1. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £36,059, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1894, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture, and to defray the repayable Expenses to be incurred in matters of Inclosure and Land Improvement.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, there were a number of matters in this Vote on which it would be desirable to dwell; but he would not now touch upon them, as he was anxious not to interpose any obstacle in the way of a business-like despatch of Supply. He wished, however, to call attention to the position occupied in connection with agriculture by the Department for which the Committee were now asked to vote Supplies. He had not been one of those who went into ecstacies at the prospect of the appointment of a Minister of Agriculture. He never could bring himself to believe that the mere change of the designation of the official whose duty it was to represent in Parliament the Agricultural Department would do any practical service to those engaged in agriculture; and he never shared in the expectation, which had been entertained by many agriculturists, that the establishment of a Department of Agri- 757 culture would relieve the difficulties under which agriculturists had so long suffered. He was bound, however, to admit that the Department had been very fortunate in securing as its first President one so thoroughly conversant with agricultural matters as his right hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford, and he thought the agricultural community had also every reason to be satisfied with the arrangements made by the present Government for the representation of the Department. As the Representative of the Associated Chambers of Agriculture, he was bound to give expression to their sense of the unswerving courtesy with which their representations had been received by the right hon. Gentleman the present President of the Board of Agriculture. But that brought them to the question—what had the right hon. Gentleman done? The Government announced at the commencement of the Session that they intended, for the purpose of inquiring into the widespread and universally admitted agricultural depression, to appoint a Select Committee of the House. He ventured to put down a notice distinctly challenging the wisdom of that decision. His main ground of objection was that the appointment of such a Committee was calculated to produce unnecessary delay in the way of the adoption of practical measures of relief. Since then the Government had so far changed their plan as to substitute for the Select Committee a Royal Commission. He did not object to a Royal Commission to the same extent as he objected to a Select Committee. On a Royal Commission the services could be secured of able, competent, and recognised agricultural authorities, whose views and opinions would command weight amongst all sections of the community, whilst he could conceive of no tribunal under the sun less competent to conduct such an inquiry, or whose judgment would carry less weight, than a Select Committee of the House. There were extremely few Members of the House, taking the House as a whole, and including the Front Bench at which he was standing, whose opinions on agricultural topics would possess any intrinsic value, and the number of those Members who possessed the technical knowledge adequate for a Committee of the kind, and at the same 758 time retained a free and independent judgment on the subject, was still fewer. It was notorious that the exigencies of electoral requirements had compelled many Members of the House to smother the opinions which it was well known they possessed. Therefore, while there were few Members of the House who could be classified as agricultural authorities, fewer still dared to state their own views on the subject. He would ask why the Government needed the assistance of either a Royal Commission or a Committee in this matter? A very able staff was at the disposal of the Minister of Agriculture in his Department—a staff containing several gentlemen to whose opinions on agriculture the country would attach far greater weight than to the opinions of any Select Committee. Where, then, was the need for this inquiry?
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. H.GARDNER,) Essex, Saffron Walden
To inquire into bimetallism.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he would not declare himself on one side or the other of the violent controversy about bimetallism. He desired to keep a perfectly open mind for the arguments advanced on the subject. He thought that upon every subject which could be profitably gone into by the Commission the right hon. Gentleman had advisers at his disposal in his Office.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to take a view of the Commission distinctly opposite to the view of the Minister for Agriculture. It now seemed that the Minister for Agriculture would derive from the Royal Commission no assistance on the question of bimetallism, which apparently vexed the soul of the right hon. Gentleman. He admitted that the question of local taxation was very important; but anybody who imagined that prosperity would be restored to agriculture by peddling or tinkering with local rates were entirely on the wrong tack, though he had always contended 759 that relief from that source was equitably due to those engaged in the agricultural industry. At the National Agricultural Conference, which was held last winter, all these subjects were discussed; but the one point that really aroused interest at the gathering was the gross injustice under which the agricultural community laboured in having taxes, local and Imperial, placed upon their industry, whilst those against whom they had to compete abroad were exempt from their imposition. The resolution adopted by the Conference did not inevitably involve Protection—a question which he was prepared to argue out anywhere—though he admitted it led up to Protection, which was the only real solution of the difficulty. The resolution declared that the Conference was of opinion—"That the unfair competition of untaxed foreign imports with home produce and manufactures which are subjected to heavy internal taxation is an anomaly and an injustice."The Resolution further declared—That all competing imports should pay a duty not less than the rates and taxes levied on the home production.That resolution was adopted by the most representative agricultural assembly that had ever gathered together in the country, and it called attention to an injustice which it was within the power of the Government to deal with, without infringing to any extent on the doctrine which they had so much at heart—the doctrine which by some strange misnomer was called by the term "Free Trade." There were set out in the resolution of the Conference two alternative plans by which the desires of those who passed the resolution could be carried out. Either taxes should be placed on imports, or home products should be relieved from all taxation, whether Imperial or local.
That is a matter of policy which cannot be discussed on this Vote. The question of the appointment of a Royal Commission is in Order, but not the policy of the Government.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he would return to the question of the Royal Commission. A Royal Commission on Agriculture sat under the Duke of Richmond several years ago, and cost a large sum of money. He supposed the Committee would be asked to undertake a large expenditure also for the proposed 760 Royal Commission; and he would ask whether the able staff at the command of the Agricultural Department could not supply the Government with sufficient information to make some substantial and practical proposal to Parliament without undertaking this expense? He was quite aware that the views which he held in regard to the real cause of agricultural distress were not universally admitted even by those with whom he acted on most political questions; but there was no doubt that most of the agricultural community were with him, though they might not proclaim their views from the housetops.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he quite recognised the strict justice of the Chairman's ruling; but it was difficult to separate the question of policy from the question technically before the Committee. The Government wanted to make a show of doing something for the agriculturists, beyond that which Parliament charged them to do under already existing Statutes, and they hoped to fulfil that something by appointing a Royal Commission. But he would point out to the Minister for Agriculture that though he might have 100 Reports from 100Royal Commissions, he would never succeed in relieving agricultural distress unless he relieved the agricultural community of the very heavy disadvantages under which they laboured.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
said, he gathered from an observation made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Commission about to be appointed to inquire into agricultural depression would be able to inquire also into the question of local taxation. It was quite true, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Thanet had said, that no relief could be given through local taxation which would make any material improvement in the position of agriculturists; but it was none the less true that if local taxation was placed on a footing so that the farmers would not feel that they were unjustly treated it would be a step in the right direction.
I must point out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he is now discussing a question of policy.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, he was father drawn out of the proper course by the remark of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He suggested that the Board might follow the example of other countries, notably Germany, where experiments were carried on in the growth of cereals and other agricultural matters. He had no wish to belittle what had been done by Local Authorities, but some experiments were beyond the power or means of Local Authorities, and such experiments he considered should either be made by the Central Authority, or the Local Authorities should receive assistance in conducting them. No one would deny that if our agriculturists were to compete successfully with the agriculturists of other countries they must have the light of the best scientific research that was possible thrown upon their industry. He gladly recognised what the President of the Board of Agriculture had done during this Session to prevent and stop the disease among swine, and assured him that that part of the agricultural community which he represented were grateful to him for carrying out the policy of his predecessor.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said, the agricultural constituencies of Scotland would, he was sure, thoroughly appreciate in the right way the so-called friendly attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and would understand the way in which they had consistently blocked all the attempts of the Minister for Agriculture to do something for the agricultural community. He had paid a visit to the North not very long ago, and he knew that the farmers there looked forward with great interest to the appointment of this Committee; and, contrary to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. Lowther), there were Members in that House capable of giving an opinion on agricultural matters, and the farmers would willingly have entrusted their case to them. He thought a great deal of time had been lost which might have been judicially occupied in the consideration of this question by a Committee. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman was so far repentant that he had now given his blessing to the appointment of the Royal Commission, from the labours of which he anticipated great good. He would like to ask what the Government 762 were going to do to carry out the Resolution passed by the House in favour of an inquiry into the working of the Agricultural Holdings Act? That Act had not carried out the expectations formed with regard to it. It had undoubtedly broken down, and there was an intense desire on the part of the agriculturists of the North that this inquiry should be carried out. He wanted to know whether it was to be carried out by an independent inquiry, or whether it would be one of the matters that would be handed over for consideration by the Royal Commission? He represented, perhaps, the leading cattle feeding, if not cattle breeding, county in Scotland, and the Minister of Agriculture would probably not be surprised if he asked him to give some information as to the present position of the Canadian cattle question. Had he anything to tell the House in continuation of the very interesting Papers which he presented a short time ago? As to the present condition and as to the continued results of the investigation of the lungs of these animals, he presumed that the animals were being still scientifically investigated, and he should like to find out whether there had been any more cases of disease discovered in lungs which the right hon. Gentleman's advisers pronounced to be pleuro-pneumonia? A perusal of the Papers presented had not removed his doubts as to whether these cases were pleuro-pneumonia or not, or whether they were not cases of sporadic lung affection partly developed by the journey, and not absolutely of an infectious character. Was there any further evidence communicated to the right hon. Gentleman which would enable them to come to a more definite conclusion on that point? He regretted that the Minister of Agriculture had not seen his way to accept the invitation of the Canadian Government to send out two experts at the expense of that Government to investigate this question. The Canadian people considered that they were now on their trial in this respect, and they believed that such an investigation would, at all events, do no harm, and would satisfy not only the Canadians, but the people in this country. He hoped the door was not absolutely and finally closed against the acceptance of the Canadian offer. In this 763 matter Canada was placed between the devil and the deep sea, and she would be glad of the opportunity of clearing her character, and of showing that pleuro-pneumonia had not and did not now exist in Canada. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consent to the Commission inquiring not only into that point, but also into the point whether the frontier regulations were sufficient to prevent the incursion of pleuro-pneumonia from the United States into Canada. Finally, he wished to ask how much longer the restriction on the importation of Canadian cattle into this country was likely to continue?
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, he did not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet in his observations with reference to the appointment of the Royal Commission. He did not suppose that any great result would follow from the labours of that Commission. No doubt something had to be done, and it was necessary for the Government that the Commission should be appointed; but how far it would realise the expectations of the Liberal County Members, who had made large promises of what might be expected from the Government, he was not prepared to say. Allusion had very properly been made to the restrictions put upon the importation of cattle disease into this country from abroad, and he hoped the right, hon. Gentleman would not too hastily relax those very judicious restrictions. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture had, under considerable pressure, displayed great firmness. He hoped that before they threw open the ports of this country to the unrestricted importation of live cattle, if there was the least suspicion of disease, they would cause every inquiry to be made, so that the breeders of this country should not run unnecessary risk. In the early part of the Session he called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the lamentable increase of glanders and farcy in London. The disease not only inflicted loss on the owners of horses, but it involved a serious danger to human life as regarded people brought in contact with horses and persons driving and travelling in hansom cabs; and it 764 was, therefore, of the greatest possible consequence that it should be grappled with. There were Orders providing for the slaughter of animals affected; but, unfortunately, the question of the compensation to be given rested with the Local Authorities, and in London the County Council had thought fit to refuse to give compensation out of the public funds to induce owners who suspected that the disease was incubating to give notice to the Public Authorities. The County Council relied on supervision and inspection to stamp out the disease. But the far more effective course would be to offer every possible inducement to the owners of horses to give notice of any suspicion of the existence of the disease, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would press the practical importance of that view upon the County Council.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, that none of his constituents rode in hansom cabs except when they visited an English town, but, as Chairman of a. Sanitary Board for some years, he was quite aware that sickness in animals was not reported unless proper compensation was given for the slaughter of those animals. If they wanted to stamp out glanders in London, they would have to compensate the owners, or they would have everyone against them. He hoped the Board of Agriculture would not be coaxed by the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson). They had had immense trouble and expense in stamping out pleuro-pueumonia.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, that if the hon. Member merely asked for inquiry, he did not think there could be too much inquiry into the subject. With regard to the Swine Fever Bill, or Act, he wanted to know whether it would be administered by the Central Authority in London or not?
§ MR. H. GARDNER
Its whole object is to transfer to the Central Authority the power now exercised by the Local Authorities.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
pointed out that the Act had not been in use in Ireland before, and was a new one so far as they were concerned.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
wished to offer a complaint from the dairy farmer's point of view, in which he was personally interested, and he would confine himself principally to the point of the small protection the makers of butter got. He had no complaint to make personally against the right hon. Gentleman or his predecessor; his sole complaint was that the Board of Agriculture had not got sufficient powers for the protection of the makers of butter in this country. He would like to know if the matter was entirely in the hands of the Board of Trade? He believed the Board of Trade had very little authority. It had no power of classification as regarded the Customs. The only headings in the Customs statistics were butter and lard; but there were many articles which came between these two. Something should be done to inform them to what extent importers adulterated their butter with margarine; and when that adulteration exceeded, say, 15 per cent., they ought to be obliged to state the fact in their bills of lading, for adulterated butter did even more mischief than margarine itself. Then there was no protection against the adulteration of butter inland. The whole control rested with the Local Government Board, and under that Board was exercised by the Local Authorities, who administered their powers very loosely. The result was that the English dairy farmers had to encounter most unfair competition. It was monstrous that, with regard to a matter affecting so large a portion of the farming interest, the President of the Board of Agriculture should have no power to give protection against this very serious and unfair competition. In the few cases in which the retail dealers were prosecuted they very often escaped on the plea that the adulterated article was supplied by the wholesale dealer; and the prosecution was not carried further. Not only should these matters be placed under the control of the Board of Agriculture, but that Board ought to have an analyst of its own. At present, analyses were made at Somerset House, and everybody had complained with regard not only to butter, but to milk and other articles. Dr. Bell allowed a percentage of adulteration that was perfectly absurd. He believed that in milk Dr. Bell allowed from 15 to 20 766 per cent. of water; at any rate he was told so by the public analysts. That gentleman took the very worst kind of butter and milk, and said it was possible in the very worst cases for it to be pure butter or milk. Dairy farming was becoming more and more an important portion of the farming industry of this country, and all such matters ought to be under the control of the Board of Agriculture. France, Sweden, and other foreign countries were doing everything in their power to protect their dairy interests, and the large importation of Danish butter was especially due to the great interest shown in regard to dairy produce by the Board of Agriculture of Denmark. In regard to the importation of butter and articles of that description, the Minister for Agriculture should have power to protect the farming interests of this country quite independent of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. JASPER MORE (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said, the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire was not quite correct in attributing continued opposition to the Committee proposed by the Government on Agricultural Depression, as the right hon. Member for Sleaford, in reply to a question of his, said he would withdraw his opposition on the condition of a more restricted Reference, and he found that other Members who had blocked the Motion consented to do the same. He would ask if the term "depression" was not a misnomer, and if, after the speeches made in the House, the Commission should not be on agricultural distress? He wished to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture if he would give effect to the Report of the Committee of the House on uniformity of weight? That Committee had reported just when the agricultural meeting in London had come to a close, or he would have been troubled with a deputation. [Mr. H. GARDNER pointed out that this was a matter for the Board of Trade.] He thought it ought to be a matter for the Board of Agriculture, and he hoped the President of the Board of Trade knew that the Chairman of the London County Council had agreed to join a deputation, and he believed the President of the Board of Trade would find the subject congenial to his mind. He felt they owed an acknowledgment to the President of the Board of Agriculture for his 767 attempt to grapple with the fraudulent sales of artificial manures. He was placed in a difficult position between the trader and the farmer. He regretted, however, that the Treasury did not see their way to encourage the Board prosecuting fraudulent sellers, as it was well known the Board of Trade did under the Merchandise Marks Act. The cases might not be exactly similar, but they heard from the remarks on margarine how Acts passed with the best intentions failed, and he thought Bills passed by the House should not be inoperative. The journals of the Royal Agricultural Society were full of cases of fraudulent sales of artificial manures, and regrets that there had been no prosecution. He should like to ask what checks would be placed on the movement of swine under the Swine Fever Bill which came into operation in November? He felt they were indebted to the President of the Board for the interesting leaflets he issued following the precedent of the Board of the last century, and he would suggest the circulation should be increased amongst the members of the local Farmers' Clubs.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I am not disposed to complain of the President of the Board of Agriculture for having recommended the appointment of a Royal Commission on the question of the depression in agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman and I know how grave is that depression in some parts of England, and I confess myself I could not have discovered, without a great deal of preliminary inquiry, any adequate remedy. I now wish to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one of the burdens of agriculture, which has already been inquired into by a Royal Commission, and that is the question of tithe rent-charge. The President of the Local Government Board played a very useful and active part as a Member of the Royal Commission which inquired into that subject, and the Commission, which was carefully constituted, and well able to deal with the question, made a unanimous Report nearly two years ago. No one who is aware of the heavy burdens of tithe on agriculture will deny the great importance of the subject. Early in this Session I asked Her Majesty's Government whether they 768 were prepared to introduce a measure on the basis of that Report? I received a sympathetic answer from the First Lord of the Treasury, inviting me to present a Bill; but of course it is impossible for any private Member to attempt satisfactorily to deal with such a subject, and there was an end to the matter. I know the number of subjects which claim the attention of Her Majesty's Government, but this is a matter of real and pressing importance. The right hon. Gentleman has the Report of the Royal Commission signed by one of his own Colleagues, and I believe the Prime Minister himself is favourable to legislation. It is a moment in which legislation might be attempted with great advantage to the tithe-payers, because, the tithe being so low, better terms might be agreed to by the tithe-owners than on other occasions. I wish to press this matter as one which has already been inquired into, and which cannot be put off by referring to the new Commission. When I was President of the Board of Trade there was no one more persistent in his references to this subject than the right hon. Gentleman himself. He was continually insisting on the necessity of the redemption of the tithe rent-charge on fair terms, and continually urging the late Government to bring in a Bill for dealing with the subject. I do press him now to do something to carry out in Office the opinion he held when in Opposition, by taking an early opportunity of submitting to the House, and taking every means in his power of passing into law a measure based upon the Report of the Royal Commission.
§ MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said that, since the last Debate on the subject, the Papers which had been issued by the Board of Agriculture, so far from convincing them that the President of the Board was right and that they were wrong, seemed rather to strengthen their case. He rose to dispel an illusion which seemed to have got possession of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan). The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that this was entirely a question of the ports. Of course, Canadian cattle must be landed at the ports, and the ports, no doubt, reaped the benefit of that; but, on the occasion of the former Debate on this subject, the gallant Gen- 769 tleman said that those who were against the exclusion of Canadian cattle were largely interested in Shipping Companies.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I did not quite say that. On looking over the reports I saw I was so represented, but what I said was" shipping interests," which is quite a different thing.
§ MR. CROMBIE
said, he was glad to obtain that statement from the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and perhaps he (Mr. Crombie) might say that those who were interested in this question—at any rate, he spoke for himself and his hon. Friend (Dr. Farquharson)—had no personal interest whatever in any shipping Company.
§ MR. CROMBIE
There is no Shipping Company in either of our constituencies, and we are simply advocating the views of our agricultural constituents, and I am perfectly certain we shall not misrepresent them.
§ MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) had urged the extreme importance of passing a measure for the redemption of tithes. The tithe as it at present stood—as those acquainted with the subject knew—was based upon corn. If the tithe were redeemed, the redemption would have to be based upon gold—and that at a time when gold was steadily mounting up in value. It would be much better to keep tithes as they were at present, than to attempt their redemption under such circumstances. Some time ago some people were very anxious to have tithe fixed at par; but they had since learned that if they had taken that step, what appeared to them at that time to be likely to be a relief would really have added seriously to their burdens. Tithes were going down now continuously every year; and he hoped that until the currency question was put on a different footing no effort would be made to change the terms from corn to gold.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
observed, that in view of the existence of glanders in London, there was a great objection to allow horses to drink at water troughs in the streets; and if the Board of Agriculture could do anything in the matter their action would be 770 welcome. With regard to the importation of Canadian cattle, the change seemed to be that our Canadian friends desired to relax the restrictions with regard to disease. That was not so. All that was asked was that there should be inquiry, and as many eminent medical men in Canada said that there was neither tuberculosis nor pleuro-pneumonia there, it was only right that all doubt on the subject should be removed by investigation. With regard to the dairy question, that was a matter for the Local Authorities; and if the law were carried out properly the Local Authorities and Magistrates ought to put a stop to adulteration, and we ought to encourage the production of these articles in this country. As to the delay in appointing a Committee to consider this depression in agriculture—it was due entirely to the opposition of the Tory Party.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
would not pursue the matter further. In regard to the Small Holdings Act and the Allotment Acts, the Liberal Party, at any rate, without regard to any Commission—
I think the hon. Member will find that the Board of Agriculture has nothing to do with either Acts, and, that being so, of course it is not open on this Vote to discuss them.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he should have liked to have obtained some information as to the working of these Acts. Another matter he should have wished to mention was the reclamation of slob lands in tidal rivers. He contended that the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presided was of as much interest to towns or cities as to agricultural districts, and, indeed, more so, because the towns were being flooded with labourers who could not find work in the country because of the land not being properly cultivated. He would urge the President of the Board of Agriculture to obtain powers which would enable him to assist as much as possible the cultivation of the land of this country by the tillers of the soil.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. H. GARDNER,) Essex, Saffron Walden
I have no reason to complain of the discussion which has taken place this afternoon, and 771 I must thank very warmly right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for the kind words they have been good enough to say not only upon this but upon other occasions as to the administration of my Department since I came into Office. I can assure them and the Committee that it has been a great encouragement to me to receive these congratulations since I assumed an Office which I accepted with great diffidence. The right hon. Gentleman who initiated this Debate referred at some length to the appointment of the Agricultural Committee, which has since also been spoken of by other Members. But with all deference to the Committee, I think it is hardly necessary I should go into the disputed points in regard to it, because that Committee is defunct. We have appointed a Royal Commission, on which we shall have the assistance of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, so that the Royal Commission will certainly be a non-Party one, and ought to receive the confidence of every member of the agricultural community. The right hon. Member for Thanet was somewhat critical with regard to the Commission. He wished to know why it was we wished to appoint a Commission at all, and how it was that with the very valuable officers—whose advice I gladly recognise—at my disposal, the Government thought it necessary to propose a Royal Commission to the House? Sir, there are subjects—as I ventured to point out while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking—which the Royal Commission no doubt will inquire into with the assent of the agricultural interest of the country which do not come under the purview of my Department. Though we trust there may be no great discussion in that Commission on such subjects as bimetallism and Preferential Duties, still by our terms of Reference we have not excluded any discussion of these subjects. I was asked a question as to the burdens on land. The questions of local taxation and of burdens on land are, I know, subjects of interest to the agricultural community; but they do not lie absolutely in my Department, and I am certain it will be to the advantage of the agricultural interest generally that these subjects should be discussed by a Commission which, I venture to think, has the thorough confidence of the country in its composition, and which contains 772 amongst its members some experts of the very highest rank, and which will be able to report to the country on this much-vexed and interesting subject generally. Then there was a question put to me, which I may answer at once, with regard to the Agricultural Holdings Act. I had the honour in the Debate on the Address, on behalf of the Government, to say that though we were very favourable to legislation to reform the Agricultural Holdings Act, we did not wish to take that responsibility until the subject had received preliminary inquiry. That view had the approval of the right hon. Member for Sleaford and the Conservative Party generally, and it is to the Royal Commission, which is so admirably constituted to inquire into this matter, that we look for some advice on the subject. I do not think it necessary for me to go very much further into the subject of the Royal Commission, and I will endeavour to answer as briefly as possible the questions put to me from various quarters of the House. The hon. and gallant Gen-man opposite (Commander Bethell) drew the attention of the Committee—and I think very rightly—to the great value of scientific education in agriculture, and he referred to what foreign countries did in that respect. I have often said that I thoroughly recognise the advantage of scientific education as bearing on the prosperity of the farming interest, but I do not, on the other hand, quite lend myself so much to centralisation, as I fancy the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to wish. It has always been the boast of this country, and especially with regard to the agricultural interest, that private enterprise has done wonders with regard to the farming interests generally in all parts of it. I need only refer to the experimental work done by Sir John Lawes at Rochester, by Sir John Gilbey, and by the Duke of Bedford at Rothamstead. I am happy to say that by permission of the Treasury the Department has been able to buy a number of copies of the records of the excellent work at Rothamstead, which will be distributed to the various Bodies having to do with agricultural education. That is a good step on our part in the right direction, and that, I think, in some way answers the hon. and gallant Gentleman, The vexed question of closing the ports to Canadian cattle and kindred 773 other questions have occupied the attention of the House at some length during this Session. I can only say that while I thoroughly recognise that the desire of those hon. Members who wish to see the present restrictions removed is to benefit Scotch farmers by the introduction of Canadian store cattle, at the same time, I am bound to say I feel it necessary to adhere to the decision I announced on a previous occasion. I am bound to rely on those three eminent men given me by the country as veterinary advisers to the Board of Agriculture, and to their opinion I am certainly resolved to adhere. I should be absolutely rash if on such technical subjects as these I were to over-ride the opinions of three of the best experts this country can produce. Indeed, if I adopted such a course I should not be fit to hold the Office I have the honour to hold. My hon. Friend talks about an inquiry, which I admit, as put forward by him and others, has a plausible appearance. I remind the Committee that I have in no way shut the door with regard to this question of Canadian cattle. The whole question turns upon the difficulty of examination. That is as far as I can go; but I will, of course, be glad to have any communication from the Canadian Government on the subject. Now I come to the question of glanders. In answer to the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. T. H. Bolton), there are only two courses open to us—either to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or else allow the County Council to take the matter into their own hands and pay compensation. The hon. Member is aware that the disease is one chiefly confined to the Metropolitan area, and I think will see that it would hardly be fair to impose general charges in reference to a matter which is purely local. On the other hand, how are we to compel the County Council to pay for putting down the disease when they, as the representatives of the ratepayers, do not feel called upon to act for this purpose? At the same time, I am glad to say the number of outbreaks has been less in the present year than last year, and, so far as I can see, there is a distinct improvement in the last two years. The cases reported—the fresh outbreaks—are 973, whereas the number last year was 1,106. He will be glad to know that in comparison with other years 774 there is a decrease in the number of cases of glanders. Well, as to the question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Nolan), I have to say that the Act is about to receive assent, and it will be administered by the Local Bodies in the same way as the Pleuro-Pneumonia Act is carried out. I do not know how the authorities in Ireland are guided in that respect, but I presume they will act on the same principle. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), the question is not one for my Department; it is one of general administration—of general policy—upon which I do not feel justified in expressing an opinion.
§ MR. HANBURY
asked, was it a fact that the hon. Gentleman had no power to protect them in the way indicated?
§ MR. H. GARDNER
I think I may say that I am always glad to use my influence to the best advantage in dealing with these matters. I have, at any rate, tried to use my influence in the past as best I could. As to the question of weights and measures, it is a question for the Board of Trade. I am glad to hear the testimony paid by the hon. Member to the value of the pamphlets published by the Department, and the answers to questions in connection with Secretaries of Agricultural Societies and labourers throughout the country. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir M. Hicks-Beach), who put a question with regard to tithe-rent charge, I refer him to a previous reply on the matter, in which it was stated that there was no hope of bringing in any legislation this Session. Speaking, so far as I am concerned with the Department, I think I may say that we are most anxious to deal with this matter as speedily as possible. Well, Sir, I think I have answered all the questions put to me, and, thanking the Committee once more for the attention with which I have been listened to, I venture to ask the Committee now to allow this Vote to pass.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, he would ask whether there were any Returns as to small holdings under the Act passed last year, also as to labourers' allotments, which are understood to be increasing fast? They had an item on the Paper for a salary of £700 for a Director of Statistical Intelligence. They should have some information regarding 775 that. Also there were three items under sub-heads of this Vote for agricultural education. He presumed it did not relate to the higher branches of instruction, but dealt with elementary branches, which were very backward.
§ MR. H. GARDNER
said, the Department was specially debarred from dealing with education in those schools. If the hon. Baronet would refer to the Paper, he would see that this had nothing to do with elementary schools. The Returns asked for by the hon. Baronet had reached him, and he would have them laid before the House.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, he did not expect the right hon. Gentleman to say much in reply to his question as to tithe-rent. On the question of Returns, he would point out that it was very difficult to get such Returns in adequate time, and he thought they should have some remedy for that state of things.
§ MAJOR JONES (Carmarthen, &c), who was very indistinctly heard, was understood to ask a question in relation to an expenditure of £300, and also as to what had been done in relation to Welsh claims on the Department?
§ MR. H. GARDNER
said he would be glad to give his consideration to the matter raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir M. Hicks-Beach). He would also be glad to consider Welsh claims, as he recognised the good work done by the College at Aberystwith.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he thought it was distinctly incumbent upon him to say a few words dealing with this question, and he was all the more ready to do so since, as having no practical knowledge of agriculture, he was on an exact par with the President of the Board of Agriculture himself. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that he had no power to deal with some of the most important matters in relation to agriculture—adulteration, for instance, which he said he had no power to prevent—
The Chancellor of the Exchequer rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."776
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 24.—(Division List, No. 299.)
§ Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £21,674, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1894, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, including the Endowed Schools Department.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ *MR. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough) moved to reduce the salary of the Chief Commissioner by £500, in order to draw attention to the administration of the Department. The traditional policy seemed to him to be that in the event of anyone going to the Department with a complaint of what he regarded as maladministration of justice, they endeavoured, if possible, to choke him off, and utterly disregarded any complaints he might make. He complained that there was no adequate supervision exercised by the Charity Commissioners over the Trustees of the various Charities of the country, or over the accounts which they presented. In one case in the Harborough Division the Charity Commissioners had permitted the Trustees of a Charity to neglect sending in an account for two years, and then the account was of the most meagre character. Another case was the following: In March, 1892, a meeting was held in the village in which he resided relating to the administration of a Charity known as the Hanbury Charity. At a public meeting a resolution was passed asking the Charity Commissioners to inquire into the system of education provided under this Charity; and although an inquiry was held in May, 1892, the draft scheme was not published until June, 1893. When they would get the scheme into operation Heaven only knew! Meantime, the children in the village were suffering. Moreover, the Charity Commissioners were out of sympathy with the masses of the people in the villages. They did not act in accordance with the spirit of the age. In the new scheme to which he had alluded there was a clause to the 777 effect that the new Trustees should be elected at a Vestry meeting held under the monstrous system of the old cumulative vote instead of "One Man One Vote," the principle which had been adopted in the Local Government Bill. It was high time there was an inquiry into the administration of the Charity Commissioners. He claimed that the poor people in our villages were entitled to at least as great consideration as regarded the time of the House as were the inhabitants of Siam, the Bahamas, or other places.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he believed that there was no body of men who did their duty with more entire self-devotion or with a more enlightened view than the Charity Commissioners did. He served some years ago upon a Committee which inquired carefully into these matters, and the result was eminently satisfactory to those who had confidence—as he had—in their action. He did not believe that any persons were strangled with red tape. He did not know what was the nature of the case to which reference had been made; but he did know that sometimes when schemes had been delayed it was from the desire of the Commissioners to meet the wishes of all parties interested, and so to devise a scheme which would be generally acceptable. He congratulated the Commissioners upon the fact that there was no claim this year for the City Parochial Charities. If the Commissioners had done no other work than that of carrying out the Parochial Charities Act for London they would have deserved well of their country. He was sure that all who took an interest in the cause of technical education, and desired to see the advance of useful education in the Metropolis, would be deeply grateful to the Commissioners for the part which they had taken. He rejoiced that they had seen their way to modify the scheme for St. Paul's School. He saw the first scheme with great regret, and was glad that such a modification had been made as would at once continue the work of that great school, and at the same time found another school to supply a want. It would be satisfactory to the Committee, he thought, if some account were given of the present position of Christ's Hospital. That was a scheme of the most gigantic character, and it was a great achievement to carry it into law; 778 but they had not heard much of the operation of the scheme during the last 12 months. He felt great regret on reading the scheme of the Commissioners respecting Merionethshire, believing that some portions of it were not in accordance with the enlightened feeling of the age as regarded religious instruction. He thought that the restrictions imposed upon Welsh boarding schools, under the Welsh schemes, in respect of religious education by the Commissioners were not in accordance with the spirit of the times, and he was sure they were contrary to the general principles of religious freedom. He hoped that in any future scheme a more liberal and enlightened view would be taken of the matter, and that the pupils in these schools would be permitted to receive instruction according to the principles of the denomination in the faith of which their parents desired them to be brought up. He was grateful to the Commissioners for the action they had taken in respect of the large endowed schools, but thought they might with advantage abstain from interfering with some of the minor schools, which were doing good work in their way, and whose operations were acceptable to the inhabitants of the villages in which they were situated. He felt reluctant to make remarks of an adverse character concerning the action of the Commissioners in some particulars, and had only done so because he believed that thereby their popularity and efficiency would be increased.
§ MR. BENSON (Oxfordshire, Woodstock)
said, he would like to know whether the Commissioners had done anything to remedy the insufficiency of their staff to deal with accounts sent in from Endowed Charities? It seemed to him it would be well if the Charity Commission would insist that proper accounts were sent in from every Endowed Charity. It would be a useful check on Trustees who were inclined to be careless, and it would help the Commissioners to see how their schemes were being carried out. He could confirm what had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, that in some cases the accounts were not sent in at all, and in others they were of the slightest and most unsatisfactory character; and he wished, in conclusion, to bear testimony to the invariable courtesy with which the Commissioners furnished information, or con- 779 sidered any matter brought before them.
§ MR. JESSE COLLLNGS (Birmingham, Bordesley), said, he was as opposed as ever to the policy of the Charity Commissioners, which policy, he believed, bore heavily on the poorer classes of the country. He was not forgetful of the good work the Commissioners were doing, but Trustees of Charities in a large number of cases were afraid to go to the Commissioners for advice and assistance in carrying out reforms, because they at once took the endowments out of the hands of the Trustees, and would only accept a cut-and-dried scheme in respect of such Charities. In the matter of accounts, he believed the Charity Commissioners during the time they had been in existence had been the means of saving hundreds of Charities that would otherwise have been lost. He agreed that in many cases they were not as strict as they ought to be; but seeing the thousands of accounts they had throughout the country, some allowance ought to be made. Those most concerned were the children of the gutter, and it was for them he (Mr. Jesse Collings) would plead. The Charity Commission was a Department of State, dealing with enormous interests and an enormous amount of money. He believed there was no instance outside Russia of a Department of the State so much beyond the control of the Legislature as the Charity Commissioners. They did what they liked, and were practically irresponsible to this House. But the discussion of their policy in the House created public opinion, which was reflected on the recent schemes of the Charity Commissioners, which of recent years had been more what they ought to be. Besides having charge of the administration of Charities they were a Judicial Body. By this fact great expense to the Charities was saved, but their proceedings should be made public and their decisions open to appeal of some kind. Every one of the schemes of the Commissioners should be laid on the Table of the House, and be available for reference in the Library. During the past year 209 schemes were dealt with by the Commissioners, and the House knew nothing about them—certainly not 5 per cent. of them had been laid on the Table. They should also, 780 every Session, be referred to a Select Committee of the House, which might examine them, hear objections, and modify the schemes, or send them back to the Commissioners for modification. Questions as to the enclosure of commons had been dealt with in this way, and he hoped they would have an assurance on the point. With regard to the last Report of the Commissioners, there was a great improvement on the tone of the last 30 years. It was more humane in character, recognising that there were human beings with human wants and sufferings, and was not the high and mighty falutin document the Report of the Commissioners used to be. For this reason,—for the reason that the Commissioners were beginning to realise what was owing to the poor—he was glad to welcome this Report. They acknowledged that there was no point to which their attention was more constantly devoted than the improved application of funds distributed in precarious and isolated gifts to the poor, whether in money or in kind—in other words, in "doles." This was a point upon which it was said public opinion was unanimous. The Charities left to the poor might be changed in form, but they should be kept sacredly the property of the poor as much as any other property. Doles were included in the list of purposes enumerated in Section 30 of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869, and it was to them that the Act of 1882 applied. But some people appeared to think that, because elementary education was now being given, the poorer classes ought to be deprived of all their endowments. In his view those endowments still belonged to the poor, and ought to be applied for their benefit. The truth was, that the country owed millions to the poor; and if all the endowments for their benefit were applied according to the wishes of the donors, the fund that would be obtained would go a long way towards solving the question of old-age pensions in rural districts. They spoke of a few cases in the Report. The Charity Commissioners seemed to think that because since 1870 public elementary education had been supported out of the rates the poor in the rural districts did not need further educational facilities, and Charities were diverted to the purpose of higher education, of which 781 the classes higher in the social scale reaped the benefit. But he reminded them that the poor paid their share of the cost of public elementary education. He also complained of the unwise interference of the Charity Commissioners in other matters. He must protest against the action of the Commissioners. There was no distinction between doles and education, and it was not fair that there should be any distinction where the interests of the poorer classes were concerned. He took the case of the Craddock Wills Charity at Cardiff, bequest dating back to 1710, and he would refer the Government to the terms of the bequest. They had it shown them that the advantages were to go to the "poor boys of Cardiff." In the year 1821 the Master of the Rolls solemnly re-dedicated the property to the poor children of the borough—reading and writing books, &c, and to the sending forth of these poor children in life either by apprenticing, purchasing clothing, or otherwise. In 1889 the Commission brought in another scheme which at one sweep took away the property of the poor, converting the endowments to the purpose of higher education. The income was £1,500 per annum; about half was to go for the general purposes of University College, Cardiff, and in return the College was to give 15 Exhibitions of £20 each, and Scholarships in elementary schools amounting to £200, the remainder to accumulate for the purpose of middle-class education. For years past the £200 had been provided, and 104 Scholarships had been provided. Of these, about seven might be regarded as going to children of the poor, the remainder being taken by children of skilled artizans, sea captains, tradesmen, engineers, and accountants. That was a scheme that they could not endorse.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, his observations were intended to show the character of the schemes to which he objected. His contention was that the result of the schemes of the Charity Commissioners was to deprive the poor of their means of education in order to endow the middle and wealthier classes. He did not desire to say a word against high or middle-class education. He 782 only objected to the endowment of high and middle-class education being carried out on the heritage of the poor. The Charity Commissioners had now before them a scheme dealing with the Blue Coat School at Birmingham. That school had been in existence for generations. When the authorities of the school wished to enlarge their work they laid a scheme before the Charity Commissioners; but the Charity Commissioners took the whole matter in hand, and sent down a new scheme, the effect of which was to put an end to the beneficent education in the school. In their scheme the Charity Commissioners said that the number of children in the Blue Coat School should not exceed the number of children then in the school, and that the surplus income should be devoted to higher education. He could not conceive a more unwarrantable interference with the rights of the poor. With a great struggle and fight the people of Birmingham had got their concession; but if this injustice had been attempted in a village where there were no men to take it up and conquer the Charity Commissioners, and make them ashamed of what they were doing, the scheme would have been adopted, and the poor would have been deprived for all time of that which was as much their property as his property belonged to him. There was another scheme of the Charity Commissioners of which he had to complain, that of Sutton Coldfield. There was a Charity for nursing and clothing sick men of £40,000 capitalised value. By the scheme which had been forced on the people the Charity Commissioners took at one swoop £15,000 in order to endow a grammar school.
Order, order! I must call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that this has nothing to do with this Vote.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, that with all respect to the Chairman it would be seen that his observations were in Order. There was another scheme by which the Charity Commissioners proposed to take £17,000 more in order to establish a high school for girls. In Birmingham lawyers and other benevolent men had taken the side of the poor, and called themselves the Poor Defence Committee, and by their exertions they had got the Charity Commissioners to sus- 783 pend this second scheme. He would ask his hon. Friend whether they were to consider that that scheme had been definitely abandoned? It had been hanging like a nightmare over the poor of Sutton Coldfield for several years, and as there was a doubt as to what had become of it, he hoped his hon. Friend would give him some information about it. It was said that Scholarships had been established for full equivalent for privileges and advantages which had been taken from the poor people. He considered that the only thing done by these schools was to swell the ranks of the so-called educated unemployed. The result of the work of the Charity Commissioners was that if an advertisement for a position of £150 a year was published, there would be hundreds of applications from University men, Exhibition holders, and men who had gained Scholarships. The effect of such education was to degrade labour, because it taught the child to escape out of the ranks of labour and get a black coat for itself. The old idea of culture and the development of personal qualities, the old idea of making a man develop up to the full end of his capacity, would never be obtained by this machine sort of education as laid down in these schemes. He was quite willing that advantages should be given to clever children; but under any scheme clever children would come to the front, and he believed that if they were to do away with all these Exhibitions, education would benefit, society would benefit, and a large amount of misery would be avoided. He saw an article in a newspaper the other day on advertisements which appeared in The Lancet, from which it appeared that well qualified doctors could be got for £40 to £50 a year, or at any price. There was also a small article in The Saturday Review a short time ago which illustrated the policy of the Charity Commissioners more than anything he could say. It stated that the unhappy crowding of the market for brain labourers, and the thousands of miserable, hopeless failures, were due to the system pursued by the Charity Commissioners. He had very little hope of getting any reformation in the present system of education from the Members of the present Government. When he brought the subject on some time ago he was accused by the Presi- 784 dent of the Board of Trade as an old Tory wasting the time of the House, and he was told that there was nothing like Scholarships. He had also little trust in the Vice President of the Council, as he was a Charity Commissioner.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, the right hon. Gentleman, if he was not, ought to be a Charity Commissioner. His point was, that if there was to be higher and middle-class education—and he had no objection to it—the cost of it should not be taken out of the heritage of the poor.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY CHARITY COMMISSIONER (Mr. T. E. ELLIS,) Merionethshire
said, he could not follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley over the wide field he had traversed. The right hon. Gentleman had brought charges against the Charity Commissioners, and had delivered what was, no doubt, a very interesting impeachment of the National system of education. But that was not the time for entering into the merits or demerits of the system of National Education, and he would simply deal with the specific points relating to the working of the Charity Commission which had been brought under his notice. Three points had been made clear in the Debate: The first was that the Commissioners were always willing and anxious to give any information which anyone entitled to it desired to obtain. It had also been acknowledged that there had been a distinct improvement in the schemes of the last few years in the way of giving larger representation to the ratepayers and the Local Authorities; thirdly, that the Reports of the Commissioners were increasing in importance and interest every year; and that the Report of this year was worthy of the highest commendation. The chief practical criticism passed upon this Vote to-day related directly and indirectly to the production of Reports of Accounts. But he would like to point out that the Reports of Charities numbered close on 50,000, and that it must be apparent how difficult it was for any Central Authority to direct attention to and supervise the details of these 50,000 Reports. He thought it was the duty, and certainly the interest, of every Local Authority in each case to direct attention to the Accounts of Charities. 785 If a Report was not made of a particular Charity any inhabitant in the parish might apply to the Charity Commission to produce one. If in the course of the year the Local Government Bill passed, the complaints that had been made that afternoon would become practically impossible. He trusted that as soon as Councils in parishes and rural districts were set up one of the very first results would be that a direct interest would be taken in these Reports and in the administration of Charities. The Commissioners were doing their utmost to meet the demands made with regard to the publication of the Reports. In the County of Denbigh a most admirable volume of Reports for each parish was now published, and the London County Council and the County Council of the West Riding had applied for a similar publication. Not merely would the old Reports be reprinted, but additions would be made bringing all the information up to date, and he trusted that in a few years' time the work would be done for every county in England and Wales. The delay in the publication of the schemes in regard to the local Charities to which his hon. Friend the Member for the Harborough Division had referred was due to the simple reason that there were two sides to every question, and contending views and methods required consideration. The first duty of the Charity Commissioners was to consider the representations made by parties interested in these Trusts; and they dealt with the matter with the greatest care, which was far better than rushing a scheme through without giving it full and ample consideration. With regard to the complaint of his hon. Friend, that the poorer residents in a parish had little voice in the election of the representatives of the ratepayers, he was glad to say that in the scheme to which his hon. Friend had referred, and he trusted that, for the future, practically in all the schemes of the Charity Commissioners, the representatives of the ratepayers would be elected on the popular principle of One Man One Vote. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley had entered at considerable length into the policy of the endowed schools. This policy had been pursued by the Charity Commissioners under Statutes passed by 786 the House. He should, on another occasion, be happy to argue the matter out with the right hon. Gentleman. This alone he would say with regard to the Craddock Wells Charity to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred—that the Exhibitions were largely, or almost altogether, enjoyed by the children of the working classes. He was sure that there were not more than 15 out of the 150 Scholarships which were not enjoyed by the sons and daughters of the working classes. He would point out that under the very scheme to which the right hon. Gentleman referred some of the very poorest boys were receiving not merely an admirable education given by the Board schools, but also a higher grade education. There was one case, that of the son of a Roman Catholic, who had obtained a Scholarship, and he was now one of the brightest scholars in the higher grade school. Another boy, the son of a poor man at work at the docks, won a Scholarship, and he was now in training for the ministry of the English Presbyterian Church. Under the scheme some of the poorest boys and girls in the parish obtained an equal education with the children of the wealthiest capitalist.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS
said, the right hon. Gentleman said there were only seven of them, and he should like the Committee to know the occupations of the parents of these children. From a list he had, he found the parents of some of these children were employed as printers, painters, carpenters, shipwrights, furniture dealers, hawkers—
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS
said, that was so; but, still, these men belonged to the working classes, persons who were too poor to give their children a higher education, and some of them were amongst the poorest parents in the whole of Cardiff. The right hon. Gentleman made a further suggestion with regard to the Endowed Schools Schemes, and suggested that every scheme should be placed in the Library and submitted to a 787 Select Committee of this House. Under the Act of 1869 all Endowed Schools Schemes were laid on the Table of the House, but that caused so much delay that under the recommendation of the Committee of 1873 it was modified. If all these schemes were to go before a Select Committee of the House it would very materially add to the work of any Committee, as from 200 to 300 schemes were passed every year, but, of course, it was a matter for Parliament to determine. With regard to placing the schemes in the Library, he might say that this Session a fortnightly list of every published scheme had been placed in the Library, and any scheme could be obtained by any Member on application to the Charity Commissioners. Considering the different Acts of Parliament affecting Charities, and the varied conditions attached to the schemes, he thought that, on the whole, the Charity Commissioners were doing their work to the satisfaction of the House, and he hoped that, now, after the varied criticisms that had been made, the Committee would allow them to take the Vote.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
thought his hon. Friend had omitted to reply to one question asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings)—namely, what was to be done with the suspended scheme for Sutton Coldfield?
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS
said, that scheme, so far as he understood, was disallowed by the right hon. Gentleman who was Vice President of the Committee of Council in the last Government, and it therefore could not be proceeded with by the Charity Commissioners.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, that was satisfactory; but there was another point his right hon. Friend raised. The hon. Gentleman told them a list of the schemes was put in the Library, but would there be any objection to putting the schemes themselves in the Library? He himself had a great difficulty in finding out what was being done in a great number of the cases, and schemes had 788 been passed simply because the House and the locality was ignorant of what was being done. He admitted that was the fault of the locality; but the hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that when they were dealing with very small Charities it was almost certain they would pass unperceived unless some interested persons brought their minds to bear upon them. He hoped they would have an assurance that the schemes in future would be placed in the Library so that they might examine them. His right hon. Friend had given notice of a reduction of the Vote; and he understood that his right hon. Friend intended to move it, and take a Division upon it, as it was only by an accidental omission that he had failed to move it up to now. Though their numbers were small, it was important to ascertain the views of those present upon the issue raised by his right hon. Friend. They admitted that in some cases great sums, and even the value of the Charity, had been lost owing to the want of supervision, and they therefore thought it was quite right these matters should come under review. They thanked the Commissioners for the way they had saved considerable sums of money that might otherwise be frittered away; but the point was, after they had saved the money, how was the money to be disposed of? He and his friends said it was the private property of the poor of the country, and they said, therefore, if they could show that one single farthing of these Charities, left for the poor, was taken and applied to other purposes than for the benefit of those for whom they were left, it was a robbery of the poor. That was the position which they took up. The hon. Gentleman told them that a certain number of the Scholarships given had been obtained by the poor. He did not deny it, and, so far as that was the case, it was a good answer; but would the hon. Gentleman pretend to say that of the £1,500 that belonged to the poor in connection with Craddock Wells Charity the whole of that now belonged to the poor? If anyone outside the class for whom the Foundation was intended received any benefit, to that extent the poor had been deprived of benefit. In the case of the Craddock Wells Charity, half of it was taken to establish a higher class school, so that there was only a partial recognition of the claims of the 789 poor; and what they wanted to establish, and what they asked the House to vote for to-day, was that the property of the poor should be as sacred as if it were the property of the rich. The answer of the hon. Gentleman was that it was a question of Statute. He quite admitted that new legislation was required in order to effect completely what they desired; but did the hon. Member deny that if to-day, by a considerable majority, they could establish that, so far as the wishes and desires of the Committee were concerned, the property of the poor should be sacred, that that would not have the greatest effect on the proceedings of the Charity Commissioners? It was true the Charity Commissioners were an independent Body, who, time after time and year after year, went on confiscating the property of the poor, and until he and his friends got a majority in the House to support them it would continue. If this afternoon they could get a majority to give a decision in favour of that principle he was certain they would find that future schemes would be very different.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
said, that on the point of principle he did not differ from the right hon. Gentleman. His opinion was that if the Charities left to the poor were not applicable to the present state of things, then any change that was made ought to have entire regard to the class of the community for whom the Charity was left. That was the principle he had held for many years; and though he had no doubt the Charity Commissioners had acted from the best of motives, he thought it was a mistaken policy; that very often these donations, intended for the poorer classes, had been diverted to other, and what were considered more elevated, objects; but that was undoubtedly a social and political mistake. He entirely concurred with that view of the subject, and he believed that the right hon. Gentleman and others, in calling attention to this matter, had had a very great effect on the Charity Commissioners in leading their mind to regard the question from that point of view. If, for instance, doles had been left for bread and beer, that was not the best way of using the Charity; but the 790 Charity ought to go to those for whom the bread and beer was intended, and not to other classes—for the teaching of the globes and such purposes. That was a principle on which they would all agree; but what he asked his right hon. Friend to consider was that the cases that had been alluded to were not recent cases.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, the Blue Coat School and Sutton Coldfield School were recent, and the Blue Coat School was still open.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
said, that even the modified scheme took away from the poor inhabitants some of the advantages the Charity conferred.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he was informed that that was not the case, but, at all events, he hoped his right hon. Friend and others would be satisfied with the declaration he had made. They accepted the principle altogether, and, according to his observation and knowledge, recent schemes had accommodated themselves to that principle much more than they did some years ago, and, therefore, he hoped the Committee would be satisfied with the discussion that had taken place. The principle was one that was accepted by the Government, and they were prepared to act upon it so far as they had any influence in the matter.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That £16,674 be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Jesse Collings.)
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS rose, when—791
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. A. CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
I rise to Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman entitled to move that Motion at the conclusion of a speech from a Minister?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
On the point of Order, I ask whether it has not already been ruled from the Chair that a Minister of the Crown is not entitled to move the Closure after the speech of a Minister?
I heard what was said—that a long speech before the Closure was moved ought to be deprecated, but that is not the case here. The Motion is perfectly in Order.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 113; Noes 29.—(Division List, No. 300.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That £16,674 be granted for the said Service."
then directed strangers to withdraw, and, after the usual interval, the Question was again put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 32; Noes 110.—(Division List, No. 301.)
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed, "That the Original Question be now put."
§ Original Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ 3. £25,853, to complete the sum for Civil Service Commission.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
had only a few words to say on this Vote, principally in connection with an officer called the Senior Assistant Examiner. This gentleman was drawing an excellent salary of £900 a year; but, according to a note in the Estimates, he was to receive an additional sum, the amount of which would be stated in the Appropriation 792 Account. That in itself was objectionable, but he had a further objection to urge with regard to this official, who was an Army examiner. The complaint made against these Army examiners was that, in the first place, the papers set varied so much from year to year that a candidate had no idea of the scope of the examination to which he had to submit himself. This complaint arose principally in regard to mathematics. The papers varied so much, and were set on such totally different principles, that it was absolutely impossible for candidates or those who trained them to have even a general knowledge of the paper that would be set; therefore, it became a mere chance. It was not the most meritorious person who succeeded, as it depended entirely on the kind of paper the particular examiner chose to set. The difficulty about it was this—that the Committee never knew who these examiners were, and, therefore, those who were subjected to this kind of examination were unable to obtain any kind of redress, and it was difficult to attack them upon this Vote because the Civil Service Commissioners, afforded them no idea who these gentlemen were. He thought the Secretary of State for War would agree with him that this was a real grievance. Again, it was technically wrong to say of a Senior Assistant Examiner—"We cannot tell you beforehand what is to be paid to this gentleman, but it will all come in the Appropriation Account." These things ought to be stated plainly on the Estimates, and they ought to know what was going to be paid. It was also grossly unfair that these examination papers and the manner in which the examination was conducted varied entirely year by year.
§ *SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston), in continuation of what had been said by the Member for Preston, said, he also had received several letters complaining about the examination papers, particularly the mathematical papers. The letters went into detail to such an extent that he thought the Committee would hardly be able to cope with them, but he wished to state in general terms there was very great dissatisfaction at the manner in which the examinations were conducted, especially with regard to the uncertain 793 character of the papers: one set of questions one year and a very different set another year; one set very difficult and another year very much easier, introducing an element of uncertainty into the competition. He presumed the Civil Service Commission exercised a, general supervision over the examiners; but when complaints were publicly and generally made, it became the duty of Members of this House to draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
said, he rose to make an observation on this Vote, mainly because he thought he should have one sympathetic auditor in the person of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The right hon. Gentleman gave them the other day an account of certain alterations he was making in the examinations of Factory Inspectors under the Home Office. The whole tendency and course of his administration apparently was to diminish the weight which was at present unfortunately given in our public examinations to special subjects. He recollected that in the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said the weight attached to correct spelling in all our public examinations was wholly ridiculous and wholly indefensible. The system of selection by public examination was one that was absolutely necessary; it was the necessary alternative of the other system of patronage which used to prevail, and which had one objection that was overwhelming. It made the life of the Minister who had to give the patronage absolutely intolerable; therefore, out of pity to unfortunate gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench, he should never advocate even the smallest return to the ancient system under which places of trust were filled up. But they must all admit that while examination was a capable machinery for selecting men to fill appointments in the Public Service and removed any suspicion of jobbery, he did not believe that examination did much in excluding unfit men or including the fit men. He had come across, during his experience, numberless examples of men who would have made excellent soldiers and have done excellent service to the country, but who, through some defect more of the eye than anything else, had not acquired the art of 794 spelling. As everyone knew, the English language was supplied with no rule, and spelling supplied no test of intellectual capacity whatever, nevertheless the Civil Service Commissioners had constantly kept out these unfortunate men, and made them go through hours of dictation in order to get through the examination, a process which must have been a sheer waste of time. He did not know what Army coaches thought about it, but he was certain there was nothing that so disgusted pupils or degraded the whole subject of examination as the habit of teaching perfectly arbitrary symbols of unusual words. He hoped that so far as the Government could exercise any influence they would exercise it in the direction of broadening the scope of the examination—that they would not make it more difficult, but would make it a better test of intellectual ability and capacity.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOB WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling, &c.
was not disposed to follow the right hon. Gentleman, who, as he understood, did not view with any favour the system of competitive examinations for entrance into the Public Service, and did not desire it should be a test of the accuracy of the education which the candidates had received. They must have competitive examination in some way, the object, so far as the Army was concerned, being to test those who appeared as candidates to ascertain whether they had received the ordinary average education of a young man of their age, but whether they followed the best course in applying that test he could not say. He was not sure that it was the best course so far as the Army was concerned, and within the last couple of months he had appointed a Committee, on which several Members of Parliament and one of the Civil Service Commissioners had a seat, to inquire into the examinations now held for admission to the Army. Undoubtedly the system had been allowed, if he might say so, to stumble along for many years without any fixed principle being laid down. As at present conducted, he did not say whether it was open to objection or whether it was not, but he thought it was time to have an 795 examination into the subject to see how far these examinations could be made to fulfil, better perhaps than they did now, their proper functions, which were, as he had said, to test the education of young men who offered themselves as candidates. The right hon. Gentleman said he had met many a young man who would have made a splendid soldier, but was excluded for defective spelling. But no doubt the right hon. Gentleman had met many young men equally likely to make splendid soldiers who were able at the age of 17 or 18 years of age to spell correctly, and, notwithstanding the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, he would prefer the one who could spell to the one who could not. He believed it was a decided advantage to spell correctly, and he could go further and say that he thought reading and writing a useful accomplishment. He joined issue with the right hon. Gentleman, and believed they could combine the highest soldierly qualities, or any other, with a thorough, sound, and general education. Now he came to the point raised by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) and the hon. Member for Kingston (Sir E. Temple), who stated that the papers set for the examination varied so much, especially in mathematics, that no one knew what sort of questions were going to be asked. The Committee would hardly believe that all the correspondence received by the hon. Member had reference to one particular case for entrance to the Staff College not long ago. The gentleman who had been in the habit of examining in mathematics died, and it was necessary to appoint a successor. The successor had a different system of examination, and set papers a good deal higher than had been the case in previous years. For his part he differed from the hon. Member, for he did not think it was desirable that the papers should be almost identical; if they were to act as a test at all a little variety might perhaps be admitted. In this case he had satisfied himself there was a very substantial grievance on the part of those who entered as candidates, especially as it was a subject on which they had to obtain a certain number of marks to qualify. This was the crux of the complaint, and with the view of meeting this the Civil Service Commissioners very generously 796 reduced the number of qualifying marks, so that in reality the difficulty of obtaining qualifying marks on that occasion was the same as that which prevailed in previous years, and in that way any grievance that existed had been removed. With regard to the question raised as to the salary of the Senior Assistant Examiner he must say he was not aware of it, and the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury, he believed, had not before been called to it; but now that attention had been called to it his right hon. Friend would ascertain if there was any substantial reason for so apparently anomalous a way of recompensing a public servant, and if there was no such reason it would be rectified for the future.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him if he thought, as he seemed to have thought from his remarks, that he (Mr. Hanbury) objected to the examination papers varying from year to year. Of course, they must vary, but what he objected to was that last year a much higher paper was set in mathematics than had been set in previous years, and the right hon. Gentleman admitted that that constituted a real grievance. What he was contending for was that the game standard should be adopted from year to year—that there should not be a great jump upwards in any particular year as was the case last year, especially as these were qualifying examinations. When this happened it was hard on the candidates, and what he wanted to secure was that when the Civil Service Commissioners appointed a new examiner they should have some guarantee that the standard should not be raised. He should like to get from the right hon. Gentleman whether the gentleman who had occasioned all this trouble was to be the examiner in future; and, if so, whether the Civil Service Commissioners would see that the papers were more fairly set. He understood this man was at the beginning of his career as an Army Examiner, and unless some check was put on they would have the same kind of grievance another year,
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
admitted that the standard was a little 797 high, but perhaps the examiner had an entire misconception of the power of these candidates to answer questions. There was no reason to suppose he would repeat the incident.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
trusted the Committee would not be drawn by the answer of the right hon. Gentleman into a prolonged discussion as to the merits of competitive examinations. His opinion was that spelling had been created into a fetish, and though no one could object to competitive examinations, they did object to their being so purely, so entirely, and so exclusively literary. An examination in horsemanship and swordsmanship he thought would be far more effective. But he rose in order to follow up and re-enforce the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), as to the Senior Assistant Examiner. This was one of his traditional foes. He was a pluralist, and they did not know what his second salary was, though he understood the matter would be looked into by the Secretary to the Treasury. But there was a much larger matter arising out of the Vote. The whole Vote was for £40,000, and he found that a third of the Vote—represented by the sum of £13,800, with trimmings that were not stated—was paid to assistant examiners. Now, who these assistant examiners were, what their names were, what were their numbers, or what were their duties they were not told; there was not a word mentioned about any one of them. How could the Committee be justified in voting so large a sum to purely anonymous persons? In a former part of the Vote the name of a humble charwoman was given, and he could not understand the justification of voting £13,000 without knowing who was to get it. There was a danger in omitting names. It was a reproach, he believed, justly addressed to the system of competitive examination that it had bred a number of "crammers," whose business it was to fill young men with a certain amount of knowledge which they immediately afterwards lost altogether. In order to avoid the very great danger of these crammers coming into undesirable contact with the examiners, it was essential that the latter should be 798 men of character, and men whose names were published. The Committee ought to know who the examiners were, or, at least, how many of them there were, and what salaries they got. Another objection he had to the Vote was that part of it went in grants to existing public servants, not one of whom was named. What a vista of pluralism this opened up. He trusted that the Secretary to the Treasury would, at least, state how the Vote was allocated, and what each salary amounted to.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool Scotland)
remarked that the manner in which Civil Service examinations were conducted was a subject which interested tens of thousands of young men who had no capital and no means or position except those which were awarded to them by their ability and knowledge. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J Balfour) had been right in putting in a general objection to the too prudent superstition, which was borrowed, to a certain extent, from the example of China, that competitive examination was to be regarded as the best means of finding out the talents of those who were examined. He thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had not been quite happy in the subject he had selected. It was quite evident that men in all classes of life had shown an incurable incapacity to spell correctly. M. Thiers was never able to spell the word academie, and always insisted on putting in two c's. There had been instances in military history of some of the ablest Generals being unable to spell the commonest words, and he believed the Duke of Wellington was never strong in his orthography. He thought the present method of conducting Civil Service examinations was open to much graver charges. He felt some difficulty in saying it in the presence of the gentleman who was then acting as Chairman, [Mr. ROBY was temporarily occupying the Chair] and who was the author of the best Latin Grammar ever published; but the Civil Service examinations set the seal on the superstition that Latin and Greek were necessary for every man and every class. He was glad to 799 say we had got a little beyond the time when Greek and Latin scholarship was the only form of scholarly reputation that was recognised, and was the best means of getting as high as the Episcopal Bench. The superstition, however, still remained, and he thought the Civil Service examinations set the seal upon it. A further objection to them was that they trained the memory to the detriment of any intellectual faculty. In his early days he intended to go in for a, Civil Service examination, and he used to read very carefully the Civil Service papers, so that he knew something about them. He agreed with the criticism that bad been passed upon the examinations by many eminent men, that questions which really were test of memory some of the most highly educated literary men were unable to answer. In his opinion, a good deal more attention ought to be paid by the Civil Service Commissioners to the training of habits of observation. He agreed with the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) that a soldier was not a worse soldier for being unable to spell correctly. At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman knew very well that in these days war was a matter of science, and that intellectual powers were of far greater importance than physical capacity. He agreed with the hon. Member for Lynn Regis (Mr. Gibson Bowles) that the "crammer" was to a large extent an abnormal growth of the present system of Civil Service examinations. One of the reasons why the "crammer," or "grinder," had succeeded so well was that his methods of education were so unconventional and so scientific that people could learn more from him in a year than they could learn in a public school in three or four years. A former Member of the House of Commons, Mr. Walter Wren, one of the ablest men he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) ever met, and one of the most successful grinders, was an admirable teacher. At the same time, the system of stuffing men in much the manner as a Strasburg goose was stuffed for the market was a very bad form of intellectual training. He rather disagreed with the hon. Gentleman who raised the question, as he (Mr. O'Connor) thought it most desirable that the examination papers should, as far as possible, be different from year to year, so that the 800 idiosyncracies of the examiners might not become familiar to the "grinders." His great point, however, was the desirability of disestablishing Greek and Latin from the absurd supremacy which they at present held in the education of the country. He hoped that the Secretary to the. Treasury, before the Vote came on in another Session, would devote some consideration to the question whether it would be possible to make the Civil Service Examiners bring the examination more into accord with modern ideas.
§ MR. THEOBALD (Essex, Romford)
asked whether, as the Civil Service Examiners examined for the Indian as well as the British Service, they got any pay from the Indian Government? He further wished to know who received the £5,000 that was down for bonuses?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir J. T. HIBBERT,) Oldham
In reply to the question that has just been put to me, I have to say that the India Office pays its proportion of the cost of the examinations. I am not now in a position to reply as to the bonuses; but I shall be happy to do so upon the Report. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) has made a most interesting speech on the general question; but I am sure that at this late hour, and in, view of the great pressure to which we are subjected, he will not expect me to reply at any length. I can only promise to consider what he has said, and to see whether any of the proposals he has made can be adopted with advantage to the country. I rose principally to answer my hon. Friend the Member for Lynn Regis (Mr. Gibson Bowles). As to the money voted in a lump sum, it is impossible to give the details of the expenditure, because the amount is put on the Estimates long before the examiners have been chosen. The assistant examiners vary from year to year, and even during the year, so that it is quite impossible to put down the names and the amounts received by each person. With respect to those who are officers in Public Departments, their names will appear in the Appropriation Accounts, and it is not possible to give them in the Estimates. With respect to the names of all 801 the examiners, they appear in the Annual Reports of the Civil Service Commissioners, being, however, published after the event. That is all the information I can give in reply to the questions put to me.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said, he agreed with most that had fallen from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), and urged that the examinations should be of a practical character. Many of the questions put were of an absolutely useless character. They could not show whether the person examined had any practical knowledge of the subject, but were merely catch questions to see whether he had learnt certain things by rote. The conduct of the examinations was a matter which deserved attention. On a recent occasion, in an Army examination, one of the examiners had a very bad cold; and, as he was the person who had to conduct the dictation, very few of the young men present, except those who were close to him, were able to hear what was read out. Some attention should be given to physical as well as intellectual qualifications for a position in the Army; and he thought the candidates ought not to have to learn a lot of subjects which would be of no use to them. He could not conceive what was the use of higher mathematics to the general run of Staff officers. The Jesuits, who were the best teachers in the world, studied the capabilities of their students, and trained them to excel in one thing or another. The Army authorities, on the other hand, said that unless the candidates excelled in everything they were of no use. It would be far better, in his opinion, to adopt the system of the Jesuits, and employ men some of whom excelled in one thing and some in another.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
said, his attention had been called to a practical point, in regard to which candidates for minor appointments in the Post Office were subjected to considerable hardship. A short time ago he received a letter from a man who desired to compete for an appointment in the Leicester Post Office, and who wrote 802 one of the best hands he ever saw. This man obtained a nomination, but he subsequently wrote to say he had been rejected in handwriting. He (Mr. Powell Williams) thought that a man who rejected that handwriting would have rejected the "handwriting on the wall." On asking why the handwriting was objected to, the candidate was told that the style was not good, and that the Post Office Authorities required a more commercial style. If there was any particular style of handwriting which the Civil Service Commissioners required for such appointments, effective steps ought to be taken in order to bring to the notice of those who sought the appointments what kind of handwriting was likely to satisfy the examiners. He should like to know whether it was the fact that literary examinations were imposed upon persons who were employed as charwomen in the House of Commons; and, if so, what kind of examinations they were? Were they examined in the broom or what? As to the subject referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour). and about which a very interesting speech had been delivered by the Member for the Scotland Division, he thought a great deal too much stress had been laid on these examinations. Unquestionably, the great defect was that they never tested the judgment and tact of the person who was subject to them. He thought that if the examinations were better addressed to the objects which the Public Departments set before them—that of obtaining men of capacity, and not simply men of knowledge—it would be better for the Public Service.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
wished to understand whether not only the Army examinations, but the whole of the examinations under the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commissioners should be made the subject of inquiry and consideration on the part of the Government. He thought it was quite clear that there was a bonâ fide conviction prevailing with tolerable unanimity in all quarters that something was decidedly wrong in connection with the bulk of these examinations. The complaint was generally made that the examiners, for the most part, set themselves to find out not what 803 the competitor knew, but, if possible, what he did not know. The consequence was that very often the result of an examination was that the best men were kept out of the Service. Probably no system could be devised which would be entirely free from serious objection, but he hoped the Government would endeavour to arrive at some satisfactory solution of the question.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 4. £33,467, to complete the sum for Exchequer and Audit Department.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
asked when Progress was to be reported, as he understood that the Sitting was to close at 7, and that Report of Supply had to be taken.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £3,353, to complete the sum for Friendly Societies Registry.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the Registrar, in his last Report on this Vote, made some remarks in regard to the inadequate way in which the accounts of the surveyors were sent in. They all knew there had recently been some gross cases of loss in connection with funds of this description—poor people, unfortunately, losing the accumulations of years. Well, so far as he could recollect, the Chief Registrar said that the law enforcing on these different surveyors an account of their annual receipts and payments should be more stringently carried out. As a matter of fact, there had been very few prosecutions for neglecting to carry out these duties; and he thought it important, looking at the class of persons who invested their savings in this way, that the Government should insist upon proper accounts being rendered. He should like to know whether anything had been done to carry out the wishes of the Registrar.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that under Sub-head B he saw an item for cost of prosecutions contemplated. He did not understand what that meant. Were the prosecutions referred to settled, 804 or was it meant that they would probably take place?
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that provision had to be made in the Estimates for prosecutions which might be expected during the year.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY
said, he hoped the Government would take steps not only to see that proper accounts were rendered, but that the funds which were stated to be in existence really were in existence. It was a frightful thing for some of these old people, who had been putting by money all their lives, to find when they reached old age that every penny of it had evaporated, and in a Society bearing the Government stamp. These Societies with the Government stamp were like patent medicines. People imagined that they were guaranteed by Government, and that they must be of the very best kind. He trusted that in future the poorer classes would be assured that if they invested in these Societies the benefits announced could be afforded by the subscriptions, and that the subscriptions would not be improperly made away with.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, he thought that before any Society could place itself under the State there should be full inquiry into all its methods. He did not know whether particular Society about which there had been a great deal of discussion lately came under this Vote—
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the danger would be greater than ever if Societies such as that could obtain the imprimatur of the State. He wished to know precisely what steps were taken to ascertain, before these Societies were passed by the Registrar, whether or not they were conducted with regularity? So far as the old Societies were concerned, there was every reason to believe that they regarded the intervention of the State as a great boon, provided it were not carried too far.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, the hon. and gallant Member opposite had raised rather a large question; but he (Mr. Bolton) desired only to make one observation upon it. The 805 certificate which was given to the Societies was hardly sufficiently clear to show that it did not warrant or guarantee the Society—that it did not give any Government sanction or recommendation—but merely certified that certain legal formalities had been complied with. The result was that frequently an unsatisfactory Society got a sort of hall-mark, and through being registered secured subscriptions which it would not otherwise obtain. If the Government would consider the desirability of making the certificate perfectly clear in the direction he had indicated it would be doing a service to a large class of persons who were much misled in this matter.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I cannot agree that the Friendly Societies would look with any favour on Government intervention. I have recently had a great deal to do with some of these Societies—including the most powerful—and I can assure the Committee that there is nothing they object to more than Government interference. Some of these great organisations, which in former days were lavishly conducted, found the necessity of introducing reforms. They introduced those reforms, and are now on a sound foundation. That was a spirit which ought to be encouraged, and which ought not to be interfered with. With regard to new Societies, I believe that where a certificate is given there is a certain inquiry as to whether the rules are reasonable and the tables are fair; but it cannot be understood, nor has it been the fact, that that constitutes a guarantee of solvency to the Society. There may be cases in which, through the carelessness with which the Societies are conducted, the certificate becomes perfectly illusory. That is the state of the case. I confess that, so far as I am able to understand the subject, I am not disposed to place the State in any way in the position of guarantor of the solvency of these Societies. We must, to a great extent, trust to the prudence and self-reliance of the Societies themselves as the best security for their soundness.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the right hon. Gentleman had quite misunderstood him if he thought that he (Mr. Lowther) 806 had suggested that established Societies, like the Oddfellows and the Foresters, which had millions in their coffers, should be subjected to Government interference. On the contrary, he had frequently strongly denounced all attemps to interfere with the work of these Societies by the State. What he had intended to convey was that before the Government allowed any organisation whose solvency would not be a matter of certainty to shelter itself under the ægis of an official audit, an inquiry ought to be made as to its character. They knew all about the old Societies, and the less they interfered with them the better. Far be it from him to suggest that they should incur any responsibility in the matter. He agreed that no meddlesome officialism should be applied to the old Societies, but he thought they ought not to lend facilities through a Vote of this kind to any institution which could not prove itself to be of a thoroughly sound character.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, the Registrar had, under the Act of Parliament, certain specified duties to perform. Societies were not bound to go to the Registrar. They were not compelled to be registered; but if any Society wished to have the signature of the Registrar it would go to him and hand in a copy of its regulations and its scale of payments, and if the Registrar was satisfied he gave a certificate. But he did not give a guarantee in any way. That certificate was a great advantage, and, so far, the Registrar did good service.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, that if it was not sound the Registrar did not give a certificate. He saw their rules and regulations and their scale of payments; and if he found that they were not satisfactory he declined to give a certificate. He agreed with everything the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite had said as to the necessity of protecting the poor investor. They knew how much loss had occurred throughout the country in consequence of Friendly Societies becoming insolvent and breaking up. He should be glad if there were 807 some system, either county or general, by which poor people could invest their savings with safety. All the great Friendly Societies, it was hoped, were now on a sound footing. They were doing immense service in the country by enabling people to depend upon themselves; and he thought that Parliament ought to see that these institutions were made as far as possible a protection to the poor people. With regard to prosecutions in 1892, there were 23, and money was taken for prosecutions to come on.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
said, the whole system existed under an Act of Parliament passed by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had been a Member; and if it were to be changed it could only be done by Act of Parliament.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had said that a certificate was given if the Society was a sound one, but otherwise that the certificate was refused. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman meant that.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, the certificate was given if the calculations and scales of the Society were based on sound principles.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
Yes. The certificate was given on the understanding that it did not imply more than that. It was a guarantee that the Society had complied with certain provisions of the Act of Parliament.
§ SIR A. ROLLIT
said, that an observation which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench (Mr. J. Lowther) was calculated to give a false impression. There was no real audit of a Society' accounts at all by the Registrar. The Societies had to render certain annual accounts, but as to examination of them nothing but of the most casual character took place. There was no audit that could prevent fraud un- 808 less the fraud was of the most glaring character. He would point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the matter might be dealt with by a clause similar to one in the Savings Banks Act, 1890, which provided that a certificate under that Act should not be considered as giving any guarantee to the depositors. It had been customary for some of those institutions to use the Royal Arms at the head of their announcements, or to say "Certified by Act of Parliament," but this was ended by the Savings Bank Act. These things were calculated to produce misapprehension. The great secret of the success of the Friendly Societies which had sprung from the working classes was that they were conducted by the people themselves, and anything which would tend to introduce anything like State control would be prejudicial.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 6. £9,917, to complete the sum for Lunacy Commission, England.
§ 7. £84, to complete the sum for the Mint, including Coinage.
§ 8. £8,043, to complete the sum for National Debt Office.
§ 9. £12,042, to complete the sum for Public Record Office.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.