§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ [SIXTH NIGHT.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:
We take this opportunity of expressing to Your Majesty our deep concern at the sad affliction with which Your Majesty has been visited in the death of His Royal Highness Prince Henry Maurice of Battenberg:
We desire to assure Your Majesty and Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Battenberg of our sincere participation in the general feeling of sorrow for the heavy bereavement which Your Majesty and Your Majesty's family have sustained by the loss of a Prince who was regarded with universal affection and esteem by Your Majesty's subjects."—(Mr. George Goschen.)
Amendment proposed, at the end of Question, to add the words,—
And we humbly express the regret of this House that no reference is made in Your Majesty's Speech to Questions specially affecting the interests of the fishing populations in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland."—(Mr. Weir).
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
, in resuming the Debate, regretted that the Secretary for Scotland was not a Member of that House. He did not make this observation because he would say a word against the very courteous Gentlemen who represented Scotland on the Treasury Bench. He was sure the Lord Advocate and his colleague would in all matters give very careful attention to Scotch affairs. The reason why he much regretted the Secretary for Scotland was not in the House of Commons, was because measures affecting Scotland to which they attached so much importance were in a great degree matters of public money, and if the Secretary for Scotland was not there, it made it all the more, difficult for the Scotch Members to get at the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was bad enough if they had to get at the Chancellor of the Exchequer second-hand and induce the Secretary fur Scotland to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but it was even worse now, because they had to persuade the Lord Advocate to persuade the Secretary for Scotland in another House, and then come hack and persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons. In these circumstances they found it difficult to get a proper hearing of their claims for public money for very necessary purposes. They had great financial grievances in Scotland. They believed that the Treasury committed towards Scotland "the fault of the Dutch in giving too little and asking too much." About a 571 million sterling a year was drawn from Scotland more than ought to be drawn. The last Government gave the Scottish Members reason to hope that there would be a financial inquiry as to the relations between Scotland and the Treasury. He hoped that some such inquiry would be established, because until the financial relations between England and Scotland——
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! That Amendment applies solely to the fishing population and their wants. Originally it was drawn, as the hon. Member knows, to include the crofting and fishing populations, but the reference to the crofting population being out of order, owing to a Bill which has been brought in by the hon. Member for Ross-shire, the Debate must be confined strictly to the limits within which it now stands.
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN
said, he referred to the financial aspect of the question, because the fishing needs of the population depended almost entirely on the money question. He wanted to show that if there was an equitable arrangement abundant money would be forthcoming for the needs of the fishing population. The answer had always been that no money was available. As to the special needs of the fishing population of Scotland, the question of life and death with these men was that of harbour accommodation. He distinguished between two classes of fishery harbours. In the first place there were local fishery harbours—what might be called commercial fishery harbours—to supply the needs of different local centres. The management of such harbours was undertaken by the Scottish Fishery Board, and they had only £3,000 a year, a sum which for the whole of Scotland was an absurdity. In helping to improve those harbours or to make new ones it was reasonable that the locality should be called upon to assist in raising funds for that purpose. The money raised by loan could be repaid by harbour dues. He had no complaint to make against the Secretary for Scotland or the Fishery Board under this head. They had given courteous attention to the representations. But the second class of harbour was the boat refuge harbour, sufficient for fishing boats to run in at all states 572 of the tide in time of danger and storm, harbours not intended for any commercial profit, but intended to save life and property. It was impossible for the local people to provide such refuges. It was the duty of the Government to provide them out of Imperial Funds. This subject had been brought before the attention of the House periodically for half a century. First of all, there had been some catastrophe where many lives had been lost; next, there had been an Inquiry ordered and recommendations had been made; thirdly, they were told that no money was available. This was the usual dreary round followed; the question was then shelved and no more was heard of it until there was another terrible storm and loss of life. The first great disaster of which they had Parliamentary record took place in 1848. On that occasion a herring fleet was overtaken by a terrible storm and 100 fishermen were drowned, leaving 47 widows and 161 orphans unprovided for. An Inquiry afterwards took place and the Report was made by Admiral Washington, the Hydrographer to the Admiralty. In that Report it was stated that:—the want of good harbours accessible at all times is the grand cause of loss to life and property in the increased risk connected with our fisheries.He then stated that £3,000 a year was quiteinadequate, and the recommendation made by the Admiral was that £10,000 a year should be allowed for a few years.This amount, steadily laid out on piers and harbours, would do much to remedy the want and place the fisheries of the east of Scotland on a par with those on more favoured coasts.But no tiling was done to give an increased grant. Things went on in the same way until the next catastrophe occurred in February, 1857. A great storm arose, and nine boats from Buckie alone were lost; 42 fishermen were drowned, leaving 27 widows and 79 orphans. On that occasion also an Inquiry was made. A Special Commission was appointed under the chairmanship of a distinguished Member of this House, Mr. James Wilson. Similar findings and recommendations were made. The exact amount recommended was £9,300 a year as the smallest amount necessary to provide harbour accommodation. 573 Again nothing was done; no money was forthcoming. In October, 1864, a great disaster took place. On that occasion a north-east gale arose, and there was no protection from such a gale along the coast of the Moray Firth. There being absolutely no place of refuge along 60 miles of coast from Fraserburgh to Cromarty, the, sudden springing up of a north-east gale meant to the fishermen not only danger but certain death. Not only was the danger great, but the numbers of the fishing population and the value of the property were in excess of any other locality in these islands. The boats and gear were recently valued at no less than £200,000, and Sir Mount-Stuart Grant Duff had stated that there were sometimes as many as 10,000 persons afloat at one time on the Moray Firth. The facts of the case were not denied, the necessity was not denied, the duty of Government was not denied, but the answer constantly returned to the demand of the fishing population was that there was no money. He maintained that it was one of the primary duties of Government to protect the lives, property and industry of meritorious citizens, and it would be hard indeed, if the small amount demanded by these humble and honest persons was not forthcoming with cheerful ness and gladness for so good a purpose. Fortunately there was a possibility of meeting the need in a simple and easy fashion. Not far from Buckie, at a place called Craigenroan, there was a bay and a reef of rocks which might at very small cost be made a complete harbour of refuge. This place had been favourably reported on not only by Messrs. Stephenson, but by the Government engineer very recently indeed. The bay was a natural harbour, with a very good bottom and plenty of water, and all that was wanted was the construction of a breakwater to join the reefs of rock to the shore, in order to afford splendid protection in a north-east gale. If the reef he had described had to be built up artificially it would cost £100,000, so that it might be said that nature had benevolently contributed £100,000 to the work, and all that they asked from the Government was a grant of £23,000 more, in order to make a real place of refuge for fishermen when in danger of their lives. If there was great need for 574 this in former days the need was very much greater now. In the first place, the boats were very much larger, they could not be beached as the small boats used to be, and, finally, there were many more of them. The value of the boats must be three times what it was 30 years ago. Therefore, in every way the need for harbour accommodation was very much greater. In Buckie alone there was a fleet of 756 boats, and upwards of 2,000 men and boys were, engaged in the industry. It had been computed that if the nets belonging to this one district were spread out, they would cover an area of ten square miles; and that the lines used in the line fishing, if tied end by end, would go half round the globe. The fishing industry brought great wealth to the country. It produced a race of men who were almost the only trained seafaring men we possessed to man the Navy in time of war. The very least the country could do was to prevent these brave and skilful men from being sacrificed periodically in the way they were. The Treasury had a surplus of some £9,000,000 of hard cash available for distribution in various ways, and he trusted the Government would give to the claim he had put forward all the weight it deserved, that they would take up the subject in a thorough way, and none of them would grudge the Government any credit or popularity they might gain by such action. The question of trawling in the Moray Firth had lately come into prominence, and he trusted the Government would deal with it very carefully. As the matter was to a certain extent, sub judice, he would not go into details. But he wished to say that the excitement that had been aroused all along the coast from the incursion of trawlers was very deep-seated and real. The exclusion of trawlers from the Moray Firth ought to be both effective and permanent, and at present it was neither the one nor the other. The gunboats employed wore not the proper kind of vessels to police the waters. There ought to be swift boats, carrying practical fishermen, who could guide the operations necessary to put down the poaching. The law was bound to see that the restrictions it imposed were observed; and the people who had caused so much ill-feeling ought to meet with very summary punishment indeed. 575 The wealthy proprietors of these trawlers showed an indecent haste in rushing in their boats into the Moray Firth directly they learnt the bye-law excluding them might be defective. They did not even give the line-fishermen time to remove their lines.
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN
said, that in the first year after the exclusion of the trawlers, the supply of fish was plentiful, though small; in the second year the size was moderate; and in the third year the fishermen were congratulating themselves on a still greater improvement, when the trawlers rushed in and did irreparable mischief. The feeling aroused was so strong, that if the fishermen had not been the most law-abiding people, there would have been serious trouble. But under very trying circumstances they behaved with the greatest self-control; and the Government ought to consider that as a reason for listening to their grievances.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not propose to deal at length with the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just, sat down; but I wish to make an appeal to him and the other Scotch Members upon the subject, of the Amendment now before the House. I can hardly complain of the hon. Member for bringing before us what he regards—and in some respects legitimately—as the grievances of those who sent him here. But at the same time this is an Amendment to the Address, and the language of it necessarily complains of the action of Her Majesty's Government. There is no ground for that complaint whatever [Cheers]; and it has been made under an entire misconception of the policy of the Government in regard to Scotland. The last part of the hon. Member's observations were not addressed to the question of legislation at all; and I am sure that neither he nor his friends are so unreasonable as seriously to complain of the fact that no mention is made in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech that certain bye-laws in respect of the Moray Firth have not proved effective. [Laughter 576 and "Hear, hear!"] It is not a reasonable complaint to make. We recognise as much as the hon. Member the injury which has been done to the line-fishermen. We are as anxious as he is to protect the interests of the line-fishermen. When I was Secretary for Scotland I initiated a policy of excluding from the operations of trawlers large areas of sea where these line-fishermen carried on their industry; and that policy has since not been confined to one side of the House or the other. It has been adopted by previous Governments, and we are proposing to pursue it. At this very moment the Solicitor-General for Scotland has gone to Scotland to endeavour—and with good hope of success—to induce the Courts to reverse the decision come to with regard to the Moray Firth. [Cheers.] Under these circumstances, to make a complaint that we have not introduced that topic into the Queen's Speech is both to show an ignorance of what is commonly put in the Queen's Speech, and also to ignore the genuine efforts of the Government to meet the wishes of the hon. Member and those whom he represents. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN
I made no complaint of the action of the Government with regard to the bye-laws.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The hon. Member spoke in favour of an Amendment which asked the House to express its regret that no mention is made in the Speech of questions specially affecting the interests of the fishing populations. If the hon. Member makes no complaint of the action of the Government in regard to the trawlers, what possible justification has he for introducing the subject into a speech in support of what amounts to a vote of censure on the Government in respect of that subject? [Sir W. WEDDERBURN: "Hear, hear!" "Harbours."] I turn to the earlier part of the hon. Member's speech, and there I take up somewhat different ground. The Amendment complains that there is no reference made in the Speech to questions specially affecting the fishing populations of the Islands and Highlands. There is a distinct reference to a Bill which, among others, has this very object. It is not, I admit, evident in the title of the Bill, 577 but it is so. In this Bill there are provisions having for their object the using of public money for the purpose of aiding the poor fishing populations of Scotland and England.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
When the Light Railways Bill comes before the House the hon. Member will be able to see what the, provisions are. He was told by the Lord Advocate that the objects of the Bill were what I have described them to be—to advance the interests of the fishing populations in those cases where improved communications may be expected to do so. In addition to that Bill we have great hopes of being able to carry through successfully the Great Mallaig Railway scheme. Negotiations are still going on between the railway companies concerned and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and until they are completed we cannot finally say that the Bill will be proceeded with. But we have declared our policy, and we have every hope, of being able to carry it into effect. It does seem to be rather hard that the Government, who have proposed these schemes for expending public money in the interests of the fishing populations, should be subject to an Amendment which asks the House to declare that we have not done anything in the matter. ["Hear, hear!"] It is quite true that neither of the measures to which I have alluded deals with the question of harbours. But I do not say that that question will not be taken into consideration by the Government. Everything cannot be done at once, or in one Session; and we may at least appeal to Scotch Members whether, after the general statement I have made, we are really open to the charge which those who move and support the Amendment desire to press on the House. ["Hear, hear!"] We have the keenest interest in the fishing districts of Scotland. We have recognised to the full the social value of these great fishing populations, and the economic value of the results of their labour, and the House need not be afraid that we shall not, as time and opportunity occur, do our best to forward those interests. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said, the First Lord of the Treasury had hardly fairly treated the Amendment or the speeches delivered in support of it. Amendments to the Address were not necessarily complaints of want of definite action on the part of the Government, or expressions of want of confidence in their legislation, but were often, as in this case, brought forward purposely to endeavour to obtain from the responsible spokesmen of the Government information as to the line of policy they intended to pursue in regard to a definite subject, which in the present instance was the fishing industries of Scotland. He was bound to say that the First Lord of the Treasury offered very scant and meagre fare indeed to the fishing population of Scotland. He had expected something better from the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that what the Government were prepared to do was to bring forward a scheme of light railways, to apply to the whole of Great Britain and possibly the Mallaig railway scheme. In regard to the latter scheme, which was to advance a quarter of a million to the North British Railway Company, all he would say was that it had been opposed by him and other Scottish Members in the past. Then, with regard to light railways, he would like, to ask what possible benefit would they confer on the fishing population of Scotland if they were carried out through the length and breadth of Great Britain. Of course, they in Scotland would welcome a scheme for light railways; but to say that the fishing community were to be satisfied with a proposal for light railways for Great Britain—as the Government policy in regard to fisheries—was preposterous, and was contrary to the hopes held out by the supporters of the Government at the General Election. There was no doubt that the reopening of Moray Firth to trawling had given a great stimulus to the whole question of the regulation of trawling; and meetings were being held all along the coasts of Scotland claiming that the Government should carry out the intentions of the Bill introduced last year—which was recommended by many 579 Committees—to extend the territorial limit for fishing purposes. He thought Scotland owed a debt of gratitude to the present Secretary for Scotland, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, for having, as he stated in a recent speech, urged the Foreign Office to apply to the various Powers adjoining the North Sea, to take joint action with a view to an International regulation for an extension of the territorial limit to 13 miles, or such other distance as might be agreed upon. That was a good bit of practical work done; and he asked the Government whether any substantial progress had been made in the negotiations with the Maritime Powers interested in the question? The want of sufficient harbours was a very old grievance indeed; and yet the First Lord had not said a single word of comfort on that subject. He believed that the Secretary of Scotland was also alive to the claims of many parts of Scotland for harbours, and he did not believe it would be Lord Bal-four's fault if satisfaction were not done the country in that matter. Fishing harbours were wanted practically all over the Scottish coasts, but more particularly on the north-east coast. The fishing population of that coast had preeminent claims upon the attention of the Government for two reasons. In the first place they helped themselves, and therefore deserved assistance; and, secondly the fishing of the north-east coast amounted to 75 per cent. of the fishing of the whole coast of Scotland. Yet the north-east coast was worse off in regard to harbours; and was also the part of the coast that was most subjected to violent storms. What they wanted was what had been recommended from time to time; and was last recommended by the fishing report of 1893, namely, that a more substantial grant should be given to the Fishery Board, so that the Board should be able not to erect a harbour here and there, but to devise and carry out a large and definite scheme which would adequately meet the demands of the fishing population along the coast of Scotland. That was what they wanted, and that was what he still hoped they would get, notwithstanding the discouraging reply of the First Lord.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 113: Noes, 267.—(Division List, No, 5.)580
MAJOR JAMESON (Clare, W.) moved to add at the end of the Question:—
And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the refusal of the Government to concede the demands made on behalf of the Christian Brothers and other denominational schools in Ireland has inflicted a great injustice on these schools, and disappointed the hopes of an overwhelming majority of the Irish people.
He said he believed and hoped that many hon. Members opposite who, like himself were connected with the Episcopal Church of Ireland, would vote for the Amendment, for he felt convinced they would concur with those who were desirous that an anomalous grievance should be done away with; and certainly all who were desirous that the Roman Catholics should receive full emancipation from all disabilities would vote with him. He would not say anything to raise party feeling; he would say nothing that could in any way raise rancorous feelings of religious hatred which he trusted were in Ireland buried for ever. The Christian Brothers had agreed that their schools, which were admitted by everybody to be among the best conducted, should be inspected by an officer of the State and that the pupils should be classified by those who examined them. They also agreed to separate secular from religious instruction and with regard to the books used in their schools they wove willing to submit them to the Board of National Education. They were willing to remove from their books any matter which might be considered to be controversial, and to make special regulations whenever Protestant children attended their schools. He thought most Members of the House would agree with him that no men could do more than the Christian Brothers had offered to do. They had always been ready to sacrifice their personal feelings to the cause of education and to the cause of Christianity; they had set a noble example of self-sacrifice and self-denial, and were entitled not only to equal treatment with other Voluntary Schools, but to the admiration and the gratitude of the country. He believed that a large majority of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland were in favour of the grants being given to the Christian Brothers. He would ask the House to
recollect that the Commissioners were composed half of Protestants and half of Roman Catholics, and yet in a Roman Catholic country like Ireland, notwithstanding the opinion of the Commissioners of National Education, the schools were still without the grant. There was a clause known as the "Time-table" conscience clause. Many Members of the House had heard of a praying wheel that was used by some of the native tribes of Northern India. But could they understand in this Nineteenth Century of civilization—in a country like England, boasting of its religion and civilization, Her Majesty's Government proposed to regulate the religion and the conscience of the Irish people by a time-table? What he asked was, that this time-table religion might cease, and that the religion taught by Protestant and Roman Catholic teachers alike might be the true real belief, that had come to each for countless generations, instead of this wretched automatic unreal "timetable," that was but a parody and an insult to the name of Religion. He would read the words of the present Prime Minister, and he failed to understand how Lord Salisbury could resist the appeal. In October, 1885, in one of his most celebrated speeches he said:—
As to religious education I am not speaking for my own alone. What I believe I would ex-tend equally to the Nonconformist of Wales and to the Roman Catholic of Ireland. But I do claim that whatever Church or form of Christianity they belong to, there should be given the opportunity to educate the people in the belief of the Christianity they profess, instead of giving them a lifeless boiled clown unreal religious teaching.
Believe me the essence of true religious teaching was that the teacher should believe that which he taught and should deliver it as he believes it—the whole measure, of truth. It was against this boiled-down, lifeless, unreal religion, this religion by time-table—this endeavouring to control conscience by the same method that they did a railway, that he was protesting against now. It was a religion that he regarded as "a stained window that obscures the light," as "a passage that leads to nothing." It may be urged by hon. Members opposite that when they, the representa-
tives of Ireland, asked for Home Rule, for Local Self Government, for the Municipal Franchise, that they could grant these to Ireland because the unity of the Empire might be endangered. But would any Member opposite assert that the teaching to the children of Ireland of those great Christian truths, believed in by their forefathers, would in any way impair the peace, the prosperity and the happiness of Ireland, or that a lifeless boiled-down "time-table" religion could alone preserve the unity of the Empire. He asked them therefore to remove from the schools of the Christian Brothers, from these noble, simple teachers of Irish children, the stigma of inequality that reflected not on them but on the Government of the country, and to say to them, who had cried for years, "the shadow of the Cross shall be my refuge until this tyrrany be overpast,"
You are free to conduct your schools with the grants and privileges you desire. We will no longer place these false and unwarrantable restraints on your religion. The religion of the minority cannot be safeguarded by disabilities laid on the majority. We will do all that we can to atone for having in the past played on religious differences in Ireland and stirred up Party strife to suit our own political purposes. But we will found our policy on one of justice and right, on the laws laid down by the great founder of Christianity itself.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
, in seconding the Amendment, remarked that he did so from reasons different, from those that had been so eloquently advanced by his hon. Friend. This was not merely a Roman Catholic question, but as an Irish Protestant Episcopalian question? The schools of the Church Education Society were under similar disabilities to those of the Christian Brothers. He appealed to hon. Members opposite whether they would not say that the first thing a child should have should be a Christian education. What Protestant Divines connected with the Church Education Society said—and they were supported by an enormous mass of lay opinion—was that religious instruction should never, in the schools over which they had control, be divorced from secular instruction. Rightly or wrongly the Christian Brothers said the same, and in consequence they were deprived of 583 pecuniary benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled under the Education Acts. The Protestant Education Society, rightly or wrongly, said that they would not, having regard to higher principles, be tongue-tied in their schools, and if a boy told a lie they would not refer him to Confucius or Plato but to Christian principles and doctrines. The Christian Brothers said the same thing, and for so saying had since 1836 been excluded from all the advantages conferred by the State for religious purposes. In citing the opinions of others on this matter he would give only the opinions of those who differed in politics from himself, but agreed with him (or rather he might say he agreed with them) in reference to Church matters. The Protestant Archbishop of Dublin (Lord Plunket) had—with great liberality of sentiment, which did credit to his head as well as his heart—advocated the claims of the Christian Brothers in this matter. The claims which Irishmen advanced were simply and solely the arrangements submitted to the Government by the Educational Commissioners of Ireland. Those Commissioners consisted of twenty gentlemen elected by the Government themselves, who were all gentlemen of the highest character, and possessing the greatest education and experience. Ten of them belonged to the Catholic Church, and ten to the various Protestant communities in Ireland. Of these twenty gentlemen, no fewer than fourteen were in favour of those rules, which now only required the sanction of the Lord-Lieutenant. Among the Protestant members of the body who approved of the rules were Lord Plunket, Professor Fitzgerald, and Dr. Stubbs, while the rules were also approved by Chief Baron Pallas, who, it was an open secret, might, if he had only been a Home Ruler, have been Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Lord Plunket, in the course of his address, said:—The object of the resolutions which had been passed by the Commissioners was to relax these rules, and so to give an opportunity for those who, in their own opinion, had a right to share in the State grants for education of bringing their schools under State control.First of all, he would point to the need that existed and to the way in which it had arisen. He would do so by referring to the fundamental principle of the 584 Board of National Education. In the book which he held in his hand the object of the fundamental principle was stated to be:—To afford combined literary and moral and separate religious instruction to children of all persuasions as far as possible in the same school upon the fundamental principle that no attempt shall be made to interfere with the peculiar religious tenets of any description of Christian pupils, and the Board had been endeavouring to carry out this system based upon this fundamental principle as far as possible. But some cases had arisen in which this was not possible, and for this reason. It was impossible in the Church Education Society's schools, which claimed that any hour the Scriptures might be read or taught, that this united secular and separate religious instruction might be carried out; and in the case of the Christian Brothers' schools, in consequence of the emblems that were upon the walls and the religious exercises that took place at several times of the day.Lord Plunket went on to say:—What the Board proposed was this—that any schools willing to accept the conditions that children within them should consist altogether of members of one denomination—all Roman Catholics or all Protestants—that in those schools there should be certain relaxations of those conditions, and that in the Church Education Society's schools, for example, they would be allowed to receive State aid, though possessing the liberty to use, to teach, and to read the Bible, and to give instruction in Church formularies.And he added:—Of course the same liberty which they claimed for themselves should be accorded to the Christian Brothers' schools.In another part of his address, Lord Plunket said:—Surely you must weigh in the other scale the rights of all those different schools, whether they be their own schools or the schools of the Roman Catholics, not by shutting out the State grants because of the religious difficulty,Further on he said:—They were anxious in this Church that justice should be done to the Church Education Society's schools. He believed that the great principle that would be vindicated in this matter was the principle of religious liberty. He trusted that none of them would object to this grant merely because it was a grant that was asked for by Archbishop Walsh, or because it would be given to Roman Catholics, and given to them in a, greater proportion than it would be given to Protestants. So long as the same measure of justice was dealt to all, he thought they could see no difficulty on that ground.585 Those wore the opinions of the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin upon this matter. Would the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland get up and say that he knew better what was good for Irishmen and for their children than the Archbishop of Dublin did, who regarded their demands as the Magna Charter of their religious liberty. He wondered whether the amateur Protestant Divines in Ireland would set up their own opinions on this subject against those of the Archbishop of Dublin. He supposed that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would argue that the concession of this rule would establish denominational education in Ireland. That would probably be the right hon. Gentleman's ground for opposing this rule, but that ground was non-existent. His simple answer to the objection would be that, as the right hon. Gentleman himself well knew, denominational education was already practically established. For all National schools at present in Dublin there was not one Protestant who attended a Catholic school, and not one Catholic who attended a Protestant school. There was another argument against the Christian Brothers which had been used by a Gentleman whom the Chief Secretary must have met if he was ever in Lower Castle Yard—a personal friend of his own—the Dean of the Chapel Royal. He should not trouble the House with an extract from Dean Dickinson, but he opposed this concession. Doan Dickinson was the last survivor of the old Established Church in Ireland, and he was not sorry at it. They had got every Irish Protestant whose opinion was worth anything with them on this question, amongst whom he might mention Lord Justice Fitzgibbon, Chief Baron Palles, and Dr. Stubbs. Dr. Stubbs was revered by his co-religionists, and there was scarcely standing-room for those who came to hear him. The demand for religious education met with, practically speaking, unanimous approval in Ireland. He was justified in saying that, for he said what he did know. He thought he had put the broad, salient features before the House. He appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite, many of whom had been returned to support 586 Voluntary Schools. Denominational education had been practically established in Ireland, in spite of the Act of 1831, which, he was afraid, had been a great bane to the country. Were they now going to say that religious education should be excluded? If children were excluded from religious teaching, they soon become indifferent to all religious education whatever. ["No."] He absolutely believed it. He was not asking for education for the Nonconformist conscience. [Laughter.] They were at one with the Party opposite on this question, and he hoped they would help them to establish an education which every one of them would like to see given to their own boys and girls. Why attempt to force on the Irish people a godless system which they abhor? That was the question. He claimed a favourable answer. The Chief Secretary had promised to consider the matter. He had put on his "considering cap" for six months, and what had come of it? He hoped to hear the Member for the University of Dublin, who included amongst his constituents the clergy of Ireland, and he should like to know whether he differed from his constituents?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
The hon. Member for South Donegal has referred to an answer I gave in August last in reference to the question of the Christian Brothers. He said truly I then promised I would give my earnest and careful consideration to the subject. I have done so. I approached the subject with a perfectly open mind and with a sincere desire to arrive, if possible, at a solution of the question which then seemed open to me. If I could have conscientiously come to the conclusion that a satisfactory solution could be, arrived at in this way, I can assure, the House, I should have been only too glad to have done, so, especially when it was possible to have done so by a mere stroke of the Lord Lieutenant's pen. Unfortunately we have been, reluctantly compelled to come to an adverse conclusion. The hon. and gallant Member who moved this Amendment showed an ignorance of the subject which considerably surprised me. [Mr. SWIFT MACNEILL: "Was I 587 ignorant?"] The hon. and gallant Member for west Clare. [Mr. SWIFT MACNEILL: "I beg pardon, I thought you referred to me."] The hon. and gallant Member indulged in a rhetorical flight, in which he asked if at this time of day the consciences of the people are to be overridden by a time-table of the Government. He spoke of a time-table Religion and said this time-table Religion was to be maintained in order to secure the integrity of the Empire. I turn to the rules which were submitted for the approval of the Lord Lieutenant by the Education Commissioners themselves. One of these rules is:—"The time-table shall be subject to the approval of the Commissioners." In other words, not merely is a time-table at present in force in Ireland but a timetable fixed, not by the Government but by the Commissioners. But of these very new rules, which have been designed to include within the National system the Christian Brothers and the Church Education Society, the timetable still forms an essential part. As to the contention that this time-table is to be maintained, in order to secure the integrity of the Empire, I am astonished that such an argument should be used in this House. Not only is this question in no way connected with Home Rule but amongst the Commissioners who have approved of the new rule are a considerable number who are in no sense supporters of the Home Rule policy. I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for South Donegal. He also at the beginning of his speech made some statements which, I own caused me considerable astonishment. He wished to draw a distinction between the Christian Brothers' schools and the Church Education schools on the one hand and other schools on the other hand. He told the House that when a scholar in these schools was guilty of telling a lie or of some, other grave offence he was referred to Confucius and Plato. Did the hon. Member mean that in the vast majority of schools in Ireland when any moral offence is committed the offence is referred to Confucius and Plato? If these are the best arguments that can be brought forward in favour of the Amendment the cause which these hon. Gentlemen champion has very little to thank them for. I could myself have 588 made a far better case in favour of the Christian Brothers than either of the hon. Gentlemen has succeeded in making. [Laughter.] The great argument of the hon. Member for South Donegal appears to be that the majority of the Education Commissioners were in favour of these proposed new rules. That is perfectly true. The majority of them were in favour of the new rules, but at the same, time, as the hon. Member has raised this question, I must remind him it is very doubtful whether some of the Commissioners who voted with the majority really represented the religious community to which they belonged. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member said the new rules were opposed by the Presbyterians only, and added that every Irish Protestant whose opinion is worth having is on his side. The question of these new rules was submitted to the Committee of the Synod of the Church of Ireland not very long ago, and that Committee came to the conclusion by an enormous majority—I think something like 25 to five—that the rules did not represent their views or the views of their Church. If the hon. Member for South Donegal means by the wave of his hand to declare that these 25 gentlemen do not belong to those Irish Protestants whose opinion is worth having I am not in a position to make any criticism.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said that what he wished to enforce was that they might have opposed this system, but from widely different motives.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I really do not understand the hon. Gentleman' s interruption. ["Hear, hear!"] What he said was that every Protestant in Ireland whose opinion is worth having is on his side, and I quoted the case of 25 gentlemen who represent the Church of Ireland on the Committee of the Synod who take, other views. It is a significant fact that this Amendment as now submitted to the House is different from the form in which it stood on the Paper only yesterday. In its original form the Amendment implied that these schools would, if situated in England, receive the same grants as other Voluntary schools, but nothing is said in the Amendment in its present form about Voluntary Schools in England, and I should imagine for the very good reason that the hon. Member who 589 moved the Amendment has since yesterday discovered that the Christian Brothers' schools and the Church Education Society's schools, if they were situated in England, would not receive the same grant as other Voluntary schools. ["Hear, hear!"] The Christian Brothers are kept outside the National system at the present time principally in respect to three points on which they insist. First, there is the question of the display of emblems and religious symbols; secondly, there is the question of the books which are used in their schools; and, thirdly, there is the question of religious observances during the hours of secular instruction. It is true that in England the exhibition of religious emblems is not held to be a religious observance. [Irish cheers.] Whether if the circumstances were the same as in Ireland it would not be found necessary to hold it to be a religious observance is another question; but I may mention, in order to show how nearly the, exhibition of emblems even in schools in England approaches to a forbidden matter [Irish cries of "Oh!"], that if candles were lighted before these images it would at once bring them within the, category of religious observance's. That I have on the highest authority. If a light were burned before these images the schools which practised that religious observance could be excluded from the grant. Religious observances during the hours of secular instruction are strictly forbidden under the English Act. I will read to the House the provision in the Act which would have the effect of excluding schools which practised this religious observance. It is:—The time or times during which any religious observance is practised, or instruction in religious subjects is given, at any meeting of the school shall be either at the beginning or at the end, or at the beginning and the, end, of such meeting and shall be inserted in the time-table to be approved by the Education Department.''It is known there are certain religious observances insisted upon by the Christian Brothers which take, place during the hours of secular instruction, and on that ground, if on no other, they would, if they were situated in England, be debarred from the privileges of receiving the Parliamentary grant. As regards books, the hon. and gallant Member for 590 West Clare said the Christian Brothers have expressed their willingness to take out of their books anything that might be regarded as objectionable by the Commissioners of Education. That is not strictly accurate. What the Christian Brothers did in 1892 offer to do was to submit their books to the Commissioners in the confident expectation that the Commissioners would find nothing in the, books of which they disapproved. They did not say, and I believe would not say now, that if those books were disapproved of by the Commissioners they would consent to relinquish them. It appears, therefore, that if these schools were situated in England they would not receive even that limited assistance from public funds which Voluntary schools in England receive; still less would they receive that larger measure of financial support from the public funds which Board schools receive. Nothing has struck me as more curious than the ignorance which is displayed in one part of the United Kingdom with regard to the system of religious instruction practised in other parts ["Hear, hear!"], an ignorance which I am afraid sometimes extends to Cabinet Ministers. [Laughter.] I will state to the House in a few words what may be understood to be the real character of the educational system in Ireland. With one statement of the hon. Member for South Donegal I cordially agree, and that is that the system of education in Ireland is already denominational. It is so in theory, and to a still larger extent in practice; but then is nothing in Ireland which corresponds with the distinction between Board schools and Voluntary schools in England. In Ireland all schools are maintained almost entirely by the grants paid out of moneys provided by Parliament. No restrictions whatever are placed on the character of religious teaching or upon the, formularies in the schools. Religion is taught denominationally in the vast majority of the schools in Ireland quite as freely as in the Voluntary schools in England, but there is an immense difference between the two cases. Whereas a pecuniary loss or disability is inflicted upon the Voluntary schools in England in consequence of their denominational character, in Ireland no such distinction is made. What is the nature 591 of the claim which is at present put forward on the part of the schools of the Christian Brothers and similar schools? It is a claim which differs not merely in degree, but also in kind, from that put forward on behalf of the Voluntary Schools in England. No one in this country proposed that the, regulations in the Codes with regard to the conscience clause, should be changed; but if what are called the claims of the Christian Brothers are granted that would correspond with what in England would be a change in the nature of the conscience clause. ["Hear, hear!"] The Christian Brothers may, if they choose to follow the example of the vast majority of the Roman Catholic community in Ireland, come under the rules of the Board. But they have declined to do so, and now it is proposed that the rules of the Board, which provide that all Stateaided schools shall be open to children of all denominations, shall be altered so as to admit them. That will give the House an idea of the importance of the change, proposed. In order to guard against the dangers of proselytism which would arise under the new rule, it has been thought necessary by the Commissioners to declare that an additional rule should be added to the effect that any school taking advantage of the relaxation should shut its doors to children of all denominations other than that to which the, school belonged. What that means is that, in order to guard against the danger of proselytism which might arise, under these circumstances, it has been thought, necessary to deprive the children of the minority of the educational advantages they might secure if they were sent to a better equipped school or one more conveniently located. It is true that this change is only to take place under the rules in certain scheduled localities; but it is to be extended to all those schools in which the Commissioners are of opinion that adequate, provision for elementary instruction is provided for children of all denominations. That point, however, as to adequate provision for elementary instruction is a very difficult and delicate one. It is open to various interpretations. What some persons think might be adequate they might possibly think inadequate. But, even supposing that this difficult point was always 592 rightly decided by the Commissioners, it is possible that what might be adequate one year would not be adequate for another.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
asked whether the Commissioners would not always have the power of revision to meet such a difficulty.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
It is true, as the hon. Member suggests, that the rule provides that in such cases the Commissioners could withdraw the privileges which had been conceded; but among all those whom I have consulted on the matter I have found hardly one, who believes that once these privileges are granted it would be possible to withdraw them. ["Hear, hear!"] The Lord Lieutenant had to decide whether, in such circumstances, he would be justified in making so great and important a change as that to which I have referred. As to the arguments alleged for making the change, the number of children affected can scarcely be put forward as one of them, for the change would affect only three per cent. of the number of children in average school attendance throughout Ireland. In the next place, I hardly think it would be right or fail to represent the exclusion of the schools of the Christian Brothers as a hardship or a grievance. I have not a word to say against the Christian Brothers themselves. I believe they are devoted to their work and rank among the very best teachers in Ireland, and I am anxious that the House should understand that the merits of their schools are very high. [Nationalist cheers.] But, when it is represented that their present position is a grievance, it should be remembered that for some years after the establishment of the national system of education in Ireland the Christian Brothers were actually in connection with it. They afterwards left it, and the grounds on which they did so were clearly stated in evidence in 1868 by one of the Brothers, who said that the conclusion come to by them was that the national system of education was inconsistent with the original aim of the society, which was to give its pupils a Roman Catholic education.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Yes; and, from the inquiries I have taken 593 care to make since, I say that my profound conviction is that that is the attitude of the Christian Brothers still. It is certain that the Christian Brothers themselves have never taken part in this agitation. It is perfectly true that others have complained on their behalf. It is not for me to judge the motives of those who have taken part in this agitation. I think it is very natural indeed that those on whom the burden of maintaining these schools is at present thrown would be very glad if they could shift the burden on to the shoulders of other people. I dare say also that other Catholic schools would be very glad to enjoy the relaxations as regards religious instruction which are asked for on behalf of the Christian Brothers. But what I say is that there is no solid grievance as regards this matter, and that there is no solid grievance is proved by the fact that, with the exception of the Christian Brothers, every teaching confraternity belonging to the Roman Catholic religion has been content to work in connection with the Board. I am far from saying that there are no matters in connection with the Education Question on which the Catholics have not a grievance. As regards higher education, I personally hold a strong view that they have a grievance [Irish cheers.], and, while I am not in a position to pledge the Government on that matter, I do hope that, sooner or later [Irish laughter and ironical cheers], certainly not this Session, I shall be able to do something. But as regards elementary education I do not think that any solid and well-founded grievance exists. There is no doubt that the Executive and Parliament are confronted with a serious difficulty in. connection with carrying out the provisions of the Education Act of 1892. The Act, as the House is aware, provided for compulsory education in 118 populous localities affected by it. So far it must be admitted that, in the majority of those places, the Act has been a dead letter. This arose partly from defects and omissions in the Act, and partly also from the opposition of certain local authorities to put the Act into force so long as the Christian Brothers are debarred from receiving Parliamentary grants. [Irish cheers.] The difficulty was foreseen at 594 the time the Act was passed, and my right hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Leeds, who was then Chief Secretary, endeavoured to meet it by suggesting to the Commissioners of National Education that they should consider whether it would not be possible so to alter the rules as to include those schools. It was not contemplated by the then Chief Secretary that the suggested alterations would extend nearly so far as they have since done, and the minority of the Commissioners have always held the view that the Board exceeded the reference to them in drawing up rules involving so very wide a change from the existing system. I cannot myself blame the majority of the Commissioners as regards that point. I do not think it would have been possible to have drawn up rules that could have had the effect of including the Christian Brothers' schools and the Church Education Society schools within the system if they had not gone so far as they had actually gone. I think they saw from the beginning that, if these schools were to be included, very much more extensive changes would be required than were contemplated by the Government at the time when the reference was originally made. I do not think they could have done less, and indeed I am afraid they have not gone far enough. The whole raison d' être of these alterations was the inclusion of the schools that now hold aloof. I made inquiries, and I ascertained, as a matter of fact, that neither the Christian Brothers' schools nor the schools of the Church Education Society would be brought within the national system by these rules. They would not accept the rules. [''Hear, hear!"] With regard to the schools of the Church Education Society, I think it is tolerably well-known that they will not admit a conscience clause and will not recognise parental authority in the matter of religious instruction. But it was generally supposed that the Christian Brothers were prepared to come under the rules three years ago. The National Commissioners wrote to the superior of the Christian Brothers Order asking what alterations they were prepared to make in their system so as to meet the Commissioners half way. An answer was then given by the Superior, and the rules 595 seem to have been framed to a very considerable extent upon the answer then given. At that time the Christian Brothers were prepared to accept for their teachers a system of classification. I have it now on the highest authority that they would decline to do so. It appears, therefore, that neither the Christian Brothers' schools nor the schools of the Church Education Society would be prepared to accept the very rules which have been designed in order to include them in the national system. I must express my astonishment that the Commissioners should have drawn up an elaborate series of rules of this kind and that they should not have taken the very simple expedient of submitting them to the societies whom they were designed to meet and asking if they approved of them or not. They omitted to do so, and I have, to the best of my ability, done that which they omitted to do, with the results I have laid before the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Christian Brothers would decline a system of capitation grant?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Let me now recapitulate. I have pointed out to the House that the schools which are at present excluded by the rules of the National Board in no sense correspond to the Voluntary Schools in this country. I have shown that the Denominational schools of Ireland are treated with greater favour than the Denominational schools in England. I have pointed out that the demand made on behalf of those schools would, in this country, be equivalent to a demand to modify the conscience clause. I have shown that the proposal that the schools should have the right to exclude the children of other denominations would be unfair to the religious minority. I have also shown that these important changes would not be justified by the number affected. I have shown that no hardship exists on the score of principle; and, lastly, I have shown that the new rules would actually fail of that very object to accomplish which they were designed. I may be asked what, 596 under the circumstances, I propose should be done. I may be told that I acknowledge the existence of the difficulty, and that, so far, I have given no indication as to how it is to be met. We have a suggestion to make, but I must claim the privilege of reticence as to the proposal the Government has to make in connection with this matter. But, while I am not prepared at present to state what plan it is we have in our mind, there is one thing I can say. I do not think there is any possibility of a solution of this difficult question being arrived at through the instrumentality of the National Board. They have now drawn up no less than three different sets of rules. None of them received the approval of my predecessor. On one occasion he asked them to draw up a fourth set of rules, but they declined to do so. I am not for a moment criticising their action. All I say is that I do not feel inclined to expose myself to a rebuff such as was experienced by my predecessor. ["Hear, hear!"] I must further add that it does not appear to me that any satisfactory solution can be reached in conformity with the principle which the National Board have laid down in the course of the correspondence between themselves and the Irish Government. We think that, if anything is to be done for these schools, it must be done by Parliament. I have already stated to the House that we are preparing a Bill to deal with the defects and the omission of the Act of 1892. I shall be prepared to embody in that Bill the suggestion I have referred to. Whether it will be accepted by the House or by hon. Gentlemen opposite I do not know. If it is acceptable, I think there is a chance that it will be received as a settlement of the question, and I have reason to believe that the measure will be regarded as of a non-contentious character, which, I think, opens up some prospect of our being able to pass it this Session, If not I am afraid the question must be shelved. The loss will fall on those counties that do not enjoy the advantages of the compulsory Act in consequence of the attitude taken up by the local authorities, and the responsibility for that will rest on those who decline to have the Act of 1892 amended except on their own terms. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that he gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that he admitted the existence of a grievance, and to that extent no doubt his speech was welcome to those who sat in his quarter of the House. But, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman had given the go-by altogether to the existing machinery for education in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said that no solution of this question was to be found in the existing machinery, and that a new system must be sought. Of course, to ask the Irish Members to pronounce offhand upon this novel procedure, with which they were not familiar, would be too much, and he thought it would be reasonable that the right hon. Gentleman should undertake at as early a moment as possible to introduce this Bill, the Irish Members, on the other hand, undertaking to allow the right hon. Gentleman to bring it in after twelve o'clock, when he could explain its provisions during the hour that remained. Then he would suggest that, if they forewent the present discussion, the right hon. Gentleman should give them at least one day for the Second Reading of the Bill, with a view to seeing whether an agreement could not be arrived at. ["Hear, hear!"] The Irish Members were sincerely anxious for a settlement of the question, and had no desire to prejudice any question before the House on the English Educational question. Accordingly he thought the suggestion he had made was a reasonable one. He thought the National Board in Ireland, who were in the main—he might say nine-tenths of them—opposed to the Irish Members in politics, had had to discharge a most arduous and difficult task, and he thought he ought to say for his Grace the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Plunket—a man who had many years ago been opposed to the Irish Members in connection with proselytism in the west of Ireland—that he had displayed a noble spirit which would not be forgotten by Catholics in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] There were other gentlemen, too—Lord Justice Fitzgibbon and the Lord Chief Baron—as well as their own Archbishop, who had given weeks and months to the consideration of this question, and he thought they would now naturally enough resent having their papers thrown back in their 598 faces for the third or fourth time. ["Hear, hear!"] He must say for the right hon. Gentleman that he had taken a course as dignified to them as it was to himself. ["Hear, hear!"] On the whole, he would ask the Government to say whether they were prepared to meet the Irish Members in the way he had suggested. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Nobody can complain of the tone of the hon. Gentleman. He has thrown out a suggestion which, at, all events in its spirit and main details, is worthy of the consideration of the House. [Hear, hear!"] He has suggested that my right hon. Friend should bring in his Bill at an early date after twelve o'clock, and explain it during the hour that elapses between twelve and one o'clock, and should then fix a day for the Second Reading, and give up a day for that purpose. In regard to the first part of the suggestion, I think it would be a very good thing that the Bill should be brought in, and that it should be in the hands of hon. Members for some time previously in order that they may form a preliminary judgment upon it. ["Hear, hear!"] But if the Irish Members should regard the Bill with uncompromising hostility, to fix a day for the Second Reading would not be of much value. If, on the other hand, they should think it contains even the element of an arrangement, I think it would be worth while to give a day for the Second Reading. If hon. Members will communicate with me, I am sure we can come to an arrangement which will be satisfactory both to them and to the House with regard to the future stages of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport)
moved at the end of the Question to add the words:—And We humbly represent to your Majesty that, no measure tending to mitigate the agricultural distress deplored in your Majesty's Gracious Speech will be efficient unless the existing laws against the importation of adulterated food products are rigorously enforced by your Majesty's present advisers, so that British and Irish agriculturists may be protected from unfair and nefarious competition.599 He said that the Amendment endeavoured to deal with a species of competition which could not be deemed fair. He believed the House would leave no effort untried to relieve agriculture if it could be clearly demonstrated that it was suffering from unfair competition. The competition which he termed unfair arose from the fact that a large amount of produce came to this country which was falsified, and he hoped to show that the admission of this adulterated produce could he checked, indeed stopped altogether if the laws which were already on the Statute Book were properly administered. In addition to the adulteration which took place outside, this country, there was internal adulteration, and it was said that oven if the external adulteration were killed, internal adulteration would continue. It would, however, be sufficient for his purpose if he proved that external adulteration did exist, and that there were, laws already existing by means of which such could be very much diminished. The products which were adulterated most were milk, butter, and cheese. Milk being a home product he would dismiss from consideration. He would take one article—a very important one—namely, butter, the value of the imports of which per annum was close on £14,000,000. As regarded internal falsification, if the local authorities were to exercise the powers they had, or if the Local Government Board were to insist on their doing so, there would be a very considerable diminution of home adulteration. There was most undeniable evidence of this adulteration. In the first place, they had the Central Chamber of Agriculture urging the question, and calling upon the Government to reduce the evil. Then there were the Chambers of Commerce and the Produce Exchanges of London, Liverpool, and other great commercial centres continually protesting against this state of things going on unchallenged; and in the House itself those Members who represented agricultural constituencies knew full well the hardships felt by reason of this unfair competition by their constituents, who were continually asking that steps should be taken to relieve them. Numerous attempts had been made to get past Governments to deal with this 600 question, but they had failed. Successive Governments had been invited, to examine these products when they entered the country, and if adulterated to act in accordance with their powers and confiscate them. But, unfortunately, there was a divergence of opinion as to whether the Government possessed these powers or not. The Government denied that they did. Before he quoted the Acts on which he relied to maintain his assertion, he thought it deserving of mention that, owing to the indisposition on the part of the Government to put the Acts into force, merchants and traders in this country had been compelled to make appeals to Foreign Governments to do the very thing their own Government refused to do. He had in his hand a list of the convictions obtained in France upon representations by merchants and others in this country after they had appealed to the Home Government to prevent falsified goods coming here. The Home Government would not act on the evidence, which, however, proved sufficient in France to lead to the punishment of several shippers of adulterated butter to this country, the offenders being imprisoned for varying terms, besides being subjected to heavy fines and having their butter confiscated. The English Government had been appealed to time after time to take steps to have goods inspected at the port of entry, and where found adulterated to confiscate them. He had received a letter from Mr. Lovell—a gentleman largely engaged in the importation of butter, and who had given evidence before almost every Parliamentary Committee appointed to deal either with the Merchandise Marks Acts or the marking of foreign produce—which admirably disclosed the situation. Mr. Lovell pointed out that in April, 1891, he discovered that some shippers at Ostend, in spite of a guarantee they had given him as to the purity of the butter shipped by them, had supplied him with butter largely adulterated. Having obtained proof of the adulteration, he brought the information under the notice of the Customs Authorities, requesting them to take samples of the next consignment, which came to hand on April 25th, 1891, 601 believing that they would find the butter had unquestionably been adulterated. At first the Authorities declined to take any action in the matter, and it was only after extreme pressure that he got them to consent to do so. They declined to put the Act in force unless he executed a bond for a large amount (£600) and found sureties. He complied with all the demands of the Customs Authorities, and pushed the matter through, with the result that they seized 29 cases, each containing 150 lbs. of butter, the reputed value of which was £180 to £200, and, as the whole was found to be adulterated, it was condemned and confiscated. These proceedings had a healthy effect with regard to the Ostend butter trade, for immediately after the shipments diminished to a considerable extent, and the fraudulent trade carried on in that article from the port in question was altogether destroyed. Later on, upon information supplied to the Customs Authorities by a Mr. Polenghi, and after he had executed a bond for £600, some 200 cases of adulterated butter were seized at Newhaven and condemned by the Customs Authorities. He thought these two cases alone were sufficient to prove that one of the most important steps to take in this matter was to induce or compel the Customs Authorities to carry out the provisions of the Merchandise Marks Act, which would be found to be one of the most effective ways of putting a termination to the existing system of fraud. One would have thought (con tinned the hon. Member) that, in face of such revelations as these, the Government would have abandoned their old principle of non-intervention, but they had not done so. They continued their apathy, in spite of repeated protests from the agricultural and mercantile interests of this country. During the period to which he was referring the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was at the Board of Trade. Under the late Administration the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) was the head of the Board of Trade, and he was succeeded by Mr. Shaw Lefevre. All these gentlemen, without exception, denied that they had the power to put the Acts in force to the extent of inspecting goods at the port of entry and confiscating those which were found to be falsified. He 602 should like to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture—who understood agriculture thoroughly, and intended as far as he could to stamp out adulteration—if he could tell the House under what Acts of Parliament these confiscations were made that were brought about by information supplied by Mr. Lovell and another gentleman. He was glad the President of the Board of Agriculture had departed to some extent from the attitude assumed by his predecessors. The right hon. Gentleman no longer refused to inspect butters at the port of entry. In November last he represented to certain merchants that goods consigned to them as butter, on investigation by the Customs Authorities, were found to be adulterated. But the action of the right hon. Gentleman was not effective, because, although found to be falsified, no step was taken to confiscate them, and they were allowed to be put upon the market. Under the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887, Section 2, it was made an offence to apply any false trade description to goods, and Section 3 defined a trade description as being any statement as to the material of which any goods were composed. In case it should be thought that this Act could be inoperative because there was no definition, he would refer to the Margarine Act of 1887, Section 3 of which gave a most ample and complete definition of what butter was.
MR. SPEAKER (interposing)
I must point out to the hon. Member that if he refers to the Margarine Act of 1887 or the Sale of Food and Drugs Act of 1885, or any Act amending the same, in support of his Amendment, he is anticipating a Motion which is already on the Paper, asking for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Margarine Act of 1887 and the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, 1885, or any Act amending the same. Therefore if, as I gather, the hon. Member is relying upon these Acts as being existing Acts which the Government ought to put more strenuously in force, he will be out of Order in carrying on that line of argument.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said, that in those circumstances he would address himself to the Merchandise Marks Act. He would leave the House to form its own opinion of the object of the right hon. Gentle- 603 man in putting this notice for a Committee upon the Paper.
§ MR. SPEAKER
A Debate cannot be carried on when it has been anticipated by a notice such as has been given in this case. If the hon. Member wishes to urge the better administration of the Margarine Act or the Sale of Foods and Drugs Act, and any Acts amending the same, he cannot do so now as it would be out of order.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork City)
asked whether the Motion on the Paper was not limited to the proposal that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire, and whether hon. Gentlemen would be out of order in discussing the general question whether the existing law was properly enforced.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Yes; because on the proposal for the appointment of a Select Committee the argument might be used that the Acts were or were not properly worked already.
§ MR. M. HEALY
asked whether it would be in order to argue that other remedies than the appointment of a Committee ought to be resorted to.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The working of the Margarine Act and of the Sale of Foods and Drugs Act can be discussed upon the Motion which stands upon the Paper. If, therefore, that is what is proposed to be discussed now it would be an anticipation of what is on the Paper, and, therefore, out of order.
§ MR. KEARLEY
observed that the right hon. Gentleman's notice had only been put upon the Paper that day, while his Amendment had been down for some days.
§ MR. KEARLEY
, understanding that he was at liberty to refer to the Merchandise Marks Acts, said, that Section 1, 1891, provided that a Customs entry relating to imported goods should be deemed a trade description. It was clear that the term "butter" was a Customs entry, and when it was a false description Section 12 of the 1887 Act was applicable, which rendered goods to which a false description had been given liable to forfeiture. They were so liable even if the owner of the goods was unknown. That was important, because many of these goods were consigned to certain business 604 houses although they did not belong to them, and they were sold on account of the importer. Hence the law enabled the Government to confiscate the goods in the event of their being repudiated by the firms to which they were consigned. Goods that were found to bear a false trade description could be destroyed or otherwise disposed of. Section 16 of the Act also prohibited the importation of goods liable to forfeiture under the Act, and under the Customs Consolidated Act 1842, the power of forfeiture was given in respect of prohibited goods imported. He contended that goods bearing a false trade description were prohibited goods. The Board of Trade and the Board of Agriculture had the power to enforce the Merchandise Marks Acts, and they were, therefore, equally culpable if the Acts were not administered. The right hon. Member opposite had, as he had stated, initiated a policy of inspection in regard to butters, but it was quite useless for him to inform himself that goods were adulterated and then to allow them to circulate freely through the country. They ought to be confiscated and penalties exacted. In 1875, power was given under the Customs Consolidation Act to inspect tea at the port of entry, and the mere fact that power was given to the Customs to confiscate adulterated tea had the effect of entirely doing away with adulteration. Some time ago, out of 1,600 samples of tea subjected to analysis, not one was found to be adulterated. The question to which he called attention vitally affected the dairy and other interests. In Somerset and Dorset, in the Midlands, North Wales, Scotland, in fact, everywhere, the dairy interest was suffering severely in consequence of the importation of adulterated products. Their importation subjected commercial firms to very serious difficulties, for it rendered them liable for having adulterated goods in their possession. They might even be convicted of having such goods, notwithstanding the goods were sent to them as pure products. He knew many firms who, for their own protection, retained permanently the services of eminent analysts to test the purity of the goods supplied to them. An agricultural body in Gloucester found that adulterated products were being sold 605 there without check, and for their own protection they formed a detective force, and the result was that, although the local authorities failed to administer the law, they were able, by investigation and prosecution, to remedy the evil of which they complained. In the interests of agriculture, of the Mercantile community, and of commercial integrity, he begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
seconded the Amendment. He said that there was no constituency in the United Kingdom more interested than the City of Cork in the question raised by the Amendment, for in Cork was held the most well-known butter market in the world. He should deal with the Amendment as it affected the Irish butter trade. The staple product of Irish agriculture in Munster was butter; and that trade had been severely hit by foreign competition of late years. The Irish butter merchants could face competition as long as it was fair, and he did not wish to attack the Free-trade policy which this country had irrevocably adopted. But up to the present the Irish agriculturist had not had a fair field. His principal market was the English, and whereas foreign butter was freely admitted and sold in England, the Irish butter was very strictly watched for adulteration, and prosecutions were constantly being directed against it. The particular form of fraud thus hit at was an excess of water in the butter. One of the most important branches of the Irish trade was the Manchester market, and within the last two years something like, a panic had been created in the trade by a series of prosecutions instituted in Manchester. These prosecutions bore very hardly on the trade, because there was no fixed standard as to the quantity of water which might be found in butter. Chemists were not agreed on the point, and the greatest diversity existed in the decisions of the Courts. He had no desire to shield fraud committed by anyone; but while this stringent watch was being placed on Irish butter, the Customs authorities had declined to do anything to enforce the law against adulteration in respect of the butter imported from abroad. Not only did the Customs refuse to enforce the law themselves, but they placed the 606 most enormous obstacles in the way of its being enforced by private traders. The only way to enforce the law was to take samples of the butter for analysis; but before allowing that, the Customs demanded security of double the value of the whole consignment sampled. These foreign consignments were very large, and in one case before an ounce of butter could be taken for analysis the Customs demanded security to the amount of £1,500. It was most unsatisfactory to the Irish farmer and butter merchant that, while their industry was crippled by the prosecutions of the English municipalities against adulterated butter, the foreign producer should be allowed by the Government to send large quantities of adulterated butter into the English market. He understood that the result of recent inquiries was to show that in the case of imported butter from Germany and Holland three out of every four samples tested were adulterated. If that was so, something ought to be done to check such frauds. He knew that the Customs had shown more activity within the last 12 months; and he hoped that the present President of the Board of Agriculture would signalise his administration by seeing that the foreign importer of butter was not placed at an undue advantage with the home producer, by being allowed to perpetrate frauds by an adulteration which was certainly much more noxious than that of mere water in excess.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said, that as the representative of a large and important agricultural constituency in Wales, he was strongly in favour of the Amendment. He thought it had been proved by the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, in the first place, that the officials who administered the Adulteration Acts had failed in dealing with products verging on adulteration; in the second place, that it was highly expedient that all the Adulteration Acts should be incorporated into one Act; and, thirdly, that the Sale of Foods and Drugs Act, 1875, should be made compulsory and not permissive. A few figures would show to the House the great importance of this question to agriculturists. He found that the total value of the imports of articles of food and drink from Foreign and British possessions during the year 607 1895 amounted to the huge sum of £141,125,000. When the House recollected that that sum was at least 3½ times the total receipts received from agricultural rents throughout the whole country, it must be evident that the question was a most important one, and that agriculture in this country could not be conducted unless under proper conditions. In 1895 there was imported into this country from abroad bacon to the value of £8,000,000; butter to the value of £14,245,000; and margarine to the value of £2,557,000; or, to put it in another way, the value of those three articles of agricultural produce imported into the country during 1895 was about two-thirds of the amount received yearly in agricultural rents in England and Wales. In supporting the Amendment they did not in any way declare for fair trade or protection. They simply asked for fair play for agriculturists; that agriculturists should be allowed to meet their foreign competitors in the production of food products on an equal footing. The Prime Minister had recently said, in a speech to the hop growers, that it was hopeless to expect legislation of a protective character. That settled once and for ever the question of protection. But it was important that our agriculturists, who were suffering so keenly from the distressed state of their interests, should have fair play in order that they might meet on equal terms their foreign competitors.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
said, he could not help feeling that the House was not engaged in a very profitable occupation, for the reason that nobody who had the interest of agriculture in this country at heart would deny for one moment the proposition laid down by the three hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on the subject—that if the producers of the United Kingdom were to be exposed to what was practically unlimited foreign competition they should 608 not, at all events, have their food products brought into competition with the adulterated food products of other lands. ["Hear, hear!"] That view was held in all quarters of the House, and, he believed, in all parts of the country. He had no fault to find with the hon. Member for Devonport for asking the House to declare that the adulteration laws were capable of amendment, but he was bound to say that the account which the hon. Member gave of the action of the different Governments in regard to this question was grossly inaccurate. It was no part of his business to defend the late Administration from the attacks of their own friends. He was glad it was not, as otherwise he would be busily occupied for a long time. [Laughter.] The hon. Member, in his anxiety to declare war all round, had attacked the late Administration with as much severity as the Administration which he (Mr. Long) had for the moment the honour of representing. But the hon. Member had, he thought, attacked the late Administration without justice. The hon. Member had told the House that no Government had dealt with this question except under the pressure of force. He was not in the secret of the communications which might have passed between the late Government and their supporters, and whether force was or was not used he did not know; but he did know that the late Government took action in this matter in April, 1895, on the representation of an Irish Member—Mr. William O'Brien, who was not now in the House—that the adulteration of imported food products greatly prevailed. The hon. Member had also stated that this adulteration was still going on wholesale, and that the Government of the day could stop it if they only did their duty. He would not deny that there was room, and considerable room, for amendment and reform in the adulteration laws. He hesitated to express an opinion as to the direction reform should take, because a Committee would be moved for almost 609 immediately to continue the inquiries undertaken by the late Parliament, and he looked with some confidence to that Committee for recommendations as to how this difficulty might be effectively removed. But if he did make a suggestion it would be in the direction stated by the hon. Member for Denbighshire—namely, that there should be a consolidation in one Act of all the Adulteration laws, and that their administration should be in the hands, not of three, but of one Department. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Devonport had said that Government after Government had failed to do any thing to prevent the importation of adulterated food products, and that, even after they had discovered adulterated products they allowed them to go broadcast over the country. He could not conceive a less accurate statement as a description of the policy, not only of the present Government, but of the past Government, for in this matter the policy of the Agricultural Department in both Administrations had been identical. ["Hear, hear!"] It was far from the truth to say that the Government had taken no action. As a matter of fact they had discovered through their analysts a considerable amount of adulteration in imported butter, and, so far from allowing butter so adulterated to be sent broadcast over the country, they had informed the consignees that their butter was adulterated, and that if they attempted to sell it they might find themselves in difficulties. The Government had taken the further precaution, in cases in which they had reason to believe that there was not likely to be cordial co-operation on the part the consignees, of informing the local authorities of the districts in which the consignees lived that certain butter consigned to them was adulterated, in order that the local authority might take the necessary steps to protect the public from fraud. From the time that he became responsible for the Department, he had 610 taken a somewhat active interest in seeing that everything possible was done to secure that competition should be real and not fraudulent. One result was that he was inundated by letters from all parts of the country urging him not to take action so publicly and thereby injure the reputation of the writers. This showed that, although the information had not reached the hon. Member, many others had discovered that the Government were doing their best to check fraudulent importation. So far as he gathered the purport of the recommendation of the hon. Member, it was that the Government should not give warning that if fraudulent articles were sold prosecution would follow, but that the Government should seize fraudulent goods at the port of entry. The hon. Member was quite correct in saying that there was a difference of opinion as to whether this could be legally done. In the opinion of his legal advisers, such seizures could not be made, and until an adulterated article was sold no offence was committed. He was willing to admit that seizure at the port might be a more desirable remedy; but he did not know what would be the result of it. Presumably the goods seized would have to be dropped over the side of the quay or otherwise destroyed ["Hear, hear!"]; hon. Members might be carried too far by excessive enthusiasm. It was no part of the business of the Department to stop the introduction into this country of margarine and products of that character. Their business was to see that the man who professed to sell butter sold butter and not margarine. If the Government were to seize products and destroy them because, on analysis, they proved to be adulterated, their action would be regarded as high-handed and arbitrary. This was one of the subjects which would come under the consideration of the Committee. His object was to show that the main contention of the hon. Member was altogether inaccurate, and that what he 611 had described as a policy of inaction and inefficiency was one of action and efficiency, and that the system which he condemned because he did not understand it had been successful and had not been attended by the deplorable results which he had depicted. The late Government, as he had said, took action in April, 1895, and in May there were taken at the port of entry 284 samples, of which ten were found adulterated; from September 21 to October 28, 146 samples, of which 50 were adulterated; in November, 145 samples, of which 29 were adulterated; in December, 72, of which only four were adulterated; and in January, 116 samples, of which not one was adulterated. [Hear, hear!"] Yet this was described as a policy of inaction and failure.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
replied that the Amendment challenged the conduct of the present Administration and of that which immediately preceded it. The hon. Member had reminded them that the law was altered in 1894, when fresh powers were given to the Board of Agriculture; and yet he sought to condemn the present Government for failures which occurred before the amendment of the law. Under the amended law the late Government and the present had shown activity with satisfactory results. Whilst this was a sufficient answer to the Amendment moved, he was prepared to admit that there was difficulty in tracing an adulterated article in its passage from the consignee to the retailer. A good deal might be done in watching adulterated articles after they left the wholesale dealer and passed into the hands of the retailer; and that was one of the subjects that would require the attention of the Committee which, he hoped, would sit shortly and make a report which would enable the Government to act. With the general sentiments of those who had spoken, short of condemn- 612 ing the late Government or the present, he heartily associated himself, and he was most anxious that everything should be done which could be done legitimately to protect the producer in this country from fraudulent competition. So long as he was responsible for the administration of the Department he would make the fullest use of the law, and press for its needful amendment, in order to protect the British agriculturist from the unfair competition of those who sold adulterated articles as pure. [Cheers.] He hoped the hon. Member would not think it necessary to divide the House.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the interesting manner in which he had met the Amendment, and recognised the generous tribute he had paid to the late Government, whom he had criticised less fairly when in opposition. It was satisfactory that the additional power given to the Department in 1894 had enabled it to do useful work, and a very useful lesson might be drawn from the figures cited by the right hon. Gentleman, which showed that analysis at the port of entry had produced a rapid reduction in the proportion of samples that were found to be adulterated. The moment you began to look into these things at the port of entry, fraudulent importers were cheeked by a salutary fear of exposure. If this supervision could be carried further we might be able in time to prevent foreign adulterated articles from reaching retailers. It was obvious that, if the home producer had to compete with adulterated articles from abroad, he was placed in an unfair position, and was almost driven, in self-defence, to meet the importer by selling a sophisticated article. Deterioration of quality initiated by the foreign manufacturer was bound to spread to home manufactured articles, and so deteriorate the quality and lower the price of agricultural produce. Confiscation had been shown by his hon. 613 Friend, the Mover of the Resolution, to have been the means of preventing the introduction of fraudulent articles in the past, and he hoped the President of the Board of Agriculture would see whether he could not find means by which confiscation might be still further enforced as a method of preventing these frauds on the English public. The three great articles which came to this country from abroad were butter, lard, and cheese. In regard to butter, most of the adulteration was said to be in foreign butters sent into this country, and of the butter sold, 25 per cent. was said to be adulterated, and, under the existing administration of the law, of that 25 per cent. only 10 per cent. was detected. Consequently, 15 per cent. of the butter sold was found to be butter which was really not genuine. In checking the importation of this adulterated butter they would take away from the makers of the article in this country the desire to turn out inferior butter to meet the competition forced upon them by what was sent from abroad. The cases adduced by his hon. Friend showed that rigorous enforcement of the law would stop the introduction of adulterated butter. Five or six cases relating to Normandy and Brittany butter had been quoted. They resulted in heavy fines, and in some cases in long imprisonment, and the breaking up of the "ring" of persons engaged in the system of adulteration. Since then, the butter from these sources sent into this country had been comparatively pure. This was a great gain through the rigorous enforcement of the law. If fraudulent butters were confiscated at the port of entry, their importation would soon be stopped. The other two articles which were, much adulterated were lard and cheese. Adulterated lard from abroad came into this country and lowered the price of the lard produced by the home producer. Much cheese was adulterated. It contained little or no dairy product, and was made from skimmed milk, animal fats and other substances, by which the appearance of 614 cheese was produced. It was innutritious and indigestible, and injured those who ate it. In the interest of our agricultural population this nefarious competition should cease by the action of Custom House Authorities in stopping the large consignments of fraudulent cheese which was sent into this country to compete with home producers. We imported lard, cheese and butter to the value of over £22,000,000 a year. The public was practically unable to protect itself, and had a right to look not only to the local authorities, but to the Imperial authorities to protect it from fraud and injury, fraud to their pockets and injury to their health. In some parts of the country the Adulteration Acts were by no means properly enforced. In Oxfordshire, instead of having one sample analysed for every 1,000 of the population, the standard laid down by the Local Government Board, only one sample was analysed for every 14,000. Wherever the law was laxly administered, the percentage of adulteration increased. In a badly organised county like Oxfordshire, there was 41 per cent. of adulteration, in the articles analysed, whereas in a well organised county, the percentage was below four per cent. He argued that nothing should be done which would raise the price of food, and that the importation of articles which were correctly labelled should not be prevented. It would be a mistake to say mixtures of margarine and butter (so labelled) should not come into this country. Some of the poorer classes preferred them to some of the poorer class of butters. But the law should prevent goods being imported labelled "butter" which were a mixture of margarine and butter. The Board of Customs should exercise more stringency at the port of entry to prevent these articles from coining in branded with a false name. ["Hear, hear!"] If the President of the Board of Agriculture would endeavour to make it impossible for articles falsely labelled to come into this country, he would do a good work, not only for the general consumer, but 615 would do something in the interests of the agricultural workers of this country who produced articles which should be the pride of the country, and for which they asked a fair field and no favour.
MR. HERBERT LEAWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said, the reason alleged for the small number of analyses made was that the Board of Trade Regulations on the subject were far too complex for the local authorities to master. If there was room for amendment in the law relating to adulteration, there was also room for amendment in the practice of the Department relating to it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, he had intended moving an Amendment to enable the House to fully consider the question of trade and agriculture in this country from the standpoint of our fiscal system. But it had been pointed out by the rules of the House there would be a danger of exceeding the limits of order if he carried out his original intention. In accordance with what would be the wishes of the House, he would confine his remarks within limits which would not exceed the rules of order. He need hardly say that the remedy he was about to suggest, was the adoption of the system of Protection, which would go to the, root of the present evils in agriculture, and many other of our national industries. After the announcement which had been made in the Queen's Speech in reference to this subject, some hon. Members thought it to be their duty to detain the House for a short time by drawing attention to a subject with which unfortunately most hon Members were only too familiar, namely, the depressed condition of agriculture which at the present was in far worse a condition than had ever been known in the lifetime of any living man. He thought that that was a statement that would not be contra-dieted and, therefore it would not 616 be necessary for him to waste, the time of the House in endeavouring to establish the fact. What was the conclusion at which the British Government had arrived with regard to the remedies that should be adopted for the purpose of relieving that depression? Although it would be out of order for him to discuss the details of those proposals, he had no doubt that hon. Members would have many opportunities afforded them for examining those details on their merits. In his opinion every one of those measures were miserably inadequate to deal with the circumstances of agricultural depression. Of course, he recognised that no Government, however powerful, or large its majority might be, would be justified in taking the steps which he advocated unless it was supported by strong feeling in the country. But he must say that although the Government might have gone as far as they felt justified in doing, having regard to the amount of their support in this matter in the country, their measures as foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech fell lamentably short of the necessities of the case. Their proposals to promote light railways and their small measures to relieve the land from local rates and tithes even if they were put in a bunch and passed to-morrow would not materially affect the condition of agriculture. Some proposals had not been put into the Queen's Speech and he certainly was not in favour of the "dog eat dog" policy under which one section of the agricultural community was invited to devour another. It had been suggested in some quarters that the land should be, taken away from the present owners and should be handed over to those who hired the land for twelve months at a time, but he did not believe that that would benefit the agricultural interest very largely. He also thought that the "egg and jam theory," the small cultivation principle as 617 it was called, was childish and absurd in the extreme as applied to the present state of English agriculture. It was of course possible that in certain very favoured localities those minor agricultural industries might succeed, but it was absurd to place those minor industries in competition with our great corn and meat producing interests, and the statement that they could replace tbem was absolutely untrue. It might be taken for granted that unless the growing of corn and the production of meat were rendered profitable, the business of agriculture in this country was at an end. He was not going into that strange "silver craze," which had been drawn as a red herring across the path of the agricultural Party and might be dismissed as not worth a moment's consideration. Our trade with purely silver-using countries was small In the extreme, and whatever might be the merits or the demerits of the system, he undertook to say that so far as agricultural competition was concerned it was altogether beside the question. The Prime Minister on a recent occasion, when he very graciously received a deputation connected with the hop industry, stated that that whereas in France the experiment of Protection bad been tried in its most extreme form, agriculture suffered as greatly as it did in this country. No more unfounded statement had ever been unwittingly made by any mortal man. It was the absolute reverse of the fact, and he had a right to ask where the authority for such a statement came from. The statement was entirely opposed to the Official Report on the subject which had been made to the French Government. That Report stated that after the imposition of an import duty of 12s. per quarter upon wheat, agricultural production had considerably increased, both in regard to stocks and crops, and that the French agriculturists not only produced all the meat which was consumed by the nation, but an additional amount of the value 618 of 24,000,000 of francs. The British Government were not without sources of information upon the subject. The Foreign Office employed a gentleman of great ability, Sir Joseph Crow, who had made a Report which was published by the Department, and which fully supported the French view of the subject. What did Sir Joseph Crowe say? and he said it with regard to agriculture in France which Lord Salisbury described as in a worse state than our own:—No recent statistics exist to show that depreciation of property is progressing.And he goes on:—I am informed on undoubted authority that the lowest ebb has been reached, a turn of the tide is noticeable, some tendency towards progress is apparent and the country is gradually beginning to recover.Then he went into interesting details and said:—As in the origin and duration of the depression of agriculture in this country it is difficult to give data, with absolute precision. Depression has certainly existed since 1885, at times in very acute form. There is reason to believe that the worst of the crisis is over.He said:—If France dealt only in food and raw material, and we had not to take speculative transactions into consideration, prosperity might be said with truth to exist. When we come to manufactures we observe how great the depression really is.He thought that showed that the French Government, so far as agriculture was concerned, had adopted measures which met the case. He contended that the measures which had been adopted in France ought to be adopted here. Be those, measures sound or be they false, he ventured to assert in the face of Parliament that, so far as France was concerned, those measures had been singularly successful. They were told that with regard to the conditions of affairs in other countries they were different from their own, mainly because the Governments of France, Germany and Austro-Hungary and those various 619 communities went to the root of matters and carried out a policy which not only benefited the agricultural interest, but the interest of the manufacturing and industrial classes as well. He was told that it was all very well to advocate measures which there was every reason to know the people of this country would never endorse.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that he must not use any argument which in covered by a Notice of Motion. It is competent for him to compare the agricultural condition of England and other countries, but not to argue fiscal reform.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said, this would show that he did not shirk the issue,, which he was prepared to meet if the rules of the House had allowed. He should only make a few remarks which came within the four corners of their ordinary proceedings. Now, as to the condition of agriculture, it was deplorable in the extreme. They had, he believed, at that moment, only a few weeks' supplies of the main staple, of life stored in this country. They talked a good deal, and he hoped they were going to act a good deal in the way of perfecting their scheme for national defence. He asked what was the use of building ironclads—what was the use of the most modern weapons of precision, of countless forces on land and sea—if they had not the means wherewithal to feed the population? He was entirely clear of any question of fiscal reform when he said that by some means or other it was the duty of the Government to provide the country with a certain and safe supply of food. He thought his Free, Trade Friends opposite would agree that their food supplies should not be reduced to so low a state as he had stated. The country at large would hold that it was the duty of Parliament to remedy this gross and glaring evil, which lay at the root of their national life. What the remedy was he would not venture to suggest. He thought that the mere 620 cheapness of food would not satisfy the country unless the supply was secure. He said, unhesitatingly, that the manufacturing communities knew full well that unless agriculture, by some means or other, could be restored to a position of prosperity, the purchasing power of the country would suffer a depreciation which would press heavily on every industry in the land. It was said at one time that agricultural depression merely affected landlords' rents. That was a remark which would not be made now. He had heard it said that a tenant-farmer might perhaps share with his landlord some revival of agricultural prosperity, but the labourer, under the circumstances in which he was placed a year or two ago, with high wages and cheap necessaries of life, occupied a coign of vantage which he never previously enjoyed, and was the last person to advocate the adoption of any scheme of national defence which might in any way alter his position. No one would repeat that argument now. Would any one go into our agricultural districts and tell a labouring audience that they were not vitally concerned in agricultural depression? He undertook to say Members representing agricultural constituencies in any part of the Kingdom would bear him out when he said that all connected with land, be their lot in life what it might, were vitally interested in the restoration of agicultural prosperity. He had often impressed on the farmers that the matter rested largely in their own hands, that they ought to show the labourers that if, by a magician's wand—he would not say who waved it—prosperity was restored to agriculture, the labourers personally would reap a benefit thereby. In other words, the system which prevailed in many parts of England in 1816 and 1820, and periods about then, under which a sliding scale of wages was paid, ought, in his judgment, to be restored. [A laugh.] An hon. Gentleman laughed. That hon. Member probably had never heard of the 621 adoption of a sliding scale in any trading interests; he probably was an advocate of strikes, and therefore objected to a mode of apportioning profits amongst the various classes of the community. Those, who had watched industrial concerns with a less jaundiced eye, and who had seen occasion for sorrow rather than joy in agricultural depression, would rejoice to find that means had been devised in accordance with which the profits and the losses in various corners of the country had been shared amongst all classes concerned. Those who had advocated Boards of Conciliation and pacific methods of settling industrial disputes, would agree with him in expressing a hope that some means might be hit upon by which all classes engaged in agriculture would go share, and share alike, be the seasons good or bad. What is the fact? The want of purchasing power pressed heavily upon every industry. The agricultural interest was the best customer of the manufacturers and traders. There was even now an ignorant belief very largely prevalent that our foreign export trade was the main source of our national wealth. Many people even now were under the impression that all industries in this country mainly depended upon the maintenance of our foreign export trade, He would not utter a syllable in depreciation of the vast importance of our foreign export trade, but he asserted upon the highest authorities that, when compared with the home market, our foreign export trade was a puny matter. What said no less an authority than Sir Robert Giffen in his "Essays on Finance," Page 43, First Series? He said:—To raise just the question of our foreign export trade. How much of the national income is really derived from that trade? To judge by the common language of the agitators we refer to, England would be nothing without its exports to foreign nations. Almost our whole trade and industry, it seems to be thought, would be at an end; an extensive emigration would be necessary; we should be a ruined nation. …. It may be calculated that the earnings of the people of the United Kingdom approximate at the present moment £1,200,000,000 sterling year …. How much of this income 622is derived from our foreign exports? …. We doubt if we can estimate the probable maximum amount of the nett income directly derived from our exports as more than £140,000,000 … Comparing, then, £140,000,000, with £1,230,000,000 it is at once seen that the labour and capital engaged in foreign manufacturing is only a fraction of our whole industry.His object in venturing to ask the House to indulge him whilst he placed these facts before them was this. It was so often said:—How can you go down to an industrial audience and ask them to make sacrifices for the purpose of benefiting agriculture?He asserted, on the authority of Sir Robert Giffen, it was one word for the agriculturists and two for the manufacturing community. The profits derived by the industrial population from a revival of agricultural prosperity would, according to Sir Robert Giffen, involve a figure twelve times that involved in the whole of our manufacturing export trade together, and therefore it was a matter of vital national concern. He hoped the House would calmly and fully consider this question. He knew perfectly well that no Government could be expected to act in a comprehensive manner on questions like this, unless popular feeling had been fully called forth and made an advance. Governments could do no more, perhaps, than the present Government was doing. They could do no more than fiddle while the city was in flames, and that really was practically what they were obliged to do on the present occasion. He hoped that hon. Gentlemen, when they came to consider the question, would be fully alive to the fact that it was only through the prosperity of agriculture that a thorough revival of the general industrial prosperity in the country could be brought about. In conclusion, he would venture to make a reference, though only a passing reference, to some very valuable suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman who recently represented Newcastle in the House, who was now out of Parliament, but who was a candidate for the Montrose Burghs (Mr. J. Morley), 623 made to the working classes of the United Kingdom. In a former speech at Newcastle he pointed out that the working classes of the country were about to be brought face to face with an industrial competition far more severe than any against which they had ever had to contend, and he indicated the quarter from whence that competition would come—from the peoples of the Far East, "the yellow men," as they were termed. Mr. Morley repeated that warning the other day in the course of his present election campaign, and it was one which he sincerely trusted the people of this country would take to heart. The meaning of it was that the working classes, who were struggling, and rightly so, for good wages and reasonable hours of toil, would be brought face to face in competition with men who would work longer hours for less wages—indeed for a few pence a day. That was a problem the difficulty of solving which had hardly yet been realised, but he hoped the working classes would give heed to the lesson, and urged the Government to meet the great difficulty of existing agricultural distress in a prompt and really effective manner.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, the fact that the Government had announced that they intended to introduce several Bills relating to agriculture showed that they had not forgotten the agricultural interest any more than the agricultural interest, as he would remind Ministers, did not forget them some months ago. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped the Government would be able to carry their Bills. Agriculturists had not got much from previous Governments of both Parties, but, putting the past aside, they did now look forward hopefully to obtaining some real, practical assistance from the measures which the present Government had promised, and which it was very important should be urged forward as soon as possible. It was obvious, from speeches which had been made by the Minister for Agricul- 624 ture, that one of the Bills foreshadowed by the Government would seek to give some relief to agriculture in the matter of local taxation, and in view of the unjust anomalies that existed, it was full time that justice was done, in this direction at, least. A Member of the late Government once endeavoured, in a speech, to make out that, on the whole, agriculturists got off better, in respect to taxation, than people in the towns. How the right hon. Gentleman reached that conclusion he could not tell, but it was absolutely incorrect. Agriculturists were taxed altogether, on their incomes, 15 or 20 per cent. more than people who lived in the towns. It was this difference, this unjust anomaly in taxation, that he wished to see remedied in common fairness to the agriculturist. ["Hear, hear!"] Another wise suggestion made, was, that something should be done for the relief of land in regard to the tithe rentcharge, and he believed that by taking advantage, with the present cheapness of money, of the Sinking Fund, very considerable relief might be given to the agriculturist in this direction without the least disadvantage being done to the Church. He knew well enough that those measures would not cure every evil or misfortune from which the farmer suffered; but, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them, "half a loaf was better than no bread at all." He hoped, however, that the Government would make an earnest effort to see that the agriculturists got at least that "half loaf"; of relief. [Cheers.]
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, he had placed an Amendment on the Paper calling attention to the Elementary Education Bill promised in the Speech from the Throne, so far as it affected Wales and Monmouthshire. The Amendment had been ruled out of order, and of course he would not move it. He was, however, entitled, in general terms, to call attention to the very peculiar position which 625 the Principality occupied as regarded the Educational Question, and to submit that it was entitled to distinctive treatment. He might be told that Wales was an integral part of England, and that it could not be dealt with separately. The obvious answer to that objection was that the Conservative predecessors of the present Government, in the year 1888, adopted, if they did not introduce, a Welsh Intermediate Education Bill, and thereby showed that Wales, in the matter of intermediate education at least, was entitled to such distinctive treatment. He had no wish on the present occasion to dissociate himself from his English friends, and he did not know that he would have brought this question before the House at all had it not been for the unanimous wish of his colleagues, and also for the mandate given to him at one of the largest and most enthusiastic gatherings over which he had ever presided in Wales, and at which he was urged to bring the matter before the House before the Education Bill was introduced, and while there was yet a locust pœnitentiœ for the Government. The Welsh case might be stated in a single sentence. But he wished the House to understand that he was not speaking of the large towns of Wales, which were really nothing more than English colonies. He was speaking of the rural districts—of Wales proper—where at least four-fifths of the population were Nonconformists, and where four-fifths of the wealth and much more than four-fifths of the land were in the hands of people belonging to the Church of England. He thought he might go further, and say that in those districts the population almost to a man would be in favour of undenominational education; and, as a matter of fact, he believed that in no less than 704 districts Board Schools had been established. These rural districts were, however, for the most part, exceedingly poor, and they all knew how terribly the pressure of the rates bore upon the people. It was not surprising, therefore, that in some 627 districts there had been denominational Church of England Schools established, which were the only means of education the people had. But it was "their poverty, and not their will which consented," This 626 meant that in every one of those 627 districts there was a centre of unhealthy propagandism, in which every pressure was, or might be, put upon the children to desert the faith of their fathers.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now trenching upon subjects which are more appropriate to the discussion of the Bill down in the name of the Vice-President of the Council.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
said he wished to point out that the parents had absolutely no control over the education of their children.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman is continuing the line of argument which I have already ruled out of order.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
said that, in those circumstances, he would defer what he had to say until the Bill was introduced. Meantime he ventured to appeal to the Vice-President of the Council to consider the case of Wales separately. He had already shown upon this question greater liberality than many of his colleagues, and he expressed a confident hope that the right hon. Gentleman would tell them something which might allay the just alarm which was felt in Wales at the intimation which had been given regarding the measure to be introduced.
§ MR. LLOYD GEORGE (Carnarvon)
said, it had been his intention to second the Amendment, but as it had been ruled out of order it would be impossible for him to enter in any detail into the arguments which would be relevant to it. He endorsed the appeal for separate treatment for Wales when the Education Question was dealt with by the House of Commons. Ireland and Scotland were awarded perfectly separate treatment with regard to their educational systems, and he contended that if the conditions in Scotland and Ireland were so different as to require separate treatment in this matter, the same reason held good in the case of Wales. There was on the Table of the House a scheme promoted by the Charity Commissioners, which obtained the sanction of the last Unionist Government, and the late Liberal Government, for the purpose of establishing a Central Board for the control of higher and intermediate education in Wales, He hoped the right hon. Gentleman 627 the Vice-President of the Council would see his way to include elementary education in that scheme.
§ MR. HOWELL (Denbigh Boroughs)
said, that Welsh Unionism had not, perhaps, been so well represented in the House hitherto as it ought to have been; but last July an effort was made to repair the representation, and he did not wish a Report of this Debate to go down into Wales without Welsh Unionism raising its voice in opposition to what had been said from the other side. The right hon. Baronet had used the old argument that Wales was a nation of Nonconformists, and that his hon. Friends on the other side of the House held four-fifths of the representation of Wales.
§ MR. HOWELL
said, he could not see how a fraction of four-fifths could apply only to the rural districts. With regard to Voluntary schools, the point made by hon. Members opposite was that Wales was entitled to separate treatment in matters of Education. He and others who represented Welsh Unionism protested against any attempt to separate Wales from England in this matter. They did not want to see the thin edge of the Home Rule wedge inserted. It was suggested that proselytism was going on in the Voluntary schools in Wales. If it was it must be very unsuccessful, for they were told that Wales was a nation of Nonconformists, therefore this proselytism must be very harmless. The figures which were adduced in connection with Wales were altogether unreliable, and, until they were shown to be reliable figures, he and his Friends would not accept them, even on the Education Question.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS
remarked that his hon. Friend opposite had said that Welsh Unionism had considerably increased of late. There were nine Unionist Members against 25 who sat on the Opposition side of the House, and he did not think there was much to be proud of in that. His hon. Friend said that Wales ought not to be treated separately. All he could say was that, in regard to Education, Wales had been treated separately again and again by Unionist as well as by Liberal Governments. They had now a 628 University for Wales, their Collegiate system was separate, their intermediate system was thoroughly Welsh from top to bottom, and they would shortly have a Central Board of Education for Wales. The appeal now made was that, having regard to the representation of Wales, to the fact that if the House were constituted at the present time in proportion to the representation of Wales, a Liberal Government would be in power with a majority of 300 at its back; the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President would remember that Wales had a separate case which deserved separate treatment.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ We take this first opportunity of expressing to Your Majesty our deep concern at the sad affliction with which Your Majesty has been visited in the death of His Royal Highness Prince Henry Maurice of Battenberg.
§ We desire to assure Your Majesty and Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Battenberg of our sincere participation in the general feeling of sorrow for the heavy bereavement which Your Majesty and Your Majesty's family have sustained by the loss of a Prince who was regarded with universal affection and esteem by Your Majesty's subjects.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors.