§ SECOND READING.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (4.38.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) Strand, Westminster
I shall not occupy the time of the House for more than a very few minutes in moving the Second Reading, relying upon an understanding which has been arrived at between the delegates and ourselves as to the necessity of taking this stage. The House is aware that the Bill has been promoted solely with the view of enabling Her Majesty's Government to carry out obligations which now exist between this country and France. Unless a measure of this kind were passed, either by Newfoundland or by this country, Her Majesty's Government would be without the power of carrying out their obligations. A letter which has been received by the Secretary of State for the Colonies from the delegates will justify the course which I am about to take on the present occasion. He addresses my noble Friend in these terms:—May 27,1891.My Lord,—We learn that Her Majesty's Government are not averse to the proposition made by us relative to the passing of a temporary Act for carrying out the modus vivendi respecting the lobster fishery, the execution of the award which may be made under the agreement for arbitration as regards lobsters, and the Treaties, provided that such Act is made to terminate at the end of the year 1893. We make this proposition with considerable reluctance, and refrain from recommending its conclusion by the Local Legislature without receiving from Her Majesty's Government an assurance that in case such Bill be passed, Her Majesty's Government will, first, withdraw the Bill now before the House of Commons after its Second Reading; secondly, will also give an assurance that the terms of a permanent Bill to be passed by the Colonial Legislature based upon the principle of the establishment of Courts under Judges or Magistrates, instead of under naval officers, for the adjudication of questions arising under the Treaties, modus Vivendi, and award of the present arbitration, be forthwith discussed with the delegates, and arranged. Such permanent Act, when passed by the Colonial Legislature, might at once supersede the present colonial temporary Act. In case no such permanent Act can be arranged and passed, which we cannot conceive as probable, of course it will be competent for Par- 1211 liament to pass such an Act before the end of the year 1893 as it may deem necessary for the carrying out of the Treaties, &c.My noble Friend wrote at once to the delegates that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to give an assurance that they will withdraw the Imperial Bill after the Second Reading if the Colonial Legislature will pass a temporary Bill making adequate provision to enable us to fulfil our obligations until the end of 1893. Her Majesty's Government are also prepared to arrange with the Colonial Government for a permanent Bill. That is a statement of the condition of affairs as between Her Majesty's Government and the delegates of the Newfoundland Legislature at the present time. I hope that in asking the House to refrain from entering into all the circumstances of the case which render this legislation necessary at the present moment the House will see that I am consulting the interest of the colony and the interest of that good understanding which I trust will always exist between the inhabitants of the colonies and the Government of this country. This is a question of the greatest possible moment in the interest of the colony and of the Empire. Whatever Government may be in power, it must desire that the engagements to which we are committed must be observed at once by the Government at home, and by those Local Governments which are in any way concerned. I trust that the House will accept the Second Reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
(4.43.) MR. A. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
I am sorry I cannot completely endorse what has fallen from my right hon. Friend as to the action of the Colonial Office in this matter; Her Majesty's Government have taken every step rather to irritate than to conciliate the Colonial Legislature. ["Oh, oh!"] It was only at the very last moment, when the Motion had been made that the delegates be heard at the Bar, that they were informed that their proposal was accepted. This Bill was brought in to replace the lapsed temporary Act. It was only about a year ago that it was discovered that there 1212 were no powers to enforce the Treaty claims, and it became necessary to pass a Bill which would enable Her Majesty's Government to carry out their engagements. The existing state of things has been largely brought about by the manner in which the Treaty rights have been carried out. May I be allowed to read the statement that would have been made by the delegates had they come to this Bar, as showing the feeling that was necessarily excited on the state of facts that came before the public—British statesmen," the Newfoundland delegates say, "have declared that the French have only a right to fish in common with British subjects in the waters of the Treaty coast; but British naval officers have prevented British fishermen from fishing there, have driven them from their own waters, and French naval officers have been permitted to commit similar acts with impunity. British fishing vessels, in going into harbours upon the Treaty coast for refuge on their way to fish upon the Labrador, have, in like manner, been driven to sea because they presumed to fish while there. British statesmen have declared that the erection of lobster factories by the French upon the Treaty coast is a violation of the Treaties; and M. Waddington declared that two Frenchmen having commenced erecting lobster factories, their erections took the form of solid permanent buildings, and must be removed.' Yet a British lobster factory upon the Treaty coast was removed by order of a British naval officer, who permitted a French lobster factory to be erected in the same place, and the British fisherman is up to this day without redress, notwithstanding that strong representations were made to Her Majesty's Government in his behalf. Her Majesty is the Sovereign of the soil of Newfoundland, and yet a British subject, having erected a house at some distance from the shore on the Treaty coast, purposing to prosecute agricultural operations, had his house pulled down by order of a French naval officer, and up to this day no redress or compensation has been afforded him, notwithstanding strong appeals in his case to Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty is the Sovereign of the soil of Newfoundland, and yet the local Government is prevented from making grants of land up to a half mile from high-water mark, without being clogged with conditions which render the title so precarious that no prudent man will invest capital in developing the mining, agricultural, and other internal industrial resources of the country in proximity to the Treaty coast. All such operations on this part of the Island are stopped, extending over a distance of about 700 miles of coast. Her Majesty is the Sovereign of the soil of Newfoundland, and yet the working of mines upon the Treaty coast has been stopped by French intervention, and in one case a French officer threatened to fire upon the buildings erected for the operation of a mine upon this coast. The herring fishery at Sandy point, in St. George's 1213 Bay on the Treaty coast, has been prosecuted by British subjects for over 60 years without molestation or hindrance from the French until within the last three years, and yet a French officer presumed to land upon the coast and stopped their fishing, which was the sole means of, their support. Numerous other examples may be adduced illustrative of the condition I have described.I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury when he said that the Treaties made by Great Britain must be respected and executed. The Newfoundland delegates came over here instructed by both sides in the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly of the Island first to enter into terms for the passing of a temporary Bill to carry out the modus vivendi; secondly, to arrange the terms of a, permanent Bill to carry out the arbitration and Treaty rights; and, thirdly, more important than all, to arrange a judicial system for the administration of those Treaty rights. The greatest burden and grievance to the Newfoundlanders has been the way in which the Treaty rights under the Treaty of Utrecht have been administered. The French, in fact, have been far more clever in the matter than we have. Sir J. D. Hardy, Sir F. Kelly and Sir Hugh Cairns have given their Opinion on the question, and it recognises the injustice inflicted on the Newfoundlanders. The French have certainly looked more closely into the matter than the English have, and have made good use of the knowledge they have thus obtained. It is by these means that they have been able to make from time to time the encroachments they have effected on their Treaty rights. The course taken by the French has been to send an old and experienced naval officer to Newfoundland, who would remain there eight or ten years, would know everything that was going on, and would be able to judge how the interests of the, French could be best served to the exclusion of the British, England, on the contrary, has been in the habit of sending out young lieutenants of gunboats for terms of two years, or less, and consequently from want of experience they have been placed at a great disadvantage compared with the French officer, and British and Newfoundland interests have suffered in consequence. Hence, when any case has 1214 come before these maritime tribunals, the Newfoundlanders have generally got the worst of it. The people of Newfoundland, therefore, appealed to Her Majesty's Government to send them out some competent Magistrate, some person or persons of high character, who both, on board and On shore, would judicially administer the Treaty Law, and they declared that with such an arrangement they would be content. The delegates understood that the terms with which they started from the Island, and to which I have referred, had been accepted, and if hon. Members will look to what was said in the House of Lords they will find that those terms were accepted by Lord Salisbury and Lord Knutsford. But the delegates found that the Government required that there should be a longer extension of time to meet the contingency of Parliament being adjourned, or, possibly dissolved, at the time when the Act might come to an end; and they were willing to accept this, and we all felt the Bill must be passed, and I quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby that we could not have come down to oppose this Bill if the Colonial Bill had not been passed by the Newfoundland Legislature. Sir William Whiteway and his colleagues, having carried out most honourably everything they had promised, cabled across to Newfoundland and the time was extended. The Act as it now stands will, by the action of the Newfoundland Legislature, be in operation until the end of 1893, and the modus vivendi has also been extended to meet the requirements of the Government. What, then, is the present position of the delegates? They have done everything the Government requires; they have, I venture to say, loyally and completely carried out all that has been required of them. They have passed the Act in the form I have stated. I do not like to make any complaint, especially against my own political Friends, but I am bound to say that the delegates have certainly been treated with scant courtesy by the Colonial Office, which they have always found running counter, for some reason or other, to them, I am glad, however, that the terms have been accepted. I must remind the House that it was not 1215 until half-past 3 o'clock this afternoon that I had placed in my hands the letter then sent to the Newfoundland delegates from the Colonial Office, in which the Colonial Secretary wrote—I have the pleasure of conveying to you an, assurance from Her Majesty's Government that after the Second Reading they will withdraw the Bill which is now before the House of Commons. I have further to acquaint you that Her Majesty's Government are prepared forthwith to discuss and arrange with you the terms of a permanent Bill to be passed by the Colonial Legislature on the general principle referred to in the second paragraph of your letter of the 27th inst., and I am to add that the views of Her Majesty's Government in respect to the other points mentioned in that letter have been stated in the previous correspondence.I am glad, indeed, that the terms have been accepted, and I join heartily in the wish of the Leader of the House that the matter may be settled without further difficulty.
§ (4.58.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I am quite sure I express the sentiments of both sides of the House when I say that the House of Commons has heard with the greatest satisfaction that the unhappy controversy which has been going on now for some weeks between the Newfoundland delegates and Legislature and Her Majesty's Government is at last happily closed. With reference to that controversy, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has deprecated discussion on the subject. There is one way in which he might have avoided discussion, and in which I think he ought to have done so, namely, by not asking the House of Commons, as a mere matter of form, to read this Bill a second time. Why are we reading it a second time? It is a Bill most offensive in its character to the Colony of Newfoundland, and to read it a second time is, I think, in the circumstances, absolutely unnecessary, after what I call the very high-minded conduct on the part of the delegates and the Legislature of Newfoundland. What is the necessity for this measure, and why are we asked to read it a second time? I do not hesitate to say that if, after the course which the Legislature of Newfoundland has pursued, and which the delegates have followed, there had been any attempt to force this Bill through the House of Commons, it would have received the most determined resistance 1216 from the vast majority of the House Therefore, I ask again, Why is the Bill to be read a second time? The right hon. Gentleman said it is assented to by the delegates. Yes; but I imagine that the delegates and people of Newfoundland would be better pleased if the Bill were not read a second time. I can conceive no greater catastrophe that could have happened to Great Britain than if this quarrel between the Mother Country and one of her most ncient colonies had come to an issue. From first to last I may say I think the conduct of the colony and of the delegates has been beyond all praise. ["Hear, hear!" and "Oh, oh!" from the Government side.] I notice the unfortunate spirit exhibited by that utterance—a spirit which has nearly brought us into an extremely false position. It is that domineering and dictating spirit which is a great danger in dealing with our Colonial Empire. For this is not a question of Newfoundland alone—it is a question as to our dealing with our self-governing colonies in other parts of the world. Depend upon it, that this is not a question of Newfoundland alone. Although the controversy is closed now, there is a lesson to be drawn from it which will be of use in our dealings with our self-governing colonies in every part of the world. Depend upon it, you could not have passed a measure of this kind without arousing a great amount of feeling and resentment in all our self-governing colonies in every part of the world. What is the controversy which has been going on for the last few weeks between Her Majesty's Government and the Colony of New found land? The right hon. Gentleman said that international obligations must be observed. We all agree in that. The Colony of Newfoundland and the delegates have always admitted that, for they have declared their willingness to consent and be parties to a measure which would secure the performance of international obligations. There has never been a controversy about that. But naturally the people of" Newfoundland have felt the extremely onerous and irksome position in which they were placed by ancient Treaties. They had a right to demand that the English Government should use their influence to ameliorate that position by negotiations of all kinds. Anybody who 1217 has looked at the map and who knows what is called the French shore of Newfoundland must feel what is the irritation existing among the population of Newfoundland, and what is the necessary inconvenience to which they are subjected. Let hon. Gentlemen endeavour to picture to themselves what would be the feeling of the inhabitants of Great Britain if along the shore from Portsmouth to John o' Groat's—along a length of 700 miles—there was not a single Englishman who could erect a building, or construct a railway, or conduct any of the business of civilised life on that shore. The people of Newfoundland naturally felt that that was a great grievance, and they desired that some method should be found to relieve them from that inconvenience. People in that situation well deserved the greatest consideration at the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and ought to have been dealt with most tenderly and most judiciously. I cannot say that I have seen in these transactions a disposition to meet the colony in that spirit. In another place language was used which I thought was of a most cynical and irritating character. But in spite of that the delegates made this offer, when Sir W. White way was heard at the Bar of the House of Lords. They said, "We will give you practically your existing powers, if it comes to that, for a year, or whatever time may be necessary, to allow us to turn round, and to give us elbow room in order that we may consider what is the best method of coming to some permanent arrangement." What, under this Bill, which the Government have laid on the Table, is the proposal and the jurisdiction to carry out the international obligations? In a self-governing colony a young and inexperienced officer of a man-of-war may go to the shore and pull down buildings, and oust the jurisdiction of that colony and the whole of its Government and its officers, and its Magistrates. That is a situation which is intolerable to a proud and sensitive people, and if they were not proud and sensitive they would not deserve the situation they hold of being the oldest colony almost of the Crown. They naturally desired to be relieved from that particular method of enforcing international obligations. They justly demanded that you should, with them, 1218 consider some method, by means of Courts within their territory, to carry out the international obligations in a more regular and less forcible manner than by invasion by these officers. The proposal of the delegates was this. They said, "We will pass a temporary Bill for a year, or longer if necessary; but give us time with you to settle upon a permanent Bill, which will have the effect of securing in a manner less grating to our sentiments the international obligations." How was that demand met? Everybody understood, after Sir W. Whiteway made his propositions in the other House of Parliament, that those propositions were accepted I knew that from friends of mine with whom we act in another place. That was fully understood from the answer of the Government to Sir W. Whiteway. But the Government say, "No, we will not accept your proposal of a temporary arrangement which will secure the fulfilment of the international obligations as long as may be necessary." Nobody is more desirous than I am not to do anything to justly raise any feeling on the part of France, but as long as the international obligations are fulfilled, it is a matter of no concern to France what are the arrangements between ourselves and our colonies as to the mode of producing that result. It is not a question between France and ourselves as to our carrying out our Treaty obligations towards that country. It is for us and our colonies to consider a method of giving effect to our international obligations which would be acceptable to our colonies in their painful and difficult position. I say that the demand of the colony that a temporary arrangement should be made to give them time to consider what should be the permanent status of the Courts and their jurisdiction within the colony, was a most fair and reasonable arrangement, and yet in a method which the Times newspaper a day or two ago described as "casuistical" the Government said: "These are permanent obligations, and you must pass a permanent Bill at once." A more unreasonable contention I never heard in my life. You were to cram this Bill down the throats of the colonists at a few weeks' notice, and were to give no time whatever for considerations which required great reflection in order to settle a per- 1219 manent Bill, and they said, "We will not accept a temporary measure you; must pass a permanent Bill at once, or we will proceed with a hostile Bill in Parliament against you, a self-governing colony." A more unwise, injudicious, and un states man like proceeding I never heard of. We have a right to ask that the Correspondence should be placed on the Table of the House. The delegates sent to the Press on Tuesday the most recent letters which have passed between them and the Colonial Office, and the last word of the Colonial Office was, "We will not listen to anything except a permanent Bill passed by you at once." An answer to that was sent by the delegates, but they received no reply. In a matter of such delicacy and difficulty that, in my opinion, was not the way to treat persons like the Representatives of the Colony of Newfoundland. The delegates have gone beyond their original offer, and they say they will give you the existing jurisdiction for two years if you will give them time to consult with you in reference to the framing of a permanent measure. Happily, at last the Government have come to the conclusion that that is an offer which ought not to be rejected. I was amused at seeing in one of the Government organs this morning an assertion that the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman has to-day accepted is one which could not be listened to for a moment, and must be rejected on the grounds stated in the Despatch of Mr. Herbert of the 8th of May. That is an unfortunate way of dealing with a question of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Read this Bill a second time, and it will not be proceeded with in case the Legislature of Newfoundland passes such a Bill as has been proposed." Such a Bill had been actually passed by the Legislature at the time when the right hon. Gentleman asked the House of Commons to read this Bill a second time. If you want to irritate people that is the way to do it. We know what has come from this method of dealing with colonies from the earliest history of the dealings of this country with the North American colonies. Hon. Members will remember the lines of Prior which were applied by Lord Chatham to the treatment of persons in this situation when he said— 1220Be to their virtues very kind;Be to their, faults a little blind;And clap your padlock—on their mind.That, in my opinion, is not the spirit in which you should have dealt with this matter at all. From the moment the delegates from Newfoundland and the Legislature show that they are prepared to give you the power of their own authority that is necessary to fulfil international obligations, this controversy ought to be closed at once. Of course, accidents may occur, although I confess I cannot see why a year should not have been enough to arrange for a permanent Bill. But you laid it down that you would not listen to any proposition whatever—that you would give them no time to consider a permanent Bill. That was a method of treatment which, in my opinion, they had a right to resent. I think the House ought to have on the Table the Correspondence which has passed within the last few weeks between the delegates and the Colonial Office. I am extremely glad that this controversy may now be considered closed. Although the delegates have consented to the Second Reading of this Bill, I regret that the House should be obliged to place such a measure—a most wanton and unnecessary measure—upon its Journals; but, under the circumstances, I shall certainly not oppose the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ (5.16.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I regret that at a time when a settlement of this question has been arrived at, an attack should have been made by the hon. Member for Staffordshire in a partisan and irritating speech upon Her Majesty's Government and the French, and I still more regret that the right hon. Member for Derby should have thrown fuel upon the fire. As a humble follower of the right hon. Member for Derby, I desire to express my entire dissent from what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is right in attributing all the blame to the Representatives of this country, or in saying that the conduct of the Representatives of the colony is beyond all praise. My own view is just the contrary. The delegates commenced by saying that they would agree to no terms except the expulsion of the French 1221 from Newfoundland. I think the first demands of the delegates were most unreasonable, and they have only receded from their original position, step by step, and fighting every inch of the way, under the compulsion of the present Bill. If this Bill had not been persevered with we would never have had this compromise. I do not understand from the statements of the First Lord of the Treasury and the hon. Member for Staffordshire that the Colonial Bill has been finally passed.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
If the Colonial Bill has actually and formally been passed in the exact form Her Majesty's Government demands, and if it will remain in force until 1893, then I quite admit the Second Reading of the Bill before the House is a mere formality; but that acknowledgment does not in any degree carry with it an admission that it is wise or right of the hon. Member for Staffordshire to make an irritating and partisan speech, or that it is right for the right hon. Member for Derby to make a partisan speech unduly favourable to the Representatives of Newfoundland. As I understand, the compromise has only been arrived at today. I think myself justified in making a humble protest against the remarks which have been made derogatory to the Representatives of this country, and far too favourable to the Representatives of Newfoundland. I would have greater sympathy with the people of Newfoundland if I were quite sure the delegates really represent the whole of the people of that colony, and especially the poorer classes. What I have heard of the hardships of the poor fishermen on the French coast leads me to believe that the poorer classes in Newfoundland are not those whose interests are represented by the delegates.
MR. A. STAVELEY HILL
I ask permission to say a word or two by way of explanation. What I said was that in, the letter I read from Lord Knutsford it was stated that—Her Majesty's Government have learned with much satisfaction that the Colonial Legislature have passed a Bill, a copy of which was received from you.The Newfoundlanders have never ob- 1222 jected to arbitration; but what they want is arbitration on all points.
§ (5.25.) ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
I think it is extremely unfortunate that the Bill has not been read a second time without debate. My hon. Friend (Mr. A. S. Hill) has spoken of inexperienced naval officers; being employed, and acting on their own initiative. As a matter of fact, it is a post captain of considerable standing whose name has been introduced, and who was occupied on the French coast—Sir B. Walker, an officer very much distinguished for the ability and courtesy with which he has endeavoured to do his duty. The employment of naval officers on those duties is no new thing, yet from the remarks of my hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Derby the House may think that suddenly naval officers have been employed to shut up lobster factories. I was myself employed on that coast in 1882, and I know that the naval officers in charge never acted except upon most explicit orders from home, probably on the orders of the then Solicitor General (Mr. A. S. Hill), and they endeavoured to carry out their duty to the best of their ability. I believe it has been universally admitted that for the last 40 years the naval officers upon the Newfoundland coast who have had those disagreeable duties to perform have discharged them with discretion.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy must not be accepted as representing opinion upon these Benches. His Indian experience, I am afraid, has unfitted him for understanding the sensitiveness of a self-governing colony. Sir, while I do not wish to go into the general question, there is one point that I cannot help raising. There now stands a Resolution passed at the beginning of this Sitting, that Sir William Whiteway be heard at the Bar of the House. We expected to have the advantage of the words of that gentleman, though of course that may not be necessary now. What I want to know is how the order that the delegates should be heard at the Bar can be set aside without the assent of the House being asked or given. It is no longer, a matter between the Government and the delegates, but between the House and the delegates. If this Bill is ultimately to be thrown into the 1223 waste paper basket, why read it a second time? We ought to show a little fellow-feeling with the people of Newfoundland. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had not expressed a desire that the rejection of the Bill should not be moved, I should have made such a Motion; but I shall now act with deference to his wish, and simply more the adjournment of the Debate. I hope we may never hear any more of this Bill after the Debate is adjourned. Such a course would not mean exactly that the Bill has been rejected, but it will place it in suspense, and at the same time show tenderness and respect for the Representatives of the people of Newfoundland without causing inconvenience to anyone. I beg to move that the Debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. Picton.)
§ (5.32.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I desire to second that Motion. I wish that this House and the country should have an opportunity of understanding this matter. I appeal to the Government to do justice in this matter to our colonial brethren. I think we have a right to claim that, as a matter of good faith, the First Lord of the Treasury should agree to the Motion, or alternatively get rid of the Bill altogether. The right hon. Gentleman promised the House that the Bill should not be taken beyond the stage of First Reading if the Government and the delegates came to an understanding. The Government have now arranged with the Colonial Representatives, and the House has a right to ask that the Second Reading of this measure shall not be proceeded with. I call this a coercion Bill, and I object to all such measures, especially when they are absolutely unnecessary. If the Government had treated the Colonial authorities properly, if the Government had consulted them previous to the introduction of the Bill, terms might have been arranged long ago with respect to a temporary measure without raising so much feeling oh the question. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy stated that the Newfoundland people would be satisfied with nothing but the expulsion of the French.
§ MR. MORTON
I am sorry, Sir, to have transgressed the Rules. I did not intend to do so. I can only repeat now that the House is entitled to ask for the adjournment as a matter of good faith. There is indeed no occasion to pass the Bill now, because we have just been informed that it will not be wanted. I do not know whether I should be in order in saying anything with reference to the Colonial Office.
§ MR. MORTON
I will not transgress again, Sir. I hope the adjournment will be unanimously agreed to.
§ (5.35.) MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
There is one point to which I think sufficient attention has not been given, and it is strongly in favour of the Motion for Adjournment. If the Colonial Act has been passed through both Houses of the Colonial Legislature and its provisions are satisfactory to the Government, I cannot conceive any reason why this Bill should be proceeded with. To push it forward, under these circumstances, would be a very bad precedent. If, on the other hand, the provisions of the Colonial Act are not satisfactory, or should a hitch arise in the future conduct of negotiations between the Government and the delegates, I should like to know what possible opportunity the House will have, if it now reads the Bill a second time, of discussing the merits of the question, or of criticising the whole course of the Government policy on this vexed question. There ought to be some opportunity afforded in the future of doing both, and, therefore, I trust that the House will support the Motion for Adjournment.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
Either this Motion to read the Bill a second time is a matter of form or it embodies a principle to which we have the greatest aversion. In either case the House has a right to demand some explanation why the Bill is being pressed forward to a Second Reading. So far we have had none. It can hardly be supposed that the Newfoundland delegates ask that this Bill be read a second time, seeing 1225 that it embodies a proposal of which they have the greatest detestation.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
I was merely advancing it with a view to bringing out reasons why the Debate should be adjourned. I think, unless this Motion is accepted, the question will not receive that fair consideration to which it is entitled.
§ (5.38.) MR. W. H. SMITH
I have no desire to interpose in this Debate, but I had perhaps as well now state why the Government ask for the Second Reading of this Bill. In the first instance, it is because it is part of the agreement and understanding with the delegates themselves. Besides, the Government consider that they are bound to ask for the Second Reading of the Bill in order to obtain the sanction of Parliament to the principle of the measure arranged in the course of the negotiations which have proceeded with France. That is the view which the Government take of the obligations they have contracted with the Government of France, and also in order to show good faith with that Government. The right hon. Gentleman opposite asks whether there will be an opportunity at a future time of considering the principle of the Bill if the Second Reading is now taken. The 2nd clause of the Bill is practically the entire measure, and, therefore, if the Bill reaches Committee stage it can be discussed at that time in any circumstances. But there is another opportunity which the House will have if the Bill is read a second time. I hope that further proceeding with it will be rendered unnecessary; and on the Motion "That the Order be discharged," it will be in the power of the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members generally to review the course which the Government have pursued in these negotiations.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I cannot make an exception in favour of the right hon. Gentleman. This discussion must be strictly confined to the Motion for Adjournment. I may point out that a Second Reading Debate cannot take place on such a Motion as the right hon. Gentleman has referred to.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Of course, if the House desires to review the whole transaction, I shall feel bound to afford it an opportunity of doing so. All the Correspondence will be produced and laid on the Table. I may point out that the closing paragraph in a letter of Lord Salisbury to M. Waddington, dated March 11, 1891, is to the effect that it is equally understood that the Government reserve expressly the approval of the British Parliament for the permanent arrangements to be entered into. It is on that account that the Government ask the House to read the Bill a second time, and in order to comply with the diplomatic engagements entered into with the French Government. I do not know whether, by the indulgence of the House, I may be permitted to reply to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I can make no exception. The Debate must be strictly confined to the Motion for Adjournment, which might be withdrawn to enable the right hon. Gentleman to deal with the other questions raised.
§ (5.43.) SIR W. HARCOURT
It seems to me that what has just been stated shows the necessity of the Motion for the Adjournment. If the House parts with the Second Reading of the Bill to-day there will be no legitimate opportunity afforded for it to discuss the principle. It is a Bill which I confess I am prepared to oppose at every stage. It has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman that the Second Reading is taken now at the desire of the delegates. I am informed, on the contrary, that it is exactly the opposite. The delegates have agreed to the Second Reading I know, but under the pressure of the Government; and the statement, therefore, that the delegates wish the Bill to be read a second time is one which I believe I am justified in contradicting. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of obligations to France. What are they? To pass a farcical Second Reading of a Bill which is to be subsequently abandoned? There is no such obligation. The right hon. Gentleman read a passage from a Blue Book which contains the words "we reserve the approval of Parliament." 1227 That is a well-known phrase which occurs in every agreement.
§ SIR C. DALRYMPLE (Ipswich)
I wish to ask, Sir, whether the right hon. Gentleman is speaking to the Question of the Adjournment?
§ MR. SPEAKER
An argument against the Second Reading is not an argument in favour of the Adjournment. The distinction is a narrow one, but it is an obvious one.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
As the First Lord of the Treasury relied mainly on the obligation to France, it is necessary to point out that that obligation is wholly unfounded.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is not an argument in favour of the Adjournment, and I interfered with the First Lord of the Treasury on that point.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
With all due submission, your interference, I think, Sir, was not on the question of obligation to France, but on the question of the withdrawal of the Bill, when the right hon. Gentleman stated that when the Bill was withdrawn, the whole subject could be discussed, you pointed out that that was not so.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I interfered on the sole ground that the discussion should be strictly limited to the Motion before the House.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Very well, Sir, I will content myself with saying that the argument as to the obligation to France is utterly worthless. I think that this Motion for Adjournment is most proper. It will remove the indignation of the colony, and the Government will be doing a graceful act in assenting to it. It will be equivalent to saying to the colony, "Having heard that you have done all that is necessary we will drop the further consideration of the measure." At any rate, let us have the satisfaction of knowing that we on this side of the House, at all events, have done nothing to embitter this quarrel, but have, as far as we could, protested against these harsh, high-handed, and peremptory proceedings. We wish to express to our old and loyal colony our sympathies for the position in which it is placed, and our disinclination to record on the Journals of this House a hostile and irritating proceeding.
§ (5.50.) MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
I am glad 1228 to find right hon. Gentlemen on the front Opposition Bench interested in the colonies, as it seems to me to be a new turn in our history. I have read the Blue Book on the question before the House, and I do not entirely agree with Her Majesty's Government. I never listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby with greater pleasure, and I cordially endorse almost every word which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken. I also agree with the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester, because the Bill is highly distasteful to me; and I think that the Motion for the Adjournment provides a happy way of getting out of the difficulty. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity of relieving the House from the necessity of passing the Bill. It is most inconvenient that we should be asked now to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. It is a question on which the colonists feel deeply. They know how much they have suffered—
§ MR. LAWRENCE
I beg your pardon, Sir, for wandering from the question before the House. I will only express my hope that the Government will avail itself of this opportunity of relieving us of the unpleasant duty of passing the Bill.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
I think the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester affords a way by which we can save the dignity of the House, and yet escape from a very difficult position. The right hon. Gentleman says we are under an implied obligation to France. I say it would be an insult to the French people to pass the Bill pro formâ in face of the right hon. Gentleman's declaration that it will not be further proceeded with. Hon. Members opposite have been professing for many years that they are the guardians of our colonies, and yet they are now willing to be parties to the formal reading of a Bill which is both distasteful and obnoxious to one of those colonies. I think the House would be well advised if it accepted, without a Division, the Motion for the Adjournment.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I, too, cannot help hoping that the Government will take the opportunity of re- 1229 lieving the House from a disagreeable position. The passage of the Bill is idle and superfluous, seeing that the Colonial Legislature have already passed the necessary legislation. If the adjournment is agreed to, the matter will be left unsettled, but if the Bill is read a second time, not only will a slur be cast on the Colony of Newfoundland, but the sanction of the House will be given to the conduct of the Government, which has been needlessly severe on the colony, and an act will be done which will be deeply resented in all British Colonies. On that ground I hope that the Government will relieve the House from the disagreeable position in which it is placed. The Liberal Party have always been the guardians of self-government in the colonies and elsewhere, and on behalf of self-government the Liberal Party is bound to try to prevent the House from committing itself to an act which must have the worst possible results all over the colonies. If the adjournment is agreed to, and the arrangements with the colony fall through, the discussion can be raised again.
(5.56.) MR. A. STAVELEY HILL
I wish to explain, with reference to the statement that the delegates desired that the Bill should be read a second time; it was only when the pistol was absolutely held to their heads by Lord Knutsford that they gave their consent to the Second Reading of the Bill. I have read what took place, and can assure right hon. Gentlemen that that is so. I hope that the Government will consent to the adjournment.
§ (5.57.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I do not think that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have taken the proper course to induce the Government to assent to the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester. Two or three speakers, one after the other, rose to say that it is by this Motion that an escape is offered to the House from an intolerable position, and they added that the course suggested is practically to dissent from a policy which has been the policy of Her Majesty's Government. They have made it almost impossible for the Government to assent to the adjournment. At the commencement of the proceedings we 1230 hoped that we had agreed with tie colony, and had arrived at a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. We hoped that all feeling might have been avoided which would prevent us from arriving at a peaceable settlement satisfactory to all sides. It was in that hope that the First Lord of the Treasury proposed the Motion, and we trusted that we might have shown a unanimous desire to bring the matter in dispute to an end as soon as possible. On the Colonial Vote, or on a direct Vote of Censure, right hon. Gentlemen opposite could have raised the whole question again if they wished to do so, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby made a speech which was an attack on the whole conduct of the Government in this case, and on an occasion when we thought that controversy might have been avoided. We have not attempted to reply at any length to his arguments, because at this time, when the colony is somewhat excited, we prefer not to defend our own course when such a defence can only be made at the present time at the expense of further irritating the colony. That is the wish of the Government at this moment. We deny that there has been the slightest wish to humiliate the colonists. We do not wish to enter upon such a defence of our own proceedings as can only be conducted by bringing recriminatory accusations against the colony. Under these circumstances we have been at a considerable disadvantage. The tone of hon. Members-opposite is this—"We must adjourn this Debate in order not to put on the Journals of the House a measure such as the Government proposes." That is practically a censure on a Bill, which we say is indispensable in the interests of this country and of Newfoundland itself.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
If there is a possibility of any misunderstanding I should be unwilling to be misunderstood; We do not desire the adjournment as a condemnation of the Bill, but simply mean to say that what has happened in the last 48 hours has made the Bill unnecessary.
§ MR. PICTON
May I say that I had no idea of moving the adjournment in a hostile manner, but simply as a way of getting out of the difficulty?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I can only say that it has been put forward in this sense—that the House is to be relieved from "an intolerable position," and we heard of a "farcical Bill," and of the "harsh treatment of the colonies by the Government." We are most anxious that this matter should be treated in such a spirit that no irritation shall be caused among the colonists, but after the way in which it has been discussed, I think that it would be extremely difficult for us to withdraw from the position we have taken up. Let me add, in regard to France, that I understand the French have passed the Bill through both Chambers. Now, I am not sure of the effect which would be produced in Franco if they saw, after the speeches which have been made, the general tone taken by the opposition.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I rise to order. I was not allowed to refer to France, therefore I must object to the right hon. Gentleman doing so.
§ (6.5.) The House divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 195.—(Div. List, No. 253.)
§ Original Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (6.16.) MR. F. H. EVANS (Southampton)
I noticed when it was stated that the delegates demurred to the Second Reading of the Bill the First Lord of the Treasury did not deny that that was the case. I can assure the House, having been present at the time, that there was nothing but constant pressure placed on the delegates to get them to consent to that course. During the whole of these negotiations, with which I have been myself a good deal connected, while I do not want to throw more blame upon the Colonial Office than is fairly attributable to them, I must say we have been kept continuously at arm's length. I have complained myself to the Colonial Office about the treatment of the delegates, I am largely interested in Newfoundland, and have been very anxious indeed to do everything I could to bring about a settlement of the question, which is causing much more irritation in the colonies than this House can possibly 1232 understand. Hon. Members, I dare say, saw a report in this morning's papers stating that the cords of the flagstaff in the Governor's grounds at St. John's were cut, so as to prevent the raising of the flag on the Queen's birthday. On one occasion the Governor himself was very nearly shipped away from the Island. Hon. Members may say that is a strong measure, but, knowing very well the feelings of the people there, I can say that the irritation, which has been growing year after year for the last eight or nine years, has now reached a culminating point, and I could myself go to Newfoundland and get four out of every five men, women, and children to sign themselves away, and to proclaim the independence of the Island. The cause of such feelings is very simple. The main industry of the Island is fishing, and in all the transactions that have occurred in reference to the Treaties with France the Newfoundlanders have been left in the lurch. In hardly a single instance have the Government backed up the islanders. For three or four weeks the delegates have been in this country negotiating with the Government, giving way on every point, and it is only when they come to the Bar of the House of Commons to plead their cause that they are told by means of an unexecuted and unsigned document that the Government will accede to their wishes. Surely nothing could be more irritating to the colonists than this, and the passionate state of feeling yesterday in St. John's was certainly worse than anything that has happened before. We are now asked to read the Bill a second time against the wishes of the delegates and against the wishes of the colonists. It is proposed to arbitrate with reference to one single question—that of the lobster fishery. I was in Paris during the latter part of last week, and had several interviews with the French Government. I told them what I will tell the House, namely, that if the arbitration lasts as long as most of these arbitrations do there will be no lobsters left when the award is given. A most serious question lies beneath the words "and the other subsidiary matters." Other subsidiary matters mean the whole Newfoundland question. It is to be regretted that in this House maps cannot be produced, 1233 because in a matter of this kind hon. Members are, so to speak, at sea, as they do not know the bearings of the different points. Newfoundland is a triangle; one side faces West, one East and one South. The West shore is the shore in question with the French, and the subsidiary matters mentioned in the Bill can only relate to the western shore. The southern shore, therefore, cannot be dealt with, but the great grievance of the Newfoundlanders relates to the southern shore. Off that shore the two French Islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon, have become great places for smuggling, and here the French fleet congregates before the fishery. They can only get their first catch on the bank by obtaining the bait on the South shore of Newfoundland. As a consequence, the Newfoundlanders can get the whip hand over the French by putting a stop to the export of the bait. Negotiations are at present being carried on with the French Government, and I hope they will lead to a re-arrangement whereby this matter may be settled, so that the merchants of each country may be placed upon a level. The Newfoundland people say if there is to be arbitration at all in these matters it should include the question of the southern shore, which affects the whole population of the Island. The French will not agree to this. Her Majesty's Government say, "We will read this Bill a second time," thus practically giving Newfoundland away for the second or third or fourth time in the history of the Island. Is it a matter for wonder that the Newfoundlanders get irritated when they are treated in this way? The details of this Bill give extraordinary powers to the Government—powers which will enable the Government by an Order in Council to pass over the head of the colony entirely to carry out any award of the arbitrators. How do we know that the arbitration may not result in some concession of land? Her Majesty's Government may even go so far as to promise bait for the French. The only chance the people of the colony have got would in that case be taken away from them. The people of Newfoundland live a life of great hardship under conditions which are not borne, so far as I know, by any other colonists in this Empire. They are the finest race of 1234 men I have seen, and I have been much about the world. Are these the men whom you want to force into antagonism with the Empire? Surely not. Why do you press forward a Bill, then, which is to take away from them the control of the only valuable element in their arrangements with America? The argument that applies to France applies to America. If you are going to have an arbitration which may take away from Newfoundland what is the very essence of its power, can you wonder that the people should ask you to stay your hands before further damage is done? I must vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, and I am sure if hon. Members opposite understood the question as I do they would join with me rather than consent to oppress a people which is so worthy of their sympathy.
§ (6.29.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
I should very much regret if anything had fallen from hon. Members which gave sufficient justification for the Government to refuse the adjournment of the Debate, and if there were any means by which discussion could be avoided I should only too heartily agree to avail myself of them. At the same time as the adjournment has been refused I feel obliged to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. No reason seems to me to have been given for forcing the measure forward. I protest against the manner in which the Colony of Newfoundland has been treated by the Government; I quite agree with all that has been said as to the colony being harshly treated. It would have been impossible to adopt such a high handed policy towards Australia or any of the other more powerful colonies. The language used towards Newfoundland has been most irritating, and unworthy of the Party which professes to safeguard the interests of the colonies. I do not wish to say anything calculated to increase the irritation; but we contend that the Government of France is being encouraged by the action of Her Majesty's Government to maintain impossible claims against Newfoundland. No doubt due regard must be had for our Treaty engagements with France, but the latter country is being enabled to pursue a high-handed policy in Newfoundland totally incompatible with the 1235 prosperity of the colony. If the present state of affairs there is indefinitely prolonged, it will be matter for deep regret. France must understand that she must make some concessions in the interests of the development of the Island.
§ (6.35.) SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I hope that the House will not be forced to a Division. Hon. Members have had the opportunity of entering their protests, and I hope they will be satisfied, and not attempt to interfere with the friendly arrangement that has been come to. I strongly deprecate the language used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. He says he is not opposed to the Bill, and, at the same time, declares it to be unnecessary and wanton. I do not approve of all that has taken place in regard to the negotiations with Newfoundland, but the delegates are now in cordial agreement with the Imperial Government, and I hope this House will fall in with the arrangement that has been come to. Having arrived at the point when the discord has been happily settled, I think the House should do nothing to upset the arrangement. The colony of Newfoundland itself desires that the opinion of Parliament should be expressed on this matter, and, in agreeing to the Second Reading of this Bill, this House will merely show that it recognises, like the House of Lords, our duty of carrying out the Imperial obligations of the country. This Bill, by its provisions, contemplates a future permanent settlement of this question, and I earnestly trust that, by means of arbitration or otherwise, this unfortunate Newfoundland difficulty will before long be brought to an end for ever.
§ (6.40.) MR. W. A. MCARTHUR (Cornwall, Mid, St. Austell)
It is difficult to refrain from wishing to express an opinion on this question. I have no connection with Newfoundland or any interest in it, but I would point out that this is a matter that affects not Newfoundland alone, but the interests of our other self-governing colonies. I appeal to the Government even at this, the eleventh hour, not to press this Motion. They have shown that they are backed up by a large majority, and they can enforce anything they like, and they can, therefore, afford to be generous, and settle the 1236 difficulty by adjourning the Debate. I certainly do not approach this or any other colonial question in any Party spirit, but I cannot support such a Bill as this. It is absolutely idle to talk of our not dividing against the Bill. Anybody who has any sympathy with our colonies which enjoy free institutions must divide against such a Bill as this. I hope, therefore, that even at the last moment the Government will agree to adjourn the subject. Newfoundland has certainly been treated in a harsh manner. It is part of the Empire, and is entitled to the favourable consideration of the Imperial Parliament. What course would the Government have pursued if this had been a question affecting an English county? Would Parliament force upon the County of Kent legislation which is unnecessary, and which is intended to compel Kent to do what it was of its own free will doing? Certainly, from the point of view of those who desire to see Imperial Federation, this proposed legislation is a lamentable and disastrous mistake. If, instead of France and Newfoundland, the countries concerned in this matter had been Portugal and Australia, can any one suppose that the latter would have been subjected to a Coercion Bill of this kind in order that the susceptibilities of the Portuguese might not be hurt? The policy of the Government on this occasion will show the self-governing colonies that it is of no use to fall in with the views of the Imperial Parliament. It will teach them that when they have done everything which the English Government wishes them to do, they are still liable to be coerced at the hands of the Government and of this House. I regret that the Government do not feel able to agree to the compromise which I have suggested. I agree that it would be best to avoid strong language on this occasion, but I find it absolutely impossible, compromise being refused, to refrain from using language which is a little hard. I shall be compelled to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, and I hope that many other Members also will feel that were they to vote for the measure they would be supporting what really is an insult to a self-governing colony, and doing all they possibly can to break up the Empire of which they profess to be so proud.
§ (6.47.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
I think that the language of the hon. Member who has just sat down was hardly in keeping with the conciliatory intentions with which he said his mind was full. The Government wish this Bill to pass the Second Reading, not, of course, for the purpose of irritating or offending the colony, but to insure that the arrangements come to between France and England shall be made watertight, and put beyond the chance of miscarriage. On March 11th there was signed the Agreement between England and France, which declared there should be arbitration for the purpose of removing the difficulties that had arisen with respect to Newfoundland; but by the terms of the Agreement the arbitration is not to be set on foot until the assent of the Imperial Parliament to the Agreement has been obtained. Similarly it was agreed that the approbation of the French Chambers was necessary, and a Bill has been introduced in France accepting the arbitration and the decision which the arbitrators may come to. The Government now, with the assent of the Newfoundland delegates, ask the House of Commons to read this Bill a second time. Up to the present this House has in no form given its approval to the arrangement of March 11th for arbitration; and the whole object which the Government have in view in asking that the Bill be read a second time is to obtain the approval of the House to that arrangement by which the unhappy international disputes that have arisen are referred to arbitration. That is recognised by the Newfoundland delegates as well as by Her Majesty's Government. Sir W. Whiteway, in his letter to the Colonial Office, which has been read, says—Her Majesty's Government will withdraw the Bill now before the House of Commons after its Second Reading.
MR. A. STAVELEY HILL
May I point out that the views expressed in that letter did not originate with Sir William Whiteway. They were not his in the first instance.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I feel sure that Sir W. Whiteway, whom some of us know and all respect, would be the last man to say that the agreement which he 1238 has made, and which stands recorded above his signature in the letter addressed to the Colonial Office, is an agreement which was not fully recognised by him.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
But I must decline to discuss the motives of Sir W. White-way and the other delegates from Newfoundland. I should imagine that they have as good reason as this country or France to take care that this arbitration for the purpose of settling all disputed points in connection with the fishery should not miscarry. But that arbitration will lack its very foundation if we do not secure the approval, not merely of the British House of Lords, but of the House of Commons as well, to the arrangement upon which the arbitration is based. In the Second Reading of the Bill there will be no disrespect or slight to Newfoundland. I earnestly appeal to hon. Members not to be more Newfoundlandish than the Newfoundlanders themselves, not to insist upon what the delegates themselves have not insisted upon, and not to oppose what is surely a wise and proper provision, namely, that the approval, not merely of one House of Parliament, but of both Houses, shall be obtained before arbitration is proceeded with. I hold that to pass this Bill unanimously without a Division is the only proper and becoming course for the House of Commons to take.
§ (6.59.) MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
I only wish to refer to one short point. The Home Secretary says the assent of Parliament must be obtained before the arbitration can take place. That assent can only be given by Act of Parliament. The mere Second Reading of the Bill will not be sufficient; so that if the right hon. Gentleman's view is correct, the Bill cannot be dropped but must be carried into law. The Government will be able to give effect to Lord Salisbury's words, so far as the spirit and the meaning of them are concerned, without pressing us upon this side of the House, and, still more, and, in fact, what is the only important matter, without pressing upon the Colony of Newfoundland, the Second Reading of a Bill, which it is known to the Government as well as to all others, is viewed by them with the utmost dislike. Either you must pass this Bill into an Act, or 1239 it will be sufficient in some form of words to assure those who are concerned in the matter that the House of Commons will eventually be found ready to give effect to the Foreign Minister's declaration.
§ (7.5.) MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
I greatly regret that the Government have not consented to the Adjournment of the Debate. I wish to treat the matter in a conciliatory spirit, and I think I can show reason why the matter should not be pressed to a Division at the present time. In the first place, it was distinctly understood that the Second Reading was not to be brought on until to-morrow. The delegates were to be heard at the Bar to-day, and then, if the Second Reading was deemed necessary, that was to be done to-morrow. We have not the requisite materials to enable us to decide the Second Reading. There is a great deal of correspondence which is not yet before Parliament, and we are not able to judge how far the delegates are right and how far the Government are right. At first the Government told us, "We are anxious to have this New foundlandBill"—the Coercion Bill, as it is called —"passed by the Newfoundland Parliament, and if they do not pass it then we shall read this Bill a second time, so that we shall be able to put this compulsion upon them." I think that was not an unreasonable position. But it is now shown that the Newfoundland Parliament have passed the Bill, and accordingly a new reason is discovered by the ingenuity of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the reason is that there is an undertaking with the French Government that this Bill should be passed by both Houses. This reflects great credit on the well-known ingenuity of the Home Secretary; but the idea is more remarkable for its novelty than its soundness. Was it ever heard of in the House of Lords? Were we told there that the Bill must go down to the House of Commons and be there read a second time? Was it not, on the contrary, understood that if Newfoundland did what it was asked to do this Bill would not be pressed to a Second Reading in that House? That was clearly understood, and I think, under the circumstances, the only reasonable and fair course for the Go- 1240 vernment to adopt, is not to proceed further with the discussion of this Bill.
§ (7.15.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I certainly did not come here with the slightest intention of Opposing the Government in this matter. Up to now I have agreed with what the Government have done. I think that if Newfoundland refused to France the exercise of her Treaty rights then England ought not to be dragged into war in defence of the Newfoundlanders in taking that course. Therefore, I came to the House certainly with no intention of opposing the Government. But I am surprised at what the Government have done this evening. I should have thought that it would be better to agree to the Adjournment of the Debate. We have heard that the delgatates have been forced, by an ultimatum put before them by Lord Knutsford, into assenting to the Bill being read a second time. I think the Home Secretary admitted that. [Mr. MATTHEWS: No.] The only plea that has been put forward for the course the Government are pursuing is that they are obliged to get the Second Reading under their agreement with France. I think we might assure France without any species of penal enactment with regard to Newfoundland. By carrying the Second Reading we should not convert the Bill into an Act. Surely a Resolution passed by both Houses is quite as important as a Second Reading, the Newfoundlanders having passed the Bill that they are required to pass. I think the Government would act wisely in agreeing to the adjournment. The Home Secretary urges us to agree to the Second Reading unanimously, but we shall not agree to the Second Reading unanimously. I repeat that it would be better for the Government and for Newfoundland to adjourn the Bill than to carry the Second Reading by a Party Division.
§ (7.20.) MR. W. H. SMITH
We are exceedingly anxious to avoid all inconvenience of the kind referred to by hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby used some strong language as to the course the Government have taken; but as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, if we were to recriminate in matters of this kind we should excite passions in New- 1241 foundland which we desire to have allayed, and which we hope we have allayed. I earnestly hope the House will accept the proposal of the Government in carrying out the agreement with the delegates themselves, and read the Bill a second time. The hon. Gentleman opposite objected that if the Bill was read a second time it ought to be pressed through all its stages. We are not of that opinion. We accept the Second Reading as a complete performance of the engagement we have made with France. We are responsible for the engagement now existing with France. I must now notice some observations which fell from hon. Gentleman as to coercion. There is no coercion in the measure of Her Majesty's Government. It must be remembered that Treaties exist with regard to Newfoundland; they are Imperial Treaties carrying with them. Imperial obligations, and they are binding upon the Government of Newfoundland as completely as they are binding upon us. They are not Treaties of our making, and when observations are made with regard to the naval officers on the Coast of Newfoundland, I must ask the House to do justice to services from which both Newfoundland and this country derive the greatest possible benefit. Every one who knows the services which our naval officers render will admit that they carry out the Instructions which are given them in the most satisfactory way, and that they always have a regard for the interests of the people which they are sent to protect. The officers on the Newfoundland Station have been selected by every Government, I believe without exception, with due regard to their discretion and their judgment. Their first object is to protect the fisheries of Newfoundland; they are there in the interest of Newfoundland and at the expense of this country. What disadvantage would it be to this country if the French were to encroach on Newfoundland? We should not suffer severely, but the inhabitants of Newfoundland would be the sufferers. It is in order that the French might not strain their Treaty rights that our naval officers are on the coast of Newfoundland. I hope this House will do justice to the judgment and discretion of our naval officers. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of "the intolerable position" of Newfoundland. I 1242 think the language the Government have held is sufficient to show that we have the greatest possible sympathy for the difficult position in which Newfoundland is placed, a position which is not the creation of herself or of us. No man living has defined the rights of the French on that coast, and every Government in this country has used all the means in their power for the alleviation of the intolerable position of Newfoundland. That is the desire of Her Majesty's Government, and that is the object of this arbitration. We do not desire in the slightest degree to trench on the liberties of self-governing colonies, or to make light of their sufferings or misfortunes. On the contrary, we desire to do everything in our power to alleviate them. I have now only to notice one or two remarks with regard to the Colonial Office. I can understand that certain gentlemen are not satisfied with the Colonial Office because they do not gain all that they desire at once. But speaking for myself and my colleagues, we believe that the Colonial Office has been animated with the most sincere desire to advance the interests of the colonists, and it was in the interest of the colony itself that the course which has been pursued should be taken. The hon. Member for Leith said that, Newfoundland having local government, we encouraged France to strain her rights under the Treaty. I deny that to be the case. With regard to the lobster fisheries, first and last, we deny that France has any right whatever to them. Language of the kind used by the hon. Member is most unfortunate. We are on good terms with France; we wish to remain on good terms with France. We believe the country desires it, but that is not inconsistent with maintaining the interest, not only of the colony, but of the Empire at large.
§ (7.27.) MR. BRYCE
I do not propose to enter into any of the questions with which the right hon. Gentleman has just now dealt. But a new direction has been given to the Debate, and a new light cast upon our position, by the speech of the Home Secretary. I wish to say a few words to the House from the diplomatic point of view, and to suggest what I believe to be a better way out of the difficulty. Clauses requiring the approval of Parliament are 1243 daily inserted in diplomatic Agreements. They are put in to secure Parliamentary control, and to prevent the Executive from being charged with bad faith. That is almost the common form of Agreements, for the benefit of the party that makes the declaration, and not for the benefit of the other party. It is entirely out of the question that the Government of France should insist that the sanction of Parliament should be given to this Agreement. If that were inserted, it would enable us to escape from every Agreement if Parliament desired. It will be in the recollection of the House that questions were frequently asked about proceeding with the Bill, and the answers of the right hon. Gentleman were either that, unfortunately, it would be necessary to proceed with the Bill, or that he hoped it would not be necessary. The House understood the right hon. Gentleman to mean that the object was to pass an enactment to enforce the modus vivendi. But that is a question altogether between Her Majesty's Government and Newfoundland, and France has no right to say aye or no. The argument of the Home Secretary would go to prove that, even if an Agreement had been made with the Newfoundland Legislature, it would be equally necessary to pass the Bill. But if France is entitled to require the passing of the Bill, her claim would not be satisfied by merely passing the Second Reading. The approval of Parliament means carrying the Bill through its final stage. This is not a Bill to approve of an Agreement; it is a Bill to make certain changes in the law of Newfoundland. The right hon. Gentleman himself, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, said it would be possible to hear the delegates on the first clause in Committee. Clearly, therefore, the right Gentleman cannot suppose that the Second Reading is enough. We are not asked to pass the Bill as a declaration of Parliament, but only to enable the Government to complete a bargain with Newfoundland. I submit that, on diplomatic grounds, the necessity for the Second Reading of this Bill does not exist, and that we are left face to face with the fact that we are passing a Bill which will excite strong feelings of disapproval in many parts of the British Empire. We all recognise 1244 the extreme difficulty of these questions; but I venture to suggest that the object would be best attained by passing a Resolution of the House declaring its readiness to sustain the Government in carrying out its arrangements for the Arbitration and in the discharge of Treaty liabilities, while taking note of the fact that the Newfoundland Legislature has passed the Act required. I believe there are many men opposite who wish to avoid, as we do, giving offence to the colonists, and, therefore, it is in the interest of the House, as well as of the colony itself, that we should avoid passing the Second Reading of a Bill which will cause irritation and annoyance in Newfoundland. I, therefore, venture to embody these views in a Resolution, which I will move as an Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a satisfactory Act having now passed the Legislature of Newfoundland, this House, declaring its readiness to support the Government in taking all measures necessary for carrying out the Treaty obligations of this country, and the arrangements for Arbitration made with the Government of France in this matter, does not now proceed to the Second Reading of the Bill,"—(Mr. Bryce,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (7.33.) MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
As a question of order, I would ask whether the passing of the Resolution would not destroy the Bill?
§ (7.34.) MR. W. H. SMITH
I think that in a matter of extreme gravity as this is, a minute or two might be spared to consider a proposal which is made, as I believe, in the interests of peace on the part of the hon. Gentleman and those with whom he is acting, and without in the slightest degree seeking to tie the hands of the Government. The only part of the Amendment as to which I feel any difficulty is that it is a record of the fact that a satisfactory Act has now passed the Legislature of Newfoundland. I have no doubt an Act has passed, but we have no positive in- 1245 formation on that point. We have the assurance of the delegates that it has passed. I read a letter which was written yesterday, in which it was proposed to pass an Act of the kind. A letter has reached us to-day, in which it is said that a Bill has been passed; but I think hon. Gentlemen will understand that under these circumstances we are obliged to proceed, not with distrust of the delegates, but with some caution and common prudence. It is obvious that we must see the Act before we can part altogether with the Bill, and with the power which the House properly reserves to itself for dealing with the question.
MR. A. STAVELEY HILL
(interposing, producing a paper): This is a copy of the Act. One provision which was suggested only yesterday afternoon is now in the Act.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am not at all questioning the assurances which have been given by the delegates, but the Government is responsible; and I think the fact that this information is by telegraph alone is sufficient to justify the exercise of common prudence and common care. Therefore, without implying any distrust of the delegates, I should suggest that the Resolution be amended as follows:—That this House, having been informed that a satisfactory Act has been passed,and so on. That, Sir, I understand, will leave the matter in this position—that if we find it necessary to ask the House to consider the Bill on a future day this Session, we shall have full liberty to do so.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It would, perhaps, be more satisfactory further if we substituted for the concluding part of the Amendment the words "adjourn the Debate." ["Hear, hear!"] That being assented to, I have now to say, on the part of the Government, that we accept readily and cordially the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, which in our judgment leaves us with the authority necessary to enable us to proceed with the Arbitration at once, because any delay in regard to the Arbitration would be a serious matter. I therefore, on the part of the Government, accept the Amendment as amended.
§ MR. SPEAKER
On the point of order, the adjournment of the Debate is never, as a matter of form, given with a motive.
§ (7.40.) MR. SPEAKER
then put the Amendment as follows:—To add to the end of the question that this House, having been informed that a satisfactory Act has now passed the Legislature of Newfoundland, and declaring its readiness to support the Government in taking all measures necessary for carrying out the Treaty obligations of this country and the arrangements made with the Government of France, does not now proceed to the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
Main Question, as amended, put.
Resolved, "That this House, having been informed that a satisfactory Act has now passed the Legislature of Newfoundland, and declaring its readiness to support the Government in taking all measures necessary for carrying out the Treaty obligations of this country, and the arrangements for Arbitration made with the Government of France in this matter, does not now proceed to the Second Reading of the Bill.