§ [FIRST DAY.]
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE (Wilton, Wilts)
, who were the uniform of a major of the 1st Wilts Rifle Volunteers, rose to move an Address in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. He said he desired at once to ask the kind indulgence of the House while he fulfilled the difficult task which had been placed in his hands, and he did so with the utmost sincerity and with the greater hope that the House would grant it since he had never yet intervened in its debates during the time he had had the honour of being a member of the House. The assurances which Her Majesty's Gracious Speech gave them as regarded foreign affairs were such as would, he felt sure, commend themselves to the House. They were, in every instance almost, satisfactory. There was, perhaps, one instance in which the epithet satisfactory could only be used in qualified terms, for while he thought the great majority of the people of this country were satisfied that Her Majesty's Government had adopted a wise and prudent policy with regard to the abominable massacres in Turkey, no one could look even on the present state of affairs in that unfortunate country 43 with satisfaction. [Cheers.] It was his hope, as, it was the expressed hope of every one, that the Powers might find means in a very short time to deal effectively with the questions which were troubling that country, and might be able to place before the Sultan such reforms as would secure to the people of his dominions, both Christian and Mahomedan, thorough peace and thorough security. [Cheers.] He felt sure the House would agree that the campaign which had recently been brought to a successful issue in the Soudan reflected the very greatest credit, not only upon the troops, but upon the officers of the force which undertook that campaign. [Cheers.] He thought it might be looked upon with the greatest gratification by the Khedive, who, with the advice of Her Majesty's Government, undertook the campaign, and with legitimate pride on their own parts since they knew that the efficiency of the force was largely, if not entirely, owing to the work done by British officers. [Cheers.] He was heartily glad to see in the Speech the reference to a further advance which might possibly occur in the future. [Cheers] Hon. Members would have noticed the report which General Kitchener had recently brought back from the province of Dongola, and which proved what a great blessing the occupation of the province had already become to the people living there. It showed also that there was a prospect of doing the very greatest amount of good in the country, and of bringing to the population there increased comfort and prosperity. He hoped, therefore, it might not be long before they saw the Egyptian troops carrying the advance further into the Soudan to recover those provinces which Egypt had lost in past times. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought they would be doing their duty in supporting that movement, because in that way they would be putting an end to perhaps one of the most barbarous tyrannies that any country had ever suffered under, and restoring to those fertile provinces the great blessings of peace and civilisation. [Cheers.] The whole country, he was sure, would congratulate Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States on the very felicitous ending to their negotiations in reference to Venezuela. [Cheers.] It 44 was not only of the utmost satisfaction to everyone that the question of boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana should be settled by arbitration, though that in itself was a most important matter, but he ventured to think that this country and the people of the world would have reason in the future to be proud of the steps which had been taken in the direction of international peace by this Treaty of Arbitration between themselves and the United States. [Cheers.] It was the fervent hope of everyone that the American Legislature would see fit to ratify the Treaty, and when they had done so he thought it possible that they might look forward to the time when other countries and nations would follow the example and give up altogether the bloody arbitrament of war in favour of universal peace, which would enable the peoples of the world to extend their civilisation and to improve their prospects for the comfort and well-being of all humanity. [Cheers.] In common with everyone else, he was heartily glad that the rebellion in Matabeleland and Mashonaland had come to an end. It was, of course, only a question of time as to when the rebellion would be put down, and the only thing they had to regret was that many noble lives which could ill be spared had been lost in its suppression. ["Hear, hear!"] Everybody must have heard with the deepest regret of the awful calamity which had fallen upon India, and, while at present, perhaps, he was hardly in a position to estimate the full intensity of the disaster, he felt convinced that Her Majesty's Government, both in this country and in India, would make every endeavour and take every possible step to mitigate the sufferings the poor people in India must endure. ["Hear, hear!"] Turning to the legislative measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech, he rejoiced greatly that in the forefront of the programme appeared the question of the Voluntary Schools. [Cheers.] Both sides of the House must share the feeling that it was necessary that something should be done to maintain these schools in their position—["hear "]—and he hoped that the controversies which had taken place would allow the completion within a short period of time of the work to which the Government had set their 45 hands. He held it to be absolutely necessary that something should be done to save those schools from extinction, and in the action they were taking Her Majesty's Government were only fulfilling pledges which many Members on that side of the House gave to their supporters at the last General Election. ["Hear, hear!"] There would be agreement, no doubt, on both sides of the House as to the necessity for a measure which would protect the workman from the results of accident in his employment, and he had confidence the Government would deal with the subject of Employers' Liability in a spirit fair to employers and employed, yet not interfering with the freedom of workpeople. The first duty of a Government was to provide adequately for the defence of the country—["hear, hear"]—and, inasmuch as the Government had devoted a large portion of last Session to the needs of the Navy, it was only right now to turn to the Army and complete our defensive system. Whatever might be the future of this country, and though he might hope that treaties of arbitration might avert the probabilities of war, it was nevertheless under present circumstances absolutely necessary that we should make ourselves strong in a position of defence, so that our commerce should proceed unimpeded and our resources should not fail. As Member for an agricultural constituency he recognised the advantages of the institution of a Board of Agriculture. In extending such an institution to Ireland the Government were acting in a wise and statesmanlike manner, and he felt sure that Irish agriculturists would benefit by this action. Fully he acknowledged the great benefit which the Government had given to agriculture in this country by the work of last Session. ["Hear, hear," and laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but he ventured to think that one who spent most of his time among agricultural people had better opportunity of forming a judgment on the subject than those whose experience and interest were chiefly concerned with towns. ["Hear!"] He fully recognised the magnanimous spirit of the Government towards agriculture, and, at the risk of being thought presumptious, he hoped that time and the general disposition of the House would allow of the measures indicated in the latter part of 46 the Queen's Speech being proceeded with. There was much in the Speech that would give general satisfaction, including the statement as to the present state of foreign affairs and the modesty of the programme of measures to be proceeded with. He was extremely proud of being intrusted with the duty of moving the Address in reply to the Speech at this period so near the completion of the 60th year of Her Majesty's reign. ["Hear, hear!"] He moved that Address with the most sincere feelings of loyal affection towards Her Majesty, fully sensible as he was that the feelings of the people of this country and of Her Majesty's subjects all over the world were of the deepest reverence and loyalty. [Cheers.] It was his ardent wish that Her Majesty might long be spared to reign over her great Empire wisely and justly as in the past. [Cheers.] He formally moved the Address in reply to the Speech.
§ MR. ALFRED LYTTELTON (Warwick and Leamington)
, who was attired in Court dress, seconded the motion. It was difficult, he said, at such a moment not to think of the great changes which had passed over the country during the long and illustrious reign of Her Majesty, and by contrast the present legislative proposals might appear unheroic when the great changes of this long reign were remembered. This was, however, but a superficial view. The reign had seen the establishment of the power of democracy, and naturally enough the problems of to-day differed widely from the problems which confronted the Statesmen of the past. At the present time there was no great fear of privilege, and no Briton had any substantial fear of the action of an imperious nobility or the influence of a tyrannous Church. Few would deny the importance of the group of subjects the Government proposed to deal with. It would be generally agreed that it was important to improve our system of national education without impairing religious individuality, to maintain our industrial greatness, and yet continue to improve the lot of the craftsman, and consolidate national strength and yet increase respect for the rights of other countries. The Government struck at the heart of such problems by Bills to maintain Voluntary Schools, regulating Employers' Liability, and increasing National Arma- 47 ments, and at the same time concluding a Treaty of Arbitration with America. Upon this and other subjects mentioned he was sanguine enough to hope that the discussions would be in the spirit of those mentioned by Carlyle as having taken place between himself and Sterling—" Except in opinion not disagreeing." [Laughter.] The discussions of last year on the Bill, conducted with so much ability by the Vice-President of the Council, seemed to him to win some questions affecting Education and Reform from the region of controversy. He did not think after the discussions that had taken place that anyone would say that Voluntary Schools should not be subsidised. Nor would anyone deny that the process euphemistically termed the painless extinction of the Voluntary Schools was really the painful extinction of the efficient education of several generations of children, for it was obvious that if they allowed their schools to be extinguished in this way, the children who attended them must during that time be lamentably impaired in their education. The immense difficulty and complexity of the subject should persuade reasonable men that even with the best Government legitimate grievances might be left. But at least they might expect and might hope that the debates upon the subject might not provoke the satire which Bishop Warburton was heard to mutter after hearing a debate on the Test Acts:—It seems to me orthodoxy is my doxy, and heterodoxy is another man's doxy.With regard to the Employers' Liability question it was well known that the Bill of 1880 modified the doctrine of common employment and increased the responsibilities of employers, but the result had been to suggest many questions of very great difficulty for the Courts. There had been an immense increase of litigation on this subject, and a measure which in point of fact was designed to compensate meritorious and suffering workmen has been a source of great benefit to a class, meritorious indeed, and alleged to be suffering—he meant the members of the legal profession. For himself he remembered the way in which the historian Gibbon when in a dilemma caused by conflict between the tenderest passion and the 48 most elementary duty solved the problem—he sighed like a lover, but obeyed like a son. If the Government succeeded in passing a measure diminishing litigation he should sigh as a lawyer, but would rejoice as a citizen. He wished to say a single word upon the important subject of the Treaty of Arbitration. He was not one of those who supposed that the Treaty for a moment indicated that Englishmen respected their country less than they did formerly. He believed that the spirit of the old toast that was prevalent at the beginning of the century was present still: "Our Country; may she in her relations with foreign Countries be always right, but our Country whether right or wrong." He did not think that spirit was in any sense mitigated or diminished by the fact that we were willing to submit differences to peaceful arbitration, and the fame of the authors of this Treaty which had for the first time placed upon a permanent basis of arbitration the relations of two great countries, should indeed be undying. He thought there were few of them, when they had seen the papers upon the subject, but would feel that upon our side the credit of this great act was mainly due to the sustained exertions and great ability of Lord Salisbury. There was one other subject he would like to mention. It was the proposal to establish a Board of Agriculture in Ireland. That was a tribute to the exertions of the Recess Committee, initiated and presided over with such signal ability by the right hon. Member for Dublin. He was aware that events had occurred which made hon. Members less inclined to regard that as a benefit than they would have done before, and that the attention of Irish Members was engaged on another and a far more serious matter. Whatever respect they might pay to the Report of the Royal Commission, few men who had really studied that Report would say that that Report was absolutely complete, and that there were not matters which should be fairly and fully investigated and discussed before a final opinion was formed. But he would like to say, that if it were really shown upon complete materials that Ireland ought under the circumstances to receive some exemption or abatement in taxation, the Unionist Party would be perfectly 49 willing and desirous not merely to accord Ireland that justice which was her due but a generosity which it ought to be the privilege of the wealthier country to accord. Concluding, he said he felt it a great honour to have had even a small part in approaching. Her Majesty in this the sixtieth year of her reign—a reign which had, by our exceeding good fortune, proved a stately bulwark against time, and every year of which had recorded royal deeds worthy of our example and our memory, deeds penetrated by a living sympathy with her subjects, especially the poorest of them, the fruit in a noble character of suffering nobly borne. If that Parliament could catch something of the simplicity and the loftiness of her spirit he thought they might indeed feel and hope that the aspiration of the national prayer might be in part fulfilled, and that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety might be forwarded by its labours. [Cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
, who was received with cheers, said: The first and most agreeable task that I have to perform is to acknowledge, I am sure on the part of this side of the House no less than upon that, our sense of the manner in which this Address has been moved and seconded to-night. [Cheers.] The noble Lord who in so graceful and excellent a manner went through the topics of the Speech, represents a name well known and long esteemed in this House—[cheers]—and we are glad that that name should again be present amongst us. As for my hon. and learned friend, I cannot treat him as a neophyte. [Laughter.] It is a name well known to fame in many a field—[laughter]—and in every exercise he has hitherto attempted he has always been in the first rank. I doubt not in the new arena upon which he has entered he will be as distinguished in that field to which we are so happy to welcome him. [Cheers.] The first topic in the Speech to which I would desire to address myself is that which I think is the most important and the most satisfactory. I mean the relations of this country to the United States of America. [Cheers.] Friendship and goodwill between Great Britain and the United States must always be a first and a cardinal principle of English policy. I con- 50 gratulate the Government upon the conclusion of the differences which have arisen in regard to Venezuela. I feel confident that in the progress of these negotiations the right hon. Gentleman opposite will acknowledge that nothing has been done from this side of the House to embarrass the Government or make any difficulties in the way of bringing that matter to a satisfactory conclusion. [Cheers.] Therefore, I will not upon this occasion indulge in any criticisms as to the position which might have been occupied at an earlier stage of the negotiations, because I rejoice so much at the settlement which has been finally arrived at. With regard to the general treaty, that is a matter of still greater congratulation, because that is a measure which is intended, and I trust will have, the result of establishing peace and good will with America upon a permanent footing, and not only that, but that it will be an example, as is said in the Speech, and was so well said by the noble Lord, to the rest of the world, and that it will have a beneficent effect. [Cheers.] Whatever else the Government may do, or may have done, this at least is a work upon which they may be congratulated, I think, by everyone, and it is a work for which we may give them unstinted praise. [Cheers.] If it does anything to remove or to eradicate the spirit of suspicion, of jealousy, of hatred, in international relations, which appears to me to be the besetting sin of our day and generation—["hear, hear!"]—it may do something to relieve us from the burden of these senseless armaments which oppress the world—[cheers]—and which, I presume, is that state of the world which is referred to in the economical paragraph of the Speech. [A laugh.] As President Cleveland has properly said, it removes not only the danger of war, but it removes the apprehension of war, when we know that there is a peaceful tribunal whenever quarrels arise—[" hear, hear!"]—and, referring to what has been said by the mover and seconder of the reign of Her Gracious Majesty, I think we may congratulate ourselves that the century, which opened with universal war, concludes at least with this omen of peace. [Cheers.] I think that no better commemoration of the 60th year of the Queen's reign can be found than that the Government of 51 the Empire over which she rules should have been among the first to set the example which is established by this Treaty of Arbitration. [Cheers.] There is infinite credit due, I think, to those who have accomplished this great work—first of all to the Governments by which it was conceived, and also to the agents by whom it has been accomplished. Those who have had to watch, as I have had to watch, the conduct throughout these matters of Mr. Secretary Olney will have recognised his real desire for peace and the great ability he has shown—[cheers]—and when I speak of Sir Julian Pauncefote I speak of a man of unrivalled abilities, of one of the most helpful and accomplished servants of the Crown. If these are the men who have taken part in this great transaction, I think we ought not to forget the labourers under the heat and burden of the day who prepared that opinion which has been finally accomplished. [Cheers.] I cannot forget the name of a gentleman no longer, I am sorry to say, a member of this House—I mean Mr. Cremer—[cheers]—who, through good report and evil report, when this matter was the subject too frequently of ridicule, did so much good in this country and in foreign countries to forward the cause of arbitration. [Cheers.] I now turn to a topic, I am sorry to say, much less auspicious, and that is the condition of South Africa. The Speech refers to the deplorable events which have there occurred and the lives which have been so unfortunately lost. The House of Commons is going to undertake an inquiry into the condition of things in South Africa—a most important and responsible inquiry. What the nature and object of that inquiry are have been stated by the Colonial Minister in language which leaves no doubt upon this subject. He said:The true character of the action of those who broke into a foreign State which is in friendly Treaty relations with Her Majesty in time of peace, is an act of war, or rather of filibustering. If it can be proved that the British South Africa Company set this invasion in motion, or were privy to this marauding action, Her Majesty's Government would at once have to face a demand that the charter should be revoked and the corporation dissolved.Upon that statement by the Government the South Africa Company demanded 52 an inquiry in these words. They requested Her Majesty's Governmentto institute an Inquiry, with authority to call for papers and examine witnesses on oath, into the circumstances under which Dr. Jameson burst into the South African Republic.That was the demand of the company, and that, of course, will be one of the main subjects of inquiry by the Committee. A great deal has happened since that time, a great deal that is much to be deplored. The native rising has been suppressed, as is stated in the Speech, but of the condition of that country at present very little is authentically known in this country. The authority of the Chartered Company has been suspended for the present in regard to all its police and military authority, and the Committee, of course, will have to consider the future government and organisation of that gigantic territory. These will be amongst the things into which they will have to inquire, but of this I feel confident, that the Committee will address itself to two main objects. One object is to restore the good feeling and the cordiality between the two races which occupy South Africa, which have been so rudely shaken, and upon whose good will and friendship the future of South Africa depends. That, I think, will be their first object. Their second object will be to vindicate in the face of the world the character of this nation's good faith in its dealings with neighbouring countries, and we shall repudiate the charge which has been too often, and I believe falsely, brought against us—that we are willing for aggrandisement and gain to encourage proceedings which we are unable to defend. [Cheers.] There are, I believe, the principles upon which a Committee of this House would act in a matter of this description. Then, Sir, there is another subject which is referred to in the Speech upon which we should desire, and I think are entitled to request, some further information from the Government—I mean with respect to their Egyptian policy. [Cheers.] I can cordially concur in and associate myself with the praise the noble Lord has bestowed upon the military aspect of that expedition, which has been conducted with great skill, with great ability, and with 53 great success by the officers and the men who were engaged in that expedition; but as to the policy of that expedition and as to the necessity for it, I for one, and I believe many on this side of the House, entertain exactly the same objection we have always entertained. ["Hear, hear!"] What is its real aim and end? That is a thing upon which there has been an amount of obscurity and mystery which I think has been extremely injurious, and we ought to have some much clearer explanation of what it is the Government are really aiming at. ["Hear, hear!"] We know what was the beginning, and we want to know what is to be the end of this Egyptian policy. The nearest thing to an explanation of the meaning of that expedition I have seen was given by Lord Cromer in October last at the dinner given to the Sirdar on his return. This is what Lord Cromer said:—In truth, the primary object of the campaign has been accomplished. That object, I need hardly remind you, was to relieve the pressure on the Army of a friendly nation.That object, according to Lord Cromer, has been accomplished. Therefore, there is nothing more to do with respect to it. But there remains the question, What are the English and Egyptian interests in this matter? First of all as to the English interests, I read another speech in the recess with great interest and great satisfaction. When I want a good piece of hard common sense I generally look out for the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. [Cheers.] I find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking at Darlington in October, said:—What has been the history of our rule in Egypt? I do not hesitate to say that, in the interests of England alone. I wish we were not in Egypt. It imposes on us a responsibility which in very conceivable circumstances might become a very grave responsibility indeed; and unquestionably it has not improved the relations between ourselves and our neighbours in France.That is perfectly correct. That is a very mild way of stating it. I desire to say nothing more upon the subject of English interests in the matter. No doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer then diverged into general philanthropy—[laughter]—and I want to ask now what is the Egyptian interest in the matter. We are told first that a better frontier was wanted, that there was an alarming 54 enemy on the border of the old frontier; but the enemy does not seem to have been alarming at all. I do not profess to be a judge in these matters, but I am told by those who are that, from the point of view of a military frontier, at this moment you have a worse frontier than you had before. Then it is said that a fertile province has been given back to civilisation; but Egypt has already fertile provinces which are within the borders of civilisation, but they want one thing, and that is a good deal of money to be spent on them. I have read that projects for irrigation and drainage in these provinces have been stopped for want of money. Therefore, in the Egyptian interest you have to consider what is to be done. ["Hear, hear!"] You have landed Egypt in a very bad financial position, from which I understand it is to be redeemed by the assistance of the English purse. But when you talk of what you are going to do I should like to ask, Are you going to reconquer the Soudan? The right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, told us last Session that that was not in contemplation.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Very well; then are you going to reconquer it this year—[cheers]—and I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for he ought to know, are you going to do so at the cost of Egypt or of England.' Everybody knows, and every prudent Statesman feels, as the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in the passage I have read, the difficulties and perils which surround this Egyptian question in connection with our international relations with the other Powers. A man must indeed be a fool who shuts his eyes to those difficulties. It is not the few hundreds of thousands of pounds that this expedition has cost you; it is the attitude of hostility in which you have placed yourselves towards some at least of the greatest Powers of Europe that costs you, not hundreds of thousands of pounds, but the millions which are involved in those armaments to which the Speech from the Throne refers, and which says the "state of the world" makes it necessary for us to keep up. But what is that "state of the world" caused by? 55 Can you say that the Egyptian question is not one of the elements which has brought about that "state of the world?" ["Hear, hear!"] No wonder the Chancellor of the Exchequer wishes, from the point of view of British interests, that we were not in Egypt, because if we were not there he would have a great many more millions to dispose of than he has at the present moment. [A gesture of dissent from the CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER.] That may be a matter of opinion, and my opinion is that your armaments are largely affected by the occupation of Egypt, and I believe that this is a conclusion that cannot be denied. How has this enterprise in the Soudan improved your European relations? I have heard the false pretence put forward that it will accelerate the evacuation of Egypt. But does anyone believe that? [Cheers.] Why, the people who applaud that statement most are those who insist most on our continued occupation of Egypt. In the Drummond Wolff Convention Lord Salisbury signed a Treaty to evacuate Egypt without any thought of conquering the Soudan. At that time the idea did not exist for a moment that the recovery of the Soudan was a condition precedent to evacuation, and if that Treaty had been carried out Egypt would have been evacuated without the Soudan being conquered some six or seven years ago. ["Hear, hear!"] What has been the immediate effect of this transaction upon your relations with the European Powers? I will give the answer on the infallible authority of the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] This is what he said at Southport:—You will remember what our position in Egypt is. We have for ten years been in Egypt, so to speak, not merely as the guardians or protectors of Egypt, but I might almost say as the trustees for Europe of Egyptian administration.[Cheers from the Government Benches.] You are the trustees for Europe. What do some of the greatest Powers in Europe say to your administration of that trust? You have appropriated, as you supposed, these trust funds for certain purposes; but Russia and Franco have taken you into Court 56 upon that appropriation, and the decree of the Court has gone against you. ["Hear, hear!"] We have a right to ask you what you are going to do next? ["Hear, hear!"] Are you going to proceed to reconquer the Soudan out of the funds of Egypt contrary to the opinion of two of the greatest Powers in Europe, for whom you say you are the trustees in the administration of Egypt? That is a question on which some light ought to be thrown by Her Majesty's Government. ["Hear, hear!"] Now I pass to a subject which has deeply moved the heart and conscience of this nation, upon which I must say I think the language of the Speech referring to the massacres in Constantinople and Armenia is extremely unsatisfactory. [Cheers.] It does not express all that the country desired to hear on this subject from the Government of the Queen. [Cheers.] The massacres first began more than twelve months ago, and have been going on, more or less, constantly ever since, and what the Speech says is that the Government have called the special attention of the Powers to them. Well, they have done that for a very long time, and have induced the Powers to make the present condition of the Ottoman Empire the subject of special consideration. We know that special consideration has been going on for months—I might almost say for years—and all we are told at the end is that the conferences which the six Ambassadors have been instructed to hold are still proceeding. Twelve months ago we were led to believe—I have no doubt with perfect conviction on his part—by the Prime Minister that there was a prospect of effective action to restrain Turkey from the cruel oppression of the Armenians, but those hopes have not been fulfilled. On the contrary, in the year just concluded we have witnessed the most atrocious crimes, both in Asia and Constantinople, of which recent history affords no similar examples. The Powers of Europe have remonstrated with Turkey on the subject. Those remonstrances have been treated with contempt and defiance by the principal offender. Those who perpetrated the massacres of the past have enjoyed, and are still enjoying, perfect immunity, and for anything we know to the contrary 57 there may be massacres to-morrow perpetrated with equal security. ["Hear, hear!"] I am far from charging the Government with indifference to these horrible events. I believe that they have been sincerely desirous to do what in them lay to restrain a ruler who is restrained by no sentiments of humanity or of policy. ["Hear, hear" from the Government Benches.] But the country has a right to expect, and it is expecting from the Government an explanation why the influence of Great Britain has proved so ineffectual. But beyond a few vague statements we know nothing at all with regard to the subject. We are told by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs that we must restrain our troublesome curiosity. But this is a matter which touches too deeply the heart and the honour of the country to be allowed to repose in the secret recesses of the bosom of the Under-Secretary, or in the red boxes by which be is surrounded. ["Hear, hear!"] We must have some statement as to what has been done, what is being done, and what is likely to be the consequence of our action. We have no very good grounds for trusting the policy of the Foreign Office in this matter. I am not speaking of the present policy of the Foreign Office alone, but of the Eastern policy of the last 40 years. We see now what has become of that policy. The Government, so far as they have spoken, have pleaded their inaction in this matter as a consequence of the paralysis of Europe. But what is the cause of that paralysis. I think we are bound to ask ourselves how far our own policy is responsible for that paralysis. ["Hear, hear!"] It is stated that the inaction of the Powers of Europe is due to the reluctance of Russia to act in this matter. But there was a time when Russia was perfectly prepared to act, when Russia was the natural protector of the Armenians in Asia Minor, and it was by the action of this country that that natural protectorate was taken out of the hands of Russia and was assumed by ourselves. Therefore, when you are talking, of the paralysis of Europe you have to consider how it has arisen. I would state that view in the words of one certainly not a hostile critic of the present Government. The Duke of 58 Argyle in his recent publication says this:—But there was one portion of the helpless Christian population subject to Turkey for which, at the Congress of Berlin, we did ourselves most unfortunately undertake to improve on what Russia had done in the Treaty of San Stefano. And that Christian population is the only one which has, consequently, not only failed to benefit, but has now become the special victim of Turkish ferocity and spoliation. Let us look for a moment how this occurred. The change which the new words effected in the Treaty of San Stefano wounded the pride and the most justifiable ambition of Russia to be the protector of her co-religionists in provinces with which no other Christian Power had any natural connection. On the other hand it delighted the low cunning of the Turk in constituting another 'rift within the lute,' which by-and-by would be quite sure to 'make the music mute' of any effective concert by the Powers of Europe. The Turk could see at a glance that, whilst it relieved him of the dangerous pressure of Russia, it substituted no other pressure which his own infinite dexterity in delays could not easily make abortive. As for the unfortunate Armenians, the change was simply one which must tend to expose them to the increased enmity of their tyrants, whilst it damaged and discouraged the only protection which was possible under the inexorable conditions of the physical geography of the country.Of course, it was not necessary for Russia, as Lord Salisbury says, to take a fleet across the mountains of Taurus. That is the condition of things which you changed in 1878. Lord Beaconsfield boasted of the territory and the population that he had restored to Turkey—I think he said 30,000 square miles and 2,000,000 people. Happily that broke down, and Lord Beaconsfield's great achievement, Eastern Roumelia, escaped from the clutches of the Turk, and we all now rejoice at it. But your work in Asia Minor, unfortunately, remained. You had abolished, you had destroyed, the natural protectorate of Russia there, and the consequence we now see. No one knew better than Lord Salisbury at the time that you could not rely upon the general stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin. Why in the Speech do you speak of the Treaty of Paris rather than of the Treaty of Berlin? ["Hear, hear!"] I suppose there is some reason for it; but no doubt they were both chapters in the same policy, chapters in the policy of hostility to Russia, and of patronage of Turkey. I do not know what the distinction is—whether it is because in the Treaty of Paris there is a 59 guarantee of the Ottoman Empire and whether it is because under that Treaty you are going to revise that guarantee; no doubt the Government will tell us something on that subject. But Lord Salisbury in 1878 saw that all these joint guarantees were of little or no use; they were vague and misty, and it was upon that account that, after making the general Treaty at Berlin, they negotiated a secret treaty. ["Before."] Well, before; it was secret before. It was because they did not rely upon the concert of Europe, and because Lord Salisbury knew you could not rely upon the concert of Europe, that be said:These misty and shadowy guarantees which bind you to everything in theory, and which turn out in practice to bind you to nothing, were anything but honourable to the character of European diplomacy.And then he said this:I think it better that we should come to a simple form of engagement in which, only two Powers being mixed up, there can be no doubt as to pledges being fulfilled.This was the pledge and aim of the Cyprus Convention. Which of the pledges of that Treaty have been or ever will be fulfilled? What were the pledges? First, that we should fight for Turkey against Russia. That has not been fulfilled, and I venture to say it never will. The next was that Turkey will reform itself. That has not been fulfilled, and never will be fulfilled. What, then, is your situation under this Convention? Are all the engagements gone, and the wretched residuum of Cyprus left upon your hands as the final outcome of this ill-starred alliance? Is that the position in which we stand in reference to the Anglo-Turkish Convention? It is a very important question not only that Great Britain, but that Europe, should know in what situation you stand in reference to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. Is it in force or is it not? The time has come when we should know, and that the world should know, whether we are bound by that Convention to fight for Turkey as against Russia in Asia Minor. The policy of 1878 was founded on hostility towards Russia; it was founded on patronage of Turkey. In my opinion, as we have always maintained from these benches, a policy 60 more faulty in its principles and more evil in its consequences it is impossible to conceive. What we want to know is whether you stand by that policy to-day or whether you do not. You did your best to cripple and humiliate Russia in 1878, and now you complain when she will not march at your bidding. We talk sometimes of continuity of policy, but we do not desire continuity of that policy. We believe that the first necessity is a reversal of that policy—["hear, hear!"]—and I am glad to say that I see indications that Her Majesty's Government are not indisposed to reverse that policy. Lord Salisbury, at the Guildhall, said:I demur absolutely to the statement that there is a permanent and necessary antagonism between Russia and Great Britain. I know of no such antagonism. I know of no cause that should give rise to it. The interests of the two countries do not seem to me likely to cross in any important matter. It is, therefore, I think, a superstition of an antiquated diplomacy that there is any necessary antagonism between Russia and Great Britain.Sir, if we get rid of the superstition of an antiquated diplomacy we shall be delivered from the Anglo-Turkish Convention, which is the last record of that superstition. ["Hear, hear!"] When I referred to these matters last Session, the right hon. Gentleman opposite said, "Oh, Lord Beaconsfield is dead, why should you refer to him?" Well, the Beaconsfield legend may be dead and buried, but, happily, Lord Salisbury is alive to pass judgment upon that legend and upon their conjoint operations, and the epitaph he has pronounced upon it is that it is a superstition of an antiquated diplomacy. [Cheers.] If we are prepared to enter upon this Eastern question, which is the vital and menacing question of the future, in what I believe to be a statesmanlike attitude, and in a spirit not of hostility to Russia, but of cooperation with Russia, of treating Russia in the East, not as an enemy, but as a neighbour—["hear, hear!"]—then, I believe, you will accomplish what you have failed to accomplish up to the present, and then we may escape from the sense of humiliating impotence and make our Eastern policy not an antiquated superstition, but a living force. There is one particular inquiry I should 61 like to make of the Government with reference to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. It has been said, "Oh, of course, we are not bound because Turkey has not reformed," but let me ask this question. Supposing that these Ambassadors ever do accomplish anything, and that reforms are pressed upon the Sultan and accepted by him, will then the Anglo-Turkish Convention revive; when these representations, whatever they are, are accepted, shall we then be bound to make war upon Russia in defence of the Asiatic dominions of Turkey? That is a very definite question which I think both this nation and the nations of Europe ought to have a clear understanding upon, for I believe if you are going to keep alive an engagement of that kind, an alliance with Turkey by which you are bound to make war upon Russia in defence of Turkey's Asiatic dominions, then I say I believe your Eastern policy in the future will be as great a failure as it has proved in the past. Upon these subjects I think it is of the deepest interest we should have definite declarations from Her Majesty's Government. ["Hear, hear!"] I have delayed the House too long already, but I wish to say a word or two upon domestic affairs. I need not say how deeply we all feel the disasters which have befallen our Indian fellow-subjects, and I need say no more upon that matter than that I am perfectly certain that the people of this country, whether individually or through the Commons House of Parliament, will take care that every alleviation of those sufferings will be given which the Government may think it fit to propose. [Cheers.] But at home no doubt the prospect is a cheerful one. We are ready enough to grumble and bemoan ourselves when things go badly, but I am not quite sure that Englishmen like to recognise their good fortune when things go well. I have always observed there is nothing an Englishman dislikes so much as to be told he is well off, but the fact is that the last year has been one of extraordinary prosperity, so prosperous that I think it has dispelled even that foolish scare "Made in Germany," of which we shall hear no more. [Sir HOWARD VINCENT: "No, no," and laughter.] The hon. Gentleman is one of the Englishmen of whom I was speaking. [Renewed laughter.] He sees 62 there has been an increase of many millions—I think it is £14,000,000—in the exports of our manufactured goods, and that the imports into this country of manufactured goods have been £5,000,000. [Sir HOWARD VINCENT: "The imports of manufactured goods last year was £81,000,000."] I was comparing the increases last year, but we will not discuss that question; perhaps when we get to the Prison-Made Goods Bill, if, as the Speech says, "time permits," we may discuss it. [Laughter.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer has let us into the secret of the Budget. I suppose I ought to condole with him, because he said last year that it was no feather in the cap of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have a large surplus. I am afraid, however, that the coining surplus will be large enough to compromise the character of the right hon. Gentleman. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has had the frankness to say that these variations had very little to do with changes of Government. No, Sir, they depend upon the vicissitudes which political science has not yet been able to analyse or forecast. Well, Sir, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though it may not be a feather in his cap, will have a handsome surplus to dispose of. The question is, What is he going to do with it? ["Hear, hear!"] We shall hear of nothing in the way of economy. There is no mention of economy in the Queen's Speech. In old days that are now no more there used to be a timehonoured statement that the Estimates had been prepared with a view to economy. [Cheers.] But that was many years ago. I am not surprised at this, because I do believe that at present there are only two people in this country who have any regard to economy—namely, the present and the late Chancellors of the Exchequer. [Laughter.] I did not count the penultimate Chancellor of the Exchequer—whom we are sorry not; to see here to-night—because he was the greatest spendthrift of all. [Laughter.] We know to whom you gave your surplus last year. I am delighted to find that in the present Queen's Speech nothing is said about agricultural distress. We are, of course, very glad to know that there is no cause 63 to bemoan agricultural distress this year. [Cheers.] I was not long since denounced as an optimist, because I refused to believe that the agricultural interest of this country was going to irreparable ruin, and that the whole of the land would be thrown out of cultivation. ["Hear, hear!"] But I saw a miracle such as I never witnessed before—the present and the late Ministers of Agriculture dined with the Farmers' Club, and both of them were positively cheerful. [Laughter.] I have never known anything like it under any circumstances. The late Minister of Agriculture, speaking of wheat, mentioned the millions that had been added to the stores of the farmer, and the present Minister recited, like the ancient Israelites, the multiplication of his flocks and herds, and the manner in which, under his administration, there were a million more sheep, and I forget how many hundreds of thousands more of cattle. [Laughter.] It is remarkable that this year you will be asked in the Budget to add a compassionate allowance to this distressful interest of two millions of money, at the expense of the general taxpayer. [Cheers.] It was admitted that in good times the remission of rates would go to the landlord, and a good time, I am glad to say, has arrived; therefore we shall now know where the money goes. Of course, a part of this profit was in the quantity and excellence of the crops, and the other part in the rise of prices. I have not observed that the rise in the price of the quartern loaf has been received with universal enthusiasm. That might be thought a reason why you should not call on the general taxpayer to find these two millions of money. ["Hear, hear!"] But at all events this rebound of agricultural prosperity ought to induce even the President of the Local Government Board, whom we regret not to see here to-night, to believe that prices do not depend absolutely upon the ratio between gold and silver, which remains very much what it was when wheat was 10s. a quarter lower than it is now—["hear, hear "]—and the time may really arrive when even he may believe that values have some relation to supply and demand. [Laughter and cheers.] There is, however, one other question which, before these mil- 64 lions are disposed of by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will have to be taken into account, and that is the Irish demand founded on the Report of the Financial Commission. [Nationalist cheers.] I think the First Lord of the Treasury might have done well to have imitated the reserve of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day; but down in Lancashire the First Lord plunged into the matter with a rashness which alarmed some of his best supporters. ["Hear, hear!"] As far as I can understand, he thinks that indirect taxation is not of much account, and that it is a quantity that might be neglected. His words were that a man may consume or not consume, as he pleases—in a word, that if he consumes he pays, and if he does not consume he does not pay. [Laughter.] That settles the question of indirect taxation. Then the right hon. Gentleman says there is that in regard to indirect taxation which there is not in regard to direct taxation, and that there is an element of free-will in the matter. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear!"] Truly a Pelagian heresy. I suppose that that direct taxation is of the nature of predestinarian doctrine. [Cheers.] I cannot think that this was one of the most fortunate of the financial essays of the right hon. Gentleman. I have known him do better even on the subject of bimetallism. [Laughter.] It is, I think, universally acknowledged that indirect taxation always presses most heavily on those who are least able to bear it. That is why for 50 years, since the time of Sir Robert Peel, every sound financier has been labouring to diminish indirect taxation, and put the burden on direct taxation. ["Hear, hear!"] I am happy to think that I have had the opportunity of casting a stone upon that cairn. And now we have arrived at a point when the two are as nearly as possible equalised in England. But what is the case in Ireland? In that country three-fourths of the taxation is indirect, and I think there cannot be a more conspicuous injustice as between the two countries. [Nationalist cheers.] That, in my opinion, is an enormous grievance to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman has disposed of the report of the Commissioners very cavalierly, and has stated that their principles of finance are ut- 65 terly wrong. It seems to me that it is an entire mistake to suppose that this is a question which involves the Home Rule controversy. It is one in which Unionists and Home Rulers stand on common ground. [Cheers] The question is what was the compact of the Union, and whether that compact has been faithfully carried out. The Unionists are the parties most concerned to stand by the terms of the Treaty of the Union. I will content myself by stating two propositions. The first is that by the Treaty of Union there was stipulated, on behalf of Ireland, a distinct consideration and separate treatment in respect of taxation, with a review from time to time, having regard to the relative resources of the two countries—[Nationalist cheers]—and that Ireland has a right to claim to be dealt with on that footing. [Cheers.] As to the separate treatment of Ireland, that was admitted by Mr. Gladstone in 1864, when he granted an inquiry into the matter, and I made a Motion that the Committeeshould consider the taxation of Ireland and how far it was in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Union, or just in reference to the resources of the country.The Committee of 1864 was not moved on the question of Home Rule, but on questions of taxation. In 1890 the First Lord of the Admiralty, in granting a. Committee, said:The question was whether Ireland gained or lost through her connection with the British Empire, tier Majesty's Government would like to have this point cleared up, and would be prepared to grant an Inquiry into the financial relations between the two countries. Certainly it was not his desire to press too hard on any portion of the United Kingdom. Of course, if it should be shown from the Inquiry that injustice had been done to Ireland in the matter of taxation, the time would come when any such injustice could be remedied.Then he appointed his Committee, and one of the terms of the Inquiry was whether the financial relationsare equitable, having regard to the resources and population of England, Scotland, and Ireland respectively.And here I will say that of course the question of Scotland is reserved in the same way as this question of Ireland. Mr. Gladstone gave a pledge, and I repeated the pledge that was given, that a similar Inquiry should be made into the taxation of Scotland. When the First 66 Lord of the Admiralty moved his Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon wanted to include Wales, but what was the objection that the First Lord of the Admiralty took? He said Wales could not be treated as a. "separate fiscal entity, as was the case with Scotland and Ireland, which have separate arrangements." A great deal has been said about the words "fiscal entity." I do not myself care particularly for these metaphysical terms. The First Lord of the Admiralty invented the term "fiscal entity" but I do not rely upon it. I say there was a covenant for separate treatment. That is plainer language and more easily understanded of the people. I stand upon the Words "separate financial treatment," and the First Lord of the Admiralty said there were special arrangements with regard to Scotland and Ireland, but not with regard to Wales. I think it is perfectly idle, and I cannot believe that the Government are going to take their stand on the position that there are no covenant separate financial considerations for Ireland in relation to her resources, and that there should be a review of her taxation from time to time in that regard. Then the second proposition, which I think is clearly established, is that the present taxation of Ireland is largely in excess of the relative proportion due to the resources of the two countries. I believe that is established by the evidence and by the reasoning of the Commission. The right hon. Gentleman, I know, holds the Commission very cheap, but perhaps he will excuse me when I say that, after the careful deliberation they have given to this subject, their opinion is of greater weight even than his. ["Hear, hear!"] On the other hand, it is alleged that there is excess of expenditure. That you can compensate exorbitance of taxation by extravagance of expenditure is not a proposition that is self-evident. ["Hear, hear!"] It may deserve consideration, and I have no doubt it will receive consideration. I think, under these circumstances, what we want and what we will ask the Government for is that they shall give us time before the Estimates are voted, and before the Budget is dealt with, to discuss 67 this grave question of the taxation of Ireland. [Cheers.] I will ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us an answer upon that point, because it is obvious that the Address is not the most convenient manner or occasion for dealing with it. What we want from the Government is an undertaking that there shall be an early opportunity on which this matter shall be thoroughly debated in this House. ["Hear, hear!"] I will only delay the House for a few more minutes on the subject of education, which occupies a prominent place in the Speech from the Throne. I was very glad to hear the invitation to peace which was addressed to us by the hon. and learned Member, the Seconder. I can assure him there is nothing I desire more than that we should approach this question in a spirit of peace, and I really think there are good hopes that we shall do so, because this year, in contrast to last year, has this peaceful opening about it, that, as far as we can ascertain, Her Majesty's Government have not been captured by the Bishops. ["Hear, hear," and laughter.] I confess that when I read in the recess that remarkable demonstration of the Œcumenical Council of the two Provinces, when they passed unanimous resolutions which were to bind nobody, I did think we were in for a good fight. But I understand that the children of this world who sit upon that Bench are wiser in their generation. [Laughter.] We now learn, upon authority which is indisputable, that the rateaiders are thrown to the lions, and, if that is so, we shall not have the drum ecclesiastic beaten by the noble Lord the Member for Rochester at the head of the Church Militant again this year; and all that makes for the peace my hon. and learned Friend desires. The Education Bill of last year had a short life and not a merry one—[laughter]—but the Bishops' Bill of this year has perished before it was born. [Laughter.] I do not even learn that the unanimous resolutions have been formally presented to Her Majesty's Government at all. The common sense of public opinion had nipped them in the bud, and if they reached the Government they seem to have been considered in camera, and we have not heard what took place between them on the matter. They were at all events disposed of by the right hon. 68 Gentleman the other day by the remark, which seemed to me perfectly well founded, that to have adopted them, his words were, "would have been a work of political lunacy." That was the end of the unanimous resolutions of the two Provinces. Then I thought that everything would go very smoothly. The right hon. Gentleman had preached in Manchester his rather unwelcome eirenicon to the rateaiders down there, and he preached to a united party. The party always is united—[Opposition laughter and Ministerial cheers]—including the Church party. But all of a sudden the truce was denounced, and the fiery crosier—[laughter]—was sent round. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman to his constituents was made on Saturday, and on the Sunday—the better the day the better the deed—the Bishop of Chester took up his pen, and the counsels of the Cardinal were sought by his Anglican brother in his wrath—[laughter]—and he inquired of the Cardinal what was to be done with this traitorous Government—the Government that was the wicked author of the Welsh Intermediate Education Bill, which had even contrived that base thing Free Education, that had ruined the voluntaries who did not like to volunteer, and desired to get the fees out of the children. He actually went so far as to turn round and say, "Would it not be better to endure, tristes Amaryllidos iras, even the treatment of the heretical member for Rotherham." [Laughter.] The Bishop and Cardinal took counsel together whether it would not be better, after all, to throw off the chosen people on those Benches and turn to the Gentiles. This is all very interesting, but it did not seem exactly to tend for peace. But they have good reason for what they said. They said they thought if the Conservatives were turned out of office they might prove again the denominational lions which they had formerly been before they occupied those benches. His Eminence the Cardinal, I think with a little more Christian charity than was displayed by the Anglican malleus ministrorum, pleaded that some room should be granted to Her Majesty's Government—a limp and flabby Government he called them [laughter]—for repentance, and that at least they should be exhorted to piece- 69 meal contrition. [Laughter.] That, I suppose is the meaning of the paragraph in the Speech that if opportunity and time allow there may be other measures connected with education. But then if they remain impenitent, what is to happen to this "hand-to-mouth policy of sops and doles?" The greater excommunication is to be delivered, and the Unionist Party will be placed on an interdict, and the words of the interdict are remarkable:—That other political combinations must be sought; it would become our highest prudence and our truest fidelity to the country and to God to make a political break-up "—[laughter]—and the Government is to be given over to the secular arm. [Laughter.] There has been nothing like it since the days of Thomas à Becket—[laughter]; and I tremble when I think that the First Lord of the Treasury may yet be seen doing painful penance at the shrine of Canterbury. [Laughter.] Common humanity demands that we should defend even our opponents from such an end as that. I should be extremely sorry to see the right hon. Gentleman so maltreated by the Lancashire rateaiders, and if the Government will only adhere to the dictates of common sense, and if they will proceed in this matter on the lines on which I hope they intend to proceed, then we will promise to defend them from the Church party—[laughter and cheers]—and we will rescue one of the great parties in the State from the threatened auto-da-fé of the Anglican Bishops and the Cardinal. [Laughter.] If we approach this question—as on our part, I will venture to say, we are prepared to do—from the national point of view, and not from the denominational point of view—[cheers]—then we may do practical good in this matter. We are told, and I dare say truly told, that the Voluntary Schools are not as attractive as they ought to be, that their resources are insufficient, and that therefore their education is inferior. But that is true of some Board Schools too. But what we who care about education a great deal and about denominationalism very little, what we desire is that education should be made as good as possible in all schools. ["Hear, hear!"] In that spirit we desire to 70 approach this question, and if the Government will also approach it in that spirit then I can tell my hon. and learned Friend the Seconder of the Address that his peaceful desires will be fulfilled. Our position is perfectly well known. If additional aid is to be given to Voluntary Schools it must be given in fair terms only to schools that really volunteer, and it must be given fairly as between Voluntary and Board Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] Our position is perfectly clear, we take our stand upon the fundamental principles of the settlement of 1870. We adhere to the principle of that settlement, and in that spirit we shall be ready to give fair and reason able consideration to any proposal of the Government which has for its object, not to endow denominationalism, but to educate the nation. There are other measures mentioned which it is not necessary for me to specify, and upon these measures, or many of them, we are ready to assist the Government, as we assisted them last year with measures that seemed to us useful. We assisted the Government with the Irish Land Bill, and with other measures of which I will only mention one. We assisted the Government in passing the Conciliation Bill. I believe that Bill has proved in some cases extremely useful, but I cannot avoid here, in the House of Commons, expressing my deep regret and condemnation of the course Lord Penrhyn has taken ["oh, oh!"] in refusing to act under the provisions of that Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] It is very little encouragement to pass Bills of this kind when we find the Conciliation Bill treated in this maner. I say nothing of the "omnibus" clause which the Government, with becoming modesty, have attached to the end of the Speech with the condition "if opportunity can be found." It would be cruel to anticipate the future of these unborn innocents, and all I will wish these embryos is a good delivery. I desire in conclusion to say that with those differences of opinion to which my hon. and learned Friend has referred as occurring in the conversation between Carlyle and Sterling we are willing to co-operate in showing that the House of Commons is willing and able to discharge the great duties imposed upon it. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF FOR TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
, on rising was received with loud cheers. He said: No one will, I think, grudge the right hon. Gentleman the extended use he has made of the opportunity the Speech gives him to discuss all the matters contained in that Speech, and I must frankly add some matters not contained in that Speech at all. But I will endeavour to compress the brief remarks I have to make in answer within narrower limits than the right hon. Gentleman found it possible to occupy. Before I come to what I may call the more controversial portion of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, let me associate myself with him in the graceful and well-deserved compliment he paid to my noble Friend who moved and my hon. and learned Friend who seconded the Motion for the Address upon the speeches delivered this evening. I confess I have always thought that this duty of moving and seconding the Address is among the most difficult which Members of this House can ever be called upon to perform, and I am always thankful that I never had to pass myself through this trying ordeal. But my two friends have to-day acquitted themselves in a manner that I am sure commands approval in every part of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] My noble Friend the Mover has spoken for the first time within these walls this evening, and I think everybody will cherish the hope that he has not spoken for the last time, but that he will often again give us that admirable, lucid, and complete statement of his views such as he has given us on the present occasion. ["Hear, hear!"] My hon. and learned Friend who seconded is an ornament to a profession which is supposed to relieve its members from any undue diffidence in any walk of life—[laughter]—but even he, I think, must have faced with something less than perfect equanimity the very difficult ordeal out of which he so triumphantly emerged. We all listened, not for the first time in his case, to a method of speaking which I can assure him will be, and must be, agreeable to the House, whatever subject he desires to treat. ["Hear!"] Coming to the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's speech I may pass as rapidly as he did over the subject of Venezuela. 72 I should not indeed have mentioned it at all except that the right hon. Gentleman asked for my assent to the proposition he ventured upon, that during the long period of negotiation he and his friends did their best to prevent any unnecessary difficulty being raised in the matter between the British Government and the Government of the United States. I most cordially give the right hon. Gentleman the certificate for which he asks, that he behaved with admirable patriotism and discretion through all the Debates of last year, and if negotiations have now come, as they certainly have, to a happy conclusion, a conclusion anxiously desired on both sides of the Atlantic, that is undoubtedly in part due to the patriotic course pursued by the Opposition in this connection. ["Hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman dwelt at length on the Arbitration Treaty. The Venezuela Treaty deals with a temporary and individual phase of international difficulty, but the general Treaty with America, though nominally limited to five years, may, I hope, be a perpetual guarantee of peace between the two great English-speaking communities. ["Hear!"] I am the last to suppose that treaties and protocols will ever bind aggressive ambition or foil the cupidity of nations, or heal the difficulties springing from racial jealousies or religious differences, but when a treaty of this kind is entered into as between two nations sprung from the same stock, speaking the same language, having the same religion, enjoying Constitutions closely allied in character, neither animated by aggressive political ambition, then I think we may hope with some confidence that we shall have laid a deep and sure foundation of that lasting peace on which so much of the future progress of the world inevitably depends. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman after dealing with the Treaty of Arbitration passed from America to Africa, and he made certain observations with regard to results which he hoped would follow from the labours of the South African Committee, which will begin in a few days. The right hon. Gentleman expressed a hope that through that Committee the bonds of confidence between the British colonies and communities in South Africa generally would be more strongly bound. Everyone, in whatever quarter of the House he may 73 sit, will echo the hopes and expectations of the right hon. Gentleman, and if, indeed, the labours of that Committee should end in a result so fortunate for the Empire we may well rejoice that the Committee should have been appointed, and its labours, however arduous and protracted, will have a worthy and permanent result. ["Hear, hear!"] So far I am in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman in his observations as to the policy on the continent of Africa. But when he leaves the southern portion of that continent and deals with the policy in Egypt, then differences between us make themselves felt. The right hon. Gentleman told us that in spite of the success which has attended operations in the Soudan, he is as unalterably fixed in hostility to the policy that has restored Dongola to civilisation as he was during the Debates of last Session. I confess that surprised me very much, for I re member one of the principal reasons alleged against the policy of the Government was that military disaster would dog its footsteps. Now, it being conclusively proved that a province can be restored without the semblance of a military disaster, I should have thought on his own showing and from the arguments used during last year's Debate that a large portion of the right hon. Gentleman's objections would be swept away. ["Hear!"] Hut he says the policy in the Soudan will increase the difficulties of English policy generally in the face of other European Powers. I do not agree with that view. I do not at all deny that the English position in Egypt has been one which may and will have caused anxiety to British and foreign diplomatists; but when the right hon. Gentleman goes on to tell us that our fleets and armies must be kept at their present level simply and solely—or principally—because we went into Egypt—under a Government of which he was a Member—["Hear, hear!"]—in 1880 and have stayed there through successive Governments—of some of which he was a Member—I am bound to entirely separate myself from the view he has taken of our foreign responsibility. The re sponsibilities of England are not confined to Egypt. It would not be possible, in my judgment, even if the whole episode of Egypt were expunged from history; it would not be possible in the 74 present condition of things to diminish our naval or military force by a ship or a man. ["Hear, hear!"] The armaments which we have to keep up we have to keep up from the very nature and essence of the British Empire itself, from its enormous expansion, from the number of nations with which we are in contact in different parts of the world, and from the possibilities of quarrel which may arise between us and our neighbours in almost every continent. Those are the origin of the great obligations under which we lie with regard to our armaments, and those obligations would not be materially diminished, in my judgment, even if the evacuation of Egypt were accomplished within the next few days. [Cheers.] It was surely a strange transition on the part of the right hon. Gentleman from a complaint that we had withdrawn from the tyranny of the Khalifa the fair province of Dongola to a complaint that we still left under the rule of the Turk certain provinces of Armenia. ["Hear, hear!"] I cannot bring together in one focus these two halves of the foreign policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends. I cannot understand why it is a monstrous iniquity on the part of this country to use its influence in Egypt for the restoration to order and law, security and prosperity of a province groaning under the tyranny of a usurper—I cannot understand why this is an iniquity while it is an equal iniquity that we do not sacrifice vast national material interests in dealing with misgovernment in other parts of the Turkish dominions. I think hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should choose on which leg they mean to stand; on which half of the argument they mean to depend. If it be wrong for us, in no spirit of reckless adventure or crusade, to restore to Egypt the province which she formerly held, and which it is undoubtedly for the advantage of humanity she should hold again, then surely all this pressure upon us to indulge in a spirit which would be one of reckless adventure in other parts of the Eastern world, must be even less worthy of, praise. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman quoted something I apparently said in answer to him on a precisely similar occasion last year. I confess I had forgotten my own speech last year on the 75 Address, and I had equally forgotten his. When, however, he made a quotation he reminded me of the fact that he made exactly the same speech last year upon this subject of our Eastern policy. Last year and this year he fought his old battles over again; he rehearsed his ancient glories. He went back to 1878, he again denounced Lord Beaconsfield in periods to which we are well accustomed; and though I admired on this occasion, as I always admire, the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman, I confess I prefer the vintage of rather more recent date. [Laughter.] Even the best wines may be too old, and I do think the old controversies of 1878 which the right hon. Gentleman has thus endeavoured twice running, with only scant success, to revive, may well be allowed thenceforth to sleep their last sleep in the dusty pages of "Hansard." [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman hinted, if he did not actually state, that he thought the European concert was not an instrument or the best instrument by which reforms in Turkey could be effected. Everybody must admit that the co-operation of six individuals or six Powers may work more slowly, with more difficulty, and be subject to more accidents and interruption than the action of a single individual or Power; but if the right hon. Gentleman really means to suggest that the Government are wrong in the policy they have been pursuing, then I join issue with him absolutely. I think it has been conclusively shown by men of various politics and of large experience, Lord Rosebery, Lord Salisbury, and other Statesmen for whom the right hon. Gentleman has, or has expressed, great respect, that the policy which the right hon. Gentleman did not perhaps recommend, but which he appeared to wish to insinuate, is not a policy which this country can safely adopt. I think it would be actual insanity if we were, either by word or by deed, in this House or elsewhere, to suggest that the condition of things which we wish to see established or reestablished in the East is the isolated predominance of any one Power in the affairs of Turkey. ["Hear, hear!"] I trust that the joint action of Europe may produce results earnestly to be desired in the interests not only of the 76 populations of Turkey but of European peace, and certainly every indication which I have of what is going on in Constantinople leads me to make anticipations which are not the reverse of sanguine in their character in this respect. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
To mention the Treaty of Paris is merely to mention an historical fact. The signatories to the Treaty of Paris, by that instrument and by subsequent instruments, have got, as it were, a locus standi in Ottoman affairs, and feel themselves justified, in the words of the Queen's Speech, in considering the condition to which that Empire has unhappily been reduced. There is one point I omitted to mention when dealing with that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he criticised our Soudan policy. I have to say in connection with that, and in connection with the known incident of the refusal of the Courts of Law to sanction the advance from the Caisse, that a Vote will be taken to advance to the Egyptian Government the sum repaid to the Caisse in accordance with the judgment of the Court of Appeal. As to any further action contemplated in the coming season, that action in the Soudan will be mainly for the consolidation and union for strategical and commercial purposes of the territories already under the Egyptian Government. We shall ask Parliament at a very early date to sanction our advance to Egypt, and that will afford a convenient opportunity for discussing, and if need be of criticising, the action of the Government in this matter. I think I have now surveyed, rapidly, but still adequately, the observations of the right hon. Gentleman on foreign affairs. With regard to home affairs he was discursive and amusing. [Laughter.] He denounced my hon. Friend behind me, the Member for Sheffield (Sir Howard Vincent), for entertaining anxieties with regard to foreign, and especially German, competition. But while he was thus denouncing my hon. Friend, I am afraid he forgot that my hon. Friend has an ally and a coreligionist in this matter in no less a person than Lord Rosebery. ["Hear, hear," and laughter.] No 77 man has devoted more time and energy to arousing public interest to the necessity for technical education and other methods of promoting industrial progress than has Lord Rosebery in recent years. Then the right hon. Gentleman turned to the congenial task of criticising and misrepresenting a speech which I recently made in Manchester. He opened tire upon the financial relations between this country and Ireland just an hour and ten minutes after he rose to address the House; and I really feel unequal at this hour of the evening and on the present occasion even to touch upon a subject of which we shall doubtless hear much, but which, I think, should not be treated at the fag-end of a speech or in stray and discursive references to other speeches made in the country. I shall doubtless have an opportunity of giving my views to the House when the proper time conies, and defending, if defence be necessary, anything which I may have said elsewhere than on the floor of the House. In the meantime, perhaps it is only necessary for me to say, on behalf of the Government, that in our judgment the late Commission, whether it deserves all the encomiums passed upon it by the right hon. Gentleman or whether it does not, at all events was guilty of sins of omission. There were large tracts which they were bound to investigate, and which they refused to investigate, and it is impossible to form a judgment—["oh!"]—upon some branches at all events of this controversy without carrying further the investigations which they themselves so suddenly, so arbitrarily, and so inexplicably dropped. Under these circumstances we shall take measures for carrying out those further investigations—
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
And though this would not be a convenient moment for stating precisely the terms of reference by which the future investigating body will be bound, I shall be in a position to state those terms, I hope, in a very few days.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly answer the question whether the Government will promise to give time for 78 the discussion of this matter by way of special Motion on an early day?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Yes. I had not forgotten that; but I am glad to be reminded of it. Of course, as the House will see at once, there is a legitimate opportunity now for raising this question by an Amendment on the Address. I understand from what fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite that he would prefer, and his friends would prefer, and Gentlemen from Ireland below the gangway would prefer, that a separate and independent occasion should be given at a later period for the discussion. The Government will be very glad to meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, but, of course, it must be understood that we are by adopting that course, absolved from discussing the question on the Address. To us it is a matter of indifference which occasion is taken, but clearly we ought not to have both. [Opposition cheers.] I gather, then, that a separate discussion after the Address, but before the Budget—["Hear, hear," from the Nationalists]—would meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I, on the part of the Government, am quite prepared to give a pledge that that opportunity will be provided. The only other point on which the right hon. Gentleman dwelt was the education controversy and the Education Bill out of which that controversy would arise, and the right hon. Gentleman made very merry over the epistolary efforts of two great ecclesiastical dignitaries and promised us his support against the Bishop of Chester and Cardinal Vaughan. [Laughter.] It is not my business to defend the letters of the Bishop of Chester. It was a very singular episcopal ebullition—[laughter and cheers]—of which, in my opinion, the less said the better for that distinguished prelate himself. But when the right hon. Gentleman promises me the support of himself and his friends in regard to the coming Education Bill, though I am grateful for this mark of his consideration and regard, I confess that I found very slender hopes upon it. The right hon. Gentleman is prepared, no doubt, to give us or sell us his support on conditions. I think it excessively unlikely that these conditons will be satisfied, and, though 79 I have every hope and expectation that the Bill which will be immediately introduced is one that will receive general support, at all events on this side of the House, and although I believe that it will do much, indeed, we may hope it may do all that may be necessary in order to preserve from extinction the great body of Voluntary Schools in this country, I entertain no personal hopes whatever that it is a Bill that will be passed by consent. The Bill will be passed, but not, I think, by the cooperation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and, although I shall gratefully accept any assistance which be may think it his duty to offer, I shall not make my plans for the Session on the hypothesis that he is going by speech and vote to give me that cordial cooperation which upon some other less controversial matters I have now and then enjoyed in the past. But though I doubt not our Debates will be sharp, I hope they will also, comparatively speaking, be short. I trust that this Bill, whether it be fortunate enough to meet with the approval of hon. Gentlemen opposite or not, will in any case not take up any inordinately large portion of the Parliamentary time at our disposal during the course of the present Session. That is not a matter which depends upon the Government alone or upon the Government chiefly. We shall have done our best to secure that result by reducing, the measure to the smallest proportions compatible with effectiveness and givng as little opportunity for the display of unnecessary eloquence as is possible. But I say, not to the right hon. Gentleman but to my own friends upon this side of the House, that it is upon our efforts that we must rely in passing the Bill, and although I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will offer no more than fair, honest, direct Parliamentary opposition to the measure, we cannot count upon anything from him in the nature of cordial support. I now have traversed the whole course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
There is one question upon which I asked the right hon. Gentleman to give me an answer, and that was the view the Government take of the liabilities of this country under the Anglo-Turkish Convention.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
They are precisely what they were when the right hon. Gentleman was in office. [Laughter.] Having, I hope, satisfied the right hon. Gentleman upon that and on all the other points on which he exercised his undoubted right to cross-examine me in the course of his speech, I beg to conclude the few remarks I have made, expressing the hope that as the most controversial and difficult subject that it seemed likely would be discussed on this Address has been deferred to a later occasion, we may without any undue delay terminate our discussion upon it and proceed to the substantial work of the Session.
§ MR. BLAKE
rose to say that, after the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury that he would fix an early date for the purpose of discussing the question of the financial relations, he did not propose to persist in the motion that it had been his intention to submit, believing that it would be more convenient to the House generally and more conformable to the importance of the question to take advantage of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
congratulated the House on the great improvement in our foreign relations since this time last year, and especially on the conclusion of a Treaty of Arbitration with the United States of America, which he regarded as one of the greatest events of the century. He trusted that it would make war impossible henceforward between the two English-speaking nations, and in doing so it would add greatly to the power and influence of this country in Europe. But there was one dark cloud on the horizon which loomed as black and ominous as war. He referred to the shocking condition of the Armenian Christians. Our diplomacy had been an utter failure thus far. The atrocious misgovernment of the Sultan continued, and he laughed to scorn all the protests of Europe. He wished to express the deep sense of loathing with which many of them regarded the powerlessness and apathy of Europe; 100,000 of the Armenian Christians had been butchered; at least 100,000 more had perished of disease and famine, and still the Ambassadors were writing notes and exchanging civilities with the Great Assassin. He fully admitted the enor- 81 mous difficulties of the situation. He had no wish to see a European war brought on, but something must be done to stay this plague, or the vengeance of God would come upon Christendom. One suggestion he wished to offer to the Government. The distress among the Armenians was worse than war; hundreds of thousands were perishing from cold and hunger; private charity was in a large measure dried up, and he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he could not place on the Estimates a small sum of £100,000 to be disbursed through our Ambassador at Constantinople. It might be granted on condition that an equal sum be raised from private sources. If this were done promptly it would save the lives of thousands, and do something to assure these poor sufferers that they were not forgotten by their fellow-Christians in England. He believed it would receive the cordial support of the people of this country. He also wished to express his deep sympathy with the Indian people in the awful famine which had fallen upon their country. It threatened to become one of the worst of the century. He could not doubt that the Indian Government would do all that it could to save life, but he feared that in spite of every effort a vast number of lives would be lost. They could not forget that three millions of lives perished in the great Madras famine, and one million in the Orissa famine, and there was much room for private charity in addition to all that Government could do. The appeal for charity came rather late, it might have been made a month sooner, but he did not doubt that it would be responded to as great national appeals usually were in this wealthy country. With regard to the programme of the Session, he would first like to make a few remarks on the coming Education Hill. He was glad that this measure would be more moderate in its scope than the last one; but, on behalf of the Protestant Nonconformists, he would state in the most emphatic terms that they could not consent to further State aid to Denominational Schools without public control They regard as utterly unjust the forcing of the children of Protestant Nonconformists into Church Schools in 8,000 parishes of England and Wales where no unsectarian school was available. 82 The religious teaching in these schools was becoming increasingly opposed to the deepest convictions of Protestants. In some cases it was but little removed from Romanism. These schools were used, in many eases, to stamp out Dissent. No teacher could enter the staff unless he was the obsequious servant of the parish clergyman. If he or she ventured to show any independence of clerical control, such as going to a service in a Nonconformist chapel, they got immediate dismissal. They regard the teaching profession as degraded by placing the teachers at the caprice of a single man, often a bigoted ritualist, who abhorred the very name of Protestant, and considered it the main end of his life to Catholicise England. Yet these were the only schools to which the children of Protestant Nonconformists could be sent in one half of England and Wales. This state of things was absolutely intolerable, and must come to an end sooner or later. It was a misnomer to call such a system a National system of education. The Liberal Party must work for a system of public schools all over the country, controlled by the ratepayers, the teachers appointed by an elected board, and the cost of such schools must be borne by the State. The dread of a School Hate was the great weapon used by the Clerical Party to prevent School Boards being set up, and this contrivance to hinder National Education being set up must be brought to an end. If School Pates should be continued they should not exceed 3d. in the £, as Mr. Forster intended when he brought in the Education Bill of 1870. It was never intended that School Rates should run up to their present figure of occasionally 1s. in the £. The principle which the Liberal Party of the future must tight for was a system of education free from clerical control and open to all the nation on equal terms, with equal facilities to all to enter the teaching profession. Nothing short of this would be accepted as a full and final solution. He regretted that the Speech from the Throne took no notice of the important Report of the Welsh Land Commission. There would be great dissatisfaction in Wales if no action was taken upon that Report in this Session of Parliament. It revealed a deplorable state of things among the Welsh farmers. Distress was 83 greater there than in any part of England, except the Eastern counties. Rents were much higher relatively in Wales than in England or Scotland. The competition for land was excessive, and a great portion of the farmers were verging on insolvency. The land was badly farmed for want of capital; and a crisis had arrived which, in his judgment, could not be surmounted except by a system of judicial rents and fixity of tenure, as was the case in Ireland. This was in substance the Majority Report of the Welsh Land Commission, signed by the Chairman, Lord Carrington. He pressed upon the Government to find time for a short Bill dealing with this urgent question. If this was not done, matters would go from bad to worse in Wales; and they might, perhaps, see agrarian troubles that all would lament.
§ SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said he should not have troubled the House that night but for some extraordinary statements made by the Leader of the Opposition in reference to the Eastern Question. As his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House had said, that Speech was practically a rechauffé of speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite during last Session. But it was possible that his right hon. Friend, looking at the matter, as he was bound to do, from the point of view of the Government, and the management of the affairs of the House, rather underrated the effect of speeches like that of the Leader of the Opposition on public opinion, or the mischief they might do if allowed to pass uncontradicted. The House knew very well that a favourite pastime of the Leader of the Opposition in dealing with the Eastern Question was to endeavour to throw dust on the memory of Lord Beaconsfield. But he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that it was not Lord Beaconsfield's policy, but the reversal of that policy that had failed; and the right hon. Gentleman, in accusing the Conservative Party of an Anti-Russian Policy and of weakening and crippling Russia by their action in 1878, forgot that the Party to which he belonged, and the great Leader of that Party, Mr. Gladstone, were the Government that undertook the Crimean War, which cost this country 100 millions of money and 50,000 lives, and that began the policy 84 of crippling Russia. Another statement of the right hon. Gentleman was that nothing had been done for the improvement of the affairs of Turkey during the last twelve months. That statement was unfounded. He hoped with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that the present consultation of Ambassadors at Constantinople might result in the practical amelioration of the Christian people of the Ottoman Empire. But those who knew what was happening in Turkey knew perfectly well that a good many measures of reform had been put into operation. Christian Sub-Governors had been appointed in the provinces of Asia Minor. Christian members of the Gendarmes had also been appointed. There had been Christian Inspectors of the Courts of Justice appointed, and there had been large sums voted by the Turkish Government, and out of the private purse of the Sultan for the relief of the Armenians in Asia Minor. These things were never mentioned by the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who criticised the action of the Government, or who affected to deal with what had happened in Turkey. He appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite to be moderate in their language when dealing with this question. He believed that more human lives had been sacrificed in Asia Minor during the past two years owing to the immoderate and violent language used by Gentlemen in that House than owing to any other cause. He believed that this violent vituperation in regard to the Turkish Government had had the most disastrous effect. Hon. Gentlemen professed to have the safety of these Christians at heart; he himself had the same desire, but he begged them to remember that the power in these regions was in the hands of Mussulmen, and that if they were seriously aroused, and if a time of violence broke forth again, not only the Armenians but the whole Christian population of Turkey might suffer. He, of course, held different views as to the causes of these massacres, and did not believe that the Sultan was responsible for them. It would have been the worst policy that any ruler could adopt to order such massacres as took place at the close of 1895. He was happy to be able to say that tranquillity prevailed now, and had prevailed during 85 the last twelve months over the greater part of Turkey. He had spoken with many Turks on these questions, and they deplored as deeply as did the Christians of this country the massacres which had taken place. He had also had the opportunity of speaking to the leaders of the Armenian and Greek religions in Turkey, and he could assure hon. Members that they took a very different view to that which was taken by the supposed representatives of the Armenians in that House. Their one great object was to secure the maintenance of tranquillity, and to prevent any further outbreak of fanaticism. One of the most prominent Christian prelates in Turkey had said to him that the only two things that were wanted in Turkey now were, first, the maintenance of tranquillity, and secondly the placing of good men in power and keeping them there—not good Christians but good Turks. If our Ambassador at Constantinople, instead of indulging in a wild course of abuse and oppositon to the Sultan and the Turkish Government, had only adhered to his one object of getting well known good men in power in Turkey and keeping them there, he would have achieved a great deal for the benefit of the Turkish people. He was told that they had plenty of reforms on paper, all they wanted was their execution. The Leader of the Opposition had told them in the vague, grandiose language of which he was such a master, that his policy was that of friendship with Russia, but he did not say what was perfectly well known, that it had been Russian opposition which had steadily for the last 18 months prevented any intervention of this country in Turkey. He must know that Prince Lobanoff checked Lord Rosebery's attempt at practical intervention, and that the Russian Government did the same thing in November last with regard to the administration now in power. The policy of the Russian Government was to promote disorders in Turkey, to prevent the intervention of other Powers at all costs, and to allow Turkey to rot to pieces in order that the prize might fall into their own hands. He had never been a believer in the Concert of Europe, and the reason why Russia was now going in for it was because that was now the only way by which she could prevent intervention on the part of the other 86 Powers in the affairs of Turkey. If Constantinople were placed in the hands of Russia, it would place her in, a naval and military position of overwhelming strength, and our hold over Egypt, the Suez Canal, and even India, would be most gravely inperilled. There was another policy in regard to these questions which the Government would sooner or later be forced to adopt, and that was to find allies in Europe whose interests were coincident with our own, and agree upon a policy with them. He believed that would enable England to demand any reforms from Turkey. He deeply regretted the attitude which our Ambassador at Constantinople had taken up. He believed there were signs of improvement already in Turkey, and that if tranquillity were maintained that improvement would proceed, and that possibly at no distant date the varied populations in Turkey, so opposed in history, race and religion, might be able to live together in peace and prosperity.
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
called attention to the imprisonment in Belgium of Alderman Tillett, whoso object had been a perfectly lawful one—namely, to induce the workpeople to become better organised. Alderman Tillett was kept, in prison for 48 hours and then released, he believed, without trial. He asked the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to impress on the Belgian Government that an Englishman was an Englishman whatever his social position might be, and that the whole force of the Government of this country was at the disposal of the poorest subjects of the Queen as much as of that of the richest, and most exalted. He himself feared that this was not realised by the Belgian Government. This was not a mere sentimental complaint of imprisonment, but of the fearful insanitary condition of the cell in which for 48 hours Mr. Tillett was imprisoned. He had had the honour of knowing Mr. Tillett for many years. He was a man of great refinement for a workman, and never had a robust constitution. The cell in which he was incarcerated was in such a condition as to poison and undermine the strongest constitution. His health was probably ruined for life. Since his imprisonment he had been unable to discharge his official duties in connection with his trade association, 87 and had been put to great expense in leaving his home for seaside resorts to better his health. Under the strong advice of medical men he had now set sail for New Zealand, which would keep him away from his work for 12 months, and even then it was uncertain whether he would, when he returned, be tit to resume his public duties. Under these circumstances he honed the Government would insist on ample reparation being made by the Belgian Government for such an outrage on a British subject. He was afraid that Mr. Tillett's social position not being in the first rank the importance of his ease might be underestimated, and consequently it might, though unintentionally, be neglected. He now wished to refer to the extraordinary speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield. If misfortunes should overtake the foreign affairs of this country, the Leader of the House would see that his weakness was in not having the hon. Member to preside over them. [Laughter.] He himself was perfectly horrified that an English Member of Parliament, if not himself an Englishman, should have dared, in the presence of freeborn Britons, to stand up as the public apologist of a person like the Sultan of Turkey, whose myrmidons had sent shudders and terrors throughout the civilised world by their barbarities and murders. He was astonished that the hon. Member should have defended this monster and attacked one of his fellow-countrymen, the British Ambassador, who was not able publicly to defend himself. With regard to the Government proposals on the subject of Education, he did not know whether the Government measure had been prepared, but if it was not too late he would tell the Leader of the House the secret of obtaining for it universal support from the Opposition side of the House. It was that where public money was given public and popular control should follow. No one knew better than the Leader of the House that the so-called "Voluntary" Schools were sectarian schools under another name. He did not object to the further expenditure of public money in aid of education, but if public money were voted, whether in aid of elementary schools, secondary schools, or training colleges, they, on the Opposition side of the House, would insist on public control following. If the Leader 88 of the House would take a "tip" from him and provide for this, he would have a record Session, and be able to pose, not as Leader of a mere section of the House—including the hon. Member for Sheffield—but of the whole House and the country. What a magnificent position to contemplate. If the right hon. Gentleman was strong enough and equal to the occasion he would now have a chance which might never occur again. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"]
§ On the return of MR. Speaker, after the usual interval—
§ MR. DOUGLAS COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)
said that there were one or two omissions in the programme of the Government as set forth in the Queen's Speech which he should like to call attention to. In the first place he should like to have seen among their promised measures a Redistribution Bill which would have divided the country into something approaching equal electoral districts, so as to get rid of the present unjust method of representation under which small constituencies were over represented, while large constituencies and places of importance were either under represented or were left without representation. The limit of 50,000 population was taken to be a proper one to entitle a, borough to representation, but that limit had been widely departed from in many instances. In the first place, as regarded England and Scotland, he found that the following constituencies were represented in that House: King's Lynn with a population of 18,360, St. Andrew's with a population of 18,941, Buteshire with a population of 18,217, Durham with a population of 15,287, Penryn and Falmouth with a population of 17,454, Winchester with a population of 19,073, and Salisbury with a population of 17,362. Let him compare those constituencies with such constituencies as those of Cardiff, with a population of 132,229, Huddersfield with a population of 96,495, Hanley with a population of 86,945, Wandsworth with a population of 113,244, Romford with a population of 103,000, Deptford with a population of 101,286, and Croydon with a population of 102,695. In his view the latter constituencies were very inadequately repre- 89 sented compared with the former. There were moreover a large number of two-Member constituencies still left. Thus the following were two-Member constituencies: Stockport having a population of 70,263, Ipswich having a population of 57,360, York having a population of 67,000, Bath having a population of 54,551, Northampton having a population of, 70,872, Stoke having a population of 75,352, and Newcastle-on-Tyne having a population of 186,300. Ireland had a representation 23 in excess of its proper proportion, such places as Newry with a population of 13,605, Kilkenny with a population of 13,722, and Galway with a population of 16,942, each returning a Member to that House. With regard to the over representation of Ireland, the present Lord Chancellor had stated at the St. Stephen's Club, that Home Rule could not be considered dead as long as the representation of Ireland at Westminster remained as large as it was at present. He could hope that, in such circumstances as he had referred to, Her Majesty's Government would give their attention to this subject. ["Hear, hear!"] Turning to another subject, that of the abolition of the Irish Vice-Royalty sham and farce which was carried on by the Lord Lieutenant at Dublin Castle, he might say that Englishmen had no desire to see Ireland governed on any different system to that under which they lived. He was in favour of getting rid of Dublin Castle altogether, as well as of the Irish Privy Council. He also advocated the establishment of Royal residences in Ireland. It was no wonder that there should be disloyalty in Ireland when the Irish people never saw any member of the Royal family in consequence of there being no Royal residence in the country. As for the Dublin Castle system, it seemed strange at first sight that its abolition should be opposed by the hon. and learned Member for North Tyrone. That hon. and learned Gentleman speaking upon the subject said:—He himself should oppose, if it ever cropped up, the abolition of the office of Viceroy in Ireland, because it was essential to working out the principle of Home Rule and the establishment of an Independent Legislature for Ireland.Again the hon. Member for the Scotland 90 division in speaking on the same subject said:—he would most strongly and vehemently oppose any such proposition, because he regarded the Viceroyalty as one of the distinct marks of Irish nationality which Irish Nationalists would be very foolish indeed to surrender.These observations showed the necessity that there was for getting rid of the existing separate system of Government for Ireland. He should like to ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they had dropped Home Rule altogether out of the Liberal programme. In January 1895, the National Liberal Federation had passed a Resolution to the effect that Homo Rule still held a foremost place in the programme of the Liberal Party, and he should like to know whether that was their opinion at the present time. He should also like to know who was the real leader of the Liberal Party. Speaking on this subject at Dewsbury, the right hon. and learned Member for East Fife had said:—They were going up to Westminster in a few days with full confidence in the sagacity of their Leader and in the discipline and loyalty of their rank and file—[cheers]—and with the most strenuous determination to use to the full in the promotion of progressive, and in the arrest and defeat of reactionary, legislation all the legislative weapons and opportunities of Party warfare.On the other hand, Mr. Russell had said:—Whom does the Liberal Party follow just now? It follows no one absolutely; the leadership is in commission, and the Party picks and chooses, and follows one man on one subject and another on another. Lord Rosebery gives us the right lead on Home Rule, Sir Wiliam Harcourt on finance, and Mr. Asquith on social reform.They also wanted to know from the hon. Member for Northampton what took place early in 1894, when Mr. Gladstone resigned the Premiership. Writing in Truth on October 29, 1896, the hon. Member said:—It will be seen, therefore, that the Liberal Party has had to thank the majority of Mr. Gladstone's last Cabinet for depriving us of the invaluable services of that trusted veteran; for preventing an appeal to the country on the action of the Lords; and for the dreary ploughing of the sands of the sea that made the Party ridiculous in the sight of men and angels; as well as for having sacrificed that 91 keystone of Liberalism, the presence of the Liberal Premier in the House of Commons.He looked forward to the further disclosures of the hon. Member with considerable curiosity. They had heard a good deal in the last few weeks about the Report of the Financial Relations Commission. The mere perusal of the names of the Commissioners was enough to show that this was a packed Commission, packed for a special object, the pasing of the Home Rule Bill. Its conclusions, therefore, appeared to him to be perfectly valueless, and he did not think that the Party opposite would be able to make much capital out of the Report. The Opposition were handicapped enough already by the adoption of the policy of Home Rule. They would only increase their difficulties by telling the British taxpayers that they must provide £2,700,000 a year more in order that Ireland might be taxed as a separate taxable entity. It was admitted that Irishmen individually had no grievance; in fact in the matter of taxation they were better off than Englishmen and Scotchmen. Scotchmen might have a grievance, but Irishmen had none. Referring to the grant of £200 made by the First Lord of the Treasury to George Brooks, the plaintiff in a recent trial, the hon. Member described him as a Radical Unionist of the type manufactured in West Birmingham. Grants such as that made in this case were the price which the country had to pay to enable the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to masquerade as the leader of a distinct party, although he sat on the front Ministerial bench. With reference to the promise of relief to the Voluntary schools, he expressed his obligations to the Government for the prominent place which they had given to the subject in their programme. He trusted that there would be no drawing back and no flinching, and that by the 31st of March the Voluntary schools would have obtained that assistance to which they were entitled. He hoped that the assistance given would be sufficient not only to enable them to meet the demands made upon them by the Education Department, but also to stand their ground in the severe and ruthless competition of the School Boards.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
observed that the hon. Member who had just sat down had spoken about everything on the earth, above it, and below it, and had attacked with perfect impartiality everybody on his own side of the House and everybody on the Opposition side with the exception of himself (Mr. Labouchere). For the praise which the hon. Member had extended to him he was very grateful. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would remember that the Leader of the Opposition had asked for certain explanations with regard to the attitude of the Government towards the Cyprus Convention. The right hon. Member would, he thought, admit that no answer was given by the Leader of the House to the questions that were put to him. In fact, the Leader of the House rather evaded those questions, saying that his views on the subject were identical with those of the Leader of the Opposition. Well, they knew the views of the Opposition. Mr. Gladstone, speaking for his Party, had declared that he regarded the Convention as an "insane Convention." The right hon. Member for North East Manchester, when Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was understood to say in the House that the Convention was dead, but when reference was made to Hansard it was found that the word "dead" had become "dormant." Were they to understand that the Convention was "dormant" at the present time? He really did not see how they could expect Russia to aid and abet efforts to establish good government in Armenia if the result of those efforts would be to revivify a Treaty which was absolutely aimed by us against Russia. He did not think it a fair answer to say that the opinion of the Leader of the House was precisely the same as the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition, unless they were thereby given distinctly to understand that this Treaty, as far as the guarantee of Asia Minor was concerned, was not only "dormant," but dead. They ought also to have a clear under-standing that the papers which were to be published would be presented almost immediately, that they would be full, and that as soon as they had been presented an opportunity would be given to the Members of the House to explain 93 their views fully and to criticise the attitude of the Government.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said that he should not have risen at that moment if the Government had made an answer to the appeal of the hon. Member for Northampton. Whilst he agreed that a general discussion on the subject of Armenia might wisely be deferred, he held that with regard to the Asia Minor Convention something ought to be said that night. He had dissociated himself from the extreme forms of agitation in the recess, but whilst he thought that that agitation was in some respects open to criticism, he thought that in the tameness of the debate and of the action taken that evening an error in the opposite direction was committed. They had hardly done justice to the deep feeling that existed in the country upon this question. The country naturally expected information. The reply of the Leader of the House to the Leader of the Opposition was rather calculated to set up the Asia Minor Convention as a more substantial fact than he had taken it to be. The Government in 1880 regarded that Convention as dead. The massacres that occurred at that period were quite as horrible as those that had occurred recently. The right hon. Member for Aberdeen at that time disapproved the removal of the military Consuls from Asia Minor, the creation of those Consulates being an essential portion of the Asia Minor Convention. As to what was the general position of the Government in relation to the Asia Minor Convention, there could be no doubt at all; it was something very different from what had been described to the House in the present Debate from either of the front Benches. It was absurd to suppose that the Conservative Government of 1878 concluded that Convention for the mere purpose of befriending Turkey; the object must have been some supposed advantage to ourselves. It was, no doubt, felt by the Government of 1878 that it would be impossible to induce the British public to defend Turkey, even though British interests might be supposed to demand it, if Turkey would not reform herself; and therefore the Convention was made conditional in form. So little did the Turks regard it 94 as an advantage to themselves that they were the first to ask to be released from it. The Convention was always condemned by the Liberal Party; and he was obliged to say that what had happened had absolutely justified the condemnation. In the opinion of the Government of 1880 the island of Cyprus was worthless to this country, and its possession a source of military weakness. At that time the Convention was looked upon as dead, and the action we took was taken entirely under the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin in concert with all the Powers. In the Identic Note of 1880 the French Government played a great part, and the strongest language of menace was used as to what would happen to the dominions of the Porte if reforms were not executed. Therefore we departed entirely from all intention of acting under the Asia Minor Convention. Our action failed in spite of circumstances which were singularly close to those of the present day. England and Russia, acting together, produced a scheme of reforms consistent with the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, and it was laid before the Porte. The scheme was accepted by all the Powers, but not by the Porte; and the Government of this country, in spite of the horrible character of what was happening in Armenia, was unable to secure the assent of the Government of the Porte. He, however, believed that if the United Kingdom, Russia, and France were actually united in pressing upon the Porte a policy of reform they could easily obtain serious guarantees of better government in Turkey. He earnestly desired to obtain reform in Turkey consistent with the existence of the Government of the Porte, because he shrank from the horrors which would happen in case a general partition of Turkey were attempted. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, it depended upon Russia, in the last instance, whether reforms in Turkey were secured; but doubtless the worthless possession of the island of Cyprus might be made a factor in a policy of pressure, which he believed for the sake of the Porte itself, and certainly for the sake of the European Powers, ought to be followed. Cyprus might with advantage be handed over to Greek rule, under the guarantee of Russia, England, and France, a step which might be 95 the beginning of effective means of bringing pressure to bear on the Porte. There were one or two other matters to which he wished to refer upon the present occasion. There were, for instance, the departures from the positive promises which the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had made to the House in regard to our Protectorates. Frequently attention had been called to the fact that slavery existed in Zanzibar. The Under Secretary of State had given very positive promises as to the changes which were to be introduced; he told them, for example, that when Mr. Harding went back to Zanzibar last autumn steps would be taken immediately to get rid of the slavery there. Those steps had been postponed, and the Under Secretary had told a deputation which waited upon him that the case of slavery in Zanzibar was wholly different from the slavery which formerly existed in the West Indies. He said that the slaves and the slaveowners in Zanzibar belonged to the same race, and that the dangers and the horrors of slavery were much less under circumstances of that kind than they were in the West Indies. The right hon. Gentleman's statement was entirely opposed to fact, as in Zanzibar the slaves were of a different race to the slaveowners. But the Under Secretary used another argument which was even more startling; he told the deputation that the legal status of slavery had been abolished in British colonics, but not in protectorates. He could not understand how the right hon. Gentleman could make that statement in face of the fact which had been repeatedly brought to his knowledge that the Colonial Office had abolished slavery over and over again in protectorates. He had previously quoted to the right hon. Gentleman the case of the Protectorate in the Malay Peninsula, where slavery was abolished by the Colonial Office the moment it took charge of those countries. It was therefore disgraceful that the Foreign Office should continue to tolerate slavery in Zanzibar, and in a protectorate which was virtually a British colony. Turning next to the West Coast of Africa, he said that in the Oil Rivers Protectorate this country had found itself involved in a war. Some statement ought to have been made in the Queen's Speech with 96 regard to the causes of that war. He should like to know whether the Government had received any confirmation of the extraordinary information that was to be found in the newspapers of the previous day. The wife of one of the gentlemen first reported killed, in an interview stated in effect that the whole expedition to Benin went there only out of curiosity. [Mr. CURZON shook his head.] He was glad to see that expression of dissent; but all these little wars strongly confirmed him in the view that the Foreign Office was not the department of the State which ought to administer those virtual colonies and carry on those wars. Nothing had been said by the Leader, of the Opposition as to the new departure taken in sending a Commission to the West Indies to inquire into the sugar industry. He could not but feel that false hopes were being held out to the West Indies by this departure. It would be understood in the West Indies as meaning that some protectionist steps were to be taken for the benefit of its sugar as against the sugars of the rest of the world. [Cheers.] He did not believe it was probable that Parliament would assent to any proposals of that kind, even if the Commission should make them. On the question of the government of the West Indian colonies, he judged from the correspondence which he had on the subject that there was a strong feeling in those colonies for a little more freedom from administrative red-tape, more freedom to govern themselves than they possessed at present, and that the offer of financial proposals which were unlikely to be made or to be carried was being held out to the colonies as a sop instead of the administrative reforms being undertaken which the people desired. Since the Debates of last year the questions of Chitral and Kafiristan had arisen. Full details had come from Afghanistan and the frontier provinces as to the treatment extended by the Afghan troops to the unfortunate inhabitants of Kafiristan. If the facts were as had been alleged in a pamphlet issued with the authority of the Bishop of Lahore and others, nothing more horrible had occurred in the history of the relations between civilised and uncivilised people. The Ameer had received from us that which was not ours to give 97 —namely, a large tract of Kafiristan. The Ameer sent to that country a large force which was provided with arms by us, and which was paid by us, and the unfortunates people made, a complete political submission to it. But the people stipulated for the free exercise of their religion, and the Ameer's commander-in-chief boasted of having promised to them this, while he intended all the time to break the promise.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
said he had not seen or heard anything authentic in support of that allegation. Could the right hon. Baronet give him the facts or a copy of the document, because his information was to the contrary effect?
§ SIR C. DILKE
said that all the evidence in his possession as to the authenticity of the statements which had been published in India convinced him. As, however, the noble Lord had not seen the pamphlet, he would send a copy of it to him. He next called attention to the Education Bill, and the terms in which it was quoted to the House. Last year this Bill was called in the Queen's Speech "a Bill for the relief of Voluntary Schools." In reply to his question at that time, the Vice President of the Council said that, in spite of the words in the Queen's Speech, it was intended to deal with the poor Board School Districts as well. He gathered that the Bill of this year was to be practically a money clause, but the terms in which the Leader of the House gave notice of the Bill would shut out assistance to poor Board Schools. If the Government did not intend to redeem the pledge they had given on this point, and if they were to confine their Bill to Voluntary Schools, there would be extreme disappointment and dissatisfaction which would not be confined to one side of the House. The Leader of the Opposition to-night had said that the Liberal Party would support the Bill if the Government would give assistance to the poor School Board Districts which needed it. The pressure in those districts was well known, and it was admitted even by the Vice President of the Council. If the Bill was so drawn this year, as regarded its title, that it would be impossible even to raise the case of the poor 98 School Board districts, a heavy charge of breach of faith against the Government would be justified on the part of those whose interests were involved.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said he much regretted the cold and minimising paragraph in the Queen's Speech in relation to the events that had happened during the last 18 months in Turkey. Considering what those events had been, he certainly expected that the reference to them would have been in more serious terms. The general voice of the country had required the Government to carry out the obligations which existed under the Treaty for the protection of the Eastern Christians; but it was questionable whether Her Majesty's Government, by the manner of the language they employed, really looked upon the question with the seriousness which the country undoubtedly felt. The massacres of 1880 to 1883 were nothing in comparison with what happened last year. Not fewer than 100,000 Christians perished by slaughter, and probably as many more had perished by famine and starvation. Therefore, the state of things had reached a culmination in the last 18 months entirely without precedent, even in the annals of the bloodstained East. The Government would have to show the House that they had done everything possible in order to carry out the wishes and feelings of the country in this matter. The position of this country in regard to Eastern affairs seemed to be one of great humiliation. Our diplomacy, however excellent its intention, had certainly been a diplomacy of failure. He should be sorry to prejudge the case which the Government would make when they laid papers before Parliament, and he had risen with the object of asking when those papers would be ready, what they would contain, and whether they would carry the story on from the last papers delivered last spring. He also wished to know whether the Government would give the House an early opportunity of discussing the matter. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. G. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
denied that the reference in the Queen's Speech to the events which had happened in Eastern Europe was in cold and minimising terms. The complaint was most 99 unreasonable. He referred to the Speech, and read the opening sentence of the second paragraph, and said he did not think hon. Members would find in the words employed any justification for the complaint of the right hon. Gentleman—["hear, hear!"]—or any ground for stating that either the Government, or individual members of the Government, had shown any lack of ability to appreciate at their proper value the disastrous incidents which had occurred in Turkey. He fully agreed with previous speakers that it would be better to discuss the question of Armenia and the events of the past six months when all the Blue-books were before the House. The Government had no lack of information about Turkey and Armenia which they were prepared to lay before the House. In fact, he doubted whether such a mass of Blue-books had ever before, in so short a space of time, been showered on hon. Members as the Government were prepared to produce in reference to this question. They had, in the first place, a Blue-book containing the papers relating to the question of Crete down to September last, which they hoped to lay on the table some time in the next fortnight. Then there would be a Blue-book containing the continuation of the correspondence about Armenia from the end of 1895 down to the end of last Session. There was a further Blue-book about the Constantinople riots in August last, which he hoped might be distributed on Thursday. Another Blue-book—and this, of course, would be of the greatest importance to hon. Members—referred to the introduction of reforms and the proceedings of the Ambassadors at the present time at Constantinople, which he hoped would also be distributed on Thursday. Finally, there were two more-Blue-books containing a continuation of the narrative of events in Turkey and Asia Minor from the conclusion of last Session up to the present time, and the first of these he hoped to present in about ten days. As to whether a special opportunity would be given for the discussion of the questions to which the Blue-books related, in the absence of the Leader of the House he could give no pledge, but for his own part he could not see any difficulty in the matter. Last Session the 100 subject was discussed on a Tuesday afternoon on a motion brought forward by a private Member. If such an opportunity should not be secured this year, he saw no reason why, on an early date, one of the Foreign Office Votes should not be put down in Supply on a Friday in order to enable hon. Members to discuss the question. He would undertake to communicate the wishes of hon. Gentlemen to the Leader of the House. He had listened carefully for the instances of mala fides on his part which the hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean hinted at, but he had failed to recognise them. As to the ending of slavery at Zanzibar, what he had said was that it would be simultaneous with Mr. Hardinge's return to Zanzibar. Mr. Hardinge was now on his way out, and when he reached Zanzibar he would proceed to put in force the instructions which he had received. As this question was to be raised on an amendment to the Address he would not say any more at present, but at the proper time the House would be placed in possession of the instructions which had been given to Mr. Hardinge. As to the unhappy events in the Niger Coast Protectorate, he was sorry to say that the Government were as ignorant as the House as to the causes of this unfortunate expedition to Benin. The last communication which the Foreign Office had from the Acting Consul General, Mr. Phillips, who had unfortunately lost his life since, was dated November last. Mr. Phillips pointed out the necessity of taking a strong line and of conducting operations against this chief, who had steadily ignored and evaded the treaty into which he had entered with us. But the expedition which Mr. Phillips asked Her Majesty's Government to sanction had not been authorised, as it was thought better to defer it. The next news was that the Acting Consul General had gone up country with a party, unarmed, and that he, with the bulk of his followers, had been massacred. That this expedition could have been undertaken out of curiosity it was not possible for one moment to believe. Mr. Phillips must, have thought himself capable of securing his ends by pacific means. When further information had been received it would be given to the House. The right 101 hon. Baronet had made his familiar assertions that these protectorates would be much better administered by the Colonial Office than by the Foreign Office, but he had never adduced any argument in favour of those assertions. In speaking of the West India Sugar Commission the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that its appointment would hold out expectations which must be disappointed. The best answer to such fears, if entertained on the Opposition side of the House, was the fact that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division, had a seat on that Commission. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
argued that the discussion of the Armenian question had better be postponed, but, in view of the urgency of the question, he hoped the Leader of the House would give a day for the discussion before the Vote on Account was taken. There was one omission in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He had made no answer to the strong attack on Sir Philip Currie which had come from the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON
said that perhaps the Under Secretary did not attach much importance to what was said by the hon. Member for Sheffield, but it was necessary to consider the effect of such a speech in Constantinople. In the eyes of the Sultan of Turkey the hon. Member was a Knight of the Order of the Medjidieh—[laughter]—and his attack on the Sultan of Turkey was punctuated with frequent cheers from the hon. Member for Lynn Regis. [Mr. GIBSON BOWLES: "The hon. Member is quite wrong."] He thought that as be much had been said with regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention, some reasons should also be given why the Debate on that subject might also be more fittingly postponed to a later day. He ventured to think that although after all the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1878 lay probably more at the root of their present difficulties than any other treaty or convention, they must not at the same time leave out of sight the fact that the course of their history during the last 40 or 50 years had tended in a similar direction, 102 and that when the question came to be discussed it ought to be discussed in its entirety. They ought to consider, not merely the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1878, but also the Treaty of Paris, the Treaty of Berlin, the Tripartite Treaty of 1856, and the Schouvaloff Memorandum of 1878. Unless they took into account these instruments they would not be able to give adequate reasons for the reversal of the policy which in general was embodied in the popular mind in the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1878. That was a reason why the discussion on the question as a whole ought to be postponed until a later date, but the matter was of so much importance and urgency that the delay ought not to be very great. He trusted that if they were to discuss this question the Leader of the House would be able to see that they were furnished with the Blue-books as soon as possible. There were also other matters connected with the Turkish Empire on which they ought to have some information. They ought to know something with regard to what was taking place among the Druses in Syria, and also with regard to the disturbances which had been occurring in Macedonia during the last twelve mouths, especially in view of the fact that those disturbances, it was said, were likely to break out again in the forthcoming spring. There ought, also to be some information as to the treatment, of political prisoners generally in Turkey. They were told that at the present time there were no fewer than 4,000 political prisoners in the Turkish Empire who were in prison or in exile in Arabia without trial or after sham trials. Among these prisoners were not only Armenians but also a considerable number of the more enlightened among the Young Turkish Party. That was a matter which certainly called for information, and the fact, that the Government were now taking their stand not merely on the 61st All of the Berlin Treaty, and not merely on the Anglo-Turkish Convention, but also on the other international instruments was an additional reason why the information should be given.
§ MR. R. PIERPOINT (Warrington)
said he desired to say a word from the point of view of the native races of Egypt and of the Island of Cyprus. So far as the discussion had proceeded that night it 103 seemed as though the welfare of these people did not exist at all, or was of the slightest significance, and he ventured to protest against this continual unsettlement of these native races by bringing before that House the question of the cession of Cyprus either back to Turkey or to Greece or the giving to it of its own autonomy. The people of the Island of Cyprus were very excitable, and the discussions on this subject were not only dangerous to the people but injurious to the welfare of the island. It prevented capital being invested in the island and in Egypt, because capital could not possibly be safe if they intended to go. He maintained that they had taken these people, such as the Egyptians and the Cypriots under their charge, and that they had no moral right to cast them off again simply as a move on the political chessboard. It appeared to be in the minds of some hon. Members that in the present phase of the Eastern question the proposed cession of Cyprus would please France. But seeing that by their possession of the Island of Cyprus France had been saved in the aggregate £730,000, and was saved every year over £40,000, he did not think that the cession would give France any pleasure or satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, wanted to hand the Island of Cyprus over to Greece, but he did not think it likely that if we did so we should go on guaranteeing the payment of £02,000 a year as we did now.
§ MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
stated two reasons why he thought the offer of the First Lord of the Treasury to provide a special opportunity for the discussion of the Financial Relations Report should be accepted. The first was that a special occasion would probably make a deeper impression on the public mind in this country, and the second was that it would leave the Irish Unionist Party more free than they would be, according to the letter written in the Times by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, to ing to obtain redress for a proved grievance. In these circumstances he would not move the Amendment which he had handed in to the Clerk at the Table.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said no doubt the hon. Member for Sheffield considered he had due ground for the remarks he made on our Ambassador at Constantinople. He himself had not had the advantage of seeing that Ambassador, but at all events he knew that the Blue-books disclosed the fact that Sir P. Currie had invented no less than four plans for the improvement and reform of the Turkish Empire, and at this moment every one of those plans had been a failure. That was the record of Sir P. Currie's performance at Constantinople. He would not take up the defence of the Under Secretary, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman had advisedly refrained from defending the Ambassador at Constantinople. The Under Secretary himself was in the habit of attacking people in some of those speeches which with equal modesty and majesty he occasionally delivered in the country. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Sheffield attacked an Ambassador, but that was not good enough at all for the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The right hon. Gentleman flew at Sovereigns. He told them in one of his speeches that he was considering the question of the Deposition of the Sultan. He did not know whether the Powers took into consideration the fact that the Sultan had a most capable army, not so large as that of some European states, but an army well clad, well fed, and well armed. He would like to know what progress this plan for the deposition of the Sultan was making, and had anything been done in regard to that plan? What Despatches had passed in reference to the manner of carrying it out? Had the plan been abandoned like others? This seemed to him more important than information in regard to reforms, massacres, and things of that kind in Armenia and other places, because it was an entirely new departure for the chosen mouth-piece of the Foreign Office to inform the country that the Powers were considering whether they were going to depose a friendly sovereign. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had attributed the Cyprus Convention to hatred of Russia, but that was really not the reason for the adoption of that Convention. The reasons for it were to be found in Despatches accompanying 105 it written by its author, Lord Salisbury, who was author of the test as well as of the idea. He distinctly explained at the time that the reason for the Cyprus Convention was that under the then circumstances the possessions of Turkey in Asia Minor were open to attack, and that that attack would seriously affect what Lord Salisbury called the "Oriental interests" of England, and it was to safeguard those interests the Cyprus Convention was made as a protection—as the only possible and the adequate protection—not of the interests of Turkey, but of England. It was, therefore, he submitted, entirely wrong to say that the Convention was entered into out of hatred to Russia, it was entered into out of anxiety for India. The Convention was never made in return for any obligation as towards Armenia, on the contrary an undertaking was given for Armenia in return for the promise of defence given for the sake of India. These Despatches he had fully in remembrance. Of course, there was the interest England had in the future affairs of Turkey, but these were not the interests of England alone or even primarily. It was absolutely impossible to divide the Turkish Empire without a European war, unless you could stop the flow of the Danube which traversed the centre of Europe for nearly two thousand miles and was an important highway for Bavaria, Austria, Roumania, and Servia, and to suppose that Russia would be allowed to take Constantinople and close the mouth of the Danube against all Europe was impossible of belief. So long as the Danube flowed there could be no such division without a European war. That was felt everywhere, but what was also felt was that if a European war on the division of Turkey was not to be faced, at any rate something could be done to sap and ruin the Turkish Empire. When it was said the Powers were united in asking for reforms it was known that one Power, Russia, would never admit these reforms if she could prevent them. Russia desired no reform, but rather that Turkey should remain in an unreformed state looking to Russia as to a friend. That was not the interest of England, the interest of England was that Turkey should be reformed, 106 not merely for the sake of the Armenians, but for the sake of the Moslem population. He believed that the moment had arrived, and that there was an opportunity for the reform of Turkey such as had not occurred for many years, and such as might not occur again. Without making any reflections on our present ambassador at Constantinople, if England had there as representative a sound, discreet, modest, conciliatory man, and if nothing in the shape of arrogance or insolence characterised the action of England's representative, much might be done. At this moment the Sultan was the only man from whom could be obtained any action in reforming Turkey, and if he were treated with arrogance, insult, and menace, it was impossible to expect that he would favourably listen to our proposals. Sometimes they were asked to look on this Turkish matter as if it were purely a Christian question, but it was more than that, it was a Moslem question, and more than that it was an Indian Moslem question, and he was struck, though indeed not surprised at seeing a remarkable letter in The Times, in reference to the feeling among Moslem subjects of the Queen in regard to this question. There was great risk in piling abuse on the head of the Moslem religion of alienating Indian Moslem subjects who could be counted at double or treble the number ruled over by the Sultan. This consideration should be present to the minds of those who were so ready to use hysterical language on this subject, and who would expect hysterics even in the Queen's Speech when Turkey or Armenia were mentioned. In all sincerity he believed there was a present opportunity of effecting a settlement in Turkey such as had never occurred before. He felt convinced that the great disturbing Power, Russia, wished for peace. She had other business in hand in the further East, and the development of her manufactures by which she had already pushed us out of Persia and might do so out of other markets. Gladly he testified to the peaceful desires of the present Czar. All was working for peace, and would give two or three years respite to Turkey. Was it to be supposed that the Sultan himself did 107 not wish to get to the end of all these troubles? It would be absurd to suppose that he did not wish to lead a quiet life. Of course, he was anxious to reconcile himself to Europe, and above all to England. The time was favourable for the settlement of financial and other difficulties if only Turkey were treated with common honesty. Lie 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, which dealt with the obligations of Turkey, was frequently mentioned in discussions on the Eastern Question. But there was never any allusion to the Articles dealing with the obligations of the European Powers towards Turkey in the matter of the Bulgarian tribute, which Articles had been consistently violated. Again and again had Turkey appealed to England, as one of the Powers under that Treaty, to fulfil her obligation in regard to the Bulgarian tribute, and the Bulgarian, Montenegrin, and Servian share of the Debt, and again and again had Turkey been disappointed. The result was that Turkey was liable for the whole of the tribute, and two millions of money was due to the Sultan for the Bulgarian tribute alone, and withheld from him by the Powers. He mentioned that as one instance of the want of fairness and honesty on the part of the Powers in dealing with Turkey. He would say in conclusion, if the Government were animated by a spirit of vengeance towards Turkey and by a desire to punish the Sultan and destroy him and his Government, they would fail, and would do no good to the Armenians. But if they were animated by an honest desire to effect reforms in Turkey, they had only to choose the proper instruments and take the proper means to succeed.
MR. J. COMPTON RICKETT (Scarborough)
called attention to that part of the Queen's Speech which referred to the advance into the Soudan. He admitted that the military operations of the British and Egyptian troops in that province deserved the credit due to a well-considered campaign, but thought the House should take into account the value of the conquest of Dongola. A province in the Soudan added to Egypt was either of advantage to that country or to England. The Government had repeatedly affirmed that our occupation of Egypt 108 was only a temporary one, and therefore the military proceedings to the South, involving probably a further advance during the present year, only delayed the evacuation, and could be of no permanent benefit to this country. He presumed that there was not a bimetallic theory of morals—one code of honour for an individual and another for a nation. The recovery of the Soudan exchanged a defensible frontier behind a stretch of desert for a frontier further to the south, involving the control of a sparsely populated and unprofitable district threatened by turbulent and fanatical tribes. It might, however, be argued that although we intended to fulfil our honourable obligation, there were signs of the approaching dissolution of the Turkish Empire, and a delay would enable this country to negotiate with other Powers for a permanent position in Egypt—a position given to us in exchange for concessions in other directions. It was therefore desirable to consider whether Egypt in itself was of any real value to England. Of course, the Suez Canal was the only argument for our occupation. But what would happen in case of war? We should immediately close the Mediterranean with a supporting squadron at Gibraltar, close the Red Sea with another squadron at Aden, divert our mercantile marine round the Cape to India, and send our mobile fleet into the Mediterranean to fight it out with our antagonists. We should never think of detaching an escort to guard fleets of merchantmen through the Suez Canal—a passage liable to be interrupted or blown up at short notice. If we were to lose control of the Mediterranean for, say two months, our army in Egypt would be practically at the mercy of a great military power—caught like rats in a trap. England would reverse the policy of the last 100 years, and become once again a continental Power by the military defence of Egypt. A Russo-Turkish army advancing from Syria would only have a little over 200 miles of rough country to traverse before reaching striking distance. That army would not wander 40 years in the wilderness. The fleet would be quite unable to defend a ditch without the support of a considerable land force. We should be detaching fifty to a hundred thousand men from our limited military resources 109 in order to make the attempt to maintain our position. The probability is that we should evacuate Egypt in a hurry at the outbreak of war instead of entering into a convention, as we might do at the present time, with some consideration in return for our withdrawal. To abandon Egypt precipitately as a military precaution was the true policy of scuttle. If we were the victors in a naval war in the Mediterranean the Suez Canal would fall to us naturally as the spoil at the close of the war. In addition to the fact that we had difficulties with two great Powers in consequence of our continued occupation, we had paralysed our efforts on behalf of Armenia by the suspicion aroused through the Egyptian position. Europe doubted our sincerity, and would not allow us to become its executive at Constantinople. The delivery of a scattered population from tyrants of their own faith was a poor exchange for the sufferings of our fellow-Christians in Armenia. It was probable also that a demand for an increase in the military estimates would be supported by the requirements of our advance in the Soudan. An increase in the naval estimates was a very different matter, for the navy was a defensive and not an aggressive arm. To establish colonial forces and militia defence was one thing, but to increase the regular army for the purpose of expeditions like the present would be a matter no doubt to be resisted on his side of the House. The consolidation of our Colonial Empire offered surely sufficient scope for our energies without such a doubtful enterprise as that already undertaken and proposed to be further developed. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
said he wished to point out to the Government, in reference to those paragraphs in the Address saying that they would do this and that if time permitted, that the matter was entirely in their own hands. They had only to support the proposal for limiting the duration of speeches, and they could manage the business of the House at such a rate as they chose. He had only been in the House for twelve years, and it was not for him, a mere child in these matters, to alter the procedure of the House which had endured for centuries, and he would not have attempted to do so, but that this time 110 last year hon. Members accepted the principle of a Bill which he and his hon. Friends introduced at one of its stages by a majority of 70 votes. Few Members would deny that some change of procedure on the subject was necessary. Of course, it would be said that the procedure of the House had not been altered for four hundred years, and that there was no conceivable reason why that which was good enough for preceding generations should not be good enough for this. But other times brought other manners. Sixty years ago—when Mr. Gladstone was elected for Newark—not more than 100 of the 650 Members ever spoke at all. The other Members were content to keep their seats, waiting for their apotheosis—until they were translated to the House of Lords. That was not absolutely the case now. Formerly an hon. Member got his seat because he was able to pay for it; and when elected he was not supposed to address his constituents through the medium of the Reporters' Gallery. That was not precisely the case now, and, therefore, the analogy of sixty years ago did not apply. In every business assembly in this country, whether it was a meeting of Colonels, or a Convocation of Archbishops and Bishops, a time limit obtained, and as the House was the business assembly of the country he could not conceive why such a limit should not be adopted. He and his Friends did not propose to introduce a Bill this Session. They hoped to get an opportunity to proceed by Resolution; and if they succeeded he would expect both front Benches to be as good as their word, and support such a Resolution. He could assure them that if they did so they would ingratiate themselves very much more with the country than by bringing in half-a-dozen Elementary Education Bills.
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
expressed disappointment at the comparatively scanty attention which Scotland would receive from the Government during the present Session. It was well known that in the House of Commons, while there was a very large Conservative majority of the whole House, there was not a Conservative majority returned from Scotland, and therefore Scotch Members did not expect to have from the present Government 111 any legislation of a contentious character, but they might fairly expect useful legislation that was not contentious. In regard to the Public Health (Scotland) Bill of which notice had been given, he pointed out that this measure was of a very detailed character, and that the important discussion would be on the Committee stage. The only way for any progress to be made with it, therefore, would be for the Government to appoint a Committee on which all Scotch Members would be represented, after the Second Reading had been obtained. The Bill to supplement the Local Government Act for Scotland was also of a very detailed character, and might properly be introduced. The other point on which he wished to touch was the position which agriculture occupied in the Government Programme. Was it going forward or back? It was within the recollection of all that before the present Government came into power session after session an Amendment to the Address was brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite deploring the fact that no remedy was proposed for the disastrous condition of agriculture. Last year, on the first night of the Session, the President of the Board of Agriculture gave notice of his intention to ask leave to introduce a Bill to deal with the question of Agricultural Holdings in Great Britain. What was the position of that Bill now? They had to search for it in the last clause of the Queen's Speech—in the omnibus clause, in which were included those Bills which would be introduced only if opportunity served. Even in that clause the Agricultural Holdings Bill stood fourth or fifth, and therefore he would ask what possible chance such a measure, which raised important and controversial questions, had of passing this session? What had the present Government done for agriculture? From his own country and from England they had excluded Canadian cattle for ever and ever, and they had passed an Act for the relief of agricultural rates which was entirely in favour of the landlords. Now that it came to the turn of the tenants to be benefited they were to be sent empty 112 away. The interest of the tenants was centered in the question of compensation for tenants' improvements. There was an absolute unanimity of opinion among the tenants of England and Scotland on this question. They were of opinion that the present state of law on the subject of compensation for tenants' improvements was most unsatisfactory and urgently needed reform. And yet the Bill dealing with the subject was placed in such a position in the programme as to show that the Government had no intention of really pushing the Bill forward this Session.