§ * MR. M. H. SHAW-STEWART (Renfrew)
, who was attired in the uniform of a Deputy Lieutenant: Sir, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in reply to the most gracious Speech from the Throne. I believe it is the custom for a Member undertaking this honourable task, to ask for the indulgence of the House, and I can assure you, Sir, and I can assure the House, that in following that custom it is with no sense of any formality, but in all sincerity, that I ask for that indulgence, more especially as I have ventured to address the House only on one previous occasion. Sir, the first portion of the Royal Speech deals with Foreign Affairs, and commences with the gratifying announcement of our continued and cordial relations with other Powers. We are next informed that the operations in Egypt which were carried out by Her Majesty's troops, acting in concert with the troops of His Highness the Khedive have been entirely successful. Those operations, Sir, were not on an extensive scale, but they afforded an opportunity for a display of tactical skill on the part of the commander, and of a dash and discipline on the parts of the British and native troops, such as are calculated to call forth the admiration and gratitude of all who value soldierly qualities in our own troops and in those of our allies. In their Egyptian Policy, the Government have been bound by certain engagements entered into by their predecessors, and to those engagements they have steadily and loyally adhered. The protection of the ports on the Red Sea was one of the conditions of those engagements, and, Suakim being one of those ports, the Government were bound to assist the Egyptian Government in protecting that place from the hostile attacks which harassed its in 37 habitants and endangered its safety. Suakim has by the action of the Government been entirely freed from those attacks, and I am sure that the House will learn with satisfaction from the Royal Speech that there is no ground for apprehending their renewal. There have been some who have thought that the Government should have pushed forward the troops and occupied Handoub and Tokar, with a view of re-entering the Soudan. Sir, it is very far from my wish to raise or revive Party questions on the present occasion, but it is necessary to bear in mind that with regard to the policy of evacuating the Soudan, the present Government have had no choice in the matter; for that policy was decided on so long ago as December, 1883, as appears in a despatch from Lord Granville to Sir Evelyn Baring, dated the 13th of that month; and to occupy those places now would involve us in a reversal of that policy, and embark us in a very large and costly enterprise. Sir, with regard to Sikkim, I am sure that this House re-echoes the hope expressed in Her Majesty's Speech, that further military operations will not be necessary, although the negotiations have not yet been favourably settled. In dealing with the Rulers of Thibet, Her Majesty's advisers are dealing with a people well versed in diplomatic delays, but we may trust that they will soon realize the fruitlessness of encroaching on our undoubted rights over the territory of Sikkim. Sir, Her Majesty's Speech has intimated that this country will take part in a Conference at Berlin with Germany and the United States upon the affairs of Samoa. It would not be right further to allude to the subject, except to say that I am sure I am only giving utterance to the sentiments of every Member of this House when I express the hope that the Conference will be attended with happy results, and that the affairs of Samoa will be harmoniously and satisfactorily settled. I will now leave the difficult and delicate subject of Foreign Affairs, believing that the conduct of our foreign relations are, humanly speaking, safe in the hands of the Marquess of Salisbury, to whose prudence and foresight we owe in very great measure the satisfactory state of our relations with other Powers. Sir, the next paragraph is of the utmost im 38 portance. It foreshadows increased expenditure, but expenditure which cannot safely be withheld, and in a direction which I do not think will be seriously objected to by anyone who knows anything of the necessities of the case. I cannot conceive, Sir, that any serious opposition will arise as to the expediency of the proposals to be submitted by the Government, although the details will no doubt be the subject of considerable discussion. But I shall leave all further consideration of this subject to my hon. and gallant Friend, who is so well qualified by training and knowledge to deal with it. I will only add that, having some opportunities of knowing the opinions of those engaged in the great mercantile shipping industry of the Clyde, I can safely say that all those who are engaged in every branch of that industry are awaiting with the deepest interest the proposals of the Government and the result of our deliberations upon this vital question. Her Majesty's Speech next directs our attention to a subject which has already occupied this House, viz., Local Government. I believe, Sir, that future politicians will acknowledge as one of the greatest achievements of the present Administration, the development and extension throughout the country of the system of Local Government. It is impossible to regard without the greatest interest that which is passing around us in England at present, as we watch the fruit of our labours of last Session gradually developing since the Local Government Act has come into operation. Sir, it had not been my intention to dwell on the subject of Local Government farther than to allude to the proposed measure for Scotland, but an hon. Member (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) having just called attention to opinions which I have ventured to lay before my constituents, I should not like to lose this opportunity of saying that I stand by all I have said. I am in favour of extending the system of Local Government to all parts of the United Kingdom, but it must be done with prudence, and we must be perfectly certain that the people to whom it is proposed to give increased powers are free agents, and altogether independent of the control of any organization which may be at variance with the laws of the land, whatever those 39 laws may be at the time we extend those powers. Now, Sir, it is with the greatest satisfaction that I turn to that part of Her Majesty's Speech which announces the introduction of a Local Government Bill for Scotland. I read the other day—I think in a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, a suggestion that the discussions on Scottish matters might possibly be dull. Well, Sir, I hope that Scottish members on both sides of the House will allow these discussions to be dull, because my short experience of Parliament has taught me that it is in what are called the dull sittings of this House that the most satisfactory work is performed. We do not know what are the proposals of the Government on the subject, and this is not the time or the occasion to inflict my own views on the House, but I think my hon. Friends from Scotland will agree with me that the whole subject of Local Government in Scotland is of a very difficult and complicated character, and will demand the closest attention of Her Majesty's Government. I believe that the Government will consider the question with the utmost care, and that their counsels will result in the introduction of a sound and efficient measure, drawn up on a broad and popular basis. If any indication were needed of the importance that the Government attach to this measure, I think it may be found in the fact that they have selected for the honourable task of submitting this motion a member returned by a Scottish county constituency. The paragraph which announces proposals to develop the material resources of Ireland will be regarded with pleasure by all who desire to see Ireland a prosperous country. I cannot but think that the time has come when such measures will be most beneficial, seeing that confidence is gradually but surely being restored in Ireland, owing to the firm manner in which the rights and safeguards of individual liberty are being there maintained by the Executive. Sir, the reference to the Sugar Bounties Convention will be received by thousands of working men with great satisfaction. There are a great number of trades besides those directly connected with the sugar trade which are to a certain extent dependent on the sugar trade, 40 and I have seen something of the distress caused in recent years by the unfair operation of the Bounty system. The removal of the Sugar Bounties will place the important industries of sugar-producing and sugar-refining on a stable footing, less liable to violent changes and depressions. Sir, I have heard it objected to the removal of these bounties that the price of sugar will be raised, but I do not anticipate that result. I do not believe the average of those recent years will be raised, because it is only the uncertainty and fear of one country suddenly increasing its Bounty, which prevents a large increase in the sugar-producing area of our colonies. It must be remembered there has been no steadiness in the price of sugar produced in bounty-giving countries, for we find that in the last few years it has fluctuated from between something over 10s. per cwt. to over 16s. Another objection, that it savours of Protection, is I think altogether groundless. Protection, if it means anything, means "an artificial advantage given by a Government to one producer over another." But that is also an accurate description of the Bounty system which this Convention is formed to suppress. So that far from being a Protective measure it actually puts an end to a Protective policy. I think, Sir, we may chiefly rejoice in the fact that the Sugar Bounties Convention receives prominent notice in the Royal Speech, because it is so important that other countries should see that the Government are in earnest and are determined to carry to a conclusion the negotiations so happily and so successfully begun. When this is once clearly understood abroad, there will no longer be any temptation to any one country to withhold its allegiance to the Convention, but on the contrary, there will be every inducement for it to join those which have already come together. We are next informed that measures will be introduced dealing with the Three per cent. Annuities and with the gold coinage, measures which I am sure will be brought to a successful issue in the able hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Next in order come proposed changes in the Civil establishment, the mention of which shows the honest desire of the Government to take in hand the timely 41 reforms of our Public Departments. This brings me to the list of what I may call the Arrears of Legislation: measures which it was found impossible to pass into law last Session, but of which the Government realise the importance, and which they are determined to endeavour to pass during the present Session. Sir, the Universities Bill for Scotland is a measure which has received the support and approval of those best qualified to form an opinion on University teaching, and it would be matter for deep regret if it were again found impossible to pass it into law. With regard to the proposed Department of Agriculture, I am not one of those who fear that this great industry has seen its best days in Great Britain and Ireland. On the contrary, I believe we are now standing only on the threshold of scientific discoveries and researches, which, when applied to agriculture, will give it new life and fresh impetus. I think we may look forward to the establishment of the long-expected Department of Agriculture as likely to expedite this desirable application of modern science to the oldest of our industries. Such, Sir, is the programme of Her Majesty's Government, one which I venture to describe as substantial and statesmanlike, and which I believe will find general acceptance throughout the United Kingdom. I have only to say in conclusion, that I am so convinced of the wisdom of the proposals contained in Her Majesty's gracious Speech, and of the benefit which will accrue to the country by their being passed into law, that I trust we may soon reach the discussion of them, and that the House will agree without any prolonged delay to the Motion which I now have the honour to submit. Mr. Speaker, I now beg to move, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as followeth:—Most Gracious Majesty,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament;We humbly thank Your Majesty for the information that during the brief period that has elapsed since the close of the last Session 42 nothing has taken place to affect the cordial relations which exist between Your Majesty and other Powers;We assure Your Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that the operations which had been successfully completed in Egypt a few days before the last Prorogation, have effected the object for which they were undertaken, and that Your Majesty sees no ground for apprehending the renewal of disturbance in the neighbourhood of Suakin;We thank Your Majesty for the information that the negotiations which Your Majesty had directed to be opened with the Rulers of Thibet for the purpose of preventing encroachment on Your Majesty's rights over the territory of Sikkim have not as yet been brought to a favourable conclusion, but that Your Majesty hopes that further military operations will not be necessary.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has consented to take part in a Conference with Germany and the United States at Berlin upon the affairs of Samoa, in continuation of that which was recently assembled at Washington.We thank Your Majesty for the information that the Estimates for the public service of the year will be laid before us. That the unceasing expenditure upon warlike preparations which has been incurred by other European nations has rendered necessary an increase in the precautions which have hitherto been taken for the safety of our shores and our commerce. That the counsels by which other Powers are guided, and which dispose of their vast forces, are at present uniformly friendly to this country, but that Your Majesty has no right to assume that this condition is necessarily secure from the possibility of change.We thank Your Majesty for informing us that some portions of the Bill which was presented to us last year for amending the Local Government of England and Wales were laid aside in consequence of the pressure upon the time of Parliament, and that from the same cause it was found to be impossible to enter upon the question of Local Government for Scotland. That Bills dealing with these matters will be laid before us.We humbly thank Your Majesty for the information that our early attention will be asked to measures for developing the material resources of Ireland, and for amending the constitution of the various tribunals which have special jurisdiction over real property in that country. We assure Your Majesty that 43 we learn with satisfaction that the Statutes which we have recently passed for the restoration of order and confidence in Ireland have already been attended with salutary results.We thank Your Majesty for informing us that legislative provision will be necessary for executing the Convention into which Your Majesty has entered for the suppression of bounties on the exportation of sugar, and also for completing the conversion of the Three per Cent. Annuities. That the state of the gold coinage has for some years past been the subject of legitimate complaint, and that a measure for restoring it to a satisfactory condition will be laid before us.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that the Commission which Your Majesty appointed to inquire into the Civil Establishments of the United Kingdom has not yet completed its labours, that it has already made a Report of much value, and that proposals for legislation arising out of that Report will be submitted to us.We thank Your Majesty for informing us that several subjects which Your Majesty commended to our care in previous years, but which the increasing burden of our duties has shut out from consideration, will be submitted to us again. That in this number will be included Measures relating to tithes, for the regulation of the Universities of Scotland, for determining the liability of employers in the case of accidents, for establishing a Department of Agriculture, for cheapening the transfer of land, and for remedying abuses attaching to Joint Stock Companies formed under limited liability.We humbly assure Your Majesty that our careful consideration shall be given to the subjects which Your Majesty has recommended to our attention, and to the Measures which may be submitted to us; and we earnestly trust that in these and all other efforts which we may make to promote the well being of Your Majesty's people we may be guided by the hand of Almighty God.
§ * SIR J. C. E. COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
, who was attired in the uniform of the Royal Marine Artillery: I may commence, Sir, by asking the indulgence of the House, and the kind and courteous consideration which it is ever ready to extend to those who are anxious neither to trespass upon its time, nor to infringe by one iota upon its ancient privileges and customs. I wish also, Sir, to thank my hon. Friend 44 for his very able speech, and for having dealt with so many matters in so short a space of time, with clearness and with force, and altogether in a manner worthy of the country which he represents. Now, Sir, passing to Her Majesty's gracious Speech, I will venture to say that, looking at the Speech as a whole, it may be taken to indicate that the policy of Her Majesty's advisers is steadfast in its aim, and continuous in its operation, as well as business-like in its character; and I look forward, Sir, with hope to seeing the various measures therein proposed converted into law. I concur generally in all that has fallen from my hon. Friend, and it is unnecessary for me, therefore, to follow in detail his speech, but I cannot help giving a passing reference to the paragraph dealing with the operations against Suakim, for I wish to express satisfaction, on behalf of my constituents, that the black troops showed courage, endurance, and discipline; that our officers who were on the spot showed that their opinions were so trustworthy, and that Her Majesty's Government in trusting to the officers on the spot were so completely and so absolutely vindicated. On behalf of East London, and as one of the representatives of industrial London, I cordially re-echo what has fallen from my hon. Friend with regard to the Sugar Bounties. It has been, Sir, a source of considerable agitation in the East End of London, and I am thankful to think that the persistent exertions of Her Majesty's Government have removed what was a just cause of complaint; and not only, Sir, is this a matter affecting the working-classes of this Kingdom, but what has been done is also regarded with satisfaction by our fellow subjects in the Colonies of Mauritius and the West Indies. I come now to the Employers' Liability Bill, in which working-class constituencies take great interest, and I congratulate the Government on the persistency with which it is pressing the measure. I hope that it will soon become law. And now, Sir, I will venture to offer one or two brief observations with respect to the reference in the Speech to Ireland, and I would ask hon. Gentlemen from that country to remember that my opinions have not been formed from newspaper reports or from reading pamphlets or speeches, but from my long association with the country 45 itself—an association which I hope will long continue. But the Ireland I know is not the Ireland of certain classes of the Press. All my sympathies and my pleasantest memories are associated with that country. I certainly desire to refrain from saying anything calculated to raise a heated controversy, but I must say that from personal knowledge I can endorse the view that recent legislation has had a salutary effect. Liberty to the individual is returning, and something more is returning as a consequence, and that is hope. Ireland is settling down in the walks of peaceful industry, and I am sure that in developing the resources of Ireland as the Government propose, you will really help people who are ready and willing to help themselves. I hope, Sir, and believe that the development of the natural and material resources of Ireland will be a crowning success, as it must be if it is carried through in a broad and statesmanlike spirit. I believe that as knowledge increases among the Irish people, they will recognize the value and truth of the dictum of Dean Swift, that the truest patriotism may be found in the prosaic work of Agriculture, and in making "two blades of corn grow where one only grew before." I am rejoiced to see that the land tribunals of the country are to be dealt with, because there has been so much legislation during the two past decades with regard to land that there is a great deal of over-lapping and a great deal of friction which requires to be removed in the transactions of the different Courts. This reform will prove a real and common-sense advantage to the country. It is undoubtedly true, Sir, that order is being restored and that confidence is returning in Ireland, and as order is Heaven's first law, so must it be Ireland's first hope. If you look at the returns of the railways, you will see that there is an increase of traffic, and surely that is good evidence of increased business? The other day, looking at the traffic returns of the Great Southern and Western Railway, which connects the whole of the South and West of Ireland with the rest of that country, and with the United Kingdom, I saw evidence of a remarkable fact which justifies the opinion of Her Majesty's advisers, that in every branch of traffic the receipts have enor 46 mously increased, except in one class of traffic, and that is for the transport of troops. And so, Sir, you see that while we have not to pay for the movement of troops to enforce order at the same rate as we formerly had to, the Irish people are getting the benefit of increased trade and business, and the Irish shareholders are reaping the fruits of returning confidence. Besides the beneficent legislation that has been passed to aid the Irish tenantry, and besides the legislation which was unfortunately necessary to restore to a settled state of things the disturbed mind of Ireland, we have to thank also the Executive, from the highest to the lowest, for the courage and resolution with which they have carried out, as it was their duty to do, the law. I now, Sir, will venture to make a few general observations with regard to the one paragraph in the Speech which my hon. Friend left very much to me. I come, Sir, to the announcement as to the increase in the precautions which have hitherto been taken for the safety of our shores and of our commerce, and I venture to say, Sir, that throughout the length and breadth of this Kingdom, and throughout the length and breadth of this mighty Empire, there will be a sense of satisfaction and of thankfulness that the precautions necessary for the safety of our shores and commerce are—at last—to be increased. We have, Sir, no indication as yet as to what those measures are to be, and it would be premature to discuss proposals which may rest after all upon imagination, but we have this, which we have never had before—we have guarantees that the expenditure is not going to be hastily incurred. We have the unusual guarantee that the whole subject has been examined by a Special Committee of the Cabinet, presided over by the Prime Minister himself, and any casual reader even of the daily papers will see how unceasingly—although he is bowed down with his duties and responsibilities as Foreign Minister—Lord Salisbury has applied himself to investigating the question. We have another guarantee that, besides this Committee of the Cabinet, there has been a Royal Commission presided over by the noble Lord, the Member for Rossendale, investigating various branches of this sub 47 ject. And, Sir, added to all that, we have the most valuable and practical experiments of the Naval Manœuvres, and we have the opinions of the distinguished Admirals who formed a Committee thereupon. Therefore I say that we have ample security that the whole question has been deliberately and calmly examined. Now, Sir, speaking as one of the representatives of the people, and by no means as a professional man, I venture to say, in their name, that we certainly mean to keep our Empire, come what may. We must maintain the freedom of the seas, and we know that the greatest interest of our vast Empire is the interest of peace. We also know from the teaching of history that weakness in defensive power is but a temptation to war and to attack, and, in the interest of peace, therefore, it is that the people of the Empire demand adequate security to be taken against the terrors of war. We confidently hope that these obligations will be faced by the Government, and that their responsibilities will be courageously discharged. Now, Sir, I am not going to detain the House with details, but there are one or two matters which I trust the House will kindly allow me to touch upon. As I said before, I am endeavouring to speak on this question, not from a professional point of view, nor as in any sense representing expert opinion, but simply as a Member of the House of Commons representing a large working class constituency. It is commonly said, Sir, that for the defence of the Empire and of our rights we are ready to spend our last shilling and our last man. But, Sir, it is the first shilling and the first ship which will count the most in modern war, and the country will, therefore, grant whatever funds are necessary for its defence. All it asks, and rightly asks, is that it shall have twenty shillings of real protection for every pound it spends. This is a question, Sir, which affects the industrial classes more than any other class. Trade and commerce are the breath of our National life, and if they are interrupted, even temporarily, by armed forces, the result must be ruin to those who live by commerce. Since this country was last called upon to defend itself, there have been two main fundamental changes in our condition; then the population was 48 practically independent of a supply of food or raw material from over the seas; now it is to the sea that the toiling millions must look for the means of subsistence and for their food. In those days when we last had to defend ourselves, the operations of war were slow in achieving decisive results, and defensive armaments could be hastily devised, but now armaments cannot be improvised, and to be unprepared means, not merely danger, but final destruction. These considerations point primarily to the necessity for having adequate naval protection. But that is not all; we have military duties to perform as well. Across the sea we have great frontiers to defend, and these military responsibilities must be fully and completely discharged. We have recently created works and are providing Naval bases and coaling stations, and these places require to be armed, because, unless they are sufficiently and efficiently garrisoned, they can only aggravate the danger to the Empire. Above all, we must maintain at the highest point of efficiency our sea-going and sea-keeping fleet. I will conclude by expressing the personal hope that the phraseology of the gracious Speech from the Throne means an increase of that Navy to which, under the providence of God, we owe the wealth, safety, and strength of this kingdom. I sincerely thank the House for the kindness with which it has listened to me, and I beg to second the motion of my hon. Friend.*
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That," &c. [See page 41.]
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian)
Mr. Speaker, the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address, which were heard by the House with respectful and friendly attention, do not, I think, give to those who think as I do on politics any title to complain. They contain, no doubt, the expression of many opinions in which we are unable to concur, and which on fitting occasions it might be our duty to contest. But those opinions were stated by those hon. Gentlemen in the exercise of their Parliamentary freedom from their own point of view with frankness, with care, and intelligence, and with a just observance of Parliamentary usage. I therefore offer them my congratulations 49 upon the creditable manner in which they discharged the task committed to them. One observation alone may call for a word of remark from me before I sit down. But I gladly abstain from anything like detailed comment upon points in those speeches whereupon our opinions may not be in entire concurrence. Following the example of the mover of the Address, I will say a few words with reference to that portion of the Speech from the Throne which relates to foreign politics. I should also state that I am afraid it will not be in my power in such remarks as I have now to make very greatly to advance this debate towards its conclusion. The main interest of the debate—although there are many subjects, I might almost say an unusual number of subjects, of extreme importance and interest—the main interest of the debate must centre in the paragraph relating to Ireland. Bearing in mind that my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. J. Morley) has already expressed his intention of proposing to the House an amendment to that paragraph, I have also to bear in mind the condition in which we are placed by the rules of the House as delivered from the Chair in consequence of the prospect of that Amendment. I believe, Sir, I am right in saying that after that Amendment shall have been moved, it will not be competent for us to enter upon a discussion of those portions of the Speech which precede the passage in the Address where the Amendment would naturally find place. Consequently, I think it is well that it should be understood it would be for the convenience of the House, and be almost a necessity of debate, that whatever observations have to be made, whatever proposals have to be made, hon. Gentlemen should deem these proposals necessary to be made before we arrive at the paragraph relating to Irish affairs, when the Amendment which my right hon. Friend has given notice of his intention to propose upon that paragraph is reached. Therefore, I will make my remarks, which I trust will not be of great length, upon points as they arise. I receive, Sir, with satisfaction the assurances contained in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech that the military operations at Suakin, which reached their termination shortly before the prorogation of Parliament, have been successful 50 in attaining the objects to which they were addressed. I must, however—without going so far as to introduce any subject of reproach—I must say that my satisfaction would have been more lively and would have had greater reference to permanence had it been in the power of Her Majesty's Government to point in this portion of the Speech to any prospective contraction in that quarter of the responsibilities of Egypt, and of the indirect but possible responsibilities which may attach to ourselves in connection with the duties of Egypt on the Red Sea. I am bound to say—I am almost obliged to say—that I do not consider that anything has ever been said by a preceding Government to indicate a permanent policy, or anything like a permanent engagement being entered into with reference to the maintenance of Egyptian establishments in the Ports on the Red Sea. I pass from that—because I do not think that that portion of the Speech calls for special attention—and I come to the question of Samoa. I must there observe upon an omission in the Speech which I greatly regret, because the question of Samoa is evidently one which, either on this occasion or on some future occasion, calls for some clear and detailed explanation. The proceedings have not altogether been of a very simple character. There was some time ago a Commission appointed to sit, and which, I believe, was actually sitting at Washington, for the adjustment of the relations of the three Powers which have an especial interest in the affairs of Samoa. That Commission sitting at Washington was brought to a close for reasons which I do not know to have been explained to Parliament. Time has elapsed, and now we are told, without reference to or explanation of foregoing circumstances, that another Commission or Conference is about to sit at Berlin for the purpose of reversing the decision taken with regard to the Conference at Washington—I beg pardon for having used the word "Commission" in lieu of the word "Conference"—for the purpose of reversing that decision, and for promoting in Conference the settlement of this question. What I certainly hoped, and what I still hope may happen, is that an engagement will be given by the Government that the papers will be laid before us with reasonable promptitude. I do 51 not wish to invite lengthened discussion on this matter at the present time, and I do not think that we can profitably engage in it until we have the papers in our hands. There is another subject of which no notice is taken in this portion of the Speech, upon which I certainly, for one, had expected that Her Majesty's Speech could not be silent—I mean the subject of the state of Zanzibar, and the prosecution of the joint enterprise, for an honourable and philanthropic purpose undoubtedly—the joint enterprise in which Her Majesty's Government has entered along with the German Empire, in relation to the Slave Trade off the Coast of Zanzibar. This is a subject on which I urgently press upon the Government a request for early and ample information—I do not mean so much in the present debate, unless it should be raised, as I suppose is possible, in an explicit and detailed form, by hon. Members in the exercise of their own judgment, either on this or the other side of the House. At any rate, it is desirable that we should soon have information which will enable us to form a judgment upon what has passed and what is passing in that country. Undoubtedly no one would question that incidents have there occurred which are or may be of a character calculated to excite misgiving, apprehension, and regret. I speak now, not of the Convention with Germany with regard to the Slave Trade, but of what has taken place in the interior. And, without any prejudice to the more extended observations which may be made in this debate on the question of Zanibar, I press earnestly on the Government that it is quite necessary that adequate information should be laid before us to enable us to form a judgment upon the condition of that country. Now, Sir, I come to the paragraph which relates to the Estimates, and I cannot help observing that there is not an absolute equality between the measure which we deal out to ourselves and that which we deal out to foreign countries. When we speak of the increase of our own armaments we speak of "precautions taken for the safety of our trade and commerce." When we speak of the increase of foreign armaments, though the things done are precisely the same, it is no longer the case that foreign countries are to be Credited with anxiety about their shores 52 or about their borders, which are as important as their shores, or about their commerce, but changes, which for us are only peaceful precautions, in their case are described by Her Majesty from the Throne as "warlike preparations." I cannot think that this distinction in phraseology is altogether felicitous. But on the subject itself I am much too sensible of its gravity and of its importance, and likewise of the necessity of leaving to Her Majesty's Government a perfectly free and open field for the declaration of what they mean to do and as to the manner in which they mean to do it, to say anything which can imply any foregone conclusion, or which can impede in any degree the exercise of their free action on a very great and urgent subject. But this I will say, that if it be true that there is to be very great addition to the expenditure, which is already not far short of three times what it was at a period within my recollection, it will be certainly the duty of the House to be exacting in the proof of the necessity for that addition. Further, I will say that, instead of speaking with exultation of the undoubted power of this country to discharge all the responsibilities of empire by military means, instead of simply regarding that as a matter of exultation, I hope we shall bear in mind that these augmentations—whether you call them warlike preparations or peaceful precautions—are one of the greatest calamities, and not only one of the greatest calamities, but one of the greatest dangers which threaten our time and the time of our descendants. It is extremely difficult even for those who think that they are rendering but a slow obedience to the call of necessity—and I do not hesitate to give the Government credit for that belief—it is extremely difficult to be absolutely sure that you are not aggravating this evil elsewhere, even while you think that the measures you are adopting are simply those of a needful and wholesome character. I may observe that there was in this country a word which I believe still retains its place in the dictionaries, but which I believe in other respects has faded out of recollection, and in particular out of the recollection of those who at the present time frame the speeches from the Throne—I mean the word economy. It was a 53 Parliamentary tradition that the Queen should assure Her faithful Commons that economy had been observed in the preparation of the Estimates, and I am bound to say that I do not see, in the assumed necessity, or even in the real necessity, if it should be proved, for the extension of armaments, any adequate reason for the omission to convey to us an assurance of the pledge of Her Majesty that what was to be done should be done with a careful regard for economy in its conception and its execution. I pass on from this important subject, into which I do not think it would become me more deeply to enter, especially at the present time—I pass on to the commencement of those portions of the Speech which relate to coming legislation; and here I must say I cannot withhold my tribute to the I courage of Her Majesty's Ministers. It is commonly said that the burnt child dreads the fire. The Government has had experience Worn which it has unquestionably learned that long catalogues of legislative measures in the Queen's Speech at the beginning of the Session are liable to be grievously and terribly abridged before arriving at the close of the Session, before the records of actual accomplishment can be completed. Her Majesty's Government have had that experience, but their courage is unabated, and I think in the present Speech—although I gladly admit that it is a document which has the recommendation of brevity—a longer catalogue of important measures, and I am afraid a longer catalogue of contentious measures, is promised to Parliament than has been usual even upon former occasions, when not such copious warnings had been delivered by practical experience as to the danger of propounding multitudes of proposals that are not likely to become legislative measures? I will confine myself to this subject generally, without touching upon those measures except in almost a single word. I will confine myself to the expression of a very humble and earnest hope that the Session which we begin to-day may reach its prorogation before Christmas Eve. There is a sentence upon the subject of the Local Government Act with regard to which I shall be glad if a word of explanation can be given. Of course, I do not intend to ask Her Majesty's Government for a 54 description of the various particulars which they may intend to include in their amending Act, but they state that it is intended, with regard to some portions of the Bill which were dropped last year in consequence of the pressure on the time of Parliament, to introduce a Bill dealing with those matters. I think it would be vain to hope that Her Majesty's Government intend by the proposals they may make this year to give that largeness of scope to the value-able Bill of last Session which we on this side of the House desire. But there is one very important subject which was dropped out of the Bill, and with which it does not seem too much to anticipate—and I venture to anticipate—that Her Majesty's Government will deal this Session; I mean, the question of District Councils. That is a subject upon which I ask for no details whatever, but it would be well if the House were apprised that upon that subject at any rate it is intended by the Government to propose legislation. I am afraid that the Government may have reason to expect that those of us who think that the Local Government Bill—honourable as it was to its original propounder in this House and to the Government which was responsible for it—yet does require a far larger provision, a far larger catalogue of legislative provisions and powers, than those with which it has yet been supplied—it may be our duty in some cases undoubtedly to make endeavours for the enlargement of such a measure as they may lay before us. But at any rate it will be satisfactory as far as it goes to know that an important supplementary proposition in aid of the scheme of last year is to be submitted to us on the responsibility of the Government. I accord my best wishes for the measure of Local Government for Scotland. That question, I hope, will not be found to raise difficulties more serious than those which we were enabled to surmount last year. I am quite sure that as far as the capacity of the Scottish people for self-governing operations is concerned it would be impossible to secure a more favourable theatre of operations for any measure aiming at the extension of local privilege and power than the theatre which is offered by the kingdom of Scotland. With regard to the absence of Ireland from the pro 55 visions for Local Government, I might indeed express the deep regret with which I noticed that absence. But such an expression would tend to become a part of the discussion into which we are to be drawn, and I therefore pass onwards from that subject without comment. I can only say, upon the subject of the Irish paragraph, without touching upon that which is the most important part of it, that there is nothing in the earlier portions of that paragraph which tends to improve the features of the Irish policy of the Government. I do not understand these measures for the development of the industrial resources of Ireland to be anything but a repetition of old experiments, which have been tried before with large outlay of money, and with total failure for the most part of purpose, and which have constituted, in fact and in the main, an exhibition of our impotence to deal with the great and fundamental interests involved in the government of Ireland. With respect to the landed tribunals in particular—the tribunals having special jurisdiction over land—I hope in the preparation of their measures the Government will bear in mind the extremely delicate nature of the ground upon which they tread, and the state of mind of the tenantry throughout the country in regard to the securities given them for the legislative privileges that they enjoy; and that they will avoid even the appearance of anything which can tend to justify the supposition that there is any intention, avowed or un-avowed, under the name of remodelling tribunals, to abridge or endanger any of those privileges. As I have said, I will refrain from making the legislative intentions of the Government the subject of comment. I will only make that observation of which I have already spoken on that part of the speech of the hon. mover, where he expressed his hope that the debate on the Address will not be such as to reach any considerable length. Had there been a doubt in the mind of my right hon. Friend near me as to the necessity of an Irish discussion, the Government have themselves, by an unusual proceeding, but a proceeding that I do not deny to have been undoubtedly within their competence to adopt, settled the question for us. The usual form of drawing the Queen's Speech is not to commit the 56 House on contested matters to an expression of opinion. But the Government on this occasion have thought fit in framing the Address to deviate from that well-established usage. I do not say it is a binding usage. The Government may have a right—I do not enter into that question—to introduce into the Address what they please, though if it is to be done, it is well it should be done after notice to hon. Members. But I do not recollect for very many years a case where the House has been called upon to express its opinion upon contested matter in an Address to the Throne. One sentence read by the hon. mover was as follows:—"We assure your Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that the statutes which we have recently passed for the restoration of order and confidence in Ireland have already been attended with salutary effects." [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite are quite prepared, I dare say, to adopt that proposition, but those cheers are the strongest confirmation of the observation which I find it my duty to make, that this declaration in the Speech is a binding one, and therefore to us who do not agree with the proposition set forth, but who, on the contrary, do emphatically dissent from it, is not only a binding, but also distinctly a challenging proposition. If the debate on the Address be a prolonged debate, and if it deal widely with the system of administration in Ireland as it now prevails, it is to the direct action, to the responsible proposals of Her Majesty's Government in the first degree, and to the amendment of my right hon. Friend only in the second degree, that the prolongation of the debate will be due. My right hon. Friend will not shrink from his responsibility. He would have found it his duty to make his proposal even if the form of the Speech had been the usual one. The form, however, is not the usual one, and we resist, and must resist to the utmost, an attempt to pledge us to a proposition with regard to the condition of Ireland, which proposition is, in our judgment, totally untrue. I wish to make only one more observation. Beyond stating that we are compelled to challenge the truth of that proposition, I have not said, and I do not mean to say, a single word upon the Irish question. I venture respectfully to suggest that it will be for the conve 57 nience of the House, if there is to be upon the Irish paragraph a distinct motion, debate, and division, that we should separate that debate and discussion entirely from the remarks which we may think it our duty to make on the preceding portions of the Speech, and that we should, if we can, deal with them as separate subjects and reserve for Ireland the advantage of a discussion which will be, of course, proportional to its importance, never, I hope, forgetting the great importance likewise of getting forward with public business; and that we shall not lose the time of the House by casual, partial, and imperfect discussion of the Irish question mixed with a number of other subjects. With these remarks I will conclude what I have to say on the present occasion. I will only now say that if it should be the view of Her Majesty's Government that it would be better to revert to the usual form of Address and to remove the binding statement—if it has crept in through inadvertence and it is desired to amend it—I should be the last person to interpose any technical objection in the way of that amendment. However that may be, it is for Her Majesty's Government to consider. The debate upon Ireland is an inevitable debate. As to the discussion of other questions, important as they are, I trust we shall recollect that as to most of them the fullest opportunities are certain to be afforded to us in the development of the business of the Session. In regard to all of them we shall endeavour to evince a desire which I think, in the last Session of Parliament, we (the Opposition) did evince, to avoid the unnecessary prolongation of debate, and to forward the business of the House.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
My first duty is to join in the congratulations which have been offered to my hon. Friends behind me with regard to the manner in which they have discharged the very difficult duty of moving and seconding the Address to the Crown. The speeches from my hon. Friends give promise of great usefulness in the part my hon. Friends may take in discussions in this House, which I feel confident will be amply fulfilled. I may perhaps be permitted to refer to the last observations 58 of the right hon. Gentleman before I proceed to deal with his earlier remarks. The right hon. Gentleman has made an offer to the Government to assist them in removing from the Address a passage which he said would bind the House to an expression of opinion, but I am not aware that there is any marked difference in the tone and character of Her Majesty's Speech from the Speeches which preceded it under the Government of the right hon. Gentleman himself. In the Queen's Speech reference has always been made to Ireland and to the success of the measures which have been adopted for Ireland.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
It was not the form of the Speech, but the form of the Address, that I complained of.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I do not enter into any question with the right hon. Gentleman as to the form of the Address, as the right hon. Gentleman is much more a master of matters of that kind than I can be; but my impression is that the Address is framed in the usual form, and that it is simply an echo of the Speech. The right hon. Gentleman has reminded the House that we must have a debate on Ireland. We recognize that, under the circumstances in which we are placed, a debate on the affairs of Ireland, on the Administration of Ireland, and on the conduct of the Administration of Ireland is one which we must be prepared to meet throughly and completly in the face of the country and of the House. We are perfectly ready to meet the challenge which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Newcastle has thrown down. But, like the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I trust that regard will be had to the exigencies of the public service, and to the duties which the House has to discharge in addition to those with reference to Ireland. Taking the advice which the right hon. Gentleman has given, I will refrain from making any allusion to the state of affairs in Ireland until we come to the debate on that subject. Now I will turn to the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman in regard to Foreign Affairs. The right hon. Gentleman expressed his satisfaction at the result of the operations at Suakin; but he insisted that there was no indication on the part of the Government of any prospective contraction of the responsibilities of 59 Egypt or of this country in regard to the Ports of the Red Sea. We have had to consider whether the circumstances are so greatly changed from those under which the obligations were entered into by the late Government as to justify us in advising the Government of Egypt to relinquish that which we believed, and which the late Government believed, to be necessary for the security of Egypt, and also to be necessary for that policy of the suppression of the slave trade to which this country has been so long committed. We believe that at present the possession of Suakin is necessary to the safety and security of Egypt. We are of the same opinion as that under which the Government of the right hon. Gentleman acted four years ago, and no circumstances have occurred to justify us in tendering advice to the Government of the Khedive that the Port of Suakin should be relinquished in favour of those whose object and endeavours have been to disturb the tranquility and prosperity of Egypt. I think we have made great progress towards a settlement, and an approach to a period of prosperity—progress much greater than we could have reasonably expected within the time during which our influence has been exercised, and we have every reason to rely on the prudence, judgment, and good sense of those who administer the government of that country. The right hon. Gentleman has remarked on the omission from the Speech of any paragraph in reference to Samoa, and he regretted there was no policy indicated. The right hon. Gentleman was hardly accurate in suggesting—I do not know that he stated—that Her Majesty's Government are responsible for the suspension of the Conference which sat at Washington. The Conference is to be renewed at Berlin, and papers are in course of preparation and will be presented to the House; but it would not be proper that Her Majesty's Government, pending the proceedings of that Conference, should express any strong opinion as to the course which has been pursued in Samoa. We have, however, the assurance of the German Government that they do not recede from the engagement which they gave to respect the rights of the English and Americans in Samoa, and we have complete confidence that 60 the German Government will abide by their engagements, and carry them out to the fullest extent. As to Zanzibar, no one could have read the accounts of the proceedings in the interior of Africa without the deepest regret, but Her Majesty's Government are not responsible for the course which has been pursued. Germany acts within her perfect right in the course she has taken. She is exercising no powers beyond those given under the arrangements made by the late Government in 1885; and we certainly have no right, as a nation or as a Government, to complain of the course which has been pursued by her. Papers are in course of preparation. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the paragraph relating to the Estimates, and he regretted that the word "economy" was omitted. If it will be any satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House, I will say that the greatest possible regard has been paid to economy in the preparation of the Estimates for the services of the country, but we think that it is rather unnecessary to refer to economy and to take credit for economy at a time when our sense of public duty compels us to ask for a larger provision for the public service. Economy has been most strictly, rigidly applied, and when the Estimates come before the House for consideration it will be found, I am confident, that the Civil Service Estimates show evidence of economy, and that even in the military and naval departments evidence of economy will be exhibited—facts which, in my opinion, are far more valuable to the House and the country than the introduction of words in the Speech from the Throne. We prefer to give evidence of serious work in this direction rather than to talk loudly of it. Then the right hon. Gentleman complains that we attribute somewhat different motives when we come to refer to the warlike preparations of others; we do not use the same language or attribute the same motives to ourselves when we speak of the defences and precautions necessary for the security of the country. We attribute no unworthy motives to other nations. We do not venture to call in question—we have no right to call in question—the disposition made by foreign countries of the resources at their disposal. We cannot question 61 their right to do with their resources as they think fit—to increase their armaments, their armies, and their navies. We say what we believe to be the attitude at the present moment of every European Power—we say that it is absolutely friendly to this country. We have no reason to doubt their assurances or mistrust their good intentions, but the enormous armaments that prevail in Europe are of such a character that those who are entrusted with the great and responsible duty of caring for the security of our interests, our trade, our commerce, cannot but regard them as dangerous, as menacing to our interests. We do not know, but we do hope and believe, that we shall not be threatened by any combination of any Foreign Powers; but, Sir, if I would say anything on this head, it would be to re-echo the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman as to the evils, the misfortune, these enormous armaments entail upon those who have to bear the cost. It is not for me to say in any case such armament is not necessary for the safety of the Power making it, but these armaments entail an expenditure and create a danger which is alarming and serious to Europe. It is deeply to be deplored by Europe at large; but, in view of it, it becomes our duty to take such precautions for defence alone as may be necessary to protect the country. I will not venture to enter into these precautions, because an opportunity will be afforded on Thursday next, when my noble Friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty, will lay the proposals of the Government before the House. We have carefully considered these proposals. We believe them, upon our responsibility as a Government, to be necessary for the safety and security of the Empire. We do not frame them from any hostile purpose or inclination towards any Government on the face of the earth. We simply desire to protect and render safe the interests and the trade of the country, its food supplies, and the raw material which come into the country, and which is necessary for manufactures and for the employment of the people. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the long catalogue of measures and its liability to abridgment, and I am afraid he is only giving us the result of a long Parliamentary experience when he says the Ministerial statement 62 in the Queen's Speech details a number of measures the Government desire to lay before Parliament, but a list undoubtedly liable to curtailment; but I venture to think that if we had put before the House some two or three measures only as those we desired the House to consider, we should have been reproached by the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends for ignoring what in their view were many burning questions ripe for solution. I have some hope that Members of Parliament, looking to the importance of the questions to be submitted to their consideration, will, for the time, deny themselves the satisfaction of prolonged debate on measures which have been well considered in principle, and that they will allow these Bills, so far as the details are concerned, to go again before those Standing Committees which rendered great service last year. I hope that the Session may be terminated under these circumstances before Christmas Eve, and I hope hon. Members will contribute to that result by some amount of self-denial and by the avoidance of the repetition of arguments used by previous speakers. I appeal to them to do that in the interest of business. The country requires legislation, and it is the duty of the Government at least to give the House of Commons an opportunity of considering these measures. The responsibility will rest with individual Members of the House of Commons if by protracted debate this is prevented. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Local Government Bill, and expressed the hope that the portion which referred to the District Councils would be submitted to the early consideration of the House. My right hon. Friend who conducted the Bill with marked ability and conciliation will reintroduce that measure as soon as engagements will permit. We shall redeem our engagement. I am not aware of any other point which requires an answer.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
No, Sir, it will not. We think that our engagement to Scotland to introduce the Local Government Bill for Scotland stands first, and we shall introduce it without delay. This measure has received the favourable consideration of Scotch Members on both sides of the House, and I trust it will 63 not occupy much time. I venture to express the hope that this debate will proceed on such lines as will enable us to come to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle; then we may proceed with the consideration of the question of the government of Ireland free from all other matters contained in the Speech, and finally the House can arrive at such a decision as it may deem fit.
§ * MR. T. E. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I venture thus early to intervene with a few words upon a subject that has been but distantly alluded to, and my remarks have allusion not to what is contained in the Queen's Speech, but to what is omitted there-from: our relations with East Africa, and particularly in regard to Zanzibar. This subject has a somewhat wider scope than the First Lord of the Treasury has attributed to it. The right hon. Gentleman referring to occurrences in the interior expressed deep regret, but he said we were not responsible for what had taken place; the Germans, he said, had acted within their rights, and the only further statement he made was that papers bearing upon these matters would be laid before Parliament in due course. But I would just call the attention of the House to these matters to show that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was very general in character and insufficient in detail. He said that, as to what had taken place in the interior of Africa, we looked on with regret, but had no responsibility, and undoubtedly that is the case. But when the right hon. Gentleman alluded to German action I do not know whether he referred to what took place on the mainland opposite Zanzibar or elsewhere. There are questions relating to what has taken place on Lake Nyanza and also in the region of the Congo State, and what is much more important, is to call attention to questions relating to Zanzibar itself and the blockade in which we are engaged jointly with Germany. There are also questions relating to Lake Nyassa and the position of affairs with Portugal, of which no mention has been made. I do not mean to say anything as to affairs in the Congo territory, or what has been taking place on Lake Nyanza or the territory of the East African Company. My remarks will be 64 confined to the Zanzibar Blockade and to the Nyassa part of African affairs. As to the blockade, the last occasion I had for eliciting information was on the 18th December, a few days before Prorogation, when there was an indisposition to go at any length into Debate, and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs asked that he should not be unduly pressed on this matter. If my memory serves me aright, I think we were promised that further information with regard to negotiations between France and Germany would be presented at an early date. We have had no further information, however, and are left to gather what we can as to what is going on in that part of the world from newspapers and other unofficial sources. In one or two respects, at least, the position upon the coast has changed, and we can, therefore, reconsider our relations with our colleague in the blockade. I quite agree that we have nothing to do, and ought to have nothing to do, with any military operations which the Germans may take upon the mainland; but I think it will be extremely difficult for us to continue joint action with the Germans in the blockade, and prevent the natives on the mainland from identifying us with the German operations on shore. The moment we were informed of our Government having embarked in these joint operations, the danger was foreseen, and it was pointed out that, through this proceeding on our part, our power and influence with the natives in that part of Africa would be considerably diminished, and we should be regarded as associated with the Germans in the operations which were on foot. The trade of that part of the coast is in the hands of our Indian fellow-subjects, who have suffered great loss by reason of the blockade; but the Government does not seem to have attempted to obtain redress for them. It seems to me that the fact that the German Government has embarked in a military expedition on the mainland may fairly induce Her Majesty's Government to reconsider their position. We have had evidence from various sources that, substantially, there has been little or no arrest or detention of slave-dhows, and that, so far as the suppression of the slave trade is concerned, the German-English blockade 65 has been productive of little good; and, considering the expenditure involved, and the risk of our being identified with the violent action of the Germans and others on the mainland, and the risk of misunderstanding with the French Power upon that coast, I think Her Majesty's Government may very well consider whether it is not possible for this country to withdraw from its ambiguous position in regard to the blockade. The blockade has been manifestly useless for the purpose for which we entered upon it; therefore I think we may look forward to being able, at no late date, to withdraw from our ambiguous position. With regard to the share of the Portuguese in the blockade, they appear to be blockading the southern part of the East African coast, and the Government appears to have given a quasi acknowledgement of the extension to the Rovuma on the north of the Portuguese possessions. If this is so, it seems to me that Her Majesty's Government have taken a very serious step indeed, and have departed from the contention hitherto maintained by the British authorities at home, that the limit of Portuguese territory on the north did not extend beyond Cape Delgado. Then, to turn to another point. I should like to elicit some information as to the events taking place in the neighbourhood of Lake Nyassa, as we are not in possession of such full information on the subject as we could desire. I am informed, on what I consider very good authority indeed, that Portugal has raised its flag in that region, at a place called Zomba. Her Majesty's Government ought on no account to acknowledge the validity of that action on the part of Portugal. The Under-Secretary has said that Her Majesty's Government are determined upon two things—that they will insist upon the right of entry into Africa by the Zambesi river, and that they will not acknowledge any sovereign right of Portugal in the region of Lake Nyassa. If we acknowledge and submit to the raising of the Portuguese flag in that place we shall be going back on the public statements of responsible Ministers, and be practically handing over to Portugal the power of controlling all free right of access to our settlements in that country. I think we are entitled to insist on Her 66 Majesty's Government giving a specific pledge that the Zambesi and its tributaries shall be kept open as a means of access to all nations to the interior of Africa, and particularly to Lakes Nyassa and Tanganyika. It is of the greatest importance to missionary and commercial enterprises in that part of Africa that this, which is the natural inlet into the territory, should be kept open to all nations of the world. There are plenty of precedents in the history of diplomacy for taking action such as I venture to recommend. There are many other rivers under international control. This is a vast, rich territory, with an immense future before it, and it should not be out of the scope of our diplomacy, for the purpose of protecting and developing British missionary and commercial enterprises, to take immediate steps to effect the object I suggest. There is a further question as to the settlements around Lake Nyassa itself. Upon this subject we are somewhat wanting in information. All we know is, that Her Majesty's subjects at the North-West corner of Nyassa have not yet succeeded in reopening communications with Lake Tanganyika, though they have been enabled to maintain their ground on the west side of Lake Nyassa. I am here to strongly press upon Her Majesty's Government that if they go on with what appears to be their toleration of the encroachments of the Portuguese, and of the assertion on the part of the Portuguese of "territorial rights" in the interior, as well as the establishment of Portuguese custom-houses at the junction of the Zambesi and its tributaries—if Her Majesty's Government are blind to such steps as Portugal is taking in this direction, then the position of our missionary and our commercial stations in Lakes Tanganyika and Nyassa will be very seriously affected indeed, and it may be impossible for Her Majesty's subjects to further develop that which they have by their enterprise already established. The matter is one deserving the especial consideration of Her Majesty's Government, particularly the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in particular for this reason. These missionary and commercial enterprises were first opened up by Scotchmen, and 67 have been mainly developed by Scotchmen. No doubt these settlements have been the most prosperous establishments in that part of the world. There has been no introduction of the liquor traffic there, such as has been so prejudicial in many other settlements we have established. We can look upon the settlements founded here as of a very legitimate kind indeed, and I think that it would ill become Her Majesty's Government, who are entrusted with the interests of our country in all parts of the world, to be remiss or blind to anything affecting the position and safety of our settlements in this part of Africa, and of absolute free access to them from the seaboard. I venture to make these few remarks, because, undoubtedly, it was a matter of great surprise to me, and it will be a matter of great surprise to others, that this, which is a matter relating to foreign affairs of the greatest interest, and which stands in a most critical position, is entirely omitted from Her Majesty's Speech. I would press the right hon. Gentleman (the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs) to put us, at as early a date as possible, in possession of further information, and I would call his attention to the extreme interest felt in the question by the people of Scotland.
§ * COLONEL EYRE (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)
I wish to make a few observations on the following passage contained in the gracious Speech from the Throne:—The unceasing expenditure upon warlike preparation which has been incurred by other European nations has rendered necessary an increase in the precautions which have hitherto been taken for the safety of our shores and our commerce.I am glad to see that Her Majesty's Government have at length recognised the position we are in, having regard to the enormous armaments of continental nations. An immense change has come over our foreign neighbours in this respect of late years. Their armies are now numbered by millions where, a few years ago, they were only numbered by hundreds and thousands, and it therefore seems to me imperative, looking at our peculiar position, that we should strengthen our forces, both naval and military. In former times, in what has been called juventus mundi, our forefathers were in 68 the habit of drawing inferences in favour of peace or war from the flight of birds, but in these less imaginative days we find indications in the state of the money market. When the Funds of a foreign nation drop we have every reason to believe that there are causes behind that induce a feeling of insecurity. But even then we may be deceived, and twenty-four hours before the outbreak of the Franco-German war Foreign Office experts asserted that at no time had there been a more peaceful aspect throughout the Continent. Within forty-eight hours, however, the most gigantic war of the century commenced. We have no reason to assume that what occurred at that time will not be repeated, therefore, much as we may deplore that civilization at the end of the nineteenth century employs its arts and expends large sums of money in elaborating the means for destroying human life, it is necessary we should be prepared with the means of defence for Great Britain, and the equally or more important greater Britain beyond these island shores. For the last forty years our belief, whether rightly or wrongly I will not stop to argue, has been to depend almost entirely on foreign imports for the necessaries of life, and in proportion to this dependence we should increase the means of protecting our water ways. Comparison with foreign navies should not be by number of ships or amount of tonnage, but we should have in view the naval work to be done. In addition to our own water ways we have our colonies to protect, and we must remember that we have to send our troops out to the continent of India. The only way we can help our army there is by sending troops by way of the Suez Canal or round the Cape of Good Hope, and we must remember that the former of these was a doubtful passage, seeing that the sinking of a single ship in the Canal would stop all naval communication for weeks, and possibly for months. Therefore, in time of war we may have to rely on the Cape route, and upon large transport ships in the foreign stations, ships which will have to be relieved from year to year; and in these days of steam it is necessary that we should have coaling stations in different parts of the world. It ought to be distinctly laid down, therefore, what is ex 69 pected of our Navy; and it would be false economy if we failed to put ourselves in such a position that we might feel ourselves safe from the combination of any two Great Maritime Powers on the Continent. I never have believed, and never shall, in the actual invasion of this country. I think the system of attack will be to cut off our food supply; and, unfortunately, it is the fact—and at no time except just after the harvest—is there more than six months' provisions in the country. Therefore the cutting off of our water way would mean the starvation of the working classes. I believe that whatever sum of money Government may demand from the country for providing adequate means of defence will be cheerfully and willingly given. At no time more than the present during the last thirty years has there been a general feeling throughout the country that it is necessary to do something for the defences of the country. Before I sit down there is another point to which reference is made in Her Majesty's Speech to which I should like to make reference. We are told that provision is to be made for Local Government in Scotland. I am glad that the Government are going to extend the immense advantages to Scotland which have accrued to England from the Local Government Bill of last year. It is impossible to exaggerate the amount of interest which has been taken in the Local Government Bill of last year by all classes of the people, and especially by the working classes. I believe that in the future wise measures of this kind will greatly tend to strengthen the constitution of the country. I am told that more than a hundred Peers of the Realm have been elected upon the County Councils, and I believe that the position of the House of Lords will be enormously strengthened in consequence. Then, again, a very large number of Magistrates have been elected; and I am certain that their experience will be of the utmost value in the new experiment which is about to be tried in reference to Local Government. I am satisfied that the extension of Local Government to Scotland will have the same beneficial effects as in England; and I may add that it will have this additional advantage—it will bring home, day by day, to the working classes the duties which devolve upon them as citizens. 70 In former times, in my own division, the working classes took little interest even in Parliamentary elections before they obtained the suffrage, and they are now looking with deep interest to the importance of the votes which have been entrusted to them.
§ * MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
I desire, Sir, to offer a few words with regard to the omission from the Queen's Speech of all reference to the Education question as it relates to England and Wales. This I consider to be a very serious defect. I would point out that we have had two very important Commissions on Educational questions within the last two years—one of which was the Technical Education Commission, which collected a most valuable body of evidence, and whose recommendations have been before the country for several years, although up to the present moment they have never been acted upon by the Legislature. Besides this, we have had in two Speeches from the Throne references to the subject of technical education, and still no beneficial result has been brought about, while this year all allusion to the question has been ignored. When we consider how the people of this country are suffering from the competition of Germany and other countries in which technical education is promoted, I feel sure there will be a feeling of great disappointment throughout this country if nothing should be done during the present year in the shape of legislation upon this subject. I would also call attention to another, and an equally important, Commission which reported last year—I allude to the great Royal Commission on elementary education. We never had a stronger Commission, nor one which took greater pains to collect evidence, or which has reported with greater force, clearness, and ability. Their report covers some 400 pages, and the Blue Book in which it is printed contains an enormous mass of important information. With many of the suggestions made by the Commission all friends of education must agree, and I am happy to think it is not the intention of the Government to legislate on any of those questions which would disturb the settlement arrived at in 1870, and which was accepted by the country. I wish, however, to call attention to the great 71 number of important recommendations made by the Elementary Education Commission of a non-contentious character which have been ignored to this day; but which, if carried out, would give an immense impetus to elementary education in this country. For the last year or two the elementary teachers have all been on the qui vive, expecting that those recommendations were to be acted upon, while the whole of the School Boards and other educational authorities have been anticipating that important legislation would follow. It will, therefore, be a grievous disappointment if the present Session should be barren of legislation on this important subject. We all admit the great defects of the existing system; it is far too bookish, too little practical, and involves so much examination and cram that it has become hateful to the children, who are so forced and driven that when they have once left school nothing will induce them to return to it. It is well known that we have to a great extent been working on wrong lines in this country, and when this matter has been thoroughly investigated and these important recommendations have been formulated by a competent authority, legislative action ought to be taken upon them. Why should we allow the present year to pass without securing the advantages put before us in these recommendations? One of the statements in the Commissioners' Report to which I wish to call special attention, is that the great mass of children leave school at far too early an age; and the recommendation is made that the exemption from school attendance should not go lower than the age of thirteen—that is to say, that all children should be compelled to attend school up to the age of thirteen, while the half-time period should be raised from the age of ten to that of eleven. This I regard as a most important matter, because at present there can be no doubt that the children leave school when they are far too young—in many places when they are only eleven or twelve years old—the result being that they forget almost everything they have learned, and, as can be seen among the poor children of our large towns, lapse in many cases almost to the condition of savages. In fact, the condition of the children in the slums of our large 72 towns is a positive disgrace to the country, and I never return here from abroad without being struck by the numbers of ragged, destitute children idling about in the streets, and learning nothing but mischief. It is this that is in reality the foundation of the large amount of destitution which is prevalent in London and many of our great towns, the poorer children after leaving school being allowed to run about the streets almost wild. In Germany it is entirely different. There the children are compelled to attend school till they are fourteen, and after that they have to attend the evening schools till they have reached the age of seventeen, the result being that in that country you see no such hordes of ill-conditioned children as are found in our large English towns. Surely this is a matter vital to the well-being of the country, and one which the Legislature ought to try and remedy. Another class of recommendations is contained in the Report signed by the minority portion of the Commissioners in favour of the establishment of evening continuation schools. The evidence as to the necessity of this has come in overwhelming proportions from all parts of the country. The old evening schools have largely died out; whereas before the year 1870 they were well attended. The fact is that the Act of 1870 laid down so many conditions for the evening schools that it had the effect of almost strangling them. Most of them had died out up to two years ago, but since then the Recreative Schools Association has to some extent succeeded in reviving the attendance of the children, so that now these schools contain somewhere about 40,000 pupils. But what is this number compared with the four and a-half millions on the books of the elementary schools? We ought to have at least half a million in regular attendance at evening schools, and if in this country we did what is done in Germany, Switzerland, and other countries, we should have that number or more, instead of allowing so many to run wild and be exposed to the corrupting influence of all sorts of evil associations. If we wish to attack at its roots the problem of destitution and want of employment in this country, caused by so large a number of our people having no real education and no trade, we must adopt the 73 recommendation of the Royal Commission, and establish a national system of evening continuation schools, in which the attendance should be made obligatory up to 15 or 16 years of age. For my part, I believe that no Government could confer a greater blessing on the country than the Government which succeeds in successfully grappling with this important question. I have taken the pains to make considerable inquiry into the subject, and I find that the working-classes are practically unanimous in their desire for continuation evening schools. I may mention that no fewer than 5,000 memorials are in process of signing, and will be sent up to the Prime Minister and the Education Department, in favour of this system, and, as far as I know, not a single Trades Union has objected to the recommendation. The fact is, that the period in which education proves to be of the greatest value is after children leave school, say from 12 to 17, when character is being formed. Up to the age of 12 children have not the intelligence which would enable them to understand the uses of education, whereas, during the years which elapse from 12 to 16 or 17 you may sow the seeds either of a good and useful career, or of a useless and disreputable one. I ask, therefore, that this House should take up and deal with this question, and that, instead of paying so much attention to affairs in every other part of the world, we should look at home and see what we can do to remedy the sad deficiencies of our educational system. For these reasons I greatly regret that the Government have given no place to this important subject in the Speech from the Throne. I am sure that there is felt throughout the country an amount of interest in this matter of which many here have no conception, and that if the present Government shrinks from dealing with it, from mistaken notions of economy, they will only leave to their successors the honour and glory of passing a measure which will confer inestimable blessings on the children of this country. I believe that false ideas of economy have much to do with the present position of matters. We are told that ten millions of money, or some other large sum, is to be asked for the construction of ironclads and the 74 increase of our armaments, and I am one of those who would not object to any expenditure that is proved to be necessary for the proper defence of the country; but I believe that better and far more lasting results can be obtained from the improved education of our people and in properly training our children at that critical period when so many of them go astray. An expenditure for such a purpose would be one that would bring about the richest possible reward. Let us grant that it would add half a million to the burdens of the country. The amount is hardly worth talking about, especially when we remember that few countries spend so small a proportion of their revenue on national education as England, which certainly expends in this way far less than Prance, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, and the United States do relatively to the income of those countries. By spending the amount I have mentioned, you will be certain hereafter to reap the benefit of it ten, twenty, and even fifty times told. And, Sir, I should not only like to see evening continuation schools established, but I should also like them to be free schools; in fact, I should like to see all our elementary education made free, as is now the case in most of the civilized countries of the world. In connection with this question, I cannot forbear alluding to the cognate subject of Welsh intermediate education, to which I am sorry to see the Government have made no reference in the Queen's Speech. They are aware that we have had Bill after Bill on this subject brought before Parliament for several years past; and, also, that the people of Wales feel the strongest and deepest interest in it. Wales is greatly in need of Imperial aid for the creation of a more complete system of high-class schools, and the Welsh people have been deeply disappointed year after year by the neglect of this question, on which their hearts are so firmly set. I think the matter is one on which the Government might be reasonably expected to meet the representatives of Wales halfway, without any sacrifice of principle on their part. Of course, I can hardly expect that a Conservative Government will take any step in the direction of Welsh Disestablishment. The question will only be settled when a Liberal Government comes into power. But we 75 may expect them to do something for the Welsh people in the way of higher education, especially when they know the amount of discontent which exists on account of the neglect of Welsh questions generally. If the Government could only meet them half-way, by conceding what they ask in the matter of education, they would do something towards allaying the discontent which is prevalent in regard to other questions. Apologising to the House for having occupied so much more time than I had intended, I will conclude by expressing a hope that this Session will not be allowed to end without the passage of some useful measures of social legislation—legislation that will touch the hearts and consciences of the people, and which I am persuaded is earnestly desired by the country at large.
§ * SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
I had no intention of intervening in this debate, and should not have done so but for the remarks which have just fallen from the hon. Member opposite (Mr. S. SMITH). I feel that some reply, however slight, ought to be given from these benches. In the first place, I must renew the tribute I have often paid to the zeal and earnestness evinced by the hon. Gentleman on the subject of education generally, and on certain branches of it in particular. There is no hon. Member of this House who has greater claims to respect, not only from this own side, but from both sides of the House, for his efforts in the cause of education, than the hon. Member. He not only preaches, but he also practises the doctrine he enunciates. The hon. Gentleman has complained that the subject of education has been omitted from the Queen's Speech. I may state that I am no more in the secrets of the Government than he; but I can readily imagine that in the crowded state of public business there are many useful measures they would gladly propose, but which they would not be able to carry out during the present session. It may be the intention of the Government to carry out by executive action some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Education. But if there is any difficulty in legislation the hon. Member has himself supplied one reason at least. He has referred to the question of free schools. There is no better way of applying the torch to the combustible embers of controversy on the 76 subject of education than by urging the question of free schools. Surely he must know this raises up the whole controversy between the voluntary and national system on the one side and the Board School system, which I unworthily represent, on the other. He speaks of free education. Well, that, probably is at the bottom of the difficulty in legislation; certainly it is as regards elementary education. But when he speaks in such terms of moving pathos about the numbers of poor parents who are dragged, in his imagination, before the magistrates by the School Board officers for not sending their children to school because they could not pay the school fees, let me assure him that that is a picture which is greatly exaggerated, because parents in the position thus described are not taken before the magistrates, for the school fees of their children are remitted. The difficulty in respect to the free system does not, in fact, concern the poor, but concerns the class above them and the lower middle class. Once fees are abolished, it will be very difficult to exclude the middle classes from the benefit of that principle, and then the question will arise whether we are to have the middle class educated at the cost of the ratepayers at large. Well, there are large classes in this country who think otherwise—who hold the doctrine that the first duty of an independent Englishman is to pay for the education of his own children, so far as he can. Those who plead this doctrine of free education, in the manner adopted by my hon. Friend, quite forget that the greater part of the cost of elementary education is paid for by the public already. We have made a recent calculation in London, and it shows that at this moment eleven-twelfths of the cost of elementary education in the metropolitan area is defrayed by the ratepayers, so that, with all the talk of hardship in levying the fees, only one-twelfth of the actual cost of elementary education falls upon the parents. There is thus no grievance whatever. One can readily understand why the Government should hesitate to set aflame the embers of the educational controversy which my hon. Friend wishes to stir up. Apart from legislation, we might have some of the matters which my hon. Friend has indicated dealt with by executive action. In a revised Code, 77 for instance, we might have payment by results much softened and greatly modified in the way which the teachers, both of Board and voluntary schools, greatly desire. Then, in regard to continuation schools, my hon. Friend, in his philanthropic zeal and enthusiasm, has again allowed himself to be drawn into the vortex of exaggeration. My hon. Friend makes the most astonishing statement, that our great cities are swarming with poor, uneducated children, who wander about the streets in idleness and neglect. But is it not the fact that one great reason why parents in both town and country object to the compulsory clauses of the Education Act is, that they want their children to work, in order to eke out the family's subsistence? And in the towns the children earn a certain pittance and livelihood for themselves out of school hours. The truth is, the children are urgently required not only for domestic duties at home, but actually to earn something towards the family purse; and I appeal if this is not a truer description of the real facts of the case than that given by my hon. Friend. That being so, what becomes of the superstructure of my hon. Friend? But apart from that particular argument, I cordially endorse the principle of my hon. Friend's remarks. I earnestly support him in his warm contention, and I hold it is a matter of great national importance that we should have a system of continuation schools. My hon. Friend says that evening classes in England have died out. I say they certainly have not died out in the metropolitan area, for which I am responsible, because there are more evening classes, better organised and better attended, than anything of the kind which has existed before. The London School Board began that system about six years ago; they have been gradually working it out, and I doubt not that Birmingham, Manchester, and other large towns are doing, or certainly could be got to do, a similar work. My hon. Friend entered into some genera statistics as to the numbers likely to attend the continuation classes. But when he gives large round numbers I think he should be reminded that the proper basis of calculation is the number of children that leave school annually Now the number of children who leave the London Board schools annually is 78 about 40,000, and in the voluntary schools about 25,000, and if we can obtain a certain modification in the Code, it is quite possible they might be able within a very few years to secure an attendance at the evening classes not far short of 40,000. My hon. Friend has spoken of half a million attending these evening classes throughout the country. That is a very high computation.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I think we ought to have half a million in attendance at our evening classes, providing that the account may range from 13 to 16 years. Remember we have four and a half millions under school age.
§ * SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
It appears to me to be a very high figure, but at this short notice I am not able to check the calculation. But supposing it is half a million, we must look at the question of the cost. In my opinion the cost would not be excessive, provided we did not adopt the doctrine of free education. At this moment the number of continuation schools in London probably costs the local rates and the Government together something over 10s. a scholar, perhaps 12s., so that half a million of scholars might be arranged for at a cost of about a quarter of a million sterling. That is of course a manageable sum, but once the principle of free education is adopted, the cost would be excessive, and then we should have an educational burden indeed. I venture to warn my hon. Friend that the educational burden is beginning to be felt very heavily both in town and country, and any attempt to increase it would cause great dissatisfaction. If evening schools are to be made successful, the curriculum must be at once improved, and why that has not been done I cannot understand. A year or two ago a memorial was presented to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education from the London School Board suggesting alterations and improvements which could have been carried out by a wave of my right hon. Friend's hand or a stroke of his masterly pen. But we were told we must wait the Report of the Royal Commission. We have that Report now, I entreat my right hon. Friend to give the modifications asked for, and if that is done I will undertake within a year or two to 79 double the evening schools. Parents say that if they are obliged to send their children to evening schools after 14 or 15 they ought to be relieved from compulsory attendance for their children after 11. I submit that instead of pressing for measures which might be unpopular, and which might or might not be passed, School Boards throughout the country should lose no time in applying their shoulders to the wheel, as the London School Board is doing. While Parliament is discussing the matter, and hon. Members are making fine speeches, the School Board of London is acting, and I hope all School Boards throughout the country will do the same. Lastly, my hon. Friend has done very scant justice to our country when he compares it so unfavourably with other countries. The audited expenditure upon schools in Great Britain may be less than in Germany or France, but it should be remembered that no record is kept of the magnificent system of voluntary instruction, most honourable and creditable to all who take part in it. That system derives its strength from a fountain of benevolence and good feeling which has never dried up, and which has produced educational results by private enterprise, to which no parallel can be found in any other nation. I venture to say that if an account were kept of the expenditure upon education by private and voluntary agents, together with that from public resources, England would compare favourably with any other nation under the sun.
* SIR WILLIAM HART-DYKE
I think that, considering the deep interest which my hon. Friend the Member for Flintshire takes in this question, it would be scarcely courteous on my part to allow this occasion to pass without saying one or two words. He complains that there is no mention of the Education question in the Queen's Speech. Well, Sir, I believe that complaint has already been made by the leader of the House that too many questions are mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and, Sir, if I have not mentioned the educational question to my colleagues and urged them to include it in the Speech from the Throne, it is not for one instant because I underrate its importance, or by any desire to shirk the responsibilities which lie upon me in regard to it, but because I have been too many years in the House, 80 and never took too sanguine a view of the probability of fulfilling the promises made in gracious Speeches from the Throne. It is better to carry out some important educational reforms which have not been promised than to promise what the Government might not be able to accomplish. My hon. Friend must remember that educational reforms have not in the past been restricted to legislative proposals, and must be aware that very important reforms have been carried into effect under the revised code. Although in Her Majesty's gracious Speech there is no distinct promise with respect to this question, I can assure my hon. Friend that for many months past I and my colleagues have been carefully considering the proposals of the Royal Commission, and I hope before long to lay on the table a code which will contain most important modifications of our educational system. I am not in a position, however, to pledge myself further, except with regard to the distinct promise given by the First Lord of the Treasury, that the Government will this year endeavour to grapple with technical education. My hon. Friend opposite must be aware that there is great difficulty in dealing with this question in regard to elementary schools, looking upon it merely as an advantage to be gained by board schools over voluntary schools in conneciton with the rates. I am not prepared to argue the question now, but the difficulty is one which I hope by patience and compromise to overcome. Both my hon. Friends have referred to a question in which I take the deepest interest—that of continuation or evening schools, and I hope to be able to do something to promote them. The whole question of these schools has been for some time under careful consideration, and although I am not able to promise any legislation on the subject, I will promise that in the coming code measures shall be taken with a view to giving them greater freedom. I will also promise that any Bill on the subject introduced by his hon. Friend or other hon. Members shall receive careful and candid consideration. I trust I have shown that although the education question is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, yet the Government has not neglected its duties in this regard.
§ * MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
No doubt, so far as the people of this country are concerned, one of the most important subjects for consideration is that of education, as to which an interesting discussion has just taken place, but turning to the Queen's Speech we find mentioned another subject of great importance both to the House and the country, namely, the proposal for an increased expenditure upon the defences of the country, of which we have up to the present time no estimate whatever. But, as on a former occasion, I made a protest, I now desire to repeat my protest against this expenditure upon what are called the defences of the country. I want to know where the cry for this increased expenditure comes from. I see in the leading journal of the country day after day long letters from Admirals and other naval gentlemen, and from military gentlemen, informing us of the defenceless state of the country and of the dangerous state we are in, but even that is nothing new. We have always had this put before us, and almost precisely in the same words as at present, and it will go on so to the end of the chapter. But after one of these outbreaks of panic and scare we have a large amount of money voted by the House of Commons and spent upon ships of war and materials of war, and then a few months elapse and the same story is repeated, and the country is assured of its utterly defenceless state. We are told in Her Majesty's gracious Speech of the warlike preparations on the Continent, and that we are to follow suit, but when we go to the country and listen to what we are taught, at any rate by our Christian religion—namely, "Peace on earth and goodwill to men"—we realise that the object of a great Christian nation should be to limit these armaments and not to imitate the great military nations of the Continent. There is not a word in the Speech upon that point. All we are told is that a large expenditure of money is to be made on the Continent and that this country is to do the same thing. But when we have spent this money how much better shall we be? We shall build ships, and every ship will involve a great expenditure of money in materials and men. It rather reminds me, as a householder, of the fact that when a man increased his household he had 82 really to engage one servant to look after another, and so if we get more ships of war we shall involve ourselves in more expenditure to assist the ships to do their work. There is, in fact, no end or limit to such expenditure. And then, to accentuate the position, we are told we are a country dependent on our supplies of food from abroad. That is quite correct, but then we have an enormous mercantile marine, very different to what we had in former days. That marine is now almost exclusively composed of steamers, and, connected as I am with a firm which carries more food and produce for the people than any other firm connected with the mercantile marine, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that in almost any circumstances the mercantile marine of this country will be able to supply the country with food. We are told it is not necessary for the enemy to land a single soldier on the shores of this country, but that we will simply be starved out in so many days or weeks. Such statements are repeated year after year on the opposite side of the House. We have also one or two hon. and gallant Gentlemen on this side of the House who endorse the same view, but these hon. Gentlemen are not luckily so numerous on the Opposition as on the Ministerial benches. On behalf of the mercantile community, and also on behalf of the taxpaying community of this country, I wish to make a protest against this scare and outcry for increased Army and Navy expenditure. In Ireland we have 30,000 men employed to keep Ireland in order, and that is almost the entire portion of the British Army available for Foreign Service, and quite sufficient too, for the less England has to do with Continental complications the better; but instead of being able to take these men out of Ireland, where they are now doing police duty, we would have to pay for a large additional body of men. That is one symptom of what will be the result of increasing our expenditure. As far as the Navy is concerned, I have seen the statement that all the old men-of-war should now have new engines put into them for the purposes of Coast defence. Many of these matters are matters of detail, into which there is not the time to enter; but I must solemnly protest against the expenditure which 83 the Government are about to place upon the taxpaying portion of the community, and which I regard as entirely unnecessary. I believe the expenditure already made upon the Navy would, if properly and economically used, and used with common sense, be more than sufficient for all the purposes of defence, not only of the shores but of the mercantile marine. I would not hesitate to stand before any commercial community, and announce exactly this same view, and though, perhaps, it is always popular to raise a cry of the country in danger and to call out for more expenditure upon the Army and Navy, it is the duty, at any rate of those on the Liberal side of the House, to protest, and let our protest be endorsed as far as possible by the taxpayers of the country.
§ MR. MARK J. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
The hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) has introduced the subject of education, and I desire to say a few words from the point of view from which I regard the matter. My experience, and I have had a great deal in rural districts of Scotland, as Chairman of a large School Board, is that at the present moment there is a very great desire on the part of the parents to have their children better educated than they are in the Board Schools in Scotland. They do not blame the teachers. The teachers do their best, but the time at their disposal is so very limited that it is impossible for them to devote any real time to the teaching of higher education. Of course Board Schools are in the main intended to supply the mere rudiments of education, but that has never been held sufficient for Scotch children. The result is, that instead of improving scholarship in Scotland, the present School Board system has deteriorated it. The system is no doubt an immense boon to the greater number of children, but for those children who are most anxious to make progress it has a very bad effect. It does not offer any real incentive or stimulus to the prosecution of matters which such children are expected to learn in after life, and under such circumstances, in view of the competition in foreign nations in matters requiring real technical education, we shall very soon find that out children are a long way behind. It 84 has been said to-night that there is a strong aversion on the part of parents to keep their children at school even as long as they are now required to do, and that if you supplement the system by evening schools that aversion would perhaps be even too strong to overcome. I do not see the point of that at all. My belief is that all the children might be taken from school at twelve instead of thirteen; they could at once go to the evening schools, and there obtain much greater knowledge than they would if they continued at the elementary schools another year or so. There is, no doubt, a strong aversion to burdening the rates in any way whatever; that would be resented not only by the parents, but, generally speaking, by the whole of the community. But what has been suggested elsewhere, and what, I think, is only a fair suggestion, is that the nation should take its part in educating the children of the country. It is false economy to say we cannot afford to do it. I would much rather spend more money on education than on the defence of the country, though I think that expenditure on both objects is essentially needful at the present time. I rejoice to learn from the Queen's Speech that the Government have not abandoned the intention to establish a Department of Agriculture. I trust that what has been done by dairy schools will be continued in other directions, so that to the fullest extent science will be brought to bear upon agriculture, in the production of better crops and such improvements as are necessary to enable our farmers to meet the foreign competition which they have to face.
§ SIR DONALD CURRIE (Perth W.)
My hon. Friend the Member for Hull (Mr. C. H. Wilson) has protested against the action proposed by the Government in regard to the defence of the Empire. Although my hon. Friend is one of the largest shipowners in the country, I hardly think he represents the mercantile shipping opinion of the country when he declares that the merchant shipping community are unfavourable to the proposed expenditure. I hold the very contrary. No menace to other Powers is intended: all that is made is a declaration that there is a necessity for precaution to be taken. It is said in the Speech, "The 85 increasing expenditure upon warlike preparations which has been incurred by other European nations has rendered necessary an increase in the precautions which have hitherto been taken for the safety of our shores and our commerce." I hold that we require this expenditure for the protection of the Channel; for the defence of our position in the Channel it is absolutely necessary to have a largely increased Fleet. For the protection of the carrying trade of the country such a Fleet is absolutely essential, though you would find that steamers of ten knots an hour, which carry grain in such large proportions to this country, would have very little employment under the British flag if we were at war with a large and important foreign Power. Further, I hold that for the defence of the Colonies an increased fleet is essential. I entertain the strongest opinion that we are utterly unable to compete against a combination of any two Powers such as might occur. The present, however, is not the time to enter into detail; an opportunity of doing so will shortly arrive. In the meantime, I answer the protest of my hon. Friend by an equally strong disclaimer.
§ MR. W. MACDONALD (Queen's Co., Ossory)
I think I may fairly congratulate the Government on the form of Her Majesty's Speech. It is slightly more original than usual. Some of the old worn phrases have been dropped, and, altogether, the Speech is a fairly readable document. But when I pass from the form to the various subjects touched upon, I cannot be equally laudatory. There is, as usual, a statement as to the condition of affairs at home and abroad, and there is an enumeration of the measures which the Government intend to submit to Parliament. The allusion in the Speech to foreign affairs is singularly brief. We are told that the relations with Foreign Powers continue to be friendly, but I think we are bound to ask whether these relations are on a permanent basis of security. I gather from an allusion later on in the Speech, that the Government have some misgivings on this point. Personally, I think that the relations between this country and the United States are by no means so satisfactory as those who really wish for the well-being of both countries 86 desire. There is the Fishery question between Canada and the United States, which is not yet settled, and I cannot altogether congratulate the Government on the way in which they have managed the negotiations. The Government sent to the United States as their representative in the negotiations the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). It no doubt occurred to the Government that the right hon. Gentleman was a very clever intriguer, and that he might possibly turn his talents against them. The right hon. Gentleman had intrigued against a former colleague of his, the late Mr. Forster; he had intrigued with the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), he had intrigued against the hon. Member for Cork; he had intrigued with Captain O'Shee, he had intrigued with the Times, and no doubt it occurred to our sagacious rulers that it would he a good thing to find employment for him, lest he should intrigue against them. Accordingly, they employed him on this mission. It at first appeared that the experiment would be successful. The right hon. gentleman was fêted, speeches very complimentary to this country were made by distinguished Americans, and the right hon. Gentleman was congratulated upon the work he had done, not only by his allies and friends, but even by some of his opponents. But a few months passed, and when the time arrived for the ratification of the Convention which had been drawn up between the United Stares and this country, the Senate of the United States threw the thing up, and almost all the labours of the right hon. Gentleman proved in vain. Why did they prove in vain? Because of the feeling entertained towards the right hon. Gentleman by the Irish race. If the Government had had sufficient sagacity to send a man who was not hated as the right hon. Gentleman unfortunately is by the Irish race at home and abroad, the probability is the negotiations would have taken a different turn. I hope there is one lesson which the country will learn from this failure, and that is that until you satisfy the demand of Ireland there will always be in America an element of disturbance, an element which you will have to reckon with more or less. Then we are entitled to ask, with regard to foreign affairs, 87 whether we have "Peace with Honour," a phrase which hon. Gentlemen opposite were once so fond of using. Have the Government shown any care or tender regard for the honour of this country? Your Ambassador was returned his papers and sent away from the United States because of his interference in domestic politics in that country, and yet I cannot find that one word of remonstrance was addressed to the American Government, or that this spirited Government took the smallest means of showing that an affront had been offered to this country. Again, a very odious charge has been brought within the last month or two against the gentleman who now represents this country at St. Petersburg. The charge was of the basest nature, and I don't believe it. It was made in a most offensive manner, and yet I cannot find that the Government made any remonstrance. I cannot find that there was anything like a manly, outspoken expression of indignation on the part of the Government at the treatment of their representative. There is an instructive lesson in all this. Some of us have watched carefully the public character and career of the Prime Minister, and have fancied at times that we noticed in him a disposition to bully the weak and to truckle to the strong. I am afraid the same disposition has been manifested lately. Where the strongest Governments are concerned, there is nothing like a manly, outspoken assertion of English rights, but when the Irish Members are to be insulted, or the people of India are to be insulted, because they are supposed to be weak, there is plenty of strong language used by the head of the Government. Coming to home affairs, we are brought face to face with the eternal question of Ireland. What have you, since the House rose, been doing in that country, and what have you to show as the result of your action? You have imprisoned for six months, with hard labour, an hon. Friend of mine, well-known for his moderate and reasonable speeches in this House. You have imprisoned him for publishing in his paper a speech he delivered, at what you are pleased to call, a suppressed branch of the Irish National League. Removing him from the gaol in which he was confined to the Fortress of Tullamore, you carried him on an outside car in prison dress, through 88 the streets of his native town, without an overcoat, and then you put him in a third-class railway carriage. My hon. Friend is as well known, and as much respected among his own people and constituents as any Metropolitan member is in this city. You thought to degrade him, but in truth you raised him in the estimation of his countrymen. The admiration we had for him as a journalist and a Member, has deepened into respect and affection since your persecution of him. I need not go over the treatment of my hon. friend, the Member for North Cork. That gentleman does not think he ought to be treated as a common criminal, but the Chief Secretary, who could not meet my hon. friend on the floor of this House, and who felt the great injury his cause suffered from the speeches of my hon. Friend, employed warders to strip my hon. Friend by force, notwithstanding everyone knew the delicacy of his constitution, which, indeed, is stamped upon his features. If you subsequently changed your treatment, and restored him his habiliments, you did so not from any feeling of humanity, but in deference to the storm of indignation raised throughout the country. Then how have you acted towards my friend, as I am proud to call him, Father McFadden of Gweedore? You sent to arrest him immediately after mass, in the midst of his admiring flock. No priest is more beloved, or more deserving of the love of the population. He is widely known for his philanthropy, his humanity, and his efforts to promote the industry and comfort of his people. This priest you sent a District Inspector to arrest after mass, when the people were strongly under the influence of their affection for their pastor, and you are surprised at the fatality that resulted! You have actually the audacity to insult Father McFadden, and the whole priesthood of Ireland, with a charge of complicity in murder! Is such a proceeding in the interest of law and order you profess yourselves so anxious to preserve? What have you gained by this display of force, this austerity, this cruelty in Ireland? We may form a tolerable notion of what the Government think they have gained from a speech delivered by the Chief Secretary to a small number of Unionists. The right hon. Gentleman discovered a 89 great improvement in the material condition of Ireland because deposits in Irish Savings Banks had greatly increased, and this he assumed was entirely due to the firm policy of the Government. But I should have thought the veriest tyro in Irish affairs would attribute this to a very different and less high-flown cause. There has been a great increase in the price of stock, enabling farmers to put by more money than heretofore. The relations between the police and the people, said the Chief Secretary, were improved, and then the very next day we have this deplorable murder of a police officer at Gweedore. The right hon. Gentleman quoted statistics, at which he usually sneers, perhaps because he has no special faculty for dealing with them—they require an impartiality of mind he does not possess. Boycotting, he said, had diminished something like 70 per cent. I have always felt very sceptical as to these boycotting returns. Suppose a Government set about tabulating the number of persons boycotted by the Primrose League in this country, would not the statistics present a very different appearance prepared under the authority of right hon. Gentlemen on that side or on this? In fact, these boycotting returns may be made big or small at pleasure. They afford cover for coercive legislation, but they do not afford sufficient information to allow of verification. Then, it is said, outrages were 200 fewer in 1888 than in any year since 1879. But there the statement stops, and I attach little importance to it. Under the term outrages are included not only murder, conspiracy to murder, and manslaughter, but also threatening letters and the taking of forcible possession—an offence that means that some unfortunate wretch, driven out on the hillside in midwinter, crept back to his dwelling for shelter for himself or kin. We do not want to know if offences of this kind or threatening letters have diminished, but whether murder, and what we all recognise as serious crimes have diminished. Show us this clearly, and we may be inclined to recognize some improvement in the state of Ireland. Until then I must preserve my scepticism and conclude that all this straining of the law, all this cruelty to Irish Members, all this 90 harshness, all these insults heaped on the priesthood of Ireland have had no compensating advantage to the side of the Government, into all this despotism with which the Government of Ireland has degenerated must go down before investigation and the light of public opinion. As to proposed litigation, we are rejoiced that proposals for local government in Scotland are to be brought forward this Session. Scotch business has been very much neglected, and the complaints of Scotch Members are amply justified. I am glad the Government are trying in a small way to repair the evil. But, I confess, my mind is not altogether easy on this subject. In years long ago, before I sat here, I used to constantly hear that Scotland was governed in accordance with the wishes of Scotch people, just as if a Parliament sat in Edinburgh; but I have long since ceased to accept such a statement. Again and again, I have seen the wishes of Scotch members set aside and overlooked by the votes of English Members holding different political views to the majority of the people of Scotland, and I am very much afraid that in this Bill some crucial question will arise, when this same thing will be repeated, and my Scotch friends will be on a purely Scotch question overlooked by English Members. Should that be so, I hope the lesson will sink deep into the hearts of the people, that never can Scotland really attain justice until a Parliament for Scotland legislates for the wishes of the people, unclogged by English votes. I observe in the Speech no promise of any Local Government Bill for Ireland, and from the point of view of an Irish Member I do not regret that for one I am absolutely convinced that no mere Local Government Scheme will satisfy the demand of the Irish people for a Legislature in Dublin. That demand would be just as strong though a Local Government Bill were passed, but the fact of the omission is worth noting, with the recollection that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite pledged themselves over and over again on the hustings and through the mouth of the noble Lord, the member for Paddington to "simultaneity," in the treatment of Great Britain and Ireland. Where is the approach to "simultaneity"? You shift this over from 91 session to session until you will be able to say that Parliament has no time left to deal with it. I do not envy your position when you have to explain your broken pledges to your constituents. There is promise of a Bill to develop the resources of Ireland. Now, I have thought and inquired a good deal into these Drainage Bills, and I am bound to say, that when the Chief Secretary said these Bills were opposed by us, and that because of our action they were abandoned last session, his statement is absolutely and entirely incorrect. It was not because of any action of ours, it was because the right hon. Gentleman was not in earnest that the Bills were not pressed forward. I was favourable to them myself, and only two or three of my friends expressed any hostility. But I do not think the people of Ireland attach as much importance to these Bills as the Government do. I spoke at two public meetings in two counties that are supposed to be largely affected by the drainage of one of these rivers, and I advised the people to express their opinion by resolutions at public meetings, sending a copy of the resolutions to myself or my friends, but I cannot find that one single resolution in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's Bills was passed. The fact of the matter is, that all this desire of the right hon. Gentleman to develop the resources of Ireland is a mere teacup tempest, and the people do not care about it, or want it; they would be content to wait and have the matter dealt with by their own Parliament, showing my belief that they will not have to wait many years. As to national defence I only wish to say that if defence is really your object, not picking quarrels or attacking nations who cannot oppose you, if it is really to strengthen your Navy, where that is required, I believe there will be a general disposition on the part of private members to give the Government every opportunity for developing their scheme. I do not know whether this session will be stormy or quiet, but one thing I do say, and that is that the attention of men generally will be less upon the proceedings in this House than on the results of by-elections in the country, and the preparations for that great struggle which must come when the constituencies are again appealed to. 92 Much as I lament the sufferings of my hon. Friends, deeply as I regret the sorrows of Ireland—and there is no man feels these things more intensely than I do, or longs more earnestly for the tranquility and freedom of his country—one thing reconciles me to the contemplation of the evils of the present rule, and that is that they make clear to the meanest intelligence the issue which the country will have to try, between tyranny and enmity on the one hand, and on the other hand the extension of freedom and goodwill to Ireland. Considering these things, I have no fear for the result. I remember the words which more than a hundred years ago Edmund Burke spoke of the English people, and I do not think the English characteristics of integrity, fairness, good temper and good humour have changed.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
I agree in the remarks of the hon. Member for Hull, and will only briefly supplement them. I think the danger to the country does not arise so much from foreign attack as from the crushing weight of taxation upon the people. In my belief, there is more danger to be apprehended from extravagant expenditure than from foreign foe. Therefore I ask the House to consider and hesitate before they back the Government any further in that extravagant expenditure upon which they propose to embark. Within my own recollection the military expenditure of the country has increased threefold, and yet just as expenditure has increased so has the apprehension of danger. The increase seems to breed panic, and it seems the military mind is ever possessed with the fear of destruction to the country, but I believe that destruction, if it comes, will be from that extravagant expenditure into which military opinion has led the country. It is most unfortunate that so many gentlemen who are personally interested in this expenditure have a voting influence in the decisions of the House, and this, I fear, has greatly tended to the growth of expenditure. Of one fact I would warn the House, that if there is this increase of expenditure the democracy will demand that property shall bear a much larger share of the burden. There is a tendency to imagine and to understand that the landed interest does not bear its fair share of 93 the burden of taxation, and the fact is becoming known that in connection with the Land Tax there has been an immense evasion of public obligations. If you want to bring this question to the front, go on increasing expenditure and soon the pressure will be so great that matters will not remain where they are. There is danger in spending money to such an enormous extent while the interests of education are neglected. My hon. Friend has shown anxiety in this direction, and there is the fact that millions suffer the direst distress from the crushing presence of daily life and yet you propose further burdens! Talk of the dangers of the Eastern question; there is more danger in the East End of London and in the condition of the populations of our large towns! Unless something drastic is done to improve the conditions under which our poorer classes live there is imminent danger in our midst, and I ask the House to pause before assenting to this proposed expenditure. A further consideration should not be left out of view, the danger to our commerce that will arise when America adopts the principle of Free Trade. When that time comes, as come it will, then will begin the struggle for the commerce of the world. So long as the United States are under the protection system we can hold our own in the commerce of the globe, but when they compete with us on equal terms they will have the advantage against us of freedom from the trammels of a heavy debt. On the part of my constituents, I enter my protest at this early stage. In regard to the condition of Ireland, I say nothing, but I am astonished that any reasonable men should advise Her Majesty to say that recent enactments have been attended there with satisfactory results. Is there anything there to give a Ministry satisfaction? Is there satisfaction in the fact that government can only be carried on by brute force? Is it possible that such a system can exist side by side with representative institutions? If you are prepared to deprive Ireland of representation you may carry it on for a time, but so far from seeing any ground for satisfaction, I see nothing but a disgraceful chapter of history England will look back upon with sorrow and regret. I would make brief reference to the subject of the abolition of the Sugar Bounties. In 94 theory and argument I should be against the principle of bounties, but why this country should spend time and money to impress this view on the Governments of other nations, I do not understand. The effect of their policy has been to cheapen sugar for us, and I venture to think that the people will not altogether agree that the efforts of the Government have been attended with advantage. My own constituency is interested in this matter. The effect of the cheapening of sugar through the Foreign Bounty system has been that industries in which sugar forms the basis have been increased tenfold, and these effects of the Government come under the category of class legislation, and will be attended with damage to these manufactures and a tendency to increase the cost of one of the comforts of the people. On this ground I venture to challenge the opinion that has been expressed.
§ MR. F. H. EVANS (Southampton)
We were told last autumn by the First Lord of the Admiralty that our navy was twice as strong as that of any other European power, and that it was quite able to protect our trade. It is an astounding thing, therefore, to hear to-day that it is necessary to expend a large sum of money in order to make our navy efficient and to protect our trade. If a war were to break out, the insurance companies would dictate the routes which the commerce of the country should follow, and instead of having our merchant shipping protected by the cruisers of the Admiralty we should find the commerce of the country carried on by great ocean steamers able to protect themselves. If we found ourselves unable to protect our carrying trade in the end, we should have to give it up. I therefore hope that in the course of the present discussion it may be made clear that our navy is really in a state of efficiency. The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford) differs with the First Lord to the extent of 50 per cent. in regard to the strength of the navy. You cannot make up a difference of 50 per cent. in the course of a few months, and I trust that the Government will explain how it is that such great differences of opinion have arisen.
§ * MR. R. K. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)
As a Member for a Metropolitan constituency, I rise to express my regret 95 that the question of the housing of the industrial classes has found no place in the Queen's Speech. It must be perfectly clear to all Members who have read the report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Poor, published in 1885, that the question is one of urgent importance. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol referred just now to the East of London, but I must remind the House that there is a South of London and a West of London. It is well known that there are poor people living within 200 yards of the House, whose homes are a disgrace to civilization. It must not be forgotten that the question now stands upon an entirely different footing to that on which it stood in 1885. We had not then, as we have now, a thoroughly representative Municipal body for the whole of London. We have now a County Council who, if they have not already sufficient powers, should have them at once. I hope that the Government will either bring in a Bill upon the subject or give facilities for the consideration of the measure which is to be introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Hoxton (Mr. Stuart). I have made these observations in no party spirit, but because I feel that the present condition of the dwellings of the poor is a disgrace to the country and demands immediate attention.
COLONEL NOLAN (Galway County, N.)
I am afraid that there is one subject which has been slurred over in the speech from the throne. The seconder of the address (Sir John Colomb) in his excellent speech made one remarkable assertion. The hon. Member sits for a Metropolitan constituency, and he dealt ably with such topics as he understands; but he certainly made an unfortunate reference to Irish matters. He spoke of law and order having been restored in Ireland. When we look around us we miss many of our colleagues who are locked up in prison or are awaiting their trial. That sort of talk might do in a Primrose Cabinet, but it is altogether absurd in the House of Commons. The Queen's Speech contains some reference to the policy of developing the material resources of Ireland. I am glad to find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer finds it necessary to do something for Ireland, and looking at the words put 96 into the mouth of Her Majesty, we may, perhaps, assume that the policy of evasion pursued by the Government on this subject during the last two and a-half years will no longer be followed up. We were told then of the great Conservative policy of developing the resources of Ireland, but more than two years have elapsed, and absolutely nothing has been done. They said that in the first place we must have a Royal Commission. Well, we have had a Royal Commission, but it reported a year and a-half ago, and nothing has been done. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) made promises, but the Government have done nothing to redeem them, and I think it is their duty now, at the beginning of the Session to explain to the House how we stand in the matter. All that the Government did when they received the Report of the Royal Commission was to take the most difficult part of it—that which referred to drainage and navigation combined—and they insisted on dealing with that or nothing. They proposed that a large amount of money should be spent out of local resources upon the drainage of the Shannon and the Barrow, which the people of Ireland thoroughly objected to; and they did nothing for the general improvement of the Irish harbours and railways. They are now more solemn than ever in their promises; but as there has not been, during the last six or twelve months, any increase in armaments on the part of the European Powers, I do not think the Government are justified in neglecting the development of the resources of Ireland, and demanding a large sum of money on behalf the Naval and Military Services. All this expenditure might have been foreseen by the Government, seeing that the expenditure on the part of Foreign Powers has been a gradual one. Her Majesty's Government should have made their preparations earlier, and I believe the money would have been more profitably expended. They now propose to spend a large sum of money all at once, and at least one-half of it will be wasted. At present our relations with foreign countries are satisfactory, but the Foreign Minister may say "we may be in difficulties with a foreign country, and it is well to be prepared." If that were 97 said I should not think it would be out of the way to ask for £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 at the outside. However, if the Government should say it is in sufficient my reply would be. "Then you have been neglecting your duty during this past two years." We must remember that our foreign neighbour have been spending these vast sums or armaments for the last 8 or 10 years and that they have made no change in their policy during the past 6 months—if the; had changed their policy, no doubt a change of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government would be justified At present, no doubt we are beating the air, the Government having given us no information as to how much they intend to spend. But should their proposal be to spend as much as £12,000,000, the result would be that the contractors will revel in it, the War Department will indulge in every conceivable fad, the country will get only £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 of value, and the House of Commons will lose control over the Estimates. More than that, a precedent will have been set for future gigantic expenditure. I think the War Minister and the Lords of the Admiralty ought to imitate the economy of those of their predecessors who have endeavoured to make money go a long way, and not imitate the extravagance of Mr. Wm. Pitt, who burdened this country with a debt of hundreds of millions. I hope the Government will, as soon as possible, give us some indication of the amount of money they are going to ask for.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) Manchester, N. E.
This debate has been somewhat desultory, because by common consent the discussion of the most important questions mentioned in the Queen's Speech has been postponed until the Measures are before the House. Hon. Members have complained of omissions from the Speech, but that is a little at variance with the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, who hinted in his remarks that perhaps Her Majesty's Government had fallen into the error of proposing too many Measures. There are, I think, plenty of topics for the consideration of Parliament which in due time will engage its attention. I have risen principally to notice remarks made by some hon. Members which deserve 98 reply, and particularly those made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan), who has in a very temperate speech referred to subjects which have in former Sessions been discussed by him. The hon. Member takes a warm and very natural interest in the safety of trading and mission stations in Central Africa. Well, I cannot on this occasion say anything of a different nature to what I have said before, which is that, while those stations, whether commercial or missionary, are entitled to all the respect that belongs to enterprises most honourable in themselves and involving great personal sacrifices on the part of their promoters, it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to undertake the responsibility of imposing on this country any burdens in connection with them. These enterprises are undertaken by the free act of their promoters, and are in a region with which the Government of this country are not in immediate contact, and in which no assistance the Government can render them could proceed from any base. It is therefore impossible that Her Majesty's Government could give any indication that those persons could depend upon any material assistance from them. I have stated that there are certain things that Her Majesty's Government will require on behalf of those persons. When the Portuguese endeavoured to close the Zambesi, their right to do so was disputed, and it was stipulated that our countrymen should not be interrupted in obtaining those warlike stores which might be necessary to maintain their positions. I cannot recognize the justice of the complaint that the Portuguese have established a custom-house on a tributary of the Zambesi, because it was an admission that the Portuguese territory ended there, and Her Majesty's Government have rather reason to complain that that custom-house has been removed. The hon. Member suggested that the Government should interfere with the progress of the Portuguese force, which has gone into the interior of the country, lest it should disturb our Settlements. If such were likely to be the result of the expedition, it would undoubtedly be a matter of complaint on the part of Her Majesty's Government; but I hope no such occasion will arise. Her 99 Majesty's Government do not know what is the precise object or the point at which that expedition aims; but they cannot, of course, take exception to the passage of an exploring force into the interior of the Portuguese territory. The hon. Member has referred to the events which have taken place on the Zanzibar coast, and he expressed suspicion and apprehension at the identification of German and British interests on that coast. It ought to be remembered that Her Majesty's Government were not the originators of the action which has been taken in this matter. It was in 1884 that the Germans formed the project of establishing a base of influence on the East Coast of Africa, and sought from the Sultan of Zanzibar a concession of the same character as we ourselves had acquired, and in the following year Her Majesty's Government were directly approached by the Government of Germany with the view of obtaining their consent to such an arrangement, and it was certainly the act of a friendly power to carry us with them in their enterprise. We should have been very much in the wrong had we opposed the efforts of any other Christian and civilizing nation to establish itself in colonies in parts of the earth which we ourselves had not occupied. There are few places suitable for European enterprise that we have not entered, and it would be selfish and narrow-minded and injurious to our own national interests were we to show insane jealousy of similar enterprise on the part of other European nations. A British company has secured the concession of trading facilities and administrative functions over a large part of the same coast, and they have not had the misfortune to fall into conflict with the natives to any considerable extent. They have formed good relations with the natives; they have won the confidence of the Arabs, and also of the tribes of the country, but I beg the House to remember that they are people of great experience of Oriental nations. They have had their misfortunes, they have made mistakes, but they have acquired a certain knowledge of the best means of managing Eastern Princes and peoples, so that they are able now to avoid many of the accidents and misadventures that may happen 100 when European agents attempt to embark in enterprises in a country already occupied. German interference is a matter very much to be deplored, but I venture to think that the House will not consider it their duty or the duty of Her Majesty's Government to express an opinion as to the acts of German agents on that coast, or even of German forces. It is entirely beyond their sphere. We have no more right to criticise and comment, or offer our advice upon those proceedings, than foreign Powers have to give us their advice in their dealings in any sphere or regions in which Her Majesty's Government possesses influence or territory. We should resent it. If Her Majesty's Government possesses influence in the world, it is from keeping within our own rights and duties and not intruding ourselves upon the functions of other nations. But, while I say that, I also say that it is deeply to be regretted in the interest of all parties, in the interest of the friendly German nation, in the interest of the African tribes, in the interest of civilization, that there should have been such a collision; but this matter of influence and operations on the coast is a totally different matter from our taking part jointly in the blockade of the coast with Germany. The German Government invited us to join them in blockading the coast, which was to a large extent in a state of insurrection, for the purpose of preventing the importation of arms and the exportation of slaves. The exportation of slaves was a practice which this country has laboured to put down now for three-quarters of a century, and I put it to the House that we should have done very wrong to have refused to join a great Power hand in hand to stop that exportation. The Member for West Edinburgh asked whether the Portuguese were parties to the blockade. They were in a sense, because they complied with the invitation to join in the enterprise and undertake the blockade of their own coast. They were not concerned in the operations in the German sphere, and as there is no war in their country it was not to be a blockade. The French are to be parties, but the French have no immediate interest such as Germany and England have on that Coast. By the permission of the French Government, we are able to take positive action against the import 101 of arms and the export of slaves by carrying out an effective blockade on that coast, which could have been done in no other way. While the French are as much opposed to the slave trade as ourselves, they are jealous of the examination of their ships by men-of-war of other nations, and had. Her Majesty's Government not joined the blockade on that coast, they would not have had the right to visit vessels flying the French flag, though possibly engaged in the slave trade; therefore there is in every way a great advantage in the objects in which all civilized nations have a part, particularly this country, by joining in the establishment of the blockade on the Zanzibar Coast. I have said that, fortunately, in the British sphere of influence there has been no opposition of any importance, neither has there been any interruption of trade. On the contrary, trade has been steadily improving, the relations with the British East African Company have been constantly increasing, and I am sure, while we should be sorry to gain at the expense of any rivals and competitors, we have lost nothing in our sphere of influence by reason of the state of war which unhappily exists in the German sphere, and I hope that this British enterprise is tending towards a happy result, and is destined to add to the colonizing triumphs of this country, and to give an addition to the markets for the manufactures of the country. Something has been said about the state of affairs in Samoa. Papers are about to be presented on the subject which will give the proceedings at the Conference at Washington, and as that Conference is shortly to reassemble, the House will not desire to go largely into the state of affairs in Samoa. But here, as with reference to Zanzibar, it is right that I should point out that, while the two Governments of Germany and England act independently of each other as regards the action of the separate Governments, we have an understanding with the German Government as to the best means of exercising European influence over the native Government of that country in the time coming. It is manifest from the internal troubles which have existed for so many years in Samoa that the 102 Government cannot stand alone, and Her Majesty's Government expressed the opinion at the conference at Washington that it is better that one Power should exercise influence there rather than that three Governments should act through their representatives, who have failed to produce any satisfactory result. We have had no difference with the United States on the matter, but they take a different view at Washington; consequently the Conference did not result then in any settlement, but the Government of the United States have discussed the matter with the German Government in the most friendly and frank manner, and I hope that when the Conference re-assembles it will be with the prospect of coming to a satisfactory conclusion. There were some remarks made by the hon. Member for Queen's County which I will not pass over entirely without remark, because they were to some extent of a mischievous tendency, The hon. Member has said that the negotiations carried on by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham for the settlement of the Fisheries Question has proved abortive on account of the dislike entertained towards the right hon. Gentleman by a part of the people of the American Republic. Undoubtedly, from certain causes, the Fisheries Treaty has not been ratified; but by means of the modus vivendi arrived at between the two Governments not a single Canadian or American vessel has been seized while the arrangement was in operation, and no trouble occurred in the fisheries on the Canadian Coast. This fact alone justifies the policy of Her Majesty's Government in undertaking the negotiations, and is a tribute to the admirable way in which they were carried on by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The hon. Member has referred to the Sackville and Morier incidents. These are not matters that trouble the minds of great countries. The Sackville incident has blown over, and we can afford to discard the trifles which have rendered the incident of more importance than it would have otherwise acquired; and I am quite sure the relations with the great American Republic and our own nation will not be permanently injured by a trap laid for the British Minister, 103 or by any attempt to fan the affair into undeserved importance by those who might not wish well to the good relations between Great Britain and the United States. As to the affair in which the name of her Majesty's Ambassador in St. Petersburg has been involved, I can only say that I do not think that there is any one in this country who believes for a moment that that distinguished British servant would have been guilty of any act which was unworthy of his position or of which he would have cause to be ashamed. It is to be regretted that mischief-makers should have dragged his name forward in this undeserved manner; but it has not been necessary at any time to clear it. The incident has passed by without any interruption of the good relations between those great countries which have so many common interests, and which are so concerned in the advancement of civilization and the preservation of European peace.
§ * MR. JAMES BRYCE (Aberdeen)
Mr. Speaker, I do not think that the present moment is one very well suited to the discussion, large discussion, of the Foreign Policy of Her Majesty's Government; at the same time there are some matters raised by the remarks of my right hon. Friend., and by those made in an earlier part of the evening, which seem to require comment. I was a little disappointed that my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary did not answer more fully some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, and that no more distinct indication has been given of what information would be forthcoming on those subjects in the form of Parliamentary Papers. I would like to know when we are to expect Parliamentary Papers regarding Zanzibar, and I would be glad also if he would give us some fuller account of what line the Government propose to take as regards Samoa, and also when the Samoan papers will be produced. I quite agree that Great Britain has no reason to be jealous of the settlement or colonization of Germany on any part of the East African Coast. The possessions of Great Britain are large enough to enable her to regard even with satisfaction the progress of a Power always friendly to 104 herself and connected by so many ties of blood and sympathy. I do not understand from what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, and those who before the late Recess criticised the action of Her Majesty's Government with regard to East Africa, that they at all desired that Her Majesty's Government should have adopted a policy of suspicion or jealousy towards Germany, but merely doubted the wisdom of the action which Her Majesty's Government had taken in joining Germany in the blockade. I do not wish to express any opinion on that until further information is forthcoming. But the question is more serious than the Under Secretary seemed to admit. What has been feared all along was that the participation of the English Government in these hostilities, which seemed to be in danger of spreading into the interior, might prejudicially affect British traders on the coast and missionaries in the interior. We know that no inconsiderable loss has already been suffered by English and Indian coast residents, and there is grave risk that the relations with the internal tribes may be further disturbed. I should like to hear from the Government what action they will take in that matter. The House has not been told what advice Her Majesty's Government are tendering to Germany with regard to her policy in East Africa, and how far they have informed themselves with regard to the risks arising in the interior to the trade and interests of British subjects. These are points on which the Government may not be prepared to give answer at a moment's notice; but it is to be hoped that before long the House will have the assurance that the Government are alive to and are taking precautions against the dangers which any active operations on the part of the Germans may entail upon British subjects. Now I must say that our anxiety on these matters, and the care with which hon. Members are inclined to watch the conduct of the Government in co-operating with Germany are considerably increased by the previous conduct of the Government. We cannot help remembering that since Her Majesty's Government came into the control of these matters, there has been, in one way or another, a considerable withdrawal from the 105 position of influence which Great Britain has occupied on the Zanzibar coast, and to a great extent that position of influence and authority, held by her without offence to any other Power, and with great benefit to East Africa, has been yielded to the German Government. We cannot forget that it was they who recalled Sir John Kirk, and I must say that the disposition to be subservient to Germany in every demand has led hon. Members to regard with more suspicion than would otherwise have been the case the action of the Government in joining the blockade. If this was the feeling in regard to Zanzibar, it was much more intensified in the case of Samoa. I defy any hon. Member to study the history of the last two or three years in Samoa without perceiving that the English Government has played a rather ignoble and subservient part there. Hon. Members will remember the debate which took place in June or July last on Samoan affairs. It was shown, and has not been denied by the Government, that the Germans had treated Malietoa with unjustifiable severity, and that Her Majesty's Government had not remonstrated. The remonstrance against their high-handed behaviour, which continued even after the dethronement of that unfortunate King, at last proceeded not from the English Government, but from the United States, and I confess to a feeling of regret that it has been left to the American Government to vindicate the rights of the people of Samoa, and to remonstrate against the harsh and highhanded action of the German Government. We find now that the United States are determined to see that the interests of their subjects and what they considered to be their influence are placed on an equal footing with the influence exercised by Germany. Perhaps the Government will now take a similar view, but I hope it is not too late for Her Majesty's Government to take the United States into their confidence and to act as cordially with them as they have acted compliantly with Germany. The Government have told the House scarcely anything with regard to Suakin. The right hon. Gentleman must know that the country looked with considerable anxiety for an expression of the views 106 of the Government as to the future of that place. What are the reasons which induce the Government to expect a more pacific state of things? What are their intentions in case the security of the garrison should be again threatened? Before sitting down I have a word to say on another matter. Some time ago a proposal was made from the Government of the United States to the chief maritime Powers that they should join in a congress to be held at Washington to settle a number of questions relating to the safety of life at sea. I understand that for some reason no definite reply has been received from Her Majesty's Government to that invitation, but the statement has appeared in public prints that the invitation was declined, and apparently on no very weighty grounds. I believe an impression exists in America that the Government were in a state of some irritation, arising out of what is called the Sackville incident, and it has been supposed that their refusal to take part in that conference had something to do with the annoyance caused to them by that incident. I feel, however, that this is not a likely circumstance, and I hope Her Majesty's Government take a higher view of their own international responsibilities and duties than to allow an incident of that comparatively trivial nature to make any difference to their diplomatic action in a matter such as this proposed Maritime Conference. I shall be glad to receive some assurance that Her Majesty's Government have given full consideration to the invitation to take part in this congress; whether they have refused the invitation; and, if so, on what ground. I trust that full information will be forthcoming on the whole matter, but must express the hope that no such petty diplomatic troubles as those which occurred immediately before the recent Presidential Election will be suffered to affect the relations of two great peoples who are animated by sentiments of mutual affection and respect.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
If the House will permit me, I should like to satisfy the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bryce) as to one matter he has just referred to. It is a mistake to suppose that Her Majesty's Government has declined the invitation 107 of the United States to join them in the Maritime Conference. There was a mistake made in communicating the message of the United States Government to Her Majesty's Government, and it was understood that the points to be discussed were to be particularized before the answer of the Government was given. But when that view was corrected and the United States desired that the point should be particularized after Her Majesty's Government and other Governments had given a general assent, Her Majesty's Government at once expressed its willingness to enter the Conference. Then the United States said it was too late to meet at Washington in the coming season, and it was proposed that the Conference should be postponed until the autumn. Before the autumn arrives no doubt preliminaries will be arranged, and I hope the Conference will meet. As to Suakin, I think the First Lord of the Treasury has dealt sufficiently with that point, which, I may point out, has not been noticed by any subsequent speaker. The operations there have been perfectly successful. The tribes are showing a peaceful disposition, the Dervishes have retired, and the policy of standing on the defensive has proved so successful in Egypt that, notwithstanding the losses caused by the unusually low Nile, there is a substantial surplus on the proceeds of the year and a substantial addition to the reserve fund formed by the Egyptian Government.
§ Motion agreed to.