, the Chancellor must be supposed to know what "other balances" there were, and I think he ought at once to have made inquiry. As to the Post Office officials, it is quite plain they did not desire to be very specific, for (p. 111), Mr. Scudamore says he could not have got through the work if he had informed the Treasury beforehand and got their consent to everything. This, in my opinion, is the root of the whole matter. Mr. Scudamore, in his zeal and eagerness, has done what he had no sort of right to do, and he did not obtain the sanction from the proper authorities which he was bound to obtain. We get a further insight into the Post Office from Answers (1650 and 1659) of Mr. Chetwynd, where he tells us, on being asked why he had not paid the money over to the National Debt Commissioners which he knew was clue to them, that he could not pay it because he had got no money, his superior officers having ordered him to pay over all the money he had in other ways. When asked why he did not tell the Postmaster General, his reply was, that there was no occasion, as the "fact was patent." When we consider such. a state of things as is thus disclosed, the most extraordinary thing is that the Postmaster General could endure his position, and consent to be set on one side—his own Secretary writing to the Treasury independently of him, and as though he were of no account. If the right hon. Gentleman had asserted his authority, he would not have heard the disagreeable things which are now said of him, or been placed in the difficult position in which he now is. When we turn from the Post Office to the National Debt Commissioners, the only excuse for them is, that their Chief was in a bad state of health when these things were going on. If he had made inquiry, he would have seen at once, from the state of the balances, that something was wrong. The best proof of this is that, within a week of the appointment of a new Chief, a large sum of money was paid over. It seems to be agreed on all hands that the Post Office was wrong; but, when we speak of Mr. Scudamore, who says he alone is responsible, we find that he is not responsible, as only the head of the Department can be. We naturally turn to the Treasury, and we find in Q. 1302 an excellent definition by Mr. Welby of what the responsibility of the Treasury is. He lays it down in the strongest terms, and accepting his definition, I hold that we cannot exonerate the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have read the letter of 3rd June, 1871, by which he had warning; but, in August, 1871, he passed an Act which really endorsed the then past acts of the Post Office in spending public money without the authority of the Treasury. Nothing more was done till March, 1872, and then the Chancellor was informed that yet more money would be wanted. At p. 96 of this Report, you will find a letter from Mr. Rivers Wilson, stating that the Chancellor was "surprised and alarmed;" but nothing more was done. It seems clear that then, at any rate, the suspicions of the Chancellor ought to have been aroused; but the Treasury did nothing, except ask for a capital account time after time. So matters went on till March, 1873, when the Report of the Committee aroused the attention of everyone. I cannot admit the excuse of the Treasury—that they thought everything was right, and did not suspect anyone. It is the duty of the Treasury to look most watchfully after the finances of the country; and if, in such a case, they did not suspect that something was wrong, I think they failed in the performance of their duty. One thing alone ought to have aroused their suspicions. They might have contrasted the statements of the Savings Banks balances with former statements, and then they would have seen that something was irregular. I wish to avoid giving pain by personal remarks. Probably no one in the House regrets what has occurred more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer does. But the House has a duty to discharge independently of personal feeling, and I feel that every part of the Resolution is justified. The Amendment seems to me to be, in substance, exactly the same as the Resolution, though the Amendment may have more of the smoothness of butter than the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman may, perhaps, say of the hon. Member (Mr. Cross) that, though his words are smooth, there is war in his heart. At all events, there is no war in my heart. Looking at the subject independently of party considerations, I cannot but regret that the Government has not accepted the Motion, instead of having an Amendment moved which really means nothing new, and is only calculated to blind the eyes of the public.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That this House, having considered the Reports of the Select Committee of Public Accounts, records its disapproval of the conduct of the Post Office in respect of the misappropriation of balances therein mentioned; and is of opinion that the control of the Treasury over the Post Office as a Revenue Department having proved inadequate for the earlier detection and rectification of such irregularities requires to be more watchfully exercised."—(Mr. Cross.)
on rising to move, as an Amendment—
said, the subject which the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) had brought before the House was one of great public importance, and he felt that he had undertaken a grave responsibility in asking the House to assent to the terms of his Amendment rather than those of the original Motion; but he hoped to show the House that notwithstanding what was said by his hon. Friend opposite, there was a great difference between the Amendment and the Motion. Fortunately, although the subject was very intricate, and there were some points even now not entirely cleared up, still, thanks to the care with which the Committee of Public Accounts had investigated the question, and to their very lucid Report, the main facts of the case were clearly before the House. No one, he believed, in the House had any desire to under-rate the gravity of the irregularities which had occurred. It was most serious that nearly £1,000,000 of public money should have been spent without the sanction of Parliament, without the consent of the Treasury, and even without the knowledge of the head of the Department responsible for the expenditure. That such a state of things should be possible was a strong argument for those who considered that Government ought, as far as possible, to avoid entering into commercial and manufacturing undertakings. Fortunately; in the present case there had been no fraud. They had to complain of excessive zeal for the public service, and too little regard to necessary checks and rules, but there was no question of personal dishonesty. Another time, however, they might be less fortunate, and it was surely, therefore, important that any Resolution which the House might pass should cover all those who had been to blame, and condemn everything which had been irregular. But before he proceeded to those points he must say that the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's Motion was somewhat ambiguous. It said that the control of the Treasury over the Post Office "having proved inadequate, requires to be more watchfully exercised." If the power of control proved inadequate, the inference was that it ought to be strengthened. Indeed, from one point of view, the Resolution might almost be regarded as an exculpation of the Treasury. Without, however, dwelling on a question of wording, it seemed to hint that in some important respects the Resolution of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire did not go far enough. He asked the House to record "its disapproval of the conduct of the Post Office in respect of the misappropriation of balances," omitting any reference to the fact that the expenditure itself was incurred without any Parliamentary sanction. But suppose Mr. Scudamore had made contracts for those extensions and carried them out on credit; there need then have been no misappropriation of balances, but would there have been nothing to complain of? The improper application of balances ought not to make the House lose sight of the other irregularity. He regretted the expenditure which had been incurred, not only on account of the manner in which the funds had been obtained, but also because that expenditure was incurred without the sanction of Parliament. The hon. Member asked the House to censure the Post Office and the Treasury; but there were others who were not free from blame in the matter. In the first place, the National Debt Office could not, he thought, be wholly acquitted. The Committee of Public Accounts reported that they ought to have observed the irregularity with which payments had been made, and especially the diminution in 1870 as compared with 1869. In fact, the present Controller, immediately after his appointment, in March last, wrote to the Postmaster General requiring an account, in consequence of which £430,000 was at once paid over. Indeed, one high authority, The Economist, considered that "the National Debt Office was, above everybody, to blame." Again, the Audit Office, as the Committee of Public Accounts pointed out, seemed also to have neglected its duties. The evidence on this point was most remarkable. Mr. Philips was asked by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish)—"That this House regrets to find, from the Reports of the Committee on Public Accounts, that the Post Office revenue and Savings Bank balances have been largely employed for the purposes of Telegraph capital expenditure without the authority of Parliament, and is of opinion that it is the duty of the Government to take effectual measures to prevent the recurrence of such a proceeding,"
To which Mr. Philips replied—"It was in abeyance long before that time." The Chairman of the Committee then said—"We understand that since the summer of 1870 the question of auditing the Savings Bank accounts has been in abeyance?"
Surely that was a very grave and unsatisfactory state of things. As regarded the Treasury, it must in justice be admitted that after the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been called in March, 1872, to the fact that Mr. Scudamore's powers were exhausted, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote four times to the Post Office for further information. Moreover, the general regulations which had been laid down by the Treasury had worked well, and the Treasury might urge that they could not have supposed that the distinct provisions of the Savings Bank Act would have been set aside, as appeared from the Report of the Select Committee and from the evidence of the Controller of the Savings Bank Department, without a word of notice to the Treasury, on the sole authority of the Post Office, he must in fairness add before the appointment of the, present Postmaster General. The Resolution of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire, moreover, would point to a more active interference on the part of the Treasury with the responsibilities of other Departments, a direction in which he was disposed to think they had gone far enough already. But, whatever blame might attach to the Audit Office, the National Debt Office, or the Treasury, for not having perceived what was being done, after all the Post Office, and particularly Mr. Scudamore, not only ought to have known, but did know, and were responsible for what the Government itself called "improperly diverting" funds to telegraphic purposes. As regarded the Post Office, however, it was one of the most remarkable things about this extraordinary affair, that they must detach the case as regarded Mr. Scudamore from that of the Postmaster General. He must say that the Postmaster General had grave reason to complain of his permanent Staff. No doubt much importance was to be attached to the principle of individual responsibility. It was desirable, and even necessary, to leave much power in the hands of the permanent officials; but he had always understood that it was an invariable practice, and, indeed, a fundamental rule in all Government Departments, that the permanent Staff kept their Chiefs well informed of everything of real importance. Not only was this required by that loyalty which ought to prevail in every office; but, considering the unremitting calls on the time of every Minister, he did not see how otherwise the business of the country could be carried on. Yet Mr. Scudamore and Mr. Chetwynd seemed to have kept their Chief studiously in the dark. Moreover, the communications between the Post Office and the Treasury should go through the Postmaster General; whereas it had for some time been the habit for the Secretary of the Post Office to communicate with the Treasury direct. If those communications had passed through the Postmaster it was probable that the present state of things would never have occurred. But, however that might be, the Committee of Public Accounts truly observed that the course adopted by Mr. Scudamore was"But you have continued to receive these monthly statements of balances?"—"We were bound to continue to receive them." "What have you done with them?"—"The accounts subsequent to the 31st of December, 1870, have not even been looked at. They have been received, but not looked at at all."
Mr. Scudamore urged that he always understood that the management of the Telegraph business was practically left in his hands; and he (Sir John Lubbock) believed that a large portion of the sum laid out had been absolutely required by the extension of business. Parliament itself must also, he thought, accept some share in the responsibility. In Mr. Scudamore's letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 3rd of June, 1871, he distinctly observed that a sum of £610,000 was required, £330,000 of which was due to the Exchequer for Telegraph revenue, and he added, "the remainder we owe to our other balances." Nevertheless, when the Telegraph Act was passed that year, not a word was said on the subject, and, though the amount was comparatively small, that did not affect the principle. He believed, also, that the House and the country would agree with the Committee on Public Accounts that"destructive of all control by Parliament or the Executive Government, and would be of disastrous precedent if unmarked by some expression of disapproval."
He had not the pleasure of knowing Mr. Scudamore, nor did he appear as his apologist. Mr. Scudamore had frankly taken the responsibility—"I did it," he said, "and I am alone responsible for it." No doubt he had committed a very grave error, and that it should pass unnoticed would be a national misfortune; but, if past services ought not to affect the verdict, they might at least weigh in the consideration of the terms in which it was couched. In conclusion, he could not help saying that between the different Departments of Government there seemed to be a want of that harmonious feeling which was so necessary in the public interest. The Resolution of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire appeared to him defective, inasmuch as it did not cover all those concerned, and expressed no condemnation of the large expendi- ture which had taken place without any Parliamentary sanction. Under these circumstances, without exculpating the Post Office, or the Treasury, or Mr. Scudamore, it seemed to him that the Amendment sufficiently met the case as regarded the past. With reference to the future, the Committee of Public Accounts, after going most carefully into the whole matter, had reported that when the alterations recommended in the Treasury Minute of the 28th of June last were brought into operation "the requisite checks may be considered to be secured." Under these circumstances, he could not but think that it would be sufficient to place on record a Resolution substantially adopting the views of the Committee, and expressing the regret of the House at the irregularities which had occurred. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment."The Post Office, speaking generally, seems to be admirably organized and skilfully administered; so that it goes far to combine the maximum of public accommodation with the maximum of gain to the Exchequer. Again, to the abilities and energy of Mr. Scudamore is mainly owing the introduction of the plan of a Government Telegraph Department, its rapid realization and effective working. Much must be excused to a public servant to whom individually the public must feel under obligation."
To leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "regrets to find, from the Reports of the Committee of Public Accounts, that the Post Office revenue and Savings Bank balances have been largely employed for the purposes of Telegraph capital expenditure without the authority of Parliament, and is of opinion that it is the duty of the Government to take effectual measures to prevent the recurrence of such a proceeding,"—(Sir John Lubbock,)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
Having been put in the front of the battle by the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross). I think it will be most respectful to the House to rise at once. I shall not endeavour to throw any responsibility properly belonging to me on another, and the House can hardly need my assurance that I recognize as fully as any man the gravity of the case, and their constitutional right and duty to watch in the most vigilant manner over every misappropriation of public money. The hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock)—and I am almost content to leave the case as he put it—mentioned that measures will be at once taken to prevent any repetition of the irregularities. Nobody can be more interested than I am in preventing the recurrence of anything of the sort; and I feel most strongly that it is the bounden duty of the House to prevent the possibility of any such occurrence. A man is a bad judge in his own case; but I do not think my conduct is so entirely indefensible as the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cross) thinks. It is not pleasant to sing one's own praises; but I feel bound to say that, as regards the Post Office branch of the Department, since I have had the honour to hold my present office no one has had any reason to complain of its administration. I believe the most important changes that have been made for years have been made during my tenure of office. Changes have been made to reduce largely the rate of postage and improve the parcels' post, and considerable steps have been taken in a matter to which a great many hon. Gentlemen concur with me in attaching the greatest interest—the getting, rid of postal subsidies. The money-order system has been developed to a considerable extent; and the country has derived great advantage from the extension of the Telegraph system. Where my responsibility was undivided, I paid the greatest attention not only to the matters I have referred to, but to their financial results. Returns were prepared by my direction to show from week to week and month to month the effect on the revenue of the changes I had made; and I cannot reproach myself with any negligence in that particular. But in the Telegraph Department my responsibility was not undivided. I hope to be able to satisfy the House that the circumstances of that Department were so peculiar as to afford me a justification. I took office in January, 1871, and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) was mistaken in attributing to me the receipt of a communication of prior date. At the time I entered on office many of the irregularities on which, in a proper spirit, the hon. Gentleman opposite has commented existed. Take the case of the regulations as to the mode of keeping the Telegraph accounts. They were founded on an Act of Parliament, and went on this principle—that the Telegraph capital money was to be kept strictly separate from the Post Office balances. It is obvious that, had that been done, none of these irregularities could have happened. I found, however, when I came into office, that large sums of money—I think as much as £500,000—had been transferred from the National Debt Commissioners, not to the Telegraph account, but to the Post Office balance. The money was removed from the stream in which it flowed in one direction and for one purpose, and was absorbed in that great vortex the Post Office account. The hon. Member for Cambridge referred to the balances of the Savings Bank branch. A month before I took office—in December, 1870—the balance which remained to be paid into the Exchequer from that branch was £178,545, while in December, 1869, it was only £24,395. In January, 1870, it was £243,000; and in January, 1871, it amounted to £444,241, nearly the largest sum ever reached. Very soon after this the amount which had been voted by Parliament had been exceeded by £500,000. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the exceptional position of Mr. Scudamore. Now, I must say with regard to that exceptional position, if the House will consider the work done by Mr. Scudamore, if it will consider that at the time when we purchased the Telegraphs, our Telegraph system was inferior to that of any other country, while it is now the first in the world, it will be inclined to look with not too much severity on the means by which those great results were gained. But who, I ask, placed Mr. Scudamore in that exceptional position? He was placed there by the Duke of Montrose, and maintained there by my noble Friend now Chief Secretary for Ireland. I found him in that position, and though I think it possible that a greater amount of superintendence over him would have been desirable, still I am perfectly convinced that unless he had been left in a position of much greater independence than ordinarily belongs to the permanent head of any Department, the country would not have had the benefit of the results produced by his extraordinary talents and exertions. From the time he took charge of the Savings Bank department, Mr. Scudamore was, I believe, in the habit of constantly communicating with the Treasury through Sir Alexander Spearman. The letter which has been referred to, Sir Alexander Spearman recommended should be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Unfortunately, without consulting me, Mr. Scudamore wrote directly to the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer, and from that letter the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cross) has quoted very largely. Mr. Scudamore undoubtedly did look to the Treasury as to his Chief for his Telegraph demands. That was the view he took of his position; and the difficulties which have arisen are very much owing to the fact that in the Telegraph department there was not that undivided responsibility that there was in other portions of the establishment. Mr. Scudamore, having been in communication with the Chancellor of the Exchequer once, looked to him afterwards; and it was because he did not look more to the head of his own Department, and keep him informed of all that occurred that these unfortunate difficulties have arisen. Mr. Scudamore's evidence before the Committee of Public Accounts clearly shows that direct communication between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretaries of the Post Office on financial matters has been the habit for many years. Hon. Gentlemen who have ever filled office must be perfectly aware that it is the universal practice in every public Department that when the political Chief of the Department is asked to sanction ally urgent work to be done, if it so happens that there are no funds to meet it, the fact is stated in a Minute to be presented to the Chief; and in no single instance was that done to me. I never was informed that there were no funds available for the purpose. I therefore venture to submit to the House that my position as regards the Telegraph portion of the Post Office was entirely different from my position as to the other departments of the Post Office. The hon. Member for Cambridge has referred to three letters addressed by the Treasury to the Postmaster General; but he omitted to state that it appears by the evidence that not one of those letters was ever shown to me. I was not informed of them till the matter came before the Committee of Public Accounts. I have already stated that I have nothing to complain of in the language used by the hon. Gentleman with reference to myself. I say at once that I regret very much indeed—I shall always regret—that my name should in any way have been mixed up with these unfortunate transactions; but I shall at the same time recollect the kindness with which I was received when I came forward to make my defence; and if hon. Gentlemen will only reflect on the simple explanation I have offered, and the difference that existed between the Telegraph department and every other department in the Post Office with reference to its Chief, they will find the key to the whole affair. I have only again to assure the House that I lament as much as anyone can do these occurrences; and it is to me the deepest source of regret that they should have happened while I had the honour of holding my present office. I do not know that it is necessary for me to detain the House further. I have frankly stated the causes which led to the present difficulties, and it has been my most earnest desire to enable the House to arrive at a just conclusion upon the whole matter. I thank the House most sincerely for the kindness with which they have received me.
said, he felt that the House had been exhausted by the very elaborate discussion which this matter had received; but, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, it was his duty to make a few remarks on the present occasion. He had felt the greatest anxiety in investigating the matter to arrive at not only a just but moderato conclusion. He was also anxious that his hon. Friend the Member for South-west Lancashire should, in his Motion and his line of debate not only be strictly within the terms of the Report of the Committee, but of the evidence which accompanied it. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) had complained that his hon. Friend had not alluded to two departments which, in his opinion, were in some degree to blame—the National Debt Commissioners and the Audit Office. Now, he thought his hon. Friend had done right in not mixing up the conduct of those two departments with this question, because the first was a department of the Treasury, with ample means of control existing in the Treasury over that department; and, because the case as against the Commissioners, so far as there was a case, should be left as stated in the Report. And his reasons for saying that the Audit Office was rightly left out of the question was that as these misappropriations occurred between March, 1872, and March, 1873, many months had yet to elapse before the appropriation accounts in respect of that year could come before it. For three years, however, the Auditor General had complained of the confusion that existed in those accounts. If he had any fault to find with the Motion of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire, it was because, it being couched in general terms, he had gone into too particular an analysis as to the relative amount of blame which ought to be attached to the various individuals mixed up in the transaction. Everyone must have listened with sympathy to the statement of the Postmaster General as to the difficult position in which he had been placed. Two years ago, when he entered office, these irregularities were in full swing, and it was impossible to apportion blame amongst the officers of the Post Office Department as stated in the Report, and which the Committee thought the most just mode of treating that portion of the subject. The words of the Motion of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire were not only true, but they were as moderate and reasonable as the House could desire them to be. If the House had a function at all, it was jealously to watch over the expenditure of money on a large scale without the authority of the House; and it had now been expended in one case without the authority of the Votes in Supply, and in the other without the authority of a money Bill. Could there be a greater farce than their spending the time they did to vote money in Committee of Supply, and hedging the issue of money around with so many securities, if, when a case of this kind occurred, and the authority of the House was so flagrantly disregarded, they fore-bore to place their disapproval on record? If there was a word in the Motion of his hon. Friend which was open to exception, it might be remedied; but he trusted that the House would prefer it to the Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone, which, although similar in its effect, was less decided in its language.
If there be no difference between the two Resolutions in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen, we prefer that of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock); and if hon. Gentlemen are indifferent they cannot object to it either. Therefore, let us come to a unanimous conclusion on the matter. I am afraid, however, hon. Gentlemen will discover some difference, and I am not sanguine as to my proposal being accepted. I am not here to argue the question polemically or to throw blame on anyone, but merely to offer explanations, with regard to the Department of the Treasury, to observations made in a fair and reasonable spirit. Having looked at these transactions with some attention and anxiety, I have the greatest pleasure in rendering a tribute of approbation to the manner in which this very difficult and delicate investigation of the Committee of Public Accounts was carried on; it was a most laborious, fair, and impartial inquiry, and it gives me great pleasure to make this acknowledgment. The words of the Motion of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) imply more than appears. It refers to the Reports of the Select Committee of Public Accounts, and expresses disapproval of the conduct of the Post Office in respect of the misappropriation of balances therein mentioned, and it implies that it was the duty of the Treasury to exercise its power so as to detect and rectify the misappropriation of balances, and calls upon them to do so. This is a very serious assertion to make, and unless it can be supported on fact ought not to be embodied as a Resolution of this House. Although it is quite right the Treasury should be censured for failing in the duties east upon them, it is equally undesirable they should be censured for failing in duties which really do not belong to them. Therefore, I must trouble the House with a few words upon the real duties of the Treasury. It is a Department having control over other Departments; but the word "control" implies, not that it is its duty to watch them and act the part of a detective towards them, but that whenever changes are made and difficulties occur and scandals are detected, it is the duty of the Treasury to devise regulations for meeting, correcting, and remedying them. In this sense only does it exercise control. It is impossible that it ever should or that it ought to watch over and inquire into the expenditure of the other Departments; it has no machinery for doing so; this was never considered its duty; and if it is to undertake it, the Department must be strengthened in numbers and have its organization remodelled. It would be a much more serious thing than censuring me, or any person connected with the Treasury, that the House should, under a mistake, censure the Treasury for not performing duties which really do not belong to it. As to what the duties of the Treasury are, I will quote a high authority—an answer given by Sir William Anderson before the Public Moneys Committee in 1856 in reply to Mr. James Wilson. The following are the Question and Answer:—
This I believe to be as exact a definition as it is possible to give of the ditties of the Treasury. [Mr. HUNT: Does that refer to the revenue or the spending Departments?] It is quite general; it applies to both the spending and the revenue Departments. There is no doubt of this—whenever a thing comes to the knowledge of the Treasury it is the duty of the Treasury to act upon it. If, for instance, as frequently occurs, a Department should report irregularities, it is the duty of the Treasury to act by making fresh arrangements. If it should find something going wrong in a Department, it is then the duty of the Treasury to act; but the Treasury is not bound to exercise a strict surveillance or watch over the other Departments, nor is it provided with the machinery for doing so. This is a distinction I wish to impress upon the House. Therefore, it is not the practice of the Treasury to take precautions to see that any regulations it makes are worked by a Department; it is always assumed that the Department for which the regulations are made will give its co-operation, and the Treasury does not interfere or inquire whether its regulations are being complied with. For instance, in 1861, when Post Office Savings Banks were introduced, the Treasury made rules and regulations, and under the Duke of Montrose, in 1868, these were set aside without the Treasury knowing anything of it. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: That was made known in a document laid on the Table of the House.] I cannot say whether that is so; but it was not actually known to the Treasury, nor was their consent invited. In 1854 an Act was passed providing for the payment of the whole revenue into the Exchequer; regulations were made by the Treasury for all these Departments; and these regulations are in force, and have hitherto worked satisfactorily. This being the state of the case, I quite admit that the Treasury is bound to act if anything comes to its knowledge, and to exercise control. Therefore, the whole question we have to put before the House resolves itself into this—Was there anything in the state of affairs detailed to the House which should have made the Treasury suspect anything so strange as that a trusted and highly-placed officer of great standing should have fallen into such an irregularity? I fearlessly say there was not; and if the House will favour me with its attention for a few moments I will prove that to be so. We had no Report on the subject; there was nothing given to us; and if we were to blame it was in this—that we had good and reasonable grounds for suspicion, not that more money was spent than the exact sum that was appropriated for the service, but suspicion that there was something wrong in the matter, and that money was being wilfully diverted from its purpose. What grounds were there for that? In the first place, one ground would have been if we had found that the revenue did not correspond with the estimate—if it had fallen much short of the estimate, and there had been nothing in the state of trade, or anything else to account for it. That would have been a reasonable ground for suspicion. But it so happens that, although there was a slight fall in the revenue in 1870, in 1871 it exceeded the estimate by £100,000, and so it did also in 1872. Whether that was a matter of accident or not I do not know; but there was nothing in the issues to attract our attention in that direction. Then we come to 1871, about which so much has been said. Mr. Scudamore then acted in a manner peculiarly calculated to disarm suspicion. He came to us with the utmost promptitude; he came as soon—even sooner—than the matter was discovered, because he spoke of £600,000 as the amount that had been exceeded, when in fact there was £300,000 of the money borrowed under the Acts which had not been expended. That cut down the amount to £300,000; and when we came to investigate, we found that it had been reduced to £235,000, which was the whole of the excess on this account. But we thought nothing of it. As I said before the Committee, there was nothing to excite suspicion, because the sums were large; the accounts were not, and could not, be kept up to the time for which the estimates were made; there was a good deal of conjecture, and no one knew exactly how the thing stood. It would have been unjust and unfair if at that time we had cherished suspicion against an eminent public servant like Mr. Scudamore. We have heard condonation talked of. I think there was nothing to condone. It was a thing likely to happen unless we could exactly adapt the expenditure—which was almost impossible—so as to eat up the precise sums already at their disposal. It would be most unreasonable to lay such a burden on public servants who were doing this difficult work. I confess it did not raise my suspicions, and if it had they would have been perfectly ill-founded, because I know that at that time Mr. Scudamore had been guilty of no impropriety, and had worked the matter fairly and bonâ fide. The next ease is that of 1872. In that year Mr. Scudamore also behaved with the greatest promptitude. He was over-prompt, in fact, because he came to us in March, 1872, and stated the state of the account, when he only knew how matters stood up to the end of December. His statement was quite conjectural on that subject, and in transactions of such magnitude the sum he mentioned was not very large, or in any way alarming. There, again, had we nourished suspicions in regard to the statement of Mr. Scudamore we should have done him great injustice. Up to that time he had been guilty of no irregularity or impropriety. But, more than that, Mr. Scudamore, no doubt innocently and sincerely, did everything to lull one's suspicions to the last. At pages 12 and 14 of the statement of the Treasury officers, will be seen letters which he addressed to me of a nature certainly to lull any sort of suspicion. He said the re-arrangements were completed, the renewals yet to be completed of very little moment, and the extensions which remained to be carried out inconsiderable, and not pressing for completion; that an additional outlay of £100,000 or £150,000 would meet the requirements of the service in that respect; and that, as far as the re-arrangements and extensions were concerned, the capital account might be closed at the end of the financial year. Besides the re-arrangements and extensions there was nothing left except the payments under the arbitrations to the railway companies. Therefore, we had the strongest representation that, although he could not fix the exact amount, no considerable amount would be required, and that the matter might be wound up in the financial year. In another letter, written to me about that time, Mr. Scudamore promised to do his best to get the materials for an estimate of what the railways were likely to get, and to take care that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not have to propose another money Bill except upon data that would be satisfactory to him. What did that mean? That money was to be spent in no other way than by the agency of that Bill. Did it not amount to an undertaking which would be understood between gentlemen, that not a farthing would be spent until the materials for another Bill were prepared. [An hon. MEMBER: What is the date of that letter?] The 22nd of March. It is not included in the Appendix to the Report of the Committee. I do not make any complaint of that, because there are matters in it which I can quite understand the Committee did not deem it would be convenient for the public service to publish; but I still think it was an error to omit that letter altogether. The Report he was writing, he said, would contain the data; it would be in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's hands in a fortnight or three weeks, and if he would wait till he saw it, he was sure he would be satisfied with the result. These, then, were the representations made to me—that the sums required were in themselves insignificant; that the materials for a Bill would be obtained as quickly as possible, but that there was some difficulty in getting them; and therefore the impression left, and intended to be left, on my mind was that there was nothing very pressing in the matter, and that a Bill could be passed any time when it was completed. Well, almost immediately after that a large measure was introduced on behalf of the Post Office for regulating the whole establishment last year. That was a matter of great complexity and difficulty, and the Treasury was occupied two or three months incessantly in coming to a conclusion upon it. I made allowances for the difficulties of that, and did not feel much inclined to press a Department that was over-worked, and had more to do than it could possibly get through. We did not receive the materials for the Bill, and Parliament being once up, we thought the matter did not press much, and that if it was brought in next Session it would do. I have not scrupled to take blame upon myself. I think we were lax, and did not exert ourselves to the full extent we might have done, judging by the event. Not that we had the grounds of suspicion, or entertained the least suspicion on the subject; but I think we should not have allowed ourselves to be so easily put off in a matter of this importance. I have no scruple in making that admission, and if the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire likes to put my admissions into Parliamentary language, I am not the man to vote against him. But what he has placed on the Paper is entirely different from that. The hon. Gentleman said I was perpetually interfering with the Post Office authorities, I am sorry to say my fault has been that I did not interfere enough. That is the fault I confess, and the only one that can be imputed to me. I was too loth to interfere, and was not stringent enough in my demands. As to interfering in any other way, I have not clone it. It was absolutely necessary that we should have the information, and it was right that we should not come to Parliament without it, because we had been again and again to Parliament, beginning with estimates of £2,000,000, and we were anxious to get correct data and have done with it. The hon. Gentleman says we had to be consenting parties to all this expenditure. He makes an entire mistake. If he refers to pages 114 and 115 of the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, he will see that the Treasury are required by statute to lay down regulations for the expenditure, and he will find that we have laid down such regulations; so that we were guilty of no fault in that respect. The hon. Gentleman also referred to the plan for making the Post Offices agencies for buying stock in the Funds for people. Now, so far from making any new regulations as to that, in defiance of the Postmaster General and Mr. Scudamore, no new regulations were made, and I did not adopt the proposal. That, then, is the case which I have to lay before the House, and I think they will see that, so far as the Treasury are concerned, with the exception of the single fault which I have indicated, there has been no cause of complaint as to its conduct."Mr. Wilson.—Parliament having granted certain sums of money to various Departments, whether for Army, Navy, or Civil Departments, imposes upon these Departments the responsibility of spending that money, subject to the general control of the Treasury, as laid down by the Appropriation and other Acts? Mr. Anderson.—Yes; the detailed application of the moneys granted for these services rests entirely with those Departments. The control of the Treasury does not interfere with the incurring of expenditure in any shape—all that belongs to the Executive Departments but if the Treasury thought that the Departments were spending—and they could only know it through the issues—more than they thought ought to be spent in a given period, the Treasury might call for explanation."
considered it would be wrong to allow the debate to close without saying how much the House was indebted to the Committee of Public Accounts for their inquiries into this matter, and to the hon. Members for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) and Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) for the admirable way in which they had placed the matter before the House. It would have been a serious scandal if the House of Commons, which boasted of its control over public expenditure, had passed it over in silence. As an attempt had been made to throw the blame on the Postmaster General, he must say that when he had occasion to confer with the right hon. Gentleman he had always been received with great courtesy and kindness. With regard to Mr. Scudamore, he knew perfectly well that had it not been for that gentleman's energy and ability the present excellence of the telegraphic system would not have been achieved. He did not wish to detain the House, but both Resolutions were so much alike that he could vote for either; but, for his own part, he had rather not vote at all. What had been said could not be without good results, and he thought the House had vindicated its supervision over the financial administration of the country. If his hon. Friend the Member for South-west Lancashire divided the House, he should certainly vote in favour of the Motion.
If I wanted any evidence of a decaying Government and a worn-out Opposition, I need not go further than the debate which has taken place upon this most grave question. A graver question has never in my time been debated before Parliament. [Murmurs.] Why, if we sit here in any capacity at all, it is as the guardians of the public purse. How have we guardians of the public purse conducted this debate? With a mealymouthedness, and with an apology from the Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Sclater-Booth), not for censuring, but for attempting to question, the conduct of the Post Office and the Treasury upon this most important and grave question. Now, the whole of this debate has rested upon the question, who are the responsible parties for having misappropriated nearly a million of money without the consent and with the utter ignorance of the House of Commons? Is not that a grave question? We are asked now—"Who are the responsible parties?" My hon. Friend who moved this Motion (Mr. Cross), in a speech unequalled, I think, alike for its moderation and its perspicuity, endeavoured to apportion the blame as evenly as he could. He says the Post Office is in the first instance to blame; but if I gather anything from his speech and the filets he has adduced, it is the Treasury, and the Treasury alone, which is to blame—having, as it has, the supreme control of the financial arrangements of this country. I think he might have fairly applied to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the inspired words—"Nathan said unto David, 'Thou art the man!'" Why, Sir, it is all nonsense, and worse than nonsense, for any hon. Gentleman to endeavour to put the onus on a second clerk in the Post Office. Mr. Scudamore, no doubt with a chivalry that does him honour, acted in a way that reminds me of the humble champion of the old Duchess of Marlborough, who, when a grave social impropriety was committed, said,—"Say it was I." Mr. Scudamore says—"Say it was I," and takes the whole responsibility on himself; but is that sufficient for this House? This House has nothing to do with Mr. Scudamore. He is not responsible to us. We ought to look to the heads of Departments; for if we are to shuffle off these questions by saying that a clerk in the Post Office, however distinguished and disinterested he may be, is to take the burden of the blame on his shoulders, there is an end to Parliamentary government. It strikes me very much that the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for South-west Lancashire is as lenient a Motion as, under the circumstances, could be brought before this House; because it must be palpable to every Gentleman here that what would have assumed the grave form of a Vote of Censure in the month of March, dwindles down to a soft admonition at the end of July. The Government are so far lucky in the absence—which I very much regret—of the Leader of the Opposition from the opposite benches; but, at the same time, I think we owe a duty to our constituencies—at least, such Gentlemen as are returned by independent constituencies—and we ought not to make everything smooth for the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues, considering how soon we may have to account on the hustings for our laches. [Ironical cheers.] That, however, is not my reason. I am perfectly indifferent whether I sit in this House or not, and I am the more indifferent when I see the way in which this grave question has been treated by the House. As far as I can gather from the speeches of hon. Gentlemen, it appears that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster General is a very ill-treated individual. He is to be made a sort of Paschal Lamb on this occasion, and Mr. Scudamore is to be made the whipping-boy or scapegoat of the transactions. Is the House content to receive that? The Amendment moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) is a curious Amendment, and I cannot for the life of me see how the Government derive consolation from it.
The only fault I find with the Motion of my hon. Friend opposite is that it resembles milk, while the Amendment resembles the water to that milk. The great defect of the Amendment is that it takes no cognizance of what has been clone, and if, instead of "The House is of opinion that it is the duty of the Government to prevent a recurrence of such proceedings," it said, "The House is of opinion that it was the duty of the Government to take effective measures to have prevented such proceedings," should have voted with the hon. Baronet. As it is, I can have no scruple—nor do I understand how any Gentleman, unless he be a bigoted follower of the right hon. Gentleman and his harmonious Colleagues, can have any scruple in giving, a vote for the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for South-west Lancashire. I was surprised to find in the hon. Baronet's Amendment no mention of what he referred to in his speech. With regard to the blame imputed to Sir William Dunbar, hon. Gentlemen will find, on reference to the book, that he gave as a reason why the accounts were not looked to sooner, the circumstance that he has not a sufficient Staff to examine them. He actually wrote to the Treasury to ask for a sufficient Staff. Not a word about this was said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone. These are the red herrings which are drawn across our track. The real responsible man in this transaction is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I sincerely pity my right hon. Friend the Postmaster General, because he is unable to make the true defence, which is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer entirely superseded him in his office, and that my right hon. Friend, with that meekness and gentlemanly feeling which characterizes hint withdrew altogether when he found he was not communicated with, but that communications were held with his subordinates. If hon. Gentlemen will turn to page 78 they will find the remarkable opinions which one Colleague has of another. When asked if it be possible for any Postmaster General to be blamed for, misappropriations if he were not communicated with, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—"Of course, the Government cannot treat him as the head of the office, unless it is the will of the Postmaster General to he so treated." This is the right hon. Gentleman's opinion of a Colleague. The Chancellor of the Exchequer goes on to tell the Committee—"Strange that such difference should be 'Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee."
Now, in the teeth of all this, I think the House has been rather apt to take this thing as a matter of course. But here is a ease of £800,000 appropriated by a clerk in the office with whom Parliament has nothing to do. And notwithstanding all that has been said against Mr. Scudamore—and no one doubts his honesty or ability—the only thing I regret is, that he is not at the head of the Exchequer. I think that we should then have a more efficient Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not know whether Mr. Scudamore is a member of the London University; but if he will take my advice he will endeavour to gain a seat in this House. But at present this House has nothing to do with Mr. Scudamore. I go to the heads of the office—to the responsible people in Parliament. Now, it is in evidence that the Postmaster General has been kept in the dark by the Treasury. He has been superseded in his office. Whether he finds that consistent with his duty to the county of Limerick, that is an affair, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer says, for himself to consider; but as a Friend of the right hon. Gentleman I regret the position In which he has been placed, and the contempt which he has suffered. If this were a single case occurring at the Treasury, something might be said in explanation. But I cannot forget that no less than four Committees have been sitting this Session to inquire into the conduct of the Treasury, and there have been other important things besides to which I do not feel at liberty to allude. I am therefore of opinion that it is necessary this Treasury should be reformed altogether. I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been particularly successful there; and there have been Chancellors of the Exchequer who, when such charges had been made against them, and with such a vote hanging over them, would not have condescended to involve themselves in a fog of figures from the Treasury Bench, but would have thrown up the office in disgust. But that, as the right hon. Gentleman said of the Postmaster General, is "a matter for his own consideration." With respect to the speech delivered by the hon. Member for North Rants (Mr. Sclater-Booth), in which he seemed to be apologizing for the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, I was a little surprised that he gave us so little information as to his own opinion of these transactions. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer says he knew no- thing about these matters, I should like the House to turn to the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, page 96, and to read the letter of Mr. Rivers Wilson, private secretary to the right hon. Gentleman, addressed to Mr. Scudamore, in which it is clear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was aware that the money voted by Parliament had been spent and how. But to-night the right hon. Gentleman says he knew nothing about it. With a taciturnity that does him credit the right hon. Gentleman never opened his mouth for nearly a year, showing that he deserves to be a Cabinet Minister, because he knows how to keep a secret. It is well known that at this period of the Session no discussion can be successfully carried on, and the best advice I can give the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Postmaster General is to follow the example given In The Beggar's Opera, when Peachum embraces Lockit, and says "Brother, brother, we were both In the wrong." My right hon. Friend the Postmaster General has been singularly placid and uncomplaining. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown himself rather lax. Now, the laxness of a Chancellor of the Exchequer is, in my mind, equivalent to a crime. However leniently the House may be disposed to view these transactions there is a public opinion out-of-doors which will be anything but satisfied with the result of this debate."If the Postmaster General chooses to transact business through his Secretaries that is his affair, provided that the Secretary has the power to bind the Department. That is all we have to consider. It would be mere pedantry for us to insist on anything else. Whether the Postmaster General does wisely by being in the background is a matter for him."
The time has, I know, arrived for a division; but I cannot refrain from saying a few words. My hon. Friend who has just sat down observed with lamentation the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), but while he bewails that want he does all that in him lies to supply it. What I will endeavour to do, as far as time permits, is to refer to the mode of argument of my hon. Friend. One thing, however, I should do, lest I should forget it, and that is to join in the tribute which has been deservedly paid to the judicial conduct and language of the Committee of Public Accounts and of the Chairman of that Committee (Mr. Sclater-Booth). The constitution and efficiency of that Committee are of the greatest consequence to the welfare of the State, and I rejoice to think that we can have a party man and ex-official acting as Chair- man of that Committee, and yet we can have Reports proceeding from it the impartiality and ability of which is recognized by the whole of the House. I assure my hon. Friend behind me that, I entirely concur with him in every word he has said with respect to the gravity of the matter in issue. I would not wish to take from it in the slightest degree and I also agree with him that in, the last days of July we do not discuss these matters with that energy and vigour with which we should have approached them in February or March. But let me direct the attention of the House for a moment to the course recommended by my hon. Friend. He lays the whole blame on the Treasury. He says to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—"Thou art the man." [Mr. OSBORNE: I did not.] He is going to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire; but does that Motion say to my right hon. Friend "Thou art the man?" The Motion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cross) is drawn up with great clearness and force; but in time first part the disapproval of the House is aimed exclusively at the Post Office. When the Motion refers to the Treasury the language is mild and supplementary, and yet my hon. Friend behind me records his vote for that Motion which pays no respect to his opinion. That is not the only flaw in the argument of my hon. Friend, and will now state what I regard as a serious objection to the Motion of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire. Speaking generally, I should say I prefer the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock), because I think it is more entirely in accordance with the spirit of the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts. At the same time, I make no complaint against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite. But when I come to examine the terms of that Motion I find an objection arise which is certainly not weakened, but strengthened, when I interpret the Motion by the light of the speech of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has censured—and very naturally, from his point of view—the conduct of the Postmaster General, but he does not confine his Motion to the conduct of the Postmaster General. He extends it to the entire Department, and both in the interpretation of the terms of the Motion and in the speech of the hon. Gentleman I read a strong censure on Mr. Scudamore. To censure the Post Office is not the phrase that a man would adopt if he meant to pass a censure upon the Postmaster General exclusively; and the attack upon the Post Office distinctly includes an attack upon Mr. Scudamore. Now, Mr. Scudamore is a very proper subject for animadversion, if he has done wrong, in the Report of the Committee, but he is not a fit subject for the censure of this I louse. It is the political officers of this House who stand between the permanent officers and its censure. Mr. Scudamore has committed a great error, but that great error is, in my judgment, balanced by still greater services; and upon the merits of this case, I refuse to censure Mr. Scudamore. What I stand upon with those who are not so well aware as myself of the great services of Mr. Scudamore is that we should do wrong to adopt a Motion which does not confine the sweep of its censure to political officers, but includes within it these important permanent servants of the Post Office. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne) is going to vote for a Motion which does not censure the Treasury, which he wishes to censure, but he is going to vote for a Motion which does censure Mr. Scudamore—["No, no!"] —whom he wishes not to censure. It is not necessary for me, after what has fallen from my right hon. Friends, to enter upon their case. Their acts have been presented and have been fairly and manfully accepted by the House in that spirit of candour and kindness with which the House, whether in February or July, invariably approaches a question of this kind. The House would do better to adopt the Resolution of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock), which is in exact accordance with the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, instead of the Motion of the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire, which goes beyond it. The House is bound to take the utmost care that the phraseology of a Motion should be such as to avoid the cardinal error of treating the permanent servants of the Post Office as proper objects of Parliamentary censure.
merely wished to say that he used the words "Post Office" as meaning the Parlia- mentary Representatives of the Post Office, just as in using the word "Treasury" he had meant the Parliamentary Representatives of the Treasury.
The House divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 161: Majority 50.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That this House regrets to find, from the Reports of the Committee of Public Accounts, that the Post Office revenue and Savings Bank balances have been largely employed for the purposes of Telegraph capital expenditure without the authority of Parliament, and is of opinion that it is the duty of the Government to take effectual measures to prevent the recurrence of such a proceeding.
|Amphlett, R. P.||Hamilton, Lord C. J.|
|Anderson, G.||Hamilton, Lord G.|
|Arbuthnot, Major G.||Hamilton, I. T.|
|Arkwright, A. P.||Hardy, J. S.|
|Arkwright, R.||Hay, Sir J. C. D.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Baggallay, Sir R.||Hermon, E.|
|Balfour. Sir G.||Heygate, Sir F. W.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Heygate, W. U.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Bates, E.||Holms, J.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Holt, J. M.|
|Beach, Sir M. H.||Hood, Captain hon. A.|
|Bentinck, G. C.||W. A. N.|
|Birley, H.||Hornby, E. K.|
|Bourke, hon. R.||Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.|
|Bourne, Colonel||Jackson, R. W.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Knight, F. W.|
|Callan, P.||Laird, J.|
|Cameron, D.||Langton, W. G.|
|Candlish, J.||Laslett, W.|
|Cartwright, F.||Leatham, E. A.|
|Chadwick, D.||Lennox, Lord G. G.|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Leslie, J.|
|Corry, hon. H. W. L.||Lewis, C. E.|
|Denison, C. B.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Macfie, R. A.|
|Dimsdale, R.||M'Laren, D.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Mahon, Viscount|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||Mellor, T. W.|
|Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.||Meyrick, T.|
|Fawcett, H.||Miller, J.|
|Feilden, H. M.||Mills, Sir C. H.|
|Fielden, J.||Monckton, hon. G.|
|Figgins, J.||Monk, C. J.|
|Fowler, R. N.||Morgan, C. O.|
|Garnier, J. C.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Goldney, G.||Newry, Viscount|
|Gordon, E. S.||Parker, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Gore, J. R. O.||Peek, H. W.|
|Gray, Colonel||Pemberton, E. L.|
|Gregory, G. B.||Phipps, C. P.|
|Hambro, C.||Plunket, hon. D. R.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Powell, F. S.|
|Raikes, H. C.||Tomline, G.|
|Round, J.||Torr, J.|
|Samuda, J. D'A.||Turner, C.|
|Sandon, Viscount||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Sclater-Booth, G.||Waterhouse, S.|
|Scott, Lord H. J. M. D.||Wells, E.|
|Scourfield, J. H.||Wheelhouse, W. S. J.|
|Smith, A.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Somerset, Lord H. R. C.||Yarmouth, Earl of|
|Talbot, J. G.||TELLERS.|
|Taylor, rt. hon. Col.||Cross, R. A.|
|Tollemache, Maj. W. F.||Osborne, R.|
|Amcotts, Col. W. C.||Fitzmaurice, Lord E.|
|Ayrton, rt. hon. A. S.||Fitzwilliam, hon. C.|
|Backhouse, E.||W. W.|
|Baker, R. B. W.||Fletcher, I.|
|Bass, M. T.||Foljambe, F. J. S.|
|Bassett, F.||Forster, C.|
|Baxter, rt. hon. W. E.||Forster, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Bazley, Sir T.||Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Gilpin, C.|
|Beaumont, Major F.||Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Bentall, E. H.||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Biddulph, M.||Goldsmid, Sir F.|
|Bolckow, H. W. F.||Goldsmid, J.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Bowling, E. A.||Gourley, E. T.|
|Brassey, T.||Gower, Lord R.|
|Brewer, Dr.||Graham, W.|
|Bristowe, S. B.||Grieve, J. J.|
|Brocklehurst, W. C.||Grove, T. F.|
|Brown, A. H.||Hartington, Marq. of|
|Browne, G. E.||Henderson, J.|
|Bruce, Lord C.||Henley, Lord|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Buckley, N.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Bury, Viscount||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Butt, I.||Holland, S.|
|Cadogan, hon. F. W.||Hoskyns, C. Wren-|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Carington, hn. Col. W.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Cartwright, W. C.||Illingworth, A.|
|Cave, T.||Jardine, R.|
|Cavendish, Lord F. C.||Jessel, Sir G.|
|Childers, right hon. H.||Johnston, A.|
|Cogan, rt. hon. W. H. F.||Kensington, Lord|
|Coleridge, Sir J. D.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Corrigan, Sir D.||Kingscote, Colonel|
|Cowen, Sir J.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|hon. W.||right hon. E.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Lancaster, J.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Lawrence, Sir J. C.|
|Dalrymple, D.||Lawrence, W.|
|D'Arey, M. P.||Lea, T.|
|Davies, R.||Leeman, G.|
|Delahunty, J.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Dickinson, S. S.||Leith, J. F.|
|Dixon, G.||Lewis, H.|
|Dodds, J.||Locke, J.|
|Downing, M'C.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Lubbock, Sir J.|
|Edwards, H.||Lusk, A.|
|Egerton, Admiral hn. F.||Mackintosh, E. W.|
|Enfield, Viscount||M'Clure, T.|
|Eykyn, R.||M'Lagan, P.|
|FitzGerald, right hon.||Magniac, C.|
|Lord O. A.||Martin, P. W.|
|Massey, rt. hon. W. N.||St. Aubyn, Sir J.|
|Matheson, A.||Samuelson, H. B.|
|Melly, G.||Scely, C. (Lincoln)|
|Miller, W.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|Morgan, G. O.||Stapleton, J.|
|Morley, S.||Stevenson, J. C.|
|Mundella, A. J.||Storks, rt. hon. Sir H. K.|
|O'Conor, D. M.||Stuart, hon. H. W. V.|
|O'Donoghue, The||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Ogilvy, Sir J.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D.|
|Otway, A. J.||Walter, J.|
|Palmer, J. H.||Wedderburn, Sir D.|
|Parker, C. S.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Peel, A. W.||West, H. W.|
|Pender, J.||Whitbread, S.|
|Philips, R. N.||Whitwell, J.|
|Pim, J.||Williams, W.|
|Portman, hon. W. H. B.||Wingfield, Sir C.|
|Potter, T. B.||Winterbotham, H. S. P.|
|Power, J. T.||Young, A. W.|
|Rathbone, W.||Young, rt. hon. G.|
|Rothschild, N. M. de||Adam, W. P.|
|Russell, Lord A.||Greville, hon. Captain|
It being now Seven of the clock, the House suspended its Sitting.
The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.
Supply—Civil Service Estimates
Custom House Clerks At The Outports
Resolutions [July 28] reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Resolutions be now read a second time."
rose to call attention to the difference of position of the Custom House Clerks at the Out-ports as compared to that of the Custom House Clerks in London with respect to the date of the increase of their salaries, promised in the Treasury Minute of November 28, 1868, and promulgated in the Minute of the Board of Customs of December 8, 1868. The noble Lord said, the question was one which he had felt great hesitation in touching, as he thought it, as a general rule, undesirable that the House of Commons should interfere between the Government and the members of the Civil Service, or that Members should bring before the House cases like the present, in which they might be supposed to be personally interested, owing to their constituents being affected; but being convinced that a wrong had been committed, and having tried all means of securing an impartial consideration of the subject, he felt bound to put aside his personal feeling in the matter, and to ask the House to express an opinion on the subject. The case was first brought under his notice last autumn, and he had tried in every possible way to induce the Government to reconsider the decision they had come to on the matter. They wore first approached by means of a deputation, but that met with no substantial result. He then, in concert with others, put a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer entreating the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider his decision on the subject; but he refused to do so on the ground that he would thus
whereas they based their case on an announcement of a Treasury Minute, promulgated officially by the Board of Customs. This answer was so unsatisfactory and so much put aside the real point at issue that he felt still more bound to prosecute the question. He had suggested to the Government that they should appoint a Committee next year to go into the grievances of the Custom House clerks at the outports; but the Government had seen fit to refuse to give any pledge. Under these circumstances, believing that these clerks had a real and genuine grievance, he felt that he had no other resort, except to bring the subject under the consideration of the House. He had no wish to attack the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for they had cause to be thankful to him for watching over the public purse; but in many cases the vices of mankind were merely the corruptions of their virtues; he feared that the Chancellor of the Exchequer sometimes pushed his regard for the public purse too far. In tie year 1866 the Custom House officers, as a body, petitioned the Treasury for a revision of their salaries, and a Treasury Commission was thereupon appointed, which made its Report in 1868. Upon that Report was founded a Treasury Minute, dated November 28, 1868. This Treasury Minute was promulgated by the Board of Customs on December 8, 1868, and announced that the Lords of the Treasury desired the Board "to make known to the officers concerned" the decisions at which they had arrived. It stated that their Lordships had recommended certain improvements and advantages with regard to the London clerks, and the Minute summed up to the effect that—"establish a precedent that whenever an improvement vas made in an office, the Government would he hound to pay persons in the office from the time they first conceived the idea of making that improvement;"
He could imagine nothing more distinct as an official promise than that Minute. That was how the matter stood at the end of the year 1868. In December, 1868, a change of Ministry took place. At that moment men of distinguished ability came on the Treasury Bench for the first time, many of them being profoundly impressed with the folly and ignorance of the party which preceded them; and also profoundly impressed with a conviction of their own superior wisdom and general qualifications. But what did they do? In the heyday of their enthusiasm they suspended the Treasury Minute altogether, supposing, he imagined, that their predecessors had unduly raised the salaries of the clerks, and a year passed during which consideration was accorded to the scheme of their predecessors. When their decision was announced it was found that they had increased, instead of diminished the proposed increase of salary of the London clerks, but unfortunately the year had not sufficed for going into the case of the outport clerks, who were thus again put off, after the Treasury Minute of November 28, 1868, had recognized the insufficiency of their pay, of which they complained in 1866, and after this Minute had been promulgated to them by the Board of Customs in December, 1868. After a time the Government agreed to ante-date the time of the commencement of the higher rate of pay to the London clerks from the date of the promulgation of the Treasury Minute of November 28, 1868. In 1872 a new classification was issued for the outport clerks, raising the scale of their pay; but when it came to the question of paying up the arrears in the way in which the arrears due to the London clerks had been paid up, the economical spirit of the Government stepped in, and they said—"No, you are not to have the arrears in the same way as your London brethren had them, because the full details of the increase of the London clerks were mentioned in the Minute, and yours were only directed to be made following the scheme adopted for them." He was not asking the House to consider whether the two Boards of the Treasury were right or wrong in saying that there should be an increase in the salaries, neither was he asking them to settle whether the Liberal Treasury had been right In paying up the arrears of the London clerks. He quite acknowledged that it was an open question whether the Treasury was bound to date the increase of pay from the date of the Minute of 1868, and not from the later date when they came to their final decision about it; but he contended that a distinct pledge was given that the same principles would be adopted with regard to those engaged at the outports as were adopted in dealing with the London clerks; and he would remind them that a distinct pledge was also given in that House that no one should suffer by the suspension of the Minute. He asserted that the question was simply one of even-handed justice between the London and the outport clerks, and he hoped the House would express an opinion whether, when once the arrears of pay, whether rightly or wrongly, had been given to the Loudon clerks, the Treasury was not bound. considering the promise of their own Minute of 1868, promulgated to every Custom House clerk, to pay the arrears in like manner to the outport clerks. It might be said—"It is wrong to bring a case of this kind before the House. You should put all your trust in the Executive of the day, and especially put your trust in the Treasury." But, without any want of respect to the Treasury, or those who held office in it, he would ask the House whether the conduct of the Treasury of late had been such as to give the country general confidence in its management of these matters? He had watched the evidence that was given before the Committee with reference to the Civil Service Writers, and that certainly seemed to point the other way. ["Order!"] Well, not being allowed to refer to the evidence of a Committee that had not reported, he might cite the case of the Zanzibar Contract Com- mittee. Surely the state of things thereby, and in many other ways lately, disclosed, afforded abundant justification for not placing implicit confidence in the Treasury; for it was extremely difficult to know who was the Treasury. Was it the Chancellor, was it a Lord of the Treasury, was it the Financial Secretary, was it the permanent head of a Department? Recent inquiries had shown how little concert there was in the Treasury. If it were merely the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we might have confidence in him; but it was extremely difficult to find out who it was in the Treasury that we were to look to. This was not a small matter, but a matter affecting the well-being of a large service throughout the country. We did not deal with our Civil servants in a perfectly just and liberal way. Civil servants in foreign countries were very far below the Civil servants in England in point of honesty and uprightness. The character of our Civil servants had been high; but, if in pursuance of a false economy, the dictates of equity and justice were put aside, a feeling would grow up which must have the effect of driving the best men from the service, and the consequence would be to inflict on the country a much more serious loss than could be sustained by paying them their just claims. He was quite aware that in bringing forward a case of this kind he ran a risk of being accused of talking for his constituents, but he entirely repudiated any such idea, and he felt quite sure that the House would acquit him of any such object. But if Members for the outports declined to bring forward grievances like this which affected the outports alone, who was to do it? He had tried in every way to get the matter considered without troubling the House with it; but now, to secure that the subject should be settled on its own merits, which was his only wish, he thought the best way of settling the question would be to refer it at the beginning of next Session to the judgment of an impartial Committee of that House, from which Representatives of the outports should be excluded. He left the matter now with perfect confidence to the independent judgment of the House of Commons."The Lords of the Treasury have also desired the Board to submit a scheme for extending to the clerks at the outports the principles adopted by their Lordships in dealing with the clerks In London."
said, this question was one of considerable interest, affecting as it did the rights of a large number of Civil servants. It was a question that seriously concerned the clerks of the outports and also the Government clerks in several other Civil Service Departments. The clerks in the Custom House had been promised and had received an increase of pay; but there was another class of clerks for whom he was concerned—namely, those doing duty in bonding warehouses, and such Places in the several large towns in the provinces—take Leeds for instance—who performed equally important duties, and who were equally entitled to consideration. He did not see any distinction between them. The duties of the one class were equally as important as those of the other, and if there were any distinction it ought to be pointed out. The clerks of the port of London went In for an increase of pay, which was promised, and subsequently given to them, and they also sought to obtain the back pay; but the clerks in the Inland Revenue Department, whose duties were quite as important, and who knew and discharged those duties equally well; had not yet had their claims recognized. They only desired to be treated as the clerks of London had been treated. They considered that they were entitled to receive an increment of salary; and. he submitted that whatever applied to the outports in an arrangement for an increase of salaries applied in an equally forcible manner to the case of clerks employed in and discharging the duties of their situations in the Inland Revenue Department. He knew of no distinction between them, the one discharging their duties in as efficient a manner as the other. The simple truth was, that efficient services must be paid for, and it was most unwise economy to starve servants— especially public servants —upon salaries with which they could only remain dissatisfied and discontented. He (Mr. Wheelhouse) knew sufficient of daily life to feel that such a course was nothing but a direct temptation to be careless of duty, and, he feared, often, even to direct fraud.
presumed that, although the noble Lord had made no Motion, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a satisfactory answer on that subject, it would be competent for them to take a division on the Report of Supply.
said, he should offer no apology for taking part in this debate, and he regretted very much that no division could take place upon it. In the port he represented there were a large number of Custom House clerks, who had shown themselves extremely patient and well-conducted under the grievances they suffered. He could not help thinking that their claims had been shamefully neglected by the Government; and he hoped that now the matter had been brought before the House the Government would take immediate measures to do them justice, and thus prevent a feeling of sourness and discontent becoming rife among them.
said, it was a great hardship that while the Government conceded the claims of the gentlemen in London they did not take the same liberal course with regard to the outports. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government would early in the next Session take the case into their consideration; and, if they failed to do so, then he hoped the question would be referred to a Select Committee.
said, he could not help expressing his regret that the noble Lord did not conclude with a Motion, because anything in the form of a debate in that House which could not be tested by a division was extremely unsatisfactory. He was one of a deputation who waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject in order to represent the claims of the outport clerks to the arrears of the increase of their salary, and although he could not say that he was surprised—because he was not surprised at anything which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could say or do—he felt hurt at the peremptory manner in which he refused to interfere, without giving the slightest reason for so doing; or rather, the only reason was that it was a mistake to allow the arrears to the London clerks. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No, no!] He certainly understood that to be the tenor of the reply of the right hon. Gentleman. He said it was a mistake to give it to the London clerks. He did not complain of economy, but he did of inequality, and was of opinion that if it were given to one it ought to be given to all. They might obtain equality by levelling up or levelling down; but, at all events, there should be equality. He thought this demand a perfectly justifiable one, and it was one which ought to be brought to an issue. If therefore the noble Lord should bring a Motion forward on the subject next Session, he would certainly vote for it, being of opinion that the matter was one requiring the urgent attention of the Government.
also thought this was a question on which the sense of the House ought to be taken. The House could not move an Amendment on the Report of Supply, but it was competent for the House to consider the Report of Supply a second time, unless Her Majesty's Government gave a satisfactory assurance that the clerks in the outports should have the same benefits extended to them that had been granted to the clerks of the port of London. He was one of a deputation that waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when he expressed his astonishment that a refusal had been given to the clerks at the outports on a mere question of justice, what was the answer? Why, that if they (the Government) were to concede the application, they would be setting up a precedent. As a matter of justice, a pledge should be obtained from the Government to give an increase of salary to the outport clerks. If the Government declined to do so, they would be "penny wise and pound foolish," for men underpaid could not be expected to work as men would when properly remunerated.
concurred in what had fallen from other speakers, and reminded the Government that it only required a sum of about £5,000 to render justice to the whole of this class of Civil servants. He hoped that the Government, if they did not make any promise now, would at least take action during the Recess, and prevent the necessity for bringing the subject before the House again. These discussions about Civil servants were not only unpleasant, but also injurious to the public service.
concurred in the last observation that had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down. There was a time when the House of Commons was regarded as the guardian of the public purse, and when the province of the Representatives of the people was to come down and check profuse expenditure. Now, the state of things was altogether different, and the present Government had every week during the present Session to defend itself against the continual attacks made upon the public purse. It would be probably necessary to change the Standing Orders; because it was intolerable, when the Government attempted to do their duty by keeping down expenditure, that they should be assailed by all parties in the House, and urged to act in such a way as must add to the public burdens. Both his right hon. Friend now at the head of the Local Government Board and himself had paid a great deal of attention to this question of Custom House clerks, and a great change for the better had been made in their position. A Return with regard to the principal ports of the kingdom, exclusive of London and Liverpool, showed that from the 1st of January 1858, up to 1872, or in a period of 15 years, the salaries had been increased 44½ per cent. When hon. Members talked of the increased cost of living, he asked whether in any commercial or manufacturing establishment the salaries had been increased to anything like that extent? They found that there were, as in all Government establishments, too many clerks, and that, in many instances, the salary was too small. Large reductions were made in the number of clerks in London, and the salaries raised; and he expected that his right hon. Friend and himself would have received the thanks of the gentlemen who participated in the results of those labours. But no sooner were their salaries augmented than they raised the question of back pay. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) cheered that statement, as if there was a ease made out; but the hon. Member did not appear to have read the Papers relating to the subject. In 1868, after some Memorials had been addressed to the Treasury from the clerks in the Customs, the Government then in office determined to inquire into the case of the clerks in the port of London. A certain revision was made, which it was intended should be subject to the approval of Parliament, and that revision, it was intended, should come into operation on the 1st of April, 1868. The Government, however, went out of office and the present Government, on succeeding, determined still further to reduce the number of the clerks, and they therefore suspended the arrangement which had been made. A new revision was made, and the Government thought that as the clerks of the port of London had been promised an increase of salary by the former Government, their new scale ought to commence, as originally contemplated, from the first of April, 1869; but in the case of the clerks in the outports, no such engagement had been entered into, and, consequently, the Government did not think that their salaries ought to be increased from the same date. His contention was that the increase of salary should date from the time that increase was fixed on; and, that being so, there was no reason why the clerks in the outports should receive their additional pay from any date earlier than that on which they had received it.
agreed that they should not have these discussions on the Civil Service night after night; but that was not so much the fault of the House of Commons, or of the Civil servants, as of those who superintended the Civil Service. The Civil servants of the Crown were compelled to appeal to independent Members of the House against the decisions of their superiors in office. The question of revising the salaries of Custom House officers with a view to their increase was taken in hand by the Government of which he was a Member in 1867, and a small Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole matter. The Commission recommended a scheme in which the salaries of the London and outport officers were to be similarly dealt with; but the Government which succeeded them regarded the course as extravagant and suspended the carrying out of the Minute for two years. If the original scheme had been acted upon, the clerks in the Port of London would have been paid on the revised list from the financial year of 1869, and the outport clerks from the commencement of the financial year of 1870. This struck him as being a perfectly equitable proposal, and be thought the case would be met if the increased pay of the outport clerks were to date from the time at which it would have commenced, if the instructions contained In the original Minute had been carried out. The Government had not acted in this matter as private employers had been compelled to do in consequence of the increased cost of living in late years; nor had they on this question of date of increase acted consistently with their own conduct in other similar matters, as was shown by the course they had taken only on the previous day in regard to the pay of the constabulary in the City of Dublin. He thought that in this case the Government were penny wise and pound foolish. Their policy was to refuse these applications as long as they possibly could, and the consequence was that at last such pressure was brought to bear upon them, that they had to give way to a far greater extent than if they had yielded with a good grace at first.
maintained that the question before the House was not whether the pay of the Custom House clerks had been largely increased of late years, but whether the same measure of justice was to be meted out to the London clerks and the clerks at the outports. When a deputation of Members of Parliament recently waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer in connection with this subject, the latter distinctly stated that the Government would not entertain the case of the outport clerks, because a mistake had been made in the case of the London clerks. The course of the Government was in this case one that any private man of business would be ashamed of.
denied that the Custom House clerks at the outports were not grateful for what had been done for them; but they could not consider there was anything irregular in asking that the increase in their salaries should date from the same time as that of the clerks connected with the port of London.
said, that having been informed by the highest authority at the Table of the House that he could not properly divide the House, as a matter of form, at this stage of business, he had informed the Government at the Morning Sitting that he should not divide this evening, but should only wish to get a discussion of the question, so that the Government might be induced to re-consider it. As a matter of personal honour he could not divide. He appealed, therefore, to the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs (Mr. Craufurd) not to press for a division, as it would not be fair thus to steal a march upon the Government.
said, the answer of the Government was so entirely unsatisfactory that he should feel it his duty to divide the House on the question of agreeing to the Report of Supply, in order to mark his disapproval of the conduct of the Government.
protested strongly against taking a snap division. There was a strong feeling out-of-doors in favour of economy; but when the Government were seeking, as far as they could, to promote economy, a number of private Members came down to that House, night after night, to press upon them expenditure which the Government themselves thought to be unnecessary. This question was one entirely for the Government; and when it was considered that in connection with these salaries there was an increasing amount of pensions every year, it was a mistake to say that the Government were paying lower than the market price for labour.
said, the sum was not worth talking of, and it was ridiculous for Government to complain that hon. Members were forcing them to this expenditure, when during the whole of the morning they were complaining of their hands being tied up in respect to the expenditure of millions.
maintained that this was a simple question of justice, it being unfair and unjust to place the clerks of the outports on a different footing in regard to back pay to that of the London clerks.
said, the Custom House clerks in his constituency asked, and with reason, to be put in the same position with respect to back pay as the clerks in the port of London. He would venture to suggest that the Motion should be that the Report be considered to-morrow.
said, he hoped the Government would grant a Committee of Inquiry into the subject. In London there had been an increase of salary and the back pay; and it seemed to him that other officers with equivalent duties had a right to ask that their claims should, at all events, be considered, say at the early part of the next Session. He moved that the debate be now adjourned.
Moved, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—( Colonel Hogg.)
said, the adjournment of the debate could not lead to an inquiry in the present Session. It would have no other effect than protracting the Session. Whatever could be clone practically could be done next Session; nothing practical could be done now. The Government had fairly entered into an examination of this question. ["No, no!"]
said, he thought the House was entering into a factious opposition; but the House was shut out from dividing on the question that night by the Rules of the House.
rose to Order.
ruled that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Liddell) was not out of Order.
said, that hon. Gentlemen wanted to carry their opinions into effect; but they could not accomplish that object by a division. He believed that the proper course would be to move next Session for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the subject. These gentlemen, whose case had been so ably advocated, had in their minds an idea that there had been a broach of faith, and that ought, if possible, to be removed. It was mischievous to the interest of the public service to allow a feeling of injustice to continue in the minds of those who served the Government.
admitted the inconvenience that would result from a prolongation of this discussion at the present period of the Session, but pointed out that a single sentence from a Member of Her Majesty's Government, promising either to take the case of these clerks into their consideration, or to assent to the appointment of a Committee at the commencement of next Session to investigate their alleged grievances, would at once put an end to the debate. In his opinion, the Government were committing the same error they had fallen into yesterday, when, after they had resisted every reasonable representation which had been made to them to put the constabulary of Dublin on the same footing as regarded pay as the constabulary of England occupied, the Chief Secretary for Ireland came down to the House the moment after a division on the subject had been taken, and stated that the Government were prepared to consider the question. He hoped that the Government would put a stop to the discussion by promising to consider the subject.
observed, that a Committee was granted to examine into the grievances of the Civil Service Writers. All that was asked of the Government was a promise that this matter should be referred to a Departmental Committee, or to a Committee of that House next Session, and he trusted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would intimate the adoption of one course or the other.
expressed his great disappointment that no Member of the Government had risen to state that they were prepared to consider the matter. [Loud cheers.] It was unfortunate that the Government refused to be guided by the expression of opinion which had been littered from all parts of the House. [Cheers.] Sometimes sleeping a night over a question induced a change of opinion, and if the Government persisted in refusing to adopt the view of the House, perhaps it would be better that the debate should be adjourned. He thought that that would be a mild and indulgent mode of intimating to the Government the feeling of the House on the subject. He confessed, however, that he had still hope that the Government would relent.
said, he should support the Motion for adjournment, for he thought the prolongation of the Session was a small matter when there was a question of injustice to be dealt with.
Question put, and agreed to.
Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
Telegraphs Bill—Bill 262
( Mr. Bonham-Carter, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Baxter.)
Order for Committee read.
complained hat the form in which this Bill had been drawn was different to that in which other Bills of the same kind had been prepared, and he said he was the more anxious about this, because it was partly in consequence of the form in which previous Telegraph Bills had been presented to the House that there had been such confusion in the accounts of the Post Office. He did not see any reason why the Government should depart from the established mode of proceeding, which required that money for those purposes should be paid into the Consolidated Fund, subject to the check of the Exchequer audit. He doubted whether the right hon. Gentleman had considerred the memorandum which the Auditor General had submitted to the Committee. The precedent of the Military Forces Localization Bill of last Session had been referred to as a precedent, but he saw no reason why, if the Secretary of State for War had a mind to commit the same irregularities as had been committed in the Post Office, it would not be possible for him to do so under the provisions of that Act.
said, the Government had considered this matter very carefully, and, after taking advice, had devised this scheme of having the money paid over to the Paymaster General. He was not strongly of opinion that that was the best course to adopt; but he did not think the proposal of the hon. Member for North Hants would meet the difficulty.
concurred in the remarks of the hon. Member opposite, and hoped the right hon. Gentleman would adopt the ordinary practice of having the money paid in to the Consolidated Fund, in connection with which there was always an officer to see that the money issued was applied to the purposes for which it was appropriated, and no loophole was left for such proceedings as those which the House had been engaged in discussing that afternoon.
said, that from a remarkable Return it appeared that £20,406 was due and owing as part of payments to railway companies, and also an item of £87,200 as part of a larger sum of £1,250,000. He should like to hear some explanation of these matters.
asked for an explanation of the item of £230,000 for commutation of pensions.
said, that the railway claims were omitted from this Bill, and would form the subject of another measure. It would not be right to include them here, because the Government did not know the amount, and it would not be advisable to guess, because then they might prejudice the case when it came before the arbitrator. The commutation of pensions, amounting to £230,000, related to the persons formerly employed in the different telegraph offices, who had received pensions and were displaced by the Government taking charge of the telegraphs.
said, that as there had been laxity on the part of the Treasury in recent transactions, the House would like to be informed what shape the regulations would assume.
Bill considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Mode of issuing moneys raised).
In reply to Mr. DENISON,
stated that up to the end of September extensions would be paid for by loans, and after that time out of revenue.
moved to omit the words "Paymaster General," in order to raise the question as to whether certain moneys should be paid into the hands of the Paymaster General or to the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt. In all Acts of this kind for raising funds it was provided that all moneys should go into the Consolidated Fund, to be subject to the general order of the Treasury, and he did not think that this principle should be departed from in the present instance.
approved, under all the circumstances, of the introduction of the Paymaster General. All cheques on this loan should be drawn in favour of those who were to receive the money, and not in favour of the Postmaster General.
said, it was true that these Acts all went upon the principle to which the right hon. Gentleman referred; but the departure from that principle in the present instance had reference only to a small sum. He thought it better that it should be taken out of the hands of the Commissioners of the National Debt and placed in the hands of the Paymaster General.
said, he would not press his proposal to a division; but he must enter his protest against these departures from the constitutional practice.
supported the view taken of the matter by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
In reply to Mr. GOLDSMID,
stated that a great many of the persons employed by the Telegraph companies were now employed by the Post Office, but great economy of labour had been effected.
Remaining clause agreed to.
Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.
Railway Regulation Bill
( Mr. Chichester Fortescue, Mr. Arthur Peel.)
Bill 23 Committee
Bill considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
considered it was to the interests of railway companies to do all in their power to prevent railway accidents, and thought a great deal too much pressure was put upon them.
said, he did not notice that the "block system" was mentioned in the Bill, and considered it advisable that that system should be adopted as far as possible by railway companies.
was understood to say that of 31,000,000 passengers who travelled last year only one had been killed. He thought the constant pressure on railway companies ought to cease. He was enabled to state that the "block system," on the recommendation of Captain Tyler, was now very extensively introduced.
asked the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee, from what source he obtained his returns of the statistics of the deaths that occurred owing to railway accidents—whether from the railway companies or from the Registrar General?
said, he had mentioned in that House on a former occasion that he had received his returns from the Board of Trade.
said, that he had found, from the Registrar General's Report a year or two ago, that the deaths caused by railway accidents were many times greater than those given in the returns of the railway companies.
explained that the Board of Trade took all necessary care to obtain returns of railway accidents, deaths, and injuries.
called attention to a system in operation on railways in America, which was found to work admirably—namely, the passing of a very long rope through the carriages, the pulling of which rope, when anything wrong occurred, caused a large bell at the head of the train to ring, and thus give an alarm.
said, there were very many more people injured, and many more deaths caused by railway accidents, than the returns indicated.
Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.
Expiring Laws Continuance Bill Bill 261
( Mr. Baxter, Mr. William Henry Gladstone.)
Order for Committee read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—( Mr. Baxter.)
moved that the House resolve itself into Committee on that day month. This was a new system of legislation which had sprung up of recent years, to re-enact important laws in a Continuance Act at the end of the Session. Only one of the Acts which this Bill proposed to re-enact expired before the next Session. The Bill proposed to re-enact the Unlawful Societies (Ireland) Act, a coercive measure of great stringency, and the Elections Petitions Act for two years.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the and of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day month, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—( Mr. Butt,)—instead thereof.
pointed out that nearly all the Acts which it was proposed to renew had been passed by Parliament upon the understanding that they should be continued from Session to Session until Parliament dealt otherwise with them. If the hon. and learned Gentleman opposed certain Acts being re-enacted, it was quite open to him to move a Resolution in any Session, which would prevent their being retained in the schedule of the next Continuance Act; or he could bring in a Bill to repeal the particular Acts. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.
said, that many of the Acts proposed to be continued were of a highly penal character, and should be discussed separately and. at a proper time.
thought the continuance of these Acts was very objectionable, and the Bill should not pass without due consideration. He did not think at that late hour the question should be proceeded with.
said, he would withdraw his Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
Bill considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
protested against proceeding with the Bill at such a late hour in the morning. It would seriously affect the liberties of the people of Ireland, and ought to receive due deliberation. He moved the omission of No. 2, "Societies Unlawful, Ireland Act."
Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 15, to leave out the words "2 and 3 Vict. c. 74, Societies, Unlawful (Ireland)."—( Mr. Butt.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
said, it would be inconsistent on the part of the House to pass a Bill in June giving the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland most extensive powers for the purpose of arresting persons supposed to belong to one of these secret societies, and then at the end of the Session to repeal the Act which made these societies unlawful.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 72; Noes 7: Majority 65.
took exception to including the Preservation of the Peace (Ireland) Act, as it was continued by a measure passed this Session.
said, the continued inclusion of the Act would secure its continuance when the measure of this Session expired, if it were allowed to do so.
moved to omit section 14 from the Master and Servant Act, the clause being that which affords a criminal remedy to a master for the breach of a civil contract by a workman. The working classes in every direction had expressed themselves strongly anxious for the abolition of this section. The Bill had been brought in by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), with the best intention to benefit working men, and while some of it was unobjectionable this clause was felt to be an extreme injustice. While it gave a right of appeal to Quarter Sessions the workman might be imprisoned in the meantime, the magistrate not being bound to take bail, as he was under the old Acts against workmen. A Congress at Leeds, representing 700,000 of their body, had relied upon the interference of Parliament to rectify this wrong, and he should take the sense of the House upon it.
Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 20, after the word "Act," to insert the words "except Section 14."—( Mr. Hinde Palmer.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
opposed the Amendment. At the time of the passing of the Act it was felt that there were aggravated cases which could not be adequately dealt with as civil offences. In the case of the gas stokers, for instance, who were sentenced to short terms of imprisonment, the public generally approved the decision. The law was a just and necessary law, and he would Maintain it.
said, he should be disposed to give magistrates a discretion in admitting defendants to bail, and that, he thought, would get rid of the harshness of the clause.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 25; Noes 45: Majority 20.
moved, in page 5, line 43 (No. 33), to leave out "34 and 35 Vic., cap. 87, Sunday Observance Prosecutions." The hon. Member said, that all the old tyranny of Sabbath prosecutions was revived under the recent Act with more than its former anomalies and absurdities. Under the present law the worst features of permissive legislation were exhibited through the police discretion allowed, and a cruel tyranny was enacted. He believed that the Act of Charles II. was wrong; but, at any rate, let them have it in a form in which it would press equally on all classes of society, and not oppress the very poor alone.
opposed the Amendment, and deprecated the contempt displayed by the hon. Member for the feelings of 99 in every 100 of the population, who simply wished to stop unnecessary and obtrusive trading on Sunday.
Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.
Landlord And Tenant (Ireland) Act (1870) Amendment Bill
On Motion of Mr. BUTT, Bill to remove doubts that have arisen as to the provisions of "The Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act (1870)," as to notices to quit, ordered to be brought in by Mr. BUTT and Mr. P. J. SMYTH.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 271.]
House adjourned at Three o'clock.