HC Deb 15 July 1887 vol 317 cc959-1014
Great Britain: £
Disturnpiked and Main Roads (England and Wales) 50,000
Disturnpiked Roads (Scotland) 5,000
Public Buildings 20,000
House of Commons, Offices 6,000
Treasury, including Parliamentary Counsel 5,000
Home Office and Subordinate Departments 8,000
Foreign Office 5,000
Colonial Office 2,000
Privy Council Office and Subordinate Departments 2,000
Board of Trade and Subordinate Departments 15,000
Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade
Charity Commission (including Endowed Schools Department) 4,000
Civil Service Commission 3,000
Exchequer and Audit Department 4,000
Friendly Societies, Registry 1,000
Land Commission for England 4,000
Local Government Board 50,000
Lunacy Commission 2,000
Mint (including Coinage) 10,000
National Debt Office 1,000
Patent Office 4,000
Paymaster General's Office 2,000
Public Works Loan Commission 1,000
Record Office 3,000
Registrar General's Office 4,000
Stationery Office and Printing 55,000
Woods, Forests, &c. Office of 3,000
Works and Public Buildings, Office of 4,000
Mercantile Marine Fund, Grant in Aid
Secret Service 2,000
Secretary for Scotland 1,000
Exchequer and other Offices 1,000
Fishery Board 3,000
Lunacy Commission 500
Registrar General's Office 500
Board of Supervision 4,000
Lord Lieutenant's Household 1,000
Chief Secretary's Office 3,000
Charitable Donations and Bequests Office 300
Local Government Board 10,000
Public Works Office 8,000
Record Office 500
Registrar General's Office 2,000
Valuation and Boundary Survey 2,000
MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

I wish to take this opportunity of calling attention on this Vote to the present position of the Special Mission of Sir H. Drummond Wolff and the manner in which the negotiations have been manipulated by Her Majesty's Government, I do not propose to discuss the Convention which is not before us, and with regard to which I may say that it seems doubtful if it will ever be signed.


I would point out to the hon. Member that it is not contemplated to take any money on account of Sir H. Drummond Wolff's Mission.


I wish my right hon. Friend had told me that yesterday.


I said it was impossible then to say what money would be required. I have since found that no money will be asked for under this head, and therefore I doubt if it is in Order to discuss the Mission of Sir H. Drummond Wolff.


I should think it is competent to me to make some observations on this subject, inasmuch as money will be taken under this Vote on account of the Foreign Office; and I shall therefore proceed unless the Chairman thinks I am out of order. On the 7th of March last, we had a debate on the subject of Sir H. Drummond Wolff's Mission, when a Motion was made to reduce the Estimate for the Mission. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Fergusson) made a speech on the Mission of Sir H. Drummond Wolff and on the Convention; he dilated much on the latter, and upon the favourable prospects held out by the negotiations of the speedy conclusion of the Mission, and he deprecated any interruption of the proceedings by an adverse vote of the Committee. The Vote for Sir H. Drummond Wolff's Mission was thereupon carried by a considerable majority, and some of us withdrew our opposition upon the strength of the statement made by the Foreign Office through the mouth of my right hon. Friend. It is now four months since the prospect was held out of a very speedy conclusion of this extremely costly Mission During that time the Mission has continued, and I must remind the Committee that we, on this side of the House, and particularly those on this Bench, have abstained in an unusual way from putting any pressure on the Government to disclose what has been passing, and from doing anything that could, in any way, interfere with their endeavours to bring the negotiations to a successful issue. We have had no great faith in the Convention, and never expected a great result from it; but we thought that we ought not to spoil the chance of the Government after the expense that had been incurred; we knew that they were making arrangements for the speedier evacuation of Egypt, we were glad to see the evidence of a better mind on that subject, and therefore we did not interfere. We carried this so far that when 10 days ago the hon. Member for Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) moved the adjournment of the House, we dissuaded him from pressing that Motion, and even voted against it, so desirous were we not to interfere with, whatever chance of success still remained for the Government. Bat what result is there to show for the large sum of money spent through these years, and what becomes of the sanguine hopes held out by my right hon. Friend? I never could understand why the Government were not content to employ the unequalled knowledge and skill of their representatives in Egypt and Constantinople. Can it be supposed that Sir H. Drummond Wolff had more knowledge of the Eastern Question in all its aspects, or was better able to deal with Orientals than Sir William White? The result is just what we expected. Sir H. Drummond Wolff, who was to show so much more aptitude than our Ambassador, and who apparently w as to have supplemented and improved what could have been said by the mouth of Sir William White, does not seem to have reached any substantial result, and so far as the facts have leaked out, I cannot find anything which shows special knowledge on his part, and which might not have been equally well, or better, negotiated by Sir William White. So much for the result of the Mission. But I have something more to say as to the way in which the Government have managed the Mission and with regard to what has taken place during the last three or four weeks. It is now many weeks since the Sultan gave directions to his Ministers to sign the Convention, and it is now three weeks nearly from the day fixed for its ratification. It was then finally fixed for Friday, the 8th of July—that was the last day to be given for the ratification, after which Sir H. Drummond Wolff was forthwith to leave Constantinople. There has been another postponement, and we are unable to learn from the Government what is the precise position of Sir H. Drummond Wolff—whether he has or not absolute orders to leave Constantinople, or whether subsequent steps will be taken. I do not know that we have now any security that, although it was communicated to us that he would leave this week, there may not be some further postponement to next week. I take it from my right hon. Friend's silence that the Convention is not yet ratified; but although I hope, from the language lately used by the Government, that there will not be a postponement after this week, still we have not obtained any security to that effect. Now, I cannot think there can be a position more humiliating than that in which the country is placed. Here is a Convention which has been the outcome of the Mission that has cost a large sum of money, extended over a period of two years, and the importance of which is expressed by the fact that our Special Envoy undertook work that was thought to be too difficult for Her Majesty's Representatives in Egypt and Constantinople to perform. This Convention would seem to be more in favour of the Sultan than of this country, and it is certain to give us no further rights and advantages than those which we at present enjoy. It involves, at least, one danger to which Egypt is not now exposed. Now, under these circumstances, is it right that we should stand in this position, waiting on the pleasure of the Turkish Government, and that Her Majesty's Government, in the person of Her Envoy, should be standing under a window serenading the Sultan, and waiting for him to come forward and graciously smile on us? I am astonished at the ignorance of Oriental methods, at the want of sense and tact, and the absence of appreciation of what is due to the credit and honour of this country, which the Government have shown by allowing these negotiations to proceed in the manner I have described. What, then, has resulted from employing a Special Envoy? Just this. That you have been landed in a difficulty which could not have arisen had you negotiated through our Ambassador, because, being permanently stationed at Constantinople he would have simply fixed a day for ratification, and, if he had extended the time, would, anyhow, not have been kept hanging on from week to week, with his trunks half packed, uncertain whether to go or stay. We used to hear of the duty of this country to maintain a spirited foreign policy, and we on these Benches, have been sometimes taunted with not showing a proper sense of what was due to the dignity of the country. I do not think, however, that any Foreign Minister—certainly not Lord Granville, or Lord Rosebery, and I will even say, not Lord Beaconsfield—has ever placed this country in so discreditable, and even ludicrous, a position as that in which it has been, placed by Her Majesty's Government. I attach no great importance to the question whether the Convention is ratified or not; but what I do care about is that these undignified proceedings should cease, that Sir H. Drummond Wolff should return, and that Her Majesty's Government should undertake that they will not, in future, expose us to further slights.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I think when last a conversation was sprung upon us on this subject, that we had no knowledge of the terms of the Convention; but we have since had the main features of it from the Prime Minister. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken from the Front Bench did so as if, having paid the money, we ought to get a Convention after all. My feeling, however, is that we should not throw good money after bad; we may have thrown away good money, but rather than have a bad Convention I would rather have none at all. I supported, or rather declined actively to oppose, the Mission of Sir H. Drummond Wolff, because I supposed that he was a sensible and well-meaning man, and that his views on Oriental questions were not altogether bad, and because it was understood that he went to Egypt to make such military arrangements as would enable us to withdraw our troops from that country; but it does not seem to me that this Convention tends in any way to that effect. I altogether fail to see that it has any effect of the kind. We are pledged to the eyes to withdraw from Egypt as soon as law and order are restored there; whereas, as I understand from the Prime Minister regarding the Convention, we are, under no circumstances, to be called upon to retire for three years. It seems to me that the Convention tends to give us the term of three years, whether law and order are restored or not, during which we are to remain in Egypt; and, therefore, I think there is no advantage to be derived from the Convention. On the other hand, I do not think it can be denied that the terms of the Convention seem to mean a permanent Protectorate, with all the obligations and risks that are inseparable therefrom. Under the Convention in case of disturbance in Egypt, or of any difficulty to fulfil national obligations, I believe we are permitted, or practically bound to undertake the task of restoring order and law, a task which in my opinion would be an onerous one and involve great complication and difficulty with other Powers. There was one phrase used by the Prime Minister which gave me a special dread of this Convention—we were "to return to Egypt to fulfil international obligations." What are they? I am afraid it may be held that the arrangement under which the debts of Egypt are paid is of the nature of international obligation, and that under the guise of international obligation we are undertaking to see that the bondholders are paid. I hope the Government will distinctly inform the Committee that this is not one of the international obligations at which the Convention, according to the language of the Prime Minister, is aimed. The first result of making this Convention would be the permanent alienation of France, and the giving to Russia an opportunity of backing up France in order that the two Powers might be disagreeable to us, and extort concessions from us in other parts of the world. That is what I fear from a Convention of this kind, and having regard to the fact that there has been strong irritation on the part of France for some time past, my strong advice is, that although we have spent a large sum of money on this Mission, we should not try to get anything further, but bring Sir H. Drummond Wolff away at once from Constantinople. It has been stated in the newspapers that the Sultan was going to get something in a pecuniary way by the Convention. There has been no clear answer on that point, and I shall be glad to know from the right hon. Gentleman that there is no snake in the grass of that sort in this case, because my experience is that Orientals never give away anything without getting something in return; it is possible, therefore, that the Turkish Ministers and officials in constructing this Convention have got some advantage by it, and that perhaps there has been some way arranged in which the Sultan will be able to get a new loan, and in that way lay an additional burden on the people of Egypt.


I hardly understand what the hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) intended to gain by a discussion of this question to-day. I acknowledge most sincerely that my hon. Friend and the Opposition generally have behaved with great reticence during the course of the protracted negotiations which have taken place at Constantinople. They have not pressed the Government, and not only that—they have treated them in this matter with that consideration which is generally shown by those who have a due sense of the difficulty of conducting public affairs. Having had previous acquaintance with the difficulty themselves, they know that much harm but no good may be done by premature pressure in matters of this kind. Seeing, however, that on this occasion it is not necessary for the Government to ask a further Vote on account for the Mission of Sir H. Drummond Wolff, I scarcely see the necessity of initiating a discussion at this stage, because it cannot have any satisfactory issue, seeing that the House is not in possession of the Papers which will elucidate the proceedings of the Mission. It would, I think, hardly have been suitable that the Papers should have been distributed until the Mission had closed, and until it was certain whether the ratification would take place or not it would have been premature to discuss the matter, because prejudice might thereby be done to the public interest. We have reason to believe that ratification has not taken place, and that Sir H. Drummond Wolff will leave Constantinople to-night. The incident must therefore be considered as so far closed, and I hope the Committee will deem it well to postpone the consideration of the subject until the Papers are in the hands of the House, which I believe will be the case to-morrow or at the latest on Monday. While I think the Committee would gain nothing by entering now into the particulars of the Mission, I cannot however allow some observations that have been made to pass as if no answer could be made to them. My hon. Friend opposite spoke of the humiliating position in which Her Majesty's Government have allowed the country to be placed. I cannot for a moment allow that assertion to remain uncontradicted. It is absolutely without foundation. The only ground for the sense of humiliation under which my hon. Friend labours seems to be that whereas the Convention was signed on behalf of the Porte early in the present month, it has, up to the present, remained unratified, and that our Special Commis- sioner remained at Constantinople. Take the alternative course. Suppose our Commissioner had refused to remain in Constantinople for a day, even when the Sultan had appointed a day for an audience. Would that have been a dignified position for this country to be placed in—that our Special Commissioner should leave hastily and without performing the usual ceremonies on such occasions, and which, in Eastern countries, have great weight, and receive much attention? I submit that it would have been very undignified. A great mistake would have been committed which would have placed us in a false position, because it would have been attaching too much importance to the non-ratification, and out of it a misunderstanding might have arisen. Too much importance should not be attached to the lapse of the Convention. It may perhaps be found to contain more of concession than gain for this country. Nevertheless, I think it will be seen that it was founded on an honest desire to fulfil international engagements, and to make due concessions to other Powers consistently with our own duty. I hope that will be found to be the case; and we say that we have our duty to perform whether the Convention be ratified or not. We should not have increased our desire to occupy a difficult position, and our departure from Egypt would neither have been accelerated nor prolonged beyond the time when our duty should have been performed. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) has referred to the mention which the Prime Minister made of the leading terms of the Convention. That, I think, shows no desire to keep from the House and the country the nature of the obligations entered into. It would have been impossible for Her Majesty's Government to commit themselves absolutely to a statement as to the final terms of the Convention; but now the whole matter will be made known, so that the conduct of the Government may be judged. There was no increase in the burdens or obligations on the part of this country by the Convention. Our position, therefore, remains where it was before; and I earnestly hope that when hon. Members have had the opportunity of seeing the course of these negotiations, the objects of them, and the manner in which they were sup- ported, they will be of opinion that the dignity or the interests of the country have not been compromised, but rather that they have been faithfully and diligently maintained.

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

I wish to say that if it were not for the promise of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the Papers it would have been my duty to offer a strong remonstrance against this Vote. I trust the Government will take care that we shall have an adequate opportunity, when Sir H. Drummond Wolff returns, of fully discussing this matter.

MR. S. WILLIAMSON (Kilmarnock, &c)

The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has not touched the gravamen of the charge against the Government. It is that, having Representatives at Cairo and Constantinople, the Government committed themselves to the job of sending out Sir H. Drummond Wolff. I am glad that my hon. Friend (Mr. Bryce) has taken this opportunity of calling attention to this subject. We make the serious charge against them of putting on the country grievous and heavy charges unnecessarily; and I am perfectly sure that the country will blame them for having sent out Sir H. Drummond Wolff to the East, and for having kept him there so long.


There has been one explanation of the Mission of Sir H. Drummond Wolff to the East which has not been referred to. The Fourth Party had to be provided for, and when the present Government came into Office they made one Member of it Chancellor of the Exchequer, another Chief Secretary for Ireland, the third became Under Secretary for India, and Sir H. Drummond Wolff was sent as Special Commissioner to the Sultan. We have now, at all events, the information that the Convention is of no value whatever; and we know that the Government has paid £14,000 for the employment of a Gentleman who has been of no use whatever.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I think, in giving away the appointments referred to; the Government have shown a strong appreciation of the services of the Fourth Party. I do not complain of Sir H. Drummond Wolff for one moment. He was very able and intelligent in Bulgaria, and I have that appreciation of his intelligence to suppose that if he were offered £4,000 salary and an allowance of £7,000 for expenses he would take it. I do not blame him—I blame the Government. The complaint is not that Sir H. Drummond Wolff was not a good negotiator, but that we had able men in Egypt and in Constantinople also; that it was a matter of negotiation directly at Constantinople with the Sultan and his Government, and that the negotiation ought to have been placed in the hands of our Ambassador there. It is that we complain of, and say that it is simply a waste of public money. I agree that it would be unreasonable to enter now into the details of the subject, because in a few days we shall have the Papers and shall be able to go into the question with the knowledge which they will afford us. The right hon. Gentleman has given a preliminary puff of his Convention and has protested against my hon. Friends on this side speaking of the position of Sir H. Drummond Wolff in Constantinople as being a humiliating one. I think it is a humiliating position. It is not the duty of Her Majesty's Representative to wait day after day on the Sultan. If the Sultan had asked that Sir H. Drummond Wolff should wait for a single day, I could have understood the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary's defence of the proceeding; but Sir H. Drummond Wolff has waited day after day, and anyone acquainted with the way in which matters are treated at the Porte will know that it is always a "fad" with the Sultan to put them off with a pretext about the Bairham, or something of that kind, in order to have a European Minister dangling about him. I say it is not consistent with the dignity of this country that its Representative should be kept waiting day after day for the ratification of the Convention. But whether the Convention is ratified or not, we shall equally complain of the wasteful expenditure and absurd action of sending out a Special Envoy when we had a Representative both at Constantinople and in Egypt who were well qualified in every way to conduct the negotiations.


I am not surprised that the question of this Mission has been brought forward on the present Vote; but I do not propose to prolong the discussion, and I presume it is now at an end. I rise for the purpose of protesting against the Vote being asked for at all. It seems to me strange that when the Government ask for £2,000,000 there should be neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the First Lord of the Treasury, or even the Financial Secretary of the Government on the Treasury Bench. There is at this moment no financial officer of the Government in the House of Commons. We have to Vote a sum of a little over £2,000,000. This is the third Vote on account, and we have scarcely discussed one-fourth of the Civil Service Estimates. We are in the middle of the month of July, and anyone who takes the trouble to estimate the amount of work on the hands of the Government will know perfectly well that there will be little time left for submitting the Votes to the consideration of the Committee. This is a growing system. There are only two instances on record of a third Vote on account being taken in July—one in the exceptional year 1881, when the time of the House was monopolized for a very long time by a Bill of the first magnitude; and the other in 1883, when an opportunity was given of discussing the Civil Service Estimates. But we have not had that opportunity this Session; and if we had had it, this Vote on account would not have been required at all. I doubt whether the Vote is required, because out of £19,000,000 there has already been voted £6,000,000, and therefore until the end of the present month the Government are amply provided with funds, and the same remark applies to the Army and Navy Estimates. Again, the Land. Bill of the Government has not to be taken until next Thursday; and we have, therefore, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, on which the Estimates could be discussed. What is the effect of this system? It simply puts the Government in funds to such an extent that they are able altogether to shirk the duty of bringing the Votes seriatim under the consideration of Parliament; and if this Vote is passed, we shall be in this position, that the Government can put off Supply until the middle of August, when the discussion of the Votes would be a mere empty formality. Now I object altogether to the system of Votes on account, unless there are exceptional circumstances to justify them. One such Vote in the Session may be borne; when it comes to a second Vote the system is being abused; but when we are asked for a third Vote on account, I submit that the whole thing is a scandalous abuse of the Rules of Parliament. It results in the passing of money for all the Services in a manner that prevents the adequate discussion of any of the Votes. The remainder of the Votes to be taken would properly occupy three Sittings, and I say that the action of the Government in asking for this further Vote on Account practically leads to a waste of the time of the House. So strong is my feeling on this matter that I feel inclined to move the reduction of the Vote by one-half, in order to compel the Government to come to Parliament as soon as possible, to complete the Votes on the Civil Service Estimates. We have the Navy Estimates to be taken on Monday, but the Army Votes not for some little time yet, because the Report of the Committee is not in the hands of hon. Members. There is sufficient time to discuss the Civil Service Votes seriatim, and I say that the demand for this third Vote on account is therefore an abuse of the forms of this House.


I cannot allow the discussion on the subject of Egypt to close without adding an observation or two which it is my duty to make. The appointment of Sir H. Drummond Wolff hardly comes up for discussion now for the first time in this House, since it was continued by the late Government deliberately, and was defended by the Prime Minister of the day. But I wish to state first that whatever has been done at Constantinople by Sir H. Drummond Wolff, and whatever has been his attitude in remaining there, has the entire sanction and direction of Her Majesty's Government; and, secondly, that in the course of all his proceedings Sir H. Drummond Wolff has the highest approval of Her Majesty's Government, and has, in their judgment, performed the duties of his high Office with dignity, discretion, and prudence.


I have said nothing to disparage Sir H. Drummond Wolff, and I do not question his abilities. The gravamen of the charge I have made to-day is against the manner in which Her Majesty's Government, have conducted these negotiations, more especially during the last few weeks. I must also protest against the statement that the late Prime Minister defended the appointment of Sir H. Drummond Wolff. That was done neither by the late Prime Minister nor by the Foreign Office under the late Government. We did not recall Sir H. Drummond Wolff, and on the 7th of March I gave the reasons which, in the opinion of the last Liberal Government, made it undesirable, during our short and uncertain tenure of office, to recall him. What the Prime Minister said was that there were reasons why he should not be forthwith recalled, but he neither justified the original appointment nor implied that if he had been in Office at the time he would have appointed Sir H. Drummond Wolff, still less did he suggest that his Mission should be allowed to run on to the length it has reached.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I wish to point out that the Secretary for Scotland (the Marquess of Lothian) is not carrying out the provisions of the Crofters Act, and that unless something is done to ensure that it is carried out, and to see that the Crofters Commission does its work when it is wanted to act, a very serious condition of affairs will come into existence. The last information which I had from the Scotch Office was that they had come to some decision in the month of May, but since then nothing has been done. Under the Act there is power to appoint sub-commissioners, assessors, and valuers, in order to get through the work; but that has not been done. The Scotch Office has allowed that most important portion of the Act to remain a dead letter, and the work has been performed in consequence in a very inefficient and expensive manner. You have a Commission of three gentlemen, with very large salaries of £3,000 a-year, doing work which could be easily done by men paid £300 a-year, and which work is in arrear to such an extent that it has given rise to legal proceedings in some cases. I impress on the Committee and the right hon. Gentleman the necessity there is for the work to be carried on by responsible officers. Then with regard to the way in which the Treasury are carrying on this Act. It is of no use for Parliament to pass Acts authorizing money to be advanced if the intention of the Act is neutralized by the Treasury. Conditions have been laid down by them which have made it impossible for de- serving men in the Highlands up to the present time to get a single loan under the Act. This is a very serious matter, and I hope it will be taken into consideration by the Government. It is also a matter of complaint that those districts were first visited by the Commissioners where the disturbances occurred, and I express a hope that in future the cases will be taken upon their merits. Matters in the Highlands are getting more and more lawless, and I take this opportunity of impressing on the Government the necessity of seriously turning their mind to this matter, because otherwise, before the Houses are prorogued, there is likely to be a good deal of trouble. I hope to hear from the Representative of the Government now on the Treasury Bench an explanation of the reason why not one loan has been granted under the Crofters Act.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast W.)

I observe that since my hon. Friend complained of the conduct of the Government in asking for this Vote the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has returned to the House, and I think the Committee will be pleased if the right hon. Gentleman will give them the advantage of his clear mind in discussing the matter. My hon. Friend has stated that the Government have enough money to last to the end of the month, and we say that £5,750,000 have already been voted; and we also say that there is money in hand for the Army and Navy. My hon. Friend has pointed out that, as the Irish Land Law Bill will not come forward in Committee till next week, the Committee might have expected that the Government would have waited to see what their fortune was with regard to Supply in the next three Sittings before they came down to ask for this Vote on Account, and I think my hon. Friend has made out a case for this course being pursued which is extremely reasonable. I join most emphatically in the protest of my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) against the absurd and ridiculous system which is growing every year in this House of disposing of Public Expenditure by the method of Votes on Account. I should not mind so much if this House were engaged in useful legislation. The House of Commons has two functions, the function of legislating and the function of granting Supply. If the House were engaged in useful legislation, I should not be so querulous about the taking of a Vote on Account; but this Session it has done nothing but pass a Coercion Bill for Ireland. I certainly do not think a Coercion Bill is useful legislation; on the contrary, I think the time spent upon it as neither more nor less than wasted, and, seeing time wasted, I am disposed to insist that in the matter of Supply the Representatives of the people shall be allowed to hold the strings of the public purse. There was a time when the Representatives of the people had control over the public money. We were sometimes able to procure reductions in the Estimates; but what is the case now? The Public Revenue consists of many score of millions; but it is not the Representatives of the people who spend it or say how it shall be spent, but it is the permanent Heads of the Departments in Whitehall and elsewhere. They put down what Estimates they please, obtain for them the assent of the Minister, and place them before the House in the certainty that, under the present system, they will be able to get all the money they choose to ask for. This is the third time this Session we have had a Vote on Account. We get an evening for the purpose of voting several millions of money; and then at the end of July, or the middle of August, many Votes in Supply are forced through the House in the course of a single Sitting, when perhaps there are not more than a dozen or two wearied Members present. I join, Sir, in the protest made, and I assure you respectfully that the time is coming when that protest will not be confined to the floor of this House. The people are bound to take notice of the conspiracy which evidently exists between the permanent Officials and the Heads of Departments. I object altogether to this Vote on Account; but, having made those general observations, I wish to refer to a specific matter. I notice that the Vote contains an item for upwards of £100,000 for the Customs Department, and the question is one in which my constituents are very directly concerned. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is present, because the question I wish to raise has reference to the condition and treatment of the Port of Belfast, as a port for the receipt of Customs. The Port of Belfast does not I receive the same fair and equal treatment it would receive if it were a Scotch or an English port. An instance of this came recently before us. A firm of wine and spirit merchants in Belfast applied to the Customs Authorities for a bonded store. The firm, whose request was refused, is one of some importance, inasmuch as they paid to the Government last year in duties no less than £25,042. Their contribution has been progressive. In 1879 it was £13,000, and it has gone on increasing yearly. Their request for a bonded store—in which not more than £250 a-year was involved—was refused, and they issued a memorandum, laying bare the facts of the case. Their request was then conceded. What I complain of is, that it was necessary to issue a memorandum and invoke public opinion. I think that if that firm had been doing business in Liverpool, Manchester, or Hull, it would not have been necessary to have invoked public opinion in a matter of this kind. Then, again, I want to know whether there is a classification of ports which governs the number of the staff at the ports, and the general facilities afforded by the Department? Belfast in point of contribution to the Customs, is the third port of the British Empire. London is first, Liverpool second, and Belfast third. Out of the total Customs receipt—namely, £20,000,000—Belfast contributed last year no less than £1,630,000, or one-thirteenth part of the whole. Belfast is a very progressive port, because in 1856 the contribution was only £653,000, so that in 30 years the contribution has been trebled. In 1886 it was £120,000 more than in 1885. Belfast is not only a port of great value to the Government as a means of producing Customs, but it is also an extremely progressive port. In Glasgow the collection was only half what it was in Belfast, and in Hull the total contribution last year was smaller than the nett increase which had taken place in Belfast. I simply ask for fair play for Belfast, and I shall insist, so far as it is in my power, that Belfast shall be treated, in relation to its productiveness to the Revenue, as well as if it were on the right side of the Irish Channel, and not on the wrong, according to the view of the Treasury. Now, is there a classification of ports? Are there first, second, and third-class ports? If so, docs Belfast stand in its proper place in proportion to its contribution to the Revenue, and if not, why not? I am led to believe that Belfast stands in the scale lower than it ought to, and that it does not receive in point of staff or general official facilities the same treatment it would receive if it were a Scotch or English port. I have taken up this question, and I assure the Government that, having done so, I shall not suffer it to drop until redress is given. I shall bring it forward on every occasion that presents itself, and I think the Government will find that it will be convenient for themselves to come to a decision promptly. There is one other matter I wish to mention to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it is with regard to the granting of the City Charter to Belfast. A Question was lately put in the House upon the subject, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) replied, and I quite concurred in the reply, that the Government did not intend to recommend any such grant in connection with Her Majesty's Jubilee. But the right hon. Gentleman indicated that the question should receive consideration. Now, he has had a fortnight in which to consider the question, and I will ask him for a reply upon the point—if he cannot give it me now perhaps he will be ready to give it me when the Report of the Vote on Account is taken. I do not know that there is much difference between a town and a city; but some people prefer the title of city, and if there is any advantage in a place being called a city, I think the people of Belfast are entitled to have their choice. There are eight cities in Ireland, and Belfast is next to Dublin in point of importance; according to Thom's information, it is the first town of manufacturing importance. I believe there is a strong desire that the title of city should be given to the place. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) will not deny that the people of Belfast are numerous—they are 250,000. He will not deny that they are industrious, and that in manufacture and trade and commerce they have made remarkable progress. I believe he will not deny they are very loyal. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who is the director of the consciences of the Government, and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who poses as the Government's most candid Friend, recently visited Belfast: and I think they may well be expected to do their best to secure to the people of Belfast the City Charter they desire. It seems absurd that Belfast should be shut out from any City Charter, while Armagh, with 10,000 of a population, is a city; and when Cashell, with a population of 4,000, enjoys the distinction also. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to say that, in consideration of the importance of the town, the Government will recommend the Crown to grant to it the title of city. Like civility, a Charter of this kind costs nothing; and, therefore, I think that this Charter might be promptly and gracefully conceded to the town.


With regard to the last question put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton)—namely, the granting of a City Charter to Belfast —I will accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion to give the answer of the Government upon the Report stage. Now let me deal, in the first place, with what has been said by the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor). I find no fault whatever in his bringing forward the question of the undesirability of Votes on Account. There is no man in this House who has a greater objection, or more real and solid ground of objection, for a third Vote on Account than the Secretary to the Treasury. A third Vote on Account means that you must have throe discussions, or possible discussions, instead of one, of the same Vote, and therefore I go entirely with the hon. Member in his statement that it is extremely desirable to avoid third Votes on Account if it is possible to do so. Now, Sir, the hon. Member is under the impression that only two previous instances of third Votes on Account have been taken.


No, I did not say that; I said taken so late as the 15th of July.


So late—so early I suppose he means. [Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR; Early.] I find third Votes on Account were taken in the Estimates 1881–2, 1882–3, 1883–4, and 1886–7; and the only reason why a third Vote on Account was not taken in 1884–5 was because the House was good enough to repose its confidence in the Government, and allow a supply representing two months on the second Vote on Account, which enabled the Government to go on until Supply was completed on the 7th August. The hon. Member for East Donegal stated that we have money enough to serve us until the end of the month. I regret to say that it is not so. I regret to have to point out, as the hon. Member knows quite well, that unless we get the whole of the Votes before all the money we have on hand is spent, we must take a Vote on Account. There is nobody in the House knows better than the hon. Member that if we have money in hand belonging to one Service we cannot transfer it to another—we cannot devote money obtained for one purpose to another purpose. I want the Committee clearly to understand that the first and main reason is because there is now a much closer financial scrutiny over the application of the money which is voted by Parliament than ever there was on former occasions We are asking now for what will serve us for a month. It has been customary on former occasions to ask for a third Vote on Account for five or six weeks. I may also point out the reason why a large sum of money is necessary is that we are coming to the end of the month, and there are considerable payments which have to be made at the early part of August, which necessitates that we should have a large sum at our disposal. Now, the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) said something about the present system of presenting the Estimates. There is no desire, certainly on my part, to present a Vote on Account; but it is absolutely impossible, under the present system, to avoid it. I do not propose to discuss the question whether the business which has detained the House has been of sufficient importance or not to warrant our asking for a Vote on Account. All I can say is that, as far as I am concerned, it is with extreme regret that I ask for this Vote, and it must be remembered that we are doing the best we can in regard to Supply. We took a Morning Sitting today, and we propose to take Supply at the Evening Sitting. On Monday we shall put down Naval Estimates, and on Tuesday and Wednesday proceed with the Civil Service Estimates. Even supposing that the progress which the hon. Member for East Donegal hinted at were possible—namely, that the whole of the Votes might be completed in three sittings—even supposing that that were possible, but which I think is extremely doubtful—it would not get us over the difficulty in which we are placed on this occasion. Now, Sir, with regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for West Belfast, as to the manner in which different ports are classified, may I say that it is not only the amount of Revenue which is collected at a particular port which determines the number of the staff which is necessary for that port. The hon. Member knows very well that the Revenue which is collected at the Port of Belfast arises mainly from one particular article, and is collected in large sums. I think he will see that we cannot with fairness classify the different ports simply and solely in relation to the amount of Revenue which is collected at them. Now, I am not aware that there is the smallest desire on the part of the Customs Authorities—indeed, I know the contrary is the fact—to refuse to Belfast any and every facility which is necessary for the carrying on of its trade. The hon. Member says that some friends of his have applied for an additional bonded warehouse. I know the case well. It has been before me on several occasions. Prior to the application to which he refers there came an application from another firm doing a large business in Belfast, and which, in the first instance, was refused by the Customs Authorities in consequence, as they allege, of there being a sufficient amount of bonded accommodation in Belfast. At my urgent solicitation, and after making most searching inquiry into the case, I came to the conclusion that the additional facilities might reasonably be granted, and I over-ruled the Customs Authorities, and the additional store was given to the firm. The hon. Member will easily understand that if the position taken up by the Customs Authorities was sound in the first instance—namely, that there was already sufficient accommodation in Belfast, surely a little hesitation was required in granting the second application of the kind which was made. At all events, the question is under consideration, and the Customs Authorities have been instructed to give the most favourable consideration to the carrying on of the trade of Belfast. I may add, with re- gard to the particular firm mentioned, that during an interview I had with them I pointed out that the growth of the trade in the past proves conclusively that no restrictions which had been put upon them have tended to retard their business. However, the hon. Member will, I think, be willing to accept the assurance I have given him—namely, that the question is under careful consideration, and that we shall afford all the facilities we can to the different ports. The hon. Gentleman has hinted that Irish ports do not receive the same favourable consideration as English and Scotch ports. Upon that point I can assure him that the question whether a port is an English, Irish, or Scotch port never enters into consideration. Each case is decided, as far as it can be, upon the circumstances of the case and the requirements of the trade.


I feel very much indebted to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury for his courteous and attentive reply. His speech, however, affords ample evidence that it is necessary that the departments should be carefully looked after by the Ministers who are responsible for them in this House. The hon. Gentleman has told the Committee that, in regard to the application from Belfast for additional warehouse accommodation, the Board of Customs refused the application until the personal influence of the hon. Gentleman was brought to bear. The exercise of his personal influence induced an opposite result. I have, however, not received information on one point which I raised—namely, whether there is a classification of ports adopted by the Board of Customs. Are there such things as first class, second class, and third class ports, and does the expenditure for staff and the official facilities follow upon the position of the port in the scale? If so, I think Belfast ought to be in the foremost place.


I cannot say now. I will furnish the hon. Gentleman with the information on Report.

MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)

I cannot help thinking that the present bonded store system in Belfast is a most objectionable one. A large number of firms in Belfast have separate bonded stores communicating with their own premises. It seems to me that such a system affords great facilities for defrauding the Revenue. I think that in a place like Belfast the Government should, if possible, own all the bonded stores, and that there should be no communication whatever with private premises. I know that one firm alone have been cheating the Revenue to the extent of £35,000 a-year. I think that the Customs would probably be right in refusing this now bonded store except for one reason, that the multiplication of bonded stores has been carried to a very large extent already. If people wish to extend their trade and compete successfully with older houses they cannot do so unless they get a chance of cheating the Revenue in the way the older firms have been doing. Under these circumstances, I suppose the Government were right; but I should like to impress upon them the necessity of making a thorough reform in the system of bonded stores. The present system is one which cannot be defended; and it is one which ought to be, if possible, reformed. In Dublin we had a case of very large fraud on the part of parties with bonded stores, who also were large dealers in the particular articles. These persons took whisky in bond for outsiders, they gave receipts for the whisky, then sold the whisky, and became bankrupt; and the parties who had lodged the whisky with them were the losers. I do not think people who own bonded stores ought to be dealers in the articles which are bonded. With regard to the question of Votes on Account, I must say, in my opinion, the voting of money on account is an exceedingly improvident way of doing business. When the Votes in Supply are finally brought in, there is not sufficient time to discuss them. The fault really lies with the Government, who ought to arrange their business in a workmanlike manner. The present system of voting money is most unsatisfactory, and it is quite within the power of the Government to alter it if they choose.


I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that numerous Votes on Account are certainly a most unsatisfactory way of transacting the financial business of the country; and I am persuaded that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would not propose them if it were possible to avoid them. But I wish to take this opportunity, as I see that there is a sum on the Vote for the convict prisons of the country, for putting a question to my hon. Friend. I should like to know whether the Government are really proceeding with the Dover Harbour works? The convict prison at Dover was projected for the very purpose of accommodating the convicts who were to carry out the Dover Harbour works; and I should like to ask my hon. Friend if the provision made on this Vote for convict prisons implies that the convict prison at Dover is being erected?


I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Baronet any very positive assurance on this question. The position of the Dover Harbour matter may be said to be this—£1,000 was put in the Estimates last year or the year before; and in view of the very earnest desire which the Government had to avoid not only useless expenditure, but every large expenditure, though it might not be useless, and in view of the fact that the House of Commons has really never fully considered the question, the Government decided that, certainly so far as this year was concerned, they would not ask the House for any Vote in respect of Dover Harbour. A certain number of convicts, however, have been removed, and are proceeding to complete the barracks or the prison in which they are to be lodged. The question as to how they shall be disposed of in the future is left over for consideration.


It must be borne in mind that at least £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 sterling must be spent upon the Harbour of Dover, if it is to be made really useful. Unless you treble the size of the harbour, as it is now proposed, and provide for at least 35 feet of water, it is impossible to obtain a harbour of any value. I trust the Government will not take any half and half measures; but, if they construct a harbour at all, construct one in which any war vessel of the largest size can enter. To have a harbour of only 640 acres, as is now proposed, is most absurd, because you could not in such a space accommodate with safety four men-of-war. I think it is far more important that many of our harbours should be improved than that one large harbour should be constructed. The harbour will cost more than is supposed. The Peterhead Harbour was estimated to cost £250,000; but that sum was soon exceeded, being first raised to £250,000, and now put at £750,000, and this harbour will probably cost £1,000,000 before it is completed.


I think we are indebted to the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) for bringing this question before the Committee. It is not only a great waste of time to debate these questions over and over again; but the presentation of Votes on Account is a departure from one of the most important functions of the House of Commons—namely, the controlling of Expenditure. I think the Government are assuming very heavy responsibility when they prevent the Representatives of the people having that control over Expenditure which is one of the most useful purposes they can exercise in the House of Commons. The present system, no doubt, loads to great extravagance. The House is losing its power of controlling Expenditure; and I hope some stop will be put to the system of taking Votes on Account. I should like to have said something in reference to the expenditure upon Sir H. Drummond Wolff's Mission; but I suppose the debate on that point may be said to have closed. I hope that we are now about to see the last of that Mission. It is not only a very expensive Mission, but very inane in its object. I desire to enter a strong protest against the growing practice of taking Votes on Account.


I would ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) if there are any means of finding out the nature and extent of the export and import trade of the Port of Dublin? Is there any record of the kind at the Dublin Custom House? A Foreign Consul some time ago had occasion to find out something of the kind, but could get no information. It would be interesting to know the amount of Irish manufactures exported, and the amount of foreign imports, whether raw material or manufactured goods. In the event of there being no such record, will the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury have such prepared?


I do not think that any separate records are kept of the exports between this country and Ireland. I am not quite sure the matter would be under the care of the Board of Trade; but I will make inquiry, and give the hon. Baronet what information I can in answer to his Question.

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

There is a Vote here on account of the Metropolitan Police upon which I desire to raise a question of which I have given the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) notice. I observe he left the House a few minutes since, but I presume he will be re-called. The matter to which I desire to invite attention is the proposed expenditure for presenting medals to 14,000 of the Metropolitan Police in respect to their services on Jubilee day. I am in no way opposed to some acknowledgment of services rendered on that day by the police, and I have always advocated a just and even a generous treatment of the rank and file of the Public Services, and although there did appear in the public Press some complaints of misconduct against the police on that day, still I think that those complaints, even if well founded, were quite exceptional, and I believe the conduct of the police on the 21st June was on the whole extremely good; in fact, I might say almost as admirable as the conduct of the people they were supposed to keep in order. Of course, I do not oppose an acknowledgment, and I ask the Committee to bear in mind that apart from the proposed gift of medals it is proposed to give the Metropolitan Police one day's extra pay and three extra days' leave, and this, I think, is a fair—I might say an ample—acknowledgment of the services rendered. At all events, it contrasts very favourably with the treatment by the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) of the telegraphists under very similar circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman, repeatedly pressed by myself and others to make some acknowledgment to the telegraphists who, by the exigencies of the service, were compelled to be on duty on that day, has now definitely declined to make any such acknowledgment whatever. But to the grant of medals I altogether object. In the first place, because it is an unnecessary expense. I have had some difficulty in extracting from the Government a statement of the cost of these medals, but I was informed today the estimated cost was £83 per 1,000, so that the total cost would be about £1,162. Well, I do not know how it may be with consituents of other hon. Members; but certainly I may say, for my own, that they are not in a position to take their share in this expenditure of £1,162, not only, I submit, for a wasteful, but for a ridiculous and even mischievous purpose. This proposal has emanated from Sir Charles Warren, and I desire to speak of Sir Charles Warren with all possible respect as a gallant soldier who deserves well of his county, but on this occasion he has forgotten that he now occupies a civil post, and has introduced his old military ideas into his new sphere of duty. However, I can understand the conduct of Sir Charles Warren in making the suggestion, but I cannot understand or excuse the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman whose whole distinguished career has been spent in civil life in sanctioning the suggestion. Why are medals to be given to the Metropolitan Police for their services on that day? I quite admit they had exceedingly hard, exceedingly onerous duties to perform, and that they underwent many hours fatigue, but there are scores of men in Bethnel Green who every day of their lives undergo as many hours fatigue as did the Police on Jubilee Day. My next objection to this proposal is that it would tend to bring into ridicule and contempt the whole system of conferring medals. Why are medals usually bestowed? Usually, so far as my information goes, after a victory over a foe. Who was the foe vanquished on Jubilee Day? Does Sir Charles Warren plume himself on the fact that the Metropolitan Police gained a victory over the common people? I recognize in this, among other suggestions, a tendency to which on a future occasion I will call attention to introduce into the administration of the Metropolitan Police military ideas against which I, for one, will firmly contend, for I believe the result must inevitably be to undermine that confidence and goodwill that for so many years have happily existed between the Metropolitan Police on the one hand and the public on the other. I move to reduce the amount of the Vote by the estimated cost of the proposed medals which I make out to be £1,162.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the item of £50,000 for the Metropolitan Police, be reduced by the sum of £1,162."— (Mr. Pickersgill.)


I can assure the hon. Member (Mr. Pickers-gill) that there is nothing of a military spirit that deserves his criticism in the proposal to give a medal to the police. I think the whole House will be of opinion that the Metropolitan Police on this occasion rendered extremely valuable service. The work was excessively arduous, some of the men were on duty for 30 hours, and all of them for a long time The general feeling of the House was that there should be some gratuity or reward for these arduous services. The hon. Member has blamed the Chief Commissioner for originating the idea of a medal; but I may say the matter arose in conversation, and I rather think the mention of a medal or commemoration of some sort came first from myself, not from the Chief Commissioner. The latter undertook to ascertain the wishes of the Force when I desired to know whether they would prefer to have 1½ days' extra pay, or one day's pay and some object to serve as a memorial of what to the Metropolitan Police and many others was an interesting historical occasion. Sir Charles Warren took pains to ascertain the feeling of the men, and it is, I think, creditable to them that the majority of them said they would prefer to have a gratuity of one day's pay, not 1½ days' pay, and that the money that would have otherwise gone to make up the 1½ days' pay should be spent in providing a medal or some form of commemoration of a great national event. I was obliged to tell the hon. Member more than once that I could not state the exact cost of the medal. We consulted with the officers of the Mint and from them I obtained the estimate I gave to the hon. Gentleman to-day. But the form of the memorial has not yet been settled, the matter is still under consideration.


I understood from the right hon. Gentleman, a few days ago, that the matter did not remain to be considered.


Not in this sense, that it was quite understood the wish of the Force was to have a day's pay and an acknowledgment in the form of a medal; there is no intention of reconsidering that decision. The exact form and character of the memento, whether it should take the shape of a medal at all or a piece of commemorative plate, has not definitely been decided upon; what is decided is that there shall be some object to keep as a memorial of Her Majesty's Jubilee year. Sir Charles Warren thought a medal would be the most appropriate form. The cost is not very large, though the total among a large number of men does naturally mount up. As I have pointed out, this money reward for extraordinary exertions seems fully within the enactment I referred to earlier in the day. If the choice had been left to me, I should have given the whole of the reward in the shape of money; but as the men themselves preferred that it should partly take the form of a commemorative object, and as we are always desirous to consult the wishes of those we wish to gratify in matters of this kind, the determination was come to of which I have spoken. There are minor details to settle. The Force wish that the medal should in some way have the sanction or assent of Her Majesty herself. I have not yet had an opportunity of learning the pleasure of Her Majesty. It would, no doubt, enhance the value of the gift if Her Majesty should graciously approve of the presentation on her behalf. I may mention that the acknowledgment in the form proposed is by no means an act of generosity on my part, for the one and a-half days' pay would probably cost more than the whole sum that will be expended in the manner proposed. The sum set aside in the Metropolitan Police Fund early in the year, in anticipation of such a purpose as this, will cover with an ample margin any cost incurred. I think it will be the general feeling of the House that it would be stingy not to allow more than one day's pay. This particular form of recognition is what the Police Force desire, and there is no military idea whatever implied.

MR. HERBERT GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

On this subject I would like to ask, are these medals considered tokens of honour, and will the police, with the sanction of Her Majesty, wear them on their uniforms as a mark of honourable distinction, in the same way that soldiers wear those they gain in the field, or will they simply be kept as tokens of Her Majesty's Jubilee?


No decision of any sort has been come to; but it is not, I think, in the contemplation of anybody that the Police should wear them. I am informed by the Chief Commissioner that though many of the men possess war medals, as a matter of fact they never do wear them when on duty, and that for two reasons—first, that to do so would subject the wearer to adverse and ridiculous comment from the irreverent London boy; and, secondly, that in the event of any scuffle in the streets, the medal would be the first thing to be grasped at. There is no reason to suppose that, except, perhaps, on special occasions, the medals would be worn.

MR. W. H. JAMES (Gateshead)

I would appeal to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) not to divide the Committee on the question he has raised. There can be no doubt that, with the great number of persons claiming to wear medals and decorations, these have become somewhat common, and it is rather an honourable distinction to be without such.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

May I suggest that as a medal is to be struck it might, in addition to the Jubilee, commemorate another proceeding in which the police are concerned, and recall the features of the celebrated Miss Cass.


The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has not met all my objections, but he has advanced one strong argument why we should accept the proposal, that is that the police themselves have expressed a desire to have a medal rather than another half-day's pay. Of course, I accept that statement, and as I have already said, my object is not to treat the police in any grudging spirit, for I am most anxious they should receive a suitable acknowledgment. Accepting the statement that the police have, by a majority, expressed a desire to have the medal, I withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I wish to make an appeal to hon. Members to allow this Vote to be now taken. There is no single item in this Vote on Account that may not be the subject of discussion in Committee when the separate Votes are taken, and any delay that now takes place lessens the time the Committee will have for that discussion. I trust the House will recognize the necessity that is forced upon the Government of taking this Vote to-day, and allow us now to come to a decision.

MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)

I am sorry I must make one exception to the appeal in favour of a matter of urgent importance. I see among the Votes included in this Vote on Account, is a Home Office Vote and another for Criminal Prosecutions, and to these I wish to call the attention of the Committee by a Motion for reduction.


This is a Vote that will come on first in considering the separate Votes. The hon. Member will find it the most fitting opportunity when this Vote comes on, probably this afternoon.


Criminal Prosecutions come in Class 3, and according to our rate of progress with Supply we are not likely to reach Class 3 for some weeks, probably the middle of August. Owing to the fact that the Government have refused to give a day for the discussion and redress of the grievances of Welsh tithe payers, the state of feeling is, in Wales, very serious. This has been shown by disturbances in various parts of the country. In some of the disturbances the officers of the law have had the worst of it, in others, ordinary bystanders have suffered at the hands of the police. What did the Government do in the face of this state of affairs? They proceeded to appoint a Commission to make inquiry into the cause of the disturbance when the people were batoned by the police, and they set up prosecutions when the officers were alleged to have been maltreated by the crowd. I would call the attention of the Committee to this—in the case of the trials the Public Prosecutor or the right hon. Gentleman, on his own initiative, changed the place of trial from the Petty Sessional Division where the offence was alleged to have taken place to another Petty Sessional Division 15 or 20 miles distant. The excuse the Government make is that they could not find Court accommodation in the place where the events occurred. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman will make further inquiry I have considerable doubt whether he will find that that is the fact. I think he will find there is ample accommodation for the 31 prisoners, counsel, and witnesses at Cerrig-y-Druidion. At the same time, while making this the ostensible reason, the right hon. Gentleman said it was not expedient that the prosecution itself should take place in the district where the disturbances occurred. Now, it seems to me that this is carrying the Irish method of administering justice into Wales, and further, if the right hon. Gentleman at his own initiative thus changes the place of trial he should accept the logical consequences, and see that the expenses of these men and their witnesses are paid if they are carried from one Court to another, 20 miles off. The next point to which I call attention is that, although the reported offence took place on the 27th May, no word of notice was given to the defendants until the 30th June and 1st July that the trial was to take place 20 miles off, and held on the following Wednesday, after a lapse of three days. How can the right hon. Gentleman expect that justice will be done to these men when they are treated in this way three or four days after they have had notice, before they have had time to consult their solicitors, and before the latter have had time to make up the cases? After this, requests were made for adjournment for a few days, for one reason, because the cases were not made up, and because the wife of one of the defendants died during the course of the preliminary proceedings. I called attention to this by Question, and asked was it in the interests of justice necessary to refuse an adjournment to allow a defendant to make the general arrangements necessary for the burial of his wife? The right hon. Gentleman answered that there was an adjournment in a couple of hours, while, as a matter of fact, this happened on the morning of Thursday, and there was no adjournment until the evening of Friday. I call the attention of the Committee to this fact, and I ask was it decent or fair, in view of the hurried notice and this distressing incident, to rush on the prosecution without a decent adjournment? And now I refer to the inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman promised an inquiry into the circumstances and origin of one disturbance, and then, partly at the instance of a Welsh Tory Member, he enlarged the scope of the inquiry, so as to include not only the dis- turbance at Mochdre, but the other disturbances in North Wales. Now, I should say that in the Commissioner to hold such an inquiry two qualifications are especially required, first, that he should be able to understand the language of the people; and, secondly, that the Commissioner or Commissioners should be a man or men who would not merely look at legal technicalities in connection with each disturbance, but who would take a fair and dispassionate view of the whole cause and origin of these disturbances. But the right hon. Gentleman selected the very worst man possible for the appointment. Mr. Bridge was sent some time ago to make inquiry into the Cardiff riots, and the Cardiff people, of all shades of politics, condemned the way in which he whitewashed the police and refused to listen to some 60 witnesses who were ready to come forward. His proceeding gave satisfaction to no one, and his Report showed that he was actuated by the idea that his duty was to defend the police and the authorities. Secondly, this Commissioner has no idea, I imagine, of the habits and language of the people, and does not understand what they say, In the third place, although this inquiry was promised a month ago, the arrangements are not yet made. The right hon. Gentleman promised to appoint a secretary who understands Welsh; but, as yet, we have no information upon that point. Neither have we heard that a shorthand writer is appointed to take notes of the evidence; in fact, the whole thing hangs fire. Now, if the Government wish to further inflame the state of public feeling in Wales, they can do it by backing up the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the authorities of Christchurch by taking the stock of farmers at dead of night; they can enstrange the sympathies of the Welsh people, and provoke further disturbance, by rushing the prosecutions, on the one hand, and delaying inquiry on the other. In view of the action of the Government, I beg to move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £2,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the item of £5,000 for Criminal Prosecutions, &c, be reduced by the sum of £2,000," —(Mr. Thomas Ellis.)


I believe I can answer the hon. Gentleman. He finds fault with the conduct of the prosecution. Now, while I have not a word to say as to the persons charged, I think the hon. Member will admit that it is quite fitting there should be a prosecution. The men, 31 in number, are charged with complicity in a riot. They do not all live in the same part of the country; their places of abode are far apart; and I am informed that no place of trial could be selected to which some of them would not have to travel—I will not say all of them, so far as the distance between Cerrig-y-Druidion and Ruthin—but, at any rate, a considerable distance.


Not one of them?


I am giving the information I have received. I am informed that the Court House at Cerrig-y-Druidion is totally inadequate for the accommodation of not only the 31 defendants, but the magistrates, witnesses, counsel, and others who have to take more or less part in the proceedings. The hon. Member (Mr. T. E. Ellis) said it was very hard on the defendants that they should be put to this expense, and I very much sympathize with that part of the hon. Gentleman's demand, for it is rather hard on the defendants themselves that, if put to extra cost by having to go to Ruthin, that extra cost should not be met. I sympathize with the hon. Gentleman on that point; but the only allowance which can be made, and which will be made, is for their witnesses. By Statute, the magistrate who takes the depositions can give a certificate upon which the costs of any witnesses will be defrayed; but the law does not allow either the magistrates or the Treasury to defray the costs of the defendants themselves. Then he renewed the grievance which he presented the other day, and thought the answer which I then gave was unsatisfactory. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will grant me the indulgence of listening to what I have to say. An inquiry was granted for the Friday, and it would have been extremely unreasonable to have adjourned then and there without doing anything on the morning of that Friday, it being necessary to have the defendants present. Everybody had come at considerable expense to themselves and to the county, and so the proceedings were continued on that Friday so as not to waste a day, and in the afternoon the magistrates adjourned the case until the Tuesday following, on purpose to enable the poor men to obtain advice upon the Monday, Surely that does not call for any severe comment. Then the hon. Member finds great fault with the inquiry which has been instituted by this House. He finds great fault with the selection of the Commissioner, Mr. Bridge; but I am bound to say it was having read his Report on the Cardiff riots which suggested Mr. Bridge to my mind; for, so far from whitewashing the police, he blames them with great discrimination, judgment, and moderation. I thought that Report was remarkably able, temperate, fair, and impartial; and it induced me to think, with the representations it contained, that Mr. Bridge was a man who would act justly, and who was completely outside all the passionate feelings which had been aroused on both sides.


Did the right hon. Gentleman read the evidence?


I read a great part of it, and I read the whole of Mr. Bridge's Report, which showed him to be a man thoroughly competent to conduct the inquiry by training, experience, abilities, and the fairness of his mind. I think I could hardly have picked out a better selection to decide on local disputes. Then it is said I should have put somebody on the Commission who understood Welsh. I had great difficulty in finding a competent Welsh scholar who would do good service otherwise. I inquired in all directions, and I had great difficulty, but I ultimately fixed on a gentleman—Professor Rhys—the first Welsh scholar of the day, and Professor of Celtic in Oxford University, and he is not only an accomplished Welsh scholar, but a thorough Welshman in birth and sympathies. He is a Liberal in politics, I am told, though I do not care what his politics are—he is an admirable Welsh scholar, the first of the day, a perfect master of the language, and a man of thorough intellect and character. Being so perfectly associated by birth, language, training, and sympathies with the Welsh people, I felt sure he would prove a useful adjunct to the Commission, and a man clearly above all suspicion, for he has lived long enough out of the world of Welsh ideas not to be suspected of partizanship. He is a man who could not be suspected or accused of partizanship either on one side or on the other. I myself had no object or purpose in the matter other than to get a tribunal which would deal as fairly and impartially with this inquiry as any tribunal could.

MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

I quite concur with the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) that it is inconvenient to bring on discussions of this kind on such an occasion as this. But my hon. Friend (Mr. T. E. Ellis) had no choice in the matter. If he had not brought the subject on for discussion now, he could not have done it for the next fortnight or three weeks. I gladly recognize the spirit of the reply of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Matthews); but, on one point, he is entirely wrong in his facts. Now, where do nine-tenths of these defendants live? They could walk easily enough to the Court at Cerrig-y-Druidion; but they are 19 or 20 miles away from Ruthin, and for a considerable part of that distance there is no railway, and, as far as I know, no coach, no omnibus, no public conveyance whatever to enable them to get there. What is the result? These poor men, most of them quite unable to afford to hire a conveyance—these poor men were obliged to walk a distance of somewhere about 40 miles, because the case could not be tried in the Petty Sessional Division close to their home. I think that if my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will inquire, he will find something behind what appears—something which he has not yet discovered, and which will give him the real reason why the case was removed from the one Petty Sessional Division to the other. If my information be correct, there are four Justices who reside in this district of Cerrig-y-Druidion, only two of whom would have been required to deal with the case. Why did they not deal with it then? Simply because one of them is, for some reason or other, disliked by the other three, and they will not sit with him. Therefore it was that these poor men had to walk 40 miles, because three of the magistrates would not sit with, the fourth. My information is very definite and very complete upon the point. The right hon. Gentleman has not said a single word about one little matter. The riots took place on the 27th of May, but no proceedings whatsoever were taken until the 27th of June—a month afterwards. And now one word as to Mr. Bridge. I know nothing whatever of him except that he has inquired into the case of the Cardiff riots; but I do hear from all sides a good deal of dissatisfaction expressed at his decision. Still, I am bound to say that if I were in the Home Secretary's place I would not put a police magistrate to try policemen—it is not exactly the right thing to do. A man whom I suggested to the Home Secretary—I will not mention his name, but he is a man who is highly respected, as well as familiar with the Welsh language—would have been a more proper person to conduct the inquiry. As to Professor Rhys, I know very well that he is a most competent Welsh scholar, probably the best in the world; a better man for the post could not be found; and as regards him I thought the right hon. Gentleman's reply on Tuesday was satisfactory. I do hope the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will be able to tell us that the proceedings are to be commenced at once, because these matters lead to a great deal of irritation, and the sooner they are disposed of the better.

MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)

I must say, Mr. Courtney, that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) seemed to me to make out a bad case. What occurred was this—these unfortunate men were subjected first to a very heavy penalty; and I think that was quite unfair, and that the parties responsible for dragging men to or 20 miles from the place of the riots to the Petty Sessional District outside acted very unfairly for many reasons. Remember that the money penalty was only a small part of the penalty suffered. They probably had some legal friend in the district in which they lived—someone in whom they had confidence—and yet they are taken away a specially long distance, quite out of his reach. Although the right hon. Gentleman says the magistrate may certify for the costs of the witnesses for the defence, the defendants are taken away to magistrates who are partizans against the people, and who would probably refuse costs, and throw such difficulties in the way that the defendants' witnesses would probably never get paid at all. The proper thing for the Government to do, instead of putting the Public Prosecutor in motion against them, would be to say that these people had suffered sufficiently already, and that nothing more should be done against them. As to Mr. Bridge, he may be all very well, but the fact is that he does not know Welsh, and he would have to hear the evidence of the witnesses through an interpreter, who would practically be against the prisoners; and the result would be that Mr. Bridge, however well disposed to do justice, would not get a fair statement of the facts, and would, therefore, not be able to come to an unbiassed and honest decision. I think the hon. Member (Mr. T. E. Ellis) did well to invite attention to this Vote; and I hope the Committee will mark their sense of the conduct of the prosecution by disallowing the Vote.


I confess I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on one point. Do I understand him to say that Professor Rhys is to be Secretary to the Commission, or one of the Commissioners?


I told the hon. Gentleman some days ago that Professor Rhys was to be Secretary to the Commission.


The right hon. Gentleman made a statement that these men did not live in the Petty Sessional Division; and I think he led us to understand that it was almost more convenient for them to go to Buthin than for the case to be heard at Cerrig-y-Druidion.


No; I did not say that. What I said was that the Court selected was as good for them as any Court that could be chosen. That is my information.


Then I must ask to be allowed to correct that information. Nine-tenths of the men, at least, live in the Petty Sessional Division of Cerrig-y-Druidion, and within two or three miles of the Court. No doubt, there are three or four of them who live at some distance away; but, instead of having to come some 17 or 18 miles to Cerrig-y-Druidion, they would have to go 24 or 25 miles to Ruthin. So that the information which the right hon. Gentleman has obtained—where from I know not —is distinctly incorrect and deceptive. However, I will not now divide upon the Vote; but upon a future pccasipn—on the Vote for the Home Secretary and for Criminal Prosecutions and the salary of the Director of Criminal Prosecutions —I will again call attention to this question, and to the way in which these matters have been dealt with by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Director of Criminal Prosecutions.


May I ask is it competent to summon a defendant from one Petty Sessional Division to another, and drag him from one Division to another? Unless there is some special law on the subject, you might as well drag him 200 miles as 20, and that would be a very easy way of persecuting a defendant, and making it impossible for him to get a fair inquiry.


The law is that the inquiry shall take place in the county in which the offence is committed. Petty Sessional Divisions are established for other purposes and objects, and have nothing to do with the taking of depositions in cases which are afterwards to be tried at the Assizes for the county.


Then a man may be taken from one part of the United Kingdom to another?


I said within the same county.

SIR WILLIAM PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)

I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to turn his attention to the very remarkable statement that has just been made; we have been told that the ease had to be removed owing to the action of three Justices of the Peace in refusing to sit with a fourth, and that in consequence of that refusal the necessity has arisen for all these men being transferred from one Petty Sessional Division to another. Surely that is very remarkable, and if it is the case some serious notice ought to be taken.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make further inquiries?


Certainly. But I think the hon. Gentleman (Sir William Plowden) is hardly aware that I have already twice answered questions and twice made inquiry on the subject, and I have given to the Committee such information as I could obtain. I have been informed that the idea of there being any dissension among the magistrates is absolutely unfounded, and that the real reason why, on more than one occasion, cases have been transferred from the one district to the other is that Cerrig-y-Druidion is a most inaccessible place, where the magistrates frequently find that there is no business for them to transact when they get there.


I am afraid there is some foundation for the statement that three of the Justices have certainly had some personal feeling against one of their colleagues; but I understand that upon this occasion the four Justices were not asked to sit, but the Public Prosecutor, of his own accord, moved the inquiry from Cerrig-y-Druidion to Ruthin, and his reason for so doing was not, I take it, because these four gentlemen differed, but because he considered that it was far preferable that the inquiry should take place at a certain distance from the spot where this very serious riot took place, for I must say that this riot was one of a most serious character, and of such a nature as to almost make it a desirable thing that those who were implicated should be transferred, if possible, to some other district where there was no feeling at all likely to arise. I am exceedingly sorry that it was necessary that these defendants should be taken so great a distance as they were; but I was in great hopes that their expenses might have been, at any rate, partially paid. But I understand that that cannot be done, and, under these circumstances, I hope and trust that a very liberal allowance will be made for the witnesses they have been obliged to bring for this inquiry. I can only say with regard to the appointment of Justices to this particular Petty Sessional Division, which has been two or three times before this House, personally I have done the very best I could to increase the number of those who would act there, and have fortunately got these four, who have, up to the present time, taken part in the business of the Petty Session there, to agree to that. When this unfortunate riot took place they were not asked to sit upon it, and I regret very much, under the circumstances, that they were not asked; but if it was thought by the authorities that it was better, in the interests of justice, that the inquiry should take place at a certain distance from the scene of the riot, I can only say that if the defendants have to pay a considerable sum I hope it will be very largely made up to them from other sources.


I must protest against the doctrine of my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Cornwallis West) that, because the question to be tried is a serious one, therefore these defendants should be taken 20miles from their homes. I am glad my hon. Friend the Member for Merionethshire (Mr. T. E. Ellis) is willing to allow the Amendment to be withdrawn, and I think it will be wise to allow the matter to drop now.


I think the doctrine which has been laid down by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Cornwallis West), that because certain offences are supposed to have happened at one end of a county you may take the defendants over to the other end, quite regardless of the expense to them or of the fair administration of justice, is simply preposterous. Now, if the Government could only allow the Welsh Members some time to bring this question of the Welsh magistracy before the House, we could lot them have some very interesting facts. The one mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench (Mr. Osborne Morgan) is only one of scores of instances that could be mentioned. In a published letter one of these offending magistrates is contemptuously referred to as "a Liverpool tea merchant." The whole administration of the law is, by these circumstances, bound to come into contempt. What happened in this case? Whatever may be said of the personal quarrels of the magistrates, two of them, at all events, did understand the language of the people, whereas the magistrates to whom the defendants have been taken have no sympathy with them, and are, politically and religiously, their enemies, and not one of them understands one word of the language of the 31 defendants. If the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary says that any magistrate in the county may take the depositions, how was it that those magistrates who do know the Welsh tongue were not invited to sit with their brother magistrates, in order to take these depositions? But, as a matter of fact, have the prosecution a right to take the defendants from one division to another? Suppose it happened, not in Denbighshire, but in Lancashire; or Yorkshire, the consequences might be very serious indeed, for the distances to be traversed might be very considerable. I would, therefore, draw the attention of the Committee to the rather dangerous doctrine conveyed, not merely by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, but by the conduct of the Public Prosecutor, and to the approval or semi-approval which has been given to it.

SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

I should like to have a thorough understanding on this matter. Is it the principle of Her Majesty's Government that they are to take prisoners a long distance beyond their own Petty Sessional Division from one end of a county to another? That may be all very well where the county is a very small one; but the same principle would apply to a large county—one 50 or 60 miles across. The men might not be able to go at their own expense, and what would happen then? They would not appear; warrants would be issued, and they would be taken handcuffed across the county to answer the summons. Upon what principle do Her Majesty's Government advise that these men should be taken from one Petty Sessional Division, where there were magistrates who sat able to speak their own language, to another 20 miles further, where the magistrates do not understand their language?


The hon. Baronet (Sir John Swinburne) is under a misapprehension in supposing that we have had anything to do with this. We had nothing in the world to do with it. It is not within the discretion of Her Majesty's Government—it is a matter of law. Any magistrate in the county can hear the case. Any Justice in the county has jurisdiction, and it is the ordinary course with which we cannot interfere, and with which we have nothing whatever to do.


Does the right hon. Gentleman wish us to understand that he as not given any advice or suggestion as to the conduct of the case?


Not only did we not advise, but we did not even know that the prosecution was going on. We knew nothing whatever about it. The prosecution is under Statute, and I was not consulted, and did not know of it. It was only when questioned on the subject in this House that I became aware of the facts.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)

Before the Vote is agreed to, I wish to call attention to another matter. I wish to call attention to the case of a gentleman who was in the service of the National Board of Education in Ireland for 25 years. During that period he answered the expectations of his official superiors, and was recommended for good service pay. Unfortunately for him, this gentleman—Mr. Fitzgerald—some time back—in December, 1878—was called upon, by direction of the Irish National Board of Education, to inspect a school in the County of Waterford, and in order to reach it he could go by either of two ways—he could either cross a ferry, or he could drive a considerable way round by car. He was suffering from illness on the morning when he set out, and he crossed by the ferry, and on his way met a clergyman connected with the school who took a part of the duties under his inspection. The clergyman, being in a hurry, had no interval, and went into Waterford. Mr. Fitzgerald passed on to the school, and performed as much of the inspection as he could. He also met a gentleman who was one of the patrons of the school, and that gentleman asked him to call and discuss the subject in the afternoon, and asked him to stay and dine, as that would be the most convenient time for him to discuss the matter with him. Mr. Fitzgerald, having performed as much of the duties as he could in the earlier part of the day, set out in the afternoon and dined with the gentleman and spent the evening with him, and he also spent the sum of 5s. 6d., the proper amount of the car-hire which he might have expended in the morning. He felt that that was a proper expenditure, and should be allowed; and in his journal for that day he entered that 5s. 6d., which I maintain, and I hope the Committee will agree with me in the contention, was a proper charge. It so happened that the clergyman was asked by the National Board of Education as to the inspection, and Mr. Fitzgerald's journal was called for to prove that he had made the in- spection. The clergyman said he did not think Air. Fitzgerald could have made it, and Mr. Fitzgerald was called upon for explanations. As I have said, he was in bad health, and suffering mental disturbance on account of family afflictions. He had forgotten the precise transaction and the precise things that occurred, and he gave an explanation which was admittedly incorrect; but, as he subsequently explained, that was because he had forgotten the facts. Two Inspectors were sent down to inquire into the case, and they reported adversely to him; and after 25 years' service, commended warmly by the National Board, he was dismissed on a charge of having misappropriated 5s. 6d. A more unfounded charge was never made against any man. I may say that this gentleman is no Nationalist, nor is he any personal friend of mine; but I felt so strongly on reading his case as set forth in the Parliamentary Papers last year—I felt it was so great a perversion of justice, and that so grave an injustice and injury had been inflicted on him, that I felt bound, as an honest man, to take up the case and do what I could. I had no personal interest in the case whatsoever, and I never had an interview with. Mr. Fitzgerald but once. He does not sympathize with me; and no Party politics arise in the case—it is case of purely abstract justice—and when the Committee hear the facts, I think they will conclude that a public servant has been made the victim of petty official spite, and has been treated in a manner disgraceful to the whole Department and to the Government of Ireland, and cast out upon the read friendless—for he is living upon the charity of his friends. This is the reward for long and faithful service to the National Board. One of the marked characteristics of the superior officials in Ireland is this—that they are utterly rapacious, and one method of satisfying their rapacity is that they economize on the inferior officials who do all the work, and ask for increased salaries themselves, on the ground that they are such vigilant and valuable economists. The Resident Commissioner, Sir Patrick Keenan, not many years ago, when he did not choose to live in the official residence provided for him, received £300 a-year to give it up and pay his rent elsewhere; but anybody acquainted with the place knows that he could have got the best residence in Dublin for half that sum. That illustrates the way in which these great officials who do none of the work—who are the drones of the industrial hive—get all the cakes and ale, and the poor men who do the work get nothing at all. It is well for these superior officials when they can get an opportunity, and can gratify personal spleen at the same time, by getting rid of officials who would otherwise come on the pension list and prevent the higher officials from getting increased salaries. It is well for these superior officials when they can get these men dismissed at the end of a long period of service on the least excuse, and thereby show a great saving in the Department. This Mr. Fitzgerald had the misfortune to incur the high indignation of the late Joint Secretary of the Board, who had received numerous rewards—the late Mr. Ewart—and also to incur the wrath of Sir Patrick Keenan; and when this charge is made against him, I pronounce it a trumped-up and malicious charge, so small in its proportions that if he deserved any measure of punishment at all, a reprimand of a severe character would have been what he deserved, and not dismissal. But they got him in a cleft stick, and gave him no chance whatever. He has spent these last seven years, not in having been reinstated, but in trying to get a fair and impartial inquiry into his case, for no man would refuse a verdict in his favour. But officialdom had not done with him when they got him out of his office, fur they put before the Commissioners the documents, though they suppressed in the Papers before this House certain documents that he sent in which should have appeared in the Report they were called upon to give. That was trifling, if not worse, with this House; and I hope the Committee will show their sense of the injustice done to this gentleman in some very marked manner, and that they will compel the Government now to do what they have so long declined to do—namely, grant this gentleman a re-inquiry into his case. One of the gentlemen who reported originally—Mr. Patterson, one of the Inspectors of the Board—when Mr. Fitzgerald brought the documents under his notice, wrote to say that had he had them before he would have given a totally different verdict; but his colleague on the inquiry took a different view. The junior Commissioner's Report was the one which the Board acted upon. On every appeal which Mr. Fitzgerald has made, he has been met by the cry—"We inquired into the case before, and have no reason to open it again." But who are they who give this answer? This answer is given by the officials of the Government in this House; but it is not their answer; it is the answer of the gentlemen who originally tried Mr. Fitzgerald and condemned him, and who do not want to have their verdict reviewed by another Court. We know very well the matter will be referred back to the Board, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel King-Harman) gives the reply, not from himself, but from the members of the Board whose conduct is impugned. So much does Sir Patrick Keenan feel about this, that he is in constant dread lest the question should be re-opened, because he knows that if it were to be re-opened his conduct would be open to the strongest animadversion by any honest man. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman himself (Colonel King-Harman) and the noble Lord the Member for West Down (Lord Arthur Hill) were members of a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), when he was Chief Secretary, and called on him to grant a re-inquiry. But the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel King-Harman) has changed his ideas since. He told us to-day that he was impressed by Mr. Fitzgerald producing as a voucher what was not a voucher. But Mr. Fitzgerald produced the allegation of the man who hired the car that he did properly expend the money, and I think it is scarcely an accurate description on the part of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that that was not a voucher. It was not a voucher technically, perhaps, but it is evident that it ought to have led to fresh inquiry to see whether the allegation was true or not, and, if not, Mr. Fitzgerald would abide by the result, and nobody would say a word if, on fair inquiry, the charges were proved against him. But the evidence is all one way. I say that this gentleman was not guilty, and even if he was guilty he has been treated with great cruelty, and in a way which this Committee ought not to sanction. Let us contrast what has occurred here with another case. There is another Inspector of the National Board—I do not want to mention his name—who had a horse and car belonging to him, and when he wanted to travel for his inspections he used his own car and horse and charged for them. He oven did more than that. When a gentleman moves away from his own residence, he is entitled, when sleeping out, to his expenses for the night, if the distance is beyond a certain limit. One of this gentleman's practices was—and this was detected by an official who was sent down to watch him—to go to an hotel seven or eight miles off and charge for sleeping, though he would drive back to his own house that evening, and sleep at home. That case was inquired into, and what was the punishment? The Board, having considered his case, decided that what they would do with him was to remove him from that district and transfer him to another, and I believe they have altogether mulcted him in such a sum as they considered he had improperly charged. That was the proper course, if not too lenient a one—at all events, it did not err on the side of severity. But contrast that with the case against Mr. Fitzgerald. The charge against Mr. Fitzgerald was that he had misappropriated 5s. 6d. What are we to say as to the difference in the treatment of these two gentlemen, when one of them is simply transferred to another district, while the other is dismissed the Service and cast out upon the world? The fact is that this is not a political matter, but one of abstract justice; and I hope we shall receive from the Government an assurance that the case will be re-investigated.


The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's statement consisted in a charge against another official.


I did not make any charge against another official, but by way of contrast mentioned the facts concerning another official.


The hon. Gentleman certainly mentioned another official who, it is alleged, has not sent in his accounts as correctly as he ought to have done. I am glad to say, as the hon. Gentleman says, this matter is one which can be approached altogether without Party spirit. I am aware that Mr. Fitzgerald, if he has any politics at all, is most likely to be a Conservative. The hon. Gentleman had the kindness to recognize the fact that in 1885 I was one of a deputation which approached the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Banner-man), when Chief Secretary for Ireland, upon this matter, with the object of obtaining a re-investigation of the case. I may say, however, that since that time I have inquired more closely into the matter, and I now think that the Commissioners were justified in dismissing Mr. Fitzgerald. It was my impression that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), after hearing the statements of the deputation, was very much inclined to deal favourably with Mr. Fitzgerald's case. The right hon. Gentleman promised to go info the case personally, and, from what we know of the right hon. Gentleman, we know that when he promises to investigate a matter personally, he does not mean to take merely official documents, but to probe the matter to the very bottom. Having made a thorough personal examination, the right hon. Gentleman considered the Commissioners were right in dismissing Mr. Fitzgerald. I am bound to take exception to that part of the hon. Gentleman's statement in which he imputed malicious motives to the Commissioners. I am persuaded, on reflection, that the hon. Gentleman will see that it is hardly likely that these gentlemen, who have so much to do, would band themselves together to ruin a man by preferring such a petty charge against him as the embezzlement of 5s. 6d. There is no doubt it is hard upon a man of 25 years' service to be dismissed; but the evidence we have warrants the dismissal. It is impossible, for instance, to overlook the fact that there had been previous cases of irregularities on the part of Mr. Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald appears to me to have had every fair opportunity of defending himself. All I can say is that I was originally strongly impressed in Mr. Fitzgerald's favour; but I have had occasion to change my opinion.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

The right hon. and gallant Member has called in question the course pursued by my hon. Friend (Dr. Kenny) in citing a case other than the one is which we desire to take action. The motive of my hon. Friend is clear. He desired to lay before the Committee the fact that there ought to be equality of treatment between the different officials in Ireland. The case of Mr. Fitzgerald is one of embezzling or misappropriating the sum of 5s. 6d. Upon that charge he was dismissed from the Public Service. The other case alluded to is that of a gentleman precisely in the same condition. This gentleman, having a horse and car of his own, used it in the performance of his duties, and charged the Commissioners the cost of car-hire, and on certain occasions when he slept at home he charged the Commissioners for a bed at an hotel. This gentleman had pursued this course for years; but the Commissioners decided he was sufficiently punished by compelling him to refund the amount he had improperly received, and by transferring him to another district. The facts of that case are not questioned; therefore, if that official was sufficiently punished by being transferred from one district to another, how can it be maintained that another official was not unduly and cruelly punished by being altogether dismissed from the Public Service? I protest against the reply of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He showed his goodness of heart, and perhaps his better judgment, when he went on a deputation to the Chief Secretary for Ireland on behalf of this unfortunate gentleman; but, Sir, official life, while it may have expanded the brain of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, has certainly contracted his heart. Now, what are the facts of this case? This Mr. Fitzgerald had been for 25 years, during the whole prime and vigour of his life, occupying the position of Inspector of Public Education in Ireland. During that time he filled his position not merely without reproach, but with credit. There was no public record against him, and I certainly do think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman might have refrained from throwing out an imputation which is not sustained in the printed Papers before the House—that he might in charity and justice have refrained from speaking of difficulties in regard to this gentleman on previous occasions. There is nothing in the Papers to bear out the imputation which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made, and I protest against its being thrown out. I will not speak of chivalry, but I think it was extremely unfair for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to take advantage of his position to attack, without any grounds that I can discover, the character of this absent man, a man without occupation or income. The whole question was one of 5s. 6d. This gentleman was engaged in a tour of inspection, and appears to have charged 5s. 6d. for expenses, and the question arose whether it was a proper charge. The case was inquired into by two Inspectors of the Board. This unfortunate man was at the time in ill-health. He had suffered a family bereavement, and his grief had led to mental depression. The Inspectors held that he ought to have produced a voucher for the expenditure, in the absence of which they condemned him. Subsequently Mr. Fitzgerald produced what be claimed to be a voucher—and let me point out that one of the Inspectors held that the document, whatever it was, was of such a character as to entitle Mr. Fitzgerald to a second inquiry. Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman deny that one of the Inspectors who conducted the examination was so much impressed with the genuineness of the document that he held that Mr. Fitzgerald ought to be granted a rehearing? Certainly, if the Inspector changed his mind on the subject, I find no record of it. Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman put upon the Table of the House any documents to show that Mr. Patterson changed his mind on the point? Now, I have come to no conclusion in my own mind on this subject; but I say that a man holding the position of this gentleman ought to be granted a re-hearing of his case. I do not go so far as to suggest—and I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was quite right in repelling the idea—that the Commissioners have worked against this unfortunate man. I am not in a position to assert it, and I, therefore, keep silent on the subject. Now, the position of Irish Members in this House upon a question of this kind is very painful. All Parties are disposed to give us a certain share of control, at any rate, over local government in Ireland; all Parties are prepared, for instance, to give us control of education in Ireland. Certainly, if we had such control we should insist upon a re-hearing of this case. Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seriously maintain that the unanimous opinion of the Irish Representatives in this House upon a question of this kind is to be disregarded and set aside? The National Board of Education is really a sort of Star Chamber. It is not under public control in any way; indeed, the Chief Secretary for Ireland is constantly telling us he has no control over it. He appears to be vested with the power of making some kind of humble suggestions to the Board; but he has no power over it, and he constantly disclaims any responsibility for its action. We are not aware of the evidence upon which it proceeds; we are not aware of the justification for its conclusions, and we, therefore, decline to accept any of its conclusions. I notice that the First Lord of the Treasury is present. I believe he is a statesman of good heart and of generous impulses, and I ask him, fairly and squarely, if he thinks that a man who has spent 25 years in the Public Service, and who is charged with embezzling 5s. 6d., should be condemned and driven into beggary, without having his case re-heard upon fresh evidence, and especially in face of the fact that one of the tribunal of two Judges who tried him is of opinion that the case ought to be re-opened? Unless we got some satisfactory assurances on this point, the Irish Members will take care that this shameful case shall occupy more than 5s. 6d. worth, or than £5,000 worth, of public time.


I entirely sympathize with the feelings of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are animated, I have no doubt, by genuine feelings of sympathy for this unfortunate man; but what are the facts? The circumstances attending Mr. Fitzgerald's dismissal have been examined over and over again by the National Board of Education, which is composed of men of position, entirely above any unworthy or corrupt motives. It is argued that the case should be re-opened in consequence of the opinion held by one of the two gentlemen who formed the tribunal which tried the case; but long subsequent to the expression of opinion by this Inspector the case was again investigated, and by, amongst other people, Lord Spencer and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). I ask the Committee how is any case ever to be regarded as settled if, after it has passed through a sifting so long and so minute—how is it ever to be settled if now, six years after the decision was arrived at, nay, more, eight years, the whole thing is to be re-discussed in the House of Commons, a place which, whatever els9 its merits may be, is not fitted for a Court of Justice, or a Court of Appeal?


May I ask whether, at any time since the inquiry at which Mr. Fitzgerald was condemned, there has ever been held an inquiry at which Mr. Fitzgerald was allowed to appear and defend himself?


I do not know that there has; but I understand that Mr. Fitzgerald was allowed in writing to state all the new material he had at his disposal; he was allowed to show cause why the case should be re-opened. [Dr. KENNY: No; he was not.] Whether he was allowed or not he has done so. [Dr. KENNY: He stated his case, but there was no inquiry.] He sent a document in, and that I understand was carefully considered by the National Board of Education, and after their inquiry they reiterated their decision.

SIR JOSEPH M'KENN A (Monaghan, S.)

It was Mr. Mitchell Henry who moved for the Papers in this matter, and they were published. Subsequently, I was instrumental in obtaining the printing of the Papers. I have looked most carefully through the Papers presented to the House, and, in my opinion, the National Board of Education came to a wrong conclusion. I believe there never was a public servant of so good character whose prospects were so completely destroyed on so paltry a charge as Mr. Fitzgerald. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will not think too much time has been spent upon this matter. As to the time which has elapsed since the case was originally before the National Board of Education, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that a great portion of that time has been spent in ineffectual attempts on the part of Mr. Fitzgerald to obtain a re-hearing of his case. I hope that this case will not be set aside merely from the lapse of time; but that my hon. Friends will keep their word in this matter, and bring Mr. Fitzgerald's case again and again before the House, until we are reasonably satisfied that a thorough investigation has been made, and that substantial cause is shown, if it can be shown, for the treatment Mr. Fitzgerald has received.


I should like to occupy a few minutes more of the time of the Committee, on account of the very unfair imputation which the right hon. and gallant Member (Colonel King-Harman) has cast upon this unfortunate gentleman. I am most strongly assured that there is not a particle of foundation in any act of Mr. Fitzgerald's life for the smallest imputation of any impropriety of any kind or description over and above this matter of 5s. 6d. Both the right hon. and gallant Member (Colonel King-Harman) and the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) have stated that subsequent inquiries have been held. Yes; but the inquiries were held by the very gentlemen whose conduct is incriminated or called into question by these proceedings; and when they found that their action was impugned, they, by insinuations, endeavoured to create the impression, which is not sustainable by one particle of evidence, that there was something else behind the embezzlement or misappropriation of this 5s. 6d. One of Mr. Fitzgerald's greatest grievances is that he is not allowed to meet his accusers face to face. That is one of the reasons why he has spent the last eight years in endeavouring to obtain a re-hearing. Mr. Fitzgerald has asked, as any man whose honour or reputation is at stake would ask, that a proper and fair tribunal should be appointed to inquire into his case, in order that if the facts are in his favour he may be reinstated in public opinion. That is all he asks, and that is what we are pleading for. I agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton) that if we receive no satisfactory assurances upon this matter, it will be necessary for us to bring it forward on every occasion which offers itself. Perhaps it would be wise that I should move to reduce the sum by £500, in order that the Committee may mark its sense of the impropriety of Ministers of the Crown rising in their places, and, without the smallest evidence, making insinuations in respect of charges which are not in question. The Chief Secretary for Ireland and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet have tried to make out that there was a re inquiry. Our case is that there never was a re-hearing. Documents were submitted to the Resident Commissioner, who is practically the Board of National Education. The judgment originated with the Resident Commissioner. This judgment is impugned. The same man whose judgment is called in question sits in judgment again, and says—"My judgment was perfectly correct; and there ought not to be a re-hearing." I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £500.

Motion made, and Question put, That the Item of £50,000, for Public Education (Ireland), be reduced by the sum of £500."—(Dr. Kenny.)

The Committee divided:— Ayes 83; Noes 245: Majority 162.—(Div. List, No. 301.) [6.35 P.M.]

Original Question again proposed.


I claim to move "That the Question be now put."

Question put accordingly, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 252, Noes 78: Majority 174.—(Div. List, No. 302.) [6.45. P.M.]

Question put, That a further sum, not exceeding £1,185,000, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charge for the Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1888.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 242; Noes 64: Majority 178.—(Div. List, No. 303.) [6.55 P.M.]

DR. TANNER (seated, with head covered)

During the Division, Sir, I was in the "No" Lobby, and I was not told that I was required to go on—I was writing a letter—and the consequence is that my vote has not been registered. Now, what is to be done?


The Sitting is now suspended.

It being after Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to report the Resolution to the House at Nine of the clock.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.

Committee to sit again this day.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.