§ (5.50.) MR. HERMON HODGE (Lancashire, N.E.) (who wore the uniform of the Oxford Volunteer Hussars) said:
Mr. Speaker, in accordance with a custom long established, I rise to ask this House to adopt an Address of Thanks to Her Gracious Majesty for the Speech which has just been delivered from the Chair. 44 It has ever been a custom for those, who preceded me in this honourable, and difficult duty to ask for, and to, invariably receive, the kind and considerate indulgence of hon. Members of this House, and I can assure the House that never was that appeal made with less affectation or greater sincerity than I make it to the House to-night. I think it will be felt that my task is an exceptionally difficult and even painful one on this occasion, for my first duty is to refer to the distressing announcement which stands in the forefront of Her Majesty's Speech with reference to the death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence and Avondale. It is very difficult and hard for me, just at a time when the nation is beginning to recover somewhat, we hope, at all events, from the shock which it sustained by that painful event—it is difficult and hard for me infandum renovare dolorem. The feeling of intense grief which fills the heart of every Member of this House upon this subject must find an utterance here, and I will venture to make myself the humble means offering to our beloved Queen our deep sympathy in her great sorrow, for as she is the highest in the land, so is she ever the foremost to offer to the humblest of her subjects her kindly sympathy whenever trouble or afflictions overtake them. Upon the grief of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales I will not venture to intrude, and I know not how to find words in which to give utterance to the feeling which must arise in the hearts of all of us with regard to the young Princess, who yesterday was about to wed with one she loved so well, and whose approaching nuptials made the, heart of England so glad that you could almost hear her marriage bells, I must now, Sir, leave this painful subject with a reflection suggested by the Speech itself: that in all this gloom there is this bright thing, in all this bitterness there is this sweet, in all this sorrow there is this comfort, and it is the wonderful demonstration of love and loyalty which, has reached Her Gracious Majesty from every portion of her vast dominions, This is the golden light shining behind 45 the cloud. An Empire such as ours is bound together by many a tie, but no bond is of more importance in the maintenance of that Empire than the sentiment of loyalty. Patriotism may turn the thoughts of the subjects of the Queen to their homes in any part of her vast dependencies; but loyalty turns the thoughts, the eyes, the hearts of every citizen of this Empire to England and to England's Queen, and fosters the wish that the Queen may be long preserved in her station as Ruler of this Empire. We are met today under a new leader for the first time, and I am sure that the thoughts of hon. Members still revert with kindness to the amiable gentleman who so lately occupied that high position. When Mr. Smith was taken from us the people of England lost a good friend, and the Queen a faithful servant. Of the qualities and abilities of the right hon. Gentleman who has succeeded him good taste forbids me to speak. They are well known to this House, and they deserve, and I am sure they will command, the support and confidence and respect of the House of Commons. The most important communication, perhaps, contained in the Royal Speech is that peace still prevails, and it becomes almost a wonder passing our understanding that it has been maintained at all. Great, indeed, is the debt which this country owes to Lord Salisbury, and it has been gratefully and graciously expressed by many of his strongest and most distinguished political opponents. Great is the debt this nation owes to Lord Salisbury, who has for so long a time, and with such success, borne upon his shoulders the immense responsibility of the management of our foreign affairs. If that policy, friendly but firm, be continued, if it be supported, as it is now, and as it ought to be, by an adequate development of our system of national defence, including the Reserve forces—such as that force of Volunteer Cavalry whose uniform I have the honour to wear—supported by an Army increasing and improving as our Army is in equipment, efficiency and organisation, and above all by a Navy adequate to protect our coasts, our commerce, and the food supply of our people; then, indeed, we may look for 46 ward with confidence to a long continuance of our present peace, and of the prosperity which follows in its train. These subjects are mentioned for our special attention. The country learned with the deepest regret the intelligence of the death of the Viceroy of Egypt, in whom Her Majesty has lost a loyal ally, and the people of Egypt a true friend. Our co-operation with, our support of, the Government of the late Viceroy, has been creditable to this country, most creditable to those who have represented this country in Egypt, and most advantageous to the people of Egypt themselves. Its results are the improvement in the administration of justice, lessened taxation, increased trade, greater liberty to the people themselves, and a financial position which surprises even those who have most at heart the interest of that country. It has not escaped popular attention in this country that the young Prince Abbas, the Khedive who has succeeded in his father's place (having been named by a Firman of his Imperial Majesty the Sultan), on his accession received every demonstration of loyalty and satisfaction on the part of both pashas and people. This is a case in which, if there had been dissatisfaction or discontent, it would have been impossible to imagine that it would not have made itself apparent. Surely it would be unwise of us, unworthy of us, most unfair to the new Khedive, to withdraw that support which we gave to his predecessor, were we to leave Egypt until the work we have begun is placed on a solid and enduring basis. Then, and not till then, can we leave Egypt with the goodwill of every friend of Egypt, from His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, to the humblest tiller of the soil. The question of seal fishing in Behring Sea is in a fair way to be settled by arbitration. Any development of the principle of settlement of disputes by arbitration, whether it be the humblest trade dispute in this country, or a dispute endangering the friendly relations between two great nations like Canada and the United States, would be most welcome to this House. Zanzibar, by arrangement with the Sultan, has been declared a free port. This will be welcome news, indeed, both to the merchants and manufacturers of this 47 country, and especially welcome to those whom I have the honour to represent in this House, the working people of Lancashire. New markets are hard to find. The Trade Returns to hand, I believe, for Zanzibar, show the marvellous rapidity with which our manufacturers avail themselves of any opportunity of that sort. It is not expecting too much when I say I have little doubt that the dominions of the Sultan will be largely benefitted by the action he has thought well to take in this matter. I do not know if I should be going too far outside of the special business before us if I were to make an appeal to the House for the most favourable consideration to those pioneers of ours in Africa who are now raising our flag there. I do not make the appeal for generous consideration for them simply because they are enterprising and energetic, but because of the working classes, who will in the future benefit by the action they are now taking. I should like to allude very briefly to two of the b legislative proposals mentioned in the Speech. The chief place amongst them has, of course, been given to the proposal for applying to Ireland the general principles affecting local government, which have been already applied to Great Britain. And why not? Great success has attended the establishment of it in England and Scotland; the marvellously improved condition of Ireland, the prosperity of that country, is admitted on all hands. The very fact that it has not been necessary for Her Majesty to make any allusion in Her Speech to the condition of that country makes it evident that those who are responsible to her feel no anxiety on the subject. It is incontestible, and under these circumstances it seems to me that the Government are not only justified, but are bound to submit to this House, and to pass through the House, a Bill having for its object the placing of the Irish people on a footing, speaking broadly and generally, of equality with Englishmen and Scotchmen in this matter. Whether there be real grievances in Ireland against this country or not is a matter on which I hold strong opinions; but I will not express them now, as I do not want to throw down the apple of discord. But 48 under these circumstances it would, in my opinion, establish, and justly establish, a genuine grievance in the minds of the Irish people against this country if we failed to do them this act of justice. I have confidence in the Measures, and I have confidence in the Ministers, that they will be able to give to the House a Bill which will satisfy every legitimate requirement of every reasonable Irishman for local self-government, and will absolutely safeguard the interests of every class in Ireland. I will pass to a Bill which I will call something in the nature of an interesting experiment: it is for establishing what are commonly called small holdings. I will point out, not only for the information of the House, but to remove an apprehension which exists largely outside, that it is not intended to, in any way whatever, do away with the system of large farms, but to supplement that system by the creation of smaller holdings. It is another proof of the Government's anxiety to increase the number of cultivating owners. They have already given proof of this by their Allotments Act, and their action in Ireland. The Bill, I presume, will embody the Report of the Committee which sat on this subject not long ago. It will give a popularly elected local authority power to purchase land for the purpose of re-selling it in small holdings. I hope it will not stop there, but that it will give power to the local authority to lease land for the purposes of sub-letting in still smaller portions. I attach much importance to this, because while there are many men who would hesitate to put themselves at once into the responsible position of small owners, there are large numbers who would gladly avail themselves of the opportunity of becoming tenants of the local authority; and who, by that means, and by the exercise of a little thrift, might convert their occupancy eventually into ownership. I do not think there will be any necessity for compulsion in this matter. There is plenty of land to be got. Anybody who goes through an agricultural district will see on almost every barn end notices of sale, showing a sale of stock and effects has just taken place, or is about to take place. The whole question of agricultural depression is 49 raised by this Bill. Its causes have been long predicted, and they are the result of the free importation of large quantities of food, which has conferred great benefit, especially on places like London and Lancashire, where great masses of population are gathered together, but at a heavy cost to the home producer. The attitude of landlords and tenants throughout all this long-continued depression has been well worthy of our admiration, and the right hon. Member for Midlothian—whom I regret not to see in his place, which I hope is not due to ill-health—speaking on a Motion similar to this in 1890, used the language of compliment towards landlords and tenants, and their attitude throughout this depression. But he said, I think—"I wish them well through with it; indeed, I believe they are well through with it," or words to that effect. I thank him for the wish, but regret that his idea should not have been verified by the facts. We have no hope, we have no help, we see no likelihood of getting through. How can it be through? If you go on to the land and look into the wallets of the agricultural labourers what will you find? American bacon, American cheese, and bread made from foreign flour, or from flour made from wheat grown in this country at a loss to the producer. In such a matter as this I would not like to use the language of exaggeration, and I will not rely on any language of my own; facts and figures are more eloquent. Last year the average price of wheat was a little over 30s. Last week in Reading Market that was the average price at which it was quoted, and I believe last week at Swindon and Bristol the papers quote as low as 26s. and 24s. These are figures eloquent to anyone interested in the matter. The results of this depression are manifest and manifold, and affect the whole community. This Bill does not profess to touch the causes of agricultural depression, but to prevent one of the most remarkable results of the depression. It does hope to check, in some degree at all events, the migration of labourers from the country districts to the large towns which has lately attracted attention, and will 50 attract more before we have done with it. This is not a migration of agricultural labourers from purely country districts to small towns, but the migration from agricultural districts and small towns of numbers of young lads and able-bodied young men into the large industrial towns, to shoulder each other in the already overcrowded labour market. You have seen in London something of this agricultural depression. A great stream of these men came into the city and met another stream of those indigent foreigners who come to this port until the floods surged up into the streets of London under the name of the "Unemployed"—you see it, and know how grave the question is, and I apologise for detaining the House so long on this matter; but I am sure it will join in giving a welcome to this measure, which is destined to check somewhat this migration, not by placing artificial barriers in the way of those who want to go to our towns, but by offering greater inducements to them to stay on the land, where, by their knowledge and education, they can use their abilities with the best advantage to themselves and to their country. I believe the House would welcome any experiment, if it were only to raise the fringe of the pall which is lying over industry in far too many parts of our country. I can only thank the House for the kind and considerate manner in which it has listened to me. There is a lengthy list of measures to come before the House, and if I do not deal with them it will be out of consideration for the time of the House, and out of consideration for my hon. and learned Friend who will follow me, to whose legal mind it will be seen at once many of the subjects especially lend themselves. I may only hope that there are those to follow whose rising in this House is anticipated with eagerness, and whose words are listened to with the respect they deserve. I hope I have avoided referring to anything which may raise unnecessary controversy, and also that nothing I have said will tend, in the slightest degree, to prevent the House passing, at an early moment, the Address which I now have the honour of moving.
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 offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:
We take this first opportunity of offering to Your Majesty our sincere condolence in the afflicting dispensation of Providence with which Your Majesty and this Nation have been visited, in the death of His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale:
We assure Your Majesty of our heartfelt participation in the universal feeling of sympathy with Your Majesty and Your Majesty's family under this grievous affliction, and in the deep sense entertained by all classes of Your Majesty's subjects of the calamity which the country has sustained by the loss of a Prince who had won for himself the general affection and regard of Your Majesty's subjects.
§ (6.23.) MR. MILVAIN (Durham) ,
who wore Court dress: I cordially endorse the eloquent terms in which my hon. and gallant Friend has spoken in reference to the painful announcement of the death of His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence and Avondale. We, indeed, deeply participate in the terrible sorrow which Her Majesty the Queen and her family have sustained in the loss of the young Prince, whose life at a moment so singularly unfortunate has been taken away. That a Prince, the future heir to the Throne of this country, full of life, hope, and vigour, conscious of, and anxious to perform the responsible duties which would fall upon him, on the eve of the consummation of what he regarded as his earthly happiness, should be snatched away by the hand of death is a tragedy more painful and more cruel than has ever been recorded in the pages of fiction. It is not only in that respect we would as loyal and faithful subjects extend our sympathy to Her Majesty and to her family, but as those possessing human instincts sorrowing with loving and devoted parents who, after patient and anxious watching, 52 mourn over the death of their firstborn. The hand of death, Mr. Speaker, has played much havoc in the rank and file of public men in this country during the last few months; and I cannot pass away from this mournful subject without some reference to the loss this House and the country has sustained by the death of our late leader, Mr. Smith. His kind and courteous manner, his ever faithful obedience to the calls of his country, will make his place a difficult one to fill. But when we turn away from those whose deaths the country deplores—has not the country reason to congratulate itself that there are men of courage and ability capable of taking their places, whether it be as Royal Prince to perform the duties of the future heir to the Throne of England, or statesman to undertake those still more arduous and responsible ones of leading one of the great Parties of the State. May I now pass to other subjects mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. That the relations of this country continue to be friendly with other Powers is always a satisfactory announcement to. Her Majesty's subjects, and particularly to the trading population of this. Empire. That the dispute between Canada and the United States of America in reference to the seal fishing in Behring Sea is to be referred, I believe, to the arbitration of five lawyers of neutral Powers, is information which cannot fail to be acceptable to the country. It is a policy, Sir, which ought always to be followed by Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, connected as they are by the ties of relationship, to settle such disputes as are calculated to create friction, in a manner at once impartial and friendly. The country is to be congratulated on the acquisition of a free port at Zanzibar. Before quitting this part of Her Majesty's Speech, may I express my satisfaction at the policy which has enabled Her Majesty to give such assurances, so acceptable to her subjects, for, in my opinion, it is one of the functions of Government, if not the chief, to maintain an honourable peace; to seek for and provide additional free markets for our industry, and to, 53 encourage her subjects to embark in commercial enterprise under the assurance that the flag under which they trade shall be honoured, and that they may enjoy in security the fruit of their labours. As is usual, the Estimates for the Public Services are to be prepared on sound and economical financial lines, so far, I should hope, as is consistent with efficiency. But Her Majesty's faithful Commons are not generally economisers of the public time in their laudable ambition to be defenders ,of the public purse. I turn to that part of the Speech which deals with the legislative proposals for the Session; and I am pleased to see it is the intention of the Government to, apply to Ireland the principle of local government on the same lines as have been followed in England and Scotland, where they have operated so satisfactorily. Many of us, and I among them, have advocated on the platform and elsewhere the equality of the treatment of Ireland whenever she may be prepared to receive it, and I am glad, Sir, that it is apparent from Her Majesty's Speech that that time has now arrived; and I feel sure that the details of this measure will be awaited with the greatest interest, not only by those whose avowed policy it is to capture every representative institution as a stepping stone to ulterior political objects, but by those also who for these reasons think there ought to be certain safeguards against extravagance, maladministration and oppression. We are asked to consider a Bill in reference to Irish education. If my memory serves me aright, some £200,000 was voted last year, and allocated to this purpose. Here, again, is another instance of that equality of treatment to which I have referred. Largely assisted education has been extended to Scotland and England, and has worked exceptionally well. I know it will be a satisfaction to those who feared for the existence of the voluntary system of education to know that the system is in no danger, but can be shown to stand on a firmer foundation than ever it did before. Compulsory education, I think, at the present time, does not extend to Ireland; but for the same reason, equality of treatment with England 54 and Scotland, I hope there may be some modified system of compulsory education introduced into Ireland, to apply to those districts which are ready for it. To Scotland and to Ireland it is proposed to introduce a modification of the existing system of procedure on Private Bills. A Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament was appointed some years ago, and reported in favour of a devolution of the duties of Committees of both Houses to a local Commission. Scotch-men and Irishmen complain of the expense and delay of bringing the parties up to Westminster, and they complain of the waste of time on the part of their public and business men from the same cause, and they maintain that a Commission on the spot would be better informed regarding the desirability of proposed public works. The grievance is a genuine one, and I hope it may prove an additional reason for facilitating this legislation, in that thereby Members of this House will be relieved from some of the burdens that fall upon them as servants of the public. To India it is proposed to extend some of the principles of representative institutions, which may be productive of freer discussion and expression of opinion, and thus bring their Councils into closer touch with the Home Government. Proposals are to be made for improving the discipline of the clergy of the Church of England. It being the especial duty of the clergy to look after the moral and religious welfare of their people, a measure calculated to promptly remove a clergyman found guilty of an offence against the criminal law of the State or against public morality while discharging his sacred functions must undoubtedly commend itself not only to members of the Church of England, but also to all persons professing Christianity, and to those who profess to interest themselves in improving the moral tone of the people. I hope that circumstances may permit us to amend the law relating to evidence by enabling accused persons to be examined on their trial. To my mind such an amendment of the law is imperative. Recent circumstances have impressed this strongly on my mind. A man was 55 recently tried for one of those offences on which it is admissible for the accused to give evidence. He gave that evidence, and the jury acquitted him of the charge brought against him. But immediately afterwards he was charged with perjury committed in giving that evidence. He was tried for perjury, and upon that trial it was not admissible for him to give his own statement on oath in relation to the charge. It is imperative, I say, that the law as to evidence should be made general, otherwise the law which is meant to protect the freedom of the individual may be, as it was in this instance, made an instrument of persecution. I hope, too, that time may permit us to put the law relating to the liability of employers for personal injuries suffered by the employed on a permanent and more satisfactory basis. To extend the liberties of our people both at home and abroad, to remedy legitimate grievances, to increase the material well-being of our people, and to raise their moral and religious tone, is a programme of legislation on the principles of which we ought to be, and I believe we are, all agreed. Will it be too much to hope then that, for the time being, Party acrimony may be laid aside in this—possibly the last—Session of the present Parliament, and that we may unite in passing into law measures so well calculated to benefit the whole of the community. I have great pleasure in seconding the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech which has been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c. [See page 51.]
§ (6.40.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
The first duty that devolves upon me to-night, in the regretted absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone), is to express the deep sympathy of gentlemen sitting on this side of the House in the mournful subject which occupies the first portion of the Speech from the Throne, as I am sure it occupies the first place in the heart of the nation. That painful subject has been referred to with much eloquence and propriety by the Mover and Seconder of the Address, and I am sure I am 56 speaking the sentiments of gentlemen who sit on both sides of the House when I say that the duty delegated to them has never been performed with more grace and greater propriety than on the present occasion. Of the Mover of the Address I will say that the ability and eloquence he has displayed makes us regret that we have not more often heard him in our debates before. The hon. Gentleman who seconded will allow me to congratulate him upon the ability which he has exhibited in his speech to-night, an ability with which we are more acquainted. As regards the first paragraph in the Speech, I cannot but feel that in its wording we hear something more than the ordinary and formal expression of grief. I think we seem to recognise in it the personal accents of the sorrow of the Queen. Her Majesty may be assured that in the language of the Speech the House of Commons deeply participates in her distress. It would ill represent the nation of which it claims to be the principal representative if the House of Commons did not express to-night to the Sovereign the deep sympathy of her people. The people have not forgotten, they constantly and gratefully remember, how under the burden of many years and many sorrows Her Majesty has faithfully discharged her duty to the nation over which she rules. Few people are aware of the wearisome daily toil, the various and constant anxiety which occupies the life of the head of such an Empire as this, and few but those who have to endure it can know how great a weight is added to these labours by the pressure of domestic grief. In all the changes and chances which have befallen this great realm during Her Majesty's long reign, the Queen has ever been the first to sympathise in the perils and sorrows of her subjects. Ever since that great calamity which descended on her 30 years ago, a sorrow which, while it made her a widow, still left her Queen, she has had to discharge those great duties alone. The strong arm and wise counsel upon which she rested so fondly have been long withdrawn. She has had to bear alone the great burden of Empire; and how faithfully, how unselfishly, how 57 devotedly she has constantly discharged those duties is in the mind of this House, and dwells in the hearts of the people. In a touching and melancholy message she lately addressed to her people, the Queen has spoken pathetically of other sorrows that have befallen her family. She has told us there is none equal to this. The hand of death has fallen on the direct line of her succession, under circumstances most sudden and most heartrending, in the midst of bright hopes now quenched, amid happy expectations for the future, happy anticipations, now buried in the grave. The Duke of Clarence had but a short time in which to make himself known to the people at large, but of him it may be truly said that those who knew him best loved him most. There was a gentle straightforward simplicity in his character, and a sympathetic kindliness of disposition which made him the friend and favourite of all his companions, and which one day would have endeared him to the nation over which he was destined to rule. Of the sorrow of his parents, the Prince and Princess of Wales, it is difficult to speak; it is far easier to feel than to utter the sentiments which belong to that bitter anguish of those who have lost their first-born-probably the greatest sorrow that can enter the palace or the hut. In this, at least, we may truly say that the nation grieves with their grief. The Prince and Princess of Wales have made themselves beloved by the English people, the one by his dignified courtesy and kindliness to all, the other by her tender heart and her matchless grace, and they deeply enlist the sympathy of the people with a sentiment of almost personal attachment. There is one other figure which the Mover of this Address referred to in very appropriate terms: I mean the young Princess who was a mourner before she became a bride, whose affections and hopes were welcomed and shared by the sympathy of the nation, which read in them bright auguries of future happiness and love. All these have been blighted in the bud, and to her out of the warmth of its sympathy and commiseration I am sure this House will send a message of condolence. All I have more to say is that in every part of the House I am sure the paragraph of condolence to 58 the Queen will receive hearty and cordial acquiescence. There is one other topic of sad reflection which I cannot pass over in silence. We miss from the front bench opposite the late Leader of the House, whom we remember with personal regard and with high esteem, and whom we have lost with great regret. His invariable courtesy, his native good humour, his singular tact, and his habitual good sense made him loved and followed by his friends, liked, and respected by his political opponents. There have been, no doubt, men of greater oratorical powers and higher intellectual gifts in that position; there have been none, I think, who more faithfully and honourably discharged the duties of that high and difficult position he was called upon to fill, and which he well fulfilled. I may, perhaps, be allowed to say in one sentence that we recognize the claims of his successor to the place which he holds. The Leadership of the House of Commons is, in my opinion, the highest position which a subject can hold, and is one which requires high qualifications. No doubt in the course of our debates in the honourable contest of Parliamentary warfare we shall often cross swords with the right hon. Gentleman; but we shall always be ready to render to him, as we shall expect from him, every assistance in maintaining the dignity and privileges of this House, and in conducting the affairs of the House of Commons to its own honour and to the advantage of the country. Now, turning to other parts of the Speech, I do not think that upon foreign affairs it is necessary that I should make any special remark. We look upon it as highly satisfactory that the complexion of peace should preside over the report from the Sovereign of our relations with foreign countries. I shall not be tempted, even by some remarks which fell from the Mover of the Address, to enter upon the disputed question of Egypt to-night; but before I go to what may be considered probably the principal topics suggested in the Speech let me refer to one topic upon which, carefully as the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion went through the list, neither he or the hon. Gentleman the Mover said a single word. 59 This topic lies apparently in a dark corner at the end of the Speech, but it is a matter of enormous consequence, if it mean anything at all. That neither the Mover or Seconder had anything to say upon the Bill for revising the existing arrangements between the Government and the Bank of England is certainly most remarkable. Revising the existing arrangements between the Government and the Bank of England! Why, this means—if it mean anything at all—the repeal of the Bank Charter of Sir Robert Peel of 1844, and the substitution of a new system of currency for this country. Now, that may be a good or a bad thing to do, but it is no small thing to be put into an obscure corner of a Speech from the Throne, no notice being taken of it. I have heard members of the Government to-night give notice of the Bills they propose to introduce; but I did not hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer express any intention of bringing forward this question of currency. The remarkable point is that this is the one novelty in the Speech. The other subjects make but a catalogue of remanets. They are old familiar friends, who have appeared on the scene from time to time, they are ancient promises which have never been fulfilled, and are perhaps predestined for the fate which has in previous years overtaken them. I do not know what the Government regard as the principal measures of the Session. I hope we shall hear what are the Bills it is intended first to proceed with, how the right hon. Gentleman means to proceed with them, and in what way their progress is intended to be conducted. I observe a remarkable contrast between the view of the Government this Session and that which was put forward last year. When there were two important Bills laid before us—the Land Bill and the Tithes Bill—we were told it was necessary to read these a second time before Christmas; we should now like to know what are the more important among the Bills indicated which we shall be asked to read a second time before Easter. But going back again to this agreement with the Bank of England I have this to say, that I think it is no light matter to be hung 60 up, to be dangled in the air. These projects for revolutionising the currency of the country deeply affect all commercial undertakings, and they keep the monied classes in a state of feverish anxiety. What I am disposed to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer is whether he means business or not? Now, the position in which he has placed himself is a singular and I think an unfortunate one. For three years—I think I am right—in succession, bearing in mind the restoration of the gold coinage to a proper condition, he has postponed that measure, because it was necessary to connect it with a reform of the system of currency in this country. On that ground it has year after year been postponed. Last year I reluctantly consented to a temporary measure of reform of the gold coinage, which has not, I believe, up to this time been carried out. Then came the great Baring panic and scare, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not go to the House of Commons, but makes an after-dinner speech at Leeds, in which he propounds a scheme for the reform of the currency of the country. Well, that infant had but a short unhealthy life. It never came before the House of Commons after being exhibited to the merchants in Leeds; it was made away with by its own parent. Then the right hon. Gentleman has come forward with another scheme, which again, I hope, he is going to tell us will be brought before the House of Commons. It has, at all events, been produced as an essay before some commercial circles in the City of London; but I am not sure that it was well understood or warmly accepted. Now, what is the foundation of all these dealings, or, rather, nibblings, at the currency of the country? The right hon. Gentleman stated—and a graver statement by a Finance Minister of this country could not be made—that he considered the banking system of this country unsatisfactory and unsafe. He said the bank reserves were insufficient, and that great peril might naturally result from this condition of things. Well, if that be so, then the Finance Minister of this country is bound to take the earliest opportunity to bring forward a measure 61 to deal with this danger. That is a proposition not to be disputed. No such measure has been laid before the House. It is true he has said in his speeches that he has induced the bankers to keep larger reserves; he has said that the reserves are insufficient. I should like to know when he is prepared to say that he would consider the reserves of the banks to be sufficient? I must take this opportunity of protesting against the Chancellor of the Exchequer throwing out a succession of speculative schemes for dealing with what he calls "the great financial dangers of this country"—schemes which are calculated to disturb the mind of everybody; and the remarkable part of the matter is, that in not one of them does he propose to deal with the danger. He has admitted that the powers must be of a very interdictory character; and they go only to increasing the gold in the Issue Department of the Bank of England. The Leeds scheme has gone; the scheme of the Second Reserve is admitted to be imperfect; what has become of the last scheme? The last scheme was propounded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the City; there was a formal meeting there of merchants and bankers, and I should say that to take the opinion of merchants and bankers upon a matter in which they have different interests to those of the community is not the manner in which a question of this kind should be dealt with. But what happened when this discussion took place? An hon. Member opposite could tell the House something about it; but the upshot of it was, that when this measure was mentioned a gentleman, as far as I can understand, moved the Previous Question upon the scheme of the Exchequer, and it was ordered to be read a second time that day six months. My object in making these observations is to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell the House of Commons and the country what he is going to do about the currency of England. If he will allow me to say so without offence, he has gone on fumbling with the currency question. That is not the way in which the great questions of the finance of this country 62 have been dealt with by financiers of former times. When the great measure for regulating the specie bullion of this country took place there was a Bullion Committee appointed, and the Bullion Committee and the Government acted upon their own responsibility in 1826, when the one-pound notes were abolished. That was upon the responsibility of the Government of the day. When the Bank Charter came, which has preserved the commercial system of this country for half a century, Sir Robert Peel took upon himself the responsibility of the measure; he did not go hawking this measure about at City meetings or in after-dinner speeches, seeking if he could get anybody to take it; there was a Motion made, and he gave to the House of Commons a measure which, on the responsibility of the Government, they were ready to present for the acceptance of Parliament and of the nation. And I do think that we should have done with this tentative system of dealing with this question, and that the right hon. Gentleman should tell us, as Financial Ministers have told us in former days, what he is going to do? The present system is intolerable. Here is the Chancellor of the Exchequer telling the country that their financial system is unsound; that their banking system is insufficient; and yet we have no responsible measure brought forward by the Government for dealing with a matter which is of the most serious kind. Therefore, especially because nothing has been said by the Mover and Seconder upon this question, I venture to say that we should be told by the Government what they are really going to do in the matter. There is another very important matter dealt with in this Speech, and that is English Local Government. I have seen a good many Queen's Speeches in my time, I am sorry to say; but I do not think I ever saw a subject introduced in a less encouraging manner than this has been on the present occasion, showing that the Government had no real intentions of giving effect to it, or indeed any desire that it should pass into law; because the Speech says that "it may be possible to consider the provisions of an English Local Government Bill." If this is all the Govern 63 ment can say on the first night of the Session I think the augury is unfavourable. I am not very much surprised at that. The Mover spoke with much warmth and enthusiasm in favour of some measure of that kind. He has the advantage of being younger than the First Minister of the Crown; but I cannot say that the language employed by the Prime Minister the other day at Exeter showed any great desire for the promotion of such a measure. He spoke in a manner which may be described as modest. He holds himself responsible for qualified assistance in the creation of County Councils, and probably if he had the opportunity he would be responsible for creating District Councils; but he is quite sure in both cases he would be responsible for considerable addition to the rates. When language of this kind is used, I should be greatly disappointed if the measure were passed into law. He says District Councils will add to the rates, without any more effective remedy than that which for centuries has worked perfectly well, so that the Local Government is to be an expensive substitute for what has for centuries worked fairly well. Further, he says, "I do not see that independent Councils will do any particular harm beyond raising the rates." so that I cannot see how he could have more effectually thrown cold water upon the measure than he has done by this language. I do not know whether he regards those District Councils as places of amusement; but I have always regarded them, and I have always heard them spoken of, as a means of safeguarding and fostering in the rural districts an interest in the management of local affairs among a class that have little to vary the monotony of their daily toil; we hoped that Councils of that description would be a source of independence and self-reliance; that they would acquire a habit of dealing with matters concerning their own interests; and I confess I think it a little unfortunate that these things should be sneered at in this lordly way. I will remind the Prime Minister of the lines of a poem with which we are all acquainted"Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile The short and simple annals of the poor."64 And I think if he had recollected those lines he would have abstained from indulging in the sneer with which he has referred to this question. I am delighted to see on the opposite bench an eminent comrade of my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Agriculture. We all remember the eloquent and able part he took in the memorable debate on the Address in 1886. Well, I hope that this Bill is conceived, and I feel sure it is conceived, in a very different spirit from that in which the Prime Minister treated it; because he said of these small holdings, "They will not operate to any great degree in relieving the particular sufferings of the poorer classes." That is just what we wish they should do; but Lord Salisbury apparently has other objects; he thinks if he could only get a sufficient number of small holdings they might combine together and put permanent rates upon taxpayers of this country, rates which have always been charged upon the land, like the tithe, subject to which it has been bought and sold for centuries. They propose to put it upon the taxpayers, and then there is talk by these gentlemen of "spoliation of the rights of property." I hope when the right hon. Gentleman opposite comes to introduce his Bill we shall find that this Bill has been conceived in a very different spirit from that. Lastly, I wish to touch upon the subject of Irish Local Government. We should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman the course he intends to take in regard to that Bill. Does he mean to read it a second time before Easter, or does he not? What is to be the conduct of business in respect to this matter? It is hardly necessary to say in regard to the general policy of Local Government for Ireland that it is one which we favour and have always wished to see carried out; and if a genuine and honest measure for extending Local Government to Ireland is brought forward, certainly we shall have no indisposition to give our support to this measure. But, at the same time, we should desire to say that we, of course, upon this side do not regard the question of Local Government as settling the question of self-government for Ireland. We have always regarded 65 this as a separate thing; both necessary, and not as one excluding the other. In fact, ever since the question of Home Rule has been raised it has been perfectly well recognised, and Local Government will not meet the demands, at all events of those who advocate the principles of Home Rule. I can quote no higher authority upon that subject than my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). On the 14th March, 1887, speaking at Birmingham, he said—and he was speaking in condemnation of Home Rule—"We believe"—and I would ask the attention of the House to these words—"We believe, and no one stated it more clearly than Lord Hartington, that the situation depends upon the actions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, and that in the future it would be useless to talk of measures which would have been sufficient before, and that we are bound to consider now from a higher and wider standpoint the requirements for making more extensive concessions, and accordingly our position was that while we were willing to agree in the future to the creation of some legislative authority in Dublin, in accordance with Mr. Gladstone's proposals, we would not consent to a scheme so long as the safeguards provided by Mr. Gladstone were in our opinion totally illusory."That was what the right hon. Gentleman said. Since the introduction of the Home Rule Bill in 1886 there was no use of talking of limited measures. My right hon. Friend is now in a position to aid largely in the elucidation of this question, and I should like to see his Bill for a legislative authority in Dublin upon Mr. Gladstone's principle, with the safeguards which he would think it necessary to introduce in it. But whether it is a question of Local Government or of Home Rule, what I think we have to consider is the spirit in which this House and the Government are about to approach the question of dealing with the people of Ireland. After all, that is quite as important as any detail, or as any clause of the Bill; and as upon the Address, not only the measures indicated in the Speech but also the conduct of the Executive Government is subject for criticism and comment, I cannot conclude what I have to say without asking the attention of the House and the country to 66 the spirit and the language in which the Prime Minister recently referred to this question. It was in a speech made a few days ago, in which the principal question treated of was the equal treatment of England and Ireland in the matter of Local Government. Now, the Mover of the Address in his language left nothing to be desired; but what a contrast is there to the spirit and tone in which the Prime Minister of this country went so far as to heap insult upon the majority of the people of Ireland. In dealing with the question of how the people of Ireland are to be treated, Lord Salisbury said of the majority of the people of Ireland that they contain "all that is backward and all that is retrogressive; all that is contrary to civilisation and enlightenment." [Cheers.] I hear the cheers of Members for Ulster upon that speech; and I hear the Solicitor General cheer. The Solicitor General will have to retract that cheer, as he has had to retract many things both of law and fact. [Laughter and counter cheers.] I am glad, at least, that the Prime Minister has one faithful supporter and cheerer in his Solicitor General. Having thus degraded the majority of the people of Ireland—the people to whom we are going to give Local Government and equal rights to the people of England—I should like to see the Prime Minister address the same language to the English people. Then he proceeds with a violent invective against the Catholics and their Bishops; the Archbishops he stigmatises by name—somewhat unusual language, I believe, to be used by a person in the position of the Prime Minister. The Catholic people of Ireland he says have fought against us when we quarrelled with Spain, when we quarrelled with France, and when we quarrelled with America. Will the Solicitor General consider that language displays political wisdom on the part of a statesman? I will say something of that presently; but this I will say now, that those statements are absolutely unfounded in history, as they are unstatesmanlike in character. I have here somewhere a passage in which I could convince the House absolutely of that. You have only to go to a writer whom we all respect— 67 Mr. Lecky—and you will find that he states that in the troubles of 1715, the troubles of 1745, and in the great war against France, which ended in the peace of 1763, the Catholics of Ireland took no part against England. You will find it stated by Mr. Lecky that throughout the whole of the eighteenth century, far from its being true that the Catholics of Ireland were the cause of the disturbance, that it was the Presbyterians and Protestants who were at the bottom of the revolution. If you mention the names of the great revolutionists of Ireland—such as Wolfe Tone, and others—you will find they are not the names of Catholics, but of Protestants. In the great struggle of the American War everybody knows it was the Presbyterians, who largely colonised America, that got sympathy for America in Ireland, and that with the Protestants of the North and not with the Catholics of the South; while we all know what took place between Mr. Pitt and the Catholic Bishops of Ireland. Therefore this statement, that the Catholics as distinguished from the Protestants of Ireland were the enemies of this country is historically false, is one which ought never to have been advanced; and, in my opinion, a more unjustifiable, or a more detestable attempt for Party purposes to create ill-feeling and rancour between different parts and portions of people of the United Kingdom has never been recorded. I should like to ask the House what it should have thought if the Governor General of Canada had made such a speech reflecting upon the Canadian people? There you have two races and two religions; you have them enjoying that Home Rule for which Ireland is declared to be unfitted. If the Governor General of Canada had made a speech in which he said the Catholic population contained all that was backward, and all that was contrary to civilisation and enlightenment—supposing he had tried to revive memories of the Canadian rebellion; and supposing he had denounced the Canadian people, their religion and their priesthood, what would have been done? You would not only have been asked to dismiss him. He would have been packed off, and you would not have 68 been asked to send another in his place. If this had been an Indian question would the Viceroy have held this language? And for what purpose is this language employed? It is to show that though the majority may rule, and does rule, in England, though the majority does rule in Canada and in Australia, it should not rule in Ireland—first, on account of the inferiority of the race; and, secondly, because of the influence and character of the priests. Therefore, it is not the majority that is to rule in Ireland, but the minority. The minority is to rule in virtue of the superiority of their race and the preferable character of their religion; and the influence of the Catholic priesthood is to be destroyed by a Protestant nation and by a Government which sent the Duke of Norfolk on a Mission to the Vatican. It is the pure unmitigated doctrine of a race domination and a Protestant ascendancy. The language of Lord Salisbury shows that the Government of this country is the Government of an Orange Lodge. The oath of supremacy and allegiance that ought to be tendered at this Table is the "glorious, pious and immortal memory," and the Chief Secretary ought to appear in this House sitting astride the great gun of Athlone. That is really the natural consequence of such language. It is because the Union is regarded by the Unionists from this point of view that it is detested, and justly detested, by the people of Ireland. There is no country and no people in this world that would not resent and resist to the utmost of their power treatment such as is represented by this language. If the Irish people are not your enemies it is certainly not because men like Lord Salisbury have not done their best to make them so. There is another view of this question. What do you suppose is likely to be the effect of this brutal and tyrannical language on the population of our Empire abroad? I have pointed out what would be the effect if language of this kind were applied to Hindostan. Why, even the Hottentots of the Cape receive more considerate treatment than the Hottentots of Ireland. But what will the Irish people and the Irish Catholics in Canada think of this lan 69 guage? What will the Irish Catholics in Australia think of it? And, to my mind, there is a matter more important than all. There is a country whose friendship and goodwill are of more momentous importance to this country than all the European alliances—the friendship and goodwill of the United States of America. It is of the highest importance to us that we should cultivate the friendly feeling and goodwill of every part of the population of that great nation. The Irish Catholics are a very important element in the feeling and power of the United States of America. The sentiments expressed by the Chief of the Government of England and Ireland for the present moment will very sensibly tend to affect those populations. What do you suppose is likely to be the effect on American sentiment and feeling of language such as this? If you desired deliberately to breed ill will in America towards Great Britain you could not take a measure that could be more effectual for that purpose. Suppose the Ruler of Germany were to address any of his populations in this fashion; suppose he said to the Catholic people of Bavaria—which enjoys Home Rule to a far larger, extent than will even be demanded for Ireland—suppose he were to tell them that they were very inferior to the Protestants of North Germany, and were not entitled to be treated on the same footing as other parts of the population. For us, at least, one duty is plain. The Party which sits on this side of the House is the Party that for generation after generation, and at the cost of political power for year after year, has maintained the doctrine not only of civil freedom, but of religious equality. We denounce the spirit by which language of this sort is dictated. The Liberal Party first demanded and obtained religious equality for the Non-conformists, afterwards for the Catholics, then for the Jews, and lastly in the struggle in which you engaged against the late Mr. Bradlaugh, when you had to efface your own vote from your Journals. I speak of the principles to which we have always adhered, and which we have perpetually maintained I should like to ask, where are the Whigs on this subject? If there ever was a subject to which 70 the Whigs by tradition and principle were bound, it is this question of religious equality. Where are the men who profess—shall I say who pretend—to be the representatives of the principles of Burke? What was it that Burke taught with reference to the Catholics of Ireland? The principles of Fox, Grey, Grenville, and Russell. Where are the Fitzwilliams, the Carlisles, and the Cavendishes? Are the Whigs prepared to sacrifice these principles, as they have thrown overboard all the rest? I hope not. But if they are, we need not wonder why they are perishing out of the land, why they have ceased to influence the people amongst whom they were once a power, and why, like the Greeks of the Lower Empire, they will carry a memorable name to an unhonoured grave. Before I sit down I should like to read one passage. It is not from a Whig authority, but you will respect it none the less. It has been often quoted, but I will quote it once more. It gives a different view and a different reading of the causes of the evils of Ireland. It does not trace those evils to inferiority of race, or to the evils of its religious belief. These are the words—"What is the reason that a people with so bounteous a soil, and such enormous resources as the Irish, lag so far behind the English race? Some say it is to be found in the character of the Celtic race. But I look to France, and I see a Celtic race going forward there with the most rapid strides. Some people say it is to be found in the Roman Catholic religion. But I look to Belgium, and there I see a people second to none in Europe, except English, for industry, singularly prosperous, considering the small piece of country they occupy, having improved to the utmost the natural resources of the country, and distinguished among all the people of Europe for the earnestness and intensity of their Roman Catholic belief. Therefore, I cannot say that the cause of Irish distress is to be found in the Roman Catholic religion. An hon. Friend near me says it arises from listening to demagogues. I have as much dislike to demagogues as he has; but when I look to the Northern States of America I see there a people who listen to demagogues, and who show no want of material prosperity. Therefore we cannot attribute it to demagogues, to Romanism, or to the Celtic race. What, then, is it? I am afraid the one thing that has been peculiar to Ireland has been the Government of England."These are the words of Lord Robert Cecil, and I commend them to the con 71 science of Lord Salisbury. Unless the proposed legislation which you tell us you are going to bring forward in the interests of Ireland—this Local Government for Ireland—this treatment of Ireland on an equal footing with England—unless your legislation is to be conceived in a spirit and with objects exactly opposite and the reverse of the spirit proclaimed by the Prime Minister of England, then I venture to say your legislation, whatever it may be, will be doomed to failure and disappointment.
THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
Mr. Speaker, whatever the House may think of the last three-quarters of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down—and on that I shall have to say a few words presently—at all events they listened, I feel certain, with perfect agreement to the eloquent passage with which he began his observations. He dwelt, as my two hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Address dwelt before him, and in language not less touching and not less eloquent than they, upon that paragraph in the Speech from the Throne in which Her Majesty speaks of the sorrow which has lately fallen upon the Royal Family. Surely, through all the many generations in which the people of this country have desired to make the joys of the ruling family their joys, and the sorrows of the ruling family their sorrows, there never has been a case in which public and official mourning has gone more nearly to the hearts and sentiments of the people of this country. To a nation who, like us, regard the Royal Family with feelings of personal loyalty and affection, and who not only do so, but regard them also as in some sort the representatives and embodiment of the great history and traditions of a free country, the death of any Prince in the direct succession to the Throne must surely be an occasion of bitter grief, and yet this has been aggravated in the present case by almost every circumstance which could add tragic significance to the event. An untimely fate has cut off the future heir to the Throne in the flower of youth, and at a time when national preparations were being 72 made for an event which we all looked forward to with most happy anticipations. Such circumstances must appeal to all. Some there may be to whom political struggles, the rise and fall of Empires, and the fate of dynasties may seem things remote from the ordinary joys and the ordinary sufferings of common life; but even to them, and perhaps more to them than to others, the fate which has overtaken the Duke of Clarence must have appealed with overwhelming pathos. Thus it is, Sir, that we, the Commons of England, have taken this first opportunity of expressfng our sympathy with the Queen, not merely because we had looked forward with perfect assurance to the manner in which the Duke of Clarence would have fulfilled the great functions which seemed at one time in all probability likely to be entrusted to him, but also because we mourn with the Royal Family the death of the son, the grandson, the brother, and with one who was about to he united in even closer and tenderer relations to a, member of the august family. We know that the loss has left the hearts and lives of many desolate in whose welfare we, the representatives of the people of Great Britain, take the deepest interest; and therefore it is, Sir, that we have with unanimity ventured to lay before the Throne our expression of heartfelt sympathy, knowing, though we do, that in these matters sympathy can do little, although it is the sympathy of the nation. One other subject, I cannot forbear to touch upon, and I am emboldened to do so by the example which has been set both by my hon. Friends behind me and the right hon. Gentleman opposite. When last this House separated we had every ground for believing and hoping that the place of Leader of the House would on our re-assembling be filled by the well-known figure of Mr. Smith, by whom we had been so long and so ably led, and by whom our debates had been guided with such admirable tact, discretion and wisdom. It has happened otherwise, and the duties which he so well fulfilled have fallen upon one who, at all events, whatever his other shortcomings may be, desires nothing more earnestly than to walk in the footsteps of his prede 73 cessors. But though I do not desire, and think it would be inappropriate, to say one, word on this occasion as to what Mr. Smith's loss has been to the Party, and especially to those who sit on this Bench; though I feel that it is not desirable to bring in the question of personal friendship and to dwell in public upon the loss we have personally sustained in the removal of one who was always ready with sympathy, advice and counsel, I still may be permitted to speak what I think will be the sentiments of hon. Gentlemen on all sides of the House as to his claims upon the admiration not of the Party [...]ely to which he belonged, [...] on the House at large. Those who think with me that to have any share in the conduct of the business of this Assembly is to have an opportunity, not mere[...] serving your Party, not mere[...] serving your country, but of do [...], something to raise the dignity or to maintain the position of Parliamentary constitutions throughout the world, will agree with me in thinking that Mr. Smith, who died after all in the service of this House, has even more than the majority of the great line of his predecessors done his duty in maintaining the dignity and in promoting the usefulness of the greatest Representative Assembly in the world. I pass from these topics to the larger portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which was concerned, I will not say with the Speech from the Throne, for he made few and scanty references to that, but in attacking the speeches made outside this House by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman was pleased to express surprise at some of the omissions which were made in the Queen's Speech. I feel some surprise at the omissions made in the speech in which he dealt with them. I had anticipated from what had fallen from distinguished colleagues of his own during the recess, though not from himself, that some comment would be made upon the paragraph about Egypt. I am glad to find that is not so, and I presume I may broadly take it that as the right hon. Gentleman has made no unfavourable comment on the para 74 graph, he feels himself in general agreement with the attitude taken up by Her Majesty's Government upon this difficult and important question. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not even pay a passing reference to any question of foreign affairs. He skipped lightly over the various important items dealt with in the earlier part of the speech, and he fastened at once on the sentence which refers to a measure to be introduced by my right hon. Friend in relation to the rearrangement come to between the Government and the Bank of England. That sentence correctly describes the character of the measure which my right hon. Friend hopes to introduce. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will be able to raise upon that all questions they think fit connected with currency questions; and my right hon. Friend himself will take the opportunity of giving to the House, and through the House to the country, a free exposition of his views upon the subject. But I fail to understand why the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to fall foul of my right hon. Friend on this occasion. The Bill is not before us in any shape.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We cannot introduce a Bill before the Queen's Speech is disposed of. All that we have any cognisance of are the views which my right hon. Friend has put forward in one or two speeches upon the subject of the banking reserve and the currency. Why is my right hon. Friend to be attacked for making those speeches? It is perfectly true that Sir Robert Peel, as the right hon. Gentleman has told the House, did not make his scheme known to the public before he introduced it to the House of Commons, and what was the result. The result was that the banking world promptly attacked him for not having taken them into his confidence or consulted them and asked their opinions upon a subject which affected their interests, and on which they thought they were entitled to speak. On a subject permanently difficult, on which there are necessarily some divergence of interests, some divergence of views, my right hon. 75 Friend did well to explain his general attitude, and lay certain suggestions before the mercantile and banking community for their consideration, and there can be no more fitting preparation for discussions in this House of measures of that kind than the sort of preliminary debate that has gone on out of doors on the initiative of my right hon. Friend. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to attack us for showing no zeal for a District Councils Bill to complete the policy of English Local Government so successfully initiated three years ago by the head of the Local Government Board. Well, the right hon. Gentleman is as good a judge of the capacity of this House to pass rapidly through its legislative work, and he can form as good a forecast as anyone else of the time it may take to pass the various measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech. The right hon. Gentleman is in specially favourable circumstances for prophecying, seeing that his own conduct will probably have a good deal to do with the way the prophecy turns out. Can it be maintained that the Government would have been justified in speaking in a tone of assured confidence of the passage of a District Councils Bill when they had before that Bill the Irish Local Government Bill, the Irish Education Bill, a Small Holdings Bill, an Indian Councils Bill, Private Bill Procedure, and other matters of equal importance. The Indian Councils Bill, I trust, will take no time, and I may omit that from the catalogue. Not one of the measures I have named ought to give way to a District Councils Bill, important though it undoubtedly is. If we are justified in putting before the District Councils Bill the long list of measures which I have enumerated, it would be the height of folly to pretend confidence that the Bill was sure to pass before the House separates in August. I suppose, by long prescription and tradition, Governments are justified in taking a very rosy view of the progress of legislation. Their anticipations, as far as my experience goes, have never erred on the pessimistic side. They have always taken an optimistic view; but even the optimism of the most optimistic Government never went the 76 length that the right hon. Gentleman desires in supposing that they were sure to pass into law so long, so complicated, or so controversial a measure as that which my right hon. Friend will be prepared to introduce should any opportunity present itself. Having disposed as he thought of the out-of-door speeches the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to attack those made by the Prime Minister. I do not believe that there is a single sentence in the last twenty minutes which had even the thinnest reference to any measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech. It was an atta[...] [...] the Prime Minister and the [...] Unionists, a familiar subject [...] right hon. Gentleman, but an unusual one to introduce into the first speech from the Front Opposition Bench in discussing the Speech from the Throne. What were his accusations [...] said the Prime Minister sneered the poor because, forsooth, he did not anticipate that the result of the establishment of District Councils would be to prevent the emigration of the agricultural labourers from the rural districts to the urban. Off the platform, and uninspired by the rhetorical influence of a public meeting, would any man in his senses ever suppose that the establishment of a District Council or a Parish Council either—whatever merits it might have—would have the particular merit of inducing a man to stay in such a district when he could get better employment and improve his condition by leaving it? Surely such an idea never entered into the heart of man, though it has sometimes appeared in the perorations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. If that be the opinion of the House, and if that be the opinion of the Prime Minister, is he not to be allowed to express that fact without being accused by the right hon. Gentleman of sneering at the poor? Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that to sneer at the poor is one thing, and to sneer at the nostrums put forward under certain circumstances by certain quack politicians is quite another, and the distinction is one which should not be lost sight of. Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman went on to deal with Local Government. Here again, on the subject of Local Government in Ireland, 77 the right hon. Gentleman in his speech devoted his attention to what the Prime Minister said—not on the subject of Local Government in Ireland—in the speech which he recently delivered at Exeter. I did not know that that speech of the Prime Minister was to be the subject of our debate to-night, and I did not furnish myself with a copy of it, and I can only judge of the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's attack by the version which he himself has given of it. It seems to me that, on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, he did the Prime Minister the greatest injustice and subjected him to the gravest misrepresentation. He read out, in the last part of his speech, perfectly fairly, an extract from the Prime Minister's speech, in which the Prime Minister is reported to have said that the majority in Ireland contains all that is most backward in the population. The right hon. Gentleman takes that phrase, and he twists it round until it comes, in his hands, to mean that the majority in Ireland is identical with all that is backward in Ireland. It is not a matter of attack upon any section of the Irish people; it is a question of fact. Is it or is it not true that in the majority—in the political majority of Ireland—are to be found the greater part of the population, of whom, by any test which ordinarily is applied to such matters would be described as the backward part of it? Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman himself read out an extract from an earlier speech of Lord Salisbury, in which he expressed agreement, in which he distinctly implied the same thing; because in that extract from his earlier speech Lord Salisbury pointed out that though a large portion of the people of Ireland are undoubtedly backward it is not to be attributed to this cause; so that the right hon. Gentleman himself does admit that a large portion of the majority of the population of Ireland are backward; and I think that he would hardly deny that amongst the population which is backward the greater number would be found to vote for the principles represented by the majority of the Irish Members in this House. Now, this is a plain matter of fact, and it is a matter of 78 fact which cannot be got rid of, the importance of which cannot be over-rated, because if the result of Home Rule—God forbid that I should follow the right hon. Gentleman and discuss Home Rule on this occasion—if the result of Home Rule were to put the more prosperous and less backward part of the population under the control of the less prosperous and more backward part of the population, and if the political divisions of Ireland happened to coincide—as they do not coincide, so far as I know, in any other country in the world—with the divisions of which I have been speaking, the result would be, or might be—we think it would be—that the prosperous, advancing, and progressive minority might have their interests seriously imperilled by the action of those who, as a matter of fact, are less prosperous and more backward. Now, Sir, I do not mention this mere matter of statistical fact in order to excite or embitter feeling. I mention it simply to correct the right hon. Gentlemen's rhetoric, and show that in alluding to it the Prime Minister did not intend to embitter controversy, or to insult any section of the Irish people. He intended to bring to the notice of the electors of this country a fact which they are too often apt to forget, and it is that there is such a place in Ireland as Ulster, and that Ulster is not a place whose claims, whose rights, and whose future, ought to be lightly imperilled by the action of this House. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has said about embittering religious differences, I confess that my own opinion was that the only speech which has been delivered on this subject which was likely to embitter religious differences was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman himself. He evidently took into review every sentence of Lord Salisbury which could be twisted, perverted, or contorted into an attack upon those who profess the Roman Catholic religion, and in order that he might himself embitter for Party purposes the feelings of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland. For my own part I can, I think, safely say that never in all the controversies in which I have against my will been compelled to take part on the Irish 79 question, never have I suggested anything which it has been alleged against me could be turned into an attack upon the Roman Catholic population of Ireland, as such. Nor do I believe that anything that ever has fallen from the Prime Minister is capable of a similar interpretation. But I recollect that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, some 15 or 20 years ago, did engage in a controversy upon the Roman Catholic question, in which he made statements of Roman Catholics as such, and the impossibility of their being good citizens, which might well cause offence, and deep offence, in the mind of every Roman Catholic. But I do not believe that a single word can be attributed to Lord Salisbury which would indicate that, in his opinion, because a man happened to be a Roman Catholic he either was, or was likely to be, a less loyal subject or a less good subject of these realms. Sir, I have to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman took any precaution that a speech like the one he has just made would be delivered in the House of Lords, where it could be answered by the person whom it chiefly concerns. I presume that the leading members of the right hon. Gentleman's Party met, as it is customary upon these occasions, in order to discuss what line was to be taken in the Debate on the Address. I presume, then, that the right hon. Gentleman told his colleagues that he proposed devoting three-fourths of his oration to an attack on a speech made at a public meeting outside the walls of Parliament by a Peer; and I presume that the Leader of the right hon. Gentleman's Party in the House of Lords immediately said to him—"You have a perfect right to do what you like in the House of Commons; but clearly the most appropriate place for this attack is the House of Lords. There the Prime Minister will be able to explain and defend his action. I will repeat to the best of my ability your point if you will allow me, and then we shall know exactly what it is the Prime Minister did mean, and what is the policy he presented." I have no information from the other House as to when that step was taken. I can only regret that the duty, and I may 80 add the pleasure, of replying to the right hon. Gentleman has fallen into my unworthy hands, and that he could not be immediately promoted to a sphere which I am sure he would adorn, in order that he might have at first hand a reply which I am sure would have a very convincing effect upon the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. As to the concluding observations which the right hon. Gentleman made about the causes of prosperity in Ireland and the mode by which we think the Imperial Parliament may best reach the goal which we all desire to attain, I have [...] to say that if I believed, as the right hon. Gentleman here believes, that the policy which he has advocated [...] the best hopes of public security and personal liberty, I would join the right hon. Gentleman's Party. It is because I believe just the contrary; it is because I believe that the Whigs, those memory he has revived to-day, would have thought as we think, that the liberty and security of the individual is incomparably safer under the ægis of the Imperial Parliament than they could be under the guardianship—if guardianship is the word—of a Parliament in Dublin, be the safeguards by which you are going to secure them what you like. It is because I believe that all the best men of all parties in England would have held that view that I myself am determined now, and always, to do my best to resist that policy which the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit, without, so far as I see, any rhyme or reason, to discuss upon the present occasion. I will not travel further upon the road which he has pursued. It is enough that I feel myself justified in concluding, from the silence which the right hon. Gentleman maintained, both upon that part of the Speech which refers to foreign affairs and upon that part of it which refers to domestic legislation, that, so far, at all events, on these points, he sees little to criticise or blame in our action. I think that is a conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from the right hon. Gentleman's speech; and that being so, it is not necessary for me, I think, to follow him further into the very controversial matter which he could not restrain himself from making 81 allusion to towards the latter part of his address. I hope I may take the right hon. Gentleman's observations upon the topics really raised in the Queen's Speech as some indication that the debate on the Address will not be of a very prolonged or acrimonious character, and that it is not on this occasion that we need anticipate any of those formal debates to which the Speech from the Throne has occasionally given rise. There is one question which the right hon. Gentleman put to me, and to which I will endeavour to give some reply. He asked me whether the Irish Local Government Bill would be read a second time before Easter. It is impossible for me to give any absolute pledge upon that subject. My hope is to introduce that Bill and the other leading Bills of the Government at the very earliest date, so as to give the very fullest opportunity to the House and the country of seeing their provisions. Then I hope we shall make rapid progress with the Bill of my right hon. Friend dealing with small holdings, and as soon as that Bill is in an advanced condition, not necessarily completed, I propose to read the Irish Local Government Bill a second time, and to proceed with that and other measures. The Bill will be introduced at once, immediately this debate is over. I hope that assurance, which the right hon. Gentleman will feel is as much as it is possible for me to give on the present occasion, will satisfy him and satisfy all the Members of the House.
§ (8.52.) MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
I rise to call the attention of the House to a single paragraph in the Speech from the Throne, namely, that which deals with the re-introduction of the Bill for improving the Legislative Councils of India. I congratulate the Government in determining to deal with this important question, which is very well understood in India but very little understood in this House or in this country. This Indian Councils Bill, if adequately handled, will mark the most important stage in the government of India which has taken place since the beginning of the direct rule of the Crown. It is high time this Bill should be seriously dealt with. Great dissatisfaction exists in India at 82 the delay which has taken place, and I hope the Government will place this Bill in the front rank of the measures which they mean to pass this Session, and will give us an opportunity of considering it before Easter. But if this Bill is to effect the purpose of conciliation, it should mark a very considerable advance on the previous Bills brought in by the Government. If it goes no further than these, I venture to think it will altogether fail to pacify the educated opinion of India, or to have that healthy influence which we all hope it will ultimately exert. The previous Bills were limited to the extension of the Indian Legislative Council by increasing the number of nominated members. A larger number of native members were to be nominated by the respective Governments. Sir, as one in close contact with the educated opinion of India, and fairly acquainted with the progress of events there, I am bound to say that unless the elective principle is in some way, some substantial way, introduced into this Bill, it will altogether fail to satisfy the people, or fulfil those purposes of better government which we all hope to bring about. What India needs is some authentic means of expressing its wishes to its rulers, and to get an authentic means it is absolutely necessary that we should concede in some form the principle of representation. What we want in India is independent criticism of the action of the Government in India. All Governments are better for being criticised, and most of all despotic and autocratic Governments, as our Government in India virtually is. It is impossible to get this criticism merely by means of nominated members, who cannot adequately represent the wishes and demands of the people. No measure would tend more to give stability to our rule in India, or give solidity to our Empire, than the establishment in India of a measure of representative government. There are in India nearly as many University graduates as there are in England. For several years great representative assemblies have been held in India, under the name of the Indian National Congress. Every one who has read the proceedings 83 of that body will allow that for wisdom, moderation, and loyalty, they would do credit to this Parliament itself, or to any Legislative Assembly in the world. Now, Sir, this National Indian Congress is a very great political factor, a factor of the first magnitude; it cannot be ignored. It has raised in the most moderate and constitutional manner serious demands, and the principal of these—it may be said to lie at the basis of all the others—is one for elective representation on the great Councils of India. That is a loyal and constitutional demand which we must deal with sympathetically, if we wish to retain the goodwill of the large body of the people of India. Unless we do so we are preparing for ourselves a time of trouble in India, when seditious agitation may take the place of constitutional action. It would be immensely better to meet the natives of India half way. There is no use in disguising the fact that our Government of India is a species of despotism, as was plainly stated last Session by the former Under Secretary (Sir John Gorst). It is quite impossible that this system of government can continue in the nineteenth century, for it is absolutely out of harmony with those principles of which we are so proud in this country, and which we have applied to all our colonial dependencies, with the effect of making them thoroughly loyal. I admit that no one would think of placing the population of India on the same footing as the people of Canada or Australia; but there are in India a large number of educated persons who, by means of electoral machinery, might give great help in the government of the country. I am not proposing anything wild or revolutionary, but only what Lord Dufferin was in favour of before he left India. He declared that—"The time had come to give a still wider share in the administration of Indian public affairs to such Indian gentlemen as by their influence and acquirements, and the confidence they had inspired in their fellow-countrymen, were fitted to assist in the government of the country. Our scheme is a plan for the enlargement of Provincial Councils, and the multiplication of their functions by a partial introduction of the elective principle;"and if the Bill which we hope to see in 84 troduced before long carries out this recommendation of one of the ablest Governor Generals we have ever had in India, it will go a long way towards satisfying the aspirations of the Indian people. The burden of the responsibility we have assumed in India is almost too heavy for any country to bear. We have constituted ourselves as a kind of national providence over 280,000,000 of people, and it is to our real interest to associate with ourselves a body of competent and able Indian gentlemen who will share with us this immense responsibility. I wish now to allude to the decisive condemnation of the opium trade passed by this House on the 10th of April last. That vote, I believe, truly expresses the feelings of the British people with regard to the whole subject; for none can doubt that there has been a growing feeling of uneasiness and discomfort in the conscience of the country in respect of the opium trade. The agitation is bound to go on until a totally different policy has been adopted. My hon. Friend (Mr. Curzon), who has assumed the responsibility of representing India in this House, and for whom I have nothing but the kindest and best wishes, will agree with me, I am sure, when I say that there is no chance that the people of this country will change the view which has been expressed in this House upon the character of the opium traffic. I rejoice to hear within the last few days that the Indian Government has promulgated, or is about to promulgate, a prohibition of all opium smoking dens, and we shall look upon that as a great victory in the cause of righteousness. It is a great gain, but it falls far short of all that is expected from the Government of India, and only touches the fringe of the subject. It will help some of the people of India; but what will it do to protect the multitudes of Chinese? There is only one way of dealing with the opium traffic that will satisfy the people of this country, and that is its abolition, so far as the power of the law will allow. I admit that this seems hardly possible to do at once, and I do not wish to press the Government for any hasty decision on the subject. I am aware that India is a miserably poor country, and is heavily taxed upon that necessary of life—salt—by a duty 85 equal to 1,600 per cent. upon its prime cost; and I am also aware that India is not able to bear the loss of the revenue it at present draws from the opium trade, nor would I advocate that we should throw upon India so huge a financial deficit. If we are to tackle this opium question in a broad and statesmanlike way, looking to its ultimate abolition, this country must be prepared to give temporary aid to India, and to make some sacrifice itself. I am opposed to saddling the cost of the abolition of this traffic upon the poor, half-starved millions of India, and I trust the Government will before long be able to make some comprehensive statement dealing with the whole question of the opium trade. Before sitting down I wish to say that I hope this expiring Session of a long Parliament may not be wasted in Party strife, but will be devoted to measures of lasting benefit to the people of this country.
§ (9.10.) COLONEL EYRE (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough Division)
We have been engaged this evening in expressing our sympathy with Her Majesty and the Royal Family in their recent bereavement, and I should like to extend that expression of sympathy to all those sorts and conditions of men who form the poorer classes in this country, and suffer as much as other classes, but have no means of participating in an expression of national sympathy, except through the House of Commons. I refer to those whose advent to, and exit from, this world is perhaps known only to the Registrar of the district; but I feel that I am expressing the feeling of the whole House in making this allusion. In regard to the most Gracious Speech from the Throne, I find the stereotyped expression that we are at peace with all the world. It has become so common within the last few years that we look for it as a matter of annual certainty; but perhaps we do not realize how difficult has been the position of the Foreign Office during the last few years. We see Europe one armed camp. From the north of Russia to the south of Italy every man either is, or has been, a soldier. All the laboratories in Europe are devoting their time to the elaboration of methods of destruction of human life; yet, by some powerful 86 hand, these nations have been prevented from flying at each other's throats. We may congratulate ourselves that the gates of the Temple of Janus are still closed, and that the dogs of war are not yet let loose upon the Continent. In olden times, Sovereigns used to consult their augurs as to the probabilities of the future. In these more prosaic days we consult the Money Market; and, looking to that, I think we may anticipate a time of prolonged peace. But I attribute a great deal of this peace to the position our country has taken up during the last few years. Being a great commercial nation, representing three-fifths of the carrying power of the whole world, the Government have recognised the necessity for protecting its waterways through which the trade and commerce of this country comes; and I believe that in increasing the strength of our Navy we have increased the security of our national trade, and tended enormously to secure the peace of the world. I am glad to find that the Government are going to introduce a Local Government Bill for Ireland, and I can only trust that it will be framed in the same generous spirit as the English Local Government Bill. But I feel that it is the exceptionally prosperous and peaceable condition of Ireland at the present time which enables the Government to bring forward this Bill, and I hope the result of its introduction will be to secure still more the prosperity of that country. From the gracious Speech of Her Majesty I find that the Government intend to bring in a Bill to increase the discipline of the Established Church in dealing with moral offences; but I wish the discipline to be extended still further, for my experience teaches me that in the Church of England there is not that order that should be maintained. In the Army and Navy, discipline is very strict, and disobedience to orders is visited as it should be; and I think some method should be adopted by means of which, in cases where the ministers in charge of parishes neglect to perform their duties in a proper and satisfactory manner, the Bishop should be able to interfere and bring them to a sense of duty without incurring the enormous 87 expense which at present such proceedings involve. I trust that all the Bills mentioned in this gracious Speech from the Throne will receive the assent of the House, for I find they are all in the interest and for the benefit of the nation.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, North Division)
I should not have taken part in this debate had not the hon. Member below me referred to the subject of India; but I should like to say a few words on that subject. I was glad to notice in the Queen's Speech a reference to bringing in the Indian Councils Bill: that I am sure will be considered as a sign of interest in their affairs by the 280,000,000 of our fellow-subjects in India. Of course, it will depend upon what that Bill contains whether it meets the wishes of those on this side of the House, who have interested themselves in the welfare of the Indian people. The Bill of last Session was produced only to be withdrawn, and we trust the Government have not the same intention of strangling their bantling this year, and that it will contain, in some decided shape, the elective principle. The members of the Indian National Congress do not wish to dogmatise by proposing the exact method in which representation should be provided for, and leave that to the Viceroy and the Viceregal Council; but if the Bill is to be at all commensurate to the aspirations of the Indian people it must contain the representative principle. In the Queen's Speech no mention is made of the intended abolition of the paddy or rice tax in Ceylon, yet from the attitude taken by the Government last year it was clear they were convinced that the paddy tax ought to be abolished. It was then shown that the Governor of Ceylon favoured the abolition of this tax, which is imposed ,on the rice fields in which rice, the first necessity, as far as food is concerned, of the Cingalese people, is grown, and I believe Her Majesty's Government intended to remove it; but I shall be glad to hear what are their intentions, as whilst the fields which produce rice are taxed the lands on which tea, coffee, cocoa-nuts and other valuable crops are raised, are free from taxation. I am glad to see the 88 principle of arbitration laid down for approval with reference to the Fisheries Question; yet although we all approve of the action of the Government in letting that knotty question be laid before arbitrators, we shall be glad to see the whole question of arbitration taken up by Her Majesty's Ministers. The Government of the United States has expressed its approval of that principle, and there is no doubt that any advances made by Her Majesty's Government to the United States Government would meet with cordial consideration, and that a noble example might be set which would be followed by other nations. The working men of England are becoming convinced that arbitration is one of the means by which our commerce may be stimulated.
(9.25.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. CURZON, Lancashire, Southport)
I can assure the hon. Member that there is every desire to push forward the Bill to which he has referred at an early date, and to carry it into law, and that intention is indicated by the position that it now for the first time assumes. It will be introduced by the Secretary of State for India in the House of Lords on the earliest possible opportunity, and there is no reason why it should not come down to this House at a comparatively early date. I share the hon. Member's desire that we may secure an early second reading of the Bill. I think I should be unwise—and I am not certain that I should be in order—if I were on this occasion to follow the hon. Member into a discussion on the provisions of the Bill, which it will fall to my lot to introduce; and I will merely say that if it does not satisfy the expectations of the hon. Member in all respects, it, at any rate, is, from our point of view, an attempt to deal seriously with the question, and I hope we may receive his assistance with regard to it. The other matter to which the hon. Member alluded was the opium question; but here, again, I must not follow him in his observations upon the general policy of the Government of India, for they were hardly germane to a discussion of the Queen's Speech. I will only say, therefore, that I have laid this afternoon upon the Table, and 89 it will be shortly in the hands of hon. Members, a despatch from the Government of India dealing with this question, and relating to the representations of the Secretary of State on the subject. That despatch will in one particular, the importance of which I am glad to find admitted by the hon. Member, fulfil the expectations indulged in by him; and even if it does not meet with the entire approval of those who take more extreme views than the Government of India can espouse, it will still mark the development on the part of the Government of India of that policy of curtailment and restriction of the opium traffic, to which, from this bench, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs gave expression last year. With regard to the question of the paddy tax, I would suggest that the hon. Member should put the question he desires to be answered upon the Paper.
§ (9.30.) SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
I would ask permission of the House for a brief period to make some answer to the speech delivered by the Leader of the House. He has complained of the admirable speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, that that right hon. Gentleman discussed an ex-Parliamentary speech of the Prime Minister. He seemed to suggest that that was not proper Parliamentary usage in a discussion on the Queen's Speech. I submit that the course he took is amply justified by precedent, and that nothing—in view of the legislative programme of the Government, one of whose principal measures is the question of Local Government for Ireland—can be more fair than the discussion of the pronouncements of the Government out of Parliament on topics germane to that programme. It is of consequence to know whether the Local Government is to proceed on broad and generous lines in reference to the Irish people, even if it fall short of the point of the creation of a legislative body, which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham approves; whether it is to be a distorted, confined, contracted measure as defined in the ex-Parliamentary speeches of such Members as the hon. Member for South Tyrone and other Members for Ulster sitting on that side of the House. The right hon. 90 Gentleman the Leader of the House says he has not in his mind very clearly, and he has not read very earnestly and closely, the speech of the Prime Minister. That was convenient, for it enabled him to give a gloss, to suggest a gloss, on that speech which makes it entirely different from what it really was. What does he suggest, would be the effect of that speech? That Lord Salisbury at Exeter hardly did more than point out to the people of Exeter that there was a place in Ireland called Ulster. It speaks rather strongly of the view Lord Salisbury took of the intelligence of his Exeter audience, if it was necessary to point out that fact. What are the consequences that follow from this statement of the Leader of the House? When Lord Salisbury talked of the minority in Ireland as being that portion of the country which contained all that was progressive and enlightened, he meant that that was Ulster. Let us follow this to a conclusion. According to Lord Salisbury Ulster contains all the light, all that is progressive, all that is not priest-ridden in Ireland. ["No, no!"] I am glad the hon. Gentleman does not agree with that; but I am quoting the Leader of the House. Yet Ulster returns to this House—that which contains all the progression and enlightenment—a majority of Nationalist Members. This is in the speech of Lord Salisbury, as I read it:—He divides Ireland into two parts, and the division is not geographical; it is religious. They are divisions into Catholic Ireland and Protestant Ireland, and to the first of these divisions he attributes want of enlightenment, and the absence of all the elements of progress and civilisation; to the second he attributes all the civic virtues. The first of these divisions he denounces as the traditional enemies of England; for the second he claims the exclusive possession of that much desired and much misunderstood quality of loyalty. That was the division which Lord Salisbury emphatically made. I repeat, it is convenient that the Leader of the House has not had an opportunity of reading that speech at length, or of having any very clear recollection of what its contents were. We, on this side of the House, rejoice when the Prime Minister 91 does speak in public. Lord Salisbury, with all his great ability and the charms of his eloquence, is never anything in public if not contemptuous. If he has to deal with a question affecting India there is a suggestion of the black man; if with the question of Parish Councils there is the suggestion that a circus would be much more on their lines. If he refers to Irishmen, the "Hottentot" comparison rises to his lips. On this occasion he has denounced that division of the Irish people which he calls the unprogressive and unenlightened one, as the Catholic section. Does it occur to the supporters of the noble Lord, if it be true that the majority of the Irish people are not enlightened, are not civilized, have not the principles or elements of progress amongst them, does it occur to the supporters of the noble Lord what a sad, what a severe commentary it is on the Government of Ireland by the English people? There have been very nearly a hundred years of English rule, and yet at the end of it the Prime Minister is able to say no more than this of its results! One is almost inclined to believe, as has been suggested, that after all Lord Salisbury is an earnest Home Ruler in disguise, and that he takes this cynical way of pointing out the results of past English misgovernment in Ireland in order to bring home to the comprehension of the English people the vice and failure of their system. Yet it is to the majority of these people so denounced on whom he proposes to confer the boon of Local Government, on the same lines, according to the Mover and Seconder of the Address, on the same principles on which that Local Government is extended to England and Scotland. I ask, at the outset, Is it wise, is it statesmanlike, that such utterances should proceed from the mouth of the head of the Government, practically, of this great Empire; an Empire in which in many parts the Catholic population forms a very important portion? Is it wise, is it just to the Catholics of the Empire, to the Catholic Members of your Civil Service at home and abroad, to the Catholics who are amongst your diplomatists, amongst your representatives as Consuls, who have served in large numbers as your sailors and soldiers—is it wise and just to them that such a 92 division should be made? Is it just to that large body of Catholic servants of the Crown and Empire, faithful servants who in the days of danger and battle have not proved cowards or unfaithful? As a Catholic and as an Irishman I take as an insult the attack which the Prime Minister made, and that for the poor purpose of attracting the cheers of the groundlings, or for the wider purpose of influencing a Party vote. The Prime Minister further said that the majority were always the enemies of England, and he goes back to the story of the assistance that was given to Spain, to France, and to America. Was that statesmanlike, was it just? What says an historian, whose authority will be received by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite? Speaking of that very Spanish epoch, Mr. Froude says—"It cannot be said that England deserved to keep a country (that is Ireland) which it mismanaged so disastrously. The Irish were not to be blamed if they looked to the Pope, to Spain, to France, or to any other power in Heaven or in earth to deliver them from the Government which discharged no single duty that rulers owe to subjects."That was in reference to 1570, the epoch referred to by Lord Salisbury. He then refers to the assistance given to France, to the fact that Irish soldiers had fought in the French ranks. The fact is true, but so is the fact that these soldiers, gallant men, at the time they were fighting under the banner of France had been expelled from Ireland under the oppression of penal laws, which drove them from a country in which they were denied the rights of citizenship. Lastly, he refers to America, but surely this was the gravest mistake of all? In the discussion, by Lord Salisbury, of Home Rule, to introduce the case of America, of the fight of the American Colonies for independence, and to blame the Irish for taking part in the assertion of American rights, could any blunder be greater in any discussion of Home Rule? What was the story of the policy of the Home Government of that day, the stupid policy, which wrested from the English Crown and Empire those Colonies which might have long remained under her sway if there had been conceded to them by the Home Government, what they had a right to, self-government in their 93 own land in matters relating to their own affairs. Yes, the Irish did lend assistance, and they are not ashamed of it. They are proud of it, and my only regret is that I cannot claim for the Catholic people of Ireland any important share in that effort. It was not the Catholic people of Ireland who rendered important assistance in the assertion of national right on the part of the American people to deal, in their own land, by the voice of their own people, in matters of their own concern. It was the tenants—the evicted tenants—of Ulster, the sturdy Presbyterians and Protestants of Ulster, who were the men who fought in the American ranks. Lord Salisbury is not content with this; he charges generally against the Catholic people of Ireland, because these are the two divisions he makes; not the division of Lord Robert Cecil, who, speaking in 1865, drew no religious distinctions, but drew a distinction between the class of those who were distressed and those not distressed; he charges the Catholic people generally with disloyalty; he is historically incorrect. I am not going away from facts, as Lord Salisbury did, to the sixteenth century, but to take the fight between James and William. The Irish fought for James, and he was de facto the lawful Sovereign. They fought for him, not because he was James, but because he was the representative as they believed of their own civil and religious rights. I see the First Lord of the Admiralty in his place, and have no doubt he is acquainted with his own genealogical tree; and I believe I am right when I say that one of the men who led the attacking forces at the siege of Derry was one of the ancestors of that important ducal house. Now, Sir, what is the fact? From the time of the violated Treaty of Limerick of 1691, when that solemn promise was made of the concession of civil and religious rights to the Irish people, till 1782 there was no political rising in Ireland at all. There were in England and in Scotland, and I do not think the Scotch people of 1715 or 1745, or any hon. Members who are descended from them, are ashamed of the part their ancestors took on these occasions; and when in 1782 there was something like a military rising in Ireland, who were the leaders 94 of it? A Protestant—Lord Charlemont. In 1798—for I am passing over these rapidly—who were the leaders? Protestants—Lord Edward Fitzgerald, McCrackan, Joy, and the Shearses, names familiar to the hon. Member for Belfast, and still held in honour in Ulster. In 1803 another Protestant, Robert Emmet. And when, in 1848, the agitation for repeal left the strictly constitutional platform, who were the men to the front in the attempt to redress by arms the grievances of their country? They were the Protestant Smith O'Brien, and the Ulster Presbyterian John Mitchell. There is no doubt many Catholics joined them—amongst others the Sir Charles Gavan Duffy of to-day. Why do I mention these things? Is it to suggest that there is any shame or dishonour in these men for the part they took? Far from it! All credit to them! What I regret is that there were so few Catholics to the front. The truth was that the steel of persecution had entered their souls, for if ever rebellious movements were justified, they were justified by the state of things in those days. The speech of Lord Robert Cecil in 1865 has been referred to by my right hon. Friend. That speech, dispassionate in tone, pointed out no racial or religious division, but a division into two classes, one fairly prosperous, and the other, the larger, in great distress, and he points out that that condition of things is not to be attributed to race, or religion, or the teaching of demagogues, but was to be traced to the government by England. Since those days much has been done, and what has been done, speaking of its broad outlines, has been done in spite of the policy supported by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Mr. Speaker, I have spoken with some warmth, because I confess I felt some indignation. Protestants have most usually condemned Catholic teaching, not because it promoted rebellion, but because it enjoined in the interests of peace and order a submissive obedience, which was sometimes called a too servile loyalty. But Catholic loyalty in its true sense is not a mere political sentiment; it is a moral duty. When all is said and done, who is there that will deny that the best and surest foundation of all loyalty is a sense of confidence in the people that Government is to them 95 not a source of worry but of protection, that they are living, as they believe and feel, under the protection of just laws justly administered. It is a truth, which the history of the world proclaims, that wherever disloyalty exists it exists because the Government against which the feeling exists is not a just, is not a protective one, and does not give to the people the sense of security. If the position of these two islands were changed, and instead of Ireland being mainly Catholic it were mainly Protestant, and instead of England being mainly Protestant it were mainly Catholic, and if from Catholic England you sent Catholics to administer the Government of Protestant Ireland, thus placing the majority of the country in a position of inferiority to the minority, and reversing the universal rule by treating the majority and their views as not worthy of acceptance in the government of their country, I wonder how long hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been content with these ineffectual efforts to obtain their rights. The spirits of such men as my amiable Friend opposite (Mr. Johnston) would have risen against such a state of things. And who is there in the class to which he belongs who would not have struggled constitutionally and unconstitutionally till they had secured the rational right of self-government in their own affairs? Mr. Speaker, the language which Lord Salisbury has uttered would have been a mistake in any man, a mistake in any politician, and it is not too strong to say it is a shame and disgrace in a Prime Minister
(10.0.) MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Thanet Division of Kent)
The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down has opened up a phase of the discussion which is very tempting; but I feel bound to refrain from it on the present occasion, because I think it is generally understood that we shall have more than one opportunity of discussing Irish affairs before the debate is ended. My object in asking the indulgence of the House for a few minutes is with a view of bringing before it and before Her Majesty's Government another and very important subject. I desire to move as an Amendment the following addition to the Address:— 96"But, while glad to learn that your Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers continue friendly, this House deplores the retention in certain Treaties with Foreign States of provisions which operate in restraint of the establishment of preferential trading relations amongst the several portions of Her Majesty's Empire, and humbly urges the early termination of such provisions in accordance with the prayer contained in the Address to your Majesty from the Senate and House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada, supported by the representatives in this country of other self-governing Colonies."I think I should be unnecessarily detaining the House if I were to enter upon any lengthened explanation as to the reasons which induced me to bring forward this question. The remarks contained in the Amendment, to the effect that the two Houses of the Canadian Legislature have addressed a prayer to the Crown for the abrogation of the Treaties in question, is, I think, ample reason why not one moment should be lost in bringing this matter under the notice of the Imperial Parliament. In fact, if I have any expression of regret to make on the subject, it would be of regret and surprise that a, matter is left to a private Member to bring forward which should rather have been introduced to the notice of the House by Her Majesty's Ministers themselves. The Treaties to which I refer are the Treaties entered into between this country and Belgium in 1862 and that entered into with Germany in 1865, and which, when combined with what are known as "favoured nation clauses" in other Treaties in operation with other countries, extend the provisions of the Belgian and German Treaties to all other countries with which we have commercial engagements. These Treaties especially prevented any arrangement for preferential treatment being entered into for commercial purposes between the mother country and her colonies. By the action of the Government some 30 years ago in entering into these Treaties with Foreign Powers the freedom of the mother country to enter into such commercial relations with her colonies as might be for their mutual benefit has been fettered. If these Treaties are to be maintained, I do not think that the connection between England and her Colonies would be worth many years' purchase, for this is the only Empire that has 97 given foreigners the right to interfere in its own private and domestic concerns. The fact that the Address to the Crown, which I have already alluded to, praying for the abrogation of the Treaties, was passed by both Houses of the Canadian Legislature, would, under any circumstances, possess great weight with this House; but when I Mention the fact that in each Chamber this Address was moved by a responsible Member of the Government, and seconded and supported by leading Members of the Opposition, and that the Motion passed unanimously, I think it will at once be recognised that the matter especially demands our consideration. Party politics have run somewhat high in Canada, and fiscal questions have entered very largely into those politics; but notwithstanding that fact, they have unanimously agreed to urge this question upon Her Majesty's Ministers, the Address having been voted unanimously. It contained the following:—"That your Memorialists consider that these Treaties with Foreign Powers are incompatible with the powers and privileges that have been conferred upon the Canadian Legislature, and that their continuance in force is calculated to produce complications and embarrassment in the fiscal relations between England and her Colonies,"and so on; and then they go on to say—"That your Memorialists further believe that none of Her Majesty's self-governing Colonies should be restricted in adopting modifications,"and so on. But we must recollect that Canada does not stand alone in these views; because she is supported in her prayer for abrogation of those treaties by the accredited representatives of all our self-governing colonies. These have added their voice to the voice of Canada, and they one and all protest against the continuance of treaties which hamper the action of the Colonial Legislatures; those Colonial Legislatures having been in no way consulted or made acquainted with the treaties to which I have referred. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down has spoken of the action of Lord North in connection with the fiscal arrangements of the United States of America. Are we again going to play the rôle of Lord North; are we going 98 to turn a deaf ear to the united voice of the Dominion of Canada in this matter? I hope we shall hear from Her Majesty's Ministers that Her Majesty's Government are about to take prompt steps for the purpose of putting an end to this very substantial grievance. I cannot but hope that we shall hear that Her Majesty's Government have resolved upon that course, because last year it fell to my lot amongst others to be received on a deputation by the Prime Minister upon this subject, and the Prime Minister then spoke of "these unlucky treaties." He said—"With respect to those two unlucky treaties made by Lord Palmerston's Government 30 years ago, I am sure the matter could not have been fully considered. We have tried to find out what species of reason it was that induced Her Majesty's Government to sign such unfortunate treaties."And again he says—"Although there are difficulties in the way of these unfortunate engagements the Government will not omit any opportunity which may present itself for obtaining a modification of the provisions."But since then the question has pressed on with rapid strides, because the Canadian Government did not think that it was justified in waiting for the convenient moment which has been spoken of by the Prime Minister, and which he was watching for, to obtain a removal of those commercial restrictions, and they come before this House and ask that they should be freed from such complicated engagements. I must say also that all the self-governing colonies have united with Canada in protesting against the continuance of these Treaties. It need not be supposed that the abrogation of these Treaties is urged merely upon sentimental grounds; it is urged because they prevent a comprehensive commercial policy between the Mother Country and her colonies from being carried into effect. All the leading statesmen of all the colonies have placed their opinion in reference to this question upon record, and from these opinions it may be gathered how deep is the feeling of the colonies upon the question. The late Sir John Macdonald, speaking in 1885, said—"British federation might be achieved on the basis of give and take: if you give Colonial products such advantages as you give no other nation, I am quite sure the colonies will give British goods, and only British goods, preferential treatment."99 I quote these words, because it is said by some on the other side that, though the colonies wish to get these advantages, they will give nothing in return. A well known colonial statesman has said that—"Nothing could be of greater advantage to the unity of the Empire than the establishment of greater sympathy between the Mother Country and her colonies"in these matters, and in fact all the distinguished Colonial statesmen, including Sir Gordon Sprigg, Mr. Cecil Rhodes, Mr. Service, Sir Samuel Griffith and others, pointed most strongly to the fact that a means of cementing the Empire could be found in these engagements of a commercial character. If we drive our colonies into commercial, and especially into reciprocal preferential arrangements with other States, I do not think anybody would give a very great number of years' purchase for the continuance of our Colonial Empire. One matter which I should like to bring before the House is this. I am not asking the House to embark upon any line of policy which would be detrimental to the inhabitants of these islands. This country requires a large, I was going to say, an inexhaustible supply of food and raw material for the consumption of the inhabitants and for the trade of this country. The British Empire extends over an area, roughly computed, of something like one-fifth of the discovered globe, and Her Majesty's subjects number about 300,000,000 souls, and the various climates and soils which are included in Her Majesty's dominions entirely preclude any notion whatever that under any circumstances there could be a simultaneous occurrence of scarcity throughout the limits of our Empire; and in asking the House to press upon Her Majesty's Government the advisability of removing those obstacles to the introduction of preferential trading relations between this country and Canada, I have regard to the interests of the people and the necessity of an inexhaustible supply both of food and raw materials. We may be told that this is contrary to the principles of Free Trade; but in that connection I wish to say that amongst those who have taken the most active part in urging the establishment of trading relations within the limits of the Empire 100 are some of the most staunch free traders. Many free traders have come to recognise the fact that our first duty is to decide what is best for the country at the present time, and ask themselves whether they are not justified in looking to what would be of immediate benefit to the country. I have said that some of the most staunch free traders are in favour of a full consideration of this subject; and, though I am not myself a free trader, I can point to others who have realised that they must decline to follow upon this path. We were assured that all the world would follow in our wake as free traders. What has the world done? No doubt, up to a certain point, there were steps taken in certain countries in the direction of free trade. We found steps taken in that direction by France, and, in some respects, by the United States and other countries; but we find now that, with one solitary exception—I ought to except His Highness the Sultan of Zanzibar—scarcely a single State recognises what is known as free trade—I beg pardon, there was one State alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the, Member for Midlothian upon a celebrated occasion as "The one anti-human specimen of humanity," and designated by another authority as "The Unspeakable Turk," though I prefer to refer to that Power as our ancient ally the Ottoman Empire. But that is the only Power which can be quoted now as having in its system the slightest suggestion of these doctrines. But I would point out to hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite that the States of the world, united as they are against every principle of free trade, one by one, have all tried something in that direction, and one by one have abandoned it. I am not now arguing protection, although I am quite ready to do so, as I have never concealed my own predilections for a protectionist policy. I am now approaching the matter from the standpoint of an impartial trader, who desires to leave the Mother Country and the Colonies a free hand in their commercial concerns, with full liberty to advance what they conceive to be the interests of the Empire at the present time. I would point out to hon. Gentlemen opposite that the States in which the 101 doctrines of free trade are more thoroughly at a discount than in any other are the States in which popular government is in its most advanced state. I have never been an advocate of democracy; but I would point out that the most rigid protectionist tariffs are those of the great Republic of France, which is pointed to as a model to be copied; and in the new world I would point to the great Republic of the United States, which has shown a thorough disinclination to be hoodwinked by the arguments of the Cobden Club; and the whole world over I could show that wherever government has been established upon a wide basis, there you find free trade, more at a discount even than in Monarchical States. And in no place do we find free trade more thoroughly discountenanced and repudiated than amongst our own kith and kin in our own self-governing colonies. In all these colonies the tendency is to decline to follow our path and to strike out a policy for themselves. Therefore we are brought to this, that we are asked to reject the advances of our own colonies and to stand absolutely alone. When I speak of the United Kingdom I speak of the United Kingdom as standing against the whole world and against our own colonies. The population of the United Kingdom is about one-tenth of the population of Her Majesty's dominions, and the United Kingdom by no means forms so important a factor, relatively speaking, as it did in former days. There is another point which I would bring to the notice of the House, and especially to that of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who has just quoted from a recent speech of the Prime Minister. I daresay the hon. and learned Gentleman noticed that part of the Prime Minister's speech in which he spoke of an attempt of the political representatives of Ireland which involved the setting up of a protectionist State upon the shores of this country. I am not going into the question of Home Rule or Separation—it is foreign to the subject—but this I do say, and the Prime Minister was perfectly correct in saying, that the people of Ireland, like the French nation when it recovered its freedom of political action, 102 would promptly repudiate Cobdenism, and embark upon a protectionist policy. In like manner, the people of Ireland will demand from their representatives, whether they sit in this House, or whether they should sit elsewhere, they will demand that they should redress the gross injustice which was committed on Ireland by England many years ago, namely, the extinction of their manufacturing industries in the selfish interests of Great Britain.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle says that was done by English protectionists. What I say is that the people of England, in their own selfish interests, forced it down the throats of the people of Ireland; and if the right hon. Gentleman understood what Lord Salisbury gave expression to, he would see that it was that the great mass of the people of Ireland would demand some form of what is popularly known as Protection, and would eschew the doctrines of Free Trade. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is in his place. My right hon. Friend I know has never endorsed protection, and I think is supposed to be more or less in favour of free trade, or rather that he is disposed to be in favour of it; but what I have just been mentioning leads me to entertain hopes of the eventual co-operation of my right hon. Friend, for I would remind the House of a certain highly nutritive Irish product, which possesses highly digestive properties, and if his digestion were aided by a good draught of Parnellite or anti-Parnellite juice, even red-hot protection would find its way down the throat of the right hon. Gentleman with the rapidity of greased lightning. I would point out to the House that what I ask it to endorse is a Resolution which would afford an opportunity for freeing this country from foreign dictation in connection with our commercial system. I ask the House to support our self-governing colonies in this matter. Experience has shown us that our commercial system as it has existed for the last fifty years has failed to obtain favour among Foreign Powers. ("No, no!") I say as it has existed in this country it has failed to obtain favour elsewhere. At 103 any rate, we stand alone in our advocacy of the principle, and I ask whether we are to remain alone in our isolation? [An hon. MEMBER: We are.] Some one says we are; but I would remind him that if we do, our Colonies will make their own commercial arrangements with Foreign Powers according to what they find best for themselves, and the Mother Country will be left out in the cold. That is not what I should like to see brought about; I should be sorry to see such a state of affairs, and therefore I desire to relieve myself from complicity in any such policy. The people of this country now realise that the circumstances under which our trade is carried on are widely different now from what they were half a century ago. Meetings on the subject have been held in various parts of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Colonel Howard Vincent) will be able to tell the House of his own personal experience how this subject was taken up on the other side of the Atlantic. Meetings have also been held in this country, at some of which I have been present, where resolutions have been adopted in favour of a re-consideration of this question. Popular opinion, my belief is, will always support Parliament and the Government in obtaining fair advantages for British trade. I do not ask the House to adopt any course which would render dear the necessaries of life to this country. [Cheers and a cry of "Oh!"] An hon. Gentleman says "Oh!" but he appears not to have followed me when I pointed out that the vast area of the British Empire, and the variety of its soil and climates, would enable to be grown every article required for the population of this country, either for the purposes of food or the supply of raw material for our manufactures. The principle which has been recommended is not to put prohibitive duties on food from Foreign States. What is suggested is that we should allow each component element of the British Empire to retain absolutely its own fiscal freedom, that every self-governing Colony should be entitled to place whatever duties it thinks fit upon all goods coming into its territorial limits, subject only to the condition that a preference should be given, it 104 may be slight, in favour of goods from other parts of the British Empire. That, I think, is a policy which cannot be open to the charge of ultra or excessive protection. The United Empire Trade League, which has been formed to carry out these principles, and which has among its members some of the most eminent statesmen among Her Majesty's colonial subjects, has that object in view. We do not desire in any shape or form to interpose barriers upon our foreign trade, because it is perfectly open to us, if we think fit, to admit all imports from our Colonies free, provided always that we give a slight preference to them over goods which come from abroad. Sir, I think that is a very moderate proposal to bring under the notice of the Government. I, of course, am perfectly aware, as Lord Salisbury pointed out to the deputation that waited upon him at the Foreign Office, that treaties entered into cannot be abrogated at a moment's notice; but the whole of Europe at the present moment affords the spectacle of every nation readjusting its tariffs, and as the Member for Bradford has just now very properly pointed out, the change is certainly in the direction of largely increasing their protective tariffs, and thereby injuriously affecting the trade of this country. That, therefore, affords an occasion for us to point out that the British Empire, alone amongst the States, has been unwise enough to barter away its own fiscal freedom, within the limits of its own Empire. I might be told—but I do not think I shall be told by any Member in this House, because the argument would be too foolish—For goodness sake do not irritate these Foreign Powers who are so anxious to afford every facility for British trade. Why, they have put up every obstacle in order to shut out British trade from their markets. But supposing there were any country which could say that it had in no way injured British trade by its tariffs, I would say, we only ask for the British Empire that same liberty to regulate its own internal affairs in this respect which every other country possesses. Does Germany, France, or any other country ask Foreign Powers what arrangements they may make with respect to their own internal affairs? It is a 105 universal principle that within the limits of its own dominions every Sovereign State is supreme. I do not wish to put the House to the trouble of a division, because this is a matter affecting our foreign relations, regarding which I think that everyone would be most desirous that it should not be a subject of controversy among us. But I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will share the aspirations of the Dominion of Canada; that they will be in harmony with the sentiments expressed by every self-governing community of the British Empire; that they have not receded from, but will rather have advanced upon, the expression of opinion upon this subject which I have quoted from the Prime Minister, and that they will give us an assurance that those "unlucky pledges," those "unfortunate treaties" as the Prime Minister termed them, will not continue to cause an embarrassment to the public service. I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.
§ * COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, central)
In seconding the Motion of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowther), I wish to trespass on the indulgence of the House only for a few minutes. My right hon. Friend has gone so fully into the subject that very few words from me are necessary. But as the matter has, hitherto, been very little understood, I may be allowed to quote the clause of the Treaty referred to—I mean the 7th clause of the Treaty with Belgium, repeated in the Treaty with Germany in 1885, which hampers the free development of trade within the British Empire. It runs thus—"Articles, the produce or manufacture of Belgium, shall not be subject to other or higher duties than those which are or may be imposed upon similar articles of British origin."A Return was presented to Parliament in 1888 on my Motion, which contained this note by the Foreign Office:—"While these two Treaties remain in force the express stipulations above quoted are extended to all countries whose Commercial Treaties with Great Britain contain a most favoured nation clause, and apply to British Colonies."The effect of these Treaties was illustrated to the Senate and House of Commons of Canada the other day, when Mr. Abbott, the Prime Minister, 106 moved the Address to the Crown. He said that within the last three or four years they fixed a duty on goods imported from England at their value in England, while goods imported from Germany had to bear the increased cost of freight; that Germany remonstrated, and the Colony had to alter their law and put England and Germany in respect of such goods on the same footing. There is a case in which the Canadian Government, anxious to give British goods an advantage in Canada, were prohibited from doing so by these Treaties, which declare that foreign countries are to get equal advantages with British goods, whether the Colonies wish them to get those advantages or not. We can hardly wonder that the Prime Minister spoke of these Treaties as unlucky and unfortunate Treaties, and that he said we should take every opportunity that offered to deliver ourselves from such engagements. That was on the 19th June last; and we were hoping, Mr. Speaker, that we should hear some declaration either from the Leader of the House or from the President of the Board of Trade, to the effect that some means had been found in these seven or eight months to get rid of these very unfortunate engagements. My right hon. Friend has made reference to a representation made in this direction by the Agents-General of self-governing Colonies. The Member for the Brightside Division (Mr. Mundella) is in his place; and in his connection with the Trade and Treaties Committee he will recollect a deputation which came to him from the Agents-General of the self-governing Colonies urging the same thing—that the Empire should be freed from those Treaties. He will also recollect the deputation that waited upon him in which many hon. Gentlemen opposite as well as on this side took part, to urge that the Trade and Treaties Committee should recommend to Her Majesty's Government some means of freeing the United Kingdom, the Empire and Colonies from the engagements which tied our hands and prevented the development of inter-British trade. I do not know the feeling of the Member for the Brightside Division himself upon the subject. It may be that he is in favour of these restricting provisions, but we are en 107 titled to know the view of the Committee as a whole. Several Reports of the Trade and Treaties Committee have been published, but not that No. 2 Report referring to this matter; and therefore we have no knowledge of what the recommendations of the Committee are upon this subject. I do submit to the President of the Board of Trade that we are entitled, on a matter in which great interest is taken by a large proportion of the industrial community here and in the Colonies, to know what is the definite opinion of that Committee as a whole? My right hon. Friend has referred to the expression of feeling in Canada, and he has mentioned the fact that I had had an opportunity of addressing public meetings there on this question. That is so, Mr. Speaker; and I can only say this: that addressing large gatherings called by the Chambers of Commerce or Boards of Trade as they are called in Canada and Newfoundland, I found only one feeling, and that was that the Empire should be free to make such commercial arrangements between the different portions of the Empire as seem fit to the United Kingdom and the self-governing colonies. Only this evening I received by post a resolution from the Liberal Conservatives at North Grey, on Lake Superior, declaring that their Association expressed the earnest expectation that Her Majesty's Government would see their way clear to make some declaration of their intention to make favourable Customs arrangements between the United Kingdom and the colonies. It will be in the recollection of the House that this time last Session the Chancellor of the Exchequer entered his protest against the extreme application of the view that under no circumstances could we make fiscal arrangements with the colonies without injury to other portions of our trade. But he asked—"What chance or hope have the colonies held out to us that they are prepared to move in this direction?"I went to Canada to obtain an answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman, and I have had the honour of transmitting to him these resolutions from public meetings in Canada. But, in addition, he has had a copy of 108 the Address from the Senate and the House of Commons of the Dominion and the representations of the Agents-General. Only a fortnight ago a meeting was held in Toronto which declared that Canada would be found ready to take her share in Imperial responsibilities if mutual trade were established. These, I submit, are satisfactory answers to the question raised last Session by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and it only remains for us, I believe, to free the Empire from those Treaties which tie our hands at the present time, in order to be able to enter into commercial arrangements with our Colonies, or some of them, analogous to those between Germany and France and their Colonies, and now between Germany, Austria, and Italy. What do the Government propose to do in face of the statistics of trade lately issued by the Board of Trade? The Returns for the last year show a fall in the exports of British and Irish products by sixteen and a quarter millions sterling; and the Return for last month shows that the decline is continuing. The adverse result is felt not only in the consistency which I represent, but in Bradford, in the West Riding, and in many parts of Lancashire. I ask the Government what they propose to do in view of the injurious effect of the Reciprocity Treaties which have been concluded under Clause 3 of the McKinley Tariff Act in favour of American goods over British in Brazil, in Spain, and in other countries and markets where formerly the conditions were advantageous to British trade? I submit that Her Majesty's Government could not do better than show that they are determined to use the illimitable resources, the unequalled resources, of that vast Empire of which this is the centre and the headstone, and at any rate free themselves and the Colonies from Treaties which tie their hands. The Member for the Brightside Division will probably say, "Oh, but you cannot get rid of these Treaties, because some of their clauses are advantageous to British trade." But is there any reason, Mr. Speaker, why, if there be useful provisions in these two Treaties, we cannot give notice to terminate the Treaties in a year's time, and simultaneously enter into negotiations 109 [...] re-conclude them without the objectionable clauses? It is not Protection. All that we ask the Government or this House to do is, at any rate, to free our hands and enable us to have free and full development of trade within our Empire. I apologise for having trespassed so long upon the time of the House, and I beg now to second the Motion.
At the end of the Question, to add the words, "But while glad to learn that Your Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers continue to be friendly, this House deplores the retention in certain Treaties with Foreign States of provisions which operate in restraint of the establishment of preferential trading relations amongst the several portions of Your Majesty's Empire, and humbly urges the early termination of such provisions in accordance with the prayer contained in the Addresses to Your Majesty from the Senate and House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada, supported by the Representatives in this Country of the other self-governing Colonies."—(Mr. James Lowther.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH, Bristol, W.)
I hope my right hon. Friend will pardon me for not dealing with that part of his speech which related to the general subject of Protection and Free Trade. I do not agree with the views he expressed. I do not believe the people of this country agree with him, but I do not think this the time to discuss the question, which after all is not directly raised by the Motion which is before the House. Sir, my right hon. Friend asks us, in the terms of that Motion, to terminate certain provisions in our Treaties with Belgium and the Zollverein in accordance with an Address passed by the two Houses of the Dominion Parliament. I think that we should view with the greatest possible respect any Resolutions passed by the Dominion Parliament. We should give them our very best attention; but we should do so with the recollection and the belief that we are better able to judge of the commercial relations of this country than even the Dominion Parliament. Sir, the Treaty of 1862 with Belgium, and the Treaty of 1865 with the Zollverein, do not prevent, as I think my right hon. Friend is aware, the 110 establishment of any kind of trade relations between our different colonies. All they do prevent is the establishment of, so to speak, preferential relations between the United Kingdom and one of her Colonies, and between one of the Colonies and the United Kingdom. Now, Sir, I am quite willing to admit that these provisions are a relic of a past generation. We should not dream of entering again into Commercial Treaties affecting our self-governing Colonies without the consent of those Colonies, and the Colonies are well aware of that fact. And I go further, and say that I do not think it advisable that we should be bound by any Treaty which would prevent us establishing any trade relations we might desire between the Colonies and ourselves. But when we are asked promptly and at the present moment to free ourselves from these engagements, we are met with considerations which I think can hardly have presented themselves sufficiently to my right hon. Friend. In the first place, this question was considered ten years ago, when both the Belgian and the German Governments were sounded as to their willingness to omit from those Treaties these particular provisions, while retaining the rest of the Treaties. Well, Sir, both of them absolutely declined to consider the question from that point of view. They said, naturally enough, that if you want to revise these Treaties you must revise them as a whole; and the House must look upon this question from the point of view of the whole of the Treaties—whether they are to be maintained or to be denounced. Now, what are we offered by my right hon. Friend in return for renouncing those Treaties? We are offered what he calls a comprehensive commercial policy—but what I should call a preferential arrangement of a very remarkable character between the Colonies and the United Kingdom. I confess that, speaking for myself, I would go a long way if I could secure a Zollverein between the colonies and the United Kingdom—a common tariff applicable to them all. But this proposal would injure us on the one side, without doing us any good on the other. Why would it injure us? The colonies, according to my right 111 hon. Friend, desire a preference in our markets for the produce which they principally send here. What is that produce? As the Prime Minister told us, it is corn, meat, wool—raw material and food, the cheapness of which is essential to the manufacturing and commercial interests of this country. Well then, supposing a duty imposed, as my right hon. Friend proposes, upon these things coming from foreign countries, leaving those coining from the colonies untaxed, what is the effect? Why the price would be raised by the amount of the duty, and perhaps more. If not raised, what good would it be to the colonies? We should, in fact, be adopting a policy of protection upon imported food for the benefit, not of our own agricultural interests, for whom we might all be anxious to do something, but for the benefit of the agricultural interests of our colonies. We should lose in that way. How should we gain? Would the colonies reduce their tariffs on our manufactured goods?
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
But what good would that do? You would leave them perfect freedom to impose as high duties as they choose upon manufactured goods from this country in competition with their own manufactures, giving a small, perhaps a 10 per cent., preference on our manufactures over manufactures coming from foreign countries. But what would be the good of that? The Colonies would take very good care to protect their own manufactures; and as regards the competition in the Colonial markets between ourselves and foreign countries, we have got these markets already on equal terms, and so on that side my right hon. Friend's scheme would do us no good at all. That is what—and I hope I have not unfairly described it—my right hon. Friend offers us in return for denouncing the Commercial Treaties of 1862 and 1865. But on what authority does my right hon. Friend make this offer? On no authority whatever. The House will not find in those resolutions of the Dominion Parliament any definite scheme proposed for the acceptance of Her Majesty's Government. The speeches of my right hon. Friend and of my hon. Friend the Member for 112 Sheffield were only based upon vagu resolutions of public meetings, over flowing with sentiments in which we cordially share, of affection between the United Kingdom and the Colonies; but not adopting any definite policy at all. But now, what should we lose by denouncing those Treaties? Let me just state to the House what these Treaties give us. The Treaty with Belgium secures to British subjects the same treatment as natives with respect to all rights and privileges in matters of commerce and navigation, of payment of duties on tonnage, lighthouses, quarantine, loading and unloading of vessels; permission to import and export goods in British vessels as in Belgian vessels; participation in coasting trade; protection of trade marks; payment of salvage dues on wrecked property; the right to enjoy most favoured nation treatment in all that relates to commerce and navigation; warehousing and transit of goods; and so on. The Treaty with the Zollverein confers on our subjects most favoured nation treatment in our commerce and trade, and contains stipulations respecting payment of taxes, import and export duties, reduction of carriage; prohibitions of import and export duties; and provisions for the free transport of goods and coal. These are very important provisions, as every one who knows the trade relations between the United Kingdom and those countries must be aware. Is this the time to risk the loss of them? My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield has told us that a wave of protection is passing over Europe and other countries, and he suggested that we should join in the foolish policy. Well, I should not be surprised if before very long a neighbouring country felt very sorry for the length to which it has gone in this direction. But what has actually happened? These very treaties which my hon. Friends desire to denounce are at the present moment of the greatest service to us in contending with this policy. The House is aware that certain Commercial Treaties have recently been concluded between Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Belgium and Switzerland. I do not say they are free trade treaties, but in some important particulars they are 113 a step in that direction: and we have obtained the advantage of them for this country through those most favoured nation clauses in our treaties with Germany and Belgium. I have not yet got particulars of the new German tariff; but with regard to Belgium, in addition to transit facilities and other advantages we have obtained free entry into Belgium for no less than 13 different classes of goods, and a reduction in existing duties on 20 other kinds of articles. Now, I think I have said enough to show the House that the proposal of my right hon. Friend would be injurious to this country. I do not think that such engagements would be entered into at the present time; and I agree that when a favourable opportunity occurs it would be well to attempt to obtain a revision of the provisions to which he objects, but this is not the time to move, and Her Majesty's Government cannot undertake to move in the direction in which they are asked to go by my right hon. Friend.
§ MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
I must apologise for venturing to interpose during the course of this discussion, but I should just like to say that I think that there would be a benefit accruing to the British farmer if a plan of this sort were adopted. We want industrial activity in all parts of the country and among all our trades, because we know that when the manufacturing districts are doing well, when the wheels and the machinery in the cotton spinning districts are going round, the operatives in these trades under these circumstances are the very best customers of our agricultural districts. We want to see the industries of England going on at high pressure. My hon. Friend the Member for West Newington (Mr. C. W. Radcliffe-Cooke), who is a most ardent Free Trader, will scarcely dispute the statement that if our trade amongst ourselves were maintained it would be better for this great Empire than if that trade were going on in Germany, or in France. We know that almost all our English operatives, with perhaps the exception of a few that came up to London and posed as agricultural labourers, although probably they have never in their lives taken an agricultural labourers' wages on a Saturday night, believe in as much work as 114 possible being done here at home, and as many sovereigns and shillings as possible being paid on Saturday night to the operatives here at home. As to the agricultural part of the question, I believe if you canvassed all the British farmers between the Lands End and John O'Groats, you would find that if our throats are to be cut they would prefer that the operation should be performed by our own kith and kin. We know from the position of our labourers that they are not in a position to pay high prices for the necessities of life, nor do we desire that they should do so. We want fair play between the Mother Country and the Colonies, and when all the industries of the old country are active, we learn that we shall profit by that activity, because there will be an increased demand for a great deal of the agricultural produce which can be, and which ought to be, raised on our home fields.
§ (11.12.) MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford)
Sir, I desire, on behalf of myself and on behalf of those sitting on this side of the House, to express our thanks to the President of the Board of Trade for the way he has answered the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Amendment. Anything more sound, more candid, or more complete as an answer it would be impossible to look for. There is no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Amendment looks to Protection, and there is no prospect of any scheme of the kind he mentioned being successful, even from the right hon. Gentleman's own standpoint, without Protection. Reference has been made to a meeting in Bradford, and I must say that I do not think there is any man in Lancashire or Yorkshire who has thoroughly ascertained the conditions of those so-called protected industries who would wish really to transplant his industry or his prospects from one country to another. I could have wished that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman had run upon lines such as these—that seeing the evils produced by the war system in Europe, the social and industrial condition of every nation affected by it, it would have been well if this Government could have been induced to bring about a reduction of the armaments of Europe, and thus to institute a much better condition of 115 things. What can be ascertained beyond doubt is this: that the increased tariffs of every country in Europe and of the United States are directly traceable to the wars of 1863, 1864, and the war of 1870. What confidence can hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen have in what they call Moderate Protection. Where is the country that is practising it? Everywhere it is being abandoned. Does not that clearly show that, like moderate drinking, there must be a continual increase of the dose? If that is not the case, how is it that no country in Europe and that neither Canada nor the United States has been content with moderate protection? Hon. Gentlemen opposite talk of a moderate increase of five shillings per quarter on wheat, but that five shillings would be swallowed up by the landlord to begin with, and then they would want another five shillings for the farmer, and after that another ten shillings for the labourer. There is no limit. I do not hesitate to say that the hostile tariffs of every country in the world have operated to some extent injuriously to the trade of this country. But if hon. Gentlemen had been candid they would have said that the exports of every other country have been declining as well as our own—in some instances more so. There is nothing in the condition of Europe or America that should lead us to abandon our present position. We are on solid ground. If it is one-sided Free Trade, it is all in favour of this country, and the burden falls on others. They have to pay an increased, even an extravagant, price for their commodities. If we can induce this Government, or any Government or country, to take up the question of these excessive and crushing armaments, which are the curse of the world, we should do something to improve our own industries and to better industrial relationships with and in every country in Europe.
§ (11.19.) MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
Sir, I should not be loyal to the constituency which I represent if I allowed the opinions of my hon. Colleague opposite to go forth as the opinions of the people of Bradford. The conclusion that I have deliberately arrived at, which is shared by 116 the great mass of the employers of labour, is that unless something is done very speedily for the relief of our industrial classes we shall be in a condition of partial depopulation. I can assure the House that I could wish for no, better electoral cry in my constituency or in that of my hon. Colleague opposite than the cry of Fair Trade. I listened with some surprise to the statement of my hon. Colleague, that the condition of the Bradford trade is better than that of the United States. I know many manufacturers who, owing to the unfair competition of American tariffs, have taken their capital and machinery to the United States, being unable to, make a profit or to find employment for their own people at home. I have no fear of the cry of Protection being raised against us. The great masses of the working classes are in theory, as we all are in theory, Free Traders—all advocates of a system of free importation of raw material, but also in favour of such pressure being put on Foreign Governments as will enable the products of the British artisan to have fair play in the markets of the world.
MR. J. LOWTHER
After the encouragement I have met with I have no desire to embarrass the Government by taking a division, it being in my opinion undesirable to do so upon a question affecting treaties with Foreign Powers. I therefore beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Question, "That the Amendment be withdrawn," put, and negatived.
Question, "That the proposed words be there added," put, and negatived.
Original Question again proposed.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Broadhurst.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is an unusual time to move the adjournment of the Debate on any day but the first day of the Session; but I believe it is customary on the first day that we should adjourn at a somewhat earlier hour than usual, and, therefore, I beg to assent to the Motion.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock.