§ (5.40.) COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
(who was attired in the uniform of a Lieut.-Colonel of the Guards): Mr. Deputy Speaker, on the few occasions on which I have myself been present at the proceedings at the opening of Parliament I have noticed that the Mover of the Address has, almost without exception, asked for the indulgence of the House on the score of his not having addressed it before. Sir, I cannot lay any claim exactly to such a right to lenient consideration, but I would assure the House that it is in no spirit of self-reliance—it is in the full consciousness that I have nothing to trust to but the general forbearance of the House—that I rise to perform this duty which has been allotted to me. But I think I should be out of 40 harmony with the feelings of every Member of this House if I did not take the first possible opportunity of referring to the reason why I have to address you, Sir, as the Deputy Speaker rather than Mr. Speaker himself. I think we all feel in this country that there is something in domestic sorrow that is so sacred that we almost hesitate to apply public reference to it. But I feel that I am on sure and safe ground when I say that the sincerest sympathies of every Member of this House are with the Speaker in the severe ordeal through which he is now passing, and that our warmest and heartiest hopes are extended to him that he may soon be relieved from the cloud at present darkening his house. If I may now refer to that duty to which I alluded'—I have the honour of proposing to this House a resolution, different somewhat in terms from those previously moved on these occasions, and I think the House will acknowledge that this innovation is justified when it reflects that in recent times there has resulted from the previous practice considerable waste both of the time and the talents and the temper of the House. And this change has been foreshadowed by such high authorities as have spoken on this subject in years gone by. I may remind the House that as long ago as 1879 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian used these words:—If the speech itself is to be made the subject of lengthened and renewed debate and diversified amendment in this House it will become no better than a public nuisance, and it will be for the advantage of the country that it should be wholly discontinued.I trust I may be allowed to express a hope that the experience of a past Session will not be repeated, and that under the influence of the comparatively simple Resolution with which it will be my duty to conclude my speech, this House will be able to proceed with as little loss of time as possible to the consideration of those important subjects of legislation which are to be proposed to it. In doing so it may well feel assured that it is doing its duty to those whom it represents here. Her Majesty in the Most Gracious Speech which she has addressed to us from the Throne refers to the existing state of her foreign relations, and I think that it will be with 41 interest and satisfaction that we learn that negotiations have commenced with the King of Italy, and we shall look forward with hope to the speedy settlement of those negotiations, remembering as we do the friendly interest that this country has always taken in Italy, and the valuable example she now shows to us of the great value of close unity between all sections of the dominions of the King. Then, Sir, we may join in regret that His Majesty the King of Portugal has not yet been able to consent to the Treaty which was signed on the 20th of August; but I think we may look hopefully forward to the fact that the manner in which these negotiations were conducted will bring the question to a speedy and satisfactory solution. So far as this country is concerned, no doubt the negotiations will be conducted in a generous though firm spirit; and, as regards Portugal, we may hope that she will look back to the time when, if it had not been for British help and British alliance, for the leadership of British generals, and the gallantry of British soldiery, it would hardly have been that Portugal would have retained its place on the map of Europe. I think that the outcome of all these foreign relations must be essentially satisfactory to the country. They breathe an atmosphere of absolute peace, and, considering we are a nation to whom peace is of such intense value, I think we shall recognise with pleasure and with satisfaction the terms in which Her Majesty is able to refer to assured and continued peace in her Speech. And the satisfaction will not diminish because we feel that that peace has not been secured by any timorous concession, but by a policy of resolute and determined maintenance of the rights and dignity of this country, coupled as it always has been with a generous acknowledgment of the rights and ambitions of neighbouring nations. Her Majesty, in passing from the question of her relations with Foreign Powers, informs us that the Estimates for the ensuing year have been prepared with due regard to strict economy. On that point I have only to observe that I hope and trust that though the strictest economy may be—and ought to be—observed, yet that efficiency will be still more observed than economy. I hope and trust that this 42 country will never consider that simple economy is the great aim and object of the Estimates, but that it will look rather to such a use of the funds and reserves of this country as will ensure durable, permanent, and satisfactory results. Her Majesty passes from the preparation of the Estimates to a reference to the existing condition of affairs within her own dominions, and I believe that all of us who can take a fair and dispassionate view of these matters will be able to echo and endorse the words in which Her Majesty refers to the general condition of Ireland. We learn that in Ireland a sensible improvement has taken place under the operation of the salutary legislation which has been applied to it. Comparing the year 1890 with 1886 I find that the general condition of Ireland presents these rather striking facts:—In 1890 there were 5,467 fewer paupers, there were 1,488 less indictable offences, 847 fewer committals, 394 fewer summary convictions, and 4,749 less people boycotted. There was £772,000 more in the Post Office Savings Bank, £2,796,000 more in the Joint Stock Banks, and an increase of £246,000; in railway receipts. The agrarian outrages were fewer by 292. This seems to me the shortest and simplest way in which to draw the attention of the House to the absolute accuracy of the words used in the Queen's Speech, and the fair description they give of the condition of Ireland. I hope I shall not be traveling too far beyond the limits assigned to me if I remind the House that in 1880 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, at Mid Lothian, referred to an absence of crime and outrage in Ireland "such as is unknown in the previous history of Ireland." Well, at the time the right hon. Gentleman used these words, I find that there was an average of 32 agrarian outrages every month in Ireland, and of 39 threatening letters. This year I find the agrarian outrages have fallen to an average of 24 per month, and the threatening letters to an average of 17 a month. I would only point this out that, if the right hon. Gentleman is going to verify the prophecy which he has lately addressed to the country—if it is correct that in a more or less short time 43 he is to be returned at the head of a majority of this House—I think it will be the first duty he will have to discharge to give to the Administration which has preceded him a certificate couched in even warmer terms than those he found himself obliged to use in 1880. At all events it will be some satisfaction to us to know that under our administration such a state of things has been arrived at as will extract from the right hon. Gentleman such a certificate. I notice that Her Majesty, in pursuing her review of the existing condition of things in Ireland, brings to our attention the fact that she has learned with deep regret of the existence of a serious deficiency in the potato crop in certain parts of Ireland, and it threatens a recurrence of one of those periods of severe distress to which the West of Ireland is peculiarly exposed. There is not a thinking man in this House who will not learn this with the deepest regret, but at the same time I hope, though I do not wish for a moment to minimise the importance or the seriousness of this distress, still I may express a hope that it is not so widely spread as has been supposed. But whether the districts be broad or be narrow, whether large or small, I think it is a matter of satisfaction to find that the Executive are awake and ready to deal with it, and that they will not be slow to apply such measures as will reduce the distress which is here indicated. I hope that the construction of railways, and the opening up of the country by them and other means, will in itself furnish considerable employment for the poor of those districts. I will also express the hope that in whatever form relief may be given it will not be in the form of pauperising alms, but by supplying work of such a nature that the men in the country can get a good day's wage for an honest day's work, and that by honest industry on relief works they will be tided over the time of distress, and will be enabled in due course to return to their own industries, fortified and assured by the fact that, as long as England has the power and the right to help her, Ireland will never be left in the lurch in time of trouble. The Queen's Speech next alludes to those measures of legislation which it is thought most rightfully and usefully can occupy our attention and 44 we find in the forefront of the programme that the Irish Land Bill will again be introduced. I think we shall look with great satisfaction and great pleasure on the fact of the re-introduction of this measure. I am glad to see that the second phase in the programme of remedial legislation is likely so soon to be reached. I think that all of us who study or take an interest in this subject must acknowledge that the question of the dual ownership of the land is one that requires immediate attention in restoring contentment in Ireland. Whatever may be our feelings on this subject, we may congratulate ourselves that the first page in that remedial legislation—the restoring of order and the supremacy of the law—has taken place, and that there is now room to deal with the Land Question, and so bring us to the time when we can proceed with the granting of Local Government, the Bill for which is ready, and which needs only sufficiency of time to become a practical and accomplished measure. I hope this Bill will also deal in some measure with the question of the congested districts in Ireland. I hope that whatever is done for Ireland there will be no disposition on the part of English Members to be niggardly and too parsimonious in the way in which she is treated. I hope that, through English Members, Ireland will receive not only justice, but generous justice too. With regard to this Bill, I think it is of considerable interest that a great authority amongst the Irish people should refer to it in the terms which Sir Charles Duffy used in a letter to Archbishop Croke a month or two ago. He said—I am persuaded that if a native Prime Minister submitted to an Irish Parliament in its first Session a Bill framed on the same lines, it would be received with a burst of national enthusiasm. The measure aims to turn the Irish tenant into an Irish proprietor without subjecting him to a single unfair or burdensome condition. How is it possible to get anything better than this from any Legislature till the crack of doom?I feel that if the question is approached in a cordial spirit by the representatives of England and Ireland, a happy solution of this vexed question will be arrived at, and Ireland will be landed in a position of greater contentment and security. The next measure to which our attention is drawn is a pro 45 posal for remedying a difficulty which has arisen through the indirect incidence of tithe rent charge upon land in England and Wales. I may express my humble hope that the measure to be introduced will certainly simplify the recovery of the tithe rent-charge, and I hope it will have the effect of removing friction, especially in Wales. I hope it will have the effect of doing justice to those clergymen who undoubtedly have had hard times, and have had reason to complain perhaps of the delay and hesitation as to legislation on this matter. Then as to the question of facilitating the Private Bill legislation in Scotland and Ireland, I think that will be very favourably received by both sides of the House. It will be, I presume, in the direction of relieving Parliament from some of those matters which can be better dealt with elsewhere. I hope all of us who are in earnest about making Parliament a useful institution will be glad to see that relief given, and those duties discharged where they can be discharged better perhaps than within these walls. The next paragraph invites our attention to the expediency of alleviating the burden which the law of compulsory education has imposed in recent years on the poorer portion of the people. This subject, I think, will be received by the country with great relief and great gratification. I think it has been felt that the time has come, or is at all events close at hand, when a measure in this direction would be acceptable, would be just, and most properly be looked for by the people of this country. I hope this measure will be one of real relief to the working classes, whether in town or country. I hope it will be a measure which will act advantageously upon the great question of education. I think there are many men in this House who look to the spread of education for the solution of some of those problems which legislation cannot, perhaps, so well deal with. Therefore, I hope, we shall find a very general support to a measure which has this for its object. There can be no question that the State will gain in proportion as the population within the State are better educated, and are free from the dangers which necessarily attend a want of education. I may also express a hope that in one or two parti- 46 cular points this measure will produce a great relief. I believe that with respect to the large towns the fact that there will no longer be the difficulty as to the payment of fees will bring about most certainly a much larger attendance of the children of the poor, and in other districts I hope one result will ensue, namely, the relief of parents unfortunately unable to pay the school fees from the painful necessity of applying to a relieving officer for the payment of those fees. I trust the parents will be relieved from a position which I know some of them feel most acutely, and that the children will be relieved from the taint of pauperism, which undoubtedly is a serious drawback to them, and militates greatly against the cause of education. These are the main measures to which our attention is specially invited. A list of contingent measures is shadowed forth, in many of which I take the keenest personal interest, but if the time of Parliament is not sufficient to enable us to reach them all, at least I think I may claim that in the proposals to which I have alluded there is an ample field for the useful spending of all the time which will be at our disposal between now and that holiday which we shall hope to reach some time in the course of the approaching summer. Without further reference to these contingent measures, I beg to be allowed to again centre and focus the attention of the House to those main and chief measures to which I have mentioned to allude. If this programme is brought to a completion, I do not think there is one earnest man in this House who would deny there would be undoubted advantages conferred by it upon the people of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. If hon. Members will take a short review of the position I hope they will recognise that there is no reason whatever why this programme should not be accomplished in its entirety, and why these measures should not all find their place upon the Statute Book. We, on this side of the House are most anxious to pass them. I can hardly believe that even those who are in opposition to us on many measures can seriously wish to oppose us on these. I have yet to learn that opposition in this House must be conducted on the principle of refusing support to good measures because they come from your 47 opponents. I have yet to learn that measures which are acknowledged to be for the good of the people are not to be accepted because they are brought in by a Government to which a minority of this House is opposed. Another thing I would venture to point out to that Opposition, if it is not impertinent of me. Surely, it would be for their advantage that these measures should be passed after full and due consideration. If the time is coming when they are again to be at the head of affairs, and again to form the Government of the country, surely it would be better for them that these great questions should be cleared out of the way, and that the course should be open to them for other matters which they will think it their duty to bring forward. What is to stand between us and the completion of these hopes? What is to stand between us and the accomplishment of these measures of legislation? I almost hesitate to refer to that which alone, it seems to me, does stand between us. If I am correct, as I know I am, in saying that on this side of the House there is an earnest desire to pass these measures—if I am correct in saying that in the minds of many, if not most, of our opponents, there is also a wish to give these measures fair play—what is it stands between us and their accomplishment? We had last Session, unfortunately, practical experience of what is meant by the word "obstruction." I regret very much that obstruction seems now to be, to a certain extent, the adopted and avowed policy in some quarters. I think that those quarters in which it is adopted are making a very grave error. I think it is the gravest mistake public men can possibly make to confuse notoriety with reputation. In inveighing against obstruction, in pointing out the dangers which obstruction opens up before us, I do not wish for a moment to suggest that there should not be the fullest and amplest criticism of all measures proposed to us. I do not say the Opposition should not probe to the uttermost the rights and wrongs of any matter proposed from these Benches; but what I do urge as worthy the attention of the House is that there should not be constant repetition of the same arguments, and there should not be 48 recourse, under any circumstances whatever, to dilatory or obstructive motions proposed simply with the object of postponing legislation. If this danger is before us, if I am correct in thinking there is a possibility of being confronted by this danger, how can we best overcome it? I believe it has not passed the wit of man to devise measures by which the rights of majorities would be vindicated just as certainly as the rights of minorities would be safeguarded. I would myself infinitely prefer, and I believe the House would prefer, that this danger may be obviated by other means and other methods. There are some other influences in this House to which, if I dare, I would venture to appeal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) holds a place in this country of enormous and exceptional greatness. We on this side of the House freely acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman is great by virtue of his experience, by virtue of the many times which he has been at the head of the affairs of this country. He is great by reason of those talents in which every one of us on this side of the House take a personal pride as well as you on the other side of the House. He is great by virtue of his position as leading that composite Party opposite. If I may venture to say so, he has not only the power which that position gives, but he has also the responsibilities which that position entails. I would appeal to him, and appeal also to others whose names are already written in large type on the pages of the history of this country, I would appeal to those who are now our leaders and captains in the political combat, I would appeal also to those on both sides of the House who are already marked by the ability they have shewn as being the inheritors of the political future, and who in days to come will be the guides and guardians of the public life of this country, just as those to whom I have alluded are at the present moment—I would appeal to them, and I would appeal to yet another section of the House represented on both sides, I would appeal to those who, like myself, have no personal position in this House, no wish to attract any personal attention to themselves, who have no claim to 49 Personal distinction whatever, but who are here contrary to their inclinations, discharging duties often irksome and wearisome, not because they have any liking for them, but because they felt bound to yield to the old English feeling that a man must not shirk his duty if the call comes to him from his own country to undertake any task however personally disagreeable. There are many such men on both sides of the House. We have no great power, and no very great influence, but what we have I hope and trust we shall use in support of those more potent powers to which I have referred. I hope we shall use it in the direction of disarming the bitterness with which our debates are sometimes conducted. I hope we shall use it in supporting and backing up the course which I hope other and more powerful minds will indicate to us. I trust if all these influences can be diverted into the same channel, we shall be enabled to treat as of little account those threats of obstruction, which have reached us from certain quarters, and I hope we shall then be able to leave them to the oblivion which, they merit, and the insignificance which they deserve. If in this spirit we can approach the legislation of the Session, I do earnestly believe we shall be able to accomplish legislation for which the country will be very grateful to all its representatives, and I believe that if the country will be grateful to its representatives, we as the representatives, shall be justified in expressing our gratitude to Her Majesty for the prescience and the wisdom with which she has directed our attention, to those particular points which form the programme to which I have alluded. I thank the House for the courtesy and forbearance with which it has listened to me.
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."—(Colonel Kenyon-Slaney.)
§ (6.20.) MR. FORREST FULTON (who wore Court costume) West Ham, N.,
Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, a distinguished British statesman once said that the greatest British interest was peace. I concur with my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken that it ought to be a subject of general congratulation to every loyal subject of the Queen that Her Majesty's Government have been enabled to again announce in the Speech from the Throne (I think for the fifth year in succession) that peace reigns throughout her vast dominions. So, too, it cannot fail to be a source of satisfaction to the House to learn that the general condition of Ireland has sensibly improved, but that satisfaction is greatly marred by the announcement that severe distress is likely to fall upon the population of the western counties owing to the failure of the potato crop. The problem presented by the congested districts in Ireland has baffled the wisdom of successive generations of statesmen. It is not a question of rent, because I think all alike are agreed that if these poor people were to receive to-morrow a gift of the fee-simple of their homesteads the problem would still remain as insoluble as ever. There are to me few things so strange in the history of mankind as the desperate tenacity with which the Celtic people of Connemara and Donegal cling to their barren homesteads, swept as they are by the ever-recurring storms of the wild Atlantic and saturated by the perpetual moisture of an unkindly climate. Periods of severe distress must needs recur as long as the population of those districts continues so greatly in excess of the possibilities of the soil to provide for them, and as long as they continue to depend upon an uncertain and precarious exotic as the staple article of their food. It is to be hoped that the measures which are to be submitted for the consideration of the House of Commons may be conceived in a broad and statesmanlike spirit, may meet with general approval, and may tend not only to alleviate the temporary distress, but to remove the permanent evil. A measure having for its object the increase of the number of occupying owners in Ireland is to be laid before Parliament. Upon the general principle of such a, measure all parties are agreed; it is embodied in 51 the Bright clauses of the Land Act of 1870; it has been twice affirmed by Parliament in what are known as the Ashbourne Acts, and it is, of course, recognised in the comprehensive scheme dealing with the question of land purchase in Ireland introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1886, and again last Session, when the Government Land Bill was read a second time without a Division. If, then, the principle is one on which all are agreed, surely the wisdom of Parliament ought to be able to devise a modus vivendi in matters of detail, and so secure the passing of a measure which, in the language of the Speech from the Throne, isLikely to lead to an increase of contentment and the diminution of political disturbance throughout Ireland.There is one part of what I may call the positive portion of the Speech from the Throne to which my hon. and gallant Friend has not referred. It is the proposed measure for facilitating the transaction in Scotland and Ireland of the more important stages of private legislation affecting those countries. No one can doubt that the present system is both costly and inconvenient, and it is to be hoped that the new proposals may meet with general approval. There is no portion of Her Majesty's Speech which affords more food for reflection than that which introduces what I may describe as the contingent portion of the Speech. All the subjects included in this contingent portion are important, and many of them are urgent. It is of the utmost importance that an Act should be passed reforming the system of County Government in Ireland upon principles similar to those which have proved so satisfactory in England and Scotland; it is desirable that the Local Government of those latter countries should be perfected by the establishment of District Councils, and that increased facilities should be given for the acquisition of small parcels of land in Great Britain. The remaining subjects which are referred to are of an even more urgent character and are certainly of vital moment to the wage-earning classes —I mean the amendment of the law of employers' liability, the consolidation and improvement of the law relating to the public health, and, above all, the 52 encouragement of thrift amongst them by increasing the stability of Friendly Societies and Saving Banks. It is indeed strange that there should be any doubt at all that measures apparently so non-contentious should be passed into law. I echo the hope that we are about to enter upon a new era, that the universal desire for information so apparent in previous Sessions may prove less general and less inquisitorial, and that the stern sense of public duty which has hitherto impelled some hon. Members to the frequent delivery of long, eloquent, and discursive orations may be lulled to rest. In the closing words of Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech the duties assigned to us are described as arduous. Doubtless they are so, but their arduous character might be greatly diminished, if not altogether removed, if the House of Commons could be induced to approach the consideration of the several measures which are foreshadowed in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech in a critical, yet a generous and conciliatory, spirit— measures which I firmly believe, if passed into law, will greatly tend to promote the welfare, the happiness, and the prosperity of the people. I beg to second the Address which has been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ (6.30.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I think that my first duty on the present occasion is one that will find an echo—that the words I shall use in relation to it will find an echo in every breast. The language employed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Address was received by the House in a manner which not only well justified him in the course which he took, but must assure the right hon. Gentleman who fills with so much dignity and effect the Chair of this House that he has our deepest sympathy in the heavy trial which he is now undergoing. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Address of thanks and the hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded it have both of them abundantly proved their capacity for the discharge of the important duties committed to them by the Government. They approached the Motion for the Address in an attitude different from that which has been assumed by Movers and Seconders upon former occasions; but I do- not intend at the present 53 moment to discuss the change which has been made on the advice of the Government in the form in which the House is invited to consider the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I will only observe that it appears to me that the assumption that no Amendment can be moved to the Address excepting a single Amendment may be found to have an effect that will become perceptible in the tone of the speeches of the Mover and Seconder— that is to say, the effect of giving to them a more warmly laudatory character towards the Government and the measures to be introduced than has been customary on former occasions. I do not know that that will be a very great evil, but that, I think, is one amongst the contingent results of the change that has been adopted. Some words of mine have been quoted on the subject of the Debate on the Address, and I do not question their accuracy, nor do I wish to recede from the Sentiments they were intended to express. I think that the prolongation of Debates on the Address has been the cause of great public inconvenience, and before I sit down I hope to say a word or two on the subject. As for myself I have for a long series of years done my best to expedite the proceedings of the House on the Address, and I am of opinion that in the absence of very grave and serious issues, of a vital or broad character, regarded as being fraught with vital consequences by a large portion of the House, it is well that we should take most serious note indeed of the contents of the Speech that Her Majesty may be advised to address to us, but that we should not make its topics the subject of prolonged consideration and debate at that stage. On that principle I have acted myself, and I ought to act upon it upon the present occasion, but I am bound to say that I take that course under difficulties considerably enhanced in consequence of the notice given by the leader of the House to ask for the time of the House until a stage has been reached in the prosecution of certain important measures, or rather groups of measures. I shall, however, go over the topics of the Speech in a manner which I hope will not tend to give rise to the prolonged discussion which I have on former occasions regarded as in the nature of public inconvenience. As usual, the Speech 54 begins by a general reference to the peace of Europe, which, I think, is not a subject upon which it is possible to enter with edification in any detail. We are then informed of several matters, the first relating to certain negotiations with the King of Italy, the second relating to negotiations with Portugal, and the third relating to negotiations on the Newfoundland fishery question, all of which I may compress and bracket together in a single observation. We shall seek no opportunity of captious criticism upon any of these subjects, and we shall give credit to the Government for its good intentions, and even for its performances, until we find cause to question them upon serious and practical ground. But I will notice one or two subjects which do not appear in the paragraphs of the Speech. Nothing is said upon the subject of the question which has arisen with America in regard to the Behring Straits. I take it that I may assume on that account that nothing is in the mind of the Government of a menacing or formidable character, nothing that is likely to interfere with the maintenance of the most friendly relations with that great people of our own blood and kin on the other side of the Atlantic. I intimate no misgiving on the subject; I suggest, on the contrary, that my assumption is the just inference from the silence of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech on this topic, and possibly it may be confirmed by some brief words from the leader of Her Majesty's Government. There is another matter of a painful character which I do not feel able to pass by in silence, although I have no intention of making it a subject of censure upon the proceedings of the Government. I do not say that it was their duty to introduce into the Speech from the Throne on this occasion any notice of the deplorable proceedings which from time to time, and at rather short intervals, we are compelled to take notice of in certain portions of the Turkish Empire. But these events make a deep impression upon the heart and mind of the people of this country, and it is certainly right—I will not say now for Ministers—but it is certainly right for independent Members of Parliament to speak of them in such a manner as will tend to convince the Ottoman 55 Government that if that Government attaches any value whatever to the moral support or sympathy of this country, it has need to take more care than it has hitherto shown in order to convince the people of this country that that sympathy, if granted, would not be thrown away upon unworthy subjects. I confine myself to expressing an earnest hope that the Government will lose no opportunity which their just influence in Europe may secure for them, either of representing the true state of the case to the Ottoman Government, or of endeavouring to produce, if need be through the influence of other Powers as well as of this country, some impression upon the mind of that Government that may tend to bring about a better state of things and to destroy the force of that unhappy belief that I think the people of England think themselves compelled to entertain from painful experience that the professions, the general declarations, of the Porte with respect to the condition of the people are really of no value, and that nothing but acts of a positive and definite character can avail to inspire into the mind of this nation any desire or disposition whatever to attach value to the continuance of the Ottoman rule in those regions. I am sure there is no disposition unfriendly to that rule; but the desire of the people of this country, I think, is that that rule should be made tolerable to the people over whom it is exercised, so that it may have some promise of permanence in itself and may avoid, without offence to the conscience of Europe, of which of late there has been so much. I do not expect or demand too much from the Government, but I think it might be possible for them to assure the country of their sympathy in desiring that good government and lamenting that it does not exist. Beyond that I do not go. I feel that there is strong objection to threats that are not likely to be fulfilled, and a loss of self-respect in continually addressing persuasive representations to a Power which you have good reason to believe regards them as so much waste paper or wasted breath. Therefore I think it is desirable that it should be understood that a strong feeling prevails in this country as to the circumstances which are from time to time brought to 56 our notice. I am now coming to another matter, simply for the purpose of putting a question to the Government. I cannot say that I expected to see in the Speech from the Throne any reference to all the painful disclosures and painful controversies and contradictions which have appeared in the public journals in such rank abundance within the last few weeks with reference to the circumstances attending the famous expedition of Mr. Stanley. But it is quite obvious that some of these circumstances, through the action of individuals, tend somewhat to compromise the general reputation of this country for humanity. Now I am not minutely acquainted with the position in which the Government has been in relation to that expedition, but I feel that something is to be desired in respect to the repute and credit of England as a humane and Christian country with reference to these controversies, and I should be very glad to know from the Government whether their relations with Mr. Stanley's expedition have been such as are likely to make it their duty to take any step at all either in regard to the clearing up of the truth or the adoption of any other measure with reference to this subject. I think the right hon. Gentleman will feel that I am justified in putting an inquiry within these limits. I shall only say a very few words upon the question of the condition of Ireland. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was extremely courteous in his references to myself—and I can assure him that the very last object of desire to a person in my position, when following the Mover and Seconder of the Address, is to find himself in any kind of conflict with them—but the hon. and gallant Gentleman quoted what he thought were certain words of mine delivered in 1880, which, I think, might lead to an erroneous impression; and as he made them the foundation of rather an important argument, I should be glad to know from what source those words were obtained, and whether they were quoted from the authorised edition of my speeches, which, if not verbally accurate, has undoubtedly gone forth to the world with my general sanction. I confess I was under the impression that the words were not quoted from the authorised Report. I do not think the words accurately described the state of Ireland 57 in the winter of 1879 and the spring of 1880. That is, however, a matter personal to myself on which I will not further dwell; but I do not admit the solidity of the basis on which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made his appeal. I own it is unfortunate that Her Majesty's Government were not content with advising the insertion in the Speech of those words which state an improvement in the condition of Ireland, but that they likewise found it necessary in effect to compliment themselves by the introduction of words relative to the cause of that improvement. Now, the gentlemen of the Treasury Bench know very well that that is a subject of very great and very serious controversy between the two sides of the House, and I am bound to say, first of all, that these words are totally unnecessary; secondly, that if it be the desire of Her Majesty's Government to shorten the Debates on the Address, a rational and legitimate consequence of that desire would be to avoid inserting in the Speech expressions which are in no way necessary for the purpose, and which tend, of themselves, to elicit expression of difference of opinion, and consequently lead to the prolongation of the Debate. I may say that there is another objection to these words, and that is, they are entirely ambiguous. There are those who think that this improvement is due to the Coercion Act, which others regard as a discreditable and disastrous measure. But there are others who think also that this improvement is due in no inconsiderable degree to an Act which, although most unhappily delayed from the autumn of 1886 to the spring of 1887, yet did, in defiance undoubtedly of all the previous declarations of the Government open judicial rents, subject the covenants in leases to reconsideration, and give under circumstances of extreme pressure a very great and necessary relief to the people of Ireland. I do not consider that is a matter on which it is my duty to raise any more serious question, but I must leave the Government in free possession of whatever satisfaction they may enjoy from the compliments they have been able to bestow upon their own management and action. With regard to the subject of distress in Ireland, that is one in respect to which there can be no difference 58 between one side of the House and the other, and I may say, so far as that subject is concerned, I believe that Members of the House in all quarters will be found ready to make sacrifices of the time which they might otherwise be entitled to claim for the purpose of bringing forward public subjects that they think important and to allow the Government a free hand with respect to the prosecution of such measures. It is quite plain that whatever is to be done in this matter ought to be done without a moment's delay. I know not whether it was a defect of my hearing, but I am not sure that I heard amongst the notices given from the Treasury Bench, although I heard proposals as to a Land Purchase Bill and a Tithe Bill—I am not sure that I heard any notice with respect to the introduction of those measures which are contemplated, and which have regard to the immediate relief of the distress. I must own that I think if the Government find such measures to be necessary notices connected with them are notices that ought to have taken precedence of every other. With respect to the Bill for the multiplication of owners, I do not think there is any advantage in my entering upon a detailed consideration of that subject at the present moment. The objects which we have in view are perfectly well known. There is no disposition, and there never has been a disposition, either to state at any length beyond what was strictly requisite the particular objections which we might entertain to particular proposals, or to undervalue any judicious efforts by means of which that subject may be got rid of without delay. It is of very great importance indeed that it should be settled, but when the hon. and gallant Gentleman goes back as he did, and as he may have been justified in doing, to the original Bright clauses of the Land Act of 1870, he must recollect, and the House ought to recollect, that an entire revolution has been introduced into the principle of those clauses by the form the proposals for legislation have taken, perhaps necessarily taken, ever since the Committee of the House of Lords sat upon that question. The principle of the Bright clauses was to encourage the sale of lands by landlords to occupiers in cases where those occu- 59 piers gave evidence of their own fore-thought, industry, and capacity. But the legislation now proposed has assumed a very different character indeed. It deals with the population wholesale. I am not now referring to that as a matter of censure. I do not know that we have any choice in the matter, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman will perceive that, so far as this side of the House is concerned, we have undoubtedly a strong interest in the speedy passing of any measure which can be proposed judiciously with regard to the congested districts in particular, and, indeed, in regard to the subject generally. At the same time, we must reserve to ourselves the right to take such objections as public principle may seem to us to demand. Other objections we should not dream of searching for. With regard to the other Bills of which notice has been given—tithe rent - charge, private legislation, and the measures with respect to compulsory education—I do not think that it is necessary that I should dwell upon them on the present occasion. I must, however, offer a remark upon the great organic or structural change in the composition of the present Speech. I do not wonder that Her Majesty's Government have felt, as every Government has felt before them, that it is unsatisfactory to present to the House of Commons a very long list of measures with regard to which it is impossible, or practically impossible, for the House to deal with them in the time at its disposal. But they have resorted accordingly to an expedient which is certainly peculiar, and which, it appears to me, is not unattended with serious danger. While four measures of importance are presented to us as constituting the real or immediate plan of legislation of the Session, seven other measures of importance are suspended— I will not say dangled in our view in more remote perspective. This is a practice as to which it appears to me— I make no charge against the Government at this moment—it will be impossible to venture a suspicion or entertain any misgiving; but we may have a day when we have a Government of less elevated views, and a Government of less elevated views might in this contingency reason thus: "By putting a long list of measures into this postscript of the 60 Speech "—for it is little more—"we undergo no responsibility and no liability whatever. We do not profess to intend to carry the measures, because they are all of them subject to a contingency, of which contingency we can make use when the proper time comes, and say that the labours of the House have been sufficient, and it is impossible to enter upon a new chapter of legislative work. It may not be necessary for us to have any Bills or plans at all when measures are named in the Speech without any promise that Bills shall be submitted." It is true that the paragraph which relates to the contingent subjects does state that Her Majesty has given directions for the preparation of Bills for certain purposes, but directions for the preparation of Bills do not imply necessarily the immediate obedience to those directions. Obedience to these directions may be postponed until the opportunity is near at hand for the introduction of the Bills. In one instance, indeed, the hon. and gallant Member the Mover of the Address gave us some comfort in relation to this subject, for he assured us that Her Majesty's Government had a Bill ready with reference to Local Government for Ireland. I make no doubt that that was more than a benevolent speculation on the part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He must have spoken with authority, and it is not disparaging to him if I say that I hope that the consoling assurance that he gave to us that there is a plan, that there is a measure in actual preparation and ready for our consideration, when we are ready to consider it, will be repeated and countersigned by still higher authority on the Treasury Bench in the course of the evening. I think it would be invidious to go through all the seven very important subjects that are grouped together in this paragraph of contingency, and to ask in ease case for a formal answer to my inquiry whether plans—I will not say Bills in all cases—but plans containing all the substance of Bills, are in each and every case provided for the attainment of these benevolent objects. I do point out to the House that there is a serious difficulty in introducing wholesale this practice of reference to contingent measures which may or may not be introduced when it is done on a large 61 scale. I venture to lay it down as a proper rule that, which after all is the old rule, though perhaps it has not been observed by any Party as strictly as it ought to have been observed—I do not think that the Government ought to promise directly or contingently in the Speech of the Queen any measure whatever except such as they think there is a reasonable chance and hope of their being able to introduce. There are few more words it is necessary I should say before I sit down. Unfortunately, there has arisen a serious question, not amounting to a question of veracity, but a serious question of accuracy between my right hon. Friend near me, the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) and a Cabinet Minister. The Government admit that the determination of that question is a subject of very considerable importance, and it is a matter of necessity, I think, that a determination should be arrived at upon it. It involves a great number of different points, of which I may say that the Tipperary trials form the central incident. I will not enumerate the points at the present moment. My right hon. Friend anticipates that in the course of the next week he will be called upon to appear in Ireland as a witness in judicial proceedings in regard to a portion of this matter. He believes—and I think he is right in believing—that upon the whole the discussion of this important collision, so to call it, would be more conveniently taken, not in the form of an addition to the Address, which it would be quite possible to move, but in the form of an appropriate Motion or proposal after the whole question is clear of the judicial proceedings in Ireland. Under these circumstances, I wish to say that my right hon. Friend is disposed to waive any attempt to raise the question on the Address, but he must reserve to himself in that case what, I think, will be felt by all to be a reasonable claim—that is to say, the claim upon the Government to assist him in securing a discussion of the question when, if I may use the homely expression, the stage has been cleared for the purpose by the removal of every thing that would embarrass the issue. He will, therefore, be disposed, if the First Lord of the Treasury will understand that, not to insist upon moving an Amendment to the Address on that 62 question; and if my right hon. Friend is obliged to ask the assistance of the Government in obtaining a solution of the question, I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite will feel it incumbent upon him to afford that assistance, inasmuch as the charge on one side and on the other affects persons of such importance as a Cabinet Minister on that side of the House and my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. J. Morley), who himself has been responsible for the administration of Ireland. Now, upon the important subject of debates on the Address, as I have said, I have, by clearing myself out of this discussion, done what I could on the present occasion to give a practical recommendation that we should be content to follow the older fashion of Parliament, and to refrain from entering upon a wide and extensive field of political discussion, either on topics in the Address, or on other topics which we may think require discussion. But I feel bound to say, and I wish to say it without offence, that I think it is impossible for us to effect a permanent change in anything like a real return to what I believe was the old and salutary practice, as long as the independent Members of this House have to bear in mind that for a series of Sessions, and increasingly from one Session to another, they have been excluded from the field which history and Parliamentary usage have all along assigned to them of a free power to make a considerable demand on the time of the House for the discussion of such proposals as they may think fit to bring under the attention of the House. It is not too much to say that the matter has come to such a point that they have been almost excluded from that power. I was in hopes that the right hon. Gentleman would have given us some assurance—the direct reverse of what he has announced from the Table to-night—an assurance that it was not the intention of the Government, unless in some case of a special and really urgent character, for the general purposes of their legislation, to evade and almost to absorb the time hitherto placed at the disposal of private Members. The right hon. Gentleman says he considers that a case of great urgency has arisen. That urgency is to take the subject of Irish land, the most complicated subject, probably, that 63 can be introduced into Parliament; the subject of tithe, which, though, not so complicated, is a very serious one; and the subject of Irish Railways, in so far as the prosecution of these plans is intended for the immediate relief of Irish distress. I take leave to separate the different parts of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. I think that, so far as regards Irish Railways, or any measures associated with the relief of immediate distress which Her Majesty's Government may think they require in their public duty to submit to the House of Commons, it will be the duty of every Member of the House of Commons to make the necessary sacrifices for the purpose of giving facilities for those measures of the Government. But what are the measures with regard to land and tithe? I will not deny that, in a certain sense, they may be called urgent measures—measures of importance which have been introduced again and again, and which have certainly not lost their claim in consequence of previous introduction. Her Majesty's Government, however, last year were content to put by those measures and place them virtually on the shelf, for the purpose of introducing to the House, and losing on it 17 days of public time, a plan not indicated beforehand in the Queen's Speech—a plan regarded by us on this side as utterly ruinous with regard to the temperance question of this country, and a plan which, after all that waste of time, the Government refrained from prosecuting in consequence of the reluctance, dissatisfaction, and distrust they found existing among their own majority opposite. That is the real history of it, and it was for that measure that the Land Purchase Bill for Ireland and the Tithe Bill were thrust aside. In consequence of the wanton and gratuitous introduction of that strange scheme of the Government we were called upon to sacrifice the time of the House wholesale, so that this power of private Members has been, I will not say destroyed, but so reduced as to be almost nullified. And now the right hon. Gentleman makes a proposal which I must take the liberty of saying is worse than any proposal I have ever heard on the subject—which is really nothing less than preposterous. He asks us to assign to the question of tithes and of land purchase 64 in Ireland the character of urgency—urgency which would justify a measure so extreme as to exclude private Members entirely from the business of legislation, until the Government are able to move the Speaker out of the chair upon those three measures. I still adhere to my point with regard to this matter. I do not wish myself to make the intimation of the right hon. Gentleman a ground for now discussing the Address at length, and I tell him, with a pretty strong confidence of being right, that he will never secure an easy and habitual passing of the Address according to the ancient fashion as long as this practice obtains of taking away, on mere pretexts, the rights of private Members, which practice has been pursued for the first time at the instance of the present Government. Neither upon that subject nor upon any other will there be any undue consumption of the time of the House; but when the right hon. Gentleman makes his proposal, and first cuts off a portion of the time of private Members—the fraction of the Session before Christmas, which, I must observe, it is impossible for anyone to define—on the assumption that all these measures will be carried to a certain stage before Christmas, of which it is difficult for him to be absolutely assured—I am bound to say, in view of the nature of the proposal, and in view of the proceedings of former years, that, excepting that part of it which refers to Irish railways, I think the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman will not receive the assent of the House without discussion and division. I wish I could fatter myself that the right hon. Gentleman was likely to give it any sort of re-consideration. I have the greatest objection to these wholesale departures from those ancient traditions of Parliament which were the practical result of long experience continued through centuries, but which have been thrown overboard during the past four or five years, with the consequence, not of doing the public work better, but of doing the public work worse. I tell the right hon. Gentleman, under these circumstances, that he need not expect a silent acquiescence in what appears not only a continuance and repetition, but even an extension of what I cannot describe as anything less than a wanton exercise of 65 power by the majority against the minority in this House. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, cannot expect that so long as any privilege whatever of discussion or debate is given to the Members of this House it will not be reasonably but firmly used in taking objection to a proposal of such a nature.
§ (7.15.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH, Strand Westminster)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I refer to the concluding observations of the right hon. Gentleman, it is only right that I should for one moment allude to a subject which has been referred to in regard to which both sides of the House are, I am sure, agreed, and in which both sides are equally and deeply interested. My hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Colonel Kenyon Slaney) referred in terms of sympathy to the cause of the Speaker's absence. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down only did justice to himself and to the feelings which prevail in all parts of the House in also giving graceful expression to the sympathy of this House. We all hope that he may be speedily restored to health and relieved from anxiety and sorrow. My next duty is to refer to the terms in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman behind me and the hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the Address discharged their duties. They have given good proof of the ability which distinguishes the younger Members of this House, and of their capacity to take part in the important duties which this House will still have to discharge when the older Members of it pass away. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the change in the form of the Address. I intimated on the part of the Government at the close of last Session that there would be a change in the form of the Address, and that that change would be directed solely with the object of avoiding, as far as possible, raising questions which are contentious at the opening of the Session. The right hon. Gentleman has repeated to-night the statement which he has expressed in the past that the Address should not be made the opportunity for a prolonged discussion, or of delaying the progress of the business of the House. I trust that the good advice he has given and the views that he has expressed with regard to the ancient traditions of the House will be 66 received by hon. Members opposite, above and below the Gangway, with the authority which anything he says conveys to them, and that we shall on this occasion revert to the ancient practice of this House, and one which in times past has tended so much to the advancement of the conduct of public business and the country. I pass on to that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which I am able to express entire concurrence in the course he has recommended. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government. Undoubtedly it is the fact that peace is preserved and that, as far as we know, it is not likely to be disturbed. We have reason to be thankful for a period of contentment abroad, which augurs well for the prosperity and happiness of the great Empires affected by the political conditions of Europe and of the world. We desire that those better days should continue, for the greatest interest of the world is peace. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to our negotiations with the United States in regard to the Behring's Sea question. We have every hope that those negotiations will progress. They have not advanced very far at the present time, but there is no reason whatever to apprehend any ultimate difficulty in coming to an understanding with a Power with which, undoubtedly, we ought to have, under all circumstances and at all times, the most friendly and cordial relations. There is every desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to meet the United States of America in the most friendly spirit, and to find terms upon which the difficulty existing between the countries can be satisfactorily settled. The right hon. Gentleman referred in terms of certain warmth to the misgovernment which obtains in some portions of the Ottoman Empire. I was glad to hear him remark that there was no unfriendly disposition entertained towards the Ottoman Empire, but that there was, on the contrary, every disposition to regard that Empire with sympathetic interest if it would take sufficient precautions for the good government of its subjects. We have not failed to show our sympathy with good government in that Empire, but the right hon. Gentleman very wisely referred to the loss of dignity which 67 might result in making frequent representations to any Power where sueh representations may not receive adequate notice. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that no fitting opportunity has ever been lost by Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople of representing to the Porte that the best interests of Turkey are involved in the good government of its Empire, and that every assistance has been given, so far as the moral weight of the Ambassador of this country is concerned, to aid in the direction of good government. It was possibly through our representations in the case of Moussa Bey that that notorious person has been exiled to a distant part of the Empire, and will be no longer capable of exercising any injurious influence he may have possessed. The right hon. Gentleman asked me a question with regard to the painful allegations which have been made with reference to what is termed the Stanley Expedition in Africa. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to state what the relations of Her Majesty's Government were to that expedition. I can only assure the right hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's Government had no relations whatever with that expedition. It was an entirely voluntary undertaking on the part of a committee formed for the relief of Emin Pasha, and it was placed, as I understand, entirely under the control of Mr. Stanley himself, who chose his own officers and supporters, and who made, on his own responsibility and on that of the committee, all the arrangements for the expedition. I can only share with the right hon. Gentleman the sorrow which he conveyed that any imputation upon the conduct of Englishmen could be made under the circumstances which have been communicated to the public. I must remind the House, in the first instance, that the Government had no responsibility whatever for the expedition; in the second place, that the two officers who have been implicated by the charges, which may or may not be capable of proof, are dead, and are therefore incapable of making any answer to the charges brought against them; and, in the third place, that we have no control over any persons who could be brought forward as witnesses. It would be a matter of enormous difficulty, if even it were the duty of the Government to institute it, 68 to conduct such an inquiry of that character, which could not have any satisfactory result. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the terms of the Queen's Speech in reference to Ireland, and he complained that we have spoken in that Speech with satisfaction of the salutary legislation of the last few years. The right hon. Gentleman said that the language of the Speech might include the legislation of the last two or three years. It does include the whole of the legislation of the last two or three years, for which Her Majesty's Government take credit, and which they have been successful in passing through this House. We have reason to believe that the Government of Ireland has advanced and that there has been a marked improvement in the condition of that country, and that that improvement is due to legislation in part of which the right hon. Gentleman entirely concurs, and to part of which, naturally, he objects. I am sorry that he finds fault with the expressions in Her Majesty's Speech under these circumstances, but I am afraid that it would be very difficult for the leaders of an Opposition to be always quite satisfied with the expressions in the Speech from the Throne on matters which are the subject of violent party controversy both in the country and in the House. The right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance for which I am most grateful—that, speaking for himself and for all his friends both above and below the Gangway, all assistance will be given in the passing of any measure which may be necessary for the relief of distress in Ireland. I am happy to say that the distress is not so widespread nor so deep as in the case of former years, and that there is reason to believe that such distress as there is is limited in extent, and that, therefore, the measures we have to propose will not be of that wide or large character which need occupy the time of the House to any considerable extent. We propose, however, to take such steps as may be necessary to insure that no one of Her Majesty's subjects shall be without the means of earning money in order to procure food in that part of the country where exceptional distress may prevail. The steps that we shall take for the relief of distress will be of such a character as will not demoralise the people. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the measure which we propose 69 with regard to the multiplication of holdings, and assured us that no obstructive opposition would be offered to a proposal of this kind. The main principle of the measure is the same as that of the measure submitted to Parliament last Session. It is one on which we believe that it will be possible for the Opposition and ourselves to agree, if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are really desirous of advancing the interests of the occupiers of land in Ireland. The real question is whether the assurances that have been given of the desire in all parts of the House that the occupier shall be converted into the owner are sincere, or whether a measure of this kind is still to be made the stalking horse of faction and opposition and obstruction. ["Oh, oh!"] I accept the assurance that it is the desire of hon. Members opposite to give effect to their expressions of a wish to benefit the occupier. The right hon. Gentleman referred shortly to the question of private legislation. I am reassured by his observations that we shall have his assistance and the assistance of his friends in any well-considered proposal that may be made to Parliament on that subject. He also referred to the organic change in the Queen's Speech, and said that we had proposed four measures for which we ask immediate consideration, and seven others that are purely contingent, and that might not be found in a state of legislative preparation at all. He added that the only undertaking on the part of the Government with regard to these measures was that they might be prepared at some future time, if Parliament found time to deal with them. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that several of these measures have already been before Parliament, have been printed, and have been read a second time. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman may dismiss from his mind any apprehension that may exist so far as the preparation of the greater portion of these measures is concerned. We had to consider whether we were justified in putting into the Speech a list of measures which experience has proved to us we could not certainly pass, or ask Parliament to pass, in the course of the present Session, if the debates are to be continued at the length of the debates which have taken place during the last three or four Sessions. We are, however, convinced 70 that it would be possible for Parliament to pass, not, perhaps, the whole, but certainly a large proportion of the measures in the Speech, if we could return to the old way, and give something like fair and reasonable consideration and criticism to the proposals made on this side of the House, and if there was a clear and earnest desire on the part of Parliament to pass those measures. But, if we are met by continued debates and protracted discussion, it is obviously not the fault of Government, or of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian; but, collectively, it is the misfortune of Parliament, that individual Members make it practically impossible to proceed with legislation which the country desires. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman. Many of these measures are actually in type, and could be produced to-morrow.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I should be very happy to give to the right hon. Gentleman a draft of the Local Government Bill for Ireland. Let us first pass the four measures we have indicated, and then, if the right hon. Gentleman will give his assistance, and will make no complaint that we are taking too large a portion of the time of private Members, I shall be exceedingly glad to hand to him a draft of the Local Government Bill for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman addressed to me a question with regard to the difficulties that have arisen between the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) and the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He said that there were questions of fact involved on which the right hon. Gentleman would think it necessary to raise a debate. I understand the proposal to be that no debate shall arise on this question on the Address, but that at a later period an opportunity shall be afforded to the right hon. Gentleman to challenge the judgment of the House upon the action and language of the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne
My right hon. Friend meant, and I mean, something much wider and of a less purely personal nature than that. I mean a Motion criticising the administration of the law in Ireland, with special reference to events in Tipperary.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I repeated what I understood the right hon. Gentleman to have stated, and I am glad that I have given to the right. Gentleman an opportunity to make perfectly clear the object of his intended Motion. Certainly we will find a fitting opportunity for him to make any Motion of that character. It is obvious that a Motion of censure—for it amounts to that—on the Chief Secretary is a Motion that the Government ought certainly to meet. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the debate on the Address, and expressed a wish that it might not be unduly prolonged. I can assure him that I go with him most heartily and entirely on that question. Parliament has lost a great deal by prolonging debates on the Address. Such prolongations have had a most disastrous effect upon the business and the reputation of the House. The right hon. Gentleman finds fault with me for taking the time of private Members, without appearing to perceive that the necessity has been forced upon the Government by prolonged debates on the Address that have lasted ten days or a fortnight, and on one occasion three weeks. This waste of time shuts out private Members from opportunities that they would have had of discussing their Motions, and of considering their Bills. No one in this House desires more than I do to return to the old way. On the first indication on the part of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that they are inclined to give reasonable facilities for the consideration of Government measures, I shall be the very first to return to the old-fashioned way of giving to private Members the time that they had in the past. But if the right hon. Gentleman found himself in my position, and had to meet the difficulties that have been put in the way of our measures, he would have been compelled to take the same course. The right hon. Gentleman has complained that I am about to introduce a Motion which is unprecedented and severe in its character. I explained to the House why it was that I thought it right to ask this concession from the House. I think it is for the convenience of private Members that progress should be made with the important measures of the Session, so that it may be possible to give to private Members the time that they should have. If we make no progress 72 before the short Christmas holiday it may be possible to take, it must be obvious to the right hon. Gentleman and to the country that we shall be compelled to ask the House to sacrifice, the time which we most earnestly desire to avoid. It is for the House itself to find the time and private Member sought to possess it. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the events of last Session. I do not think it is desirable to refer to them with the view to considering what is to be the course of business this Session, Last Session we had angry and prolonged debates. The right hon. Gentleman said that proposals were made that were totally unnecessary, and that were not referred to in the Queen's Speech. That controversy has been gone into over and over again, and I will not say of it more than this, that the proposals of the Government were made by them with a deep sense of their responsibility, and with the desire of advancing temperance. We believed that we should secure the support of every one interested and desirous to increase habits of temperance among the people. We failed—we acknowledge we failed—after a struggle which was protracted in a degree unknown almost to Parliamentary practice, which had the effect of delaying the consideration of measures which we thought necessary in the last Session of Parliament, and which resulted in our asking Parliament to come together in November. Well, Sir, I trust that nothing I may say will increase the bitterness of party controversy. It is as far as possible from my desire to do anything of the kind; and I trust we may have in this Session the support not only of our own friends behind us in the consideration of the measures which we believe to be necessary in the interests of the country, and especially of those who are supposed to be the clients of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We believe that our measures are conceived in the interests of the people at large; we believe that they are free from any desire to prop up party or sectional interests; we believe that they are for the good of the country; and we therefore ask, and I hope we shall not ask in vain, for the hearty support of those who trust us, and for fair, moderate, and reasonable criticism only from those who generally differ from us.
§ (7.50.) MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to intrude at any great length upon the House. There are one or two things which have been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the recess, and by the First Lord of the Treasury, which require a word or two from private Members. I understand that the case presented for claiming the full time of the House is that measures have been obstructed from this side of the House, so that the Government have had the necessity forced upon them of doing what they now propose to do. The Chancellor of the Exchequer recently referred among other measures to the Employers' Liability Bill, and to the Government proposals respecting Friendly Societies. I avow that I was astounded when I read the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I imagined that he must have been mis-reported. Because in the whole time of the present Parliament the measure to amend and make permanent the Employers' Liability Act has not occupied two nights. Something was done in Grand Committee, it is true, but it in no way delayed the proceedings here. One year the Bill was not introduced at all. Another year, when it was printed, we saw nothing of it. It is a little too audacious to put this Bill forward as an obstructed measure.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)
I am confident that the hon. Member is under a misapprehension, or has misread the report. I never spoke of any obstruction upon the Employers' Liability Bill.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I have no doubt it is a misreading of the report on my part, but I gave some attention to the subject, and I thought that the matter was urged as one of the illustrations of the measures which the Government had tried to carry, and had been prevented from carrying by obstruction of them. Certainly, though I may have been under a misapprehension, the Friendly Societies Bill seemed to fall into the same category. I am glad, however, to accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is a satisfaction to know from him that the Employers' Liability Bill was not one of those obstructed. If that is true, then it is also true that the Government have been lacking in their duty to the work- 74 ing classes specially affected, because it is a measure which should have been dealt with, but with regard to which during two Sessions past not a word has been said. Words falling from the Chancellor of the Exchequer have much more effect than words falling from a man like myself, and I think he ought expressly to have mentioned that this was one of the Bills as to which all fault laid with the Government, who had not in any fashion endeavoured to bring it before the House for at least three years.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member misunderstands me on this point. I have never charged, so far as I can remember any obstruction on the Employers' Liability Bill. The argument to which the hon. Member probably refers, is that the general delay of business which took place in the House, that which I call obstruction, prevented our passing Bills which we had at hand. I did not say, certainly, that these two particular measures had been obstructed.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
When I spoke at Manchester, a few hours after the right hon. Gentleman had spoken on the question of obstruction, I suggested that the Government, having a large majority at their back, had been probably obstructed, either because they did not want particularly to carry the measures which were obstructed, or because they introduced more measures than their own followers desired should be considered, or because they were incapable of handling the powerful weapons they had forged for the purpose of overcoming obstruction. That last, of course, is an impossible supposition, and I said so at the time. I would suggest that it would be a little more in good taste if supporters of the Government were not so reckless in making charges of obstruction. Another Member of Her Majesty's Government has spoken during the recess of the number of questions put to Ministers in this House, and has suggested that those questions had better be put in writing and sent to the different Ministers to whom they are intended to be addressed. I will here offer the House a sample of the experience I have had in this direction during the last few weeks. I am always ready to accept any suggestion coming from the Treasury Bench as far as possible, and in fact it is sometimes 75 said that I am a little too ready to do so. At any rate I adopted this suggestion at once, and accordingly addressed to the Department to which it has been my duty and will continue to be my duty to address a large number of questions, to some of which answers had been promised as far back as March and April last year, an inquiry with regard to which the House will be amused to hear that in reply to that communication I received from the Minister to whom it was addressed, a letter informing mo that I might raise the subject by an Amendment to the Address, by which method it could be fully discussed. [Sir J. GORST expressed dissent.] I quote from memory, but I will try to state exactly what that letter conveyed. In reply to the question I thus put I was told that I could bring the matter forward by way of an Amendment to the Address, and that the Secretary of State considered that that would be the most fitting occasion for obtaining a reply.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir J. GORST, Chatham)
The hon. Member was good enough in the early part of the recess to give me notice that he intended to raise by way of Amendment to the Address the question of the indigo riots in Jessore. The letter referred to was subsequently addressed to me, and I replied to it saying that it asked for information on a subject as to which the Secretary of State did not think it expedient that he should enter into a discussion with the hon. Member, seeing that hon. Member had already announced his intention to bring the subject before the House of Commons on a specified occasion. At the same time, I said that the Secretary of State was prepared to give the hon. Member information on any points of detail as to which he might care to ask. I wish the hon. Member would read my letter.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I shall have great pleasure in bringing the letter down and reading it to-morrow in order to make the matter perfectly clear. It shows how mis-impressions will occur not only as to speeches made and reported, but as to letters received and misunderstood. It shows, too, the necessity of sometimes having question put across the floor of the House, where there can be no mistake about them At any rate, as the right hon. Gentle- 76 man the Under Secretary for India has one me the honour to correct me, it will be within his recollection, and within the recollection of such of the louse as take an interest in the matter, or care to go to Hansard for information, that the very questions on which he says, as I understand now, that it is fair I should have information, were questions put to him early last year—questions repeated and pressed upon his attention, I think on one occasion with some disposition on my part to resort to the forms of the House, of which I should have availed myself with some reluctance. If it were not that I know that the right hon. Gentleman is never guilty of anything like a sneer or jest, to refer me to an Amendment on the Address for the information I am seeking would seem to be making a mock of me. Last Session I refrained from debating Indian matters on the Address; I refrained from speaking on them at all, on the distinct pledge and understanding with the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that at any rate one night should be afforded to me for that purpose—afforded to me on the Second Reading of the Bill, introduced by the Government, in the House of Lords, and which was to be brought down to this House before Easter, and which, though brought down, was never brought on here from the first day of the Session to the last. There is no pretence of saying that the Indian Councils Bill was obstructed. If anything, I was constantly pressing the Government to bring it forward. I had their distinct pledge that it should be brought forward, and it never came. And I have this further difficulty, that it is only with Mr. Speaker in the Chair that there is any chance of challenging the Government on the gross illegality of their conduct every year since they have been in office, and which may be repeated on that matter this year. I mean the absolutely distinct Statute which requires the Indian Government to lay on the Table of the House, during the first fourteen days of May, certain information. The Statute requires them specifically to do it. I have asked about it, and my question is evaded. If the debate on the Address is objected to, there is no opportunity of fairly raising the subject. No resolution about it would be pertinent on 77 the presentation of the financial statement. The Government is content to break the law itself now, and there is no reasonable means of punishing it. The India Office is an office over which we have not the same control as we have over every other department of the State, namely, for when salaries affecting other departments are voted we can make them the subject of criticism. But in the case of the India Office the matter is dismissed with a good humoured laugh at the end of the Session. Again, while even Members of Parliament we now know are in gaol for breaches of law not more specific than those of which I complain, I do think that the Government which is so strong in enforcing the law at one place, might be not less decent in obedience to it themselves here. There is no reference in the gracious Speech from the Throne which will show whether the Government intend to take any steps whatever to submit to this House any kind of legislation in reference to the amendment of the India Councils Act; which they last Session declared particularly requires amendment. I trust we shall not be driven (as driven we seem to be) to raise Indian questions by Motions for the Adjournment of the House, which are unpleasant to the Members who have to move them. But still we have no other resources left to us when the Government actually defy the law and make no effort whatever to fulfil it. As I understood that it is the wish of the House, and that an arrangement has been made between the Front Benches that no debate shall now take place on that portion of the Speech which relates to Ireland, I will only say one word in reference to the observations of the First Lord of the Treasury when, in reply to a remark by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, made across the Table, he said he should be pleased to show him a draft of the Local Government Bill. That Bill was solemnly promised by the right hon. Baronet the Member for one of the divisions of Bristol at the close of the year 1886 to be introduced in the year 1887. It was promised as a measure of local government to be framed on a popular basis, but in all probability that will always be in draft, and will never be presented. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer— 78 and it is possible that again I may have misunderstood him—said the Bill would be introduced when the country was in a fair state of quietude. Of course, the reporters may have done the right hon. Gentleman an injustice, or my appreciation of the meaning of his words may have been imperfect, but still I did understand the words thus put into the mouth of Her Majesty last Session to be a declaration that the country was in a fair state of quietness. Now we are told it is still better, and I do think it is a little too much that these statements should be made year after year without any effort being made to fulfil the Government pledges. I shall reserve what I have to say as to the taking away of the time of private Members until the First Lord makes his Motion on the subject, but I now ask the Government in common decency to say—what the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India would not say when he was making his financial statement last year—I ask them to say now in this House—for I warn them that I shall take some means of making this the subject of debate, whether the time of private Members is taken away or not—I ask them to say what are the reasons for their absolute disobedience of the law for the last four years in not duly submitting the statistics of the moral and material progress of India which they are called upon to submit annually, and I wish to know further whether they are going to obey the law this year, and if they will do so in the time fixed by the Statute? If not it shall not be my fault if the Government undertake other business of importance before the House at least expresses an opinion upon this subject. I know it is futile to expect answers now to questions upon matters relating to India of which I have only had the advantage within the last few moments of receiving information. I have had a number of documents sent me, but I am not sure that I am at liberty to refer to them. I am told that some were sent to me for my private information only, and I am placed in a somewhat unfair position both towards those for whom I speak and towards the House itself, because those documents are documents which passed between Departments of the State on matters affecting the liberty of the subject, and 79 I submit that they ought to have been laid upon the Table of the House. I trust that the Under Secretary of State for India will give me some pledges that if I move for Papers relating to the cases of Warburton and Luson they will be granted. If I do not receive some such pledge I shall take legitimate means of raising the question.
§ SIR J. GORST
As the hon. Member has so pointedly referred to me, perhaps the House will allow me to make a few observations. The hon. Member asked me a number of questions last year upon details of Indian administration—questions based upon information which he had received from an ex parte source. I was unable to answer at the time, because, as the House will understand, all the details of Indian Government are not necessarily reported to the Secretary of State. Those who are dissatisfied with any Act of the Government are of course at liberty to send garbled statements to hon. Members of this House, but it is impossible for the Secretary of State to be always prepared with full particulars on all points of detail so as to be able at once to provide information on any question raised. The hon. Member, in the recess, sent me a letter, saying that he did so in consequence of suggestions of the First Lord of the Treasury, and in it he asked me to give him an answer on certain points. I think I may say that I sent an answer which generally showed that the information upon which he had asked questions during the last Session of Parliament was wholly erroneous, and gave a false idea of the circumstances referred to in those questions. There was undoubtedly one question with regard to some riots which took place at Jessore, in India between indigo planters and their employés, upon which, by directions of the Secretary of State, I withheld from him information I possessed on the ground that the hon. Member for Northampton had given formal notice that he intended to raise a discussion upon this matter in the House of Commons by way of Amendment to the Address, and that, therefore it was not convenient that I should enter into a discussion with him upon isolated and particular facts regarding a question which was ultimately to become the subject of general debate. But I accompanied the refusal with an intimation to the 80 hon. Member that if there was any point in connection with the case upon which he desired to have information, such in-formation should be most freely accorded him. I think I have made it clear to the House that the hon. Member has no ground whatever for complaint as to the information which he received from the Department. Now he says that the information which he desires is contained informal despatches from the Government of India, and he complains that those despatches have not been published. The reason why those despatches have not been published is that it was desired to avoid garbled extracts being published. I do not for one moment intend to suggest that the hon. Member himself would have given out garbled extracts, but there are gentlemen who might do so with the view and result of leading to direct misrepresentation, and therefore the Secretary of State thought it undesirable that any of the despatches should be made public, unless they were first properly moved for in this House.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
If I move for Papers with regard to the Warburton and Luson cases, will they be laid on the Table?
§ SIR J. GORST
If the hon. Member desires to have these despatches, and will place a Notice of Motion on the Paper, I will promise to give him all despatches that can properly be made public. With regard to the discovery which the hon. Member made last Session about the breach of the law, which he intimates renders the Secretary of State and his subordinates liable to imprisonment and punishment for deliberate violation of the law, I must say that the discovery does credit to the legal acumen of the hon. Member. The section he refers to is contained in the Government of India Act, 1858, and it requires that certain information shall be laid upon the Table of the House within fourteen days of the 1st day of May in every year when Parliament is sitting. Now that is a proviso which, I am sorry to say, has been neglected from the very first. Except, perhaps, in one or two accidental cases, the information has never been laid on the Table within the time prescribed by law. My attention was first called to it by the hon. Member in the course of last Session, and, anxious as I am sure the Secretary of State is above all men to formally observe the law, he is determined to 81 obey it in the coming year, and consequently in 1891 every effort will be made to comply as far as possible with the letter of the Statute. But I am sorry to say that the Return which Parliament requires to be laid on the Table is founded on information which has to be obtained from India, and it is not absolutely easy, now that the Government of our Indian Empire has so vastly developed itself, to obtain the information in time to lay the Returns on the Table at the date specified in the Act. I know that a few years ago, in consequence of a complaint made specially, I believe, by the hon. Member himself, as well as by other Members, of the late period at which Indian finances were ordinarily discussed, an effort was made to get the information respecting the finances of India laid upon the Table of the House at the earliest possible date. Great pressure was put upon all the Departments of the Government in India to send the information, but, notwithstanding that pressure, it was not available before some time in June. I am, therefore, afraid that it may be impossible to get the information to which the hon. Member refers ready for presentation earlier than in June. I can only repeat that I am sure that every effort will be made to comply with the Act so far as possible; but there is a danger that if an attempt is made to get the information ready by a fixed time it will not be nearly so complete, accurate, and perfect, as the Government of India and the Secretary of State desire. It is also worthy of note that on the occasion when the Government made such strenuous efforts to get particulars of Indian finance laid on the Table of the House early in the Session, the House never found time to discuss the subject until the very end of the Session, and thus the efforts made to secure the early information were entirely thrown away. Again I can only say I am sure that every effort will be made in the coming year to obtain as early as possible the information as to which the hon. Member is so anxious. (8.30.)
§ (8.45.) MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
My reason for intervening in this Debate for a few moments is to call attention to the paragraph in the Speech from the Throne which deals with the question of assisted education. The 82 term "assisted education" is not used' but——
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (8.48.) MR. S. SMITH
The paragraph in the Speech to which I wish to call attention reads as follows:—Your attention will be invited to the expediency of alleviating the burden which the law of compulsory education has in recent years imposed upon the poorer portion of my people.This language is not particularly pellucid, but in a general sense it can pretty well be understood. I suppose that what is really intended is the introduction of a scheme of what we call free education, that is, the removal of fees in elementary schools. We on this side of the House welcome the principle of free elementary education. I believe there will be no opposition whatever to the adoption of the principle. We believe that, upon the whole, free education will be a great boon to the poorer population of the country, and that it will tend in a very marked degree to the advance of education itself. But while I say that, I wish to point out to the Government that we shall reserve the right to criticise very closely the means by which they propose to give effect to the principle of free education. It is not unlikely that very serious differences of opinion may arise in the House before the principle can be carried into law, and I think it is only fair some of us should give an indication to the Government of certain conditions which will be necessary to give effect to this paragraph if it is to be received with anything like cordiality on this side of the House. In the first place, if the Government propose, as I have no doubt they do propose, to free the standards both in denominational and undenominational schools, there will be a very strong determination on this side of the House to secure some species of representative control of the voluntary or denominational schools. It will be proposed that a very large extra grant of public money be made both to Board and voluntary schools, a grant, I understand, amounting to something like 10s. per head. That will increase the Government grant by something like 60 per cent, beyond what it is now. If this great additional grant be 83 given to voluntary and denominational schools, it will be imperative that there should be some increase of public and popular control. I wish to speak particularly on behalf of Wales. In Wales the vast majority of the population are Nonconformists, but education is largely conducted by means of the Church of England schools. There exists in Wales much dissatisfaction with the way in which these Church schools are conducted. The feeling is wide and general that the schools are used for proselytising purposes. I have heard of cases which I can only describe as gross tyranny and hardship imposed upon the children of Nonconformists. I don't go so far as to say that in Wales we should atone sweep seek to brush away all Church and voluntary schools, bat I do ask for a reasonable degree of representation on the management of these schools, a sufficient representation to protect the people from anything like tyrannical or proselytising influences. In a recent tour I made in my constituency I was told that if free education was offered without that check or control, the people would rather be without it altogether. Again, if the principle of free education is proposed for elementary schools, I would strongly urge that all the standards should be free. A great mistake was made in Scotland last year in not freeing all the standards. The freeing of all the standards will be welcomed by the people as a great boon, but a half-and-half measure will not be received with satisfaction in the country. We wish particularly to extend the school age of the children. There is no point on which educationalists are so eager, and it is perfectly obvious that if we free only the first four or five standards, it will be extremely difficult to keep the children at school until they have passed the Sixth Standard. We wish to press on the Government that this is a wonderful opportunity for carrying out the recommendations of the Royal Commission which sat a few years ago. When we grant free education we may fairly ask the parents to make some small sacrifice; we may fairly ask that the compulsory age of exemption shall be 13 years, as recommended by the Royal Commission, and that the half time age should be raised from 10 to 11 years. I do not think there would be any opposition 84 in the country to such a proposal. We have already got some important educational boons from this Government, and if they will add to the boon of free education a lengthening of the school age they may rightly be regarded as benefactors of the working population. I ask them likewise to carry out the recommendation of the Royal Commission with regard to the establishment of evening or continuation schools. We got some encouragement in the Code of last year, but, after all, it was very imperfect. I ask the Government to make it an integral part of the educational system that School Boards shall be obliged to have continuation schools, and that under certain conditions the children shall be drafted into these schools for one or two years after they leave the day schools, as is done in Germany, Switzerland, and many of the Continental States. I am satisfied the Government will receive great support if they are encouraged to go forward in this direction. No doubt the attention of the country has been arrested by that passage in General Booth's book in which he has brought out in vivid colours the horrible condition of masses of our poorest urban population. I have repeatedly stated in this House, and I do so again, that you can make comparatively little impression on the great mass of squalor and misery in our large towns unless you can save the children. The whole secret of the remedy is, save the children; and to do that lengthen the school period and keep them under control until they reach the age of 15 or 16, as is done in Germany and in Switzerland. Keep them in elementary schools until 13 or 14, and then require attendance at continuation schools until they are 16 or 17 years of age, and so you will do much to remove the misery and degradation among the poorest of the populations of our large towns. I earnestly submit these proposals to the Government. I have failed in the Ballot to secure a place that will allow of my Bill in relation to continuation schools being discussed this Session, and, therefore, I appeal to the Government when they introduce their promised free education proposals, that they will couple with them clauses lengthening the term of school life and establishing everywhere continuation schools, and giving power to 85 School Boards and Committees to secure the attendance of children at these schools. One other point I wish to bring before the Government. It will be necessary if we have universal free education to have some kind of classification of children. Already it is felt to be a great grievance among the better portion of our working classes that their children have to associate with those of the most degraded classes who live in the worst slums of our towns. It is complained that however carefully children are brought up at home they have to associate at public schools with the children of thieves and prostitutes, and contamination spreads through the school. These evils will be immensely increased by the free school system. You will have the children of the respectable class mixing with the demoralised class, and corruption will follow. I do not know what principle of classification the Government will adopt. I would not be averse to having a few schools where fees are charged, and to which parents may send their children if they wish. It is one of the most startling paragraphs in General Booth's book, wherein he describes how the taint of immorality is spread through to schools by children from the slums. Undoubtedly, this point deserves the most serious attention. One thing more I must mention. Ugly rumours are floating about that the funds for the support of free education will be drawn from the money voted to County Councils for technical and intermediate education. I hope there is no truth in these rumours. County Councils with few exceptions are using the money admirably for educational purposes, and a great scheme of intermediate and technical education has been constructed based on the permanent application of these funds to this purpose, and it would be regarded as a breach of faith, a dishonourable act, to take away this money again.
§ MR. S. SMITH
I am glad to find that opinion has my right hon. Friend's approval. For Wales I can speak particularly; the whole of the Principality is being covered with a net-work of intermediate schools, reliance being placed 86 on the permanent character of the grant. I hope the Government will not give countenance to any suggestion such as I have indicated, and will resist any temptation to so divert these funds. Just one observation on the Tithes Bill. It has now been promised for three Sessions. We all know that the main object of the Tithes Bill is to introduce peace and tranquility in Wales in this connection. Now, I wish to express my conviction that no settlement of the tithes question will in the smallest degree satisfy the people of Wales that is not coupled with a scheme for the disestablishment of the Church. I say this as a Representative of the Welsh people, and every Liberal Member from Wales will bear me out. No question causes such an intense and burning agitation among the Welsh people as this of the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. The tithe question is only a branch of this subject, and the Government are under a great delusion if they think that by changing the incidence of the tithe they can allay this agitation. It will continue and increase until the principle of religious equality is secured to the Welsh people. I will say no more, for I agree in deprecating a needless prolongation of the Debates on the Address. There was a great waste of time last year, which I am glad to think will not be repeated, and I hope that all through this Session time will not be squandered in bitter Party recriminations, but that we shall devote ourselves to useful constructive legislation in the discussion of which all Parties may have their share, for surely there is a large common ground of patriotism we can all occupy in spite of the strong divisions of opinion that separate Political Parties.
(9.9.) MR. BARTLET (Islington, N.)
I have but a few words to say on the subject of free education. I have had a great deal to do with educational matters for many years. I had a great deal to do with the passing of the first Act in 1870, and before I had the honour of knowing Mr. Forster I assisted in work in the East End in connection with the movement and the measure which Mr. Forster complimented me on having assisted him to pass. I am keenly alive to the importance of extending education, and I think that the 87 subject of free education is one to be promoted not on Party lines, but upon the consideration of whether it will improve education and the social condition of the people. The history of free education of course is difficult to trace, but much has been published on the subject. It was gone into by a Royal Commission a few years ago, and the Commissioners expressed their opinion that a system of universal free schools was not desirable. Mr. Fitch, a leading educationalist, and who no doubt has done an immense deal for the cause of education—no man having more sympathy with the promotion of education—has distinctly stated his opinion that a universal system of free education would be most mischievous. In connection with the subject, the question of regular attendance is important to consider, and I am afraid that authorities seem to agree that in free schools attendance is not so regular as in those schools where fees are paid. I gather from a remark of the hon. Member who has just spoken that he is of opinion that it is desirable to have some schools in which fees are paid. This is not the time to enter fully into the question. When the Bill is introduced we shall consider it carefully, but it is necessary to say a few words, as this is brought up rather as a novelty, and we have not sufficient light on the subject as some persons think. Authorities speaking with experience of the free system in America and in Scotland show that in free schools attendance is not so regular and progress not so good as where fees are paid. I will not weary the House with references. I must candidly say that, to my mind, a great object is to secure the safety of voluntary schools as representing denominational teaching. I know that certain of our friends do not regard this as of so much importance as we do, but under no system can we support any Bill that will damage or endanger the existence of these voluntary schools. Of course if these fees are done away with in some way, the money must be made up. Some propose an increase of the rates; but I think we shall find that will not be a popular movement. The increase would be a large one. So it would also if the charge were thrown on Imperial taxation, and the proposal will 88 lead to much discussion. I think from remarks from hon. Gentlemen opposite, and correspondence in the Press, there is a determination that voluntary schools should be managed by Elective Boards. I have no objection to Elective Boards, but I say voluntary schools must maintain their distinctive character. We have got Board schools, but we insist on the schools for the Church of England, for Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, and others, maintaining, if they think proper, their particular denominational character. I lay great stress upon this; but how it is to be managed I candidly confess I do not know, under the proposal to abolish fees. The financial question requires grave consideration. The cost of education, roughly speaking, is seven and a half millions—half of the amount paid from the Imperial Exchequer, a quarter by localities, and a good quarter, or nearly two millions, by fees. Well, if we propose an increase in local rates, it means an enormous addition of something like a thirteenth of the whole local rating of the country—something like 3d. in the £1. I do not think anybody will venture to propose an increase of that kind to do away with school fees. There are those who say the cost should in some form be thrown on Imperial taxation, and it has been proposed that it should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. That, of course, means there must be extra taxation that can only take one of two forms—1d. in the £1 on the Income Tax, or 6d. or 9d. a gallon upon alcohol. I have no objection to the addition to the one or the other, if such is necessary; but if we are going to make the addition in order to abolish school fees, let us be told so distinctly. On the social aspect of the question I have just a word or two to say. On this ground many who are ardent supporters of education are opposed to the proposal. Mrs. Fawcett, a keen supporter of everything that promotes the wellbeing of the masses, has written strongly opposing the idea of free education. Professor Fawcett also opposed it, and he said it meant a very large extension of outdoor relief. Looking at it from a social aspect, I ask, Is it wise, inasmuch as education is now paid for in the proportion of three-fourths by the State and a fourth by individuals—is it really wise to throw the whole cost upon the 89 State? No doubt it is a very popular thing—it always is—to talk about paying for popular education, or anything else of the kind; but we ought to consider what is best for education and for the community, not what is merely popular. We may fairly ask whether it is socially wise to take away more and more the responsibility of parents in connection with educational matters. We know—it is within my own experience from visits among the poorer classes— that they make sacrifices in order to give their children good education, that they have denied themselves things they would like to indulge in. Is it wise to do away with this feeling? I think it is a question that needs consideration. Mrs. Fawcett, I remember, in a brief but graphic article on the subject, said that, in her opinion, based upon practical knowledge, a great number of the poorest fathers resisted temptation to drink because of their desire and determination to do their utmost for the education of their children. She went on to say that, in her opinion, this incentive led to more temperance than the work of the Alliance and all the temperance associations combined. I give that as an opinion, not vouching for it, though I think it is likely to be correct. We must consider in connection with removing this responsibility from parents what has happened this last year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that there had been an increase of payments to him for alcohol of £1,800,000, or a sum of nearly the amount of the school fees of the whole country. Taking the alcohol bill, if one glass in every 75 consumed by the people were saved it would produce the sum now paid in school fees. It does seem to me a grave subject for consideration whether it is socially wise thus to lessen the responsibility of parents, to reduce the restraints upon the poor against the increase of population and children they cannot possibly provide for. There is present to my mind an instance of a young man in a very humble position of life—a road scavenger. I had befriended him a good deal, but I found to my astonishment that he had married at the age of 19 or 20 and had two or three children, and died at about 23, leaving them, of course, to the mercy of the world. Is it wise, I ask again, to encourage such a 90 disastrous state of affairs? In relieving parents of responsibility we enter upon very dangerous ground. I refer to this because I am sure these are social not party questions—they concern the social improvement of the great mass of the people.
§ (9.25.) MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
I think no part of the Queen's Speech will be more welcome than that which refers to the intention of the Government to do something to assist popular education. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down deplores the possibility of this proposal begetting habits of imprudence among the people, and, possibly, imprudent and too early marriages. But the very object of education, as I understand it, is to prevent this evil, if it is an evil, or to lessen it to a great extent. The object of education is to enlighten the minds of the people—to raise them into a higher position socially and intellectually than they have occupied in the past. I think, then, the remarks of the hon. Member were entirely wide of the mark and do not bear a critical examination. I have said this proposal will be welcome to the great mass of the people, but this, of course, is providing there is no attempt whatever to endow any section or party— to favour in any way whatever one religious denomination as against another. If there is any attempt to endow any particular kind of education— to favour any particular religious denomination in their teaching—then the Government may be assured that their proposal will be carefully examined, resisted, and if possible defeated. But my object is to notice the unfortunate position created by the division of the subjects mentioned in the Queen's Speech into grades, and I regret to notice that while in the first grade Irish landlords are to have the first consideration of Her Majesty's Government, domestic matters affecting every workman, workwoman and child in the country are relegated to the third or fourth grade. I find the Employers' Liability Bill treated as only possibly a subject for consideration in case the Government may towards June or July find themselves without legislative occupation. Rather than waste time, they promise to consider this burning question of Employers' Liability. 91 That is the sense in which I understand the arrangement of subjects for possible legislation, and the respective values the Government have formed of them. I only wish to point out this, if the Employers' Liability Bill is of the same character as the Bill of last Session, it will be met in exactly the same spirit, and every possible means will be taken to prevent the Bill becoming law. But, if the Government have only progressed in opinion at the rate they did between 1888 and last Session, then we may look for a very good Bill, and if it should prove to be such a Bill then I can promise, so far as I can be of the least service, to use all my influence and efforts in assisting the Government to pass the measure. A bad, misleading Bill, such as that of last Session, will meet with every opposition, though you may be pleased to call it obstruction. The Bill of 1888 was treated with indifference by the Government, though they carried the Second Reading by a majority of 55, and in the next year it was not introduced at all, or not circulated. Last Session it was introduced at a very late period, and no attempt was made to promote a discussion upon it, the Government being too much engrossed with concern for the interests of Irish landlords and brewers, and now it is relegated to the third or fourth grade of importance. One other point I note with regret, the absence from the Speech of all reference to legislation for amending the law in relation to factories and workshops. A Committee has been sitting in the Lords, and an important Report has been made by it. The Home Secretary at the end of the Session of 1889 promised that the Government would deal with that Report, and would consider amendments to the present law in the Session of the present year. The first Session of 1890 has passed without any attempt whatever being made on the part of the Government to deal with the terrible evils exposed by that Committee and by other agencies, and the second Session of 1890 has commenced with a Queen's Speech mentioning subjects enough to last for the next seven years in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grades, but, so low and utterly insignificant is the question of factory and workshop legislation considered by the Government, that it is 92 not even mentioned in the fifth grade amongst the possibilities of legislation this Session. I sincerely hope the Solicitor General will be good enough to relate to some of his lost and dispersed colleagues one or two of the points that have been raised if he thinks them sufficiently important to mention, and will warn them what they may expect if they are going to deal with such burning questions as employers' liability at some late period of the Session when the House is wearied and exhausted by its other work. Certainly, if they take such a course, they may look for the united and determined opposition of the representatives of labour.
§ (9.33.) SIR R. TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
My reason for rising is to say a few words in support of the remarkably able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) on the important subject of free or assisted education. I endorse every word he said on the subject, whether viewed from an educational, a social, a moral, or a financial standpoint. I can support what he said about the effect of the collection of fees on regularity of attendance from the recent history of the School Board for London. Within the last year our fees have been falling off, and the collections have been unsatisfactory. Our average attendance has been often held up to the House by the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) as a model for all other educational institutions. But the attendance has been falling off simultaneously with the falling off of the fees. I cannot help connecting the two things. With regard to the financial effect of what is supposed to be the Government proposal, I assume that the idea of charging the additional sum that may be necessary as compensation for the loss of fees upon the local taxation is out of the question. I feel certain that the local taxpayers, who have to reckon up their pennies in the £1, will never consent to that. But, that being so, we have this extraordinary fact financially that the British taxpayer must, in the shape either of indirect or direct taxation, pay an additional sum of £2,000,000 or £2,500,000 to make up 93 for the loss of fees that are being collected all round without any perceptible burden on the mass of the parents and without being generally complained of. The hon. Member who just sat down spoke of the pauperising effect of the fees due from indigent parents being paid by the Guardians. But no such system is needful. In the metropolitan area those parents who are unable to pay have only to prove their inability to the School Board local authorities, and their children will be admitted to the schools free of fees without any difficulty. The number of such parents is, of course, limited. But if the fees are remitted to the parents universally, then somebody will have to pay; that somebody is the British taxpayer. In London the difficulty in the collection of the fees is owing partly to the condition of public opinion. The world, or rather an influential part of the world, seems to have determined that there shall be no fees. That reflects itself upon the policy of the School Board, and that, again, reflects itself upon the parents. Before this question was raised we had no difficulty in the metropolitan area in collecting the fees, and I do not believe that any other class of elementary schools has any difficulty. But if a Government so powerful and influential and worthy of respect as the present Government has determined to do away with school fees, I must support them in carrying out the measure for the general good, and in deference to public opinion, but I hope nothing will be done to endanger the stability of the voluntary system. On the contrary, I trust that the measure will help to consolidate the position of the voluntary schools, and to give them an enduring character of permanency. Entirely as I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington in objecting to free education, I would myself, as things have gone so far, help the Government in carrying a measure in which I myself do not perfectly concur, and I would counsel my Parliamentary comrades to do the same. As a School Board man, I am brought very much into contact with managers of voluntary schools. Probably no one knows their anxieties and distresses so well, and I can assure the House that they well deserve all the assistance 94 which can be given them, as they are most assiduous in their duties, and most anxious to make the voluntary schools as effective as possible. No cause is so sacred in their eyes, and no matter lies so deep in their hearts and affections as that of the voluntary school system. They know that with this system is bound up the cause of religious education—I will not say Scriptural education, because that is well given by the Board schools. The hon. Member who has just sat down expressed a hope that no exclusive assistance will be given to a particular denomination. Surely he knows that no exclusive assistance will be given to any particular denomination. All denominational schools must be treated alike—Church of England, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, and others. It will bear the stamp of a long Catholic Christianity. I do hope if the measure is carried that it will do something really to make the voluntary system an institution of the future as it has been of the past and is of the present. It has been the pioneer of the early education of the English people. Up to the year 1870 it was the one great agency for elevating the masses of our countrymen. Under it our people became foremost in all world-wide enterprises, and attained the headship of the industrial world. Its history forms one of the brightest features and one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of England. It demonstrates the potency of private effort without State organisation. It is regarded as among the chief ornaments of our national inheritance, as one of the jewels in the Crown of England, and as a circumstance unique in the educational history of all nations in modern times.
§ (9.41.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I should not have taken part in the discussion but for some remarks which were made by the First Lord of the Treasury and for the very singular speeches of the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir R Temple) and the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Bartley). The First Lord of the Treasury has complained of the difficulties in which Her Majesty's Government is placed in carrying valuable measures by the obstruction they meet with in this House. I wish the House to note that the first signs of objection to the only measure Her 95 Majesty's Government has announced for the benefit and well-being of the people of England, has come from two hon. Members on his own side, who have opened a not ineffective masked battery upon the free education proposals mentioned in the Queen's Speech. Both hon. Members have declared that free education is an unclean thing, and that it is unsound socially and economically. The hon. Member for Evesham says one great objection to free education is that somebody will have to pay for it. I think the Government were right in putting into the Queen's Speech the word "burden." The fees have been a burden which have weighed sorely on the people of this country. One advantage in connection with the two speeches, to which I have just referred, is that on the first day of the Session -we have the plainest intimation that the project of free education is regarded with hostility on its merits by Members opposite, and that the only reason on which they will consent to afford even qualified support to the scheme is that they hope they can use it as a means of consolidating the position of the voluntary schools, and of rivetting the chains of sectarianism around the poor of our country for ever. I venture to say that on this side of the House there will be the warmest appreciation of Her Majesty's Ministry in taking up the question of free education. As long as their proposals are on lines which we can approve, Her Majesty's Government will receive our warmest support. But if this project of free education is to be used in order to bolster up and support the position of the voluntary schools, if the purse-strings of the Treasury are to be loosened for the benefit of voluntary schools without any adequate guarantee, such as would be afforded by a universal system of School Boards, that the educational work of the country will be efficiently carried out, the Government proposals will meet hostility and opposition on this side of the House. With regard to the question of free or assisted education, is it to be understood that the proposals of the Government are to be limited to relieving the poor from fees within the compulsory standards? Are we to have relief up to the third standard only 96 in those schools where unhappily that is the standard for exemption? Her Majesty's Government has had experience in dealing with this question in Scotland, and they know very well the difficulties that arose in remitting fees only in the lower standards. It simply amounts to imposing a fine, and a very effectual fine, upon the best class of parents—those who wish to keep their children at school and to educate them to higher points. We shall certainly resist the education proposals of the Government if we find they are to be carried out on the lines laid down by the two hon. Members who have spoken opposite, if there is to be no concession to the principle of popular control of schools whose revenues are to be assisted by public money, and if we find them doing away with the 17s. 6d. limit to relieve the pockets of the subscribers of voluntary schools. But if Her Majesty's Government would listen to reason, and will take the advice, for example, of wise leaders of religious opinion, like the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rev. W. Bury, and Dr. Percival, and will form a bridge towards a rational system of popular control where public money is involved, without prejudicing the cause of religious education, or interfering with any principle, it may be possible even in this Session and in this Parliament to arrive at some rational conclusion in regard to this matter. A good deal has been heard about obstruction, but I think the House and the country ought to be reminded of how the time was wasted in the last Session. The Government have placed themselves in a position of exceptional advantage in the Sessions of 1889 and 1890. In 1889 the House sat on 122 days, and there were 131 separate Sittings. Of these Sittings the Government took 106, whereas private Members had only 25 at their disposal. In the past Session the position was even worse. The House sat on 125 days, the total number of Sittings was 139, and the Government took 106 Sittings, leading private Members but 23. The Returns of the Sittings show that the Government in both Sessions exactly doubled the allowance of time accorded to them by the usual custom of the House. If we take the discussions which resulted in nothing at all and 97 were absolutely wasted in the 106 Sittings occupied by the Ministry, we find that they extended over from 40 to 43 days of Parliamentary time, or more than one-third of the whole of the Session. There were Debates on whether the publication of the forged letter was a breach of privilege, on the Special Commission, on the Land Purchase Bill.
§ MR. CHANNING
What I was wishing to prove, Mr. Deputy Speaker, was that Her Majesty's Ministry had taken too much of the time of the House during the past Session and had then complained of their failure to carry the legislation they proposed. The Government are themselves greatly to blame in introducing measures like the compensation of publicans scheme of last Session, which took up 22 days that might have been more usefully occupied; and the fact is there has been in the last two Sessions a greater encroachment on the rights of private Members than has ever been known in Parliamentary history. We have, therefore, little reason to give the Government further power to curtail the rights of private Members this year. The three principal measures are, one for endowing the Irish landlords with the money of the taxpayers, another for the maintenance of the power of the Church in regard to tithes, and the free education bill. They relegate many questions of practical importance to a wholly secondary position. I protest all the, more against private Members being deprived of opportunities for carrying useful legislation, all the more strongly because we have had illustrations of the ease with which useful measures can be passed The Housing of the Working Classes Act was carried after four hours had been devoted to it in this House and three Morning Sittings in a Grand Committee. We object to the bringing forward of such measures as those first mentioned in the Queen's Speech, instead of the introduction of proposals such as are relegated in that Speech to inferior positions.
§ (9.56.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I wish to call attention to one phase of 98 the question of distress in Ireland which has not been referred to in the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to focus his attention exclusively on what are called the congested districts. I would call attention to the fact that, although the distress is most severely felt in the congested districts, there is a large portion of Ireland in which it will be felt to a very considerable extent, although not with the same intensity. Speaking broadly, the districts to which I refer embrace the whole western half of Ireland. The phrase "congested districts" has been substituted for "scheduled districts," and means a very much smaller area of Ireland. Take the counties of Galway and Mayo. They comprise a very large portion of Ireland. The congested districts within those borders comprise the mountainous parts of Connemara and North Mayo. Although in the district I have indicated the people are not so poor as those in the mountainous districts which the Government propose to deal with, they nevertheless have to suffer a good deal from poverty, and, as far as I can see, no attention has been paid to the population of those large areas. I am fearful, therefore, of what may take place unless something is done for their relief. I may say that I do not anticipate any extraordinary accession to the numbers of that class of the poor who habitually come upon the poors rates, and so live upon their neighbours, but, as I have pointed out, there is a very large section of the population who, while hating to come under the Poor Law and being supported by their neighbours, will nevertheless find themselves without sufficient food or resources as the winter progresses. Some of them might indeed be able to hang on by selling their holdings, but by so doing they would bring themselves into a condition of permanent poverty, and they certainly will need some assistance—not perhaps so much as those in the congested districts, but still sufficient to enable them to carry on through the coming winter season. There are, of course, different ways of affording relief. In the first place the Government may do this by instituting a moderate amount of public works. There is also another way in which they may be assisted. It may be that, with the ex 99 ception, of Connemara and Galway, the Irish occupiers are generally able to stand the effects of one famine, but there can be no doubt that, apart from those places in which the potato disease is most extensive, there has been a considerable diminution of the potato crop in other districts, so that there must evidently be a large deficiency all round. It has always been the case in Ireland that when a particular class of potato goes bad that class continues to exhibit disease from year to year, so that next year we may, unless remedial steps are taken, expect to hear continued reports on the potato disease. Now, the Government have given no notice of their intention to take measures with regard to this matter. It is well known to potato growers in England and Scotland that the potato, being propagated artificially from cuttings and not from seed, requires, at stated times, to be changed, one variety being substituted for another, in addition to periodical changes of soil. Although this is done by the English and Scotch growers, it is not done by the small growers in the West of Ireland; and I fear there is no likelihood of such changes of seed or locality being made, unless the Government in some way or other steps in to the assistance of the growers. I do not suggest that they should give them the seed altogether, but, at any rate, they might sell it at a considerable modification of the ordinary prices. It is probable that fresh importations of good seed from England and Scotland would prove a sufficient remedy: at any rate it has been tried before and has been successful. Such a mode of assisting the people under existing circumstances would not cost the Government a very large amount, and I would suggest that they should take steps in this direction at the earliest possible moment. Having thus drawn the attention of the Government to this subject, I have only to say that if they do not adopt some action of the kind I have suggested, an immense responsibility will rest upon their shoulders. They are proposing to take up for some time to come the whole of the time which would otherwise be at the disposal of private Members, and in that way they will prevent any private Member from bringing forward a proposal of this nature. If the Government 100 will undertake to bring on a measure themselves, I for one should not so much object to their taking up the time for private business. If they will not do this, then, as I have just said, they are taking upon themselves a very heavy responsibility. I do not ask them to bring on a measure immediately, because I know that the matter is one of considerable importance, and one that would necessarily require a good deal of consideration on their part before they could frame or bring forward a measure upon the subject, but I trust they will afford us some assurance that the question shall be brought forward and discussed in this House.
§ (10.10.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I had intended to have moved an Amendment to the Address, but I am not quite sure whether I should be exactly in order in so doing. It seems to me that we ought to arrive at some better system of conducting our business, and this, I think, is proved by the fact that we are summoned here late in the autumn for the purpose of doing work which we ought to have carried through during the past Session. It seems to me perfectly impossible for this Parliament to carry on the enormous amount of important work it has to perform under existing circumstances, and whenever the Government gives me time to bring the matter forward it will be my duty to introduce a measure relative to a system of devolution in regard to the business of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, whereby, I think, the time of the House would be materially saved, and the Imperial Parliament would be enabled to get through the more important measures brought before us. Under the circumstances, however, I think it would be better to postpone the subject until private Members are allowed by the Government to introduce and discuss those questions which they desire to bring forward.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Address ordered to be presented by Privy Councillors.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Ten o'clock.