HC Deb 25 April 1890 vol 343 cc1459-79

Order for Committee read.

(9.0.) Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair."

(9.0.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)

This evening gives us an opportunity of which we may well avail ourselves, to——

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


I wish to bring before the House a grievance which is acutely felt by my constituents, namely, the effects of the Vaccination Laws in relation to the working of the Education Code in Leicester. It is well-known that Leicester has led the way in resisting the law of vaccination, 'a question on which, as we know, a Royal Commission is sitting. Comparatively few of the inhabitants have been vaccinated, and last year only 101 children or persons in the town underwent the operation. One result is that the School Board of Leicester experience great difficulty in obtaining in the town young persons as pupil teachers who have been vaccinated; and as the Education Department refuse to consent to the engagement of those who cannot produce a certificate of vaccination, the Board have been obliged either to employ incompetent parsons or to seek for others beyond the town. I should like to point out the extreme hardship of this. In the first place, the choice of the School Board is unduly limited; and, in the second place, it is most undesirable to have to select candidates whose parents live away from the town. A good deal of strong feeling exists on this matter in the constituency. The question is, have the Education Department any right to insist on the production of certificates of vaccination? The Code does not say that the candidate shall produce such a certificate; it only says that a certificate of health shall be forthcoming. Therefore, I do not think the Department is justified in insisting on having certificates of vaccination. In places where smallpox is rife, such a certificate might be necessary as a preventive, but Leicester is not in that position. For 18 years there has been no epidemic of the kind there, and in such circumstances it is very hard that the Department should forbid the School Board acting in accordance with the convictions of nine-tenths of the inhabitants. All I ask is that an exceptional case should be met by some exceptional leniency and indulgence, and that some consideration should be shown for the views of the population of Leicester. Unless that is done, the School Board will continue to have but a small choice, and they may be driven to cease appointing pupil teachers altogether. I trust that the Vice President of the Committee of Council for Education will give me an intimation that some concession will be made in this matter.

*(9.20.) MR. JAMES ELLIS (Leicestershire, Bosworth)

I had no idea that this question would be brought on tonight; but I can assure the House that it is a very important matter, so far as Leicester is concerned. As Chairman of the School Board there, I hold that the young ladies appointed as pupil teachers should have their homes in the town, and I think it is a very serious thing to bring a girl from a long distance and plant her in lodgings. If this rule is enforced by the Department it will certainly end in our ceasing to employ female pupil teachers altogether. Such conduct as this on the part of the Department will only strengthen the opposition to vaccination. Personally, I am not against vaccination; I have had my own children vaccinated, but I am sure you will not gain your end by attempting to force people to have their children vaccinated by public vaccinators. I am very confident also the Department ought not to interfere with the appointments of the Leicester School Board as they are doing.

(9.26.) MR. L. P. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)

I wish to bring forth a matter, the facts as to which are very brief. It is as to a charge made against Mr. Percy Magan, a Justice of the Peace, of fraud under the Arrears Act, he being accused of having received his full rent from a certain tenant named Power, and of having made a declaration by which he obtained a grant to which he was not entitled. I have asked several questions in reference to this matter, and before Easter I produced a document purporting to show that at the time of the application to the Court the tenant (Bernard Clogher) owed two years' rent, whereas he did not owe one farthing. The Attorney General, in reply at the time, said the person referred to in the document was not the one as to whom my question had reference. But there is only one Bernard Clogher whoso rent was £15, and I do not know to whom else the receipt can apply. I want a guarantee that the public money shall not be frittered away on men of the class of Mr. Magan, and I am willing now to lay before the Government further proof of the accuracy of the statement I have made. Of course, if the Government choose, they can screen Mr. Magan, who is one of their strong supporters, a Magistrate, and a member of various Coercive Associations.


The hon. Member has addressed to me several questions in connection with this matter. On the first occasion on which a question was put to me, I made the usual inquiries, and was informed that Mr. Magan, when this charge was first brought against him, wrote to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland requesting that an investigation might be made into the circumstances. The Lord Chancellor declined to order such an inquiry to be instituted on the ground that the matter had occurred in a Department over which he had no control. Mr. Magan then applied to the Land Commissioners, who informed him that while they were quite ready to deal with cases under the Arrears Act, they could not make such an investigation as that for which he asked in the absence of any definite charge. After that the hon. Member sent me a receipt purporting to be for a half-year's rent of a holding by a person of the name of Clogher at a yearly rental of £8 15s., and I promised to inquire into the circumstances of the case. I wrote for and obtained a copy of the affidavits on which the application was founded, and compared it with the receipt; but I found that the two did not correspond, and when it is remembered that the application made to me was that I should direct criminal proceedings in the case because of a wrongful representation as to the amount of rent that was due, I think the House will agree with me that even the most speculative and adventurous Attorney General who ever occupied the position I now have the honour to hold could not for one moment have entertained the idea of a criminal prosecution in such a case as that. The hon. Member now suggests that the £15 a year was a penal rent. I cannot act on a suggestion of the kind. Without further and much more definite information it would be impossible for me to take any further steps in the matter.

(9.31.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)

I desire to call attention to a matter of considerable importance to Ireland. It is a question which vitally affects the interests of the fishermen generally, but especially those on the Western Coast. It is doubtless in the recollection of the Committee that when Her Majesty's present Ministers came into Office they made certain promises in regard to the question of the Irish fisheries and the harbour accommodation round the Irish Coast. They promised to send a Royal Commission to Ireland, and that promise was fulfilled, a Commission of three gentlemen having been appointed for the purpose. That Commission was instructed to make inquiries into three different subjects, two of which I do not intend to refer to, inasmuch as the Government have already taken some steps in the direction to which they relate; but one of those subjects is that to which I am about to refer. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer promised that this particular matter should be thoroughly investigated, and that if the Report of the Commission were favourable to the proposed establishment of fishery harbours on the Irish Coast action would be taken upon the matter. Well, Sir, the Report of that Commission was favourable to the establishment of fishery harbours, and I should like to hear from Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to take any steps in the direction of carrying out the recommendations of the Commissioners, because, unless that is their intention, they will be placing themselves and the House in a false position before the country. Owing to the want of larger and better harbours on the Western Coast great difficulty is experienced in the prosecution of the fishing trade, and the boats which are used by the fishermen are very small and inadequate. If they had better harbours, there is little doubt that they would get larger boats, which are needed to cope with the great waves of the Atlantic, with which the fishermen have to contend in the pursuit of their hazardous calling. Boats of 40 tons would be sufficient for their purpose, and the fishermen would feel safe in navigating them in the Atlantic Ocean. My object in calling the attention of the Government to this matter is that they should feel the necessity of fulfilling the promise they have made on the subject, and should not allow it to be passed over. I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury in his place, and I should like to hear from him that the Government intend to redeem the pledge they have made on this most important subject.

*(9.33.) MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)

The subject to which my hon. and gallant Friend has just called attention is one in which the constituency I have the honour to represent is deeply interested. I cannot but regard the question he has raised as one of especial importance to inhabitants of the western portion of Ireland. This harbour question has been before the Irish public for a very long period, and although the Government have always been ready to make promises upon the subject, they have not been so ready to fulfil them. If the desire of the Government is to allay the discontent which undoubtedly prevails, and to concede necessary and just reform, I can hardly imagine any question which is more worthy of their attention than that of the construction of harbours on the South and West Coasts of Ireland. A few years ago my attention was especially directed to the want of harbours on the Coast of Donegal. I happened to be for a time on Tory Island, and, owing to the stress of weather, found it absolutely impossible to get back to the mainland coast, on reaching which I could have reached home by train in the course of some few hours. The con-sequence was that we had to take a steamer which conveyed us round the coast to Liverpool, whence we had to proceed to Holyhead and so cross to Dublin by steamer. I only mention this as an illustration of the want of harbours on the Western Coast. The people along that coast use a very imperfect class of boats, those known as coracles, which are of insufficient size and construction, and which, in bad weather the people were unable to use at all. If they had bettor harbours, doubtless they would have a better description of boats, and would be enabled to prosecute their fishing enterprise under much more favourable circumstances than at present.

(9.35.) SIR G. CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,

Before the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury answers the questions put to him by my hon. Friend, I desire to call attention to another matter which, I think, is germane to the question of Supply. I refer to the way in which two most important Votes have been lumped together by the Government, the result being to cause extreme confusion in the discussion of the subjects to which they severally relate. I refer especially to the case of the Votes of the Diplomatic and Consular Service as one of enormous importance, embracing the whole of the relations of the British Empire with the rest of the world, and the same observation may be made with regard to the Consular Vote, which affects the commercial relations of this country with every part of the globe. These two important subjects have hitherto constituted separate Votes, but the Government have thought fit, contrary to precedent, and without consulting the House upon the subject, to put the two Votes together, and they also propose to take the Colonial and South African Vote in the same way as one proposal. I may remind the House that last year a pledge was given by the Government that the Diplomatic and Consular Votes should be brought before the House in an earlier period in the Session than hitherto, so that there might be better opportunity of discussing the subjects to which they relate. The Government have; fulfilled that promise to the ear, but I very much doubt whether they have fulfilled it to the hope, because they were put down for the day immediately preceding the recent holidays. Everybody knows that it is unusual to bring forward important Votes immediately before and after the holidays. The Government, when questioned upon the subject, refused to inform us what they were going to put down for discussion on the days nearest to the holiday recess. They said we should see their proposals on the Papers. Of course, hon Members might see the Papers if they chose to give up a portion of their holiday, but I did not see the Papers, and I understand that the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs went away under the impression that the Diplomatic and Consular Votes were not to be taken until the House should have a fair opportunity of considering them. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary shakes his head. I suppose he means by that that no such pledge was given. But, at any rate, that was the understanding on the part of the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and the result was that many hon. Members who would have liked to bring forward important subjects connected with those Votes, were deprived of their opportunity of discussing those matters. The consequence was, that the Diplomatic and Consular Votes, having been lumped together in the way I have described, were brought before an empty and languid House the first day before the holidays without notice having been given to hon. Members that they were to be so taken. The result was anything but a happy one, either for the House or for the Government, because the questions arising upon these Votes were only half discussed, and the hour arrived at which it was necessary to suspend the discussion. The Government have to-day followed a most deviating and uncertain course in regard to the proceedings in Supply. There was no definite intimation this morning that Supply would be taken. The whole Civil Service Estimates were put down with the hope, I suppose, of running them through. I do not think this is a fair way of treating the House. Then Members who were interested in the Allotments Bill complained that it was sprung upon them in an unfair way, and it was postponed. The result was that if a discussion had not arisen on the question of Electoral Liabilities, the chances are that many of us who are interested in colonial questions would have found the Votes on which we wished to speak passed. This evening we find that the Movers of Amendments have run away, and consequently the Government are trying to get into Committee of Supply. One would have thought that the colonies might have had a Vote to themselves, and that the great subject of Africa might also have had a Vote. Her Majesty's Government have, however, thought fit to lump together the Colonies and South Africa, and I very much doubt whether we shall have the opportunity of discussing the subjects we wish to raise. If we do discuss them we shall all have the terror of the Closure hanging over us. The lumping of these Votes together is really an abuse of the power of the Government, and is not fair treatment.

*(10.7.) SIR T. ESMONDE (Dublin Co., S.)

I quite agree with the hon. Member as to the extraordinary way in which the Government have jockeyed the Committee in connection with these Votes, and more especially with regard to the Consular and Diplomatic Service Vote. I will take this opportunity of drawing attention to the condition of a people in whom perhaps the British public do not take a very great interest just now—the people of Samoa. I think the condition at which Samoan affairs have arrived gives me a good right to ask Her Majesty's Government what is the policy of this country in relation to the Samoan Islands. The idea in Samoa to-day is that the British Government and the British officials in Samoa are determined to back up the policy of Germany in that part of the world. It is believed that the British officials in Samoa and all over the South Pacific have received instructions from home to do nothing except what the Representatives of the German Empire desire to be done. I do not know whether hon. Members remember what took place not so very long ago in Samoa, and led to the appointment of the Commission which has recently terminated its labours with about the same amount of success as generally seems to attend the labours of such august bodies. It is the old story of land-grabbing—that extraordinary craze for robbing weaker people which seems nowadays to have received an additional impetus in Europe, and which seems to prevail with particular vigour in connection with the foreign policy of the German Empire. The Germans went to Samoa some years ago. They began, I believe, by carrying out missionaries to the natives, and they finished by robbing the people of their land. That is the general result from the importation of civilisation in these countries, and the Germans succeed in this as well as other people have succeeded. They robbed the Samoans of the land, obtaining it from the chiefs under all sorts of frivolous and ridiculous pretexts. The chief's gave these German gentry the right to cultivate the land, and the Germans looked upon that as giving them the fee-simple, which the chiefs, as a matter of fact, had no right to give. The Germans occupied the land and commenced to establish a hard-and-fast system of despotism, and, in the end, the natives found themselves driven in desperation to take up arms against the "German Colonists," as they called themselves, but as they really were, invaders. They came to hostilities, and Mataafa, one of the chiefs, defeated the Germans—these great German soldiers had to turn tail from native warriors armed only with old guns and primitive spears. After their victory the natives acted with their usual kindliness, and instead of exterminating the colonists allowed them to live there quietly. Their reward was the sanding of a German fleet to shell their villages, but then the Americans intervened. The natives relied on the protection of England, but the English, of course, did not want to interfere with the Germans' little game, and would not give the natives any assistance. However, as I say, the Americans came to the assistance of the people of Samoa, and things were peacefully righted, greatly to the credit of the United States. What I should like to know from Her Majesty's Government is, What is the policy they intend to pursue in regard to the Samoan Islands—what instructions have they given to the High Commissioner in the Western Pacific, and what instructions the British Consul in the Samoan Islands has received? Are your Representatives in that part of the world to follow the dictates of the German Government—because it seems to me to be generally admitted nowadays that England has to play second fiddle to the Germans. From my general study of the Samoan question, I think the interests of humanity requires that England, if she plays second fiddle to anybody in Samoa, should play second fiddle to the Americans, and not the Germans. The people of this country are very anxious to put slavery down in Africa, and perhaps the House will be surprised to learn that at this very moment there exists in Samoa quite as evil a system of slavery—though perhaps not on so large a scale—as anything to be found in Africa. On one island there are no fewer than 4,000 slaves, and I believe that on the other islands, where there are large cocoanut plantations, there are also large numbers of slaves. Now, we have voted money to put down slavery in Africa, and I should very much like to know whether Her Majesty's Government have given support to the Germans in their slave-owning operations in Samoa. In the Southern Pacific there are schooners carrying the German flag going to the different islands, inducing tile natives to go on board, and, then, on various pretexts and with the connivance of the chiefs, putting the natives in the hold and sailing away with them to the plantations to work as slaves. I have been on board these slave schooners, and have seen where the slaves are manacled, and kept in chains until landed at the plantations. It is monstrous that, for some political or diplomatic reason, this country should shut its eyes to a condition of things so bad as this in the South Sea Islands, when it is perfectly-able to prevent it—or, at any rate, to alleviate the condition of these kidnapped natives. I am not particularly' interested just now in the extension of the British Empire, but though, while the present condition of things prevailing between England and Ireland exists, I am no Imperialist and certainly no jingo, I must say I think it would be preferable to have the Samoans under the protectors-hip of England than under that of Germany. The natives hate the Germans, and the treatment they have received from the Germans justifies their dislike. Most of the natives would be quite ready and willing to be protected by the British flag, and it is for Her Majesty's Government to consider whether their secret or open obligations towards the German Government will allow them to interfere to prevent the system of land grabbing that is going on all over the Southern and Western Pacific by the Germans. In Australia there is growing up a very strong feeling indeed against this German encroachment, and if the Germans are allowed to continue in their present course, it will end in a state of feeling in Australia and New Zealand which will certainly not conduce to the welfare of the British Empire in this part of the world. If I were an Englishman I would certainly urge Her Majesty's Government to consult the wishes of the colonists in these matters, and to take measures to prevent the Germans from occupying these islands, seeing that the Australians and New Zealanders regard such an occupation as a standing menace to their progress and development. This is, perhaps, not the time to make any appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite to protect the Samoans against the treatment to which they have been subjected by the Germans. But I do think that even from an ordinary feeling of humanity the House ought to express a desire that an end should be put to this system of slavery and persecution in the Southern Pacific which I have described.

(10.15.) MR. JACKSON

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) raised a very interesting question in which I know he takes considerable interest, and he was supported in his observations by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. A. Webb). All I wish to say on the general question of harbours is this, that so far as I can judge of them, from my own personal observations and from what I have read in the papers, a considerable amount of that which has been expended in this direction in the past has not been wisely expended. It is, however, well to bear in mind that on this matter, the Board of Works and those who have been responsible for deciding what work should be done have been proceeding by steps. Though fishing by the use of large boats is impractic able in many instances where those small piers have been built because of inaccessibility at certain states of tide, at the same time it is well to remember that these small piers do answer for ordinary purposes. The money, therefore, has not been entirely thrown away. So far as I can judge, if fishing is to be carried on successfully in this part of Ireland, it can only be by large boats; for these access must be given to the harbours. I was much gratified to find in what a workmanlike manner the fishing industry is carried on at those places where facilities have been given for the use of large boats, and I should be much more hopeful of the future of this industry at such points than at the points to which reference has been made. As the House knows, there is to be a large expenditure on railways in Ireland, and such an expenditure is a preliminary to the improvements of the fishing industry, as there has always been a want of means to carry the fish caught to market. The Government are endeavouring to deal with that want, and I think it would be desirable to wait and see the effect of connecting the existing harbours with inland districts by direct lines of rail before extending the system of harbours. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy emptied the vials of his wrath on the Government for having made certain changes in the Estimates this year, and he complained that the opportunities for discussing the Votes have been contracted. Well, I confess the impression left in my mind by the hon. Member's speech was, that whilst he complained of want of opportunity, there was nothing more distasteful to him than to take the opportunities when they came. To-night the House has had an opportunity of discussing the Estimates, and yet the hon. Baronet does not seem to care to avail himself of it.


I am quite ready.


I am glad of that, because the Government has been waiting for some time; and I, therefore, appeal to the House that we may now be allowed to go into Committee of Supply, and really make some substantial progress.


I beg to call attention to a grievance from which the inhabitants of the Isle of Anglesey suffer. There is an old Act of Edward VI. which prevents the holding of Quarter Sessions in any town in Anglesey except the ancient town of Beaumaris. Great inconvenience is the result. The County Council and the Quarter Sessions have unanimously appealed to the Government for assistance in placing Anglesey on the same footing as other counties in regard to Quarter Sessions, to enable the Home Office to name some other town for Quarter Sessions if thought desirable. The Grand Jury have, again and again, unanimously requested that this old Act, the reading of which would throw the House into fits of laughter, may be repealed, and the county would experience great satisfaction if the First Lord of the Treasury would give us an assurance that, if the hon. Member for Anglesey brings in a Bill to repeal this ridiculous old Act, the Government would offer no opposition, but give facilities for its passing.

(10.1.) DR. FITZGERALD (Longford, S.)

I am very astonished my hon. Friend (Sir T. Esmonde) has received no reply upon the important question he brought before the House. In past times we have protected you from the encroachments of other Powers. We hear a good deal about the integrity of the Empire, but it would appear, from the silence of the Government to-night, that even now we, the Irish Members, have more care for the integrity of the British Empire than you yourselves, I am bound to say that if you would only settle our little difficulties in Ireland we are prepared, oven at the eleventh hour, to protect you from Germany and such other powers. But I have a little grievance left, and I regret very much that the learned Attorney General for Ireland is not in his place, because I would like him to assist me in putting an end to an abominable outrage that has been committed in Ireland, in the name of the law, upon dumb animals, who have no power to protect themselves. In times gone by we heard about outrages which were committed in Ireland by foolish and misguided men upon the tails of animals. I am going to bring before the House the question of an outrage which has been committed, and which is being committed in Ireland every day, under the very noses of the police, upon the heads of animals. The other day the Attorney General for Ireland told me that the hideous operation which is called dishorning of cattle is illegal in England, that someone was prosecuted before the High Court of Ireland, and that the operation was also proved to be illegal in Ireland. Some other Court has decided in another case that the operation is not, after all, illegal, and the Attorney General said he has given instructions to the police to bring another case into Court in order that the matter may be decided. If the Attorney General had taken me into his confidence I could have taken him to a place half-a-mile from a police station in Ireland where he could find the mangled skulls of 160 cattle. Apparently the police have told the right hon. and learned Gentleman that they cannot find a case in the whole of Ireland to bring before the Courts. It is thought by many that the operation of dishorning beasts is simply cutting off the horns. It is nothing of the kind. I determined to be present at an operation, and some time ago I was present. I saw a two year old bullock tied up by head, tail, and legs, and held down by six men. Three of the men, who had previous to the operation been cleaning out a cesspool, and who looked like men who would have had no fear in going to the lower regions if they had had. one or two more glasses of whisky—they had had three or four glasses of whisky before the operation—recoiled from their operation, left the operator in the lurch, and went back to their work, which no one will admit is pleasant work. The unfortunate animal's howls were like the howls which are said to proceed from a place which I will not describe. It wriggled in every muscle, and the two men who remained demanded that the operator should cease, in what one of them described as his bloody work. I will one day place in the library the horns that were taken from this unfortunate animal, and I think any hon. Member who will examine them will satisfy himself that, although cattle Were given to us for our use, they were not given to us to torture them. I think any hon. Member who has a particle of humanity in his heart will join me in demanding that the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland shall instruct their police to desist, at least for a time, from political operations, and take a walk into the country lanes, where they will find hundreds of animals being tortured in the way I have described.


There is a matter which I am very anxious to take this opportunity of mentioning. Next year we are to have a Census, and it has been suggested that we should repeat the experiment which was made for the last time in the year 1851, when a Religious Census was taken. It seems to me impossible to get from the Government any definite statement of their views on the matter. I know well what are the arguments pro and cow as to a Religious Census, and anyone who has studied the Report made in 1851 by Mr. Horace Mann will admit that a more judicial paper than that it would perhaps be difficult, if not impossible, to draw up. I do not propose to argue the question of the desirability or undesirability of taking a Religious Census: my anxiety, and the anxiety of many people in the country, at present, is to know whether the Government propose to take any such Census or not, and if it is so proposed to know what is the mode to be adopted. There are two modes in which a Religious Census may be taken. It is suggested, on the one hand, that the proper course would be simply to go round to people's houses, and at the time that you take down the names and addresses, ages, sexes, and so forth, take down the people's own statement of what they themselves believe, if they believe anything. To that there is a strong objection. Assuming, for a moment, that a Religious Census is desirable, as to which I express no opinion, we should endeavour first to ascertain the relative; strength of the different religious denominations, and what, in my opinion, is far more important, the strength of the whole combined. It is notorious that there are at this moment in the country a large number of persons who do not in reality profess to have any religion at all. No doubt, if we went to such people they would say they belong to the Church. In Ireland such people would probably say they belonged to the Catholic Church, and in Scotland they would most likely say they belonged to the Church which is the Established Church for all practical purposes of that country. But we do not care for the purpose of ascertaining the truth what people choose to call themselves in order to get rid of the question when put by an investigator. The question, if it is to be settled at all, should be settled on the principle of ascertaining what the people are, and not merely what they say they are. I, therefore, wish to point out to the Government that there is only one way in which we can arrive at an approximate result. I do not say that even by it we shall arrive at the truth, because we never can tell whether a man's professions are hypocrisy or truth; but the system adopted in 1851 was that of ascertaining how many persons really do attend at the churches, chapels, or meeting-houses of the various denominations throughout the land. The result of that system was to ascertain, at all events, those who not merely had the desire to call themselves something, but the number of those who had attached themselves to some definite form of worship. If a Religious Census is to be taken, it is of the greatest importance that it should be taken on the principle and in the manner adopted in 1851. I know very well what was the argument used when results appeared which had not been expected. One right rev. prelate said that the result had been an unfair one in regard to one particular church, because the Sunday was wet. How far that affected the peculiar religious views of one church more than another I am not able to say, but I think we may take it for granted that rain is as potent a liquifier for one denomination as for another, and they must all take their chance. If you were to take the Census in the way I first mentioned it would simply be a delusive and misleading operation. If, on the other hand, you take it in the way I advocate, I do not say it will be accurate, because you never can get it accurate, but it will, at all events, represent the true state of facts with regard to the number of persons who are worshippers at particular places of worship throughout the land. I have endeavoured to avoid saying one word which would appear to be of a party or sectarian spirit, and I would most earnestly urge on Her Majesty's Government that they should not allow this operation to be made the means of misleading the country with regard to the actual total number of persons professing to belong to any particular church or denomination; and that they should not allow themselves in any way to be made the instruments af any partisan feeling which may lead to the misrepresentation of the strength of one Church to the disparagement of any other.

*(10.53.) MR. W. H. SMITH

In answer to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for North Bucks, I invite him to present the Bill to which he has referred to the consideration of the House when it will certainly receive the res- pectful consideration of the Government. As to the observation of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Waddy), I assure him that I am entirely ignorant of the intentions which have been ascribed to the Government in relation to the Census. A Bill dealing with the question, will, however, be presented to the consideration of the House, and it will be for the House itself to determine on what principle the Census will be taken. There is no desire on the part of the Government to take any unfair advantage of any religious body. I would now make another appeal to hon. Members to allow the Government to proceed to business. The House is aware that progress is required with the Estimates. We are most anxious to make progress with Supply, and we had every reason to believe that we might do so this evening.

*(10.55.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I am very sorry I cannot yield to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, but there is one matter which I wish to bring under the attention of the Government, and which I cannot refer to on the Estimates. We, in Scotland, are constantly complaining that we have no access to the Secretary for Scotland, but I hope my appeal will not fall on dull years, so long as the First Lord of the Treasury is in his place. Last year, when we were discussing Local Government in Scotland, we directed the attention of the Government to the exceptional condition of laud tenure in the North East of Scotland in regard to fishermen's dwellings. Her Majesty's Government then undertook that the matter should receive their consideration this Session, though they were unable to say that anything would be done this Session. I am hopeful, however, now that such great progress has been made with the general business of the House, that some opportunity may be given for the discussion of the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate, in reply to a question I recently addressed to him, said he was unable to make any statement with regard to a certain case which is sub judice; but I think there can be no objection to my calling attention to that case as an illustration. It is one in which a fisherman has built, on the ordinary tenure on the North-East coast, property to the value of £280. The tenure is extremely doubtful, and it has been held generally, I think, in the Scotch Courts that the ground landlord is entitled to turn out the occupier at his pleasure by giving an intimation of ejectment. An intimation of ejectment has been given in the case of this poor man, and, as far as we can see at present, he will be deprived of his property. I only call attention to the case as an illustration; but I may say that we cannot be responsible for what will occur if ejectments of this kind take place. The Government have given us to understand that the question of the tenure of fishermen's dwellings will be dealt with, and there is a rapidly extending feeling that these people are being neglected. If ejectments take place, it will probably be necessary to send gunboats. The people are beginning to think that without an agitation they will get no relief. I hope that now that I have again had the opportunity of bringing this matter forward, a matter which is indeed of pressing importance, that it will receive some attention at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. I have felt it my duty to bring the matter forward even though to the delay of business, with which the Government are anxious to proceed; and I think the nature of the grievance, in which hundreds of industrious, quiet, law-abiding men are concerned, justifies me in availing myself of this opsportunity.


The hon. Member has referred to one particular case which he has also pressed upon my attention within the last few weeks, and as to which I then informed him that I considered myself precluded from making reply while judicial proceedings were going on. I am not aware that the bar against present discussion has been removed by any judicial decision, and, accordingly, I abstain from any discussion of that particular case. The hon. Member has said that there are a number of occupiers on the North-East coast of Scotland who ought to have a more fixed tenure than they at present possess; and my impression on this subject may be expressed in a very few words, and will absolve the Government from any further undertaking in the matter. I agree with the hon. Member in thinking that it is most desirable that the fishermen resident on the North-East coast of Scotland should have as permanent a tenure of their holdings as is consistent with existing engagements on their part. The hon. Member suggests that legislation is necessary; but that I doubt, according to the information I at present possess. I find, on investigation into circumstances that have been referred to by the hon. Member and others, that upon a number of the larger properties on the North-East coast of Scotland, where fishermen are resident in large numbers, opportunities have been offered to the tenants by proprietors for obtaining titles of permanence, either by long leases or by feus which are of a most complete character. The hon. Member demurs to that statement; but I must adhere to it in regard to some of the large estates——




Yes, some. We must take things by steps. Hon. Members must accept that method of argumentation. On some of the largo estates where these opportunities were offered there was not that alacrity to take long titles which might have been expected from the representations made.


Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that I agree with him to this extent; that although on some of the properties this opportunity has been given, these fishermen have invariably said that the conditions laid down by the proprietors who offered these opportunities were such as they found impossible to accept. But even if the right hon. Gentleman were right and some offers were made, why should these men, tied to a particular harbour by the nature of their employment, be compelled to have no tenure at all or take the inequitable conditions proposed to them?


I will leave to the judgment of the House whether this is a proper interruption—interposing with an argument in the midst of my reply to the speech the hon. Gentleman has made. The hon. Gentleman assumes in his interpellation that the conditions were inequitable, but I say they were not. We are at variance, but I shall be prepared to make good my contention in a discussion of these proposals. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to point out one of the conditions having the character he ascribes to them. Accordingly, I say his case must fail; there is no case for legislative interference, so long as the offers of permanent title, unaccompanied by inequitable conditions, were made to these fishermen who declined to avail themselves of such offers. But I do not dwell upon that and for this reason: I think it is desirable both in the interests of landlords and tenants that there should be a title, and I hope that a conference in a more amicable spirit than is suggested by a Parliamentary discussion of the present nature may take place, and that some terms may be arranged between landlord and tenant. I am not aware that any attempt has been made to discuss the matter on that footing, and I rather think too much alacrity has been shown to change the venue to Westminster, and to treat this as a Parliamentary matter, unaccompained by that information as to local requirements and local opinion which ought to be the foundation of any application to Parliament. I do not wish to treat the matter in any arbitrary or imperative sense. I recognise the desirableness of removing the difficulty; but it is more a matter for amicable solution than Parliamentary debate. Nor do I think we advance matters much by continuing a discussion brought on in this impromptu way. The hon. Member has referred to some other topics in relation to harbours, upon which I do not feel called upon to reply, as they do not concern the Department for which I am specially responsible.

(11.8.) MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

I do not think the First Lord has any just cause for complaint if Members take up time on this a Friday night, which is usually devoted to subjects in which private Members are interested. By a mere accident those Members who have notices on the Paper are not ready to bring them forward, and so the time is not occupied in the usual way. We are not, however, taking up Government time, but private Members' time. There is a subject which, I think, is of more interest than any other set down for any Tuesday or Friday discussion, which I will take the opportunity to mention, though I would not do so if I had an assurance that Class VII. of the Civil Service Estimates would be reached within the next fortnight. There is a special reason for referring to the Western Highlands and Islands Commission. It is a matter which was referred to in the Queen's Speech, and is of very considerable importance to the Western Highlands.


That is the subject of a Motion, notice of which is on the Paper for Committee. The hon. Member cannot bring it on now.


rose in his place and claimed to move "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

(11.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 115; Noes 60.—(Div. List, No. 60.)

Question put accordingly.

(11.20.) The House divided:—Ayes 129; Noes 61.—(Div. List, No. 61.)

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)