Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Question [19th February], "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 Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—(Mr. Dickinson.)
§ Question again proposed:—Debate resumed.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
said that the position of a member of the Unionist Party in addressing the present House of Commons was the most inspiring one that the history of the 218 House of Commons had ever presented to any one who had a natural taste for facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods, or for any other cause. Such, for instance, as the fiscal question; but in view of the announcement of the Prime Minister that he would shortly give a day for that subject, he was not going to deal with it now. He hoped, however, that the hon. Gentlemen would not think he wanted to run away from it.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
said he followed his leader—unwillingly. And before long hon. Members opposite would find they sometimes had to follow their leader unwillingly. There was nothing in his record to justify the suggestion that he was likely to run away from that or any other question in which he was engaged. He would be very ungrateful if he ran away from the fiscal question, because he gave it a prominent place in a recent experience with the result that he was able to address the House that day. But before he spoke of the unprecedented size, and character, of the majority they had to face, might he be permitted, as one who for twenty years in that House had watched the formation of Ministries—from a distance he had no particular desire to lessen, and therefore could give a disinterested judgment—to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister on the principles that had guided him in the selection of his Ministers? Broadly based in the origins of its appointments; selected without reference to private friendships, and even in unnatural disregard, if they presented themselves to him, of the fond ties of family affection; collecting together all the best intellects and talents the Party could provide; permeated, perhaps dominated, by fresh blood; the Ministry presented in its personal aspects an undoubted claim to their respect. Of course, there was a background to the picture. It remained to be seen how long the Gentlemen, hon. and even right hon., who sat on that Front Bench as representatives of principles which were fundamentally incompatible, and of interests which could never be welded together, would be able 219 to resist the pressure of the heterogeneous groups from which they were derived. For the sincerity, or impatience, as the case might be, of these varied groups would not easily be satisfied with that curious change that always took place in the champions of extreme, sometimes violently extreme, views as soon as they donned the comforting garb of office. The sobering, not to say sterilising, influence which attached to a seat on the Front Bench would be sadly discouraging to the ardent patriots behind and below it, and opposite to it. Each group of those Members owned some special cause or aim, on which it thought the salvation of the country depended. Each had been sent here on the strength of some isolated promise which could probably never be fulfilled, but which the group thought ought to be fulfilled at once, and each would want to be at the head of the great march of progress and reform which this wonderful Government had announced, and which would lead they themselves knew not whither. Might he be permitted to enumerate a few of the elements of this great majority? There were the Irish Members, who did not count for his purpose, because they, apparently, were satisfied with the treatment their favourite had received at the hands of Ministers. That ill-used partner whom they flirted with so violently in the ante chamber, they seemed to have left in a dubious position the moment they found themselves in the big ball-room, surrounded by a respectable domestic circle. The Welsh Members would want to know why the President of the Board of Trade did not disestablish the Church in Wales before the Chief Secretary for Ireland paid so much attention to "a spirit regardful of the wishes and sentiments of the Irish people." And the English Liberal Members who—in spite of the extraordinary inference drawn by the hon. Member for Waterford last night that this election had given a majority in favour of Home Rule—won their elections on condition that they would oppose Home Rule, would want to know just what this phrase in the King's Speech meant. If it meant something that would satisfy the Home Rulers it surely did not mean anything that will satisfy some English Liberal constituencies. And the group led by the hon. Member for Hanley, who had got 220 something, would want to know why they did not get more. And the group led by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil who had got nothing, would want to know why they had not got something, and why the President of the Local Government Board did not municipalise all our industries. The right hon. Gentleman and he had had many bouts across the floor of this House. But no one in this House or outside of it could lie more sincere in his congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on attaining a distinction to which his abilities, his energy, his perseverance, and his eloquence richly entitle him. It would be observed that he did not include his policy. Upon that territory the right hon. Gentleman and he would no doubt soon be able to resume their former embittered relations. To proceed, this group would want to know why the land and the railways were not nationalised, why the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India did not agree to the principle of grants being made to the unemployed from the national funds, and why the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not establish old-age pensions from the same source. Further, the Party formerly led by the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Member for Northampton, whose absence from the House all humourists would deplore, and now led by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who, with all his distinguished abilities, did not supply that special want—the Party that used to be called the advanced Radical section, which now represented a somewhat indistinct fossil of a past Parliamentary age, would want to know why it was shouldered out of place and its living taken away from it by these new groups, and why the particular issues which it used to put forward were not preferred to new inventions it never thought of. In particular, that Party would want to see that the Boers, whose cause it espoused when they were fighting with Englishmen, were more successful when the question of the constitutional organisation of the Empire came up for consideration. They would want to see that the pro-Boer cause was secured before any theoretic advantages of the great Radical principle of one vote one value were considered; and that the Boers were given a permanent electoral predominance in the Transvaal before responsible self-government 221 was finally passed for that Colony. The Liberal Imperialists would watch the Under-Secretary for the Colonies—who sat like a rare and showy exotic on a front Bench so crowded with more natural flowers—to see that he did not, in his way, or in any other, give the Little Englanders an unfair advantage. The Little Englanders would watch the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to make sure that he took the narrowest view of our alliance with Japan, and did not enter into any other equally courageous and beneficent treaty. The Labour Members at large would look askance at the Radical capitalists to see how far they carried out their promises to organised labour which had gained many of them their big majorities; and Radical capitalists would ask why their large subscriptions to the Party fund should be utilised for inroads on the stability of capital. But all these varied groups and parties and section, each indignant at its own claim being postponed to the rest, would, it was said, unite on the one common ground held by the Nonconformist conscience. Each and all of them had contributed at the recent election to further in flate a balloon which for four years had had carefully pumped into it the poisonous gas of sectarian animosity; and they would all with one accord consent to give priority to the President of the Board of Education when he brought forward his Bill to banish definite religious instruction from the childhood of a Christian country. ["Oh!" and "Will he?"] He would answer that question as far as was possible. By definite religious instruction he meant of course denominational religious instruction, which many of them believed to be the only method of making religious instruction effective in the grownup life of the individual. The intrinsic or immediate value of denominational or doctrinal instruction to a child might not be very great; but as giving him a faith in which he would believe, a religious community to which he would belong in after-life, a definite and authoritative form of religion in which he could trust and from which he could derive the benefits that religion supplied, denominational religious instruction was the only safeguard. If they were to continue this, not as an "extra," out of school hours, which would make children hate it, but as an essential element in that phase of the child's early life which 222 impressed him most—his education—in what respect were they going to alter the existing Act? He understood it was not proposed to continue it. Nor, as far as he could gather, was it proposed to make elementary education purely secular. Only one other way remained open: to invent a new form of religion, Call it what they would; whether it differed from the present forms or included them all—which was an impossibleassumption—it would still be a new form of religion. There would be plenty of opportunities for discussing the question, and he would not stop to do so now. He only wanted to outline broadly the position of the great Liberal Party, which, dissatisfied apparently with the existing Christian faiths, was to become like those mushroom communities of the Western world—the Mormons, or Harrisians, or Shakers—and in the year 1906 was to set out in quest of a new religion to teach the childhood of England. Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, Church people—of course all so-called Nonconformists, for they gladly accepted the idea—were all to become Birrellians. ["Oh"!] And like Joseph Smith, who discovered the Mormon Bible under a stone, the President of the Board of Education was to find a new religion under his Treasury box, and call it "The simple truths of Christianity." Did ever Pope of Rome have ambitions quite so large? But why not? They had Nicholas Breakspear at St. Peter's, and now they had St. Augustine at St. Stephen's,—to be supported, he presumed, in his inventive efforts, by all the followers of the Government who owed spiritual allegiance to Pius X. In the various elements of this great majority there was one that interested him more than all the rest, not only for the cause it represented, but by reason of the new attitude it had assumed. He meant that of the Labour Members. They had thrown off the bonds by which they had hitherto been enslaved to one political Party; they had formed themselves into a separate Party, with a separate programme, and separate whips, thereby enormously gaining in the respect of their own supporters, of the country at large, of the Party to which he had the honour to belong, and of every section of opinion except—if the real truth were known—of the Party opposite. He would be the last to question—no one who 223 had any regard for the true principles of representative Government would question—the right of labour to be directly represented in Parliament. It gained that right not only by virtue of being one of the great component parts of this nation, but by the stronger title of being a fundamental part of every civilised society, and one of the two bases on which the structure of every industrial country was organised; and it had a perfect right not only to be represented in the councils of the nation, but to be represented in what way it liked, and by whom it chose. But hitherto the representatives of labour had presented themselves to Parliament as mere agents of the Radical Central Office. He congratulated them on their emancipation from that equivocal, if not contemptible, position which, justly or unjustly, they had, with rare exceptions, hitherto occupied in the political world. The House of Commons would watch with interest the bonâ fides of their new attitude; and just in proportion as their proceedings were freed from those influences, he ventured to say that although they might not gain the adhesion—might indeed meet with the determined opposition—of those who saw in their demands injustice to other classes or far-reaching dangers to the commercial stability of this country, they would earn the respect that was never denied to purity of motive and independence of action.
One thing more, remained to be said about this great majority. It was called a solid English majority. No; it was a Chinese majority. It was a majority gained by the grossest misrepresentations of the subject of Chinese labour in South Africa. These were spread broadcast over the land amongst the working classes, and were aided by the disgraceful pictorial weapons that were now so well known. And it was not only the misrepresentations by word and picture. It was the implied promise that was made, the promise that caused such a wild scene of enthusiasm at the Albert Hall, the promise that hardly a working man who supported them took in any other sense than that a Radical Government the moment they got into power would do away with this horrible thing. The thing which had been denounced for nearly two years, which in the election was held up on every platform, as a 224 hideous, cruel and dishonouring thing to exist under the British flag, as a gift to the mining magnates, as taking the bread out of the mouths of white men in South Africa—yes, and as a thing likely to be introduced into this country—this surely would go like a shot, the moment the Radical Party was put into power. Did the right hon. Gentleman think his lame announcement of last night would satisfy this anticipation? The House really did not know yet what the Government was going to do about it. Was it really to be left to a responsible representative government in the Transvaal? That would secure its continuance, unless the Government wore going to rig the constitution they granted, in order to justify their electoral method. That would place the Transvaal permanently in the hands of the Boers. Did they think England, or the Empire would stand that?
What was the real question involved in this matter? It was not white labour. It was not Chinese slavery. The question was whether in a country where the native population outnumbered the white by five to one, the mining industry and all other industries were to be at the mercy of the native population. All other industries which employed white men were dependent on the mining industry. Nine-tenths of the revenue of the country was derived directly from that industry. Even agriculture was dependent upon it for a market for its products. What was the position before Chinese labour was introduced? The mining industry could not get enough Kaffirs to work the mines.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
was sure hon. Members would see that after detaining the House so long he could not go into the whole of this question. He could not go into its financial aspects. ["Oh!"]. Very well, he would say briefly that the cost of mining, even with the low wages paid to Kaffir and Chinese unskilled labour, did not even now provide a fair dividend. It did not give a "living wage," so to speak, to the investor. The mining industry tried everywhere. They sent to Central Africa; they sent to the West Coast; but they could not get Kaffirs to carry on that industry. 225 What did this state of things mean? The country depended on the mining industry. The natives knew that the mining industry, and therefore the country, was in their power. But how little hon. Members opposite considered what it mean for this vast black population to feel that they had the upper hand in one of those countries. "What do they know of England who only England know?" How little did we here, living under law and order, know of the life in those far-off countries which our race had added to the glory of the Crown, but where justice and liberty could only slowly be built up, by first recognising the primitive truth, that "Might is right." How little did we know—whose daily life had the strong arm of the law behind it, and whose rights and property were protected by an ordered executive and a pure judiciary—of the difficulties and anxieties our countrymen had to face with those; great native populations, the awful catastrophe that would ensue if once the supremacy of the white man was in danger. That danger was averted by Chinese labour, because it taught the natives that they no longer held the mining industry in the hollow of their hand. On this question of Chinese labour, the Government had placed itself in a cleft stick, and it would remain there, a monument of the folly of any great political Party winning its way to power in this country, not by the promise of sober statesmanship, but by exaggerated appeals to the passions and ignorance of men.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
hoped the hon. Member who last spoke would understand that the cries of dissent which greeted some of his observations were not intended in any discourteous spirit to himself, but were due to the fact that this subject always aroused angry feelings. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would permit him to say that the doctrines he advanced towards the end of his speech were more suitable to a Parliament of 500 years ago than of the present day. The hon. Member had explained that the real reason of the introduction of Chinese labour was to show the Kaffir that he had not the right to sell his labour at what price he pleased—that the whole force of the British 226 Empire was to be used to import blackleg labour to stop a strike. ["No."] He had no wish to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman.
§ MAJOR SEELY
I certainly understood him to say and mean that Chinese labour was introduced in order to prevent the Kaffir from successfully striking for higher wages.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
I never said that. I said that Chinese labour was introduced, because Kaffir labour could not be got. At the same time, I explained that I could not go into the financial question, but I did say it was financially impossible for the mining interest to pay higher wages.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said that the lion. Member added that it would be unfortunate if the Kaffir felt, and indeed it was essential he should not believe, that he held the mining industry in the hollow of his hand. The Kaffir had an opportunity of striking for higher wages, and the introduction of Chinese labour deprived him of the opportunity. But the whole question had been dealt with as if it were confined to South Africa. It was all part of the great question of labour and of the restrictions to be placed on employers buying labour in the cheapest market. He would like to be allowed a few moments in order to state the really definite and prominent grounds of their objection to this abominable system, and in doing so perhaps he might be allowed to reply to a question asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham on the preceding night. The right hon. Gentleman complained of a cartoon depicting Chinamen in a servile attitude, and he asked if it did not show that the Chinaman was not as free as he was.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said he was sorry that the hon. Gentleman should base his argument upon a mistake. What he himself stated to the House was that the cartoon represented the Chinese, with their hands behind their backs, and that he thought it represented them as in a servile position, and was intended to imply that their hands were tied behind their backs. He 227 asked whether the House really thought the Chinaman was intended to be represented as free as he was. His whole point was that, inasmuch as the cartoon led to the belief on the part of a great many people that the Chinaman was in a state of slavery, it was about time to clear it up.
§ MAJOR SEELY
agreed that it was about time to clear it up, and he trusted that they would now be able to do so. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that the Chinese were approximately, broadly speaking, as free as he was. That was the point of his argument—that it was unfair to produce a placard showing the Chinaman not as free as the right hon. Gentleman himself.
No, showing them as in a servile position. At last they had an opportunity in that House of stating the case freely, and, as he hoped, with justice and moderation. These men were not free in any single particular, and he thought he would be able to show that from every legal point of view, as apart from a moral point of view, they were in the position of slaves with a time limit. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that slavery consisted of ill-treatment. That was not in the least the ease. The first speech that Mr. Gladstone—the greatest upholder of liberty this country had known—delivered was confined to showing that the slaves on the estate of a relative were not ill-treated. Nor were they; but would anybody say the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of slavery. No, the question of ill-treatment had nothing to do with it. Neither did the question whether the condition was voluntary or involuntary necessarily decide the point as to whether it constituted slavery or not. There were certain specific things laid down in British law which all citizens must have as a right; otherwise they were not free men. First, a man could not contract himself out of his right to hold property. That had been the first sign of a free man from the time of ancient Greece until now, and if the right hon. Gentleman would study the innumerable books on constitutional law, he would find the doctrine plainly laid down that to renounce the right to hold property was a badge of slavery. The 228 Chinaman renounced that right by contract. Secondly, a man could not renounce his right to liberty of movement in his spare hours. The Chinaman renounced that right. Thirdly, and perhaps the most important, a man could not renounce his right to raise himself in the social scale by his skill and his industry. That was what the Chinaman did under this contract. Fourthly, a man could not renounce his right to reside where he pleased, and how he pleased at the expiration of his contract. That was the root of the whole evil. It was the desire to exploit the labour of people whom they could not and would not admit as potential citizens, that had caused the trouble, and would cause endless trouble until the whole thing was swept away He begged the right hon. Gentleman to recollect that, he was not quoting the opinions of persons who issued leaflets in his constituency, but the opinions of all the great legal authorities, from Lord Mansfield down to the present day. It was indeed strange that a great imperial statesman should have consented to a scheme of labour so degrading that it excluded our own Indian fellow subjects. It had been said that they were not excluded, but he would like to draw attention to a telegram sent in January by Mr. Lyttelton in which he said that the provisions of the Ordinance if applied to Indian subjects would probably be objected to. He was glad to know that, as a fact, they were objected to, for he held that what was not good enough for British Indian subjects ought not to be treated as good enough for any other-man, black or yellow. We were not alone in the endeavour to raise the standard of civilisation by revising the treatment of servile labour. In his Message to Congress President Roosevelt, dealing with Hawaii, said—That territory has serious commercial and industrial problems to reckon with, but no-measure of relief can be considered which looks to legislation admitting the Chinese and restricting them by statutes to field labour and domestic service. The status of servility can never again be tolerated on American soil.The answer they would make to the right hon. gentlemen the Member for West Birmingham was that it would not be tolerated on British soil either, and when he said that there had been misrepresentation in the matter they would reply that it was true that there had been, but that it had been used 229 by those who had endeavoured to deceive the people into believing that this was a tolerable system, whereas it was a system which the whole American people emphatically condemned. When he asked that the criminals should be punished they must retort that the criminals sat on the Front Bench opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: Did so.] Well, some of them were no longer Members of the House, but the most important of all sat there now. He supported His Majesty's Government in the action which they had taken, and he was grateful for the reforms announced by the Prime Minister; but one thing more he would ask, and that was that they should not in the same breath say that this thing was intolerable and wrong, and that they would leave it to the responsible Government of the colony to decide whether the wrong should be continued. He was glad that the Prime Minister said yesterday that when he declared that the question of Chinese labour or no Chinese labour was to be referred to the Transvaal, he by no means inferred that the question of the conditions under which that labour was to be allowed was a matter of indifference to the people of this country and to the Empire at large. He only asked that it should be stated clearly and emphatically, and, if possible, before the close of the debate, that the principle on which the British Empire rested was that those who came under the flag, if they were to come under it at all, must be free. It might be said that they could not dictate to a self-governing Colony, but they had done it again and again in far less important matters, and they could easily lay down the principle that 'Free or not at all" was the motto of the British Empire. This must be done at once, because delay would only do great harm and continue the uncertainty which now existed. It might be said that free countries did not impose servile conditions, and that in granting a free constitution to the Transvaal it would not be necessary to impose conditions in regard to this. But there was a peculiar danger in the Transvaal which was not wholly free. It was said that there were seven wealthy men in this House who had it in their power to cause great hardships to hundreds of thousands of labouring men. Well, there were five very wealthy men in South Africa who had it in their power to cause infinite 230 suffering to almost every labouring man and woman on the Rand. The Press was not free, the whole country was under a blight, and, therefore, the Government should at once frankly state its ideals of British liberty. It must show it was no longer under the thumb of the mining groups of the Band. Duty, honour, and wisdom pointed alike to the courageous course, and he earnestly begged the Government to follow it.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Croydon)
I do not desire to speak at any great length on this question of Chinese labour because I have no doubt there will be discussion on the question at a later stage. But I think that the speech of the hon. and gallant Member raises one of those issues which might with advantage be taken at once. It was pointed out last night that it is not and could not be within the power of a small minority in the House greatly to influence the acts of a powerful Government such as we now see opposed to us. I think, therefore, it is well we should confine ourselves as far as may be to those great issues to which we attach special importance, and should remember that there is entrusted to us as much as to hon. Members opposite the honour of this country to which we all belong. The Prime Minister was a little misinformed when last evening he said that what happened in the recent election was paralleled by what took place at the last general election with regard to the disproportion between the number of votes cast for each Party and the number of Members returned for the same Party. The Prime Minister was not correct in saying that the disproportion was less at the general election just concluded than at any former election. I think the present election forms an unrivalled case and I believe that, strictly speaking, the proportional representation of the Government would be a majority of twenty-five over this side of the House. But, be that as it may, we must be content with the arrangement to which we are accustomed and which is not peculiar to this or that election. The Unionists returned to the present Parliament represent not an inconsiderable minority, but a large and powerful section of opinion which will look to us to voice as continuously as we can what we believe to be their feeling. One of those occasions seems to have arisen now. We are face 231 to face with the discussion of a principle which has been the dividing line betweeen the two Parties since the election began. In the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, I hardly recognise the description which he gave when he said that for the first time we were discussing this question with justice and moderation. I hope some of the speeches previously delivered have been characterised by both justice and moderation. But I want to draw the attention of the House to the very strange doctrine of which we have heard a great deal during the last two days. I speak on behalf of the very small minority in this House, but I speak also on behalf of a great many people in the country who have keenly felt the attacks which have been made upon their countrymen who are not able to defend themselves.
The charge brought against the Unionist Party on the question of Chinese labour is that they have deliberately countenanced the commission of a felony for base purposes, for slavery is a felony under the law of England. The hon. and gallant Member has declared that those who made arrangements by which slavery was carried out came within the penalty of the law. It has been said that slavery exists in British Africa. But is it true that this felony has been committed? We know that the instructions given to commanders of British ships are to capture any ship carrying on the slave trade. Has this been done? The charge I say is a very grave one. Still there is a strange divergence of doctrine on this question of Chinese labour. The Prime Minister did not say that it was slavery; he used a very carefully-guarded phrase and called it a "servile condition." I suppose we may chop logic as to what is a servile condition, but I will undertake to say that the definition may be applied to a great many conditions of labour which all of us accept. In what respect does it differ from the conditions under which natives of our Indian Empire have been employed in other parts of the world? There are differences no doubt. The right hon. Gentleman said the objection was that these people had not the power of return. Is it part of his policy that they should be allowed to remain when their contract is completed? I will go a little further. Another member of the Government, 232 Lord Crewe, speaking last night in the House of Lords, said—I never used the word slavery because I do not regard it as an accurate term, and I do not suppose it was regarded as an accurate term even by those who used it. It is regarded generally as a descriptive term.That is a very convenient phrase, and if I wanted to find a convenient phrase to indicate something absolutely false, I should now use the expression "a descriptive term." I am not competent to judge between these high authorities. But while the Prime Minister says he does not regard this as slavery, hon. Members opposite say they do so regard it; I want to know by which doctrine we are to stand. I quite agree that the hon. and gallant Member is perfectly logical, and if he is right the Government should not wait another day before this felony is put an end to. If, on the other hand, this "servile condition" is something compatible with the law of England, some apology is due to those who have been compelled day after day to listen to the traducing of their fellow countrymen for an offence which they have not committed. If the diagnosis of the hon. and gallant Member is correct this is a tremendous disease. What are the remedies considered appropriate to it? It is proposed for one thing that there should be a modification of the Ordinance of 1905. I have referred to that Ordinance and I do not say that the mitigation may not make some difference in the facility with which crimes are punished, or that it may not give opportunities to those accused of crime to bring their case before a superior tribunal That may be a very good and valuable change. The other change proposed is that the coolies should be allowed to go back to their own country and that their expenses should be paid. Is there anything new in that? This very provision was put in by the late Colonial Secretary, and the idea from the first was that these men should be sent back if they desired to go.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
That is the whole difference. And remember these men are being paid every day of their lives. Now a very pertinent question was asked when this 233 discussion was going on. Someone asked how many will go back.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The hon. Member prophesies 30 per cent. That may be correct or incorrect. There have been a great many inaccurate prophecies, but I do not think even if 30 per cent. go back, that very much touches the moral and the legal side of this question. But what I want to call the attention of the House to is this, that we are dealing with great moral accusations made against a people, and the moral obliquity is not wiped out by making two changes of method. Nor do I believe you are going to satisfy those who have supported you and opposed us by the mere promise of a Commission. I am very curious to see what will be the upshot of placing responsibility upon those who have hitherto been such adepts at denunciation. I remember reading in "The Pilgrim's Progress" how Christian had to bear a burden of sin upon his back, and how he was permitted by Divine grace to drop his burden at a certain place and hasten on towards his goal. But I do not remember, in my version at any rate, that when Christian arrived at that happy spot on his toilsome way that he met a traveller and got rid of his burden by saying "Here, mate, take this," and forthwith strapping it firmly on the other's shoulders, and then gaily skipping on his way towards the Celestial Mountains. With all this commission of crime upon us, are we to discharge this burden upon the Transvaal Legislature? The hon. Member who has just sat down was perfectly consistent, and said do not hesitate, and urged that we should use our plenary power now and here. But that is not what the Prime Minister proposes. I understand him to propose one preliminary measure—I do not know that he has accepted it yet—and that was a Commission of Inquiry to go to the Transvaal and ascertain the facts. What facts? Can it be that during the last six weeks this country has been ringing with denunciations, the air has been clouded with charges against our own people, without any knowledge whether these charges are true or not? What are you going to discover? There have been these cartoons distributed. The Prime Minister said with conscious rectitude 234 that in his constituency they used neither colours nor cartoons. I believe there was no opposition in his constituency. But he said with pardonable pride that in his part of the kingdom people voted for Members on account of their opinions, and not because of their cartoons. But I say the sole object of circulating the cartoons is to promulgate your own opinions, and if it be true that those who promulgated this kind of literature did not believe the lesson that was taught by it, it might be well that in Scotland, and out of Scotland, they should be prohibited from using this kind of persuasion at all.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I do not think it carried Birmingham at all. It was the deliberate appeal to argument and reason. In the brilliant speech of the hon. Member for Northampton, for the sake of rounding a period, which in all other respects was finished, he spoke of Birmingham as the Tammany of England. I do not think that remark was as well judged or in as good taste as some other parts of his speech. From my knowledge of Birmingham I think perhaps there is not a place in the United Kingdom which is more singularly unlike Tammany. I have read a report of President Roosevelt's Commission on the question in New York, and I find that the methods of Tammany differ as widely from the methods of Birmingham as black from white, and that the inhabitants of Tammany do not come from Birmingham but from quite another part of the United Kingoom. I do not wish to impart unnecessary heat or matter into my arguments, but I do want in the interests of our Party and of our people both at home and abroad, this question to be cleared up. Does this accusation stand or does it not? It is a most important, matter, because if it does stand it is perfectly clear that we cannot hand over the Administration of the Transvaal to a responsible representative Government. There is of course the tendency which has been manifested in this House this evening to get over this difficulty in a way which I believe will least commend itself of all possible methods of extrication. There has been a tendency to wash our hands of this matter by transferring it, not to a constitutional Government in the 235 Transvaal on the lines on which we should desire to see it established, but to gerrymander the Transvaal Legislature so that we may be sure of a verdict consonant with the view which hon. Members took at the election. I cannot but believe that this country would repudiate any conduct of this kind. There is a point beyond which goodwill, affection, and the love of our species ought not to go. We have heard cited in this House an illustration of the extraordinary generosity of our proceedings in dealing with the South African Republic. There was the example of the United States, which for ten years withheld from the rebellious South the privilege of the franchise. Then there is another case, in which the German Empire, engaged in a war with an enemy who crossed its frontier, at the close of a victorious war gave no legislature to their conquered provinces or any equal franchise, but said that by a certain date every man must elect whether he would be a German subject or clear out of the country, and that every man who remained should serve compulsorily in the German Army, and every child above six should be educated, whether the parents wished it or not, at a German school. I do not cite these examples to suggest that they should be imitated or followed, but I do suggest that the common prudence of all nations does point in this direction, that you should bear in mind whether what you are doing will lead to the final prosperity of our Empire, of those for whom you are legislating; and, if it be in the minds of hon. Members opposite that it is the right way to solve this problem, to get rid of this difficulty by making sacrifices of that kind, then I do entreat them to pause and think what may be the price of what they are paying, even for the security and happiness of their conscience. I do want to know which of these courses we are really to be asked to pursue. Are we really asked to believe that all these charges which have been made are true, or are we to be asked to believe that they have been grossly exaggerated? Hon. Members opposite have been far too careless in aspersing the good fame of their country. These accusations have gone the length and breadth of the earth. They have been quoted in foreign newspapers and have been cited against us as the deliberate act of our people.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
In the first place it does not make the slightest difference. When you are making an attack upon the nation, and you cite the case of their Government before foreign countries, you create, and intend to create, the feeling that that nation is doing another injustice.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Even allowing that not to be the case, who are the men who have been held up to reprobation?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
No, the accusation made by the hon. and gallant Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool, with regard to the Leader of the Opposition, entirely falls to the ground. He was not responsible.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The phrase used by the hon. and gallant Member was that the principal criminal was my right hon. friend. I do not think the phrase was felicitous, and I am sure the accusation falls to the ground. We are too ready—hon. Members on the other side are too ready—for a Party advantage, to asperse generally the character of this country. Would it not have been better before this cry had gone out the length and breadth of the world that we had had this Commission of Inquiry? We all recognised that the right hon. Gentleman spoke with great caution, prudence, and circumspection last night. He said this was a very difficult and complicated question. He said that, above all, they felt they were brought into this question without knowledge, and that they must ascertain whether the charges are true. [Cries of "No."] Then I may assume that the right hon. Gentleman does support them because he knows they are true? I am sure if I misrepresent the Prime Minister I greatly regret it, but I do not think I do substantially misrepresent him, because it is perfectly clear that 237 the whole question of the new administration in South Africa is undoubtedly bound up with these matters, and if we are to have utterances, one on behalf of the Government, and one on behalf of independent Members, showing there is a clear divergence of opinion on this question, it would have been better to wait, and not to make these charges until they were proved.
§ MR. ELLIS GRIFFITH (Anglesey)
said he understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon was the champion of Chinese labour in South Africa, because he apparently justified all the- late Government had done there, and was proud of their achievements. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham until he was elected—and opinions changed after elections, sometimes—was not so keen a supporter of Chinese labour, and took a more tentative view of it, but after the election he became an ardent supporter of it.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Can the hon. Gentleman quote any distinction between my opinions upon Chinese labour at any time?
§ MR. ELLIS GRIFFITH
Upon Chinese labour of course; the other general question is too big a one to be answered off-hand. It is early in the afternoon, and the House does not sit after midnight. The right hon. Gentleman said he was not responsible for Chinese labour in South Africa.
§ MR. ELLIS GRIFFITH
That surprises me, because, if it were a thing of which the right hon. Gentleman was proud, why should he not accept, not the responsibility of a Minister, but the responsibility of a member of the rank and file of the Conservative Party—I beg his pardon, the Protectionist Party. [At this stage Mr. CHAMBERLAIN left the House.] The right hon. Gentleman had often changed his mind, but he had now moved his body from the House, a matter not altogether to be deplored. It would hare been more courteous of the right hon. Gentleman—not that he was any standard of courtesy—if, having asked a question, he had waited for the 238 reply. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was not responsible for Chinese labour, and he did not defend it. That completely justified what he had said. During the time the contest was waging in Birmingham, and when the right hon. Gentleman was not sure what was going to happen, he took a more tentative view of Chinese labour than he had subsequently taken in this House. There was one very valuable gem in the speech of the hon. Member for Westminster. He said that might was right. They had might now on the Ministerial side of the House, and he supposed the hon. Member would agree that they were right on every subject.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
Yes, and I would point out that I applied that phrase to untutored and ignorant people—in South Africa perhaps.
§ MR. ELLIS GRIFFITH
said he applied it to the other side of the House. He did not, however, rise to take part in the general debate upon Chinese labour in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon was returned for that constituency owing to circumstances entirely beyond his control; his return was due less to himself than to the fact that there were two candidates against him. No doubt he would continue to champion Chinese labour, just as they would continue to resist it on the Ministerial side of the House. As a Welsh Member he desired to say that he was exceedingly pleased with the programme of reforms in the King's Speech. There was one great attribute about the new House of Commons, and it was that they were in earnest about work being done; and although it was true that ten years ago Home Rule stood first, and Welsh Disestablishment second—and he would not quarrel with his hon. friends for Ireland as to the position in which Home Rule stood now—he wished to state that the absence of Welsh Disestablishment from the King's Speech did not trouble him at this stage, because the late Government had created such arrears of legislation that it was necessary for the present Government to deal with them at once. There was the Education Act, the Taff Vale decision, and the Unemployed Act. For his own part he did not complain that these 239 matters had taken precedence even of Welsh Disestablishment. Both Mr. Balfour and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had referred to Welsh Disestablishment as being an issue before the country, and therefore they were now estopped from denying that the verdict of the country had been in favour of Welsh Disestablishment. He had always been a moderate man. He did not ask that Welsh Disestablishment should be dealt with first or second, but as long as it was understood that the Government had a mandate to deal with it when the opportunity arose, he was willing to leave the matter to the Government to determine. With regard to education he submitted that Wales presented an opportunity for exceptional treatment, and an opportunity would arise when there might be created a Board of Education for Wales to deal with elementary, secondary and university education. This would not be the first time that Wales had received distinctive treatment. The Leader of the Irish Party had referred to the great majority of four out of every five of the Irish Members being Nationalists, but in Wales the proportion was five out of five, and for the first time in the history of this country, the Principality had returned a solid phalanx of thirty-four supporters of His Majesty's Government. He assured the House that not one of those thirty-four Members could have been elected had he not been a supporter of Disestablishment and Disendowment in Wales. Under those circumstances no doubt the Government would take this question into account. He hoped they would sit late into August, and even into September, to pass the measures contained in the King's Speech. He was interested in this question because he did not expect Disestablishment until the arrears of legislation had been cleared off. In spite of this omission, he was glad to support His Majesty's Government in the programme of reforms foreshadowed and embodied in the King's Speech.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN (Cork)
said that before this irregular discussion came to an end, he wished to make some observations in reference to Ireland. Apart from anything in the King's Speech, or in the speech of the Prime Minister last night, there was one thing 240 which would give very considerable satisfaction in Ireland, and that was the great amount of sympathy with Ireland exhibited during the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford by the great and practically all-powerful majority now established in this House to undertake great social and political reforms both in this country and Ireland. The Irish question, he wished to point out, had been completely transformed within the last ten years in a direction just the opposite to that contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham by the passing of the Act for the abolition of landlordism. This was a matter which was not fully grasped in this country, because the process was a silent one; but the change was there, and it would be a lasting one. They would no longer be occupied as the late Mr. Parnell was occupied, rightly and triumphantly, for many years in this House, when he was forced to depend upon merely fighting one English Party against another, and to fight under the terrible disadvantage that a fourth of his own countrymen were divided from his Party not merely by political sentiments but by their material interests, by their regard for their pockets in the monopoly they enjoyed of all place and all power in Ireland. All this was now changed, and changed in a way that there could be no going back upon. He was aware that some people consoled themselves by thinking that it was the Nationalists, or at least he himself, who had changed. He was not greatly alarmed at the imputation. If there was any necessity for it nothing would be easier than to show that it was not they but both the great English Parties who had changed from the old days when the Nationalists had their hand against every man and every man's hand against them. It might perhaps be permissible for him at all events to remind hon. Gentlemen above the gangway who were still of opinion that their remaining demands were very dreadful, that every Irish Act of Parliament passed during the last twenty years had been a sort of act of contrition of this House of Commons, that there had been as many Tory Acts of contrition as Liberal, that every Act of Parliament that had been passed had been a confession in the main that the representatives of Ireland were right and that the demands of Ireland were 241 just and reasonable, and that all the terrors and bogeys which they heard conjured up here long ago when they asked for expropriation of the landlords and for the management of their own affairs, at all events, had not had the effects predicted of shaking the foundations of the Empire. He thought it would be found, even by the most reactionary gentlemen above the gangway, that as soon as they had conceded, as they would have to concede within a few years, the full extent of their demands, the results would be satisfactory. Whether British or Irish Members had changed he did not care a brass farthing, so long as the change was in the right direction and so long as the happy result was that they were no longer obliged to discuss Irish questions on a war footing, either in this House or in Ireland. A good element of hope for the future was that both the great English parties had co-operated in those great legislative changes and in the revolution that had taken place in regard to Ireland. No matter what might be the fate of Parties for the moment, he trusted that in the end they would co-operate in the development of that legislation. It might be all very well for the highly respectable, but rather decaying, section of Irish gentlemen who would not have Home Rule, and who thought that Devolution was even worse than Home Rule, to look, as the Dublin correspondent of The Times said they were looking, to that eminent Irish patriot the right hon. Member for South Dublin to lead a forlorn hope for them in this House. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on having found refuge in South Dublin, which might fairly be described, so far as he was concerned, as Dublin Castle by the Sea. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on having been more successful with the Castle officials and their fellow residents in South Dublin than with his more inappreciative fellow countrymen. He did not dispute the right hon. Gentleman's ability or pluck, but with all his ability and pluck he would not be able to expunge from the statute book the Acts of Parliament which his own Government had passed. He would point out that whereas some years ago a minority in Ireland possessed the whole of the government of the country and had thousands of places at 242 their disposal, and were consequently bound to fight tooth and nail against popular government, popular government had now come to stay in Ireland. Although no doubt the gentlemen who elected the right hon. Member for South Dublin might be too elderly to accept the new order of ideas, he doubted whether the right hon. and gallant Member for Armagh would deny the likelihood that their sons in the next generation who had to live in Ireland would learn that lesson gladly enough. A few years ago the landlords in Ireland depended absolutely upon England for the means of carrying out their cruel and oppressive rights as landlords. It was scarcely too much to say that they depended literally for their daily bread on Dublin Castle. That also was changed now. In four or five years there would no longer be Irish landlords. Those who had been Irish landlords would have as substantial an interest as any in such matters as reducing the police establishment, and in dealing with Dublin Castle. There would, he ventured to say, be union on these subjects. Let him point out further that, up to the present the time of this House had been largely occupied by members of one English Party criticising and reproaching the opposite Party, for treating with the Irish Party. But the Tories were now as much implicated as the Liberals, and he only wished that they had been allowed to implicate themselves a little more deeply. He was confident that there were men amongst them, he did not know in the House of Commons, but at all events in another place, whom every impulse of decency as well as of broad-minded statesmanship would impel for the future to co-operate with the Government in their Irish policy. He did not think there would be any anything in the attitude of the people of Ireland, or of the Irish Party, to raise any jarring note, or to increase the difficulties that no doubt stood in the way. They had never attempted to mislead the English people or Government as to the true nature of the Irish demand, which was for representative, and responsible government in purely Irish affairs—nothing more and nothing less. Upon that point there was no shadow of difference of opinion amongst the Nationalist representatives of Ireland. They might have 243 differed up to the present on matters of laches, but as to the main principle there was not, and could not be, any divergence amongst Irish Nationalists, They were united as one man in the view that responsible self-government, which was, or was about to be, enjoyed by every other community of European origin in the King's realms, should be conceded to Ireland. It was no longer necessary to go on protesting the full measure of their rights. Tory as well as Liberal had now entered upon a policy of concession to Ireland in which they could not stop. On the other hand he, for one, recognised that they had incurred responsibilities which would compel them to make allowance for the difficulties of the Government and not to adopt an aggressive attitude so long as they felt that they were being treated with good feeling and good faith, and according to the measure of the possibilities of situation. He had no fear that the moderation of Ireland would be mistaken for any recantation or want of backbone. They were far from saying that the millennium had come or was in the least likely to come. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford on the previous night, in language that was most truthful and most eloquent, pictured the condition of acute suffering and depression under which the country was suffering. It was at this time the worst governed and most overburdened and the most decaying country in Europe, but he for one felt that in view of the work of the next few years—the work of completing the abolition of landlordism, and of transforming the government into national self-government—it was their interest, just as much as that of English Members, to make straight their paths by gradually allaying any suspicions and old prejudices that might still remain in England and in Ulster, and to proceed to a certain extent in the experimental way towards larger measures of self-government, which must be the ultimate aim of wise legislation. For his part it was just because he felt confident as to the successful results of trusting Ireland that he was willing to proceed by degrees so long as the Government, with the gigantic power that was behind them, did not ask them to go by too slow degrees, so that the urgent questions of taxation and emigration would not have to stand over for an unreasonable period. It would be a waste of energy at that stage to dis- 244 cuss what might be the plans announced in the King's Speech or to enter into any controversies as between Home Rule and Devolution. These were mere quarrels about words, mere castles in the air. If Englishmen and Irishmen meant to arrive at an agreement in the interests of England as well as of Ireland, some great scheme for adjusting the legislative arrangements between the countries ought to be arrived at. Practical statesmanship had not fallen so low on either side of the House that any insurmountable difficulties could arise in arriving at a sensible settlement and one which he made bold to prophesy would cause less wrench to old Tory prejudices than was required by a Tory Government when they abolished the Grand Jury rule and signed the death warrant of landlordism in Ireland. As an opinion of his own, which he held very strongly, he might be allowed to say that in his judgment they had already the germ of the eventual settlement of Irish affairs between Irishmen in the Land Conference to which, and to the Land Purchase Act, the almost unanimous sanction of both English Parties had been given. By some such machinery as that, the two or three most urgent questions could be dealt with. First of all the Labourers Act, and he congratulated the Government on its expressed intention to deal with, that question. Then there was the1 settlement of the great Univerity question, upon the broadest and most democratic basis. There was also the question that the Estates Commissioners should be freed from the shackles which the late Chief Secretary and his law officers had placed upon them. As to the necessity for an amending Purchase Bill all were agreed, and no one who had studied the question would doubt that on two of those vital questions an agreement among all parties and sections of Irishmen could be arrived at, as in the case of the Land Bill. There were difficulties, but whatever difficulty some of his friends might have had in the beginning in accepting a principle, which he agreed was more or less a rough and ready way of dealing with matters, he was satisfied that it would prove the way of arriving at a solution with the least possible amount of friction. He submitted that this would be the best possible way of getting valuable urgent 245 Irish, legislation through the House of Commons with the least possible delay, and it also afforded an unanswerable argument of the capacity of Irishmen to manage their own affairs with justice and generosity to one another. All he could say was, that if the Chief Secretary would only recommend such conferences upon these questions as they arose and recommend them as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover recommended them, by promising to the best of his power to give effect to them, as he could easily do, he would go a long way towards a solution, and he would obtain actual experience as to how they would work. Every successful agreement come to by Irishmen among themselves would make it easy to transform those informal conferences into constitutional assemblies for the transaction of important business. He would be delighted to address a few words of respectful warning to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover if he were present, and they would be that he should not allow himself to become the victim of what was a very despicable party manœuvre to try and retrieve the fortunes of the Tory Party by turning upon Ireland. He thought the right hon. Gentleman's best friends would advise him that instead of repudiating the course of action he had taken on a previous occasion, he should avow, and glory in the avowal, the full force of the Irish policy he had adopted. Whatever might be said of the misunderstandings of the moment, it would be the most enduring monument of his career and the highest feather in his cap that a new Government filled with friendship to Ireland could find no better lines to go upon than those on which he had pursued. He (Mr. O'Brien) had never concealed the opinion that the right hon. Gentleman was not solely or even principally at fault for the breakdown in the administration of the Land Act or as to the failure of the Labourers Bill and the settlement of the University question. He need not go into this, but one thing he felt perfectly certain of was that his policy and that of Lord Dudley was, with the exception of Lord Lansdowne's foreign policy, the only achievement of permanent policy and success of the late Government. The right hon. 246 Gentleman would be doing great service if he made up his mind manfully to co-operate with the new Chief Secretary in completing the work to which he and Lord Dudley made a contribution that never would be forgotten. The Chief Secretary might rely upon it the more he inquired the more he would find that there were permanent elements of conciliation in the Irish Unionist body, among many landlords and Orange men and Presbyterian farmers of the north. The Chief Secretary would find this a permanent and growing element full of promise and promoting a better and broader spirit among the people. Whatever might be the difficulties of the Chief Secretary when he came over to govern Ireland as a stranger—and he did not say a stranger in any invidious sense, because the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to regard himself as at home in Ireland—still he came as the representative of an unworkable and indefensible system of Government—he would have the good will of all Parties. He would have at his back a gigantic majority in this House animated with good will towards Ireland. He would also find a state of good feeling in Ireland in which there was an almost unanimous determination to give him fair play and every reasonable cooperation in the way of a tranquil country, which was the most peaceable in the world, anxious for conciliation, ready unquestionably to have the ties between all classes and creeds drawn more closely together, and willing to labour in getting rid of whatever reasonable objection might still remain in the minds of Englishmen or Irishmen. That was a very great advantage, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would turn it to good account, and that with liberal and courageous efforts, he would give Ireland promptly those great measures to which he had referred. The right hon. Gentleman could make them, practically speaking, non-contentious measures and could clear the way to complete self-government. If the right hon. Gentleman did that he would render to England the best of all services. English statesmen on both sides of the House had learned the lesson that the time of peacefulness, friendliness and conciliation in Ireland was the time to prove that 247 the hopes of the Irish people would not be disappointed and that their friendliness would not be misunderstood.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
said that the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in regard to Chinese labour appeared to be that Ministerialists were a set of unctuous hypocrites, who with their tongues in their cheeks used the question for all it was worth at the general election, and were now prepared to leave the coolie in the state of labour which they had described as slavery. The speech of the Prime Minister the previous evening knocked the bottom out of the whole suggestion and was a crushing reply to the accusation. He heard that speech with the greatest sense of relief and satisfaction. What was it that the Premier suggested should be done, pending the creation of the final fabric of self-government in the Transvaal? The Government had altered one or more of the punitive clauses of the Ordinance, but he hoped that the alteration of it would proceed much further than that, and that it would be overhauled from beginning to end, so that if there was anything it in which pressed upon the coolie as a human being it would be removed. In the second place the Government were prepared to pay the expense of the repatriation of the coolie who did not wish to stay in South Africa. These suggestions carried them very far along the line of reform, especially as the Government had announced that there should be no further importation of coolies. He would suggest, however, that the Administration should go one step further and say that the clause which related to re-enlistment of coolies after three years' service for another three years should be struck out. It was in the interest of this great nation and the honour of the great Liberal Party that the indentured Chinese coolies should stay in South Africa as short a time as possible. In his judgment, the Leader of the Opposition presented a diverting spectacle when he stood at the Table and lifted his hands in pious horror at certain 248 cartoons issued during the general election. The right hon. Gentleman must have an uncommonly short memory. He thought they on their side could produce some highly coloured cartoons which were issued by the Party to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham belonged at the 1900 election, at the time of the Khaki fever, which depicted every Liberal as an enemy to his country and a traitor to the soldier in the field. He thought the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a classic instance of the pot calling the kettle black, and there he left it. It was curious how everybody got very angry when the word "slavery" was used; but he had said that this system of indentured Chinese labour was slavery. He had called it slavery both inside and outside the House, and he still called it slavery. The Government had been called upon to clear up one of the greatest messes in English history. He would quote one or two things which had led him to call it slavery. He would read a description of the landing of the first batch of Chinese coolies at Durban in June 1904, by the S.S. "Tweedale"—The landing place was guarded with a strong body of police; a floating cordon of water police remained permanently round the ship; police with loaded rifles paraded her decks and the wharves. The coolies were photographed, their thumb impressions taken, and they were registered under armed supervision. It further appeared that the coolies were sent up to Johannesburg in locked carriages under armed escort.He called that slavery. But he would take official documents, from which it appeared that the late Government promised the Chinese Government that there should be no corporal punishment except under the ordinary law. What happened? Until Questions were asked in this House and indignation arose, they were flogged wholesale. The late-manager of a compound in July last made the statement—He had in many cases flogged Chinese coolies. He knew it was against the law, but he had done it.He would also quote the statement of Mr. H. Boland as to the flogging of coolies, published in the Morning Leader last September which had never been 249 seriously challenged; Mr. Boland was a most reliable witness.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he did not know what the figures were. He was like the Prime Minister; he had not seen everything. But Mr. Boland's statements had not been seriously challenged. If, however, it was not agreeable to refer to the Morning Leader perhaps he might be permitted to refer to the organ of the Transvaal Licensed Victuallers' Association in regard to what they published on the 29th April, 1905. He should not himself put up the organ as an altogether reliable source of information, but perhaps it would not be challenged on the other side. It said—Twenty coolies are lined up outside the compound manager's office. They are marched in, one by one, by Chinese policemen, and charged. The charge may be anything—from malingering to opium-smoking, or failing to report after a shift. The sentence usually varies from five to fifty strokes. These are administered variously. In one compound that I visited the punishment is carried out most expeditiously. 'Ten,' says the compound manager, speaking in Chinese, and the unhappy coolie walks to another part of the same room, between two or three Chinese policemen, to take his gruel.He called that slavery. Moreover, the sequel to Blue-book 2,563 showed that between July, 1904, and April, 1905—ten months—the total number of convictions was 1,356, including desertions, 103; refusing to work, 100; travelling without permit, 139; refusing to work and inciting to riot, fifty-three. If the convictions were taken month by month, the proportion of them was 5,000 a year, and out of 50,000 coolies. That was not a state of things they could view with equanimity. The Party opposite had got the country into this mess. They had brought the country to the very verge of ruin and squandered money and blood, and now they really asked too much of the Government, and blamed them because they could not get rid of the result of this action in five minutes. He thought the Prime Minister had shown great circumspection and care, but considered that it would have been fair if some of the money for sending 250 these people back to their homes had come out of the pockets of the Rand millionaires. If they had the £30,000,000 promised by the Member for West Birmingham, they could have dealt with the whole matter no doubt to the right hon. Gentleman's satisfaction.
§ MR. WALSH (Lancashire, Ince)
said it was not in any spirit of carping criticism or factious opposition that he rose to call attention to the nature of the Address which had been moved. He was quite sure that every Member of his Party recognised with exceeding satisfaction the extremely useful list of measures contained in the Speech from the Throne, which they hoped would in due time reach legislative enactment. The question of Chinese labour was after all not a question of the coolie alone, but one of the highest moral significance. It was a question of the degradation of labour, and they could not conceive that the action suggested by the Government was one that sufficiently met the requirements of the case. In it they found no mention of the fact that re-enlistment should cease, nor did they find any mention of any definite action which was to-be taken with regard to the licences issued in November last. That was a matter of extreme gravity, because they believed that those 13,199 licences issued in the first and second week of November last year were issued largely in contravention of the will of the late Government and largely in defiance of what might be taken to be the express command of the Government. On October 27th the late Colonial Secretary sent a telegram to Lord Selborne, suggesting that, for six months at least, they might voluntarily stop the importation of Chinese labour, and he thought when a right hon. Gentleman occupying the high and responsible position of Secretary of State for the Colonies suggested that voluntary action should be taken to stop the importation of Chinese labour and that no re-enlistment should go on for a period of six months, such a suggestion was entitled to the highest and most respectful consideration. Yet within a fortnight of the sending of that telegram to Lord Selborne, they found 13,199 licences were issued. In reply to the 251 Colonial Secretary's request for information as to the reason why such an unprecedented issue had taken place, the right hon. Gentleman was told it was due to the steady and continuous expansion of the industry. He, however, contended that the figures of the previous months entirely displaced or overrode the statement furnished by Lord Selborne. The figures of the licences issued in the previous eight months were January 4225, February 5,374, March nil, April 1,931, May 3,477, June 2,285, July 1,529, August 2,221, September nil, October 2,351. Those figures gave an average of 2,924 per month for the previous eight months. The Whigs were dished in 1867, but then they were dished by a great historic Party, but on this occasion the Liberals had been dished by persons who were largely foreigners, whose names were unpronounceable by English tongues, and with whom the people of this country had no sympathy. He protested with all his heart against this outrage which had been committed in South Africa. The Government had been informed by the Attorney-General that it would not now be possible to revoke the licences already granted, although they had been granted under the conditions he had described, and the reason given by the Government itself was that such an act would be arbitrary and would, in Lord Selborne's opinion, leave a feeling of injustice. How could they in these circumstances describe the action of the Chamber of Mines itself, which met on February 12th, and decided in the face of the suggestion of the Colonial Secretary that the necessities of the mines required 13,000 coolies? Such an act did not demand lenient treatment at the hands of this House. Such an action on the contrary called for very strong action on the part of the House. They might on this point say with Shakespeare—That indeed to do a great right we should do a little wrong.on this occasion and curb these cruel devils of their will. They certainly ought to ask the Government, to whom he and those who sat with him were willing to give loyal support so long as they took the overwhelming claims of labour into fair and sympathetic 252 consideration, for an inquiry into the whole of this question, and that the Government should say that under the present circumstances these licences should not come into operation. They regretted that the Government had departed so much from the attitude of great moral courage adopted by Lord Elgin in his request that the question of the importation of Chinese labour should be reserved pending the decision as to granting responsible Government to the colonies—an attitude which he emphasised when he stated further that His Majesty's Government was not prepared under all circumstances to be responsible for further importation. They believed the justice of the case could only be met by preventing re-enlistment and by abrogating the conditions which allowed re-enlistment after the coolie had done his term of three years, and they most earnestly hoped the Government would agree to a free and unfettered inquiry into all the conditions which at present existed, and that pending such inquiry no more of these licences should come into active operation. Lord Selborne had stated that 3,000 more licences were issued in December and that they ought to come into operation in the same way as the 13,000. He was glad to see that the Government had prevented those coming into operation. But he noticed that Lord Selborne had said that there would be a strong feeling that injustice had been done if they were not allowed to come in. What was the mind and the feeling of the British labourers who were now walking about the Transvaal depending on soup kitchens, charity, and relief works for an existence? He submitted that the Liberal Party ought to rise to the height of this great question. Those who had not previously been acquainted with the customs of this House were quite aware that they would meet with many curious things, but they never thought to hear from the lips of so competent an authority as the hon. Member for Westminster such a fine description of the principle and policy of eighteenth century brigandage in this House. The hon. Member preached the doctrine that might is right.The good old rule, the simple plan that they should take who had the power and they should keep who can.253 They could not agree to that doctrine. Might was not right. Might had brought ail the evil from which humanity suffered. They appealed to the Prime Minister, the honoured, revered, and distinguished Leader of the House, and through him to the great Party who were proud to serve under his command, not to heed the prospects which were held out by interested spectators in South Africa. He hoped they would arrest further importation, and give a full, open, and unfettered inquiry, and see to it that re-enlistments under the Ordinance were abrogated, and that when the men's term of service expired they were drafted home whence they came, at the expense of the mine-owners, and not of the National Exchequer.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said he challenged the statement of the hon. manufacturer who moved the Address that the result of the recent election showed that the people of this country were against fiscal reform. He challenged it for a variety of reasons which had already been brought to the knowledge of the House, but he had in his own case a very special instance of it. If there was a constituency in the whole of the country in which the battle of fiscal reform was the main issue at the election it was certainly Central Sheffield. He never issued a document or said a word which was not upon the subject of fiscal reform. His opponent described himself as the Secretary of the Free Trade Union, but what was remarkable in all his speeches and addresses was the extremely wide berth he gave to the subject of fiscal reform. When the hon. Member for St. Pancras was making his Motion he (Sir Howard) said Chinese labour was the issue which had largely affected great masses of people in many constituencies. He held a document which was issued by the Secretary of the Free Trade Union, not upon fiscal matters, but entirely upon this question of Chinese labour. What had that to do with fiscal reform which the hon. Gentleman said had been definitely decided by the people of this country? They on the Opposition side of the House knew there was a great majority against them, 254 but they did not find by any means that in the country there was the large number of votes against them which the state of the majority would lead one to suppose. In English constituencies 2,163,030 votes were cast for Liberal and Radical candidates against 2,086,222 for Conservative and Unionist candidates, giving a majority of only 76,808 votes. It was utterly absurd in face of this and in face of the results in many Midland cities to say that the fiscal question had been finally decided by the country. In the Speech from the Throne there was this extraordinary paragraph:—I note with satisfaction that the imports and exports of the country continue to show a steady and accelerating increase, and, together with the growing activity of trade at home, indicate that the industries of my people are, in general, in a sound and progressive condition.This paragraph was followed by a reference to the vast amount of unemployment which existed in the country. Could anyone have heard the Speech of the Leader of the Nationalist Party without recognising the enormous harm which had been done to the industries of Ireland alone by our absurd free imports system during the past sixty years? Yet His Majesty's Government lumped together the imports and exports, the sales and the purchases, and by taking the gross total said that represented a satisfactory condition of things, and in the next paragraph they talked of the great amount of unemployment. Was any account whatever taken, in the Speech or in the paragraph, of the enormous increase which had come upon this country in recent years in the importation of foreign manufactured goods? There could be no question whatever that the importation of these competing goods had a very great tendency to throw our own people out of employment. A return issued a short time ago by the Board of Trade showed that the value of foreign articles wholly or mainly manufactured, imported, and consumed in the United Kingdom, was roughly, in 1860, £50,000,000; in 1870, £40,000,000; in 1880, £54,000,000; in 1890, £63,000,000; in 1900, £95,000,000; in 1902, £101,000,000; and in 1905, £140,000,000 sterling, and this was the condition of affairs which His Majesty's 255 Government viewed with intense satisfaction. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day that he could not find money for old age pensions. No wonder hon. Gentlemen below the gangway denounced the Answer as highly unsatisfactory. Put a tax upon these goods and there was the money for old age pensions. The importation of these competing goods threw our own people out of employment. On the 1st March a new German tariff would come into force against us. What was His Majesty's Government doing as regarded this German tariff?
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
That is exceedingly interesting. Here is a manufacturer of iron, I presume, for the British market.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
said that was better still. The hon. Gentleman appeared to delight in the statement that a new German tariff was to come against this country next week. He understood the hon. Member approved of the tariff. Well, he held in his hand a statement as regarded the German tariff as it would affect the industries of his constituents. In the case of files, the tariff was to increase from 7s. 6d. to 20s. per cwt., and he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider how this increase would affect the Sheffield manufacturer of files. The people he sympathised with were his unfortunate constituents. He did not wonder that hon. Members opposite thought his constituents were unfortunate, but at all events they had a Member who knew his own mind and spoke it, and one who voiced the interest of his constituents whenever he found an opportunity of doing so. This was a case in point. Here was 256 an article which was one of the staple trades of Sheffield, and what steps were the Government taking in the interests of the file cutters of Sheffield who were aggrieved by this new German tariff? Then there was a new Russian tariff? Recently the President of the Local Government Board had addressed a letter to the Secretary of the Free Trade Union in which he spoke of the "made-in-Germany" folly, and so on. He wished to know what steps were being taken in the interests of the workers to secure that free access to the Russian and German markets which was given to Russian and German products in the markets of this country. The remark made by the hon. Member opposite, who was a manufacturer himself, would surely lead to a considerable increase in those tariffs. Foreign tariffs prevented them having that free access to foreign markets which they gave to foreign products in this country, and consequently it diminished the demand for English goods whilst at the same time it increased the wealth and productiveness of foreign countries. Why was there this great outcry against the competition of Germany if the protective system had not led to the enormous wealth and productive power of Germany? He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would confer with the hon. manufacturer opposite and then tell the House definitely and clearly what steps were being taken against the new German and Russian tariffs to prevent foreign nations from creating this unfair competition and saying—"Now there is a Government in power in England which does not care what we do; we can do anything we like and impose any burdens we desire, because the British Government is delighted with the present state of the import and export trade."
§ MR. STUART (Sunderland)
said he was sure they could all see why the hon. Member for Sheffield had won a victory in spite of a determined opposition. It was due to the enthusiasm which he had thrown into this question and which extended back almost into the dark ages of political reminiscence, long before the present Opposition Bench were converted to his 257 views[...] There was a youthful vivacity about the hon. Member opposite which he was sure they were all delighted to see; and if someone had to be returned from Sheffield in the interest of those views they rejoiced that it was the hon. Member opposite. Of course, this debate touched only slightly the various phases of the fiscal question, but he wished to point out how lightly the hon. Member skimmed over some of the difficulties which perhaps in his enthusiasm he did not see. He found fault with the Government because there was a reference to exports and imports in the King's Speech. His great Leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, said categorically that the exports formed the criterion of a country's prosperity. Would the hon. Member opposite say that the imports ought not to increase as well? He had forgotten to tell them of the increase in the exports of manufactured goods from this country. He also appeared to forget that whatever they got from a foreign country they had got to pay for it by sending something out, and therefore his argument was not fully sustained. The hon. Member for Sheffield was opposed to the importation of these manufactured goods which he said ought to be taxed, and he desired to tax them in order to keep them out of the country, because he said they were taking the bread out of the mouths of British workpeople. It was rather remarkable that the hon. Member then turned to the Labour Members and said—"This is where I am going to give you money, by taxing these foreigners." If they were going to keep out those foreign goods, how would they be able to raise money by taxing them? And if they came into this country in spite of the tax, then the object of the hon. Member opposite would not be achieved, because he desired to keep those goods out of this country. The hon. Member was mistaken in his statement that the King's Speech referred to a terrible increase in the number of unemployed. There was a statement that something would be done to amend the Unemployed Bill. The hon. Member had thrown out, incidentally, words as to the enormous number of the unemployed in this country, but he would challenge him to look at the pauperism returns as well as the returns of unemployment, 258 and then say that they had not been going on better of late years than they did before. Take the imports of foreign manufactured goods into this country and lay beside them the percentages of unemployed, and if the hon. Member could find any relation whatever between them he would pay him the greatest possible compliment.
§ MR. STUART
said he did not wish anyone to suppose that because he said that there was a decrease in pauperism and want of employment that they should not do something to improve the present condition of things. He hoped to see great remunerative public works commenced which would be a great advantage to the nation, before this question was laid aside altogether. Such works would help to feed the poor and give employment to the poorest labourers in the country, to whom their sympathy was justly more extended recently than to any other class of the community. It was not known to many hon. Members of this House how Bill after Bill had passed both Houses for reclaiming large portions of the Wash by means of which thousands of acres had been reclaimed, and there was at present a Bill which had not been carried into effect, for reclaiming another 100,000 acres. This was promoted by a private company for profit, which showed that it must be an advantage to the community to carry out such projects. There were many opportunities for carrying on works of this character, and he trusted some further inquiry would be made by the Members of this House, before they left the consideration of the question. He believed that those who had to deal with these matters were sympathetic towards making such inquiry as he had described. With regard to the equalisation of rates, he thought that as he was the author of a Bill which was passed with that special object he might point out that there were several concurrent methods for equalising rates in London. One or another of these methods, would be proposed by the Government. He urged that the equalisation of the rates of London should be accompanied by an 259 arrangement which would give to a central authority greater control in future over the expenditure of the rates. Coming hack to this House, as he had done, after five or six years' absence, he could not but observe the great spirit of reality there was in this House, and the great desire now to do something for the benefit of the people of England and Ireland and our Colonies, and more especially for the poorer portion of the people. He congratulated the Prime Minister on the King's Speech and on his own statements supplementing what the Speech contained. The right hon. Gentleman was making an earnest and honest attempt to meet the situation. He trusted the measures which would be brought before the House would be pushed along so that they would not waste their energies. He hoped that the House would use its energies in getting good legislation, and that the measures mentioned in the King's Speech would be dealt with in an efficient manner, even if they had a long session. There were many things he was interested in which were not referred to in the King's Speech. There were, for instance, the questions of the taxation of ground values and the provision of old age pensions. He hoped that when six and three-quarter years were over they would see accomplished a great deal for the improvement of the condition of the people.
§ MR. BARNES (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
said he desired to make a few observations on behalf of those hon. Members with whom he was associated. He expressed his sincere gratification that the Speech from the Throne foreshadowed legislation which, if carried into effect, would be very helpful to those whom the Labour Members in a special sense represented. He was extremely pleased that a Bill with respect to workmen's compensation was to be brought forward. They were given to understand that the Government were going to amend the law in a manner which would make it efficacious in dealing with all cases of accident. In connection with this subject he desired to call attention to two matters: the question of out-workers, and the question of insurance. As to outworkers he represented in a special sense 260 a body who were to a large extent outside the present law, and he wanted to put the case of those men before the House so that they might not by any possibility be overlooked in the framing of the Bill. There were many men engaged as outworkers in constructing machinery and on similar work. They had to perform their work under conditions which were infinitely more dangerous than those in the workshop, because they had to work with tools to which they were unaccustomed. They had to work often on unfinished floors, and in unfinished buildings. Under the present Act those men were debarred from compensation. Cases had been taken up to the highest Court at great expense to ascertain that fact. He hoped therefore, those men would be included in the new Bill. The question of insurance was even more important, because of more general application. He submitted that they needed insurance guaranteed by the Government for two reasons. As a Member of the Departmental Committee which dealt with this matter a year or two ago it was borne in upon him in a very forcible way that the insurance companies' agents were not altogether fair—as fair as they ought to be—and that in some cases they took an unfair advantage of the position they found themselves in in relation to the injured men. He and his hon. friends wanted to avoid that. He urged further that there should be a great extension of the Act to cover those who were employed in small workshops. He submitted that, in these cases the law would be inoperative unless at the same time some guarantee was given by the Government that the money was really there when wanted. There were many small employers with small capital, especially in the building trades, and when accidents occurred many of those men would plead that they had no money to pay compensation. Therefore in amending the present Act the law should be extended to cover the people in the employment of small employers. The principle of compulsory insurance should be applied to those small employers, The principle which was to be applied in connection with the repatriation of Chinese workers to their own country might very well be applied to our own kith and kin at home. The 261 Government should take some liability as they had, he understood, now done towards Chinese coolies. He rose, however, chiefly for the purpose of speaking on the subject of old age pensions. He submitted that the question was ripe and more than ripe for treatment. No question stirred the imagination of an audience in any part of the country more than this. From what he had heard to-day and yesterday he ventured to say that no other question excited so much interest in the minds of politicians on both sides of the House. It had been mentioned incidentally by more than half the speakers who had addressed the House. The question was ripe for treatment, because promises with regard to it had been made by politicians so long as he could remember, and hopes had been excited in the minds of the poor and aged from one end of the country to the other. It had been said that they were not promises but proposals. However that might be, he knew that hopes had been raised in hundreds of thousands of their poorer fellow citizens that a scheme of old age pensions would be established. This question was getting more important as years rolled on. Twenty years ago it was a matter of pride on the part of an employer, or, at all events, a reputable employer, that he would not discharge his old workmen. He did not know whether it was the result of competition or otherwise, but it was a fact that they did not now find the same degree of latitude allowed to old men as in former times. They did not find the same humane feeling between employer and employed as there was twenty or thirty years ago, On the contrary, when a workman's natural vigour was abated, his hair turned grey, and his back a little bent, he found it exceedingly difficult to get employment, and he was thrown out at an earlier age than before. They had heard a great deal here and elsewhere of the growth of imports and exports and of the increasing wealth of the country, but to the minds of himself and his hon. friends these matters were of little avail. They had heard a great deal also of their educational advantages. He agreed that education was better than it was formerly, but what was that to them so long as those educational advantages meant the sharpening of the wits and the intensification 262 of the workshop-life of their fellow citizens? There were two courses open to the industrial veteran. He must either throw himself on the bounty of his friends and relatives or on Bumbledom. He submitted that the aged workman should not be thrown upon either. Having done his duty in his day and generation, maintained himself and his wife and family, and added to the wealth of the community, that community owed a duty to that man and ought at least to hold out a helping hand to him in old age. From a Return moved for by the hon. Member for Morpeth he found that in the year before last there were no less than 490,513 paupers over the age of sixty years. That was in England and Wales alone. On going back to the Commission of ten years ago, which, although somewhat out of date, covered the ground in a more complete form, he found that there were 1,980,000 people over the age of sixty-five. Probably they might take it that there were now about 2,000,000 in round figures over the age of sixty-five. That Commission reported that no less than 20 per cent. or that vast number were paupers at any one time, and 30 per cent. paupers at some time in the course of the year. They found that something like 400,000 of our fellow citizens over the age of sixty-five were paupers, and that 600,000 of them were paupers at one time or another in the course of the year. That was a symptom. It did not by any means plumb the depths of poverty, because there were many thousands of men and women in the country who would rather suffer want, who would rather starve or die than appeal to the workhouse official in any shape or form. It was therefore safe to say that these 600,000 were merely symptoms of poverty and that there were to-day something like a million men and women who had done their part in the daily struggle of life, but who were without the actual necessaries of life. Pensions were wanted for these people as a civic right. It was said by some that these people were themselves to blame; that they should have saved in their time of vigour. That was not so. A good deal might be said for the fact that they never had the chance of saving. But even if otherwise, he should still appeal to 263 the House to act on the principle given by Hamlet who told Polonius to serve the players according to his own honour. He asked the House to remember that, and, even if it were true that some of these people had had the opportunity of saving and had not availed themselves of it, the House should not treat them in a narrow sense "but according to its own honour." But he would go further and say that these people had not had the chance of saving. The wages of many of the working people were only sufficient to cover the cost of the bare necessities of existence and not sufficient to cover the decencies and comforts of civilised life. He had read a correspondence in the newspapers initiated by a gentlemen who was now a Member of this House in which it was stated that the wages of the workpeople in a particular part of the country came out on the average at 14s. per week, while other writers who followed in the discussion put the wages of agricultural labourers at only 10s. or 11s. per week. Then they were told by Mr. Charles Booth that as the result of careful inquiry he found that one-third of the population in this country were living on wages of not more than £1 a week. He submitted that, in view of these facts, these people had no opportunity of saving for old age. Then, it was said that voluntary associations ought to have done something to solve this question. They had done something. They had dealt with this matter in a brotherly spirit. Speaking of trade unions, he could say that there were 12,000 or 14,000 members on their books receiving assistance, and even a larger number were on the books of the friendly societies of this country. But that was an insignificant proportion of the number of the people for whom he pleaded. Those who were members of trade unions and friendly societies after all had been in receipt of a wage which left a little margin for saving, whereas the people to whom he had referred, and for whom he pleaded, had wages so miserably inadequate that they had no margin for saving. A great deal had been said about the cost of old-age pensions. The hon. Member for Central Sheffield ventured to suggest that the cost might be met by a tax on imported manufactured goods. There 264 was no need for anything of the sort; moreover, it would not meet the object the hon. Gentleman had in view. There were other sources of revenue which it would be far more statesman-like to tap, and which he hoped would be tapped. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham suggested that in order to meet the cost of old-age pensions the basis of taxation should be widened. He agreed, and with modesty he would suggest a means of getting the cost of these old-age pensions. Ten years ago the assessable income of this country amounted to £673,711,988, and the year before last it had arisen to the enormous total of £879,338,546, or an increase of about 30 per cent. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and those with whom the right hon. Gentleman associated, that they might help the Government to meet the cost of old age pensions by tapping that enormous source of revenue; and that might be done by a graduated income-tax which would reach those people in receipt of enormous incomes—the greater part of which incomes were derived from social wealth, and therefore ought to be diverted to social purposes. But apart altogether from the source from which the cost of old age pensions should be drawn, this rich country ought to provide the means to make the old age of the workers more tolerable. He refused to believe that this, the richest country on the face of the earth, which had spent £250,000,000 in suppressing two small republics, was not in a position to wipe out this stain on its escutcheon. He appealed to the supporters of the Government to give a strong lead in this matter as soon as that could possibly be done. The difficulty that the Government were in was recognised. The Labour Members recognised the mess that the Government had fallen heirs to; but they thought that one of the first things which ought to be attended to was this question of pensions to the aged poor. Knowing the feeling of the country on this matter, and having seen for himself that no question had more fired the imagination of the audiences he had addressed, he felt sure that the House would be acting in the best interests of 265 those in the seat of authority if they dealt with this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ MR. A. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said that he had listened with the utmost delight and with feelings of gratitude to the programme which His Majesty's Ministers had set forth in the gracious Speech from the Throne. He believed that that Speech would be received with gratitude by thousands of the poor people in the country districts. He was not at all astonished at the number of hon. Members who had spoken on the Chinese question. They on that side of the House were desperately in earnest on this question, and they meant what they said thoroughly. He made a study of the Ordinance on Chinese labour when it came out, and he did not know anything more disgraceful than some of its provisions, such as that which make it a criminal offence to give food or drink to a Chinaman who had left a compound, or to give him work. He had addressed many a meeting, and said that these Chinamen had been brought to South Africa for the purpose of excluding 20,000 white men from work. The evil had been done; the Chinamen were there, and the question was what was the best way of dealing with them. He had always spoken of the Chinese nation with the utmost possible respect. He believed the Chinese people to be second to no other nation in the world, and they ought not f to be treated as slaves. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said that they were not slaves, but their ideas of freedom must be different from those of the Party to which he belonged. The Chinese in the Transvaal were in a condition of slavery. They could not strike for higher wages, or erect houses, or cultivate gardens, or take part in any enterprise which would make living cheaper. If the Chinese were set free they would strike for higher wages and then we should have 20,000 Englishmen working in the mines. Then Government inspection would be demanded, and it would be seen that the mines were put in a sanitary condition.
§ MR. ROBERT DUNCAN (Lanarkshire, Govan)
said that he wished to say a few 266 words in support of what had already been said in condemnation of the Speech from the Throne not dealing more decidedly with the question of imports and exports. It had been very properly pointed out by some speakers on the Opposition side of the House that many of them were not protectionists, but were really free traders inasmuch as they desired freedom of trade. He would desire to associate himself with those who considered that they were the apostles of free trade, because they desired greater freedom of imports and exports. It was not really freedom of trade that they had now in freedom of imports. They had also to get freedom of exports. Were they to admit that it was impossible to do anything for the greater freedom of trade in the world of commerce? He was one of those who had been brought up in the belief that freedom of trade was a desirable thing, not only for trade itself, but as promoting more friendly intercourse between the great nations of the world, which of itself would be an advantage. He thought that many of those who held that view did not desire to build up tariff walls, nor to put themselves in the position of those exclusive nations who put 70 to 130 per cent. on imports, and thus closed the gates of commerce to mankind. They had a different ideal before them. They desired greater freedom of trade, and an increase in international intercourse. If they succeeded in doing something actively to promote greater freedom of trade, it was not right that they should be accused by the Ministerialists of being protectionists.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
said the Hon. Member for Central Sheffield had contended that the election at which he was successful had, so far as he was concerned, been fought entirely upon the lines of fiscal protection, and had declared that that election was typical of the real opinion of the people of the country. In his (the hon. Member's) constituency the issue was also confined to that point, and the majority instead of being, as before the last election, 1,200 was at that contest 5,000. So far as that election was concerned it was an answer by the inhabitants of a great industrial centre to the proposal that foreign 267 goods should be excluded from this country. They understood that in the words of the hon. Member for Central Sheffield the exclusion of foreign goods from this country by taxation must be reciprocal, and that if we were to take measures of fiscal reform to exclude from our industrial centres competition by goods manufactured in foreign centres they would take similar measures to exclude our goods. Of course they did that at present, and we did it by excess of manufacturing, and even to a certain extent by tariffs. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the case of the new tariff in Germany, but he could not have picked out a more unfortunate example, because the President of the Board of Trade only a week or two ago issued a circular in which he pointed out that every advantage which foreign countries were going to obtain by that new arrangment would also be obtained by us. That meant that, while foreign countries obtained an advantage by crippling their own industries and putting up prices to their own citizens of the necessary articles of consumption, we got all the advantage without any restrictions on our trade or our people. A memorable statement was made by the Emperor of Germany not long ago to the effect that Germany had grown great by hunger. That might be so, but one thing was certain that while the Hohenzollern family had shared the greatness it was by no means certain that they had shared the hunger. We did not want our Empire to be involved in the by-paths of famine in order to satisfy the ambition of certain right hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Laughter.] It might be a matter of laughter to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it was the poorest of the poor who would first feel the pinch of any tax upon food. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and another right hon. Gentleman had been engaged upon a missionary enterprise, and had undertaken to convert 40,000,000 of people to the doctrine of sacrifice. He thought they had failed. Let them transfer their energies to the Colonies, and try to get the 12,000,000 of people there to adhere to the same doctrine. They should welcome them if they came back with a Zollverein, but not if they returned with a tariff for the restriction 268 of trade. It had been suggested that the discussion on the King's Speech should not take a long time and he had compressed, his remarks. He might remark, however, that the stifling of discussion in that House had in times past led to disasters to the Government and destroyed Parties. The free and uncurtailed expression of opinion in this House would, in his opinion, add to the strength and unity, not only of the Government but of the Party, and would enable them to give an unswerving devotion to the Leader of the House and the Government acting under his direction. They would be most untrue to their election pledges if they did not give every assistance in their power to the Government, and he believed they could do that best by using the plainest and the shortest language possible in this House.
§ MR. WEIR (ROSS and Cromarty)
said he would only detain the House a few moments for the purpose of thanking the Prime Minister for admitting the need for a proper Amendment of the Crofters Act. The crofters of the highland and islands of Scotland suffered very greatly. He had seen a great deal of the British Empire, and there was no part of it where the people suffered so much and whose misery was so great as that of the crofters of the highlands and islands of Scotland. For ten years he had asked a Tory Government to do something for these people and no one now in the House who was a Member of the last Parliament knew that better than the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham eighteen years ago visited the most congested part of the highlands of Scotland, and he had been appealed to time after time to put in a word for them, but in vain, though the right hon. Gentleman was not above sending down to the constituency which he (the speaker) had represented for the last fourteen years and appealing to the crofters to support the tariff reform candidate. The right hon. Gentleman, beaten in the cities and the great manufacturing centres, went whining to the crofters to support his protectionist policy. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister realised the importance of doing 269 something for the highlands. There was no special promise of any Bill being introduced, but he sincerely trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would not allow the session to go by without taking some action, and he appealed to him to lose no time in dealing with this question of such urgent and vital importance. He noticed that the other day the crofters took forcible possession of the Island of Vatersay, near Barra. He was not surprised. He, of course, deplored the breaking of the law, but what were men to do when they could get no satisfaction from highland landlords and when every day they saw the deer forests increasing. There were no people in His Majesty's dominions who were so badly off as the cottar and crofter population in the highlands and islands of Scotland, and while he sincerely thanked the right hon. Gentleman on their behalf for referring to this subject he again expressed the hope that no time would be lost, but that every effort would be made to push matters forward and deal with this urgent and vital question.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
said he had listened to many speeches in this House but never to one which had given so much satisfaction to the Liberal side of the House and which had elicited so little hostile criticism from hon. Gentlemen opposite as that made yesterday by his right hon. friend the Prime Minister. He rejoiced in the tone of the speech and would only make reference to one thing that was not expected, but which, for that reason, was the more pleasing. He referred to the suggestion for abolishing plural voting in the constituencies. He hoped they would also abolish plural constituencies, that was to say, university constituencies. The last general election was fought on two great questions—free trade was one, and the other the condemnation of the South African policy of the late Government during the last ten years. He was convinced it was as much that feeling of condemnation as anything else which gave the Liberal Party the enormous majority they had. He rejoiced to see that the Government were going to take steps to stop the importation of Chinese labour. That was essential. Of course it was said that they ought to allow 270 colonial feeling to decide this matter, but when this country had spent £250,000,000 and sacrificed 22,000 British lives in South-Africa in giving British control over the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony he thought they had some right to say not only what the Government was to be, but in what way it was to be conducted. We had interfered and had claimed the right to interfere in the matter of servile labour when the Transvaal was a South African Republic, and if we interfered in the internal government of an independent State in which we had no right to interfere then we also had a right to interfere in the government of a colony of Great Britain over which the King had a constitutional right of veto. Further than that, he contended that if we conceded the right to the colony to decide freely and absolutely on the question of Chinese labour we ought to put the colony into the position in which it should be to decide such a question. It ought not to be fettered by the presence of 50,000 Chinese labourers in its midst. Their decision should be an unfettered decision, it could not be that under the present conditions. We should repatriate the Chinese and then give the colony the right to say what it would do. With regard to the new constitution to be granted to the Transvaal he thought it should be on the basis of population and not on the basis of a gerrymandering mining representation. The idea of representation on the basis of voters was altogether artificial. At most the voters were trustees for the population. Votes were not given to a limited number of the population for their own benefit; they were given to them as trustees for the entire population, and it was absurd to say we could accept the representation of a number of trustees and not the population for which they were trustees. Whenever the question of redistribution in this country had been discussed it had been discussed on the basis of population, and that should be the basis fixed for the Transvaal. It was said the conditions of the Transvaal were exceptional, because many of the voters were young men with no families, that these were the producers of the wealth of the country and would finally return to this country. That was a fallacious argument. The wealth of the 271 Transvaal had been there since the creation of the world and was not produced by these men at all. They no doubt took it from the ground, but that was a privilege accorded to them and not a right to give them any special ground to dominate the legislation of that country. The fact that they intended to return to this country should itself be a bar to trusting them with the permanent government of the Transvaal. Let them do as the Boers had done before them. Let them marry, settle down, and have families, and then the basis of population would be as favourable to them as to the Dutch inhabitants. He trusted that the Government would make a firm stand against the mine-owners of South Africa, and show that the threats which were trotted out did not affect this country in the least. He was one who considered that the connection between any colony and the Imperial Government was one that was far more beneficial to the colony than it was to Great Britain. The South African mineowner had regarded himself very much in the same way as some youth with a fond mother, who, if he wanted more money, would threaten to cut the painter, or enlist in the army, and then the fond mother gave him what he wanted. That was exactly the position of the South African mineowners. They thought this country would be so afraid of their threat to cut the painter that we should climb down. It was for the Government, however, to show that the painter was more important to them than to us, and that we could cut it, but they could not, and that if they intended to put their policies upon us the danger of cutting the painter would arise from this side and not South Africa. It was a piece of idle bluff which had had its effect on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, but would have no effect upon the enormous majority which this country had sent to the House of Commons, and which majority was not going to be dictated to in the manner he has stated.
§ MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington)
believed the whole House would agree with the speech made by the hon. 272 Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow with reference to the question of old age pensions so far as he expressed the feeling that something should be done in this direction. At the same time, having had some knowledge of the question from the point of view of the amount of money required, he would like to put before the House in a few words the matter as it appeared to him. He understood the Labour Party required that every man and woman at the age of sixty should receive 10s. per week, which would mean £26 a year. He did not know the exact number of people in this country who were over sixty years of age, but he supposed there would be about 5,000,000, and that would mean an expenditure of £130,000,000 sterling a year. That amount capitalised would be £2,000,000,000 or more. He sincerely trusted that some means might be found, but he did not think that it could be found in the way in which the hon. Gentleman suggested. In reference to the speech from the hon. Member for East Bristol, who dealt with the question of protection as it affected the city he represented, he would like to point out that the two industries at Bristol which were most important and most prosperous were those which were protected to some extent. He referred to tobacco and cocoa. The hon. Member for Northampton in his brilliant speech the previous night laid great stress upon the question of the taxation of food. Perhaps the House would be surprised to know that the amount of revenue derived in the last twenty years from taxes on food and drink, Excise and Customs, was over £800,000,000. The amount of taxation on food for thirty-two years ending 1886 was: from tea, £131,000,000; coffee, £110,000,000; sugar, £112,000,000; dried figs, £7,000,000; and from tobacco, £222,000,000. It would be only fair at election times, when talking about the taxation of food, to state that the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had not been to increase the tax on food, but to transfer the tax from one thing to another. The chief opponent of Mr. Chamberlain was Lord Goschen, who had said that the great scheme put forward 273 in this country might increase the cost of living by one penny per family per week. That was to say that probably there would be no increase at all. At any rate it would be easy to alter the present system without increasing the cost of living, and he sincerely trusted the day would come to pass when an alteration would be made. With regard to the question of Chinese labour, he might mention that he had received a letter from a gentleman who had been a Member of this House and had been out in the compounds and understood the question. His correspondent told him that he considered the Chinese in South Africa were too well done by, and that the compounds were conducted in the same way as those of the Kaffirs. In these compounds there were electric light, hot and cold water supply, reading and recreation rooms. Was it fair to term that slavery? He had received many congratulations in regard to his election for a North of England constituency, and he assured the House that he won upon Chinese labour. Fortunately for him a man came forward who said he had been to South Africa, and who was willing to state that these men were living in a state of slavery. He was able to show a letter that the same man had offered his services to the Party opposite as well. There were many men on the Liberal side who did not take advantage of this cry, and refrained from putting forward those Chinese labour placards, and he honoured them for it; but in other constituencies they were used and no doubt they contributed to the great majority which they saw in the House of Commons at the present time. He trusted that in the near future some decision would be come to in regard to this matter, so that they might only have to deal with solid and not unfair arguments.
§ MR. WHITTAKER (Yorkshire, W.R., Spen Valley)
said that none of them would begrudge the hon. Member opposite the pride which he felt in winning a seat in the North of England because there were so few of them now represented by Conservatives. With regard to the hon. Member's remarks about the taxation of food, he wished to point out to the House that in the last complete 274 financial year the amount of taxation upon food was £15,000,000, and £10,000,000 of that was due entirely to the added taxation of the late Government. Therefore two-thirds of the taxation was due to the extravagance and incompetence of the late Government, and he had every confidence that the present Government would reduce taxation without putting a tax upon corn. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham appeared anxious because there was no reference to temperance legislation in the King's Speech, and The Times newspaper had expressed views very much in the same direction. He did not for one moment doubt the anxiety and the interest of the right hon. Gentleman in temperance legislation, but his concern for it at this particular moment was rather suspicious, and his own opinion was that the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to create a little rift in the ranks of the Ministerialists. They were not, however, quite so simple as to be caught with chaff of that kind, for they recognised that the Government could not do everything at once. He remembered a distinguished representative for Birmingham, Mr. Bright, once warned the Radicals that they could not drive six omnibuses abreast through Temple Bar. Those sitting with the Ministerialists were not unreasonable, for they had every confidence in the Government and were prepared to give them time. They recognised that this question was a difficult one, but hon. Members appeared to want everything dealt with at once. If they did that, it would leave them nothing to do next session. They were all fully convinced of the vital importance of the temperance question and the necessity for dealing with it. Their opposition to the Bill of 1904 was genuine, and he considered that the result of the working of the Licensing Act had confirmed that opposition. It was a bad Bill, and they expected this Government to deal with the whole question in the near future in a very substantial manner. Many of them were still of the opinion that temperance reform lay at the root of all social reforms and that it was long overdue. Consequently they looked to the Government in the next session of 275 Parliament to give them a comprehensive measure of temperance reform. They had every confidence in the Government, and they were not going to be lead away or induced to create differences and trouble, because they honestly believed that the pledges which had been given by the Government would be redeemed.
§ MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
said the Liberal Party might congratulate themselves on being now in power, but the whole country also might be congratulated on having a Government that, unlike the late Government, did represent the people. He entirely agreed with the strictures which had been passed upon Chinese slavery in South Africa. Nothing, to his mind, could be worse than for any Government to allow slavery of this kind to be introduced in any part of the British Empire, and we thought it had been got rid of many years ago. He protested against the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in which he contended that a colony had a right to adopt this sort of slavery if they chose. No colony had a right to introduce slavery of any sort whatever, and he trusted that hon. Members of this House as well as the Government would in due course make that quite clear. There was no doubt from what occurred at the general election that the people were in earnest when they said they would have no more slavery and that what John Wesley called "the sum of all villainies" should not be introduced again into any part of this country. There could be no question at all that the Chinese labour in South Africa was slavery of the very worst sort. Chinese slavery was introduced into the Transvaal for the purpose of making money and nothing else.
He was glad that the Government intended to deal with the question of education. He had heard an hon. Gentleman accuse the Government of desiring to introduce a new religion into this country. He could not agree with him. He understood that the Government intended to introduce the Bible into the schools and not dogma made up to suit the Tory Party at elections.
276 He was obliged to the Prime Minister for mentioning the question of the crofters in the King's Speech. What they would want to know presently was how soon was he going to do anything for those people. The Lord Advocate, in a speech made a week ago, stated that Scotland must wait, and he had added that that was because they had not suffered so much as other people. He hoped the Lord Advocate was not speaking for the Government, because it was not a wise thing to tell the people of Scotland they must wait, although they were the most orderly in any part of the United Kingdom. (Laughter.) Hon. Members might laugh at that, but he supposed it was because they did not know the country. It might surprise some Members to know that in Sutherland there were only eighteen policemen, including the chief constable. On the day of the late election the chief constable was away in Skye voting, he thought, for the Tory candidate. There were sixteen constables employed at the election in Sutherland, leaving only one policeman to look after the whole county, and it was looked after very well. Those who knew the county thought they could do with even fewer policemen than they had now. The great question in the crofting counties was the land question. In Sutherland they had been waiting nearly 100 years to have this settled. In 1886 the Liberal Party did a great deal for them in passing the Crofters Act, but that was not all that was wanted, because it did not give them possession of the land they required. There was no question of confiscation, for the crofters were willing to pay a fair price or rent for the land. In 1892–3 a Royal Commission was appointed to ascertain whether in the six crofting counties there was land that could be made available for the extension of crofts, etc. After a careful survey it was found that in these counties there were 1,783,785 acres which might be used for the extension of present crofts, new crofts or small holdings. The Commission did not overdo it. Some people said that they had left out a million acres which might have been included. In Sutherland there were 395,898 acres that might be so used. The result of the Commission ought to 277 be carried out, so that the crofters and others might have a chance of living. He found that in the six counties 409,472 acres had been taken away from the people and converted into deer forests, and in Sutherland alone 36,628 acres had been taken for sporting purposes between the years 1898–1904. He, therefore, appealed to the Prime Minister to put a stop as speedily as possible to the system of turning the land from agricultural purposes into deer forests. Last autumn a case came under his notice in Sutherlandshire where 1,000 acres of farming land were about to be formed into a deer forest for the sport of somebody, perhaps in the West-end of London or of some manufacturer in Birmingham. About 300 acres were arable land, and there were three small farms. They were actually about to pull down the three houses and turn this fanning land into a deer forest.
The land was taken away from the people, and although they wanted it back again they were willing to pay a fair price or fair rent for it. Some effort should be made to keep the people in their own country, and allow them to bring up their families in decency and comfort. These people in the Highlands were perfectly orderly and law-abiding, and he trusted that that would not be used against them. He hoped that the right hon. the Prime Minister would carry out his own statement, viz., that we should colonise our own country. That was exactly what he wanted to do in regard to the crofting counties in the north. These counties could produce cattle, sheep, and many other agricultural products. It was a curious thing that some of those gentlemen who belonged to the Tariff Reform Association refused to allow our own people to have the land on which they could raise cattle and sheep, and so drove us to foreign countries for a supply of meat. We spent £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 a year abroad for food which might easily be produced in this country were the people allowed access to the land. Again, what was wanted in Sutherland was proper postal service. When the people of that county asked the late Government for such a service they were told that it would not pay; but the very 278 idea of a penny postal system was that the more densely populated districts of the country should pay for the scattered ones, and therefore it was no answer to say to those who wanted a better postal service that it would not pay. Further, they wanted a better telegraph service. There were some places in Sutherlandshire which were twenty or thirty miles distant from the nearest telegraph office, and in case of sickness the people had to walk or drive that long way before they could summon a doctor. He trusted that the present Government would do something to alleviate these difficulties[...] There was no reason why they should not assist in establishing a proper steamboat service all round the North and West coasts of Sutherland. If millions of money could be spent on useless railways in Africa, surely a few hundred thousand pounds might be spent in colonising and developing our own country. There was the fishing industry, for instance, which was sadly injured by trawlers. He hoped that the Government would do everything in their power to enable the fishermen in the North to get their harvest of the sea to market. He spoke not in the interests of a class, but of the masses of the people; and he hoped that the present Government and Parliament would be able to do more in the next few years for the benefit of the people of our own country than had ever been done before.
§ MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)
said that he could not follow the hon. Gentleman opposite on the question of the crofters, but he could speak from personal knowledge on the subject of Chinese labour in South Africa. It had been stated that the condition of the Chinese labourers in South Africa was that of slavery; and when an hon. Member had suggested that these Chinese labourers enjoyed their swimming bath and other provisions for their comfort, there was laughter. He himself had been in the Chinese compounds, and had seen these slaves swimming in their baths, playing fan-tan, and games of ball; and he had also seen them cared for in the hospitals. So far as he could understand, the conditions under which the Chinese labourers lived in the compounds were much the same as would be applied to soldiers, sailors, 279 undergraduates of universities—[MINISTERIAL ironical laughter]—and all other bodies of men whom it was necessary to keep under proper discipline. The Chinese labourers were not allowed to remain in the country and become landowners, but that was no exceptional regulation, for in most countries there were restrictions upon aliens buying land. He believed that every country in the world reserved its right to say whether it would allow aliens to purchase land or not. Although in England we did allow them to do so, there were many other countries where they could not hold land under any conditions. As to the economic question, it had been argued that the Chinese ought to be sent back, but looking at the matter from a business point of view, it was for the Transvaal to decide finally on that point. Suppose the new Government should decide upon the point that this labour was permissible, then they would have to be sent back again to South Africa. This would not be business or economy and would involve a large expenditure of money. What would happen would be that 4,000 white men, chiefly Englishmen, would be at once thrown out of employment, and the large amount which they were paid for salaries would be lost. Some 200,000 or 300,000 share-holders who resided in England held shares in these mines. Their holdings were small, but surely they were deserving of some consideration. These shareholders would be hit if any precipitate action was taken or any radical alteration made.
§ MR. W. H. LEVER (Cheshire, Wirral)
expressed his sympathy with the views put forward by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars division of Glasgow on the subject of old age pensions. He was sure it was quite beyond the reach of the workers themselves to provide sufficient for their old age. He was equally certain that the question could not be dealt with by individual employers. With regard to the education of the children, the State had recognised the duty of doing something for those members of the community who were not in a position to do it for themselves. The provision of free education for the children was provision for citizens at the beginning of life. Pro- 280 vision of old age pensions was provision for citizens at the end of their lives. He submitted that the principle in each case was identical, and that just as those scholars who in their youth received free education had to pay it back to the State while they were in the prime of life in the form of contributions to the taxation of the country, so those who received old age pensions would during the active period of their lives contribute to the State in taxation the funds from which the pension was drawn. With regard to the means of providing the money, he suggested that in addition to a graduated income tax, of which he cordially approved, they would probably be able to make some economies in existing expenditure. It might be useful to resolve that before any remission of taxation took place, before the present income-tax was reduced, they should consider who had the best claim on the funds at the disposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If they considered that question they would, he was sure, be all agreed that those who for a great number of years had had the promise of old age pensions dangled before them by both parties had a first claim upon whatever surplus the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have. The question of old age pensions might be approached in the same spirit as Parliament approached the question of free education. Thirty-five years ago when the first instalment of free education was given they did not think it necessary to wait until they could provide for the entire freeing of education. They could approach old age pensions in the same spirit. If they had not the money available to provide pensions at the age of sixty-five, which in his opinion was the proper age, let them commence the pensions at seventy and if not at seventy then at seventy-five [Oh!"] But let them resolve that these were to be only stepping stones to the full and complete scheme of old age pensions for each man and woman on attaining the age of sixty-five.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said the tenor of the speeches on the Opposition side of the House, both on the previous evening and this afternoon, went to prove that the election which had recently taken 281 place had been decided on nothing less than false pretences. The great majority of Members on the Ministerial side of the House had been accused of endeavouring to catch votes by grossly misrepresenting the state of affairs in relation to Chinese labour in the Transvaal, either by means of posters or by other means described as unfair. Those Members who had the honour of being in the last Parliament must know that at the time this Ordinance was first proposed by the late Colonial Secretary, Members on the Ministerial side of the House gave it their undying hostility in every possible why the constitution of this House would allow. They pointed out to the then Government what necessarily would take place if this abominable system of labour was introduced into the Transvaal; they showed that these poor Chinese were, in many thousands of cases, the victims of secret societies in China, and that they would be sent to the Transvaal like so many sheep or cattle, not knowing, in the slightest degree, under what conditions they were to serve. He did not blame the agents or the mining companies for that, because the state of affairs in China was such that it would be absolutely impossible for any accredited agent of the Government or mining company to explain the terms of their employment to these people, owing to the difficulties of dialect, which made it more difficult for a Chinaman of the north of China to understand one from the south, than it was for us to understand a Frenchman or a German. He did not doubt that the disaster from which they had suffered was largely due to the uncompromising and unprecedented way in which the Conservative Party had forced that unjust and unrighteous measure through the House. He did not think there had been any speech delivered during the recent election which was not entirely in consonance with the speeches that had been delivered in the House by the hon. Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool, and other hon. Members during the course of this debate. He thought they would be doing scant justice to their cause if they had not presented these matters as fully as they could to their constituents. Much had been said about posters. The one leaflet 282 which he had prepared himself, which was simply a hand bill, came from a Conservative newspaper of enormous circulation in London and elsewhere, and it pointed out the terrible state of affairs on the Rand owing to the introduction of Chinese labour, or whatever they chose to call it. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham might have employed the time at his disposal rather better than he had done in trying to show that the Liberal Government and the Leader of the House that they had got into a difficult position through having denounced this iniquitous and unrighteous system of slavery and by not having, directly they came into office, annulled the Ordinance allowing these people to enter the Transvaal. He thought the Government had acted exceedingly wisely in prohibiting the issue of licences for the importation of more Chinese. The Leader of the House had only been a few days in office when he was met by the fact that the late Administration had signed permits for 16,000 Chinamen to come into the colony. No explanation had been given by right hon. Gentlemen opposite of that circumstance, which was a most significant thing.
And, it being half-past Seven of the, Clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.