§ *MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)
in moving an Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne, said: I must first express my appreciation of the honour conferred upon myself, my constituency and my county, by the selection of myself to perform this office. It is a subject of universal congratulation that the opening of this new session finds the Empire, and indeed the whole civilised world, in a 59 state of peace. His Majesty's people know full well how much the King himself has contributed to that happy condition of affairs in which he is able to assure the House that his relations with foreign powers are completely satisfactory, thanks to His Majesty's personal influence so wisely used, by his good offices, and by his untiring devotion to the cause of international peace and goodwill. The House will associate itself most warmly with the expressions of sorrow at the recent calamity in Jamaica. As to the outlook for the session, the list of Bills to be presented is an unusually long one, but so was that of last year, which was practically accomplished with the addition of more than one private Member's Bill of considerable importance. What the fate of the Bills enumerated in the King's Speech may be must be subject to one qualification—a re-arrangement of the respective powers of the two Houses which will prevent measures carried through this House, with infinite labour and industry, being rendered futile by the other House, and which will ensure that the will of the people, as clearly expressed by their representatives in the House of Commons, shall prevail. It is to be hoped that such an arrangement may be carried through effectually and with as little friction as the nature of the controversy will allow. Licensing reform is likely to be hailed with satisfaction by a large number of people in this country, because although the steady diminution in the national drink bill is gladly recognised, we still spend something like £160,000,000 a year in this way—money spent very largely by the poorer classes of the community, and entailing an enormous national waste, with grievous consequences to the general physical, social, and moral qualities of the community. Hardly less important is the announcement that the land question will again be dealt with. Last year Parliament passed an important Bill to amend the system of land tenure, but that measure affected only one class. The new Bill will deal with a far more numerous and certainly a not less worthy class—the peasantry. For the most part, the peasantry of this country are landless, debarred and divorced from the soil they cultivate for others, and with the overcrowded population of our urban and suburban districts, it is high time some measure was passed by which those who are capable and willing 60 may settle on the soil, on fair terms, and with due security of tenure. There was never a time in which the words of Goldsmith were truer than they are now:Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.That hardy annual known as the Eight Hours Bill, so often affirmed in principle by this House, has been taken up by the Government, and it is to be hoped that the mining community will give it general support. I cannot be expected to touch upon all the measures, but there is one which is of peculiar interest to me, and I must ask leave to say a few words upon it. It is the matter of Irish local government. For 106 years the Irish question has been before this House and has been pleaded eloquently by its Members, but it still remains unsolved. Fifty years ago the late Lord Salisbury, in asking why Ireland lagged so much behind England in prosperity, came to the conclusion that the one thing peculiar to Ireland was the government of England. For thirty-five years Parliament has been engaged almost every session upon Irish legislation. The great land question has been largely solved, thanks to the Act of the right hon. Member for Dover, although, perhaps, the working of that Act needs some acceleration. The time is propitious for a change, for Ireland is peaceful and crimeless. If the present proposals of the Government do not satisfy the aspirations of the Nationalist Party, I hope they will not look on them coldly, or, at any rate, oppose them. They are at least a step to something better. The experience of new powers, well and wisely used, will be our best credential with the British electorate with whom the casting vote must always rest. All that is wanted is a better union of classes and creeds in Ireland, and of that there are encouraging symptoms. I beg to move.
§ MR. RAINY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
In rising to second the Motion of my hon. and gallant friend, may I ask the kindly indulgence of the House in circumstances as unlooked for as they are complimentary, but also, to a certain extent, embarrassing? With regard to our foreign relations, it has been said "that happy is the country which has no history:" let me add, and happy is this country in its foreign relations when all 61 that needs to be said can be summed up in the few words of reference contained in His Majesty's Speech. No news in this department is good news. May I humbly on behalf of the whole House, associate myself with what the mover has said in expressing our loyal gratitude to His Majesty. I am sure we all join heartily in sympathy with those in Jamaica who have suffered such a terrible disaster at Kingston, a calamity which came upon thorn with such awful suddenness and was so appalling in its extent of loss of life and property. We are glad to know that the catastrophe has been faced with courage and vigour, and we are grateful for the expressions of sympathy received, and the help given, from all parts of the world, especially from the United States. I should like also to congratulate our fellow Members of the House who happened to be in Kingston at the time, but who, we are glad to see, are safe. We are in hearty sympathy with all action on the part of the Government of India that makes for a wider basis of peace, order, and good government, and are glad to be informed that the visit of the Amir has proved agreeable alike to the visitor and the visited. With regard to the working of our Parliamentary system, all that I would say is this: that so much depends upon it that the question is of first importance and is one in which both sides of the House have a common interest. The honourable traditions of this House, the Mother of Parliaments, is a matter of such grave importance that we ought all of us to approach the subject, not only with a sense of gravity and responsibility, but with an earnest desire to preserve untarnished and unimpaired that wonderful living voice of the British people which has existed for centuries in the British Houses of Parliament. I will not say anything about the temperance movement. Speaking as a Scottish Member I am glad to notice that we are to have for Scotland measures dealing with valuation and small holdings. They will be most gratefully welcomed by the people of that country. I wish to say with regard to Ireland, that if in any way the conceptions and aspirations of any part of our people can be brought into action under such conditions as would make them effective in the national life, it will be a great gain to the House and the Empire at large, for that principle 62 lies at the very foundation of the British Empire. Any measure to extend the application of that principle should at least claim the respectful consideration of the House. I may say for myself, that I have never despaired of a solution of the Irish question, and I do not to-day. With regard to the remaining matters I only want to add this: I am glad to see that recognition is being made of the useful part that women can play in the public bodies of the country. I have never been able to understand the reason why they were originally excluded from these bodies, and I am glad to see that they are now to get their proper place. I think there is hardly any subject which could more usefully and more honourably occupy the attention of a democratic Parliament like this than the better housing of the working classes. I trust the result of the passing of a measure dealing with this question will be to bring happiness and comfort to many homes in this country. I take it as a great compliment to myself that I have been asked to address the House at this time. I do not conceal from myself that there were other reasons than personal ones for asking me to undertake this task, and I wish to express my most sincere and earnest thanks for the kindly thought that promoted it. I thank the House for the kindness with which they have listened to my remarks.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereigu,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament"—(Mr. Tomkinson.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
I desire to begin, as my predecessors have always begun, in the observations I have to make on this, the opening scene of the session, by offering my congratulations to the two hon. Gentlemen who have just addressed us. There have been occasions upon which that congratulation partook somewhat of 63 a formal and perfunctory character; but I think I shall have the whole House with me when I say that never, as I think, has the difficult task been undertaken and carried through with better taste, more considerately, and in more strict conformity with the best traditions of this Assembly. The hon. Member who moved the Address is an old friend of a large number of us, on whichever side we sit. He has been long a Member of this Assembly. He is well acquainted with its traditions and its methods, and it certainly was no matter of surprise to me, though I wish it to be a matter of congratulation to him, that he so admirably discharged his task. With regard to the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address, he is a newer Member of this House, but he has already shown how quickly he can absorb all that is best in our methods and how happily he can catch the tone of this Assembly. The hon. Gentleman, in the concluding words of his speech, made a reference which certainly every Scottish Member, and I, think, everybody in the House, would understand. It was made with admirable taste and propriety, if he will allow me to say so. He comes of a stock which has borne a great part in some of the most important domestic affairs of Scotland for two generations. The abilities of his father have been shown, indeed, upon a smaller field than is offered by this House, but all who had the opportunity of watching the late Dr. Rainy's actions, whether they agreed with him or whether they did not—and I was sometimes in the one position and sometimes in the other—uniformly admitted that had his lot been cast in the political sphere instead of in the not less stormy sphere of Scottish ecclesiastical politics, he would have made, not only upon his own country but on every citizen of the Empire, that impression which we, who have had the opportunity of judging, have carried away of his great powers and abilities. I have only one other observation to make upon the two speeches to which we have just listened. It is that they have followed precedent in approaching the programme of the Government in a spirit of happy optimism. I gather that both hon. Gentlemen are under the belief, the cheerful illusion, that the many excellent things promised in the King's Speech—excellent at all events in their 64 opinion—are really going to be carried through in the course of the session. I think it possible, but I think it highly improbable. I do not say the Government were wrong to catalogue their aspirations in the concluding and other paragraphs of the King's Speech; but I am greatly mistaken if, in the course of the session, which will probably not be quite so long as the last one—[Cry of "Why not?"]—well, it does not rest with me, I am only venturing on a prophecy—I doubt whether all these aspirations will be embodied in law, or will even go up to that other place to which we have heard references in the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen opposite—delicate graceful references—and which we have had discussed in other speeches not so graceful from hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, and which is alluded to in the King's Speech. But before I come to what is in the Speech, I must say one word with regard to an amazing omission from the Speech.
The Speech deals with a great many subjects, of varying importance, but there is one subject of the greatest importance to which His Majesty's Ministers have not thought fit to advise His Majesty that reference should be made. I mean the Colonial Conference. These periodic Colonial Conferences are necessarily almost the most important, if not the most important, incident that can befall the Empire. They bring together, in a manner in which nothing else can bring them together, the different parts of the Empire. They have to discuss questions of vital importance, both for the United Kingdom and for the Colonies, which together make up our Empire. And, Sir, all these things have increased importance, I think, from the many controversies which have arisen lately around our relations with the Colonies. They have increased importance from the fact that the Colonies themselves are profoundly impressed with the importance of coming to arrangements with the Mother Country on subjects vital to the whole Empire. And how His Majesty's Government can look forward to meeting with the Prime Ministers of those Colonies within the next few weeks, how they can take into account the vast importance of the subjects which will come before the Conference, and yet make no reference to them in the Speech passes my understanding. 65 I do not dwell further upon it now. I doubt not that before these proceedings on the Address have come to a conclusion we shall hear a good deal more upon this point.
When I turn from what is not in the Speech to what is in the Speech, I find that the place of honour is given to a paragraph connected with the relations between the two Houses. The Government are apparently much distressed at the differences of opinion which have arisen in the last session, and which may, no doubt, again arise in future sessions, between the two Houses, and, according to the words in the Speech from the Throne, they are going to reflect on the situation. Well, I have no objection. In fact, if I may say so with all respect to the distinguished Gentlemen whom I see opposite me upon the front Bench, if they would think more and talk rather less upon this great constitutional issue, it would be better for all of us, and would certainly be better for them; because one result of that unlicensed freedom of speech upon these grave constitutional issues is that we have had two or throe absolutely inconsistent views put forward by Members of the present Cabinet upon the proper way to deal with the House of Lords. There is, for example, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who is the most prolific and one of the most fiery orators upon this subject. His view is that this House is only wasting its time in dealing with any remedial measure or any important legislation until they have crushed the House of Lords. That is his view; but the view of the Home Secretary is quite different. His view is that this House cannot be better occupied than in passing measure after measure—excellent, good, popular measures—which will bring behind the present Government a measure of popular support, and that when these have, one after another, been rejected in another place, the Government should go to an indignant country and ask that so atrocious a state of things should be brought to an end. This is known as the policy of "filling up the cup." I do not pronounce—it is not for me really to offer—an opinion between these two quite inconsistent views of the proper method, outside quiet reflection and meditation, which the Government hive got for dealing with the problem. 66 I would only point out, with regard to the "filling up of the cup" remedy, that it has this inherent disadvantage. There can be no doubt, I think, that, judging by the past, as Parliaments grow older, as Bills are passed or not passed, cups are filled up. They are filled up, and they sometimes overflow, but the question is—Whose cup? I do not know that the answer to that question is quite as clear as the Secretary for Home Affairs would have us believe. I suppose that, when all the cups are filled up, the cup that will overflow first is the cup of unpopularity of the Government who have brought in all these wonderful Bills, and that not another House but this House is the one whose character the people will most desire to change. But, in the meanwhile, I am sure the Government cannot be better occupied than in reflecting on the situation, as they say they are doing, though, I confess, I do not think the only specimen we have of their reflections is very reassuring. By a happy accident we have been introduced into the inmost thoughts of one Member of the Government, not, I should have thought, the most violent of His Majesty's advisers, who, by accident, let the public into his confidence, and told how he meditated privately upon the situation, in the happy and unrestrained intercourse between friends. And this Gentleman, apparently, looks forward to a series of dissolutions, and, indeed, revolutions, before the constitutional issue is really to be settled. Now, I confess, this comes upon me rather as a shock. I never supposed that in the learned Attorney-General there was a Robespierre in disguise. I have always regarded him, rightly or wrongly, as one of the most reasonable, one of the most moderate, one of the most careful and constitutional Members of the present Administration. And when I find that this careful and moderate friend of the Constitution is talking of successive dissolutions, ending with a revolution—and I suppose the guillotine—in Parliament-square, I ask myself what the less moderate Members are thinking. What says the fiery spirit of the President of the Board of Trade? What says the Prime Minister, who, rightly or wrongly, is credited with vehement opinions on this matter? I hope that, in the meditations which are going on on the Treasury Bench, they will take a somewhat less lurid hue than 67 I gather from the surprise speech—the accidental utterances, the unpremeditated meditations—of the Attorney-General they seem likely to do. There is one point which I would very sincerely lay before Members of this House to whatever Party they belong, whether they are friends of my own, or hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, or hon. Gentlemen opposite. All of them profess to be, and all of them, I believe, are, desirous of seeing a serious attempt made by the Government to carry out those schemes of social reform, which have been vaguely, though vehemently, adumbrated by them on the hustings and in this House. I know what I am going to say is controversial, but I think it is historically true. If hon. Gentlemen will study the Statute-book, and divide off the Bills which do deal with social reforms from those which do not, they will find that the majority of those which deal with social reform have been passed by Unionist and Conservative Governments, and not by Radicals. I do not at all suggest—and what is more, I do not believe—that that is because there is any lukewarmness on the other side with regard to social reform. Then why is it? I will tell the House why it is—and they know perfectly well. The reason is that as soon as the Radical Party get into power they divert their energies and their attention from social to political questions. They cannot resist the perpetual temptation of trying to modify the Constitution in some direction which they think favourable to their own interests. It has happened over and over again, and apparently it is going to happen again. You have as the first paragraph in this Speech dealing with domestic affairs a paragraph on the House of Lords. It is in the last sentence of the Speech that you have a reference to the housing of the working classes. And that does not mean that hon. Gentlemen opposite are indifferent—I am sure they are not indifferent—to the question of the housing of the working classes; but it does mean that they have always postponed—that they cannot resist the temptation of postponing—dealing with these social questions until they have framed the Constitution in such a manner that they think they can do anything that they desire. Sir, they cannot do that. It is not in their power to do it. And the idea that any modification of the 68 Second Chamber is going to prevent that Second Chamber occasionally interfering with the views of the First Chamber is preposterous. And no amount of meditation, however able, by the philosophers who are meditating will result in framing a constitution of the two Chambers in which there will not be some conflict between the two. All that we can provide—and that ought to be provided, I quite agree—is that in the long run the people of this country—the people of this country—should decide what are to be the laws under which they live, as this House already decides what is to be the administration which is to conduct their affairs. The dilemma never can be got over as long as we choose to have a Second Chamber, meditate how we like upon the problem. And if your object is to make the Second Chamber the impeccable body which some theorists desire, the only result will be that you will strengthen it, and that in the collisions, if they should unhappily occur, as they must occasionally occur in every bi-cameral constitution, this House will find itself at a disadvantage. However, I have got other things to say to the House before I sit down, and I do not want to defer the reply of the right hon. Gentleman.
It would be absurd for me to avoid some reference to Irish matters in dealing with the Speech. Ireland is happy—specially happy—in having three Cabinet Ministers or ex-Cabinet Ministers, all occupied at the same time in dealing with her affairs. There is the Ambassador at Washington: there is the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Hoard of Trade: and there is the Minister who has recently undertaken the difficult and responsible duty of governing Ireland. They have all spoken except the last. We have had speeches on Irish affairs from the outgoing Minister, we have had one speech at least from the Minister who has not yet got any official connection with Ireland; but the Minister who is responsible for Ireland has maintained a discreet silence. I am therefore driven to the first two for such views as I have been able to collect of the intentions of the Government. The President of the Board of Trade went to Belfast the other day and made a speech. He was perfectly entitled to go to Belfast, he was perfectly entitled to make a speech. I understand from the newspapers that his 69 colleague thought it necessary to take very great precautions that that speech should be delivered with that security which I think should be the birthright of every citizen. I object to interference with speech wherever it takes place, and I belong to a Party which has probably suffered a good deal more from interruptions than any other. However, it appears that the right hon. Gentleman went to Belfast, and that the police were called out, and that a regiment or a company was armed with ball cartridge, and all the rest of it—I hope and believe it was a quite unnecessary precaution, but I dare say it was wise to be on the safe side. The President of the Board of Trade went in order to replant, to reafforest Liberalism, as I understand it, in the north of Ireland. It had to be reborn, and the infant so reborn, under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman, was recradled with all these military honours. Having studied such reports as I could of his speech, I am quite unable to gather from it that he has in the least faced the difficulty which the Government must deal with, and which nascent Liberalism in Belfast will have to deal with, in attempting to solve that Irish problem which, I agree with the mover and seconder, is not insoluble, which I believe has been in the last five and twenty years in process of solution, which may not be solved in the lifetime of any here present, though my faith remains quite unchanged that solved it will ultimately be. But that it will be solved, or can be solved, by such manipulations of the administrative machinery of Ireland as is foreshadowed in the gracious Speech from the Throne, and in the speeches of Ministers, I do not believe; and I do not believe it for this reason, among others, that the President of the Board of Trade evidently has not seen where the true difficulty lies. If this manipulation of Irish administration is really to leave this House, not in technical supremacy, but in substantial and real supremacy over the affairs of Ireland, it will not content, and it cannot content, those Irishmen who regard an independent Parliament in Dublin, under the Crown, as the minimum of Irish demands, and who in large numbers go further, and not only regard Irish separation as being thinkable—which the right hon. Gentleman says it is not—but actually look forward to it with hope, with belief, and with undying aspiration. 70 That is the first horn of the dilemma. The other horn is this, that if your manipulation of Irish administration is really going to be what the Prime Minister said it ought to be, viz., a step in the direction of an independent Parliament in Dublin—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right, I was not quoting him textually, I was quoting what I honestly believed to be the meaning of his speech. What he actually said was—and my right hon. friend behind me has given me the precise words—that he would advise hon. Members below the gangway to take anything which was consistent with, and which would lead up to, the larger policy. It never occurred to me until this moment that, when the Prime Minister talked of the larger policy, he did not mean that which we have been accustomed to call Home Rule ever since Mr. Gladstone brought forward his first Home Rule Bill, viz., an independent Parliament in Dublin—but that he meant something short of that, and that with that halfway House, leading to nowhere, the Irish Members and those whom they represent are going to be content. It is perfectly vain for this House to try to find something which is both Home Rule and not Home Rule. If it is either Home Rule or a step towards Home Rule, then I believe—I do not know what the President of the Board of Trade meant by the supremacy of this Parliament—that it is absolutely destructive of the supremacy of this Parliament in any substantial sense. It may leave it in a technical sense, in the sense in which we possess it over the Parliament of the Australian Commonwealth or of Canada, but it will not leave us any substantial control over Irish affairs. If, on the other hand, you mean to set up, either in one stage or two, anything which is to give the whole control of Irish affairs practically and substantially to an Irish Assembly, then, I say, you run directly counter to that great body of opinion in this country which is determined that no such interference with our Constitution is to be tolerated.
71 It is not only upon devolution that we have had utterances from Ministers, nor is it only upon devolution that the Gracious Speech from the Throne touches in connection with Ireland. I really am astounded at the course that the Government, or members of the Government, or ex-members of the Government have taken. The House is aware that I am one of those who desire to see University education extended to the non-Protestant and Catholic population of Ireland. I have always held that view; it is not held by all my friends; it is not held by all my friends on this Bench; but it has always been hold by me, and it is held by me to this day. But everybody is also aware that the difficulties attending the solution of this question are of the most formidable character. Why should the inherent difficulties of this situation be doubled, trebled, quadrupled, by dragging in the fate and fortunes of Trinity College, Dublin? I cannot understand anything so mad as such a course. We should know nothing about the particular plans of the Government if it was not that Mr. Bryce, after he had accepted the Embassy at Washington, but while still, I suppose, technically Chief Secretary for Ireland, not only told us what the policy of the Government was, but told us that it was that policy or nothing. He put a pistol at the head of everybody interested in this question—at the head of the Nationalist Members, at the head of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland, at the head of Trinity College, Dublin, and at the head of everybody in this House interested in this question, and said:—"This is the plan of the Government; take this or get nothing." I do not think that that is a proper course to have adopted, and it becomes really a scandal if you consider the relation in which the speech made by Mr. Bryce stands to the Report of the Commission which he appointed. That Commission reported on a Monday. On the Friday after, and before the evidence had appeared, Mr. Bryce, in the name of his colleagues, announced the unalterable determination of the Government, I think, and he had the courage to quote the Report of the Commission. That shows that he had not had time to look at the Report of the Commission, which was natural enough. The Government, whose name he took, I will not say in vain, but 72 the Government in whose name he ventured to speak, could not have read that Report, and certainly had had no meeting of the Cabinet to discuss it. The majority of those who signed that Report were not in favour of the procedure of the Government, although Mr. Bryce suggested that they were. It is quite true that five out of the nine said that some day or other—four of them said "now," the fifth said "at some indefinite future"—a scheme resembling that which the Government; proposes ought to be adopted. But there was not a majority of that Commission in favour of the course the Government are now adopting. Is it fair to the nine distinguished gentlemen, upon whom you have put all the ungrateful labour of sifting evidence on this side of the Channel and the other, to treat their Report in that way? Is it fair to treat the new Chief Secretary for Ireland in that way? I suppose the transition from the Board of Education to Ireland is promotion, and if it is, no man has deserved it more than the right hon. Gentleman. No man, in my experience at all events, has made greater strides in the favour of this House than did the right hon. Gentleman in his conduct of the very intricate measure which was entrusted to his charge last session. I do not know whether he cheerfully exchanges the problem of bringing in an Education Bill, with the doubtful support of the Nonconformist, for the other task of bringing in a Devolution Bill, with the doubtful support of the Nationalists. There is a certain resemblance between the two proceedings. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will be more fortunate in the second than he was in the first. But I am confident that, whether fortunate in the issue or unfortunate, either from his point of view or mine, he will do nothing but gain fresh laurels so far as he is personally concerned, and will increase the reputation which he has already made in this House. But I think it is rather hard that the right hon. Gentleman should start on these difficult duties pledged by his predecessor. I think it was a cruel fate that he should suddenly become the heir to this irreducible minimum, to this unchangeable policy. As regards Mr. Bryce, I do not know that I do not rather admire his procedure. He retires to other duties from the fighting line, he shouts "No surrender" at the top of his voice, and he nails his flag to somebody else's 73 mast—a most felicitous picture of courage and discretion. I should not have troubled the House with these observations upon the Government Bill for Irish University education if we had not had a First Reading speech upon it from an ex-Minister.
We have had another First Reading speech upon another Bill from another Minister. I allude to the ubiquitous President of the Board of Trade. He also has given his explanation and his account of a Bill which he proposes to introduce upon the Patent Laws. I only allude to that now because it has an interesting bearing upon a Resolution brought forward last session, but which the exigencies of public business prevented us from discussing with the fulness which I had hoped for. I mean the free trade Resolution. The Prime Minister will remember that his contributions to that debate were rather in the nature of ejaculations than arguments, and that in the end we never quite clearly made out what his view of free trade was. I have been forced to try and make out from the speeches of his colleagues his meaning, and they fill me with grave misgivings. I thought he held that particular form of free trade doctrine which has been constantly preached by the Cobden Club, and that his view was that you ought to consider nobody but the consumer, that as regards either the capitalist on the one hand or the wage-earner on the other their interests were best consulted by always thinking how commodities, services, and goods could be cheapest obtained by the consumer. I thought that was the right hon. Gentleman's view; but when I notice the legislation which the Government actually propose, I really do not know where I am. There is the President of the Board of Trade, who is going to bring in a Bill dealing with shipping which unquestionably throws the consumer, I will not say overboard, but certainly ignores the consumer altogether, and says that what you have to consider is the fair competition to which British shipowners are subjected; and, whether freights rise or do not rise, by seeing that this fair competition is preserved, his business is to see that there is no undue favouritism on the part of the foreign shipowner. I do not object to that, but how is it consistent with Cobden Club views about free trade? The right hon. 74 Gentleman is going to propose that you should by legislation make it practically impossible for the foreign producer to produce where he wants to produce—namely, in his own country; you are going to compel him to bring over his capital and plant here to produce here, and that in order to prevent want of employment to our working men. An excellent object, but how is that consistent with the extreme and, as I think, extravagant doctrines of the Cobden Club, which I thought were those of the Prime Minister, although he has never given us an opportunity of actually learning it from his own lips. These are not the only perils. The Secretary of State for War made a speech to the foreign economists the other day which must have filled the right hon. Gentleman with disgust, if not dismay, because the Secretary of State for War told the foreign economists that free trade was not that absolute doctrine which the Cobden Club have always told us it was; it was not a doctrine independent of latitude and longitude, of climate or country; that free trade is good here and bad there. This country may properly adopt it, and another country reject it; it is all a question of consideration of the balance of motives, political considerations and fiscal considerations, and when you have balanced all these, then you may come no doubt to a conclusion which will not be the same in Germany as in England, in America as in Canada, but which will at all events suit the particular country. That is not free trade as we used to know it. But the cruellest cut of all was from the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, because in a recent speech at Manchester he told us that he looked with favour upon fiscal union between the Colonies and fiscal union obtained by preferential treatment between the Colonies. Those were, I thought, in the vocabulary of the Radical Party, "the sordid bonds of Empire," and it was with no small surprise that I read the hon. Gentleman's oration, which cannot, I think, have been agreeable to his official chiefs.
But the mention of the hon. Gentleman's name reminds me of another matter which I think more important than any I I have touched upon, although I do not think it has received any attention in the public Press or on the platform; and it is not referred to in the Speech from the 75 Throne. I refer to the Blue-book on the New Hebrides, which the Government have laid on the Table of the House. It is a most singular document. I will relate very briefly what happened. Just as we went out of office my right hon. friend the late Secretary for the Colonies had concurred in a suggestion that there should be a discussion between us and the French Government in regard to the New Hebrides, to consider whether some form of joint sovereignty might not be established in these islands, which have long been a source of difficulty between us and our Colonies on the one hand, and with the Government of France on the other. The Foreign Office under the present Government supported this inquiry. They carried it on for some time, and embodied the results in a very elaborate document. This document was sent out to New Zealand and Australia, the two Colonies concerned, who were informed that although the Imperial Government would not finally ratify the Convention without their consent, they did not think the Convention could really be altered, and it was to be either taken or left. The people of Australia and New Zealand were extremely indignant at that treatment, and I am not surprised. I say nothing about the contents of the agreement; but when you remember that both New Zealand and Australia pointed out to the home Government that this was a matter vitally affecting them, that they were never officially told it was under consideration, that they had never been consulted as to the details of the negotiations, and never asked for information about matters in regard to which they knew necessarily a great deal more than the home Government could possibly do—I think everybody will understand their feeling aggrieved. It seems to me that that was, to say the least, a most tactless performance on the part of the Government. They know well enough that the difficulties of dealings between Downing-street and the self-governing Colonies are always considerable, and that the utmost good will and tact and mutual consideration are required on both sides if things are to go smoothly. Yet here this Government just escaped a quarrel with Natal through want of tact; and they have quarrelled with Australia and New Zealand equally through want of tact. [An HON. MEMBER: And with New- 76 foundland.] That is a very difficult point and I am not going to meddle with it; but with regard to the other two matters my opinion is quite clear, and I do not think it will be differed from by any one who has studied the facts. But there is a more startling revelation, as I think, of Governmental procedure to be found in this Blue-book even than the want of tact, judgment, and consideration which it exhibits upon every page. Anybody glancing through the book at the objections taken by Australia to the Convention will be startled to find—at least, I was—that among other things Australia objects to certain terms with regard to indentured labour which are contained in the Convention. They say with regard to certain provisions that, they are not sufficiently favourable to the labourer and are too favourable to the employer of indentured labour. I do not know that the provisions are wrong; I am not criticising their substance; I only say that the idea of the Government, over the heads of the Colonies, signing such a Convention with the French Government is the most amazing incident in modern politics. Then there is this sort of provision, that children may be indentured, but they must not be too small when indentured, and that the Commissioner is to be the judge of the proper size at which children of either sex may be taken as indentured labourers. Unmarried females may be taken, of course, by arrangement, with the consent of the head, not of the family, but of the tribe. Then you have to consider the terms of remuneration. It appears that there is the possibility of free contract, an arrangement natural enough between those who take the indentured labour and the indentured labourer, but in the event of there being no arrangement the wages are to be assumed to be 10s. a month. I suppose the wages may be less or more, but if there is no actual contract, then 10s. a month is what the Government think ought to be the proper wage for these indentured labourers. Then male and female, adult and child, are to work between sunrise and sunset, with an hour for their dinner. If they do not work between sunrise and sunset, or if they leave their employer, they are liable to various penalties, one of which is the obligatory extension of the term of their employment, and another is imprisonment for not more than a month. [An HON. 77 MEMBER: Slavery.] To make the whole thing complete, moreover, these indentured labourers, at the end of their term, whether it be the original three years, or whether it be the three years increased as a penalty for non-conformation to the contract, are to be repatriated at the expense of their employers. Now, I want to know what we are to think of this amazing transaction. Here is a Government, which in 1895 gave its great authority to the system of indentured labour in British Guiana. Ten years later they won a general election by representing indentured labour as slavery, or forced labour; but a year has not passed over them before they set their seal again to a system of indentured labour which has all the attributes of the system in British Guiana, with the addition of compulsory repatriation. I have never been able to understand the compulsory repatriation argument. I have never been able to see why that which was not slavery in British Guiana because there was no compulsory repatriation became slavery in South Africa because there was to be compulsory repatriation. Let us hear no more, at least, of this compulsory repatriation as the mark and sign of servile labour now that you have carried it against the will of your Colonies. Without consulting them, you have yourselves signed a treaty with France which embodies indentured labour and attaches to it all the harsh conditions, or the conditions which are alleged to be harsh, which you have attacked in other cases, and which, to make the case complete, involves the compulsory repatriation of the indentured labourer. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to condescend to give me any explanation of his views on free trade or on the Transvaal, but I hope, at all events, he will give me his views on this aspect of slavery, or of labour under servile conditions. This is no departmental subject, no question which can escape the notice of the Prime Minister in the general rush of important business and under the heavy load of responsibility under which he labours. He must have known all about this. Two of his great offices—the Colonial and Foreign Offices—are concerned in it, and there must have been involved a controversy between these great offices and the Colonies of New Zealand and Australia. The Cabinet must have been aware of the fact that 78 the Australian Colonies would not take the responsibility of assenting to this Convention, and the right hon. Gentleman must have looked at the reasons received for objecting in detail. He must have seen many of those reasons urged in respect of indentured labour, and if he did, then he and his colleagues in the Government are now responsible for that very policy against which they have won elections, against which they placarded every constituency in the kingdom, which they misrepresented in every constituency thoughout the land; and if there is a Government which sandwiches a successful election based on a "slavery cry" between two elaborate measures establishing indentured labour in different quarters of the globe under the shelter of the British flag, then that Government must stand disgraced and condemned.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman began by making the usual references to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address. They were the usual references, but they were made with unusual cordiality, with a grace and appositeness and a perfect truth which make me very reluctant to add anything in case I should take from the effect of the tribute which the right hon. Gentleman made to my hon. friends. My hon. friend the Member for Crowe is now an old Parliamentary, experienced hand; and we knew that we should have from him a speech not likely to give offence. We knew that it would be well pitched in tone, well knit in its structure, and expressive of the general feeling of the House. My hon. friend who followed him and seconded the Motion requires more introduction to the House; but I am entirely in accord with the right hon. Gentleman in the opinion he expressed that we had the probability and the prospect of an addition to the intellectual and debating power of the House in my hon. friend if he was, as we believe him to be, the worthy son of his father. His father, who was perhaps personally but little known to the bulk of the Members of this Assembly, was a man who was a statesman in a degree which is very seldom reached by those who are passing their lives on the Parliamentary field. I always fight shy of the word "statesman" and of the fashion which sometimes prevails of 79 taking a statesmanlike view of a matter. But certainly, if there ever was a man who was calculated by tact, by ingenuity, by straightforwardness of character, by high talents, and by patriotic motives to deserve the name of statesman, it was the late Principal Rainy. I congratulate my hon. friend on the favourable impression he has made on the House, and I congratulate the House also on the proof that my hon. friends have given of the part they are able to take in our discussions.
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken with great good humour, with great acumen, and also with a good deal of penetration in finding out the weak points of our armour; and I see no fault to find with what he has said, except I think he makes me responsible for answering a good deal for which I have really little personal concern. I will, however, take the matters in detail which he has brought before the House. He began by speaking of that which was not in the Speech, leaving for after consideration the things that are in the Speech. He said, "Is not this monstrous? Here is a Government at the head of a great Empire, and all the Premiers of the Empire are coming to a grand Conference in the course of a month or two, and no reference is made to it in the Speech; how can they be looking forward in a proper spirit to the advent of those representatives of the great Colonies when they do not breathe so much as a word about it in the Speech?" There have been two occasions before when the Colonial Premiers have come among us. There was the year 1897 and again in 1902; and if my memory serves me rightly, the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for the government of the country in both those years—at any rate, he had a large share of responsibility. But on neither of those occasions was any reference made in the Speech from the Throne. We are a conservative people on this side of the House. We give every consideration to precedent. The right hon. Gentleman is surrounded by Gentlemen who speak of themselves and their Party as if they had invented the Colonies, and they always speak of us, especially in public, when they are using their loudest tones, as men who have no community of feeling, sympathy, or interest with the 80 Colonies; but when we found that he thought it proper to make no reference to the Colonies, of course we did not like to obtrude our shabby little share of interest in the matter when he had thought it proper to be silent. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with that explanation.
Putting aside for a moment the badinage and the banter in which the right hon. Gentleman so amiably indulged on many subjects, perhaps it will be more respectful to the House, and more in accordance with my duty to the House, if I enlarge a little, in as serious a tone as I can in the atmosphere to which we have been introduced—if I explain a little more fully than the paragraph in the Speech does, what we really mean by the reference to the differences between the two Houses. The right hon. Gentleman took hold of the word "consideration" and said that we were thinking, and apparently doing nothing else; and he said that we did very well because it was more useful for us to think than to speak. I quite agree with him, and I for my part endeavour to act on that counsel. I admit that this is the most important part of the Speech. I fully recognise the serious nature of the task to which we are not only addressing ourselves, but to which we shall, of course, in due time invite this House to address itself. What I ask the House to believe—and I think they will believe it—is that it is from no feeling of wounded vanity or irritation at being thwarted, even from no chagrin at losing the labours of so many weeks and months, or at the loss of what we thought excellent opportunities which will not in so full and adequate a manner recur with the same advantage—it is not on those grounds that we bring forward this great question. We are not unaccustomed to this kind of disappointment. We of the Liberal Party have been inured through long years to delays, rebuffs, and disappointments in the quarter from which these disappointments came. But we never lost heart. The Liberal Partial ways stood to its cause; and, apart from any other reason for doing so, there was this—that we have long since recognised in the Party opposite a certain plastic and elastic character of principle, and a certain adaptability of policy, which always leaves us the hope that they may themselves be found on the same side of a question as ourselves. But why, 81 then, is this question raised now—this question of the relations of the two Houses, for that is the question which we wish to raise, and not the question of the constitution of the other House? That is another matter altogether. I shall endeavour to put the matter calmly and reasonably, always, no doubt, with a certain little salt of controversy, because we cannot, I daresay, dissociate ourselves from that. I believe it can be put in a way that will be agreed to by the great majority of men in all quarters of the House and of the country. What is it that has happened? Two months ago two great measures were destroyed—measures which had been demanded by the country and elaborated with infinite pains in this House. [OPPOSITION Cries of "No!" and MINISTERIAl cheers.] Two important measures were destroyed by the House of Lords, one of them by being so altered as to fail altogether to accomplish the main purpose for which it was introduced a purpose which had the approval of the electors of this country. [OPPOSITION cries of "No!" and MINISTERIAL cheers]; and the other by the more summary process of contemptuous rejection. And these events did not lose anything in significance by the fact that they coincided with the acceptance by the other House of another measure which had also been demanded and largely supported in the country, though certainly not more than the other two, and which had been denounced in unequivocal terms by the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses as containing subversive and iniquitous provisions. I cannot pretend that that came upon us entirely as a surprise, because of our past experience; but it did come as a novelty last year, because for twenty years back, during the main portion of that time, the House of Lords had been in a perfectly quiescent and acquiescent mood, ready, with the scantiest allowance of consideration—against which a certain feeble complaint was occasionally made, but without affecting the result—to accept and endorse whatever was offered to them by the Government of the day. Now the House of Lords is sometimes thought of—and if the theory was properly carried out it might act—as a sort of watch-dog, guarding the Statute-book from the intrusion of mischievous, or at any rate undesirable, measures. 82 There is a certain well-known exclamation, not in itself a very wise one, "Thank God there is a House of Lords!" That really means, "Thank God the decision rests with people who are of my political opinions." But when the prolonged somnolence of this watch-dog is succeeded by a sudden access of bitter ferocity, one looks about for the cause. I really do not know which is the better ground of complaint—the somnolence or the ferocity. The answer will be according to the temperament and opinion of the individual. But the combination of the two, one coming after the other, is surely perfectly intolerable, and shows that there is some fatal vice in the working of the constitutional system. What is the cause of this sudden change? There is no mystery whatever about it. It all lies in Party feelings and Party considerations. When the King's Government is of a certain complexion, the House of Lords holds its hand, abdicates its powers and its use as a revising body, and ceases to operate in that capacity. But when the King's Government is of the opposite complexion, it becomes aggressive and unblushing in its aggressiveness; and this explains the political phenomena of last December. Is there any man listening to me in any part of the House who thinks that that is a satisfactory state of things? Am I not right in thinking that if we look at it calmly we shall all agree that, if we can do something to readjust the machinery in this respect, we shall be doing a service to our country? We have been so long accustomed to this state of things that we have got to consider it as the natural and inevitable condition of affairs. But it has been brought home to the country in the flagrant experience of this recent Session.
I can well understand that the right hon. Gentleman is eminently satisfied with the present arrangement. Where would the right hon. Gentleman be without the House of Lords? Where, after all, does he place his main dependence and his hopes? Not on the men who are elected to support him, but on the men who are born to support him. Here he is in a minority; and while I am ready to believe that the allegiance of those who sit round him and behind him is all that could be desired, still it is a great disadvantage to be in a minority; and he looks for and 83 finds his compensation elsewhere. We know well what it is to be in a minority, and we looked elsewhere for our compensation. We looked to the mass of our supporters in the country, to whose staunchness and zeal we trusted, and not in vain. But the right hon. Gentleman need not go so far. He looks to the other end of the corridor, and there he finds in abundant measure exactly what he most misses here. He finds a permanent, large majority ready to follow him whithersoever he leads them, ready to obey his instructions, as we have seen, in the letter, and as far as they can in the spirit also. Sometimes also, with perfectly blunt candour, the state of the case as it really is is disclosed to us. Hon. Members will remember some strange words used by Lord Lansdowne in the House of Lords. What a naif disclosure it was! He spoke of being careful to join issue on ground which was "as favourable as possible to themselves." Not to the country; not to the cause which was fostered or favoured by this particular legislation, but to themselves. Trade might suffer from a measure, employers might be restricted in the use of their capital, the workmen could be led on to some slippery slope that might do them more harm than good and they might lose work, the law might be twisted and the assumption of equality before the law might be broken down—all these were very monstrous things, but their first duty was to see that their position was as favourable as possible to themselves. I do not know whether "themselves" meant the House of Lords or the Unionist Party. It is very much the same thing, but whichever it is, it expresses what was intended, but I did not expect that we should be told it so plainly. This must be a state of things which the right hon. Gentleman looks upon as not being without its advantages for a Party leader, fresh as he was last session from an unexampled catastrophe. It must be a source of satisfaction that for every legislator among his supporters who has been rejected he can lay his hands upon half a dozen just as good—whether hereditary or nominated, whether lay or ecclesiastical—to fill the thin ranks. A Constitution which allows him these solid comforts must commend itself to him. In dealing with this question—because we are now opening an enormous question—I do not underrate the magni- 84 tude and seriousness of the question—we ought to take care that we are not led into a labyrinth of constitutional fallacies, pedantries, or niceties; and in order to avoid that there is one truth which I would recommend every one to take hold of and to hold on to, and that will take him out of the maze. It is simply that I would have him remember what is the essential and inherent nature of the Constitution of this country. It is that it is representative. The representative body here is not, as it is in a country not so far away, looked upon as a safety valve, or at any rate as an outhouse, a succursaleof the Constitution. The representative system and the representative Chamber here are the foundations of the Constitution, and I am not sure that I would not rather have a Constitution where the representative body was very much at the disposal or under the control of the Sovereign himself directly, than a Constitution so-called under which it was under the control of another Chamber. But ours ceases to be a representative system if the leader of a Party who has been overwhelmingly defeated by the popular voice at the polls is to remain, directly or indirectly, in supreme control of the legislation of the country. Let me say this. There is no need and no desire on my part to attribute to the House of Lords any unworthy or sinister motive or intention in the matter at all. They acted according to use and wont, the habits and practice of the past. But the events of last December raise this question in such a form that we cannot put it aside; we cannot escape it, and they raised it by bringing into juxtaposition and into glaring contrast the constitutional rights of the electors on the one side and the asserted privileges of the Peers on the other. Sir, the Government does not shrink from this problem, and I am not sure whether, when we get to close quarters, it may not turn out to be easier of solution than at first sight it appears to be. But at all events settled it must be. The present state of things is discreditable; it is dangerous; it is demoralising. It is demoralising to this House. You have had Bills passed in the subservient period, when the proper people are in power, which show an incapacity for the moment, or a want of desire, on the part of the other Chamber to perform its proper functions 85 as a court for the review and revision of legislation; on the other hand you have the summary rejection or mutilation or perversion of Bills on the ground of promoting Party interest. I do not think it can be denied. Both of these policies have their inception in Party interest, otherwise why does this course of rejection and mutilation only occur when one Party is in power? Then you have of necessity a natural tendency even in this House to alter and pare down effective provisions on the legislation which we pass, in order to save measures from the certainty of being wrecked in the interest of the same Party. Again this is what we say, that this state of things cannot be allowed to go on, and we must have such a readjustment of the relations of the two Houses as will enable us to carry out with reasonable harmony the wishes of the people. There are all sorts of schemes afloat for reconstituting the second Chamber of the Legislature—by introducing new elements, by the expurgation of evil elements, and by the alteration and revision of the terms of tenure, and so on. All such questions we set aside. What we are concerned with is that the relations between the House of Commons and the other Chamber, however composed, should be improved, and it is to this to which in due time the attention of the House will be directed.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to speak of the Irish paragraph in the Speech, and he gave us a good deal of the old and obsolete thunder of the Home Rule controversy which I thought had died out, but of which we hear an occasional re-echo in the distance. However, my view has been made as clear as day again and again in this House and out of it, and the whole point is this: Are you prepared to deny that the Irish people are entitled to manage their own domestic affairs so long as they do not interfere with ours, and so long as nothing is done to infringe the supremacy of Parliament and therefore the integrity of the connection between the two countries? It does not make any difference whatever, in the proper sense of the word, in the solidity of the Empire that the Irish people should have what every self-governing colony has, the power to manage their own affairs; that is the 86 larger policy that I am supporting, but we cannot all at once attempt that. It may not be feasible, and it may not in some senses be desirable to do it all at once. But let us remove the more obvious objections to the present system, and let us do it in such a way as to be consistent with the adoption of the larger policy. I do not think I need say anything more, there is no ambiguity whatever about it. It might be possible to improve the administration of Dublin Castle by sending over one or two chosen administrators; I do not think you can find abler men than there are in Dublin Castle at present, but it might be so. But that would be concentration of administration, and what we want is to enlist the Irish people—and for my part I should not be too fastidious as to the particular manner in which that was done so long as it was an effective scheme for bringing the Irish people into play in the management of their own affairs.
Then there is the question of University education. The right hon. Gentleman is very much shocked that Mr. Bryce, as we may call him now, unfortunately for the House of Commons, made a speech in which he described the scheme which he and we propose, for dealing with this great question. What I say about that is simply this. We all know that there are great and deep difficulties in this matter. We all know how attempts have been made to solve this problem. We know that all this time the Irish people are destitute of that higher education. And, in Heaven's name, if there is a feasible and probable prospect of solving it, let us embrace that method. Here we have a scheme, which, I believe, has the approval of large bodies opposed to each other in general politics in Ireland; but unfortunately, it interferes with the prerogative and exclusiveposition—well, exclusive is not the kind of word, because it is in one sense not exclusive—but the particular position of Trinity College, Dublin. I speak of Trinity College, Dublin, with the utmost respect and admiration, but we cannot allow the interests and the prejudices of any particular place of learning to stand in the way of a great scheme if it is likely to benefit the whole people. If the right hon. Gentleman joins his forces with the forces which are merely 87 maintaining those particular prerogatives, I do not think that he will be embarking in a very good cause or a cause that is likely to succeed. And as to my friend Mr. Bryce making a speech on the subject, I do not know, but I imagine the position is this—that he was so full of the subject; but I do not think there was any impropriety in it at all. I have heard of things being said after a resignation of office—more important things. But to the best of my belief I do not think Mr. Bryce had resigned. But I know this much—that he was anxious to put this matter forward as a sort of legacy after he left, a legacy of peace. [Opposition Cries of "Oh."] Well, he may have been entirely wrong. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt has it very much in his power to prevent his wishes being fulfilled or to delay them. But Mr. Bryce thought the people had been brought together on the subject as they had never been before, and that the public statement of these proposals would have the effect of crystallising them, or at anyrate of bringing them into action.
Then the right hon. Gentleman turned to free trade, and he asked me to give my views. I have never been very voluble on free trade, because I am, as he says, one of the old school of free traders. He said one thing; I suppose it was a sort of outburst—I do not know where it came in in his speech exactly—but it seemed as if it was a sort of thing he had been in the habit of saying to himself in his sleep. He said "I do not know where I am." I have never known a case of a complaint being made of conduct on someone else's part of which the complainer himself is universally agreed to have been guilty. What we want to know is, not my views, which are simple and ordinary, but the right hon. Gentleman's views. If he would only take one of those opportunities on private Members' nights, which are so freely given by a generous body of rules in the House of Commons to private Members in the earlier part of the session, and bring forward the question of fiscal policy and state his views upon it, I am sure we should all be deeply interested—and a good many besides us.
Then the right hon. Gentleman went away to the other end of the world, to the New Hebrides. I cannot say 88 that I have read all the details of the Blue-book with the completeness that he has been able to bring to its perusal; but if he implies that this was a thing sprung upon the Colonies by us since we came into power, and some new policy invented by ourselves, as to which the Australian Colonies had never been consulted, he is entirely mistaken.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I said was this. I simply repeated what the Australian Colonies themselves said. It was that during the months' discussion at home with regard to the proposed Convention they were not consulted at all, nor were they allowed to give their opinion. After everything was over they were told they might either take the treaty, or have no treaty.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Well, the fact is this—that this has been discussed, and rediscussed, and rediscussed, with the Colonies, and the views of the Colonies have been expressed again and again and again, and that the controversy has been going on for years—for five years.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
No, I do not profess to have read the Blue-book. I am told by those who I have that it had been going on for five years. And, of course, we were engaged in a negotiation with a foreign Power, and at last we knew everything perfectly, being saturated with the views of the Colonies. We had to make the best fight that we could with this foreign friendly Power in order to arrive at a conclusion. And what was said to the Colonies was, "We are afraid that we have carried it as far as we can in your interests, and that we have come to a point when you will have to take what you can get." That is a very different thing from what the right hon. Gentleman said—that we never consulted them, and then, having left some time—an interval in the consultation—we threw them the curt information that they must 89 be content to take it or leave it. Well, I am sure there was no discourtesy intended. Then the right hon. Gentleman goes on to give the details of a new system of indentured labour. This is another of the series of old election cries. But what was the case here? We were making the best bargain we could, really for the protection of these savage tribes—cannibals, and many other charming types of that sort—and, what is regarded as the terms we inflicted upon them is really the best terms that we could get for the protection of these people.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
My hon. friend will give a much fuller answer by-and-by, and I trust that his explanation will be entirely satisfactory. I do not think that I need detain the House any longer. There is one subject which I think it is desirable that I should name, because it is not mentioned in the King's Speech—it was not necessary, but, if I did not say anything about it, it might take the House by surprise—and that was an old familiar friend, but a new form of an old familiar friend—namely, the procedure of the House of Commons. We intend to go forward immediately with the proposals with regard to Standing Committees, which were considered by the committee appointed last session, and as to which we placed a certain project on the Table in the autumn. I thank the House for their kindness in listening to a speech made in somewhat difficult circumstances, as I have a violent cold, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree that my desire has been to imitate as fully as I could the very good-natured and kindly mariner in which he dealt with the questions with which he had to deal.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
The references to Ireland in the speech from the Throne and the certainty that this will be largely an Irish session, and that the Government are about to deal with the Irish question, make it, I think, desirable that I should intervene at an early stage in this debate. First, I desire to say what I understand to be the position of the Government with regard to this Irish question. We regard them as being pledged to deal with it this 90 session, and to deal with it on lines which will lead to what I may call complete self-government. I do not want at this moment to go into any question as to the method they are going to adopt. No doubt their plan is still under consideration, and I do not know what form that plan will ultimately attain; but it is desirable that I should repeat, although some hon. Members may be tired of the repetition, that we on these benches stand in exactly the same position as we have stood in for the last twenty-five years. We believe nothing can settle this question and we believe nothing can bring comparative peace, prosperity, and content to Ireland short of the concession of a Parliament to Ireland with executive responsibility, and I gather with the greatest pleasure from the right hon. Gentleman himself—I never doubted it—that he is I still of the opinion that he has always maintained, and that his view of the ultimate solution of this question is the same as mine. I pass, therefore, from the question of method, which I do not think I could usefully discuss at the present moment, by saying that the whole of the present Government are absolutely pledged to deal with this question, that they have unanimously condemned, root and branch, the present system of government in Ireland, and that they have pledged themselves to deal with the subject. In the session of 1905 every member of the present Government then in the House of Commons, and the entire Liberal Party voted in favour of a Motion that—The present system of government in Ireland is in opposition to the will of the Irish people, and gives them no voice in the management of their own affairs; that the system is consequently inefficient and extravagantly costly; that it does not enjoy the confidence of any section of the population; that it is productive of universal discontent and unrest, and is incapable of satisfactorily promoting the material and intellectual progress of the people.That then is the problem that the Government have announced they are about to deal with this session, and inasmuch as the proposed method is still under consideration, it may be advisable for me, even if I do make some demands upon its patience, to ask the House to look a little more closely into the main facts of this problem. All those who voted for my resolution in 1905 start from the position that English rule in Ireland for hundreds of 91 years has been a failure. That is true, but I would like to emphasise it. Let us get to some of the facts. In the last sixty-five years the population of Ireland has fallen from 8,000,000 to a little over 4,000,000, and in the Inst twenty years it has fallen by nearly 1,000,000. Now that is an extraordinary state of things. There is nothing like it to be found in the rest of the world. These sixty-five years have been for the rest of Europe years of great prosperity. There has been an impetus of trade, wealth has increased, population has increased, and trade and commerce have prospered—have greatly prospered. To this Ireland is the sole exception. Ireland to-day is without manufactures. Wages are miserable in the extreme. Let the House have the figures. The average rate of wages for able-bodied male adults employed in agriculture in the year 1902 is stated to have been 17s. 5d. in England, 17s. 7d. in Wales, 19s. 5d. in Scotland, and 10s. 9d. in Ireland. Again, the highest average weekly earnings in England were (in the county of Durham) 22s.2d., in Wales (in Glamorgan) 21s. 3d., in Scotland (in Renfrew and Lanark) 22s. 2d., in Ireland (in Down) 13s. Once more, the lowest average weekly earrings in England were (in Oxfordshire) 14s. 6d., in Wales (in Cardiganshire) 15s. 8d., in Scotland (in Shetlands, Orkney and Caithness) 13s. 7d., in Ireland (in Mayo) 8s. 9d.; and the same malign influences have ever since been operating. The people, who would be the most useful, and whom it would be most desirable to keep at home, are still fleeing from the country; so that the situation is one which obviously ought to engage the most serious attention of English statesmanship. During all these years Ireland has had no effective voice whatever in the management of Irish affairs. In the House of Commons, Ireland has had about one sixth of the representation. We all know that during the greater portion of the century the representatives of the Irish nation were overborne by the English and Scottish Members. In the House of Lords we have no representation at all, and, therefore, the whole responsibility for the present condition of affairs rests upon Great Britain. Great Britain has had complete power. Great Britain has done just as she pleased with the government of 92 Ireland; and as a result you have before you the ghastly failure and tragedy of today. Now what does it mean? What is the real cause of this? I do not—I never have attributed it to any malice on the part of the English people. There was a time, I know, when there was a great deal of prejudice against Ireland: but, so far as the masses of the English people are concerned, I do not say that the misgovernment of Ireland has been due to malice. It is due to the perfectly natural ignorance of the people of this country on Irish affairs: it is due to the perfectly natural, in the circumstances, inattention to Irish matters of a people who have more than enough in their own affairs to engage all their energies and their attentions; it is due largely to the want of time on the part of this Assembly, which has been vainly trying for over a hundred years to transact in one Chamber a work which ought to be divided amongst half-a-dozen Assemblies. It was due to selfishness, to that kind of selfishness which induced England, when she found that free trade was an admirable thing for her, not to hesitate to consider whether it was a good thing for Ireland; of that kind which induced her, when in 1853 there was a rearrangement of liquor duties, not to stop for one instant to think what it meant to Ireland. As a matter of fact, coming on Ireland immediately after she was exhausted by the great famine, it was a staggering blow, and inflicted upon her £2,000,000 a year of additional taxation. The system which you have maintained, and which you are now pleased to abolish, has been an impossible one from the first.
I am amused when I read so-called Unionist orators discussing the idea of creating what is called a separate Government for Ireland. There is, and there has been for hundreds of years, a separate Government for Ireland, but it has been a separate Government of so monstrous, inefficient, irresponsible, and costly a character us to be without parallel in the whole history of the nations of the world. This Government consists of a series of bureaus, each independent of the others, and most of them absolutely irresponsible. Lord Dunraven declared a couple of years ago that there were forty-one of these boards, and he was challenged to produce his evidence. I have here 93 in my hand, a list of sixty-seven of them. It would be a monstrous thing if I were to weary the House by reading this long list, but I really think that it ought to be published, and if this controversy goes on it will have to be published. In the civil Government of Ireland there are sixty-seven boards, offices, and departments. Some of these boards are responsible solely to the British Government; some are local branches of English, boards and English departments, responsible to the head officials on this side of the water; some are responsible in theory to the Chief Secretary. I think I can imagine what the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman the new Chief Secretary must have been for the first week or two he was in office, on finding every morning he woke that he was president of a new department, a new board which he had never heard of before, whose officials he had never met, whose work he had no conception of, and for whom he is supposed in theory to be responsible in this House as Chief Secretary. I think there are about a score of these boards. No man living could in reality make himself responsible for their work. These boards are worked by permanent officials, and when the Chief Secretary comes here all he can do is to read to the House the document sent to him by the Government officials. That has been the practice of every Chief Secretary, and with all the desire in the world to do the best he can—and I may say that I wish to attribute to the right hon. Gentleman every desire to do what is good and best for Ireland—he will not be an exception; he will find that he is theoretically responsible for these boards in this House, and that they are really irresponsible altogether. There are some others of these boards like the Board of Primary Education in Ireland, which is actually irresponsible, and which boasts of the fact. It is not responsible to Dublin Castle, nor to the Government in this House, and the Chief Secretary who represents the Government has no authority over it. Not one of the whole of these sixty-seven departments is responsible to the people of Ireland, or to Irish public opinion, Now, these sixty-seven departments and offices employ very nearly 100,000 officials, and they have handed over to them £7,500,000 of money for the govern- 94 ment of the country; that is to say, the whole civil government of Ireland per head of the population is more costly than the similar government of any other nation in Europe. It is far more costly than the government of England or Scotland. Scotland is a good case in point, because the population is nearly the same as that of Ireland. The civil government of Scotland to-day costs five and a-half millions; the same government in Ireland costs seven and a-half millions. That is immeasureably more costly than the government of other small nations of Europe, such as Norway, Holland, Denmark, and so forth. In looking over the figures I was interested to find that the same civil government of Ireland, whose machinery I have sketched, costs considerably more than the whole cost of the Government, home and foreign, Army and Navy, Royal family and so forth, of Roumania, Bulgaria, Servia, and Greece. The Imperial Government raises a large sum of money in Ireland, and that sum has been rapidly increasing of late. Let English representatives mark this fact, that the amount raised from Ireland has increased, while what is called the Imperial contribution has diminished. The Imperial contribution has gone on diminishing; but nevertheless the total amount raised in Ireland has increased within the last ten years by two millions of money. That is to say that those boards are having a good time and are increasing the cost of government right, left, and centre. This £7,500,000 is supposed to be spent for the welfare and good government of Ireland, but no one asks and nobody has any real power to inquire how that money is spent. I may be told that estimates are presented, and so they are. Those who are familiar with the procedure in Committee of Supply know what that means. Three sittings every year are devoted to Irish Supply, and as these are the only occasions upon which we can raise great questions of policy often the whole of the three days are taken up with big debates, and they are not devoted to the details of Irish Supply at all. But even if those opportunities were used in the most business-like way, what an utter absurdity it is to think that three sittings of this House are sufficient to exercise any real supervision and control over the expenditure of £7,500,000 by sixty-seven different authorities in Ireland. Therefore, the expenditure of this 95 vast sum of money goes on practically unchallenged. Of the total of £7,500,000 £3,000,000 goes in the shape of salaries and wages, and this goes into the pockets of officials and policemen in Ireland. Whilst this monstrous and unchecked extravagance is going on, every real need of the country is being starved and neglected.
What sort of government are we getting in Ireland with these sixty-seven boards spending£7,500,000? What is being done for education? This is a matter upon which there is admittedly no controversy, because both Conservative and Liberal Ministers agree that education in Ireland is in a deplorable condition. I will not allude now to the University question except to congratulate the Government upon having announced their intention of dealing with the question, and when they come to close quarters with it they will find those who represent the Catholic laity of Ireland perfectly reasonable men, who do not ask and never have asked for anything except real equality of treatment with their Protestant brethren. By the admission of every Education Minister for the last twenty-five years, primary education is in a lamentable condition in Ireland. As compared with England and Scotland on this question, Ireland is starved. I will give the House one or two figures. In the last four years, from 1902 to 1906, the Education Vote in England has been increased by £3,374,600. In Scotland during the same period the increase has been £619,128; but in Ireland over the same period the Education Vote has been increased by only £92,000. An equivalent grant is due to Ireland in connection with the Education Bill of 1902, but it has been grabbed for other purposes and practically none of it has been devoted to primary education in Ireland. I remember very well the declarations made upon this subject by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover when in office. This was one of the subjects in which he was in full sympathy, I believe, with the demands we were making. He certainly made no disguise of the fact that he believed the condition of primary education in Ireland to be lamentable. In one speech which he made in 1904 he said that in order to put the Irish school-houses in a sanitary condition or to bring them anything like up to the standard that 96 prevailed in England, to supply heating apparatus and so forth, would cost something like £100,000, and that to meet the immediate necessities of education, primary and secondary, a sum of £200,000 should be provided. He had not the means to provide it, and it has not been provided since. The Attorney General for Ireland, speaking in August last, said that primary education had been neglected in Ireland in a shameful manner in the past, and that it called for attention as soon as the House could deal with it. If the position of primary education, he said, was to be properly improved, the schools properly equipped and teachers properly' paid, and the children given a proper education, it would involve the expenditure of a large sum of money. During the recess there has been a most remarkable movement going on all over Ireland in this matter. Great meetings were held in every part of the country, and they were distinguished in this sense from any ordinary meetings, inasmuch as they were attended by all sections and creeds in politics. They were not political meetings at all; they all demanded that money' should at once be forthcoming to enable teachers to be properly provided for, and to enable Irish schools to be properly provided and equipped. I ask the Chief Secretary to note this point. It is not yet too late for him to see that justice is done; still I do not ask him to make any definite pledge upon the question to-night, but I ask him seriously to look into this matter, and, when he finds that, as compared with England and Scotland, Irish education is starved, that it is in a lamentable condition, that the Irish teachers are paid miserable wages, less very often than the local policeman, and that Irish schools are not properly equipped, to use his influence with the Treasury and insist this year, as the matter will not brook delay, on some generous terms being given to education in Ireland.
It is not only education that is neglected. Take any of our great industries; take, for instance, the question of transit. The Irish railway rates are prohibitive, and there are whole sections of the country that are absolutely cut off from the outer world. The other day, just before I left Dublin, a deputation of gentlemen, headed by two western Bishops, came to see me about a 97 proposal to build a line of railway from Blacksod Bay to connect the country there with the west of Ireland. That railway would run through a district about forty miles in diameter without any railway communication whatever, and without any market for their commodities open to the public. It was about as neglected as if it had been a savage island in some distant ocean. Then there is the question of arterial drainage. And here I will carry Irish Unionist Members with me, because it hits thorn as well as us. Some of the most magnificent tracts are ruined by annual flooding, and yet while in every civilised country in Europe these things are remedied, and at small cost, not one thing is done or one hand lifted to remedy these things in Ireland, although those sixty-seven boards are actually spending this £7,500,000. The same with housing and the reclamation of waste lands. One of the most irritating things an Irishman can do is to read how in small countries like Holland, Belgium, and Denmark the government costs less than in Ireland, and yet they are able to spend millions on the reclamation of waste lands. Not one single sixpence is spent in this way in Ireland. I came across the other day what I think is an interesting example of the spirit of Irish Government. I suppose very few English Members take the trouble to read Irish blue-books, but there was one issued recently which I think is intensely interesting. I allude to the Report of the Commission appointed by Lord Dudley to inquire into the state of the Poor Law in Ireland. That Commission reported just before the House rose. They trace back the history of the Poor Law in Ireland, and show that in the year 1836—seventy years ago—a Royal Commission was appointed, composed of some of the most eminently capable men in Ireland, to consider the question whether the English Poor Law system was suitable to Ireland and ought to be extended to that country, and that Commission reported unanimously that it was unsuitable and ought not to be extended to Ireland, I think Lord John Russell was Home Secretary at the time; he was not satisfied, and he asked a member of the Poor Law Commission in England who was an Englishman, who had never been in Ireland in his life, to pay a short visit to that country, and form his own impressions. This stranger who had never 98 been in the country before, spent three weeks in Ireland, and he came back with the recommendation to Lord John Russell that the unanimous Report of the Royal Commission should be thrown on one side, and that the Government should extend the English Poor Law system to Ireland. Lord John Russell tore up the Report of the Royal Commission, and acted upon the report of this English gentleman. And now seventy years after, the Commission appointed by Lord Dudley has unanimously reported that from the commencement the English Poor Law system was quite unsuitable, that it has been a ghastly failure, and they have recommended the Government to abolish it. No wonder that the people are still emigrating from Ireland when we have at one and the same time the most costly, extravagant, and inefficient Government in the whole world. As far as the people of Ireland are concerned, let me again repeat what I have said before, namely, that those who remain in Ireland are thoroughly and intensely disaffected to your rule, and they will never be satisfied—and their representatives will never be satisfied—until they have got complete control of all those great interests which England has muddled and ruined during centuries that have passed. That is the problem with which the Government are about to deal. That is the problem that they are pledged to deal with on lines leading to complete self-government. Upon its solution, in my humble belief, depends not merely the well-being of Ireland, but the well-being and honour of your Empire.
What are the difficulties in the way of the Government? I believe that no Government ever had a fairer opportunity of dealing with that great problem than that possessed by the Government at this moment. Ireland, as you have been told by the sympathetic speech of the mover of the Address, an old and tried friend of Ireland who has been our friend all through our days of adversity in this House and out of it, and whom I congratulate on the honour paid to him by the Prime Minister and his Party to-day—as has been pointed out by him in his speech, Ireland is to-day not only peaceful in the ordinary sense of the word, but is more crimeless than any other part of the United Kingdom, and there is, practically 99 speaking, no political turmoil or agitation in the country. The whole country is expectant, waiting anxiously, looking to the Government for the redemption of their pledges. It would be an awful thing for the future of this country as well as of Ireland if the fact that we are peaceful were made a reason for being slow or half-hearted in dealing with this question. Do not, I beg you, once again tell the Irish people that peaceful and quiet they get nothing and that it is only by turmoil and disorder they can wring measures from this House. Not only is Ireland peaceful, but you have got another great advantage. You are strong. You are so strong that you can afford to despise any suggestion that you are legislating for us because you want Irish votes and Irish support. You have the sympathy of the whole Empire behind you. I read with interest the other day a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin. In dealing with the possibility of a Home Rule measure's being proposed, what was his argument?Is it conceivable,"—he said,—"that at the very moment when we are all anxious to draw the Empire closer together, to draw the Colonies closer to the Mother country, that you should embark on what I would call the separation of Ireland?What an utterly absurd question. What has drawn the Empire together? What has united the Colonies to the Empire and made them loyal and contented component parts of the Empire? It is the concession of that very thing the refusal of which to the Colonies caused rebellion, and the refusal of which in one colony lost the colony altogether, and the refusal of which has been the cause of all your Irish troubles for the last century. What did Sir Wilfred Laurier say the other day? I presume you will listen with respect to the words of the Premier of Canada. He said—To-day England has an Empire which is second to none, and which has only been equalled once in the course of history. Now the question is asked many a time by friends and foes, how will the fabric be maintained? How can it be kept together, and how can so many elements be kept under the sway of the Empire of Great Britain? That, however, is a question no longer to be asked. It is a question answered sixty years ago when the principle of local autonomy and legislative independence was introduced in all parts of the British Empire. The Empire of Rome fell under the weight of concentration, but the Empire of 100 England exists by freedom, by local autonomy, by legislative independence, and the Empire of England is a galaxy of living nations with England as the loving mother.Therefore in legislating on this question of Ireland the Government will have at their back the sympathy of every self-governing portion of the whole Empire. Only within the last few months you had declarations in Canada and Australia of a most remarkable character contained in a petition sent to the King asking that in the interests of the Empire the same measure of freedom should be given to Ireland as had made those countries contented and prosperous. The other day you made a concession to the Boers. This is the second occasion now in my experience in which in this House I and my colleagues have taken part, gladly and with all our hearts, in helping to confer self-government on other portions of the British Empire. Every case was justified by the result, and we ask now that you should deal unto us the same remedy for the discontent and want of prosperity that you have applied to your own Colonies. You have, further, the sympathy of the world. If you want to look for sympathy outside your Colonies, I suppose the country you would like to turn to would be America. You are never tired of talking of America as the blood relation of England. At any rate you look to America on all occasions. I tell you—and there is not a man in this House can contradict it—that the entire public opinion of America of all political parties, of all classes and creeds, from the great presiding officer, President Roosevelt, down to the great departments, of Government in that country, is in favour of Home Rule for Ireland; and when Mr. Bryce lands in America, the magnificent reception he will get there from the American people will be enhanced by the knowledge that they possess that he has been, all through his political life, a consistent advocate of Home Rule for Ireland.
What other advantage have you? I speak somewhat diffidently about this, because I cannot speak from personal knowledge, but I believe that you have the sympathy of the great mass of the English people. And, lastly, let me say I do believe that there is a considerable change of opinion in that particular corner of Ulster, which has been the home of the bitterest opposition 101 to our movement, which you will find is of enormous advantage to you when you proceed with this question. I have been often attacked myself, with reference to Ulster, but unjustly. My idea and ambition and hope has ever been that Ulster should throw in her lot with us, I speak not of the Province, because the majority of the Province is in favour of Home Rule, but I speak now of that corner of Ulster which is hostile. I was pained in reading the other day a speech of the Member for North Derry, in which he seemed to accuse me of having said at a meeting I addressed at Coal-island last October that the opposition to Home Rule in Ulster would be put down by us with a strong hand, from which he seemed to infer that I was anxious to ride rough-shod over opinion in Ulster. Now, inasmuch as I desire to put my view with reference to Ulster before the House, I cannot do better than read an extract from that speech which will show how completely, though unintentionally, I am sure, my views were misrepresented. Speaking on that occasion, I said—And, fellow-countrymen, let me say, so far as what fill to-day the minority in Ulster is concerned, that it should be our greatest and most sacred duty to go to any length short of the surrender of principle to disarm their hostility and to remove their suspicions. I admit fully that the minority in Ulster is rich and influential; I admit that it has been powerful enough in the past to stand between Ireland and Home Rule, but its power is waning….But, fellow-countrymen, while I am convinced that we can, if we are put to it, win Home Rule in spite of this minority, I confers to you that I do not want Home Rule for Ireland to come in the garb of a bitter hostility and political defeat for any intelligent and honest section of my countrymen. I know, of course,and this is the sentence that is taken from the context—that there is one section of the minority opposed to us that has no title to the name of honesty or intelligence—I know I used rather strong language on the occasion, but of course my hon. friend above the gangway will see at once that that cannot refer to the section he is connected with—a section that it is impossible and hopeless to conciliate or placate; a section that will, I believe, to the bitter end, continue their policy of hatred and ascendancy. I am not speaking of them. After all, in reality, they are only a handful even of the Protestants of Ulster, and I fear that they I must be overborne by the strong hand. But I am speaking of the overwhelming majority 102 of those who are ranked to-day as our opponents in Ulster. For my part, I say here that, of the overwhelming majority of these men I believe that they are honest, and, according to their own sense of the word, patriotic. I believe that they are in large numbers honestly afraid to trust their property and their religious interests to their fellow-countrymen. Now, over these men, I say to-day, that, if I can avoid it, I want no Party triumph. But if I want to influence their intelligence I want to dissipate also their suspicions, and I want, to soften their hearts; and therefore, so long a sit is possible for me to do so, even against hope, I will preach to them the doctrine of conciliation….I say here today that that there are no lengths, short of the abandonment of the principles which you and I hold, to which I would not go to win the confidence of these men, and not to have them lost to Ireland. There are no safeguards which I would object to in a Home Rule Hill to-morrow to satisfy the fears which these men entertain about their religious interests; and I say he is the best Irishman who does his best to-day by preaching toleration and conciliation to these men to bring all the sons of gallant Ulster into line in the battle for Ireland.There are my views about Ulster, and it is a little hard when I have spoken in a manner such as that about my opponents in Ulster, that one sentence should be picked out, that I should be represented as saying that my only policy for my opponents in Ulster was to overbear them with a strong hand. For all these reasons, because Ireland is peaceful, because you are strong, because you have the sympathy of the Empire and the sympathy of the world, because the English masses are friends of Ireland, and because there is a change as I believe, a movement of opinion going on in Ulster, for all these reasons I honestly believe this is a propitious moment for settling this problem. I remember in 1886, Mr. Gladstone, in one of his great and inspiring speeches on this Irish question, spoke of that time as—One of the golden moments in our history; one of those opportunities which may come and which may go, but which rarely return, and it they do return at long intervals they do under circumstances which no man can forecast. There have been such golden moments even in the tragic history of Ireland—along periodic term which once more runs our, and the star has again mounted in the heavens.Well, twenty years ago Ireland's cup of hope and comfort was rudely dashed from her lips. Now, I believe, in the the words of Mr. Gladstone, that the star has again risen in the heavens, and I that, again, a golden opportunity has arisen for English statesmen; and I beg of you not to palter with a question of 103 life and death or to trifle with a desperate case. I ask you to cease to deal with those long past grievances with palliatives. What is the use of palliatives? Every remedy except the right one has been tried. You have tried force in all its forms on the scaffold and in prison cells. You have had the twenty years of resolute government for which the late Lord Salisbury asked. You have tried conciliation too. Yes! You have tried conciliation and reform. But conciliation has always been ignorant and blundering; and reform has always been too late. Further than that: take the very best men you have; take the list of statesmen who have gone to Ireland as governors during the last hundred years, and you find that they have come back and told you that they had failed, and most of them have told you also that their task was hopeless and that the only chance of good government for Ireland was in some measure or other to trust the people. At last I beg of you to take heart of grace and fully trust the people. My belief is that the only hope for Ireland lies in the education of her children, by which I mean the drawing out of all that is best in the Irish race. This can only be achieved by throwing responsibility upon thorn. You hive done that in small matters. Even a Conservative Government passed a local government measure; and what has been the result in those little concerns? Responsibility has brought with it sobriety of thought and conduct and good government in those matters. Throw responsibility on them in larger matters, in national matters, and incidentally you will teach them lessons of self-control, of self-respect, of sustained effort, of confidence in themselves, and of hope in the future. The apathy and listlessness that to-day hangs like a pall over Ireland will instantly be lifted, and those great qualities which have enabled men of our race to be prove the wisest administrators and best governors of your Colonial Empire and to rise to eminence in the government of every land to which their fortune led them, will be set free for the benefit of their own country, to cure her ills of centuries, and to transform her into the home of tranquillity and content. Believe me, and this is the last word which I shall utter, nothing short of full trust in the people can work that seeming miracle; and I do beg of this powerful Government and of this friendly Parliament, 104 when they come to deal with this Irish question in a few weeks time, to have the full courage of their convictions.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said that he quite disagreed with the view which had been expressed in regard to the possibility of concluding this session the programme of reforms set forth in the King's Speech. He was pleased to learn from the Prime Minister, and he thought the House would agree with him, that the omission of any reference in the King's Speech to procedure was an oversight, and that it was intended to push forward vigorously—and he hoped at a very early date—the reform of the procedure of the House, which would relieve the House itself from a large amount of detailed work which could be better done in a small Committee, and which would enlarge the working power of the House. It was gratifying to find that the relations of His Majesty's Government with all foreign Powers were satisfactory; but there was one aspect of this foreign question to which he would ask leave to refer in a single sentence. He believed in maintaining peaceful relations with all other nations; but surely if they were to be on friendly terms with any great Power there should be some understanding as to decency on the part of that Power in the treatment of its people. The case he had in his mind more particularly was that of Russia. Inhumanities and atrocities were being committed by that Power against its people to a great degree which had never been excelled even by the Turkish Government, of which they had heard so much. The crime of the Russian people was that they were struggling to obtain a voice in the management of their own country; and therefore he thought that the House of Commons would stand loyally behind the Foreign Office if a hint were conveyed to that great Northern Power that it was expected that they should, in their treatment of their subjects, conform more to methods of Western civilisation than to those of the barbarism of the bygone past. The King's Speech was interesting for what it contained, but also for what was omitted from it. They, on the Labour Benches, found themselves in substantial agreement with most of the proposals outlined or hinted at in that Speech In regard to Ireland the eloquent 105 and powerful plea to which they had just listened was one more proof of the intensity of the feeling with which our Irish fellow-subjects looked forward to the time when they would be able honourably to accept an honest position in the self-government of their country. He echoed the hope of the hon. and learned Gentleman that this question would be approached in no niggardly spirit. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address spoke of Ireland having suffered from injustice for a hundred years; but the wrongs of Ireland dated back at least for a thousand years of the history of that country. The injustice had been continuous, and it was now the business of this Parliament not only to act justly and prudently towards the Irish people, but by being generous to them to endeavour to at one for the injustice done to them in the past. They waited expectantly for the proposals of the Government in regard to temperance reform; and they hoped that the proposed reform would confer upon the people full and complete powers for dealing with this admittedly great social evil. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Crewe pleaded that they should trust the people in Ireland. He ventured to make a similar claim for the people of England, Scotland, and Wales in regard to temperance reform, and that the Government by their measure would confer upon the people powers to deal with this question in the way that seemed to thorn best. It had often been said that the people were the victims of conditions which made them fall an easy prey to the temptations of the public-house. Had the people had the power to deal with this matter the temptations of the public-house would not be the same as they were to-day. In regard to the Bill to regulate the hours of labour in mines, a Committee had been taking evidence with which they were all familiar. Similar evidence had been given before, and there was not a single instance in which the forebodings of the experts had not been falsified by the facts. The universal demand was that there should be eight hours from bank to bank, without any exception save when accidents arose which called for the employment of the men beyond the specified time. He rejoiced that women were to receive a small instalment of justice in the matter of 106 becoming eligible to serve on local bodies dealing with education, poor law reform, and sanitation, in which it would be all the better if there were a strong infusion of the wifely and motherly element. He would not say anything at that moment upon the question of the political enfranchisement of women, but he hoped before the debate closed there would be an opportunity of putting that question before the House in a more concrete form than he could at present do. With regard to the Bills dealing with small holdings in England and Wales, and with the housing of the people, they were gratified to find those measures included. He had said that the Speech was almost as remarkable for its omissions as for what it contained, and it struck him that there was no reference in it to several promises and pledges given on behalf of the Government last session. There was one with regard to insurance under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The Postmaster-General led them to understand that if the matter was not pressed at the stage of the Bill at which it was raised he would, before the Bill came into operation in July of this year, make some proposal to enable people to insure with private companies, and also hinted that he might make it possible for them to insure through the Post Office. That matter was not mentioned in the King's Speech, and he hoped that it did not indicate that it had been dropped, as it was regarded as of great importance for the proper administration of the Act. Then in regard to the Meals for Children Bill, the provision applying it to Scotland was struck out in another place, and the Government asked those interested in the Bill not to prevent its becoming law by attempting to have the clause reinserted, but rather to trust the Government. The Prime Minister, in reply to a Question by himself, although he did not make any definite promise, certainly conveyed the impression that if the matter was not pressed, a small Bill applying the measure to Scotland would be introduced this session. If the Government did not introduce a Bill, he hoped they would give facilities to those interested in the measure, when he hoped the proposal would meet with a different fate in the House of Lords from that of the provision of last year. There was another ominous omission from the Speech, and that was old age 107 pensions. The Speech said that the Estimates for the forthcoming financial year had been framed with the object of effecting economies consistent with the efficient maintenance of the public service. They were all for economy, but he believed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have a surplus of £4,500,000, or £5,000,000, or, at all events, a considerable surplus, and the first claim upon it was that of the aged poor who had been decent, hard working folk, and had striven all their lives to bring up a family respectably. They ought not in their old age to have no choice but the indignity of the poor law or the workhouse. The sum required did not exceed £15,000,000, which was, he said advisedly, a mere bagatelle. If the sum of fifteen millions was required for war purposes it would be found, and what would be done for war purposes must be done for the aged poor. They must therefore do their utmost to see that any surplus should not be applied to the reduction of taxation, but should form the nucleus of a fund to provide old age pensions. One other serious omission was any reference to the unemployed. In December, 1905, the Returns of the Board of Trade showed the figure to be 4.9 per cent., and in December, 1906, it was exactly the same in spite of a year of great prosperity and wealth. This was a serious matter and one which could not be slurred over. Whether the 4.9 per cent. represented 250,000 or 500,000 men it was difficult to say, but in every town and city there were hundreds and in every great city thousands of unemployed. They were sometimes told that drunkenness was the cause of unemployment, but it was not true, although it was a cause of unemployment. Although the President of the Local Government Board had lent his authority to the statement that drunkenness was the cause of unemployment, there was no truth in the statement. Drunkenness might be responsible for some particular individual not being employed—he did not dispute that—but oven then, if the drunken man was unemployed the sober man was employed in his place, and there was not a, job vacant because the drunken man was not employed. Therefore they had to acknowledge that there was a permanent surplus in the labour market, and some means must be found to empty the labour market of that surplus. The 108 President of the Local Government Board said the other day that technical instruction would do much to remedy the existing unemployment. But that must have been due to some lapse of memory or lapse of intelligence on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Technical instruction they wanted. The more education the better; but here, as in the case of the drinking workman, all the result we should get would be that a highly trained technical and skilful workman might displace one less highly skilled and trained. Therefore technical instruction did not increase the means for reducing unemployment. Of course hon. Gentlemen might argue, and he admitted the force of the argument, that by educating a highly trained and skilled class of workmen they were bettering the style of work and rendering this country better able to compete with other countries, and would thus increase the amount of work. But he would point out that we could not have in this country a monopoly of highly trained workmen, and the same observation applied to Germany, America, and other places. Therefore they had to acknowledge that these things were not a remedy for unemployment. As a matter of fact, those who had practical acquaintance with this subject knew that it often happened that it was the most highly trained and most skilled workman who had the greatest difficulty in finding employment. A young friend of his in London, a bookbinder, held the highest qualifications in his trade, but he was idle one-third of his time, while the man who worked the machine was kept in constant work. He wished to point out that in the skilled trades unemployment largely prevailed. If hon. Members looked at the Board of Trade Gazette, they would find that in the engineering trade last month the unemployment was 4.1 per cent. as against 3.5 a month ago and 3.7 a year ago. The right hon. Gentleman's own trade showed an increase of unemployment. The percentage of unemployment had gone up from 3.7 to 4.l. In the shipping trade the proportion was 11.3 per cent. at the end of the month. In the boot and shoe trade the wages dropped 4.9 per cent. and the percentage of unemployment was 7 per cent. last month as against 6 per cent in December 1905. The number of labourers employed in the docks was 12,210 or a decrease of 6.5 109 per cent. as compared with those employed a month ago, and 5.5 per cent as compared with a year ago. Those figures showed that both in the skilled and unskilled trades unemployment was a growing evil. The question now was what was to be done? Though the intention of those who passed the Unemployment Act of two years ago was good, that Act had been a failure. He was convinced that the then President of the Local Government Board, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, was in deadly earnest in this matter, and was determined to do something to prevent this evil, but his colleagues were against him; he had very lukewarm support from the House, and the Labour Party was not in the House to strengthen his position. The Bill went through, and what had been the result? The Central Board for Unemployment in London formed under that Act had registered 22,121 applicants for work. That was not the whole number that applied, but the number that succeeded in being registered after passing many tests which were quite beside the mark. Of that number 13,610 were labourers, the remainder being skilled workmen. Of the 22,121 this Central Board found work for 735 only. The real trouble about the unemployed was the fact that our present industrial system resembled too much an inverted current. Instead of the commercial and manufacturing system being dependent on and subsidiary to the agricultural system it was the exact reverse. The population working on the land was a declining quantity, whilst that congesting our industrial centres was an increasing one. He disputed the proposition that a certain amount of unemployment must exist in order to give fluidity to our industrial system. If our industrial system could only be carried on by such demoralising means it must be so reconstructed that everybody should be given work, and poverty should be driven from our shores. Such a reconstruction could only take place by bringing the people back to the land, and a beginning in that direction could be made by following the example set in Ireland and in the highlands of Scotland—by the institution of some scheme of small holdings analogous to those created by the Congested Districts Boards of Ireland and Scotland, and the creation of a department with practically a free hand to go out and find the means 110 whereby the land of our country could again be brought under profitable cultivation. A Committee of this House had some time ago reported that there were 20,000,000 acres of land in this country suitable for growing trees. Not a single penny had been spent by the Government in planting a tree upon the land. The same might be said with regard to the vacant lands. There was plenty to be done, and he asked for the creation of such a department as that to which he had referred, with large powers to find out what required to be done, and how it was to be done, and to set about the doing of it. The powers of the county councils were too limited, nor were the county councils the proper bodies to deal with the land question. Let power be given to the parish councils and to the labourers to acquire land, and at once they would begin to reconstruct England and to drain the marshy swamp from which this horrible miasma of unemployment arose. The Unemployed Act was chiefly used to emigrate our people to other countries. He protested against such a thing and said we were committing a fatal mistake in allowing it. The men who were being emigrated with their families were the best that could be selected. Our colonies did not want the others and would see that they did not take them. What was being done now was that we were sending away the very men who would one day be required if the greatness of England was to be maintained. The State instead of spending money to send our unemployed abroad and leaving our own land worthless and derelict, should spend that money in putting our men on our own soil that there might arise in England peasants and yeomen worthy of our past. There was no reference this year in the Speech from the Throne to amend the Unemployed Act. They were sometimes called impatient, but the Labour Party had waited a year for the fulfilment of the distinct pledge given in the King's Speech last year that a Bill would be submitted to amend that Act. That Bill was not introduced, but the right hon. Gentleman said a grant of £200,000 would be given for this purpose. That grant was made but was so hedged round with restrictions as to make it practically useless. Applications had been made for money and refused on technical grounds. 111 The promise of last year had not been kept; the money voted by this House had not been spent; and the Labour Party wanted to know what was going to be done this year. That day, between 2,000 and 3,000 of the poor of London had been marching through our streets to parade their misery, and some thing would have to be done. He had listened to the remarkable and comprehensive speech of the Prime Minister, especially to the part dealing with the House of Lords. He had listened with a sinking heart to the sympathetic cheers from the Ministerial benches at the prospect of a tussle with another place. He sympathised with those cheers, but on this, the occasion of his first speaking in this House this session, he desired to appeal to hon. Members opposite and to the Government, before proceeding with highly controversial and contentious legislation, to call a truce of God in regard to all social reform touching the common people. They would go on with their fight with the House of Lords, they would enjoy it, and in the end they would triumph, but let them not forget those who had no share in that fight. Let them think of the suffering children, the aged poor, and the strong men out of work, and see to it that the claims of our common humanity were met before they entered into a conflict of this kind, which must be dealt with, and in a way which he hoped would settle the question once and for all. But that question was not going to be settled in one session. It was no light task that this House was entering upon. It would be many years before that reform could be accomplished. He asked that this session, before they entered upon the conflict, they should do everything possible, everything that, humanly speaking, could be done, for those who suffered in sorrow and silence, by seeing; that conditions were applied to their lives worthy of human beings.
§ *MR. VIVIAN (Birkenhead)
said he felt sure that many on the Ministerial side of the House would agree with the suggestion that old age pensions should, if possible, have been included in the King's Speech. Many of them felt that the provision of old age pensions was probably one of the best pieces of work to which the Government could turn their hands, and he was still hopeful that they might have a word of 112 hope from the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to this matter. At any rate, it would be their duty continually to press the claim that even if they did not get it this session they would have it dealt with at an early date But he had risen not merely to support that argument, but to say a word or two in reference to some observations which had fallen from the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. The hon. Member had used the extraordinary argument—at least, it appeared extraordinary to him—that excessive drinking was not the cause, to any degree, of the unemployed problem, though he apparently contradicted himself when he stated that there might be individuals who through drink were unemployed. He confessed that appeared to him unsatisfactory, though it might be that he had not properly understood the hon. Member. It was an argument, however, which he ventured to say was unsound. Excessive drinking was to a large extent the cause of unemployment. While he was not wanting in sympathy with social ideals, while he was not wanting in sympathy with the unfortunate, yet he would suggest that for any man who put himself in the position of a leader of the working classes of this country, to say that drinking was not on a large scale the cause of unemployment, was to take from that man's position as a leader of the working classes much of its value. [A LABOUR MEMBER: Who says so?] He had listened with patience to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, and he hoped that hon. Members opposite would not interrupt him. He would say that to make such a statement in that House, on the platform or elsewhere, was not giving the best advice to large numbers of our working people. From the economic side, how did the matter stand? The argument of those who declaimed against excessive drinking was that in too many cases the workman wasted his reserve power, both physical and financial, by spending on drink the money which would, if invested in some permanent form, enable him to tide over a difficult time. Did the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil suggest that those great organisations such as the industrial and provident societies of this country, with their huge funds, their accumulated millions put by for a rainy day, had no bearing upon the unemployed problem, so far as they were concerned? Did 113 those reserve funds not increase the recuperative power of the workpeople of this country? What was their position from the standpoint of employment? What would have been the effect had all those millions been spent in the beer-house instead of being invested in the building of houses or in other beneficial ways? He was sure that the hon. Member did not mean all that one might reasonably gather from his arguments, listening to him, and he was merely entering a protest against expressing a view, even if right, in a way that would give a wrong impression to a great many workpeople in this country. The hon. Member had also suggested that there was no connection between technical education and the unemployed. The hon. Member, he ventured to think, had had little experience in dealing with the employment of working people, or he would realise that there were large numbers of people unemployed because of their want of adaptability to changed conditions. In large industries to-day there were less people really than the trade required. It was in part the changes in methods, and the want of adaptability on the part of the workpeople to those changes which caused unemployment in many cases. He was not suggesting that there were not other and great causes of unemployment, such as the late war, which involved an expenditure of £250,000,000. The economic effect of such an expenditure was practically the same as that of excessive expenditure on drink. He insisted, therefore, that excessive drinking was one of the causes of unemployment in this country. Of course it was by no means the only cause. [AN HON. MEMBER: How does it affect the rich?] He was not there to protect the interests of the rich; he was not one of the rich; he was endeavouring to reply to the arguments of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. If making the great mass of our fellow countrymen more sober and giving them a better education would not have an effect on the unemployed problem, he was at a loss to know what would. If the people were sober and better educated they would not have a land problem; they would see that it was settled. But he would pass to one or two other points. With regard to the unemployed funds and the use of them, he had for some time endeavoured to gather from those who held the 114 opinions of the hon. Gentleman what it was they suggested would solve this unemployed problem. He gathered that the collection of taxes from a number of people all over the country, pooling them in London and handing them over to some incompetent body, to spend in some extraordinary way, would solve the unemployment problem. He ventured to suggest that if they took the case of a miner in the hon. Member's own constituency, and got a pound in taxes from him to be sent to a committee in London to help the solution of the unemployment problem, from that pound would have to be deducted 2s. or 3s. or more for administrative expenses, and ultimately some 13s. or 14s. of it would be spent in some out of the way place in Essex in the production of some commodity that no one wanted. Frankly, he thought that the pound would be better used were the miner left to spend it on himself and his family, and it would have provided quite as much employment. It was, of course, necessary at times to adopt extreme measures to deal with certain extreme cases of poverty, but it was important to recognise that their exceptional measures would not effect a permanent solution of the problem. Violent medicine was sometimes necessary for urgent cases, but we should not rely on this permanently. The hon. Member had suggested that in order to solve the problem, we should reconstruct our industrial system from top to bottom. For himself, he was in favour of a gradual change The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, in a speech a short time ago, referred to the number of unemployed in the boot and shoe trade, and said they would only get a solution of that problem by Socialism—by that, he understood the hon. Member to mean that he would nationalise the boot and shoe trade. Why did not the hon. Member, and those who thought with him, bring in a Bill to nationalise the boot and shoo industry in order to solve the unemployed problem? Why? Because they knew that it would not bear five minutes examination. Imagine throwing this additional duty, say on the President of the Board of Trade. He would have to become an expert on boots and shoes. The whole thing was absurd. He believed it would mean a decrease in production, an enormous increase of administrative expenses, or a lowering of 115 the standard of the article itself, and, in the long run, it would be the poorest who would have to pay the enormous cost of that wasteful system. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil should not go down to his constituency and talk about socialising the boot and shoe industry, but he ought to come to this House and table his Bill and let them know the precise authority that was going to administer the boot and shoe industry on socialistic lines. That was the only honest way to proceed. The hon. Member had declaimed against the King's Speech because it did not contain any reference to the unemployed question, and then went on to suggest that the people should be replaced upon the land, and encouraged to cultivate it with an interest in the result. Was that not already in the King's Speech? It was true that the King's Speech did not contain any specific reference to the unemployed problem, but there were references in it to measures which would do more to solve the unemployed question in a permanent sense than all the tinkering of incompetent committees who were to be allowed to collect taxes and waste them in an extraordinary way. [AN HON. MEMBER: Including the Local Government Board.] He could not understand the logic of some hon. Members sitting on the Labour Benches. They argued that the only solution was to nationalise or municipalise everything, and yet they declaimed against the official departments which were to give them this paradise. He thought that even the President of the Local Government Board would admit that Government offices were not the most efficient instruments for carrying on industries. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil had justified the King's Speech up to the hilt so far as the unemployed problem was concerned. He (Mr. Vivian) hoped that the proposed measures would be brought in dealing with the land problem and the valuation of land so that they would know what was due to monopoly and what was due to industrial activity. He trusted that there would be a good Bill introduced dealing with small holdings, making it possible for all people willing to do so to remain on the land with the hope of independence and improvement in their position. In the Bill dealing with housing there ought to be some opportunity for the people having a greater 116 interest in property. He agreed with those sitting on the Labour Benches that the wealth of the country was not equitably distributed, and it was not divided in such a way as to give the soundest basis to our Constitution. [A LABOUR MEMBER: Why not bring in a Bill?] The Bills he was referring to would tend in that direction. He agreed with hon. Members opposite in protesting against the evils around them and the enormous inequality in wealth, but could anyone conclude from the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil that he had suggested any solution of the problem with which he dealt? Not a bit of it, for he had to go back to the King's Speech to find suggested solutions of the problem he was declaiming on. He hoped the Government and the heads of the Departments concerned would deal with these problems—land and housing—in a radical fashion, more particularly in regard to rural districts. To try and stop the drifting of people from the country districts to the big towns was one of the most important problems they could put their hands to, and they could not accomplish that without tackling the land problem in the rural districts. He was not without some experience on the land himself, and he was recently informed by a fanner that he could take him into his own cornfield and show him 300 pheasants at a time feeding on his corn, and yet he dare not touch a feather of them. They must give the cultivator of the soil an interest in getting the most he could out of the soil, and they wanted security of tenure. It was on these lines that in his opinion we could check the flow of the rural population to the towns and do something towards solving some of our social problems in town and country.
§ SIR EDWARD SASSOON (Hythe)
said he did not think the House as a whole would have failed to appreciate the very sensible and matter-of-fact observations made by the hon. Member for Birkenhead. He referred with great rejoicing to the action taken by His Majesty's Government last year in endeavouring to improve the condition of agriculture. He did not think there was likely to be improvement in the condition of agriculture until facts were recognised. Sooner or later this country 117 would have to consider whether some tolls or dues should be imposed on the products and manufactures of foreigners now enjoying free access to this country, and with more or less legitimate manipulation sold at prices that did not represent the cost of production. The extent of want of employment in this country as compared with Germany and America showed something radically wrong in our commercial system. The question of Colonial preference should be considered at the forthcoming conference in a serious, practical spirit. The Prime Minister had reminded the House that although there were two Colonial Conferences not many years ago, on neither occasion was any reference made to them in the King's Speech. Evidently the Prime Minister was oblivious of the fact that upon neither of those occasions had the question of the preferential treatment of the colonies been raised by any statesman to the level of a real and burning issue which had drawn it into the vortex and region of practical politics. His Majesty's Government knew very well that Colonial Governments were keenly anxious upon this mattter of preferential treatment, and the question should be taken in hand by the mother country and disposed of one way or the other. He based this contention upon the speech made by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies last week, when the hon. Gentleman gave his benediction to the inter-colonial preferential arrangement. What was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander. If inter-colonial arrangements were good for the Colonies, he could not see why some sort of arrangement between the mother country and the Colonies should not be considered in a serious and practical spirit. With regard to the housing of the poor it should be borne in mind that local authorities had every power to put machinery in motion, and could deal with the subject if they cared to exercise such power. He would respectfully press hon. Members to ponder over and assimilate the views of the Member for Preston on the policy with regard to social matters enunciated by the Radical Members of the House. These views were admirably set forth in a pamphlet which he received the other day, and he hoped they would convince the Radical Members that the solution of labour and social problems, if carried out on the lines suggested by extreme 118 Members of the House, must inevitably lead to the crushing out of individual energy and enterprise, with the consequence that the State would become a: huge universal provider and employer of labour. He wondered whether that was a course that appealed to the shrewd and well-balanced minds of the gentlemen who represented the interests of labour in the House. At any rate, many of them would very soon during the coming Armageddon be able to pronounce a verdict on that burning and crucial issue. He and his friends on those benches would be very much surprised if the result of the popular elections did not prove that the people of London had had more than enough of the extreme and unconscionable length to which municipal enterprise and owner-ship had been pushed, and of the wasteful and prodigal administration of the ratepayers' affairs by what was known as the Progressive and Liberal Members of the London County Council. With regard to the question of economy, the Government had now been in office a year, and the country was in a position to gauge to what extent the promises made had been carried out. He believed that the mass of the people of the country were beginning to see that this was a Government not of performance, but merely of promise. At the general election the whole country resounded with cries of economy. Let them take a retrospective glance at the character of the Resolutions which were passed in this House last session, and they would find that while the Government were willing to retrench in certain directions, they were eager to dip into the public purse in order to serve their political ends. Last year Resolutions were passed in favour of the payment of election expenses and the payment of Members, which if carried into effect would involve a charge of £270,000 per annum on the Exchequer. He did not wish to imply, however, that he regarded as undesirable legislation making access to the House easier to Labour Members; indeed he himself had backed a Bill with the object of relieving Members of the expense of travelling to and fro between the House of Commons and their constituencies. He considered at the time that that Bill rather exceeded the necessities of the case, but so anxious was he that Labour Members should not be barred from any 119 of the advantages which the passage of a Bill of that sort would confer, that he yielded to the solicitations of those who were instrumental in drawing up the measure when he was requested to back it. If his hon. friend the Member for Woolwich were present, he would bear out that statement. He was convinced that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, now that he had received so many millions into his coffers by the demise of millionaires, would not look askance at a more moderate measure limited to the strict necessities of the case, and entailing a very moderate charge on the public exchequer. He meant some measure embodying the principle on which pensions were paid to ex-Cabinet Ministers. If a Member could prove to the satisfaction of the Treasury that a railway pass would be useful to him, he thought a small measure providing for its being granted might with advantage be enacted. They used to be told that Unionist administration maintained bloated armaments which constituted a menace to our peaceful relations abroad and a heavy charge on the public exchequer at home. What were the Government proposing to do in order to carry out the promises given at the election? It was known that they were contemplating considerable reductions which, in the opinion of those who were qualified to judge, would lead to a serious crippling of our Naval armaments, The fruits of that policy had been singularly borne in upon the people of this country during the recent appalling catastrophe at Jamaica, when there was not a single cruiser of our Navy available at Kingston harbour to see whether assistance was required. He was glad to see the passage in the Speech recognising the prompt assistance given by the American Government; and yet the work done by the American cruisers, whatever the necessity, was work which should have devolved upon the ships of our own Navy. Was that a sample of the economy which the Government were contemplating? They had not heard very much about the contemplated changes in the Army. The Secretary of State for War had made reductions in some of the battalions. He regretted very much that the right hon. Gentleman had foreshadowed other reductions without waiting to see the effect of his schemes which were to create a new heaven and a new earth at the War Office, 120 and to render the Militia and the Volunteers more fit in certain emergencies to be sent abroad. The Prime Minister in very mysterious tones had said that His Majesty's Government intended to deal with the constitutional difficulty that had been created by the action of the House of Lords. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the impression created by the Education Bill of last year, the House of Lords were, in his humble opinion, perfectly justified in throwing out that Bill. It did not satisfy the Church people, because it involved confiscation of their property and the proscription of the inalienable right of the parents to see that their children received instruction recording to the dictates of their conscience. The Roman Catholics were not satisfied with the Bill; and even the extreme Nonconformists, in spite of the fact that they had a million of money dangling before their eyes, refused to accept the Bill. He admitted that the Irish Secretary intended to do something for denominational instruction, but the right hon. Gentleman was a little too chary of granting denominational education in the Church of England schools. Personally, he should be very churlish and ungracious if he failed to recognise the liberality of the Government in regard to the excellent intentions towards the denominational schools in urban areas, but he had yet to learn that the intentions of a Government or of a Minister could have the force or vigour of law. His own belief was that if the Government had accepted the suggestion made by Lord Balfour of Burleigh, that the parents should bear the cost of denominational instruction, the passive resister would have become as extinct as the dodo, and a great peace would have fallen on the land. The Government had no alternative but to recognise the existence of different creeds and different schools of thought an the country. In the Bill there was an attempt made to propitiate the denominationalists, but it was a spurious and not a genuine attempt. The Government in trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds had lost its quarry, and he believed that the House of Lords were perfectly justified in amending the Bill. They on the I Conservative Benches were perfectly prepared to meet with equanimity the weapons that were being forged against the Constitution of the other House, and 121 they were willing to join issue with the Government on various social and political questions, because they were perfectly convinced that the Government was helpless to achieve any advance satisfactory to the people of this country on matters of vital importance.
§ *MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said he wished to say a word or two on behalf of that part of the United Kingdom which was small and modest, but was still represented in the House by hon. Members, who, though few, were fit. He meant Scotland. They were gratified that the Leader of the House had selected the hon. Member for Kilmarnock Burghs to second the Address; and in doing so, the right hon. Gentleman had done honour to the son of a great Scotsman and to a devoted supporter. The measures affecting Scotland promised in the King's Speech dealt with the holding and the valuation of land in that country. A measure dealing with small holdings was not altogether new; it was introduced last session. Its existence was, however, very fleeting, but what they saw of it they liked, and they hoped to have a final acquaintance with it before the close of the session. There was also a measure for the valuation and taxation of land in Scotland. He thought that that was a very small instalment of legislation for Scotland, and Members for Scottish constituencies would be very much disappointed indeed if the Government did not contemplate the introduction of other measures dealing with Scottish questions, such as education, which had been too long postponed by the late and the present Government, and the provision of meals for school children, which the House of Lords threw out last session. The Scottish Members were all gratified by a promise in the speech of the Prime Minister that the Government were going to take up the question of procedure, and the appointment of a Scottish Grand Committee. They felt that until some measure of that kind were passed they would not see the fruition of their hopes for reforms in matters affecting Scotland. They had a distinct Scottish grievance—a practical, not a sentimental, grievance, although he did not say it was such an acute national grievance as existed in Ireland. To some extent the grievance from which they suffered was shared by every 122 Member of the House. The House of Commons had more work to do than it could undertake or efficiently discharge. It was simply marvellous that they had the same Parliamentary machinery as fifty years ago, when communications were much loss perfect than now, when every question affecting the Empire was brought to our door the moment it came to the front. That was the reason why every Government found a plethora of measures with which it was desirous to deal, but the question invariably arose, not what measures the Government should try to pass, but what they must reject. Unfortunately some of the most important legislation in regard to local government, education, temperance, and religion had to be dealt with in separate Bills for England and Scotland. There were only seventy-two Scottish whereas there were 495 English Members. Therefore, while all measures were liable to be crowded out, Scottish Bills were seven times more liable to be crowded out than English Bills. For this they asked a very modest remedy. They were not asking for Home Rule for Scotland, but for a Grand Committee which should deal with the Committee stage of Scottish measures. Moreover, they would insist that the Grand Committee should be permanent—that was, it must not need to be set up every new Parliament—and that it must consist of Scottish Members only. He thought he understood that the Prime Minister was willing to give them that this session, and they looked forward with great eagerness to the time when he would be able to proceed with the consideration of his procedure Resolutions, because they believed that until that was done no Scottish measure foreshadowed in the King's Speech was likely to pass.
§ *MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
desired to say a word or two as to the arguments of those hon. Members who had criticised what his hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil had said on the question of unemployment. They had had some extraordinary statements on that side of the House above the gangway so far as the unemployed were concerned, the accuracy of which he disputed, and which he thought were most unfair. He begged to state, and he defied contradiction, that in practically every ease where a municipality had organised a 123 system of work in the United Kingdom the employees had received far better wages than they would have had under a private company, that their hours were considerably less, their conditions of labour better, and the public had been better served than they would have been by private companies. Although that argument had been used the results were in an entirely opposite way to what his hon. friend intended, and he thought it was a contention in favour of the position that they took up, that under such a system there would be improved industrial conditions. A great deal had been made as to the effect of drink upon employment, but he wanted to say that, although probably there was no hon. Member on that side of the House above the gangway who would not assert that drink was the cause of unemployment, where they differed from their hon. friends was this, that some of the hon. Gentlemen asserted that it was the cause of unemployment, whereas they on their part said that it was a cause. That was their position; that they were prepared to agree that it was a cause but not the cause. A committee in his district had investigated 1,500 odd cases of unemployment and they found that out of all the cases only two men were permanently unemployed on account of drink, twelve were of a doubtful character, while twenty-four had not been fully investigated. If, therefore, all these cases were put together, they would not establish the argument that drink was the cause of unemployment. He thought that figures of that kind showed that hon. Members were wrong who thought that if they solved the drink question the unemployed problem would he settled. They must recognise that in every grade of life labour-saving machinery had been introduced, and unless they were prepared to organise the industry of the country the unemployed problem was bound to increase and could not get less. Therefore they were in favour of a reorganisation of industry whereby the industry would be run in the interest of the people instead of in the interest of the few. He ventured to say, moreover, that there would not be any settlement of the land question until they took the land into their own hands and made the people up and down the country their tenants. They had recently had an attempt to deal with the land question in the interest of the tenant farmers, and there 124 they had the unexampled spectacle of both Liberal and Tory land-owners opposing that particular Bill, and he was ready to assert that he saw no settlement until we had nationalisation of land in this country. They had the fullest sympathy with many of the reforms indicated in the Speech, but could not but regret that they had not had the unemployed problem mentioned in it as it was last year. The same might be said in regard to old age pensions.
§ *MR. LEIF JONES (Westmoreland, Appleby)
remarked that there were no fewer than fourteen Bills offered in the King's Speech for their consumption, and he would like to say, as a private Member, that they were grateful to the Government for the large demands they were going to make on their voting power, and for the confidence the Government showed in them when they suggested passing fourteen Bills in a single session. He believed the Party was willing to support the Government in any demands they made upon their supporters for hard work. He rose specially for the purpose of thanking, the Government on behalf of the organised temperance workers of the country for the prompt fulfilment of the promise made by the Prime Minister last year that a licensing measure should be among the principal measures of the session. At every temperance meeting he had attended during the recess universal satisfaction had been expressed at the promise of the Prime Minister. The country recognised in the right hon. Gentleman one who had always voted in favour of temperance reform, and they had looked forward with eager anticipation to the King's Speech. The note which had been struck at the many meetings which he had attended up and down the country listening to temperance workers had been threefold—satisfaction with the promise of the Prime Minister, gratification that the House of Commons had shown itself on the local option division last April, ready to declare by so large a majority in favour of the policy of trusting the people on this question, and an eager anxiety that the promised Bill should be one which would bring about something in the nature of a settlement for many years to come. The common form of the resolution at the meetings was that the more thoroughly the Government dealt with this question the greater would be the satisfaction of 125 those who were gathered there, and he believed he spoke for the Temperance Party in the House of Commons when he said that the more thoroughly and the more drastically the Government dealt with the question the greater would be the satisfaction with which Members would support them during the present session. The Leader of the Opposition had taunted the Government that, in spite of their professions, they had little care for social reform. He thought the fact that the Government had placed in the forefront of their programme a great measure of social reform which went to the very roots of the life of the people of the country was an answer to that taunt which came so ill from the late Prime Minister. He did not claim that it would solve all the problems of poverty in the country, but he said that there was not a single problem or evil troubling social reformers at this moment which would not be made easier by the solution of this question. They had been discussing whether drink caused poverty or poverty caused drink, and he thought both propositions were true—that poverty produced drink and that drink produced poverty. It was a vicious circle when once a man got into the grip of either poverty or drink. It had been claimed by several speakers that drink was only one of the causes of unemployment. Poverty and want of employment came from one cause—waste in some form or other; and there was no waste in the country comparable to the waste on strong drink. The mover of the Address had stated that £160,000,000 was spent on strong drink last year and of that at least £100,000,000 came from the wage-earning classes of the country. But that was not all. At least another £100,000,000, if not more, was wasted through the loss of efficiency which drink caused, through the maintenance of a whole army of non-producers to protect society against the results of drink; and all together he thought the burden on the wage-earning community was certainly not less than £250,000,000 a year caused by waste on drink, and the Government could do nothing better for unemployment and social reform than carry a great and drastic temperance measure. He had read in a Socialist pamphlet that it was useless for workers to drink less because if they did so the iron 126 law of wages would force wages down and the men would be worse off than before. There was some mistaken notion that wages were paid out of capital, and some passages from Ricardo and Mill seemed to support this view. He denied the proposition absolutely. Wages were not paid out of capital. They were advanced out of capital but paid from the wealth produced by the workers, and anything which injured the efficiency of the worker struck directly at his wages. The waste of efficiency on the part of the workers owing to drink had been estimated at not less than one-sixth of their productive power; and if they produced that one-sixth more there would be so much more wealth created from which their wages would be paid, and the possibility of an increase of wages. He said a possibility and not a certainty, for the workers did not always get the wealth they produced. On what did that depend? For one thing on the standard of living, and nothing did more to lower the standard of living among the working classes of this country than the intemperance which many of them indulged in. Again, there must be increased power of combination in order that a demand for higher wages might be effective, and the great obstacle to combination was the army of blacklegs drawn from the public house wastrels—the people who squandered what they earned by honourable work, and when a strike occurred took advantage of the difficulties of their fellow workmen. It was proved as clearly as a mathematical proposition that the result of such a reform as that proposed by the Government must be an immense increase in the wages earned by the workers of the country. He therefore congratulated the Government on placing this question in the forefront of their programme of social reform. It was a workers question, and he hoped the Government would give to the workers of the country the power to protect themselves against the evils of drink. He trusted they would make the Bill thorough, and would use all the powers of their Party to carry it through the House of Commons, and to convince another place that this was not favourable ground on which to fight the House of Commons and the country. By so doing they would earn the lasting gratitude of all who cared for the welfare of their country.
§ *MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)
said he sympathised with the views of the last speaker, but he could not forget how the Government last year outraged the temperance sentiment of Ireland, and the manner in which they deserted Irish temperance workers in the very modest measure then brought before the House It would be in the recollection of Members that that measure only asked for the shortening of the hours of sale of intoxicating liquors on Saturday nights by one hour, for total closing on Sunday, and for the extension of the limits for bona-fide travellers from three miles to seven. In the Committee upstairs, largely through the instrumentality of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, a very great betrayal of the temperance sentiment of Ireland took place; and the measure was so weakened that many doubted whether it was worth having at all, yet at the last moment when the measure came finally before the House they had a second betrayal and the limit for the bona-fide traveller was reduced to three miles except for the area round the five exempted cities where it was fixed at five miles. He thought in view of these facts they might very well doubt the sincerity of the temperance spirit which was supposed to be so abundant on the Government Benches. He did know, and he spoke with absolute sincerity on this question, that Irish temperance reformers were greatly disappointed with the shape in which the measure finally parsed the House of Commons. Of course they knew there was wire-pulling behind the scenes. They knew that the liquor interest was largely represented on the Nationalist Benches, and it was largely because of the combination among them and the action of the Member for South Tyrone that the surrender was made and the much mutilated measure passed into law. He could not believe that the Government was sincere in its temperance aspirations unless the promised Bill when introduced was found to apply to Ireland. He had chiefly risen, however, to say a few words with regard to the eloquent speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. The hon. and learned Member had suggested that he (Mr. Barrie) had misrepresented him in a speech made outside the House. He had listened carefully to the correction of the hon. and learned Member, and he submitted that the 128 slightest misquotation of the speech of the hon. and learned Member had not been proved. It was true he (Mr. Barrie) did not quote the whole of the speech of the hon. and learned Member. It was no part of his argument to do so. Hon. Members below the gangway laughed, but he would remind them that the hon. And learned Member for Waterford in quoting that speech himself left out several very pertinent sentences for exactly the same s reason—because they were not germane to the argument he was addressing to the House. He had no apology to offer to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford for what he had said in his speech. He had just re-read what he said and found he quoted the purport of the hon. and learned Member's remarks as exactly and truly as any reasonable Member would interpret them. His view was borne out, too, by a letter addressed to The Times, by their late revered leader, Col. Saunderson, within a week of his death. These were the last, and he thought not ineffective, words of one who had done brave service to the loyalists of Ireland for many years, and their great regret was that he was not with them to continue the fight, because he believed that it was never more necessary than now that the public of England should be educated afresh as to what was the real Nationalist demand that was made upon the House of Commons. He had listened to a very eloquent speech from the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, but he was bound to admit, that, while he was charmed to hear it that afternoon, he recollected having heard at least throe quarters of it some twelve months ago. He was little surprised, perhaps also a little disappointed, that at the entrance upon a new session, which was largely to be an Irish session, the hon. and learned Member could not have brought forward some new arguments to prove the righteousness of this great demand which was being made upon the House of Commons. He had, however, to thank him for again declaring, in words that could not be minimised or misunderstood, that he realised that nothing promised in the King's Speech would be adequate as regarded the Nationalist demand unless it conceded full and complete government by a Parliament sitting in Dublin. He did not think that it was fully realised by the Treasury Bench how far this demand would carry 129 the Government if they acceded to it. They had heard nothing that day, even from the Prime Minister, which would warrant them in thinking that he seriously intended to concede it, but they would take every opportunity of saying that, in this matter, Ulster still stood where she had stood—that Ulster had not seen any reason to alter her strong objection to having her government handed over to the forces that controlled the South and West of Ireland. He noticed that when the hon. and learned Member made his references to the full measure of the Nationalist demand they were received with a marked and eloquent silence on the Benches opposite, and he could not help thinking that their Liberal friends were not prepared to go all the way with the Nationalist demand, as again renewed in unmistakable language by the hon. and learned Member that afternoon. He had noticed that an introductory phrase, to which he had been accustomed in the hon. and learned Member's speeches, was absent from his utterance of that day. It had been the custom of the hon. and learned Member to proclaim that he spoke in that House for the people of Ireland. During the recess the hon. and learned Member received a deputation, which was making a demand upon him, and the hon. and learned Member said something like this:—"Time was when the Irish Parliamentary Party had the people of Ireland behind it, but we cannot say that at present." That was some months ago, and during the interval he thought that the truth of this had become increasingly apparent. He was sure that it had been noticed in England and Scotland that there were growing dissensions among their Nationalist friends below the gangway. He was not aware when he last spoke in that House regarding the evicted tenants in Ireland, that it that time the question had become so acute with the Irish Parliamentary Party. During the recess, it was a matter of public knowledge that these differences of opinion had borne fruit in the resignation of one Member, who refused to bow to the dictation of the Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, when he forbade him to say that some portion of the large funds recently collected in America and Australia should go to the soldiers of the old land war, the old evicted tenants. That Member had the courage of his opinions. His salary 130 was withdrawn. He refused even then to be silent. He went back to his constituents, and the Irish Parliamentary Party had not the courage to put up a candidate in opposition to him. And so he was returned unopposed. He was there that day, and not alone, because there were other Members from that part of the country who were of exactly the same opinion in regard to the evicted tenants. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford, therefore, had no right to speak of him and these others as Members of his Party. So much for that aspect of the matter. He wished now to submit to the House the later position as regards these evicted tenants. It was a matter of public knowledge that very large sums of money were collected in Australia and in America during last autumn on behalf of the Irish Party cause. And no wonder, after the eloquent descriptions of the sufferings of the evicted tenants. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool when in his best form was absolutely irresistible in his eloquence, and no wonder he succeeded in getting the people who listened to him in America to give their money freely. They knew that a sum of about £40,000 had been collected. The evicted tenants were making demands for help from this large fund, but what did the Irish Parliamentary Party do? They had a meeting. They debated the question as to how much money could be spared out of this £40,000 for these poor evicted tenants, who had suffered so long and so severely, and the large sum of £300 was given to them to try to tide them over.
§ MR. HUGH LAW ( Donegal, W.)
I am sorry to say that the statement the hon. Member has made is absolutely I untrue.
§ *MR. BARRIE
said he must accept the correction of the hon. Member, but he had read of the sum of £300 being voted by the Party during the last two or three weeks. He, of course, accepted the correction, but he would look up the reference for future use. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had deplored the increase of poverty and lunacy in Ireland, and in both these matters Unionist Members joined absolutely with him; 131 but they looked for the explanation in a different direction from the hon. and learned Member. They were aware that economically the industry by which the major portion of the people lived was a decaying one, and if any reasonable thing could be done to better the condition of the people of Ireland generally Unionist Members were prepared to join hands with Nationalist Members in doing it. What they desired to make clear was that they did not realise that Ireland at present was suffering any more than Scotland and England, in respect of the absence of larger local control. A reference had been made that afternoon to the measure of local control given by the Unionist Party. He was not disposed seriously to disagree with the hon. and learned Member when he said that that measure of local government had been fairly used throughout Ireland, and if Ireland were left alone to work it out she could make a success of it. He thought it would be within the recollection of the House that, where an appointment had to be made to a well-paid office by the Board of Guardians of Claremorris, that body could only make the appointment with the approval of the local Roman Catholic priest. He could assure hon. Members that this was the real crux of the difficulty in Ireland. The people were not allowed to think for themselves. With reference to the position of Ulster, they had had suggestions, during the last session, that there had been a great alteration of public opinion there, and that the Orange and Green were being mingled in a new combination. But they had had a very striking by-election in recent months, in which the people declared more unmistakeably than they had ever done before that they would have nothing to do with an extension of local government by devolution, or with any instalment leading up to the larger policy. That to-day was the opinion of Ulster throughout. There had been no change of the balance of parties which warranted or justified for a single moment any allegation to the contrary. They felt that they had many things for which they had to thank their connection with Great Britain, or England. They were thankful that Ulster never was more prosperous 132 than at the present moment. They had passed through a record year of prosperity, and the new year on which they had entered promised to be even more prosperous. That had been attained despite the fact that Ulster was the least fertile of the provinces of Ireland. All they asked was to be left alone and that they should have their laws administered without fear or favour; and so long as that was done, Ulster would still wish to say, with unanimity, that she was not in favour of Devolution or Home Rule, call it by any name they liked.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL, Manchester, N.W.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred in the course of his speech to one or two matters which concern the Colonial Office, and on one of these I think the House would wish that some immediate reply should be given. But before I come to the question of the New Hebrides Convention and the points which arise thereupon, I would like to say a word upon a reference which the right hon. Gentleman made to an utterance in relation to Colonial preference for which I made myself responsible during the recess. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I had committed myself in some way to a statement which recognized the principle of Colonial preference, as that principle had always hitherto been considered in our controversial discussions. The question of inter-Colonial preference stands in an entirely different position from the great controversy upon the main question of Colonial preference. It has always been open to tariff States, and it frequently occurs that tariff States do make reciprocal arrangements one with another, and when these arrangements involve, as they do in almost every case, a net reduction of the duties on both sides no one can deny that from a free trade point of view the world as a whole is benefited. The reciprocal arrangements which may be made by the different self-governing Colonies in the British Empire are of course beyond our control; they are self-governing Colonies and they are free to make what fiscal arrangements they choose. We 133 could not prevent them from making such arrangements if we wished to do so. But is there any reason why we should wish to interfere? I think distinctly not. Taking the simple position of the orthodox Cobdenite Free Trader, I am of opinion that taxes are an evil, a necessary evil, but still an evil, and the fewer we have of them the better. Therefore every arrangement between protectionist States which takes the form of a reduction in the tariff barriers of the world is a distinct advantage to the world in general, and when it takes place within the circle of the British Empire it is a distinct advance towards that general system of free trade within the Empire which protectionists and free traders alike desire, although free traders are not prepared to purchase free trade within the British Empire at the cost of erecting a protective tariff round the shores of the United Kingdom. I should have thought those considerations, which are really elementary, would have readily occurred to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, and would have prevented him from fastening on me a charge of fiscal heresy, and from suggesting, what I can assure him has no foundation fact, that any remarks I made on this subject have caused embarrassment to my right hon. friends in the Government, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or to my noble friend Lord Elgin.
But now I come to the more serious question which the right hon. Gentleman has raised on the character and history of the New Hebrides Convention. The New Hebrides is a group of islands over which no Power has exercised any authority. It has been a sort of no man's land—I mean no man has had any authority over it except the men who live there, and, as the Prime Minister has already said, owing to the habits of cannibalism and other savage customs, a state of grave disorder has always prevailed. For the last twenty years order has been maintained to some extent through the agency of a joint Naval Commission. British and French ships have patrolled these unclaimed islands and have administered a sort of summary justice whenever some peculiarly atrocious outrage has been committed on any white men who may have incautiously landed upon them. Under this rough and ready police protec- 134 tion, a considerable white population, with very complicated interests, has gradually grown up, and for the last ten years everyone interested in any degree in the affairs of the New Hebrides has felt the need of a more regularised and organised system of government in these islands. By the Anglo-French declaration of 1904 it was arranged that Great Britain and France should come to an agreement, if such could be reached, as to the government and control of the New Hebrides. The arrangements for this were well advanced before the late Government left office; but we asked tae Colonies whether they would authorise us to find out what were the terms upon which the French would like to establish some sort of joint control with us over the islands.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
Yes, Australia asked us, and we acceded to their request. How were we to ascertain the term upon which it was possible to conclude such an arrangement with France? There is only one practicable way, and that is by concluding a draft Convention—by formulating in a complete form the whole arrangement upon which both Powers could agree to divide their authorities and exercise a general control over the island. In the first month of last year, when we returned after the general election, the delegates from France were in the Foreign Office discussing the details of this draft Convention with the official representatives of the Colonial and Foreign Offices. It is quite true that during the progress of those negotiations, which lasted a month, we did not telegraph daily bulletins of our progress to the Colonies. We were drafting a Convention which was admitted to be subject to their pleasure when concluded, and we thought it better to submit the whole arrangement when it was complete. Up to a late period in the negotiations we were in doubt as to whether we should reach any agreement at all, because on several points a deadlock was reached, and it was not until after some time that we were certain that any fruitful result 135 would be achieved. I am quite certain that the bargain made was the best that could possibly have been made; and I am quite certain that Colonial interests suffered in no way. It is not to be supposed that the Colonial Office lacked information on this subject. We have been corresponding with the Colonies on the subject for twenty years. The Colonial Office knew what were the difficulties in the New Hebrides, what were the circumstances that prevailed, and what the Australians desired; and we had only to find out what arrangements could be come to with France. Therefore I have no hesitation in saying that the arrangement made was the best that could be made, and it has not suffered from any lack of information or knowledge on the part of those engaged in concluding it. When the draft Convention was concluded it was sent out to the Colonies; and the right hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to the phrase that it must be accepted or rejected practically as it stood. That phrase has been misunderstood, and misrepresented even more widely than it has been misunderstood. Nothing was further from the intention of His Majesty's Government than to present a sort of ultimatum to these Colonies, and say, "You must accept or reject this arrangement." All we desired to convey by that phrase was that, having wrestled for a month with the French delegates, we were of opinion that no arrangement more favourable to Australian interests was likely to be concluded, and that, if it were not satisfactory, it would be vain to attempt to obtain further concessions from the Government of France. That appears from the sentence previous to the one quoted—His Majesty's Government do not think that on the main question of principle involved there is any prospect of coming to an agreement with the French Government which would be in general more acceptable.Quoted alone, that sentence conveys an impression which the Government did not mean to convey. Quoted with the previous sentence, that sentence does not convey the same impression. What is the gravamen of the charge of the Leader of the Opposition? He made a serious charge, not only against individuals in 136 this House responsible for expounding the Colonial policy of the Government, but against a, political Party. He accused us of a great inconsistency in the labour regulations included in this Convention—an inconsistency that amounted to a gross insincerity on the part of the Liberal Party generally, having regard to their speeches on Chinese labour. I think I can show the House that even if there were an inconsistency in the standards of labour we set up in the New Hebrides with those we are endeavouring to set up in South Africa this would involve no insincerity. [Mr. BONAR LAW (Dulwich) laughed.] Let me beg my hon. friend with the nimble mind not to laugh too soon. For the Chinese Labour Ordinance this country and the Government in power are alone responsible; but with regard to whatever has been included in the New Hebrides Convention we are dealing not only for ourselves but with a foreign Power.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
That is only the first stage of the argument I am going to submit to the right hon. Gentleman. Even if there were an inconsistency, we were not free agents in regard to the details of the Convention, but were compelled to proceed through a bargain with an outside Power for whom we entertained the greatest respect, and whom we desired largely to meet. What is the Convention? I ask the House to cast back its mind to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. The impression left on the mind of every Member who heard the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was that the Government had become directly responsible for some disreputable labour arrangement, for some marked and notable derogation from the standard of labour which we were endeavouring to uphold in other parts of the British Empire; and that we had been parties to a Convention which, from our point of view was wholly objectionable and inhumane. Let me read one or two passages from the so-called disreputable labour clause—Engagement of Women and Children.137 That is the heading of Article 33.Women shall only be engaged, if they are married, with the consent of their husbands; if they are unmarried, with the consent of the head of the tribe.Until that Article came into force they might be engaged without the governing authority of these two important restrictions. Article 36 is headed—Sickness of Labourer on Landing.It says—Every native recruited who, on landing, is found to be in such a state of health as to incapacitate him for the work for which he was engaged shall be cared for at the expense of the recruiter, and the time spent in hospital and the time during which he is unable to work shall be included in the term of engagement.That is not on the face of it an improper Article. Then, there is Article 43—Transfer of Engagement.No transfer of a contract of engagement shall be permitted unless freely accepted by the labourer and authorised by the Resident Commissioner entitled to receive the notification of engagement or by the person appointed for the purpose.Under the Chinese Labour Ordinance there could be transfer from one mine to another without restriction.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether there is not a power of transfer in the British Guiana regulations?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
It is quite true that in some respects the British Guiana Ordinance differs from the Chinese Ordinance, not in an evil direction; but what I am endeavouring to show is that these regulations which we have put forward are better than the Chinese Ordinance which the right hon. Gentleman was endeavouring in his speech 138 to justify and even to extol. Let me read to the House Article 44—Employers must treat their labourers with kindness.Let me draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this—They shall refrain from all violence towards them.Not an improper Article; and I think I remember advice of a different character having been issued by a high officer of State responsible under the late Government for the working of this very Labour Ordinance the right hon. Gentleman is so much concerned to defend.Employers must further provide their labourers with adequate shelter, the necessary clothing, and medical care in case of illness.Article 45—Labourers shall not be obliged to work except between sunrise and sunset. They shall have daily, at the time of their midday meal, at least one clear hour of rest. Except for domestic duties and the care of animals—an important point by the way—labourers shall not be obliged to work on Sundays.Article 40—Wages shall be paid exclusively in cash.And let me point out to the House that these are not provisions which are being made for administering a Labour Ordinance in a highly developed, highly civilised State. They are provisions which are being made in islands in which nothing but anarchy prevailed, in which no regulation has ever previously been enforced; and I say without hesitation that these regulations are in themselves excellent and defensible from every point of view. I say that, by contrast with the system of anarchy that they replace, they constitute a great and undeniable advance towards a humane system of labour and control throughout the islands in question.
It is quite true that in one important respect we have differed from the view which the Colonies took in regard to these 139 labour regulations. Let me tell the House that the whole of these regulations deal with the system of indentured labour which prevails within the group of the New Hebrides. There are many islands, and the labourers very often work in a different island from the one in which they were born and in which they live, but all the islands are part of one well-marked group, and have one well defined geographical classification. The Australian Government in their despatch indicated that they would have preferred that we should have not allowed the regulation which we imposed on the system of indentured labour to include any permission to natives of the New Hebrides to engage in labour outside the group. We took the opposite view. We thought it ought to be open to them, if they chose to engage themselves, under proper conditions, to work in other portions of the islands. We may have been right or we may have been wrong, but we had two reasons. First of all we had to consider the other party to the agreement, France. The employment of these natives has not hitherto been very large outside the particular group; and, now that Queensland, objecting to this class of labour, objecting to the introduction of tropical labour of this kind into countries where white men can do the work and where there is a possibility of establishing a high standard of labour, has refused to receive any more Kanakas, the question of the employment of these natives outside the group is not one of very much importance. But there are the interests of France and New Caledonia to consider, and we have had to move in this matter step by step with France. But what is the avowed reason which we have given for having refused to limit the employment of these indentured labourers to their own particular group? I will give it in the very words of my noble friend—His Majesty's Government see no reason why recruiters should be prevented, subject to proper restrictions, from giving to natives work outside the group if they desire to do so. 140 Settlers in the New Hebrides being free from the expense of recruiting can offer wages as high as any outside employer. His Majesty's Government are under no obligation to assist local proprietors to secure labourers at less than the current rate in the Pacific.Now, I am bound to say I am not conscious of any reason for compunction or regret in reading that to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman accuses us of gross inconsistency in that there is a regulation for the repatriation of the labourer such as was in the Ordinance for Chinese labour. The House will be pleased to learn that it was on this point that the right hon. Gentleman displayed the largest measure of inaccuracy. I am going to point out where the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken as to what the existing facts are. I am sure it would be a very damaging point if it could be sustained. I will read to the House the Repatriation Articles in the draft Convention—Every labourer who has completed his term of engagement shall be returned to his home at the first convenient opportunity by and at the expense of his employer. (2) Such labourer shall be taken back to the place where he was recruited, or if this is impossible, to the nearest place thereto, from which the labourer can, without danger, join his tribe. (3) In the case of unjustifiable delay exceeding one month in returning a labourer, the Resident Commissioner concerned, or the person appointed for the purpose, shall provide, at the expense of the employer, for the return of the labourer to his home at the earliest opportunity. (4) In the case of persistent ill-treatment of a labourer, the Resident Commissioner concerned shall have the right, after two written warnings addressed to the employer, to cancel the contract and provide for the return home of the labourer at the employer's expense.Now in all this there is an obligation on the employer to repatriate the labourer at the conclusion of his contract, but there is not an obligation upon the labourer to return unless he wishes to do so. The right hon. Gentleman has fallen into a mistake; there is no compulsion upon the labourer to return against his will to the New Hebrides, from New Caledonia, Fiji, or Queensland. But I say, without 141 any hesitation, that nothing in this Convention prevents the Kanaka who has moved from one island in the New Hebrides to another to earn his living under indentures from going on working in that very island, or from bringing his wife and children with him to settle in that island, and remaining there for the rest of his life. Well then, what becomes of this great act of Party hypocrisy of which we have been guilty. What becomes of the charge which the right hon. Gentleman has made against us of having vitiated, by neglect or by deliberate hypocrisy, the whole argumentative position which we have assumed and adopted upon the question of Chinese labour in South Africa? I am sorry to detain the House so long upon such a snail point, but I think it is a matter which ought to have a prompt answer. The foreign relations of the Colonies, as transacted by the Mother Country, involve questions of great complexity and great difficulty, and I am certainly not one of those who think that our machinery for dealing with these matters has at the present time reached its final form, but I am quite certain of this, that the practice of selecting those difficult and delicate negotiations involving Foreign Powers and involving the Colonies of the British Empire for the purpose of making Party scores, is not likely to be conducive to either international or Imperial advantage. As a Government I think we are entitled to congratulate ourselves that, when such a very large programme of legislation and so many important subjects of debate have been raised on the meeting of Parliament in the King's Speech, the light hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, looking for subjects to attack the Government upon, can find scarcely any to occupy an hour's speech within all the wide range of the subjects which were at his disposal, but has to ramble off to Antipodean archipelagoes, and even when he journeyed so far a field, and toiled so long, is able to 142 bring home nothing more fruitful or more advantageous than a homely mare's nest.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said that they had just heard a remarkable speech from the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, who had accused the Leader of the Opposition of having gone to remote corners of the world in order to obtain a Party score. That was a somewhat remarkable statement by the hon. Gentleman, whose Party engaged themselves in the discussion of Chinese labour for nearly three years before the late Government left office. Fortunately the two points with which they had to deal that evening were questions of fact; they appeared in the Blue-book, and were really beyond all controversy. He would try without indulging in any flights of rhetoric to remind the House of what these issues were. His right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, after alluding in his speech to other Colonies in which similar tactless caprice had been displayed by the present Government, dealt with the negotiations concerning the New Hebrides. It was not very probable that any of the self-governing Colonies—either Newfoundland, or Australia or the Cape—would be in a mood which was other than sensitive when the Under-Secretary had informed Natal that self-government had been granted too soon. He maintained that his right hon. friend was justified in saying that the Colonial Office had been tactless in regard to the New Hebrides. The facts were that for some considerable time there had been disputes and controversies in regard to the land claims of the French and the English in the New Hebrides, and a single French Commissioner was about to discuss the matter with a single representative of the Colonial Office. At that time the Australian Government wrote stating that while they had always been in favour of the annexation of the New Hebrides, they were willing, in view 143 of the long delays inherent in the settlement of this question, to have a joint Protectorate of England and France over the islands considered, and for that purpose the Australian Government said that they would be glad to know what were the views of the Home Government, and on what terms the Protectorate could be established. In view of that request, after telegraphing to New Zealand for their consent, the Colonial Office, with the sanction of Lord Lansdowne at the Foreign Office, said that without any official sanctity they were willing to examine the question with France. The French Government themselves put it in this way: that it would be a simple exchange of views not having any official character; and Lord Elgin himself, when dealing with the point, had described it as a wish expressed by New Zealand and Australia that the French Government should be sounded on the matter. Then the present Government came into power, and what did they do? They immediately transformed the character of the inquiry which had been agreed to and asked for by Australia and New Zealand, into one of the most formal and official that could be imagined, terminating in a signed and sealed Convention subject only to the ratification of the Colonial Governments. The inquiry which led to this Convention lasted a month, and during that period not a single question on the subject was addressed to Australia or New Zealand. The Prime Minister had said that the Colonial Office knew all about the views of the Colonies, but the Colonies did not hold that opinion. It was tactless and foolish on the part of the Government, if they did not know the opinion of the Colonies, not to telegraph to them to obtain it. Instead of that the hon. 144 Gentleman who represented the Colonial Office in this House, wrapping himself up in the great wisdom and great knowledge he had of these transactions—
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
Then two responsible Ministers—the Prime Minister and the hon. Member for North West Manchester—knew nothing about the matter. These transactions took place in January and February, 1906, and it was absolutely impossible for them to go at length into these matters, and ludicrous to assert that they knew the views of the Australian Colonies. In those circumstances, what was more natural than that a complaint couched in extremely warm terms should come from Australia' The Under-Secretary had denied what had been stated by the Leader of the Opposition, that this elaborate Convention with seventy or eighty clauses was presented to the Colonies to take or leave. He was astonished at the hon. Gentleman's hardihood. These were the words—His Majesty's Government do not think that on the main question of the principles involved there is any prospect of coming to an agreement with the French Government, which would be in general more acceptable, and that the Draft Convention must be accepted or rejected as it stood.What his right hon. friend had said was, that they must either take it or leave it, and he therefore thought that his right hon. friend was justified absolutely in saying that the Government had omitted to take those precautions and those measures which would have secured the assent of the Governments of Australia and New Zealand and that local information which might have been perfectly easily obtained, and the Government 145 had omitted to give the Governments of New Zealand and Australia any information during the course of this elaborate inquiry. Accordingly the Government had blundered into this Convention, many parts of which he dared say were good, giving the maximum of offence to the Colonies, and the minimum of information. There was a second point. Broadly speaking the Under-Secretary appeared to justify the making of this Convention with respect to indentured labour by His Majesty's Government, by saying that they were dealing with savages who were and had been in a state of disorder. Let it be perfectly understood. He did not for a moment say that indentured labour was wrong, or was to be condemned, with respect to these savages in the New Hebrides. He was perfectly certain that the gentlemen who drew this Convention, believed, as they believed, that indentured labour was legitimate; but what did hon. Gentlemen opposite think of that? What was their position, or rather what ought to be their position about it? He saw opposite the hon. Member for North Camberwell, whose promotion they were all glad to see. He thought the hon. Member won his spurs almost entirely over Chinese labour. Then the hon. Gentleman who now represented the Home Office dealt with it, day after day, upon questions as to minimum wages, compulsory service, and identification marks, and by these means the late Government were held up to obloquy in this House and throughout the country. Did the Government think that their reputation as sincere men would be enhanced when, at the very time that they and their followers were defaming the late Government throughout the country, and libelling 146 them by displaying scurrilous pictures dealing with Chinese labour, they were in January of that year actually confirming this Convention, with full notice of its contents, and without the slightest urgency or economic necessity? The hon. Gentleman said that that was inconsistent but not insincere.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
No, I carefully said it was not inconsistent, but that even if it had been inconsistent it would not necessarily have been insincere.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said he would put it to the hon. Gentleman's supporters, some of whom were very sincere in this matter, whether it was sincere Under this Convention to which the Government had given, without the slightest heed, without the slightest economic necessity, their imprimatur, a little girl of twelve, provided she were a suitable height, might be recruited in the New Hebrides, and taken hundreds of miles from that group, for a period of three years. The group itself was 300 or 400 miles long and she might be taken to Fiji. Her wages might be 10s. a month, about a quarter of the minimum wage of the Chinese labourers, and she might be compelled to work in the tropics with an hour's interval from sunrise to sunset. These savages, or as the High Commissioner called them, sylvages or men of the woods were entitled to more protection from the Government than the Chinese who were perfectly well able to take care of themselves. This girl would be bound to remain in the employment of her employer for three years, and there were no holidays except Sundays prescribed. She might be kept at work beyond the three years if she had left her employer or neglected her work. 147 There was a penalty on her if she deserted her employment, and on anybody who harboured her. Was that the treatment which hon. Gentlemen opposite of humane tendencies desired to see meted out to children in the tropics? Lastly, there was a repatriation clause which, notwithstanding the quibbles of the Under-Secretary, would compel the employer to repatriate the girl at the end of her period of service, a provision, reasonable, as he thought, but which, in the case of the Chinese Ordinance was interpreted by hon. Gentlemen opposite as the badge of slavery. There was, he repeated, a repatriation clause which made it compellable upon the employer to repatriate that girl at the end of the period of service. He would read the clause. He was sure the Under-Secretary, though he was not a lawyer, knew what the meaning of the word "shall" was and that it was imperative. The article provided—That every labourer who has completed the term of his engagement shall be returned to his home at the first convenient opportunity at the expense of the employer.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
If the labourer declined to go, there is nothing in this Convention to put any compulsion upon him.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said the only provision in this Convention which was binding as between ourselves and France was that every labourer who had finished his engagement should be repatriated. That was a positive obligation on the contracting party, which was Great Britain, and that clause might be insisted upon by anybody who was so disposed. ["Oh."] Apparently he had not 148 convinced hon. Gentlemen opposite, but he had tried to convince them on many occasions that the repatriation clause of the Chinese Convention had nothing to do with slavery and failed, but it was provided by the present Government that the New Hebrides native "shall" be repatriated.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH, Fifeshire, E.)
Does the right hon. Gentlemen say that that means that the labourer cannot remain?
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
contended it meant that. It was provided that if the labourer was not returned he should be returnable. He thought the House knew perfectly well his views as to indentured labour, and there were certain terms even in the Transvaal Ordinance which he never pretended to like, but there was no term in the Transvaal Ordinance which approached in its hardship and rigour to this clause which enabled a little child of either sex to become the subject of indentured labour. After all they had said about the Transvaal Ordinance, Members opposite, and certainly neither the hon. Member for Newbury nor the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight, dared defend this provision. Neither could they defend the wage of 10s. per month. Pages of abuse were levelled at the Unionist Government for injuring the cause of labour because the Chinaman on the average had a wage of about 1s. 6d. a day. This could not be said to have been done carelessly. The Under-Secretary must have known of the protest of the Australian Government. The late Government was blamed for 149 not following the advice of the Australians in Colonies in which they were not interested. In this case the Australians intervened in a matter in which they were concerned. That fact ought to have arrested serious and special interest. The Australian Government protested in the first place against these unfortunate savages being sent beyond the tribal region. His Majesty's Government neglected that protest, and said they should be allowed to go to Fiji and New Caledonia. He presumed that the Australians protested because they thought the importation of these men into Fiji or New Caledonia would lower the standard of wages, and disturb the labour market. But the Government which had been wafted into power on the tide of that very objection against Chinese labour would not listen. The Australians also protested that too great leniency was shown to the employers, and that it was only after a third offence that the contract might be cancelled; and they suggested that the range of penalties should be increased. The Government had given a pledge that they would veto any ordinance in South Africa which contained a repatriation clause similar to this. What sort of case would they have for action of that kind? He believed all Parties in the Transvaal had insisted in their election addresses that these ordinances in the Transvaal should be re-enacted until native labour should be substituted for Chinese labour. He thought he was accurate in saying that was the position General Both a had taken up. The Government had taken it upon themselves to say they would veto that which was going to be unanimously sought by the Colony to which they had given self-government. That 150 would be a serious thing to do—to veto an ordinance which had anything like the unanimous assent of a self-governing Colony. But what would be the Government's position when the Colony came to them and said, "Veto this? Why you yourselves, without the slightest necessity, without any economic pressure, any war, or desolation of the country, without a single petition in its favour have instituted a system of indentured labour which contains a repatriation clause, a clause for a minimum wage of 10s. a month, and an obligation to work between sunrise and sunset."
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
If the employer desiredit—and the employer in the Fijis was very like the employer in the Transvaal—he was at liberty, if he gave an hour's rest for dinner, to exact labour between the hours of sunrise and sunset. If there was that right on the part of the employer, then the hon. and gallant Member would admit there was a corresponding obligation to work on the part of the employed. What was the position in which the Government was going to place itself? They had promised to veto the Transvaal Ordinance, even if it was returned to them by an immense majority of that self-governing Colony. He contended that any such action would expose the Government in the eyes of the whole civilised world to the charge of hypocrisy and imposture. He maintained that the case of the late Government, strong though it was, was infinitely stronger now, because it was now shown that 151 honourable men like Lord Elgin and other members of the Cabinet who had made this Convention, when their minds were not bent upon Party obloquy, or in heaping abuse on the late Government and Lord Milner, were substantially doing here that which they formerly denounced.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said the complaint of English interference with the New Hebrides was, he believed, familiar to everybody, but the original interference in connection with these islands came at the suggestion of the Australian and New Zealand Governments. As far back as 1887 we assumed a certain jurisdiction over the New Hebrides. In that year we, with France, assumed a joint protectorate over them, with power to interfere in case of any disorder, and to retain a constant surveillance and scrutiny of everything that happened in the New Hebrides. The action of the Government in passing this Convention over the head of the Australian and New Zealand Governments was not only inconsistent and improper, but an action which twenty years ago, when the views of Australia and New Zealand were not so favourable to this country as they were now, would have induced them to protest as sharply and as antagonistically as was the case with regard to New Guinea and New Caledonia. We should have had no locus standiin the Polynesian Islands to-day had it not been that Queensland first insisted on annexing them on behalf of that Colony, and then turning to the Home Government and saying, "We have done this in our interest in the Pacific." The same thing was done with New Caledonia. Then in 1887 came the question of the New Hebrides. 152 From 1887 to the present day France and England had had a protectorate over the New Hebrides, and were ready to regulate any case of injustice by what might be called Marshall Acts. Under these circumstances, and having regard to the fact that for twenty years the Australian and New Zealand Colonies had agitated for a greater and more definite control over the New Hebrides, in his opinion the action of the Government in entering into this Convention was imperious, and not Imperial. Of the sixty-eight articles in this Convention, the Australian and New Zealand Government criticised thirty in a most elaborate and definite manner, as was shown by a great many pages of the Blue-book. Mr. Alfred Deakin, the Prime Minister of Australia, pointed out that the inquiry lasted a month, and not a single communication was made to the Australian Government during that time, nor were they consulted on the matter. The Prime Minister of New Zealand also said that he would not take the responsibility of advising the Secretary of State to accept the draft prepared in London, at all events in its present form. In spite of the criticism, extending over thirty articles of the Convention, only two or three unimportant amendments were made in it, after the protests of the New Zealand and Australian Governments; yet this was done by a Government which claimed to desire that the Colonies might be considered in every way.
And, it being Eleven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned. Debate to be resumed to-morrow.
§ Adjourned at one minute after Eleven o'clock.