HC Deb 13 August 1904 vol 140 cc519-32

[Third Reading.]

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

* MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

regretted that it should be his duty on what was practically the last day of the session to bring forward and a number of important questions, but it was not his fault, for he was not responsible for the distribution of the time of the House. In the first place, he desired to touch upon matters connected with education in Scotland and to the Reports which had been issued on physical deterioration and physical training. These Reports dwelt specially upon the unsatisfactory condition of many of the schools, which were badly ventilated and insanitary. He himself had visited many of the schools, especially in his own constituency, and he had found their condition so bad that he was compelled to ask the attention of the House to the matter. Not only were they ill-ventilated but there was a lack of a proper water supply. In some cases the children had to drink water from streams which were used by cattle and horses. In his opinion every school should have a proper water supply, and should be properly ventilated, otherwise how could they expect the little ones to grow up strong and healthy. Then he thought more attention should be paid by the school authorities to the teaching of domestic economy and cookery, and he hoped the central board would circularise the teachers again on that subject. Another matter with which he wished to deal was connected with the carriage of fish and agricultural produce from the Highlands. Months ago he addressed a communication to the Secretary for Scotland on the subject and elicited a promise that some action should be taken. He would again impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the importance of actively intervening. Some of the companies were at the present time charging most exorbitant rates for the carriage of fish, and, in addition to that, there was so much delay with the traffic that the fish on arrival was often unfit for sale, so that the consignor had to lose the value of the consignment as well as to pay unduly heavy carriage rates.

Next he desired to submit one or two matters to the Colonial Secretary on the question of the education of the Tamil coolie children in Ceylon. He had already addressed several Questions to the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, but hitherto had failed to obtain a satisfactory answer. This was a matter which Sir West Ridgeway, the late Governor, should have attended to years ago, but instead of looking after the welfare of the people whom he was deputed to govern he indulged in elephant hunting. Ceylon had a population of 3,500,000 and of these only 750,000 were able to read and write. There was an enormous number of children on the estates, but only about 2,000 of them was receiving a systematic education. On many estates there were no schools at all for these Tamil coolie children, and planters were in the habit of putting them to work at the early age of six years. Now a very different regime obtained in British Guiana. There planters were subject to a heavy fine for failure to provide proper education, and they were not allowed to employ children under nine years of age. A Report was sent to the Colonial Secretary on the state of affairs in Ceylon some time since, but up to the present its publication had been withheld. He had been told that it was not of a very satisfactory character.


The hon. Member is not entitled to refer to a Report which is not on the Table of the House.


said he would not, of course, press the point further, but would content himself with urging on the Colonial Secretary that something should be done for the education of the Tamil coolie children. Surely such a disastrous state of things should not be allowed to exist any longer in a British colony! Let the right hon. Gentleman stop the planters employing the children in the fields at six years of age, and let the Government take a lesson from what was done in British Guiana. In his opinion the Colonial Secretary, if he would only examine into the matter for himself, would blame Sir West Ridgeway for devoting himself to elephant hunting instead of looking after the interests of the people over whom he ruled.

He desired to call the attention of the Colonial Secretary to the terribly insanitary condition of the Chinese houses in Hong-Kong. In many of these houses two or three hundred persons were to be found living in cubicles without ventilation or light. Wealthy merchants, both British and Chinese, bought up the land and erected enormously high houses. He asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would endeavour to put a stop to that sort of thing. He believed there was no colony more corrupt than Hong-Kong. There the speculator seemed to have everything very much his own way. It was a disgrace to our Empire. The hon. Member also called attention to the desirability of having the obstructions on the Canton River removed. Negotiations on this matter had been going on with the Chinese Government for years. He was informed some time ago that a survey was being made. No survey was needed. The obstructions ought to be removed so that British vessels would be able to have free passage on the river. As to our Consular reports, he said that they were of a most meagre description compared with those of the American and German Consuls, and he urged that fuller reports should be obtained in view of their great usefulness to merchants and traders. The offices of our Consuls were open two hours a day less than those of America and Germany. They were open only from ten to twelve, and from two to four, and ships' captains who wanted to see our Consuls frequently found that they were unable to do so. He complained of the lack of provision for the poor of Egypt, and also of the inadequate accommodation for lunatics. He expressed the hope that attention would be given to these matters, and that something would be done to improve the present state of matters. They were told that the lash had been abolished, but that was not correct, for he himself had seen the police thrash men in the most abominable fashion. That was a state, of matters which should not be allowed in any country under the control of Great Britain. So long as the Prime, Minister took the course he had recently taken in limiting the opportunities for debate, private Members would be. obliged to avail themselves of such opportunities as the present to bring these matters before the House.

* SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

said there were one or two points to which he wished to refer briefly, as no other opportunity had occurred during the session for calling attention to them. He drew the Colonial Secretary's attention to the question of the development of Cyprus, expressing the hope that the right lion. Gentleman would continue the policy of his predecessor (the right hon. J. Chamberlain). The great difficulty in the island was the payment of the tribute, which he hoped would at least be commuted at no distant date. In many respects much had been done for the people of the island, and he would like to know what had been the progress made with irrigation works, which were absolutely essential, when they were likely to be completed, and whether any indication had already been given of their success. The harbour works at, Famagusta, as to which he should be glad to hear a report of progress, Larnaca, and Limasol were also of great moment; and he hoped something would be done with reference to the railways for which the surveys had been made. He was quite sure if some attention were paid to the island as a place for cotton growing, and for the wine, silk, and other industries and many other purposes, not only would it be developed, but at the same time it might be made, in the end, a source of revenue instead of a burden, by way of annual deficit chiefly caused by the tribute, on the British Exchequer. He hoped he might have some assurance that the subject was not being lost sight of, and he acknowledged that, in the correspondence he had had with the right hon. Gentleman, he had met with great courtesy and consideration.

He should also like to draw attention to the matter of special schools, which had not been dealt with in the recent satisfactory statement of the Secretary to the Board of Education; he referred specially to navigation and nautical schools. These had been the subject of correspondence by himself with the Department, and Regulation 39 now provided that the Board might continue the Science and Art Grants made in 1903–4 during the following year. So far so good, and he thanked the hon. Baronet the Parliamentary Secretary for Education (Sir William Anson) for having met the case by prolonging the grants for a year by means of that temporary regulation. But that was a temporary continuance, and he hoped that the nautical and navigation schools would be dealt with in a special manner and as special schools. He spoke especially for the Trinity House Navigation School in Hull, one of the best in the country, and one which had contributed to the mercantile marine most able masters and mates, and in its time to the Royal Navy an Admiral of the Fleet, Sir John Lawson. It had an excellent master, and it was doing the very best work. There were other schools in the country to which the same remarks applied, and, while he thanked the hon. Baronet for what he had done in continuing the grants for 1904–5, he hoped that he would be able to assure the House that these most valuable and characteristically national schools would meet with special consideration and be provided for by special regulations. It might be true that the curriculum of the Hull Trinity House School was not as that of any other nautical school or of any secondary school in England or in France or in Germany, but no other school was doing the same work so successfully, and the high mathematical training was most disciplinary and useful, and if the age of the boys was low this was necessary in seafaring training. He hoped, therefore, that the continuation of the cessation of the Science and Art Grants for the day classes in such schools would not be adhered to, and he thanked the Board of Education for the temporary regulation and for the promised interview on the subject in the autumn, which he hoped would result in the permanent continuance of the grants.

* MR. PIERPOINT (Warrington)

said he wished to take exception to the statement of the hon. Member who had just spoken when he spoke of the Island of Cyprus as being a burden on this country. Far from being a burden, as the Colonial Secretary well knew, the island relieved England and France from payment of a debt guaranteed by them.


said that what he really meant was, that owing to the payment of the tribute there was a balance left against the island which was met by the British Exchequer. He believed that the island would prove of great benefit to this country.


said he was very glad to have given the hon. Member an opportunity of making that explanation. The Exchequer was relieved by our possession of the island of the payment of £41,000, and France was relieved to the same extent under the Crimean Guarantee Loan of 1855. When Captain Singe and Mr. Suter were captured by brigands in Macedonia, application was made to the Treasury for the ransom demanded. After a very proper homily that the Treasury could not be held responsible for every adventurous Englishman, the ransom was paid out of the surplus accumulations of the Cyprus tribute. His hon. friend said he hoped that the Cyprus tribute might be commuted, and if nothing better could be done he joined in the hope that some day it would be commuted. He, however, referred his right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary to the wording of the original bond of 1878. The words were, "England will pay." There was nothing whatever in the bond about what Cyprus would pay, and there was no consultation with the Cypriotes before the bond was entered into. It had since been interpreted not that England would pay, but that Cyprus would pay. As a legal question, he submitted to his right hon. friend that it could not be maintained that the tenants on land which was mortgaged were liable for the interest on the mortgage, but that was what the course adopted in regard to Cyprus meant. Part of the original intention was that Cyprus should be made a place d'armes, and that there would be a large Imperial expenditure in the island. That intention had, however, been abandoned, and practically nothing had been spent. The whole garrison in the island consisted of only one company of infantry.

He desired to put before the Colonial Secretary an idea which had been favourably considered by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. It was that a great deal might be done for the island by making it a free port and emporium for the Near East, so that shippers from England might accumulate their goods in Cyprus, whence they might be distributed throughout Syria, Asia Minor, and other Turkish territory, so as to obviate two Customs tariffs. That would be a great benefit to the island and to the merchants of this country. Reports showed the difficulties these Cypriotes had to contend with from recurring droughts. In 1902–3 £25,000 had actually to be spent in relief works. He thought the House would acknowledge that it was rather hard that from an average revenue of £180,000 they should be liable to pay a tribute of nearly£93,000. The consequence was that nearly every year Cyprus had to come to this country for a grant-in-aid amounting to about £30,000, on the average. But this was after the payment of £41,000 to the 1855 bondholders in this country, and £41,000 to the French bond- holders. That left a balance of £11,000 as the amount which this country benefited by the possession of Cyprus. Had the circumstances been properly considered before the Convention of 1878 he could not help feeling that no such burden would have been put on the island. He knew that a high authority had said that it was quite impossible for the island to bear this burden, and that England ought to pay it. There was another matter of a totally different nature to what he wished to refer. He regretted to have to raise the question in the absence of the Prime Minister. His point was to press on the Prime Minister to make some reasonable change in the new rules of the House.


Order, order! I would remind the hon. Gentleman that this matter does not arise in discussion of the Bill now before the House.

MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR (Essex, Romford)

said that he wished to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that a Committee had been appointed to inquire into the functions of the various Government Departments. Instead of an inquiry into all the Departments, the Committee had so far only reported with regard to the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board. He hoped that next session the Committee would continue its investigations with a view to the improvement of the machinery of administration in this country and the prevention of overlapping. On 3rd March of last year, a Committee was appointed to consider the question, and it reported about a year ago; but, like many other Reports, very little notice was taken of it, and no satisfactory reply regarding it could be obtained from the Prime Minister. There was no country in the civilised world which had such difficult methods of administering its great Departments as had this country. They knew how the Board of Trade was constituted; and the wonder was it did such good work in the absence of all it s members except the President. With regard to the Home Office, it was notorious that justice was more expensive in this country than in any other; and that there were, in consequence, more miscarriages of justice. It was also a well-known fact that it was the advocate who won the case, not the justice of it. He knew a case involving very intricate questions in which the lawyer engaged threw up his brief to accept a better one.


This does not appear to be relevant. On what particular portion of the Estimates does the hon. Gentleman base his remarks?


said he desired to point out that the Home Office was the only Ministry of Justice in this country; and the House of Commons had no means of supervising its general administration. He would not, however, pursue the point. He would wish to refer to the Police Courts, over which the Home Office had jurisdiction. There was a case in which a school board summoned—


Order, order! The Home Office advises as to the remission of sentences; but the cases themselves are deal twith by the police magistrates, whose salaries are not upon the Estimates.


said he would, of course, bow to the ruling of the Chair. He desired, however, to mention a case of injustice which had occurred in a Police Court.


Order, order! That cannot be done now.


said he was sorry he was out of order. He wonld revert to the overlapping of great Departments. Instead of having, as in other countries, a Ministry of Commerce, a Ministry of the Interior, and a Ministry of Justice, there were offices of State in this country in which no duties were performed except the duty of accepting salary. It was a pity, in these days of competition, that they should have the Board of Trade constituted as it was centuries ago, and that they should have a Home Office without the necessary machinery to perform its duties. He hoped that next session the Prime Minister would be able to consider the Report with reference to the proper education of commercial attachés, as it was of the greatest importance that the Consular service should be administered by sound business men.


said that a sum of £6,000 appeared in the Irish Development Grant for a dredger; and the Chief Secretary stated that it was intended for the harbours on the north and east coasts of Ireland. He himself mentioned that the dredger would also be required on the west coast; and the Chief Secretary then stated that it would be sent all round. He had brought the matter before the House on several occasions; and the Chief Secretary led him to expect that the dredger would be available as soon as possible, especially for the harbour of Galway. For years Galway had been asking for a dredger; and the result of its not having been supplied was that the docks were being silted up, and could not be properly used. He asked that the dredger, which was now being provided, should be placed, as soon as possible, at the disposal of the Harbour Board of Galway. There was another point he wished to mention. Last year he put a Question to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then Postmaster-General, with reference to the mail service to Canada and the United States. The right hon. Gentleman then said that the harbour of Galway would be considered in connection with the service. He, himself, was satisfied that Galway was the natural terminus for the service. Great advantages would be gained by its selection. The distance would be shortened by 400 miles, and there would be a saving of a day in the delivery of the mails. The session, so far as the Irish Members were concerned, had not been satisfactory. It was not through any fault of theirs, but they found themselves face to face with a Government that did not care a rap for Ireland, and who were only anxious to take as much and give as little as was possible to Ireland. He contended that the money taken from Ireland belonged to the Irish people and should go back to them.


referring to observations made concerning Cyprus, said that a memorial from the elective members in Cyprus in regard to agriculture, which he presumed included irrigation, and also in regard to the harbour works at Famagusta, had expressed satisfaction with the administration of the island. He would give the hon. Member who desired information full details hereafter. Great benefit to Cyprus had resulted from the remission of taxation. On an income of £190,000 a year there had been a net remission of more than £20,000 a year; and the manner of collecting the taxes had been improved in a way that was markedly beneficial to the taxpayers. As regarded the education of native children in Ceylon, a Report had recently been received suggesting certain reforms. He had consulted educational authorities of high standing in this country on the subject, and hon. Members might be satisfied that this matter had not been lost sight of. He regretted that in the absence of notice he could not answer inquiries by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty regarding certain Chinese residents in Hong-Kong.

Sin G. DOUGHTY (Great Grimsby)

desired to join earnestly in the appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education in respect to the grant to the nautical and navigation schools, which had rendered numerous and important services to the mercantile marine. He hoped that the Secretary of the Education Department, in considering this question would, if possible, endeavour to so arrange the grant that it might be permanent, because it was a very great advantage to the mercantile marine generally, and more particularly to the fisheries of the United Kingdom. The Trinity House School at Hull and other institutions had rendered enormous services to the fisheries in matters of nautical education and they attached very great importance to their continuance and general efficiency. He was exceedingly pleased with the statement which the right hon. Gentleman had made as to the working of the Education Act. He also referred to the question of the extension of communication with Iceland and the Faröe Islands. It was more than three years since the Postmaster-General was approached, but they had heard nothing definite from him. For several months in the year those islands were disconnected, and in the case of the Norge disaster the other day a number of poor people were landed on the Faröe Islands and it was a week before we knew anything about it. He hoped the Postmaster-General would do something in the matter.


in reply, said it was perfectly true that the nautical schools did not come within the category of schools other than elementary, which the Board of Education assisted. They were, however, fully sensible of the special advantages in the preparation of boys for the Navy, and they were also fully convinced of the valuable work done by the schools referred to, but he hoped the hon. Member would not press him to go further.

MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)

asked for information with regard to the ventilation of the clothing works at Pimlico, and urged on the President of the Local Government Board the desirability of encouraging more activity on the part of his inspectors in promoting the sanitation of London districts. He asked whether some of the energy expended by the Department on the promotion of vaccination could not be devoted to the prevention of overcrowding. Certain landlords in the East End were getting three times the rental value of their property because of the overcrowding permitted. The sanitary inspector ought to be compelled to do his duty as well as the vaccination officer. Why should not coercion be put into operation against overcrowding, which tended to make unworthy people rich? Whenever anything was wanted hon. Members could always get sympathetic replies from the various Departments, but they were invariably told that the matter had had to go to the Treasury and had there been vetoed. For instance, there was the Report of the Bradford Committee. Doubtless the sympathetic words of the Postmaster-General would be very comforting to the poor postmen, but of what practical use would they be? The Treasury stood in the way. During the winter the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary would doubtless be considering the Budget for next year, and he asked that they should give some attention to the natural and proper demands of the postal servants for better remuneration. They ought not to plead that there was no money in the country. The Government got the money somehow, and they spent it somehow, but it did not go to the benefit of those who needed it most. It always seemed to be a case of greasing the fat sow; those who had most were given most. Government servants ought to be paid the standard rate of wages. It would doubtless mean an increase of expenditure, but it would probably result in a decrease of rates, because when people were paid so badly they could not obtain proper food, and then when they broke down their medical attendance had to be paid for by the rates. If men were worth employing they were worth feeding and keeping properly. The Government were exceedingly generous in making grants to places like Cyprus—of which he knew nothing except by reading—and why should they not make a few grants in aid of people of whom we did know something? Money was urgently needed for the provision of houses in many parts of the country, and he suggested that the Government might be well advised if they advanced a million or two for that purpose.


These are matters for legislation; they do not arise on the administrative work of the Government.


said the idea he had in mind was that the money might be spent so much better than was now the case. Those who lived amongst the humblest and poorest of the people knew what struggles there would be for work and food during the coming winter, and he wished to urge that next year matters should be so arranged that the money of the nation was not wasted but put to purposes for the benefit of the community at large.

MR. DELANY (Queen's County, Ossory)

expressed his regret at the barrenness of the session so far as Ireland Was concerned. The Irish people had been led to believe that the University question would be settled, but their hopes had been disappointed. The Government had secured their "Landlords' Bonus" Bill, and he urged that during the winter now that the one obstacle to the working of the Land Act from the landlords' point of view had been removed, the Government should give the Act a fair trial, that they should not use their influence on the one side or the other, so as to see whether or not the Land Act, now on its trial, was a workable measure. He strongly appealed for a fair trial to be given to the provisions affecting evicted tenants.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.