§ * COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Shefield, Central)
said, he rose to move an Amendment to the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. It would be remembered that at the commencement of last Session he handed in an Amendment to the Address, but he gave way in order to facilitate a discussion upon the woeful condition of 76 agriculture, and he contented himself with seconding a somewhat similar Motion made by the hon. Member for South West Ham. They divided the House and carried into the Lobby with them the greater portion of the Members on this side of the House; and considering that the condition of the country had gone from bad to worse, and that the state of employment had become increasingly worse than it was then, it could not fail to have struck every Member with the utmost astonishment that the Government should have put into the mouth of the Sovereign no reference whatever to the state of trade and agriculture, no expression of sympathy with the want of employment, and no measure foreshadowed which might amend that state of affairs. Representing as he did an industrial constituency, he could not allow this opportunity to pass of calling attention to the state of affairs in the industrial districts, and of asking the Government why they had omitted any reference to this condition of things in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, and of expressing astonishment that the hon. Member for Wansbeck, who held an official position in the Trades Union Congress, in seconding the Address, made no reference whatever to the lamentable condition of employment in the country, he consented to second an Address in answer to a Speech which was so conspicuously silent upon the industrial question. The Amendment which he proposed to move was as follows:—That this House desires humbly to represent to Your Majesty that the depressed condition of trade and agriculture, the reduction in wages, the number of artizans and labourers out of employment, and the continued immigration of pauper aliens to augment the labour competition, call for the immediate attention of Parliament.Whatever the merits or demerits of the measures that the Government told them they intended to propose, it was absolutely certain that not one of them, or all of them together, would provide work and wages for one single individual in this country who was at present out of employment. One was at a loss to know the cause of such an omission from Her Majesty's Speech. It must arise from one of two reasons—either the Government were absolutely indifferent to the state of industrial affairs or they were 77 ignorant of the present condition of the country. There was no Member of the House who was off the Treasury Bench who did not know the great suffering there had been during the past 18 months, and it would be necessary for him very briefly to set the condition of affairs before the Government in order that they might hear from their lips whether they had any remedy to propose in order to remove such a, condition of things, He would not do this by any abstract theories of his own, but he would do so from official publications, and more especially those issued by the Board of Trade, or else he would call such an impartial authority on trade matters as The Economist. In a recent issue of The Economist, in a review of the state of commercial affairs in the year 1893, these expressions were used—Industrial activity and enterprise has shrunk in almost every direction. The output from the shipbuilding yards fell off by 273,000 tons from 1892, and by 50 per cent, in steam tonnage and 44 per cent, in total tonnage from 1889. The exports of British and Irish produce and manufactures fell off by £8,500,000 compared to 1892. by £29,000,000compared to 1891, and by no less than £45,000,000 compared to 1890. Yarns and textiles lost £3,400.000; metal exports. £2,100,000 between 1893 and 1892; and of the £18,000,000 decline in imports nearly £11,000,000 was in reduced purchase of raw material for manufacture. The shipments of bar iron, hoops, and wire were 205,000 tons less than 10 years before—namely, in 1883: 200 tin-plate mills were stopped for want of orders, and compared to 1891 there was a reduced shipment of 69,000 tons of tin-plate, and a drop of 5s. 6d. in the prices obtained.But bad as this record was it would be infinitely worse if there were any statistics available from which they could gauge the state of the home trade. The authority from which he quoted just now stated—That it must be doubted whether our home trade is as well sustained as our foreign trade, and there are unfortunately no statistics which furnish the measure of the value of our internal trade. But this we do know, that 1893 proved infinitely worse to the farmers over a greater part of England than any of the disastrous years preceding it.They all knew the suffering which had been caused by the coal strike, and which was caused by the necessity in which coalowners found themselves of reducing the 40 per cent, increase in wages given in the years 1887 and 1888. They knew also that the applications for new capital had 78 never been so small as they were in 1893 since 1876, and that they were no less than £129,000,000 sterling behind the applications of 1889. He held in his hands the last issue of The Labour Gazette, and he certainly thought that if hon. Members would read that journal they would speedily arrive at an exact understanding of the serious condition of affairs in many industrial centres. The Labour Gazette speaks of—The iron and steel trades being exceptionally depressed in South Wales, of cutlers being very short of work front various causes mainly connected with foreign trade,and says that 1,507 Trade Unionist branches in engineering, building, printing', bookbinding, furnishing, and wood-making, with a membership of 190,000, describe trade in January last as "dull to very bad." The result of this condition of affairs had been that month after mouth in 1893 from 10 to 7 per cent, of the Trade Unionists making Returns to the Labour Department were unemployed, and at the end of January last there were, 246,803 Trade Unionists, mostly heads of families, unemployed, out of the total of 353,000, or 7 per cent, of the whole, against 1.5 per cent, in the winter of 1889–90, and 28 trades out of 37 were still returned as bad. But, if those were the figures regarding Trades Unionists how infinitely worse must be the condition of those who were not members of Trades Unions, but who were ranked among the unskilled members of the industrial population! They could only arrive at the figures as regarded want of employment among unskilled labourers indirectly, and they were driven, in the dearth of statistics at the Board of Trade or elsewhere concerning home industries, to the Returns of pauperism. No less than 342,680 persons were relieved from the Poor Rates in one day in the middle of January last in certain selected districts of England and Wales—districts selected not by himself, but by the Local Government Board. In Central London no less than 475 per 10,000 of the population were paupers, and in all London and West Ham on one day in the second week of January there were 120,000, less eight, in December, 1893, the number of persons relieved was larger than in any year since 1872, and larger than any year between 1857 and 1865. On the 79 same day in January, 1894, in other districts of England, no less than 164,000 persons were official paupers, beside 33,000 in Scotland and 25,000 in Ireland; and of the 1,043 persons who applied in the course of the month for employment at the Labour Bureaux at Chelsea, Battersea, and St. Pancras work could only be possibly found by 256. It was absolutely necessary for one to give the facts and reasons for proposing such an Amendment to the Address, and it was astonishing that the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the President of the Board of Trade, and the President of the Local Government Board, if they had had the slightest knowledge of the condition of things being recorded by their several Departments, could have joined in a Queen's Speech which expressed no word of sympathy with such a state of things, which hold out no hope whatever of alleviative measures, and which gave not the smallest indication that Parliament intended to devote one single moment of time this Session to the depressed condition of either trade or agriculture. Great injury was likely to be done to the cause of the unemployed by violent speeches; but the best remedy for disaffection, and for that popular ferment of which there were too many signs at the present day, was surely the full and adequate employment of the people at fair and reasonable wages. Belief works might be suggested, but it was not those works that people wanted. Belief works and works undertaken by Public Bodies were at best but temporary, make-shift, extravagant, and pauperising expedients, doing quite as much harm to the people as they did good. They only touched, as the Lord Mayor of London said in a recent letter—The fringe of an infinitesimal portion of the tremendous problem of the unemployed.The remedy to be effective must go far deeper. It must go at once to the root of the whole matter—to the root of the causes which enabled their foreign competitors to gain on them daily more and more in the home as in the neutral markets. It was no part of his duty as a private Member to propose a remedy. He brought this matter before the House as representing an industrial constituency grievously suffering under the present state of affairs, and it was the primary 80 duty of the right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench, associated with the President of the Board of Trade, to provide for the welfare and the employment of the people. The absorption of the time of the House of Commons by measures not dealing with this matter could only aggravate the evil instead of doing good. He admitted that it was difficult to find a remedy, but still gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, in their individual and collective wisdom, ought to be able to find a remedy for the condition of things which existed in the country at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet (Mr. J. Lowther) had devoted much time to the study of the question of the immigration of pauper aliens and to searching for a remedy for the present condition of affairs. Nor did the right hon. Gentleman stand alone in this. A Select Committee sat in 1888 and 1889 and made some strong recommendations pointing to the necessity of legislation in the future to cope with the evil. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, speaking to a deputation of unemployed working men on the 4th December, said the time had come when something must be done. He (Colonel Howard Vincent) submitted to the Government and the House that the time for legislation contemplated by the Select Committee had more than arrived, and that it was the bounden duty of the Government to devote special attention to the subject. Nor was he alone in this view. The noble Earl who now held the position of Prime Minister—and whom he ventured to say every Englishman, not only in that House, but throughout the Empire, was glad to sec in that position—said on the 14th November, 1893, at the Royal Colonial Institute—If a labouring class predominates in a particular State, and can only see in the influx of emigration a lowering of its own wages and of its own means of comfort, you cannot greatly blame them if they oppose that immigration. They see their own homes more comfortable by keeping competition out, and therefore they are determined to do so. If there is one certainty in the world it is this—that with the growth of emigration and with the continual closing of the confines of States to the destitute emigrants of other countries, there is no country in the world that will not be compelled to consider its position, and possibly reconsider its position, with regard to pauper immigration unless it wishes permanently to degrade the status and, condition of its own working classes.81 Was it the wish of Her Majesty's Governmentto degrade the status and condition of its own working classes.He did not suggest it for a single moment, but with the words of the Prime Minister before him he asked how could they have composed the Speech from the Throne without suggesting a remedy for the state of affairs described as tending "to degrade the status and condition" of the working classes of the country? When their own working men were by the hundred without means of earning an honest livelihood, it seemed to him nothing less than criminal to make their situation worse by allowing over 33,000 aliens to come in mainly for sojourn in the single year 1893. Had the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade examined into the Returns in regard to aliens recently laid on the Table? If so, he would have noticed that over 5,000 came in in November, December, and January, representing a considerable increase over the number for the corresponding period of last year. Why should they continue to receive these pauper aliens when the distress of their own people was so great? Charity began at home; and when in England and Wales at the end of last November they found 726,951 paupers—or 66,000 more than at the same date in 1891—it was time they looked to reducing the number of their own paupers instead of augmenting them from the Continent. It was not difficult to find a remedy. The Member for West Birmingham had stated that the great cure was to find new markets, and there would he few who would disagree with him. What had the Government done to find new markets for the industries of this country? Was there any reference to this subject in the Speech? Was there a, single word indicating where the manufacturers of this country, shut out increasingly as they were from foreign States, could possibly find those markets which were even denied them at home? Was there one word in Her Majesty's Speech relating to Siam or Uganda, or indicating in the smallest degree that Her Majesty's Government were alive to the permanent necessity of finding new markets to replace those markets which were closed to our great manufacturing industries? Opportunity was not lack- 82 ing. Canada, Australia, and South Africa had formulated a distinct invitation to Her Majesty's Government. The Dominion of Canada had twice spoken by its Legislature its loyal feeling to the Mother Country, and resisted all overtures from the United States to enter into a commercial union. A high commercial authority, speaking of Canada, said—The Dominion is becoming as time passes a more valuable customer, and it is true in our case that trade follows the flag.It rested wholly with Her Majesty's Government and with the House to bring about a better state of affairs. The Canadian Parliament had declared its readiness, if the Government should free their hands, to put lighter duties upon British goods than upon foreign goods. At this very moment Ministerial Representatives of Australia were in Loudon laying before the Government distinct propositions, not to say entreaties, to take measures to develop Imperial trade and to increase the output of British goods in colonial markets. He asked Her Majesty's Government whether these gentlemen were to be sent, back to their colonies with mere empty compliments? Was the Government going to do nothing for our colonial trade, or to facilitate that Imperial commerce wherein lay the best remedy for the present depression? It was not a question of Canada and Australia alone. It was perfectly well known that the Cape Government was well disposed towards this question, and Mr. Rhodes himself was even more anxious than anybody else perhaps to do something to increase British trade with the object of holding the Empire together. The other day the President of the Board of Trade of Toronto pointed out the great advantage which the imposition of such a, tariff as he had mentioned would afford to the colonies and also to the manufacturers of Great Britain. He (Colonel Howard Vincent) earnestly asked the House to give attention to this industrial matter, which lay at the very root of the social happiness and the commercial prosperity of the country. He moved this Amendment in no Party spirit whatever, and he trusted that he had said nothing which could be interpreted as being of a Party character. He earnestly hoped the Government would show their sympathy with the 83 subject by accepting the Amendment. If he were compelled to divide the House he hoped for the support of every hon. Member, whether English, Welsh, Scotch, or Irish, who had the welfare of the industrial population at heart. It was quite impossible for any Member to go about among his constituents, whether in town or country, without being struck with the enormous amount of distress and want of employment that existed, and he hoped that some portion of the time of this Session might be devoted to the consideration of the industrial position of the country, and to the framing of measures calculated to give encouragement to those who were at present without employment, to bring food to homes where no food was to be found now save at the cost of the public rates, and to enable all persons in the country to earn an honest and decent livelihood.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
, in seconding the Amendment, said, he had peculiar means of making himself acquainted with the question of the importation of pauper aliens, because the docks at Tilbury were in his constituency. A year ago one line alone deposited something like 180 a week of these pauper foreigners at Tilbury Docks. Of course, they did not stop at Tilbury; they came up to London, where they drove down wages and swamped the labour market. Something like 180,000 of these individuals were landed in England every year. Eighty thousand of them wore supposed to be en route to America, but practically nothing like that number went to America, and it was found in the East End of London that the worse class of those foreigners remained in England, whilst the better class went to America. This sort of thing was not allowed in any other civilised country in the world. No other country would allow pauper foreigners to be dumped upon its shores. In America two Acts had been passed, the Aliens Immigration Act and the Aliens Contract Act, which absolutely prohibited the landing of pauper foreigners. A similar state of the law prevailed in Hamburg, in Canada, and in our Australian Colonies. He could not understand why the Government should not do something in the same direction. The present Government always had a very 84 keen eye to the main chance, and he failed to comprehend why they had not attempted to pass a Bill which would be so popular with the electors as a measure of this kind would be. Turning to the question of agriculture in the Eastern Counties, he had several times troubled the House with details upon the subject, which was connected very intimately with that part of the country in which he lived and which he represented. If hon. Members would read the Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture and would particularly study the evidence of Mr. Hunter Pringle they would, he was told, see that something like one-third of the stretch of country lying between Erith Marshes and the North Sea was out of cultivation—that was to say, was not under the plough. It was under rough grass, and might possibly support a few sheep for two or three months in the year. To show the disadvantage of such a state of things he might mention that, whereas one labourer would be needed to look after eight acres which were under cultivation, a single labourer was sufficient to look after 80 or 100 acres which were under rough grass. The result was that laud went out of cultivation, and labourers were driven out of the country districts and swamped the labour market. He did not think that the depression in agriculture was the fault of the Liberal Government, but he did think that the Government might have given the agriculturists a few words of sympathy in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. Various suggestions had been made with a view to remedying the present state of things. The hon. Member for the Wood-bridge Division (Mr. Everett) thought that salvation lay in bi-metallism; whilst another hon. Member advocated the placing of labourers on the laud; and the Member for the Harborough Division (Mr. Logan) thought that the Agricultural Holdings Act should be enlarged and improved. He (Major Rasch) did not think these things would be of any real practical use. He thought, however, that the Agricultural Holdings Act should be enlarged, as was suggested at a mass meeting held under the presidency of Mr. C. W. Gray, at the Chelmsford Corn Exchange on Friday last, so that the yearly tenant might be allowed to sell his hay and straw without putting an 85 equivalent upon the laud, whilst a man who was not a yearly tenant might be allowed to sell half his hay and straw without putting' an equivalent on the land. Why could not the Government also bring in a Bill for the redemption of tithe based upon the Ashbourne Act, which had done so much good in Ireland? There was also the great question of local taxation to be considered. The Government had done something to increase taxation by the passing of their Local Government Act of last Session, and it was surely only fair that they should now do something to reduce it, or, at all events, to equalise it. The people in the agricultural districts did not ask for grants in aid because they knew such grants only meant putting 1s. into a man's pocket with one hand and taking 1s. 6d. out of it with the other. But they did ask for a real sweeping reform of local taxation.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words—
And this House desires humbly to represent to your Majesty that the depressed condition of trade and agriculture, the reduction in wages, the number of artizans and labourers out of employment, and the continued immigration of pauper aliens to augment the home labour competition, call for the immediate attention of Parliament."—(Mr. Howard Vincent.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
expressed regret that there was in the Most Gracious Speech from the Throne no allusion whatever, except one, to trade, industrial, and social questions. No one could look at the present state of industry in this country without feeling that in most of its aspects there was need not only for consideration but for action, if action were possible He could not altogether agree with his hon. Friend in the remedies he had suggested, but he sympathised with his statement of regret that the Queen's Speech should have been marred by very important omissions. Of the want of employment he thought there could be no question. The Trade Union Returns of the Board of Trade showed that last month 7 per cent, of the men in the skilled trades were unemployed, and every Member of Parliament must have had experience of being appealed to by 86 numbers of people not for charity but for work. The other day he himself received communications from a constituent, and was also waited upon by a deputation of lithographers, who, of course, represented a very skilled trade, and who pointed out to him that the walls of the Metropolis were plastered with largo placards bearing the imprint of New York. This was it lamentable fact, and if it indicated that we were losing the control of that which ought to be a source of great industrial employment it was extremely to be regretted, and ought to be remedied if at all possible. He was bound to congratulate his right hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella) on the fact that he had not lost sight of one of the very great causes of the loss of industry by this country, as was shown by the reference in the Queen's Speech to conciliation. Speaking as he did from experience of one town in which last year there were two great strikes or lock-outs, he (Sir A. Rollit) was able to say that very large amounts of trade were unnecessarily and frequently wantonly driven from this country owing to industrial disputes. He welcomed the promise of this Bill, as in the closing hours of last Session he had endeavoured to introduce some process of conciliation, and he was satisfied that if that principle were applied they had a most effective remedy for many of their present evils. Though they might regret that the Rill of the right hon. Gentleman did not go further, he thought the right hon. Gentleman was wise, to some extent, in tentatively limiting its provisions, he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman adopted the principle that it should be voluntary, that he recognised the necessity of early intervention so its to combat any difference that might have taken place before it had reached an acute stage, and because it often became necessary to determine at an early stage what those who struck or who were locked out really wanted. What was really wanted was very often ill-defined, and if it could be put in more precise language it would often be capable of much easier solution. If that could be done they brought to bear public opinion, which was really, though it had no legal sanction, a most formidable weapon for eliminating right from wrong, and by supporting the right putting an end to most unfortunate differences, He, should heartily sup- 87 port the Conciliation Bill, as he had done last Session. He believed that had the Bill for defining employers' liability been passed, it would have put an end to some of the disputes that arose. Our industrial institutions could only be founded on good relations between employer and employed, and so strongly did he feel that there were at present inequalities to be redressed that he was convinced the first day of the Session ought to have seen some allusion to, if not the re-introduction of, that Bill, and he cordially re-echoed the Seconder of the Address, that it was an omission that they must almost reprobate. Then he should have liked to have seen, believing as he did that the want of facilities for distributing employment was one great cause of the wants of employment, some allusion to the defective state of the law at present, some allusion to the defect that was alleged to exist in Corporations and Vestries not having the power to establish Labour Bureaux. They did it in some cases with great advantage; but if, as had been alleged in this House, there was any doubt as to their power in that direction, that doubt ought to be removed, because no one could have any doubt as to its advantage who had any experience of these bureaux for employment that were conducted at the Mansion House and through the London Chamber of Commerce. There were allusions in the Queen's Speech to all parts of the world except one which he should have thought would have been first mentioned—namely, Africa. He noticed the advantage of arbitration was mentioned, and the necessity to commerce of peace, which was most true: but who could forget the possible effect of Africa; who could close his eyes to the fact that this was the great field in which we might establish new markets? He was sure the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House of Commons would agree that if there was one subject on which the minds of all classes were fixed at this time it was the Report of that most able servant now lost to the State—he meant the Report of Sir Gerald Portal in reference to Uganda. He hoped the Report would not long be delayed, and that they would soon have the views and recommendations contained in it which were based on knowledge and experience. With reference to the question of pauper 88 aliens, he did not desire that subject to be exaggerated, as it often was, and he thought there was something to be said on each side. If emigration were restricted many avenues might be closed to our own people; but all nations, except ours, seemed to be agreed that it was undesirable that mere pauper aliens should be lauded in foreign countries. The great objection of that was not only undue competition, and hence a large amount of sweating, but the reduction of the standard of living which produced a great social evil. He thought it was a subject well worthy consideration, and might be one that demanded legislation, but the statistics and other considerations must be first most carefully examined, for they had often been misrepresented. He had only one word more to say, and that was, to regret above all the omission of one matter which would have had the effect of removing great industrial defects in our country, of adding to its trade, of arming us for competition, and placing our legislation on a much better basis. Last Session he moved at an early period a Resolution which declared that—In the opinion of the House of Commons, railway rates had been most injurious to trade; and that the subject demanded the prompt and effective intervention of the Government.He heartily thanked the President of the Board of Trade for consenting to the appointment of the Committee for which he himself had asked, and he knew that the right hon. Gentleman had never lost interest in that subject; but he did ask consideration of the importance of the subject itself, how the cost of transport was almost the chief element in these days of industrial competition, and how the feeling was universal that those excessive rates were disastrous both to commerce and to the Railway Companies themselves; and remembering that the Committee sat for a great part of the Session and found that the rates had been most excessive, he was surprised there was no word of indication either of the importance of this subject or the necessity and want of that prompt and effective legislation which Parliament demanded, and which would have a very great effect on trade and employment. He might say a similar word on the subject of sea fisheries. Again, a Committee 89 which he had moved and carried had sat and declared that legislation was necessary to prevent the depletion of our seas. They needed greater scientific appliances for examination; and yet, though this great question was not only a trade question, and also a food and diet question, but a source from which the sailors came who manned our fleet, who were the backbone of our Marine and Royal Naval Reserve, no word was said in the Queen's Speech. He regretted, too, that there was no word about technical education. In some measure from the lack of technical education, especially in the vital matter of design and applied design, they found this great City of London placarded with large lithographs bearing that New York imprint. Something might be done in the direction of technical education by making the London University a teaching as well as an examining College. Yet here, again, there was no mention of the Report of the Commission. These were matters which, under one general phrase expressing sympathy for the want of employment and encouragement in providing means for securing it in a greater degree for the benefit of all classes, might have been introduced. He supported the Amendment as a protest against what he could not help thinking had been a matter of great neglect on a subject of the most vital import, to employers and to the masses of the people.
§ MR. DODD (Essex, Maldon)
said, that the Amendment which had been moved by the Member for Central Sheffield had, as that hon. Member had said, been brought forward in no controversial spirit, but simply as a question to which the attention of the House ought to be directed. For his own part, he confessed he felt some regret on reading the Queen's Speech to find there was no allusion to agricultural depression. He represented one of the districts of Essex, a county which had suffered almost more than any other in England from this depression, and he felt that in alluding to the topic he was dealing with no Party matter. Another Essex Member seconded this Amendment, and there was one other Member who sat on the other side of the House who would also have supported the Amendment had he been alive to do so. Hut he regretted to say that death, as the result of an unfortunate 90 accident, had deprived them of the services of the hon. Member, whose loss would be felt exceedingly by every one in Essex, no matter to which Party he belonged. A map had recently been prepared by one of the Sub-Commissioners belonging to the Commission now sitting on the condition of agriculture which showed the amount of land wholly or partially out of cultivation in the Essex district. From that it appeared that between the Thames and the Blackwater there was an enormous amount of land which was entirely, or almost entirely, out, of cultivation. In face of such a fact it was most natural to say that there must be something wrong somewhere, this land being close to London and suitable for wheat or beans. Another matter which affected the agricultural interest was the question of railway rates. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench, equally with themselves, felt deep sympathy with the agriculturists in their depression, and also sympathy with the condition of trade and the unemployed. But, after all, it would have been unfortunate that in the Speech there should have been placed words of sympathy unless there was a prospect of that sympathy faking some practical shape; and he quite perceived that in regard to agriculture there was considerable difficulty in legislating. He believed most hon. Members thought they know of a cure for this depression, but they all disagreed as to what that particular cure was. He thought that, one remedy was that there should be better market facilities afforded, both in the country districts and in London itself. It had always seemed to him that the condition of the London markets was anything but satisfactory, and a great deal must be done by establishing markets in various towns which should be in communication by telephone and telegraph with the London markets. He believed the object of the Government in appointing the Agricultural Commission was that the various remedies and suggestions should be inquired into and something done. The Commission had been sitting for a long time; it had taken a deal of evidence, and he heard hon. Gentlemen opposite say it had done nothing. That was strictly true; but they must remember that the Commission had a mass of 91 evidence to deal with, and they had not yet been able to move in the direction of remedies. Agriculturists would be glad when they did suggest remedies; and, for his part, he should very much have liked to see an Interim Report stating the facts which had been already elicited. Of course, it was impossible for the Government to propose any legislation until that Commission had reported, and he hoped the Commission would report as speedily as they could, and if they disagreed as to the remedies that they would disagree in such a way as to leave the responsibility to the Government. What they wanted to know was the exact state of agriculture, and then the Government must propose some remedies. As to railway rates, they were intimately connected with agriculture. It was complained that foreign agricultural produce could be brought to this country by steam very cheaply, and then the Railway Companies brought it from the ports to the various towns at equally cheap rates. The companies urged that this produce was collected for them, and given to them in large quantities. That was true; but, at the same time, it was a great hardship upon the English agriculturist that he was not able to have his goods collected, and then sent by the Railway Companies in a similarly cheap way. He recognised that the President of the Board of Trade had already given some assistance in this matter, and he hoped he would do more. A Resolution had been unanimously passed by the House declaring that these high rates were prejudicial to trade, and required to be altered. A Committee of the House had inquired into the question of railway rates. It had reported, and that Report now required consideration. He quite understood the difficulty in proposing at this early period of the Session any legislation on a matter which required such serious consideration, but the House was entitled to ask that the matter should receive the careful attention of the President of the Board of Trade. They desired for the agriculturist and trading community that there should, by legislation, be established some cheap and possible tribunal which could decide as to whether a rate was reasonable or not reasonable. As to the Amendment, he desired to ask the Mover and Seconder whether they thought any useful purpose 92 would be served by carrying it to a Division. Upon the plain facts of the case there was really no division of opinion in the House. All Parties sympathised with the depression, and were anxious that remedies should be found. But he would observe that to take a Division meant a censure on the Government, which the Mover of the Amendment disclaimed and under these circumstances, he would ask the hon. Gentleman not to go to a Division.
§ * MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St, Patrick's)
, as a Representative of Irish labour, desired for a few moments to intervene in the Debate. He considered, with the gentlemen who had raised this discussion, that it was remarkable that in Her Most Gracious Majesty's Speech the cause of labour did not receive some notice. It was quite evident to those who studied the social conditions of the country that the working classes were the mainstay of its prosperity, and it was therefore strange that the right hon. Gentleman who had prepared Her Majesty's Speech should have overlooked the fact that there was a lamentable want of employment over the length and breadth of the country. In this matter the policy of the Government seemed to be that of masterly inactivity. We had in this country nothing approaching the system which existed in most Continental countries, whereby labour could be removed from one place to another in accordance with the necessities of the case. The Homo Government had apparently not come to that state of perfection as regarded labour. In these countries the people were crowding into towns whilst the laud was idle. In addition to this we had food importations pouring in from all parts of the world. In 1886 £28,500,000 of food products were imported into this country, and in 1892 nearly £125,000,000. Yet, in face of these facts, hon. Gentlemen who owned land expected routs to be paid and commerce to be prosperous whilst all the time the Government were blind to this extraordinary position of affairs, which was really the kernel to the nation's prosperity. They ought to strive to get the people back to the land, and to grant allotments to the working men in which to use their spare time and labour. The Government were responsible for many 93 other mistakes. He found that in 1892 over £43,000,000 of manufactured articles were imported into the Three Kingdoms; of textiles, over £28,000,000 being so imported. There was a preferential rate given to nearly every class of foreign goods brought into the country, and that was a great and most unfair disadvantage to the home manufacturer and producer. He believed in Free Trade, but he did not believe in protection for the foreigner at the expense of the native producer. The Merchandise Marks Act was at present a Statute existing on paper only. He believed it might be made useful and beneficial to the trade of the country, but it was not made applicable to the purposes for which it was passed, and was by no means enforced to the extent it ought to be. He had sent a newspaper the other day to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, which contained a very remarkable statement. It was to the effect that the produce of German convict labour was imported into this country, while thousands of our own artizans were starving for want of work. Was it not the duty of a, Government to have regard to facts like these? The President of the Board of Trade appeared to think that he (Mr. Field) was joking, but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he was in earnest. Whether the Government was Liberal or Conservative the time was coming when it would have to consider these matters that were exercising the brains of the working men of the country or go out of Office. Another thing to be borne in mind was that technical education was fostered in foreign countries far more than it was here. We were 100 years behind such countries as France, Belgium, and Germany in this respect. Then, as to strikes, we had a great deal to learn from foreign countries. There were far fewer strikes on the Continent than in this country. Why was that? Because on the Continent the Government had organised Conciliation Boards to meet emergencies, and did not allow matters to drift into commercial war before endeavouring to bring about peace. They seemed to be asleep in the country. Trade was leaving us, our artizans were not employed, and matters had drifted into a state of chaos. With regard to labour 94 bureaux, he did not see why we should not have them here as they had them in Franco and elsewhere. The President of the Board of Trade might say that all these were matters of detail, but it was attention to matters of detail which made Governments perfect, and enabled them to face foreign competition. He trusted this Debate would bring the Government to a sense of their responsibility in approaching this question.
§ * SIR F. FITZWYGRAM (South Hants, Fareham)
said, he shared very strongly the regret expressed by hon. Members that there had been no mention made of these matters in the Queen's Speech. He did not ask for Protection, believing it to be dead and gone. ["No, no!"] Yes: in the ordinary sense of the word, and for the reason that they had more consumers—more mouths to feed—than they had producers; and the greater number always won the victory at elections, He did not believe in Protection, nor did he believe that Protection would be necessary if other proper measures were adopted. The great burden on agriculture was the crushing amount of rates and the extremely unfair difference in taxation, relatively, between real and personal property. In most parishes the assessment came to about 20 per cent, on the value of the land, and in some cases where the tithe had not fallen as much as the value it amounted to 50 per cent. The tax on personalty was only 3 per cent. If a, man had £5,000 a year in land, he would have to pay £1,000 a year in local taxation, and perhaps a good deal more, whereas if he had £5,000 a year in personalty, he would only pay 3 per cent, on it plus the local taxation on the house he lived in, or about £60—£210 a year in all. He believed that if there was a, fair readjustment of local taxation agriculture might be again made to flourish in this country, and that in this direction the real remedy for the present distress was to be found. Personalty at the present day exceeded realty by five or six to one, so that one-sixth of the wealth of the country paid 20 per cent, in taxation and the other five-sixths paid only 3 per cent. The distribution, therefore, was not equal and not what it ought to be. Why should not the man with £5,000 a year personalty pay as much for the maintenance of the poor, for the maintenance 95 of the roads he used, and for police protection as the man with £5,000 a year realty? This was a very serious question. The subject of the prosperity of agriculture concerned more millions of working men in the country than the prosperity of any other industry, and they would do more to bring about a restoration of that prosperity by a fair readjustment of local taxation than by any other step they could take.
§ * MR. MACDONALD (Tower Hamlets, Bow)
joined in the expression of regret that the Government had not referred in the Address to the question of the unemployed or to the depression in trade. But though he joined in that expression of regret, he could not support the Amendment, because in that Amendment there was a special emphasis laid on the question of the immigration of the foreign pauper, and the Mover of it had pointed to the exclusion of the foreign pauper as a remedy for the unemployed difficulty. For his own part, he believed the immigration of the foreign pauper had really little to do with the present condition of labour in this country. Indeed, he was confident, from his knowledge of the state of things in the East End of Loudon, that if they excluded every foreign pauper immigrant to-morrow, they would have done nothing for the solution of the question of unemployed labour, and for that reason he could not consent to vote against the Government. Thefacts were simple, though the problem that sprung out of them was probably as intricate and as difficult as any problem this country ever had to face. They had on the one hand a vast amount of unemployed capital, and on the other a vast amount—an unknown amount—of unemployed labour, and they had also a large amount of raw material. They had at their baud the factors that produced wealth, and yet, for some reason or other, the country was unable to make use of them. He did not believe they would ever solve either the question of depression of trade or of unemployed labour until they found why it was that with the factors of wealth placed at their disposal they were unable to create it. The conditions under which capital was used were the same as those having reference to the employment of labour. They had capital competing for use in 96 precisely the same way as they had labour competing for employment,, and unless they could see a means by which capital and labour could he brought together, they would never arrive at a satisfactory conclusion of the present difficulty. There had been suggestions made to the effect that the unemployed problem really sprang from the condition of agriculture. There could be no question that if agriculture could be made prosperous it would do a great deal towards absorbing the unemployed labour of the country, but the cause of the depression in agriculture seemed to him precisely the same as that of the general depression of the country. The view had been advanced that they had to increase the power of demand by altering the currency of the country. That had been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, but he (Mr. Macdonald) confessed that if the alteration of the currency tended to alter the prices of commodities, he could not for the life of him see how the alteration could in the slightest degree affect the actual demand for labour or for commodities. But he had risen for the purpose of saying that he would be contented if the Government would promise to bring in a popular Budget, because there was no remedy which was so likely to improve the trade of this country as the removal as far as possible of taxation from the shoulders of the poor to the shoulders of the richer members of the community. What they had to do was to increase the power of the poorer classes to demand commodities, and to check the enormous saving powers which were given under existing conditions to those who possessed large incomes. If the Government did not promise improvements in this direction it was possible that another opportunity would arise to divide on an Amendment more in accordance with his own view, and he should certainly divide on that.
§ * MR. ROUND (Essex, N.E., Harwich)
said, he rose to support the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Dodd) in the appeal he had made to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would see that in regard to the question of railway rates the interests of British farmers were safeguarded, and that there was a tribunal established to 97 say whether rates were reasonable or not. He joined in the tribute paid to the late Member for Romford, whose untimely death was to be deplored. Everyone would admit that he was a most diligent Member, and took the greatest interest in the proceedings of the House. With regard to the Amendment before the House, he thanked the hon. Member for Sheffield for introducing it; and heartily agreed with those who deplored the omission from the Queen's Speech of the subject of the depression in agriculture. He regretted that nothing had been heard on the subject from the Mover or Seconder of the Address, or from the Leader of the House. They all knew that that depression existed in a very extreme degree, and they knew it had reached a very acute crisis in the wheat-growing counties, and he was sure that in saying this the Minister for Agriculture, whom he saw opposite, would not disagree with him. The Government, as they knew, had appointed a, Royal Commission to inquire into the subject, and it was to be hoped that the investigation would soon terminate. A great deal of evidence had been taken by the previous Commission, appointed in 1878, and he strongly felt that it was not so much further evidence of the existence of depression that they required as some remedies for the improvement of the existing state of things. He thought that more of the recommendations of the previous Commission should have been carried out before this. The charge for the indoor poor, for instance, might have been made an Imperial rather than a local one, and that facilities should have been given for the redemption of tithe on equitable terms. He trusted that in the near future something would be done to lighten local burdens. There wore many ways in which the Government could alleviate the agricultural depression that now existed if they set their hands to the task, and be called upon the Minister for Agriculture to explain the omission in the Queen's Speech.
§ * MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Hereford)
said, there was one subject germane to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Howard Vincent) which had not been referred to in the course of the Debate. It was a subject which the American people thought to be a great 98 cause of the depreciation in prices in that country, and they had already taken steps to remedy it by bringing forward Bills in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. He referred to the practice of speculating in produce. It was alleged with considerable force of argument that the result of speculating in wheat, for instance, was to create an entirely false price for that article—that though the value of wheat as it reached the consumer was the same, the Clearing House in New York fixed an artificial price which was telegraphed all over the world, and regulated the English producer in the English market irrespective of whether the price was remunerative or not. A gentleman who was thoroughly acquainted with this subject, and who had written a book upon it, had been summoned to give evidence before the Royal Commission; therefore the subject would be brought under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, whether he had devoted attention to it as yet or not And not only was the price of wheat affected in this way, but the price of silver too, which, of course, affected other industries besides agriculture. The price of silver had not fallen through the breaking of the Latin compact—it was years after the demonetization of silver that the fall took place. It was to be traced first to "corners" in America, and afterwards to the action of speculators. He would suggest that the Government should take a leaf out of the book of the American Legislature, and introduce legislation directed against "time bargains" in produce. Should the subject be dealt with in the Report of the Royal Commission, so as to make it clear that these "time bargains," on produce had a material effect on the English grower, he thought they ought to have some statement from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to the effect that it was a matter worthy the attention of the Government.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. MUNDELLA,) Sheffield, Brightside
said, that his hon. Friend the Member for the Central Division of Sheffield had moved his Amendment in a very thin House, and had mainly addressed his speech to him (Mr. Mun- 99 della). Had the hon. Gentleman done him the honour of giving him notice of what were to be the terms of his Amendment he might have been better prepared to answer the remarkable statistics and arguments he had addressed to the House. He was bound to say that some of them were startling. The hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had asked them to say something about "time bargains" and "futures." It was true that a Bill dealing with the subject had been introduced into the American Senate, but it had never become law. Mr. W. H. Smith had paid some attention to the subject, and when appealed to with reference to it had said that if time bargains were left alone they would cure themselves. Mr. W. H. Smith had been wise in what he had said. The House, he thought, would have been startled if the Government had said in the Queen's Speech that they proposed to bring in a Bill to prevent time bargains in future. He did not know what would happen in, say, Liverpool, or what would be said of an attempt to deal with ships arriving there with corn. He thought the less they interfered with trade the bettor. The more they lightened the springs of industry by making the burdens lighter and leaving men to find out the best methods themselves the better it would be. In the Amendment which had been moved there was enough for a Queen's Speech itself. His hon. Friend enumerated a number of measures in moving his Amendment sufficient to comprise such a Speech, and other speakers had urged the adoption of as many measures as would form the subject of legislation for a whole Parliament. He himself did not profess to speak—it would be presumption on his part to speak—with any authority on the depression of agriculture; but he carefully watched all the Returns and Reports and the effects of measures for the benefit of agriculture, and this he did know, that, although we had great depression in this country, it was no less in France. He thought it was even worse in that country. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division (Mr. Chaplin) were present he should appeal to him, because he had investigated the state of things in France, and had found the agricultural depression very great. It 100 was the same in Germany, and there was a struggle now going on in the Reichstag about it. It was the same in Austria-Hungary. It was the same, or even worse, in America. Again, take the Australian Colonies, and what were the conditions there? Notwithstanding that they had in Australia land almost at a nominal value, the last Reports showed that there had been such a large influx of the unemployed from Australia to the Cape that the authorities at the Cape were warning Australia and all the Colonies not to encourage emigration to the Cape, because there was no employment for them there, and if they went there they would find great distress. His hon. Friend had been making a journey not quite round the world, but half round it, and he should like to know where he had found prosperity.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
Jamaica, where they were growing fruits for the American markets, where the negroes had got possession of the land, and cut it up into small patches for growing fruits of all kinds for the American markets. He believed that was really the ground of the prosperity in the West Indies. He (Mr. Mundella) had read some of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speeches with regard to his journey partly round the world, and more dismal reading it would be hard to find. Instead of finding people trading in South America and the Brazils, he had found them lighting. He seemed to have found no prosperity anywhere, and to-night he had not given them the slightest glimpse of any measure which, if introduced by the Government, would be likely to cure the depression of trade or agriculture. He had thrown out some rather dark hints about Protection, but nothing more. What, be should like to ask the hon. Member, had Protection done for agriculture anywhere? What had Protection done for America? In 101 America, although they had enormous balances in the Exchequer, what was the condition of industry according to the description of Chauncey Depew in a recent article? Many of the mills were now closed, and many were working short time; whilst in the mining districts there was such a state of things as no English workman would tolerate, the men working half-time, and two sets of hands being employed in order that two sols of families might live, and the truck system prevailing to an extent that was novel experienced in this country at any period. No; the British workman was better off, after all, than the American workman, and this country had no conception of the suffering there had been for some time among the working classes in America. With respect to agriculture, a complaint was made last Session that the Queen's Speech was not specific enough with reference to agricultural depression. The Prime Minister then proposed that there should be a Committee of the House to inquire into the matter, but that offer was refused. At last the Government took on themselves to appoint a Royal Commission—and a very good Commission—who were making most valuable and exhaustive inquiries. It was said that the Commission had as yet done nothing, but how a Commission which had only sat six months, and which had such a large subject to deal with, could have done more he failed to see. He was a member of the Labour Commission which had been sitting for three years and had not yet reported.
§ * MR. MUNDELLA
said, that anyone who asked that question could not understand the enormity of the subjects to be dealt with. If the hon. Member wished for further information he had better address himself to the Chairman of the Commission. With respect to the depressed condition of our industries, the hon. Member spoke of a fall in the Returns, and took great care to put this fall on the Government.
§ * MR. MUNDELLA
said, the hon. Member cheered that, and when he went to his constituents he put the whole re- 102 sponsibility for the depression of trade on the Liberal Government. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] No doubt that was very amusing. It was all very well for the country, but they knew better in that House, and the hon. Member knew better himself. Every falling-off of £5,000,000 in our exports caused depression, and every increase of £5,000,000 made a considerable increase in the amount of employment and prosperity. What had happened since 1890? There bad been a falling-off in our exports of nearly £45,000,000 from the highest-point we had ever reached, but £30,000,000 of that fell off before the present Government came into power.
§ * MR. MUNDELLA
said, he had heard some bold excuses in his life, but that exceeded anything he had over heard. Coming events sometimes cast their shadows before, but not two years before. Was it because the present Government were coming in in August, 1892, that the Baring crisis occurred in the autumn of 1890? Was it because the present Government were coming in in 1892 that the exports of British and Irish products fell off by £17,000,000 in 1891, and then fell off another £13,000,000 before the late Government left Office, making a total falling-off of £30,000,000 under the late and £15,000,000 under the present Government? They all regretted this falling-off, but it was not fair to use such arguments as the hon. Member had used and to mislead working men on these questions. It was not creditable to go on to platforms in the country with an untruth in their mouths. The proper way to deal with working men was to try to tell them the truth. The hon. Member had referred to The Labour Gazette, which was an admirable organ the like of which was not published in any other part of the world, but he was sorry to say the hon. Member did not read it.
§ * MR. MUNDELLA
said, that being the ease, he was sorry to find that the hon. Member did not understand it. One thing or the other. If the hon. Member would look at the general summary in the first article on 103 the first page of the last number of The Labour Gazette he would find the following passage:—The Returns received by the Labour Department for January point to an appreciable improvement in the state of employment during the month, and the general outlook is more hopeful than for some time past. The Returns from Trade Societies show a diminution in the proportion of unemployed members at the end of January, as compared both with the previous month and with the corresponding period of last year.The article went on to show exactly in what proportion the improvement was apparent. A Return made by 37 Trade Societies showed that out of 353,000 men 7 per cent. were in receipt of unemployed benefit in January, as compared with 7.9 per cent, in December last.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly read the figures respecting the unemployed? Will be read straight on?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I am reading straight on. In the 23 Societies from which Returns were also received in January, 1893, the percentage of unemployed was 7.7 last month as compared with 9.9 on the corresponding date last year, so that it is 20 per cent, better than at the same time last year.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
I am very loth to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but as be refers so often to me I am bound to. He has compared last mouth's figures with those of 1889, when only 1.5 were unemployed.
§ * MR. MUNDELLA
said, that would not do. The hon. Gentleman had said nothing about 1889, but bad stated that the want of employment was worse than last year. As a matter of fact, it was 20 per cent bettor, and there was an improvement in trade generally. The hon. Gentleman bad said that there bad been a great reduction in wages. He (Mr. Mundella) rejoiced to believe that, on the whole, England had never passed through a time of depression with fewer reductions of wages than there bad been during the last three years. Whether this was due to the state of organisation among the working classes or to a better feeling betwixt employers and employed he would not say, but he was certain that never had England during his lifetime passed through a period of such depression with 104 such small reductions in wages. There was no reduction during the coal strike of last year. The 40 per cent. had been maintained, and throughout the mining districts there had been an increase, and not a reduction, in wages. The Labour Gazette showed that this was the case. On page 34 of the last number it would be found that about 110,000 miners had during the mouth received a rise in wages. About 90,000 Welsh miners had had their wages raised under the sliding scale, whilst 20,000 Northumberland miners bad also received an increase.
§ * MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
asked whether it was not a fact that where the sliding scale operated the wages were reduced during the early part of the year, and that the increase meant only a return to the former condition of things?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that supposing that was the case, he was only showing that there had been increases rather than decreases during recent months. As to the shipbuilding industry, the first page of The Labour Gazette showed that the unemployed members of Unions had fallen from 17 per cent, to 13.8 per cent. If there had been any industry which had been subjected to vast expansion in recent years it had been the shipbuilding industry. Shipbuilders had not erred in building too little, but had rather erred in building too much. There had been an excess of production over the requirements, and the growth of British shipping had been one of the marvels of our industry. As to the number of artizans and labourers out of work, be thought the House must see that, so far from going from bad to worse, we had gone through a period of intense depression, which was slowly mending. He was afraid it was but slowly; but, taking it for all in all, the condition of the British workman was as good as that of any other workman in the world. Recent inquiries showed that the length of the working day and the low rates of wages in Germany were so remarkable that it was very difficult indeed for England to hold her own in competition with that country. He was assured last month, also, by the highest authorities that France had not shown such a period of severe depression and misery for more than half a century as during the past year. As to agriculture, 105 hon. Members were aware that France had increased the duties on grain. Monsieur Lesage, a peasant proprietor, in opposing the imposition of the higher duties only a short time ago, said those duties were unjust and inhuman, and he drew a deplorable contrast between agriculture and wages 20 years ago and 10 years ago and their condition now, stating that at the present time wages averaged less than half their former rate. The effect of the increased duty on wheat in Franco was to impose on the bread consumers a tax of 720,000 francs a year. When one was acquainted with the burden of taxation in France and the enormous loads which had to be carried in every branch of agriculture, the effect of the additional taxation on broad must be frightful. It must be borne in mind that the French labourer ate very little else but bread. The average consumption of wheat in France was nine bushels per head, as against six bushels per head in England. The result was that a duty of nearly £3 per annum had been imposed upon every family in France for bread. There was only one more point to which he wished to refer—namely, the continued immigration of pauper aliens. He had been very glad to hear the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. J. A. Macdonald). His hon. Friend, who bad thoroughly investigated the question, had expressed the opinion that pauper aliens did not affect the industrial problem in East London, and he (Mr. Mundella) thought that was becoming more and more apparent to every one who investigated the question. The term "pauper aliens" was a misnomer. The aliens wore not paupers, and the remarkable fact was that they never became paupers.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, they did not take the wages of Englishmen. On the contrary, the evidence given before the Labour Commission was that they started and developed new industries, such as the shoddy slipper industry in Yorkshire. As a matter of fact, England had fewer aliens than almost any other nation in Europe. For every alien in England there were five in France. An hon. Member opposite had said that we 106 were the only nation that did not keep aliens out. He (Mr. Mundella) could only say that, aided by the present Prime Minister (Lord Rosebery), he had done everything in his power to make it, known throughout Europe, and especially in Poland and Russia, that there was no room for aliens in this country.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT
said, his remark was that England did not keep mere pauper aliens out as other nations did, by legislation, so as to prevent their coining on the rates.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, they might get a taste of such legislation themselves if they did, and then who would be the sufferers? The recent Census had shown that in Great Britain there were less than 200,000 aliens, whilst France had nearly 1,100,000. He appealed to the House to say whether it was necessary, under these circumstances, to bring in a Bill on the subject? The late Government knew better than to do it. They were pressed very much by their supporters on the subject, but they very wisely refrained from doing it, and he was quite sure that the present Government would have to look very carefully into the question before they ventured to do it. In a Report made to the United States Government it had boon shown that during the last 10 years the United States had received over 400,000 foreign Jews. He thought he had answered the whole of the points raised, and it was only because he did not wish to weary the House that he had not gone into them at greater length. Although these matters were not all put into the Queen's Speech, they were by no means overlooked. Did hon. Members want them to put all their goods into the shop window? The Bill with regard to railway rates was prepared; but hon. Gentlemen would understand that he had to submit it to the Law Officers of the Crown and to the Lord Chancellor, and he hoped to have it introduced and referred to the Grand Committee on Trade before Easter. He could promise the House that there should be no delay in proceeding with the Bill so far as he was concerned, and that, the Government would not fall short of any pledges they had made.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, he, for one, must confess that he had listened with feeling's of disappointment to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government could not he expected to put all their goods into the shop window. He was expecting that the right hon. Gentleman would go on to say that if they only waited a little while, and, as it were, allowed him to arrange his counter, he would find some measure which would be of advantage both to the commercial and agricultural communities. Not only had the President of the Board of Trade not allowed them to hope that much, but he had distinctly told them that nothing was to be done in the way of legislation, and he had gone round the world in order to show how little could be done by legislation to obtain the object sought. One word upon the subject of the alien immigrant. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had quoted statistics, but he did not quote the Returns for January, 1894. Why was that? Because they had been withheld from Parliament. [Mr. MUNDELLA: No.] Yes, they had been withheld from Parliament. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman to deny his statement. The Return did not reach him, and he thought it was through some inadvertence. He made personal inquiry at the Vote Office, and he was told that the Returns had not been furnished for distribution. He dared say the right hon. Gentleman would make a note of that.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
The right hon. Gentleman had been quoting statistics, and he (Mr. J. Lowther) had directed his attention to these suppressed Returns. The latest Returns he had before him on this subject were those of 1893, and they showed a marked increase in the arrivals of aliens who desired to make this country their home. The right hon. Gentleman differed very widely from the present Prime Minister upon the subject of alien immigration. The right hon. Gentleman had heard the 108 Member for Central Sheffield quote a speech delivered by the Prime Minister upon the subject of alien immigration, in which he recognised the fact that a system of immigration which brought large numbers of workpeople into competition with native industry was a state of affairs which would be calculated to raise very grave industrial disturbance and would demand consideration in any country in which they occurred. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had actually boldly announced himself as an advocate of free trade in sweating. [Mr. MUNDELLA: No.] That was what his statement actually amounted to. He had told them, in effect, that not only did not alien immigration deprive Englishmen of their employment, but that it was actually an advantage to the industry of the country. He should like to see him argue that out with a deputation of working men. He himself had had interviews on the subject, and it had been shown to him that thousands of working men were kept out of employment by foreigners, and that thousands on thousands were landed on these shores to take up employment which our own people were unable to obtain.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had complained that the numbers of alien immigrants who arrived in this country in January last had not been included in the Return which had been furnished to hon. Members, but he would find the figures fully set forth in The Labour Gazette.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said, it would not be respectful to the House that he should detain it while he endeavoured to master the right hon. Gentleman's journalistic venture which he had taken so many opportunities that evening of exploiting, but it was clear that the right hon. Gentleman had made his statement at second-hand. He thought that he was fully justified in saying that the right hon. Gentleman who represented the great Trade Department of the country saw no objection to the continuance of this alien immigration, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman had held out no hope that legislation on the subject would be initiated by Her Majesty's Government, who were perfectly satisfied with things as they were. 109 When he himself had spoken upon this question he had always taken care to state that nothing could be further from his wish than to foster racial or religions animosity. He, however, did not think it right that the charitable contributions of the wealthy Jewish community should be expended in supporting here the paupers of foreign nations. In his opinion, public feeling was fully ripe for comprehensive legislation upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the legislative action of the United States with regard to this question, but it should be remembered that that legislation was prohibitive as regarded the immigration of many classes of persons, and that there was a strong popular movement in favour of curtailing undesirable immigration. He trusted that when the subject of alien immigration was raised in that House in a more definite form they would receive a more satisfactory reply from the Government than the right hon. Gentleman had given them that night. He thought, however, that the hon. and gallant Member would be wise in not taking the sense of the House upon the subject on that occasion. As to the more general question that had been raised by the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member—namely, that which related to the unemployed—the right hon. Gentleman had delivered himself of an old lecture of the Cobden Club. The right hon. Gentleman could not deny that every corner of the world except Great Britain was Protectionist. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to a speech that had been delivered in the French Assembly in favour of Free Trade; but the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten to look at the Division List on the occasion, because had he done so he would have found that the great majority of the French Members—about two to one—had voted in favour of Protectionist views. The proposed new tariff of the United States was much more protective than anything that would ever have been suggested by an English Protectionist, and the elections showed that there was no popular sympathy with Free Trade. But Protection was not, the only remedy suggested to the Government. Another suggestion was that there should he a more close commercial connection be- 110 tween the Mother Country and the Colonies, on a preferential basis—a commercial union which would enclose one-fifth of the whole surface of the earth and which would remove inducements to the colonists to foster trade outside the British Empire. Opinion on the subject of Free Trade was being merely modified in this country, and measures to promote a truly Imperial policy would be much more welcomed by the people than Bills to promote electoral arrangements and Party objects, which did not commend themselves to those who had at heart the good of all classes in this country.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, they had had an interesting discussion upon this Amendment, and he hoped they might now come to a decision upon it, as he had already pointed out how limited the time of the House was. He always listened with pleasure to the right hon. Gentleman, who was clear and incisive in his opinions and constant in his convictions, and who generally managed to lift the veil and to reveal what others more prudently concealed. The true meaning of the Amendment had been made known; the British had been exhibited as the only Free Traders in the world. The object of the Amendment was to obtain from the House of Commons a declaration in favour of a return to Protection. Well, nothing could be more clear than the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Protectionist Governments found that the dose of Protection did not satisfy, but had to be doubled. That had happened in a neighbouring country where they had high duties on corn and the food of the people. At the present time the duty on corn there was 13s. or 14s. a quarter, and the agricultural interest still declared it to be wholly insufficient. He would not argue the question of Free Trade and Protection with the right hon. Gentleman at that moment. Most hon. Members had made up their minds on the subject on one side or the other, and the great majority of the people of the country had also made up their minds. At all events, Her Majesty's Government had no hesitation on the question, and, regarding the Resolution as one in favour of Protection, they would vote against it. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the present Prime Minister. He would refer him to the late Conservative 111 Prime Minister, who had more than once stated to his Party that a return to Protection in this country was impossible. That was an issue which was very plain on the present occasion, and certainly the Party on the Government side of the House would give no vote which would favour the idea of a return to Protection. No doubt when the right hon. Gentleman was the Leader of a great Protectionist majority in the House of Commons he would be able to give effect to his views, but he would suggest that for the present the House might leave the discussion of the question and come to a decision upon the Resolution.
§ * MR. TOMLINSON
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had pursued a method with which they were very familiar. It was not the first time they had heard him telling them that a particular vote was to be construed in an unnatural sense, and that they were to go into the Lobby not upon the question they were discussing and had to decide, but upon some esoteric question which the right hon. Gentleman evolved from his inner consciousness. They were told this was a question of Protection. In his view, it did not affect the question of Protection at all. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was in the House when the Amendment was moved. It stated that the House desired to represent that the depressed condition of trade and agriculture, the reduction of wages, the largo numbers of artizans and labourers out of employment, and the immigration of aliens were matters for the immediate attention of Parliament. Where was there a word relating to the question of Protection? It was very convenient for the right hon. Gentleman and the other Members of the Government to ignore altogether all reference to want of employment and these other matters contained in the Amendment. He thought if they looked at this question from the point of view of the interests of Party there was nothing they could wish better than that the Government should treat it in this manner, hut it was their duty to look at the facts and to do what could be done in order to remedy the existing state of things. There was a large number of unemployed, and it was more and more difficult to get work even in places where the most favourable con- 112 ditions prevailed. He would take Liverpool, for instance. He had recently been told that in Liverpool for years past the times were never known to be so bad and so much want of employment to prevail. The question of the want of employment was the first and foremost raised by the Amendment. Then there was the question of pauper immigration. What ever the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade might think, this wits a serious thing for consideration; They were told there would be Occasion at some future time for dealing and speaking more fully upon it, and he did not propose to pursue it now. But there was one question which had been alluded to by the President of the Board of Trade, and that was his principal reason for rising—that was, the method in which he proposed to deal with this great question of the railway rates. The right hon. Gentleman was aware that he (Mr. Tomlinson) was a member of a deputation which waited upon him in regard to the subject some time ago. It was, perhaps, no Information to him that that deputation went away very scantily satisfied with the remarks he made; and he was very sorry that that night his declarations did not point to any satisfactory settlement. What he said was that the Government intended to bring in a Bill on the lines of the Report of the Select Committee.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I said nothing of the sort. I said that the Bill would fully satisfy the recommendations of the Committee.
§ * MR. TOMLINSON
said, the question they had to consider was not whether' the Bill satisfied the recommendations at the Select Committee, but whether it was satisfactory to the country. What he was coming to was this—the right hon. Gentleman talked about referring that Bill to the Standing Committee on Trade before Easter. There was only one way in which that could be done, and that was by taking the Second Reading without discussion. If the Bill went to a Grand Committee before Easter they could not have any discussion in that House, and that was a mode of dealing with important questions against which he must protest. It was idle to minimise the importance of it. Then the Resolution dealt with 113 agricultural depression as well as with trade depression. He was one of those who thought, that the excessive proportion of railway rates levied upon the agricultural produce of this country was one factor which materially contributed to that depression. He protested again against the idea that the Standing Committee on Trade should be treated as equivalent to a Second Reading Debate as well as the Committee stage. If the Government considered their Bills of importance they ought to be allowed to be debated in the House of Commons as well as by a Grand Committee He should endeavour, with the support of other Members, to prevent any Bill of so much importance from being smuggled through the House.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said, be must, express the indignation which he felt at finding that the appeals made to the Minister for Agriculture were addressed to deaf ears. They agriculturists did not think that so important a subject as that of agriculture ought to be treated in the House of Commons with a laugh and a sneer from the Minister who was supposed to represent its interests. It must be the absolute opinion of everybody who knew anything of it that their question was not a petty one, nor a fictitious or bogus one. They were very much in earnest, and were endeavouring to press upon that House that the condition of agriculture was such as required ten times more attention than even the matters mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech. He did not want to see time wasted upon matters which did not immediately affect the welfare of the country. At the same time, they knew perfectly well that their interest and industry must take its part and share with the other industries and interests of the country. They did not demand any excessive share of attention. They did not ask for any royal road to relief, but they thought it was not too much to ask that there should be some expression which showed that the Government were awake to the situation. They had had nothing in the miserable months of the last Session to help them. He knew it was impossible for the Minister for Agriculture not to shadow forth any great scheme, but he thought that some little should be done to relieve the pressure which bore upon them at 114 this moment. He did not know that they ought to treat the matter from an electioneering point of view; but if they did so, he would tell the Minister for Agriculture that he would take nothing by his policy of silence, which might be construed into a policy of indifference. ["Oh!"] That was an accustomed sound to hear from urban Members when a, rural Member was speaking, but cheap sneers did not help them. If the real interests of the country were taken into consideration it would be found that the interests represented by the agricultural Members was largely in excess of that, represented by those who had jeered at, him at, that moment. He was willing that it should go forth to the country that while the urban Members jeered him, they on that side of the House at all events wore anxious to make it clear that there some interest was taken in the industry of agriculture. He would like to urge that, although this Amendment might deal principally with the depression of trade, there did exist also a depression in agriculture at least as deep and severe. Such a state of things should not be disregarded by the Government because it affected other branches of industry, and he thought they had a right, considering that they had been struggling for years to try and better their position, to expect that any practical and responsible Government should preface the work of the Session with at least some indication of their wish to do what could be done to relieve their depression and help them in their necessity.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. GARDNER,) Essex, Saffron Walden
said, he could not allow these remarks to pass unanswered. It was absolutely untrue to say that the present Government had taken no interest in agriculture during the past year, as was suggested by the hon. Member. The sympathy of the Government was as deep in that direction as that, of any hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House. They had exhibited their sympathy with agricultural depression by every means in their power, and although he had listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the hon. Member he had failed to gather what remedies he proposed. If 115 there were any remedies for the present regrettable position, hon. Members opposite who represented the agricultural interest in that House had kept those remedies most unpatriotically locked in the depths of their own breasts. They were told that something must be done, but the right hon. Gentleman had told them he had not the slightest idea what that something was.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
I did not say I had no idea. I suggested that the right hon. Gentleman had no idea.
§ * MR. GARDNER
, continuing, said, so far as he knew, every suggestion made from the opposite side had been carried out. There was no royal method of bringing about a restoration of agricultural prosperity. Agricultural depression existed quite as much in other countries as at home—quite as much in France, Austria-Hungary, and elsewhere in America nearly 4,000,000 acres of wheat had gone out of cultivation. In these circumstances, what was it that hon. Members wished the Government to do, and what did he accuse them of? As far as the Government were concerned, they thoroughly recognised the lamentable position of agriculture in some parts of the country; but it was not the same all over Great Britain. In Scotland this year the harvest had been above the average; and in Ireland the harvest had been one of the best on record. While admitting, therefore, that on the whole the present state of agriculture was not a satisfactory one, he recommended the hon. Member to turn to the prices, where he would find that with the exception of wheat agriculturists were not so badly off as last year. Barley had increased in price, and oats also showed a small increase; and viewing the country as a whole, they were not worse off' in this country than in other countries. The Government had given the most anxious consideration to the subject in the past, and any practical suggestion to benefit the agricultural interest would be considered with a desire and anxiety to give effect to it.
§ * MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said, be rose to vindicate his hon. Friends behind him from the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture. Surely no one 116 who was really interested in the agriculture of the country could be surprised that hon. Members on either side of the House should rise and express their amazement that in the Gracious Speech from the Throne not one single word had been directed to the extremely deplorable condition of that interest. What was the reply of the right hon. Gentleman opposite? He says—"True it may be that your agricultural condition is depressed, but we are no worse off than foreign countries." Did he not know that the depression in every foreign country was worse, if possible, than it was at home? Surely, then, that was no answer to the entire neglect of the agricultural interest shown in the Speech addressed to the House of Commons that night. His hon. Friend pointed out that a Royal Commission had been appointed; and that reminded him of the course pursued by the Government in the last Session. When they met last Session, the depression being the same as now, they wore informed that it was the intention of the Government to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances of the depression, and to propose such remedies as might in their judgment be available. What was the course pursued by the Government? The desire of those sitting on that side of the House was that they might have a day or half a day, or only a few hours, to consider and discuss this question. What was the reply of the Government? "We won't give you an hour." That was the encouragement they received from the Government at that time. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture told them that, with the exception of wheat, prices were better, and he quoted the prices of barley; but when, and where, and in what markets?
§ MR. GARDNER
said, that what he had stated was information contained in Retunrs to the Board of Agriculture.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
What kind and what character of barley was this? They always had good prices for the best samples of barley; but how many good samples were there in this country? Under exceptional circumstances there might be no great cause for complaint; but if they went beyond that, he thought the right hon. Gentleman would find it very difficult indeed to support the statement that, with the exception of the 117 prices of wheat, the prices of agricultural produce at the present time were generally more satisfactory—
§ * MR. CHAPLIN
Than last year, when they were already in the depths of depression, and were suffering more than ever before. He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should refer to that. The right hon. Gentleman asked his hon. Friends to point to a single suggestion in support of the agricultural interest which had not met with a favourable reception from the Government. Last year they pointed out that what agriculture was really suffering from was the great fall in the prices of agricultural produce of every kind, and on that side of the House they suggested to the right hon. Gentleman what was the proper remedy. In their opinion, the fall in prices was duo to monetary causes. That was one of the suggestions they made. Had that met with a favourable reception? It had been pointed out that if the Government could not accept that proposition they could do something in the way of considering whether it was not possible to remove from the land the great burden of rates which fell upon it so unjustly and heavily. If the Government could not accept the proposal in regard to monetary changes, they might consider whether it was not possible to relieve the land from the rates which fell most heavily upon it. How were they met by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? "If you will divest yourselves of any idea of relief from the question of bimetallism, and if you will point out how the taxation necessary to relieve the rates is to be raised without affecting other people, then you can enter," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "on the work of your Committee with some prospect of success." He could only say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer "Thank you for nothing." One of the objections which they on that side of the House took to the appointment of the Commission at that time was that whenever they might attempt to raise the question of agricultural depression the fact that the Commission had been appointed would be thrown in their teeth, and it would furnish the Government with an excuse to do nothing for 118 the agricultural interest until the Commission had made its Report.
§ SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, they were offered a Committee last summer, but (showing the amount of confidence the Government had in the proposition they were placing before the House) Members interested in this question were not given an hour during the whole of that Debate. At last, when the Committee was appointed, it was too late in the Session for any useful result to follow from its labours. Legislation on the important subject of agricultural depression should not be indefinitely postponed. Prices were never lower than at this moment in every branch of agriculture. Grain, mutton, beef, and other products were certainly lower than they were last year; and what farmers complained of was that their products were handicapped in the markets by the extraordinary railway rates. The efforts of the Government in regard to railway rates had not been successful, as the new rates were not one bit better than the old ones. He wanted to know what was the moaning of all this legislation foretold in the Queen's Speech. Was it really intended for the good of the country, or was it merely for Party purposes that all these sensational matters had been put into the Speech of Her Gracious Majesty? It was to be hoped, when the promised Committee was formed, that something tangible would come of it; that the Government would not, run away from their guns, but would come up to the scratch and introduce some useful legislation upon this important subject, which should no longer be put off.
§ MR. MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)
said, the Leader of the House had attempted to draw a, red herring across their path by talking about Protection and Free Trade, it was not a question of Protection or Free Trade. That was not what they complained about on that side of the House. What they did complain about was that the Government had introduced into the Queen's Speech the promise that they would bring in at an early date various measures, all of them, in his opinion, relating to very trivial matters indeed when compared with those needed legislative reforms upon which, he con- 119 tended, the future prosperity of the country depended. So far as he could see, the Government intended to ignore altogether those great reforms which affected, not a class, but the material prosperity of the community as a whole. They had omitted altogether to recognise or mention the depression existing from which the labouring population and capitalists alike suffered so severely. Whatever considerations might influence the action of the Government in the future he gave his fellow-countrymen credit for possessing sufficient sagacity to recognise those who looked after their interests and those who failed to do so. Heroic remedies were not wanted for the depression in agriculture and commerce. What they required was to get higher prices for products—prices which would remunerate the capitalist and pay the labourer. Blame was not cast on the Government for not telling them how all this was to be brought about, but they were blameable for having altogether failed in the Queen's Speech to make any mention of the lamentable depression existing at present in both agriculture and trade.
§ * MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said, that all the foreign countries which the President of the Board of Trade had pictured as being so distressed were gold standard countries, were countries which, instead of keeping their Mints open to both the precious metals as formerly, had excluded the use of one of them, and had so contracted the currency and forced down prices. If they wanted a remedy for the continuing and deepening depression, they must along with free ports have free Mints. The heavy agricultural depression which unhappily existed in this country to a degree which had left many parts of it not far from general bankruptcy extended not only to most of the European countries, but to our Colonies and to the United States, and the cause of the depression was the fall in prices, which fall was abundantly explained by the great rise in the value of that one commodity (gold) by which the prices of all the others were measured. Protection had never brought prosperity to agriculture, but the periods of agricultural prosperity in the past had always been periods of expanding currency; 120 while agricultural and industrial depression had always been coincident with contracting currency. Those countries which had by legislation, instead of keeping their Mints open as they used to be to both the precious metals, excluded one form of currency had contracted their currency and so forced down prices. The fall in prices swept away the employers' profit and led to loss of employment to the workmen and the depreciation of property which was now seen everywhere among individuals and nations. All those consequences followed naturally from the contraction of the currency. It was impossible at so late an hour to detain the House by going into this greatest of all questions now before the world, but he had ventured to point out the plain cause of the trouble and that the remedy for it was free Mints. People in this country had no objection to moneys of either gold or silver, and a free supply of both should be afforded.
§ MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
said, the Minister for Agriculture had asked for suggestions of remedies, and he would suggest as one remedy for the present agricultural depression that the President of the Board of Agriculture should try the effect of marking foreign and colonial meat imported into this country, so that people might get home-produced meat when they paid for it. He had quite lately heard of a butcher who professed to a customer that he did not sell frozen mutton, but who was subsequently proved to be a large purchaser of that commodity from a wholesale purveyor. Why not pass a measure analogous to the Merchandise Marks Act for the purpose of preventing the fraudulent sale of foreign meat as English? Remedial legislation on this subject was demanded unanimously by the farmers of the country, for there could not be the slightest doubt that when butchers were asked for home-grown beef and mutton, foreign or colonial meat was palmed off by them on the public. The fact was abundantly proved before the Commission which sat on the subject, and the practice was most unfair both to the public and the producer. The remedy he suggested was universally demanded by the farmers at every meeting they attended, and it 121 was high time some legislation should be passed on the subject.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 86; Noes 192.—(Division List, No. 1.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ * SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said, that before the Debate closed he desired to draw particular attention to one subject which he thought ought not to pass without some comment. Her Majesty's Speech proposed for the consideration of the House a great number of topics. There were six paragraphs in which notice was given of the introduction of large measures, several of which were likely to cause very prolonged discussion. Indeed, it was very doubtful whether many of them would come before Parliament in the form of Bills, and still more doubtful whether they would pass into law. He thought that when a subject was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne which deeply touched the interests of a great number of people, and created in the minds of those whose interests were attacked a sense of cruel wrong, it was most unjust that such a subject should be submitted in successive; years and that Parliament should have no opportunity of dealing with it. He referred especially at that moment to the announcement that a measure would be introduced dealing with the Established Church in Scotland and in Wales. Preference in this case was given to Wales, and he did not suppose that his fellow-countrymen would feel any great amount of jealousy at the fact. He had no doubt that even an attack on the Church in Wales would cause a great deal of inconvenience to Her Majesty's Government. But it was intolerable that an Institution distinct initself—so ancient, so venerable, and so useful as the Church of Scotland—should be menaced in successive years, apparently only with the effect and intention of disturbing the minds of the people and of satisfying pledges that had been given. It was well understood last Session what were the reasons for proposing the Disestablishment of the Church in Scotland. A certain number of votes had to be secured. He would not say there wore 30 pieces of silver, but there were 30 votes or more to be got 122 by selling the Church. There was a certain Party to be conciliated and a certain number of votes to be procured for Home Rule by that means. The proposal of Disestablishment, however, was not a straightforward one. It was a means of delay and of paralyzing the operations of the Church in the parishes as they became successively vacant, preparing it, no doubt, for extinction in time to come, and in the meantime merely giving it a deadly wound. The proposal did not go further last Session than its announcement, and he did not know whether the Government expected to go any further with it this year. At all events, they had not indicated any such intention; but he could tell them that when they gave notice of any Bill on the subject it would meet with determined opposition in its initial and every subsequent stage. Such a measure was not to be lightly introduced on the ground of more political expediency and for the purpose of satisfying a certain number of votes. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War said "No, no!"
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling, &c.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, I was merely speaking to my hon. Friend near me.
§ * SIR J. FERGUSSON
said, that possibly the right hon. Gentleman was better engaged than in listening to him. But he would never accuse the right hon. Gentleman of such a motive. The right hon. Gentleman was a Scotchman himself, and he knew that in Scotland there were feelings on this subject as strong as he had described, and he was sure that if the right hon. Gentleman were dealing with the subject he would give it adequate consideration. For the maintenance of the Scottish Church he was not ashamed to quote the old argument that it was an integral part of the Treaty of Union. It was one of the conditions upon which Scotland surrendered its independent Parliament, and he was quoting the opinion of great men who had said that this compact could not be dissolved without the consent of the parties to the Treaty of Union. They had been met with the argument, which was hardly worthy of those who put it forward, that there had been an expression on the part of the Representatives of the majority of the 123 people of Scotland in favour of Disestablishment. Was there any expression of opinion in favour of Disestablishment by the people of Scotland at the last General Election? It was absolutely impossible for the Government with any consistency to pretend it. They quoted the majority of the Representatives of Scotland last Session in support of Home Rule; and if the majority of the Representatives of Scotland were elected last Session as advocates for Home Rule, the verdict of the Election was certainly not taken on the question of Disestablishment. It was impossible to quote this precious majority over and over again in support of every sort of fad and theory. He desired, with all seriousness and earnestness, to state his conviction of the deep sense of injustice that would be done to Scotland by a hurried decision on this question, and to protest against the assumption that the majority of the people of Scotland were in favour of this measure. The majority of the people of Scotland belonged to the Established Church. It was approved by a large majority of the people of Scotland, and it was perfectly certain that many members of the Nonconformist Bodies were entirely opposed to the disestablishment of the Church. It was certain, also, that the Roman Catholic Body was opposed to Disestablishment. The venerable Archbishop of St. Andrew's had stated that it would be a national misfortune if the Established Church were done away with, for—though he did not agree with its doc-trines—he recognised that it formed a solid barrier against infidelity. Let the Government propose this measure by all means, but let them take the verdict of the people of Scotland upon it. The more the people of Scotland had brought home to them that the Government policy was to rob them of the endowments which they had enjoyed from time immemorial, the more they would revolt against such a robbery, and would show their sense of that injustice and of that spoliation by recording their votes in a sense most unfavourable to the Government that proposed it. The late Prime Minister knew something of the effect of a Disestablishment policy in Midlothian, for his majority, which in 1885 was 4,700, was in 1892 reduced to the odd-hundred, because of his support of 124 that policy. He believed that the attachment to the Old Church and to the cause of the national endowment of religion which had made itself felt in Midlothian would, if the opinion of the country were taken on the subject, be found to exist throughout the whole of Scotland. This was a matter which could not be lightly dealt with, and would not be lightly dealt with, so far as his influence and that of those who valued National Institutions extended. It was a matter which should be fought to the utmost, for it was bound up with the deepest interests of Scotland. It was one thing to disestablish a Church where it represented a small minority, as in Ireland, but it was very different in Scotland, where nine-tenths of the people were Presbyterians. It was impossible to rob the Church without ascertaining the sentiments of the people by some process more real than any the Government had attempted or contemplated. He thought it was monstrous that the Government should threaten this Church in successive years without stating their intentions in regard to it. "One Man One Vote" and similar questions were matters which might disturb them for a year or two, and which could be decided without touching the vital interests of the people; but the Christian Church was matter of another moment. To treat a Christian Church as if it was a matter of no moment or an ephemeral Institution that it might suit their convenience to maintain one day and do away with the next was unworthy of statesmen or those who had the best interests of the people at heart. The Government dare not test this question frankly and fully before the people of Scotland, because they knew that if they did they would be in a minority. They dared not test Home Rule in such a sense, still less dared they test the disestablishment of the Church. He could not believe that the Prime Minister could be so indifferent to the opinions of his country as to be careless about an Institution so important as the Church. He appealed to the House to set its face against this trifling with a great National Institution, for which the Scottish people had made such great sacrifices. The Scottish people were not a people who were deficient in sentiment, and they 125 could show when they were deeply moved. Each year since this question had been mooted it had excited great attention, and he told the Government that if they were seriously menacing the Church of Scotland they would arouse in that country a feeling far deeper than they had ever experienced before. There were various ways in which the question of Disestablishment might be dealt with, but the worst way of all was by trifling with it, by proposing in the Queen's Speech a measure which they did not see their way to introduce. They knew they had no more chance of carrying Disestablishment in the present Session than they had of carrying Home Rule. Therefore, why should the Government parade the question in this way? He would remind the House that it was the fault of a British Government, of which the late Prime Minister was a Member, that the Church of Scotland was broken up, the ill-omened advice given to the Government of Sir Robert Peel to reject the strong desire of Scotland for liberty of choice as to ministers leading to the great disruption of 1843. It was this House which did the mischief then, and why should this House further illtreat that Church which it had so greatly wronged? At the present day there were great numbers of the descendants of those who struck for freedom in 1843 who would scorn to take part in any measure for the destruction of the National Establishment. The Government must be prepared, if they were now going to deal with the Church of Scotland, for an opposition as great as must be raised when so ancient an Institution, and one so vitally bound up with the history of Scotland, was attacked.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Lord R. Churchill.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.