HC Deb 05 March 1906 vol 153 cc172-216
Home Office 66,000
Diplomatic and Consular Services 250,000
Local Government Board 86,000
MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)

said the morning sitting had been devoted to the discussion of Some Office questions, but he desired for a few moments to draw attention to the second part of the Paper, which dealt with the diplomatic and Consular services. He desired to-night to deal only with the Consular Services, and that from an Irish point of view, it being his contention that the Consular services could and should be made of very great service to the people of Ireland. With the exception of two the Consular Reports were absolutely useless to the people of Ireland. In the Estimates presented there was an increase of £6,000 put down to cover Consular services, which included an item of £2,420 for office expenses and fee allowances. He recognised that the last Government mot this demand to a slight extent. It arranged that the Reports issued this year were to contain a special reference to the existence or non-existence of an Irish trade. But that only touched the fringe of the question. There was nothing of a permanent improvement in this, and unless the right steps were taken, the year 1907 and succeeding years would find the Consular Reports as useless to Irish traders as they had been in the past. They would, he believed, be read this year because of the temporary improvement to which he had alluded. Why were they useless? They were useless because, with the exception of the Boston and Philadelphia Reports, no separate statistics were given of Irish trade. What advantage was it to them in Ireland to read that 231,202 tons of cement were sent to the United Kingdom from Belgium, or that Belgium took 8,120 horses from the United Kingdom. They wished to know what the Irish trade in these two articles was. If such information were given the Reports would become of some value. And let the Committee remember that this same Report from which he quoted did give separate statistics, as regarded not only Australia, Canada and India, but also the Straits Settlements. It was not because of the volume of the trade that a separate table was given to the Straits Settlement, as a mere glance at the tables would prove. Let them take, on the other hand, the Boston Report, dated August 1905. It was. as regards the scheme of statistics, a model on which he would advise the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to instruct his Consuls to found their Reports. Not only were the British Colonies in that Report separately treated, but Ireland's figures were kept distinct from England; for example, one read that 82,549 pairs of boots and shoes were sent from Boston to Ireland. That information was of some use to them. They were endeavouring to promote their own industries. What possible advantage could they in Ireland have gained from the bald statement that 670,000 pairs of boots and shoes went to the United Kingdom. Again, to take a somewhat unexpected item—£4,553 worth of ginger ale or ginger beer was imported into Boston from Ireland; and the item—only £1,779 worth of salted mackerel—made them in Ireland ask why this small amount. Enough had been said as to this one Report. The only Reports from which Ireland got an idea as to how she stood, commercially speaking, were from Boston and Philadelphia. He did not propose to allude specifically to other Reports on this point of deficiency, but he would just quote from the Report from Southern Italy issued a few weeks ago. It was the first published that contained a paragraph about Irish goods, and the paragraph concluded— As the custom house does not differentiate between imports from Ireland, but mentions only imports from the United Kingdom, absolutely correct statistics are not available. That would probably also be the tenour of the reply from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs— It does not rest with us. It is the foreign Governments which do not provide the facilities. If that were so it was the duty of the Government to make representations to those Governments, requesting them to have the distinction between Irish and English imports recognised at the various custom houses. If it was found possible at Boston, why should it not be possible at Naples? At any rate it was the duty of the Government to try. They must remember too that by their union they had undertaken to do for Ireland what she would do for herself. Indeed some people in England thought that the Government could do it better than Ireland herself could. He would ask them to remember that there were old ties, not only of friendship, but of a commercial nature, between many of these foreign countriesand Ireland—the Low Countries, France and Spain, for example. There was a strong industrial revival at work in Ireland. It was already seeking to extend its trade with foreign countries. Ireland therefore was entitled to demand that she should not be deprived of the information that was vital to her, because it was easier for the Government officials, if they were permitted, to swamp her under that curious phrase, "the United Kingdom." When he first looked at the trade and navigation monthly reports, ho got a gleam of hope because he saw the heading "British and Irish Produce," but on examination it was evident that this heading was adopted because they wanted some adjective. "United Kingdom Produce" would not be so grammatical, and the word "Irish" merely appeared as a heading. There was not a word or a figure to justify its inclusion. In Ireland they were prepared to second the efforts of the Government and to do away, as far as they could, with the objections which foreign countries might raise on this sort of difficulty. They intended to make use of the Trade Marks Act when it came into operation on April 1st. Indeed, the arrangements for the registration of an Irish national trade mark were now well advanced. It was their hope, and he believed that that hope would be justified, that every piece of lace that left Kerry or Connemara, every package of genuine butter, and every piece of agricultural machinery would have that Irish trade mark upon it. That in itself would render it easy for the customs houses abroad to make the distinction between Irish and English goods a test of quality and excellence as well as of origin. It would not suffice for the total exports to be checked as they left the Irish ports. They had not at present a sufficient amount of trade to maintain a direct shipping service with foreign countries, although within the last two years a line between Tréport and Dublin had been maintained. Irish goods must in the majority of cases go to the Continent viâ England. They wanted to know how Irish goods were distributed, and the Consular Reports, as far as he knew, were the only means to hand for obtaining that information. This Government, he should judge from the result of the General Election and certain passages in the King's Speech, would not be opposed to statistics. He had indicated one improvement which would be of real use. It would be complementary to that other information they required as regards the trade between Ireland and England. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education had agitated for that for years past. The Irish Department of Agriculture had now joined in making that demand, as a reference to its quarterly journal would show. Ireland had need of these statistics, and England should not oppose obstacles in the way of their acquisition. In conclusion he would say just a word generally about the Consular Service. He recognised that at busy ports there were many things to be attended to, the entry and clearing of vessels, etc., and that a Consul's time was often fully occupied during those very hours when he could best acquire the information about Irish and English trade. Other people's offices closed as well as his, and he (Mr. Boland) would urge that this difficulty should be taken into account when the service was being overhauled, as he trusted it would be. The Reports were capable of being made extremely valuable to Ireland, and he admitted that it was for this purpose that he had thrown out these suggestions. Ireland had an economic sense, in spite of what critics might say, and although the great question of the land had to a certain extent overshadowed other vital matters, yet, as that was in process of being settled, the true value of these other matters was disclosing itself. They were determined to build themselves up industrially at home, and to win for Ireland a place in the world's commerce. He therefore claimed that as the Government had undertaken to promote their well-being, the Government must use their Consular Service for the good of Ireland as well as for the good of this country. He moved to reduce the Vote by £100.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item, Class 5, Vote 1 (Diplomatic and Consular Services), be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Boland.)

MR. PAUL (Northampton)

desired to draw attention to a question which should be of interest to the community, and for the benefit of the Irish Members he suggested that it was of as much interest to Ireland as to any part of the United Kingdom. In this Vote on Account there was set apart for Diplomatic and Consular Services £500,000. When Alexander visited Diogenes, and found him in his tub—which he neither rolled nor thumped—he asked if there was anything he could do for him. Diogenes replied, "Yes, you can get out of my light." If they asked the British manufacturer whether there was anything the Government could do for him, he would reply, "Yes, let me alone." That, probably, would be the rule. But there was the exception. The manufacturers wanted information. They did not need to be told what to do with it when they had it; they could find that out for themselves. They wanted the information in plain words and plain figures, and he suggested that the Consuls were the proper persons to give it. They did not expect much from great personages like ambassadors and ministers. Their business was high politics. What they had to do was to keep the peace, and counteract the influence of that foul excrescence on journalism—the Yellow Press—both at home and abroad. If any member of the Committee wanted to realise what a great diplomatist could do for his country in the way of asserting the first duty of England in doubtful and perilous times, he should read Sir A. Lyall's Life of Lord Dufferin, and see what that prince of diplomatists did with the Sultan of Turkey and the Ameer of Afghanistan. But what was a Consul? He was not an Imperial diplomatist. He was, or ought to be, a man of business, intimately familiar with all the commercial facts and surroundings of the place in which he resided. He had been told, and he quite believed it, that some Consuls had in former times been appointed on the theory that they could not have been created for nothing, and that there was nothing else for which they were fit. But he was sure his right hon. friend would not select that particular method of justifying the doctrine of final causes. He was aware that there were a few Consuls, he believed very few, who had diplomatic functions to discharge, but the rest of them, although they might occasionally have to interfere with a fellow-citizen who had drunk the wrong sort of wine, had not to sing "Rule Britannia," or to uphold the honour of the flag, but to elicit and to give commercial information. As the Committee knew, trade no longer followed the flag, but followed the consumer. It had nothing to do with patriotic sentiment, it had nothing to do with national boundaries. He had the honour to represent a manufacturing constituency. His constituents made boots for the whole world. Everyone wanted boots. Whether he wanted them to kick his opponent or whether he wanted to run away from him, boots were equally handy. But different people did not at all times want the same kind of boots, and so what the manufacturing community desired to know was the particular kind of boot, or whatever it might be, which was wanted in a particular place at a particular time. He was well aware of the number and value of Consular Reports, but they took time to compose and to print. When they appeared they were most valuable as historical works, and as books of reference, but they did not always give the exact momentary information which was desired. It was as if the Government, meaning to confer a boon upon the travelling public, were to present them with a number of old Bradshaws, whose partial accuracy would be their most dangerous feature. After all, what they wanted to know was not what was going on three or four months ago, but what was going on now. He believed that to be the greatest benefit, the only benefit, which the Government could confer upon the trade of the country. In trade, if anywhere, knowledge was power. Our manufacturers had to learn not only what was most agreeable and most in accordance with their habits for them to make, but those of them who had business in foreign countries had to learn what it was that foreigners desired and what it was for which they were willing to pay. His right hon. friend might say that any arrangement of this kind for creating what he should like to see, an Intelligence Department in connection with the Foreign Office, to which our Consuls might regularly contribute, would cost a good deal of money, and they could no more get money out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer than they could get blood out of a stone. He was not quite sure, having cast his eye over the Vote, which was diplomatic as well as consular, that they might not save in one part of it what they increased in another. Diplomatists were not overpaid. But he was not so sure that there might not be in some cases too many of them. He remembered being told in a foreign capital, a great many years ago—he would not give the slightest inkling of what the capital was, and he invited them to consider that the diplomatist to whom he alluded was dead and buried—that the Ambassador devoted most of his time to the game of bridge. He inquired of a British resident whether that charge was true. He said— No, it is most unjust. I have never known his Excellency indifferent to the rival claims of poker. He was told that neither of these games could be played in solitude, and a slight reduction of the numbers in that particular Embassy or Legation—he would not say which it was—might have been productive of some benefit, not only to the diplomatic staff but even to their chief. If this reform did cost a little money it would be money well bestowed. His right hon. friend was peculiarly well qualified to carry out this task. He was acquainted with many kinds of business, he was a land owner, and he had been the chairman of a great railway and the director of a bank. He had, in Lord Fitzmaurice, a colleague of great ability and experience; he was himself not many years ago Under-Secretary in the office over which he now presided, and had special charge of the commercial department. His appointment to the great office which he now held was greeted with universal satisfaction by all parties and all classes in this country. His immediate predecessor, Lord Lansdowne, earned for himself a fine and just reputation by the treaty which he concluded with the Republic of France and the alliance which he established with the Empire of Japan. If the right hon. Gentleman took up this question and carried it out he would earn what he was sure he would value far more than any object of personal ambition, namely, the gratitude of the whole industrial community, and especially of the working classes, upon whose self-sacrificing labours the commercial prosperity of every country must in the last resort depend.


said the Consular Reports put before the Committee contained very valuable information with regard to the trade coming to and from this country. It was the misfortune of Ireland in this matter to be mixed up with the interests of this country. Year in and year out the Irish Members had asked that their interests in this question should be separated, because they were absolutely swamped by the figures which came out in those Reports. The difficulties which had been mentioned were not very great. The trade from Ireland to the United States and to Canada was a direct trade. Some years ago a service was inaugurated between the ports of Canada and Ireland, and in order that that service might continue and with the object of promoting trade the Canadian Government gave a subsidy, and they had to-day a line of steamers provided that carried goods between Ireland and Canada. Those steamers now carried the bulk of the trade between the two countries, and the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well what steamers and sailing vessels were trading direct between Ireland and the United States. There would not be very great difficulty in getting the statistics of that important trade, and the trade from Ireland to European ports certainly ought to be easily obtained. This was a matter of much importance to Ireland. How was it possible for them to know whether the trade of Ireland was increasing or decreasing if they were not furnished with these statistics. Every other country but Ireland could get such figures. They would be told that they were a part of the United Kingdom and were provided with statistics just in the same way as other parts of the Kingdom. He would point out that Ireland paid towards this service and why should she not share in the benefits this service might give? Every year difficulties had been put in the way which, he maintained, were only imaginary. If Ireland had the administration of these affairs in her own hands the matter could be arranged in a week.

SIR C. HILL (Shrewsbury)

said the hon. Member for Northampton had struck a note which would appeal to anybody who had been connected with the Foreign Office or the Consular Service when he advocated more expenditure upon that service. If that were done the Government could give larger salaries to their Consuls, and then they could expect more work from them. It was extremely difficult for Consuls appointed to a service to acquire that complete knowledge of commercial affairs which was expected to be of use to experts in commercial undertakings. It was extremely difficult, for instance, for a man appointed to a place like Valparaiso to arrive there and make himself at once acquainted with all the details of importance to business firms at home. He would have to telegraph his information at great expense, and even then he doubted whether it would be news to the commercial merchants by the time they received it in this country. It was quite possible for merchants in England either to take in the commercial newspapers of the ports in which they were interested, or else have agents there who would telegraph the news in which they were interested. He did not think a Consular officer could be expected to supply information which would be immediately useful to any particular trade. He had had the honour of carrying out an inspection of the Consulates in the West Indies and on the Spanish Main. He had spent most of his life in the Foreign Office and had had the opportunity of knowing many of the Consuls in different parts of the world, and he had always found that our Consuls were most anxious to give the best possible information at the earliest possible moment. He knew too, from his experience at the Foreign Office, that if hon. Members addressed themselves to the heads of the Commercial Department or the Consular Department, they would readily receive any information which it was in the power of those officials to give.

MR. NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.)

said that, in reply to a Question recently put by him, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade alluded to new instructions that were to be despatched to members of the Consular Service. If the Secretary of State would say when those instructions would be issued, and whether they would first be submitted to the House or a Committee of the Whole House, criticism on the Consular Service might usefully be deferred.

LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)

said he regretted the tone which had been adopted by the hon. Member for Northampton in his criticism of their Consuls and the Consular system. He did not know whether it was a reminiscence or a criticism of what he considered to be the system to-day, but he had said that some Consuls were appointed because there was nothing else for them to do.


I was alluding to past days.


said his experience of Consuls and the Consular Service was that there was no department in which a larger amount of voluntary and unpaid labour was given to the State. The hon. Member opposite had stated that these Consuls had no diplomatic functions. That was, of course, absolutely true, but one of the chief functions of a Consul was to prevent and ward off diplomatic incidents, and were it not for the tact and judgment which, in his opinion, their Consuls showed all over the world the work of the Foreign Office would be very much more serious than it was at the present moment. As regarded the criticism that the Consular Reports were not up to date, that held good a few years ago, but that criticism was no longer founded upon fact. The delay in the publication of these Reports was infinitesimal, and great credit was due to the printing department of the State and the editorial department of the Foreign Office for the promptness with which these excellent Reports were brought out. He had not, however, risen to make a defence of the Consular system, although he was quite ready to defend it in case it was seriously attacked. He wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question which might perhaps not be considered a fair one, but if the right hon. Gentleman told him that this was his opinion he would abide by his decision. Two or three days ago the Foreign Secretary, in Answer to a Question put to him by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, stated that the Brussels Convention to which this country became a party in November 1903, could not come up for consideration by the Government until five years from that date. If he was correct, he understood that the moment for denouncing that treaty (if such a course was decided upon) would not arise until next year at the earliest. He knew that hon. Members opposite took a strong view about the Brussels Convention. The Convention might be good or bad, but at any rate the ancient fiction that it had raised the price of sugar had been, he imagined, long since abandoned. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh."] If that argument were still adhered to they would be equally justified in saying that owing to the Convention the price of sugar had now fallen to a very low average. In view of the fact that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and his colleagues would probably be in office when this Convention would come up for revision, and, in view of the fact that enormous interests were being created under the Convention in British Colonies, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider the propriety of giving the earliest possible notice to the parties interested if it was the intention of the Government to denounce the Convention.


A certain number of Questions have accumulated already, and perhaps I had better dispose of them at once. In Answer to the Question put to me by the noble Lord the Member for Chorley, I agree that, whenever a decision is come to as to what the policy of this country is to be in future in regard to the Sugar Convention, that decision should be announced as soon as possible. That is in the interests of the certainty of trade. But I must point out to the noble Lord that the Sugar Convention itself has, in my opinion, introduced an element of uncertainty. We are parties to that Convention at the present moment. As parties to it we, the great consuming country, have rendered ourselves liable to be bound by the decision of the other members of the Convention, who are the producers; and at any moment, it seems to me the producers, forming the majority of the Convention, may so use their position and their preponderance on the Convention as to make it necessary for the consuming country to reconsider its position. That is an element of uncertainty which is inherent in the Convention itself; and, so long as we remain a party to the Convention, that element of uncertainty must remain. With regard to the future, it is clear that we cannot withdraw before 1908; and to do that it is necessary to give notice in September, 1907. Even if the Government gave notice to-day we could not withdraw before September 1908; and, therefore, the Government feel, and I think rightly feel, that a statement of their policy in regard to the Sugar Convention is not so pressing and urgent at the present moment as some other matters, seeing that whatever we were to decide now, no action could follow upon it before September 1908. That is how the matter stands at the present moment. With regard to the Consular service, the Foreign Office does from time to time issue instructions to the Consuls. It is not desirable, indeed, it would hamper the Foreign Office, that those instructions should be submitted to a Committee of that House before they are issued. The instructions I have in contemplation relate to matters of detail, and I do not think these matters of detail should be committed to a Committee of this House. On the other hand, if anybody either inside or outside the House has any suggestion to make with regard to matters of detail upon which they think that Consuls should be instructed I shall be very glad to receive those suggestions, but I do not think it is necessary that a Committee should be formed to review the whole question of instructions to Consuls.


I understood the Answer given to my Question by the Secretary to the Board of Trade did not refer merely to departmental details. My Question dealt with the whole question of greater efficiency in the Consular service, and I understood that that matter was under consideration, and that other instructions dealing with various matters were being considered. I had no idea that they were merely departmental details.


I have hardly the Question in my mind, but if it is a Question of the general efficiency of Consuls, we come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Northampton. I think that before the House goes into the question whether we should have a Committee to consider the whole Consular service we ought to realise how much has been done by the Consular service; and I would suggest that a new Parliament should, at any rate, spend some time in studying the Consular Reports, and seeing how the service is managed before it rushes to the conclusion that it is in a condition of inefficiency. I think before the House appoints a Committee to overhaul a great branch of the public service it ought to be proved that that service is in such a condition that it is not being properly worked, and properly administered by the Department concerned. I welcome the maiden speech in this House of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury who speaks with knowledge on questions of this kind. The hon. Gentleman has spent many years in giving public service to the State inside the Foreign Office, and I trust that the information and knowledge which he has acquired as a public servant will be of benefit to the House. I fully admit that in past years there has been great ground for complaint in regard to the Consular service. I do not mean that individual Consular servants have not done their best, but I think that some years ago the whole method of appointment to the Consular service was unsatisfactory. A good deal has been done to remedy that state of things. The Consular service has now been turned into a regular service which must be entered by examination; and, instead of people being appointed without close reference to their qualifications, it is now a service which must be entered by examination like other services for which considerable initial qualifications are required before a young man can enter. Although the right of making exceptions has been retained, the practice of appointing to an important Consular post people from outside the service altogether, has in recent years been largely discontinued. Our intention now is that the Consular service should only be entered by young men, after examination, who have special prima facie qualifications for the service, and that important posts should be filled up by men who have entered the public service by showing that they have the qualifications for it. That is a considerable change. Among the qualifications is not only the knowledge of languages, but the knowledge of British commercial law, of shipping law, of exchange, of contracts, of marine insurance, and so forth, and candidates will be considered specially qualified to compete who have a certain amount of legal or university training, and among other special qualifications will be that of having served for three years in a commercial house before entering the service. I think that ought to go long a way towards getting into the Consular service young men who have shown some inclination or aptitude for business; and, getting these men into the public service and keeping the higher posts for promotion, the House should feel that a considerable step has been taken towards securing that the Consular service will be composed not only of men of education and a knowledge of languages, but also a certain amount of business training, It is difficult to get what you call men of business in the same sense in which men of business are described, because you cannot allow the men to engage in trade, their whole time and energies must be devoted to the service of the State. You cannot well take out of business men who have already made a considerable start in business and put them into the Consular service for this reason. There are two classes of men in business—the successful and the unsuccessful—and if we were to apply to business houses and so forth to get men for the Consular service, the men we would get would be those who had not proved themselves most successful. I think our policy should be to attract men to the Consular service, and give them to understand that they must devote a certain amount of attention to business, not necessarily with the view of entering business, but with the view of qualifying for appointments as Consuls. Now with regard to Consular reports I think these have been vastly improved in recent years. I fully admit that the improvement is partly the result of the debates in this House, and partly because the House of Commons has constantly called attention to the need of good Consular reports. In the old days the House was frequently finding fault with the Consular reports. I am told that nowadays, whereas it used to be said that the American Consular reports were much superior to our Consular reports, there have lately been signs in the United States of commending the British Consular reports as being in some ways superior to their own. Annual reports we must continue to have; I did not understand the hon. Member to suggest that the annual reports should be discontinued. I think they will always he a most valuable part of the Consul's work in providing information. The great movements of trade are not spasmodic and sudden movements; they are gradual movements, and they ought to be, and can only be shown satisfactorily in the annual reports. In fact the annual reports have pointed out from year to year the success in some countries abroad of German merchants as compared with British merchants, and they have pointed out the way in which German merchants—not in all cases, for I do not admit that German trade has been gaining more than British trade—have made more progress than British merchants. Now and then in some South American countries we find that German trade has made conspicuous progress, and we find from the annual reports how that has been done by giving special attention to the language of the country, or to the special needs of the country. I remember that some time ago I was told that German trade had progressed very much in certain South American Republics in a certain class of cotton goods. I asked a British manufacturer if that was so, and he replied,— Yes, years ago, but now we have got the trade. A small demand grew up for certain goods. The Germans took advantage of that and adapted their machinery to the making of this particular class of goods. I could not get the British manufacturers to adapt their machinery for this class of cotton goods, being what the people in that particular part of the world wanted. Presently the trade, which was at first small, became a very large trade, and British manufacturers having had their attention called to the fact—I daresay partly by the Consular reports—turned their attention to the matter and got a large share of the trade which they might have had in earlier years if they had turned their attention to it. In that way I think Consular reports may be of great service. No doubt there are also sudden and spasmodic movements of trade of which it is desirable that the manufacturer in this country should be able to take advantage. But there is a good deal published besides the annual Reports. There is the monthly report of the Board of Trade, and information is also given regarding tenders which are invited abroad. I think my hon. friend the Member for Northampton must realise that a Consul does not regard himself as restricted solely to the annual Report, and whenever information is obtained which should not wait for the annual Report it is given either to the Labour Gazette or sent to the Foreign Office and published at the time. But my hon. friend does not intend to draw up any general indictment against the Consular or diplomatic service, and, although he told one story at the expense of the diplomatic service, he also paid a great tribute to our representatives abroad and showed that he was not wanting in appreciation of their work. I admit that there have been shortcomings in past years, but on going back to the Foreign Office, after an absence of ten years, I find markedly that a considerable improvement has been made. That improvement is going on, and will go on, and I would say to the House frankly that we do regard it as the duty of Consulates abroad to be centres of information from which that information should be communicated in the most convenient and opportune manner.

I now come to the particular point of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for South Kerry. First of all let me assure him that the improvement from the point of view of Ireland —an improvement which was made a year or two ago at the request of himself and his friends—will certainly be continued. That improvement was to record in the Consuls' annual Reports, and to take special notice of the movements of Irish trade, to devote special paragraphs to Irish trade for the information of Ireland. That has only been done in the last two Reports, but it is a, general instruction to the Consuls, and I shall do my best to see that they continue to act upon it. But the hon. Member said quite rightly that the general instruction with regard to Ireland was of comparatively little value at the present time, because the Consuls abroad, though they may be instructed to give special information about Ireland, and may be anxious to do it, cannot get the information, because it is not available in the trade returns of foreign countries—that is to say, that Irish imports, and exports to Ireland, are lumped together under the heading, "United Kingdom," and that, therefore, the Consuls themselves, however much they may wish to do so, cannot extract the figures with reference to Irish trade. If that is so, we must get foreign countries to help us. We must ask them to keep their records of trade so as to show separately the statistics of Irish imports, and of exports to Ireland. I think the hon. Member said that only two places do so at the present time—Boston and Philadelphia. I can see no objection whatever to making the request to foreign countries. I will do my best, not only to make the request to foreign countries, but to make it as sympathetically as possible. Meanwhile I am willing to continue the instruction that Consuls should obtain information where-ever possible, but I do not see how they can do that completely. My only fear is, not that there will be any difficulty in making their request, but whether foreign countries may not make objections because it is putting extra trouble and expense on the custom house officers. I should like to be able to meet that objection. In Ireland there is a movement to take advantage of a recent Act in order to establish an Irish trade mark. I think if the hon. Member will let me wait until I can be assured that an Irish trade mark has been established, or is on the point of being established, that would be an exceedingly good peg on which to hang the requests to foreign Governments. They might say, "It is all very well to ask us to do this, but why ask us to take extra trouble on your account?" If I could go to them and say that Ireland has established a special trade mark, I think the request would not seem unreasonable or trivial. That would show that the request is one in which we ourselves are taking an interest, while the fact of Ireland having such a trade mark would make it very easy for their custom house officers to keepseparate records of imports into those countries from Ireland. I should like to be able to put it in that way, and if it be the case that there is this movement I should certainly propose to take advantage of it in order to request foreign countries to keep the statistics in the way the hon. Member desires. He says that there is a certain amount of sentiment in this matter. If an Irish trade mark were established it would be a case of sentiment taking a practical form, and it would give us a certain right to ask other countries to help us to do what we are so anxious to do for ourselves, to point out that it would be an easy matter for them, and that it would cause little trouble and no extra expense. I think it is a reasonable request. Everyone who has been in touch with trade in recent years knows that increasing value is attached to statistics. In every large modern business, more and more is spent in keeping the statistics of business; and what is applicable to a modern house of business is applicable also to Ireland. In these days so much depends on checking the progress of foreign business by accurate figures, which give a standard of comparsion between one year and another. You want a standard, and unless you have a standard you cannot have comparisons, and you cannot know accurately whether you are going backward or forward. I sympathise with the desire of the hon. Member. The movement for developing the national industries of Ireland is a recent one, and it will be of great interest to see from year to year where it is progressing, and where it is falling off; in order that where there is improvement fresh capital and energy may be thrown into the business, and where there is falling off, the reason may be discovered. The House as a whole I think ought to sympathise with any movement for industrial development in Ireland, because surely one of the most pathetic things in the relations between Great Britain and Ireland is the enormous growth of British trade as compared with the industrial development of Ireland. The least the House can do, if there is this movement, is to help and encourage it as far as possible. If these separate statistics can be obtained, I am sure they will be useful. I hope they will begin by making a record for Ireland, and that Ireland will use them to break the record as years go on. The request is most moderate and reasonable, and one with which the House ought to sympathise, and I will do my best to overcome any difficulties there may be.


said that in consequence of the fair way in which the right hon. Gentleman had met the request he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)

said the hon. Member for South Kerry had suggested as a reason why Consuls could not sufficiently differentiate the figures relating to Ireland was that they had not time to deal with the matter in detail. He had seen a great many British Consuls in different parts of the Empire, but he never heard that anyone was unable to deal with statistics because he was overworked. He thought criticisms of these efficient and obliging officers should proceed upon other lines. There was one matter which affected not only the interests of Ireland but the whole of the British Empire in relation to the performance of the duties of Consuls. He understood from the right hon. Gentleman that a severe linguistic test was exacted from Consuls. That might be so, but it was in that respect that our Consuls most fell short of what the country might expect. Nor was that their fault. They worked in remote localities and very often those who were most proficient in this respect were not promoted to other places because they spoke so exceedingly well the language of the place where they then were. They were thus localised and became permanently associated with the country whose language they spoke so fluently. How few had a career before them like Sir William White, who rose to be the Ambassador in Turkey. By making such proficiency one of the chief grounds for preferment as much as in any other the right hon. Gentleman could improve the Consular Service. He knew how difficult it was to secure high efficiency by merely exacting a strict test in examination, for he had probably examined as many candidates in foreign languages as. any Member of the House. The reason why Consuls had not set to work, as a matter of course, to acquire an intimate acquaintance with the language of the country in which they were stationed was that there was no promotion in linguistic efficiency, it was not the road to promotion in the Consular Service.

MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)

said he noticed that some of the subsidiary German states had resident Ministers. He took it that this was a relic of former days when those states had diplomatic relations with the world. Now that we had a Minister at Berlin it seemed to him that our Consuls in the smaller states were sacrificed to the resident Ministers. In Bavaria there was a resident Minister with a high salary, while there was a Consul at Munich with a trifling salary. He could not apportion the duties between those gentlemen, but he imagined that the duties of the Consul at Munich would be more important than those of the resident Minister. There was another direction in which our Consular Service was behindhand. In the whole of Siberia from Moscow along the Siberian railway there was not a single British Consul. There was now a large and increasing business with that country, though there was no one to whom British manufacturers or business men could make inquiry. With a language so difficult as the Russian it was almost impossible for an ordinary English firm to make any inquiry in regard to business in that. vast country with which in the future we would have great business relations. He hoped our business with that country would increase, but it would be greatly prejudiced if we had not some Consuls there.

MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)

moved a reduction of the Vote by £200 in order to call attention to the Convention with China of May 13th, 1904. Under Article 2 of that Convention our Consuls were obliged to co-operate with the Taotai of the district in the recruiting of coolies for service in the British Empire, and under Article 3 they were obliged to assist in providing emigration bureaus. In fact our Consular service in China was used to advertise the advantages of coolie emigration. He thought the vast majority of the House highly disapproved of their being used for such a purpose. There was very much stronger reason for action in this matter than in connection with the Brussels Convention. Even greater commercial interests were involved. The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies had warned the House that it was likely that this Convention would require amendment, and he thought that if it was necessary to abrogate it in view of changes of policy in regard to Chinese labour in South Africa a definite decision should be come to at an early date. He would not press the matter further that night. But his right hon. friend would forgive him when he said that there was an overwhelming impression that the members of the diplomatic and consular services had been used for the purpose of assisting the recruiting of coolies. He was sure that they would all be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if they were informed what action the Government would take in regard to the matter.


Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman move the reduction of the vote by £200?


I do.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item, Class 5, Vote 1 (Diplomatic and Consular Services), be reduced by £200."—(Major Seely.)


said he had not got a copy of the Convention of China with him. He did make some inquiry orginally as to whether the Convention with China had anything to do with the Labour Ordinance in the Transvaal, and as to whether if the Convention with China was abrogated it would have any effect on the recruiting of Chinese labour, and he had been told that even if the Convention were abrogated the recruiting would go on and would be carried out by recruiters who were not Consuls at all. The question whether these recruiters were the servants of the employers of Chinese labour had nothing to do with the Foreign Office. If it should turn out that such abrogation of the Convention was a necessary step in carrying out their policy there would be no doubt of its being taken by the Government at the earliest possible moment.

MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)

said that this question of the appointments to the Consular service was one in which he had taken a great interest, and he was sure that they had all listened with satisfaction to the promise made by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary in answer to the statement put before the Committee by the hon. Member for South Kerry. Two years ago he had occasion to call attention to the whole system of appointments to the Consular service, and at that time he proved conclusively that it was wrong and on an unsound basis. He gave a list of the Consuls who had been appointed who had absolutely no qualification for the position either by commercial training or experience, and he was able to shew that a great number of them had been appointed simply as a reward for political services. What gave rise to the discussion two years ago was the disappearance from this House of a distinguished Member of the Tory Party—distinguished in many ways, but not in a commercial direction. That Gentleman had been appointed a Consul, as a reward for political services, but for a long time they could not discover where he was appointed to. He was sure that every hon. Member had listened with great satisfaction to the assurance that there was to be an entire change in the matter of these Consular appointments; and he would be greatly obliged if the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary would tell the Committee when exactly this change was to come into operation. As he understood the right hon. Gentleman, these appointments would be made henceforth with a special view to the qualifications of the gentleman and after examination; and that in future appointments would not be made from the outside, but from those who had had experience in the service. He trusted that in future no Members of this House would be appointed as Consuls because they had been good Party men and had always voted straight.


said he ought to have stated when speaking before that the new regulations to which he had alluded were Departmental regulations which had been sanctioned by Lord Lansdowne in May, 1904. With regard to pledges for the future, there remained a discretion in any exceptional case for making an exceptional appointment. He could not give an absolute pledge with regard to them; but when they were made the hon. Member and the whole House, would have opportunities, of which no one knew better how to take advantage, of calling attention to them.


said he wanted to know what was going to happen in regard to the case of Consuls, not British subjects, who had reached the limit of age involving a re-consideration of their appointment. He was aware of appointments being held at important centres of industry and ports in the kingdom of Italy by gentlemen who were not British subjects, or if they were, who did not possess qualifications for discharging the growing work in these particular Consulates. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary whether he had any scheme in his mind by which these gentlemen could be removed from their positions and Englishmen put into their places. These appointments should be given only to men who were able to perform their duties efficiently, and should not go on in a moribund condition as at present. There were two other items in the Vote to which he wished to refer. In the first place, hon Members who had been about the world must have met some fellow-countrymen abroad who were in distress, and yet he found that the only amount allocated for the relief of distressed British subjects abroad was the sum of £100! Some hon. Members were eloquent the other day in stating that they were quite ready to tax the people of this country for taking upon themselves the burden of foreign idiots, yet only £100 was given to relieve distressed British subjects abroad ! There was an important item of £30,000 for special missions and services. He was not one who would say that any special or ornamental mission which it might be necessary for this country to send to any foreign potentate should not have adequate sums at their disposal to enable them to perform their duties; but why should this £30,000 be voted without a single syllable of explanation being made? That was surely very good evidence of the real intentions of the Government in regard to these funds. So long as they got the Vote through the House of Commons without a word of explanation they did not care. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary would give the Committee some details which would justify them in passing this Vote. They did not like to go to their constituents and say, "We do not know why this sum was voted or for what special services it was given." There was another item as to outfits. Did he understand rightly that the sum of £8,000 was for outfits for Ambassadors and Ministers on taking up their duties on new posts; or was the sum for outfits for any other purpose? Then there was an item "gratuities: £500." In the Chancelleries abroad there were men employed who were not only very faithful but ill paid. On them a great deal of responsibility rested because they had opportunities of gaining information which was in the possession of British Legations and Consulates. These men had no chance of pensions, as was the case in Germany, and by paying them so inadequately it was almost putting a premium on that form of discretion which very soon became treachery. The paltry sum of £500 given as gratuities to these men, was, in his judgment, a slur upon a most loyal class of servants of this country.


said he wished to ask the Foreign Secretary whether, in view of qualifications required in the Consular service, sufficient remuneration would be given to attract good men.


said that it would be impossible to have a general rise of remuneration in the Consular service without a considerable increase in Estimates. The Government were not this year proposing any considerable increase of expenditure on the Consular service. He thought it was undesirable in the interests of economy that proposals for a general increase of salaries involving a large addition to the Estimates should be made, provided it was found that the service could be efficiently conducted at the present rates. As to Consuls abroad who are not British subjects, he could say nothing about individual cases until he knew what they were; but he thought it would be most wrong to undertake, in answer to the hon. Gentleman opposite, to get rid of men who had been legitimately appointed to the public service, very likely by the recent Government.


said he had referred to men who had reached the age limit.


said that probably these men had also been appointed by the Conservative Government.


said he was not referring to any question of Party politics, but to appointments made during the last twenty years.


said he did not wish to say that these were wrong appointments. He did not know to what cases the hon. Gentleman referred. But even supposing a man was a subject of another country, if he had been once properly appointed by a British Government to his post, he ought not to be dismissed except on the ground that he had not performed his duties properly. With regard to future appointments, that was another matter as to which the Government had a free hand. With regard to the details of the items for special missions, he had not gone through the Estimates as a whole before this evening, because he understood that they would not be taken up as a whole, but only on one or two special subjects. If the hon. Gentleman would ask him as to these matters of detail. either by way of Question or when the Vote was taken as a whole, he would do his best to give him the information he desired.


said he might be permitted to explain that he had raised this important question of diplomatic assistance for recruiting coolies in China under the impression that his right hon. friend had had due notice of it. He understood that the Government did not propose to continue the system, and if that were the case he would not persevere with his Amendment.


remarked that all he could say was that he was not conscious of the Foreign Office having done anything in the matter at all. At any rate he had seen no sign of it. But whatever they did, either actively or passively, it must be done in consultation with the Colonial Office. All he could say was that he wanted to see the whole thing got rid of.


asked draw his Amendment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

MR. MORTON (Sutherlandshire)

said he wished to call attention to a matter in connection with the Colonial Office and South Africa. On Thursday last he gave notice of a Question as to the treatment of General Botha in regard to the compensation offered him for the burning of his house during the late war. He got an Answer eventually to that Question in writing, but it was very unsatisfactory, and that was his reason for calling attention to the matter now. It appeared that during the late war the property of General Botha on the Natal border was burned down, like that of nearly all the Boer generals. Now, it was understood that it was with a view to get rid of the results of these "methods of barbarism" that £3,000,000 were set aside to pay such claims as that of General Botha. The claim sent in by General Botha amounted to £15,000. This was reduced on the Government assessment to £7,000, and then he was offered a cheque for £800, which was endorsed with the legend "Receipt in full." General Botha refused to take £800, and he was now waiting to get something like justice from the British Government. He (Mr. Morton) had been told by the Secretary of State that he had not yet received the information he required upon this point, but he thought that he ought to have received it by this time. This was a matter of honour to the British Government, for they had promised to make good, so far as they could one of those "methods of barbarism" by settling these claims in some fair and honourable way. The Secretary of State said he did not understand that General Botha's claim had been treated differently from the claims of others who were entitled to share the £3,000,000 provided for ex-burghers. It appeared that a large number of other claims had been treated in the same way. He had been told that no action was proposed. The Government was bound to carry out the solemn promises of their predecessors. A promise was given that these claims should be made good, and was he to understand that the Government now coolly proposed to ignore this claim of General Botha? He was rather astonished that there was no one on the Treasury Bench that knew anything about this matter to give him an Answer. He gave notice early to-day, and somebody ought to have been present to answer his Question. Right hon. Gentlemen were put in office by them, and they were paid by them, and they must understand plainly that when Questions were put to them, they should be there to answer them. On a Question like this there ought to be very strong grounds indeed for refusing to make good the claims to which he had referred. He begged to move that the salary of the Secretary of State for the Colonies be reduced by £100.


I would remind the hon. Member that this is a Vote on Account, and that his Motion will only be in order if he moves to reduce the amount asked for the Colonial Office by £100.


Then I will move to reduce the Colonial Office Vote by £100.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item, Class 2, Vote 6 (Colonial Office), be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Morton.)

MR. J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)

said there was one question he should like to ask, which the remarks of the hon. Member for Sutherland had brought to his mind. If an answer was going to be given he should like to know whether the proportion of all the claims that had been paid in the Transvaal for damage during the war worked out at the same rate as in this particular claim? He understood that they had only paid £800 for over £15,000 damages. ["No, no."]


The Under-Secretary for the Colonies is indisposed and not able to be here. [Cries of "He was in the House of Lords."] I hope my hon. friend will postpone this Question until the Report stage of the Vote.


said he was quite willing to postpone the Question to the Report stage, on the understanding the he had an undertaking from the Government that he would have an opportunity for bringing the Question up again. He asked leave to withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.


If you go on like that you will soon be in the Government yourself.


said he desired to call attention to an item which appeared year after year, and which he did not remember had ever before been discussed since he had been a Member of this House. The item he alluded to was £20,000 for the Department of Woods and Forests. It seemed to him that this was a most important item and there was a great deal more involved than appeared at first sight, both as to the method of administration of the office and the sum received and paid into the Treasury. The Crown property was in the hands of two Commissioners. The total revenue of the Woods and Forests Commissioners was £620,000, of which there was only an actual expenditure of £150,000, leaving a payment into the Treasury of nearly half a million of money. So far as the Treasury was concerned the result might be considered eminently satisfactory, but the management of this propety was exceedingly costly, very unsatisfactory, and ought to be changed. There had been spent, for administering this office in London, £10,000, in Dublin £15,000, £3,000 in law expenses, £7,000 for surveyors' charges, £4,000 upon the administration of mines, making with repairs and other outgoings a total of £154,000. No less than £37,000 had been spent in administration pure and simple. That was far too great a proportion of expenses for administration for this Committee to sanction. There was much unnecessary sale and resale and purchase of property between the various Government departments. On page 107 of the Report there was a sale to the Commissioner of Works of £245,000 worth of property, and a repurchase from the same Commissioner of £150,000 worth of property which involved a totally unnecessary expenditure upon law, conveyancing, surveyors' charges, and other numerous expenses connected with the transference of property. It was an absolutely unnecessary exchange of property, incurred and undertaken for no ostensible reason. It was a surrender of houses in one street in order to acquire property in an adjoining street. Then, there was the extraordinary acquisition of scattered properties all over the United Kingdom which were costly to purchase and to manage. The acquisition of scattered estates had been abandoned by private individuals, and it was time that it should be abandoned by the State. There was an unfortunate concentration of holdings. There were twenty-eight new leases this year dealing with 6,822 acres of land, giving an average of about 250 acres. What they ought to create was not large farms but small holdings. The policy of the Commissioners in the past had been, not to supply small holdings but to concentrate small holdings in large ones, without giving the people of this country an opportunity to get hold of Crown lands in small parcels. There were no less than 5,000 acres of Crown property unlet, and he ventured to assert this would not be the case if the land was offered in small holdings. He suggested that the property under the Department, extending to 120,000 acres, and including not only lands, but mines and quarries, ought to be cut up into separate departments, one dealing with mines and minerals, another with agricultural property, and a third with woods and forests. Then there ought to be a systematic splitting up of great holdings into small holdings, and the whole income ought to be handed over to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, applied to the Sinking Fund, and capitalised for the benefit of the State. He moved the reduction of the Vote by £100.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Item, Class 2, Vote 24, (Woods and Forests, etc., Office of), be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Charles Hobhouse.)

MR. WINFREY (Norfolk, S.W.)

hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would be able to give the Committee some information as to the disgraceful way in which the agricultural part of this office had been administered. It fell to him, as Chairman of the Lincolnshire Small Holdings Association, to apply for one of the Crown farms, and they were told that it would be detrimental to the estate to allow them to have the farm for small holdings, notwithstanding that the association had been running fifteen years and was perfectly sound financially, and that they undertook to take the farm at the same rent as the preceding tenant. Instead of being let to them, it was let to a farmer who had already one Crown farm which he was farming very badly. If the agricultural portion of the estate could be put under the management of the Board of Agriculture, they would, he thought, have a better state of things prevailing. The Crown had some very fine land in Lincolnshire and in parts of Cambridgeshire, and it ought be made useful for hundreds of small holding tenants. At present, however, the policy of the Woods and Forests Department, when a farm was to he let, was to let it to a large farmer who already had perhaps one or two farm in his occupation. That was detrimental to the best interests of the country, and he ventured to hope that they would have some satisfactory answer from those in authority as to the better control of Crown land.

MR. MCKENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)

said he did not complain of the criticisms of his hon. friend, although he thought the word "disgraceful" was a little too strong under the circumstances, nor did he complain that he had not received notice of this Question. As however, he had not received any notice that the Question was going to be brought up, he hoped his hon. friend the Member for East Bristol would not complain if his Answer was not as full and complete as it might otherwise have been. The hon. Member had argued in favour of a system of small holdings being adopted upon Crown lands. He reminded his hon. friend the Member for East Bristol that the subject he had raised was to form a part of the inquiry by the Royal Commission on the Afforestation of Crown Lands and Coast Erosion. He had no doubt the recommendations of the Commission would be made in the sense his hon. friend wished. He would see what could be done to prevent any unnecessary overlapping in regard to the duties of the Department. He took exception to the epithet "disgraceful" used by the hon. Member for Norfolk, but must leave his predecessor in that office to speak for the management for which he had been responsible. The hon. Member went on to advise that agricultural land under the control of the Woods and Forests Department, the mines and minerals and the woods and forests should be placed under different Departments. If he meant entirely separate Departments for these particular branches, he could not agree with his hon. Friend, because that would add enormously to the cost of administration. If, however, he simply meant that any one of these Departments should have separate officials for those particular branches, he agreed with him, and he might say that that was already being done to a certain extent. At the present time the mines and minerals Department was quite separate. He did not wish to attack his predecessor, and he was not aware what defence he would have to make, but he would leave him to reply to the Question which had been raised by the hon. Member for South West Norfolk.


said that he was not aware that this debate was coming on, otherwise he should have made himself more fully informed upon this subject. He ventured to say that the accusations which had been made against the administration of the Woods and Forests Department were totally unjustifiable. He was sure that the administration of that Department had been well carried out. He knew that there were changes of policy recommended by hon. Members opposite; and they might possibly consider that the whole system of farming was open to very grave objection. They might also hold the opinion that land under small holdings was capable for producing a great deal more than it was doing to-day. That, however, was a question which did not arise on this Vote, but it came under the administration of the Woods and Forests and under the management of the Commissioners to whom reference had been made. He did not think that if an investigation was made they would have the slightest reason to complain of the way in which the property had been managed. During the whole of the time that he was responsible for the administration of the Woods and Forests, they were always prepared to listen to any suggestions which might be made. Although he did not know the facts of the case raised by the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk, he thought that when the matter had been further investigated they would find no reason to complain.


said he called attention to this matter eleven years ago, and it was then in a state of muddle. They had been given all sorts of promises, but the Department seemed to be in a worse state than ever. It was a curious thing that the big landowners did not like small holdings, because they did not consider that the tenants were respectable as they did not wear dress suits or cocked hats. Bearing in mind what happened at the last election he thought they should have a different state of things in the future.


asked leave to withdraw his Amendment. His object had been satisfied by the attention of the Government having been directed to this subject. He regretted that he had been unable to give his hon. friend notice, but the time was so short, and he did not know that he would have been able to bring it on so early. He wished to point out that he had brought no charge against the two gentlemen who managed this property.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

moved to reduce the item relating to the Scottish Office by £100 in order to call attention to the state of affairs in the Western Islands of Scotland. He complained that the money devoted to the Congested Districts Board of Scotland for specific purposes had been squandered in a most shameful manner. He appealed to the Secretary for Scotland to look into this matter and see if he could not bring about some reform in the Board. Matters were going from bad to worse, and the whole subject required to be overhauled. The Board was not a paid one, and they would never get the work well done unless men were paid for it. The man who was chiefly responsible for the work was a clerk in the Exchequer Office, who engaged another man at about £200 a year. That was not the way to conduct the business of a Department such as this. This matter was a burning one in the district. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland smiled, but it was not a smiling matter. What was the right hon. Gentleman going to do in regard to the island of Lewis? A report was published a short time ago by the medical inspector of the Local Government Board for Scotland showing a state of affairs in the island not to be found in any other part of the British Empire. The medical officer had described it as a disgrace to our civilisation. The Public Health Act for Scotland did not touch it. What was going to be done? The local authority was powerless; they said they could not go no without money. Had the Government considered the desirability of taking over the public health of the island? The local authority had failed and would continue to fail. Some years ago the Education Department took over the schools in the island of Lewis because there was a deadlock. Things were now at a deadlock with regard to public health in that insanitary island. He had travelled in many lands, but he had never seen anything so bad as that which existed in the island of Lewis. He wished to complain of the insanitary condition of many of the schools. Their was a long list of schools which had been closed for months in consequence of fevers and other infectious diseases. Highlanders had made some of the finest men in the British Army and they had volunteered in their hundreds and thousands to serve in the South African war. Were their children to be sent to schools which were badly ventilated and had no water supply? He had in his time asked a fair number of Questions in this House in the hope of getting some satisfaction out of the Government or the Scottish Office. He had visited the Scottish Office and seen the Permanent Under-Secretary; they all knew he was a Tory of the Tories. He did not get any satisfaction. He was not at all surprised that hon. Gentlemen were driven to ask Questions in this House, and he should be driven to ask them again. The small number he had asked in the past would be nothing to what he should ask in the future. He also had to complain of the action of the Inspector of Schools in the Island of Lewis in encouraging the School Board to set at defiance a circular issued in 1894 when Sir George Trevelyan was Secretary for Scotland. He begged to move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item, Class 2, Vote 27 (Secretary for Scotland, Office of), be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Weir.)

MR. JOHN DEWAR, (Inverness)

de-aired to emphasise the seriousness of the condition of the Western Islands, where a state of affairs existed which was not to be found in any other part of the United Kingdom. He would give one or two facts to prove the poverty and congestion which existed in the Western Hebrides. Eating was a very good test of the prosperity of a district. The combined rates in many of the parishes were as much as 13s., 15s., and 17s. in the £, and in one parish they were positively 20s. 8d. One of the proprietors in those islands told him that five years ago he paid £5,400 in rates, and this year, £7,500. Twenty years ago his rents came to £20,000, but this year they were £12,000, and there was no reason why, in a couple of years, his rates should not be as much as, or more than, his rent. This could not continue, and he joined with his hon. friend in saying that the Government had not done what it ought to remedy this state of affairs. In one of the parishes—that in which the rates were 20s. 8d. in the £—the ratepayers had refused to pay the rates, the parish council had resigned, and the bank had refused to advance money to help keep the paupers, and the Government had stepped in with a temporary loan of £200. That would keep them for a few months, but it was not a satisfactory or permanent solution of the question. Many circumstances no doubt had tended to produce the present state of affairs, but he was convinced that it was the landless condition of the people which was in the first place responsible. Ninety per cent. of the paupers came from the landless portion of the community and only 10 per cent. from the crofter class. Those people had agitated for twenty years to get access to the land. They did not want it for nothing. They were prepared to pay a fair rent for the land they wanted to till. The Crofters' Act was passed for them and the Congested Districts Board created for them, and yet after twenty years agitation to get access to the land it was still refused to them. This was not the case of a bad landlord. The land belonged to a most benevolent proprietrix, who was anxious to do what she could for the people, and had already done a great deal, but it was a case of pure mismanagement. Were they to crush out this land hunger, or were they to try to satisfy it? He welcomed the sensible decision given by the Lord Advocate that it was no case of breach of the law but one of trespass and of civil action. The people were only anxious to become small holders.


said he thought the hon. Member was discussing a matter which would properly arise on a subsequent occasion.


said the Vote under discussion was for the Secretary for Scotland, who was Chairman of the Congested Districts Board, and it was of the failure of that Board to deal with this state of things that he was complaining. Were they to see a gunboat and a force of Glasgow policemen sent positively to prevent these people who were able to cultivate the land from becoming small holders? He welcomed what the Lord Advocate had now done. With regard to the Crofters' Commission he hoped it had not outlived its usefulness.


said that subject was clearly out of order.


said he merely wanted to suggest that the work of the Congested Districts Board and the Croters' Commission ought to be combined. He desired to draw attention to the present condition of excitement—and he thought justifiable excitement—in the Western Islands, which had led to this agitation and discontent.

MR. AINSWORTH (Argyllshire)

confirmed what had fallen from the lips of his hon. friends, and said he was most anxious to see more energetic action on behalf of the Government.


desired to support as strongly as he could the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty and other hon. Members who had spoken. What they wanted the Government to do was to give up the traditions of the old Tory officials under them, and do something for themselves, and then probably there would be a better state of affairs than existed now. The offices were at the present time full of Tory officials, who bossed the Secretary for Scotland, or anybody else who was about, and therefore they got exactly the same answers to letters that they got from the late Tory Government, written evidently by the same office boy, and containing exactly the same words. He wished to urge upon the Government that something must be done for the people in the Highland counties.


said that on behalf of the Government he welcomed the short debate which had arisen in regard to the Western Islands, but before saying a word on the merits, of the question he must suggest to his hon. friend that the political chiefs of the Department were responsible for its policy, and it was not right to bring into debate in this House, as he under stood it, civil servants and officials who were not there to answer for themselves, and who had to act under the political heads of their departments, upon whom the responsibility for the policy rested. It was only fair that that should be said of the criticisms upon civil servants that had been passed in this debate. He was exceedingly grateful to the hon. Members who had raised the debate, because it was unquestionably I the fact that a very serious condition of affairs existed in the Western Islands. This House bad not been able in past years—and it became increasingly difficult—to pay attention to questions which did not excite the interest of a large number of Members, and for this and other reasons these questions had suffered in past times. He was especially grateful, therefore, that the attention of the House should have been drawn, as it had been this evening, to the very serious condition of affairs that existed in Lewis, South Uist, Barra, and other parts of the Western Islands. It was quite true that the local rates were alarmingly high, and it was a serious problem as to how local government could be carried on. Altogether the social conditions were very difficult to deal with. There was no time to-night to enter exhaustively into a consideration of the matter, and it would be hardly possible for a Government that had come into office so recently to have formed any matured new policy to lay before the House; but he could assure the hon. Gentlemen who had spoken that there was just as keen a desire to deal with the subject on the Treasury Bench as there was in any other quarter, and the Government would welcome help in every way towards a settlement of the question. They would be glad of any information as to facts and in every way they would be glad, so far as was in their power, to co-operate with hon. Members representing the districts concerned. When the time came—and he hoped it might come before very long this session—for an opportunity of discussing this question they would be able to get further in their consideration.


said that after the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, he begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolution to be reported this day. Committee to sit again to-morrow.

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