HC Deb 15 March 1900 vol 80 cc986-95

Order for Third Reading Read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time.


A great deal of surprise was felt when it was found that this Bill had passed through Committee without a single word being said about it or without a single division being taken upon it. On the Second Reading of the Bill I, at some length, pointed out the reasons why I could not approve of it; and at this stage I desire to renew the protest which I then made against it. It is not necessary to justify the position the Irish Members have taken up on this Bill, to go at any length at all into the policy which has brought about the present war which many of us consider to be so iniquitous, so unnecessary, and so absolutely unjust. Apart altogether from the policy of the war, to provide the expenses of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer asks us for this money, we may object to this loan because we consider it is quite unfair to saddle Ireland in any way whatever with any of the extraordinary charges for the war. I have already pointed out that the financial condition of Ireland is altogether peculiar, and that circumstances exist in connection with the taxation of Ireland which, in the opinion of the Irish people, would justify a very exceptional treatment of Ireland in all Imperial taxation of this kind. Of course this War Loan Bill will pass, and the Irish people will not feel, any more than the people of this country, the full effects of what is being done for some years to come. But sooner or later these thirty millions will have to be repaid, and they will be repaid by means of taxation levied upon Ireland, and which will fall more heavily upon the Irish people than upon the people of this country. There is one aspect of the Irish view of the case to which I wish to refer, because it came to the front at question time to-day. I asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he could grant a Return showing how much had been spent in Ireland in the last year upon warlike stores and supplies, and how much had been spent in England and Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman refused to give me the Return on the ground that its preparation would occupy a great deal of time, and that the War Office authorities are very busy at the present moment. No doubt that is a reason of a sort why the Return should not be given, but, from the Irish point of view, it is a most unsatisfactory reason. No doubt the War Office is busily engaged just now, but if we had our way there would be more time on their hands. Nevertheless, no matter how the War Office may be engaged, I say when we consider the large sums of money that are being spent for the purposes of War, we in Ireland are entitled to information which will let us see, and our people know, how much of that money, directly or indirectly, is spent for the benefit of Irish trade and the Irish working people. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might, in my opinion, greatly facilitate the passage of this Bill, which must pass, in spite of our opposition to it, if he would be good enough to say to us that he would use his influence with the War Office, or whatever the proper authority may be, to have a Return prepared, so that the Irish people and the public at large may be able to see at a glance, and to understand what proportion of these vast sums for war supplies is being spent among the people of Ireland, and what proportion amongst the people of the United Kingdom. This day week a debate will take place in the House upon the whole condition of Irish taxation and the findings of the Royal Commission which inquired into the relative taxation of Great Britain and Ireland; and I cannot myself see that it will be possible in that debate to present in the fullest manner the Irish aspect of the case, unless we are in a position to show from information which the Government Departments can alone give us how much of this taxation is spent upon the Irish working people, and how much upon the working people of Scotland and England. This may not seem to be an important matter, but how is it that our constituents urge us to offer such strenuous objections to such measures as this Bill, which raises such an enormous amount of money? There are several reasons. First, because they hold that the war is unnecessary and unjust; second, because they believe that the present taxation of Ireland is too great, and that they should not be burdened with fresh taxation; and third, and not altogether least, because when they read in the newspapers of the millions and millions of money being voted for the purposes of war, they find hardly a sixpence is ever spent for the benefit of Irish workers and Irish trade. No doubt this war is popular enough in certain quarters in England. War is always popular because the people will not feel the full weight of the burden until the money was to be raised by direct or indirect taxation. The war is popular to certain extent, because the money will be largely distributed amongst the great Army and Navy Departments of this country, and hundreds of thousands of British workmen will receive this money back in the shape of wages for work done in the dockyards and factories of England. We have not a single dockyard in Ireland worth talking about, and the Government never even build as much as a torpedo boat in Ireland. I am not going to discuss the Navy Estimates now, but the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that what I say is perfectly true, and although he may laugh I can assure him that the people in Ireland, when they see these repeated applications for money, almost the first thing they say is, "How much of this money is to be spent in Ireland? Hardly anything." There are one or two comparatively small Army Clothing Factories in Ireland, but they get very little work. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent populous Irish constituencies know that there are plenty of strong young men and young women who would make ideal factory hands, and we find them with absolutely no work to do.


The hon. Member is speaking to a general question, which is rather remote from the War Loan Bill.


I will endeavour, Sir, as far as I can, to keep to the strict letter of your ruling. I must say I was endeavouring—rather fairly, I thought—to point out why it is that I was obliged to object to large sums of money being raised for warlike purposes. Of course, if I am out of order I will not continue. I do not suppose that a single £1 out of the 30 millions will ever find its way into the pockets of the Irish wage-earners, and under these circumstances it is not unreasonable that we should come here and offer our strongest protest against this enormous loan. Independently of this loan the Irish people have to bear increased taxation of a very unfair kind, and the taxes on commodities fall heavier on the people of Ireland, relatively speaking, than on the people of this country. This loan of 30 millions would be sufficient to set the people of Ireland, Scotland, and England in a position of commercial and industrial prosperity, and industries which are flagging for a want of a little encouragement would forge ahead if they were only subsidised a little. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade laughs at industries being subsidised. We know that in the West Indies the Government give large sums of money to assist the sugar industry.


Order, order!


Making a speech in Parliament is something like riding a bicycle—a very small thing will put you off your balance; and if the right hon. Gentleman interrupts me I cannot help answering his interruption. I say that this money might be expended to much greater advantage than in the prosecution of the war. We are told that up to the 31st of this month the war will have cost twenty-three millions. Well, at the end of the month there can be little doubt that the predominance of the power of the British Empire will be pretty well established in South Africa. I do not say that you will be at Pretoria, but so far it has been quite established that these two small Republics in the end will have to submit to your yoke with the power pitted against them. Why not accept the friendly offices of the President of the United States, and bring about a peace honourable to the combatants on both sides, and which will secure everything desired by British subjects in the Transvaal—a peace which will conduce to good feeling and happy relations in the future between the Dutch and British populations? Why should not such a peace be concluded now? You will be enabled to enforce your demands from Bloemfontein as effectively as from Pretoria. What is the use of trampling these small Republics out of existence altogether. What is the use of continuing this war so as to make the people of the world and the Dutch race in Africa think that it is to be a war of extermination? Why not ask if these people are satisfied with the terms you are prepared to give? It is quite possible, if you did ask them, especially through the medium of a friendly Power like America, that it would satisfy them if you safeguarded your interests for the future, and granted a peaceful settlement which would not altogether outrage the sense of independence and bravery which the people of South Africa had shown. We have heard threats that Mr. Kruger is to be held responsible for this, that, and the other. I suppose that means that you will not be satisfied until Mr. and Mrs. Kruger are shipped off to St. Helena. I ask the Colonial Secretary, who ought to be satisfied at the present time with the success of his schemes and plans, if terms of peace could not be arranged now, by the friendly action of a friendly Power. If that were done what would be the first result? I believe that the liberty loving countries of the world would say that England had acted well, and that the Dutch people in South Africa would become reconciled.


The hon. Member is not in order in discussing the consequences of the peace.


I have not the slightest intention, Mr. Speaker, of getting outside your ruling. One result which peace would have—and in this I believe I am quite in order—would be that this loan of thirty millions would be absolutely unnecessary, and the country would be saved thirty millions in hard cash and in taxes, and instead of devoting that enormous sum to a war of extermination, bloodshed and misery, it might be devoted to some other national purpose which would be for the benefit and general utility of the community at large. It does seem to me that at this stage of the war it is uncalled for, it is unnecessary, it is un states man like for the Government to come forward and ask for thirty millions more in order to prosecute the war. Do you expect that a continuance of the war is going to cost thirty millions more? How is it going to be spent? How is it going to be done? The whole thing seems to me so outrageous, so unjust, and so unnecessary, that I cannot, at this stage, refrain from opposing this loan, in the interests of the great mass of the people of this country who agree with me. But I oppose it principally in behalf of my constituents, because it is to be applied in an unjust war, because we are already over-taxed, and from the very matter of fact and plain material point of view that, whereas the working people in Great Britain are getting a large part of this great sum back in the shape of wages, we in Ireland will not get a single £1. I conclude by asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer, quite seriously, if he could consider whether it be possible between now and this day week, when we have our set debate on the financial relations of Ireland, to see that some information is given us to show what proportion of this money is to be spent in Ireland for warlike stores and supplies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may say that that is unnecessary. It is necessary, and for this reason; we are told that it may be possible we are overtaxed to a small extent, but that we get compensations in other directions.


The hon. Member cannot in this debate ask for information for the purposes of another debate.


I thought it would be more convenient to put the question to the right hon. Gentleman now than to put it on the Paper.


I could not answer the question in any case, as it relates to a matter which is not in my Department. It should be addressed to the representative of the War Department.


I did ask the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence to get the information supplied, because unless this information is given our debate cannot be brought to a satisfactory or useful conclusion.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

I do not wish to associate myself with the strong protest against this Bill which has come from the Irish bench. I venture to say that this is the only part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's war proposals that I could approve of. I think the Budget is a very onerous one, and that if we have to find this additional money we could not do it better than by way of loan. But there are two faults I have to find with the Bill. One of them is its name. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have taken a more judicious name than "War Loan Bill" and "War Stock Bill." I like to see this House exercise its influence in favour of peace. I know that wars must come sometimes, but we should try to carry out our arrangements in a way that would not popularise war. The loan might have been called "The South African Loan Bill" or "The Supply Loan Bill." It would have gone equally well, and in the course of time the war, and all that led to the war, would have been forgotten. Another fault I have with the Bill is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not told us how the loan will be redeemed. If he would throw further light on that subject he would make his scheme more perfect than at the present moment, and make it more acceptable to the country. Another point is, why is this Bill for thirty-five millions, and yet only thirty millions are to be issued? I see a rumour in the papers that the other five millions may be issued soon. If the right hon. Gentleman has any information to give on these points we shall be glad to hear it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that up to Saturday last the number of applicants for the loan was eighteen thousand. I do not think that a very large number. If the loan was distributed to the amount of £500 to each applicant it would require 60,000 applicants to take up the entire loan. I do not desire to offer any opposition to the Bill, for on the whole it is the best way the finances of the war could be managed.

MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)

said he felt it his bounden duty to associate himself with the hon. Member for East Clare in making a protest against the war. He wanted to know what amount of money Ireland would be compelled to contribute to it. Their great objection was that they would have to pay and receive nothing in return. The war had been from the beginning unjust, and in consequence they felt unnecessary pressure was going to be placed on the shoulders of the Irish people, who were now the working classes, seeing that the landlords had been removed from all taxation. Irish

Members were there to insist that in Ireland taxation should not be increased for Imperial purposes, seeing that the taxation of Ireland already far exceeded the burden she could bear. Subject to the correction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they should have to contribute roughly £2,000,000 of this £30,000,000.


The hon. Member cannot discuss under this Bill the comparative taxation of Ireland and other parts of the United kingdom.


said he simply wanted to ask a question arising out of the Bill—what amount of that £30,000,000 they in Ireland were to be required to contribute? But if that was not a fair question, he would bow to the Speaker's ruling. So far as he could see, there was no difference between paying direct taxation and paying the interest on a loan of this description. It was the duty of the Irish Members to raise their voices in protesting against it. Ireland had received no benefit either directly or indirectly, and he should take every opportunity of protesting a loan for the purposes of prolonging a war which the Irish regarded as unjust and inhuman. The Government might prolong the war and take away the independence of the Boers if they chose, but if they did they would find in years to come there would be stronger opposition to British rule in the Transvaal than ever there was in Ireland.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 172; Noes, 23. (Division List No. 68).

Abraham, William (Rhondda) Billson, Alfred Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse
Allan, William (Gateshead) Blundell, Colonel Henry Colville, John
Allhusen, Augustus Henry E. Bond, Edward Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)
Allsopp, Hon. George Brassey, Albert Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe(Heref'd)
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Broadhurst, Henry Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)
Arrol, Sir William Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W.
Ashton, Thomas Gair Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Cripps, Charles Alfred
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Bullard, Sir Harry Cubitt, Hon. Henry
Balcarres, Lord Butcher, John George Curzon, Viscount
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A J.(Manch'r Caldwell, James Dewar, Arthur
Barlow, John Emmott Causton, Richard Knight Dickinson, Robert Edmond
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Donkin, Richard Sim
Bartley, George C. T. Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Dorington, Sir John Edward
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H.(Bristol Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-
Beckett, Ernest William Charrington, Spencer Doxford, Sir William Theodore
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Clare, Octavius Leigh Duckworth, James
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Coghill, Douglas Harry Dunn, Sir William
Evans, Sir Francis H. (South'ton Lonsdale, John Brownlee Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. T.
Fardell, Sir T. George Lough, Thomas Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Farquharson, Dr. Robert Lowles, John Robertson, Herbert (Hackney
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Loyd, Archie Kirkman Round, James
Fenwick, Charles Lucas-Shadwell, William Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Field, Admiral (Eastbourne) Lyell, Sir Leonard Rutherford, John
Finch, George H. Macartney, W. G. Ellison Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne MacIver, David (Liverpool) Sharpe, William Edward T.
Firbank, Joseph Thomas M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)
Fisher, William Hayes M'Crae, George Sinclair, Capt. John (Forfarsh
Fison, Frederick William M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.) Smith, James P. (Lanarksh.)
Forster, Henry William M'Killop, James Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset
Galloway, William Johnson M'Laren, Charles Benjamin Steadman, William Charles
Garfit, William Massey-Mainwaring, Hn W.F. Stone, Sir Benjamin
Gibbs, Hn. Vicary (St. Albans) Middlemore, J. Throgmorton Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Gilliat, John Saunders Milner, Sir Frederick George Talbot, Rt. Hn J. G(Oxf'd Univ.
Goddard, Daniel Ford Monckton, Edward Philip Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.
Goldsworthy, Major-General Monk, Charles James Thornton, Percy M.
Gordon, Hon. John Edward More, Robert J. (Shropshire) Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Morrell, George Herbert Tritton, Charles Ernest
Goulding, Edward Alfred Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford) Ure, Alexander
Green, Walford D.(Wednesb'ry Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport) Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)
Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord George Muntz, Philip A. Wanklyn, James Leslie
Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Murray, Charles J. (Coventry Warr, Augustus Frederick
Heath, James Myers, William Henry Webster, Sir Richard E.
Helder, Augustus Nicol, Donald Ninian Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E (Taunton
Howard, Joseph Palmer, George W. (Reading) Whiteley, H.(Ashton-under-L.
Howell, William Tudor Parkes, Ebenezer Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Hudson, George Bickersteth Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Johnston, William (Belfast) Penn, John Williams, J. Powell-(Birm.)
Jones, David Brynmor (Swans. Phillpotts, Captain Arthur Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Keswick, William Pierpoint, Robert Wilson, Fredk. W. (Norfolk)
Knowles, Lees Pilkington, R. (Lancs, Newton Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Lafone Alfred Platt-Higgins, Frederick Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool) Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. C. Wortley, Rt. Hn. C.B. Stuart
Lawson, John Grant (Yorksh. Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Wyndham, George
Lecky, Rt. Hon. Wm Edw. H. Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Purvis, Robert TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Renshaw, Charles Bine Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Richards, Henry Charles
Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Liverp'l Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. White
Abraham, William (Cork, N. E. Kilbride, Denis Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Ambrose, Robert Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land Redmond, William (Clare)
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Macaleese, Daniel Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Crilly, Daniel MacDonnell, Dr. M A (Queen'sC Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal) M'Dermott, Patrick Tanner, Charles Kearns
Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.) O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)
Doogan, P. C. O'Connor, James(Wicklow, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Flavin, Michael Joseph O'Malley, William Captain Donelan and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.
Hogan, James Francis Power, Patrick Joseph

Bill read the third time, and passed.