§ Question again proposed, "That this House, at the rising of the House this Evening, do adjourn until Tuesday, 12th April, and that at the conclusion of the proceedings on Notices of Motion at this Evening's Sitting, Mr. SPEAKER do adjourn the House without Question put."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I had not much more to say to the House when the flow of my oratory was somewhat checked by the constitutional episode which has taken place, and that little refers entirely to what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has said on the fiscal question and on the constitutional position of the Government at the present moment. If I understood the right hon. 1011 Gentleman rightly, he endeavoured to put this dilemma to the Government. He said either you believe in your fiscal doctrines or you do not. If you do not believe in them, you ought not to profess them; if you do believe in them, you ought at once to dissolve Parliament in order that you may have at once an opportunity of putting them into operation. His argument is this—if you believe in retaliation—as it is called, but we will not quarrel about language—and if it is going to have all the good effects which you claim for it—why is the country to be longer deprived of the blessings which this particular medicament is going to bring to its commercial distresses and diseases? I think the right ton. Gentleman seems to mistake the situation. The fiscal controversy, no doubt, has raged very acutely since my right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham started it by his famous speech delivered in the middle of May last year. But never from the first moment that that bone of contention was thrown down among us, has he or any member of the present Government stated that in his opinion there was any ground for shortening the natural duration of the present Parliament on account of the topic which had suddenly taken so much hold on the public imagination. In my opinion, an appeal which Lord Rosebery made to the Government was a well-founded appeal. I remember that in one of his speeches he begged that the country might not be rushed in this matter. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he agrees with Lord Rosebery, because I do not wish to touch on matters personal to leaders on the other side. All I quote Lord Rosebery for is for the purpose of agreeing with him; and I stated, I think at Bristol, almost immediately after he made that speech, that it would not be proper to hurry the country, and that the appeal he made for delay was a proper appeal, because, in my judgment—a judgment frequently expressed—the change that we recommend in the fiscal policy of the country is an important change. I have never minimised its importance. On the contrary, I have always contended that this view of ours, which I may call progressive free trade, was a real change from the stationary and petrified free trade which passes 1012 for orthodox on the other side of the House. And, thinking as I do that that change is an important one, and that it will undoubtedly open for good or for evil a new era in British finance, I think it quite right that the public, on a subject on which they are very little informed— [An HON. MEMBER: No]—the well-informed Gentleman who interrupts me does not represent the whole people—and naturally, because the subject did not come up for controversy for nearly sixty years—that they should have full time to consider the various aspects in which this complicated and difficult question presents itself, and if they were to form that decision with any undue haste—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is the change from the old fiscal policy to that which I have embodied to the best of my ability in the Sheffield speech and in the pamphlet with which the House is familiar, and which, as far as hon. Gentlemen opposite are concerned, appears to be more laughed at than read. Whether that reflects more credit on them or discredit on me, I do not pretend to say. That is for others and not for us to judge.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It, at all events, was a change sufficient to make the Duke of Devonshire resign, because, if I remember, it was simply on that point that he did resign, though perhaps I ought not to have dragged in his name. But if the right hon. Gentleman really wishes me to repeat all I have said on public platforms and in printed documents I think he is making an excessive demand. But I would put these two Questions. Does he or does he not think that the policy which contemplates as one of its weapons for obtaining greater free trade between this country and others full power of negotiation—does he or does he not think that that is a great change in our fiscal policy? [An HON. MEMBER: We have the power now.] Of course, we have the legal power to do it now. We have the legal power in the Three Estates 1013 of the Realm to abolish the House of Lords.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the right hon. Gentleman will feel that on a subject, on which he himself occupied the House for an hour and a quarter, which has been debated for six days on the Address, and on which I myself, to say nothing of other members of the Government, have made speech after speech, it is rather difficult to compress into an answer to a Question across the Table our whole point of view. There is no ambiguity about it. I venture to say that even persons of the smallest intelligence, not to speak of the people of great intelligence whom I am now addressing, if they were to spend a quarter of an hour in reading what I said at Sheffield and Bristol, would not have the smallest difficulty in understanding what the view of the Government is. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was here when the speech to which I am replying was delivered, or he would see that his interruption really is irrelevant. The effect of that speech was to ask why we do not dissolve if we think that this remedy of ours is really good for the country, and I was pointing out that, in my opinion, this change is a great change, and one which the country might with great advantage have, as Lord Rosebery said, time to consider and to see exactly where it is.
The right hon. Gentleman went on from that point to say that there was a special reason, in addition to the one connected with the fiscal problem, why we should resign, and that it was based on the fact that we are a majority having no authority. In saying that he only repeated a charge which has been made over and over again by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and still more by their irresponsible supporters in the country. I have seen it stated hundreds of times. The charge is that inasmuch as the present majority were returned in 1900, when the question absorbing the attention of the country was the war, they had no right to continue their existence a moment after the war was con- 1014 cluded. [An HON. MEMBER: You said it was concluded.] I believe that is the doctrine the right hon. Gentleman propounds. I say that a more unconstitutional and more absurd doctrine was never propounded.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
As the right hon. Gentleman uses the word "constitutional," I will explain what I said. What I said was that a Parliament elected as this was, almost entirely on the question of the war, was not entitled—though I have never stretched, let me say, the doctrine of mandate too far—to enter upon large and fundamental changes of the law without a further appeal to the country.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman varies his constitutional doctrines at different parts of his speech. His friend behind him has just reminded me that we have the powers and ought to exercise them at once, if we believe in fiscal reform. Now the right hon. Gentleman takes the other view, that before carrying out the new policy of fiscal reform we ought to appeal to the country. I agree to that.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I do not agree to is the right hon. Gentleman's doctrine that, when a Parliament has I been elected when one subject is before the constituencies, it is incapable of dealing with other subjects, especially if they be large subjects. I believe that doctrine to be utterly wrong and utterly unconstitutional, and I must do the House the justice to say I that, often as I have seen it stated outside; the House, I do not remember it being said inside the House by anyone but the right hon. Gentleman himself. Let the House cast its mind back for a moment. What has happened within our own recollection? Mr. Gladstone stumped the whole country from end to end in 1880 upon the wrongs of the Christians in what is now called the Near East. He raised a great storm of passion and emotion on that subject, and almost entirely on that subject, and owing to 1015 that subject he swept the country in 1880. Although he had with him an enormous Liberal majority, as far as I know not a single thing was done for the Christians: in the Near East. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"] So far as I remember nothing was done, or perhaps nothing could be done—I am not blaming Mr. Gladstone— for the Christians in the Near East. The problem of Ireland suddenly burst on the astonished gaze of the new Ministry as a Hew phenomenon to which they had resolutely shut their eyes whilst the election was going on, and which they suddenly found themselves compelled to confront. Did they hesitate to revolutionise the whole theory of personal liberty in Ireland and the whole tenure of land in Ireland? Not at all. They set themselves at once to that gigantic task, and open as their policy was, in my judgment, to severe criticism on its merits, nobody, I think, then had the hardihood to say that because that Parliament had been elected to deal with the Christians in Macedonia it was incapable of dealing with this Irish question. I believe I am stating not only what is the constitutional doctrine, but what must be the constitutional doctrine, if we are in this House to have anything in the nature of a stable Government, be the side from which that stable Government is drawn what it may. There are plenty of elements of instability in a House constituted like the present House. Are they going to diminish or are they going to increase as time goes on? The right hon. Gentleman's view is apparently that if a certain number of by-elections go against the Government of the day the Government ought to say—This is the voice of the people calling upon us to resign; we must dissolve and again test the sentiments of the electors. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman or his friends will be found to preach that doctrine in its full extent, let us say, between now and the end of the next five years. I do not in the least know what the next election, or the next election but one, or the next election but I two is going to bring forth. [A Member of the OPPOSITION Benches: Five years.] Notice, five years! Never mind how the by-elections go; five years! Happy is the hon. Gentleman who can look forward not merely to the immediate triumphs of his Party when the next 1016 election comes, but to a continuous course of undimmed popularity which is to give them every by-election during the first five years of Parliament. I believe that we are following the exact precedent set us by our predecessors and the true constitutional doctrine. I do not for one instant admit that the by-elections are a test, or ought to be regarded as a test of public feeling. They are, of course, a test of the feelings of a particular constituency at the time the by-election takes place. They are not, and they cannot be made, the index and the test of what the feeling of the people of the country is as a whole. Any doctrine that is inconsistent with that is, in my judgment, not only wholly unconstitutional in theory, but wholly unworkable in practice.
The right hon. Gentleman talks really as if we were hanging on in office with a doubtful and wavering majority. [OPPOSITION ironical cheers and MINISTERIAL laughter.] I wish our majorities were larger, but they are larger than the majorities which the right hon. Gentleman had who took office in order to carry the Home Rule Bill in 1892. I do not see why our courage should be loss than that of hon. Gentlemen opposite, or why we, who also think we have a great task to perform, should resign that task out of mere faint-heartedness and want of spirit, or should even suggest the idea of handing over the Government to others whom, whatever our respect for them, we do not think so capable as ourselves of carrying on the policy in which we believe. I do not see why we should abandon a task which the country has set us until the constitutional practise of the country requires us to resign our powers. For these reasons I think the right hon. Gentleman, in the conclusion of his varied speech, did little to prove the proposition which I understand he set out to prove—namely, that we on this side of the House are still cumberers of the earth, hangers on, incapable of doing the work which the country set us to do. This work I, on the contrary, believe we shall be able successfully to carry out; and times to come will be able to reckon, in addition to the great reforms which, as I believe, the Unionist Administration may congratulate itself on having carried 1017 since it came into office in 1895, at least one other great reform which may compare with any of them—the reform of our Army system.
MR. LLOYD-GEOEGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said that the Prime Minister, with his usual inexhaustible ingenuity, had managed to avoid and ignore all the salient facts of the situation. He was very pleased with everything; he was pleased with his majority; he was pleased with his policy; and, above all, he was pleased with himself. His peroration was a most warm and passionate declaration that he had greater confidence in his own capacity than in the capacity of anybody else in this House. That was a very-satisfactory state of mind for any man to be in, and he congratulated the Prime Minister on being able to Secure that feeling amidst so many difficulties; but on the face of it, there was nothing in the circumstances to justify anything of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman said something about War Office reform. He would say nothing about it, because he knew nothing about it; but what struck him was that the eulogy which the right hon. Gentleman had passed on these doughty three was not nearly so warm or so passionate as the great panegyric which the right hon. Gentleman had delivered on the Army Corps scheme. His present enthusiasm was feeble and halting compared with that with which he talked about the author of that Army Corps scheme. And the confidence of the right hen. Gentleman now displayed about fiscal policy was nothing compared to the confidence which the Prime Minister formerly felt in the Army Corps scheme, and yet only eighteen months had passed away, and the right hon. Gentleman was preparing for its obsequies. He must say one word in regard to Lord Milner before he passed to the question of fiscal reform. The Prime Minister and his colleagues were constantly complaining of the attacks they, on that side of the House, were making on Lord Milner. Now Lord Milner was the last man in the world who had a right to complain of these attacks, because his Lordship was constantly entering into controversy himself, and the Prime Minister had just 1018 defended him for his contempt, benevolent or otherwise, of criticism. A Minister who poured contempt on his adversaries could not complain if they in return criticised him. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman would approve of Lord Milner's utterances, because the chief complaint of the right hon. Gentleman was that these were Party utterances. Very well, he was very likely on those conditions not to approve of Lord Milner's utterances in South Africa. He did not know that the House was any better informed on the subject of fiscal reform than it was before the right hon. Gentleman got up. What they wanted to know was, not whether the right hon. Gentleman was a progressive free-trader, but whether, in the words of one of his own supporters, who contested Lewisham, he was a "Progressive Balfourite." That was the very happy description given of a gentleman who called himself a tariff reformer last September. Last December the Prime Minister did not know what his policy was. He, a few months before, submitted two different itineraries to the Cabinet.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said the Prime Minister had very skilfully avoided that question, but it went to the root of the whole controversy, for they had got a statement from a right hon. Gentleman who was a member of his Cabinet—and that statement had not been challenged—that the Prime Minister submitted to the Cabinet two policies, which were not alternatives. One was the policy embodied in the pamphlet, a policy of retaliation; and the other was a policy which involved the taxation of food and preferential tariffs. Were these two alternative policies? If they were not, then there was no difference at all between the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. It was perfectly clear that the right hon. Gentleman did not know where he was travelling. He submitted the question of his future destination to his colleagues in the Cabinet and at present neither he nor they knew what was the policy of the Government. The House was entitled to 1019 know something more. It was all very well to say that this was a question to be hung up; but it was affecting trade, and trade was after all a very delicate machine, and anything of this kind paralysed the energy of the people and in itself interfered with the trade of the country.
The right hon. Gentleman had also very skilfully avoided the general position with regard to the session. He did not say that the session had nor up to the present been a very useful one, for it had cleared up one or two things which needed clearing up. They now knew that the war was entered into not so much to secure emancipated white labour as to introduce slave yellow labour. It had also cleared up the fact that our trade was in no immediate danger and that there was nothing in the situation which made it necessary for the Government to produce immediate remedies, although they were told in the recess that we were rushing into bankruptcy. Thirdly, it had cleared up the fact that the Welsh county councillors were not prosecuted because they were lawbreakers but because they were not Scotsmen other, with all these things, he thought the session had attained the limits of its usefulness. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that they could go on and that the country was taking no note of these things. On many occasions in the constituencies at the last general election the right hon. Gentleman explicitly declared that the one and sole issue was not social reform, but the war, and the moment this Parliament attempted to deal with social reform the country took the Prime Minister at his word, and at the by-elections started to go against him. Thirty seats had been contested since the termination of the war. At the last election they were represented by seven Liberals and twenty-three Unionists; now they were held by seventeen Liberals and thirteen Unionists. Could the right hon. Gentleman have a more explicit declaration from the country that he had ceased to enjoy its confidence? Never had a Parliament before buried so many of its children. There was the Army reform scheme. Three cruel men had sat upon it and it was now no more, and the Government was engaged in embalming its remains. 1020 The corn tax lasted a year, and now it was gone. The Irish University was stillborn. Land settlement in Africa was dead. Even the Irish Land Act was very pale and sickly; and as for the Education Act, from the very moment of its birth it had suffered from the most violent convulsions, and he believed that its fond parent was preparing for the worst.
The right hon. Gentleman boasted of his majority, but by what means was he keeping it together? In the Daily Press they could hear the crack of the sjambok playing around the shoulders of the stragglers. It was with the greatest difficulty they were brought there. Only one common sentiment bound them together, and that was the fear of death at the polls. The chief Whip said that three-line whips were not enough, but he would suggest that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman should write across them in red ink "beware of a dissolution." But, in spite of all these circumstances, still they lagged behind. There was no energy or enthusiasm in them. With that great capacity for vicarious sacrifice which was always displayed by the ultra-patriotic journals, the Government Press urged Members to abandon their coffee and cigars. They were to eat their meals in future like the Israelites, with their loins girded, staff in hand, and sandals on their feet. However, the constituencies would pretty soon liberate them from that land of bondage. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, was this a state of things in which Parliament could do any good work? He had before him most important discussions. He had promised a Licensing Bill at last, but how long had he been in bringing it about? It was all very well to say that he had no time, but what about the Dogs Bill? The right hon. Gentleman looked after what might be called the us and bottle department of the Government, and to the publican outside with his can waiting for the long pull which had been promised to him, the right hon. Gentleman curtly turned round and said "Dogs first." It was pre-eminently a Bill which the country ought to have time to t I consider, and yet it was not to be produced till after Easter. He would wait with interest the arrival of the dramatic 1021 moment when the Prime Minister flung his Party into the brewer's vat. Independence was as much discouraged on the other side just now as if the Party were a Rand mine. Not even the Government were independent. They hid their master too. The other day the Prime Minister tried to escape from the Birmingham compound, but the overseer left in charge discovered him before he had gone very far, and he and his colleagues were brought back by their pigtails. And what had happened to the right hon. Member for Ripon, who helped them to escape? He had not been seen or heard of since. He had broken the ordinance and he was a fugitive from justice. The fact was the Prime Minister was working with forced labour, but there was one part of the ordinance he and his Government had faithfully kept, and that was the provision that they should do no skilled labour.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he had the confidence of the Crown and of the House. He had no right to put it in that way. It was unfair to the Crown, which could expressno separate judgment. As to the House of Commons, that gave him its confidence because it had not the confidence of the country. If it had the confidence of the country, it would not give its confidence to the right hon. Gentleman for a single evening. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well why hon. Members voted for him. There were thirteen of them who voted for him expecting to get something for the Bann drainage. The price of their confidence was a sluice gate in the Bann. What about other hon. Members? There were 112 whose confidence was not in the right hon. Gentleman and his Ministry, but in a statesman who was outside his Ministry, who did not believe in its policy, and who was working for other ends. These Members were keeping the right hon. Gentlemen in, not because of their confidence in him, but because they proposed to demonstrate by some Tariff Reform Commission that the right hon. Gentleman's policy was wrong. What manner of authority was that to support a Government in a great task? They had a right to ask that the country, which had got important work to perform. 1022 should have an opportunity of electing the men whom it thought capable of performing that work. It was perfectly clear that the country had no confidence in the right hon. Gentleman or in his Ministry. That had been shown on every occasion that the country had had an opportunity of expressing its opinion. If the right hon. Gentleman went on clutching at power, in spite of the opinion of the people, he would lose something more important than the confidence of the country, something more difficult to regain, and that was the respect of the country.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
said he was very sorry the Prime Minister had left the House, as he had desired to ask him one or two Questions. They were still without information in regard to several phases of the fiscal question, and it was very unsatisfactory that on the eve of the adjournment they should still be left without that information. He had read the right hon. Gentleman's pamphlet, he had listened to the speeches he had made, and he confessed that he still found himself quite unable to understand what the right hon. Gentleman really thought about the issue which was before the country. It was quite true that the right hon. Gentleman had dropped hints here and there, and that carefully guarded sentences had fallen from him as to what was in and what was out of the Government policy. But they did not want to know what was in and what was out of the Government policy. What they wanted to know was what the Prime Minister really thought about the subject that was vexing the country, and he did not think it was unreasonable that they should ask this because, after all, there was a difference in a policy when it was put forward on the faith and honour of a public man and when it was put forward avowedly as a matter of convenient political, tactics. There was another reason why they had a right to know. A great many people were being placed in great difficulty with their constituents. He was going to say that great pressure was being put upon them by their Party and by all the officials of the Party who were hostile to them. It was perfectly legitimate to do that if they believed in what 1023 they were doing, but it was contemptible to do these, things when there was behind them no faith and no conviction. They had a right to ask, even of those who were among them but not of them, for plain dealing and fair audience.
He had made more than one attempt privately to find out the Prime Minister's opinion on several phases of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. It was not until some months had passed, and many attempts had been made to get these private assurances from the right hon. Gentleman, that he, for one, passed formally from the position of an independent support or to the position of a declared opponent of the present Government. He quite recognised that that change was one on which his constituents, if they wished, had a right to be, consulted. He had certainly no intention of interposing the smallest obstacle to any representation which might be made to him by the Party in his, constituency. If they desired him to resign and to submit himself to re-election, they had only to call upon him to do so and the usual course would be followed without the least delay. He had hitherto refrained from taking this course, which a few months ago he intended to take whether they wished it or not, because he had no desire to go through the painful process of breaking up a local organisation, with which he was a short lime ago on the most friendly terms, so shortly before a general election, and while they, for their part, seemed perfectly content that matters should remain as they were. But they had only to express their opinion and he would do his best to give effect to it. He had hoped to get information from the Prime Minister as to his personal views on the fiscal question. The Prime Minister alone knew what meaning was to be attached to the mysterious words "retaliation" and "anti-dumping." They might mean much, they might mean very little. The right hon. Gentleman was very careful to leave them indefinite. He said his policy consisted in an assertion of freedom. But what was the good of an abstract assertion of freedom unless there was an understanding of the use that was to be made of it? His policy was described as "anti-dumping." 1024 But what dumping was, what comprised anti-dumping; whether all the various causes that contributed to the sale of goods below cost price were to be considered as dumping; under what circumstances these regulations were to be applied—as to all this they were told nothing; and until they were told, definitely and substantially, the House was quite, right not to be, led into this tiresome dance, step by step and measure by measure, at the dictates of a nimble and ingenious brain.
But if the Prime Minister's policy I was unreal, the policy of the Member for Birmingham was real. Everybody knew what that was, and before the House adjourned they ought to know what the Prime Minister's relation to that policy was. They knew that as to Imperial preference the right hon. Gentleman was opposed to it, not because he thought it was not good for the country, but because he thought it would not win many votes at the general election. It was not a noble reason, but it was a practical one, and it was a reason of some sort. But what of the other part of the Member for Birmingham's policy, the 10 per cent. duty on manufactured articles? He saw the Chief Secretary for Ireland present. The right hon. Gentleman was a close personal friend and intimate Cabinet associate of the Prime Minister. Was the right hon. Gentleman able to give the House any information on behalf of the Prime Minister? Had he ever heard of the Tariff Commission? The Prime Minister was supposed not to read the papers; he depended upon social gossip for information as to the intentions of his colleagues in the Cabinet but perhaps the Chief Secretary knew something of the views of the right hon. Gentleman on this question, and could state whether or not he believed a 10 per cent, ad valorem duty would be to the advantage of this country. That was I the out feature of the Protectionist policy which appealed to the democratic electorate, and yet they were left in absolute ignorance of the Prime Minister's opinion on the matter. Was the Wharton Amendment a true expression of the right hon. Gentleman's mind, or was it a miserable dodge to place a few unfortunate politicians on that side of 1025 the House in a difficult situation? The tariff reformers, who to the number of 112 met, followed an odd procedure, for they decided to inform the Government that unless the Wharton Amendment was withdrawn they would turn them out, and then proceeded to pass a resolution of unabated confidence! Their confidence was not misplaced; they knew their men. When the division was taken, the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Sleaford and the Member for West Bristol both voted in support of the Government. The difference between the views of those two right hon. Gentlemen was vital; nothing could bridge it; and he desired to know which of the two was being befooled by the Prime Minister. The time had come when the country ought to be relieved from this shifty policy of equivocal evasion; they had a right to know what public men thought on public questions, and what political chiefs believed on great political principles. He deeply regretted that the Prime Minister had absented himself from the debate, but though hon. Members could not be informed of the opinion of the right, hon. Gentleman on these questions, the mere formulation of their complaints ought to demonstrate to the country the unsatisfactory, unprecedented, and unconstitutional situation in which Parliament and the people were placed.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
congratulated the hon. Member for Oldham on the fact that the organised attempt to deprive him of an audience had in no way affected the excellence of his speech, but bethought the Opposition, and the House generally, ought to notice the somewhat novel departure in Parliamentary tactics. Hitherto it had been considered one of the unique distinctions and glories of this House that Members were willing to give an appreciative and sometimes admiring hearing to those who were even diametrically opposed to them. But one could well understand that there came a condition in the state of a Party in which they became somewhat apprehensive of hearing opposite views; Members could become so sensitive, with their opinions in such a condition of unstable equilibrium, that they were afraid to hear a reasoned and plain expression of 1026 views which they did not desire to adopt, and that would seem to be the condition of the Party opposite. He hoped the country would take note of that condition, and of the tactics which had been adopted. Whatever the Unionist Party might think of the hon. Member for Oldham, the country would gladly recognise that he was always ready to show the courage of his race and to maintain the high traditions of his name. The Prime Minister was of opinion that there was no occasion for hurry with regard to a dissolution. Nobody supposed that the Government desired an early dissolution, but even more than that they dreaded being forced to adopt a clear and candid attitude in the controversy on which the next election would turn. Hitherto, the Prime Minister had endeavoured to keep the two sections of the Party together, his intention being, in the next Parliament, with the security of a somewhat heterogeneous majority, to choose which section he would befriend. That course, of strategy had been rendered difficult by recent events, as the right hon. Gentleman had been all but compelled to disclose his true opinions before the election. But though that course of procedure was discredited as far as this House was concerned, it was by no means abandoned in the country; it was kept alive for electoral reasons, because the right hon. Gentleman supposed that the country did not follow the proceedings of Parliament with as much understanding a id precision as was sometimes necessary, and that it could still be deceived by these free-trade arguments in support of a protectionist policy.
During the whole of last session an inquiry was supposed to be proceeding into the fiscal question. How did the Prime Minister regard the results of that inquiry, which was constituted for the purpose of showing whether protection or free trade was the policy best fitted for this country? Apparently the right hon. Gentleman was determined to give the House no in formation on that point. He did go so far at Sheffield, however, as to say that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was outside the range of practical politics. That was a remarkable declaration, 1027 which, if true, would absolve the right hon. Gentleman from the necessity of dealing with that policy on its merits. But within a few weeks of that declaration the right hon. Gentleman had himself laid before his colleagues proposals embodying in some measure—the precise extent was not known to the House generally—the very proposals which he had declared to be outside the range of practical politics. The Prime Minister would not have it suggested that he had laid two inconsistent policies before the Cabinet; he considered that such action was not compatible with political honour; but what could be thought from the point of view of political honour of the conduct which, for the purpose of pacifying a section of the Party, declared a policy to be outside the range of practical politics, and then in the Cabinet did all it could to bring that policy within the range of practical politics? He did not know what the right hon. Gentleman's standard of political propriety might be, but it would not be that of the country at large. The Wharton Amendment declared, first, that the policy of the Government excluded protective or preferential tariffs, and, secondly, that the Unionist Party approved of that exclusion. In neither of those declarations did the bulk of the Tory Party believe, and they were rejected. What courses were then open to the Prime Minister? He was at liberty either to resign office or to resist the policy of the bulk of his followers, and insist on the acceptance by them of his own policy. He did not attempt to follow the latter course, knowing it would be impossible of achievement He took another course, and made a long speech to show that his policy must be treated as consistent with free trade, and then quoted his ollowers against free trade. They did not mind the right hon. Gentleman saying that his policy excluded protection provided he did not call upon them to believe it. When they were called upon to do that they rejected it.
That, perhaps, was less important than the incident in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford played the leading part, for they had the phenomenal absurdity of that right hon. Gentleman 1028 and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol being in the same division lobby. To get at the significance of this they had to go back to the Sheffield Conference, where the policy of the Party was decided for the purposes of the next election. The hon. Member for Sleaford had charge of an Amendment in favour of food taxation and he could have defeated the Prime Minister, but he did not do it. He withdrew the Amendment, and why? He knew perfectly well that the policy of the Government, if it were an honest policy, would be destructive of the agricultural industry and would lay a burden upon every article the agriculturist used, and leave corn unprotected against foreign competition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford withdrew his Amendment and supported the Prime Minister, because he knew that policy was a sham, and so far from excluding protection was deliberately designed to bring it about. This policy obtained support on the express ground that the Prime Minister's assurances were not to be believed. He did not know whether the Prime Minister regarded that as consistent with a fair standard of political honour in this country. Protectionists now got not merely guarantees but they were appointed to offices and also got unrestricted authority to preach what propaganda they pleased in favour of protection—an authority which had never been extended to free-trade members of the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman was thus maintaining the unity of his Party. Party unity was a fine thing, but they might pay too great a price for it, and the price the Prime Minister was paying showed that he would soon make it a curse to the public life of England.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said that after the extraordinary and novel Parliamentary tactics which had been adopted towards the hon. Member for Oldham he claimed the indulgence of the House to allow him to say a few words. He had been an active member of the Conservative Party for forty years and his experience had been that there had always been a certain number of protectionists in the Party and they were 1029 always treated by the Leaders and the majority of the Party with courtesy and consideration. He remembered Sir Stafford Northcote, who was a strong freetrader, always exhorted his followers to show the greatest possible consideration to those who had expressed what he called a pious opinion in favour of protection. The Party supported them on the platform and at elections, and in everything except protectionist Motions, and they never had to complain of any discourtesy on the part of their leaders. Now, things had changed, for some of their leaders were avowed protectionists, and a great number of the followers held protectionist opinions. He made no complaint of that, but what he did contend was that those who did adhere to the old doctrines of the Party had a claim to be treated with the same courtesy and consideration as was shown to protectionists when free-traders were in the ascendency. The Prime Minister had declared that the fiscal policy ought not to be made a test of Party loyalty. They had a right to claim that those who had held in the past the old orthodox opinions, and who still adhered to them, oughtnot to be treated with discourtesy and want of consideration, and should not be described as persons "who are with us but not of us," and not regarded as unworthy to receive that support and consideration which every member of a Party ought to showtowards those who continued loyal to the Party. He apologised to the House for intervening in the debate, but as he was present when the hon. Member for Oldham was treated with the most m irked discourtesy, he thought it was only right to say what he had said. The hon. Member for Oldham was the son of an old colleague of his, and an old Leader of the House of Commons, who, of all men in the world, deserved well of his Party, and if every other consideration had failed, the Member for Oldham's hereditary right to respect and consideration ought to have preserved him from such treatment as he had received at the hands of his Party.
§ MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)
drew attention to the insufficient staff which was kept at the Natural History Museum in Dublin. About twenty-five years ago the staff numbered five 1030 whilst the staff of the British Museum numbered nineteen. The staff of the latter had since been increased to twenty-five whilst the Dublin Museum staff had only been increased by one, and that was an illusory increase, because three out of the six attendants at the Natural History Museum at Dublin had to give a great deal of time to the College of Science, and in consequence the work of the Museum had fallen fearfully into arrear. Time after time the deficiencies in the present system had been brought to the notice of the Government, and it was time that something was done. The Natural History Department had greatly increased in value, and a great many valuable specimens had been acquired. The staff gave lectures dealing with the work of their departments, and they had helped the History Society, and yet they had to do all this work with the same staff as they had twenty-five years ago, with the result that catalogues were not available, specimens had been accumulating, and the whole business had become clogged for want of proper attendants. Since the Department of Agriculture was established a great deal of extra work had been thrown on the staff of the Natural History Museum. The investigation of the diseases affecting plants and crops had been thrown upon them, and it was utterly impossible to expect the men who, in years gone by, had toiled in looking after and cataloguing specimens should overtake that work. In foreign countries this was a special branch of science which had a department of its own. He sincerely hoped that the Chief Secretary, having had his attention called to the matter year after year, would take it in hand and do something. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the time had not come for having a regular inquiry into the art institutions of Dublin. Last year, when the College of Science Bill was brought before the House, an opportunity was given on the Committee stage of raising the question of the position of the Royal Hibernian Academy. The Financial Secretary of the Treasury expressed a favourable opinion then with respect to the claim put forward by himself in regard to that institution. His reason for mentioning it now was that there was great danger 1031 that the Metropolitan School of Art, unless proper men were appointed, would not fulfil its proper function, and that it might become merely a school for industrial arts and crafts. These were no doubt extremely necessary for the industrial benefit of the country, but the higher functions of art should also be looked after. The Royal Hibernian Academy was miserably placed on the north side of the city, and was not provided with assistants to enable it to fulfill its function. The result was that young men and women who desired to study art were unable to do so in their own country, and had to go to England, France, or Germany. He wished to impress on the right hon. Gentleman that a school of art should not become merely a school of arts and crafts, and that consideration should be given to the proper artistic side of it. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider if the time had not come to have an inquiry into the art institutions of Dublin, to see whether they were properly co-ordinated, and whether the work of the different departments was properly carried out. The inquiry, whether departmental or otherwise, should include the Royal Hibernian Academy. If a fair opportunity were given to talented young people to pursue their studies there would be in Ireland in future a school of art distinctly Irish, which would enable the country to take its position in that matter among the nations of the earth.
§ MR. CULLINAN (Tipperary, S.)
said he wished to draw attention to the question of the surcharges made by the Local Government Board auditor in connection with the Tipperary Urban Council. There were two sums amounting to £90. The engineer had stopped certain work owing to bad weather, and the auditor surcharged these amounts simply because the council had not reduced to writing the order in connection with that matter. There was another item of £70, which was surcharged in respect of irrecoverable arrears extending over several years; the reason assigned by the auditor for this proceeding being that the council did not take action for the recovery of the rates. He himself had been surcharged £400 by the same gentleman, but when 1032 the matter was investigated the decision of the auditor was quashed and every penny of the sum was remitted. This, I therefore, was not the first time that that I gentleman had been playing "high jinks" in Ireland. The urban council appealed to the Court of King's Bench against the auditor's surcharge, amounting to £160, and the Court decided that he had overstepped his jurisdiction. The result was the auditor's decision was reversed and the £160 allowed: but the urban council had incurred costs in connection with the legal proceedings to the amount of £200, which would fall on the ratepayers unless some tiling could be done to save them from being mulcted in that sum. He should like the Chief Secretary to state who conducted the case. Was it the auditor or the Local Government Board? He understood it was laid down that costs could not be given against the auditor, but the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Court could have awarded costs against him. Was the right hon. Gentleman going to allow the representative of one of the Government departments in Dublin to act in a perfectly illegal manner, causing serious loss to the ratepayers? This was a question of importance to the ratepayers of Tipperary, but of concern to every public body in Ireland. Was the right hon. Gentlemen going to lay down that any auditor whom the Local Government Board should appoint, might go about the country with perfect impunity, displaying an erratic or vindictive disposition, or even the stupidity which many officials were capable of, and that he was to be safeguarded from any responsibility for his action? It was a monstrous case. He thought that in resenting such treatment the ratepayers would be even more justified in having recourse to passive resistance than those who in this country were resisting by that means the education policy of the Government.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said he admitted that it would be exceedingly difficult to deal with the case of the Tipperary Urban Council after the decision of the King's Bench. The auditor had been for a long time in the service and might be presumed to be a competent auditor. He made two surcharges of expenditure which were supposed to be legal, but were not, and the result of the whole thing was that the 1033 Tipperary Urban Council had to pay in law costs more than the surcharges themselves. That seemed to be an absurd state of affairs. He wished to ask what was the distinction the Chief Secretary drew between a petition to the Local Government Board from an urban council in regard to a surcharge, aid an appeal? He had had something to do with surcharges, and he knew pretty well the principles which governed the English Local Government Board in deciding these cases; and he would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell him wherein a petition of an urban council to the Local Government Board of Ireland differed from an appeal? As he understood, the Irish Local Government Board did not treat the petition of the Tipperary Urban Council as an appeal. This was a serious question. Again, he would like to know on what principle the auditors in Ireland were appointed? In England—he now spoke from personal experience—no auditor was appointed (he quite admitted that no examination or qualification was required) to Serve under the Local Government Board who had not been a competent official and had gained experience in his business for twelve or fifteen months. He knew that that was not the case in Ireland. He believed that there was a qualifying examination; but if anyone who knew Ireland would go over the names of the auditors on the list, they would find that these gentlemen had been pitch-forked into their positions by political influence without any qualification. Would the right hon. Gentleman take some action to see that the auditors appointed knew what the law was and what it was not?
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said he desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two Questions in regard to the action of the police in Dublin; but before doing so, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give some explanation in regard to Dublin Museum. The right hon. Gentleman, he knew, took a good deal of interest in, and had sympathy with, all matters connected with the Royal Irish Academy and Museum, and there should be no difficulty whatever, therefore, in granting additional assistance to the Museum as was asked for by the Royal 1034 Irish Academy. The Irish people had not been treated in regard to the Museum with that fairness and generosity which was accorded to similar institutions in this country. As to the surcharges made by the Local Government Board, he really thought that when members of district councils paid money in a bonâ fide way to carry out necessary public works, they should not themselves be compelled to refund that money, and that the Local Government Board should remit the surcharge, fie quite admitted that where urban or district councils made improper payments they should be surcharged; but m a case where there was no precedent to go by, and where the money had been spent in the public interest, and with no bad intention, he submitted that the Local Government Board ought to have the power to remit the surcharge and not to penalise men who thought they were doing a public duty. It was not always easy to get business men to devote time to public service, and it would be still more difficult if they were made to sacrifice money as well as time when they made a mistake, although acting in a bonâ fide manner.
As to the action of the Dublin police, had the right hon. Gentleman any information which he could not give the House the previous day? The right hon. Gentleman said then that the chairman of the meeting on Thursday last had called in the assistance of the police when he believed that the furniture of the hall was in danger and feared that a disturbance would take place. There was nothing in any of the published accounts of the meeting which would justify any such fear. He wanted to know whether any person had a right to command the presence of a large force of police at a public meeting in order to expel people from that meeting who had not been guilty of any breach of the law or of any act of violence? He was advised by letters received that day that after a resolution had been put at that meeting on Thursday last by the chairman, that gentleman and his friends left the hall and that a new chairman was appointed, whereupon a large force of police entered, objected to the new chairman, and ejected a great number of people from 1035 the hall. Nothing had been done which warranted that violent action on the part of the police. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman had been long enough in Ireland to know that the unnecessary introduction of the police at a meeting was a very dangerous thing; and such action on Thursday night last might easily have led to very serious consequences but for the influence and good judgment of the gentlemen on the platform. He wanted to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he considered the action of the police on that occasion was within the law. Suppose a free trade meeting was held in England and that a number of protectionists objected to the objects of the promoters, would anyone contend that any individual would dream of sending for the police to expel the protectionists? Such a thing could not happen in England, and it ought not to be allowed to happen in Ireland. That it did happen had aroused a great deal of angry feeling in Dublin. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the House the law on the matter and say whether the police were acting within their legal right in what they did. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman in his reply to bear in mind that no violence whatever: had been used at the meeting before the arrival of the police, and by what right, therefore, did the police act in the manner they did. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give an assurance that such action, which police in England would not dare to take, would not be repeated in Ireland.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOE IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
said that since yesterday he had had an opportunity of studying the legal questions involved in this matter, and he thought he was now in a position to answer the Question of law put by the hon. Member. It was without a shadow of doubt that the owner of such a place as the Ancient Concert Rooms, and equally without doubt that the person who became the owner—that was, the person who hired the rooms and paid for them for an afternoon or evening—was absolutely entitled by the law to call in the police if he apprehended such a disturbance was likely to endanger his property. It 1036 was equally certain that the police having been sent for by the chairman of this meeting, who felt that the property for which he was temporarily responsible was in danger, were bound to obey that summons and to come and protect the property. That alone would justify them in taking the steps which they did take, for when the police came in they found a scene somewhat more than heated, though why it should have been heated he could not conceive. But they did find the scene somewhat more heated than anybody would have expected who had studied either the resolutions originally proposed or the amendment which some other person wished to substitute. They found the persons there practically divided into two hostile parties, shouting and menacing each other, and in some cases sticks were raised in the air, and the atmosphere was charged with electricity. A reasonable man might very well have formed an anticipation that, if matters had gone much further, some of the furniture might not only have been damaged, but might also have been used as weapons and missiles. In his opinion the police was not only right in going there, but were well advised in bringing the proceedings to an abrupt close. He understood, having made a careful inquiry, that no unnecessary force was used, that a number of persons were so interested in the view that they wished to express that they would not leave, but that in almost every case they realised the situation and there was no righting outside. He thought the hon. Member would agree that the Dublin Metropolitan Police had for many years enjoyed and deserved the confidence of all sections of the public in the City of Dublin.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said he was not making an attack on the police, as such, who were bound to carry out their orders; but the point was, who ordered them?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said he thought he had cleared up that point. The person who for the time being was the owner of the hall and responsible for it, was entitled to call them in and they were bound to give assistance.
With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for South Kerry, pressing for some addition to the staff of the 1037 natural history section of the National Museum, the hon. Member reminded them that in consequence of efforts made, also at his instance, a considerable addition had been made recently to the staff in the National Library. He fully admitted the excellence of that building and the other buildings, which formed one of the most interesting features of Dublin, but additional staff could not be sanctioned without very careful inquiry, and it was not from any remissness on his part that no conclusion had yet been arrived at. The new Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction were the proper Department to make a preliminary examination and say if additions could be made in one place and proper economies effected in another, and when they had concluded their preliminary examination, of course the Treasury sanction must be obtained. A correspondence on that subject was proceeding; it had not been concluded, and until a conclusion had been reached it was clear he could not make any further statement. He thought these institutions m Dublin should be adequately supported, but he differed from the hon. Member and thought that Dublin was already very fortunately endowed in that respect. He knew of no city of that size in Europe which had such a collocation of buildings showing such interesting exhibits. The archaeological and the natural history sections of the Museum did the greatest credit to those who attended to those departments and the National Gallery on an adjoining site was also a great centre of public interest in Dublin. That being so, the hon. Member might rest assured that those who were responsible for the maintenance of those buildings would do what in them lay to see that as much as could properly be expended should be expended on those matters. He would bear in mind his observation upon the Metropolitan School of Art, though he should not pledge himself wholly that a separate school of instruction in art was always the best way to foster artistic talent. A collection of the best examples of the greatest in art was in one sense a better method of instruction, and in the National Gallery they had a collection of great masters which ho hoped and believed would exercise a great influence.
1038 As for the inquiry of the hon. Member for South Tipperary, he used soma phrases which might lead the House to believe that any auditor was, as it were, the servant and agent of the Local Government Board. That was not so. The auditor must be independent if he was to be of any value at all, and he was bound to look through accounts and with the knowledge of the law at his command to say this or that item was not a legal item of expenditure. It would never do for a public Department to direct an auditor what items he was to pass. It was less necessary in respect to the Local Government Board in Ireland, because there was an appeal from the auditor to the Local Government Board, not only on questions of law but also on what were called questions of equity. So that if an auditor quite legally said that an expenditure ought not to have been incurred, the parties who held themselves aggrieved could feel that the Local Government Board were able to say that, however that might be from the point of view of the law equitably they were not to blame. And in such a case the Local Government Board could, in fact, grant relief. But there could not be an indefinite number of appeals and, as a matter of fact under the Statute there were alternative appeals. The parties surcharged might cither appeal to the Court of King's Bench Division and say they were right and the auditor wrong in law, they might pursue the other course of appealing to the Local Government Board, and they might make that appeal both on the law and also on the merits and the language of the statute was so wide as to justify the Local Government Hoard in giving relief whenever a public body had acted in complete good faith, without carelessness and ignorance, and that dispensing power of the Local Government Board had often been used, and more than once when the question had been brought before him he had expressed personal consent and approval. And he believed that public bodies would, as a rule—though perhaps not always—be well advised in appealing to the Local Government Board rather than in going to law. The surcharge was made in September, and no objection was taken in any way until proceedings were begun in December. 1039 Then, it was true, the parties aggrieved wrote to the Local Government Board, and it was said that from the tone of the reply they gathered that they would not get relief. When the matter went to the King's Bench the Local Government Board were off the scene of action altogether. The King's Bench found for the local body, but, having the right to give or not to give costs, did not give them, and the Local Government Board had no funds out of which to pay costs when they were not awarded against them. He would take such steps as might be feasible, in order to see that local bodies in Ireland should be fully advised that there was an alternative appeal.
SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston),
referring to the outbreak of plague at Johannesburg, said that, when speaking on the subject the other day, he urged on the Colonial Secretary the necessity of insisting strenuously on having full information from Johannesburg, for he had reason to suppose that the authorities in that city had been keeping the matter dark for a long period. He said this because of the unprecedented severity of the outbreak. It was so sudden and appalling that it must have had some antecedent condition which led up to it, and there might Le some doubt as to whether the high death rate among the natives last year was really pneumonia, as was stated. He now desired to warn the Colonial Secretary and to ask him to insist on more thorough information in the future. He had seen the report of the medical officer of health for the year ending last June, and he thought it should be studied most carefully in tire Colonial Office. It appeared from that report that throughout last year there were most suspicious cases in Johannesburg—so suspicious that the ordinary observer almost must have been forced to the conclusion that they were cases of plague. In addition it appeared that at the same time a large number of rats were dying ail over the city, and, with these two signs occurring at the same time, he thought that the responsible Minister at home ought to have been supplied with full information so that he might have taken steps to save human 1040 life. On 2nd May, after these events, the Lieutenant-Governor telegraphed to say that there was no foundation for the rumours of the existence of plague in the city, and that showed how the matter had been kept dark. The sole ground on which that statement was made was that though the bodies of some persons who had died in a suspicious way had been examined, the bacillus of plague had not been discovered. The nemesis of that telegram came the other day; and he would ask the right hon. Gentlemen to take care to prevent any further attempts to conceal the gravity of the outbreak, and also to give to the public the fullest information he could during the ensuing week, and to telegraph to the authorities at Johannesburg insisting on the fullest information being given to him as to the progress of this epidemic.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. LYTTELTON,) Warwick and Leamington
said that in consequence of what the hon. Member said the other day he had sent a telegram to Lord Milner asking him for information. Lord Milner, in reply, telegraphed on 26th March that it did not seem to be realised that extensive Government laboratories existed and that a bacteriological laboratory under first-rate specialists, with skilled assistants, had been on the lookout for the plague for months. Great numbers of dead rats had been examined. During six months thirteen rats had been found to have died of plague. Each of these cases was specially investigated, and no possible connection could be traced between any two of them. The conclusion was that the rats were transported individually from the coast. The Government laboratories had also devoted the greatest attention to pneumonia, which was a very common disease there among mine workers. Many scores of cases had been bacteriologically examined, but no trace of plague was found in any one of them. It was impossible that the same specialists who were on the look out for plague, studying all these cases of pneumonia, should have failed to detect the plague bacillus in a single case, if what had been thought to be pneumonia had really been plague. This was all the more certain because it was only 1041 bacteriological examination which revealed the plague when it arrived. The present epidemic had so far only appeared at Johannesburg, at Pretoria, where there was one case in the hospital, and in one other place. Machinery was ready for taking measures immediately on the notification of cases of plague. The place in which the epidemic had occurred was surrounded by a cordon, and natives wore being removed as quickly as possible. During the eight days since the outbreak of the epidemic only three fresh cases had occurred among the inhabitants of the cordon area. A committee was giving its attention to the matter, and strongly recommended that the old Indian location, which formed part of the insanitary area, should be burned to the ground. The disinfection of all compounds was being thoroughly carried out. All rats were being killed as quickly as possible, and stray dogs and cats were being exterminated. Lord Milner was perfectly satisfied that the precautions which were being taken were as comprehensive as possible. The gentleman who was acting as medical officer had a number of excellent medical assistants, the majority of whom had had experience of the plague. This telegram, he thought, made any additional statement unnecessary.
MR. TRBVELYAN (Yorkshire, W.R., Elland)
drew attention to the report that the mission to Tibet was now to advance, and asked for information regarding the intentions of the Government. The advance would probably take place during the holidays and he would like to know whether it was proposed to advance as far as Lhasa or how far it was intended to advance. He further desired to know when the mission contemplated returning and what the Government intended to do. Their chief object was to help Indian trade.
§ MR. SPEAKER
called the hon. Member's attention to the fact that there was a notice on the Paper dealing with the question of Tibet which precluded the merits of the expedition being now discussed.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. BEOUBICK,) Surrey, Guild-
said the object of the expedition was clearly set forth in the Papers laid before Parliament, and the limitations of the mission were also clearly laid down. The position was this. The Government had causes of complaint which were enumerated in the Blue-book, and the suzerain Power, China, was anxious that we should have a meeting with her representative in order to settle disputed points. The Chinese Government had successively named two places for a meeting in Tibet, but their representative had not appeared. There was every reason to believe that the delays had been due to his being prevented from obtaining the necessary transport. In the circumstances it was thought necessary to make the advance to Gyangtse, with a view to reaching a place where there was a prospect of a satisfactory arrangement being concluded. The patience of the British representatives and the pacific character of the mission had been amply demonstrated. The mission halted for a long period on entering Tibet, and the further advance was not determined upon until it was made perfectly clear that the Tibetans intended to boycott the mission at the point which it had then reached. The advance had been carried out so far with apparently the greatest friendliness from the Tibetan people. Such hindrance as had been met with had apparently proceeded from the central authority at Lhasa. It was necessary to provide the mission with a suitable guard. Precisely the same precaution had been found necessary by the Chinese envoy. The time had come when the mission must go forward, and nothing had reached the Government to show that there was any such apprehension as would necessitate reinforcements. The Government were determined to keep the operation, or whatever it might be called, within bounds. They had no desire to molest the Tibetans or force upon them anything savouring of military occupation, and they had no design on Tibetan territory. He hoped the steps which were now being taken would lead to a pacific arrangement, and to an agreement which might be observed by all parties.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
said he very much regretted 1043 that the House was prevented from discussing the subject of the Tibetan expedition by reason of the fact that a Motion dealing with the question had been set down by a private Member on the other side. The result of the Rule was that the House might be prevented from discussing questions of the most vital importance by the uncontrolled caprice or design of an individual Member. He did not know what the source of the Motion was in this case; but they might fairly assume that the Government could have some little influence in preventing its being retained on the Paper if they desired to exercise it. He would ask them whether they would use their influence in the matter if some responsible member of the Opposition, not necessarily on the Front Bench, desired to raise a discussion.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said that three vears ago he asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he could extend the provisions of the Allotments Act to Ireland. Those Acts had done much good in England; and he suggested that a provision extending them to Ireland might be included in the Labourers Bill which was to be introduced after Easter. The right hon. Gentleman might very easily extend the Allotment Acts that prevailed in this country to Ireland. Anyone who had been in the Midlands would recognise that those Acts had done immense good to the working class community and a good many persons were now supplementing their wages very considerably by the cultivation of these plots of land, and this would be a great benefit to those living in Irish towns.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that the Motion for adjournment is not an occasion for advocting legislation.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY (Sir A. ACLAND-HOOD,) Somersetshire, Wellington
said that he was quite prepared to use his influence if the hon. and learned Gentleman would put his Motion on the Paper. Of course, he would see what he could do, but the hon. Member knew that many members in the Ministerial Party were extremely obstinate.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ And, there being no further Business set down for this Afternoon's Sitting, Mr. SPEAKER left the Chair till this Evening's Sitting.