§ On the Vote of £215,089, to complete the sum for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad, and of the Consular Establishments Abroad, and other Expenditure chargeable on the Consular Vote,
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
thought that one Ministry of Commerce and Industry as in most other nations, would better serve our commercial interests than the present dual arrangement of the Board of Trade and the Foreign Office. He fully recognised the value which the Foreign Office had given to its Commercial Department, but he hoped a reorganisation in the direction of a single Ministry might take place. He also thought there should be a greater amalgamation between our Diplomatic and Consular Services and that both should fully recognise the commercial duties of diplomacy. He was glad to know that the Secretary to the Treasury 1266 had recognised the duty of revising the remuneration of our Consular Officers, who were, he said, at present very often absurdly underpaid. He suggested that the very valuable Consular Reports should be systematised and better indexed. He would like to express his sense of the urgent need that existed for our having more Commercial Attachés, whose help was absolutely essential at Embassies, especially during the negotiation of commercial treaties, and while the personnel of the Embassies were not themselves experts in commerce, though their commercial qualifications were increasing. They had now two commercial representatives, one in Paris and one in St. Petersburg, who had charge of vast areas. They ought to have a representative in Central and South America, the trade development in which was very great with civilised countries. They wanted accurate and speedy information on matters of urgent necessity, such as new openings and fields for commerce, and diplomacy ought to be the intelligence department for other forces of commerce. If they had had better information as to Argentina, they very probably would not have had the financial trouble they had two years ago. Then, they ought to have one in the United States, a country with which they had large transactions. They ought to watch the commercial developments which were constantly taking place there, and which were leading to the displacement of our own trade. There was one part of Europe where they ought to be better represented—the Balkan States. They might, if they had better information, develop a lucrative trade there, and send goods in much greater quantities. He also suggested that there should be a representative in the far East. They had large dealings with Japan, and, with the probability of vast developments, the trade with Japan was of great consequence to this country. In China, they should closely watch the competition of other countries. He had made inquiry as to their Consuls, and he found they were very much undermanned in comparison with other countries if our comparative commerce were regarded. England had 786 Consuls; France had 957; Germany, 654; Belgium, 448; Italy, 724; Spain, 761; and Portugal, 581, 1267 The number of their Consuls bore no proportion to their trade. In Germany, where the competition should be closely watched, they had only 33 Consuls. The remuneration given was very small. Some of the Consular reports were excellent, but they were capable of improvement, and in some cases no reports at all were received; 215 in all had not reported at all. That ought not to be. The Consuls ought to give this country the benefit of their experience and knowledge. The reports were frequently late in their publication. They were now only receiving the reports for 1894 on the eve of the Recess. They ought, where necessary, to have special and also interim reports, and the Chambers of Commerce, which took great interest in these reports, had made many practical suggestions. Many of these Chambers would like to have fuller information as to the class of goods saleable in various localities. Many complained that the reports were not as suggestive as they might be. More information was asked with regard to cotton-spinning manufactories in Japan. Others wanted information on special competitive trades in Belgium, Germany, and Austria, like iron and steel. Others asked as to railway enterprise in India and Burmah; others desired more information as to the credit and banking systems in other nations. Many might increase their trade if they had better and earlier information, and he suggested that there should be a storage of trade price lists, catalogues, and possibly samples. A Committee for which he had successfully moved, and of which he was a member, had recently reported to the House in favour of the establishment of metric weights and measures. They were practically isolated, and their own system placed great obstacles in the way of international trade. Foreign merchants would not take the trouble of checking and translating their weights and measures. He thought it was essential to their trade, that they should move in that direction. He hoped an early remedy would be found for replacing the present system with a better one, and he suggested both home and foreign clearing houses for such purposes. He also suggested that there should be attached to the Board of 1268 Trade or the Foreign Office, a consultative Committee, so that the Government might readily know, with regard to any particular subject, what was the commercial opinion of the country. It was said that the best service they could render to commerce was to leave it alone, but in his opinion that would be a great mistake. The days of laissez-faire were over and Governments could aid and help private enterprise, which, of course, was the main factor. He did not for a moment propose that subsidies should be given to raise an artificial competition, but he was satisfied that by more thoroughly organising the Diplomatic and Consular system and by bringing pressure to bear on foreign Governments, impediments to our international trade could be removed, and a great improvement effected. He congratulated the commerce of this country upon the presence of the Under Secretary, with his vast knowledge of countries which were opening or might be opened for trade, at the Foreign Office. He had had personal experience of both the willingness and the ability of the hon. Member to take steps, and sometimes somewhat daring steps, in order to take care that our merchants and manufacturers were placed, in relation to their proper claims upon other Governments or the subjects of other Governments, in a position which was justly due to them. He hoped that during the time the hon. Gentleman occupied the position, he would see his way to make the Diplomatic and Consular Services more effective, and that he would encourage them to co-operate for the promotion of commerce by taking care that some of the ludicrously inadequate salaries now paid were made co-ordinate with the expectations formed in this country of the duties that had to be performed for commerce and so for the community.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean).
while associating himself with the hon. Member opposite, as to the importance of the services rendered by Sir Joseph Crowe, doubted whether the Commercial Attaché system was the best that could be devised. It rather tended to make the other members of the Embassies and Legations think that it was not their business to 1269 prepare Commercial Reports. In his opinion it would be better to put more prominently before the staffs the commercial side of their functions. It would be impossible to justify the largeness of many of these staffs unless commercial business was done by them, for there was no political business of any importance to be done. The Government were about to obtain the last of the two great Votes, upon which the foreign affairs of the country could be discussed, and he could only mention the fact, that both as regarded the Upper Nile and as regarded Siam, they had given an amount of information very much less than was asked from the late Government. The only other point to which he desired to refer was the recent mission of Sir John Kirk. A considerable number of questions had been asked on the subject, but they had had no promise that they should ever have Sir John Kirk's Report or the evidence taken at the inquiry. He hoped there would be no secresy. Our interests in this matter did not conflict with those of foreign countries. It was a question between the Niger Protectorate, and the Niger Company and the natives, and surely the fullest information ought to be given to the House of Commons. He hoped that during the Recess the Government would consider whether they could not give both Sir John Kirk's Report and the evidence upon which it was founded.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, the expenses of managing our foreign affairs amounted to £664,000, and maintained that, in present circumstances, that sum was too large. No doubt in former times, when the diplomatist was many weeks, sometimes many months, distant from his superior officer, the Secretary of State, it was necessary to give him a large discretion; and he had therefore to be an important man, and to be paid a large salary. An Ambassador now was within a minute's communication of the Foreign Office. He had ceased to be anything but a clerk at the end of a wire, who wore a lace coat on State occasions. Consequently the importance of the whole Diplomatic Service had very greatly decreased, and there should be a relative decrease in their salaries. But 1270 it was not merely a question of economy. There was a considerable danger, in making these appointments, of the tremendous importance that they took by reason of the large salaries and allowances attached to them. He believed that, in the case of Turkey, great mischief had resulted from too much importance being given to the Ambassadorial and, especially, to the Consular offices. These Consular offices were not always wisely filled. Young men were sometimes put into them who had sent home Reports entirely at variance with the former Reports of the more experienced Consuls. For instance, one Consul sent a Report to the effect that 16,000 Armenians were massacred at Sasun, though they knew from the former Consul, Mr. Clifford Lloyd, that the whole of the Armenians in the place did not number more than 10,000. The right hon. Baronet opposite, had pointed out that there was the same desire for secresy in this Government as there was in the last. He was afraid there would always be a determination, so far as the Foreign Office was concerned, to keep the people of England in the dark until it was too late. He pressed the Government to give the House all the Consular Reports for 1893, 1894 and 1895, with reference to Armenia. If that was done he believed a very different complexion would be put upon Armenian affairs to that given by the imperfect information furnished by newspaper correspondents and new and untried Consuls. It was absurd to maintain diplomatic arrangements with the smaller German Courts, and to keep up separate establishments at Coburg and Saxony, when all their foreign affairs were conducted from Berlin, where we had an Ambassador with a staff. It had been suggested that a special reason for continuing these arrangments was that there were personal relationships between persons holding high positions and our own Royal Family; but that seemed to be an additional reason against, rather than for, having our Ambassadors at these minor Courts. It was something of a scandal to maintain purely ceremonial officers at these Courts whose foreign affairs were necessarily conducted from Berlin. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would feel himself able in 1271 some degree to break down that mischievous system by which in the Foreign Office almost entire secresy was observed with regard to the course of negotiations, the result of which was that this House was rendered incapable of dealing with foreign affairs. If Members asked for information while negotiations were going on, they were told that they were too early; if they waited, they were told that all was settled and it was too late to say anything. The business of the Foreign Office was conducted behind the backs and without the knowledge of the people of England. He could understand it if we were making secret bargains to get other people's lands; but we do not need to do anything of the kind; and there was no negotiation that our English Foreign Minister could properly enter into, about which he should not be able to announce what his policy was.
* THE CHAIRMAN,
interposing, said, that the possible action of the Foreign Secretary would be discussed, not upon this Vote, but upon that for the Foreign Office.
.*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, of course he was dealing with the system under which our diplomatists were employed, a system whose mainspring of work was secresy. If we gave up secresy, we should not have a Vote such as this from year to year, we should require fewer Consuls, and we should place foreign affairs on a footing that would be more satisfactory to the people of this country and to those of other countries also.
§ * THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
said, he must begin by thanking the hon. Member for the graceful references to himself and the office he now filled. He listened with attention to the valuable suggestions made by the hon. Member, with the authority of the Chamber of Commerce, with which he was identified. The Commercial Department of the Foreign Office, although not ostentatious in its operations, was certainly a most important one, and those operations were capable of bearing most practical results. As head of that particular Department he looked forward to a period of activity and energy on behalf of the commercial 1272 interests of this country. In the keen competition with which we were confronted all over the world—and into which this country had to enter, so to speak, with one hand tied behind its back, because our fiscal system compelled us to enter it without anything to give, to promise, or to threaten—it certainly did behove us, within certain limits, to use the Foreign Office as a means of promoting the commerce of this country. In his term of office these questions would always have his sympathy and support. With regard to the suggestion that there should be a Ministry of Commerce, absorbing the functions of the Board of Trade and of the Commercial Department of the Foreign Office, his hon. Friend would recognise that circumstances might arise in which traders would regret if they had not the Foreign Office at their back to settle those diplomatic questions into which commercial difficulties were so easily merged. The suggestion had been made, not for the first time, that we should have more Commercial Attachés. We had three such Attachés—Sir Joseph Crowe, for Western Europe; Mr. Law, who had charge of Russia, Persia, and Asiatic Turkey; and Mr. Wrench at Constantinople. The question of increasing the number had been discussed more than once, and doubts had been thrown on the policy of doing so nine years ago by the right hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), and in 1890 by a Royal Commission presided over by the present Home Secretary. Mr. Bryce said, with reference to Commercial Attachés, in a memo. which was printed as a Parliamentary Paper—Not to speak of the expense which this would involve, it may be doubted whether a Commercial Attaché would at most Capitals find enough work to occupy him, or whether, by any exertions he might put forth, he could render much further help to British manufacturers and merchants than they now obtain through the Press and private channels of information. His presence would be an excuse for the neglect of commercial affairs by the rest of the Embassy; there would be little promotion for him; nor would it be easy to secure, except by a large salary, capable men for a post so much out of the line of the regular service. Only a person of large commercial knowledge, judgment and experience would be worth having, and such a person would be almost certain to prefer a private commercial career to the prospect which this special branch of diplomacy would hold out.1273 The following extract was from the Report of the Royal Commission on Civil Service (Ridley's), 1890:—We have tried to satisfy ourselves as to whether we should recommend an increase in the number of Commercial Attachés; but though it is clear that the creation of the two posts is amply justified, we do not think that the experience as yet derived from them so conclusive as to the propriety of incurring any additional expenditure at present in the same direction.With these authoritative opinions against the proposal, the Government could not adopt it with anything like precipitation. With regard to the Commercial Reports, having, probably, read more of them than any Member, except perhaps the two Gentlemen who had just spoken, having studied many hundreds of them from all parts of the world long before he was connected with his present office, he desired to endorse all that had been said in praise of them, and in recognition of the wealth of valuable information supplied by them. It might be that the publication of them was intermittent, but still, in some cases in which prompt information was desired, there was more than one Report in the year. Many of the gentlemen whose silence was complained of were merely unpaid Vice-Consuls, to whom small allowances were made for office expenses, and on whom we could not fairly impose the burden of drawing up complicated Reports. The procuring and arranging of tabulated figures necessarily involved delay, but any information of a commercial character which was in any way important to their commercial interests was at once supplied either to the Board of Trade Journal, to the Chamber of Commerce of London, or to the newspapers, so that he did not think the charge of unduly withholding information valuable to the commercial world could be sustained. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
observed that the hon. Gentleman attributed to the Consuls abroad what he had intended to apply at home. He himself received the Reports in large batches, evidently after they had been allowed to accumulate. He made no charge against the Consuls, but quite the contrary.
§ * MR. CURZON
said, that the Reports were obtained from the Foreign Office as quickly as possible. There was an 1274 enormous number of them, and they did not always come in a form capable of being transmitted without revision to the public. Undoubtedly dispatch in the matter was of great importance, but what was also important was that more merchants should read the Reports. Very often suggestions of the highest value were repeated in them without receiving the slightest attention. He did not know what the sale of the Reports here was, but he ventured to say it was not what it ought to be, and if his hon. Friend could increase the reading capacity of his clients rather than suggest the imposition of greater work on their Consuls, he would be considerably benefiting the cause he represented. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the suggestion that there should be more Consuls, that was a question not merely for the Foreign Office, but for the Treasury, and in comparing the number of Consuls they had as contrasted with those of foreign countries, they ought really to discriminate how many in the two categories were paid and how many unpaid. The hon. Gentleman, at the conclusion of his speech, expressed the hope that the era of laissez-faire in the diplomatic conduct of their commercial affairs had passed. With that sentiment he entirely agreed. At the same time there was a consideration on the other side which they ought to bear in mind. If they contemplated that commercial conquest of the world which they claimed to have made, it had been made not by the protection or activity of Governments, but by the intrepidity and enterprise of their individual traders. ["Hear, hear!"] It was the duty, and should be the pleasure of a Government to sustain and stimulate the efforts of their traders to hold their own, but more depended upon maintaining the features of their national character, which had made them what they were, than upon any artificial support that Government, Consuls, or diplomats could give. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had referred to the secresy which he said was observed by the Department, but if ever reserve at any time was justified it was justified in the case of a Government coming into power within the short space of time the present Government had been in Office, and finding themselves confronted with 1275 an enormous legacy of difficult and complicated questions from their predecessors, on many of which it would be premature, if not unwise, to make more than the statements they were every day obliged to do in the House. The right hon. Gentleman had asked for information about Sir John Kirk's mission to the Niger River, and had inquired when they might expect his Report. The Report had only just been placed in the hands of the Government, and he had not had time to peruse it. When the right hon. Gentleman asked for the publication of the Report, he seemed to be under some misapprehension. Sir John Kirk was sent out by the Government to acquire and furnish certain information for their guidance. There was never any promise that that Report should be made public. Circumstances might arise which would make its publication desirable, but until the Report had been considered by the Government it would obviously be most improper to give any pledge in the direction the right hon. Gentleman asked for. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had once again raised the question of the Consular Reports from Armenia. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think thatif the whole of these Consular Reports in extenso for 1893–4–5 were published, a very different impression would prevail about the incidents to which they alluded than at present existed, and that he and those who shared his views would, perhaps, derive some consolation from what they contained. He believed himself that the hon. Member's expectations in that respect would be disappointed. However, the question of the publication of these Reports was one, for the reason he stated the other day, of very great difficulty, but the Government hoped the time would shortly arrive when some information respecting these countries, from those who had been on the spot, might be submitted to Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. HOZIER (Lanark, S.)
desired to say, as an old Foreign Office official, that not only the Commercial Attachés but all the officers, Diplomatic as well as Consular, connected with the Foreign Office were extremely anxious to push, by every means in their power, the commercial interests of this country. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. CURZON
remarked that his hon. Friend complained that these were merely ceremonial officers who rendered no services comparable to the salaries they received, and accordingly he had expressed the opinion that the missions ought to be abolished. The case was considered by a Royal Commission in 1890, who reported in favour of a further reduction, and, if possible, the ultimate abolition of these posts. Since the issue of their Report these steps had been taken. The Mission at Darmstadt had been reduced from £1,250 to £700 a year and had been placed in the hands of a Secretary of Legation with the rank of Chargé d' Affaires. The Mission at Stuttgart, the capital of Wurtemburg, had been amalgamated with that of Munich, there being in these two cases a total saving of £2,000 a year. His hon. Friend asked what was going to be done in the future, and he was afraid he could not give him any consolation upon this point. The occupants of these smaller German Missions might not, in the eyes of the hon. Gentleman, cut a great figure before the world but their functions were by no means unimportant. For instance, a place like Munich was a centre of very considerable information and influence, and it was desirable that they should have there a British Representative of this rank. The same remark applied to the other courts, and attaching as they did the utmost importance to their relations with Germany and the various courts of which the German Empire was composed it was in the highest degree desirable that they should maintain these Missions, the removal of which might create an amount of feeling in Germany which his hon. Friend did not anticipate, but which would be serious.
§ DR. CLARK
considered that the result of the abolition of those missions would be the very reverse of that indicated by the Under Secretary. They had got union in Germany, and there was local Home Rule in the various States. But all the diplomatic interests of Germany were centred in Berlin; the Germans did not desire that this country should have agents at these smaller courts and would be pleased to see them withdrawn. From the standpoint of 1277 economy, they ought to oppose the Vote, and also because they ought to try to carry out the new conditions that existed in Germany. But he rose to move the reduction of the salary of the Agent in Egypt by £100 for the purpose of drawing attention to the Egyptian question. New conditions were being laid down in respect to our evacuation of Egypt. For instance, the hon. Member for North Lambeth had said we could not leave Egypt until we had re-conquered the Soudan and given it back to Egypt. He regarded it as incumbent upon the present Government to get us out of Egypt, because they practically took us there. In 1879 Lord Salisbury officially created the dual control, and as a result the expenditure of Egypt rose until it reached four and a half millions sterling. The Egyptians demanded the right to vote their Budget, but we refused to give them that right and intervened with an armed force. We crushed the attempt of the people of Egypt to have a Parliament and we refused them the right to vote the salaries of their own officials. Mr. Gladstone followed the evil example set by Lord Salisbury, but I think he now bitterly regrets having done so. We entered Egypt for the purpose of putting down Anarchy. At a Conference at Constantinople, Lord Dufferin stated to the Powers that if they consented to our entry, we would merely go in to restore order. Europe gave their consent. Order had been restored, but we had been in Egypt for 13 years, and if the conditions that were now being added to those originally set forth by Lord Dufferin were to be fulfilled, we should be there for another 1,300 years. In February 1883, the late Sir Stafford Northcote asked the present Duke of Devonshire when we were going to evacuate Egypt, and the noble Lord suggested that the evacuation might take place in six months or six years. The noble Lord thought the occurrence might take place in six months, and he expressed the hope that within six months he would be able to retire. Shortly afterwards, both Lord Granville and Lord Derby said the Government were making preparations to evacuate Egypt, but before leaving they were going to neutralise the country upon the lines carried out in respect to Belgium. Nothing was done. Lord 1278 Salisbury came in, and in 1887 Sir Drummond Wolff arranged a Convention under which we were to leave the country in 1892. Under that Convention we had a right of free entry if circumstances arose requiring us to go back. That would have been a wise and statesmanlike settlement of the matter, but unfortunately, the Turkish Government refused to carry out the Treaty, and it fell through. Since then, a policy of drift had been carried out in Egypt. When the late Government assumed office, they were pressed to carry out their pledges, but upon this as upon other questions, the policy they had in Opposition was not the policy they carried out in Office. He supposed that was one of the reasons why they were sent about their business. The excuse given by Mr. Gladstone was, that they were waiting for proposals either from France or from Turkey. Neither Turkey nor France had made any proposal to us. Now that there was a new Government he desired to know whether they were prepared to suggest another Convention on the lines of the Convention of Sir Drummond Wolff. We gave a solemn pledge we would retire immediately after the Anarchy had been suppressed, after law and order had been restored. No one could say that law and order had not been restored. But we were now asked to remain in Egypt for the benefit of the Egyptian people; to raise the condition of the people, to educate them and make them fit for self-government. Why should we remain for that purpose? In honour we were bound to retire. Some Gentlemen thought it might be to our interest to remain. ["Hear, hear!"] Perhaps the hon. Gentlemen who cheered would say what interest we had. We were now losing about a quarter of a million a year by the occupation, but if Egypt were neutralised, or if the Convention of Sir Drummond Wolff were carried out, we should have every right in Egypt that we had now. We should, moreover, lose the dangerous position in which we were now placed. Was the policy of drift to continue? Hon. Gentlemen knew very well what the feeling of France was. France considered she had rights, and that in 1882 she was badly treated. All our difficulties in Siam, Newfoundland and other parts of the world with France were caused by 1279 our present position in Egypt. To continue the present policy of drift was bad, and he was persuaded that in the long run it would be fraught with most disastrous consequences. He moved the reduction of which he had given notice.
§ * MR. CURZON
I think hon. Members will agree that this is hardly the occasion for a discussion of the question of the evacuation of Egypt. ["Hear hear!"] We are confronted with an exhausted and depleted House, and an empty front Opposition Bench. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter], and I must absolutely decline, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire and his colleagues in the late Government, to enter at any length into a discussion as to our position in Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member has entered into a long argument as to our relations with Egypt in recent years. Into that field I will not follow the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I have nothing to add to the few remarks I made on the subject the other day. The hon. Member complains that we have embarked on a policy of drift in Egypt. I see no sign whatever of drift in our proceedings in Egypt. But this I will say, if a policy of drift is undesirable, there is another thing that is more undesirable still, and that is a policy of drive ["Hear, hear!"]; and Her Majesty's Government will not be driven, tempted or cajoled into any sudden action with regard to our policy in Egypt. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
agreed that there was little value, in the circumstances, in discussing the position of affairs in Egypt. In May 1893 there was a very full Debate on the subject, and the facts brought out in that Debate made it impossible to blame the present Government for anything. He agreed, too, with the Under Secretary, that they ought to have the Leader of the Opposition present. The right hon. Gentleman sympathised with the views brought forward by the hon. Member for Caithness and himself, and yet, while the late Government was in office, they did nothing to give effect to those opinions. Therefore, it would not be fair to blame the present Government. Besides, he recognised that Lord Salisbury's previous Government did 1280 take a good step towards getting out of Egypt in the Drummond—Wolff Convention, which, he agreed with the hon. Member for Caithness, was a prudent and a wise Convention; and he was glad the Under Secretary had said not a word on the present occasion which would make the question more difficult. In one word, his view of the question was that we were pledged in honour to withdraw from Egypt, apart from the question of interest; and he also said it was our interest to withdraw. The Daily News, which, he believed, was the party organ of the Liberal Party, said, in regard to the policy of the late Government in Egypt, "It is a noble thing to govern Egypt, but it is a still nobler thing to keep our word." With that he entirely agreed. We had not kept our word; and our word was still honourably binding upon us. With regard to the question of interest, it had been attempted to be argued that the military possession of Egypt was a strength to this country. That was an argument to which he attached no force. The overwhelming command of the seas was of vital interest to us. If we had that overwhelming command of all the seas, Egypt was of no importance; and if we had not got that overwhelming command of all the seas, the position of Egypt would not help us. But he agreed with the Under Secretary that, in the present state of the House, and in the absence of the front Opposition Bench, this matter could not be discussed at any length. He, therefore, hoped his hon. Friend would be content with making his protest, and would not go to a Division.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I ought to point out to the Committee that it is very doubtful whether a large question of policy can be discussed on the salary of an official who merely carries out the policy of his chief. In my view, such a question could only be properly raised on the salary of the chief; and I had a doubt during the discussion whether I ought not to rule it out of Order, as this Vote deals only with the salary of an officer at Cairo.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1281
§ * MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
did not agree with the reflections that had been cast upon the value of the Reports of our Consular representatives abroad. Nothing could be better, for instance, than the Reports of Sir Charles Oppenheimer, our Consul at Frankfort. Sir Charles had full and complete knowledge of the economic circumstances of every country in Europe, and his Reports were always most valuable. He could also give personal testimony of the very high value of other Reports compiled in other parts of Europe. He believed that in all cases the cost to the country for this work was exceedingly small— indeed, in some cases, it was merely an allowance for stationery—and considering the excellent value given, he thought no objection ought to be raised to those payments.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said he desired to ask a couple of questions in regard to the position of affairs in Armenia. He had no intention of entering upon the general question, for the simple reason that the speech of the Prime Minister in the House of Lords dealing with the subject, on the first day of the Session, was a speech which reflected the sympathies and opinion of the whole country, and had aroused the enthusiastic approval of all who were interested in the welfare of the people of Armenia. One of the questions he had to ask was in regard to the allegations in the Press as to the serious state of things in the neighbourhood of Erzinghian, in Armenia, where it was said the attitude of the Turkish troops was so threatening, that it was feared there would be fresh outbreaks of fanaticism and outrage against the Christian inhabitants of the district. He asked the Under Secretary a question on the subject yesterday, and he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that telegrams had been sent to Her Majesty's representative at Constantinople instructing him to make inquiries as to the accuracy of those allegations. He, therefore, ventured to ask the Under Secretary whether there was any confirmation of those serious reports; and, if so, whether steps had been taken, or would be taken, to put an end to such a threatening state of things? He should also like to ask whether the difficulties 1282 that were alleged to have been placed by the Turkish Authorities in the way of the distribution of the fund raised for the relief of the sufferers of the outrages in Armenia had been overcome by the representations of Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople. He would only say, in conclusion, that the whole attitude of the Government on this question had given the deepest satisfaction to hon. Members on the Opposition side, and that the Government would receive from them the very warmest support at all times and in all manners if the policy announced by the Prime Minister was firmly and consistently carried out in dealing with the very difficult problem of the position of Christians in Armenia.
§ * MR. CURZON
said, he was indebted to the hon. Gentleman for his warm praise of the policy which had been pursued by the present Government with regard to Armenia, and which he believed had the unanimous approval of the House and the Country. With regard to the two specific questions of the hon. Gentleman, he would ask him to put his question in regard to the administration of the relief fund on the paper, and he would make inquiries. The reply he had received from Constantinople as to the threatening attitude of Turkish troops at Erzinghian afforded some ground for the allegations contained in the question of the hon. Member; but, as he had no idea that the question would be raised in Committee, he had not brought the telegram with him. If the hon. Member would put the question down for Monday he would reply to it, or he would give the hon. Gentleman the information privately if he so desired it.
§ MR. CHANNING
Will the hon. Gentleman indicate the general state of things disclosed by the telegram?
§ * MR. CURZON
I had only time to read it hurriedly, and I would not like to pledge myself as to its contents. The allegations, as well as I remember, were that there had been actions of the Turkish troops unfavourable to the peace and interests of the Armenians. That impression is sustained by the information we have received. More than that I should not, at present, like to say.
§ Voted agreed to.1283
§ On the Supplementary Estimate of £20,000 for certain Colonial Services, including a Grant in Aid to Newfoundland and South Africa,
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
asked whether this Vote was not novel in recent experience? It was a Vote for the relief of distress in a self-governing Colony, fully equipped with representative and responsible government. There had been rare cases where relief had been granted to Crown Colonies, but he remembered no case in which relief had been given to a self-governing Colony of the first class. It was so singular a departure that attention ought to be called to it. The Vote was prefaced by correspondence, and there were three issues of Papers on the subject. The last began with a letter from a Member of the House in the last Parliament, Sir Francis Evans, who wrote to the Colonial Office as Special Commissioner of the Government of Newfoundland. That hon. Member had previously brought forward in the House a proposal for relief to be granted to the Colony, and based the claim on the ground of the French Treaty and the special legislation imposed on the Colony on that account. That Motion was not discussed because the hon. Member received certain assurances from the late Government. This precedent ought to be watched most narrowly, as it was almost impossible to justify it. Nothing but the existence of overwhelming necessity, which would make common humanity cry out if relief were refused, could justify this grant to a self-governing Colony. Of course it was the Vote of the late Government, and he regretted that it had to be discussed in the absence of any Member of that Government. It might be said that the Imperial Commissioner sent out to administer the relief was a man of great experience; but the official correspondence showed that he had virtually no option but to spend the money. He himself had always taken a great interest in the French Treaty question in Newfoundland, and he had always sided strongly with the Colony. Naturally, therefore, he had received letters from the Colony from both sides of politics, a fact on which he laid stress, because parties were so sharply divided that it was impossible to trust any one-sided 1284 statements. The Imperial Commissioner set up relief works and granted money to fishermen. There were stronger cases in this country to be made out for such relief, and as one of them he would mention his own constituency. The soil there and the mines and minerals belonged to the Crown; and as the iron-works had stopped, it would be more natural that the Crown should start them than start relief works for a self-governing Colony, with which the Government of England had only an indirect connection. The Banks had failed in Newfoundland, and there had been a commercial crisis similar to those through which the Australian Colonies had passed from time to time. But the consequent distress was among the better classes rather than among the working population. He had evidence from a Newfoundland source which was purely commercial and not political at all. In the Investors' Review there appeared immediately after the worst of the supposed distress, an elaborate article on its extent. It was therein pointed out that the Fisheries were, on the whole, increasing. The cod-fishery was slightly falling off, but the lobster fishery and the seal fishery were increasing, and up to the moment of the smash, the revenue was increasing. There had been considerable fluctuations in trade, but in 1893 it was greater than in such years as 1884–1887. The Savings Bank Deposits had increased rapidly right up to the smash, and they were not involved in the disaster. The debt of the Colony was considerable, and that pointed to bad government. As to the distress among the poor, it was stated:—Some distress had been imminent, but it has been warded off by the charitable at home and abroad.''The only contribution from abroad had come from the taxpayers of this country. The writer whom he had quoted concluded by saying that the seal fishery was far above the average, that the lobster industry was thriving, and that there was every reason to suppose it would be a good year for the cod fishery. Mining, lumbering and agriculture were not affected by the financial crisis; and the settlers on the west coast—60,000 in number—did not know that the Banks had stopped payment. "Newfoundland," the writer said, "is in a more hopeful position to-day than it has been for the last 1285 ten years." This ought to be a warning to Governments for the future. It was evident that the discretion of Colonial Governments or of the Governors of Colonies could not be trusted. Any Governor would be willing to send an application for Imperial assistance; and this precedent would have the result of subjecting other Governors to pressure to ask for grants from home.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
The right honourable Gentleman said, and it is the fact, that this is the first instance of a grant in aid from the Imperial Exchequer to a self-governing Colony, and therefore it may be considered to establish an important precedent, if we do not take care to confine the conditions under which such a grant shall be made. I can only say, under these circumstances, that I very much regret that no member of the late Government is present to-day to defend the Vote for which the late Government is responsible. [Cheers.] They may have a good explanation of the course they have pursued. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that this most exceptional procedure was undertaken on this occasion by a Member of Parliament towards the close of the career of the late Government. That is so, but I have been unable to find the arguments brought by Sir Francis Evans, which were found sufficient to induce the late Government to give a grant of £50,000, of which up to the present time £40,000 has been expended. In order to give a grant of that kind I have totally failed to find the arguments which persuaded them. I agree with my right hon. Friend that if assistance is to be given in the nature of charitable and eleemosynary aid by this Government to another Government, or quasi-independent Government, at all events, the circumstances must be most exceptional in their character. I admit, therefore, that I cannot find in the papers at the present time any evidence to lead me to say that the condition of affairs in Newfoundland was such as to amount to such an exceptional state of distress as would justify this very exceptional interference. I cannot altogether leave out of sight how the distress arose. The distress arose in this case undoubtedly, 1286 as my right hon. Friend said, owing to bad administration. We have here a colony with representative institutions of the freest and most democratic character; and it has led, I must say, to some rather extraordinary results. But, without going outside the subject at present under discussion, there is no doubt that with better administration the condition of things in the colony would have been better than when Sir Francis Evans made his demands. But even then it is also true that the distress, although, no doubt, very considerable indeed, would not have been of that absolutely exceptional character which we anticipate. I find, for instance, that the Special Commissioner from the Treasury—a man of remarkable ability, who has done the very best that could be done to secure proper and effective distribution of the funds—had no choice whatever. He was sent out to spend the money, and the only question left to his discretion was the best manner of administering the fund. He says in his Report that when he got to St. John's he found—That, although there were many cases of great suffering and deprivation among men and women long accustomed to habits of more than a sufficiency, the distress among the working classes is not greater than that which exists at the present time in the large towns in England.When he came to the East Coast towns, among the fishermen, he reported that—The accounts of this distress had been exaggerated, and it is not as great as had been assumed.In those circumstances, having no choice, he proceeded to consider in what way such distress could be best relieved. He established certain works of relief in St. John's, and he took very good care, although his action was much criticised by some gentlemen in the Colony, that those who received the relief should work for it; and, moreover, that the relief wages offered should not be averaged by the extreme rate of wages prevalent in the colony, but a lesser sum should be paid which should not come into competition with ordinary labour. In regard to the fishermen, the Commissioner found that their position resulted from the failure of persons from whom they have been accustomed to hire their boats 1287 and to receive their supplies; and he arranged a system under which the hire of boats and such appliances as were absolutely necessary for the fishing should be supplied under guarantee from the British Commissioner, and that he should have a lien on the products of the catch. Under that arrangement some considerable proportion of the money lent will come back; but, in spite of every care that could be taken, I am afraid that there was, as is inseparable from any system of relief of this kind, a certain amount of imposture; and there is no doubt that a considerable sum of money belonging to the British taxpayers has been spent in the colony. I have said enough to show that I think the warning of my right hon. Friend is very much needed, and the only satisfaction I can give him is to say that the present Government are not likely to give him the occasion for further criticism in this way.
§ * MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
, contended that there ought to be some defence forthcoming on the part of the late Government for the inclusion of this Vote in the Estimates and for its expenditure in the manner indicated. Supposing the Committee refused to pass this Vote—if the late Government had remained in power it was probable that it would have been refused—in that case he wished to know upon whose shoulders the burden would fall of making good the money which the House of Commons refused to pay. The most effective warning against creating precedents of this kind would be that some portion of the burden should fall on the shoulders of those who directed the expenditure. As, however, Lord Ripon, who was the responsible Minister for the appearance of the Vote on the Estimates, could not reasonably be expected to refund the £50,000, he should content himself with moving to reduce the Vote by £1,000. The payment of this sum would not ruin the noble Marquess, but it would be a good warning to him in the future that if he and his colleagues spent money in this way they were bound to reimburse a portion of it.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw his motion. The effect of refusing the Vote would not be to lay any personal liability on the late Government. The 1288 probable result would be to complicate the arrangements of the public service and to cause delay by bringing the Vote up again. It should be remembered that the money has been spent.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that though the Secretary for the Colonies admitted this to be an improper Vote he yet advised the Committee to pass the money. In his judgment the hon. Gentleman, in moving a reduction of the Vote, had done his duty by calling attention to a question of maladministration. The fact of the money having been spent was no justification for voting it. Those gentlemen who undertook the responsibility of spending the money before it was passed by the House of Commons must take the responsibility now if a portion of it were rejected. The Ministers who were primarily responsible for proposing this Vote were not present to defend it, and he could not admit that their duty as guardians of the public purse was discharged merely because one estimable set of right hon. Placemen had been replaced by a more estimable set of right hon. Placemen. [Laughter.] If the hon. Member pressed his Amendment to a division he should support him.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
scarcely thought that the last two speakers were quite serious in what they had said. They seemed to forget that the present Estimates had been recommended by her Majesty in the Speech from the Throne, and, therefore, that the present advisers of the Crown made themselves responsible for them, though they had not framed them. The Secretary for the Colonies did not assume entire responsibility for this Vote, but he had placed it before the Committee as a matter touching the honour of this country to fulfil its engagement to a foreign country, or to one of our colonies, by the responsible Ministers of the Crown. It therefore became an equally honourable engagement on the part of the British Parliament. The colony of Newfoundland, the oldest colony under the Crown, was placed in the greatest distress and embarrassment, and the late Government considered the circumstances justified a grant. The money had been spent. Estimates prepared by the late Government were under consideration, and the supporters 1289 of the present Government were as much bound to help them to pass the Estimates as the supporters of the Government that prepared them would have been if they had been in power. It would not be consistent with the dignity of the House nor the honour of this country to withdraw from the engagement that had been entered into.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
said, the object of the House in refusing to pass this Vote must be either to censure the late Government or prevent a repetition of such expenditure in the future. The Government proposed to be censured was not in office, and there was nothing in our Constitution to enable the Committee to censure the Opposition. [Laughter.] With regard to preventing a repetition of such expenditure, no one who heard the speech of the Secretary for the Colonies would imagine that any such repetition would be within the range of practical politics. Nothing would be gained by pressing the Amendment. The money had been spent, and the responsibility for it could not be thrown on the Members of the late Government, because, except by a Bill of Attainder, this could not be done, and he did not think his hon. Friend would wish to see a Bill of Attainder passed against Lord Ripon. The Vote was an obligation of honour to this country, and the only persons who would suffer by the House refusing to pay the money would be the contractors who had supplied the goods. The milk had been spilt, and all they could do was to lament it and take the debate as expressing the sense of the Committee that no similar policy must be pursued in future.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
urged that if the doctrine preached by the Leader of the House was accepted there would be no security against any Minister whatever if, when guilty of any misfeasance or crime, he could be whitewashed by resignation and freed from all blame.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
repeated, that the only mode of punishment was a Bill of Attainder.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that was not the only mode of punishment. On the highest possible authority, that of the Colonial Secretary, they were told 1290 that this expenditure was unnecessary and improper.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I did not go as far as that; I said I was unable to find sufficient grounds to defend it in the absence of the person who proposed it.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
submitted that, if a Minister with access to all the archives of the Department could not say a single word in defence of the expenditure, the Vote ought not to be passed.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £20,000 to complete the sum required for the construction of the Uganda Railway,
§ * SIR C. DILKE
invited the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to make a statement to the Committee.
§ * MR. CURZON
said: Mr. Lowther, I think the Committee will agree that I am relieved from the necessity of making any observations on the general principle of the Uganda Railway. That was decided by the vote of the House under the administration of the late Government. It was felt that, after you had decided to assume the inland protectorate of Uganda and the basin of the Victoria Lake, it would be absurd to undertake this obligation unless you had a railway to the coast. That obligation, tardily accepted by the late Government, is assumed with readiness by the present Government—[Cheers]—and the action they are now taking is an indication to the House that they intend to push forward this scheme with as much energy and force as are at their disposal. The Committee will expect from me, therefore, no more than this, that I shall make a clear and business-like statement—so far as that is in my power—of the steps the Government propose to take to carry out the instructions received from the House. Most hon. Members 1291 present will have received and, I hope, read, the Report of the Departmental Committee which lately sat at the Foreign Office, and has been laid on the Table. Upon that Committee sat a number of gentlemen, experts of the highest authority and influence. It contained Sir John Kirk, formerly our Consul-General at Zanzibar, than whom there is no higher authority connected with Eastern Africa; Colonel Colvile, British Commissioner a short time ago at Uganda; Sir Alexander Rendel, Consulting Engineer to the India Office, and Sir Montague Ommanney, Crown Agent for the Colonies, who may be taken to represent the best expert opinion we can secure; and Sir Percy Anderson, the able and accomplished head of the African Department at the Foreign Office. That Committee had not merely the advantage of the survey for the railway made by Major Macdonald and Captain Pringle in 1893, but the advantage of three independent reports from engineering experts of the greatest eminence who had been consulted with reference to the possibility of a railway by the British East Africa Company. I mention this to show that it was in no light spirit and with no inadequate basis of information that they drew up the Report which has been laid before the House. Those who have read the Report will have noticed that some questions—and those not of minor importance—were left undecided. The first was as to the length of the railway, namely, whether the line starting from Mombasa should go the whole way to Victoria Nyanza, or should stop at Kikuyu—300 miles from the coast—and be supplemented by a road to the banks of the lake. The Government hive decided that the railway is to be constructed the whole way from the ocean to the lake, a distance of little more than 650 miles. [Cheers.] This decision, and the expenses of construction involved, may entail some financial sacrifice at the start, but, in their opinion, the question had to be decided by larger considerations than those of economy of construction alone. This railway has been commonly and justly called the Uganda Railway, and the application of that name itself suggests the truth as to the principal object of the railway, viz., that it is to bring down to the coast the resources, not 1292 merely of the Uganda Protectorate, but of all those countries in the upper waters of the Nile and of the Congo, both in the British and German spheres of influence, which surround at no very great distance the Victoria Nyanza, resources for which the railway will be the natural outlet. There is another consideration before the Government—if there had been any failure to construct this line the whole way to the lake, if it had been suspended as was suggested by some at a point half-way between Mombasa and the lake, there would have been, not the development which we anticipate, buta shrinkage—for which we should have been responsible—of the trade which is contemplated in this district. There is a third consideration which may commend itself to the patriotism of hon. Gentlemen—namely, the probability of German competition. Nothing is more certain than that if we do not construct a railway to the lake the Germans will. [" Hear, hear!"] We were the first upon the scene. Our administration and our Government are already in active operation there, and it would be blameworthy on the part of any Government in such circumstances by subsequent supineness to throw away the advantages which priority of possession has secured to us. Therefore the decision of the Government is that the railway shall be constructed the whole distance from Mombasa to the lake. ["Hear, hear!"] It will be constructed on what is commonly called the telescopic principle, the materials necessary for the construction of the line as far as possible being brought up on the rails already laid. As to the probable cost of construction, the Committee will have noticed in the Report of the Departmental Committee that the original estimate of Major Macdonald and Captain Pringle was £2,240,000, or £3,409 a mile, and that the Departmental Committee, by a reduction of the gauge and weight of rail employed, and of the expenses of rolling stock and buildings, brought the amount down to £1,755,000, or £2,700 per mile, or, if we allow for the interest during the four years expected to be spent in construction, to £1,865,000. But economy of construction is not the only consideration to be borne in mind. Efficiency in working and probable 1293 future development have also to be considered, and although, upon the question of gauge and of weight of rail, the Government have not yet arrived at a final decision, yet there are arguments in favour of a broader gauge and of heavier weight of rail than the minimum suggested by the Departmental Committee. Even if there should be, in consequence of any such possible decision in that direction, a larger expenditure than the minimum suggested by the Departmental Committee, there would still be a saving on the original estimate made by the engineers of 1893. ["Hear, hear!"] The next question relates to the working expenses of the line. The original estimate was that, £67,000 a year would be required for the working expenses if three trains a week ran each way, which estimate the Committee reduced to £50,000, or if only one train was running each way to £40,000. The Committee will naturally ask, and it is a most important question, what is the probability of revenue? The estimate of 1893, which was £60,000 a year, was accepted after much investigation by the Departmental Committee, and it was stated to them by Sir John Kirk that a very considerable volume of trade might be expected in the future. It may be asked from what sources this revenue is to be derived. Those sources are three in number. In the first place, there will be the goods traffic due to the export of native products and manufactures, and to the import of European goods. In order to meet this expenditure of £60,000 a year, only 68 tons a week, or 3,500 tons a year, will be required to be transported on the railway at the charge, which is proposed to be levied, of £17 a ton. The Committee will see, from the Report of the Departmental Committee, that the charge now made is £180 per ton by native porters, so that the reduction of charge brought about by the construction of the line will be one of no mean order. ["Hear, hear!"] As a practical illustration, I may mention that a steamer will shortly be placed on the lake, and that, owing to the difficulty of transport, in a region where every piece of machinery has to be of a certain weight, to enable it to be carried on the backs of the native porters, the cost of the transport of the material of the vessel will be £12,000, 1294 whereas we calculate that at the charge of £17 per ton, that material could be transported to the lake at a cost of only £1,100, thereby saving half the original cost of construction. ["Hear, hear!"] The question of goods traffic on the line is one which must, of course, depend very largely upon the development of the country. From conversations which I have had with Sir John Kirk and with Captain Lugard, who know every yard of the country through which the line will pass, and others, I have reason to believe that a considerable future, in the shape of agricultural and cereal produce will lie before this district, not only in regard to barley and wheat, but also, in future, to coffee and cotton, as well as in the export of ivory and indiarubber. ["Hear, hear!"] Those on the spot have such a belief in the future of the line that they have already taken up plots of ground on either side of the railway. Of passenger traffic I will not say too much at present, although, if the inhabitants of East Africa betray anything like the passion for getting into railway trains which I have noticed in scores of places in Asia, the return from this branch of traffic ought not to be inconsiderable. ["Hear, hear!''] There is a third item of revenue. A great economy will be effected by means of the railway in the carriage of Government stores. At the present moment we are paying £37,000 a year for taking Government stores up to the lake, and it is expected, if present conditions continue, that in four years' time the total cost of carrying the same amount of material will have increased to £40,000. When the railway is completed, the cost will be reduced to £6,500, and upon this item alone, therefore, there will be a net saving annually of some £33,500. ["Hear, hear!"] The question may next be asked as to the machinery of construction that it is proposed to adopt. In the Report of the Committee three alternative methods are laid before the House. The first is, that the railway should be constructed by a company or syndicate with a Government guarantee. The second is, that the Government should hand over the work to firms of contractors, and the third is, that the Government itself should undertake the work. The reasons against the first and second of these 1295 alternatives have been stated with much force in the Report of the Committee. There are, in the first place, financial objections to them. Companies are in the habit of looking to dividends, and contractors are in the habit of expecting profits, and there seems to the Government to be no clear reason why these dividends and profits should not be realised by them instead of by the companies or by the contractors in their employ. Experience in India, and, I think, in the Colonies, shows that difficulties are apt to arise in the relations between the Government and companies such as those of which I am speaking. There are difficulties arising from divided control and from the possibility of friction, and in the event of financial trouble or disaster, we know how, in the last resource, appeal is always made to the Government, and how the Government, after having entered into an apparently favourable contract, ultimately find themselves involved in a very considerable outlay. But there are stronger grounds even than that, and to these the Government attach chief importance. I speak of the political and social troubles that might possibly arise, through the construction of the line by a company or by contractors, from the employment by them of native labour, and from our relations with the tribes through whose territories the line would pass. It is of the highest importance that while this railway is being constructed, and afterwards, the best possible relations should prevail between the staff of engineers and the workmen who are engaged on the line and the neighbouring tribes. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has often said that if a railway to Uganda were constructed it could only be done by means of forced labour. I believe the right hon. Gentleman to be entirely wrong in that hypothesis. So far as we have reason to anticipate, no forced labour will be employed on the line. Another thing that the right hon. Gentleman is equally fond of saying, and in regard to which he has betrayed a similar ignorance of the subject, is that when, the line was being constructed, men armed with Winchester rifles would have to be stationed at every hundred yards in order to keep off the attacks of the natives. I am informed that these apprehensions 1296 are entirely illusory. ["Hear, hear!"] There is little or no fear of hostility from the tribes, and only a small body of police will be required to secure order. The local troubles constantly anticipated by the occupants of that Bench (the front Opposition Bench)—or rather by those who have now deserted it [laughter and cheers] —are not to be apprehended. Peaceful relations are, however, less likely to be secured if the work is undertaken by a company or firm of contractors than if it is undertaken by ourselves; and it is on these grounds—material, financial, and political—that the Government have decided to do the work on their own account. We shall know what we are spending from stage to stage, and we can exercise a closer supervision over the work; we can employ the best engineers; and, above all, we shall be able to succeed in maintaining friendly relations with the tribes. What may be the particular machinery of construction that is adopted has not yet been decided; but there can be little doubt that the Government will profit largely by the great experience gained in the construction of similar railways in India. They hope by the hiring of Indian coolie labour to start the works, and by the employment of competent engineers they also hope to give the best guarantees for economy and efficiency in carrying it on. The question as to how the money will be raised is, of course, not for me. It is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who will, no doubt, at subsequent dates bring it before the House. This preliminary Vote is for £20,000. It is required for preliminary expenses connected with the starting of the line. I hope I have not unduly troubled the Committee with this brief account of the views entertained by the Government, and the steps they propose to take. This scheme is one which we intend to push forward with all the energy that lies in our power. [Cheers.] The line will not be a difficult one to construct. It runs over a fairly easy country, and the Government look forward with confidence to its future. They have no desire to stint the line, though some fear was entertained that if it had been undertaken by the late Government this might have been the case. Her Majesty's Government, on the contrary, have every desire to construct the line on a large 1297 and generous basis. It may be asked what use the line will be when we get it. I think the experience of other parts may supply an answer. Wherever you get a protectorate, or colony, or particular district, in proportion as your means of communication are developed, so in time does that country, colony, or district become self-supporting. There can be very little doubt that this will be the future of that part of Africa. The railway will make it self-supporting. There is another consideration which will appeal to many hon. Members in this House, and that is the bearing which the construction of this railway will have upon the question of slavery in East Africa. I believe that it will do more towards getting rid of slavery than any number of Resolutions of the House of Commons could possibly do. ["Hear, hear!"] The main sources of the slave trade will be struck at and, we hope, stanched, and when the railway has been in working order for a few years slavery, will, we trust, become extinct in that part. The advantages that this railway will thus have, not merely to our traders and servants, but to the inhabitants of the country itself, will be great. Nothing can be more melancholy than the state of petty internecine warfare in which up to recent years those parts of Africa have been plunged. This railway will carry with it not merely civilisation and commerce, but peace. [Cheers.] In a few years' time—I trust before the present Government have left the position they now occupy [cheers]—we hope that the railway will be in daily working order, running through a pacified country from the coast up to the lake, and I believe that hon. Members, whether in the last or the present Parliament, who have assisted by their Votes in the inception of this undertaking, will always look back with pleasure to having had a hand in starting and in pressing on a scheme which will be fraught with advantage to British trade and will also bring good government to the natives of that part of Africa. [Cheers.]
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
quite agreed that it was a disadvantage to have to discuss these Estimates in the absence of those who were responsible for them. [Ministerial cheers.] The Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), in particular, took a strong line in the last Parliament 1298 against the construction of this railway. As to himself, while he was one of those who did not approve of the occupation of Uganda, believing as he did that the energies and wealth of the nation might be more profitably expended on places nearer to our sea base, yet he had always been of opinion that if we were to hold Uganda we should be driven to construct and hold this railway. Therefore, the opposition to this Vote should rather have come from the Leader of the Opposition and his colleague the Member for Aberdeen, than from the Radical Members below the Gangway. ["Hear, hear!"] He, however, desired to place certain considerations on the other side before the Committee in connection with this Vote. He said "on the other side" because some of the suggestions of the Under Secretary would, he thought, read, in parts, a little like the prospectus of Martin Chuzzlewit's Eden. They had heard a good deal about profits and dividends in connection with making this line, which, however necessary it might be, was not likely to prove a paying commercial undertaking or to appeal to capitalists in its construction. The Under-Secretary had alluded to the argument used recently in the House by the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. H. M. Stanley), but a wilder argument than that he had never heard in the House of Commons. An argument more likely to weigh with the Committee was that this railway would really have the effect of putting down slavery. Speaking now on the very highest authority, though he had no right to mention names, he asserted that there was no conceivable connection between the subjects. There was no connection between plantation slavery and slavery in East Africa.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said, that the Member for North Lambeth did, and he put forward this railway cure. The slaves in East Africa did not speak the Swahili dialect, but the language of the Lakes. The railway might be a perfectly defensible operation in itself, but it was riot defensible from the point of view put forward by the Member for North Lambeth, that it could have any bearing upon slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba. 1299 Hon. Members, he thought, had some vague notions in their minds, pointing in the direction of the view of the Member for North Lambeth, but they had no notion of the miles of territory which separated the country from the sea. This railway was to be 650 miles long to the Lake. From there to the Bahr el Ghazal district was another 800 miles, and from there, again, were 1,500 miles of country occupied by the forces of the Mahdi between Wady Halfa and Bahrel Ghazal. It had been suggested repeatedly that this railway was necessary for the purpose of stopping slavery, and the Member for North Lambeth said that it would prevent slave-raiding in the same way as it had been prevented in the Congo State, but if it were not out of order upon the present occasion, he might have had something to say about preventing slave-raiding in the Congo State. Some said that the Congo State was itself the greatest slave-raider. However that might be, the supposition that a narrow-gauge line in the direction of this territory was going to put an end to slave raiding seemed the wildest conceivable idea. The Under Secretary had told them that there was no reason to suppose that there would be any trouble during the construction of the line, and ridiculed the ideas of the Leader of the Opposition as to the amount of protection which would be required. But those ideas were backed by the report of the Survey Commission, in which it was distinctly laid down that there must be a native regiment on the line during its construction, and that recommendation had not been overruled in the last report. In Major Macdonald's report there were allusions to the dangerous character of the Masai tribe, and no evidence was forthcoming that this protection could be dispensed with. As to the commercial details of the line, this 3ft. or 3ft. 6in. line would be a mere toy or mineral line, such as was being constructed for minerals in West Australia.
§ * MR. CURZON
said the right hon. Gentleman forgot that there were thousands of miles of railways of this description in India.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said that there were similar lines in New Zealand and South Africa.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
said the ordinary 3ft. 6in. line now being made in West Australia cost £500 a mile, or, without stations £400. That was the cost of making a line in a flat sandy desert. The enormous ascent of 8,000 or 9,000 feet above the sea to which the Uganda line would rise placed it, however, in a very different category. It was frankly admitted in the estimate that there was "great risk of excess" over the estimate which was made. Experience of railways in Africa had not been encouraging; the most recent was that of the Congo Free State, which had ruined the financiers of the Congo State and put an end, he believed for ever, to the union between State and Belgium which was contemplated. What we were really trying to do was to divert trade from its natural line along the watercourses and drive it over the high mountains by a straight road. That plan had always failed. If no obstacles considered, of course the shortest line of trade would be from Suakim to Berber. He believed this country was quite strong enough and rich enough to carry out almost any enterprise; the question was whether the enterprise was worth the expenditure. When Lieutenant Cameron, after traversing Africa, came back with hundreds of treaties, he offered them to Mr. Disraeli, including those which conveyed the sovereignty of the territory of the Congo State, a country far more fertile and easier of access than Uganda. But Mr. Disraeli wisely refused them on the ground that these enormous tracts in Africa were not the natural sphere of this country, and that our trade was on the coast where we could give protection. It would have been better for us to have remained on the coast and left other Powers to develop the interior, but the contrary policy had prevailed. He believed Uganda, the unhealthiness of which had already deprived us of so many valuable lives, would never become the home of British Colonists. Kikuyu, and the district around it, was not likely to pay because it was not near the coast, and we should be spending our energy and enterprise in vain. He was by no means opposed to all extension of our colonial dominions, but he believed in taking each case on its merits, and he 1301 thought it was as foolish to say that under all circumstances we should extend the dominions of this country as to welcome every extension.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (Yorks, E. R, Holderness)
defended the views of the hon. Member for North Lambeth. The facilities which would exist for extending operations beyond Uganda when once the railway was made, would, he argued, reduce slave-raiding, just as it had been reduced in Nyassaland. There was nothing more certain than that the occupation of Nyassaland, and the activity of the Congo Free State of recent years, had had the effect of driving back the centre of gravity of the slave trade. He argued that the effect of the Uganda Railway would be, in a few years, to sweep almost completely those territories of slave-raiding expeditions. He quite agreed with the general conclusions of his hon. Friend. The right hon Gentleman spoke on the question whether it would be necessary to protect this line, but he seemed to overlook the fact that the survey party were probably only a small guard, and if they had no trouble whatever, surely it was a fair inference that if a small party carried out their business without interference, bigger operations could also be carried on in safety. He only wanted further to ask the Under Secretary one question as to the making of the railway. He said that the Government intended to do the work themselves. Did they intend to do it themselves in the sense of employing their own officers, or did they contemplate putting out portions of the line from time to time to contract? The Under Secretary rather left that question open. All he wanted to know was whether the Government would do the work directly or whether they would have the construction of the line done by contractors. He was very glad to hear his hon. Friend's able statement with regard to this costly work, and further that it would be undertaken in no penurious spirit. He did not think it would be wise or desirable to have a very narrow gauge, or that there should be any unreasonable economy in the construction of the railway. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. MCKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
said, though they had every respect for the names of the gentlemen who wrote 1302 the Report, yet he could not help thinking that they had been too much actuated by a desire to reduce the cost of the railway on paper, so as to make its financial success appear certain. He doubted whether the rates suggested for wheat and coffee could be upheld, for he did not think these articles could bear the tariff proposed. He thought it was not prudent, in the first place, to treat the railway as likely to be a commercial success, and if the trade of Uganda was to be developed they would have to conduct the railway on a different basis from that stated in the Report.
§ *MR. GEDGE rose to give his thanks to his hon. Friend for the lucid statement which he had laid before the Committee. He trusted the railway would be made on a gauge of 3ft. 6in. It would be an awkward thing if they broke the gauge when they reached another part of the country. He was glad to find that they were to have a telegraph to Uganda, for it would do much towards opening up the country. A question had been asked as to whether the Government would employ sub-contractors or do the work through their own officers. If it was the case of a company, the money would be obtained on much harder terms than if the Government did the work, and thus the cost of the railway would be considerably increased. He agreed that this railway would do very much to put a stop to slavery. He attached more importance to the statement of the hon. Member for North Lambeth and of the Bishop and missionaries on the spot than to those of the right hon. Baronet, although, no doubt, he had gone carefully into the question. He hoped that the Government, at once, and as quickly as possible, would begin the construction of the railway. ["Hear, hear."]
§ * MR. CURZON
said, his hon. Friend wanted to know whether they were going to employ their own officers or to do the work by contract. They would employ their own officers, with a view to keeping the work under their own control. A portion of the work might be required to be given to sub-contractors, but the principle on which they would proceed was to keep the control in their own hands. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Baronet seemed to think there would be great 1303 difficulty in the construction of the line, but the country was not a difficult one, and no greater obstacles need be anticipated than Russia had encountered in laying her Trans - Caspian Railway. The cost of that railway was between £3,000 and £4,000 a mile, and therefore he could see nothing at all discouraging in the present estimate. The right hon. Gentleman said the Congo State Railway was a failure and that therefore this railway would probably be a failure also. But there was no ground of comparison between the two. The Congo State Railway was a short line running up steep gradients in order to overcome the difficulties of the rapids of the river. How was it possible to institute a comparison between a railway of that sort and a main trunk railway 650 miles in length? But the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in his facts, for he believed the Congo State Railway was not a failure. The line from the lake to Mombasa would be not merely the shortest, but, in the opinion of experts, the natural line. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the lives already lost; but it was not from any effects of the journey from the coast to the lake that either Sir Gerald Portal or his brother sacrificed their lives. He believed the right hon. Baronet to be entirely wrong in his lugubrious prognostications about the effects of this region upon health. Sir John Kirk, in a paper which he read to the Geographical Congress the other day, said that, in his experience, the table-land of Eastern Africa which the railway would traverse was the healthiest part of the African Continent he had ever visited.
§ DR. CLARK
said he did not think one of the results of the railway would be that the followers of the Mahdi, who rose in rebellion against the Egyptians, would go back to their yellow masters. Nor was it probable that the Cape railway would ever be extended to the lake, seeing that the Congo Free State and a German sphere of influence intervened. The estimate for the railway was ridiculous, and if it was constructed for three times the estimated amount we would get out of it very cheaply. In making the railway we were laying down a gold mine for the Masais, who would immediately proceed to pick up the rails. Thus not only the cost of construction, but the cost of maintenance, would be far greater 1304 than the paltry sum now suggested. Again, the rivers in this region came down in great force at certain seasons, and, as in India, difficulty would be found in constructing sufficiently strong bridges. He, however, did not mean to oppose the railway, because he believed it to be the logical outcome of the policy of taking possession of Uganda, but he predicted that we would be constantly engaged in little wars—first in connection with the making and maintenance of the line, and afterwards in seeking to add to our territories,
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £5,333,840 to complete the sum for the salaries and expenses of the Post Office Services.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
said, they were met with two difficulties in approaching the discussion of this Vote. The first of these was the knowledge that when they brought forward grievances and suggested remedies they would be met with the reply that, as the Ministry had just come into office, these matters could not be considered now, but must be dealt with at a future time. The second difficulty was the fact that the Postmaster General was not in the House of Commons. He knew the feeling of the majority of the members of the Government was opposed to that arrangement, and it could not long be maintained.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I must point out, as I have previously done, that references to the fact that the head of the Department is in another place are out of order on the Vote for that particular Department.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
remarked that in dealing with the Postal and Telegraph Estimates on this occasion, they found themselves in considerable difficulties. On the one hand, there were in connection with these services many evils and abuses crying for early redress, and many grievances calling for instant remedy. On the other hand, it was impossible to regard the new Postmaster General, or his representative in that House, who had been in office only a short time, as in any way responsible for these evils and grievances. It was one of the misfortunes of the 1305 present system that the supreme chief was liable to be displaced at any moment. He had taken great pains with the late Postmaster General, and at the moment of his conversion he had disappeared. His labours were in vain. There was a further difficulty, in the fact that the Postmaster General was not a Member of the House in which the Estimates were discussed. It was well known that the main reason why the vast region called Tibet remained unimproved and unexplored was that the chief ruler, the Grand Llama, was inaccessible and invisible. Prayers could not move him, treaties could not bind him. Well, their Grand Llama was inaccessible and invisible. How did they know that, when he had convinced their right hon. Friend the Secretary of the Treasury, the labour would not be thrown away? Of course, if the Postmaster General had given him carte blanche it was a different matter, and in that belief he would submit a few facts of a general character which might probably occupy his time during the Recess. In the first place, the Post Office should be financed on business principles. At present it was the rule to pay out of current revenue the cost of sites, buildings and other expenditure, which a private firm would capitalise and spread over several years. He instanced the case of the Liverpool Post Office, which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, and was paid out of the current revenue, as was also done in the case of the Post Office at St. Martin's-le-Grand. In a word, the taxpayers of this year were paying the whole cost of benefits to be enjoyed by future generations; while reforms were refused for alleged lack of revenue to spend on starting them. Again, the disgraceful purchase money originally paid for the telegraphs in this country should be no longer charged to the Post Office, no more than the Crimean War Fund. It was a blunder little less than a crime. He next wished to call attention to the subsidies paid to mail steamers. He was in favour of subsidies, but they should not be wholly charged to the Post Office. It would surprise hon. Members to learn that no record was kept of the number of letters received from the Colonies and abroad. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to see that this state of things was reme 1306 died. The public ought to be furnished with the fullest possible information with regard to correspondence sent to and received from every part of the Empire. The Postmaster General had refused statistics on various pretexts, one being that the Post Office had no accurate information. We had been compelled to get this information from foreign countries, and he found that while we dealt with 18,000,000 letters within England, we only received 10,000,000 from the Colonies. He wished now briefly to direct attention to a few grievances and a few reforms which he thought necessary. The only reason why these reforms had not been granted was that this country was ruled by officialism and the officials had determined not to grant them. But he hoped the Postmaster General would institute an inquiry which would enable him to form a judgment upon them. First, there was the great question of Imperial Penny Postage. He would not dwell on the overwhelming argument in its favour, but he was sure he had the sympathy and support of the House of Commons on this question. Its adoption would give the greatest satisfaction throughout the Empire. He hoped the Postmaster General would give the matter full and fair consideration. Another reform was the establishment of Parcels Post to America and to Japan. The absence of such a service did not cast any credit on the Post Office. He also hoped that the present high telegraph rates between France and England would be reduced to one penny per word. The rate throughout England was only a halfpenny per word, and throughout France less than a halfpenny per word. Why then should telegrams be charged from France to England more than a penny per word? He also complained of the fine of four times the deficiency on unstamped postcards, and the fine of only double the deficiency on newspapers. The question of telephone communication was a subject which should at once engage the attention of the Postmaster General. The present monopoly should be taken up, and the State should supply telephone communication to householders for £3 per house. He was sure that he had the sympathy of every man in the House, when he urged the Postmaster General to take this matter in hand, and do 1307 what the people desired him to do, namely, to take over the telephone communication of the country into the hands of the Government. Another reform which might be introduced with advantage to the public, was a reduction of the present charges for the transmission of periodicals. A bulky newspaper could be sent to any part of the country for a halfpenny, but for magazines the full postage rates were charged. A small point to which the attention of the Postmaster General might well be directed, was the frequent illegibility of the postmarks upon letters. The marks were generally smudged and indistinct. In the United States all envelopes were clearly marked by the Post Office officials, and the hour of postage stamped upon them. One of the most amusing charges made was that for unstamped postcards. A card sent through the post without a stamp was charged twopence. This practice was very mean. Why should the unfortunate recipient of an unstamped postcard be fined four times the amount of the deficiency when only double the deficiency was charged for an unstamped letter? In conclusion, he must again express his great regret that the head of the Postal Department was not in that House. When they remembered that the employées of the Department numbered 138,000, and that the sums paid in salaries by the Department amounted to an enormous figure, the Committee, he thought, would agree with him that it was of the highest importance that the Postmaster General should be a gentleman having a seat in that House. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. A. D. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
said, that he was recently in Middlesbrough, and that he could not find a Directory in the General Post Office of that town. He was referred by the officials to the Free Library. He had had the same experience in several other offices, and he believed that there were even in London many Post Offices without a Directory. He hoped that steps would be taken to promptly remedy the deficiency wherever it occurred. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether it was the intention of the Post Office to keep separate accounts in connection with the trunk telephone business. 1308 An annual return ought to be made showing how much the Government had spent in acquiring these trunk wires, how much they had spent upon them, and how much they had earned. That would enable the Committee to arrive at some conclusion as to the value of the recent purchases. In his opinion there would be no adequate return for the money which had been expended. At Stockholm a first-rate double-wire service, over an area many times larger than the area for which there was a service in London, was provided for less than, £5 per annum, whereas the rate charged in London was £20. Reference had been made to the charge in New York as being very high, and it was very high; but what was the reason? The telephone monopolists of New York had obtained control over the service by methods which were notorious. For many years consecutively, a Bill was introduced in the New York Legislature on behalf of the Telephone Reform Association, but through the action of the monopolists and their friends, the Bill was invariably sent to a Committee, and never came out of it. Consequently the reformers had been unable to obtain any reduction of the enormous charges made for the telephone service. If the opposing politicians could be defeated, the charges would probably go down to one-fifth of the present rate. The New York charges were kept up by an outrageous monopoly. But in this country there was also a telephone monopoly, and the excessive rates charged were maintained by the Postmaster General, who was the person to blame. The patents in telephones had all expired, and the trade ought to be as free as any other trade. But it was not free, because no one could supply telephone service until he had received a licence from the Post Office, and the Post Office refused to grant licences, and so the monopoly was maintained, and the charge in London remained at £20 for a service infinitely worse than was obtained at Stockholm and elsewhere for one-fourth of that sum. Glasgow had applied in vain for a licence, although no reason had ever been given in that House why that city should not have a licence. The last Government, which carried out, in 1309 circumstances which would not bear examination, the contract that was made between the Government and the telephone monopolists, appointed a Committee to inquire whether they should grant licences to municipalities. It was scandalous to do anything of the kind. Why should not Glasgow, Edinburgh and other places have licences if they asked for them? Why should they not be permittd to supply their citizens with telephone communication, just as they did tramways, gas, water, or anything else which was commonly used? There might be many reasons for not granting licences to private persons, but there could be none for not granting them to places like Glasgow, because it was ridiculous to suggest that a Corporation like Glasgow might sell their licences to others, although he was aware that licences had been bought up at fabulous prices in order to maintain their monopoly by the monopolist company of which the hon. Member who had just entered the House (Sir A. Rollit) was a director. This refusal on the part of the Government to Glasgow, was a disgraceful and shameful business. In refusing to grant a licence to Glasgow, the Postmaster General was, in effect, saying, "I shall compel you to pay twice as much for a bad service as we know you could provide a good service for if we granted you a licence." The hon. Member for Canterbury said, the Government should buy up the remainder of the telephone service, but he had never yet met the Chancellor of the Exchequer who would venture to ask the House of Commons for the enormous sum of money which such an enterprise would involve. He hoped that they would keep a separate account of the cost of the trunk lines and also of their earnings, in order that, when the question came up again next year, the House might be able to see whether the Government had made a good bargain in taking them over, or whether they had repeated on a smaller scale the extravagance of the terms on which they acquired the telegraphs.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
complained of the arrangement now made for the conduct of Post Office business in this House. There was really no one on the Treasury 1310 Bench who was able to speak with authority and competent knowledge on the subject. Even since the Session commenced there had been a change. Originally, the Post Office was spoken for in this House by the right hon. Gentleman who was Under Secretary at the Home Office; but, for reasons which had never been explained, the performance of those duties was transferred to the Secretary to the Treasury, Now, any Member who had experience of the House of Commons knew very well that the Treasury had always been regarded as and had discharged the functions of a watch-dog over the Post Office. It had, indeed, been suggested that there was a certain advantage in this arrangement, because it enabled the representative of the Treasury to acquire a greater knowledge of Post Office business than was usually the case. It might with equal accuracy be said that, if counsel were instructed at once for plaintiff and defendant, they would have a larger and more comprehensive knowledge of the case than was now usual under the ordinary conduct of legal business. The interests of the two Departments were, or were supposed to be, antagonistic, and, therefore, the public was inadequately represented by a gentleman who at the same time represented the Treasury. Passing from that, he desired to refer to the case of the Committee on the Post Office. At the last General Election there was scarcely a Conservative candidate in London who did not pledge himself to move an Amendment to the Address in order to secure the appointment of a Royal Commission on the Post Office He had before him the names of nine gentlemen who took that pledge to move or support an Amendment to the Address. They were the hon. Members for Camberwell, Central Hackney, Haggerston, Lime-house, South Islington, North St. Pancras, Woolwich, St. George's East, and South Stepney.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
, interposing, said, the first observation of his hon. Friend was, that there were eight Conservative Members who pledged themselves to move an Amendment to the Address. Afterwards he modified the expression into move or support. He himself was quite prepared to have done the latter.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL
said, that of course they could not all move, and he certainly meant to say "move or support." Of the eight or nine gentlemen to whom he had referred, the only one present at that moment to look after the interests of the Post Office servants was the Member for South Islington. When the question was before the last Parliament, the Member for Battersea raised a matter with which he cordially sympathised, namely, whether this Committee would be empowered to consider, amongst other questions, the conditions of service of the mail car drivers of the Metropolis. They had not a definite reply to that question, but, so far as he remembered, Mr. Arnold Morley gave them a somewhat sympathetic answer. Since then, the case for an inquiry of this kind had been materially strengthened by cases in which Messrs. Macnamara, one of the contracting firms, had been brought into court in connection with the treatment of their horses and drivers. In one case the manager of the carting was sentenced to a month's imprisonment for cruelty to animals, by overworking a horse, and in another case (it was said) a man was dismissed because he asked for an extra horse to pull a heavy load. He desired to ask whether, in the spirit Mr. Arnold Morley showed, the present representatives of the Post Office would be willing to refer the important question of the mail car drivers to the Committee that was now sitting? He believed this whole question would never be put on a satisfactory footing until the Post Office dispensed with contracting, and did its own carting. The only other point he desired to refer to was the present unsanitary condition of the Money Order Office. This was a disgraceful story. Some years ago, the money order business was removed from the old building in St. Martin's-le-Grand to the premises formerly used as a prison at Mount Pleasant, in Clerken-well. When that removal was made a pledge was given that it was only for a time, and that, when the new buildings then contemplated in St. Martin's-le-Grand were erected, the staff of the Money Order Office would be brought back. No sooner had the staff been removed to the old prison, than loud complaints of the insanitary condition of the office began to be made. The 1312 authorities at the Post Office adopted the usual optimistic attitude, one authority saying that the office was an ideal one. These complaints on the one hand, and the statement as to the ideal character of the office on the other, continued for some time.
* THE CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member is calling attention to the insanitary condition of the buildings, as I understand he is, he will be out of Order on this Vote.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL
said, that what he was complaining of was the conduct of the Postmaster General, as the head of the Department, in not taking adequate steps to secure the health of his subordinates. After a long contest, a Committee of experts, of whom Lord Playfair was one, were appointed, and they reported that they thought it doubtful if the place could ever be made fit for a Government office.
* THE CHAIRMAN
It is quite obvious that the complaint of the hon. Member has reference to the condition of the building, and that cannot arise upon this Vote.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
Upon the point of Order, may I inform you that upon several occasions the late Postmaster General defended the action of the Department, and refused to modify it, and, therefore, admitted what I attributed to him, namely, a grave responsibility for the health of those serving the Department?
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
Would the hon. Member be in Order in moving a reduction of the salary of the Postmaster General, in consequence of the insanitary condition of the building?
* THE CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that I must rule that the condition of the building, which appears to be the complaint of the hon. Member, cannot be raised upon this Vote; that belongs to Class I.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
observed that it had been his intention from the beginning to move a reduction of the salary of the Postmaster General, and he should bring himself within the limits of the Chairman's ruling, by complaining that the Postmaster General had failed to carry out the engagement given by his predecessor, that the removal of postal servants was only for a time, and that when the new buildings in St. Martin's-le- 1313 Grand were erected, they would be sent back there. Those new buildings had been erected, and yet they were told that these postal servants were not to be sent back. Not only had this question a most important relation to the health of the postal servants, but it also had a bearing on the convenience of the public. The public, naturally, went with their money orders to St. Martin's-le-Grand, and then had to be referred to Mount Pleasant. To such an extent was this the case, that, actually, the Post Office had to maintain an omnibus for the purpose of conveying the public from St. Martin's-le-Grand to Mount Pleasant. On all these grounds it seemed right that the Money Order Office should be transferred back from its present site to St. Martin's-le-Grand. He begged to move a reduction of the Vote by £100 in respect of the salary of the Postmaster General, upon the ground that the Post Office had no representative in that House.
§ On the return of the Chairman after the usual interval,
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said, that he should not have intervened but for the personal references to himself which had been made in the course of the Debate. Upon the particular Amendment he would only say that it would be obviously convenient that the Postmaster General should be in the House of Commons, and the same remark applied to the heads of most of the spending and revenue departments. But at the same time, a fair trial ought to be given to a system by which the Post Office was represented in the House of Commons by the present Secretary to the Treasury, whose guardianship of Post Office interests would go far to outweigh the disadvantages of the arrangement. The hon. Member opposite was wrong in supposing that there were not several London Members in the House who would have been prepared to support a proper Post Office Employés' Amendment; and he was mistaken on the subject of the alleged pledge to move an Amendment to the Address. He remembered no such pledge, and no such request or reminder had been made to him, though Post Office servants knew that on a proper opportunity he should, as in the past, support 1314 any motion for the redress of the grievances which they undoubtedly had. But such a pledge would not apply to the occasion to which the hon. Member referred, because the opportunity was not a fit one, and a Departmental Committee was sitting on the subject. He regretted that a Departmental Committee had been appointed instead of, as he urged, a Royal Commission or a Select Committee; but since it had been appointed it was only fair to give it a chance of doing justice, and to await its decisions. There was one great grievance to which he wished to direct attention himself. Two of his constituents were dispossessed of their offices, and forfeited all their deferred pay, simply because they asked candidates at the Election of 1892 whether they would look after their interests. The rule against such conduct had since been revoked, and the victims of the unjust rule ought, as a corollary, to be reinstated. He hoped that the Postmaster General would reconsider the matter; and he relied on the mediation of the Secretary to the Treasury, who knew the circumstances. As to the Money Order Office, he hoped that the Postmaster General would regard the health of the public servants; and if nothing were done in this matter next year, he and others might have to take direct action, for while postmasters were trying the men were dying. There was a wholesome rule of the House that those who were interested in public companies should not take part in debates affecting those companies, and but for a reference to himself he should not have referred to the telephone question. None appreciated more than he the absolute necessity, both from the commercial and social point of view, of making the telephone service as effective as possible, and no policy which had not that object would gain his or, as he believed, his colleagues' approval on the Board of the National Telephone Company. The hon. Member spoke of the Company having a monopoly. As a matter of fact it had the chief business, but not a monopoly, because the Postmaster General had declared he had reserved his right to grant licences. The association of the State with the Telephone Company in regard to the trunk wires would be of great advantage to both and to the public, 1315 and it might be a step towards the acquisition of the telephones by the State. It was difficult to please the hon. Member for Glasgow; he denounced monopoly, and when the Company sold the trunks to the State and so reduced any monopoly, he was still dissatisfied. Speaking purely, and not for his colleagues, personally he thought there were great advantages in the telephone and other means of inter-communication being possessed and worked by the State; and he should not fear such acquisition on fair and reasonable terms, if proposed to them, which had not been the case. But he could not say the same in respect of acquisition by the municipalities, as to which the Members for Glasgow and Canterbury were at variance, one advocating the municipality and the other the State. He should be the last to limit municipal action. He believed that the municipalities were to be trusted in every way. But the telephone was just one of those things in which there would be a difficulty to municipal management. The very name "telephone" implied communication over large areas, and the instrument could not well be the subject of local limitation. If the telephones were entrusted to many municipalities there would be a number of areas under different management, with probably different systems and tariff's, though uniformity was so essential; and the result would be a decrease of facilities for inter-communication between areas, and an increase of charges. This question should scarcely have been brought under the notice of the Committee, for the obvious reason that a Select Committee was sitting on the matter. Though technically the Committee had concluded its labours, yet it had reported in favour of its re-appointment, and no doubt it would be re-appointed to complete the investigation which the National Telephone Company had courted in the fullest way. Other action he thought was premature, especially as it was an open secret that while the Select Committee favoured purchase by the State if by anyone, it was as opposed to municipal acquisition. As to the charges made against the Telephone Company, he was aware that there were complaints in connection with the telephones; there always would 1316 be complaints. Many of the public seemed to think that that which was provided for all, and which had to serve all, was the property of anyone at any particular moment. Those two things were incompatible. But the Telephone Company was bound to do, and did, its best for the public convenience. A great mistake was made in comparing London with other places. The hon. Gentleman spoke of Stockholm; but, on account of the cheapness of labour, the smaller area, the different population, and the under-sea system, there was really no comparison. A better comparison would be New York, where the charges were considerably higher than in London. There was no centre in the world which could be placed in comparison with London, having regard to the numberless wires, to the consequent inductive effects, and the demand made upon them. He believed, moreover, that the instruments were the best, and better than those used in Stockholm. He did not believe that at present, under existing circumstances, and having regard to the present inductive influences, they could have a perfect system without a twin-wire system. In London more than three-fourths of the system had been placed on that footing, and the other portion would be completed at an early date. All the resources that could be brought to bear in the establishment of better and newer exchanges, the re-wiring on the twin-wire system in the City of London and elsewhere, had been done by the National Telephone Company under great difficulties of high royalties paid to the State, the great cost in London of way-leaves, and the difficulty of inducing private owners to allow facilities for the public convenience. Hon. Members might rest assured that no efforts which could be reasonably devoted to this purpose would be spared, and the Company felt it to be their duty, both to the shareholders and to the public, to take care that the system was made as efficient as possible. He trusted the Select Committee would be reappointed, for the Company courted a just and impartial judgment, and, pending this, he strongly deprecated the discussion of the subject while it was sub judice.
§ * M.R. PROVAND
said, that although the Postmaster General had reserved the right to issue licences, he continued to 1317 refuse licences to the large municipalities like Glasgow, and as long as that policy was pursued, the monopoly was maintained by the Postmaster General, and the subject would be brought forward until they obtained licences to supply telephone service in Scotland, where any responsible public authority asked for a licence. He would give the hon. Member an instance as to whether or not licences had been bought up at fabulous prices. There were only 12 or 13 original licences issued by the Postmaster General. One of these was issued to two men in the Isle of Thanet. That licence was never used for the public service; not a wire was ever laid under it. The licence was in the possession of these men until a few years ago; and while in their hands was a piece of waste paper; but it was no secret that a gentleman formerly connected with the Company, and who knew how it might be used to attack the Company's monopoly, went to the Isle of Thanet and bought this piece of waste paper and sold it to the National Telephone Company for £20,100, and the amount was entered in the published accounts of the Company for 1893. That was a point which must have come to the notice of the hon. Member as a director of the Company. The hon. Gentleman also spoke of Stockholm and said that the area was nothing like so large as the area of London. On the contrary, it was many times greater than London. It was 80 miles across. From the city of Stockholm, they had complete telephonic communication, by double wires and the best instruments, for a radius of 40 miles around the central office at £41 8s. per annum. Then it was said that in the case of municipal licences there would be different areas. Nothing of the kind. The area of Glasgow, for example, would be the area which the Company supplied now, with the addition that the outlying portions of the district might join the Glasgow Exchange if they chose, for a trifling additional payment. The trunk charges would also be the same. The Post Office would charge Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen the same rate for the use of their trunk line as they charged the Telephone Company. The hon. Member had spoken of the separate management in different cities. This would lead to economy and improvement. What made the manage 1318 ment of our cities better than formerly? It was the competition between them. The price of Company telephonic service could never be as cheap as municipal service, for the simple reason that the Company had to pay on material capital. Every Exchange subscriber was charged more than £4 per annum to provide a sinking fund and pay interest on capital that had never gone into the Company at all. The Company was paying interest on millions sterling that had never been employed in the business.
§ * MR.J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)
said he desired to call attention to the disadvantages under which the town of Cavan suffered from defective postal facilities. It had a population of 4,000 and two terminal railway stations, and yet no night mails were despatched by train, but they were sent by car a distance of 12 miles; so that letters had to be posted as early as 5.30 p.m., whereas, if there was a mail train, it need not leave till 8.0 or 9.0, which would be a very great convenience to the residents. Then Cavan was the head post office for a number of sub-post offices, from which letters had to be despatched as early as 2.0 p.m. There was not a county in Ireland in which the postal arrangements were so defective. There were many towns less important than Cavan, and in no more convenient position, that had their evening mails despatched at 9.0 or 10.0 o'clock. Recently the postage of a letter to Australia had been reduced from 6d. to 2½d., but it would still be 2½d. to the United States, which was only one-third of the distance that Australia was, and this postage pressed with undue severity on emigrants from Ireland and their friends in Ireland. If the postage to America was reduced, there would be a great increase in the number of letters. The rural postmen in Ireland had to walk 16, 18 or 20 miles a day, for 12s. a week, and that in all weathers. The climate had got fickle lately—[Laughter]—and he knew of three cases in which rural postmen had developed consumption as the result of exposure in stormy weather.
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said, it had been erroneously assumed that he was absent. He had given a pledge, not that he would move an Amendment to the Vote on behalf of Post Office servants, but 1319 that he would be present and do what he could for them. Some years ago he presented a petition on behalf of a number of postmen, who had gone out on strike at the instigation of agitators, and he was successful in getting many of them replaced. He had never made use of the position of postmen as a means of obtaining political ends, by stating their grievances in the House; but he had many times gone direct to the Postmaster General with signal success in obtaining what he required. He had done this in preference to airing their grievances in this House, as the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green was fond of doing. He had a great objection to bringing before the House complaints got up by agitators, who had not the cause of the postmen at heart.
§ MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
asked the Deputy Postmaster General, the Secretary to the Treasury, if he would consider the decision of his predecessor as to the constitution of the Departmental Committee which was to consider any grievances which might be brought forward by Post Office employés. It was only just that the employés should have at least one representative on the Parliamentary Committee. The Postal authorities would be largely represented and would be sure to have a substantial majority. Speaking generally it was a great pity that of the vast sum of nearly £5,000,000 a year made by the Post Office, a larger proportion should not be spent in increased facilities for the commercial public and the public generally. It was quite inappropriate that one of the main Services of the country should be regarded as a profit-making institution. The Department would be able to do full justice not only to its employés, but the public, if the Post Office was worked for the public, and not carried on as a profit-raising institution.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
asked if better arrangements could not be made for the delivery of the mails at Waterford. With regard to the carriage of the mails, there was an impression that the London and North Western Railway had a monopoly, and that the competing lines, which were almost as good, did not have their fair share of the work, and the shareholders were 1320 placed at an unfair disadvantage. The latter had a right to expect that some fair distribution would be made. He then complained that third class carriages were not provided in the Irish mail trains from Euston. He had questioned the President of the Board of Trade on the subject and had received from him a satisfactory answer. The London and North Western Railway was enormously subsidised to carry the Irish mails, and as new contracts for the carriage of the mails were about to be made he thought that the matter he had referred to might be brought under the attention of the Company.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said, that third class passenger accommodation on the North Western line did not arise on the Vote for the Postmaster General.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR
expressed his regret that the Postmaster General had not a seat in the House. ["Hear, Hear!"] He did not find fault with the conduct of Post Office business so far by the hon. Member for Preston; he had every reason to be satisfied with the replies he had received. He had made many promises, and what he (Mr. Weir) looked out for now were performances. He complained of the inefficiency of the Postal arid Telegraphic services in the Western Islands and Highlands of Scotland, and especially in the island of Lewis, which he had visited and had heard the complaints on the spot. A letter that he had sent on a Friday to a place in the Western Highlands, not 20 miles distant, was not delivered till the following Tuesday. The right hon. Gentleman had said that a great deal had been done in the Highlands in the way of increasing the postal facilities of that district, but he thought that the instance he had given, showed that a great deal more ought to be done in that direction. He did not intend to occupy the attention of the Committee for any long time, because he knew that hon. Members were all anxious to get away, but he felt bound to point out that the Post Office Department would not establish a small post office in the Highlands, without a guarantee of a 1321 certain sum per annum being given. This was a most unjust requirement on the part of the Post Office authorities. The Department made several millions a year profit out of the post office business, and they ought therefore, to provide for the carriage of letters throughout the whole of the country, and should not require the locality to provide a guarantee of £20 per annum, before they would establish a new post office. It was unworthy of a great Department like the Post Office to make such a requirement. He sincerely hoped that he should have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that better postal facilities would be provided in the future. He also desired to draw attention to another question, that which related to the telegraphs in the Highlands. During the late General Election he had sent a telegram which had been considerably delayed in delivery, so much so that it was utterly useless for the purpose for which it was sent. On his making a complaint in reference to the matter he was asked to sign a paper and the sum of one shilling was tendered to him in satisfaction of his grievance. He did not want the shilling—but what he did want was that his telegram should have been delivered in a reasonable time, and not have been delayed for six hours. He had up to that moment received no explanation as to the cause of the delay in the delivery of his telegram, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to furnish it that night, or, at all events, would promise to look into the matter. An hon. Member had referred to the position of the rural postmen in some parts of Scotland. Those men travelled for miles in districts where there was no road. They had to leave home at four o'clock in the morning, and to carry a lantern to light them on their way. For work such as that, these men received the magnificent pay of 8s. per week. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman thought that such an amount of remuneration was adequate for the hard work these men had to perform.
§ * THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
said, that his hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury specially referred to two matters—first, that the Government were new to Office; and, secondly, he 1322 complained that the Post Office was not directly represented in the House of Commons. The first was the greater difficulty of the two. So far he did not think his hon. Friend had any cause for complaint against the new Postmaster General, for not having been ready to meet him in every possible way. He himself had been struck with what seemed to him the great number of satisfactory replies that the Postmaster General had been able to give to a good many of his hon. Friend's suggestions. He could assure his hon. Friend that every complaint which he raised reached the Postmaster General, and he could assure his hon. Friend that, representing as he did the Post Office in the House, he would be always ready to see that everything of importance should reach the proper source. He was somewhat surprised to find that, although there was this complaint, the Motion now made was really a reduction of the salary of the present Postmaster General for the long neglect of his predecessor. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green complained about the site of the old Clerkenwell Prison, which was now used as a post office, and said that a pledge was given that it should be only used so temporarily. That pledge had not been redeemed, owing to the vast increase in the numbers of the Post Office staff, so that this and all other available buildings were required for the purposes of the staff. The hon. Member also complained that no proper steps had been taken to put the Clerkenwell Post Office in a more sanitary condition, and he was right in saying that a Committee, of which Lord Play fair was a member, sat and reported that the office was not in a satisfactory condition, and made certain recommendations thereupon. He was informed that £3,000 had been spent, that the main representations made by the Committee had been carried out, and that Lord Playfair had expressed himself satisfied with what had been done. The sick rate, he was sorry to admit, had been very heavy this year, but this had, unfortunately, been the case in all departments. Reverting to the remarks of the Member for Canterbury, he thought it an advantage both to the Treasury and the Post Office Department that they should be connected in regard to the Post Office. It should not, he thought, be a battle 1323 between them, and the Secretary to the Treasury was thus able to acquire a greater knowledge of the working of the Post Office than would be the case if the Postmaster General were a Member of the House of Commons. Being connected with both Departments, he was able to act more judicially in matters coming before him in connection with the Post Office. As to the complaint that the cost of sites was paid out of the current revenue, he would point out that this expenditure was always going on at a tolerably even rate, and was always being paid out of revenue, so that it came practically to the same thing as if it were paid out of the Vote. The hon. Member also complained of the subsidies for mails, and no doubt under the present system we did pay more highly than if they were paid by the ordinary ship rates. But he would point out that the present system had great advantages. It was, he thought, an advantage that our mails should be carried by British ships. [Cheers.] That was an encouragement to British shipbuilders. [Renewed cheers.] It was also an advantage to have the service of mails so completely under our own control, and to have the vessels starting at certain hours and calling at certain ports. The cost of the purchase of the telegraphs was rather ancient history, but, so far as it went, it was an argument against the purchase of the branch telephones. With regard to the amount of correspondence sent to the Colonies and abroad, in the new Report he would find the figures of the Colonial and Foreign correspondence so far as the Post Office could give them.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, they were given as far as they could be by the Post Office. With regard to the question of an Imperial Penny Post, blame was not to be attached to the Post Office officials but to the Colonies themselves, who had been a great stumbling block in connection with this scheme. What he would call the sentimental argument was not one to be despised, it was an important one; but when the Colonies were not willing to have this kind of communication with the mother country it fell to the ground.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, he was told that that was not a fact. Certainly the feeling in the Australian Colonies was by no means in favour of the scheme, but whether that was so or not, there was an agreement with Australia when that Colony came into the Postal Union, that there should be no alteration in the postal rates until a date two or three years from the present time. The difficulty in regard to a parcel post to the United States arose from the fact that the carriage of parcels was to a great extent, in the United States, in the hands of large carrying companies, which had the monopoly. The Post Office was seeing if it was possible to establish such a post. Negotiations were in progress in regard to a parcel post to Japan, and a good deal had been concluded already; it was only owing to the distance we were from Japan that something definite had not yet been arrived at and announced. As to the telephonic communication in this country, he thought it was altogether absurd to apply to that system the charges brought against the New York Telephone Companies by the hon. Member for Glasgow. He could not then say whether it was the intention of the Post Office to keep separate accounts of the trunk lines, but he would obtain the information. The question had been raised of the branch lines being in the hands of municipalities, and there was every probability that the Committee which considered the question last Session would be re-appointed next year and would Report on the subject. The Government, of course, had a perfect right to grant licences to other persons, but the fact was, the telephone system could not be compared with gas or telegraphs. One great necessity in the telephone system was that all persons in a particular town should be on one circuit, and that was really the reason why it should be in the hands of one company.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, that was not so; if two companies supplied the same town all the persons in that town could not be on the circuit unless they had the wires of both companies. In regard to 1325 the proposal for cheaper telegrams to France, he pointed out that there was already a loss on the telegraph service of about £400,000, and unless the hon. Member could bring statistics to show that there would be an increase in the number of these telegrams if they were made cheaper, so as to diminish the loss, he did not think the change should be made. Several new American machines for postmarking letters were now being tried in some of the post offices, and, if satisfactory, would, he presumed, be adopted. That there were no Post Office Directories in the post offices was due to the fact that they were not official publications. Though, no doubt, it would be an excellent thing for the owners of these directories to have them in every post office, he did not think the hon. Member had produced sufficient argument to show that this compilation should be kept in every post office. The Member for Bethnal Green raised the question of the Interdepartmental Committee which was sitting under the presidency of Lord Tweedmouth, and he complained that a Royal Commission was not appointed. [Mr. PICKERSGILL: "Or a Committee of this House."] He would remind the hon. Member that this Committee was appointed by the late Postmaster General before the present Government came into office. Then he asked as to the carters of the contractor, Mr. Macnamara, but he could not think this was a matter for the Committee.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL
said, a promise was given in the late Parliament that this question would be submitted to the Committee. The late Postmaster General assumed a sympathetic attitude with regard to these men.
§ * MR. HANBURY
Yes, his attitude vas so sympathetic that he did nothing in the matter. He (Mr. Hanbury) had not sufficient information to give a definite answer, but it was a somewhat unusual thing for a Departmental Committee to deal with the servants of contractors all over the country. Then complaint was made with regard Mr. Macnamara's men because one of them had been found guilty of ill-using a horse. The work of the man was n no way connected with the Post Office. Some local questions had been raised by the Members for Cavan, Ross and 1326 Waterford, but these could be better dealt with by a private communication being made to the Head of the Department.
§ * MR. FARRELL
said the people of Cavan had repeatedly made representations to the Post Office authorities in Dublin.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, an hon. Member had referred to the case of two of his constituents. He might say that he was a member of the Royal Commission, and while they agreed that they ought to do all they could that was fair they were unanimous, Liberals and Conservatives, that they could not allow a large body like this to put political pressure on Members of Parliament.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
hoped progress would now be made. They had been discussing the matter for three or four hours, and under the circumstances he thought it would be for the convenience of the House if they came to a conclusion with the Vote.
§ MR. JAMES DALY rose to refer to the telephone question—when
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY moved "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 126; Noes, 29.—(Division List, No. 33.)
§ Original Question put accordingly.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 131; Noes, 27.—(Division List, No. 34.)
§ On the Vote of £541,823, to complete the sum necessary for the Post Office Mail Packet Service,
§ * Mr. PROVAND
drew attention to the proposed contract for the continuation of the Australian Mail Service, and complained that the conditions under which mail contracts were arranged precluded Parliament from exercising any effective control over them. At one time the Government settled these contracts themselves, and no notice of them was given to the House. Parliament then only had to pay, and was never consulted as to the terms of the contract. 1327 That led to the scandal in connection with the Dover Contract, and in 1869 a Standing Order was passed which required that in all contracts extending over a period of years, entered into by the Government for the conveyance of mails, a condition should be inserted that the contract would not be binding until it was approved by the House. The effect of that Standing Order was that the responsibility for all such contracts was thrown upon that House of Commons, but the House had no effective opportunity of reviewing them. These mail contracts were very elaborate documents, and difficult to understand. They were "fearfully and wonderfully made," and it was almost impossible for that House to criticise these contracts. They seldom were brought forward for consideration until midnight, and it was often as late as one or two in the morning before the Orders relating to them were reached. Then, as a rule, the consideration of these contracts was postponed until very late in the Session, when Members were all anxious, as they were now, to get away from London. One reason why these contracts should be dealt with differently was that the Government were realty not sometimes in a position of independence in making them. They had nearly always to propitiate some section in the House of some party in the country, of which a well-known illustration was what happened in Liverpool in 1887 when the American contracts were pending, and when an election was also pending. The Government, in short, were not always in a position to make the best contracts in the public interest. He, therefore, thought these contracts, before the House accepted them, should be referred to a Committee for examination and approval—a Committee representing both sides of the House, which would be absolutely independent. The Committee would occupy a position which no Government could occupy, and these contracts would then be entered into on terms which the House might be satisfied would be the best terms. Committees had sat on questions relating to mail contracts in 1849, 1851, 1859, 1866, 1868, 1869, and 1873, but there was only one of these Committees which considered the question of mail contracts generally, and that was the Committee of 1849. Its Report 1328 embodied some very wise recommendations. They recommended that a strict and searching inquiry should be made into the cost of the execution of every mail contract, the manner in which the service had been performed, the profits resulting to the company, and also that ample notice and full particulars of the terms and conditions of the contract should be given to the public in order to secure a real competition. These were very wise provisions, but his belief was they had been systematically disregarded during the 44 years since that Committee reported. He had no faith in departmental Committees in cases of this kind. What they wanted was not a Departmental Committee, but one which would consider the whole subject, which would inquire how the Department had dealt with these questions up to the present time, and what considerations they had always in view before they settled the contracts. Unless such a Committee were appointed to consider the tenders for the contracts to be asked for immediately, he believed they should make the same mistake they committed when the two last contracts were made for the mail service. As a matter of fact, under the present system, there was no adequate competition whatever, nor, indeed, was opportunity given for competition. On the 21st July, 1877, Lord John Manners was then Postmaster General, and he said that ample notice would be given to intending competitors. But the advertisements did not appear until the 26th June, 1877, whilst the Post Office required the replies from competitors by the 25th of the month following. The result was that on that occasion there could not be any proper competition. Again, when the last contracts were entered into, the same result was brought about in another way. The Post Office advertised for tenders for seven years, and then, without giving notice to any competitors except one, altered the terms of the contract. As the public were kept in the dark as to the alteration, there was consequently no competition for that mail contract. When he was told that there was a Departmental Committee considering this question he could not help remarking that Mr. Raikes, who was then Postmaster General, both verbally and by letter, expressed his regret that no one, 1329 except one firm, had been given notice of the alteration in the contracts in 1888, and that the new conditions of the tenders were not advertised. He had no confidence in a Department that made mistakes of that nature for which regrets had afterwards to be expressed. It was not a Departmental Committee they required, but a Select Committee of that House, that would enquire fully into how all these contracts had been dealt with, and as to the conditions under which the new mail contracts, beginning in 1898, should be entered into. These new contracts, which began two years hence, might be for as long a period as ten years, and as the Australian and Eastern contracts cost the country £350,000 per annum, it would be seen that the total sum involved might run into some millions of pounds. When they were settling the expenditure of such a large sum of money, the people of the country were entitled to be satisfied that they were getting an adequate service in return. The Committee of 1849 decided that the first thing to be inquired into was the cost to the companies of the service, and here, he contended that it could not be half what it was years ago. The question of the cost and the manner in which the service was conducted could also be dealt with, and he was sure no reasonable objection could be made to the appointment of such a Committee as he asked for, whilst it was idle to say that such a course would in any way diminish the responsibility the House had now. The practice of appointing Committees existed from 1849 for many years subsequently, but no Committee to examine into any Mail Packet Contract question had been appointed for over twenty years, while meantime our maritime steam fleet had enormously in-increased in extent and efficiency, and its conditions and circumstances had been revolutionised. In no other way could adequate information be placed before the House. He believed that about half of the whole of the money to be paid for mail packet service would be paid under contracts which would commence in 1898. For that reason he asked that the Secretary to the Treasury would give them some assurance that the question would be examined into on this occasion. Unless the present Government were going to disregard the public 1330 interest in this matter, as former Governments had done, the House were entitled to some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he would appoint a Committee at the earliest possible moment, and also that he would promptly ask for tenders for the contracts which would begin in 1898, and refer them to the Select Committee for examination and report.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, he could not be expected on the spur of the moment to give any definite promise with regard to the appointment of a Committee such as was suggested. There was sitting now a Departmental Committee, which in some respects was even better than a Committee of the House, because, of course, the contracts in question affected not only this country but the Colonies also, and on the Committee there were gentlemen who were in close communication with the Colonies. However, having had the advantage of hearing the practical remarks of the hon. Gentleman, he could promise to bring the matter before the Postal Authorities and see whether in the public interest it was possible to grant the Committee asked for.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
said, that he and others who had to cross from and to Ireland often in the year—oftener than some of them liked—had been struck by the great delay which took place in the transmission of the mail bags from the train to the steamer. Instead of having men to carry the sacks of letters on their backs, why did not the Postal Authorities arrange to have the ordinary machinery in use in some places, even in the lower reaches of the Danube. To save time was to save money. Steamers of the railway companies provided good speed, and if steamers paid attention to the boilers—[Laughter]—Yes, boilers were a great consideration. If the improvement he recommended were carried out, a letter posted in New York would be delivered in London the sooner. He saw on the lower Danube one of the new methods of sorting letters in use on board train, and the mail bags were transferred by machinery from the trains to the steamers with the greatest expedition. Surely that was an improvement they might very reasonably hope to obtain in connection with the transit of letters between this Kingdom and the United States.
§ MR. FLYNN
said, the point raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork was very important. It was an absurd and antiquated system that a string of men should be employed carrying the mail bags between train and steamer at Holyhead. If machinery were adopted, at least 20 minutes' valuable time would be saved.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider, in reference to the question of contracts, whether it would not be judicious to amend the Standing Orders in order to provide that tenders for contracts standing over a series of years should lie on the Table of the House for 20 days.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, that was a matter of the procedure of the House with which his Department was not concerned. The transference of the mails at Holyhead, to which the right hon. Member for Mid Cork had referred, was entirely under the control of the railway company, and the Post Office authorities, who were not satisfied with the system, were only too anxious that an improvement should be made.
§ DR. TANNER
said, that he was perfectly satisfied with what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He knew that he would do his best, and hoped that he would not be trammelled by the Postmaster General. For the mail service between Southampton and the River Plate £8,000 was asked this year, against £6,500 last year. What was the reason of this increase?
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN
said, it was most inconvenient that the Postmaster General was not in the House of Commons. The item of the transatlantic mails, he supposed, included something for the service from Southampton. From an Imperial point of view it was bad policy in any way to facilitate the conveyance of the mails by vessels under the American flag. The United States, in arranging for the mails, overlooked the fastest steamers sailing viâ Queenstown, to give the preference to vessels under the American flag. These vessels received subsidies, and in time of war might be used as armed cruisers. English vessels sailing from Southampton were unfairly handicapped in this way, and the mail service suffered. He did not ask the British Post Office to retaliate, but he urged 1332 that not any advantage should be given to the Southampton route.
§ * MR. HANBURY
admitted that there was a good deal of force in the hon. Member's argument, and he would see that it received proper consideration. As to the question of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, he would give him an answer at a later stage.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £1,605,588, to complete the sum for Post Office Telegraph Service,
§ * MR. PROVAND
said, that in 1890 the International Telegraph Conference met in Paris and decided to compile an Official Vocabulary of telegraph code words, the use of which would be compulsory over the European telegraphic system. The code had been compiled by the Swiss Telegraphic Bureau at Berne, under the sanction of the International Telegraph Conference; it was published last year and its use would become compulsory at the end of 1897. This was a question of more importance to this country than to any other on account of the extent of our Foreign and Colonial trade in which the telegraph was used for nearly all transactions. During the last 20 years telegraphing had extended to all export and import trades. Under previous regulations of the Conference merchants were allowed to make their codes from words, having not more than ten letters taken from eight permitted languages. Many of these codes contained from 300,000 to 400,000 words, and it was impossible to make adequate codes with a smaller number. Their preparation represented enormous labour, and the cost was from hundreds up to one or two thousand pounds. These codes were really the machinery by which merchants carried on their business with foreign countries, and it was of the first importance to them that the machinery should be of the most suitable description. A brief examination of the Official Vocabulary showed that the compilers were without a single qualification for their task, and he did not misdescribe it when he said it was an elaborate blunder from beginning to end. The compilers in the preface stated they "took care to be entirely independent of pre-existing works of the same kind,'' 1333 that was to say, that they deliberately disregarded all previous experience, that the excellent codes which had been published and that merchants had compiled were all to be set aside as things of no value, and that in two years' time the merchants were to be compelled to use a book which neither in extent nor in quality could meet their requirements. While merchants required as many as 400,000 words the Official Vocabulary contained only 256,740. Notwithstanding this, the merchants' codes in present use, which represented so much expenditure of time and money, would have to be destroyed, and they would all be compelled to try to carry on their businesses with the Official Vocabulary, which not only contained far too few words, but even these were in innumerable instances badly selected. The defects were too technical to describe to the Committee. While the compilers laid down in the preface unexceptionable rules, they disregarded these very rules on every page. The book contained words with identical signals, words that had only one signal difference, and while the rule was to have at least a two letter difference, there were many with only one letter difference. It also included the names of articles, of days, of coins, of numerals, and of English and foreign personal names, whereas all such words should be excluded from a telegraph code. It was impossible to exaggerate the worthlessness of the Vocabulary and the serious consequence to merchants of being compelled to use it. Telegraphing was a new charge on business. As foreign and colonial trade had increased, so had this charge. A defective code led to mistakes and repetitions which were harrassing to business men and also costly. We spent several millions a year for telegrams connected with our foreign and colonial commerce. To the United States the charge was 1s. a word, while to Australia and eastern countries the charge rose to 7s. or 8s. and even more per word. Errors, and consequent repetitions would, therefore, form a serious charge on business, and the use of the Official Vocabulary would cause many errors. The question had been already before the House. On the 15th of March last, the late Postmaster General, in reply to a question, said, in effect, that after the expiration of 1897, British merchants 1334 could not use their present codes, but would be compelled to use this worthless compilation. Such a reply was unsatisfactory, and could not be accepted. A recent telegram in The Times said that representations from the Chambers of Commerce of Manchester and London had caused a postponement of the date when the code would come into use. The Chambers of Commerce on the Continent and the United States were waking up to the necessity of opposition, and it only required the Government to put its foot down to stop the perpetration of this folly. What merchants wanted was expressed in the communication to the late Postmaster General from the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, in which they asked that "the codes we had constructed for our own use, and with which we were familiar, should be upheld without restriction or diminution." The Official Vocabulary being obligatory in Europe, affected an enormous number of firms, and it might be put in force against messages say from this country or from the East to any part of the Continent, and on messages from the Continent to any country out of Europe. No doubt, the intention was to make it also obligatory on messages outside of Europe, and indeed, making the use of this Vocabulary compulsory in Europe to a large extent made it also compulsory outside of Europe. The Indian Government was evidently of this opinion, as they issued a statement in 1893 recommending the use of the Vocabulary. No doubt this was done before they had become acquainted with its worthlessness. British merchants already suffered from the blunders of the International Telegraph Conference. The non-use of geographical words had been forced upon us which curtailed by 50,000 to 100,000 words suitable for telegraph codes. The Conference had also attempted to reduce the 10-letter limit to a 8-letter limit, which, if carried, would have prevented the possibility of making an adequate code at all. The British Telegraph Companies paid slavish deference to the Conference decrees. This was not the case in the United States, where some Companies at least disregarded such of them as they considered were impracticable. There was to be a meeting of the International Telegraphic Conference next year, at which the Official Vocabulary would be discussed. 1335 This country ought to be adequately represented at the Conference. About three-quarters of the oversea commerce of the world was carried under our flag. Nevertheless, our Government had only a solitary representative at the Conference, while if we were fairly represented we should more than half fill the room. It was not unlikely that our control of the oversea trade had caused other representatives to create restraints on our operations, knowing that from these we should suffer proportionately to a much greater extent than they. He made this appeal on behalf of British merchants engaged in the foreign and colonial trade, and hoped he had said enough to show the enormous importance of the subject. But on this point, in order to satisfy hon. Members unconnected with commerce, he might mention as an illustration, that they would tonight or to-morrow vote enormous sums for the Army and Navy. The Navy Vote would be chiefly justified as necessary for the protection of British commerce, the importance of which so deeply impressed them, and he therefore claimed the support of hon. Members in bringing forward this question, which so closely affected the merchants who carried on that commerce on the protection of which so many millions were ungrudgingly expended. But they did not ask for one sixpence of public money, nor for any protection, except against the work of irresponsible blunderers. He thought from the sympathetic expression on the right hon. Gentleman's face, they were to be satisfied this time. He should like to say what he could to give the right hon. Gentleman courage. He had nothing to fear by helping them. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman was satisfied of the justice of this complaint, and that he would grant what was asked and put the matter permanently at rest. He was not bringing this question forward at this hour to-night without sufficient grounds. He was as anxious as hon. and right hon. Members opposite to get away for a holiday to Scotland or elsewhere, but he must stop and do his business first. [Cheers.] The unsatisfactory nature of the reply given, by the late Postmaster General (Mr. Arnold Morley) to the question put to him in March last was the reason for his now bringing forward the subject.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, although the speech of the hon. Member dealt with highly technical matters, yet he quite admitted that he had raised a subject which was a very important one. The hon. Member had undoubtedly very clearly explained the case, and he had brought forward a good many facts in support of it. The Post Office were largely in sympathy with the views the hon. Member had expressed. He could assure him that every precaution would be taken to see that the interests of the country did not suffer. The adoption of this Code was a matter which would not be definitely decided until next year. A Conference would be held in the autumn of 1896, when the question of finally confirming or rejecting the Code would be gone into; and he could assure the hon. Gentleman that, during the time that would elapse between now and then, the Government would give very careful consideration to all the arguments adduced by the hon. Gentleman. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that the Post Office authorities were alive to the effect of the Code; and he might rest assured that, being aware, as they were, in the first place, of the inadequacy of the Code, and, in the second place, that it might have the effect, to a certain extent, of damaging the interests of the country, the fullest consideration would be given to the arguments adduced against it with such cogency by the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
begged to thank the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the commercial community of Manchester, for his assurances. He could confirm all that had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow. There were a great number of business houses in Manchester whose business was almost built up on the telegraphic wires, and it would be a grievous calamity if any changes were made such as had been referred to by his hon. Friend. He was only too pleased to receive the assurances of the right hon. Gentleman. He was sure the present Government owed a good deal to Manchester, and he hoped they would pay it back by attending to the commercial interests of Manchester.
§ DR. TANNER
observed that then appeared to be an increase in most of the items in the Vote, and asked for an explanation. In taking this course he was merely carrying out the policy which the Secretary to the Treasury himself pursued when he was in opposition. An examination of the Estimates showed that while the trained men who performed the practical work of telegraphy were still far below the maximum, the high salaries were paid to the big men who did nothing.
§ * MR. HANBURY
explained that the increase in the items for salaries and wages was due to an increase in the number of men employed, and an improvement in the scales of pay, and to the fact that a large number of workmen who were formerly paid under the head of "labour" had now been put on the establishment staff. These, he thought, were very satisfactory reasons for the increase of items. He understood that the hon. Member's complaint in regard to engineers and other officers to be that they were not all receiving their maximum salary. The explanation of this could be understood from one example. The engineer-in-chief on entering office received £1,000 a year, and was given annual increments of £50 until his pay amounted to £1,200. The gentleman who was now engineer-in-chief had not yet occupied his position for four years, and, consequently, had not reached the maximum limit of pay. The same explanation applied to other officers who had not reached the maximum.
§ DR. TANNER
hardly thought that an explanation that applied to one case could apply equally to all other cases.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £1,267,100 to complete the sum for Victualling and Clothing for the Navy,
§ MR. C. J. DARLING (Deptford)
called attention to the condition of the men employed in the victualling yard at Deptford, more particularly the labourers and coopers. The former complained that with regard to labour paid for at so much per hour, notwithstanding the Resolution come to by the House, a less 1338 sum was actually paid by the Government to the men upon the establishment than the Government compelled contractors to pay when contractors were employed by them to do exactly the same work. In regard to pensions they complained that when a man had been a certain time as a hired man and afterwards became an establishment hand, the time he passed as a hired man was not allowed to count towards his pension, the consequence being that he might be discharged before he put in enough establishment time to entitle him to a pension. When a man got put upon a footing entitling him to a pension, from that moment he received a lesser wage than he had been receiving up to that time, and it was not certain he would ever get a pension. Thus, if he died before pension was payable, his wages had been decreased by 1s. a week; he never received the benefit himself, and those whom he left behind got no benefit either. The coopers had grievances in the matter of piece-work and payment by the day, which had been set forth in petitions addressed to the Admiralty.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
said, the various points referred to had been brought forward in petitions now before the Admiralty, upon which no decision had been announced by their predecessors when the present Government came into office. The hon. Member would feel it would hardly be reasonable they should come to a decision upon these numerous and complicated matters in the short time they had had to consider them. He could promise the hon. Member that all the points he had raised should be carefully considered and a decision given as soon as possible. It had been impossible for the Government to go into the petitions in the short time they had been in office.
§ MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport)
observed that it appeared to him they could have no adequate discussion of any of the important questions that had been laid before the late Administration, and that were to come before the present Administration, at that hour of the night. There were some questions that ought certainly to receive adequate discussion, such, for instance, as that 1339 which concerned general labour subjects, and he thought it would be doing a bad turn to their constituents to attempt to discuss matters of that nature at such a late hour. If they were to continue the sitting until three o'clock that would only give them two hours, and in such a brief period it would be impossible for them to go into the questions. What he would, therefore, suggest was that the First Lord of the Admiralty, in whom they had confidence, should give them an undertaking that he would, early in the autumn, receive a business deputation and go through the questions that had been laid before the late Administration in the petitions that had been presented to them, and upon which they were expecting some sort of reply when the Estimates came up for discussion. If the First Lord of the Admiralty would consent to receive such a deputation, which should be not of a formal but of a real business character, then he thought they should be acting wisely to leave the matter in that way. As regarded general naval questions, they were of so detailed and complicated a character that it would be a farce to attempt to express their views adequately upon them at that hour. He should be glad to hear a reply from the First Lord to the suggestion he had made.
§ MR. W. O. CLOUGH (Portsmouth)
said, that he, too, would like to receive an assurance from the First Lord of the Admiralty that as the Petitions would be sent in this year earlier than usual, namely, September, instead of October or November, hon. Members would not be met with the old statement that though the Petitions had arrived they could not be considered, as the Estimates had been made up. As a representative of a dockyard constituency he desired to facilitate the passing of the Estimates, and he thought much good would be done if the right hon. Gentleman would receive the deputation suggested. That deputation would be composed of men of all parties, and its reception might be the means of lifting Navy matters once and for all above Party.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's,) Hanover Square
, said, he would gladly receive such a deputation as had been suggested, and do so in good time, so that the different matters might 1340 be fully considered before the Estimates were actually prepared. He would talk matters over in a businesslike spirit, but he could not promise to do more than take all the facts into consideration after he had exchanged views with hon. Members.
§ MR. KEARLEY
asked when the right hon. Gentleman thought he could receive the deputation—in November?
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said, that the late Board of Admiralty were greatly impressed with the inconvenience of receiving the Petitions in November, a month in which there was a great deal of business connected with the Estimates. The date had therefore been changed to September.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
objected to the Admiralty authorities receiving the representatives of the dockyards secretly in a parlour at the Admiralty Office. The dockyard representatives used their influence and their votes, most improperly as he thought, to obtain further advantage for their constituencies, but it would be more proper for them to ask for those advantages publicly in the House rather than go into some room at the Admiralty and there exercise pressure on the First Lord. All he could say was that if the First Lord yielded to such pressure it would lead to a good deal of trouble in the House. This Vote was for 20 millions. It was the most important Vote in the Estimates, and, as it was impossible to discuss it adequately at such an hour, he asked that it be postponed till Monday [Ministerial cries of "No"], when there would be no other business on the Paper.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, he would have preferred to see the four hours that had been spent on the Post Office Vote devoted to the Navy Estimates. But as neither he nor the House were able to control Parliamentary time, all he could do was to make arrangements which would best suit the convenience of Members, and ask them to aid him to the best of their ability in carrying them out. [Ministerial cheers]. The objection to the suggestion of the hon. Member for King's Lynn that the Navy Estimates should be postponed 1341 till Monday was that it would render it absolutely inevitable that the House should sit longer than it need otherwise. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member complained that all his holidays were taken. It was the one hope and ambition of the Government to lengthen his holidays. [Laughter.] If it were the general feeling that these important questions could be discussed on Report, he saw no objection to that course, except that, the Speaker being in the Chair, a Member could only speak once on each Vote. But at this period of the Session, and after the lengthened Debates, that was almost as much as the House would desire to hear. ["Hear, hear!"] If this suggestion of postponing the discussion on important points till Report on Monday did not meet the views of hon. Members, then he implored the House to finish to-night.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
thought that one speech per Vote per Member was quite enough. There were some matters connected with the Navy which were pressing and could not be postponed. But as he could get nothing better from the Leader of the House he should be prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I understand that the subject that my right hon. Friend wants to raise is on Vote 12. That is not the Vote of the hon. Member?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
My hon. Friend is prepared to make his statement on that Vote on Monday, but we will take the discussion on the Irish aspect of that Vote to-night.
§ MR. CLOUGH
suggested that they should take all the Votes that evening except Vote 12, it being understood that the few points to be discussed could be raised on that Vote.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, he was ready to discuss Vote 12 that evening in Committee. It would be a good plan to hear some aspects of the subject to be raised on Vote 12 on Report on Monday; but to put off the discussion until Monday 1342 would not only interfere with the holiday, but would prevent the Appropriation Bill being introduced.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
said, he had important questions to raise on Votes 7 and 8, but he was not sure whether it was not possible to raise every question on Vote 12.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, he understood the Leader of the House to propose that they should take all the Votes in Committee that evening, and that the least controversial parts might be discussed now, but if there was any large point of a controversial character to be raised this could be done on the Report stage of Vote 12. He thought these proposals might be adopted.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £131,400, for Medical Establishments and Services,
§ DR. TANNER
urged that, after six or seven years' service afloat, medical officers should have the opportunity, on full pay, of attending hospitals and institutions in order to acquaint themselves with the advance of medical science and practice. There was growing discontent among medical men in the Navy at the disadvantageous position in which they were placed. The course he recommended was adopted in the Imperial Navy of Germany and the Republican Navy of France; and it had been supported by Mr. Dick, Admiral Commerell, Lord Charles Beresford, and the present Secretary to the Treasury. The plan that was approved years ago should be adopted in its entirety. What had been done in Paris and Berlin might easily be adopted in connection with the Naval Service of the country. We copied the uniforms and guns of foreign navies, and everything else we could. We should adopt their common sense. If our sailors were not properly treated and kept in good health, they would not be able to fight and man our ships. For this common-sense reason he appealed to the First Lord of the Admiralty to kindly consider the case of naval medical officers afloat and ashore, and try and secure for them all the advantages that could reasonably be derived from the study of their profession for the benefit of the Service.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it was quite natural that the hon. Gentleman should speak on behalf of the profession with which he was connected. He would make no definite promise, but he took the deepest interest in the health of the Navy, and endorsed all the hon. Member had said in regard to its importance. He would certainly look into the matter to which the hon. Member had called attention, and examine the plan which he said had already been brought to a certain point by some of his predecessors, and take the best advice he was able to obtain on the subject.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Vote of £9,600, to complete the sum for Martial Law, &c.—agreed to.
§ Vote of £74,400, to complete the sum for Educational Services—agreed to.
§ Vote of £57,400, to complete the sum for Scientific Services—agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £195,600, to complete the sum for the Royal Naval Reserve, Reserve of Retired Officers, Seamen Pensioners, and Royal Navy Artillery Volunteers,
§ MR. FLYNN moved to report progress, in order that the discussion on the Irish Educational Vote might be taken, in accordance with the arrangement made last night by the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, that the Committee were entitled to some statement from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House as to the course he intended to take with regard to the Irish Educational Vote. If the right hon. Gentleman did not consent to take the discussion on Irish Education now, it might not come on for some hours.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that the hon. Member's memory was slightly in error. He had said that, if the hon. Gentleman preferred that the discussion upon the Vote upon Irish Education should be postponed until to-day with the view of taking his chance of having a more favourable opportunity of discussing that Vote that night than he had last night, he would 1344 take that course. The Debate, however, had taken a course that was as much a disappointment to him as it was to the hon. Gentlemen. He had hoped that the Navy Votes would have been disposed of before that hour, but at all events the hon. Member would have just as good a chance of discussing the Vote on Monday as he would have that night. He thought, therefore, that the discussion might be postponed until Monday.
§ DR. TANNER
said, that he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the other night with regard to some Votes which came under discussion. They were put off then and came on to-night. They were doing their level best to get these Estimates through in something like decent fashion, and hon. Members should not try to burke them. The right hon. Gentleman, when in Opposition, not long ago objected to important Votes being pushed through without discussion, and what was sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander. In the name of common sense, he urged the Government to take an extra day. ["Hear, hear!"] Even in connection with the Post Office Vote that was carried by the Closure just now, he had several points which, in the interests of his constituents, he wished to put before the Government, but it appeared as if he and other Irish Members were to be denied the opportunity of opening their mouths. [Ministerial laughter and "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite might laugh, but if the whole of the Irish Party were not there then, those who remained were entitled to speak on behalf of their comrades, and it would come to the same thing in the end. He had been calling attention to the expenditure of the money, and trying to explain how it came to pass that one man might be called upon to speak more frequently than might be the case with the normal attendance.
§ DR. TANNER
said, he was answering the ironical cheers with which he had been assailed. He wished also to be able to get home at a reasonable hour, but he felt that he must support this motion to report progress because the present state of affairs had been mainly brought about by the blundering of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WEIR
called attention to a matter affecting his constituents in the Island of Lewis. The men on this island were perhaps the finest men in the Kingdom for the Royal Navy, but facilities were not given them for joining the Royal Naval Reserve. They had been dismissed on the most trivial excuses; some had been re-instated, and he hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would re-instate them all. He instanced the case of a man named McKenzie, who was discharged from the Navy and shortly afterwards joined the Royal Naval Reserve at Stornoway. Why should any officer approach a man who months previously had been discharged. It was a scandalous matter, and he hoped there would be a full explanation.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
said, he had no desire to occupy the time of the House over the Royal Naval Reserve, but there was one point to which he wished to refer. He had occasion to put a question as to the number of Reserve Engineers. They knew the number of Reserve Seamen round the coast. He had the official reply as to the Engineers, and he found that, after the mobilisation of the grand Fleet, Britain's pride, they had—how many assistant Engineers in reserve?—six. [Laughter.] Where, in the event of war, were the men to man the ships down in the engine room? He asked the First Lord what he was going to do. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he intended to do to increase the number of Reserve Engineers.
* MR. J. McLEOD (Sutherland)
said, he wished to ask a question with reference 1346 to the Naval Reserve Stations in Scotland. In the North of Scotland there was no station between Wick and Inverness, and consequently some of the men had to travel on foot as much as a hundred miles to the Training Station. The consequence was that not half the number of men were trained who would be trained if there were a Station halfway between those two points. He had been in communication with the Admiralty on the subject, but up to this moment he had received no acknowledgment. He trusted that the First Lord would give his attention to this matter.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it was hardly to be expected that after the few weeks he had been in office he should be prepared with a plan for dealing with all points raised. The Admiralty, however, were most anxious to devise some plan for increasing the number of Reserve Engineers, and that was one of the matters to which immediate attention would be given. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Ross-shire, of course the hon. Gentleman must be aware that he had no knowledge of cases of that kind. He did not know whether the hon. Member wished him to look into the case, but if he did, he should be willing to do so. Such cases were of very rare occurrence, the relations between the Officers of the Royal Navy and the Naval Reserve men being, generally speaking, exceedingly good.
§ DR. TANNER
called attention to an item of £500 for fees to Civil Practitioners in respect of the Medical Examination of Naval Reserve men. He considered this was a waste of public money. He wished to know how it was that the same sum was taken every year for this purpose, when obviously the number of men to be examined must vary.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, this was really an Estimate, and it did not follow that the same sum was spent every year. The Estimate was based on the average number of men examined, and it was wonderful how averages held good in matters such as this.
§ DR. TANNER
said, that explanation would not wash, because he was referring 1347 not to Estimates but to the actual expenditure of the past two years.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, the hon. Member was referring to the Estimates. If he would look at the Appropriation Account he would see that the sums spent varied from year to year. The fact that the Estimate remained the same showed that it was a good Estimate. With regard to the suggestion that Naval Medical Officers should perform the duty of examining the men for the Naval Reserve he pointed out that the men of the Naval Reserve were enrolled in various places where there was no possibility of their coming under the observation of these excellent Medical Officers. Therefore the Admiralty had adopted the system of having what were called Agents, ordinary civilian Practitioners, who acted for all purposes that might be required.
§ DR. TANNER
said, that he had thought it right to call attention to this annual expenditure of £500 in three successive years. That exactly the same sum should be required each year appeared to him extremely strange.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £1,710,000, to complete the sum for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc. (Personnel),
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said, that it would be in the recollection of the Committee that some months ago he drew attention to the great expenditure incurred in fitting two large cruisers, the Powerful and Terrible, with French boilers of the Belleville type which had never been tested in this country. The officials of the Government then repudiated his suggestion that they were embarking upon a huge experiment affecting the character of the ships that were being built. He traversed their statements at the time, and threw doubt on the value of the information that had been obtained on board the Messageries boats.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I doubt whether the hon. Member is in Order. This Vote is for the personnel connected with shipbuilding, repairs, and maintenance. The hon. Member will observe that the Shipbuilding Vote is divided into three sections. The first deals with personnel, the second with matériel, and the third with the contract Vote. I understand that the question which the hon. Member wishes to raise relates to the Vote for matériel.
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke)
called attention to the complaints of the dockyard men in regard to classification. Promises had been made to them that the existing system should be abolished, but instead of that, the system was not merely being perpetuated, but the number of classes into which the workmen were divided was increased. This was immensely disliked by the men.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. W. E. MACARTNEY,) Antrim, S.
, in reply to the hon. Member said, his hon. Friend had raised a very large question, the present classification system having been in existence for many years. In the circumstances, he hoped his hon. and gallant Friend would think it a sufficient answer to say that the question he had raised would be considered in conjunction with other matters which had been brought forward in petitions to the Admiralty.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
thought the classification about which the hon. and gallant Member spoke was that introduced by the predecessors of the late Admiralty; it was a classification of six trades, shipwrights and others, in which there had never been classification before. There was also a classification in other trades, such as smiths, which had been accepted for a very long time indeed. As regarded the abolition of shipwrights' classification by the Board of which he was a Member, he pointed out that the vested rights of men having certain rates of pay at the time of the abolition were 1349 saved, but when these men died out all the shipwrights would be on an equality.
§ GENERAL LAURIE
observed that the effect of the abolition was to make matters worse. They had six rates of wages until the abolition, but now, speaking of the shipwrights alone, they had seven.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £2,405,000, to complete the sum for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc. (Matériel),
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said, that when the Navy Estimates were last before the Committee, he warned the Admiralty against entering on a huge experiment with untried boilers, which he then stated would never be fit to fulfil the conditions required of them. He was met by the late Government with a flat denial of the statements he advanced, and the Member for Hull defended the Civil Lord of the Admiralty in ordering the Belleville boilers for the Terrible, Powerful, and other men-of-war, by saying that he was having a vessel of his own, the Ohio, fitted with that type of boiler. The Ohio was accordingly fitted with four Belleville boilers, and what was the result? Before being fitted with these boilers the Ohio used to run from Hull to New York in 12 or 13 days. But after being supplied with the four new boilers, which were to revolutionise ocean navigation, she took over 20 days for the voyage, whilst one of the tubes burst and severely scalded a fireman named Fagan. The Ohio went to New York with four boilers and landed there with one, the others having become so much out of repair as to be practically useless. On the return journey, the sailors had to work night and day, for something like ten days, at the pumps. This was not a Party but a national matter. He stood up for a noble fleet, a good eet, for the best fleet that could be got for money, but 1350 when that vessel came to Hull from America she was like a lame duck.
* THE CHAIRMAN
was sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but as far as he was able to gather, the Vote which included the cost of these boilers had already been taken by the Committee. The contract Vote was taken on the 29th of April last, and on that occasion the hon. Member addressed the Committee. He was therefore bound to rule that the question of the Belleville boilers could not be raised again now.
§ MR. ALLAN,
who rose amidst cries of "Go on," and "Progress," said he was not well acquainted with the procedure of the House, and of course must abide by the Chairman's view. He, however, looked upon the matter as one purely of matériel. If the Admiralty did not wish to hear a statement of practical engineering facts, he was entirely in the hands of the Chairman.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said, it did not rest with any particular Department to allow any discussion or not. He was bound by the rules applicable to the Committee.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
was sorry the hon. Member, who always addressed the Committee with such clearness, should think the Admiralty did not wish to hear discussion. They all wished to hear what the hon. Member had to say on all occasions on which he was in order, and also they wished to answer his speeches. He believed that on this occasion a good answer could be made to the hon. Gentleman but if it was out of order, he could not make that answer.
§ DR. TANNER,
rising to a point of Order said, that when his hon. Friend rose the Chairman distinctly told him that—
* THE CHAIRMAN
said, he knew perfectly well what he told the hon. Member. He told the hon. Member that the Vote was divided into three parts—personnel, matériel, and contract; and it was not until the hon. Gentleman made his point clear, namely, that 1351 the Belleville boilers were purchased by contract, that he found, on reference to the Proceedings of the House, that the Vote had already been taken.
§ DR. TANNER
I certainly took your words—[Cries of "Order!"]. I suppose I may be allowed to speak to the Chairman of Committees. I am only giving my own rendering.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Or to enter into argument with the Chair. If he can throw any new light upon this point of Order I shall be glad to hear him.
§ DR. TANNER
All I wish to say is, I really took your ruling as absolutely allowing my hon. Friend to speak on the second point in the category which you have already announced.
§ MR. DILLON
On the point of Order, may I ask whether, as a matter of fact, any of these boilers are put in except by contract. I take it that if any of these boilers are put in by the Admiralty and not by contract, it would be competent for the hon. Member to discuss the question on this Vote.
* THE CHAIRMAN
If the boilers were put in by the Admiralty, I think they would come within the purview of the Vote, but I am informed they are all put in by contract, and I presume it must be so, because the discussion was allowed on the contract Vote.
§ MR. DILLON
asked, whether the First Lord could inform the Committee if it were so. It was perfectly possible that some of the boilers might have been made by the Admiralty and some by contract.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £1,543,200, for Naval Armaments,
§ DR. TANNER
said, the time had arrived to move to report progress, and ask leave to sit again. It was monstrous to ask the House to vote millions of money at such an hour of the morning, when there could be no adequate discussion. It would be more wise and expedient for everyone of them to go home to his bed and to come down at 12 o'clock to carry out the business of the Nation in a fitting and becoming way.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that the hon. Member's Motion was clearly against the general sense of the House in all quarters. He hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion or ask the Committee to divide upon it. An arrangement might be made for discussing these Votes either at this stage or on Report.
§ DR. TANNER
said, that he was always ready to meet the right hon. Gentleman, as there was always a certain amount of reason in what the right hon. Gentleman said. But he must offer his protest, and he thought the time had been reached when progress might reasonably be reported. The business could perfectly well be done on Saturday or Monday.
§ MR. CLOUGH
appealed to the "sweet reasonableness" of the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his Amendment. Many hon. Members had refrained from making observations on account of an understanding, almost amounting to a compact, between the Leader of the House and those specially interested in the Votes.
§ DR. TANNER
wanted to know how far the Committee was to go on Did the Government wish to sit up all night? In a spirit of common Christian charity—[Laughter]—he appealed to the First Lord of the Treasury if the Committee reached Vote 12 to postpone the other Votes. There was no intention to obstruct the Votes. ["Oh, oh!"] If there had been such an intention, more Members would be present. [Laughter.]
* THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now repeating his observations over and over again. I must request him to discontinue his speech. [Cheers.]
§ Motion negatived.
§ DR. TANNER moved to reduce the Vote by £250,000.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £497,000, for Works, Buildings and Repairs at Home and Abroad,
§ GENERAL LAURIE
called attention to the absence of any provision for the completion of the dockyard at Pembroke, to which the Members of the late Board of Admiralty were committed.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said, the matter would have to be considered by the present Board of Admiralty, who would make such proposals as to them seemed necessary.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Vote of £126,800, for Miscellaneous Effective Services—agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £217,200 for the Admiralty Offices,
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
asked whether the First Lord of the Admiralty 1354 would carry out the arrangements made by his predecessor to station a training ship at Queenstown. On 28th February last, Lord Spencer presented a statement on the subject, in which he said:—Recent examination into the recruiting for the Navy has pointed to the desirability of establishing another training ship. The experiment of cruising the Northampton round the coast of Ireland last year, attracted a certain number of Irish boys into the Navy. Following the step taken in 1892, in commissioning the Caledonia for boys entered from Scotland and the North of England, it is contemplated to station a boys' training ship at Queenstown. The harbour presents decided advantages for the training for boys for the Navy. It has a naval station, and, besides having a mild climate, is admirably suited for instruction in boating and sailing.This pronouncement was followed up by prompt action on the part of the late Board of Admiralty. They placed themselves in communication with the Admiral commanding the Irish station at Queenstown, Admiral Buckle, who communicated with the Cork Harbour Commissioners, and arranged with the Commissioners as to the berth for the mooring of the training ship to be sent to Queenstown. The exact site of the berth was arranged between the Cork Harbour Commissioners and the Board of Admiralty, and in addition to that terms were agreed upon for the purchase of a field for the recreation of the boys. He would not go into further details, but put his question to the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
replied that it was true that Lord Spencer stated in February that it was desirable to station a training ship at Queenstown, and he had already told the hon. Member that Lord Spencer's decision had not been reversed, and arrangements were to be made to send a training ship to Queenstown. The question was whether the Minotaur or another ship should be sent, and he supposed it did not matter what ship was sent so long as an arrangement was made.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
congratulated his hon. and gallant Friend 1355 on having elicited this answer, and only hoped that there would be as little delay as possible in carrying out the details of this matter, to which he knew that the late First Lord of the Admiralty attached great importance.
§ MR. FLYNN
said, that they entertained no over-sanguine expectations, but they asserted that the position taken up by the Admiralty was that which was called in Ireland "putting on the long finger," which meant putting off the matter as long as ever they could. That was the tenour of the right hon. Gentleman's answer that afternoon. The explanatory statement was made in February, and he and his friends considered that faith had not been kept as it ought to have been. It was not a matter of to-day or yesterday. Over 90 per cent. of all the boys from Ireland who joined the Royal Navy, and some of the best sailors, came from the county of Cork, and numbers of them had to travel to Devonport to join a training ship. He and his friends had pointed out the suitability of Cork harbour as a training station, and the late First Lord (Earl Spencer) had met them in a sympathetic spirit, a distinct promise being made across the floor of the House. He had asked that afternoon whether there should not be continuity in a great Department of the State. When his hon. Friend asked the question of the First Lord that afternoon, he was met with an elaborate answer, and not merely by a statement that there had been some delay. Their complaint was that a distinct promise was made, and if that promise had come to fruition, if there had been no change of Government, they expected in the month of September that the training ship should be in Queenstown. When this enormous increase for the Navy was asked for shipbuilding, and the expenditure would be in this rich country, that this great Department should grudge the comparatively small sum of £20,000 for a training ship in a port of Ireland was deplorable. There 1356 was no training ship in Ireland, but there was one in Scotland, and several about the coasts of England. This ship would be a very great boon to Cork town. It was because of the unsatisfactory answer that they had received that they had remained until that hour to raise the question. It was unfair and unsatisfactory to the Irish Members that a petty answer of that sort should be given by the Government officials. All they asked the right hon. Gentleman was to see that the promises of the late First Lord of the Admiralty were kept in the spirit as well as the letter.
§ MR. DILLON rose to support the hon. Member. He was not in the least surprised that he should have been disappointed at the answer given. It was impossible for them to understand why it should take nearly a year to transfer a training ship from an English port (Portland) to the Queenstown harbour after the decision that had been come to.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it was not merely the transfer of the ship to Cork harbour, there were a number of changes and repairs to be made. He assured the hon. Member that he took the responsibility upon himself of the answer, and that it was not that of the permanent officials.
§ MR. DILLON
said, as far as they could gather, the necessary repairs had not been commenced. He thought the pressure they were applying would not, under the circumstances, be considered unreasonable. There had been an immense increase in the amount spent on the Navy and the feeling in Ireland was strong when it was discovered that none of the money was being spent there. They appealed to the late Government, with the result that a vessel was sent to be repaired at Haulbowline and a promise was given that a training vessel would be sent to Queenstown. He hoped before the Session broke up they would have a definite assurance on the question.
MR. T. M. HEALY
said, in the Army they were willing to take as many Irishmen as they wanted, but in the Navy the policy had been to exclude Irishmen. He did not believe that this was a national or racial question. It was a question of religion. On a ship they must have chaplains, and they tried to arrange so that the Church of England chaplain should work the whole thing. By putting pressure on the Liberal Government they had induced them to say that they would take on this training ship in Cork Harbour for the advantage of Irish recruits. Of course the Tory Government have taken the view that all Irishmen were rebels and should not be admitted into Her Majesty's Service, and they treated them as outlaws. Having succeeded in getting this promise from a Liberal Government, the first act of the Tory Government, which had an Orangeman as its Under Secretary, who, of course, detested the Catholic religion, was to suggest that there should be no training ship in Cork Harbour. Of course, if it was to be in Belfast Harbour it would be all right. If the training ship was to take in Orangemen there would not be the smallest difficulty. He called the attention of the Irish people to the fact that the first act of the Tory Ministry, which was supposed to be going to deal with Works and Expenditure in Ireland, was practically to cut out Catholic Ireland from the maritime jurisdiction and to prevent Irishmen from having their fair share in the expenditure on the Navy and recruiting. The Naval Service was regarded in Ireland as a fine Service. A Royal Navy man was regarded as a first-class man and occupied a special position. After three years of struggle, the Irish Members had succeeded in getting from a Liberal Government the promise of this ship, and then the first act of the Orange Government and the Orange Navy Department, because practically it amounted to that, having blocked the 1358 Nationalists with regard to the land question, was to block them with regard to the marine question. He accepted the statement that it was not the fault of the permanent officials, for it was on their advice that Lord Spencer acted. [Mr. GOSCHEN shook his head]. Was it not? Did Lord Spencer act off his own bat? He could not argue with a shake of the head. It wobbled. Lord Spencer promised the ship on the advice of the permanent officials. The first act of the Orange Body on getting into power—for nobody boasted more of his Orange affinities, of his hatred of Popery and the priests, than the Under Secretary to the Admiralty—was to say that Celtic and Catholic Ireland should not have its share in the vernilment of the Navy. The Government had remitted their land policy to next Session, and now they were remitting their Naval policy to next Session also. [Cries of "Order."] This was very unpleasant. Let the right hon. Gentleman say "We will give you your training ship," and he would sit down.
MR. T. M. HEALY
With great respect, he has not said so. Let him get up and say so now and I will sit down.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am going to give the training ship. I said so. Now let the hon. Member keep to his word. [Cries of "When."]
MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he was in favour of Ireland getting her fair share of the Imperial Expenditure and nothing more. A date was fixed for the payment of Ireland's share of the twenty millions, and he asked the Government to say, within reasonable limits, on what date Ireland was to get this training ship? They ought to be told why Lord Spencer's policy was to be interfered with, and why this suggestion of delay lad come from a Conservative Government that was allied with the Orange Party. He trusted they might be told 1359 that there was no intention of removing this ship from Cork Harbour.
§ MR. WEIR
wished to know whether the First Lord was prepared to supply one or more gunboats for the purpose of protecting the fishing industry on the northern coasts of Scotland. Two years ago Lord Spencer placed the Starling at the disposal of the Scotch Office for this purpose, and last year he detailed the Reindeer for similar duty. It was essential that the gunboats supplied should be speedy and properly equipped, for there might at any moment be some chasing and fighting to do. Only two days ago there had been some sharp fighting in the North Sea with a Belgian trawler. The gunboat Leader, which was on duty on the south coast of England, could steam 18, 19 and 20 knots an hour. He also wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman to send a training ship to Stornoway, not for three days only as was the case last year, but for three months. The youths of the island of Lewes made splendid seamen.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN
asked whether, if the Minotaur was not sent to Cork harbour, a vessel of the same size and class would be sent.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
could not give an undertaking that a gunboat would be sent to Stornoway, but he would examine and see what could be done. In reference to the question about Cork, he did not see that the circumstances were precisely the same. [Ironical Irish cheers.] Those ironical cheers rather led him to think the best thing would be not to answer questions at all—[Loud cheers,]—because it seemed only to prolong debate to do so.
MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that now they had a plain confession from the right hon. Gentleman, [Irish cheers.] The Irish Party, on the faith of the assurances of the Liberal Government, voted 20 millions for the Navy. It was upon that Vote the strengthening of the Navy depended. [Cheers.] Had they dissented, it would have been impossible for them to have strengthened their Navy, even in the face of threatening foreign politics. And now, when Ireland asked for a fair share of the expenditure of the Navy, the right hon. Gentleman was not able to give them any definite promise whatever. 1360 It was suggested that £20,000 was too great an expenditure to lay out on fitting a ship up at Queenstown. They had voted £1,000,000 for the Army, £1,500,000 for Uganda, and various other sums, and when the Irish Members asked whether the size of this ship should be such as to contain the same number of men and boys as the Minotaur they were refused an answer, the right hon. Gentleman taking refuge in the old resource of the confidence trick. "Oh," he said, "you have no confidence in the Government." He declined to give a blank cheque to the right hon. Gentleman. It was the First Lord of the Admiralty who was the author and patentee of the policy of distrust, who ten years ago declined to give a blank cheque to Lord Salisbury. Whatever might be said of Irishmen, they had never turned their backs on their enemies when fighting for England, and now when they asked for a fair share in the fighting ranks of this country, they were denied the slightest consideration. He would again ask the right, hon. Gentleman, was he willing to give to Queens-town harbour a training ship of the size of the Minotaur, or the Minotaur itself, and, if not, would he explain to them what was the reason for the change of policy initiated by Lord Spencer? They were willing to sit there for any length of time in order to get for their country a fair share of the spending departments. England was most anxious to have Irishmen in the Army, they were most anxious that Irishmen should flock to the Royal Standard, and what he and his hon. Friends now asked for in regard to the Navy was that there should practically be a recruiting ground in Queenstown harbour, to the extent promised by the late Government.
§ DR. TANNER
sincerely hoped the hon. Member for South Antrim, who now, as Financial Secretary, received a salary of £2,000, would help his fellow-countrymen to do for Irish harbours what Irish money might reasonably be expected to do. The ship Minotaur he knew very well. She and her sister-ships belonged to the superannuated class, but they might be made use of at the present time for the training of young seamen. [After some further remarks, 1361 which were inaudible, owing to the Ministerial cries of "Divide!" the hon. Member moved to report progress and ask leave to sit again.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
appealed to hon. Members to conclude the Debate. He thought they must feel that his right hon. Friend, the First Lord, had given a pledge as direct as it was possible for the head of any Department to give under the circumstances. The views of hon. Gentlemen had been met, and there was, therefore, nothing further to be gained by any further extension of the Debate.
MR. T. M. HEALY
said their views had not been met. The First Lord would not promise the Minotaur for Queenstown harbour, nor promise a ship of the same kind, nor would he tell them when the ship would be sent. If they could have any reasonable kind of bridge on which to effect a compromise they would accept it. The whole inclination of his mind was never to push things to extremes. If the First Lord would say that either the Minotaur itself, or a ship equal to it, would be sent to Queenstown within a reasonable time, that would satisfy them. He asked that a ship carrying the same complement of men, and of the same tonnage as the Minotaur should be provided and equipped within the present year. After all, that was only arguing for Lord Spencer's suggestion. Under those circumstances, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see that the demand was a reasonable one.
§ Mr. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member wishes me to give a positive assurance that there shall be a ship of exactly the same size as the Minotaur. [Mr. T. M HEALY: "Substantially."] There are only two such ships in the service, and they are assigned for other duties Therefore, if I gave the pledge now to get out of the difficulty, I should afterwards be reproached for a breach of faith.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The Minotaur at present has 600 boys on board, and we must consider what to do with those boys before we can make any absolute pledge. What position should I be in if I pledged myself to any particular time? 1362 This is a difficulty which has been accentuated since the right hon. Gentleman opposite gave his pledge. In four months our predecessors made no progress in their negotiations; and we are now being reproached for not being able to hurry it through in a few weeks. I cannot promise to give a ship of exactly the same character and size as the Minotaur, or at any particular date; but I have promised that Cork shall have a training-ship suitable for the work which it has to do, with the appurtenances necessary to it, and a proper establishment.
MR. T. M. HEALY
said that the right hon. Gentleman had hardly been fair to his predecessor. The pledge the Irish Members got was that the Minotaur would be sent.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said that he must correct the hon. Member. The promise given by Lord Spencer was in the statement published in the Navy Estimates. It was simply a statement of general policy that a training ship would be established at Queenstown. Afterwards, he himself was asked several questions in the House of Commons, and he answered that it was in contemplation to employ the Minotaur for the purpose; but no pledge that the Minotaur would be sent was given, because it could not be. The whole of the details had not been worked out. During the following three or four months, the inspecting captain of the training ships had been looking into the matter, and he was seeing for example, how the boys on the Minotaur could be disposed of, and absorbed into other ships, so that the Minotaur would be free for Queenstown. When the late Government went out of office, they had not received the Report, and he understood that it arrived immediately after the change of Government. He thought the First Lord of the Admiralty had said very nearly all that could fairly be asked of him, when he referred to the pledge of the late Government to send a training ship to Queenstown as one recognised by the present Government. The Minotaur was a ship of great tonnage. She carried a very considerable amount of armour, this necessarily increased her tonnage; and he should strongly recommend the right hon. 1363 Gentleman not to pledge himself as to tonnage. He promised, however, a ship on the same lines as the training ships now in the service. The right hon. Gentleman might, he hoped, also say that he recognised Queenstown to be a desirable recruiting ground for the Navy, and that there would be the least possible delay in carrying out this policy.
MR. T. M. HEALY
asked the Committee to treat this matter from the point of the Irish Members. They had substantially a pledge from the late First Lord that the Minotaur would be sent to Queenstown. ["No, no."] Then it was in contemplation that the Minotaur should be sent to Irish waters. The Minotaur accommodated 800 boys. Now the right hon. Gentleman said that a training ship "of some other sort"—that was the curious word—"might, perhaps, be sent." What were the training ships of other sorts? To accommodate 200 or 300 boys as a maximum. It could not be denied; and, therefore, the result of the Autumn Session of this great Tory Government, with no Bills, no concession, no policy for Ireland, was to cut down Ireland to a training ship of 200 boys. He was aware that the recreation ground was not big enough for 800 boys, and that this was now the argument used by the Government. But he asked English Members seriously to consider whether they would be content if they got a promise from a former Government to allow it to be set aside in this way? It was deplorable, after they had been told that the provision of an 800-boy training ship was in contemplation, that that offer should be set aside and there should be substituted for it the promise of a 200-boy training ship. That was the fulfilment of the pledge of the late Administration. Out of the 20 millions that were being voted, two millions would be Irish money, and it was not a thing to be sneered at. Probably the result of these efforts to obtain recruiting grounds for the Navy, and the expenditure of a proper share of the money in Ireland, would be that they would be described as obstructives—["Hear, hear!"]—because, in the interests of their country they had stayed up till four o'clock in the morning, and were not either probably or actually paid for it.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that to speak of his having substituted a 200-boy ship for an 800-boy ship was a monstrous misconstruction of what he had said. [Cheers.] [Mr. HEALY: "What do you offer?"] It would be monstrous inventiveness to put the words suggested into his mouth. He could not put the case more clearly than he had. Queenstown should have a training ship of suitable size, with all that was required. [Irish MEMBERS: "What size?"] The Admiralty would be glad to have Irish recruits, and they would give the policy of the late Government the same effect that they would have given it. If hon. Members opposite were not satisfied with this assurance they would be satisfied with nothing.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN
said that, interpreting the statement the First Lord had made as a declaration that he would carry out in a fair and generous spirit the promise made by the late Government, he begged to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WEIR moved: "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."
* THE CHAIRMAN,
being of opinion that the Motion was an abuse of the Rules of the House, declined to propose the Question thereupon to the Committee.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Vote of £711,300, to complete the sum for Half Pay, Reserved, and Retired Pay—agreed to.
§ Vote of £907,900, to complete the sum for Naval and Marine Pensions, Gratuities, and Compassionate Allowances—agreed to.1365
§ Vote of £287,300, to complete the sum for Civil Pensions and Gratuities—agreed to.
§ Vote of £10,300, to complete the sum for Additional Naval Force for Service in Australasian waters—agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported this day.
§ Committee to sit again this day.