§ Report of Address brought up, and read.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he hoped the House would allow him to make a few observations on the Speech from the Throne, as he had had no opportunity of doing so yesterday. The right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) complained last night that the Government always objected to discussions on foreign questions as either too early or too late, negotiations being either in progress or having closed, and there was much force in that complaint. It was said by one hon. Gentleman last night that it was of no use crying over spilt milk, and certainly the observation was a just one so far as regarded the milk already spilt. But if by crying one could prevent other milk from being spilt in future, then the crying might be a very useful process. There could be no doubt that a great deal of milk had been spilt over the Treaty of Washington, and we must take care that a great deal more was not spilt over the Central Asian question. The Commissioners appointed by England to assist in drawing up the Treaty of Washington left this country two years ago, and the events that had happened in the time that had since elapsed were not such as to induce us to place much confidence in the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government. The object of the Commission that then went out was to obtain redress for certain outrages committed in Canada and to protect the Canadian fisheries—the Alabama Claims being only a minor point among the matters to be considered; 156 but what was the result arrived at? The very first thing we did was to give up our whole case by expressing regret for our conduct in the case of the Alabama; then we agree to a new law of nations, which was to have a retrospective effect; and when the questions of the Canadian raids and of the North American fisheries came up, the United States Commissioners shirked them as much as possible, and we were forced in the end to bribe Canada by a guarantee of £2,500,000. What had been the effect of this policy on our Continental relations? Passing by our conduct in the Franco-German War, which was not dignified, and certainly was not generous, Russia was induced by our American policy to demand the abrogation of the Treaty of Paris. Lord Granville at first met this in a very dignified manner, expressing his feelings as an Englishman, which led the Russian Ambassador to think there might be war; but afterwards, starting away—— as if afraid,E'en at the sound himself had made,he adopted an attitude which obliged the then Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Otway) to resign his post, he not thinking it consistent with his dignity or his duty to concur in such a course. And now the Central Asian question had arisen, and it was impossible for us not to feel that our conduct on several occasions for the last few years had led to it. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had compared the conduct of the Russian Government with regard to Khiva with our own conduct in reference to Abyssinia; but there was really no analogy between the two cases. An advance by Russia in the East might not be a casus belli, but it weakened our hold on India, for our Indian Empire was entirely one of prestige, and though a Member of the Government, speaking at the Mansion House some time ago, laughed at the word, it was prestige which enabled us, with a small Army, to rule over hundreds of millions. The permanent occupation of Khiva by Russia would certainly weaken this, and though it could not be supposed that she designed a conquest in the East at our expense, she might divert attention from her policy elsewhere, and oblige us, when an emergency arose, to send such a force to India as to weaken our power in other quarters. He gave Lord Granville credit for good intentions, but 157 had to complain of his lack of determination and energy. He had just given Notice of a Motion for Papers respecting the Suez Canal. He understood, although he had not the Papers on the subject, that soon after last Session, when Nubar Pasha went to Constantinople, the whole of those reforms were all but arranged. The French Government knew the importance of that question, and also that the vast proportion of the ships passing through the Suez Canal belonged to the English flag. Lord Granville, as far as he could understand, was weak enough to say that he could not act without the French Government, although he was supported by all the other Powers; and the whole question was now as far off from an adjustment as ever. As, however, they would have other opportunities of entering upon the subject of foreign policy, he would not discuss these matters at present. He would only say he believed that since that unhappy Treaty of Washington our influence in Europe had been diminished, and that in expressing his entire want of confidence in the courage and determination of Her Majesty's Government in respect to their foreign policy he was expressing the universal feeling of the country.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
rose, pursuant to Notice, to call attention to that portion of the Treaty of Washington which related to rights of Fishery as between the subjects of the United States and British North America respectively. He did so for two reasons—first, because it was a branch of the question which was not closed, and one, therefore, to which the attention of Her Majesty's Government might be directed with beneficial results; and, secondly, because that important part of the Treaty referring to the fisheries was made independent of the other Articles in that instrument. One of the first acts of the Government of the United States was to press Her Majesty's Government to use their utmost influence with the Government of the Canadian Dominion to allow the fishermen of the United States a prospective right of fishing in their waters. A proposal for that purpose was accordingly made by Mr. Fish to Sir Edward Thornton, and the President of the United States, on the other hand, was to use his influence with Congress to obtain a drawback in favour of the fishermen of our North American 158 possessions. The subsequent proposals of Mr. Fish unfortunately differed from what he had submitted to Sir Edward Thornton. It was specified that the American fishermen should fish in the waters of the Dominion, Prince Edward's Island, and Newfoundland; but when they came to the question of the drawback the important omission of Newfoundland was found to have been made; so that while the American fishermen were to fish in the richest waters of the Dominion that portion of the Dominion which imported very largely to the United States would not have the benefit of the drawback. That omission, grave as it was, entirely escaped the notice of the Foreign Office, but did not escape the notice of the Governor and the Legislature of Newfoundland. The Governor addressed a despatch, dated July 4, 1871, on the subject to Lord Kimberley, who, as in duty bound, immediately brought the omission before our Foreign Secretary. Lord Granville, he need scarcely say, placed the matter before Mr. Fish in a manner worthy of a British Minister; and Mr. Fish in his reply said that the omission had arisen from inadvertence. In the meantime, however, the United States fishermen fished in the waters of the Dominion, while there was a failure on the part of the American Government to induce Congress to fulfil their part of the bargain. The United States Congress, was, perhaps, a body more disposed to criticise the conduct of their Ministers than the House of Commons was, and he hoped the Under Secretary for the Colonies would be able to inform them whether Congress had yet taken any action on that important point. He wished also to know what was the nature of the evidence respecting the value of the fisheries which was to go before the Commissioners. He thought the only satisfactory evidence would be accurate Returns, which existed, of the fisheries of former years. If hard swearing was to be accepted in deciding on the relative value of the fisheries, he feared that the people of the Dominion were not likely to meet with their just dues. He desired information also whether the Legislature of Newfoundland had given its consent to that portion of the Treaty. By the 32nd Article its assent was expressly required; but probably the Colonial Legislature would be loth, as on former occasions, to stand in the way of what Her Majesty's 159 Government had for their main object—namely, to have done with the business on any terms whatever. Before concluding, he might be allowed to advert to some observations made last night by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there were Counter Claims now under adjudication. He should like to know of what those Counter Claims consisted. The right hon. Gentleman had previously quoted a passage delivered by Lord Derby; but the Counter Claims to which Lord Derby alluded were undoubtedly the Indirect Claims, which never came before the Arbitrators. The right hon. Gentleman denied that the loan to Canada was given as compensation for the loss of the fisheries. It was, however, given as a compensation for the loss and expense to which the Canadians were subjected in repelling the Fenian invasion. Any doubt on that point would be removed by a perusal of a communication from Lord Kimberley to Lord Lisgar. A quotation was then made from the Report of the Committee of the Canadian Privy Council, suggesting that instead of a money payment it was desirable that the Government should propose to Parliament a guarantee for a loan not exceeding £4,000,000, being half the amount intended to be raised for the railway. He did not wish to cast blame on the Government for its action in that matter; but he feared the decision in regard to the fisheries would be adverse to the claims of Canada, and, considering that the United States were even more averse to war than ourselves, he could not think that a wise policy had been adopted. In the first place, we had paid America—a great and rich nation, and the second naval Power in the world—for not keeping a Navy sufficently strong to destroy a contemptible piratical attempt on her commerce. And, further, we had paid our Dependency for wrongs she had received from another Power. He would, in conclusion, simply express a hope that the Under Secretary for the Colonies would be enabled to give him some explanation on the subject to which he had referred.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he would be glad to have some assurance from Her Majesty's Government that the Treaty with France should be submitted to the consideration of Parliament before it 160 was ratified. It was extremely important that the representatives of the people of this country should have some voice with regard to that Treaty as the representatives of France had in the National Assembly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had on the previous evening expressed a hope that the interests of the British manufacturer had not been needlessly and recklessly compromised by the Treaty, and he could not suppose that the Government had done anything which would lay their conduct open to that charge. It was not on that account, therefore, that he was anxious the House of Commons should be afforded an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion on the Treaty, but because he looked upon it as a grave question whether the interests of English manufacturers would not be better promoted by having no Treaty at all than by the operation of an instrument, prepared even with the greatest care—as he had no doubt the Treaty in question was—by the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office was, he thought, disposed to do too much rather than too little; and the best thing, he felt satisfied, which could have happened would have been that the French people should have been allowed to feel the effect of their commercial policy, which he believed to be retrograde and injurious to the interests of their country. The tax on the British flag would, he had no doubt, be found to be odious and objectionable by France herself; but be that as it might, he protested against what had been said by the Prime Minister on the previous evening, that the situation of affairs in France rendered it necessary that we should not refuse to enter into the Treaty; for it was a most dangerous policy for any Government to base its action on a regard for the special interests of any particular party in another country. The former Treaty was negotiated with a free trade Emperor, whose hands it strengthened to support a policy of free trade; but the proposed Treaty would only strengthen the hands of a protectionist President, and aid the French in a reactionary policy. With the precedent of the former Treaty, which Lord Palmerston presented for the consideration of Parliament, it would be more satisfactory that, before the Treaty was finally ratified, the House should be able to consider it.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
wished to know, in the interest of the taxpayers of this country, whether the £3,500,000 which we were to hand over to America under the Award of the Arbitrators at Geneva was to be paid in one year, or whether the payment was to be spread over a series of years. Yesterday, speeches had been made which, he thought, should have been delivered last Session, when the matter was still unsettled; and he would not join in the chorus of condemnation. He would, however, point out that we had already apologized for wrong we had never committed, and bribed Canada to concur in the proceeding; and that we were about to pay £3,500,000 for damages we had never caused. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told the people of Glasgow that we were to pay that sum to put the Americans in a good humour; but the effect was problematical. Only the most lively imaginations could conceive that we should derive any advantage from the transaction, because, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, the new Rules were not to be binding on anybody. He saw by a telegram from New York a few days ago that the amount which we were called upon to pay would exceed by £2,500,000 the value of the property destroyed, and it was recommended that after all just claims had been satisfied the balance should be paid into the United States Treasury. That, he supposed, must be regarded as an indirect way of paying the Indirect Claims, and as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the deputation who had waited on him a short time since on the subject of the malt tax that he could give them no relief because he had no surplus, he thought he was justified in asking him whether all surplus which the Revenue Returns showed he would possess was to be taken in the present year out of the pockets of the ratepayers to satisfy the American claim? If so, he, for one, felt bound, on behalf of his constituents, to protest against the gross injustice of such a course. The right hon. Gentleman told his audience at Glasgow that he had taken off £9,000,000 of taxation since his accession to office in 1868. The right hon. Gentleman, however, appeared to have forgotten that in the same period the Excise had increased by £5,000,000, leaving a balance in favour of the taxpayers of 162 only £4,000,000, and that of that £5,000,000 a large part was obtained from the malt tax, an impost which, although it had not arrived at the dignity of being mentioned in Queen's Speeches, pressed most hardly upon a very deserving class of Her Majesty's subjects. He trusted that in preparing his Estimates for next year the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give some consideration to the question of the reduction of this tax. They were always told, when they made these applications, that they were too soon or too late; and therefore he took the opportunity of mentioning the matter now. Turning to another point, he had seen in the late Message of the President of the United States a proposal for the settlement of the Alaska boundaries by means of a joint Commission to be appointed by the American and British Governments; but, in view of recent events, it would, in his opinion, conduce far more to the dignity of this country and to economy were we at once to concede any boundary which the Americans might choose to ask rather than consent to the appointment of any such Commission.
§ MR. LAING
said, he thought the tone of the criticism on the result of the Geneva Arbitration had been so generally hostile that it was advisable some brief expression of an opposite opinion, which he believed was very prevalent throughout the country, should be laid before the House. To a large extent he was at one with the hon. Members opposite. He agreed with them that new Rules of considerable importance had been introduced into the old international law; that the decision of the Geneva Arbitrators had screwed up those Rules to a higher point than Her Majesty's Government had contemplated when they acceded to them; that those Rules could not be regarded as forming a mere dead letter, and that they constituted a new and important chapter in the history of international law. At this point, however, he parted company from hon. Members opposite. He thought that the operation of the new principle which had thus been introduced into the old system of international law would be a benefit, and not a misfortune, to this country. Having due regard to the march of events, it was not surprising that international law as well as other matters of importance should require 163 modification and amendment in order to suit it to the changing circumstances of the world. The most important changes had occurred in consequence of an altered state of feeling on the part of civilized Europe with regard to war, and of an altered state of facts resulting from the enormous increase of commerce. The restrictions upon neutrals in time of war which formerly existed had become such an intolerable nuisance that they could no longer be put up with, and, consequently, it was laid down by the Treaty of Paris that a neutral flag should cover all goods, by which the rights of neutrals were greatly enlarged. But while it was imperative that the rights of neutrals should be thus enlarged, it was equally just that their obligations should also be enlarged. The feeling adverse to war upon principle, the conscientious dislike to go to war except as a last extremity, which originated in this country, had now spread over all civilized nations, and had compelled an alteration being made in public law. Endeavours were being made to limit the operation of war when it unfortunately arose, and to conduct it as humanely as possible. The general opinion was now entertained that neutral nations had no right to furnish belligerents with munitions of war, or to allow their ports to be made the basis of expeditions to be directed against a friendly Power. It was felt that such conduct was like that of a man who sold loaded pistols to two of his friends in order to enable thorn to fight a duel. Under these circumstances, he did not blame Her Majesty's Government or their predecessors in Office for having endeavoured to settle our dispute with a foreign country by arbitration, instead of going to war. Neither did he blame them for admitting the principles involved in the three new Rules. The difficulty we found ourselves in with respect to the Geneva Arbitration was occasioned, not by our having at length yielded to what was right, but by our having taken up a false position in which we eventually found ourselves outflanked—by resisting just demands; and it was to be hoped that we should learn, from the lesson we have received, the impolicy of setting down our foot as a nation in a position which we were afterwards unable to maintain. The position we had taken up, although not altogether untenable as judged by the old international law, 164 was one that the conscience of the country could not reconcile itself to, as being unjust as between nation and nation, and, consequently, we determined to submit the dispute to arbitration. Viewed in another light, however, it would be found that the principles which had been thus laid down would prove in the end most beneficial to this country. It was of the utmost importance to us, who had the largest commerce in the world and had ships in every portion of the globe, that our vessels should not be liable to be preyed upon by Alabamas fitted out in the ports of neutral nations, or permitted to coal there. He was satisfied that the establishment of a principle that would prevent the destruction of our commerce in the event of our being involved in war with any other nation was well worth the money we were called upon to pay for it. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, instead of being ashamed of the part they had taken in this matter, should rather feel that they had succeeded in laying down a principle of the greatest future benefit to this country, and should determine to proceed in the path on which they had already advanced so far. As to the French Treaty of Commerce, he did not wish to refer to it in any spirit of preconceived hostility. On the contrary, he was a warm advocate of the original Treaty. He thought it probable that when all the facts and arguments were fairly placed before the House he should incline to the opinion that, on the whole, the Government were right in concluding that Treaty. At the same time, seeing the opposition it had encountered from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and from many eminent men in France, he thought that before the House took any responsibility in the matter they ought to have a full and fair discussion of the measure before it was finally passed. Another point to which he wished to refer was the payment of the Alabama Claims. In Her Majesty's Speech it was said that that payment would be made in "due course." In those two little words, "due course," a very large question was involved; because if in due course meant within the present financial year, the surplus of the financial year terminating in March next would be sufficient to pay that indemnity or thereabouts, and the surplus of the ensuing financial year would, in 165 the ordinary course of things, be applicable to the remission of taxation. If, on the other hand, "due course" meant not till after March and the Budget had been produced, then, no doubt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be in a position to say—" Oh the surplus of 1872–3 is gone; it was appropriated by an existing Act of Parliament to the reduction of the National Debt; the surplus of 1873–4 is wanted for the Alabama Indemnity, and, therefore, I have no surplus, and. the deputations that assail me at Downing Street need not trouble me about it." Now, that course might be one which might save the Chancellor of the Exchequer considerable embarrassment; but he (Mr. Laing) felt with the hon. Member for Wiltshire that it was one which would not be very satisfactory to the country. If the ordinary taxation of the country for two successive years yielded a surplus of more than £3,000,000, the country expected, and had a right to expect, to receive some portion of it in the way of a remission of taxation. At any rate, without entering into that subject, he maintained that it was a fair question for deliberate discussion in the House whether, under these circumstances, the country should or should not enjoy some benefit by a remission of taxation. That was a matter which ought not in any way to be prejudged or precluded by the accident of the Bill for the payment of this cost being brought forward before Easter or after Easter. He should be glad, therefore, if any Member of Her Majesty's Government before the close of this debate would state what was meant by these words "due course," and would give some assurance that nothing should be done which would in any way prejudge the matter, or prevent the House from coming to a deliberate conclusion as to whether the whole of the surplus of this year should be applied in reducing the National Debt, and the surplus of the coming year should be appropriated to the payment of the Alabama Claims, or should be dealt with in the ordinary way for the benefit of the taxpayers.
§ MR. CORRANCE
adverted to the remarks which had been addressed to the House by the right hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), which could not be passed over in silence, and he (Mr. Corrance) did not 166 think that those sentiments were shared in by that side of the House. In the first place, they had the question of the Fenian raids entirely untouched; then the important question of the navigation of the St. Lawrence had been deliberately conceded; and there was also the question of the fisheries. What was the truth with reference to the indemnity that was to be awarded? He should wish to hear from the Government what provision and arrangements they had made upon this part of the question. Much dissatisfaction had been caused by the Treaty, and he had papers with him, though he did not wish to weary the House with them, which would show that by many the Treaty and all its provisions were utterly repudiated. Very much displeasure existed in Canada upon this question, and it was suggested that Government was obliged to purchase silence by a State grant. They had been told that this pecuniary compensation was a thing in itself insignificant. That he admitted, and that was the smallest part of the matter. But the question of the feelings of the people of Canada raised the most important issue that could come before them. What was the loss of a sum of £3,000,000 sterling compared with the loss of the affections of such a population? He thought that seeing how Canada had so far suffered, one generous expression might have been given to her in the Royal Speech. Considering the painful nature of some of the documents that had been placed before them, he thought that such sacrifices would justify something more than the cold acknowledgment which had been made. What he complained of was, that Her Majesty's Government, though conscious of the blunder, had not sought to rectify it. The Canadians had had great cause of complaint, and had not deserved the cold reception they had received, and certainly not the almost contemptuous terms in which they had been spoken of. The time might come when Canada and this country might part; but it should be remembered it could be a matter of no inconsiderable regret that she should part on terms which made her feel the humiliation of her position, and placed her in a controversial attitude towards this country.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said, he could not remain silent after 167 the special references which had been made to him, though he felt it to be inconvenient that such matters as the details of a Treaty should be discussed without the possibility of any practical result, and when no definite Motion was before the House. Such a discussion was the more inexpedient pending the legislative action of the Congress of America, which was necessary to give validity to the Treaty, and also when the Legislature of Newfoundland were about to consider the provisions of the Treaty as far as they applied to that island. He thought that a debate in this House upon questions which were then pending would be of no advantage. But he could not help saying with reference to the allusions made to-night, and also to the speech of the noble Lord (Viscount Bury) on the previous night, that there was no fallacy so great and no mistake so unfortunate as that conveyed in the statement that Canada had been or would be a sufferer by the Treaty of Washington. The interests of Canada had not been sacrificed, and Canada would be more and more prosperous through the working of the Treaty. If it were necessary, he could quote valuable collateral evidence on this subject. Only the other day he read in a Canadian newspaper a report copied from The Yew York Herald of considerable importance, and made by a correspondent sent especially to Canada on behalf of that newspaper in order to make himself acquainted with the wishes and feelings of the Canadian people as regards annexation to the United States. This correspondent reported that the great mass of the people of Canada were exceedingly hostile to annexation, and desired to retain their connection with Great Britain. He said, further, with regard to the refusal of the United States to renew the Reciprocity Treaty, that, while intended as a great blow to Canada, the United States really made a mistake in not renewing the Treaty. The House would remember that the Government were taunted with not having been able to induce the United States Government to renew it. But, according to this gentleman, the Canadian manufactures, which were at a standstill during the existence of this Treaty, began to increase in importance as soon as it ceased to exist, and the resources of the Domi- 168 nion were thereby greatly developed; and so, with regard to the present Treaty, he believed it would be found that the more you freed a country like Canada from restraint, the more she was encouraged to develop her own resources, the better and stronger her position would be. Prizing the affections of the people of Canada very highly, he was not afraid of losing them; and he believed the future of Canada would be so great, that the greatness of this country would be increased by the continuation of the intimate connection between them. As to the Canadian fishermen, it would be easy to show that they would always have a great advantage over American fishermen, and that if the American fishermen came in any number upon the Canadian coast, a trade would spring up there which would add materially to the prosperity of that country. On this point it was well to ask what was the opinion of the Canadians themselves. He did not rely only on the fact that in the late Parliament the Canadian Government had an immense majority in ratifying the provisions of the Treaty; but he might also point to the fact that in America the opposition to this part of the Treaty came from the American fishery States, while a majority of the representatives of the fishery States of Canada were in favour of the Treaty, and at the recent general elections the supporters of the Treaty carried all before them in those States. The testimony of impartial witnesses coincided with his belief that, so far from Canadian interests being sacrificed, the fishery provisions and other parts of the Treaty promised to be of great benefit to Canada. Upon a more fitting opportunity he should be prepared, if necessary, to go at greater length into these matters. He would not now touch upon the loan, because it was enough that a thing should be well done once without occupying valuable time by doing it two or three times over. On a future occasion it would be necessary to ask for the sanction of Parliament to the Imperial guarantee of the loan, and then there would be ample opportunity for hon. Gentlemen to call the loan a bribe or anything else. He would then be ready to show that this was no bribe, and that it was a wise and patriotic act on the part of Great Britain to guarantee such a loan for the purpose of developing the re- 169 sources of Canada. Hon. Gentlemen talked on Canadian subjects with some inconsistency. When they spoke in the provinces upon the general subject, they warmly advocated the Canadian cornicetion—in which he entirely agreed with them—and deprecated any act which might appear to deal with Canada otherwise than as part and parcel of the British Empire, with an identity of sentiment and of interest. But as soon as special questions like the present arose, they were too apt to speak of Canada under quite another aspect, as if a policy of a separate character was necessary for her interests, and as if those interests were to be considered quite apart from the general interests of the United Empire.
§ SIR CHARLES ADDERLEY
fully endorsed what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, and firmly believed that the provisions of the Treaty concerning Canada were most favourable to Canada, and were far better than the Canadians could have gained for themselves had theirs been an independent nation. Their own best statesmen acknowledged this. He felt sure their interests in the negotiation were as much cared for as our own, and he believed they had been cared for with more success. The liabilities which this country had drawn upon itself as a neutral nation were formidable. The decision implied that in future we should be liable not only for want of due diligence on the part of our officers at home, but on the part of officers in British colonies all over the world, although they were beyond our control, and although those colonies had no share in our debates, and were only connected with us by the common tie of loyalty to the Crown. But, passing from the American debate, the subject to which he was going to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government on Monday was one which he missed from Her Majesty's Speech; he meant the promised consolidation of the sanitary laws. He had understood the right hon. Gentleman to have almost pledged himself to complete what had been done on the subject during this Session. Last year an Act was passed which constituted local sanitary authorities all over this kingdom, and the Session before an Act was passed which constituted and consolidated a central 170 authority in the metropolis. Having made this staff provision, the Government must either leave the machinery to rust and become useless, or enable the country to make use of it. It would be most unfortunate if at the very outset of sanitary reform the local government of this country should be placed in this odious and unpopular position of complete appointments and salaries for work still left impracticable. The subject had been before the House, for two Sessions, in the form of a Bill which offered very little new legislation, but consolidated the existing provisions scattered about in various Acts, so confused as to be wholly inoperative. By collecting the existing law on the powers and duties of local authorities into one Bill, the House would enable the authorities which it constituted to enforce the important sanitary laws now upon the Statute Book. He should like to ask the Government whether the omission of this subject from the Queen's Speech was an admission that they were not prepared to complete the legislation of 1871, and of last year? The members of the Sanitary Commission concurred with him in the necessity, in that case, of reintroducing the Bill which had been for two Sessions already before the House. That measure had somewhat alarmed the House by its magnitude; but it had been much reduced by the Act of last Session, and by the Act of 1871, which two Acts had dealt with at least a third of the whole subject and he hoped that the Government would encourage the Sanitary Commissioners by some assurance that they would, if unable to deal with the remaining complement of the subject themselves, assist them to pass the measure recommended by them during the present Session.
§ SIR CHARLES WINGFIELD,
in reference to the advance of Russia in Central Asia, concurred with the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), in a speech to his constituents the other day, that if the only danger to our Indian Empire was the proximity of Russia, we might make our minds very easy. Russia had ample cause to seek redress for the manifold outrages committed upon Russian subjects in Khiva. Russia had disclaimed any intention to annex Khiva; but in the interest of humanity he should wish to see that country brought under her sway. Anyone who 171 read Mr. Vambéry's work on the political and social system of the Khanates would wish Russia every success in reducing this degraded population to order and civilization. It had been certain for years past that all these three Khanates would be absorbed at some time or other into the Russian dominions. He hoped that there would now be an end of these rumours of differences with Russia in regard to Central Asia, which had so suddenly excited the public mind, and that the conciliatory disposition shown by Russia would be appreciated.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
thanked the Government for the announcement of their intention to deal with the anomalies and grievances of local taxation; but he wished to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government the necessity of enabling the House at the earliest possible opportunity to see the Government measure. The subject was one of so difficult and complicated a character, that the country would require as much time as possible to consider the details before they were discussed in that House. He ventured to hope that the Bill would be so framed that hon. Members on both sides of the House would deal with it as they did with the Sanitary Bill of last year, totally free from all party and political considerations. He also hoped that the object of the Bill would not be to sow dissension between different classes and interests, between landlord and tenant, or between town and country; but that all parties would be able to accept the Government measure as a fair and impartial recognition of their mutual grievances. In such a case he could promise the right hon. Gentleman that hon. Members on both sides of the House who were interested in this subject would do their utmost to give him and the Government every possible assistance in bringing this difficult subject to a speedy and satisfactory and successful termination.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
wished to say with regard to the reduction of our Debt, that it would be wrong if in a year of exceptional prosperity no effort were made to reduce the National Debt.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, he hoped the Government would pass a Consolidation Bill, such as had been recommended by the Sanitary Commission, 172 with any improvements which might be suggested by the Government.
In answer to my right hon. Friend (Sir Charles Adderley), I am unable to say, on the part of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) and the Government, that it will be in our power to introduce this Session a digest or consolidation of the sanitary laws. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) has gravely considered the subject, and he has arrived, with regret, at the conclusion that the moment has not yet come when he could deal with this subject with the prospect of success, and in a manner satisfactory to himself. If my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir Charles Adderley) thinks it his duty again to submit his Bill to the House, my right hon. Friend, on the part of the Government, has every disposition to regard it with a favourable eye, knowing, as they do, the respect and sympathy due to the views and efforts of the right hon. Gentleman and to his knowledge of the subject. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) has expressed a hope—which amounts to putting a question on the subject—that the measures or proposals referred to in the Speech from the Throne in regard to local taxation will be shortly introduced; and the hon. Baronet has laid down the principle and intimated wishes on his own part and on the part of others with whom he communicates, which principles I accept in the spirit in which they were expressed, and with which principles I entirely concur. The object of the Government ought to be to do justice to each class and each interest; but nothing could be more blameworthy than an endeavour to set them one against the other. The hon. Baronet has intimated a hope that the measure of the Government will be laid on the Table at an early period, and I quite agree with him that it would be right that ample time should be given after such measure has been introduced, and before it is brought on for discussion, in order to enable hon. Members to state their opinions and take a definitive course. But last night the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) reminded me that I had given opinions in this House favourable to a very homely manner of transacting business, which appeared to receive the approbation of the right hon. 173 Gentleman—namely, that it is the duty of the Government, with respect to its more important and critical measures, which make the greatest demands upon its attention and upon the attention of the House, to do one thing at a time. All the expedition that we can give to the measure respecting local taxation, compatible with that ride, will be given to it; but I am quite satisfied that when we have other very great measures not yet introduced, it would not in the slightest degree tend to forward the object the hon. Baronet has in view were we to produce our measure with respect to local taxation. The rule of one thing—that is, one thing of a first-class magnitude—at a time, a very long experience in this House has convinced me is a rule absolutely vital to anything like a satisfactory transaction of the business of the Government in this House, and to that rule in this year, as in former years, we intend, as far as possible, to adhere. One word I would say with reference to what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), who expressed a desire that the House should be made acquainted, before its ratification, with the Commercial Treaty signed between this country and France. Now, it so happens that in the course of business the House will have an opportunity of judging of that Treaty at the earliest moment; for it has been already laid upon the Table, and it cannot be immediately ratified, because those provisions which absolutely require the sanction of the National Assembly in France are under the consideration of that Assembly, and some days must elapse—though, I believe, no long time—before the judgment of the Assembly is given. I trust the Treaty will be in the hands of my hon. Friend before the National Assembly will have had time to deal with it. One observation which fell from my hon. Friend it is my duty to notice. He appeared to think that when the gracious Speech from the Throne referred to special circumstances in the condition of France as requiring an equitable regard on the part of the Government of this country, we referred to some connection with the existing Government of France, and were disposed to draw some distinction between that Government and any other which the French nation might choose to select. I can assure my hon. Friend that in ad- 174 vising the use of that language we had not the smallest intention to convey any such meaning. In my opinion, the grossest of all errors which the Government or the Legislature of this country could commit would be committed if we were to presume to draw any distinction in the spirit and mode of our proceedings between one kind of Government in France and another kind of Government. What we have to do is to recognize the Government which the people of France have chosen to establish for themselves, and to deal with the Government so established in a spirit of national friendship and good-will. That, I assure my hon. Friend, is the principle on which we have proceeded; and when existing circumstances are spoken of as requiring at our hands an equitable regard, those existing circumstances which it would not be well to develop in a Speech from the Throne are entirely connected with the financial condition of France, and have no political meaning whatever.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
inquired whether the contents of the Treaty would come before the House in a financial form?
§ Address agreed to:—To be presented by Privy Councillors.