§ MR. MOUNT (Berkshire, Newbury)
"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
"We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which 109 Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament;" said he was sure the House would extend to him a full measure of that indulgence which it had never failed to grant to those who, in preceding years, had been privileged to undertake the difficult and delicate task entrusted to him. The House would have listened with satisfaction to the opening sentences of the Speech from the Throne. The announcement that our relations with foreign countries were of a friendly character would be none the less welcome because of late years it had been not unfamiliar; and their earnest prayer was that for many years to come on these occasions a similar statement might be made. No lesson was necessary to convince this country of the advantages of peace, but had an object-lesson been needed in the horrors of war between two powerful nations, equipped with all the armaments which modern military science can devise, one had only to look at the struggle which, unfortunately, was still progressing in the Far East. However much they might admire the courage and gallantry of the soldiers and sailors engaged in that conflict, they could not shut their eyes to the sorrow and suffering which every battle, every skirmish, inevitably brought to many homes far removed from the scene of combat. In the course of that war there must have been many a moment of anxiety to other countries, lest they also should be involved in the contest raging in Manchuria. It was only by the strictest observance of the somewhat ill-defined obligations incumbent upon neutral Powers that such a danger could be averted, and the House must have noted with much satisfaction that His Majesty's Government had done all in their power in that direction. There was much in the Gracious Speech from the Throne which gave reason to hope that for many years to come peaceful and, what was more, friendly relations between this country and foreign Powers would be maintained.
A considerable portion of the passage dealing with foreign affairs was taken up by a narration of Agreements concluded between this country and other Powers, by which questions of 110 possible controversy had been removed, he hoped, from all danger of decision by the dread arbitrament of war to the more peaceful solution by mutual agreement or reference to arbitration. It could hardly be supposed that the time would ever come when nations would be satisfied to submit to the decision of a Court of arbitration on all matters, no matter how important; but any extension of the principle of arbitration would be gladly welcomed by that House, and it would have been noted with satisfaction that His Majesty's Government had lost no opportunity of putting into practice those principles of which, in theory at any rate, all Members expressed so high an admiration. The House would have heard with pleasure the announcement of the ratification by the French Legislature of the convention between France and England. It would be out of place on the present occasion for him to say anything as to the differences for which a solution was found in that convention, or to deal in detail with the convention itself. All would admit that the true value of that convention was not confined to the fact that by it a solution was found of outstanding differences, but that it also lay in the discovery which was made by France and by this country that both nations were mutually anxious to find a solution of those differences mutually satisfactory to both. From that discovery had come a better understanding between the two countries, and the House would welcome the better feeling of friendship which had resulted from that convention and which had already borne valuable fruit. He felt sure the House would receive with scarcely less gratification the further announcement that Agreements with other countries had been made, by which certain matters upon which a dispute might possibly arise in future would be referred to arbitration.
In regard to the International Commission now sitting at Paris, His Majesty's Government had shown the same anxiety to maintain, wherever possible, amicable relations with all other countries. He would not venture to say a word as to the events the investigation of which had been entrusted to that inquiry, that would be highly improper while the question was still under consideration; but he did not think he would 111 be going too far when he said that both the House and the country learnt, with intense relief, of the possibility of a peaceable and honourable solution of an event which had deeply stirred the whole of the British Empire. In regard to all these matters—the International Commission now sitting at Paris, the ratification by France and this country of the Anglo-French Convention, and the conclusion of arbitration Agreements with other nations—they saw the same desire on the part of His Majesty's Government to find an amicable solution upon matters of controversy before they reached an acute stage; and in all of them they found evidence upon which they might base the hope that for many years to come they would maintain friendly relations with all foreign Powers.
There was one part of Europe which, he regretted to say, still gave cause for anxiety, and from which their attention had been unduly taken by more stirring events happening further afield. The Balkan Peninsula had long been an unfortunate country, torn with racial and religious dissension, and, therefore, it was satisfactory to learn that something had been done to ameliorate the condition of that unfortunate country. Much was being done by the valuable work of the officers of the gendarmerie to which allusion was made, but much still remained to be done, and there was a not unnatural impatience at the slow progress which had been made there. It should, however, be more fully realised what the difficulties were and what the nature of the obstacles were which had to be removed. No reforms in that unfortunate country could be effective unless they had behind them not one or two Powers, but the whole Concert of Europe. However efficient or powerful that Concert might be, when it had determined on the specific reform it desired to initiate, it could not fail from its nature to be slow to sit in motion, and he thought that they might congratulate themselves upon the fact that some improvement had been made and that the Powers were working in harmony in their endeavour to restore order out of chaos in that distracted district.
Turning from the Continent of Europe to India, he was sure the whole House 112 would join in congratulations upon the successful issue of the political Mission to Lhasa. He would not discuss the causes which led to that Mission, they had been the subject of debate in the House, nor would he say anything as to the reasons which, in his opinion, more than amply justified its dispatch. But whatever hon. Members might think as to the inception of that Mission he thought all would join in congratulations upon the admirable way in which it had been carried out, and as to the gallantry and fortitude of the soldiers, whether belonging to the native Army from India or to the British Army, who fought side by side in that campaign. Had they wanted any proof of the manner in which the British soldiers or the soldiers of the native Indian Army were ready and willing to put up with the varying conditions which the service of the British Empire might demand, they could hardly have a better example than the two last expeditions in which they had taken part. Whether upon the burning sands of Somaliland or the snow-clad hills of Tibet, the soldiers had shown themselves ready to endure the greatest hardships in a manner well worthy of the praise and commendation of the House and the country.
Turning from foreign politics to domestic policy the House had heard, not with much surprise, that His Majesty's Government intended to lay before the House a proposal to remedy the inequalities which existed in the arrangement of the electoral areas in this country. It was more than twenty years since the last Redistribution Bill was passed by the House of Commons, and during that period there must have been many changes in the distribution of the population throughout these islands. Many towns had outgrown the Parliamentary boundaries whilst others had failed to keep pace with the rest of the country, and there were many other inequalities to which he did not need to allude. Whilst these inequalities remained un-remedied he thought the House could hardly feel that it had done all in its power to ensure that equal distribution of representative power in the country which a country with a representative Assembly 113 ought to have. To cure these evils would no doubt entail some self-sacrifice on the part of some hon. Members of the House, but he hoped that he should not be considered presumptuous or over-sanguine when he expressed his belief that that self-sacrifice would be willingly made.
He felt sure the House would desire to associate itself with the regret and sympathy expressed in His Majesty's gracious Speech with the distress and suffering occasioned by lack of employment during the past winter, and they all gladly welcomed the steps taken by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to meet those evils. It should not, however, be forgotten that the want of employment during the winter, though it was this year abnormal, was an evil which almost invariably recurred, but he was sure that any proposal to put upon a permanent basis those temporary provisions which, even during the short time they had been in operation, had been shown to be of some value to meet the evils which they all deplored would be cordially welcomed by the Members of the House.
Among the remaining measures mentioned in His Majesty's gracious Speech were two dealing with local taxation, one a proposal to renew the Agricultural Rating Act and the other to amend the law of valuation. As he represented a constituency mainly dependent, directly or indirectly, on agriculture he desired to say a few words upon that question, which was one of much importance to that great industry. The expenditure charged upon local taxation was ever increasing and was such as would be a serious burden even upon a prosperous industry. It could easily be imagined how heavily such burdens pressed upon a declining industry like agriculture. But this was not all, because the incidence of the local rates not only pressed with relatively, greater weight in country districts upon occupiers of land than on other classes of the community, but the proportion of the burden they were called upon to bear was actually heavier. If the national expenditure increased the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to apportion the taxes in a fair and equitable manner among the various classes of taxpayers, 114 but this was not so in regard to local taxation, for however much the expenditure on local rates increased there was no alteration made in the apportionment of the burden, and in country districts the principal portion of that burden was placed upon the shoulders of those who derived their livelihood from the occupation of land. Would any one contend that these were the people best able to bear it? If he were to go into the question of the incidence of local taxation on the agricultural industry he feared that he should trespass unduly upon the time of the House and he would be travelling outside the proposals mentioned in His Majesty's Speech; he would, therefore, not deal with it further. But whatever hon. Members might think as to the form which a reform of local taxation ought to take, he thought they would all agree that any such reform should be accompanied by some simplification and co-ordination of the law of valuation, and that coordination and simplification he ventured to hope would be found in the Bill which would be laid before the House. In conclusion he thanked with all sincerity hon. Members for the patient manner in which they had listened to him and the kind indulgence they had extended to him in the responsible position which he had occupied that afternoon.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said that, in rising to second the Motion so ably proposed by his hon. friend, he was very conscious of his own inability to do justice to the honour conferred upon him, but he gladly accepted the duty as an honour paid to the great constituency and city which three years ago sent him as one of its representatives to that House. Since he had had the privilege of being a Member he had received nothing but the greatest kindness and consideration from all sides of the House, and he did not think that kindness would be lacking during the few minutes in which he had to discharge his difficult and delicate task. His hon. friend had very ably alluded to their foreign relations, and he did not propose to trouble the House in going over the same ground, but he desired to associate himself with what had fallen from him as to their sense of thankfulness that their 115 relations were peaceful with all the world. His hon. friends had alluded to the Arbitration Treaties and the French Agreement, which the Prime Minister described last session as "one of the greatest international transactions which we have to record," concluded by Lord Lansdowne and M. Delcassé, whose continuance in office they all rejoiced to notice. The great statesmen of both political Parties had recognised the great importance of a good understanding with their nearest neighbour. The late Lord Beaconsfield said—A good understanding between England and France is simply this, that so far as the influence of these two great Powers extends, the affairs of the world shall be conducted by their co-operation instead of by their rivalry. But co-operation requires not merely identity of interest, but reciprocal good feeling.They must all rejoice that that good feeling had been attained, and trust that it might long endure to the great advantage of both countries and to the peace of Europe.
He came now to the paragraph dealing with the form of representative government to be given to the Transvaal, which was receiving the earnest attention of the Government and of those administering the colony, and in so doing, he hoped he was not trespassing beyond his province if he ventured with great respect to tender to the Colonial Secretary their hearty congratulations on the manner in which he had discharged the important duties of the office since he was so suddenly called upon to take them up, owing to the resignation of his very eminent predecessor; and though, perhaps, those sitting on the opposite side of the House might not have agreed with all he had done he felt sure they would acknowledge the courtesy and consideration which he had always shown. In accordance with pledges given both in the terms of surrender that representative institutions leading up to self-government would be introduced, and also by the right hon. Gentleman the late Colonial Secretary, His Majesty's Government were prepared to take another step towards granting that full self-government to the Transvaal, which was their ultimate gaol. But the pledges given were that they would proceed gradually as circumstances allowed. Their desire was, while retaining an Executive nominated 116 by the Crown, to concede the utmost liberty compatible with safety, and to remember that the inhabitants affected belonged to nations accustomed to freedom.
He would now venture to refer to one or two measures mentioned in His Majesty's gracious Speech. The first he would mention was rather a delicate one, namely, the difficulty which had arisen in Scotland with regard to ecclesiastical matters. He approached this delicate subject with much fear and doubt. English Members rather liked to leave Scotch matters for their own Members to deal with. A very difficult and unfortunate position had, no doubt, arisen and he thought almost all Parties agreed that some legislation was necessary for the efficient administration of the funds involved, and to promote peace and goodwill among all parties. A Royal Commission was inquiring into all the circumstances, and when their Report was received the House would be in a better position to judge the lines on which legislation should proceed.
With regard to Scotch education he believed there would not be much difference of opinion.
He came now to the paragraph in the gracious Speech dealing with the proposals for diminishing the anomalies prevailing in the arrangement of electoral areas consequent upon the growth and movement of population in recent years; and perhaps, as representing a large and increasing city, he could more forcibly voice the opinions of those large centres of industry than his hon. friend. In order to avoid injustice it was evident that from time to time it was necessary to make fresh arrangements, not too frequently, but when the disproportion had become flagrant. At the present time the disproportion was urgent and pressing, especially owing to the large increase of population round London, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Lancashire, the counties of Durham and Northumberland, Glasgow and surrounding area, Staffordshire, Glamorganshire, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and other cities. As an illustration, he had taken the fifteen largest constituencies, and the fifteen smallest in England and Wales returning one Member. In the fifteen 117 largest there were, according to the register in force on 1st January, 1904, 372,426 voters returning fifteen Members; in the smallest fifteen. 47,951 voters returning fifteen Members. If an elector lived in one of the fifteen big, prosperous, and increasing districts his voting power was only one-eighth of that of the man who lived in one of the small and stationary boroughs. That was to say, it took 24,828 to return one Member in the one case, and only 3,197 in the other. He would not trouble the House with any further figures, but it was evident that there was a great injustice, and he could not think that the small boroughs could be so self-seeking as to desire that they should have a continuance of the anomaly.
The second place in legislative proposals was given to the evils arising from alien immigration, and on account of what happened to the Bill of last session he felt sure he should have the sympathy of the House in dealing with the question. There was nothing new to be said, but the evils continued. Undesirable aliens, mostly from Eastern Europe, were continually admitted into this country without let or hindrance. They brought with them destitution, crime, uncleanness and disease. They drove out the native dweller, and many, being unskilled and in a state of poverty, worked for a rate of wages below a standard upon which a native workman could fairly live. These were real grievances, especially to the native population in the East End of London. The Royal Commission had recommended that the State should regulate this traffic. Other countries and our own Colonies did so, and consequently we, who did not, got the refuse who could not comply with their standards.
Referring to the paragraph in the gracious Speech as to the establishment of authorities to deal with the unemployed, the hon. Member said we had had this question before us for many years. In all our centres of industry it recurred almost every winter, but until the present movement in London there had been no action taken to deal with it on a systematic basis. The end to be sought was this: to create some machinery by which our honest and hard-working men could be temporarily provided for without having to seek 118 relief from the Poor Law, carrying with it disenfranchisement and loss of home. The scheme for London of the President of the Local Government Board had resulted in very admirable work. By it the Poor Law and local authorities had been brought together in joint committees which had been set up to separate applicants for employment into two classes (1) those who were temporarily out of work through no fault of their own, and (2) the ordinary applicants for Poor Law relief, and to endeavour to find work for the first of these classes. There was also a central committee so as to secure uniformity of action, which had done very useful work. The subject was a delicate and difficult one and care must be taken neither to interfere with the proper operation of the Poor Law nor to erect a permanent class of unemployed.
Another important measure promised was one to amend and extend the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897. The House would remember that that Act introduced an entirely new principle, and one of very far-reaching importance, into the law regulating compensation for accidents, namely, that mere accident occurring in the course of employment should of itself, irrespective of proof of negligence or of defective machinery or plant, entitle the injured workman, or his dependents in case of death, to receive compensation according to the scale prescribed. The operation of the Act was restricted to certain of the more dangerous occupations. The scheme of the Act was to avoid litigation and that the amount of compensation should be amicably settled between the parties. The working of the Act had proved a great success and, though there had been litigation arising out of the wording of the Act, according to the Report of a Departmental Committee appointed in 1903 to inquire into its operations.The amount of litigation has been very small when compared with the great number of cases settled by agreement.The Committee have made a great many suggestions with the view of clearing up doubtful points of construction, and they have also recommended that the benefits of the Act should be further extended (as they were in 1900 to agricultural labourers) to certain other classes, 119 including seamen (by Amendment of Merchant Shipping Act), carriers, workers in workshops where five or more were employed, with power to the Secretary of State to extend an inquiry to other kinds of employment. He believed that the Bill to be introduced would be found to largely carry out the recommendations of the Committee and trusted it would receive the generous support of the House.
The promise in the gracious Speech for legislation for remodelling the Board of Trade under a Minister of Commerce would be welcomed by the commercial world and by the chambers of commerce, who had for some time urged the necessity of having a Minister more directly in touch with the trade of the country, and with the Consular service. He had now only to thank the House very warmly for the kind way in which they had listened to him. They were told that this session was to be a tumultuous and bitter one. He hoped that the prophecy might prove to be untrue. They heard of wars and rumours of wars, and warfare was an essential element in their Party system; but during the short period he had had the honour of a seat in that Assembly he had noticed that it was not the speech spoken with venom and personal attack that carried weight and conviction, but that spoken with moderation and reasoned argument. Might he humbly, and with great deference and respect, plead that their deliberations might be more and more marked by patience and forbearance, and that they might all endeavour to put into practice the prayer which Mr. Speaker's chaplain so beautifully said at the commencement of each of their sittings, that in all their dealings with one another they might be influenced by the law of Christian charity.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
"Most Gracious Sovereign,
"We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech 120 which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Mount.)
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Mr. Speaker, my first and most pleasing duty is to congratulate the mover and seconder of the Address on the manner in which they have executed the task entrusted to them. We have always been accustomed to speak of that task as one of unusual difficulty and delicacy. They are required with that very imperfect knowledge of the policy of the Government which private Members must have, to defend it, partly by direct assertion and chiefly by respectful anticipation and suggestion. I cannot imagine any occasion upon which that task could have been rendered more difficult than it was to-day. But I think that the time has come when, perhaps, we ought to modify the terms in which we tender the deserved guerdon of praise to the mover and seconder, and for this reason: we are no longer surprised to find among unobtrusive and, for the most part, silent Members of the House a great power of addressing the House, as we have seen to-day, with force and clearness. For it is, I think, one of the most noticeable Parliamentary facts of our day that, from practice in their constituencies, or some other reason, there are a largely-increased number of Members who have acquired that enviable art of which both the hon. Members have certainly shown themselves possessed; and I think that the House will agree with me that they deserve our approbation and our thanks.
I wish to interpose one word before I turn to make some comments upon the difficult situation we are now approaching. Since last we met we have lost from, among us one I should not be wrong in calling of the most conspicuous and most illustrious of our number. Sir William Harcourt was a devoted Member of Parliament. He loved the House of Commons. He coveted nothing so much as to stand well with the House of Commons. He lived and died in its service, and in turn he commanded the admiration and respect and affection of nearly all its Members. Our debates will be the poorer by the 121 absence, not only of a skilful orator and a learned constitutional authority, but of a fine sample—the last, I fear, that lingered in it—of the grand old type of statesmen.
Well, in opening the interrogatories with which the sitting of this day must necessarily be commenced. I would first invite the right hon. Gentleman to explain why Parliament is summoned so late? Now, I may be told that Easter is late; but what has that to do with it? If Easter is late it would only have given us the more time to discharge some of our most necessary duties. We have to examine the financial position of the country, which never more required careful examination. We have to master the Estimates which were passed, many of them in much confusion last year; and if there were any time over from this purpose, then there would have been a convenient opportunity of giving consideration to those legislative measures which we are led to believe that the Government reluctantly, and at great sacrifice to themselves, are maintaining themselves in office in order to pursue. Why, then, take a fortnight off our time? What was the urgent reason compelling that delay, and forcing the Government to deprive the House of Commons of a large part of its opportunity for discharging its most essential duties? The right hon. Gentleman will, of course, explain what the urgent reasons were for calling Parliament together later than usual.
In one respect we stand very much as we did this time last year; in this respect, at least, that the fiscal question still overshadows everything else; and it is not a little astonishing and significant that the two hon. Members to whom we have just been listening, have not said one word from beginning to end on the only question that the country is truly anxious and concerned about. I have no doubt that instructions were communicated to them to that effect, because no politician, left to himself, could make a speech at this time of day without touching incidentally, if not systematically, on the fiscal question. The country is still waiting—only, as events show, with increased impatience— 122 for an opportunity of expressing its judgment on that issue. The country is still groping in the dark for the policy of the right hon. Gentleman; still wondering what may be the real bearing of those aspirations and desires so compactly expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, and which he, with a simple faith which nothing can quench, insists in regarding as a policy. Last session, as hon. Members will remember, we were put off with the plea that all this is outside the competence of the present Parliament, and we witnessed a series of lobby evolutions which were of no avail to the Government in the country, but which did much to damage the reputation and standing of the House of Commons. I hope that when we press—as we must, from the outset press—for a candid declaration of the meaning and intention of the Prime Minister, we shall not be put off by a reference to the aspirations and the desires expressed at this place and the other place, and that we shall not be met by any of those extraordinary Ministerial Resolutions to which we were accustomed last year, expressing the most unbounded confidence in every utterance of the Prime Minister, however inconsistent, on these matters, and at the same time our unflinching belief in the legislative capacity of His Majesty's Ministers. I say we shall press for more information in this House. We shall do more: we shall take the earliest opportunity of inviting the House to express its opinion that, in the interests of the trade and the prosperity of the country, the country should be relieved as early as possible from the confusion which metaphysical sophistications have caused, and that should be had to the country in order that this matter should be decided in the public interest. You cannot go on with your formulas and Resolutions for ever. You cannot go on feeding the country on these Dead Sea apples, to offer which to the country is almost an insult. Sir, a situation so unthinkable as that of the Government at the present moment is unknown in our Parliamentary history. The feeling of the country has been demonstrated beyond all doubt or dispute, but the Prime Minister apparently holds that he need take no heed of it, and that he can go on in the 123 feebleness and uncertainty which his position involves as long as his followers in this House do not mutiny against him. A Parliamentary majority is, no doubt, a great instrument and a necessary instrument for the Executive Government, but it is not everything. There is something behind any Parliament or any majority in any Parliament from which both Parliament and the majority derive thier authority. I remember two lines from an old writer, in somewhat archaic language, which were once quoted with great effect by John Bright—There is on earth a more auguster thing, Veiled though it be, than Parliament or King.That "auguster thing" is the public conscience. The public conscience is greater than any constitutional machinery, and no man san say in this case that the public conscience is vague. But the line taken by the right hon. Gentleman is ill-advised in the interests of the Government Themselves—it is as ill-advised as it is unconstitutional. That is disputed by some hon. Gentlemen, but I have a very good authority. Here is a statesman who says—I have never observed in the history of this country that any Party or any Government have gained credit from hanging on to office, in the vulgar sense without power and with only the insignia of office, from hanging on to their places when they were deprived of all real influence on the course of events and when the general trend of public opinion was against them. Under such circumstances the Government may possibly do good administrative work"—possibly—"it may possibly continue to hold its tenure of office for one month, two months, six months, or even a year or more, but you will never find in the history of this country that this had the result of increasing the credit of a Government with those on whose favour their fortunes ultimately rest.That was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman only ten years ago almost to the day, on 11th February, 1895.
THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. PALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
1895? What was your majority in 1895?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
We never tried to stick to office. [An HON. MEMBER: You could not.] What did we do? How did we show that we tried to stick to office? We did not attempt to stick to office when the 124 feeling of the country was going against us. I say the Government, having put themselves in a false position, have no right to involve the House and the country with themselves; and in the observations I shall make I shall found myself upon the proposition that the political situation to-day is of such ingrained falsity, that it is so fraught with danger to the public interest, that to prolong it is a betrayal and usurpation of power. I do not say, Sir, that the fiscal controversy is alone responsible for the present state of things. I do not forget that behind it we have the fact that the Government have stretched their general commission from the country to the breaking point. What was the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman to the constituencies in 1900? These are his words—that the electors had nothing to consider except the paramount interest which events in South Africa had necessarily excited. I could quote bushels of observations to the same effect, but these words are quite enough for me. This is no question of a mandate. I have never stood upon a mandate. A Government, of course any Government, has a general authority for ordinary purposes besides the particular purpose which is paramount at the time of the election. No doubt of it; but what was this case? It was a case of votes sought, and in good faith given, exclusively for one purpose—[HON. MEMBERS: Oh!]—exclusively for one purpose—and then faith broken and the majority used for stealing a settlement of most strongly contested questions. I pass by the inquiry what the value, what the efficacy, what the life of a settlement so obtained is likely to be; I will not enlarge upon that now, except to contrast the scanty attention which, after all, has been paid since then to the question of South Africa with the efforts made to extort from Parliament measures of the most momentous kind which were never hinted at in 1900. Can we wonder that a Ministry with such a career should be demoralised? The Prime Minister, indeed, is so satisfied with himself, and so satisfied that he is personally indispensable to the safety of the Empire that it would be a waste of time to dispute the fact with him; but the country is not so satisfied; and it is not satisfied especially 125 when it sees him devoting as much zeal and conviction to pulling down his own schemes as to setting them up, creating Army Corps one day to destroy them the next, equally happy and equally claiming credit when building ships or when removing them from the effective list.
How completely the Ministry is out of hand is evidenced by a most—in his presence I have no hestitation in saying it—a most improper speech made by a subordinate member of the Board of Admiralty. He was apparently tired of his obscurity, and resolved to make a name for himself, and he has succeeded. Thousands of people who never heard of him now know of his existence. He became at once a European celebrity, and that was something gained, although it my have been at the cost of the damage that he did to the interests, and to the pockets, of the taxpayers of this country, and of other countries as well. Or take their relations with their fellow-countrymen. Now I come to the Secretary of State for War. We had the Secretary of State for War the other day passing judgment upon the by-elections. He attached no importance to them. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] Quite so. With himself and his colleagues, or some of his colleagues perhaps, to be more correct, or with himself in office—we need not mind colleagues—what do the, country want more? He said they had been overborne by classes of voters who were not friendly to England. Those who vote against the War Minister are enemies of England. L'Etat, c'est moi. But I would not attach more importance to this dictum of his than it deserves; and I wish to reassure my hon. friends, rebels and disloyalists, who have taken their seats to-day that there is no chance of the War Minister endeavouring to dominate the polling stations with his artillery, when he gets it or his new shortened rifle. But it is significant that a Minister, a Secretary of State, makes a speech like that. It is significant of the state of mind of a Government which has gone on month after month against the opinion of the country. It is an admission, although an involuntary one, that this Ministry of destiny, graced with all the talents and enjoying a monopoly of patriotism—I am endeavouring to put in colourless language what I observe in 126 their own speeches—that it has ceased to be a British Ministry in the sense in which we have known the term hitherto.
This is not an occasion on which to go far in the discussion of the fiscal question; but there is one new element in the fiscal entanglement which has been imported into it since the House rose last summer. In the month of August the right hon. Gentleman refused the request of the Member for Birmingham for a specially summoned Colonial Conference, on the ground that the machinery of periodical Conferences would suffice for the discussion of any outstanding questions between this country and the Colonies—a most sensible view to take. But in the month of October, only two months later, he suddenly announced that the calling of such a Conference, in which India was to be included, was to form a large part of the question which would be submitted to the country at the next election. So the right hon. Gentleman not only changed his views, but elevated his new view to a cardinal principle, in two months. I never knew a more thorough or rapid conversion, and it must have been effected under some overpowering influence. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain what led him to change his mind. Another critical incident has been the publication of a letter from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to a friend of his, Mr Dooley, in which he said—I do not myself recognise any difference between Mr. Balfour and myself. If we do differ at all, it is only a question of methods and tactics, but Mr. Balfour has advocated the great objects which I have in view as strongly as any tariff reformer could desire.That is a very plain, expressive, comprehensive, and vitally important statement. What we complain of is, that the Prime Minister resorts to methods and tactics calculated to obscure this alliance, to disguise his real aims, to baffle this House—not to speak of the Opposition Members only—and delude the country, and that in his zeal for clever tactics he has so little consideration for the peace and welfare of the country, that he does not hesitate to prolong by his mystery and comparative silence on this point an agitation that is injurious. Let me say that if the question of tactics is introduced—as if the word "tactics" constituted 127 an excuse—I am not sure it does not make the matter a great deal worse. Military tactics may be a very fine art, but to the ordinary man the word "tactics" suggests the art of deceiving those who are hostile to you. Such being the case, I do not think an appeal to tactics, as an excuse for a certain course of action, is likely to be successful. Now and here, in the presence of the House of Commons, let us have a considered answer from the right hon. Gentleman. If the policy of the Prime Minister is identical with that of the Member for Birmingham, as that right hon. Gentleman asserts—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The quotation is not perfectly correct. Though I do not know that it makes any difference, I will give it to the right hon. Gentleman in its verbal form. What I said was that I could see no difference in principle between my right hon. friend and myself. The word "principle" was omitted in the right hon. Gentleman's reading of the passage.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
; I do not know that that improves the matter very much. If the Prime Minister is agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in principle, the principle will include the general aims of the right hon. Gentleman. If the two policies are identical in principle why does the Prime Minister suffer it to be believed that men who reject the policy of the Member for Birmingham—not his methods or his immediate means of attaining his object, but his general policy—have only to go to the Prime Minister to find something which differs from it in kind? The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If there is no difference in principle that is a tiling we can all understand. Identity and difference existing simultaneously no man can understand. I observed a letter from the noble Lord the Member for Ealing, who can both speak and write 128 in a very forcible and clear way which we all admire, regarding this same point—There are," he said, "two sections of the Unionist Party, who hold irreconcilably opposed views on tariff questions—namely, the fiscal reformers, headed by Mr. Chamberlain, and the free-traders, headed by the Duke of Devonshire. Neither are stupid nor malevolent. Each of these two Parties, after a perusal of Mr. Balfour's speech at Edinburgh, contend that the opinions therein expressed are in accordance with the views they hold. One of the two sections clearly is wrong. Which is it?Well, which is it? That is a simple question, an answer to which would stop the whole of this controversy, so far as it concerns the immediate attitude of the right hon. Gentleman. Which is it of these two sections? I do not find that they follow quite the same lines. One section beseeches him to give an explanation, but the other section appears quite content that this preposterous spectacle should continue. We can gather from that circumstance which section gains by the transaction. Then what does the Prime Minister do? He falls back upon himself. He has no light or guidance or leadership to offer; his followers must take him as they find him and make what they can of him. He says, "You may examine everything I have said and written and you will find one consistent train of thought running through it, perfectly clear, perfectly intelligible, perfectly self-contained." Will the right hon Gentleman pardon me if I tell him there is no question of vindicating his consistency? What we want to know is what his opinions are. If a general gave an order which was followed by the two wings of his army attacking each other until the stronger one, headed by his most doughty warrior, was very near annihilating the weaker section, he would be a remarkable commander if he excused himself from giving any instructions that would terminate the mischief on the ground that it was only due to a misconception, as his orders from the first had been perfectly clear, perfectly intelligible, and perfectly consistent. We are entitled to press this aspect of the question from this side of the House. Is that doughty warrior to whom I have referred the effective, the authorised interpreter of the leader's will, or is it the noble Lord 129 the Member for Ealing, or the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich? After all, the fighting will not all be done on one side, and the country as well as the House ought to know whom they have to meet. Until we get some definite light from the Prime Minister—and now is his opportunity for giving it—we shall conclude that the policy we have to fight is that announced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, and discerned by him in the announcement of the Prime Minister.
Are we to be told that none of these arguments and questions are relevant, and that the fiscal question is not before Parliament at all? I altogether challenge this view, and it appears to have gone pretty well out of sight. Even if it were technically true, this House is the grand inquest of the nation still, and it would be its duty to endeavour to prevent the wanton and protracted injury in which the Government's attack on free trade is involving the nation. What is the Government here for at all? What is its policy? Why was this Government reconstructed? It was to discredit and undermine the old fiscal system. Is not that, a subject on which we are entitled to interrogate the Government and expect a straightforward declaration of their intentions? It is a wide question as well as a deep one. Do they contend that the prodigious rate of expenditure has nothing to do with this fiscal question? Here is a Government so hungry for revenue, owing to their own policy in other matters, that it has exhausted well nigh every source of taxation upon which it can lay its hands, short of protective duties. Is it to lead us up to the very brink of the precipice and then to escape criticism because it has not pushed us over? Are the protectionists on that Bench and behind it unaware of the origin of high tariffs in other countries? High tariffs were not brought about by heroic methods or arguments. Did anybody in any of these countries deliberately set himself to reverse, annul, and delete the maxim that taxes should be levied for revenue purposes only? Not at all. All that was required was to spend public money so fast that more and more revenue had to be raised somehow, and little by little revenue tariffs 130 changed into protectionist tariffs. Nothing could be simpler. It is the universal story, and it could not be better put than it was put—I am afraid hon. Members will not think much of the place—at a dinner of the Cobden Club. The chairman said—On the Continent of Europe Governments committed to an excessive military expenditure have naturally enough lent their aid to tariffs which conceal while they increase the burden of taxation.''It is not only on the Continent that this is taking place. The speaker went on to say—But the arguments against this system by which the few are enabled to enrich themselves at the expense of the many remain absolutely unshaken, and I do not doubt that in the long run truth and reason will prevail.That is to say that in protective countries the people, will come to sec what folly protection is. This chairman of the Cobden Club was the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. Poor Mr. Cobden's memory has been discredited, because his prophecies did not turn out true. But here is a Saul also among the prophets, and equally wrong. It is not only this fiscal agitation which has turned the world upside down that demands attention, it is the actual operation of the Government; and hero I invite the attention of the Prime Minister to a consideration which seems to have completely escaped him when as Minister of the Crown he seeks to wash his hands of all effective complicity in the campaign against free trade. The policy which at long intervals he recites to his audiences outside the House is not only a matter of aspirations and desires and of half-sheets of notepaper and addresses for a general election. It is a living fact. It is a policy. It is in operation; it has been put into operation by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. It is a brilliant success. It has wholly stopped the dumping of cheap sugar. Judging from their public utterances, neither of these right hon. Gentlemen appears to be particularly delighted with this chicken of theirs. If it be disputed that this is the effect of their policy, I fall back upon another authority, who is the leading retaliator, the right hon. Member for West Bristol. He is even more strenuous as a retaliator than the 131 Prime Minister, because he wants to put the system in force without waiting for an election and with no nonsense whatever about additional powers. Speaking on the Address last year, he said—The principle of the Prime Minister's policy was tried in the Sugar Convention, and I venture to say that it has been assented to in that convention by this House and by the country.There are a good many Members on both sides who are thanking their stars that they did not give their consent. The right hon. Gentleman goes on—I do not quite see why we should wait for a general election to try it in another instance.I know nothing more creditable to the Prime Minister in the whole of this business than the fact that he resisted that most alluring invitation. He did not try it in another instance, and how thankful he must be now that he did not. But it is not a question of opinion; it is a question of fact. Under the convention what do you find? You find the canon that taxes should be raised for revenue only reversed, annulled, deleted; it does not bring one farthing into the Exchequer. Then you find retaliation adopted—against the importation of those foreign goods which, because they are bounty-fed or tariff protected abroad, are sold below cost price here.I quote those words from the sacred document itself, and they are an exact description of the material dealt with by the Sugar Convention. You find in a little protected backwater a shelter snugly provided for sugar refiners. Finally, the grand Imperial idea of the Member for West Birmingham comes in and you have the West India planter for whose benefit this fiscal curiosity was brought into existence. What more do you want? It is a microcosm; it is an express image of the policies of both right hon. Gentlemen. Of course, we admit that other things have entered into this matter that were not foreseen. It turned out that sugar was a food—a most unfortunate discovery for a Government which shrinks from putting a question of food taxation before the people of this country on the ground that they are not likely to accept it. But then it turned out also that sugar is a raw material. That is a still more unfortunate circumstance, because all fiscal reformers unite in a perfect chorus of disclaimers 132 if any one suggests that they have their eye on raw material. Then, again, it sent prices up in consequence of limiting the sources of supply, which they have not foreseen—a not unusual consequence. They have said over and over again that prices would not go up. They tried to look as if they were unconcerned with that little fact. I have heard of a chemistry professor who, in a lecture to his class, invited their special attention to an interesting experiment. He had some sort of fluid in one glass and another fluid in another, and he said—You will observe if I pour this into that the contents will become a vivid red.He performed the experiment, and the result was a dark green, but he was equal to the occasion. He said—Ah, gentlemen, a dark green, that is still more remarkable.For our consideration the Prime Minister has written once more on the document which we are to carry bound about our hearts, misunderstanding at our peril,I do not desire to raise prices for the purpose of aiding home productions.I cannot quite accurately say he has done that in this case, because he has ruined a good many home productions. The Prime Minister's motives are beyond question, and the fact that prices have gone up contrary to his express wishes only shows what a slender safeguard the best of men's motives and aspirations are against the operations of natural laws and economic forces. On a famous occasion on the sea shore the courtiers desired that the tide should not rise, but the powers of nature went on notwithstanding. When we look at the Sugar Convention we understand why it is that the case for retaliation is kept so entirely in the abstract and kept in the future also. I desire to ask some questions as to the operation of the Sugar Convention. This may be very unpleasant, but I am afraid I cannot help it. Is all going smoothly with the Sugar Convention? The Permanent Commission in Brussels determines the countries to be met by countervailing duties—that is in our case total prohibition. Russia, Denmark, Argentina, and San Domingo have been placed under this ban. But now I understand that our ports are to be opened to sugar from San Domingo. Is this a change in mind 133 on the part of the Brussels Commission? If this process is to be inverted we had better select some country from which we I get a considerable quantity—Russia, for instance. I believe Russia has requested that she should be relieved from it. Is that course supported by the Government? Again, there are seventeen countries which the Commission has decided to put under restriction, and in accordance with our legislation their exports ought to have been prohibited. But the Papers laid on the Table, show that we have appealed against that decision, and the matter is hung up until April. Surely the Government are not running away from their own masterpiece. I have endeavoured to show why the House is directly and immediately concerned, and the Government directly and immediately implicated in this great question which they have assured us is not to be touched or prejudiced or threatened by His Majesty's present advisers. But above the House and the Government and Parliament, and free from all technicalities and conventional relations and procedure stands the country insisting, with no doubtful voice, that an end shall be put to an unreal and mystifying controversy which is full of mischief from end to end. I apologise to the House for speaking upon a subject which was not referred to by the hon. mover and seconder, but I have already explained that it is the most important subject of the moment and that is why I have dwelt so long upon it.
Turning our eyes abroad, the absorbing event has been the deplorable war in the East. While admiring the courage and endurance of the combatants on both sides, the world has been shocked by the murderous nature of the conflict. I feel sure that both his duty and his disposition will lead the Foreign Minister to embrace the earliest available opportunity of throwing the influence of this country on the side of peace, and in the meantime to adhere to the strictest neutrality. I have nothing but commendation for the attitude of Lord Lansdowne in the Dogger Bank incident, in the arrangement of which matter we owe much to the friendly offices of France, and I trust that the submission of the ground of possible quarrel to a tribunal may be a fresh step up the staircase leading to a general system of international arbitration. In the Nearer 134 East also, while there is no actual state of war, the condition of things is far from reassuring. The Mürzsteg programme hangs fire and works slowly, and the question is whether we and the other Western Powers ought not to endeavour to press some more drastic remedy for the flagrant misgovernment of Macedonia.
But we have not been without a little war of our own, which was a tragic comedy from beginning to end. The King's Speech makes allusion naturally to the question of the Tibet Expedition. We are all glad that the expedition has returned in safety, and we all recognise with a full meed of admiration the conduct of the officers and men engaged, but what we say is that it ought never to have been despatched. The more we learn of the circumstances of the case and of the inception of the transaction, and of the way in which the Government of India set themselves to use it, contrary to the instructions and solemn pledges of this country, for effecting a permanent interference in Tibet, the clearer we are on that score. I give the Secretary for India full credit for refusing to ratify the arrangement made at Lhasa, but it would have been better still if the Government had put down their foot earlier. Knowing the objective of the Indian authorities, and being strongly opposed to it, they yet suffered themselves to be goaded into proceedings which brought damage to the prestige of the country and involved the massacre of unarmed men. The officer in civil charge of the enterprise has been rebuked. But why rebuke the agent? Why was not your censure carried higher to the principal? Colonel Younghusband was well aware of the reasons of the enterprise, and evidently regarded the permanent occupation of the Chumbi Valley as the minimum to be obtained. Can we wonder then that he failed to understand at the eleventh hour that the countermanding of this plan was seriously intended. He is perfectly frank. "To limit the period of occupation to the Chumbi Valley," he says. "is a very serious sacrifice of the interests of the Government of India. The Chumbi Valley is the key to Tibet itself, and also the most difficult part of the road to Lhasa. With the Chumbi in our possession we have a clear run into Tibet." He evidently had this fixed idea in his 135 mind, and knew it was also in the minds of the Indian authorities. But the House will remember when we discussed the matter last summer we heard nothing of that as an object of the expedition. We heard of one or two shepherds carried off, of one or two boundary pillars pulled down, of these naughty and recalcitrant Tibetans not being willing enough to come into our markets to trade. These were the reasons for the expedition given to us, and not that which evidently was from the first the main object. I do not think that is treating the House or the country fairly. But it is not Colonel Younghusband's fault.
Regarding Afghanistan I should like to know more about the precise objects of these two mutually complementary Missions. What are the main subjects for discussion? This is the more interesting because the Prime Minister has been making inflammatory and alarming speeches as to our dangers in that quarter—speeches not characterised by any special diplomatic graces; speeches of the "I could tell if I dare" order. Let him dare. We wish he would. There are cases in which plain words are less dangerous than cloudy hints.
I turn to South Africa, and I am glad to see the Colonial Secretary, because I have a long catechism to put to him. First of all, as to this new representative Constitution. Why is the Orange River Colony not to have the same treatment as the Transvaal? I have no opinion on the merits of this Transvaal scheme, for the reason that we do not know it; but surely it is advisable to avoid drawing distinctions between the two States. The Treaty of Vereeniging said as soon as circumstances permitted a representative system tending towards autonomy should be introduced. Of course, these words are applicable to both the Colonies. Why do we hear always of a mysterious system which is to be introduced into the Transvaal and nothing of the other, which formerly enjoyed complete self-government of a representative kind, and was an entremely well-governed country? Information is wanted also regarding the constitutional change in the Transvaal. The House should have an opportunity of discussing this new Constitution before it takes place. I hope the right hon. 136 Gentleman will undertake that the House, shall have a full opportunity of discussing this new Constitution before any step has been taken on the spot which precludes any alteration at the will of the House afterwards.
With regard to Chinese labour I would ask, Has any limit of numbers been fixed for the importation, and, if not, have the Government any intention of fixing a limit? Are they satisfied with the effect of the importation on the general peace, security, and morality of the country? The Colonial Secretary wrote a letter the other day in I which he said there were only two Chinese women brought over from China. He was. nevertheless, pleased with the reports, which showed no ground for anxiety as to the spread of vice. But private accounts give a different complexion to the matter. I shall be glad if he will tell us all he knows of the matter. Assuming the Government are well pleased with the result of their policy, are they so well satisfied as to regard. Chinese labour as a permanent institution in South Africa? Permanent, that is, so long as gold lasts. Is that the view of the Government, and, if not, when is the temporary experiment to come to an end?
On another subject, I would ask the Colonial Secretary, When does he anticipate that the claims for compensation will be adjusted and the free grants apportioned, and how are matters proceeding with regard to the refunding to persons on the spot of what they had to sacrifice for the convenience of the troops? Where notes had been given by British officers and others of the number of cattle, horses, and other property received—how far has he got in settling these questions? The last question I would put is this. Is there any information as to the first instalment of £10,000,000 of the Transvaal war contribution now a year overdue?
Now I venture to come, and I am glad to come very near home, in more senses than one. I come to the Scottish paragraph. That paragraph expresses substantially a course which I have no reason to disapprove of. I think the general idea is good, but I must say 137 it is slovenly. It may seem to be a small point, but it is one of importance. The Speech says—A situation has arisen connected with the administration of the property belonging to certain ecclesiastical bodies in Scotland which requires legislative intervention.Why should you speak of ecclesiastical bodies? In Scotland we call them churches. It is a shorter and, I think, a nicer word. A man likes to think himself a member of a church and not of an ecclesiastical body. He is not so proud of being a member of an ecclesiastical body. Is this an intimation that the State Church is the only institution which deserves that name? Then at the end of the paragraph it says—The King trusts the proposals will tend to the efficient administration of ecclesiastical funds and the promotion of peace and goodwill.''Why, it treats Scotland as though it were the Balkan Peninsula, where you get everything in confusion. The Scottish people are more concerned about something else than the distribution, however much they may be interested in that of ecclesiastical funds. They care a great deal about the interests of religion. And unless the word "religion" is as improper to attribute to the Church as the word "church" itself, I do not see why it should have been put on so low a ground as this. While the purpose of the clause seems to be good, the language ill-conceals a supercilious feeling which is greatly to be condemned.
Under the head of Estimates and expenditure we come to the great question of the administration of the two great spending Departments. In regard to the Navy, we shall expect full explanation of the sweeping attack and disqualification pronounced against a large part of the Fleet. The Government since 1885 down to the present day have built many vessels which, are now to be discarded. This may be good policy, but we await the professional statement of opinion. The country was not a little surprised to find that costly ships built and launched amidst their own plaudits by the present Government are pronounced by the Prime Minister to exist merely to embarrass British admirals and discredit the Navy. If that is so, there must be some discredit somewhere else than among the admirals. And as to the Army, we are 138 entitled surely to assume that the Government, and especially the Secretary of State for War, are now prepared to lay before us their scheme of reorganisation, fully and absolutely approved by the Government. They will also endeavour to prove and vindicate the efficiency of the recast War Office. On this point most disquieting reports reach us; and these most important questions ought to be amply discussed, for they have excited an interest in the country which has passed through the stage of alarm and is rapidly approaching that of despair.
Of the other legislative references in the Speech, I notice that sometimes we are told there is to be a Bill, and sometimes a proposal. Is there any subtle difference between the two? Or is it merely for the sake of variety that one word is used in one clause and a different word in another? I would only single out one Bill for observation—namely, that on the subject of the unemployed. We all warmly share the sympathy which His Majesty expresses with those who have suffered from want of work so severely, and I can assure the President of the Local Government Board that it is our earnest desire to assist him in his efforts to make some permanent provision for meeting this great difficulty. Now, we have the unemployed at one end, and you are going to make alterations in the functions of Ministers at the other end; but I am astonished that in midway you have left out from your programme anything referring to the status of trade unions, and the whole of a question which so greatly interests the mind of the great mass of the regular working classes of the country. The rest of the programme is plainly intended for show rather than for work. Everything done in this session, save when done by consent, will lack complete authority, and the burden of our demand is that a state of things so prejudicial to the public interest shall as speedily as possible come to an end.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said he rose to call attention to an omission on the part of the Leader of the Opposition in his speech. The right hon. Gentleman had not said one word 139 upon the proposal of the Government to deal with the great evils of alien immigration. It was quite certain that that paragraph in the King's Speech had attracted the sympathy of every single Member on the Government side of the House, and of every supporter of the Unionist Party in the country. They had heard not one word of excuse from the Leader of the Opposition for the attitude of his followers towards the Bill introduced by the Government last session. Had it not been for that attitude, they would have had already on the Statute-book effective legislation to deal with this great evil which affected the working classes of this country. It not only affected the East End of London, it was a question which required a rapid settlement in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and other great towns. It was a subject in which the working classes had a legitimate and justifiable interest. He was aware that the matter had long been before Parliament; and he had never hesitated to state that it was greatly to be regretted that the Government had not dealt with it before. Happily, it had been mentioned three or four times in Speeches from the Throne; and they also had the declaration of a Secretary of State that he proposed to introduce a Bill on the subject. He expressed the earnest wish, which was not only that of himself and his constituents, but of the great proportion of his hon. friends, that that Bill should be introduced as soon as possible, and that it should be pressed forward day by day until it was passed. If the Opposition renewed their tactics of last session, he hoped the Government would not hesitate for a single moment to appeal to the country on this issue. If they did, he knew perfectly well what the answer would be to the tactics of the Opposition in endeavouring to frustrate a measure of this character.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to the paragraph in the Speech from the Throne with reference to the abnormal distress caused by want of employment during the present winter. The Government, however, had announced that arrangements of a temporary character had been made to meet the difficulty, and also to provide machinery of a more permanent character. 140 That was the situation, and he was glad to hear that the Government would have the support of the Opposition. At the opening of Parliament in 1893, when the Opposition were responsible for the administration of the country, he moved an Amendment to the Address on this subject; but right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen who were then in the House voted against it. It was not only expedient to provide machinery of a permanent character to deal with this evil; they were also bound to inquire how it was that large masses of the people were unemployed last winter. Last year was an exceedingly bad year in his own constituency, 40,000 to 50,000 persons having to be supported by charitable relief funds organised by the Lord Mayor. Not only that, but in other parts of Yorkshire the distress was terrible. The people did not want charity; what they wanted was permanent employment. It was lamentable to read of the number of people in the country who were dependent on indoor and outdoor relief; and he rejoiced that the President of the Board of Trade had taken an intelligent interest in this deplorable condition of affairs. The policy of his right hon. friend was the policy which he had advocated in that House for many years. It was a policy they were entitled to ask the Government to pursue; and one on which he had not the slightest fear as to what the opinion of the country would be. It might be that in some constituencies it might not be successful at once; but in other constituencies which had studied the question for years, and which had felt the actual distress resulting from it, they would not have anything to fear. He rejoiced that the Government proposed to give effect to the repeated declarations of the chambers of commerce on this subject.
He regretted there was nothing with reference to the Army in the Speech from the Throne, especially with reference to the Militia and Volunteers. The Secretary of State for War stated at Liverpool last year that only a little common sense was necessary in order to realise the great services which the Volunteers had rendered to the country. He frankly said that the right hon. 141 Gentleman was not fair to the Militia and Volunteers. The responsibility was not with the Royal Commission but with the War Office; and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to put an end to the present suspense, which was operating so seriously on the efficiency of the Militia and the Volunteer Forces. They did not want the sympathy of words; they wanted the sympathy of acts.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.