§ Report of Address brought up, and read.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
reminded the House that Her Majesty's Speech referred to certain measures of last Session which were dropped, and that amongst the measures so referred to was the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (18713) Amendment Bill. On that subject he wished to say a few words. He had no intention now to raise any discussion on that part of the Judicature Bill to which he specially alluded—namely, that which regarded the ultimate Appellate Jurisdiction of the House of Lords—a question of great importance, and one that caused a considerable amount of discussion last year. He also deprecated any opinion being given by Her Majesty's Government on a subject of so much importance on the pro-sent occasion. It was a question, indeed, of such great moment that it would only be properly and safely decided after the most mature consideration. He rose, therefore, only for the purpose of impressing on the Government the expediency of obtaining the opinion of the Judges on the question whether the Appellate Jurisdiction in the dernier ressort should or should not continue to be exercised by the House of Lords. He meant the opinion not of the English Judges only, but also of the Scotch and Irish Judges; and he hoped before the Government formed any definite decision on a matter, the importance of which, 79 both constitutionally and legally, could scarcely be overrated, they would obtain the opinion of those learned persons on that question.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that the sudden collapse of the debate on the Address on Friday made it impossible for any Member to offer any remarks at that time, and he was anxious therefore now to say a word or two which he would willingly have said on the previous occasion. After they had heard the very able speeches of the Mover and the Seconder of the Address, they had a speech from the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington) that fully justified the distinction which had been recently conferred upon him by his political Friends. But in the course of that speech the noble Lord did that which he (Mr. Bentinck) was now about to do himself—namely, to express regret at certain omissions in the gracious Speech from the Throne. He would do that, however, on very different grounds from those stated by the noble Lord. The noble Lord expressed his regret that in the Speech from the Throne—which they all understood to be an expression of the opinion of the Government—there was no allusion to "economy." Now, he should have regretted any such allusion. Hon. Gentlemen opposite sometimes appeared to labour under the erroneous view that Members on the Conservative side of the House took great pleasure in imposing taxes on the country—forgetting that those Members had to pay taxes themselves. On the other hand, it should be remembered that economy was not always a wise and beneficent thing—that unwise economy only meant wasteful extravagance; and he regretted that the noble Marquess should have advocated economy without reference to the grounds upon which it should be practised. With respect to the omissions in the Queen's Speech, there certainly existed in this country, whether well-founded or not, a strong feeling of apprehension that the Navy was not in the condition it ought to be in. He might be told that that was not a question for debate on the Address, but a question for debate on the Estimates. With that view, however, he did not agree. This was a great and grave question, and whilst one which might ultimately affect the Estimates, it was 80 also one that was fairly entitled to a place in the Speech from the Throne. Again, he might be told that in Her Majesty's gracious Speech we were assured that every hope was entertained of a time of peace throughout Europe; but then nobody could say that war was impossible. There was in the minds of the people of this country not long ago a strong feeling of apprehension that the position of our Navy was not what it ought to be, and the grounds of that apprehension had increased within the last few months. In the first place, what was the condition of our Army? The Army had, according to general opinion, become a mere nominis umbra, and it was feared that in a very short time the number of deserters would rival the number of recruits. If that were so, we were the more bound to look at the condition of our Navy. The increased armaments of foreign Powers rendered it necessary that we should have our own on a more satisfactory footing, not merely for the defence of the country—the defence of the soil—but for the protection of our commercial interests at sea in the event of complications arising by which we might be involved in hostilities. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us last year that he was determined we should not have merely a phantom fleet. The right hon. Gentleman had not the opportunity last year of bringing about the improvements that were desirable; but it was to be hoped, as we were entering on a now Session, that he was about to take measures which would place the Navy of this country in a position to enable us to defend our honour and protect our interests. There was another point of very great importance which must be regarded as an omission from the Queen's Speech. The people of this country had for years past boon horrified by numerous and frightful railway accidents. It might be said that that was a matter of detail, and not a question that ought to be raised on the Speech from the Throne; but when we looked at the frightful character of the accidents which had occurred, and their number, it became a question which concerned every man throughout the length and breadth of the land. Seeing that those accidents might be in a great degree ascribed to the maladministration and rapacity of Railway Boards, the time had, he con- 81 tended, arrived when it was the duty of the Government to interfere in the public interest. It had been shown by the clearest evidence that the great majority of the accidents on railways might be prevented by a resort to the commonest precautions, which Railway Boards for some cause or other seemed determined not to adopt. As to the financial question, he said it was a question of "blood and money. He knew how strong the railway interest was in that House, and he asserted this—that there was no man in that House who would assert that railway accidents could not be prevented by a careful system. He therefore hoped, inasmuch as the subject was one which concerned the community at largo, that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, with whose kindness of heart and energy they were all so well acquainted, would take the subject into his serious consideration. It was argued, indeed, on behalf of the railway companies, that further legislation would diminish rather than otherwise the responsibility of Railway Boards; but that was a proposition which he entirely denied, for the more severe and stringent the legislation the greater, he contended, would be the responsibility of those Boards. It was admitted on ail hands that those numerous accidents might in most cases be prevented by Government interference and legislation; and, under these circumstances, if the Government were not prepared to deal with the subject, the responsibility must rest on the Government's shoulders. Accidents were occurring nearly every day, which could be prevented by legislation. He therefore asked his right hon. Friend in the interest of humanity to bring forward a Bill on the subject as soon as possible, and put an end to the present state of things.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
observed, that there was only one paragraph in the Royal Speech which referred to Ireland, and that said that—The various statutes of an exceptional or temporary nature now in force for the preservation of peace in Ireland will be brought to your notice with a view to determine whether some of them may not be dispensed with.Now, this was a very excellent paragraph as far as it went; but he thought it would have been more candid on the part of the Government if they had stated what 82 was the fact—namely, that Ireland was in the enjoyment of profound peace, and that the Judges of Assize had for the last two years had very little work to do; so much so, indeed, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in a speech made at Dublin during the Recess, had openly said that the time had come to consider whether the number of Judges might not be reduced. Perhaps that confession on the part of the Ministers would have involved too direct a compliment to the Sister Isle; but the compliment would, nevertheless, have only been the truth, although it might have reflected too much on the remedial measures proposed for the country—not by the pre-sent, but by the past Government. So far as he was concerned, he should feel it his duty not to consent to the retention of a single link of the chain called the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Acts, as he thought from what occurred last Session that the National Representatives had a right to expect that the whole of that most unnecessary and oppressive code would be repealed. In the paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech following the one he had alluded to, it was mentioned that several measures which were postponed last Session would be again introduced. He would observe that five-sixths of the measures alluded to in the Speech at the commencement of last Session had been postponed, and what was the reason of that? Simply, that Parliament had such a quantity of legislation before it that it could not be disposed of even if hon. Members sat from the 1st of January to the 31st of December. Under those circumstances, he thought it would be for the advantage of the Government if they could get rid of some of that legislation; and they might begin to do that by relieving the House of Irish affairs, which were undoubtedly a great burden and cause of grievance to English and Scotch Members. He asked them, therefore, to give Irish Members freedom of thought and action in a Home Rule Parliament, where they might settle their affairs themselves. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), in moving the Address in reply to Her Majesty's Speech, alluded to the deterioration of the artizan class, caused by their miserable and inadequate dwellings; but what was the case in Ireland? 83 There you have a country suffering not from the deterioration, but from the extermination of its people. Between the years 1861 and 1871, no less than 1,626 houses disappeared from the face of the county which he had the honour to represent (Mayo), and within the same period 27,496 of the people emigrated to foreign lands. Why was that? It Blight be said, because there was no room and no land for them in Ireland. Such, however, was not the case, as there were 6,000,000 of acres of waste lands in the country, at least two-thirds of which might be cultivated. It might be asked, Why did not the Irish people cultivate this waste land? He would toil the House. It was because Ireland was one of the few unfortunate countries in which the land was not hold by the people, but by an absentee oligarchy, who had obtained it by numerous confiscations, and who were ever ready to assert their rights, but slow to perform their duties. He had not spoken with the desire to introduce any inharmonious element to the somewhat formal proceedings connected with the reception of the Speech from the Throne. He had spoken simply in order that it might be understood at the outset that he—and he believed the Gentlemen with whom he had the honour to act—would not allow the business of Ireland to be neglected. If the Government would not allow them to discuss Irish affairs in a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin, they should hear of them constantly at Westminster.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, he wished to say a few words upon the subject of Local Taxation. There was great dissatisfaction with the small notice taken of this matter last year, and with the total omission of the subject from the Queen's Speech this year. The rigid hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government said that this was a matter which would be properly dealt with when the Budget came on; but it was to be feared that the surplus would not be sufficient to give thorn very great hope of getting a grant in aid of local taxation. Besides, he was one of those who did not look much to grants in aid, because the amount of such grants went principally to the towns. A grant in aid was not the way to reach the root of the evil; but it was like skinning over the wound and leaving it rankling un- 84 derneath. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to a deputation that waited upon him last year, used these remarkable words. He said—The system of raising general taxation for general purposes from one particular kind of property inflicted as great a violation of justices as could well be conceived.In his (Sir George Jenkinson's) opinion the total exemption of one class of property from local taxation was the main evil to be dealt with, and nothing but legislation to remedy that evil would give the relief desired. He trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Ministers would not lost the great opportunity now afforded thorn, and that they would introduce during this Session a measure which would effectually put an end to the present unsatisfactory state of things.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, he regretted that the question of University reform, which possessed considerable interest for a large class of persons inside that House and out of it, was conspicuous by its absence from the gracious Speech from the Throne. There was a wide-spread desire existing among men of all parties in the Universities both of Cambridge and Oxford that this question should be settled, and pending its settlement several important questions—among others the tenure of Fellowships and the contributions of the Colleges to the Universities—remained in abeyance. 'The members of the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford looked forward to the appointment of a Royal Commission as the arbitrator in this difficult question, and they hoped that the absence of all mention of the subject in the Royal Speech was not to be taken as proof that Her Majesty's Government considered the subject as unworthy of their attention, but that either a Royal or Parliamentary Commission would be appointed to investigate the subject. He believed the latter would be the better of the two. At a recent mooting held at Oxford, which was attended by a great many eminent members of that University, the general wish was for the appointment of a Commission; but should not that be in accordance with the views of Her Majesty's Government, it might be hoped they would state what they intended to do.
said, he hoped that, in the promised measure for the 85 prevention of the pollution of rivers, powers would be taken to prevent also obstructions, which the Board of Trade had hitherto admitted their inability to deal with satisfactorily. The obstruction of rivers was a growing evil in many parts of the Kingdom, and required to be prevented. If the only achievements of the present Session were to be the prevention of the pollution of rivers and the removal of the obstructions, those results would be sufficient to vindicate its right to public gratitude. The bill of fare contained in the Royal Speech was an ample one, and in some respects it was possibly too strong. On the subject of local taxation, he wished to see a more accurate definition of the question The general taxes of the country were levied under Acts of Parliament, and the taxpayers could clearly understand what they had to pay; but the local rates, though nominally levied by local bodies, depended as to their amount upon the representations of official persons who had no sort of interest in the diminution of the burdens, but whose interest, in fact, lay in the opposite direction. Those who imposed the rates wished to indulge in a vicarious philanthropy. The wished, as the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) said of them, to play the part of the Good Samaritan, without providing the oil and the two-pence. Something might be done, perhaps, to remedy the evil by means of subventions; but, as a general rule, subventions were clogged with conditions which increased the expense, and could not, therefore, be resorted to with general advantage.
§ MR. JOHN MARTIN
said, he believed that an understanding had been arrived at between the British Representatives—who formed an overwhelming majority in the House—that the Address in reply to Her Majesty's gracious Speech should be passed without an Amendment being put to the House. He could very well understand such an arrangement being made by those who wished to make things pleasant; but he must be permitted to say that the position of the Irish Nationalist Members—who formed the majority of the Irish representation in the House, and who were alone authorized to speak with the voice of Ireland—was a very peculiar one. There seemed to be a prevailing 86 disposition in the House to ignore the peculiarity of the position occupied by the Irish National Party. It was expedient at the beginning of the Session that the position of that Party should be clearly defined. As a Member of the National Party, he wished to express what his view was of the position of himself and his Colleagues. They were sent there to be entitled to all the rights which were enjoyed by other hon. Members; but their special mandate and mission was to tell the House that the nation which they represented, and which had been deprived of its National Parliament 75 years ago, had never given its consent to that usurpation. They were sent there to make that known with all courtesy and kindness, but distinctly and unmistakably, to that House—to say that Ireland demanded back her National Parliament. The vast majority of the people of Ireland, as well as the majority of the Irish constituencies, had empowered the Irish Nationalist Members to demand the restoration to Ireland of her National Parliament, Ireland continuing under the British Crown and forming a member, as this country did, of the British Empire, and that new arrangements of a confederate character should be made which should be just and honourable to both parties, and which might tend to strengthen the ties and sympathies, and promote the common interests of the two countries.
said, the statement in the Royal Speech that Her Majesty continued to receive from all foreign nations assurances of hearty good friendship must be satisfactory to them all. There could be no doubt as to the existence of those feelings; but all pleasant assurances notwithstanding, was there a Member of that House who had studied the map of Europe, who did not feel that there was every reason to fear that Europe was on the verge of a crisis in the last quarter of the 19th century we had so nearly reached—a crisis which when it happened would be more terrible in its aspects and consequences than that which marked the corresponding period of the last century—a crisis which would inevitably leave wide-spread calamity behind it, and probably produce changes of vital importance in the political relations of those kingdoms that would be 87 involved in the struggle or be subject to its influences, nay, he might add, of a catastrophe more tremendous than had boon seen since the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Foreign nations expressed and felt friendship towards us—some of them might presently need our assistance—but what were their feelings one towards another? Wore not the seeds of irreconcilable quarrels now germinating? To descend from speculation to fact, they had heard of Count Valerian Skrayinski's Doctrine of Nationalities, and they had read of the Pansclavie conspiracy, which, when the proper moment arrived, was to unite the whole of the Selavonian race in one great Empire under the guidance and rule of Russia, thereby giving her throe parts of Hungary, two-fifths of Germany, and a largo slice of the Turkish dominions. In addition to this pleasant prospect, were they not well aware of the dire hatred of France towards Germany, and that at this present time the bitterest of quarrels was still raging between the Gorman rulers and the Sacerdotal Power, while everywhere the revolutionary forces were biding their time, waiting for the moment when they should rend into shreds the property of others. As the time was approaching when all these divers disputes would be referred to the arbitrament of the sword—for in his humble judgment there was no other way of settling them, and the modern European military system would furnish not only every State but every fraction of a State with soldiers—it seemed to him that we should not put too much trust in Princes nor in pleasant phrases, but ask ourselves what we intend to do in all this turmoil? Surely not to stand here all the day idle? And if we intended to prepare ourselves for the coming events, it was time that we began to consider how to sot about it. And this brought him to another subject alluded to in the Speech. He meant the military condition of the Empire. From all he had read and gathered, nothing had been so unsatisfactory the last few years as the state of the military forces of this country. The childish ignorance displayed by Lord Cardwell when he introduced his three years' service system, which had only to be made public and recruiting in this metropolis was at once stamped out, followed by the hasty withdrawal of the 88 measure, and the substitution of the six years' man, another grave mistake, in his humble opinion, showed how a statesman could play at making soldiers. He was thankful to know that, under different auspices, we were gradually arriving at a better condition of things for the Army. Meantime he was of opinion that there was only one point in military affairs on which a sincere patriot could dwell with satisfaction, and that was the uprousing of the martial spirit of the country by the formation of the Volunteers, and the spread and knowledge of the use of arms amongst a largo portion of the population by the long continuance of that force. This spirit must be encouraged, and this knowledge extended, despite the modest proposal—or he might say the monstrous proposal—of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock), who, with one stroke of his pen, would expunge that force from The Army List. In confirmation of his (Colonel Beresford's) view as to the expediency of improving our military condition, he would quote from a loading article in The Times of the 18th of January the following passage:—In the gloom that surrounds us one thing is perceptible. All men are arming themselves. It is the darkness that may he felt, and the sensation is not imaginary. At the word of command, Germany is arming en masse, and the surrounding nations—that is, the best part of the world—cannot but do as she does.On the near approach of the powers of evil, miltary tyranny on the one hand, anarchy and spiritual usurpation on the other, if freedom, good government, and common-sense were to retain a local habitation and a name, it could only be when supported and sustained by the British race in every quarter of the globe. It therefore behoved us to draw still closer the ties which bind our Colonies to the mother country by giving them their full share of the powers, the honours, and the responsibilities of this great Empire, and he trusted that the day was not far distant when representatives of colonies would take their seats in that House. The tempest he had depicted might not come to-day or to-morrow, but many in that House would assuredly live to see it. But all was not evil; and if it were permissible to feel pleasure in the face of a storm, that pleasure might arise from the fact that the cant and 89 self-seeking, the vanity and frivolity which had disfigured the last two quarters of this century would then be swept away, and common-sense be once more knocked into the brains of men by the unanswerable logic of external circumstances.
said, that as an Irish landlord he should be doing injustice to his countrymen if he did not rise to vindicate them from the attacks made upon them by a former speaker. He was no Home Rider, and he had no feeling in favour of what was called Home Rule; because he thought that real Homo Rule was to be found in the union between Ireland and England. He, as an Irishman, felt as deep an interest in the prosperity and welfare of his native country as did any Irish Member in that House. A great many speeches had been made in favour of Home Rule by a set of men who went about the country making a parade of their patriotism, and people's minds had been filled by them with statements with respect to tyranny and oppression on the part of Irish landlords which he (Mr. Herbert) would contradict as much as he could do in that House. They had but a few moments before hoard it stated in that House that, while the Irish landlords were ready to enforce the rights of property, they were forgetful of its duties. He, as an Irish landlord, felt indignant when he heard such unfounded charges made against the Irish landlords. He could name hundreds of them who were ready to do anything in their power to ameliorate the condition of the Irish people, and who were as desirous of promoting their prosperity as any of those public agitators to whom he had alluded. With respect to the exceptional statutes alluded to in the Royal Speech, it was a well-known fact all over the country that the operation of those Acts had saved the lives of many of Her Majesty's subjects. They had produced both peace and tranquillity throughout the country. Still, no one would rejoice more than he would to see them repealed. But when they had had murders all over the country, and now found that those murders had ceased, the fact was in itself the best proof of the necessity which had existed for the exceptional legislation to which reference had been made in the Royal Speech.
§ MR. RONAYNE
considered that the hon. Member (Mr. Herbert) when he spoke of murders being general throughout the country had vilified the county which the hon. Gentleman himself represented, for to his (Mr. Ronayne's) own knowledge there had not been agrarian murder in that county for the last 30 years. He believed the Kerry landlords knew how to take care of themselves, and he had heard from one of the largest agents that the land there let at about 20 to 25 per cent higher than land of the same agricultural value in other parts of Ireland. He had known the hon. Member to attend meetings of farmers' clubs when they discussed the very question to which he had himself alluded. The hon. Member was, he behoved, a member of the Kerry Farmers' Club, and prior to the Kerry election he frequently attended meetings of that club. There was one part of Her Majesty's Speech to which he de-sired to refer—namely, its statement as to the general prosperity of Ireland. He presumed that the Government had had their information from the same source from which the Lord Lieutenant derived his in order to make the speech he recently delivered. Well, his Excellency and the Members of Her Majesty's Government were not shopkeepers in Ireland. They were not trades-people in that country. They did not derive their incomes from the dividends arising from Irish railways. If that were so, they would have known that the last three years had been years of pressure and not of prosperity. A Gentleman well known in Ireland, and a Member of that House, stated at a mooting of one of the principal Banks in the South of Ireland, of which he was the Chairman, recently hold, that business had not been so bad for many years as it had been during the last three years. There had not boon for many years so many civil bill processes, or so many judgments against farmers and shopkeepers in country towns, or a period when business had been so bad. There was only one index from which he presumed the statement as to the prosperity of the country had been drawn—namely, that there never had been such an attempt on the part of the landlords as there had been during the present year to raise the rents, especially in the county of Kerry.
§ MR. CLIVE
, in reference to the assertion that rents had been raised 25 per cent in Kerry, and yet that no agrarian outrage had occurred there, observed that in that view high rents were indicative of peace and tranquillity. As a Mayo landlord, though not an Irish Member, he could not allow the statement made with regard to that county to pass unchallenged.
§ MR. RONAYNE
wished to explain that the statement he had made, on the authority of the largest agents, was that the rents in the county he had mentioned were 20 to 25 per cent higher on land of the same agricultural value than in other parts of the country. Possibly, the rents in Mayo were higher still.
§ MR. CLIVE
said, if that were so high rents did not tend to tranquillity, as there had been many murders and attempts to murder in that county within the last two or three years. A description of these he would reserve for the debate on the Motion to be brought forward with reference to the coercive measures for Ireland. He had been connected with Mayo for 25 years, before the hon. Member for the county (Mr. O'Connor Power) had even visited it, and during that period his time and money had been devoted to the civilization of the population, the improvement of their condition, and the cultivation of the land. The hon. Member spoke of 6,000,000 acres of uncultivated land. Of these about 40,000 belonged to him, and he had endeavoured to reclaim thorn as far as his moans allowed. It cost from £15 to £20 an acre to do so, and it was merely fine declamation to say that waste land could be reclaimed by the people. It required capital, and time, and labour to reclaim land. He presumed that the hon. Gentleman included Lord Dufferin and other Irish landlords in his denunciation of the class, though he know that that noble Lord and 20 other eminent landlords whom he could name had exerted themselves most praiseworthily for the improvement of the cultivation of the country. He should like to know what the hon. Gentleman had done himself. How many acres had he reclaimed? How many lives had he by his exertions saved? Why, during the famine he (Mr. Clive) had had 500 or 600 men and boys in his employment reclaiming the very land to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded 92 as waste and uncultivated; and in those efforts he might fairly say that, at a time when if one walked out he would meet the wandering spectres of men and boys at the point of starvation, he had saved many lives. A great deal of land had been reclaimed, and cultivated by the landlords. The hon. Member had said Ireland was tranquil, and the Judges were idle. If the Judges were idle, it was because crime could not be detected. He would take an opportunity, when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland brought in his promised Bill, of alluding to that subject; but he might in anticipation say that the tranquillity of Ireland was more duo to the measures of the noble Lord the present Leader of the Liberal Party (the Marquess of Hartington) in that House, when he was at the Irish Office, than to the measures of his predecessors.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I should be very glad to have spared the House the few remarks I feel bound to make, and might have done so, if the hon. Members who have addressed the House had spoken on the first night of the Session instead of on the Report of the Address. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) complains of the debate on that evening having collapsed. Well, Sir, I am not answerable for the debate having collapsed. After the noble Lord the Loader of the Opposition had concluded his speech, I declined for some time to rise, in order that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House might have that opportunity; and if they had availed themselves of that opportunity, it would not have been necessary for me to make the observations I have now to trouble the House with. The hon. Member for West Norfolk complains of two omissions in Her Majesty's gracious Speech—one with respect to our armaments, and the other with respect to the present state of our railroads. The hon. Member for West Norfolk is impressed with the conviction that the state of the British Navy is at this moment very unsatisfactory, and he gives it as his opinion that Her Majesty's Government ought to have taken an opportunity in the Royal Speech of announcing remedial measures in that respect which would have boon satisfactory to the country. Now, I may re-mark, in the first place, that that would have been a course unusual to adopt. 93 It is the duty of the Ministry of this country to assure themselves that the state of the defences of the country is satisfactory, and that the armaments at their command are ample and adequate to protect the commerce and settlements of Her Majesty, and in that case the House will wait until the proper opportunity is afforded to those who are responsible for the Government of the country to go into the details of the subject. The rules of our Assembly and of our procedure are framed with a view that the House should have an early opportunity of assuring themselves on those important matters; and I cannot at all agree with the hon. Member for West Norfolk that it was our duty, whatever steps we may take with regard to the supply the House may grant us to maintain the forces and armaments of the country, to make that announcement in Her Majesty's gracious Speech. The hon. Member is, however, convinced that the state of the Navy is in every way inadequate to the duties it has to perform, and to the requirements of the country; but I might remind the hon. Member that one ought not too easily to adopt those rumours which often get afloat in a free country like England. The hon. Gentleman may, I think, gather some intimation of the expediency of being guarded and temperate in remarks of the kind he has made at this period of the Session from the cursory allusion he made to the state of the Army. The hon. Member did not dwell at such length upon the unsatisfactory condition of the Army as he did on that of the Navy, but he spoke of its condition in terms not more measured; and I recollect he said that, so far as the British Army was concerned, he believed that at this moment the number of our recruits was equalled by the number of our deserters.
§ MR. BENTINCK
The right hon. Gentleman has mistaken what I said. What I said was, that, if we could believe what we hoard, in course of time the number of deserters would vie with the number of our recruits.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Well, I do not think the explanation of the hon. Member materially differs from his original statement. I believe I am correct in saying that the number of recruits this year exceeds the number last year by 3,500, while the number of deserters this year 94 is less than the number last year. The hon. Member and the House must therefore see that there was not the slightest foundation for even the revised statement he has made. Well, now we come to the next complaint of the hon. Member—namely, the omission in Her Majesty's Speech of any reference to railways, their condition, and the consequences of their management. The hon. Gentleman has assumed that we have made that omission because we regard the subject merely as a detail. I cannot in any way agree with the hon. Member in that view. I cannot conceive any subject of greater interest to the country, or one more grave in its character and consequences, than the condition of our railways and their management; and certainly I should have felt it my duty to advise the insertion of a paragraph in Her Majesty's gracious Speech alluding to the unsatisfactory condition of our railways if I had not remembered what the hon. Gentleman certainly did not seem to remember in the early part of his observations—that only last Session Her Majesty was advised to issue a Royal Commission formed of eminent and able men from both sides of the House—of men of science and of great experience—to investigate the whole subject of the management of our railways. It is also notorious that this Commission have pursued their investigations with great energy—I will not say with completeness, because they have not yet given us their Report—in various parts of the country. Any notice of the railway traffic of this country in the Queen's Speech, under such circumstances, would have been only a barren allusion. It must be clear to the House that we must await this Report, which, I believe, will be a voluminous and important Report, and no doubt afford materials for useful and beneficial legislation upon the subject. The remarks on the Report of the Address were varied by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), who remarked upon the passage in Her Majesty's Speech referring to Ireland. It is a passage which, as far as the hon. Member and his friends are concerned, could scarcely be interpreted in a hostile sense. The hon. Gentleman, however, seemed to make it the occasion for commencing an invective against Her Majesty's Government and the House of Commons, 95 and for assuring us that every possible obstacle will be raised against the satisfactory accomplishment of business hero. The hon. Member for Mayo might, perhaps, have recollected—it would have been a graceful act on his part if he could have reminded the House at the time he made those observations—that there was a special proclamation last Session against the county he represents, and that during the Recess this special proclamation against the county of Mayo was withdrawn. The hon. Member, however, was too excited by his subject to remember this slight incident. He informed us that such was the state of repose and tranquillity in the county of Mayo and in Ireland generally, that the Judges in fact had nothing to do; while the hon. Gentleman who followed him later in the debate (Mr. Ronayne) assured us that there never were so many actions, and so many judgments, and such busy work apparently in every department of the legal and judicial establishments of Ireland as at the present moment. [Mr. RONAYNE: I referred entirely to civil business.] I shall be very glad if, when the time arrives of which we have boon warned, this singular contrast as to the state of Ireland, presented by equal authorities, can be felicitously explained. My hon. Friend the Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson) has introduced what he seems to think a novelty into the debate—namely, the subject of Local Taxation; and he says he very much regrets that, both in the Queen's Speech and in the debate which took place on Friday night upon it, no notice was taken of the question of Local Taxation. Now, I, on the other hand, thought that the most considerable portion of the evening on Friday was spent upon that grateful question. [Sir GEORGE JENKINSON: I did not mean that.] My impression as to my hon. Friend's allusion may be erroneous, but it is shared by others near mo. The point, however, is not of much importance. I can only say that every remark which my hon. Friend has made to-night on the subject of Local Taxation was, I think, fairly met in the debate the other night. We have never stated that we shall bring forward a largo measure on Local Taxation. We told the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, who touched upon the subject, that there were many Bills coming 96 forward which indirectly dealt with that weighty question. Were plied to him, and to those who said we had clone nothing to redeem our pledge, that in the first year of the existence of this Government a considerable relief was given; and with regard to future measures we called upon the House to help us at the proper time to take those further stops which, in our opinion, the subject may demand. I must say that my hon. Friend the Member for North Wilts does not appear to me to have touched on any point respecting Local Taxation which was not anticipated on Friday. A noble Lord opposite (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) has alluded to University Reform, and seems surprised that that question was not introduced into Her Majesty's Speech. Now, in the language of the Speech itself, the House is called upon to consider not merely the measures there mentioned, but other measures which will probably be brought before Parliament during the Session. It is a rule which of late years has boon greatly favoured in this House—namely, that the Queen's Speech should not be overloaded, and that the Government is not bound merely to the measures of which notice is given in the Queen's Speech. A certain discretion must be allowed. It was only on Friday night that the Lord Chancellor, in the other House of Parliament, gave Notice of an important measure of the Government for the amendment of the law with respect to patents; and in the course of the Session other measures may be brought forward, not noticed in the Queen's Speech. As to the question of University Reform, I might remind the noble Lord opposite that it was only at the end of the last Session, if I recollect aright, that the Report, which was the result of the protracted labours of a Commission, was delivered for our consideration. The noble Lord must remember that at that time the Colleges were not assembled; they have assembled, and the opportunity of forming and obtaining an opinion has no doubt prevailed since then; but the noble Lord must feel that there has scarcely been time for any Government to come to a mature conclusion upon a matter which is of a complicated nature. I can, however, assure the noble Lord that it is our opinion that no existing Government for a moment could maintain that the consideration of Univer- 97 sity Reform, and consequently legislation of some kind, would not form part of its duty. I believe I have now touched upon most of the points alluded to, except, perhaps, on that mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southward (Colonel Beresford); though I am bound to say that I cannot follow him upon the important theme he has treated, for I fear that my observations might load to misapprehension, and, perhaps, afford a spark which would be the origin of the conflagration he dreads. As to the passage in the Queen's Speech referring to our relations with our allies, I think it is expressed in justifiable, temperate, and true language. The circumstances of the case justify the expressions we have used; and, not wishing to look too far ahead, having to meet an Assembly not like some popular Assemblies, suddenly called together, and then, perhaps, for years not exorcising their rights, but the great Council of the nation annually assembled, to which we have to explain, upon our responsibility, what we believe to be the accurate state of our relations with Foreign nations and Governments, I can only say we believe that peace will be preserved; and certainly it will be the effort of Her Majesty's Ministers to contribute, as much as possible to that result.
§ Address agreed to:—To be presented by Privy Councillors.