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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 52: debated on Thursday 24 April 1913

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War In Balkans

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether he can inform the House of the nature of the replies received by His Majesty's Government to the representations made by His Majesty's Ministers at Sofia and Belgrade regarding the outrages perpetrated upon the Mahomedans of Macedonia, Albania, and Thrace?

The Servian Government have stated that if any isolated cases did occur when soldiers in the excitement of battle committed a crime, the offenders have always been punished to the full extent of the military laws, in the same manner as all offences committed by the members of scattered indigenous committed bands, which could not be controlled by the military authorities, and that the Service authorities have severely punished all attempts at personal revenge among the inhabitants of the occupied districts. The Bulgarian Prime Minister has stated that no outrages have been committed by Bulgarian regular troops, and that any actions of Bulgarian bands have been quite irregular and directly opposed to the orders issued from headquarters. The most stringent orders have, moreover, been issued from the Bulgarian headquarters for the prevention of all excesses and for the punishment of any person guilty of them. All grades are to employ the utmost rigour for this purpose; and strong measures are to be taken for the maintenance of order and the protection of the population of the occupied districts. General Savoff further states that he has instructed the courts martial to deal with the utmost dispatch with the cases before them, and to punish ex-emplarily those guilty in the above-mentioned respects.

Are any further answers expected displaying a solicitude more suitable to the occasion?

The only answers we have received are those received when the representations were made.

2.

asked if the Consular Reports state that the distress in Thrace, Albania, and Macedonia is decreasing?

I understand that everything possible is being done to alleviate the existing distress, which is, however, still acute in many localities.

In view of the importance of this question I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment to-night.

Land Purchase (Ireland)

3.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether application has been made by a large farmer named M'Dowell for portion of the lands of Bordwell, Owens estate, Queen's County, which the Estates Commissioners are about to acquire; and, in view of the fact that there are a number of uneconomic holdings in the locality which require enlargement, will he see that M'Dowell's request is not ceded?

The Estates Commissioners cannot trace the receipt of any application from M'Dowell for an allotment of the lands referred to in the event of their being acquired by them.

4.

asked the Chief Secretary whether the Estates Commissioners have received a memorial, signed by the uneconomic holders in the district, requesting them to get into negotiation with the owners of Gurteenahilla farm, Cullohill, Queen's County, with a view to purchasing the same for distribution amongst the small holders in the locality; whether he is aware that this a grazing ranch consisting of 275 Irish acres, held by the eleven months, and surrounded by a number of small uneconomic holdings which on an average are of less than £7 valuation; and can he say what action the Estates Commissioners are going to take in this matter?

The Estates Commissioners are unable from the particulars given to trace the receipt of the memorial referred to, and they cannot identify these lands as the subject of proceedings for sale to them under the Land Purchase Acts.

5.

asked when the Estates Commissioners will take steps to acquire the untenanted land at Lullymore, Rathangan, county Kildare, seeing that their inspector has reported on the miserable condition of the uneconomic holders in the district a considerable time since?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to his question on this subject on the 17th instant, to which I have nothing to add at present.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that so far as these uneconomic holdings are concerned no Land Acts might as well have been passed, as they have never got any relief? When are they likely to get any relief from the legislation intended for their benefit?

It is not correct to say that no relief has been received from the distribution of untenanted land. The inspector's report is awaiting confirmation by the Estates Commissioners.

How long will that report have to await confirmation? It has already waited two months.

The hon. Member knows that the Estates Commissioners' office is very full of work. I will represent to them how very important it is that this particular matter should be attended to.

17.

asked whether the Chief Secretary is aware that the tenants on the Flood estate, Glencar, county Leitrim, petitioned the Congested Districts Board to purchase that small estate; and whether, having regard to the fact that the estate adjoins the White estate with which the Board is now dealing and on which there is an unlimited supply of turbary, the Board will take steps to acquire the estate and distribute the turbary lands?

The Congested Districts Board received a memorial from the tenants on the estate referred to. The owner does not intend to sell the property at present, and the Board do not propose to take steps to acquire the estate compulsorily.

19.

asked whether an inspector has been down on the Sandes estate, Kilcavan and Garrymore, Queen's County, and that a demand was made in his presence of Margaret Mara and Richard Meagles for payment of £9 and £5, respectively, for permission to purchase their holdings as sub-tenants on the estate; can the Chief Secretary say by whom and upon what authority this demand was made; who the inspector was; whether he has made a report to the Estates Commissioners; and, if so, what course they propose to adopt in this matter?

The Estates Commissioners are not aware of any demands having been made on these two people for payment of the sums referred to, but they understand that in the presence of the inspector and the agent, Meagles agreed to pay the direct tenant of the holding £5 in respect of the latter's intervening interest in the land in the occupation of Meagles as sub-tenant. The inspector's report on the estate has been received and the Commissioners will consider whether they can deem the sub-tenants to be direct tenants for the purposes of sale, and, if so, what sum should be paid in respect of the intervening interests if no agreement is arrived at in the interval.

Shooting Outrage (Clare)

8.

asked the Chief Secretary whether he has received any report in respect of the firing at and wounding of Mr. Maunsell, near Ennis, county Clare, on the morning of Tuesday, 15th April; whether Mr. Maunsell narrowly escaped having the top of his skull blown off by a charge of shot which grazed his head; whether he has been under police protection as the result of other outrages in connection with a farm, and, if so, what was the nature of these outrages; and whether any arrests have been made or anyone made amenable?

The police authorities inform me that on the morning of the 15th instant Mr. Maunsell while driving into Ennis Fair was fired at and wounded. The shot struck his hat, and some grains passed through it, grazing the top of his head and inflicting some scalp wounds. Mr. Maunsell is under police protection owing to some trouble with regard to the dismissal of a herd employed by him on a farm near Ennis, and in connection with which an attempt was recently made to set on fire the house in which the new herd was residing. The police are pursuing their inquiries, but so far they have not obtained sufficient evidence to justify any arrests.

I have just told the hon. Gentleman that the police are pursuing their inquiries, but so far they have not obtained information to justify them in making any arrests.

Donore Farm (Westmeath)

9.

asked the Chief Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the proceedings at a meeting held near the Donore farm, in county Westmeath, on Sunday, 13th April; whether a deputation from the local branch of the United Irish League, consisting of Mr. McNaboe, Mr. Robins, and others, were permitted by the police to interview Mr. McKenna, the owner of the farm; whether Mr. Robins asked Mr. McKenna to give up the farm, and on his refusal threatened him with boycotting; whether Mr. Robins and Mr. McNaboe afterwards addressed a meeting at Kilbeggan, suggesting the boycotting of Mr. McKenna; and whether, seeing that Mr. Robins and Mr. McNaboc both hold commissions of the peace, he proposes to take any steps to remove them from the commission of the peace and to hold them responsible for their attempts to intimidate Mr. McKenna?

The police authorities inform me that on the occasion of this meeting the deputation referred to asked the county inspector if he would allow them to have an interview with Mr. McKenna. Mr. McKenna consented and the county inspector did not object. The police who were present inform me that no threat to boycott was made at the interview. Subsequently Mr. Robins and Mr. McNaboe addressed the meeting, but no illegal language was used, nor did any incitement to boycott take place. Mr. Robins is an ex-officio magistrate, as Chairman of the Rural District Council, but Mr. McNaboe is not on the Commission of the Peace. It is not intended to take any steps to remove Mr. Robins from the magistracy.

Was the object of the deputation to compel this man to give up his land?

No; I do not think that it was anything of the sort. At all events, its importance was grossly exaggerated and the language reported was not used.

Committee On Irish Finance

10.

asked when the evidence of Mr. Alfred W. Soward before the Committee on Irish Finance will be published?

The evidence which it is proposed to publish, including that given by Mr. Soward, is, as I stated on Thursday, in the printers' hands, and will, I hope, be published next week.

25.

asked whether the letters the Chief Secretary addressed to the witnesses before the Committee on Irish Finance asking them whether they objected to the publication of their evidence were identical in terms?

26.

asked what objection the Government have to the publication of the letters sent by him to the witnesses before the Committee on Irish Finance, asking them whether they objected to the publication of their evidence?

Although there is nothing whatever in these letters unsuitable for print, their publication would be a very bad precedent to set up.

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can mention any precedent for the pledge given to Civil servants not in the secret service that their evidence on the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland would be kept secret; when the consent of the House of Commons was obtained for that pledge generally or in that case in a matter affecting the public money of the two countries; and, if there are grounds for the alleged apprehension of Civil servants that the giving of true evidence if unfavourable to the Government would be injurious to them, whether he proposes to have those grounds removed and knowledge obtained in the public service made available without consequences or fear of consequences when required in the public interest?

The hon. Member is under a complete misapprehension. The inquiry was a confidential one, and was originally intended solely for the information of the Cabinet. The witnesses were told that their evidence would be treated as confidential, and several of them object on principle to evidence given on that understanding being published. Confidential communications, oral or written, between the Government and its servants are of daily occurrence, and the claim that the seal of confidence shall be respected does not imply any desire to withhold information or any fear of displeasing the Government.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered whether there is any precedent for this nor has he said what it was these Civil servants apprehended?

No, there is no precedents for publishing communications or evidence of this sort given under such circumstances. If you ask a Civil servant to give evidence and information and tell him the evidence will be kept private, I really think if he objects it would be a monstrous thing to publish it.

Can an objection on principle be allowed in variance with national interests?

Labourers (Ireland) Acts

13.

asked what will be the amount of the further loan promised at the land-purchase rate of interest for the purposes of the Labourers (Ireland) Acts; when it will be available; whether it is to be administered in accordance with those Acts or in accordance with the Board's circular of autumn, 1911, under which the latest loan has been administered; and, if the legality of that restrictive circular has been considered, with what result?

I stated in reply to a question asked by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wexford on the 12th of March that I should be glad to see the useful work which is going on under the Labourers Act carried further, but I carefully refrained from making any promise on the subject. In the event of further money being provided for the purpose the Local Government Board will, I am sure, continue, as at present, to do their best to carry out the intentions of Parliament, and to have the money spent in the way which will do most good.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the forthcoming loan will be made available for schemes which have been suspended by the Local Government Board circular of 1911?

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is justified in speaking of the forthcoming loan, because no loan of that kind has been promised. Such evidence as I can collect on the subject will certainly be got, in order, if possible, to obtain a further loan on land purchase terms to extend this work, but on what conditions it is premature to say.

Will it apply to those schemes which have been suspended by the circular of the Local Government Board?

May I point out that a number of schemes are being held up owing to the urgent necessity for funds, and will not something be done to provide funds to keep the Labourers Act going?

I quite agree that there could be usefully and beneficially spent on this work in Ireland half a million of money—some hon. Members say two millions—but I have not got the money in my pocket.

Will the right hon. Gentleman put any pressure on the Treasury to get money for the purpose of those Acts?

15.

asked the average cost of labourers' cottages, and also the average rent paid for the same, in each of the provinces of Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connaught?

The average cost of providing a labourer's cottage, as represented by the amount of loans sanctioned for the same, which includes not only the cost of erection of the cottage, but also legal expenses and other matters, works out as follows:—

£
Ulster181
Munster152
Leinster165
Connaught169

The average weekly rents per cottage are approximately:—

s.d.
Ulster13
Munster011
Leinster11
Connaught13

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the reason why cottages in Ulster cost more than in any other part of Ireland includes the fact that the Ulster landlord and occupier want more for the land than is asked anywhere else?

Land in Ulster may cost more, and the legal expenses in Ulster may be higher. I cannot tell.

Old Age Pensions

14.

asked the Chief Secretary if he will say, when an appeal is made against the decision of an old age pension committee and the claim or question stands referred to the Local Government Board for Ireland under Section 7 (1) (c) of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1908, by what authority does that Board receive, consider, and decide the question on entirely new allegations of the class which the committee is the legally constituted authority for examining, which have never been before the committee and which may have no foundation in fact?

Article 25 of the Regulations made in pursuance of Section 10 of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1908, provides that the Local Government Board may for the purpose of determining any claim, question, or application, which is to be determined by them, have regard to any such evidence or information as, in the opinion of the Board, is sufficient for the purpose, and is the best evidence or information which it is reasonably possible to obtain?

Does this rule or regulation empower the Board to take into consideration allegations which have never been before the local committee at all?

It certainly amounts to a rehearing before the Local Government Board, and any evidence they can procure has to be considered by them.

31 and 32.

asked (1) whether the Chief Secretary is aware that Mrs. Johannah Buttimer, of Gurranreigh, Lissarda, county Cork, applied for an old age pension and was granted the full amount by the pension sub-committee in December, 1912; whether this was appealed against by the pension officer on the ground that her yearly income exceeded the statutory amount; and can he state upon what basis the Local Government Board decided to refuse the pension to this claimant; and (2) whether Cornelius Buttimer, of Gurranreigh, Lissarda, county of Cork, reached the requisite age limit of seventy years in February, 1909, and was granted a pension of 5s. per week, which continued until 14th March, 1913; whether this was originally granted on the report of a pension officer as to the man's income and circumstances, and that his pension books from time to time passed through the hands of at least five different pension officers, who never questioned the propriety of the original award; whether, in January, 1913, Pension Officer M'Kenna appealed against the decisions of previous pension officers, on the grounds that Cornelius Buttimer's pension exceeded the statutory limit of £31 10s.; has there been any difference between Buttimer's circumstances now and what they were during the four years he was receiving the pension; and, if not, will the right hon. Gentleman say upon what grounds did the Local Government Board now decide to refuse his pension?

I will answer these two questions together. Cornelius Buttimer was awarded an old age pension of 5s. a week in March, 1909. Towards the end of last year his wife, Johannah Buttimer, made a claim for an old age pension of 5s., which was passed by the pension committee, but appealed against by the pension officer on the grounds of excessive means. The Local Government Board on appeal disallowed the claim. At the same time the pension officer, as a result of his investigations in connection with the claim made by the wife, raised a question as to whether the husband was entitled to continue to receive a pension. The Board decided that he was not entitled to receive any pension on the grounds that his means exceeded the statutory limit. These two people reside on and are maintained on a farm of eight-two acres which is well tilled, and carries upwards of twenty head of cattle in addition to other animals, and each of them is entitled, also, under the deed of assignment, to an annuity of £8 as well as the grazing of two sheep. The Board considered that the benefits and privileges enjoyed by these two people are worth more than £31 10s. a year in each case.

78.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether his attention has been called to the correspondence which has taken place between the county Kerry old age pensions committee and the Irish Local Government Board, and to the resolutions passed by the committee; and whether in any proposed amending Bill dealing with old age pensions, regard will be had to the recommendations of the committee?

I have seen a copy of a letter sent by the Kerry pension committee to the Local Government Board for Ireland, and inquiry is now being made into the specific cases mentioned by them. There is no immediate prospect of an amending Act on this subject, but if and when opportunity arises all suggestions for improvement will receive consideration.

Evicted Tenants (Ireland)

16.

asked whether the Estates Commissioners, by letter dated 16th December, 1908, intimated to James Burns, of Tullygrevagh, Kiltyclogher, that his application for reinstatement in a holding on the estate of H. de F. Montgomery, county Fermanagh, from which he was evicted, had been noted for consideration in the allotment of such untenanted land as they might acquire; whether James Burns has since died; and can the Chief Secretary state whether the Commissioners within a reasonably short time will provide the widow and family with a holding in accordance with the promise made to the deceased?

The reply to the first paragraph of the question is in the affirmative. The Estates Commissioners did not promise to provide Burns with a holding, but said his application would be considered in the allotment of such untenanted land as they might acquire, and if suitable untenanted land is acquired by them they will consider the case of Burns' widow in connection therewith.

Is it not the fact that four years ago these people were promised their holding, and will the right hon. Gentleman now see whether something cannot be done for this widow?

National School Teachers, Ireland (Dental Treatment)

20.

asked if the Chief Secretary is aware that, by a circular issuing from the Board of Education, London, prescribing that every person claiming to be recognised as a certificated teacher must have a certificate from a registered dental surgeon stating that such person has undergone the necessary dental treatment, whether such order applies to Ireland, and if the Irish Education Department was consulted thereon; and whether, in view of the hardship that would be inflicted on many applicants in Ireland, where there happened to be no registered dentists, and the slur inflicted on gentlemen who have long enjoyed the public confidence as dentists, although unregistered, he will make further inquiry into the matter?

The Board of Education have no jurisdiction in Ireland, but if Irish young men and women seek to obtain the Board's certificate they must comply with its requirements. I understand, however, that the Board are prepared to give special consideration to cases where no registered dentist is available. The matter is not one in which I have any power to interfere.

Pembroke Urban Council (Rate Collector)

23.

asked whether Mr. Laurence Wickham has been appointed rate collector for the Pembroke Council; whether he was lately chairman of the Blackrock Urban Council; whether the law adviser of the Blackrock Urban Council is also chairman of the Pembroke Urban Council; whether Mr. Wickham held the licence of a public-house in Kingstown, and upon what date he executed a deed of transfer of the licence to his nephews; whether the deed was drawn up by the law adviser to the Blackrock Council; whether the police magistrate granted the transfer of the licence previous to the appointment of Mr. Wickham as rate collector to the Pembroke Council; and whether the Chief Secretary will state the qualifications of Mr. Wickham as a rate collector?

The answer to the first three paragraphs of the question is in the affirmative. Mr. Wickham held a licence for a public-house at Booterstown, which was transferred to Mr. Thomas J. Stacey, who, I understand, is no relation, on the 17th February, and the deed was drawn up by the solicitor to the Blackrock Council. Mr. Wickham's appointment as rate collector was approved by the Local Government Board on the 28th March. I am informed that Mr. Wickham received a commercial education, and was in business for a number of years. He has also been actively engaged in municipal work for the past fifteen years.

Ancient Order Of Hibernians

27.

asked whether the Chief Secretary's attention has been drawn to an official statement made by the national secretary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (Irish American Alliance) that a flourishing division of the order is in existence in the city of Cork; and whether he still intends to ignore the disloyal resolution recently passed by the Cork City division censuring the Lord Mayor for honouring the toast of the King at the St. Patrick's Day banquet to the corporation?

I had not seen the statement referred to until the hon. Member called my attention to it. It does not agree with the information furnished to me by the police, and I am not disposed to attach much importance to it. The resolution, if it was ever passed, is not deserving of serious notice.

Irish Creameries And Dairy Produce Bill

35.

asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) whether he was present at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Dairying held on 3rd October, 1912; whether at that meeting he gave the members present any assurance that the Irish Creameries and Dairy Produce Bill would be presented to this House in the precise shape in which it left the other House; and whether the Bill as now presented contains any alterations, additions, or omissions to the text of the measure as agreed to by the other House?

During the progress last Session of the Irish Creameries and Dairy Produce Bill the House of Lords struck out a provision in Clause 1 which had been inserted at the request of the Board of Trade and the Board of Agriculture and without which they declined to allow the Bill to proceed. The only alteration of the slightest substance made in the Bill as now introduced is the insertion of a Sub-section to Clause 1 which makes the previous proviso clearer. The Department never gave any assurance that the Bill could proceed without the assent of the English Boards. The Board of Trade communicated with the Department before the introduction of the Bill this Session.

Yes, I have the notes in my hand. No such undertaking was ever given, and one of the sentences is that if the Board of Trade insisted on going on with this proviso as the price of the measure I should accept it.

Is it the intention to proceed with this Bill during the present Session?

That question was asked of the Prime Minister the other day, and the right hon. Gentleman gave the promise that he would consider the giving of facilities.

May I ask if the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society has given notice to oppose this Bill?

The Irish Agricultural Society is hostile to the views of the Board of Trade and the Board of Agriculture in this country, and it is to the proposal that they have made, and which was embodied in the proviso they object to. I have come to the conclusion, on full consideration of the whole case, that the Bill as it stands now, making the proviso clear, is a necessary part of the Bill, and that to leave out the proviso which the House of Lords considered would be unjust to the British trading interests.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Prime Minister that it is somewhat anomalous to subsidise an organisation in Ireland to oppose two Government Departments?

36.

asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that in trade circles the term creamery as applied to butter is universally understood to mean butter manufactured in an Irish creamery; whether Sub-section (3) of Section 1 of the Irish Creameries and Dairy Produce Bill, as at present drafted, would allow of inferior or non-creamery butter being purchased in Ireland and sold in this country as creamery butter to the detriment of the genuine article; and, if so, whether he will consider the advisability of such Amendment as will prevent this effect?

I cannot admit that in trade circles the term creamery as applied to butter is universally understood to mean butter manufactured in an Irish creamery. The term may be used with perfect propriety in connection with butter manufactured in an English, Scottish, or other creamery. Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 of the Bill will not have the effect stated.

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the term "creamery," is never applied to Danish butter in this country or English butter manufactured in this country?

Lagos Harbour

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the total sum spent and to be spent on the Lagos harbour works, Southern Nigeria; of what works do the plans consist; will he say what each branch of the work is expected to cost; and who is responsible to his Department should the figures be exceeded?

(Sierra Leone (Messrs Lever Brothers)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will lay upon the Table of the House the correspondence between the Colonial Office and the Governor of Sierra Leone with reference to the applications of Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, for certain trading concessions and exclusive privileges in Sierra Leone?

The correspondence was confidential and of no special public interest. I am unwilling to depart from the practice of non-publication of confidential dispatches, but if there was anything like a general desire in the House for its publication I should not resist it.

40.

asked what is the present position with regard to the application of Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, for the grant of certain exclusive privileges for the erection of mills for the expression or extraction of oil from the pericarp of the palm fruit in respect of an area of approximately 310 square miles in the Gold Coast Colony?

The Palm Oil Ordinance is still under the consideration of the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is nine months since the Palm Oil Ordinance was introduced, and can he explain why there has been so much delay. Has the Government suggested important amendments, or is there any special reason for delay?

I do not know of any special reason and important amendments alluded to have not been the cause.

41.

asked what is the present position with regard to the application of Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, for the grant of certain exclusive privileges for the erection of mills for the expression or extraction of oil from the pericarp of the palm fruit in respect of an area of approximately 310 square miles in Southern Nigeria; have agreements been made with the local chief obviating the necessity for legislative action; and has the expenditure of any definite sum by Messrs. Lever Brothers yet been agreed?

I have no further information on this subject, and no communication from Messrs. Lever Brothers in regard to it has been received at the Colonial Office subsequent to the published correspondence.

42.

asked what is the present position with regard to the application of Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, for the grant of certain exclusive privileges for the erection of mills for the expression or extraction of oil from the pericarp of the palm fruit in respect of an area of approximately 311 square miles in the Sierra Leone Protectorate at a rental of £100 a year; and what is the date within one year of which Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, are required to expend £15,000?

I have not yet heard from the Governor of Sierra Leone whether the instruments, of which drafts are printed in Cd. 6561, have yet been executed. A reference to them will show that the year runs from the date of execution.

In all other respects is the position exactly as it was when the correspondence was published?

44.

asked what is the present position with regard to the application of Messrs. W. B. MacIver and Company, with whom Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, are associated, for the grant of rights in connection with the palm oil industry in respect of an area in the Gold Coast Colony; have the applicants obtained a grant of rights and wayleaves from the natives; and is this a necessary preliminary to the submission of a formal application to the Governor?

No correspondence other than that printed in Cd. 6561 has passed with Messrs. MacIver and Company. I have no information as to any action they may have taken in the Colony. The reply to the last part of the question is in the affirmative.

56.

asked whether the promise made to Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, in the Colonial Office letter of 18th December of a licence to construct railways in Sierra Leone has been superseded or still holds good, and for how long it will be kept open notwithstanding the failure of Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, to make any application for a licence under the Proprietary Railways Ordinance of Sierra Leone, 1909; and does this represent the only railway or tramway privilege proposed to be given in West Africa to that firm?

Under the Proprietary Railways Ordinance, 1909, of Sierra Leone, it is open to Messrs. Lever Brothers, Limited, or any other firm to apply at any time for a licence to construct a railway. I have not been informed of any such application, but the decision thereon would depend on the circumstances of the case.

Does the right hon. Gentleman tell me that it is proposed to take power to grant exclusive railway privileges in the legislation of the Gold Coast Colony?

If the hon. Gentleman will refer to the Paper already issued to Parliament, he will find that that is not the case.

Plumage Demand (Interdepartmental Conference)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the conclusion arrived at by the Interdepartmental Conference that considered the question of how far it might be possible to restrict the demand for plumage by legislation in this country and the Colonies or by international agreement; and what action he proposes to take thereon?

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my answer to the question by the hon. Member for Christchurch on the 14th April, to which I can only add that the Government are still considering what action can be taken in the matter.

Scottish Mental Deficiency Bill

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the event of sufficient facilities being given to pass the English Mental Deficiency Bill through all its stages this Session, the Scottish Mental Deficiency Bill will also be given equal facilities this Session?

The Scottish Bill will go to the Scottish Grand Committee. I hope it may be possible to pass it this Session.

Main Roads (Metropolis)

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the general scheme for the improvement of the main roads in and out of London is in the hands of the Board of Trade; that such money as might be available for this purpose is at the disposal of the Road Board; that the limited control over the town-planning schemes, as regards the adoption of the general road scheme, lies with the Local Government Board; and whether he will, before it is too late, take steps to empower some central authority to assume undivided responsibility in this matter, in view of its importance to the Metropolis.

I think it important that the Departments named should keep in touch with each other and co-operate so far as possible in dealing with these questions, but I do not at present see my way to propose legislation setting up a central body such as is suggested.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take any steps to bring the three Departments into consultation with each other?

Channel Tunnel

49.

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider the proposal to submit the question of a Channel tunnel between England and France to the Committee of Imperial Defence, so that the new conditions which have arisen, and which are con- sidered to have changed the situation, may be considered and the opinion of the Committee obtained before the expenss of preparing new plans and schemes for the construction of the tunnel are incurred?

The Committee of Imperial Defence is at present very fully occupied with important questions, and this matter is under consideration by the Departments concerned.

Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the matter is under consideration by the Departments concerned?

Irish Estimates

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has observed that the general council of the Irish county councils have passed a resolution protesting against the extension of the medical benefit to the rural areas of Ireland unless accompanied by a reform of the Irish Poor Law sytsem; and whether, in view of the fact that no day has yet been allotted this Session to Irish Supply, he will put down for some day before the Whitsuntide recess a Vote that will make it possible to discuss the constitution and methods of procedure of the Treasury Committee which is endeavouring to force upon Ireland the legislation against which the general council of the Irish county councils protest?

I have no knowledge of the resolution referred to. The suggestion which the hon. Member makes would not give effect to the object he has in view since this matter cannot properly be discussed on an Irish Vote. An opportunity for its discussion will arise on another occasion, namely, on the Temporary Commissions Vote, but I think it will be better to postpone it till the Committee has reported.

How soon may we expect that an opportunity will occur, and does not the right hon. Gentleman think it a little unfair with two-thirds of the Session practically passed, that not a single day should be given to the discussion of Irish affairs?

This would not arise on Irish Supply, and the hon. Member would not have the opportunity, if we put it down, of discussing this particular matter. I am very anxious it should be discussed, but I think it would be better to wait until the Committee have actually reported.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman be able to give us some assurance in view of the very important Irish representative expression of opinion that I have quoted, that there will be no attempt to force this highly contentious measure upon a country within twelve or fifteen months of the day when we are promised that an Irish Parliament will be sitting? If the right hon. Gentleman can give me that assurance, we will be only too happy to have no discussion?

I do not know how the Committee is going to report. The Committee may report against this particular proposal for all I know.

Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to give a day to Irish Supply before Whitsuntide?

New Hebrides

57.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make any statement as to the state of the New Hebrides with regard to importation of arms and liquor and kidnapping of natives; and whether the latest reports are entirely satisfactory?

The state of affairs in the New Hebrides in regard to the matters referred to by the hon. and gallant Member still continues unsatisfactory, and certain steps for improving it proposed by the President of the Joint Court are now under consideration.

House Of Commons (Lobby Panels)

58.

asked the hon. Member for St. George's-in-the-East, as representing the First Commissioner of Works, what was the date of completion of the two mosaic panels in the outer Lobby representing the patron saints of England and Wales; and whether it is proposed to complete the decoration of the outer Lobby by the addition of similar mosaics in the two vacant panels in order that the patron saints of Scotland and Ireland may be similarly honoured?

One of the two panels was placed in position in 1869, the second one in 1898. As to the completion of the other two, the First Commissioner can only refer to the answer given by his predecessor in 1908 in which it was suggested that the work would form a suitable object for private benefaction.

Were the two panels at present up paid for by private benefactions or out of public money?

Why is this distinction drawn between the patron saints of England and Wales, in respect of whom public money is voted, and the patron saints of Scotland and Ireland, in favour of whom my hon. Friend invites private benefactions?

There is no distinction drawn between any patron saints. There is no money in the Estimates.

Elementary Schools

60.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether, as indicated in recent speeches of Cabinet Ministers, it is the Government policy to bring to an end the system of half-time scholars in elementary schools; and, if so, whether those education authority districts in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire, which will be most affected, will be warned in sufficient time for them to provide the additional school places which will be required?

I am afraid I must ask the hon. Member once more to wait for the introduction of the Bill, but I can assure him that ample notice will be given to the local education authorities of any changes which are proposed.

61.

asked whether, in order to provide nursery schools for the 300,000 children under five at present in school, and also the 275,000 children who have been excluded from infant schools in recent years, additional school accommodation will be required; if so, how many places will have to be provided when a beginning will be made to carry out this policy; and what is the estimated cost of providing the requisite accommodation?

Further accommodation would undoubtedly be required if local education authorities adopted the policy of providing nursery schools for all children under five years of age. It would be premature for me to attempt an answer to the second and third parts of the question.

Can local authorities compel children under five years of age to go to school whether they like it or not?

62.

asked whether, having regard to the urgency of organising better infant instruction, he will propose new Articles in the Code laying down fresh conditions under five?

I am not proposing to make any alteration this year in the Code in regard to the instruction of children under five.

63.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he has considered the increased amount of floor space in schools for children under five organised as nurseries; and whether he will state the number of superficial feet per child which such schools will require?

I am not at present prepared to specify the space per child which may be required in schools organised as nursery schools.

64.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether the reforms in infant instruction recommended by the special reports of His Majesty's inspectors in 1905, and by the consultative committee in 1908, will be entered on shortly; whether he is aware that each year of delay, during which fewer infant places are available in schools, adds to the difficulty and increases the expense of these reforms; and whether, in order to expedite this policy, special Grants will be made to selected local authorities conditional on their promise to carry out a scheme of approved infant instruction?

The whole matter is engaging my attention, but I am not at present prepared to reconsider the position adopted by the Board in regard to the provision by local education authorities of school accommodation for children under five.

65.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is aware that the latest published figures show that in Bootle over 37 per cent. of the scholars are in overcrowded schools; that the average attendance exceeds the accommodation in thirteen departments of the Bootle schools, and that, especially in Christ Church, St. John's Church of England, and St. James's Roman Catholic schools, there is serious overcrowding; whether he will say how long overcrowding has existed in Bootle schools; and whether any date can be given when it is to be remedied?

For the school year ended 31st January, 1913, the average attendance exceeded the accommodation in three departments only in the area of the authority, and the excess amounted to ten units, five units, and five units, respectively. As a result of communication between the Board and the authority a new Council school providing for 1,020 children was opened in 1910, and another Council school providing a further 1,000 places has been erected and will be opened in August.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to the questions how long overcrowding has existed, and when will it be remedied? No attempt has been made to answer those questions.

Attention has been drawn from time to time to any excesses that have existed, and remedies have been effected by the local education authority. In all respects the accommodation will meet the requirements.

Does not this state of things really reflect largely on the people of Bootle, and does it not explain a great deal?

66.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is aware that the elementary school accommodation in the Strand Parliamentary Division formerly consisted of six Church of England schools, two Roman Catholic schools, and two small Council schools; whether the Board of Education are now allowing the London County Council to close Charing Cross Road Council school, thereby compelling children from the Council school to attend the denominational schools; whether the school closed is a modern building with playground; whether the adjoining Church of England school of St. Anne's, Soho, is an antiquated building, without a playground, and with certain of its class rooms already crowded, as shown by the last published figures; and whether he will give his reasons for closing modern Council schools in order to drive children into inadequate Church schools?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The premises of the Charing Cross Road Council school were defective and unsuitable. They had been adapted for use as a school by the London School Board in 1890. There was no playground. In December of last year the number of scholars on the registers was only 40. The St. Anne's school has no playground, but there is a space of some 200 square yards in the churchyard available for physical exercises. During the school year 1910–11 there were vacant places in every department of this school, and there is accommodation in Council schools on the eastern and western sides of the Charing Cross Road Council school for the children displaced by its closure.

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that one of the schools which he allows to continue there was not built as a school at all, but as a West-end dancing saloon? Will he look into that matter?

67.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether the latest published figures show that in Dover over 37 per cent. of the elementary school children are in overcrowded schools; that the average attendance exceeds the accommodation in twelve departments, especially in Buckland Church of England, Charlton Church of England, Christ Church Church of England, St. Bartholomew's Church of England, St. James's Church of England, and St. Mary's Church of England schools; whether he has drawn the attention of the local education authority to the fact of this overcrowding, in spite of all children under five having been excluded, and the average of attendance being almost the lowest in England; whether correspondence has been passing on these subjects; and at what date the overcrowding may be expected to be remedied?

For the school year ended 31st October, 1912, the average attendance exceeded the accommodation in four departments only in the area of the authority referred to. In one of them the excess amounted to one unit only. A new girls' department, providing 138 new places, has been opened at the Barton Road Council school, which has already relieved the overcrowding at that school, and is expected to relieve the overcrowding in the two remaining departments. There was no overcrowding in either the Buckland, Christ Church, St. James's, or St. Mary's Church of England schools.

68.

asked whether the principal of each college sets the examination papers in the acting teachers' examination; whether this is conducive to the examination being equally easy or difficult for all those who sit for the examination; and how long this system has been in practice?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative, and the questions in the second and third parts do not arise. I may say also that papers for the Board's final examination for students in training colleges are never set by the principals of the colleges, but some students are allowed to substitute for part or the whole of the Board's examination, examinations conducted by universities.

69.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether teachers who propose going in for their certificate examination are allowed time off duty for special study; whether this privilege is and has been granted to all who apply for it; and, if not, whether he will consider the advisability of making this concession a general privilege?

The teachers are not in the service of the Board of Education, and I am, therefore, unable to give the information for which the hon. Member asks.

70.

asked whether the training college teachers' examination is a qualifying one, while the acting teachers' examination is competitive; and whether any complaints have arisen in consequence?

Both the examinations referred to are qualifying. The last question, therefore, does not arise. I am not aware that any complaints have been made because the examination is a qualifying examination and not competitive.

National Defence (Airships)

52.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that people all over the country are becoming seriously alarmed at our defencelessness against attack from the air; and can he say what steps the Government proposes to take to make up for their past neglect to provide us with the means of aerial attack and defence?

As I stated on the 16th instant, this matter is receiving the continued attention of His Majesty's Government. As regards the latter part of the question, I must refer the hon. Member to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has said on the subject, to which I have nothing to add.

In view of the fact that we have not any big airships, and are not going to have any, are we to understand that we are to be left defenceless against the big airships of the enemy, which admittedly can be used at night to drop high explosives on our docks, big towns, and other places?

The hon. Gentleman is not to understand that at all. The whole matter is receiving the most careful consideration under the best expert advice in the country.

Mr. HUNT rose—

The hon. Gentleman had better continue his argument in Committee of Supply.

Ministerial Salaries

53.

asked the Prime Minister whether the difference of £3,000 per annum between the salary of the President of the Board of Education on the one hand, and the salaries of the Presidents of the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board on the other, and the corresponding differences in the remuneration of the permanent officials of these Departments represent, in the opinion of the Government, the degree of inferiority of the work and personnel of the first-named Department by comparison with the other two; and, if not, whether, in the interests of the efficiency of educational administration and of public recognition of the paramount importance of national education, he will consider the advisability and the equity of so altering the amount of the former as to make the difference, if any, between the salaries of these three Ministerial offices something less than 150 per cent., as now?

The higher scale upon which the two Departments referred to are now remunerated was adopted with the approval of the House of Commons a few years ago, and I see no reason for proposing any modification in it. The case of the Board of Education could not be considered apart from that of other Departments, and the Government do not at present propose any change.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to convey to the House that the services of the President of the Board of Education are of less value by 150 per cent. than those of his colleagues who preside over the other two Departments named?

I should be very sorry to make any invidious distinction in regard to the value of the services of any or all of my colleagues.

Is it not a fact that the present system does make an invidious distinction?

There is only one way of dealing with that, and that is to level them all up to the highest point.

Will the coming Education Bill be so drafted that a Clause might be put in remedying the defect brought forward so eloquently by the hon. Gentleman opposite?

Companies Acts (Amendment)

54 and 55.

asked (1) whether, in the circumstances disclosed in connection with the flotation and issue of the capital of the American Marconi Company in London, whereby the British shareholders have lost some millions of money, the Government contemplate any amendment of the Companies Acts so as to make it compulsory on the part of the promoters of such an issue to make a full disclosure of all material matters connected with the company; and (2) whether, in view of the circumstances disclosed in connection with the American Marconi Company, the Government are prepared to appoint a Committee, similar to the Committee appointed on 12th November, 1894, to inquire into the issue of the shares of that company in London, and to consider whether consequent thereon any and, if any, what modifications of the company law are necessary to protect the interests of British investors in the issues in this country of foreign corporations?

Since the Committee of 1894, to which he refers, a Departmental Committee, appointed in 1905 under the chairmanship first of Lord Loreburn and afterwards of Sir C. M. Warmington, considered the whole question of the amendment of the Companies Acts, and in particular the requirements to be imposed on foreign companies carrying on business or issuing prospectuses inviting subscriptions in the United Kingdom. The Commttee's recommendations on this point will be found in paragraph 19 of their Report. The Committee declared that in their opinion these companies could not with advantage be compelled to comply with the requirements of the British Companies Acts as to prospectuses. The Companies (Consolidation) Act of 1908, which was passed in consequence of the Committee's Report, gives effect to the above recommendations in Section 274. There does not appear at present any sufficient reason for further inquiry or legislation on the subject.

Arising out of that reply, may I ask whether the Committee to which the right hon. Gentleman refers had before it evidence of any heavy public loss and grave ministerial complications when arriving at their conclusions, and whether, in the absence——

As the hon. Member has the question all written out, he had better put it on the Paper.

Royal Irish Constabulary Force Fund

71.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury when the actuarial investigation of the Irish Constabulary Force Fund will be completed; and whether the result will be presented to the House or made available to Members?

The investigation is now proceeding, but I understand it cannot be completed for some considerable time. The question of presenting the Report will be considered in due course.

National Insurance Act

Herbalists And Christian Scientists

72.

asked whether any insurance committee has allowed any arrangements under Section 15 (3) of the National Insurance Act with herbalists or Christian Scientists?

I have no information as to such arrangements, which are dependent on the discretion of the insurance committees.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not become aware of the extraordinary fact if any such arrangements were officially sanctioned by an insurance committee?

No; the insurance committees do not report to me particulars of those insured persons whom they allow to make their own arrangements.

Soldiers And Civil Employment

79.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether soldiers who decline to contribute under the National Insurance Act during the second period of their engagements are in any way penalised thereby on becoming compulsorily insured after returning to civil employment?

A soldier who re-engages for pension is in a similar position to a civilian who is employed but is entitled to claim a certificate of exemption. If a soldier on re-engagement does not elect to have deductions made from his pay he lapses from insurance, and if, on discharge, he subsequently re-enters into insurance he, like a civilian who has similarly lapsed from insurance, will have to undergo fresh waiting periods; but the fact that he has previously been insured will enable him to receive full benefits as explained in the answer given to the hon. and gallant Member on the 14th April.

81.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether soldiers, although contributing under the National Insurance Act, are debarred from receiving benefits under the Act on the ground that they receive corresponding benefits under the terms of their enlistment; and whether he can state what those corresponding benefits are?

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for South Somerset on 27th January last.

Medical Benefit

80.

asked what procedure has to be adopted by Irish insured persons who are members of Irish societies and who wish to obtain the medical benefits due to them in return for their increased contributions while temporarily employed in England; to whom must they give notice; and from whom do they receive the necessary instructions?

An Irish insured person coming to England should apply to the the clerk of the insurance committee of the area to which he comes, who will give him the necessary instructions.

How can an Irish insured person find out the local insurance area he may be in: to whom is application to be made?

He can always obtain the information from his approved society: generally I should think an application addressed to the municipal offices of the borough or county to which he has moved would secure it.

On the assumption that the insured person is taken suddenly ill, is there any means by which he can obtain medical benefit?

The insured person should give notice on arrival in this country so as to be insured for medical benefit. He would have to pay an extra amount, as he would not have been paying for medical benefit in Ireland.

High Court (Salaries And Pensions)

73.

asked what is the amount paid annually to judges of the King's Bench Division of the High Court; and how much is paid annually in pensions to judges who have formerly administered justice in that Court?

I would refer the hon. Member to pages 47 and 56 of the Finance Accounts for 1911–12, where a full statement is given.

Loss Of Steamship "Titanic" (Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry)

74.

asked on what grounds the Comptroller and Auditor-General has allowed extra fees to be paid to the Law Officers for their services on the "Titanic" Inquiry, that being non-contentious business, and such fees in addition to salary being payable only for contentious business?

The fees in question will only come under the review of the Comptroller and Auditor-General when he examines the Appropriation Account for the year in question, but the hon. Member is mistaken in thinking that the inquiry in question was not contentious business in the recognised meaning of the term.

Marconi Select Committee

75.

asked how the cost of the Marconi Inquiry, apart from the production of the evidence in Blue Books, is made up; whether all the members of the Committee and all the witnesses are being paid; if so, on what scale; and, seeing that some Committees of this House are paid, others not, and that the House does not determine, who determines and by what rule?

Apart from the cost of printing the Blue Book, expenditure is incurred on shorthand writing, in printing daily copies of the evidence for the use of Members, in preparing documents for the Committee, and for incidental expenses, chiefly Press cuttings. No members of the Select Committee or witnesses have been paid. With regard to the last part of the question, I am not aware of any Committee of the House whose members are paid as such.

Is it a fact that over £160 has been paid in distributing Press cuttings to members of this Committee alone?

Housing Of Working Classes Act (Ireland)

83.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether the application of the Ballina Urban District Council, county Mayo, for a loan of £8,150, under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, was sanctioned a considerable time ago, the Local Government Board recommending a first instalment of £2,500 to be advanced some months ago; and, seeing that repeated applications have since been made by the urban council for this payment without result, thus preventing the council entering into possession of the site and the contractor being ready to proceed with building operations in the most suitable period of the year, and delaying the provision of this urgently needed housing accommodation, will he state the cause of this delay and when the urban council may expect payment of the first instalment?

The sanction of the Local Government Board only relates to the power of the local authority to borrow money. The application of the urban district council for a loan is now under the consideration of the Treasury, which requires to be satisfied as to the security for the punctual repayment of the principal and interest of the loan, and correspondence is proceeding on this point.

Irish Provident Assurance Company

84.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Board has been able to ascertain the approximate date at which the assets of the Irish Provident Assurance Company may be distributed?

I am informed by the solicitors acting for the liquidator of the Irish Provident Assurance Company, Limited, that they hope to be in a position to apply to the Court before the Long Vacation for liberty to pay a preliminary dividend to the creditors.

British Steamship Contracts Abroad

85.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that orders for three large passenger and cargo steamers have been given to a French company at Dunkirk; that this contract has been placed in France because the total cost will be less than that of building in this country, notwithstanding the fact that rough castings of the machinery are being sent from this country and paying the French import duties; whether this loss of employment to the British workmen is due to the continual burdens cast upon employers in this country by recent legislation; and, if so, what steps the Government propose to take to keep British contracts for British workmen?

I have seen statements in the Press relative to this matter, and I note that the difficulty of securing early delivery is stated to have been one of the reasons for the contract being placed outside the United Kingdom. As the quantity of work in hand in British shipbuilding yards at the end of March was greater than has ever before been recorded in Lloyd's quarterly returns, there does not appear any occasion for concern.

Does the right hon. Gentleman allow that the burdens cast upon the manufacturers of this country have anything to do with this transfer of contracts?

Cost Of Living (Report)

86.

asked when the Report on the cost of living in the United Kingdom, which has been in preparation for some years, and whose publication was promised for the spring of this year, will be issued?

It is not the case that this Report has been in preparation for some years. The inquiry was begun in 1912, but was delayed in the early stages by various causes beyond the control of the Department, including the coal strike and the outbreak of cattle disease, which affected prices of fuel and meat. It was not until May, 1912, that the local investigation could be actually begun, since which time very satisfactory progress has been made, and I still hope that publication will take place before the end of the present spring.

I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether a considerable portion of the results of this investigation was given in the evidence of Mr. Barnes before the Committee on Postmen's Wages, and whether he will lay a copy of the Memorandum on the Table?

As the question is under the consideration of the Committee I cannot see my way to lay the Memorandum on the Table.

Shipmaster's Certificate

87.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the case of Mr. A. Smith, junior, who, just after Christmas last, presented himself for examination for master's certificate and passed, both in colour and form division, and was granted his certificate, and who has since been studying for the voluntary grade of extra master, and who, on presenting himself for examination in colour and form division on the 4th instant, failed to pass the new lantern test; and whether in such a case the master's certificate already granted will be taken away?

This candidate for an extra master's certificate was not failed, but was referred by the local examiner for a special examination in London, which he passed, and therefore no question as to his certificate arises.

Royal Commission (Circuit System)

90.

asked the Attorney-General whether any change in the circuit system advocated by the Royal Commission now sitting will affect only civil and not criminal business; if so, whether it is proposed to concentrate civil business in only a few centres; and whether he proposes to consult the House before any final decision is arrived at?

The Royal Commission has not yet advocated any change in the circuit system. I understand the matter is still under the consideration of the Commissioners, who have not yet arrived at any definite conclusions with regard to it. I cannot answer the last question until I know the recommendation of the Commission.