§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £569,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1905, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Customs Department."
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
said he had handed in a notice to move the reduction of Item A in that Vote which referred to the salaries and allowances of the Superintending Establishment of the Customs. When the Vote was under discussion twelve months ago the question of the strength of the staff was raised, and there was some debate, the chief point urged being, that as the Government had quite recently come to a decision to abolish the corn tax which had been imposed in the preceding year, some fresh arrangements were necessary for the disposal of the staff which had been specially engaged for the purpose of levying the tax. It was asked whether it was right that the House should vote money for a staff which apparently would only be employed during the first three months of the financial year. The reply given by the Treasury on that occasion was that, although it had been decided to abolish the corn tax, it would be impossible to reduce the establishment for some time, as there would be considerable work to carry out, A promise was, 438 however, given that in the following year's Estimates steps should be taken to bring about a reduction. They were at that time informed that a staff of forty-six indoor and forty-seven outdoor officers had been appointed for the purposes of the corn duty, and now he would like to know how it came about that in the present year's Estimates, instead of having a reduction of the staff and consequently a reduction of the cost, exactly the opposite had occurred, and they had got an increase in the staff. Provision was now being made for 294 men as against 262 last year. In the previous year the increase of staff had been from 231 to 262, thus showing a substantial and rapid increase to the extent of 25 per cent, of the staff in two years. When the matter was under consideration a year ago the hon. Member for Durham, who was then financial Secretary to the Treasury, stated that there would be a good deal of extra work in connection with the readjustment and rebates following on the abolition of the corn duty, and that any reduction of the staff would be more apparent in the following year than in the present one. The hon. Member at that time deprecated the moving of a reduction in the Estimate on the ground that the Treasury had not had time to bring about any rearrangement of the staff. But his complaint was that the present Vote, instead of showing a substantial reduction in this respect, actually involved an increase to the extent of £6,000. It was an extraordinary thing that when ninety-three men had been appointed for a certain duty, and when their services apparently were no longer required for that duty, Parliament should still be called upon to vote an increase in this particular item. They were bound to make a stand against these perpetual increases. This afforded a very good illustration of the way in which when once they allowed the staff of a Department to be increased it became almost impossible to reduce it. Here was a case in which ninety-three men had been put on for a specific purpose which no longer existed, and yet there was no proposal on the part of the Government to decrease the staff, but, on the other hand, there was a proposal to make a substantial increase to it, and he, 439 therefore, felt justified in moving to reduce the Vote by the sum of £1,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, 1 (Superintending Establishment, Salaries and Allowances) be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Whitley.)
§ SIR E. DURNING-LAWRENCE (Cornwall, Truro)
said that the corn duty was intended to be permanent, and the extra men engaged on account of it were not temporarily engaged. He could not see, therefore, how the staff could be reduced without providing some compensation for the men affected. Government appointments were always looked upon as more or less permanent, and when once they were made it was not easy to reduce them.
§ *MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
, who was very imperfectly heard in the Gallery, was understood to say that he was one of those who believed that work done should be adequately paid for, and he also felt that in connection with Government appointments the question of permanency was an important consideration. They could not afford to play the game of battledore and shuttle cock with Government servants. If they wanted to get the most able men to serve the country they must give them some security of tenure. There was another point to which he would like to draw the attention of the Committee, and that was the inconvenience to which passengers coming from France to this country were subjected in consequence of the Custom House arrangements. The examination of luggage at Dover and Newhaven was conducted under the most uncomfortable circumstances, in volving not only the maximum of inconvenience to the passengers themselves, but often serious delay and expense, and he, therefore, hoped that the Secretary of the Treasury would be able to give a promise on the part of the Department that some improvement in this respect should be effected, and that more reason able arrangements would be made so that passengers might not be subjected to the inconveniences which resulted from the present inadequate arrangements,
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)
hoped that the Secretary to the Treasury 440 would resist the demand for a reduction of the portion of the Customs staff which was appointed to carry out what was intended to be a permanent tax. He had on many occasions pleaded in that House for the fair treatment of Customs officers, and sometimes he had been almost single-handed in that endeavour. He had protested against their being treated merely as shuttlecocks. Men joined the lower ranks of the Customs service on the understanding that certain prospects of promotion were open to them, and it was not fair that the political exigencies of the country should bear with undue severity on those who had faithfully discharged the duties entrusted to them by the State. As he understood it, whenever a new duty was imposed it involved a rearrangement of the Customs staff, which rendered it essential that a certain number of promotions should be made from the lower ranks of the service, and he certainly did protest against their having resort to that most objectionable procedure which was known as "acting" in order to carry out the duties of the Department. This principle of "acting" in order to meet temporary pressure, and then reverting to the old position, was one which he was bound to condemn. When the corn duty was imposed a certain number of officials were necessarily promoted, and their places in the ranks were filled up. On what principle could they ask those men thus temporarily promoted to revert to their old positions, and what were they to do with those who had been appointed to fill those positions? It seemed to him that if the proposal of the hon. Member for Halifax were carried it would be treating these men very unfairly.
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY
said he was not dealing with that point, he was simply dealing with a suggestion which to his mind was, he would not say cruel, but which was, at any rate, neither generous nor just, that the men who for a time had been called upon to perform a superior duty should simply be relegated back to their old positions for the sole reason that Parliament had decided to abolish a 441 certain tax. It appeared to him that the proposal of the hon. Member showed a very slight knowledge of the conditions obtaining in the Customs service. For years past there had been grave discontent in that service, and efforts had been made by Mr. Hanbury and others to bring about a different state of affairs and to secure a contented service. Those efforts had met with a considerable amount of success, and he could conceive nothing more likely to disturb the present happy condition of affairs than to carry out the proposal of the hon. Member for Halifax. Let them look at the position of matters. A man possibly had bean looking forward to promotion for many years, say, to the first class of examining officers. At last he obtained it, and in consequence he placed his family in a more comfortable home and in better surroundings. Was it reasonable that, at the end of a couple of years, simply because Parliament had abandoned its; intention to impose a certain tax, that officer should be asked to go back to his former position? In his opinion such a suggestion was most unfair. He had gathered from conversations he had had with representatives of that section of the State's servants that in the last few months something like contentment had been secured in this great body of Civil servants, and he, therefore, appealed to his hon. friend the Secretary to the; Treasury not to take any steps which would be calculated to destroy that feeling of contentment. Let him remember that promotion when once made should be maintained. It was generally automatic, and it certainly ought not to be unnecessarily interfered with.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY (Mr. VICTOR CAVENDISH,) Derbyshire, W.
said that the hon. Member for Halifax, in referring to the promise given last year by the hon. Member for Durham, that the staff, increased on account of the corn duty, would be again reduced after the repeal of that duty, omitted to state also that his hon. friend had said that, on the other hand, an increase would probably be necessary on account of the Sugar Convention. In the Estimate for 1903–4, £17,400 extra was asked for in respect of the collection of the corn duty, and in 442 that for the year 1904–5 £16,000 additional was demanded in respect of the sugar duty. Thus, although the Treasury had been able to effect a reduction in respect to the collection of the corn duty, he regretted to say that nearly the whole of that reduction had been absorbed by the increased expenditure necessary for the collection of the sugar duty. Nearly the whole of the increase in the Vote was due to the increase in the Statistical Department, for which a demand had been generally made. With regard to the inconveniences complained of by passengers travelling between this country and the Continent, he had received many complaints himself, but he did not see any practical methods for their removal. Still, if any were brought to his notice he would consider them.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said that was rather a large order. He would like to know what the specific complaints against the railway companies were. He remembered that one suggestion was made to him in that direction, and he declined to put the burden on the British taxpayer. He was then asked if the proposed facilities would be granted provided the money was subscribed by the public. To that he assented, but he believed that only £5 of the £125 required was forthcoming, and the proposal consequently fell to the ground. Still, bearing in mind that he was extremely unwilling to place any further charge on the Exchequer, he could only promise to consider any practical suggestions that might be made.
§ MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said that in his opinion it would be not merely unjust and ungenerous, but it would also be cruel to degrade officials who had been promoted for the purpose of a special tax, and to reduce their stipends because, forsooth, it pleased Parliament to abolish certain taxes. He had more than once deplored the extravagant and wasteful way in which money was expended by Government Departments, but he did not think that 443 the hard-working, industrious, Customs House officials, who did their best to qualify themselves for the service of the State, should be treated in the manner suggested by the mover of the Amendment, and he, therefore, hoped that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would not accept the Amendment, which would involve unjust and unmerited treatment of a very efficient class of officials.
§ MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)
said he wished to draw attention to the manner in which certain classes of Customs officers were appointed. He considered that the system of appointment by nomination was open to grave and serious abuse, and he would like to see them placed on the same footing in this respect as other Civil servants.
§ MR. J. F. HOPE
said he would deal with it later. But he desired to oppose the reduction. The Committee must bear in mind not only the present, but the future position of the Customs service. Probably in a year or two the service would have new and heavy duties thrown upon it, not only greater in extent than those which it carried out at present, but far more varied and complicated in character, and although the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury might not wish to see such a development he must be prepared for it and make his arrangements accordingly. They could not suddenly engage new officers to fulfil these complicated duties. A certain amount of training was necessary, and though the hon. Member for King's Lynn was a great economist, he surely was not so cheeseparing as to approve this proposed reduction. With regard to Customs examination at Dover and elsewhere, he had heard complaints of incivility, but he was bound to say he had not personally experienced such treatment. He thought the fault rested not so much with the officials as with the conditions under which they had to carry out their duties. In Russia, where 444 the examination was of a far more strict character, he was struck with the civility of the officers, and certainly Englishmen were not less courteous than Russians. He suggested that a small travelling Commission should be sent throughout Europe to inquire into the system of examination at the principal European frontiers. So far from supporting any reduction in salaries in this Department, he would be prepared, if it were in order, to propose that some of them should be increased. What would happen if the reduction that had been moved were carried? Perhaps hon. Members opposite thought the Government would go out; but they would do nothing of the kind. All that would happen would be the loss of £1,000 from the salaries of a number of hard-working officials.
§ *MR. MACONOCHIE (Aberdeenshire, E.)
agreed that the salaries of the officers were not ranged according to duties performed, and submitted that whereas an official in the Customs service, who had millions of money to deal with, only received £800 a year, a man holding an equally responsible position in a private business would never get less than £2,000 or £2,500 a year. They all, he said, agreed that there were many anomalies and many things that might be improved in the service, but Rome was not built in a day, and he did not think the hon. Member for Halifax himself expected that they could remove these anomalies in a few days. With regard to the Customs accommodation, he remarked that some railways gave better accommodation than others, and he did not know why they should not be made to improve upon that accommodation; certainly any suggestion of a Member which would have the tendency of compelling the railway companies to give better accommodation would have the support of Members on both sides of the House. They had heard a good deal about the label system, but he had never seen a more simple one than that prevailing in the passenger service between Canada and New York, and he did not see why similar arrangements should not be made for people coming from and going to the Continent. He was sure it was not the intention of the hon. Member for Halifax, the mover of the reduction, to reduce the salary 445 of any competent servant; and he felt they were in agreement that in some cases they paid too high salaries and that in many other cases they paid too low salaries; and when the hon. Member for Halifax considered the amount of bribery prevailing in other parts of the world, he thought he would also agree that there was no possibility of bribing the Customs House officers in Great Britain. He had always received equally as much civility and attention from the officers in Great Britain as from the officers of any other country; and he had never experienced; the absolute necessity in some cases, in other parts of the world, of bribing the officers. However much they might disagree as to the amount of their remuneration, they would agree that the Customs House officers of Great Britain were honest, loyal, and perfectly straightforward.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he should like to point out to the Secretary to the Treasury that the increase necessitated by the Sugar Convention was provided for under the next item of the Estimate. The hon. Gentleman had therefore not given any explanation of the causes which led to the demand for an increase of the staff by twenty-eight men, and, as a consequence, he would feel it his duty to press his Motion to reduce the Vote, to a division.
§ MR. CHARLES DEVLIN (Galway)
complained of the great inconvenience; which passengers arriving at Londonderry suffered on account of the bad accommodation for the examination of luggage, and said the result was that many Canadians who had once suffered, declined to again travel by that route,
§ with the result that Ireland suffered the loss of a great deal of traffic.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said it was interesting after a short holiday to observe the Front Bench filled by Under-Secretaries driven back before their masters, not one Cabinet Minister being present, and the House occupied in listening to the delightful oratory of the hon. Member for the Brightside Division, whose rising was always a signal to him that the Government found itself in a momentary minority. This was all a good illustration of the position to which they had been reduced by the working of the new Rules. With regard to the suggestion that an official who had to deal with interests involving many millions ought to have more than £800 a year, he reminded hon. Members that the great glory of the Civil Service was that it was paid partly in money and partly in honour. For this reason men were proud of their position in it and ready to do most important and praiseworthy work for small salaries and the assurance of a pension. His advice to the Committee was to beware of creating new Civil servants, but stand by those already in the service, so that its high repute should remain unimpaired. When they created a new Civil servant he became something like the old man of the sea. He hung round their necks, and they had not the resource of Sin bad the Sailor—they could not make him drunk and knock him on the head. Therefore let them jealously watch all proposed increases of staff.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 55; Noes, 110. (Division List No. 128).447
|Burns, John||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Caldwell, James||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Cameron, Robert||Grant, Corrie||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Berwick)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Harcourt, Lewis V. Rossendale||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Cullinan, J.||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Joicey, Sir James||Runciman, Walter|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan)||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea)||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Devlin, Charles Ramsay (Galw'y)||Kitson, Sir James||Shackleton, David James|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Lewis, John Herbert||Slack, John Bamford|
|Dunn, Sir William||Lloyd-George, David||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R (Northants)|
|Edwards, Frank||Lough, Thomas||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sullivan, Donal|
|Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Mr. Whitley and Mr. Ainsworth.|
|Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Tomkinson, James||Whiteley, George (York, W.R.)|
|Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.||Williams, Osmond (Merionet)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Gordon, Maj Evans-(T'rH'miets||Parker, Sir Gilbert|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Gore, Hn. S. F. Ormsby-(Linc)||Percy, Earl|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O.||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Arrol, Sir William||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Pym, C. Guy|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Rea, Russell|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W.(Leeds)||Gunter, Sir Robert||Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nderry)||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Hartley, Sir George C. T.||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th)||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander.|
|Bignold, Arthur||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Samuel, Sir Harry S.(Limehouse)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley)||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham)||Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hunt, Rowland||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lanes.)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Hutton, John (Yorks. N.R.)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire)||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A(Worc)||Kimber, Henry||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Tuff, Charles|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Valentia, Viscount|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks, N. R||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants., Fareham)||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Cross Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham)||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C.E. (Taunton)|
|Denny, Colonel||Lowe, Francis William||Whiteley, H.(Ashton und. Lyne)|
|Dewar, Sir T.R.(Tower Hamlets)||Lloyd, Archie Kirkman||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A Akers||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Maconochie, A. W.||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Malcolm, Ian||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Mitchell, William (Burnley)|
|Flower, Sir Ernest||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes.|
|Forster, Henry William||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E.(Elgin & Nairn||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
was surprised that the hon. Member for the Brightside Division was not now in his place in order to discuss the very important question of the system of appointing Customs boatmen. He believed there was not a Member of that House who did not consider that this system of political appointments was thoroughly bad. It was a relic of the bad days when political and; Party appointments prevailed throughout the whole Civil Service. What earthly: reason was there for appointing Customs boatmen on these lines. Of course he was not suggesting that the Gentleman responsible for making them was not actuated by the most conscientious motives. Was the Chief Whip expected to make 448 these appointments of the Customs boatmen on purely Party nomination? He would ask the right hon. Gentleman how often he had appointed a man on the recommendation of hon. Gentlemen opposite? It would have been very unnatural if he did anything of the kind. He was aware that these men had to undergo a slight examination; but his point was that the whole thing was radically unsound. It was wrong in principle, and ought to be abolished. It interfered with the personal convenience of hon. Members. They were constantly receiving applications from people who considered they were competent for a place in the service, and that involved a large amount of correspondence. If these appointments were to be made in the future to a greater extent than in the 449 past, owing to pending changes in the fiscal policy of the country, they ought to be made on the ground of efficiency alone, and should be removed entirely; from the control of Party influence.
Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
said that it should be remembered that there were still many appointments in the gift of the Crown for which the Crown itself was responsible. But, if the system at present existing in regard to the appointment of Customs boatmen was wrong, then the whole system by which the officers of the Navy were chosen was also wrong. The two systems were identical. The cadets for the Navy and the boatmen for the Customs were nominated by threes, and one got the appointment. If the Customs system was vicious, then the right s hon. Gentleman opposite must be prepared to admit that the appointment of naval cadets was vicious too. He did not think that the Patronage Secretary, who had the nomination of these Customs boatmen in his hands, allowed Party feeling to influence him, any more than the First Lord of the Admiralty did in the nomination of cadets for entry into the Navy; or that the hon. Gentleman only entertained applications from his own side of the House. It was within his own knowledge, when he was on the other side of the House, that the Patronage Secretary received these applications candidly and impartially. When he nominated any man for appointment, the strength of his application lay in the fact that the Secretary to the Treasury was so convinced that he would not recommend anyone who was not qualified for the post, that the hon. Gentleman was equally prepared to entertain his recommendation as one from his own side of the House. It could not be said that this system was a bad one. It was true it was old, but it afforded by no means any facility for his hon. friend to buy political support from any Members of this House. He did Dot think it would enable his hon. friend to bring in a majority to the House on the first day after the holidays, or get the Government out of a tight place. As a matter of fact he believed the existing system produced excellent men for the Customs service. No one could say that the boarding officers in the Customs 450 did not do their duty well, although he admitted that it was an anomalous system.
§ Me. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said that while he agreed with, much that had been said by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, he did not think that the Customs boatmen's appointments were carried on on exactly the same system as the nomination of naval cadets. There was an idea that the Patronage Secretary was more likely to appoint men of his own way of thinking; and there was no doubt the system was used to recommend political supporters for appointment. He understood some time ago that this system was to be discontinued, and that private Members should do longer be able to make nominations to the Patronage Secretary—in fact that these appointments were no longer to be regarded in any sense as political, but to be made on the same system as in any other branch of the Civil Service. This old relic of political patronage should be done away with. He was quite sure that the hon. Baronet made these nominations without any strict Party feeling; but, still, it ought not to be in the power of the Patronage Secretary to use these nominations as a political instrument. He hoped that there would be some assurance from the Treasury Bench that the system would be given up.
§ *MAJOR EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said he wished to call the attention of the Committee and of the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury to another question in relation to the position of the Customs boatmen. The attitude of hon. Members on both sides was often inconsistent, because their calls for economy in public expenditure were; accompanied by demands for increased expenditure in other directions. He, himself, was an advocate for economy, provided efficiency could be obtained at the same time. The State should treat its servants with a reasonable amount of consideration. If it could be shown, as he thought it could be, that the Customs boatmen were miserably paid, that their duties were of the very greatest importance, that their prospects of promotion were very small indeed, then their claim for 451 an improvement in their condition should not be rejected on the general ground of a necessity for economy. Another point he bad to bring before the Committee was the increasing practice of public servants bringing pressure to bear on Members of Parliament. That was a custom which ought not to be encouraged in any way. But in this case there was no question of any pressure. The total number of men in this service was 992, scattered over the whole country; and therefore the influence which they could exercise politically was practically nil. He could say that no pressure had been brought to bear upon him; he had investigated the subject for himself; and he thought their case was a good one. Hence he ventured to bring it before the Committee.
The name of "boatmen" was a complete misnomer. That term led to a very great misunderstanding as to the duties which these men performed. The remuneration they received might be sufficient if they only pulled boats out to vessels coming into port. But hon. Members would be surprised to learn that these so-called boatmen were —some of them—the men who examined the luggage at Charing Cross and Victoria —he hoped unsuccessfully when hon. Members arrived from their holidays on the Continent. Boats were now very little used; Customs officers went out to ships on arriving in port in steam launches. These men came in contact with and performed work on behalf of many Government Departments. They must possess a thorough knowledge of Health Regulations, Board of Trade Regulations, Explosive Acts, the Merchandise Marks Act, Agricultural Acts referring to cattle, dogs, etc. Their many duties included the boarding of vessels for foreign ports, the issuing of certificates of pratiques, examining crews' private and ships' surplus dutiable stores; they had to examine passengers' luggage; they had to collect the duty for goods that were found to be dutiable; they had to make a thorough rummage of the whole vessel, and, although these duties were done under the supervision of a superior officer, the actual work was done by the men themselves. In regard to passengers' baggage; they had to use the greatest amount of tact and keenness, 452 and very few complaints were received considering the enormous number of people who arrived by sea in this country. The whole reputation of the Customs Department was in the hands of these men. Their boarding duty required the utmost vigilance, because the crews were often leaving their ships, and they had to be closely searched. With regard to rummaging, few people who had not been over a ship under-stood what it meant. The boatmen had to compete in knowledge with, skilled artisans in the engine room and elsewhere. Every case of smuggling showed some new and exceedingly cunning dodge for concealing contraband goods. The duty was a very difficult and also a very unhealthy one, needing immense care and energy, and often involving personal courage on behalf of the men. The forecastle of a foreign ship was frequently a very unhealthy place, and further, the men had to face remonstrance, abuse, and sometimes violence on the part of sailors belonging to every race on the habitable globe, and speaking almost every language under the sun. It was well known that smuggling still went on, and its prevention neccessitated the very greatest vigilance on the part of the Customs boatmen. As to the dangers of the calling, the men had to board ships at every hour of the day and night and rummage in a high, temperature, afterwards coming out into the cold air, which involved a considerable risk to health. They also incurred risk to life and limb. So much was that the case, that the Civil Service Insurance Society required 73 per cent, higher premium against accidents for these men than for a member of any other branch of the Civil Service. The men were in no sense boatmen. They held a Commission from the Crown, the first paragraph of which stated that the man was appointed an officer of Customs to be employed on any duties relating to the Customs. If a doctor went his rounds in a cab he would not be regarded as a cabman; and the Customs boatmen went to their work in boats, which was all they had to do with them. Why should they not be called waterguard officers, or assistant preventive officers. It would be a concession to the men, and it would not cost anything to give them a name to which they were entitled.
453 He desired to call attention to the pay the men received. They commenced at a salary of £55 a year, rising by increments of £1 10s. 0d. per annum for five years, and then, by £2 10s. 0d. per annum to the maximum of £85. For five years, therefore, they were doing the duties he had described for a little over a £1 a week; and in fifteen years a man might reach a salary of 32s. or 33s. a week. He would ask the Committee if they considered that that was sufficient pay for the duties the men performed. The Government claimed to be model employers but their model seemed to be a bad one. A man might be six years a boatman before he got 24s. a week, or 1s. a week less than a policeman received in his first year. He submitted that the duties of a boatman were every bit as important and quite as dangerous as the duties of a policeman. Of course, it might be argued that the salary was sufficient because a number of men came forward who were willing to accept it; but he did not believe that that was any justification for the State sweating its servants, or giving them a salary on which it was very difficult for them to live. Further, the men were being constantly shifted about, and had to spend a very considerable sum in travelling expenses, and also on rent, especially in London. They had also to keep up a respectable appearance, and to dress themselves well. He knew one case in which a man earning between £60 and £70 a year spent £30 a year in travelling expenses and rent, having only the small balance of £30 or £40 on which to maintain his wife and family. His hon. friend referred to the honour of belonging to the service; but it was hardly a satisfactory answer to those men to tell them to think of the honour of their employment. With them it was a question of bread and cheese. Even after fifteen years service, they were getting less pay than an ordinary road-sweeper in the employment of any borough council. Certainly they ought to be better paid. Recently, the star system was introduced by which after ten years a man might get £2 10s. 0d. extra if he received a star. Therefore, a man should be at least ten years in the service before he received a living wage-Juniors, of course, received no benefit at 454 all from the star system. The stars were given for good conduct and efficiency after ten years service; but a soldier could get a badge after two years service; and, therefore, good conduct and efficiency were recognised in the Army eight years before they were recognised in the case of the Customs boatmen. Many of the man who had twenty years service hid only one star, and great dissatisfaction was caused by the fact that no one seemed to know on what basis the stars were given. The remedy was that a man qualified for a star should receive it, or if not, that the reasons for his not receiving it should be clearly given, in order that there might not be that discrimination which at present caused great discontent.
With reference to Sunday duty, the boatmen were the only members of the Civil Service who were constantly employed on Sundays without extra pay. They were often employed three out of four Sundays, and always two out of three Sundays. Formerly they used to get 1s. per Sunday when employed, but that; was commuted by an increase of £5 a year in the salaries of men in the service previous to 1895. The men who came S into the service since then and who worked on Sundays received absolutely j no remuneration for that work. He believed that that was unique in the entire Civil Service; and that these men should be paid for Sunday work, just as a road sweeper would be paid time and a half if called upon to work on Sundays. All the other Customs grades were paid for Sunday work, and he did not see why the Customs boatmen, whose work was just as important, should be exempted. Again, the prospect of promotion was very poor. Out of the 992 men employed, only twenty-seven were promoted per annum, so that the junior men had really no prospect of promotion at all. That was all the more reason why they should be better paid than they were at present. It had been said that they were very honourable men, that they performed their duties well and did not accept bribes; but he wished to point out that they were peculiarly susceptible to temptation. All sorts of in and out work went on on board ships; and certainly money was offered to them to wink their eyes at what was going on; 455 but whether they accepted it or not was another matter. He did not think it was I right the State should connive in exposing those men to such very serious; temptation by not giving them sufficient money to live on. He felt very strongly on the matter; it was not a question of pressure at all; it was a case in which a few hundred men were distinctly under-paid and over-worked, and he hoped that the Financial Secretary would be able to satisfy him by granting a full inquiry into the subject, if he could not immediately grant the concessions which were demanded. He was sure that an inquiry would substantiate everything he had said, and until he had received an assurance from the Financial Secretary that it would be held, he would move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed* "That Item B, 1 (Port Establishment, Salaries and Allowances) be reduced by £100."— (Major Evans Gordon.)
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said that the point raised by the hon. Gentleman with reference to Sunday labour was a sound one. The same complaint had been made to him by Customs boatmen in Scotland. He had inquired into the matter, and it appeared to him that the men should either be paid for Sunday labour, or that the work should be so distributed as to allow Sunday or an equivalent day to the men. He believed that to be a real grievance. He would not discuss the question of pay, because he thought it inexpedient where it could be avoided, but he would say as regarded the Customs boatmen that they put their case in a different way to that in which other branches of the Civil Service put theirs. They did not attempt to put pressure upon Members of Parliament, as in the case of the Post Office servants, whose conduct in many cases amounted almost to a scandal. He hoped the Financial Secretary would see his way to remedy the grievance with reference to Sunday labour. He had always understood that the nominations to the position of Customs boatmen were likely to go the way of nominations to the Post Office. There was no reason why it should not be so, and it would be a good thing to get rid of these nomina- 456 tions altogether, but, if they went, then there should be some machinery to insure that the appointments should be regularly made and the best men selected to fill the positions.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)
called attention to the meagre pay of the lower grade of preventive men. He said there were two sections of preventive officers, the lower grade consisting of 321 and the higher of sixty-eight men. The duties of those officers were of a highly important and onerous character, and it was essential to have highly respectable and trustworthy men to fill these positions, but the salary paid was far too little. A man had to be a Customs boatman for seventeen years before he could obtain a position as preventive officer, and upon being appointed he received the small salary of £95, rising by £5 increments to £150, which meant that a man in order to obtain the maximum salary must serve thirty years. These men complained that they were employed on twenty-eight Sundays during the year, on fourteen of which they had to do night duty, for which they received no extra pay. He contended that to employ men practically regularly on Sundays was contrary to the practice of large public concerns, and also to the practice of the Civil Service. This was the only class of Civil servants which received no extra pay for Sunday duty, and he appealed to the hon. Gentleman to institute an inquiry into the matter.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
supported the suggestion, and expressed a hope that the Secretary to the Treasury would see his way to appoint a small Committee to investigate the very moderate demands of these men, who only desired that certain privileges, if, indeed, they were not rights, should be recognised. With regard to the patronage side of the question which had been raised by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, he desired to take this opportunity of testifying that the hon. and gallant I Gentleman opposite had on more than I one occasion appointed the best persons he could find to fill the positions quite irrespective of the politics of those who had nominated them.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY (Sir A. ACLAND-HOOD,) Somersetshire, Wellington
said, with regard to the question of patronage, not being a constitutional lawyer he was not prepared to offer an opinion as to whether the method was good or bad. He accepted it as he found it and had always endeavoured to appoint the best men. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Stepney that £55 was not a proper sum to pay these men, and that for that salary the best men could not be found. The list at present in use gave the ages as 19 to 23, and on looking through the list he found a great number of names had been down for some years who would lose their chance of appointment if the list was altered. His view as to the age for these appointments should be from 17 years to 20, but in view of the large number of names now on the list he had arranged that the age limit in next year's list should be from 17 to 22, and afterwards it should be from 17 to 20. With regard to the financial part of the discussion he would leave that to the Financial Secretary to deal with.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
said that on more than one occasion he had called attention to the case of the Customs watchers who, strictly speaking, came under the head of "Outdoor officers." As outdoor officers died or retired outdoor watchers were appointed to their positions. As the Committee was probably aware he had dealt with this and other cognate questions on several occasions from the simple point of view of wages. The Government had over and over again professed to act in a line with the best employers throughout the country, but in the case of the Customs watchers there was a particular phase which differentiated it from the case of labour either at the Admiralty or the War Office. In the case of these Customs watchers, the Government had taken advantage of the fact that the persons from whom the Customs watchers were recruited were all either old soldiers, sailors, or policemen and in receipt of pensions, in order to sweat the wages of these men. The position of the watchers was that some years ago the lowest class employed under the Customs with the 458 exception of the boatmen were the outdoor officers who were in receipt of £101 a year. At the time they were appointed it was difficult to get men to perform these duties, which required undoubted integrity on the part of those who performed them, and also a certain amount of education. It was subsequently found that much cheaper men could be obtained for one portion of the work, and a new; class was created, the higher duties being put upon the superior officers and the lower duties upon the new class called "watchers." Those watchers were drawn: from the Government services, soldiers, sailors, and policemen, and were men in receipt of a pension; and what he asked was that these men should be paid the same wage and put in the same I position as men who had no pension at all. The duties performed by these men I were similar to those performed by the "lockers" of the various dock companies, who were paid from 25s. to 30s. a week, whilst these watchers only received 21s. a week. Another point which irritated these msn very much I was that one section of the outdoor officers who performed almost precisely the same duties as themselves received £101 a year. He asked the hon. Gentle-man opposite to treat these men as he would treat any other class in the employ of the Government, and take no notice, in fixing their pay, of the fact that they were pensioners, but simply pay them the current rate of wage in their locality. They performed most; onerous duties and should be paid a fair wage. The watchers complained also that whereas formerly they were allowed 8d. for overtime, although that charge I was never paid by the Government, but by the owners of the vessels, the Government had thought fit to reduce it to 6d. Something had been done by the predecessor in office of the hon. Gentleman with regard to the uniform of the Customs watchers, but the men now asked that they should be given a serge jacket every two years for summer wear. Another matter they desired to put forward was the question of annual leave, which they wished increased to twelve days in order that they might be placed on an equality with the rest of the service. They endeavoured to place their grievances before the Department in a legitimate 459 manner, but the Customs authorities would not do anything, and that was why he had brought the matter forward. It was only a matter of a few hundred pounds to make the initial rate of pay 24s. instead of 21s. for Customs watchers.
§ MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)
said his hon. friend had stated the case of the watchers so clearly and fully that j it was unnecessary for him to go over the ground again, but lie wished to add a few words in support of the appeal his hon. and gallant friend had made on behalf of the watchers. He believed that these men had a real grievance which would be remedied, he was sure, if the hon. Gentleman opposite would look into this matter closely himself. The Committee had heard what a low rate of wages was paid to these men and the small increase they were demanding, and it was a question which was well worthy of the consideration of the Government.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said that in regard to the Customs boatmen he thought the hon. and gallant Member for Stepney had gone a little too far. He quite appreciated what had been said, but it should be remembered that they had to work under the supervision of higher officers upon whom devolved the duty of seeing that the work was properly carried out. He did not think the responsibility placed upon these men was quite so great as his hon. friend had made out. Cases had been gone into most carefully in the past by his predecessors in office, and he would endeavour to follow their footsteps and look into these matters personally. He thought that during the past few years these men had advanced their position a great deal. With regard to the preventive officers, the hon. Member who had raised the question had given him warning, and had set forth fully their grievances in a letter. In his reply he took a considerable amount of trouble, and he had given him all the information he possibly could. He agreed that they had extremely responsible duties to perform, but he did not think they had a strong case for increased pay. With regard to Sunday labour they did everything they could to reduce it, but there were certain conditions of the service where it was 460 impossible to avoid Sunday work. He wished to point out that it was distinctly understood in the terms upon which these men entered the service that Sunday labour would be expected from them. Every effort was made to divide the Sunday work equally and to allow as many men to get off on Sundays as possible. If they allowed extra pay for Sunday work he was afraid they would have to consider whether the pay for that class of men would not have to be reduced, because the present rate was based distinctly on the ground that it included Sunday labour, and he could not hold out any hopes that he would be able to grant an increase. With regard to the Customs watchers, he would look most carefully into the questions which had been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for West Newington. He was glad to be in possession of the views of hon. Members on these points, and he would carefully consider the points which had been raised.
§ MAJOR EVANS GORDON
thanked the Secretary to the Treasury for what he had promised to do, but with great regret he heard him state that he declined to go into the question of Sunday pay. He could not agree with the hon. Member that 21s. was a sufficient wage for young men between seventeen and twenty-four years of age who had to work on Sundays. He begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
said the Secretary to the Treasury had given him nothing but smooth words in reply, and he did expect him to give way on the question of annual leave. These were the only men who had not this privilege. He wished to ^ remind the Committee that they had the example of a great democratic, directly elected, public body, the London County Council, who had to deal with thousands of employees of all grades and classes, and this body had never experienced any of the difficulties which had been mentioned, because when the employees had a grievance it was brought before the committee of the 461 London County Council by the representatives of the men, and they ascertained what was a proper wage. The result was that they had an entirely satisfied and efficient body of employees. Even road sweepers were paid 24s. a week, and yet the Government took men in the prime of life, who had to pass a medical examination, trustworthy men of good standing with unblemished characters in the police, the Army, or the Navy, and paid them 21s. a week to perform responsible duties. He asked that the minimum should be 24s. a week. The majority of these men
§ already had that wage, but owing to the large number of young men in the service there were many who could never hope to reach the figure stated. He begged to move a reduction of the Vote by £200.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That Item B, J (Port Establishment, Salaries and Allowances) be reduced by £200."—(Captain Norton.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 55; Noes, 132. (Division List No. 129.)463
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Horniman, Frederick John||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Burns, John||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Caldwell, James||Joicey, Sir James||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Cameron, Robert||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea||Tomkinson, James|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Toulmin, George|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Leng, Sir John||Wallace, Robert|
|Cullinan, J.||Levy, Maurice||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Lewis, John Herbert||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Lough, Thomas||Weir, James Galloway|
|Dayies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Partington, Oswald||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Edwards, Frank||Rea, Russell||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Grant, Corrie||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.— Captain Norton and Mr. Crooks.|
|Harcourt, Lewis V.(Rossendale||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Shackleton, David James|
|Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Graham, Henry Robert|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Corbett, A. Cameron (Clasgow)||Gunter, Sir Robert|
|Arrol, Sir William||Cox, Irwin Edward Bain bridge||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas P.|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry|
|Balcarres, Lord||Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Davenport, William Bromley||Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald W.(Leeds||Denny, Colonel||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Dewar, Sir T. R. (Tower Hamlets||Heath, A. Howard (Hanley)|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Dickson, Charles Scott||Heath, James (Staffords., N.W.|
|Bignold, Arthur||Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph C.||Hogg, Lindsay|
|Bigwood, James||Dixon- Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Douglas Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Burning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart||Hunt, Rowland|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Elibank, Master of||Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.)|
|Bull, William James||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Kimber, Henry|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire||Fisher, William Hayes||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A (Worc.||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Chapman, Edward||Flower, Sir Ernest||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks N. R|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Forster, Henry William||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants., Fareham|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Gordon, Hn. J. E.(Elgin & Nairn)||Legge, Col, Hon. Heneage|
|Coates, Edward Feetham||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Long, Col, Charles W.(Evesham|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Lowe, Francis William|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Valentia, Viscount|
|Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Richards, Henry Charles||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Ridley, Hon. M.W. (Stalybridge||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Maconochie, A. W.||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Webb, Colonel William George|
|M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||Welby, Lt.-Col. A.C.E.(Taunton|
|M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Whiteley,H. (Ashton und (Lyne|
|Malcolm, Ian||Samuel, Sir Harry S.(Limehouse||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Manners, Lord Cecil||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Melville, Beresford Valentine||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath),|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Stanley, Edward Jas.(Somerset)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Pemberton, John S. G.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Percy, Earl||Stroyan, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— Sir Alexander Acland- Hood and Mr. Ailwyn|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Thorburn, Sir Walter Fellowes.|
|Rankin, Sir James||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Remnant, James Farquharson||Tuff, Charles|
Motion made, and Question, "That this House do now adjourn," (Sir A. Acland-Hood) put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he wished to make a protest with regard to a taunt which was sometimes heard from the other side of the House. It was said that those who were in favour of increasing the pay of these Customs officers were going contrary to their advocacy of economy. That was perfectly ridiculous. If economies were to be effected they would have to deal with matters involving millions, and not merely with items where, as in this instance, £50 or £100 would do all that was required by the proposal of his hon. friend. He wanted a little information regarding some of the great matters with which the Vote dealt. The Committee would notice that a tremendous expansion of Customs Revenue had taken place during the last few years. From a table in the Report it appeared that the Customs Revenue of the country had increased from £23,000,000 ten years ago to £37,000,000 now. There were certain circumstances connected with this development of revenue that must be of considerable interest both to the Committee and the country. The increased revenue had been obtained by the increase of old duties. In regard to the inspection of tea he found from a statement on page 10 that £240 was the remuneration of eight surveyors, being £30 a year each. Who were the inspectors, and what were their duties? Four years since the duty on tea was increased by 50 per cent. There was evidence in the Report that attempts were made to bring low qualities of tea into the country. In the years 1895 to 464 1899 there was an annual average of fifty seizures, but after the tea duty was increased by 50 per cent, there were 260 seizures the first year, and 404 the following year. He wanted some information beyond what was contained in the Report as to what these Customs officers had done, and what the Department was doing. What was the quantity of tea dealt with? The whole matter was wrapt in mystery, and people interested in this business could not find out what the Department was doing. He would like to know what were the circumstances under which the remarkable increase had taken place spoken of on page 65 of the Customs Report, and where the teas were exported to.
§ MR. LOUGH
asked whether he could not inquire what the inspectors of tea did with this tea? There was now a further increase of the tea duty, and there would have to be an increase of the staff, and he wished to know what was going to be done to protect the country from being flooded with bad and inferior tea. He also asked for some information with regard to the working 465 of the system of certificates of origin and of the bonding of sugar under the Sugar Convention Act. Had any precautions been taken to prevent false certificates of origin being given?
The hon. Member is perfectly entitled to ask whether there has been any increase of the staff, but not to enter into a general criticism of the Sugar Convention Act. The policy of the Act is outside this particular Vote.
§ MR. LOUGH
said he did not want to criricise the Sugar Convention Act, or any of these new taxes. He would have another opportunity of doing so; but what he wanted was some information as to whether the new system of demanding certificates of origin of sugar imports and of bonding sugar was working smoothly.
§ MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR (Essex, Romford)
said that the Committee must have listened with some gratification to the demands for economy put forth by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He wished to ask for a small increase of expenditure to provide for additional Customs House officers. A system ought to be established by which boats carrying a certain number of pas sengers should be accommodated with a Customs House officer, and that provision should be made for the examination of luggage before it was despatched to the Continent. The French Government were willing to establish in London a Customs House office for this purpose; but, up to the present, the Treasury were not willing to provide the necessary sum for a similar office in Paris A small charge on each person having his luggage examined in this way would cover all the expenses of the office, and the adoption of the system would save all the delay, 466 trouble, friction, and annoyance that was now entailed on passengers.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said he could assure his hon. friend that any practical proposal in the direction he had indicated would receive his most careful and sympathetic consideration. He was afraid he could not give the information as to sugar bonding and certificates of origin desired by the hon. Member for Islington, but if that hon. Member would put a Question on the Paper he would endeavour to furnish him with it. The sum of £240 to which the hon. Gentleman had called attention represented allowances to the eight surveyors whose duty it was to deal with tea which was certified to be unwholesome and injurious to health. He was not an expert, but he was told that tea might be unpleasant to the taste and the smell, but at the same time it might not be necessarily unwholesome. Those officials had to deal with the tea after it had been certified as unwholesome and injurious, to health, and a certain allowance had to be given to them for that work.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said there was a sum of £4,660 on page 10 for port allowances. These were extras. Now, there was no more severe critic of these allowances on this Vote than the late Mr. Hanbury, who kept up a vigorous attack upon them and said he was determined to get rid of them. He was surprised to find that there was no sign of the present Financial Secretary taking any steps to remove these allowances; in fact, they were increasing. There was an item of £1,535 for "star" allowances to boatmen for rummaging, which was an entirely new item on the Votes. The Financial Secretary ought to explain what those allowances were for. He would also press the hon. Gentleman for an assurance that the matter would really be dealt with. The entire Estimates were confused by footnotes on every page. On one page a man's salary was given; and on the next page it was 467 shown that he was receiving £50 or £100 additional as an allowance. That was very unsatisfactory. It was also very peculiar that the rewards for the capture of smugglers remained the same. He did not know if the number of smugglers captured annually was the same; but if not, he wished to know what became of any sum that might remain over. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £1,500 in respect of allowances.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item B, 1 (Port Establishment, Salaries and Allowances) be reduced by £1,500."—(Mr. Whitley.)
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said that the Committee had been discussing the wages and emoluments of those men during the afternoon. Now, when a Vote was reached which conferred on the men certain pecuniary advantages, objection was taken to it. The whole tendency of the debate had been to ask for an increase in the salary of every class of men employed, and then, when a Vote was reached in which something had been done for the men, to move a reduction to it. Allowances might or might not be a satisfactory method of dealing with the question; but where special work was done there must be special remuneration given for it. It was not possible for him to give an undertaking to remove the Vote, as, if it were removed, increased expenditure would in the end be incurred.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
said that the hon. Gentleman did not appear to appreciate the point of his hon. friend. His hon. friend was a friend of economy; and, instead of lecturing him, the hon. Gentleman ought to welcome him as a co-operative worker in his own cause. Their contention, was in regard to increased pay that it ought to be provided on a certain specific basis. Allowances were not at all in accordance with ideas of economy, nor were they satisfactory to the men themselves. The allowances might be given to the workmen, and that was a system which could not be defended. The merits of the men ought to be recognised 468 and they ought to be rewarded accordingly. His hon. friend had raised a very important point; and he hoped, as a protest, that he would press his Amendment to a division.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said he ought to explain that the stars were granted for good conduct and efficiency when a man had served ten, fifteen, and twenty years.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he wished to know on what principle the allowances were granted. Did every boatman get a star; and, if not, what was the proportion of the men who did?
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said that every boatman whose conduct was good and who was efficient received a star at the end of ten, fifteen, and twenty years.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked what was the proportion of the men whose conduct was good and who were efficient?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that evidently the allowances were given by favour. Every man who did not get a star must be a man of bad conduct and ought not to be retained in the service. This was a very objectionable system. The stars were given at the discretion of the Commismissioners, and that was at variance with the entire principle on which the Civil Service was based. It was an admission that the conduct of the men who did not get a star was bad; and they ought to be discharged or their pay reduced. The star allowance was no part of the regular pay; it was an entirely novel and objectionable system, and was open, therefore, to very great animadversion, and its effect was to produce the greatest jealousy among the 469 men. Smith and Brown might have 'served for the same period. Smith might get a star and Brown might not, yet their characters might be considered equally good. The principle they had established in the public service was that not only was there to be no favouritism, but that there should not be even the appearance of it. Without voting against His Majesty's Government, he, however, considered that the system was extremely unsatisfactory.
§ MR. LOUGH
said he did not think the explanation of the hon. Gentleman was at all satisfactory; but as the hon. Gentleman was not familiar with the details he would not press the matter further at present. He would put down Questions, and if they were not satisfactorily answered he would raise the matter again on Report. The allowances referred to by his hon. friend were a very remarkable system of remuneration. Who settled the allowances, and on what principle were they given? Would the amount be continued from year to year? Last year the allowance for rummaging was only £410; this year that item had disappeared altogether.
§ MR. LOUGH
said that in that case the new allowances were four times greater than the old. The hon. Gentleman ought to tell the Committee plainly on what theory the system was based. Would it not be better that the men should get a living wage and fair treatment rather than be starved for ten years?
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he thought the Financial Secretary had admitted his case because, in the answer he gave, the ion. Gentleman stated that these allowances were an increase of pay given to the men in this way. It practically came to this, that there were three classes of men employed, and he submitted that the proper way to deal with this matter was to put down the proper wage paid to each class. It was quite clear that these allowances were not the reward of merit, but simply a method of meeting the 470 claims of the men for better remuneration. He held it was an objectionable method, and one which ought not to be adopted. How did the Financial Secretary propose to deal with the pensions of this star allowance class—the item of £1,500 was clearly only the beginning of it? It would increase from year to year as men came in. He proposed to divide the Committee, not as a protest against the men getting this extra money, but as a protest against these allowances, and as part of a systematic attempt to get all these items removed from the Estimates in order that the amount due to these men might appear in the Vote as "pay."
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
asked for information as to the method by which these allowances for good conduct were awarded. Were they given in every case after a number of years service if no report for misconduct had been made, or were they given only in exceptional cases when an exceptional report for good conduct was presented?
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said that the increase was given as a matter of course if there had been no report for misconduct. In future Estimates further details should be given. He would not go so far as to say that this item would in the future be dealt; with as salary, but the suggestion of the hon. Member for Halifax should receive his sympathetic consideration.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said that on that assurance he should not divide the House on this reduction. He asked for information as to the sum of £3,000 for rewards for the capture of smugglers.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said with regard to the sum put down for rewards for the capture of smugglers, it was, of course, an estimate. The sum put down would no doubt cover the average amount paid each year.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
asked if the hon. Gentleman could give the amount paid for the capture of smugglers in the past year.
§ *MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said the Committee ought to have some further explanation of this item. Smuggling in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland had greatly diminished, and no doubt the same tiling had occurred in other parts. It was perfectly absurd to deal with a matter of this kind in this way. Because it cost £3,300 years ago for the capture of smugglers were they always to see these figures in the Estimates?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
defended the Estimate of £3,300. As the Secretary to the Treasury had most properly said, sums of this kind were put down from an average. It was impossible to say what would have to be expended during the year and consequently a round sum had always been put down.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)
said that smuggling and the expenditure for the capture and detection of smugglers had gone on diminishing ever since the adoption of free trade, but it was perfectly certain that if the policy of the right hon. Member for Birmingham—
said it would not be in order to introduce the policy of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham into the discussion.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE
said he merely desired to point out that the answer of the hon. Gentleman amounted to another pledge on behalf of the Government that there would be no alteration of the fiscal policy of the country.
§ MR. DALZIEL
objected to the Motion being withdrawn. The simple point, he said, which had been tinder discussion 472 for the last two years, was whether certain officials should be paid according to their merits or whether they were, after fifteen years service, to have allowances. The hon. Gentleman had said he would consider this matter in a sympathetic spirit, and everybody knew that that meant nothing. Either there was something or there was nothing in this complaint. The men themselves were totally and entirely dissatisfied, and it seemed to him that if this protest was to have any effect whatever the Committee ought not to be satisfied with the explanation of the hon. Member. With regard to the rewards given for the detection of smuggling, if civilians got the money the men in the service did not benefit from them, if, on the other hand, these rewards were given to the men in the service, then it ought to be considered in the general rate of pay
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said that he had had considerable experience of public Departments, and he could assure the Committee that the pledge given to the hon. Gentleman meant that this matter would be seriously considered; that all the Papers would be brought in; and that the officials of the Treasury, who had to deal with this matter, and his hon. friend would in all probability come to a conclusion satisfactory to all parties. He thought the I hon. Member for Halifax was perfectly right to be satisfied with the assurance which had been given, and he hoped the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs would not persist in refusing to allow the Motion to be withdrawn.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said he only desired to ensure that this matter should be fully considered, and if the Secretary to the Treasury accepted the interpretation of the right hon. Member for Cambridge, he would not persist.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS
called attention to the fact that the greater part of this particular Vote was accounted for by the increase in the Statistical staff, and asked for an explanation as to the nature of that increase.
§ MR. WEIR
asked whether an item relating to an allowance of 4¾d. made in lieu of a ration of rum to the sailors on board the "Vigilant" might not now be allowed to disappear entirely from the Vote and the amount be added to the pay of the men. We were not in these days supposed to induce our sailors to drink rum, and, except in the case of the "Vigilant," the ration of rum had, he believed, disappeared.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,355,100, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 3lst day of March, 1905, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Inland Revenue Department."
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY (Yorkshire, W.R., Pudsey)
said that he had put down a Motion for a reduction of the Vote by £100 in order to call attention to the unfair and unjust treatment—almost, as he considered, illegal treatment—meted out by the Inland Revenue authorities to small unregistered friendly societies whose total revenue was under £160 a year. Large registered friendly societies like the Man Chester Unity of Oddfellows, which had accumulated a fund of £11,500,000 could take care of themselves. These large; registered friendly societies were exempted from contribution on account of income-tax on their investments. In reply to a Question the Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to these organisations as legal societies, and from that it might be inferred that those societies which were not registered were illegal societies. That, however, was not the case, for there was no obligation whatever, either moral or statutory, upon friendly societies to register themselves, and as a matter of fact they had just as much right to remain unregistered as those associations of people who amalgamated for one common object. A Committee of the House of Commons had reported that with regard to friendly societies there was no law which deprived the King's subjects of the right of amalgamation for their mutual benefit. It 474 had been shown upon high authority that unregistered friendly societies were in no sense illegal and were regarded as partnerships or associations of individuals for a special purpose. In his own constituency the Court Victoria Lodge of the Independent Order of Foresters had an annual loss on the working of £79, or in other words, its receipts were £278 and its outgoings £357. This lodge had an income of £105 a year from invested funds, which gave it a balance on the right side, and yet this society was called upon to pay income-tax upon the £105 per annum which it received from invested funds. Another society, the Loyal Duke William, showed a deficit of £71 a year, its total receipts being £221, and the expenditure £292. This Society had an income of £122 from investments, and consequently it was £51 a year on the right side, and yet it was called upon to pay income-tax upon the £122 a year which it received from investments. There was a small society in Littleborough called the United Methodist Free Church Funeral Society, and its receipts from contributions amounted to £7 10s. per annum. Its outgoings were between £9 and £12 a year, but it possessed an income of £15 a year from investments, which made its total receipts £22 10s., and yet it was called upon to pay income-tax upon that £15 when its total gross receipts were only £22 10s. He thought these was a great injustice to this small unregistered friendly societies.
The use of the expression "bodies corporate or politic as well as individuals" in connection with exemption did not, he contended, limit the exemption, but extended it. Persons or individuals remained in the same position as they were before. Those words were introduced to allow the big fish with incomes over £160 a year to escape, and they were not intended to retain the small fish with less incomes in the net. These words, generally, were intended by Parliament to permit big societies with large revenues to escape the payment of income-tax, and they did not exclude small unregistered societies which had an income under £160 a year and which under the law were regarded as partnerships of individuals from whom they ought not to take away the right of 475 exemption. He wished to know if the Secretary to the Treasury or the Solicitor-General could quote any section of the Act of Parliament which enabled the Inland Revenue official to charge any partnership undertaking or associations of individuals upon less incomes than £160 per annum. It was repugnant to common sense to believe that the law intended the Inland Revenue authorities to assess for income-tax the incomes of these small societies, which were associated for charitable purposes, and which possessed incomes from £10 to £15 a year. It might be said that these societies could get over the difficulty by registering themselves, but they did not want to take that course, because there was a great deal of red tapeism about registration which made them deal with their funds in a way which these unregistered societies did not wish to adopt. He did not think that the Act should be used to bring pressure to bear upon unregistered societies in this way. Consequently there was a great injustice and unfairness in the present practice. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that in the case of small unregistered friendly societies exemption was allowed on the ground that they were established for charitable objects, and Inland Revenue authorities would be glad to consider such Gases. He had brought instances before the notice of the authorities, and he was glad to say that exemptions had been allowed in those cases. This, however, raised a very big question, and either these payments of income-tax were legal or illegal. This was a most important matter, for there were thousands of these small and poor societies which could not afford to fight the Government. They ought to have their rights safeguarded by Parliament, and he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see that there was a case to be inquired into by the Committee appointed to deal with income-tax matters.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."—(Mr. George Whiteley.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
said that if he had known the hon. Gentleman intended to refer to the matter he would have refreshed his memory on the facts. It was rather a complicated matter, requiring some knowledge of law, and it was difficult for a layman to discuss it when he had not had an opportunity of perusing the papers for some time. The hon. Gentleman's point appeared to be that there were a large number of societies in a similar position to that for which he had obtained exemption.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY
said his argument was that all such societies had a right to exemption, and that it ought not to be a matter of grace.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that that was a matter on which he must take legal advice before giving an opinion; but he would look into the matter again and would inquire into the circumstances of the particular case to which reference had been made and wherein that case differed from others in which no relief was given.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY
said there would be no other opportunity of bringing up the matter this session, and there were hundreds of societies suffering injustice on account of the present method of procedure. If the right hon. Gentleman would give a pledge that the question could be brought up again, the discussion might be postponed.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he could not without any notice pledge himself to a novel view of the law or an alteration in practice into which he had had no means of examining. He thought the hon. Gentleman would have no difficulty in raising the point in Committee on the Finance Bill.
§ MR. WALLACE (Perth)
said the Solicitor-General was sitting on the Bench opposite, and he should like to ask whether the hon. and learned Gentleman agreed with the interpretation of the Section given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to his hon. friend in regard to the exemption from income-tax of such societies as those referred to. The answer was that the exemption in favour of persons whose incomes did not exceed £160 a year was confined to individuals and did not extend to these small unregistered societies, where the income-tax was deducted beforehand. He ventured to say that such an opinion could not be maintained for a moment by anyone who had read the section. The words of the section were perfectly clear, but he admitted that there was very great difficulty in dealing with questions of law in this House. He understood that the true method was that an unregistered society might make its claim to exemption, and if the claim was rejected, they had the right to have the question decided in a Court of law. He agreed that it ought not to be a matter of grace extended to one society, and refused to another. A dispensing power of that description might be a very dangerous one in the hands of the Executive.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said it was a little inconvenient to discuss a matter of 478 this sort on the Estimates. The proper time to discuss it would be when the Finance Bill was in Committee. He had introduced a measure of that sort more than once, but it had not been accepted by the Government. He suggested that an Amendment moved to the Finance Bill in Committee would be the best method of either clearing up the obscurity of the law, or amending it if necessary; and as the Government had left themselves probably the shortest time on record for completing so much sessional work as they had undertaken, hon. Gentleman opposite would have all the better chance on that account of securing a favourable consideration of such an Amendment.
§ SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)
said he must protest against the suggestion of his hon. and learned friend the Member for Perth that the small unregistered friendly societies should be obliged to go to a Court of law to settle the question of the legality of the remission of income-tax in their favour. He urged that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should settle the matter by giving instructions to the Inland Revenue not to collect the income-tax from these small unregistered friendly societies. He knew that some people were prejudiced against small unregistered friendly societies. He was not at all anxious to defend them, and would like to see them all registered; but there were many, especially in the West of England, which were not registered from want of funds. Some of them were very old indeed and did not want to break with ancient associations; but many of them had, according to the Registrar, done exceedingly good work, and, on the merits of the case, these 479 societies ought not to be called upon to pay income-tax.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he quite agreed with the general statement of the case by the hon. and learned Member opposite, that the Board of Inland Revenue ought not to have a dispensing power which they could exercise; arbitrarily at their own sweet will, or in accordance with the wishes of the Minister of the day. He thought it would be expedient if some strictly limited regulation should be laid down on sound general principles, and which would not be open to abuse. This was a legal question of great technical difficulty on which he was not competent to express an opinion; but he would undertake to look carefully into the matter, and be prepared before the Committee stage of the Finance Bill to inform the; hon. Gentleman what course of procedure I should be adopted. He agreed it was not desirable to put small societies to; the trouble and expense of a law suit to settled this matter if it could be settled by the investigation of the Government.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY
said after that statement by the right hon. Gentleman he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
*MR. CLAUDE HAT
said he wished to direct attention to the conditions of; service of the outdoor officers of Excise, whose duties were far more responsible than the duties of the indoor staff, namely, of second division clerks. An 480 outdoor officer could only reach a maximum of £250, whereas a member of the indoor staff could reach a maximum of £340. That was not to the advantage of the service, as could be seen from the evidence of Sir Algernon West, late Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, who said that the duties of the outdoor staff were more important than the duties of second division clerks. It was obvious when nine out of every ten officers were discontented that such a condition of affairs did not promote efficiency; and when it was considered that the work of these officers involved a great deal of tact and discretion, surely some recognition ought to be given to them. Moreover, any negligence or incompetence on their part would certainly result in loss to the revenue of the State. The subject was not a new one, although it had not been ventilated in the House. His hon. friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would, however, remember that two memorials had been presented to the Board of Inland Revenue and to the Treasury on the subject; and also that there had been a deputation of the officers affected to the Board of Inland Revenue, a second deputation having been refused. There had been no reconsideration of the case of those officers for many years, although their duties had in the meantime increased in amount and importance. He would move the reduction of the Vote by £200, as a protest against the action of the authorities in refusing, not an increase of pay, but an inquiry, when the evidence of such a very experienced permanent official as Sir Algernon West showed that those officers had a substantial case which merited investigation. It was constantly thrown in their teeth that they were 481 demanding economy on the one hand, and advocating increased expenditure on the Civil Service on the other, because, forsooth, Civil servants brought pressure to bear on Members of the House of Commons. So far, however, as he was concerned he was not aware that a single officer of the class to which he was referring resided in his constituency. The subject was one which must have been under the consideration of the Financial Secretary; and he hoped that the hon. Gentleman would be able to state the decision at which he had arrived; and that he would consent to the reasonable demand of the officers by instituting an inquiry by an independent Commission into the conditions of their service. He did not press for a Parliamentary inquiry; but should suggest that the precedent of the Committee which had inquired into the condition of certain classes of postal officers should be followed. That Committee consisted of gentlemen of wide business experience; and a similar Committee should be appointed to consider the conditions of service of the outdoor officers of the Inland Revenue. They should then know if the demands of those officers were or were not justified. He begged to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £200."—(Mr. Claude Hay.)
§ *Mr. WEIR
said he wished to refer to one or two matters in connection with this Vote. On the 10th of the present month he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as representing the Inland Revenue Department, what was the amount of the fines received in respect of people 482 neglecting to take out dog licences, and what was the average amount of the fines. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman was that the records kept by the Inland Revenue Department could not supply the information. A more miserable reply he had never heard. He contended that the books of the Inland Revenue: could not be kept properly, if indeed any were kept at all, in connection with; these fines. The Committee were entitled to know what had become of all this money. What had the Chairman of the Inland Revenue Department done with it? He hoped some information would be forthcoming. He would; also like to know what the Chairman; of the Inland Revenue had done with a sum of several thousands of pounds; obtained from the London and West minister Bank, representing the difference collected in respect to income-tax between 11d. and 1s. 3d. in the £ or a £9,000,000 4 per cent, loan of the Cape Government. It was the duty of the Inland Revenue Office to return this money to the agent for the loan. We should know how much money was received by the Inland Revenue Department and not accounted for. He further asked that; the Chairman of Inland Revenue should instruct surveyors of taxes in Scotland to take care that any returns which they were required to make as Assessors of Deer Forests should be accurate.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
drew sttention to the administration of the j Estate Duty Office, the changes in its I constitution and working, and their disastrous effect on the future collection of revenue. This office collected a revenue of between. £17,000,000 and £18,000,000 a year, and of late that 483 revenue had been found to suffer a decrease. That decrease was largely due to the Finance Act of 1894, but to a certain extent it had been due to the changes in the working of the Estate Duty Office. A very considerable proportion of the estate duties arose from arrears, and the collection of these involved a considerable amount of work on the part of the Estate Duty Office, He supposed that there was no office in the service of the State which had performed its duty so well up to a few years ago as the Estate Duty Office. The office had worked the Finance Act of 1894 with very great success, but for some reason the Government had appointed a Committee, presided over by the right hon. Member for Haddingtonshire, to reorganise the office. The Committee's suggestions had upset the whole office, changed every officer's duties, and had generally altered a system which had succeeded well for a hundred years. A new system had been introduced, which was a complete failure, as was shown by the letters appearing in The Times, complaining of the time taken to deal with the moat simple operations of the office. The new system had involved so much, extra correspondence that a very great delay had occurred, he understood, in the collection of the duty. He wished to put the hon. Gentleman on his defence in regard to the new system which came into operation in January this year. Would the Secretary to the Treasury deny that this new system bad been one of the most egregious and acknowledged failures that had ever occurred in a public office? At the present time he would content himself with making the broad statement that a very grave error had been 484 committed in the reorganisation of this office where alterations La principle and not in detail had taken place. He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Haddingtonshire was not in his place to explain the reasons why alterations which had been so disastrous to the work of the office had been made. Although the officials had done their best under the circumstances the new system had had a very serious effect upon the office itself. He asked the Treasury either to give up the new system and revert in principle to the old order of things or to grant another inquiry into the working of the present system.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
said he had not had the opportunity of going thoroughly into this question, but he had made most careful inquiries as to these complaints, and although there had necessarily been a certain amount of difficulty incurred in connection with the change there was no reason to believe that when the system, was in working order it would not prove to be thoroughly satisfactory. He was told that the arrangements were very satisfactory at the present time. It had been necessary to make not only changes in the system, hut structural alterations; and when the rearrangement was in working order there was no reason why the new system should not prove to be a success. If, however, the Government found that the system was not fulfilling the objects they had in view an attempt would be made to improve it to the best of their ability. As to the outdoor Excise officers, he pointed out that the work needed only a fair number of men who were in receipt of a moderate income and a small number 485 of men for the superior work. In justice to the taxpayers, the Department could not employ men at a much higher rate of remuneration. As a class, the men were receiving the remuneration applicable to the work they had to perform. They were doubtless entitled to bring forward their case, but the matter had been considered again and again, and he could hold out no hope of any alteration being made. To accede to the demand would, in his opinion, be wrong economically, and he did not believe it would remove the difficulty which at present existed.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS
referred to a difficulty experienced by persons entitled to abatements from income-tax. He held that inasmuch as it was constantly stated that a graduated income-tax was impossible, the least the Government could do was to make it as little difficult as possible for persons to obtain the abatements to which they were entitled, and to recover the excess amounts they had paid. The predecessor of the present Secretary to the Treasury had initiated a policy which had been a great improvement on the previous state of affairs, and he asked whether it was proposed to continue that policy.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS
further asked whether the Government intended to introduce a Land Tax Commissioners Name Bill in the course of the present Parliament. The Land Tax Commissioners were the persons who appointed the Income Tax Commissioners, but these additional persons had not been appointed for a very long time. Moreover, it was practically under the discretion of 486 the clerk to the Land Tax Commissioners whether these persons should be called together or not, and, as a matter of fact, they had not been called together as often as they ought to be. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would look into the matter with a view to seeing that the clerk apprised the Land Tax Commissioners of the meetings for the election of Commissioners of Income Tax.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
believed the Government contemplated bringing in such a Bill this session; possibly it would be laid on the Table in the course of a few days, and he hoped he would have the hon. Member's assistance in passing it into law.
§ MR. AINSWORTH (Argyll)
complained that the income-tax was collected much more strictly and earlier in Scotland than in England. Inasmuch as the system of taxation was the same in the two countries it was only fair that the system of collection should be the same, and he urged the Secretary to the Treasury to give his attention to the matter. If the Treasury were not prepared to deal with the matter off-hand, he suggested that it might be referred to the Committee at present considering questions affecting the income-tax.
§ *MR. CLAUDE HAY
expressed his astonishment at the reply of the Secretary to the Treasury with reference to the matter he had raised. Similar replies, however, were given when the grievances of postal servants were first brought forward, but an inquiry was subsequently granted, and he hoped a similar result would follow in the present 487 case. He had no desire to press the matter to a division on that occasion; he asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *MR. WEIR
complained that on the two questions he had raised no satisfactory information had been given. With regard to the excess income-tax paid to the Inland Revenue on account of the Cape Government 4 per cent. loan, the hon. Member merely said that the matter had been thoroughly threshed out, while the question of penalties inflicted on persons for keeping dogs without licences bad been altogether ignored by him. That was not the way to advance business in the House; Members were entitled to get information on the points they raised He should be the last to stand in the way of hon. Members having a night off, but he could not be a party to any arrangement whereby Ministers would be able to evade dealing with the questions brought under their notice. He hoped the hon. Gentleman representing the Treasury would take steps to see that the money illegally retained by the Inland Revenue was returned to the agents for the loan.
§ MR. VICTOR CAVENDISH
hoped the hon. Gentleman would not think there was any personal discourtesy in not dealing with the questions referred to. He was unable to add anything to the answers formerly given.