§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [21st February.]—[See page 41.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order. The first two Amendments on the Paper, the first standing in the name of the hon. Member for Hoxton, and the second in that of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, are out of order as Amendments, inasmuch as they anticipate the discussion, one on three and the other on four Bills which the House has appointed for a future day, and one of those Bills, I observe, is in the name of the hon. Gentleman himself. The Amendment, therefore, of the hon. Gentleman will be out of order as an Amendment to the Address.
§ * MR. STUART
Of course, Sir, I entirely bow to your ruling on this subject, but I beg to say with respect to my own Bill that it does not deal with the sanitary part of the subject which is indicated in the Amendment. Therefore, I was not infringing the rule with my eyes open.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman will understand it is not in order for him to move his Amendment.
§ * MR. JAMES STUART
Certainly, Sir; but I understand that I am in order in continuing the discussion. I rise, Sir, with the object of bringing before the House what I believe to be not only a very serious and important but also an urgent and pressing matter. I was somewhat surprised that there was no mention in Her Majesty's gracious Speech of a number of important questions which touch more particularly upon the Metropolis, and especially that of the housing of the poor; for there has been before this House and before the country a large quantity of evidence and material on which legislation might be based. There have been many promises by Members of various Governments from the time when the Com 852 mission in 1885 issued its Report, which has led us to believe that legislation will take place on this matter before long, and I have now, Sir, to submit that the matter is ripe for legislation. I must not lead the House to expect that the tale I have to bring before it is in any way surrounded by any halo of romance. The sufferings of the poor, in respect to their houses more particularly, form a dull and leaden tale: they are unillumined by any ray of the picturesque. There is no body of people with whose lot this House could more properly sympathize. I beg of the House to listen to one or two extracts from the evidence as to the present state of things in regard to overcrowding. In Wilmington Place there were 11 families in 11 rooms, seven persons occupying one room. In Northampton Court there were 12 persons in a two-roomed house, eight of whom inhabited one room. In Tilney Court, St. Luke's, nine members of a family, five of them being grown up, inhabited one room, 10 feet by 8. In Summer's Court, Holborn, there were two families in a room 12 feet by 8. At 79 Cromer Street there was an underground back kitchen 12 feet by 9, and 8 feet high, inhabited by 7 persons. In Spitalfields, 35 Hanbury Street, is a house of nine rooms, and there was an average of seven persons in each room. In no room was there more than one bed. These are facts culled from many hundreds. What are the facts as to the rent paid under these circumstances? It is said in the Report of the Royal, Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes that from a number of about 1,000 dwellings taken at random in the different poor parts of London there are 88 per cent. of the whole number who pay more than one-fifth of their income in rent, and 46 per cent., or nearly a half, who pay from a quarter to a half of their income in rent. The average rents paid in these 1,000 cases are, for one-roomed house, 3s. 10¾d.; for a two-roomed house 6s., and for a three-roomed house 7s. 5¼d. Now as to the sanitary condition of these houses. The connection with the sewers is faulty. In Halfmoon Court there was a case given of five houses having only one ashpit between them. The inadequacy of the water supply is still the cause of much unhealthiness and 853 misery. The supply is in some parts of London very uncertain, and when it is drawn it is kept by the poor in tubs, sometimes in sleeping rooms, there being no storage accommodation. The cutting off of the water supply by Water Companies on account of non-payment of the rate also leads to much evil. The closet accommodation is most defective. Hundreds of instances of this can be cited. I now come to another point—the condition of the bodily health of these people. I understand that the average death-rate of London is 19. In the Waterlow Buildings, which are more sanitarily conducted than most of such buildings, the average death-rate is 13; but in Wellington Square, which is large enough over which to take an average, the death-rate is 53.7 per 1,000. The suffering of little children is one most painful aspect of the whole case. There are large districts of London in which children suffer greatly from ophthalmia in consequence of the homes in which they live. Some years ago the Board of Health instituted inquiries in the low neighbourhoods to see what was the amount of labour lost in the year, not by illness, but by sheer exhaustion and inability to do work. It was found, upon the lowest average, that every workman or workwoman lost about 20 days in the year from simple exhaustion. The wages thus lost would go towards an increased rent for a better house. Lord Shaftesbury speaks of the moral effect of the present state of things. The one-room system also leads, as far as I have seen, to the one-bed system. I need not go further into that question than to say that the Royal Commission call particular attention to the state of morality in London as being distinctly higher than they could expect from such surroundings. Who is to blame?" Are the tenants to blame? I have waded through the Report of the Commission, and there is scarcely anything that has even a gleam of pathos in it except one little sentence written by Lord Shaftesbury. He says—"It is perfectly impossible for those poor people, with the best intentions, to keep their houses clean. Their hearts are broken, and they have not the means of doing it."
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I 854 must say he is quite, no doubt unintentionally, evading the ruling I have given, because he is now anticipating a discussion which must come on one or two of the three Bills, or on all of the Bills to which I have referred. This question arose in 1886, and I was obliged to give the same ruling.
§ * MR. JAMES STUART
I am sure, Sir, you will acquit me of any desire to disobey your ruling. I will not pursue the remarks which you rule to be distinctly improper at this point. There is, however, one matter which I think cannot come within the provision of the Bills to which you have referred—namely, the Amendment that ought to be made in the Standing Order of the House bearing upon this question. One of the principal reasons of the over-crowding, the results of which we all so much deprecate, is the demolitions of buildings which take place in pursuance of Bills passed by the House. The demolitions take place with a view of erecting better dwellings for the poorer classes. But the new buildings take considerable time to erect, and in the meantime the people who are evicted from their homes are put to the greatest straits. An alteration was made in the Standing Order in respect to Railway and other Bills before the Commission reported; but I wish to urge upon the Government the necessity of further alteration in the direction I am about to indicate. The present Standing Order requires that a railway company which is about to demolish 20 or more houses in any one parish should make provision for the re-housing of the tenants evicted. I wish to urge the Government to alter the Standing Order, so that if 20 persons are evicted provision for their re-housing should be made. Furthermore, it is desirable that the Standing Order should prevent a railway company or other company using for other purposes the houses erected for the accommodation of the poorer classes. Again, I would urge that the Standing Order should be so amended that someone should be charged with the duty of seeing that the provisions of the Order are carried out. I would suggest that, so far as the Metropolis is concerned, it would be right and proper that the London County Council should be charged with seeing that the buildings erected in compliance with the Standing Order are 855 suitable buildings; and, further, that the demolition and erection of buildings should as far as possible go on simultaneously and not successively—that is to say, that the demolition should not take place all at once. In one year alone in the Metropolis Railway Bills were passed which involved the razing of 1,807 houses, and the turning out of 14,905 persons. So the magnitude of the matter is very great. There is no doubt in the minds of those who have communicated with me upon the matter that the provisions of the Standing Order are not fulfilled. The present Government is, from their own showing, under a special obligation to deal with the matter. In the Amendment which I put on the paper, I asserted that the sanitary question should be dealt with. I did so because if you once enter upon an improvement in the sanitary condition of the dwellings of the working classes, you open out a much wider question—a question which Lord Salisbury fully recognized when he introduced the Bill of 1885—for he then said that that Bill must be considered a complete outcome of the Commissioners' Report, adding that there were large and difficult questions untouched, which the circumstances of the Session did not permit of them dealing with then. It will be in the recollection of the House that recently my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) went down to the East of London and touched upon certain points affecting the well-being of the working classes, more particularly in the Metropolis. The programme then unfolded by the right hon. Gentleman has been spoken of as the Clerkenwell-cum-Limehouse programme. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) went down to the East End a little later and made a speech upon similar topics. The Chancellor of the Exchequer found fault with my right hon. Friend for what he had said. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said—It is a preposterous innuendo on the part of our opponents to suggest that they are more qualified than we are to deal with the social reforms which are now being put forward.The social reforms the Chancellor of the Exchequer particularly referred to were the housing of the poor, leasehold enfranchisement, and the relative burdens borne by the rich and poor. I have 856 read my right hon. Friend's (Mr J. Morley's) speech, but I have not bean able to find any innuendo, unless it consisted of this—that he undertook to deal with these questions, and thereby made it appear that he thought that he was fit to do so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also said—I do not doubt Mr. Morley's sincerity, but what lam here to bring to the minds of this meeting is that the Unionist Party is better qualified by the previous history of its Members and its present intentions to deal with these burning questions.What I really want to ask is, why on earth does he not deal with them? The Chancellor of the Exchequer continued—We humdrum workers may be allowed to smile, and to ask the public to smile, when we see the wirepullers getting hold of the idealists and instructing them to deal in general phrases—mind, in general phrases—with some of those problems and subjects.Then he refers to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). He said there is a wall between him and his ability to reach these questions, and that was the Irish question; and he went on to say—We do not see the wall at all. We see a heap of ruins over which we conduct our victorious forces to gather the harvests which they long for—harvests which we have been engaged in gathering, and to fields where we hope still to be able to sow and to reap crops. What is the difference between ourselves and our opponents? We see that we can act now.And, lastly, after he had drawn a terrible picture as to its taking the Liberal Party ten years before they could touch these questions, the right hon. Gentleman said—But the Unionist Party do not propose to postpone for ten years measures necessary and desirable for the improvement of the people. We do not look forward so far. We believe that the time for dealing with important questions is not ten years hence after all these Utopias have been dealt with, but yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow.These were the very impressive words with which he concluded his reference to the subject, and then he added:—As the Session is so near at hand, I think you will all agree with me that it would he impossible for me to disclose the measures which will be announced by the Cabinet as a whole.What was the meaning of that speech? Did it not mean to any plain, honest man that we were going to see some of this very necessary legislation tackled by 857 the present Government? I came down to the House on the opening day in the full hope and expectation of finding that some real measure for the benefit of the poorer classes of the Metropolis would be dealt with. How is it that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has abandoned his position? Is it that he has not been able to carry his Colleagues with him? There was nothing in the Queen's Speech, and nothing in the speeches of the Mover or Seconder of the Address, about these matters which the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, down in the East of London, were subjects to be dealt with "yesterday, today, and to-morrow." If the right hon. Gentleman's words mean anything, they mean immediate and present action. Much is said about the operation of economic laws, but in one sense our whole existence and progress in this world, both in legislative and scientific matters, and as regards everything else, consists of a contest against the operation of natural laws; and I cannot admit that we are bound to sit powerless, and do nothing for the poorer classes, because economic laws may denude them largely of what they ought to have. I know of no better step for the bettering of the position of the poorer classes than that of improving the sanitary condition of their houses. I had some conversation only the other day with Mr. Tarrant, the Managing Director of the Artizans' and Labourers' General Dwelling Company, and he told me that no one can get land in London for the market value, and then let the houses at a rent which the working classes can pay, the houses being good and sanitary. If that is true, there is opened up a very serious aspect of things. Let me refer for a moment to the financial part of the question. The agent for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners is reported as having said that the first difficulty in providing buildings as artizans' dwellings is the procuring of sites, and that the second difficulty is that, even if sites can be procured, the ground rents are so enormous. Mr. Tarrant said to me—"There is a large capital loss in the provision of the sites. Land must be got at the cost of the community, or from the big landlords. If the land costs 2d. a foot a-year rent, the ground rental chargeable on a room is 3d. per week."
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I have listened very carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said. There is nothing in what he has said which is not pertinent to the Second Reading of one or other of the Bills which the House has ordered to be read on a future day. I am sorry to tell the hon. Gentleman that he is out of order.
§ * MR. JAMES STUART
Sir. I will bow, of course, to your decision, and conclude my remarks by repeating that this is a matter which will not wait. We have arrived at a time when we must do something, and do it very speedily, for the poorer class of persons who are becoming better educated, but who are still housed in the manner I have endeavoured to describe.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
I think it will have been obvious to the House that the course the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stuart) has pursued is somewhat inconvenient. The hon. Gentleman has had on the paper an Amendment to the Address that he has altered once at least, if not oftener, to bring it within the Orders of the House; and although, no doubt, the hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to comply with Mr. Speaker's ruling, yet almost every remark that he has made would have been germane to Bills before the House, and it is, therefore, extremely difficult to follow him without trenching in some degree on the Rules of the House. For myself, I believe that on both sides and in all quarters of the House there is a universal feeling that the sufferings of the poor in the Metropolis and in the country are great, and are borne with heroic fortitude; and nothing, I am sure, could give greater satisfaction to hon. Members generally than if they were able to minister, in however small a degree, to the comfort and happiness of the working classes. The Party to which I belong have shown their sympathy with the poor on many occasions by the legislation they have inaugurated and supported. And my answer to the hon. Gentleman's speech is that it is not so much legislation that is wanted in that matter as a reform in administration. I am perfectly ready to admit that, as far as the Report of the Royal Commission is concerned, there is much to be done in the way of legislation by 859 means of the consolidation and amendment of the present Sanitary Acts; but the hon. Gentleman will admit that, so far as the most important recommendation of that Commission is concerned, there is no Commission in modern times whose principal recommendations have been more speedily carried into law than those of the Royal Commissioners on this subject have been. They reported in 1885, and an Act was passed in the same year which has given effect to many of the Commission's most important recommendations; and, in addition to that, a Bill was presented to the House of Lords by Lord Salisbury, in the same Session, dealing with another part of the question, although, unfortunately, the state of public business has been such since that time that our hands have filled to overflowing with matters of a most important character, and we have not been able to press forward that Bill. I adhere to every word which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, and to which the hon. Member has referred. The Government are most anxious to deal with the other recommendations of the Commission, and we have a Bill at the Local Government Board which, although like several other measures of a social character it has not been mentioned in the Queen's Speech, it is hoped may be dealt with in the present Session with great benefit to the people. The necessities of the country have undoubtedly prevented us from dealing with a large number of these matters, but we have not given up the hope that we may be able to deal with them, though they have not been mentioned in the Queen's Speech. Whilst not denying that there is room for legislation in connection with the subject the hon. Gentleman has referred to, I have said that, in my opinion, it is not so much legislation that is wanted as better administration. That was also the opinion of no less an authority than Lord Shaftesbury. In the time of the Royal Commission of 1885 the late Lord Shaftesbury expressed the opinion that the Labouring Classes Lodging Houses Act would, if properly carried out, meet almost every requirement and remedy a great part of the existing evil; and the Mansion House Committee—who are entitled to the thanks 860 of everyone interested in the condition of the dwellings of the poor—acknowledged to the full that the existing Sanitary Act, if put into operation, will effect much of the improvement that is needed, and add greatly to the comfort, health, and happiness of the neighbouring population in the Metropolis. I have referred to the Act of 1885, which was brought, in to give effect to many of the principal recommendations of the Royal Commission. That Act made an important alteration in the Act referred to by Lord Shaftesbury. The administration of that Act was a parochial administration, and the Royal Commission suggested that the first thing requiring to be done was to make it Metropolitan instead of parochial. The Act of 1885 effected that change accordingly. The hon. Member asks whether much has been done under it. Well, I do not believe that anything has been done under it but that is not the fault of legislation, but of administration. The Act of 1885 dealt with many other matters, among, them being that of sites. The Royal Commission proposed that the sites of existing prisons should be made available for the erection of dwellings for the labouring poor, and their Report pointed rather to these sites being offered to the local authorities for that purpose. In the Bill introduced to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission it was provided that these sites should be offered to the local authorities on such terms as would enable them to be thus made available; but the House of Commons then thought the Government were going too far, and it put in stipulations with reference to that particular point, making it necessary that if the sites were taken for that purpose they should be taken at the full market value. It is obvious that that forms a very important impediment in the way of providing cheap dwellings for the labouring poor. But it was the House that altered the proposal of the Government in the direction of making it lees easy for the local authorities to acquire the site.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that the question of the provision of sites for dwellings for the working classes is directly covered by the Bills to which he has referred.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I was afraid it would be hardly possible for me to get through 861 without being out of order. I will not go further into this particular point, which I have only touched upon because the hon. Member made a good deal of it; but I may mention that the hon. Gentleman is under an error in thinking that the poor now suffer from the cutting off of the water supply for non-payment of rates. A most useful measure, which entirely removed that particular grievance, was introduced and carried by the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Forrest Fulton). Going on to the question of administration, there is one other recommendation of the Commission of a most important character—namely, that London government should be reformed. The hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that something has been done to give effect to that recommendation. We have created in the Metropolis a large body directly elected by the ratepayers, in the place of a body directly elected by the Vestries. If the Vestries and Local Boards throughout the Metropolis did not properly exercise their powers, it was hardly likely that the members returned by the Vestries and Local Boards to the central body would do so. All that is now changed; and when the London County Council settles down to the work with which Parliament has charged them, I have no doubt whatever that if they exercise the powers which have been conferred on them, they will in a short time remedy a vast number of the evils that have been complained of. Upon matters of this kind we are all Radicals—the whole House of Commons is radical on the point of desiring to see the newly-created body exercising every power it possesses to compel the local authorities to do their duty under the Sanitary Acts by giving a plentiful supply of water, and ventilation, and light where they are required. None of us, however conservative, are at all likely to complain of the exercise to the full of the powers vested in the London County Council.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
Does the hon. Member deny that under the Lodging Houses Act the powers of the Metropolitan Board are transferred to the London County Council, and that they are enabled to hire, purchase, erect, furnish, manage, and let houses as lodgings for the working classes?
§ * MR. LAWSON
The right hon. Gentleman will excuse me for interrupting him, but he spoke of water and sanitation, and not of lodging houses; and in sanitary matters the London County Council has no power over the Vestries and District Boards.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
What does the hon. Gentleman mean by "sanitation"? Does he not place in the very forefront of this question of sanitation this question of overcrowding? I am sure that the hon. Member who introduced this subject does—judging from his speech. What can be more effectual to prevent overcrowding than to give the County Council power to hire, erect, purchase, and let buildings for the lodging of the working classes? Besides, the London County Council will not only be the authority in respect of lodging houses, but they will be the authority for carrying out Torrens' Act, which deals with small areas, and will enable them to clear out close and confined courts and alleys, and to deal with the insanitary condition, of small areas. The London County Council will also be enabled to deal with larger areas under Lord Cross's Act. It is also proposed to ask the House to transfer to the County Council additional powers under the Nuisances Removal Act, 1866, which deals with sanitation, with overcrowding, with nuisances generally, and with individual houses. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, these powers have now to be exercised by the vestries and the district boards, and if they do not do their duty there is an appeal to the Local Government Board; but a central Department cannot effectually put these powers into operation, and it is proposed to transfer them from the Local Government Board to the London County Council. Then, if a local authority fails in its duty, an appeal can be made to the London County Council, which can appoint officers to take action and bring responsible persons before the proper tribunal.
§ * MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
Under what authority will these powers be conveyed to the London-County Council?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
They will be conveyed by the Provisional Order Bill which I have undertaken to introduce for the purpose of vesting the powers of the Local Government Board in the London County Council. It is proposed 863 to do more than this. We further propose to require Medical Officers of Health in London to make reports annually, or more often, if desired, to the County Council and to the Local Government Board, giving full particulars as to the sanitary condition of their districts. Hitherto such reports have not been called for in the Metropolis by the Local Government as they are in the rest of the country. The London County Council has the power to appoint a Medical Officer of Health of their own, and, assisted by reports from the local Medical Officers of Health, they will be able to keep themselves in touch with all local areas in the Metropolis. It will be a matter for consideration whether, looking at the particular circumstances of the Metropolis, these reports should not be made oftener than once a year, but whether that be so or not I think it is a most important duty that we propose to impose on the Medical Officers of Health and the London County Council. I can only now say that the Government will take into consideration these and all the other matters that have been referred to. I trust that, though they have not been mentioned in the Queen's Speech, we may be able to deal with many others of the subjects mentioned in the Report of the Royal Commission.
§ * MR. STUART
Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the desirability of reprinting the Report of the Royal Commission?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I think I have shown that there are many subjects remaining to be dealt with yet. If the new authorities we have set up in London will undertake the duties imposed on them with an honest and earnest desire to carry them out to the full, it may be considered that many of the evils complained of are already in the course of being remedied.
§ * MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)
So long as this discussion is kept clear of your ruling, the Government have no reason to complain if London Members protest against the absolute and wilful neglect of London interests and London questions in the programme 864 of the Session. I am very glad, how ever, that the right hon. Gentleman has not sought to persuade the House that there is no urgency in dealing with these questions, in face of the notorious facts and the circumstances by which they were surrounded, which were so strongly impressed on the mind of the people of London last autumn by the occurrence of atrocious crime. No doubt, the fact that these questions are social, and not political, partly accounts for the absence of reference to them in the Queen's Speech; but, nevertheless, they depend to a great extent upon this House for solution, and surely they are as worthy of mention as a Scotch University Bill. Another reason why the Government is not prepared to deal more drastically with London questions is that among the London Members they have a majority of five to one at their back. These are, on the whole, a docile and inoffensive body of men, who do not make themselves unpleasant in high quarters. We have been called by an American critic the "City State," but it seems to me we have less attention from the Treasury Bench than any little Pedlington in the country. It is not for me to advise—perhaps it would be impertinent for me to do so—Her Majesty's Government or the Local Government Board as to reforms of Metropolitan government, but I can assure the right hon. Gentlemen, coming fresh from a municipal election, that there is a growing tide of indignation in London at the succession of slurs put upon us. Take the Local Government Act of last Session; true, we were included in it, but that was because we could not be left out of it, but the clauses affecting London were rushed through with almost indecent haste, and when we rose to protest, a threat was shadowed forth that the clauses would be dropped altogether. That did not happen because we did all we could to forward the Bill. We did so because we thoroughly approved of the democratic principle incorporated in it. But the Act has in many cases made the existing confusion of London government more confounded. There never has been a time since 1855 when the condition of London government was in a condition so chaotic and inorganic as it is to-day. The constitution of the Metropolitan Board of 865 Works supplied a connecting link between the various existing boards and sanitary bodies, something like the relation between the Central and District Councils, we may call it. But at the present moment there is no responsibility at all to the central authority, even in sanitary administration. These local bodies are so many sovereign powers. What I want to ask is this. We have seen rumours in the Press as to the measures the Government is going to amend and supplement the Act of last Session, but I should like to have it from the right hon. Gentleman publicly, is that measure to include London or not?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I gave the same answer to a similar question last year. The hon. Member is not raising any new point. It was distinctly raised last year, and I then stated with what I believe was the unanimous concurrence of the House, that the interests of London government were so great that they required to be dealt with in a Bill by themselves and that I could not undertake to deal with that particular part of the question this Session.
§ * MR. LAWSON
Then I may take it from the right hon. Gentleman that London will not be dealt with this Session?
§ * MR. LAWSON
Then you have given us this great gaunt skeleton of local government and absolutely refuse to clothe it with flesh and blood. I can assure the House that from a sanitary and social point of view, the interior reform of London government is more important than the reform of the Central Government itself. The right hon. Gentleman has himself shown by the reform he has suggested that nearly all sanitary administration is in the hands of parochial authorities, and the County Council is almost powerless in such matters. These Vestries and District Boards have to administer the Nuisances Removal Act; we have no authority to administer the Sanitary Acts of 1866; they are responsible for the sanitary condition of every existing structure—
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I said distinctly it was so, and that I proposed, by a Provisional Order Bill, to transfer powers to the London County Council to deal with such matters itself in case of default by local authority.
§ * MR. LAWSON
But that will not amend the constitution of these local bodies. Nobody stands up in this House for the greater part of the Vestries of London. They are left to administer all powers, except such as those under the Torrens and Cross Acts, and the London County Council will have no control over local authorities, except the possibility that in the future it will be able to exert some indirect influence of direction over Officers of Health hereafter to be appointed. When they make their Reports, then it will be all right; but the right hon. Gentleman has not yet suggested it is possible to allow us to enforce them. I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will realize that there is nothing so bad for London as to allow this confusion to be prolonged. We had a half promise, as I understood it, that this Session we should have an Amending Bill to consolidate and dovetail the different pieces of London government, and now we are told we may get it next year, and perhaps we shall not get it at all. But what is required more than anything is this interior reform of London administration. Some vestries are not so black as they are painted, and in others, where you have the house jobber and the sweater dominant, the fault lies with those superior persons in London who regard the petty affairs of their own neighbourhood as beneath their notice. There ought to be diminution in the number of members of Vestries, in order that office held in them should be of greater dignity, and the electorate would have a larger choice of men, and most certainly you ought to do away with the indirect representation in district bodies, as you have condemned it in the central body. You should bring in a short Bill to place Vestries and District Boards under the general jurisdiction of the County Council for sanitary purposes. The work of assimilating the sanitary administration of London is even more important than consolidating the Sanitary Law. What we want is unity and uniformity, and I would press on the right hon. Gentleman, how are you to improve administration while you leave these bodies in all their present corruption? Why are you not prepared to supplement the good work of 867 last Session, and help through the reforms we require to meet our pressing needs. Session after Session you have the advice of experts. You had a Committee to inquire into the immigration of foreigners into London, and the sanitary aspect of the question occupied much attention on the inquiry. One witness, the Sanitary Inspector for Whitechapel, described the uncertainty of administration in relation to overcrowding. The Act did not define overcrowding, and so in some districts 400 cubic feet of space was required for each person, in others 300 cubic feet, and in others 250 feet. You have this state of things, that you define the breathing space a pauper shall have in the workhouse, you prescribe the space a cow shall have in her licensed shed, yet you are content to leave the ordinary citizen who does not enter the workhouse to the varying mercies of each medical Officer of Health, who sets up his own standard in his own district. This gentleman's evidence contained another important piece of advice. He said the sanitary condition of the registered common lodging houses was subject to police inspection only. These lodging-houses are under the police—but whom are the police under? When Estimates were were voted for their maintenance they were under this House, now they will be paid from local funds without being under local control. He said he only visited such when there was a question of structural alteration or something of that kind. I do not quote opinions of politicians; the House is aware that several Metropolitan Magistrates have expressed in the strongest terms their sense of the pernicious influence these common lodging houses have upon the people. Then I might draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a suggestion, and a principle that has been embodied in many local Acts, that is the compulsory registration of the existence of infectious disease. In his last report the Vestry Medical Officer for Chelsea draws attention to the subject.
§ * MR. LAWSON
I was not aware of that, and am very glad to hear it. That disposes of one of the recommendations that sanitary reformers in London would 868 like to make. I will not detain the House at length, but I would point out that whilst there have been many amendments of the law made which have remedied the state of things revealed by the Commission to inquire into the housing of the working classes, certain facts remain as true now as ever they were. I have read the whole of the evidence taken by the Commission twice over, but I will not trouble the House with Blue Book extracts as to this or the evidence given before the Town Holdings Committee. The Commission was to some extent of an ornamental character, and all who have read the evidence will feel that it would justify a great deal more than is recommended in the Report. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether seriously he can make much boast of the Act passed in 1885 to amend the law as to the dwellings of the working-classes, when everybody knows that it has been a dead letter. The right hon. Gentleman says that is the fault of Administration, but why should he refuse to reform those bodies that have to carryout the provisions of Lord Shaftesbury's Lodging house Act. He may say the County Council is in existence, and the Metropolitan Board of Works is swept away, but in the administration of sanitary laws, Vestries and Local Boards have far more to say than the County Council. The County Council may in time exercise some general supervision, but until you pass a measure of interior reform for London all the rest will be worth very little. May I call attention to the facts contained in the Appendix to the Report in reference to the proportion of population to houses and area in London and two other great towns. In the central district of London you have the proportion of 158 of population to the acre and 10.3 to the house; while in Birmingham it is 83 population to the acre and 5.1 to the house; and in Liverpool, 85 to the acre and 4.5 to the house. Therefore these are about double the population to the house and the acre in London that you have in Birmingham and Liverpool. Mr. Williams gives some most interesting facts as to the rent paid by the artizan and labouring classes in London. He says that 46 per cent, pay from a quarter to a half of their wages in rent; 42 per cent pay from a quarter to a 869 fifth; and 12 per cent pay less than one fifth. That, in fact, 88 per cent of the working classes pay more than a fifth of their weekly earnings in the form of rent. Can anyone say this state of things is in a way to be remedied? Some of the more glaring scandals have disappeared, not owing to legislation but to the force of public opinion, which has not yet died away. If "slumming" has gone out of fashion we still have the Mansion House Committee, and we cannot praise too highly the work that Committee has done and is doing. Some people may tell you that voluntary action and individual enterprize are solving the problem and meeting the difficulty, but that is not the case. Nobody who has knowledge of the subject will seek to take any one iota of the praise due to the "Improved Industrial Dwellings Company," the "Artizans' and Labourers' Dwellings Company," and other associations of the kind. If they offend against aesthetic canons in the external appearance of these buildings.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now certainly touching upon matters to which, I must remind him, one or more Bills now before the House are addressed.
§ * MR. LAWSON
I was not proposing, Sir, to enter upon the subject as a whole, but only to refer to the voluntary principle and those cases where no power is given by Act of Parliament. But, however, I drop that subject, only saying that experience has shown clearly that you are able to give to the skilled artizan class sound housing at a reasonable cost as a commercial speculation, on a business footing, but you have not in the least provided for housing the very poor, that is as much a necessity to day as it was when the Commission sat. I should like to give from my personal knowledge an instance that has not yet been made public. The Whitechapel murders were committed within a small area of ground. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well the small streets and alleys contiguous to the Commercial Road make up a very plague-spot of human misery. Well, in consequence of the scare caused by the murders there was a general exodus from the numerous lodging-houses of the district. In one of these the number of occupied beds was reduced from 130 to 20 in one night. It came to the 870 ears of a number of gentlemen, some of them Members of this House, that the whole of these foul dwellings were situated on a single property, and that a great many of the house-owners fearing that they would be unable to earn their livelihood, wished to dispose of the fag-ends of their leases. Well, an offer was made to the ground landlords of the property, a most respectable family. They were a little apprehensive that, as the scandals went on, for fear that their names might be published, for fear that it should be proclaimed throughout the land, that for years they and their respectable agent had been allowing the covenants to remain unperformed, and in taking in the form of ground rents the wages of infamy. Well, the panic passed away, and though a reasonable offer was made, which at first they were ready to accept, they ended by raising their terms and demanded such a high figure that it was impossible to deal with them, and the negotiations for sale fell through, so the place is left a disgrace to the owners and a source of ruin to the neighbourhood. If a public authority had tried to deal with this area they would have found themselves obliged to pay the price required for the goodwill of crime and vice under the existing law. "Severance" and "compensation for compulsory sale" are pretty terms for the protection of rights of property, but I appeal to the House whether the family of ground landlords who owned this plague spot in Whitechapel would not have got off very easily if they had received the price of the bare ground without a penny for the dens erected upon it, considering the purposes to which it had been applied and the profit they had made out of the land for so many years. I am quite well aware that no act of legislation can change the face of London; I am quite aware you are unable to do away with the meeting points of poverty and crime, but, at least, this you can do by carrying out some of the reforms suggested, withdraw that protection and aid the law now gives to the propagation of disease and the demoralization of the whole community.
§ * COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
Compensation for compulsory purchase is not given if the houses are condemned.
§ * COLONEL HUGHES
The hon. Member instituted a comparison between London and Birmingham in population at per house to show that Birmingham was less overcrowded than London, but his assumption is incorrect, because in London the houses are much larger, and if you want to make a comparison of the nnmber of persons in each house you must also take the cubical contents of the houses.
§ * COLONEL HUGHES
With regard to the Bye-laws for the regulation of lodging houses and the difference in the amount of cubic space allowed, it must be remembered that all these regulations have been sanctioned by the Local Government Board. I have never noticed this difference, but at any rate should the hon. Member be right, when these powers are transferred it will be the duty of the County Council, of which the hon. Member is so distinguished an ornament, to see that the bye-laws sanctioned are uniform. I do not see how in the Royal Speech allusion could have been made to the Provisional Orders mentioned. The transfer of powers by Provisional Order was provided for in the Act of last Session, and there was no need to mention what is already on the Statute Book. I am glad there is to be this transfer, and the opportunity of introducing uniformity. I am a little disappointed, I must confess, that the formation of District Councils is to be postponed. It is quite true that at the present time there is a connecting link between the central authority and the District Boards in consequence of members of the Board being elected by the district authorities. That is a very valuable link no doubt, and when the District Councils come to be formed no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will allow the representatives on the central body, the London County Council, to be ex-officii members of the District Councils, so that the link so useful al present may be preserved? I consider the confusion of areas in the different districts of London a great scandal. It leads to expense and maladministration, and I can only imagine this matter is deferred because the right hon. Gentleman desires that the London 872 County Council should apply its mind to the best means of rearranging the districts of the Metropolis. It is a difficult question to conciliate and harmonise conflicting interests.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
It is important that the question of London District Councils should be dealt with as speedily as possible, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman realises the importance of altering the state of things now existing. I would draw attention to a small inaccuracy in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It may have been merely a slip, but it has some bearing on transactions the Home Secretary may have to carry out. In alluding to the Act of 1885, the right hon. Gentleman said in that year the House of Commons, not being—as I should put it—so much advanced in sympathy with the people, altered the recommendation of the Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, that prison sites should be sold for less than market value, to "full market value." Now, I think it was "fair," not "full" market value. In offering the Millbank site, I hope a generous interpretation will be put upon the expression, "fair market value." The site of Coldbath Fields Prison could not be used for artisans' dwellings, on account of the high price that was asked for it. The Artisans' Dwellings Company refused it, and obtained a better site on the opposite side of the way, from the Metropolitan Board of Works, upon which a large block of dwellings has been erected, while the prison site has been taken by the post-office authorities for the parcel post extension. Additional accommodation was the more important in this district, as there are large Government offices and much overcrowding. There is one thing in the Act of 1885 to which I would draw attention and suggest that a small Act should be passed. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that under the Act of 1885, which was passed to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission, special borrowing powers were given. The Royal Commission recommended that there should be embodied in the Act special borrowing powers to carry out these improvements, but it was found impossible for these purposes to borrow at the rate of 3¼ per 873 cent. instead of the higher sums of times gone by. If I might make the suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, it would be worth while in a short Bill, which I am sure would be received with no opposition from my part of the House, to give that power again, so that if the London County Council come to deal with these questions of sanitation, they may have the privileges of borrowing money at the same rate of interest as recommended in the Report of the Royal Commission. I think I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he regards the question as one rather of administration than of legislation. I have no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Home Secretary will have seen a very valuable report issued by the Clerkenwell Vestry, which has been doing good work. A Committee of that body has dealt with the question of blind alleys and courts in their neighbourhood, and from their report it will be seen that totally apart from the question of the housing of the poor, there is a vast number of things to be done—the making of thoroughfares where there were no thoroughfares, or blind alleys, and the pulling down of houses which formed the arched entrances of courts. The whole of that work involved a very heavy expenditure; and it will be found from the report to which I have referred that, had all the works necessary to be done been executed, it would have put upon the parish of Clerkenwell a rate that the ratepayers would have been unable to meet. And it further states that the evils which the Royal Commission pointed out are still in force, and that until there is an alteration, it is feared they will inevitably be so. The Vestry find that they cannot to all they desire until the evil reported on by the Royal Commission as to the housing of the poor has been legislated upon. I find in the report also a suggestion as to future legislation, to which call the attention of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I see the attention of the Metropolitan Board of Works is called to certain squares in the parish of Clerkenwell, and the opinion is expressed that they ought to be dealt with by the Metropolitan Authority, and that the clauses in the Act of 1882 (Sir Richard Cross's Act), limiting the areas dealt with to not less than 10,000 874 houses, should be repealed. What the Report suggests is a series of small areas in the same neighbourhood, and they propose 10 houses in each, and that it should be possible to deal with these by the Central Authority, instead of leaving the work to small parishes like Clerkenwell, with a population of 80,000 people. I deeply regret that the Government have not been able to recommend, in the Speech from the Throne, that some of these London grievances should be dealt with. I can assure them of one thing, that London is becoming very impatient. More will be heard of London in this House than has been heard in the past. In the good old days before 1885, it was almost matter of wonder to hear the voice of a Metropolitan Member, or anything with regard to London, in this House. Now, London will have to be listened to, and the reforms it requires will have to be dealt with, and I do hope that before long the Government will give us some indication that they are prepared to do these things. I regret that I cannot go deeply into this question in the Debate, but I hope for some early opportunity, when I think it will be possible to prove to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, that the question is not simply one of administration, but that there is a vast amount of legislation required before London will be put into a satisfactory position.
§ * MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
said, I am bound to say that I dissent from the observation of the hon. Member for St. Pancras, that the Government has done little for London, for last Session it passed a measure, much of which has direct relation to London, of greater magnitude and complexity than any London measure that has been passed for years. It has been complained that London is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech; but if London were specifically mentioned, then every hon. Member would have an equal right to contend that the particular district in which he was interested should be mentioned. I enter my protest against that sectional way of dealing with public questions. I yield to no one in my desire that these important matters should be brought before the attention of the House. I quite agree that there are many matters connected with the sanitation of London which 875 press for earnest attention and early treatment by Her Majesty's Government. Who could have listened to the speech of the President of the Local Government Board to-night without seeing that he is a Minister who thoroughly understands London questions, and who sympathizes with the difficulties of the poor? But hon. Members opposite have chosen an irregular, inconvenient, and futile opportunity of raising London questions. London Conservative Members are at least as anxious as Metropolitan Members opposite, to do what they can to improve the condition of London; and we most earnestly press upon Her Majestys' Government, at as early a date as they conveniently can, to introduce further legislation to consolidate and amend the several Public Health and Dwellings Acts, and to provide that in all cases of a displacement of population under compulsory powers, it shall be obligatory that adequate new accommodation shall be supplied for those who were thus ejected.
§ * MR. S. C. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets)
It seems to have rather hurt the feelings of hon. Members opposite to describe them as docile and inoffensive. I had thought it rather a complimentary term as applied to those private Members who sit behind the Treasury Bench, and who are apt to be very docile and inoffensive, for if they get restive they are told in very strong language that the Government do not like their conduct at all. I am rather sorry that this debate has been confined entirely to the Housing of the Working Classes. I raise a strong protest against the Government, because all reference to Metropolitan questions has been omitted from the Queen's Speech, and especially in regard to the emphatic promise made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who went to Stratford to talk, not of questions of administration, as the President of the Local Government Board seems to suggest, but of legislation. He went there to counteract the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Hailing from the aristocratic quarter of St. Georges, Hanover Square, he sneered at the pro 876 gramme of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) as the Clerkenwell-cum-Limehouse programme; and at Stratford he declared, as a responsible Member of the Government, that not only was the Government possessed of all the knowledge and all the proper feeling in this matter, but that they also possessed the capability of giving effect to these questions to which reference has been made. My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch Division has already quoted one of the emphatic promises made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that particular speech. But I should like to trouble the House by repeating another portion of the speech, because it seems to me to make it more just that Metropolitan Members on this side of the House should raise a short debate on Metropolitan questions on this occasion. He said, "After stating that the Unionist Party were better qualified than any other to deal with these Metropolitan questions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer went on to say—The Unionist Party do not propose to postpone for ten years, or to the beginning of the next century, measures necessary or desirable for the improvement of the people. We believe that the time for dealing with these important questions is not ten years hence, but yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow,And now, while we are asking the Government for bread we receive a stone. We ask for legislation and the Government talk of administration. It is true there are many matters in regard to which the position of the working-classes can be improved by improved administration, but there are also a vast number of questions affecting the Metropolis to which reference has been made that can only be dealt with by legislation. The power to deal with markets and water should be handed over to the County Councils, and we desire also that such matters as the incidence of taxation, the equalization of Poor Pates, and the question of Leaseholds, should also be taken into consideration, and that, if possible, the Government should do something with regard to them. What, I ask, is mentioned in the Queen's Speech in response to the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman has said that the Government means to 877 introduce Bills, although they are not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne; but hon. Members know that the position given to the measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech is everything, and that precedence in that Speech is a proportionate guarantee on the part of the Government of the pressure they will exercise to pass them. We are told that the Defences of the Empire ought to be strengthened, and that, no doubt, worthily deserves the first place in the Queen's Speech; and then Her Majesty's Government are going to carry out the policy of "simultaneity and spontaneity" by neglecting Ireland, and bringing in a measure of local Government for Scotland. But, beyond this, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not desirous of having his name as a great finance Minister omitted from the programme, has promised to bring forward finance measures, which may have the effect of somewhat repairing the damage done to his reputation by the introduction of the Wheel Tax. He promised that the Metropolis should receive special attention; but we find that all questions affecting the Metropolis are excluded from the Queen's Speech; although at the same time the right hon. Gentleman is going to devote a portion of the Session to the settlement of the coinage question—the present condition of which has existed for scores of years without serious harm to the country, and might continue for scores of years longer without any further detriment. The right hon. Gentleman is going to do this, and acquire all the honour and glory that may arise there from, to the exclusion of social questions of infinitely greater importance. These questions and that of the Sugar Bounties, which is also to be discussed, will, together with the Estimates, make up the sum and substance of any measures which the Government may hope to carry during the short coming Session. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Stuart) has already pointed out the extreme urgency of the questions to which I have already referred. They have been considered and discussed over and over again, and it is time we endeavoured to legislate upon them. The Metropolitan Members depended on the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and now are bitterly disap 878 pointed at finding the neglect with which Metropolitan questions are to be treated. The hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Whitmore) has said we, in London, ought not to have exceptional legislation; but that is not asked for, and I think we ought to remember that until now we have not had any great representative authority fitted to decide many of the questions that have been awaiting solution in the Metropolis. We now have such a body, and we thank the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for it, and I think that we are at one in believing that that will prove a great boon to the London ratepayer. Having, therefore, this body in existence, we say that all questions as to water, markets, taxation, and so forth, ought to and can without any difficulty be legislated upon and handed over to the keeping and administration of that great body who may be expected to deal with them to the vast advantage of the Metropolis. I have only risen as a Metropolitan Member to protest, as I do most emphatically, against the absolute breach of the emphatic promise made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is perhaps the most important Member of Her Majesty's Government—a breach that will not be easily forgotten, and which we shall be glad if he will explain.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
In reference to what has been urged by hon. Members opposite I would point out that the House ought to consider what is possible and what is impossible of accomplishment; and I would also say that, as the House is doubtless well aware, if there were less talk there would be more work. The question of sanitary dwellings for the artizans is one in which many of us are interested, but we have avoided speaking at length on the subject, because we have been anxious not to waste the time of the House, and because we hope that there may be time to go into it and other important matters this Session. We all know how hard the House was worked during the past Session, and can sympathize with the position of those who are engaged in the work of the Government, because they have to attend to their various official duties as well as to what they have to do in the House, and it 879 is impossible that they can get through their work satisfactorily it the same strain is put upon them as that which they had to bear last Session. In conclusion, I will only say that I hope the Local Government Board will not give new powers to the County Councils till they see how those bodies exercise the powers they already possess.
§ * MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I will endeavour to imitate the excellent example in brevity set to the House by the hon. Member who has just sat down. I think it scarcely becomes a Metropolitan Member to speak of the vast Metropolitan population of 5,000,000 as that of a mere district—for if it can be called a district it is one that has almost as many inhabitants as the whole of Ireland. It has been suggested that measures should be brought in by Her Majesty's Government giving by further legislation extended powers to the new governing authority of the Metropolis; and it has also been said that these matters should be dealt with by Bills brought in by private Members. It seems to me to be impossible that such a matter as that which we are discussing to-night could be dealt with by any hon. Private Member in a Bill. The interests involved are too vast, the expenditure involved is too enormous, and the question of principle as to the mode of taxation which should apply too intricate to render it possible for any effective measure on the subject to be thus brought in and carried. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary last Session, and I remind him now, that there is an urgent necessity for an immediate consolidation of the Acts relating to this and kindred subjects. At the present moment many of the Acts apply sectionally to the various Vestries, and I am glad to find that the powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works are to be transferred to the new governing body; but what we ask, and what would be of more advantage to the Metropolis and the country generally, is that all the Acts dealing with sanitation and the dwellings of the working classes should be consolidated. Then, and then only, will the local authorities, not only of London, but all over the country be able properly to put in force the powers conferred upon them. I will not apologize to the Board of Works nor to the Vestries for 880 what has been said about the manner in which they have discharged their duties; but I think I may say this on their behalf—that the authority of the two have overlapped to such an extent that the Vestries have not known where they might go and where not. If the Government will only now take time by the forelock and consolidate and amend the Acts referred to with regard to the whole of London, I think it would be easy to carry such a measure through this House. With regard to the regulations which are laid upon the Table of this House, I would point out that they are usually passed without the House having any power to deal with them, it being only with the greatest difficulty that hon. Members can obtain copies of them. I am not now complaining of the authorities of the House in any department, because they have always granted me any copy I have asked for; but a Member must have some prior knowledge as to what is going to be done, or as to what is necessary to be done, before he is able to seek for a copy of the regulations, the result being that very few ever see a copy of them until they have become law. We know what a terrible muddle the Post Office got into last Session with regard to the regulations affecting the Post Office Savings Bank. I hope the Government will see the importance of dealing with the question of consolidating the Acts I have spoken of by bringing in a Consolidation Bill, and I can promise that we on this side of the House will give to a measure of this kind the same facilities, and even greater facilities than were given by the Metropolitan Members when the Local Government Bill was before the House. We are now prevented from discussing the question in a comprehensive manner, but I am persuaded that if the right hon. Gentleman opposite would bring in a Bill every effort would be made on this side to help him. Having had some little experience in connection with questions of this kind, I am satisfied that it is important we should have a proper code of laws in our hands and be able to enforce it. I would, therefore, urge upon Her Majesty's Government the propriety of bringing in at once a comprehensive measure dealing with the whole of the question.
§ MR. BAUMANN (Camberwell, Peckham)
I beg to enter a respectful protest against being described as a Radical because I am in favour of sanitary reform. Of twelve Statutes which have been placed on the Statute Book dealing with the housing of the working classes in the course of the last thirty-eight years, five have been carried by private Members, two by Liberal Governments, and five by Conservative Governments—four by Lord Basing and one by Lord Salisbury. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will communicate the enthusiasm which they have derived from the redistribution of seats, to their Leaders, who have hitherto displayed a singular indifference to the subject. A demand has been made by the hon. Member for Hoxton (Mr. Stuart) and the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) for the passing of a Consolidating Act, and I must say that that demand is a very reasonable one. Hon. Members know how difficult it is to read and construe together two amending Acts of Parliament, but when they have to deal with twelve—[Mr. HOWELL: Thirty]—the difficulty is almost insurmountable. Every one over laps and amends the other, and the task, difficult as it would be to a lawyer, becomes insuperable to a Vestry. I think that Vestries ought not to be able to plead, as they do, their ignorance of the law, but as the law now stands the Local Government Board itself is obliged to admit that that ignorance is justifiable. What we want in London is not so much new law as new local authorities to carry out the existing law, and I agree with the hon. Member for St. Pancras that the sooner District Councils are created the better. I would, however, suggest to the hon. Member, in the most friendly spirit, that until District Councils are created it would be well for the new London County Council to do its best to impart a new spirit into the existing Vestries. The Royal Commission on the Housing of the Poor made one or two recommendations which have not been carried out in Lord Salisbury's Act; but I think they are of so much importance that, if the House will allow me, I should like to press them upon the attention of the Home Secretary. First of all, there are the sanitary inspectors of the parishes. I think there ought to be something like an equal proportion of sanitary inspectors to the population. In 882 London we have this experience. In St. James', Westminster, and St. Giles' there is one inspector to 9,000 population; in Islington and St. Pancras, one to 60,000; Greenwich, one to 65,000; Bermondsey, one to 85,000; and Mile End, one to 105,000 of the population, thus showing that in some districts of London there are too few inspectors, while in others there are too many. Then, again, the sanitary inspectors of the parishes ought to be competent men, who know something of the science of sanitation and of the art of building. They ought not to be appointed to posts of this kind because they know something of the jewellery trade, or because, in the opinion of the Vestries, they are men of common sense. They ought to have manifested some knowledge and fitness which specially qualified them for the position. One word with regard to the medical officers of health. I was glad to hear from my right hon. Friend that they are to be required to send in Reports to the Local Government Board, but there is another point which I consider to be most essential, and it is that the medical officer of health should reside in the district. It transpired before the Royal Commission that in some of the worst neighbourhoods in London the medical officer of health was some famous physician who lived and practised in another part of the town. Then, again, I think the medical officers of health ought to be appointed by the Local Government Board, and that they should not be dependent upon the Vestries. Very recently a medical officer named Murphy felt himself obliged to resign owing to his strained relations with the Vestry, for no other reason than that he had done his duty. There is only one other recommendation of the Royal Commission to which I wish to refer, and it is that, when a dispute occurs between the central and the local authorities (which, in future, I imagine will be the County Council and the District Council) as to whose duty it is to do a particular piece of work, the Local Government Board should immediately appoint an arbitrator to do the work. From our experience of the past we know how fruitful have been disputes as to who ought to do the work. I feel sure that if the President of the Board of Trade or the Home Secretary 883 —I do not know in whose Department it would come—would introduce a consolidating and amending Sanitary Act, it would not only add to his reputation, but would secure the gratitude of the people of the Metropolis.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
I concur with the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Baumann) that many Members on this side of the House fully recognize the importance of the subject which has been introduced by the hon. Member for Hackney. Everyone who has any knowledge of the intricacies of sanitary law must recognize the great advantage which must be derived from a consolidation of the existing Statutes on the subject. For my own part, I hope the time is not far distant when the Government will see their way to the introduction of a measure of this kind; but the chief object with which I have risen was to show that the Government are not blameable for any inattention to the wants of the Metropolis. I hold in my hand a Report of the Mansion House Council on the Dwellings of the Poor. It is not necessary to speak of the representative character of that Council, which is presided over by the Lord Mayor, and is composed of members of all political Parties. In their Report the Council acknowledge the deep sense of their obligations to the present Administration, and to the permanent officials of the Local Government Board and the Home Office, for the recognition of the Council's efforts to improve the dwellings of the poor, and they add that without such support the action of the Council would be almost futile. The Report points out the vast field which exists for improvement in relation to sanitary science, and is a practical acknowledgment of the work which has been done by the Government and the Home Office. At the same time, I feel that the present position of the law adds greatly to the difficulty of dealing with the subject, and I would venture, with full assurance, to express a hope that the Government will give their early attention to the matter.
§ * MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
Not being a Metropolitan Member, I should not have ventured to interpose in the debate had it not been my fortune for a long series of years to take an active part in sanitary questions in the parish 884 of Paddington in West London. It is a common phrase, both in and out of the House, that legislation by reference to other Statutes is inconvenient and mischievous, and makes it impossible to interpret a Statute or to administer the law with satisfaction. In order to understand the Act which followed the Report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Poor, it is necessary that you should have some 40 or 50 Statutes by your side. I myself, in endeavouring to understand the Act for the Housing of the Working Classes, 1885, and to deal with it, have found myself surrounded by a perfect library of Statutes. Yet it is a question affecting the health, happiness, and well-being of the people, and, in my opinion, the law dealing with questions of such great importance ought, at least, to be clear and intelligible, and perfectly free from obscurity and contradiction. In a summer ramble in France last year. I found that it is the custom of the Government of that country to place in the public institutions, week by week and month by month, an explanation of the various-Statutes passed by the Legislature. I think this is an example which might be followed with great advantage in this country. If it were done by way of a memorandum, those who have to adminster the law would become comparatively familiar with it, and would have at hand some comprehensive view of the main enactments in reference to a particular subject. The consequence would be that enactments now recondite and unknown would become familiar to the people, and would be better carried into operation. Some complaint has been made of the obscurity of the Statutes as far as they apply to London, but that defect is entirely due to the action of the London Vestries. When Lord Basing was at the head of the Local Government Board, he introduced into the House of Commons a Consolidating Bill, but the Vestries unanimously opposed it, and with such effect, having the co-operation and assistance of the Metropolitan Members, that the Bill was withdrawn. I myself presided at a meeting of the Paddington Vestry convened for the purpose of discussing the Bill, but found it impossible to induce them to withdraw their opposition. The reason why the Vestries opposed the Bill was that they thought 885 its provisions would bring them more immediately under the control of the central authority, and they were unwilling to have compulsion put upon them. They therefore opposed the Bill, and the result has been to continue in London down to the present time the incongruous mass of Statutes which now exists. I hope that before long some attempt will be made to consolidate and simplify the law.
§ * MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Powell) has touched the kernel of the difficulty under which we have been suffering in London—namely, the unwillingness of the local authorities to place themselves under Government control. I do not, however, think that the situation is as bad as it was before the passing of the Local Government Bill. But we are all looking forward with hope and expectation to the introduction by the Local Government Board of a District Council Bill on the same sound, democratic—I will not say Radical—lines as the measure for the establishment of County Councils last year, so that there may be constituted in London for the control of sanitary law a very different body from any which now exists. What we have hitherto suffered from has not been so much the want of law as the want of an authority able and willing to carry it out. The ability has sometimes been there when the willingness to carry out the law has been altogether absent. No Acts of Parliament will be sufficiently strong if the authority who is entrusted with the carrying of them out is incapable or unwilling to do so. The medical officers in London have complained of no central control, and there have been individual complaints, not always coming to the surface, that they have been obstructed in carrying out the excellent sanitary law which exists by the very authorities who appointed them. The Local Government Act of last year will remedy a good deal of that inconvenience; for no medical officer can in future be appointed by a Vestry, except under the clauses of the Public Health Act, which gives essential, if not complete, control to the Local Government Board, and special qualifications and fitness for the performance of the duties will hereafter have to be shown. The London County Council, 886 who will pay half of the salaries, will have Reports sent up to them, and by their representatives they will have the opportunity of judging how far the work is properly performed. I apprehend that the action of an economical and intelligent Vestry will be to get their present officer to resign, so that he may be re-appointed, and the Vestry gain the advantage of receiving a moiety of the salary, and in that case the control will be vested in other hands. The London County Council are anxious and willing to infuse an entirely new spirit into the local management of the Metropolis; but there are some things which they cannot do, and which it would not be wise on their part to undertake. Looking, as we are, confidently to the introduction of a District Council Bill, we think we may be spared from attempting it, and until that measure is passed, from adding to the present difficulties of our task. I may say, in conclusion, that I sincerely trust that the Bill of the Government will give to the Central Council still more complete control, especially in matters affecting contagious diseases, which are so much bound up with the health of the Metropolis.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
The reason why I rise for the purpose of troubling the House upon the Licensing Question is the absence of all allusion to it in the Queen's Speech. I have received an intimation from the Speaker that the Amendment which I have placed upon the Paper cannot be moved, because certain Bills have been introduced which deal with the same subject. These Bills, however, only deal with the subject in particular localities, whereas my object is to deal with an evil which affects the kingdom as a whole.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
It is some what difficult to contend with the ingenuity of hon. Members in evading a plain rule of the House. If the hon. Baronet turns to the notice paper he will find a Liquor Traffic Local Option Bill, a Liquor Traffic Local Veto (Scotland) Bill, a Liquor Traffic Local Veto (Ireland) Bill, and a Liquor Traffic Local Veto (Wales) Bill. The reason why I insist so strongly upon the observance of the rule is that, if hon. Members who have not been fortunate in the Ballot, and find their Bills not well placed for 887 early discussion, are to be at liberty to anticipate the Debate upon their Bills by moving an Amendment to the Address, embodying the subject matter of those Bill, by merely prefixing the formula "We regret that no mention is made in the Speech of such and such a Bill," then the Debate on the Address might be illimitably extended.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning the matter to me, but I think that I shall be in order if I express my regret that the subject has not been mentioned in the Queen's Speech.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I must confess that I read the Speech from the Throne with a feeling of considerable disappointment. While mention is made of the development of the material resources of Ireland, no mention whatever is made of the development of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The people of the Highlands were made to believe, some time ago, that if they wanted Reform they had only to commit some act of lawlessness, and hence we have heard of a deer raid, which involved the sending of gunboats, the landing of soldiers, and the employment of a large body of police. By-and-bye, better counsels prevailed, and the law-abiding people were told that if they raised their grievances in a constitutional manner, they would get redress at the hands of the present Government. Accordingly, these people in the Highlands have been quiet ever since; they have been patient and long suffering under severe distress, but up to the present moment very little has been done by the Government for them with a view to improving their position. There is, therefore, a danger that the counsels of the extreme party, who advise overt acts of lawlessness as necessary to draw public attention to their grievances, may be adopted by the people. Last year the condition of the people in the Highlands was called attention to in an Amendment to the Address, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, speaking on behalf of the Government, stated that he knew of no subject which more commanded the attention of the House, or which constituted a more fitting subject for an Amendment to the Address 888 than the condition of the Crofters. I venture to say that that condition has not one whit improved, and there' is no less reason for moving an Amendment to the Address on the present occasion than there was last year. Now, what is the condition of the people in the Islands and Highlands of Scotland? Take, for instance, the island of Lewis, which depends for the maintenance of its inhabitants entirely upon the fishing industry. The average rent of the Crofters in Lewis is said to be about three pounds, and many of them are under two pounds. That shows at once that the land is merely supplemental to the fishing industry, which is indeed the main support of the people there. Now with regard to the fishing industry, a change came over it which accounts for the distress of the people. It was a change which entailed a very heavy loss to the poor fishermen, and it had relation to the manner in which they were remunerated. Previously to 1884, the fishermen were paid fixed wages for time-engagements. Owing to the change in the success of the fishing, the fish curers altered the mode of payment, and insisted that the fishermen should be remunerated by sharing in the profit or loss on the sale of the fish. I believe they were to receive about one-twelfth of the sum received for the fish. The result was that the fishermen, in many instances, received very little remuneration for their trouble, and so returned home with insufficient money to tide them over the winter. It was stated by the Commissioner appointed by the Government, that during the year 1886, a sum of not less than £40,000 was lost to the fishermen by the alteration in the mode of payment, and that a similar loss of £40,000 was anticipated in the year 1887. The distress, therefore, in Lewis had relation solely to the failure of the fishing industry. It is perfectly true, the Lord Advocate might say, that there is not the pinching necessity to-day that there was a year ago, but I must point out that the position of these people is very precarious, and it is so precarious that at times it has been necessary to exercise charity on their behalf. In the year 1883 it was found necessary to send them relief to the extent of seven or eight thousand pounds, owing to a single storm having swept over the district. Again, the 889 Government have been and are expending a sum of £10,000 with a view to the promotion of emigration from the district, and last year they passed an Act of Parliament authorizing the payment of £30,000 in aid of local rates on account of the distress. These facts show that there is a distress which requires some kind of remedy. Now, I anticipate that the £10,000 which the Government has obtained power to devote in aid of emigration, and the £30,000 which is given in aid of local taxation, will all be exhausted very shortly. Yet, will the condition of the people be any better than it was two years ago? I think it will not; on the contrary, it will be necessary for the Government to bring in fresh legislation to renew the grant of £30,000, and we are, therefore, entitled to find fault with the omission to refer to the matter in the Queen's Speech. To Ireland, which is in less poor circumstances than are the Highlands, you have references made in the Speech. Now, the first question to discuss is, whose duty is it to relieve this distress? Because upon that point turns the whole question of the policy of the Government. Now it is the duty of every civilized State to make provision for the support of those able-bodied men who are able and willing to work, but who cannot find employment. That is a recognized principle; if it were not, you would never be able to protect property and life. How does this country discharge itself of that obligation? In England you do it by imposing it upon the local ratepayers; you impose upon Boards of Guardians the responsibility of providing for the able-bodied poor. And in England, supposing that the able-bodied man leaves his family in distress, the Board of Guardians are bound to provide medical relief and attendance, but in Scotland the case is entirely different. There there is no legal provision whatever for compelling local ratepayers to provide for the able-bodied poor. You have, therefore, a clear distinction between England and Scotland. In the former case, the responsibility is imposed on the local ratepayers themselves. In Scotland, the Government not having discharged themselves of the responsibilities, it necessarily rests upon their own shoulders. In Scotland there is only one thing which a man may do. 890 He may not beg, he may not steal, he may not commit suicide, he has no legal right to relief. The only thing he can lawfully do is to die from starvation. The failure of the law to provide relief for the able-bodied poor, therefore, leaves the responsibility upon the Central Government. How has the Government proceeded to discharge itself of that responsibility? It has accepted it, and it has acted upon it, for it has suggested a scheme of emigration and has spent money upon it. I am not going to discuss now the expediency of the policy of emigration. We will assume that it is a good enough policy, and that it is suitable to the district. I am not going to discuss whether the country is getting the best possible return for the £10,000 which is being spent in the matter of the emigration of the crofters. If the scheme of emigration is to be successful, one thing is certain, and that is, that the Crofters must be sent to Canada early in the year, so that they shall not arrive there later than the end of March. What was the result last year of sending them out later than that period? Why, the winter came upon them too soon, and very heavy expense and loss was occasioned. Now there is nobody to interfere with the Government arrangements, yet I venture to think that a considerable portion of the year will have elapsed before the remainder of the families are sent out. But supposing you do send these families out to Canada, how does it benefit the crofters who are left behind? I can quite understand it is an advantage to the emigrants themselves. We know that plenty of hard-working men have emigrated and made their way in life in other countries, and I know it is an advantage to a colony to get the hardy sons of Scotland working upon its soil. But I again ask, What effect does it have upon the people that are left behind? Those are the people we are mostly interested in. Certainly you get a given quantity of land made available for other tenants; but supposing you send out 70 families, the utmost land you get is that fetching a rental of £210 a year; and that is of very little use to the 27,000 inhabitants who are left behind. You have already been 12 months engaged on this work of emigration; it will probably occupy you another six months, and the result is that before 891 you finish the scheme the population will have increased by a larger number that the number you send out, and the country will be no better off that it was before. But you will tell us that you re spending £30,000 in aid of local taxation. Now, what in the world was the reason for giving this £30,000? Nobody but a Conservative Government would ever have done such a thing. You wonder how it is is that a Conservative Government makes no progress in Scotland: it is because when a Conservative Government is in power they never fail to adopt some reactionary policy in aid of the landlords. There never was a grosser case than this application of £30,000 of the public money, which was intended for the relief of the fishing industry, but of which fully one-half has gone direct into the pockets of the landlords, who, as you know, pay one-half of the rates. In fact, I think more than one-half has gone into the pockets of the landlords, because on crofts under a certain value the landlord pays the whole of the rates, and on other crofts the Commissioners of Supply have the power of fixing who shall pay the rates, and, as these Commissioners consist of large landed proprietors, they have relieved themselves of the burden and imposed it on the tenants. Remember that the failure of the fishing industry was the cause of the distress. In two years the fishermen lost £80,000 in wages, and what relief did you give them? You took away 70 of the best families, and not a single copper of the £30,000 granted for the relief of the people goes into their pockets, because they are so poor that they do dot pay taxes at the present moment, and therefore, the grant in aid of local taxation is of no advantage to them. And where does this £30,000 come from? It does not come out of the Imperial purse. Oh! no. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would never make such a proposal as that, but what he does do is to take it out of certain duties allocated to Scotland. I have pointed out the responsibility of dealing with distress in the United Kingdom; it is a responsibility imposed upon the Imperial Government; but it does seem strange to me that an Unionist Government should propose to treat this matter as one of different nationalities. The thing is simply ridiculous. I colud 892 understand it being done by another Government, but I cannot understand an Unionist Government being the very first to propose a national recognition of responsibility. If you are going to give us these national responsibilities in this way, then we shall want national powers as well; and our contention is that if there is occasion for giving extra relief to the poor districts of the Highlands, that relief should come out of the public purse and not out of duties allocated to Scotland. You are proposing remedial measures for Ireland, and we know that the cost of those measures will come out of the Imperial purse. You have a probate duty allocated to Ireland as well as to Scotland, but you do not take a single copper of that money to meet the exceptional distress in Ireland. Then why do you do it in the case of Scotland, if we are to be treated as a United country? I think it is contrary to all principle for the Government to relieve property of its natural burdens. I could quite conceive the relief of burdens which are payable by the tenant out of his industry, but when it comes to the question of burdens on property, you have no right to treat that in an exceptional manner, because people come into property either by succession or purchase. They take it with all its liabilities, as an investment, and the Government has no right to interfere for the relief of burdens on investments. What is the true remedy in this matter? I think we find the true remedy stated in a speech of the late Lord Advocate. He says that the only thing which has a prospect of success is the fishing industry on the West Coast of Scotland, if it can only be permanently established. It is not charity we want; it is not relief of the rates we want. We only want you to make the conditions of life such that these people may earn an honest living by honest industry; and if you do that, then the landlord will benefit, as well as the tenant, because the burden of the rates will he less. It is only by improving the condition of the people that you can justly relieve the landlords. Raise the people from their poverty, and then the landlord's property will increase in value. The measures we suggest are, in the first place, a survey of the banks, with regard to the habits of the fish and the different places in which they are to be 893 found, in order that the fishermen may have some knowledge of the grounds upon which they are fishing. Such a survey would coat £100 or £200, but we cannot get that money out of the Scotch office, which would readily pay to-morrow another £30,000 for the relief of the landlords from taxation. Next, we want harbours; the coast is naturally formed for harbours, and it would require but a very small amount of expenditure to put two or three harbours in very suitable places. Then we ask that there should be steamboat communication with the fishing villages, so as to give them direct communication with the mainland. And, fourthly, it is necessary that there should be a railway from Ullapool to Garve. The line would only have to be about 28 miles long; it could be made for about £100,000, and it would make all the difference in bringing fresh fish to market. After this will come the subsidiary question of railway rates, and we shall only ask, in that respect, that the rates for the carriage of fish shall be the same as those for the carriage of beer. We want no other protection than that. One thing which strikes me very forcibly is the similarity between our proposals and those which the Chief Secretary makes in respect to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman says, "We are going to have some public works: some drainage schemes," and then he talks of a State-aided railway. For what purpose is such a railway proposed? Not merely to improve the locality through which the railway will pass, but also for the purpose of bringing the fishing villages into speedy communication with the markets. That is exactly what we want, and no one who knows anything about the North of Scotland will deny that that district is sadly in want of development. We simply ask that we should be treated as part of the United Kingdom. We do not want exceptional treatment. We ask that if poverty exists in Scotland it shall be dealt with in the same way that poverty is dealt with in Ireland. I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
After paragraph 11, to insert the words, "Humbly to express to Your Majesty our regret that, whilst reference is made in Your Mont Gracious Speech to our early attention
being asked to measures for developing the material resources of Ireland, no reference is made to the distress which prevails in many parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, nor to any measures for removing or alleviating said distress, or of developing the material resources of said Highlands and Islands."—(Mr. Caldwell)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire)
I think the people of the Highlands and Islands are greatly indebted to the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division (Mr. Caldwell) for having brought this subject before the House. There is no doubt that the state of many parts of the Highlands and Islands is one deserving of the serious consideration of the House. The late Government appointed a Commission to inquire into the grievances of the Highland people, and that Commission reported fully upon various points. With regard to the deductions from rents which the present Crofters Commission fixed, I have nothing to say; but it is well to recollect that when the Crofters Bill was under discussion the Highland Members pressed upon the Government of the day the importance not merely that the Commission should have power to adjust and fix fair rents, but also to give more land to the crofters. Unless something is done in the latter direction, I assure the House there is no chance whatever of the Land question in the Highlands being satisfactorily settled. A petition presented to the proprietrix by the crofters of Lewis the other day shows very clearly what the people think upon the subject. In that petition they begged respectfully to apply for new crofts and pastures, in order to enable them to live and thrive in their native land; and they pointed out that their sheep land was waste before their eyes, and in the possession of an Englishman. The occupation of this land by them would, they said, enable a great number of them to live in peace and plenty. At present it was of no good, except to supply one man without a family. In conclusion, they pointed out that they were the true descendants of the ancient clansmen who had occupied the land of their island for eighteen centuries. The extension of holdings in the Highlands is a question which 895 the Government ought seriously to take into consideration. Again, there is the question of the fisheries upon the North-West and Northern Coasts of Scotland. That question was reported upon very strongly by Lord Napier's Commission, but I regret that very little has been done by Government upon the subject. It will be in the recollection of the House that last year the state of matters in the Lews was so serious that the Government sent an officer of the Board of Supervision to make inquiries and to report. The Commissioner's Report was to the effect that great misery prevailed, and I believe that it was the intention of the Government, if necessary, to take some steps to alleviate it, when most providentially the fishing suddenly improved, and the people were saved from great want and privation. But surely it is opposed to all reason that in these days a large population should be dependent upon an incident of this kind. The Lord Advocate may rely upon it that until the Fishery, Harbour, and Land questions are dealt with in a comprehensive measure the grievances of the Highlands and Islands will be constantly brought before him. My hon. Friend has spoken of the projected railway between Garve and Ullapool. The result of such a line will be that the fish caught will be many hours nearer market, and we all know that the demand for fresh fish in London is almost inexhaustible. This line of railway, therefore, will be of incalculable benefit. Then there is the question of lighthouses. To-night I put a Question to the President of the Board of Trade in reference to the necessity of setting up additional lights on the North-Western coast by night and day. There is considerably more traffic on the North-West Coast than formerly, but when additional lighthouses are asked for, it is said there is no money. I and my hon. Friends ask no more than our share of the attention of the Government. I assure the Government that, though there is a deal of distress and dissatisfaction in the Highlands, there is no place where there is more loyalty to the Crown. Taking all the facts into consideration, I hope the Government will grapple comprehensively with the grievances of the Highland people.
§ * DR. M'DONALD (Ross and Cromarty)
I am very pleased at the satisfactory speech in which the hon. Gentleman the Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow has raised this subject. He spoke as strongly as any of us on this side of the House could, but I cannot help regarding it as a misfortune that the hon. Gentleman will not help us to place a Government in power who will do some of the things we want for the Highlands. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) has made several pilgrimages in the Highlands. He has told the Highlanders what they want and what they ought to have from the present Government; but he, at the same time, is very careful to tell the present Government that even if they do not do these things he will still stand by them. Any Member of the House who knows the Highlanders knows that they are not going to be caught by such chaff as that. I believe, and the Highlanders believe, in people who ask for good measures, and who will do all in their power to get them. Now, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Caldwell) referred very properly to the treatment of Scotland in respect to the Probate Duty. The Scottish people are not getting full justice done them. Take the case of the Fishery Grant. The price of an ordinary fishing-boat is from £300 to £400, and yet the Government insist upon getting 25 percent. of the amount from the people You might just as well insist upon getting the whole amount. After much trouble we prevailed on the Government, to take 10 per cent, and even that we found great difficulty in getting the people to provide, so great was their poverty. In the case of piers and harbours, too, the Government require 25 per cent, and I am sorry they have not seen their way to reduce the sum to 10 per cent. Some of my constituents have asked me what the Government will do by way of assisting them in the making of a pier, and I have been obliged to tell them that, according to the present regulations, they can only get so much from the Government. I know their answer will be, "You, might as well ask us to raise as many millions as you do hundreds." Reference has been made to emigration. Unquestion 897 ably 99 per cent of the people you send away are improved, but it is not the people who have gone away that we have to deal with; it is the people who stay with you. The flower of the people emigrate, and leave at home the poor and weak and the miserable. 80 much the worse for you when you come to want defenders for the country. One matter of great importance has been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh), and that is the construction of a new railway on the West Coast of Scotland. The fishing grounds about the Island of Lewis are of the very best, and might be largely developed if the communication with the great centres of population were improved. The Chief Secretary for Ireland has expressed the wish of the Government to give facilities for railway and other communication in Ireland. I at once fastened upon that statement, and thought that, if Ireland was to get such advantage, we in the North of Scotland would stand a similar chance. But even in the matter of postal facilities, instead of getting increased facilities, we find those we have already enjoyed being cut off, on the ground, according to the Postmaster General, that the service does not pay. It is these things which lead to a great deal of indignation amongst the people; it is these things that lead to the demand in Scotland for Home Rule.
§ * COLONEL MALCOLM (Argyllshire)
I think that nothing illustrates the difficulty of dealing with this subject more completely than the difference between the views of the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment. The hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell) said that the people of the Lews depended on the fishing, and not on the land, whereas the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh) said that the land was the principal source of the people's livelihood. Both hon. Gentlemen were to a certain extent right, but what, however, I want to allude to more particularly is the propositions which were made by the hon. Member for St. Rollox by way of amending the position of these poor people. In the first place, he proposed the establishment of a permanent and successful fishery. I only wish the hon. Gentleman, or anyone else, could devise 898 the means of establishing a permanent and successful fishery; it would save those who have to do with the districts particularly affected a great deal of trouble. I am afraid that, however skilful the Government may be, they will not be able to devise such a scheme. But they may do a good deal towards-rendering the fishery more successful, and in that way I cordially agree with the hon. Member that the amount of money spent, particularly, on harbours in suitable positions, would be of the greatest value. I think if it can be proved—and I am certain there are many ports on the West Coast of Scotland where it can be proved—that these harbours would be of the greatest service, and where endeavours ought to be made to construct them they ought to be harbours of refuge, because what we really want is shelter for the vessels and boats—places where they can lie afloat. Consequently the refuge form of breakwater will answer all purposes. It is true that the fishermen have not money to spend upon these harbours beforehand, but they are perfectly willing to pay fair dues for the use of them. I think that if careful inquiries were made by the Government, or by whatever branch of the Government would have to lend the money, it would be found that there was a sufficient guarantee that the money would be repaid in the course of years. As regards the projected railway, I have no doubt that that also would be of great benefit, but I am afraid it would be hardly fair to pick out one particular line when there are other lines at present being promoted by private individuals, and also seeking to reach the West-Coast, though not going as far as Ullapool. Again, there is no doubt that the increase of telegraphic communication through the Highlands, and the increase of coast communication by means of regular steamers, are two of the most ready ways of removing a good deal of the difficulty that we labour under in bringing fresh fish to market. In encouraging increased communication of this sort, the Government would confer a very great benefit on the whole system. As regards rates, I am afraid the answer of the Railway Companies would be that if for fish they were to charge the same rate as for beer, then the two commodities must be despatched at an equal rate of speed, and then I 899 fancy that by the time the fish arrived at any large central market it would most likely be seized and condemned as unfit for human food. I do hope this discussion will be of service in calling attention to the facts, and that the Government will consider how best it can invest and get the safest return for its money, in alleviating the distress that undoubtedly exists.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I think that in one respect the people of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland are very fortunate. They seem to have attracted the attention and notice of the Liberal Unionist Party, and I think that any section of the human race who have done that are to be congratulated. I imagine that this Motion was thought of and brought into existence on a recent tour in Scotland of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for "West Birmingham, because I noticed that at the many banquets at which the right hon. Gentleman was entertained promises were made to the Scotch people—bribes of all kinds, sorts, and descriptions were held out to them to secure their good-will. It is rather strange that the chief actor in the Scottish drama of Liberal Unionist progress is not present—I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham; and after the speeches he made only a fortnight ago, I confess I am very much surprised that this distinguished ornament of the Liberal Unionist Party is not with us to support the very excellent objects of the Motion now under discussion. We must endeavour to get on without his presence. I certainly do think that this Motion is one which, coming from whatever quarter it may, ought to receive our cordial support. I feel myself the greatest disappointment that Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne contains no reference to Scotland. We all know the different attempts which have been made to get Her Majesty's Government to deal seriously with Scotch business. We endeavoured in every way to do this last Session. We brought forward Motions without end—on the Estimates and otherwise—for this purpose, and we were always told that this was to be a Scotch Session. Well, the Scotch business spoken of in the Queen's Speech is, it seems, simply to be the well-worn Scotch University 900 Bill which we have all heard of so often, and this promise of Local Government. We are, certainly, now dealing with a proposal which ought to impress upon Her Majesty's Government the importance of dealing more particularly and more seriously with Scotch business, and of taking it up in a statesmanlike manner, and not leaving it to take its chance, as, according to my experience, the House of Commons always has done. What does the Motion propose? It has reference to a state of affairs as to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland; and here I have some difficulty. In the few observations I have to trouble the House with I shall have to speak of certain districts which do not, I believe, come in what are called "the Highlands and Islands of Scotland." There is great difference of opinion amongst Scotch people as to where the Highlands of Scotland begin and where they end; and I trust, therefore, that you, Mr. Speaker, may not think it necessary to call me to order if I refer to parts of Scotland which, by many people, are not regarded as in the Highlands, so that there may be no doubt upon this question. I propose to move an Amendment to leave out from the Motion before the House the words "Highlands and Islands," so that the Motion will be made to deal generally with Scotland without restraint at all. The hon. Gentleman who introduced this matter pointed out the condition of the Highlands and Islands, and how much is required to be done there. It is in connection with the condition of these parts of Scotland that the fishing industry has been so much spoken of. That industry, I would point out, is not altogether confined to the Highlands and Islands. There are hundreds and thousands of fishermen, I might say, in other counties beyond those usually regarded as in the Highlands and Islands—men whom I imagine require quite as much care and quite as much looking after as the fishermen in any other part of the country. There are, for instance, the fishermen of Aberdeen, of the Moray Firth, and of the South Coast, all of whom, I venture to think, suffer from the want of beneficial legislation. I have drawn the attention of the Government to this matter, but hitherto without success. I do not suppose there is much to be hoped from 901 the present Government, or even from an ordinary Liberal Government—because in this matter I have to complain of the inaction of both Parties. I think they have both shut their eyes to the necessity for legislation in the interest of the fishing industry. But I am of a hopeful disposition, and I trust that by constantly bringing forward these questions something at length may be done. There is a difficulty as to bringing fish to market. I should have expected to have seen in Her Majesty's Speech some such passage as this—"The condition of the fishing industry is most unsatisfactory, because, whereas it is found that the fishermen get a very small price for their fish, it is also found that the consumer pays for it an exorbitant and extravagant price." I venture to think that there is no more important question connected with the fishing industry and the supply of food to this country than this, and I cannot imagine how time could be better occupied by a Special Commission than in considering how the difficulties surrounding this question can be successfully grappled with. If you go to the fishing piers, where the fish are brought for sale, you can often buy a large cod fish for ninepence. [Laughter.] The Lord Advocate laughs at that, but I can assure him that I am not exaggerating in the slightest degree, and that I can prove what I say. Soles and haddocks are sold at proportionate prices. So much for the fishermen. When, however, you go to Edinburgh, or any other large town, the prices you have to pay for fish are grossly exorbitant, compared with the amounts the fishermen receive, and I maintain that this is a most important subject, and that the Government ought to inquire into it, to find out how it all comes to pass. Discussions have occurred as to how it does come to pass. The railway authorities, of whom there are a large number in this House, tell us that it is not their fault. They say that they carry their fish in the most economical manner, and they and other hon. Gentlemen, representing other businesses, say that the fault lies with the Billingsgate ring. Well, be that as it may, I contend that we ought to have some Select Committee or Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, and get at the bottom of it. The Government is in a state of paralysis on the matter. They have done nothing, 902 and, so far as we know, they intend to do nothing. Then there is another question of vast importance—namely, that of harbours for fishermen. Many hon. Members say that they experienced great difficulty in getting money in respect of small matters connected with the fishing industry, and I have experienced that difficulty also. I find not only a difficulty in getting money, but I find that the Government do not grasp the question as they ought or take an adequate amount of trouble with regard to it. I asked a question the other day, and last Session I interrogated the Government as to what steps they intended to take to constitute local bodies of fishermen with power to deal with local fishery questions. I pressed the matter upon the attention of Ministers when the English Local Government Bill was before the House. I moved an Amendment to that measure, for the purpose of constituting in the maritime counties District Fishery Boards, who would have power to deal with the question of harbours, trawling, bait, harbour dues, and various other things with reference to the fishing industry. I regret to say, however, that through some informality this Amendment was ruled out of order. I was unable to get it under discussion either in the House itself or in Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill said he would resist every attempt to introduce into it any such Amendment. Well, the Government did do something on this important question. They brought in a Bill—and it became law—for the purpose of forming District Fishery Councils in England. But the functions and powers given to these District Fishery Councils were very insufficient, and if these Councils are created it will be found that they will have little or nothing to do, and I wish now to caution the Lord Advocate against making the same mistake with regard to Scotland. I ask the Government this year to introduce, either as part of their Scotch Local Government Scheme, or as a separate measure, something to create a tribunal which will have power to deal with the local fishery interests in the various maritime counties of Scotland. It will be for the Government to consider how the subject can be best dealt with, but the point which is material is that, first of 903 all, when you create the Councils, you should let them be properly constituted and have upon them men elected by people of the district, and not nominated as they are under the Salmon Fisheries Bill of last year. Let the members of the Councils be properly elected, and give them a rating power over a certain area such as will be benefited by the fisheries; give them power to deal with the fishing harbours, and give them power over the trawling question and harbour dues, and give them power to make regulations for the sale of fish, and to deal with various other matters of that kind. Unless there are local fishery districts created by the Scotch Local Government Bill, I warn the Lord Advocate that I shall find it my duty to oppose that measure in every possible way, because I do not believe there can be a proper scheme without such a provision. I think in this I shall have the sympathy and support of many other hon. Members on this side of the House, and I must say I think the Government should be careful what they are about on this matter, as it is very possible that the Liberal Unionist Party may leave them at any moment. I also think that the Government should deal with the Land question of Scotland. Certain charges of a very serious character have been brought against the Government as to their legislation in favour of landlords. I think that it is to be regretted that the legislation of last year gave the Scotch landlords such a large sum of money. Everyone knows that there is a pressing necessity for legislation on this question in Scotland; but what is the legislation which should have been proposed? Why, there are long leases in Scotland which bring about great trouble and disaster to the tenants on many estates, and the matter has been brought to the attention of the Government to no avail. This should be dealt with; but I am gradually coming to look upon every measure introduced by the Government, constituted as it is at present, as absolutely hopeless. It seems altogether a waste of time to attempt to get anything done; and with regard to what the Government do bring forward, I think we ought to speak very strongly. Their chief proposal as to land is to give £10,000 to emigration. Now, the hon. Gentleman 904 who introduced the Amendment has said, and I think very truly—if he did not say it, at any rate I will say it—that the payment of that £10,000 is simply putting so much money into the pocket of Lady Matheson—and here I would tell the Government that we intend, or at least I, certainly, intend, to oppose that grant altogether, for the reason that the Government has selected certain parts of Scotland that they intend to benefit. Why is the estate of Lady Matheson only to be benefited by this grant? If you are to introduce a scheme of State-aided emigration—as to the policy of which I have grave doubts—I cannot understand why one estate should be mainly benefited. I could find, indeed I know at the present time, many persons who would be glad to receive £100 or £150 from the Government on loan to go to Canada and start a small settlement. But the Government say that that is not within the purview of their scheme, and they will not do it. Their attempt is a small patchwork attempt, which will do no good to anyone but the landlord. It is idle to say that it deserves even the name of administrative ability, let alone statesmanship. The plan will do little or no good, and will cause a great deal of jealousy and heart-burning to people who are not assisted, but who are left out in the cold. I cannot help feeling that one ought not to occupy the time of the House at greater length, but I am bound to say that this Motion raises questions which might lead one to speak at much greater length, because it raises points which affect the general legislation of the Government with regard to Scotch affairs. One might be induced to ask what it is the Government have done since they came into office as a Ministry, This Motion is a serious attack made by the Liberal Unionists upon the Government—an attack seriously entered upon and supported by most powerful arguments. The Leaders of the Liberal Unionist Party, I regret to see, are not in their places; but, no doubt, when they come in later on, we shall witness on their part a most determined and overwhelming attack made upon the Government. And now, finally, I have only to move the Amendment to which I have referred—though if it is likely to lead to inconvenience I will not press it. My proposal is to omit from the fourth 905 line of the Amendment the words "and the Highlands and Islands," and to omit from line 6 "the said Highlands and Islands," in order to insert there the word "Scotland."
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "the Highlands and Islands of."—(Mr. Anderson.)
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment," put, and agreed to.
§ Original Amendment again proposed.
§ * MR. C. GRAHAM
I would point out to the Lord Advocate that Scotch Members are practically at one with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Caldwell), and that there exist in many cases, with which he is, I suppose, more familiar than I am myself, distress and want in these distant islands. In Lewis some of the families do not hold any stock whatever. Sometimes their whole capital consists of two hens, or two sheep, or something miserable of that sort. Really, when we hear of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government to take fabulous sums of public money to expend upon national defences, as I suppose we must call them, I cannot help thinking that, with an expression of opinion so united from the Scotch Members, we might at least have expected from Her Majesty's Government, represented in solitary or dual state upon the Treasury Bench, that there was some proposition to be submitted to this House for the relief of these unfortunate people. I will not refer to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I never could see the use of the Royal Commission. It is an agreeable way of spending time and wasting public money; and when you get it you apparently hold it in the recesses of public offices, and there the matter rests. We have heard some interesting remarks to-night from Members who sit on the Government benches, dealing with this question from a point of view which is absolutely novel to me. If I correctly interpret the remarks of the hon. Member for Argyleshire, a little blooming Arcadia exists in those spots to which he referred; but, after the strong remarks we have heard 906 from those who represent the feelings of the crofting class of the population, I hope we shall have some expression of sympathy from the Lord Advocate and from Her Majesty's Government.
§ * MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
Mr. Speaker, I observe that the Amendment of the hon. Member proceeds upon the fact that certain concessions have been made to Ireland, and that there is no reason why the same concessions ought not to be extended to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, seeing that the conditions in each case are similar. But I beg to point out that the voice of the inhabitants of the Highlands has not been any more listened to than the voice of the people of Ireland, and my hon. Friend might have pursued points of similarity further than he did. I have no very great hope that Her Majesty's Government will really undertake anything for the benefit of the people of the Highlands. We have brought the case before them on previous occasions, and they have so persistently refused to do anything, that I am afraid, as formerly, our labour will be in vain. Now, however, that the Party (Unionist) to which the hon. Member belongs brings the subject forward, I trust a better result will follow, for, if not, the people of the Highlands will be apt to say that one Party has as little influence in the House of Commons as another. If political gratitude is not altogether extinct in the bosoms of Her Majesty's Government, they will give consideration to what has been brought before them on this occasion, seeing that that the Amendment is proposed by the hon. Member for St. Rollox, and seconded by the hon. Member for Inverness-shire. The Member for St. Rollox stated that in his opinion the money given recently for the relief of taxation went entirely to the landlords. Of course, we know very well that nearly everything undertaken in the Highlands has been for the benefit of the landlord class. That is what we complain of. Though the landlords are numerically few, everything done for the Highlands goes to their benefit. The people of the Highlands and Islands declare that the Government have persistently kept before them emigration and nothing else, so that the policy which has been 907 pointed out by the hon. Member for St. Rollox is just the complement of the other policy of emigration. A great deal has been said with regard to the construction of harbours, but that is incompatible with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, because, if the people are expatriated, what, is the use of constructing harbours? They would be of no good in the world unless the people had access to the only means of livelihood within their reach. The Amendment expresses regret at the absence of any policy for the development of the material resources of the Highlands. I state that the first material resource of the people is the land, and until something is done to bring back the people driven from it, there is no use in constructing harbours. I admit that a policy of building harbours might be wisely undertaken if concurrent with a redistribution of the land. There is no doubt that were such a policy adopted with regard to the land, there would be ample scope and need for erecting harbours and developing the fisheries. It is vain and idle to say that the Highlands are congested. Undoubtedly, they are congested in certain localities; but the question is, Are they congested as a whole? In a country where there are eight square miles for every man, woman, and child, it is absurd to say that it is congested. Something has been said about the loyalty of the people of the Highlands. They have been loyal; but what reward has their loyalty met? It is perfectly well-known to the Lord Advocate and the Government that there is no body of people of the same small numerical strength who have done more to build up the Empire than the people of the Highlands, and their reward has been that they have been driven out before wild beasts and sheep. What we wish to see is a reversal of this policy. It is of no use Her Majesty's Government tinkering the question. The Royal Commission said, that though the question of rent was brought before them it was never brought before them in the same degree as want of land. Notwithstanding that the complaints were not about the rents, yet the rents have been reduced on the average from 30 to 50 per cent. What we want is that Her Majesty's Government should recognize that the Commission they appointed has made the best statement of the High 908 land question that has ever been given, and that is the statement of the Highland question given by the people themselves. The hon. Member for Argyleshire called attention to the want of telegraphic and postal communications. I would beg to point out to him that he himself supports a Government which, instead of increasing, has actually lessened those communications, and they are less in 1889 than they were in 1887. It is a strange commentary upon the speech of the hon. Member, that three weeks ago the post-office and telegraph office were shut up at Melvich, in Sutherlandshire, where a population of 700 people were dependent upon them, and the people now, if they want a postage stamp have to go several miles. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take that matter into consideration. With regard to the question of harbours and the development of the material resources of the Western Highlands, I wish to point out that it will be useless to attempt to grapple with this question unless the Government recognize the claims of the people. You have given the Court power to deal with rents; why not give them power to deal with the distribution of land? If you do that, you will find less, necessity for resorting to a system of grants, by which you will be only adding to the local taxation of the country and applying the money in the form of charity; and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not suppose it to be an agreeable thing for any Highlander to appeal to charity in order that he may be maintained in his native land. I trust, therefore, that he will assist in preventing this reproach being cast on our people. I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON,) Bute
The Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell) does not profess to be advanced in a friendly spirit to the Government. On the contrary, the hon. Gentleman has stated, with a great deal of detail, various objections which he entertains to their administration in the Highlands; but at the same time he has urged these matters on the attention of the Government with manifest sincerity. I think, however, Her Majesty's Government may congratulate themselves on one feature of the discussion, and that is that we seem now, for the 909 first time for several years, to have entered upon a discussion on the condition of the Western Highlands which fairly realizes and grapples with the main and radical difficulties of the situation. We hear now, also fur the first time, less about the disputes between landlords and tenants, and very much more about the development of the natural resources of the country. We have heard, to my satisfaction, and even to my surprise, encouraging words said about schemes of emigration. These are the features of the present debate which distinguish it from some of the gloomy discussions to which I have formerly listened, when the whole attention of Parliament has been endeavoured to be concentrated on that isolation of the Western Highlands from the rest of the world which has made it necessary that the landlord and tenant should fight it out between them for a mere patch of ground unworthy of the attention of either. We have heard much about the possibilities of development in the Western Highlands, in the efforts to bring about which I most completely sympathize; and I cannot but regret that the hon. Member of St. Rollox and even the hon. Member for the North Western Division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Cuninghame Graham), should have adopted a hostile tone towards Her Majesty's Ministers, whom they might at least credit with a due interest in the country to which they belong. We are supposed to grudge half an hour to the consideration of even the most elementary feature in this great national question. Half an hour! Many half-hours and days have been spent in the consideration of what is one of the weak points of the social system in Scotland. It is to the interest of every one who values not only the peace but the credit of his country, that everything should be done that may be consistent with the duty ministers owe to the country generally to procure a satisfactory solution of this problem. I cannot emphasize too strongly the regret with which I have heard the suggestion that hon. Members of one party in this House are susceptible to the imputations that have been thrown out in regard to their action respecting this most delicate and important public question; but when I turn to the facts on which the hon. Member for St. Rollox has commented, I must say I do not think they 910 justify the conclusion he asks this House to affirm. It is not the case that there has been any neglect on the part of the Government during the present year of the interests of this class of the community. On the contrary, exceptional measures have been adopted and are being carried out for the amelioration of the condition of the people in the West Highlands. But it is necessary in the first place to observe in this, as in all other questions of local administration, the principles that have been laid down for the action of the Government in dealing with matters relating to the relief of local distress. It is absolutely impossible that merely because a limited number of Her Majesty's subjects live in an isolated part of the country, and are unable to obtain a full subsistence for the land, the Government should therefore break up all the principles on which public money is administered. In dealing with public money where are we to stop, if we are to carry out this suggestion to the extent proposed? I am not aware of any instance in which the Government has, single-handed, engaged in the enterprize of developing the resources of any part of the country. On the contrary, what the Government requires to justify special intervention is not merely a certain measure of distress, but some indication of honest and zealous effort on the part of the district to improve its own fortunes. It is said that the Government has been remiss in not proposing a scheme for the development of railway communication. Far be it from me to suggest that that is not one of the first things that ought to be done in order to open up the country; but when we come to the action of the State with regard to it, I think this debate furnishes two shrewd illustrations of the impossibility of gratifying all the requests that are put forward by hon. Members. One came from this side of the House and the other from the opposite benches. The hon. Member for St. Rollox has referred to the construction of a railway from Garve to Ullapool as an enterprize that must be fraught with good results. But no sooner had he done so than my hon. and gallant friend, the Member for Argyll (Colonel Malcolm), with a vigilant regard to the interests of his country, explained that there is another line of railway of equal or surpassing merit. 911 Well, if it is held that the Government should engage in the endeavour to settle what should be done in regard to competing plans as to how best to start in developing the resources of the country, we should at once be landed in a region inaccessible even to the wisdom of Parliament. We are all agreed, and Parliament has resolved, that it is desirable facilities should be afforded to fishermen for obtaining new boats; and with this I most assuredly sympathize—but, at the same time, the idea was hardly mooted when the hon. Member for Elgin said it was a gross injustice that such a favour should be conferred only on the Highlands of Scotland, and expressed the anxiety of those whom he represents by moving an Amendment, for which he had some difficulty in finding a seconder. The hon. Member for St. Rollox must, I think, reconsider some of the propositions he has advanced in his eagerness to secure Imperial funds; but, before passing from this branch of the subject, I desire to emphasize the enormous importance of the matter. It is not on squabbles over narrow crofts of ground that the future of the Highlands rests. It is rather in the development of their aggregate resources. It is a past stage in the controversy, the suggestion that everyone must live on land which forbids enterprize as being impossible. With regard to emigration, that subject has been referred to in a more sanguine spirit than on former occasions. The subject of emigration is one which unquestionably opens a large field for discussion; but in it lies one of the hopes of the Highlands. The amount proposed to be given for this purpose last Session was £10,000; but he greatly errs who supposes that this sum, and the number of people who would thus be dealt with are at all indicative of the views of those who promote the emigration scheme. It is true, as the hon. Member for St. Rollox says, that the number of families dealt with in this way is small Thirty families last year and 40 next year is only a small number; but the great object before the eyes of statesmen as regards the Western Highlands is to bring them into the main stream of human civilization and enterprize When those persons emigrate they carry with them their language, their religion, their habits of mind, and that 912 loyalty which hon. Members have rightly commented upon as belonging to the Scotch people. It is not, as was formerly supposed, a step into darkness and away From home—it is simply a step from one part of the country where there is less to another part of the Queen's dominions where there is more hope and larger opportunities. I will go further. Her Majesty's Government are most anxious that a Committee should sit on that subject to consider whether the experiment which has been made—for it was merely an experiment—has been so successful as to encourage the further prosecution and development of a system of emigration; but, owing to the action of Gentlemen on the other side, the reasons for which are not quite palpable, that Committee was never appointed. If it had been appointed we might have been one step nearer what has been tonight conceded to be a desirable object. I pass now from the question of emigration to another measure proposed and carried by Her Majesty's Government on which the hon. Member for St. Rollox has made some very sinister remarks. He has said that the distribution of the Probate Duty has not been conducted with due regard to the requirements of the different parts of the country. Let me remind him of certain facts. In the first place, the yield of the Probate Duty is devoted to those parts of the country whence those duties come. The hon. Gentleman founds upon the fact the complaint that the Government are not relieving what is local distress out of Imperial, but out of national resources. I should have thought the complaint would be the other way, and that it would have been said that we are taking from Imperial resources what ought to come out of local resources. The hon. Member is so extreme that he regrets that, stepping forward as the Government did from the area of the ordinary local revenue to the larger area of the kingdom of Scotland, they did not go further and derive the support from the whole of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. I should like to know whether he thinks there would be a very hearty response from the people of other parts of the country if it were proposed, for instance, to levy a contribution on the urban districts of England for the relief of persons whose fortunes are so very 913 distinct as those with whom we are now dealing? The hon. Member actually goes the length of saying that it is the bounden duty of the State to find pecuniary relief, or in other words a livelihood for persons who have no occupation.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me. What I stated was that it is the duty of the State to provide for able-bodied persons willing to work who cannot find employment; that that is done in England by putting it upon the local rates, but that there is no such law in Scotland.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
I do not think that I at all misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. He has stated his proposition a little more fully, but it does not differ, either from what the hon. Member had already said or from what I represented him as saying. Everyone is to receive relief from the State, who cannot find occupation. Find occupation—where? The hon. Gentleman, if he means anything, means that he is to stay at home and that be is not to look around him in the wider world for occupation. He said it is the bounden duty of every man in the poorest part of the Highlands to stay where he is, and it is the bounden duty of the State to support him in that ignoble resolution. It is no more the duty of the State to support such a man than it is to support any person who, born in a town, chooses to live on a doorstep because his father lived in the house of which that is the doorstep. The State has no right to interfere with the causes which compel the best of Her Majesty's subjects to go through her dominions in search of employment wherever it may be found, and it is the bounden duty of those who are responsible for the administration of affairs to speak plainly on that subject. The hon. Member proceeded a little further, and demurred to the bonus or premium to the Highlands, on the ground that it does not reach the right quarter, which it is desirable to relieve. I should like to say a word on that subject. The hon. Member began by saying that the distress is a fishing distress, owing to the failure of the herring fishing; and if that be so, I am inclined to agree that the best remedy would be to try and develop the herring fishery; but when the hon. Member 914 says that there is an unfairness in the distribution of the bonus in the way of relief to local taxation, I hope I may be permitted to call attention to the facts of the case. In those parts of the Highlands in which there is distress, he condition of the landlord is as deplorable as that of the tenant. Those who pay rates are paying sums which would startle the minds of those who live in better-managed parts of the country. The landlords are the paymasters of those districts, and it is their resources which keep the social machine moving at all. If the attempt which has been made to drive capital out of those districts were to succeed, not only would those districts be insolvent, but very much worse than insolvent, and the social machine would not move at all. It is important to bear in mind that the pecuniary aid which we have an opportunity of giving now, and which we had an opportunity of giving last year, is not given as a favour or benefit to individuals, but in order to make the Local Government authorities keep the machine moving, and to remove the possibility of a deadlock. I will take as an instance the case of education. Is the House aware that in several parishes, sufficiently numerous to form a class, the education machine has completely broken down? Schools are kept going out of the rates, and it is a fact that in the class of parishes to which I refer the Parochial Board do not send the School Board the required amount, with the result that the School Board system has completely broken down, and it is deplorable to know that the rates which the Parochial Board thus failed to send to the School Board are so large an amount that it became a serious question for Her Majesty's Government whether they should not intervene to remove that difficulty and practical deadlock. I call the hon. Member's attention to the relief which has thus been given by Her Majesty's Government to the schools, because the hon. Member is not only a frequent speaker in the Highlands, but a still more frequent speaker on the subject of education. We have, by a scheme which has met with acceptance from the School Boards chiefly interested, been able to tide the School Boards over their difficulties. That 915 scheme combines greater administrative energy with greater economy. I grant that the relief must be temporary, but it has been of immense service to the Highlanders in enabling them to get over the difficulty as to the rates. Every year shows that education is one of the great means of opening up the Highlands and connecting it with the outer world, and I think the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. A. Sutherland) will agree with me that we could not do a better service to the distressed counties than by helping them in the matter of education. What has happened is this. That although education has been rendered unpopular by the pressure upon the rates, every year shows that education is the great means of opening up the Highlands and connecting them with the outer world, and upon a limited scale efforts are been made to lighten local taxation and increasing and stimulating those energies of the people in other directions which have hitherto been allowed to be dormant in those parts of the country. It is a most disagreeable task for a Scotchman and a Scotch Minister to pass a rebuke upon any part of his own countrymen, but I consider it my duty to say that the difficulties of that part of the Highlands have not been met with that energy and enterprize that might have been displayed. These are plain words, but it is only right that they should be spoken, and I would rather express them myself than leave them to an English Member to speak. It is necessary that this part of the country of all others should not be encouraged to abandon the duty of self-help and sink into a state of inertness. The hon. Member for St. Rollox has pointed to matters with regard to which he charges the Government with inactivity, but I can assure the hon. Member that Her Majesty's Government have given the most anxious attention to the whole subject of the Highlands. I sympathize with all that the hon. Member has said on the subject of the fisheries, but the hon. Member also complained of the fishing-banks not having been surveyed. Has the hon. Member read the Report which was sent into the Fishery Board, and appended to their Report of 1887? I do not say it is a complete report: it recommends further investigation, but it shows that 916 the subject is being investigated. The hon. Member himself has apparently not devoted any of his superfluous time to the minute study of those subjects which he alleges the Government have overlooked. Yet the Fishery Board is a department wide enough awake to the subject under consideration, and already they have made a Report upon it. The hon. Member also made a fantastic proposal for assimilating the fishery rates to the rates on beer. Certainly the connection is not very apparent. But has the hon. Member studied the schedule of rates under the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of last Session? (Mr. Caldwell shook his head). The hon. Member has not. Then it might be well for him to do so. If he had, and this Schedule was open to objection, why did he not call the attention of the Board of Trade or of this House to the subject? There again I say, if there be remissness anywhere, it is not with the Government. Complaint has been made as to the conditions on which loans for boats are to be made; but the revised rules provide for the advance of nine-tenths of the money required, and they are, therefore, certainly most liberal. With reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire, I can only say that there are some things in which no Government could satisfy local demands. In such cases, owing to Imperial duty, it might, on occasion of local crises, appear harsh to refuse, but it is nevertheless impossible to accede. I trust, however, that Her Majesty's Government will always be industrious in ascertaining the real wants and requirements of this district, and in carrying out their duties with regard to it as well as to the rest of the Empire, with a due regard to the advancement of the ultimate interests of the district and the approbation and co-operation of other districts not directly interested.
§ * DR. CAMERON (Glasgow College)
I am forced to admit the eloquence of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but he has failed to do anything except to convince me of his power as an advocate of how not to do it. He tells us the Government are doing their best to improve the condition of these unfortunate people, whose miserable condition he has described; but has he ever read the Report of the Crofters' Commission? He has not alluded to one- 917 fourth of the recommendations made by that Commission, and many of them might be carried out without the smallest difficulty. With regard to the improvement of the land tenure, something has, no doubt, been done; but it is a miserably small instalment of what is required. The Crofters Commission was wholly inadequate to cope with the work to be done, and it will be years before the arrears are overtaken. Did the right hon. Gentleman ever hear of deer forests? The Crofters Commission made strong recommendations on that subject, but the Government have done nothing. Then, again, the Crofters Commission recommended the reform of the Game Laws in certain directions, but nothing has been done. The same remark applies to the question of roads. The Commission laid great stress on the importance of improving the communications in the Highlands, and the grievous injustice of compelling the people to go 12 or 14 miles from any highway to pay rates for the maintenance of roads. The Commission pointed out how the Government might remedy this injustice, and yet the Government have done nothing. The same observation applies to the recommendation as to the establishment of training-ships in order to utilize the superabundant population. I am not going to discuss the merits of the emigration scheme. In the island of Lewis it would take a quarter of a million sterling on the Government scale to emigrate the surplus population, and that quarter of a million would buy up the whole island twice over at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman felt it his duty to reprove the Highlanders for their want of energy and enterprize, but what do we find when they go abroad? We find that Highlanders, after the first generation, take the leading positions in our Colonies and develop the greatest energy of character. This is owing to the fact of their living under a different state of law from that which exists in the Highlands, where the energy is crushed out of them. Why should a man be enterprizing and improve his holding when he knows that by so doing he will have his rent increased? No doubt much of this has been remedied; but the work of the Crofters Commission ought to be facilitated by increasing the 918 number of Commissioners. The Government are not stingy in the expenditure of public money in Scotland. When it is a case of sending a military expedition into Scotland, or of paying heavy fees to lawyers to prosecute crofters, the Government are quite ready to spend any amount. But when it comes to spending public money in such a way as to delevop the resources of Scotland, then they become stingy. The right hon. Gentleman did not see why the Highlanders should be exempted from that law of nature which applies to the rest of Her Majesty's subjects and not have to move about in search of employment. I accept his doctrine, but I must point out that the Government owe a duty to the Highlanders in that matter. Again, the Lord Advocate has spoken of the advantages of education, and the money given in aid of local taxation. But how did the debt in respect of education arise? I say that it arose in consequence of the extravagance of the English Education Department which required as a condition of the grants allowed that out-of-the-way districts should erect expensive schools, and consequently the parishes were obliged to incur debts. The Crofter Commission have, moreover, pointed out that the education sanctioned by the Government is mere parrot education, for children are instructed in a language which they do not understand. The Government consequently owe the Highland parishes some reparation, and certainly the children should receive an education, the nature of which would fit them for going abroad. The right hon. Gentleman fails to perceive that the beneficial action of the law of nature should equally apply to bankrupt landlords, and should result in compelling them to sell their estates. The best way to develop the resources of the Highlands would be to place the land in the hands of men who would devote their energies to tilling it and fertilizing it, and making out of the most unpromising and barren soil productive farms. I am the last man in the world who would advocate any deviation from the principles of political economy, but I recommend to the study of the right hon. Gentleman the Report of the Commission which sat to examine the Crofters question. They made a number of recommendations which would com 919 mend themselves at once to him as equitable, feasible, and just, and I think if he will take steps to secure that they are carried into effect, will be the first Lord Advocate, at any rate in my time, who has shown any practical desire to develop the material resources of the Highlands. The Lord Advocate referred to exceptional measures which it was proposed to take. Did he intend to infer that the Government had anything further in store for us in the way of Scotch legislation beyond the grant of £30,000, and the Crofter Emigration Scheme? If so, I am sorry that he did not amplify that portion of his statement, and supplement the deficiency in the Address to the Crown. I ask him, when he speaks of the question of the fishing industry, will he deal with the law as to foreshore? The latter will not cost any money. My contention is that the terms on which the foreshore rights have been granted are absurd. He has promised a Bill dealing with fishing rights, but already from every side protests have come that the Bill which has been drafted for the purpose would, if carried, constitute a further robbery of public rights. I shall, on these grounds, support the motion of my hon. Friend.
§ * MR. A. D. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
The right hon. Gentleman, the Lord Advocate, congratulated the House on the fact that this debate had not been taken up, as some previous debates had been on Scotch questions, with narratives of disputes between landlords and tenants; but, unfortunately, we shall never be able to get the landlord out of a Scotch debate. The most acute stage of the landlord and tenant dispute was, of course, set aside by the appointment of the Crofter Commission, which did something, at any rate, to alleviate the burdens of these people. Let me point out that, although the Government is going to spend a great deal of money on Ireland in a manner which will prevent any of the outlay being returnee to the taxpayer, they do not propose to spend any money on Scotland, notwithstanding that the greatest necessity can be proved to exist in the Highlands There were three Bills before the House last year dealing with arterial drainage in Ireland. I am one of the last men who would advocate any measure of State 920 Socialism, and these proposals can only be described as such. Can any one say, the taxpayer is the least likely to get back the money which it is proposed to spend in Ireland upon arterial drainage? These are measures which will chiefly benefit the landlords, and to some small extent the occupiers, and nobody else; therefore the remarks which the Lord Advocate made against doing anything of the kind in the Highlands should have been prefaced by an explanation as to why it is the Government propose such measures in respect of Ireland. They have not done much to alleviate the condition of the people in the Highlands by this paltry scheme of emigration. It has been pointed out again and again in this House that emigration can be no real remedy, considering that the persons who can emigrate from the North of Scotland under the Government scheme comprise but a microscopic number compared with the annual increase in the population. Here is another anomaly. We are spending the taxpayers' money in sending Highlanders away from the North of Scotland, while we permit emigrants to come into London from all parts of the world, who shortly after they have arrived we are called upon to support out of the rates. Another thing which the Government have done is to return £30,000 out of the Probate Duties in aid of local taxation, but we do not know how that money is to be divided. A return has been promised to us, but we have nothing whatever before us. How much of it will go to the Island of Lewis? Whatever share goes there, will go into the pocket of one man, to whom all the land in the island belongs. We are apt sometimes to take a rather sentimental view of the landlords' position. Well, this particular landlord bought the island as a mercantile speculation, and it has proved an unfortunate speculation for him. I am sorry for him, but that is no reason why he should receive what is, in effect, a grant from the Government to help him out of his difficulty. We have been made familiar with mercantile misfortunes in past years, but we have never come across a similar case in which it has been proposed to hand over the taxpayers' money in aid of an unfortunate speculation. The Government have done something in the way of assisting fishermen with boats, and this, 921 with the emigration scheme and the return of £30,000 from the Probate Duties all that can be said in their favour. The right hon. Gentleman speaks as if ever, thing which ought to be done in the Highlands necessitates putting his hand into the public purse. This is not so. Two matters have been alluded to by more than one speaker, namely, harbours and telegraphic extension. The latter has been of very great value indeed, but other things which would be of even greater value is the survey of some of the fishing banks, and a distribution at fair rents of the surplus lands in the High lands, which at the present time are occupied by deer forests and sheep runs The right hon. Gentleman twitted the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow because he had not referred to the appendix of the Fishery Report of 1887. He said that if we looked at that we should find that a great deal had been done in surveying the banks. Now I have referred to the report and cannot find a single word in it with respect to surveying the banks The principal fishing bank lies off the Lews, and if it has been surveyed it must have been done within the last few months. Earlier surveys which have been made of that bank prove that it is one of the most remarkable fishing banks in the world, but it has not been surveyed with anything like precision. I think a war vessel was equipped for the purpose two or three years ago, but for some reason it was not sent on the duty Now I understand it would take from £1,200 to £1,500 to do this work, but that is nothing as compared with the value of the services which would be rendered by an efficient survey. We can surely spare one vessel for this task, which could probably be completed in the course of the coming summer. The other recommendation which the Commissioners made was that the land in the Highlands should be divided. I do not mean that it should be taken from any person who now farms it, but what we ask is that it should be let to the tenants at fair rents, the same as has been done by the Crofters' Committee in the Island of Orkney. Those who cultivate the land should be able to obtain it at fair rents, and on no other terms do I ask that the land shall be dealt with. There is another point to which I wish to draw particular atten 922 tion. The Scotch Land Commission commenced their work in 1886, they made a Report in 1887, and from that time until now no report has been laid upon the Table. I ask whether this long delay should have been allowed. Why, when the Irish Land Commission have to report monthly, should the Scotch Commission allow a period of two years to pass without presenting a report? The right hon. Gentleman himself promised that the report should be presented before the commencement of the present Session. He was perfectly well aware that a debate of some kind in reference to Scotch matters would be raised upon the Address, and I should like to ask whether that fact affords any explanation of the failure to produce that report.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
Will the hon. Member allow me to say I do not think I made any specific promise as to the date when the report would be issued. I could not possibly have done so. All I did was to undertake that a report should be presented as soon as the Commissioners were released from the arduous duties in which they were engaged in the Highlands, and I never entered into any pledge as to its being ready before Parliament met.
§ * MR. PROVAND
Are we to submit to these delays in the future? We had a Report in 1887, it is now 1889. If we get one now, are we to wait until 1891 before we get another?
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
I have no direct control over the Commissioners. They have been working very hard during the winter, and I believe when their Report is presented it will be seen that there can be no cause of complaint against them.
§ * MR. PROVAND
The right hon. Gentleman will see that we cannot ourselves communicate directly with the Commissioners, and certainly we are entitled to have some reason for the delay in the issue of the Report. I should certainly like to have some sledge as to when we are to get the next Report.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I was rather disappointed with the speech of the Lord Advocate. He made a very able and interesting speech to an interested and amused House, but I am afraid that the effect of the speech in the Highlands will be anything but interest 923 ing and amusing to the unfortunate crofter population. We have got the usual dose of political economy well sugared, and we have had more than that—we have had from the right hon. Gentleman insult added to injury. We have had the Highland people lectured by the right hon. Gentleman, and all I can say is that when he goes down to his constituency, where there are a good many Highland men, he may expect that he will be treated in a very different fashion from the way in which he has been received there in the past, and quite different from his treatment in this House of Commons. What is the condition of affairs? You accuse these poor people of not doing anything to help themselves. You have been permitting the landlord to clear them away from the holdings they occupied to the worst lands on the seashore, and you have huddled them together under conditions which practically make living impossible. You have reduced them to poverty, and now you turn round and tell them that they ought to do a great deal more to help themselves. Help themselves! When they are paying 15s. in the £ for local rates—thanks to your interference—in districts where society has been going back to its primary elements, where the School Board and the Parochial Boards will not carry out the law, and where you are compelled to go for the purpose of getting rid of these local authorities, and of bringing into force the action of central authorities in lieu of them. The Lord Advocate stands in the position of a man who has knocked another man down, and then kicks him for falling. If you will take any township in the Highlands, you will find that nine-tenths of the population will compare favourably in point of civilization and morality with the inhabitants of any of the best agricultural districts in the Kingdom. You have made these people poor and miserable. Are they to remain poor and miserable as long as you like? Instead of reproaching them for their misfortunes, you should reproach those who have caused their misfortunes. I had hoped that this would have been a practical debate, and that we should have heard something as to what the Government intend doing. Now we know that they intend to do nothing. I have to tell the Government that if they intend that 924 law and order shall be maintained in the Highlands, and if they do not wish to send gunboats there, as they have had to do in the past, they must carry out the laws that have been passed in this House in the spirit in which they were passed, and they must not hinder and prevent the beneficial legislation which Parliament has passed from being carried out in the Highlands. I will take one instance, which the Lord Advocate has tried to explain away, and that is the fact that the money which was voted to assist these poor people in getting boats for their fishing industry was long withheld from them. You would not give these poor people land. There are many cottars who have no land at all, and in some places cottars who have no land are more numerous than crofters who have land. Now, to that class you were going to lend money to develop the fishing industry, and to enable them to get boats. I had to call the attention of the House eighteen months after the Act was passed to the fact that not a single penny of that money had been devoted to the purpose for which it was voted. When pressure was brought to bear on the Treasury they agreed to grant nine-tenths. But immediately they did that they again betrayed the Highland; people. They virtually said to the people, "We will only lend you this money if you have caulker-built boats if you have the class of boats you require, we will only give seven-tenths." The people could not find the other three-tenths. These people have not got very fine boats. When they come in they have to run the boats up, and, therefore, they do not want heavy and expensive crafts. The Fishery Board, by manufacturing regulations against the spirit of the intention of the House, (because the intention of the Government last year was to lend nine-tenths of the money), tried to make the fishermen buy a class of boats which did not suit them. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely mistaken if he thinks that the question in the Highlands is a question either of fishing or of boats or of harbours or piers. It is a land question, and if the Lord Advocate wishes the question to turn more keenly than it has hitherto he has only to carry out his present policy. We have a right to ask the Government 925 of the day to carry out the clauses of the Crofters Act. There is a whole chapter in that Act containing many clauses having one purpose in view. There are four purposes of the Act. The first is to fix fair rents. We never complain very much about rack-renting in the Highlands. There has been rack-renting, but we have always said that this is not altogether a question of rack-renting. The Chief Secretary told us that the landlords of the Highlands never rack-rented. But the revelations of the Crofters Commission will show how much he knew about the Highlands. The majority of the rents in the Highlands have been reduced from £4 to £2. The average rent is 50s. a year, so that the people are paying less than one shilling a week for their holdings. But the reductions are practically of no avail while they have got their exhausted holdings. Round about their holdings there is plenty of land under sheep and deer, and they want that land, and they must have it if they are to live. Now I have no objection to emigration, providing the Government give us migration as well. The First Lord of the Treasury has refused to give us migration. There are congested districts in the Lews where you must have migration and emigration. We are quite willing to develop the waste land of our own country as well as the waste land of the Colonies. One thing necessary is that the clauses in the Crofter Act, under which the Commission has power to increase holdings, should be carried out. These clauses have never yet been carried out as far as I am aware of in the Highlands. Although the Act has been two and a-half years in operation, and the operation of the clauses is limited to five years, we are not aware of a single case of compulsory enlargement of the holdings. We are told that there is one case in Orkney, but we have no proof of it. Thousands of cases have come before the Court, and there is only one alleged case of enlargement. If there is no enlargement of holdings, you will soon find that instead of having anarchy in two or three parishes in the Lews, you will have the whole of the people in the townships in the Highlands paupers, and requiring to be controlled. I can tell the Lord Advocate that upon £5 926 crofts and upon £8 and £10 crofts there, have grown men as able as himself. There are Surgeons General in the Army, men of all professions, men who have made fortunes as bank managers, who have been brought up and educated on £8 and £10 crofts. The bulk of the crofters who have crofts on which they can live and bring up a family are leaseholders, and yet they are deprived: of the benefits of the Crofters Act. Take the case of the Clythe estate, in county Caithness. There are 150 crofters there, and the Land Court reduced their rents, on the average, 50 per cent, and wiped off arrears to the average of about 80 per cent. A great many of the rents were reduced as much as 66 per cent; but there are 32 leaseholders there, and the landlord is using the power of the law to evict the men, because they do not and cannot pay impossible rents. The rent of their neighbours has been reduced 50 per cent; but they are denied any reduction, simply because they happen to be leaseholders. Flesh and blood cannot stand it. If you are going to aid the landlords to evict leaseholders who are unable to pay impossible rents, then you will want more soldiers and more gunboats. There are landlords in the Highlands who, seeing that the Crofters Commission were reducing rents, have voluntarily offered reductions. But there are some bad landlords who will not voluntarily reduce the rents. I warn the Government that, if the present condition of things continues, they will require increased forces to keep the people under. It will be hard for some of us, whom you call agitators, to prevent the people from breaking the law. We have every desire to prevent our people from going too far; but we get no assistance from Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. FINLAY (Inverness Burghs)
I had not intended to take any part in this debate, and I rise now to say only a very few words in regard to some of the points touched upon in the discussion. I feel strongly that the state of things in the Western Highlands and Islands, and particularly in the Lews, is such as to constitute an actual danger. I feel that, wherever that state of things is realized, it will be felt that whatever can properly be done by the Government for the purpose 927 of giving relief and abating a condition which may result in the gravest consequences, ought to be done. Everyone who is interested in the Highlands must gratefully acknowledge the kindly and friendly terms in which the Lord Advocate referred to the state of things in the Western Highlands. I frankly acknowledge that the Government have in this matter, not merely given fair words, but they have devised that scheme in regard to education in the Highlands to which the Lord Advocate referred, and which is calculated to afford substantial relief and to secure increased efficiency. The merits of that scheme must be gratefully acknowledged by everyone who is conversant with the facts, but I feel that something more ought to be done, and done while there is yet time. The hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) has said that the land question is the question of questions in the Highlands. I agree with my hon. Friend in one sense, but the real land question in the Lews is that the land is not adequate to sustain the people.
§ MR. FINLAY
I speak subject to correction, but I have always understood that in the Lews, even if every bit of land were parcelled out among the people, it would be absolutely inadequate to support them. If this is so, relief is not to be found in any scheme, however well devised, for migration in the Lews. Relief may be afforded to some extent by migration to other parts of the Highlands, and any well-devised scheme of that kind it would be the pleasure of every friend of the country to support. But let me call the attention of the hon. Member for Caithness to the fact that a very great practical difficulty will arise when the question of stocking the farms is brought into prominence. One must not overlook these difficulties and one must not, above all things, overlook the greatest difficulty of all, which no legislation can touch, viz.—that the land in the Western Highlands is not adequate to support the people. I think that everyone must feel that a well considered scheme of emigration is calculated to afford great relief to that part of the country. Government money may be 928 very well spent upon fisheries. I believe that a rich return would be yielded for any money judiciously spent in the encouraging and developing of the fishing industry. One of the greatest needs of the Highlanders is that they should have ready means for bringing their fish to market. We are told it is not the practice of Government to subsidize lines of steamboats, or to aid by state grants the creation of railways, and the Lord Advocate brought the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Argyleshire (Colonel Malcolm), into sharp collision with the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell), by pointing out that one scheme of railway was patronized by one of them, while the other was ardent in support of a different scheme altogether. I confess the difficulty. It may be said that if you should encourage one scheme you will be asked to encourage other schemes, but I humbly submit to the Lord Advocate that it is right that the Government should choose judiciously between the competing schemes. Of course I recognize the maxims of political economy to which we have been referred, but I think that those maxims, though true in themselves, are sometimes misapplied and have not regard to the extreme need of the Highlands. To the fact that there is a source of wealth there which may be developed by Government money judiciously applied, I think that more may be done than the Government have yet done. I don't despair of their doing more, for I think the Lord Advocate's speech was not altogether discouraging. I don't think there is any country in Europe which would hesitate to incur expenditure if it was necessary, as I believe it is in the Highlands, for the purpose of averting what, if we are not wise in time, may ultimately develop into a serious national danger.
§ * MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, West)
In one respect I disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Findlay), but in the main I agree both with him and the hon. Member for Caithness in impressing on the Government the necessities of the present situation. I must, however, take objection to some remarks of the Lord Advocate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said so far as the Govern 929 ment was concerned, the land question might be considered closed. There was one expression which the Lord Advocate used which I hardly think could be fairly described in the words of the hon. Member for Inverness Burghs as kindly. It was the London door-step arguement. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the desire of the resolution of the Crofters of the Lews to stay on their holdings was very much like the resolution of the waifs and strays of the London streets to pass a night on a London door-step.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
No; I did not say that or anything at all like it. What I said was not intended to convey, and did not convey anything at all invidious. What I said was that it is a mistake to assume that everyone is entitled to expect a livelihood by staying on the spot where he was born. I thought that if you applied that to anyone born in a town, the same reason would involve the son of a householder establishing himself on the doorstep and expecting to find occupation coming to him there. I need hardly say to the hon. Gentleman that, having most valued friends of mine among the Highlands, I have not the smallest intention to compare them either with waifs or strays, or even to those like myself, who live in towns.
§ * MR. BUCHANAN
I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon, but I am in the recollection of the House. In the statement he made there was nothing about the son of the occupier establishing himself on the doorstep. I am sure that the bulk of those who listened to the Lord Advocate will feel that he drew an analogy between the desire or the resolution of the crofters or the cottars in the Lews to remain in their holdings to the resolution or desire of men to pass nights on London doorsteps.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
I never said anything of the kind. I repudiate the interpretation which the hon. Gentleman himself unfairly endeavours to fasten upon me.
§ * MR. BUCHANAN
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will listen to the 930 conclusion of my sentence. I was expressing my gratification that he has disclaimed the interpretation which I not alone certainly put on his words. Now let me say that during the last three years the Government have been urged again and again to take further legislative action as regards the land question: to do away with some of the defects which are acknowledged to exist in the Crofters Act, and to make it a more effective method of dealing with the land question in the Highlands. In 1887 and 1888 Amendments were moved to the Address in terms somewhat similar to that we are now discussing. We have had adjournments of the House moved in the two last Sessions upon the same subjects, but nothing has been done by the Government. One Amending Act of the Crofters Act was passed, but it was merely an Administrative Amendment. The Government cannot pretend that they are unaware of the legislative improvements wanted in the Act. For instance, it is very necessary to leaseholders to receive the benefits of the Act. Then there is the question of the £30 limit, but above all there is the grievance resulting from the smallness of the holdings. A large portion of the Crofters Act of 1888 was devoted to the subject of providing extensions of holdings, but that part of the Act has been confessedly a dead letter. All that the Government seem to have done so far towards alleviating the present grave state of things in the Highlands, in so far as it relates to congestion of population, is to devise a scheme of emigration. I agree with what has been said by previous speakers—namely, that if you are to have a satisfactory scheme of emigration in the Highlands, and especially in a district like the Lews, you must accompany it by some well considered scheme of migration. I do not believe that we can hope to have a thoroughly satisfactory adjustment of the state of the Highlands until, by some process or another, land there can be better distributed, especially when it is found that large tracts of country are being put to most unprofitable purposes, such as deer forests. I beg to urge upon the Government as forcibly as I can, the great difficulty they will set up for themselves if they hug the delusion 931 which seems to be entertained by the Lord Advocate, that in so far as land reform is concerned, the Highlanders have got all they can get or all they deserve. I have not the slightest doubt that the Crofters' Act requires and will obtain considerable amendment and extension, and we cannot expect a permanent settlement of the difficulties until those amendments are carried out.
§ MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helens)
I had not intended to take part in this discussion, but I am led to say a few words in consequence of the argument that has been advanced more than once that the emigration of crofter families to the North-West of Canada does not benefit those who are left behind, though hon. Members were forced to admit that the emigration was of benefit to those who went away. I am glad to have an acknowledgment so far, but I maintain that the benefit extends to those left behind also. It affords more room on the crofter holdings, it lessens the competition for work, and must be a direct benefit in various ways. So much is demonstrated by the report made to the Secretary for Scotland by Messrs. Eraser and M'Neill, which affords the strongest evidence that the removal of Highland families is a solid remedy for relieving the social troubles of that part of the country. Thirty families were sent out last year, and I believe it is the intention to send out forty more in the spring. All evidence combines to support such a course. We are told that the population of Lewis is increasing at the rate of 40 or 50 per cent, and the land cannot maintain the crofter families now upon it. If you can combine a system of migration with emigration I have nothing to say against it, and would by all means urge the Government to take it up. Some of us here have a cut-and-dried scheme of colonization, which I hope the House will some day have an opportunity of discussing, and we can show that in so far as the principle has been applied there is evidence to show that it is one of the best methods we can adopt, and the scheme of colonization we advocate can be shown to be by theory and experiment financially sound. The families sent out have prospered, and left more room for those remaining behind, and 932 there is nothing to show that only those actually sent out were fit for emigration. But I merely wish now to urge on the House that this method of meeting the difficulty can be pursued with success, and to emphasize the fact that we on this side who are in favour of colonization are in no way opposed to migration. We only say that you must pay for land you acquire in the Highlands, while in Canada you can get the land for nothing, and that makes all the difference as to the possibilities of financial success. I hope the Government will proceed with the method they have adopted, and that we shall have a better opportunity of debating this subject.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I have taken very great personal interest in this matter, and have endeavoured to familiarize myself with the facts, and therefore I ask the House to listen to a few remarks, although I am not a Scotch Member, and can make no pretension to represent the crofter population. In dealing with a Debate raised in this way, we may ask, what is its object? Is it only one of those questions raised from time to time with the view of discrediting or attacking the Government of the day? ["No, no."] Well, I suppose questions are sometimes raised with that object—or is it raised with the object of benefiting those who are the subject of debate? Well, I was going to say that, in the present instance, we have a right to assume it is raised with the second and not the first of these objects. I think it would be foolish for anybody in the House to raise a debate on this Question with the view of discrediting the particular Members of the Government which now occupy the front Bench, for, as the Lord Advocate has very well said, these complaints have been made of all Governments, and certainly the Government which preceded the present Government was open to that very criticism to which the present Government is now subjected. The Government, for instance, with which I had the honour to be connected, was the Government mainly responsible for bringing forward measures intended to deal finally with this matter. It was the one which appointed the Commission, and a good deal of allusion has been made to the Report of that Commission. I remember 933 that those who claimed to represent the crofters in a special sense criticised the Report very sharply as being theoretical, unpractical, inadequate, and altogether unsatisfactory. Now I find, however, there is a demand put forward that the recommendations of the Commission should be carried out. But which of the recommendations? Because I should like to know whether all the objections taken to those recommendations four or five years ago have been removed by experience, and if not to which of the recommendations of the Crofters Commission Report the Government should give effect? The Government to which I belonged did not stop with the Commission. We brought in a Crofters Bill, which was at that time the expression of our views as to what was requisite, necessary, and likely to settle the question. Therefore no complaint which can be made of the present state of affairs can possibly be considered as specially affecting the present Government any more than previous Governments. At the same time I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member who raised this debate that any Government, even the present, may be all the better occasionally for a little pressure, and I should like that pressure all the better if it came from both sides of the House. The condition of the crofters when that Act was introduced was extremely unsatisfactory. I say the crofters are a class of people deserving the sympathy of this House, not only because it cannot be asserted generally that their misfortunes are due to their own fault, but also because they have borne those misfortunes with great courage, and generally in the best possible temper and spirit. On all grounds, therefore, they come before the House as a people who, being in misfortune, are deserving of the sympathy of the House; and, further, they have a right to call on the Government of the day, expressing the opinion of the House, to show that sympathy in some practical form. What were the recommendations of the Crofters Commission? Some of them have already been given effect to. The Commission recommended, for instance, that some attention should be given to the extreme hardship caused by the excessive School Board rate in certain parts of the Highlands. Now I find that some of my friends make com 934 plaint of this recommendation being attended to by the Government, and say this is a gift to the landlords. I do not think so. But in any case I think the landlords, even if it can be shown that there was a concession made to them, have reason to complain that it was not made sooner. What is the state of the case? While the education rate usually imposed on landlords and owners of property, and, above all, on tenants of land throughout the United Kingdom, averaged something like sixpence in the pound, in some of these poor districts the sum demanded brought up the rates to something like ten shillings or fifteen shillings in the pound, whereas, in London, they were only nine shillings or eleven shillings in the pound. These were perfectly ruinous rates, and I say the case is exactly similar in regard to these rates as in regard to the Postal Service rates. If the Postal Service is charged against the persons who are served, it is perfectly clear that in the distant parts of the Empire the charge would be so excessive that no post would be possible; yet we charge a penny for sending a letter to Lewis, just as we do for sending a letter from the House of Commons across the road. In the same way it is perfectly fair that the education rate should be equalized, at all events where excessive charges have become necessary owing to the nature of the district to be served. If you enforce compulsory education in these districts, the State must step in and afford some kind of assistance. In my opinion the Government are to be thanked for having dealt with this part of the recommendations of the Commission. I do not think the landlords, after all, are in anything but an unfortunate position, for, owing to the circumstances, the rates are still heavier than the average throughout the country. Then the Commission recommended that assistance should be given towards the fishing industry. I must say that here we go to the very extreme in the direction in which national assistance can be given. It amounts to this, that the State—the taxpayers of the whole country—are lending Nine-tenths of the whole value of the instruments for the prosecution of a particular industry. Nine-tenths of the value of boats and gear! When you think what kind of security is offered by boats and fishing nets, everybody will agree that 935 to lend nine-tenths of the capital is a most liberal proposition. When I was among the crofters some two years ago I told them I did not think they could hopefully expect from the House of Commons any further grants in that direction. But there are indirect ways, more important than by loans for boats and nets, in which the Government have given some assistance already, and it is strongly urged upon them to give more, and that is in giving assistance for the construction of fishery harbours and means of communication. These stand on a different footing. As regards fishery harbours, the principle has been already conceded, and loans are already made, in connection with the Fishery Board for Scotland, for harbours. But the complaint is that these loans are made, if at all, for large harbours—harbours such as, in a certain sense, are commercial harbours—and where the rates are the security upon which the loans are raised; and that no assistance at all, practically speaking, is given for small works such as throwing out a little pier or breakwater, or something of that kind, for giving security to the small boats of fishermen, and very likely creating an industry where none now exists. Well, I am prepared to admit that though in such cases the security may be very doubtful, yet, having regard to the national interest involved, it would be a good, right, and proper policy for the Government to relax the rules, if necessary to alter the law to enable the Board to relax its rules and to give this small assistance. Very email sums would be required, a few hundreds or a few thousands, on different parts of the coast, to create purely fishing harbours. Well, then comes the much larger question of increasing the facilities for this industry by improving the means of communication; in other words, lending State assistance to the creation of main roads, or in the shape of railways or tramways—probably of light railways. Now, I can quite understand the way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be inclined to look on a proposition of this kind, or rather, I should say, the way in which he would have been inclined to look on it a year or two years ago, because the principle upon which we have proceeded in the United Kingdom 936 has been that these are questions to be left wholly to private enterprize; and so far as England is concerned, and so far as the greater part of Scotland is concerned, I believe that principle is an absolutely sound one; that more has been done in both countries than has been done even with Government assistance in any other country in the world, or than would have been done in England and Scotland if Government had not interfered. But there are parts of the United Kingdom—Ireland and parts of Scotland—in which from the conditions of the case, from the sparseness and the poverty of the population and the nature of the industry, it is absolutely impossible to have roads or railways at all unless the Government give assistance. I have pointed out before, in every other country in the world Government assistance has been found necessary, and I do not understand why, because the greater part of England and Scotland happens to be very richly and populously occupied, those poorer parts of the United Kingdom should be left without the assistance which they would have had from the Government of any other country under similar circumstances. The Government a year ago accepted the principle in regard to Ireland that some kind of Government assistance may properly be given in these exceptional cases, and I am perfectly certain that when we come to the test no argument, which could be used with regard to the west coast of Ireland could not also be used with regard the west coast of Scotland and the Highlands. If it is right to assist drainage or railway schemes in the West of Ireland, it is also right to assist similar schemes in the West of Scotland, and I confess I should be very glad if the Lord Advocate could see his way to take this into consideration. I admit it requires the greatest care, but at the same time I think the principle might be accepted, and when that is done, it will be only a question of time when it should be put into practical operation. I now come to the most important recommendation of the Commission. They pointed out what everybody admits, that the difficulty in the case of the crofter population consisted in the fact that it was so congested that the land was not able to supply subsistence without extraneous means, fish 937 eries sand others, which might possibly be stimulated or promoted by the Government. But, after all, the bulk of the population depends on the land, and the state of things is wholly exactly the same as in the West of Ireland. We might be discussing the position of the tenants of Donegal, the case is exactly the same. You might give them their land for nothing and they could not live upon it because of the quality of the soil and the quantity. Well, what is to be done? There are only two ways by which this difficulty can be met, the one by emigration, and the other by migration, or, in other words, by increasing the quantity of land available. When I was in Scotland, I saw crofters in almost every part of the district; they met me at cross roads, and I sometimes addressed 20 little meetings of 50 or 200 people in the course of a day, and in every case I ascertained the nature of their grievances and of their demands. They were always the same, and were often brought before me, in interesting and pathetic details, the difficulties of living, in view of the congested population; and their claim was that more land should be available for them in their own country. This was the claim universally and unanimously made. Then, naturally, I asked them, "If the land were placed at your disposal, would you be able to pay a fair rent fixed by a competent tribunal?" The answer, "Yes; we are not robbers; we do not want to steal the land." The next question was, "Are you able to stock it?" Then there was silence. It was not contested by the crofters themselves that in the vast majority of cases they would not be able to stock the land. Then I used to ask, "How are you to get over the difficulty?" The answer was, "We hope Parliament will lend money to enable us to stock it." My answer invariably was, "I am here to help you if I can, above all to learn your views, but I am not here to raise your hopes by giving my assent to what I believe an impracticable proposal." I told them on every occasion the House of Commons would be ill-advised to lend money to stock the farms; because that would be a great injustice to taxpayers in other parts of the country engaged in other enterprizes. When I had made clear my reasons why such a demand should be refused, it would sometimes 938 be said, "If the State will not assist us to obtain stock, there are some of us—perhaps three or four, or a half a dozen out of fifty—who have the stock or could get money to buy it from friends if they had the land in their possession. At least they ought to be provided with the means of migration, and to that extent, at all events, congestion would be avoided." So I come, therefore, to what is really the practical point—though as regards the great majority it would be impossible for them to take advantage of the offer of more land—there is a certain proportion, perhaps not a very large one, which could take advantage of it, and I confess my view is in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission and the suggestion of the hon. Member for Inverness—that it would be desirable, under proper conditions, to comply with the demand for more land. Let me point out that the principle has been conceded by Parliament. The Crofters Act has a series of clauses providing that, on application beings made, and proof submitted to the Commissioners that the applicant is able to stock the land, he may have more land on certain conditions. It is conceded by Parliament, and by everybody, that more-land ought to be provided for them; but the conditions are such that only in a very few instances can a successful application be made. What are the conditions? One is that the land must be contiguous to the existing holdings, and the other, that it must be on the same estate as the present holding of the tenant making the application. But that is most unfair to the landlord, putting aside its practical effect upon the tenant. It so happens that there are in the Highlands and Islands landlords who have never taken any part in the clearances of the crofter population, who have recognised the difficulties of their poor tenants, have allowed them to become involved in considerable obligations, and yet, out of a feeling of sympathy, have allowed the crofters to remain on the land where their families had been for generations. Therefore, it is upon the landlords who had a larger proportion of crofters than others that this burden of providing additional portions of land would fall, whereas the landlord who, on a neighbouring estate, had, by common consent, behaved with 939 great stringency, would escape the burden. This condition is not only a hardship upon the good landlord, but it practically renders the operation of the Act impossible, because there is no suitable land contiguous and on the same estate. Now why should not the operation of the Act be extended? What is there to prevent the Land Commission from being empowered to say to a crofter township, "Here is land sufficient to accommodate 10 out of 20 crofters. We are ready to make it available"? The crowded land would thus be relieved by the transfer of crofters to another estate, and if on an island perhaps to the mainland. It seems to me that the operation of the Act is most disadvantageously limited by this condition, which makes it necessary that the land offered be contiguous to the existing holding. There are other conditions, but I have said enough to show that the principle accepted as desirable has been frustrated in its application by the conditions. I should like to hear from the Government that they are willing to take this into consideration; and, if they find, as they must find—that this is the case, that they will extend their proposal, and, at all events, make their emigration clauses a reality instead of a sham, as they are at present. Having said that, I say further, that I went into this question with a prejudice against emigration, sympathizing strongly with the desire of the people to remain in their own country, amid their old associations; but having studied the question, I have come to the conclusion that real relief is impossible without a large scheme of emigration. At the same time, I say that such schemes would be assisted by one of migration. Those who form the great majority, and who cannot migrate, would emigrate. Still, I admit that the Government would be very wrong to proceed otherwise than tentatively with a scheme of emigration. Previous schemes of emigration have failed, and the word is a reproach in the Highlands. Many landlords in the past emigrated their tenants, and, though in many cases animated with the best feelings, they sent them abroad under such circumstances as to cause many of the emigrants to undergo great sufferings and privations in their new homes. The news of these failures has come back, and ever since emigration 940 has been unfavourably viewed. The Government, therefore, would be wrong to encourage emigration without following the emigrants up, and seeing that experiments of this kind are made under circumstances that render it almost certain that they will be successful. But I think it is a good thing. They have commenced the experiment, they are trying it, and I hope they will carry it a great deal further. It has been said by one hon. Member that he does not see why the taxpayers of the country should be involved in a scheme of this kind. Well, I do not agree with him. I do not believe that a wise scheme of emigration carefully carried out will really involve the taxpayer in any very serious loss. I believe that there will be less loss in connection with a well devised scheme of this sort than in connection with any other scheme in which the aid of the State is at the present time required. But at the same time I will say that this is one of those cases where a deserving part of the population is brought to a condition of misery through no fault of their own, and the rest of the population must come to their aid. I regard this question as very serious. I know the pressure there is to induce the Government to leave things alone, and do nothing until this becomes a burning question; but I have seen enough to convince me that there is a sore which if not cured, will spread. Where there is, as in the Highlands, a basis of wrong, we cannot tell how far it will spread. Let us bear in mind the history of Ireland. Agitation in Ireland has sprung out of a real grievance—a real agrarian grievance. In the Highlands and Islands of Scotland there is a real agrarian grievance—misery almost amounting to starvation on the part of a most deserving population—and unless some remedy is found I will predict serious trouble for the Government and this House.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
I think it cannot be denied that the debate has been most interesting on this important question. It has, perhaps, been prolonged more than we expected, but the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 941 West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) has fully justified that prolongation. I admit that this is a very serious question, but I cannot admit that there is a basis of wrong underlying it. The state of things is the result of modern, civilization—the result of the progress which has been made during the past few years in bringing the United Kingdom into close communication with the whole world, and the resources of the Highlands being thus brought into competition with those of other parts of the world. Scotland with a less productive soil and a less genial climate has to compete against lands which can be made productive at much less cost of labour and capital. There is a demand that there should be land for the unfortunate cottars and crofters in Scotland. We sympathize with the demand most thoroughly and most heartily. We sympathize with the desire the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has given expression to—the desire of the cottars to continue to live on the land where their forefathers have lived before them. But the forces of Nature have to be faced, and we must all accommodate ourselves to the conditions of the time. I am quite willing to express my sympathy for the distress and my desire to alleviate that distress, but I think the Government would be to blame if we had referred to such sympathy with the distress without also indicating the methods by which we proposed to alleviate it. Our responsibility would have been great, for it would have raised expectations which it would not have been possible for us in the House of Commons to realise. The Amendment now before the House is practically a Vote of Censure on Her Majesty's Government for not having proposed legislation in the Queen's Speech. It must be borne in mind, however, that the Crofter Commission is absolutely independent of Her 942 Majesty's Government. We have no power nor right, nor is it a part of our duty, to dictate to them how they should discharge the duties imposed upon them by the Act of 1886, and it should be remembered that the Commissioners are not our appointees, but were appointed by the Government that preceded us. If they have failed to make certain recommendations for the benefit of the crofters, it must be either because an application has not been made to them by the crofters for the extension of their holdings, or else because the Commissioners have felt that a more pressing duty for them to discharge was that of revising rents and making arrangements in regard to arrears. But however that may be, we have had no part whatever in the administration of the Crofters Act. That duty has rested upon the Commissioners, who have received all the assistance which the Government could give them in the discharge of their duties. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has spoken of migration and of emigration. I have often heard migration proposed in this House, though I have never seen in print any proposal which has taken a practical shape with regard to migration within the United Kingdom. For my own part I am in such a complete accord with the principle which is recognized in migration—namely, the recognition of those home-loving sentiments which belong to the people of this country and of Scotland—that, if a practical scheme were put before me which was not demoralizing in itself, I should give it my cordial approval. No scheme has yet been submitted to Parliament, or to persons outside Parliament, that would gain acceptance by a considerable number of persons who really understand the question. If any one were to put before the House and the country a scheme by which migration could be carried out without 943 confiscation, I am convinced that Parliament would consider the plan with every desire to give effect to it, and to do justice to all concerned. There are many exceedingly well-disposed persons in this country as well as in Scotland who would gladly aid in carrying out a plan presented in a practical form. Land, I am sorry to say, can be had in almost any quantity in Scotland as well as in England, and with some of this the experiment could be tried if hon. Gentlemen who believe in the principles they advance would put the proposal into practical shape. I do not suppose that any one desires that crofters should pay less than the real reasonable value of the land; and if that is so, I am sure there are plenty of liberal people in the country who would be ready to assist in making this experiment. Allusions have been made by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clarke) as to the conditions under which Votes have been supplied by the Government, and as to the extent to which the Treasury has gone. The Government are bound, I think, not to act upon a mere sentimental or generous view of its responsibilities, but they are bound to rely upon those who are responsible for the return of the money advanced. I cannot say whether the distribution of the Vote to which the hon. Member referred was right or wrong, but we must trust to the Fishery Board to administer it fairly and properly, as I believe they have done. I agree that we ought to endeavour to do everything in our power to improve communications and to afford facilities for the fishing industries. But there is one condition which I should wish to make. We ought not to make loans as mere shams. If we make a loan it should be made to some authority which is capable of returning, and certain to return, the money at some time or other. The Government are fully sensible of the circumstances. We know 944 that, although the population is comparatively a small one, it is one which deserves the utmost sympathy and consideration on the part of the Government. Whether we have failed or succeeded in the colonization which we have attempted, and which is going forward again in the spring, must remain to be seen; but I think we should be extremely to blame if we ventured on a large scheme of this kind without trying whether the proposals are likely to be successful or not. I regret that it should become necessary for any of us to leave these shores. There is hardly a Member in this House, hardly a Scotchman in the House, who has not felt it necessary to leave his home, and it is not for us to advise any man to remain for ever on the hearthstone on which he was bred, or to trust for his livelihood solely to the place in which he was born. We have endeavoured to do what we can for these crofters to meet the distress to which they have been subject, but we think it better to proceed with care and consideration in the matter rather than to attempt great and heroic steps which might tend to their misfortune rather than to their advantage.
That the words 'Humbly to express to Your Majesty our regret that, whilst reference is made in Your Most Gracious Speech to our early attention being asked to measures for developing the material resources of Ireland, no reference is made to the distress which prevails in many parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, nor to any measures for removing or alleviating said distress, or of developing the material resources of said Highlands and Islands' be there inserted.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 160: Majority 64.—(Division List No. 2).
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate arising.
§ It being after midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes after twelve o'clock.