§ Order for the Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the second time."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said it was convenient, it was certainly not unusual, that they should take the opportunity of the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill to make some survey of the Government proceedings during the course of the session. He did not propose that afternoon to survey the whole field of Government activities. He intended to confine his remarks to the action of the Government with regard to the business of the House and to the condition to which they had, by their methods and their programme, reduced that Assembly. He did not believe there was any man on either side of the House, or belonging to any section of the House, who did not agree with him that there was matter for the gravest reflection and the most anxious meditation with regard to recent Parliamentary procedure, and that they could derive but small contentment from the announcement which the Government had made that they were not wholly dead to the class of questions which he meant to bring before them, but proposed to devote their minds to their consideration during the winter months. Let the House consider for one moment, apart from the discussion of any particular controversial measure, how far it had carried out, or was under existing circumstances able to carry out, its two great fundamental and essential duties—the duty of legislation and the duty of criticism, the duty of dealing with the legislative proposals brought forward by His Majesty's Ministers, the duty of dealing, by comment, adverse or otherwise, 1624 with the executive actions of the Administration. Under neither of those heads had the House of Commons been able to carry out, nor could it conceivably carry out, the two primary duties with which it was entrusted by the country, and for which the country should hold it responsible. There were two great novelties in the course of the present session, for which, though not wholly without precedent, the precedents had been immensely exceeded, and by which they had been brought under a system of administration hitherto wholly unknown to the House. The first point to which he would venture to call the attention of the Prime Minister, the Government, and the House was the way in which Grand Committees had been worked. In the first place, he could not see how the Government were to escape from the charge of having, if not deliberately, at all events completely, broken the solemn pledges entered into by Ministers of the Crown when they asked the House to adopt their new system of Grand Committees. He had made this charge before in the presence of the Prime Minister. He had given at least one quotation on which he rested it; but never as yet had the right hon. Gentleman condescended to reply to what was a serious charge, and certainly a definite one. He would read again, to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the facts, two quotations from speeches made by responsible Ministers of the Crown when they were passing the new rules establishing Grand Committees on their novel basis. The first was from a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, who was, next to the Prime Minister, the Minister in charge of the new rules. This was what he said on 26th March—It was the intention of the Government that all important controversial Bills should be discussed in the House, and not in Grand Committee.For his own part, he was unable to conceive of a pledge uttered in more precise and explicit language, nor had he ever known such a pledge which was more obviously and plainly violated by the subsequent policy of the Government. But it might be said that the right hon. Gentleman, though an important member of the Administration, was not its head, and that he misinterpreted the view of the Leader of the House when he gave 1625 vent to that explicit declaration of intention. He would, therefore, quote from the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister, on 25th March, said—The Government had no desire to send the great measures of the session, which almost necessarily were controversial, to Grand Committees. They would still be retained under the control of the House.It really could not seriously be pretended that the Government had kept either to the spirit or to the letter of those two distinct and explicit promises. They stood there as violations of the solemn declarations of the Government made to the House, and on the faith of which the House passed the new rules, and within a few months, within a few weeks, after those declarations were so solemnly made, they were completely and absolutely broken alike in form and substance, alike in letter and in spirit. That was the first point which he wished to make as to Grand Committees, but it was not the only one. When the right hon. Gentleman was pressing upon the House the propriety of this new expedient of his, the Opposition urged upon him that the labours thrown upon those Members of the House who had both to serve on the Grand Committees and to do their work as Members in the House would be of so exhausting a character that it was quite impossible that it should be adequately carried out until human nature and the human organism were much more vigorous than they were at present. They urged on the Government that both the Ministers and the Members would find the labours of these Committees far greater than they could stand. Who doubted that that was so? The right hon. Gentleman himself came down to the House the other day and explained that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the English Land Bill had gone away for a week's holiday because he had found the work in Grand Committee of so exhausting and exacting a kind. He was not surprised. It was an intolerably severe strain when Members were asked to work from twelve o'clock to three, but he was perfectly certain that, when they asked them to work from eleven to four, and sometimes longer, they really were throwing a burden upon Members of that House which it was impossible for any human shoulders to bear. In that respect he ventured to point out that the prophecies they made about these new rules had been amply 1626 confirmed by the experience. That was not all. He complained as a Member who had not served on these Grand Committees, and he thought others would probably feel the same cause of grievance, that they had no opportunity of hearing the details of the Bills discussed upstairs. The Prime Minister had gone on the supposition that a Committee was representative of the House, that everything which the Committee did might be regarded as done by the House, that everything the committee discussed might be regarded as discussed by the House, and that everything which was known to the fifty or sixty gentlemen who sat on the Committee was known to the 670 gentlemen who formed that Assembly. That was an impossible position. It was one of those conventions which had no relation whatever to fact. No one who was not on the Committee could know what was the sort of arguments, what was the sort of trend of opinion which the critics and the defenders of a Bill alike pursued; and, when the Bill came down to the House for the brief discussion which they were permitted on the Report stage, they were totally ignorant of what had taken place upstairs for any purpose which could really enlighten them as to the movement of opinion and the course of argument. And observe the extraordinary irony of the position. The Opposition pointed out when the rules were before them that the House had laid down certain standing orders with regard to the discussion of financial matters which made it possible for a Committee upstairs to deal with finance, but made it impossible for the House to deal with finance on Report. The right hon. Gentleman refused to modify those regulations, and the result had been that measures which touched very closely upon financial proposals might be discussed in Committee by fifty or sixty gentlemen, but when they came down to the House they were precluded from raising points, however great might be their importance, if they in the smallest degree trenched upon the sacred precincts of public money. That was an impossible position in which to place the mass of the House. Let them take what happened on the English Land Bill. There was a considerable body of opinion largely represented below the gangway which desired to see some modification of the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman 1627 opposite with regard to the source from which the funds should come for carrying out the policy of increasing the number of small holders in England. There could not be a question touching more the central problem of land policy. That central problem was withdrawn from their notice. Mr. Speaker ruled, as he was bound to rule, that they could not deal with it; and so they were face to face with this extraordinary and paradoxical result, that the rules which the House laid down to protect the public Exchequer had prevented its discussing that which most nearly touched its interests. And that evil was going to be an increasing evil. This House was deeply pledged to what was called social reform. Social reform was inextricably mixed up with questions of public finance, and the result of these rules was that they would never be able on the Report stage—the only stage left them for dealing with the details of a Bill in the whole House—to touch those monetary provisions which were the very sinew of any proposals of that kind, and without freely discussing which it was impossible to discuss the questions of policy brought forward in those Bills.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling Burghs
You could not do it under the old system.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said the right hon. Gentleman had mistaken his point. It was perfectly true that even the discussions in Committee of the whole House were limited by the terms of the original Resolution; but there was the further limitation which prevented them dealing on the Report stage with things which could perfectly well be dealt with on the Committee stage, and the only way of dealing with them was to re-commit the Bill, and—especially under closure—it was only the Government themselves who could propose that a Bill should be re-committed. So much for the Grand Committees. They had been used in defiance of Government pledges; they had been used to the utter exhaustion of many of the most active Members of the House; they deprived other Members of a privilege which they before enjoyed of taking part in the Whole House on the Committee 1628 stage of controversial and important Bills; and, finally, they had absolutely removed from the Whole House, at any stage, the power of discussing any financial proposal. A more damaging indictment could hardly be urged against a system which the right hon. Gentleman—again under the guillotine—urged them to adopt four months ago. He passed from the Grand Committees to the guillotine. Let it be remembered that the Government came in as the advocates of Parliamentary liberties. They were pleased to say that the late Government deprived the House of liberty of discussion. Let anybody compare the proceedings under the late Government with regard to the guillotining of Bills with the proceedings under His Majesty's present advisors. The guillotine had already been applied this session on no less than five separate occasions—upon four Bills, and upon their discussion on the Rules of the House. The guillotine had been applied before, by other Governments, Conservative, Unionist, Radical, and Liberal, but never, except perhaps once under Mr. Gladstone's Government, had the guillotine been applied at the beginning of the Committee stage of a Bill. As everybody knew, when once the guillotine had fallen there was an end of satisfactory debate. He would take an example. The Education Bill, 1902, was a Bill that was guillotined, and no doubt the ordinary result followed. But before the guillotine was put on there was free discussion, and everybody who would honestly look through the debates would admit that there was no great principle of that Bill that was not discussed and re-discussed almost ad nauseam. Let them take another example, the Bill dealing with the local authorities in Wales. That Bill was one of a single principle, which could really be almost exhaustively discussed upon Second Reading. It was discussed altogether twelve days in Committee. Six of those days were passed before the closure was applied, and the discussion before the the guillotine was applied was, and always must be, wholly different in character from the discussion which took place after that drastic operation had been performed.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
I think the right 1629 hon. Gentleman is not correct. We only had a single day.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, it was the Licensing Bill. That Bill took eleven days in Committee and six days before the guillotine was put on. At all events, on the Education (Defaulting Authorities) Bill there was only one principle involved, and in that case the House had an opportunity of discussing, without the guillotine, a proposal which was vehemently objected to. Let them compare that case with another case of dealing with great local authorities of which they had had recent example. The Government brought in a Land Bill for England, and they had put every county council, every district council, and every parish council under the control, for certain purposes, of a central authority, which was directed by the Bill, in certain circumstances, to coerce them. That might be a very proper proposal, just as he thought the Welsh Bill was a very proper proposal; but it was a very important proposal. It was a proposal which touched the very central nerve ganglion of English public life; it touched the relation between Parliament and the great bodies which Parliament had brought into existence to deal with local affairs. He could imagine no point more deserving of the consideration of the House, or one which touched more nearly the general organisation of the country; yet under the plan of the Government it had not been considered by that House for an hour, or even a quarter of an hour. No more striking example of the way in which the Government had misused their power could be given than the way in which they had treated the county councils. But it was not only in relation to Grand Committees and the use of the guillotine that he made his complaint against the Government. They had prevented the House from carrying out its full function in connection with the criticism of administration, a function not less important than the function of criticism of legislative projects. The House spent 22 days under 1630 guillotine—about a month of Parliamentary time—and during that period, at the very height of Parliamentary activity and when public attention was most concentrated on public affairs, they had been deprived of any use whatever of the expedient of moving the adjournment of the House upon questions of urgent public importance. That was an interference with the liberties of the House on the part of a Government which had appointed a Committee to deal with blocking notices. If individual Members who put down blocking Motions were criminals, what was the depth of iniquity of the Government themselves, who had for a month deprived the House of Commons of one of its most important rights? But that was not all. The Government, in his opinion, had grossly misused the Supply rule. They had not given the additional three days which it had been customary to give. By itself that was not a matter of great importance, but it was important when they bore in mind that the Government had by that means entirely avoided adequate criticism either upon their Irish administration or upon their education administration. The Chief Secretary for Ireland was in his place, and he was sure that there was nobody who would welcome criticism more than the right hon. Gentleman, and there was no one who would find more joy in his answers than hon. Gentlemen in all quarters. But the right hon. Gentleman had had no chance of replying to them nor they of criticising him as to the state of Ireland. Could it be said that the state of Ireland was such as to cause no anxiety, or that the general administration of the country was a source of universal satisfaction to all Irishmen and also to all who were interested in the fate of Ireland? The Chief Secretary would be the first to admit that profound anxiety existed with regard to the internal condition of largo parts of the country, and that nothing could be worse either for the duties of the House or for himself, or for his critics, than that the Chief Secretary's Vote should be put down in the dinner hour upon one night in the whole session. At a time when much anxiety was being caused in Ireland, the light hon. Gentleman was not permitted to give his critics a chance of surveying his administration as a whole and bringing against it charges which in their opinion the Chief Secretary for the time being ought to 1631 meet. The Education Vote no doubt had a night devoted to its discussion, but the President of the Board of Education would forgive him if he said that his administration was of a kind which required more than one night adequately to deal with it; and his general proceedings had been so aggressive that he should have been especially careful to see that his critics had a full opportunity of explaining their case, and he an adequate opportunity of defending himself. He would remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman had without a shadow of excuse asked Parliament in the Appropriation Bill to violate the law in the interests of one section of public educational opinion; and the money which he was asking the House illegally to vote was to be expended upon one class of schools, and one class only. Even if that incident in the right hon. Gentleman's official career stood alone, he should have requested the Prime Minister to devote more time than had been given to the Education Estimates. It was true that they had had one night since the Government policy was declared, but that night was interrupted by private business. And let it be remembered that the incident of the illegal vote of £100,000 was by no means the only and worst administrative action for which the right hon. Gentleman had made himself responsible. They knew that he had administratively used his Department to bribe or to threaten secondary schools to modify their governing bodies and to alter their system of religious teaching in the interests of one particular section of public opinion and against the wishes of the parents using the schools. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] They knew that he had compelled the parents of Roman Catholic children in one of the parishes in Yorkshire, who desired to have a school of their own, and who were building a school of their own, to send their children against their will into the board school.
§ MR. MCKENNA
It was not I who closed that school; it was the hon. Baronet opposite who preceded me.
§ SIR WILLIAM ANSON (Oxford University)
That is so. But the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware that the parents have since at their own charge provided and maintained a school which he declines to sanction, contrary to the principles of the Act of 1902.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he did not know that the right hon. Gentleman had gained much by the interruption, but doubtless the matter would be further debated. The right hon. Gentleman was alleged not to have held the balance equally with regard to some of the schools in Wales, and undoubtedly he had not done all he could to help those unfortunate teachers whom the county council of Merionethshire desired to deprive of their well-earned holiday. A Minister who did these things ought to provide ample opportunity for their discussion. It was not right that, with time under the Supply rule at the disposal of the Government, a Minister should escape either making an explanation of his general policy or the duty of defending himself for particular acts of what they considered maladministration. The evils which the right hon. Gentleman had done, and was doing, by his use of his executive powers did not stop with his own Department. Let them remember that every measure of the present Government, and possibly of their predecessors, tended to throw more and more upon the central departments of the Government, on whose fairness, irrespective of Party, it had been the practice of the House to rely. The Minister of Education had done more than any Minister he knew of to shake confidence in that fairness of public administration; and in so shaking confidence in public administration he had done a far greater evil than merely injuring the interests and hurting the susceptibilities of a particular section of the community who hold certain views on the education question. The general result was that, as everybody must admit, interest in their proceedings was diminishing among the public outside, and, what was far more important, it was diminishing within those walls. What happened now was that the Prime Minister in a perfunctory speech—he did not blame the right hon. Gentleman; the same speech had been made four or five times in the course of the session—introduced a closure by compartment 1633 Resolution, and when that melancholy performance was carried out to his satisfaction the House at once ceased to be in any sense a debating assembly. The same results were to be observed whichever Party was in Opposition, and they were therefore justified in saying that these results were due to a system and not to individuals. The debates lost all zest, all interest, all keenness, all novelty, all reality. The House might struggle to believe it was of importance, but it knew, and every Member of it knew, that it was of no importance. It fulfilled no other functions than the functions of those sham assemblies which at various periods of the First and Second Empires in France were supposed to carry on the traditions of free Parliamentary institutions. They all knew that these proposals were unwillingly brought forward by the Government who made themselves absolute tyrants of the situation. Individually they were lovers of liberty, but collectively, by the action they had taken in that House, they had become, against their will, its arbiter and its master. They could not escape the fate which attached to all other tyrants, whether willing or unwilling, and that was seen in the actions and speeches of Ministers themselves. They insensibly fell into the errors which dodged the steps of absolutism. They would not pretend themselves that they took much trouble over the drafting of their Bills. Their Bills were not thought out.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he seemed to have hurt the feelings of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, but the Government had just sent up a measure to that unfortunate Scottish Committee which had so heavy a burden to carry, and he was told there were twenty-one pages of Government Amendments to that Bill. If that had been done on the Opposition side of the House the Prime Minister in courteous terms would have accused them of obstruction, but the Government seemed anxious to obstruct their own Bill, because they had put down a whole volume of Amendments to it including a single clause of 100 lines. 1634 Therefore the Attorney-General would feel that there was some slight justification for the comment he had made on the drafting of Government Bills. This was the kind of thing which must happen when every Minister knew that whatever the defects of his measure it would be huddled up in the end unless its defects were exposed in another place. This system had its effect, not only on the Bills of the Government, but on their speeches. They had got into the habit of using a regular formula whenever a criticism was made on their Bills. That formula was—His Majesty's Government have carefully considered the point raised by the hon. Gentleman opposite, and on the whole they must adhere to their original opinion.That could only pass for argument when there was the closure and the guillotine behind it. Gentlemen who would be the last to imagine that they were not ready to come into the open and meet their adversaries face to face got into the habit of sheltering themselves behind thisformula. Why did the Government, who, he was sure, hated all this, do it? Largely because they did not bring their Bills in early enough in the session. They asked the House to do more than the machine could do. They said they were going to consider the whole subject in the course of the winter months. It was, however, no use considering this subject unless they would see where the root of the evil lay. All would desire to see the Bills they desired to pass, passed rapidly. It must not, however, be forgotten that there must be limitations to the output of legislation in an Assembly of 650 gentlemen dealing with subjects of most acute controversy and possessing equal rights of speech, and in most cases equal capacities for speech. They could have a good solid output of legislation each year, but they could not do that by bringing in every year numerous and gigantic measures and expecting them to pass. The Government seemed to have got into a hopeless habit of miscalculation. Everybody would admit that the position of public business at this moment was not satisfactory; but what would it have been but for the abandonment of the Devolution Bill? The Chief Secretary might mourn the premature decease of that Bill, but the Government, as a 1635 Government responsible for business, must, though he was sure they believed in the measure, nevertheless have been delighted. He strongly suspected that the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury went over in disguise to the Irish National Convention and used his well-known powers of diplomatic persuasion to induce that important body to relieve himself and his colleagues of the intolerable strain which the legislative activities of the Secretary for Ireland were about to put upon them. The rules of the House certainly required remodelling. The problem the Government had to face was one of extreme difficulty. The difficulties were not wholly the creation of the present Government; they were difficulties incident to the gradual development of our public and political life. He wished he could see in the policy pursued by the Government, either last session or this session, any recognition of the root evils with which they had to deal before the affairs of the House could again be brought into a satisfactory condition.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said the right hon. Gentleman had brought a sweeping and drastic indictment against the manner in which the Government had conducted the business of the session, but had done it with a degree of good nature and good humour which had taken away much of its sting, but none of its force. He trusted he might be able to show that the right hon. Gentleman had greatly exaggerated the evils which he had discovered, and that, after all, the session promised to be a legislative success, and to have done nothing but credit to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman first attacked the general system of the reference of Bills to Standing Committees, which was the staple of the new rules of procedure. The view taken on the Ministerial side of the House was that it was necessary and desirable that they should legislate with energy and rapidity. During the last ten or twenty years legislation had fallen into arrears. There were many questions that were ripe for being dealt with, and their difficulty was to know in what order they should take them up. But there were numbers of Members—he did not know 1636 that the Leader of the Opposition was conspicuously one of them—who held an entirely different view, and who were fond of telling audiences that there was far too much legislation, and that it would be much better for the country if the House of Commons devoted itself more to academic discussion. They thought that such legislation as was promoted should be of a harmless, and more or less inoperative, character. There was a fundamental difference between the two orders of men in that House, and the energetic section, who demanded that there should be activity in legislation, were so superior in numbers in this Parliament that it was obvious there must be greater attempts made to deal with legislative problems than they had been accustomed to in the past. At the same time, there was the fact to which the right hon. Gentleman had made allusion, that the individual Member was much more active now than he was in the old days. The private Member was much more able to take an intelligent and useful part in their deliberations. He was accustomed to speak more in the country before he came into the House, and when he came there he was able to speak with facility and good effect. The Government had endeavoured in these two sessions to do their best to fulfil what they believed to be the mission entrusted to them by the electors. For that purpose they had instituted a new and experimental system of relegating a much larger share of the work to the Committees sitting upstairs. In the application of this new system it was probable that some blemishes and defects would be found, and he trusted that the Government would not be blind to any faults that might be disclosed, but be quite ready to remedy them. But it was absurd to suppose it would do much good to send these Bills to a Committee upstairs if the whole House was to be present in spirit and if the Committee was not to be trusted to do the work referred to it. This excessive desire that every Member of the House should be able to follow in detail the operations in Committee was an exaggeration founded upon a misconception of the true functions of a Committee. Having referred the question to a Commit- 1637 it was not for the House to interfere. They expected the Standing Committees to do their work loyally, with the view to a full discussion and consideration, but also with a view to the ultimate passing of the measures referred. He did not think that that had in all cases been done. Let them take, for instance, the Scottish Small Landholders Bill. There were, he thought, an unusual number of Members on that Committee who had acquired in a great degree the habit of meticulous examination of matters brought before them, and who were exceedingly fluent speakers with extremely ingenious minds, and the result of their applying themselves—no doubt conscientiously from their point of view—was that an amount of time was spent which was altogether out of proportion. Admitting as he did that the Bill was a strong Bill, proposing great alterations in the law which might well give rise to strong feelings, yet the time spent was altogether out of proportion, and if the Bill had not been dealt with somewhat stringently under the new powers given to the Chairman that Committee would have been sitting still. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Government ought not to have referred the great controversial Bills of the session to the Committees upstairs. Had they done so? The great controversial Bill of the session was the Army Bill. Then the Budget Bill, the English Land Bill, the Evicted Tenants Bill had all been kept in the House. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Government had put such a great strain upon Members of the House. Members of the House had not complained much about it. He did not think it had been a great strain, but Members had behaved with great public spirit. The right hon. Gentlemen had also referred to the use of the guillotine. It sounded almost hypocritical and pharisaical, but the Government also detested the whole system of the guillotine as at present applied, and the House would have the same feeling towards the guillotine if the allocation of time were imposed by some impartical authority. It was undoubtedly a system that was open to objection. He did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, who preferred to begin the discussion of a Bill in Committee and resort to the 1638 guillotine towards the end. It was more effective calmly to review the situation before they began, and, after consultation with different parts of the House as to the amount of time that ought to be allotted, lay down the particular allocation of time that appeared to be fair and just. It seemed to him that when the House was accustomed to this allocation of time, and regarded it without disfavour, it should not prevent the proper discussion of important matters. He constantly saw instances where time that was allotted was wasted in trivial discussions and more important questions were shut out. There was a flagrant instance this session in the ease of the Scottish Small Landholders Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had referred to Clause 3 as perhaps the most important clause in the Bill, and it was included in the section which was to be disposed of on the first day. The right hon. Gentleman said he anticipated that they would not be able to reach it, and he deplored that as a great misfortune. What happened? The new clauses were mostly ruled out of order, they disappeared, and they immediately got on to Clause 1. The Opposition went on discussing comparatively unimportant Amendments to Clause 1, maintaining the discussion with obvious difficulty, until the time came when the axe fell, and Clause 3 was not reached at all. That was an instance, a rather flagrant instance, he thought, of the manner in which opportunities could be used. He repeated what he had said on other occasions in answer to questions, that the Government would consider whether some means could not be adopted for shifting from the Government to some impartial authority the adjustment of these matters, and when that was accomplished he did not believe any substantial injury would be done to the interests of the House. Passing from the Government's sins in that respect, the right hon. Gentleman had complained of the somewhat mechanical mode of dealing with public questions in that House, of the neutralising and sterilising effect upon their debates of this somewhat mechanical mode of dealing with public questions. He did not think there was any matter with 1639 regard to which that observation was more true—and he admitted there was some truth in it—than the administration of the Government as exhibited in the Estimates of the year. It was the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this method of devoting so many days definitely to the Estimates. It was a system which had many advantages; it saved the House a great deal of the uncertainty and discomfort that prevailed under the old system; but obviously, when a Minister had his Vote brought on on a certain Thursday, he had only to make the best answers he could and get the debate prolonged until the end of the sitting, and then he was free for twelve months from any animadversion on the part of anybody. That was a bad effect. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman was not altogether free from responsibility for the neutralising effect of the guillotine upon criticism, for he himself had applied this sort of soothing syrup to the whole of the Votes of Supply. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that the Government had not given the three additional days sometimes allowed to Supply. The Government had not those days to spare. He quite admitted, and he repeated the admission, that they had been too sanguine, whether the fault was theirs or not, and they had found themselves in June and July with more before them than they could well accomplish. They could not spare the days unless they were to go into October, as the right hon. Gentleman had prophesied they would. They could not in the circumstances give days for this, days for that, and days for the other. What were the particular cases of which the right hon. Gentleman complained? He said that their policy with regard to Ireland had not been properly discussed. Three days had been given to the Irish Estimates, one of them to the Chief Secretary's salary, which occasioned, of course, a general review of the policy of administration, the Vote being brought on at the dinner hour. That was in accordance with the wishes of Irish Members opposite, and it was rather a novelty that they should take into consideration Irish Members who supported the Leader of the Opposition, because he believed he was right in 1640 saying that in former years when the right hon. Gentleman had charge of the business, they were not consulted in these matters. The present Government had consulted them, and had given them a day, and it happened to be the second half they got. He did not think there was really serious ground of complaint in that. He did not know whether he was called upon to make any answer to the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman on the President of the Board of Education's whole policy, but whether he had done wrong or whether he had done right, his right hon. friend was able to take are of himself without his assistance. In addition to the one day given to the Education Vote, there had been besides, three other discussions of a less formal kind.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The Local Government Board Vote had been unfortunately sheared and left out. They could not put a quart of Votes into a pint of time, and that was one of the evils under this mechanical system.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said that the Government had not the three days to spare, and if they had given them there would have been other claims. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Government had asked for more than the machine could do. It was because the machine could not do what they asked of it that they had introduced this experimental system of sending Bills to Committees. He was still sanguine and fully persuaded that, if it was worked steadily and reasonably and any little blemishes and asperities removed which practice showed to exist, that system would be agreat improvement upon the proceedings of the House of Commons, and that they would be able to do much more under it than they had done in the recent past. The right hon. Gentleman had taken a despondent and gloomy view of this Parliament. He had said that nobody cared what they did, and they did not much 1641 care themselves. He was afraid the right hon. Gentleman's eyes were elsewhere. It was the other branch of the Legislature, who had every possibility and means that the House of Commons had not of despatching their business with celerity and effectiveness—it was they who were to engross the attention and the gratitude of the country. He did not so read either the tendency of men's minds or the necessities of the time. He believed the House of Commons, with the good sense that had always prevailed in it, and with the good feeling and good spirit which the right hon. Gentleman had himself displayed that day in his criticisms, was quite equal to the task it had undertaken, and that not only in this session, but in any future session—which, he was ready to admit, might be better managed—they would have results which would redound the credit of the House and to the benefit of the country.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said the Leader of the Opposition had had the courage to ask for a return of the occasions since 1887 on which Closure by compartments had been carried. He had got a copy of that return and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman had not seen it, or he could not have made the speech which he had just delivered. The first entry was1887. Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill; four days were occupied on the Report stage, which was concluded on the same day the order as to Closure was made.The second entry was—1888. Members of Parliament (Charges and Allegations) Bill.That was a Bill for the establishment of a special Commission to investigate the genuineness of that forged letter by the assistance of which the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition was enabled to pass the Second Reading of a Coercion Bill for Ireland. That Bill occupied two days on the Report stage, but there was no order as to Closure.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Will the hon Member read the number of days on the Committee stage before the Closure, and the number of days in Committee of the Whole House?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill was sixteen days on the Committee stage before the Closure and twenty days altogether in Committee, whilst the Members of Parliament (Charges and Allegations) Bill was three days in Committee before the Closure and four days altogether in Committee. That was a Bill which affected the whole Parliamentary position, the character of Mr. Parnell, and the whole foundation of the movement of his colleagues and himself, and after three days the right hon. Gentleman established the guillotine. Therefore the Leader of the Opposition had as much responsibility for the guillotine as any member of the House. He was amazed at the right hon. Gentleman's description of the want of public attention which the House now attracted. He was a Parliamentarian, and would regard the failure of the House of Commons to excite the attention of the country as a grave national disaster. When he heard the right hon. Gentleman talking about the House of Commons ceasing to attract public attention his memory went back to the last two sessions of the last Parliament when the right hon. Gentleman was Leader of the House and consequently was more responsible than anyone else for the arrangement of the business and its position in the public mind. The right hon. Gentleman made a number of changes with regard to Question-time, which he had always regarded as the most important part of every day's meeting. Question-time was the occasion when the House was able to fulfil and realise what was perhaps its greatest function as the grand court of inquiry before which very wronged individual and every grievance of the Empire could have a hearing. The right hon. Gentleman made some revolutionary changes in Question-time. What was the most remarkable difference between this Parliament and the Parliament of which the right hon. Gentleman was the Leader? The most remarkable of all the changes made by the right hon. Gentleman was the change in Question-time. What happened in the last two Parliaments? Question-time became curtailed until it was shrivelled down to a shrunken corpse compared with what it was in the early years of 1643 his Parliamentary experience. Nobody took the trouble to ask Questions, although at the present time seventy or eighty Questions were being put every day. But that was not the only point. During the last Parliament they came down to the House one night to discuss the question which was the very basis and foundation of the whole commercial condition of this country and the Empire. Could there be a more vital and fundamental question for discussion than that? Was there any tribunal before which that question ought to have been discussed and threshed out except the great Imperial Parliament? On that occasion they found the Opposition occupying their seats but the benches usually occupied by the majority of Ministerialists were empty. They found the Treasury Bench to which the nation had a right to look for guidance empty, and there was anarchy and chaos in the House of Commons because the Government fled from the discussion. When the right hon. Gentleman was describing the decadence of the Imperial Parliament he ought to have made a note of that scene. He was rather surprised that the Leader of the Opposition was able to get up and talk in that strain. The return of the present Parliament had synchronised with an enormous increase of prestige and respect for Parliamentary institutions. The right hon. Gentleman had said that they must go to the very root of this question, which was that the Parliamentary machine was asked to do more than it could deal with. This session they had tried an experiment which had not been tried in any other country in the world. There was no country where the principle of national unity had been preserved at such a sacrifice of blood and treasure as the United States of America, where the greatest civil war that was ever known took place between 1861 and 1865. The national unity of the United States had been baptised in blood to a degree which no other country had ever experienced, and yet that country had forty-three or forty-four subordinate local assemblies. Every man in America who was asked whether the United States could continue to exist if they tried to do all the work of the nation and the states and all the localities in one Chamber would 1644 say that such a policy was worthy of nobody except a man who had accidentally escaped from a lunatic asylum. In Germany they did not attempt to do all the work of the subordinate legislatures in one central Parliament. In Germany they had an Imperial Parliament to deal with Imperial affairs and local legislatures for local affairs. It was the same in Austria. But here in this Empire which was, after all, compared with all the countries he had mentioned, immensely larger both in interests and variety of subjects, they were trying what every Member who was either honest or intelligent or both knew to be an impossible task—to do in a single Parliament all the work of subordinate local assemblies as well as all the great work of the Empire. They might try the remedy of the guillotine or Committees—which he thought were most excellent. He had not himself been a member of many Committees, but he had sat upon some, and if the House would allow him to say so he thought the spirit of the Grand Committees compared very favourably with the spirit of the House itself. His own experience was that in Committees there was less of the Party spirit and fewer and briefer speeches, and even the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London on Committees gave them a taste of his quality with an air so subdued that one could hardly realise that he was the same man who addressed them in the House. He would illustrate what he meant by a conversation which he had fifteen or twenty years ago with a gentleman who came to this country from Johannesburg. That place twenty years ago was not so well-known, and the name of Tipperary was rather better known. Even now Tipperary commanded more public interest than Johannesburg. There had been in Tipperary violent differences of opinion between the authorities and the people and some of the Members of the Party to which he had the honour to belong. There was at that time a good deal of heat and even fury with regard to incidents that took place. Members of his own way of thinking were of opinion that the police had exceeded their duties, but the Chief Secretary thought that an Irish policeman 1645 could do no wrong. In talking over this question with his friend from Johannesburg, he was shocked and surprised when he heard him say: "Do you realise that there is a country called South Africa? Have you ever heard of a place called Johannesburg? Do you know how that city is involved with difficulties which will demand the attention of this country in a very serious and a grave way before many years are out?" He had to confess that he had never heard the name of Johannesburg mentioned on the floor of the House of Commons. If people referred to Johannesburg at all it was only incidentally. And yet there was Johannesburg, the chief centre of a great industry, the chief city of a country which might one day come into collision with the British Empire, which might be the centre of a great war, and which, therefore, was one of the most momentous factors in the whole future of the British Empire, and it would not be mentioned in the next session of Parliament, whereas a little row in an Irish country town would occupy weeks, If not months, of the Parliamentary session, while all the great Imperial interests in South Africa were forgotten. He told that story as an illustration of the larger truth that this Parliament, which was called Imperial, was not Imperial in the true sense of the word. It had never yet been allowed to rise to the high dignity of an Imperial Parliament, and it never would rise to that position until it devolved on local bodies in all parts of the three kingdoms the duty of attending to local affairs. At present the Imperial Parliament was as unjust to those countries as it was to itself and to its own great possibilities and powers. He did not think anything was more shocking in the House of Commons than to see during a Scottish debate the presence of all the Scottish Members, and to note the absence of nearly all the English Members and the Members of the other nationalities, and then to find when the division came the voice of Scotland was often stifled by the votes of men, nine-tenths of whom had never even heard the Speaker or the Chairman of the Committee give the name and the purpose of the question on which they were going to vote. Irish Home Rule was after all but a small segment of a 1646 great circle. If this question could be divested of racial and religious prejudices, if it were not a useful question to restore unity to a disordered and disunited political Party, if the question could no longer be the battledore and shuttlecock of mere partisan politics, and of old and worn out political shibboleths, the people would see the beginning of an efficient, dignified, and Imperial character, and this Parliament would devolve on Ireland and the other countries the management of their own domestic affairs.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said that while Imperial interests were of the greatest importance to the British House of Commons, hon. Members were obliged to attend even to parochial affairs at some time or other. He represented for the moment a centre which could not be very well done without in times of emergency. He meant Woolwich Arsenal, and he would claim the indulgence of the House in order to call attention to the condition of things in connection with the discharges of workmen there. The circumstances of the whole place were almost tragic. Here was a town built up almost entirely during the last 200 or 300 years on Government work. The Government had attracted from time to time the very best workmen in the Kingdom to its service. It had always been pointed out that Government work was exceedingly steady and constant. That did not apply to manual labourers, though when a man got into the Government service as an official he never moved. Four or five years ago he visited a Government establishment within the metropolitan area where he found the conditions of employment in regard to women were very unsatisfactory. He called the attention of the superintendent to the matter and was informed that the women employed there were the wives of men who had served the country faithfully and well. Their pay was 11s. or 12s. a week, and they had families dependent on them. He said it was starvation pay, and the permanent official replied: "It is constant." What was constant was starvation. Woolwich had 140,000 inhabitants. The workmen there were a very respectable hard working body. He did not say that with the view to his 1647 being returned again to the House, for he did not care whether they returned him or not. At Parliamentary elections there were too many instances of candidates bidding against each other, one stating that if the electors returned him they would get so much more than if they voted for his rival. He had tried to find out the circumstances which had led to all the trouble there, and he would give the figures relating to Woolwich discharges which had been supplied by the Minister for War, in Answers to Questions put by himself. In 1900–1 there were employed in all, in the Arsenal and Dockyard taken altogether, a maximum number of 26,378 men and boys. In 1901–2 the maximum number was nearly as great, 26,321. In March, 1906, the number was reduced to 16,704 (a reduction of 9,674), many of those remaining being on short time. There was a slight further reduction in the following weeks, and then 1,200 men received notice. Therefore, according to the official figures, there had been a total reduction in the numbers employed in Woolwich, effected almost entirely by discharges, of 10,874. It was not to be supposed that the official figures understated the ease. But this was not all. The 1,200 men who received notice in April, and who had since been receiving their discharge at the rate of sixty and upwards per week, were not the total of those whose discharge had been determined upon. On 25th July, the Secretary of State for War stated his intentions. The men in the Royal Carriage Department were to be reduced to 2,500. There were 2,620 left in April. The Royal Gun Factory was to be reduced to 2,000. There were 2,420 left in April. The Royal Laboratory was to be reduced to 3,500. There were 5,727 left in April. The total further reduction from the number employed in April resolved upon by Mr. Haldane was therefore not 1,200 men, but 2,767, made up as follows:—In the Carriage Department, 120; in the Gun Factory, 420; in the Laboratory, 2,227; total, 2,767. These numbers, added to the reduction effected before last April, namely, 9,674, made a total reduction of 12,441 from war strength. There had been two stages in this process. There was the first reduction from the exceptional pressure of the war period to the normal level of employment for 1648 times of peace. There was a next further reduction effected under cover of the first, in order to carry out the new policy of the War Office towards the Ordnance Factories, that policy which the Government refused to allow to be discussed in Parliament. It was necessary that it should be ascertained as clearly as possible during what period, and to what extent, the discharges belonged to each of these divisions. In order to discuss this, it was necessary from the nature of the official statistics to deal, not with total employment in the Arsenal and Dockyard, but with the smaller figures relating to the "Ordnance Factories" in Woolwich Arsenal alone. He could not, however, emphasise too strongly that the total number of men already discharged from Woolwich was in round figures 11,000, and the total number contemplated, 12,441. It was impossible to include fairly any discharges made since the end of 1904 under the head of Reduction from War Strength to Peace Strength. The South African War broke out in October, 1899. The year 1898 was therefore unaffected by the war. In that year the average number of men employed in the Ordnance Factories was 15,293. In 1901 the average was 20,501 (the maximum probably exceeding 22,000). In 1904 the average was 15,848. Seeing that (1) since 1901 the Arsenal had increased in area by 313 acres; (2) that since 1901 £1,300,000 had been spent on new buildings, plant, and machinery in the Arsenal and Dockyard; and (3) that the Army and Navy Estimates for the present year, 1907–8, exceeded by 34 per cent. the Estimates for 1898–9; it was clear that the number 15,848 employed in 1904 was relatively very much smaller than the number 15,293 employed in 1898. About half of the total discharges belonged to the earlier series, which could possibly be attributed to reduction from war to peace conditions, and about half to the later series, which were entirely due to the new policy of the War Office in relation to the Arsenal. The exact figures could only be given for the Laboratory, the Carriage Department, and the Gun Factory; which were, however, the chief manufacturing departments of the Arsenal. For these three the figures were:—Average number 1649 of employees in 1901, 18,085; average number of employees in 1904, 13,515; reduction (war to peace), 4,570. Average number of employees in 1904, 13,515; future number fixed by the Secretary of State 8,000; reduction due to new policy, 5,515. Much public attention was excited, and Ministers proceeded to reassure Woolwich and the country. On 7th November, 1906, in answer to a Question the Secretary of State for War gave the following figures for discharges during the previous twelve months:—December quarter, 1905, 276; March quarter, 1906, 428; June quarter, 1906, 669; September quarter, 1906, 635; and added:As I informed the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth, it is expected that the further discharges from the factories will not be more than 150 or 200 men.A very similar assurance was given by the Secretary of State, solemnly and repeatedly, within a few days to the deputation from the Woolwich Conference. It was impossible not to accept it. And yet they knew now that the Laboratory, Gun Factory, and Carriage Department, which, when the Secretary for War was speaking, employed 11,212 men, were to be reduced to 8,000! The right hon. Gentleman's "expectation," then, to agree with his policy since, should have anticipated a discharge, not of 150 or 200, but of 3,212 men. He wanted to know what this great town of Woolwich was so touched for. Was the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that everything was all right now? He was a little tired—not with the right hon. Gentleman's answers which he gave to the House, but with the permanent officials who supplied the right hon. Gentleman with information. Over and over again from information given to himself at Woolwich he was aware that the right hon. Gentleman knew absolutely nothing of the true facts. They had had twenty years of this kind of rule in the Arsenal, and the result was that the permanent officials' opinion did not coincide with that of the right hon. Gentleman and of himself. The language used by the permanent officials to these poor men who were or had been employed in the Arsenal was, to say the least of it, abominable and would not be used for a moment by any decent employer of 1650 labour. He found no fault whatever with the Superintendent of the Arsenal, but with the subordinate officials. These men said that it was no part of his duty to talk politics to workmen inside the Arsenal, and that they could not expect anything else than these discharges if they returned a man like Crooks, who ought to be I arraigned. That kind of thing had always gone on and had happened this very week. He might be told that he ought not to make observations like that on persons who were unable to answer them. Yes; but it was impossible to deal with them when one went down to Woolwich. The Expert Committee pointed out cleanly that the whole machinery in the Arsenal which belonged to the nation could be utilised properly. He insisted that it was a national danger to allow the output of the Arsenal to get low down. He believed that the war material would soon be depleted in the event of a crisis, and that in the South African War the Arsenal was depleted in less than a fortnight. Yet the service was cut down by 12,000 men. Was there a lover of peace in the House who would argue that in any town in Great Britain with a population of 140,000 20,000 men should be thrown out of employment and into the streets without some effort being made to find them work? They were told that men were put out elsewhere. But why should work be given outside when the machinery in the Arsenal was allowed to stand idle? All this was going on, and the permanent officials talked about control and the impossibility of doing this, that, and the other thing. Mr. Donaldson told the Expert Committee last November that it would be a moral impossibility to conduct the affairs of the Arsenal with less than 14,000 men, vet the men were still further reduced, He would like the House to agree to a return of the investments of every man who was in charge in the Government service showing where his money was. He did not care whether a man called himself a Liberal or a Tory on a platform. If he were told where that man's money was invested he could tell what his politics were in the House. That reminded him of an incident which occurred to him when on his travels in Ireland. He happened to be in a train going to Clonmell and the train suddenly pulled up. 1651 A man shouted out what had stopped the train, and the answer came that it was because there was a cow on the line. A little further on the train again pulled up with a jerk and the question was asked if there was another cow on the line. "No," was the reply, "it is the same old cow." So it was at Woolwich; there was no possible chance of moving. He would point out what some of the clever men were doing down there. It was said that it was in the interest of the continuity of the work of the Arsenal that these men with their superior knowledge should be retained in their good billets in the service of the State. They had been turning off workmen who were entitled to a bonus of £1 a year—he himself had some doubts about the bonus system—after serving seven years in the Arsenal and were of good character. One man had served seven years and a month, but these cute permanent officials took great care to find out that that man had been ill for six weeks, and therefore had not completed his seven years service, and consequently was not entitled to the bonus. There was not a chance to raise the question in the House, but there were great men whose yearly income would be to the workmen wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, who got a bonus of £50,000. The permanent officials did not "discharge" the last lot of men; they had found a new word for it—they called it "revision." That was to say that men were put off to make room for somebody else. He dared say that these men must feel quite dignified when told that they were not "discharged" but were only under "revision." These men had been kept starving. When they went to the Arsenal they were told that something might turn up from time to time, or that there was nothing for them to do just then. Fancy a man leaving his home in the morning and bidding his wife good-bye, leaving her under the impression that he was going to work, but after hanging about in the Arsenal for a few hours was sent out without a job. He wondered where was the initiative capacity of these captains of industry—the permanent officials at the Arsenal. He remembered two lines of Moore—To place and power your public spirit trends,In place and power your public spirit ends.1652 These lines would apply to the public officials in the Arsenal. Some of the men had been kept at starvation wages of 15s. or £1 a week. What was worse, the men to whom accidents most frequently occurred were the men who were badly paid, and who were obliged to claim under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The reason was that with starvation wages they took with them when they left home the domestic cares of the wife and family. The consequence was that their minds were at home and not concentrated on their work. Another illustration of the cleverness of the permanent officials was that in calculating the earnings of men who were entitled to compensation, instead of calculating them at the rate they should have been paid at, they were calculated on their actual earnings when they worked only half or quarter time. In fact these Government officials only made a convenience of the poor men. He supposed that some day it would be possible for the Secretary of State for War to call these men together, or their representatives, and talk things over round a table and not depend so much on the information given by the permanent officials as now. The recent exposition of this question was dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman, and he thanked him for his intervention, because if it had been left to the old form of permanent officials they would have said they would have nothing to do with it, and that the people who went down would have to get up again. The right hon. Gentleman had, no doubt, had a great deal of trouble with his Territorial Army, but he wanted him to realise the conditions in which these men and their wives and families lived. He wished him to remember that he was responsible, and also that the humblest of His Majesty's subjects should be treated fairly. The right hon. Gentleman would have both public and private opinion behind him. Let them recall the marvellous demonstration of workers which marched nine miles from Woolwich to Trafalgar Square. It was true that in this matter they always obtained sympathy—it was the cheapest thing in the world. It used to be advice that they received, but now it was sympathy. 1653 That they got in unlimited quantities. It reminded him that a Colonial governor had one stereotyped reply to a deputation when approached on any subject. He used to say, "Gentlemen, your appeal has touched me very deeply. It shall have my most careful consideration. Good afternoon. Mind the step." There the interview ended, and that was all they got in this country. He wished the Secretary to the Admiralty was in his place, as he wished to point out to him how he had sent working men away who might still have been kept at Woolwich. Surely it must be in the interest of the whole nation that the Government should keep a contented and happy lot of workmen around them. Thousands of men, whom this and previous Governments had attracted to the district, had built their houses in the neighbourhood; he supposed there was no place in the United Kingdom where there were so many owning householders as there were at Woolwich. They had exercised that thrift and self-control which was quoted so frequently in the House; but now, as a consequence of those very qualities which all admired, they had their houses thrown upon their hands. That meant that not only had they lost their employment, but that the money which they had invested in these houses would, at all events, to some extent be lost to them. In the case of a house worth £300 on which say £200 had been paid, to get out when he lost employment the purchaser would have perhaps to lose £40, £50, or £60. When the Government robbed a man of his manhood they drove him to despair and they robbed the nation of a valuable asset. There were hundreds of men who had gone out of the Arsenal who, being specialists, could not turn their hands to anything else, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to say that no further discharges should take place and send a message of peace and hope to those who were in misery at Woolwich.
§ MR. ROWLANDS (Kent, Dartford)
said that after the able statement of the case in regard to the Woolwich workers by the hon. Member for Woolwich, it was unnecessary to go into detail with regard 1654 to it. He earnestly hoped, however, that the Government would realise the seriousness of the situation which had been created there. He was not going to say that there was anything which could be done by the Government, but he thought that things had now reached a pass where they ought to know whether the present discharges could not be arrested. The nation had there an enormous factory, which they had to keep up at considerable cost to the country, and which they would want in times of danger and difficulty to the community; but, during the last six years these discharges had been going on. They had hoped from time to time that they had reached the stage at which they would cease, but that had not been the case. As his hon. friend had said, the difficulty was that in Woolwich they had a town existing on one employer and one employer only. These men, as he had said, were highly skilled men, but they were being sent out of the country and the nation could not afford to spare them. They thought that in the future there should be an absolute standard of employment given in these Government Departments, and that the reserves should be kept up to a higher point so that efficiency could be secured on an emergency. The investigations of the recent Committee had, he thought, laid the foundations of some practical alteration which would give employment to a large number of men in time of peace. He did not wish to lay blame on anyone in the past, but he wanted a change in the future, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would tell them that they had touched bottom and reached the last of these discharges, and that a new feature would be developed in regard to employment in this Department, so that the stability which had been talked about should be there in regard to the workers as well as in the case of the permanent officials. Another matter of complaint was that men had been deprived of bonuses to which they were entitled, and on the general subject he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to say some words of comfort which would tend to contribute to the happiness in the future of the workers of the Woolwich Arsenal.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. HALDANE,) Haddington
said the dominant note in the speeches just delivered was the desirability of putting an end to the period of uncertainty through which Woolwich was passing. It was quite true that it was very difficult to arrive on solid ground in their forecast as to the future. He had been disappointed as bitterly as hon. Members had been in regard to getting a clear view of what the establishment at Woolwich should be, but he thought he was in a position, following up the announcements which had already been made, to say that they had got solid ground at last. The process for reduction had been a very painful one, but it had arisen from a very simple cause. They were, he was thankful to say, in a time of peace, and one of the duties of a War Minister at such a period, following a great war, was to get military establishments into order and to conduct Army expenditure with the strict economy which could be justified by those who were trustees for the nation of national finance. The real cause of this reduction had been simple, and it was that there was in time of peace no work for the men who had been discharged. He believed, however, they were now standing on solid ground. The Member for Woolwich, in a speech which was very fair on all other points, had made some reflections on the permanent officials at Woolwich when he spoke of abominable language being used to men who were discharged. That was the first he had heard of the matter. If he had had information of it, it would have been inquired into sharply. He thought, however, his hon. friend must have been to some extent misinformed.
§ MR. HALDANE
said he would be glad to have them. He had visited Woolwich and seen the permanent officials, and had found, as far as he could judge, every desire on their part to co-operate with the Government in carrying out this disagreeable duty as lightly and easily as possible for those who were sufferers by it. The Financial Secretary and he and the permanent officials had 1656 been in almost daily consultation with a view to avoiding the very things of which his hon. friend had spoken, and they had done their best to get at the bottom of the situation. The hon. Member had done his duty by his constituents and his conscience, and in so doing had also kept in view public interests. Although the hon. Member had pressed him very hardly he had not done so in any way illegitimately. He did not agree with the view that the establishment was dangerously low. There was no worse state of things than that under which an attempt was made to keep a large number of workmen going without sufficient work. The War Office could not, like private firms, manufacture on a speculative basis in the hope that better times were coming. They were limited to the requirements of the financial year. If their establishment was too large the result was misery to everybody concerned. In that conviction this matter was taken in hand before he came into office, and a policy was adopted which he thought was wise. They had to deal with fluctuations and the fluctuations had been of a remarkable character. The hon. Member for Woolwich had spoken of 1898 as a peace year, but that was not really the case. There were expeditions to the Soudan and Somaliland and a number of small wars, of which he was glad to say there were now none. If he went back to 1884–5, which was a peaceful time, the total number of men employed at Woolwich, including the central stores, was between 6,000 and 7,000. The number fluctuated in subsequent years. In 1894–5 it was 11,910, and eventually it went up to 20,000. But if one went back to what were really times of peace the figure would be found not to be far from that which he was about to mention.
§ MR. J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned 1885 as a peace year. The only time I ever went to war was in 1885.
§ MR. HALDANE
said he hoped his hon. and gallant friend was well supplied with stores at that time. In the summer of 1905 the late Government appointed a Committee, under the Chairmanship of Sir George Murray, the members of which 1657 comprised Sir James McKay, Mr. Llewellyn Smith and others, to ascertain the proper minimum establishment to be maintained in peace on a footing capable of expansion in time of war. That Committee had within the last few weeks ascertained that minimum. Another Committee, Tinder the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, had been inquiring whether work which had not hitherto been done at Woolwich could not be done there. The Report, which was very cautious and tentative, made certain recommendations. The result was that, whereas the Treasury Committee fixed the minimum establishment at a very low figure, it had been found possible to raise it by about 1,000. In 1901 the numbers employed at Woolwich Arsenal reached their highest point, 20,501. In 1905 they stood at 15,150, a reduction of 5,351. That the numbers had not been still more rapidly reduced was due to the fact that requirements of an extraordinary nature had to be met—the building up of reserves and the re-armament of the Field Artillery. By the end of 1905 this work was coming to an end, and further large discharges became inevitable. The very liberal proportion of orders allotted to the ordnance factories could have been increased only at the risk of losing outside sources of supply. And we must have some sources of supply in the great industrial centres. If we had not that source we should in time of war be unable to obtain that assistance. No Government establishment could stand the strain of a great war without it Therefore, the Government had endeavoured as far as possible to keep these matters distinct and under different heads. But he was afraid, notwithstanding what they desired to do, that they had kept Sheffield and Newcastle on a very lean scale of employment just lately. The principal recommendation of the Committee was that they fixed the minimum establishment for Woolwich from which they might expand, but they must not reduce the number employed below that minimum. The minimum was fixed on the footing that they would have employment enough to keep the men going, and also be able to provide a certain number of orders for Sheffield and Newcastle and other places. The essence of it all was that the employment 1658 of the minimum at Woolwich, under the principle recommended by the Committee, was that they were sure to keep the minimum of workmen employed. The Committee took a very drastic; view of what the minimum ought to be. The recommendation of this Committee did not touch the Central Department and the Building Department of Woolwich, which employed over 3,000 men; it dealt simply with the work of the factories. The recommendation of the Murray Committee was that the work in the factory should provide employment only for a minimum of 7,400 men. As he had said, largely because of the recommendations of the other Committee, presided over by the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, they had been able to increase that 7,400 to 8,400, and they should be in a position to keep the minimum at that always allowing a 5 per cent. margin for any necessary fluctuations during the year, and there need be no reduction except by ordinary wastages. The number would not be allowed to pass the limit in either direction under normal circumstances. Beginning with the minimum of 8,400, they had next to consider the present state of things. In the factories, on 12th August, there were employed 8,996 men, which brought them to 596 over the minimum. There were still some discharges going on, and they would go on until September, and these would bring the number down by 300. After that they did not intend to go on with discharges, but would leave the further reduction till the minimum was reached by ordinary wastage. There were only 300 more discharges in view, and these would be closed in September. They were most anxious not to go on with them until the winter period, when employment would be difficult to get by those who were discharged. That being so, the state of things was this, that the figures for the factories were what he had given. Enfield, where rifles were made, and Waltham, where cordite was made, were, of course, entirely outside, and their reductions were very small indeed. The minimum recommended for Enfield was 2,000, and the actual strength a few weeks ago was 2,048, so that wastage would put this right very quickly without discharges. The Waltham establishment was to be 1659 630, and the actual strength a few weeks ago was 735, so that again wastage without discharges would put the matter right. It might be that they would not have orders enough to find work for the minimum, and in that case they must resort to other sources. They hoped, with the minimum of 8,400, to give stability to the flow of employment in Woolwich in the future. He was quite aware, in saying what he had said, that this meant a very great reduction from the war establishment. He was quite aware of the hardship to Woolwich; he was quite aware of the hardship to a town where houses were unoccupied, and where there was less employment goingon. They were bringing things down really to the same figures as in 1893–4, when the number was 11,800. The total would now stand, including the 3,000 employed in the Central and Building Departments, at 11,500. But there would be this counterbalancing circumstance, as far as he could forecast, on the advice of skilled advisers: the evils of the past would be at an end. The employment would he continuous, and there would not be those violent ups and downs that there had been, nor would there be the discharges, while they hoped to be able to replace wastage in the ordinary course. He thought it was infinitely better for Woolwich that she should have a stable and certain element in the shape of a Government workshop with a fixed establishment and steady employment for its men even on a small scale, than that she should have the large and fluctuating one which had been in existence in the past. He hoped he had made clear the reason of the unhappy circumstances of the few years that had gone by. The reason of the reduction and of the present condition of things was that they had been in the transition period between war and peace. It was inevitable. But now they had got a steady foundation, and with peace Estimates it was possible to fix an establishment which would be free from these evils which they could not avoid unless they tried to put things on a permanent and definite basis, exchanging the uncertainty of the past for the certainty of the future. Some reference had been made by his hon. friend to revision. That was in the Ordnance Department. There were a few cases of revision, he 1660 thought eighteen, he doubted whether so many. They wished to be model and frugal employers. They wished to make the condition of their employ es as good as they could. The scale of wages they paid seemed less than the scale of wages paid by private employers, and he dared say that in many respects it was not so great as private employers adopted in times of high prosperity; but there were certain advantages accruing to Government workmen in the shape of allowances and other things. But this was a controversial topic, and he did not feel called upon to offer an opinion whether the Government workman was as well off as the employee of a private firm. At any rate, what they wished to do was to give the men stability of position, and reach a state of things in which the violent fluctuations of the past would not exist in the future. Whether they had succeeded in that he did not know. He could only tell the House that they had done their very utmost to achieve the object they had in view, and it was not until a few weeks ago that the efforts which had been made reached a stage which enabled him to make the present statement.
§ MR. CURRAN, (Durham, Jarrow)
in calling attention to the state of affairs in Belfast, said he was not responsible for having to raise the question at this juncture. They had desired to raise it on the adjournment of the House some days ago, but they were unable to do so owing to the rules of procedure. Though he had certain feelings with regard to those rules, as far as he was personally concerned he desired to conform to them until such time as the majority of Members were converted to the wisdom of altering the rules of procedure so that business could be carried on in a more expeditious manner. In raising the question at this juncture, he did not want to reopen wounds in Belfast which were now healing and which he hoped would be absolutely healed before many days were over. The question which they desired to bring before the House was one of principle regarding the future policy of the Government with reference to labour disputes which might arise in any part of the United Kingdom. He and those acting with him submitted that the 1661 presence of the military in Belfast had been largely responsible for the unfortunate occurrences in which people had met with their death, and the violent scenes witnessed on Wednesday and within the last three or four weeks. If any argument were needed to prove that the presence of the troops had an irritating influence on the community, the fact that during the two days they had been confined to barracks peace had prevailed in Belfast supplied that argument. He was led to understand that the chief magistrate of the city, according to the King's Regulations, had the privilege of calling out the troops without consulting anyone, even his colleagues in the corporation. If that were correct, he submitted on behalf of his colleagues, that it was an extraordinary power to vest in any one individual. It was a power which had not only brought about great difficulties in Belfast, but might tend to bring about extraordinary difficulties in other countries of industry both on this side of the Channel and on the other. He desired to cast no reflection upon the Lord Mayor of Belfast. He wanted to discuss this matter on lines of principle rather than on personalities. But he repeated that it was a most dangerous thing to give to any one person, even the highest in any city of the country, power to call upon the military forces without any due investigation being made. He submitted that before the troops were allowed to parade the streets of any industrial centre where a dispute was in progress, stringent inquiries should be made by the War Department to find out whether there was any justification for calling out troops, as was done in Belfast. If such inquiries had been made in this case the military would never have been needed in Belfast at all. As far as he had been able to gather, nothing occurred in Belfast prior to the troops going except those occasional collisions between unionists and non-unionists which occurred in almost any dispute in every part of the country, and if that was all that occurred prior to the calling in of the military, then, in his judgment, the person who originally called in the military had a tremendous responsibility cast upon him, and had something to answer for. Then the question of the cost arose. With all due deference to 1662 the Ministers who had been most courteous in their replies to questions addressed to them on this question, he submitted that the constabulary and the military had been used entirely in the interests of the shipping and the railway companies, and they had been utilised—and he made this statement on the best authority from Belfast—not only to guard the property of the shipping and railway companies, but distinctly for the purpose of going round and showing the non-union trollymen the place where they had to deliver their stuff, and to guard them while the stuff was being delivered. If the military and the constabulary had been used for these purposes, if they had been, used for guarding the interests of the railway and shipping companies and for preventing the possibility of carrying out the Trade Disputes Act passed last year, in his judgment those companies ought to be called upon to bear the cost. He was informed that during the agitation in Ireland many years ago there were certain landlords who called for military protection and escorts, and after the agitation had subsided those landlords had to pay the cost. When a precedent of that kind had been laid down in Ireland he hoped the Government would see that the railway and shipping companies paid their due share of the cost of the military and constabulary during the last six weeks in Belfast. There was one point which touched them very severely in these matters. This was not the first time that the military had been called out in labour disputes. He knew of no matter so serious having occurred in a labour dispute as that which occurred last Monday in Belfast. On that occasion three people met their death—three innocent people who had absolutely nothing to do with the dispute in any sense of the term. It was unfortunate that these things always seemed to occur when a Liberal Government was power. They had often been reminded of the unfortunate occurrences at Featherstone and Southampton which occurred during the reign of Liberal Governments. He agreed that the Ministry were not responsible, but it was somewhat remarkable that these things did occur when a Liberal Government was in office. What they felt most was the fact that when the military were called out, 1663 and when extra forces of police were requisitioned, they were never called out to protect the organised workmen who were endeavouring to maintain a living wage. They were always called out to protect property. On the Labour Benches they believed that there were human rights as well as the rights of property. Ever since he had been a Member of the House he had observed that the rights of property had always been put first and the rights of humanity second. They desired to reverse that order of things. Within the organised labour movement both in this country and in Ireland they had the cream of the working-classes and some of the most thrifty, steady, and capable men in the United Kingdom belonged to trade unions. Many large employers of labour were ready to admit that. Trade unionists were taxpayers; they contributed largely towards the taxes of the country. As a matter of fact, they contributed more to the taxes than the men who were against them in industrial disputes. These men lived a fairly comfortable life when they were in employment, but when they were endeavouring to maintain a living wage all the forces he had mentioned were used against them, in the interests of the employers. They were not satisfied that this state of affairs should go on, and their desire in raising the question in regard to Belfast was that in future the head of the War Department and the head of the Government either in England or in Ireland should take due care that nothing was done to endanger life until every other method had been exhausted. They could not undo what had been done in Belfast, but he hoped what had occurred would be a lesson to the Ministers of the Crown, not to permit the menacing position taken up by the troops in Belfast to occur in industrial disputes in the future. We had in this country the reputation for being able to conduct industrial disputes in a quiet and peaceful way. There were foreign countries which were noted for violence in these matters. Those labour representatives who were at the head of the trade union movement were strongly desirous of conducting their operations in a peaceful and legitimate way, and he believed in the case of Belfast they could have accomplished 1664 that purpose had it not been for the presence of the armed forces of the Crown. The introduction of the military had prevented that possibility. With regard to the obstinate position taken up by the railway and shipping companies, it seemed unfortunate that, even in this House, those who represented the working class movement and voiced the opinions of their fellow-workmen were unable to do anything to bring pressure to bear on the large capitalistic forces involved in this dispute. There was no class of capitalist in the country that had received more privileges from Parliament than the railway companies. Upon this question he wished to be perfectly candid and to declare that as far as one Member's voice was concerned it would be raised in the future to prevent the possibility of such privileges being conferred upon certain railway companies. Those railway companies had taken up the obstinate position of ignoring even the highest citizen in Belfast, because when appeals were made by the Lord Mayor the companies absolutely refused all negotiations. When a body responsible for carrying on the commerce of the country took up that attitude and refused to submit the points in dispute to arbitration, when they refused to accept the assistance of the Board of Trade or any other tribunal, they stood condemned in the eyes of all sensible and intelligent people. That was what had happened in this unfortunate, dispute. He had not doubt that the responsible Ministers of the Crown were just as anxious as he and his friends were for a speedy ending to this unfortunate affair, but in the meantime the Labour Party raised the question in order to impress upon the Government the necessity of exhausting every other means before the military were allowed to enter any town or city where an industrial dispute was taking place.
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
said the hon. Member for Jarrow had confined himself to the inadvisability of the policy of calling out the military in any industrial dispute before every other means had been exhausted. He did not think he would be doing his duty to his constituency if he failed on this occasion to get up 1665 in his place and give more details than the hon. Member had furnished the House with. Ever since he had had the honour of representing South Belfast he had shown no sympathy whatever with the tyranny of capitalists or of labour organisations, because there were other interests in Belfast. In the interests of fair play and justice he thought the line of demarcation must be drawn. It would be remembered that the Royal Irish Constabulary revolted, and the disaffection which followed left the city entirely in the hands not of the strikers but of the won't-workers, who took advantage of the industrial dispute to bring disgrace and suspicion upon those engaged in it. It had been admitted both on the Government and on the Labour Benches, and there was no question about it, that a great deal of the violence used under the guise of peaceful persuasion or picketing was not endorsed by the responsible labour leaders, but was done by men who were irresponsible to them and over whom they had no control. When the Royal Irish Constabulary decided that the time of this strike was opportune to set their grievances before the Government, he confessed that in the interests of good government and considering his responsibility as a Member of the House he thought it was his duty to condemn their action as inopportune, although he had always previously been in sympathy with them. The time they took, in the conditions under which they were placed, to exercise their right was to no right-thinking man a proper time and could not in the interests of peace be condoned. If they had a grievance, instead of joining the forces of disorder they should have stuck to their guns and enabled the Irish Executive to carry out their duties. When the crisis was over then they might have put forward their claims in a reasonable and sensible manner. The references to the strike in the English newspapers had always been accompanied by an explanation that the Belfast people were noted for disorder, riots, and turmoil. In the city of Belfast there was always the danger of religious feeling being introduced, no matter how the dispute arose. Unfortunately, the people there were sharply and keenly divided upon religious 1666 questions. They had what were called Nationalists and Unionists. The former were confined to one part of the city, and the other parts of the city were supposed to be composed of Unionists and loyalists. All the riot and disturbance and the firing by the military had been confined to one particular division, and no part of the other three divisions had been affected. Only those who lived in the city of Belfast could understand that the disorder was occasioned not by the men who had a legitimate claim to carry on the picketing, but by men who were not really concerned in the dispute at all. The calling out of the military was a deplorable thing, but there were sections who looked on the calling out of the military with favour, just as there were those who looked on it with disfavour. If the town had not sufficient protection from the police then the troops had to be called out. He believed there was a possibility of the present state of affairs coming to an end, and it would be regrettable if that debate should cause anything in the way of suspicion or disorder. He could not sit down without saying that Belfast had suffered from invasion by the hon. Member for Colne Valley. He was glad to know that, he was an irresponsible Member, and that even the hon. Members on the Labour Benches would not attempt to justify his speech. He thought that it was deplorable that the railway companies would not submit the dispute to arbitration. His own opinion was that the only way to settle strikes such as this was by arbitration. He held that where possible arbitration should always take place. The Chief Secretary had been denounced for his inaction. Then when the right hon. Gentleman gave instructions to the civil authorities his action was supposed to be too late He knew from personal and private communication with the right hon. Gentleman that no Minister of the Crown could have been more earnest and anxious to put himself to trouble and pains to try to solve this problem than the Chief Secretary. He did not think they could charge the Government with responsibility for the scenes which had occurred in Belfast. Labour leaders came over last week for the purpose of asking him to 1667 impress on the Government that the military should be withdrawn; he pointed out that the Government had no power, and they did not seem to be satisfied with that. From replies to Questions put in the House by the hon. Member for Jarrow it was quite evident that the Government were powerless to refuse to the civil authority what they considered necessary for the preservation of peace in the city. He thought, under the circumstances, that the riots took place by reason of the military on the streets; but if any Member of the House had been in his position and had received the shoals of letters which he received by every post calling for necessary protection, he would feel that there was really some justification for the calling out of the military at the time they were called out. He thought that the real strikers deplored the state of affairs as much as anybody. He was sure they were willing that their "war" should be carried on in a proper and decent fashion. Whoever was responsible, there was no doubt that the violent speeches which had been made, and the action which had been taken in destroying property and endangering life, did more harm to the legitimate strikers than anything imaginable. He knew no place in England where a similar emergency could arise. In this country trade disputes were carried on with the greatest ability and amiability, and sometimes even harmony. It was to be regretted that the dispute in Belfast should have culminated in the way it did. He had been in constant communication with the Labour Members since the dispute began, and he wished to state that there was not one of them who, in his judgment, did not repudiate association with such tactics as had been used in certain parts of the city. They had endeavoured, as far as they could, to co-operate and do good work with the view to a peaceful and honourable settlement. He thought it was due to them that that should be stated. He trusted that their efforts, and the efforts of those in positions of authority, would soon result in bringing to an end this deplorable dispute.
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)
said he was anxious that no words should fall from him which would continue the 1668 excitement in Belfast or retard the settlement which they all desired. He would like to lay before the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Secretary of State for War a few points which would tend to fix the responsibility for the unfortunate circumstances which had arisen. He gathered from the Army Regulations that the military could be called out on the demand of a Mayor a chief constable, a divisional commissioner, a resident magistrate, or of any officer of the Royal Irish Constabulary. He agreed with his hon. friend that it was a terrible responsibility and power to place in any one man to call out the military. What he would like to know from the Secretary of State for War or the Chief Secretary was whether anybody in authority in Belfast besides Lord Shaftesbury was consulted before the military were called out in the first instance. He was not now referring to the calling out of the military on the night of the riot. He went back to the beginning of the strike when the military were brought out. Was the corporation consulted? Were the local magistrates consulted? What steps were taken to ascertain whether there was any real necessity for placing the military in the streets of Belfast? He need scarcely remind the House that the Lord Mayor of a big city was generally an employer of labour himself. In this case, happily, he was not. The present Lord Mayor of Belfast had no personal interest as an employer of labour, but as a rule the Lord Mayor would be an employer of labour and would have a personal interest in any strike of this kind that might arise. It was a serious matter that a man who had a personal interest in a strike should have the power to call out the military in his own interest. In the "Manual of Military Law" he found the following statement—Soldiers may be summoned in ease the civil authority is in danger of being overpowered, but they should not be called into action till the necessity arises for protecting life and property by military force.He presumed the Secretary of State for War accepted the responsibility for that. Why were the military called out in Belfast before any necessity had 1669 arisen? The police had not been overpowered by the mob. The military were called out before the police were overpowered or seriously attacked. That was an indisputable fact. It could not be said that the police strike was the reason for calling them out, because they were called out before the police strike took place. He did not propose to elaborate the point raised by the hon. Member for Jarrow that when the military were brought out they were used in the interests of the employers. It certainly was the general impression in the city of Belfast that the military were placed in the streets in the interest of the employers, and that that indeed was the object for which they were brought out. Another passage in the "Manual" said—Soldiers, when acting in aid of the civil power, in no respect differ, in the view of the law, from armed citizens. Their organisation prevents their being conveniently employed in using moderate force for the purpose of dispersing or apprehending rioters without doing them any injury; and as a general rule any action on their part involves the risk of inflicting death, or, at all events, grievous bodily harm. Soldiers, therefore, should never be required to act except in eases where the riot cannot reasonably be expected to be quelled without resorting to such means of repression. These cases are practically confined to riots in which violent crimes, such as murder, house breaking, or arson, are being committed, and to insurrections in which an intention is clearly shown to attempt by force of arms the overthrow of the Government, or the execution of some general political purpose.Nobody could seriously contend that such a state of affairs had arisen in Belfast at the beginning of the strike when the military were first placed on the streets. He felt certain that the tragic events which happened in Belfast were due to the presence of military in the streets. The very fact of placing camps of armed men in the streets was enough to attract the mob everywhere and to increase the excitement. It was the most effective means possible of leading to disturbance, and that was proved by the fact that immediately the military were withdrawn peace was established and had been maintained since. In regard to the firing by the military, he presumed that the only point that arose was whether it was necessary, and whether the officers exercised caution to see that no injury that 1670 could be avoided was committed. An hour was generally allowed to elapse between the reading of the Riot Act before the military were called upon to fire. He knew that it had been held by the Courts that that was not absolutely essential, but that they must proceed to repel force by force. Of course everybody knew that a magistrate was there; but the first thing the mob did was to extinguish the lights, and therefore they could not see him read the Riot Act. Moreover, he thought that if the military were going to fire at all they should have begun by firing blank cartridge. He did not think it was necessary for the honour of the Army that then; should be somebody killed. He hoped, therefore, that if it was necessary that these powers should be conferred on the civil magistrates to call out troops, and if the regulations enabled the military to fire bullets at the beginning of a riot, the Army Regulations would be reconsidered and an amendment made in them without any unnecessary delay. He trusted that the inquiry which was proposed to be hell would cover these points, and that the Secretary for War would consider whether it was possible to amend the Army Regulations so as to prevent a recurrence to such a tragic event.
§ * MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim S.)
said he regretted that the matter of the strike and the disturbances in Belfast should have been brought before the House just at the moment when negotiations were in progress which everybody hoped would have the effect of ending the unhappy state of affairs which existed in that city. Although he did not agree with all that had been said by hon. Members below the gangway, he did not complain of the tone of their speeches. He and his colleagues, however, felt very strongly that at that juncture it would have been much better, as negotiations for a settlement of the strike were going on, that nothing should have been said about the unhappy state of affairs in Belfast, but the representatives from the North of Ireland thought it necessary, as the subject had been called attention to, to answer the remarks that had been made below the gangway. It seemed to him that the whole condition of affairs in Belfast might be looked at from two 1671 points: First, the merits of the respective cases of the masters and the men; it would be highly improper for him to deal with that subject at the present time; and secondly, the employment of the military to aid the civil authorities generally and in suppression of the riots during which three unfortunate persons were killed. Every candid person who had read the reports from day to day of the occurrences in Belfast would agree that the military were called out not one hour too soon. The state of affairs which existed in that city had gone far beyond what was supposed to exist during the continuance of an ordinary strike. Acts of violence became so numerous that the employment was necessary of large numbers of police. The fact that there was a strike among the police themselves alone justified the authorities in calling for the assistance of the military. He did not want to compare either favourably or unfavourably the city of Belfast with other cities in the matter of strikes, but it was admitted that a large number of acts had taken place which even hon. Members below the gangway did not justify. It was almost unthinkable what would happen in a city like Belfast if any large section of the police had actually carried out the threat which, it appeared at one time, they intended to carry out. The authorities in Belfast and in Dublin would have acted with very great want of foresight and with criminal negligence if they had not provided against anything in the nature of a strike amongst the police. Even if there had been no dissatisfaction among the police the lawless acts that were committed made it necessary to call in the military. So many of those acts were of such a lawless nature that the police were totally unable to cope with them. It was impossible for the police to be everywhere, and the rioters—not all strikers, but also those who sympathised with them—were not concentrated in one locality, but spread over the city. He would give a few instances of those acts of violence and lawlessness committed under the pretext of peaceful picketing.July 9th.—Van belonging to J. & A. Beck & Sons overturned. Constable who arrested one of mob beaten and kicked. Two vans belonging to Henry Martier & Co., laden with goods, stopped. Goods scattered on street, 1672 one van run into river, the other burned. Police baton charge in connection with incident.July 22nd.—Van with bags of flour held up in St. George's Street, bags thrown off van, several stolen.25th July.—Belford Vitriol Works van, at Stewart Street, oiled with paraffin and destroyed by fire. Van with two cases machinery and castings belonging to James Mackie & Sons stopped in High Street. Cases broken, contents scattered and destroyed; eases fired. Lorry with bales of goods belonging to John Fulton & Co. attacked. Bales flung on street. Lorry thrown into river.30th July.—Two lorries laden with paper for David Allen & Co., Ltd., stopped and overturned in St. George's Street. Contents of one van scattered on street.1st August.—Attack on Castalia vans at York Dock. Police stoned. Vans obliged to go away empty. Customer's van leaving Hughes. Dickson & Co.'s mill stopped at Alexander Street, W. Bags of bran ripped with knives and destroyed in presence of police.2nd August.—Attack on two coal-laden vans (John Kelly's) in Waring Street. Coal flung on roadway.3rd August.—Pratt & Montgomery's van, laden with sugar from Rotterdam Quay shed, attacked. Horses taken from van. Sugar flung on street. Bags soaked with paraffin and set on fire. Van flung into river.6th August.—Lorries belonging to Alexander Reynolds stopped in Corporation Street. Strikers armed with sticks. Drivers compelled to take horses from vans and leave latter on street.8th August.—Attempt to set Hughes, Dickson & Co.'s mill, Diver Street, on fire. Door oiled with paraffin and fired. Quantity of hay steeped in paraffin and placed against door ablaze.He had read enough to show that it was perfectly clear the police were not in sufficient numbers to prevent these acts of violence which no Government or authority could tolerate for one moment, and that alone rendered it necessary for the civil authorities to call in the assistance of the military. With regard to the riot in which three lives were lost a few nights ago, he would like to point out that the district in which that happened was a district outside the chief area of the strike altogether. Everyone in Belfast knew that it had little or nothing to do with the strike. It took place in a part of the town which was inhabited almost entirely by Nationalists. He did not wish to say anything which, being reported in Belfast tomorrow, might extend the ill-feeling which already existed, but he felt bound to emphasize the fact, as the matter had 1673 been mentioned, that that attack took place in the Nationalist quarter of the town and was really one by the Nationalist party on the forces of law and order. It seemed to him that the fact that such a large number of persons acted as they did on that night was a justification for bringing out the military. It must be borne in mind that on this particular occasion the military were not brought on the scene until the riot had been in progress for a considerable time, which disposed of the statement made by the hon. Member below the gangway that the presence of the military was mainly the cause of the riots The riot started with a small row and the police barracks was besieged and disturbances resulted. It looked as if the mob were going to capture the barracks, as the police either outside the barracks or inside them were utterly unable to make any impression on the large body of rioters. There was, therefore, nothing whatever for the authorities to do except to call upon the military to disperse the rioters. As to the question whether the military should first of all have fired blank cartridge, that was a moot point and one which always cropped up in. cases of disturbances of this kind, but personally he thought the course taken by those in command of the military was the right and proper one. Here they had a riotous assembly which was doing damage of a serious nature, which was constantly becoming more uncontrollable, which had been warned by the police and by the magistrates; the people knew the fate in store for them if they did not disperse, and it had always seemed to him that in the interests of the people themselves the military should fire at them at once rather than fire over their heads or fire blank cartridge. This, however, was a matter of opinion upon which people held different views. He was glad of this opportunity of publicly stating what was the almost universal opinion, namely, that the conduct of the military throughout the disturbances was beyond all praise. From the accounts in the newspapers and from those which he had received in private letters, he had been greatly struck by the excellent bearing of the men who had carried out a task which must have been most distasteful to them 1674 in a most praiseworthy manner. The military were not natives of Ireland and they were called upon to perform this most distasteful task, and they behaved in the most splendid manner throughout these disturbances. He would conclude by saying that nothing that had been said that evening would he hoped, have any influence upon the disturbances, and he recognised that the Labour Party were as desirous as they in that part of the House were that these disturbances should cease The appeal to the military and the use of them had been carried out with the greatest discrimination and without any intention of favouring one party or the other to the strike.
§ MR. J. WARD
said he wished to present to the House a side of the controversy which had not been dealt with at all. First of all, they, as trade unionists, were extremely gratified to know that the lawless acts complained of as committed during this dispute were not attributed to the strikers or to the organisation of the men. He thought it would be a great mistake that every other resource of authority should not be employed before the military were brought in, but the point which he wished to refer to particularly was the use of modern arms in dealing with the civil population. It seemed to him about the cruellest thing that could be done. He could understand in the old days the use of the old musket, because by that weapon they really hit the rioter; but the use of modern arms was indefensible. It had been suggested that the military should fire over the heads of the people, but that might have resulted in disaster miles away, whether people were in or out of doors. A nine-inch wall was no protection against a modern rifle, and they did not want indiscriminate slaughter when engaged in suppressing civil disturbances. What they wanted to do was to intimidate those who were breaking the law. What had happened in this case, as in 1893, was that innocent people were the victims of the action of the military. If the military were to be called in, some precautions should be taken that the injury inflicted should be on those who were taking part in the riots and 1675 not upon those who were not. He suggested that, when the military were employed in future for the purpose of suppressing civil disturbances, they should be armed with weapons intended for the very purpose of suppressing such disorder, and not with a weapon intended to cut down a person miles before one saw him. He would suggest to the Secretary of State for War that some scheme should be devised so that the military might be armed with a weapon which was sufficient to overawe those who were committing the offence, but which would not injure those who were committing no offence at all.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL, Bristol, N.)
said he was sure that everybody who had listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Jarrow would recognise that he had introduced this question with most admirable temper and in a most reasonable speech. He was new to work of this kind, but it had been a pleasure to him in the last few days to be in constant communication with Labour leaders in that House and to find them so helpful and so sensible. There was no difficulty in such circumstances in really profiting by negotiations. Some reference had been made to the strike, and he thought he was in a position to say, although he spoke with some caution, that all points of difference between the men and the employers had already been settled. Dealing with the general question, he said the position of chief magistrate of a great city like Belfast was one which no one would envy. He was bound by law, associating himself it might be with his brother magistrates, to take the steps which appeared to him to be absolutely necessary in order to secure the lives, limbs, and property of the citizens. If he did not act, he was indictable; and if he acted improperly, if he called out the military too soon, he might find himself in the dock charged with manslaughter. Therefore, they must feel that it was a very difficult position for any man or body of men to be placed in. But these difficult positions must occur, and they had to rely in moments of great emergency upon individual men. They 1676 could not put those great duties into commission. They could not discharge them by popular assembly. They had to place confidence in men in these positions, knowing that if they went wrong they would be subject to very severe criticism, and, it might be, to very painful legal consequences. He did not want to go into the question as to the necessity for calling out the soldiers—for requisitioning them to be there in the first instance as a precautionary measure. The evidence before the chief magistrate was certainly of a very serious character. The streets had been given over to scenes of disorder, great injury was happening to all sorts of persons in no way connected with the strike, and it was necessary to see what steps could be taken to secure the ordinary decencies of life. Then there was the trouble about the police. He did not wish to exaggerate that, but it was for the time being a very considerable trouble, and no one had any means of estimating how many men might possibly have been so misguided as to join the threatened strike. Therefore, there was a period when Belfast might have been without even police protection, and it would have been most rash and improper had not the civil authorities by way of precaution required the presence of the soldiers. Happily the trouble with the police did not prove to be quite so serious as was expected, but nevertheless it was thought necessary as a disciplinary and precautionary measure to remove a very considerable number to other parts of Ireland, and their places were taken by policemen not acquainted with the town. Therefore, there was a great responsibility cast upon the civil authorities, and he had no reason to believe that they did anything beyond what the necessities of the case demanded. It was true that the presence of the military might have had an irritating effect upon the mob. But the absence of the soldiers might have had another kind of effect which might have led to very terrible disaster. They all deplored the loss of life that had occurred. They all felt distressed to think of the young woman who, in the prime of her days, lost her life while searching for her younger brother, a little boy who, as boys would, had gone out and lost himself in the crowd. But let them think for a moment of what might 1677 have happened had the mob obtained the mastery even for half an hour. It would have had to be checked and repressed at whatever cost. How terrible might have been the loss of life had any such measure of repression become necessary. He pleaded, with perfect confidence—for the House had shown a disposition to recognise and understand the difficulties of the situation—that those persons responsible in Belfast for the management of these affairs should receive full and generous treatment at their hands. For his own part, he thought that on the whole they deserved nothing but congratulation on the success of their efforts. It had been said that the military were called out at the bidding of the employers in order to take part in the strike that was going on. He did not believe there was a word of truth in the statement. Although he was in no sense responsible for what was done, he had been kept very well informed of the proceedings from first to last, and he had never been able to discover any trace whatever of any yielding to pressure or anything but the most anxious desire to hold a perfectly even hand between all parties, subject always to the fulfilment of the paramount duty to maintain order in the streets. Therefore, so far as he was concerned, he could not give the faintest encouragement to the notion that any inquiry would result in the discovery that anything had been done in obedience to a particular kind of pressure. Property was, of course, not so important as life. The civil authorities must consider humanity and the maintenance of life before that of property. But in a great city like Belfast the loss in the first instance accrued to property, and it was the duty of the civil authorities to protect property, although in so protecting it they would never lose sight of the fact that the protection of life was the first and greater duty. Having requisitioned the military as a precautionary measure, the question whether or not the soldiers should be called upon to repress the mob was a very nice and a very difficult question. He did not think that in this particular case there could be any doubt whatever that the military, who were not upon the spot to begin with, were sent for to subdue a desperate, determined, and almost 1678 successful attack upon the police barracks. They acted with perfect self-command, with full deliberation, and upon advice; and he did not think that anything was ever likely to be found out to show that they did anything else than what was necessary. With regard to the kind of weapons to be employed, he could not but feel that there was a great deal in what had been said. In the Featherstone case an inquiry was necessary because there was great doubt in the public mind as to what the relations between the civil and the military authorities were. The report of Lord Bowen in that case placed the matter as clearly as it ever could be stated in the English language. This very question of the sort of shot to be employed and whether in the first instance blank cartridge was to be used was considered. There seemed to be a good deal of force in what had been said, and some good might come out of the consideration of the question, always provided that they in no way interfered with the responsibility of the soldiers to take the measure which they thought was certain to accomplish the immediate result they had in view. He would like to add a word about the police. They had been subjected to a great deal of criticism and had had to be dealt with in a manner necessarily prompt and decided. They had now returned fully to their allegiance, and he would like to say to that great body, if he might, that when these troubles were over they would find the Irish Government perfectly disposed to consider their grievances. Some grievances, he admitted, they had in the matter of pay, and the consideration of these grievances had been somewhat too long postponed. Although, of course, it was absolutely impossible to consider them while a portion of the force was in a state of rebellion or insubordination, now that the whole force had shown a spirit of loyalty and subordination they would find the Irish Government in no way indisposed to consider their grievances in a proper and even in a generous manner.
§ MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)
asked whether, in view of the amount of public feeling regarding the circumstances that led to the tragic events in Belfast an inquiry would be held.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that the hon. Member would see that at the present moment it was premature to make any reference to that subject. If the public mind should be uneasy on any point, if the people should feel that there was anything requiring to be looked into—he doubted whether that would be the case—no attempt to interfere with such an inquiry would come from him.
§ * SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
said he did not think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education could be surprised if hon. Members on that side of the House raised a discussion on the administration of his Department, which had given rise, not only to anxiety and alarm, but to feelings of condemnation among some of them on those Benches. The right hon. Gentleman would not take it as an offence if he pointed out to him some of the difficulties caused in their minds by his conduct of the Education Department. The whole discussion on the Vote of nearly £14,000,000 was confined to one night, when it was largely interrupted by private business, and when only one Member beyond those on the Front Opposition Bench was able to intervene in the debate to deal with one aspect of the question—he meant the Welsh aspect. That by no means comprised all the difficulties they had felt and still felt. However hon. Gentlemen opposite might wish to look on these matters, there was a strong feeling about them in the country. Hon. Members opposite believed that it was only a small matter; the right hon. Gentleman thought it was a question of method in dealing with the Estimates; in fact, he thought it was a subject of no importance that he had departed from a practice that had prevailed ever since the education grants had appeared on the Estimates, of giving a summary, with something of detail, of the general policy which had guided the Department during the year. He happened to have a considerable recollection of these statements in Parliament. He could recall that he was responsible, in connection with particular parts of the Education Department which were then under his charge, in the drawing up of the statements. He could recall that from the days of 1680 Mr. W. E. Forster and Mr. Mundella—two Members of the Liberal Party whose example should be an excellent precedent for hon. Members opposite—on no occasion had they brought forward Estimates without putting the House fully in possession of the policy which had guided their administration during the year. Perhaps some hon. Members thought it perfectly easy to trace the policy of the Education Department through the maze of circulars and orders issued throughout the year. But he could assure them that they were very much mistaken; it was impossible to trace in that way the policy of the Board. The right hon. Gentleman had departed from a precedent which had never been deserted until he had chosen to take this new line on the subject. But there was something more than not having a statement of policy. Very important points had come forward during these discussions connected with the Education Department. He himself remembered that on more than one occasion the Estimates for which he was responsible were refused discussion, and the Motion to report Progress was successful on the ground that their Report was not in the hands of the House. It used to be the continual practice to prepare and distribute the Report before the House proceeded to discuss the Estimates. He knew that that practice was deserted even before the right hon. Gentleman took his present office. It never was deserted so far as he was concerned. He remembered how strict the late Mr. W. H. Smith and the present Leader of the Opposition were upon the point that this Report must be distributed before the discussion of the Estimates took place. The Code, as hon. Members knew, had been repeatedly discussed with a view to its amendment; but that practice also was going. He only mentioned these last two points, not because he wished to put the responsibility on the right hon. Gentleman, but because he wished hon. Members to understand that a thorough discussion of the Education Estimates by the House was impossible if the present practice was continued. The tendency was to make discussion of the Estimates merely formal, and more and more to remove from the House altogether those 1681 important statements of policy, as well as the Code and the Report which set forth the action of the Department during the year. If those were gradually withdrawn altogether from the ken of the House, it would increase bureaucratic influence. In his own experience, the only check upon bureaucratic influence was the knowledge, at that time, that any bureaucratic action would sooner or later become matter of debate in the course of the session. He passed from that, which, although it was a matter of far more importance than the ordinary Member of Parliament supposed, was yet only a matter of method, and the right hon. Gentleman might prefer his own method to those sounder ones of his predecessors. But he came to a far greater question which had never had adequate discussion in the House—he referred to the grant of £100,000 for school buildings. That grant he had ventured to point out, when it was before the House in May last, was directly contrary to the Act of Parliament. The Act of 1870 was the first Act which sanctioned the school grant at all; it had previously been only a matter of regulation by Minute. That first Act distinctly refused to the Education Department, any power to make building grants. He had brought this before the Attorney-General, who, he thought, had found it something of a revelation that the Act of 1870 was the first Act which permitted education grants at all. The Attorney-General argued that previous grants had been sanctioned over and over again by different Acts of Parliament, and that a single Act in the year 1870 refusing the building grant was not really a very important episode. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, admitted that it altered the position when he found that the Act of 1870 was the first and only Act up to that time which ever regulated the building grants at all. This was no mere small legal difficulty that he was pointing out; it was not a technicality which might be overridden by a clause in an omnibus measure like the Appropriation Bill. The objection became much stronger when they considered that this was not a technical point at all, but one which, as he contended, went to the very foundation on which the Act 1682 of 1870 rested. Before the Act of 1870 they paid grants only to schools in connection with a religious community. They called upon voluntary effort; they promised to maintain the schools, but it was evident that religious bodies could not establish their schools without a building grant. That state of matters entirely ceased when they established the new system under the Act of 1870, with rate-collecting authorities throughout the land. These authorities were made responsible, and at the same time they gave them power and discretion with regard to the building of schools. They supplemented voluntary effort by giving these authorities unlimited power of the purse. They ceased then to interfere with their responsibility or with their power of establishing schools. They left that to be the part of the local education authority, and they set aside the building grant. And to show how fundamentally this was the policy of the Act of 1870, it entered as a first principle into the Act of 1872 for Scotland, all the other provisions of which were distinctly separate from those of the English Act of 1870, because dealing with a different country and a different set of conditions. The two Acts, however, were identical in this particular as to the building grant. What was the right hon. Gentleman doing? He was abandoning that direct legislation without consulting Parliament, without putting before them for deliberate consideration the reversal of policy which was being introduced. He was doing this by unconstitutional means and by the suppression of Parliamentary discussion. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not think he was making any personal attack in using what he believed to be the true words expressive of the situation. The distribution of the grant was to be regulated by the Minute issued within the last day or two. In that Minute the right hon. Gentleman took power to interfere where he thought there had been lack of accommodation. But what sort of accommodation? Action could only be taken upon the requisition of thirty parents, who wanted school accommodation not of any sort recognised under the Code, but only in a provided school. If they 1683 desired the Cowper-Temple form of instruction which gave an advantage to those who believed in that particular kind of instruction, then these parents could move the right hon. Gentleman to open the national purse strings and give them a school of their own. Supposing, however, there were thirty Roman Catholics or Church of England parents who were not satisfied with the provided schools. They had used all their efforts in the past and done what they could to provide schools which suited themseves, but if other people were to be helped out of this new purse provided by this Minute, why were Roman Catholics and Members of the Church of England not to have a share of it? Why did the right hon. Gentleman not hold an even balance in the distribution of this money which he had obtained by what amounted to unconstitutional action? The right hon. Gentleman was empowered by this Minute to spend the money as he chose, and he opened his purse strings to one particular form of belief and closed it to those who wished for religious instruction of a different sort. This question he confessed raised not only difficult points of constitutional law and interfered with what was the proper function of Parliament, but it seemed to him in its operation as guided by the new Minute to introduce an unjust and intolerable preference for one class of the community over another. He now came to another part of the administration of the Education Department to which the Opposition and hon. Members below the Gangway entertained the deepest objection. He knew that hon. Members below the Gangway were not anxious for an alliance with the Opposition, but circumstances and unity of sympathy had compelled them to vote with the Opposition upon this question. The Irish Party as well as the Members of the Opposition resisted the arbitrary action of the President of the Board of Education as embodied in the pamphlet which he had issued with regard to training colleges and secondary schools. The question of secondary schools had been passed over almost in silence, and he felt sure the right hon. Gentleman would not say that the subject had received in this House anything like adequate discussion. With regard to training colleges 1684 he would like to know if there was to be any sort of similarity of policy binding together the different parts of this "watertight compartment" Government. Did the right hon. Gentleman know that his own colleague in Scotland had largely changed the position of the training colleges of Scotland quite recently, that he had given to those colleges the opportunity of handing themselves over to provincial committees thus enabling them to be carried on if they chose by what were more or less national agencies? He had left to the former managers the power to intervene in the religious instruction, and power to give religious instruction of any kind they wished. More than that, a Minister belonging to the same Party as the President of the Board of Education, whose name and authority as a sound Liberal no hon. Gentleman would challenge—he referred to Sir George Trevelyan—no later than 1894 sanctioned the establishment of a Roman Catholic Training College for the first time in Scotland. The Secretary for Scotland had in no way lessened or diminished the distinctly denominational character of the Catholic training college established by Sir George Trevelyan. Whilst provision had bean made for training colleges in Scotland there had been no restraint put upon their denominational character, and that Catholic training college was being conducted I as a strictly denominational institution. They would be very much surprised if the provisions of the right hon. Gentleman's Minute were applied to them, and if they were bound to take in students without any choice in the matter. He felt certain that sooner than stand such a regulation they would renounce all grants and make any sacrifice in their power to resent what they would consider high-handed tyranny. Was high handed tyranny not the same in Scotland as in England? Was the policy pursued on one side of the Tweed to be diametrically opposite to that followed on the other? If the President of the Board of Education studied the action of his own colleagues in Scotland he would not be able to dispute that the training colleges in Scotland had the power, if they chose, of carrying them on as denominational institutions with an absolute choice of their own students and without the slightest interference from the Department 1685 over which the Secretary for Scotland presided. He felt perfectly certain that the question of establishing a Catholic training college in Scotland in 1894 was a Cabinet question. He would be very much surprised to hear that such important regulations as these had not been laid before the Cabinet and approved. He did not see why two different policies should be pursued in England and Scotland in this matter, because the people in the two countries were the same human beings and held the same attachments to religion and the same idea as to fundamental justice and equity of administration. He would now pass from the subject of training colleges to what had received scarcely a word of attention in the House, namely, the secondary schools as dealt with in the pamphlet which had been distributed. Here again the Government had adopted the same extraordinary chameleonic methods. From beginning to end of the right hon. Gentleman's pamphlet these schools were hemmed in by regulations with regard to religious instruction, the religion of the managers of the schools and the religion of the teachers, and restrictions were laid upon them at every step. The regulations for Scotland had been issued in the same week, and from beginning to end of the Minute issued by the Secretary for Scotland there was no rule of any sort whatever with regard to religion and absolute freedom in this matter was left to the schools. He knew that many of those schools which would receive aid in Scotland from the same purse and the same Treasury which was supplying the right hon. Gentleman, would receive that aid although they were Roman Catholic schools distinctly denominational and confined in their attendance, to those who belonged to that creed. There was no comparison between the plan and principles adopted by the two Ministers he had alluded to; they were proceeding upon diametrically opposite lines. He would not attempt to make, the President of the Board of Education responsible for all the divergencies between himself and the Secretary for Scotland in this matter. All he would say was that if the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor at the Board of Education had transported over to Ireland regulations with regard to religious 1686 instruction of the kind that was embodied in this Minute he would not have received a favourable welcome from hon. Members below the gangway. It would not have paved the way for a Roman Catholic University or the solving of the difficulties of higher education in Ireland if the Chief Secretary, before he crossed the Irish Channel had fixed his name to a Minute regulating secondary schools which bore the least resemblance to that which had been promulgated by the present President of the Board of Education. But in addition to that was there not something which was absolutely unjust? They were now trying to apply maxims which they had attempted to apply to elementary schools in the Bill of last year. What was the argument in regard to elementary schools? The contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite had been that schools which were entirely maintained by public funds should be devoted to purely undenominational instruction. That was all right for elementary schools, but did the right hon. Gentleman maintain that it applied to secondary schools? Was there a secondary school which did not derive a comparatively small part of its resources from public funds? Was it not the fact that they were in great part supported by funds which had been left by pious founders? In nine cases out of ten there was a distinct obligation to give one form of religious teaching. That being the case, what came of the maxim of hon. Gentlemen opposite about denominational instruction being unjust in publicly maintained schools? How could it be applied to secondary schools when the Exchequer only contributed a small part of their funds? The Government had no right to apply it to them. The laying down of conditions with regard to the religious tenets of managers and teachers was a subject in which no State Department could properly interfere. That lay beyond its powers. He contended that this was the first time in which the Education Department had ever attempted to interfere in this matter. Hitherto it had been decided by Act of Parliament. The Board of Education had assumed for the first time functions from which by the Act of 1870 it was expressly precluded. What he had said proved that he and his friends were not taking undue alarm 1687 at the policy which was being pursued by the President of the Board of Education. He had set aside the precedent which had prevailed since the Act of 1870 came into force. This was not a mere technical point of law; it was a fundamental point of policy, and he would be glad if the Attorney-General would give the House his opinion of the course which had been taken. He would ask hon. Members whether it was safe, in looking forward to political changes, to allow the Board of Education to act on the principle, "The spoils to the victors." Was that to be the result in our changing political atmosphere? Hitherto, the broad lines of policy had been laid down by legislative action, and they had not been departed from, no matter what party might be in power. The Government had now established the new principle of giving grants at their own arbitrary will. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had boasted that it was their desire to bring about religious equality and to do away with financial advantages which gave to one form of religion a privileged position. In future hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House would be able to borrow their weapons of attack from the armoury of their opponents. The Government were now giving special privileges and advantages, and it would be from the Party to which he belonged that changes in the direction of religious equality would have to come. He acknowledged the generosity of the President of the Board of Education as an opponent, but he felt bound to offer this criticism of what he believed to be the inconsistent, arbitrary, and unconstitutional policy of the Education Department.
§ MR. LANE-FOX (Yorkshire, W. R., Barkston Ash)
said the policy of the right hon. Gentleman made them doubt whether the impartiality which had hitherto characterised the work of the Education Department was being upheld. He did not wish to make any personal attacks on the President of the Board of Education, but it appeared that the impartiality which ought to characterise the administration of his Department was not being adhered to, and that a new partisan spirit was creeping into the administration. He desired to call attention to the 1688 failure of the Department in regard to certain cases in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In the West Riding those who desired to see the denominational schools continued were in a considerable minority on the county councils, and on the education committee they were only allowed a representation of four; therefore they were practically powerless, and they looked to the right hon. Gentleman to protect them against the action which the majority were taking. Certain papers had been laid in Parliament referring to the case of a school at Royston where, in his opinion, the Board of Education had failed. That case arose owing to the refusal of the local education authority to confirm the appointment by the managers of a schoolmaster from a neighbouring school. The managers appealed to the Board of Education. It was admitted on all hands that the schoolmaster was a first-class man who had the very best reports. The whole case against the schoolmaster rested on the report of the sub-committee of the local education authority, which went and visited the school and examined the schoolmaster. His information was that their visit was a very perfunctory one, and there was very considerable doubt whether they were in the school more than a quarter of an hour. No one would dispute that the weight of the evidence of the sub-committee must be very small as against all the reports in favour of the schoolmaster, and yet on the report of the sub-committee alone the education authority refused, as they said, on educational grounds to appoint this man. On that report alone the local education authority refused to appoint Mr. Milnes as head master. Thereupon the Board of Education sent down their own inspector to make inquiry, and on receipt of his report the following letter was forwarded to the local education authority—In reply to Mr. Dixon's letter of 7th January, I am directed to state that the Board of Education understand that the unfavourable opinion formed by the authority as to the educational qualifications of Mr. Milnes for the appointment of head-master to the Royston National School was based upon a report furnished by their inspector of a visit paid by him to Sharlston School in company of two members of the local education authority. It appears to be admitted that this visit did not occupy more than three-quarters of an hour, and that a part only 1689 of this time was occupied in inspecting the working of the school.On the other hand, the Board thinks it right to point out that Mr. Milnes' career as master of the school, as shown in the reports of His Majesty's Inspectors, presents an unbroken record of success and good deserts under very adverse circumstances; and that his testimonials, including one from the head-master of a large school in Leeds, speak in the highest terms of his qualifications. Mr. Marvin, His Majesty's inspector, states as follows: 'Mr. Milnes is unquestionably one of the most deserving of the younger men in my own part of the West Hiding, one out of quite a small number of men whom we would naturally have thought of for such promotion as this. I enclose copies of his reports, etc., both of my own and other inspectors, which, favourable as they are, do not fully describe his work or merit. He is a very popular teacher, and has a great personal influence over the scholars, caring for them out of school as well as in, starting football clubs, etc., and having in this way not only largely increased the number of scholars on his roll, but attaining generally the most regular attendance in the neighbourhood. Side by side with this he has worked steadily at improving himself, attending all sorts of classes, often at considerable cost and trouble.' In view of the above, the Board cannot but think that your committee have been misled in the opinion they have formed of Mr. Milnes' fitness for the post of head master of the Royston school, and that on reconsidering the matter they will approve the appointment.That was a very right and proper letter for the Board of Education to send to the local education authority, who, however, reiterated their opinion in regard to Mr. Milnes, and the Board at once declined to confirm that gentleman's appointment. On 8th March the following letter was written by the Board to the chairman of the managers of the school—With reference to previous correspondence, I am directed to state that the Board of Education have very carefully considered the appeal of your managers made against the refusal of the local education authority to consent to the appointment of Mr. O'B. Milnes as head-master of the above-named school (Royston).The duty of the Board in such cases is confined to determining in accordance with the provision of Section 7 (1) (c) of the Education Act, 1902, whether the consent of the authority is withheld upon educational grounds, and the authority having informed the Board that, after taking such steps as they deemed to be satisfactory and sufficient to ascertain the educational qualification of Mr. Milnes, they have come to the conclusion that he is not up to the standard which they consider desirable for Royston, and for that reason have decided not to confirm his appointment.Under these circumstances the refusal of the authority appears to be based upon educational 1690 grounds within the meaning of the abovementioned section, and the Board so determined. They are not prepared, therefore, to interfere with the discretion of the local Education authority in the matter.The House would see that the Board had deliberately refused to go into the merits of the case, and rested their action solely upon the fact that the local education authority had reiterated their opinion as to Mr. Milnes' unfitness. He contended that there was no question among those who understood the whole facts and circumstances of the locality that the action of the local education authority was not based solely on educational grounds, but there was a strong suspicion that it was taken on political grounds. A very vital and important principle was involved in this case, and that was his excuse for going into the details of it. The President of the Board of Education, in answer to a question expressed his disinclination to publish all the correspondence, stating that it would not be in the interest of the teacher to do so. That remark had, he maintained, inflicted a grievous wrong on this particular teacher, because, when the evidence was afterwards gone into, it was found that no case had been made against the teacher except the report of the local education authority. Fortunately that teacher was a member of the National Union of Teachers, but whether the union would be able to give him help he could not say. He would only mention in two or three words other cases which had occurred in the West Riding. At Low Valley the Roman Catholics were refused education grants, although they were educating 130 children, on the ground that the school had been condemned by the local education authority. The Roman Catholics had, however, built a new school, and he contended that, as long as a school was obviously doing a work which required to be done, and for want of which there would be a serious lack of educational facilities, such school should receive the Government grant instead of the expenses having to be paid out of private funds. Then there was a case of a small school at East Hardwick, which had a population of only 120. The managers were there informed some years ago by a previous Board of Education that some alterations were necessary 1691 in the school. The managers were prepared to carry these out, and plans were drawn embodying the improvements suggested. These plans were sent to the local education authority, which no doubt forwarded them to the Board of Education; but from that day to this they had never seen the plans again, and the only answer they received from the Board of Education was that under no circumstances could the school be given the educational grant. He thought it was only right that if the plans had been considered unsatisfactory the managers should have been told so. He did not think that that was a fair manner of dealing with a small village school, and the Board of Education should have shown more consideration for this tiny hamlet. He also called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a case which had arisen at Garforth, a village in his own constituency. The local education authority had recently built a very large council school, and, finding that they were unable to fill it, they required that the four upper standards of the old Church school should proceed after the holidays to the council school. One hundred and twenty out of 124 parents of the children attending the Church school had petitioned in favour of the children being allowed to remain at the Church school. In view of this fact, as well as of the fact that the managers were strongly opposed to the action of the local education authority, which he thought was contrary to the Education Act, he appealed to the President of the Board of Education, whose position I should be that of arbitrator between the teachers and the managers, and the managers and the local education authority, to see that justice was done between the parties.
§ MR. ROBINSON (Brecknock)
said he wished to ask the President of the Board of Education a question about higher education in Wales. Some wild statements had been made as to the loss of grants owing to the last orders of the new Welsh Education Department. It was said that £20,000 had been lost to the Principality annually owing to those orders, and he would like to know if that was the fact. He knew the 1692 subject had been made the occasion of Question and Answer in the House, but he and all who were interested in Welsh Education would like to have the answer amplified and to know whether the basis on which the grant was given to Wales could be considered a fair one. It should, he thought, be founded upon the number of scholars who wished to learn in these schools rather than upon population. He did not consider the latter was a fair system of apportioning the grants to be given for education.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. MCKENNA, Monmouthshire, N.)
said that he would like to deal with several of the minor points which had been put to him before he came to the main consideration of the grant of £100,000. As to the question of his hon. friend the Member for Brecknock, he could assure him that the Welsh secondary schools had not suffered financially under the new regulations which had been issued. When the Welsh Department was formed, it became a question, if different regulations were issued in Wales from those issued in England, how much money Wales ought to get out of the total grants to secondary schools and pupil teachers. The allocation of the grants as between England and Wales on the basis of population would not be a satisfactory arrangement. They had to consider not only population, but also the number of scholars to be provided for. He therefore did not take population as a basis, and, in the absence of any other guide, he had for the present year, and perhaps for future years, determined to continue the same proportion as had actually been paid to England and Wales respectively during the last three years. He found, as a fact, that the expenditure in Wales on secondary schools and pupil teachers was one-eleventh of the expenditure in England—the population of Wales was only something like one-fifteenth or one sixteenth of that of England—and he therefore thought it right to give to Wales one-eleventh of the money given to England. Wales had had her full share of the money, 1693 and he trusted future Presidents of the Board of Education would always see that she did. The hon. Member for Barkston Ash had raised the question of the proposed appointment of a teacher for the Royston school and the rejection of that teacher by the local education authority. He could not help thinking that the hon. Member had not been a careful student of the Act of 1902. He had never agreed with that Act, nor liked it, but he had got to interpret it. That Act said that the local education authority might reject the teacher on educational grounds, and did not provide that those grounds should be such as the Board of Education deemed sufficient. In this case the local authority did reject the teacher on educational grounds, and had refused to reconsider their decision, and the Board of Education had no power to interfere. With regard to the Low Valley school, that was struck off the grant list by his predecessor, and provision had to be made for the scholars. The local authority gave notice of their intention to build a school for the Catholic children, and other children, and the statutory three months' notice was given. The Catholic parents or managers of the Low Valley school raised no objection, and accordingly the local authority obtained permission to build a school, not only for other children, but for the Catholic children. If the managers of the Low Valley school had given notice they would have had good cause for complaint, but having allowed the three months to elapse the local education authority had the right to build the school.
§ MR. LANE-FOX
said that what he had asked was why, when the Roman Catholics had a school and were providing accommodation, the Low Valley school could not obtain a grant.
§ MR. MCKENNA
said if they were once put upon the grant list again he could not remove them except for some special reason. But the real fact was that there was a deficiency of accommodation. If the local authority which had undertaken to provide the proper accommodation did not do so then would be the opportunity of the Low Valley school to make their case good. 1694 But this school had so conducted itself in the past that the hon. Baronet opposite had had to strike it off the grant list. The hon. Member for Glasgow University, an experienced educationst, had charged him with departing from precedent in presenting the Estimates this year without making a long preliminary statement. At the same time the hon. Gentleman complained that there was not sufficient time to discuss the Estimates. He (Mr. McKenna) had to remember that there were many matters in regard to which his action might be complained of; hon. Members had the opportunity of raising those points, and had he begun by making a statement it would have occupied very valuable time, and would not have enlightened them upon any subject upon which they desired information. So far from being unwilling to meet those complaints, or to give hon. Members an opportunity of raising them, the request for a day to discuss the Education Estimates came from himself and not from hon. Members opposite, and knowing the time was limited he had refrained from opening the discussion by an hour and a half's preliminary statement. Everything which he had done was known. The very points which were the grounds of attack on that occasion had been the grounds of attack again to-night. No statement that he made then had been able to satisfy them, and he feared that no statement which he made now would effect that purpose. As to the grant of £100,000, the Leader of the Opposition had spoken of it as violating the law. That he took to be mere misuse of language. It was a matter of regret that the Leader of the Opposition should use an expression which was liable to misconstruction, and which had been misconstrued outside. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that he had violated the law in such a way as to bring himself into conflict with the Law Courts? Surely not. All that he had asked was that the House of Commons in Committee should pass a Resolution authorising the expenditure of £100,000. No Resolution of the House of Commons could be a violation of the law. It could not be the subject of injunction by a Court of Law, and there was no 1695 power to restrain the House from passing any Resolution which it thought fit. Did the right hon. Gentleman contemplate the contingency of the House violating the law of Parliament? If the House of Commons had violated the law of Parliament it would have been a breach of order, and Mr. Speaker had declared that no question of order could arise on this Vote of £100,000. What the right hon. Gentleman did mean was that the preliminary stages of a proposed grant of money would be inconsistent with an existing statutory provision, and that to avoid invalidity or irregularity it would require confirmation by another statutory provision overriding the former. He admitted that inconsistency, and the provision in the present Bill was proposed to remove precisely that irregularity which had been referred to. He explained that any grant of money by the House must pass through three stages. First, there must be a Resolution in Committee, next there must be a Resolution of the House agreeing with the Committee, and lastly there must be an Act confirming the Resolution of the House. The preliminary Committee might be either a Committee of Supply or a special Committee set up for the purpose. If the Resolution was passed in Committee of Supply it was confirmed by the Appropriation Act; if passed by a special Committee it was passed by a special money Act or money clause in an ordinary Act. Either procedure was equally orderly and regular. The complaint made in the present case was that procedure by special Act was not adopted.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK
said his contention was that the right hon. Gentleman should have brought in a Bill to repeal Section 97 of the Act of 1870.
§ MR. MCKENNA
said there was nothing unconstitutional in not specifically repealing that clause. The statutes bristled with contradictory clauses, and the Law Courts always held that the latest statute prevailed. But even if he had proceeded by special Bill the preliminary procedure would have been exactly the same and therefore in the view of the hon. Gentleman equally illegal. It would have been necessary, before that Bill was 1696 introduced, to have had a Resolution in Committee followed by a Resolution of the House agreeing with it. The hon. Gentleman was not content with either of these Resolutions, but he thought the two stages were necessary before a Bill could be introduced.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK
said he would have liked Parliament to have had an opportunity of discussing and considering expressly the repeal of Section 97 of the Act of 1870.
§ MR. MCKENNA
said that there the hon. Gentleman was on much better ground. He had thrown over the Leader of the Opposition. Note would be taken of this, because tin matter has been a subject of very vigorous attack throughout the country.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK
said he had not changed a single word of the speech he made; he was using the same words as he used before.
§ MR. MCKENNA
congratulated the hon. Gentleman on occupying much safer ground than his Leader. He had taken down what was actually said by the Leader of the Opposition. He used the words that he (Mr. McKenna) was "violating the law" by passing this Bill. The noble Lord on the Front Bench cheered.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
asked whether it was the fact that after the Appropriation Bill was passed Section 97 of the Act of 1870 would still remain in operation.
§ MR. MCKENNA
said that certainly Clause 97 would still remain on the Statute Book unrepealed, but there would be a later statute authorising the expenditure of a particular sum for a particular purpose and over a particular period, and the later Act authorising the expenditure of that money would override the Act of 1870. The procedure by a Money Bill dealing with this case would have required first a Resolution in Committee, a Resolution of the House, and a Bill maturing into an Act. The first two stages of the Special Bill, which according to the hon. Gentleman would have been 1697 perfectly constitutional and proper, would have been actually open to the charge of involving a breach of the law. Where the intention was to make a permanent change in the law, procedure by special Act was to be preferred; but here the object was to meet a temporary difficulty arising out of an unsatisfactory Act which the Commons had tried to amend and would have amended but for the action of the House of Lords, and which they proposed to amend as soon as possible. To meet such a case the procedure adopted was perfectly appropriate. The hon. Gentleman had laid stress upon the fact that by adopting this procedure he had evaded criticism. The matter was explained and fully discussed in March on the Appropriation Bill at the end of the last financial year. It was explained and fully discussed on the Estimates. In order to avoid any question of the House being taken by surprise on the point he had the Estimate containing this particular item reprinted and specially circulated. It was now being discussed for the third time, and if there ever was a subject which had been fully brought to the notice of the House and the country it was this expenditure of £100,000 under the present proposal. The real persons, if there were any, on whose behalf the Leader of the Opposition was speaking were not Members of that House but Members of another place, who were his clients. The real ground of objection to the proposal was that it lessened or destroyed the power of interference by the House of Lords, and that was precisely what it was intended to do. The policy of the present Government was to maintain and vindicate by every means at their disposal the right of the House of Commons to say how the money which they had voted should be spent. He hoped the hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition would now be satisfied that the action he had taken was perfectly legal. However much the hon. Gentleman might dislike it, he had shown no ground for supposing that it was unconstitutional, if by unconstitutional he meant anything more than unusual. It was perfectly appropriate to the present circumstances, and it carried out the settled policy of the Government to vindicate the right of the House of Commons to control its finances. The hon. Gentleman 1698 had complained of their training college regulations, and had pointed to the admirable example of Scotland, stating that the method he (Mr. McKenna) was adopting was diametrically opposite to the policy of his right hon. friend the Secretary for Scotland. But he was informed what the policy of his right hon. friend with regard to training colleges had been.
§ MR. MCKENNA
The hon. Gentleman did not tell us in what my right hon. friend's policy differed from mine.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK
It gave perfect freedom with regard to religious instruction, and the carrying on of denominational schools was permitted, but the right hon. Gentleman denies that in England.
§ MR. MCKENNA
I must have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. If, as I understand, he says that I have denied to any training college, the right to retain the unfettered power of giving denominational instruction, and only denominational instruction, he is absolutely mistaken.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK
I put it most strongly that in Scotland the choice of pupils was left to the Roman Catholic training colleges and others, and that it has been taken away from them in England.
§ MR. MCKENNA
The first point was the right to give denominational instruction. That remained absolutely the same in this country as in Scotland. He could ease the mind of the hon. Gentleman on that. The second complaint was that in England they had limited, and no more, the free right of objection to any applicant for admission to a training college to reasonable grounds of refusal. The Government had said they would not include as reasonable grounds any ground of faith or social status. That was what had been called running diametrically opposite to the policy of his right hon. friend. If the hon. Gentleman was still of that opinion that their policy 1699 was diametrically opposite, he used language in a different sense from that in which he used it himself.
§ MR. MCKENNA
Then the hon. Gentleman complained that the President of the Board of Education had no right to make directions by regulation as to the form of religious instruction in secondary schools. That, the hon. Gentleman contended, should be done by Bill. The whole of our system of secondary school grants, and, indeed, of training college grants, had been built up without Bill and solely by regulation. His procedure by regulation this year was exactly the same method as had been adopted on every occasion by his predecessors.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK
No regulation with regard to secondary schools has ever interfered with their religion before.
§ MR. MCKENNA
said that that was not the point. The point was the government of secondary schools and training colleges, and in that no Minister had ever proceeded except by regulation. Conditions had been laid down by successive Ministers for the giving of the grant to secondary schools and they had varied from time to time according to the policy of the Government of the day. The policy of the Government of to-day was to ensure equality between sects, and the Government, had, therefore, laid down equality of religions in the eye of the law as one of its conditions of secondary grants. The method he had adopted was the one any other Minister would have adopted, he would almost say must have adopted. The procedure had been uniform and unbroken to act by regulation and not by Bill. The hon. Gentleman had said that he was fostering "one form of religious belief." Outside that House he heard from time to time a great misuse of language, but never in his life had he heard such a perversion of the plainest English as that which he had heard from the hon. Gentleman. Was the hon. Gentleman's "one form of religious belief" this religious instruction which did not include any catechism or formulary distinctive of a particular denomination?
§ MR. MCKENNA
said the hon. Gentleman called a form of teaching which did not include any catechism, or formulary distinctive of any particular religious denomination, "one form of religious belief," and that he was permitting that "one form of religious belief" at the expense of all the others. Surely these words were intended to be and had been a denial that any fovour was given by the State to any particular form of religious belief. These words—the Cowper-Temple Clause—represented not one religious belief, but religious teaching which was not characteristic of one religious belief or of one particular denomination. It was a form of religion which could be accepted by all Christians, and therefore they could not charge the Government with fostering one religious belief at the expense of all others. They had sought to put all religious denominations on an equal footing in the eye of the law, giving preference to no one of them. Only by a violent misuse of language could the charge made against the Board of Education be sustained. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would hereafter, in bringing charges against the Board—though he had not a word to say against his manner, and he thanked him for his courteous references to himself—would do him the justice to believe that he was actuated by an earnest deire to secure equality for persons of all creeds. He had absolutely no prejudice in his mind against Catholic, Anglican, Jew, or any Nonconformist denomination. The sole desire of the Board was to secure that citizens should have equal treatment, no matter what their faith might be. Those were the principles upon which he desired to act, and so long as he acted on those principles he trusted he would have the support of the House.
§ * SIR W. ANSON (Oxford University)
said the right hon. Gentleman had defended himself against a powerful attack with force, eloquence, and dexterity, but he had failed to carry conviction to the minds of all. The position of the Board of Education was one of exceptional power and freedom. 1701 The Board spent nearly £14,000,000 a year, and as regarded the greater portion of that expenditure the money was spent entirely free from criticism, or at any rate free from any criticism which could be described as effective. Something like £12,000,000 was administered under the Code, and all that was required in respect of that expenditure was that the Code should lie on the Table of the House one month during the session. They all knew what that might amount to. If it lay on the Table of the House during the busy part of the session the only opportunities they got of discussing the question were curtailed by the interposition of Government business. Other educational payments which the Board administered amounted to more than £1,000,000 upon training colleges, secondary schools, and technical instruction, and these could all be administered under regulations which did not need to lie on the Table of the House, but could be moulded and altered and brought into effect as the Board of Education thought fit. What did they expect in return? They were entitled to demand that the money should be spent entirely upon educational purposes, and that neither religion nor politics should be allowed to enter into the distribution of the money. Was that principle being carried out? The right hon. Gentleman had defended himself against a charge of illegality, but the word sometimes meant unconstitutionality, and his action in regard to this £100,000 might come under the description of unconstitutional. But the right hon. Gentleman had told the House that, constitutional or not, this was part of a larger policy. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he did it to vindicate the right of the House of Commons to expend public money; but the House of Lords had never interfered with the expenditure of public money for educational purposes. Therefore, in order to vindicate a right that had never been disputed, the right hon. Gentleman practically repealed the Education Act of 1870 and took £100,000 out of the reach even of the House of Commons in order to expend it upon purposes expressly forbidden by statute. This the right hon. Gentleman had done in order to vindicate a right which the House of Lords had never disputed. He would not labour the question of illegality 1702 or unconstitutionality in regard to the method adopted of dealing with this £100,000, beyond stating that, considering the freedom with which the Board of Education were allowed to expend the money entrusted to them for educational purposes, he thought they were entitled to demand that no other considerations but educational purposes should be allowed to enter into the expenditure of the Board of Education. This £100,000 was to be spent in order to enable local authorities to run public elementary schools in opposition or juxtaposition to the voluntary schools. Then he would turn to the case of the training colleges and secondary schools. Nobody doubted the fact that the training colleges had been regulated by regulations, but in the framing of the regulations strict impartiality had always been observed. Wherever a denomination had established a training college the Board had given grants on a certain scale. The same thing had been done in respect of grants to training colleges established by local authorities. Exact equality had been observed in all cases. Now the President of the Board of Education was going to treat these training colleges in such a way that the denominational training of the college, unless it was to lose the grants altogether, ran serious risk. There was practical certainty of their being filled with undenominational students who would not accept the ordinary conditions of residence and follow the religious observances of the colleges. That would be a complete departure from the purposes for which the colleges were established. The Board of Education, instead of having regard only to educational considerations, had now entered the field of religious controversy, and was going to assist one religious denomination against all the others. In the past the Board had always observed strict neutrality as between one religious denomination and another. If the denominational training colleges were unable to accept the terms the right hon. Gentleman imposed, then at once the right hon. Gentleman knocked off the sources of supply of four-fifths of his trained teachers. That was paying a heavy price for the gratification of his animosity against the denominational training colleges. In the same 1703 way, the policy of the Board with regard to secondary schools in the past had always been an educational policy, but the new regulations displayed both the political and religious feelings of the Board. The President of the Board of Education spoke of equality, but if he considered that he was maintaining religious equality by saying to the denominational secondary schools, "As you prefer denominational education you must be satisfied with the lower grant," and to the undenominational secondary schools, "We regard you as the champions of religious freedom, and therefore you shall have the higher grant," then the very rudiments of religious equality were alien to the right hon. Gentleman's mind. But the Board not only enjoyed these large powers in the expenditure of public money; they also were entrusted with the interpretation of large portions of the Education Acts, in case of dispute, and from their decision there was no appeal. He complained of the use made of this power. He thought that in the Low Valley case the Board of Education acted unjustly to the Roman Catholics, and that the teacher in the Royston case had suffered hardly at their hands. He was constrained to admit that the Board were bound to accept the decision of the local education authority once it was sufficiently based on educational grounds. But as appeared from the published papers, on the 8th March the Board wrote to the local education authority that—From the information before them the Board felt some doubt as to the correctness of the view taken by the authority as to Mr. Milnes's qualifications. The Board would certainly have felt great reluctance in basing a decision of so grave a character upon a single report made under the circumstances described.But after this expression of opinion the President of the Board of Education stated in the House that it was undesirable in the interests of the teacher to publish all the correspondence. That, he thought, suggested a very serious reflection on the capacity of the teacher, and considering that the whole of the papers connected with the case did not appear until the end of June, he considered that the teacher had suffered rather hardly at the hands of the Board of Education. In regard to the Merionethshire case, where the teachers in the 1704 voluntary schools had been deprived of their salaries till the holidays were over, he thought that the President of the Board of Education and the Attorney General had put the most technical construction upon the plain meaning of the Act. It was plain that it was the business of the Board to inform all parties concerned that they had a weapon in their hands and would use it if necessary to prevent hardship. He was quite willing to admit that the Board could not pay the money until the managers had incurred the expense, but I it was plain that as the local authority had failed to do its duty it was the business of the Board to see that the grievance was redressed, and that no I injustice was done.
§ MR. MCKENNA
pointed out that the words of the Act were "may, if it is expedient to do so." The question of I expediency had to be considered.
§ * SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said he quite realised that the expediency had to be considered, but could there be any doubt as to expediency, when the teachers had earned the money under conditions which made it essential to them that the money should be paid when due, and when the Board of Education knew that the money was withheld for an unworthy purpose?
§ * SIR WILLIAM ANSON
said that the Board of Education seemed very reluctant to use the information at their hands. In view of the undisputed matter of fact placed before the House a few nights ago on the Motion for adjournment, if the Board of Education had any doubt as to the expediency of taking action, all he could say was that it showed that the voluntary schools would not get justice under the Education Acts when the Board of Education had to administer them. He regretted that the President of the Board of Education for, no doubt, good reason to his own mind, had not made a preliminary statement on introducing his Estimates. This statement was an invariable custom on introducing the Vote for Education. It was important that they should have full 1705 knowledge of the policy of the Board. The large sum at the disposal of the Board, the wide powers at their disposal, the range of educational interests, and the relations of the Board with local authorities combined to make such a statement necessary. The Opposition were not satisfied that the great sum of money which Parliament had placed at the disposal of the Board was being administered impartially, solely from educational considerations, without considerations of questions political and religious. They were not satisfied that the Board preserved in its interpretation of the statute the judicial attitude which it ought to preserve. They felt that a large range of the work of education ought to be non-contentious, but that the recent action of the Board had brought political and religious contention into almost every branch of our educational system. He felt that the education of the country would suffer, and that the action of the Board would be regretted by all who were interested in education.
§ * MR. MACKARNESS (Berks, Newbury)
called attention to the sentences on the Denshawi prisoners. He said that as long as those sentences remained, a great injustice was being done. For nearly fourteen months these prisoners had been subject to the severest kind of penal servitude in a blazing sun, with their feet in irons. If they committed any offence at all, they had suffered abundantly. The court that passed these sentences abolished the ordinary law, and deprived the prisoners of a number of elaborate safeguards. If these men had been tried by the ordinary law, they could not have been sentenced to more than three years' hard labour. The death sentence could not have been carried out without the approval of the Khedive. The trial would have been before a jury and would have been conducted with decent deliberation, and there would have been an appeal on any point of law. In spite of the action of the British representative during the last few years in stopping public executions and putting an end to flogging, these prisoners were publicly executed and were subjected to 400 lashes. These punishments were admitted, he thought, 1706 to have been far in excess of anything the offences could possibly have deserved, and he wished, therefore, to urge on the Government the real urgency of not allowing these unfortunate villagers any longer to continue under the infliction of these very severe punishments. If the two life sentences were estimated at twenty-five years each, no less than 100 years penal servitude had been inflicted on these prisoners. He also wished to urge on the Foreign Secretary that the decree under which the tribunal came into existence which passed these sentences and inflicted these heavy punishments should not be allowed to remain on thet Satute-book of Egypt. It could not possibly conduce to strengthen our position in Egypt or to make our Army popular with the Egyptians that such a tribunal should be brought into existence for the purpose of giving a sort of sacred character to the British troops and treating any offence against them as a kind of high treason. The decree was actually justified by Lord Cromer on the ground that it enabled the Court to pass severer sentences than the law of Egypt would otherwise sanction. He described as indecent the haste with which the trial was carried out, the proceedings having been begun the very day after the offences were committed, and being conducted in their preliminary stages in secret, and without legal assistance for the prisoners. Four days later the trial was begun, and within less than a week all the sentences, including the hanging and the floggings, were carried out. That was more dangerous than a Court Martial, which only came into operation in time of war or insurrection, and the sentences of which were revised by the General, acting upon the legal advice of the Judge-Advocate-General. He appealed to the Foreign Secretary, as a Liberal to a Liberal, not to allow these men one day longer than was necessary to continue to suffer their heavy punishment.
§ * MR. SMEATON (Stirlingshire)
said he desired to ask a question with regard to the Franco-Siamese treaty concluded in March last. The British Government had not, apparently, been consulted by either of the two contracting Governments before the terms had been finally settled. He had been brought into contact 1707 with the officials of these two Governments in 1896, in connection with certain frontier matters in the remote Shan States, and had some experience of the difficulty attendant on their settlement—a settlement on which Siam and France took part. He wished to know whether the recent treaty infringed the convention entered into between France and this country in 1896 to maintain the integrity of Siam, and whether there was any chance of the independence of Siam being threatened. Under the provisions of this treaty the Siamese Government had surrended three large provinces in exchange for two very small districts, and the only quid pro quo the Siamese obtained was a concession in regard to jurisdiction over Siamese subjects who had been registered at French Consular Courts. He would like to have some assurance from the Foreign Secretary that there was no I power given to the French Government which infringed the independence of Siam or the liberties of her subjects. There had been a good deal of diplomatic friction between the two Governments in regard to this registration, and the Siamese Government had ground for remonstrance, seeing that its subjects were able by registering themselves at the French Consular Courts, to escape Siamese jurisdiction and Siamese taxes. If the exchange of territory resulted in a satisfactory settlement of this question, well and good. But there was also a number of long leases granted to the French Government of territories on the right bank of the Mekong for various purposes, of a kind to arouse inquiry, because long leases of that kind really meant, practically, annexation. Would the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the negotiations embodied in the Treaty were in no way inimical to Siamese interests or injurious to the prestige and honour as well as material interests of Great Britain.
§ * MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said he had heard this debate range from Monmouth to Macedon, at least if it had not got to Macedon, Macedon was the next station. The President of the Board of Education had left; he wished he had been there that he might have asked him how the project was progressing for getting Welsh Education, and if possible, 1708 all Welsh business into the hands of one Minister responsible to the House. If they had a Welsh Minister it would be progress in the direction of Home Rule of the right kind, to which one speaker had referred. He would not have referred to Egypt had it not been for the manner in which the hon. Gentleman below him had discussed for the third time the question which had been recently before the House, regarding which the Foreign Secretary had given perfectly satisfactory assurances. When he heard the hon. Gentleman dwell again upon the subject, he wondered whether the Egypt under discussion was indeed that land of Egypt, which under English administration had ceased to deserve its traditional title of "The House of Bondage." He could not understand why it should be thought that our fellow-countrymen in Egypt were less humane than we were here. It might be, how-however, that while they were as humane they were not so humanitarian. His hon. friend in this matter spoke from the text "righteousness that exalted a nation," which was a very good text to some; but it was righteousness and not self-righteousness which exalted the nations. He protested against the implication that our officers who governed Egypt were in any degree less humane, less just, or less sympathetic than we were. The fact was that the hon. Gentleman would appear to say that every man who went from here to foreign countries to administer their affairs, suffered a terrible change of character, and they said: "Oh, he has got into a tainted atmosphere." But there were two explanations of this change, and the other was less flattering to those who took this line, and that was, that when one was brought into actual contact with the problem of governing other races, one learned something about them which might serve to disturb the complacent survey which was so usual with those who had not themselves participated in the government of foreign races, and were not aware of the difficulty and complexity of the problems which arose. It was the spirit which had informed the remarks of the hon. Gentleman, of whom he wished to speak with respect, that had led him into this digression. For his part he 1709 wanted to refer to a subject as to which he did not ask the Foreign Secretary to give him any information. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he did not wish to give it, but perhaps the House would forgive him for referring to Persia, a country in which he had a great interest, and with which his official duties connected him in some sense for a great many years. Perhaps he would be allowed to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman, without asking him to explain matters or give any information, that any arrangement made with Russia should be as complete, and as general as possible for the benefit of the people of this country and for the benefit of the people of Russia. Both would equally profit by a pacific and harmonious understanding. That agreement would admittedly affect Persia, which in fact formed a portion of our Indian frontier, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman, in drawing the line delimiting the spheres of influence—he did not ask him the character of that line or the nature of the spheres of influence—not only to hold on to the Gulf, which indeed necessarily must be in the British sphere, but also on no account to let go the approach to the Gulf which passed through the wild and mountainous Bakhtiari country to the Karum. This formed the chief outlet for British commerce down towards the Gulf, and it was no less necessary to keep also that access which led, in ancient times, from Media to Assyria and in modern times from Baghdad and Mesopotamia to Kermanshah and Teheran. He begged the right hon. Gentleman, as one interested in the country, and he was sure that there were other members equally interested, to secure that both these routes, as far as possible, should remain what they were now, feeders of British commerce. He did not suppose that even if the spheres of influence did not run as he desired, that they would exactly cease to be feeders of British commerce. But if trade fell into another sphere, the first call for a concession for a railway or for commercial concessions would naturally fall to that country which had the route concerned within its sphere of influence. 1710 To refer to another subject, the hon. Member for Peterborough, the other night, had expressed the strongest anti-Turkish feeling, which was so common and so frequently expressed in that House. He wished that this subject was more calmly and more temperately considered. In point of fact it was of the greatest importance to us. We actually had more Mahomedan subjects than the Sultan of Turkey who was regarded by Mahomedans with the greatest respect and veneration, and almost worship. It was most desirable that the Sultan should be spoken of with respect in discussing these matters, and the dislike which some had to him ought at least to be dissembled. He did not share that dislike himself. He was acquainted with the Mahomedans and their languages, and he believed them to be on the whole a most excellent race. He regretted it when he heard hon. Gentlemen speak as though it should be taken for granted that, in the affairs of Eastern Europe especially, the Turks were always wrong and other people always right. The real fact was that it was because of the quarrels between the Greeks and Bulgars that the Turks were compelled to keep a large army in the so-called Macedonia to prevent the different sects of Christians from cutting each other's throats; and if the Turks got involved in those disturbances, which was not unnatural, it seemed to him most unjust to take for granted that the Turks were always in the wrong. They were not nearly so much to blame as the two peoples who were chiefly occupied in disturbing the peace of that region. It seemed to him that it was not an improper thing that one who had spent a great deal of his life amongst Mahomedans should repudiate this idea and the attitude which was invariably taken up in these matters of unreasoning condemnation of a Mahomedan and a Turk because he was a Mahomedan and a Turk. He hoped the Foreign Secretary would not be forced into taking any independent action in this matter but would maintain the position he had taken up following upon the policy of his predecessor in office of acting strictly within the concert of European powers concerned.
§ * MR. LYNCH (Yorkshire, W.R., Ripon)
said he rose for the purpose of giving the Foreign Secretary an opportunity of dealing, if he thought fit, with certain important points in connection with Macedonia which were left untouched in his reply on the Foreign Office Vote the other evening. During that debate they had discussed such questions as the Sugar Convention, the Congo State and the Egyptian administration; and the right hon. Baronet only gave five minutes to Macedonia at the end of his speech. In the course of his own speech he had asked the Foreign Secretary two specific questions. First, whether he would direct that a synoptical table should be prepared for the whole of the year 1906, showing in brief the number of violent deaths and deeds of violence committed each month during the year, and to what causes such outrages were due; and also direct that a similar synoptical table should be prepared for each subsequent year. He might point out that the materials for such a table were contained in the Blue Book, Turkey, No. 1, 1907, for each month except the last, so that it should not be difficult for His Majesty's Consul-General at Salonika to complete a table for the year. Secondly, whether he would direct that the British Financial Delegate in Macedonia should, in future, in presenting his abstract of the Macedonian Budget include under the "Revenue" column the revenue collected in Macedonia on account of Customs duties and on account of revenues assigned to the service of the Public Debt, and any other revenues properly belonging to Macedonia, whether under the control of the Financial Commission or not, in the same way that he included under the "Expenditure" column expenditure which was not under the control of the Financial Commission. In this way only was it possible to arrive at any true estimate of the financial condition of Macedonia. He would also like to ask him whether the Austrian Government had yet presented their scheme for judicial reforms in Macedonia. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs had already told them that it had been promised this summer. The summer was now almost over. Lastly, he would like to know whether the functions of the Financial Commission, 1712 which was the instrument of reform in Macedonia, had been extended for the period of seven years for which the increase in the Customs had been granted. In the course of his reply on the Foreign Office Vote, the right hon. Baronet did not even notice the point which he made at some length—and he could confidently say that it was a point of much importance—that the deficit said to exist in th Macedonian Budget, and to meet which they had agreed to the 3 percent. increase in the Customs duties, was, in fact, nonexistent—an apparent but not a real deficit. He did not propose to go into this question in detail now, or to repeat what he said the other evening; but he might, perhaps, be allowed to say that the deficit of £750,000 a year was arrived at by omitting from the revenue side of the account the proceeds of the Customs duties levied in Macedonia, as well as the proceeds of the revenues collected by the Public Debt, such as the salt and tobacco monopolies, the stamp duties, spirit duties, fisheries and silk duties. These revenues, being collected by the Public Debt—a European Administration—might be regarded as the best revenues in Turkey. Our financial Delegate informed us on page 4 of his Report just published, that for the financial year 1904–5 the Macedonian Customs duties amounted to £245,000, and the other revenues not included in the Budget to £218,000. Further, on the expenditure side of the account, a sum of £322,000 was included on account of kilometric guarantees for railways; and it was obvious that such guarantees for railways should be met by general Turkish revenues, as the principal function of the railway was to transport troops to and from Constantinople and other parts of the Empire. He made the sum the other evening and showed that if the revenues he had mentioned were to figure in the Budget, and the kilo-metric guarantees were eliminated from it, the Macedonian deficit would, in spite of the enormous military expenditure, amounting to double the civil, show a surplus instead of a deficit. It was perfectly true that the revenues which he had mentioned had already been mortgaged by the Turkish Government; but it was also true that the British Delegate on the Ottoman Public Debt 1713 had stated in the Blue Book recently-published that there would soon he a surplus of the debt-collected revenues, available for the Government without any mortgage, of from £450,000 to £500,000 a year. Inasmuch as the Macedonian portion of these revenues had been mortgaged for Imperial purposes, it was surely only reasonable that any surplus on the Imperial account should be devoted to Macedonia. He could not for the life of him understand why the British Government did not originally insist that this free surplus should go to Macedonia before any call could be made on the increased Customs duties. As matters now stood, there was a real danger that the only result of our consent to the increase in the Customs duties would be that the Germans would get hold of this £500,000 a year with which to build the Bagdad Railway; and so out of the miseries of Macedonia and the remissness of European diplomatists would grow, as the only tangible result, a great strategic railway across Asia, menacing the interests both of this country and of France, and further robbing the impoverished Turkish taxpayer. The security which we had got against such an outcome of our benevolence towards Turkey in the matter of the Customs duties was the provision inserted by the Tight hon. Gentleman himself that our consent to the increase was only for a period of seven years and might be withdrawn under certain eventualities at any time during those seven years. That was an admirable provision and it might save the whole situation. But this would depend upon whether the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to insist that the provision should not remain a dead letter. If he did so insist, it would, he hoped be his own good fortune seven years hence to congratulate him upon the permanent success of his efforts in the Customs duties, because we should then be face to face not only with a reformed Macedonia, but with the application, in the best interests of the people of Turkey, of the considerable sums set free by our consent to the increase. For this reason he earnestly hoped that the hon. Baronet would inform the Turkish Government that after the seven years had elapsed we should certainly expect 1714 any balance of the debt-collected revenues becoming free in the interval, to be devoted to Macedonia in relief of or in substitution for the increased Customs duties. There was one statement of the right hon. Gentleman in connection with Macedonia which he had made more than once, and which, he was sure, did not meet with the approval of the majority of Members of this House, and which had certainly not been well received in the country. It was that when the other Powers showed a disposition to put forward reforms, there would be no more warm supporter than ourselves. When they spoke of the other Powers taking the initiative they were practically leaving the initiative to Austria and Russia. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean hit the nail on the head when he said in the debate the other night that in Macedonia we were pursuing an Austrian policy. If that had been true in the past, it certainly ought not to be true in the future. After all, this country was the prime mover in restoring these provinces to the limited sovereignty of the Sultan, at the Congress of Berlin; and quite recently we had consented to this increase in the Customs on account of Macedonia, and our import trade with Turkey, on which these duties were to be levied, was at present double that of any of the other Powers with Turkey. We had, therefore, a special right to take the initiative in securing the objects for which the increase in the Customs was granted. The British Ambassador at Constantinople, indeed, estimated that our import trade was nearly equal to that of all other countries. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman might say that in certain eventualities it might be necessary for the Powers to face intervention in a military sense in Macedonia, and that the task of restoring order might have to be entrusted to Austria and Russia. But such a course would neither be necessary, nor would it be a natural course. For the purposes of the maintenance of order, Macedonia had already been divided up between the Powers into five areas; in each of which a particular Power had officers of its own nationality stationed for the organisation of the gendarmerie. It would be easy to extend this principle in certain eventualities. In taking the initiative for the 1715 introduction of reforms into Macedonia, England would be following her traditional policy towards Turkey. That policy, so far as modern times were concerned, might be said to date from the great Embassy of Stratford Canning. It culminated in the scheme of reform for the Asiatic Provinces which was the outcome of the Treaties of Berlin and the Cyprus Convention. Mr. Goschen was sent to Constantinople to administer the scheme, but it was put an end to at the instigation of Prince Bismarck, who was probably acting on behalf of Russia, and perhaps also of Austria. If any hon. Member would turn to Lord Granville's despatch to Mr. Goschen of 10th February 1881, he would see the authority for what he had stated. While it had always been the object of Great Britain to show herself the true friend of the populations of the Turkish Empire, and to do her utmost to strengthen whatever elements of progress they possessed, even a cursory perusal of the history of modern times would show that Russia and Austria, to put it at the lowest, had not been animated by a similar desire, but had preferred to wait with shut eyes and folded arms for the pear to fall into their mouths. The right hon. Gentleman said that all that could be done in regard to Macedonia must be done by diplomatic action in Constantinople. He could therefore see no possible advantage in indulging in vilification of Turkey. If they had got to effect these reforms, it must be obviously unwise to throw reflections on those people with whom they must carry on the reforms. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would go forward boldly in this matter, combating tendencies, in whatever quarter they might exist, to delay or frustrate reform. In doing so he was sure that he would have the enthusiastic support not only of this House but of the country.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir EDWARD GREY,) Northumberland, Berwick
said that really nothing he had said on previous occasions had excluded the prospect of a revision of some of the Denshawi sentences, and to dwell upon the controversial aspect of the question again would have no other effect than 1716 apparently to impair the prospect of revision. As to the appointment of the special tribunal, Lord Cromer had pointed out that certain reforms were desirable; but difficulty had been found in introducing them. Until those reforms had been introduced the special tribunal would not be called into existence. As to the question whether the integrity of Siam was in danger, the treaty between Siam and France was as much voluntary on one side as on the other, and Siam was the best judge of how far the treaty was compatible with her own interests. It contained an exchange of territory, but it also contained certain advantages to Siam in regard to jurisdiction. There was nothing in the treaty at all inconsistent with the spirit of the agreement between France and England in regard to Siam. As to Macedonia, he could not contribute to the improvement of the state of affairs in that country by making another long speech. At the present time nothing could be gained by another long statement of policy. The hon. Member for Ripon had asked that in the Blue-book the outrages should be tabulated, so that one period could be compared with another. Of course the Blue-books should be drawn up in such a way as to enable hon. Members to judge of the condition of affairs; and he admitted that they should contain information as to the actual form of the outrages and the causes of their origin. There was no objection to giving information with regard to the actual sources of revenue. He knew that reforms were under the constant consideration of the Austrian and Russian Governments with the view of producing a scheme. The hon. Member for Ripon had said that the deficit in the Macedonian Budget was an apparent and not a real deficit. It was real in this sense, that there was no money. What was meant by deficit was that there was a deficiency in money available for purposes of administration in Macedonia. The deficit was so real that there was a danger of reform breaking down altogether, and unless the increase in the Customs Duties had come to the rescue, there would have been very great difficulty in carrying on the reforms even to the point at which they had now reached. With regard to the 1717 general question, he had never said or intended to imply that we in any way abnegated our right to initiate proposals with regard to Macedonian reform. Lord Lansdowne had said that he was quite willing that reforms should be put forward by other Powers which were likely to secure unanimous acceptance. We were prepared, if we saw our way, to initiate reforms, but if other Powers were ready to put forward reforms which were likely to be accepted, then we should be prepared to support them. Acting in the concert, we should use our influence, and we had been as active as possible in using our influence, to promote the cause of Macedonian reform. On the question of Persia, the Government recognised that the trade interest was one of the elements of importance, and if an agreement with the Russian Government was concluded, it would be laid before the House. In that event he hoped such an agreement would be looked upon as a whole, and from the point of view of the very large interests involved in that part of Asia. But while the negotiations were in progress he could not make statements about them in public.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
ventured to make an appeal to the House to allow the discussion to be brought to a close because, as the House knew, there was another discussion which had to take place that night. They had had a long discussion ranging, as had been said, from Monmouthshire to Macedonia, and he thought the House would be well advised to allow this discussion now to close.
§ * MR. BRACE (Glamorganshire, S.)
said that naturally he was in distinct I sympathy with the appeal of the Prime Minister, as he was in the House till six o'clock that morning and had been busily engaged all day. He hoped the House therefore would I realise that he was earnest in pressing the question to which he wished to call the attention of the Colonial Secretary, namely, the serious position of 1,000 white men in South Africa who were starving there. They wanted the Government to repatriate these miners whom the Chamber of Mines were starving out. If the Government could not more 1718 quickly repatriate the Chinese they should bring home these white men. This appeal had been previously addressed to the Colonial Secretary. The men asked for the immediate repatriation not I of the Chinese but of themselves, and when it was realised that the mineowners had set themselves to work to drive out all the white labour in South Africa it would be seen that this was a matter which commanded the serious attention of the Government and the House. There could be no doubt about the intention of the mineowners, and they were pursuing their policy with great determination. Up to the election they were quite careful to conceal their hands, but immediately the result of the election was known they had no hesitation in coming before the Commission and stating that it was their intention to clear out white labour from the mines of South Africa as far as was practicable. In consequence of this policy a thousand men could not get employment or money and they were starving. He therefore thought the Government should bring them back. The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia had just repatriated 1,400 Australians from South Africa, having chartered steamers to bring them home at a cost of £6 a head, the men undertaking to repay this money when able to do so. It was an apalling condition of things that there were white men in South Africa who could not get work because they were not allowed to do it by the mineowners. The miners of this country had cabled £1,000 to them and he therefore had no hesitation in asking the Government to give this case their immediate and generous consideration.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL, Manchester, N.W.)
said the hon. Member who had just spoken had certainly a right to raise this question, and the House would appreciate his response to the appeal of the Prime Minister in the compression which he had exercised in his remarks. He would follow the hon. Member's example in that respect. He must point out that the conditions of the labour dispute on the Rand were more complicated than the 1719 conditions of any other labour dispute that had ever to his knowledge been raised. There was the question of the position of the different races, and the position of a new Government, which had only shortly before been called upon to assume the control of affairs in the country. Then, they had to consider the relation which that Government held to the Government of this country; and, above all, there was the complication of the Chinese labour problem, which was intimately interwoven with all these questions. The hon. Gentleman said, in effect, that Chinese labour had been disadvantageous to white labour in South Africa, and he was bound to say that his experience day after day was that the employment of the Chinese tended to reduce the labour of men of our own nationality. The strike which had taken place was now ended, but he was well aware that a portion of those who went out on strike had not been taken back. That was due to the fact that many Dutchmen who were anxious to get work in the mines had succeeded in getting it. The Australian Government had removed from South Africa a certain number of those subjects of their country who had found themselves stranded, and they were in correspondence with the High Commissioner as to the practical effect of any intervention on their part. There were no precedents for the Government of this country intervening to bring home individuals from our Colonies who had suffered from local dislocation of industry, and he could not permit himself to make any promise on the subject. But although these men were drawn into South Africa by the prospect of huge wages, he would be far from saying that their condition was one which was of no concern to us. He thought the point was emphasised by the action of the Australian Government, and very careful inquiry would be made, and if they found it necessary they would have to make an appeal to the House for sympathy in this matter.
§ * MR. W. E. HARVEY (Derbyshire, S.E.)
said he desired to call attention to the treatment of jurymen at assizes in his county. The fact was that those who were liable to serve were irregularly 1720 summoned, so that a man with business concerns to attend to was frequently called upon to be a jurymen out of his regular turn. There seemed to be no regular rotation of calls, no regular system of summoning the juries. And then with regard to the refreshments allowed when the jurymen were locked up to consider their verdict, the arrangements were a scandal to the nation. A jurymen might be a man of business, and he attended the court to serve the nation at the sacrifice of his own time and pocket, and what was the refreshment provied? Bread and cheese and beer for lunch if they should happen to be locked up considering their verdict. It might be that some of the jury were under the doctor's orders, and that such a diet, with cheese included, was not suitable, and the result was that they had to go all day perhaps without food. Yet these men were doing the work of the nation without reward and without pay; indeed, they had to pay their own expenses, which was in his opnion a disgrace to the country. What he asked was that the officer in charge of the jury list, the officer who served the summonses, should, as he was in duty bound, secure equality of service by careful rotation in securing the attendance of jurymen.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said that he doubted whether the matter which the hon. Member was raising was not one which required to be dealt with by legislation. If he looked at the Juries Act of 1870, he would find that by Clause 23 the jury were to procure their own refreshments at their own expense. If the hon. Member was anxious that the expense should be put on somebody else, that would probably have to be done by legislation, and the matter was not relevant to a discussion on the Appropriation Bill.
§ * MR. W. E. HARVEY
said the expenses for refreshments were put under that heading in the Appropriation Bill, and the amount was £22,000. He had seen one of the law authorities of the Crown, who had assured him that he was fully justified in bringing the matter forward on that occasion.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said there seemed to be some doubt in the matter, and he would not stop the hon. Member; he dared say that the hon. Gentleman could make a good case.
§ * MR. W. E. HARVEY
submitted that the law officers of the Crown should make some inquiry into the manner in which jurymen were treated in regard to the rooms which were set apart for their accommodation. At assizes jurymen were frequently packed into rooms ill-ventilated and cramped for space. Indeed there was not sufficient space in which to conduct their business properly; the conditions were unhealthy, and there was not as much space as was allowed to a school child. He repeated that it was a scandal to the country that jurymen, who ought to be paid for their services, should be treated in this way. They ought to be not only paid for their services but paid their expenses for travelling and other expenses occasioned to them by the fact of their being summoned to serve. If the work of the jurymen was not valuable to the country he did not know what was. In regard to the county which he represented he had before him the whole of the names of the jury in a case—the foreman and the others. The foreman on their behalf complained to Lord Coleridge of the way in which they had been treated, having been locked up without proper refreshment. Lord Coleridge sympathised with them, and expressed the hope that something would be done. He appealed to the law officers of the Crown to take this matter into consideration in order that some reform might be brought about.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bid read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tomorrow.