§ On the Vote of £119,210, to complete the sum for Surveys of the United Kingdom,
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
commended the Ordnance Survey, but complained that, in the case of Ireland, the 25-inch map was not to be completed till the year 1918—probably rather longer than many hon. Members present would care to look forward to; whereas, in the case of England, it would be completed in 1910; while the Scotch counties would have their map completed in 1897. He could not sit down without expressing his thanks to the Ordnance Survey Department in Ireland for the manner in which they acted in the right-of-way case at Sutton. ["Hear, hear!"] They came in for some censure from the gentlemen whose property was affected; but a debt of thanks was due 406 to the Surveyors for showing on the public map the spots where a right-of-way existed. He thought it would be extremely important that the Ordnance Survey should show the rights-of-way wherever they existed, because this would be a record for all time that those ways existed. One other suggestion was that, as these surveys could not now be introduced in a Court of Law as evidence on any point, an Act should be passed making these maps primâ facie evidence. In the Land Commission Court and the Land Judges' Courts in Ireland these surveys were accepted as primâ facie evidence. He would not go the length of making them absolute evidence, but they should, he thought, be made primâ facie evidence, and be available as such, for suitors in any Court of Law. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
was proceeding to call attention to a grievance of the workmen in the Ordnance Survey Department in Dublin in regard to holidays, when the hon. Member said that he found this did not arise upon the present Vote, and resumed his seat.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
inquired what steps had been taken by the Board of Agriculture to carry out the Report of the Departmental Committee, which pointed out that the absence of Welsh-speaking officers from each of the Survey parties in Wales had led to mistakes of various kinds. He wished to know what steps had been taken to improve on that state of things. As far as he could ascertain, no Welsh officer accompanied any of the survey parties in Wales, and the consequence was that the names appeared on the map in an incorrect form. Wales was in the position of a foreign country in regard to language, and no survey would be attempted in a foreign country without the presence of a person acquainted with the local language. He hoped, not only in regard to Ireland, but in regard to this country, the survey parties would receive specific instructions to mark on every public map every public right of way which appeared to exist. A large number of roads and footpaths had been closed, and when this step was once taken the public were practically shut out from their use, for ever.
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said, that in Scotland there was a society which had done more for the maintenance of rights of way during the past ten or twelve years than any other body in the country. The society had had under consideration on several occasions the question of rights of way on the Ordnance Survey maps, and they came to the conclusion that in Scotland at least they would not like to be limited by the number of rights of way laid down at present on the maps, because it was felt that the authorities were not sufficiently accurate in laying down all the rights of way. He joined with previous speakers, however, in urging that in the revisions of the maps the surveyors should be directed to be as careful and as particular as possible in laying down the rights of way on the maps. Three or four years ago the society in Scotland applied to the Ordnance Survey Department, asking to be furnished, for the purpose of their work, with copies of the Ordnance Survey maps in Scotland, but the society was unable to obtain what they wished. He urged that the Department ought to be a little more liberal in the distribution of the maps among public bodies.
§ DR. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)
asked for some declaration as to the intentions of the Government in establishing a Board of Agriculture in Ireland. In England the Board of Agriculture had been of great benefit to the agricultural interest, and there appeared to be no reason why a similar board should not be established in Ireland He also joined with his hon. Friends in pressing the importance of rights of way being mentioned on the maps, though the absence to mark a right of way would not, of course, be conclusive evidence that such a right of way did not exist. He called attention to the necessity of also including foreshore rights, mentioning a case of grievous hardship in County Dublin, wherein a railway company deprived the whole community of certain rights of taking sand and gravel. The employÉs of the Ordnance Department were not in as good a position with regard to pension and retiring allowances as servants were in some other public Departments. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would look into the matter.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said, it was exceedingly difficult to get ordnance maps, especially in country villages where they were much required. He believed it was impossible to get them anywhere in Ireland except in Dublin, Belfast and Cork. In France, on the other hand, such maps could be got without difficulty, and he suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should enter into negotiations with the Post Office, to see whether it would not be possible for ordnance maps to be supplied at the post offices throughout the country, especially in out-of-the-way districts. Then the price at which they were sold was much dearer here than in other countries. In Franco maps could be obtained for 4½d., and he submitted that this country ought not to be outdone in this matter of price. The reform he had suggested would be greatly appreciated throughout the country.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
urged the importance of ordnance maps in litigation between landlord and tenant in the Land Courts in Ireland. Facilities should therefore be given to increase their distribution and sale, thereby conferring a great benefit on all classes in Ireland. He also called attention in the interests of history and geography, to the fact that the spelling of Irish names on these maps was at present grotesque and misleading, and he urged that the compilers should at least have competent assistance to obviate errors in this respect.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
, said, he entirely appreciated the importance of the fact that the survey in Ireland was in a less favourable position, than the survey in other parts of the country. He, however, had only been in his present office a very short time, and it would be indecent for him to criticise the work that had been done by the department and by his predecessors. At the same time, he was impressed with the desirability of quickening the survey so that the public might have a valuable map easily obtainable at a moderate price—["Hear, hear!"]—of the locality over which they travel, or in which they reside. If he could in any way expedite the survey 409 he should be glad to do it. With regard to the survey now going on in Great Britain, there was a prospect of the work being completed at a very early date, and when that was done the money which now had to be spent under that head would be available for allotment to other survey work. The whole question was one of expense. The Treasury would, naturally, resist any attempt to increase the expenditure, unless there was a clear expression of opinion on the part of the House that the expenditure was necessary in the public interest. He hoped he might be able to quicken the survey in Ireland by devoting to it a portion of the expenditure which was about to fall in, or by some re-arrangement to which he should give careful attention. With reference to the suggestion that the maps should be made legal evidence that was a matter which did not fall within his province, but he could mention the subject, which was, no doubt, important, to the Attorney General. Considering the heavy expense and the value of these maps they could not attach too much importance to them. As to footpaths, they were in almost all cases produced on the maps, but mere temporary footways made by men on the way to work for a time were not shown, as after the work was finished the paths disappeared. He should see that this matter received proper attention. The hon. Member for Flint referred to the difficulty of Welsh names. Maps of Wales issued subsequent to 1893 had been submitted to Welsh scholars for revision and correction before publication. An hon. Member had made a similar complaint with regard to Ireland, but there the difficulty was not so great as there was no such curious admixture of letters in Irish names as they met with in Welsh names. If a name appeared on the map wrongly spelt there was a danger that the old name would be lost, which was not a desirable thing. It was suggested that a Welsh-speaking person should go with the survey, and he should consider whether this system could not be adopted in Ireland as well. [An hon. MEMBER: "And in the Highlands?"] Yes, and in the Highlands. An assistant speaking Welsh and accompanying the survey could satisfy himself of the accuracy of 410 the names, and, no doubt, this would meet the requirements of the hon. Member.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS
said, he had no objection to the present arrangement of Welsh scholars looking over the maps, but what was recommended by the Departmental Committee was, that the survey party should be accompanied by a person speaking Welsh. That had not yet been carried out. He asked whether that suggestion, which he regarded as most important, would be carried out.
§ * MR. LONG
said, that with regard to Welsh and Irish names, their object was to produce as accurate a map as they could, and if the change suggested could be carried out, he would see that it was done. With regard to a Board of Agriculture in Ireland, that was not in his province, and did not fall within the Vote. Legislation would be required. With regard to foreshores, that also was not a matter that he could deal with, but he should bear it in mind. The hon. Member for West Islington referred to the difficulty of getting these maps in different parts of the country, and in the villages especially, and he made the suggestion that the Post Offices should keep these maps. With regard to the cheapening of the cost of the map, efforts had already been made in that direction, and the difficulty was that the cheapening of the price of the map had not resulted in the increased demand for it which alone would justify it.
§ * MR. LONG
said he was afraid he could not say offhand. If the cheapening were accompanied by an organised diffusion, a market might be gained; but unless something could be done in that way, the cheapening could not be carried out. He did not know whether there was any other point to which he ought to have made a reply, but he would be glad to give any further information in his power. His great desire was to take care that the Survey-Department should do its work efficiently. On the whole he thought the Department did its work admirably, and was admitted universally to be superior to that of any other country.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, that questions of foreshore and rights of way were entirely outside the province 411 of the hydrographer. He could not decide legal rights and it would be quite impossible to give any legal authority to the maps. The survey appeared to cost over £200,000 a year and the appropriations in aid came to about £6,000, or just about the cost of the paper and ink used in the preparation of the maps. He could not find any appropriation in aid in respect of the sum received for the sale of the maps, except that to the Irish Land Commissioner, about £4,000; and he would like to know where the proceeds were accounted for and what were the arrangements made for the sale of the maps. Did Her Majesty's Government receive the proceeds or did someone else? If Her Majesty's Government received them, where were they accounted for? Was there anything in the nature of a monopoly which limited the sale? He would be glad to know what were the arrangements under which the very large sale of those maps was carried out?
§ * CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
called attention to the fact that in making the survey no notice was taken of the erosion of the coast by the sea which took place, very much on the East Coast. He suggested that from time to time marks might be placed along the coast in order that the erosion of the shore might be properly marked.
§ * MR. LONG
said, there was no doubt a difficulty with regard to the sale of the maps in consequence of there being only one agent. It had been suggested that the system should be altered when the contract expired, but it did not expire for rather more than a year. The Department had at the present time under consideration a proposal by which that difficulty would be obviated. With regard to the proceeds of sale his hon. Friend would find at the bottom of page 52 a note to the effect that—The proceeds of the sale of maps, estimated to amount to £14,000 for the year 1895–6, are appropriated in aid of the vote for stationery and printing.With regard to the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Holderness, he could only say that he must be governed by the amount given to him, 412 and unless that amount was increased it would be impossible to increase the expenditure. At the same time they would do all they could to produce a good and efficient map.
Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
pointed out that the sum of £4,000 received from the Land Court in Ireland was appropriated in aid of this Vote, but the larger sum of £14,000 for England was put into the Stationery Vote. Surely that was very inconvenient. It seemed to him that one rule should be followed. Why should the Stationery Department have the proceeds of the sale of maps?
§ * THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
, said that a question was put by the hon. Member for North Louth, with regard to the votes generally. He should certainly do everything he could to make the votes as intelligible as possible to the House. There were already footnotes to each vote to show how far the particular service was met by the vote. As to the point raised by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, the present Estimates were not prepared by the present Government, and he was not quite sure on what principle the proceeds of sale were in some cases credited to this Vote, and in others to the Stationery Vote. The hon. Member for the Northern Division of the County of Dublin, complained of the insufficiency of the holiday allowed to labourers in the Phœnix Park. The hon. Gentleman assumed that they were employed by the Board of Works, but, if that was so, the question did not arise on this Vote. It was complained also that the assistants employed in the Ordnance Survey were not treated in the same way as regarded pensions as those regularly employed. That policy was considered in 1870, and it was found that the system of having permanent assistants was not a good one. Their salaries and wages were based entirely on the idea that they were not earning a pension, and were higher in proportion than they would be if pension rights were attached. The suggestion that the ordnance maps should be sold at post offices appeared to be one for consideration when the arrangements for sale, of these maps was under Division B. But many of the sub-postmasters in the 413 country received small pay, and they might be unwilling to undertake that extra duty without extra remuneration.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon District)
wished to recur to the point raised by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, namely, that the agency for the sale of ordnance maps was a monopoly. He should like to know whether there was any stipulation in the contract as to the prices that should be charged to the public for copies of the maps. As to the sale of them by local postmasters, they might charge the same commissions local booksellers charged, but it would not make any material addition to their incomes, as so few maps would be required. But besides having permission to sell maps, local postmasters might be required to keep for reference maps for the area served by each post-office, making a small charge to each person requiring to consult them. The tithe commutation maps could be examined for a shilling, but that was too high a fee to charge for referring to maps the sheets of which could be bought at 2s. 6d. each. Accuracy in the spelling of Welsh names could not be secured by simply submitting them to Welsh scholars, who, in many cases could not have the necessary local knowledge; and, therefore, he asked the President of the Board of Agriculture to acquiesce in the suggestion that each company of surveyors should be accompanied by a Welsh-speaking officer, so that the spelling of local names might be assured by communication with local residents. It was impossible that Englishmen could properly set down Welsh names on official maps, and it was of the highest importance that they should be accurate, seeing that they were accepted as primá facie evidence in Courts of Justice.
§ * MR. LONG
said, he had already stated, in answer to the hon. Member for King's Lynn, that at present there was only one agent in England for the sale of ordnance maps. There was a second in Edinburgh, and a third in Dublin. When a Departmental Committee inquired into the question they reported that there was not sufficient evidence to justify an alteration of the existing system until the contracts expired, as he believed they would do next year.
§ * MR. LONG
could not say offhand, but he believed it would do so; and the Department had under consideration the possibility of improving the system by having more than one agent. He would consider the suggestion that the surveyors in Wales should be accompanied by Welsh-speaking officers, but it could not be determined upon without consulting the head of the Department, and ascertaining what the expense would be.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he hoped that when the Secretary to the Treasury next submitted Estimates he would frame them on some plan which would make it possible to understand them. Some years ago, when the new system of Appropriation Accounts was introduced by the then Conservative Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India in the late Government strongly opposed the new system as a constitutional innovation. But, in spite of the indignation then manifested by Front Bench men, they had adopted the system they so strongly opposed; and now we, had another muddle which made it impossible to understand this Vote. The Stationery Office supplied a certain number of things to the Survey Department and took credit for them. The Survey Department bought special papers, inks and instruments for map-making. He was astonished that the late Goverment, after protesting so strongly against this system, which made it almost impossible to compare the expenditure of one year with that of another, should in their last Estimates so far muddle and confuse matters. Whilst all other public departments obtained maps free, the Irish Land Court was charged £4,000 for them. The Admiralty accounts and the Stationery accounts were muddled by the transactions between them; and it was altogether as glorious a muddle as it could be. He hoped that, now the Liberal Leaders had given up their strong opinions with regard to the unconstitutional character of these Appropriation Accounts, and the House was practically agreed they should be continued, steps would be taken to improve the Estimates so as to let the Committee know in every case what it was they were asked to vote, and so enable them to 415 compare one year with another, which it was impossible to do at present. The Secretary to the Treasury had been a keen critic on both sides of the House; all these were old stories to him; and it was to be hoped he would present the next Estimates in such a form that they could be comprehended, understood, and made the basis of comparison.
§ Mr. LOUGH
said, that with regard to the ten years' printing contracts, he wished to make a suggestion to the Secretary to the Treasury. He believed the contracts expired at the end of 1896. A Committee would be appointed early next year to consider matters connected with these contracts, and especially those ten years' contracts to which general distaste had arisen. He suggested that the Committee might inquire into the distribution of ordnance maps, and make suggestions on that subject too. The Committee would provide very convenient machinery for securing the benefits which the present and former Secretary to the Treasury sought to secure. His own suggestion about the sale of maps at post offices while kindly received generally had met with some objection. The new Secretary to the Treasury had soon become imbued with the bad traditions of his office, and had spoiled all the friendliness of his predecessor's attitude on the subject. He had dragged in the question of cost, which was what the Treasury were always dragging in. They pursued "a penny wise and pound foolish" policy. The distribution of ordnance maps by the post offices would not only cost nothing but be a source of revenue. A small commission would encourage the postal officials to sell them. This commission would be taken into account in fixing their salaries, and economy would be effected. With regard, however, to the exhibition of maps in post offices for the purpose of reference, he thought it better that they should be exhibited in public libraries or other local institutions.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
reminded the hon. Member that parish maps were already on view at country post offices. If ordnance maps were exhibited at country post offices no inconvenience would arise; on the contrary, they would have the effect of attracting custom. He thought the suggestion that they should 416 be exhibited at post offices was reasonable and moderate.
MR. J. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbigh, W.)
acknowledged the sympathetic spirit the President of the Board of Agriculture had shown as to the appointment of Welsh-speaking inspectors in connection with the Board in Wales. This was a subject in which the greatest interest was taken in Wales. The Welsh language was not difficult to learn, and was the most musical language in the world. He contended that those who were engaged in the preparation of ordnance maps for Wales should have a thorough knowledge of the Welsh language.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £12,240 to complete the sum for Harbours in the United Kingdom and Lighthouses abroad under the Board of Trade,
§ DR. CLARK
referred to the maintenance of Holy head harbour, and thought it should be left to the London and North-Western Railway Company, for whose benefit, chiefly, it existed. At present the Company received a small subsidy from the Government towards the maintenance of the harbour. But if the Company maintained the harbour, they would maintain it and do so more cheaply. He understood that the Company were willing to buy or rent the harbour. If they were they should be allowed to do so. The maintenance of the pier and harbour this year cost £1,150, but year after year £3,000 was asked for to repair and maintain the old wooden pier. What purpose did the pier serve that the taxpayers of the country should have to pay £3,000 a year for it. A better arrangement should be made, too, for the payment of the salary of the harbour master. He wished to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hanbury, Preston) to these points, and to ascertain from him what the views of the new Government were with regard to them; and whether the Government were prepared to give the Committee any information in relation to them.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
thought that there was a good deal in the point 417 which had been made by the hon. Member who had just spoken, that the Government were spending some £7,000 a year on Holyhead Harbour for the benefit of the passenger traffic of the London and North Western Railway Company. The money which the harbour had cost to construct ought to have come out of the capital of the Company. It could not be just that the Government should spend all this money every year for the benefit of a railway company, when not a single harbour of refuge existed on the whole of the Welsh coast for the protection of the fishermen. He could not understand why this large annual payment should be made for the maintenance of a rotten wooden pier. He hoped that the right, hon. Gentleman would agree to send an engineer belonging to the Harbour Department to investigate the matter upon the spot.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. RITCHIE,) Croydon
said, that of course hon. Members would understand that he had some difficulty in answering these questions, seeing that he had taken office so recently, and that he had not been in the last Parliament, while those hon. Members who took an interest in these subjects had doubtless paid some attention to them. The hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) and the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Lloyd-George) had referred to Holyhead Harbour, which they maintained was kept up at the expense of the country for the benefit of the passenger traffic of the London and North Western Railway Company. He understood that the railway company paid a substantial rent for the use of the harbour, and the harbour must be kept up, even, if the company did not use it. With regard to the cost of maintaining the wooden pier, he himself thought that it might be advisable to replace that pier by a permanent structure. As to the case of the harbour master, it was said that he received a salary of £350 per annum in addition to a pension of £370. He must point out, however, that the harbour master had very important duties to perform, and that he had earned his pension by long service in the Navy. He was satisfied that hon. Members would not desire that the harbour 418 master should be deprived of his well-earned pension. He had no doubt that if there had been anything improper in the transaction, the eagle eye of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hanbury) would have been directed to it, and that he would have called attention to it.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, that most likely the right hon. Gentleman had had further opportunities of inquiring into the question since he had taken office.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that he did not think that it was fair that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade should have been put up to answer these questions, seeing that it was impossible that he could give the Committee any information with regard to them. He declined to believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, was going to change his views with regard to this harbour master now he had got into office. He was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman would adhere to the views he had professed on the subject when he was out of office. In all sincerity he maintained that the right hon. Gentleman was bound, now he was in office, to do his best to get rid of an abuse which he had previously denounced when out of office, and he believed that the right hon. Gentleman would do so. He therefore suggested that the matter should be left in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, who would doubtless give it his attention during the autumn recess and be prepared to deal with it next Session. He however could not accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that the right hon. Gentleman, now he had attained office, was justified in setting aside the views he had entertained on the subject when he was out of office.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, that he certainly sympathised with the observations of the hon. Member who had just sat down. The right hon. gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had volunteered the somewhat important statement that the London and North Western Railway 419 Company paid a substantial rent for the use of Holyhead Harbour. He found that that harbour had cost no less a sum than £1,300,000, and therefore a substantial rent upon such an expenditure ought to amount to some thousands a year. On looking through the Estimates, he could only find, under the head of "Appropriation in Aid," that a sum of £2,500 per annum was received for harbour dues, which certainly was not rent, and therefore he assumed that the rent paid by the Company did not appear under that head. He should like to know where the right hon. Gentleman got his information from, how much the rent amounted to and where it was brought into account.
§ MR. LOUGH
said that he was sorry to differ from any of his hon. Friends, but he must protest against any idea of Holyhead Harbour being sold. It would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire to dispose of that splendid and necessary harbour to any railway company. While he would like the scandal on the Estimates to be dealt with, he thought it could be better done by securing that sufficient rent should be paid to cover the expenses. He and his hon. Friends were not asking the Treasury to spend, but to save something. Why should Holyhead be different from Harwich and hundreds of harbours round the coast in being maintained at such expense to the public funds? The hon. Member for King's Lynn might leave the defence of the Estimates to his two right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. Heretofore the hon. Member had criticised the Estimates, and if he were going to abandon his position of sturdy opposition to defend the Secretary to the Treasury, who was well able to take care of himself, many people would be much disappointed.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS
hoped that the Board of Trade would send someone soon to look into the harbours of refuge on the Welsh coast, and would do it before the Board of Trade Vote came on, so that a more definite answer on the subject could be then given.
§ SIR A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, that this question of Holyhead Harbour had been dealt with under an entire misapprehension of the facts. The harbour was not built for 420 the London and North Western Railway, or for communication with Ireland, but as a harbour of refuge for the protection of the shipping industry on the west coast. Until it was built the shipping in the Irish Channel was much exposed. The harbour was used more largely by the shipping than by the London and North Western Railway Company, and even more largely still by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, which was entirely independent of the Railway. There ought to be a difference made between the cost of the inner harbour and the very costly works at the breakwater.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS
urged, in disagreement with his hon. Friends, that Holyhead Harbour should be further extended and improved; and he had no doubt that the benefit to the mercantile marine generally would amply compensate for any expense incurred. That question had been brought forward again and again, and he regretted that, so far, the Government had not seen their way to effect improvements in this valuable harbour. Except Holyhead, there was not a single harbour on that coast into which a boat drawing more than eight feet of water could enter at low water. He supported the plea for better protection to the fishing industry.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, that the question of improvements in the harbour was now under consideration; and, as a matter of fact, all the points to which the hon. Member for the Flint Boroughs had alluded had been referred to Messrs. Hawkshaw and Hayter, who were to inquire and report to the Board of Trade. He was sorry that he could not answer the questions raised by the hon. Member for East Donegal, but before the Report stage he would be in a position to give full details.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said that, if the Government was in receipt of a substantial rent for the harbour from the Railway Company, that payment was not shown in the Appropriations in Aid.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
said, that he thought he used the word "considerable," and not "substantial." But, in any case, he could not admit that the basis on which the hon. Gentleman calculated a considerable rent was a right basis. The 421 question, of the rent paid by the London and North Western Railway for their accommodation had hardly anything to do with the question of the expense of Holyhead. It was a mere incident that the railway went there at all; and the expense of the harbour would be practically the same if the railway did not go there. The Company did pay a considerable rent, and he would give the details at a later stage, but the hon. Gentleman would excuse him for not being altogether prepared at the moment with an answer on that difficult question.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, that the right hon. Gentleman was the President of the Board of Trade, and did not speak with irresponsible frivolity. It was the right hon. Gentleman's business to know these matters. The fact remained that the Government, being in receipt of this rent, had not shown it in terms on the face of the estimate. The Appropriations in Aid were detailed. They comprised Harbour Dues and Casual Receipts, and under neither of these heads could this "considerable rent" be included. There was no form of language on the face of these Estimates which by any interpretation would lead the Committee to suppose that this "considerable rent," of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, was received.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
said, that a few months ago the Government entered into an important contract greatly improving the carriage of the Irish Mails, and he understood that, as a consequence, improvements in the harbour were under consideration. Could not the Government arrange, when an improvement of this kind was made, that some better means should be devised for transferring the mails from the train to the steamer? This transfer, both at Holyhead and Kingstown, was as bad as could be imagined. It was effected merely by the means of porters between the vessel and the train. This method occupied a much greater time than was necessary in these days. He had frequently brought the matter before the Post Office, and the late Postmaster General had answered him sympathetically, though he had made no definite promises. Could not the Mails be transferred bodily in a truck from the train to the ship, or be packed in crates ready for removal?
§ DR. CLARK
said, the principle laid down and accepted by the House was, that if any officer who had a superannuation allowance took any office again under Government, while he held that office the superannuation pay should cease. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would see that that principle was carried out, and that no future appointments should be made of any officer with superannuation allowance except on the understanding that during the time he held the appointment the superannuation allowance should cease. With regard to the question of the lighthouses on the Bahamas, the Falkland Islands, Cape Pembroke, Cape Spartel in Morocco, etc., we still kept on spending a large amount of money on these lights, and on a most elaborate system of inspection. There were 11 lighthouses kept up in this way, at a cost of about £5,000, and the inspection cost about £14,000 a year. He pointed out that we wanted lights round our own coasts; there were a large number of places, in the north especially, in which lights were required more than in the Bahamas. In his own county the Northern Lights Committee were very anxious to have a lighthouse on the coast, where, during the present year, a ship had run ashore in a fog. In the Orkney Islands, further north, and on the west coast of Scotland, lighting was very much needed. He did not see why the cost of these lighthouses on the Bahamas should not be paid by the local Governments there, or why the taxpayers of this country should maintain a system of lights for the benefit of a few white men and half-castes in the West Indies.
§ SIR A. B. FORWOOD
pointed out, in reference to the suggestion that no future appointment should be made of any officer receiving a superannuation allowance except on the understanding that while he held the appointment the superannuation allowance should cease, that a naval officer when he entered the service entered into a contract by which, when he arrived at a given age he was bound to retire. He was not bound to retire by reason of disqualification for want of health, but in order to afford scope for the now of promotion. He was entitled to a pension, no matter what other arrangements he might make 423 subsequently for his employment. With regard to the question of the Bahama Lighthouses, Dr. Clark clearly showed that he did not understand the subject. The hon. Member imagined that these lights were maintained for the benefit of the inhabitants of the islands; while the fact was that they were maintained for the benefit of the commerce of the civilised world. There was no more difficult or dangerous part to navigate than the Bahamas and surrounding islands, they being directly in the track not of the West Indian trade but of the trade of the great American ports, such as New Orleans and Mexico, and the lights were required for the protection of the commerce and shipping which found its way to these ports. Every civilised nation recognised that it was its duty to light its own coasts. The United States Government did so, and did not levy a sixpence, on any vessel for that purpose. British ships went up and down the United States coasts, and had the advantage of these lights without contributing anything. Now, thy Bahamas belonged to this country, and if we claimed to be a civilised country the least we could do was to light these outlying rocks which were a danger to navigation. British shipping he thought ought not to be charged with this duty, because these lights did not exist for the benefit of the Mercantile Shipping of the United Kingdom alone. They existed for the benefit of the shipping of the whole world; and they were required as much for the purposes of the Navy, as for those of the Mercantile Marine.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said, he had before pointed out to the hon. Member for Caithness, the position of these lights, and if the Committee had not already heard the perpetual remarks of the right hon. Member opposite he should have had to do so again. These lights were absolutely necessary to British commerce. The islands were extremely poor and could not bear the cost, many of them being mere sand banks or coral reefs. The lighthouses were kept in good condition, and he believed the money was very well spent. The complaints received were rather that not enough money was spent upon the lights. As to our own local lights, the money came out of the Mercantile Marine Fund, and that was 424 a different matter altogether. The Board of Trade had taken steps for some years past to increase the lighting in the North of Scotland.
On the return of the Chairman after the usual interval,
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
said, he had one fault to find with the estimate for the Bahama Lighthouses, and that was that the inspector and chief officer, together with the staff, were paid far too little. Such onerous duties as they had to discharge in such an unhealthy climate would warrant this country paying them far greater wages than those actually given to them. The Bahama Islands had about the most unhealthy climate of any place on the face of the earth. He had had in his time sorrowful experience of the Bahamas. They were surrounded by coral reefs, with four or seven feet of water on the top of them. Therefore, there should be plenty of lighthouses there to prevent vessels going to pieces on the dangerous coast. This estimate did not at all compensate the men who were there looking after those guardians of the deep, the lighthouses. He therefore thought the hon. Member for Caithness was a little eccentric in directing attention to the Bahama Lighthouses, because of all places they stood in need of being well lighted from north to south. He supported the estimate entirely—for it would not be in order to move an increase of salary to the officers—and he hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw his objection. The Bahama Islands demanded the best lighting that human ingenuity, civilisation and engineering could provide.
§ DR. CLARK
went on to say that he did not want to shut out the lighthouses. He only wanted to change the burden of the cost from the ratepayers of the United Kingdom to the people benefited 425 by them. Round our own coasts, in Australia, in South Africa, in Crown Colonies, as well as self-governing colonies, there were lighthouses erected and maintained at their own cost, and many of them belonged to poor and weak colonies, and unhealthy colonies to boot. And why should the Bahamas be favoured more than these? Why should the lighthouses in this particular colony be exempted, seeing we had no control whatever over the expenditure of the money?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
observed that he took upon himself the entire responsibility for this vote. It was admitted on all hands that this was one of the most dangerous navigations it was possible to conceive. The lights in question were mainly used by British ships. He maintained that an expenditure of this kind, if it had the effect of benefiting British ships and saving British lives, was an expenditure to which no party in the country would object. ["Hear, hear!"] It was true the lights were beneficial to the Colony, but the Colony could not pay for them, and the greater advantage was reaped by British ships. They were, indeed, to a very great extent, for the protection of British industry and British lives, and, such being the case, he was sure the hon. Member would not object to the comparatively small sum they were now asking the House of Commons to pay. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. W. ALLAN
would like to say a word or two by way of reply to the hon. Member for Caithness. He himself had sailed through every one of these islands, and he knew the dangers of the particular coast perhaps better than any gentleman in the House. The trade from Mexico, Mobile, and the West Coast of Florida—which was developing a large wood trade—came through the Bahamas. He did not know any part of the world which was more dangerous—note ven Bermuda with its circle of reefs was more dangerous than the Bahamas. They could not get a penny out of the people of the people of the Bahamas, for they were poor negroes. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty, whom he saw present, could tell the Committee something about one of the Bahamas. The hon. Member for Caithness was a little out of centre in, calling attention to this vote. The 426 money granted for the purpose of furnishing these lights was not nearly enough. It was British shipping that was protected, and not the poor negroes who were running about the islands half naked. Was it to be said that Britain should not go on paying for the lighting of such a dangerous coast when it was clear that the poor negroes who inhabited the islands could not pay for it? He considered the raising of a discussion such as that upon this vote was a mere waste of time.
§ MR. J. KENYON (Lancashire, Bury)
should support the vote simply on the ground of common humanity. He should do so in order that British vessels, as well as those of every other nationality, might go with safety near these lighthouses. He believed the lighthouses in the United Kingdom were well looked after, and he saw no reason for behaving shabbily in votes of this kind. The hon. Member for Gateshead, who had had great experience of the Bahamas, had told them of the dangers of navigation in this region. They ought to uphold the honour of their flag and keep the lighthouses in connection with it in proper order. If they had lighthouses with the Union Jack floating over them, let them either be kept in a proper state of efficiency, or, in default, handed over to someone else.
§ Vote agreed to.
On the Motion
That a sum, not exceeding £16,200, 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, 1896, for constructing a new Harbour of Refuge at Peterhead,
§ DR. CLARK
was afraid he should have to move a reduction of the Vote, and also press his Motion to a Division, unless he could get a satisfactory answer. He complained of the dilatory manner in which the work was being proceeded with, pointing out that last year only about two-thirds of the money voted by the House for the purpose of developing the harbour, was expended. The original estimate for the entire work was about £750,000, and if they got off with an expenditure of about £250,000 more they would get out of it cheaply. The 427 local people had complained about the method in which the engineer was carrying out the work, contending that they were losing the benefit of Peterhead as a fishing harbour. They had advocated certain changes which it had been understood would be carried out in order to give them that protection to their industry which was necessary, but the changes suggested had not been effected. This question came before the Public Accounts Committee some little time ago and an explanation was offered as to why one-third of the money had not been spent. The investigation of that Committee resulted in some curious information being disclosed as to the methods of the Admiralty. It showed, for instance, that they had a system of keeping accounts by which thousands of pounds worth of material could disappear and nobody know anything about it. They had got an engineer-in-chief who was, he believed, more properly a consulting engineer—to whom they paid £800 a year. Then they had a resident engineer at £750 a year, to whom they gave an assistant. In moving a reduction of the vote by £100 for the engineer, he did not know whether it would come off the engineer-in-chief or the resident engineer. The excuse of the engineer, who was questioned on the subject, for not spending the money, was that he could not get a crane. They had got a large number of crane builders all over the country who would have been glad to have got an order from the engineer-in-chief, and because of the fact that there was no crane a sum of £6,500 which should have been spent on the works, was not so spent. When they came to the question of stores, the investigations of the Committee, to whose Report he referred hon. Members, showed that several hundreds of pounds worth of stores had disappeared, a matter as to which the Controller or Auditor-Genera was unable to give any explanation The contractors and engineers were allowed to do just as they thought right There was no proper control, and thousands of pounds worth of stores disappeared. He moved to reduce Item B, in respect to the salary of the engineer by £100, in the hope the Committee would be informed who was to blame for the present condition of affairs.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said the harbour works at Peterhead were of great dimenions and importance. When it was completed there would be no harbour like it on the East Coast. But the making of a harbour of such a character vas a purely engineering matter attended by very grave difficulties and dangers. The engineer-in-chief, the gentleman who planned the whole affair, was exposed to what might be called the war of the elements. On the East Coast, in the neighbourhood of Sunderland and the mouth of the Tyne he had seen huge clocks of concrete swept away in a night, and therefore he thought it was absurd 'or people at Peterhead to be dissatisfied with the progress of the harbour works there. The Peterheadians knew nothing about the work. The engineer proceeded as quickly as the elements allowed him, and it was paltry to move to reduce his salary by £100. Why reduce the engineer's salary by £100? He would not do such a thing; he was too much of an engineer for that. It was said stores were missing. He had seen a 50-ton crane carried away in a gale of wind. They could not account for the loss of stores under such circumstances. He hoped the Committee would look at the matter from a broad standpoint. He was sorry there were no more of such harbours and breakwaters on our coast, and therefore he appealed to the hon. Member for Caithness to withdraw his Amendment.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
hoped the hon. Member for Caithness would respond to the appeal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead. He regretted the hon. Member had not given him notice of the Question he intended to raise.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said, he was expressing regret the hon. Member had not called his attention to the point he intended to raise in order that he might have had further imformation. The hon. Member began his statement by saying that there was the belief in some people's minds that the time for the execution of these works was being wilfully prolonged, and 429 also that the Committee might consider themselves lucky if the estimate was exceeded by less than a quarter of a million sterling. He was happy to be able to assure the hon. Member that there was no foundation for those statements. The works were being pushed on as fast as the circumstances of the case would allow, and there was no reason to suppose that the estimate would be at all exceeded. He would, however, look into the matter, so as to be able to give the hon. Gentleman fuller information another year.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
joined in the appeal to the hon. Member for Caithness to withdraw the Amendment. The master of the situation was the Secretary to the Treasury, who he thought had expressed an opinion in favour of an increased annual expenditure in the work at Peterhead. Now that the right hon. Gentleman held the purse strings he might perhaps be able to give effect to his wishes. The hon. Member for Caithness alluded to a matter for which he seemed to wish to make him (Mr. E. Robertson) more directly responsible than the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, viz. a question which was brought to the notice of the Public Accounts Committee during the last Session. The report was never brought to his notice, and therefore he could not be expected to attempt any explanation. He had no doubt the hon. Gentleman who was now in charge of the Vote, would give attention to the subject, and would afford the explanations that were proper. Personally he could not see it was at all fair to reduce the salaries of the engineers. Those salaries were matters of bargain. The resident engineer was required to devote his whole time to the work. Having put that restriction upon his professional work, it would hardly be fair to cut down his salary.
§ DR. CLARK
said, it was true that on all past occasions this Vote was taken charge of by the Secretary to the Treasury, but on interviewing the present Secretary to the Treasury on the subject he was informed by the right hon. Gentleman that an answer to his question would be given by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. The Civil Lord complained that notice of the question had 430 not been given. That was because he (Dr. Clark) had not had time to put an amendment on the paper, owing to the manner in which the Address was rushed through that morning with the aid of the Closure. The Civil Lord and the ex-Civil Lord say they had no information on the subject. His attention was called to it by the Report of the Public Accounts Committee. Here were works under the control of the Admiralty in connection with which stores to the value of £2,000, including £500 worth of cement, disappeared.
§ Dr. CLARK
said the cement was not washed away. The story was that a ship with a cargo of cement, intended for the works, foundered, and that the cement was lost; and what he wanted to arrrive at was, who was responsible for the loss—was it the Government or the contractor? It was not known whether the cement was the property of the Government, and if it were the Government's property, whether the ship had been insured.
§ DR. CLARK
said that in any case the Government ought to be told whether the cement was the contractor's or the Government's—whether it was ordered by the Government or ordered by the contractor. The Public Accounts Committtee tried to get the information, but failed. He congratulated the Civil Lord on his hopefulness. But he thought that when the hon. Gentleman was an older Member he would not be so ready to indulge in prophecies as to what would take place in regard to Votes.
Order, order. The hon. Member having moved a Motion in regard to a particular item must confine his remarks to the discussion of that item. He cannot discuss the entire Vote.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Vote agreed to.431
§ On the Vote for £121,525, the amount required to complete the charge for rates and contributions in lieu of rates in respect to Government property, and for rates on houses occupied by the representatives of Foreign Powers, and by the salaries and expenses of the Rating of Government Property Department,
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
, said, the Vote raised the important question of the non-rating of Government property, because, although it included contributions in lieu of rates, rating of Government buildings, practically, did not exist at all. The Vote was headed "Rating," therefore, only on the principle of lucus a non lucendo, yet both London and the provinces were greatly interested, for the Government had its buildings in every quarter of the Kingdom. It had its post offices, its telegraph offices, its Custom houses, and its Inland Revenue offices, &c., all of which were exempt from local rates, thus making heavier the burdens of local authorities which had to maintain in a proper condition the towns and districts in which those buildings were situated. He thought the distinction that thus existed between private property owners and occupiers, whose rates were assessed by the Assessment Committees, and who were under a legal obligation to pay those rates, and the Government, as the owner of property which was not assessed at all, which was under no legal obligation to pay rates, and which claimed to be its own valuer for its voluntary contributions in lieu of rates, was a distinction wholly unjustifiable, and most unfair to the local authorities. He had heard a great deal lately about the burden of local rates. To a great extent those complaints were true, but he would point out that in rating Government property they had a possible source of revenue in aid of local taxation amounting to some hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum, and that if they only took care that all property bore—as it ought to bear—its fair proportion of local taxation, the burden of the ratepayers would be largely relieved. He also frequently heard it said that personal property ought to take its share in local taxation. In the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill there was a Statute renewed annually which excluded personal 432 property from local rating, and it only required a stroke of the pen to omit that Statute from the Schedule of the Bill in order to place all property under the obligation to contribute to local rates. He had moved for a return of all the Government property in the United Kingdom, and of the sums the Government contributed voluntarily on their own assessment in lieu of rates on this property, and he wished to know when that return might be expected. This was not yet presented to the House, and therefore he would not move any Amendment now, but he gave notice that early next Session he would take the opportunity of ascertaining the sense of the House on the subject. He was not blaming the late Government. He acknowledged that they had increased the contribution this year by £48,000, and he could only regret that in his constituency, where complaints were made of the exemption from rating of the prisons, the increase was only £20. Locally this was felt to be a great grievance, and a source of loss to the local authority of many hundreds a year. That seemed a small proportion of the whole increase; but in making the increase the late Government had shown some public spirit. But he wished to assure the Secretary to the Treasury that there was only one principle which could satisfy the local authorities, and that was the ending of the exemption of the Goverment property from rating, whether by custom or by statute. Government property must also be assessed by an independent authority. What could the House think of the principle which allowed every man to be his own valuer for rating purposes? Whatever principle applied to the individual ought to apply to the community as a whole, represented by the Government. He invited his right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, whose advocacy of these points in the past had been so useful, to give a favourable consideration to the question between now and next Session. The return moved for by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) ought to be brought up to date, and he hoped that the Government would allow that as an unopposed return. The House would then have a Return from London and from the provinces, which would show that the latter 433 had a much larger interest in this question than was supposed.
§ * MR. LOUGH
said, that the House was indebted to the hon. Member for the many occasions on which he had called attention to this important subject. But he attached even more importance to it than the hon. Gentleman, and, unless he could get a satisfactory answer from the Government on certain essential points, he should, later on, be compelled to move an Amendment. This question had been discussed long enough; and a settlement ought now to be made. He hoped their contention would not be met by the statement that the Estimates were framed by one Government and were being defended by another. This was one of those cases in which the two Front Benches were against the House. The matter was put very badly on the Estimate—indeed, as if the object of the framers was to conceal, and not to give information as to the amount of the contribution. He noticed that Ireland had to pay twice as much as Scotland for this Government contribution to rates, though Scotland was twice as rich as Ireland. Why should Scotland get off with £20,000, as against the £40,000 paid by Ireland? Again, the increase in the contribution was, in Scotland, £4,000, and in Ireland, £8,000. Why was that? As to the Treasury Valuer and Inspector of Rates, it was a very bad practice to have a valuer who was interested in the matter to settle the assessment. As to the item "Rates and contributions in lieu of rates," how much was in respect of London property, and how much in respect of property outside London? London paid one-seventh of the whole local taxation of the country; therefore, a substantial part of the total contribution should be given to the London local authorities. For Admiralty property £61,000 a year was paid. The new Admiralty buildings in London cost £500,000, and, at 4 per cent., ought alone to pay £20,000, while the old Admiralty buildings were worth £1,000,000. The Customs contributed £4,600 a year. The Custom House in Thames Street ought itself to pay much more than £4,600; and yet this sum covered the contribution for Custom Houses all over the country. For Public Buildings, Law Courts, Parks, &c., 434 £70,000 a year was contributed The London Law Courts covered 7½ acres of ground, and should themselves contribute more than the total sum. And was anything really paid for the Royal Parks? Was it quite honest to include them in the Estimate? In respect of each of these items—making up the £312,000—the House ought to know how much was contributed in respect of London, and how much in respect of property outside London. They were between two stools in this matter. One principle was to exempt Government property altogether from rating; and another principle was to make Government property pay just like the property of public authorities all over the country; and in the long run one of the two principles would have to be selected. He feared that we had gone too far now to accept the principle that Government property should be exempt, and therefore the other principle must be accepted. Government property, moreover, must be submitted to an independent assessment authority. But how far were we from that state of things? Somerset House was valued at £6,400. The mere frontage on the Strand was worth much more than that. The post offices and police stations all over London were contributing only a nominal sum to the local authorities, and they ought to contribute in proportion to their full value. The London County Council had to do that, in respect of its property. It was a central authority in a very similar position to that of the Government, and it had tried to pursue the same course as the Government. But, after carrying the question to the House of Lords, the County Council had been condemned to pay fully on all its parks. Brockwell Park, which had been recently acquired by the County Council, was formerly 135 acres of agricultural land, valued each year at about £140. The Council paid £140,000 for the park, and immediately the local authority insisted on being paid rates on this £140,000. The recent decision of the House of Lords would compel the Council to pay £3,000 or £4,000 a year to the rates in respect of this park. The Council had 3,300 acres of parks in London—nearly as great as the extent of the Royal Parks, and all were rated by the local authorities. 435 If it were just that the Council should pay rates, why not the Government also? The County Council had also erected main drainage works on waste land outside the boundary of London at the cost of £47,000. The local authorities compelled the County Council to pay 3 per cent. per annum as a contribution to the rates. All fire brigade stations over London were rated fully to the local authorities. It therefore seemed to him that it was time the question should be settled, and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to grant a Committee to take into consideration the whole subject.
§ MR. W. F. SMITH (Strand, Westminster)
said that the constituency which he represented was greatly interested in this question. Somerset House and the Law Courts were situated in his constituency, and, though he admitted that the assessment paid by these buildings this year had been increased, it was not what the Assessment Committees of the district expected. Last Session, when the late Secretary to the Treasury dealt with this question, he hoped that the Committee of the Strand district would be satisfied with the increase made. The Committee expressed some satisfaction at the increase, but he had since received a communication which led him to suppose that the Assessment, Committee of the district would not be satisfied until the principle had been recognised by the Treasury that the Assessment Committees should be allowed to propose the assessment, and then that the Government should make the objection as in the case of the ordinary ratepayer.
§ MR. B. COHEN (Islington, E.)
agreed with the speech of the hon. Member for South Islington, though it was not reasonable to expect that all the grievances complained of should be redressed in the short time the Government had been in office. He looked forward to the recognition of the principle that the Government should be subject to the same rules and regulations as in the case of other private property.
MR, J. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid.)
took a different view of this question from the London Members. Government property was different in character from private property. Take for instance the erection of a post office; if it was to be erected in Glasgow, Liverpool or 436 Manchester, the local authorities generally wished to see the building erected on a valuable site and costly in character. If this was to be done out of the Imperial Funds the authorities could hardly expect that an ornamental building should be erected on the same principle as a factory. That was an element in the case which must be taken into consideration. They got these parks for nothing, and they also got their police buildings and their police stations provided for them, whereas in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, and the other great towns, they had to be provided by the local authorities. They were getting all this in London, and yet they complained that they did not get enough. They required to consider these points, and then it would be found that the matter was not so easy. They were matters which required to be gone into very carefully. Then they had museums. The rest of the United Kingdom would be glad to have these things. They would be glad to have them more spread over the country, and not concentrated in London. These things should not be concentrated in London, but should be given, some of them, to Scotland and Ireland. What advantage had they in the British Museum and South Kensington? He mentioned these things merely to show that there were two sides to this question, and that before they considered that Government Buildings were to be treated the same as private property, they must look at the great advantage which localities like London derived from having these large Government buildings in their midst. On the whole, he did not think that London had any cause to grumble.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, he was afraid that it was not possible for him, from the information he had at present, to answer the hon. Member opposite as to the exact figures in the matter of rates between London and the provinces. With regard to the general question of the rating of Government property, it had passed through three stages. Up to 1874, the Government only contributed to the Poor Rate in parishes where there was a certain amount of Government property, but in that year a change took place, and it was decided that Government property should pay rates in exactly the same way as if the property was in 437 private hands. That had been the general principle. Then it was said that such might be the principle, but, as a matter of face, the full rates were not paid, as the Government kept its own Valuer. That was the real point at issue. He did not propose to express any final opinion upon this question of a Government Valuer, but he should like to call attention to the fact that Government property was in a different position from private property. It would be very difficult indeed for an ordinary local valuer to value property which was often of a very varied type. This property was scattered all over the country, and they would have different assessments in different districts. There was a great deal to be said in favour of having a Treasury Valuer, whose principle of valuation would be the same throughout the whole country. Another point raised was that the Government were paying their rates on a low valuation made in 1874—in fact that there ought to be a quinquennial valuation. He thought there was a good deal to be said for that. Whenever applications were made to the Treasury for revaluation, the cases were very few in which they were not acceded to. Some of the arguments of the Member for South Islington were old ones in connection with the subject. He referred to the case of the County Council for London, who had complained repeatedly that the valuation of Government property in London was very much below the mark. But he would remind hon. Members that the County Council had no locus standi in this matter. He would give one or two instances to show that the estimate of the loss by the present valuation of Government property in London was very high. In the case of the Treasury and large Foreign Office buildings, a very important block, ["Hear, hear!"]—the local authorities of St. Margaret and St. John, Westminster, wrote on February 14, saying that they agreed to the valuation, which 438 they considered fair and just. The valuation in the case of the Law Courts were fixed by Statute, and was quite outside the purview of the Treasury Valuer. Another class of buildings were represented by the British Museum and National Gallery. Even when buildings were occupied by private societies for purposes of science and art, they were exempt by statute from rating, but the Government did not ask to have them exempt, but simply to have them put on a little lower scale than if they were in the hands of an ordinary individual. In regard to Somerset House, the County Council had enunciated excessive ideas. On the lines suggested, the valuation of the whole of Somerset House would be about £70,000, while the whole valuation of the rateable value in the rest of the same parish of St. Mary-le-Strand was only £36,000. This question was one of large extent, affecting the Provinces just as much as London, and he would remind London Members of a fact which would hardly make the provincial Members back up the case of the London Members with regard to the contribution by Government to the rates in London, and that fact was that previously to the time when the Government contributed towards the rates of the Metropolis it was thought that London should contribute largely to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. Now the Government were paying rates on their property and were also paying £10,000 a year towards the Fire Brigade. Speaking as a provincial Member, he was not clear that, if this question of rating was to be gone into, and if London Members pressed for the rating of Government property in London by the Local Authorities and not by the Government Inspector, this might not work some injustice in the Provinces, because they would not have the same skilled valuation all through the country, and because of this additional fact, that London was at the present time receiving £10,000 for its Fire Brigade over and 439 above the contribution in lieu of rates, which satisfied the authorities solely concerned. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, the reply of the Minister had raised somewhat larger issues than the Debate, because the contributions of the Government through the rates on its own property had been brought by him into contrast with other Government contributions. All these considerations were but parts of one great question. It would be found that London was more largely interested than any other part of the country, and that the Government did not contribute so much in proportion to the rateable value of the Metropolis as was generally supposed. It was thought that even under the existing law there ought to be more frequent re-valuations of Government property and that a large portion yet could be easily valued upon ordinary principles, although there were exceptional instances, such as that of the building in which Parliament met. The assessment authorities were primarily interested; the London County Council were largely interested; but those who were most concerned were the ratepayers in any district where there was Government property occupying, as it did in some instances, a very large portion of the administrative area of the local authority, and thus reducing the contribution that would otherwise be received from ordinary ratepayers. The case was not met by saying that the Government property brought employment, because, where it did so, it did not in that respect surpass what would be done by large works in private hands, whilst the burdens placed on the locality were the same. These arguments were accepted by the hon. Gentleman, who no doubt would take steps, as his predecessor had done, to raise the valuations of Government property in London where they were insufficient. The hon. Gentleman had endeavoured, in the case of London, to palliate the evil by referring to certain per contra contributions which were given by the Treasury.
§ * MR. HANBURY
I did not speak of them as per contra at all. I said our contention was that we paid our fair share of the rates and that we paid the £10,000 a year in addition.
§ MR. STUART
continued that if you looked at all the relations of London and the Central Government, the question was an extremely complicated one, and the contribution to the Fire Brigade would appear to be a very minor matter. He had previously pointed out that all the questions raised in connection with Exchequer contributions and the rating of Government property ought to be considered together and dealt with as a whole. He hoped the hon. Gentleman, who had shewn a grasp of the whole subject, would consent to appoint a departmental Committee to make a complete investigation and a full statement, embracing parks, police superannuation, Fire Brigade and everything else, so that in future they might be saved the repetition of these Debates, in which attempts were made to balance one thing by setting off another, without realising either the complete relation of the Exchequer to London or the position of London as compared with other places. A comprehensive Report of the nature suggested would be accepted with gratification by London Members on both sides of the House.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said, they were all willing to make allowance for the fact that the Secretary to the Treasury had been suddenly called upon to take charge of the Department, and could not be expected to give all the explanations that might otherwise be expected from him. But he would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he could give any idea of the principle upon which Government property in Ireland was assessed? Local authorities in various localities were dissatisfied with the contributions they received, and felt that the Government did not bear its fair share of local taxation. In the case of landed property he would ask what system of 441 valuation was adopted? The Government had acquired for gunnery practice, almost the fee simple of a large area of land in the County of Cork; and the local authorities were anxious to know what proportion of the local burdens the Government would bear in respect of this area. As a ratepayer, he would be glad to hear roughly on what principle local burdens were borne by Government property. The general opinion was that Government property was not taxed half as heavily as the property of private individuals.
§ * Mr. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
pointed out that the Imperial Government handed over to Scotland £25,000 in lieu of rates, while £41,000 was paid to Ireland. When next year the House had before it a return showing the valuation of Government property, and what was paid in lieu of rates to the local authorities, they would see the real bearings of the case, and there would be less disposition to seek for grievances in different constituencies.
§ * CAPTAIN BETHELL
did not see why public buildings should not be assessed in the ordinary way on the principle that the Secretary to the Treasury used to vindicate before he was in office, as one which was not at all novel.
§ DR. KENNY
said, Government property in Dublin was much under-rated as compared with similar property in London, and the fact was a source of great local dissatisfaction. Besides the fact that Government property in London was rated higher, a contribution of £10,000 a year was made by the Government to the cost of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. No contribution was made to the Fire Brigade in Dublin, a much poorer city, and where the Fire Brigade was much in need of reconstruction. Either the valuation of Government property in Dublin should be revised, or there should be a rate in aid of the Fire Brigade.
§ DR. CLARK
said that, when the claim that had been put forward on behalf of London by the hon. Member came to be analysed and examined he did not think that it was very well founded. The hon. Gentleman complained that the Royal Parks and pleasure grounds of London were not sufficiently provided for. But the fact was that the country paid enormous sums for the maintenance of these parks and pleasure grounds, and for the erection and maintenance of the public buildings in the Metropolis. Manchester, Liverpool, and the other large towns of England, Ireland, and Scotland paid large sums annually for the maintenance of their own public parks and pleasure grounds, whereas London expected all the expenditure on those objects to be provided for by the State. The result of yielding to the demand that public buildings should pay rates, would be to put large sums of money into the pockets of a few ground landlords in three or four small parishes in London. It was for the benefit of those gentlemen that this assault was made upon the public purse year by year. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would consent to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this matter, in which event he was satisfied that not the slightest case would be made out in favour of the claim that was put forward. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government had found himself unable to agree with the recommendations of the Royal Commission which had sat to consider the question. The noble Marquess was in favour of the Government property being rated upon its capital value. The result would be that in certain parishes one-half or two-thirds of the rates would be paid by the State greatly to the benefit of a few ground landlords in the Metropolis. The fact was, that London was as much a spoiled child of the Treasury as Ireland was. Ireland had always been a spoiled child of the Treasury, and a very wideawake one too, and her 443 representatives stood together as one man with the object of squeezing the Treasury as much as they could, although he was not quite sure that Ireland really benefited by that course being adopted. It was just the same as regarded grants in aid of local expenditure. Thus, whereas Scotland only received, £70,000 for that purpose, Ireland received £140,000, although England, which was far the most populous country, only received £170,000. He did not think that that could be called a real Irish grievance. At another period of the Session he should have been inclined to have divided the Committee on the item of £10,000 for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. He thought that there was much to be said against the present mode of putting down appropriations in aid.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said that, with regard to the proportion of rates paid in London and in the Provinces, as a matter of fact London received a good deal more than a quarter of the whole amount. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Dublin, as to a re-valuation in Ireland, hon. Members from Ireland were perfectly entitled to ask that, if there was a re-valuation of Government property in England, there should also be a re-valuation in Ireland. As to what the hon. Member had said with regard to the valuation of Government property in Dublin being low as compared with that in London, of course the best guarantee the Government could give that the valuations should be relatively the same in both cities was to have a Government Inspector in both cases. He should be rather inclined to think that if a system were adopted whereby the Government Inspector were abolished, the differences would be much greater in the future than they were at present.
§ MR. FLYNN
said that the opinion was strongly held in Ireland that the greater portion of Government property in that county was held at a very low valuation indeed. He should be very glad to know what steps the Government proposed to take with regard to a re-valuation. Did they intend to call in the Government Valuer? It was quite obvious that the Government official might follow precedent in the matter, and might apply the measurement that he found had already been applied to Government property. A large body of qualified opinion showed that the Government buildings in Cork, military barracks, military hospitals, and so on, were very largely undervalued. There was one item he would like to have some explanation about, and that was the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. He was not speaking as a Metropolitan Member, but as a representative of that portion of the United Kingdom which lay outside London. He asked for what reason there should be a grant levied upon the general taxes of the country for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. He was aware that a system prevailed in London which did not prevail in the provinces, whereby the fire insurance offices were compelled to pay a contribution, but why the general taxpayer should be called upon for this purpose he could not understand. In Cork they had to find money for the Fire Brigade out of their own rates, and why, he asked, should not London do the same?
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, he had already explained that this contribution to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade was a grant made under the provisions of an Act of Parliament of some 30 years ago, and as he had already said, it wae a grant made at the time when the Government property did not pay anything like a fair contribution towards the rates. Of course he was not called upon at the present moment either to condemn or justify this 445 special expenditure, but simply to give all the information in regard to it of which he was possessed.
§ MR. STUART
pointed out that again they were raising a very wide question. London only got a contribution of four-ninths for its police, whereas the rest of the country got a contribution of one-half. He submitted that an inquiry into the whole matter was necessary.
§ MR. FLYNN
said, they objected to the contribution on principle. The right hon. Gentleman might have answered that there was a large amount of Government property in London, but that would not be a sufficient reason for him. The present system was one which differentiated in favour of the most wealthy Metropolis in the world.
§ MR. LOUGH
thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the conciliatory way in which he had answered a large number of questions put to him. He had gone the full length of the principle that he himself contended for, but would he carry out the principle that Goverment property should be rated as other property was? The right hon. Gentleman had claimed that his own assessors should make the re-valuation, but that would not be carrying out the principle he had accepted. The difficulty in which they were placed was expressed by the hon. Member for East Islington, who stated that right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench had not worked long enough for him to press the Secretary to the Treasury on the question. But the right hon. Gentlemen had been able to think out the matter during the past three years, and had had more leisure and time to think it out than the Members of the late Government. All that they asked for 446 was a clear and distinct statement from the right hon. Gentleman to the effect that he was prepared to go the length of the speeches which he had made on the subject in the House. The First Lord of the Admiralty had during the past three or four months spoken on the question at several County Council meetings in London, and when the right hon. Gentleman entered the House just now he thought that he had come with the intention of supporting the proposal which had been submitted. What they wanted was an acceptance of the principle laid down in a clear and explicit manner. The case of Ireland had been strongly put by two or three hon. Members, who showed that the same grievance existed in Ireland as in London and elsewhere, for they had heard complaints from Cork, Dublin, and other places in Ireland, of police barracks and other Government property being greatly undervalued. He saw no reason whatever why the principle they urged should not be frankly adopted by the right hon. Gentleman. Although unwilling to press the matter to a Division, yet he must take his stand with his hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch in asking the right hon. Gentleman to grant a Committee to place the matter on a proper basis once for all. His hon. Friend had a promise from the late Government that such a Committee should be granted. If the right hon. Gentleman desired to base himself on the position taken by the late Government, then he ought to promise a Committee. Considering the gravity of the subject, especially so far as London was concerned, he did not think he could go further than press the right hon. Gentleman to grant the Committee in accordance with the Treasury Minute.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that on the 17th of August, 1892, Sir John Hibbert, the late Secretary to the Treasury, said, in answer to a question, that having taken into account all the circumstances of the case where there was a small valuation of Government property, he 447 was prepared to bring in a Bill to place Government property in the same position as other property. When the right hon. Gentleman was asked whether that answer applied to the three countries, he replied in the affirmative. He quite agreed that it was a difficult thing to value places like the House of Commons, or the India Office, or the War Office, because they could not be compared with other buildings. Reference had been made to a Bill which had been promised to deal with small Government buildings, which he presumed to be in the nature of storehouses; but why not leave to the local authority the duty of rating buildings of that character, and giving the Government the same power of appeal as was given to the ordinary taxpayer. Even then the Government would be in an advantageous position in the matter. The system by which the Government property in Ireland was valued was different from the usual course. It was not valued by the proper rating authority, but a Government valuer was sent over from London to do the work. The right hon. Gentleman, from the speeches he had made, had evidently formed independent views on the matter, and when he saw the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman to the office he held, he at once said that a better man could not have been found to fill it. The right hon. Gentleman had formed his opinions as an independent Member of Parliament, and what they expected was, that he would now endeavour to carry out the views he had thus expressed. He quite agreed with what the hon. Member for Shoreditch had said—that it was not possible to take up this great question and deal with it piecemeal. The question of the valuation of Government property was one that ought to be dealt with comprehensively. Of course if the London Members were given the chance they would band themselves together like cormorants to oppose the interests of the rest of the Kingdom. The permanent officials of the Treasury 448 were, of course, all Cockneys, who thought that the world began and ended with London.
§ * MR. HANBURY
presumed that all that Sir John Hibbert meant by the promise which had been referred to was that he would give the effect of law by a Bill to the concession already made by the Treasury minute, which recognised that Government property should be rated in the same way as private property was rated in similar circumstances. It was not Sir John Hibbert's intention to do away with the Government inspector. He thought himself that there was a good deal to be said for the retention of the Government inspector, it being desirable that the same system of Government valuation should prevail throughout the Kingdom. The Government recognised that the whole question was important, and had determined to give full consideration to it. Whether inquiry were made by a Select Committee or by a Departmental Committee, or whether it took the form of investigation by what the hon. Member opposite called independent minds, the Government would do their best to deal with the subject as a whole.
§ MR. FLYNN
protested against the annual claim that was made by the Metropolis to receive £10,000 from the country in respect of the protection of life and property from fire. The Act under which the claim was made was passed 30 years ago, and yet the Metropolis still enacted its full pound of flesh. They ought to have some promise that the Treasury would inquire into the matter. Why should this rich city get this benefit at the expense of the rest of the country?
§ * MR. HANBURY
said that this was only a part of the whole rating question, into which he had already promised that there should be inquiry.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £126,045 to complete the sum necessary for the erection, 449 repairs and maintenance of Public Buildings in Ireland, for the maintenance of certain Parks and Public Works, and for Drainage Works on the Rivers Shannon and Suck,
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
suggested that a little more expense should be gone to for the amusement of the poorer people in Phœnix Park, Dublin, as was done in England. Near the entrance, for example, some gymnastic appliances might be put up. He supposed a £20 note would cover the whole thing, and it was not a large demand to make for the children of the poorer classes. Again, a very small sum would provide the construction and maintenance of ornamental waters in the park, similar to those which were so much appreciated in the London parks. Some ten years ago he worried the Government into placing a number of wooden benches about the park to which they would not even put backs. The Government might put up a few seats with backs to them. The cricket-ground provided for the working people was a joke on a cricket-ground, and when money was expended for the amusement of the richer people something ought to be done for the poorer classes, who had a right to the enjoyment of their own park. Then he had to complain of a permanent obstruction in the polo-ground. No doubt a great many people enjoyed seeing polo, but the moment they gave some people an inch they took an ell, and the polo players had erected a permanent structure in the enclosure which he protested against as an obstruction. If Nationalists or temperance people, like the hon. Member for South Tyrone, went to the Park for a meeting, they would not be allowed to erect a platform there. In 1886 he went to the Treasury Office with the hon. Member for North Dublin, and they got a pledge that the Treasury would not allow any further permanent erections to be set up in the Phœnix Park. Such a thing would not be allowed in Hyde Park for anybody in the whole world. 450 They had been allowed to rail in a considerable portion of the park for their amusement, and they ought not to be permitted to erect a permanent stand house in addition. The public were entitled to some protection against such encroachments. There was an item on the Vote relating to the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham. Lord Wolseley had just been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, and, as an Irishman, he was glad to see his promotion. But Lord Wolseley, when in command of the troops in Ireland, did what no other Commander-in-Chief did with regard to the Royal Hospital. The public had hitherto had the right of passing through the Royal Hospital grounds on cars, which was a convenient way of reaching Kilmainham. Lord Wolseley, however, took it into his head, two years ago, to shut out the public from the exercise of this right. He hardly thought his successor, Lord Roberts, would need any intimation on the point; and it was only fair, now that Lord Woleseley had assumed the chief command in this country, that the Dublin public should be allowed to revert to their old right of passing through Kilmainham Park on cars. The hon. Gentleman urged the necessity of some system of cross reference in the arrangement of the Votes, so that Members might readily ascertain to what subjects certain items referred—a difficult task under the present arrangement. There was a sum in the Vote in respect of the Boyne Navigation, and in referring to it he expressed himself against giving private companies public grants. It would be better if the Government were to work canals and similar undertakings themselves, or else put them up to public auction, instead of allowing themselves to be subjected to illegitimate pressure from their supporters, and thus induced to conclude a bargain which was not so much to the advantage of the public as to individuals. When he referred 451 to public auction, he did not mean such a transaction as that relating to the Derry Central Railway, which had been sold to the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company for some £3,000 or,£4,000. This was a matter which the present Government were not responsible for. It occurred in the time of the late Government, and, in his opinion, the permanent officials were to blame. Having mortgaged the railway for some £30,000 or £40,000, they made a private deal with the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway, by which the Company acquired some 20 or 30 miles of a line which had cost £60,000 or £70,000 for the trifling sum of about £4,000. Sir John Hibbert said the bargain was the best that could be made; but the fact was that the Great Northern and the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Companies were both competing for the line, and if the Board of Works had done their duty they would have sold it to the highest bidder, giving all parties a chance; instead of which they made a private deal. But for the Dissolution he would have taken steps to stop the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company's private Bill which sanctioned the arrangement. The public were really kept in the dark in the matter. The company interested sneaked through the House a private Bill which sanctioned the arrangement, Members were deprived of the legitimate opportunity of criticism, and public money to the extent, he thought, of £50,000 was wasted. He did not like attacking the Irish Board of Works. It was a hopeless body. He and others had criticised the Board for 15 years, and it was no bettor now than it was 15 years ago. Why could not the Board build a pier which would stand? There was not a pier built by the Board of Works which was of any practical value. To-day they had heard of the last joke, that relating to a pier in Wicklow. The grand jury was a mere chance body, and cared no more about 452 Wicklow than he cared about Japan. To expect that they would make a contributory grant was absurd. Grand juries cared nothing about little maritime places, and the towns were too small to have Commissioners, and there was no machinery the people could put in motion. The Treasury and the English gentlemen said:—Oh, why don't you do as we do in England, and pay for the works yourselves?They wanted a Parliament of their own and the management of their own money As long as England refused them the institutions they desired, they must insist upon criticising the body put over them. The Board of Works ought to be taken out of the hands of the Treasury. The Chief Secretary, for instance, had no control of his own house. That was an absurdity and an anomaly. The latest thing was that Limerick had been fined £1,900 for not keeping the fish gap in order. Ho suggested that the Lord Lieutenant should, by the exercise of his viceregal authority, grant a Royal pardon to the Board of Works in regard to that matter.
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, he noticed in the Estimate that a grant of £2,500 was given to the Queen's College, Belfast, for physiological and pathological laboratories; £150 to Galway Queen's College for a chemical laboratory, and nothing at all to the Queen's College, Cork. He thought that as Belfast was the richest of the three cities in which the Queen's Colleges were situated, the largest grant should go to Galway and Cork. He also noticed an item of £936 for the maintenance of police protection huts. He assumed those huts were for the protection of evicted farmers and boycotted people. He regretted to see that the sums showed an increase on the amount voted for the same purpose last year when it was £863. He supposed that between three and four hundred extra police were 453 stationed in those huts, and that their cost was between £20,000 and £30,000 a year. He did not think there could be a stronger argument than this fact to induce the Chief Secretary to produce some scheme for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, which would put an end to the lamentable condition of things that rendered those protection huts necessary. The cost of such a scheme would be between£100,000 and £200,000, for he believed it would be extremely difficult to settle the evicted tenants' problem without some such expenditure of public money; but it should be remembered that the interest on that amount would be only about £6,000 a year, whereas £30,000 had been spent annually for the past ten years in the maintenance of those police protection huts.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
said, that in regard to the grant to the Queen's College, Belfast, the President of the College had waited on Sir John Hibbert, the late Secretary to the Treasury, and explained to him how necessary it was in the interest of education that the college should be supplied with those laboratories. He could assure the hon. Member for East Mayo that the case for the laboratories had been clearly made out. He could not sit down without expressing the hope that the present Secretary to the Treasury would act in regard to Irish matters with the same generous spirit as Sir John Hibbert always had done, and he would like also to say, if he might do so without impertinence, what a pleasure it was to them on both sides of the House to see the present Chairman of Committees presiding over their discussions.
§ MR. CLANCY
called attention to the continued and increasing encroachment on the Phœnix Park, which was intended as a recreation ground for the people, and not to provide cheap sites for Government buildings. The Irish Members had an interview with the Head of the Treasury on this point in 1886. That Gentleman—the late Secretary of State for India—though a man of experience, was, they found, absolutely a child in the hands of the Treasury Permanent Officials. He was apparently willing to do what the Irish Members wanted, but he was not able to do anything at all 454 They found out that even the Lord Lieutenant himself was helpless. The Lord Lieutenant objected on public grounds to some of this land being taken, for a less worthy purpose than to provide a site for a Government building, and his objection was actually overruled by some Official at the Treasury. He warned the present Secretary to the Treasury, while he was fresh to official life; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to conquer the Permanent Officials, and to show them that he was the master.
§ MR. T. GILHOOLY (Cork, W.)
directed the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to a Treasury Minute passed within the last two years, which practically nullified the operation of a part of the Land Act of 1891. Under the Act loans might be granted to tenants by the Board of Public Works, a tenant whose valuation was £10 being competent to receive a loan of £50. By the Treasury Minute that £50 was reduced to £30. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office said that the Minute was passed because the Treasury had lost something by some evictions in Ireland.
I must ask the hon. Member to point out how the subject of his complaint is brought within the four corners of the Vote, which relates to public works and buildings only.
That is a very ingenious proposition on the part of the hon. Member; but I do not think it would be in order to discuss the policy of a particular Department on the Vote for the building in which the Officials of the Department reside.
§ * Mr. HANBURY
said it was impossible for him to master all the details of a somewhat confused and complicated Vote during the short time he had been in office, but he would see whether it was not possible to make the Vote in future a little more intelligible than it was. With reference to Wicklow Harbour, he pointed out that the Government were asking guarantees from the 455 adjoining baronies just in the same way as was done before. He was not sure whether the sum for the Boyne Navigation ought not to be withdrawn altogether. The sum of £1,000 was to be paid to the new company taking over the Boyne Navigation, and the money was to be applied to keeping that navigation in a proper state of repair. But the Boyne Navigation could not, as he understood, be transferred to the new company unless by Act. After all, these were small points. With regard to the larger question—how far there should be a permanent erection in Phœnix Park—he had not yet sufficient local knowledge to be able to give a satisfactory reply on that point, but undoubtedly before the next Session he should try to go over to Ireland, as he thought a Secretary of the Treasury ought to do, ["Hear, hear!"] and inform himself on this subject. He thought the answer he had given, covered nearly all the points raised. With regard to the Derry Central Railway scheme, he had nothing to do with that, but he understood it was settled by his predecessor. If the hon. Member would give him details he should be glad to give him, on the Report stage, all the information he might then possess. As to the police huts, he was asked how it came that an item for the Constabulary was to be found in this Vote at all. He saw, however, that the two preceding items were connected with the Constabulary; but perhaps the Chief Secretary would be able to give more information as to what these huts were devoted to. His predecessor put the items in this Vote. It was a small detail, but he should see that a satisfactory answer was given on the Report.
§ Mr. G. MURNAGHAN (Tyrone, Mid)
extolled the state of Ireland in regard to crime, and urged that the question as to the huts should be looked into.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that no doubt his right hon. Friend would inquire into the question. 456 He only rose now, however, to say that as soon as this class of Votes was finished he should move the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. W. FIELD
asked whether he had properly understood the Secretary to the Treasury to allude to Wicklow Harbour. He understood the Government had under consideration a grant for Wicklow Harbour. The sea had already done considerable damage to the harbour wall, and unless something was done before February the effect might be disastrous to the harbour.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, that the Government were perfectly prepared to make a new grant of £35,000 if it could be guaranteed from the adjoing baronies. In this part of Wicklow the rating was lower perhaps than in any other part of Ireland.>
§ * MR. HANBURY
added that the information given to him was that, in the case of Wicklow, the late Government offered that, if the joint baronies would guarantee the amount, it would be advanced on terms which would make but a slight addition to the very low rates; but that his predecessor refused to make an absolutely free grant.
§ * MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim S.)
said, it was his duty to call attention to one of those small matters which would not come before the House if there were local bodies in Ireland to deal with them. A sum of money had been voted for the removal of a shoal in the Shannon which obstructed navigation and exposed the people of that locality, Drumheriff, to great inconvenience; and the late Secretary to the Treasury promised that the matter would be taken in hand at once; but yet nothing had been done. The present Secretary to the Treasury told him yesterday that the delay was owing to the action of one the riparian owners; and he was anxious to find out who this was and what was the reason for blocking the work. It was a matter of considerable importance, because the district was a backward one, deficient in roads. Most of the locomotion was by water, and the shoal in question rendered two miles of the river unnavigable. This was a pressing matter to the people of his constituency and he therefore appealed to the hon. Gentleman to see 457 that the work was begun at once. One point in connection with the drainage of the Shannon he pressed on the former Secretary to the Treasury. To provide for traffic that was imaginary and did not exist, water was kept at a certain depth in a lock at Knockvicar, which was the outlet from Lough Key into the Shannon, and 600 acres of land were flooded in the adjoining district of Roscommon. A proper sluice should be erected to prevent floods which were causing so much damage.
§ MR. J. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)
hoped that the Treasury would spend some money in improvements in the North as well as in the South of Ireland.
§ MR. FLYNN
also hoped that if the right hon. Gentleman did not give a full explanation with regard to these constabulary huts on that occasion, he would be able to do so upon the Report. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that this matter of £900 for police huts was a small affair, but it represented a great principle, which went to the root of the land question in Ireland. A bad landlord simply represented that disturbances occurred in connection with the collection of rent, and a police hut was immediately built on his estate, in which two policemen were quartered. This represented a double tax—a charge on the taxpayer and a charge on the local ratepayer. Thus the cost of one hut, as it appeared on the Estimate, might represent ten times that amount on some district in Ireland. The progress of public business would largely depend on whether the First Lord of the Treasury would guarantee that before Report he would inquire into these matters, and that the Report stage should be taken at a fairly early hour of the evening. He wished to add his voice to the complaint of the hon. Member's for Dublin as to the encroachments on Phœnix Park. It was monstrous that the finest public park in the United Kingdom should be cut up by small sections of the community. It was a proceeding which would not be tolerated in respect of Hyde Park. 458 They were told that in Ireland now such things as derelict farms hardly existed, and, if so, why should they have this Vote?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that if hon. Members would undertake to agree to the rest of the Vote without much further discussion, he might give an assurance such as was asked for. [Cries of dissent; and an hon. MEMBER: "It is a long Vote!"]
§ MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
said, this was the only opportunity on which they could raise this matter, and there was a railway item which affected his constituency.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that the railways which were dealt with were railways which affected the Treasury, but would throw no burden whatever on the constituency of the hon. Gentleman.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that if there was any widespread feeling on the matter he would, if this Vote was agreed to, move the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Thursday; Committee to sit again this day.