HC Deb 03 April 1900 vol 81 cc1131-53
MR. HEDDEBWICK (Wick Burghs)

I do not feel it necessary to make any apology for introducing a motion which, in my opinion, is worthy of the consideration of this House. But I cannot help feeling that the issues involved in that motion are of a gravity which might entitle hon. Members to expect that it should come from some quarter of the House which would give it greater weight than I can expect any words of mine to carry. But that defect which is personal to myself may, I hope, be cured during the course of this debate. I doubt if there is anything in modern history more amazing than the phenomenal growth of our Empire. I am not going into the story of that growth at length, but there are one or two facts connected with it which I wish to state, because I think they ought to be borne in mind in the consideration of the motion which is before the House. The area of the United Kingdom is, broadly speaking, about 121,000 square miles; the area of the British Empire, including feudatory States, Protectorates, and spheres of influence, approaches, if it does not actually reach, 12,000,000 square miles. The total area of our colonies, including Nigeria, is something like 7,674,175 square miles, or considerably more than half of the whole British Empire, and the total area of our self-governing colonies is about 6,686,960 square miles, and I think there can be no doubt in consequence of events which are now transpiring that a considerable addition will soon be made to that. It is very difficult to realise even in imagination the magnitude of these colonial possessions. If we take the single colony of Western Australia we find it covers 975,920 square miles. In that one colony the whole of France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands might be spread out, and we might clip from the superfluous margin another kingdom,, equal in extent to Italy. If we pass from the Pacific to the Atlantic and take Canada, in that colony the whole of the vast Empire of Russia in Europe, of Turkey, Persia, and Afghanistan would disappear and leave enough of spare land to form another kingdom ten times the size of Greece. Roughly speaking, if Canada and Newfoundland be excepted, it may be said that all these great self-governing colonies have been either acquired or settled within the present century, and of all of them it may be truly said that the powers which they now exercise as self-governing communities have been conferred upon them within the last fifty years. Within the periods which I have just mentioned many changes, both Parliamentary and constitutional, have taken place in the State. We have entirely remodelled our electorate, enlarging it again and again until it may be said, without exaggeration, that the real sceptre of political power has finally passed into the hands of the people. But all through these changes is it not remarkable that no consideration whatever has been bestowed upon that Greater Britain which has been growing up beyond the seas, and that no effort whatever has been made to consolidate the Empire by widening the political basis upon which it rests sufficiently at least to give to these great self-governing colonies a voice in the Imperial Councils of the State? It is to raise that question and to give this House an opportunity for the first time, so far as I am aware, of considering, and I hope of affirming, the desirability of admitting these colonies to a share in the Imperial Councils of the State, that I have placed upon the Paper the motion that appears under my name. I would, at the very outset, express an earnest hope that whatever view on this motion may be held by individual Members, no one will let fall a word in the course of this debate which either directly or by remote suggestion is calculated to injure the pride or wound the susceptibilities of those kinsmen of ours across the seas, who have shown to the world so moving a spectacle of ardent loyalty and unmeasured devotion to the Crown. I desire hon. Members to observe that this motion merely raises a question of principle; it proposes no scheme. I have no scheme of a practical nature to propose myself, and even if I had such a scheme I should not be in order on this motion were I to attempt to depict it. I deprecate at the present moment even the suggestion of a scheme, for in my opinion no scheme which any person could possibly suggest would have the faintest chance of success which was not hammered out in collaboration with our colonies. But there is another reason moves me to deprecate any attempt to sketch a scheme at the present moment. I feel that this is not a time in which we ought to attempt to hustle the colonies. We have been the happy witnesses of a remarkable growth of sentiment towards us on the part of our colonies, a sentiment which has grown up, which has brought forth blossom, and which has borne fruit like the magic tree of India before our wondering eyes. To attempt to force that growth or to prune it into some possibly unnatural and fantastic shape would surely be the greatest mistake in the world. But whilst I am debarred on this motion from entering into any details of a scheme, hon. Members who differ from me in the views which I hold will be at liberty to suggest any difficulties which might possibly operate against any scheme which could be proposed. Therefore, with the indulgence of the House, I will deal very briefly with some of the more obvious of these objections. Probably the first objection that would occur to anyone might be thus expressed: "It is not for us to take the initiative; it will be time enough to consider the question when the colonies prefer a request." I confess that is an objection to which very little weight, in my opinion, is to be attached. Do not let us under-estimate the value of a gracious act; even in politics it may sometimes prove happy in its effect. We may, perhaps with just cause, think little of ourselves and value lightly the privileges we enjoy, but we ought never to forget that this House is the "august Mother of Parliaments," that in the eyes of our race, wherever they may be, it is still the most sacred and venerated shrine of political freedom; and that we could do nothing better calculated to stimulate everything that is of good report in the public life of the colonies, nor confer any higher honour on our colonial kins- men than by opening these portals to their chosen representatives. It is true that no formal demand for representation in this House has yet come from any of our colonies, but it is not less true that from several of them there has been a more or less strong pronouncement in favour of the proposition which I now submit. Canada, the greatest of them all, has certainly favoured the proposal. With the indulgence of the House, I will refer to a recent report of the Imperial Unionists of Ottawa. The members of that body form a patriotic organisation, and in their last report they advocate the framing of a Bill, to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament, for the political incorporation of outer Empire with an United Kingdom—the very object aimed at in the motion. The report goes on to say— Public opinion is being awakened to the necessity of a better system of providing such aid to Imperial defence, and our statesmen are being forced to face the problem of Imperial consolidation. Even those who have disapproved of Canada's active participation in the war against the South African Republics have done so because they believed that no assistance should have been tendered without first obtaining Imperial representation; whilst the Premier of Canada has expressed his belief in the possibility of Canada being represented at Westminster, and even the Hon. Mr. Tarté has declared that Canada should have a voice in the Empire. Mr. Speaker, you have there a fact of which cognisance should be taken. The only discordant note in the general chorus of approval with which the proposal to aid this country with arms has been greeted by our colonies has come, it appears, from a small section in Canada, and proceeds from the feeling that without representation in the Imperial Parliament, and without a voice in deciding the issues of peace and war, there should be no military contribution. And I find in to-day's news a telegram from Sydney, in which Mr. Seddon, the Premier of New Zealand, is reported to have cabled to Mr. Lyne, the Prime Minister of New South Wales, with reference to Australian support of England— There must be no halting place. We must remain ever an indissoluble whole. And then he goes on to express the earnest hope that— as Australia and New Zealand have proved sources of help and strength to the Empire, it will be found practicable to take them into the confidence of the Imperial Councils. And if we may judge from the published opinions expressed at interviews of the distinguished Australian gentlemen who are now in this country in connection with the Commonwealth Bill, it would appear as if the feeling in our Australasian colonies were scarcely less strongly favourable to the proposal than it is in Canada. Another objection that may possibly be taken might be put thus:—If you admit the Colonies, why not India with its vast area and enormous population? I quite feel the force of that argument, and for myself I am not opposed to the representation of India at the proper time. I think it might be a very good thing, it might help to convince our fellow-countrymen in India that a larger share of the government of India might with safety be entrusted to the natives. Within recent years we have had here two Indian native gentlemen who have been elected to represent English constituencies, and who are therefore entitled to vote upon every social, foreign, and constitutional question which can come before this House. I do not think that any hon. Member would be prepared to say that either of these two hon. Gentlemen were more distinguished by eccentricities than the ordinary English Member. But I feel that it is contrary to the political genius of the British people, even in great reforms, to take more than one step at a time; and I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that the difference of institutions, of the habits of life, and of the whole social fabric of India, and of our great self-governing colonies is so great as to make is impossible to deal with them on the same footing and at the same time; and therefore I have confined my motion to the admission of the latter. Another objection I have heard taken is based on the theory of representation and taxation. That seems to be a very serious stumbling block to many hon. Members. I cannot help thinking that to some extent that difficulty arises from a confusion of thought, springing out of the common phrase that "taxation goes with representation." If I may be permitted to say so, the true formula is, "No taxation without representation"; not "No representation without taxation." The whole thing is a mere general political axiom, and as a matter of fact we have now both taxation without representation, and representation without taxation. The formula is intended for home consumption, and is in no way applicable to the colonies. There is no analogy between the position of a colonist who contributes to the taxes of his colony, although not to the taxes of this country, and that of a citizen of this country. But, as a matter of fact, the colonies do contribute indirectly to Imperial taxation. They maintain certain defensive forces and works, and pro tanto, they may be said to lighten the Imperial burdens we have to bear. I find that prior to the war in the Transvaal, Australia, New Zealand, Cape Colony, Natal, and Canada supported forces amounting to 80,000 men. In addition, these colonies have expended large sums upon fortifications and armaments for the defence of their capital cities and important harbours; and further the southern colonies have contributed annually £126,000 to our Imperial Naval Defence, while Cape Colony has recently voted the cost of a battleship, and Canada has offered a supply of seamen. If these contributions appear small, as compared with the vast total of our disbursements for naval and military purposes, it must be remembered that our colonies are relatively poor, and that their contributions are voluntary gifts. To all these things we must add that there are now 30,000 colonial troops fighting as Volunteers under the British banner in South Africa. The magnitude of the aid, moral and material, which has been given to us by our great colonies at the present juncture cannot be measured by the mere number of the troops they have sent to the front. But if it were thought desirable to turn what is a mere voluntary contribution into a certain and fixed quota, how could that be accomplished without admitting the colonies to our councils, and giving them a voice in the determination of Imperial policy? There are many other difficulties on which I do not wish to dwell, such as the apportionment of representation, if such a scheme were carried out. No doubt it would be difficult to apportion the representation, but that is an objection which would more aptly apply to a scheme than to a mere resolution affirming a general principle. After all these difficulties are not insuperable. If we take the case of the Commonwealth Bill, which the Australian colonies are about to submit to this House, we shall find that difficulties very similar in kind, and almost equally great, have been settled by Australian statesmen in the course of three years. If that has been done by the statesmen of our Australian colonies, surely we may expect of our statesmen with their Imperial experience that they should, in collaboration with our colonies, discover a solution of such difficulties as have been mentioned. I pass to the consideration of the advantages which might accrue from the proposal. In the first place, I do not think that we should suffer in respect of social legislation. Our colonies have been free from the ancient growths of custom and tradition which have hampered our legislation from generation to generation. They have had a tabula rasa, on which to write what they pleased, and they have tried many experiments in social legislation which we are now only considering. Take for instance the question of State pensions. That question has been settled in New Zealand, but in the absence of colonial representatives in this House there was no one who could give the Committee on pensions for the aged deserving poor, appointed last year, any information as to the nature of that scheme and how it has worked out in New Zealand. Then again in the important matter of our fiscal arrangements, it might reasonably be expected that these might be improved from the experience of our colonies, had we colonial representation in this House. The closer we draw to one another the greater is the chance of mutual understanding and agreement. We must remember that Canada has already rearranged her tariff system preferentially in our favour, and I understand that the Ottawa Board of Trade is considering the terms of a resolution to be submitted to the Congress of Chambers of Commerce in London, in which a tariff for the whole Empire is suggested, with preferential arrangements between Great Britain and her colonies, the duties collected to be allocated to an Imperial Defence Fund. These things may be mere straws, but they show how the wind blows, and there can be little doubt that had we a really Imperial Parliament the fiscal arrangements of the Empire might speedily be revised, to the great benefit of our commerce in every branch. Then there is a much more important point than any of those mentioned. There is the question of Imperial defence. I think no hon. Member can have followed the events of the last few months without having become convinced of the supreme importance to the Empire of unity of purpose and solidarity of action in Imperial defence. But how are these things to be achieved if every colony is to go as it pleases, to contribute or not to contribute, to control or not to control, as it chooses? The Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who will be ever gratefully remembered by this country, has made some important observations on this point. He said— If the result of the action were that Canada would be constrained to take a part in any war of Great Britain he should strongly resent it. He claimed that in the future Canada should be in a position to act or not to act, to interfere or not to interfere, to adjust as she liked, and to exercise the right to judge as to whether the cause was just. Accordingly it had been expressly stated in the Order in Council sanctioning the dispatch of the Canadian contingent that this should not be a precedent for future action, should not be a precedent for a constitutional, or even for a colonial point of view. Now, I do not wish to criticise these statements of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but they are sufficiently grave to attract the attention of this House. For what is it that Sir Wilfrid Laurier claims? It is the right, as the Premier of a colony, to sit in judgment upon the Imperial Parliament, and to approve or disapprove, to assist or not assist in our decisions. I cannot help thinking that on this occasion of the Transvaal war it was fortunate that the judgment of Sir Wilfrid Laurier was in our favour. We are not loved too well abroad. I question whether in the history of the country, since the Seven Years War, there has been such universal hostility manifested against us as to day; and therefore I say it is a very fortunate thing that Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Canada, and our colonies generally, have pronounced in our favour. Had they not rallied round us, how much greater our difficulties would have been! But on 15th March, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, speaking at Ottawa, went further; he then said— What we did we did of our own free will; and as to future wars, I have only this to say, that if it should be the will of the people of Canada, at a future stage, to take part in any war of England, the people of Canada will have their way Of course, if our future military contribution were to be considered compulsory—a condition which does not exist—I would say to Great Britain, 'If you want us to help you, call us to your councils.' It seems to me that the position assumed by Sir Wilfrid Laurier is absolutely unanswerable. Are we not already approaching such a situation as he presupposes? We shall always in future expect the colonies to help us. We are actually making arrangements to give hundreds of commissions in the British Army to our colonies; and if we do that, how can we say to Sir Wilfrid Laurier that he is not entitled to share our responsibilities for peace or war?

Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Mr. HERBERT ROBERTSON, Hackney, S.). House counted, and forty Members being found present,

MR. HEDDERWICK (continuing)

In connection with this particular subject of Imperial defence, we have also to recollect the extraordinary dimensions to which the cost of Imperial defence has grown. I do not think it is too much to say that though it is not actually beyond the capacity of the ordinary taxpayer, it already constitutes a serious burden. The British colonist, if not so rich as his relative at home, has yet shown himself capable of bearing a fair share of the burthen of Empire. But to insist upon this, or to accept it, involves a correlative right. You cannot share your burthen without sharing the right to say how the burthen is to be borne. There is the most important point of all, a point which is closely bound up with the question of Imperial defence, namely, the greater consolidation of the Empire. If we could speak to the world not only with the voice of the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but with the united voice of the whole Empire, we should not only exercise a much greater influence abroad, but in my opinion the greatest possible guarantee we would provide for the preservation of the peace of the world. What are the ties that unite us now? These are the Crown, a golden thread with a breaking strain, and sentiment, the greatest force in human affairs, but a fluctuating clement. Colonial sentiment is now at white heat in our favour. We may do anything with it now. But how long will it remain in this malleable state? Great exaltation of feeling cannot in nature be long sustained. There will come a moment when the eloquent words of Sir W. Laurier will be forgotten, and only the memory of the wounds of war will survive. Then the question will be asked, "What are all our sacrifices for? What have we gained?" There must be something tangible to point to. We ought to learn a lesson from the history of our American colonies. We saved these colonies from destruction by the arms of France, and immediately afterwards they broke away from us on a trumpery detail of a tea tax. That illustrates the double danger of legislating at a distance and of relying upon so fluctuating an element as sentiment. The Australian Commonwealth Bill will shortly be laid upon the Table of this House. Suppose, for a moment, that we were to be so foolish as to mangle that measure on which the colonies have been labouring for three years, and on which they have set their hearts, is there any hon. Member who would undertake to say how long the fervid enthusiasm, for which we can never be too deeply grateful, would remain? What escape is there from such a calamity but co-operation in council with our colonial kinsmen? Again, it must be remembered that the immense development of our colonies is a new factor in the foreign policy of the State. It adds enormously to the problem of Imperial defence. Hitherto the foreign policy of the State, so far as I understand it, has been governed mainly by two ideas—the balance of power in Europe and the protection of the shores of the Channel. But to these must now be added the greater problem of the protection of the vast littorals of continents in remote seas. It might be expected if we had representatives of the colonies in this House that Imperial affairs would get more adequate consideration than now. Parliament, under the pressure of domestic affairs, tends to become more and more parochial. An outbreak of swine fever attracts more attention than a massacre in a protectorate; an order for the muzzling of dogs than the loss of Madagascar. The democracy must be saved from Shoreditch if it is to govern an Empire. Is it unreasonable to hope that with the presence of colonial representatives in Parliament the political horizon would be somewhat enlarged, and the tone of the public mind correspondingly elevated? I think we should also avoid great recurrent risks—risks which arise from European obligations such as the guaranteeing of the Asiatic frontier of Turkey, risks which might expose us to war at any moment, and involve our colonies in disastrous losses. Finally, I should say, whatever one may think of the proposal which I have made, and however we may be disposed towards the admission of the colonies to representation in this House, the thing itself is inevitable sooner or later. Our colonies have ceased to be mere colonies. With our consent they have stepped into the Imperial circle. They have fought for us and bled with us. Henceforth they can never be relegated to their old position again. We have entered into a path from which there is no return, and from which, were it still possible, return, in my opinion, is not to be desired. Already some of our colonies claim to have a voice in the settlement of the South African question, and we shall have to consider their wishes. We have taken them into partnership, and the bond which has been sealed by their blood cannot be broken. In my opinion the addition of their voice in the Imperial Councils of the State would be a gain to the Empire and to the Imperial Parliament. I beg to move the motion standing in my name.

MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W. R., Elland)

I do not wish to add anything to the general argument brought forward by my hon. friend who proposed this motion. I think there can be very little doubt that the majority, indeed perhaps the whole of the House agrees in the theory of Imperial federation, or some sort of representation of the colonies, and that it will become in the near or distant future an absolute necessity. But what bars the way is time and the necessity for more practical suggestions than have hitherto been brought forward, and I do not in supporting this motion wish to discuss in the very least the forms which Imperial federation ought to take, nor do I suggest that there is any immediate possibility that it should be brought into practical political existence. It will be a matter of large statesmanship and long years before we can hope to have anything of the nature of imperial federation. We are going to discuss in a few weeks the Australian Commonwealth Bill, the idea of which has only been before the Australian public for, perhaps, twenty years, and it is only in the last ten years that any practical suggestions have been taking shape. What I want to suggest in reference to this motion is not so much that the Government should promise at this juncture to bring forward any sort of scheme of Imperial federation, but rather that there might be some sort of inter- mediate policy this country might adopt before Imperial federation was brought before it for serious discussion. All I wish to do to-night is to plead for the beginning of something being done to recognise the right of the colonies to some sort of representation in our councils, and the last few months have been showing that there is serious need for it. Of course the loyalty of the colonies and their action at the present time shows their intense affection for the mother country, but that loyalty has not been entirely unquestioning, although it has been given as graciously as it could be given. In Canada statesmen like Sir Wilfrid Laurier and others have, with that caution which has always characterised constitutional statesmen belonging to our race, refused, even at this juncture, to commit themselves absolutely to following Great Britain in every war in which Great Britain possibly may be engaged. It is true that they follow us in the present war, but many of the Canadian statesmen have said that, in spite of their approval of this particular conflict, they will not commit themselves to join in every war which England may undertake. This was said very directly by Sir Richard Cartwright— I say that we are not, by any manner of means called upon to take part in every war in which England may engage. I say more, that it cannot be demanded of Canada, as a right, that she should contribute to every war in which the Empire is engaged under the present circumstances. What Canada has done has been a free gift, and therein lay its value and its importance to the Empire. It is clear from that that even at this moment, when Canadians are so anxious to assist us, they will not commit themselves, in the same way as every part of the United Kingdom admits it must be committed, to accept the doctrine that under all circumstances will they be ready to assist England, and never can they accept that doctrine until they have some sort of representation in some common Parliament. I do not expect, and I think nobody expects, that the Government should make any sort of promise or engagement, or hold out any sort of hope that Imperial federation can be a matter of the immediate future. What I wish to ask is whether the Government could not do something as a sort of stopgap policy, to enable the colonies to feel that in this country, as well as through the different parts of the Empire, there was an idea that we ought to be working at some scheme by which they might have representation. The suggestion I am going to make is not my own, or I should not venture to make it. It comes from a colonial source. It is that the Agents General or some other people in thoroughly responsible or representative positions should be allowed, not to have voting power, for it would be ridiculous to suggest voting power—it would mean so little—but that they or some others in a representative capacity should be allowed to have a voice in our discussions. They, in a sense, are representative politicians, and they would be more so if this privilege were in any way accorded to them. This suggestion, of course, is open to many very obvious objections. In the first place, it is open to the objection that we have not had in our Parliament in any age, I believe, representatives who have not had voting power. But the conditions are peculiar; the conditions are new. The colonies are beginning to demand representation. Nobody suggests at the present time that there is any hope that they should have any real, complete and effective representation, but this is only a suggestion for a period during which the Empire is considering the possibilities of Imperial federation. It is only a suggestion which would meet some of the requirements of the situation. There has been recently in Australia a demand for some sort of representation from a very important source. The most influential newspaper in Australia, the Melbourne Age—which is the first paper in Australia, has the largest circulation, and has the highest influence of any newspaper in the Australasian colonies—has declared that the colonies ought to begin to demand some sort of representation, and there is no doubt that the feeling, although it has not taken any very definite shape, is growing with extraordinary rapidity. We, at this moment, however, or very soon, are going to have an Australian Commonwealth Bill before us. That Bill is the product of the enthusiasm for Australian nationality; but, quite apart from this war, quite apart from the loyalty which has been called forth by this emergency in the last few months, side by side with Australian nationalism, there has been a strong growth of Imperial feeling, and I think, when public feeling is beginning to show itself through newspapers and other sources in favour of some sort of representation, we ought in England to try to meet it. It is for that reason that I second the resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed "That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable, in the interests of the Empire, that the colonies should be admitted to some direct representation in the Imperial Parliament."—(Mr. Hedderwick.)


I thoroughly appreciate the intention of the hon. Member who has just sat down and the mover in bringing this resolution before the House; and if their object is, as I am sure it is, to induce a closer union between the colonies and the mother country, I am sure they have no more strenuous supporter than myself. But, at the same time, I must say I doubt very much whether that object will be promoted by the introduction into this House of an abstract resolution on a question of the greatest complexity and importance, and by an academic discussion on such a resolution. The matter is one which, if it is to have a practical issue, must come, as all our great constitutional changes have come, gradually and with the full assent of all the parties concerned; and to attempt to stimulate it into a kind of hot-house growth by anything like a premature discussion appears to me to be distinctly a mistake. I agree entirely with what was said by the hon. Member for Wick as to the prodigious growth of our colonial Empire—a growth which is much more remarkable and admirable when we consider its effect upon the intelligence, power, and wealth of the great colonies than when it is looked at as a question of the extension of physical areas. I agree with him also, as we all do, in his recognition of the magnificent rally of the colonies to the cause of the Empire. They have shown—and I think the hon. Member did them some injustice when he said that they had answered to our call, because we made no call; they voluntarily offered, tendered the assistance which we have so gladly accepted and, great as that has been and valuable as it is, large as are the sacrifices it has entailed upon the colonies concerned. I believe that if in any stress, of difficulty, or crisis of our fate we did make a call on the colonies, their efforts would be immensely greater even than those they have already made. Of course, there is a counter claim upon us, a claim which every man in this House would most gladly recognise, and if there be any demand or any request which the colonies have to make to the mother country, nothing can be more certain than that such a request, such a demand, would be most favourably considered by the British Parliament. But have they made that demand? Have they made any demand or any request for such a proposal, such an alteration of our system, as is suggested by the resolution which is now before the House? It is an abstract resolution. It is a curious thing how shortly after Mr. Gladstone has left the House his great principles are forgotten by his party. If there was one thing which Mr. Gladstone more consistently urged than another, it was that upon the Parliamentary point it was a great mistake, mischievous, and even immoral, in a Parliamentary sense, to propose abstract resolutions unless the promoters of those resolutions were prepared to give something like a sketch of the general lines upon which they wish to proceed. The hon. Gentleman who introduced this resolution said that he had no practical scheme to suggest. I am bound to say I can imagine Mr. Gladstone under such circumstances pointing out to the hon. Gentleman the extreme impropriety of saying nothing as to the practical issue of the proposal in what is merely an abstract resolution. The hon. Member is both too vague and too definite. He is too vague because he has omitted to consider any of the difficulties which lie in the way of anyone who attempts to bring about or even to hasten the advent of Imperial federation. Then he is too definite because in his resolution he does indicate and practically does commit us to a particular form in which, not imperial federation, but Imperial representation is to be brought about. If the House were now to vote for this Resolution they would commit themselves to this proposition—that the only way to secure closer relations with the colonies, which we all desire, is by introducing some sort of representation of the colonies in the Imerial Parliament, and thereby he would exclude altogether the consideration of those proposals for a federal system which at one time or another have been under review by statesmen or others who have given their attention to the subject. Up to the present time, although, of course, there have been expressions by individuals, both by societies and individual statesmen and politicians in the colonics, there has been absolutely no definite suggestion, proposal, demand, or request on the part of any of the representative authorities of the colonies for any such change as is suggested in the resolution. I do not mean to say that such a change would therefore necessarily be unpopular in the colonies. Quite the contrary; I believe that they are at the present moment constantly considering the question, as we are here in this country, but up to the present time, at any rate, they have not propounded any particular method of dealing with the subject; and, much as I myself desire the object which the Member who has brought this resolution forward has in view, I am convinced that nothing would be more dangerous or more fatal to the success of that object than any premature discussion of details. It is a matter on which we have rather to follow our colonies than to appear to dictate or even to suggest to them. One thing our colonies may be assured of—that, however far they may be willing to go in the direction of Imperial unity, we shall be willing to follow. But, having regard to the extraordinary complexity of the situation, I do not think that the time has come when we are to suggest to them the form which I hope and even venture to believe before many years have passed that Imperial unity will take. I have said that the hon. Member who raised this question was not only too definite, but also too vague. At all events, he excluded a great number of suggestions which have been made. He is also too vague as to the resolution itself. Not by way of depreciating the value of the idea, but by way of pointing out to the House the extraordinary difficulty of discussing the subject at the present time, let me suggest to the hon. Member some of the points on which he has offered no answer whatever. This resolution is to the effect that "in the opinion of this House it is desirable that the colonies"—well, what colonies? In the first place the hon. Member has so far dealt with the matter that he has declined to include India, but he has said nothing about the Crown colonies.


It is perfectly true that I said nothing specifically of the Crown colonics, but I think I indicated that I dealt exclusively with the self-governing colonies.


But I must point out the difficulty in which the House would be placed if they committed themselves to the terms of this resolution without thoroughly understanding what they included or omitted. I quite understand now that he proposes to deal with the self-governing colonies. Very good. The next question that arises is this: He says that they should be admitted to some direct representation in the Imperial Parliament. Well, the Imperial Parliament consists of two Houses. In which House does he propose they should be represented, or does he propose that they should be represented in both?


There are two in the other House already.


I beg pardon. Surely the hon. Gentleman, who calls himself a Liberal, does not call that representation.


I quite admit the force of that; but I should regard Lord Strathcona and Lord Mount Stephen as the thin end of the wedge.


Although I believe there are no more popular colonists in this country than the two noble Lords the hon. Member has referred to, and although I am sure they enjoy the confidence of their fellow-colonists, I do not think, as a matter of constitutional right, Canada would consider it was fairly represented by the two noble Lords who have been created peers in this country, and who have not been in any sense the result of election by the colonists. The House is asked to pass a resolution of this kind, and I say the hon. Member is too vague. There is a great deal to be said for representation, if it is ever to take place, in this House. There is something to be said for representation in the other House; and it might be contended that representation in one House without representation in the other would be a very unsatisfactory way of putting the colonies on an equality with the people of this country. When you have decided in which House, or whether in both Houses, the colonies are to be represented, to what extent is that representation to go? Is it to be proportional to population? The hon. Member who seconded the resolution would apparently be satisfied with what he calls a stop-gap—I think a most unfortunate phrase—and he suggests that the representation should be by the appointment of Agents General to seats in this House alone. Well, with what object does the hon. Member seek this representation? He did not directly explain it. He left the House to infer. He said nothing could be more satisfactory than the action of the colonies towards the present war, and he quoted the action of Canada as an illustration, and he went on to say that Canada reserved to itself the right to decide whether in any future war it would extend the same assistance. Of course it does. Does he suppose Canada would occupy a different position if she had not been represented by Lord Strathcona or the Agents General? Does he suppose under these circumstances we should be entitled to say to Canada, "You shall no longer go as you please, but you are to accept the decision of this House, and you are to give us assistance and send your bravest sons to fight, because you are represented in this House by the Agents General"? The proposal is altogether inadequate to the object. It is absurd to suppose that a self-governing colony, with all its natural pride and independence, would sacrifice that independence for the sake of a single vote in this House. I do not for a moment criticise the point that it might be on other accounts desirable, at some time or another, that the representatives of the different colonies should be here with a voice, as a sort of advisory members. Yet I would point out to the House that by any such proposal as that they will not secure the object with which this resolution is moved; for it is quite certain that no colony would for a moment think of giving up its independence for such a representation. But I will go to another point. Assume that the Queen altered the constitution of this Imperial Parliament. Assume that we have given to every self-governing colony representation in this House in proportion to its population—I suppose that would be the ideal—and a certain representation in the other House also. Then what is this new Parliament to do? In the first place, what is to be its attitude towards the colonies? Is it to legislate for them? If not, what is the object of having this large representation? At the present moment the Imperial Parliament is constitutionally entitled to legislate for every colony. That is a constitutional principle which is admitted by all the colonies; but, at the same time, it is a constitutional principle which we do not often exercise. Therefore, the colonies would think that an enormous change was made if, in return for a proportionate representation, which would never be a majority in this House, we were to undertake to legislate for the colonies. Surely the idea is perfectly absurd. It is not in that way that the federation of the Empire is ever to be accomplished. We are not, in any circumstances, going to interfere with the domestic affairs of the colonies. But, then, are they to interfere with our domestic affairs? If you are to have this proportionate representation, although it would be always a minority in this House, it might be sufficient to determine a division. I was rather amused by something which fell from the hon. Member for Wick. He did not consider that that last objection was a difficulty, because the colonies were, he said, far advanced in social legislation; and he appeared to believe, and most ingenuously expressed the opinion, that they would always vote with the Radical party. I do not know how far that would commend itself to the House, if it were true; but I am bound to say that I do not think it is true. If the hon. Member has studied Canadian and Australian politics, he will know that words common both here and there have a different meaning in the two places. A Conservative in Canada or Australia is a very different person from a Conservative here; and, in the same way, a Radical there entertains very different views on particular questions from Radicals in the old country. Therefore, I do not suppose that it would be a permanent gain for either party. But it would be extraordinarily anomalous to have questions of great importance in our domestic legislation settled for us by hon. Members who, by the nature of the circumstances, would be insufficiently acquainted with our life and system. Another question is this—suppose that these representatives of the colonies come here, the only alternative to their taking part in our legislation would be that suggested by the hon. Member for Elland—namely, that they should speak but not vote. I do not mean to cast any ridicule upon that proposal, if it is thoroughly understood that all that is intended by such a change is to give the colonies an opportunity of stating their case on colonial questions and on questions in which they are separately interested. In such matters communication with the colonies is no doubt very desirable, although I am not quite clear whether it could not be better obtained by special delegations—such as that, for instance, which is at present in London on the matter of Australian federation—than it could be by representatives who would have to be appointed for a considerable time, and who might be more or less out of touch with colonial opinion after a while. But any such half-hearted representation as that would go a very short way towards the federation of the Empire, and would certainly not justify us in the slightest degree in imposing on the colonies the will of the majority in the Imperial Parliament on any questions in which they were interested. It would not advance one atom the present position, which is that these colonies, although they reverence the person of the Sovereign and are devoted in their loyalty to the Crown, are nevertheless, with that exception, independent sister nations, and their assistance is given to us voluntarily upon such occasions as that which we are witnessing to-day. But we do not pretend to have any power to compel that assistance. If the object of hon. Members opposite is to secure an arrangement such as the hon. Member for Elland seemed to suggest—that we should have the right to compel the colonies' contributions as the contributions of every individual taxpayer in the United Kingdom are compelled—all I can say is that they are proposing something very much more drastic than anything suggested by the present resolution. Have hon. Members considered what the result of the introduction of a large representation of the colonies into this Parliament would be upon our fiscal legislation? The hon. Member for Elland referred to a proposal which has been made by the London Chamber of Commerce for a fiscal arrangement with the colonies, which is, indeed, a proposal for an Imperial Zollverein. I have often been attacked for having, as it is said, proposed an Imperial Zollverein. I have never done anything of the sort. It is one of those recurring mistakes of which I am so largely the victim, and which it is hardly worth while to contradict until the occasion becomes urgent. All I have done is to point out, following the language used by Lord Ripon, my predecessor, that if there is to be any kind of fiscal arrangement with the colonies, the only form which I myself think would be viewed with the slightest favour in this country would be that of an Imperial Zollverein, in which there should be Free Trade between the whole empire, and duties of some kind as against other countries. But I have not proposed that; I have merely stated that that alone seems to me a proposal which might be seriously considered. What I wish to point out is that these proposals have been declared by the organs of hon. Members opposite to be an atrocious heresy—a heresy so great that the founders of it ought almost to be put in the pillory or carried to the stake. Are hon. Members opposite really prepared to consider such a heresy, which might be raised by the representatives of the colonies in this Parliament if they were to take part in all the discussions in which we engage? Lastly, there is another point which, to my mind, renders any further discussion on this subject at present undesirable. The hon. Member dealt with it very lightly. He said there is a Liberal principle that there should be no taxation without representation. I differ from the hon. Member when he says that the reverse is not also true—that there cannot be representation without taxation. The proposition of hon. Members opposite, although I know they do not intend it, will be taken by the colonies as a proposal that we should tax them; that in return for giving them a representation which would never be more than a minority in this House—at any rate for years to come—we should claim the right to tax them. All I can say is that that is a proposition which, if it were ever to be considered, should come to us from them, and should not be us. It would be most dangerous if it went abroad that we in this House—any of us who are in the slightest degree responsible on either side for the proceedings—gave the slightest support to any such proposition. I have ventured to point out my reasons for thinking that this discussion is premature, that it is necessarily academic, and that it might be mischievous. In these circumstances, I cannot but hope that the hon. Member may think fit, being probably satisfied with having laid the matter before the House, to withdraw the resolution. I should be sorry to have a division on such a resolution, because as to the object which the hon. Members undoubtedly have in view I suppose we are unanimous. At any rate, nothing would give me greater pleasure than during my period of office to promote or advance in any way that Imperial unity which has been the dream of all statesmen in recent times who have devoted any attention to the subject, and which I am sanguine enough to believe is not impossible of realisation, although it may be endangered by premature discussion.


It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that this discussion has been academical, but there is no doubt, from the very manner in which the motion which stands in my name is framed, that I intended to do nothing more than to express a desire on the part of this House to meet any wishes on the part of the colonies which might be expressed at some future time. I cannot help feeling, in spite of the castigation, more or less merited, which some of the arguments used by me have received from the right hon. Gentleman, that the whole tone of his reply was really sympathetic. That being so, I am satisfied that all that can be gained by this discussion has been gained, and therefore I quite reciprocate his desire that no division should be taken on the motion. I feel that he has expressed very much better than I or any other Member of this House could have done our real feeling towards the colonies in this matter. I should just like to add, after what fell from him in respect of special delegations,, that while I for one, and I suppose every Member of this House, would be perfectly satisfied that any special delegation would receive adequate attention from the present holder of the Colonial Secretarial Office, yet in the past—and I am thinking now of the occasion of the New Hebrides difficulty—a special delegation from Australia was anything but properly received by the noble Lord who then pre- sided over the Colonial Office. I remember that instance well, because the character of the reception then accorded to the representatives from Australia made a painful impression on my mind at the time. Therefore I feel that the merits of special delegation very much depend upon the disposition of the gentleman who may happen for the time being to hold the office of Secretary of State. I beg, by leave of the House, to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.