§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [21st February.]—[See page 41.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. C. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
Mr. Speaker:—Sir, I am very sorry today I cannot express my concurrence even in the opening paragraphs of the Address which the House is asked to vote, or even in the first paragraph of the Gracious Speech from the Throne. We are informed that during the brief period which has elapsed since the close of the last Session, nothing has taken place to affect the cordial relations which exist between this country and other Powers. And I cannot help wondering, if that be so, if the cordial relations were as complete as this House was led to believe they were during the past Session, why there should have been such a grave expression—grave coming from the mouth of any Minister, but especially grave coming from the mouth of the Secretary for War—as that the state of the Continent was one of such danger that a European war at any moment was imminent; and from the way in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the need of this country being prepared, the only conclusion derivable from what he said was that our cordial relations in some fashion or other had been so endangered as to render it necessary for us to propose to fight if the occasion arose. I should like to ask whatever Minister may speak afterwards whether, it being the fact—because no one looking at the state of Europe can deny it to be the fact—that the whole of the European Powers are armed for 141 war, that they have been arming for war year by year, certainly for the last 16 or 17 years, some of them longer; that the augmentation has been greater year by year, that in each Chamber the excuse for augmenting in one country has been armament in the other—would ask the Ministry, I say, whether they have entered into any kind of relations, or engagements, or undertakings, or understandings, which, in the event of a war breaking out such as the Secretary of State for War considers imminent, this country is embarked in any, and, if any, in what degree, in the possibility of being entangled in any such war. That seems to me to be a grave matter on which this House would be right to challenge the Ministry for some reasonable declaration, especially when we find that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty has already given this House intimation—intimation which has been given somewhat largely outside, less soberly outside—of the intention to apply for some authority to increase our naval armaments. The noble Lord (Lord Wolseley), who is sometimes supposed to be the only capable General in this country, has in Birmingham, under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, extended that demand, which the Government are only putting at this moment for the increase of the Naval Vote, to the whole Army Establishment, and beyond that we have actually got a suggestion from the noble Lord that, it being practically impossible to obtain by the ordinary methods of enlistment a sufficient number of men for the service of the State, Conscription should be resorted to in this country. Now, I am not a supporter of the Government, but I hope that I am always a fair foe to it, and I must say that if it desires to bring about what many of us wish to see—a dissolution of this Parliament—with the utmost rapidity, it has only to introduce some measure of Conscription, and then from one end of the country to the other feeling would be so strong that it would be impossible for any Government, composed of right hon. Gentlemen either on one side or the other, to continue in Office. But, as I judge the signs shown by the Leader of the House, I take it that the Government at present have no notion of anything of the kind, and if I might be permitted respectfully 142 to do so, I would suggest that a General receiving a high salary in connection with his command has neither the right nor the duty to create panics of this kind—panics which might be attended with most disastrous consequences. But even this is not the limit of the panic fever into which we are getting. I have read in The Times—I am one of those who place exceeding confidence in some things I read in The Times, even if they are only inserted with the intention of ascertaining what people think—I have read proposals which shadow out schemes for the fortification of London. Are our cordial relations in such a precarious condition that the Secretary for War weeps in public over the dangers which the Government see menacing us? He, much more than any other Member of the Government, ought to know about these matters, for he must be especially consulted on this subject. And I hope that he, as well as the Secretary to the Admiralty, will take the proper steps to make clear the grounds of their fears, especially when they see one of the highest Generals in the Army trying to drive the whole of England into a panic. I know that every other country is arming. An hon. and gallant Member, for whom I have great respect, in the course of his speech in the debate last night, suggested that the country would grant the Vote asked for willingly. Now, as far as I am concerned, and as far as the hundreds and thousands for whom I have some small right to speak are concerned, I must say that they will condemn everyone who votes recklessly for war expenditure in this House—who votes for it without seeing real peril—who votes for it simply under the panic cry, which from time to time for 40 or 50 years has left us a record of vessels built in haste gone to rust, and of fortifications which you may now row round, and admire the folly of the Ministry who managed to induce the House of Commons to vote for them, and the passive humility of the people who have been fools enough time after time to pay for them. I ask the Government, especially in view of the fourth paragraph of the gracious Speech from the Throne, whether it is suggested that there is no right to assume that the existing condition of things is necessarily secure from possibility of change, and I will 143 ask whether there are no engagements with Germany for example? Prince Bismarck speaks with extreme confidence, and I do not want to use language which shall be foolish in relation to possible contingencies on the Continent; but it is a matter of common notoriety that during the last seven or eight months diplomatists both in Italy and Prance have regarded communications between this country as sometimes justifying as between those two countries the views which fell from the Secretary for War. I would suggest how deplorable such a war would be; how terrible such a war would be; and, friendly as I hope we are both to Italy and to Prance, I would suggest that it would be a most suicidal matter if, in any question as to the balance of power or prestige of any Ministry, we had been seduced into entering into any engagement which would give one Power colour for supposing that it had either the moral or the physical force of this country thrown into the scale against it. I ask the Government expressly to answer this question to this House, and in view of the declarations which have been made in the last few weeks in different parts of Europe, I think every Member of this House has a right to make such an appeal to the Government, if it is only to pacify the feeling which has been excited very often by those who know nothing of what war is, and who have never taken part in it, and who foolishly forget in the security of their editorial sanctum that angry words may anger others, and sometimes produce bitter periods of excitement, from which even wise statesmanship cannot extricate their country. I ask the Government to give us some assurance which will make the people feel that there is one word which has some reality in it, whatever statesmen may be in power. Let us remember that the glory of this country has been made by peace, and not by war. Our prosperity, such as it is—and in many respects in some part of our dominions at present it is very great—our prosperity has not been made on the battle-field—it has not been won at the cannon's mouth—it has not been ploughed with the bayonet's point—but it has been made by the industry and labour of our people, to whom wage is paid, and from whom the reduction of wage comes when the tax bill for war 144 grows in size. I quite agree that the Secretary for War might have had grounds for grave apprehension, but I cannot agree that he was right in so publicly expressing them. It is so easy for people with knowledge of how little Governments do to imagine that when they tell anything at all of their fears, and of our dangers, that they are not telling the whole story, or that they are saying something for a purpose which is behind it all. For example, I have heard it suggested that a statesman of great ability in another country, when asking for an increase of military forces, has often pointed attention to what he has alleged to be the aggressive attitude of a nation whose frontiers run with his own; and, under cover of the feeling which he has thus excited among the people, he has been enabled to obtain from them the Vote he asked. Now I do not want to suggest unworthy motives on the part of any Government, but I do hold that some explanation is due to the country from the Secretary for War, or someone speaking for him, as to why he considered it necessary to sound so grave a note in the face of the nation, if the statements in the gracious Speech from the Throne are borne out by fact, that nothing has taken place to affect the cordial relations between this country and other Powers. It is no answer for the Secretary of State to merely refer to the possibilities of an European war; these possibilities have existed ever since the cession of Alsace and Lorraine, and they have grown larger and larger every day by reason of the increase of armaments on every side; and as a consequence, in Franco, in Italy, and in Germany, although the armies have grown, so in proportion the hunger of the people has grown larger, and I do put it to this House that often armed peace becomes even more dangerous than war, because day by day it makes the people despairing. Let us take the position of France now. We cannot help recognizing that the people in France, with their huge army, naturally desire some employment for that army, which is very costly, and they look to it for some deliverance from ills which it may possibly deliver them from, and also which it cannot possibly deliver them from. Remember that swords not only break—I would not mind if they only 145 did that—but they often cut and injure the holders of them, and the possession of them further tends to make enemies of those around one. I felt a little relief to-night when the hon. Member for the Haggerston Division announced that he did not intend to persevere with his Amendment to the Address, because I think that debates on the Address are not very valuable, while Amendments are generally valueless, and ought only to be moved when, as is the case with the Amendment of which notice has been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, they challenge on a grave matter the policy of the Government, and when it is supported by the Leaders of the Party, acting in obedience to the expressions of opinion reaching them from all parts of the country. I ask the Government to remember this in relation to the application they will make for money. On one point last year I felt bound, with not unnatural reluctance, to give some credit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for I should have preferred the credit to belong to this side of the House—but I gave him credit because I felt that the right hon. Gentleman's policy showed some desire to take practical steps for the reduction of the burdens on the people. I refer, of course, to the saving which he made in the interest payable on the National Debt. But is the Government to spend on the one hand wastefully that which it has saved on the other hand sparsely? Is a shilling to be saved in interest and ten pounds spent on an iron vessel? Is a shilling to be saved in interest, and ten pounds spent on fortifications? Is the nation to be driven into a panic which is disastrous, which demoralizes the people, and makes them feel as though glory is in war, instead of the ordinary industries of life? Unless the nation is peaceable we shall have a revolution—a revolution begotten of hunger. That we may avoid, if we keep on as we have been acting for the last twenty-five years. Even in that period we have increased our naval and military expenditure to much too great an extent; but, if we go on and multiply it, as is now suggested, then the day will come when a pressure will arise under which even stronger Governments than any which we are likely to form in this country will have to give 146 way. The hon. Member who moved the Address used a phrase which I desire to challenge, and on which I am anxious to obtain an explicit declaration from the Government. He said that in their Egyptian policy the Government had been bound by certain engagements entered into with the Egyptian Government by their Predecessors in Office. The protection of the ports of the Red Sea was part of these engagements, and as Suakin was one of the ports, the Government were bound by the engagement made by their Predecessors to keep it. Now I have searched carefully for some proof of this. It is quite possible that I may have missed it, but certainly I have been unable to find any trace of any engagement which can possibly bear that construction. If there be any engagement such as this, I think the House should have been made acquainted with it; and we ought now to learn to what extent we have been and are bound by them. Did the engagement include the protection of Massowah? Are we mixed up with the Italians in this matter? If the Italians are beaten by the Abyssinians, should we have to go to their assistance? According to the Mover of the Address, speaking apparently with the approval of Ministers, and certainly uncontradicted by them, although his words on these very points have been challenged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, we are under engagements as to which the House has no knowledge; and I think, as an independent Member of this House, that I have a right to ask specifically for explanation as to what those engagements are. But then we are told that the port of Suakin was in danger. Why did not the Government do what Sir Henry Drummond Wolff recommended them to do? And instead of embarking in war, why did they not find some Egyptian Mussulman, who alone, they were told, would have any chance of success in negotiating with the Soudanese? What has been the result of your action there? You have killed some hundreds—perhaps some thousands—of Arabs, a brave foe, but no match for your weapons of precision, a foe described in words of eloquence by an hon. and gallant Member no longer in this House, who, speaking with personal knowledge, for he himself had fought 147 against them, described them in tones which I am sure those who heard him will recall now, as "a brave foe, a gallant foe, whom any honourable man would regret to have to kill." But you have killed these men, and now we are told there is no chance that the attacks on Suakin will be resumed. That is what you said when you killed them before. No doubt every time you go there you kill a number of men, and they can no longer fight against you, but others can. Your butcher's bill grows. You have no right to use England's money; you have no right to use England's men; you have no right to stain the English flag in butchering these Soudanese, whose worst crime is that they are in their own country, and are defending it. "We in honour and in loyalty should have been there under no pretence whatever. There is another portion of the Speech which has given me some embarrassment, because my insufficient knowledge of the English language renders it difficult to translate it. It reads thus—The negotiations which I had directed to be opened with the Rulers of Thibet for the purpose of preventing encroachment on my rights over the territory of Sikkim have not as yet been brought to a favourable conclusion; but I hope that further military operations will not be necessary.Now negotiation is an art, but when the negotiators come in the form of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, in the form of bombarding a position, when the quarrel entirely begins with us, and is one of our own seeking, I think we ought to have other explanations from the Under Secretary for India. When did Thibet begin to quarrel with us? Was it until after we were going to send a scientific exploring expedition there—and a pretty strong one too? The Thibetans probably knew what had been the result of similar expeditions in other countries, and not unnaturally feared the same results would follow in their own. I ask whether, in fact, we did not make the quarrel which has arisen from its very beginning? I suppose we are going to kill the Thibetans as we killed the Arabs, but how far are we going? Are we going to be embroiled with China over the matter? We have not only a war with China to think of. The pressure of the Chinese population during the 148 last twenty years or thirty years has been making itself felt both in the direction of Russia in Asia and England in Asia, and that enormous population may be easily brought into contact with us. Have not the rights we are claiming in Thibet already been claimed by China? Are we to have a misunderstanding with that country? Do not forget that a difficulty has already arisen in connection with the extension of our civilization on the frontiers of Burmah in which we nearly attacked a Chinese fort by mistake. It is recorded in the Blue Books. The wrong line was taken. Is there any possibility of an entanglement with regard to Thibet? Sikkim alone is mentioned in the Queen's Speech, but is that the only part of Her Majesty's great Indian Empire worth mentioning? We have in that Empire altogther 270,000,000 of people under our rule, directly and indirectly. I think they were worthy of some slight mention in the gracious Speech, especially remembering the great Congress which had been held at Allahabad since Parliament was prorogued—a Congress attended by nearly 1,500 delegates, representing some 30,000 or 40,000 natives. They met loyally, as they always have done; they were moderate, as they always are; and would it not have been well if the Government, especially after the publication given in this country to only a part of the words of Lord Dufferin, a nobleman whose statesmanlike career all Englishmen are proud of—words which if they had been selected with a view to mischief could not have been more carefully selected for the purpose, would it not have been well, I ask, if the Government had said some kindly word to those people, especially when from the floor of the House challenge was given to the Government by one of their own supporters, founded on that speech of Lord Dufferin's, to treat that Congress as seditious? I did not hear the ready repudiation of that which I should have expected from the chivalry of the Under Secretary for India, who, in one debate, reminded us how he was the champion of the poor natives of India. I think Lord Dufferin said he regarded with approval and good-will the natural ambition manifested at these Congresses to be associated with the English rulers in connection with their 149 domestic affairs. I understand that he regarded them as so laudable that in 1886 he tendered to them his hospitality, and I fancy, although I have not the smallest right to put myself forward in any way as the interpreter of what Lord Dufferin might possibly say if he were here, I think I shall not be doing him an injustice if I say he would as strongly repudiate as I repudiate the notion that these Congresses are other than loyal, fair, sincere, real, and praiseworthy political gatherings, the encouragement of which by the Government must tend to facilitate the reforms which Lord Dufferin has said he regards with approval, and which other statesmen have regarded with approval. I hope that the Under Secretary will be able to tell us to-night that the Government—without waiting till the time when India asks by Motion in this House—is considering how much of the claims which the natives in Congress are making may be conceded without injury to the Empire. It is our duty, if we will govern by force, to make that force as gentle as we can by calling to our aid the millions we have already educated, and who have shown themselves capable of taking part in the government of their country. I do not propose to make many observations upon the paragraph in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech as to Ireland, because it would be unbecoming in me to do so in view of the notice of Amendment given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley). But as I may not be permitted to speak upon that Amendment, I would like to record now my earnest protest against the system of government observed in Ireland. Surely it is new in this country for political foes to be tormented and annoyed, as well as arrested. Her Majesty's Government have placed some of the men who usually sit around me on a pinnacle. You have hunted them down, and even arrested them at public meetings. I happened to be at Northampton when the news of the arrest of Mr. Kilbride at Leicester arrived. Several of the railway porters came to me at the Midland Station, and said, "Can nothing be done to prevent this disgrace to Leicester?" and I said, "Yes; turn out the Government." One man said, "That is all very well, but how are we to do it?" I thereupon 150 remarked "The fact is, as long as people who placard themselves as Radicals and people, who were once dreamed of as Liberals and Whigs, allow themselves to keep a Government in power with whose traditions they have no sympathy, simply because of their hatred of one scheme of the other Party, it is hopeless to expect the redemption of our country from the stain upon it until the statutory period assigned for the happy dispensation." Now the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir J. Fergusson) referred last night to England's complicity—that was not the word the right hon. Baronet used—in East African affairs in connection with Germany. The right hon. Baronet spoke with eloquence on the anti-slavery ideal, for which during the last three-quarters of a century England has laboured and paid so much. But does the right hon. Baronet mean to say that the connection of Germany with East Africa has anything to do with the putting down of slavery? Does he not know that one of the most prominent members of the German East African Company, Count Pfeil, said, in language which, if it had been written by an Englishman in England, I would have been nothing loth to describe as brutal:—"I have made German colonization the vocation of my life, and striven to obtain for my country material advantages. These are not obtainable in East Africa otherwise than by the work of the negro, therefore I hesitate not for a moment to say, 'let us force the negro to do what is advantageous to us.'" England, with its pretence of anti-slavery—for in this case it is a pretence—permits Prince Bismarck to say, in the face of Europe and the whole civilized world, "England is with us. We are in entire sympathy. There is complete accord." It fills one with no little shame when he reads that while persons in high position in Germany are boasting that they have our aid in schemes for forcing the negro to do what is advantageous to the East African Trading Company, the official Press of Germany is putting in circulation impeachments of the honour of a man trusted by England's Queen. I shall try during the Session to find an opportunity of raising this subject in some more formal manner. And now I desire to ask the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Baron H. de Worms) to 151 supply the House with one or two specific pieces of information. I want to know whether, in the country known as Mashonaland, between British Bechuanaland and the Zambesi River, there was some talk of a concession in May of last year, and whether Lord Knutsford then declared that Her Majesty's Government would give no countenance to any concession or agreement, unless it were concluded with the knowledge and approval of Her Majesty's High Commissioner? To that I expect I shall get an affirmative answer; and, having got that answer, I want to know whether, since the Prorogation, the Government had become aware that Lobengula has made a concession of certain rights to a Mr. Rudd, the nominee of Mr. Rhodes, a partner in business transactions, as stated by the papers and vouched by the share list, of the High Commissioner himself, of the De Beers Mining Company, and whether, just prior to the concession being granted, or at the actual state, Sir Sidney Sheppard, the Representative of the Government, was present at Lobengula's Kraal? What report he made to Sir Hercules Robinson, and how it is that Mr. Rhodes, who was represented at the shareholders' meeting as the proxy of Sir Hercules Robinson, could have been permitted by the Government to be the real recipient of the concession under the name of Mr. Rudd? I acquit Sir Hercules Robinson of anything more than this: I allege that no Representative of Her Majesty in the position of High Commissioner, being a shareholder in a company, should permit a concession to be granted to the nominee of a gentleman who appears in the list of the company as his proxy. The concession has been granted, and I deny that Her Majesty ought to permit or encourage concessions or monopolies of any of the rights in any of Her Majesty's dominions. I pray the indulgence of the House, but this seems to be a matter which ought not to pass without some word.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, South)
I regret very much that some right hon. Gentleman on the Government Bench has not risen to reply to the very able address of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) before I proceed to ask the House to 152 direct its thoughts to another matter mentioned in Her Majesty's gracious Speech. The particular part of the Speech to which I wish to refer deals with the manufactures and industries of Ireland. It points out that the early attention of the House will be asked to measures for developing the material resources of Ireland. I remember that not very long ago, when the Conservative Government came into power, their promises were very numerous indeed as to their intention to devote some of the revenues of the three Kingdoms to the development of the industrial resources of Ireland. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) used some very remarkable words, and many Members of the Conservative Party expressed to me their great delight that it had fallen to the lot of the Conservative Party to make amends for the past, because England owed Ireland a good deal in that respect. If we carry our minds back to historical periods, we find that Irish industries were ruthlessly crushed out of existence by direct legislation under William III. But, great as the destruction was by that legislation, the destruction has been greater still by the indirect results of the Act of Union. Before I proceed to show the results in this respect of the Act of Union, let me draw attention to the state of Irish trade during the existence of the Irish Parliament. The Irish people have often been accused of slothfulness, of not being suited or adapted to successful enterprize in the direction of manufactures, but I pray the House to pardon me while I read a few paragraphs from a book entitled "Two Centuries of Irish History," which, I think, will set that matter at rest. At page 104 it is written—The truth is, as British official records show, that the Irish trade and manufactures, so far from being in a perishing condition at this period, had sprung up with marvellous vitality and nourished exceedingly. Thus the British manufacturers gave evidence that their trade in soap and candles to North America and the West Indies had 'much decreased of late.' 'To what causes do you attribute this decrease?' asked the Lords of the Committee of Council. 'We impute it,' was the reply, 'to the possession the Irish have now got of that trade; we export but very few candles now to the West Indies.'Some idea of the progress made in Irish manufactures may be formed on 153 learning that from 1780 to 1783, both inclusive, the general export of new drapery, or fine sorts of woollen goods, rose from 8,600 yards to 53,800 yards in round numbers; and of new drapery, or coarser kinds, from 420 yards to 40,500 yards. Only 1,000 yards of fustians were shipped to America in the first year, whilst 47,000 yards were exported in the last. Other Irish manufactures were pressing forward in a similar manner, and some of these products were appearing in foreign markets. What I particularly desire to point out is that this great increase, as it was a great increase at that time, occurred under very great difficulties and restrictions; because we have it stated in the book from which I have quoted that whilst British ports were shut against manufacturing Ireland, Irish ports were open to British goods. Notwithstanding this, Irish trade went up by leaps and bounds. I also find that the Irish fisheries were very prosperous in those times. It will be remembered by many hon. Members that in the time of Lord Beaconsfield there was a discussion upon the subject of fisheries. I remember well that the leader of the Irish people at that time, Mr. Isaac Butt, proceeded to Glasgow to defend the Irish people from the accusations made against them by Lord Beaconsfield, that they were too lazy to develop their fisheries. I think it will be seen from the quotation with which I will now trouble the House that when the Irish people were masters of their own destiny, when they were encouraged in their industry, they compared favourably with others, and even excelled those with whom they were compared. It is said at page 107 of "Two Centuries of Irish History"—Men were brought from Ireland to teach the natives of Uist the manufacture of kelp from seaweed. Others were brought to the Shetlands because of their dexterity in fishing, and because they could go out two months earlier and proceed much further to sea than could the natives in their small boats. The inhabitants of Barra learned fish curing from the Irish fishermen, who had a Highland fishery.They went even further a-sea, and established their "great fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, which," in 1875, "increases daily." This was due, be it noted, to the energy and enterprize of the old natives of Ireland, 154 who, homeless in their Fatherland, poured out by the two and three thousand annually, and remained abroad as residents, in spite of all discouragements. The British who went usually returned. Newfoundland was practically founded by Irish Catholics. The Irish fishers were honest dealers, as well as skilled curers. Though the Irish herring barrel contained only 28 gallons and the Scotch 32, the former sold "at an equal or superior price." So high stood the Irish name that their herrings sold "14½ per cent. dearer than the Scotch." They were never charged with the "fraud, perjury, and all the tricks which ingenuity could invent to rob the public"—such as partly filling barrels with stones and rubbish—which had almost entirely destroyed the sale of British herrings in European markets. That is the testimony as to Irish industry and the success of Irish manufactures taken from British official sources, and under the disadvantages I have named, when there was a higher tariff in England and a lower tariff in Ireland, when there were practically open ports in Ireland and closed ports in England; and yet, notwithstanding all these drawbacks, Irish industries prospered under their Home Parliament. There were in 1800 ninety master woollen manufacturers, supplying 4,918 hands in Dublin; but in 1840—forty years after the Union—the interest was dead. Similar was the fate of the wool combers. In 1841 no less than thirteen carpet manufacturers, which existed at the time of the Union, were blotted out of existence. In 1800 there were 2,500 silk loom weavers, and in 1840 not one remained. In Kilkenny there were fifty-six blanket manufacturers, employing 3,000 hands, but in 1822 there was not one of those factories left. At Balbriggan there were 2,500 calico weavers, and in 1844 only 228. In Wicklow, in 1841, there were none of the 1,000 handloom weavers that found employment there in 1820. In Cork there were in 1800 1,000 weavers of braid and 2,000 worsted weavers, 3,000 hosiers, 700 wool combers, and 2,000 cotton weavers, and in 1841 not a single individual was employed in these industries there. These figures, though they may be tedious to the House, prove my contention that the Act of Union, in an indirect way, had a more detrimental effect on the trade and 155 industry of Ireland than the direct legislation of William III. The fostering hand of the Irish Parliament was taken from these industries, they lost the advantage of Protection laws, while at the same time laws of Protection prevailed in England—or, if there were not laws of Protection, there were at least bounties given for the exportation of English manufactures; and these manufactures found their way freely into Irish ports thereby under-selling Irish products. There is not a river, stream, or brook in Ireland on which there cannot be pointed out the crumbling walls of a decayed factory, alike a manifestation of the past industry of the people, and the cupidity, intolerance, and incapacity of the unkindly rulers of the country. We were promised by the Tory Government a fine thing, but these promises have not been fulfilled, nor is it stated in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech or hinted at by any of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite what the nature of these efforts will be. Will they be confined merely to again bringing forward those schemes for the drainage of the Bann, Barrow, and Shannon? This no doubt would benefit agriculture in the neighbourhood of these rivers, benefit an industry that at the present time is well known not to pay, but what will be done to revive the lost industries of Ireland sacrificed to the cupidity of the English people? Many Members opposite have told me privately they thought England could not tax herself too much in order to recoup Ireland for the great losses suffered in the past, and certainly there is fine material for the Government to use in that direction. The Irish people are an artistic people. If they had not been confined almost entirely to agricultural operations they would have excelled in manufactures that demand the exercise of artistic instinct. It is a well-known fact that in all the operations that demand the exercise of artistic ability, and where Irishmen have the opportunity of competing, they carry off the prizes. There is no large drapery establishment in the three kingdoms, where an eye for colour and harmony is required, where Irishmen and Irishwomen are not appreciated. We know the women who make Limerick lace display an innate artistic sense that cannot be excelled. I was told in Cork the other day by a gentleman who is acknowledged to have 156 been most successful in the commercial world, a gentleman who is known to many opposite who just now smiled at my remarks, Sir John Arnott, who, besides being proprietor of the Irish Times, has been engaged in the drapery business, that for the conduct of his large departments he was at first obliged to engage Englishmen and Scotchmen, but now, not only had he only Irishmen in his Irish establishments, but when he wanted men with an artistic eye and mind for an establishment elsewhere out of Ireland he found such among the Celtic race in the South of Ireland. You have all the material in Ireland for building up successful industries if you wish to set about it in the proper manner—if you wish to return to the Irish people what you stole from them in the past. I am curious to know what the proposals of the Government will be. I can assure them that if they tax this country and make proposals for reviving Irish industries they will receive considerable support on their own side of the House and in the country from conscientious people who have read Irish history, grieve for the injuries inflicted upon Ireland in the past, and are willing now that reparation should be made. I do not know that I have anything further to say on the subject. I merely advert to it because I do not think it will form part of that more important debate which will take place next week. I look forward with curiosity and anxiety to learn the proposals of the Government, and to see whether they are honest in their professions and will redeem their promises in a manner to redound to their credit and the advantage of Ireland.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST,) Chatham
I am sure the hon. Member for Northampton will believe that it was from no want of courtesy that I did not reply to him at once. He raised some very important issues, some of them connected with the Department for which I am here responsible, and I was anxious to see whether anyone else on the opposite side desired to follow the hon. Member and urge on the Government the considerations he has advanced. Of course the power of the Government is limited; they can only speak once, and we might have been hereafter taunted with having too readily 157 rushed upon the attention of the House, not giving other Members an opportunity before the Minister rose to reply Now I never like putting myself in opposition to the junior Member for Northampton, because I find the principles which he enunciates in his speeches are so sound and generous that I can only attribute the unfortunate application of them he sometimes makes, to his judgment being warped by his occupation of a position in that quarter of the House, and I fancy that if I should be so fortunate as to live to see the day when the hon. Member for Northampton is himself a Minister of the Crown I shall find that he will come round to the opinion that Governments, both Liberal and Conservative, sometimes try to do right, and that all their actions and intentions are not so terribly immoral as Gentlemen sitting in that quarter of the House affect to believe. I can speak with some personal knowledge, for, like other hon. Gentlemen, I have sat in that portion of the House, and I can assure the hon. Member that the opinions which an outsider is apt to form of the intentions and designs of a Government are not so just as at the time they sometimes seem to be. The hon. Member complains, first of all, that he has not had satisfactory assurance of the extreme solicitude of the Government to maintain peace abroad. Now, I really do not know what assurance the hon. Member can require, because no longer ago than the beginning of last Session his hon. Colleague, who is extremely vigilant in watching the Government, on the 10th of February demanded an assurance of this kind. He was then told by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that no engagement pledging the material action of this country had been entered into by Her Majesty's Government which was not then known to the House. My hon. Friend, being further catechized as to what he meant by material action, replied that an engagement of material action implied military responsibility. Well, the hon. Member was not quite satisfied; he returned to the charge on February 14, and then quoted some statement which appeared in a Vienna newspaper, and asked whether the statement that Her Majesty's Government had entered into any undertaking to render 158 material assistance to a European Power under certain contingencies was or was not correct? My hon. Friend referred to his former statement, and said he had already stated "we are under no engagement pledging the country to military, and of course in this he included 'naval,' action, except such as was already known to the House," and in a debate which subsequently took place my hon. Friend, speaking with that caution and sense of responsibility which distinguishes him, and with that accuracy of information which attaches to the Representative of the Foreign Office, entered at greater length into the subject, and in the strongest and most distinct language declared Her Majesty's Government were not parties to any engagement or any kind of entanglement which might oblige this country to enter into any kind of aggressive operations, military or naval. Well, of course, it is the business of hon. Members not to be satisfied with any assurances the Government may give, and the only objection I can see to the frequent reiteration of these pledges is that a Government always protesting may possibly seem to protest too much. If the Government were to accommodate hon. Members with a declaration whenever it was called for, it might be assumed that there was some ulterior purpose, some hidden design. I do not know whether hon. Members will accept an assurance from me, speaking in the hearing of Members of the Cabinet, and representing the India Office, which is the Department of Government most liable to engage in war; but I can assure hon. Gentlemen there is no object which Her Majesty's Government more sedulously strive for than the maintenance of peace in every part of the Empire; that there is nothing which the Government regard with so much horror as the calamity of being compelled, under any circumstances, to have recourse to the violence of war. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member scarcely bears sufficiently in mind the difference between aggressive and defensive warlike preparations; that is one of the political lessons which experience of Office would very likely teach him. The Government of the United Kingdom—I do not care whether Liberal or Conservative—must be a Government of peace. But it must also be 159 a Government of defence; and all the military and naval proposals ever made to this House by any Government are never made in the interests of aggression, but of defence. The hon. Member for Northampton, in that general and airy way in which he sometimes expresses his political opinions, says that military and naval expenditure has, during the past twenty-five years, been far too largely increased. But I think it would be better if hon. Members would give some specific instances of such expenditure during the past twenty-five years which is now disapproved of. If it could be pointed out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the provision made for military resources, for the Navy, or for materials to meet the possible contingency of war, is too large, I am sure such observations will receive the attention of my right hon. Friend; and if it could be shown there is good ground for the opinion, I am sure he and Her Majesty's Government would have good reason to rejoice. But I venture to differ with hon. Members, and I believe the general opinion is that, so far from there having been excessive naval and military expenditure, this expenditure has, during the last twenty-five years, been reduced to an imprudent and a dangerous point, and it is the general public opinion that the time has come when, in the interest, not of aggression, but of the defence of the Empire and its commerce, it is necessary to review our naval and military expenditure, with a view to increasing it. And now, in regard to the special topics alluded to, I would remind the House that most of them have relation to the Department of Foreign Affairs, and would have been dealt with by my hon. Friend, if he were able again to address the House. I hope, however, the hon. Member will accept me as a substitute, though I cannot speak with an equal sense of responsibility, or display the same familiarity with details. The first topic on which the hon. Member for Northampton favoured the House was a sort of after-clap of the debate on the Suakin Expedition. The hon. Member is very courageous in reminding the House of that debate—an older Parliamentary hand would have been less ready to recall the prophecies and predictions with which we were then favoured, and which were so signally falsified by the result of 160 events. I do not understand that Her Majesty's Government committed them selves to the admission that this country is under engagement with the Egyptian Government to protect either Suakin or any of the Red Sea ports, but it is undoubtedly the fact that this country has pursued the policy of defending the Red Sea ports of the Egyptian Government, not only during the tenure of Office of Her Majesty's present Advisers, but during a considerable course of time and in pursuance of that continuity of foreign policy which on most subjects prevails.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I quoted exactly the words reported in the Times to the effect that in their Egyptian policy the Government were bound by certain engagements entered into with the Egyptian Government by their Predecessors in Office, and to those engagements they loyally adhered. The protection of the Red Sea ports was part of these engagements, and Suakin was one of those ports.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I do not know and of course cannot answer as to the accuracy of the report, but clearly what is meant is that happily on most subjects the foreign policy of the country is continuous. The policy instituted by our Predecessors in Office is in its main incidents faithfully followed out by the Government of the day. What is meant is this—that previous Governments had entered into a certain course of policy in reference to the Red Sea ports, had made engagements—not in the sense of Treaties by which a Government is legally bound, but had commenced a course of policy which the present Government felt bound to carry out. I would remind hon. Members of one or two passages in which that policy is set out in despatches from Lord Granville. In a despatch of December 13th, 1883, and to be found in the Egyptian papers presented in the following year, Lord Granville advised the Government of the Khedive to come to an early decision to abandon all territory south of Assouan or Wady Halfa—Her Majesty's Government would then be prepared to assist in maintaining order in Egypt proper, and in defending it as well as the ports on the Red Sea.Then again on January 2nd, 1884, in a despatch to be found in the same Blue Book, Lord Granville used these words— 161Her Majesty's Government will on their part be prepared to assist in maintaining order in Egypt proper and continue to protect the ports on the Red Sea.I refer to these passages to show that the policy which was instituted at that time was one of defending Egypt proper against attack, and in Egypt proper they included ports in the Red Sea, Suakin among the number. This the present Government did when Suakin was threatened, not by the tribes inhabiting that district, but by dervishes coming from a long distance off who had invaded that territory. Her Majesty's Government did that which their Predecessors had on certain conditions engaged to do; they assisted the Khedive. Unfortunately the defence of Suakin was not effected without a certain amount of loss of life, which everybody must regret. So far as may be judged from the present state of affairs at Suakin, Her Majesty's Government have succeeded in preventing the danger which once appeared to threaten Egypt. I will not pursue that matter further, but I must express my astonishment at the observations which the hon. Member for Northampton has made with reference to Sikkim. The hon. Gentleman has asked me to inform him when the people of Thibet began quarrelling with us. The hon. Member is able to answer that question just as well as I am. They began quarrelling with us when they invaded the territory of Sikkim with an armed force, when they built a fort on British territory and occupied that fort for a considerable time. It is really monstrous to say that the Indian Government has manifested an aggressive disposition in the operations which have been recently carried out. All that the Indian Government has done in Sikkim is this. After enduring for an almost unreasonable length of time the presence of this hostile and invading force in their territory, after giving to the Chinese Government ample time as the Suzerain Power to compel its vassal to remove this gross outrage and insult to a friendly Power, the Government of India at last, when every effort had failed, expelled from their own territory the wrongfully invading force, and abstained from anything like a counter-invasion. I do not suppose that the history of the world has exhibited a greater example of forbearance 162 than the stoppage of the victorious Indian Army on the frontier of Thibet and the absence of any kind of revenge or retaliation for the gross outrage received by the Indian Government. The hon. Member asks what are the negotiations? The negotiations now in progress are going on under the auspices of the Government of China, which has in the most loyal manner done its utmost to prevent the incursions of its vassal on Indian territory. These negotiations have for their object the maintenance of peace on the Sikkim frontier, without the necessity for the large body of troops which, in the present condition of affairs, has to be kept there. The hon. Member has asked whether we are likely to be embroiled with China. No, Sir; there is no likelihood of that. On the contrary, the affair of Sikkim has cemented the friendship between this country and China. In a time of trial the Government of China behaved in a most loyal manner to the Government of the Queen. The loss of life which has occurred at Sikkim is not in any way attributable to any want of co-operation on the part of the Chinese Government. It is simply the case of rebellious vassals acting in opposition to the advice and commands of the Suzerain Power, and persisting, in its fanatical zeal, in throwing itself against the British rule, receiving thereby a lesson which I hope there will be no necessity to repeat. A most extraordinary charge has been brought by the hon. Member against the Speech from the Throne, because it contains no mention of India. It contains no mention of India because, I am happy to say, there is nothing connected with our Empire in India which at the present time demands the attention of this House of Parliament. The prosperity of India is so great, the welfare of the people is advancing so rapidly, and everything in India at the present time is so prosperous, that if this House would look nearer home, and would endeavour to make some other provinces of this Empire as quiet and as orderly as India, perhaps the time of Parliament would be better occupied. The hon. Member for Northampton appears to think that some declaration or statement should be made in this House 163 about the Congress which has been held. The newspaper reports of the speech delivered by Lord Dufferin are not altogether complete or accurate. I have constantly warned Members of this House against trusting too implicitly to the newspaper reports. It is one of the misfortunes of hon. Members like the Member for Northampton that they read something in a newspaper, that they at once believe it, and rush down to the House to ask if something very shocking has not been done. I hope that the experience of Lord Dufferin's speech will convince the hon. Member that Indian newspaper reports of speeches are not entirely reliable. I have not seen the speech, but I am not surprised that Lord Dufferin should, in eloquent language, exhort the Government of India to show some sympathy with the desire of the natives of India to share in the government of that country. I have never been instructed by my noble Friend the Secretary of State to say a word against the aspiration of any native in India to take part in the government of that country. Moreover, I venture to say that no responsible official of the Government of India has said anything which could discourage any loyal and proper aspiration on the part of any individuals in India to take part in the government of India. What has been found fault with, both by Lord Dufferin and other high officials in India, notably Sir Auckland Colvin, is not the Congress, but the action of some of the people by whom the Congress is supported, the language of some of the newspapers which profess to write in the interests of the Congress, and the character of some of the pamphlets published in India under the sanction of some of those who took part in the Congress. That is all that has ever been denounced by any official of the Crown. The fact that some of the natives of India are anxious to take part in the government of the country, and appreciate the importance of being associated with Europeans in the management of the affairs of India, has always been sympathized with and welcomed by the Government. Let me quote a single extract from the speech to which the hon. Member for Northampton referred. Lord Dufferin, speaking at Calcutta on the 30th of November last, said— 164In the earlier stages of England's connection with India, and even after the force of circumstances had transmuted the East India Company of Merchants into an Imperial Executive, the ignorance and the disorganization of the Peninsula, consequent upon the anarchy which followed the collapse of the Mahomedan régime, necessitated the maintenance of a strong uncompromising despotism, with the view of bringing order out of chaos, and a systematized administration out of the confusion and lawlessness which were then universally prevalent. But such principles of government, however necessary, have never been congenial to the instincts or habits of the English people. As soon as the circumstances of the case permitted, successive statesmen, both at home and in India itself, employed themselves from time to time in softening the severity of the system under which our dominion was originally established, and strenuous efforts were repeatedly made, not only to extend to Her Majesty's subjects in India the same civil rights and privileges which are enjoyed by Her Majesty's subjects at home, but to admit them, as far as possible, to a share in the management of their own affairs. The proof of this is plainly written in our recent history. It is seen in our legal codes, which secure to all Her Majesty's subjects, without distinction of race or creed or class, equality before the law. It is found in the establishment of local Legislative Councils a quarter of a century ago, wherein a certain number of leading natives were associated with the Government in enacting measures suitable to local wants. It lies at the basis of the great principle of decentralized finance which has prepared the way for the establishment of increased local responsibility. It received a most important development in the municipal legislation of Lord Northbrook's Administration. It took a still fuller and more perfect expression during the administration of my distinguished predecessor in the Municipal and Local Board Acts; and it has acquired a further illustration in the recommendations of the Public Service Commission recently sent home by the Government of India in accordance with which more than a hundred offices hitherto reserved to the Covenanted Service would be thrown open to the Provincial Service, and thus placed within the reach of our native fellow-subjects in India.Those few words of Lord Dufferin's express summarily what I could show in detail. My view is that there is no greater, no falser charge ever brought against the present administration of the Government of India than that of either attempting or desiring to or actually excluding natives from the administration of Indian affairs. If the hon. Member were aware of the number of municipal bodies, the number of local boards that now exist throughout the Empire of India, he would be astonished that he has addressed to the House the observations which he has made.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I do not quite understand the hon. Gentleman as to whether the last words he read meant that the Government were contemplating any extension in the direction indicated.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I intended to convey the impression that the policy of the Government of India for the last 30 years has been, and still is, on every possible occasion to extend to the natives of India not only a share in the administration of the Government, but the right of managing their own affairs so far as it is possible for them to do so. The hon. Member next spoke of Zanzibar. I was surprised that the hon. Member should attribute to the German Government and to the German people opinions so entirely opposed to their professions and their practice. In a despatch from Lord Granville to our Ambassador at Berlin, dated May 25, 1885, which is to be found in the correspondence relating to Zanzibar, Lord Granville showed that the Government of that day viewed with favour the colonizing schemes of Germany, the realization of which would retain for civilization large tracts of territory over which no influence had been exercised, and also the co-operation of Germany with Great Britain in the work of the suppression of the slave gangs. On the 3rd of November, 1888, the German Ambassador intimated to the Prime Minister that Germany proposed to Her Majesty's Government a blockade, with the consent of the Sultan of Zanzibar, of the coast of East Africa, in order to suppress the exportation of slaves and the importation of arms and munitions of war. Again, in the Reichstag, Prince Bismarck made a speech, in which he stated that, while he did not look as a whole on the blockade as being very essential, he had seen in its establishment a proof with regard to the African coasts that Germany and England were united; and it was considered to be very important that the natives of the coast should have an impression that a complete understanding existed between the two Powers and Zanzibar. The German Government invited Her Majesty's Government to join in this blockade for the purpose of preventing the continuance of the slave trade. If the Government had refused to join 166 they would have been departing from their usual policy, because the repression of slavery is the foremost article of their political programme on the coast of East Africa, and we stated to the German Government, through Lord Granville, that we look to her for co-operation in accomplishing this end. It is difficult for me to answer all the prepared attacks of the hon. Member upon a department with which I am not officially connected. I regret that the hon. Member's speech was not made before the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs addressed the House. As the number of Members constituting Her Majesty's Government is limited, and as no Member is allowed to speak more than once, if any hon. Member desires to ventilate a grievance of a similar character to that just made he must not find fault because he cannot receive that careful reply which perhaps the merits of the case may demand.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Although I rise with the view of asking the attention of the House to a different portion of Her Majesty's Speech, I cannot proceed without saying that I really think the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) has scarcely sufficiently appreciated the seriousness and earnestness of the protest made by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). The Under Secretary says Her Majesty's Government have omitted nothing which they could possibly have done or said to show their abhorrence of war and their desire for peace. Well, I do think that in the second paragraph of the Speech they might well have expressed some regret for the lives that have been lost in the "operations"—as they are called—which have been carried out. But we never find anything of this kind. Whenever blood is shed, unless it happens to be a great and calamitous outpouring of the blood of our own countrymen, there is no expression of sorrow, but, rather, triumph is proclaimed. Now, I think that if a different tone were adopted with regard to the horrible occurrences of war Her Majesty's Government would show somewhat better than they have done their detestation of war and their desire for peace. The Under Secretary says there is all the difference in the world between 167 aggression and defence, and he tells us that the wars of this country—at any rate under the present Government—are never in the interests of aggression, but always for defensive purposes. Well, when in the whole history of the world did anyone hear a Government say anything else? Did any Government ever confess to making an aggressive war? If you turn a man out of his house and bolt the door after him you call it "defensive operations" when you resist his attempt to get in at the window. And this is the way politicians, generally, argue about aggressive and defensive wars. Then the hon. Gentleman the Undersecretary scarcely appreciated, I think, what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton said as to the German colonial operations. It seems to me that much more weight should be attached to the German operations than the hon. Gentleman seems inclined to give to them. Her Majesty's Government show a wholly insufficient appreciation of public opinion in this country on this matter. Look at the third paragraph in the Queen's Speech:—I have 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.As far as we can understand it, this country has been much more intimately associated with Germany in these negotiations than it has been with the United States, and yet, surely, we are more akin to the United States than to Germany. We have more traditions in common with them, and I cannot but believe that public opinion in this country desires to see rather a fraternal, close, and intimate alliance with the United States, than an intrigue and conspiracy with a despotic power of Europe. But the Government can play on public opinion when it pleases them. In one of the paragraphs of the Queen's Speech there is allusion to the Convention that has been entered into for the suppression of bounties on the export of sugar. Now I do not for a moment deny that the Government have in the country a certain amount of public opinion to back them up; but that opinion is generated by sectional interests, and it is an opinion that takes altogether a mistaken view even of those 168 sectional interests. There has, undoubtedly, been a considerable outcry about the injuries done to our native labour by the bounties given to foreign sugar; but when we come to the actual facts we do not find that outcry to be fairly and logically justified. I will refer to a Return that the House was good enough to order on my Motion last Session—No. 353, containing a previous Return as to the importation of sugar, and the various sources from which it is brought, and the amount of labour employed in refining. This Return, in table 19, page 26, shows that, in estimating the amount of labour employed in refining at 30 hands per 100 tons of sugar, and making no allowance for labour-saving machinery, in 1880 there were 4,450 persons employed in sugar refining in this country. In 1884, although sugar bounties had been in full operation, the number so employed was 5,200—a very respectable increase, and this notwithstanding that machinery is certainly decreasing the number of hands that are necessary to do the same amount of work. In 1888 the number had fallen to 4,260; but those who examine the Return will see that there are a great many reasons which may possibly account for that decrease besides the influence of foreign bounties. A considerable number of changes have been made in the modus operandi of refining; different classes of sugar are required now from what were used formerly; different methods are adopted, and there is a constant increase of labour-saving machinery. Consequently it may be that this diminution of hands is owing to a passing crisis affecting the trade; but even if that is not so, I ask does a diminution of 940 hands employed in the sugar refining business justify our disturbing the commerce of the whole country? Does that small decrease in the number of people previously employed in one particular industry—not a very great one—justify our doing anything that would threaten to deprive 36,000,000 or 37,000,000 of our population of cheap sugar? I never heard of a proposal of so vast a nature being made upon a narrower basis than this. But there is something more to be said. The Return also shows that there has been a constant increase in the number of hands employed in industries which depend 169 considerably on the cheapness of sugar. The hands so employed in London and the neighbourhood are 6,000, and in the whole kingdom there are at least 12,000 men, women, and children employed in the confectionery and other sugar industries, as against 4,000 or 5,000 employed in sugar-refining. There are other facts which go far to show that our sugar-refining business cannot be suffering to the extent that has sometimes been alleged. The same Return shows that in the production of raw sugar the British cane plant supplied, in 1872, 11 per cent. of the total production of the world, and in 1888, after all the injury alleged to have been done by sugar bounties, British cane supplied precisely the same percentage. The absolute quantity was, in 1872, 325,188 tons, and in 1888, 542,290 tons—not so large an increase as has taken place in other trades, but still an increase that should not be despised. Of course, beet-sugar has increased enormously; but the Return shows that the increase of beet has been mainly at the expense of foreign cane, which has diminished by about 5 per cent. This further point is to be noted—that between 1872 and 1887 the imports of raw sugar increased more rapidly than the imports of refined sugar. Thus, in 1872, the imports of raw beet sugar into the United Kingdom amounted to 1,959,630 cwt., and of refined beet sugar to 1,719,000 cwt. But, in 1887, the raw imports had risen to 9,223,856 cwt., or had been almost quintupled, while the refined imports had not been quadrupled, the figure at the later date being 6,220,453 cwt. Now this preponderance in the increase of raw imports cannot be accounted for by the needs of brewers. It shows a growth in the demands of our home refiners. I cannot see that the sugar-refining industry of this country is falling off, at any rate to such a degree as would justify our entering into a Convention with Foreign Powers, which may have the effect of requiring us to exclude the cheap sugar that is a great benefit to our poor population. I ask what justification Her Majesty's Government have for asking for so great a change of the law as they seem likely to propose in this matter? What is this boasted Convention? Her Majesty's Government gathered together Representatives of a certain number of foreign nations, and 170 there was great difficulty in getting them to agree. Concessions were made, and, after all, France made her consent to the Convention conditional on all the great sugar-producing countries in the world, including, I suppose, the United States and Brazil, coming under it. Well, of the United States the Government evidently has no hope whatever. The United States simply decline to enter into the Convention on any terms. Brazil is willing to do so if all other sugar countries are willing, and I do not therefore see that there is any very clear prospect of that country entering into the Convention either. Let us note this in addition, that France makes her consent dependent on America and Brazil being included, and that Austria makes her consent dependent on the inclusion of all the cheap sugar-producing countries in Europe in the arrangement. How can we have a satisfactory Convention when such a state of disagreement exists among the nations who profess to enter into it? But even if there had been greater agreement, I hold that a more retrograde or more mischievous step has not been proposed for years than that of depriving the mass of our people of the cheap sugar they now enjoy for the benefit of a very small fraction of the population. It may be said that the Convention could work without raising the price of sugar in this country; but that assertion is hardly consistent with the complaint that our sugar refiners cannot compete with bounty-fed sugar on account of the cheapness of the latter. It is against the essential and fundamental principle of Free Trade to deprive our poor people of the right to go into any market in which they can honestly buy at the lowest possible price. Suppose the good people of France or Germany were to offer to make a present of some 50,000 bags of sugar to the poor people of our country, I wonder would the hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary for the Colonies prohibit the importation of such a handsome present? I do not believe it for a moment; but that is precisely the effect that will be produced by this Convention if it works prohibitively. Let it be granted that our people do receive sugar more cheaply than they ought to do—all that it means is that they get more sugar for the same 171 price than they would otherwise get—that is to say, they, get something besides what they would receive if sugar were at a higher price. It may be said that this works unfairly upon the labour of foreign countries. I fear it may. The system of bounties is thoroughly unsound and strongly to be condemned; but the people of France and Germany at any rate do this thing with their eyes open. They think it is a benefit to them. We know that it is not a benefit to them, but a benefit to us. But still, if they, with their eyes open, willingly of their generosity offer to our poor people this good, I want to know what sound political doctrine requires us to refuse it? No, Sir; the true policy of this country is to show its unshaken faith in Free Trade; and once we begin to limit its operation here, and to take precautions there, we shall soon be landed in naked Protection. When other nations see our Government going about cap in hand requesting them to enter into a Convention of this character they will say that England has lost her faith in Free Trade, and that, too, at a time when the soundness of its doctrine is triumphantly manifested by the superiority of our commercial position to that of all other countries in the world. In conclusion, I take this opportunity of giving fair warning that whatever legislation is necessary for carrying out this Convention will certainly be opposed tooth and nail.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh N.)
I was not able to put the Question I had on the paper to-day with reference to the action of the Australian Colonies in regard to the difficulty in Samoa. The Question I had on the paper was with reference to the representations made by the Federal Council of Australia to the Imperial Government in regard to the Samoan Question. I should like to ask the Under Secretary if he can explain to us the position of Her Majesty's Government with reference to the Australian Colonies on this question? The Australian Colonies are affected by the question more nearly than the people of the United States, of Germany, or of this country, and they have a strong feeling that they ought to be directly consulted in reference to it. At the Conference which is to take place at Berlin, the Representative of this country should be charged with special in- 172 structions upon behalf of the Australian people. We know very well that the Islands of Samoa are regarded by the Australian people with a certain amount of jealousy, and the action which I feel very much inclined, and which a great many people are very much inclined, to call the piratical action of the Germans in Samoa, has created a very nasty feeling amongst the people of the Colonies. I think it would have been as well if, in the Speech from the Throne, some statement had been made in reference to the representation which has come from Australia on this question. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India has referred to the friendly terms upon which this country is with the Chinese Government. But this is a question also on which the Under Secretary for India can inform me. Last Session I had occasion to put several questions to him as to the negotiations between the Government of this country and the Government of China on the question of Chinese emigration to the Australian Colonies. That is a question upon which the Australian people feel very keenly. I think it would be much more satisfactory if, in Speeches from the Throne, the Government made it their business to put in a paragraph with reference to the interests of the Australian people. You expect the Australian people to be thoroughly loyal to this country, and to submit all their foreign relations to the Government of this country, and yet there are several pressing questions—there is the question of Chinese emigration to Australia, upon which the greatest interest is felt throughout all the Colonies, as I have reason to know—of which mention of some kind might have been made in the Speech from the Throne, together with a deal more about the interests of those people in the Colonies. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies in the first place whether it would not be possible at this Conference, so nearly affecting the interests of the Australians, for an Australian Representative to be present with the representatives of the United States and Germany; and, if not, whether the Government will take into consideration the representations made by the Australian people on this question, so that the British Ambassador 173 when he goes to Berlin may be in the position of speaking in a thoroughly representative way? I also wish to know whether there is any information upon the question of Chinese emigration to Australia? I think the right hon. Gentleman may be in a position to answer me upon this point, and it would obviate my having to put a Question on the paper next week.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Toxteth, East)
The hon. Member for Northampton, whose absence from the House I regret, has alluded to some concession which was given some short time ago, and which he alleged ought not to have been granted, assuming that Her Majesty's Government had the power to prevent the granting of concessions. The territory in which the concession has been granted was simply within the sphere of Great Britain's influence, and, although Her Majesty's Government had power to advise, they had none to prevent the grant of the concession. He proceeded to educe from the fact that because Sir S. Shippard visited Mashonaland he was responsible for the grant made there. As a matter of fact, Sir S. Shippard was simply concerned to investigate the Grobelaar incident, and to prevent a collision between two chiefs, Khama and Lobengula, and his visit had nothing to do with the concession. The hon. Member for Northampton has made a grave charge against Sir Hercules Robinson. He has suggested that the concession had been improperly granted through influence exerted by Sir Hercules Robinson. I must say the history he gave of the case was somewhat peculiar. The hon. Member stated that Sir Hercules Robinson was a shareholder in a certain Company; that the agent of that Company had acted as the proxy of Sir Hercules Robinson at a meeting; that a person acting on behalf of that agent had obtained the concession in question; and that, therefore, it was by the influence of Sir Hercules Robinson that the concession had been improperly obtained. Well, Sir, I need not point out that in everyday life men who are shareholders in Companies are often called upon by circular to give proxies to someone else, but I have never yet heard that they were responsible for the 174 subsequent action of their proxies, especially in the degree maintained by the hon. Member. It is only fair to Sir Hercules Robinson to read an extract from a letter written by him on the 15th of January last, to the following effect:—As to gold mines, gold shares, and gold syndicates and concessions, over which the people in London as well as here seem to have simply gone mad, I have never touched one of them, and am, neither directly nor indirectly, interested in anything of the kind. In the furious scramble for concessions which has taken place the wildest falsehoods are invented.There is, then, no foundation for the statement that any influence has been brought to bear for the granting of this concession by Her Majesty's Government. The country in question is not under a British protectorate, but simply in the sphere of British influence. All the Government can do is to advise the chiefs not to foolishly grant concessions. We cannot prevent their so doing, but it is our endeavour to protect them and the investing public as far as possible. With reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Fermanagh, the Government has not received the resolution in question relating to Samoa, though we know by telegram that it is on the road. It would be absolutely unnecessary for Australia to be specially represented at the Conference on Samoan affairs, because the representation of Great Britain would insure the representation of all Imperial interests. With regard to the Chinese Question, I have nothing further to add to what I said in answer to the hon. Member last Session. We have had no further representations from the Colonies on the subject. Of course, should there be any representations they will certainly not be carefully considered by the Government.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that he informed us that, inconsequence of the representations from the Colonies last Session on the Chinese Question, Her Majesty's Government had entered into negotiations with the Chinese Government, and it is with reference to those negotiations that I proposed to ask a question.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
The result of those negotiations is not yet known, and that is a matter which does 175 not concern the Colonial but the Foreign Office. Well, now, Sir, I pass to the observations made by the hon. Member for Leicester on the Sugar Bounties Question; and perhaps you will allow me to say that I was truly surprised that the Representative of a working man's constituency should take so remarkable a view of the question. He wanted to limit it strictly to two points. The first was, according to his statement, that there were very few workmen employed in the sugar industry in England, and that, therefore, it would matter very little if these men were deprived of the trade in which they were engaged. The second was a very wild and not justified assumption, that the price of sugar would rise enormously, and that it would be impossible for the working man to put it into his tea.
§ MR. J. A. PICTON
I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow me to explain, and that he will give a more moderate interpretation of what I said. I certainly never said anything of the kind the hon. Gentleman repeats. I said that the price of sugar would be, to some extent, raised. I say, however slightly it is raised, it must affect the consumers, but I never dreamt of saying that it would be raised enormously.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I understood him to say that a point of his opposition to the Convention was that the price of sugar was raised considerably.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
Then, of course, the hon. Gentleman's argument seems one to which it is not necessary to attach much importance. If the rise of sugar is to be infinitesimal, I do not think the hon. Member should put that against depriving a large number of working men of the means of subsistence. The hon. Gentleman dealt with the question as if a wicked Tory Government was trying to injure the working classes by raising the price of sugar. The hon. Gentleman cannot have informed himself of the facts. For 24 years this question has been treated by successive Governments: for 24 years the Sugar Bounties have been condemned.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me. I must say, as a matter of fact, I am at a loss to think why the hon. Member for Leicester should be so alarmed at this particular moment, as if we had originated the question of the abolition of Sugar Bounties. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) condemned the Sugar Bounties long since. In 1879 the right hon. Gentleman wrote to the Working Men's Anti-Bounty Association these words—My desire is that the British consumer should have both sugar and every other commodity at the lowest price at which it can be produced, without arbitrary favour of any of those engaged in the competition; but I cannot regard with favour any cheapness which is produced by means of the concealed subsidies of a Foreign State to a particular industry, and with the effect of crippling and distressing capitalists and workmen engaged in a lawful branch of British trade.The hon. Member for Leicester has assumed that only five or six thousand workmen are employed in the sugar trade; but from the Returns that have been furnished to me by the Trades Council it will be seen that the figures differ to an enormous extent from those put forward by the hon. Gentleman. I find that, taking: the sugar trade and the other trades immediately connected with it, there are no fewer than 50,000 workmen employed, and it is stated that this number is being considerably diminished, if not entirely ruined, by the action of the Sugar Bounties. Therefore, the figures of the hon. Member for Leicester are not supported by the more authoritative statement of the Secretary to the Trades Council of this country; and, moreover, I would say that if the hon. Gentleman, who is associated with a constituency containing so large a number of working men, would take the trouble to consult members of that body, he would, I think, find that the view they take of the matter differs very materially from his own. I have received a resolution in favour of this Convention, signed by 423,000 working men representing the Trade Unions of the country, and I present this document as an answer to hon. Members who have hitherto been so loud in their assertions that we, on this side of the House, do not know how to interpret the opinions of the working classes, and are entirely out of touch 177 with them. I have no doubt that when the hon. Member for Leicester tells his working men constituents in Leicester that they are in the wrong they will be very much gratified by the assertion. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol (Mr. Cossham), speaking on the same subject last night, remarked this legislation was simply class legislation as against mass legislation. [Several hon. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!] Hon. Members say "Hear, hear!" Then, Sir, I claim that the classes and masses are identical; because, if the working men of the country are in favour of the Convention, it matters little to the classes whether they have to pay a farthing per pound more for their sugar. There are other figures showing in what way the foreign bounties have injuriously affected the Sugar Trade; but I do not propose to weary the House by going into them in detail, as I shall have occasion to speak again upon the subject. I wish, however, to place on record that, while formerly we received but 6 per cent of beetroot sugar, since that article has had the advantage of bounties the imports of it into the United Kingdom have advanced to 58 per cent, while the cane sugar imports (mainly from the British Colonies) have declined, for the same reason, from 94 to 42 per cent.—rather a striking diminution. Sir, we have heard a good deal said about the cheapness of sugar, and how the families of the working classes would be affected by the abolition of the sugar bounties, and how detrimental would be the effect on the jam industry. One of the largest producers of jam in this country, Mr. Keiller—[an hon. MEMBER: Marmalade!]—well, marmalade is a form of jam, and contains a very large proportion of sugar—wrote to the Times a short time since, and stated that, from his experience, he was entirely in favour of the Convention; but he did not believe it would make the slightest difference in the price of sugar. And why should it? Does the hon. Member opposite believe that the whole of the bounty finds its way into the pocket of the consumer? Does he suppose that the large sums which have been given by France, Germany, and other countries, will be diverted from the producers to the consumers? If so, he is greatly mistaken, for it undoubtedly finds 178 its way into the pockets of the manufacturers, and not into those of the men who eat it—and this is the cause of the opposition offered on the part of those who receive the bounties. It is they who have opposed the Convention, while the Governments of foreign countries have only been too anxious to get rid of these bounties as a heavy charge on their Exchequers and on the taxpayers of the country. Does the hon. Member for Leicester suppose that non-subsidized manufacturers can produce on equal terms with those who are subsidized? The makers of this country cannot possibly compete with others who receive 20 per cent. from the State. And if this is so, what do we find to be the result? The result of the unequal competition is that the sugar trade of this country and the production of our Colonies are actually being killed. It does not pay to send the sugar of the West Indies to this country, and consequently a large portion of it is being sent to America. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] Perhapst hose who cheer consider it better that we should allow the sugar of our Colonies to go to America, while we consume foreign bounty-fed sugar. And when the hon. Member for Leicester says there are only a small number of persons employed in this trade, I ask him whether, assuming the number to be only five or six thousand, are they to be allowed to starve, or go to the workhouse? Admitting the accuracy of the hon. Member's figures, it is a curious argument that because only a small number of workmen are affected we should allow an industry to die out. But the House must consider that, besides diminishing employment in this country, we are absolutely ruining some of our sugar-producing Colonies. In some of them—in the West Indies, for instance—land to the extent of thousands of acres has come down to prairie value, simply because it does not pay to produce sugar. If it be held that, simply in the interest of cheapness, we are justified in destroying industry at home and sacrificing native industry in our Colonies, then hon. Members will not be convinced by any argument I can advance; but the position is not one that will commend itself to the common sense and good feeling of the nation at large. The hon. Member for Leicester says it is admitted that bounties ought to be 179 condemned: that is a statement I have seen made before by gentlemen who write long letters to The Times. The hon. Gentleman says bounties ought to be condemned because they are bad things; and I put it to the hon. Member what is the use of condemning bad things if you do not get rid of them? An expression of pious opinion may be extremely interesting, but its intrinsic value is infinitesimal. It is said, however, that if you do away with bounties you will increase the price of sugar. I deny that proposition entirely; because if the bounties are done away with the effect of the abolition will be that our Colonies will again produce, as they were formerly in the habit of doing, large quantities of sugar. Does the hon. Member believe that if the sugar bounties are done away with the sugar industry of the Continent will cease? If he supposes anything of the kind—if he thinks the sugar refineries of France and Germany will be closed by the abolition of the bounty system, he is very much mistaken. The sugar producers are agreed that this bounty, which the hon. Member supposes finds its way into the pocket of the consumer, in reality finds its way into the pocket of the producer; and the only result of its abolition, so far as he is concerned, will be that the producer will have to content himself with the smaller and more legitimate profit that would thus be left to him. The English market will still remain the great sugar market of the world; the demand will continue to be the same, and the supply will continue to meet the demand; but with this result—that instead of the foreign refiner making the large profit he now obtains, he will have to be content with a smaller profit. It will be impossible to form a "corner" in sugar, because by the time the Convention comes into force the Colonies will have again developed their industry, and this country and the Colonies will be able to fill any gap that may be artificially created. If this be so, I want to know how the price of sugar can rise? The price of sugar can rise only if the supply be not equal to the demand. When it is said that we are preventing foreign countries from giving us cheap sugar, I should like to ask what is the doctrine of cheapness? How are we to prevent foreign countries from giving us cheap sugar? I am now about to 180 state a doctrine which, though it may seem paradoxical, will, nevertheless, commend itself to common sense—that is to say that you may buy cheapness too cheap. I mean by this that if you do not inquire into the origin of the cheapness—as you certainly ought—you may do a vast amount of harm to the community by endeavouring always to get the cheapest article; because when you obtain the cheapest article you may obtain it at the expense of the suffering of your fellow-creatures. An evidence of this is furnished by the sweating system. If hon. Members want to get the cheapest article, why do they not advocate the resumption of slave labour in the Colonies?
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
Then, if it were cheap, am I to understand that the hon. Member would advocate it? But, at any rate, slave labour is certainly cheaper than the labour for which you pay, and on that principle hon. Members ought to advocate the re-establishment of slave labour. Then the hon. Member for Leicester says the Convention is inimical to the principle of Free Trade. I deny that proposition entirely; and I think I can prove my point by a reference to the view expressed by one who was a prominent Member of the Party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs, and an authority on the Free Trade Question, at least, as eminent as the hon. Member himself. Mr. John Stuart Mill, in his "Principles of Political Economy," said—If the slaves in the Southern States were all emancipated, and their wages rose to the general level of the earnings of free labour, that country might he obliged to erase some of the slave-grown articles from the catalogue of its exports, and would certainly be unable to sell them in foreign markets at the accustomed price. Their cheapness is partly an artificial cheapness, which may be compared to that produced by a bounty on production or exportation, or, in order to emphasize it, considering the means by which it is obtained, an apter comparison would be with the cheapness of stolen goods.If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester simply looks at the element of cheapness, it is an undoubted fact that that would be cheaper which could be obtained for nothing than that which you are obliged to obtain in the ordinary way. I maintain that the action of the Government is an action 181 that will be beneficial to the masses of the people in this country—that this is not class legislation, but mass legislation. We have felt—not the present Government alone, but successive Governments for nearly a quarter of a century—that the bounty system is absolutely indefensible in the case of shipping and other matters, as well as in that of sugar. The hon. Gentleman appears here in the character of Representative of Leicester. I should like to ask him a question. Will the hon. Member address a meeting in Leicester and advocate the importation into this country of hosiery on which a bounty had been paid by Germany? But if he does not advocate a bounty being given by Germany on hosiery—which she could perfectly well do—how is it he does not agree with Her Majesty's Government in supporting the abolition of bounties on sugar? Surely he cannot make a distinction between one article and another? If we are justified in receiving bounty-fed sugar, we are equally justified in receiving bounty-fed hosiery, or any other article on which on which it might please foreign countries to give a bounty. If such a state of things becomes general, the home trade of this country will in a very few years be almost ruined. This is not a question of free trade; it is a question of unfair trade. Free trade is what the French call libre échange—a free exchange. Does the hon. Gentleman maintain that because we open our ports free to every article we are bound to allow all articles with a bounty in advance to come in and compete with our own goods and destroy our manufactures? So long as we get the goods somewhat cheaper, it seems, according to the hon. Gentleman, not to matter whether or not a few thousand workmen starve. If we have thousands of workmen out of employ, what becomes of them? Why, they and their families become chargeable to the rates. On the mere question of money, independently of the far greater humanitarian and industrial question, the position of the hon. Gentleman is absolutely indefensible. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that certain countries had not agreed to the Convention, and that Austria has only agreed to the Convention on the condition that all the countries in Europe should also agree. That is not strictly accurate. 182 Austria said she would reserve her right to reconsider her position if certain European countries did not accept the Convention, and France also said she reserved to herself, under Article VIII., the right to come into the Convention during the limits of time. Now, Sir, with regard to the prohibitory clause, which so excited the hon. Gentleman's ire, I do not think the hon. Member has carefully read the Convention, for the clause only comes into effect by the voice of all the signatory Powers to the Convention. It is a joint arrangement made by all the Powers for the purpose of suppressing the bounty system, which they see is iniquitous. Surely all who have the interests of the masses at heart must feel great relief that, after this question has during 24 years been considered by successive Governments, Her Majesty's present Advisers have been fortunate enough to convince foreign Governments of the folly of the bounty system, and by that means enable our own sugar trade once more to thrive, and to hold out some hope to our Colonies that a revival will take place in the value of land devoted to the cultivation of the sugar plant, and that an industry which flourished for so many years may once again take the place it formerly enjoyed.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
I am afraid what I intended to say, which would not have amounted to a speech at all, but simply to a request to obtain information from the Government, is useless just now, as there is no Member of the Government present. My object was to state that this is a subject of such large dimensions, and of such enormous importance to the working classes of this country, that it is perfectly impossible to discuss it satisfactorily or adequately upon the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech. I will not attempt to discuss it upon such an occasion. All I wanted was an assurance from the Government, if any Member of the Government had chosen to be in his place at this time, that there would be an ample opportunity afforded for the discussion of this question. The Queen's Speech speaks of a "legislative provision." Now that legislative provision might be brought forward on such a narrow basis that you, Mr. Speaker, might say we cannot discuss the Convention upon it. In view of the 183 possibility of such a ruling, I want an assurance from the Government that they will give us the fullest opportunity of discussing the whole Convention. [The Chancellor of the Exchequer at this point returned to his seat, and Sir Lyon Playfair repeated his request, and went on to say]: For my part, I think the Convention an essentially bad one. I think that it is impracticable in its working, and that it will bring us into collision with other countries if its powers are put into execution. Under it we have to give up our free will, and have to trust to a majority of other nations as to whether sugar imported from other nations is bounty-fed or not. Thinking that the Convention is a bad one, and believing also that the working classes will suffer very injuriously by it, we on this side of the House, or, at least, many of us, are exceedingly anxious to discuss the matter in the fullest way, but think it would be quite absurd to attempt to discuss it upon the Address in reply to Her Majesty's gracious Speech.
§ MR R. A. ALLISON (Cumberland, Eskdale)
I think hon. Members have a great cause of complaint that they have not had an opportunity hitherto of discussing this important matter. There are some people who think that all Treaties and Conventions should be brought before the House at an early stage. I certainly think that a Convention of this character, which deals with most important questions, and which is so entirely at variance with the commercial principles which this country has so long professed, should have been laid before Parliament before the Government committed themselves so deeply to it. I must confess that if the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Baron H. de Worms) were now present, I should condole with him on the circumstances under which he made his speech: he, an ardent free trader, was supported by two of the most ardent Protectionists in the House. I only hope the same cheers will await the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he undertakes what the Times told him the other day would be the most difficult task of the programme he has before him this Session. The whole circumstances under which this Convention has been made are of the most humiliating character to this 184 country. Surely no more humiliating spectacle has ever been revealed than that of the hon. Gentleman (Baron H. de Worms) going about the Continent endeavouring to get up this Convention. No one who reads the Report of the Convention that has been issued can doubt for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was either willingly, or unwillingly, the mere tool or dupe of those with whom he was conducting the negotiations, and that the Representatives of countries, Protectionist themselves, were only too glad to win so cheap a triumph over one who professed to be so ardent a free trader. It is true he posed very largely as an adherent of the Free Trade policy; but he seemed only too ready to lower his flag at the first summons of the foe. The hon. Gentleman, whose lavish hospitalities were the theme of so many eulogiums, was careful from time to time, by way of keeping up the farce at which he was assisting, to raise his professions in favour of that very Free Trade which, in my opinion, he was deliberately betraying. When the moment for delivering the final stab came—when on the 7th of May he announced the adhesion of the Cabinet to countervailing duties—he declared the final surrender to those demands which are absolutely hostile to the principles of that Free Trade which we believe to be so essential to the welfare of our country. And the right hon. Gentleman, in the closing address he made to his dear Colleagues before the Conference separated, said that Great Britain "has shown no symptoms of a return to the Protectionist policy against which the nation declared many years ago." The hon. Gentleman made some allusion to the fact that sugar would not be made dearer but we are all accustomed to his arguments on that point. We have some strong authorities we can quote against him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) came to the conclusion, in 1881, that the price of sugar would be increased by no less than a farthing a pound, which meant a tax of three millions sterling on the great masses of the people. The London Workmen's Anti-Bounty Association came to exactly the same figure; and Mr. Giffen, in 1884, was of opinion that the tax put on the working-classes would amount 185 to no less than five millions sterling. We all condemn bounties; but what we object to in this Convention is the way in which these bounties are to be put an end to. On the reading of the Report of the Commission, it seems to me that we have been led into a deliberate trap by the Government. There is no pretence that the Government were not fully warned of what was coming at the Convention; they had most ample warning from the very first. The British Sugar Refiners' Committee, so long ago as the 18th of August, 1887, said that without countervailing duties the whole scheme would fall to the ground. The Prime Minister then said the proposals of the Committee should be considered when the proper time came. Again, they had ample warning when the first declaration in favour of the penal clause was made by the Spanish delegates in 1887. And so, when at last penal clauses were announced, though they were not in the draft, the right hon. Gentleman said he was delighted to hear the opinions of the delegates. He knew too well that these opinions of the delegates were held from the very first, and that in their view without prohibitory clauses the whole thing would be a farce, and he went through the farce all the time of pretending he was a Free Trader. After all his Platonic declarations in favour of Free Trade, he allowed the delegates to proceed entirely in their own way. The delegates played with their victim for a considerable time; they dined and supped with him; they were captivated by the "charm and ascendancy of one who directs our debates with so much authority." They deferred, they said, to the master of the house; but the time came when they must have their pound of flesh. The French delegates said that business was business for them, and the penal clauses were inserted. I do not think the answer satisfactory in regard to the absolute failure of the Convention, looked at from the point of view that so many countries are not prepared to join in it. The United States hold aloof altogether; France and Austria only join on certain conditions; and so it is a very partial Convention after all, and many countries may never join it in the end. It places us entirely at the mercy of the majority of the Protectionist countries, and it is the greatest blow that can be struck against 186 those Free Trade principles which we have so long professed. I know quite well there are many centres of population where, to a certain extent, the proposals of the Government are popular. They are popular in Greenock; but I see that the Sugar Bounties Convention did not succeed in winning a vote of confidence in the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sutherland), who represents that constituency. I believe the people only require to be instructed on this question to see that what they gain on one small point they will lose on many others, as the result of the step must be a Protectionist policy all round. If it does not affect the price of sugar, what use will it be? You are going deliberately to impose a tax on the working classes of this country which will go into the pockets of a few manufacturers, as all these duties do. It is said that many men are thrown out of employment by the present system. I believe they are; but I believe that many are now employed who would not be employed under the proposed system. I hope it will be a long time before this country goes back from the principles she has so long professed. It would lessen our imports, and that would not be to the advantage of the shipping interest of the country. It would lead to retaliation, and set a bad precedent, and I do not see where you can stop. It would take more powerful arguments than I have yet heard to make me support these proposals, and I hope that they will not be carried. I was astonished to hear that they were to receive the support of so old a free trader as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That support of his is another step on the downward path which leads him away from those financial principles of which he has been so stern an exponent. The nations which pay the bounties find them a crushing burden; they amount in France and Germany to three and a half millions, and in Austria and Belgium to one million. I believe that if no action had been taken they would soon have come to an end in the natural course of events. An hon. Friend tells me that France has given them up.
§ MR. R. A. ALLISON
Anyhow, I believe the burden is becoming so crush- 187 ing that the French would soon give the bounties up. We have come to the rescue, and have done so by fettering ourselves with chains not imposed on other nations. We are taking a backward step, and it is for these reasons I oppose the proposals of the Government. I hope they will be fully discussed, and I trust the House will not pass them without hearing some very much better arguments than those we have vet heard.
§ MR. T. SUTHERLAND (Greenock)
As the House will have another opportunity of discussing this matter, I do not propose to discuss it at any great length now. But I think I should be wrong if I refrained from saying a few words on a subject which affects so deeply the constituency I represent. The speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Allison) does not seem to me to call for any lengthy or elaborate reply. There were two points—two only—in the speech of the hon. Member which struck me as of the slightest importance. The first was that he was most distinctly an ardent Free Trader. That, of course, goes without saying, because, with very few exceptions, every Member of the House is a Free Trader. The next point was that he is not only an ardent Free Trader, but that he highly disapproves of bounties. It will be observed, however, that between his disapproval of bounties on the one hand and acceptance of the practice, though not of the principle, of bounties on the other, there is a wide gulf fixed. It appears to me, if, as it is admitted on all hands in and out of the House, bounties are at variance with the principle of Free Trade in every respect, if they are prejudicial, and part and parcel of the Protective system, then I should like to ask the hon. Member who has just sat down, and others, what is their remedy, what they would have us do? I would ask, in weighing and considering this question, whether it is likely to be more advantageous to this country that this pernicious system should continue to exist, or whether it would be better to put an end to it by such means as we now have in our power? In the first place, I am disposed to agree with my right hon. Friend opposite, that it may be possible to do a vast amount of harm to trade simply for the sake of mere cheapness; but, while I will not attempt to carry that argument any distance, for 188 it remains with those who oppose the Government to show that it will necessarily follow that the price of sugar will be enhanced if these bounties are put an end to, and free and unrestricted competition takes place throughout the world, I believe hon. Gentlemen will have great difficulty in proving a case of this kind. I believe, on the contrary, that by the removal of these bounties you will stimulate enterprize not merely in the trade with which my constituency is concerned (refining), but you will stimulate enterprize throughout our Colonies, not only in the West Indies, but in our great Australian Colonies, where enterprize at present in connection with the production of sugar is wellnigh dormant. If bounties are removed, and Free Trade operates throughout the world in relation to sugar production, it is impossible to imagine that we shall not have a larger, better and cheaper supply than we have at present. Therefore, it appears to me that the action of the Government is simply in the interest of Free Trade, entirely in the interest not only of industrial centres in this country connected with this particular produce, but in the interest of the great consuming class who will obtain, I believe—I do not say at once, I do not say that a revolution in trade will be immediate—but who certainly will under unlimited production obtain a better and cheaper article than at present. There is a fact to be borne in mind, a fact constantly omitted in the speeches of doctrinaires, that the fluctuations in the price of sugar in consequence of our dependence on this bounty-fed article have been enormous, and almost dangerous. Now if the Government had come forward with a proposal, a proposal that has been frequently advocated in places where sugar industries exist, to place on all bounty-fed sugar from all parts of the world a countervailing duty, certainly I should not have supported the Government in such action, notwithstanding the fact that it would have been in the interest of the particular industry with which my constituents are associated. I would not have supported the Government in a proposal to place a countervailing duty on sugar coming from all these countries where the bounty system prevails. In the first place, I believe it 189 would be impossible to impose a really equivalent countervailing duty; and, in the next place, such action would have had the effect of keeping out a large proportion of the raw material now used in this country. The course Her Majesty's Government have adopted is entirely different and much better. They have endeavoured—and I believe that they have so far succeeded by diplomatic action to bring about a general agreement among the Powers of Europe—to put an end to this system which the hon. Member has just denounced, which he has admitted to be pernicious and opposed to the principles of Free Trade. While commending the Government for their action in this direction, and sincerely expressing the hope that they may succeed in giving effect to those efforts, I would point out that their action has a wider significance than merely in relation to the article of sugar. It is a most important point gained by this and every Free Trade country that there should be a general agreement arrived at among the Powers of Europe, as it were, to determine to put an end to the bounty system entirely. I do not say that result is immediately to be brought about; but I say it is a most valuable concession for this Government to have achieved in connection with sugar, because it leads up to and involves a larger principle affecting far greater industries than that of sugar. Of course, I have more particularly in my mind the system that exists in connection with bounties on shipping. Hon. Members are, of course, aware that France and Italy at present have a system of large bounties to enable their Mercantile Marine to compete with other countries, and with this country chiefly. It is commonly supposed that these bounties are productive of little or no injury to the shipping trade of this country; and I am bound to admit that, so far as the matter can be tested by the progress of our Mercantile Marine, that certainly would appear to be the case. But I could, if necessary, point to individual cases of loss and hardship arising out of this system of a singular and large character. One instance I may mention with which I am personally familiar, the competition of a well-known Italian public company in the trade between two English Colonies. 190 The Rubatino State line of steamships is under the patronage of the Italian Government in a sense not understood here, and the bounty system encouraged the Company to intervene in the trade carried on between two English Colonies under the English flag, and the loss to shipping under the English flag trading between Bombay and Hong Kong is in consequence of a very serious character. The competition of France and Italy in our commerce and with our Mercantile Marine is not very serious, taking it on a large scale; but what I am apprehensive of, and what I have dreaded for years, has been that Germany would extend her bounty system in this direction. We know that in ordinary commerce Germany is the greatest competitor this country has. It is a fact I became aware of through the examination of some papers circulated last Session that the progress of Germany in external trade has been relatively greater than of Great Britain during some years, except so far as our trade with our own Colonies is concerned. Taking the rest of the world, Germany has advanced her external trade in a greater ratio during more recent years than we have advanced ours. Therefore I confess, seeing what the tendency of the German Government has been, seeing how extremely anxious they have been to extend their operations to the most distant parts of the earth, seeing that they have lately been subsidizing large fleets of vessels in Australian and Chinese waters, not on account of German commerce existing, but for the German commerce that might be created, I confess I have been apprehensive that if the bounty system should be allowed to continue there would be, and there may be even now, very great danger that Germany would not be content with bounties affecting sugar, but would extend this evil system to industries of far greater importance. It is not possible to imagine the irreparable loss this country would suffer if this Convention were not to take effect, and the German Government, finding it did not take effect, were to take it into their heads to extend the bounty system to other industries.
§ MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
I had only intended to take up a short time in reference to agriculture, a 191 subject with which I feel more competent to deal; but the allusion of the hon. Member for the Eskdale Division to myself as a well-known Protectionist who applauded the speech of the Under Secretary for the Colonies leads me to make some reply. I do not think the hon. Member, anxious as he was to appreciate the remarks of the Under Secretary, was thoroughly well up in his subject, and this I think has been clearly shown by the hon. Member who has just spoken, and who, as a Free Trader, has thoroughly supported the Under Secretary for the Colonies. That in itself is significant, and affords a complete answer when answer is required. I was alluded to as a Protectionist, and without contradicting or disclaiming the title, I may say that I have taken the greatest interest in finding out what are the views of British workmen on this and kindred subjects. I have learned the views of many of our British workmen from attending meetings which were being addressed by gentlemen of the politics of the hon. Member opposite, and so-called Free-traders. I will refer to one important speech made by a Trades Unionist on a similar question to this. I will give the place and sufficient data to enable hon. Gentlemen to correct me if I am in error. It was at a meeting held at Sudbury, in Suffolk, a year or two ago, when a large number of operatives in the trade of mat weaving were out on strike. They were addressed in the Market Hall by a Trades Unionist, who came from London with half-sovereigns and half-crowns to enable the men to stand out on strike, and the speech that gentleman made was flavoured with a good deal of Radical politics, and I believe his audience mainly consisted of Radicals. The point in the speech I wish to allude to was this—My men, said he, the grievance you have to complain of is this, that your masters have issued a catalogue of prices of goods they sell which they have made so low to undercut catalogues issued by similar manufacturers, in other parts of England. You must do everything you can to insist that such a state of things shall not go on.Then he went on to insistthat no master should ever issue a catalogue of prices which did not comply with the conditions; first, that prices should leave the master a fair margin of profit, but what 192 was of far greater importance, such prices as would enable the master to give his workmen fair and just wages.These propositions were cheered to the echo by the men. The speaker then proceeded to declare that,People who bought the mats should never object to give threepence or sixpence more, if this money enabled manufacturers to comply with these conditions.Things conveyed in this practical way make more impression than much theory; and this meeting made a great impression upon me. I believe the man was perfectly right, and I believe the operatives of England have a right to demand that consumers should give such prices as will insure the fulfilment of these conditions. And now to a subject in which I am more at home. We have had every hobby trotted out by hon. Gentlemen opposite—speeches from advocates of temperance, grievances in connection with the Sister-isle, the claims of Scotland, and even gallant little Wales has not been altogether quiet. Compared with other subjects that have divided the interest of the House, agriculture has not occupied much attention. I am glad to find that this time, in the gracious Speech from the Throne, there is something more than an expression of sympathy for the depressed state of agriculture. A little help is worth a great deal of pity, and we find expressed an intention to deal with three subjects directly interesting to agriculturists—namely, tithes, the formation of a Board of Agriculture, and a cheaper form of transfer of land. These are subjects that have been talked about for a long time, and I believe both Parties have held out hopes of bringing in measures to put matters right in connection with these subjects; but, somehow or other, up to the present, they have always been shelved. I hope there will be no shelving of these matters this Session, and that the Government will make every effort to add useful measures in this direction to the Statute Book. The tithe question is most important to the agricultural interest, and I believe a settlement of it is more important still to those who love the Church of England. The opportunity now offers to deal with it in a manner satisfactory to all parties concerned; but if this opportunity is neglected, I fear the settlement will be carried out 193 by the enemies of the Church. I would advise every friend of the Church not to be too greedy as to the terms by which it may be proposed to carry out a much-wanted reform. I hope it will be remembered that, as to a great portion of the agricultural tithe-bearing lands of England, the tithes have become a burden hardly to be borne. I know farm after farm in the Eastern Counties where to-day the tithe equals, if it does not actually exceed, the rent. But into the tithe question I will not now enter, but with the greatest earnestness I appeal to the front bench to carry the measure through this Session, and I would urge hon. Members to display their sympathy with one of England's greatest, oldest industries, and not to allow Party politics to prevent a useful measure being carried to a beneficial and satisfactory issue. With regard to the Board of Agriculture, I will only say that all must admit that the time has come when England at least should have as well equipped a Board of Agriculture as those countries who compete with our farmers in the English markets. Proposals for cheapening the transfer of land should, I think, meet with the approval and support of Members, no matter on which side of the House they sit. Many hon. Members on the other side have advocated it, and argued that agriculture will never return to the proud position it used to occupy until means are given to small farmers to purchase their holdings. I do not myself believe that so long as the advocates of so-called Free Trade are successful, the possession of farms large or small will be of much benefit; but, at the same time, I hold that everyone who thinks he can make a profitable purchase of a small farm should have every facility for the trial. Before I sit down, I, with respect, but without fear—for we farmers have got beyond fear, and if we do not speak out now, when may we?—I would refer to a remark that fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Lothian. I was surprised to find the right hon. Gentleman throw out a prophecy, or a hint, in the remark that he doubted very much as to whether the Government would really pass these measures. No doubt, if the obstruction of last year is repeated, the passing of such measures will be prevented, and 194 I am afraid that the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Lothian may fairly be supposed to have meant, "If you do not take care what you are about, we will see that these measures do not pass." I hope that was not the right hon. Gentleman's intention; but such an interpretation will be given to his words in many a country village during the next few days. I feel that the farmers of England have been most patient, and their Representatives in the House of Commons have been most loyal in their support of the Government. We wish to continue loyal; but, at the same time, our grievances are such that we think that in the name of fairness we have a right to claim more attention for those grievances in the future than they have had in the past.
§ MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)
It is not often that any Welsh Member attempts to intervene in debate so early in the Session, and especially in the debate upon the Speech from the Throne. But, under present circumstances, the Welsh Members would err greatly, and do an injustice both to themselves and their constituents, if they did not attempt to take an immediate occasion of making themselves heard. Last year the Welsh Members were singularly unfortunate in securing an opportunity. The Speech from the Throne this year is marked by the absence of one particular measure which has appeared in several previous Speeches, and unfortunately it is also marked by the presence of a measure to which the Welsh Members entertain a most deeply-rooted objection. The measure which we miss is that for establishing a system of intermediate education in Wales. Previous Speeches from the Throne have contained a reference to that measure as one of urgency and justice. Therefore in this respect Wales, instead of keeping its position, is losing ground in Parliament. It is true that as a private Member I have obtained leave to introduce a Bill on the subject, but it is obvious that a measure of such importance cannot be carried through Parliament except as a Government measure. Until this Parliament it cannot be said that Wales has ever been heard in this House distinctively as Wales. Before the operation of the Ballot Act there 195 was only the representation of a class in Wales, and of a class which desired rather to Anglicize Wales than to recognize it in any way as possessing a nationality and character of its own. It was only after the passing of the Ballot Act that the people of Wales really obtained representation. The first result of a real representation was to show that in no other part of the kingdom was there so much political unanimity as in Wales and such definite political aims. In that state of things it is desirable that if nothing can be done to forward Welsh views care should at least be taken that nothing is done which would distinctly create dissatisfaction in Wales. Now, a very large majority of the Welsh people will regard the Tithes Bill announced in the Queen's Speech as a reactionary and aggressive measure. A Tithes Bill such as the Government introduced last Session, if regarded as a remedy for the evil, would be a remedy much worse than the disease itself. The avowed object of the Tithe Bill was to meet what was considered to be a dangerous agitation in Wales. The abatements asked for at the time of the agitation were conceded by a considerable proportion of the beneficed clergy. Collisions might never have occurred in Wales if it had not been for those bodies of owners, the least deserving of any sympathy from the public, who proved the hardest, the most unbending, and the most determined to resist to the bitter end the demand which the beneficed clergy themselves had conceded. One of those bodies was Christ Church, Oxford. No doubt it was in the exercise of what it deemed to be its duties as the trustees of a charity that it thought it was incumbent upon it to accept a collision, and to resist to the point of endangering the public peace the demand of the tenant-farmers for an abatement of tithe. Another body that took the same course was a more important body—the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They also determined to resist at all cost and risk, and the result was that certain collisions took place. After all, those collisions led to nothing more serious than a popular demonstration of Welsh discontent and dissatisfaction. It was a significant feature of this Welsh demonstration that the bodies which brought about the collision were those who applied the 196 tithes to purposes most thoroughly alien to the sympathies and interests of the Welsh people Personally, I do not see how tithes are to be maintained either in Wales or England unless their application meets with the approval of the people. But, assuming public opinion in England to be favourable to the present use of tithe, I ask the House in this matter to treat Wales as a country for the Welsh, as a public by itself; and, considering the application of tithes in Wales, there is undoubtedly a very strong resentment and antipathy on the part of the Welsh against their application for such purposes as the support of Christ Church, or for the purposes to which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners put them. No doubt there have been disturbances in Wales; but upon that point I do not think the House has been adequately informed. I think the Government honestly believed that there is a danger of disturbance in Wales. But if they could now be satisfied that that danger does not exist, their anxiety to settle the question by some alteration in the machinery for the collection of tithe would be abated. What were the disturbances? Any candid reader of the Report of Mr. Bridge, the Commissioner appointed by the Government themselves, would come to the conclusion that these disturbances would never have occurred if it had not been for the somewhat intemperate zeal with which the authorities first concerned displayed military force in the face of the Welsh people, who are most sensitive about the use of soldiery in civil affairs. In the gravest case the collision was brought about in consequence of masses of men being forced down a hill by a mere accident. Mr. Bridge was sent down by the Home Office in the expectation that his Report would justify the taking of strong measures against the Welsh tithe agitation; but, on the contrary, the Reports of that gentleman have really deprived the Government of all justification for taking further steps in the matter. Mr. Bridge asked the Government to institute no new prosecutions in regard to the disturbances into which he inquired. A considerable time has elapsed since the disturbances first occurred, and the peaceful process of agitation against the collection of tithe without abatement has continued. In 197 my own county there have been most effective popular demonstrations of the disapproval of the Welsh people against the present use of tithe and of their objection to pay it unless under actual compulsion. Those demonstrations have been entirely within the law; there has been no occasion to interfere with them; and they have led to no serious inconvenience whatever. I believe that that has been due to the reversal of the unwise policy of the local authorities, and to the extremely prudent military chief constable of excellent civilian ideas, Major Godfrey, who has highly distinguished himself in this matter by the great tact and discretion he has shown. Major Godfrey made it his duty to see, personally, all the persons who were to be distrained upon for non-payment of tithe, and on receiving adequate assurances from them, he, on his part, promised that not a single police constable should appear on the scene when the distress was levied. By the adoption of this prudent and proper treatment of the case no breach of the peace has occurred, and in the county of Montgomery, at any rate, no inconvenience or loss has been sustained. No doubt the course pursued by Major Godfrey met with the disapproval of some of the local clergy, but Major Godfrey has been amply justified by the Conservative Quarter Sessions, and the first person to justify him was the Conservative Lord Lieutenant of the county. I will therefore ask the House to consider whether the practical outcome of the agitation in Wales, as it has now come to light through the examination invited by the Government itself at the hands of Mr. Bridge, and as it has been tested by subsequent events, presents any case such as the Government last Session supposed to exist for legislation of this kind. I believe I shall be supported by the great majority of the Welsh Members when I say that there really is no need for these Bills whatever so far as Wales is concerned. There is a disposition in some quarters to speak of tithe as if it were property, not only of the ordinary kind, but of a specially inviolable and sacred character. Persons who speak in this manner have not taken much trouble to investigate the history of tithe. Among those who appear to be the strongest supporters of tithe will be found those great land- 198 owners and pillars of the Church, who depend very largely on Church lands in which tithes have been long ago merged by an act of spoliation and robbery inexcusable and discreditable, which turned public property into private property. The agitation in Wales to a large extent accounts for the existence in the Queen's Speech of the proposal to carry these Bills. But it is in Wales itself that the case of tithe is most indefensible and most dangerous to touch. There is a certain popular assent and sympathy with the use of tithes in England which protects the property and influences our ideas in dealing with it. In Wales that sympathy is entirely the other way, although Wales has been remarkable always for its love of religion, and has no ill-will for the Church as a Church. Wales has a more glorious episode in its history than, perhaps, any other part of the Queen's dominions in relation to its culture of religion. Wales, at a time when Christianity was almost extinct in the country, reconquered and revived it, and that was the act of the humblest of its people, and done in the face of opposition sometimes almost malignant. Having renewed religion in the hearts of the people, the appliances of religion have been completely and adequately supplied from the same humble and popular sonrces, and there is no part of Her Majesty's dominions where religious appliances are now so adequate to the wants of the people as in Wales. You have in Wales the voluntary system triumphant, adequate, and in actual possession, and in that respect tithes are not in the faintest degree essential to the maintenance of religion. Then, what is the use of tithes? A contrary view, I know, is suggested by many high authorities, and especially those friendly to the English Establishment. It is said that that the Welsh clergy are very poor. If that is so, whose is the fault, and where does the blame lie?—because, after all, almost all the land and the great bulk of the wealth of Wales is in the Church hands; and that the clergy of the rich should be poor while the humble people have so completely supplied their own religious needs can only be described as a deep and lasting dis- 199 credit to the upper and Anglicizing classes of the Principality. There is another reason why the Welsh clergy are poor, and one that I think too often escapes observation, and that is that the Welsh clergy are a great deal too numerous. The numbers are very easily ascertained. Anyone who refers to "Whittaker's Almanack" can discover them. "Whittaker" is an impartial authority, and though it can only give an estimate of the Church population of England and Wales, I believe its estimate will be pretty generally accepted. It is 13,500,000. "Whittaker" does not give the number of beneficed clergy and curates apart from the unattached clergy, but the totals in 1887 were, in fact, in England alone 12,804 beneficed clergy and 1,275 curates. If I were to deduct half-a-million from the 13,500,000 Church people of England and Wales and ascribe 500,000 to Wales, I should be, I think, treated by the Nonconformists of Wales as making an excessive deduction, and attributing to the Principality a proportion greatly beyond its true Church population. But if, in order to avoid all doubt and criticism, we take half-a-million as the amount of Church population in Wales, then this is the result—there is in England one clergyman for every 700 souls; but in Wales as there are 988 beneficed clergy and 500 curates, leaving out the clergy unattached, you have one clergyman for every 336 souls. Therefore, there are more than twice as many clergy in Wales in proportion to Church population as in England, and we know that if we take the case of bishops, deans, canons, and chapters, the proportion will be even greater. I think this excess will be admitted undue when it is considered that on all hands it is agreed that the Protestant clergy in Ireland was largely in excess of the requirements of Ireland—["No!"]—well, I certainly have always thought that that was an accepted dictum. We have now the exact Church population of Ireland—namely, 702,000, and the beneficed clergy and curates there number 1,615. Therefore, the case of Ireland is that there is one clergyman to every 434 of the Church population, and so Wales with its one to 336 clearly superabounds in clergy. I should not have brought forward this case of excess if it had 200 been merely to explain why the clergy may be poorly paid out of endowments in the absence of assistance from their wealthy friends; but I bring it forward as it has a close bearing upon the question of the time when this legislation is proposed. The overabounding number of clergymen in proportion to the Church population has this practical effect in Wales under existing conditions—that it renders the Establishment in Wales a distinctly aggressive and propagandist body, and the least you could do would be to leave it alone. What, however, is taking place is this—that immense subsidies are being poured into Wales from the Establishment in England, for the distinct purpose of assisting the English Establishment in Wales, as being the weak point of the Establishment generally—and as being an integral portion of it—and with the view of maintaining the solidarity of the Establishment. That, I maintain, is a state of things which is not in the interest of religion. It is not at all a question of piety or anything else, but simply of defence of the principle of Establishment. Wales is being made to suffer in the interests of a powerful body comparatively outside, and with which Wales has no real or heartfelt concern—namely, the English Establishment. I know it is said that the Church in Wales is making progress. Well, if new churches, new benefices, and incumbents, are regarded as progress, without reference to whether congregations exist for them or not, no doubt that position might be sustained. We, who are making our voices heard in Parliament and elsewhere against the existing state of things, are told that we are simply expressing our alarm at the progress the Church is making in Wales; but we are not to be deterred by such accusations from setting forth the true facts of the case. By a majority of more than five-sixths of the Welsh Representatives, we declare to you that you are simply doing mischief in the Principality, aggravating the situation, and making a final solution not only more difficult in itself, but more mischievous in its eventual effect on the Establishment. I think the situation in Wales may be summed up in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham, whom the whole House now agrees in reverencing. 201 Mr. Bright said of the Establishment in Wales that it was Establishment that killed the Church. I believe that all Welsh Representatives will agree in telling the House that if it wants to revive the Church in Wales, the only way to do it is for the Church to kill the Establishment. In Wales there is no ill-will to the Church as a Church, but there is a most deeply-rooted determination to get rid of the Establishment. As to the attempt to revive it by doing what the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are doing—namely, by importing £45,000 a year of English tithes into Wales for the purpose of bolstering it up, I say that is a thing which the farming classes, whether in England or in Wales, will not long continue to endure. The position of the new missionary clergyman of the Established Church in Wales is too often a curse to himself and mischievous to the Church and to religion. He is set down in remote recesses of the Welsh hills, without congregation or friends, utterly isolated and unoccupied. He is beyond the reach of episcopal observation and control, and he too often creates scandals, which we do not wish to bring before the House, but which, believe me—and I know that my Colleagues from Wales will confirm me in this—are convincing the immense majority of the people that the state of things existing at present must be put an end to speedily so far as State aid and national resources are concerned in creating and supporting it. With reference to this great question of disestablishment as bearing upon tithes, I do not believe myself that Wales wishes to proceed to disestablishment by way of disendowment. I believe that Wales wishes to proceed to disendowment by way of disestablishment. We want fairly to bring before the country the propriety of making the Church in Wales voluntary, and of leaving all religions on an equal footing. We do not want to starve the Church out by artificial means, but we feel that if any Administration, particularly the present one, with a majority made up in such a way that it can hardly command the respect of the country, were to snatch a measure of the kind referred to in the Queen's Speech from the House, and endeavour to drive underground the present honest and open and 202 lawful development of opinion in Wales, some great mischief will ensue. What we say is that the Tithe Bill of the Government is an uncalled-for challenge to Wales. It is a challenge to us and a commencement of hostilities if you determine to reinforce the Church, as you believe, by an alteration of the machinery of the law, and we warn you that we believe you are making a great error. I daresay you may not regard our opposition as a very formidable one, and that you may, perhaps, give but little weight to the grounds on which we offer it; nevertheless, I believe that Welsh Members will not be deterred from stating their views plainly on the subject. We say we do not believe it to be to the interests of the Church itself to alter the process by which tithe is recovered; and I venture to give another reason for not doing it, and it is this: at present the mischief of the position of the clergyman in Wales is that he is, more than ever was the ease in England, the enforced ally of the landlord. He appears, unhappily, to be in confederacy with the landlord against the mass of the people, and therefore, if you take the course of making the landlord the medium for the payment of the stipend of the clergyman, you will more than ever cement that alliance; you will turn the clergyman into the mere chaplain of the landlord; you will greatly aggravate the mischief which is too rife already in Wales, and will go far to embroil the question of the land with the question of the Establishment. I believe that at present the larger body of landowners in Wales are on good terms with their tenants. The tenants, no doubt, have great grievances, and much might be done by legislation for them; but I believe that on the whole there is a great deal of excellent feeling remaining in Wales between landlord and tenant, for, after, all, the Welsh people have a more-natural disposition to hang together in spite of all differences, than prevails in many parts of England it self. But if we throw on the landlord the whole of the odium connected with the support of the clergyman, we shall transform the agitation which is now taking place between the tithe-owner and the tithe-payer to some extent into an agitation between the landlord and the tenant, and it will take the form of an objection to rent. I think, therefore, 203 that the Government would do well to reconsider the necessity and advisability of introducing legislation on the subject of tithes, and, above all, I think they should not introduce it in the form of a challenge to a Welsh party which is bound to make itself heard. Instead of announcing in the Queen's Speech this unhappy question of tithes, the Government would have done better to give Wales that measure of intermediate education which we all on both sides agree in desiring, and which is so ripe for settlement.
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
I wish to say a few words on a question which has just been mentioned by the last speaker—namely, that of Intermediate Education. It really is a very strong measure on the part of the Government, after repeated promises to deal with Intermediate Education, to declare to the country that they have not even the intention of considering it this Session. There is no part of the Queen's dominions where a measure as to Intermediate Education is more needed and more desired than in Wales. Young Welshmen are frequently heard to speak of themselves as thirsting for that education. No doubt, to a certain extent, they have a good elementary education, and they have made use of it under difficulties which would have discouraged any nation less devoted to education than themselves. The Welsh colleges have attained a marked success, but there is a great and urgent want for Intermediate Education, for which, as I say, young men in Wales are thirsting—a greater want than is felt either in England or in Scotland. At present the colleges have, to a great extent, to do the work of Intermediate Education, and it is certainly not right that that should be the case. You are bound to qualify young men in a poor country like Wales for finding occupation elsewhere which they cannot find at home, and to fit them to obtain occupation elsewhere. The Welsh quarrymen are one of the most intelligent classes of men it is possible to find anywhere, and they have shown their devotion to education by the immense sacrifices they have made. In one district they raised £1,500 for the colleges, and established scholarships for their children out of their wages, 204 and now, at the present moment, Wales is setting an example to every part of the country by its readiness to avail itself of the opportunities for agricultural training afforded it, and to develop the agriculture of the Principality. Really, is it not a pity to allow a whole generation of young men to grow up without those advantages we have so repeatedly promised them, and which they are so ready to avail themselves of? Fortunately this is not a Party question. You have on both sides of the House promised to bring in these Intermediate Education Bills. You have Conservatives professing to be as ready and anxious to forward this question as the Liberal Party, and surely it is a confession of impotence on the part of the Government and of Parliament to neglect their promises. I put the thing as a practical question. You have two ways of dealing with it even in view of the pressure of business in the House. Why should not the Conservative and Liberal Bills on this subject be sent to a Committee upstairs for consideration? The Government would, of course, have a majority there; but still from such a Committee we might get the best Bill we could hope to gain in a Conservative Parliament, and, although it might not give us all we want, it would be of immense benefit to a generation of young men who are growing up without those advantages which ought to be put within their reach. It would be better still if the Government would bring in such a Bill and send it to a Grand Committee, because the experience we have had of Grand Committees has been most satisfactory. Not only do they get through their business more rapidly than in Committee of the Whole House, but anyone who has sat on a Grand Committee knows that they do their business on any Bill sent to them thoroughly and well. Instead of having a lot of Members running in and out of the House, and not giving attention to the matter in hand, these Committees sit from hour to hour, and the consequence is that the Bills passed by these Committees have been generally accepted by the House, and have been very superior to the common legislation that passes through this House. It does seem to me that if the Conservative Government wish to distinguish 205 themselves as legislators on non-contentious matters, they ought to use this system of Grand Committees, which they have tried and admitted to be beneficial, more than they have yet done. In regard to Scotch, and perhaps, still more, Welsh questions, Bills are promised year after year, and it is a disgrace that such a practice should continue. Send them to the Grand Committees up stairs, and have them thoroughly well considered, and in that way you would get through a great amount of really beneficial legislation, and which would be a credit to us. It is a real discredit to us that one side or the other of the House should year after year promise legislation, and that the country should see us impotent to carry out that which it is our duty to accomplish. I hope the Government will take this question into their consideration, and allow Welsh Members and private Members on both sides of the House to carry out their Bills by means of one of these Grand Committees, and so give that assistance to intermediate education in Wales which is so important to us.
MR. PRITCHARD-MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
We have heard some facts, Sir, with reference to the Principality of Wales, but there is a total absence of any mention of that Principality in the gracious Address from the Throne. Possibly it may be accounted for by the fact that there are so many Members of the House who sit on this side as the Representatives of the most important portions of Wales. Reference is made to our relations with other Powers, but I suggest that our relations with the Colonies are not equally satisfactory. Our relations with the Colonies are to my mind of the most strained character. The action of the Government with reference to the appointment of Mr. Blake, to my mind, showed great weakness. Colonists at the present moment, instead of referring to the "Mother Country," speak of the "Mother-in-law" Country. They simply look upon this country as exercising some little legal supervision without having their real welfare at heart. We have in the Address reference to what has been done for Ireland, and what is going to be done for Scotland, and I think, to say the least of it, that something should be done for that portion of the United Kingdom (Wales), which 206 hitherto has proved itself so loyal, and has not made any complaint whatever. The Irish have properly complained of their treatment at the hands of the Government, and they have received, at any rate, some reparation and consideration. I think the people of Wales should receive some consideration also. The question of equality of religion, of the land laws, and of mining laws, are subjects which materially affect the Principality. I do not wish to speak in respect of any particular matter, but I do say that, inasmuch as, according to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, we are to have a Board or a Minister for Agriculture, we should have a Minister to look after the mining industries of the country, more especially as those mining industries are retarded, notably in the Principality. The question of royalties is a most grievous one to thousands upon thousands of the people. Various promises have been made by the Government with regard to the subject, but there is not one word about it in the Address, nor do we hear of any proposed legislation upon royalties. So far as the Principality is concerned, endeavours to confer benefit on the general community are retarded by the present Government in every possible and conceivable way. We have carried on our industries there up to the present moment without even police protection. We have to pay for our own police, and we have to pay for our own postal communications. And although I know that offers were made to the Post Office for the payment of £90 a-year under contract to establish a postal communication for the industry to which I refer, yet no consideration has been given to it. I do not think that is the way to encourage industries, more especially when the Government at the same time insists upon their running all the risk, and upon the payment for police protection and postal communication out of the pockets of private individuals. If people are prepared to expend money in the employment of labour, I should think they ought to be encouraged in every possible and conceivable way. Whether they obtain any return for this outlay is a matter for themselves, and not for anyone else; but at any rate the country would necessarily derive benfit from the employment of labour, and by the consequent prevention of 207 poverty and distress, especially in the Principality of Wales.
§ MR. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)
If the omission of all mention of Wales from the gracious Speech from the Throne were the result of the unusual pressure of public business on the attention of the Government, or were there any explanation at all which could justify it, I should have been well content to have been silent. But, from what I have observed of the conduct of the Government and their supporters on Welsh questions, I fear it is only another attempt on their part to carry out the policy of ignoring Welsh nationality, and of denying the reality of Welsh grievances. In two Sessions, when application was made to them to set apart an evening for the discussion of the Motion of the hon. Member for Swansea, in respect of a question of such absorbing interest to the Welsh people as the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church, they declined on each occasion, and I fear our endeavour on the present occasion will be equally ineffective as previous protests. What we must thoroughly impress upon the Government is that they cannot ignore the existence of a reality by simply closing their eyes or averting their gaze. Yet that is the attitude they seem to have adopted in reference to any attempt to discuss the grievances of Wales. On one occasion, when we succeeded in getting a small discussion on Welsh affairs, by far the greater number of hon. Members opposite left the House. I have myself observed their conduct on more than one occasion, and I took the opportunity to remark that such indifference was not likely to lead to a belief in the House, as the central body, being better qualified to understand the legislative wants of the various portions of the United Kingdom than those particular portions of the Kingdom themselves. I earnestly hope that no Government, be it Liberal or Conservative, will continue to turn from Welsh questions without them giving a hearing. The Wales of the imagination of the Government and of the great bulk of their supporters is entirely different from the Wales known to those who are best acquainted with the Principality. Now, the Under Secretary for India, in his speech, made the observation that that part of the 208 country was particularly happy which received no mention in the Queen's Speech.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I said that province of the Empire which did not require to be mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech.
§ MR. BOWEN ROWLANDS
That is simply to substitute the devoted term Empire for country; but I accept the correction, though it does not seem to me to alter the extraordinary statement that that portion of the Empire may be considered peculiarly fortunate of which no mention is made in the Speech from the Throne. I venture to think that an altogether inaccurate statement. It might be true of a country which had not been under discussion, where troubles had not arisen, and where opposing interests had not come into collision; but it is monstrous to imply the prosperity of a country where all these conditions exist because it is omitted from the Queen's Speech. The picture of Wales which Her Majesty's Government and its supporters desire to create is one which does not represent the real lineaments and features of that country. Their action may be likened to that of the father of the Great Frederick of Prussia, who painted pictures of his tall soldiers, and who, when the pictures were not like the soldiers, painted the soldiers to be like the pictures. The conduct of the Government with regard to Wales is very much like that. They paint for us a picture of that Principality, and offer us a representation created out of their own imagination, but which is in reality no likeness at all. I do not propose to go into the question of tithes, nor the other question of education; but I cannot help saying I find no justification whatever for the omission of Wales from the Queen's Speech. We find Scotland there and Ireland too, and although the grievances of Ireland have reached a more acute stage than those of Wales, I do not believe that because the area is larger they are any more real than those experienced by the Welsh population. I would say to Her Majesty's Government—"If you wish to prevent the grievances of Wales from assuming the dangerous proportions presented by those from which the people of other 209 parts of the Kingdom are suffering, you will deal with them promptly and endeavour to remedy them by removing the causes." I hope this will prove the last occasion on which Wales will be omitted from the Queen's Speech in this way. I also trust it will not be said that this omission is an indication of the prosperity and happiness of the Welsh people, nor of the desire of the Government to do them justice. I hope, moreover, Her Majesty's Government will desist from legislating in the only direction in regard to Wales in which it is intended to proceed—I allude to the dangerous legislation which is threatened with regard to tithes; but that they will address themselves to the removal of those grievances under which the Welsh people have so long laboured and which they have so patiently borne.
LORD HENRY BRUCE (Wiltshire, Chippenham)
I trust that in the course of the present Session something may be done to remedy the system under which, in this House, the rights of private Members are totally ignored, so that nothing in the shape of an unofficial programme has even the ghost of a chance of being passed, while all Bills brought forward by private individuals are almost invariably snuffed out by the blocking arrangement. Turning to another matter, I would point out that we are asked in the Queen's Speech to vote a large sum of money "for the safety of our shores and our commerce;" but I do not see how it is possible for us to be in a position to do this until justice is done to our population. It is impossible to close our eyes to the social condition of this country when we know that it contains nearly a million of paupers. This evil is largely produced by the immigration of foreign paupers; and among the evils which result from the increased number of persons thus thrown into the labour market, I may mention what is called the "sweating system," under which, owing to the congested state of the labour market, the working population are compelled to accept starvation wages, and in some cases have to work six-and-thirty hours out of the forty-eight in the struggle for an existence, which is merely one of physical emaciation. Under the Act passed last year, the County Councils, thereby created, are enabled to appropriate cer- 210 tain sums for the purpose of emigrating our own people, whom we can least spare—while, on the other hand, we are receiving the surplus paupers of other countries. The question is, why do not we put a stop to this sort of immigration as other nations do? The authorities of Prance, Germany, and other Continental countries send our paupers back again, and I do not see what harm there could be in our taking a similar course with the paupers sent here from abroad; because charity begins at home, and our neighbours cannot object to our doing as they do. I cannot help thinking there is a great deal of cant in the way in which some questions are dealt with, as compared with the treatment bestowed on others. We tolerate all the evils that are inflicted on our own population by impure literature, which is flooding the country, and at the same time work ourselves into a state of great excitement over the poor children who, by being employed in the theatrical pantomimes, assist in the necessary work of maintaining the families to which they belong. This reminds me of what was said by Dr. Johnson in The Rambler. Speaking of cant, he said he was reminded very much of the gentleman who on coming down to breakfast, and reading in the papers that half Asia Minor had been submerged, became quite broken-hearted, but who when, a couple of minutes afterwards, he found his eggs were hard boiled, flew into a towering passion. With regard to another matter, namely, the question of over-crowding, it should be remembered that this is not always the result of over-population or improvident marriages, but frequently arises from the fact that our workmen like to reside as near as possible to the work they have to do. If a workman cannot live near his family he is not only isolated, but is put to the expense of maintaining two homes, which cannot be at all satisfactory. The working classes in the Metropolis have a right to complain that they have been duped in regard to the promises held out to them of better dwellings, which were to occupy the prison sites, and which Lord Cross referred to as a "windfall" and a "Godsend." The Bill of 1885, which was brought forward to fulfil the expectancies of the working class, was killed by vested interests. The present Secretary for Ireland, when President 211 of the Local Government Board, said, in speaking of the Bill, "London was the place where most injury had been done to the working classes by displacements, carried out under the Acts of Parliament, and London was also the one town in the United Kingdom where the greatest injury had been done to the working classes by compelling them to migrate. There was, therefore, nothing unfair in undoing the wrong Parliament had itself inflicted." The late Emperor Frederick, when upon his death-bed, said, "Learn to suffer without complaining;" and I say that the working classes have done this. But what does Archdeacon Farrar say upon this subject? He says: "Owing, either to inefficient powers, or the neglect of the appointed authorities, or to the absence of proper superintendence, I have found myself defeated year by year in the effort to force the landlords of foul and rotting tenements to do their duty. I shall rejoice if the County Council rides roughshod over the greed and villany of men who care only to get money out of the abodes of misery and vice. The only way in which it is possible to save the inhabitants of certain slums and rookeries is to break up the degrading localities in which they herd together, and which become mere hotbeds of disease and vice. In better houses, less removed from the eye of the law, they will live healthier and more human lives." And, again, Cardinal Manning writes: "I have no subject more at heart than the intolerable condition of our people crowded in rooms unfit for human habitation. The subject is above and distinct from all politics, and the obligation to promote it lies on both Parties in the State. Since the Royal Commission reported, years have passed and little has been done. I hope this new impulse will give effect to its recommendations and reach beyond them." It should not be forgotten that the East End contributes its quota towards the coal dues, and therefore is entitled to consideration in regard to public works, to a large extent carried out by means of the money it has advanced. I appeal to this House to do what it can in this, the fourth Session of the present Parliament, not to allow Party politics to prejudice the settlement of this question, and, furthermore, to 212 do its utmost to benefit those who are poorer than ourselves.