Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £49,705, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge winch will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
movedThat Item A (Salaries), be reduced by £500, in respect of the salary of the Secretary of State.He said that when the Eastern Question was last before the House hon. Members were asked to wait patiently while the Government pursued a policy which the First Lord of the Treasury described as one of peace in Europe and freedom in Crete. That policy up to the present had brought us to war in Europe and anarchy in Crete. There were many hon. Members on both sides of the House who, in listening to that phrase, reflected that it perhaps expressed the Prime Minister's aspiration rather than his policy. In every quarter of the globe when the present Foreign Secretary had to face a strong Power he had shown always the samė unvarying weakness: and it was scarcely to be expected 19 that he would be likely to change his political character in a crisis like this, which needed courage as the first essential of any policy. British interests had been surrendered without a blow, almost without a word, in Siam and Madagascar, and more important than all, in Eastern Asia. They had seen arbitration refused to Venezuela and then granted in consequence of a menace which he thought was without a parallel in the history of our diplomacy. They were not surprised, with these events in their recollection, that the Prime Minister should have betaken himself to the European Concert, for just as the isolation of England, which, he had done so much to promote, was his excuse for a policy of surrender, so he found in the European Concert an excellent cover and excuse for a policy of drift. [Cheers.] No one had explained better than the Prime Minister what the proper view of the European Concert was. To listen to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs one would suppose the European Concert was a new device for which this Government was entitled to claim the credit. It was, however, a very old device. There was always a Concert of Europe for the oppression of the smaller Powers. This was what the Prime Minister said of the European Concert in 1878 as to the Treaty of Paris, which now apparently was the corner-stone of English policy:—I am not alarmed even by the condemnation passed on it by the noble Lord (Ripon) when he declares that we have departed from the European Concert. What will the future historian think of the European Concert when he comes to record what that Concert has promised and what it has performed? The European Concert of 1856 was to preserve the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire, and certainly a more imposing machinery could not be devised. But 20 years have passed…. Not one member of the European Concert has lifted its hand in defence of the integrity of the Turkish Empire…. I think it is better that we should come to a simpler form of engagement in which, only two Powers being mixed up, there can be no doubt as to the pledges being fulfilled.The European Concert was then on the side of liberty, but the moment it ranged itself against liberty then they had the Prime Minister availing himself of its shelter in order to excuse his policy. [Cheers.] It would be said that this European Concert had procured at least 20 the promises of great reforms. It was on those reforms, which, had gone to the extent of autonomy, that the Government relied for their excuse in subordinating the influence of England and in lending the Navy of England to the great Powers of Europe. The Government pub forward the projected reforms and their scheme of autonomy as their excuse for a policy which had had the effect of strengthening Turkey and Russia, and of destroying the Power which, beyond any other Power in Eastern Europe, the English people desired to see maintained and extended. But the reforms and the autonomy of which the Government made so much were futile—he might go further and dub them a deliberate sham. Whenever a promise of reforms was obtained from the Turks, one question was always carefully shirked by the diplomatists—namely, the question of expense and the payment of the soldiery or new gendarmerie. The result was that the promised constitution was left in suspense, and probably fresh massacres occurred. What had occurred in Crete was quite in accordance with all previous experience. Twelve months after Lord Salisbury had obtained from the Sultan a promise of reforms in Armenia, he declared in the House of Lords: —Until the finance of the Porte is brought to a satisfactory state we cannot expect any bonâ fide reforms. Nothing costs money like administrative reform.It was this question of expense which the British Government and the Concert of Europe had again failed to face; and, that being so, Crete and Greece knew— and he ventured to add Lord Salisbury also—that the promised reforms were absolutely illusory, and the war became obviously inevitable. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had lauded the proposed autonomy as an advance on all previous promises made by the Porte. It had, however, been shown that this autonomy could not be a cure for Cretan difficulties, because the islanders refused it 20 years ago. It was, in fact, a stale and exhausted device. As a matter of fact Crete had already in appearance a far better constitution than we had. There was a general assembly which met every year, and which was elected by the whole population. The imposts and duties were carefully limited, and the expenditure was 21 under popular control. There was a Christian governor for every Christian district, assisted by a Christian council; and there was a Mussulman governor for every Mussulman district, with whom was associated a Christian deputy governor as coadjutor. There was a gendarmerie, supposed to be recruited from Christians and Mussulmans indifferently, and finally, this great theoretical constitution was safeguarded by the most absolute liberty of the Press. Before offering Crete new conditions it ought to have occurred to the Government—as it would have to any mere practical man—to ask why a constitution so ample and perfect in theory had been a ridiculous and disastrous failure. The answer was supplied by the presence of the Turkish troops in the island. ["Hear, hear!"] As long as they were there there must, of course, be a military commander who acted as military governor. The troops had to be paid, and did the Government imagine that the Sultan was likely to send them money from his not overflowing Treasury, upon which there were so many demands, political and domestic? [Laughter.] Why had not the Government told the people of Crete how this important financial question was to be settled? Why had they not said that under their scheme the Cretans would not be called upon to pay tribute to the Sultan? It was not likely that autonomous Cretans were going to collect money to send to Constantinople. This financial question had been disregarded, but it must be settled or the proffered autonomy would remain a palpable sham. The Cretans were fighting for three things which were not met by the proposals of the Powers. They demanded the expulsion of the Turkish troops—["hear, hear!"]—the right to arm and form themselves into a national militia, and freedom from Turkish tribute and taxes. The Powers, by insisting on the maintenance of the Turkish troops in the island, had practically refused to grant those demands, and that was the cause of the present difficulty. With regard to Armenia, according to the admission of the Prime Minister himself, England could do nothing alone. It seemed to be the Prime Minister's glory to have brought his country in relation to the Armenian question into a sort of moral bankruptcy. ["Hear, hear!"] The obligation was there, but the power 22 to fulfil it did not exist. But if that was the case with Armenia, no one could say that it was the case with Crete. ["Hear, hear!"] Not only were we under an obligation there, but we possessed the power to fulfil it. With regard to Armenia, it was said that we could not send our Fleet over the mountains into Asia Minor; but we were masters of the Mediterranean. What, then, was lacking but the courage? ["Hear, hear!"] Why was the complete expulsion of the Turkish troops not demanded by the Concert of Europe? It was said that it was not demanded because one of the Powers imposed its veto. Which of the Powers, then, imposed its veto? Only one Power had the slightest interest in Crete, and that was Russia, who might possibly desire to have Crete as a place of refuge for her fleet. Russia appeared to have raised her finger to the Prime Minister, and that was enough. ["Hear, hear!"] The Jingoism which had so long intoxicated itself to platform swagger—[Ministerial laughter and cheers]—had resulted in a policy of surrender, and now, when the Party which had a monopoly of English patriotism and Imperialism was faced by a single Power in the Concert, it yielded, and said, "We must not leave the Concert, because, if we do, we cannot do anything for Crete." ["Hear, hear!"] To such an extent had the effacement of England gone in the course of two years that, unless she marched to the three Emperors, she must not move. [Cheers.] Unless she pledged and pawned her credit and influence and Navy she must sit perfectly still, and have no policy at all. That was what had come of the policy of bounce and bastard Imperialism. [Cheers.] The defence the Prime Minister made in his speech yesterday was a very remarkable one, for he now based his policy on the high and solemn ground of the sanctity of treaties, and particularly of the Treaty of Paris, a Treaty which had been broken over and over again by every party that affixed its name to it, a Treaty which had been ignored by everyone, and which the Prime Minister 20 years ago treated as a wholly negative instrument. ["Hear, hear!"] That Treaty had now become a sacred obligation in the view of the Prime Minister, an obligation of such remarkable and mysterious sanctity that 23 it was superior to all moral obligations. Some time ago the country was told that it had put its money on the wrong horse, but, according to yesterday's speech, we had bought the wrong horse. The Prime Minister suggested that the horse had turned out a kicker. It was bought unconditionally. By that Treaty we became unconditionally bound to the integrity of the Turkish Empire, and in the name of all that was high and holy and legal we must allow no one to limit the sphere of its operations. That was the excuse now made for the policy of the Government, and he ventured to describe that policy as not only wicked, but stupid. ["Hear, hear!"] The fact was that no Member of the Government knew what any other Member of the Government meant by the independence and integrity of Turkey. In the same speech in which the Under Secretary likened the Turkish Empire to a bankrupt stock, he went on to talk of the integrity of the Turkish Empire as being consecrated and enshrined in the Code of Europe— whatever the Code of Europe might mean—["hear, hear!"]—and as being a part of international law which Europe alone could modify. There was no law, least of all international law, which could give any title against its own subjects to a Government which systematically encouraged massacre and plunder. ["Hear, hear!"] To say that Europe alone could modify the integrity of such an empire, was to condemn millions of its subjects to outrage. ["Hear, hear!"] If they were not strong enough in themselves to get reforms, they were entitled, whether Europe liked it or not, to invoke those of their own race and creed outside their border. It was monstrous to say that to give such assistance was a breach of international law, and an immoral and unholy act. ["Hear, hear!"] The Opposition were told over and over again that they were sentimental. He was not ashamed of that. ["Hear, hear!"] In 1878, when the Prime Minister was pursuing the same course which he was now pursuing, the sentimentalists objected. What was the result? He failed in his policy in Bulgaria. The establishment of a peaceful, and prosperous, and an independent State was the result. He had succeeded in his policy in Armenia, and what had been the result? He was 24 unable to say enough to give a description of the Prime Minister's success there—a success which had been absolutely disastrous. Yet he was spoken of as a Nestor among European statesmen, always strong and resolute, never drifting, never surrendering the honour of England. [Cheers and Opposition laughter.] They had only to remember that contrast, that failure in Bulgaria and success in Armenia. The sentimentalists were right then, and he thought the sentimentalists would come well out of the present contest. Sentimentalists might not always be well informed, but it was wiser than the cynicism and indifference to the broad mass of sympathy which moved mankind. ["Hear, hear!"] But there was a stupidity worse than that. There was a stupidity of brutality, and if the policy which had now been sketched by a high authority were carried out it would be a policy of brutality. It seemed to be the same policy which the Tory Party pursued in 1878, and no doubt it would meet with the same condemnation at the hands of the English people. He begged to move the Motion which stood in his name.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said that in the neighbourhood in which he resided this question commanded more attention than any other. He entirely concurred in the references of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Robson), to sentiment and cynicism. The English people wanted to know on which side was placed the power and the influence of this country. ["Hear, hear!"] During the last year or two we had had recrudescences of what was called the Eastern Question, but this was only another way of explaining the crisis which occurred in the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. [Opposition cheers.] He wished to call the attention of the Committee to Armenia, because he thought that Armenia had been lost sight of during the past few weeks. During every Session of the present Parliament, Armenia had been brought before their notice in the Queen's Speech; and the Blue-books which had been issued to Members, in a somewhat belated fashion and in fragments—["hear, hear!"]—had been most awful and terrible reading. The perusal of these Blue-books had almost deprived 25 him of sleep. He could not understand the constitution of the man who had waded through the pages of our own Consular Reports and Sir Philip Currie's Dispatch and did not feel his very nature almost changed by the horrors there disclosed. [Opposition cheers.] Irrespective of Party politics, all were agreed as to the awful character of the occurrences in Asia Minor. In Crete, too, there existed a state of things which all must regard as extremely unsatisfactory. In July last the Under Secretary of State promised Parliamentary Papers on the subject of Crete, but these Papers were not laid upon the Table of the House until March this year. When such circumstances were going on in Eastern Europe and in Crete no possible circumstances justified putting the right hon. Gentleman in this position, that the promise he made to the House in July was not fulfilled until March. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. ELLIS
assured the right hon. Gentleman that he had read every page of these Blue-books, and there was quite sufficient to show that the state of things was unsatisfactory in the highest degree. On the authority of our own Consuls there was the most conclusive evidences that the Turkish troops on one occasion fought during an armistice and at another time plundered the Christian inhabitants, while officers stood by without making the slightest attempt to interfere. These were only an illustration of what had occurred in hundreds of cases; but the vital point to consider now was, what had really been the policy of Great Britain under these circumstances? There was not a Government in Europe that had been more ready throughout the century to promise the granting of reforms on paper than the Porte; but there was the terrible commentary on the promises of the Sultan, that most terrible massacre at Constantinople, a massacre deliberately planned and arranged by the highest authorities in Constantinople. All the arrangements for the Constantinople massacre were deliberately made— [Mr. GIBSON BOWLES: "No!"]—by the highest authorities in Constantinople. He was astonished to hear the hon. Member for King's Lynn cast doubt upon it.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS
said that something more than a mere assertion on the part of the hon. Gentleman was required. ["Hear, hear!"] Within the last few months there had been the massacre at Tokat. What would be asked in future was, how did Great Britain act through this crisis at the end of the 19th century? We stood to-day in a much worse position as regarded humanity and freedom than we did a year or two ago; England stood in a position of shameful and humiliating failure. He read with amazement and almost with indignation some of the sentences in Lord Salisbury's speech yesterday. His Lordship took Lord Kimberley to task in another place for his emphatic repudiation of the contention that we should maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and yet the First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking when they met on the 11th of February last year, said, "We are free from any engagement as to the maintenance of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire." The right hon. Gentleman was Ambassador Extraordinary in 1881, knew the whole subject and was a Member of the present Cabinet, and therefore spoke with authority. How could the right hon. Gentleman's words be regarded for a single moment as consistent with Lord Salisbury's appeal to that most antiquated diplomacy the Treaty of Paris? Liberals read Lord Kimberley's declaration with the greatest pleasure, for his Lordship said:—I say there is nothing in the Treaty or in the present situation of the world which should preclude anyone in my position from announcing, as I did announce, and I wish to announce, and to repeat, that I believe it is for the interest of this country, and it is for the interest of European peace, that we should be disconnected for ever from regarding the integrity of the Empire of Turkey as the basis of British policy.The means by which the Government were trying to carry out their policy, whatever it might be, was the precious Concert, or, as Lord Salisbury called it, the Federation of Europe. With some people the Concert of Europe seemed to have become a sort of fetish; but that Concert, as at present revealed, was nothing more nor less than a Concert of the Emperors of the three despotic 27 Powers. Freedom seemed to be regarded as a sort of impertinence. He noticed in one of the Blue-books a most significant sentence in regard to the matter of freedom and insurrection. The Foreign Minister of one of the despotic Powers was reported to have said that—the most important object to obtain is to make it clear that nothing is to be gained by revolt.In his opinion, what Lord John Russell called the sacred right of insurrection must always be preserved. He protested against the idea that underlaid the sentence he had just quoted. We seemed to be going back 70 years; we might be living in the days of the Holy Alliance. The Layback Circular of 1821 contained the following words:—Useful and necessary changes in legislation and in the administration of States ought only to emanate from the free will and well-defined conviction of those whom God has made responsible for power.That Circular created a great sensation, in this country. It was too strong for even the Castlereagh stomach, and the Government of the day were compelled by public opinion and by the opinion of the House of Commons to issue a Circular to the effect that such a policy as that was "in direct repugnance to the fundamental laws of the United Kingdom." He was not against a Concert of Europe, if it were a Concert of the right sort. But a Concert must be judged by its acts and its policy, and the value of a Concert or Federation entirely depended upon how far it was representative of the highest instincts of humanity. He, therefore, asked the Government now to declare what their policy was. Were they going to place the power, weight, majesty and might of this great country at the tail of the despotic Empires of Europe? He would give the Government the freest hand in regard to foreign policy, but Parliament ought to know the general principles at least on which the Government acted. If asked what Liberal principles were, he should say that Liberals denied that we were in any way bound up with that formula to which Lord Salisbury attached so much importance. They agreed with the First Lord of the Admiralty that we were not bound to raise 28 hand or foot in defence of the maintenance of the Ottoman Empire, and they contended that this country ought never to place any obstacle in the way of those populations, subjects of Turkey, who were struggling to be free. Above all, Governments and Concerts ought to have as their fundamental basis the welfare of the people governed. He hoped they would hear to-night that Her Majesty's Government had determined to no longer pursue that which seemed to him a most evil path.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
said that the hon. Member for South Shields took the opportunity in the earlier part of his speech, which was specially devoted to the question of Crete and Greece, to make what he was sure the House would admit to be a grotesque caricature of the policy of Lord Salisbury. There had been some recent exhibitions of swagger on the platform, but it had not been by Conservative or Unionist statesmen. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite, almost without exception, refrained from saying what was the policy which they would wish the Government to pursue in the present circumstances. Three policies only could be followed. One was to take part in the Concert of Europe; another was to abstain; and a third was to fight for Greece. Did hon. Members wish that we had stood aside and not used that influence which had notoriously been used in favour of Greece? Did they think we should have taken up arms in favour of Greece? He was glad to have the opportunity of recording his opinion that, in this part of the question, in endeavouring to free Crete from the rule of the Turk, the Government had acted wisely and in the best interests of liberty. The last speaker had referred to the Holy Alliance, but did he believe that the present Foreign Minister was seeking, not to follow the policy of Mr. Canning, but to support the policy of the despots of the Holy Alliance?" ["Hear, hear!"] There was not a word of evidence to show that the policy of Lord Salisbury had been other than one seeking to give the utmost liberty to those concerned. [Cheers.] Both hon. Gentlemen who had spoken had criticised what Lord Salisbury had recently said about the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. But the policy of Lord Salisbury had 29 been clearly defined in the series of speeches which he had made during the List two years. The first of these, delivered at the Mansion House, was brimming with a policy of freedom, of endeavouring to liberate people who now in many cases groaned under the rule of the Turk. None of his recent speeches contradicted that policy.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
said there had been but one act since then—the freeing of Crete from the rule of the Turk. [Cheers and cries of "Oh !"] Hon. Members took umbrage at what Lord Salisbury said about the necessity of maintaining the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. But, as had been explained, that was but a useful phrase under which great areas of country had been freed from the rule of the Turk. Under that phrase, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Servia had been placed in a position of substantial and real independence; and it was not correct, therefore, to say that, in the policy he was now pursuing, Lord Salisbury was not acting in the interests of liberty. That policy received the support of the Unionist Party—a Party which was as strongly infused with the doctrine of freedom as were Gentlemen opposite, and which, though its views were not expressed so emotionally, had succeeded in giving as much freedom to subject races as had ever been given by its opponents, ["Hear, hear!"] So long as the Government pursued the policy of seeking with other Powers to remove the shackles of tyranny from those races subject to the rule of the Turk, he felt, as a lover of freedom and liberty throughout the world, that he could conscientiously give them his support. [Cheers.]
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
did not think anyone would desire to deny the hon. and gallant Gentleman's claim to be a lover of freedom, and he hoped the tone which the hon. And gallant Gentleman had adopted might be pursued throughout the Debate. He remembered the Debates of 1878–80, and he believed that infinite mischief was done by the extreme degree of Party heat which entered into the discussions of that time. No one desired to charge hon. Gentlemen opposite with callousness in regard to the 30 indescribable horrors contained in the Armenian Blue-books; and they must feel that those horrors were by no means ended. The last Blue-book dealing with the Armenian Question which he had read contained an account of how 30 Druse women were killed fighting against the Turks. The reason why those women forgot their sex was apparent in the descriptions of the horrors to which the Christian inhabitants of that country were subjected at the hands of the Turks; and in those descriptions also were to be found the key to the true meaning of the action of Greece and in the refusal of the Cretans to pay any heed to the promises of autonomy made to them by the Great Powers. ["Hear, hear!"] No one could deny that Lord Salisbury desired to put an end to those horrors. He would be the last to ascribe malevolence or want, of decent feeling to the noble Lord, who, so far as he knew, was as humane a Gentleman as any Member of the House. But what made them wince when they thought of the position of affairs in the East was the absolute failure of this country to secure the object it had in view. He was convinced from his reading of the Blue Books that Lord Salisbury had done everything in his power to induce the Powers to join in doing the only thing that would have any effect on the Turk—that was, to use force or to make it absolutely certain that if necessary sufficient force would be used to compel the Turk to submit. Lord Salisbury was unsuccessful in that policy; but he did not suppose that the noble Lord was unsuccessful because of any selfishness on the part of this country. He hoped that when all that had taken place was revealed it would be proved that this country had said in the Concert of Europe: "However we value our traditional interest in the Mediterranean and our influence there, we are not going to purchase any advantage for ourselves at the price of subjecting to unspeakable miseries millions of persons under Turkish rule." But he thought the Government ought to have seen, from the course of the negotiations in regard to Armenia, that the so-called Concert of Europe was nothing better than a group of greedy, selfish, pitiless, heartless Powers. [Cheers.] If ever there was an order given to them from Heaven it was that all that was best 31 in European civilisation—all that claimed to be even akin to Christianity—ought to have inflicted punishment on the Turks for the terrible outrages they had committed; and, if there was any real desire for the progress of humanity and civilisation among those Powers, Turkey would not have been allowed to continue its despotic domination over Armenia and Crete. [Cheers.] His complaint against the Government was that, having seen the failure of their well-intentioned efforts in the case of Armenia, they had not realised what the real character of the Concert of Europe was, or, having realised it, that they had not acted upon it. Then came the question of Crete. Greece was, indeed, the mother country of Crete, and nothing could be more natural than the desire of the Cretans to be united with their kin on the mainland. ["Hear, hear!"] The Turks could not be got to do anything to improve the position of affairs in the island, and until Colonel Vassos landed there had been continual pillaging and fighting. The fact was that the Powers had been merely trifling in regard to the island, and had made no real effort to get Turkey to carry out the promised reforms. Then it was that Her Majesty's Government made a great mistake. They went into a combination with the Great Powers; they agreed to land troops in the island, and they came hastily to the conclusion that they would not allow Crete to pass to Greece, which, he was informed, would not have been so unacceptable even to the Mahomedan inhabitants of the island. ["Hear, hear!"] They would not suffer the union between the Greeks and the Cretans, and all these misfortunes had followed. This country lost its initiative. The blockade of Crete was a shocking thing. ["Hear, hear!"] There were many women and children and a large number of non-combatants in the interior of the island; had adequate provision been made to prevent that blockade from inflicting famine upon these people?
§ SIR R. REID
said the Mahomedans were in the towns. What he referred to was the notification that food and supplies were not to be taken into the interior— that was to say, where the Christians were. But he did not care two straws in this controversy whether a man was a Christian or a Mahomedan. The question was, 32 how could the blockade be justified? What had the population of Crete done to bring this blockade upon them? They had done nothing. The right hon. Gentleman had informed them on a previous occasion that the object of the blockade was to drive the Greek forces out of Crete. The first consequence of the determination not to allow the union between Crete and Greece was the blockade of Crete. Then there were the bombardments, which would not be forgotten by the people who had the honour of this country at heart. ["Hear, hear!"] The object of our Navy was not to bombard people who were endeavouring to shake off a hideous yoke, as these people were. He could not but think that we had been obliged to acquiesce in the retention of the Turkish troops in Crete, and as long as those troops remained there the insurgents would never be satisfied that they were going to have autonomy. In the case of the fragments of the Turkish Empire which had been detached, such as Bosnia, Herzegovina, or Bulgaria, where a successful autonomy had been obtained, the Ottoman troops had not been allowed to remain. ["Hear, hear!"] The retention of the Turkish troops was absolutely incompatible with autonomy. When this country was asked to join in preventing the union of Crete with Greece we ought to have said that we would not consent to make any such declaration. In 1886, when Greece was blockaded by Mr. Gladstone's Government, France refused to take part in the blockade, but France did not thereby incur the enmity of the other Powers. Great Powers like France and Great Britain would not be treated as being outside the Concert because they refused to take part in a wrong that was being done.
§ SIR R. REID
said he did not hold the power of his country as cheaply as the hon. and gallant Member seemed to do. Let them remember what had been the history of our country during the last 100 years; very often our power had been most effective without our having fired a single gun. At the time of the Holy Alliance we refused to enter upon a wrong course, and if we had done so at the present juncture we should have been regarded as friends by the Greeks, with that touching affection which they always 33 exhibited towards those who displayed the smallest sign of kindness. In that way we should have been able to influence the Greek Government in a way which was not possible by fleets or bombardments. He did not believe the friendship and good will of this country was so cheap a thing that the Continental Powers would not willingly have made some effort to retain it. He had indicated the ground on which he thought this Vote ought certainly to be denied. He hoped they would have another and a fuller opportunity of discussing the whole subject. It was not the fault of some of them that that opportunity had not come already, but sooner or later he trusted the question would be raised in a deliberate and formal manner by the right hon. Gentleman, who unquestionably was the first man on that side of the House. He perfectly recognised that they might preserve the territorial integrity of Turkey, and yet put the subject populations in the same position as those of Bosnia, Herzegovina, or Bulgaria. But what security had the Government that this would be done? They had grave reason to fear that the word "autonomy" might be construed in such a way that the Turkish troops in Crete might be retained. He should be delighted to be corrected if he was wrong. He hoped, at all events, that the Government would adhere to the determination that the Cretans should be rescued from the dominion of the Turk, that the last Turkish soldier should leave the island, and that their autonomy should be real and not temporary. [Cheers.]
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. G. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
, who rose amidst Ministerial cheers, said: The hon. Member for Rushcliffe, in seconding the Motion, asked the pertinent question, "How is Great Britain acting in this international crisis, on what side are the might and influence of this country to be cast?" I shall hope to show, in the course of the remarks which it will be my duty to make, that the influence of this country has been cast, and is being cast, on the side of peace, conciliation, and moderation; aye, I will say, and of freedom—[Ministerial cheers] —and if we have been retarded in the realisation of that plan by the rash counsels which have elsewhere prevailed, we have not abandoned our intention, 34 and still hope to carry it to a successful issue. The hon. and learned Member who has just sat down made what I am sure he desired to be a moderate and just speech, and in that spirit I shall endeavour to answer him. His moderation, however, did not prevent him from failing to understand our case in some of its simplest aspects, and did not save him from totally misrepresenting some of what we believe to be the elementary features of the case. I may instance before I pass to my main argument one point alone. Speaking of the Constitution given to Crete in August last year, he said that Constitution had broken down, because, on the one hand of the obstruction of the Turks, and, on the other, of the apathy of the Powers. It is inconceivable that the hon. and learned Member would have made that statement if he had carefully studied the Blue-book which has most recently been presented. I see no inherent improbability in the first part of his argument. As a matter of fact, I believe it to be untrue. I have made the most careful efforts to get to the bottom of the case, and I am bound to say that the collapse of that Constitution of August, 1896, I believe, from the record of facts presented to the House, to have been due not in the main to the obstruction of the Turks, but to intrigues from another quarter which are fully narrated in the Blue-book. Since we last debated the Cretan question three weeks have passed. That period has not, I am sorry to say, greatly affected the situation in Crete; but it has, of course, profoundly modified the situation on the mainland. I shall endeavour to put before the House a brief statement of the position in the island, and will then pass on to what the House will expect me to say something about—namely, the policy of the Government as to the mainland. First, with regard to the island of Crete. A fanciful picture has been much drawn during the past few weeks, glimpses of which I have caught in more than one speech to-night, of the present state of the island. Society in Crete has been represented to us as divided, if I may use the metaphor, into sheep and wolves. The sheep are represented as being the Cretan Christians, and the wolves as the Cretan Mahomedans, who, along with the Turks, are engaged in preying upon and 35 devouring the innocent Christians, assisted by the forces and guns of the Powers. What are the real facts of the case? The interior of the island of Crete at the present moment is in. the occupation of a large number of Cretans, who the hon. Member says are doing nothing. May I describe what the inactivity of those Cretan Christians is? These so-called insurgents are in the occupation of the villages and in the enjoyment of the possessions and crops of the unhappy Mussulmans who have been turned out. They are living a life of armed idleness, wandering up and down the mountains, exchanging shots with everybody they meet—[laughter]—and, I am sorry to say, killing every Mahomedan, of either sex, who falls within their reach. [Opposition murmurs.] I am stating nothing but what I know to be facts, which are corroborated by the evidence which will be laid later before the House. [Opposition cries of "When?" and Mr. MACNEILL: "Produce it now!"] Near the towns these Christian insurgents are engaged, in spite of the reiterated warnings which have been received by them, in attacks on the blockhouses and outposts of those positions, and in cutting off the water supply, and endeavouring to starve the populations collected within their walls. [Mr. DILLON: "You are starving them!"] Will the hon. Member allow me? These insurgents are, to a large extent, led by Greek officers, their ranks are filled by Greek volunteers, the only artillery they appear to possess are Greek cannon. In a recent interview which the Admirals had with eight of the so-called insurgent chiefs five were found to be Greek lawyers—[Ministerial laughter]—and the sixth was a Greek doctor. [Renewed laughter.] Though the Greek authorities, when appealed to with reference to their action, have disowned all responsibility for these insurgents, I have observed that there is no similar disposition to condone or disown any irregularities which are committed by the Bashi-Bazouks on the other side; and so entirely are these insurgents controlled by the influence of the Greek occupying force that an application having been made by them the other day to the Admirals for stores and relief, and those stores having been promptly placed at their disposal, they were compelled to return them unused. This is the simple 36 population represented to us as rightly struggling to be free against the barbarous oppression of the Turks. [Opposition cheers.] Obviously no amount of arugument or evidence that I can produce affects the a priori convictions of hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Ministerial cheers, and Mr. MACNEILL: "Produce the evidence!"] I must ask the hon. Member to take my word for it. ["Hear, hear!"] Now I come to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken, that we are "bombarding and starving" these innocent people. The phrase was first used by the Leader of the Opposition when—I think in the last Debate in this House—he told us we were trying to starve and bombard the Cretans into the acceptance of autonomy. It is a good phrase, and it fell glibly from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman. But it is absolutely destitute of any foundation in fact. What are the facts about the alleged starvation caused by the blockade of which the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is so much in dread? The reports that have been received from persons who have been moving freely about among the insurgents in the interior assure us that the canteens and eating houses are doing "a roaring trade," that: food is everywhere abundant, and now that the crops are about to be gathered there will be no lack of provisions, because the Christians will not only have their own crops but those of the evicted Mussulmans as well. [Laughter.] These facts, which I have narrated to the House, represent a faithful picture, so far as I can depict it, of society as it at present exists in that island, and I do not think any hon. Gentleman in this House would say that it can be described as an era of pastoral innocence, or that in Crete we have any reproduction of the Saturnian age. [Laughter.] I next turn to what is passing in the towns, and here I must deal with the topic raised by two or three preceding speakers about the continuance of Turkish troops in the island. More than one speaker has said: "Your intentions may be excellent, your promises may be sound, but your execution is feeble." [Opposition cheers.] "You have expressed your desire to get rid of the Turkish troops, why not do it?" And an extraordinary and mysterious notion has sprung into existence that the 37 Turkish troops are being kept in Crete by the malevolent action of the majority of the Powers, that England is in favour of their removal, but that there are certain other Powers, to be named or nameless, who exercise a malignant influence in the background, behind whose chariot wheels we are content to be dragged, and who interfere with the successful realisation of our plans. These are not at all the facts of the case. May I put before the House what are the facts with regard to the coast towns and the Turkish troops in them? The principal seaports of Crete are in the occupation of the international forces. In these seaports there are next to no Christians. Either they have fled into the interior or have been deported by British and foreign ships to other shores. But these towns are packed by dense populations of Mahomedan refugees—homeless, defenceless, and with no means whatever of subsistence. Take a concrete case to make my argument clear. Take the case of Candia. It is a town in which we are principally interested, owing to the occupying force being in the main supplied by Her Majesty's troops. In Candia there are at the present moment no fewer than 50,000 Mahomedan refugees, of whom 32,000 have no connection with the locality, but come from different parts of the island, and as compared with this enormous aggregate there are only 500 Christians. These 50,000 Mahomedans are peasants who have no handicraft of their own and no means of making money, and who are only kept alive from day to day by doles of flour sent by the Sultan; who are decimated by smallpox and afflicted by a perpetual cutting off of their water supply; for it should be known that in the country outside the cordon drawn round Candia, containing this defenceless population of 50,000 Mahomedans, there are 60,000 armed Cretan insurgents ready at any moment, if the protection we afford them be withdrawn, to pounce down, upon these people and to inflict upon them the utmost cruelty. How are these Mahomedans protected? There are in the town of Candia something under 1,500 European troops, and there are some 3,500 Turkish troops. The Europeans occupy the town, and the Turkish troops occupy and defend the military cordon 38 drawn outside. Our authorities report to us that the European troops are powerless to protect both the town and cordon. How can we under these circumstances withdraw the Turkish garrison? I can only say, if we did so, it would be a prelude to massacres compared with which those of Armenia would sink into insignificance, and it would be massacre enacted under the eyes of the Powers and, with our direct responsibility. [Ministerial cheers.] The hon. Member who preceded me spoke of sentiment as affecting this case, and he said what I am sure he felt himself and what I am equally sure is felt by most people, in this House, that humanity as understood by him is not a one-sided emotion. His humanity is equally aroused by Moslem and by Christian, and suffering in any quarter appeals to him. I submit that the incontestable figures which I have put before the Committee show that in this case of Crete the question of humanity arises not only in the case of the Christians but also in the case of the Mahomedans. [Cheers.]
§ SIR R. REID
I quite agree with that. May I point out this also? There are only three possible courses. The first course is for the European Powers to defend these people; the second is to have the Turks, and the third is to have the Greeks. Either you must do it all yourselves or leave it to the tender mercies of the Turks. You refuse the Greeks; that is my argument. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. CURZON
Yes; but the Creeks are endeavouring to kill them. If, however, I may be allowed to resume to argument, I would point out that the Admirals, as is well known, were the first to recommend the withdrawal of the Turkish garrison from Crete. It was very natural they should do so, because it would greatly simplify the difficult and delicate tusk which has been placed on their shoulders. But even they say that this Turkish garrison, for the reasons I have named, cannot at this moment be spared. Of course the Committee must not from that draw the conclusion that the Turkish troops are to remain permanently in the island. The hon. Gentleman said he knew of no case in which autonomy had been set up in which the Turkish troops had not eventually been withdrawn. Quite true. But he failed to point out any case in which, 39 while autonomy was being established, there was not an adequate Turkish garrison in the place. ["Hear, hear!"] We firmly hope for, and we look forward with absolute confidence to, the time when the Turkish troops will be withdrawn. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government have so often repeated their pledges on this point that I should have thought it unnecessary to emphasise them in this Debate, but I have been trying to explain to the Committee—and I hope I have succeeded—the reason why that policy, which remains exactly where it was, and from which we do not recede for one moment, is absolutely incapable of being carried into immediate execution. ["Hear, hear!"] What I have said of Candia is true also of Retimo. At Retimo the population, which before was 10,000, has been swollen by the immigration of refugees to 30,000. A census, which has been taken by the Relief Committee, of Mahomedans shows at this moment, after all that has passed, that there are in the island as many as 107,000 Mahomedans, or one-third of the total population of Crete. This is what the hon. Gentleman called a residuum, as if it was a petty tenth, or twelfth, or fifteenth, whereas it is one-third of the whole population. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member said Greece was the motherland, and that it was natural she should act on behalf of her sons in Crete. [Cheers.] Yes, Sir, but she has Mahomedan as well as Christian sons. [Cheers.] Both look to her as a mother; they are of the same race, and I cannot understand why all the maternal sympathy should be reserved for the 200,000 Christians and absolutely denied to the 107,000 Mahomedans. [Cheers.] I should add that out of these 107,000 Mahomedans in the island, no fewer than 67,000 are at the present moment in receipt of relief. We are told that the island of Crete is clamouring for annexation to Greece. This minority, this one-third of the population, amounting to as large a proportion as in the case of Ireland, refused the offer of Home Rule— a minority to whose views great respect was attached, at any rate by this side of the House—this minority says that under no circumstances will it accept annexaxtion to Greece, but will fight to the death or emigrate. We do not want to depopulate the island of Crete either 40 by massacre or by emigration. [Cheers.] The Cretan Mahomedans are about the most stable element in the population of that country. They are sturdy peasants who are wanted for the cultivation of the village crops, and whether annexation is given or withheld, whether autonomy is granted or proves a failure, there will be no hope for the future of Crete until the passionate, embittered vendetta between these two sections of the population subsides, and the rural population are allowed to go back to live in tranquillity in the villages, while the urban population equally go back to the towns. [Cheers.] This is impossible while the Greek troops remain in the island. It cannot be doubted that the presence of the Greek troops in Crete is a focus of agitation and a centre of intrigue. I have often said it would be the first dawn of a brighter day for Crete if these Greek troops were withdrawn, and I hope I may be justified in drawing from the retirement of Colonel Vassos and some other Greek officers that which seems to me the natural and obvious conclusion—namely, that the troops will shortly follow in like manner. [Cheers.] When the Greeks have been withdrawn, it will be found possible to reduce the Turkish garrison, and then we may begin to secure some restoration of confidence and order in the island. These facts, I think, are an answer to the question which was put me by the mover of the Amendment, who was very anxious to know what was the autonomy, and why it was not being set up? Is it not obvious, in an island so hopelessly sundered as I have described, and in the disorganised condition which I have narrated, that the proposal to set up a new constitution, to convene an assembly, to appoint or elect a ruler, would at present be an act of fatuity? ["Hear, hear!"] There is one other argument I should like to deal with before I pass from. Crete, and that is the argument which was adumbrated rather than followed out by the hon. Gentleman—namely, that the Powers, before the declaration of war, should have evacuated Crete, and, to use a vulgar but classical phrase, should have let the Cretans stew in their own juice. I do not think that proposal will bear examination for one moment. If, after the declaration of war between the Greeks and the Turks, England and 41 the other Powers of Europe had withdrawn from Crete, what would have happened? In the first place, the island would have been made the cockpit of a most fratricidal struggle, for carrying out the metaphor of the hon. Member, these children of the same mother would have been cutting one another's throats, and we should have witnessed one of the most shameful warfares to which history can point. ["Hear, hear!"] Supposing that Colonel Vassos and the insurgents had prevailed, for they had the superiority in numbers, in arms, and in cannon, they would probably have succeeded in wiping out the minority, and then, when all was over, what would have happened? If there is one thing certain from the war up to this point—and I am sure I do not desire to say anything harsh about it—it is, I think, that victory has not inclined to the side of the Greeks. No telegrams from Athens, no sentiment, no partiality can blind our eyes to that fact. It is a common axiom of warfare that the spoils of war are to the conqueror, and in the readjustment that must have taken place, and that will take place after the conclusion of the war, who can believe for one moment, whatever might have been the preliminary successes of Greece in Crete, that there would not be an absolute end to autonomy and an end for ever to annexation, and that wretched, unhappy Crete would have been put once again through the furnace of her afflictions before she reverted to the dominion of the Turk? [Cheers.] The Concert of Europe may have many weaknesses and many faults, but at least it is innocent of the criminal responsibility that would have been entailed by any such consequence as that. ["Hear, hear!"] On that point the Powers have been absolutely unanimous from the start. They have agreed that Crete, having been taken under their protection, must so remain, and that, therefore, it must be proclaimed as neutral ground during the duration of the war. The answer to the question put to me as to the reason for maintaining the blockade is that the blockade has proved most effective in keeping out from the island arms, ammunition, and explosives, and, therefore, in mitigating the suffering and loss of life that would otherwise have ensued. [Cheers.] This policy the 42 Committee may be assured, the Government and the Powers will continue to pursue. [Cheers.] It may take them a long time, it will certainly take a longer time than was originally expected, but I am sure the worst advice anybody could give in the interest of Crete would be that, having taken it in hand, they should now desist. ["Hear, hear!"] I hope the facts which I have stated will avail somewhat to explain the situation in Crete. [Cheers.] It is surely time that we passed out of the world of fiction, and that our footsteps were directed only in the paths of truth and common sense. [Cheers.] It would really seem as if Crete had never passed out of the mythic age. [Cheers.] In a previous debate I remember having to expose no less than 12 fables which had grown up in the course of this crisis. ["Hear, hear!"] The latest crop has, I think, not been the least fanciful. I have already exposed this evening the starvation fable which has played so prominent a part in the platform polemics of hon. Gentlemen opposite; and now there are two more fables which, before I pass from the question of Crete, I must be allowed respectfully to upset. ["Hear, hear!" and Opposition laughter.] The first is the fable which played so large a part in the questions which used to be put to me a fortnight ago, and which appeared in the statement issued by Colonel Vassos—that the Mussulmans who had been relieved from their beleaguered positions at Selino and Candano had been armed by the Turks at Canea and sent out to work their wicked will on the Christians. An international Commission was appointed to inquire into this allegation, and they found that there was absolutely no foundation for the statement at all. [Cheers.] They were put in possession of the certificates, signed by the insurgent chiefs to whom the anus had been handed over, and they found further that the Turks could not have distributed any more arms for the simple reason that they had none to distribute. [Laughter and cheers.] The only arms distributed since February in Canea have been some which were issued at the end of that month to private persons in the town for enrolling a sort of special gendarmerie to assist in the maintenance of order. These arms have since been withdrawn. ["Hear, 43 hear!"] The third fable which, in the interests of truth, I feel bound to expose is one relating to the Turkish soldiers. An impression undoubtedly very widely exists that the Turkish soldiers in Crete are with difficulty restrained from committing horrible acts. I assure the House I am not concerned to defend Turkish soldiers or Greek soldiers. I have no feeling one wav or the other. My only desire is to see justice done between the two and to correct any particularly unfair representations that may be about. An hon. Member who preceded me brought forward certain cases of misbehaviour on the part of the Turkish troops last year. When these cases are quoted, I think it only fair as regards the present crisis to quote the testimony of the British Admiral, which is to this effect:—The Turkish troops have behaved admirably, but religious fanaticism may possibly upset the great integrity which all other provocations have hitherto failed to do. Their conduct deserves their being treated as disciplined troops in this respect second to none of the European nations.[Cheers.] I pass now to the question of the mainland. I do not desire in what I say to discuss the question as to who was the aggressor in this unhappy war. That seems to me to have become almost an academic question and to lack any immediate interest. I think few people can have any doubt on which side the provocation lay—[cheers]—but the rashness that lay behind that provocation has been so fearfully and terribly chastised that I think it is unnecessary to say anything more about it. Hut there is one charge I must meet because it has been repeated to-night, and that is the charge that the Concert of Europe is responsible for the war between Turkey and Greece. [Opposition cheers.] I cannot imagine how any hon. Member who has made au honest study of the facts can use so childish an argument as that. [Cheers.] What are the facts of the case? The Concert informed Greece that she would not be allowed to annex Crete; that Crete had become by their action a European concern. Thereupon Greece, because she could not get her way in Crete, massed a great number of her troops on the northern frontier, sent large bodies of irregulars forward to 44 attack the Turks and then, when, after great provocation, and, I must say, a considerable display of patience—[cheers]—the Turks accepted the challenge and declared war, the friends of Greece turn round and said, "It is all the fault of the European Concert." [Laughter.] If the defence of Greece is that she is not responsible for the Ethnike Hetairia, then a fortiori the Concert must be still less responsible for the action of that body. But really such logic deceives nobody. Everybody knows perfectly well what the massing of those troops on the frontier meant. We were not obscurely told day after day in the columns of the newspapers that represent the Hellenic cause. Everyone knew that those troops were being collected there and that their presence could only mean war. Calamitous as the results of the war have been, I protest I cannot understand the method of reasoning by which anybody arrives at the conclusion that the responsibility rests on any shoulders but one. So far from the Powers being responsible, I should be prepared to argue that they have carried conciliation and consideration in the case of Greece almost to the point of weakness. They were told that if Greece were blockaded, following the example of right hon. Gentlemen opposite 11 years ago—[loud cheers]—war would infallibly result, and they desisted, therefore, from that step. They used every means, by representations, by provisions for keeping the combatants apart, and by declarations that the aggressor would not be allowed to profit by his aggression, to postpone the struggle; and, if they failed in the result, at any rate let the blame not rest on their shoulders. But, if they have not prevented war, has not something been done in limiting the area of that war—[cheers]—in localising the disturbances, and in preventing the infinitely greater and more serious danger of a European conflagration? [Cheers.] The hon. Member who moved this Motion was quite angry because when we speak of a European war we mean a war in which many European nations are involved, and he said that the claim of the Concert had been to prevent war of any kind. What they did undertake to do was, not to prevent the passion or rashness of Greece from plunging her into hostilities with Turkey, but what they did undertake, and what 45 they have succeeded in doing, was to keep the peace in the eastern part of Europe. ["Hear, hear!"] I venture to say that that success constitutes an incalculable, and will be regarded as a historic, service in the history of European politics. [Cheers.] Now we come to the present situation. The Powers have been prepared to intervene, and are even now intervening to settle this disastrous struggle. [General cheers.] Lord Rosebery said, in 1886:—No sane friend of Greece would wish that she should embark in war with one of the great military Powers of the world, even if she had a good cause to fight for.It is a pity that there have not been more sane friends of Greece about. [Cheers.] It is a pity that there have not been more followers of Lord Rosebery—[loud cheers and Opposition laughter]—to repeat the words of that wise and experienced statesman in this House. The Powers have expressed their willingness to mediate, if Greece on her part will express her willingness to listen to their opinions. That is the general attitude of the Powers at this moment. I have no right, in my subordinate position, to commit any other Power or Government except our own, but that is the tenor of the negotiations which are proceeding at this moment. Her Majesty's Government desire, in common with their allies, to preserve the Greek kingdom. They sympathise with the development within due limits of the Hellenic instinct, but they are convinced— and the experience of the war adds to their conviction—that the interests of Greece lie, not in war or in expansion or in conquest, still less in defeat—[cheers] —but that they lie in the path of peaceful consolidation of her resources. [Cheers.] It is very easy to abuse the Powers, but I venture to say that the attitude taken up, and the words that are spoken by many hon. Gentlemen in this House, do not render the task of the Government more easy. [Cheers.] It is very easy to denounce the Concert of Europe. Any platform spouter can do that. [Laughter and cheers.] It is always easier to attack a Committee, the opinion emanating from whom is a corporate opinion, and the consequences of their action, than an individual; but is it politic, I ask, is it just, and is it wise? [Cheers.] If you had an alternative I 46 could understand it. Denounce the Concert if you have something to set up in their place, but you come here barren of any policy—with your mouths full of denunciation and your brains empty of suggestion. [Loud cheers and Opposition, laughter.]
§ *MR. CURZON
I hope the hon. Gentleman will curb his irregularity and allow me to proceed. [Opposition laughter.] I venture to ask the Committee what is the good of denouncing the three Emperors, and what is the good of accusing us of being dragged at the heels of the despotic Powers of Europe? Supposing you were to take our places tomorrow or next week! I remember an occasion when a Liberal Ministry commenced its tenure of office by an apology to Austria. [Cheers.] If you came into power now, your first act would be an apology to Germany and to Russia. You may be sure that the more you abuse the Concert, and the more you attack the Sovereigns who constitute a portion of that Concert, the more you alienate the allies of this country, the more you render it difficult for this Government to get what it is anxious to get—namely, good terms for Greece—and the more you jeopardise the chances of a peaceful settlement. [Cheers.] I should like to conclude by a reference to what fell from the hon. Member for Rushcliffe. He pointed out, I think, with great force that there is really a wider question at stake than the mere defeat of one army or the victory of another, or the mere triumph of one cause over another. The real Eastern question is not simply a question of the victory or the defeat of Greece in this struggle. The real Eastern question is the better government of the peoples of the East—[general cheers]—the gradual widening of their liberties, the securing of proper guarantees for the prosperity of that autonomy which some of them have already secured, and which we hope will be extended to others in the future. [Cheers.] Those results are no doubt only arrived at by slow degrees. An hon. Member who spoke to-night seemed to doubt whether they would ever be attained. Surely the history of Egypt, of Bulgaria, of Rumelia, of Servia, and of Rumania is in itself a proof that the wider 47 interests of the populations of the East have not been lost sight of by the Great European Powers. It is not a question of Crete alone. I quite agree that Crete is part of a much wider and bigger question in which Armenia plays no unimportant part. I confess I am shocked and distressed when I hear hon. Gentlemen opposite say that the Concert of Europe has abandoned Armenia to its fate. It is an unjust, and I may even say a shameful, misrepresentation. [Cheers.] No one who reads the Blue-book which brought the narrative of Eastern affairs up to October last year can fail to have seen that in that month Lord Salisbury had united the Powers on the principle of reforms, not for Armenia or Crete only, but for the provinces of the Turkish Empire, and on the principle of the application of coercion to the Sultan to carry out those reforms. Then came this Cretan trouble, and no doubt the ambitions of Greece have for the moment put the sufferings of Armenia into the background. But there has been no desertion, no abandonment; the question of Armenia and our interest in Armenia remains where it did before. If anything is to be done for Armenia or Crete, or for any one of the subject populations who have engaged the interest of everyone on both sides of the House, it must be patent now that it cannot be done by one Power alone. Isolation cannot effect anything in this matter. It can only be done by this or by any other Government acting in friendly co-operation with its allies. Neither personal ambition nor the desire of aggrandisement on the part of any individual State ought to be allowed to interfere with that desire. That is the policy which the Government have set before themselves consistently, and according to which they have hitherto acted; and when these storms have passed away I am convinced it will be found that it has been successful and has been supported by the common sense of the country. [Cheers.]
§ SIR HENRY CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
said the right hon. Gentleman had made what everyone who heard it would agree was a most remarkable speech. [Cheers.] It was a remarkable utterance to be made by any Member of the House speaking on behalf of the Government and representing a 48 department which, surely, in the management of its affairs required delicacy of touch and expression beyond all other qualities. The right hon. Gentleman had departed from that dispassionate and fair spirit—[Ministerial cries of "No, no!" and cheers]—in dealing with the contentions which prevailed in the East of Europe which ought to have characterised his utterance. [Ministerial cries of "No!" and "How?"] This was the fourth or fifth occasion on which this Eastern question had been discussed in the House; but it had never been discussed with fulness and completeness, and could not now be discussed, because the Government had not seen fit to give the House all the information which he and his hon. Friends thought it was necessary to have. [Opposition cheers.] He doubted whether there had been a case in which the country had been kept to so great an extent in the dark as to what was being said in its name. [Opposition cheers.] They knew something of what had been done in its name; they knew that our ships were sent to Cretan waters, that our shells were fired, and that our forces were landed. But of the inner reasons, the hesitation, controversies, and decisions which led to those events the House and the country had been kept for the main part in ignorance. It was, therefore, difficult to discuss the part the Government might have played, because they did not know exactly what that part was. Take even the case of the instructions to the Admirals. The Admirals had been invested with extraordinary discretionary powers, but when they asked that the nature of those instructions should be communicated to the House they were met with a refusal, although on similar occasions before the request had been granted. The Government had wrapped themselves in the Concert of Europe as a mantle, and there was no profane person among them to lift even a fold of that august garment. [Laughter.] On the previous day an occasion arose when they formed the expectation of receiving further information. The Prime Minister was announced to address a great meeting of his followers in London. What did they receive instead of the information they desired? They had an exhibition of that cynical rhetoric and of those reckless jibes— [Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh!"]—they 49 were accustomed to from the Prime Minister, but no detailed information was forthcoming. On the other hand, there was a revelation which was almost equally important of the spirit in which Lord Salisbury at least regarded those great events. If this was the spirit which really guided our policy he thought they might despair of the credit and fair name of England. [Opposition cheers.] They must hope, however—and their past experience justified them in the hope—that when the Dispatches of the Foreign Minister came to be seen they would be found to breathe a different spirit, and to show at least some outward consideration for that cause of freedom and humanity to which the history of this country had always been devoted. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman had given an explanation of his view of the situation in Crete and in Greece. He was not going to inquire who was to blame for the lamentable struggle now going on in Greece. [Ironical laughter.] Hon. Members opposite assumed that Greece was the main culprit. ["Hear, hear!"] He wished to put that question aside for other times, when they would be able to judge of it. Whether Greece had acted wisely or foolishly, she had at least acted in a plucky and patriotic spirit. [Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh !" and cheers.] She had put her fortune to the touch against her hereditary enemy; and he believed that among her people who were best informed there had been no great illusion as to the probable result. However it might detract from her wisdom in a worldly point of view, it did not detract from the honourable character of the struggle. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Powers were intervening. The universal voice of civilisation asked that that intervention should be speedy and effectual, and he was glad to hear from the light hon. Gentleman that he appreciated the situation. It appeared to him that the conflict in which the two Powers were engaged partook much more of the character of what was known as an affair of honour than a regular affair of war; and so soon as the point of honour was satisfied, the struggle should be stopped. He hoped that no pedantries of etiquette would be allowed to stand in the way of any intervention which the Powers wished to make. [Cheers.] The 50 right hn. Gentleman said that the Cretans in the hill country were going about killing Mahomedans, that they were idling their time with guns in their hands. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to imply any doubt as to the genuine character of the Cretan movement for freedom? Did he imply that these idling men were playing at being insurgents, and had not a stern purpose in their hearts? Then why was he, as a. subordinate agent and mouthpiece of Europe, so anxious to give the Cretans autonomy? If the right hon. Gentleman's argument was good against anything, it was good against autonomy it self. ["Hear, hear!"] Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the Cretans were not only idle and mischievous, but that they were extremely well off for food. How had this blockade been so ineffective that it had not prevented the object which it was intended to prevent? The right hon. Gentleman said that the Turkish troops must be maintained in Crete in order to secure the safety of the Mahomedans in the towns, who were beset at this moment by a larger number of Christian fighting men than the population of the island. [Laughter.] But, whether this be so or not, the Turkish troops were to be retained for that purpose, and the Greek troops were to be withdrawn. He assumed that the Government were giving autonomy to the Cretans, and that they believed the Cretans were right in wishing to escape from the misgovernment of Turkey. If that was so, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to put himself in the position of a Cretan at this moment. A Cretan in the mountains knew very little of the Powers and about the negotiations going on; he was also happy enough to know nothing of the Debates in the House of Commons. [Laughter.] He did not receive a morning and evening paper at his door; but the one thing he knew was that so long as the Greek soldiers remained and the Greek flag flew there was some chance of redemption, and that the moment they disappeared, and the Turkish soldiers remained, he came to the conclusion that sooner or later, the grip of the Turkish power being upon him, he would be put back. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that most impartial minds would consider that, whether autonomy or annexation to Greece was intended, 51 the first thing to be done was to withdraw the troops, the outward and visible sign of Turkish power, from Crete. The right hon. Gentleman said that that could not be done because the troops were there to do police work—to protect life and preserve order. But the Powers had taken Crete under their protection and had landed forces there, and surely those forces might be utilised for preserving order. ["Hear, hear!"] The Leader of the House on a recent occasion had summed up the policy of the Government epigrammatically by saying that it was to secure freedom for Crete and peace for Europe. They certainly had not yet secured freedom for Crete—the circumstances were perhaps even less hopeful than before—and it could not be said that they had preserved the Continent of Europe from war. The ineffectiveness of their policy was probably due to their being the slaves of two phrases—namely, "the integrity of the Turkish Empire" and "the Concert of Europe." Of a phrase it might be said as of fire—that it was a good servant but a bad master. It might often be useful to embody a policy in a phrase, but to exaggerate the importance of the phrase and to set it up as to object almost of worship was likely to lead to error. What was meant by practical men when they spoke of the necessity of preserving the integrity of the Turkish Empire? They meant that, in the event of the dissolution—a not distant event as most people thought, whether friends or foes—of the Turkish Empire, antagonism would be occasioned in the Balkan Peninsula between Russia and Austria, who would have Germany behind her, and that this antagonism might lead to a disastrous war which would disturb the equilibrium of Europe. He admitted that if those deplorable results might follow it was desirable to postpone as long as possible the contingency that would lead to them. But was it not obvious that side by side with this policy of maintaining the integrity of the Turkish Empire they must have the other policy of enforcing reforms upon the Porte—["hear, hear!"]—and that by proclaiming, as the Concert of Europe was doing, the sacrosanctity of the dogma of the integrity of the Turkish Empire the Powers were depriving themselves of the strongest weapon at their 52 disposal for securing reforms? If annexation to Greece was desired by the great bulk of the inhabitants of Crete, and if it was the shortest and easiest method of disposing of this difficulty, why should it be refused, and who could object? Could anybody doubt that that course would have been agreed to before this if it had not been for this doctrine of the integrity of the Turkish Empire, which had become almost a superstition? Hampering as this doctrine was, it apparently was not sufficiently so to satisfy the Prime Minister, who traced our duty to preserve Turkey to treaty obligations. "We are bound," he said at the Albert Hall, "to uphold Turkey irrespectively of good or bad government." Lord Salisbury turned matters of international convenience into binding obligations, and his theory seemed to be that all the Powers were bound to fulfil those obligations except the one Power for whose preservation they were entered into. That Power, apparently, might do what it liked. The doctrine propounded by the Prime Minister would be repudiated by the people of this country—["hear, hear!"] —and was only likely to find acceptance among diplomatic pedants and lovers of paradox. Where was the application of the doctrine of the integrity of the Turkish Empire to stop? Supposing that the Sultan were to give a looser rein to fanaticism and the spirit of misgovernment, supposing that massacres became not intermittent, but constant, was this country still to kneel before that doctrine? Could not any misgovernment by the Turk modify our obligations? The other phrase to which the Government were slaves was the "Concert of Europe." This was, perhaps, an even more august phrase. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had rebuked the Opposition for speaking disrespectfully of the Concert of Europe; but he was not aware that anyone had spoken disrespectfully of the several Powers who formed the Concert. [Ministerial cries of "Oh !" and "Hear, hear!"] The Concert was always spoken of by the Government as if there was no hope outside it, as if there must be an open quarrel with our neighbours if we should differ from it, and as if we should be left in isolated impotence if we were shut out of it. To all that he would reply in a word used the other night by a Minister of the Crown—"Nonsense." 53 [Laughter.] The Concert of Europe was not only admissible, but admirable on the hypothesis that the object of all its Members was the same. ["Hear, hear!"] It was an admirable instrument, provided it meant co-operation, consultation, and mutual advice. What he objected to was that this country should be led into a fixed, cast-iron partnership which hampered and fettered its freedom of action. If we entered into any such close alliance we ought at least to be very fastidious about the partners whom we joined. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had told them on a previous occasion that the removal of the Turkish troops from Crete was objected to by the majority of the Towers. He would like to have a little more information on this point.
§ *MR. CURZON
On the occasion referred to what I said was that the majority of the Powers were of opinion that the Greek troops ought to go first. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said that the fact that a majority thought that the Greeks ought to go first involved the result that there was a minority who thought they ought not to go First. ["Hear, hear!"] If there was to be a majority and a minority in this matter, it was perfectly obvious, from the slightest consideration of the circumstances, that England must in many cases be in the minority. He believed this was a point upon which the people of this country were exceedingly uneasy, and justly so. They did not like the notion of our being obliged to follow the lead and accept the dicta of the three Emperors in the East of Europe. ["Hear, hear!"] Against those three Great Powers it was not necessary to say a word, and he did not wish to speak in a manner in the slightest degree derogatory of any of them; but it was a matter of common knowledge that in these matters affecting the securing of freedom to a people there could be no community of sentiment between them and us. ["Hear, hear!"] One of these Great Powers had not the very slightest semblance or trace of representative institutions. Another, Germany, was a military absolutism in which, although there were representative bodies, they were debarred from any interference in foreign affairs, and the foreign affairs of that country were guided in a spirit which in this country was extinguished 54 2½ centuries ago. ["Hear, hear!"] When he turned to the third Power, Austria, it was true that there was very much more of individual liberty in ordinary life there, but even in Austria there was no such thing as organised public opinion such as people in this country were accustomed to, and therefore the direction of foreign affairs was left entirely in the hands of their most enlightened Emperor and those who advised him. And when he turned to France and Italy, democratic, progressive, and freedom-loving as they were, he found their Governments, unfortunately for us, although it might be for excellent reasons of State policy, had tied themselves to certain of the other Powers in a way which prevented them from giving any expression to the generous feelings and impulses of the French and Italian people. Could it be wondered at that there was uneasiness amid such surroundings, or that people should wonder whether any freedom of action at all was retained for England? ["Hear, hear!"] They repudiated the idea of any extraordinary sanctity attaching to the Concert of Europe. They were quite willing this country should take part in it on ordinary reasonable terms, but they wished to know what freedom of action there was. There had been no indication of freedom of action in the course of these Debates. People read that the Government objected to the blockade, and that, their objection carried the day. That was satisfactory so far; but, looking back on it in the light of recent events, one might well ask, was that little outburst, after all, justified in a Minister who had shown himself to acquiesce in much more severe measures? ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman yesterday gave the House very little information in answer to a question regarding the removal of the Turkish troops; but he was also asked a question as to the scheme of autonomy. The House would like to know a little more about that. What they wished to ask was not so much whether it had been promulgated and accepted by the Cretans, but whether it had been framed? ["Hear, hear!"] To create a new Constitution for such a country was a very serious matter. It would have to be edited and re-edited if it was to represent the ideas and views of the six Powers and their emissaries and advisers. There were, first of all, the six Admirals on the 55 spot, who had large discretionay powers, and great knowledge of the situation. They would be advised by the six Consuls, who were keeping them straight. Then the proposals of the six Admirals would have to go to the six Ambassadors at Constantinople, and be put into shape by them; and, finally, their proposals would be sent to be received or rejected by six Ministers in the six capitals. Thus 24 minds would be brought to bear on the scheme. ["Hear, hear!"] That was a terribly long process in itself, but it was made longer by the fact that one dozen of them differed from the other dozen fundamentally in the first conceptions of freedom and autonomy. ["Hear, hear!"] What was the alternative policy? It would—or he was entirely misinformed by the history of the past, or at all events by the records of the immediate past—have given satisfaction. It would have been to do as the people in whose interests Europe was acting desired—to hand over the island to Greece. ["Hear, hear!"] What individual Power could be injured by that? The Turk would lose the island anyway. Austria would not be injured, because Russia would get nothing, and similarly Russia would not be injured, and the Western Mediterranean Powers would all be in favour of it. But the Concert of Europe in its wisdom decided otherwise, and this country had submissively to accept that decision, and thus, reviewing the whole series of events, he could find nothing but humiliation— ["hear, hear!"]—humiliation to the diplomatic system of Europe which with such immense opportunities had achieved nothing but anger, war, and disappointment; and humiliation in a far greater degree to the people of this country whose name and power was being used at once against good sense and freedom and humanity. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. W. LEGH (Lancashire, Newton)
said that the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken professed to be much exercised in his mind as to what was meant by the integrity of the Turkish empire. There were only two Gentlemen he could think of at the present moment—and one of them was prevented by the fortunes of war from being present—[laughter]—who attached to the phrase a different meaning to that which was accepted by the rest of the world. He took it that the phrase now 56 meant something very different to what it meant 20, 30, or 40 years ago. At the present moment it amounted to little more than a diplomatic fiction—a phrase coined for the purpose of legalising the peaceful appropriation of Turkish territory by other people. ["Hear, hear !"] Under the protection of this phrase valuable provinces had been taken away from, the Turk, and the only privilege he had retained over them was a nominal suzerainty and the right to a tribute, which in no instance was ever paid. What was really meant by the phrase which so disturbed hon. Gentlemen opposite was that no Power was to take any advantage of another Power by seizing territory, so to speak, out of its turn. ["Hear, hear!"] They had heard a great deal about autonomy in the course of the debate, and the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had asked for details of the proposed scheme for Crete. In his opinion it would be a great mistake to enter into the details of that plan. If details were promised by his right hon. Friend, they would have right hon. Gentlemen coming down and moving the adjournment of the House on the ground that a proper scheme of parish councils had not been provided. ["Hear, hear!"] It had always been represented that the Cretans did not want autonomy. Only as late as last November M. Delyanni expressed himself in these words; he said:—Although the aspirations of the Cretans have not been fulfilled, a government has been accorded them which constitutes a tolerable form of autonomy.Again, in the course of a debate in the Greek Chamber on December 1, M. Delyanni, who was more responsible than anybody else for the present position of affairs, said that—since 1867, when he was accredited to the Emperor Napoleon III., he was convinced that the autonomy of Crete was the object to be sought for";and he went on to say that—the officers who deserted to Crete did no good there, and their conduct was a bad example. Their duty lay there, and not in Crete.That was good evidence as to whether autonomy was of value or not. On December 7 there was a debate in the 57 Greek Chamber, and M. Limbriti, a well-known member of the Cretan Committee, spoke to the effect that the Cretans did not ask for union with Greece, but only for an improvement in their condition. The subscriptions which came in from the Greeks of Egypt were most valuable, but the aid of the officers who went to Crete was the reverse. What would be thought of the sincerity of the Greek Government, considering the course pursued by M. Delyanni and his colleagues? Hon. Members opposite had reiterated their sympathy with the Greeks in this most unfortunate moment. For his part, he felt pity for them, but he could not feel much sympathy for their action. Everybody foresaw what was going to take place except the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. He was afraid the right hon. Gentleman's reputation as a military critic was likely to suffer severely, because on another occasion he prophesied disaster to the British troops in Egypt. Everybody except the right hon. Gentleman prophesied disaster to the Greek army, and disaster had come. The question now was, how were they going to be extricated? What would happen to any other Power in the like circumstances? Most undoubtedly they would be called upon to pay a heavy indemnity, and in all probability they would be obliged to surrender a large portion of their territory. Whenever it was a question affecting the Turks the matter was looked upon from a different point of view, and, whatever advantage the Turks obtained over the Greeks in the field, he did not believe they would be allowed to reap any benefit from it. Perhaps the most extraordinary assertion of all was that the Concert of Europe was responsible for this war. Suppose we had withdrawn from the Concert, who would have followed our example? The only result would have been that Crete would have been more firmly united than ever to the Turkish empire. The right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs was very reluctant to act with the Concert, because he considered, apparently, that the form of government of some States which belonged to the Concert was not democratic enough. He ventured to say that our relations with despotisms were at least as good as our relations with Republicans. Hon. Gentlemen opposite 58 were very bold in their assertions as to the feeling which the Government's course of action had produced in the country. For his part, he was rather sorry that the opportunity was not taken, say, at Crewe, of testing popular opinion in relation to the policy of the Government on the Eastern Question. At all events, he was convinced that all who attached value to the extreme importance of maintaining the peace of Europe, could not do otherwise than support the action and do everything in their power to maintain the action taken by the Government.
§ MR. EDWARD MORTON (Devonport)
could not understand how the Under Secretary made out that at present there were 60,000 Christians under arms round Candia besieging the Mahomedan population in that town, seeing that according to the latest Blue Book the total number of Christian families in Crete all told was under 50,000. When the right hon. Gentleman said the people of Crete ought to remain quiet and trustful under the promises made to them by the Concert, he would call to his mind the fact that the people of Crete had been rebelling about every ten years ever since the freedom of Greece was originally secured, and that on every occasion promises had been made to them by the Great Powers, and on every occasion those promises had been broken. And all along the demand made by the people of Crete had been a demand for annexation to Greece and not for autonomy. He remembered his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester in 1868 moving a Resolution in favour of the annexation of Crete to Greece. The insurrection in the island was then allayed owing to the promise of reforms which were never put into practice. So it was ten years later, and again in 1889, but the reforms were never carried out, owing to the bad faith of the Porte. Were not the Cretans now acting only in accordance with common sense in refusing to believe in the promises made to them? The Powers said they were going to give freedom and autonomy to Crete, but had they the power to carry it into effect? The experience of last year showed them that the Concert of Europe was controlled by two despotic Powers. If they wanted to do what was right he did not believe their Russian and German masters would 59 allow them. The Concert of Europe had been the negation of international law. Hon. Members talked in the House and in the country as if the Concert of the six Powers constituted international law; he contended that it constituted the negation of that law. The only claim of the six Powers was that they had force behind them. It was a substitution of might for right. The Under Secretary told them that his Government and the Concert of Europe had given a Constitution to Crete. They had given a Constitution to Crete some eight different times, and it had never been realised. Why the reforms had not been carried out had never been explained yet. They had asked over and over again why this Constitution, was not put in force in Crete, and they were first told that the difficulty in the way was the presence of the Greek troops. Next they were told that simultaneously on the withdrawal of the Greek troops the Turkish troops would go. They were next told that the Greeks must go first; and now, finally, they were only told that, if the Greek troops withdrew then the Turkish garrisons would be reduced. This seemed to be a programme in the wrong direction. What was the Power in the Concert which was preventing the Constitution for Crete being carried into law? The Concert was probably the strongest that ever existed in the history of the world. While it was so strong, it had been shown to be so evil. If they had decided that autonomy was to be given to Crete, and if that was not given, that showed that there was some Power which prevented it being given. When they asked a question on this subject in that House they were told by the Under Secretary that the Government had no information, and, therefore, they had to go elsewhere for information. It seemed to him that they were degraded to this position, that whereas England was in possession of no veto, Germany and Russia held a veto. We had none upon them. [Cheers.] He should like to know whether the Government were going to vouchsafe any information as to what it is going to do in the future? The Greeks, they were told, and the Turks were massed on the frontier; and they were told by Her Majesty's Government that both Powers had been informed that the aggressor would not be allowed to profit by war. 60 Whatever else might be said about the Greek Government, it had not influenced the secret societies; and this was also clear, that, according to international law, the Power which had declared war was Turkey. He believed the country would hold the Government responsible for carrying out their pledge—that whoever might be the aggressor it would not profit by this war. Besides, the territory in Epirus and under the Berlin Treaty 20 years ago—this territory was given to Greece. They were entitled to say as against Her Majesty's Government, that the traditional policy of this country, with regard to insurgents struggling against foreign despots, had not been carried out on this occasion. When they were attempting, 20 years ago, or their predecessors were carrying out a similar policy, they were warned by the predecessors of those now on the Opposition Benches. He believed—for they remembered the incident at Crewe—that the same Nemesis which tracked the Beaconsfield Government would follow on the track of the present Government. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. EDWARD MOON (St. Pancras, N.)
said that the hon. Member's doctrine of nationalities would have the strangest result if applied to the Transvaal. [" Hear, hear! "] The hon. Member claimed that no sooner did Mr. Gladstone's Administration come into power than there was an enlargement of the Greek frontier. That was consequent on the Treaty of Berlin, and if the hon. Member had referred to the protocols, he would have found that Lord Salisbury asked that the Greek representatives might appear before the Berlin Congress and be heard. It had been said that if Russia had been allowed to act under the Treaty of San Stefano there would have been no Armenian massacres. But he challenged any hon. Member to point out massacres which had occurred in any part of the territory proposed to be taken by Russia under the Treaty of San Stefano.
§ MR. MORTON
said that two of the places where the worst of the massacres occurred—the town of Bayazid and the Valley of Alashkeid—would have fallen into the hands of Russia, and Lord Beaconsfield boasted that he had succeeded in taking those two places out of the hands of Russia.
§ MR. MOON
said that, at any rate, those were but a small part of the massacres which had taken place, and the places referred to by the hon. Member were but a very small portion of the territory of which Russia was deprived by the Treaty of Berlin. The phrase, "integrity of the Ottoman Empire," had been a good deal commented on; but the fact that Lord Salisbury had referred to the Treaty of Berlin and the Treaty of Paris in one breath, showed that the integrity of the Ottoman Empire was not a thing which, in his opinion, could not be modified by agreement among the Great Powers. It was one of the merits of Lord Salisbury's Government that they had made that agreement a more perfect instrument for good. As M. Hanotaux had said at the time of the Armenian massacres, the Concert only existed on paper, it was a word; and that it had now become a fact was due to no one more than to Lord Salisbury. The hon. Member had said that the Balkan States had always been united against Turkey. History showed that many a time those States, when oppressed by Russia, had wished the Turks back again.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said he must condole with the Members of the Opposition on the dull character of the Debate. The hon. Member for Devonport, in a speech in the provinces, had said that he and Sir William Harcourt were going to smash up the Concert. He said there—the Liberal Party were anxious to destroy the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and he was anxious and willing to smash the Concert of Europe.
§ MR. MORTON
said that he was referring to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, from which he was quoting.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that he was condoling with the hon. Member on the absence of that tremendous onslaught on Her Majesty's Government which would result in the smashing up of the Concert. He himself was not fond of the Concert, and he was always glad when England stood outside, because he feared her being used for ends which were not English. But on this occasion he was unable to see what other course could have been pursued than to act with 62 the Concert. The attacks made by the right hon. Member for Stirling on every individual Power were entirely undeserved. It was a cardinal principle of French policy to maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and, as had been pointed out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the sake of European peace it was necessary to maintain the territorial integrity of Turkey. Not much had been said about Greece in the course of the Debate. Not one of the hundred Members who signed the ridiculous and insane telegram to Greece had announced his intention of joining the fighting; and the one hon. Member who had gone within reach of bullets had been treated with jeers which were not deserved. The Greeks were to prove themselves worthy descendants of their ancestors; and they had not even been able to get up a fight on the Græco-Turkish frontier. When the Turks came within less than 3,000 yards, away went the Greeks; and the greatest loss of life had been on the occasion when 500 Greeks were trampled to death by their own brethren in headlong flight. The Greeks had been thoroughly beaten, and the Turks were now in occupation up to their old frontier line. He hoped that the Concert would not intervene to rob the Turks now of their well-earned fruits of victory. The Turks had a right to an indemnity, to a retrocession of territory, and, above all, to the assumption by Greece of that portion of the debt which she was to assume when she took over Thessaly. It would be monstrous, and it would not be without danger, if at this moment, when the Turks were victorious, Europe should intervene to rob Turkey of the fruits of the war she had waged. Within the last fortnight hon. Members opposite had learned that the Turk was not the monster he was painted, that he was brave in battle and mild in victory— [Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—that he was one of the best fighting men in Europe, one of the best disciplined, and one of those, to be trusted to extend mercy to the conquered.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said that the Leader of the Opposition, who, as they knew, was absent through indisposition, was anxious to speak upon this question. He had therefore to ask whether the Government would be willing, if this Amendment were 63 divided upon, to postpone the Vote provided they were allowed to make progress with other Votes of a not very contentious character. Personally he was anxious to take part in the Debate, especially after what had been said by the hon. Member for King's Lynn in respect to the telegram to the King of Greece, which he was afraid the hon. Gentleman had not even read.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
understood the Leader of the Opposition did desire that there should be another opportunity of discussing the Foreign Office Vote. The Government were therefore prepared, as soon as the Amendment now before the Committee was disposed of, to postpone the Vote and make progress with other Votes. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 63; Noes, 169.—(Division List, No. 192.)
§ Original question again proposed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
1. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £8,485, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, for the salaries and expenses of the Offices of the House of Lords.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said he did not take objection to any particular item of the Vote, but to the whole Vote. In the items he noticed the Department of the Lord Chancellor. Ireland had its own Lord Chancellor, and did not want to pay for an English Lord Chancellor. He had never heard that the Department of the Clerk of the Parliaments had done any service to Ireland. Then there was the Department of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. He could not understand 64 the retention of this official in these days, and what benefit he conferred on the three kingdoms passed his comprehension. He had a great respect for the Librarian of the House of Lords, and thought that he rendered useful services, but of what use was the Department of the Lord Great Chamberlain? His objection, however, was to the whole Vote. As an Irish representative he contended that Ireland had no interest whatever in retaining the House of Lords; in fact, it was in their interest to get rid of it as quickly as possible. It had obstructed every Irish reform, and when it could not defeat their proposals for reform it had mutilated them and rendered them practically worthless. It was a useless institution from every point of view.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
It will not be possible for the hon. Member to discuss the position of the House of Lords upon the question of the salaries of the House of Lords officers. To get rid of the House of Lords legislation would be necessary, and as the hon. Member was well aware, they could not discuss legislation on dealing with Votes in Supply.
§ MR. CLANCY
said he would not pursue that line of argument, but even from the English point of view he would point out that the House of Lords was a useless institution, for when he intended to make an important announcement he did not do so in the House of Lords, but in the habitation of the Primrose League. Of this sum of £14,485 Ireland paid a twelfth-part, and her taxable capacity had been established by the Report of a Royal Commission to be one-twentieth. Personally he would consent to Ireland paying her fair share for every sum voted by Parliament for Imperial purposes. During the last few weeks they had been treated in that House to an exhibiton of English injustice, which compelled him, as an Irish Member, to avail himself of every opportunity to protest against the excessive taxation which England imposed upon Ireland. If the Government 65 had said they would consider what was the best mode of redressing this grievance his position would have been different, but the Government, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had denied the most patent facts. They had disregarded the authority of Lord Farrer and Lord Welby.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I am afraid that the manner in which the hon. Member is now discussing the subject is not relevant to the Votes in Supply.
§ MR. CLANCY
said his vote, and possibly the votes of other Members, would be determined by the overtaxation of Ireland in connection with these Votes in Supply. That being so, he submitted that he was entitled to discuss whether Ireland was overtaxed or not, and to argue on that basis against the Votes.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The hon. Member is justified in protesting and dividing against this Vote or any other, but I do not think discussion can take place in Supply on the overtaxation of Ireland. That is a separate matter, which would arise in Committee of Ways and Means or on other occasions, but not in Committee of Supply.
§ MR. CLANCY
said he was not attempting to discuss whether Ireland was overtaxed, but he was taking the contribution of Ireland to these Votes and the Report of the Financial Relations Commission as his text.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
That cannot be discussed on the Vote for the Offices of the House of Lords.
§ MR. CLANCY
said he would not, of course, contest the Chairman's ruling. His principal reason for opposing this Vote—and he hoped every Irish Member, would oppose it on the same ground— was not on any paltry item or whether the House of Lords was a useless institution or not, but simply on the ground that Ireland was asked to contribute to the 66 expenses of the offices of the House of Lords in undue proportion, and a grievance of the first magnitude was inflicted on his country. [Nationalist cheers.]
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
compared the expenses of the offices of the House of Lords with those of the House of Commons. While the latter cost £28,000 a, year, the former cost £14,400. The disproportion between the two sums, when they considered the amount of work done by the two Houses, was monstrous. ["Hear, hear!"] If the House of Commons was rightly officered to the extent of £28,000 a year, the proportion spent on the House of Lords should be £4,000. He had no desire or intention to belittle the position and functions of the House of Lords in the affairs of the State. The Lord Chancellor as Speaker of the House of Lords received £4,000 a year, and though the Speaker of the House of Commons had ten times as much to do, he only received £5,000. The number of hours he attended as Speaker of the House of Lords were extremely few, and his duties were extremely few and unimportant. He had no authority over the House of Lords. He was merely an accidental person on the Woolsack. He did not, and could not, give important rulings on points of order as the Speaker of the House of Commons did. He had none of the innumerable attributes of authority which had been committed to their Speaker. If the Speaker of the House of Commons properly received £5,000 a year, they ought to consider whether the salary of the Speaker of the other House should not be reduced to £2,000. But in addition to his £4,000 as Speaker of the House of Lords, the Lord Chancellor received £6,000 a year as President of the Supreme Court and the Court of Chancery, which was charged on the Consolidated Fund. In his own opinion no one who received a salary voted by the House of Commons should occupy any other position than that in respect of which the salary was voted. Otherwise he was a pluralist. But the 67 Lord Chancellor had a third character as Speaker in the House of Lords. In that capacity he had made serious attacks on the independence and rights of the House of Commons. He would say nothing about judicial patronage, in the exercise of which he believed the Lord Chancellor was influenced neither by fear nor affection. [Laughter.] But as regarded his salary as Speaker of the House of Lords, he trusted the Secretary of the Treasury would take this case of pluralism and overpayment into consideration, and that next year the result would be an amicable and reasonable arrangement between the Treasury on the one hand and the Lord Chancellor on the other for the reduction of the Vote. But for his unalterable determination to support the Government in every possible way—[laughter] — he would move the reduction of the Vote. If, however, any other Member would move the reduction he would support him. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DILLON
entirely agreed with the views that had been so admirably expressed by the hon. Member for Lynn Regis. He thought the salaries of the officials of the House of Lords, when compared with the salaries paid to the officers of the House of Commons, were nothing short of a public scandal, and every available opportunity ought to be taken to direct the attention of the taxpayers of the country to the outrageous waste of public money which was going on from year to year in fixing the salaries of the officials in the other Chamber. No one could pretend that the work done by the Speaker of the House of Lords was worth £4,000 a year. Again, take the case of the Librarian of the House of Lords. That gentleman was paid £800 a year, while the assistant Librarian of the House of Commons, whose qualifications were well known to every hon. Member who used the Library, who did more work in one week than the Librarian of the House of Lords did in one year, only received £600 a year as 68 the maximum. Was it not a gross scandal that they should pay £800 a year to a man for doing practically nothing, whereas they only gave £600 a year to one of their servants for working as hard as worked any official in the whole country? He considered the Secretary to the Treasury was bound to offer some explanation for such an absurd and monstrous difference in the salaries. If the Librarian of the House of Lords was to be paid £800 a year, then a fair salary for the Librarian of the House of Commons would be £10,000 a year. He objected to such a waste of the taxpayers' money, and he objected to the whole of the Vote for the salaries of the officials of the House of Lords, which he regarded as a worthless and mischievous institution. The one qualification which now secured a seat in that august assembly was wealth, and, that being so, he thought it would be a very reasonable thing, if the Members of the House of Lords considered themselves as a useful portion of the constitutional machinery of this country, that they should put their hands in their pockets and subscribe the expenses of their own officials. He did not believe the majority of the taxpayers considered the House of Lords a useful institution, and they ought not to be called upon to pay for their officers. He agreed with the hon. Member for North Dublin that this Vote was especially objectionable as regarded the' taxpayers of Ireland, nine out of every ten of whom, if polled, would be found to be in favour of sweeping away the House of Lords altogether, regarding it as a purely mischievous institution. He therefore proposed that the Vote should be reduced by £10,000.
§ MR. MACNEILL
was sorry the hon. Member for Lynn Regis had not evinced the courage of his convictions by moving 69 the reduction personally on the one item of the Lord Chancellor's salary. He had himself some gratification in speaking on this Vote, inasmuch as the Gentleman who would defend it was his economic godfather, from whom he first learned the art of moving economic reductions. It must be recollected that the Speaker of the House of Lords was nothing more and nothing less than a Government official. He was appointed by and went out with the Government. Again, the Speaker of the House of Lords would not have the smallest authority to call any Member of that House to order, or control its proceedings in any way. Furthermore, he need not be a Peer or Member of the House of Lords at all; the place where he sat, on the Woolsack, was technically outside the House of Lords, and many Gentlemen had the use of the House of Lords who were not Peers at all, and never had been Peers. Vice Chancellor Leach, who presided for a considerable time over the House of Lords, was never a Peer, and got no money for it. There were many gentlemen of judicial eminence in the House of Lords, who would, of course, gladly take, for the honour of the position, the ten or fifteen minutes' duties four times in the week which that position involved. It was simply a profligate waste of public money to give a gentleman £4,000 a year for filling the post, even if he had no other, but when coupled with the fact that he got £6,000 a year for the discharge of judicial functions, it became really a gross public scandal. Why, he asked, should not the office of Speaker of the House of Lords be absolutely distinct from, that of the Lord Chancellor, and the salary of the Speaker be reduced to £2,000 or £2,500 a year, which would be a handsome remuneration for the work performed, more especially as the duties were non-responsible? He should also like to see the Speaker of the House of Lords assume an absolutely non-political character. He should be there from 70 Parliament to Parliament, just like the Speaker of the House of Commons, and should be elected by the Lords themselves. He objected to this salary because it was an inflated salary, a wrong, and improper, and because it was likewise unconstitutional when the office was of a political and partisan character. Then the Serjeant-at-Arms in attendance on the Lord Chancellor received £1,500 a year for, practically, issuing tickets to ladies for admission to the House of Lords. He was sure that any half-pay officer would be willing to undertake the duty at £200 or £300 a year. This was all Imperial taxation for which Ireland had to pay her quota, although she got no benefit in any way whatever. The messenger to the Lord Chancellor received £100 a year. It was only a small item, but it showed the waste that was going on. He thought the whole system was one of gross and extravagant waste. The money which was going in this way was simply ground out of the vitals of the poor to support this institution.
§ MR. J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
ventured to point out that the total salary of the Lord Chancellor was £10,000 a year. He received £4,000 nominally as Speaker of the House of Lords, but whether it was divided or not in that way the fact remained that the salary of the Lord Chancellor was £10,000 a year. The Lord Chief Justice had a salary of £8,000, but he was only second in command, while the Lord Chancellor was the head of the legal profession, and, considering how difficult it was in a large and great profession of 9,000 members to become Lord Chancellor, he thought a salary of £10,000 was little enough. The hon. and learned Member for Donegal seemed to make it a matter of complaint that the House of Lords only sat for a few minutes on four days of the week. He would remind the hon. Member that the House of Lords had just as much business to do as the House of Commons, but they did their business seriously and soberly, and got through their work expeditously. 71 They were to be commended for this, and not censured.
§ *THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
,said that the principle which he and the hon. Member for Lynn Regis advocated on the occasion on which they defeated the late Government on this Vote was that the salaries of the officials of the two Houses should be placed on terms of equality. To the opinion he expressed then he still adhered. He thought there could be no justification whatever for the salaries of the officials of the House of Lords being based on a higher scale than those of the officials of the House of Commons; and he was glad to say that that was also the opinion of the House of Lords itself, so far as he was able to gather from the Report of the Committee on the subject. Since that time great reductions had taken place with regard to the scale upon which all future officials of the House of Lords would be remunerated, and already considerable alterations had taken place. In fact, he was not quite sure whether, at the present moment, the salaries of the officials of the House of Commons were not, on the average, somewhat higher than those of the House of Lords. He did not say whether they ought to be or not, but what they contended for in the past was equality. The hon. Member for East Mayo referred especially to the case of the Librarian, but he thought his comparison between, the Assistant Librarian of the House of Commons and the Chief Librarian of the House of Lords was hardly a fair one. He ought to have mentioned that the Chief Librarian of the House of Lords got £800 and certain rooms which he was under an obligation to give up at any time he was required in consideration of an addition of £200 to his salary. His salary, therefore, was really £1,000 and not £800. The hon. Member ought to have compared the salary of the Librarian of the House of Lords at £1,000, with the salary of the Librarian of the House of Commons at £1,200. He thought he should be able 72 to show that, with regard to the principal Clerks at the Table of the House, and with regard to the higher officials, the House of Commons' scale was a higher one than that of the House of Lords. The principal attack on this Vote was with regard to the salary of the Lord Chancellor. Undoubtedly all legal salaries were on a somewhat high scale. They paid their legal officers in the House of Commons, very properly, on a very much higher scale than, they paid the ordinary layman—[laughter]—but he thought it was only fair to recollect, as the hon. Member for East Down had stated, that the Lord Chancellor, after all, was the head of the legal profession in, this country, and that his combined salary of £10,000 was very little above that of the Lord Chief Justice, with the duties of the Speaker of the House of Lords thrown in. But his salary was attacked as Speaker of the House of Lords. His salary in that respect was not so large as that of the Speaker of the House of Commons, though his duties strictly as Speaker in the other House were not perhaps so arduous; but, while £4,000 was a large salary, he did not say it was too large for the work done. But what were the facts of the case? He did not admit the Lord Chancellor's £10,000 was too much for the combined duties, but even if he were to admit it, they would still be bound by Act of Parliament. His hon. Friend was mistaken in supposing that, even if they were to reduce the salary of the Lord Chancellor as Speaker of the House of Lords, they would in any way affect his total salary. The Lord Chancellor received £10,0000 a year under two statutes of 1851 and 1852. Under those statutes he was entitled to receive "the net yearly sum of £10,000," whether he got paid as Speaker of the House of Lords or not. The only result of £4,000 being charged on the House of Lords was that, instead of £10,000, only £6,000 was charged on the Consolidated Fund, and that the House of Commons was afforded an opportunity of criticism. This 73 £10,000 was a stautory charge, and it was not within their power, when discussing the Estimates, to reduce the Lord Chancellor's emoluments.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)
supported the reduction. The Irish Members were interested in this Vote to the extent of £1,500, and he complained that the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod should receive £1,000 in addition to a military pension of £994 as Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery. This, from a democratic point of view, constituted a very grave scandal. Then the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod received £300, in addition to £200 as Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain; and he thought that on inquiry it would be found that the duties of the office were performed more by the last named than by the former. He supported the Amendment of the hon. Member.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he could not support the reduction as moved, but suggested that it should be altered to one of £4,000, because whether the Committee voted this £6,000 or not the Lord Chancellor would still receive his £10,000 a, year out of the Consolidated Fund. His right hon. Friend justified the Lord Chancellor's salary on the ground that it was a legal salary. Yes, but legal salaries were scandalously high. If the Committee looked at the salaries of the Attorney General and the Solicitor General in addition to the salary of the Lord Chancellor, he thought it would be impossible for hon. Members to escape the conviction that the salaries were ridiculously high and furnished no kind of justification for keeping up the Lord Chancellor's salary if it be, as he contended, in itself too high. When his right hon. Friend said that the salary was provided for under Act of Parliament he was afraid that he had been misled by some of his subordinates at the Treasury who were very ignorant of the law. [Laughter.] They gave off-hand opinions as to statutes of which they knew nothing, and which did not exist even.
74 He called attention to the salaries of the Serjeant-at-Arms in both Houses, and drew a picture of the patient figure in the House of Commons sitting night after night in his chair, without leaving it for necessary refreshment, while the same official in the House of Lords, after a few minutes' service joined his domestic circle and participated in its enjoyments. [Laughter.] The salary of the Serjeant-at-Arms in the House of Lords was £1,596, or £396 more than the Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons received. When the duties of the two officials were contrasted it was obviously monstrous that there should be this difference between their salaries.
§ *MR. HANBURY
said that the next holder of the office of Serjeant-at-Arms in the House of Lords would only receive £1,000. He did not suppose that his right hon. Friend would wish to reduce the salary of the present official.
§ MR. DILLON
regretted that he could not comply with the hon. Member's suggestion that he should modify his Amendment. If he were to alter it in the way suggested it would not adequately represent the views which he entertained with regard to the House of Lords.
§ MR. MACNEILL
hoped that the refreshment rooms in the House of Lords would be placed at the disposal of the House of Commons on occasions when there was a specially large muster of Members. The refreshment rooms in the House of Lords were hardly ever used from year's end to year's end. In 1893, when a great number of Members were in attendance in that House the accommodation in the dining rooms was totally insufficient, and Mr. Shaw Lefevre applied to the authorities in whom was vested the control of the refreshment rooms in the House of Lords to allow those rooms to be used by the Members of the House of Commons when the House of Lords was not sitting, and the request was refused. As the House of Commons voted a certain 75 amount in respect of these rooms, he trusted that in future the Members of the House of Commons would be allowed to vise them when they were crowded in their own House.
§ MR. J. DALY (Monaghan, S.)
thought it must be very disagreeable to the Secretary to the Treasury to have to defend this Vote. He should himself have preferred a Motion for the abolition of the House of Lords rather than one for reducing the salaries of the officials of that House. However, the Irish Members had no sympathy with the House of Lords, and having no sympathy with the masters they could scarcely have any sympathy with the servants. The House of Lords had ever been the stumbling-block in the way of beneficial legislation for Ireland—
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I have already pointed out that, in order to get rid of the House of Lords, legislation would be required, and in accordance with a well known rule you cannot discuss what is a subject for legislation in the course of Debates in Supply.
§ MR. DALY
said he, of course, accepted the ruling of the Chair, and would not pursue that point. It had been said that the officials of the House of Lords had not very high salaries. Might he in that connection compare the salary of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords with that of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Commons? In the House of Lords the Chairman of Committees received £2,500 a year for taking the Chair for half-an-hour now and then, whereas he had known the Chairman of Committees in the House of Commons to be in the Chair for 12, 15, and even 24 hours—[laughter]— while he only got the paltry sum of £2,000. If there was anything unfair in the Vote it was the salary of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords. The hon. Member for East Down took the part of the Lord Chancellor, and compared his position with that of the 76 Lord Chief Justice of England. That was a ridiculous comparison. The Lord Chancellor had to attend the House of Lords for a few hours daily, while the Lord Chief Justice had to attend in Court day after day, and also to go on Circuit. He had never heard a legal gentleman support a proposal to cut down the salary of a legal official. He objected to the Vote on the part of Ireland, who had to pay her share. On that ground he should support the Amendment, and he would appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury to allow the Vote to be reduced for the sake of old days. [A laugh.]
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said he intended to vote for the Amendment. It appeared that the scale of salaries in the House of Lords was higher in many instances than that in the House of Commons, but he understood that that was so because it had not been deemed advisable to reduce the salaries of existing holders of office, and that in future the salaries would not be above the scale paid in the House of Commons. As to the case of the Lord Chancellor, he thought there was a great deal to be said for the view taken by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. The Lord Chancellor had much more important duties to perform than those of Speaker of the House of Lords. ["Hear, hear!"] He was the head of the Supreme Court, and taking the scale of salary paid to the Judges, he did not think that £10,000 a year was excessive. ["Hear, hear!"] He knew that in other countries the salaries of judicial officers were much lower than in England, but he was not sure that it was a wise policy to pay low salaries to men occupying judicial and official positions. He was going to vote in favour of the Amendment, however, not because he was in favour of a niggardly and cheeseparing policy. If he were an English Member he would certainly support the Vote. But although he was a Member of this Parliament, he was not an English representative, and although he was in this Parliament, he 77 could scarcely call himself of it. He was there to represent a distinct interest, and of every shilling voted on every Estimate that came before the House, Ireland was called upon to pay more than her fair share, and on that broad ground, and apart altogether from the arguments that had been advanced, he should vote in favour of the Amendment, and, as far as it was in his power to do so, against every shilling that was asked for for the public service of this country. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. MACNEILL
wished to have some information with regard to the Lord Great Chamberlain, whose Department cost very close upon £5,000 a year. The Lord Great Chamberlain seemed to have as many domestic servants as King Solomon himself. Ireland was interested in this matter in the proportion of two shares to 17.
§ *MR. HANBURY
said there was no charge for the Lord Great Chamberlain on this Vote at all. The Lord Great Chamberlain was responsible for the care of the Houses of Parliament, and it was simply for the officials under him, cleaners, housekeepers, and so forth, who had to carry out the duties and arrangements of the Palace of Westminster, that the charges set forth in the Vote were made.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
called attention to the number of persons in the House of Lords who enjoyed more than one salary. These included the messenger to the Crown Office, the clerk to the Examiner of Standing Orders, the messenger to ditto, and the clerk of printed papers. He felt bound to call attention to the monstrous system of pluralism of offices which obtained all through these Votes. When a man was in the public service he ought not to receive pay and allowances from the public in another capacity; it ought to be a recognised principle that the whole of his time and service in the capacity in which he was admitted to the public service belonged to the public. The present system was 78 extremely mischievous, and tended both to the demoralisation of the public service and the unnecessary increase of public expense.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,485, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 50; Noes, 153.—(Division List, No. 193.)
§ Original Question put:—The Committee divided:—Ayes, 162; Noes, 39.—(Division List, No. 194.)
2. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £7,074, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council.
§ MR. CLANCY
said he opposed this Vote on the same ground on which he opposed the last, and on which he intended to oppose every Vote submitted to the Committee. [A laugh.] He believed that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council discharged their duties in a most satisfactory manner, but as an Irish representative he refused to vote a single penny in aid of the service the Committee rendered. In consequence of the action of the Government upon the financial question, in consequence of their attempt to throw ridicule upon the Royal Commission, and in consequence of their proposal to appoint another Commission to bring in a verdict for them—
§ MR. CLANCY
said that was his reason at all events. [Laughter.] He did not understand the laughter of hon. Gentlemen, but perhaps they would laugh the other way at the end of the Session, or 79 at the end of this Sitting, if every Irish Member carried out the policy which he intended to pursue, namely, to obstruct every Vote submitted—
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
If the hon. Gentleman avows that his only object in speaking is obstruction, I am afraid I shall have to put the more severe Rules of the House in force against him. [Cheers.]
§ MR. CLANCY
said he had no intention of disguising his intentions. In his opinion any means that were open to them, whether within the Rules of Order or without the Rules of Order— [laughter]—
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The hon. Member is not confining himself to the Vote before the House, and I must ask him to resume his seat. [Cheers.]
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that £1,700 was set down as the salary of the Clerk of the Council. In former times the Privy Council was the most important body in the State, and the business of the Clerk was to keep a book which formed a permanent record of the advice given to the Sovereign and of the grounds upon which the advice was based. It was that book alone which enabled the House to impeach a Minister for any misdoing. Now, however, the Privy Council had substantially ceased to exist. There was what was called a Committee of the Privy Council, which consisted of Cabinet Ministers, but no record of their proceedings was kept. As the office of Clerk was, therefore, a purely nominal one, £1,700 a year was far too large a salary to pay. He moved, "That item A (Salaries), be reduced by £700, in respect of the salary of the Clerk of the Council."
§ MR. MACNEILL
said there was no record of the proceedings of the Privy Council, whose members were sworn to inviolable secresy, and this clerkship was merely a means of giving outdoor relief to some supporter or stalwart of one Government or another. He desired to know for what service the Clerk 80 of the Council was paid £1,700. He was unable to see from the Estimate whether the salary was appropriated to the Privy Council in its judicial, its administrative, or its consultative capacity. He believed it was appropriated to the Council in its consultative capacity, and, if that were so, he declared, as a matter of fact, that the Clerk did nothing to earn the salary. He toiled not, he wrote not, and he reaped a golden harvest, but he had not the satisfaction of reaping it with the sweat of his brow.
§ *MR. HANBURY
said that while in some respects the duties of the Clerk of the Council had diminished, in other respects they had increased. The salary of the Clerk was made up of two items— £200 for attendance on Her Majesty, and £1,500 as Clerk of the Council. Formerly there used to be four Clerks, but, as the work of the Council decreased, so the number had been reduced until now there was only one.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said his right hon. Friend must have been misinformed by some subordinate when he said that Orders in Council were prepared by the Clerk of the Council. As a matter of fact, every Order in Council was drawn up by the Department to which it referred. He knew as a matter of personal knowledge that a certain Order in Council in regard to the rule of the road at sea was drawn up by some second division Clerk of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. WALTER HAZELL (Leicester)
said it was very difficult, if not impossible, for the Committee to discuss fairly and adequately the duties of offices such as the office of Clerk of the Council. He thought there should be a permanent Committee of the House to investigate the duties and emoluments of every office when it became vacant, and recommend to the House such changes as it thought fit in regard to those duties and emoluments.
§ MR. MACNEILL
said he desired to again repeat that the Clerk of the Council got £1,700 a year for doing nothing, 81 and he had five or six assistants to help him in doing nothing. The item of £200 to which the Secretary of the Treasury had referred as being paid in the Clerk of the Council was the method of paying the Clerk of the Council's travelling expenses from Whitehall on a Saturday afternoon down to the Isle of Wight or Windsor on the rare occasions on which there were Privy Councillors to be sworn in and Her Majesty was present at the Council. This office was a sinecure, and a gross and corrupt job. He remembered they used to say at college that the best proctor was he who had been the most notorious scamp in his younger days. [Laughter.] That was not the only office in which that principle had been applied. He would study Hanbury in "Hansard" in order to learn how to attack this item, but in the meantime perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would give them an official answer, to which they might listen with entertainment and instruction.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 10; Noes, 167.—(Division List, No. 195.)
§ MR. MACNEILL
moved: —That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £1,142, in respect of the salary of the Deputy Clerk of the Council and the Chief Clerk.He said this gentleman did nothing, and assisted another, getting £1,700 a year to do nothing. He hoped that in these matters the Irish Members would have assistance from English Radical Members. The discussions should not fall entirely on the former.
§ MR. ALBERT SPICER (Monmouth Boroughs)
asked the Secretary to the Treasury whose duty it was to report periodically to the Treasury whether these positions in connection with the Privy Council were still necessary to the public service?
§ MR. HAZELL
asked whether, if this particular office in some way came to an end, the right hon. Gentleman would con- 82 sider it necessary, in the public service, that another gentleman should be appointed?
§ *MR. HANBURY
observed that, in order to show the careful control exercised, partly by the Lord President of the Council and partly by the Treasury, over this Vote, he had stated, in reply to the last Amendment, that these clerks had gradually been cut down as the work had decreased. A careful eye was kept over the Estimate with a view to the possibility of reduction on vacancies occurring.
§ MR. SPICER
said the right hon. Gentleman had not answered the question who was responsible, on the part of the Privy Council, for informing the Treasury that every one of these officers was still necessary for the public service?
§ *MR. HANBURY
replied that the head of the Department—the Duke of Devonshire—was responsible for sending in the Estimate.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL
pointed out that there was an increase in the Vote this year as compared with last year. In the previous year it was £1,117, whilst this year it was £1,142. Was it by a Treasury Minute that the increase took place?
§ *MR. HANBURY
An annual increment of £25 has accrued. This officer was appointed upon a certain scale of salary. When the appointment was made the scale was based upon the idea that he was to have an annual increment, and he has to get what was promised him when he took the place.
§ MR. T. BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)
asked if these were two distinct offices occupied by one gentleman?
§ *MR. HANBURY
Yes; this is indicated in the column headed "Numbers." He has duties of his own to pre-form as Chief Clerk, and in the absence of the Clerk of the Council he takes his place.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
remarked that the right hon. Gentleman had told them the number of reductions of the clerks, but that referred to Clerks of the Council. He saw that, taking out this gentleman with the two offices, they should still have left one senior clerk, one junior clerk, one clerk of the second division, and two clerks of the second division. Surely that was enough staff to assist a gentleman who was doing nothing?
§ Question put "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 163; Noes, 49.—(Division List, No. 196.)
§ Question put accordingly.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 43; Noes, 168.—(Division List, No. 197.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 168; Noes, 39.—(Division List, No. 198.)
§ And, it being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.