§ Order road, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th January.]—[See page 84.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
The speakers in the desultory discussion of the last three nights have directed their attention mainly to three subjects—the condition of affairs in Ireland, the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government, and the National Expenditure. Two of these have been already thoroughly dealt with. The course which Her Majesty's Government intend to take with regard to Ireland has been explained in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant; and the question of the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government has been so clearly stated by the First Lord of the Treasury that it is even beyond the ingenuity of the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) to make an intelligible misrepresentation of it. It is not necessary, therefore, for me to go at length into these subjects. But I should like to make a few observations with regard to expenditure, especially in reference to some of the statements by my noble Friend the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). He laid before the House two proposals, neither of them new; but it is the first time that anyone who has occupied the position of Leader of the House and Chancellor of the Exchequer has invested with his authority such an alteration in practice. The first proposal is that in 395 future the Representatives of the Admiralty and War Office in this House should circulate a printed statement of the policy of their respective Departments, instead of making a speech on the introduction of the Estimates. That small change is one which Her Majesty's Government would be perfectly ready to assent to, if it were the general wish of the House; but, of course, until we can obtain an authentic opinion as to the wish of the great majority of the House we cannot give our assent. But the second proposal of my noble Friend raises much broader issues. Now, according to the Constitution of this country, the Executive for the time must be primarily and ultimately responsible for any expenditure it recommends to this House. But both within the limits and outside the limits of that responsibility there are at present two checks which are supposed to insure an adequate return for the expenditure incurred. The first of these checks is exercised within the Government by the Treasury over the spending Departments; and the second, which is outside the Government, is the criticism of the House of Commons on the Estimates. Everyone who has been a Member of this House for many years must admit that the House of Commons, in its collective capacity, discharges its duty of criticism in a very perfunctory and unsatisfactory manner. The late Prime Minister, a high authority on finance, always holds up those ideal days before the Reform Bill, when the expenditure of this country was very low. It is a curious fact that in proportion as the expenditure has increased, so have the discussions on the Estimates. Anyone can understand how and why expenditure has increased, because nine speeches out of ten propose to increase it. So much is that the case that when, for instance, on the Navy Estimates a reduction is proposed, it is almost invariably done with a view of extorting from the Government a promise that next year the Vote will be increased. The distribution of the representation into single-Membered constituencies has drawn closer the connection between the Member and his constituents, and it will be found even more than in the past that the grievances of certain employés of the Government are likely to be urged, and an attempt made on the part of new 396 Members to obtain for their localities a larger proportion of the expenditure of the public money. I now come to the second check upon expenditure—namely, the Treasury control. The late Prime Minister, the other night, not only was pleased that my noble Friend had raised the flag of economy, but he specially emphasized the fact that my noble Friend had done so in the only way in which it was possible for anyone connected with the Treasury to act. My noble Friend looked at totals and disregarded items; and in the opinion of the late Prime Minister that was the right course, for, he added, if details were discussed the knowledge of the spending Departments would enable them to cope on unequal terms with the Treasury. I always understood that knowledge was power; but can any system be effective which, according to the opinion of the man most experienced, is based upon ignorance? If it be the right principle to check totals and to disregard items, such a system must ultimately degenerate, and it has degenerated into what I consider this fallacy—that the test of whether a Department is economical or extravagant is by looking at the outlay alone, irrespective of the results attained by that outlay. It is well worthy of the consideration of the House whether or not there may not be, as my noble Friend has suggested, some change brought about in the spending Departments. But I must at once state that there are great initial difficulties to assenting off-hand to the proposals which my noble Friend has made. The House of Commons' Committee is undoubtedly admirably fitted to undertake certain duties; but to require any Committee composed of hon. Members upon whom the full pressure of Parliamentary duties is imposed to undertake in addition the task of investigating our Naval and Military Expenditure, would be to import upon them a duty which they could not properly fulfil within any reasonable number of years. We must, therefore, at once dismiss the proposition made last year by the late Government for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire generally into our Army and Navy Expenditure. But if we wore disposed to give our favourable consideration to the proposal of the noble Lord, the first difficulty that would face us 397 would be that the Committee would have to go into broad questions of policy, and that the Government would have to allow them to shape a policy for them for which the Government alone would be responsible. A further difficulty would be that it would not be possible for any Committee such as the noble Lord has proposed to go into the technical or expert side of the question, because the House will see that the composition of any Committee which has to deal with scientific questions must be very different from the composition of a Committee which has to deal with financial questions. I do not see, however, that these difficulties are insuperable, and I think that they might be overcome. There are, certainly, two questions upon which the Government would be glad to have the assistance of the House. The first question is, whether the scale of the military and naval establishments is too large for the work they have to perform; and associated with that question is another—namely, whether the country gets an adequate return for the expenditure which year after year the House is asked to sanction. That question is somewhat clouded by what I think to be the inaccurate theory held by many hon. Members in this House as to what constitutes economy. Those hon. Members appear to think that economy should be judged, not by the results achieved by a certain expenditure, but by the amount of the expenditure. In their opinion, the Ministers who proposed a perfectly nugatory expenditure of £11,500,000 would be a greater economist than he who spent £12,000,000 with the most admirable results. I represent a Department which spends a great deal of money, and which at times receives directions to effect large and summary reductions in its expenditure. The complaints of the House of Commons—and, to an extent, they are legitimate complaints—have been that the strength of the Government establishments is in excess of the work they have to perform. Both the present Board of Admiralty and the Board with which I was previously associated felt that to be a just complaint; and, wherever it has been possible, we have got rid of redundant establishments. But the process is a very slow one, and has to be carried out both in the clerical and in the combatant branches of the establishment. 398 It has been the practice to enlist men for continuous service, and it is not possible, without a breach of contract, to summarily dismiss them. But there are certain Estimates in the Navy Votes which cannot be reduced, which provide the work for the establishments to do. If those Estimates were to be reduced, the result would be exactly the reverse of what is intended, because the establishments would remain practically untouched, while the work they did would be diminished. This is especially the case with regard to the manufacturing branches of the Departments. The Admiralty and the War Office are great manufacturers, and are great employers of labour. Complaints are often made that the cost of shipbuilding in the Dockyards is excessive as compared with that of work done in private yards; and it is as well the House should know what is the cause of that excessive cost. If a shipbuilder gets an order to build a ship, the first thing he does is to put the maximum amount of labour which can be economically employed upon the work, thereby consuming the maximum amount of material in the shortest time. That is a course which is the reverse of what is meant by economy as understood in this House. If the Admiralty contract to build a ship, the longer they are in building it the better pleased the Treasury are. I can give a remarkable illustration of this in the building of the Trafalgar. In 1885 the Admiralty found that their Predecessors had announced their intention of building this and another great ship. They were to be each of 12,000 tons. The amount on the Estimates of that year for the building of these ships was only 12 tons, at which rate the House will see the ships would take 1,000 years to build. The incoming Conservative Government reversed that, and applied the principle which prevails in all private yards of putting the largest amount of labour which could possibly be put on each ship, and with excellent results. For the cost of building, so far as the average cost of labour is concerned, as compared with the two preceding ironclads, the Camperdown and the Colossus, was £16 13s. per ton on the Trafalgar; whereas in the case of the Camperdown it was £25 1s. per ton, and of the Colossus £26 15s. The House will, therefore, see that this question is 399 well worthy of their attention. If the Admiralty are to continue to be manufacturers, as I believe it is essential they should, this House must draw a distinction between the methods in which it votes money for manufacturing purposes, and for the maintenance of combatant establishments. Therefore, if the House is favourably disposed towards the proposition of my noble Friend, it must not be assumed either that I, as representing the Admiralty, or my right hon. Friend, as representing the War Department, admit that we are extravagant, or that the expression in Her Majesty's Speech that the Estimates have been framed with a careful regard to the economy is in any way incorrect. My belief is that, if it is possible to get over the initial difficulty to the appointment of such a Committee as I have described, the appointment of that Committee would not tend to the reduction of the Estimates. On the contrary, I think the Committee will be astonished at the moderation of the demands of the Admiralty. ["Hear, hear!" and Opposition laughter.] I know that that must seem a somewhat ridiculous contention to some hon. Gentlemen; but I will lay before the House certain facts which I think will materially modify their views. My noble Friend, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, sent round a Circular calling attention to the great growth of expenditure during the last few years. I at once had a careful analysis and investigation made as to the growth of expenditure that had taken place during the last 10 years in the Naval Votes, and the causes of it, to ascertain how far it was capable of reduction. As Her Majesty's Government propose, as soon as this debate is concluded, to take the time of the House for the discussion of Procedure, and, consequently, no discussion on National Expenditure can occur for some time to come, perhaps the House will excuse me if I take a few minutes in dealing with this question. In the interval between 1876 and 1886 the cost of the Navy had increased 16 per cent. Now, the extent of the duties which would be imposed upon the Navy in the event of war is governed by the amount of commerce which would have to be protected. The investigation I had made showed the extent to which our Mercantile Marine had increased 400 during those 10 years. I found that during those 10 years the amount of steam tonnage of the British Mercantile Marine which would have to be protected had increased cent per cent. Notwithstanding the large decrease in sailing tonnage, the steam tonnage had increased to such an extent as to be very largely in excess of what it was 10 years before. That increase was very remarkable when compared with the development of the Mercantile Marine of foreign nations. Whereas the combined Mercantile Marine of France, Germany, Russia, Italy, and Austria were considerably more than half the tonnage of the British Empire 10 years ago, the tonnage of the British Empire at the present moment is considerably more than one-half the aggregate tonnage of these five nations. I also made inquiries as to the expenditure of foreign nations on their Navies during those 10 years. The increases are also noteworthy. During that period the expenditure of the French has increased 39 per cent, that of Germany 43 per cent, Russia 45 per cent, and Italy 133 per cent. Austria remains very much the same. I think the House will admit that if the duties of the British Navy have been doubled during the past 10 years, and if the expenditure of foreign nations on an average has been increased by something like 50 per cent, an increase of something like 16 per cent in the expenditure on our Navy is not an exorbitant demand on the British taxpayer. But that is not all. I am taking a year which is unfavourable—the present year—as the Estimates next year will show a considerable reduction. It is no use keeping a Navy unless it be adequate to perform its duties; it would be much better to get rid of it and abolish it altogether. We are compelled to keep a strong Navy, because we draw the greatest proportion of our food supplies from abroad. We are getting closer packed, and are depending for a larger proportion of the food supply for our increasing population on supplies from abroad. It seems to me, therefore, quite clear that we must do one of two things. We must either endeavour to stimulate food supplies at home by a system of protection, or we must take measures to safeguard the transport of our food supplies from abroad. This is not a precaution in the interest of the 401 rich, but in that of the poor; for, if we are unfortunate enough to come into collision with foreign nations, they would be the first to suffer from scarcity in the food supply. Now, Sir, I have shown that the increase on the Navy during the past 10 years has only been 16 per cent. That has been entirely due to one item alone, the great development in the defensive strength of ships rendered necessary by recent inventions. It used to be assumed that a large expenditure was brought about by a combination of the services, or by those in the employment of the respective services; but the dangerous combination which exists at the present time is from the increase in armaments of foreign nations. The enormous sums of money spent by foreign nations on warlike munitions has made the manufacture of these articles a very lucrative business. Science, art, and ingenuity have combined to make more deadly every day the weapons of war; and the result has been that the destructive power of instruments of war, year by year, has increased and is increasing. It is essential, if we maintain the Navy, that it should be armed with the latest improvements and the most improved weapons; and it is from this cause, and not from any increase in the establishment, that there has been certain additional expenditure during the past few years. These great ships and these huge guns take years in their construction, and it is absolutely impossible that this country can ever get a satisfactory return for its expenditure unless the policy it pursues with regard to the Army and the Navy is continuous. Spasmodic expenditure and summary reduction are absolutely ruinous, and that is, undoubtedly, the result of the present system. Therefore, if the proposition of my noble Friend be assented to and the difficulties I have indicated could be got over, I believe that we should be able to insure something like continuity in our naval policy, because there would be a certain number of Members in the possession of official information which would enable them to apply a true test as to whether the expenditure of the Government was economical or not. Until very recently it was not the practice of the spending Departments to lay any liability record before Parliament. When I went to the 402 Admiralty in 1885 it was almost impossible to ascertain what our liabilities were; and it was afterwards discovered that, owing to a miscalculation, a sum of £80,000 had been spent which was not provided for. What I object to under the present system—I speak as the Representative of one of the great spending Departments—is, that if an agitation is got up out-of-doors, or in this House, however powerful the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Treasury may be, they cannot prevent the War Office or the Admiralty going into great expenditure. The general result of this is that by the time 19s. in the pound is spent the agitation has cooled down, and they then decline to spend the last shilling, which would enable the previous 19s. to be of any avail. When we came into Office we found there was a liability on one item alone of something like £3,000,000. It is true that our expenditure is higher in the present year; but we propose next year, notwithstanding the addition to the ships, to reduce that liability to £350,000. Where the test of extravagance or economy is based on outlay alone, no cognizance is taken of this great reduction of liability. When I heard the late Prime Minister say that the only way of dealing with a Department was by a summary reduction of expenditure, so far as the Admiralty is concerned, if that rule had been adopted we should have been forced to apply to our creditors under contracts made by the late Government a system of payment not very dissimilar to the Plan of Campaign. There is another point which I think is deserving of attention—I think there should be greater caution and calculation before large schemes of expenditure are embarked upon; but if the necessity for that expenditure be proved, then it ought to be expedited, and the work in hand completed with the greatest despatch possible. If there could be a more thorough investigation than that which the House of Commons, in its corporate capacity, can exercise, I think it might lead to very desirable results. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury is considering whether or not it would be possible to make some proposition similar to that which my noble Friend has made. Whether we can get over these difficulties or not, I am certain of one thing; and that is that no Govern- 403 ment, if it were to accept the appointment of such a Committee, could pledge itself to accept all or any of the recommendations it might make, for, inasmuch as the Government, and not the Committee, are responsible for the policy of the expenditure to the country, they could not tie their hands beforehand. I think I have shown that, so far at least as the Admiralty is concerned, we have not been guilty of extravagance; and I am bound, in fairness, to say that, if there was a considerable increase in the Army Estimates, that was mainly due to demands which we felt it our duty to press upon the War Office. The differences which arose between my noble Friend and the War Office and the Admiralty were almost entirely due to the fact of past Governments not having paid their way as they proceeded. The accumulated arrears of seven years have been heaped upon the Estimates of two years. I think, if a more thorough examination of the Estimates were made than is usual in this House, that each Government would be compelled to pay their way, and not postpone and heap up liabilities for their successors. The speech my noble Friend made yesterday brought back to Her Majesty's Government how great a subtraction from our strength his separation from us has made. But, at any rate, we were consoled in one respect, because my noble Friend stated, in the clearest and most emphatic way, that if we are not to have the advantage of his guidance and his advice, as we had in the past, at least we shall have his support in reference to the great question of the hour; he is at one with us in our wish for the maintenance of the Union and the authority of the law in Ireland, and will ever be ready to give us the benefit of his powerful advocacy and influence. My noble Friend spoke in a sanguine tone of the condition of Ireland, and considered the victory practically won; and he hinted that we might with advantage disband the Unionist army which had won it. I believe the last Election has secured for a generation to come the integrity of our Empire; but, as the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant stated the other night, it is no use maintaining the Union between those two countries unless in Ireland the authority of the law is upheld. We have yet that struggle to overcome. I believe the 404 issue will be successful. I believe we are on the eve of the last battle to be fought for some time to come. Certainly, until a battle has been fought, until there is no likelihood of any further encounter occurring, no Member of the Government would be willing to insult those allies by whose assistance we gained so great and unexpected a victory last year, and by whose further co-operation we hope to secure the fruits of that victory. Now, we take our stand upon two of the greatest principles on which civilization rests—the unity of the Empire and the liberty of the individual. The first has been made safe, and the second is being made secure against coercion. Until that desirable end is obtained, and until those principles are absolutely secured against any future combination, we cannot afford to part with a single one of our Friends opposite, who have given us such strong proof of their devotion to our cause by the self-sacrifice which they have imposed upon themselves, and whose joint action with us in the future will, as I believe it has in the past, bring the cause we have at heart to a triumphant conclusion.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Hamilton) into the latter part of his argument. The noble Lord began by promising that he would only deal with questions of finance, and I propose to follow his example in that declaration, and not the inconsistent course he pursued in his last few sentences. I wish to say a few words to the House on the subject of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). I will say at once that I was one of those who greatly regretted the secession of the noble Lord from the Government and the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, not only because during last Session the noble Lord appeared, in answering Questions put to the Government in the House, to be following sound rules of finance, but also because, on every opportunity he had during the Recess, whether it might be to deputations or in other ways, of giving his opinions on financial questions, he used those opportunities to lay down what seemed to me sound financial principles. Therefore, while saying nothing as to the merits of the question 405 which was the immediate cause of his secession, and with no reference to my right hon. Friend who succeeds him, I regret the loss the Government has sustained in the noble Lord as Chancellor of the Exchequer; and I think, in the speech which the noble Lord delivered yesterday, he thoroughly justified the impression he had previously made of the position he had taken up. I am not the only one who felt the value of the positions taken up by the noble Lord, and I will endeavour in a few words to state exactly what I mean. In that speech, Sir, the noble Lord has told us that for our present financial difficulties, or rather for the cure of those financial evils which he stated so plainly and fairly, he had two proposals to make, and the noble Lord who has just spoken (Lord George Hamilton) has referred to both of those proposals. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington suggests that it would tend to improve the discussion of the Army and Navy Estimates, and to improve the control of the House over the extravagance which obtains in the two Administrative Departments, if the Estimates were accompanied by a Memorandum in the nature of what the French call an exposé des motifs drawn up by the Minister responsible for the Estimates; a full Memorandum, which would obviate a good deal of the detail which overlays the Minister's speech in introducing the Estimates, and the debate afterwards. I did not understand from the noble Lord that he proposed to supersede the statement of the responsible Minister by this Memorandum. What I understood him to say was that this Memorandum would be placed in the hands of Members to prepare them for discussing the Estimates—[Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL assented.]—a week or more before the speech of the Minister introducing those Estimates. I think, if we had this explanation in detail of the Estimates at that time, it would greatly facilitate the discussion of the Estimates by the House; and it would, at the same time, enable hon. Members who desired to ask questions on matters of detail to find for themselves the answers to those questions; and therefore, in that respect, the Memorandum might lighten the statement of the Minister; for if this Memorandum were habitually attached to the Army and Navy Estimates the Minister 406 himself would be saved a great mass of detail which hon. Members would have in their hands. Therefore, as to that proposal of the noble Lord, I venture to suggest to the House that it has great merit, and I hope the noble Lord will press it on his former Colleagues, and that it will become the rule in ail future Estimates. The second proposal of the noble Lord was to refer the Estimates to a Committee. Now, I am not quite sure whether I understand exactly the proposal of the noble Lord. Does he say that there should be a Standing Committee for the Military and Naval Estimates? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL dissented.] Or two Standing Committees? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL again dissented.] Or does the noble Lord propose that at this time, and not necessarily followed by a repetition of the same process in future years, there should be a thorough overhauling of the Army and Navy Estimates? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL assented.] If that is so, I can only say that I strongly support that suggestion. But I think nothing could be more mischievous than a Standing Committee on the Army and Navy Estimates, even if it were composed of men of great authority on those subjects. The result would inevitably be that this Committee would be the masters of the situation, and not the Ministers who are responsible to the House and the country. If the same Chairman were appointed year after year, and supported by a powerful Committee, not only hon. Members, but, the Army and Navy Departments, would look to that Chairman as the person with the greatest power in the matter, and not to the Minister; and, if that should be the case, an irresponsible Member of Parliament having this enormous power, then I say good-bye to all control of the administration of the Army or the Navy. I am further bound to uphold this plan, because it is identical with a proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) as Prime Minister, and myself as Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1883, 1884, and 1885. We found, unfortunately, that the proposal was not agreeable to the general body of the House, and we most reluctantly abandoned it. We believe now, as we believed then, that it would be most beneficial. Now, Sir, let me 407 remind the House of what really happened, because I think it is important that those who have desired financial and administrative economy—I am not speaking exclusively of any one side of the House—should know exactly what took place in recent years on the subject. In 1883 I had the honour of opening this Budget, and in my Financial Statement I went with some detail into the Military and Naval Expenditure of the previous 20 years. I think I began with the year 1862 or 1863, and I showed what the expenditure on the Army and Navy had been in five or six different periods within that time, during what years the Estimates had fallen, and when and why they were raised. On the following day we did our best, on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Peter Rylands), to explain the salient points of these fluctuating charges; and we impressed on the House that if they wished to have this expenditure put on such a footing that everyone could see to what the increased Estimates were due, that could best be done by appointing a Committee to examine thoroughly into Army and Navy Expenditure. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty will forgive me if I remind him of the ground on which he based his opposition to that proposal. He said it was a Vote of Censure on my two Colleagues—the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty; and on that ground he could not support it. When the noble Lord brought forward that argument, I think he must have done so merely on the spur of the moment, without sufficiently considering that no Cabinet, having deliberately decided upon such inquiry, could be supposed to be censuring Members of their own body. Well, we were defeated, or, rather, the noble Lord blocked our Motion, and for a month we never could bring in on; but, as he has changed his mind and is ready to support this proposal, I will throw that in his teeth no longer. I trust the House will now support Her Majesty's Government in taking steps which to them appear wise for helping the House to exercise more control over expenditure. I entirely agree with the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington when he said— 408Parliament is impotent, unless the Government leads the way, in respect to the control of this expenditure.The noble Lord who has just spoken (Lord George Hamilton) gave a good illustration of the impotence of Parliament in dealing with the small details of Estimates when they are brought before this House on the authority of the Government, and how rarely it happens that any sensible impression has been made upon the Estimates, even in small points, much less upon any large source of expenditure. During the 27 years that I have been in the House I do not remember any case of sensible reduction of expenditure, either in the Army or the Navy, being effected by a vote of this House, although some 20 years previously, no doubt, there was an instance in which economy in the Army was brought about. Whether this is connected, as the noble Lord has suggested, with the democratic constitution of the House, or whatever the cause may be, there can be no question that it is practically impossible for those who are not themselves in the secrets of Office to control and reduce Public Expenditure upon the great Services, and that it must rest with the Government itself to propose to Parliament the proper measures to be taken. At the same time, do not let it be assumed that even with a powerful Committee, led by the Government, it will be over-easy to effect very great reductions, unless that Committee is thoroughly impressed with the relative importance of the economies suggested, and appreciates what in reality the great sources of increased expenditure have been. I have taken some trouble to see in what consists the large increase in the Naval and Military Expenditure since 1867–8, when Mr. Disraeli was Chancellor of the Exchequer. At that period the Estimates were fairly controlled; but, at the same time, without any very violent desire to reduce them. The noble Lord stated the other day that the increase in the Naval and Military Estimates since about that time, and comparing averages of years, was £6,000,000, and he was not very far wrong. As between 1867–8 and 1885–6, the increase of the net Army and Navy Expenditure is about £6,250,000. The House may, perhaps, be curious to know in what that increase really con- 409 sists. The Army has had 15,000 men added to it. The Votes for pay, clothing, and provisions have increased by about £2,000,000. The increase for retired pay and pensions is £750,000, and the increase for ordnance and all other Votes is £1,250,000, the total increase in the Army Expenditure being £4,000,000. In regard to the Army, therefore, it will have to be remembered that the main items of increase—pay, pension, food, and clothing—are very difficult to attack. But the increase of Navy Expenditure is totally different. Instead of there having been an increase of 15,000 men, there has been a decrease of 6,000; for our ships, although affording a vastly larger fighting power, now require a much smaller number of men than 18 years ago. The Votes for pay, clothing, and provisions have been reduced by £500,000, while the Votes for retired pay and pensions have been increased by £500,000; but the Votes for shipbuilding and ship-repairing have increased by £2,000,000. But everyone knows that great war ships, which used to cost £100,000 or £200,000, now cost £500,000 or £1,000,000 each. Other Votes have increased by £250,000. Thus the Navy increase has been £2,250,000. There will, of course, be some difficulty in dissociating the economical from the political parts of the inquiry. Of course, no Government could refer to a Committee high questions of policy involving expenditure on the Navy and Army, especially on the Navy. I think, however, that an inquiry, carefully conducted by men of position and experience, and, above all, by business men, will be able to effect a great deal without touching politics at all. I hope that such a Committee, if appointed, will bear in mind what the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) has so well said tonight, as to the advantages of proceeding rapidly when building ships. When you have once decided what ships you want to build, I am sure that it is a sound rule to build and complete them as speedily as possible, without waiting to see what further improvements science or experience might suggest. The tendency of the Departments is to make small changes and improvements as the work goes on; but, in my opinion, these had better be introduced into the next ship, and not delay the particular ship 410 in hand. I do not assent to all his doctrines; but, speaking generally, I believe that the First Lord of the Admiralty has given the House good advice, and I feel certain that if, in addition to his improvements, the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington is adopted, we shall get both the efficiency and the economy mentioned in the Queen's Speech. That being so, I shall be most happy, to the best of my humble powers, to facilitate and assist the carrying out of the plan which he has suggested.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
Sir, I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. Childers) in his observations with respect to the Army and Navy, of which he has so large experience, as I have neither title nor knowledge to qualify me to do so, further than to say that, in case of either wanton negligence or extravagant expenditure, I am certain it is not from this Government or this side of the House that any opposition to a most sweeping inquiry will be made. Indeed, I do not think that I should have intervened in this debate but for the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), which, so far as I am able to judge, must be regarded as the prelude to a series of attacks on the financial policy of the Government as a whole. I am not concerned, nor am I called upon, to undertake a defence of the Government in these matters, which is perfectly well able to take care of itself. But I am concerned, in common with Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House, and in common, I have no doubt, with many on the other side of the House, in the maintenance of the Union and the Unionist Party—to use the language of the noble Lord himself—"intact and unimpaired," and on those grounds I ask permission to make some observations on his speech. The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) to-night congratulated himself on the fact that it was evident that the support of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington was still to be given to the cardinal principle and policy of the Government—namely, the maintenance of the Union and of the Unionist Party "intact and unimpaired." But I must say that some of the noble Lord's references last night 411 to the Liberal Unionists and their Leaders were not so satisfactory in that respect as they might have been. Even if that were so, I confess that I am one of those who prefer to judge a man by what he does rather than by what he says. Therefore, I ask permission to intervene in this debate. Let me just say a word or two upon what the noble Lord said with reference to Ireland. We have reason to be grateful to the noble Lord for his references to Ireland; and, speaking as an English landlord, I will venture to tender him my thanks for his able vindication of the landlords of that country, and for the generous and just tribute which he paid to the manner in which many Irish landlords are endeavouring to perform their duties, although by the legislation of this House they have long ago been deprived of all the rights which attach to property in Ireland. Most cordially, also, would I re-echo the sentiments which the noble Lord expressed towards the Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) in reference to the way in which my right hon. Friend has fulfilled the most formidable and most difficult and most thankless task which can fall to the lot of any Minister in these days—namely, the government of Ireland. There is much, indeed, which I should like to add upon this subject had it not been so well said already by the noble Lord. In the next place, may I be permitted to refer in a single sentence to the references which fell last night from the noble Lord to the New Rules of Procedure, and the personal references which he did me the honour of making to myself? The noble Lord assured us that the Rules laid upon the Table are precisely the same as they were when he left the Cabinet. I can well believe it, and I am glad to hear it. Knowing, as I do, the extremely intractable and wilful, and sometimes, I might say, almost impossible disposition of the noble Lord, I must say that I think that the greatest credit is done to my speeches and perambulations throughout the country—to which the noble Lord has somewhat scornfully alluded—by the form which the New Rules have actually assumed. The noble Lord is a master of exposition—he is an absolute master of language—and no one will convince me that he could have expressed himself with the singular infelicity and extraordinary 412 clumsiness which he must have shown if these Rules are what he intended them to be. I have not the smallest doubt that I have been successful in converting either the noble Lord himself—no small matter in itself—or in inducing his Colleagues to resist much more stringent propositions. I have, therefore, no acknowledgment to make, as he said very properly last night, to the extremely Radical Member for South Paddington. But, on the contrary, I think I have every reason to congratulate myself. If the Rules of Procedure have not been altered, there is something else which has been, according to the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill)—if they are framed with due regard to efficiency and economy—and that is the Estimates, and the expenditure which they involved, upon which the noble Lord informed us that he resigned. Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, was the third day on which we have had debate since Parliament re-assembled. We have been favoured by the noble Lord with two explanations of that resignation already. A resignation must be somewhat awkward and somewhat serious in the mind of the person who resigns, if it requires an explanation every other day. Last night we were told emphatically by the noble Lord that it was not upon the coaling stations that his resignation was made. And yet—I heard his statement and read it afterwards with the greatest care—it appears that the letter to Lord Salisbury was absolutely clear, and that there is no foundation whatever for his strictures on the Prime Minister, when the noble Lord charges him with being such a master of tactics and fastening the question of the coaling stations upon him as the cause of his resignation. This is what the noble Lord wrote—The War Estimates might be very considerably reduced if the expenditure on the fortifications and guns and garrisons of military ports, mercantile ports, and coaling stations were abandoned or modified. But of this I see no chance, and, under the circumstances, I cannot continue to be responsible for the finances.Well, if this is not a perfectly distinct resignation upon a specified point I do not know what it is, and therefore his retort upon the Prime Minister was uncalled for, and unjustified by anything which happened. Then the noble Lord 413 says that he was pledged up to the eyes to retrenchment, and that, therefore, it was impossible for him to reconsider his position. But in which direction? By previous speeches to an increase of expenditure, or by previous speeches in favour of reduction? What is no infrequent occurrence with the noble Lord—he was distinctly pledged both ways. I am going to quote, in defence of the Government and the attitude they have taken up, one or two singular and remarkable statements of the noble Lord in former days. I remember reading with great interest at the time the account of an interview between the noble Lord and some representative of a well-known journal in this country, The Pall Mall Gazette. It is, among other things, on the subject of the expenditure on the Army and Navy—As to the Navy, if all The Pall Mall Gazette says is true, then nothing short of an immediate expenditure on an adequate scale can be thought of. I am bound to say that all I have heard entirely hears out 'The Truth about the Navy,' and I shall be much surprised if the debate in the House of Commons does not conclusively make in the same direction.… For my own part, if 'The Truth about the Navy' be admitted, then a large expenditure spread over a number of years should be incurred, and I should not hesitate for a moment about it, for I believe it would be as popular as it would be patriotic.Then, so large were the noble Lord's ideas that he goes on—Even worse than nothing would be a wretched million or two, which would do no good, but an infinity of harm in hanging the whole question up.I suppose the noble Lord has changed his opinions on the subject, and something has led him to believe that such an expenditure would not be popular. Now, I wish to quote an opinion of the noble Lord to which more importance attaches, because it was made after the period when he had succeeded to the responsible position of a Minister of the Crown in this country. Speaking on the 12th of August, 1885, and addressing a large meeting in Dorsetshire, he made this statement, which contrasts most remarkably with the position and the attitude which he has recently adopted—The policy we are pursuing is a great one. It is a Policy upon which we shall go to the country. It is a policy which has for its object the strengthening of the Empire at home and abroad.… It is a policy by which we mean to create an efficient and overwhelm- 414 ing Navy adequate to the defence of our commerce, our coasts, and our Colonies.Now, Sir, I have given the House two instances in which, most undoubtedly, the noble Lord was pledged to a very large increase of expenditure, because it is impossible to suppose that by a reduction of expenditure you can create an adequate, and even an overwhelming Navy. But I wish to be perfectly fair, and I will give to the House his latest statements as a Minister, and while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the question of expenditure. And this is the statement that he made, speaking on a celebrated occasion at Dartford, and when he made that speech which created so much sensation in the country. He dwelt there for some time on his eagerness and great anxiety, representing the particular Office that he then filled, to do that which undoubtedly was most desirable and most praiseworthy in itself—to bring about, if possible, a great reduction in expenditure, and consequently in the taxation of the people. And he said—I frankly confess that I shall be bitterly disappointed if it is not in my power in one, or, at any rate, in two years, to show to the public that a very honest and very earnest effort has been made in that direction, and that it has been attended with a practical and sensible result.That was a statement with which no one would dream of quarrelling for a moment, but which was deserving of every possible support and praise. But the noble Lord was not satisfied to give one or two years for the attainment of this result, but he hardly allowed one or two months to go by before he came forward with his proposals to his Colleagues in the Cabinet, and then, because his views were not at once accepted, he thought it his imperative duty to resign. What I want to call the attention of the House to is this. Granted that he was pledged to a reduction of expenditure, was he not pledged to something else besides, and pledged ten times more than on that question? What did he say at Dartford about the duty of the Government and the cardinal principle of their policy? I am almost afraid of wearying the House by frequent quotations, but the House and the country ought to be reminded of these explicit statements made within so short a period; and I must ask the House to listen to the words used by the noble Lord only about three months ago. 415 At Dartford, the noble Lord unfolded a great programme of policy to the people on the part of his Colleagues as well as of himself. He dealt with a great variety of subjects at that time, including, of course, the question of expenditure; but he declared that one and all of those subjects must be held subordinate to the great cardinal principle of the maintenance, intact and unimpaired, of the union of the Unionist Party. The noble Lord said—Now, let me turn to the policy of the future. The main principle of that policy—I pray you to bear in mind—the guiding principle and motive of the policy of the Government in the future will be to maintain intact and unimpaired the union of the Unionist Party. We know how much depends, how almost entirely the future of England depends, on the union of the Unionist Party; how every institution which we value, all the liberties which we prize, are for the time bound up in the union of the Party; and everything we do"—I beg the House to mark this—Everything; we do, either in domestic or foreign affairs, shall be subordinated to the cardinal principle of the union of the Unionist Party. Subject to that principle," he says, "let us examine the details of what we may propose to get next Session.And then he proceeds to deal with all those secondary and subordinate questions to which I have already alluded. Well, I listened with great attention to hear what defence would be set up by the noble Lord in reference to this part of the question. He says it is quite true that it is our duty to maintain the Union, but that the right way of doing it is toidentify the Government of the Union—the Party of the Union—in the minds of the English people with good government, with efficient administration, and with progressive legislation.Undoubtedly, in this he was perfectly right; but the noble Lord has no monopoly in the Conservative Party, and he never has had, so far as I know, of the desire either for good government, efficient administration, or progressive legislation. What, I ask, is the most difficult point in the government of this country at the present moment? Undoubtedly, it is the government of Ireland; and on that very question, the cardinal question of all, in the government of this country at this time, the noble Lord last night extended his blessing to the Ministry; and, therefore, it clearly cannot be on that point that he is dissatisfied. Then, as to progres- 416 sive legislation, I take the programme of the Government, and with that the noble Lord last night expressed his satisfaction. He said it was an ample and abundant programme, and he was mightily pleased with it, because he said that it bore a strong family resemblance to a famous speech made in Kent. It is quite true that it was shadowed forth in the speech made at Dartford; and with the single exception of the closure, which everybody understood the noble Lord to mean closure by a bare majority—a point to which. I took objection—with that single exception, I expressed my hearty approval of the Dartford programme. What was the Dartford programme? It was not the policy of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. I heard the noble Lord himself spend at least a quarter of an hour in explaining to a popular audience at Bradford that this Dartford programme, about which so much fuss was made at the time, was nothing more nor less, with the single exception of the measure relating to the question of tithes, than a perfect copy of the original programme laid down by Lord Salisbury at Newport the year before. Then, I want to know—and I have cited the noble Lord himself as a witness on this subject—I want to know whether it is possible that he can have adopted this course for a single moment because we are refusing to identify ourselves as a Party with progressive legislation? As to what the noble Lord said last night with reference to the Leaders of the Liberal Unionists and their Party, and as to the taunts which he levelled at them, I must say that I heard his language with profound regret. It is barely three months ago since there was nothing which the noble Lord could say that was sufficiently good of the whole of the Liberal Unionists and their Leaders. He praised their self-sacrifice, he praised their loyalty, he praised their honourable conduct; and I desire for myself, and I am certain also for the whole of the Party on this (the Ministerial) side of the House, to say that we resent and utterly repudiate the taunts which the noble Lord flung at them. The fact is, I am very much afraid, that by the two explanations the noble Lord has given us, he has only made his position worse than it was before. There was a general desire and a general dis- 417 position on the part of the whole Conservative Party, not to say one word of condemnation of his attitude until his explanation was heard, and if his explanation had been confined to what he stated in his first speech on the opening night of the Session, nothing would have fallen from me on the subject. But, I must say that I think the noble Lord proved last night that he had not the shadow of a leg to stand on. The noble Lord, however, is not satisfied, and he is going to make his appeal to the people. What is he going to tell them about the Union? Why, that he, the Minister of all others pledged up to the eyes to maintain the union of the Unionist Party intact and unimpaired, within a brief couple of months afterwards has, so far as he is himself concerned, chucked the fortunes of the Unionist Party to the winds; and, by his resignation, has dealt at the cause of the Union about as heavy a blow as was possibly in the power for any individual man to give it. And why is this done? Why are these solemn pledges departed from? Because—and for nothing more—because the Government would not consent to leave the ports and coaling stations of the Empire undefended; and because they would not grant the noble Lord a reduction of £500,000 on the Estimates. Well, what has he got to say to the people on the question of the Estimates and of expenditure? In my humble opinion, this is more extraordinary still. Husband your resources—says the noble Lord in effect—in time of peace; make no preparation for the possibilities of war; leave your ports and your coaling stations altogether undefended; repose on the undying historic memories of the past, so that when war is actually upon you, and the fight has already begun, then you will be able to display the exuberance of your resources in all their irresistible might. That is the noble Lord's idea of statesmanlike economy and efficiency. The noble Lord made a suggestion last night by proposing that all these matters should be referred to a Committee of this House. We have had a great many Committees in this House on many different subjects, and I have no objection to the inquiries they make if good is to be the result; but dots the noble Lord suppose that these matters have never been the subject of inquiries before? I think, considering 418 the responsibility of his position, and more than all considering the enormous responsibility which attached to his resignation, the noble Lord ought to have made himself more thoroughly acquainted with everything that has transpired in this respect in the past. But I wish to remind the House that this question was carefully considered some years ago by a Royal Commission presided over by Lord Dalhousie; and, in the report of that Commission, hon. Members will find a most pregnant sentence, which is more than ever applicable to the circumstances of the present day. The noble Lord has told us to put off our preparations until the time when war begins. What was the report of that Commission, presided over by an able, a distinguished, and experienced statesman, and composed of men who were thoroughly competent to sift the question to the bottom, and report upon it?—Recent events," they say, "have taught us that we must not rely in future on having time for preparation. Wars will be sudden in their commencement, and short in their duration, and woe to that country which is not prepared to defend itself against any contingency that may arise, or combinations that may be formed against it.I do not believe that the people of this country are likely for one moment to be misled by the extremely foolish sentiments—I believe that "clap-trap" would be the right word—I will not use it—I do not wish for a moment, Sir, to depart from the proper courtesies of debate—but I do not believe for a moment that the people of this country would be misled by the idle and the foolish sentiments which the noble Lord expressed on this point last night. Let him, in Heaven's name, make his appeal to the people when he likes. They must have strangely changed their nature, unless the noble Lord is destined to be quickly and piteously disappointed. What the people of this country like is a man whoso Party and whose Leader know they can rely upon him in the hour of their need. What the people of England dislike above all—what I am satisfied he will find, they will bitterly resent in a great crisis of affairs like the present—is the desertion of a Government, of a Party, and of a cause by one from whom they had every right and every reason to believe, from everything which he had said before, 419 that he would have given his commanding powers and all his efforts to their support.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, he did not feel called upon to make any apology for interposing in the debate, because, partly owing to the fact that he had taken a somewhat active part in recent events in Ireland, and particularly in reference to the atrocities which had lately taken place at Glenbeigh, and partly that during the course of the debate he had been attacked with all the violence and malignant ingenuity of which the junior Members of the Tory Party were capable, he might fairly be expected, and even claim a right, to say something on the subject. But he would not have troubled the House in saying anything in self-defence, had he not felt bound to do so in the interests of the poor persecuted tenantry of Ireland. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) had done him the honour of quoting some utterances of his in Ireland, and he thanked the hon. and gallant Member for having done so, because it gave him the opportunity of re-affirming on the floor of the House of Commons what he had said on public platforms in Ireland. They were utterances of which he was not ashamed, and he did not think, under the circumstances, anyone could blame him who had a grain of humanity or common sense in his disposition. He found a special reference to these utterances of his in Notes from Ireland, a publication of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, directing the attention of the Government to his speeches, of which he made no doubt the Attorney-General for Ireland and the Chief Secretary had taken due notice. If he was to be hounded down in this fashion for passages quoted from his speeches, he wanted to know where were these Gentlemen who devoted so much attention to him when the right hon. Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) went over to Belfast to incite his fellow-countrymen to civil war. A few moments ago, there was sitting on the opposite Benches the hon. Member for East Belfast (Mr. De Cobain), who, notwithstanding the Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty which he had taken that evening at the Table of the House, had uttered the most treasonable expressions—had not only incited to civil war, but had 420 absolutely used treasonable utterances against Her Majesty herself. No evil effects had resulted from what he (Mr. Conybeare) had said in Ireland, whilst the worst riots known in their recollection had been the result, had been the outcome of the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington and the hon. Member for East Belfast. He had only to say with reference to the attacks made upon him—both past, present, and future—that he stood there fully conscious of his responsibility as a representative of the democracy of this country. Though his constituency was in a distant part of the country, it was, perhaps, all the better for that, because it would remain uncorrupted by the taint of metropolitan snobocracy. He was not sent to that House to bandy personalities with the professional punsters and the political buffoons of the Tory Party. The issues in debates of this kind were grave and solemn, and he would not be deterred from entering on the path which he had marked out for himself. If it were in his power to assist the poor, the oppressed, the struggling and the weak, against the rich and powerful, the selfish classes and the monopolists, he should not hesitate to do so. He had no fear but that his constituents would fully approve all that he might deem it his duty to do in that behalf. Why were the Tory Party so angry with the part he had taken? Because in the past, when battles were waging in the House on behalf of Ireland, the Irish Members had to fight alone, but since the extension of the franchise the democracy of England had felt it its duty to range itself with the people of Ireland; and, to-day, the democracy of England was wide-awake, and was determined to fight side by side with the democracy of Ireland in defence of the rights of the people against the interests of the classes. Formerly the democracy had no ears to hear, because the only channel of information available to them—the plutocratic Press of this country—systematically kept back from the people the information which it should be the duty of the Press to convey. As illustrating this, he might mention that only a week ago the hon. Member for North Meath, a friend of his, wrote from Glenbeigh a long and interesting and important letter, meeting false statements published in The Times with reference to the evictions, and he 421 sent that letter to The Times, and also to The Daily News. The Daily News had the good sense and the good feeling to publish the letter, but The Times had neither the impartiality nor the good sense to put the letter in. In fact, he presumed that The Times was afraid to publish the letter, because the more light was let in upon the atrocities of Glenbeigh, the worse it would be for its clients and readers. [Ironical laughter.] He could assure hon. Members who laughed that the English people would not much longer suffer themselves to be taxed for the purpose of enabling Irish landlords to turn out their unfortunate tenants; not merely when they would not, but when they could not pay their rents, and to demolish and burn the humble houses which they themselves had built. Now the noble Lord the Member for North Tyrone (Lord Ernest Hamilton) had condemned the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) for interfering on an estate as to which he knew very little, but, if the hon. Member did so, his conduct was at all events no worse than that of the accredited agents of the Government; because one of the most singular portions of the evidence of Mr. Plunket in the Dublin Police Court was that in which he had to admit that, instigated by the Chief Secretary or in communication with Sir Redvers Buller, he interfered between landlord and tenant in a case of which admittedly he knew nothing at all. It had been said by some Members on the opposite Benches, that an extended application of Lord Ashbourne's Purchase Act would settle the Irish difficulty, and was the weapon which the Nationalist Party most dreaded. Well, one of the things which he had been advising the tenants in Ireland to do was not to purchase holdings under that Act, or under any similar Act, because the Land Judges were creating a block in the business of the Land Court by refusing to allow estates to be sold at their present market value. As a rule, only one-fourth, or at the most one-third, of the purchase value of the property in land belonged to the landlords, and the rest to the tenants, and that being so, it was a monstrous thing to compel the tenants to go into these Courts and pay for the fee-simple of their holdings 15 and 20 years' purchase for their own property—for the improvements effected by themselves—when five or six years' purchase would more likely be the pro- 422 per figure. Many statements had been published in the newspapers with reference to the treatment of the Glenbeigh cottagers by the landlord, which he must stigmatize as false statements. They had been told that the landlord had been most generous during the 24 years he had been on the estate in the treatment of his tenants; that the agent, Roe, offered most magnanimous terms to them; that the tenantry had broken faith, and that in consequence, the parish priest, Father Quilter, had left them to their own resources; that the agitation had been wholly instigated by the National League, &c. He had no hesitation in denouncing every one of those statements as false. Up to 1879 the rents at Glenbeigh had been paid regularly. Indeed, so great was the desire of the tenants to pay at that time that—he had it on the authority of the medical officer—it was found necessary on rent day to have a policeman to keep order among the tenants as they rushed into the agent's office. Had hon. Members on the other side of the House heard of the foraging expeditions of Mr. and Mrs. Winn among these poor people for free supplies of eggs, and fowl, and fresh butter? He had discovered at a hotel, where he was staying at Glenbeigh, that this gentleman lived three months at the hotel some years ago, and ran up a bill of £90; and that he decamped one day without paying it, and that it still remained unpaid. With respect to rack-renting, Mr. Winn's son alleged that the rents remained the same to-day as they were 86 years ago. Hon. Members were aware that Griffith's valuation had not been made 86 years I ago, but that it was made somewhere about 1850. He and other hon. Gentlemen had taken down the facts from more than 30 of these tenants, and found that in every case the rent was grossly above the valuation, and in many cases more than double the valuation. He was also informed that when the Hon. Rowland Winn came into the property, he got rid of the old agent who remonstrated with him as to raising the rents at all; and the rents were raised until the poor people were as rack-rented as they were to-day. He could give the House many instances of what he would venture to characterize as tyranny exercised over the tenants. In one case, some of them who had gone into a copse and cut some branches, had 423 been summoned by the landlord and fined £26; while, in another case, a man had been fined £5 for having some wood in his possession which was not worth more than 2s. To illustrate the impartiality of which they had heard in connection with the treatment of these tenants, he would mention that at the time of this case the agent of the estate was acting as a magistrate, and left the Bench, on the case coming on, in order to give evidence. They had heard of the kindness of General Buller and Judge Curran. From evidence which he had got, he could assure the House that these poor people, when they went, before Judge Curran, wore bullied and brow-beaten by him, and were never allowed to toll their own story; and Father Quilter himself had described Judge Curran's conduct as worthy of a Star Chamber Court. He referred to the pamphlet of the I. L. P. U. to show that Sir Redvers Buller had acted certainly not impartially as between landlord and tenant. He had started with a misconception, because there was no evidence given of the alleged combination among the tenants to refuse to pay their rents. The only evidence was that there had not been, and was not, any combination on the estate whatever. In the police court, he swore that he was not sent there at all with the view of interfering between landlord and tenant in connection with social order; while he had written to Messrs. Darley and Roe, the agents on the Glenbeigh estate, in these terms—"I have reason to be anxious about the possibility of preserving order in the district"; and three days later he advised and instigated the levelling of the peasants' homes. If Sir Redvers Bullor wrote the truth in these letters, he must have sworn what was false in the witness box in Dublin. If Sir Redvers Buller was right in his conclusions, all the evidence which they had collected showed that he was wrong in asserting that there was a deliberate combination among them not to pay rents which they were able to pay. Even in the presence of the Sheriff, when a poor man was proceeding to explain why he was unable to pay, he was at once shut up by the Sheriff; and, if they had not been on the spot, the whole country would continue to believe that these poor people were, what they were not—a dishonest set of people. The statement of 424 Mr. Roe that he had only burnt the houses of persons who could afford to pay, was not correct in a single case. It was said that Mr. Roe was anxious to settle with the tenants in every case he could. But this was not borne out by the facts, for in more than one instance when a tenant brought in the full half-year's rent, part of which had in most cases been borrowed, Mr. Roe refused to accept it on the technical ground that his cotenant would not or could not pay. He could also mention instances in which the houses of poor tenants who were destitute were burned down. In one case—that of TomBurke—the tenant had no stock for four or five years. He had a wife and four children, who were notoriously supporting themselves by begging round the country; and, such was the destitution in this ease, that temporary relief had been ordered by the Poor Law Authorities, and the police, with the permission of their commanding officer, collected £1 2s. 6d. for the immediate assistance of this poor family. He wanted to comment upon the character of those ruffians who were let loose upon the most inoffensive, most honest, and most industrious people that he ever came across, and who demolished their houses before their eyes and turned them out on the mountain side. The bailiffs and crowbar brigade were men of the most disreputable antecedents, some of whom, he was informed, had been convicted of felonies; and they behaved in the most ruffianly manner, and used the foulest language. The Constabulary also, in many instances, behaved with great violence, punching and knocking down girls with the butt-end of their rifles. Would the Attorney General allow his emissaries, the Constabulary, to perpetrate all those acts of violence and brutality upon these poor people without calling them to account? If they wanted to train up the poor children of the poor people, if they wanted to implant in their hearts hatred of their government, if they wanted to teach them to grow up patriotic young rebels—the best thing they could do was to go on with this fiendish work of burning the roofs of their fathers. Who could deny that they were setting a premium upon vice when they let loose among an industrious and moral population, ruffians whose character was known in the district to be of the worst description, and 425 men who were known in the locality to be bastards. These tenants were industrious. There were people in this country, especially among the landlord class, who said that the Irish people were lazy; yet these were the people who themselves lived in lazy luxury upon the rents which could not be put into their pockets were it not for the most persistent industry on the part of these poor people. In the houses of these destitute tenants, and in the houses of the shopkeepers, he had seen processes and decrees for different articles supplied by the shopkeepers, but which they did not execute because they knew the poor people could not pay. He had been told by one shopkeeper in the neighbourhood, that the shopkeepers were on the brink of ruin themselves because the landlords stepped in and grabbed up everything before anyone else could get it. He had also seen the pawn-tickets in their homes, and, if they wanted evidence of the absolute poverty of these poor people, they had it in the fact of their having no stock for years past, and in the fact that their land had gone out of cultivation. Before he sat down, he wanted to address a few words to the Chief Secretary, and he hoped, although he was not present, that he might hereafter be able to take some note of them, because he had implored them in almost pathetic tones to help him. They were told by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington last night of the remarkably great sacrifice which the Chief Secretary had made in accepting the Chief Secretary ship. He (Mr. Conybeare) could not help thinking that there was something of crocodile's tears about the noble Lord, when he recollected that it was entirely due to the noble Lord himself that the Chief Secretary was ousted out of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer. He could not help thinking that the Chief Secretary must often have felt like the hedge sparrow who was chucked I out of his nest by the cuckoo. He believed the Chief Secretary had done what he could in a humane manner, though as illegally as anything done under the Plan of Campaign, to alleviate the sufferings of the people of Ireland this winter. He felt a certain amount of pity for the Chief Secretary, who appeared to be a thoroughly good man, struggling against his fate, and against the misfortunes which were steadily 426 gathering round his head. He found, at the end of the speech delivered by the Chief Secretary the other evening, that the right hon. Gentleman explained that he must maintain the law. They all agreed upon that point; but the question was how were they to do it? They could not do it any longer by coercion, as they had tried to do it in the past and failed. Why was the law at present detested by a great number of the people of Ireland? It was because, in the first place, the law was not based on the consent of the people, and never would be based on their consent until they had Home Rule. He had no hesitation in stigmatizing the present law in Ireland as a criminal law—it was opposed to the Divine law, "Thou shalt not steal," because it enabled the landlord to steal the property of the tenant—property which had, in every sense, been created by the latter's own exertions, industry, and outlay. The laws of Ireland, as applied to the land, violated all the principles of political economy. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had stated that the Irish tenants were surrounded by a triple wall of protection; but he did not explain how it was that in spite of such bulwarks they could still be evicted, and their houses levelled. Anybody who knew anything about almost any part of Ireland knew that the tenant did not earn sufficient from the land to enable him to pay his rent, which was paid partly by what the tenant earned in this country at certain periods of the year, and what he received from his children in Australia or America. If a farmer in this country proposed to pay £100 a-year for a farm which would only yield £80, he would be looked upon as a lunatic. And why should they draw any distinction between the Irish farmer and the English farmer? In discussing this question, they should remember that, whereas in England the farmer did not pay for all the improvements, in Ireland the improvements were almost invariably the work of the tenant. The Glenbeigh estate produced a rental of £1,731, but he should like any hon. Member to go and see the character of the soil, and then ask himself the question, "Is there any tenant farmer in this country who could be induced to take that estate as it stands and pay that amount for it?" He was sure there would be no tenant in 427 England who would be induced to accept the estate on those terms; and yet that enormous rental was extorted from these unfortunate people who had given to the land the value which attached to it by the improvements which they had made. If the Chief Secretary, instead of relying for his information on the agent of the estate, and others of that class, had gone to the place himself he would have come back a Home Ruler. He would make this offer to the Chief Secretary—If the right hon. Gentleman would accompany him to Ireland during the recess, they would visit different parts of the country, and see for themselves what was the actual condition of these poor people who, in a telegram he sent to him (Mr. Conybeare) at Glenbeigh, he practically declared refused to pay their rents when they were quite able to do so. He was perfectly certain if the Chief Secretary would accede to his offer, and visit these unfortunate people, he would learn an experience which, however many years he filled the Office he now held, would be of lasting value to him. Hitherto the people of Ireland had been treated more like savages and wild beasts than anything else, and therefore it was surprising they did not cause the Government more trouble than they were doing. What they ought to do was to bring the laws into harmony with the moral instincts of the people and with political economy. So long as the laws of the country violated those two principles, they never would have any sound government in Ireland. The first thing they should do would be to stop the evictions. Before any tenant was put out of his home his case should be carefully investigated, and his house not destroyed until it was found he would not pay his rent through sheer rascality. In any case where a tenant had built his own house, he should not be evicted, even if he could pay, without receiving compensation. With respect to the congested population, the one suggestion which the Tories made was emigration or migration, as suggested by the Chief Secretary. They should not compel these people either to emigrate or migrate; by doing so they only tended to eradicate from the hearts of the people one of the greatest virtues of a citizen—the love of one's native country. Their homes were not full of luxuries, but these poor people had been born and 428 bred there—they had spent many hours of happiness there, and no one had any more right to destroy their homes and endeavour to drive out of their hearts the love of country than they had to go to the greatest mansion of any noble Lord and tell him to go away as he was not wanted. The question, then, was how were they to relieve the congestion? This could be done by utilizing the natural resources of the country, and alluring the people from their present condition of life by offering them sufficient inducement to take up a different life. The fishing industry might be fostered, and training ships and military depots might be established, with the object of drawing the young to a seafaring or military life. It was hopeless for the Government to expect to secure the adhesion of the Irish people, unless they were prepared to cast away altogether the old-fashioned weapon of coercion. So long as they applied coercion to Ireland, so long would the democracy of this country be against them, and to-day the democracy of England was anxious and panting to range itself on the side of the democracy of Ireland. It was only by recognizing that fact that the Government would secure the confidence of their own fellow-countrymen, and be able to bring peace and prosperity to the sister country.
§ COLONEL HUGHES-HALLETT (Rochester)
said he thought the question of Ireland had been sufficiently dealt with in the crisp and telling sentences of the First Lord of the Treasury; and he would, therefore, devote his remarks to the paragraphs of the Queen's Speech referring to foreign policy and to expenditure. Whatever Lord Salisbury may have said at the Guildhall, or written in the letter to which the hon. Member for Northampton had referred, those utterances were superseded by the Queen's Speech, from which it might be fairly gathered that the policy of the Government, if it erred at all, would err on the side of peace. He understood that Russia was to be allowed, without protest from us, to regain her ascendancy in the Balkan Peninsula, provided she did not infringe any of the stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin. So far as we could judge, she would be able to regain her ascendancy without provoking the hostility of the Power lying contiguous to the States south of the Balkans. Up to this point, he apprehended, there was 429 no danger to the peace of Europe in general, or of England in particular. But whether Russia, when she had once regained her ascendancy in the Balkan Peninsula, would be content to remain there, was another question, and one rather for the future than the present. Many hon. Members were anxious lest, at some later period, Russia might attempt to advance to Constantinople' in pursuance of her traditional policy. The House and the country might fairly assume that if such a contingency occurred, the policy of the Government would be as firm and as bold as it was under Lord Beaconsfield. The question of economy had rightly exercised the mind of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. So far as he could gather, neither the noble Lord nor any other man wanted to object to any expenditure that was absolutely necessary for maintaining our Army and Navy. But it seemed that the noble Lord was convinced in his own mind—and the conviction was shared not only by Members on the Opposition side, but also by many on the Ministerial side of the House—that a certain amount of extravagant expenditure existed in the two great spending Departments, and that it might be effectually reduced, if not removed, without impairing or endangering the efficiency of the Services. That seemed to be the reading of the noble Lord's resignation. As he understood, the noble Lord did not object to any expenditure that was necessary to protect our coaling stations; but he objected to Estimates for expenditure on coaling stations, which expenditure was not accurately and fully accounted for, or judicious and necessary; and he rightly pointed out what we had wasted on fortifications at Portsmouth. Knowing himself every fort stretching inland from the beach to the downs, he concurred in the opinion that expenditure had been wasted. Some of the forts were mounted with heavy guns; some had guns that were dismounted; some had no guns at all, although they had been erected 25 years. Considering the present condition of the ordnance of ourselves and foreign Powers the forts would be almost useless, and if they came within range of an enemy's guns they would be in ruins in a few hours. However anxious Lord Palmerston might have been to part with the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) 430 two years he thought that it would have mattered very little, on the score of expense, which he lost. Of course the noble Lord could not object to our coaling stations being defended. It was absolutely necessary that they should have some protection. In the warfare of the future, ships would be sent to attack seaboard towns; and it would be as necessary that an admiral at sea should have access to secure coaling stations as that a commander of land forces should have the use of railways. As war might come upon us when we least expected it, we ought to be prepared for it in these matters. It would have been better if the £35,000,000 we had sunk in the sands of the Soudan and of Egypt, and the £11,000,000 spent in the Russian war scare, had been laid out to protect our coaling stations, and save our Colonies from panics. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian cheered the noble Lord when he unfolded his views on economy; but how was it that the right hon. Gentleman, when he was in Office, did not initiate retrenchment if it were possible to effect it? The advance of science and invention had necessitated increase of expenditure; and what the House and the country wished to insist upon for the future was that we should have money's worth for our money, and that the Estimates put forward should be accurate and should be scrupulously adhered to, and that every farthing expended should be accounted for with that fastidious exactitude and punctiliousness which a business man expected from a qualified accountant.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
said, that with reference to the pressing question of economy in the Public Services he was not a military or a naval officer, and therefore could not enter into details on the matter; but he represented a large commercial community in the North, and he could assure hon. Members that the eyes of the labouring classes were fixed upon the question of economy, and on the action Parliament would take in it. They would only be too glad to see real reform initiated, and would welcome the efforts of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) in that direction, together with his repentance, however late it might have come, with the greatest satisfaction. He believed, rather than lose Portsmouth Harbour; judging from the experience of the last 431 however, there was great necessity for an increase in the efficiency of both the Naval and Military Services. The noble Lord had referred in rather a cruel manner to the Liberal Unionists, and had suggested that they were the crutches on which the Government depended for support. For his own part, he (Mr. Schwann) believed the Government were going from bad to worse, for they were now depending for support on a wooden leg in the form of Mr. Goschen, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. [Laughter.] He said that advisedly, because all medical men had laid it down that a wooden leg had no vital connection with the body it supported; and, as some Liberals had said that Mr. Goschen had no vital connection with their Party, so he believed the Conservatives would find that he had no vital connection with them. As to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), they knew that he had propounded a great variety of plans for the settlement of the Irish Question in the past, and that he would propound a great many in the future. But there was great advantage in the multiplicity of the right hon. Gentleman's plans, because there could be no doubt that, whatever plan was adopted by the House, it was quite sure to have some distant family resemblance to some of the numerous progeny of the right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Schwann) wished to point out that the phrase they had hoard so much about lately—namely, the union of the Unionists, was entirely wrong, because, as a matter of fact, disunion and not union prevailed in the ranks of the Unionist Party. He was in a position to say this with some authority, having spent four or five weeks in Ireland recently, and having talked with many Irish Unionists. In a journey which he made in that country, with the object of instituting personal inquiries on this matter, he found that the aims and views and aspirations of the Unionists on this side of the Channel were by no means consistent with the aims, views, and aspirations of Unionists in Ireland; and he could assure hon. Members that, if they devoted a month to the investigation of this subject in Ireland, they would come back with many prejudices cast aside, and with much clearer views of the Irish Question. He had seen during his visit men of different shades of opinion. He 432 had conversed with landlords and tenants, so called Loyalists and Nationalists, and, as he had said, there was a very great difference between the views of Unionists in England and Unionists in Ireland. By way of illustration, he might say that one of the chief evictors in Kerry, a Unionist, told him that the whole question was one of Saxon versus Celt, that the Saxons—to which he (the Unionist landlord) belonged, thank God!—were a superior race to the Celts; and that, therefore, the former had a divine mission to rule and govern the Celts. Another amiable evictor whom he mot in Kerry told him "that there was one man whom he would gladly go to London to see hanged, drawn, and quartered." He (Mr. Schwann) thought the landlord was referring to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), but he found that he was alluding to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington; and he was thus incensed against the noble Lord because he believed that he was the cause of Sir Redvers Buller being sent to Kerry. The landowners and Orangemen, who constituted the Unionists in Ireland, still wished to carry on the system of domination which they had practised for so many years; while, on the contrary, many of the Unionists in this country, especially Liberal Unionists, were ready to adept remedial measures for the pacification of Ireland. He believed the Unionists in Ireland—the dominant class—were totally opposed to any measures of reform which would find favour in the eyes of the Unionists in England, and thus the two classes very greatly differed, and this domineering spirit existed deep down in the hearts of the so-called Loyalist faction in Ireland, though they did not always admit it. There were many points in which he thought reform was needed in the government of Ireland, and in regard to which the Irish people were not fairly treated. This was not a mere statement in the air, as he could prove by reading details given in a Bluebook issued within the past few days, on the motion of the hon. Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance), in which it was stated that of a total of 5,065 magistrates in Ireland, 3,780 wore Protestants, and only 1,229 were Roman Catholics, the remainder, 46, being persons whose religion was not stated. 433 Consequently, nearly four-fifths of the magistrates were Protestants, and that in a country where two-thirds of the people were Roman Catholics. Moreover, of this total, 2,737 were landlords, and 448 were land agents, so that out of the 5,000 magistrates, there were more than 3,000, or three-fifths, who were themselves directly connected with the land. And, as was well known, it was a usual thing in Ireland that when an agent was appointed to an estate, he was at once made a magistrate, though as such he was frequently called upon to decide, or take a part in deciding, questions which referred directly to his own personal interest, or to the pecuniary interest of his employer. That was an unjust and unwise condition of things; it must create dissatisfaction and discontent, and he trusted that, in simple fairness to the Irish people generally, it would be remedied. Then, again, it had struck him as singular, that whenever he met an Orangeman in the course of his journey, that man's great delight consisted in blackening the country which had given him birth. It had also been continually dinned into their ears last Session by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the Irish were lazy and worthless. It was said that if they would work they would be able to meet the demands of their landlords; and he saw in a letter which appeared a day or two ago, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) repeated the same advice, and suggested to the Irish Members of that House, that they should advise the people whom they represented to be industrious. They all felt the deepest veneration for the right hon. Gentleman; but they could not help feeling that he did not look at this Irish Question with the sympathetic feeling for the suffering Irish which animated him in earlier years. He (Mr. Schwann) determined to enquire, by his own observations, whether there existed among the Irish the idleness with which they were charged. I He visited the Galtees, and there he saw tracts of land which had been reclaimed and all their value given them by the labouring population. It was heather land, which in this country would be left to the grouse and the gamekeeper, and the heather had been burnt off, and then there were three or four layers of stones beneath. He also saw 434 layers of stones around the fields, and he could not understand what brought them there. But it was explained to him that before the land could be tilled these three or four layers of stones had to be removed bodily, and then they were laid by the side of the field. Could the people who had struggled so laboriously against such difficulties be justly accused of idleness? Then he went to Baltimore, near Cape Clear, where he spent a night and part of the next day with Father Davis, the venerable parish priest, who had done such good work for the seafaring population of the district. Father Davis explained to him how the fishing industry had died out, until his predecessor, Father Leader, in a moment of happy inspiration, applied to Lady Burdett-Coutts, whose ready generosity is so well-known, who sent a large sum of money to be applied in the purchase of fishing-tackle and boats suitable for taking the fish which swarm on that part of the coast. Before that, the population of the district had the mortification of seeing vessels from Holland, France, the Isle of Man, and other places carrying off the riches of the sea before their eyes. But the position was now totally changed. The men had most religiously paid back the money that was lent them, and they had now 18 large fishing smacks at Cape Clear, worth many thousand pounds, and there was comfort and well-being, where formerly there existed destitution and misery. This showed that the Irish, when they saw that the fruits of their labour would not be snatched from them, and that their earnings would be left at their own command, were as willing to exert themselves and as active and industrious as any other people on the face of the globe. Already, near Bantry, there was a slight improvement in the holdings, it appeared to him, compared with 20 years ago; and he did not believe that the people would return to the swinish, inhuman way in which they had lived previously, on any inducement whatever, though at present their condition was not very materially altered, and was not worthy of so hardworking a population. Sir George Trevelyan, in a speech at Hawick, had said that "sooner than consent to abandon the helpless Irish people to the lawless and unscrupulous, he would give up his career as a public man." [Ministerial cheers.] But who were the lawless and 435 the unscrupulous? On an examination of the statistics of the criminal population both in England and Ireland, it would be found that the proportion of crimes to the population was much lower in Ireland than in this country. It is shown by the "statistical abstract" that in England and Wales there was, in 1885, one crime for every 2,618 persons, but in Ireland only one crime for every 3,130 persons, and this including agrarian crimes and outrages. As far as social purity was concerned, it was notorious that the Irish people were far ahead of our own countrymen. Then it was sometimes said that the Irish people were bigoted; but he had before him the Report of the Royal Commission which inquired into the Belfast riots, and, while praising the efforts of the Roman Catholic priests to preserve order and restore peace, they ascribed almost the whole blame for the riots from the 8th of June to the 18th of September to the wild, unreasoning hostility of the Protestant mob; and said that the disturbances were not in any way moderated by the language used by certain influential persons, among whom was the hon. Member opposite (Mr. De Cobain). He had heard it used as an argument in Dublin and elsewhere, that because the Protestants of Ireland monopolized nearly all the intelligence, wealth, and property of the country, that, therefore, they ought to receive special protection. But if they possessed almost all the intelligence, property, and wealth, they were perfectly well able to protect themselves. Indeed, it seemed to him that the poor down-trodden victims in Ulster were the Catholics, and that the Protestants, who were so clamorous for protection, stood in no need of it. During his visit to Ireland, he had never heard a whisper of religious bigotry on the part of the Catholics. While the Royal Commission was sitting in Belfast, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington ought to have been at the bar, because he was one of those who were chiefly responsible for the bloodshed. He (Mr. Schwann) had not seen an eviction taking place in Ireland, but he knew that in some of the districts in the neighbourhood of Killarney two houses with their roofs off were to be seen for every one with its roof on. With that fact present to his mind, he could well understand the graphic descriptions of evictions which had been 436 given by those hon. Members who had witnessed them. He was not able to discuss the Plan of Campaign in its legal aspects, but, as far as he could see, though it might be highly illegal, it was exceedingly human for poor people to combine together to prevent their eviction from their homes and hearths and the roofs which had sheltered them. He believed, himself, that there would not be peace in Ireland until the plan of dual ownership created by the Act of 1881 was gradually transformed into the sole ownership by the tenant of the land which he tilled. Lord Salisbury called the Plan of Campaign "organised embezzlement." He (Mr. Schwann) would use equally strong language, and call many of the present landlords "receivers of stolen property," for but few generations back it had been stolen from the native Irish and conferred, without any right or justice, on the ancestors of the present owners. He would instance the speech of the hon. Evelyn Ashley at Bury, in which he said that Irish landlordism was dead, and would ask hon. Members to look on the recent proposals as to the sale to the tenants of the holdings on the Bath and Ponsonby estates, as illustrating the rapid change which was taking place in the disposition of landlords. In his visit to Ireland, he had found no evidence of hatred of the English people. What the Irish people hated was not the English people, but English oppression, Castle rule, packed juries, one-sided injustice, and religious bigotry; and, if the grievances of the Irish people were removed, and they were placed in a position to manage their own domestic affairs, he was satisfied that Ireland would become the most loyal portion of the British Empire.
§ COLONEL HILL (Bristol, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House for the first time with feelings of very considerable diffidence. Seeing, however, that the Irish Question is the one now foremost in the public mind, and that I represent the more ancient part of an old city which, from its geographical position, has for many centuries had intimate relations, commercial and otherwise, with the sister country, it is, perhaps, but natural that I should wish to offer a few observations. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) seemed to be doubtful as to whether the masses of his countrymen were not with him in his views 437 on the Home Rule Question. I have no doubt on the subject. In the autumn of 1885, I contested the Southern Division of Bristol; I was defeated by the small majority of 95. In the spring of the following year, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) introduced his measures, which we are bound to believe he considered were for the good of Ireland. Those measures were defeated in the House, whereupon the right hon. Gentleman made his famous appeal from the classes to the masses. The result of that appeal, so far as South Bristol was concerned—a constituency very largely composed of the masses—was my return by a majority of 1,024. The masses of South Bristol are, like most other sober-minded politicians, very much of opinion that that appeal ought never to have been made, and they are disposed to resent it as being an attempt, for Party purposes, to create a hostile feeling between class and class, which they judge rightly to be most pernicious to their very best interests. Sir, I heard, with very considerable regret, from the lips of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) some expressions that may possibly, I fear, have given pain to some Members of the Unionist Liberal Party. I do not think it possible that the noble Lord can feel otherwise than entirely in accord with that Party, and ready to afford to them that measure of respect which they deserve. If there be anything of disparagement in the metaphor he used in comparing the Liberal Unionists to a crutch, it appears to me it lies against his own Party, rather than against the Liberal Unionists; because a crutch is a very useful instrument for those who are troubled with age or infirmity, or who have the misfortune to break their limbs. I cannot possibly admit that the Conservative Party are in anything like such a condition. Again, Sir, the use of a crutch indicates a measure of pain, and I am sure I speak the sentiments of the Conservative Party in general when I say they have nothing but feelings of unqualified pleasure in the association they have with the Liberal Unionists. It is one of the most healthy and promising signs of the times to find that men occupying the distinguished positions held by the Leaders of 438 the Liberal Unionist Party, should thus have come forward in the interest of their country; it was to their credit that they should have shown such a patriotic spirit, disregarding all personal consequences, breaking long-formed political ties, in coming forward to give their support to that which they think necessary for the good and happiness of their country. Well, Sir, I have been sent here to express the views of my constituents upon this great Irish Question, which has been submitted to them. In the first place, it is my duty to assure hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite, that the mandate with which I am entrusted is not a mandate of hostility to Ireland. It is, on the contrary, one of esteem, regard, and affection towards their always beautiful, but always distressful, country. The mandate with which I have been entrusted, is to do my best to endeavour to obtain a full measure of justice, not for any particular section of the people of Ireland, but for all Her Majesty's subjects residing in that country. The hon. Member for Northampton appears to me to suggest some very novel considerations as regards the observance of law. He seemed to me to think that, before you decide whether you will obey a law, you may fairly take into consideration whether you like it, or whether it coincides with your own idea of what is fit and proper. In my opinion, respect for the duly constituted law forms the difference between a civilized and an uncivilized community. We may possibly dislike a law, and we may consider it unwise, impolitic, and even unjust, but so long as it remains on the Statute Book we, as good citizens, have but one duty to perform, and that is to obey that law. A departure from this principle has been the root of the unhappiness of Ireland; it has unsettled the minds of the people; it has driven capital out of the country; it has destroyed that confidence which is necessary for those commercial and other enterprizes which alone can make a country happy and prosperous. Well, Sir, I believe that we can look for no solid improvement in Ireland until respect for law and order has been re-established from one end of the land to the other, therefore I shall certainly feel it my duty to give my warmest support to all measures which Her Majesty's Government bring in having that object in 439 view. Every man in this free country has a right, not only to entertain, but to express his opinions, and, however much I may differ from hon. Gentlemen opposite—and differ from them I most certainly do—I can afford to entertain feelings of respect for those who believe the Bill for the Better Government of Ireland, which was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), or even separation itself, to be the measures best calculated to ensure the happiness of Ireland; but I cannot withhold my condemnation from those leaders of the Nationalist Party, who, by the Plan of Campaign—a measure which has been pronounced by one of the Judges of the land to amount to an unlawful conspiracy—have attempted to render government impossible, with the view of extorting concessions in the direction of the object they wish to attain—that is, separation from this country. Separation, in my opinion, would be fraught with the most dire disaster and calamity to the Irish nation at large. We have heard a good deal lately of the cruelty of the Glenbeigh evictions, and of the sufferings of the evicted. It is impossible, as it would also be inhuman, to withhold our sympathy from suffering humanity, no matter how the sufferings may have been caused, but I cannot forget the fact that, as regards these particular sufferings, they have to a very large extent been brought on by the actions of the sufferers themselves. If we can believe the written statement of the agent of the Glenbeigh estate, the persons who have been evicted have been living there without paying any rent for from three and a-half years to as much as six years, and that they were offered relief on consideration of their paying one half year's rent. It certainly appears to me that those who counselled the tenants to reject so generous a proposal, have incurred very serious responsibility indeed. I understood one of the hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, to say that the Catholic priests and Bishops and Archbishops of Ireland had been consulted with respect to the Plan of Campaign, and had given it their approval. I feel the greatest possible respect for those ministers of religion; but, after all, one cannot but remember that they are frail, fallible mortals like ourselves. I also re- 440 collect that, in somewhat similar circumstances, the advice was sought of One who was Divine, and, therefore infallible. He gave an answer about which there was no doubt at all, and which I think may fairly be commended to the consideration of these rev. gentlemen, and that answer was, "Render to Cæsar the things that are Caesar's." These words, I think, convey a very correct description of the duty expected from man to man. There is another saying which comes from a very sacred source, and which I would also commend to the serious attention of these rev. gentlemen, and that is, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." I am persuaded my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was actuated by such a feeling in whatever measures he may have taken to induce kindly relations to exist between landlord and tenant. I have never been able to understand why his supposed action in this matter should have received the criticism it has received. It is to the adoption of the principle embodied in the two quotations I have made that we must look for the disappearance, on the on e hand, of hard-hearted landlords; and, on the other of tenants seeking to avail themselves of every opportunity to evade their just obligations. Mr. Speaker, there is one other subject upon which I should like to say a few words. Her Majesty, in her most Gracious Speech from the Throne, informs us that the Estimates have been framed with due regard to economy; but I rejoice to find that economy does not embrace the abandonment of the fortifications of our coaling stations. If it be true, as the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) suggested, that money has been wasted upon fortifications, it does not follow that no other defensive works of a similar character should be undertaken. I am familiar with the fortifications called the Severn Channel Defences. Those fortifications are now quite obsolete, and fail entirely in the object with which they were originally constructed. If, however, a harbour of refuge should be made at Lundy Island, which I hope, in the interests of humanity, may be the case, it would manifestly be most desirable that that harbour should be protected by guns of a heavy character, so that it may form a safe asylum for our merchant and naval 441 fleet. I have every possible sympathy with all the noble Lord said with regard to economy. There can be no doubt that taxation is very heavy, and, that it is most desirable, in the interest of the community at large, that it should be reduced. I should, however, be sorry to see the reform take the shape of a reduction which would render our defensive power less than it is. It must be borne in mind that coal is an essential for the Fleet. In former days the motive power was sail, but now, when the supply of coal becomes exhausted, vessels which, with coal were formidable engines of war, cease to be so, and are really dangerous to one another. Our vessels can only take a certain number of days' supply of coal, and, therefore, it is necessary they should be able, without doubt, to find coal at certain stations. Not only is that necessary for our Royal Navy, but it is necessary for our mercantile navy also. Besides, we must recollect that whenever this country is engaged in war again, privateers will scour the seas, and our fortified coaling stations will form important harbours of refuge for our trading vessels. It would be a most unwise—in fact, it would be a suicidal and a fatal policy to allow our coaling stations to remain unprotected; to do? so, would amount to an incitement to foreign nations to make war upon us. I sincerely trust that no such false economy as that will find its way in the Estimates which will be laid before the House. I am quite certain of this—that, however desirous the people of this country may be for economy, economy of this character will find no place whatever in the minds of the masses of the country. I thank the House for the patience with which they have listened to me.
§ MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
said, that a debate on the Queen's Speech formed the best occasion for a new Member to lose his political virginity, and, therefore, he cast himself at once on the forbearance and the generosity of the House. On glancing over the Queen's Speech, he was struck with the evident desire which prevailed in it to do nothing at all. There was a similarity in its paragraphs to the laissez-faire school of political economy. Not one word was said in the Speech about lightening the taxation under which Her Majesty's lieges at present suffered; not 442 one word to make that taxation more bearable; not one word to bridge over the awful chasm existing between the poor and the rich; not one word of kindly sympathy for the sufferers from the present commercial and agricultural depression—nothing but platitudes, nothing but views of society through a little bit of pink glass. To read Her Majesty's Speech, one would think that at this present moment this happy country was passing through one of the most pronounced periods of commercial activity and prosperity it has ever known. One would think that wheat was selling at 50s. a-quarter, and that the price of bread had not gone up. One would think that poverty, drunkenness, prostitution, and wretchedness were in a fair way to be utterly extirpated; and one would think further that Great Britain had made the first important step towards that millennium when the Irish landlord would cease from troubling, and when the landlords and tenants would lie down in amity, and finally be at rest. Of course, it was matter for congratulation that this country was not suddenly called upon to enter upon a Quixotic crusade to place Prince Alexander of Battenberg upon the Throne of Bulgaria. They were thankful for small mercies, and he supposed they must; be content. If this unlucky nation had to forego the pleasure of paying for the vagaries of Prince Alexander, it had still a pretty large group of needy Royalties who were placed on the Civil List of this country. It was not to be expected that Her Majesty's Government would vouchsafe to the House any idea of when the British troops might be withdrawn from Egypt. That was expecting far too much. But, surely, it would be wise to let the House know when it was intended to withdraw those troops from their inactivity in that pestilential region, and from playing the ungrateful râle of oppressors of an already down-trodden nationality. But no. The bondholders must have their pound of flesh. We must also protect the so-called high road to India by the Suez Canal, in order that the very last straw might be laid on the unfortunate fellaheen, and that British money and British treasure might be poured out like water. He had forgotten the "cent per cent." He had forgotten by whose advice we were in Egypt—that it was by 443 the advice of that illustrious statesman and economist who had raised the art of carpet-bagging from its primitive rudeness into a political science, and who so well illustrated the Scriptural injunction, "When they persecute you in one city, flee to another." With reference to our latest filibustering exploit in Burmah, it was a matter of great congratulation—it was something on which a Christian might truly plume himself, to hear that Her Majesty's Government were in process of rapidly suppressing brigandage, which had grown up in the country, and in putting down bands of marauders. "Marauders," like "mobled Queen," was "good," very good, when applied to poor, unfortunate, misguided people, who, in their pig-headed way, were endeavouring to defend their own country. Did the House recognize how a band of marauders was put down? He did; he had seen it done often. Surely, it could be no great matter of self-congratulation for Britons with arms of precision to shoot down naked savages. It could be no feather in a soldier's cap to suppress these unfortunate wretches with all the resources of civilization at his command. When the telegrams came from Burmah we slapped our hands on our chests, quite regardless of damage to our shirts, and talked of British gallantry; and so we laughed like parrots at a bagpiper, when we looked at the sketches in the illustrated papers depicting Natives running away from our troops. A Native wounded to death, I take it, and tormented by mosquitoes in the jungle, felt his misery as acutely as the best be-broadclothed gentleman among us, even though he should happen to be a chairman of a School Board; but what was all that to the Government? The Government, like an American hog, must root or die. The question was, how did this Government come in? That was the humour of it. They came in by the help of the pseudo-Liberals—the crutch-and-toothpick Gentlemen—through the assistance of that feeble Union ladder which, having been used and abused, was now about to be cast aside and being kicked into the dunghill. He was delighted to see how the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) last night treated his Unionist allies—to observe that, having betrayed their master, like Judas Iscariot, there was but one resource left 444 for them, and that was to go out and hang themselves—and to see how these superior persons fell out and bespattered one another, and he thought to himself, "How these mugwumps love one another." This Government reminded him of Pope's flies in amber:—Things in themselves though neither rich nor rare,One wonders how the devil they got there.Personally, he regretted the resignation of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. He was a type in times of dull uniformity, and from the depth of his obscurity he (Mr. Graham) admired the noble Lord's parabolic course. The noble Lord's resignation had saddened him as children were saddened when they saw a rocket spout up, and were all unaware that it would fall down a stick—as was well said by Ben Jonson—He was a child that so did thrive in grace and feature,As Heaven and nature seemed to strive which owned the creature.Where was the noble Lord now? Yesterday he was, to-day he was not—gone like the froth on licensed victuallers' beer, or the foam on petroleum champagne, leaving Her Majesty's Government, alone and unaided, to wrestle with the difficulties of the situation, and to give "their careful consideration to all the matters" pertaining to their functions. With respect to Ireland, he (Mr. Graham) had eminent qualifications for dealing with that subject, for many reasons. First of all, he had never been there; secondly, sitting next to Nationalist Members, he had gained, of late, something of National colour; and he had once known an Irish commercial traveller, who imparted to him various facts quite unattainable by the general public. He had also gained much information from the hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare), who had recently been staying with the nobility and gentry of that country. Prom these sources, he had conceived a warm respect and regard for that much-abused and downtrodden class—the Irish landlords, who were held in the deepest affection by their tenants. As to the Glenbeigh evictions, the landlords had been held up to most unjust obloquy, as they had ever been most kind to their tenants, whom, in fact, they had kept in cotton wool. 445 It was the pride and the privilege of the I Irish landlord to look after the interests, creature as well as spiritual, of his tenants; and, such was the relation of class to class that, so far from turning them out on a bleak, cold winter's night, the landlord had provided his dependents with a fire to warm their hands; only, through a pardonable inadvertence, it was their houses that had furnished the blaze. The Government had lighted a light that would serve to light the Liberals on their path. The homes destroyed in Glenbeigh were, no doubt, as dear to the poor peasant, in his lonely village on the stony mountain side in the far west, as was the shoddy mansion in South Kensington to the capitalist, as was Haddon Hall to its owner, or as was Buckingham Palace to the absentee owner of that dreadful building. Who could say that the affairs of this handful of obscure tenants in a wind-swept and rain-bedewed, stony corner of Ireland, might not prove to have given the first blow to that society in which one man worked and another enjoyed the fruit—that society in which capital and luxury made a Heaven for 30,000, and a Hell for 30,000,000—that society whose crowning achievement was this dreary waste of mud and stucco—with its misery, its want and destitution, its degradation, its prostitution, and its glaring social inequalities—the society which we called London—that society which, by a refinement of irony, had placed the mainspring of human action, almost the power of life and death, and the absolute power to pay labour and to reward honour, behind the grey tweed veil which enshrouded the greasy pocket-book of the capitalist.
§ GENERAL SIR EDWARD HAMLEY (Birkenhead)
I am one of those Conservatives, of whom I hope and believe there is a multitude in the country, who have been anxiously awaiting the moment when the Government should take a strong grip of the situation in Ireland—and not only take a strong grip, but make it evident to all the world that they have done so. For I am convinced that the hideous spectre which broods over that land, and which owes all its terrors to impudence on the one side, and to the weak and evil course of the late Government on the other, will collapse with astonishing celerity when resolutely dealt with. There is an un- 446 fortunate impression abroad that the grip I have spoken of is not so firm as it might be—it is of the nature of words to look less strong than acts; and the most humane sentiments are but a doubtful substitute for the maintenance of the law. We have, perhaps, of late, been now and then faintly reminded of Mr. Pickwick's friend, Mr. Snodgrass, who, when his friends were involved in a street row, humanely warned the bystanders that he was about to take his coat off. The Government may not be to blame for this; it may be due to defects in the law, in which case every friend of Ireland must rejoice that the Government is going to take immediate steps to render the law effectual. If I may venture to say so, the Government could do no wiser thing than to follow a course as opposite as possible to that of their Predecessors, and to begin by making it quite clear that they have no sympathy with crime or criminals, and no fear of them. The House and the country will have perceived that hon. Members on the Irish Benches do not appear, by any means, yet to realize the change that has taken place in their prospects. They talk much as they talked before that Election which was so fatal to their hopes. The constituencies have cried out; but no Home Ruler regards them. They persist in looking forward to some immediate future, when the British electorate will be converted to Home Rule with the suddenness and unexpectedness which an astonished world has seen displayed by certain very eminent persons. They trot out, as usual, their old Irish bogeys, wrongs, grievances, oppressions, and so forth, and clothe them, as before, in fustian. To hear these fiery orators, we might fancy that they still had a Prime Minister for an ally, and the Treasury Bench for accomplices; that Her Majesty's Chief Secretary for Ireland was still a Home Rule Missionary, preaching hysterically the terrible consequences of enforcing the law of the land. They will not recognize the fact that their only allies are the discredited fragments of a shattered Party. Things were very different when they first won over their right hon. Ally. He was then about to become, through that alliance, the First Minister of the Crown; and he aided them with an influence deplorable in proportion as it was great. It is impossible to gauge 447 the mischief done, adding, as it has, so enormously to the difficulties of the present Government, by the late Prime Minister and his—I know not whether to call him leader or satellite—I mean the late Chief Secretary (Mr. John Morley). Why, the mere choice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle was, of itself, the knell of hope for Ireland. I do him no wrong when I say that the British people were absolutely ignorant of his qualifications for administering any office whatever, let alone the most difficult post in the Government. And it is fair to suppose that if he was not appointed for his qualifications which were not known, he was appointed for his opinions which are very well known. To a large number of people those opinions seem to be wild, visionary, and dangerous. He seems to have picked them out of the great dustbin of the French Revolution, and, never very savoury even when fresh, they have not improved by keeping. His Chief did not cease with the loss of Office to aid the Party of Home Rule. In the last debate on the Address, he used words about the payment of rent which, viewed by the light of recent events, are of sinister and portentous import. Those utterances did not fall on barren soil; a word in season how good is it? And, at the same time, the right hon. Gentleman made it a reproach to the Government that they did not administer the law in Ireland in an Irish spirit. Well, we know very well now what law in Ireland would be if administered in an Irish spirit. Hon. Members opposite have left us in no doubt about that. It would be a very carnival of crime; it would be legalized robbery with violence, and legalized persecution; and the end thereof would be anarchy. Now, what the House would like to know—and what I think it ought to know—is, whether the right hon. Gentleman adheres to his alliance with those who profess these doctrines—with those politicians who receive inspiration—and something else besides inspiration—from a band of miscreants on the other side of the Atlantic, compared with whom Guy Fawkes would be a respectable conspirator—whether, I say, he adheres to the alliance with the authors of the Plan of Campaign, and the stipendiaries of the Chicago Convention? It is plain, 448 from the course of these debates, that in the future, as in the past, we are doomed to hear a good deal in a vague way—always in a vague way—about the wrongs and grievances of Ireland. Even her poverty will continue to be proclaimed as a grievance against England. But have those who make the charge no conscience and no shame? Who made Ireland poor; who keeps her poor? Do nations thrive on chronic agitation? Does the sowing broadcast of hatred between different classes of the community, the systematic expulsion of capital, the harassing of trade, the repudiation of contracts—do these tend to make a country prosperous? And who are the priests and prophets of this ruinous fanaticism? If hon. Members opposite had devoted a tenth part of the ingenuity and activity which they have bestowed on fomenting animosity, and on driving prosperity from their country; if, I say, they had devoted a tenth part of those perverse pains to soothing ill-feeling, to counselling submission to the Queen's Government, and to reviving industry, we should not now be discussing the evil case of Ireland, and those hon. Members might have gone down to posterity as the very best patriots their country has ever produced. But they have chosen a different course. They have aroused and fostered a spirit of disaffection; can they control it? I would venture to remind the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) of an ancient legend which carries a moral worth considering. It tells how a magician's apprentice got hold of his master's book of spells, and learned therefrom how to raise devils. He used the spells, and raised the devils very easily and effectually. But soon their presence grow alarming, and then he perceived, too late, that he had omitted to provide himself with the counter-spells that should dismiss them. The story goes on to say that the devils tore him to pieces. We can all appreciate the dangers of being placed between manifest failure in England, on the one hand, and the unappeasable League of villainy in America on the other. We can all feel what are the difficulties of a hapless navigater who steers a rotten bark between such a Scylla and such a Charybdis. The day may soon come when the hon. Member may look back 449 ruefully and longingly to the time when his present right; hon. Ally afforded him what was, at least, security against violence, by shutting him up within the strong walls of Kilmainham. I observe that his admiring followers look with special admiration on the coolness and calmness with which he directs the movements of his Party—and he certainly does seem desirous of posing as the imperturbable Leader who stands unmoved amid the crash of Governments overturned by himself. I would suggest to thrifty Home Rulers, who so greatly value calm exteriors, that they might provide themselves with a model agitator, quite after their own hearts, by applying to Madame Tussaud. He would be cheaper in the end than the hon. Member for the City of Cork; for he could not possibly cost £40,000—and I believe he would be equally likely to effect their purposes. For when I survey the Party on the opposite Benches, and then call to mind the vast scope of their plans, I am always impressed anew with the immense—the infinite—disparity between the means and the end. They aspire to dismember an ancient Monarchy, to sway the destinies of a great Empire, and to alter the course of its history; and I ask myself whether they are of the stuff to accomplish this gigantic task: what there is in the course it pleases them to adopt, either in this House or out of it—whether making speeches themselves, or interrupting the speeches of others—to show them equal to their enterprize? To my mind, it is as if the Lilliputians had sought to impose their puny will upon the Kingdom of Brobdignag. And when I hear them reiterating, in their vague way, the demand that Ireland shall govern herself, and then think of all the proposal implies, all the severance of ties in the present, all the clouds which overcast the future, I almost fancy I am listening to deputies from the moon, demanding that the planet shall be freed from the earth's attraction, and allowed to start on an independent career through space, under the direction of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. I trust, then, we have seen the last of dallying with conspiracy, and that a vigorous, persistent effort of the Government to put down crime may be speedily successful. Even if it were not, it would not be true that the evils of Ireland are irre- 450 mediable. They are obviously easy of remedy on one condition—that the Irish Party, conscience-stricken and repentant at the results of their work, should join the Government in the effort to restore tranquillity. In a former debate the right hon. Member for Sleaford (Mr. Chaplin) made an appeal to the Irish Party, which seemed to me manly and touching, such as might well at this time, with such a spectacle of ruin before us as that land presents, impress even a paid agent of the Chicago Convention, when he besought them to consider whether their last throw, made with exceptional chances in their favour, having so utterly failed, they might not now allow their wretched country some small interval of respite and of repose. We know how that has been responded to; and it is to be earnestly hoped that the attitude of the Party should at length be fully recognized by the country; their irreconcilable hostility to all government; their churlish refusal of all benefits; their sinister prophecies of disturbances, since so amply realized in the renewal of what I may almost call outrage by word of command, and their open relations with the declared enemies of England. It should be reiterated everywhere, driven home to the sense of the country, that when the question was put to them by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham—"Do you adopt the policy of your delegates which prescribes that it will be the duty of the Irish Members to make the government of England in Ireland impossible? "they remained dumbfounded and chapfallen, unable either to profess that policy for fear of this House, or to repudiate it for fear of Chicago. I wish, I say, that these simple and evident facts could be persistently impressed on the British electorate, and that it may then, if necessary, demand and insist that measures shall be taken, however stringent, to put a stop to the scandal and the shame. And oven at the worst we have this one hope left—that the Irish nation may at length awake from its ghastly and terrible nightmare. When it does, it will perceive that it holds in its own hands the means of ridding itself of a large proportion of its worst evils. I say a large proportion, for their number is just 85. However that may be, sure I am that the bolder, the firmer, the manlier the course of the Government, 451 the less indulgent, the less ready to make concessions to a faction that deserves no indulgence and no concessions, the more encouragement and protection it gives to the loyal and orderly population of Ireland, the more certain will it be of the support of the country and the success of its policy. And it may be the more confident in taking such a course, because it possesses an element of stability in the fact that it can say to its opponents, as Charles II. said to his brother—"Depend upon it, James, they will never depose me to make you King." I will venture to remind the House that it represents a people who have become great and famous, because they have been wise and resolute. If the nation should fail in its duty to itself; if, through apathy, or weariness, or for any other disgraceful cause, it should permit its own momentous interests to be sacrificed to a vile and contemptible conspiracy, it must expect to remain for posterity an example of a people that has outlived its faculties, and that is no longer worthy of even possessing the institutions which have made it great.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
said, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Sir Edward Hamley) had spoken that evening of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his supporters in a very different tone from that which he employed when first returned for his constituency. His opinions had evidently changed since he was first returned to the House of Commons. [Sir EDWARD HAMLEY: Not in the least.] However that might be, what he (Mr. Duff) had said was his impression. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman appeared to go somewhat out of his way to attack the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). No doubt, his right hon. Friend, when he addressed the House, would have something to say in his own defence, and also in support of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman had described as the Members of a shattered Party. Neither did he think that a description of that kind came with a good grace from a Member of a Party which did not seem to be quite united among themselves. The First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), in the course of his speech about the Navy, referred to liabilities which had been left to him by his Predecessors in Office. 452 He (Mr. Duff) did not know to what the noble Lord referred. It was possible he might have referred to liabilities which had been incurred, owing to the vessels built by contract having been delivered sooner than anticipated. If those were the liabilities the noble Lord referred to, he maintained that this was a gain both to the Service and the country. But, perhaps, the noble Lord referred to the Ordnance Department. It was true that after the accident on board the Collingwood Lord Ripon ordered new guns, and it was possible that the liabilities might have been due to that cause. But the noble Lord said the policy of the present Board of Admiralty was, that they should meet liabilities before incurring fresh responsibilities. That was exactly the policy which was adopted by Lord Ripon and the late Board of Admiralty. He remembered that last year, on the presentation of the Estimates, he explained the naval policy of the Government to the House; and he stated, on that occasion, that there were enormous liabilities amounting to £3,186,000. He stated that the intention of the Admiralty was not to incur any fresh charges until those liabilities had been wiped off. But what did the noble Lord do? He came down to the House, and proposed that they should raise £2,000,000 on Terminable Annuities on the ground that the Navy was in an inefficient state, and that it was necessary to make it efficient. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) was not so modest; he wanted £5,000,000.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I did not propose to increase the liabilities; I suggested means by which the liabilities could be paid off.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, that the noble Lord said their shipbuilding programme was not sufficient, and he proposed that certain additional vessels should be built. He blamed the late Board for not laying down a sufficient shipbuilding programme, and in order to get additional ships he proposed that £2,000,000 should be raised by Terminable Annuities. He now accused the late Board of leaving liabilities. Their policy, however, was not to incur fresh liabilities, but to carry out the programme laid down by Lord Northbrook.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, the liabilities he referred to were in re- 453 speet of 1885. They were under-estimated, and proper provision had never been made for them.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, he understood that the noble Lord referred to Lord Northbrook's programme. It was quite true that Lord Northbrook's programme had cost the country more than was expected, on account of the vessels built by contract being completed sooner than was anticipated; but that was really an economy. He did not admit that there had boon any extravagance on the part of the late Board of Admiralty, or that they had left any liabilities; in fact, they were blamed for the modesty of their programme, in that it was too small. The noble Lord said that he was opposed to granting any Standing Committee to which the Army and Navy Estimates should be referred. This was an opinion concurred in by his right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), and by himself (Mr. Duff). A Standing Committee of that kind would be very impolitic, in that it would practically make the Chairman of that Committee the First Lord of the Admiralty, and entirely remove responsibility from the Minister. On the other hand, if there was a Committee such as had been suggested by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, he believed it would be of great use. Even during his short experience of the Admiralty, he came to the conclusion that there was a considerable waste in some of the departments; and, if he were asked to indicate one particular department, he should point to the shipbuilding department. As an illustration of what he meant, he stated that, during his six months' official experience, vessels which had been condemned and which had become obsolete amounted in value to £2,378,299. That was the value of the original cost and the repair of the vessels which were condemned during the time he was at the Admiralty. It was true that the majority of these vessels became obsolete through new inventions in guns and ships; but that would not account for all the vessels. No doubt, hon. Members interested in naval affairs had read a paper of great interest contributed recently by Mr. White, Constructor to the Navy, in which ample reasons were given for these rapid changes. But reasons of that kind would not account for all the vessels. There could be no 454 doubt that many vessels which were condemned had become obsolete because they were built on bad designs, and in some cases from inferior material. Among the vessels which were condemned were some designed during the period of Office of the present First Lord of the Admiralty. There were vessels only eight, nine, or ten years old which would now be pronounced obsolete, and which had only been to sea for three or four years.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
(interrupting) was understood to ask for the names of such vessels.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, he was afraid he would not be at liberty to go into details in the present debate; but he would undertake to supply the right hon. Gentleman with the names of vessels built during the period of his first administration as First Lord of the Admiralty, which were now obsolete, and they were in that condition because sufficient foresight was not taken with regard to their design and construction. But if that were true of the right hon. Gentleman's first administration, there was a still stronger case against the Board of Admiralty which succeeded. He believed there were vessels built between 1880 and 1883 which were to-day not fit to go to sea. If that was the fact, it showed that there was not sufficient control over the shipbuilding department of the Admiralty. That, however, was a matter which might well be taken up by a Committee on Naval Expenditure, if there was to be one. But while he said that, he must admit that he did not think it was possible, looking at the variety of the duties which the Navy had to perform, to make any very large reduction in the Navy Estimates. But he wanted to get as much money as possible for the Navy, and in order to obtain it he thought the country ought to get an assurance that when the Admiralty got the money it would be well spent; and if this question was referred to a Committee, it would be a guarantee that the money would be well spent. It was not from any desire to see undue retrenchment that he wished this matter referred to a Committee, but it was for the purpose of securing greater efficiency. It was because he wished to see the Navy efficiently maintained that he made the suggestion that this large ex- 455 penditure might be referred to such a Committee as had been recommended by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington.
§ MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)
said, he felt it his duty to protest against the nature and the scope of the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Chaplin) upon the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). He did not believe that the principles which the noble Lord had laid down in the House, and out of it, were open to any just and reasonable attack. He believed the noble Lord's main principle of desiring to promote economy and efficiency in the Public Service would commend itself to the great body of the people; and if the Conservative Party were to be supposed, even for a moment, to be antagonistic to that principle, the country would very naturally and properly go back to the other Party to see it carried out—and they would come back from it, as they had often before come back, disappointed. His earnest hope was that all attempts to promote internecine strife on the Conservative side of the House would fail, no matter from whom they came; and he could not suppose that any Member of the Government would sympathize with outbursts of splenetic malevolence such as they had heard that night. Those who sat around him should not forget that no one had rendered greater services to the Conservative Party, as it existed to-day, than the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington; and it was his firm belief that no one on that side of the House would be able to render it greater services in the future. One of the main principles that the noble Lord laid down was that the country should get full value for the money which it spent, and that it did not get it now. No one desired to weaken the defences of the country from its enemies abroad. He did not believe even Irish Members wished to do that; but what everybody desired to see was. that there should be economy and efficiency in the Army and Navy Departments. There were very few people indeed outside these Departments who seriously believed that economy and efficiency were obtainable there to-day and under the present state of affairs. The public had undoubtedly arrived at a conclusion that the time had come when a very serious 456 and determined effort should be made to reduce the Expenditure, and to lighten the great burden of taxation which pressed so severely upon all classes of the community. The noble Lord had succeeded beyond all doubt in calling attention to this great subject. He had succeeded at an immense sacrifice of his own interests; he had covered himself with an amount of obloquy which was most undeserved and ungenerous; he had brought upon himself the attacks of large numbers of disappointed persons who probably thought they ought to be in office or, being in office, thought they ought to have higher office than they held. All that class was sure to follow him with vilification until the day when he emerged triumphant from the struggle, as he was sure to do. The great and essential principle of his system was that this country—surrounded as it was with difficulties of the gravest kinds, having to face an amount of foreign competition in its trade, such as it had never experienced before, with taxation continually rolling up—must greatly reduce its expenditure. Not so many years ago, less than £60,000,000 sufficed to pay all the expenses of the Government of this country; but under the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) it reached the enormous amount of close upon £100,000,000. With this state of things before us, he must maintain that it was high time that someone in the Conservative Party, or some Party in the House, should make a protest against the whole system. The people of this country, he was convinced, were more and more persuaded that the amount of money spent upon the Army and Navy did not represent, and was not represented by, any appreciable results. During the short time he had had the honour of a seat in the House, he had been startled to hear the questions which were continually put to the Government from its own side, as well as from the other, about guns that had burst, and ships that were not fit to be sent to sea; of an army without a machine gun in it; and a general state of affairs that any hon. Member of the House engaged in the private affairs of commerce would consider discreditable to the last degree. He believed the country would at no very distant period 457 come to the conclusion, apart entirely from the resignation of the noble Lord, with which he would not presume to concern himself, that the main principle for which he was contending was just in itself, and must be carried out, and he could not suppose the Government would venture to resist that principle, for he believed that they also were anxious to carry it out. For himself, he might venture to express the hope that in the coming discussions which would arise, not only with regard to this financial question, but with regard to the much more troubled question of Ireland, there would be as little as possible of those bitter words which could not tend to the settlement of any question, or the reconciliation of any Party. He hoped the Session might not pass over without their arriving at an approach, at least, to a settlement, even of the Irish difficulty; but he did not believe that that could be arrived at by the interchange of any attacks, or of any bitter language whatever. He trusted that the Irish Question would be dealt with in a spirit of generosity by the Government. He was himself opposed to coercion—meaning, of course, by coercion the principle of coercion as manifested in the celebrated Bill of 1882. Any such measure as that he was certain would not be likely to proceed from that side of the House. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, such a measure never had proceeded from that side. On the main question which was at present largely before them, that of national economy, he ventured to hope that they would have the assistance of the Irish Members, who had no motive for encouraging extravagance. He believed that the objects which the noble Lord had Bought to attain had been nothing less than the welfare of the great body of the working people, the lightening of the immense pressure of taxation, and the promotion of efficiency, economy, and good government in all Departments of the State; and these, for his own part, he believed to be ends which would obtain the support and approval of the country.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
Sir, with certain intervals, I have been in the House of Commons for a good number of years; but I think that in all my experience I never remember an important debate like this on the Address carried on in so 458 placid and undemonstrative a manner as the one in which we are now engaged. Everyone seems willing and satisfied to go on quietly and contentedly, and no one has been able to point to any definite time when the debate is likely to be brought to a conclusion. I understand that that arises from the determination of the Front Bench that the debate on the Address shall go on until they have found a seat somewhere or other for their Chancellor of the Exchequer, and have got him into the House. The Queen's Speech tells us very little indeed that we did not knew before, and the most important fact that it does tell us with regard to the House of Commons is hardly accurate. I think that Her Majesty's Government have made a mistake in informing the House that the Estimates have been framed with a careful regard to economy, and to the efficiency of the Public Service. I take exception to that statement, because the only man who know anything about it has told us that it was not so. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) tells us distinctly that our present huge and increasing armaments are unnecessary, and the taxation for them unjustifiable. The financial statement of the noble Lord was made boldly, and in a straightforward manner, and the speech of the noble Lord reminds me of an Irish Member who, in the last House of Commons but one, said—"Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to stand again, and so I am going to speak the truth." The noble Lord never intends to be again in a Tory Government—at least not as a subordinate—and so he determined to tell us the truth. My own text on this occasion is that old sentence which fell from the lips of the man who said more good things than any man in this country—the late Earl of Beaconsfield. The Earl of Beacons-field said—"Expenditure depends upon policy." Therefore, in discussing the question of Expenditure, we are debating the whole foreign policy of the country. For my part, I thank the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington heartily for the address which he delivered last Thursday, which, in my opinion, was better than the one which he made before, although that will not be the opinion of everybody. I am quite sure that the friends of peace throughout the world are heartily de- 459 lighted at the line the noble Lord has taken. What I myself and a few others have for years been saying is now repeated from the mouths of the most able men that exist in the ranks of the Conservative Party. The heavily-burdened taxpayers of the country will thank the noble Lord; and, more than that, I believe that millions and millions of people in Europe tortured by war taxation, and all the friends of peace in the world, will thank him. I know, however, that the noble Lord will incur the hatred of honest Tories, genuine Jingoes, and all those persons who belong to the Services, as they are called, although the Services seem to be our master; but I feel sure that the noble Lord has sacrificed place for principle—that he has given up private advantage for the public welfare, and that he will never regret the sacrifice he has made of personal interest. I look upon the noble Lord as a reformed character—as one who had been given to wild ways, but who has taken the pledge. But while I welcome the noble Lord into the ranks of the peaceful army I do not wish to make things as they are not. In his letter to the Marquess of Salisbury, the noble Lord said that the tendencies of the democracy were peaceful. I am not so sure of that. The right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), in the speech which he delivered early in the evening, talked about "clap-trap." Now, the lower classes have not had political power until lately, and they have been taken in by the claptrap of the ruling classes, by all the "bunkum" about glory and prestige. Therefore, I think that the noble Lord will not find them so peaceful as he wishes them to be. They are led, too, by the Press, which I suppose represents public opinion more or less, and which has always been for glory and gunpowder and all sorts of folly. Like the miserable worshippers of the jumping cat, we spend money because we are led on by the newspapers. I hope Gentlemen will take that to heart. It is the Smith and Hamilton policy, and not that of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, which the Government is determined to follow. The main portion of the Speech from the Throne is taken up with Ireland. I am the first speaker who has kept clear of Ireland, but I do not suppose I shall be able to do so to 460 the end. But what is the condition of the world with respect to these large armaments? It is perfectly horrible and heartrending. Fourteen millions of men are taken away from peaceful pursuits to be trained under arms, and what for? I know no other reason except that each nation wants to show the others how strong they are; not to defend any great principle or cause, but simply to be ready to fly at each other's throats. There is one pernicious proverb which is too implicitly believed in, and is the cause of much mischief, and that is—"If you wish for peace, you must be prepared for war." The result which that statement leads to may be illustrated by the story of the African King who was asked what he wanted to go to war for? "Of course I must go to war," he replied, "because I have a barrel of gunpowder." That is the danger to which Europe is now exposed. These immense armaments cause war, and the only way to stop war and to insure peace is to get rid of your Army. I am delighted to see that the noble Lord boldly hoists the standard of non-intervention. According to the noble Lord, the policy of the Government is one of intervention and interference in the affairs of Germany, France, and Russia. I fear that policy will be carried out. Tory Governments always carry out their policy. Who is it that keeps this interfering Government in power? Why, the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington); the right hon. Member for Central Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) who used to be the apostle of peace; and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) who has been the apostle of all sorts of things. I wish the House would remember what the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale said in his better days—that if we went in for intervention in foreign affairs it would involve a much larger Army, and would eventually bring in the conscription, than which it is impossible to conceive a more detestable system. This is the position—a Government too bad for the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) is enthusiastically supported by the three great Leaders of Liberal and Radical opinion whom I have named. The whole previous history of politics 461 shows no incident so ludicrous or so monstrous. These Liberal Unionists, as they call themselves, talk about the great sacrifices which they have made for their country. What is their position? Mr. Goschen said the other day that the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale was in power, and that the Government are simply in Office. The noble Marquess and his Friends are in power, without the responsibility of it; and then they talk of their high standard of political morality! It is a morality which induces them to sit on one side of the House, and to vote on the other; to spend the morning with the Prime Minister, and in the evening to sit cheek by jowl with the Leader of the Opposition. Please Heaven, the bulk of the Liberal Party may never reach a similar standard of morality! At Hawick these Liberal Unionists asked—"Why do you stone us? Remember what good deeds we have done in the past." I would reply that they are not Being stoned for what they have done, but for what they are going to do; not because they have supported Liberal measures in the past, but because they have now become Tories, and are supporting the Tory Government. I give them credit for good motives; but I have always been of opinion that the better and more honourable a man is, the more dangerous he becomes when he takes to bad ways. Therefore it is that their previous good character tells against them with me, instead of forming an appeal for a mitigation of punishment. Then, why have they taken up this extraordinary attitude? Simply because they cannot agree upon a matter of detail with certain other Gentlemen. ["Oh!"] I am not surprised to hear those discordant sounds from my hon. Friends opposite; but, if it is not a matter of detail on which they differ, what becomes of the Pound Table Conference? The only justification for the Pound Table Conference is, that those who assisted at it met together to consider matters of detail. I am, therefore, justified in saying that it is only upon matters of detail that they differ. ["Oh!"] Well, I will not dispute that they differ as to the government of Ireland, at all events. They differ as to how 5,000,000 are to be governed out of 200,000,000 or 300,000,000 who own the sovereignty of this great Empire. 462 But it is curious that the Liberal Unionists cannot look a little further than Ireland. Why cannot they support the policy of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill)—a policy which, if carried out, would save the lives of millions and millions of people throughout the world, who are God's creatures oven as much as Irishmen—if hon. Members opposite consider Irishmen to be God's creatures at all. The policy of the noble Lord would save us from all those miserable wars in which we have been engaged for many years. It would save us from all those invasions, those burnings, those massacres, those outrages on the weak and helpless, in which we have been engaged, in every quarter of the globe, for many years past, and which we must be prepared for if we are to go on with these large armaments. I am afraid that it is of little use appealing to the Liberal Unionists to take a better and a wiser course. They must lie upon the bed which they have made; but it strikes me that they are already getting very uncomfortable upon it. The Leaders on this side will, I trust, before long, be able to unite with the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington in bringing forward some Resolution which shall raise clearly, distinctly, and definitely in this House the policy of non-intervention. I have listened attentively to this debate. I have heard officials on both sides until I am sick of them. The noble Lord was perfectly correct when he said that Parliament could do nothing in the matter of itself. Parliament cannot go into details, and say—"You must cut off £1,000,000 hero, and £1,000,000 there." But Parliament can insist upon having men in Office who can do this business for us. Therefore I appeal to the Leaders of the Liberal Party on this side, before the Session is very much older, to bring forward some Resolution clearly and distinctly raising the policy of non-intervention, which is the only policy worthy of a free, a great, a civilized, and a Christian nation.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
We Liberal Unionists who sit on this side of the House have been accused of having no principles to guide us. Now, the Liberal Unionists can bear a good deal of taunting. It pleases hon. Members who resort to it, and it does not 463 do us any harm. But I would submit to the House that it is a very different matter with regard to the peasants in Glenbeigh, about whom I am obliged to admit there has been a considerable amount of cheap sentiment expended in this House. I think it is high time that the House should cease its wrangling about the Liberal Unionists, and come face to face with such a problem as that which exists in Glenbeigh, and that we should come to it with clear and steady heads as well as warm and generous hearts. I would like to remind the House that within 12 months we have had three great measures for the better government of Ireland submitted to the House. First of all there were the two Bills of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone); and the Tenants' Belief Bill introduced towards the close of the last Session by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Sir. Parnell). I wish the House clearly to bear in mind that not one of those measures would have affected a single tenant in Glenbeigh. The first Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian—the Bill for the Better Government of Ireland—practically excluded the consideration of the Land Question from the Irish Legislative Body which it set up, and the Land Purchase Bill proposed a scheme of purchase based upon 20 years' purchase of the judicial rents. [Cries of "No!" from the Home Rule Members.] I maintain that it was based upon that principle, and the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork proposed that before a single tenant entered the Land Court and was entitled to receive its benefits he should pay 50 per cent of the rent and arrears due. Not one of these measures would have touched a single tenant in Glenbeigh, and Glenbeigh is a fair sample of that part of Ireland from Derry on the North-West right down the Western seaboard to Skibbereen in the South-West. We have heard to-night from the hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare) that he saw turned out of her house in one case a woman and nine children; and in another case a man, woman, and eight children. Is the hon. Member aware that in the description he gave he was unconsciously stating the whole Irish problem so far as the congested districts of the country are con- 464 cerned? The country will, I am afraid, judge us harshly, and very rightly too, if we go on squabbling about Liberal Unionism, Toryism, and Gladstonianism, while the people are perishing for want of help. I think that any fair-minded man looking the whole matter straight in the face must admit that the owner of that property in Glenbeigh has exercised forbearance up to the furthest limit, unless you are to abolish the laws and the rights of property, and unless you are to have a general distribution of property, and establish the principle of having rights in common. No doubt, that is a very convenient doctrine for all those who have nothing; but it is not so convenient for those who have worked hard in their early years in order that they may rest at the close of life. Unless you abolish all the laws of property, I maintain that the owner of the Glenbeigh estate behaved as generously as the owner of any English estate would have done under similar circumstances. I fully admit that these tenants are sunk in hopeless poverty, and that they cannot pay six months' rent out of the six or eight years' rent now due. But history will judge the Party or the man who stands in the way of the removal of these poor people to a happier clime where life would be worth living with something like noble aspirations in store for the future. Another part of this debate has been developed into an attack upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) has been talking about stoning people. Now, I want to know for what action on the part of the Chief Secretary my hon. Friend and hon. Members below the Gangway are prepared to stone him? During the debate upon the Tenants' Belief Bill last Session the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) made an appeal to Irish landlords. There was not a single Member on this side of the House who voted against that Bill, because he believed that nothing was necessary, and that nothing ought to be done. Every Member on this side who went into the Lobby against the Bill believed that something was necessary to be done. They denied that the crisis was similar to that which occurred in 1880 when famine stalked through the 465 land. But they know that a crisis Lad arrived, and they trusted that the Trish landlords would follow the example of the Scotch and English landlords. They objected to tear up contracts by the roots every three years, and believed that it was safe to leave things to take their natural course. For simply doing that which the noble Marquess the Member for Rossondale recommended on the floor of the House—namely, appealing to the generosity of the landlords—the Chief Secretary for Ireland has been assailed as if he had invented a second edition of the Plan of Campaign. I want to know from hon. Members below the Gangway whether they object to the Chief Secretary for Ireland or any other Member of the House making an appeal to landlords under such circumstances? ["No!"] Then, what do they object to? If they can bring forward substantial evidence that the Chief Secretary or any other Member of the Government has interfered up to the point of refusing to carry out the law, let then; have it. I, at all events, have an open mind upon that matter, and if am' hon. Member will produce that evidence, more especially if it be reliable evidence, I will vote with him. Now, what is the Plan of Campaign of which we hoar so much? In olden times landlords fixed the rent, and made a very bad job of it. A great deal of what is suffered now in Ireland is due to that evil system in the past. Later on Parliament appointed a Court to fix rents. What is the proposal under the Plan of Campaign? It is that the tenants should fix the rent. Have hon. Members who advocate this Plan of Campaign as being just and honest, the slightest idea that it would be possible to confine that principle to the land? If Agrarianism is clamorous to desperation, so is Socialism; and I warn hon. Members below the Gangway that a trifling abatement of rent is no equivalent for the loss of moral sense in the whole community. Because Gentlemen have been engaged for months in debauching the moral sense of the country—because, as the right hon. Member for Central Birmingham (Mr. Bright) has stated, they have not lifted up their voices in favour of industry, or thrift, or sobriety—because I believe that their principles are at variance 466 with the highest and best interests of the Irish people, I am prepared to vote against their Plan of Campaign and their entire agitation.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
There are one or two points which I have not in the course of this debate heard put in the way in which I should have desired to hear them expressed, and therefore I have risen to deliver my mind upon them as briefly as I can. I will say a word, to begin with, on a subject which has received considerable attention from most of the speakers who have taken part in the debate, especially those who sit on that side of the House—I mean what is called the Plan of Campaign. I find it impossible to shut my eyes to the fact that the device, which is so described by that term, has received the disapprobation of many persons for whose intellect and moral sense I entertain a very high respect. Yet, with the best attention I have boon able to devote to the matter, I have not been able to arrive at the conclusion that it is my duty to condemn what I understand to be the Plan of Campaign. That being the state of my mind, I wish to express primarily, in order that there may be no doubt about the condition of opinion on this side of the House, certainly as far as I am able to express myself on the matter, that a great deal of the condemnation that has been vented on the Plan of Campaign has arisen from the unfortunate name that has been given to it by its authors. I dare say it is attributable to the character of the Celtic intellect that it is more apt to express itself in picturesque than in homely terms. If, instead of giving it a sort of military name, they had chosen a name of a civil description, and had called it "The Tenants' Union," it is very likely that a large number of persons in all parts of the country would not have been scandalized or alarmed by the movement. As to the legality of the Plan of Campaign, of which we have heard a good deal, I cannot say that the question is one which has had much influence upon my mind. I do not know that it has been pronounced to be illegal by any authority in an authoritative manner. I am aware that a Court in Ireland calling itself some Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench has been led in one case to pronounce 467 an obiter dictum on a hypothetical case which was placed before it. But those of us who have even only an elementary knowledge and experience of law must be aware of the value of an obiter dictum expressed upon a case which was never formally submitted to the Court and never argued out. This, however, I will undertake to say, that if the Plan of Campaign is not legal it ought to be; and that, if it should so happen that some of those Gentlemen who are Members of this House should be found guilty of a criminal conspiracy in respect of this matter, everything should be done to obtain a mitigation or cancelling of the sentence, and that the law on which they were condemned should be repealed with all possible speed. I will try to explain to the House why it is that I take that view. The reason is this. I do not think that the Plan of Campaign, as I have heard it repeatedly said by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, is a device for the breaking of contracts. Now, I maintain that it is not so; that it is simply a plan of action that has been long in use, under the sanction of the law in this country, for the purpose of altering contracts—that is to say, for the purpose of obtaining a renewal of contracts, or the making of new contracts. I understand that Lord Dillon, through the influence of pressure brought to bear upon him by the power of combination given by the Plan of Campaign, has at last been induced to yield; and, in so doing, he has, I think, shown himself to be a sensible man. At first he stood out for £100 on £100; but at length he said to his tenantry, who combined against him, that, on their representation, taken in connection with their combination, he thought, on the whole, that it was well to take £80. Well, Sir, what is that? It is simply the making of an entirely new contract between Lord Dillon and his tenants. It is simply an instance of his yielding to a certain influence of a pressing character they have been able to bring to bear upon him, so as to incline him to enter into a new contract with them; although not absolutely the best contract for himself, and made, no doubt, under pressure, developed by a combination of his tenantry, in opposition to him. But I maintain that that is a pressure which has long been sanctioned by the law of the country. I would ap- 468 peal to the great change which was made by the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, I think, in 1875, in connection with trade disputes. Before the passing of that Act the combination of workmen for the purpose of bringing pressure to bear on their employers, with respect to new contracts, was regarded as a criminal conspiracy. But the Legislature saw reason to decide that a sinister character should no longer be applied to such combinations, and ever since, such pressure has been lawful. A noble Lord behind me has said that the two cases—the combination by workmen and that by the Irish tenants—do not run on all fours. He told us truly that in the case of trade combinations pressure was brought to bear before the contract was made, and he said that in the case of the Plan of Campaign the same kind of pressure—for he admitted it to be identical—was brought to bear on a contract which had been made already. The mistake the noble Lord made was in not carrying the comparison far enough. The pressure of the Plan of Campaign was equally brought to bear on contracts not yet entered into. In both cases what you have is a new contract. In the case of a trade dispute, the pressure is brought to bear on a contract to be made in the future; and in the Plan of Campaign pressure is brought to bear with a view of exacting a new contract. Therefore, I maintain that in both respects—both in regard to trade disputes and agrarian disputes—the cases run on all fours; and as the Legislature has already stamped its imprimatur on combination in the case of the employment of labour, so it ought to place its imprimatur upon the case of agrarian contracts. If a combination of this kind is not at the present moment legal, then, for the sake of consistency, the Legislature ought not to lose a moment in placing the one upon an equal footing with the other. I may remind the House of another point in reference to this question of pressure, which has been a good deal argued, and that is the pressure brought to bear by the Government on the landlords by the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. The right hon. Gentleman did not deny that he had brought a kind of pressure to bear upon the landlords; but he said that it was of a totally different de- 469 scription from that which was brought to bear upon them by those who had united in combination under the Plan of Campaign. He told us that the pressure which he brought to bear was entirely rational and sentimental—that it was persuasion; and that he only appealed to their own human instincts, and pressed them only with the pressure of feeling; whereas he wished it to be understood that the pressure of the authors of the Plan of Campaign was one which amounted to compulsion, and almost to physical force. But I think the Chief Secretary forgot a remark which was made a long time ago by a person who said he did not think it advisable to argue with the master of 30 legions. I do not know whether the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is master of 30 legions; but I know that he is master of 30,000 soldiers, and it strikes me that when he begins to exercise what he calls moral suasion upon the landlords, those who might refuse to listen to rational or sentimental appeals are not likely to forget the physical power he has behind him. Allow me to put the case plainly, and in a homely way. Suppose I went across to Ireland, and commenced to argue with some of those who are called bad landlords. I dare say I might put a simple case like this as persuasively and as argumentatively as even the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant; but do you think that a single Irish landlord would listen to me as he would listen to the Chief Secretary? No, Sir; and why not? Because I should not have behind me 30,000 men, each with a bayonet in his hand. Therefore, I say that the Chief Secretary did bring pressure of a physical kind to bear far stronger than any friends of the tenantry of Ireland are able to bring to bear. But, apart altogether from all legal argument, this is a question which must be viewed from a moral and equitable point of view also; and I say that, from this point of view, the Plan of Campaign has everything in its favour. It holds the field, and nothing can stand against it. We have been told that it is dishonest and immoral. I do not deny that there is immorality and dishonesty in the connection; but I want to know on which side the immorality and dishonesty are? All this talk about immorality and dishonesty has a cause. There is never any smoke but there is fire, but we must 470 know whore the fire is and by whom it has been kindled. As I understand the Plan of Campaign, I cannot say a word in its favour, except upon the view I have already taken—namely, that it is confined to cases where the rent cannot be justly got out of the land consistently with the rights of the tenants. In that case, if the tenants are to be called upon to pay the rent in all instances—if the Irish problem is viewed in its history and in connection with the legislation and the rights which the tenants enjoy by statute and custom, to demand rent as a legal right where it cannot be got out of the land, I have no hesitation in describing it as dishonesty; and the landlord who, in such circumstances, asks for the rent is a dishonest man. I have heard him called a bad landlord; but a bad landlord is also a bad man. There cannot be a bad landlord without his being a bad man. I say that it is a bad and evil exercise of his landlord capacity, which has sprung out of the badness of his general nature. If that be so, I ask, where can be the dishonesty of the Plan of Campaign? If it be dishonest for a man to call for rent in such circumstances, how can it be dishonest to refuse it? It is impossible to answer that question. How can it be dishonest to refuse a dishonest demand? I say that a man who acts in that way is practically a brigand; and in the circumstances of Irish history, when those upon the land might be divided into the tillers of the ground and the cumberers of the ground, I would call him an impudent brigand, whom it could never be dishonest to resist. That, Sir, is my first point. My second point is this, and I am thankful, for the sake of the House, that this is a much shorter one. We have been told, in the course of this debate—and we have been told very little else in connection with Ireland—that order must be established in Ireland. Of course we must have order in Ireland, and I am astonished at the puerility of Gentlemen who insist on. This wretched platitude, as if order was not notoriously necessary to the well-being of the community. I suppose hon. Gentlemen will next tell us that air and water are necessary for the well-being of the community. But they ought to have gone further; and they should have been prepared to say that order, divorced 471 from justice, is tyranny. I maintain that the enforcement of order is justifiable, not in itself, but for reasons; and the reasons why it is justifiable must either be, in the first place, that the disorder that is in existence at any particular time is contrary to justice and incompatible with justice; secondly, that even if there is injustice along with disorder, or the restoration of order is essential to the abolition of the particular injustice complained of. These are the only two cases in which the establishment of order is ordinarily justifiable. But where disorder has been brought about by injustice—and there have been cases in the history of the world where that has been the fact, and there are many cases still where disorder has been provoked by injustice—merely to insist on the restoration of order, and to do nothing more, may be policemanship, but it is not statesmanship. I maintain that that is exactly the position of the Government who are now sitting on the Front Bench. They are insisting upon restoring order, but there is no existing disposition in their minds to do justice to Ireland. That being so, they are not worthy of the name of statesmen in this juncture; they are simply policemen. In this particular instance they are not in the position of persons who are competent for government; they are merely amateurs in government, imbued with nothing higher than strong Constabulary instincts. Well, Sir, that is my second point. I have only one other point on which I wish to relieve my mind, and then I shall relieve the House. That is also connected with the stock assertion that we must have order in Ireland. I venture to say to Her Majesty's Government that they are not the men to establish order in Ireland. It is a very different set of men from you who ought to be establishing order in Ireland; and I say so because I hold that you are now there wrongfully, in view of certain expressions of the national mind of Ireland, once and again repeated, which are historical, and which will be more and more signalized by history as the world grows older. You have no longer any right to be there in the position of establishing order. You have no right to be there, governing Ireland contrary to the consent of the nation of Ireland, unless you take up a despotic position 472 and say—"We believe in despotism, in the rule of the sword, and the right of the strongest." If that is your position I understand it, although I shall not believe in it, and will do all I can to defeat it. But if you do not hold that position, I maintain that you are, in Ireland, even now in establishing order, doing that which is illegitimate because contrary to the assent of those on whom you seek to impose your own ideas of order. I say you are there by usurpation, and that you are performing acts of despotism. Your position, therefore, is unjustifiable unless you affirm the right of the sword, and the right of the strongest. You may say that there is a great deal of disorder in Ireland. Suppose I grant it. I am not prepared to grant it absolutely, because I am aware that in general respects the Irish people are the most law-abiding people in the three countries; and if it happens to be the case that in one aspect of their life they are more reckless than in others, it has been occasioned not by the wickedness of the people, but by the wickedness of your laws. Granting that there is a certain amount of disorder in Ireland that needs to be repressed, if you come to me and ask for help in restoring order I would certainly give you my help, and all the good advice in my power. That advice, however, would be to let order be restored by the Irish people themselves; let it be restored by her own authorities, her own Constitution, and by magistrates of her own selection. That I believe is the only way in which you can restore order permanently in Ireland. If you will only promise the Irish people that you will let them live under self-made laws, no man will be more ready to assist you to the best of his ability than myself in keeping order in that unhappy Island; but if on the other hand you say you do not want this sort of help from anyone to restore order in Ireland, but that you will use your own authority and your own power, then I say I will have nothing to do with it. I wash my hands of you altogether. You shall receive no help from me in any emergency whatever to restore order in Ireland. Let it be as bad as it likes, you will get no assistance from me in any unauthorized enterprise; you will get no assistance from me to act the part of despots and unauthorized usurpers.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Radcliffe Cooke.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I would appeal to the hon. Member not to press the Motion, as the feeling of the House is evidently against him.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE
Under the circumstances I will not press it, but I will proceed to make the few remarks which I intend to make.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE
Sir, I cannot help wishing that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Separatists had been listening to the speech which we have just heard, and heard with some degree of astonishment. Recently a speech was delivered in the country by a right hon. Gentleman whom we have not once seen in this House during the present Session—I refer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). That right hon. Gentleman stated that the Leaders of the Separatist Liberals had been too long silent with respect to the Irish Question, and especially with regard to the Plan of Campaign. We have now heard the views of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace), who is no doubt, to some extent, a Leader of the Liberal Separatists; and it would have been gratifying if the House could have heard from some right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite who occupies a more prominent position in the ranks of the Liberal Separatists than even the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us, whether he and the Front Bench generally agree with the propositions which have just been laid down. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) told us that the Plan of Campaign was the result of the rejection by this House last Session of the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) for the relief of tenants. It has been further main- 474 tained that that Bill was analogous to the pressure exercised by those who have instituted the Plan of Campaign, and was also a similar kind of pressure to that which has been exercised by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. That is the view which seems to have been entertained by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I propose to make one or two remarks in reference to that view. The right hon. Gentleman likened the pressure exercised by the authors of the Plan of Campaign to the pressure the operatives of this country are enabled to exercise upon their employers legitimately by law. Now, I think that the noble Lord who spoke a day or two ago was right, and that the hon. Member was wrong when he stated that the Plan of Campaign did relate to future contracts, as in trades unionism they relate to future contracts. The analogy, however, would be more complete if, instead of the operatives being able to combine, the employers had power to combine, and were able at the end of a week to say—"We have combined, and, in consequence of that combination, we refuse to pay you the wages we agreed to give you at the beginning of the week." The object of the Plan of Campaign is to prevent men who have agreed to pay something called rent—of course a very objectionable thing in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite—from carrying out their contracts whether they are able to do so or not. ["No!"] I hear an observation to the effect that I am wrong when I say that the Plan of Campaign was instituted with the object of preventing the payment of rent by those who are able to pay as well as by those who cannot pay. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), at a place called Killorglin, actually said that the chief efficacy of the Plan of Campaign was that it not only enabled him and others to influence men who really could not pay, but that it enabled him to force those who were willing and able to pay to keep their money in their own pockets, or what was, no doubt, much preferred, to pay it out of their pockets into his own. The Plan of Campaign, as far as we know its origin, has not had a very respectable parentage, nor is it particularly new. I think we shall have to go to America to find out where it was first recommended. I have here a paper 475 called The Irish World, the editor of which is a well-known gentleman, called Patrick Ford. I remember a speech delivered in this House by Mr. Healy, who I understand will shortly become a Member again, and who is certainly one of the ablest Members who ever sat below the Gangway. It having been mentioned that Patrick Ford had opinions with regard to assassination, and upon other kindred subjects not usually held by Englishmen; Mr. Healy stated that he knew this Mr. Patrick Ford to be a gentleman of a philosophical turn of mind, and a sort of recluse who kept himself very much to himself. Now, what was it Mr. Patrick Ford said in The Irish World a year or two ago, when speaking of the No Pent agitation then proceeding in Ireland? Mr. Ford stated that the attacks which had been made might be considered as so many skirmishes which precede a general campaign, and that sooner or later, when the tenants found that by standing together they could force the landlords to reduce their immoral thefts by almost one-half, it was probable they would be able to prevent the rent-thief from getting any of his plunder. Mr. Ford added that the Irish people might look forward to great events in the near future. Now, I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman opposite has received any lessons from Mr. Patrick Ford. I should say that he has, and that he has learnt his lesson thoroughly. The extract from which I was reading goes on to say that—If the Plan of Campaign is carried out, the ultimate result will be the independence of Ireland, and that means an Irish Republic. Englishmen know that if Ireland secures a legislative independence she will very soon become a Republic.I have read that extract because I believe it gives the hon. Gentleman the answer he asks for, when he inquires by what right we are in Ireland. We are there by right of the very simple fact that we are a large country placed by. no will of our own close to a very small one, a country which if separated from Great Britain would not be able to maintain its independence practically for a single day, but would become a Republic probably seeking the protection of the Stars and Stripes, although I believe the United States would entertain no feeling of gratitude for such an addition to its territory—in- 476 deed, they seem to be hardly able to manage all the Irishmen who go over there now. But it may be said that the establishment of the independence of Ireland would be a great danger to the future independence of this country, and that we Englishmen, Welshmen, and Scotchmen have no desire lightly to lose those rights and liberties for which we have paid so dearly in the past. Although it may be the desire of the Irish Members and of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Wallace) that Ireland should be independent, it is our desire that she should be kept dependent, because, if once independent, Ireland would soon lose her own liberties and carry ours away with them. When Ireland is in a position to have those good laws, which, if hon. Gentlemen opposite had their way, would not prevail very long, we shall be prepared to give them every right, every freedom, every law, and every liberty which we enjoy ourselves. What more can the Irish people desire? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), addressing a meeting the other day, spoke most strongly as to the position of the Irish tenants. He said that within the last two years there had been afforded by this country to the tenants of Ireland boons such as no other agricultural tenants enjoy in any country in Europe, and I think he might have included the whole world. Such boons as the tenants of Scotland and England would rejoice to have offered to them; but, unfortunately, during the whole of that time Ireland has been the prey of a body of agitators, who have found it to their interest to keep up a state of unrest in that Island. In conclusion, I would ask hon. Members to consider what we might not give to Ireland if she were freed from that incubus from which the great bulk of her people wish to be delivered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned "—(Mr. Handel Cossham.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I hope the hon. Member will not press his Motion, but allow the debate to continue. I would point out that there are Amendments on the 477 Paper dealing with almost all the subjects referred to in Her Majesty's Speech; and, therefore, I think it would be better that we should proceed with the Business before us, to avoid, if possible, loss of time.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to agree to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. It is very early in the Session, and I do not think that anything can be urged against the adjournment of the debate on the ground of saving the public time. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman upon one point raised by him—namely, that all the subjects mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech will be raised by Amendments which are on the Paper. What will be the effect of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Handel Cossham) being precluded from making his speech tomorrow, but that he will probably make it on one of the Amendments? In that way, then the time which the right hon. Gentleman supposes will be saved will not be saved at all. I cannot speak with certainty, but I have strong reason to believe that the debate on the general subject will come to an end tomorrow evening. It cannot end before under any circumstances; and, therefore, the time which the right hon. Gentleman asks us to spend to-night will effect no saving whatever. Under the circumstances, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow the Motion for Adjournment to be carried without opposition, and that we may be able to get home at a reasonable hour.
§ THE CHANGELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (Lord JOHN MANNERS) (Leicestershire, E.)
I understand the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) to say that the general debate will close tomorrow evening. If that is so, I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will consent to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
I wish the right hon. Gentleman to understand that there is no feeling on this side of the House that the debate can by any possibility terminate tomorrow when the House will sit for a few hours only. In regard to the observations of the Leader of the House, I venture to think that whatever may 478 be the inconvenience to the Government we are not wasting the time of the Session by a general discussion either on the Address or on the general political situation; and I think that the position demands that the present House of Commons should take part in this debate, and contribute everything in their power for the guidance of the Government. I am satisfied that this course would be agreeable to Members on both sides of the House. It is all very well to say that the Amendments on the Paper deal with every subject in the Queen's Speech, and that, therefore, the debate on the general question should come to an end. It is true that the Amendments take a very wide range, and I believe that in the end, these discussions will be appreciated by the public. There are certainly many hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who desire an opportunity of taking part in the discussion; and I should be sorry to think that there was any impression that an understanding existed that it would close to-morrow.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
With regard to the termination of the debate, I point out that there has been no understanding between my hon. Friends and Members above or below the Gangway with regard to the closing of this debate. I quite agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that the country will appreciate the discussion which has taken place, and which I think is likely to continue for sometime. It is perfectly certain that it will not close to-morrow, and that being so I cannot see that any advantage will be gained by our having one speech more or less this evening. For my part, I think that the debate has proceeded in a most satisfactory manner; and I have not often listened to a discussion of a more instructive or useful character than the present. For that reason, I trust the Government will allow the debate to be adjourned, particularly as it can hardly be doubted that it will not come to an end to-morrow. The Government have, moreover, some other Business on the Paper for this evening, and that is another reason why I think they will do well to agree to the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.