Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £5,310,050, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services, and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1896.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON (Peterborough)
said, that on another occasion he should certainly raise a question on Vote I.; but on Vote II. he wished to thank the First Commissioner of Works for having made admission free to Hampton Court Gardens. In reference to these Gardens, to Hyde Park, and to other such places, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to consent to the erection of those public refreshment stalls to which he had often called his attention.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. HERBERT GLADSTONE,) Leeds, W.
said, he was considering the question which had been raised by his hon. Friend, but he could not hold out much hope of establishing what was desired in Hyde Park at present. It was desirable, however, to consider the question in the interests of the public.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that it appeared to him his right hon. Friend was himself in favour of the proposal. Was there, then, any baneful influence at work of which the Committee was not aware, and which was standing between the public and the providing of temperance refreshments? In the parks under the London County Council those kiosks were provided, and they were largely patronised by the public. If it were admitted that Hyde Park was a park for the general use of the public and not for the use of one particular class, he submitted that what had been done in the other public parks could also be carried out in Hyde Park.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said, they were aware that there was an influence at work behind the right hon. Gentleman, and until that influence was got rid of they must necessarily be charitable to the First Commissioner of Works. He invited the right hon. Gentleman to take a ride or a walk with him through some of the County Council parks, and to see the way in which the public were catered for there, not only in the matter of tea and other refreshments, but in bicycling and sports of every description which the County Council had provided in deference to public opinion. Tea and other refreshments were provided for in Battersea Park, and every day between 10 and 12 o'clock, there were at least a thousand persons learning to ride the bicycle. 662 There was no reason why a similar state of things should not exist in Hyde Park every day; but if the right hon. Gentleman contemplated extending the pleasure of learning the bicycle to the public using Hyde Park he trusted that the example of the County Council would be followed, and that three or four athletic policemen would be taken out of their uniform, dressed in plain clothes, mounted on bicycles with the object of preventing every Tom, Dick, and Harry of a "scorcher" from making himself disagreeable to the many hundreds of other visitors there. The Committee could not hold the First Commissioner of Works responsible for the dilatory way in which the Hyde Park authorities adopted reforms; but he wanted to know whether there were not certain stretches of Hyde Park which might be devoted to lawn tennis, and in some cases to cricket? It seemed to him to be unjust that there should be in the centre of Hyde Park a large stretch of available cricket ground not used by the children or pedestrians while the people resident in the north-west of London were compelled to go over to Battersea Park, and there congest the already crowded recreation-grounds there. Portions of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park might be used for those games. They might be told that there was a danger of interfering with persons using the Row. He hoped not, for the riders using the Row had a right to have their convenience consulted. But there were stretches of ground in the park more than a cricket hit away from the Row, and these might very well be utilised. This would be the means of giving Whiteley's assistants, for example, the opportunity of recreation on a Saturday afternoon, and thus not compel them to go a long distance to Battersea Park. The right hon. Gentleman had done much good in Hyde Park already, but against the provision of music bands there had to be set off the absence of accommodation for the public obtaining a cup of tea or a glass of milk.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
said that he was very thankful for what the right hon. Gentleman had already done in connection with the parks, and for what he now promised; but he intended to bring this question forward 663 again on the regular Estimates. It should be clearly understood that these parks and gardens belonged to the people and not to rangers or anyone else. The public therefore were entitled to have the fullest use of these recreation grounds. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would let the persons in authority know that the parks and the gardens must be so used that the greatest number of the public should get the most benefit from them. Provision for refreshments ought to be allowed by the authorities in order to meet the convenience of the public.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that he had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman had done much for the parks during his tenure of office, but much still remained to be done. He knew Hyde Park and Battersea Park well, and he unhesitatingly gave the palm of superiority to Battersea Park. The macadam road in that park could not be beaten as a trotting ground for horses, while he did not know a worse piece of macadam than the road in Hyde Park. There was every reason for allowing games to be played, at least in Kensington Gardens, if not in Hyde Park. He was in favour of lawn tennis and cycling; but in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris there were two real tennis courts, and he saw no reason why tennis courts should not be built either in Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park. All games were good; they developed youth, and added in every way to their physical qualities. What had been carried out with so much success in Battersea Park could also be carried out either in Hyde Park or in Kensington Gardens.
§ MR. W. R. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
asked whether it was not possible to provide more free seats in Hyde Park for the use of the public. In the north-west and other portions of the park there was an absolute absence of seats for the use of the public, and people when tired and weary were compelled to hire and pay for the use of a chair. Why should this be so? He also wanted information about the revenue derived from letting the chairs? Was there a contractor? If so, what did the contractor pay for the privilege of letting the chairs. An enormous revenue must be derived by some one 664 from this source. He thought, also, that the right hon. Gentleman might follow what had been done in Kew Gardens, and erect a kiosk for light refreshments. Some five or six years ago he appealed to the then Commissioner of Works to provide the public with some kind of light refreshments in Kew Gardens, and, after some two or three years pegging away, the right hon. Gentleman gave way, and undertook that a kiosk should be erected. This had been done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin while he was in Office. Why, he asked, could not something of the same kind be done in Hyde Park? Those who visited the park, especially on Sundays, had no opportunity of slaking their thirst, except by leaving the park and going to the neighbouring taverns. He wished to ask the First Commissioner three questions: First, whether he would not provide more free seats for the public in Hyde Park? Secondly, who had the letting of the chairs, and where the money went to? and Thirdly, whether the right hon. Gentleman would see to the erection of a kiosk in Hyde Park for the sale of light refreshments as speedily as possible?
§ MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
was understood to refer to the wages of the men employed at Holyrood Park and the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. In Kew Gardens, also, there were four women employed at only 9s. 4d. a week, which was very far from a living wage. He did not move a reduction, in the hope that his right hon. Friend would see to these matters.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
asked whether anything had been done with regard to the pay and allowances of the gardeners employed in Kew Gardens. A Departmental Committee was appointed some time ago, and he recently asked a question on the subject, and was told that the matter was still under consideration. The wages of the men should, he contended, be levelled up to the same class of workmen employed in the parks and gardens within the metropolitan area. He desired to ask the Minister whether there was any chance of an early settlement.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
hoped that in any changes that might be made in the direction of allowing games in Hyde Park, the 665 comfort of elderly persons and others unable to take part in those games, but who still desired to use the Park, would be considered. He hoped that the First Commissioner would remember that those persons had to walk about the park for exercise, and that he would reserve some parts where they could walk in safety.
§ SIR ARTHUR HAYTER (Walsall)
said, that he remembered a kiosk in Hyde Park, and had himself played cricket there without interference. It must, however, be remembered that Hyde Park was used for exercising our horse soldiers, and, that the space was limited. If rough cricket were all that was desired, that was well enough, but he doubted whether there was sufficient spare space to lay out special grounds for cricket.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)
asked for a definition as to the right of the public to play games in the public parks. He agreed to a great extent with the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. J. Burns) that games ought to be allowed in those parts of the parks which were not much used. No doubt Battersea Park was congested owing to the opportunities there afforded. He expressed a desire for a larger number of free seats for the accommodation of the poorer portion of the public. He did not know how the system of hiring out chairs originated, or, rather, of receiving a revenue in the park from a number of private chairs, which, if they brought in any money to the public, ought to figure in the appropriations in aid. He did not believe that a penny of that revenue ever reached the Treasury at all. If not, they ought to know where the money went to. If there were a contractor, whom did he pay? He was glad that a greater use was being made of our military bands. This was, he thought, good both for the bands and for the public, but he thought that the public ought to contribute towards the expense of the band, and not allow that expense to fall, as heretofore, on the officers of the respective regiments. So long as the bands played for the benefit of the regiments it might be fair that the expense should be borne by the officers; but if the bands were going to play in the parks for the entertainment of the public, it was not fair that the burden should continue to be borne by the officers only. He should like to ask 666 who had the appointment of park-keepers, and whether preference was given to discharged soldiers and sailors.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
said that, as far as he was concerned, all the appointments were given to old soldiers and sailors, and the soldiers were taken from all branches of the service. The park-keepers were appointed by the First Commissioner, and the gate-keepers by the Ranger. He was aware that the expenses of the military bands were largely defrayed by the officers, supplemented by the earnings of the bandsmen themselves. As to the paying of the bands for playing in the parks, one of the conditions which the military authorities made at the outset was that no payment should be made by the Government. If any representation were brought forward that it was desirable that some contribution should be made towards the expenses in connection with playing in the parks, he should be happy to consider it; but at present no such representation had been made. As to wages at Kew, it was now settled that the wages of gardeners and labourers should be brought up to the scale of those paid in the London suburban parks. As to games in the parks, he should be only too glad to see opportunities for the playing of healthy games wherever it was possible to allow them. It was not only in Battersea Park such opportunities were allowed, because in Regent's Park pitches were given to no fewer than 340 different associations. That of itself put a considerable amount of pressure upon those who had to look after the parks. There were, of course, two sides to the question. He had considered the matter carefully with regard to Hyde Park, although it did not rest altogether with him. One of the practical difficulties he saw was, that if the park were to be made available for cricket, it ought to be chiefly available on Saturdays, which was the day most open to schools; but that was the day when the park was used almost from end to end by volunteers. He would look into the matter carefully again. It might be possible at the west end of the park to find places where cricket might be played with the minimum of inconvenience to the general public; but the matter would have to be carefully thought out, as in the part 667 of the park which was crossed by the public footpaths, the interests of the public and of the hon. Member for Islington would have to be carefully safeguarded. It was a matter of considerable difficulty and he would give to it all the attention in his power. With regard to the seats, the practice which had existed for some time had been to put the matter in the hands of a contractor, who bore all the expense and took all he could get, paying nothing for the privilege. It might seem an advantageous bargain for the contractor, but he had to bear large expenses and to meet considerable losses. He had to keep up a large staff in proportion to the takings, and he had to do a good deal of work in removing the chairs continually when large meetings and other events occurred. There were, no doubt, outgoings which prevented the bargain being so good as some might think. The system had existed for some time, and he could not say he had had occasion to look into it closely; but he would undertake to do so. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Who is the contractor?"] Mr. Shotton. [Mr. CREMER: "Are there private chairs in any other park?"] Yes, in St. James's, Regent's and other Parks. He would consider whether a sufficient number of free seats were provided; he was under the impression that there were a considerable number in the north-west corner of Hyde Park. He quite agreed that there ought to be an ample supply of free seats for the public in all the parks. He had general sympathy with the proposal of the establishment of kiosks, and as far as he could, he would meet the wishes that had been expressed.
§ *MR. CREMER
said, the right hon. Gentleman had stated that there was already a kiosk and refreshment place in Kensington Gardens. That might be all very well for the nursemaids and the guardsmen who frequented that particular part of the park, but it was very little use for the general public. There was near the Reformers' Tree a clump of trees where a kiosk could be erected, in an admirable position; to some extent it would be out of sight, and yet be very convenient for large numbers of people who frequented that part of the park. With regard to the chairs he was satisfied that there must be an enormous revenue derived from 668 the lending of them. How did the contractor obtain the right? Was it granted by the Ranger or by the First Commissioners? The wooden chairs could be bought for 2s. or 3s. each. There must be an enormous revenue made out of the transaction, and it ought not to be the monopoly of one man.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
The contract was granted some time ago. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "By public tender?"] I cannot say.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said, he did not want the whole of Hyde Park given up to games. There were parts of the park that were rarely used, and here there might be a certain number of lawn tennis and cricket pitches, which would not interfere with the enjoyment of the park by the public. One of the most pleasing signs of the times in Battersea Park was to see cricket matches started at Seven or Eight o'clock in the morning by workmen who had been on night duty, such as postmen, policemen, and gas stokers, who went from work to the park; these were types of men who were very amenable to order, and they might very well be allowed to play in Hyde Park in the forenoon. He had derived some acquaintance with seating in the parks in another assembly. The seats in Hyde Park were not so advantageously placed as those in Regent's Park or Battersea Park. Immediately bicycles were allowed in Battersea Park, 200 additional seats were provided, on which learners might rest. Why were not more seats provided in Hyde Park? It was, probably, not the fault of the First Commissioner of Works, but of some one else. The chairs were let on the contract system, and the contractor placed them where they were likely to let most readily and he would get the most money out of them. No regard was paid to the wants of the average number of the public. In Battersea Park the contract system had been abolished. The County Council supplied the seats, and they were placed where most needed. The seats in Hyde Park should belong to the Office of Works. In Battersea 669 Park the contractor who let out the boats was charged £400 a year for the privilege of having the boats there. This, however, was a temporary arrangement, for the Council intended to get the boats themselves. This £400 a year enabled the Council to keep the lawn tennis and cricket pitches in order. As the coster said: "What we gain on the swings we lose on the roundabouts." Hyde, Park should be put abreast of Regent's Park and Battersea Park. He asked the Government to remove the one and only obstacle to the proper management of Hyde Park. What that was he would leave the First Commissioner of Works to contemplate during the Whitsuntide holidays.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
said, more boats were used on the Serpentine, in Hyde Park than in Battersea Park, and the contractor paid nothing for the privilege of letting the boats. Something should be got out of the letting of the boats on the Serpentine when, at Battersea Park, the contractor paid £400 a year.
§ MR. HAYDEN
wished to move to reduce the Vote by £500, in order to call attention to the proposed erection of a statue, in St. Stephen's Hall, to Oliver Cromwell.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
said, it was not proposed to take any money under this Vote for the purpose, so he submitted that the Motion would not be in order.
said, it was not for him to point out to the hon. Member when he should introduce Motions. He only dealt with Motions when made, and he could assure the hon. Member that at that moment he was entirely out of order.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE,
in reply to Sir E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT, said, opportunity would be afforded on the Vote for amply discussing the subject.
§ MR. WEIR
asked, what had been done to improve the ventilation of the House and prevent the admission into the chamber of sewer gas, to the injury of the health of Members and that of the gentlemen in the Press Gallery and of ladies in the Grill. It appeared that 670 water for domestic purposes was supplied from the same cistern that supplied the water-closets. This was a scandalous state of things. He hoped this subject would be attended to at an early date, so that in the hot weather they would not be kept in a poisonous atmosphere. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works would not like to spend £25,000 upon carrying out a scheme for securing the proper ventilation and the proper drainage of the building, but he did not believe that it would cost anything like that sum to execute the necessary works. He saw that the sum of £3,000 was put down for electric lighting while £1,000 was asked for oil lamps. Why could not the oil lamps be done away with altogether and the electric light substituted in their place, so that they might have electric light everywhere. He thought that there must be a considerable waste of fuel going on in the House or else so large a sum would not be required for it. He should like to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works to the item of £2,350 for new furniture for the past year, while the sale of old furniture and old materials only realised some £50. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some information on that subject. He should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that it was the practice of the Department not to replace a castor upon a chair unless the leg of the chair were broken and that this had led in some instances to the leg of a chair being broken in order to obtain a new castor. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would make some inquiries into that matter. In order that the right hon. Gentleman might give the Committee some information on the subject of the draining and the ventilation of the House he begged to move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £100.
§ MR. ALPHEUS C. MORTON
said, that he also should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works would give the Committee some further information on the subject of the drainage and ventilation of the House. They had tried last year to get the subject considered by the Committee upstairs, but they found that the officials 671 were against it, and the result was that the Committee had refused to entertain the question. It was an unfortunate fact that the officials should be opposed to any improvement that would secure better drainage and ventilation. It would seem as though they did not want any alteration, because it would give them a little additional trouble and possibly might interfere with their holidays. The officials of the House, however, ought to get out of the old-fashioned groove, and should be anxious to have these matters which were so essential to the health of hon. Members and those whose business required them to spend long hours in the building placed upon a sound footing. He knew that serious complaints had been made in relation to this subject of the bad smells in the building during the past few years, and he hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would cause some further inquiries to be made into the subject. With all due regard to the officers of the House he did not think that they understood much about ventilation, and therefore they did not want to go into the question. He did not want the right hon. Gentleman to do more than the best he could for them in the matter. With regard to the increase in the electric light, he was not quite sure that he agreed with his hon. Friend who had just spoken as to the desirability of expending a large additional yearly sum in that direction, but he thought that something might be saved by the Company being pressed to reduce their price for supplying it. He thought that the Board of Trade might come to their assistance in this matter, and insist upon the Company reducing their price in view of the advantages which they obtained under their Act of Parliament and in consideration that the Houses of Parliament were large consumers. In connection with the subject of oil lamps, he was glad to see that there had been a reduction this year in the annual charge from £1,250 to £1,000, nevertheless, it was impossible to comprehend how they could spend such a large sum upon oil lamps in that House, seeing that one might walk all over the building at night and scarcely see one of them. He was sorry to find that the old furniture of the building had only fetched £50, because it was 672 clear that such furniture must have a substantial value when so much was expended upon its purchase when new.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
said, that when the drains of a large building like the House were condemned as being unsatisfactory and dangerous to life, he should like to know on whose authority the statement was made. If it were altered they would have to go down to the foundations of the building, through walls and party-walls, and it would take twelve months.
§ MR. ALLAN
said there was no connection between the outflow and the drinking water. As to the lighting, from his experience of electricity he did not believe it could be produced for 2d. a unit. To lay down the machinery for producing electricity would require structural alterations, and all the necessary paraphernalia, for which a very large sum would have to be spent. He was against such a proposal; at the same time, if the Chief Commissioner of Works could get the price reduced so much the better. He urged the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
said he agreed with nearly all that the hon. Member had just said The hon. Member for Ross-shire had quoted from a pamphlet, written, no doubt, by a very competent engineer, written at his own initiative and without any responsibility either to the House or to his own Department. That gentleman had made in this pamphlet a great number of statements which were entirely inaccurate, because they were based on imperfect and insufficient knowledge. He was unable to follow his hon. Friend through his speech as it would really take too long. The question of the drainage of the House was considered by a Committee in 1891, before which independent experts were called, and the 673 Committee reported, he believed, that all the main defects had been then made good. As to the atmosphere of the Chamber, it was certainly as good as it was on the terrace, and they could not make it any better than that. The original designers of the House had chosen to place the House where it was, near the river on low-lying ground, and they had to make the best of it. With regard to the question of electric lighting, he had had the matter carefully looked into, and as far as cost was concerned there was probably not much difference between the cost of generating electricity themselves and taking it from an independent company, but he thought on the whole the balance of advantage lay on the side of going on as they were doing now. It might be that before, very long they would be able to get electricity at a reduced cost, at any rate he did not think the time had yet come for altering the system of lighting. He should certainly continue to give his careful consideration to the subject. With regard to the oil lamps, during late years the sum spent had been decreasing, and he had no doubt would continue to decrease as better arrangements were made.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
said it was colza oil. In regard to furniture, he believed his Department was extremely economical in that matter, and that they used up the furniture so well that when done with it was broken up for firewood. Of course, the cost was great, but he had no reason to think that there was any extravagance in the matter.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
said the sewer air went up through shafts to the top of the Victoria and Clock Towers, and in those shafts coke fire were kept going day and night. He had never known a back draught down those shafts, and no sewer gas came into the House.
SIR E. ASHMEAD BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall),
asked if it was possible to do anything to get better ventilation in the Division Lobbies, the atmosphere of which, just before the doors of 674 the lobbies were thrown open while the House was being cleared, was very close and trying.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE,
said he had spoken about the matter, and he did not know that anything more could be done. When they got 200 or 300 hon. Members crammed together in the Lobby, it was perfectly impossible that there should be a good atmosphere. What was now done was that an increased quantity of fresh air was forced into the Division Lobbies.
§ MR. T. SHEPHERD LITTLE (Whitehaven)
submitted that everything that might be done had not been done. At small expense one simple contrivance might be adopted, and that was to remove the glass from the windows at one end of the Division Lobby, which was the worst end. Again, everybody who frequented it must be aware that the ventilation in the Strangers' Smoking Room was exceedingly bad; while in the Members' Smoking Room the temperature was frequently above what it ought to be in any room in that House. In that mutter he was borne out by communications made to him by persons competent to express an opinion, namely, medical officers of health.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
hoped his right hon. Friend would try to induce his officers and their officers to look after these matters, and not to stand in the way of all improvement. His right hon. Friend had himself admitted that these officers had at last altered the water cisterns. Why was not that done years before, as the sanitary officers compelled the owners of every little cottage outside to do? [An hon. MEMBER: "There is nothing wrong."] If there was nothing wrong, sanitary officers all over the United Kingdom were wrong, and so was everybody connected with the Local Government Board, because they were compelling the owners of small cottages outside to make these alterations. He hoped they were wrong, and that consequently a stop would be put to the sanitary officers who were continually putting owners of property outside to unnecessary expense. They wanted all these matters attended to by the officers without the necessity for a Committee sitting upstairs or of Members taking up the time of the House in calling attention to them.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
said, the officers who were responsible for the drainage, &c., of the Houses of Parliament were continually attending to their work, and never offered the smallest position to any improvement whatsoever. Very large changes in the direction indicated had been made.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
Not without a number of Committees sitting for many days. Until eight or nine years ago the drainage of the Houses of Parliament was in the worst possible condition. He was aware that about that time the drains were relaid and the whole system altered. But it was only after many years' agitation and talk that the officers were induced to do anything. He was satisfied from his own experience of 35 years that even now the drainage system was not perfect, and that the officers did not thoroughly understand it. There were officers outside who did.
§ MR. W. ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
asked, as his hon. Friend had professed to be an architect of great experience—[Mr. A. C. MORTON: "I never said that"]—where and when his hon. Friend had traced the existence of sewer gas from any outlet into this House?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES,
referring to Item 4, the new Admiralty buildings, asked when it would be found possible to make the opening from the Mall to Charing Cross which was so urgently required.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
The opening referred to has not been decided upon at the present moment, though it has been suggested.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.),
with reference to Item 6, asked when a vote would be taken to complete the frontage of South Kensington Museum, which was at present a great eyesore, and with regard to which plans were exhibited in the Smoking Room some time ago. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to take any steps to improve what was known as the Brompton boilers?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am as much responsible for this matter as my right hon. Friend. Everybody admits that money requires to be spent there, but we must wait till we have the money. Some time ago a very large sum was presented to me—£750,000—to be expended on South Kensington. I at once declared that I had not the money to enable me to agree to that expenditure, and that is the reason why the work has not been undertaken.
§ MR. BARTLEY
reminded the Chancellor of the Exchequer that several years ago, plans having been prepared for the completion of the buildings at considerable cost, a pledge was given that some money would be taken to go on with them, and in order to make a start at the corner next the Oratory. It was a disappoiniment to many that no sum had been taken. It seemed a grievous thing that buildings on which a large sum of money had been paid already, and to house a collection which was acknowledged to be unrivalled in Europe, should be left in their present miserable unfinished state. There was land adjoining which had been purchased and might be utilised, but it remained unused. He thought that out of the enormous sum spent for technical education sufficient economy might be exercised to provide a sum to proceed with the work. He hoped that in another year the right hon. Gentleman would remember the necessity of completing the buildings, and he would be content if the right hon. Gentleman would promise that he would then set apart a sum for the work if he could possibly do so.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the whole difficulty in the matter was the want of money necessary to carry out the work. He should be only too glad to economise somewhere in order to find the money, but at present it was not possible to do so. He accepted the suggestion or compromise of the hon. Member, though he could not, of course, give any pledge, that if in another year there was more money coming in and less to spend, and he had the means of doing so, he would devote a sum necessary to make a start with the work.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
said, he noticed there was an increase, in the Estimates this year of more than £25,000 for Revenue Department buildings under Vote 8. That was apparently a very large increase in one year for the maintenance and requirements of the buildings, and in those days when the Chancellor of the Exchequer refused money all round to hon. Members, except for the Navy, Army, or the Royal Family, it was necessary for Radical Members to look closely into such increase of expenditure.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
said, the increase was mainly for new works, alterations, and additions, which had been found, on ample authority, to be requisite, and it had been necessary, therefore, to take a larger amount this year to carry them out. For financial reasons, during recent years several new works had to be postponed, and therefore arrears had to be made up. A sum of £8,000 was asked for on account of a new laboratory for the Inland Revenue and Customs Departments.
§ MR. WEIR
called attention on Vote 9 to the fact that the item for brushes, brooms, baskets, glass and china amounted to £3,950, which he thought was a very large amount to spend in one year on such items. He hoped this was not another contract job; if it was, the sooner the Government got rid of it the better.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
called attention to the dirty state of the water supplied from the Orange Street works to the fountain in Trafalgar Square. He understood that the water, instead of being a constant fresh supply, was used over and over again for the fountains, the result being that a very unpleasant odour was frequently emitted from the water. Sometimes, and this was especially the case in hot weather, the water was more like sewage than anything else. If experiments were to be tried with regard to sewage, he hoped they would be tried somewhere else. He had raised this subject with several First Commissioners of Works, but hitherto without success. He saw the Home Secretary present. The right hon. Gentleman had allowed people to meet in Trafalgar Square, and he hoped he would be able to give them clean water by doing away with this system of re-pumping.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
said, that the supply of water at the Orange Street Works was diminishing. The opinion of the late Mr. Hawksley had been taken, and he advised against incurring a heavy expense for deepening the wells. With regard to the articles mentioned by the hon. Member for Ross (Mr. Weir), they were furnished upon the requisition of the responsible officials in the various offices, who took the, greatest care in the matter.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty whether he could give the Committee any information as to the state of the works in connection with Peterhead Harbour? What progress had been made during the past year, and what hope was there of the harbour being completed within the time laid down in the Bill? It was a matter of great importance to all seafaring men that the works should be completed at as early a period as was possible.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
replied that actual progress made during the past year was the extension by about 60 feet of the southern breakwater and the foundation of a further length of about 66 feet had been prepared, and partially levelled with concrete. All this work had to be done by divers, and it could not, therefore, be pushed on as rapidly as the work of a less difficult nature. When the present stage had been completed the progress, he hoped, would be greatly accelerated. He entirely concurred with the hon. and gallant Member as to the desirability of completing this class of work as rapidly as possible. He did his humble best in this direction last year, and he hoped that more rapid progress would be possible in future years.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
inquired when it was supposed the works were going to be completed. He saw the original sum voted was £737,530. Of that they were told that £23,200 were to be spent for 1895–96. Taking into account what had already been spent, there would be left £447,748, so that it looked as if the work would go on for the next hundred years. Could the 679 Civil Lord give them any idea as to when the works would be completed, or inform them if the Government had any intention of ever completing them.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
stated that the sum voted each year for the prosecution of the work was practically the same amount, namely, £25,000 or £26,000. At the rate at which progress had gone on, naturally it would take some time to complete the harbour, though not, he hoped, nearly so long as the period mentioned by his hon. Friend. He trusted the necessary works might be completed within a period of, say, 20 years.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
urged the hon. Gentleman to use his great influence with the Treasury to press on the works. If the harbour was to be of any use it ought to be finished before 20 years had elapsed.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
replied, that he had already exercised any little influence that he possessed in the direction he suggested, and would continue still to do so.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON,
on Class 1 of Vote 13, asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether he could give them any further information as to the question of the rating of Government property. The other day the Government promised that Local Authorities should have the right of appeal from the assessments put upon property by the valuer. This was an important matter for London, because the period of the quinquennial valuation was approaching, and if the matter were not settled before that period was passed its consideration might be further deferred for another five years.
§ SIR JOHN HIBBERT
replied, that it was such a short time since this question was before the Committee that there had not been an opportunity of making final arrangements, but he could assure the hon. Member that the Treasury were at the present moment engaged in considering how best they could provide for an appeal which would be satisfactory. In the meantime a provisional arrangement for giving an appeal had been made which, so far, had worked well. It was desirable, however that there should be some more formal way of giving authorities who were dissatisfied some system of appeal against the sums which had been settled as rates on Government property. He 680 hoped before they got to the Vote he might be able to make some announcement, if it should prove desirable so to do.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
remarked that the reason he had raised the question was because he was anxious to have the matter settled before the completion of the quinquennial valuation.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR rose to Move to reduce Vote 1 of Class 2—House of Lords Offices—by £100, for the purpose of drawing attention to the large sums paid to the Clerk and other officials of that House. He could not understand why clerks receiving salaries of £600 and £700 a year should also be drawing allowances of from £100 to £500. The poor housemaids, on the other hand, only received 14s. and 15s. weekly. Black Rod was paid £2,000 a year with a free house, and he also received fees as the officer of the Order of the Garter. He hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would state the amount of those fees. They were told that the office of Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod would cease on the retirement of the present holder. When would that retirement take place? He further asked for an explanation of the item of £50 for dusting the books in the library of the House of Lords. What annoyed him, he said, in regard to this large expenditure was, that he could not get a shilling out of the Treasury for good useful work in the Highlands of Scotland. He Moved the reduction of the Vote.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
said, he desired to support his hon. Friend. The absurdity of the present charges for the officers of the House of Lords was made apparent when they compared them with the charges for the officers of the House of Commons, who did thirty or forty times as much work. The charges for House of Commons officers amounted to £52,000, while the charges for House of Lords officers were £41,559. There were four further charges in connection with the House of Lords which brought the total up to nearly £100,000. The Lord Chancellor received £4,000 as Speaker of the House of Lords. What were the duties which he performed for that salary? He understood it was paid to him as an executive officer of the Government.
Any attempt to reduce the Lord Chancellor's salary in respect of any duties performed as Lord Chancellor would be entirely out of order. This Vote merely dealt with his salary as Speaker of the House of Lords.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
quite agreed with the Chairman's decision. He was desirous to know exactly what were the duties of the Speaker of the House of Lords. When they looked at the salaries of the officers of the House of Lords they found that, while those who were at the top of the tree and did not do much work were highly paid, those at the bottom—the messengers and housemaids—were not paid too much, in some cases not enough. The Chairman of Committees received £2,500. What did he do for it? The Chairman of Committees in the House of Commons was paid a like sum. It was a matter of common sense either that the one salary should be largely increased or that the other should be largely reduced. The charges were enormously excessive. But they were told that they could not reduce them until the present officers of the House of Lords died or were removed. He found that there was an increase in the expenses of the Examiner of Bills. He was surprised at that, for the House of Lords threw out most Bills. There was also an increase in other expenses, because the House of Lords sat an extra time. His impression was that last year the House sat rather less than usual, for there were no Liberal Bills for them to throw out.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
said, he, was trying to find out why there were increases in the Vote this year over the Vote of last year. He did not understand the item for a Refreshment-room for the House of Lords. He did not know why a special Refreshment-room should be kept up for the half-dozen Lords who attend the House and their officials, when they might use the Refreshment-room of the House of Commons.
§ MR. WEIR
said he had been informed that although Black Rod got £2,000 a year and a residence, he had not appeared at his post for several years. That was a very serious matter. He felt this expenditure very keenly, since he could not get 682 even a penny for the poor Crofters in the Highlands of Scotland. He found that the duties of Black Rod were performed by the Yeoman Usher, who got £300 a year and a residence. He would like to know whether this was a case of sub-contract; whether Black Rod paid the Yeoman Usher? For, although it could not be said that there was any sweating in connection with that post, the duties being so light, yet he thought the sub-contract system in such a case was objectionable.
§ SIR JOHN HIBBERT
thought his two hon. Friends had taken a rather unusual course in discussing such small matters of detail on the Vote on Account. Their remarks would have been more appropriate on the substantive Vote for the House of Lords Offices. Neither of his hon. Friends was quite up to date on the question of the salaries of the officials of the House of Lords. Two years ago there was a considerable discussion on the question, and an Amendment for the reduction of the salaries of the officials of the House of Lords by £500 was carried against the Government. The Treasury had faithfully carried out that decision of the House of Commons. They had had sent into them from the House of Lords for two years running estimates without that reduction of £500 being allowed for, and they had refused to place such estimates on the Table of the House. He thought the Treasury deserved some credit for having fought the House of Lords on the question of that reduction. It was true that the salaries paid to the officials of the House of Lords were, in some instances, larger than the salaries paid to the officials of the House of Commons. But since last year the Treasury had been able, after a considerable number of meetings with a Committee of the House of Lords, to obtain from that Committee an agreement to place the salaries in the House of Lords exactly on the same scale as the salaries in the House of Commons. That agreement, however, could not come into operation all at once. It could only come into operation after the present officials had retired; but when that had taken place the same rate of pay would be given to the officials of the House of Lords as was given to the officials of the House of Commons. He thought that was a great step to have gained.
§ SIR JOHN HIBBERT
We are not discussing the House of Commons now; we are discussing the House of Lords. The hon. Member had asked what were the duties of the Lord Chancellor. The duties of the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords were similar to the duties of the Speaker in the House of Commons. The Lord Chancellor had not such long hours as the Speaker, but whether the Lords sat long or whether they sat short he had to be there, and he was also Chairman of the Grand Committee to which nearly all Bills in the House of Lords were now referred. For his duties as Speaker of the House of Lords the Lord Chancellor got £4,000 a year, in addition to the £6,000 he received from the Consolidated Fund as Lord Chancellor. It was quite true that Black Rod had not been in his place for a couple of years; but it had been arranged that on the retirement of the present holder of the office the salary was to be reduced from £2,000 a year with an official residence to £1,000 a year without a residence. At the same time the duties of the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod would be, amalgamated in the Office of Secretary to the Lord Chamberlain, which would effect a further saving of a salary of £300 a year and an official residence. With regard to the housemaids of the the House of Lords, they were formerly paid fixed salaries and received pensions; but owing to the demand for economy in the House of Lords those salaries and pensions had been done away with. The housemaids were now paid 15s. a week; and his hon. Friends, who were rigid economists, got up and protested that they were not paid sufficiently. If his hon. Friends would wait until the Vote was brought on in Committee he would probably be able to give more information than he was now able to give.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
would be only too pleased if he could agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this was not the right time to take the discussion on this matter. If Supply were brought on in a reasonable and proper manner—say once a week—he, personally, would be, quite prepared to allow Votes on Account to go without any discussion at all, but in the last two or three years they had had no opportunity at all of 684 discussing these matters in regular Supply Latterly, Supply was brought on in August, and then, hon. Members who attempted to raise discussions were begged to allow Ministers to go away for their holidays. They were accused of keeping Officers of the House away from holidays; indeed, all sorts of charges were made against those who wished to carry out their highest Parliamentary duties, for, after all, attention to Supply was one of the most important duties of a Member of the House of Commons. If the Secretary to the Treasury would give them an assurance that this Vote would be brought up at a time when it could be discussed he would say no more. He knew, however, the right hon. Gentleman could not give such an assurance, and, therefore, it was necessary to consider one or two remarks the right hon. Gentleman had made. They were told that an agreement had been made with some one in the House of Lords that the Officers of the House of Lords should receive what was received by the Officers of the House of Commons. That was a monstrous scandal. That gentlemen who did not do, who could not do, who had not the opportunity of doing, one-tenth the work of the Officers of the, House of Commons should be paid on the same scale was a scandal. Having now heard what the duties of the Lord Chancellor were, for which he received £4,000 a year, he should take another opportunity of taking a special vote upon a reduction of the salary. As to Black Rod he did not know how many years the gentleman who held that office had been in ill-health, and he would be sorry to make any remarks which would give an old Officer pain, but he understood Black Rod was in Scotland—where Officials went to spend England's money; he was somewhere in the neighbourhood of Midlothian.
was sorry he could not say the remarks of the hon. Member were out of order, but he sincerely trusted the hon. Gentleman would not pursue his present line of argument.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
said, he was going to ask why they should give 685 this Officer an official house at Westminster. When they were considering the question of finding accommodation for the business of Parliament they would very much have liked to get Black Rod's rooms, but they could not do so. He understood, too, that the work of Black Rod was now done by the Yeoman Usher at a cost of £300. If the work could be done efficiently for £300 why should they pay £1,000 a year?
§ MR. WEIR
understood the Secretary to the Treasury to say there was no power to make Black Rod retire. But if there were no power to make that Official retire, surely the Treasury had reserved power to reduce the salary of the office. Again, the right hon. Gentleman had not said one word about the most important matter—that was the question of allowances to clerks. One clerk receiving £2,500 a year as salary received £500 for a house. In a house of business a servant received a certain salary and was expected to do the work required of him.
The hon. Gentleman is now repeating what he said before, and is therefore out of order.
§ MR. SHEPHERD LITTLE
understood Black Rod had not performed his duties for some years. [Sir JOHN HIBBERT: "Two years."] Was it the fact that the House of Commons had paid year by year, and was asked to pay this year, a very large salary to a gentleman who had not performed the duties of his office in any way? So far as he understood, there was no likelihood that Black Rod would at any reasonable time be in a condition to perform his duties. If, as a matter of fact, he was altogether broken down in health would it not be well to pension him and appoint some gentleman at the salary at which they found the duties could be performed—that was £300 a year? The Treasury were exceedingly careful as to expenditure in some other quarters. Could not the Secretary to the Treasury give them a promise to some such course as he suggested would be followed?
§ MR. WALTER HAZELL (Leicester)
said, it seemed to him that with regard to offices of this kind, when such offices became vacant, the Government should consider whether they should be filled at all, and if they should be filled, at what emolument. If the Government would give hon. Members an assurance that they would adopt such a course, he thought there would be a disposition to let the matter pass.
§ SIR JOHN HIBBERT
said, this matter had been considered, with the result that the salary was to be reduced from £2,000 to £1,000 and the official residence was to be given up.
§ MR. HAZELL
said, that the rational way would be for a Committee of the House to consider what should be done when offices became vacant and before they were filled up?
§ SIR JOHN HIBBERT,
in reply to Mr. Weir, said, that the offices to which the hon. Member had referred were given to four or five of the senior clerks. The personal allowances were given while they held the offices. When the posts became vacant the question of the allowances would be reconsidered.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
said, that he objected altogether to these personal allowances which appeared all over the Estimates. They were often given merely by favouritism, and sometimes they were illegally given as increases to a maximum salary.
§ MR. CYRIL DODD
pressed his hon. Friends to withdraw the Motion now that they had brought their views sufficiently before the House.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval,
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON rose to order. He said that he understood that his hon. Friend was going to speak on Vote 5. He himself desired to address the Committee upon a notice which he had put down on Vote 4, Clause 2.687
The hon. Member is too late. Before I left the Chair I called on the hon. Member who is now in possession, and, unless he chooses to give way, he must go on.
§ MR HENRY LABOUCHERE,
on the point of order, desired to state that he was not aware until now whether the hon. Gentleman was going on upon Vote 5, 6, or 7, or whether on No. 1, upon which he himself had been anxious to move an Amendment. If that Amendment and the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough could be taken after the hon. Member had made his speech, it would meet the views of himself and his hon. Friend.
I must point out that an Amendment was moved and withdrawn. Vote 1 having been passed, I called upon the hon. Gentleman who is now in possession. The ground on which I rule in favour of the hon. Gentleman is that he is in possession of the Committee. If notice had been given to me before I left the Chair that anyone wanted to move an Amendment to one of the earlier votes I should not have called on the hon. Gentleman. The rule is that when an hon. Member is in possession of the House he has a right to proceed unless he is willing to give way.
§ MR. ALPHEUS MORTON
I understood that we were told by you, Sir, some months ago, that if we put down notices upon the Paper you would call upon us in order. I rose as quickly as I could to address the Committee, but I was not quick enough, and was forestalled by the hon. Member opposite.
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. When there is a notice upon the Paper it is a notice to me that an hon. Member wishes to move or to speak. But so many of the notices on the Paper to-night having been passed over, there was nothing to call my attention to the fact that anybody wished to claim priority as against the hon. Member for Sheffield.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that he would have been willing to give way to the hon. Member for Peterborough 688 if that hon. Member had not already enjoyed that evening a very considerable share of the time of the Committee. He must, therefore, adhere to the position which the Chairman had accorded him. He would not venture to address the Committee on that occasion on the subject of the foreign policy of the Government if it were not that their opportunities this Session, and during the last two years, for the discussion of the Government's foreign policy had been exceedingly rare. Owing to the eccentricities of a Vote on Account, eccentricities which were, perhaps, inevitable, this subject, one of the most important that they could discuss, had been put off until the dinner-hour, when comparatively few Members were present. If he could even see any prospect of being able to bring this matter before the House soon after Whitsuntide he should not intrude upon the Committee on the present occasion. But as matters abroad, as our relations with foreign countries, were in a critical condition, and were not likely to become less critical, and as a Dissolution was probably not far distant, he did not think it right to forego that opportunity to point out to Parliament and the country the real state of affairs. The Government could not complain that the Opposition had indulged in any excessive criticism of their foreign policy during the last three years. Seldom had a Government enjoyed such an immunity from criticism in matters so important. He ought to say that the views which he should express were his own views only, although he spoke with the assent of the Leaders of his Party. Many burning questions were pressing for notice and for solution abroad. He need only mention in proof of this the questions connected with the Ottoman Empire and our relations with Turkey, the issues raised by the war between China and Japan and the peace just concluded, and the questions arising with regard to Egypt, Madagascar, and the Upper Nile. These were all questions in which British interests were deeply concerned. The keystone or guiding principle of the foreign policy of the present Government appeared to be an alliance, or understanding at all events, with the Governments of France and 689 Russia. To that connection he attributed many of the mistakes in which the Government had become involved. He was not going to say a word against those two great Powers. He did not even blame them for the efforts they were making to advance what they believed to be their own interests, even at the expense of British interests. But any man who considered what were the interests of this country abroad, would realise that it was impossible for any lasting, stable, and successful foreign policy to be based—to be essentially based—upon an understanding or co-operation with Russia and with France. These two Powers were not necessarily our enemies—he hoped that they might never be our open, enemies; but they were undoubtedly our rivals in the Mediterranean, in Asia, and in the Far East. All the questions of difficulty by which the Government were embarrassed—and they were many—were caused by the antagonism, or perhaps he ought to say the rivalry, which was felt and acted upon by France in its relations with this country. He need only refer to the questions connected with Siam, with the Niger Territory, with the Congo, with the Upper Nile, with Madagascar and with Egypt, to carry conviction upon this point. And of course the rivalry of the great Russian Power was notorious throughout the East. What was the policy of the late Conservative Government based upon? It was undoubtedly based upon an understanding with what was known as the great Peace League of Central Europe, an understanding namely with the stable monarchies of Germany, Austria, and Italy. That policy was initiated by Lord Beaconsfield at Berlin in 1878. It was reversed by the right hon. Member for Midlothian when he held office from 1880 to 1885 with disastrous results to this country. The foreign policy of the Radical Government in those years collapsed all over the world, mainly, in consequence of the opposition of that Government to the German monarchies. The subsequent policy of Lord Salisbury, from 1886 to 1892, was based on a good understanding with the German monarchies and with Italy, and was remarkably successful. There were no wars or rumours of war during the late Government's tenure of 690 Office. The reason was not far to seek; not only on account of the wise and firm conduct of the details of Foreign Affairs by Lord Salisbury; but it was because the country possessed at that time strong and stable allies in Europe. With their support British interests were perfectly secure, and the peace of the world was also assured. British policy was then based on the co-operation of those powers that were bound to us by a real community of interest, the only solid and practical basis for any alliance. There were then no troubles for this country abroad; no French invasion of Siam or Madagascar, no grave disagreements with France as to the Nile Waterway and Egypt. There were no Russian stations in the Pamirs, no troubles between China and Japan with resulting complications, no serious difficulties as to the Ottoman Empire. But since the present Government's advent to Office the whole position had changed, and there were at this moment a series of troubles threatening us in almost every quarter of the world. He could not go now into the question of how it was that the present Government had incurred the indifference, and lost the support, of the German Powers. The diplomatic processes were intricate and curious; but the fact remained that whilst under the last Conservative administrations this country had the support of the German monarchies, those Governments, or, at all events, the organs through which they spoke, were now either indifferent or opposed to the interests of this country. Probably the exaggerated and pretentious entente with Russia of last winter, the absurd policy pursued with regard to Japan and China last October, and the blundering policy now adopted towards Turkey, had much to do with the alienation of the German monarchies. There had never before been a time, he regretted to say, when this country was apparently so isolated in Europe. He knew that it was easy to attach too much value to the opinions of the Press; but it was also well known that in certain countries abroad the deliberately expressed opinions of the Press did represent the opinions of the Governments. That was essentially the case in Russia, where the Press dared not adopt a policy regarding 691 Foreign Affairs without the encouragement of the Government. The same thing was the case, to some extent, in Germany, Austria, and France. It was well known that when a deliberate opinion on matters of Foreign policy was expressed by certain newspapers in Berlin, Vienna or Paris, those papers were faithfully reflecting the views of their Government. It was a lamentable fact that hardly a word was said in our favour in the Press of any of the countries which he had mentioned, and that, in many instances, we were openly attacked in the most violent manner. He invited the Chancellor of the Exchequer to read what was written in the leading organs of the French Press with regard to British policy and interests. He invited the right hon. Gentleman to look also at the Russian Press, in which he would find the most extraordinary hostility expressed against this country. The Press of Russia was attacking this country in the most open and general way; it was encouraging Turkey to resist us, and it unfavourably compared what were called les atrocités Chitraliennes with the alleged Armenian outrages. As the British Government were under the belief that Russia and France were thoroughly supporting them in their policy with regard to the Ottoman Empire, this extraordinarily hostile campaign in the Russian Press was well worthy of the attention of the right hon. Gentlemen, and especially of those who conducted the Foreign Affairs of this country. It was deplorable that England, at this moment, so far as one could judge by outward evidence, was isolated among the nations of Europe. The Government was given carte blanche in its Foreign Policy up to the publication of the Blue Book on Siamese affairs. He had believed that in the present Prime Minister this country had a Premier with Imperial instincts, who would conduct foreign affairs with firmness, patriotism, and more or less with success; but speaking for himself, and he believed, for the great majority of the Opposition, a total change had been caused in his feelings by the perusal of those official papers. Never in the whole history of official documents was a more lamentable record of weakness and surrender than was therein disclosed. Siam was partitioned and 692 heavily fined; she was deprived of one-third of her territory and had nearly lost her position as an independent State; French troops were still in possession of important points of what was acknowledged to be Siamese territory. He had thought when the Siamese difficulties were proceeding that at all events the Government had obtained some quid pro quo in other directions. He had thought that the Government had given a free hand to our rivals in Siam, because they had obtained some concessions as to West Africa, the Niger Territory, the Nile Waterway, or Madagascar. Nothing of the kind. As soon as the Siamese difficulties were composed, we had the Madagascar question. Now that great island, a most important position for us, commanding the whole of our commerce that passes by sea round the Cape of Good Hope to the East, and on the flank of our commerce that passes through the Suez Canal—an island close to our South African possessions, in every way valuable, fertile and rich in minerals—was subjected to invasion and in every probability would be added to the possessions of France. The same policy of backing down had been exhibited in regard to Sierra Leone, the Niger Territory, and the Nile Waterway. The Sierra Leone question, the Government boasted was settled; but it had been settled by the complete cession of its Hinterland to France. As to the Niger territories, the French were apparently doing exactly as they pleased—French troops seizing positions on the land and French sailors dominating Niger waters. The French Government had torn up the Anglo-Congo treaty of May 1894, driven the Belgians out of the territory in which the present British Cabinet placed them as a buffer, and were threatening to seize the Waterway of the Upper Nile. The Nile Waterway was of infinite importance to this country, because if any great European Power got possession of it, that Power, with the resources of modern engineering, would be able so to diminish, or increase, or even to divert the flow of the Nile, as to hold Egypt entirely at its mercy. That was the opinion of the highest authorities upon Egypt and the Nile. France would thus be enabled by one coup to force any policy that it chose 693 upon us in regard to Egypt and thus to nullify all the sacrifices of blood and treasure that we had made in order to establish British influence and to restore good government in that country. On all these points the Government had surrendered, and so far as the country knew, no concession had been made to us in return. There had been a steady backing down all round. The policy of surrender had borne no good fruits. It had only led to fresh demands and fresh encroachments on the part of the Powers to whom these surrenders were made. In regard to China and Japan, again, the Government had done a thing which was remarkable and unprecedented. In October last the Cabinet took it into their head to try and intervene between the contending parties. They went round Europe asking the Powers to support them in such intervention, and they did it in such a way as to inflict the maximum of injury upon all parties, and the maximum of humiliation upon themselves. They were unsuccessful, and were practically snubbed by Germany, Austria, and the United States. The result of the interference was that the war was renewed with tenfold greater energy by Japan, and great suffering was inflicted upon China, which might have been avoided if the Government had, in the old, sensible way gone in a friendly, private, and confidential manner to the two contending parties, and tried to bring them to terms. They might thus have put an end to the war instead of trying to conjure up a formal concert of Europe. The result of that blunder was being felt at this moment. It encouraged the Great Powers to believe that they also could intervene in their own interests. They had seen within the last few weeks a remarkable phase of policy in the East, the evil results of which were by no means yet exhausted, and which might cause this country great loss in the future. Two great European Powers had intervened, not in the interests of peace but in the interests of one 694 of them, to force certain terms upon the victor in the struggle. The possession of the Liao-Tung Peninsula had been wrested from Japan by the intervention of France and Russia, and the interests of this country had been greatly injured in consequence. The possession by Japan of tha Liao-Tung Peninsula was invaluable to this country. It put Japan in a position of almost impregnable strength, where she would have acted as a bulwark against the movement of Russia southwards from her present possessions in Asia. Yet we had allowed Japan to be driven out from that position so invaluable to us, British trade would not be affected beneficially by the removal of Japan from the peninsula. We should have in any case to meet the rivalry of Japan as traders, but Japan did not seek or obtain any advantage which Great Britain would not equally possess and enjoy. We had allowed Japan to be driven out of this great position by the action of our rivals, France and Russia. He would now repeat, what he had said in the absence of the Under Secretary, that the main point he wished to bring forward was, that the Government were basing their policy on a supposed understanding with France and Russia, our natural rivals all over the world, and rendering hostile to us the great German monarchies and Italy, who are our natural friends and supporters. Last of all came the most extraordinary phase of the Government policy, that which was happening with regard to Turkey. He did not wish to raise the question of the Armenian atrocities, about which he had his own opinion, until he saw the Report of the Commission. But there could be no doubt that the policy of the Government, whatever it was with regard to the Ottoman Empire, was based on a supposed understanding with France and Russia, and on their assumed support. The time might come when the support of Turkey would be of immense value 695 to this country—when the aid, if not of the Turkish Government, at all events of the valiant Ottoman people, might be of vital importance to this country. It was a remarkable fact that our policy was based on the alliance of France and Russia, two Powers that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, were rivalling, if not counterworking, our interests in many quarters. The whole Russian Press was denouncing and ridiculing this country, attacking our policy and our interests, and comparing the assumed deeds of our soldiers in Chitral unfavourably with the deeds of the Turks in the Sassun district. This Press campaign could not be undertaken without the encouragement and support of the Russian Government. Turkey was advised to put herself under the protection of Russia, and to treat our Ambassador at Constantinople as a quantité négligeable. This policy, he understood, was being urged on the Porte by Russian agents at Constantinople. If this semi-official action was really going on he need not point out how serious it was. He did not wish in any way to do or say anything which should encourage or promote evil deeds in Turkey or anywhere else. He should like to see those who were responsible for these deeds in Armenia, if they are proved true, punished as they deserved. At the same time, he must say it would be far better for the interests of this country if Great Britain had acted alone in this matter—had pressed a British policy, whatever might be the reforms thus advocated, in accordance with British traditions and on British grounds only, in a thoroughly friendly spirit towards the Porte, rather than run the terrible risk they have run of being misguided by the very superficial and most unstable co-operation of France and Russia. These points were important, and merited the attention of Parliament and the country. He was aware that the rejoinder that would probably be made to him was, that he was speaking for 696 himself, and for himself only, on this question. ["Hear, hear."] Yes, he spoke for himself; in the particular details he had put forward he was expressing his own views; he said so at the beginning; but as a Member of Parliament he was entitled to express his views. He had had the honour of a seat in the House for 15 years. He had given these questions very close and constant study and attention; he had given facts in illustration and proof of every statement he had advanced; and he could give many more, if time permitted. In conclusion, he would emphasise these points: first, that the policy of Her Majesty's present Government had proved a failure in almost every phase; secondly, that so far as could be gathered from the information available, the policy of this country was apparently based upon the alliance of those who were undoubtedly our rivals throughout the world, while those Powers we had hitherto rightly looked to as our natural friends and allies were, at the present time, if not opposed, yet at least strikingly indifferent to British interests.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The hon. Member, in the long speech he has addressed to us, said he was expressing his own personal views. So I gathered. Of course, he is perfectly entitled to express those views. He has made a speech and he is afraid the policy of the Government has been mistaken. That is an opinion he is entitled to hold, but which, of course, he cannot expect me to share. I have endeavoured to extract the real point of condemnation of the Government. His main condemnation is, that he believes the Government have acted cordially with Russia and France. I am here to confess that we are acting cordially with Russia and France. [Sir E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT: "Where?"] Everywhere, even in countries where he says they are our natural rivals. The evidence he gives is the Russian newspapers, which, he says, I do not read. Well, I have the opportunity of reading 697 documents which, I think, represent those Governments a good deal more faithfully than the newspapers. I am not sure that, even in this country, the newspapers express altogether the views of the Government of the country. I have no reason to believe they do so in Russia any more than in England. The charge against us is, that we are acting with Russia and France in the matter of Armenia. That is the charge made against us, and it is one which I cannot admit, and the hon. Member cannot expect more than that. Then he is pleased to say we have repelled the German Monarchy. Wherein lies that fact, I do not know. All I have to say is, that in the official information we have there is not the slightest foundation for that statement. Where the newspapers gather the opinions from I do not know. The object of the Government has not been to ally themselves with any group of Powers in Europe, or elsewhere. That is not the policy of the Government, nor was it the policy of the preceding Government. They were invited to do so over and over again, and they wisely declined. The policy of this country is to act on friendly terms with all Powers in Europe and America alike. That is the policy which we have pursued, and it is for that policy that the hon. Gentleman is pleased to condemn us. I am sorry; but it is some satisfaction to know that he has only expressed his individual opinion, and I suppose we must sit quietly under his censure.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that he had heard with concern the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, because he said he spoke with the assent of his Leaders. If so, he for his part would have to reconsider his Leaders. He really did not know where the hon. Member for Sheffield got his facts, geography, or logic. One of his facts was that the French might go up the Congo and switch off or wholly divert the Nile. [Sir E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT shook his head.] But those were his words; he took them down. How were they going 698 to wholly divert the Nile? He thought he knew what that meant. The hon. Member was thinking about the at Atbara. No doubt it was possible to divert that affluent of the Nile and in that way deprive the Nile of the red mud of Abyssinia, its most important fertilising properties. But as to diverting the Nile it could not be done even if they went to the Congo to do it. Then the hon. Member told them that the keystone of the policy of Her Majesty's Government was an alliance with Russia and France, and he then, proceeded to say that from Siam to the Congo and in every French and Russian newspaper the greatest hostility was shown by those two powers to England. How could it be argued that the keystone of the policy of the Government was an alliance with two Governments who were opposing us in every quarter of the world? Then he came to Madagascar. The hon. Member said Madagascar was of the greatest importance to our trade. He himself contended that Madagascar was of no importance whatever. We had useful stations near there. We could do perfectly well without Madagascar. It might have been ours any time these hundred years, and every English Government had always, and most prudently, abstained from taking the island, but had left the French to plunge their hands into the hornets' nest of Madagascar. Then the hon. Member for Sheffield took exception to the conduct of the Government with regard to China and Japan. He thought the Government might have made a statement, but he was convinced that in their last action in refraining from joining the European Powers who had set out on a campaign of interference between China and Japan, the Government had shown the highest wisdom, and for his own part he paid a willing tribute to the wisdom they had shown in the matter. He did not think it was wise for a gentleman holding the position of the hon. Member for Sheffield to come down 699 to that House and make wild unthinking diatribes against countries like France and Russia. The language he had used was strong. They were told that they were our enemies in every part of the world. That was an expression which, in his own opinion, should not have been used by a responsible Leader.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he was sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he had seriously misrepresented his speech on several points. He did not say that "the Nile could be switched off from the Upper Congo," but that its flow could be controlled or diverted by a European Power that held possession of its upper waters. He had used no diatribes againt Russia or France, but had spoken of those powers with perfect moderation. He did not say that Russia and France were our enemies, but that they were our rivals.
§ *MR. GIBSON BOWLES,
resuming, said, he thought the Committee had derived the same impression that he did. The hon. Member's language was very strong. It was language that might be used by a private Member like himself, but was inappropriate in the mouth of a responsible Leader of a Party. He agreed that it was extremely unfortunate that the Government should hold themselves out or be held out to Europe as engaged in carrying on a new crusade in Turkey with any other Powers—he would not name them. If there were any grievances the Government were entitled to represent to the Turkish Government they should do it by themselves. He had the strongest suspicion of the concert of Europe. He thought it better this country should act as it had in regard to China and Japan by itself—and he deprecated the attempted crusade which was being made against Turkey in concert with other Christian Powers. At the same time, in the review of foreign affairs that the hon. Gentleman had made he could not follow him, and he 700 trusted he would reconsider some of the opinions he had expressed.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
asked, with respect to France and Siam, whether there was any possibility of France and Russia evacuating Chantaboon? They long ago expressed their intention of doing so. Siam had fulfilled all her treaty obligations. Nevertheless, France was still in possession of that very important situation. How long was her tenure there to last? Was it to be for ever?—because the position was one of the first importance in that part of the world. Her remaining there was a direct menace to the independence of Siam, and was also a menace to British influence in that quarter of the globe. He thought that it was high time that France should quit, as she had promised to do so, and her presence at Chantaboon was nothing short of territorial aggression. With regard to Turkey, he wished to know whether it was true, as stated in the newspapers, that a project of reform was complete and was to be applied in Asia Minor. He understood that, owing to recent events in Armenia, great pressure had been brought to bear by the Powers of Europe upon Turkey in a very specific and practical shape in order to bring about the required reforms. Was this so or not? If it were true, it would be very satisfactory. He would say nothing as regarded the probable result of the inquiries into the truth or otherwise of the alleged atrocities in Armenia, but, of course, they were in hopes that Turkey would be able to clear herself of the charges that had been made against her. Whatever the result of the inquiry that had been undertaken into the so-called Armenian atrocities, it was certain that Turkey would have to take in hand the reform of her administration in Asia Minor. He might point out to Her Majesty's Government that, by existing arrangements, England was most gravely responsible in this matter before Europe and the world for the state of affairs in 701 that part of Turkey. After the Berlin Conference we undertook to maintain the independence of Turkey; and Turkey, on the other hand, undertook to complete the reforms that had been pressed upon her. The condition of Asia Minor would, under any circumstances, remain a serious menace to the peace of Europe. The whole civilised world had been agitated by the reports that had come from that unhappy country, and it was a most merciful dispensation of Providence that Russia had not interfered, although she had too many pretexts for doing so. If, however, she had once stepped into Armenia there was no knowing where she would stop. Therefore the Armenian question was a most serious one, because, even supposing Turkey should clear herself of the awful charges brought against her, there was no denying that the state of Armenia was of a most uncertain character. It was, he asserted, essential that either the combined Powers were, or at all events England was, bound to put such pressure upon Turkey as would secure some administrative reforms being carried out in Armenia. The primary responsibility rested upon us, because we were answerable for our own arrangements by our own political acts. Consequently it was essential that we should take this opportunity of settling once for all whether there were to be these reforms in Armenia or not. Considering the very favourable effect which the recent speech of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in regard to the Upper Nile Valley produced in Europe, he thought it best not to re-open that question
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir E. GREY,) Northumberland, Berwick
said, in dealing with the points on which he had been asked for an explanation he had only to say as regarded Siam that he did not think there was any occasion for fresh discussion in that House at the present moment. If he thought that anything he could say in a discussion 702 of that moment would have a useful or beneficial effect at the particular stage at which this question had arrived, he should, of course, be ready to say it. He did not, however, think that was the case, in view of the fact that Siam had been so often discussed in that House, and he did not propose to enter upon it that night In answer to the question addressed to him about reforms in Armenia, he had only to say that a scheme of reforms, as was stated the other day, had been presented to the Porte, and that the reply of the Porte on that scheme of reform had not yet been received. He did not think at the present moment, while that question of reform was in the stage of suspense which it had reached at this moment—which they did not anticipate would last very long—it would be altogether useful to say more on that subject.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked whether the hon. Baronet's attention had been directed to the extraordinary incapacity for translation, particularly from French into English, which was displayed in the Foreign Office. He found that in the Foreign Office they habitually translated "dans undélaide," which meant "within an interval of," by "in a delay of;" and "prendre acte de," which meant "to take note of," by "take act of." In the Treaty of Utrecht, on which the Newfoundland question turned, the French were forbidden to "aborder" (i.e. to land) on the coast; this was translated "to resort to." In the Franco-Siamese Treaty, which prohibited Siam from having on her own lakes or rivers "des embarcations" (i.e. small boats) this word was translated by "ships." It seemed to be a tradition of the Foreign Office not to have anyone there who understood either French or English, and he should like to know whether better arrangements would be made in future for the translation of important documents like treaties or despatches, so that the Blue Books, which were often the only accessible means 703 of reference hon. Members had, might be more intelligible.
§ MR. R, G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
asked what the Government were going to do in regard to the proposed cession of Formosa to Japan, which might be of serious detriment to British commerce unless great safeguards were provided in regard to the channel between that island and the mainland. He spoke from a thorough knowledge of the county. There had, no doubt, been a great change in the history of the Far East. Japan had become a great maritime power; but England had more interests than any other nation in the Far East, and he thought they were entitled to know if any steps would be taken to safeguard our interests. Though he did not altogether agree with the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, he thought that some of the criticisms of the hon. Member for Lynn Regis were of a somewhat unfair description.
§ MR. T. W. LEGH (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
said, his hon. Friend (Mr. Bowles) had been, very severe on the criticisms of the previous speaker, but he felt himself bound to repudiate the want of knowledge he attributed to the Foreign Office clerks. All these gentlemen had to pass an examination before they joined the Foreign Office, and the faults the hon. Gentleman appeared to have discovered were extremely rare. These clerks might not possess the omniscience of his hon. Friend, but they would compare very favourably with the Foreign Office officials of any other country.
§ SIR E. GREY
said, he did not think it would be wise at the present time to discuss that question. With reference to the other question about the excellence of translations, he was ready to admit that now and then a slip might occur, but that might rather point to the excellence of the translator's French 704 than to his command of English. As to the difference of opinion expressed by the hon. Member for King's Lynn and the hon. Member for the Newton Division as regarded the way in which that work was done by the clerks in the Foreign Office, he could only say that he sided entirely with the hon. Member for the Newton Division. He thought that, considering the immense amount of work that had to be laid before the House, it was, on the whole, admirably done.
then put the Amendment which stood in the name of Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett, to reduce the Vote for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by £500, and it was negatived without a Division.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (Yorkshire, E.R., Holderness)
said, he wished to take the opportunity of asking his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies a question with regard to Bechuanaland. He would like to know whether it was intended to keep up the police force to its full present strength. Things in that country were so much more quiet, and the country was so much more settled, that there seemed to be good reason for supposing that the Vote on Account of the Police might be reduced. He noticed from the last Report on Bechuanaland, that no effort whatever was to be made in the direction of the education of the people. There was no grant for schools. It seemed to him that the Government would be rather neglectful of their duties in respect of this Crown Colony unless some money were expended in that way. When he called attention to this subject two or three years ago, he was told that it would receive consideration, but nothing had been done, and it appeared to him that if they were able now to reduce the police force the money saved might be expended on education. There had been considerable discussion, more especially in South Africa, on the question of handing Bechuanaland over to 705 the Cape Colony. There was, no doubt, a good deal to be said both for and against that step; but as far as he knew, the Government had not expressed any intention in the matter. He was told, however, that they had recently had it again under consideration, and he would be glad to know whether it was still their intention, as it was two years ago, to retain Bechuanaland as a Crown Colony. While he was on this subject, perhaps his hon. Friend would allow him to ask about the return of the Zulu Chiefs to Zululand. He had several times asked questions on the subject, and he would be glad to know whether it was intended to send them to Zululand or to bring them to this country. He would also like to know whether there was any considerable sum arising from taxes in Zululand which was being kept for future purposes. He was told there was a sum of something like £17,000 or £18,000 to the credit of Zululand. He did not wish to press the question as to the return of the chiefs any further just now. It had been pressed over and over again now for four years, and he must own to some astonishment at the result that had taken place in spite of the action taken by his hon. Friend when he sat on the Opposition side of the House. He had been very happy to associate himself with his hon. Friend then, and he had thought that when a Liberal Government came into power, the attacks made on their predecessors in this matter, would have borne some earlier fruit.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, with regard to the Transvaal, he would like to raise a respectful protest against the attitude of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary with regard to questions put to him on that subject. The proposition his hon. Friend had laid down to the House was that, being represented in South Africa by the High Commissioner, the House would on all occasions be informed by the High Commissioner of what took place. He protested against this doctrine. He thought they had a perfect right to interrogate the Government on any matters concerning the Colonies. They had been told that the High Commissioner had the confidence of the Government, and that if anything detrimental to this country occurred he would inform them, 706 and they would inform the House. He submitted that that was not sufficient, and that it could not prevent hon. Members exercising their right to interrogate the Government with regard to their policy. Some hon. Members, perhaps, had not the great confidence in the High Commissioner which the Government professed to have. Doubtless with regard to intention, ability, and energy, Sir H. Robinson was all that could be desired; but, at the same time, he was in a position which made it absolutely impossible for some hon. Members to feel perfect confidence in his course of action. They could not get over the fact that Sir H. Robinson occupied a very peculiar position. His hon. Friend, on behalf of the Government, gave the House certain information in regard to the commercial undertakings in which the High Commissioner was interested in South Africa, and it was thought at the time that the list was exhausted; but he was afraid, from information which he had received, that the statement did not exhaust the list. If he was correctly informed, Sir H. Robinson was interested, in addition to the companies which had been stated, in one of the most speculative enterprises in South Africa—namely, the Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa, If that were all, however, he would not complain, but they knew what might possibly be the effect of those enormous speculations in warping the judgment and influencing the views of men. Under these circumstances, he thought hon. Members were justified in pressing the Government for further information regarding South Africa. With respect to the Transvaal again, he thought there was absolute necessity for more frankness on the part of the Government. What was going on there was not fully made known to the House, and what was known did not come through the medium of the High Commissioner at all. Hon. Members learned through private sources many things connected with the Transvaal which were never communicated to the House, as they should have been. Although he had frequently questioned the Government in regard to matters affecting the Transvaal, yet he did not think he could be charged with having pressed them unduly, because inquiry was absolutely necessary. A statement 707 had recently been published to the effect that a field-cornet—a subordinate officer—had fired out of the town a number of British subjects who were employed in it by a British firm, and the act was regarded in certain quarters as a meritorious one. On two or three occasions he addressed questions to the Government on the subject. At first he could get no information, but was eventually informed that these and others had suffered in consequence of their non-compliance with some sanitary law. The fact was, that a great deal of jealousy existed against British subjects in the Transvaal, and it was becoming more formidable every day. The Transvaal authorities decided that British subjects should not be allowed to carry on certain businesses without a licence. That was, of course, perfectly within the powers of the Boer Government. But what happened? Having made this regulation they declined to issue the licences, and the effect was to exclude those British subjects from carrying on their businesses in the Transvaal at all. Another disadvantage under which the British subjects suffered was their inability to obtain, in any of the towns, the publication of the laws of the State in the English language. In conquered countries—in Russian Poland, Austrian Poland, and in other countries similarly situated—the laws were published in the language of the country. But in the Transvaal the laws were published, not in English at all, but in Dutch, and the consequence was that British subjects laboured under disadvantages from this cause, a condition of things which was simply intolerable. Again, with regard to education, there was a deliberate attack on England. In towns in the Transvaal, where there were only two Dutch children going to school, and the remainder were British, they were all compelled to learn Dutch in order to obtain a grant, although it was perfectly useless to them. There was, further, the exercise of a power to search and imprison people entering the Transvaal with English money in their possession, although this could not be regarded as any offence. With regard to the Franchise, also, there was no equality of treatment. The Franchise legislation during the last two or three years had been deliberately 708 sharpened as against their fellow subjects. Some three or four years ago the legislation as to the Franchise was severe enough, and it was then almost impossible for an Englishman to become a burgher in the Transvaal, but that legislation had been deliberately and notoriously accentuated and sharpened and made more detrimental to British subjects than it was before. The same remarks applied to the question of taxation so far as it affected their fellow subjects. These were some, but not all, of the indications of this ill-will towards British interests, which was really becoming something like a scandal in the Transvaal. They had no means of learning these things in the ordinary way, and there was a difficulty in the way of obtaining knowledge of what was going on in the Transvaal which ought not to be allowed to exist. They objected to their fellow subjects being made the objects of a system of perpetual attacks by the minority in the Transvaal. None of the matters that he had alluded to had ever been stated in the House by the Under Secretary on behalf of the High Commissioner, and it was not such a monstrous thing that an hon. Member should bring them forward and show the necessity for fuller and more rapid information from that quarter of the world. Any hon. Member who knew anything of South Africa personally knew that the name of the Colonial Office absolutely stank in South Africa. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, perhaps that expression was not strictly Parliamentary, and he would say that the Colonial Office was a most unpopular name in South Africa, because people or interests or concerns who had been made to suffer, and who had relied for redress and support on the British Colonial Office, were beginning to feel that their dependence had been misplaced, he did not, therefore, wonder that there should be a strong feeling in South Africa that it would be a good thing to be quit of the whole business, and to manage South African Affairs independently of the Colonial Office. He should regard such a thing as a calamity. So long as England had any responsibility in the matter, do not let them quietly acquiesce in anything that would be detrimental to her interests or the interests of her subjects. He could not help thinking 709 that there was too great a readiness to believe that everything that distinguished man, Mr. Rhodes, did, was perfect and beyond criticism. His influence was enormous; but, after all, the British Empire would live when Mr. Rhodes had gone. He recognised the great work that Mr. Rhodes had done, but what he had accomplished with his enormous financial resources was as nothing compared with the exploits of our great English statesmen and soldiers, who had not the slightest pecuniary interest in the administration with which they were charged. He hoped the Under Secretary would acquit him of having thoughtlessly brought this matter forward, for he could assure the hon. Gentleman he had been overwhelmed with communications from his fellow subjects in the Transvaal giving him information as to the points he had ventured to bring under the notice of the Committee
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
said, he very much regretted to hear the renewed attack of the hon. Member for Belfast on Sir Hercules Robinson. The hon. Member had a full opportunity of attacking Sir Hercules Robinson when the latter was in this country and could answer the charge. But he did not avail himself of that opportunity, and it was very unjust against a public servant that such an attack should now be made on him when he had gone out to take up his public duties.
§ MR. ARNOLD FORSTER
said, that on a former occasion he made a statement with regard to Sir Hercules Robinson by which he was prepared to abide. The Under Secretary made a reply to that statement, which he naturally thought was an exhaustive reply, and the opportunity was, therefore, allowed to pass. He found, however, that that reply was, so far as his information went, inexact in regard to the interest which the High Commissioner had in South African matters, and he now took the first opportunity that had offered of stating that that was so.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said, the hon. Member might, by means of questions, or in other ways, have pursued the subject before Sir Hercules Robinson left the country. He understood the 710 hon. Member's accusation to be that Sir Hercules Robinson had a pecuniary interest in the Consolidated Gold Fields. As a trustee he had necessarily some interest in that company, but personally he had no pecuniary interest in it. The hon. Member had charged the Colonial Office with refusing information. He could only say in reply that he had always been anxious and willing to give the fullest possible answer to any question addressed to him in reference to a specific matter. But the hon. Gentleman was in the habit of putting general questions which could only be answered in debate. He had, for instance, asked questions with reference to the Indian traders. That was a very complicated question, and the hon. Member had better wait until he saw the information which would be laid on the table before he moved further in the matter. The statements which he had made on the subject were totally and entirely inaccurate. The Colonial Office received detailed information from their officers in South Africa, and were fully conversant with all that was going on in the Transvaal. But they were precluded under the agreements with the South African Republic from moving in regard to the internal affairs of that country. In cases where British interests were affected they had not hesitated to move, arid they would not hesitate in the future; but it certainly was not their policy to attempt a general roving interference. With regard to the questions put by the hon. and gallant member for Holderness Division, the Bechuanaland Police was now being diminished, and one of Sir Hercules Robinson's first acts when he arrived would be further to diminish it very largely. As to the question of expenditure on education and public works, their difficulty was that they had to come to the House for a grant in aid of £80,000; and until the revenue improved they did not feel justified in entering on any further large expenditure. With regard to the question of handing Bechuanaland over to the Cape, the position was this: the Cape Government in the Governor's speech put in a paragraph saying they were prepared to take over British Bechuanaland. The subject had not yet been discussed in the Cape Parliament, but when they 711 came to some decision on it they would, no doubt, approach the Colonial Office. Until that time it would be impossible for him to give any reply in regard to the matter. With reference to the case of Dinizulu, they had endeavoured to carry out the views which he had expressed more than once—that that chief should be allowed to return to Zululand at the earliest possible moment. The Colonial Office advised the sending back of the chiefs, but unfortunately the Natal Government protested against it until Zululand was handed over to Natal; and, as we did not see our way to do that at present, the return of the chiefs was necessarily delayed. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that Zululand funds were not applied to the purposes of any other colony, but were used exclusively for Zululand interests. The country had got a large surplus every year, and had £20,000 invested in English Consols, so that Zululand, which a few years ago was no man's land, was now one of the most prosperous countries in South Africa.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
admitted the right of the Natal Government to make representations to the Colonial Office in the matter of the return of the Zulu chiefs, but it seemed to him to be a grave question whether such representations ought to weigh so much with the Colonial Office in such an important matter.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
asked whether any representations had been made by the Government to the Transvaal in regard to the non-translation of the sanitary laws into English, the alteration of the Franchise Laws, or the special taxation of foreign residents as unfriendly acts.
§ MR. BUXTON
said, those were matters of internal government in the Transvaal, and as they affected all foreign subjects and not British subjects specially, the Government had made no representation in regard to them.
drew attention to the subsidy of £6,000 a year paid by the Government to the Messageries Maritimes for the carrying the mails of the Mauritus. He held that that was a mischievous policy, and that when the present contract had terminated it ought not to be renewed. The London Chatham and Dover boats, which were formerly 712 manned by Englishmen, were now compelled, because they were subsidised for the carriage of the French mails, to carry the French flag, to be officered by French officers, and to be manned by Frenchmen. He did not complain of the French Government for doing that, but he thought it was an example that ought to be followed in the case of the Mauritius. It was only recently that a scene took place in the French Chamber, and the French Government was nearly being turned out of office because a contract had been given to an English Company to carry French boats to Madagascar. What were the vessels of the Messageries Martimes? Every naval officer knew they were very powerful boats and very powerful cruisers. They were officered and manned by officers and men of the French Naval Reserve, and he was told that there were now guns in their holds. If war were to break out to-morrow the guns had only to be hoisted into position, and the men had only to put on their uniforms. He was not an alarmist, but he maintained that that was an immoral state of things. What France required from us when dealing with our boats we should require from France when dealing with her boats, or the subsidy should be withdrawn. He was told that at the time the subsidy was granted, an English Company was ready to run steamers.
§ MR. J. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough) rose to a point of order. He would like to know whether the vessels of the English Company were manned by Englishmen?
said, he did not intend to go into details, but what he stated was a fact. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would be able to give the Committee some satisfaction on the point he had raised.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
admitted the importance of the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. This particular system, however, had been in force for 25 years, and we were entirely in the hands of the Colonial Government, over whom we had slight or no control. He might add that the boats which really touched the Mauritius, were not armed cruisers in any way.
was aware that these great steamers stopped at Reunion, and that smaller steamers went on to the Mauritius. He did not think it quite fair he should have been met by such a statement.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, there were two questions he wished to ask. It had been stated lately that along the sea board on the east coast of Africa, opposite the Transvaal, some naval stations were being established, or other naval arrangements were being made, on behalf of England, which would prevent the Boers from ever establishing themselves on the sea board. He was not sure whether that important information had been confirmed officially: at any rate there could be no harm in asking for confirmation of it now. Again, he desired to know whether it was true or not that the South African Republic were establishing some administration in Swaziland. The other day he asked the Under Secretary a question on the point but received a very unsatisfactory reply. They knew from former Debates that the supremacy of the Republic had been established over Swaziland, but they understood the control was to be merely of a very general character. They now understood something more was to be done, something more specific, and that something approaching to a Boer administration was to be established there. He hoped that was not correct. If it were not correct it would be satisfactory to them to be so informed.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said, the South African Republic were administering Swaziland in accordance with the terms of the Convention of 1894. The hon. Gentleman's first question he took to refer to the territory between Zululand and the Portuguese part of Tongaland. We had annexed that territory and had declared a Protectorate so that as far as the sea board was concerned no other Power could have access to it.
§ MR. CYRIL DODD (Essex, Maldon)
called attention to the action of the 714 Board of Trade in regard to preferential railway rates in favour of the foreigner and against the English producer. His complaint was, that the Board of Trade at the present day was carrying out the same policy as its predecessors; there had been no change in that policy, notwithstanding that the law had been changed in many respects with regard to the railway companies. It was common knowledge to all who had studied the Reports of the Sub-commissioners sent out by the Agricultural Commission, that foreign produce had been carried to the English markets at rates very much lower than those charged for homegrown produce, and the discrepancy was very startling. The railway companies said that it was because the foreign produce came in large quantities, and was handled as wholesale consignments, while the English farmer sent his produce in smaller quantities, which had, therefore, to be charged higher rates. The Board of Trade might do much to mitigate the disadvantage to the English producer. The railways from the first had been regulated by Act of Parliament, and one of the earliest of those Acts of Parliament was still in existence. It provided that the Committee of the Treasury, and now the Board of Trade, should have power to require the Attorney General to take action if the railway companies in any respect transgressed any of the powers entrusted to them. In 1873 the Railway Regulation Act was passed, giving power to the Board of Trade to take up cases of unfair preference, and to bring them before the Railway Commissioners. From that date to this the Board of Trade had never taken up a single case, or done anything on behalf of the British producer; but the time had now arrived when the Board of Trade ought to take action. In 1888 new powers over the railway companies were given. Among other provisions, the duty was imposed on the Board of Trade, when questions as to the justice 715 of rates were raised, to act as arbitrators between the parties, and to try and arrange matters. It was urged that because that power of arbitration had been entrusted to the Board of Trade it was impossible for the Board to act under the powers conferred by the Act of 1873. The answer to that contention was to cite recent legislation with regard to the hours of railway servants. By that legislation almost the same duty of arbitration was imposed on the Board of Trade in respect of questions whether the hours worked were or were not too long; and it was provided that if the arbitration failed, the Board of Trade might take up the case of the railway servants and fight it out in the courts. The Board of Trade ought now to take up the case of the British merchant and producer as against the foreigner, because it was impossible that the former should fight the railway company, or that even a combination of private traders should do it. The intervention of some public Department was necessary. He would give one or two instances of the preferential charges which were established. English meat, carried for 84½ miles, was charged 36s. 9d.; the same quantity of foreign meat, carried 76 miles, was charged 12s. 6d. English hops, carried 45 miles, were charged 20s.; the same quantity of foreign hops, carried 76 miles, was charged only 6s. So far he had referred only to the statutory powers of the Board of Trade, and he did not believe in new legislation if there were a possibility of doing what was required by the law as it stood. But the Board of Trade had other powers. The railway companies frequently came to the House to get fresh powers; and in those circumstances it was not unreasonable that the House should know how the powers already given to the companies had been used. The House should be told whether the companies asking for new powers had been amenable to the Conciliation Clause, and had been reasonable with 716 regard to rates and charges; or whether the Board of Trade had found it impossible to arbitrate between them and their customers. These facts ought to be laid before the Committee which had to deal with any Railway Bill.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. J. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
said, that no one who had followed these Debates in connection with railway rates could fail to recognise the assiduous attention which has been given by the hon. Member to this question. The suggestion, however, that when Bills came before the House, promoted by railway companies, it should be the duty of the Board of Trade to call attention to the conduct of companies in other respects, was one which he could not entertain. The two subjects were entirely different, and he was sure that the hon. Gentleman would feel that it would be very difficult for the House to mix up two questions so entirely opposed the one to the other as whether Parliamentary sanction should be given to the making of a new line or the widening of a line, or the improvement of shunting yards, only on condition that some other question in connection with traffic rates was settled at the same time. In many cases Bills were promoted quite as much in the interest of the public as in the interest of the railway company; and the interest of the public would suffer if a Bill carrying our railway improvements were rejected on account of some alleged transgression in another respect by the company. The question of difference in railway charges was a very difficult one, and he was sensible of the discontent felt with regard to the question, especially in the agricultural districts. The matter had been raised recently in an important case, the time for hearing which had not yet elapsed. It would, therefore, not be right for him to express an opinion with regard to it. But the Board of Trade were carefully watching the question, though at present they had no right to interfere; that was 717 a matter for the Railway Commissioners. They considered, however, whether in any way the influence which they possessed with railways could he brought usefully into play. Under the Act of 1888 the Board of Trade had power to act as conciliators or arbitrators in cases brought forward by traders. In those cases the Department frequently exercised the power of conciliation to good purpose and to the relief of the traders from heavy costs in appearing before the Railway Commissioners.
§ MR. J. HAVELOCK WILSON
called attention to the action of the Board of Trade in relation to sailors and firemen. He understood that it was the duty of the Board of Trade to protect the lives of men who went to sea on board our ships, and this country spent £51,000 ostensibly for that purpose. Yet foreigners, who did not know a word of the English language, were constantly being signed on board British ships; the agreements were read out to the men and they were asked to sign them and abide by them. It was, he maintained a disgrace for any public Department to ask men to sign agreements which they did not understand, but this was what was taking place constantly in Mercantile Marine Offices throughout the country. He had repeatedly called attention to this matter, but had never received a satisfactory reply. He had seen men of seven nationalities signing on board one ship in Cardiff, and not one of those men knew the English language. The Board of Trade officials, moreover, were not fair in their dealings with the men. What right had State officials to interfere between men and their employers for the purpose of preventing higher wages being paid to the men? The Board of Trade ought, at any rate, to see that the men got fair and reasonable wages, and not sweaters wages. In Cardiff, some time ago, the seamen wished for an advance of wages which would have brought the pay up to 2½d. or 3d. per hour, and could not be said to be an extravagant rate for men to ask. The shipowners refused, and the men would not sign on unless they got that rate. Then the shipowners began to sign their men on inside the Bute Docks, the dock gates being shut and men only admitted on promising to sign 718 on at the old rate of wages; and Government officials were sent into the docks to sign on crews there, whereas the proper place for all ordinary ships to be signed on was at the Mercantile Marine Offices. For what purpose did the Board of Trade spend thousands of pounds on large offices in different parts of the country unless they intended to sign crews on there? They signed on tinkers, and tailors, and carters who had never smelt salt water. He had met a tailor going about his ordinary business with his flat iron, and had seen that same man signed on a few hours later as an able-bodied seaman. He had also heard of a carter who was signed on and went on board with his hob-nail boots, and it took the ship's carpenter two days to remove the hobnails. ["Oh!" and laughter]. In one case, he heard of a vessel having to put back to port because all the sailors and firemen were sea-sick. The attention of the Board of Trade was called to this state of things at the time by written communications, but no satisfactory replies were received. If the business of the Department was to be carried on in this way the sooner they dispensed with the Mercantile Marine Office and its well-paid officials the better it would be for all concerned. On several occasions he had called the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the treatment of Lascar seamen on board English ships. The owner of any vessel who failed to supply each seaman with 72 cubic feet of space was, under the Merchant Shipping Act, liable to a penalty of £20 for each offence. He had asked several questions with reference to the accommodation on the Himalaya, and the answer given him was that the forecastle was intended for the accommodation of 125 men, and yet 154 men slept there. The President of the Board of Trade was apparently afraid to act. He wished to know for what reason? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman enforce the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act? Another evil which demanded attention was due to the present mode of constructing the interiors of forecastles. They were now built of iron instead of wood. In hot weather the iron sweated and the result was that the men had to sleep in damp bunks. The Board of Trade could, and ought to, compel the owners to line the 719 interior, of the forecastles with wood. In 15 out of 20 ships the forecastles were in a disgraceful condition. In many cases they were so constructed that in the event of collision the men could not possibly escape from them in a reasonable time. Until these and other matters were put right by the Board of Trade he should continue to direct attention to them.
§ Vote agreed to; Resolution to be reported to-morrow.