§ MR.ROYDEN (Liverpool, W., Toxteth)
I rise, Sir, to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in reply to the most Gracious Speech from the Throne. The assurance that Her Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers continue to be of a friendly character will, I am quite sure, be received by the country with the utmost satisfaction, and as a guarantee that other nations, as well us this country, desire peace. That guarantee will be still more satisfactory when we consider the magnitude of the interests of this country which are involved in almost every quarter of the globe. Difficulties will no doubt occur from time to time, and when they do occur they should be met by a resolute policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The action of the authorities in the colony of Mozambique in dispatching an armed force under a Portuguese officer into a territory where British settlements had been formed, and where there were native tribes under the protection of Her Majesty, resulted unfortunately in loss of life, and for the vindication of the honour of this country it seems to me that there was one course, and one course only, for Her Majesty's Government to take, and that was immediately to demand the return of that armed force. The demand was made to the Portuguese Government that this should be done; and when the heat and passion of the moment have been allayed and a calmer judgment prevails, I have no doubt that the cordial relations and the good feeling and friendship which have existed for so many years between the two countries will be restored, and will remain undisturbed in future. I will now pass on to the consideration of a subject which must naturally be of the greatest interest to this country. To the honour of England, Great Britain was the first nation which, at great sacrifice, abolished slavery. Years have elapsed since; but our good example has borne fruit, and has even been followed by the American people, who have gradually abolished slavery within the limits of their dominions. We are now coming to a period when the last link of slavery will be abolished for ever. Her Majesty 124 announces that a Commercial Convention has been concluded with the Khedive of Egypt, and I trust that it will be of such a favourable character as to lead to a great extension of the important trade which already exists between this country and Egypt. A provisional arrangement for the adjustment of pressing fiscal questions has also been made with the Government of Bulgaria. Some difficulties appear to have beset the Government of that country, which at one period seemed to threaten an acute stage, but happily those difficulties have now passed away. We are told that the disordered condition of Swaziland has rendered it necessary to make better provision for the Government of that territory, the existing Government having been found quite inadequate for the growing wants of the colony. I think it was wise on the part of Her Majesty's Government to take time by the forelock, and, in harmony with the President of the South African Republic, to endeavour to establish such a form of Government as would meet the merits of the case. Bearing in mind the views of the inhabitants of that territory there can be no doubt that great as has been the progress of this South African colony, in the future it will be greater still. It would seem that there is an enormous field which is about to be developed and opened up to the trade of this country, and I think it is wise on the part of Her Majesty's Government to be beforehand in providing for any difficulties that may arise, so that no disturbance may hereafter take place. The Conference which is now being held in regard to the federation of the Australian Colonies naturally forms* an important item in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech. In that growing continent it is only right that the colonists should desire to strengthen their hands, so that if it should ever happen that this country was involved in war, they would be able to combine their resources and materially assist in their own defence. I now come to what may be regarded as the most important measure that will have to be placed under the consideration of the House. I refer to the measure for extending the Act for increasing the number of tenants in Ireland in order that they may become landowners. No one denies that there has been very great, marked, and substantial improvement in 125 the condition of Ireland, and especially in the last few years. There are various indications perfectly well-known to the Horse of the truth of that statement. It may be said that the improved harvest of last year has had something to do with this. That may have been one cause, but I think the main and the great cause has been the admirable way in which, the Chief Secretary for Ireland has performed his duties. I may not, in making that assertion, be able to carry with me the assent of hon. Members on the other side of the House; but I think at any rate we may say this: that if it is not due to that, it is a curious coincidence that the improvement has taken place since the right hon. Gentleman commenced his duties. It is certainly a very happy coincidence, and I hope that the same improvement will continue as long as the Government holds office. The success which has attended the working of the Ashbourne Act to enable tenants to purchase their holdings, encourages Her Majesty's Government to attempt something further in I lie same direction. The Act of 1881 made the condition of landlord and tenant almost inseparable. That may be a very advantageous thing if the conditions of life were the same, but it has not proved to be altogether an unmixed blessing. In regard to the landlords and tenants of Ireland, antagonistic interests have cropped up; and the tenant has felt that, in carrying out improvements, the encouragement given to him to employ his best talents and industry has not been quite as strong as if the land were his own. When he is the landlord himself he must feel that every improvement he makes is for his own benefit, and that every blade of grass and every ear of corn he produces is entirely for his own good. He has then a direct incentive to do the best he can, and when that is the ease the more likely is the country to get a hardworking and industrious peasantry. There is, of course, one consideration which must be kept in view, and that is the necessity of a State guarantee, in order that the money may be borrowed on the best possible terms. I know that there is a great objection to this if it should entail any extra expense on the British taxpayer; and I, for one, admit that I feel the force of that objection. 126 But I think, judging from past experience, and to the honour, be it said, of the Irish tenants who have availed themselves of the privilege of buying their land under the Ashbourne Act, they have most honourably and faith fully fulfilled the engagements which they entered into. This shows, I think, that we may proceed further in the same direction, coupled with the guarantee which. Her Majesty's Government propose to provide for the security of the British, taxpayer. I feel that the responsibility will be but a nominal one; and if we can hold out more favourable terms to the tenant to enable him to buy his land, we shall confer an immense benefit upon that country. Before I pass away from that subject, let, me say that I rejoice that the Government contemplate the introduction of a measure which will give the Irish people the management of their local affairs upon the lines of the recent English and Scotch Acts. There will naturally arise some different circumstances; but, in the main, it is desirable that a people in that, position should be entrusted with the direction and regulation of their own local affairs. I am also glad to find that Her Majesty's Government propose to re-introduce the Bill for facilitating and cheapening the transfer of land in England. The object of the measure is, no doubt, to induce small holders to buy land, and if with safety any measure of that kind can be passed to enable small holders to become interested in the land, I think it will be of advantage to the country that the land should, as far as-possible, be in the hands of a well-to-do peasantry. The Bill which the Government propose to introduce for the amendment of the Employers' Liability Act will meet cases of hardship which frequently arise; and although I am aware that it is impossible to give adequate compensation in cases where there has been a loss of life—for you cannot estimate by pounds, shillings, and pence, the value of life—still the measure will tend to make employers more careful in affording protection to the lives of their servants. I rejoice that it is also proposed to meet in the Bill the case of seamen, who are at present quite outside the benefit of the Act. There is no reason why the advantage of legislation in this direction should not be extended to 127 sailors. The subject of the sanitation of the dwellings of the poor in the Metropolis I regard as being of equal importance to anything which I have yet mentioned. How to deal with our very poor is one of the problems of modern society. It is impossible for the State to enrich the poor or to find them employment, but at least it may improve the conditions under which they live. I maintain that it is the duty of the State to see that the very poor are not huddled together in places where we would almost be ashamed to put our dogs—without distinction of sex or age—and in places where it is almost impossible for the most courageous philanthropist to visit them. In Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and elsewhere the authorities have been able, under Lord Cross's Act, to materially increase the comfort of the working classes. In the city of Liverpool we have been able to reduce our death-rate by something like 25 per cent, and materially to increase the comfort of the working classes. No doubt the size of the Metropolis is the greatest difficulty in the solution of the problem in London, and the overlapping of the Metropolitan Authorities makes it difficult to affix blame to any particular body for the evils that exist. All will admit that a proper system of inspection should be at once established; and I trust that the measure which, the Government are about to introduce will at least insure that, however poor people may be, they will in the future be able to breathe something like fresh air and enjoy a glimpse of sunlight. Although the list of measures which has been proposed may appear long, it is really nothing more than the House can very well get through, if it resolutely sets itself to try how much it can do instead of how little. These measures are mainly for the advantage of the great masses of our countrymen, and appear to me to be outside what I may call ordinary political questions. It is the welfare of the great bulk of our countrymen in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales that these measures are designed to promote. Therefore, I venture to hone that in this House Members on one side and Members on tie opposite side will show the country, in considering the measures propounded for the material and social 128 welfare of the people, that they are really at one, however much they may differ as to the means for attaining the end, that they desire to do their duty to their constituents, and that they are anxious to improve the material prosperity and welfare of the great masses of their countrymen.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:
We humbly thank Your Majesty for the information that Your Majesty's relations with other Powers continue to be of a friendly character:
We thank Your Majesty for informing us that an armed force under a Portuguese Officer was dispatched during the autumn from the Colony of Mozambique into territory where British Settlements had been formed, and where there are Native tribes who have been taken under Your Majesty's protection; and that a collision, attended with bloodshed, took place; that acts were committed inconsistent with the respect due to the flag of this Country; and that the Portuguese Government have now, at Your Majesty's request, promised to withdraw their military forces from the territory in question:
We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that a Conference of the Powers interested in the suppression of the Slave Trade has been convoked at Brussels by the King of the Belgians, and that Your Majesty earnestly hopes that the results of its deliberations will advance the great cause for which it is assembled:
We thank your Majesty for the information that a Commercial Convention has been concluded with the Khedive of Egypt, and that a Provisional Arrangement for the adjustment of pressing fiscal questions has been made with the Government of Bulgaria; that Papers on all these questions will be presented to us:
We learn with satisfaction that the Convention concluded by Your Majesty with the Emperor of Germany and the Republic of the United States with respect to the Government of Samoa will be laid before us, together with the Protocols of the Conference; as also a
Treaty which has been concluded by Your Majesty with the United States for amending the Law of Extradition between the two Countries, the latter instrument still awaiting the ratification of the Senate:
We thank Your Majesty for informing us that the disordered condition of Swaziland having rendered it necessary to make provision for the better government of that territory, the independence of which was recognised by the Convention of London, Your Majesty has, acting in conjunction with the President of the South African Republic, sent a Commissioner to learn the views of the Swazis and of the white settlers:
We humbly thank Your Majesty for the information that your Majesty awaits with lively interest the result of the Conference now being held to discuss the important question of the federation of the Australian Colonies, and that any well considered measure which, by bringing these great Colonies into closer union, will increase their welfare and strength, will receive Your Majesty's favourable consideration:
We thank your Majesty for informing us that the Estimates of the year for defraying the cost of the Government of the Country will be laid before us, and that they have been drawn with a due regard to economy and to the necessities of the public service:
We learn with satisfaction that the continued improvement in the state of Ireland, and the further diminution in the amount of agrarian crime, have made it possible very largely to restrict the area in which it is necessary to deal with certain offences by summary process; that proposals for increasing under due financial precaution the number of occupying owners; for extending to Ireland the principles of local self-government which have already been adopted in England and Scotland, so far as they are applicable to that Country; and for improving the material well-being of the population in the poorer districts, will be submitted to us:
We thank Your Majesty for informing us that a Bill for facilitating and cheapening the transfer of land in England will be again presented to us; and that provisions will be submitted to us for diminishing the difficulty and cost which at present attend the passage of Private Legislation required for Scotland:
We thank Your Majesty for the information that a Bill for improving the procedure by which Tithe is now levied, and for facilitating its redemption, will be laid before us:
We learn with satisfaction that Your Majesty has appointed a Commission to report upon the best means of improving the economic conditions which affect the inhabitants of some parts of the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland:
We thank Your Majesty for informing us that our attention will be invited again to a Bill for ascertaining the Liability of Employers in case of Accidents, and to a measure for improving the procedure in winding up insolvent Companies under the Limited Liability Acts:
We thank Your Majesty for the information that there will be laid before us Bills for the consolidation and amendment of the Laws with respect to public health in the Metropolis, and to the Dwellings of the Working Classes; and also a Bill for the better regulation of Savings Banks and Friendly Societies:
We thank Your Majesty for informing us that our attention will be directed to the state of the accommodation now provided in Camps and Barracks, and that we shall be asked to make better provision for the distribution as well as for the health and comfort of Your Majesty's Troops:
We humbly assure Your Majesty that our careful consideration shall be given to the subjects which Your Majesty has recommended to our attention, and to the measures which may be submitted to us; and we earnestly trust that in these and all other efforts which we may make to promote the well-being of Your Majesty's people we may be guided by the hand of Almighty God."—(Mr. Royden.)
§ LORD BROOKE (Colchester)
Sir in rising to second the Address to Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne so ably moved by my hon. Friend, I must crave the indulgence of the House —an indulgence which I am sure is always extended to those who undertake this task. I also crave the indulgence of the House from the fact that this is the first time I have had the opportunity of addressing it or of occupying its attention. I may say that the opportunity has been somewhat longer deferred than I had anticipated, owing to the business which occupied the House yesterday afternoon. I feel that in following the Mover of the Address I shall experience considerable difficulty in following the tracks which have marked his progress and which so obviously commanded your attention. In the first instance my hon. Friend called our atten- 131 tion to the fact that we are at peace with all other Powers. Now, Sir, last Session we were occupied with the discussion of measures for the protection of our shores, and I think it is very satisfactory to us that those protective measures have in no way jeopardised the peace of Europe. If there is one Member of the present Administration who enjoys the confidence of the country, I am sure that it is the Foreign Secretary. The abilities of Lord Salisbury have been acknowledged by Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House, and generously admitted, and I sincerely trust that this admission may be made again and again. We have before us a string of Conventions and negotiations with other countries, and it is most satisfactory to this House to feel that they are in the hands of so able an administrator. With regard to the slight difference which has occurred between us and Portugal—a country which has so long been on terms of the most friendly intimacy and alliance with us—we have every reason to hope from the Speech we have just heard read that all matters will be amicably settled. It would indeed be a disastrous thing were we to quarrel with so old an ally, and one who bears on her records the evidence of battles and victories gained in conjunction with this country. I am aware that we have a great interest in South Africa. There may be recollections associated with the past in connection with that great continent which are of a painful nature, but under the auspices of peace we have seen the industry, the wealth, and the intelligence of this country so poured into the great African Continent that we have every reason to hope that in future it may prove an unfailing field for English enterprise. I think that Her Majesty's Government would have done wrong if they had not done their best to secure for us some sort of recognition of British rights by explorers under our flag. I flunk it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to preserve in that country intact those regions over which our flag waves, whether as a ruling or a protecting Power. I have heard it said that a weaker Power has been treated with over-firmness by Lord Salisbury. I venture to think it would have, indeed, been mistaken kindness on our part had we led the Portuguese on to believe that protracted diplo- 132 matic negotiations would have obscured the great interests at stake, or ultimately, in any way, have altered our final decision. The other questions of foreign importance touched upon in Her Majesty's Speech have been so fully alluded to by my hon. Friend that I will not trouble the House upon them, resting sure, as I have said, that under Lord Salisbury they will be ably negotiated and settled. But, Sir, I will call the attention of the House for a few moments to the proposals of the Government with regard to Ireland. It is, indeed, most gratifying to hear that there has been an improvement in that country. Whether, as my hon. Friend has said, it is due to increased agricultural prosperity, or to those measures which Her Majesty's Government have thought it necessary to introduce, the fact undoubtedly remains that the condition of that country exhibits a marked improvement. This must be a matter of congratulation to all Members of this House, irrespective of the side on which they sit. I do not wish to trouble the House with many figures, but I should like to call attention to one or two just to bear out what my hon. Friend said regarding the diminution of agrarian crime of that country. In 1886, the number of cases of agrarian crime stood at 385; in 1887 they were 352; in 1888, the number was 229; and in 1889 it had fallen to 176; the cases of boycotting, which in 1888 stood at 1,179, now number 313; and it is most satisfactory to find that at the Winter Assizes the Judges were able to call attention to a most decided improvement in that country. My hon. Friend has alluded to the proposed extension of ownership in Ireland. This is a very satisfactory measure for us to note, because, as he has remarked, an increase in the number of small owners in that country must be followed by an increase of loyalty, and, a, greater desire for peace in that country, which has hitherto been so much disturbed. We have had ample evidence that the Ashbourne Act has worked most admirably. We know that up to the present time there have been applications amounting to considerably over 20,000, representing a capital of over £10,000,000, and that up to the end of last year over 10,000 holdings have been purchased, representing a capital of very nearly 133 £5,000,000. I think it is a subject for congratulation that Her Majesty's Government should have proposed to extend in some manner, under suitable financial securities, this state of affairs in Ireland. I think, moreover, that the fact that peace has been restored in that country enables Her Majesty's Government now to give some assurance to us that the Local Government which we have enjoyed in England for some time, and which has more recently been adopted in Scotland, may, under proper safeguards, be extended to Ireland. I turn from the subject of Ireland to call attention to the Bill which is proposed for facilitating- and cheapening the transfer of land in England. That Bill has previously been presented to us, and all I would say regarding it is that I believe it is a measure which may be of considerable use to this country, cheapening to those who own property the expense of sale, and diminishing the loss of time which is often occasioned by legal delays; and I sincerely trust that the large legal element in this House will enable us to pass that measure in a short time. There is also a measure to be submitted to diminish the cost and difficulty which at the present moment attends the passing of Private Bill legislation in Scotland; and anything which can attain this desirable result will, I am sure, be welcomed in the House of Commons. I now come to a question which is of very considerable importance, especially to those who, like myself, live in a part of England which has lately been suffering very considerably from agricultural depression. I allude to the tithe question. I am aware that I am speaking as a member of a class not perhaps always viewed with favour by some Members of this House — I mean the landlord class. But I assure those Members of the House that in times of the very greatest difficulty, we English landlords have done our best—not withholding in any way our money from the land, or our assistance to those among whom we have lived and endeavoured to do our duty. I know that the tithe question has reached a rather acute stage in Wales, where a sum of upwards of £250,000 a year is paid in tithes; but I may say that one of the Eastern counties, in which I live, pays every year the largo sum of £750,000 towards tithe; therefore 134 it may be imagined that living in such a county I speak somewhat feelingly about tithe. It is far from my wish to suggest any idea of confiscation. I know that in these times the difficulties of the tithe owner as well as of the tithe payer are considerable, but I believe that the measure which Her Majesty's Government now propose will be the means of alleviating very many of those difficulties. In the first instance, I believe it is proposed to improve the procedure by which tithe is now levied. I think it is fair and just also that tithe should fall upon the right person — upon the landlord; and I sincerely trust that, although it is surrounded with very great difficulties, some measure for facilitating the redemption of tithe may be brought before us. But I look rather further than this, and I feel that the tithe question is one which is so little known to the people of this country that I hail with delight the opportunity which will be afforded to this House, when this measure comes on for discussion, of clearing away some of the clouds which surround the subject. I would remind the House that in the olden time of protection, to which time I do not say we ought to return, the burden of the tithe fell not only upon the land, but I hold that it fell upon every portion of the community, because those protective duties not only enhanced the value of the tithe to the tithe-owner, but at the same time they were of the very greatest material assistance to the tithe-payers of this country. That burden has now entirely fallen upon the land, and it is not borne by the wealth of the country. I trust this House will bear that fact in mind when the subject comes up for consideration. I now come to that passage in Her Majesty's Speech which deals with the Western Highlands and Islands. Those who have visited that portion of Her Majesty's dominions must be aware of the very great distress and misery in which many of the inhabitants live, and I think it is obvious that it is impossible for them to live on their land, such land as it is, with any hope of being in any other condition than that of squalor and misery. I therefore trust that Her Majesty's Government may be enabled to bring forward measures for the improvement of the harbours and railways in that part of the country, and 135 other measures which will enable the people to bring the produce of the sea more readily into the markets of the country. In this matter I think the Government are acting very wisely, and I believe we shall shortly see that the condition of the people in that part of Her Majesty's dominions has much improved. I will not touch upon any other subject now, except to allude to the fact that accommodation is to be provided for our camps and garrisons, and better provision made for the distribution as well as for the health and comfort of our troops at home. Representing, as I do, a garrison town, that subject is naturally of the very greatest interest to me. It must have been with considerable regret that Her Majesty's Government have at times heard of the sad deaths which have occurred owing to the insanitary condition of some of our barracks, and I think that none too soon has it been announced that measures will be taken for changing this state of affairs. I feel that it would be wrong of me if I detained the House any longer. I am aware that it has been said that it is impossible in the present state of business to discuss many questions of Imperial importance, but I know that very recently one of the greatest engineering feats of the day has seen its completion in the northern part of this country—I mean the Forth Bridge. The engineer had to wait for opportunities to occur in the atmospheric conditions, when he could bring together the various portions of that structure and so weld and forge them together that they might be of permanent use for traffic; and so I sincerely trust that the leader of this House may be able so to find his opportunities for welding and forging together the various portions of this House, that we may have satisfactory Parliamentary traffic. I remember two years ago one whom we all respected and honoured—the late Member for Finsbury, Colonel Duncan—in words honourable to himself and honourable to the House which adopted his sentiments, recalled our attention to our duties in this House. I will not repeat his words, but the memory of them is still in our recollection. I trust that those words may sometimes serve to soften the asperity of party feeling in this House, and enable us to remember that we have been 136 sent here, without undue discussion, to pass measures for every class of Her Majesty's subjects.
MR, W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
It must always, Sir, be in the power of the leader of this House, from the ample stores of ability, information, and character which are at command, to make satisfactory selection of the Gentlemen to whom to entrust the office, the honourable and distinguished office of bringing under the consideration of this House the subject of the Speech from the Throne, and undoubtedly I think it will be generally felt that the right hon. Gentleman has not failed in his selection on the present occasion. We who sit on this side of the House are not to be expected to subscribe in terms to every sentiment which falls from the Mover and Seconder of the Address, but we have a right to expect from them that they shall show a certain regard to the general sentiment of the House, and shall not unnecessarily provoke hostile discussion on statements proceeding from themselves. To these principles I think there has been a full adhesion on the present occasion, and I congratulate the Mover and Seconder without reserve on the manner in which they have discharged their important duties. In general I have taken the opportunity, in conformity with ancient tradition, of seizing the occasion that follows the speeches-of the Mover and Seconder of the Address to make such observations as seem to be necessary upon the tenour of the gracious Speech from the Throne. I have done so and it has been done by others in the past in the belief that that was the best method of shortening the discussion on the Address. I. am not so sanguine at the present moment—after an experience which has now extended over not less than six or eight years—I am not so sanguine of great brevity as in former times. But undoubtedly in the comments that I shall have to make I shall bear in my memory the old, and I think useful, tradition which should always be borne in mind, that apart from the proposal of positive Amendments—a perfectly legitimate course on sufficient cause—it is very difficult to arrive at any satisfactory result by a general discussion on the Address to be presented to the Throne. 137 Although it is absolutely necessary that on certain points observations should be made, these observations do not always tend to delay or obstruct the proceedings of the House, especially as regards the foreign affairs of the country. For I think it will be felt that if the conduct of the noble Marquess at the head of the Government in his character of Foreign Secretary has called forth the eulogies of the Mover and Seconder of the Address, on the other hand there has not been shown in any quarter of the House, and certainly not on this side, any disposition prematurely or without necessity to call in question the conduct of the affairs of the Foreign Department. On this occasion undoubtedly much of the language that I shall hold will be language rather of congratulation than of censure. In the first place, as regards the Portuguese question, I deeply regret, as all must regret, and as the Seconder of the Address himself has frankly stated he regrets, that any occasion should have arisen in which we were brought into diplomatic conflict, especially when that conflict is of a stringent character, with an ancient and a weak ally. I have heard it said in this House by great authorities—by Lord Palmerston, whose knowledge of foreign affairs was great—that the smaller Powers of Europe, or some of them, have sometimes presumed on their weakness to make demands which justice would not warrant. I do not deny that such occasions have occurred, still, the greater Power can never be exempt from the obligation of considering what is due to that weakness, and how much public sentiment would be affected by the exhibition of any disposition to take advantage of that weakness. I entirely acquit Her Majesty's Government and the Foreign Minister of any such disposition on the present occasion. My impression is there was cause for action, and if there was to be action it was very much better that that action should be prompt. I cannot say that I think there is no room for criticising the terms in which these just conclusions have been conveyed. But we are all aware of the peculiar powers possessed by the noble Marquess, and especially of the unbounded store of his sarcastic resources. The application of this remark does not depend on any criticism from this side of the House. It was from that Bench on a memorable occasion—and by a most dis- 138 tinguished person, then Prime Minister of the country and leader of this House—that the House was informed, in terms which I do not think it necessary to quote, but which were certainly not deficient in point and power, of the nature of the resources possessed by the noble Marquess. When an individual has a particular gift which he holds in great abundance, it is very difficult altogether to abstain from some superfluous manifestation of it, and undoubtedly if there had been a censorship, not of the Press but of the despatches proceeding from the Foreign Office, I think it is possible that the censor might have judiciously and usefully criticised some of the language and style employed on the present occasion. But that must not blind us to the substantial issue that is before us, and as to that substantial issue I think the conduct of the noble Marquess will not attract general disfavour in the country. There is one other subject which I cannot pass by wholly without attention in reference to Portugal, and that is that I think that the occurrence of this unfortunate conflict—for such undoubtedly we all feel it to be—howrever unavoidable it might be on our side, will arouse in many minds most serious regret when they reflect that there was under the Foreign Secretaryship of Lord Granville a Treaty before the country which would have disposed of the whole of this question between Portugal and England, and would have absolutely precluded the revival of any such occurrence as this. It was owing to what is called agitation—it is called agitation when proceeding from this side of the House—I do not know that it proceeded exclusively from the other side of the House—but it was owing to the pressure and unfortunate interference of the sentiment so excited that Her Majesty's Government was prevented from carrying that arrangement to its conclusion, thereby leaving the door open for the unhappy circumstances which have lately arisen. Now I pass on to the reference made as to the Convention relating to the Island of Samoa. I speak of this Convention so far as I am acquainted with the circumstances. I do not anticipate the effect of further information which I presume will be laid before us, but so far as my knowledge goes I am disposed to congratulate the 139 Government on the nature of this arrangement. It is a good example of what may be done by a temperate resort to pacific means of settling disputed questions, even when they arise at the other end of the world, instead of the hasty use either of military measures or of that angry language which is the surest mode of bringing about sharp conflicts between the disputants. I am heartily glad that that conduct has been pursued and that the result has been satisfactory. With regard to the question of Swaziland, I am not at all surprised that the Government find it necessary to consider the question of making better provision for the government of that territory. The truth, is that, great as have been and are the responsibilities of this country in other quarters of the globe, and limited as for a long time our responsibilities in Africa appeared to be, unquestionably causes, mainly connected not with the action of political parties or of Governments, but what may be called natural causes, have brought about an enormous increase of British interests in South Africa, and have opened up new prospects in that country. What we have been accustomed to regard as the Transvaal Republic, so far as the material of the community is concerned, is now, I believe, more, and a great deal more, a. British settlement than a Dutch one. British influence — legitimate British influence—is naturally dependent on the number of our fellow-subjects who find their way to Africa, and such has that number already become, and such are the prospects of its extension, that we have now arrived at a state of things in which our African responsibilities have assumed a magnitude not inferior to those which have long been incumbent upon us in connection with America and Australasia; and, although it would have been a daring and even an unwarranted prophecy to make 20 or 30 years ago, the time has come when we may anticipate—1 will not say as certain, but as possible and even probable— that the colonial possessions of Her Majesty in Africa may become in no way unworthy to compare with those in North America and Australasia in their magnitude and importance, and especially so long as we avoid anything that looks like political ambition and aggression, 140 and so long as we avoid that which has a tendency to collision and bloodshed. I am not at all surprised that we have reached a point with respect to this comparatively unknown country, Swaziland, when Her Majesty's Government have thought it wise to take precautions of a peaceful and apparently a rational kind for bringing about the better government of that territory. I believe at this moment Englishmen generally in the Transvaal Republic are not, under the laws of that country, able to exercise the franchise, and I shall be very glad if, by the influence of rational and constitutional discussion, they should be placed on a footing of the fullest political equality that the principles of justice warrant with the original settlers to whom the foundation of that Republic is duo under circumstances that give them special title to consideration. I think it is better, before passing to the domestic subjects touched upon in Her Majesty's gracious Speech, that I should refer to a subject which I do not find mentioned, and which I do not blame Her Majesty's Government for not mentioning, but yet which I feel it impossible to pass by wholly in silence—I mean the condition of the Turkish Empire. We are sensible, and painfully sensible, notwithstanding all the efforts that have been made towards peace and good government in the Levant by European agency, that those affairs have been for some time gradually assuming an aspect that causes apprehension for the future, making thus a subject—I will not say of present danger to the peace of Europe, but of present anxiety with respect to the condition of the Turkish Empire, arid of possible danger in a more or less approximate future. In approaching this question I can never forget that Her Majesty's Government are placed in of position of difficulty, and that we must not expect too much from them; but one thing we must expect from them, and that is that they should never put glosses on the case and never attempt to represent the state of facts as more favourable than there is just ground for believing it to be. There is a temptation in that direction, but I. hope they will never shrink, as Ministers of the Crown and as Englishmen, from speaking of abuse, tyranny, and cruelty when found in the Empire of which we are a guarantee- 141 ing Power—that they will never shrink from speaking of such things as these in tonus which befit their character. Now, Sir, we approach, at least I approach, this question with one great advantage—that I have full confidence in the British Embassy at Constantinople. I do not mean to say that there have been periods when that Embassy has been held by men who were either wanting in ability or honour. I make no such insinuation; men may be able, and men may be honourable, but they may be either insufficiently informed or liable to prejudices which bias their judgment. I must say I believe, so far as I am able to judge, that the present British Ambassador at Constantinople, who owes his place to the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, is a man who combines every quality that can be desired for enabling him to deal in a satisfactory manner with the difficult questions that are continually arising in that quarter. And whenever I know that a matter has had the full cognizance of the Embassy at Constantinople, and that the Embassy at Constantinople has a clear view upon the matter, the communication of such a view will undoubtedly carry great weight with me, and ought to, as I believe it will, carry great weight with the House. These, however, are personal observations, and preliminary to what I have to say on this particular subject. With regard to Armenia, the world, I think, and the public opinion of the world, and the public opinion oven of the countries least disposed to interfere in Turkish matters in a sense unfavourable to the actual Government, is dissatisfied with the present position of affairs: I will say for the present purpose exclusively—for I shall mention nothing else— in regard to Moussa Bey. It is felt, and I think it is justly felt, that it is an accumulation of mischief upon mischief when there is a semblance of judicial inquiry, and that judicial inquiry is so conducted as to constitute a mockery rather than the administration of justice. The certain effect of that, even if the individual himself should be precluded from returning to Armenia and there resuming his criminal and most disastrous practices, will be that others will be led to follow his pestilent example and will feel that impunity is secured for them. I am 142 making no complaint of her Majesty s Government upon the subject, because I do not know what they have done or mean to do; but I confidently hope that they will endeavour to secure this for us at least, that that trial, as it now stands, shall not be the conclusion of the whole matter, but that, after promise has been given solemnly, and has been admitted by substantive and noticeable acts, to do justice in the case, that justice shall, so far as we can secure it, be done. With respect to Crete, I am afraid that the case is one of very considerable difficulty. For my own part I have not been disposed ever to push the argument respecting the Ottoman power in the East to the extreme, and to say that it ought to lie summarily swept away. I have always believed that by timely and judicious acknowledgment of local rights for the purpose of practical good government much might be done, even by an empire in a state of decay, for the purpose of arresting that decay, possibly for the purpose of establishing a separate state of things. I am aware of no example within the Turkish Empire at this moment, where local government has been freely given, where it has failed to operate in a manner most beneficial to the Sultan and the Porte on the one hand and to the subjects of the Sultan and the Porte on the other. With regard to Crete, I make no question that the noble Lord at the head of the Government was well informed when he referred these recent difficulties and disturbances to a local quarrel; but I am afraid it is the fact that that local quarrel has expanded into a practical danger. I shall be very glad if Her Majesty's Government can give an assurance that there is no likelihood of a renewal, when the spring approaches, of serious disturbances in Crete, recalling the recollection of that Cretan insurrection which some years ago was so dangerous to the Turkish Empire. Undoubtedly, so far as information has reached me, I entertain that apprehension, and it is quite clear that if these insurrections are renewed and are found to continue, and if we see a tendency, which we have recently seen, to pursue a reactionary policy in Crete, the end of such a course of things must be the severance of the island from the Turkish Empire. I do not desire to promote disturbance either in the Levant or else- 143 where. I do not bring an universal impeachment against the conduct and policy of the Sultan. There are two occasions' to which I can point to-day with satisfaction. I think in the matter of Eastern Roumelia, which was one of considerable difficulty, and of its union with Bulgaria, the Sultan and the Porte showed great forbearance, self-command, and moderation; and I think that similar qualities governed their proceedings when once they had entered into an engagement with respect to Greece nine years ago. I do not speak of their conduct anterior to that; but when they had entered into that engagement I think it was fairly and justly carried through. But still it is impossible not to bear in mind that this matter is one which has calls upon us totally different from those which may arise in conjunction with abuse or in conjunction with cruelty happening in any other country. We are deeply involved by positive engagements which make all changes in the Turkish Empire matter of European concern, and we have no right to pass them by, little as it; is desirable that we should intervene in the affairs of other countries when we are sufficiently charged with the heavy burden of the management of our own. As I have referred to foreign countries, I will just say one word to the Under Secretary of State. Public attention was very painfully drawn not long ago to accounts of transactions in Siberia which bear an aspect which cannot be passed by. I know very well the difficulties of intervention in such cases. I know that remonstrances which can be repulsed and repelled on the ground of no title to interfere are remonstrances which are very hazardous and dangerous to make. I do not urge upon the Government to do any such thing; all I say is that I think it would be a matter of great satisfaction to the House and the country if they were happily in a condition to assure us that there has been material exaggeration, and still more that there has been serious misapprehension in what I may call the popular or newspaper accounts of these transactions which have considerably grieved and shocked the public mind. In passing to the domestic affairs touched upon in the Gracious Speech, I shall be very short on the subject of Ireland. I will not enter upon the question of how far 144 the improved state of that country is due to one cause or another, because it will be brought under consideration in a more substantive form. I will only say that I am not aware of any reason that should check the satisfaction with which any Gentleman sitting in any quarter of the House may regard the facts that can be quoted to prove the improvement in the condition of that country. Gentlemen who sit on the opposite side of the House may feel satisfaction that this improvement is due to coercive measures. If so, they will understand that we derive not only an equal, but a far more livery satisfaction when we are enabled to believe, and do firmly and confidently believe, that the improvement is due to causes wholly separate from coercion; that it is due to hope; that it is due to salutary influences, so far as moral causes are concerned; and no doubt it is due in a considerable degree, as the noble Lord judiciously pointed out, to the great improvement that has taken place in the agricultural condition of the country. I learn with satisfaction that now at length, after precedence has been given to so many other subjects, Irish and non Irish, we shall have a Bill for Irish local government. I trust that that Bill will be conceived in a liberal spirit—I do not say whether it ought or ought not to be accepted. If it contains substantial good, I hope it will be accepted, and cheerfully. But I make this observation—that if it be conceived in any niggardly spirit Her Majesty's Government must lay their account with this certain result, that its main effect will be to produce new materials for agitation and new encouragement for further demands. With, regard to the' Bill for promoting land purchase in Ireland, I observe that favourable comments have been made on the working of Lord Ashbourne's Act, but I observe with greater satisfaction that the Bill which is to be introduced for the extension of the present legislative provisions is a Bill which is to extend them "under due financial precautions." I do not go into the meaning of those words—I express my satisfaction that they have been employed, and I shall be disposed to give fair and reasonable consideration to any provisions I find in the Bill when laid before us if they show that Her Majesty's Government intend firmly and fully to act upon them. I will say one 145 word with respect to the provisions that are to be submitted to us for diminishing the difficulty and cost which at present attend the passage of the Private Bill legislation required for Scotland. The object in this case is excellent—it is excellent and it is necessary. Scotland ought not longer to be disappointed in this respect, but I think I may say on the part of Scottish opinion that if the plan that is to be proposed is to be effectual and satisfactory it must contain a popular and representative clement. It will not do, I think, to relieve Scotland of the cost, and I do not think Scotland will be satisfied with being relieved from the extra cost of coming to London, where at all events her cases are tried by a representative assembly, if she is told that they are to be tried in Scotland simply by certain persons, however unimpeachable, who owe their title and authority to the nomination of Her Majesty's Government. It is only fair to take this early opportunity of expressing an opinion to this effect. Might I go back to a matter I have omitted simply for the sake of removing a misapprehension? The noble lord who seconded the Address referred to the diminution in the number of agrarian offences in Ireland. I only wish to clear up a matter of fact. I presume he was quoting agrarian offences other than threatening letters. [Lord BROOKE assented.] It is right that that should be understood, as the figures are totally different according as they include threatening letters or not. The noble Lord took advantage of the introduction of one of these subjects to say that he thought that English landlords as a body had been doing their duty under the pressure of the recent agricultural distress. From the position I hold and from such information as I possess I desire to echo that sentiment. I think it is true, so far as I am able to form a judment, that the manner in which both the landlords and the occupiers of England have met this crisis, have faced it, and I hope gone through with it —for I think we have reached a time in which, in some cases, it is coming to be but mildly felt, and in almost all cases its pressure is undergoing mitigation I say I think their conduct has been such as is satisfactory in the retrospect, and as I hope and believe will tend to 146 rivet the ties of goodwill between them in future. With respect to tithe, I feel that it is tender ground, but I venture to say one thing, and one thing only, upon it. I hold that we should carefully sever in our own minds those questions which relate to the present appropriation of tithe from those questions which relate to the tithe itself. The tithe itself is a property which ought to be respected and preserved with due regard to the rights and position of all these who are concerned in the administration and the use of it—I think it ought to receive that consideration and respect from those who hold it, as I for one do, to be national property; and in giving it that consideration we must take care that in our disputes about modes and circumstances we do not allow it to be frittered away. There is one subject mentioned in the Speech upon which I have a word to say rather of a friendly than of a critical character. The Speech promises, evidently on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that we are to have a Bill for the better regulation of Savings Banks and Friendly Societies. I do not know that that means that both those subjects are to be combined. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No.] I thought not. They are evidently two quite distinct subjects, both of great importance; but I thought that, as a man of business, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would prefer to deal with them separately. I presume that the Bill for the better regulation of Savings Banks refers exclusively or mainly to what are called the old Savings Banks. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Mainly.] I perfectly conceive that the experience now obtained with regard to the Post Office Savings Banks—which have become almost a great institution of the country —may have suggested amendments in the law; but I presume that the object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to give greater and more effective security to the depositors in the old Savings Banks. If that is so, it is a subject which is not free from difficulty. I am not aware of the validity or sufficiency of the reasons which led, now many years ago, to a change in the law which relieved trustees of Savings Banks of the liability to depositors which formerly they lay under. If the right hon. Gentleman can do anything to 147 improve the security the depositors now possess, and which undoubtedly from time to time, not in a great number of cases, but in particular cases, grievously fails, and subjects innocent persons to unmerited loss, I think he would be doing a public service, and I should be disposed to look with favourable consideration on his proposals. But now I have a word or two to say as to what the Speech does not contain with regard to home legislation. I am very sorry to find in it nothing with respect to the subject of local government in England and Scotland. You must recollect that, although great good has been done and most important principles have received the definite sanction of the Legislature, we are very far, indeed, from having given to those principles as yet a full application. In some respects it is admitted on both sides of the House that their application has not yet been full or satisfactory, for I hold in my hand a copy of the Gracious Speech delivered to us from the Throne at the beginning of the Session of 1889, in which it is authoritatively stated by the Sovereign that:—Some portions of the Dill which was presented to you Inst year for amending; the local government of England and Wales were laid aside in consequence of the pressure on the time of Parliament.And if is stated that Bills dealing with those matters would be laid before ns. If they were to have been laid before ns last year, although the promise given unfortunately could not be fulfilled, it seems quite plain that the lapses of time has not weakened, but confirmed and corroborated their title. I am bound to say that we on this side of the House take a strong view of this subject. We hold, in the first place, that the pledge given in the Speech of 1889 ought to be redeemed, and in that we expect the concurrence of the House at large. In the second place we hold that the principle of the sub-distribution of power in the different parts of the country ought to be carried further— ought to be carried down to the smallest practicable unit: if possible, to the parochial unit. We think also that, not only the machinery, but the powers of the local authorities ought to be greatly increased. I will not enter now into the details of these subjects—they have all 148 been debated by us on the passing of the Bills of 1888–9 and at other periods. Of course, what I now say is applicable to Scotland not less than to England. In regard to one subject in particular, that of allotments, I must say that it is one which has been attracting from year to year a constant and rapid growth of attention and interest on the part of the agricultural population. The present condition of the law is totally unsatisfactory; the principle that has been laid down is so clogged by the complexity of the process necessary to give it effect that it is, I do not say valueless, but not possessed of anything approaching the value that ought properly to attach to it. I cannot but regard with, regret the omission from the Speech from the Throne of reference to this matter, which clearly belongs to the function of local government. There was a remarkable declaration of the Prime Minister at the close of the year with reference to education, not under the name of free education, but under the name of assisted education. The declaration was understood to mean that the considerable surplus, which it was pretty well-known the revenue, as compared with expenditure, was likely to yield, was to be applied in large measure to a further relief of the parents of children whose attendance at school has now become a matter of compulsion. I do not intend to do more on this occasion than to express the general interest of the country in this matter, and the feeling that is generally entertained that it might have been a very proper subject for mention in the Speech from the Throne, for we are under the belief that if there is to be an important change in that respect it is a change that can only receive effect from legislation. There is a limit at present fixed by the law to the payment that can be made by the State in aid of the education of each child in. primary schools, and if the declaration of Lord Salisbury is to be made good it will require a legislative change in that respect, and such a legislative change would be of so great importance that it undoubtedly deserved to be mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. I do not mean to express more than a general opinion that this is undoubtedly a large financial question, and that it involves a great number of considerations over and 149 above the mere extension of your liberality to a point somewhat beyond that which it has heretofore reached. I should be very glad if the notice I have taken of the subject should lead to any explanations on the part of the Government that will enable the House in some degree to understand what it is we have to expect in this important matter. There is another subject which last year appeared before us with pretensions to a serious character, and which has vanished not only into the shade, but into impenetrable darkness. It is the subject which is known as the Sugar Convention. This, Sir, is not an inchoate process, it is a completed process. Evidently in the minds of the Government it is completed, because the right hon. Gentleman who negotiated the Sugar Convention has actually received and is now in the enjoyment of his reward. He has been added as a Privy Councillor to that august body, and the addition of his name to the Privy Council is in itself the sign, the seal, the stamp placed on the Sugar Convention of the approval of Her Majesty's Government, a fact fixed and immovable. So it was last year. We were told last year in the Speech from the Throne not merely that a Convention had been made by Her Majesty, and that she hoped the subject matter of that Convention might receive the favourable consideration of Parliament, but Her Majesty assented to the most imperative form of communication which she ever employs in the gracious Speech from the Throne. The announcement made was that legislative provisions for executing a Convention into which she had entered for the suppression of the bounties on the export of sugar would be necessary—not expedient, nor politic, nor advisable, but necessary. What was the justification of using that expression necessary to redeem engagements into which the Queen had entered, and in respect to which she had bound herself to Foreign Powers? But when in the course of last Session we expressed a natural and excusable curiosity as to the date when this announcement was to receive some sort of attestation by practical proposals, we were told by the Treasury Bench that there was no necessity for dealing with it last year. Somehow or other that had been overlooked when the Queen's Speech 150 was drawn, but this Session was pointed out as a period when no doubt there would be opportunity, and when this necessity could come into full and over-powering force. This Session has arrived; we are in the year 1890. On the 1st of August, 1890, according to the 11th Article of the Convention, the Convention is to be ratified, and the ratifications ex-changed in London. Not only is this to be done on the 1st of August, but the 1st of August at the latest, or sooner if possible. Surely this must be some strange act of forgetfulness, and I am pointing out an omission which only needs to be indicated in order to be supplied. I look with all the interest I felt last year, and, if possible, with an interest even quickened by the lapse of time, for such explanations as Her Majesty's Government may be disposed to give us on that subject; and with these words I will bring to a close the perhaps too lengthened remarks which I have addressed to the House.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
I trust, Sir, the House will allow me at once to rise to make a very few observations on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I may be permitted to say that the House has listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with the greatest possible interest and satisfaction that the old traditions which have always guided those who have held responsible office have been so signally, so completely displayed in that speech. The observations of the right hon. Gentleman as to the manner in which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool and my noble Friend the Member for Colchester have discharged their responsible duty rightly represent the debt which the House owes to those hon. Gentlemen. I am grateful, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to my hon. and noble Friends for the excellent manner in which they discharged that important duty, and for the skill with which they avoided topics which might have produced animosity or ill-feeling in any part of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has gone through the Queen's Speech in a manner which certainly leaves me no opportunity of complaint, and no reason whatever to find fault with the views he expressed. It was, however, only natural that he should take advantage of the 151 opportunity afforded him to notice the omission of topics in which he takes a lively interest, and as to which it must not be supposed that Her Majesty's Government are not themselves also intimately concerned and interested. I should like to refer to the subject of foreign affairs which the right hon. Gentleman treated with so much consideration, and with such a deep sense of the responsibility which belongs to a right hon. Gentleman who has hold high office and who holds a high and responsible position in the country, and who seeks to exemplify in his own position this doctrine which has been laid down frequently—that the leader of the Opposition, a member of the Opposition, has responsibilities to this country and to the interests of this country which are only second to the responsibilities of those who for the time are intrusted with the duty of government. The right hon. Gentleman referred in the first instance, as he was bound to do, to the unfortunate difficulty between Portugal and this country. He said that the course which the Government had pursued left him only language of congratulation, rather than of censure.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It was my fault, I think. Of course, the congratulation was not intended particularly for the Portuguese matter. I had more in my mind what follows.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I do not wish to strain the language of the right hon. Gentleman, but I think I am right in saying that in reference to foreign affairs generally the language which the right hon. Gentleman used was that of congratulation rather than of censure. Undoubtedly he did not congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the fact that there had been a difference between Her Majesty's Government and the Portuguese Government. We do not desire any congratulations on that ground. On the contrary, we deplore that there should have been any difference between us and a Power with which this country has been on farms of intimacy and friendship during many years. We desire earnestly that that friendship and that cordiality which have existed between the two countries may be speedily restored, and may continue to exist when the present causes of difference have passed away. But it 152 must be known to this House from the Papers which have been published, and it will be still further known when further Papers are in the possession of hon. Members, that Her Majesty's Government have consistently and persistently informed the Government of Portugal that it would be impossible for them to recognise the claims set up to the territories which were the cause of the recent dispute. They have been informed repeatedly during the last two years that Her Majesty's Government must insist upon the free navigation of the Zambesi, that they must insist on the security of the British settlements on Lake Nyassa and in the Shiré Highlands, and that they must insist that the missionaries and the traders who have occupied that portion of Africa shall remain under the protection of the flag of Great Britain; and they must insist that those native territories which have come within the sphere of the influence of Great Britain shall not be molested by hostile expeditions, or by anything which would interfere with the full and complete development of the resources of that territory. We desire to accomplish those ends by absolutely pacific means, and we believe now that the Portuguese Government, recognising the justice of the claims we have made, will come shortly to an understanding which will render all further difficulties absolutely unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman has criticised the language which was used by my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. The ground on which we base our claim to the support of this House and of the country in the course which we have taken in Portugal is that we have prevented, as we hope, any hostile action whatever by a prompt, clear, and vigorous statement of the rights and limitations of this country. Nothing could have been more injurious to the Government of Portugal, nothing could have tended more certainly to deplorable incidents which every one in Portugal and in England must have deplored, than the exhibition of anything like a temporising, doubtful, or hesitating policy. It was in the interest of peace, in the interest of Portugal, and in the interest of this country that we have adopted the course with which the House is familiar. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to the Government 153 of Turkey. He stated that he expected that the Government would never put a gloss on any case or attempt to make the condition of affairs more favourable than it is. He expressed a hope that we, speaking on behalf of this country, would never shrink from speaking of cruelty and tyranny in fitting terms. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that whenever a fitting occasion occurs we shall never hesitate to speak of cruelty and tyranny in fitting terms, and we should be the last persons in the world to endeavour to put a gloss on any case whatever, or to endeavour to make the state of things in any part of the world appear to be more favourable than they really are. The right hon. Gentleman paid a just tribute to the ability of our Ambassador at Constantinople. Sir William White Iris exhibited during the period of his service at Constantinople all the qualities which entitle him to the confidence of the country, as well as of the Government which he serves, and when I speak of the Government I speak of that which is impersonal and not party. He distinctly represents the spirit, the aims, and thy objects of the Government of this country. He has given from time to time advice, he has taken measures which will enable him to obtain information as to the facts of the case: and as regards the condition of Crete and Armenia, Papers will be presented to the House which will give, not a gloss, but a statement of the facts of the case so far as they are known to Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople, and so far as we have been able by the means at his disposal to obtain accurate information as to the facts. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to the trial of Moussa Bey, and he trusted that that was not yet ended. I can assure him that the influence of the Ambassador at Constantinople has been exercised to endeavour in the interest of the Porte itself to secure a renewal of that trial. Justice, I suppose, will be done by the result of the trial, for I believe there is no doubt that Moussa Bey will be put upon his trial again. But it is not desirable that I should refer at any length to affairs which will be much more fully disclosed to the House and the right hon. Gentle- 154 man by the Papers which will be presented. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the condition of Crete. There, again, we shall be in a position to give information to the House as to the actual measures taken. It is undoubtedly true that there is a local government in Crete, but there are local conditions in that island which have produced great difficulties in the past and may produce great difficulties in the future. So far as we believe, there is no indication, no real ground for supposing that there will be a renewal of disturbances in Crete. I earnestly hope there will not be any. From the information we have received there is no doubt that there has been considerable exaggeration as to the nature of the events which have occurred in that island; but perhaps I should be accused of putting a gloss upon the statements made upon that subject if I sought to convey to the House the information I have received with regard to it. I prefer, therefore, to ask the House to wait until they have before them the actual statements made by our own Consul, statements which I can say, and which I think myself, may be received with confidence on all matters of fact. The right hon. Gentleman referred to events which were stated by the newspapers to have occurred in Siberia. We have no right whatever to interfere in the internal affairs of a country with which we have no Treaty rights of interference. It would therefore be a matter for very serious consideration if we were to deem it our duty to ask for information and to press for disclosures with respect to the internal Government, the exercise of authority, by the Ruler of a great Empire such as Russia. At present we have no information on the subject, and we have no means of knowing whether there is any truth in the statements which have appeared in the newspapers. With regard to South Africa, Her Majesty's Government have been mindful of the obligations which fall upon them to care for the interests which have grown up with such enormous rapidity between this country and South Africa. Our aim has been to arrive at an understanding by means of which the rights which the native population possess shall be respected, by which good government shall be secured for the country, and by which 155 also the interests of the English, as well as those of their Transvaal neighbours, shall be respected. We have not yet received the Report of the Commissioner, who is exceedingly well qualified for the duties he has undertaken, and therefore we cannot say whether justice has been done to the object we have in view, but we are fully conscious of our responsibility in regard to South Africa, and of the magnitude of the interests which have been developed during the last three or four years. In endeavouring to protect the interests of our fellow-subjects in that part of the Queen's Dominions, we are also conscious that we owe a debt to the aborigines of South Africa, whom we are bound to protect against the infringement of their rights and proper claims. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the suggestions to be obtained from the settlers in the Transvaal Republic. That is a question of very great importance. It may be true—I think it very likely—that the prosperity of the Transvaal, which has advanced with such strides during the last three or four years, has been due to the irruption, as it may be termed, of a vast number of Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen. It is right that they should be protected in the possession of the property they have acquired in the Transvaal Republic, But the suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman makes, that the franchise should be conferred upon subjects of the Queen under another Government, is a matter which would require the greatest possible care, if it were not to give rise to greater complications. The right hon. Gentleman referred in terms which I desire to echo to the question of tithe. He said that tithe ought to be respected and preserved as national property. I also echo that sentiment, and it will be the effort of Her Majesty's Government to present a measure to that effect. While I regard tithe as national property, I do not regard it as fitting that the owner or occupier of the land should appropriate it, to himself, and whatever our difficulties may be as to the application of the fund, it is our duty, and the duty of the House of Commons, to take measures that the fund itself shall remain intact. It is scarcely necessary for me 156 to refer to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to friendly societies and savings banks. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the authority which belongs to his name, and with the object and desire to make the savings of the working classes in this country much more secure, will introduce a Bill on the subject. It is clear that some measure of this kind has become necessary, and I trust that it also will receive the unanimous support of the Members of this House. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that we had omitted to include district councils for England and for Scotland in the programme of business. I had the honour to follow the right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion when the Speech from the Throne was under discussion, and he then said that we had placed before the House a larger programme than we could possibly carry through. We have a measure prepared for applying district councils to England; and a measure for applying district councils for Scotland could be rapidly produced, and there is no reason why, if the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite would give assistance in the progress of measures which have not a party or a political purpose, such measures should not become law in the course of the Session. But we have thought it right to place in the programme the measures in the order which we believe to be most pressing, and we have asked for the assistance of the House only in the cases where the pressing necessities of the questions require that we should have that assistance. The right hon. Gentleman referred to allotments. A Bill will be introduced upon that question by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) provided greater facility is given for the transaction of public business. With regard to the question of assisted education, we are not in a position to appropriate so large a, portion of time to that question as it would require, feeling that it is our first duty to deal with the land question, with the question of local government in Ireland, and with those other matters included in the Speech from the Throne. The question of assisted education is one upon which public opinion has not yet fully declared itself, and there are 157 difficulties connected with it which the discussions which will take place with respect to it will probably remove. In the course of this year it is probable that the discussions on the subject will enlighten the community at large, and will enable those of us who are prepared to deal with it to give that consideration to the question which will put us in a position to make proposals to the House upon it on a future occasion. With regard to the Sugar Convention, if the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Papers presented to the House he will see that the action of Her Majesty's Government depends upon agreements with all the Powers who are parties to that Convention. The right hon. Gentleman is probably not aware that the agreement now is not so complete as it appeared to be at one time, and until that agreement is absolutely complete there will be no desire nor any intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to ask for legislation on the subject. Under these circumstances, while I admit that I took a great deal of interest in and derived a great deal of pleasure from this portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I am afraid I am only able to give him cold comfort as to the opportunity which he may have for renewing the amusing remarks which he has made on the presentation of any Bill for the ratification of the engagement which Her Majesty's Government has entered into with respect to the Sugar Convention. I have now only to refer very shortly to the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman made with regard to Ireland. I certainly cannot complain, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary would not complain, of the tone of those remarks. It is only reasonable that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends should contend that the improvement in Ireland is not due to coercive measures. I believe the improvement which has taken place in that country is due to the confidence which now prevails there that the man who chooses to work and cultivate his holding may do so in peace and security. It is largely due also, no doubt, to the improved prices which Irishmen, in common with farmers in the rest of the United Kingdom, are getting for their produce; but even improved prices 158 would not, result in an improved condition in Ireland if there was not a vast increase in the sense of security which prevails throughout that country. Whether the improvement is due to the firm Government of my right hon. Friend or to hope I will not attempt to discuss with the right hon. Gentleman. I believe it is due largely to the confidence which prevails in the security with which industry can be carried forward there. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Local Government Bill which is promised for Ireland, and says that if it is niggardly it will afford materials for hostile criticism. I can only say that the course which Her Majesty's Government have thought it right to pursue is to propose to this House to extend to Ireland those principles of local self-government which have already been adopted in England and Scotland, as far as they are applicable to the former country. I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman any further information on a measure which will require full explanation from my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary when it is introduced; but I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman will not find it niggardly in its provisions, even although, as has often been the case, it may afford in the view of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite new material for hostile criticism. I trust that will not be the case. I trust that the House will endeavour to deal with those questions that will be submitted to its consideration in the spirit which was so strongly advocated by my noble Friend behind me, and that it will endeavour to deal with the programme of legislation which we have ventured to lay before it with a sole desire to benefit the people whom hon. Members represent, and to forward their interests. Party conflict is unfortunately unavoidable in this House. No doubt it produces some advantages, but those who indulge in it incur a great responsibility if they do anything to prevent the development of the resources of this country, and refuse to pass into law measures which are intended for the benefit of the people at large, and if they will not as Members of the House of Commons lend their best assistance to Her Majesty's Government in their efforts to improve the condition of the people without any re- 159 ference to party interests. I have nothing more to say to the right hon. Gentleman than this—that I trust the spirit with which he entered on the discussion of this Address will continue throughout the Session, and that there will be a general desire to bring the House of Commons into useful co-operation with the Government of the day in matters which are not political, but which are of social and pressing importance. If the hon. Gentleman will excise his influence in endeavouring to secure to the House of Commons its liberty of action and power to discharge its duties to the State, I am sure we shall recognise once more the great services which he has rendered to the State, and his great ability to continue those services.
§ MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
I think the House may be congratulated upon the excellent tone and temper which have characterised the debate so far. They are worthy of the best traditions of the House, and one may venture to hope that to-day's discussion will be an augury of a practical and useful Session, and that there will be none of that waste of time caused by mutual recrimination and party bitterness which we have had to regret in former Sessions. Many of us who rarely speak in the House feel that the value of the House would be doubled if Members would address themselves to the subject before them with the same fairness and candour which have been shown by the leader of the House and the leader of the Opposition to-day. I do not desire to interfere with the harmony which has hitherto prevailed when I call attention to certain omissions from the Royal Speech; but I feel obliged to call attention to the absence of any reference to the subject of education. The air has been thick with rumours of the intentions of the Government. The present state of elementary education causes great dissatisfaction, and there is a widespread expectation of sweeping changes. I confess, therefore, to a feeling of disappointment that the question has been passed over in utter silence. 160 For two or three years we have had the Report of the Royal Commission, which sat for two years and took an immense quantity of evidence, lying on the table of the House. That Report is of great value, being full of wise recommendations which have not been acted upon to any appreciable extent. This question is a very pressing one. Some half million children annually pass through the elementary schools of this country, and in a vast number of cases they have no subsequent opportunity of improving their minds. I earnestly hope the attention of the House and the country will be given to these recommendations of the Commissioners, and that the Government will give effect to some of them during the present Session. Every one is aware that the system of payment by results has been condemned by all educationalists, and this system has in our country been pushed to an extreme which greatly impairs the usefulness of our schools, and greatly harasses and hampers the teachers. The Commission was unanimously in favour of a relaxation of this system. There was, indeed, a movement in that direction in the Code of last year; but that Code was withdrawn. The Commission was also unanimously of opinion that attendance should be made obligatory up to 13 years, and that the age for half-time should be raised from 10 to 11. These recommendations are most necessary. In this country children are withdrawn from school at far too early an age—at an earlier age, in fact, than those of any of the more enlightened nations of Europe. There is a third subject on which the Commission was absolutely unanimous, namely, the necessity of establishing a system of continuation schools. We have had a vast body of evidence taken on this subject, and we have a strong recommendation on the part of the Commissioners, and something should be done to attract children to these schools. Nothing has been done in this direction. I had the pleasure last session of introducing a discussion on Continuation Schools, and I think the House was almost unanimous that the establishment of Continuation Schools was necessary. I am glad to say we had from the Minister of Education a very favourable response, and an indication that the Government would be prepared 161 on an early day to grapple with the question. I was in hopes that in the Speech from the Throne to-day we should have had some allusion to the subject, and I still remain in hope that during the course of the Session some opportunity will be found for the introduction of the Continuation School System. The fact is there is no question connected with the social welfare of the people of more importance than this of continuing the education of our children till a later age. I attribute the terrible poverty and degradation prevailing in our large towns mainly to the fact that the children leave school so early in life. In France, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, there is nothing like the same moral degradation. The average age at which British children leave school is under 12 years, and only too many of them grow up without learning any useful industry, and become frequenters of the public house, the music hall, and other debasing resorts. Not more than 3 or 4 per cent, of British children continue education after 12 years of age. Contrast that with what takes place in other countries of Europe. In Switzerland, from which country I have just returned, I had an opportunity of examining several schools, and I had the pleasure of going through the primary schools at Lausanne, and the marvellous completeness of the educational system there surprised me. The children are kept at school compulsorily until the age of 15, and then the youths are sent to Continuation Schools in winter, where they remain until 19 years old, and where they learn their civic duties. The moral and physical training of the rising population is carefully provided for, and to this system is to be attributed the orderly, law-abiding character of the Swiss community. You have to deal in Switzerland with an educated people, and there you find an almost total absence of squalor and beggary. When I came home from Switzerland I was deeply impressed with the inferiority of our social system. It does not approach to the ideal with which alone any citizen of the country ought to be satisfied. We allow our children to leave school two or three years too early, and we make no provision for their security from moral con- 162 tamination in after years. I must express my regret that there is no allusion in the Speech from the Throne to the great question of Education. We had expected to have an allusion in some direction or another, and I am glad the Leader of the Opposition has this afternoon elicited from the Leader of the House a reply on the subject of what is generally called Free Education. We were led to believe from the many speeches made in the Recess by the Leaders of the Government that a great scheme was being prepared of Free Education. I think I may say that on this side of the House such a scheme would, upon the whole, be received with favour. Upon the general principle of gratuitous education in elementary schools the Liberal Party has virtually made up its mind, and the time cannot be very far distant when the country will insist that such a scheme shall be carried into effect. Before sitting down I desire to refer for a moment to the Tithe Question. As a Welsh Member, I may be allowed to say that the part of the United Kingdom most interested in the Tithe Question is the Principality of Wales. But for the action of the Principality the Tithe Question would not be brought before Parliament at the present time; now we are led to believe we shall have a large and comprehensive measure dealing with tithe. I do not doubt that so far as England is concerned a fair settlement may be arrived at, but I wish, as a Welsh Member, to protest against any settlement of the Tithe Question being looked upon as permanent or satisfactory which is not connected with the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. It is a vain thing to attempt to settle this question in Wales without going to the root of the evil, and that root lies in the fact that yon have forced on the Welsh people a Church that is repugnant to the great mass of them, that is, virtually an alien Church. All the arguments that weighed in favour of Disestablishment in Ireland hold equally good for Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. The position the Welsh people take up is perfectly well defined, 25 out of 28 Members voted last year for Disestablishment in Wales. A more complete manifestation of public opinion it would be 163 impossible to have. There is no chance of the position being reversed. The mind of the people is entirely made up, and nothing but Disestablishment will lead to peace and contentment amongst the Welsh population. I thank the House for the indulgence with which they have listened to me, and I hope the Session on which we have entered will be one marked by the passing of really valuable social legislation, for the benefit of the great mass of the people.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I desire to make a few remarks in regard to our dispute with Portugal, and in regard to our dealings with the country known as Nyassaland. The paragraph in the Queen's Speech has been limited almost entirely to what may be known as the Major Serpa Pinto incident. We have taken strong measures with Portugal, insisting upon the withdrawal of Major Serpa Pinto and his force from the position taken up by them. I think that the demands Her Majesty's Government made were just demands, and demands which will meet with the general support of public opinion in this House and in the country. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has said that we have consistently and persistently informed the Portuguese Government of our views, that we have made our case quite clear to the Portuguese Government. That is just the point on which I think the House desires to be assured. Of course, so far as official statements have hitherto gone, we cannot satisfy ourselves that from the beginning Portugal has been made aware continuously of what we considered to be our just demands with regard to boundaries and the keeping open of the navigation of the Zambesi. For the past three years and more Her Majesty's Government have been made fully aware of what the designs and aims of Portugal are in that part of Africa, and we have yet to learn that Her Majesty's Government took care that it was clearly and positively known to the Portuguese Government what we considered to be 164 our just rights. I should be exceedingly rejoiced if we discover from the Papers that the assurance of the First Lord of the Treasury is justifiable. We have always very great difficulty in dealing with a power like Portugal, and it is only by making it perfectly clear in the very beginning, and from time to time, what we consider our absolute demands are that we can possibly expect to get satisfaction. Otherwise the feeling gets abroad that we are making use of our strength to enforce our demands. I think we have great reason to complain of the way in which we in the House of Commons have been kept in the dark with regard to these negotiations. Upon the first night of the last Session T called attention to the subject of our dispute with Portugal, and we were promised by the First Lord of the Treasury that with regard to South-East African affairs Papers should be laid on the Table of the House. No such Papers were laid on the Table, and in May we were; told that the promise had been forgotten, and that there were no Papers to present. The day after the Adjournment the Papers were presented, but they only dealt with the Zanzibar part of the question. There is one other point I wish to urge on the Government. Yesterday, in the House of Lords, Lord Salisbury said that the Government would see that the country of Nyassaland, over which we have assumed a protectorate, shall be put under some kind of permanent regulation or government. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury seemed to me to use somewhat vague language, because he used the expression "sphere of influence," in relation to that country. So far as I understand what has taken place is that we have established an actual protectorate in that country. We must be perfectly sure that our position is made clear and unmistakeable in the eyes not merely of Portugal, but of every foreign Power. Let us take care now that the whole subject is before the country that we settle it thoroughly and completely so that these disputes cannot arise in the future.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Howorth.)165
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It was understood that about this time we should adjourn the debate in order to afford hon. Members the opportunity of bringing in the Bills of which notice has been given, but I should have been glad if a few minutes more had been occupied, because I think hon. Members may have left last night under the impression that the adjournment would be shortly after half-past 3, and it may be a little hard on some hon. Gentlemen that they should lose their chance through not being present exactly at half-past 3. I do not know, Sir, if you can refrain from calling the Notices for two or three minutes to allow of Members being here. I assent to the adjournment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.