6. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £22,595, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Officers of the House of Lords.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said, the Government had gratefully acknowledged the action of the House of Commons in reducing the Vote for the House of Lords last year by the sum of £.500. This was a little testimonial to the vigilance of the Representatives of the taxpayers upon which they had a right to congratulate themselves. There appeared to him to be no reason why they should not go a little further in the same direction. He did not see why, after the House of Lords had been able to act in the splendid and efficient manner in which they had acted in the last few days, even after a reduction of £500, there should not be a further reduction, as it might help them still further along. A good many people besides himself found it a very trying thing to have to vote a large sum for the House of Lords. He would suggest to the Government that as the House of Lords had managed to get along very well after the reduction of last year there should be a further reduction this year, and he would move, therefore, to reduce the Vote of £41,595 by £40,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That £2,595, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
I must appeal to my hon. and learned Friend, having made his statement, not to press his Amendment. Since the Vote of the House of Commons last year, reducing the Lords' Estimate by £500, we may say that the House of Commons has achieved a victory, for the Treasury has not allowed the Estimate of the present year to exceed the amount allowed by the House last year. As we refused to comply with any increase in the Estimates passed last year, a conference took place between the Lords and the Treasury, and the House of Lords met us in a most liberal spirit. [A laugh.] Well, I speak of a liberal spirit from a financial point of view. They have agreed to meet the suggestions of the Treasury, and place their staff of clerks exactly on the same basis as the staff of clerks in the House of Commons. This is great pro- 1425 gress, because, after all, though the House of Lords may not have as long hours as we have, they have a very much smaller number of clerks to do the necessary work of the House. But this is not all. A Committee of the Lords, which sat in 1889, made recommendations which are being carried out at the present moment, and which will eventually lead to a saving of £6,500 on the Vote. Already £2,104 of that amount has been saved, but, of course, the full reductions can only be carried out when the members of the existing staff retire. We cannot ask the House of Lords to break faith with any gentleman who holds the position of clerk or any other position in that House. I mention this to show that the desire of the House of Lords is to deal with this matter in a liberal spirit. They have gone a step further than we even asked them to go. In accordance with the strong opinions expressed in this House last year by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), that officials of the House of Lords should retire at 65 years of age, they hare passed a Resolution providing that retirement after the (55th birthday should be compulsory for every clerk appointed by the Clerk of Parliaments. They have done this without being requested by us, and they have placed themselves in a position not only in this respect, but with regard to the reduction of expenditure which I think deserves the approbation of this House. I would therefore ask my hon. and learned Friend not to press his Amendment to a Division. [An hon. MEMBER: Divide, divide!] Surely the question is worth discussing. I have shown how the House of Lords have treated the Treasury in this matter, and I am bound to bring forward every point which I think shows in their favour. I think I should be neglecting my duty if I did not do so. I should just like to show the difference in the distribution of clerks between the Commons and the Lords. In the Public Bill Office in the Lords there are two clerks, while in the Commons there are five. In the Committee Office the Lords have one principal clerk and four other clerks, or a total of five, whilst in the House of Commons there are one principal clerk, two seniors, five assistants, and seven juniors, or a total of 15. In the Private Bill Office the Lords have two clerks, against 1426 five in the Commons. In the Journals Office the Lords have three clerks, and the Commons have seven. Well, I think I have shown that there has been a desire on the part of the House of Lords to meet the wishes of the House of Commons in respect of their staff, and I again appeal to my hon. and learned Friend not to press his Amendment to a Division.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I do not move my Amendment on the ground of economy. I think we ought to show the House of Lords that in this matter the House of Commons is the predominant partner. It is solely on that ground that I intend to take a Division on my Amendment.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
I quite understand that my hon. and learned Friend has not raised this point as a question of pounds, shillings, and pence. Last year, however, the reduction of the Vote was put on the ground of economy—that is to say, that the salaries were at a higher rate in the House of Lords than in the House of Commons. That was a proper matter to be considered from a financial point. It was so considered, and I declined altogether this year to have put upon the Estimates a larger sum for the staff of the House of Lords than was voted by the House of Commons last year. As I understand, my hon. and learned Friend raises the question now rather as part, of the differences of opinion which have arisen between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. I desire to point out to my hon. and learned Friend, however, that that is a very great question, and that it is a question that will have to be discussed, and probably have to be determined, but upon very different grounds from that of the salaries of the officers of the House of Lords. My hon. and learned Friend will remember in the play of Henry V. the objection taken, I think by the gallant Welshman, to carrying on war by killing the baggage bearers. That is not the way in which this contest ought to be waged. We ought not to begin this contest by an act which is not in accordance with the laws of war. It would be a very strange thing if we began a contest with a great man by cutting down the salaries of his servants. I remember the very same 1427 question arising when the Compensation for Disturbance Bill came on in 1881. The same proposal was then made in the House of Commons, and it fell to me then to advise the House not to indicate their indignation on the subject by a Vote of this character. I confess that I do not think it will conduce to the dignity of this House to enter upon this conflict—if conflict there is to be—between the House of Lords and the House of Commons by this particular method of procedure. The penalty, such as it is, does not fall upon the right persons. It falls upon those who are not Members of the House of Lords—upon men who have their careers in life, upon labourers who are worthy of their wages. [Laughter.] They are as much worthy of their wages as anyone else, as much as the gentlemen who serve this House. To reduce this Vote would be an act of personal injustice to individuals who are really outside this quarrel altogether. I would press my hon. and learned Friend not to take this particular course of action, which does not appear to me to be appropriate to the object he has in view. If there is to be a legislative contest between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, let us conduct, it on higher ground than this. This is a method which, in my opinion, will bring down the character of the House of Commons, and therefore I sincerely trust that the hon. Member will not press the Motion he has made.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.) rose to speak— —
I must call attention to the fact that nothing really is open to discussion on this Vote except the duties and salaries of their clerks.
§ MR. SEXTON
I am confident that neither the character nor the credit of the House will suffer by anything that may be done on this Vote. It is open to the House of Commons on this Vote to take whatever course may appear most suitable to the judgment, or I would even say the just resentment, of this House without inflicting any damage whatever on this Institution. I doubt if any direct injustice would follow to any individual even if the House of Commons 1428 refused to confirm this Vote to-night. I have no doubt but the resources of the Constitution exercised in one way or another will be found capable of providing the officials of the House of Lords with their remuneration. And, indeed, I would say that even if the people refused to provide those officials with any remuneration, the private resources of the Lords themselves would be equal to the burden of paying their own clerks. We cannot always be perfectly logical in politics. The course of politics is not ruled by logic; men are bound to take the best opportunities that offer. The House of Lords themselves are not too nice in their dealings with this House, or with our country. They act without any regard to our convenience, and I do not think it rests upon the Representatives of the people here, and especially upon the Representatives of the people of Ireland, to have any nice regard to their convenience. The House of Lords, in my opinion, is an institution which acts without regard to the will of the people of the United Kingdom. It treats the conclusions of this House with contempt. It treats the necessities, and even the sufferings, of the people of Ireland with callous cruelty. I heard it said within the last couple of nights, in the House of Lords, that it was a matter for regret that Ireland had any Representatives here.
§ MR BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
Mr. Mellor, I rise to a point of Order. Are we discussing the policy of the House of Lords, or only the staff which serves the House of Lords?
I have already said that I do not think the policy of the House of Lords is open to discussion on this Vote. The Committee can only discuss the duties and remuneration of the officials.
§ MR. SEXTON
Well, Sir, I have stated my opinion of the House of Lords. Now, I will only add that the only regret I feel is that a clean sweep has not been made. I would respectfully suggest to my hon. and learned Friend that the best course for him to adopt is that of withdrawing the Motion for the reduction. I, for one, as a Representative of the Irish people who have been insulted, and the peace of whose country has been endangered in a base political game—I, for one, feel that, as long as circumstances 1429 remain as they are, I cannot take any share in voting any money contributed by the Irish people for the support of the House of Lords.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I remember a Vote of this kind being snatched at the dinner hour, when the Address was under discussion at the beginning of the Session. A vote hostile to the House of Lords was carried against the Government by a small majority, but next day the Members who voted for it allowed their vote to be reversed. What is the use of this child's play? The Government are as clearly responsible for the Estimates as they were for the Address, and nothing is more certain than that, if this Vote were refused to-night, the Government being responsible for the Estimate——
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
This is the first time I have ever heard such a doctrine laid down in the House of Commons. I have always understood that the Government, in introducing Estimates, made themselves responsible for them. What is certain to happen if the Committee strikes out this £20,000 is that the Government will have to re-insert it on Report. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained perfectly clearly that the reason why the £500 was struck out last year was that the salary of the Clerk of Parliaments was a larger salary than that of the Senior Clerk in this House, although the work here is much heavier than that in the Lords. That was a plain issue, and I am very glad that the result of the Vote has been to amend that. Now, simply because of the action of the House of Lords on other matters, you are proposing to strike, not at the House of Lords as an institution—[Nationalist cries of "Yes"]—but at the servants of the House of Lords. I ask you, is it fair or manly to strike at the servants of the House of Lords? Abolish the House of Lords if you can convince the country that it ought to be done. [A Nationalist MEMBER: "Let them pay their own salaries."] Very well, then, take that issue. The House of Lords pays its own way by the fees it pays into the Treasury.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The hon. Member is never backward in speaking, and he can wait for his turn. This House has a perfect right to deal with the House of Lords; but I say that the attack on that House ought to be made in a straightforward fashion on the Institution itself, and not on the servants it employs. Just, as you had to consent to your child's play on the Address being reversel, so, if you insist on this reduction, you will have to restore the Vote to-morrow.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
I may point out I hat the definite cost on the Estimates of the House of Lords is £105,000, whereas the estimated receipts from fees for next year are only £44,000. I may say that, so far as I understand, the constitutional way for this House to object to anybody is to move a reduction of his salary.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
There is this difference between the action of the House on the Address and the action it is invited to take on the present Vote: On the occasion of the vote on the Address, hon. Members could only vote as a protest, and therefore it made no difference if, having recorded their protest, they afterwards assented to a different arrangement with regard to the Address. I can promise the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. W. Russell) that if the House rejects this vote for the salaries in the House of Lords, hon. Members will not come down to-morrow and reverse that vote. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said this was a great question, and it ought to be treated as such. Well, we are all anxious to treat it as a great question, and only want the opportunity of trying it out, and this is the first opportunity we have had. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to us, in the words of the play, not to make war upon the enemy by killing his baggage bearers; and the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) said it was not fair or manly to strike at the House of Lords by refusing the salary of their servants. I reply to that argument by asking is it fair, or manly, or courageous of the House of Lords to strike at the Irish Members by starving women and children in Ireland? Are we to be asked to vote a sum of £20,000 or £30,000 to an Institution which we believe to be a curse to both England and Ireland? If the House of 1431 Lords is to continue to exist we are entitled to ask them to subscribe to pay their own servants. We hold that the work the Lords do is not of such a character as to justify us in voting the money of the people to continue it. For my part, speaking as an Irish Member and as a Radical who believes that this great question ought to be brought to a trial before the country as soon as possible, I earnestly appeal to every friend of Ireland in this House, and to every sincere Radical who really wishes to make this a live issue before the people of the country, not to be led away to vote this aid to the House of Lords by any arguments such as are usually put forward on this subject, but to vote on this question in such a way that the people can believe they are in earnest. An argument was used by the hon. Member for South Tyrone such as I have never heard used before. He said that all Governments were responsible for the Estimates they brought into this House. Did he mean to convey that the Committee was not at liberty to decide whether certain items should be paid or not?
§ MR. DILLON
said, he earnestly appealed to every Radical in that House to show to the people of this country and the people in Ireland that they were in earnest in their opposition to the House of Lords.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 67.—(Division List, No. 235.)
§ MR. BARTLEY
I think, Mr. Mellor, you might record the fact that we have again saved the Government from their own friends.
§ Original Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 66; Noes 57.—(Division List, No. 236.)
§ 7. £28,133, to complete the sum for House of Commons Offices.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I think I could very well make out a ease for reducing this Vote, because, judging by the amount of work we have accomplished, we are not worth the money we cost.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he wanted to say a word or two about the accounts of the Kitchen Committee. Early in the 1432 Session, on the Vote on Account, they had a balance-sheet presented to them, but it was not audited. He would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would see that the balance-sheet presented for 1894 was audited by the Auditor General, so that they might have it put before them in proper form.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
was understood to say that he would much more readily grant this request if the food was better than it was. As for the auditing of the account, he had no objection to it. They were reckoning without their host, which was an unwise thing to do, but he would consider the matter.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, he should like to ask for an assurance from the Secretary to the Treasury that there should be a more efficient distribution of Papers from the Vote Office. Parliamentary Papers which should be available to Members at the Vote Office in the afternoon were often not available even at the time of the adjournment of the House. He hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would see that when any Papers were issued there should be a sufficient number in the Vote Office for all Members.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, these Papers were distributed under the authority of a Committee. He was aware that complaints had been made on the subject, and he would see if the Papers could be distributed earlier.
§ DR. CLARK
said, he thought it was time that some arrangement should be made as to the manner of the remuneration of the clerks in the House. They had four principal clerks beginning at £850, and going up to £1,000. The principal clerks were now getting the full sum, and in addition there were certain allowances. These allowances were things that belonged to a past time, and ought not to be continued any longer. One clerk got £300 a year for acting as paymaster, and an extra payment for taking Divisions. When any change was made these allowances ought to be swept away, and proper remuneration made by payment of salary.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, the appointment of the clerks was under the control of the Speaker, and he would take care that his attention was called to this suggestion.
§ Vote agreed to.1433
§ 8. £48,476, to complete the sum for Treasury and Subordinate Departments.
§ * MR. WEIR
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them on the previous evening that if they were dissatisfied with his services they might displace him. He did not think that was a dignified position for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take up. He had better hopes of the right hon. Gentleman. So far as the Highlands of Scotland were concerned, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would better fulfil his duties in the future than in the past. In other respects he could not make any complaint. He had been a most faithful supporter of the right hon. Gentlemen. For the lust two years he had been living on hope, but "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," and to-night his heart was sick because of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on the Front Bench. So much for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He hoped he would do better next year. Now, he found there was in this group a first-class clerk who received £700 a year, with allowances. He did not like the look of these allowances at all. It was a sort of payment by salary and commission. A salary of £700 a year was a substantial sum, and the man who received it ought to be satisfied, and other men should be found to earn the allowances of £150 or £250 a year. He had no objection to large salaries if they had good men to whom to pay them, and the work to do worth large salaries; but he did not like these allowances at all, and he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury and his colleagues would abandon them in the future. He could not refrain from referring to the £3,000 which was divided between three Junior Lords of the Treasury, because he wanted to call attention to the conduct of one of these gentlemen. It was a painful sight to an ardent Liberal like himself, and an ardent supporter of the present Government, when a Resolution was moved in the House on the crofter question to see one of these Junior Lords advising a Count-out. He objected to these Junior Lords being-paid when they obstructed the useful business of the country, instead of helping it. He did hope that no liberties would be taken with Highland Members in future. Was it because they were 1434 small in numbers? Though few they might be able to strike an ugly blow. He however, would make no threats.
§ MR. WEIR
said, he had taken objection to the allowances to Treasury clerks, and to these large sums of money going out to the Junior Lords. He was sorry the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not present when he made reference to him, but now he was present he would express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman would do his duty more manfully in the future than in the past.
§ Vote agreed to.
9. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £60,863, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices.
* MR. STUART-WORTLFY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, there was a large, absolute, and proportionate increase in this Vote, which, however, he would not complain of, because the departments in respect of which the increase was made were the departments in which the most useful work was done. These departments to which he referred were really more deserving of the name of labour departments than the Board of Trade by which the name had been most unjustifiably appropriated. The Factory and Mines Inspectors were the real labour correspondents, and were the eyes and ears whereby the Home Secretary learned of the real condition of the working classes all over the country. He noticed that there were four additional Assistant Inspectors of Mines appointed, and he would like to ask in what districts the Assistant Inspectors would discharge their duties. He would also like to ascertain how the experiment of making clerical allowances to Mining Inspectors had been found to work out, and if it had been found to give satisfactory results? It was an experiment entered into with a great deal of doubt, and he should be glad to find it had been satisfactory. The staff of the Factory Inspectors he noticed was increased by a number of lady Inspectors. 1435 It seemed to him that if the principle of appointing female Inspectors was good at all, a larger number than four were necessary. It might not be necessary to have a female Inspector in every district where there was a male Inspector, but it was obvious that the number of female employés was extremely large, and they were scattered over the whole three Kingdoms, and the system of female Factory Inspectors might, have to be further extended. With regard to the sum set apart for special inquiries, he thought that £900 was hardly sufficient, and he would remind his hon. Friend that no less a sum than £1,200 had to be provided by a Supplemental Estimate at the beginning of the Session, and that the £1,200 was only part of a total of £2,800 so spent in 1893–4. These inquiries were conducted by the Home Secretary in order to frame rules under the Act of 1891 with regard to certain unwholesome trades. The money was taken for work to come to an end in March. 1894. but he would be surprised if be were told that these inquiries were actually thou completed, and that no further work remained to be done. It seemed to him that the policy of the Act of 1891 was that if these inquiries did not go on continually they should go on frequently, and that a sum of money should always be kept on the Votes to supply the Department with the necessary funds. Of course, the object was to secure that the officers of the Department should be up in the very latest improvements that science was able to bring to bear on the improvement of unwholesome and dangerous trades, and to enable them to supply the Home Secretary with such information as would enable him to frame rules to render these trades less unwholesome and dangerous.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
endorsed the eulogistic remarks of the hon. Member with regard to the work done by the Inspectors of factories and workshops. He also agreed with the statement that the number of women Inspectors was miserably inadequate for the work which devolved upon the staff, and he hoped that at least 10 additional women Inspectors would be appointed in the next 12 months.
* THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL,) North Beds.
said, with regard to the Inspectors of Mines there would be one Assistant Inspector of Metalliferous Mines stationed in Cumberland, two Assistant Inspectors of Metalliferous Mines and Quarries in North Wales, and one Assistant Inspector of Coal Mines in South Wales. In respect to the system of allowances for clerical assistance, it had been found to work satisfactorily: at least, no complaints had been made. With regard to female Inspectors of Factories, he agreed that their number was inadequate for the work that had to be done, and he thought it would follow as a matter of course that they must be increased. He had been reminded, for instance, of the case of Belfast, which, in itself, would afford abundant occupation for a female Inspector having regard to the number of females, amounting to many thousands, employed in the industries of that place. That was only one instance, but it bad been very difficult to get the powers that be to see the necessity for the institution of female Inspectors even on the smallest scale, and the whole arrangements on this head were at present only tentative and experimental. But the experiment having been found to answer satisfactorily, he did not anticipate any very great difficulty in increasing the number of female Inspectors employed. With regard to special inquiries, the hon. Gentleman was no doubt aware that one of these—that relating to white lead works—was a very costly one, but it was a satisfactory one in many respects. Definite results with regard to particular diseases had been obtained, and these had been acted upon in reference to lead working in potteries, and an alteration of the rules made. At present there was a lull in these inquiries; but he presumed that the inquiries would be carried on from year to year, according as they were found necessary or as circumstances might arise in any special trade which would appear to demand investigation.
MR. KEIR-HARDIE (West Ham, S.)
said, he wished to urge upon the Home Office that female Inspectors should be drawn from the ranks of working women, who would have the necessary practical and technical knowledge to enable them to understand the 1437 complaints and grievances of the workers. He himself was aware of a case in which a lady Inspector was utterly unable to grasp the moaning of complaints which were made to her, and he trusted that in future appointments practical working women, otherwise qualified, would get a preference over those who were not so qualified.
§ * MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
called attention to the fact that several officials in the Home Office held more than one appointment. For instance, the Private Secretary to the Home Secretary was also a clerk in the House of Commons and received a salary in respect of each appointment. He very much objected to these dual appointments. There was also the ease of a higher grade Second Division clerk drawing £350 a year, who had a pension of £54 15s. from the Royal Artillery. He thought a Royal Artilleryman would be better employed in some department of the War Office, and that a civilian would do equally well for the Home Office. If in Order he would wish to draw attention to a case he had brought under the notice of the Home Secretary a few days ago—namely, the case of the Irish harvesters who were assaulted at Potters Bar. He went down there on last Wednesday and saw these men for the second time, because he did not care to trouble the House with any matter into which he had not fully inquired. In one of these cases a man was sentenced to 21 days' imprisonment with hard labour because he happened to be going home quietly on a Saturday night with some of his countrymen. The Home Secretary said these harvesters were found by the police lying on some hay in a hut in a field. As a rule, farmers did not provide spring mattresses and feather beds for Irish harvesters, and he thought the observation of the Home Secretary was not a proper one to make. These Irishmen were spoken of by the farmer who had employed them for 15 years in the highest terms as sober, steady men. The man who was sent to gaol for 21 days was going quietly along the road cutting some tobacco when a policeman rushed at him and charged him that he was going to stab the police. The unfortunate man had the misfortune to be an Irishman; but for all that, he thought Irishmen in this country should receive a protection from the law which 1438 in this ease he did not think they had received. They were treated insolently by the police.
So long as the hon. Gentleman confines himself to anything the Home Secretary might have done in the matter he is in Order; but he is not in Order in discussing what the police have done.
§ * MR. WEIR
said, it was because the Home Secretary had failed to do the work for which he was so handsomely paid, that he drew attention to this most distressing case. Of course, they were told that full inquiry was made, but others could make inquiries as well as the Home Secretary, and he hoped that the Home Secretary would take care to see that his information was accurate, and was not inaccurate, as it was in this case. There was another matter to which he wished to refer. The London County Council had issued Rules relating to buildings——
§ * MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
congratulated the Home Office on having appointed female Inspectors, and expressed the belief that those already appointed were highly qualified for their work. He had no doubt whatever but if additional Inspectors were necessary that ladies admirably fitted for the work could he found. No doubt, practical experience is urged by the hon. Member for West Ham would be useful, hut that was only one qualification, and there were others of great importance. He himself had the privilege of submitting to the Home Secretary the name of a lady admirably fitted for an office of this kind. With regard to the Inspectors of Metalliferous Mines, he would like to know why the Inspector recently appointed to Cumberland was to be excused from inspecting coalmines if necessary? The system under which an Inspector of Metalliferous Mines might be called on in case of emergency or accident to inspect coal mines had been found very useful, and he would be glad to have some information as to what arrangements had been made to enable this particular Inspector to be excused 1439 from performing a duty which he might legally be called upon to perform.
§ * MR. THORNTON (Clapham)
said, he wished to call attention to the case of the junior clerks of the Second Division in the Home Office, and through their case to that of those employed in other Offices, and to urge that they should have an extension of the period of vacation at present allowed to them. He would like the Committee to understand the exact position of these clerks. There was an Order in Council made in March, 1890, fixing the salary of junior Second Division clerks at £70, with a yearly increment of £5. Previous to this it had been £95, with an increment of £15, in each of these cases the hours being seven a day. The Order in Council of 1890 was, no doubt, an advantage to those who were already in the Service before it was issued; but to those who came in afterwards it was a disadvantage both in respect to salary and future prospects, whilst the annual leave of absence of three weeks was cut down to two. It was to gain that three weeks to the Second Division clerks that he had mainly put down his Motion.
* MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, he was sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he wished to point out that the arrangement as to the pay and leave of absence of the clerks in the Home Office was regulated absolutely by a Treasury Minute, and the Secretary of State would be quite unable, even if he wished to do so, to meet his hon. Friend in this matter without the sanction of the Treasury. The Home Office acted under a Treasury Minute of recent date, and the scale of remuneration laid down by that Minute applied equally to all Departments of the Public Service. This could not, therefore, be represented to be for any practical and effective purpose a Home Office matter.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
was quite prepared to accept what the Under Secretary of State had said—namely, that those clerks were paid under a Treasury Minute, and that, therefore, the discussion of their salaries, holidays, and emoluments should come on the Treasury Vote. There was one matter with which the Home Office had to do, and that was 1440 the promotion to the higher offices in the Home Office. He rose briefly to ask the Under Secretary for the Home Department whether the Home Office had any views on the question of the promotion of the Second Division clerks, and, if so, were they going to transmit them to the Treasury, under whose Department the clerks were paid and regulated?
* MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, his interposition had been made with a view to saving the time of the Committee. He did not want the hon. Member for Clapham to have to make his statement and then discover that the matter was not one for this Vote. Without offering any opinion as to the scale of the remuneration of the Second Division clerks, he might say that as regarded the leave of absence it appeared utterly inadequate to the proportion of the year in which the clerks were employed in official duty, and if it was in the power of the Secretary of State to secure any reasonable modification by the Treasury of this Rule, he was quite confident his right hon. Friend would have great pleasure in obtaining such modification, as should be (Mr. Russell) also. In reply to the hon. Member for Battersea, he had some views on the subject of promotion, as had also the Secretary for State, who, if a question was addressed to him on the subject, would probably give a more definite reply. With respect to the Private Secretary of the Secretary of State, in a case where he chose his Private Secretary from among the clerks in a Public Office, the universal rule was that the Secretary should draw his salary as clerk in addition to the emoluments he received as Private Secretary. With respect to the occurrence at Potters Bar, the Secretary of State would institute further inquiries into the circumstances. With reference to the case which had been mentioned of the ex-Artilleryman, he was employed as clerk to the Inspector of Explosives, and he was appointed because of the experience he had gained at Woolwich. He thought that was a very good and sufficient reason for having chosen him.
§ * MR. AINSWORTH (Cumberland, Egremont)
said, that when the question 1441 of the appointment of Mr. Leek as an Inspector of Metalliferous Mines in Cumberland was raised in the House a short time ago—an occasion on which he unfortunately was absent—it was stated by the Member for Mid Cumberland that Mr. Leck had been an election agent of his at the last Election, and that he had paid him £100 for his services. He had since seen his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cumberland, and had told him that his figures were slightly incorrect. He thought it right to mention, as a matter of personal explanation, that Mr. Leek had been employed by him as an election agent for a period of 10 weeks at a salary of £4 per week, and that he therefore received £40, which was set out in the statement of his election expenses. He had only to add that he had known Mr. Leek for years. Mr. Leek had been a working miner who by his ability raised himself to the position of underground manager, and subsequently manager of mines, in which he (Mr. Ainsworth) was interested. He had a thoroughly practical acquaintance with the working of metalliferous mines, and was, therefore, the very best man that could be chosen for the post to which he had been appointed. He was very popular with the miners, who were very anxious that he should be appointed, and a great majority of the mine-owners of the district were also quite willing that he should get the post of Inspector. In recommending Mr. Leek to the Home Secretary, he (Mr. Ainsworth) believed he was recommending the best man that could be obtained for the post, and he did not at all consider that the fitness or unfitness of a man for such an appointment depended on his political views.
MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
was ready to admit that as to the amount paid to Mr. Leek he fell into an error, and he apologised to the hon. Member and to the Committee for having said that he had paid Mr. Leek £ 100. But the difference between the payment of £40 and £100 did not in any way remove the objection he took on a previous occasion to the appointment of a man who had been actively engaged as an election agent of one political Party. There was also another matter in connection with this question to which he desired to call attention. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said on 1442 the former occasion that this question would not have been brought before the House at all by him (Mr. J. W. Lowther) if it had not been for the fact that Mr. Leek was a working man who had worked his way upwards. He should say at once that he was unaware of that fact; and even if he had been aware of it, it would not have influenced him in the slightest degree. As the hon. Member for Battersea had said on the former occasion, the fact that a man was a working man did not entitle him to any special consideration in those appointments any more than a member of any other class of the community.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, that when this matter was first discussed, he asked whether the Rule of the Civil Service that there should be a medical examination of the candidate before the appointment was made, had been carried out in this case. That Rule had been established in the interest of the Public Service with a view to securing that the candidate was physically able to discharge the duties of the office; and it was one that he thought ought to be carried out in every case. On the other hand, he agreed that in an appointment to a post, of this kind, where technical knowledge was the chief qualification, there need not be a theoretical examination. He thought the Committee ought to congratulate itself on having such an innocent Government. Here was a gentleman recommended by the Radicals of his district—a gentleman who had actually acted as a Parliamentary agent at the General Election, and yet the innocent Home Secretary never knew of that matter in making the appointment. He had recently drawn attention to a somewhat similar case in which a Professor had got a large pension out of the Civil List, and the Government was so innocent that they did not know that the Professor was one of their most ardent supporters.
§ * MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
expressed dissent from the statement that it was not necessary that a man with such testimonials and recommendations as Mr. Leek should be required to furnish satisfactory evidence as to his fitness to discharge the duties of the post he sought. In Mr. Leek's case the testimonials seemed to have been testimonials of the general public estimation 1443 in winch he was held, and not testimonials from people who had the means of knowing that he was peculiarly fit for this appointment. He thought it was a matter of very great importance in the appointment of Inspectors to mines that the Home Secretary should satisfy himself not only as to the esteem in which the candidate was held, hut as to his fitness for the proper and systematic discharge of the duties of the office. He should like to know what means were taken to provide that Mr. Leck should not he called upon to act as Inspector of Coal Mines. The intention of the Statute was that an Inspector of Metalliferous Mines should he liable to he called upon to inspect coal mines. In an ordinary case that was a desirable arrangement, as in the case of an accident it might be necessary to visit a mine immediately, and an Inspector of Coal Mines might not be available for the purpose; but in this case Mr. Lock had no qualification to act as an Inspector of Coal Mines.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH, Fife, E.)
said, that on the Report of the Note on Account there had been a full discussion of the merits or demerits of this particular appointment, and he did net in the least complain that the matter should be raised again, because he thought it was of general importance. He entirely agreed that, in respect to appointments of this kind, the first duty of the Secretary of State was to satisfy himself of the fitness and competency of the person recommended to him to discharge the duties he would be called upon to perform. In this case the testimonials did satisfy him of Mr. Leck's qualifications, apart from any examination. He was not a strong devotee of the principle of examinations, for he did not think competitive examination always brought the best men to the top. Still, he felt that it was a great convenience to a Minister whenever he could throw an office open to competitive examination, for it saved him from one of the most invidious and unpleasant duties he had sometimes to perform, and protected him from personal and political pressure in favour of candidates for the appointment. But the appointments of Inspector of Metalliferous Mines and Inspector of Coal Mines stood on a different plane, 1444 owing to the peculiar duties to be performed requiring the most intimate, practical, and technical knowledge; and he found that in such cases competitive examinations did not produce the best men for the purpose. It was on those grounds alone that in making the appointments in question he proceeded in the manner he did. As to whether, where the necessity for an examination had been dispensed with, the ordinary requirements of the Civil Service as to health should be insisted on, he found that it had not been the practice to insist on those requirements. If the practice was to be applied in one case it should be applied in all. He should like to see a change made whereby they would insist on that as a preliminary condition to any Government employment. Personally, he agreed that any man who entered the service of the State ought to produce evidence that he was in good physical condition. As to Mr. Leck's appointment, he was recommended not only by the minors, but by the employers of the district. He had had a representative statement from a number of the most important employers in the district, in which they said not only that the appointment of Mr. Leek would be a popular appointment, but that he was the best man to be employed. He was sorry if he had imputed to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowther) any desire to exclude Mr. Leck because he was or had been a working man. The hon. Gentleman did not know that fact at the time, and neither did be himself know that Mi1. Leek was a prominent politician, so that ignorance of prominent facts in Mr. Lock's career was shared between the hon. Gentleman and himself. So far as the appointment was concerned, he believed Mr.Leck was quite adequate to the discharge of all his duties. As to the point made by the hon. Member for Preston that Mr. Leck ought to be capable of inspecting coal mines as well as metalliferous mines it would be a great drawback to the efficient inspection of metalliferous mines if a man, specially qualified for the post of Inspector of such mines, were to be ineligible because he had no special qualification for inspecting coal mines. There was a Coal Mine Inspector at Newcastle, and Mr. Oswald, an Assis- 1445 tant Inspector at Whitehaven, so that it was not likely that any emergency would arise which could not be adequately met. There must be some specialisation in an appointment of this kind. On the whole, the procedure which the Home Office had adopted was the best.
§ * MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, that now Mr. Leek was appointed all further controversy on the question was to be deprecated. But the facts standing unexplained loudly called for explanation, and justified his hon. Friend in the course he had taken. There was no doubt that they now had in the position of Inspector a man capable of less work than had formerly been the case; but now that Mr. Leck had been appointed they must all desire that he should possess as much public confidence as possible. It was absolutely necessary to ascertain the possession of some qualifications for the post of Inspector of Mines. An employer of miners was not allowed to conduct his industry except through the hands and brain of a manager, who must possess a certificate, to obtain which he had to pass an examination. As the Inspector's duty was to supervise on behalf of the State, to check, and possibly to censure the manager, that Inspector ought to have nearly the same qualification as the manager, and they should be ascertained by a similar, if not an identical, process.
§ MR. BALLANTINE (Coventry)
said, he desired to move the reduction of the Home Secretary's salary by £100 in order to call attention to the case of the man Smith, who was executed at Nottingham in March last, and also the action of the Home Office and the necessity for a Court of Criminal Appeal. Smith was charged with the murder of a young woman, a hospital nurse, by shooting her with a revolver. Smith had held the highest possible character, and was in most prosperous circumstances, keeping a factory in Nottingham; and there was no motive whatever imputed to him for the crime. He had met the young woman only twice before the commission of the crime at the house of his own mother, whose friend she was. On the second occasion he arranged that he would take her and her mother over his factory, where he had perfected various inventions. Two days intervened, and 1446 during that time Smith bought a revolver for the purpose, as counsel for the prosecution suggested, of killing the girl. But that suggestion was incredible, as they were on the best possible terms, and the arrangement made was that the girl should be accompanied by her mother on her visit to the factory. As it happened, she went alone, however; and after she had been there some time in the company of the prisoner three shots were heard. The young woman came out wounded by one of the shots. The grave fact that three shots were fired was thus explained by the prisoner—that he did not know the pistol was loaded; that it went off accidentally; and that, when he found that he had shot the girl, he lost his head and fired off the other chambers. The girl died in hospital four days afterwards, after having made several statements to the nurses, all of which exonerated the prisoner from blame. [Mr. ASQUITH: No.] At any rate, in her dying statement she said that no words passed between them; that Smith levelled a pistol at her head saying, "Your money or your life": and that she thought "it was in fun." The prisoner never varied his statement that the occurrence was accidental. The evidence at the trial was entirely circumstantial and inferential. At the trial, after the case for the prosecution had lasted for two days and closed at 6 o'clock on the second day, counsel for the defence asked for an adjournment. The Judge said that he had an engagement in London two days later, and that the case must proceed. The counsel for the defence expostulated and apologised for the inadequacy of the defence. The trial was concluded at 9 o'clock.
The only matter under discussion is the Home Secretary's salary. The Home Office could not be concerned with the manner in which the trial was conducted.
§ MR. BALLANTINE
said, he brought, this into connection with the Vote showing that these were the facts before the Home Secretary7 when he considered the question of reprieve. The next morning the Judge summed up against the prisoner in a speech of two and a-half hours, in which he said not a single word in favour of the prisoner.
again reminded the hon. Member that the Home Secre- 1447 tary was in no way responsible for the conduct of the Judge.
§ MR. BALLANTINE
said, that his contention was that the facts before the Home Secretary would have justified him in advising a reprieve of the prisoner. One of the most material facts was that Smith did not have a fair trial. The jury recommended him to mercy on account of his high character, and the Judge ignored the recommendation. In a civil case this injustice would have been rectified by a Court of Appeal. A wrong done could be righted. But in a criminal case, involving life and death, the Judge and jury, though equally liable to error, were held to be always right. The only remedy in the absence of a Court of Appeal was to appeal to the Home Secretary. In the case of a question of a mere remission of sentence, the present system might work very well, but where the question was whether a verdict of guilty of wilful murder was right or wrong, the system was most unsatisfactory. The Homo Secretary might he a lawyer or he might not—he was usually selected because he was a politician; he held his inquiry in secret, the prisoner was not represented, and the Judge before whom the case was tried was referred to in order to ascertain whether, in his opinion, the verdict was just or not. In the present case, the materials which were put before the Home Secretary were overwhelmingly in favour of a reprieve being granted. In the first place, no motive whatever could be alleged for the crime; and, in the second place, the two persons who were witnesses of the occurrence both maintained that it was an accident; thirdly, the man had not had a fair trial; fourthly, the jury recommended him to mercy; and, fifthly, a petition was signed by 10,000 persons, including the jury, in favour of a reprieve. Notwithstanding all these circumstances, the Home Secretary refused to reprieve the man on the most inconvenient day—namely, Good Friday—and he fixed the day of execution for the following Tuesday.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I had nothing whatever to do with the matter. The Sheriff fixes the date of execution.
§ MR. BALLANTINE
said, that in any case, the execution was fixed and carried 1448 out in the Easter Recess, and no opportunity had been given to him to move the adjournment of the House in order to call attention to the case before the prisoner was executed. Another circumstance to which he would refer was with reference to an alleged confession which the prisoner was said to have made. Rumours of that confession having been made had reached the relatives of the prisoner, and a question was asked in the House whether he had made a confession two nights before his execution to the effect that he had bought the revolver for the purpose of shooting the girl, and to whom the confession was made, and why the fact had not been communicated to his family in the lifetime of the prisoner; and to that question the Home Secretary refused to give any reply. The result was that the relatives of the executed man were unable to test the truth of the story. It was incredible that the accused should have bought the revolver for the purpose of shooting a girl whom he had only seen once before and with whom he was upon the best of terms, and the man himself had maintained to his last hour that he was innocent. On the day after the alleged confession the unhappy man took leave of his family, to each of whom he reiterated his assertion of his innocence, and on the following day on the scaffold he still maintained his innocence. This case, in his opinion, showed incontestably the necessity for the establishment of a Court of Appeal in this country. In 1892 the Judges had made a Report in favour of the establishment of such a Court of Appeal, and the Home Secretary had said that the responsibility that rested upon him in connection with this duty of granting reprieves was too great for him to bear, and he concurred in the necessity for establishing such a Court. That recommendation, however, was thrown into the waste-paper basket, and nothing had resulted from it. He maintained that if there had been a Court such as existed in every civilised country in the world, presided over by the Judges of the land, before whom the prisoner might have been represented by counsel, this man would not have been executed. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That £60,763 be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Ballantine.)
§ * MR. ASQUITH
said, that the hon. Gentleman, in the exercise of his undoubted discretion, had thought fit to take upon himself the very grave responsibility of bringing this case before the House, and, by moving the reduction of this Vote, to ask the House to pronounce a judgment upon the action of the Home Secretary in the discharge of the most delicate and responsible duty that could be imposed upon him. He did not for one moment dispute the constitutional right of the House to question, to criticise, and, if necessary, to censure the action of a Minister in the performance of his duty; but he said in regard to this particular duty, so delicate in its conditions and so grave in its consequences, that the House should not take such a course without having the fullest information on the subject before it. How was it possible for a Committee of that House, constituted as they were that night, not one Member of which had considered the evidence or had bestowed upon that evidence, as he had bestowed upon it in this particular case, hours and days of the most minute and painfully careful consideration—how was it possible for such a Committee to discharge efficiently the duties of a Court of Criminal Appeah? How many of the hon. Members present had ever heard of this case before it was brought under their notice by the hon. Member that night, or had read the evidence which had induced a Judge and jury, acting under a full sense of their responsibility, to find a verdict of guilty? The only effect of the hon. Member's Motion was to ask the House to discharge a duty which, with the best will in the world, they could only discharge incompletely and imperfectly. The hon. Member asked the House to review the decision of the Judge and the jury, and to censure him for the action he had taken in the matter. He could assure the House that no duty could possibly be cast upon a Minister involving a graver responsibility than that of determining whether a reprieve should be granted or withheld. No one who had not had such a responsibility cast upon him could know the anxiety 1450 that such a responsibility entailed. Although he did not complain in the least degree of the course taken by the hon. Member in this matter nor question the right of the House to determine that a Minister of the House had acted wrongly, he maintained that the House would require far greater information on the subject than had been laid before it by the hon. Member before it would be in a position to appreciate the question that had been raised. He had felt bound to make this preliminary protest without in the least degree questioning the earnest belief and sincerity of the hon. Gentleman in the matter. He would now proceed to state to the House the circumstances of the case. The accused was a young man who was convicted by a jury of the greatest offence known to the law, that of shooting at a girl and causing her death. The case was not one in which any extenuating circumstances, such as provocation, were alleged to exist. It was a case either of a most brutal murder, committed in the most deliberate manner, or it was the death of a woman occasioned by the purest accident. The jury had found the prisoner guilty, and the learned Judge who presided at the trial had expressed his opinion that the case was one of the most cruel and deliberate murders he had ever heard of in the course of his long criminal experience. The hon. Member might be right in contending that a Court of Appeal ought to be established in this country, and, for his own part, having to discharge this particularly invidious duty, he would welcome almost any reform that would take away from him some share of the responsibility imposed upon him in the discharge of this most grave and important duty. But this was not a question whether or no it was desirable to establish a Court of Criminal Appeal. The question was whether, there being no such Court in existence, be was bound in this particular case to overrule the verdict of the jury and the opinion of the learned Judge? This young man, who was of a respectable character, and had some amount of inventive genius which had enabled him to invent a machine which was useful in his branch of the cotton trade, lived at Nottingham. He became acquainted with the girl in question, who was a hospital nurse at Liverpool, but who was temporarily staying at 1451 Nottingham on a holiday visit to her mother. She was at the time engaged to be married to a young man in her own station of life. A few days before the murder she was invited to visit the mother of the accused, and it could not be doubted that the accused fell violently in love with her on the first occasion on which they met. The accused asked her to come on the Saturday morning to inspect the machine which he had invented and which was at the mill. On the intervening day he went to a gunmaker's shop in Nottingham and purchased a revolver. He was totally ignorant of the use of firearms, and asked the shopman how the revolver was to be loaded and fired. Later in the day he was heard in the mill which he occupied firing the revolver by way of practice in order to see how it worked. On the Saturday morning, the girl having asked her mother to go with her to keep the appointment, and the mother having declined to do so, left for his house. He asked those interested in the case to follow' what happened. There was an outside staircase leading up to the set of rooms in which the young man was in the habit of working. Smith went up the staircase with the girl, unlocked the door at the top, the two went in, and he locked the door after them. They then went up to the other room. There were no witnesses of what happened there. After they had been there for an hour and a-half the persons working in the lower part of the mill heard first of all one shot from a pistol, and then, at the interval of a minute or two, two more shots. A moment afterwards the girl was seen to force her way through the locked door and to rush down the stairs into the yard of the mill holding her hand to her throat, in which she was wounded. She staggered across the yard into the street, where she fell suffering from the wound, which afterwards proved fatal. At least five minutes after the girl had left the building the man walked unconcernedly down the staircase. He did not hasten after the girl; he made no attempt to succour her; he did not even attempt to find out where she had gone; he did not make any inquiry as to what was her condition or the state of her wounds. The girl's dress was torn in a way which showed there had been some struggle between her and someone else. He did 1452 not think there could be any doubt that the facts were totally inconsistent with the theory of accident. It was evident that the man had made improper advances to the girl; that on her resisting he fired the first shot; that as she fled from the room he fired the two succeeding shots in the hope of completing the work he had done. There were two stairs leading up to the staircase, and one of the two succeeding shots was found upon the lower staircase embedded in the wall, proving that the man had pursued her. These were the facts upon which the jury were asked to believe that the man and the girl were examining the pistol together, that in some kind of play he presented the pistol at her, that the pistol went off, and that she had been accidentally shot; they were asked to believe that the affair was not the result of design. Was there any hon. Gentleman in the House who would have come to that conclusion? He thought there was the strongest possible evidence of design; design, in the first instance, in the original purchase of the pistol, and design still more deliberate in its character in firing not only a single shot, but a succession of shots when he had failed to accomplish his purpose. He was exceeding sorry his hon. Friend, speaking in the interest of the relatives of the young man, had compelled him to recite these facts to the House. He could not help thinking no good purpose had been served either in his interest or in the interest of the public by going over the terrible story again. It was true the girl, after she was shot, made inconsistent statements as to the circumstances. In one of those statements she sought to exonerate the man, while in others she deliberately declared that the presenting of the pistol and the firing of the shots was of set purpose. He, on those facts, was asked to reverse the decision which the jury had come to on the evidence adduced before them after severe cross-examination. Was there any hon. Member who would have incurred that responsibility? He should be very glad if he could be spared the pain and anxiety of determining these questions. In this case he was satisfied, and he assured the Committee now that having, as he had, other means of knowledge besides those which were actually presented to the jury, and 1453 which, having been conveyed to him in confidence, he was not able to divulge, he was satisfied that this was a just verdict. Painful and distasteful as it always was to allow the extreme sentence of the law to be carried out, he felt he had no alternative. He did not rely, and he did not ask the House to rely, on the other information he possessed. He asserted that, from the facts as they were presented to the jury and as he bad detailed them, he believed this was a case in which the jury were amply justified in coming to the verdict they arrived at. He felt he should have been taking a most unwarrantable responsibility if, in the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, he had reversed the decision to which the jury came.
§ MR. BALLANTINE
said, that facts which the right hon. Gentleman gave as uncontroverted were certainly contested in every way. One of them was not stated at the trial at all. The locking of the door was suggested by the learned Judge; but, as a matter of fact, this poor woman was able, in almost a dying condition, to get out of the room. That did not look as if there was any obstacle in her way. As to a shot being fired on the staircase it had already been shown that the man had been practising with the revolver the night before; and with regard to the dress being torn, there was no suggestion at the trial that the prisoner had attempted any violence on the girl. The suggestion was thrown out by the Judge, and it was a suggestion by which the jury were impressed to give a verdict against the prisoner. He maintained that the dying statement of the woman was sufficient to exonerate the prisoner.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON,
while agreeing that the responsibility of the Homo Secretary ought not to be interfered with if possible, regretted the unfortunate tone in which the right hon. Gentleman treated the case. He trusted he would adopt a milder tone in future. He very much regretted also that he left out of his speech the fact that the jury recommended the prisoner to mercy. He ought also to have told them whether he ever thought of dealing with the recommendation of the Judges in regard to the formation of a Criminal Court of Appeal.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. A. O'CONNOR)
said, the hon. Gentleman 1454 was not entitled to go into that question.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he thought in this case there were sufficient reasons for some delay for further inquiry. His opinion was that they as Representatives of the nation had a right to bring these matters forward.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said that, having for five years endured the terrible responsibility which was now thrown upon his right hon. Friend, he must protest against the remarks made by the Member for Peterborough. When he himself had the responsibility of determining the question of life and death and advising the exercise of the prerogative of the Crown, he always did protest, and always should protest, against a body which was really incompetent to discharge the duty, attempting to interfere with the responsibility of the Secretary of State. If they did not trust the Secretary of State in matters of this kind, let him be removed from his office. That was the alternative. The House of Commons could not rejudge the fact; it had not the material; and to weaken his authority and discredit him in public estimation in the exercise of his responsibility was a public danger and evil. He had always appealed to the House of Commons, when questions of this kind had been raised, not to attempt to exercise functions for which they were absolutely unfit. It was a very proper question to determine whether the House ought or ought not to leave such responsibility with the Secretary of State, or whether they should put it elsewhere; but, as long as that responsibility rested upon him, the House must strengthen the Home Secretary's hands. He hoped the House would in the future, as he was happy to say it always had done in the past, discourage such discussions on all occasions.
§ MR. STOREY
disagreed entirely in the attitude taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had never heard the Loader of the House, upon a serious matter, adopt such a tone, and he trusted he never should again. He justified the raising of the subject all the more, as many persons felt a mistake had been made. Suppose that, when challenged in the name of the people, the Home Secretary had been unable to make out a case which this House could accept, 1455 would not the Leader of the House have felt that the hon. Member was amply justified in bringing the case forward? That was the condemnation of the tone which the Leader of the House had adopted. Although his hon. Friend seemed to make out a strong case, yet on the whole the House would probably feel they might safely leave this and probably other matters in the hands of the Home Secretary.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said, he agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a Home Secretary's conduct in a case of this kind ought not to be called in question by an Assembly like the House of Commons. In his opinion, the tone of the Home Secretary's speech was sympathetic as well as firm.
§ * MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, that he had a lively recollection of other cases of a similar kind, in connection with which attempts to invoke the intervention of that House had not ended more satisfactorily than the present attempt. He remembered specially one case in which not only was an appeal made to passion and prejudice in that House, but in which the appeal was carried even to the platform. He adopted the doctrine laid down by both the right hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the inability of that House to judge these cases rightly. Those doctrines would be remembered as occasion might require.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he disagreed with the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to their right to speak on these occasions. The Home Secretary was only human. If the right hon. Gentleman had a right to review the decision of a Judge and jury, surely the House of Commons had a right to review the conduct of the Home Secretary.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
called attention to the recent appointment of two Inspectors of Slate Quarries. The Home Secretary, he said, had selected two men whose experience was limited to the underground quarries in Merionethshire, and who had no experience of the open slate quarries of Carnarvonshire. In reply to questions, the right hon. Gentleman had said that 1456 one of these gentlemen, Mr. Williams, had some practical knowledge of open quarries. As a matter of fact, the only experience which Mr. Williams had of such quarries was such as he had obtained as a lad in splitting slates. But the knowledge required for splitting slates was very different from that required for blasting rock. The Home Secretary had made an attempt to show that the quarries in Merionethshire were not altogether underground, and he had said that Mr. Williams had had experience in the open quarries. But it was incontrovertible that the only experience he had ever had was that of picking up, when a lad, odd pieces of slate and splitting them into slates. The work of splitting the slates had no relation to the difficult and onerous duty of blasting down the rock, and it might as well be said that dealing with slates at a Pimlico wharf gave a practical experience of working in an open quarry. He had also to complain that the right hon. Gentleman in one of his replies rather misled the House, he believed unknowingly. He (Mr. Roberts), in a question he put to him the other day, in order to emphasise the force of his objection, asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the quarrymen in underground quarries in Merionethshire numbered only 4,200, whereas there were over 8,000 in the Carnarvonshire open quarries. The right hon. Gentleman said that that was so; that the number in Merionethshire was only 4,200, but he said that half of them worked above ground. That led the House to suppose that half the quarries in Merionethshire were open quarries. That was not so. Half the quarrymen were slate pickers, and in the only open quarry in Merionethshire not above 100 men were employed. The Home Secretary justified his refusal to appoint a man who had had equal experience of open quarries in Carnarvonshire by the contention that Mr. Williams, the gentleman appointed, had sufficient experience of open quarries, as he had delivered a course of lectures in geology. Never was a weaker reason given. The other reason was weaker still—that the gentleman appointed had written, or was engaged in writing, a treatise on slate quarries. The rustic mind was apt to regard with awe a man who had written 1457 a book, and the Home Office seemed to share that awe. But the Home Secretary must know that in the profession he adorned there were many men who had written books, but had never held a brief in their lives. He would point out that it was more difficult to ascertain impending dangers from landslips in connection with open quarries than it was in the case of underground quarries, and even experienced managers of open quarries had frequently to call in assistance. To judge of danger in open quarries required the greatest amount of practical experience. He did not object to Mr. Williams. He knew he was a cultivated man, a good geologist, and a scientific man, but the Home Secretary practically admitted that his practical knowledge was insufficient, because he appointed another man, who was a working quarryman, from Festiniog, the very district where Mr. Williams himself was bred and born. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have appointed one Inspector for the Carnarvon district who had experience of open quarries, and one for Festiniog; and that both had been appointed from Festiniog was nothing less than a scandal. It was so felt in Carnarvon, and even in Festiniog it was considered a hardship and injustice to Carnarvonshire. He therefore moved to reduce the vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That £60,813 be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Bryn Roberts.)
§ * MR. ASQUITH
I can assure my hon. Friend that I have no particular awe or reverence for a person who has written a book. I never wrote a book myself, and I do not think the writing of a book is either a qualification or a disqualification for such offices as those to which my hon. Friend refers. The answer to my hon. Friend is very simple. I appointed these two Inspectors to meet the legitimate demand of the people of North Wales, and in making the appointment I did not have regard to any particular county. Of all the applications which were sent in to me I came to the conclusion that the two persons whom I appointed were the two persons best qualified to discharge the duty, both as regards open and as regards underground slate quarries. Mr. Williams has the double advantage of not only being a 1458 practical quarryman, trained and experienced in the work, but of having in his latter years acquired a considerable amount of scientific knowledge. He is a geologist of repute, and has devoted himself to the study of quarrying in all its branches, both in Wales and in other countries. This gentleman was strongly recommended from Carnarvonshire, and, if I do not mistake, by the hon. Member's own colleague in the representation of that county.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
did not say the appointment was not a good one. He believed Mr. Williams was a good Inspector, but his contention was that there ought to be an Inspector having a practical knowledge of the open quarry system in Carnarvonshire. In making this appointment, regard had been paid only to the slate quarries of Merionethshire.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, he wished to call attention to an answer the Home Secretary gave in the House the previous day in reply to a question put by the hon. Member for Oxford University with regard to the treatment of anarchists by this country. The right hon. Gentleman was asked whether foreign countries were not dissatisfied with the inaction of Her Majesty's Government and their refusal to pass special legislation dealing with anarchists. From the right hon. Gentleman's answer the House would gather that no dissatisfaction was expressed abroad on this question. [Mr. ASQUITH: No.] That was the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's answer. He merely wished to say that anyone who had taken note of the expression of opinion by the foreign Press and by speakers in foreign Legislatures, would have realised that the very greatest dissatisfaction had been expressed abroad at the inaction of Her Majesty's Government. The feeling which prevailed universally abroad with regard to their inaction could be best described in the following sentence from the Journal des Debats—All other Governments have done their duty. Unhappily, British optimism makes their task more difficult, inasmuch as the anarchists have full liberty in London to prepare their outrages.1459 He asked the Home Secretary whether it was true, as stated in the Press, that a large number of foreign anarchists who had been deported from their own countries had lately arrived in this country?
§ * MR. PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)
Perhaps, before my right hon. Friend replies to the hon. Member for Sheffield, I may ask him another question on the same subject. The hon. Member referred to the necessity of special legislation in regard to anarchists. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether the most valuable piece of legislation against anarchists was not the Explosive Substances Act, which was carried through this House in 1883 by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and resolutely and bitterly opposed by Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I believe the statement of my hon. Friend is perfectly accurate. With reference to the question put by the hon. Gentleman opposite, I have to say we are not in the habit in this country of regulating our policy according to the irresponsible utterances of foreign journalists; and, so far as I know, there is no foundation for the statement as to which he asks me a question.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he had intended to ask for some information with regard to the scale of fees on the appointment of Magistrates. As he did not desire to delay the Vote, he would do it on the Report stage, and, perhaps, by that time the Home Secretary would have found out he did write a book and that it was well worth the money.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
10. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £40,696, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, there were several matters which presented themselves for consideration on this Vote which there was no other opportunity of properly considering. Among these were one or two relating to Africa which arose only on this Vote, and did not arise on Class 1460 V., where some other subjects relating to Africa could be properly discussed. It was not his intention to place before the Committee any statement on the subject of the Congo negotiations which had been brought to a close by the Treaty between France and the Congo State, an account of which appeared in the newspapers a day or two ago. But not holding the views upon the subject matter of annexation which were popular in that House, he felt it was rather for those who held stronger views than he did himself to bring that matter before the House. He could not, however, avoid saying, and he thought the Committee generally would feel, that a great mistake was made in the hurried manner in which the Congo Treaty was concluded by Her Majesty's Government. Whatever view they held as regarded African annexation, they could not have failed to see that an arrangement which united France and Germany in opposition, as it were, to us was a very unwise arrangement for this country, and he regretted that such an arrangement should have been come to by Her Majesty's Government. He should like to call the attention of the Committee to an African subject—he meant the territory of the Niger Chartered Company— which they had no opportunity of mentioning on any other Vote on the Estimates, because there was no charge for any salary in connection with these territories, and it did not arise, therefore, in Class V. at all. The Charters of the Chartered Companies which had been granted at various times by Her Majesty's Government were four in number, of which three were African. The first two of these Charters of modern times which were granted by the Government were granted by a Liberal Administration and the last two by a Conservative Administration. Both great Parties, therefore, had united in this modern policy of granting Charters. The first was the Charter of the Borneo Company, which was discussed in the House and in regard to which there was a good deal of opposition on the Conservative side. It was provided, largely in consequence of the objections which were raised in regard to that Charter, that very full information should be given from time to time to the Government. What he had to allege with regard to the Niger Charter—the second of these charters 1461 granted, and also granted by Mr. Gladstone's Administration—was that the House and the country were left in total ignorance of the proceedings of that Company, and so far as they had been able to gather any information with regard to its proceedings that information was of a character to make them somewhat anxious and alarm them as to both what might be called the domestic and the foreign affairs of that Company. He had complained previously in the House that as to the territories which were administered, whether by Charter or protectorate, under the Foreign Office, they did not give so much information to this House, and were not, he feared, governed on so good a system as those which were administered through the Colonial Office. The Colonial Office was naturally more in the habit of dealing with territories of this kind than the Foreign Office, and he feared they were departing considerably from what had been the past and should be the present policy of the country by allowing territories of this kind to be permanently administered, although they were quasi-colonies, through the Foreign Office. With regard to the Niger Company, of which he was specially complaining at the present moment, they were really in total want of information as to the proceedings of that Company, and the statements which the Company themselves placed in the hands of the shareholders were meagre in the extreme, and unsatisfactory as far as they went. There was a good deal of evidence to show that there was much hypocrisy about their proceedings in Africa in connection with the Chartered Companies and their relations to the natives. We were parties to agreements between European Powers which were founded on a desire to put down slavery and the Slave Trade, the sale of drink, and the purchase of arms and gunpowder, and there was a great deal of reason to believe that we ourselves, and other countries also, were violating those provisions to which we had put our hands. In this particular case of the Niger Company there was much evidence to show that the Company got a large portion of its revenue from the sale of drink and in defiance of the principles to which this country had put its hand. They had no opportunity, except on this Vote, of scrutinising the 1462 proceedings of the Company. There was no salary paid in connection with it, and it could only be discussed because of the connection of the Foreign Office with it. When they went into the Berlin Agreement it was in the name of philanthropy and for the purpose largely of putting down the sale of drink, and of arms and gunpowder to the natives of Africa. He was bound to say he believed they might have done better if they had left Portugal in possession of the large portion of the West Coast of Africa over which she formerly exercised a certain sway, and which they intended to recognise by the Treaty which was made between this country and Portugal, but never ratified on account of the objections taken to it. If they had had a weaker Power there, coming under new engagements to themselves to which they should have been able to keep that Power, he thought they would have done better in the interests of the natives than they had through a Chartered Company of their own. One of the highest authorities on Africa, Mr. Silva White, the Secretary to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, had written perhaps the best, or one of the best, books upon the position of Africa and the recent arrangements there. Mr. Silva White had quoted another book called Christianity, Islam, and the Negro Race, written by a man who was a negro, a statesman, a scholar, and a Christian, who had said this with regard to our proceedings on the West Coast of Africa—Islam is still the most intelligent force in Africa, and it sees Christian Europe preaching its noble doctrine, but practising the reverse of it, by conniving at slavery while pretending to suppress it, and by introducing the accursed traffic in gin and gunpowder. He sees Islam preaching temperance and practising it. He sees Europeans sinking to the level of the natives and Mahommedans, raising the latter up to their own level.That is what Mr. Silva White said briefly with regard to the proceedings of this country, and generally of their proceedings on the West Coast, and Mr. Silva White himself said that the gin trade was now associated in the native mind with Christianity. The Royal Niger Company was a monopolist. Formerly there were a large number of Liverpool traders and native traders on the river, but they had all been bought up. Nobody was now navigating the 1463 river except the Company, and even the missionaries for a long time were not allowed to navigate it. Such a monoply as this, he thought, ought to lead to the annual presentation to Parliament of very full accounts. Members ought to know exactly what was being done by such a Company under such conditions. The accounts laid before the shareholders of the Company at the meetings threw very little light upon their proceedings, as all the large items, such as the sale of gunpowder, the sale of drink, and the sale of arms were muddled up together, so that no information could be extracted from them. From all he could hear, there was practically no law administered by the Company except in one spot, and the officials in the interior were uncontrolled and could do absolutely as they pleased. There could be no doubt that a very large part of the Company's profits was derived from the sale of cheap German spirit. The Company posed before the world as philanthropists, because they were not selling spirits in a portion of their sphere of influence—that was to say, in the upper portion of the Niger. The reason was that the whole of the population there was Mahommedan, and that they would not allow the sale of drink amongst them. In the lower portion of the river it seemed to him that the Company pushed the sale of drink in every way they could. They flooded the lower portion of the river with spirits; they imported as many cheap muskets as they could, and they sold these guns and gunpowder to the natives. Slavery continued to exist throughout the Company's sphere exactly as it existed before the Company went there. One of the difficulties in dealing at the Foreign Office with Chartered Companies was that the Foreign Office did not put down slavery as the Colonial Office did. The Company at its meeting this year showed a profit of £70,000 on the credit side, and a 6 per cent. dividend. Of course, as long as this dividend was paid, the shareholders did not ask questions; but they posed as philanthropists, because they said that these commercial results were obtained, notwithstanding the restriction of the liquor traffic, and that the liquor traffic did not in the case of the Company, as it did in the case of other colonies, form the main staple of revenue. He thought this statement was far from the truth. There 1464 was another matter of the deepest importance he wished to refer to—namely, the Costa Rica Packet case. This was a case in which compensation had been asked for against the Dutch Government on behalf of New South Wales, and the New South Wales Assembly had taken the matter up very strongly indeed. Her Majesty's Government had admitted the strength of the claim, and had insisted upon compensation being paid by the Dutch Government to the captain of the ship that was seized. The Government had stated that in their opinion very great carelessness had been shown by the representatives of the Dutch Government, and they had pressed the Dutch Government for compensation amounting to £2,500. Considerable delay had occurred, and he thought Her Majesty's Government ought not to permit any further delay. The ease was exciting very strong feeling indeed, not in New South Wales alone, but throughout the Australian Colonies, and it seemed to him that the Government ought to press very strongly for the immediate payment of the money. There was one other matter which he had no doubt would be dealt with abundantly by other speakers—namely, the Papers that came out yesterday with regard to affairs in Siam. These Papers had reference to an early period, and did not bring affairs down to the present time. The attitude taken up by the Government in the early stages of the negotiations was satisfactory, but the matter could not rest where it was. Information must be given to bring the position down to within the past few months.
MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
said, he agreed with the right hon. Baronet in his final observations on the subject of Siam. A group of Papers dealing with the matter had only reached him that morning, and he had not been able to give that elaborate study to them which he should feel it right to give before attempting to offer a decided opinion as to their contents. The latest Despatch brought the record down no further than April 25. Considering that from that time onwards the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Curzon), and himself, and others had frequently pressed the Government to produce these Papers; and considering that they had been told over and over again that the Papers could not 1465 be presented until the whole matter was completed, it certainly was rather astonishing to find now that in the opinion of the Government the whole matter was sufficiently completed on the 25th of April. If the matter was completed at that time, surely they should have had the Papers a good deal earlier. At all events, they should have had them in May. It could not have taken May, June, July, and part of August to prepare these Papers for presentation to Parliament. He did not intend to blame the action of the Foreign Office in the matter of these Siamese negotiations. He must confess that it did not seem to him, on the whole, a satisfactory story so far as he had been able to study the Blue Book. The Blue Book opened with the statement of the French Ambassador that the French did not desire to go to Luang Probang, and it closed with the statement that Siam had lost the whole of the east bank of the Me-Kong, and 25 kilomètres of the west bank, and the military control over her own lakes and rivers in two of her richest provinces; that she had had to pay a large sum in indemnity, and that she still found herself with the French forces occupying an important town not very far distant, though not connected with that portion of the country originally in dispute between France and Siam. After that statement, which he believed to be perfectly correct, he could not say that the Blue Book disclosed a satisfactory story. There were one or two matters on which he desired to ask the hon. Gentleman opposite a few questions. He had put questions once or twice during the Session for information as to the progress of the arbitration with the Portuguese Government for the delimitation of the Manica plateau. He understood that arrangements had been made for the submission to arbitration of the matters in dispute, and he should like to know how the matter was advancing—whether the terms of the arbitration had yet been agreed on, and if the Arbitrators had yet been appointed? With regard to alien Anarchists, he would ask if it would not be possible to obtain from Foreign States in Europe a statement of the laws enforced in their respective States for dealing summarily with these persons? In the discussions which must take place in the recess, and which would 1466 possibly be renewed during next Session, it would be very desirable to have a clear and accurate statement of the actual laws in force. This information could be obtained by means of a Circular to all our Missions abroad. As to the Uganda railway—a subject to which he was sorry to have to again revert this Session—he did not suppose the Committee would desire to have an elaborate discussion on it, but he could hardly let the opportunity pass without saying again how important it was that the Government should arrive as soon as possible at a decision. He could not believe that there would be any difficulty in finding financiers who would be ready to supply the moans if a guarantee of interest covering a certain number of years were given by the Government, as had been done over and over again in the matter of Indian railways and railways in South Africa. It must be remembered that Uganda was three mouths' march from our base, and from a military point of view alone this country might find itself in straits if it was called upon to suddenly reinforce the small contingent of troops in Uganda at short notice. We lost Khartoum and the Soudan because of the non-existence of the Suakin-Berber railway. He did not say that the whole distance from the sea to Uganda should be covered by a railway at once, but a portion of this railway at least should be made to Uganda, in order to guard against a gigantic disaster and to facilitate transport in the event of an emergency. He would fortify himself by quoting the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who could not be accused of any partiality for Uganda or the Uganda railway. On the last occasion on which they discussed the subject this significant phrase fell from the hon. Member—Without a railway our annexation of Uganda is criminal folly, and contrary to the first elements of military strategy.This was a view which he thought should commend itself to the Committee. They might be right or they might be wrong in proclaiming a protectorate over Uganda. That was past, and done, and settled. But now that we were there, surely it became our duty to put ourselves, in relation to that country, in such a position that our communications might be cheapened and more rapidly effected. And it should be borne in mind 1467 that the first portion of the journey towards Uganda, which was the most difficult portion for porters, was at the same time the easiest for a railway to travel. The country was extremely flat, and very few bridges would he required. It was a waterless district, and by that reason an unhealthy district. Until the higher ground was reached it was, of course, difficult and arduous, and expensive for human porterage to travel. He did not want to labour the question further—indeed, he had gone further into it than he had intended, not desiring to raise a discussion. He only wanted to say that if Her Majesty's Government could see their way to taking, at all events, some steps towards what seemed to him the natural sequel to the position they had assumed, he could assure them, on behalf of the Opposition, they would meet with nothing but support at their hands. Now he came to an important question, and that was the position in which we found ourselves in the face of the Treaty which had been entered into between the Congo State and France. Here he desired to associate himself completely with what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet. He could not help thinking that our Treaty with the King of the Belgians as King of the Congo State had had several holes knocked in it. The German Government had knocked one hole in it, and now the French Government had knocked another. There was little more remaining than there was of the paper circle in a circus through which the columbine had first jumped and had been followed by the clown. The French Government did not seem to him to have had a victory all along the line. On the contrary, they seemed to have given their position away. As he understood, France had taken exception to the Treaty of this country with the Congo on the ground that the Congo State had no right to go beyond the limits of territory assigned at the time of the European Congress by which the Congo State was built up. But the French Government had now by this Treaty acknowledged that the northern limit of the Congo State extended considerably beyond the fifth degree north. The French Government had also maintained that the Congo State had no right to take a lease of territory at all, though they had ad- 1468 mitted now in the Treaty the right of the Congo State to take on lease that portion of territory which this country had leased to them which ran down to Lake Albert. By this agreement France permitted the very thing to be done that she herself took exception to a short time ago. But the more important point to consider was where they found themselves at the present time in connection with this matter. How about that portion of the map recently circulated and coloured a dark brown—that portion leased to the Congo Free State, and the lease of which the Congo Free State had now under taken not to carry out? He took it that our right to deal with that portion of the territory was not affected by that Treaty. The right of the Congo Free State to exercise authority in that district had been recognised by the action of the Congo State itself: but our sovereign rights, so far as they existed as sovereign rights, had not been touched in any degree. That claim, as he had said be fore, had been known to all those who had any interests in that portion of the country; that claim was made as long ago as July, 1890, and it had been recognised by Germany and Italy; it had been, recognised——
§ An hon. MEMBER: The sovereign rights?
MR. J. W. LOWTHER
No, not the sovereign rights, but that claim to include that portion in our sphere of influence had been recognised by Germany, by Italy, and, by the agreement of the 12th of May, had been recognised by the Congo Free State itself, though by a subsequent agreement they had passed a sort of self-denying ordinance by which they undertook not to exercise rights which they undoubtedly possessed in that district. That was the present position of affairs, and he could hardly believe it possible that a friendly nation should think for a moment of sending into a district where our rights and claims were known and recognised by two of the great Powers of Europe and by the neighbouring Power of the Congo Free State—he could hardly believe it possible that in a time of profound peace a friendly Power should send an armed force into the territory. He knew that some people resented the vicinity of a large French force, but he could hardly believe that in 1469 a time of profound peace a friendly Power would take such action as that; but, at the same time, they must remember the doctrine had been laid down of what was called effective occupation, and that it would become necessary before very long—to use a rather American slang phrase—to implement our rights in that district; and he would, therefore, not with the view of embarrassing the Government in any way, but with a view of obtaining information on the matter, ask his hon. Friend opposite whether he could give any indication of the decision of the Government as to how they proposed to implement the rights they claimed in that district, which they claimed four years ago and which had been admitted? He desired also to ask a question of the hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to Samoa. The civil war—for he supposed it was a civil war—that was going on there had been dragging its slow length along now for some considerable time, and if one was to judge by the telegrams one saw in the newspapers all agricultural progress—in fact, all cultivation of the soil—seemed to be at a standstill. If that state of matters was continued in Samoa it must lead to financial disaster and the ruin of that country. Were they at the present time negotiating with the Government of the United States as to the revision of the Samoan Act, and had any arrangement or agreement yet been arrived at in this matter? If so, he should be glad if the hon. Gentleman could inform him what that agreement or arrangement might be.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, he had not intended to take part in the Debate, and he only rose to support the criticism that had been passed on the Government regarding the construction of a railway in Uganda. They must recollect that the Government—he admitted, another Government, but one re presenting this country in 1891—gave the East Africa Company an indication that the construction of such a railway would be countenanced——
I must point out to the hon. Gentleman there is a Vote on the subject in Class I., and, therefore, it would not be in Order to discuss it upon this Vote.
§ * THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir E. GREY,) Northumberland, Berwick
said, perhaps it would simplify matters if he dealt with the points that had been already raised. He dared say some hon. Members had it in their minds to deal with some of these points, but he had better at once let the Committee know how much it was possible for him to say. First of all, he would take the Niger Company. No doubt the extension of Imperial territories by Chartered Companies was, theoretically, a very anomalous procedure, but it was one that had been well-known to this country for many generations, and one that in some instances had been eminently successful; in regard to many anomalous things it seemed to be part of the British character to get very good work out of them. At the same time, he should be the last to deny that there were inconveniences which were inseparable from the action of Chartered Companies. In granting Charters they were bound to give a Company more or less a free hand, and in giving a free hand they ran a certain risk of Imperial responsibility being incurred, indirectly in the first place, and directly afterwards. They had a Chartered Company on the East Coast of Africa which had failed to pay a dividend, and which had to withdraw from a great part of the territory which it at first occupied, and which, on that ground, had been subjected to considerable censure in this House. But, on the other hand, on the West Coast of Africa they had this Niger Company, where the results had been exactly opposite, and yet it, too, was blamed. The Niger Company occupied the territory, and there was a time when, if the Niger Company bad not occupied the country, a good deal of the trade might have been lost to this country. The Niger Company paid a dividend; but no doubt, owing to its strength and its success, it had got the whole trade of that district into its own hands, and, being successful, it had raised up in this country certain rivals who were unfriendly to it. They ought to remember that attacks were sure to be made, not on account of any failure or misconduct on the part of the Company, hut, to a certain extent, on account of the very success of the Niger Company. Certain supervision was 1471 exercised by the Foreign Office, and had been exercised largely in fixing the amount of duties, and under the Charter, or rather, in face of the fact that the Niger Company could not be said to have violated its Charter, he should not think they could call upon it to be bound by conditions that were not contained in the Charter.
§ SIR E. GREY
said, the Company could not bind itself to publish a full statement of its trade every year to the House. With regard to the sale of powder and guns, the sale of powder was allowed in certain districts, and as to the sale of guns, they were flint-lock guns, which he did not think could do any serious harm in these parts of Africa. Only the other day he read of a case in which there was a complaint of the sale of powder, but in that particular district the natives had suffered severely through the ravages of lions; therefore he thought that in a country such as Africa was, where the natives were exposed to these dangers, the sale of flint-lock guns was not a thing of which there should be any great complaint. As to the Revenue, to a great extent that, no doubt, was derived from the liquor traffic, but how much of the Revenue at home was derived from the liquor traffic? If they were to have trade in any country where duties were imposed, as a Free Trade country they ought to see that such things as liquor should be taxed, and therefore it must be from that that a great portion of the revenue was derived. As to the proportion the drink traffic in the Niger Company's territories bore to the whole trade, spirits were 12 per cent., guns and powder 7 per cent., and the cotton and silk goods were 8 per cent. And, further, it appeared, the trade in these particular articles was not increasing, but with regard to the liquor the Company made out that the average for the last seven years would be about the average of that trade at the present time. That statement of the Company gave rise to certain criticisms out-of-doors which he explained at the time, and would not, 1472 therefore, go into now; but he was thoroughly convinced the criticisms made on that statement were inspired rather by a desire to criticise than a knowledge of the actual facts. He would like to deal with the question of slavery for a moment. No doubt it was the case that in some Protectorates in different parts of the world under the Colonial Office the Slave Trade, or rather slavery, was entirely put down; but he did not know the actual facts of the case, as it occurred a good many years ago, and he should first like to know what the institution of slavery was and the conditions of the particular Protectorates in which it was put down, but the principle appeared to have been that the protecting Power, as far as possible, allowed the law and institutions of the Protectorate to go on. In many cases under our supervision regulations had been made by which it was believed the trade must be suppressed in the course of a few years. The institution of slavery could not at first be interfered with without perverting the whole social arrangements of a country; therefore they had confined their efforts to putting down the slave trade in the belief that if that was done effectively the institution of slavery itself must in the course of a limited number of years die a gradual and natural death. As to the Costa Rica Packet case, the right hon. Baronet had given a perfectly accurate history of that, and the amount of the demand made originally on the Dutch Government. That demand was made under the impression that it was a moderate demand, and one that ought to be quickly complied with. That demand, he regretted to say, had not been complied with, and the right hon. Baronet made a good point when he said that the lapse of time that had taken place in meeting our demands on behalf of the captain of the Costa Rica Packet was an element that had to be taken into account in estimating the hardship that had been suffered. When the Government received from the Dutch Government a proposal to refer the matter to arbitration they were not willing to do so without considering very carefully the principles on which the arbitration was to proceed. The matter had been referred to the Law Officers, and their advice could not be long delayed. As to the 1473 Manica plateau arbitration, a very distinguished Italian gentleman had been accepted by both parties as arbitrator, but how soon the proceedings would commence he could not say. There had been no hitch, and there was no reason to suppose that there would be any difficulty in the matter. With regard to the question that had been put to him as to the possibility of making a collection of the laws of different foreign countries relating to anarchists, he thought that the proposal was a very reasonable one, and he would see how far the suggestion could be carried into effect. The question of Samoa remained exactly in the same position that it had been in for some time, and it was not a satisfactory position. There had been continual troubles amongst the natives, as the hon. Member had stated; but, at the present time no negotiations were going on for a revision of the provisions of the Act, an Act which it was generally admitted had not hitherto worked satisfactorily. He did not know whether at the present moment he was precluded from touching upon the question of Uganda, but he might at all events say he had no new announcement to make with regard to the railway. He would now pass to the only two questions that remained. The most important question of the whole was the question of Siam, and upon that he did not propose to say much, because it had been dealt with once already this Session, and was also dealt with at some length in the Blue Book which had been issued, and which he thought told its own story very clearly, and pointed its own moral. The story undoubtedly was that differences and difficulties arose between the French and the Siamese Governments which were confined in their origin to the far side of the Mekong, and as long as they were confined to that district British interests would not he affected in such a manner as to justify the British Government in interfering. The great object of the Blue Book was to bring out clearly that the British Government had all through been perfectly plain in saying that British interests were directly affected by the maintenance of the independence and integrity of the Kingdom of Siam. So far the British Government had been most careful and 1474 considerate to give no cause of offence and to create no irritation where British interests were not directly affected, but, should a new phase of things arise in the relations between Siam and the French Government, it might be that the British Government would have to take up the negotiations at the point where they had been left, and the course they would pursue would not be the same they had felt justified in pursuing in the past. It was quite true the last Paper was issued in April, but no new phase had been entered upon since then. As to pending questions between ourselves and the French Government in Africa, it was most desirable that they should not be left open. The true policy and desire, he believed, should be that each nation in its own sphere of influence should be at leisure undisturbed to develop its trade and consolidate its relations with the natives in a natural and orderly manner. He would be the last to underestimate the danger, not active but latent, in the present condition of affairs, but he believed that they had reached a stage where there was a better prospect than there had been for some time past of the various questions being adjusted between the two nations, provided there were exercised a little goodwill and a moderate amount of give and take on both sides.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he thought the Committee would agree that owing to the absorption of the whole time of the House by the Government they had been deprived of those opportunities, to which they were fully entitled, of bringing forward these important matters for discussion. He would congratulate the right hon. Baronet (Sir E. Grey) upon the concluding portion of his statement with regard to Siam. He was glad to hear from him a very distinct and firm expression of opinion that the time had come when further encroachments on the independence of Siam would not be permitted by Great Britain. The Ministry could not complain of a want of toleration on the part of the Opposition. Thirteen months ago this question of Siam was first raised. The Opposition then thought that the Government was dealing with the matter in a casual and lax manner, and that the ultimate result would be trouble between the two countries. He trusted that 1475 danger had passed away, hut he protested against the hon. Baronet and the Government still venturing to speak of maintaining the integrity of Siam when they knew that Siam had in the last year been despoiled of one-third of her territory amounting to some 600,000 square miles, that her practical control over Battambong and Angkor had been taken away, and that the important Port of Chantabun was still occupied by the French. Before he said anything about the Congo Treaty he wished to repudiate any notion that he was actuated by a spirit of hostility to the French or to the French people. In his belief the French had every right to pursue an active colonial and Imperial policy, and he had never said anything which could be construed as offensive to France or to Frenchmen. His complaint was not against France, but against Her Majesty's Government. As the French were justified in pursuing an active colonial policy, so Her Majesty's Government were bound to protect British interests. The Government seemed to think that a course of successive retreats—first, small retreats, and then greater surrenders—apologetic statements in the House of Commons, and feeble notes to the French Government would preserve peace and avert war or trouble between the two countries. He maintained that the policy which would avoid disturbance, trouble, and war was that of fixing, at an early stage, a definite point with courtesy and discretion, and letting foreign countries know that any passing beyond that point was likely to lead to resistance on the part of Great Britain. But the policy pursued by Great Britain was essentially different. What had happened with regard to the Anglo-Congo Treaty on May 12th? He supposed that no British Government had ever had such a humiliating experience as the present Government had had with respect to this Treaty. That Treaty was unfortunately made by the present Government without consulting the other great Powers interested, and even without endeavouring to find out what their views were. The notion of the British Government was to create a buffer State between the Nile waterway and the French forces that were advancing from Central Africa towards the Nile. That policy had failed abjectly. The Treaty 1476 had been torn to shreds by Germany and France. The frontier of the Congo Free State had actually been put back five degrees by the new Franco-Congo Agreement, Article III. of the Treaty of May 12, which gave us a strip of territory between Lake Albert Nyanza and Lake Tanganyika, had been promptly cancelled at the demand of the German Government. And Article II. was practically abrogated by the Franco-Congo Agreement of this month. Under Article II. Great Britain had leased to the Congo State the whole of the western basin of the Nile, from Lado up to Fashoda, or to about latitude 11, and westwards as far as the 25th degree of longitude. That lease was with a view to keeping France out of the basin of the Nile. Now the French Government had driven the Congo State into abandoning most of that territory. The French had pushed the Congo territory southwards from latitude 11 to latitude 5.30, and eastwards from longitude 25 to longitude 30. That was to say, they had taken from the Congo State over 10,000 square miles of leased territory, and had driven back the Congo State frontier to within 40 miles of the Nile. The really important issue was the effective occupation of the western basin of the Nile. The frontier of the Congo Free State had actually been pushed back from the 25th to the 30th degree, now fixed by the Franco-Congo Agreement of August 14. But it did not much matter what the latitude of the frontier was. The important point was that there should be no French occupation of the western basin of the Nile. It was admitted by all Military Authorities in Europe that, if a great European Power occupied almost any portion of the Upper Nile waterway, such a Power must ultimately control Egypt. A leading officer said the other day that if he were the Mahdi he would charge Egypt a good price for every quart of water that ran down the Nile. Any great Power occupying the waterway would be able to do that, and so to accomplish the subjugation or the ruin of Egypt. He could quote Sir Samuel Baker and General Gordon in support of the view that any great Power who got occupation of the upper portion of the Nile waterway could control Egypt. The important question at issue, therefore, was how far the effective occupation 1477 of the French would be kept from the Nile waterway. Upon this they had no assurance whatever from the Government. If the French Government would give an undertaking that their forces would not approach within 400, or even 300, miles from the Nile waterway, that would be a satisfactory arrangement. But until we had this undertaking, there was every risk of a steady advance of the French forces towards the Nile. There could be no doubt that the French were steadily working for the accomplishment of their great ambition—the establishment of a French Trans-African Empire from Senegambia and the Atlantic on the west to Obock and the Red Sea on the east. Such an achievement would render our occupation of Egypt impossible, and would turn the Mediterranean into a French lake. It would also put an end to the brilliant promise of a British Trans-African Empire from Alexandria on the north to Cape Town on the south. Much had been done of late to achieve this. Uganda was the key of the whole position, and Uganda was now British. Let the Government be vigilant and resolute and they would win most splendid territories in Central Africa for British commerce and colonisation. He now wished to ask the hon. Gentleman a question with regard to the collision between French and British troops near Waima in December last. This was a striking illustration of the mistake made in keeping these questions so long open. He agreed with the Under Secretary that it was a mistake, but he accused the Government of being responsible for keeping the matter open so long. In December last a British force on British territory was attacked by a French force. They believed the attack was owing to a mistake on the part of the French officer in command, who paid forfeit with his life. But three English officers were killed, two of them officers of much promise. Yet nine months had elapsed, and the matter was still left open between the two Governments, and he submitted that if the Government had done their duty in this question the matter would long since have been settled. Then six native police in the British Service were shot down near the Niger territory not more than three or four mouths ago, and no reparation had been 1478 made. Whether they looked at Siam, Sierra Leone, the Niger, the Congo, or the western basin of the Nile, they saw British interests being steadily infringed upon by the extraordinary activity of the French. He did not blame France for that. The French were entitled to as much territory as they could get and keep. But they had a right to demand of the Government that they should realise the importance of the interests they had to defend, and take steps to prevent any further encroachments upon British rights in South Africa. They knew that the French had great colonial aims. Nobody who bad noticed the recent advance of the French from West to East would deny that they were imbued with the idea of obtaining a great colonial dominion. This was no fantastic dream, but the policy of leading French statesmen. The French forces had been advancing of late with giant strides towards the accomplishment of this scheme. With regard to Uganda, again, there was the issue as to which country would control these regions of great promise and natural wealth, affording splendid opportunities for colonisation enterprises. The present and essential duty of the Government was to take steps to prevent further infringement on British interests in Africa, and particularly to prevent an effective French occupation of the Nile waterway or of the adjacent territories.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, he desired to draw the attention of the Committee to the practical lessons which he gathered from the Siamese movement. The Papers on the subject raised many points regarding the proceedings of our Secretaries of State. The correspondence, which was somewhat complex, was ably summarised in a Despatch by Lord Rosebery to Lord Dufferin, of December 1893, and was to be found in No. 30,), page 148, and hon. Members might be sure that this Despatch of the Prime Minister contained all that was essential in the history of the negotiations. In this Despatch were to be found many of the original proposals made so far back as 1889. The lesson to be learned from what had taken place was that if long ago we had expressed strong views with regard to British interests, the whole of the trouble that had occurred might have been averted. The change 1479 of Government that took place in 1892 was very unfortunate, because that was the critical period of the negotiations. It was during the interval between the active life of the outgoing Government and the active life of the succeeding Government that matters took an alarming development. It was apparent from Lord Rosebery's Despatch that statements made by British Ministers were misunderstood by the French. Those statements were taken by the French to amount to a declaration that England had no concern in the quarrel between France and Siam. The fact was, that when our Ministers said that we were not concerned in the quarrel they did not realise its nature and thought that it arose out of disputes respecting comparatively remote regions of Siam, and did not relate to the important parts of the country. The result was, that the French thought that they were at liberty to "go ahead." British diplomatists, when dealing with an ambitious Power like France, ought to be very careful not to say anything that could be misunderstood, and it was very unfortunate that stronger and more positive language was not used. The conduct of France was only too clear. First they begun with a frontier policy, and then there came not only all the annexations that had been made, but a proposal for a still further partition of Siam. There was no doubt that the French Minister did give very positive promises on behalf of his Government, with regard to evacuation of the harbour of Chantabun, and it was high time that the fulfilment of those promises should be claimed, because if they were not fulfilled, that state of things would arise of which the hon. Baronet had spoken—a new phase would have arisen with which the British Government would have to deal. Depend upon it, that if Chantabun was not evacuated by the French, then British interests in Siam would be seriously imperilled. It was, therefore, high time that the British Government should put its foot down, and claim the fulfilment of the promises of the French Government with regard to Siam. He wished to know whether the British Government was or was not going to claim from France an arrangement which would ensure the integrity, not of Siam, but of what remained of Siam. On that all-important question 1480 no light was thrown by the Blue Books. As one who knew something of Eastern affairs, he strongly urged on the Government to claim from France the fulfilment of the undertaking it had given with regard to Siam; for until that was done, the integrity of Siam and British interests in Siam would be seriously imperilled.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
We propose to take some non-contentious Votes as well; but we will not take any more contentious Votes to-night.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, he earnestly hoped that the prospect which the hon. Baronet had mentioned of some arrangement being come to with France would develop into a satisfactory result. He would also urge on the hon. Baronet the necessity, if possible, of coming to some terms with the British East Africa Company. He was quite sure that if the Foreign Secretary would meet the Directors of the Company and talk the matter over, it would be quite possible to come to terms mutually satisfactory and honourable to both parties. The present state of affairs was most discreditable, and amounted to something like a public scandal. He trusted that in the interest of the country it would be put an end to at once.
§ * MR. WEIR
was surprised that the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield had left out of consideration in his speech his earlier love—Brazil. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had said that the proportion the drink traffic in the Niger Company's territory bore to the whole trade was that spirits were 12 per cent., guns and powder 7 per cent., and the cotton and silk goods and other articles 81 per cent.; and he added the trade in drink did not appear to be increasing. He regretted that the hon. Baronet should have made so little of the 12 per cent. derivable from alcohol. He was informed that the natives were becoming utterly demoralised from drinking bad brandy; and he thought that whatever drink they got it should at least be good and unadulterated.
§ * SIR E. GREY
said, he did not underrate the importance of coming to a settlement with the East Africa Company, but he had nothing to add to what he had 1481 said on that subject on the Vote on Account. It was said that during the revolution at Brazil British ships were refused protection at Rio to enable them to get provisions absolutely necessary for the crews. These statements were founded only on exaggerated newspaper reports. He saw one of those reports, which stated that owing to the want of British support given to a British vessel to obtain a supply of water, the vessel had to apply to the American warships for assistance. What actually happened was that the British vessel was, on application, promised protection by the British authorities to go to the proper place to get a proper water supply; but being in a hurry, and unable to wait till morning, she applied to the American vessels for a supply of water, and they having a large supply very properly complied with the request. That was the only foundation for this charge that British vessels had not been afforded sufficient protection by the British authorities.
§ * MR. TOMLINSON
protested against the indifference which was shown by the Government in the loss of the lives of three British officers at Waima—a place which at the time was occupied by British forces. He should also strongly protest against a system under which the Representatives of the constituencies had to discuss those important and serious questions in an attenuated House at the close of a wearisome Session. One would think that when the Government were carrying on difficult and delicate negotiations with other Powers, they would desire to have a strong public opinion behind them. But the Government evidently had no such desire. Everything was kept in the dark so much as possible, and the House got no fair opportunity of expressing its feelings in the matter.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ 11. £7,528, to complete the sum for Privy Council Office.
§ * SIR F. S. POWELL
urged that the time had come when the quarantine system should be entirely abolished in this country. The quarantine system was ineffectual for its purpose and ought to be abolished. In the year 1892, when there was a terrible visitation of the cholera in Europe, it was kept away 1482 from this country not by quarantine, but by sanitary operations of a much simpler character. In the course of last year a Sanitary Convention was held at Dresden, attended by the Representatives of the European Powers—England included—and the result was that quarantine had almost disappeared from the European system. It continued still at Portsmouth, and he therefore should move to reduce this Vote by £1,400.
§ SIR J. T. HIBBERT
said, it was proposed, with the sanction of the Local Government Board, to discontinue this system of quarantine. Legislation, however, would be necessary before the change could be effected, and therefore they must take the Vote on the present occasion. He believed that next year they would not require a Vote for the purpose.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 12. £23,380, to complete the sum for Charity Commission.
§ 13. £22,071, to complete the sum for Civil Service Commission.
§ 14. £34,444, to complete the sum for Exchequer and Audit Department.
§ 15. £4,186 (including a supplementary sum of £1,000), to complete the sum for Friendly Societies Registry.
§ 16. £9,219, to complete the sum for Lunacy Commission, England.
§ 17. £84, to complete the sum for the Mint, including Coinage.
§ 18. £7,452, to complete the sum for National Debt Office.
§ 19. £12,017, to complete the sum for Public Record Office.
§ 20. £5,659, to complete the sum for Public Works Loan Commission.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.