§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn until Tuesday, 2nd May."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I shall be pursuing a well-established time-honoured, and useful course, in old days more than in modern times in this House, perhaps, when I take this opportunity of addressing a few questions to the Administration, and reviewing, in some sort, the progress of their general policy since the House met. The first subject about which I wish to ask is the South African Constitution. We should all like to know what prospect there is of an early announcement of the policy of the Government in regard to that matter, and whether we shall be furnished with Papers on the subject. The House will remember that when the question of Chinese labour was 610 under discussion we were plied with Papers showing what purported to be the movement of opinion in the Transvaal upon the subject; and casting our minds a little further back we may remember how largely we were informed, whether the information was always accurate or not, as to the state of feeling on the general grounds of policy when there was a controversy between the representatives of this country and Mr. Kruger with regard to the extinction of the franchise in this very community with which we are now dealing. Remembering these things, I feel justified in saying that it would be useful to the House if Papers were presented showing what the Government gather to be the general desire and opinion of our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal as to the new Constitution. The Colonial Secretary used some words the other day which were taken to imply that the new body which the Government seek to create would be entirely composed of elected members. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was correctly apprehended in that sense.
I turn now to Somaliland. Questions on the subject have been asked of the Government to-day, but I think the Answers are very far from being satisfactory. Here is a quarter of the world where we have spent something like three million sterling, and wasted a great many lives—or, at any rate, brought to an end a great many lives—and a treaty has been entered into between the Mullah and ourselves and between the Mullah and the Italian Government; and while the Italian Chamber has been placed in possession of the circumstances and nature of their engagements, His Majesty's Government, and certainly the House of Commons, a month after the occurrence, are in entire ignorance of the arrangement. I go further afield, to the affairs of Tibet. It has been stated in the newspapers that the Chinese Government have made, or desire, modifications in the treaty which has been concluded, or in the basis upon which it is to be concluded; and I should be glad to know whether that statement is well-founded, what are the nature of these modifications, and what the treaty will ultimately be. I also wish to know 611 the state of things in Afghanistan. We have had a Mission for three months in Kabul. It has now, I believe, returned to India; and yet the House of Commons is not aware why it went, what the course of the negotiations has been, and what is the result achieved. I think it is time that we received some definite and full information upon the subject, which is particularly necessary when we consider what a very important place our relations in that quarter of the world take in His Majesty's Government's conception of what the British Army is to be in the future.
This brings me naturally to the question of the Army itself. In what a curious position the House of Commons stands in regard to that matter We have had dangled before our eyes for four years some great scheme of Army reform, in the clouds; and this year, again, so indeterminate is the policy of the Government with regard to the Army I that our Estimates are provisional and supposititious altogether, for they do not profess to represent the policy of the Government. We have had a diversified debate on the subject, I admit; but no light whatever. All that we have succeeded in ascertaining, and that in a confused form, is the personal opinion—if he had his own way—of the Secretary for War. The latest recorded policy of the Government in regard to the Army is embodied in a Resolution passed by the House of Commons in, I think, 1901, professing agreement in the policy then put forward by the Government as being necessary for the safety of the Empire. I remember that at the time I entered my protest against such a proceeding, because I thought it was not usual to make the House of Commons, as it were, an accomplice in, or a party to, the policy of the Government by a direct expression of approval of that policy. The usual course is for the House of Commons to acquiesce in the policy of the Government by voting their Estimates, but not to pass a direct vote of confidence in it. Anyway, that policy in regard to the Army has been abandoned. No words have been too strong to condemn it: indeed, I might say that no discredit is too great to attach to it; although I do not know that I take that view of it myself.
612 That policy has been abandoned, and yet it stands on our Journal as the recorded opinion of this House that it was the best policy of Army reform which we could possibly enjoy. Is the Government going to bring forward a Resolution to rescind that recorded opinion? It seems to me that it would be only decent for them to do so.
And now that I have come to Resolutions that stand on our Journals, let me refer to certain fiscal Resolutions which have been passed by this House within the last two or three weeks. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues appeared to be prepared to discard those Resolutions altogether. Why and upon what plea? I especially refer to the Motion of my hon. friend the Member for Barnsley, which arraigned and challenged the very fiscal policy of His Majesty's Government, if, indeed, there be such a thing at all. But what was it that the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to an earlier Motion—the Motion of the hon. Member for Oldham—in connection with which the right hon. Gentleman took refuge in the previous Question? That was the Motion opposed to the imposition of preferential duties based upon the protective taxation of food. The right hon. Gentleman said—The Resolution is not only ambiguous; it is inexpedient. It is inexpedient because it is brought forward under circumstances which, if it were carried by the House, would not merely have the relatively insignificant result of turning out the present Government "—It is admitted that this Motion by a private Member on a private Member's night would have the effect of turning out the Government if it were carried—but it would have the result of producing a widespread misconception in this country, which is bad, and throughout our Colonial Empire, which is far, far worse.Sir, I do not understand what right the right hon. Gentleman has to pick and choose among these Resolutions. This one will turn out the Government, and, therefore, we move the previous Question; but this one is a fanciful declaration of opinion of a private Member, and is of no consequence—the latter being a Resolution directed straight against the Government's own views and the policy which they have made the capital question of the day. The right 613 hon. Gentleman may think that this is a very nice way of playing with the House of Commons. I do not think the country takes that view. I hold it is not treating the House of Commons with respect, and it is not treating himself and his position and his own policy with respect. We hear of the degeneracy of the House of Commons, but we have only heard of it in the last few years, and it is treatment such as this to which any degeneracy of the House of Commons in the public mind is attributable. He says of one of these Motions which I am comparing with each other, the one which he met by the previous Question, that it is proposed "under circumstances which would turn out the Government." What are the circumstances? Where are the peculiar circumstances of that particular Resolution which do not attach to all others? We have never had that explained. I venture to think that the Motion of my hon. friend the Member for Barnsley is, in the words of the Prime Minister, far, far worse than that on which he devised the tactics of the previous Question. The truth is the Government cannot claim to represent the country. Month by month and week by week there is evidence of that. That being so, they dare not face the House of Commons. On what ground does their moral authority rest? They seem to be rather a rara avis in the constitutional history of this country. Their motto seems to be py suis, py reste—not a very noble or dignified one, and certainly not constitutional; and I think our recent experience, recent within the last generation, shows that it is a basis of rather evil omen upon which to found tenure of office, because in the case in which these celebrated words were used the result was by no means satisfactory to the man who used them.The times have been,That when the brains were out the man would die.Hon. Members will recollect the very natural exclamation of my countryman when he saw the ghost of Banquo whom he thought he had disposed of. The times have been when a Government, having no policy to declare and no hold upon the country, and daring not to face the House of Commons, did give its 614 charge back into the hands from which it received it.
What, then, is the policy of the Government and its position in this fiscal matter? That is the question we wish to raise shortly to-day. In the last fortnight, we are told, great changes have taken place. The policy of the Government has suffered what is called "a sea change"—that was, I suppose, at Brighton; but whatever the origin may be, there are certain changes. We, of course, are mere spectators of the play, but there is great activity behind the curtain on the stage. We hear a great deal of scraping, and trampling, and shuffling, and rumbling. When the curtain rises is it to be the same performance with the stage furniture a little shifted, and perhaps a little fresh paint, or is it to be a new piece altogether? That is what we want to know. But, as usual, we are only able to put together indications gathered here and there. We have heard of a certain committee meeting from which a search party was sent out to find the Prime Minister, who had of late been missing from the House of Commons. It is reported that they found him and made certain proposals to him, but the reply was postponed, and these proposals were understood to refer to what, in spite of recent events, must still by courtesy be described as the fiscal policy of the Government. The Prime Minister will, perhaps, correct me if I am wrong in suggesting that there may be no such policy in existence; for a Government which declines to support by voice and vote in the House of Commons its own declared views on what, as I said, it has made the capital and cardinal question of the day, lays itself open to some degree of misunderstanding and suspicion. Are we then to be allowed to know what all this has been about? Judging by proceedings at the Liberal Unionist Club, presided over by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, the idea is to make room on the Prime Minister's half sheet of note-paper for a good show of protectionism. That may not be the right hon. Gentleman's view, but he may be perfectly sure it is other people's. The pious aspirations of the Prime 615 Minister are to be made to unite gracefully with the darling dreams of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. I should have thought that the Prime Minister's aspirations were cloudy enough, and copious enough of themselves to mask the movements of the most audacious and adventurous adherents of schools of tariff reform, and to conceal the unfortunate little confusion that evidently attaches to them. Under the Prime Minister's half-sheet of note-paper you can do anything or nothing. You can set up one set of tariffs to punish competitors whose tariffs are too high, or you can set up another set of tariffs to confound the foreigner who sends you cheap goods. You can have food taxes, taxes on raw materials, taxes on manufactured goods, taxes on anything you like, so long as you lay your hand on your heart and swear that your intentions are strictly honourable, and that you have no intention of being a protectionist. It is a beautifully elastic formula which does great credit to the ingenuity of its devisor; and I can quite understand that any idea of adding to it or improving upon it must cause the right hon. Gentleman no little pain. But that is by the way. What we should like to know, and are entitled to know, is, is there any change as to the result in the representations that have reached him of all these shiftings, and adjustments, and concealments, and conspiracies, and clevernesses? Mr. Deputy-Speaker, what occurs to us all is this—how much better it would have been, how much more effective, if the Government from the first had pursued a plain and outspoken course.
Now take the clauses of this memorable instrument. Article 1 has to do with negotiations for dealing with hostile tariffs and dumping. Does that stand under the new arrangement as it did, or is any change contemplated? Then there are Articles 2 and 3, dealing with the conference, and there we come on very delicate ground. The half-sheet received a postscript the day after it was published—a postscript which only repeated what the right hon. Gentleman said at Edinburgh, and which had been denounced and rejected at Luton. It proposed, in the strongest 616 terms, two elections—the first election authorising a conference, the second election confirming the decision of the conference. Nothing could be clearer than the right hon. Gentleman's words. But now let me look for a moment at how these two elections will work out in point of time. I read in the sanguine newspapers supporting the right hon. Gentleman that the general election will not take place till next year. Assuming it does not take place till next year, which is a long assumption, then the election will not take place till 1906. Cabinet Ministers have themselves told us that there is sure to be a majority for this side of the House. Then the Liberals will be returned to office. I assume, next, that the doctrine of the Septennial Act is to be applied to all Governments, and not to one more than another, and admitting that there are sometimes accidents affecting the duration of Governments, or any Government which chooses to regard accidents and the feeling of the country, then the Liberals will stay in office until 1912. I am perfectly impartial; I am giving us no more than I am giving you. In 1912 there is another general election, and the Liberals are defeated and a Conference Government comes into office. That is a large assumption, but I will give you the benefit of it. They remain in office until 1918. They take advantage of the full time and do everything they can to keep their people together in the House of Commons and to snap their fingers gallantly at the constituencies and the wretched negligible electors of the country. Here we have come to 1918. During these six years the conference meets, and in 1918 the great point of the election will be that the country should approve or not approve the recommendations of the conference. Then I assume in my generosity that again the Party opposite come in a second time, and that is the second Conference Administration; but it is not until 1918 that Parliament and the country can be invited to consider this question of preferential duties in connection with colonies, whose elections are not necessarily synchronous with ours. There we are then! That is what is meant by not rushing the question. It is a pretty long vista, and in the main it appears to me that everything else 617 must go. But what is going to become of our dying and dwindling trade and our disrupted Empire during this long interval? It is said by way of argument that "Time is on my side"; but I do not think time is on the side of the proposals of the Government in this respect.
But that is not all. Here is another delicate point—the points of reference and the instructions to delegates. This fiscal conference is to be free and unfettered. If we are to make it free and unfettered, will every one else make it free and unfettered? We have no security and no prospect of that, I am afraid. Lord Lansdowne in the other House said, "No instructions will be needed." Apparently there will be an intuition on the part of our delegates as to the limits of variation, as to the Scylla and Charybdis through which they must steer. How near they may go either Scylla or Charybdis we do not know; that is in the discretion or the prejudice of the individual delegate; but there we are. They are to be told not to go beyond a certain point, but how in the world are they to be guided when we know the strong opinions prevailing in this House? The two plain Questions, therefore, in which I concentrate what I have to say are these—Does the Prime Minister abide by the two elections? and secondly, are the British delegates to enter the conference with no instructions of one sort or another?
Now I come to the fourth chapter in the memorable instrument called the "half-sheet of note-paper." The Prime Minister, in the fourth and last article there, says—I do not desire to raise the home prices for the purpose of aiding home production.The House will observe the "I do not desire"—still this faint language of "desire." Does this phrase cover colonial productions, and are our delegates and the colonial delegates, if not by express reductions, then by some process of elimination, to limit their deliberations merely to how we are to get at what constitutes a protective tariff when every protectionist worth his salt is persuaded, or tries to persuade us, that high tariffs do not make a thing dear because it is the foreigner who pays? How distressing it was the other 618 night to witness the departure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer from this noble dogma when, in taking off the I two pence on tea, he said that he was conferring a benefit which would reach every home in the country. I hope that the son is not going to follow his father's policy. To plain people such as we are and such as our countrymen are, who do not care for subtleties, but who wish plain facts and plain opinions, these are the difficulties which occur to us. The confusion that attended the position of the Government in this vital and important matter at the opening of the session has become worse confounded now; and I hold that it is due to the country and to the House of Commons that the Prime Minister should take this appropriate constitutional opportunity of clearing away that confusion.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The right hon. Gentleman has shown a perhaps natural," but certainly an extensive, curiosity in the course of his speech. Not only has he gone over the twice-told, nay, the thousand-times told, tale of the fiscal discussion in this House, but he began his speech by asking me a large number of Questions about India, Afghanistan, Somaliland, and other great national interests.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I was not complaining of the Questions the right hon. Gentleman asked. It is his right and privilege to ask them, and he has used the right to the utmost. I do not go beyond that. The right hon. Gentleman asked first of all about the Transvaal Papers, My right hon. friend informs me that before the House meets again hon. Members will have an opportunity of studying them. I am told that the new Constitution will be promulgated in the course of the next few days, and that the Papers will be laid on the Table of the House immediately afterwards. As to Papers indicating the temper and mind of the inhabitants of the Transvaal on the questions raised by this constitution, my right hon. friend informs me that he 619 hopes to he able to lay Papers on the Table dealing with that subject before the House again meets, but I should be sorry to pledge him to a day or two.
On Somaliland the right hon. Gentleman accused the Government of indifference to the fate of that country and to the transactions taking place there. But we have not obtained the information with regard to the treaty with the Mullah. When? remember the anxiety that the Somaliland question has caused to us for years past the accusation of the right hon. Gentleman seems to me a strange one. I do not see how it can alter the fact that we have not got the information from General Swayne. It is not in any sense due to the fact that we have not asked for it, but General Swayne is away from the sea coast in the interior and communication is difficult. Though we do not deny that we are surprised at not receiving the information, it is not our fault, and it is no fault of General Swayne's. We do not doubt, however, that the information will be soon in the hands of hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman then asked whether we had any news of the negotiations with regard to the Tibet Treaty. I understand that we have no information on this subject. The treaty with the Ameer of Afghanistan renews the arrangements made with his father. Papers will be laid on the Table in due time but there is nothing mysterious in the transaction, and I am glad that the negotiations have come to a successful issue.
The right hon. Gentleman on the Army question asked me to survey and summarise the results of the four or five nights of debate. He can hardly expect me in the course of a reply on the afternoon of the holidays to give even in a most concise fashion my views on the Army question. I have made a speech on one branch of it, and the Secretary for War made many speeches; and I do not think I can, with any advantage either to the House or to the cause of Army reform, now attempt to add to what was then said. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman went over this part of the subject more as a painful duty than to give himself pleasure. He expanded 620 only when he came to the familiar and congenial subject of fiscal reform, and then, partly under the guise of Questions and partly in a more direct state, he passed some criticisms on the Government. The first related to the course which the Government had pursued upon certain abstract Resolutions, or private Members' Resolutions, which had been moved on Tuesday or Wednesday nights during the last two months. The right hon. Gentleman asked me how we could reconcile the course pursued on the Resolution of the hon. Member for Oldham, which we made a Government question, with the course we pursued on some later Resolutions, which, no doubt, we treated with indifference. I think the distinction is perfectly plain. In the first place, we thought, and we still, think, that there is a limit which, it is desirable to observe in the interests of the House for which the right hon. Gentleman professes so very peculiar a regard at the present moment and which he thinks I have neglected. We think that it is contrary to the best interests of this House that Resolutions dealing with the same question should be submitted week after week to the judgment of the He use. But that is not nearly all. The right hon. Gentleman, when he favours us with this species of Parliamentary discussion, forgets a fact of which I took the trouble to remind him on an earlier occasion, that the one official Amendment to the Address moved by the Opposition—by the right hon. Member for East Fife, in fact—was a Resolution in which it was stated that this question had been already sufficiently discussed. [Cheers, and OPPOSITION cries; of "Not in this House; in the country."] Now what is the distinction? [Cries of "Oh."] Relative to this issue, what is the distinction between the House and the country? No such distinction was drawn or was meant in the Resolution. What was meant clearly was that in the opinion of hon. Members opposite they had had enough of debates on the fiscal question, and they wished to turn us out of office. I cannot understand why they should want to run away from their words. I must next remind the House of what the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten, though he read my speech on the Motion of the hon. Member for 621 Oldham. I then pointed out that why I attached special importance to that Motion was that, if it were carried, it would indicate to the Colonies that we did not propose to treat the conference: as a free conference; and I said it would have the worst possible effect, and have I a serious bearing on any future trans- I action in connection with that conference; if this House should commit itself to the proposition that this conference was not to be free. The House determined by a majority that that was to be a free conference; and I do not know why that point should be reopened. The evil effects have been got rid of. I fear them no longer; and I see nothing to be gained, from any point of view—from the economic point of view or from that of informing this House or the Colon es—why those debates should be continued.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Allow me to hark back a little. The right hon. Gentleman said we ran away from our words. Here are our words—The various aspects of the fiscal question having now been fully discussed in the country for nearly two years, the time has come for submitting the issue to the people.That is not running away.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. If that Resolution meant anything, it meant that the question had been sufficiently discussed. It may have meant nothing. It may have been only a preamble or some form of words to enable the Opposition to vote against the Government. But, if it meant anything, it meant that the subject had been thrashed out. Yet these Resolutions came afterwards, and I repeat that when the right hon. Gentleman attacks me for taking the view that there has been an adequate discussion of the question in the House, he is running away from the view which he and his whole Party were supposed to express on the debate on the Address. Hon. Gentlemen have accused me, I am told, in language of almost un-Parliamentary violence [Cries of "No"]—I dare say that they were wrongly reported—of having run away from the House of Commons or from our opinions or from something or other. I am not quite sure what it was we were supposed to have run away from; 622 but if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that we ran away from him, he is quite mistaken. [Cries of "Oh."] After all, it is not I who began bringing these charges of running away; and is every licence of language to be used by hon. Members opposite and am I not to be allowed to suggest that I do not run away from the right hon. Gentleman? Surely that is not an extravagant contention, or one indicating overweening boastfulness on my part. I ventured to point out to the House that the course pursued on those evenings on. which we were subject to the criticism of hon. Gentlemen opposite was distinctly laid down by me beforehand, in the speech I made on the Resolution of the hon. Member for Oldham. Was it on that Resolution or on the next? We have had so many that I forget. But our course was laid down beforehand by me in the most explicit terms; and if afterwards I had yielded to the taunts of hon. Gentlemen opposite, then I should have been running away from my words, by having laid down a policy that I did not mean to adhere to. But I did lay down a policy, and I did adhere to it. [Cries of "What policy? "] The policy of not doing anything by speech or countenance to encourage the House to think that I approved of these perpetually recurring debates on one subject, debates which, in my opinion, were inconsistent with the dignity of the House, and could serve no useful purpose. That is the policy I laid down and adhere to, and that is the policy which, if the same circumstances arise in the future, I shall pursue. The right hon. Gentleman told us that we could not face the House of Commons. We face the House of Commons in the only way in which a Government can face the House. We act by its support, depend upon its votes, and meet the censure of right hon. Gentlemen opposite if they wish to censure us. What other course does the right hon. Gentleman wish us to take? He suggests quite distinctly that we ought to regard every private Member's Motion as one by which the Government should stand or fall. I do not agree with that.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Certainly, I said that that was of such importance, for 623 reasons already given, that we were determined, if the House did not support us, to resign. The House did support us. I do not know what right the right hon. Gentleman has to object to that course. But the right hon. Gentleman himself has given notice of a vote of censure, which is to come on early after Easter; and we shall be ready to face him then; and if he will moderate the number, but not the severity, of his attacks, we shall be glad to give him other opportunities to see whether we do or do not face the House of Commons. I venture to tell the right hon. Gentleman, if he thinks we have pursued an exceptional course in dealing with these private Members' Motions, that he will pursue precisely the same course in our place; and I think he will be right. [Cries of No."] It never has been regarded as a necessary part of the duties of a Government to obey the Resolutions passed by private Members.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then the right hon. Gentleman himself draws a distinction between one Resolution and another—the very thing that he attacked me for doing.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
If it is a private Member's Resolution affecting something which does not deeply concern the Government, they may take what course they like. But at any rate they must be prepared to stand the racket. But in this case the right hon. Gentleman ran away from a Resolution brought forward by an hon. Member arraigning the very policy which is the policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has run away from his own argument. It was that I had no right to draw distinctions between one private Member's Resolution and another. He now says that you may draw a distinction, and what is it? It is that when a thing is being discussed a second time you must take part in the debate, and treat the Motion as a vote of censure. But if it is being discussed for the first time, then you may exercise your right 624 of private judgment as to the importance of the occasion. I do not see much difference between "standing the racket," which means listening to speeches more or less interesting, and seeing that a Motion is counted out or talked out.
I remember that there was another private Member's Resolution subsequent to those to which the right hon. Gentleman has made such a lengthy reference, a Resolution which asked very civilly, but very specifically, certain questions in connection with Home Rule, which the right hon. Gentleman answered very civilly, but not at all specifically. We should have liked to see what would have happened on a division. I had legitimate curiosity on that subject. It appeared to me, if the right hon. Gentle man's own views of the next election are accurate, to be even more relevant to the issue to be put before the country at the next election than anything connected with fiscal reform. One of the right hon. Gentleman's own followers talked it out, and we were deprived of that very legitimate expectation. I do not know whether that is running away or not. If "running away" is used in a moral sense, I should say it was running away in a most obvious manner; and I see no distinction between the course the hon. Gentleman pursued and the course we pursued, except this rather material one, that we have not had five separate debates and divisions on the subject of Home Rule, whereas in the course of the present session we have had that number of debates and divisions on the fiscal question. Therefore I should have thought that the first time there was a debate between the two sides of the House as to the unity of the Party opposite on the subject of Home Rule, as to the policy they were going to declare when they went to the country, as to the views they take of Irish self- government, I should have thought that when that question was raised for the first time this session—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We have had nothing on the Address on the subject of the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite, 625 nor was it raised in any shape. I should have thought that the Parliamentary heroes who are all for sitting out a debate, standing what they call "the racket," would have grasped at the opportunity of telling us in those plain, unmistakable terms that they love so well, without mistake, circumlocution, or ambiguity, precisely what the Front Bench opposite, to say nothing of hon. Gentlemen behind it, really thought about the question of Home Rub for Ireland. Well, Sir, it melancholy to think that these Parliamentary heroes have left us in ignorance on that subject at the present moment, that we are still wandering in darkness as to what their true and united views may be upon this all-important Imperial issue and that we were prevented from obtaining that knowledge by the action, and so far as I know the uncondemned action, of one of their own friends. I should have thought they would have moved the closure themselves rather than talk it out. It is very disappointing, Sir. I am all for receiving in a meek spirit these lectures on Parliamentary courage and heroism, and in difference to criticism, and all the rest of it, and I hope I profit by them. I am sure I try to. But hon. Gentlemen opposite should remember how fatal it is to the true cause of morality when the preacher himself so grossly and so obviously violates his own precepts and, if there has been any lack of Parliamentary courage shown by any Party or any hon. Gentleman in this House, I fear that the great cause has received almost its deadliest blow from the action of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends in connection with the Home Rule debate. I am sorry for it because, although I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that Parliament is decadent—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I thought the right hon. Gentleman's view was that the high character of Parliament was perishing and that I was the murderer. I am glad he does not take such a gloomy "view, and that if I have made efforts to -destroy the dignity of Parliament, at all 626 events I have not been successful. Now, he and I are quite agreed about that.
Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman went on to ask me a great many Questions about matters which, if I may venture respectfully to say so, do not seem to me to concern him at all. I do not ask him questions as to why he goes to see Lord Spencer or Lord Rosebery. I do not ask him what is the secret history of Lord Spencer's so-called manifesto. I do not ask him exactly where he stands in relation to Lord Rosebery's views of this or that question of foreign or domestic policy. These are things that hon. Gentlemen must settle among themselves. Surely they will find it quite easy to settle them. I do not for a moment believe that when the right hon. Gentleman or any other eminent persons are asked to form a Radical Administration they will have the smallest difficulty in doing it. But I do not ask questions about it. I hear every day of a new allocation of offices among right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite. But I do not believe all these rumours I know how erroneous such rumours are. I would recommend the same cautious scepticism to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not for a moment believe—I could not believe—in all these stories, because they are not all consistent; but I do not believe, as a matter of fact, in any of them. And I think the right hon. Gentleman may rest assured that the power of rumour to falsify facts is not greater when it is dealing with the internal affairs of our Party than it is when dealing with the internal affairs of his Party. I would venture to suggest to him that if once we begin asking each other Questions across the floor of the House as to what passes in the lobby, or what passes at private meetings or in private correspondence, if any Answers are given to these Questions public life will not be rendered more agreeable to any of the persons concerned; and I cannot help thinking, though here I may be wrong, the Party which would lose most by so novel and so inconvenient a practice would be the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. When the right hon. Gentleman asks me what is going on behind the curtain, I would remind him 627 that there are two curtains, that probably there is quite as much going on behind one curtain as behind the other, and that I do not consider one Party has the slightest right to subject the other to a cross-examination upon those subjects simply because they sit upon one side of the House or upon the other.
That leads me to the last observation I have to make. The right, hon. Gentleman has throughout his speech assumed that I have endeavoured to make the fiscal question the main point to be discussed by this Parliament. Not only is that inaccurate, but it is precisely the reverse of the fact. I have from the beginning, rightly or wrongly, consistently stated that in my judgment one Parliament is not well advised in discussing matters which cannot come before it, but which may come before its successor. It wastes its own time, it raises an enormous number of false issues, and it invariably leads to much confusion. That doctrine, as everybody knows, it has been impossible to carry out consistently. I did my best; I admit I had to give up the task. But I nevertheless think that this perpetual preoccupation with matters with which this House, as this House, will never be called upon to deal does not add either to our utility or to our efficiency as a legislative and deliberative Assembly. The right hon. Gentleman has actually extended this view of what the House of Commons ought to do till the year 1918. I confess that such declarations as I have made, on a half-sheet of note-paper or otherwise, upon questions of high Imperial policy are statements relating to the immediate future. I am not going to pledge myself or my friends, and I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will be much less wise than I conceive them to be if they pledge themselves or their friends to the policy that ought to be pursued in 1918. Who can possibly touch this fiscal question in days like these and state with assurance what policy this country ought to pursue on that or any other question in 1918? The thing is ludicrous and absurd. It is sufficient for each of us to state what we propose to do at the next election if we a called upon to manage the affairs of the country. I have endeavoured to 628 state what I should recommend to my country. The right hon. Gentleman does not understand my statement. He always is glad to do himself an intellectual injustice. He has not told us what he means to say to the country, either on that or any other question, if he is called upon. [An HON. MEMBER: Why should he? He is not in office.] Because he says he is going to be called upon. He-says, "You are not going to be called to office after the next election. Therefore you must tell us precisely what you would do if that happened which is not going to happen." We reply that, if we are not going to be called upon, you are; and, if it is so necessary that this House of Commons should preoccupy itself with what the next Government is going to do, the right hon. Gentleman should cross-examine his own friends as to what they mean to do on the colonial question, the fiscal question, and the Irish question. These gentlemen, who are so anxious to face the House of Commons, so anxious to face the music, and have such insatiable appetites for short, clear, and lucid statements of policy, have told us nothing, obscurely or unobscurely, neither on a half-sheet of note-paper nor on a full sheet of foolscap. I sometimes almost think that this silence of hon. Gentlemen opposite is involuntary silence; that they do not tell us what their policy is because they have not got a policy. That may be so. In that case their silence is excusable, though it is still regrettable. I think they should tell us candidly how the case stands; they should face the music; they should stand, the racket. And I would seriously suggest, both to the right hon. Gentleman and to any hon. Gentleman who may propose to follow me in this debate, that it is on their own showing, and according to the own view, a far more interesting and important matter that the country should know what they mean to do, who, in their view, will have the power of doing it, than that we should state what we propose to do, who, as they say, have not the confidence of the country, and will not have the confidence of the country, and are going to be relegated, for six years at least, into hopeless opposition. I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. I do 629 not know whether I have succeeded. I have endeavoured to follow him over the vast and varied field which he has opened for consideration; but really, if he is not satisfied with this last endeavour, it seems to me he is a man whose ideal is so high that we on this side can never hope to reach the Parliamentary standard which he has set up for us and which, it may be, he thinks he has succeeded in attaining for himself.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said the Prime Minister had expressed doubt as to whether he had succeeded in satisfying the curiosity of the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in the object he had in view, and that was not to supply any information on any of the Questions put by the Leader of the Opposition. He did not think the House-knew anything on the Questions put which they did not know before the right hon. Gentleman spoke. In fact, the Prime Minister was an adept at answering inconvenient Questions in a way which supplied the House with a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of information. That was what he had really done on the present occasion. Two Questions were put by the Leader of the Opposition to which he should like to refer. With regard to the question of Somaliland, what was the position? We had been at war with the Mullah for two or three years, and we had spent something like £3,000,000 on that war. A treaty had been entered into by Italy, and that treaty covered the case of England. It was published in the Italian Parliament a fortnight ago, and Questions were pat in regard to it. Although the treaty almost exclusively referred to our dominions the House had no information about it except what the newspapers gave. This was a good example of the way in which the Government managed the foreign policy of the country.
He came now to the second Question put by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister seemed to imagine that there was some sort of analogy between the way Home Rule had been treated by the Opposition and the way he treated the fiscal question, but he 630 forgot the facts of the case. For two days they debated an Amendment to the Address on the question of Home Rule which was moved by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. His recollection was that every Member on his side of the House voted for the Amendment. That did not look like running away. The Prime Minister had suggested that the Opposition did not want a division on the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Rochester. Whose fault was that? Forty minutes were consumed by the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh and his friends, and there were only two hours left for the discussion of the question of Home Rule.
§ MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)
said he had nothing to do with the fixing of the date for the Great Northern (Ireland) and Midland Railways Bill. The date for it was fixed before the Motion of the hon. Member for Rochester was put on the paper.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said the hon. Member had, as the hon. Member for Louth put it, to elect between a level-crossing and the Empire, and he thought the level-crossing was more important. Would any hon. Member compare the speech of the Leader of the Opposition on the Home Rule Resolution with the speeches of the Prime Minister on the fiscal question. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition on the Motion of the hon. Member for Rochester was one of the bravest speeches ever delivered in this House--a singularly frank, clear, and courageous utterance, in which no one could say that there was any shrinking from beginning to end; and any one who watched the face of the Prime Minister during its delivery must have seen that that was his opinion. Complaint was made that they had not divided on the Motion of the hon. Member for Rochester. What was there to divide on? The Resolution of the hon. Member for Rochester did not condemn Home Rule. It simply called on the Leader of the Opposition to express his views as to the future. That leader, although he did not recognise any right to put to him the question, responded; and the response having been given, what was there to divide upon? The hon. Member 631 for Rochester asked for the views of the Leader of the Opposition and others upon this matter, but the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh left the House no time, preferring to discuss a question of a level-crossing.
§ MR. LONSDALE
said he did not put down the Private Bill, it was put down by the Chairman of Ways and Means.
said the hon. Member had to choose between discussing the Empire or a level-crossing, and chose the latter. The Prime Minister knew he was trifling with this question of fiscal reform; and he knew the distinction between his own position and that of the Leader of the Opposition, whose views had not the official sanction of a Prime Minister's. Something more was due to the House from the Prime Minister than anything he had conceded to the House yet. One of the Resolutions from which he ran away expressly condemned his policy of fiscal retaliation announced at Sheffield in his capacity of Leader of the Government, when he said he meant to lead. There was a direct challenge of the policy of fiscal retaliation, the policy of the head of the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman ran away from it. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he was not understood by the Opposition, but the curiosity as to his views was not confined to the Opposition. What did the deputation to the right hon. Gentleman mean? There were 190 gentlemen who believed the existence of the Empire depended on these questions being discussed; Gentlemen who used to believe in the right hon. Member for Birmingham. The right hon. Member for Birmingham thought the existence of the Empire depended upon it, and thought his new policy was going to bring a new era to the Empire. He was not the only false prophet who had inaugurated a new era by a flight. What had happened so recently would be regarded as a fiscal Hegira. He thought they had a right to know, and the country had a right to know, what the Prime Minister was going to do for the Empire. What was he going to do with these things upon which the Empire hung?
632 The Prime Minister had said that this matter had been discussed amply, but the reply had been that it had only been discussed in the country, and the right hon. Gentleman had asked what was the difference between discussions in the country and that House. There was a great distinction between debate in the House and discussions at packed meetings in the country, where any one interrupting could be placed in a better atmosphere, where he could not interfere with the arguments or statistics of the speakers. The perplexity of the right hon. Gentleman's own followers was illustrated by the experience of the hon. Member for Truro, who, being asked whether he could pledge himself at the next election against the taxation of food, said, "Certainly not; you can ask me that when I come down; I shall know where I am next time." Here was this poor wandering sheep, and the shepherd would not guide him. Why did not the Prime Minister take pity on the perplexities of his poor heckled supporter? These supporters were loyal, loyal to perfection, but perhaps the Prime Minister knew how to rate that loyalty, and indeed it was comparable only to the loyalty of the animals to the Ark. It was the only security from the Deluge; and they probably admired the ingenuity of the constructor, though glad to get rid of it when the waters subsided. But if the Prime Minister sank, few would be able to swim to Ararat. That might explain the loyalty; still loyalty it was and it remained, though doubts increased and confidence diminished. Even the right hon. Member for Birmingham remained loyal under a most severe test. The right hon. Gentleman was actually called upon to run away after the Prime Minister from the battle he himself challenged, and loyalty carried to the extent of making oneself ridiculous was exceptional; there had been nothing like it since Antony lied from the battle of Actium, simply because Cleopatra had preceded him. It was devotion truly pathetic and yet the Prime Minister did not respond and tell his supporters what he meant. Why did he not come from behind the veil and tell his supporters and the country what he really was. They were entitled to know, the country was entitled to know but could any hon. 633 Gentleman give an assurance, whether the Prime Minister was a free-trader or a protectionist? He was certain there was not one of them who would like to give an assurance or make a book up in it. He himself had his own theory about it, and it was that the Prime Minister did not care whether his Party sailed into a free trade or a protectionist port, so long as they reached a harbour of refuge, and he was on the bridge when they got there. That was a dangerous thing to allow to go on, for the Prime Minister would be able to utilise a free-trade crew for the purpose of getting nearer a protectionist country. It was only fair, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman should say what his views really were.
Of course the Liberal Party had everything to gain by the Prime Minister's shilly-shallying and delay. Protection was a very taking cry, and it went well for a short time in the country. Taxation of foreign products and protection for our own industries made an insidious election cry, and the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Birmingham worked together like twin screws in the ship of fiscal reform. Luckily one of the screws stopped working and the ship made no progress; but if there had then been an appeal to the country the Liberal majority would not have been large, and probably in the difficulties they would have had to meet a Liberal Government might have been beaten. The Prime Minister had saved them from that by giving the country time to reflect on fiscal fallacies. He sometimes wondered if the Prime Minister did this deliberately. If he did this as a free-trader it was cleverly done, but the right hon. Gentleman's sense of honour raised doubts; it would have not been consistent with his messages of sympathy to fiscal reformers, his blessing on the crusade and the crusader, his pamphlets, and his suggestion for a change of system. It was not done then to help free trade, and what was the cause of delay? It was perfectly clear to everybody that the House and the country were not going to have any measure of protection. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech had suggested that there was going to be another attempt 634 to refurbish up the weapon of protection. That might be so, but for his part he was not afraid, for where was that great Party of 190 who used to follow and believe in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham?
Weakened in power and numbers, the followers of the Prime Minister could hide behind half a sheet of note-paper; but what were they waiting for? In 1903 the education cry was going strong; it was still going strong, and the spirit of the slaughtered school boards appeared later at Brighton, like Banquo's ghost at Macbeth's banquet. In 1904 it was Chinese labour which led them to hesitate; in the autumn of 1904 it was sugar. What was it now in 1905? The misdeeds of the Government in 1902 over the Education Act were still alive in the public memory to-day. The public memory had not forgotten any one of their misdeeds during the last three years. Anyone who watched the course of events realised that the effect of all those things was cumulative. The electors did not pass them by, did not forget them, but set down each item on the debit side of the ledger, and in due time would exact settlement to the uttermost farthing. What was the Prime Minister waiting for? He was no going to the country upon fiscal reform? In Glasgow he said he would appeal to the record of his Ministry. What a record There was only one solitary asset in his Cabinet, and that was his Foreign Minister, Lord Lansdowne. Why? Because he had pursued a Liberal foreign policy. He sometimes wondered, if a Liberal Foreign Minister had done what Lord Lansdowne had done; if he had made an arrangement with France which might in time of war make the passage of the Straits of Gibraltar more easy—he did not say that that was too high a price to pay for peace—but supposing a Liberal Foreign Minister had done this, would not every Tory platform have rung with denunciations and suggestions of treason? Supposing a Liberal Government had referred the unpleasant incident on the Dogger Bank to arbitration, and had allowed the offending fleet to proceed and add to the difficulty of our allies in the Far East—if a Liberal Ministry had 635 done that, one knew perfectly well what would have been said by the Party opposite. Still, with all that, Lord Lansdowne was the only solid asset of the Prime Minister's Government. Every other Minister was a bad debt; Lord Lansdowne was the only asset which the Government had with which to liquidate their indebtedness. But the electorate would hold a strict audit of the items—sugar, Army reform, education, licensing, agricultural rates, doles to the landlords, and the rest. He would not except the Prime Minister himself. That right hon. Gentleman was also a bad debt; and there stood to his charge three things especially—education, reform of the Army, which would cost millions of money, and the Committee of Defence, composed of the greatest tacticians since Wellington.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman was not the greatest tactician since Wellington. If the right hon. Gentleman said so, it was not for him to press that honour upon him; and certainly he could withdraw his remark.
Well now, there were two other great questions which the country would not forget. The first was the right Lon. Gentleman's management of the business of the House, and the second, the difficulties he had got into at the cost of liberty in debate in the House of Commons. It was all very well for the Prime Minister to deride what the Leader of the Oppositon said, but the country would not forget what the Prime Minister had done to curtail liberty of debate in that House. The country centred a good deal of hope in the House of Commons. There was not a poor artisan in the East End who did not look to the House of Commons if he thought his livelihood was being taken away by a Russian or Polish alien. And the agricultural labourer, the sugar-refiner, the man badly housed, the man whose children were underfed, the man too old to earn his living and looking for a pension—these all looked to that Assembly to protect them against the oppressor in 636 every shape; and if the Prime Minister j treated this Assembly as a jest, he I would have to face by-and-by the people, who looked upon it as their refuge.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he would take the opportunity of this Motion to address a Question or two to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Trade in regard to the Sugar Convention. His hon. friend seemed to think that the sugar question was a past issue; that the country was not interested in it; and that it was believed that nothing could be done to modify any of the arrangements that had been made. He had recently made a little diary of the proceedings of the Government in regard to this matter on which hon. Members had never had an opportunity of cross-examining the hon. Gentleman. There was a reason. It might have been said that They could hardly expect the Secretary to the Board of Trade to give any explanation on a subject which might be described to be subjudice. But the hon. Gentleman said the other day that a decision had been arrived at by the Brussels Convention on a question of vast importance to this country, and he wished to ask the hon. Gentleman to tell the House clearly and plainly to-day what the Government were thinking of doing. On 3rd June last San Domingo was suddenly prohibited by the Board of Trade from exporting sugar into this country. On 26th November, a despatch was circulated in this country practically ordering the Government to prohibit the import of sugar from twenty great countries which produced half the sugar of the world. On 3rd December, notice was given that the Government had lodged an appeal in regard to the prohibition of imports of sugar from these twenty countries; but the mystery of that appeal had never been explained. On 4th February the prohibition of imports from San Domingo was withdrawn; and on 10th April they were informed that the Brussels Convention had met to consider the appeal. The hon. Member told the House the other day that the appeal had been successful.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BONAR LAW. Glasgow, Blackfiiars)
said that what he had stated was that the appeal had been successful to a certain extent.
§ MR. LOUGH
said that then the House was entitled to ask for fuller information. They were told suddenly last week that the prohibition would not take place but what they wanted to understand was what had happened in connection with the Convention itself. Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House what had happened in regard to all those twenty countries; and were they not to take any steps in respect to the condemnation of all those twenty countries? This was no light matter. The Convention had driven the sugar trade of the country into confusion. If the Government would go steadily in support of the decisions of the Convention if they would prohibit the importation of sugar into this country in every case where the Convention condemned it, then they would know where they were. But the Government appeared to take what course they pleased, and were not guided at all by what the Convention did. The situation was, therefore, very extraordinary. This House was watching what was being done in the Brussels Convention; and he wanted to ask the lion. Gentleman:—Was it true that the appeal was to come on in a month? It seemed that the Government had suggested that the appeal should be postponed for five months but on what grounds was that postponement made? Why, the object of insisting originally on an appeal being made was that a hearing should be given to it quickly in order to prevent any uncertainty in regard to what the law was. This Government, which was the first to set up the Convention, said: "Let us break the law, and let appeals be postponed for five months." What was the reason for that long postponement? The position appeared to him to be that the Convention, sitting at Brussels, had condemned half the sugar-producing countries in the world; but that this Government refused to obey the orders of that Convention in regard to a great many of those countries. 638 Why should this Government obey the orders of the Convention in regard to any?
He wished to call attention to the case of Russia. The greatest inconvenience had been caused by the prohibition in regard to Russia and Germany. But the Germans had come to an arrangement with Russia by which they were able to continue their sugar trade with Russia. Why should the Germans have arranged with Russia, while we made no attempt whatever to get over the difficulty? Russia immediately protested against the condemnation of her system by the Convention, and after the Russian delegates were received and heard, no decision was arrived at. The British Government interfered in a hostile way with Russia; and the Convention had arrived at no decision in regard to what countervailing duties should be imposed on sugar. The result was that the produce of that country was shut out from this country—one of the best countries in the world for trade from abroad. Could not the right hon. Gentleman opposite give some hope of withdrawing the prohibition against Russia? There was another country to which prohibition had been applied—he meant" Argentina. Now, Argentina was almost in the position of a British colony; and why should not our trade with that colony be free as before? This Government had only to speak a word, as in the case of San Domingo, and our ports would be open to Argentine sugar again. He did not want to detain hon. Members; but the House ought to remember that this policy of prohibition was not the first policy which the Board of Trade had adopted. The late President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Member for Leeds, said that there must be a policy of countervailing duties. That was a sudden change; and what was the reason for it. The Board of Trade lately issued a White Paper which stated the amount of exports to many of those countries previously referred to, and it was found that 60 per cent, of our sugar trade came from those countries. It was impossible to shut our ports to countries that took such a large amount of our exports, and therefore this country should either be guided by the 639 policy of the Convention, or repudiate the Convention altogether.
The question of price was of great importance when they had regard to the great evils which arose from the rise in the price of sugar. He noticed that in the first three months of this year we got 10 per cent, less sugar than in the first three mouths of last year, which showed a great diminution in the natural import of sugar, but when he looked at the price paid for it he found that the country paid 50 per cent, more for the sugar it consumed during that period than was paid in the corresponding period of the previous year, which meant that this country was paying £9,000,000 a year more for sugar than before the Convention. They were told that prices had risen in other commodities. True, but there was no Convention with regard to those. He asked the hon. Member for a little light on this subject, and hoped he would tell the House why the Government could not apply the same policy to Russia and Argentina as they had applied to the other countries he had mentioned. "Why could we not lodge an application and then postpone the hearing for a year or two in these cases. The Government ought to adopt a consistent policy, and, having regard to the sufferings of the people engaged in the great trades connected with sugar he hoped the hon. Gentleman would tell them they would not be abandoned altogether.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said the hon. Gentleman had stated that the Government seemed to be able to do exactly what it pleased. He remembered listening to a great many debates in which, on the contrary, the Government were told that they would constantly be at the mercy of other Powers. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the meeting of the Convention. It was impossible for him to deal with the points raised. They had not yet received even a draft of the report, and it would obviously be improper to discuss the matter before the report had been received. As regarded the prohibition orders, it seemed to him that the subject was one on which the country desired the earliest information, and he had accordingly considered himself justified in 640 informing the House that no new prohibition orders would take place. Another point which had been raised was why we did not get the Convention to allow us to cease the prohibition of Russian and Argentine sugar. The hon. Gentleman had entirely misunderstood the action which the Government had taken. They had based their appeal, in the case of the countries which had been referred to, on the ground that no bounty had been proved. In the case of Argentina and Russia it was admitted that there was a bounty, and therefore the Government had not the slightest doubt about the necessity for prohibition.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
said, having drawn attention to the-state of education among the Tamil coolies in Ceylon, he had thought that as a great many of their fathers had come from India it was desirable to inquire into the state of education in India itself. He found that the fourth Quinquennial Review of Indian Education for the years 1897–8 to 1901–2, published in 1904, contained a large amount of information on the subject. It went over an enormous amount of ground, embracing all the forms of education in India, from the simplest primary schools to the Universities. One thing that must strike any one whose attention was drawn to this subject was the limited amount of education compared with the huge population of India. There were 250,000,000 of inhabitants and five Universities—Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Punjab, and Allahabad. There were 191 colleges, which contained 23,009 pupils who were taught the usual subjects at those colleges. Below the colleges there were 5,493 secondary schools with an attendance of 558,378, and 98,538 primary schools with an attendance of 3,260,000 pupils. If to those were added some special schools, technical and industrial, and schools of art for teachers, the total number of educational establishments was 105,306, with an attendance of 4,500,000 pupils. That was a very small number of educational establishments for a country with a population of 250,000,000. It "did not reflect any credit either on this nation or the Indian Government that they had allowed such poor results to be shown in our chief 641 dependency. It was only lately that the Government had taken over the schools, but he did not believe they had done anything to improve them. Ten years ago, when be visited India, he saw some of those schools and found that they were many of them most miserable places, and he did not believe any great change had taken place since.
The extension of education in India of course depended upon the increase of expenditure. That was the chief motive power. Schools could not be multiplied without money. At the present moment, the education of India was exceedingly cheap. It did not cost more than £1,300,000, which was not an enormous C03t for the education of such an enormous number of people. This sum was obtained from various sources, 127 lakhs of rupees came from fees, eighty-three from endowments and subscriptions,191 from public funds, 101 from provincial revenues, seventy-four from local revenues, and thirteen from the revenues of native states. He did not presume to suggest to the Government from what sources they should obtain an increase of funds for this purpose, but simply to show that there was a considerable amount of education to be provided and that a large amount of funds should also be provided in order that better education should be given. On page 462 of this review it said 15 per cent, of the population were of school-going age. That was to say that of the 18,000,000 boys that ought to have been at school only one-sixth were receiving education. In the census of 1901 it was found that only one in ten of the male population and only one in 1,000 of the female population were literate. In four villages out of five only one boy in four and only one girl in forty attended school. Progress in supplying education declined proportionately as the population increased. A Government Education Commission in 1883 said that;—The elementary education of the masses, its promotion, extension, and improvement, should be the part of the educational system to which the strenuous efforts of the Government should be directed in a still greater measure than before.That was the language of a Royal Commission, which was rather mild, 642 as the language of Royal Commissions always was, but the House would feel that they might well have used stronger terms with regard to the want of primary education in India. Lord Lawrence in 1886 said—Among all the sources of difficulty in our administration and of possible danger to the stability of the Government there is none so serious as the ignorance of the people.It was the want of education which kept alive the prejudices and differences and maintained the caste system, and it was to our advantage in India, as well as to the advantage of the people themselves, to give them a larger and wider education. The education of girls was most backward of all. He admitted with regard to the education of girls in India that there were special difficulties which were not easy to overcome owing to the customs of the people, whether Hindus or Mohammedans. He would not trouble the House with the details of inquiries that had taken place with respect to the girls, he would only say that though it might be difficult to introduce education amongst the, female population of India, he did not think that that was any reason why the effort to do so should be abandoned. He had no doubt that if the Indian Council in London used their great ability they would be able to evolve methods by which education might be promoted among the female population, in spite of those customs, in the interest of the country.
The main point to keep in mind was that to increase education increased expenditure was necessary. Reference had been made to some obstacles to education, and with regard to that the Quinquennial Review said—These, however, are minor obstacles which would soon be swept away if the main difficulty of finding the requisite funds for extending primary education could be overcome.Why could not the money used in border wars be turned into these peaceful and improving channels. He noticed that a large sum was to be spent on a Durbar in the immediate future and he suggested that that money might be better employed on education. The expenditure for the war in Tibet would fall upon India. and that money could certainly 643 have been used to much better advantage in promoting education than in the promotion of a war which was of very doubtful value to the nation. One most curious thing was that there were many defects in the education in India which were similar to those we found here. For instance, higher education was chiefly pursued either for the purpose of following the law or obtaining Government appointments, excessive prominence was given to examination, and the courses of study were too literary. The intelligence was trained too little and the memory too much. That was a familiar fault in this country. English education was pushed too much and the vernacular languages were too neglected instead of being used as the vehicle for diffusing knowledge. The Government of India now seemed alive to these defects and proposed to apply remedies, and he wished them all success. At the same time it was not undesirable that attention should be drawn to this in England so that some assistance might be given to the rulers of our Indian Empire. It was to be hoped that those who now studied for the law and Government positions would turn their attention to the study of teaching, and it would be desirable if young men from Oxford and Cambridge would turn their attention to India as a sphere of employment for educationists or for those who would take to it as a profession. According to the census of 1901 the Mohammedans were much behind. Only sixty per 1,000 were literate, and only three per 1,000 of females were taught. The Review, at page 367, said—Throughout the greater part of India the Mohammedans have made much slower pi ogress than the Hindus.The Parsees, Europeans, and Eurasians, were not much referred to in the Review, but by far the larger proportion of those three races received education. He much regretted that the Viceroy in a speech made at the opening of the University should have made use of the phrase, "Truth is born in the West but does not often visit the East." It was not a wise thing to taunt the whole people in that way, and he regretted it the more because the Viceroy had shown much ability and had given much assistance to the Indian people. In 644 conclusion, he appealed to the Government to do more for Indian education from Imperial funds.
THE SECEETAEY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. BRODEICK,) Surrey, Guildford
said the hon. Member had brought forward a very important subject at a moment when they could not enter fully into consideration of this great question. He assured the hon. Member and the House that the immediate importance of the question of Indian education had not been lost sight of. Those who were responsible for the finances of India realhed the importance of giving a fresh stimulus to primary education. Up to a certain period the increase in attendance and the elevation of the general standard was in as great a proportion as, perhaps in a greater proportion than, the progress of India in other directions. In 1870 there were 16,400 primary schools, with 607,000 scholars in attend are. In 1881 the numbers had increased to 83,000 and 2,061,000 scholars. But after that date the rate of progress was not so great, for, between 1881 and 1901, the number of schools had only been raised to 98,500 and the scholars to 3,268,000, whereas it was computed that there were something like 18,000,000 children in India of school age. The expenditure on primary education in 1891–2 was 49½ lakhs, but in 1901–2 it it was 63 lakhs. For the last three years the Government of India had given the local governments 40 lakhs annually as grants to general education, but, in the recent Budget, following the observations that were made in that House last year, an additional sum of 35 lakhs was included for primary education alone. He found himself in sympathy with much that the hon. Member had said with regard to female education. A rate of seven per thousand females receiving education was in itself a most lamentable state of things. In the moral welfare of children the education of the mother was perhaps a more important consideration than the education of the father, and by the establishment of primary girls' schools in important centres and by increasing the number of training schools, the Government of India were doing what they could to promote 645 female education and to popularise that which, was in itself most desirable. The hon. Member might rest assured that there was no apathy in this matter either on the part of the Government of India or of whose who controlled the finances of India. With regard to the speech of the Viceroy which had been referred to he thought his observations had been somewhat misunderstood, and he had evidently been the victim of a misinterpretation which had been placed upon his words, a difficulty which constantly beset Members of this House, and from which the Members sitting on the Treasury Bench were not altogether exempt.
SIR MANCHEEJEE BHOWNAG-GEEE (Bethnal Green, N. E.)
said he wished to draw the attention of the House to the great want of proper facilities for discussing Indian questions, and he also desired to ask the Prime Minister if he could appoint another day a little earlier than usual for the discussion of the Indian Budget. He thought this request would meet with the sympathy of Members on both sides of that the House. He believed that the Secretary of State for India himself was anxious to have an earlier date for the introduction of the Indian Budget.
As the hon. Member has given notice of a Motion in regard to this question, it would be out of order for him to discuss it now.
SIR MANCHEEJEE BHOWNAG-GREE
said that under the circumstances he would invite the attention of the Secretary of State for India to a subject of which he had not given notice of Motion. In a few days time there would be published a document conferring a measure of self-government upon the Transvaal. The question of the treatment of British subjects in the Transvaal had attracted general attention, both in the House of Commons and in the country, and he should like to hear from his right hon. friend whether he had taken any steps to secure that when self-government was granted to the Transvaal the rights and privileges which British Indians had enjoyed in the past would be safeguarded, or whether they would be 646 left entirely at the mercy of the Transvaal Government. He hoped that the Secretary for India, as the custodian of the rights and privileges of the people of India, and whose special care it was to take care of the interests of the vast populations of the Indian Empire, would do all that lay in his power to see that any new rights which were conferred upon the Transvaal would not be used to further oppress and humiliate the subjects of His Majesty who went from India to South Africa to settle in that colony. He trusted that the light hon. Gentleman would give the House some satisfactory Answer on this point.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down had called attention to a face which was familiar to every Member of the House, namely, the extraordinary manner in which the fate and fortune of hundreds of millions of people in India were dealt with by this House. He thought it was a scandal that it was only on a hot August afternoon, in an almost empty House, that the business of the great dependency of India was discussed in this House. He thought the House could very well afford to give more attention to India. The reason why India got so little attention was that the House of Commons was too busily engaged trying to settle the local affairs of these islands, and so long as the House retained eighteenth century methods so long would India and other parts of the Empire be neglected.
He wished to say a few words upon the general policy of the Government. They had just listened to an admirable speech—perhaps he had better call it a performance—by the Prime Minister. He had often listened with admiration to the extraordinary skill with which the right hon. Gentleman evaded difficult Questions, but his performance to-day excelled all his previous efforts. He was asked several Questions, but he had not given an Answer to one of them. He could recommend the right hon. Gentleman to the gentleman on the Continent who had just lost the services of the lady who had been looping the loop, because for acrobatic skill 647 in looping the Parliamentary loop the right hon. Gentleman had no equal. The right hon. Gentleman and his Government had been condemned in every constitutional form which the nation possessed of expressing its opinion. Whether in rural or urban constituencies, even in places where the Conservative candidate was supposed to be quite safe, the right hon. Gentleman and his policy had been rejected, and the people condemned him. The Prime Minister was now taking advantage of the technicalities of politics to hold power which the country desired to deprive him of. He had been very much struck with a passage written by Mr. J. R. Green, the eminent historian, who wrote—It is impossible to provide for some of the greatest dangers which can happen to national freedom by any formal statute; even now a Minister might avail himself of a Parliament elected in some moment of popular panic and though the nation return to its senses, might simply, by refusing to appeal to the country, govern in defiance of its will. Such a course would be technically legal; but such a Minister would be none the less a criminal.He thought those words admirably summed up the present case. This Parliament was elected in the midst of the popular excitement caused by the war. It was elected, as some members of the Government stated, on one issue, namely, to bring the war to an end. The war being ended, people were returning to their senses, and they were now as opposed to the Government as some years ago they were in its favour. And yet the Ministry refused to appeal to the country, and, though technically legal, such a course was, as Mr. Green said, none the less criminal. An erudite authority on the Constitution, at page 372 of his work on the "Law and Customs of the Constitution," wrote—We must not forget that the possible violation of the law is not the only reason why a Ministry should retire when it is shown to have lost the confidence of the House or of the country. Ministers are not only Ministers of the Queen, they represent the public opinion of the United Kingdom; when they cease to impersonate public opinion they become a mere group of personages who must stand or fall by the prudence of their action. They may have to deal with disorders at home or hostile manifestations abroad; they would have to meet these with the knowledge that they had not the confidence or support of the country; and their opponents at home and abroad would know this too.648 The writer plainly foresaw the situation with which they were now confronted, namely, that the Ministry might retain the confidence of the majority in the House of Commons, although they had ceased to impersonate public opinion. He understood that the esoteric defence given by the Prime Minister was that in spite of the condemnation of the country he and his eminent colleagues were able to deal with the international complications which the country at this moment had to face. He was not going to speak of the superior genius of those now in office to those who might succeed them. It was true that they were practically unknown and obscure individuals who would never have been heard of had it not been that in the hurly-burly of politics the Prime Minister was obliged to take the few men left who were in accord with his policy. Even if their genius were equal to the claims they made the fact remained that they were the worst kind of Government to deal with foreign complications. What respect had any foreign Minister for a Government that had ceased to represent the public opinion of the country.
No Government could be so universally condemned as the present one had been. The maintenance of the present Ministry by the Prime Minister was mainly inspired by the desire to keep his Party together, and above all to overcome the Member for West Birmingham. A good many had expressed doubts as to the Prime Minister's wisdom, judgment, and firmness of character. He did not share these views. The Prime Minister was playing a game, and he had played it extremely well. He and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham were contesting for the, leadership of the Party, and the latter had been beaten. When Mr. Gladstone was leader of the Liberal Party the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was the man on whose loyalty he could depend. He knew that unholy doubts had been cast on that statement. He was present in the House on the historic night when Mr. Parnell charged the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham with having intrigued against his Liberal colleagues in regard to Irish 649 policy, and with having afterwards abjured the opinions which he then professed. But these were squalid doubts from which he entirely dissociated himself. That loyal supporter had great confidence in his own powers, and he always seemed to think that he could do the job a little better than the man in front of him. The Prime Minister had managed successfully to isolate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The Times, had compared the two right hon. Gentlemen to two accomplished whist players, one giving hints to the other. He also would draw a comparison from the card table. Both had been playing another game, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had been euchred. The fact was that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was beaten in the country, in the House, and in the Unionist Party. The Irish were sometimes supposed to be a vindictive race, but he entirely disclaimed that reputation. If they were vindictive, surely never could a race rejoice in a greater Nemesis than this which had overtaken the man who, eighteen years ago broke the Liberal Party and destroyed the great chance which the Irish people had of gaining liberty. The Unionist Party was now broken to smithereens by the very man who broke the Liberal Party. [An HON. MEMBER: Give him a chance.] If the hon. Gentleman meant a chance of going to the country, he could only say that that invitation should be addressed to the Prime Minister.
The hon. Member for Carnarvon in his eloquent speech that afternoon had referred to the feeling of the Prime Minister towards the House which he was supposed to lead as one of undisguised scorn and contempt. Irishmen had no great reason to be thankful to the House of Commons which had misgoverned their country for 105 years, but at the same time he would regard it as a disastrous thing for the people of this country if the House of Commons were to lose its prestige in their opinion, and especially at the hand of the Prime Minister, who ought to be its guardian and defender. But that was not his affair. When he was present at one of 650 the discussions on the fiscal question a few weeks ago he saw a sight which struck him as unprecedented, scandalous, and, he might almost say, tragic. The House was discussing what was called an abstract Resolution, moved by a private Member. He observed, by the way, that there was no objection to an abstract Resolution by the hon. Member for Rochester when addressed, not to the head of the Government, but to the Leader of the Opposition, not to the great official hierarch of the country, but to a Gentleman, whatever his distinction and power, who was simply a private and unofficial Member of the House at the moment. Whatever might be the future of the hon. Member for Rochester, either as an orator or Parliamentarian, he had accomplished an achievement which he would never even approach again during the rest of his career. He made inevitable the Premiership of one man of this House when a change of Government came. He elicited a speech from the Leader of the Opposition which marked his position for ever. He did not think the hon. Member for Rochester did much harm to the cause of Home Rule. When Macaulay published his great "History of England," Croker, his literary and political enemy, wrote a slashing criticism of it. Sydney Smith's comment on that criticism was that the writer attempted murder but only succeeded in committing suicide. That was a fair description of the Motion and speech of the hon. Member for Rochester, because he plainly proved that the Liberal Party, speaking through its only leader in the House of Commons, and its future leader in the Government, was loyal, faithful, and true to the great principle of self-government for Ireland.
The Prime Minister was always making tremendous challenges to the Leader of the Opposition to move a vote of censure, but a Motion calling in question the fiscal policy of the Unionist Party was a vote of censure because that was the question on which the election within a few weeks, or months, must be fought. He was not going to say a word in derogation of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, but why was he at the head of the finances the country while this 651 predecessors the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol sat behind him, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon sat below the gangway? He was an extremely intelligent young gentleman, and he congratulated him on the extraordinary success with which the great principle of nepotism had placed him in the position he now occupied. But who would compare him with his predecessors as Chancellor of the Exchequer—the right hon. Member for West Bristol, and the right hon. Member for Croydon? Why was he on the Treasury Bench, and why were these right hon. Gentlemen on the benches behind? It was because the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench filling the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer was a protectionist, and because the right hon. Gentlemen on the benches behind him were free traders. In other words the whole transformation in the Government of the country had been made because the head of the Government was determined to throw out the free-trade members of his Cabinet and to keep in the protectionist members. That was the reason why the Prime Minister ran away from the House when his policy was challenged.
He came now to the Irish policy of the Government. He saw the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was now in his place. But he was often absent. Sometimes it was the wild delights of Punchestown steeplechases which called him away; sometimes he was drawn to the dining-room; and sometimes it was to don the courtly garments of a Grand Master of the Knight of St. Patrick. But, whatever might be the cause, they had been more accustomed to his absence than to his presence. He did not wish to be rude; hut if the right hon. Gentleman were altogether absent there was not one Member of the Irish Party who would not be ready to join in a Te Deum on that account. What was the policy of the Government in regard to Irish affairs? They had not been left long to know what that policy was. The right hon. Gentleman the new Chief Secretary for Ireland had already developed two styles. The right hon. Gentleman was 652 quite a modern painter on the Irish canvas when he had had only a short experience. He then belonged to the school of Sir Antony MacDonnell, his predecessor the right hon. Member for Dover, and the Prime Minister. That was, however, only in the early dawn of his occupation of his new office. But, in a few days the whole landscape was changed, that style disappeared, and the right hon. Gentleman came to this House and gave an Answer to a Question in which he not only unsaid all that he had said before, but took the trouble of pronouncing what, he must say, was a most ungenerous condemnation of the policy of his immediate predecessor in office. Now, there were many things in the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover with which they, on those benches, could not agree, but not one of them would deny the generous principles and feelings with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had discharged his duty. That right hon. Gentleman had been the victim, not of his bad intentions towards Ireland, but of his good intentions; and whatever might be the faults of his administration—and they were many—certainly he did some things that would stand out in history to his credit, not merely when he was a member of the Irish Administration, but when as Under-Secretary for War he defended the indefensible. He considered that it was almost disloyal on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary to have made the pronouncement he had done against his predecessor when that right hon. Gentleman was away seeking recovery of the health which he had lost in the faithful discharge of his duties.
There was a very active agency in Ireland, although he did not think it was financed by the Government. But there was a fund to provide a subsidy to what he might call the reptile Press in that country. That agency was very active during the occupancy of the office of Chief Secretary by the right hon. Member for Dover. Whenever it was thought that the late Chief Secretary was inclined to be a little too sympathetic to Ireland, the anti-Irish reptile Press 653 was in full blast, filling column after column in the English papers with blood curdling but fabricated stories of Ireland being the seething pot of disloyalty and crime. That agency was con ducted, financed, and controlled by Irishmen. Of all the tragic things connected with the history of Ireland, the most tragic was that there was a section of Irishmen whose chief aim and purpose in life was to blacken the character and murder the reputation of their own country. Of all beings in the world there was none so contemptible as the Irish anti-Irishman. Such a creature was able to see unmoved the terrible tragedy of the destruction of an ancient and intelligent race by misgovernment and by emigration; to witness the population of his country reduced from nine to four and-a-half millions in a half century, and the country becoming one of the loneliest in the world, because only the old people were left, and the young and vigorous had gone away to other lands. He was not only unmoved by all this, but he was inspired by a contemptuous race hatred of the nation to which he nominally belonged. If any one took up The Times, that hereditary enemy of Ireland, or the Globe, he would find column after column written evidently by some anti-Irish Irishman, and furnished by the agency of which he had spoken, giving full details and blood curdling descriptions of outrages in districts the reputation of which had been aforetime calumniated and was therefore suspect, but which the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland had to acknowledge were untrue. If that hon. Gentleman would blacken Ireland then he would disclose the facts, but if they would clear her character he would keep them to himself.
He called attention to these things for two reasons, first because they were part of a campaign of calumny, and the second object was to get rid of Sir Antony MacDonnell. He made these observations for the purpose of warning the Chief Secretary that the idea was that if these campaigns were continued long enough, people would think Ireland was in a state of crime and disorder, and the right hon. Gentleman in consequence, like others before him. might be driven 654 into coercing a country which was without crime. It might be that one of the byproducts of the success of that campaign would be that Sir Antony MacDonnell would relieve the Government of his inconvenient presence. He desired to warn him of this campaign, in which there was a well-organised and vast scheme, and in which there might be an attempt to create outrages in Ireland. That was a shocking thing to say, and he would never have said it if it had not been for the history of Sergeant Sheridan. If he wanted anything to prove the difference between the government of Ireland and England he would choose, as his best object-lesson, the case of Sergeant Sheridan on the one side and Adolf Beck on the other. Nothing was more creditable to this country than the outburst of almost tempestuous rage which swept the country at the conviction of an innocent man like Adolf Beck. Public opinion was so strong that it overbore the walls of officialism and forced an exposure of Home Office methods which was most extraordinary. No Government, he did not care from which Party it might have come, could have survived more than twenty-four hours if it had refused to do justice to Adolf Beck. He admired the spirit of the nation which was embodied in that feeling. But he turned from England to Ireland. Now, nobody could prove that Adolf Beck had been put in gaol by means of a conspirary or wilful perjury; nobody could prove or attempt to prove that his wrongful conviction was the result of perjured evidence on the part of the police; and they could not prove that the crime of which he was convicted was committed by the policeman who gave the false evidence against him. All these things were elements in the case with which Sheridan was concerned, for the difference between the two cases was that Adolf Beck got £5,000 and poor McGowan got very little. Sheridan was allowed to leave for America, and the three or four scoundrels who assisted him in his crime were not only not punished, but some of them were still actually in the force which they had degraded and made unworthy of the confidence of the country. Yet there was not a ripple of anger in the public opinion of this country. How much better was it to be a Norwegian than an 655 Irishman. Adolf Beck was a Norwegian, and for his false imprisonment obtained from the Government of this country £5,000: poor McGowan was an Irishman, and his persecutors and perjurers were rewarded and acquitted. Once more they were brought face to face with the fact that the person who got least consideration from Englishmen, from the rulers of Ireland, was an Irishman.
He had indicated, from the pronouncements of the Chief Secretary. what they might expect his policy to be, but that was not the only indication which they had had. Years ago, in America, they had an expression in public life so coarse in its nature that he would apologise in anticipation for making use of it; but in the time of the Civil War, whenever the Republican Party were in want of a cry, they used to stir up all the old and bitter passions raised by the war by what was called "Waving the bloody shirt." When the present Government was at a loss for a policy, having run away from the policy of retaliation and protection, and wanted a cry, it had one refuge. It "waved the bloody shirt" of outrage in Ireland. It was a wicked policy, and it was almost criminal for a man in the position of the Prime Minister to resort to it. What did the right hon. Gentleman say? He said "We arc united against Home Rule." The last word of the Prime Minister with regard to Ireland was that he was an opponent of Home Rule, and his very last word was redistribution. No one in England wanted redistribution, and the Government used the word redistribution as they used the word devolution, as a mask to conceal their faces. Their real desire was to reduce the Parliamentary representation of Ireland in that House, but until he saw it he would refuse to believe that one country could be so wicked and cruel as to reduce the representation of another country in that House on the ground of depopulation, when it was the hunger produced by 'their laws which had caused that depopulation.
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)
said he desired to refer to a subject of urgent public importance, and had 656 the information come to him at an earlier period of the session he should have felt compelled to move the adjournment of the House in order to raise an immediate discussion upon it. He wished to ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Education, to whom he had given private notice that afternoon of his intention, whether he had received any information with regard to the action of the East Ham Borough Council on the previous evening. It was reported to him by the town clerk of West Ham, the adjoining borough, that on the previous night the Borough Council of East Ham resolved unanimously to no longer administer the Education Act of 1902. It appeared that the education committee of that council went to the East Ham Borough Council for a further grant out of public funds to enable them to carry out their duty in respect to the education of that district. The East Ham Borough Council resolved that they would not grant the money and instructed the education committee to dismiss the school teachers and close all the schools in the district as from the 31st of May next and to discontinue their duties as the education authority. Their object in so doing was to call attention to the large local rate in the borough for the discharge of what they considered was a national duty. Their action involved the future welfare of thousands of children, and a large staff of teachers and the whole education machinery for that borough. They took this action, not because they were averse to education, but because they found themselves utterly incapable with the local rate standing as it did of discharging their duty properly, and therefore they, by this very drastic act, had divested themselves of all responsibility, and he himself would not be surprised if other boroughs adopted the same policy at no distant date owing to the difficulty of meeting out of local funds national obligations. The adjoining borough of West Ham had now a rate of 2s. 8½. in the £ for educational purposes, with every prospect of its being raised in the next half-year to 3s. Id. This was due to the fact, not that they had been extravagant, but that they had had in less than thirty years to discharge all the 657 responsibilities which were put upon them—responsibilities which other towns and cities had been given centuries to accomplish. In thirty years the population of the district he represented had grown from 30,000 to 300,000, and every single loan that they had borrowed for public purposes was still running. They had not had time to relieve themselves of those liabilities, and yet Parliament pat further responsibilities on to them year by year until, unable to meet the responsibilities cast upon them, they were ready to tear up their Charter rather than increase the burden upon the people. It was not extravagance; and those who caused them to take this action, and those who said it was, knew nothing of the circumstances, and had not taken the trouble to inquire into them.
The East Ham Borough Council, which that day had taken this startling action, was the first of the authorities under the Act of 1892 to positively refuse to carry out their obligations with regard to education. Now, what were the Government going to do in this matter? The remedy provided by the Act was that of applying for a mandamus. Were the Government going to imprison the mayor and corporation of East Ham? He warned them if they did that there were forty or fifty other districts which they would have to serve in the same way, districts which had met a national obligation out of local rates. For thirty-five years Parliament had maintained a scheme of grants-in-aid to districts of this kind. By the Act of 1892 that was all swept away. The protest which he had made in that House passed almost unheeded, and the whole scheme of relief was swept away and a new one instituted, under which money was given to districts which did not require it, while others which greatly needed it were left to do the best they could to meet their difficulties. What were the Government going to do with regard to this matter?
658 He felt it his duty to ask what information the Government had received with regard to it, and, above all, what steps they proposed to take to see that the education of the children was continued. When they met again they would be within four weeks of the date of the shutting up of these schools. He knew how the difficulty had gone on increasing in this borough; he had worked in the neighbourhood for thirteen years, and he knew how it had increased year by year until it became intolerable, and he appealed to the Government not to drive these people to desperation, and not to encourage others to follow the example thus set, but to recognise at once that they were face to face with a difficulty more serious than any he could recollect in connection with municipal government. If the action of the East Ham Borough Council was followed, as he was advised it would be, it would place the Government in a position of the greatest difficulty, and, if not met sympathetically and promptly, it would defy the best efforts of any Government to deal with it. It was under these circumstances that he asked his hon. friend the Secretary to the Board of Education what action he proposed to take.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOE IRELAND (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Bristol, S.
said that he wished to answer one charge brought against him by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division—the charge of disloyalty to his predecessor in office. That charge he repudiated emphatically. It was founded on the allegation that in the second Answer to a Question he had unsaid all that he stated in the first Answer. That was grossly incorrect.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said that that was not his foundation for the charge of disloyalty against the right hon. Gentleman. The foundation was that the right 659 hon. Gentleman had entirely repudiated the policy indicated in a statement made by the right hon. Member for Dover.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that he was charged with disloyalty, then, because he stated as plainly as he could to the House that, as long as he remained Chief Secretary, he should consider himself responsible for all that was done in his Department, and that he intended to know all that was done by his subordinates. If he was to be condemned for that, he accepted condemnation. The second charge was that he had behaved disloyally to the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dover. Was he disloyal to the right hon. Member for Dover because he declared that he was unable to accept what he understood to be his right hon. friend's description of the Under-Secretary's position—namely, that it was the position of a colleague and not of an ordinary member of the Civil Service? Neither his predecessor nor the Under-Secretary could hold that what he had said on that point was either disloyal or inaccurate in its description of the constitutional relations between the Chief Secretary and the Under-Secretary. He felt that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover did his best for the Government and the country, and therefore he was not likely to be disloyal to him in his absence.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said he desired to ask the counsel and the advice of the Secretary to the Board of Education in a case of difficulty with regard to the administration of the Education Act. It was the case of the village of Marston St. Lawrence, in Northamptonshire. In this and in 660 many other villages in England there was great anxiety with respect to what might befall them under the Education Act. In this case the village school, which was built by a private owner, had been carried on for more than a generation as a Church school, and had now come under the control of the Northampton County Council for the purposes of secular education. It had been the custom in this school to take the children to church on certain days, and this custom had been continued by the present managers, who had control of the religious instruction. In order to comply with the law, the managers had kept the school open during the time the children were at church, and an assistant master was present to give secular instruction to any child who had been withdrawn from religious instruction. On Monday, March 27th, one of the county council's inspectors made his appearance at the school, turned out the children, closed the school altogether, and told the head teacher and the children to go to a school a mile away, and the assistant teacher to go to a school five miles away. The parents of the children were indignant at the school's being disturbed in this way. He wished to know what justification the county council had for a proceeding of this kind, a proceeding that had been threatened in other cases. He understood that their excuse for this high-handed proceeding was that the managers had disregarded a by-law which they had passed to the effect that the children should not be taken to church. He ventured to say that conduct of that kind was distinctly illegal. The Act provided that the managers should carry out any direction of the local authority as to secular education, but a direction that the children should not be taken to church 661 could not be construed as a direction as to secular instruction. Moreover, he did not know that any power was given to a local authority to close a school. The only power that was given to them was, if the managers failed to carry out such a direction, to carry out the direction themselves as if they were the managers. The Act also provided that religious instruction given in a public elementary school not provided by a local education authority should be under the control of the managers. According to the Act the managers, and not the local education authority, had the control of the religious instruction. Therefore, the conduct of the local education authority was wrong in three particulars. In the first place, they had no right to make such a by law; in the second place, if the by-law was valid, they had no right to close the school; and thirdly, they were acting in direct defiance of the Act of Parliament which said that the control of religious instruction should be in the hands of the managers. This was a case that might occur in any village in the country. This was not a matter of religious sentiment. It was a matter of the observance of the law, and he wanted to ask the Secretary to the Board of Education what protection the managers of village schools J had. These schools had been of Very great use in the education of the country, and they were of very great use still. What protection had the managers if the local authority first of all made illegal by-laws, and then enforced them by methods that violated the Act of Parliament which gave to the managers he control of religious instruction in the schools?
§ THE PAKLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Sir WILLIAM ANSON,) Oxford University
said he would first deal with the case referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. It was not the case that the local education authority of Northamptonshire made a by-law forbidding the children to go to church. The ordinary form of by-law required the children to be at school during the time that the school was open, and the local education authority announced that they were not prepared to regard attendance at church as attendance at school. They further said that if the children were to comply with that bye-law they would have to be at school during the whole time the school was open. They, however, adopted a new form of by-law which enabled the parents, after notice, to withdraw a child from the school during the period of religious instruction, and, therefore, there would be no difficulty whatever, if the parents desired it, in the children's attending church during the period of religious instruction without any violation of the by laws. The local authority further announced that they were prepared to give ten days holiday in the year, on days of religious observance, in order that the children might be taken to-church. But they did give a direction, which they were perfectly well entitled to give, that the school was to be opened at 9 o'clock, and that secular instruction was to begin at 9.45 and continue thenceforward until the end of the school session. What was done by the managers was in contravention of the direction of the local education authority as to secular instruction. On certain days they altered the time-table without reference to the local authority, and began secular 663 instruction at 9 and continued it until 11, when they took the children to church. The managers were deaf to remonstrance, and at the beginning of March they were informed that at the end of the month the school would no longer be maintained by the local authority. So far everything was regular. But the inspector of the local authority was sent to the school to make arrangements for the teachers in the event of their desiring to leave, and he believed that what passed when the inspector visited the school exceeded the intention and the right of the local authority, and certainly the duty of the inspector, for he made an announcement to the children which was practically to the effect that the school was closed. The local authority had no right to close a school. They might refuse to maintain a school, and whether they were justified in doing so was a matter for the Board of Education to consider. In this case, the managers having violated the direction of the local authority in regard to -secular education, the local authority would have been justified in refusing to maintain the school. But they were not justified in closing the school. Correspondence had been carried on which there was every reason to hope would result in an arrangement by which the managers would carry out the instructions of the local authority.
With regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for West Ham, the extreme gravity of which he quite admitted, he could only say that, as the facts had only just been brought to his notice, he could not be expected to suggest a remedy offhand; he could only say that he would be glad if the hon. Member would communicate with him on the subject, and 664 it should receive the best attention of the Board of Education.
§ MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)
called attention to the notice which had been given to terminate the steamer service on the south-west coast of Ireland to which the Congested Districts Board had for several years generously given a subsidy, and pointed out that the carrying out of this proposal would put his constituency, and neighbouring constituencies, in an unfortunate position. The immediate result of terminating the steamer service would be to give the Great Southern and Western Railway Company a monopoly in the district. The charge he made was that the Congested Districts Board in the terms made with the railway company had not sufficiently safeguarded the interests of the people of the Sneem district. The Congested Districts Board had succeeded in getting some through rates, but these rates were 20 to 50 per cent, higher than used to be the case when the steamer service was in existence. This was an extremely serious matter, for in the district of Sneem the people had agreed to purchase their holdings at high figures. If, in addition to paying these high prices, they had to pay increased rates for transit, a very serious state of affairs would occur. The Congested Districts Board considered it a good stroke of business to have arranged with the railway company to put on a service of carts twice a week between Kenmare and the village of Sneem. That service would be inadequate to convey the goods formerly brought to the village by steamer. He found that cement which was previously carried at 7s. 6d. per ton would now cost 11s. 4d., and the rate for 665 sugar would be increased from 11s. 6d. to I 14s. 9d. If time permitted he could give more instances of the same kind. Owing to the defective state of Kenmare harbour, which was at present, served by a steamer, the proprietors of that steamer had given notice that unless the harbour was improved the steamer would be withdrawn, and so the railway would have the monopoly of the service for the whole of that district.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he could only deal with this matter with the permission of the House. The facts in relation to the question raised by the hon. Gentleman were in dispute. The hon. Gentleman believed that the railway company had been able to establish a monopoly in the district, and had increased their rates. His information was that the railway company had not increased their rates, and that a monopoly had been prevented by the action of the Congested Districts Board. But if the hon. Gentleman would provide him with fuller details afterwards in support of the statement he had just made, he would look into the matter himself and see if anything could be done in the matter to rectify the grievance complained of. As to the dredging of Kenmare harbour, he was informed that that was a difficult and expensive operation and had only a temporary effect. The question raised by the hon. Member was a large one, and could not be dealt with by Answer across the floor of the House. He was anxious to do what he could to help the different traders in the district to get their produce to market, and any information the hon. Gentleman could furnish him with would be carefully considered.
§ MR. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)
said that the right hon. Gentleman had made a statement in regard to the new rules issued by the National Education Board of Ireland which was in many respects satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman interpreted the understanding with the Treasury as meaning that no teachers would suffer loss under these new rules; but he thought that anyone who had studied the terms of the agree, ment would see that they did not bear out the rather wide interpretation which the Chief Secretary had made.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that what he had stated was that the National Board of Education, realising that the application of these rules in their strictest sense might lead to loss of income to certain teachers, desired to prevent any loss, and he thought that the hon. Gentleman would find that that would be the resut of the decision arrived at.
§ MR. MACVEAGH
said that what he asked for was the protection of the teachers of those schools who had not accepted the principle of amalgamation. The right hon. Gentleman must know that the rules had produced a great deal of discontent and unpopularity, and that many managers had announced that they did not intend to consent to amalgamation. He thought it would allay the discontent and uneasiness felt if they could get from the right hon Gentleman a statement that this arrangement would apply to schools which did not accept amalgamation as well as to schools which did accept amalgamation. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman had no control over the National Board of Education, 667 which was an absolutely irresponsible body and could bid defiance to the right hon. Gentleman and refuse to carry out his suggestions. He also understood that the right hon. Gentleman's recommendation to the Treasury had been treated with contempt. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman recognised that the discontent and uneasiness on the part of the teachers was perfectly natural and that the rights of all teachers should be safeguarded and that all should be treated alike. He hoped that the new rules would not be enforced until this matter had been[made absolutely clear.
MR. NOLAN (Loath, S.)
said he would like to draw attention to the very unfortunate state of affairs which had arisen in his constituency by the arbitrary action of the Local Government Board in Ireland, of which the right hon. Gentleman was the head. He had tried to draw attention to the matter before in the form of a Question, but, with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, he must complain that he had not received anything like a satisfactory Answer, although he did not complain of the right hon. Gentleman himself. What had occurred was that in one of three electoral divisions of the Poor Law District of Ardee the Local Government Board had stepped in owing to some dispute with regard to salaries and had suppressed one of the dispensaries, with the result that many poor people who required medical relief now had to travel eleven or twelve miles across country to obtain it, and the medical officer, when 668 called upon, had to travel eleven or twelve miles to the patient. That was the state of affairs brought about deliberately by the pig-headed action of some of the officials of the Local Government Board, in spite of the strong protests of the board of guardians and every ratepayer in the district. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would look into this matter.
§ MR. JOHN O'DONNELL (Mayo, S.)
asked if the Chief Secretary for Ireland would use his holiday to inquire personally into the matter referred to by the hon. Member for South Down and to see whether all the managers of the schools were satisfied. There could be no doubt that the rules as they stood were detrimental; that was agreed by all and concurred in by the Bishops, whose opinion was not to be despised in this matter.
said he hoped when Parliament met again that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to take a wider view of the various subjects with which he had to deal.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved. "That this House do now adjourn until Tuesday, May 2nd."—(Mr A. J. Balfour.)
§ Adjourned accordingly at twenty-seven minutes after Seven o'clock, till Tuesday, May 2nd