§ [SECOND ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £13,900,000, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899.
§ *MR. JOHN E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
The Vote for the Home Office (£40,000) relates to the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, and there have been a large number of licences and certificates issued. They have been increasing during the last few years. It is within my knowledge that there is a desire on both sides of the House to have a discussion as to the manner in which that Act is being carried out, but this cannot be done effectively without the latest facts and figures. We ought to have the Return which is required under the Act to be annually laid before Parliament. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some assurance that we shall have it within the next few weeks?
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir M. WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, N., Blackpool
I really do not know when the Return will be ready. All I can say is that I will hurry it forward with the greatest possible expedition. I think the hon. Member is wrong in saying that there has been a large increase in the number of licences.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
A considerable number of Members desire to discuss on this Vote certain matters in connection with the operation of the Factory Acts. Before I mention two or three such matters 628 there is one isolated question which I should like to address to the right hon. Gentleman on a matter of some importance. There has recently been attention called throughout the literary world to the refusal of the Home Office of this country to allow any inspection of documents relating to the period of the great war. In every other country in the world—certainly in every leading country—such documents are open to inspection. One would suppose that other countries would have more reason to conceal their documents than we have, but at St. Petersburg—where historical documents have been used with very great effect by a large number of historians—all such documents have recently been thrown open to the world at large. In the case of Vienna and Berlin the most secret records have been thrown open, and largely used by such historians within the last few years. In this country the Foreign Office until lately, I believe, refused inspection of their documents. Certainly they did so in a well-known case two or three years ago. This year a case has been refused by the Home Office where permission had been granted by the Foreign Office. What reason could the Home Office have for not granting this permission? I put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether documents prior to the year 1815 might not be thrown open to historians at large. I think the time has now come when all documents of historical interest might be thrown open to historians. I now, Sir, turn to another matter. I received this morning a most remarkable report on the fish-curing industry, which raises a Question which will be heard of a great deal more in the course of the present Session. The document in question was written by two of the inspectors of the Factory Department, and that document professes to be largely based upon the opinion of the workers in the trade. I wish to give, from all the information in my possession, a strong opinion that that report does not represent the workers of the trade, and I wish to take issue with almost all the statements contained in that document. Now, Sir, last year a Bill was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington upon this question, and some Debate took place on two occasions on the Home Office Votes in regard to it. 629 At that time the Secretary of State somewhat surprised us by defending what we cannot but think is a certain laxity in the administration of the law, which has existed not in his time especially—I do not wish to make any personal attack with regard to the matter—but which has existed for a considerable time in the Home Office. Sir, the law with regard to fish-curing is in a very curious position. An exception to the Factory Act was introduced on behalf of certain branches of the fish-curing trades, and that exception is entirely anomalous, for there is no exception like it in any other trade. There are for all season trades, which are limited to a certain portion of the year, or in which there is a danger of goods perishing, certain exemptions, but they are exemptions of a general description, applying to all trades of a similar class. As regards fish-curing, there is not only that kind of exemption, but a special and complete exemption from all the provisions of the Factory Act altogether. Now, Sir, the case that I submit to the Committee is that any exemption of that kind ought to be strictly interpreted; that it is not in the power and not consistent with the duty of the Home Office to extend that exemption by any interpretation of their own. If you are going to begin listening to complaints of some of the small employers in any particular trade, and to take their view, and extend exemptions to them, you break down Factory Legislation altogether. There will be nothing left if you listen to them. There is no trade in which you will not hear complaints. Now, Sir, the exemption which is given by the law is to a process of "gutting, salting, and packing fish immediately on its arrival in the boats." It is almost incredible, but it is the case, that these words have been extended—the process of "gutting, salting, and packing fish"—to include all sorts of other processes, and the words "immediately on its arrival in the boats," have been extended to include the practice by the Home Office of abstaining from prosecution for breaches of the Act in inland towns where the fish arrives by train. I do not think that statement will be denied that the law is broken. The law strictly is broken in inland towns in the fish trade, 630 and factory inspectors have abstained from prosecutions. Possibly they have had a circular directing them to abstain from all prosecutions. But recently there was a very remarkable prosecution—a single prosecution—in the borough of Great Yarmouth, a fish-curing town. That prosecution was one which all of us who have watched the operations of this portion of the law were gratified with, because it appeared to be an acceptance by the Home Office of the position we took up last year, when we opposed the Bill of the right hon. Member for Islington for extending the exemption, so as to bring the law and practice into accord, when he tried to increase and extend exemption. But in this Great Yarmouth prosecution, Mr. Hoare, the inspector, took the prosecution in the case I have named, and obtained a conviction. I say it is remarkable he should have done so, for two reasons. The first is, that the firm prosecuted quoted against him what they had understood to be the practice of the Home Office upon this exemption; and in the second place it was a prosecution before a Bench of magistrates in Great Yarmouth, which might be supposed to be associated with the fish-curing industry, and likely to take a lenient view of the matter. Well, Sir, there was a conviction in that case, and I am very glad of it; but what I want is that the right hon. Gentleman, instead of discouraging the inspectors, should encourage them to take similar action to that taken by Mr. Hoare, in the Great Yarmouth case—to take similar action elsewhere. I had an interview with the head of a very great firm in London, the firm of Maconachies. Does the right hon. Gentleman not know, from the report made to him, that in the case of the Maconachies the heads of the firm believe honestly that they are justified in the case of fish which arrives by train in making up Army rations—they are the greatest contractors for the Army—they are justified in acting upon the view of the law which the Home Office has hitherto taken. There have recently been issued very widely throughout the country some statistics put forward on behalf of a new company. I think the hon. Member for Islington has some connection with that company, which has informed the country at large that steam 631 as a motive power, and ice as a preservative, have now completely revolutionised this trade. If there was any ground for exemption originally with regard to the Scotch herring trade, the use of ice and steam have brought that amount of regularity in the trade, which renders exemption unnecessary. [No!] Perhaps the hon. Member will not go with me in the main case against the existing exemption in the law. I think my hon. Friend will go with me that, at all events, we ought to enforce the law as it stands, and the Home Office ought not to be allowed to extend the existing exemption, introduced against the wish of Aberdeen, which is largely interested in the herring trade, and which is now to be extended by the Home Office in the manner stated in this report. I said, in starting, that the two inspectors who signed this report have based it upon the supposed opinion of the working people employed in this trade, which is chiefly a women's trade. This is not a season trade for a portion of the year, in which case the House might think the women might fairly be worked for very long hours in a portion of the year. It is an all-the-year-round trade, for most of these women follow the trade round the coast. I have known them begin at Stornoway in the spring, and follow the work round the coast, ending at Yarmouth in the winter, and thus the women are worked for monstrously long hours, because they are worked wholly without reference to the Factory Act. It is a remarkable fact, so far as I know, that the whole of the trades councils concerned with this industry strongly support the view which I have the honour to put before you, and the trades councils of Aberdeen, Dundee, Newcastle, and Grimsby took that view in the very strongest possible terms. They are against the present exemption, but if they cannot get rid of the present exemption, they are altogether opposed to extending it in the way suggested. Now, Sir, at this moment the practice of the Home Office has hitherto been to take no prosecutions in cases where there is such an extentsion as this in the exemption of the law. The Committee will remember the words "gutting, salting, and packing of fish immediately on its arrival in the boats." 632 Can it be believed that this is in practice extended to cover such processes as the making of bloater paste and shrimp paste? It is a fact that no prosecutions have been taken in these trades, although they have been carried on with the long hours I have stated. It has been contended by the French that the lobster is a fish, but our Government have taken a more extreme view than the Government of France, and they have extended "gutting, salting, and packing fish" to cover the making of shrimp and bloater paste. The hours of the girls engaged in this industry are frightfully long. If the exemption were repealed and if the law were enforced the hours in this trade, even without the exemption, are unfortunately longer than those of almost any other trade, because during 60 days of the year they can work under the Perishable Goods Exemption Clause, and under that they can work without the ordinary limit of the Act. The hours which are recommended in this Report, circulated this morning, are the same hours which have been adopted by Parliament for laundries, and they were opposed by the majority of the Grand Committee upon the last Bill as regards laundries. They were opposed by the right hon. Gentleman who was then Secretary of State, but they were forced upon him by a minority of the Grand Committee, and accepted in order to get through that Bill. They have failed to work with regard to laundries, and the result has been disastrous, and yet the hours proposed for the fish trade are the hours for laundries, with the addition of the hours for perishable goods for 60 days in the year. In the case of the fish industry there will be 60 days, whereas there are only 30 days in regard to laundries. We have had this Report, based, it is said, on the opinion largely of the women workers engaged in the trade, although I am prepared entirely to deny the accuracy of this statement. How have the inspectors obtained or received the opinion of the women workers of the trade? That opinion would be best gathered, I submit, rather by one of the women inspectors than by the men. It is a woman's trade, and it is a trade which naturally would come within the ken of women inspectors. In the Annual Report of the Factory Department 633 for 1895 we are told, as a gratifying instance of the work of women inspectors, that one of them had been directed to report upon this trade, and that she has spent two months working at the matter and preparing her Report. That Report has been laid before the House. That would have been a Report which would have given the opinion of women workers in this trade from real knowledge. But that is kept back from the House, and there is no allusion to it in the Report before the House; and in that Report we have the opinion of two of the inspectors who have spent perhaps less time than the lady inspector did in looking into the condition of this industry. Well, Sir, the next matter which I wish to mention is one where I have no kind of attack to make. It is a matter which. I know is engaging the careful attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and all I wish to do is to further open the door by pressing it still more warmly upon his attention. The hon. Member for Berwickshire will speak with much more authority than I can, and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, who represents the district concerned, and who has himself a very close personal acquaintance with the trade, will also speak with authority. I refer to the lead processes in the pottery trade. Several questions have been asked during this Session with regard to the terrible number of deaths which are occurring in this industry, and the diseases which are produced by it. There were cases brought to my knowledge the other day, in which we had four girls and a boy blinded by the direct consequences of this industry; the four girls were under 18, and the one boy was 16. Well, now, Sir, we have had the Home Secretary's answer with regard to male young persons to a question asked in this House this Session, when he told us that there were, I think, 30 cases in a year. What I wish to submit is this, that the returned cases directly and admittedly due to lead poisoning in the Potteries are but a very small proportion of the total number suffering.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
The right hon. Gentleman agrees, and so I will not labour 634 that point. Obviously, it is a well-known fact that paralysis and a great number of other diseases are largely traceable to this particular cause. Cases of deaths also of the children and women workers are returned as due to ordinary natural causes known by the names of well-known diseases, but which are due, in the opinion of everyone who has investigated this trade, to the terrible results of the dangerous processes in use in this trade in the Potteries. Now, what suggestions ought we to make with regard to dealing with this evil, the extent of which is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, with his knowledge of the dangerous processes of the trades generally, will be able to make valuable suggestions to the House in the course of this Debate. Naturally, the first point with the chief inspector responsible for dealing with these trades will be as to how far his rules have been observed, and the non-observance of the rules of his Department would be a matter which would first attract his attention. What I wish to put before the Committee is that the special rules are not good enough and that more of them are needed. If the rules were kept they would still be insufficient. The peculiar susceptibility of young persons to the poison of the lead in the dangerous processes of this pottery work is a matter which ought to have our first attention. Personally, I should be in favour of prohibiting the employment of young persons in the dangerous processes of this industry. Now, Sir, my honourable Friend the Member for Berwickshire will make other suggestions, but there is one suggestion which has been made by the local Trades Council which is, I think, of value. They desire that there should be a special inspector for that particular district, which is a very concentrated district. There is a very large amount of employment of labour of that description within a very limited area, and it is not mixed up with other trades. It is a peculiar and isolated case, and looking to the fact that the work of the inspector in that district is chiefly connected with looking out for the causes of disease, I think there is a case for a woman inspector being in charge of that district. The difficulty in 635 the way of placing women inspectors in charge of districts, even where the great majority are women and young people, has always been the machinery question, and the lack of technical knowledge with regard to machinery, although there is great exaggeration as regards this difficulty in regard to them, because many of the women inspectors have a great knowledge, technical knowledge, and many of the male inspectors have no such knowledge. But that is a difficulty, and we must face it. Here is a district where there is but a small amount of machinery in proportion to the number of people employed, and machinery plays but a small part in the trade, where an enormous proportion of the workers in the dangerous processes are women and young people, peculiarly susceptible to this disease. It appears to me, therefore, that this is a case where in this special area a woman inspector might very well be appointed, and have charge of that district. Sir, this leads me to the last matter with which I will trouble the Committee, and that is the present position of the Women's Department of the Factory Department. Several questions have been asked by Conservative Members in the course of the present Session with regard to the present position of that Department. In August last a question was put by me with regard to the changes in that Department, and there was a certain difference between the answer given then by the right hon. Gentleman and the answer which he gave in the course of the present Session. The main points for the Committee to consider are these: the Department was working successfully so far as we know, and so far as we assumed from the annual reports and by the statements made in this House by the late Home Secretary, who initiated it, and by the present Home Secretary—that the Department was working successfully before any changes were made. Then why make any changes at all in a system which is working well and which has the confidence in a remarkable degree of the working population of this country? It had enlisted in the working of the Factory Department of the Home Office an enormous amount of popularity which it did not previously possess. In August last, in answer to a question I put with regard to this matter, the right hon. Gentleman 636 made a statement under three heads; the first was prosecution, and he then said that where the district inspector and the woman inspector were in agreement there was no need to refer to the chief inspector. That is what he said in August last; but now, in reply to the Member for Heywood, he says that the views of the lady inspector must be endorsed by the chief inspector. When Mrs. Tennant was superintending inspector there could be no question of this kind, but cases have recently arisen which show that the right hon. Gentleman is hardly justified in saying that the changes made in no way diminish the importance of the woman's department. Sir, I put a question the other day with regard to an Edinburgh case, known as the M'Vitie case, in connection with which a letter was read from the man inspector, virtually giving his sanction to an illegal proceeding. It is true that, in that case, the right hon. Gentleman reproved and reprimanded the inspector, but it, seems to me that that is a case which could not have happened in the time of the former Superintending Inspector. Moreover, the case shows, not only friction in, but also the inferiority of the present position of, the Department, compared with that which it formerly occupied. The right hon. Gentleman must not treat this as a technical grievance. He must know that another substantial difference between the past and the present is the increasing delay in dealing with complaints sent to the woman's department; that does not mean inferiority on the part of the present staff, but it means that there is routine and red-tape and confusion in dealing with these prosecutions. I shall not press the second of the three points raised in my Question last year, because the right hon. Gentleman has said that the present position of the lady inspector, in what he called the "counsels of the Department," is substantially what it used to be, and I accept that assurance. With regard to the third point, I wish to say one word, concerning the power of the women inspectors to order structural changes. A difficulty appears to have arisen with regard to their interfering with the machinery, but the structural changes, to which I refer do not concern machinery; they concern matters 637 in which the lady inspectors are specially trained, and of which many of them have a knowledge and an experience considerably exceeding that of the ordinary factory inspector. Take the case of ventilation! Most of these lady inspectors, having acted previously as sanitary inspectors with great distinction are thoroughly conversant with what is required in the way of ventilation. But nowadays, if a woman inspector says that a stove is wanted in January, it is obtained in July; if she says that ventilation is required in July it is given in January; and all because there is more red-tape now than formerly. There is only one other matter I wish to mention, and that is the delay in the preparation and presentation to Parliament of the Annual Report. Each year the report is later in appearing, and last year it was much later than it had ever previously been. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, says, the reason of its lateness is that it is kept back for the preparation of statistics. Sir, these statistics would be most valuable if laid before the House every few years, but I do not see why inspectors should be taken from other important work, which is allowed to fall into arrear, in order to prepare the statistics, for which the Annual Report is kept back. The excessive attention given to statistics within the last two or three years, should be avoided in the future, and the report made a simple document, which can be prepared more rapidly and laid before the House with less delay than at present.
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeen, E.)
There is one portion of my constituency that is greatly interested in the subject of fish-curing, referred to by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, One-sixth of the whole of the population engaged in the fishing industry in Scotland, live in Fraserburgh, which is the largest herring port in the kingdom. The right hon. Baronet's remarks were not at all applicable to the herring-curing trade. A document has been sent to me from the Christian Social Union Research Committee, and the London branch of the Women's Trade Union League, and in that document I find a good many of 638 the statements which the right hon. Baronet has given to the House. Sir, it appears to me that, although not many places are mentioned in that document, yet the statements in it, apply only to the kippering trade, and have nothing to do with herring-curing. I must express dissent from one statement made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. The right hon. Member said that the advent of steam and the use of ice had practically revolutionised the fish-curing industry, and rendered unnecessary exemptions under the Factory Act; but anyone who is acquainted with the herring trade knows that no vessels worked by steam are employed, and little or no ice is used in the curing. In herring-curing there are certain elementary processes which must be done immediately upon the landing of the fish, otherwise large quantities perish. Like all fishing industries the herring trade is very uncertain. Sometimes there is a bad season, such as happened last year, and sometimes, as in the previous two years, there is a good catch. Another uncertainty about the herring trade, and one which makes the application of the Factory Acts difficult, is that the herrings vary the places and the time at which they appear, and the boats come in at, all hours of the night and day. The necessary elementary processes of curing that have to be gone through are not numerous, and do not occupy a great amount of time, but it is essential to the industry that these processes should be gone through immediately and without delay. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean, threw doubt upon the statement that all those interested in the herring-fishing industry were in favour of these exemptions being maintained and extended; and he further expressed doubts as to whether those working in the industry could possibly be in favour of these exemptions. It is, of course, difficult to dispossess the right hon. Baronet of these ideas, but I can only say that in all parts of this community, and in places where it is a subject of great importance, the people have constantly brought it under my notice during the last few years; and that when I was last among them, only a few weeks ago, representations were made to me from all those interested in the industry. 639 The women, who largely come from the West Highlands, and do the gutting and packing, have represented strongly in favour of these exemptions being maintained, so that the prosperity of the industry might be preserved. The figures given in the document read by the right hon. Baronet do not apply to the herring industry. The processes of gutting and packing do not go on continuously. The hours of the women are comparatively short, but undoubtedly they are irregular—sometimes they are working in the morning and generally in the afternoon; but sometimes they have to work very late at night, and early in the morning. They have to do a great deal of their work at irregular and very late hours, but they have nothing like the hours mentioned in the Report quoted by the right hon. Baronet. There is no Sunday labour, because the boats do not go out on Saturday nights. What is it after all that the fish-curers and the fishing industry generally contend for? What they ask, and what the Report just issued from the Home Office recommends, is total exemption for those hours of labour necessary for the emergency processes to save the fish from spoiling. They do not want exemption from the sanitary regulations, or from the general operations of the Act; but they contend that, if the herring industry is to be maintained in its prosperity, satisfactory exemptions must be made with regard to the necessary processes for curing the fish. I hope the Government will take up this matter, and endeavour to frame and bring forward a Bill which will make the exemptions in the Act correspond with the facts of the case, so that it may be possible for this industry to be carried on satisfactorily. I would also urge upon the Home Secretary that those interested in this great industry have no wish for any general exemption, and particularly have no desire for anything beyond what was recommended in the Report.
§ *MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
The remarks I desire to address to the House are caused only by my anxiety to shield the unfortunate workers in these dangerous trades from many of the evils under which they are 640 conducted. The first case I take is that of persons occupied in the bottling of aërated water. I should like the House to realise that the Departmental Committee on Dangerous Trades, in their Report of July, 1896, recommended that all labellers should be provided with face masks. The special rules, based upon those recommendations, contain an exemption for persons labelling bottles standing in cases. Very shortly after the issue of that Report a boy named Chafer received such injuries that he died. I do not know if that case has been brought before the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, but I bring it now, and I ask him if he will reconsider the case of persons engaged in the labelling of aërated waters standing in cases. I also desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he knows of an accident at Hull in June, 1897, to a man who was painting the fish-room of the trawler Britannia,lying in St. Andrew's Dock. The man was using inflammable paint, and it exploded, inflicting upon him such injuries that he shortly afterwards died, four men who were working with him having narrow escapes. There is also the case of a boy, 13 years of age, who was burned to death by an explosion of inflammable paint at the works of Messrs. Thompson and Co., Millfield, near Wolverhampton. Then I come to the question of the electrical works. The Report on the Electrical Generating Works was only issued last year. I know the difficulty in the matter, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman has expressed his great willingness to do all in his power to assist those who are anxious for a reform in this matter. I am aware of the divergence of opinion between the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bring in a Bill to bring within the scope of the Factory and Workshop Acts all places where electricity is generated, stored, or transformed for distribution. Coming to the question of indiarubber works, there is lying on the Table an Order signed by the Secretary of State which makes certain special rules to be observed in India-rubber works. People who are 641 obliged to work in these places suffer from loss of appetite in consequence of being compelled to eat their food in an atmosphere impregnated with naphtha. I think it is very desirable, if the Secretary of State can see his way to do it, that he should reconsider the Order lying on the Table, and that he will issue an order prohibiting the taking of meals by the workpeople in indiarubber works where naphtha is present in large volumes, as well as in places where carbon bisulphide is used. I do not know if the attention of the right hon. Gentleman has been called to a letter which was written on the 27th January of this year by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. In that letter Mr. Craig Sellar, the private secretary of the right hon. Gentleman, wrote as follows—
§ "27th January.
§ "Dear Sir,—I am directed by Mr. Chamberlain to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 26th inst. with regard to the case of three girls blinded by lead-poisoning in the course of their work in the Potteries.
§ "I am to point out in reply that if their injuries were caused, as you allege, through neglect of their employer, they have a remedy already under the existing law; while if they were injured under circumstances over which the employer had no control, the new Act, when it comes into operation, affords a remedy in such cases.—I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
§ "GERARD CRAIG SELLAR."
§ I should like to know if that is the view of the right hon. Gentleman. I ventured to put such a question to the hon. and learned Member the Attorney General, but he was not able to give me the information I desired. I do not quite know if he shares the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The Home Secretary, in answer to a question in this House, told me that he did not feel inclined to alter the existing law which we spent so much time over last Session, and that those persons who have received these grave injuries will therefore have to go without any compensation. In the case of these three girls I have their names in my hands. One of the cases is that of a girl of 18 from Burslem, and it is very sad. She has worked in the dipping-house for two years, and she has been blind for a year. She comes as a heavy 642 burden on a young married sister, who has herself to work, and in whose household there is already a crippled girl, and a mother whose age is 60. There are two other cases. One is a girl of 18 belonging to Burslem. She has worked in the dipping-house for six months, and she has been blind for several months. I have visited many places in England—indeed, I have seen nearly the whole of the white lead works in this country—and what I have seen has been really enough to make one's blood run cold. These girls ought really to be healthy, active, and vigorous, and yet they are crippled, blind, and paralysed, all of them of the ages of 16, 17, 18, or 20. I do think this is a very grave question and is worthy of the attention of the Secretary of State. Then there is the case of a man named Owen, a dipper in the Potteries, who died of lead-poisoning. This occurred only last week. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean has recently said that lead-poisoning is not the only trouble from which these people suffer. My attention has been called to the Registrar General's Return of births, deaths, and marriages for 1897. In that Report I find some very interesting figures. A thousand and one potters die of phthisis and diseases of the respiratory organs, where 221 agriculturists, or four and a half times as many die. I find that potters die from phthisis in greater numbers than in almost any other occupation; the mortality returns from 1881 to 1891 show that there are more deaths from respiratory diseases than there are in any other dust-producing industry. The right hon. Baronet suggested that I should make suggestions to the Secretary of State. I do not consider I am in a position to do so. I might, however, suggest one or two small matters. I would ask that the Secretary of State should lay upon the Table of the House all the reports he has received from inspectors of factories, both male and female, and would also ask that, in any special rules which may be drawn up, there shall be one which, in my judgment, would be of the greatest importance, and would be most likely to stop a considerable amount of lead-poisoning—namely, that every worker in a dangerous process should, before he or she is taken on, be certified by the certifying surgeon of the 643 district as not suffering from lead-poisoning; that they should be subjected, not merely to a preliminary examination, but to periodic examinations by the certifying surgeon. That, I think, might lead to very good results. This is really a very grave matter, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman thinks so too. I would point out to him that it is a matter which, in the judgment of everybody who is interested in the case, is one which cannot be dealt with merely by the report of the inspector for the district. An inspector, going his rounds, sees so many cases of "potters' rot," phthisis, lead-poisoning, paralysis, and blinding, that he becomes case-hardened. I cannot say that the chief inspector himself, who has been down to the Potteries himself recently, could give sufficient time and attention to this matter. I think a most minute, exhaustive, and careful inquiry is demanded to meet the circumstances of the case, and without it neither the House nor the country can or will be satisfied.
§ MR. G. WHITELEY (Stockport)
The right hon. Baronet has urged that, in the present administration, some departure has taken place from the practices and the procedure of previous Home Secretaries, and that this departure has resulted in a lowering of the state of health generally. I think those hon. Members who have mills, or factories, or workshops of their own, must be of opinion that the work of the lady inspectors has, indeed, been very valuable to the working classes of the country. There is a great deal of what goes on in these factories and workshops concerning women and children, which are things with which women are more competent to deal than their male confrères.In Lancashire, we should be sorry to see any lowering of the status of lady inspectors. On one point, however, I can not agree with my right hon. Friend—that is, the giving of power to lady inspectors of ordering structural alterations. I think, in these matters, an expert knowledge is required—the knowledge of an architect well acquainted with sanitary laws. There are many such matters which cannot be within the 644 knowledge of lady inspectors. Speaking as a manufacturer, I think we ought not to be subjected to harassing requisitions on the part of inspectors. At any rate, all structural alterations of any magnitude whatever should be suggested to us by a Chief Inspector who has expert knowledge.
§ *MR. W. WOODALL (Hanley)
Representing, as I do, a pottery district, and being intimately connected with the trade myself, I cannot refrain from saying a few words, especially after the impressive speech made to the Committee by the hon. Member for Berwickshire. That these dangers involve serious consequences to the health and even lives of the people who are engaged in this trade none of us will deny. But here I would like to interpose with the cases of blindness which have been attributed to lead-poisoning, and which have been particularised. In one of those particular cases, the details of which have been given, I regret to say that I was in some measure responsible, the girl having been employed by the firm with which I am connected. But, I would just like to say the suggestion that this poor girl would be left utterly dependent upon her relatives, relatives as poor as herself, is absolutely unfounded, for the reason that the firm has taken over and accepted the responsibility of arranging for her education in the School for the Blind at Liverpool, and her welfare, I am glad to say, will not suffer in any way. Although I have not the authority so to speak for others, I am quite sure that other employers, who experience anything of a similar nature to this very painful case, will exercise a similar care over the welfare of the sufferer. But while this House will naturally concern itself with the figures which have been given by the hon. Member, the plain duty of all concerned in this painful matter is to endeavour to devise some method by which the recurrence of these very terrible casualties may not only be anticipated, but possibly prevented. Both for the manufacturers and for the employees generally I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that they will very gladly welcome the co-operation of the Home Office and the factory authorities in the 645 endeavour to devise some method by which these dangers may be either mitigated or removed. With regard to the question of lead-poisoning, everybody concerned in the trade is embarrassed to a degree by the very painful subject. We have been told that by treating the lead in a different manner this danger would be obviated, but there seems to be considerable doubt about that; there is a conflict of evidence as to the component parts of the glaze and the process by which it might be treated. I repeat that all those engaged in the trade, particularly the manufacturers, will gladly welcome the fullest and most searching inquiry into the circumstances, and be prepared for more stringent regulations under which the business may be carried on with safety to the workers. One grave difficulty arises from that indifference of the workpeople themselves to the rules. To "the familiarity which breeds contempt" are attributable, in a great measure, many of the dangers and other risks, and the only hope or remedy that we have is in the increasing intelligence of the workpeople. The bringing home to them of these facts will, slowly I am afraid, but surely, enable us to ensure greater regard for health. With regard to this point, I might give an instance. Inspectors will frequently find that girls working in the shops will carry in fruit with them which they will produce there and eat, notwithstanding the fact that places are provided in which they can dine and take their refreshments. They thus defeat the object of all the rules of the manufacturers. If the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers will devise any means by which stricter and more stringent examination may be made into the conditions under which this trade is carried on at the Potteries, I can only say, on behalf of the manufacturers and the more intelligent workmen, that they will give the greatest assistance.
§ MR. W. ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I only pretend to deal with the single point raised in the speech of the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, when he alluded to the question of lead-poisoning, and I can endorse what has just been said that, as a rule, the manufacturers in the Potteries are willing to try every reasonable 646 method for protecting and saving the lives of their employees. This subject was first raised on a question put to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as to compensating some of those people who had lost their sight in the lead-dipping shops. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hanley has assured the House that the girl who has lost her sight who worked for his firm is amply provided for. And although a large number of manufacturers are willing to act in a similar way in similar cases that does not remedy any defect in the law, if such exists. If the law is not already sufficient to provide that compensation should be given in those cases of loss of sight from lead-poisoning and other illnesses caused by this trade, then, I think, some Measure should be brought in which would reform the law in that respect. I believe under the law of Germany, employers have to give compensation in cases of lead-poisoning such as this. There is a very grave outlook, I am afraid, for the Potteries, unless something is done in connection with these dangers. It is absolutely pitiable to go through the streets in the Pottery District, and see the numbers of people who are marked by illness brought on by lead poisoning contracted in some process or other made use of in the Potteries. I think there is no industry for which so little has been done during the past few years, either by factory or other legislation than has been done for the Potteries. There was an inquiry into the working of the Potteries in 1894 under the late Home Secretary, and two of the leading medical men of the district were engaged on the inquiry. In the report which they gave to the Home Office they say—From a general view of the facts deduced, it seems certain that for the last 20 years there has not been any improvement in the general health of the Potteries.I think that cannot be said of any other industry. That is supported by public opinion in the district, and by the figures in the returns which have already been given by the hon. Member for Berwickshire. There is a very strong case made out for an inquiry. I believe the percentage of deaths in the Potteries District was only exceeded by the percentage of deaths in one other trade—that of the London publicans. With regard 647 to lead-poisoning. I think the right hon. Gentleman might appoint a small committee to deal with this question. The obvious points which the committee might inquire into are: first, the constitution of the different kinds of glaze. We have it on the authority of the manager of Doultons, one of the largest factories in the Potteries District, that the amount of harm caused by one kind of glaze is very much less than that caused by another. If that is so, I am not able to say whether it could be used for all kinds of ware, and in all processes; but I think the matter should be inquired into, and, if it is possible, the glaze from which there is least danger to health in any process should be used. He might induce, in some way, the manufacturers to do so. In connection with the special rules that came into force in 1894, I am afraid the workpeople themselves are quite as much to blame as the employers for their not having been carried out. Some employers, it is true, have not been willing to carry them out, and have been prosecuted; but, on the other hand, a great number of workpeople have refused to carry them out. There is a strong opinion among the surgeons of the district that new rules should be made. Dr. Prendergast, who has one of the largest practices in the Potteries District, says that the rules are utterly inadequate to meet the case, because they have not reduced to a minimum the dangers; and then we come into contact with the girls, and he is asked if the special rules which were put into force in 1894 have been of any use, and he says—Since these rules have come into force, the cases of lead-poisoning have been more aggravated than before.I think this should form the subject of an inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman might depute it to a small committee of the House, and of experts chosen from the district, and others, who could go into the question of these glazes, and what the effect on the health of the people is from the different kinds of glaze. I do not think the committee which is now sitting is a suitable committee for this purpose, and it would be long reporting. I think if the hon. Gentleman could see his way to appoint a small committee, a great benefit might be derived from it.
§ *MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
Before the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary replies upon this Vote, I should like to say a few words with regard to the fish-curing trade. A Bill was brought in by the hon. Member for Islington to remove the restrictions placed upon the fish-curing trade under the Factory Act. That Bill was opposed, and it would certainly be opposed again if it was brought in; but I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, when the question came up again last Session, gave an intimation that he would bring in a Bill exempting the fish-curing trade, in its several branches, from the restrictions now placed upon it. I should like to say that the subject is one on which differences of opinion have existed, noticeable among the fish-curers themselves, some of whom are entirely opposed to such exemptions being granted as the Bill I have referred to contained. They are of opinion that the Home Office have not administered the Act in a satisfactory way, and many of them would be opposed to any Bill brought in on similar lines to that which was introduced by the hon. Member for Islington. The right hon. Gentleman must, and no doubt will, remember that it is necessary to grant no more exemption than can be shewn to be absolutely needed, and not, therefore, expect to have the support of the trade generally if he goes on those lines and endeavours to bring in a Bill identical with that Bill. He will do well to ascertain, before he drafts his Measure, the views of the white-fish curers as well as of the herring-curers.
§ MR. G. DRAGE (Derby)
I desire to support, in the strongest possible terms, the statements made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean on the question of the Potteries, with regard to the question raised as to the women inspectors. I should further like to support the hon. Member for Berwickshire with regard to his suggestion that further inquiries should be made into the lead industries, and that a committee should be granted and examinations held. But, Mr. Lowther, it is not upon this point that I desire to occupy your attention for a moment. It is chiefly 649 to strengthen, if I can, the suggestions made by the right hon. Baronet with regard to the women inspectors. I think the Committee recognises the admirable work that has been done by women inspectors, and I think there is a strong desire that every facility should be given to them. As the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean pointed out, there has been considerable delay owing to the fresh regulations, perhaps necessary, but I should like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that he should give that matter some personal attention to see if those restrictions can be removed. There is only one other point I would like to suggest to the Home Secretary, and it is one which has been mentioned several times before. It is in connection with a special inquiry into all these cases. In other countries, governments have special inquiries into these matters, details of which might, with considerable advantage, be laid before the House; at any rate, they might be accessible with great advantage to the officials of the Home Office in giving information as to the way in which they prosecute their inquiries in other countries. Now, the Home Secretary, the first year that he came into office, directed that a report should be made by the lady superintendent inspector on the condition of French cloth factories. It was also suggested to the Home Secretary that a further report should be made with respect to another factory. I believe these reports are admirably drawn up, and I may say that they have been of considerable value to persons practically interested in this question. I should like also to suggest before I sit down that certain members of the staff—some of whom are specially qualified—should report upon the effect of factory legislation upon some countries like Switzerland, the laws of which are very little known in this country, but which are extremely practical, and would furnish some suggestions of peculiar scientific value to the Home Office. I am aware that the reports to which I have alluded, are those of the lady superintendent inspector. The Home Secretary is probably aware that there are at present in this country, a number of ladies possessing the same knowledge, and the same qualifications which the lady superintendent possesses; 650 and I should like to suggest that, if it is not possible for the lady superintendent to give her attention to the matter—for she has plenty of hard work—the Department should not fail to use the services of some of those ladies, who have a special training, and a special knowledge, which, I believe, would be of the utmost value.
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddington)
This Debate has ranged over a variety of topics, but there is one feature which has been common to all the speeches, and which, I think, is very satisfactory. There has been a general desire from every side of the House to keep up the level to which the law has been administered, and there has been no desire to go back in anything that has been done. Now, Sir, I think this is very satisfactory, and it is very satisfactory that the desire that there should be some improvement should have come from different quarters. The hon. Member for Stockport and the hon. Member for Derby, representing that side of the House, have been just as anxious that progress should be made as the hon. Members opposite. Well, if that is the condition of things, I think it would be best, when one turns to the various subjects opened up, to confine what we wish from the Home Secretary to those matters which have been specifically dealt with. Now let me, first of all, deal with the question as regards fish-curing industries. I feel with my right hon. Friend, the Member for Aberdeen, that it would be a great misfortune, simply because there are some firms which cannot profitably conduct their business under the conditions which have been determined, that, therefore, exemptions should be made to drag down the level at which the industry is at present being conducted. It is an accepted principle that it is better to conduct all business at the highest level than at the lowest level, and this principle works out in almost every part of the industrial world. I cannot help thinking that there is a solution to the difficulties which present themselves on this subject—namely, that it should be the universal rule, that the provisions of the Factory Act should apply to all departments of the fishcuring 651 industry, but that the Home Office should have the power to make dispensations when necessary. It is perfectly true, as the hon. Member has pointed out, that the return of boats with herrings must be dealt with when the fish is fresh. Very well; you may give an exemption in a properly made-out case, but there ought not to be a general exemption. Now, passing from that subject to another very important subject—the question of women inspectors—I feel we have drifted into a somewhat unsatisfactory condition. Well, when the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary answered the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean some time ago, about the appointment of women inspectors, I certainty gathered—and, I think, most of us gathered—that the position was to be substantially that to which we have been accustomed—that there was not to be any hampering restriction to prevent these lady inspectors from doing their work efficiently. Well, in course of time a great change has been made. No prosecutions are now being initiated without the consent of the chief inspector. Well, this consent is always capable of being got rid of, but whether the difficulty may be got rid of or whether it may not, the result is that there has been a good deal of friction, and, what is still more important, there has been a good deal of feeling in the country. I don't think it is a question of the details of a particular case; I think it is something more. I think it was the general feeling that when this step of the appointment of women inspectors was taken, the branch should be made as efficient as possible. Well, when the lady inspector was in charge we heard nothing of any difficulty arising from the institution of prosecutions. Suppose there had been a difficulty—suppose there had been one or two mistakes—ought you not to consider whether much of the difficulty does not arise from going to the other extreme and making it impossible for these prosecutions to take place quickly and promptly when the circumstances call? I am not one of those who wish to harass the officials; I am quite sure if you do harass them you will make the administration of the law less perfect, instead of more perfect. But it is one thing to make it impracticable, and another thing 652 to let the work of women inspectors run as smoothly and as efficiently as it was intended to do when the appointment of women inspectors was first instituted. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman has not quite realised the amount of feeling there is in various quarters about the change which has undoubtedly been made, and the desirability of restoring things as nearly as possible to what was certainly at one time a very satisfactory position. Well, Sir, as to dangerous trades, that is a very wide subject, and I am quite aware of the difficulties with which the Home Office has to deal, and the difficulties which arise from the necessarily imperfect knowledge, quite as much as from the imperfect state, of the law. It is very satisfactory that such progress has been made as has been made lately in dealing with the question, as my hon. Friend and other speakers have detailed. But I cannot help thinking that the time has come when even a more thoroughgoing administration of the law will be necessary than has hitherto been the case. What one feels is that the great improvements of the last few years are not great enough for the advance of public opinion and the public conscience which has taken place upon this subject. And so, Mr. Lowther, I feel that this discussion will prove fruitful if the right hon. Gentleman is able to give us such assurances upon these two matters—the matter connected with the inspector and the matter connected with dangerous trades—as will enable us to feel that at least there is a reasonable prospect of some redress of what many of us feel to be the unsatisfactory condition of these matters.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I have no reason to complain of the criticism upon the proceedings of the Home Office; indeed, I believe it is generally felt that the policy which the Home Office is endeavouring to pursue is one in continuance of the policy of our predecessors. I think we are all of one mind in endeavouring, as far as we can, to efficiently carry out the factory legislation of this House. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion asked me a question with reference to the inspection 653 of Home Office documents. All I can say with reference to that point is, that I have done nothing except in accordance with the regulations made by the Home Office long before my time. It has been the custom to give leave to see documents of certain periods of our history, and I am prepared to continue that policy; but it is obvious that there are certain documents which it is not desirable should be published too early, and until it is decided that all the documents up to a certain time of our history should be published, it is not right that there should be any new rule in that respect. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean has asked me some questions with reference to the fish-curing regulations. I should like to say, that up to the year 1895, the section of the Act of 1878 which regulates the exemptions dealing with the processes of the salting and packing of fish was held to include all processes included in the curing of fish. This practically went on until the year 1895, when, on the representation of certain inspectors, a different view of the law was taken. It had been generally held in the administration of this law that the exemption specified in Section 100 of the Factory Act and Workshops Act should apply to curing. At all events, I believe I am right in saying that the Act will require clearing up. The exemption of Section 100 is too wide in some respects. Nobody, I think, proposed to totally repeal the exemption; but what I think is felt is, that exemption dealing with perishable goods ought to be sufficient for its purpose. Now, the right hon. Baronet has quoted from the report, which has been laid on the Table of the House to-day. All I can say is that the Report shows clearly that the law is not in a very satisfactory state, and that there ought to be some means of enabling the emergency processes of the trade to be conducted without undue interference. Many appeals have been made to me on the question of lead-poisoning. There is no doubt, I am afraid, that there is considerable danger to health, especially to women and young persons engaged in the potteries, where the use of lead is necessary for the various articles of manufacture, and I think it is also true that the special rules made, I believe, in 1893, cannot be said to be adequate in their operation, 654 and are probably not in themselves sufficient. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme referred to the case of the blinding of girls employed in factories that occurred last year, and a question was addressed in the earlier portion of the Session to my hon. Friend the Attorney-General, as to whether compensation was payable under the Act of last Session. All I can say is, that that Act was not intended to do more than to cover the case of accidents. Under the Act it is entirely a question of fact whether there has been an accident or not; but if, in the case to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, there was not an accident, I do not think there will be any right to compensation. When we come to deal with this question of lead-poisoning in potteries, I entirely agree that it is a very urgent and pressing question. I have had two or three reports from the Inspectors upon this subject. I have had reports also from other Inspectors on the question of establishing fresh Special Rules to which I have alluded, and I can assure the right hon. Baronet and others that there is no one more anxious to press on this matter and to try to secure, by some further action, the protection of the workmen of the population than the present Chief Inspector of Factories. The Chief Inspector has been down in the district, and I am now considering the construction of Special Rules which I hope will be settled before long. I think it is the fact that the present rules want strengthening. I am afraid it is true, as has been said by one or two hon. Gentlemen, that the workmen and the workwomen who attend to these industries are not very readily persuaded to be accurate in observing the restrictions and cautions which are adopted for their own benefit. However that may be, I do agree that the Special Rules want strengthening; and I feel also, that, it would be as well to increase the inspection of that district, and, in fact, I have already approved a proposal that one of the peripatetic Inspectors should be placed in that district to enable the District Inspector, for a short time at all events, to devote more special attention to this difficult subject. Further, and with reference to what the hon. Member for Hanley said, I think the Home Office should assist local manufacturers 655 and others, who are ready to co-operate with them, in every kind of experiment which may conduce to the discovery of more healthy ingredients, so to speak, to be used in this process of labour. It is my hope and wish that I may be able to do something myself on the part of the Home Office in co-operation with those manufacturers who are desirous of introducing improvements in their works, and who wish to introduce materials which do not necessarily contain so many noxious ingredients, and which do not exercise so bad an effect as lead and similar substances. Therefore, I hope to be able to increase the inspection in those districts for this particular purpose; and I also hope to be able, before very long, to introduce some Special Rules which will be beneficial, in addition to those now existing. A good many hon. Gentlemen have spoken about the constitution of the Women's Department of the Factory Inspectors; and for the last few months, from the first occasion of this subject being before Parliament, I really have been rather surprised at the view taken inside and outside this House with regard to some of the changes which it is said have inflicted some damage upon that Department. I desire to say that I am persuaded of the efficacy of that Department, and the excellent way in which the women Inspectors have done their work I have increased the numbers of that Department. I have done everything I could, in accordance with the discipline of the Office, to recognise the position of the women Inspectors; but, at the same time, I have found it necessary to make regulations to prevent friction. The case the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean referred to is an illustration which shows the necessity of regulations being introduced. Unfortunately, the Inspector in that case did not follow out the instructions that had been given a month or two previous to that accident by a circular from the Home Office. The object of these instructions is that a woman Inspector, before commencing a prosecution, should inform the District Inspector what she proposes to do, and that then the District Inspector should communicate with her and give her the benefit of his local knowledge, and that the woman Inspector 656 should be kept fully informed of all the Inspector is doing. But the woman Inspector has the right of prosecuting subject only to the control of the Chief Inspector. Some hon. Gentlemen seem to fancy that there has been a diminution in the power of the woman Inspectors by reason of the fact that instructions have been issued to the present principal lady Inspector that no prosecution shall be instituted without the consent of the Chief Inspector, and I think that the House must admit that there is a distinct responsibility upon the Secretary of State to see that no prosecution should be unduly initiated. It is quite true that the power of instituting a prosecution is security for the proper working of the Act; but, at the same time, I do say that no prosecution should be commenced without the authority of a superior Inspector. Amongst the many Inspectors no one has the power of instituting a prosecution except the Superintending Inspectors, with, I suppose, some 25 years' service. It is not too much to say that in the case of a principal lady Inspector, who has only had two or three years' service, she should in all cases go to the Chief Inspector only, who is responsible to me for the carrying out of the regulations. I have endeavoured to carry out by my regulations what I understood to be the practice of the late lady Inspector, that in all important cases the lady Inspector should submit the question of prosecution to the Chief Inspector. As to the complaint of increased delay, the instructions which have been issued are all with the view of preventing that delay. I quite agree that it is most undesirable that there should be any unnecessary communication between the lady Inspector and the District Inspector, and the regulations which have been issued are entirely to bring about co-operation between the different Departments. It is my belief that in making these extra regulations, which are really only carrying out what has been the intention of the Department from the very beginning, though now for the first time being formulated under the able guidance and advice of the present Chief Inspector, I am enabling the Women's Department of Factory Inspectors to be carried on with greater success than hitherto. It is impossible 657 to deny, and I think the right hon. Baronet will admit, that when a fresh class of women Inspectors were introduced into the Department already filled by experienced men officials the work was bound to overlap, and some little friction to result. Well, Sir, I am thankful to believe that, on the whole, things work very smoothly, though I cannot say that there are not some, perhaps, inevitable symptoms of friction. At the same time, I do say that it is absolutely necessary that the proper relations of the women and men Inspectors should be laid down, and that it should be made perfectly clear to the men Inspectors, as well as to the women inspectors, that they must co-operate together, and that there must be a free interchange of opinion. All the instructions laid down have been with the view of procuring, so far as regulations can, the co-operation of the various classes of Inspectors. A further complaint was made with reference to the lateness of the Annual Report. I should like to say, with reference to that, that last year the Report was certainly very late, but the delay was caused partly by the printers, and partly by the difficulty in preparing the statistics of persons employed, and I should like to see the Report appear earlier in future. The right hon. Baronet spoke about particular trades, and mentioned aerated waters. I think hon. Gentlemen will find that that trade was certified as dangerous, and that Special Rules were issued with regard to it in September, 1896. Objections were taken to these Special Rules, and I have no doubt the right hon. Baronet knows that it takes a great deal of time to get all these Rules arranged and the objections disposed of. Various amendments were made, and fresh Special Rules were issued last autumn, and I am glad to say there is only one case outstanding with reference to which there is any difficulty. With reference to inflammable paint, there would be considerable difficulty in establishing Special Rules, as they could only be applied when the ship was in a dock or yard, and I cannot say I have arrived at any satisfactory solution. Then, as to the electric difficulty, it is quite true that there is a difference of opinion between the Law Officers of the Crown and other eminent lawyers, as to whether electricity can be held to be an 658 article manufactured for purposes of commerce, and whether, in consequence, regulations could be made for electric generating stations. That being so, I prefer not to express any opinion, more especially as at the present moment a test case is about to be tried between the London and North Western Railway Company and the Government, in order to obtain an authoritative decision as to the law on the subject; but, as a matter of fact, hitherto these places have been inspected as if they were factories. The right hon. Baronet has spoken about the india-rubber trade, and the use of carbon bi-sulphide, etc—whether Special Rules apply. Yes, Sir, Special Rules do apply to these trades. But as regards the process in which naphtha is employed, all I can say at present is that, as far as my information goes, the use of naphtha is less dangerous than the use of carbon bi-sulphide, but the Department must proceed gradually, and I am, at the present moment, considering whether it is possible to go as far as the right hon. Baronet suggests. I think the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, in raising the important subject of lead-poisoning, suggested that there should be a small Committee appointed. I possess a considerable amount of real and useful technical information derived from the reports of the able Inspectors of that district, and I think it desirable to take action rather than occupy more time in inquiry. I beg to assure hon. Members who are interested in the pottery trades that I am making Special Rules, and if there should be serious difficulties to meet, I will not hesitate to avail myself of the assistance of a Committee. I think, upon the whole, the criticisms passed upon the work of the Department show appreciation of the difficulties in applying special rules and getting the consent of all concerned. Of the value of the factory and workshop legislation in promoting the health of the population I am fully sensible, and no effort shall be spared on my part to carry out its intention.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
It is a curious thing that, of the many large and complicated questions of which the Home Office has charge, the whole of the discussion should be concentrated 659 upon the administration of the Factory laws; and it is still more curious to remark that hearing, as we do sometimes, of what people are pleased to call "grandmotherly interference and legislation," the whole of the arguments and suggestions which have been made this afternoon, so far as I have heard them, at any rate, have been either in the direction of giving greater stringency to the law or a greater activity in the administration of the law. That, Sir, in my opinion, is a very healthy sign of the advance made by public opinion in this country. I will deal very briefly with the two or three statements which appear to me to deal with the more important topics. First of all, as regards this vexed question of the trade of fish-curing. There is no doubt that for a considerable number of years the trade of fish-curing was treated as being outside the purview of the Factory Acts, and under one construction of the Act it would seem to be fair to exempt this trade from the scope of the law. But, Sir, I am most strongly of opinion that this is an exemption which cannot be justified in wide and general terms. Anyone who has made himself at all familiar with the conditions under which this trade is carried on, or who has read the very able Report which the Home Secretary has laid upon the Table, must be aware that as regards sanitation it is as important that these operations should be conducted under the regulations of the Factory Act as it is in the case of almost any other trade in the country, both as regards the health of the persons employed and as regards the process itself, and I see no reason whatever why, as regards the hours of labour, this trade should be entitled to anything in the nature of an exemption. The whole case is put forward as a case of emergency. Occasional exceptional emergency does sometimes arise, but it is a very slight and inadequate ground upon which to base a suggestion for the complete or partial exemption of this trade from the operation of an Act. There are occasions which may happen in the course of a year when, by reason of the nature of the catch and the exigencies of the case, exemption is required; and I, for my part, have great confidence in the wisdom and prudence with which the right hon. Gentleman and 660 those connected with him at the Home Office have arrived at the solution of the question, but as at present advised I am strongly disposed to contend that the suggestion made by my hon. and learned Friend, that the proper way of dealing with the matter would be to place these trades within the operation of the law, is the right one, because it would give the Home Office something in the nature of the dispensatory power which might be exercised upon emergencies. That seems to me to be the way in which the matter ought to proceed. I suppose that, of all the dangerous trades, there are none that have risks attached to them the same as those connected with white lead. This for an administrator is a heart-breaking question. I speak as one who had something to do with the various attempts to deal with it some years ago during the time that I was at the Home Office. After very considerable difficulty, we managed to formulate a set of rules to deal with the earthenware and china trades, but I regret to say, that those rules turned out in practice to be entirely inoperative. For my part I do not associate myself in any way with the charge which has been brought against the humanity of the employers in those trades. On the contrary, I believe that the standard of humanity amongst the employers in the earthenware trade is not lower than in any other trade of the country. Nor is it possible for anyone acquainted with the facts to deny that however well devised and far-reaching the regulations, and however good the protections devised might be, they are often impeded by the indifference of the workpeople themselves. I do not say that it is an altogether culpable or unreasonable neglect, because many of the devices are excessively irksome and uncomfortable to wear; and I do not believe that any more beneficent invention could be made than the invention of some sort of a respirator, which would be an effectual preventive against the inhalation of noxious gases, and at the same time would be comfortable for the workpeople to wear. But dealing with the facts as they are it is excessively awkward and difficult to devise anything which would combine these two advantages. I was very glad to hear from the Home Secretary that the chief inspector had 661 made an annual visit, and had reported upon what he had found in the factories, but I did not gather that any special rules are to be founded upon that Report. The only suggestion I will venture to make is that whatever experience has shown to be reasonable by way of increased appliances, or respirators, and so on, there can be no doubt that the people vary infinitely in their susceptibilities. We have heard to-night quoted cases in which young girls of 16 or 17 years of age have been blinded for life in pursuing this industry after a comparatively short space of time, and it has been pointed out that they could not get compensation. This blindness was, no doubt, due to the insidious operation of the atmospheric surroundings in which they were placed. It was one of those cases in which the law could not possibly provide compensation or prevent the accidents from occurring; yet I am told that these very girls had been working in some cases side by side with women who had been working in the same atmosphere for 30 years without receiving any permanent injury although so long exposed. That showed practically that we must have in these cases constant supervision and examination. A strict medical examination should be a condition precedent before any of these people are allowed to go to these places at all. Any local capable medical man would be able to tell from an even cursory examination whether or not a girl was fit to enter this employment, and if not he could put a veto upon her being so employed. Then this initial examination ought to be followed by periodical examinations from time to time; and I am disposed to trust rather more to a constant and vigilant examination of that kind than to the adoption of those mechanical appliances which are extremely difficult to provide and still more difficult to wear. I have only got one other topic to deal with, and that is in reference to the women's department of the Factory Inspectorate, and it is extremely gratifying to me to listen to the chorus, the unbroken chorus of commendation of this Department, which is the keynote of all the speeches that have been delivered on the subject. When I remember as I do the suspicion with which this experiment of appointing 662 women to look after our factories and workshops was regarded it is most gratifying to me to see how rapid has been the appreciation with which the work of these lady Inspectors has been greeted, and it certainly has not been more rapid than it has been well earned, and I do not believe that anyone who is practically responsible for the supervision of our factories and workshops would now think of carrying it on without the help of these lady Inspectors; and the right hon. Gentleman was quite justified when he told us that he had increased the number of lady Inspectors, and I accept to the full his assurances upon that point; but I think in the regulations and changes which have been made there was ground for the inquiry and for the amount of uneasiness among those who look upon the efficiency of this Department as a matter of importance. Then there is the question of the structure of the factories. As I understand it, the women inspectors are prohibited from reporting upon structural defects as being entirely out of their province.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
Oh, no; they may report on all structural alterations they consider necessary, and there are certain structural alterations which they may themselves order.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I understood they were entirely debarred from reporting upon structural defects altogether, because the hon. Member for Stockport spoke about the fencing of machinery.
§ MR. ASQUITH
That is just what I was going to say, that as regards particular kinds of structural alterations, especially those bearing upon the health of women and young children, it seems to me that women Inspectors are in a much better position to judge than an ordinary Inspector would be, and as for the hon. Member for Stockport saying that the women Inspectors would use their power to harass factory owners, I do not believe that there is a single case of that kind in which this charge of harassing the 663 employer has been successfully brought home to the woman Inspector. Then the other point is the question of prosecutions. I entirely agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said as to the importance of securing co-operation—not merely mechanical but cordial co-operation—between the peripatetic woman Inspector and the fixed district Inspector—I mean fixed in a particular locality. I need not accentuate what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to there being a certain amount of friction between the two sets of officers, which required a good deal of tact to smooth down, and I am glad to hear the tribute he has paid to the lady Inspector, to whose credit this state of things is due. Now, in reference to this matter of prosecutions, I do not think there is a very wide difference of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman and myself. I certainly think if there is a difference of opinion between the peripatetic lady Inspectors and the fixed district Inspector as to whether or not a particular prosecution ought to be ordered, that that should be a matter of arrangement. On the other hand, if there is no such difference of opinion, I confess I do not see why the peripatetic lady Inspector should not have the power of ordering a prosecution without special reference to the chief Inspector. That, I think, is a waste of time. I am sure that the House will accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that he is anxious to maintain, both in appearance and reality, the authority of the lady Inspector in her particular province. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, if he will permit me to do so, upon the extremely efficient manner in which the work of his Department continues to be carried on, and that it is daily receiving more and more of the public sympathy and co-operation.
§ *MR. R. MCKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
Mr. Chairman, I must say that it seems rather unfair to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department that, after he has answered certain questions as fully as he possibly could, others should be raised, but I cannot say that this is my fault on this occasion. I have once or twice asked a question in the 664 House upon the subject of the folding of newspapers, and the relation of this, operation to the bottling of beer, and if the Committee will bear with me for one moment I will explain what the question is. As the Committee know, the application of the Factory Acts in any trade is made dependable upon whether the work is carried on in a workshop or a factory, and whether a place be a workshop or a factory depends partly upon the kind of work that is done. Amongst other definitions of the work done which constitutes a place a workshop or a factory, is the preparation of any article for sale. Now, the Home Office have held that the bottling of beer is the preparation of an article for sale, and, therefore, the premises where the bottling is carried on come under the Factory Act. One would imagine that, if the bottling of beer was the preparation of an article for sale, the folding of newspapers was equally the preparation of an article for sale; but, to my surprise, the Home Office did not take this view. The Home Office have made a distinction between the process of preparing for sale and the process of preparing for distribution; and so, while they admit that the bottling of beer is the preparation of an article for sale, they assert that the folding of newspapers is the preparation of an article for distribution. It is a very fine distinction which they draw, but it is not a distinction which I submit to the right hon. Gentleman can be established by common sense. Whatever relation the process of bottling beer bears towards the article itself and the sale of the article, exactly the same relation, I submit, the folding of newspapers bears to the sale of newspapers. I should like to say one word as to the position of women factory Inspectors. Their position formerly was, that where a prosecution was advised by the ordinary woman Inspector, after consultation with the male district Inspector, and where, upon reference to the principal lady Inspector, it was agreed that the prosecution should be undertaken, the prosecution was immediately undertaken without any reference to the Chief Inspector. The alteration now introduced by the Home Office makes it necessary that in every case of prosecution at the instance of the women Inspectors the consent of 665 the Chief Inspector must first be obtained. There should be, if the authority of the principal lady Inspector is to be maintained, a reference to her in matters coming under her Department, and not to the Chief Inspector. Where the woman Inspector and the district Inspector agree, and are supported by the principal lady Inspector, that ought to be sufficient to warrant a prosecution without any further reference. The present state of things causes great confusion and delay. If the reference were to the principal lady Inspector, as it should be, the business of the Women's Department would proceed as satisfactorily in the future as it has done in the past.
§ MR. S. C. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
Two points have arisen in the course of this discussion, on which we have had different answers. The first was raised by my hon. Friend who has just spoken, with reference to prosecutions. As I understand the position, when the chief lady Inspector and the district Inspector agreed upon the subject, the former had power herself to initiate a prosecution. Now, in consequence of a certain diminution of status, even in cases where the present chief lady Inspector agrees with the district Inspector that a prosecution is necessary, she has not the power herself to initiate a prosecution without reference to the superintendent lady Inspector. If she has to refer the matter to the superintendent lady Inspector now, and she has not to do it then, it is some loss of status, whatever may be the reason for it. With regard to the question of structural alterations, the right hon. Gentleman just now interjected a remark into a speech by my hon. Friend behind me, in which he said that the lady Inspector had power to cause structural alterations to be done, but she had to send a report to the Chief Inspector. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking on this point before, made a different statement. What I want to know, is the real position of the lady Inspectors with reference to prosecutions and structural alterations?
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
The hon. Member is quite right in saying that the 666 chief lady Inspector has not power of her own authority to institute prosecutions. When my right hon. Friend left office the same state of things existed, but subsequently—and I think that my right hon. Friend practically settled the matter—the title and powers of superintending Inspector were given to one of the lady Inspectors. It became necessary, however, in the process of time to make regulations to endeavour to secure the harmonious working of the various men and women Inspectors, and I thought it undesirable that a woman Inspector with only two or three years' service, should be put on the same footing as the superintending Inspector of 25 years' service, and that she should, as had been practically done before without regulations, always consult with the Chief Inspector. This system does not cause any waste of time, and it secures that the lady Inspector shall have the advice and support of the Home Office in all prosecutions undertaken. With reference to what my right hon. Friend who has just spoken has said about structural alterations, I do not believe that the present state of things materially differs from what existed before. It is required by regulation that information shall be given both by the men and the women Inspectors, so that each may know what the other is doing. Of course, the district Inspector is the person who has to carry out the most of the work, and I am thankful to believe that, so far from there being any increasing friction, there is a diminishing friction. I hope and believe that these instructions will increase, rather than diminish the power of the women Inspectors in carrying out what they have to do. As to what the hon. Member for North Monmouth said, I imagine that, whereas it is impossible to sell bottled beer without providing it with a bottle, a newspaper can be sold without being folded. I am advised that there is a real distinction in law, if not in common sense. A newspaper is folded, not in order to make it saleable, but merely for convenience.
§ *SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
Mr. Lowther, the Committee have spent nearly three hours on the first line in the Vote. I think it is obvious we shall never get through unless we proceed to 667 discuss some other item, and that is what I propose to do. I wish to refer to the Vote on the Houses of Parliament, and if the Chief Commissioner of Works were present, I should take the opportunity of congratulating him on the increased facilities for access to the Terrace.
AN HON. MEMBER
I rise on a point of order. Is the hon. Member for Dundee entitled to discuss this clause at the present stage?
§ *SIR JOHN LENG
There seems to be in a limited quarter of the House an ascetic and misogynist feeling against improving the facilities of access to the Terrace, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his more generous feeling in dealing with this subject. It is well known that the privilege of admitting ladies to hear our debates and to witness the proceedings in this House is exceedingly limited, but we are able to compensate them indirectly by securing admission for them within the precincts of the House. There is nothing that ladies, especially those coming from the provinces, more appreciate than being able to enjoy a cup of tea and a plate of strawberries on the Terrace, and I for one would very much regret to see that privilege limited. No doubt in a very few cases it may have been abused, but I think that abuse would be more easily and wisely corrected by a personal suggestion to those who may have been addicted to it, than by limiting the privilege to others. I hope that this more generous feeling, with regard to the other sex will be extended. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will not be satisfied with what has been done already, but that he will, during his term of office do something to distinguish himself by improving the arrangements of the Ladies' Gallery. It might be supposed that the Members of this House were a set of Turks. I think the ladies might well appeal to us and say—It is all very well to dissemble your love,But why do you lift us upstairs?Not only are the ladies elevated to a 668 higher altitude, but when they arrive in the Ladies' Gallery it is dim and gloomy, the space is limited, and the atmosphere is very often anything but conducive to health. Members of the Committee have recently been speaking upon the desirability of improving the sanitary conditions under which the working women of this country perform their daily labour, and I think something ought to be done in the direction of appointing a lady Inspector to look after and improve the arrangements in the Ladies' Gallery. In the Works under the charge of the right hon. Gentleman, I see there is a line in italics—"Admiralty Extension Buildings." There appears to be no sum asked for at present. I presume it is likely there will be a sum asked for?
§ *SIR JOHN LENG
We are all grateful that the old buildings on the West side of Parliament Street are being demolished, and I should like to repeat here what I observed with regard to the Admiralty buildings last year, and again express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him will arrange that the new offices to be erected there shall be worthy of the site. Government buildings have been erected in recent years which will not reflect honour and credit upon the right hon. Gentleman's Department, but I will not charge him with the errors which have been committed. I hope the new buildings will harmonise with the Foreign Office and the other offices in the neighbourhood, and I would suggest that an opportunity should be given to the Members of this House of seeing the intended elevation of the contemtemplated buildings, the plans of which could be exhibited in one of the Committee Rooms of this House. When we see splendid edifices erected for Government offices in foreign countries, we may hope that our own county will not be backward. In the provinces, the buildings are superior in recent years to those buildings which have been put up in London. For one, I should like to protest strongly against a 669 repetition of these mongrel brick and stone buildings, such as the New Scotland Yard and the Admiralty buildings. I am not permitted to refer to the Admiralty buildings, but I am bound to say, with regard to the whole of these new buildings which are contemplated, that an effort should be made, especially in the frontages to Parliament Street, to give them some dignity. Some regard should be had both to mass and proportion, and low, mean, insignificant erections should not be placed in this great Metropolis. I shall not occupy the time of the House further upon this Question, but I may have something to say on some other matters.
§ MR. T. C. T. WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
On the subject of public buildings I totally disagree with the last speaker, as to the Admiralty and Scotland Yard, which I think are some of the finest buildings that have been put up recently. Well, in my opinion, they are fine buildings; but what I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether he can do something towards mending the unbusinesslike method the Government have of dealing with their vacant spaces. There are always large vacant spaces, which, if they paid rent, would come to many thousands of pounds a year, and they are always standing empty, and waiting for plans. If any business man had the control of these things, or any public company, these vacant spaces would not stand uncovered for one-tenth part of the time they do now, and it is a great waste of public money to leave them as they are. In Parliament Street there is more land being cleared, and also at the United Service Institute, and these are standing almost vacant, with tumbledown buildings on them, not being used, and, I believe, the delay is generally owing to plans not being ready, or to some financial considerations of having the Estimates passed over to another year, so as to build when there is move money. I hope the First Commissioner of Works will try and do something to reduce the amount of vacant spaces which are always in the hands of the Government earning no money.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
The remarks of hon. Members tempted me to say something upon this subject. The fact that an hon. Member in this House should get up in his place and say that he considers New Scotland Yard a fine building is what I regard as a terrible fact. That all the buildings of London are put down as mean and contemptible, compared with any small foreign Power—for instance, Belgium—and that our public buildings are in a disgraceful condition, is, I think, to be attributed to the remarks of the kind made by the hon. Members in this Debate. The greatest landscape painter this country ever produced, Mr. Watts, when in the zenith of his fame, actually competed for the painting of the pictures in our corridor, and was refused by the then authority in favour of a barbarian named Cope. I only speak, of course, from an artistic point of view, of the gentleman who adorned the walls of this House with the so-called pictures that we see in our corridors. I may take other illustrations as to the way in which our public buildings have been built. I think it was in the year 1858 that, a proposition was made that appeared to combine all the possibilities and necessities of our Government Departments by a proposal to build a great Government Palace. It was a general scheme, which was considered perfectly capable of being worked out, and which extended from the present Admiralty Offices, leaving a large part of the buildings up to the present Treasury buildings as they are; but a now scheme was proposed, beginning with the extreme northern end of the Treasury buildings, extending right away down Parliament Square, and including the whole space now proposed to be built upon. It was a general scheme to acquire a magnificent building, which would have included Government buildings, and would have provided all that was necessary for many years to come. That scheme was rejected by means of an arrangement by which we have got a large building, including the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office. The scheme was described by Lord Palmerston as one which was not equal to the great buildings in foreign capitals, but he 671 expressed the opinion that it was sufficiently handsome. I do not think that a capital like London, the capital of the whole British Empire, ought to fall behind small foreign countries in the matter of its public buildings. Another illustration I might take is the time the Government wanted to have their buildings in the Gothic style, and they employed Gilbert Scott, a great architect of the time, to erect the new Government buildings, including the Foreign Office. That is the sort of way in which London goes on with its great buildings, and what ought to be the art treasures of modern times really become nothing but eyesores. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, as my hon. Friend has just done, to ensure that all Members of this House shall have an opportunity of looking at the designs of the buildings proposed to be put up, and that we may have due consideration of the matter, to see that the mistakes of the past are not repeated with the great buildings now about to be put up.
MR. J. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn, Regis)
From the remarks of the right hon. Members, it appears that the one dotes on Watts and the other on New Scotland Yard. They both disagree, apparently, as to the form and character of the buildings to be set up. I am no admirer of those enormous buildings set up in Belgium, which are buildings far too large. My experience is, the larger and handsomer a building is, the less satisfactory is the work done in it. Then, Sir, the hon. Member for Dundee has brought up again that question which is far more serious than he seems to suppose, as to the accommodation of ladies in the House. Of course, I can understand that Gentlemen who come down here and make speeches under the direct gaze of their lady admirers would feel inspired if we had boxes around this House open to the view, in which they might behold "the bashful maiden's side-long glance of love." But there is something more serious. The whole of the business-like capacity of this House depends, in my opinion—and I speak from experience in a good many foreign Chamber—very largely upon this: that our spectators, and even the ladies, are so disposed of that we can on occasions forget that they 672 are even present. That is an essential condition to the conduct of business here. As soon as you have rows of boxes round the House of Parliament, filled with persons of every description, male and female, so soon will the Members begin to speak to those galleries, and not to their fellow-Members down here. I have always in foreign assemblies noticed that this tendency is accompanied by another one, that it is impossible to resist—the tendency of those who sit in the gallery to take part in the proceedings, to applaud, and express their approval or disapproval, and exercise an influence upon the House which is bound to become very dangerous. I only make these few remarks because there is an important principle underlying this matter. It is most important that this House should hold on to its old tradition of conducting its business by its own Members, and not paying any attention to those who are in the galleries. One more point, and I have done. It is a small point, but it is not an unimportant one. There are two ways by which Members can gain access to the smoking-room. One is by passing through the public hall, which is very often filled with the public; the other is by way of the galleries, which go round from the library, and which would go directly to the smoking-room; but some perverse Commissioner of Works has taken out a space there. When you have got to this spot you now have to turn to your right, then to the left, and then to your right again, and the result is that the very purpose of the corridor, which was to enable Members to come by a private way to the smoking-room, is lost. He is turned out of the corridor into the space where the grand staircase is. That is filled with all sorts of persons, relatives and visitors from constituencies possibly; and, worst of all, there is a refreshment bar, which has the effect of causing persons to congregate there, and the result of this is that it has been found necessary to place two policemen at the doors which lead out of the Gallery, in order, I presume, in some measure to protect the privacy of Members when they go out and in again, and prevent them being carried off by some candidate for women's suffrage. The policemen are an expense, and the interruption in the Gallery is an inconvenience. I have mentioned 673 the matter privately to the First Commissioner of Works, and I know there is some difficulty in making the alteration. I hope the First Commissioner of Works, who has done so much good already, will signalise his return to power by removing this obstruction and enabling the Members to use that corridor, and thus have private access to the smoking-room.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)
In spite of the experiences mentioned, I think the First Commissioner of Works should seriously take into consideration what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee has said with reference to the accommodation afforded in the galleries of this House for ladies when they visit here. I myself, like the hon. Gentleman opposite, have had opportunities of visiting Legislative Chambers, not only on the Continent, but also in America and in most of the British Colonies, and it is an undoubted fact that this House alone, of all the Legislative Chambers in the world, affords absolutely no comfortable accommodation whatever for ladies who care to come down and listen to the Debates. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken urged as a reason for no alteration to the Ladies' Gallery that if greater accommodation were given Members might be induced to direct their addresses and speeches to the occupants of the Ladies' Gallery rather than to their fellow-members in this House. Upon that I will only say this much, that if an alteration in the Ladies' Gallery, or any other circumstances that would tend in the slightest degree to induce the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, to address his speeches to other than his fellow-Members, it would, no doubt, be a great disaster, which would be very much felt by the Members of this House. Nevertheless, I think if the railing were taken down, and the gallery enlarged, it would tend a great deal towards keeping up the reputation—not very well established—of this House, in its arrangements for keeping pace with civilised nations in this matter. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee said that really the treatment accorded to ladies in this House inclined him to the opinion that Members of this House were little better than Turks. Well, I have always held 674 myself that there is a good deal of the Turk in the composition of the average Englishman, and, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee in this matter will forgive me if I say that when he was speaking of Turks he reminded me of a couplet which appears in the writings of our famous Irish novelist, Lever. In one of his works he makes one of his characters say—I'm not very fond of hard work;It was never the way with the Bradys;But I'd make a most illigant Turk,For I'm fond of tobacco and ladies.Whether the hon. Member for Dundee has a fondness for ladies or tobacco, I do not know, but I wish to impress upon the First Commissioner of Works the necessity of making some other arrangements for the admission of ladies to this House. The accommodation for ladies in the small Colonies, in Canada or Australia, to say nothing of the Legislative Chambers in the United States, and the accommodation afforded the ladies compared with the really miserable position in which they are placed when they come here, is not to the credit of this House at all. I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman to seriously see if something cannot be done to remove the stigma of being the one civilised legislative body in the whole world which insists upon treating lady visitors, not as if they were ladies, but as if they were monkeys in the Zoological Gardens.
§ *MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
I desire to draw atention to the increase of £24,000 in the sum for the maintenance of the Royal Palaces and Marlborough House, and to ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works whether the whole of that increase is for changes at Kensington Palace; whether the rumours we have heard regarding the opening of the Palace are true; whether the whole of the money is to be spent there, and, if so, whether care will be taken of those antiquities and objects of art that are the charm of the building; I also trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give to the Committee a satisfactory assurance that progress will be made with 675 the Science and Art buildings at South Kensington, which I believe the Committee have reported to be absolutely necessary?
§ *MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN (Kilkenny)
I desire to say a word or two in support of the views expressed by the hon. Member for Dundee, and the hon. Member for East Clare, with regard to the accommodation provided for ladies in this House. This question has been raised every year of the 10 years I have been a Member. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works will not take the view that the lady friends of the Commoners are to be imprisoned when they come here, and I would suggest that he might place the management of the House with the London County Council, which is, to-day at all events, progressive enough to provide accommodation for the ladies. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works has been reminded that in other similar assemblies proper accommodation is provided. I would also remind him that, at the other end of this corridor, in the House of Lords, ladies are differently treated—for what reason I do not know. It cannot be because they are better looking than the lady friends of the Commoners, who, at all events, occasionally find an intellectual treat, and something to amuse them that is not provided in the other House. An hon. Member on the opposite side of the House has said that if ladies were properly accommodated here, Members might devote their attention and speeches to them and not to the House. But that does not happen in the other Chamber, because I do not think the Gentlemen who speak there are able to interest the ladies, or any one else, and even the attraction of the ladies is not sufficient to make a respectable House. In this House, however, questions are constantly cropping up in which ladies are directly concerned, and, if they take an interest in the proceedings, they ought to have proper accommodation. Upstairs there are galleries that are of very little use, and some of which might be utilised in providing accommodation for the ladies.
§ MR. J. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W.R., Keighley)
I trust that the accommodation at the Post Office will be increased. It is not for me to suggest how this can be done to the best advantage, but I would point out that in Parliaments abroad, particularly in America and Canada, there is no lack of such accommodation. Each Member has his own letters in his own pigeonhole, and there is no need for Members leaving the House to make continual demands upon the Post Office officials for letters. If ordinary pigeonholes were provided, such as may be seen in half a dozen hotels in London, this trouble would be avoided.
§ MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
I would suggest, Sir, that we might provide the Ladies' Gallery with proper ventilation. I do so, because, although I am a strong man, I am sure that, if I remained in the Ladies' Gallery for two hours, I would have an excellent chance of getting diphtheria. The seats are uncomfortable, and the ladies are packed together in a way that a railway commissioner would scarcely pack passengers in a first-class carriage. With regard to the removal of the grill I have, following a great statesman, an open mind. The grill is an entirely modern invention known only to this Parliament, and since the present rather ill-constructed Houses were built. There- is only one thing to be said in favour of the grill. There was a character in former Parliaments, and not completely vanished from this, known as the expounding Parliamentary bore. Ladies might not like to leave the House while the bore was expounding, but the grill gives them an opportunity to beat a retreat without hurting anyone's feelings. In the old Irish Parliament ladies were allowed into all the galleries in the same way as gentlemen, and they even occupied places below the Bar. But in 1778, there was a great Debate on the state of the nation, and the ladies were so interested that they crammed the House and dispossessed the friends of members. Then an unchivalrous man named Johnston—he was not an Orangeman, but I shall hand his name down to eternal infamy, and every man of that name ought to be ashamed of it—spied "strangers," and 677 was able, under the rules of the House, to have the ladies turned out. But the ladies said "No surrender," and it took three hours to put them out. What was the result? The sins of the great-grandmothers were visited on the great-granddaughters, and the ladies were excluded till 1834, unless they chose to go up to a small place called the lantern.
§ *THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. A. AKERS-DOUGLAS,) Kent, St. Augustine's
This matter of the Ladies' Gallery is not in my jurisdiction. It is a thorny subject, and while a great many hon. Members are anxious that greater facilities should be given to the ladies, not only to the terrace, but to other portions of the House, there are other hon. Members who declare that the privilege is too freely given. I must confess to the hon. Member for Dundee that I am in that latter category. A great many complaints have been made with regard to the undue crowding on the terrace, and inquiry and inspection has shown these complaints to be well founded. I have endeavoured this year to make provision for an extra entrance to the terrace, so that, if it should please the authorities of the House, it will be in their discretion and power to make arrangements that ladies may be admitted to the terrace within certain hours of the sitting of the House without encroaching on the central lobby and corridors which are much frequented by hon. Members. This provision is specially necessary with regard to the staircase which comes from the terrace. It has often happened that that particular staircase and passage have been unduly crowded on particular nights, and I, myself, have known of many cases where hon. Members were prevented reaching the House in time to take part in a Division owing to the crowding. I have no desire, on the other hand, to make the position of the ladies who visit the House inconvenient, and I shall do all I can to make the accommodation in the Ladies' Gallery more suitable. But I have not the least desire to deprive the majority of ladies who frequent the gallery of the grill; I believe they prefer it, and that the majority 678 of hon. Members share that view. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn has asked whether it will be possible to remove the wine-cellar, which blocks one of the corridors. I shall make inquiries into that matter, but for my own part I do not think it will be possible. This is a matter for the convenience and accommodation of Members. The whole question of dining accommodation and serving rooms was carefully gone into in the time of my predecessor, who devoted a great deal of time and attention to it, and I should be very reluctant to upset the decision arrived at by the Committee. The arrangement was made in order that the service in the dining-room should be carried out with the least inconvenience, and if that department were moved to another floor I am afraid the Members who dine here would find it a very great inconvenience, and would experience greater delay in getting their wine. The hon. Member for Keighley has asked whether we can provide better post-office accommodation. This question was gone into by the same Committee some three or four years ago, and when the alterations in the floor of the House were made, very much better accommodation was given to the post office. I am afraid the structural divisions of the Central Hall render it impossible to get a larger Post Office than we have got now. If, however, by any arrangement of the shelves, letters could be more easily and quickly distributed, I will endeavour to see that it be done. I have been asked in regard to the vacant spaces in Parliament Street, and I think I may explain as to the delay which has taken place in the erection of public buildings on that site. I trust, Mr. Lowther, that before many weeks, or possibly days, are over, it may be within the power of the Government to submit a comprehensive scheme in regard to those public buildings, which, I think, will remove the fears of hon. Members. It is certainly a fact that a large amount of vacant land, which is very valuable, has been allowed to stand idle for many years in Whitehall. It is the intention of the Government to proceed at once on the lines of the Report of the Select Committee of last Session, with the erection of the War Office, and with other buildings in Parliament and Charles Streets.
§ *THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS
We have not got so far as that yet. I agree with the remarks of the hon. Member in regard to his criticism on public buildings; they are not very satisfactory, and the Government hope that they will be able to produce better buildings—buildings more in keeping with the surroundings. I do not want to enter into a discussion as to the art displayed in either the new Admiralty or the new Scotland Yard buildings, neither of which are, in my opinion, worthy of the position they occupy. My colleagues agree with me that the new buildings that are to be erected in Whitehall should be of stone, in a classical design, and more in keeping with the buildings by which they are surrounded. The hon. Member for Islington has asked me a question in regard to the increase in the Palace Vote; that increase has been caused very largely by the money which it is necessary to spend for the restoration of the State Rooms and Banqueting House at Kensington Palace. It is the desire of Her Majesty to throw open those rooms to the public, and it is proposed that those State Rooms, which have not been used since 1760, should be utilised for the purpose of a picture gallery. We think we shall be able to carry out the wishes of Her Majesty, if those galleries are retained, as far as possible, in the style of 1760. There will be no modern restoration with regard to the building. The roof and the fabric are to be restored, and, as far as possible, no interference will be made with the design or with the decoration of those rooms.
§ *THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS
I have previously stated that the Palace will not be thrown open for 18 months, but I am glad to find that I estimated too long a period. I think 15 months will be the time. The roof is in a very bad state now, and no delay will take place in carrying out the work of restoration. With regard to the question of South 680 Kensington Museum, it is true that there is no sum in the Estimates for carrying out the new buildings so long contemplated, but the hon. Member need not be alarmed; it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the buildings as soon as they can see their way to commence. It will be more convenient to have a discussion on this point when we have the whole of the facts before us.
§ MR. BUXTON
I should like to say that I am grateful for the remarks that have been made with reference to the crowded state of the Terrace. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is taking into account the fact that there ought to be less facilities for ingress by strangers to the Terrace. I would suggest whether it is not possible, as in the case of the Ladies' Gallery, where there is limited accommodation, that some system of balloting should take place. The Terrace is very largely monopolised by a certain number of Members, who bring a large number of ladies, to the great inconvenience of Members generally. An improvement might result from the adoption of some system of ballot. A point I wish to raise is in reference to the salary of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade—I mean the question of Trinity House. He is President of the Board of Trade, and he has, therefore, considerable control over the action of Trinity House. Trinity House is a public body in many senses of the term. It is created by Statute. What I want to draw attention to is this: that, last June, following the example of other public bodies, there was introduced a system of 48 hours into the workshops. The other day—I think it was a fortnight ago—they took away that privilege, which they granted, of 48 hours, and have increased the hours to what they were before June—namely, to 54 hours. At all events, as regards the engineers, they have diminished the wages from 39s. to 28s 3d. per week. I draw attention to this because, on those labour questions, I think the successive Governments ought to set a good example. The introduction of the 48 hours system into the dockyards and workshops of the Admiralty and War Office has been followed by a great success; and I think it is a very serious thing that a public body like Trinity 681 House should have taken such a step at such a juncture. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a question of mine the other day, said that he had no control over Trinity House. He certainly ought to have control over Trinity House, and prevent the reversal to the worse state of things that formerly existed. I ask the President of the Board of Trade not to allow this retrograde step to pass without a protest on the part of the Government. I will not move the reduction of the Vote, but I simply point this out.
§ *MR. LOUGH
I wish to call attention to the subject of workmen's trains on the great metropolitan railways. This is a matter entirely within the control of the right hon. Gentleman. By the provision of the Cheap Trains Act he possesses most drastic powers, and under those powers he can introduce the greatest benefits into the crowded districts of the Metropolis. I may remind hon. Members that under this Act of 1883 very large financial concessions have been given to the railway companies, in return for a certain undertaking in regard to cheap workmen's trains. It is a moral obligation which the right hon. Gentleman can enforce that they should run those very necessary trains. The Metropolitan railways have received under this Act something like £7,000,000 during the last 10 or 12 years. Those having termini in London get something like £800,000 a year.
§ SIR R. T. REID (Dumfries Burghs)
I rise to a point of order. I wish to know, Mr. Lowther, what point, we are discussing now?
§ *MR. LOUGH
I was saying that very large sums are paid to the railway companies on the understanding that they will provide all that is necessary in the way of this traffic. Two companies, famous amongst other companies for the bad service they render, receive no less than £82,200 and £117,000 respectively. I have shown that the right hon. Gentleman has absolute power to provide this great and necessary accommodation for the public, and I sincerely hope that he will exercise that power. The chief points on which the service is defective are the hours during which workmen's trains are run. It is specifically mentioned in the Act that they should be run between 6 o'clock in the evening and 8 o'clock in the morning. It is no use running one or two trains between 5 and six o'clock. I want to draw the attention of Parliament to two companies. First I will take the Great Northern Railway, which has its chief station at King's Cross, the boundary of my division. Now, this great line can convey people to the north of London very easily, and it would be very profitable to itself to run more trains; there are only three workmen's trains to King's Cross in the day, and the last of these three trains arrives at 6.15 a.m. It runs, in addition to these trains, six into Moorgate Street, and the last of these arrives at 20 minutes to 7 o'clock. Contrast that with other companies, such as the Metropolitan or the District Railways. On the Metropolitan workmen's trains arrive as late as 8 in the morning, and as late as 8.30 on the District. On the Great Eastern, although it is not perfect, they run later trains than on the Great Northern. The Midland is worse still; there are only two workmen's trains on the Midland, one arriving at St. Pancras at 5.50, and the second at 6.13. The companies ought to be compelled to run them till 8 o'clock. These hours may have been useful some 10 or 20 years ago, but that is a long time ago, and they have ceased to be useful or of great benefit, now to the working men who come into the Metropolis. The hours at which the men 683 start work have become later, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to use his powers to make those great lines run trains up till 8 o'clock. In addition to these trains there are some half-fare trains run, but even these do not meet the difficulty; they are too high in price. The average price charged on workmen's trains in London is something like one-third of a penny per mile, whereas the average price in Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and other great cities on the Continent is something like half the price charged in London. I hope I have shown the necessity of running those trains at later hours. The Act stipulates that the Board of Trade must be satisfied that there is a necessity for running these trains. There is a great deal of overcrowding in the Metropolis, the reason being that in some districts many people have to live together in one room. In Clerkenwell there is an overcrowded population of 126,000, in Islington an overcrowded population of 64,000, and in St. Pancras also there is an overcrowded population of 64,000; or, to put it in another way, 27½ per cent. of St. Pancras is over crowded. This shows an urgent necessity for the accommodation which the railways would provide if the right hon. Gentleman would only use the powers which he possesses and bring pressure to bear upon these great companies. The three parishes, St. Giles', Holborn, and St. Luke's—St. Giles' has a population of 12,000—have an average death-rate of 21, 25, and 27 per 1,000, against the average for the rest of London of 18 per 1,000. I trouble the Committee with these figures to show the very grave question—
How does the hon. Member propose that the Board of Trade should intervene? It seems to me to be a matter rather requiring further legislation.
§ *MR. LOUGH
In the Act there is, I understand, a provision by which the President of the Board of Trade can stop the money grant to the railways until they provide the accommodation required. I merely stated these facts to show there is urgent necessity in the districts I have 684 mentioned, if the Board of Trade can only be galvanised into seeing it. But the Board of Trade is generally rather weak in looking into these matters, as they are too easily satisfied by the statements made by the railway authorities. I press the right hon. Gentleman to consider the facts I have laid before the Committee, and if he could urge these two great lines—
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. RITCHIE,) Croydon
The Great Northern is one; what is the other?
§ *MR. LOUGH
The Midland, which is the worst of all. If he could urge these two great lines to put on more trains he would confer a great benefit on the districts I have mentioned.
§ *MR. F. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)
I feel that I need some justification for intruding myself on the House for the first time, but, perhaps, this is found in the fact that I happen to live in a district which is particularly affected by the lack of cheap trains, and I was very glad to find that we were; able to address a few words to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade upon this important matter. The hon. Member who has just sat down has told the Committee of the failure of two companies to provide a proper number of workmen's trains. Now, down at Tottenham we have the Great Eastern and Midland serving the district. The Great Eastern has some reputation for having provided cheap trains, and the General Manager of that company has declared that the provision of those trains has been a financial success. But I should like to point out to the Committee that, so far as Tottenham is concerned, the last workman's train leaves at 6.15 in the morning. Now, obviously, this series of trains, beginning at 4.15 and going on until 6.15, are only provided for the necessities of one class of workmen, and that class not the poorest. Bricklayers, plumbers, and the various kinds of artisans whose work commences at 6 or 6.30 have provision made for their needs, although I would like to point out to the Committee that they ride down to Liverpool Street 15 and 20 in a carriage; but 685 there is another class of workers, engaged in warehouses, whose wages are not more than 25s. a week, who need a train winch brings them into London at about 8 o'clock, and this class is altogether un-provided for, and it is this class that is the very one which requires a most liberal provision to be made for its needs. It must not be forgotten that railways make and unmake districts, and the provision of a railway greatly affects the lives of men and women who cannot choose where they shall live, but who are compelled, by force of circumstances, to reside in certain districts. I should like to point out that, apart from the advisability of getting the working classes out of the overcrowded districts, the men who live in these districts are men who have a great regard for the welfare of their wives and children, and who want their children to have some pure air, and it is these very people who are precluded from getting out into the suburbs. I would like to point out to the Committee that the last workman's train from Tottenham—the 6.15—is a 2d. train; then the Great Eastern provide another train, which goes up to 7.45, which entails a cost of 4d. The difference between that and the 2d. train is 1s. a week, and, while that amount is very trivial to Members of this House, it is all-important to those who have to pay it. It is not only the fathers who have to pay it, because, unfortunately, the social surroundings of these people compel a man to send his daughters out to work, and there are crowds of girls and women who, in order to take advantage of the 2d. train, get to Liverpool Street at 7 o'clock, and wander round the streets of London until the warehouses are open. If it is necessary, I could produce reliable evidence, collected by people of position in Tottenham, and whose opinion would bear great weight, to prove it. It is a most humiliating spectacle, these poor women and girls walking about the London streets in all sorts of weather, and this state of things is brought about because the Great Eastern have not completed their good work, which has not resulted in financial loss, as they ought to have done, and as, I think, the Board of Trade ought to compel them to do, under the 686 statute provided for the purpose. I do not wish to trouble the Committee any further, but I do support the appeal of the hon. Member for Islington, that the President of the Board of Trade will exercise the power he has to the utmost; and I am sine if he does, he will confer a boon upon a most deserving class of the community.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
I desire, on a point of order, to ask whether it would not be convenient to to take the items in the clauses one by one in their order, instead of skipping them. For instance, from an early item in Clause 1, we have skipped to No. 8, whereas I was rising to speak on Item 14 of Clause 1.
I certainly deprecate taking them one by one on a Vote on Account. When the Estimates came before the Committee I called upon the hon. Member for Poplar because he had given notice to move a reduction in the Board of Trade item, and therefore was entitled to be called. When he raised the discussion on the Board of Trade item, and it was continued, it was not in my power to hark back, and I think it would be very undesirable to interpolate something else.
§ *MR. MCKENNA
Upon a point of order I wish to say I did not move the reduction, as I did not wish to stand in the way of any hon. Member who might wish to go into any item, as I understood would have been the case if I had moved the reduction.
That is so where a reduction is moved. It is obvious that we cannot discuss the whole of the items at the same time; therefore, I have endeavoured to call upon those hon. Members who are interested in this particular item.
§ *MR. J. BRIGG (Yorkshire, Keighley)
I wish to support the appeal made by the hon. Member on behalf of a cheap train service. In my own locality I daily come into contact with workmen of different kinds who have been granted privileges by the Railway Company; and I should like to say a word in favour of the 687 Company which has granted those privileges, as it might be useful in bringing this matter before the Company now under consideration. The Midland Railway Company, of which I speak, has granted a cheap fare, which is made use of by a great number of workmen, and it has also granted privileges to children who are going to school far from home. The way in which that is done, is by a series of tickets, and a passbook, which the Company itself goes to the expense of keeping. These privileges, made use of by the workmen and children, are granted in such a manner that people who live far from the towns can come in on market days and buy their groceries and provisions, and the privilege is used by large numbers living in the country. I am sure that no effort that the House could put forward would prove so valuable to these people as this matter of increased cheap trains, which would enable them, as far as possible, to live in the country villages near the large towns, and I therefore press the right hon. Gentleman to consider this matter and take action.
§ *SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
I desire to join in the appeal that has been made to the right hon. Gentleman to exercise to the full those powers he possesses in this matter. There is a Bill before the House to give increased facilities, but it is a Private Member's Bill, and the probability of its passing into law is extremely remote. At the present moment I very much doubt if the railway companies have complied with all the requirements, and done their duty. If the necessity of that can be impressed upon them, and they can be induced by the Board of Trade to do so, it will be a great public advantage, and especially a benefit to the working classes. I hope that course will be taken. We have had many examples of the pecuniary advantage to the railway companies of an enterprising policy in these matters, but, as my hon. Friend opposite said, it is not only a question of finance. I join heartily in the appeal that has been made that the railway companies should be induced to do their duty in this matter.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
With regard to the question brought before the Committee relating to the hours of employment in 688 the service of Trinity House, the hon. Gentleman was under the impression, and has stated, that if the Board of Trade has power to sanction an increased expenditure, they have also a right to dictate to the Trinity House authorities when the expenditure should be reduced. That is an entire mistake. The relative position of the Board of Trade with regard to that matter is that we have to sanction any increased expenditure of Trinity House. It was under these circumstances that the Trinity House, in June last, applied to the Board of Trade to sanction an increase of expenditure, which was rendered necessary by the intention on their part, as a temporary measure, to reduce the hours of their servants' labour from nine to eight. The Board of Trade did not at all hesitate to authorise the Trinity House to make that additional expenditure. The Trinity House tried it as a temporary measure for a few months, and then reverted to the old method. The Board of Trade did not require to have any intimation of that, because it had no jurisdiction in the matters which involved this expenditure. If we followed the advice of the hon. Member for Poplar, we should protest to the Trinity House that they ought not to reduce their expenditure. I do not think I should be justified in making any such representation, as the money, which is contributed by the shipowners, is contributed for a particular purpose. It is not for the Board of Trade, if they had the power, which they have not, to insist that the expenses of the Trinity House, if they should be greater than they think necessary, should be reduced. With regard to the question of cheap trains, I can assure the hon. Gentlemen who have raised that question, that I am in complete harmony with the view they take. It is of importance that the working classes should be able to go out of crowded places into the clearer air, and, so far as I am concerned, I can assure them that on any representation being made to me that any railway company is not doing its duty in that respect, I will make full inquiry into the matter, and do whatever I can to ensure its doing so. The Great Northern Railway has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Islington, and I cannot but think that he has given an unfortunate instance in naming that 689 Company, because the facilities given by that Company, in the matter of workmen's trains, have been recognised by the London County Council, who, in a report in 1892, say the service is a good one, and has a Large number of trains both ways. That, coming from a great public body which has investigated the matter from the point of view of the working man, shows that the Great Northern Railway Company have given great facilities.
§ *MR. LOUGH
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that 6.15 is a sufficiently late train for the British work man?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
I say that there are no less than nine trains arriving at Moorgate Street, one at 5.27, one at 5.39, one at 5.48, one at 6.1, one at 6.32, and one at 6.39.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
I sun bound to say a train arriving at 7 o'clock is, in my opinion, sufficiently late.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, with regard to this great difficulty as to time, if any representations are made to the Board of Trade as to any railway company not complying with the Act, I shall take pretty good care to see that the Act is complied with, and yon will have the power to ensure compliance. I do not think it would be in accordance with the Act if I were to commence what I may call a roving enquiry amongst all the various railway companies upon the subject. I think it is only fair that we should be put in possession of the facts that would seem to justify our position. If those facts are established, I will take care that the matter is investigated, and, as I have said, I will do my utmost to see that the Act is carried out.
§ *MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
Nothing can be said against the general expressions of sympathy which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman; but I am afraid the particular statements he has made are very unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman, with all the authority of his position, speaks of the intention of Parliament in passing the Cheap Trains Act, 1883, and that he considers 6.39 for the last train arriving at Moorgate Street is sufficiently late. If that be so, what on earth was the object of Parliament in saying that these trains should be run up to 8 o'clock?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
I was speaking with regard to a particular class of train. As hon. Gentlemen know, there are cheap trains run much later than that.
§ *MR. PICKERSGILL
With reference to these half-fare trains, in case of workmen living six or eight miles out of town (a not unreasonable distance), the charge under the half-fare system would be 6d. per day. It is obvious that a workman cannot afford 6d. per day. What we desire to impress upon the Committee is that with this particular class of persons the half-fare does not meet the case, and we ask that the cheap fare should apply to a very much later train. The right hon. Gentleman says that if particular representations are made to him he will attend to them; but am I to understand that no representations in particular cases have been inside to him? When I was a member of the London County Council I was a member of the Committee, and we certainly laid representations before the right hon. Gentleman, and I took part in a conference with railway companies. At that conference the representatives of the railway companies admitted that there was a grievance. They admitted that the trains did not run as late as workmen might require. But they said that with their existing line accommodation into London they could not provide more trains. If that is so, Mr. Chairman, I think we have a right to ask, if the accommodation is so limited as it is represented to be, that these half-fare trains shall be converted into workmen's trains—at all events, that workmen's trains shall run very much later than now. I do 691 hope that what has been said to-night ay not be without its effect upon the right hon. Gentleman, and that he will reconsider the statement he made that the 6.39 train is sufficiently late.
§ On the return of the Chairman, after the usual interval,
§ MR. REDMOND
On the item of £70,000 for Railways in Ireland, I desire to ask the Secretary to the Treasury if he will be good enough to explain for what particular schemes of railways this sum is now being asked for, and I also desire in this Vote to call attention to what I consider is the inadequate amount of money asked in order to carry out the system of light railways in Ireland proposed by the Bill some time ago passed by the Government. In that Bill £500,000 was voted, part of which, £70,000, asked for to-night, is for the purpose of developing the system of light railways in Ireland. I do not at all complain that a large proportion of this money is being devoted to the carrying out of railway schemes in the county of Donegal. Donegal, no doubt, is one of those districts in Ireland where a great deal of distress prevails, and where, consequently, the employment given by these new railways will be of great use and benefit to the people, enabling them to compete with the distress which has prevailed so much this year; but I submit that, in considering these schemes for extending light railways in Ireland, other districts besides those within the area of the Congested Districts should be considered, and that the Government should have as their object in these schemes, not merely the relief of distress in giving employment, but should consider the permanent advantages to be derived by the opening up of parts of Ireland where railway communication is not to be had at the present time. Now, some of this money was intended by the Government to have been spent in my own constituency of East Clare, and I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not still possible that some of this money should be expended in promoting the scheme, of which the Government approved, for the line between 692 Scariff and Ennis, in the county of Clare. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, as well as the Chief Secretary, is perfectly well aware that there is hardly a district in the whole of Ireland where the railway communication, from every point of view, would be more desirable than this district covering that stretch of country between Ennis and Scariff in East Clare. It is a populous district, and the people have got comparatively very long distances to travel in order to reach the markets for their produce, and a railway there would, I believe, pay eventually, and would immediately be of great service to the people and to the tenantry in that part of the country especially. The Government held this view with regard to a line between Ennis and Scariff, and agreed to advance one-half of the necessary money. I have not got the figures by me at the present time, but I believe a sum of something like £120,000 was estimated to be necessary to complete this line of about 20 miles of railway. Not being in the Congested Districts, the right hon. Gentleman is aware, and I am aware also, that the Government were only able, under their Act, to advance half of the necessary money. There was a strong feeling, in view of the distress experienced, particularly this year, in Clare, as in other parts of Ireland, that the Government might make some arrangements to deal more liberally with this line of railway with regard to money. Under the Act they only proposed to advance one-half of the necessary sum. The Grand Jury, on behalf of the Baronies through which this line would pass, refused to guarantee the remainder of the money, and that line of railway fell through. The right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it was a very unfortunate thing that this scheme was not completed, and though I know that the Government under the Light Railways Act have not got the power of advancing the whole of the money, I will ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury this question: whether, in the immediate future the Government, in dealing with any schemes of extending light railways in Ireland, would not be able to consider the advisability of making some arrangement to carry out this line. A railway was also proposed for Ballyvaughan, 693 a fishing village, where their communication is very difficult to Oran-more, in the County of Galway. That scheme was not approved by the Government, and I am sorry for it, and I would ask them to reconsider whether something could not be done to bring this district of Ballyvaughan into touch with some of the market districts of the country. There is, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, a place called Lisdoonvarna, in the County of Clare, which is a most popular health resort. This is a place which is visited from every port of Ireland, and is crowded by visitors, who go there to drink the natural waters that are to be found there; and yet this place, desirable as it is, and visited largely as it is, is completely cut off from railway communication of any kind, and visitors there have to travel long journeys by road in order to get to this place, which, undoubtedly, if it were in England or Scotland, or any other part of the United Kingdom, would have railway facilities and all sorts of arrangements made in order to carry the visitors there. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot see his way, if not to promise that this place shall be brought into railway communication with the rest of the country, at least that some thoroughly efficient means of communication by coach shall be established pending the erection of a railway in this district. I do not desire to detain the Committee at any greater length, but merely to say that there is no district in Ireland where light railways might be established with so much advantage as in the district I represent, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say, if he can hold out any hope that this will be done in the immediate future.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
This line, of which the hon. Member has spoken—the one from Ennis to Scariff—is one of those on which the Government were advised to look favourably, and I believe that the only reason why it fell through was given by the hon. Member—namely, that the local assistance which had to be depended upon was not forthcoming. It would have been a very useful line, and 694 I think would have been of much service to both Ennis and Scariff and the surrounding districts. With regard to other lines, I can say nothing about any money outside the half million which we have at our disposal. As the right hon. Member knows, a very large proportion of that amount has gone to North Donegal. I was very glad to hear him say that he had no opposition to offer to our having expended a very large proportion of the £500,000 in North Donegal, where a railway was wanted very badly indeed, and we are preparing to spend no less than £209,000 in that district. He has asked me with regard to a coach service to Lisdoonvarna. Well, I cannot give him any promise on that point, but, as I have said, better communication to this place is well worth considering; if we find we have any sum at our disposal sufficient, to warrant us in starting a coach service, or something of that kind, after the work which we have already undertaken is carried out, or after it has advanced, we will see what can be done. The hon. Member has asked me what services we intended devoting this money to I will now tell him. There are railways from Buncrana and Carndonagh, Letterkenny and Burtonport; then there are the steamer services at Killaloe and Dromod, Sligo and Belmullet (and Pier South and Belmullet with Approach Road), and the coach and steamer services between Listowel and Tarbert, Tarbert and Kilrush, and Ennstymon and Ballyvaughan. These, briefly, may allow a, small margin of £40,000 out of half a million, in case there should be any inaccuracy; but the services I have mentioned already take up £460,000.
§ MR. REDMOND
Do I understand that part of this money is to be devoted to a service between Listowel and Tarbert? That, of course, is a coach service, and goes by Lisdoonvarna. I would venture further to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the great desirability of bringing these places closer together where possible.
§ *SIR. A. ROLLIT
I desire to draw the attention of the House to the grievances of the postal telegraph clerks, and to the inadequacy of their salaries. Last year 695 a strike was averted, and the more constitutional means was adopted of relying upon the justice of the House in dealing with these matters. Since that time—
The Vote upon which the hon. Member seeks to raise a question is almost the last in the list. I think I ought to call upon other hon. Members who wish to speak upon the earlier Votes.
§ *MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
I have a few questions to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in connection with certain Votes, in respect of which a Vote on account is asked. One of these questions relates to the date on which the new Greek loan can be announced; the other relates to the disturbances which have taken place in Macedonia, the outrages which have been perpetrated there, the Commission of Inquiry, which is being held under Turkish auspices, and the instructions given to Mr. Elliot, who watched the proceedings on behalf of the British Embassy. Some questions have been put to Lord Salisbury in another place, and also to the Under Secretary of State in this House with regard to the date on which the new loan can be announced, and that question of date is one of very considerable importance, because it is from the date on which that Loan can actually be announced that would be reckoned the period of four weeks within which, under the terms of the Greco-Turkish Treaty of Peace, the Turkish troops will have to evacuate Thessaly. It is said that the only reason for the delay in regard to the announcement of the completion of the loan is due to some small financial detail as to the period within which that Loan is to be redeemable. It appears to me, if that is the only question, it certainly ought not to stand in the way of the completion of a transaction of this kind, upon which the fortunes of a great province depend, and upon which so much depends in regard to affairs of the next few weeks or months. Now, Sir, I do not suppose that the difficulties in regard to withdrawal from Thessaly are proceeding from Turkish officers or troops in Thessaly, 696 for the simple reason that the Turkish troops are only too anxious to go home—an anxiety which is shared by the officers. Where the difficulty lies is at Constantinople itself. There is many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, and it may be doubted whether, in spite of the desire of the Turkish officers and soldiers to leave the plains of Thessaly, that desire will not be frustrated by the influences which are at work in the Sultan's Palace at Constantinople. There are, of course, diplomatic considerations in the matter, and as far as one can see from the answers given by Lord Salisbury in another place, and also those given by the right hon. Gentleman here, the only obligations by which the Sultan is bound are under the terms of the Greco-Turkish Treaty of Peace. Under that Treaty he is bound to evacuate Thessaly within a period of four weeks from the date of the announcement of the completion of the Loan. That obligation is only incurred by the Sultan with respect to Greece, and we are assured by the right hon. Gentleman in this place, and by Lord Salisbury in another place, that although England, France, and Russia have guaranteed the Loan, they do not at the same time guarantee that Thessaly shall be evacuated within that period of four weeks. That, really, Sir, is a very extraordinary condition of affairs. What does it mean? It means this—that while we are guaranteeing a certain loan which would enable the kingdom of Greece to get rid of the presence of the Turkish soldiery within its provinces, and thereby make the revenue of Thessaly available for other purposes, we find that, in spite of that fact, there is no absolute guarantee that the Turkish troops will evacuate Thessaly. What I want to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is, whether he cannot make some more definite statement upon that subject than was made by him in this House and by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in another place, because he in this House, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in another place, were unable to state that there was any obligation on the part of the Sultan to evacuate Thessaly, excepting that which he incurred under the terms of the Greco-Turkish Treaty of Peace. Now I submit that that is an inadequate 697 obligation if anything happened within the next few weeks to prevent that obligation from being carried into effect. What I fear is that the only obligation, on the showing of the right hon. Gentleman and on the showing of the Secretary of State, is by the terms of the Greco-Turkish Treaty of Peace, and although the Turkish officers and troops may be quite anxious to leave Thessaly, influences may be at work in the Sultan's Palace at Constantinople, which may prevent that desire being carried into effect. What we want to-night is some definite assurance that there is something beyond a mere understanding which they intend to be carried out; that they are of opinion that Thessaly will shortly be evacuated within a period of four weeks from the date of the completion of the new Treaty; and that they have some very definite basis on which they are relying. I wish also to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can now state what is the date of the completion of the new loan, because as we understand it, the only cause of the delay is due to some small financial details as to the period within which the loan will be redeemable. That appears to me to be far too trivial a cause for delay in a matter of such grave importance as the evacuation of Thessaly, and its restoration to the inhabitants of Greece. Then, before I pass to another subject, I must just say that, after all, we must congratulate the Governments of England, France and Russia that they have done their duty in regard to the Greek loan, but their duty will not be complete unless they guarantee that the evacuation of Thessaly shall take place within a period of four weeks afterwards. They guarantee a certain war indemnity to the Sultan, but they do not take upon themselves the guarantee after their stipulation has been carried out, and therefore they have a very definite responsibility in this matter. I do not wish to enter upon controversial matters this evening. I think it will be seen plainly that the action of two of the Members of the Concert of Europe in the early spring of last year was one of the reasons which prevented Greece from having possible allies in the Balkan States. We are all acquainted with the circular sent round from Russia and Austria, and sent 698 to Servia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Roumania. We know that in the case of Roumania it was indicated that they were of opinion that it was not one of the Balkan States, and were surprised at receiving a circular of that kind. It is perfectly obvious that the dispatching of circulars of that kind prevented Greece having the allies that she might possibly have had in the northern part of the Balkan Peninsula, and the action on the part of these two Members of the Concert is a distinct reason why the co-members should incur responsibility in this matter. It is perfectly proper that those who incur the responsibility are those who have been identified with Greek affairs, and who have a paramount interest in the satisfactory solution of the Eastern question. There is another totally different question on which I desire to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is with regard to the most deplorable condition of affairs in the villayet of Kossovo, in Northern Macedonia, about which we have heard a good deal lately, not only from newspaper correspondence, but also from an official document which has been handed in at Constantinople by the agent of the Bulgarian Government, and the right hon. Gentleman himself, in reply to a question a few days ago, admitted there was a primâ facieground for the belief that the terrible outrages referred to in those reports were actually true. Now a very able Member of the British Embassy at Constantinople, Mr. Eliot, has been dispatched to Northern Macedonia, and we may be certain that he will do his best within the four corners of his instructions to ascertain the truth. But the question is: What are his instructions, and what means will be placed at his disposal to ascertain the truth of the matter? As far as can be gathered from the reply of the right hon. Gentleman in this House, all he has been able to do is to communicate with Members of the Turkish Commission sent from Constantinople for the apparent purpose of preventing the truth from being known, and he has not had an opportunity which he ought to have had of examining the witnesses himself, and cross-examining them, and, with such assistance as he could himself choose, 699 obtain from them all that they were able to say with regard to the tortures which had been inflicted upon them, and these outrages. Now, Sir, there is no doubt that the position of affairs in Northern Macedonia is one of very great difficulty, and one which may easily develop into what, perhaps, would constitute the most serious position of affairs which has yet arisen in the Turkish Empire. But I think that, unless Great Britain and those Powers interested in this matter, take it in hand, it will inevitably be very serious, for there are numerous races in that particular part in which these outrages have been committed, where there appears to be a strong Bulgarian majority, and in other parts not far off you have large numbers of Servians, and amongst them you find Albanians, who have been made to play very much the part of the Kurds. I think we may judge from the previous analogies, and from the past history of the Turkish Empire, that this is the forerunner of a terrible state of affairs, unless we are able to ascertain facts more directly than has hitherto been possible, and unless the British representative is able to give us full information based upon his own experience and examination, and the cross-examination of witnesses, with such assistance as he can himself command. I am afraid that the materials at the disposal of the British Government, and at the disposal of other Governments, will be insufficient to enable them to take and adopt in Northern Macedonia the attitude which, I think, they ought to adopt. These are the two questions which I put to the right hon. Gentleman about the Greek loan and the evacuation of Thessaly, and the instructions given to Mr. Elliot in Northern Macedonia. I do not wish to ask him any question with regard to Crete, because I believe some questions upon that subject will be addressed to him by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries. I think we must all agree in deploring the delay which has taken place—which delay is admitted by Her Majesty's Government itself—and we should all be very glad if it were possible for the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement to-night which may be even a slight advance upon the statement he has been able to make in the course of the Debate on the Address. 700 The delays that have taken place since the Powers landed in Crete, and made themselves responsible there, are absolutely inexplicable. We have one candidate for the Governorship put forward and then taken away, the reason for which is not apparent. We should like very much to know what is the position of the candidature of Prince George, and whether it is receiving the support which the right hon. Gentleman stated in the course of the Debate on the Address it was receiving, and whether there is any intention of pressing forward his candidature? But, strongly as I feel with regard to this question of Crete, I am bound to say that the question of practical moment is the speedy evacuation of Thessaly by the Turks. If the right hon. Gentleman is able to announce that he has given concurrence with the other Powers, that, as a matter of fact, within four weeks from the commencement of the loan the Turkish troops will evacuate Thessaly; if he is able to tell that to this House, not as a mere surmise and expression of his own opinion, nor as the expression of the opinion of the Government; but if he is able to state it upon documentary evidence furnished by the Turkish Government themselves, I think that this short interpellation of mine will not have been in vain.
§ SIR R. REID
I wish to elicit if I can state such information as the right hon. Gentleman considers himself justified in giving in regard to the desperate position of affairs in the Island of Crete. Sir, in the course of the last Session last year, the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Bashi Bazouks, the Mahomedans in that island, had been disarmed. Of course, no one told us that anybody could desire any other thing than that they should be disarmed, because they had rendered themselves conspicuous under the protection of the Turkish troops by firing upon the Christian insurgents outside the lines of the Turkish outposts, whereas the insurgents themselves were prevented from retaliating because they were not allowed, by the dread of a renewed bombardment, to pursue the Turks or Mahomedans beyond the outposts of the Turkish troops. I ventured to state last year that there had been some of these attacks even after the date when it 701 was supposed that the Mahomedans had been disarmed, but certainly, if we are to believe the newspapers, the unanimous testimony of the newspapers—of the Times,which I generally refer to for information upon these subjects as being, on the whole, the best informed paper—there have been repeated attacks of this character. There has been a considerable number of attacks of this character on the part of the armed Mahomedans—not regular Turkish troops—emerging from the security of the towns to make inroads, accompanied by the most cruel circumstances, upon the insurgent Christians who reside some distance out of the towns. I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us any information in regard to that. It is an astounding fact under the domination of the European Powers, with the vast authority that have—with the tremendous Naval power that they have in those waters—there should have been committed, with impunity, outrages of this character, perpetrated by armed Mahomedans sallying forth from the Turkish lines in order to cause destruction among the Christian insurgents and destroy their property. That is my first Question, because I cannot conceive that there can be any difference of opinion as regards the duty of a Government to prevent such proceedings wherever possible. That is possibly a grave reflection upon the real character of the authority we wield in the waters of Crete. Sir, the next Question I want to ask is this: What is the position of the Christian insurgents in the country districts of Crete and the population generally in regard to the free introduction of commodities along their seaboard? Originally, we know, the blockade of Crete was adopted, and very cruelly adopted, for the purpose of putting pressure upon the Greek Government to withdraw the forces of Colonel Vassos, and since his withdrawal that blockade has been somewhat intermittent. I do not understand under what circumstances it has been continued. Has there been, and is there now, any restrictions at all upon the importation of food? I assume that there has not been, although I do not think that the original proclamation, which prevented the importation of the food supplies, has been formally withdrawn. 702 Again, has there been any interference with the importation of ammunition? The right hon. Gentleman gave an answer the other day, in which he stated that importation of ammunition was permitted at certain ports. Now, I do not want to labour the Question, but I do not suppose he gave, in any way, an answer which was otherwise than intended to be full information.
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. G. N. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
Importation of ammunition is permitted except at certain ports.
§ SIR R. REID
Permitted, then, at all places except at certain prohibited ports. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a few questions in regard to that. When was the prohibition, the entire prohibition, of the importation of ammunition withdrawn? When was the area of prohibition restricted to the ports which he describes? And in the second place, I ask—although I hardly like to ask it—for the sake of giving reassurance to those who have doubts about it, is the liberty to land ammunition, and to land everything else, absolutely free, and are the fleets not only of Great Britain, but also of the other Powers, under orders to allow unlimited importation of ammunition and of anything else except at the ports he has specified? So far as he can, I shall be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if he will inform us upon this subject. Those are two points, I must say, which very seriously affect the welfare and destinies of Crete, and which very much affect the character of our proceedings in those waters, and upon which a good deal of feeling prevails among some people, and certainly I feel it myself. The last matter I wish to mention in connection with this island is this: I should like to know if it is possible for the right hon. Gentleman to explain a little more what is the secret meaning, if it be a secret meaning, of the extraordinary proceedings of the Powers in regard to the appointment of a Governor for the island? One reads accounts in the papers, and sees that every Power professes the greatest desire to see the Governor appointed. The greatest and the most 703 terrible anarchy exists in the island, and very great suffering also exists, sufferings which, I am afraid, have been accompanied by forced emigration on the part of a good number of people, and by great destitution, if we knew all the facts of Greek losses of life in the interior of the island. It is absolutely impossible to understand what the different Governments in the Concert of Europe have been doing. They all profess the greatest anxiety to accept any Governor acceptable to the other of any one of the four—I think it is four—Governors proposed. We have had it in the Blue Book that each of the representatives of the Powers were prepared to accept this particular gentleman's name, if anybody proposed it; but nobody proposed him, and the consequence was that this particular nomination—which appears to have been a very good nomination, as far as one can judge—falls through absolutely. Since then there has been a development which was startling to a certain extent, although some of us thought it was very gratifying. Russia appears to espouse, in some sense, the Greek cause, and we had to propose Prince George of Greece as Governor of Crete. Great Britain and France certainly assented to it, and most vehement and vigorous statements appeared in the official Press of Russia, to the effect that Russia had made up her mind upon the subject, and that this candidature would be created. That also has disappeared, whether temporarily or finally, of course, I do not know. But the fact remains that of the many things which are needed to restore any chance of peace and prosperity and harmony in that unfortunate island, of the many things that are needed for that purpose, not one has realty been effected. Now, Sir, in this matter I do not want at all to deny—I never have denied, and I do not think anybody ought to deny—that Her Majesty's Government have been evidently very much impressed by the sadness and misery which exists in that island, and have tried, so far as they were able, to comply with the suggestions of other nations, have evinced every desire to put an end to all this. Now, Sir, I do not want to press the right hon. Gentleman. I know perfectly well that the diplomatic necessities may cause some reserve, but how long is this 704 reserve to continue? We have been, throughout the whole of this wretched business in Armenia three years looking forward, month by month, in the hope that something would be done. All this time the whole of that wretched population has been decimated by massacre, and they are without any prospects of further happiness in the future. One of the reasons why we were told that we ought to be considerate was, that Crete was only one part of the Eastern Question, that there was the case of Armenia and that arrangements had to be come to about Armenia. There are some things which so print themselves upon your memory, that you never forget them, but so far as the practical result is concerned it is true that this wretched business of Armenia has almost passed out of our mind. I hope that is not going to be the same with regard to Crete. We have obligations in regard to Crete. I beg to say, again, as I said 18 months ago in this House, we have vast powers in the Mediterranean, and it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should be more firm, and show something of the spirit our forefathers showed. I do not wish to pursue that subject further, because this is not quite the occasion to do it. I do not wish to depart from what seems to me a very fair view. I do not want to suggest any doubt. I do not think it would be just to suggest any doubt as to the desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to arrive at the happy solution of this terrible Crete difficulty. There is there a very large population, 3,000,000 or more, who, to use the words of Lord Salisbury—and no one has used more powerful language—are in a state of absolute anarchy with no justice, no protection for life and property, for the honour of the women or anything else, no security against incessant persecution and murder and outrage of the worst description. And all these things take place under the guns of a fleet, which is competent to impose its will. All I can say is, that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some hopeful assurance, and if he can do so, I believe—though, of course, I have no right to speak for anybody but myself—that there is not an hon. Gentleman in this House who would not learn with satisfaction, that there is a prospect 705 of this wretched people being rescued from the miserable position in which, through no fault of their own, they have been for so long.
§ MR. BRYCE
I rise to explain why I do not propose to address any question on Asiatic reforms. No question has been addressed to the Government, and the reason why no question has been asked is very simple; it is because, I am convinced, that more harm than good will be done by any questions on that subject. It is now perfectly clear that the Concert of Europe does not intend to carry out anything in Asiatic reforms. That is perfectly clear. Last March, when the Cretan Question was in an acute stage, it was suggested by some, that the proper course for this country, would be to leave the Concert of Europe, and act on our own responsibility. One of the arguments which had most weight with hon. Members on this side of the House was that, if Great Britain were to quit the Concert she would use whatever vast influence she possesses to induce other Powers to carry out reforms. A year has elapsed and nothing has been heard about these reforms. It seems perfectly clear that no attempt has been made to carry them out. I do not think we should do any good to those unhappy people by bringing their sufferings before the House and before the country. If we were to call attention to particular cases of outrage and oppression we should only be aggravating the situation. It is clear that the Concert of Europe is going to leave this population to the tender mercies of the Sultan, and under these circumstances the least said about it the better. We know that the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel, and it is to such tender mercies that these people have to be left. I will call attention to a remarkable instance of the state of mind that now prevails in Constantinople. In answer to a question put to him lately, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that the Sultan proposed to raise the Kurdish Irregulars to a strength of 100 regiments. There is no hon. Member who does not recollect that in the massacres of 1895–9, a very leading part was played by those regiments, which about the year 1889 were 706 raised by the express desire of the Sultan. These regiments have committed acts of butchery, torture, and brigandage in parts of Asiatic Turkey. These are the people whose strength is now to be increased. They consist of men who are brigands by profession. An additional number of them are now receiving uniforms and arms, and a fresh commission to oppress, rob, and kill their fellow-countrymen. Nothing can better show the pitch of audacity the Sultan has reached, and the immunity he enjoys, than this determination to increase the number of those irregular troops. In that state of things there is no prospect of improvement, and I do not see that any good will be done by calling attention to the matter.
§ *SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
I should like to ask a question from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in regard to the negotiations with foreign Powers, as to the trawling limit at sea. An Act was passed to protect the inland waters from the destructive trawling that goes on in the neighbourhood of the coast, and there could not be any effectual steps taken until an agreement with the Northern Powers had been obtained. The right hon. Gentleman has been asked on various occasions as to the steps he was taking to carry out this work; and the answer has been that it was found inexpedient to approach the Northern Powers. Therefore, at present, the questions stand in this way: that the Foreign Office thinks it is inexpedient to ask the Northern Powers, because inconvenience might result. I should like to ask to what class will the inconvenience be caused? Will it be to the line fishermen or to the trawling industry, that the inconvenience will be caused, or will the inconvenience be to Her Majesty's Government? We have, on various occasions, tried to obtain information on these points, but we have been unable to obtain it. The result is that a very scandalous condition of things exists round our coasts, and that while our home trawlers are being kept out of the waters a considerable number of foreign trawlers are able to come, in defiance of the police regulations that have been framed for 707 the protection of the Moray Firth, and several other inland waters. As regards the home trawlers, Her Majesty's Government has not done what we think a Government ought to do; in fact, the fishermen have had to take the matter into their own hands, and charter a steamer in order to do the work which the Government ought to do. Although that steamer has been able to do a great deal to clear the Moray Firth of the home poachers that infest those waters, they are obliged to look on without interference when foreign trawlers choose to come and destroy the banks on which so large a fishing population depends. The consequence is that a very angry feeling indeed has been generated among the fishing population. It is only because they are an extremely law-abiding people that nothing has occurred to break the peace. They have been put to very heavy expense in this work, and I think they are fully entitled to receive every assistance from Her Majesty's Government that will give effect to the law we passed for their protection very recently. It is all very well—this position of splendid isolation—but when the interests of a large and important class of our industrial population is concerned, it is a very unfortunate thing that this splendid isolation should exist, and that we should find a difficulty in making such negotiations with our neighbours as would protect the industries of a law-abiding population.
§ *MR. CURZON
There is a certain unity of character in, at any rate, the first four or five questions that have been addressed to me, and perhaps I shall be consulting the convenience of the Committee if I endeavour to answer them collectively; and then, perhaps, hon. Gentlemen who wish to raise other subjects can put their questions and I will answer them. If the House finds any imperfection in the substance or in the quality of my replies, I hope they will bear in mind that the majority of the questions have been sprung upon me almost without notice, and that really the representative of the Foreign Office in this House is not positively an official cyclopædia, charged to the full with all the information connected with his office, 708 and ready to pour it forth whenever anybody turns the tap. The first question put to me related to the Greek loan. The hon. Member asked if I could name to the House a date for the issue of that loan, and he inferred that the causes of delay could only be trivial in character. That is not the case. I hope the hon. Gentleman will believe me when I say that an international loan of this character is not a small matter. It is one that involves considerable prelimmaries and great caution and deliberation. We have the utmost desire, in the interest of Greece, to bring the matter to an early issue, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will sympathise with me when I say that we have another and equally primary interest to consider, and that is the interest of the tax-payers of this country. Consistently with these interests we are pushing forward the loan as quickly as possible, and I hope it may be issued in a short time. The hon. Gentleman accurately stated the fact when he said that the evacuation of Thessaly, according to the treaty of peace, should take place within one month of the date of the issue of the loan—that is to say, within a month from the day when the loan is offered to the market. But he asked me to go further and to give him an assurance that the Turkish Government will actually evacuate Thessaly at the expiration of that time. I have often observed that hon. Members opposite too frequently seem to assume that all the Powers concerned in these transactions, and particularly the Government of Turkey, lie in the hollow of our hand, and that it rests with us to do precisely as we please. But the Leader of the Opposition knows that that is not the case, and when the hon. Member asked for the guarantee to which I have referred, he must have known very well that it was one that could not be given. He knows, also, that any such burden imposed upon themselves, either by this Government or any other Government, would have been most unwisely assumed, and that it might have been fraught with very serious consequences. I do not mean to say for a moment that we should regard with equanimity any failure on the part of Turkey to act up to her obligations. The Guaranteeing 709 Powers will bring every pressure they can upon her to induce her to evacuate in the prescribed time, but I cannot give the hon. Member the precise assurance for which he asks. Now, as to the events which have been passing in Northern Macedonia. The facts are these:—The Turkish Government had reason to believe that arms had been concealed in parts of that province by Bulgarian inhabitants, and inquiries were held, at which it was alleged tortures were inflicted upon the people. The correspondent of an English newspaper was in those parts, and got into trouble at Uskub with the Turkish authorities. The moment we heard of it we directed Mr. Eliot to go from Constantinople to inquire into the case of this English subject, and it was only after he arrived that he ascertained that a military commission had appeared upon the scene from Constantinople to inquire into the alleged concealment of arms. We at once ordered Mr. Eliot to stay and watch the proceedings of the Commission, and to report upon them. The hon. Member urged that Mr. Eliot had a right to attend the proceedings of this Commission and to examine and cross-examine the witnesses. Now is that the case? Is that reasonable? Let us take a parallel case in this country. Let us suppose there had been concealment of arms in Scotland or in Ireland, and that an inquiry had taken place during which tortures had, it was alleged, been inflicted upon witnesses, and let us suppose that a Commission had been sent from London to inquire into those events. Does the hon. Member suggest that the first or second secretary of any foreign Embassy in London would have a right to attend that Commission and to examine and cross-examine witnesses? The idea is perfectly absurd. I may state for his information that when we heard that this Commission was sitting we telegraphed to Constantinople, and asked our Ambassador to get Mr. Eliot what facilities he could for attending the proceedings, and the answer came that by the time this had been done, if it could be done, the Commission would have already completed its labours, and that no good purpose would result. I hope I have shown 710 the hon. Gentleman that in that respect we have done all that we reasonably could do with the means we had at our disposal. I pass now to the questions about Crete. The first of these was a question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite as to the condition of affairs in the island. He spoke about attacks taking place in the neighbourhood of towns, and he assumed, as I think I shall show, not correctly, that those attacks had been made by the Mahomedan population exclusively upon the insurgent Christians. The events of which he spoke, I believe, are almost wholly restricted to the neighbourhood of the town of Candia, which is the last refuge of the Mahomedans in the island. Fifty thousands Mahomedans are congregated there, and there is a military cordon 15 miles long, which is imperfectly maintained partly by Turkish and partly by international troops. In connection with this cordon there has been much friction, and there have been raids, cattle-lifting, robbery, what in India is called "sniping," and occasionally murder. But, as far as I can judge from the reports, I do not think that the acts of aggression have been more upon one side than upon the other, and I do not think that the victims have been drawn from one class or religious sect more than from another. Let me utter one word of caution. I fancy we have been a little too ready to believe all the reports that have reached us of what has taken place in Crete.
§ *MR. CURZON
Yes, and I will give an illustration. The most notable instance of this occurred in connection with the events of last year. It was alleged that in the bombardment of Akrotiri we bombarded a nunnery, and killed several of the inmates, including some nuns, and everyone will recollect the emotions of horror and indignation which burst from all quarters of this House. But a little later in the year we received information from an independent witness who had been in close connection with the insurgent leaders the whole time, and learnt that no nunnery was destroyed, that no women were killed, and that no nuns were there at all, and that not a 711 single person was hit in the bombardment; and I beg my hon. and learned Friend to bear that in mind.
§ SIR R. REID
I have never mentioned any particular story. I merely asked about the bombardment in the first instance, and these raids in the second.
§ *MR. CURZON
The hon. Member is, no doubt, correct; but may I read two extracts from reports of officials in Crete with reference to the general truth or the reverse of these statements. Sir A. Biliotti wrote—It is in the character of the Cretan Christians or Mahomedans to exaggerate greatly their statements, and to speak as of frequent occurrence what has taken place once, and of what has happened to an individual as concerning the whole community.Then a naval officer says—The reports in the newspapers as to pillage, assassination, etc., are in all cases grossly exaggerated, and in 99 cases out of 100 absolutely false.
§ *MR. CURZON
Certainly; his name is Commander Grenfell. Then the next question which the hon. and learned Member asked was as to the position of the Christian insurgents in the interior. I am happy to say in their interest that I believe they are doing well, because they are living on the property and enjoying the substance of the Mahomedans. The real distress, as appears from our reports, is, in the main, in the neighbourhood of Candia, because of the great population there congregated. These Mahomedans have been living for a long time on doles originally given by the Turkish Government, and since then distributed by the European Governments. In the interior there may be places where distress prevails, but there is no reason to suppose that there is great difficulty in getting food in the interior. As regards arms, my hon. and learned Friend asked when the entire prohibition of arms was withdrawn. I doubt whether there was any precise moment, because I doubt whether it has been possible at any 712 time for the entire prohibition of arms to be enforced on such an extensive coast line, with its numerous indentations, and with other islands and the mainland of Greece not far away; and I believe that small boats and craft of various descriptions are constantly slipping over with provisions and ammunition. The Admirals have been compelled to limit the blockade of arms to those particular ports which I named the other day, and where their importation would be a source of great danger to the population. Then there was the larger question about the candidature of Prince George and the failure of the Concert of Europe to find a governor for the island. The hon. and learned Member asked me to explain the action or inaction of the Powers. That, I am afraid, is a task too heavy for me to undertake. The springs of international suspicion and jealousy are full of very troubled waters, and I am quite unable to explain the reason of the various movements to and fro of the Powers with reference to the different names that have been proposed. There was a Swiss gentleman proposed in the first place; I believe his withdrawal was due to his own personal disinclination to go. There was a colonel from Luxemburg proposed in the next place; why he was withdrawn I do not know. The reason he was not supported by us was because he had been in our service. Then a Montenegrin was proposed, and he was withdrawn because the Prince of Montenegro found his services to be too valuable elsewhere. And finally, we come to the candidature of Prince George of Greece. The hon. Member asked me in what condition was the candidature of Prince George of Greece. The candidature has not been withdrawn, but when he asks me whether all the foreign Powers accept that appointment I am unable to say. The matter has been under discussion; objections were raised in certain quarters, but whether or not those objections have been overcome has not reached our ears. The hon. Member was perfectly right in saying that, important as this question of the Governorship of Crete is, it sinks for the moment into abeyance compared with the larger question of the evacuation of Thessaly. Let us first get the Turkish arms out of Thessaly. When that has 713 been effected, then let us take in hand, as I hope, the final pacification of Crete. I next turn to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen—it was hardly a question. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by saying that the less he said the better. I concur with him, and I only wish he had carried out his own promise. But he refrained from doing so, and, having said that the less said about these matters the better, the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say something about the Concert of Europe almost as disparaging and as offensive as it was possible to imagine. In speaking of Asia Minor the right hon. Gentleman said it was clear that the Concert of Europe did not intend to carry out anything in the way of Asiatic reform, that nothing had been heard of reform, and that no attempt had been made. That is an echo of the Recess speeches of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Over and over again we have heard of the abandonment of Armenia, and now we have a belated echo of that cry in this House. Is it the case? I am not concerned to go into past history and to argue whether the Concert of Europe has always fulfilled its obligations towards Armenia; but one thing I know, and that is that under the late Government not nearly so much was done as under the present Government. I do not desire to raise the ire of right hon. Gentlemen by going into bygone history. If the allegation is that the Concert of Europe has been doing nothing with reference to the reforms in Armenia asked for during the past two years it can be met by the Papers laid on the Table of the House. My recollection is that there are long accounts by our Consuls of the application in the various vilayets of Asia Minor of the scheme of reform drawn up by the Ambassadors at Constantinople. Now, it is quite true that these reforms have been in most cases useless; but for what reason? Because, although they have been given a fair proportion in the gendarmerie and in the various offices of Government in those provinces, the Armenians have proved inadequate to their duties. I am not quoting anything that does not appear in the Blue Books. And it is true that on these grounds in the main, the scheme of reform, so far as it 714 has been put in operation, has broken down. As to our inaction in Asia Minor, will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to remember, as I am sure he will, the excellent work that has been done by our military Consuls and Vice-Consuls? That is not action undertaken by the Concert of Europe, but it is action undertaken by this Government; and, as far as there has been in many provinces of that country a considerable amelioration in the position and fortunes of the Armenians it has been due very largely to the constant activity of our Consuls moving about among the people, on good terms with the Governors, inquiring into every case of alleged injustice, and, I believe, bringing in their train an immense relief to these unhappy people. I think I have answered all the questions put to me about the Eastern question. I do not know whether I ought to go into the question about the sugar bounties and other topics now. Perhaps they may be dealt with later.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
The Under Secretary, who has just sat down, censured my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen for disparaging the Concert of Europe, and that within a few minutes of the language he himself employed on the subject of the Concert of Europe. When asked about the action of the Concert with reference to the candidature of Prince George of Greece, he said he was utterly unable to comprehend the action or inaction of the Concert, and could give no account of why they did something or why they did nothing. More just contempt heaped on that august body by any person I never heard than that which came from the Under Secretary. He was asked about Armenia. When he was asked why these unfortunate people are still without protection, I confess I was astonished, and almost shocked, to hear the Under Secretary, who, we had hoped, at least had a desire of giving some protection to these unhappy people, lay the whole blame on the Armenians themselves. That is the tone the Foreign Office assumes on the Armenian question. That is not the feeling which exists either among the majority of this House, or of the country. I know that 715 the right hon. Gentleman has never used any language of sympathy towards Armenia. It has always been—[Mr. CURZON dissented]—yes, I repeat, his tone has never been different at any time. It has always been his endeavour to cast the blame of the misfortunes of the people of Armenia upon those unhappy people themselves, and always to defend the conduct of their oppressors. Ever since I have been in this House—
§ *MR. CURZON
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I think he will agree with me that if a charge is brought, the victim of which believes it to be entirely unfounded, he is justified in at once rising to defend himself. I have often had occasion to make speeches on this Armenian question, and I can honestly say—and I am quite willing to have the records looked up—that I have never adopted a tone of anything but sympathy for these poor people, and of condemnation for the cruel sufferings of which they have been the victims; and if the right hon. Gentleman wants a specific allusion I will refer him to a speech that I made in the early part of last year or the previous year, on a motion made by the hon. Member for Flintshire, on the subject of Armenia, which the hon. Member remembers very well, and with reference to which I am sure he will support me in saying that that speech was, to the best of my humble ability, instinct with sympathy for the Armenians.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Nothing is further from my desire than to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. I must confess that the language held to-night with reference to Armenia is not the language of sympathy, and, if I am wrong as to the tone he has adopted, I submit entirely to his contradiction on this subject, because he must be well acquainted with what he has said himself. But, certainly, anybody who heard what he said to-night will not feel that his sympathy was with the Armenians in their position in Asia Minor. The point of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen was this: the Concert 716 of Europe has done nothing for Armenia, and I re-affirm what my right hon. Friend has said. The Concert of Europe has abandoned Armenia, and everybody knows that that is a fact, and the right hon. Gentleman admitted that, because he said that the only thing to appeal to was what had been done, no doubt, would have been done by the English Consular officers in Armenia, and he said particularly that that was independent of the Concert of Europe, establishing, in fact, what my right hon. Friend said. Now, Sir, upon this subject of the Concert of Europe, I do not think it is really worth while arguing that the Concert of Europe has done anything for Armenia. The whole world knows that it has done nothing and means to do nothing for Armenia, and I may say now that if the right hon. Gentleman wishes that they should do something for Armenia, he knows as well as I do that he is perfectly powerless to induce the Concert of Europe to do anything for Armenia. I pass to Crete. Crete is a country unlike Armenia, because the Powers of Europe and the Concert of Europe assume and pretend to have taken it under their charge. M Hanotaux, the French Minister, said—"We have taken it as a deposit." What is the condition of that deposit which the Concert of Europe has had in its charge for the last 18 months? I say it is a disgrace to the Concert of Europe; it is a disgrace to every responsible Government, which is a member of that Concert. The First Lord of the Treasury got up and said, "What has the Concert of Europe done? It has guaranteed the autonomy of Crete." Yes; it has guaranteed the autonomy of Crete. Where is the autonomy of Crete? What step have you made towards the autonomy of Crete? Not one single inch have you advanced within the last 12 months. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries said—and said truly—that the condition of Crete to-day is a condition of anarchy and of misery. Is it denied that it is in a condition of anarchy and misery? What Government is there in Crete to-day? Where is the administration of justice? I confess that I heard with regret the levity with which the right hon. Gentleman talked on this 717 subject. The right hon. Gentleman was asked as to the condition of the poor people in the interior of Crete. He replied, "Oh! I suppose they are well off because they are enjoying other people's property." That is not the way in which an English Minister ought to speak of the condition of Crete. He ought to speak seriously of it.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, a dispatch ought never to have spoken like that. But the right hon. Gentleman never told us that before. We are assuming that it was a smart saying. Was this dispatch by one of his admirals or one of his captains? Is that the spirit in which you are dealing with the population of Crete? "They are very well off because they are enjoying other people's property." In my opinion, that is not the spirit, and is not the language with which you ought to approach the condition of these unhappy people, who have been in your charge for more than a year. The right hon. Gentleman is asked about the condition of these outrages, which we read of every day, and what is his view of that? He says that that is confined very much to Canea, and then, as usual, his defence of his friends the Mahomedans is that the others are just as bad.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes; well I take it so; but is it creditable to you who are responsible for the peace and order of Crete that these outrages are just as bad on both sides? What are you doing? What is the Concert of Europe doing? The best defence they can offer is that, with a population of 50,000 people under the guns of your fleet, they are committing outrages—the Mahomedans upon the Christians and the Christians upon the Mahomedans. Is this the country to which you have undertaken to give peace and order? And are we not justified in saying what everybody in this country, and everybody out of this country, says, when 718 they speak of the Concert of Europe, they regard it with contempt and derision. You know perfectly well that that is the universal opinion. Then you are asked about the Christian Governor. Why, you have not even reached the point of the First Lord of the Treasury yet—you have not got them to "toss up." This is the Concert of Europe; and yet you attack my hon. Friend for speaking disrespectfully of the Concert of Europe. How can you get anyone to speak respectfully of the Concert of Europe in their treatment of Crete, when the only defence you can set up for it is that the one side commits outrages upon the other, and the other commits outrages in return; and this is the country to which six Great Powers have undertaken to give peace and order? How can you respect a Concert which has such an account to render of the deposit, which it has received. So much for the Concert of Europe in its treatment of Crete, and the account that the Under Secretary has got to give of the discharge of its duties by these Trustees. Now, Sir, I confess I believe that the newspaper accounts of what is happening in Crete—and I think we have had some reason to know it—are a little more accurate than those which we have got from the Foreign Office, and when the right hon. Gentleman endeavours to represent to us that the condition of Crete in its interior is fortunate and happy, because the Cretan people are enjoying other persons' property; and when he endeavours to represent to us that at Canea and elsewhere, there are no outrages, or nothing to speak of, I confess I feel a certain amount of incredulity in reference to these statements. Well, Sir, if this is the work of the Concert of Europe, I observe, and observe with satisfaction, that when Her Majesty's Government really want to do any business they do not rely upon the Concert of Europe. They have taken measures, and I recognise it with satisfaction as one good thing, for enabling Greece to raise that loan which ought to lead to the evacuation of Thessaly. They have not done that by the aid of the Concert of Europe. They have done it by leaving the Concert of Europe, and by getting the agreement of these Powers who will concert, and not by the action of the Powers whom they know will 719 never concert. Now, as regards this nomination of a Christian Governor: the Concert of Europe has done nothing now for nearly 12 months, and all the time they have been trying to appoint a Christian Governor. And what says this great English Government by its mouthpiece? To-night he says he cannot tell the House of Commons why the Christian Governor has not been appointed. What is the cause of this inaptitude? The Under Secretary cannot be worried, actually does not know why one Christian Governor is proposed after another, and why he is rejected, and that is the condition and the account which is given of the Concert of Europe by the British Minister to the British House of Commons. Well, then, at last we have come to one reasonable proposition—that Prince George of Greece has been at last propounded by the Russian Government. I have heard, with, satisfaction, that the English Government has supported that nomination. If that nomination had been made 12 months ago, all the misfortunes which have arisen would never have occurred. If the Concert of Europe had put forward the nomination of Prince George of Greece, and enforced it, I do not believe that the war between Greece and Turkey would ever have occurred. We have been given to understand that France and Italy support that nomination. Now, I want to know if it be the case that Russia and England and France and Italy are in favour of the nomination of Prince George of Greece; and if that nomination is not abandoned, why is it not carried out? That is a question that we have a right to ask, and all that the Under Secretary told us is that it was going on. How long is it going on? When are measures going to be taken? Is it possible that Russia, France, Great Britain, and Italy are not capable of insisting upon the nomination of a Christian Governor? And how long are you going to allow a nomination of that kind, which is necessary to anything like good government in Crete, and which is the first and main essential step towards the autonomy of Crete, to remain in abeyance; and how long are you going to permit yourselves to be baffled in this manner? Is that the position in which Great Britain ought to stand in reference 720 to a combination towards which the right hon. Gentleman expects our respect and esteem? Well, Sir, I say that when you mean business, you do not do it by the aid of the Concert of Europe. When the other Powers mean business, they do it for themselves in the far East. They do not rely upon the Concert of Europe there. They make their own arrangements and carry them out, without any concert with you or any other Power. They know what is to their interest to do, and they carry it out, and you also do the same. You have interests in the far East. You go and carry them out, or do not carry them out, and therefore you do not feel yourselves, in other respects, absolutely tied and bound by vetoes of this description placed upon your action. Everybody knows that questions concerning the East can be and are properly settled by one combination—namely, a combination of Great Britain and Russia and France. You have seen the necessity of that in this matter of the Greek loan. I am very glad you have acted in the way you have done. You have seen that the first thing required for Greece is that Thessaly shall be delivered from the cruel oppression of the Turks, and for that purpose, the money must be raised for the indemnity. You did not get the Concert of Europe to do it. The Concert of Europe would not do it. They would not assist even in carrying out that settlement between Turkey and Greece, which you say was the great work of the Concert of Europe; but when it was a question of raising the money in order to deliver the Greeks in Thessaly from the Turks, and you found the Concert of Europe would not help you, you very promptly went out of the Concert, and made arrangements with France and Russia, for that purpose, and you are going to raise a joint loan. I quite agree that a certain time for consideration is necessary, but I want to know this. That loan is going to be raised almost immediately by Great Britain, by Russia, and by France. That is a combination which has done what the Concert of Europe never has done, something effective in carrying out a policy. That proves what the Concert cannot do, and what a combination of Powers, who really wish to do a thing, can do. And you are going to raise that loan. But, Sir, there 721 arises upon that a question which was put by my hon. Friend behind me, and that is this: when you have raised this money, have you secured that the conditions will be fulfilled on the part of Turkey; that is to say, that when the money is paid, the price of the conditions will be fulfilled; and I am astonished and grieved to hear that the Under Secretary will give no assurance on that subject at all. My hon. Friend asked him this important question: there are three Great Powers—Russia, France, and Great Britain—assisting in raising this money to deliver Thessaly; then we want to know, will these Great Powers see that Thessaly is delivered? And he has declined to answer it. He said—We shall not view with equanimity the Turk remaining in Thessaly after he has got his money.The equanimity of the right hon. Gentleman is not disturbed, and has not been disturbed, by the refusal of the Turk to do anything for the last 12 months, and I confess that the assurances that he will not view with equanimity the Turk putting the money in his pocket, and remaining in Thessaly, does not reassure me at all. We expected to have from the English Government different language from that. We expected that the Great Powers of Great Britain, France, and Russia, when they had seen that this money was paid, when the Turk had received the consideration for the evacuation of Thessaly, they would give some assurance to Europe, and, above all, they would give some assurance to the British people that Thessaly should be delivered. I listened to the language of the right hon. Gentleman, I confess with great disappointment. I confess that, if there is to be no guarantee, if there is to be no assurance, that when this heavy indemnity—for it is a heavy indemnity to a very poor country like Greece—has been raised, and that burden, in addition to the burdens which she has necessarily had to bear after the war, is cast upon her, the great Powers—I will not say the Concert of 722 Europe, for I know the Concert of Europe will do nothing—who have come forward as the friends of Greece to-day, as they have been, I am glad to think, in the past, the traditional friends of Greece, the creators of her independence, and her defenders against the barbarity of the Turks, will see, at least, when she has paid the money, that the condition for which they have stipulated, and for which they are responsible, is fulfilled. We ought to have a little more than the statement that the right hon. Gentleman will not endure this with equanimity. I do not think that the Turk has shown much consideration for the equanimity of the right hon. Gentleman, or of the Great Powers, and, whether the equanimity of the English Government is or is not disturbed by the breach of the obligation into which Turkey has entered to evacuate Thessaly when the money is paid, it is an uncommonly bad security for the fulfilment of that or of any other condition. I must say I think a more unsatisfactory account has never been given of the situation of things, whether in Armenia, or in Crete, or in regard to the fulfilment of the conditions upon which the war between Greece and Turkey was settled, than that which the right hon. Gentleman has given to-night. I must protest, first of all, against the abandonment of Armenia. Unhappily that is one of the things the Concert of Europe has treated as a chose jugée,and which they decline to have re-opened under any conditions. The right hon. Gentleman has not pretended that the Concert of Europe has recently done anything whatever in that matter. He has only told us that the Consuls will try and do what they can. Has the Concert of Europe taken any measures in recent times to enforce the reform of Armenia? That is not told us. The right hon. Gentleman could not tell us. Then, as regards Crete, nothing has been done, and I must say I think that the account he has given of what are the hopes of the evacuation of Thessaly by Turkey makes the thing a great deal worse than I feared it was. Then as to 723 the answer with reference to Macedonia, which, I understand, was this, that Mr. Elliott was proposing to go up when he found that the Turks had completed the inquiry, and that there was no use doing anything more.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
But I did not understand from the right hon. Gentleman that Mr. Elliott had the means, which our Consuls had in the early days in Armenia, of attending the investigation. The right hon. Gentleman said what an absurdity it would be that an English representative should be attending upon the investigation. I do not know why it would be absurd. We insisted upon it in regard to Armenia, with reference to our Consuls there. They went there and made reports, and their reports of the incredible atrocity of the Turks are on record. I, therefore, fail to see, if similar things are going on in Macedonia, why they should not have been present. The right hon. Gentleman may know better. All I can say is that it seems to me the account given to us to-night of the action of the Concert of Europe in any of these matters is highly unsatisfactory, and I can only express my deep regret—though I believe the English Government is not responsible for these matters—that they should have been obliged to take part in transactions which, I must say, reflect very little honour upon them or upon those with whom they are acting.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his intervention in this Debate. Until he and the right hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Bryce) took part in it, the Debate was proceeding smoothly. The hon. Member for Eye and the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, with their accustomed moderation, put certain questions to my right hon. Friend who sits near me, and those questions my right hon. Friend answered, as everybody who heard him, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman, is, I am sure, prepared to admit, with perfect clearness, perfect moderation, 724 perfect impartiality, and without the slightest Party animus whatever. But I suppose the right hon. Gentleman is too fond of his speech about the Concert of Europe to lose even the most inappropriate moment for delivering it, and, accordingly, he comes down and denounces the Concert of Europe for a great many things for which, I daresay, it is responsible, and my right hon. Friend near me, for certain faults for which he certainly is not responsible. The right hon. Gentleman, desirous, I presume, of representing Gentlemen on this side of the House as lacking in sympathy with suffering populations, chose to imagine that my right hon. Friend had spoken lightly of the sufferings, either of the Cretans or of the Armenians. Nobody who heard my right hon. Friend can possibly place such an interpretation upon what he said, and I confess I should have thought that even the Party animus of the right hon. Gentleman would not have induced him to make so irrelevant and unfair a criticism even of a foe. However, my right hon. Friend is in the recollection of the House, and he needs no further defence from me. As regards the remainder of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I will only say that he seemed to make most of it under the illusion that there was in the Estimates a Vote for the Concert of Europe, which he wished to cut down.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Quite so, and I will come to that directly. I quite agree that, if we are to blame, cut down the Estimates. But the right hon. Gentleman's speech was not directed against any action of this Government. He wished to cut down the salary of the German Emperor, and, I presume, of the Emperor of Austria, and, I presume also, of the King of Italy. And his doctrine of politics appears to be that, while a Concert of six Powers is incapable of even the smallest virtue, a Concert of three Powers—which he does not call a Concert but a combination—has all the merits which he would like to see in the larger body. After all, we are now discussing, 725 at any rate, we have only the right to discuss on the present occasion, the conduct of the British Government. Has the conduct of the British Government been blameworthy in this matter, or has it not? And there really the right hon. Gentleman had not a word to say. As regards Armenia, he admitted what my right hon. Friend has pointed out with unanswerable force, that everything that can be done by diplomatic methods at Constantinople, or in Armenia itself, has been done by this Government. Does the right hon. Gentleman wish us to go outside diplomatic methods? Is that his policy? Is this man of peace desirous, at the present moment of all others, of going outside diplomatic methods? If not, do not let him come down to this House and talk such nonsense as he has done to-night. So much for Armenia—so much for the action of this Government in regard to Armenia, and so much for the consistency of the right hon. Gentleman. Does that satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite? Then how about Crete? The right hon. Gentleman has repeated, not in stronger language than I have myself used in and out of this House, and in this his opinion is my opinion, that, in regard to Crete, the Concert of Europe has not distinguished itself. Is that denied? Do we deny it? Have we denied it? Then the only question before the Committee is this, should we, the Government responsible for the policy of this country, have done better, so far as the Cretans are concerned, to have cut ourselves adrift from the Concert of Europe? That is the question. The right hon. Gentleman, as I said just now, thinks that all the virtues are on one side and all the vices on the other. Does he suppose that the three Powers, who have all the virtues, could have dealt with the Cretan question alone? We are not responsible for any action but our own. What does the right hon. Gentleman wish us to do? What does the party behind him desire? Does he desire that the British Government, as regards the Cretans, should cut itself adrift from the five other Powers constituting, with itself, the Concert of Europe? That is a perfectly plain issue, and I will venture to say that any man who has the audacity to come down and 726 suggest that such a course should be pursued, and to say that it would be for the interest of the Cretan question, shows his total ignorance of the whole situation. What would be gained by it? Would it be in the interest of either the Christian or the Mahomedan population? Does either the right hon. Member for Aberdeen, or the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, suggest that our absence from the Concert of Europe would have assisted the population of Crete? If not, then, what rubbish is it to come down to the House and abuse, not the Government, but the Concert of Europe, who are not on the Votes, as I said just now, while abstaining from what would bring the question to an issue, which would be to move the reduction of this Vote, because we have not left the Concert of Europe. If that is your opinion, have the courage of your opinion and say so. Do you think, as you insinuate, but dare not say, that we should benefit the population of this island by absolutely dissociating ourselves from our allies in Europe? Then move the reduction of this Vote on that ground, and take the judgment of the House of Commons upon it. Until you are prepared to carry out your own half-avowed principles to their logical conclusion, do not come here and time after time repeat these well-worn, wearisome jibes, which have no relevance to the real question.
§ *SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
The House will hardly have any special wish to hear me, after the treat of listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, and I only intervene to say that I am deeply convinced that our difficulties regarding the Ottoman Empire, and with regard to what is called the Eastern Question, can never be settled until we return to the policy of the past. I was amazed to hear the Leader of the Opposition denouncing the Concert of Europe. If I may have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire for one moment I shall much appreciate it. I was amazed to hear him denounce the Concert of Europe. Why, Sir, I have heard peroration after peroration from him in favour of this very Concert of Europe.
§ *SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
My memory goes back for 18 years. Who invented the Concert of Europe? Why, Mr. Gladstone and the right hon. Gentleman. They thought it the most magnificent invention that ever had been devised. It was invented for the Dulcigno demonstration, and I could produce half-a-dozen speeches of the right hon. Gentleman's, showing that he held this view. I have spent the past 18 years in studying this question, and, as I have said, the only way to deal with it is by alliance between those Powers who are bound by common interests, and who, therefore, will hold together; I mean an arrangement between those Powers who have not only the will, but the power to enforce their views. That is the only way to deal with this question. That view is opposed to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, not only of 18 years ago, but of 18 months ago. I advise the right hon. Gentleman to read some of his own speeches of 18 months ago. Why, Sir, he came down to this House, and he supported the Government as to the Concert of Europe.
§ *SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
Yes, in the earlier stages he did so over and over again. But when he found the Concert had accomplished nothing, he turned round and forgot what he did at first. I am not going to say much about the Concert of Europe, but I hold that the Concert of Europe is a fantastic chimera, invented by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The whole cause of our present trouble originated in 1893. They were due to the fact that Her Majesty's present Government have followed the policy and example shown to them by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The House heard just now the right hon. Gentleman denounce the Concert of Europe for having failed in Armenia. Why did the Concert of Europe fail in Armenia, or why did the British Government fail in Armenia? Because of the action of the right hon. Gentleman's friends, the Russian Government. The right hon. Gentleman opposite always 728 preached alliance with Russia. It is recorded in the Blue Books that, when the British Government were prepared in 1895 to act, and had arranged for action, they were checked by the dispatches of the Czar's Government. It was Prince Lobanoff who wrote in effect, "If you desire to move in favour of the Armenians, you will have to deal with Russia." Yet the right hon. Gentleman comes here and praises Russia, when he ought to know that the failure to relieve the Armenians, to carry out his own policy in Armenia, was due to the action of the Russian Government. The action of the Russian Government in that matter has been absolutely unequalled. Why have we failed in regard to Armenia, Crete, and Greece? Why had the policy started by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and carried on by hon. Gentlemen on the Government side, absolutely failed? It had failed because, in the year 1893, hon. Gentlemen opposite believed that the Russian Government, in alliance with France, would act with England in at tempting to coerce Turkey. When they had aroused Turkish and Mussulman feeling against this country, and had aroused the action of the Concert against the Turks, and when we were prepared to act, his Russian friends turned round and used their enormous power to prevent the intervention of our Government. I daresay the Under Secretary of State is right in saying that we do not know, and that no one knows the exact motives that move Powers like Russia and France; but we know very well what is the general motive, and what has been the settled idea on the part of those Powers during the last five years; it is, to put it shortly, hostility to this country. But, Sir, why have we failed with regard to Armenia, with regard to Crete, with regard to Greece? Why has the policy started by the right hon. Gentleman on that side, and carried on by the right hon. Gentleman on this side, absolutely failed? By the confessions of both Leaders to-night that policy has failed; and why? It has failed because in the year 1893, when the right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power, a new policy was started in the East, a policy of attempting to coerce Turkey in conjunction with Russia and France. It was not an honest policy on the part of 729 Russia and France, because their interests are naturally and inevitably opposed to ours. It was a policy which aroused against us Turkish feeling, and the whole Mussulman feeling of the East. It was a policy which has borne terrible fruit in India on the North-West Frontier this last year; and it is a policy which, if it is pursued, will bear still more terrible fruit for us in the East, and especially in India. It is a policy which has absolutely paralysed our action and our influence, because we have been trying to work with Powers whose natural aims and interests are opposed to ours, and whose policy is bitterly opposed, to our own. The whole result of trying to work with those Powers has been the absolute impotence which has fallen upon the British Government of both Parties, and that must continue so long as that policy is adopted. I say there is another policy; not the policy of trying to bolster up an impotent alliance with our enemies, who are counter-working us in every quarter of the globe, bid the policy of working with our natural allies, the German monarchies, and bringing a policy of friendly pressure towards Turkey, instead of hostile coercion. We know what great results have been achieved by the action of our Military Consuls in Asia, and those results will continue in a still greater degree if that policy of friendly pressure were adopted. Whose policy is that? That was the policy of Lord Beaconsfield. In 1878 he sent out six Military Consuls to Asia, and if they had been continued in that position the recent troubles in Asia Minor might have been avoided. They were taken away by the Government of the Party opposite in 1881, within a year of its return to power, and the result was there remained no one to look after the interests of the Christians in Asia Minor. Sir, I repeat that there can be no hope for the amelioration of affairs in the East, no hope of success for our policy, until we revert to the old policy of allying ourselves with those Powers who have interests in common with ours, and upon whose strong and stable support we can rely in hours of difficulty for upholding and defending British interests, and, if the right hon. Gentleman opposite likes, in supporting the cause of humanity in Turkey or elsewhere. 730 Reference has been made to our policy in regard to Crete. Our policy failed in regard to Crete, not because of the Concert of Europe, but because of disagreements between the Powers. I was not surprised to hear the way in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke about the condition of the population of Crete. According to him the persecution and murder of Mussulmans is of no account; he had not a word to say about the hundred thousand Mussulmans who had been enduring every sort of outrage whenever the Christians have had the upper hand. What is outrage and murder when committed on a Christian, is, in his view, apparently, nothing of the sort when committed on a Mussulman. I will not further detain the House but there are one or two questions I should like to ask my right hon. Friend. I see by recent telegrams that the Russians are proposing to annex the whole of Deer Island, and that there has been a very strong protest against this on the part of Japan. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman can give us any information on this point? Then we learn that, so far from the Russian occupation of Port Arthur being temporary, the Russians are actually reconstructing the forts there. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information with regard to this? I will not now enter into a discussion as to the great advances recently made by the Russian Power in Northern China, but I should like to ask whether there is any information confirming the report that a demand has been made by Russia for the removal of all English employees on the Chinese Railways.
§ MR. M. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
I desire, in a few brief observations, to call the attention of the Committee to the gross and unprovoked acts of violence committed by a body of police in Westport. What makes the conduct of which we complain particularly censurable is that it is not yet ten days since we were compelled, by moving the adjournment of the House, to call attention to a similiar violent proceeding. Now, the Chief Secretary, in reply to a question which I put to him this afternoon, gave what is, I presume, the official 731 version of this extraordinary occurrence, but there is, even in his statement, I submit, a strong condemnation of the proceedings I am referring to. This whole miserable business had a very simple origin, and in a couple of minutes I will put the facts before the Committee. A man, named Duffy, incurred unpopularity among his neighbours through having taken an evicted farm. As the result of this feeling, he was on one occasion booed by a number of people on his way home. He complained about this conduct towards him, and the result was an investigation of the whole matter before a bench of Magistrates. The case was gone into on two or three occasions previous to that of yesterday, but what I complain about now is not the conduct of the police ten days ago, but their proceedings yesterday, alter this case had been practically finished. I wish to point out to the Committee that this man Duffy was not struck; he was not even threatened, he was not molested in any way, and the Committee will at once measure the trivial character of the offence charged against these young men when I inform them that the Magistrate presiding yesterday offered to allow these five or six young men to have their liberty if they would only consent to give a small bail to keep the peace—a sum of, I think, £10 each. They refused to do so, and I think they were right. The ground given by one of them was that inasmuch as he had not been proved guilty of any illegality of crime, he was not going to confess to any illegality or crime. The result was that the Magistrate sentenced these young men in default of bail, to a term of three or four months' imprisonment. After the proceedings had reached this stage, a large force of police came to the Court-house, put handcuffs upon these four or five young men, and took them through the streets on their way to the gaol at Castlebar. When the people outside witnessed their friends treated in this way, after nothing of any serious character had been proved against them, they cheered the prisoners, and they groaned at the police. Now, I do not care very much about cheering or groaning myself; I have been groaned at myself as often as I have been cheered, but it is not a crime, I hope, either in Ireland or in England, to boo the sacred person of 732 a policeman. It is not contended, I think, either by the Chief Secretary or by the police officials on the spot, that a single act of violence was committed towards the police. No stones were thrown, no mud was thrown. The whole offence committed by the people was the booing of the police. Now, what was it? I will read from an account of these proceedings which appears in the Dublin Press of this morning—Many priests who were near the church at the time were witnesses of these brutalities. At Lower Bridge Street, close by, a poor old man named Thomas Carley was standing quietly at the footpath, when a policeman struck him from behind and knocked off his cap. He stooped to lift the cap, and on rising the policeman struck him such a blow on the ear with his bâton that his ear was dreadfully mutilated and his head swelled. He was attended by a doctor. I met him. He had his wounds dressed, and he informed me he came into the town to get the relief allowed him by the Guardians, without which he himself and his family would be starving.This old man was not in the booing part of this business at all. He was not interested in any way except, as he says himself, in going on that occasion to get the relief allowed him by the Guardians, without which he himself and his family would be starving. But that was not the only act of violence. Previous to the knocking down of this man, a bâton charge had been ordered by Inspector Milling, and hundreds of people, residents of Westport, were driven by the police of Westport through their own streets as if they had committed some crime. I contend that this is an unwarranted proceeding, and is not at all justified by any thing which the people did, and inasmuch as it is a repetition of the conduct on the part of the same officers and men who were censured in this House some ten days ago—
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
Censured by you.
§ MR. DAVITT
Quite so. We are the representatives of these people, and as they cannot look to the right hon. Gentleman to censure his subordinates when they do wrong, we are as justified in censuring them in this House as I hope the people of Westport are in either cheering or booing the police as their 733 conduct deserves. Now, I am not going to make an attack here on the police of Ireland as police. They are paid, however, to keep their temper as well as to keep the peace and preserve order, and I venture to say that if the right hon. Gentleman desires to calm down the angry feeling which now prevails in the West of Ireland, he will be doing excellent work in the interests of law and order if he instructs those young officers and inspectors to keep their temper and get the men under them to do the same. Now, Sir, this whole unfortunate business arose in the manner I have described. No one has been hurt over it, I am glad to say; no act of violence was committed on this man Duffy. It is not pretended that any wrong was done against the police, except booing, in consequence of their conduct on the present occasion. I do again protest, as one of the Members for the county of Mayo, in the strongest possible manner, against this unwarrantable violence on the part of the underlings of the right hon. Gentleman. He surely knows enough about Ireland and enough about human nature to agree with me in what I say, that if conduct of this kind is to continue by the police, if they are to draw their bâtons and chase the people through their own towns without cause, sooner or later those who are attacked in this way will retaliate in a manner which I am sure both he and hon. Members on this bench will regret, and if he desires that no violence should take place either there or in any other part of Ireland, he will instruct Inspector Milling to moderate his zeal in the maintenance of law and order. It is not the best way to prevent people breaking the peace by trying to break their heads with bâtons. Therefore, I content myself, as one of the Members for Mayo, with making this protest, and I appeal to the Chief Secretary to take my advice in this matter. If he would only communicate with those police officials in the sense I have suggested I am sure that all these unfortunate disturbances would cease.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
If, Sir, a topic is now before the House of a character which in former days was only too familiar, the fault is not that of the police, who have done no more than carry 734 out their duty, or that of the Government, who are bound to see that the law is enforced, and that disorder is put down but rather it is the fault of those who have for some time past, in this district of the country, entered into an organised plan for starting a system of intimidation against the holders of evicted farms, and, more than that, against those who do not hold evicted farms, but are in possession of grazing farms, which the hon. Member and his friends wish to see taken from them, and divided amongst the smaller tenants. Sir, the hon. Member says that it is not a crime to groan at the police. Nobody, so far as I am aware, has ever suggested that groaning at the police is in itself a crime, but everything depends on the general circumstances of the case. Now, the hon. Member has given his version of the circumstances and I gave my version of the circumstances, which he referred to ten days ago, and I see no reason to vary in any particular the statement I then made. I will not weary the House by again going into the whole of that lamentable story, but it remains the fact that there has been on the part of certain of the hon Member's friends, a deliberte attempt to organise intimidation against the holders of these farms and against the large graziers.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I maintain that it was the absolute duty of the Government to take the most stringent measures, if stringent measures were necessary, to put down that movement before it became more dangerous. The hon. Member has referred to one case in which there appears to have been some slight injury done to a particular member of the crowd which was charged by the police. "A poor old man," he says. I think I know that "poor old man;" he used to be very familiar to this House, and I am not surprised that he now reappears. This "poor old man" is represented to have been struck down by the police in cold blood, and with no provocation. It is possible that in the course of a bâton charge, if the bâton charge only extends a distance of 735 50 yards, one or two individuals may be slightly injured; but this particular individual to whom the hon. Member for East Mayo referred was not present at Westport in order to seek aid from the Guardians; as I understand he is a comparatively well-to-do farmer.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The hon. Member has quoted from the information at his disposal; I am reading now the information at my disposal. I understand he was not seeking aid from the guardians; he was not a poor destitute person. But however that may be it really does not interfere with the merits of the case either one way of the other. It is impossible that a bâton charge should take place without somebody being injured, and the fact that this somebody may be either a poor man seeking aid from the guardians, or a comparatively well-to-do farmer, as I believe to be the case, seems to me to have very little to do with the merits. Then the hon. Member speaks of the police having lost their temper. I have not the slightest reason to believe that the police in any sense lost their temper. I have to-day given as I believe a correct version of the affair. The very account from which the hon. Member himself quotes will give the House an idea of the formidable character which the conduct of the crowd might have assumed if the disposition to disorder could not have been checked in time. This is the account in The Freeman's Journalof the scene outside the Court after the close of the trial:There was at this stage an enormous number of policemen around the people outside, and Mr. Dowling, D.I., in command of a large force of armed policemen, having marched from the barrack, entered the Court-house and took charge of the prisoners. Close-fitting handcuffs were then placed upon each one of them, and in the centre of a long file of armed policemen they were marched from the Court-house to the brakes in waiting outside to convey them to Castlebar Gaol. Their appearance was 736 the signal for a most enthusiastic outburst of cheering. Cheers were over and over again called for and responded to for Mr. John O'Donnell. The shouts 'Down with land-grabbing!' went up from thousands of throats. I have never seen such a demonstration in my life. The police formed one solid mass across the road between the people and the cars in which the prisoners were being placed. As the cars moved off cheer after cheer went up from the enormous number of people present.Now, Sir, this House will remember—I do not wish to repeat it again—the description I gave of the circumstances which led to these scenes in Westport, and I think they will agree with me that on this occasion the police did not go one whit beyond what was desirable, and even necessary, in the interests of the public peace. Before I quit this subject, I should like to make one or two further remarks. This whole movement has been to a very large extent the creation of Mr. William O'Brien. Mr. William O'Brien has spoken as if the movement and the agitation were perfectly legal, not merely in their objects, but also in the means by which those objects are to be attained; and he compares the action he suggests to the action of Trades Unionists engaged in a dispute with employers. These are Mr. William O'Brien's words:—We want nothing that is not perfectly legal. Again and again we have said that the man is your worst enemy who touches a hair of these men. What we wish is that the Government will do what they have done in the case of every industrial dispute in England, the Government will have to clear out of the way, and allow a fair fight between the people and the grabbers.Now, Sir, as to the legality of the means recommended by Mr. William O'Brien, I think that I have already said sufficient on the present occasion; but when Mr. William O'Brien compares the action recommended by him with the action of Trades Unionists I would ask hon. Members opposite this question:—What dispute had these men, who went for the purpose of inducing large grazing farmers by intimidation to give up their farms? What dispute had these men with the large farmers? Sir, an industrial war 737 implies that there are certain questions at issue between employers and employed—the question of wages, or the question of hours, or the question of employment. What is the case here? It simply means that these smaller tenants are anxious to secure for themselves the possession of farms which it is the right of those who at present occupy them to have, just as much as it is my right to have and occupy my house in London, or as it is Mr. William O'Brien's right to have and occupy his house in Westport. Sir, this is not Trades Unionism; it is Socialism, and Socialism of the most dangerous type, carried out not by legal but by illegal means. One other point: Mr. William O'Brien alleges that this agitation is designed to strengthen the hands of the Congested Districts Board in their policy of acquiring land to partition amongst the small tenants. I have already referred to this matter, and I feel bound, as a member of the Congested Districts Board, to say emphatically that we do not desire to have Mr. William O'Brien in this matter as our ally. I am entitled to speak the mind of my colleagues on the Board. We repudiate the assistance which Mr. William O'Brien offers us, and we are bound to repudiate it, otherwise we should be making ourselves partakers in the criminal methods adopted by him—if not the criminal methods adopted by him, the criminal methods recommended by him; perhaps that will please hon. Members better. As a Member and on behalf of the Congested Districts Board, I am bound to make a strong protest, and I tell hon. Members opposite, that in the case of farms in the district in which Mr. William O'Brien's influence extends, we shall be obliged to scrutinise with the utmost care every single case, in order to see whether there has been intimidation in any form, or not; and, if we find that there has been such intimidation it is impossible that the Congested Districts Board should undertake the purchase of such a farm. I say, therefore, that the methods recommended 738 by Mr. William O'Brien are not merely criminal, but foolish as well, because the inevitable result will be that he and his friends must defeat the very object they profess to have at heart.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
The first criticism I have to make on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is that it is entirely irrelevant to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Mayo. The right hon. Gentleman has gone into the question of the conduct of Mr. William O'Brien. The right hon. Gentleman knows, and this House generally knows, that there is no man in England, Ireland, or Scotland, who is readier to bear the fullest responsibility of his words and acts than Mr. William O'Brien. If my hon. Friend had raised some question as to the conduct of Mr. William O'Brien, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would have been entirely relevant—I do not say it would have been accurate, but it would have been relevant. But that is not the question. The quest ion before the Committee is the conduct of the police towards a crowd at Westport, and the whole object of the Chief Secretary has been to confuse a large, a general, a vexed question like that of the policy recommended by Mr. William O'Brien with the simply narrow issue of the conduct of the police on this particular occasion. I am quite willing to discuss at the proper time whether Mr. William O'Brien's recommendations are sound or unsound, but I decline to be carried away to that larger issue from the narrower issue which the right hon. Gentleman abandons because he knows he has really no defence. I hope I am not discourteous in putting it in this way, but let me give the right hon. Gentleman a word of warning: every word he utters in this House has large and wide-reaching effect in Ireland. I am very glad that I have stated at least one proposition which commands the assent of hon. 739 Gentlemen opposite, and I hope I may be similarly fortunate in regard to my next proposition. I say every word the right hon. Gentleman utters in this House has wide-reaching effect in Ireland, and an especial effect on the forces which are at his disposal. Everything they say or do will be regulated largely by the manner in which their conduct is treated in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, I hold it to be the prime and sacred duty of the right hon. Gentleman to so carefully weigh his words as that he may feel himself to be in a position to defend every action taken by the police on the inspiration of his words. That is a fair test, I think, to apply to the words of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, let us see what the facts of this case are. A number of men are tried on a charge of intimidation. The offence cannot be very grave in the opinion of the magistrates themselves. I assume that the magistrates would at least try to make something like an appropriate relation between the offence and the punishment, and the punishment they awarded at first was that the prisoners should enter into recognisances of £10 each, and find two sureties of £5 each to keep the peace for 12 calendar months. But what was the alternative? Four months' imprisonment! Sir, did anybody ever hear anything more grotesque in the world than to say that an offence can be adequately and fairly punished by two such alternatives as £10 bail on the one hand, and four months' imprisonment on the other? Why, the magistrate was so ashamed of his conduct that he, on very little pressure, reduced the term to three months! But, I ask, would any magistrate in England give as two alternative punishments £10 bail or three months' imprisonment? That is what happened in the Courthouse. Well, the people outside regarded this as a grossly excessive punishment, and I defy any hon. Gentleman in this House to say that it was not a grossly excessive punishment. When these prisoners came out they were booed by 740 the people, and they were booed by the police. Well, I dare say there was a little booing on both sides. Irishmen are accustomed, even when they are policemen, to give back in the same coin. The people booed the police, and the police, because the people booed them, gave a bâton charge on the people. The right hon. Gentleman did not defend the action of the police on the ground that it was justified merely by the booing of the people. He had to find another excuse. Now, if there is anything in the world that I think is a little more exasperating than the acts of despotic power, it is the defences which are given for those acts. The right hon. Gentleman, when we brought a similar case before him a short time ago, defended the action of the police on the ground that it was necessary to prevent interference with the traffic of Westport. Anybody who knows anything at all about Westport is aware that the traffic is the one thing of which Westport is innocent. To-day, acting on the same principle, knowing that he could not defend the action of the police in any other way, the right hon. Gentleman—I will not say invented, because that might be supposed to be offensive—but the right hon. Gentleman has defended the action of the police on this ground: he said some of the houses had their shutters up in sympathy with the prisoners who were being tried, and the police were afraid that if the people were not dispersed the shopkeepers who had not put their shutters up would be attacked by the crowd. Now, that is an extraordinary imagination on the part of the Chief Secretary. What proof was there that the people who did not put up their shutters would be attacked? The right hon. Gentleman has not offered one scintilla of proof that there was any such intention on the part of the crowd. Therefore, we come down to the naked fact that in Ireland to boo a policeman is a criminal offence, which justifies the police in making a bâton charge. Does the right hon. Gentleman think he is advancing the cause of law 741 and order in Ireland by these proceedings? Let him have any opinion he likes of Mr. William O'Brien's speeches, or Mr. William O'Brien's objects. All I can say is that if the object of Mr. William O'Brien were to create a state of turbulence and riot in Westport, the most effective ally he has is the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. What, Sir, can be more exasperating, more calculated to drive the people to regrettable acts than that the police should be encouraged by speeches in this House to bâton the people on any excuse of this sort. The right hon. Gentleman has had a very quiet administration up to the present; but I warn him that by encouraging the police to acts of wanton brutality such as have been committed at Westport, he is going the best way to work to disturb the peace of Ireland.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
Lord Dufferin once described an ambassador as a clerk at the end of a wire. I am bound to say that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the information he has given the House in reference to these transactions, must have been completely dependent upon what he was told by the police themselves; he, apparently, is a mere clerk at the end of a wire, and his whole duty is to tell this House what he is told by the police at Westport. I would most respectfully warn the right hon. Gentleman not to give a free hand to the police. The right hon. Gentleman has never, I think, come into anything like unfriendly personal conflict with myself. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord, has not been so fortunate, and I was present when the First Lord was booed in Donegal, as well and as loudly as the police were booed yesterday at Westport. No prosecution was instituted, and there was no bâton charge. But why? Because the First Lord had learned the lesson. At that time, during the First Lord's administration, no fewer than 13 men lost their lives at the hands of the police in Ireland, 742 and for those 13 murders not one man was sent to trial. It is because I know that the police have been associated with murder under the régimeof Balfour the First that I warn Balfour the Second. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that something like two years ago I made the suggestion that the constabulary should be numbered, in order that outrages on the people might be traced home. The First Lord refused, that request, as I knew he would. Indeed, the numbers are actually taken off the police in order that they may bâton the people as they choose. The Chief Secretary will know pretty well that all these proceedings, especially the bâton charges, are acts of gross illegality, and utterly unjustified in any way. I candidly tell the right hon. Gentleman that as we conquered his brother in Ireland so we will conquer him.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
In the course of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he informed this House that the people of Westport, and of that district of West Mayo, had entered into an organised campaign against the occupiers of evicted farms. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary whether he desires to anticipate the decisions of the Courts of Justice; or whether by speeches in this House he wishes to direct the Courts of Justice in Ireland to pass the sentences that he desires. I say that it is a serious thing for any Gentleman occupying his position to get up in this House, and to say that any body of men have been guilty of intimidation, because if they were found guilty of intimidation I say the magistrates were negligent in their duty in offering to release the prisoners on merely finding bail; it was their duty to send them to gaol without option of bail. But because the magistrates knew they were not guilty of intimidation, the magistrates gave them the opportunity of bail. They said, "If you will give bail in £10 each, and find sureties in £5 each, 743 we will allow you out." When I hear the right hon. Gentleman, or anybody else on that side of the House, reviling these men because they did not give bail, I remember the course taken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston), when he was charged with some offence some years ago. He was honestly convinced that he had been guilty of no offence, and he refused to give bail for his good behaviour. Well, a West of Ireland peasant is just as much right in taking the same course. The Chief Secretary for Ireland sneered at the "poor old man," and, although he did not say so in so many words, he gave the House to understand that there was no such person. But, while the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to discredit the telegrams received by my hon. Friends from responsible people in Westport, he refused to tell us the name of the man who was bâtoned. If there was no such man, why did he not give us the name—hon. Gentlemen are too impetuous; I say, if the old man was not there, why did not the right hon. Gentleman tell us the name of the man who was there? The statement that we have is that this was an old man, 84 years of age, who went into Westport, not for the purpose of taking any part in the proceedings of that day, but for the purpose of getting the relief to which he was entitled from the Guardians. Although the right hon. Gentleman sneered at the facts read out by my hon. Friend, he carefully refrained from giving the House the name of this
§ man, so that we might find out whether he was the person referred to by those who sent us information, or was the mythical individual described by the right hon. Gentleman. Now, it is stated in the telegrams we received that the first man to use the bâton was the County Inspector himself. The right hon. Gentleman has not said one word upon that. Why should the County Inspector not leave the bâton charge to be made by the men under him? Is it true or not that County Inspector Milling was made a County Inspector under the régimeof the right hon. Gentleman who is now the First Lord, when he was only a District Inspector in Cork, because on a certain occasion he distinguished himself there by ordering a bâton charge? Having got that promotion, I suppose he now thinks that he may reach a still higher position by leading another bâton charge in Westport. But, Sir, while I fail to find, and while I could not expect to find, any sympathy in matters of this kind from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary there are two other occupants of that Bench to whom I appeal, and I am sure I shall not do so in vain. I appeal to the Attorney General for Ireland, and, above all, I appeal to the Solicitor General for Ireland. Both are Irishmen—
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 146; Noes, 39.745
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Bill, Charles||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy||Bond, Edward||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Bainbridge, Emerson||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Colomb, Sir Jno. Chas. Ready|
|Baird, John Geo. Alexander||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole|
|Balcarres, Lord||Butcher, John George||Compton, Lord Alwyne|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r.)||Carlile, William Walter||Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W. (Leeds)||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Edw. T. D.|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire)||Cox, Robert|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Barry, Francis Tress (Windsor)||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worcr)||Cubitt, Hon. Henry|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lanc. S. W.)|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Charrington, Spencer||Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Davenport, W. Bromley-|
|Bethell, Commander||Clarke, Sir Edw. (Plymouth)||Denny, Colonel|
|Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers-||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Purvis, Robert|
|Drage, Geoffrey||Kemp, George||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Kenyon, James||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Kilbride, Denis||Richardson, Sir Thos. (Hartlepl)|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (M'ncr)||Knowles, Lees||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir Matthew W.|
|Finch, George H.||Lawrence, Sir Ed. (Cornwall)||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Finlay, Sir Robt. Bannatyne||Lawson, Jno. Grant (Yorks.)||Robertson, Herbt,. (Hackney)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Lea, Sir Thos. (Londonderry)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Fison, Frederick William||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Flannery, Fortescue||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Swansea)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Garfit, Sir Henry||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.)|
|Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (C. of Lond.)||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpl.)||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Lucas,-Shadwell, William||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Lyttelton, Hon Alfred||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jno. M.|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Macdona, John Cumming||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Graham, Henry Robert||Maclure, Sir John William||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Gray, Ernest (Went Ham)||M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'ry)||M'Calmont, H. L. B. (Cambs.)||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Gretton, John||Malcolm, Ian||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Greville, Captain||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Gull, Sir Cameron||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo.||Moon, Edward Robt. Pacy||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Rbt. Wm.||Mount, William George||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Hanson, Sir Reginald||Murdoch, Chas. Townshend||Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Hermon-Hodge, Rbt. Trotter||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Grhm. (Bute)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord Arth. (Down)||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Wodehouse, Edmond R. (Bath)|
|Hill, Sir Edw. Stock (Bristol)||Nicholson, William Graham||Younger, William|
|Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)||Pollock, Harry Frederick||Sir William Walrond and|
|Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Priestley, Sir W. Overend (Edin.)||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Asher, Alexander||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Pinkerton, John|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Lambert, George||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Billson, Alfred||Lough, Thomas||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Brigg, John||MacAleese, Daniel||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||M'Donnell, Dr M. A. (Queen's C.)||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Caldwell, James||M'Hugh, E. Armagh, S.)||Strachey, Edward|
|Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.)||Maddison, Fred.||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Morton, Ed. J. C. (Devonpt.)||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Curran, Thos. B. (Donegal)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Mr. Davitt and Mr. James|
|Doogan, P. C.||Philipps, John Wynford||Roche.|
Resolutions agreed to.
§ And, it being after midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ The House resumed.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.