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Questions And Answers Circulated With The Votes

Volume 180: debated on Thursday 15 August 1907

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

The Coastguard Service

To ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is now in a position to state what action is contemplated in regard to the Coastguard Service, in consequence of the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee; and whether the Report will be laid upon the Table of the House. (Answered by Mr. Lambert.) I am afraid I can add nothing to the replies which have been given to numerous similar Questions.

Protection Of British Subjects At Spitzbergen

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that some months ago an attack, which nearly had fatal consequences, was made upon a British subject in Spitzbergen, that British lives and property there were in serious danger, and that a message was sent requesting British assistance; if he can state whether any negotiations are in progress to have Spitzbergen placed under responsible national or international control; and whether he will consider the advisability of promoting some such arrangement. (Answered by Secretary Sir Edward Grey.) His Majesty's Government have received reports of an outbreak which took place in Spitzbergen last spring, in the course of which injuries were inflicted upon a British subject. The long interval that elapsed between the outbreak and the date when it became known here made it impossible for any British warship to reach the island in time to afford any help, even had the actual situation warranted such a step. In reply to the last part of the hon. Member's Question, His Majesty's Government cannot undertake to initiate negotiations with the object of instituting some kind of control over Spitzbergen Any British subject going to that island for trade or other purposes must do so at his own risk, and we cannot exercise any jurisdiction or assume any responsibility there.

Inland Revenue—Penalties Of Irregularities

To ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether, in view of the public proceedings taken and the penalties levied by the Board of Inland Revenue in the case of a firm of whisky dealers at Tullamore (there being no fraud on the revenue), he will state what were the steps taken and the penalties levied when, in or about 1901, it was found that over 1,000 gallons of spirits had been surreptitiously removed, without payment of duty, from a distillery in London; and what action was taken when irregularities were discovered at the same distillery in 1905. (Answered by Mr. Runciman.) The case in 1901 to which the hon. Member alludes was presumably one in which a deficiency of 1,000 gallons was discovered in the spirit store of a distillery. As the deficiency could not be satisfactorily explained, the Board of Inland Revenue exacted the penalty of £ 1 per gallon, prescribed by Section 44 of The Spirits Act, 1880. In this case no suspicion attached to the proprietors of the distillery. In 1905 at the same distillery an irregularity, but one of no very serious character, was detected on the part of some employees, and a penalty of £50 was imposed.

To ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether the supervisor in charge of the London distillery in which irregularities took place in or about 1901 was ordered to be removed, but, notwithstanding that order, was left in charge until 1905, when irregularities were discovered, this official being then retired; whether he had been a colleague at this distillery of the then Chief and Assistant Chief Inspectors of Excise; whether the then Chief Inspector was responsible for seeing that the supervisor was removed in 1901; whether he is aware that, when the supervisor was retired in 1905 or 1906, the officer appointed to succeed him was the close official friend of the Chief and Assistant Chief Inspectors, and was appointed on the recommendation of the former over the heads of about 100 of his seniors, contrary to the rules of the Department; and whether, having regard to the Answers given in this House last session in respect to this appointment, he will state what was the result of the examination of this official when he was allowed to compete at the last competition for inspectorship, contrary to the regulations. (Answered by Mr. Runciman.) I am informed that no order for removed of the supervisor was given in 1901. He remained in charge till 1905, when he had passed the age of sixty, and the Board of Inland Revenue, not being satisfied that he remained thoroughly efficient, called upon him to retire. There was no imputation on his integrity. The circumstances connected with the appointment of his successor were fully explained in reply to a series of Questions put by the hon. Member for the Leix Division of Queen's County in February and March, 1906. There is no foundation for the suggestions conveyed in the present Question as regards relations between the officer in question and his superior officers. He was not amongst the successful condidates at the last competition for the inspectorship.

The Parliamentary Debates

To ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether the contract for the reporting and printing of Hansard has been renewed to the present contractors for next session; if so, whether such conditions have been stipulated for as will prevent the recurrence of the oppressive overwork to which reference is made in the Report of the Select Committee on Parliamentary Reporting; and whether, if not too late, he will consult the present reporters as to the conditions which should be imposed with respect to the number of men to be employed in note-taking, the hours of duty, and the salaries usually paid for such work. (Answered by Mr. Runciman.) The Answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. It was not found possible, in the circumstances, to make any substantial modifications in the conditions of the contract, which is for the duration of next session only.

Out-Relief In Halifax

To ask the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been called to a statement by Mr. P. H. Bagenal, Local Government Board inspector, that the amount of out-relief in Halifax was too high, and that it ought to be reduced; whether Mr. Bagenal intended to refer to outdoor relief to the sick who were unable to pay for necessary medical attendance and other necessaries for their condition, to the deserving aged poor, and to widows with a dependent child or children whom they were bringing up respectably but were unable to support without Poor Law help; whether he had himself visited the homes of the poor in Halifax before making the above statement and suggestion; whether in the appendix to the 35th Annual Report of the Local Government Board there were any other reports of inspectors other than Mr. Hervey and Mr. P. Bagenal, in which the cost of in-maintenance was by mistake stated as the cost of in-relief; and whether any books or papers laid by the Local Government Board or its inspector before the Poor Law Commission had the same or a similar mistake. (Answered by Mr. John Burns.) I have seen a newspaper paragraph on the subject referred to in the first part of the Question. Mr. Bagenal informs me that, when he addressed the Halifax Guardians he referred to the total amount spent on outdoor relief generally in their union as compared with that in some other unions. He made no specific allusion to the particular classes mentioned in the Question, nor had he visited the homes of the poor in Halifax. His object was to induce the guardians to make some alterations in their method of administering relief and to increase their staff of relieving officers. The term "indoor relief," or "in-relief," is not used as synonymous with "in-maintenance" in the reports of the other inspectors referred to in the latter part of the Question. I am not aware that it has been so treated in any books or papers laid before the Poor Law Commission by officers of the department, but I have no complete information on this point.

Employment Of Police Constables As Water Bailiffs In Dumfriesshire

To ask the Secretary for Scotland whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction felt in Dumfriesshire at the employment of police constables as water bailiffs; and what action he proposes to take. (Answered by Mr. Sinclair.) The Secretary for Scotland has no power to interfere in this matter. The constables employed as water bailiffs are "additional" constables paid by the district fishery boards, who make arrangements with the county council.

Short Platforms On The South Eastern And Chatham Railway

To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the fact that many of the platforms of important stations on the old London, Chatham, and Dover line are too short to accommodate an ordinary train, necessitating the train drawing up two or three times and consequently endangering the safety of the public, as well as wasting a great deal of time; and whether he can make representations to the railway company now controlling this line to lengthen the platforms and avoid the danger and inconvenience to the public. (Answered by Mr. Lloyd-George.) The Board of Trade have communicated with the managing committee of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway in this matter and have received the following reply:— "South Eastern and Chatham Railway," "General Manager's Office, "London Bridge Station, S.E. "14th August, 1907. "Sir,—I am in receipt of your letter of the 14th instant, R. 10187, enclosing notice of a Question which Mr. B. S. Straus proposes to ask the President in the House of Commons to-morrow (Thursday) relating to the platform accommodation at certain stations on the Chatham section of this railway. "In reply I would point out that Mr. Straus does not specify the stations to which he refers nor does he give the particular trains affected. "At the same time, I may say that at some of our stations it is undoubtedly impossible to lengthen the platforms owing to various circumstances arising at the particular places, i.e., in most cases it is either impossible to obtain the land requisite for the extension or to carry out the same without heavy and expensive works. "The trains, as you are aware, vary as to length, and the traffic at different seasons of the year, and especially at the present time, is very heavy, rendering unavoidable the addition of extra coaches." If my hon. friend furnishes me with particulars of the stations or trains he has in mind, I will consider whether further representations can usefully be made to the managing committee.

Gooseberry Mildew—Prohibition Of Importation Of Bushes

To ask the hon. Member for South Somerset, as representing the President of the Board of Agriculture, whether the Board intend to prohibit temporarily the importation of gooseberry bushes and standards on Ribes aureum stocks, in view of the danger of the further introduction into this country of the American gooseberry mildew on such imported plants. (Answered, by Sir Edward Strachey.) The Board are now considering the terms of an order prohibiting the importation of plants and bushes bearing edible fruit except by a licence to which conditions will be attached with the object of preventing the introduction not only of the gooseberry mildew but also of other pests injurious to horticulture.

Punjaub Revenue Assessments Agitation

To ask the Secretary of State for India whether the agitation in the Punjaub against the existing revenue assessment is due in a great measure to the fact that the land has, to a great extent, passed into other hands than those of the actual cultivators; whether the new landlords, who have replaced the original cultivators, object to the payment of the share due to the Government; and whether, in view of criticisms of the Government in this behalf, proceeding from representatives of such landlords, he will resist proposals to reduce the assessment now collected from the landlords for expenditure upon the general public, including the expropriated agriculturists. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Motley.) I am not aware of an agitation in the Punjaub against the revenue assessment. As I stated in the Answer which I gave to a Question on the 16th July, the amount of the land tax was mentioned as a grievance in the case of the disturbances as Rawal Pindi only, in which district the assessments had been recently revised. I am not able to say how far the objections to the revised assessments in that district were confined to new purchasers of land. The Local Government will, as I have stated, deal considerately with any genuine instance of over-assessment which may come to light, whether the complainants are agriculturists or otherwise.

The Army Reserve

To ask the Secretary of State for War what percentage of men who, during the last ten years have completed a service of seven years with the colours and five years in the Reserve, have been permitted to remain in the Reserve for a further period of four years. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Haldane.) I would refer the hon. Member to the figures given on page 110 of the General Annual Report [Cd. 3365], where the number of men re-enlisted or re-engaged in Section D during the last ten years are shown, and also the number of men discharged from the other sections of the Reserve on completion of engagement. It must be pointed out that these figures are not limited to men originally enlisted for seven years, and also that the numbers entering Section D include some men who go direct from the colours after the completion of twelve years service and consequently have no previous Reserve service.

Committee Of Defence—Position Of Secretary

To ask the Prime Minister, as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, whether the post of Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence has yet been filled; and whether, in view of the importance of the duties, the salary will be continued at the same rate as was the case with its former occupant. (Answered by Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.) No vacancy will arise in the-office in question until October next, when Sir George Sydenham Clarke will take up his duties as Governor of Bombay.