§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
It is not my intention, Sir—as perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may have imagined it was—to raise any debate upon this stage of the Appropriation Bill; but I do think it would be reasonable that before we separate a few words should be said upon the general position in which we seem placed, and in which we are about to leave the Business of the country. It is not unusual, when the Appropriation Bill is passing through the House, to cast a glance back at the Business done during the Session; and there are other reasons why, in the present year, it is peculiarly fitting that we should take that course. It was observed to me the other day by a gentleman who takes accurate notice of the progress of affairs, that in the last 19 1515 months the House had sat during a portion of 17 of those months. We have had a very prolonged series of Sittings; and with regard to the present Session, though we must remember that it began a little later in February than usual, yet it has been one which we may describe as very decidedly a full Session. We have had the full time, and of that time a very largo and liberal portion has been at the command of the Government. Early in the Session Morning Sittings began, and arrangements have been made for giving the Government command of private Members' nights, with a readiness and on a scale which leaves nothing to be complained of. This Session, we must also bear in mind, has the advantage, or supposed advantage, of the New Rules. We are under the New Rules which, it was said, would facilitate the progress of Business. The right hon. Gentleman, with his great experience of the conduct of Business in Parliament, told us last year that the first and most essential requisite for the transaction of Business by the House of Commons was that it should be master of its own time, and that for that purpose certain Rules ought to be made which would obviate difficulties hitherto existing. Accordingly, we, to the great inconvenience of hon. Members, devoted the whole of the Autumn Session to the working out and construction of that system of Rules. Well, we now have before us the experience of the working of this Session under those circumstances; and I must, in the first place, ask the House just to consider what has been the result in a legislative point of view of the experience we have had. In the Speech of Her Gracious Majesty on the first night of the Session we were told of, I think, 11 important measures which the Government intended to bring forward. Those 11 measures were these—the first was the codification of the law. That is a matter of the very greatest importance, and one which has been the object and desire of successive Governments and Parliaments to carry through; and there seemed to be some hope that with the great advantage which would be given to us by the system of Grand Committees, that object might be accomplished. I am afraid we must shake our heads over what has happened as to the codification of the law. The experience we have had does 1516 not encourage us to believe that that is an object likely to be accomplished by the measures which have been adopted. Standing next to that came the Bill for an appeal in criminal offences. That was sent to the same Grand Committee as the Codification Bill, and it was sent under peculiar arrangements in order that the Bill for an appeal in criminal cases might be taken first, and that when it was got through, then the Codification Bill should be proceeded with, and that the Bill for an appeal in criminal offences should be incorporated with the Codification Bill. I was not present at the labours of that Committee; but, from what I understand, the Court of Criminal Appeal Bill was, in the first instance, discussed at proper length, and was passed by the Committee in such a form as they thought right. It might then have been reported to this House, and been disposed of with reasonable rapidity, after which it might have gone to the other House, where it would have been received by noble Lords peculiarly capable of dealing with it. But, although that Bill was reported on the 27th of June, and might have been reported two or three weeks earlier, it was not reported because, I am told, that the Grand Committee, at the instigation of the Government Members of it, desired to struggle on with the codification scheme, which could not be proceeded with, and so the Court of Criminal Appeal Bill was kept back until they saw what they could do with the other measure. The result is that they have lost both, and that we find ourselves none the further forward for all the labours that have been bestowed upon those two Bills. The third measure mentioned in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech was the Bankruptcy Bill; and here I must congratulate the Government, and especially the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, upon the success which has attended that measure. That Bill has furnished an illustration of the good and satisfactory working of the system of Grand Committees; and I am glad to bear my own testimony to, and to congratulate the Government upon, the success of that measure. I do it all the more readily, because I remember that, I think, four years ago, when I had the honour of sitting upon the opposite side of the House, and of taking a 1517 leading part in its arrangements, I did endeavour, upon a suggestion of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), to adopt, with reference to the Bankruptcy Bill of that day, a very nearly similar course to that which has proved successful on this occasion. I did then propose that the Bankruptcy Bill should be referred to a large Committee, similar in its nature to a Grand Committee; but that proposal was not received with favour. The present Attorney General was one who strongly objected to it, and the President of the Local Government Board and some other Members of the Government also objected to that course. I regretted it at that time, and I am now glad to see that what was imperfectly attempted, and was not successful then, has since succeeded. But, while I congratulate the Government with regard to the Bankruptcy Bill, I must say that I think it a matter for regret that there was so much uncertainty and change of mind with regard to its extension to Ireland. There is another Bill which has also been successful—I mean the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill. That has taken us an enormous time to elaborate. I do not intend now to pass any judgment upon the Bill. It was one in which we on this side of the House cooperated with the Government in endeavouring to put it into proper shape. I do not undertake to say whether that has been a great achievement or not. It occupied no fewer than 25 days of the time of the Session. And then, after those Bills, comes a series of others, recommended by Her Majesty, every one of which has been unsuccessful or withdrawn. First of all, we had the Ballot Bill introduced; but it never proceeded very far, and finally it had to be abandoned. Then there was a grand sentence as to the great question of Local Government, to which Her Majesty's Government attached the very greatest importance. We were told that the Metropolis was to be selected as the first subject of experiment, and that, by dealing with that great local Body upon sound and right principles, we should not only accomplish a great feat in the Metropolis, but lay the foundation of a system of local government for the country. That Bill has not been proceeded with at all. It disappeared altogether in the air, and whether we are 1518 to have any further attempts at local government with reference to the Metropolis is a matter on which we are left entirely in the dark. That was a Bill laid aside with very little excuse for other Business which very well might have been postponed. At all events, nothing else so important has been proceeded with in the course of the Session. Then we were to have had the Rivers Conservancy and Floods Prevention Bill for the prevention of floods, and one would have thought that the Government would have carried that to a successful issue. The measure has, however, been allowed to fall through. The same fate has attended the Scotch University Bill and the Education Bill for Wales. Thus, eight out of eleven important measures have failed. Two are practically passed, and as regards the last, the Agricultural Holdings Bill, it remains to be seen what the ultimate result will be. For my part, I hope that measure may be added to those that have been passed. I do not think that the result of the Session which is now drawing to an end is very encouraging. Then, if we have not had the measures which were promised in the Queen's Speech, we have had others, which have taken up a great deal of time, and which were brought forward without there being any real necessity for them. The first to be mentioned among the Bills of that kind is, of course, the Affirmation Bill. That was a measure fortuitously undertaken by the Government. If it had been the original intention of the Government to deal with this question by legislation, surely it was a matter of sufficient importance to be mentioned in the Queen's Speech. But the Speech did not contain any suggestion that such a measure would be introduced; yet a few hours after the delivery of the Speech, and a few minutes before the Speech was read from the Chair, it was announced from the Treasury Bench, in answer to a challenge from Mr. Bradlaugh, that it was the intention of the Government to bring forward a Bill on this subject. I really think that is not the way in which the House ought to be treated if our Business is to be carried on with propriety and dignity. That Bill was not read a second time, a result which was not very satisfactory to the Government. It was one of those mea- 1519 sures which were brought in as afterthoughts, and it was allowed to displace the Business which the Government had deliberately prepared for the country. If that is the way in which our Business is to be conducted, and if well-considered legislative plans are to be set aside for measures of that character, there can be no certainty about Parliamentary transactions. Of course, exceptional legislation and a breach of the prepared programme may be necessary on certain occasions. But there was no such necessity at the time to which I refer, because that which called forth the Bill was well known to the Government when the Queen's Speech was drawn up. It was known then that Mr. Bradlaugh would take steps to take his seat; and if the Government intended to deal with the question by legislation they had an opportunity, which they ought not to have neglected, of making their intention known to the House. I will only refer to the Scotch Local Government Bill to say that was a measure which was forced upon us in a way which we had no reason to expect. There was no sudden emergency demanding the introduction of the Bill. The administration of Scotch affairs is a matter which the Government must have had before them for some time. It was either a matter that was important for legislation, or it was not; but, really, the way in which it has been brought forward and sprung upon us at the end of the Session does not show that management of Business and that economy of time for which we have a right to look to the Government of the day. I may make the same observations with respect to the Irish Registration Bill, a measure of importance, which was sprung unfairly upon the House when it was becoming wearied and empty, and which has been carried through its several stages after very insufficient consideration. There was, indeed, another Bill brought forward for which I did think there might be some reason. I refer to the Constabulary Bill, which has disappeared. Twenty-one or 22 of the Government Bills have been withdrawn in the present Session, and very few have passed into law. I make these observations because I think the country ought to know what it is that causes the delay in legislation and the unsatisfactory character of much of it. The cause is that there is by far too little 1520 of the conduct of affairs in the hands of the Government of the day. I know, of course, the difficulties against which a Government has to contend. There is a constant rivalry and race between the different Departments, each of which wishes to bring forward the measures to which it attaches importance; and the Leader of the House is necessarily very much pressed in the distribution of the time at his command by the attempts that are made by his Colleagues to obtain opportunities for the discussion of the measures in which they are severally specially interested. Unless some rigorous exercise of firmness is shown in repressing the rivalry of different Ministers, we shall find ourselves year after year in the same difficulty in which we have found ourselves this Session. A number of Bills are seen progressing through the House together, and none are finished and got out of hand before others are placed before us. The result is extremely inconvenient to this House, and remarkably unfair to the other. If the House of Lords is to do its duty, and if we are to obtain the great advantage of the talent, especially the legal talent, to be found in that House, you must adopt some method by which it may be possible to obtain for measures sent up to the other House a deliberate consideration of their merits. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government expressed a wish the other day that we might in some way bring the power of the House of Lords properly to bear upon our legislation; but he said that that was an object difficult of attainment, and the only idea that suggested itself to him was that while certain measures were initiated in this House certain others might be initiated in the House of Lords, which was a course which he thought would not answer. But that is by no means the only thing that might be done. What is especially desirable is that you should put through this House the measures upon which you want the judgment of the House of Lords in time to send them up to that House early in the Session, and that you should then consider other measures of your own. That can be done by finishing one Bill before you begin another; and if you devote the intervals between the Bills to Supply you will carry on your measures with greater regularity than at present, and 1521 you will secure a better consideration of the Business of Supply. With reference to the experiment of the Grand Committees, I think that it has operated well in the case of the Bankruptcy Bill; but it does not seem to have worked so well in certain other cases. The subject is one which deserves very careful consideration; and I hope that consideration will be given to it, in a candid manner, when the House re-assembles. Hitherto I have been speaking of the legislation of the Session; but, of course, our Business has not been exclusively legislative. The Business of this House increases largely, the interests with which we have to deal become more and more extensive and widely scattered, and consequently our discussions cover a larger field than formerly. I must say it seems to me that the position in which we are going to leave the affairs of the Empire at the moment of breaking up for the Recess cannot be described as thoroughly satisfactory. I say nothing about the condition of affairs in England, or even in Ireland; but with regard to foreign and Colonial affairs it does seem to me that we are separating in circumstances which justify very considerable anxiety. There are a large number of important questions in connection with which we have to look to the Government, and yet in regard to which we have but very imperfect information as to the intentions of the Government. To take the case of Egypt. Does anybody in this House really know what are the intentions of the Government with respect to that country? Are we to withdraw from it or not? Are we, or are we not, to make sure, before withdrawing from it, that the institutions which we have planted there have taken firm root? Those are questions of the highest importance, and they have been raised during the Session; but I venture to think that even now we are very far from having any clear idea about the intentions of the Government. Then, we are entirely ignorant about their intentions with regard to the Suez Canal. We have a very sanguine forecast in the first instance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said that a plan was to be adopted for the purpose of improving our means of communication through the Canal and benefiting the shipping interests of this country. That arrangement was stated with the perfect con- 1522 viction that it would be a triumphant settlement of a great question. I need not remind the House how the arrangement was received on both sides of the House and by the country. The mixture of disapprobation, dissatisfaction, and even ridicule which that arrangement produced was of a very marked and significant character; and the result was that within about a fortnight of the time when the arrangement was proposed to this House, it had to be withdrawn by the Government as being altogether unacceptable. It never was discussed in this House. Although it had been announced that a discussion was to take place, yet it was withdrawn before that time arrived. In the discussion which we had subsequently on what might be the future proceedings of the Government, the question raised was one as to the pledges that had been given—I think very incautiously—by the Government, and the admissions which had been very incautiously made by them in the course of the negotiations, and which, as it appeared to us on this side of the House, it was necessary to guard against and to protest against. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, even those who disapproved most strongly of the arrangement which the Government had made, did not think themselves at liberty to break away from their Party allegiance, and to join us in the course which we felt bound to take. But whether they did so or not, the point which is perfectly clear is this—that there is a strong feeling on the part of large interests in this country, irrespective of politics, that it is a wrong thing for the Government to admit, and that it would be wrong to sanction, the admission of such a claim as that to which attention was drawn in the course of the discussion. Whether, in consequence of the failure of that arrangement, and in consequence of the vote of the House upon a subsequent point that arose, the matter is now to be allowed to go to sleep, or whether there is to be a real effort made to meet the wants of the country, and to rectify or improve upon the arrangement which was attempted, and which so significantly failed, is a matter as to which we are at present quite unable to judge. We are also left in doubt and uncertainty as to the condition of the Empire in itself. I have 1523 been speaking about the position in Egypt, and the position of our communications with the different parts of the British Empire; but with regard to the Empire itself, it is impossible to say that there is that state of satisfaction and quiet progress which certainly we were all led to expect by the present Government would be at once attained, by the very fact of their being placed at the helm, and taking charge of the Business and relations of the country. It was given to us to understand that all the difficulties there were in our situation arose from the misconduct of the late Government, and that if there was anything wrong in what took place under the present Government, it was to be put down to the "original sin," and not to any transgression on their part. That is a very comfortable doctrine, no doubt, to a great many individuals, who feel themselves to be doing what they ought not to do. No doubt it is convenient for the Government, when they are hardly pressed, to turn round and say—" This is not our fault; it is the fault of our Predecessors." But the Government were placed in power in order that they might put matters into a right train. We do not admit, of course, the charges made against the late Government; but, assuming that there was something wrong, that is no excuse for their Successors for not making the best of the circumstances with which they themselves had to deal. I am bound to say that anything more uncertain, anything more confusing, anything more dangerous than the course they have held with regard to various parts of our Colonial Empire and our Indian Empire, it is difficult to conceive. Look at South Africa. There are questions with regard to the Transvaal, with regard to Bechuanaland, and with regard to Basutoland; and I defy anybody to know what is the policy Her Majesty's Government are pursuing in regard to any of them, or to say with any confidence that we should not have an entire upset there; and that a very serious catastrophe may not occur at any time within a week's notice. We leave the matter in the hands of the Government, because we cannot help ourselves. [Ironical cheers.] Hon. Members opposite cheer that sentiment as if it were a satisfactory thing. Those best acquainted with the condition of South 1524 Africa—such an authority as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who would hardly be accused of being a Party man opposed to the Government, and others whom we might select—will not feel that complete confidence which seems to irradiate the countenance of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds). Then there is this Madagascar business. The gloom which hangs over largo portions of South Africa hangs with double and treble darkness over our relations with Madagascar and what is going on there. I do not touch upon the subject now further than to say that the reticence of the Government, although there may be some reason for it, is in itself a very alarming symptom. I think, unless there is some strong justification for it, it is a very serious mistake on their part. Of course, we do not want, and it would be wrong for us to press the Government to give the proceedings and the negotiations now being carried on if those negotiations have not been completed, and if they are not in a position in which they could properly be communicated. But keeping back the facts of the case has an ugly appearance, and it is impossible for us to accept with acquiescence such statements as those which we hear—that Her Majesty's Government cannot give the facts without laying all the despatches before the House. I cannot understand why a simple narrative might not have been given of the facts which are undisputed and within the knowledge of the Government, and which form the real history of the case; and I think misrepresentations in the public Press, or among the public generally, in the course of the Recess, will be very much owing to the reticence and the mystery with which the Government have dealt with the question at a time when frankness would have been the proper course to adopt. The impression produced is that there is something very wrong, and that the Government are afraid to mention it to the House and the public, for fear lest they should be obliged, by pressure of public opinion, to take a course which they do not wish to take. I do not think that is at all a reasonable way of treating a matter of this kind. It seems to me that if the matter is placed before the British public in a satisfactory way, with no apparent reserve beyond what is ne- 1525 cessary, and in such a manner as to show that the Government are completely masters of the case, and are dealing with it in what they think is the best way, the public will acquiesce readily in any demands that may be made upon them for moderation and reserve in speaking upon these questions. But if we are to be kept entirely in the dark, and if, at the same time, in some of the answers which have been given, we are unable to see whether the Government are really in possession of all the facts, and whether they have made themselves masters of them, when anything is brought out it may have a most injurious effect, and produce very great excitement. There are one or two other points on which I might also touch. One of the great and cardinal points of the policy of the present Government was that they were going to entirely set aside the wicked policy of their Predecessors in Afghanistan, and that they were themselves about to adopt a policy of entire abstention from interference in the concerns of that country. Now, however, we require some further explanation, for we hear that a large subsidy is to be paid to the Ameer. That subsidy is, apparently, to be given with no fixed Treaty or arrangement; but still it is obviously to be given with the intention of making ourselves masters of the foreign policy of Afghanistan. In fact, that is very much the policy of the late Government; but we ought to have a clear understanding in regard to the policy which Her Majesty's Government are pursuing, and to the reasons which induced them to think it necessary to offer this largo subsidy. It looks as if they thought it more necessary to take precautions against the advance of some other Power than they have hitherto been willing to admit. When I refer to India, it is impossible not to say a word on another cause of anxiety which we have in that country. I do not wish, however, to dwell upon it at any length, as we shall have some other opportunity of discussing it; but I wish to express my own feeling very strongly on one point. I think, as I have always thought, that it is of the highest importance that we should take such measures as can be taken for a proper system of the admission of the Natives to a share in the administration of justice. It has been the object pursued by many Administrations, and has al- 1526 ways been the object we have had in view. But, at the same time, you must also consider and show that you have had consideration for the interests and the feelings of the Europeans in India, and the reconciling of these two objects is a matter of considerable delicacy and difficulty. Now, it seems to me that the steps taken in India, with, no doubt, the best possible motives, have been taken at a time and in a manner that tend to make more difficult of attainment the very object which we all desire to attain. The Government have raised a storm which was perfectly unnecessary. They have evoked feelings which it was most desirable not to raise, and have thrown back the question of the proper employment of Natives instead of advancing it; and I cannot but regret extremely the position in which we are placed. I am most anxious that we should abstain from making Indian questions questions of a Party character. We are very imperfectly informed on many questions that have arisen, and I should deprecate anything that would interfere improperly with the action of the Indian Government; but, so far as our expressions of opinion on this side of the world could go, I would be most anxious to impress upon those responsible for the conduct of Indian affairs the very great delicacy and difficulty which appears to us to be in the way they are now pursuing. As to the precise steps which are to be taken when the matter comes next under review, I abstain from saying anything with regard to it. I hope there will be no false pride in the matter, and no neglect of that which must always be regarded as the first consideration—what is due to the Europeans in India. They are the men, after all, to whom we must look for much that is to be done in the improvement of India. I speak of the unofficial Europeans. It is to their capital and enterprise that India must in the future largely owe its progress. And it is the confidence that they will inspire, and which our official Europeans will inspire in the whole country, to which we have to look as the great safeguard of our position there. When speaking of India, we must take care that we do not confuse a particular class who are affected by such measures to which I have referred with the whole population of India. The whole population of India goes far beyond those 1527 classes, and we must bear in mind the effect which anything which will lower, or appear to lower, the position of the English authorities may have upon the great mass of the Indian population which we collect together under the general title of our Indian Empire. I will not refer to any other questions, as I feel we are now approaching the end of the Session, and that we ought to facilitate the progress of the remaining Business; but I could not refrain from making a few observations upon the history of the Session.
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman is unquestionably quite within his right in availing himself of this opportunity of reviewing, in any degree of detail which he thinks public duty requires, the proceedings of the past Session. Naturally, he is sorry that time should be spent in anything at this moment except absolute forwarding of the Business; but, at the same time, the process is a legitimate one, and certainly one that he is entitled to undertake and carry through. With the exception of the general charge of the right hon. Gentleman, and the passages of his speech where he went into vague and unspecified and unsustained assumptions, I make very little complaint indeed of the spirit in which he has made his comments. I do not agree with them. But from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view they are fair enough. I can very much shorten my reply to that part of his speech which refers to legislation, for I think it was generally felt he was somewhat insufficient in his numerical manner of handling the measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech at the commencement of the Session. I do not admit his statement as correct. The right hon. Gentleman says 11 measures were propounded in the Speech, of which we had carried two or three, and, therefore, lost eight or nine. There were 13 measures propounded in the Speech from the Throne. The right hon. Gentleman forgets that there were necessarily not one but two measures with regard to compensation of tenants, and that a different Bill was needed for Scotland, differing necessarily in particulars from the English Bill. I think he will also find that he entirely omitted the Patents for Inventions Bill.
Reference has been made, and I find that that Bill was mentioned in the Speech. Therefore, my representation of the case is that not two or three Bills out of 11, but five out of 13 have, so far as this House is concerned, been passed. With the single exception of the London Government Bill, which it was quite impossible to undertake, the five Bills which we have passed are decidedly of a much more weighty class than the eight Bills we have not passed. There is no Bill amongst these eight Bills which, for a moment, was to be compared with the Bankruptcy Bill, the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill, and the Agricultural Holdings Bill. I think the right hon. Gentleman, who has some experience of the difficulty of dealing with the business of tenants' compensation, and sees how possible it is for a Government and the House of Commons to devote themselves with perfect good faith to the subject, and yet to find the result of their legislative labours almost at zero, might have given a little more credit to the House of Commons for its labours in this quarter. But my points are these—that the right hon. Gentleman has not accurately summed up the totals of his figures as to the Bills in the Queen's Speech; and even when that correction is made, another is required, because the Bills that have not been passed are of far less scope and weight than the Bills which the devoted labours of this House and its Grand Committees have passed. I think that is enough for me to say; but I do not hesitate to affirm, looking at the past 50 years, that the legislative labours of the House during the present year, though, practically, they did not begin until after Easter, have been far beyond those of an aver-ago year. And if that is so—and I think the country knows that it is so—the small criticisms upon the numbers of the Bills mentioned in the Queen's Speech are criticisms which we can very well afford to bear. The right hon. Gentleman has made a reference to the Affirmation Bill which surprises me. He thinks that it was a wanton aggression upon the time of the House. How very different are the impressions which men receive from the same event. Here are the two sides of the shield. One is no better than copper; but on our side 1529 it is silver or gold. The intention of the Affirmation Bill was this. It was not that we thought upon religious grounds that the question of religious qualifications for admission to Parliament required legislative handling. Certainly not. Until recent times no difficulty was raised. Every man, with or without belief, came into this House unimpeded by religious tests. But a great struggle had been initiated in the country. I am sorry to speak of a great struggle between an individual and the House of Commons; but it is a great and serious struggle, in which every man knows which Party is finally to be the winner; he knows that the struggle will end in the defeat of the vote which has been given. The House of Commons had reached a point in this struggle in which there was a serious menance of public disorder, of public scandal; and the Government, acting upon the principle on which they have always acted, while adhering to its own convictions, offered their assistance to enable the House to escape from what they think was a critical, and ultimately, in a certain sense, a dangerous dilemma, and they proposed to legislate on the subject. What happened? Two weeks of the public time—four Government nights—were employed on the second reading. I am not here to make any charge against any particular Party in this House; but I am going to assert my deliberate conviction that had the question arisen in the House 30 years ago the second reading would have been disposed of in one night. There are only a few present who were here 30 years ago; but I am sure that they are conversant with the conditions that the second reading of a Bill of an analogous kind would be disposed of in one night. It was a well-known fact that the loss of Christianity was to be the result of the admission of the Jews. That was as serious a matter, and it might as well have been debated for four nights as the Affirmation Bill, which related to the somewhat shadowy distinctions that are now erected into a substantial barrier. The question as to Roman Catholic Emancipation, no doubt, took longer; but with that were mixed up vast and important political questions. The admission of the Jews was, however, an analogous case, whore the Business in former times was disposed of in one 1530 night. I am not referring to this as a matter of reproach. There can be no doubt the scale of speech is enormously altered in this House. I believe examination would sustain the doctrine that one mischief we have to contend with, apart from the charge of Obstruction, is the increasing Business of the country; and we have to recognize the fact that the increase is not to be disposed of without a greater expenditure of time. In consequence of the severe labours of last year, it was necessary to lop off a fortnight from the commencement of the Session; a fortnight was lost, as far as the Business of the Government was concerned, by the Affirmation Bill, and rather more than a fortnight was devoted to the discussion of the Address. It is impossible that the transaction of Business can be brought to a satisfactory state if the House is to initiate the Session by devoting a fortnight of its freshest energies to a vague discussion of immeasurable width, absolutely without result on almost every subject. I cannot but be persuaded that the right hon. Gentleman joins me in the hope that this may be avoided, unless on occasions it is found necessary to raise in a serious manner some great public question which may be justly made the subject of an Amendment to the Address, and that the House will revert to the old practice which has been established for so long a period, and which we have maintained, I think I may say, in unbroken succession, since the passing of the Reform Bill, with only the legitimate exceptions to which I have referred, for I feel that an initial direction is given to the proceedings which vitiates the labours of the Session. To deal with Bills in order, taking first one and then another, is an excellent rule as far as it can be pursued; but it must be varied by delay in the printing and circulation of Bills, and the necessity of informing the country with respect to them. As to the House of Lords, I am not a fervent admirer of its legislative performances; but, at the same time, it ought to have fair play, which it can hardly be said to have had, as their Lordships have not received Bills from this House in time to bestow upon them the labours which they might have done in more favourable circumstances. It is idle to make vague complaints on the subject. The reason why Bills do not go to the House of 1531 Lords in proper time is that this House is not master of its own time, and it is not from ill intention or neglect on the part of the House. The difficulty is felt most when the Government attempts much legislation, and there is a difference between Governments in this respect. I do not wish to draw any invidious comparison; but we had hoped to accomplish more than usual, and the effect is greater pressure and inconvenience. But I do not hesitate to say—and this is the main matter—the effect, on the whole, is a greater result than the average of ordinary years. The great object Members should set before themselves is the restoring to the House proper command over its own time; and it is idle to dream that such an end can be attained by coercive and repressive measures. Repressive Rules have done some good this year, and in the future may do more; but it is idle to look to them as a means of achieving the great restorative change we want to bring about. What we me must look to is the multiplication of the means of action through the medium of Grand Committees; and therefore I accept with thankfulness the generally satisfactory declaration of the right hon. Gentleman on this subject. He has taunted some of my right hon. Friends, indeed, with not having given greater encouragement to a suggestion made by him some four or five years ago that a large Committee might be appointed to consider a particular subject, and the House of Commons, on receiving its Report, might be disposed to accept the Bill and allow the work of that large Committee to stand in lieu of a Committee of the Whole House. It may be so—I have no recollection of it—but I offered my support to a similar suggestion by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) in reference to the Agricultural Holdings Bill. I rejoice in the acknowledgment now made as to the capacity of the Grand Committees for rendering real service; but I remember the difficulty we had in inducing hon. Gentlemen opposite to accede to the experiment when it was proposed, which was due, perhaps, to the fact that the proposal was discussed at the end of the special Session devoted to the Rules of Procedure. Our Business now is to look to the future, and I earnestly hope, in the interests of every Government and of the country, that the House will set 1532 itself in a serious spirit to a further development of this important experiment. If it fails, I am convinced the House will never resume that freedom and mastery in regard to its own Business which it has always had until comparatively recent years. Well, I will pass from that. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman remarked that he had nothing to say as to Ireland. If the state of the country had not been improved by firm, but beneficent, government, and the working of the Land Act, I do not think he would have been reticent; but the results that have been brought about by the working of the Act, and the vigorous government of Lord Spencer, deserved" a word of acknowledgment from the right hon. Gentleman. As to Egypt, I do not think a fortnight has passed since we spent a whole night in discussing it; and, therefore, the remark of the right hon. Gentleman that we have "approached" the discussion of it is an illustration of what I lament—the immeasurable and insatiable appetite which appears to be seizing us all for boundless talk, and which is so entirely unsatisfied that it requires to make Egypt the subject of a doleful diatribe at the end of the Session. In my conviction the Government have said all that circumstances warrant; and I shall not add to, take away from, or repeat their several declarations. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Suez Canal. I should have thought that in the late debate the right hon. Gentleman had had enough of the Suez Canal. I have never been particularly proud of any of our performances; I have never pitched high our claims upon this matter; yet I think our workmanship, on the whole, will bear quite favourable comparison with the workmanship of those who framed the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman submitted to the House. The right hon. Gentleman said we have been incautious in the matter of the Suez Canal; but the right hon. Gentleman and his Government thought it quite prudent to buy the shares of the Suez Canal without knowing what monopoly M. de Lesseps claimed. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: No, no!] But he did. The letters in the Foreign Office dispose of that, and show that M. de Lesseps, in 1872, was making larger claims of monopoly than he makes now, and that the late Government bought the Suez Canal shares, al- 1533 though their value greatly depended upon those claims, without making any inquiry into the nature of the claims. The right hon. Gentleman need be under no apprehension, because our desire is, if it be possible—and I think it to be possible and even not improbable—that the commercial classes themselves, who are, in many respects, better judges of the points of these cases than any Government can be, should, by and for themselves, be brought into direct contact with the directing power of the Suez Canal. Inasmuch as this is the end of August, and it will be but five months more before we have the pleasure of looking one another in the face again across the Table—[An hon. MEMBER: Six months.]—six months it may be but it is not likely that anything very dreadful will happen between this time and that with respect to the Suez Canal. Certainly, nothing that has occurred will induce us to look with an evil eye on any single-minded and practical proposition that may be launched for improving the position of that great historic work for the commerce of the world. Here I come to the generalities of the right hon. Gentleman, and I think them less satisfactory than his particular observations. He said great wonders were to be attained by the fact of our accession to Office. Who said it? For my part, I endeavoured to make those who are now my constituents sensible of the enormous difficulties interposed on an incoming Government, and of the long time that must elapse before anything like the necessary modification and change could be made. The right hon. Gentleman asked—Have you set the world to rights? I answer—No, Sir; we have not, and I do not expect that we shall. When we regard the scope and range of the British Empire, I think it would be a return to the days of Paradise, if a Leader of the Opposition could not lay his finger on a particular place and say—" Here is a state of uncertainty." But I think I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that some things, at any rate, have been done since the present Government took Office. I may remind him that at that time there were two territorial questions under the Treaty of Berlin, one in Greece, and the other in Montenegro, each of which, taken by itself, was a danger to the peace of the Levant and the peace of 1534 Europe. These questions have been settled and the dangers obviated. Let the right hon. Gentleman recall these facts in his reminiscences of the period of the present Government. Then he goes to Afghanistan, and he says it was understood we were never to meddle in Afghanistan. Who understood that? Who said that? Who pledged us never to meddle in the affairs of Afghanistan? How was it possible, when we found Afghanistan, once a united and comparatively happy country, broken and smashed into fragments and in a state of anarchy, to bind ourselves to such a proposition? We found Afghanistan broken into pieces, and we have done something towards its restoration, so that, at any rate, the future of Afghanistan will depend on the capacity and inclination of its people, and not on the will of a foreign tyranny. That is something on which, I think, we may look with satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman appears to glance with censure at the payment of a subvention to the Ruler of Afghanistan. I do not desire to exclude that from debate or censure. But the right hon. Gentleman spoke as if this was a proceeding without parallel or example; but the names of Governor Generals who are remembered in India with honour and gratitude, Lord Lawrence and Lord Mayo, are likewise associated with the rendering of pecuniary assistance to the Ameers of Afghanistan. I am not aware that at any time any Member of the present Government was bold enough to commit himself to the view that such a payment should never be made. The right hon. Gentleman does not notice any of the things in which we took anything but au apologetic position; but as he refers to the professions that were made before the accession of the present Government, I may remind him that one of the favourite subjects at the General Election was the state of the finances. We had before us a long series of deficits, which threatened to become unbroken. I am happy to say that that series of deficits, without any great constructive changes, but coincident with our accession to Office, has ceased to exist; and a series of small surpluses, which represents the true principle of I the balance between expenditure and revenue, has taken their place. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to Madagas- 1535 car; and his proposition, as I understand it, may be summed up in these words—that there has been great reticence on the part of the Government and keeping back of facts, and that there exists in the public mind an impression that, in consequence of this reticence, there is something or other wrong. With regard to the impression in the public mind, I have means, perhaps, equal to those of the right hon. Gentleman of ascertaining what is the impression of the public mind. I cannot say better; but I do not believe there is any such impression in the public mind. If it be true that there are very formidable facts in the case which are the cause of our reticence, our position will be a very unsatisfactory one when we come to see the Papers, because our language has been in a contrary direction. We said at first, and say now, that in all these matters, which ought to be frankly and calmly discussed, and, it may be, the subject of friendly explanation, nothing has occurred, so far as our judgment goes, to disturb the minds of any of those—and, thank God, they are many—who set a high value on the alliance between England and France. With respect to the reticence, I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should refer to it. I have no wish to go back on former years; but I confess that my opinion is that reticence was never carried so far within my knowledge as in the time of the late Government. Never. It was in March, I think in 1878, that th Conferences of Peshawur were held, which virtually determined the Afghan War. It was after these Conferences, I think, that assurances were given in the Upper House that there was no substantial change in policy, and it was not till 18 months after these Conferences that Parliament became aware that they existed when they had already blossomed into the fatal and dreadful Afghan War. I think it requires some courage to speak of reticence to us. It was only on the 7th of August that the Admiralty received a manuscript of what we have declared to be an intricate Correspondence, and one requiring a course of communications between the two Governments; and, forsooth, it is reticence that we are not now, on the 21st of August, ready to declare the result of the whole matter. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that incessant questioning upon these 1536 subjects is a matter of some responsibility. This is a matter on which I have no apprehension whatever that either of the Governments will be disturbed in the slightest degree; but there have been times, and I am sorry they are growing more frequent—the Spring of last year was one' of them—when Questions have been put by a large number of Members with almost tumultuous eagerness under the guise of calling the Government to account, but almost every Question reflecting and raising injurious presumptions, if not charges, against some other Power or Government, when that questioning itself has been a sort of danger to the country, and constituted, perhaps, the principal difficulties with which the existing Government had had to contend in the discharge of its duties. But this was a matter in which I do not entertain any such apprehensions. I do not speak of the policy of Prance. It is possible that the opinion of the British public is unfavourable to that policy; but I think it better that the British Government should have no official opinion in the matter, but limit itself to the letter of its own rights, while recognizing the just rights and claims of others. The right hon. Gentleman refers to the Government of India. I am glad to hear his speech in favour of the admission of the Natives to Office; but I am sorry to hear him, by hints and suggestions, convey an impression about the measures and policy of Lord Ripon which can only tend to weaken the hands of that Nobleman. The right hon. Gentleman says it is a very proper thing indeed to extend the admission to office to Natives; but it has been mismanaged—the steps have not been taken at the right time; they have not been taken in the right manner; and, in consequence, the cause has been thrown back, and great attention ought to be paid to the sentiments of the Anglo-Indian community. Well, Sir, I have had much to do for a long period with a series of questions, and I am not aware at this moment of any series of great reforms which have been brought about by the courage, and the wisdom, and the foresight of the British Legislature in respect of any portion of this Empire which reforms have had the favour and support of the resident English community. I do not remember that the abolition of slavery had the 1537 support of those residents in the West Indian Colonies, whose opinions, from their experience and knowledge, were undoubtedly of considerable weight. I do not remember that the establishment of a responsible Government in Canada, and of that new system of relations with Colonial institutions which has completely established harmony, where before there was perpetual discord—I do not remember that that establishment of responsible Government, and that introduction of political reform, were treated in the Colonies by those who, up to that time, laid claim to what was called the British Party, and represented themselves as having a monopoly of loyalty—I do not remember they ever received those reforms except with opposition. In 1862 the Government of Lord Palmerston re-united the people of the Ionian Islands with those of their own race, of their own religion, of their own feeling and condition; but there was a British Party there, and that British Party from point to point resisted everything that was proposed for the benefit of the people. Sir, it is the same thing all over the world; and it is not because those resident English communities are made up of people who are worse than ourselves. Do not let it be supposed I have any accusation to make against them; but their position is less favourable than ours for forming a comprehensive judgment. They are doomed almost to narrow modes of examining these questions, and we are compelled to look over the course of history and over the surface of the world. They each of them look at themselves in relation to persons whom they feel to be, in energy and certain practical effects, inferior to themselves; and there is a tendency to indulge in a spirit of ascendency which it is the business of this House and of this Legislature, and the business of a patriotic Govenor General with wisdom and with care, but with decision, to modify and to check. No evidence has come before me, and none before this Government, to convict Lord Ripon of any want either of courage or of discretion in this matter. It is true that there has been great resistance to Lord Ripon. If it is not impertinent, I may mention that I have a son in Calcutta who is a thorough approver of Lord Ripon's policy, and I am bound to say his report is that he is not certain 1538 whether he can find three other men in Calcutta who can agree with him. This is not the first time that such a state of things has existed. Go back to the time when Indian Natives began to be entrusted with judicial functions; go back to the time when the liberty of the Press was enacted in India; go back to the period of Lord William Bentinck and Lord Macaulay, and you will find that the storm which has arisen in India, violent as it is, is less violent and less menacing by far than the storms which then arose. And so it will be in the future. You will go on—you will be compelled to go on; but I hope, what is more, you will be inclined to go on in the noble and upright and blessed work of gradually enlarging the Indian franchise. You will have to look this oppotion in the face, and you will have to observe all the rules of circumspection and prudence in the measures you take; and no amount of circumspection and prudence will save you from that opposition. It will become milder from time to time. This Anglo-Indian community is made up of honourable and upright men. They may have their prejudices, and I think they have; but as they come nearer to the facts, and look them more closely in the face, they will begin by degrees to recognize they give to unreal dangers and to shadowy dangers an importance they do not deserve. Every step made in this direction is not only a step towards attaching to yourselves the minds of the vast population of India; but it is a step towards establishing between the differentraces of that country—between Europeans and Natives—a degree of harmony which in former times did not exist. You have not to go back very far when any idea of any rights or capacity on the part of the Natives of India was regarded as most unnatural and monstrous. Happily, we have outlived that. But we have some other superstitions to outlive. We have a work before us in the performance of which undoubtedly the powers and capacity—the moral as well as intellectual capacity—of this country will be severely strained. I confidently believe we shall continue to go on steadily and steadfastly in that path, and I am persuaded that if we are enabled so to do we shall more and more, from year to year, realize the debt of gratitude we owe to those Governors General of India, those 1539 eminent men of whom we have had many, who have fought and. laboured hard among the crushing details of their high Office to inculcate among their fellow-countrymen the broad principles of generosity and justice towards the vast population under their charge and rule. Those men have been the workmen, the most efficient and chiefest workmen, in building up that great and glorious fabric of truly civilized society which it is our duty and task and high privilege to administer throughout the vast regions of the world.