HC Deb 18 April 1907 vol 172 c1189

But behind and beyond this there lies the whole still unconquered territory of social reform. Social reform may be regarded, according to the point of view from which you look at it, as a luxury or as a necessity, but in any case it is expensive. It has to be paid for. Someone must be prepared to meet the bill. Well, now, this is a House of Commons which was elected more clearly and definitely than any other House in our history in the hope and belief on the part of the electors that it would find the road and provide the means for social reform. No doubt social reform is a phrase vague in itself, which carries different meanings to different minds. But there are some things which it certainly means to all of us who sit upon this side of the House, and I fancy to a good many who sit opposite. I myself, for instance—if I may refer to myself—am not what is called a Socialist. I believe in the right of every man face to face with the State to make the best of himself, and, subject to the limitation that he does not become a nuisance or a danger to the community, to make less than the best of himself. This world is much too full of wrongdoing, and of injustice, and of unmerited suffering; but, in my judgment, the way of escape is not to be found in any solution, or so-called solution, which, by slowly but surely drying up the reservoir which gives vitality to human personality and human purpose, will in the long run leave the universe a more sterile place. I say this in no polemical spirit, not at all, but simply by way of emphasising the fact that to all of us—people like myself who may be regarded by some of my hon. friends below the gangway as a lukewarm Moderate—there is nothing that calls so loudly or so imperiously as the possibilities of social reform. Just let me, in order to make plain what I am going to say, invite the House to look at two sots of figures in our modern community, whose appeal is irresistible.