HC Deb 19 February 1906 vol 152 cc140-75
MR. W. H. DICKINSON (St. Pancras, N.)

I believe no Englishman can enter this chamber for the first time, without a feeling of awe, and no man can rise to speak for the first time, as I do on this Motion, without an overwhelming sense of his own incompetence to acquit himself worthily of this Assembly. The honour laid upon me is due to no personal merit of my own, but to the fact that I am an humble member of that band of Liberals whose efforts have succeeded in converting London from what we look upon as the darkness of error to the light of the Gospel of Truth. I venture to say the great change of political opinion in London is one of the most remarkable and important features of this most remarkable and important election. No one recognised more keenly the importance of metropolitan opinion than the late Prime Minister. Speaking at the Queen's Hall on the 29th of December, with reference to the fidelity of London to the Unionist cause, Mr. Balfour said— I refuse to believe—I cannot believe the London which has been so faithful to this great cause, will turn round and, false to its own past, forgetful of its own traditions, give an example to the rest of the country which might prove the death knell of all that most of us here regard as best worth living for in public life. The London elections have indeed proved a death knell, not only to the Leader, but to many of his followers. But if these elections sounded as a knell to some, to others they were "Bells as musical as those which on the golden shafted trees of Eden shook by the eternal breeze." They have rung out to many a desolate home a message of hope whore hitherto there has been despair. I recognise that there has been considerable criticism directed to the fact that this Motion has been entrusted to a town Member rather than to a country Member. Although I am, of course, personally innocent of this great offence, I fully recognise the heinousness of the crime which has ventured to place the representation of flesh and blood on a level with the representation of broad acres. But it is only one of the many signs that public opinion is gradually realising that the destinies of a great nation more and more depend upon the condition of its town people. Count Tolstoy has recently said that towns are places where mankind is beginning to rot, and within a rifle shot of this House there are many districts to which that description accurately applies. It is these districts chiefly that we London Liberal Members represent. We bring no message from the depopulated warehouses of the City or the mansions of Mayfair. We have been entrusted, and honoured with the confidence of the poor, and I believe I am expressing the wishes of all my colleagues when I say we feel deeply the responsibility which has been laid upon us of doing what we can to improve the conditions of the poor. And so it is with the greatest gratification that we find that the first message His Majesty has addressed to the new Parliament is so replete with promises of reform which will materially improve the conditions of the common people. Their Majesties the King and Queen—and in referring to them I may be allowed to express our deep sympathy with Her Majesty the Queen in her sad bereavement—Their Majesties have ever shown the greatest practical and personal interest in all measures which relate to the amelioration of the condition of their humblest subjects, and it must be a source of pleasure to them to feel that they have behind them now a Government and a Parliament whose great object it will be to lift up the poorer people of this country. I believe that when we have completed the labours that are submitted to us in the King's Speech—when we have done what we can to improve the education of the children, to bring back, if possible, the labourer to the land, to redress the injustices from which the great industrial corporations are suffering, to equalise the charges of the rates upon the poorer inhabitants of the Metropolis, to do something to amend the Act which grants relief to the deserving poor when out of employment, we shall have found that our work will have been amply repaid by the results. There are other reforms which I would like to see included in the King's Speech, but we can well afford to wait. It is better that there should be a few promises capable of fulfilment than that there should be a long string of proposals which cannot be carried out. But if there are reforms which I would have wished to see inserted there is one reform, which all must be delighted to see has been omitted from the King's Speech, a reform that is no reform; but rather reaction masquerading in the guise of a reform. I refer of course to fiscal reform. The intelligent foreigner who has watched the proceedings in this country for the last two or three years must wonder why no reference is made to this great subject in the King's Speech. Ever since the year 1903, when we witnessed the unexpected and brilliant spectacle of an eruption in Birmingham, this country has been flooded with fiery denunciations against our whole commercial system, and enveloped in a cloud of facts and figures through which the ordinary elector has had the greatest difficulty in groping his way. Since that time we have talked of nothing else but the fiscal controversy. It has been discussed and re-discussed on the platform, in the Press, in public, and in private. It has been the sole issue of many a bye-election; it has been the main issue of the general election. We, Parliamentary candidates, have had to furbish up our principles of political economy and investigate the details of our domestic economy. We have expatiated upon exports. We have perorated on prices. We have replied to the horrors of the competition of the German workman with the horrors of the composition of German sausages. But after all this warfare we find nothing is said with regard to the subject in the King's Speech, and I may in all seriousness say that we thank God for it. It is a tacit announcement that this great controversy is come to an end for the moment. I say for the moment, because the volcano is not extinct. It is only quiescent. But there is one thing which has been settled by the election and that is that if you want to consolidate the Empire you must not put a tax upon food. The great cities of this country have declared in favour of free trade [Cries of "No."] All the cities with one notable and misguided exception have declared in favour of free trade, and for the reason that they know better than anyone how a tax upon food would affect their congested and poor population. London has done many things to earn the gratitude of the nation, but I believe she has never merited it more than when, in spite of her political proclivities, like the deaf adder, she stopped her ears, refusing to hear the voice of the charmer, charmed he never so wisely, and flung the whole weight of her wealth, her intelligence, and her influence on to the side of the poor. But this controversy is now at an end, and there is a chance of commercial peace. After a war from which we are suffering almost as much as the Boers themselves, what we desire for the future is a period of rest in order to recoup our commercial position. Had the country at the election decided that we were to embark on a policy of retaliation that must necessarily have been followed by disputes between ourselves and other countries, and possibly international complications. But, fortunately, now we can proceed with our commerce in peace, and we have the assurance, which we welcome from His Majesty, that we are now at last at peace with the world. May it be long ere we again fail to reap its advantages. It is a trite observation that in order to ensure peace you must prepare for war, but there are various methods of preparation for war, and one of the most effective methods is that we should be at peace amongst ourselves. We must, therefore, welcome the announcement in the King's Speech that the Government have been giving and are giving their attention to the task of eliminating the two causes of discontent which still are a menace to the peace of our Empire. The paragraph in His Majesty's Speech relating to Ireland will commend itself to all reasonable men except those whose function it is to misrepresent the intentions of their opponents. That something must be done to improve the internal administration of Ireland is admitted by all. That this can only be effected by some kind of compromise is also clear. If we recognise that the two countries are permanently united both by nature, by self-interest, and by law, it ought not to be impossible to eradicate this long standing difference between two high-minded and generous nations. The same with regard to the Transvaal. The Transvaal stands in a different position because no one has denied that the Government of the Transvaal and that of the Orange River Colony should be dealt with in precisely the same manner as the other self governing colonies, and the only question was at what period this should take place. This action is to take place forthwith, and His Majesty has decided to recall the Letters Patent, issued by the late administration, which provided for the intermediate stage of representative government. The proposals of the late Government were faulty in two respects. Firstly they proposed to set up an elective body to which should be given no real executive power. If that were done I feel convinced that the result would be that the body itself would be very much weakened in its calibre from the commencement. Secondly, there would have been a constant friction between the popularly-elected body and the executive government which could not have conduced to the peace of the Empire. It is therefore only right—and I believe that European opinion in South Africa itself is almost entirely convinced with regard to this—to give responsible government at the earliest moment. But concurrently with this it is clear that if a permanent administration is set up in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony that administration must be based upon an electoral system which would give satisfaction to all classes alike. It would be most unfortunate to have started a new government in the Transvaal and then to find that a large class of the electorate felt themselves either excluded from the franchise or unjustly treated. Therefore the announcement that it is intended to inquire by some thoroughly impartial moans into the effect which the various proposals for the reform of the electoral law will have when it comes into operation will be not only welcomed in South Africa but throughout all our Colonies as an earnest that the Government's sole desire is to do equal justice to all the King's subjects, and it will tend more than anything else to realise the hope, so eloquently expressed by His Majesty this morning, that— In these Colonies, as elsewhere throughout His dominions, the grant of free institutions will be followed by an increase of prosperity and loyalty to the Empire.

I beg to move.

MR. ACLAND (Yorkshire, Richmond)

I beg to second the Address which has just been moved. In doing so I feel that I can rely upon the kindly forbearance and consideration which is usually extended to those who occupy this difficult position This forbearance was not necessary in the case of the mover, because he is a gentleman of tried experience and ability; but I hope that the House will be willing to exercise it in my case, recognising that I have none of my hon. friend's personal fitness for this honour. The House, I think, will be all the more willing to extend to me its indulgence because this is the first session of a new Parliament containing so many new Members who are much better fitted than I am to discharge this duty. The Speech from the Throne contains many references to foreign affairs about which I only need to say—and in this, at any rate, I know I shall have the agreement of everyone present—that this House is deeply conscious that the happy position which this country now occupies among the nations of the earth is largely due to His Majesty's zealous care for the welfare of his Empire, and to his great personal desire to cultivate friendly relations with foreign Powers. When we see so many references to foreign affairs in the different parts of the world we cannot fail to recognise the variety, complexity, and difficulty of the task which must fall upon the Minister entrusted with them. If anything could do so, this will add to our heartfelt grief, and to the sympathy which we extend to him in his bereavement. With regard to South Africa, I am sure the House will appreciate the difficult problem which faced the Ministry on their entry to office, and will recognise, I hope, the reasonableness of asking for sufficient time to collect the information which will enable this House to come to a wise and right decision. We trust that the time which will elapse before a permanent form of self-government is established will be brief, but yet sufficient for the preparation and due discussion in this House of a constitution which will be acknowledged as fair and just by all races and interests in our great new Colonies in South Africa. We trust that in these Colonies, as hitherto in our long colonial history, freedom may become the mother of prosperity and loyalty. I am sure that we shall look forward to seeing the representatives from those colonies taking their share together with the citizens of this great Empire from other parts of the world in the Conference which we are glad to know is to meet next year. We trust that those deliberations may be fruitful in strengthening those bonds of sentiment, of affection, and the common enjoyment of common freedom which are the true foundations of empire. The remarkable growth of our trade both at home and abroad has been referred to. However great the prosperity it has caused in many districts we cannot forget that there are still many persons in many parts of the country struggling against the degradation of poverty. I have confidence that the Government will do their utmost so to relieve and readjust the burdens of taxation that this poverty may be reduced. The difficulties, however, will be very great. None will realise more than hon. Members of this House who, like myself, have been fortunate enough to enjoy some experience in the Civil Service, how easy it is to spend a nation's money, and how difficult it is to economise when a liability has once been created. It will have been noticed that the last paragraphs of the Speech fall into two parts, first a statement of the matters which are under consideration with a view to future administrative or legislative action, and, secondly, an enumeration of the Bills which are to be laid before Parliament during the present session. In the first part fall the references to Ireland and to rural depopulation. I think that there can be no ground for controversy on either of these matters. With regard to Ireland, the objects which it is desired to further are only such as have been the policy of the predecessors of the present Ministers. There has been no lack of sympathy with these objects on the other side of the House, and even of desire to carry them into effect, but much to the disappointment of many hon. Members on both sides, this desire has hitherto failed of fruition. The present Government has not only the will but the courage to act, and I am sure that when action is proposed, it will be widely welcomed. With regard to the condition of the rural districts, hon. Members will be aware that an important inter-departmental Committee is now sitting, and they will agree that no legislation can be drafted until we are in possession of its report. The question of encouraging settlement on the land by those who are at present deprived of access to it is of the very first importance, but that is only a part of the vast land question in general. There will be many other Liberal Members now for the first time returned by agricultural divisions who realise how strong is the hope in such districts that comprehensive measures will be laid before us, which will secure not only this object, but a more economical and profitable use of the land by the present farming class. We are glad, therefore, to know that this indispensable preliminary consideration is being undertaken. In the legislation proposed for this session, pride of place is given to education. This is, if I may venture to say so, not only right, but inevitable. For almost exactly four years education has been a platform battle cry, and it has grievously suffered in consequence. While one party has been exulting in victory, the other has been smarting under defeat, and all the while boys and girls have been going out into the battle of life less well-prepared to face the world than they would have been if a fraction of the energy which has gone into this strife had been given to furthering education itself. All parties, I believe, recognise that this must cease. All parties, I hope, are willing to allow the religious difficulty to be composed. When once this is settled, and elementary education for the first time is placed upon a truly popular and national basis, the way will be open for many improvements in it which are now impossible of attainment, and with these improvements there will, we hope, come others in our system of higher education upon which depends in such a great degree our standing among the nations. There is no doubt that large sections of the community are now willing to approach this question in the broadest spirit of citizenship, intent only upon freedom and peace. May I venture to express the hope that this spirit may animate our debates, and that we may set before ourselves with single-mindedness the welfare of the child, which I believe to be the path of true progress. I need only further occupy your time with a brief mention of two other measures. The Trades Disputes Bill will, I hope, be found to redress the disabilities which have within the last few years unexpectedly hampered the action of Trades Unions for the good of their members. The proposal for amending the Workmen's Compensation Acts are as urgently necessary as any other measure to be laid before the House. Every week working men and their families are left in want and destitution because of the limitations of the present law. It is to be hoped that the proposals to be made will not only simplify but widely extend its operations. I should only weary the House even more than I have done already were I even to mention the other matters which will demand our attention. Each of them is of some urgency and importance. May I, in conclusion, mention one of the many reasons which make me so proud to occupy this position. The people of this country at the General Election, not only refused their assent to a great departure from established fiscal traditions, but they also recalled to power and armed with authority a Government with a known and declared policy of social reform. The measures to be put before us during this session constitute a bold and firm step forward towards its fulfilment. It is therefore with pride in being allowed to take even the humblest part in assisting towards the fulfilment of this policy, and with heartfelt hope for its success that I second the Motion now before the House.

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 and Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Dickinson.)

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham. W.)

I think I might very properly imitate the example of the two hon. gentlemen who have just spoken if I also were to plead for the consideration of the House in the very difficult position in which I find myself. At the request of my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, who is temporarily absent, I am endeavouring, however inadequately, to act as his substitute to-night. I suppose it would be too much to ask of human nature to expect that the, Prime Minister would or could express any regret at the series of triumphs which culminated in that great victory at Manchester, which for the moment has deprived him of his principal antagonist. But, although as a politician he must necessarily rejoice, I am sure that, looking at the matter as a personal question only, he will join us most heartily in welcoming back to the House its late Leader—the man who for a longer period than any one in the past century has led its deliberations with constant ability, courage and courtesy. I have often thought that the task performed by the hon. Members for St. Pancras and the Richmond division of Yorkshire is one of the most difficult to fall to the lot of any Parliamentarian; for what is it? They are expected by a convention, which has become almost an absolute rule, to expound and develop the topics of the King's Speech, avoiding anything in the nature of platitude, and equally avoiding any thing in the nature of hard controversy. The hon. Member who spoke last, and who, if I had to use the language of his colleague, I must describe as the representative, not of men, but of broad acres, discharged that difficult task in the most admirable and satisfactory manner, and the way in which he dealt with his task gave as much pleasure to his opponents as he could have done—I am speaking of his style and manner—to his friends. I have had the honour of knowing his father and grandfather in this House. He comes of a family which is so closely connected with our Parliamentary history that it is almost a part of its traditions, and we all delight in thinking that he will for the future be a worthy representative, and that we may often have the pleasure of hearing him in debate. I wish I could speak in the same way of the other speech which we were compelled to listen to, and which certainly formed a precedent in more ways than one. It is a precedent which I hope will be avoided in the future. Both hon. Gentlemen, I think, may be congratulated on having been called upon to take part in what they have described very properly as an unparalleled and exceptionally interesting Parliament. Mostly interesting is it in its composition, in the struggle which preceded it, and in the circumstances under which it now exists, and we shall, I think, be excused if before we proceed to the topics of the King's Speech we say a word or two about the Parliament which opens its first session to-day. The record of this election is absolutely, I think, unparalleled. It has ended in an unparalleled victory for the other side. I have seen it stated in some quarters, which I think are not altogether friendly to the Government, that those legions we see opposite to us are fissiparous and composite, but I shall not attempt prematurely to analyse their composition. On the contrary, I think it would be improper to minimise their victory or question their power. I have been curious, and I dare say many have been curious, to know whether one can find in Parliamentary history any complete analogy. To find anything like it one has to go back to the defeat of the Coalition Ministry of Fox and North in 1784 when Pitt took office. I find on that occasion the Coalition Government lost 160 seats. I am afraid that on these Benches we have to mourn a loss of something over 200. Again in 1833, after the Reform Bill, the Liberals came back. This is rather nearer the existing condition of things. The Liberals came back 486 strong and the Conservatives 172. The majority, therefore, of the Liberals in this House was 314. Now I reckon it is something like 315. There is in all this one grain of comfort. When we look back, what do we find? We find that those great and overpowering majorities have been in existence before and that no special disaster has befallen the country in consequence. And we have also seen that the defeated Party on those occasions has not been permanently excluded from office. On reading one of the letters of Sidney Smith, after the great defeat of the Whigs, I think it was Lord Grey's Government, I find that he said that he and his Whig friends had been terribly cut up by what had happened, and that they had been going about very dejected until it suddenly occurred to him to go out to his garden and sow some mustard and cress. In two or three days, almost to his surprise, he found that the mustard and cress was coming up and that the general operations of nature were proceeding without any interruption. There upon he and his friends began to recover from the difficulties in which they found themselves. Now one other observation I would make and it is this—I do not know what the exact figures are, but I find that some of the newspapers have been trying to discover what is the majority of votes which is accountable for this immense majority in the House, and I understand they calculate that something like a majority of 5 per cent. of the votes accounts for the majority in this House of 50 per cent. I do not know, as I say, whether that is correct, but it is immaterial to what I am going to say. In any case, it will be admitted that the majority in the House is in very much greater proportion than the majority in the country. It is always worth while to remember, when you are not really satisfied with beating us but condemn us also, that we have a large body of the people of the country behind us in these unfortunate times. If my friend Mr. Leonard Courtney had been fortunate enough to be returned, what a text he would have had for his sermon on minority representation. I wish to say, however, that I take what I think is a more manly view of the position, and I rejoice that as you have come in you should be strong and that your numerical majority for executive and administrative purposes in the House should be larger than your actual majority in the country. A weak Government is, in my opinion, the worst form of Government you could possibly have. It is desirable that each Party in turn—and remember our turn will come—should have a large and powerful majority. Of course, with such a powerful majority, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister recognises that he has proportional responsibility. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day, the Liberal Party for the first time for many years is master in its own House, and no longer can it be truly said of the Liberal Party that though the Liberal Party was in power there were Gentlemen on these benches who held it in the hollow of their hand. They are now entirely independent, and being independent I hope they will show their independence, and that we shall have no occasion to doubt that what they do is done from the fulness of their heart and with their own thorough approval, and not because there are others exercising an improper influence over them. We can object to what the Government does, we can criticise, but there is no possible combination we can form by which we can turn them out of office, and that is a very comfortable position for them. It is one which after all makes our position a little easier than it might otherwise have been. The Prime Minister, speaking the other day, attributed to me a statement that our business was to harass the Government on all possible occasions. I really do not know where he got that from. I am not aware of, in any speech, having made a statement of that general kind. The Prime Minister said that he did not object to our criticising them when they were wrong, and I assume that we may avail ourselves of that gracious permission. When he is right and when there is no great principle at stake I assure him that he need have no reason whatever to dread the factious opposition of which other Governments have complained. In the opening words of His Majesty's gracious Speech none of us, I am sure, will find any grounds for factious or other criticism. The personal touch with which His Majesty communicates to the House of Commons the bereavement which he and especially the Queen have sustained by the death of the King of Denmark will, I believe, evoke sympathy among all his subjects. The late King of Denmark was the Nestor of European monarchs, and earned the best and most enviable reward in the tribute of affection and regard which has been paid to him by his own subjects. I note in passing what I am sure will have given pleasure to the House—the allusion to the journey of the Prince of Wales. We all know that the personal link with the Crown is of the utmost importance to the Government of the great dependency of India, and we rejoice to think that the visit has been and continues to be an altogether entire success. Then the Speech goes on to deal with foreign affairs, and in its statements it only gives us confirmation of what we have learned from speeches made by Ministers, namely, that in our foreign policy there will be continuity. We have nothing to do but to express satisfaction in that matter. We all recognise that the representations the British Government has to make in the interests of our fellow subjects are enormously strengthened when foreign nations know that what is said by one Government will be said by another, and that all proceed on the same principles and policy. I would like to ask two questions in regard to this, though I should not think of pressing them if there is no information the Government at present are able to give. We hear a great deal in the papers about what is going on at the Conference at Algeciras. We should be glad if the Government could give us an assurance of progress made and any hope as to the future. We know that we entered the Conference as the friend of our great neighbour France, that as the friend of France we had accepted an agreement satisfactory to ourselves, and which we hoped other countries might be able to accept. If by diplomatic means we can in any way promote what we believe to be the just interests of France, I am sure it will be in accordance with the wishes of the whole country. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he has any Papers on the subject or any information to give. Also I should like to ask what progress is being made in Macedonia, in carrying out the financial argeement accepted some time ago by the Sultan We are aware that the agreement is now being put into force, and we shall be glad to know if there is any information as to whether it is proceeding satisfactorily.

Well, then in the paragraph of the Speech which deals with Colonial affairs, I cannot help thinking that those who have been connected with Colonial affairs would agree with me that there, also, continuity of policy is most desirable. This country has suffered in the past in its relations with the Colonies from a want of agreement in regard to that policy. I would say now that I sincerely hope that we may look forward under the present Government to a general continuity of the policy carried out by the previous Government. There is an announcement in the King's speech of an important change in the constitution of the Transvaal which was offered by the late Government. A new constitution is to be conferred on the Transvaal. The House knows how this matter stands. At the end of the war a promise was made that constitutional government would be conferred on the Transvaal at the earliest possible moment, that that should be followed by representative government, and that gradually it should lead up to responsible government. Well, the late Government started with a constitutional government but stopped for the moment at representative government. The form of government that they proposed was a very liberal one considering the circumstances. It must be remembered that never before or after a great war had a defeated party been so largely endowed with a share of the government as the people of the Transvaal were, even under the limited constitution proposed to be given them. Everybody admired the extraordinary magnanimity shown by the Northern States of America after the Civil War, but it was ten years before the Southern States obtained the full franchise and full share in the government of the United States. I do not give that as any reason. You may in a matter of this kind very well create a new precedent. It is as I say only a question of degree. Whatever you do, whether you give representative government or whether you give responsible government, it is necessarily an experiment, and time alone will show whether you are wise. When the form of government which has now been withdrawn was before the House, the Prime Minister and the Member for Poplar and one or two others who spoke, objected to it on the ground that it did not go far enough. They then proposed the policy which they are now in a position to adopt. All I want to say upon that point is that there is no precedent for so quick a grant to any colony of responsible government, and that it will considerably delay the constitution. The Speech hopes that it will be delayed for only a few months. I think that is rather sanguine. I think it may probably be twelve months before that constitution will be in working order, whereas the old constitution might have been in working order in three months. But this is a matter the responsibility of which lies with the Government of the day, who have more knowledge than we have, and they have to consider what it is safe to give. If this large grant of representative government turns out right, no one will be better pleased than we on this side of the House are. There is another point I want some information about. What is to be the electoral system? The Prime Minister will remember that in the debate to which I have referred the whole criticism was on the question of responsible and representative government. There was no complaint of the criticism of the electoral system and the Prime Minister himself approved of it. I believe he said that there were many good things in the constitution offered by the late Government, including the abolition of plural voting and the creation of electoral areas. The details have been unanimously approved by the whole British population in the Transvaal. We have no indication on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite that they have any objection to any part of that measure. I hope that there is no intention whatever to make anything in the nature of an important change in that constitution, and if there is any such intention I ask the Prime Minister, when he comes to reply, to say how and when that change is to be made. I come to another point which is of very great importance. Roughly speaking, we are going on for twelve months without this new constitution in the Transvaal, but meanwhile what is to happen in regard to Chinese labour? In the gracious Speech from the Throne we are assured that no more licences will be allowed. If it stops there I do not think that the facts and circumstances and conditions will be different from what they would have been if the late Government had continued to be in power, except that possibly a few more licences would have been granted. The question is this, that according to statements made by the mineowners the number of labourers they have got is as many as they require, provided that the number is kept up; I Therefore, I say all that would have been necessary, supposing the late Government had still remained in power, would have I been to have kept up about the number at present in the colony. The mine-owners would not have taken any very large additional numbers. As regards the Chinese who are there and those who have got licences but have not yet arrived in South Africa, there is to be no change. Well, then, what is the condition of these men? There are 60,000 of them in the Transvaal at the present time and will be for the next twelve months. It is said that they are in a state of slavery and in chains. During the recent election I am afraid that I came into conflict with the Minister for Education, and in the course of a speech I made incidentally a remark in which I held him, liable or responsible for certain posters and pamphlets issued by the Liberal Publication Department. The right hon. Member was good enough to say that that organisation was in no way responsible for pamphlets or posters involving an accusation of slavery. I at once accepted his denial of any knowledge of the posters or pamphlets; but since then I have received further information, and I think that the right, hon. Gentleman has been I mistaken or misinformed when he alleged that no one of these posters or pamphlets had been issued by the National Liberal Publication Department. Here is a picture which shows a certain number of Chinese walking with heads bowed down and with their hands behind their backs, much as I stand now. If the object of the placard was to represent, that the Chinaman was as free and happy as myself, I do not know why it was circulated. I defy anyone to look at it and say that it was not intended to convey the idea and does not convey the idea that these men have their hands tied behind their backs and was not intended to represent a case of slavery; This is the only one which was distinctly published and issued by the National Liberal Federation, but here is one by The National Press Agency where the thing is carried a little farther, and where not only are these Chinamen represented with their hands behind their backs, but with ropes round their wrists, and they have chains or ropes connecting them neck to neck. Worst of all was a series of cartoons which represented the Chinamen not only in a state of slavery, but being subjected to horrible torture. Here is one where the Chinaman, a ghastly looking figure, is strung up by a rope round his wrists with his toes just touching the ground, and that is given as the sort of punishment to which they are subjected. These were the tortures which were endured in the middle ages and at this day they are in use in China itself. I am not referring to these cartoons in order to incriminate any particular association or any particular person or to fix responsibility upon any person for the publication of these documents. The culpability has got to be determined. It may be, I give you this advantage, If advantage it is, that it may be claimed that these documents are justifiable if the statements are true, but I do not think that in any case it would be in very good taste to circulate them in the course of a political fight, and I do not think that it was in very good taste that gentlemen should have on their platforms men dressed as Chinese chained together. That is a matter of opinion; but I understand that the gentlemen who provided all this literature do not now feel inclined to justify it. Now I want to point out this. It seems to me that the whole policy of right hon. Gentlemen in regard to this matter depends upon what is going on in South Africa. Remember, as far as we know the Government are going to do nothing. A short time ago Members of Parliament had pamphlets sent to then dealing with cruelties in the Congo. There is nothing worse in the description of the cruelties in the Congo than those which are alleged to be going on under the British flag in the Transvaal. That is this case. [Cries of "No."] Oh well, is this really a quibble whether one mode of torture under which the man dies after being hours under it is more or less a subject of suffering than another mode of torture under which he dies in a similar period? My point is this: this is represented as torture of the worst possible kind, which accord- ing to the papers to which I have referred, is going on in the Transvaal. I admit that those who accuse us believe that they correctly represent what is going on. [An HON. MEMBER: Was going on.] I can understand that in the Congo or in the Transvaal and certainly in England a particular act of brutality and cruelty might be committed. I do not deny that something of that sort may take place whatever your regulations or provisions may be in any part of the British Dominions. I have known such things to go on in my experience as Secretary of State for the Colonies in some of our Colonies, but I think it will be believed that as soon as it came to my notice I took steps to stop it, as no doubt was the case with my prodecessors and will be the case with my successors. But this is not a separate case, because the letterpress says these are not singular or exceptional cases but that these cruelties go on as a rule. I am willing to assent to the proposition that those who during the election took advantage of these statements did so believing them to be true. If they did not believe them to be true and made use of them, I say that they were guilty of the grossest hypocrisy and dishonesty. Does the Government believe them to be true? That is the point. I hope the Prime Minister will give me a categorical answer to a question which I think all who are interested in this matter will agree to be a reasonable one. We have a right to know. Is slavery going on on the Rand now? We have a right to ask is slavery going on there, and is torture going on? We have also the right to ask, is the system such that torture and slavery are reasonably possible? Now there must be one of two answers to that question. If the answer is "No; it is not possible," then let us have it on official authority, and then let us tell the Members of Parliament who believe these things to be true how they have been deceived. But perhaps the Prime Minister may tell me "We believe it to be true." If it is true, how are you going to deal with it? How do you justify your inaction if indeed the Speech contains your policy in regard to this matter? [An HON. MEMBER: It is not a case of inaction.] I do not think the hon. Member is yet on the Treasury Bench, and he is not in a position to answer the question, but the fact is that according to the statements widely circulated throughout the country, there are at the present moment some 60,000 of Chinese in British Africa who are subject to these tortures, and yet the Government is prepared to postpone indefinitely—at any late for a considerable time—the granting of a constitution, and when that constitution is granted they propose apparently to hand over the whole matter to the new responsible government without inquiring further as to the condition of those people. I say you cannot do it; you will not be allowed to do it. I say if these things are going on you must deal with the matter now, and you have a majority which gives you all the power which you require. I say that if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has any suspicion that these practices are going on, he should tell us what provision he is going to make to prevent their bei[...]g continued by any responsible Government which will also be under the British flag, how he is going to stop the possibility of anything of the kind in the future, and how is he going to punish the people who have been guilty of these crimes—because it is a crime, no doubt, and you have a right, if these tortu[...]es are being inflicted, to demand that these inflicting them should be punished with all severity. I desire to put to the Prime Minister this question in a definite form, Do the Government intend to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into what is going on under this system in South Africa? If they do intend to appoint one, what will be its position? What will be its procedure, and what will be the reference to it? If they have not decided to appoint? Commisison I will ask them to tell me as soon as they have. I am quite sure that for their own honour and the honour of this country they cannot allow this matter to go on without full inquiry, and I have no doubt that they will see that argument in its full strength. Then I come to a paragraph in the Speech which I think is quite unusual. I do not think that before the Speech from the Throne has contained so special a relation to the progress of imports and exports. We rejoice at any signs which point to an improvement in trade, although I thought at one time the Chancellor of the Exchequer declined to admit that the imports and exports were to be taken as evidence of the growth of trade [MR. ASQUITH dissented.] I thought that was so. We shall certainly recognise that as one element of the improvement in trade, in which we all rejoice. It is not the time to ask questions on this subject, although I may be ultimately permitted to do so of the Department concerned, the object of which questions will be to analyse these returns more closely than they have been hitherto, in the hope that such further information may enable us to understand how it is that this prosperity should be accompanied by a state of things in which one-third of the whole population are underfed and on the verge of hunger. ["No."] That is the post-election feeling, but the pre-election feeling was that one-third of the people of this country were underfed and hungry. ["No."] Then hon. Members asked for an autumn session to consider the subject, but now an allusion to it is considered to be matter for denial and laughter. At any rate we intend to pursue the inquiry whether you like it or not. We hope to get this information, and I hope to discover from it, if, as we believe and have never denied, wealth is continually accumulating, why it is that men decay. If more and more wealth is constantly added to, why is it that distribution appears to be so uneven? After this interlude the Speech goes on to what will be the most interesting topics to many here present; it gives us the bill of fare for the session. No one can complain of the quantity, although even here there is a curious, I do not know whether it is an intentional, omission. Why is nothing said about temperance? I have looked at a great number of addresses of members, and I find that temperance has a prominent place in all of them. I find that in their speeches Liberal candidates blamed the late Government for making a present of two millions of money to the publicans and brewers, and that this is going on, and that of all reforms the most urgent was one which would stimulate the sobriety of the people. But why is there no mention of the subject in the Speech? It might be said, of course, that the Government have not the time to do everything, but most Governments that I have known have thought they had. The present Government seems to have the wisdom to take its legislation in doses; but why has this question, which was stated to be the most urgent and most important of all questions, not even been mentioned? Why is it not even given a back place? The first place in the constructive policy of the Government appears to be given to Ireland. Certainly the sentence in the Speech which deals with Ireland is a little enigmatical, although we are much indebted to the hon. Member for the Richmond Division for the light he has thrown upon it. The Government, it appears, are going to introduce "means for associating the people"—that is the Irish people—"with the conduct of Irish affairs." Are they not associated now? [NATIONALIST cries of "No."] Their position is the same now as it is in England. In fact, they have a much larger representation. Irishmen count for about two or three Englishmen, and to that extent they have agreat advantage over us. They have substantially equal rights with regard to their representation in this House and in every form of local government. I say, then, it seems to me inaccurate to omit reference to that. It is something more than that which the Speech promises, and I should be very glad if we can have any information whether this is, in fact, the Home Rule which we were led to believe is under no circumstances to be introduced into the present Parliament. If not that, is it that other something which we have never had clearly denned, but which is to lead up to the "larger policy"? All we have to say is, and ill not be any surprise to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that to any policy of that kind, whether it be in the way of compromise or in the way of direct Home Rule, we shall give, as we have always given—


Did you ever read the Radical programme?


The most unrelenting hostility. Reference has been made by an interruption to the Radical programme. You will bear in mind that that programme, which refers to about the year 1884 or 1885, consisted entirely of a policy to take the place of the local government for Ireland which was subsequently adopted. I say that at that time I would have gone further than I would go now. At that time a proposal was on foot which had the support of Mr. Parnell and the leaders of the Irish Nationalist Party in this House and of the hierarchy in Ireland, and which therefore had some chance of being accepted as a settled policy, and as having some finality about it. If any one goes now to any policy of that kind, and I am curious to know to what extent the Government will follow in my steps, all I can say is that it will do so under totally different circumstances, and they cannot pretend that they have any assurance from hon. Gentlemen who represent the Nationalist Party that anything of that kind will be accepted as anything more than a step leading to something of more importance. The Government appear to have withdrawn from operation certain provisions of the Crimes Act. I take it for granted that they see no danger in that withdrawal, no fear of any failure of order in Ireland; and in that case we shall be very glad to know that the time has come when Ireland can be governed without even the appearance of exceptional legislation. If that is so they will probably have received reports from the police or the Judges, and I presume they have no objection to lay those reports on the Table. Then there is a new regulation in connection with the sales of estates in Ireland. I assume there will be no objection to lay it on the Table. We understand from the Papers that free grants to evicted tenants have been made on a larger scale than ever before and under different conditions. I should like to know whether the conditions under which they are granted can be laid on the Table and what source the money is to come from. I always understood that the money in the hands of the Estates Commissioners was insufficient to carry out the operations of the Act, and this is placing a new charge upon us before the old one has been satisfied. While all this is being done for the Irish tenants, what is going to be done for the British farmer? Something considerable has been done for the Irish farmer who cannot or will not pay his rent; what is to be done for the British farmer who can and does pay his rent? The only reference I can find to that is in another rather enigmatical expression in the Speech where we are told that "inquiries are proceeding as to the means by which a larger number of the population may be attracted to and retained on the soil." Who is making the inquiries? Is it an official inquiry? We shall be glad to know also the terms of reference to the committee or commission appointed. I have read the long list of Bills with great interest. The first Bill taken, I presume, will be the Education Bill. I would say with regard to most of the promised Bills, and especially the Education Bill and the Labour Bill, that we, on this side, approve of the avowed objects. There is no doubt about that, and we shall approach their consideration sympathetically, and if they are conceived in a spirit of moderation and justice, we shall certainly be glad to give to the furtherance of those measures any assistance in our power. As regards education, I understand there is to be no fundamental change in our system of education so far as secular instruction is concerned. The great point, I take it, will be what is called the religious difficulty. I am not prepared to say that there is no grievance under the existing system. At the proper time I shall say that the last Act lessened the grievance, but it is not necessary to argue that to-night. As I admit there is still a grievance, so there is, at all events, ground for the introduction of a new Bill; and the only thing I have to do is to put in a plea beforehand that the Bill shall not take away a grievance from one set of shoulders and put it on to other shoulders, that it shall be a Bill equally applicable to all, treating one sect as fairly and justly as another. I may venture to say that such a result, so far as I can see, can only be found in giving larger control to the parents to decide what religious instruction their children shall receive. The Labour Bill, although not revolutionary in title, points to considerable increase in expenditure—and I would further mention in a parenthesis that I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will ever find the money which he requires for this policy of social reform, and especially for such a scheme as old-age pensions, unless he is able to widen very much more than I think he will be under the present system the basis of taxation. He is pre- cluded from doing so. The Prime Minister said the other night, "free trade had carried all before it, he trusted, once for all." If I may be allowed to substitute "free imports," then I will agree with him that free imports appeared to carry all before them at the last election; but he would be very short-sighted—and I know he is not—if he thinks he has heard the last of tariff reform. We believe that tariff reform is closely connected with this great question of the condition of the people. Do what you like, and say what you may, it will be continually cropping up in one form or another. At any rate we remember what happened when Cobden carried his proposals. He did not carry them all at once. He went through many defeats in the Parliaments in which he sat; and it was not for a long period—seven or eight years, I think—after he started the agitation that he was able to congratulate himself on his success. We will not be more cowardly than he was, we will not be more discouraged than he was by defeat; and when at length you have failed to satisfy the expectations you have created, when the issues change, when the people once more desire a change of Government, then you will find that we have lost none of our activity, none of our conscientious belief in the necessity and justice of our cause.


I have no complaint to make, neither have any of my friends behind me, as to the general tone of the right hon. Gentleman this evening. He has quoted the words which I had attributed to him, and has rather disclaimed the interpretation put upon them. Bat if he looks at the speeches he has been making since the result of the general election, or since its result had become apparent, I think he will find that he did give utterance to the words, namely, that he and his friends might leave the propagation of his peculiar fiscal views to operations outside, and devote themselves in this House to the ordinary work—I am quoting roughly—of an Opposition, which is to harass the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has not harassed us very much to-night. He has asked a number of perfectly pertinent questions in a forcible manner, and I trust that I shall be able to answer all his questions, if not with entire satisfaction to him, at all events to the satisfaction of the majority of the Members of the House. The right hon. Gentleman was, I think, a little hard upon my hon. friend the mover of the Address. He covered with praise my hon. friend the seconder, but drew a distinction between him and the mover. I venture to say that it was entirely undeserved. The only reason I can find for it is that the mover of the Address, carried away, no doubt, a little from the ordinary practice by the extraordinary circumstances of the late election, made some strenuous observations regarding that particular policy with which the right hon. Gentleman himself has been so much identified. But I would say that, having heard now more movers and seconders than I like to count up, I have seldom if ever heard the difficult duty performed with greater success and by men more qualified and more justified in moving such a Motion. The mover of the Address has had a long experience of metropolitan government. He is one of the most distinguished of that singular series of capable men whom the new government of London has furnished us with. He therefore comes to this House on an occasion when London has executed such a marvellous change in its political opinion as represented in this House as one who can speak on behalf of London with peculiar emphasis.

I associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman in welcoming the seconder, for, like the right hon. Gentleman, I have known his grandfather and his father in this House; and we all rejoice to know that the family is not yet extinct either in its individual members or in its capacity for public work. The right hon. Gentleman moralised a little on the general election. He did it very well, because he did not attempt to disguise or hide in any way the seriousness of the overturn of opinion it indicated. But the right hon. Gentleman treated it in a somewhat lighthearted, though certainly in a stouthearted, way. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a question which I see sometimes exercises the minds of the curious, namely, the disproportion that exists between the majority of the votes given at the poll and the majority of Members returned to the House. He is not aware probably—and I believe it to be a fact, however remarkable it may be—that on this occasion it is less than it has been on any other occasion. Certainly it is very much less great than it was in the election with which he was himself concerned, namely, the celebrated khaki election. But he accepts the situation, and in that he is right. The right hon. Gentleman looks forward to a time when he and his friends will be in power again. The mustard and cress which were planted by the ingenious writer and politician whom the right hon. Gentleman quoted no doubt came up very lightly and very rapidly, but they did not last very long; and the expectations and hopes of the right hon. Gentleman may be liable to perish like the mustard and cress. Doubtless the right hon. Gentleman will indulge year after year in fresh planting and fresh hopes, but I hope he may be exhausted finally before the fruition of his hopes is attained. The right hon. Gentleman followed the King's Speech in its course. He associated himself with the paragraphs referring to the lamentable death of the King of Denmark and the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to India The very fact that those paragraphs are in the King's Speech, for which I with others am responsible, dispenses with the necessity of my dwelling upon those subjects. The right hon. Gentleman asked what progress was being made with the Conference at Algeciras. When I come for the first time to a question of foreign affairs, perhaps I may say to the House that, in the lamentable circumstances in which my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary stands, it will not be surprised that he shrinks in some measure from a public appearance in the House; and therefore hon. Members must not expect such full information on these subjects for a day or two as he would have been otherwise anxious to give them. But as far as we know matters are proceeding satisfactorily—slowly, but satisfactorily. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of our relations to the nation and the Government of France. They remain exactly what they were. We are giving the French Government all the diplomatic support in our power; and we are giving it without the slightest prejudice, not only to our perfect amity, but great good will, to all the other Powers that may be concerned. It is right for the people of this country that it should be stated again and again, and as emphatically as possible, that the understanding we have with France remains as strongly intrenched as it was when it was first established, that it has no sinister purpose towards any other nation or Government, and that we merely wish to find in it a means of strengthening that good and almost affectionate feeling between France and Great Britain which we are all anxious to encourage. As to Macedonia, I am afraid that I must refer the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members to my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary when he reappears. I now turn to a matter with which the right hon. Gentleman has himself been concerned, namely, the question of colonial affairs. The right hon. Gentleman is in favour of continuity of policy in colonial as well as in foreign affairs. So am I. I have always accepted the doctrine with a reservation, because otherwise every Government that came into power would be bound to go on with a policy which in its heart and conscience might be thought a bad policy. I would be opposed as strongly as the right hon. Gentleman to any wanton change for the sake of change merely; but to say that, because an outgoing Government leaves a public question connected with the Colonies or foreign States in a certain position, the incoming Government has not a free hand to deal with the position is to say a thing which would be destructive of the proper management of the nation's affairs. The right hon. Gentleman refers to the announcement that we propose to erect a constitution in the Transvaal embodying full and responsible Government instead of the intermediate stage of representative Government. I will tell him exactly how that stands. First of all, let me say that we have high authority for what we are doing. We have the authority of the right hon. Gentleman himself, who only a short time ago—in August, 1903—said that one thing was clear, namely, that the population of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, both Boer and Briton, by a largo majority desired this self-government, even though it might seem to us to be premature and unwise. The right hon. Gentleman also said that he did not believe there was any danger to Imperial interests to cause us to hesitate to accord it; the point was the interest of the two colonies themselves. So it cannot be on any high ground of imperial necessity that the right hon. Gentleman demurs, if he does demur, and' I do not understand that he does, to the extension of self-governing powers to the Transvaal to the length of what is called responsible Government. But I think what has weighed with us principally is this, first of all there was a movement of opinion—he refers to the feeling of the people—there has been lately a strong movement of opinion in South Africa, so far as we can gather, in favour of responsible Government. In the second place, experience has proved in the past that an intermediate stage has not been favourable, but the reverse. We have more than once thought we were doing well in the history of our Colonies, when we gave to a particular colony what is called a representative Government, by which I understand a system of creating a representative body, but which does not give that representative body full power over its own affairs. We have introduced an intermediate system of that sort on several occasions, thinking it would be as it were a schoolmaster to bring the colony to a proper sense of the use of full powers, but it has been found to be exactly the reverse, to work in the exactly opposite direction, to breed friction and dissension between the governors and the governed, and to create sectional differences in the population, and I believe myself it is safer and better in every way to give responsible government at once, and that that therefore is the best form of education, if education is wanted, to which the population of a colony can be subjected. Then the right hon. Gentleman says, On what basis is your responsible system of government to be founded? Is it to be on what is called one man one vote, or how is it to be, or is it to be one vote one value, and so forth, as was the representative system proposed by the late Government? On that we have an open mind, and it is precisely on these questions—questions as to how people may be affected by a policy—it is on that subject generally that we find ourselves woefully in want of information and therefore must make further inquiry. What we are doing now is not finding some way out of the difficulty of Chinese labour or anything else. Let the House remember we are now giving a system of Government to these two colonies which is to be a permanent system, and our great desire is to avoid anything that has the appearance of being unfair either to one section of the community or another, one race or another, either the agricultural or the urban element. I believe that anything done at this moment that even had attributed to it that it was done from a party motive or with a view to obtain some artificial unity, would leave behind it a root of bitterness which might be fatal to the prosperity and progress of the colony. Our policy—I put it shortly—is to do the right thing as between all the different interests, and we are not yet in a position to judge what the effect of different arrangements on the community, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case as they now stand, would be. Therefore it is, instead of applying a scheme which had been promoted for a representative system to a full responsible system of government, we think the wisest thing we can do is to take time, in order to have a thorough inquiry—the particular form or particular method by which we should obtain our information we have not yet determined upon—and then we shall be in a better position to act upon this difficult and important matter and be certain, so far as human certainty exists, that we shall not be doing harm to the future of the country. We must remember also that it is not the Transvaal alone that we are dealing with. We have the Orange River Colony to deal with, and we look forward ultimately, without forcing it in any way, to the federation of South Africa. Therefore we may look at it that everything We do for one of the colonies of that country we do for all; and it is on that ground we are obliged, much to our regret, to postpone the completion of the new system, and can only say we will make it as shortly as it is possible for us to do. Let me say this, there is one very small point. The right hon. Gentleman repeated what I have seen in newspapers or speeches—he has repeated the assertion that in a debate last summer I myself actually approved of this individual system of one vote one value, and rather approved than found fault with the constitution proposed. I think if the right hon. Gentleman looks to what I have said he will find there was some little degree of irony in all I said which rather neutralised the effect of Clause 5. I thought it was a good point to make for the purpose of harassing the Government. I was contrasting these proposals of the Unionist Government for the Transvaal with the Redistribution Bill for England which at the same time the Government were promoting, and I pointed out one or two things which constituted a difference, and expressed in what I thought was an ironical way how it was that out of the same Government there should come two such different constitutions. That is the explanation of the words he quoted. Now, of course, we are well aware of the serious effect of this on the question of Chinese labour. Let me say with regard to Chinese labour—I do not wish to put myself forward—but last summer I said, and I adhere to the statement, that the question whether Chinese labour should be introduced into South Africa as a part of the industrial system was a question not for us, but for the inhabitants of South Africa and of the particular colony concerned—a question to be deferred to them as soon as their opinions could be authoritatively collected. But when I said that the question of Chinese labour or no Chinese labour was to be so referred, I by no means inferred that the question of the conditions under which Chinese labour was to be allowed was a matter of indifference to the people of this country and to the Empire at large, or that it was to be referred to the people of the particular colony in question. The right hon. Gentleman produced certain cartoons and asked, Did we approve of these cartoons or not? I can only say that I have not seen them. [OPPOSITION Cries of "Oh."] In Scotland there are two things we do not use—at least never in my constituency. One is cartoons and the other is colours. We elect Members because of their opinions. Even my friends and countrymen below the gangway will confirm my statement in that respect, although they think there is some virtue in a tie. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that the conditions imposed in the Ordinance are servile conditions. He asks me, Is it slavery or is it not? I say that these conditions are servile conditions, and that many of these conditions are more than servile—they are either cruel in themselves or lead readily to the perpetration of cruelty. The right hon. Gentleman puts his hands behind his back, and asks whether the Chinese coolie is as free as he is. Of course he is not. The right hon. Gentleman is not liable to be shut up at night or to be prevented from engaging in business or from settling, after his contract is out, in the country in which he lives. There are all kinds of respects in which he is free and in which the coolie is not. But we have all sorts of evidence of irregularities. One of the evidences is the despatch of Mr. Lyttelton to Lord Selborne, dated October 24th last, in which he says:— It appears that the inquiries consequent upon the various breaches of the peace which occurred in May brought to light the fact that this permission to officials to inflict slight corporal punishment had been abused. The Lieutenant-Governor accordingly cancelled the permission in June last. I understand from you that since then the practice has been entirely stopped; but your statement, which reached mo at the end of August, was the first intimation which I received from the Colonies that official permission for any corporal punishment had been given. That is one of the evils of the system. You import a number of men who are accustomed, I dare say, to acts of cruelty in their own country. Your own officials gradually come to regard those acts as being quite in the regular line of business, and so the whole thing becomes more and more intense, until at last you may arrive at a state of flagrant cruelty. Mr. Lyttelton went on to say that he, by the time he had received this information from Lord Selborne, knew arrangements for maintaining order and discipline in the mines had been drawn up by him and the amending Ordinance for giving effect to them was under discussion, and he concluded by saying— I profoundly regret that corporal punishment, however slight, was authorised without the safeguards of the law, and that the matter was not brought to my notice as Secretary of State for the Colonies before it was authorised. If Mr. Lyttelton, even in this moderate way, rebuked those on the spot for the way in which they allowed discipline to be conducted in the mines, I think that it is no wonder that we should take the same view and entertain it in an even stronger degree. Sir, as I say, we desire the question of the employment of Chinese labour to be decided by the people of the colony when they have received full responsible government. In the meantime His Majesty's Government feel it their duty, so long as any responsibility rests with them for the administration of the Ordinances, to secure as far as possible that no Chinese coolie who honestly and genuinely desires to return permanently to his home shall be detained in the Transvaal against his will or from want of means. Clause 14 in every contract between an employer and a coolie provides that the labourer may at any time, without assigning any reason, return to his own country on tendering to the employer the expenses incurred in introducing him into the Transvaal, together with a sum sufficient to defray the expenditure necessary to return him to the port from which he embarked. His Majesty's Government intend that the labourer who wishes to avail himself of this power of repatriation shall not be deterred from doing so by lack of the necessary funds. They regret that no provision was made in the Ordinance for throwing part at least of the cost in such cases on the importers. But in the circumstances they think it right that, where the desire of the labourer to be permanently repatriated can be proved to be genuine by a reasonable length of notice and by such other tests as a full consideration of the matter may seem to render necessary, the cost shall be met from public funds. This will make it impossible that any labourer really desirous of repatriation shall be retained in the Transvaal against his will. Another point is this. Under the Ordinance of 1905, amending the original Ordinance of 1904, legal sanction is given to certain judicial and punitive methods which His Majesty's Government cannot approve. These will not be allowed to remain in force, and the Government will decide without delay on the best and promptest way of securing their withdrawal.


I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can make it clear what punitive regulations they are of which he does not approve?


In the Ordinance of last autumn there were provisions allowing certain modes of punishment and allowing trials to be conducted, I think, in the mines by the mine people, without any recourse to the ordinary courts. That is how we stand. In a sense we have no responsibility for Chinese labour. We opposed it from the first. We inherited it from the right hon. Gentlemen on the other side. There are many cases where an evil having been done, or an evil practice established, it is impossible, without a possibly greater evil almost, to put an end to it abruptly. What we are going to do, at all events, is to give the coolie who has a genuine and honest wish to go home, the power to do so, and to do away at the same time with what seemed to be—I will not use so strong a word as iniquitous—but an unusual, or illegal practice. By removing this, we, at all events, do something to mitigate the evil which we and our friends have so loudly and so strongly protested against.


The right hon. Gentleman does not intend, then, to interfere with those regulations which keep the Chinese to the compounds.


Of course, if you introduce a number of Chinese into the country under certain conditions, and the people will not have them going about loose, you have to keep them in a compound.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman to understand I am not criticising or arguing; I am only asking for information so that we may know exactly what the Government is doing.


I think I have already explained. We attach great importance to the leave given to any man who dislikes his life to go home to his own country. The right hon. Gentleman said he would bring up the subject at a later period in order to suggest to us that we should appoint a Royal Commission. We have considered that, but not very fully, but I promise him that it shall be considered. He knows as well as we the delicacy of the whole matter, and how difficult it is to take what is, in common parlance, called a strong line of action, because you often raise difficulties which you do not contemplate at first. We propose to do what we can to take as much as possible the cruelty and servile conditions out of the life, and at the same time give those who dislike the life an opportunity to escape from it. The right hon. Gentleman said a few words on free trade. Well, this great question does not stand even as a general election left it, because an event has happened this week. The right hon. Gentleman said we must all be sorry that the late First Lord of the Treasury is not in his place. I should be rather hypocritical if I professed to be sorry under the circumstances in which he ceased to be in his place. I should of course personally be glad to see him, but the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that we are not bound either to desire or facilitate the return to the House of a right hon. Gentleman who is so entirely opposed to us in political opinions. I am reminded of the passage of time, and I will deal with the question on another occasion. A friend of mine is going to ask for a day to discuss this question of free trade and protection, in order that we may have a full statement or a re-statement of the arguments for and against, with the additional light and assistance which may be given by the right hon. Gentleman, and, possibly, the late Prime Minister, if he elects to take part in that discussion. Last session complaint was made that we did not get opportunities of discussing the question; now we shall have them. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be glad of that, because he is not one who leads his battalions out of the House. Then there is temperance. The right hon. Gentleman says that we are not dealing with temperance. How could we deal with it in a session when we have such large questions as education, the workmen's question and the social question? I believe that temperance is the key-tone, or the cornerstone, in the edifice of the prosperity of this country. We are best serving it by not making an attempt to meddle with it this year, when it is extremely unlikely that there will be time enough to deal with it. As to Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman asks what the meaning is of associating the Irish with the conduct of affairs, and he says, are they not associated now with the conduct of affairs. Well, they were not when the right hon. Gentleman compared them with Russia and Poland. Now, he says, you have got local government, and therefore you can do without giving them more. But the giving of local government is the very reason why you cannot refuse that the Irish should have a larger share in the management of their own affairs. We have the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and even the new Irish Member for South Dublin, giving local affairs to the Irish people, and endowing them with millions upon millions of British credit, thereby showing the trust that they have in them. Therefore I claim that they themselves should welcome rather than oppose the larger system of associating the Irish people with the conduct of their own affairs.

And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.