Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question, as amended,
That the Resolutions of the House of the 1st December, 1882, relating to the Constitu-
tion and Proceedings of Standing Committees for the Consideration of Bills relating to Law, and Courts of Justice, and Legal Procedure, and to Trade, Shipping, and Manufactures, be revived, and that Trade shall include Agriculture and Fishing.—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ Main Question, as amended, again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
, in rising to move at the end of the Rule to add the following words:—That there be another Grand Committee, similarly constituted, and subject to the same rules, the Members for Wales and Monmouthshire being Members of such Committee, for the consideration of all Bills relating to Wales which may, by order of the House in each case, be committed to it,said, he did not propose to detain the House long, as the principle of the Resolution had undergone a very full discussion yesterday on the Scotch Resolution. He would only mention that Wales was in a very different position from Scotland in regard to legislation; because Scotland managed to get 14 public Bills passed through the House last year, whereas Wales was not even allowed to pass one; not even a measure for technical education, which Scotland got, but which the Principality required far more than Scotland. It was proposed in 1878 by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) in Committee of the Business of the House, in a draft Report prepared by the hon. Member—That whenever any public Bill relating exclusively to the affairs of either England, Ireland, or Scotland has been read a second time it shall be referred, unless otherwise directed by the House, to a Committee consisting of the Members representing counties and places in England if the Bill relates to England, or of the Members representing Ireland or Scotland respectively if the Bill relates to Ireland or Scotland. Such Bill shall not be afterwards considered in Committee of the Whole House, unless specially ordered, but shall be considered on Report in the whole House.Those who had carefully watched what had gone on in England since that Resolution was proposed would see that if the suggestion it contained, modified perhaps in its exact form, had been adopted, most of the present difficulties with Ireland and other parts of the Kingdom would have been got over. He believed that a great many of those difficulties had arisen of late years, not so much from indisposition on the 470 part of the House to give to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales the legislation they required, but the delay which had been caused owing to an absolute want of time for considering carefully the details of the measures adopted to meet the wants of those countries, and the absence of local knowledge in the House generally, to enable them to be dealt with. Owing to that delay, remedies which, by their subsequent adoption by the House were proved to be right, had come too late to prevent disorder, suffering, and even crime. It was admitted that the House could not attend adequately to the Business before it without some form of division of labour, and surely the best division of labour was to leave the adjustment of the details in Committee to those who were really interested in the question and understood it best. His Resolution would take no real power from the House. It would simply save to the House the time now passed, in discussing the details of a Bill, and it would enable the House on the Report stage to discuss those essential principles on which it was necessary that the opinions of the House should be expressed. It was evident that both in Wales and Scotland, as well as in Ireland, there had grown up of late a great deal of bitterness of feeling from what was considered to be the neglect of Welsh and Scotch Business, and he thought the House should give some facilities and provide some practical means of carrying out special legislation for the different parts of the country. In the proposal he made there was no intention, to confine the Members of the Committee to Wales. On the contrary, at least one-half would be taken from the House generally. He believed that was a matter of considerable importance and value, because not only would the Grand Committee have upon it a number of experienced Members, but it would bring the Committee more in touch with the House, and render it much more influential in carrying out the Resolutions of the Committee. Both on the ground of justice and on the ground of expediency, he hoped the House would accept the Resolution, and he would only add that, though he admitted that Scotland had a sort of customary right to claim an appointment of such a Standing Committee, yet it was far more necessary for Wales, be- 471 cause that Principality had not so large a representation in the House, and had not, as Scotland had, a Parliamentary Secretary of State to represent their grievances and enforce attention to their wants. With those brief observations, he would move the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, he rose to second the Amendment of his hon. Friend. He had listened with very close attention to nearly all the speeches which were delivered last night on the Resolution of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), and he felt bound to say that nearly every one of the arguments in that speech could be repeated with greater force in favour of the proposal of his hon. Friend. As things now stood Scotchmen it was admitted did sometimes get what they wanted; Welshmen never did. It was stated by the Postmaster General, last night, that last Session 11 Scotch Bills were passed into law; but the right hon. Gentleman had understated the case, because the actual number was 14. How many Welsh Bills were passed, and how many Welsh Bills were even discussed? His right hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) complained yesterday that Scotch Business only appropiated to itself 1–90th part of the time of the House; but Welsh Business did not occupy 1–900th, or l–9,000th part of the time of the House, and he thought the explanation was that which had just been given by his hon. Friend—namely, that the Scotch people were represented in the Executive. They had a Scotch Secretary of State, who was usually, although not at present, a Member of the Cabinet; they had a very able Lord Advocate and a Solicitor General, on whom they could put pressure; and, further, two of the very ablest and most active Members of the Government were also Scotchmen born. In the last Government no lees than six Members of the Liberal Cabinet were either Scotch, or Members for Scotch constituencies. But whoever heard of a Welsh Cabinet Minister? He (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had looked carefully through bygone lists, and, with the single exception of Sir George Lewis (who, though he sat for a Welsh constituency, was only a Herefordshire man), there did not appear to 472 have been one since the time of Lord Chancellor Jeffries, who was not, it must be confessed, a very brilliant specimen of his nationality. He hoped the Scotch Members would excuse him if he said that Welsh Nationality was much more marked and likely to be more enduring than Scotch Nationality. They had a language and literature of their own; Scotchmen had only an accent, or, at most, a dialect. Not only so; but to judge from what was stated yesterday, the Scotchmen were not at all practically unanimous on the subject. As the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy said, the difference between Scotland and Wales was that Scotland had her own system of law, whereas Wales, in that respect, was amalgamated with England, of which it was politically a part. That was an argument more worthy of a lawyer than of a statesman. They did not want a separate system of legislation suitable to the peculiar circumstance of Wales. Thanks to an hon. Member behind him, Wales, some four or five years ago, obtained a separate Bill for closing public-houses on Sunday, and that Act was working so well that there were half-a-dozen English counties which desired that the same provisions should be applied to them. What did the proposition contain and the Resolution amount to, and what harm could it possibly do? There were five Welsh Bills on the Order Book standing for second reading, including two Intermediate Education Bills and one Land Bill. What harm could arise from referring them to a Committee on which the Welsh Members should be represented? It would have been a different thing if the House were asked to refer these Bills to Welsh Members only. There were 34 Members for Wales and Monmouthshire, and those 34 constituted exactly l–20th of the whole House of Commons. They would, therefore, only be entitled to four Members, together with 15 "experts," in all 19, or about one-fourth. That number was not enough to swamp or override, though it might legitimately influence and instruct, on purely Welsh questions, English and Scotch Members, who were lamentably ignorant of Welsh language, literature, habits, and feelings. This was a very important question, indeed, for every day the general feeling was growing in the Principality that the English Members knew very little of Wales. 473 He had often heard it stated that owing to their infatuated ignorance of Welsh the English Members knew far more of the affairs of foreign countries than they knew of the affairs of this part of their own country. That was their misfortune, and not their fault. He could not help thinking that if some 30 or 40 English Members were taken from the opposite side of the House, mixed up together, and well shaken, so to speak, with 19 Members from Wales, it would operate as a salutary educational process in enabling them to rub off some of their ignorance. He had spoken of non-political questions; he hardly liked to refer to the burning question of Disestablishment. He knew the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General was quite ready to get up and say that he was letting the cat out of the bag; but he failed to see even on that question why it could not be discussed upstairs if their opponents appreciated it (as they doubtless would) with fair and open minds. After a time hon. Members might be brought to see, even on that subject, the error of their ways, and much useless friction and time might be saved the House of Commons. He thought the experiment was well worth trying. This was not a Home Rule question. On the contrary, it was a motion which was calculated to take off the whole edge of Home Rule, and, upon that ground, he ventured to claim the vote of every Unionist Liberal and Conservative who sat in that House. The hon. gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) said, yesterday, that he did not want to see a one-horse Parliament sitting in Edinburgh. He (Mr. Osborne Morgan) did not want to see a one-horse Parliament sitting at Carnarvon. He did not think that any sensible Welshman, however strong a Home Ruler he might be with regard to Ireland, wished to see Home Rule established in Wales in the same sense. The House would, however, if they refused this Amendment, drive the Welsh people, as they had driven the Irish people before, in the direction of Home Rule. It was because he did not want Home Rule, and did not think that it would be beneficial to Wales, that he urged the House to accept the Amendment. What Wales wanted was fair play and justice, and they did not get it.
At the end of the Question, to add the words "That there he another Grand Committee, similarly constituted, and subject to the same rules, the Members for Wales and Monmouthshire being Members of such Committee, for the consideration of all Bills relating to Wales which may, by order of the House, in each case, be committed to it."—(Mr. Rathbone.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added,"
§ MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
said, he thought he might, perhaps, be allowed to look at this matter from, a general point of view, seeing that he was not a Welshman, although he represented a Welsh constituency. His knowledge of Wales was comparatively recent; but he would give the House the strong impression made upon him as to the necessity of getting a more true expression of Welsh feeling in that House. Since he had been a Welsh Representative, he had become aware of the existence of a very strong feeling in favour of special Welsh legislation among the indigenous population of the Principality, and he had come to sympathize more than he ever did before with the reasonable and earnest demands made by the people of Wales, who had hardly any voice in the Imperial Parliament until within the last few years. He agreed with his right hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down that Welsh Nationality was a very distinct and well marked fact, much more marked than Scotch Nationality, and he said so, though he (Mr. Smith) was a Scotchman himself. They were of a different race, with a different language, and possessing an ancient literature of their own, and local traditions, altogether different from those of the English people. They had also excellent qualities which differed in some respects from those of the English people. They were not without their faults, but all that they required was to have afforded, them by the legislation of that House a. more distinct expression of the reasonable demands of Welsh Nationality. He ventured to say that unless some expression was given to it, Parliament would find itself confronted with a growing demand for Home Rule for Wales. He agreed with his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), who thought it was not desirable to feed that demand, 475 and that it would be much better to concede what Wales demanded without driving her into agitation for Home Rule, or encouraging a tendency towards separatism. The true way of complying with their demands was to give them a reasonable channel through which their opinions could be expressed in that House. He thought the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) contained a moderate and reasonable demand. If adopted it would make English and Scotch Members familiar with the points of view from which the Welsh Members regard Welsh questions; and, on the other hand, the Welsh Members would be able to count on the sympathy, support, and intelligence of a considerable section of the House. He spoke as one desirous of soothing down national asperities, and producing, as far as possible, a kindly feeling among all classes of the Welsh inhabitants. By refusing this moderate demand, they would only drive the Welsh people towards separatism. There existed great suffering in Wales at the present moment. The land system of Wales was quite different from the land system in England. There existed in that country a great number of small occupiers, more like the small farmers in Ireland than the large farmers of England. They had been driven to the wall by high rents and hard times; and, certainly, the land system of Wales was such that it demanded a very different treatment from that of England and Scotland. A Committee of this kind would be able to place these questions before the House and the country; and it was, therefore, in the interests of peace and concord that he supported the very moderate proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvonshire.
§ MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)
said, he hoped the Members for Wales would excuse him for interposing for a moment in the debate; but he wanted to point out what the effect of the Amendment would be if it were carried. He thought it had been a little misapprehended and misunderstood by hon. Members. It was proposed to appoint another Grand Committee, similarly constituted to those already sanctioned. In order to avoid any mistake, he wished to point out that the Committee of Selection acting under 476 that Order would, in the first place, make the new Grand Committee a strict miniature of the House, representing a due proportion of all Parties; and after that the Committee of Selection would be entitled to add 15 specialists, who, in the case of Welsh Bills, undoubtedly ought to be Members from Wales. What would be the effect of that? The effect would be that the Members for Wales would be at least five times as strong collectively on the Committee as they could be at any time in the House. It would give them an immense accession of strength in debate before a Committee compared to what they would have in the House. He hoped the House would not go away with the idea that the one thing desirable was to force the Bill through this Committee. The object of appointing Grand Committees was to relieve the House of too much Business, and was so to thresh out Bills that, when they came back to the House, there would be a reasonable prospect of their being accepted. He submitted to the House that, if this very moderate proposal were carried, and if they only had a Grand Committee with 15 specialists upon it, they would be able to shape any Bill in the direction of their own wishes, interests, and views. It would not, however, be desirable, in a Committee of that sort, that they should frame their Bills solely in reference to Welsh ideas and Welsh interests; but that they should so frame them as to get them accepted by the whole House. If that very moderate idea prevailed among Welsh Members, and he thought it did, he was lost in astonishment to imagine how the Government could bring themselves to oppose it. Such a Grand Committee would act only in the same way as an existing Standing Committee would act if Welsh Members were put upon it. What was the danger that the Government apprehended? He did see a very great danger looming before them. They had heard last night, and they had heard that day, that although the Scotch and Welsh Members were not desirous of Home Rule for Scotland and Wales, yet they were being pushed very fast in that direction, and it must be remembered that they were surrounded by eager spirits only too anxious to urge them and press them on in that direction. If the Government persisted in their point-blank refusal to consider 477 this question—if professing, as they did, a great desire to listen to Scotland and Wales, they still refused the only practicable proposal ever made for giving a real hearing to the Members for Wales, then he could only say that they were seized with that dementia which they were told possessed those who were doomed to destruction.
§ COLONEL CORNWALLIS WEST (Denbigh, W.)
said, that notwithstanding the admirable speech which they had just heard from the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), he could perceive that any good result to Wales from adopting this proposal was very problematical. At the present moment a Committee sat every fortnight or three weeks, consisting of the Members from Wales, to discuss all Bills that were brought before the House, and he thought the Welsh Members ought to be satisfied if a proportion according to their numbers were added to the Grand Committees proposed by the Government. After the exhaustive debate last night on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), he thought his hon. Friend the Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) would have done wisely to have withdrawn his Amendment. If the proposal to have a separate and territorial Committee for Scotland was considered unnecessary, surely it was much more so in regard to Wales. They knew that the judicial system in Scotland was completely different; whereas the system of law for England and Wales was precisely the same. There was no difference either in regard to land tenure or anything else between Wales and England. Notwithstanding what hon. Members around him, who were not connected with Wales or possessed property there, but had only been invited to contest Welsh constituencies, might say, he had lived in Wales the greater part of his life, and he maintained that there was practically no difference whatever as to the tenure of land in the Principality and in England. He had been much surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) last night. The right hon. Gentleman laid down that local majorities should have complete control over local legislation. Such a principle would be fatal to our present 478 Parliamentary system, and he could not conceive how, if it was to be carried out, the present united Parliamentary system could last, as they had hoped it would do, for a great many generations to come. What were the subjects to be committed to this Committee of Welsh Members? They were subjects of very great importance—namely, education, the land, and also the Church. He acknowledged that the question of education as applied to Wales might, to a certain extent, be different from that applied to the rest of the Kingdom; but in regard to the land and the Church, there were great principles at stake, and those great principles must be brought under the united consideration of the Parliament of this country. So far as the land was concerned, many wild propositions for dispossessing the owners of land in favour of those who had none were made. In regard to the Church there was the question of Disestablishment, to which he had always acceded; but there was another and more alarming proposal for the entire disendowment of the Church. Surely, questions such as those should not only be originated in the House, but be thoroughly threshed out there and nowhere else. It would be greatly to be deprecated if any legislative discussion should take place between Wales and England. It was because he believed that Wales was too provincial as it was, that he should prefer that instead of English Members going upon Welsh Committees, that Welsh Members should in proportion to their numbers join the Grand Committees of that House. For these reasons he was sorry that he was unable to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend, but he did not believe that its adoption would conduce to good legislation for Wales.
§ SIR HUSSEY VIVIAN (Swansea, District)
said, he entirely agreed with what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread). He believed the question, although in one sense a large one, was not a large one as affected the House. Let them see what it meant. The proportion of Welsh Members for Wales and Monmouthshire was about 25, and upon a Grand Committee that would give some four Members, or upon a Committee of 60 three Members. In the event of a Welsh Bill being committed to such a 479 Committee, no doubt the Committee of Selection would exercise their power by appointing 15 Welsh Members. Therefore, under ordinary conditions, 19 Welsh Members would be appointed on a Grand Committee which had to consider a Welsh Bill. He thought he was correct in that view. All they asked was that instead of 19, 34 should in point of fact be appointed—that was to Bay, that should a Grand Committee be specially appointed to consider any Welsh Bill, there would then be a difference of 15 in favour of the Welsh Members. Now, was it not worth while to make that small concession in order to meet the views, the wishes, and the feelings of the Welsh people? He thought the House and the Government would exercise a wise discretion indeed if they yielded to the desire of the Welsh nation in this matter. The Welsh people strongly desired to legislate for their own Welsh questions. They wished to have those questions fully considered and understood by the House, so that, if possible, they should be carried in the sense they desired to have them carried. The number of questions which were submitted to such a Committee would be very limited indeed. He understood that no question of religion could be submitted to a Grand Committee. He knew, of course, that upon that subject there was a wide difference between the desires and aspirations of the Welsh people and the desires of the majority of Members of that House, but there would be no danger, seeing that religious questions could not be referred to such Committees.
§ SIR HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, he might be wrong, but he was of opinion that no religion question could be so submitted. First of all, there might be submitted questions relating to law, to Courts of Justice, and to legal procedure. So far as he knew, there was no desire on the part of the Welsh people to change in any way the law or the Courts of Justice, and the mode of legal procedure now adopted in reference to England and Wales. He was old enough to remember when they had Welsh Judges, and he remembered the joy which was occasioned when that system was changed and they received the benefit of the legal knowledge and acumen of 480 the best Judges of the country. He was sure that no patriotic Welshman desired to go back to the day when the Courts of Justice would be different in Wales from what they were in this country. Then as to their shipping and manufactures, he could speak with some authority on questions of that kind, and he certainly never heard a desire expressed on the part of the Welsh people not to throw in their lot with England upon such matters. They knew it was to their best interests to do so. They might, however, wish to deal in their own way with measures affecting the agriculture and the education of their country. He had no desire to see a separate Parliament for Wales, although it was impossible to ignore the claims of Welsh Nationality. No harm could be done by conceding this proposal. It could do nothing but good; and he was bound to bear his testimony to the fact that a spirit of great irritation was arising in Wales, and he was anxious for the common interests of the country to see that spirit of irritation fairly met somehow or other. Now was the time to meet it, and he thought it would do much to allay that feeling of irritation which undoubtedly did exist if the Government would make the concession now asked for.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)
said, that it was with no little surprise that he found on coming down to the House that morning hon. Members engaged in the discussion of the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Carnarvonshire. He thought that in the exhaustive discussion which took place yesterday with regard to the case of Scotland, and the very plain expression of opinion on the part of the House which followed that discussion, that the hon. Member would scarcely have thought it worth while to inflict another debate upon the House on a cognate subject in regard to which every point was much weaker than the case put forward on behalf of Scotland. The first thing that surprised him was that the discussion had not been brought forward nor largely supported by what he might call "indigenous Welsh Members." It was proposed by the hon. Member for East Carnarvonshire, who would forgive him (Mr. Raikes) for describing him in that connection as "a happy accident," 481 as he had no claim to call himself a Welshman either by birth or residence. It was supported by the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith), who was oven less a Welshman than he (Mr. Raikes) was, and had only, by his own confession, become acquainted with Wales during the last two years. It was also supported by the right hon. and learned Member for East Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), who, no doubt, was a Welshman by birth, and his neighbours were very proud of him, owing to the eminence he had obtained, although that had been outside the Principality. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had laid great stress on the importance of legislation for the Welsh-speaking people of Wales; but, as far as could be made out, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not himself acquainted with the Welsh language. The question, if it were to be considered a Welsh one at all, should be left to those two or three Members who were able to express the feelings of the Welsh people in their own vernacular; and, in the probable event of the proposal being carried, he should move that no Welsh Representative should act upon the Committee unless he was capable of speaking the Welsh language. In that case, instead of 15, the number would be limited to three or four. They were told that 14 Scotch Bills were passed last Session; and it had been asked how many Welsh measures had been passed? He did not know precisely what number of English Acts were added to the Statute Book last year, but just as many were added for Wales as for England, because every English Act applied alike to England and Wales. It was a fallacy to suppose that no measures were Welsh measures unless their operation was confined to Wales. That was the mistake which underlay the arguments about Scotland yesterday, and which underlay most of the arguments addressed to the House to-day. The truth was that there were large districts of Wales that were essentially English in the character of their population. When the right hon. and learned Member for East Denbighshire asked whether a Welshman had ever been a Cabinet Minister, he almost immediately instanced the case of Sir George Lewis; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself had sat in a Government which was formed by a right hon. Gentleman who, 482 though a Scotch Representative, was a denizen of Wales, and who had a right to know something of the feelings and wishes of the Welsh people. If there was any man who had the power and capacity to impress upon the House the opinions of the people of Wales, it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). They had been told that Wales had a literature. Had not Scotland a literature? There were few countries in the world which could point with juster pride to a literature of its own than Scotland. As to Wales, could the right hon. and learned Gentleman cite a single book written in the Welsh tongue which had obtained any reputation outside the Principality? He had spent many years among the Welsh, and appreciated their good qualities; hewould not deny their literary faculty, but he believed that there were few Welsh literary remains, except some bardic fragments, which were not sufficient to constitute the title of a people to a national literature. He believed there was one bard in the House, and he had heard that the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had recently taken a bardic degree; but up to the other day he was not able to address a Welsh audience in the bardic tongue. He believed the right hon. and learned Gentleman had recently been made an ovate—that was to say, a sort of acolyte in the bardic hierarchy.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, another argument had been used which proceeded on the assumption that the Welsh Sunday Closing Act had become so conspicuous a success, that it was becoming an object of envy in many English counties. As he lived in Wales, he could say that the information which, as a magistrate, he had been able to obtain was that the Act had been anything but a success. But he wished to point out that the bad example of now legislating with regard to that question on territorial lines had already become contagious, and that if matters relating to Scotland and to Wales were to be treated separately, the same separate treatment was even now demanded by Cornwall, Cumberland, Yorkshire, Warwickshire, and other places. Thus it had been demonstrated that you would practically 483 abolish the principle of the same law and jurisprudence for the people of England., and separate your Legislature into a system of sporadic Parliaments, which would deal separately with different parts of the Kingdom, and give no consideration to the welfare of the country as a whole. It was said that there were four Bills which ought to be dealt with by a Welsh Committee—namely, two Intermediate Education Bills, a Land Bill, and a Bill securing access to mountains. With regard to the last Bill, it would hardly be necessary to establish the machinery of a Grand Committee for a measure of one or two clauses, which might be of an amusing character, and which the House would not be sorry to consider from that point of view. With respect to the Education Bills, they would be far bettor sent upstairs to a Select Committee, which would be largely composed of Welshmen, than to a Grand Committee which might be sitting without any Business during half the Session, and would be composed of a large number of Members not connected with Wales. He wanted to know why Monmouthshire had been dragged into this Amendment? It had been a part of England since the time of the Tudors. The reason why Monmouthshire was dragged in was, he supposed, because Wales had only 30 Members, and the additional four Members from Monmouthshire might enable the Principality to command a majority of 1 in a Grand Committee of 67. As to the Land Bill, it would be the duty of every Member of the House to familiarize himself with its details. Did anyone suppose that a Welsh Land Bill would be sent to a Welsh Committee? It had been stated that Wales had a different land tenure from England. Not at all. The land tenure of Wales was precisely the same as that of England, and when the hon. Member for Flintshire said that the Welsh landlords were aliens in race, religion, and language, he begged to inform the hon. Member that it was the Welsh Members who were alien in race, and that the Welsh landlords were in the great majority of cases identical with the Welsh people in race, and, as landlords, were among the best in Her Majesty's Dominions. It was said once by a great man that he could not draw an indictment against a nation. He (Mr. Raikes) 484 thought that hon. Members opposite should be a little more careful with respect to the statements they made, and ought not, upon what they read in some third rate local paper, or from what they heard from local agitators, to brand with a stigma wholly undeserved a whole class of Her Majesty's subjects, the only result of which must be to embitter the relations between that class and those who had made the statements. The question of Disestablishment was only glanced at by the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but they had no doubt got the cat out of the bag; there was no doubt what was meant and desired by those who pushed this question upon the House. He was not speaking of hon. Members, but of those who were behind them; those agitators in the Principality who desired to see a separate tribunal for the consideration of Welsh Bills had, no doubt, the question of the Disestablishment of the Church in view. Now, it would be said, and said fairly, that this Amendment, if adopted, would not involve the question of the Church, because the House would not send a question of that sort to be dealt with by a Welsh Grand Committee; but if the question of land, and if the question of the Church, being important questions, were to be withheld from the consideration of the Committee, and if Bills dealing with intermediate education were Bills which would be very much better dealt with by an ordinary Select Committee, and if the Access to Mountains Bill was withheld from the consideration of the Grand Committee, what was left for the Welsh Committee? There was no case—there was not a single measure at the present moment before Parliament—which could be dealt with by this Welsh Grand Committee. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) said that the proposal was so moderate that he was lost in astonishment that the Government could oppose it. Lost in astonishment at the Government resisting a proposition which, if adopted, would upset the whole constitution of Parliament! This was a proposition to substitute for the judgment of Parliament the judgment of a little band of persons more or less under the control of local influences. Why, if any Government were to entertain a proposition of this sort as a moderate proposal, he 485 did not know what the meaning of the word moderate was. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whitbread) went on to say he thought that if the Government resisted this proposal it would only be because they were suffering from that dementia which led to ruin and disaster. The Government believed that if they were to accede to this proposal they would be open to such a charge. The hon. Member for Swansea (Sir Hussey Vivian) said one or two rather amusing things in regard to the sentimental aspect of the question, and he lamented, among other things, the extinction of the old Welsh Judges. He told the House that there were formerly three Judges for Wales, and he believed they were very good Judges. He (Mr. Raikes) had no doubt they were very good Judges, but the story which was current of them in the Principality was one which he might venture to narrate to the House. There were three of these learned gentlemen, and at one time one of the three was blind, one of the remaining two was asked how he got on with his colleagues, and hereplied—"I have to do all the work, because my Brother So-and-So cannot see at all, and my Brother So-and-So always sees double." That was the condition of the judicial arrangements in Wales to which the hon. Baronet looked back with fond regret.
§ SIR HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, he spoke in exactly the contrary sense; he had not risen before to stop the right hon. Gentleman because he saw the right hon. Gentleman had a nice little story to tell them.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he was very sorry if he had misinterpreted the hon. Baronet. He certainly thought the hon. Baronet's argument tended in another direction; but he was now glad to find that the hon. Baronet did deprecate the separate system for Wales. Now, if this scheme were accepted, the hon. Baronet would withdraw any question regarding law as it affected Wales from the Committee which the House had instituted to deal with the question of law generally, and would confine it to the consideration of the Welsh Members. He was glad to find the hon. Baronet was not in favour of separate institutions for Wales, at least at present, because there was always the terrible hinting, the sinister foreboding on 486 the part of the Welsh Members—"If you do not give us this, something much more terrible is likely to happen. You will have an agitation for Home Rule if you do not give us a Grand Committee for Wales." he (Mr. Raikes) expressed his own opinion, and he had no doubt it was also the opinion of his Colleagues, and of hon. Gentlemen who sat upon the Ministerial Benches generally, that if they were to accede to this proposition they would be beginning an agitation for Home Rule. The moment they recognized the principle which both the Amendments of last night and of to-day had sought to insinuate—namely, that this country was to be governed upon territorial lines, they sanctioned, it might be in a small degree, but they did sanction, the principle of Home Rule. They had had this proposal in former times before them in regard to Ireland; but Members from Ireland were far too shrewd to make it on the present occasion. Would not the country say that if Parliament once accepted the principle that the Imperial House of Commons was not a proper tribunal to deal with all the questions that came before it, but that questions of local interest should be remitted to tribunals of persons connected with localities—would they not say that the first premise of Home Rule had been sanctioned by the House of Commons; and would not the Separatist Party, when they had got an inch, be quite ready to take an ell? He did not believe that the House of Commons, elected as it was upon this distinct issue, that the authority of the Imperial Parliament was to be supreme, was prepared to entertain this insidious proposal. The interests of Wales were bound up with the interests of England, and the laws of the two countries were identical. If they were going to give up to another body the power of dealing with Welsh questions, they would enable the agitators in Whales to propound, or, at all events, to push to a certain degree, various nostrums respecting great principles which were not confined to Wales. Let them not forget the old adage, Tua resagitur, paries cum proximus ardet. When their neighbour's house was on fire, they would find it time to regret the folly which induced them to encourage him to keep a stock of fireworks and to send their lire engine away. If they 487 were going to let their Welsh neighbour's house get on fire, the flames would very speedily spread and catch the adjoining domain. In this matter, while he was always glad to recognize a national sentiment in Wales, because he believed that everything which was patriotic, which was traditional, and which tended to make the people proud of their origin and history, served to lift and ennoble a race, he could not allow that because people had comparatively narrow traditions they should therefore be disinherited out of the great Empire of which they now formed a part. He would not consent, and hewas sure the House would not consent, to any scheme by which the jurisdiction of the British Parliament was to be diminished or the frontiers of England to be curtailed. Long ago it was said, Nolumus leges Augliœ mutari. The Government's answer to that proposition was Nolumus fines Angliœ mutari.
MR. J. ROBERTS (Flint, &c.)
said, he desired very strongly to support the Amendment. He did not think that it was at all necessary to reply to the remark of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) that no essentially Welsh Member had supported the proposition before the House. There was undoubtedly a growing sense of discontent in Wales at the manner in which the people considered the Welsh Business was neglected in the House of Commons, and hewas sure that it would be a great satisfaction to the people to know that a Standing Committee to consider Welsh questions had been appointed. The appointment of a Select Committee could do no harm, because the House would retain its jurisdiction over whatever measures were examined and presented to it by the Committee. The light hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General had alluded to the Welsh Sunday Closing Act, and had said it was a failure. He (Mr. J. Roberts) did not know that that had anything to do with this question; but, at the same time, he thought that the majority of the Welsh people, including a majority of the Welsh magistrates, considered the Act to be, on the whole, a great success. Certainly, if there was any defect in it, it was the abuse which was made of the bonâ fide traveller clause, and that could not be remedied in the present condition of things. He had 488 received requests from all parts of the Principality to bring in an amending Act, but he felt it would be perfectly useless for him to do so in view of the difficulty experienced in passing the original Act. He trusted that the proposition now before the House would be accepted, and that the House would give the people of Wales an earnest that it would attend to the Business of Wales.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
said, he did not intend to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) into his very inaccurate and ignorant gossip with regard to Welsh literature and judicature. He assorted, however, that no more frivolous reply to a moderate request was over given by a responsible Minister in the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman occupied nearly an hour in narrating stories and in making more or less frivolous remarks about Welsh literature and judicature, scarcely touching the grievance his (Mr. T. E. Ellis's) Colleagues had laid before the House. The point which the supporters of the Motion insisted upon was that upon three or four great questions, which the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General very adroitly evaded, there was a distinct and growing public opinion in Wales—the question of education, that of temperance, and that of the relations between landlord and tenant. For many years the Welsh people had expected that the House of Commons would, take up the question of education. Both last year and this year the Welsh Members had asked that the question of temperance and of the relations between land-land and tenant should be dealt with, but the reply they had received was that the House could not find time to deal with Welsh questions. This Session, however, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) had brought forward a series of Resolutions to amend this state of things, but private Members on both sides of the House admitted that the revolution which had been caused by the now Rules would result in further limiting the opportunities of private Members. The 12 o'clock Rule was an absolute death-blow to any hope of legislation on the part of private Members, unless there was a great devolution of Business through the 489 means of Grand Committees. What was the principle laid down last night by the passing of the two Resolutions with respect to Grand Committees? It was that Members best fitted to deal with particular subjects should, in Committee, deal with those subjects. The claim of the Scotch and "Welsh Members that Grand Committees should be constituted on which the preponderating element should be Scotch on the one and Welsh on the other, was quite on all-fours with the principle adopted last night. It was shown conclusively by Scotch Members last night that they could deal more efficiently and more thoroughly with Scotch Business than the rest of the House, and it was amusing to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. B. Gladstone) say that he had exhausted all the resources of his rhetoric and oratory and logic in trying to excuse to his constituents the inability of the House to deal with Scotch questions. But Scotland was comparatively well off, for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had pointed out that on two or three fundamental questions which vitally concerned the Welsh people the House had refused to give even a few hours' discussion. Take, for instance, intermediate education. Seven or eight years ago a Committee was appointed to inquire into the question. The Report of that Committee had been published for seven years. What did the Report say? That the present provision for intermediate education was thoroughly unsuitable and inadequate, and that it was only by a Bill dealing with the special circumstances and exceptional position of Wales that this defect could be remedied. Welsh Members had introduced Bills on the subject, and had repeatedly asked the House to give them a day for discussion, but what comfort did they get from the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General over and above his frivolous gossip? That the question should be referred to a Select Committee. But a Select Committee was denied them last Session, and he feared that if they asked this Session for a Select Committee the result would be the same. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General complained that only Englishmen had spoken and supported the Resolution. 490 It seemed rather remarkable that every Englishman who had come to Wales and had come in touch with the people of Wales, men who had asked for the votes of Welshmen, should feel the urgency of this question, and should be the first to appeal to the House, and especially to the Government, to give more attention and respect to Welsh questions. The only serious argument which, the right hon. Gentleman adduced against this Amendment was that the land system in Wales was similar to that in England and that, therefore, the Welsh ought not to have any special legislative treatment. The right hon. Gentleman was so inaccurate in his gossip respecting Welsh Judicature that he said that three Judges sat in three Circuits. As a matter of fact there were formerly in Wales four distinct Courts, two Judges sat in each Court, and the law was administered in an expeditious and cheap manner, but this was struck at by the reactionary Administration of Lord Sidmouth. It was generally admitted that if a few reforms had been adopted in Welsh Judicature law would have been carried out in a still cheaper, more efficient, and still more expeditious manner than it was in England. Assuming that the Welsh land system was now the same as the English, that was no answer at all to the complaint of thousands of Welsh peasantry. Their complaint was that they suffered, and that the landlords refused to meet their pressing circumstances at the present time. It was a mere mockery to the peasantry of Wales to set up a legal quibble as to the similarity of the two land systems. He begged the House to consider the very fair proposal which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) made a short time before here-entered the Cabinet—namely, that—We must do everything consistent with justice; and honour to give the Irish Members of Parliament a special voice in the settlement of purely Irish questions, as for years past we have given to Scotch Members in the settlement of purely Scotch questions.If there was any foundation for the complaint of the Scotch Members there was still more foundation for the complaint of the Irish Members, and there was still more for the complaint of the Welsh Members. He was sure that if the right hon. Gentleman the Member 491 for West Bristol were appealed to privately he would allow this principle to operate in the case of Wales, as he wished it to operate in the case of Scotland and Ireland. He (Mr. T. E. Ellis) and his Colleagues appealed to all Members on the Opposition side of the House, and especially to hon. Members who paid respect to the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, to carry out with regard to Welsh Business the principle the right hon. Gentleman enunciated in the sentence—I am distinctly of opinion that questions which are exclusively Welsh ought to be settled by the opinion and voice of the Members for Wales, and that is a principle which I hope will be steadily observed and pursued by the British Legislature.The immediate way of applying this principle practically was by such a devolution of Business as was sketched out in the Amendment. The adoption of the Amendment would afford an opportunity for the discussion of Welsh questions, and would bring the House generally in touch with the demands and claims of Wales. It would do something else to lighten the burden, and the ever-increasing burden, of legislation upon the House.
§ SIR JOSEPH BAILEY (Hereford)
said, that if the Division of last night meant anything, it meant that the House, by a very large majority, declined to sanction what he might call local devolution. To day they were asked to reverse that decision for reasons that had boon given in the debate. What were those reasons? Why, that the House had declined to give a fair and proper hearing to Welsh questions. The right hon. and learned Member for East Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) paid, "We never get what we want;" but the right hon. and learned Gentleman's presence upon the seat opposite was a protest against the very words he had himself used. For many years the right hon. and learned Gentleman devoted himself to the advocacy of a question which he thought his compatriots desired to see settled, and there he sat on the Front Opposition Bench as a reward for his exertions, and successful exertions, in that matter. The Burials Bill was not exactly special legislation for Wales, hut it was legislation which the Welsh people especially desired, and it was in connection with the passing of that Bill 492 that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had gained his reputation. He called to the recollection of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and of Welsh Members generally that while they were about to discuss the question of Local Government for England that in Wales, so far at least as main roads were concerned, had been under the control of County Boards for the last 40 years. In that instance Wales was distinctly in advance of public opinion, and had had for 40 years advantages which were only now going to be given to England hon. Members had dwelt upon the small amount of legislation for Wales during the last Session. But it must be remembered that last Session was a very peculiar Session; they had to deal with questions of vital importance to the Empire; they had to deal with Parliamentary Procedure, and Irish questions of vital importance had to be at once settled. Neither Welsh questions nor English questions could receive the fair amount of consideration which Members from Wales and Members from England expected they should in an ordinary Session. At the same time, among the legislation of last Session he called to mind one piece of legislation—the Mines Regulation Act—which certainly was an Act which was likely, in the future, to be of the greatest possible advantage to that large and important section of the Welsh people who earn their livelihood by mining in coal and iron. Then there was the Welsh Sunday Closing Act. He did not know what magistrates on the border land between England and Wales, who had the licensing of English public-houses, might think of the advantages of the Act, but the fact that English public-houses close to Wales were the resort of a great number of Welshmen on Sundays for the purpose of drinking tended to show the great desirability of dealing with England and Wales as one, and not as two, countries. A great deal had been said about intermediate education in Wales. If he recollected aright, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) brought in a Bill some years ago dealing with Welsh Intermediate education. If the Bill had been thoroughly discussed by the House, he (Sir Joseph Bailey) thought it would have 493 been discovered that there was a vast amount of Welsh opinion opposed to the Bill. At the same time, when hon. Members spoke of Welsh intermediate education he should like the House to know that Wales was, at least, as well furnished with intermediate schools as England, and that seemed to him to show that there was no immediate necessity for special educational legislation for Wales. He believed that the greatest interest of Wales was that she should be brought more and more in contact with England. He certainly could not see that there was any reason why the House should be induced to depart from the righteous and sensible vote arrived at last night.
§ MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)
said, that after the conclusion arrived at last night, he and his hon. Colleagues were aware that the conclusion, in respect of the present Amendment was foregone. They watched the debate last night with great interest, feeling that their own fate was to be determined by the issue of that discussion. Nevertheless, they had thought it needful to present their case to the House as briefly as they might to-day, and, for his part, he should not have ventured to trouble the House at all had it not been for the remark that fell from the hon. Baronet the Member for Hereford (Sir Joseph Bailey). The hon. Baronet singled out as an example of the sufficiency of the attention to the wants of Wales, and as an evidence of those wants not being of a peculiar or pressing character, the case of intermediate education. The very ignorance of a Member living so close to the borders of Wales of the most practical question in Wales at the present moment seemed to be the best evidence in favour of the proposal now under discussion. The fact was that, so far from Wales in respect to intermediate education being in a satisfactory condition, the grievance was universally admitted by those who had any kind of acquaintance with the matter. The hon. Baronet had altogether forgotten the labours of the Parliamentary Committee presided over by Lord Aberdare. As a result of the inquiry by that Committee some attempt had been made, and made with great and marked success, to meet the demands of Wales with respect to higher education. Yet, so far as intermediate 494 education was concerned, Wales was in a condition of absolute destitution. The serious need of Wales was that the gap between the system of elementary education and that of higher education should be filled up, and that the whole scheme of education should be one which would place Wales in a position to compete with England and Scotland. The lesson the House might draw from this singular exhibition of want of appreciation of the plainest truths in respect to Wales by an hon. Member like the hon. Baronet was, that the best results might be expected from bringing Welsh and English Members more closely together. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) had rather twitted Wales upon the fact of being represented by speakers who were of English birth. He (Mr. Stuart Rendel) could not think that the argument was one which told at all in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's contention—the fact seemed to point in quite an opposite direction. Who were the friends among the Welsh Members of such a measure as this? They were the Englishmen who had been returned for Welsh constituencies. Why were they such ardent supporters of this proposition? They had no predisposition for Wales; but they were simply honest friends to the cause of Wales, and they were now presenting their views to the House, because they thought that, as they themselves had been converted to the cause of Wales in thin and in other matters, so they would be able to convert men of their own race to their own views. That he believed to be a very fair deduction from the argument adduced with a very different intention by the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General. The right hon. Gentleman was not contented with twitting Englishmen for speaking on behalf of Wales—he referred to a portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith), but hedid not quote it correctly. He spoke as if the hon. Member had said that the landlords of Wales were aliens to the people. He (Mr. Stuart Rendel) did not believe that that was the charge brought against the landlords of Wales under any circumstances. The landlords of Wales were unhappily very generally distinct from the people of Wales in their religion, in their language, and in their politics, and it was this line of cleavage to which his 495 hon. Friend (Mr. Rathbone) referred. The hon. Member and his Colleagues wanted to close up the separation by such a healing measure as was now proposed. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General seemed to think that the case of Wales was distinctly weaker than that of Scotland. The weakness of the cause of Wales they admitted. Scotland had more than twice as many Members, and Scotland had a strong link with every Ministry which could be formed. He believed there was never a Ministry formed with less than six or seven Scotchmen in its ranks. Wales had no such advantages, no such link with any Administration. The difference in numbers told against Wales, because Welsh opinion was more completely swamped and submerged by the opinions of English, Scotch, and Irish Members in the House, than Scotch opinion by English, Irish, and Welsh opinion. He doubted whether the Metropolitan Members in combination would venture to place themselves as a body in distinct opposition to the Members from Scotland, but there was no question that with the greatest case in the world any section worth naming in the House might, if they chose either from carelessness or ignorance or want of sympathy, drown the whole voice of Wales. Under those circumstances, and weak as they were in numbers, all they asked was that they should have an opportunity of legitimately combining—combining with English Members in forma which should receive the sanction of the House—to give some kind of official character to their position. The hon. and gallant Member for West Denbighshire (Colonel Cornwallis West) pointed to the fact that they had had a sort of informal Committee upstairs which had often had the advantage of his presence. He (Mr. Stuart Rendel) submitted that the existence of that informal Committee was to no inconsiderable extent an argument in favour of giving to some Welsh Committee a more distinct, legitimate, and recognized status. It did not appear to him wise on the part of the House, on the one hand, to recognize the reasonableness of these informal Committees, and, on the other hand, to refuse the suggestion that the Welsh Members should associate themselves in a reasonable manner with English and Scotch Members for the 496 purpose of discussing with them questions which were essentially Welsh. Obstacles had been set up to their suggestion for the purpose of knocking them down. This Grand Committee would have nothing whatever to do but to deal with questions in a certain definite stage. The House would control both the entrance of a topic in the Committee and its exit. Nothing could come before the Committee except with the sanction of the House, and nothing could leave the Committee but upon the condition that it was again subject to the sanction of the House. He hoped, therefore, that the scope of their proposal would not be unfairly enlarged, or that they would he denied it upon grounds which were altogether irrelevant. Then there was the suggestion that, after all, what they were asking for was in the direction of Home Rule. He frankly confessed that he had great difficulty in making up his mind to agree to this proposal at all. He had felt there was some danger that the proposal would to some extent deprive Wales of what he believed to be her legitimate position. He thought that Wales, under any arrangements of this sort, ought to have a dominant voice on matters which were essentially Welsh, and he considered that, so far from this proposal being one favourable to the idea of Homo Rule, it was distinctly the other way. It might be said that this was the thin edge of the wedge for introducing the question of Disestablishment in Wales. He had a very ardent sentiment with reference to that question, and hecertainly would have been a very much more earnest and active friend of this proposal, and would have attached a far greater amount of importance to it than he had done, if he had thought it would have any favourable bearing upon the bringing to a speedy consideration and conclusion the question of Disestablishment in Wales. But hecould see no kind of relevance between the question of this Standing Committee for Wales and the question of Disestablishment in Wales. He did not believe that anyone in the House desired to see any tendency towards grouping, which was probably the most dangerous enemy to the successful working of Parliamentary institutions which could possibly arise. He implored the House to consider the 497 demands and claims of the Welsh Members from that point of view, and to see in it moderation, good faith, and an earnest desire not to carry their own views in spite of the House of Commons, but to carry their views by the reasonable and proper method of converting the majority of the House of Commons to the justice and fairness of their opinions.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
said, he had listened with great attention to this debate, and it seemed to him that those who had spoken in support of the Amendment had not made out their case. There was a singular difference between the Amendment brought before them to-day, and that which they debated last night. Those who desired a Scotch Grand Committee proposed that those measures which related to Scotland only should be referred to that Committee, but the present proposal was that all the Bills which related to Wales at all should be referred to a Grand Committee if the House so ordered it. He (Mr. Sydney Gedge) was not at all surprised at the difference in the two Motions, because it was just possible that Bills might be passed with regard to Scotland which did not affect England, Ireland, or Wales, on account of the great peculiarity of Scotch law upon many points, especially upon the tenure of land. He did not think it would be possible to select Bills which related to Wales only, except such Bills as the Early Closing Bill. It seemed to him that the connection between the two countries or the two districts with two names was so exceedingly close that it would be impossible to pass any Bill relating to Wales which did not also affect England, and the only result of this Amendment would be that they might have a discussion upon every general Bill brought before Parliament as to whether, on account of its affecting Wales as well as England, it ought not to be referred to the Grand Committee in which Welsh Members were intended to have a preponderating influence. Those who brought forward this Amendment ought to have shown that there was something so peculiar to the 12 counties of Wales—that there was something so different, so peculiar, contrasting so greatly with the interests of the neighbouring counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire, and in- 498 deed with all the rest of England, that there ought to be some special regard to the wishes of the people who happened to dwell in the Welsh counties. Besides, there was nothing in common between the agricultural and mountainous districts of Wales on the one hand, and the commercial and mining districts on the other. The interests of Glamorganshire were much more similar to those of Yorkshire and Lancashire and the mining districts of Staffordshire than they were to those of Merionethshire. Any Bills affecting the interests of the English counties he had enumerated ought to be referred with equal justice to a Grand Committee in which English Members had a preponderating voice, yet England seemed perfectly contented with its present position. Over and over again had the votes of English Members been overborne by the votes of Scotch and Irish and Welsh Members, but Englishmen had never dreamt of a territorial distinction such as that now suggested, The Eastern counties were purely agricultural; they had no mines, no manufactures, and little shipping, they felt the agricultural depression keenly, and thought themselves sacrificed to the manufacturing towns; but no one proposed that any Bills relating to them should be referred to a Grand Committee composed of their Members. Why should this be done in the case of Wales, whose only peculiarities were that it had a language which few of its inhabitants spoke or understood, and it also had a name of its own, and gave that name to the eldest son of the Monarch? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had said that matters which were exclusively Welsh ought to be decided in accordance with the opinions of the Welsh Members. But the right hon. Gentleman had said pretty much the same with regard to Ireland and Scotland, but somehow or other, with regard to Ireland, the whole country did not see the matter in the same light as the right hon. Gentleman, and he had also told them that it passed the wit of man to define what were Irish matters. If the people were not disposed to accede to the principle in the case of Ireland, which was an Island separated from us by the sea, they were hardly likely to accede to it in the case of Wales, which was only separated from us by artificial boundaries 499 which could be only discovered in the map. Then, again, no attempt had really been made to show that Wales had suffered from the present state of things, or that Welsh Members had not received a proper hearing in the House. So long as the counties and boroughs of Wales were represented by such able and pertinacious Members as those who bad addressed the House to-day, Wales need not fear she would be left in the shade, or that her voice would not be heard. She had an equal chance with all other parts of the United Kingdom, and she could make her wishes known. Three subjects—namely, intermediate education, temperance, and the relation between landlord and tenant, had been particularly mentioned as deserving of attention, but it had not boon shown that these questions affected the Principality any more than they affected England. Intermediate education was, no doubt, a pressing question at the present time, but if nothing was done for Wales in regard to it nothing was done for England. Temperance, too, was an important matter, but in respect to it more had been done of late for Wales than had been done for England. As to the relation between landlord and tenant, he believed the law was pretty much the same in Wales as throughout England. Welsh, farmers were not suffering more from the agricultural depression than English farmers, and therefore the grievance was no more pressing in Wales than it was in England. The Government were about to introduce a Local Government Bill enabling the different counties, through their Representatives, to deal with county affairs. It had not been shown that Wales would not benefit equally under that Bill with England, and he certainly thought it would be time enough to make a Motion of this kind when it was shown that relief was given to English counties which was not given to Wales. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) had charged the Conservative Party with madness in the use they made of their majority to throw out this Bill, and had taken comfort in the thought of their impending destruction because of the Latin proverb—Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat. Such prophecies were the usual consolations of a dejected Party. He (Mr. Gedge) would retort another Latin proverb upon 500 the hon. Member—Victrix causa Diis placuit, sed victa Catoni. But Cato did not console himself with such prophecies. The Conservatives had a majority; they looked upon it as a proof that the Gods regarded them with favour, and they intend to use it for the purpose for which it was given to them—to resist all insidious attempts, like this Bill, to break up the United Kingdom into fragments.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), who had moved the Amendment under consideration, would not hesitate to go to a Division. If he did go to a, Division hewould receive the unanimous support of the Irish Members who sat below the Gangway. This was a question upon which the Irish Members had the greatest possible sympathy with the Welsh Representatives. The Welsh Members had displayed the greatest sympathy with the movement in which the Irish were engaged, and it was only right that the Irish Members should note this opportunity of showing that they were prepared to aid Wales as much as they were able in her endeavour to get her Business properly considered. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport (Mr. Sydney Gedge) put a very wrong issue before the House, because he said the last General Election was decided upon an issue like that raised in the Amendment before the House. The last General Election was fought upon the question of establishing a Parliament in Dublin. This was a question of establishing a small Committee for the purpose of enabling Welsh Members to have control of the affairs of their own country. Hon. Members like the hon. Gentleman appeared to think that the last General Election had given them a mandate to put down every movement which was hurtful to the instincts of the Tory Party.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, he felt he could add very little to the very able speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes), who, on behalf of the Government, replied to the observations which had fallen from hon. Members opposite; but there was something which ought to be put before the House in a 501 more distinct manner than it had been as yet. Hon. Gentlemen proposed that there should be another Grand Committee similarly constituted to those which were appointed under the Standing Order of December, 1882, and subject to the same Rules—the Members for Wales and Monmouthshire being Members of that Committee. In the Amendment there was a contradiction in terms. Hon. Members said that this Grand Committee was to be similarly constituted to the Committees on Law and Trade. The Committees on Law and Trade were constituted by the Committee of Selection, who were instructed to have regard to the classes of Bills remitted to the Committees, to the composition of the House, and to the qualifications of the Members selected. Hon. Gentlemen would understand that the constitution of the Committee, having regard to the composition of the House, would render it impossible that all the Members from one locality could be put upon this Committee, and that, therefore, the proposal was a contradiction in terms. In the next place, it was proposed that all the Bills relating to Wales which might be so ordered by the House should be referred to the Committee. But every Statute passed for the United Kingdom related to Wales. Whore was a line to be drawn?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, they were now getting at the root of the question. It was a question of referring all the Bills which related exclusively to Wales to this Committee. If all the Welsh Members were put upon the Committee, they could not, according to the practice of the House, sit upon either of the other Standing Committees. The hon. Gentleman asked for that which, if the Government were prepared to entertain this principle of disintegration and localization, would inflict great injury upon Wales, because it would divorce the Representatives of Wales from the influence they should properly exercise on the legislation for the United Kingdom as a whole, with which he believed the interests of Wales were as completely bound up as any other part of these Islands. The Government could not divorce the interests of Wales from the interests of England, Scotland, and Ireland. It appeared to him to be 502 strange that it should be proposed from the Liberal Benches that they should localize the interests of the different parts of the country; that they should endeavour to separate one from the other, treating them as independent and separate units, and dealing with them as if they could have existence independently of this great Empire. He had heard with great surprise that oven the interests of Wales would be benefited by being sent to a Committee upstairs instead of being discussed in the House. Some hon. Members had said it would be wrong to deny to Welsh Members the power of stating their case in the House. They did not deny the power to Members from Wales to take their place in the Imperial Parliament; but if they asked for a Committee upstairs as an alternative to stating their case in the House, he thought—with great respect to the judgment of the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment—they must wish, to diminish the power of Wales. Looking at it from any point of view from which they could by any possibility regard it, the Government must oppose this proposal. Its adoption would be injurious to the interests of the Welsh themselves; it would reduce the position of Wales to that of a locality represented by 30 Members, and it would bring about a disposition to localize great questions of Imperial importance. The proposal could only be looked upon with favour by those who desired to bring about the disintegration of the Empire, and to sot up a condition of things which would be most injurious to the interests of this great country.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 113; Noes 135: Majority 22.504
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Campbell, H.|
|Carew, J. L.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Causon, R. K.|
|Anderson, C. H.||Chance, P. A.|
|Asher, A.||Channing, F. A|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Clark, Dr. G. B.|
|Barbour, W. B.||Colman, J. J.|
|Barran, J.||Conway, M.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Corbe, W. J.|
|Blane, A.||Cossham, H.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Cox, J. R.|
|Buchanan, T. R.||Craig, J.|
|Burt, T.||Cremer, W. R.|
|Buxon, S. C.||Deasy, J.|
|Cameron, C.||Dillon, J.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Duff, R. W.|
|Ellis, T. E.||O'Hanlon, T.|
|Esslemont, P.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||Portman, hon. E. B.|
|Fenwick, C.||Potter, T. B.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro-||Power, P. J.|
|Flower, C.||Price, T. P.|
|Foloy, P. J.||Pyne, T. D.|
|Fox. Dr. J. F.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Gill, T. P.||Rendel, S.|
|Gully, W. C.||Richard, H.|
|Harrington, E.||Roberts, J.|
|Harrington, T. C.||Roberts, J. B.|
|Harris, M.||Roe, T.|
|Haydon, L. P.||Roscoe, Sir H. E.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-||Rowlands, J.|
|Healy, T. M.||Samuelson, G. B.|
|Hooper, J.||Schwann, C. E.|
|Hunter, W. A.||Sheehan, J. D.|
|Jacoby, J. A.||Smith, S.|
|James, hon. W. H.||Stack, J.|
|Joicey, J.||Stanhopo, hon. P. J.|
|Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J.||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|Stevenson, F. S.|
|Kennedy, E. J.||Stewart, H.|
|Kenny, J. E.||Stuart, J.|
|Lalor, R.||Sullivan, D.|
|Leahy, J.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Lewis, T. P.||Tuite, J.|
|Lyell, L||Vivian, Sir H. H.|
|MacNeill, J. G. S.||Wallace, R.|
|M'Donald, P.||Wayman, T.|
|M'Donald, Dr. R.||Williams, A. J.|
|M'Kenna, Sir J. N.||Williamson, S.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Mahony, P.||Wilson, I.|
|Montagu, S.||Winterbotham, A. B.|
|Morgan, O. V.||Woodall, W.|
|Nolan, J.||Woodhead, J.|
|OBrien, J. F. X.||Wright, C.|
|O'Brien, P. J.||TELLERS.|
|O'Brien, W.||Morgan, rt. hn. G. O.|
|O'Connor, A.||Rathbone, W.|
|Acland, C. T. D.||Corbett, J.|
|Addison, J. E. W.||Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Ainslie, W. G.||Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.|
|Aird, J.||Courtney, L. H.|
|Baden-Powell, Sir G. S.||Crossman, Gen. Sir W.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Darling, C. J.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||De Cobain, E. S. W.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|Baring, T. C.||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Dorington, Sir J. E.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Dugdale, J. S.|
|Baumann, A. A.||Duncombe, A.|
|Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-||Dyke, rt.hn. SirW. H.|
|Edwards-Moss, T. C.|
|Bigwood, J.||Feilden, Lt.-Gea. R. J.|
|Bolitho, T. B.||Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Forwood, A. B.|
|Bruce, Lord H.||Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Gedge, S.|
|Carmarthen, Marq. of||Gent-Davis, R.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.||Godson, A. F.|
|Coddington, W.||Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.|
|Corbett, A. C.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Morgan, hon. F.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Mount, W. G.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Mowbray, R. G. C.|
|Gray, C. W.||Mulholland, H. L.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Newark, Viscount|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Noble, W.|
|O'Neill, hon. R. T.|
|Hamilton, Lord E||Paget, Sir R. H.|
|Hanbury, R. W.||Pearce, Sir W.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Pelly, Sir L.|
|Heath, A. R.||Penton, Captain F. T|
|Heaton, J. H.||Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.|
|Hermon-Hodge, R. T.||Rankin, J.|
|Hill, Colonel E. S.||Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Hoare, E. B.||Robertson, Sir W. T.|
|Hoare, S.||Round, J.|
|Houldsworth,Sir W. H.||Sellar, A. C.|
|Howard, J.||Selwin - Ibbetson, rt. hon. Sir H. J.|
|Hozier, J. H. C.|
|Isaacs, L. H.||Selwyn, Capt. C. W.|
|Jackson, W. L.||Shaw-Stewart, M. H.|
|Jeffreys, A. F.||Sidebotham, J. W.|
|Jennings, L. J.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Johnston, W.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Kelly, J. R.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Kenrick, W.||Stephens, H. C.|
|Kimber, H.||Temple, Sir R.|
|King-Harman, right hon. Colonel E. R.||Thorburn, W.|
|Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Lafone, A.||Trotter, H. J.|
|Lawrence, W. F.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Lewis, Sir C. E.||Webster, R. G.|
|Llewellyn, E. H.||West, Colonel W. C.|
|Long, W. H.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Lowther, hon. W.||Wharton, J. L.|
|Lubbock, Sir J.||Whitley, E.|
|Macartney, W. G. E.||Wilson, Sir S.|
|Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Mackintosh, C. F.||Wright, H. S.|
|Maclure, J. W.||Wroughton, P.|
|M'Calmont, Captain J.||Young, C. E. B.|
|Madden, D. H.|
|Matthews, rt. hn. H,||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Maxwell, Sir H. E.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|More, R. J.|
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, hewished to make an appeal to the hon. Member (Mr. Cremer), in whose name the next Amendment appeared on the Paper, not to press the Amendment, as its discussion could have but one result. The House was desirous of proceeding with the Orders as rapidly as possible. The debate on the Rules interfered with the privileges of private Members, and he was anxious to put a stop to that interference as soon as possible. He trusted the hon. Member would not proceed with the Amendment of which he had given Notice, as the result of his doing so would be to consume unnecessarily more of the time which should be at the disposal of private Members.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said, lie had no doubt the fight hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury considered the statement he had made justified by the facts of the case; but it was not within his (Mr. Cremer's) memory that this question had ever been presented to the House in the form in which he proposed to introduce it, and, with all deference to the right hon. Gentleman, he considered the question of such importance that he must respectfully decline to accede to the request made. He would not, however, occupy the time of the House for more than 10 or 12 minutes, and there was no reason, so far as he and those who would vote with him were concerned, why the debate should occupy more than half-an-hour at the outside. The question involved in the Amendment of which he had given Notice was one of great importance to the masses of the people who were heavily taxed, too heavily taxed, in consequence of the mistakes which he believed had been made by successive Governments in dealing with questions of a foreign or Colonial character without referring those questions to the people, or considering their interests in regard to them. The questions to be relegated to the Grand Committees which the Government proposed to establish were of the most important character. Trade, Manufactures, Agriculture, and Law Procedure were, in themselves, questions of great importance; but, important as they might be, they were by no means as important—tho whole of them, in fact, he considered of less importance—than the one which was involved in the Amendment he has submitting to the consideration of the House. As he had said, the question, so far as he was aware, had never been presented to the House in the form in which it was raised in this Amendment. It was quite true that two years ago the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Henry Richard) presented a Resolution—on which a vote was taken—somewhat akin to the Amendment he (Mr. Cremer) was now moving. The hon. Member's Resolution was to the effect that it was unjust and inexpedient to embark in war, or to contract engagements involving great responsibilities to the nation, or the addition of territories to the Empire, without the knowledge and consent of 506 Parliament. He (Mr. Cremer) voted on that occasion in favour of the hon. Member's Resolution; but he did not now propose to go so far as that proposition. He did, however, think that the time had come when the people, through their Representatives in the House, should be more fairly consulted on questions of a foreign and Colonial character than they hitherto had been. He proposed that in this respect Parliament should become in reality what it was in theory—namely, the supreme tribunal which should have the supreme power of deciding on the questions to which he referred. What took place now? During the time he had been honoured with a seat in this Assembly he had kept his eyes pretty widely open, and had seen, from time to time, Members come down to the House having read reports in the Press that some disturbance had arisen between the Government of the day and some Foreign Power out of which mischief was likely to arise. Well, such Member came down, and very properly addressed a Question to the First Lord of the Treasury or the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; the Minister, of course, replied, and almost invariably urged the inadvisability of the Question being pressed, because the negotiations which were taking place were of that delicate character that it was not advisable they should be made known to the public, and the Questioner was urged not to insist on seeking further information on the point. The Questioner was, in fact, asked to wait for the publication of despatches and the issue of the Blue Book. Well, the Questioner generally acceded to the request of the Government, did not insist on the inquiry, waited for the despatches, and in due time they were placed in his hands—that was to say, the despatches which were intended for the public eye. He (Mr. Cremer) had heard—but he did not know what truth there was in the statement—that there were generally two sets of despatches between Ministers and our Representatives abroad, one of which was intended for the public eye, and the other of which was strictly private and confidential. They got one set of the despatches—that which was carefully prepared for the House and the public eye—presented to them, and on that they were supposed to form their opinions and arrive at certain conclusions; 507 but by that time the mischief had been done—the negotiations had been concluded and the Treaty had been made. He believed that scores of Treaties, in which were found the seeds of mischief and future strife between this country and other countries, had been negotiated and concluded in the manner that he had indicated; and then the Member who had addressed the Question to the Minister came down armed with the despatches and asked for further information, founding a complaint, or series of complaints, upon the despatches he had read in the Blue Book, and the Minister rose in. his place and appealed to the hon. Member not to persist in making an inquiry, because what had been done could not be undone, and that, if an evil had been committed, it was too late to remedy that evil. And in this way the nation was committed irrevocably to the acceptance of a Treaty concerning the making of which its Representatives had never been consulted. Now, he thought the time had come when Parliament, or at least a Committee of the House, should be taken into the confidence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and should be consulted before negotiations were concluded with Foreign Powers, and when the opinion of Members of the House should be taken as to the desirability of concluding Treaties and negotiations of the kind to which he had referred. This principle was not by any means a new one; at least it was not new to the world, though it might be new to this country and to the House. The principle was in operation in the United States, where they had a Committee on Foreign Relations, and neither the Senate, nor the House of Representatives, nor the President, nor his Cabinet had power to conclude Treaties with Foreign Powers until the questions had been thoroughly threshed out by the Committee on Foreign Relations. The interests of the people of the United States were thus safeguarded by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, who sat with closed doors—and he commended this to hon. Gentlemen who might fear to support his proposal because of the publicity which would be given to the discussion of foreign affairs in the House or by a Grand Committee. The Committee on Foreign Relations in the United States sat with closed doors just as the British 508 Cabinet did; and if his proposal were accepted, where negotiations of a delicate character were under discussion, and it was not desirable that they should be made known to the public, the Committee might sit with closed doors, and there would be little danger then of any difficulty arising in consequence of such discussions taking place in the Committee. Within the last few years they had had numerous instances afforded them of the danger of allowing the Government of the day or the Cabinet to determine these matters for them without, first of all, taking into its confidence the great Council of the Nation. He would only briefly refer to some, of the unfortunate events which had taken place during the past few years. There was the Afghan War, about which the House had never been consulted until hostilities had commenced. Then they had the Penjdeh dispute. He remembered a Vote being rushed through the House in two or three hours—he forgot which—for £9,000,000 or £11,000,000, because of the scare which seized upon our countrymen in consequence of that dispute. There was also the Transvaal War, the Zulu War, the War in Bechuanaland, the Egyptian War, and the War in the Soudan, which made shipwreck of the Government of the day. With regard to the Egyptian War, he felt convinced that if the facts had been laid before a Committee of the House such as he suggested—and which hewas certain at some not very distant day would be appointed—the country would have been spared the shame and humiliation and everlasting disgrace of the bombardment of Alexandria, and the Liberal Government of the day would not have made shipwreck of its reputation. Then they had the war in Upper Burmah. He (Mr. Cremer) had listened to the debate last year, when the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), in opposing a protest which he (Mr. Cremer) had raised against the Burmese War, boasted of the part he had played in the affair, and said that the war would probably cost something like £300,000, and expressed the pride he felt at having added another gem to the Imperial diadem. Well, he (Mr. Cremer), on referring to the expenditure in India, found that there was a deficit—or would have been but for an increase 509 of the Salt Tax, of something like £2,000,000—and that the greater part of the expenditure which caused the deficit was owing to that shameful annexation of Burmah. He did not think the people of the country cared for the purchase of gems to adorn the Imperial diadem at such a cost as this. Those who were anxious to have such gems should obtain possession of them at their own expense, and not come down on the poor taxpayers of this country, or the ryots of India, for the money to purchase such adornments. These wars had, from first to last, cost this country something like £100,000,000, and he had no doubt that the greater part of that would have been saved if the questions in dispute had been referred to a Committee on Foreign Relations of the kind that he now proposed. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had stated just now that the fate this Amendment would meet with was a foregone conclusion. Well, it was not in the expectation that the House would agree to it that he (Mr. Cremer) had thought it his duty to bring it forward. He had brought it before the House because it was a democratic measure, and because it was in operation and had worked so admirably in the United States of America. He was satisfied that it would effect a considerable saving both in the treasure and blood of his countrymen if the questions out of which these miserable disputes arose were submitted to a Committee on Foreign Relations; and these were the reasons which had induced him to bring forward the proposition. He believed that those who had to pay both in money and blood had a right to be consulted with regard to the questions out of which these miserable conflicts arose. The idea of a Cabinet sitting with closed doors and deciding questions involving the honour of this country, and committing the nation to obligations of the most onerous description, seemed to him so monstrous, that it was a matter of surprise to him that the people of the country had so long submitted to such an extraordinary state of things. He might be told—they had been told before—that the House had the power of controlling the doings of the Government or the Cabinet; but what took place was this—if a Member questioned too closely the conduct of the Government, or if there was a restive feeling displayed by the Opposition, and 510 the conduct of the Government was challenged, the Government immediately declared that if an adverse vote were recorded they would regard it as a Vote of Want of Confidence, and by this means many Members were induced, from Party motives, to vote in distinct opposition to their wishes and desires. When the debate took place in the House with regard to the annexation of Burmah, there were scores of Members who went into the Lobby in favour of the policy of the Government, but who were heard to assert—he had heard them himself—that had they been consulted by the Government, and had their opinions been asked and their votes recorded before the war was commenced, they would certainly have gone against the annexation of Burmah. But the mischief was done, money was in great part spent, the blood of the country was spilt, and then they were asked to endorse the action of the Government. It was to avoid, in the future, things of that kind and to give a Committee of the House an opportunity of judging of Foreign Treaties before they were entered into by this country—Treaties which contained the seeds of mischief and the germs of strife—that he moved this Amendment.
At the end of the Question, to add the words—"That there be another Committee, similarly constituted, and subject to the same Rules, for the consideration of all questions of a Foreign or Colonial nature, and the ratification of Treaties with Foreign Powers."—(Mr. Cremer.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
said, he had not come down to the House prepared to take part in this discussion; but he could not help feeling that the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment (Mr. Cremer) had the right sow by the ear. It had always seemed to him an extraordinary anomaly that, notwithstanding that they had Representatives of the people, there should be such a survival of ancient times that the power of making Treaties binding this country for all time by the most onerous obligations should still rest not in any degree with those Representatives of the people, but with the Crown, or, in other words, Her Majesty's Ministers. The proposal of his hon. Friend to establish a Grand Committee- to deal with 511 these questions was a more Radical proposal than any of the proposals submitted to the House on the previous evening and this morning; but, at the same time, though he had no hope that the Amendment would be accepted, he must say he thought his hon. Friend had made a movement in the right direction, and that in all other free countries there was reserved to the people some control over foreign relations. He was not sure that the House would consider the American example satisfactory, seeing that the assent of two thirds of the Senate was necessary to ratify a Treaty—as we were forcibly made aware at this moment in the ease of a Treaty in which we were interested, and which was awaiting ratification.
§ MR. MUNRO-FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
said, that no one would take objection to the first part of the hon. Member's Amendment, but it seemed to him (Mr. Ferguson) that serious objection would be taken to that part which dealt with the ratification of Treaties by Parliament. As to the example of America, which the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment referred to, recent experience in the Senate there had shown the Rule in force to be of a somewhat unfortunate character. Recently a very important Treaty dealing with, extradition had been laid before the Senate. It had been considered in secret Session—that method of consultation which had been recommended to the House—and the Senator for Virginia (Mr. Riddleberger) had enlightened us as to what had passed, and had given us the information that "the British lion's tail had been twisted by 24 votes to 21." At the present moment the question of ratifying the Fishery Treaty was in suspense in the United States, which would not have been the case had it not been for the Committee on Foreign Relations, for the Executive Government would have ratified it without hesitation. Amid the storms of Party politics it would be absolutely impossible to maintain any continuous form of foreign relations, if the action of the Executive Government was to rest on the chances of a Party vote in the House. If difficulties had arisen in America, which was a country with very few foreign relations, how much worse would it be in this country, which was so intimately associated with the polities of Europe, 512 and which had such close relations with all the Governments of the world? This was not the first time that a debate had taken place on a question of this kind, the late Mr. Rylands having some years ago moved a Resolution affirming that Treaties with foreign countries ought to be laid on the Tables of both Houses of Parliament before being ratified. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in opposing that Motion, had pointed out the impossibility of checking the details of negotiations by the direct action of the House, and had reminded the House that it might be necessary to conclude a Treaty during the Recess or the Easter or Whitsuntide holidays. He (Mr. Ferguson) had great sympathy with the desire of his hon. Friend (Mr. Cremer) that our foreign relations should have as full consideration as possible from the Representatives of the people, but, at the same time, he thought it absolutely impossible to accept the latter part of the proposal, and if the hon. Member put it to the House he (Mr. Ferguson) should vote against it.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
said, that this question had been often brought before the House and decisively rejected, and although the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cremer) had been conclusively answered by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) it would be proper that he (Sir James Fergusson) should take some notice of what had been said, because there could be no doubt that the feeling expressed by the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Amendment was shared by many persons throughout the country who were, perhaps, not sufficiently instructed, and it was only right some answer should be given to such contentions. That the Representatives of a free country should have a voice—a commanding voice—in all that concerned national affairs must go without saying; but it was competent for the Representatives of the people to delegate their authority, and it might appear to Parliament, in its wisdom, that it was better to place confidence in the Ministers of the Crown for the time being with respect to the conduct of delicate affairs than to insist that the whole of the negotiations should be conducted and published before the world, 513 a course which might prejudice the great interests at stake. Now, it must be evident that in a country with concerns so varied and extensive as ours, there must be questions constantly arising of a delicate nature which required to be conducted with expedition and firmness. But if all those questions had to be referred to a Committee of the House there would be inevitable delay, and it was possible that words might be said and decisions arrived at which would prejudice the objects the House had at heart. It was quite true that Parliament was the supreme tribunal, and ought to control the affairs of this country in every particular; but that was no reason why it should conduct those affairs in person. This House was no doubt the best exponent of the mind of the nation, but it might be a very unfit body for judical procedure or for diplomatic action. The hon. Member proposed there should be added—Another Committee, similarly constituted, and subject to the same Rules, for the consideration of all questions of a Foreign or Colonial nature and the ratification of Treaties with Foreign Powers.But a Committee similarly constituted would consist of 60 Members taken from all parts of the House with due representation of every section, and hecould not think that that would be a suitable tribunal to which all questions of a "Foreign or Colonial nature and the ratification of Treaties with Foreign Powers" should be committed. There might have been occasions in which this country had been led into responsibilities which would have been better avoided; but in how many cases had the country been saved from complications through the ability possessed by the Government of the Queen to conduct the negotiations in secret? There was no one who knew anything about foreign affairs but must know of negotiations which would have infallibly miscarried if they had not been conducted confidentially. He did not consider a Committee of 60 Members of average discretion a fit council to deal with these questions. As to the power possessed by the American Senate, the two cases of America and this country could not for a moment be compared, and when that parallel was attempted to be drawn on former occasions, it had absolutely broken down. The practice now proposed by the hon. 514 Member (Mr. Cremer) might work well in America; but though we had much to admire in that country, we could not afford to imitate all her institutions. He believed, on the whole, that the abstention of Parliament had been productive of good results, and that it would require a good deal more than had boon advanced by the hon. Member to-day to induce the House of Commons to depart from that long precedent and well-established rule.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 44; Noes 219: Majority 175.—(Div. List, No. 31.)
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That the Resolutions of the House of the 1st December, 1882, relating to the Constitution and Proceedings of Standing Committees for the Consideration of Bills relating to Law, and Courts of Justice, and Legal Procedure, and to Trade, Shipping, and Manufactures, be revived, and that Trade shall include Agriculture and Fishing.