HC Deb 23 March 1903 vol 119 cc1446-9
MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)

To ask the Secretary to the Board of Education if it has been decided that there shall be no practical examination in science at the training college examinations this year; and, if so, whether the Board will reconsider their decision in view of their circular issued to the training colleges in June, 1901, prescribing that the science teaching should in future be of a practical and experimental character.

men sitting on the Ministerial side of the House. Recent elections had ratified the protests made in the House, but if they chose in this reckless manner to add 27,000 men to the Army surely it was a bad moment to add also to the Navy. His hon. friend had asked why the Government did not follow the precedents of former times and reduce the armaments when they came to the end of a war. It was simply because the Government had come to the conclusion, since Imperialism had been in the ascendency, that all the great Ministers who had had the destinies of this nation in hand before the present Government came into power, were nothing but idiots and fools, and the Government had decided that it was necessary to keep up armaments sufficient to fight the whole world. They had got to accept the fact that if this country went to war they could not control the entire seas, or block up all the navies of their enemies, and they would necessarily have to submit to a considerable loss in trade. He was not sure that such a calamity would not be a good thing for the country, because all countries were too apt to recklessly plunge into war. All the promises and assurances made that this country was going to better its position by the late war in South Africa had not proved correct.

It had been suggested that they should make an appeal to other great Naval Powers to come to some arrangement in regard to the strength of their Navy. Those suggestions were not practical if based upon the present balance of power, because it practically meant saying to other countries: "We want permanently to assume the position of being masters of the sea, and therefore you must have a Navy not able, with two or three other navies joined to it, to defeat the British Navy." No foreign country would accept such a scheme. Napoleon sought universal Empire, and the whole world united against him. Although this country had more colonies than foreign countries they must not forget that foreign countries also had their carrying trade, and they had realised that it was necessary for all manufacturing nations to be able to export their goods. Consequently they would never assent to a claim that their colonies and trade should be held at kind of hostages by this country. It was often urged that they must have command of the sea in order to ensure their food supply. He denied, in the first place, that it was necessary for them to obtain command of the sea in such a way. This country might build ships, and foreign countries might also build, but although England had a long purse, it-was not longer than the rest of the world. He did not think it necessary, in order to obtain food supplies, that we should be in such a position. Supposing we were at war with France, Germany, and Russia, we should get our provisions from America. Why? Because the Americans would claim that they had a perfect right to send food here: they would not accept the doctrine that food was contraband of war. Then these three Powers would know that they would have the United States against them if they attempted to enforce any such doctrine.


What would happen if the United States refused to accept that view?

MR. LABOUCHERE said he was waiting for that question. He was looking to the hon. Gentleman to ask it. The United States refused to accept the doctrine laid down by the Treaty of Paris, and had invariably asserted the view he had stated. Did his hon. friend seriously suppose that if we were in the contingency of Mar he had suggested in Europe, that the United States would for a moment accept the view that their ships might be overhauled in the open ocean in order to see whether they had food which was destined for us? The United States depended enormously on their export of wheat, and they would not agree for a moment that they should be hindered on the ground that they had not entered into a particular treaty, or that our enemies chose to assert that food was contraband of war.


What would happen if they refused to send us food?

MR. LABOUCHERE said that was the sort of idle, silly question that a woman would ask. It was the sort of possibility that lion. Gentlemen were (Answered by Mr. A. Graham Murray.) Petitions have been presented to the Congested Districts Board and to the Secretary for Scotland, complaining of poverty, and desiring allocation of land among certain of the cottars in South Uist, but nothing has come before the Secretary for Scotland disclosing any exceptional amount of distress at the present time. The Secretary for Scotland has been informed by Lady Gordon Cathcart's agents that there have been no individual applications for specific pieces of land, but that a letter was received by the factor, signed by four persons, containing a general request for land, and ending up with a threat of disturbance. The Secretary for Scotland has received reports from the police showing that some of the inhabitants have spread seaweed over certain lands now in occupation of a tenant under lease from the owner, and from this it may be inferred that further illegal action was contemplated. With regard to the last paragraph of the hon. Members Question, the Secretary for Scotland can authorise no inquiry through the Congested Districts Board or otherwise so long as any evidence of actual or intended illegal action remains.