HC Deb 06 February 1908 vol 183 cc1111-219

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [29th January], "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth—

Most Gracious Sovereign,

"We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Lehmann.)

Question again proposed.

SIR WILLIAM HOLLAND (Yorkshire, W.R., Rotherham)

continued his speech, interrupted at Eleven o'clock yesterday, in support of the following Amendment:—" But we humbly beg to represent to your Majesty that in the interests of the trade and commerce of the United Kingdom it is highly important that the status of the Board of Trade should be raised, and that it should be placed on a par with the office of a Secretary of State." The hon. Member said: When business was interrupted last night, I confess I rather envied the proposer of a Bill which, I believe, is to be introduced probably during this session of Parliament, viz., a Bill to provide for giving us a little more, daylight; because I understand under the provisions of the Bill clocks maybe stopped ocasionally for a few minutes, and such a provision would have been very useful to me last night and would have prevented my intrusion on the House to-day. But the few remarks that I had intended to make on this occasion I have decided to abandon in order to have the great advantage of having my Amendment supported from the front Opposition bench, as it will be in a moment, and the very competent support that I am to receive from that quarter would be impossible if I were to make a speech, because the hon. Member who is going to support me has to leave the House in a few minutes. But I feel that the pledge that I gave necessitates my referring to the hon. Member for Derby who some months ago, as the House will recollect, played such a conspicuous and noble part in the settlement of the railway dispute by the competent and efficient way in which he represented the railway workers. The hon. Member for Derby told me that he was exceedingly anxious to have an opportunity of supporting my Amendment, and that the experience which he had had on that occasion would have enabled him to speak with greater authority than anybody can of the efficient services in the cause of industrial peace rendered by the Board of Trade. But, unfortunately, in consequence of certain railway matters that hon. Gentleman cannot be in his place to-day, and I have to fulfil the pledge I gave him that I would at least mention the fact that he was cordially in favour of my Amendment. I will not trouble the House any further, but I beg to move.

MR. BONAR LAW (Camberwell Dulwich)

I rise to second this Amendment, and my reason for doing so is that I happened to be a member of the Board of Trade when the last Government was in power. There is one consideration which I think the House ought to keep in view in dealing with a matter of this kind. It is a well-known fact that when a Member of the House becomes connected with a Department, he becomes a partisan of that Department. That applies to all alike, and therefore a certain amount of discount will perhaps attach to my advocacy of the present proposal. Perhaps the best way to judge of the proposal is to look at the objections urged to it as indicated by the Amendments now on the Paper. My right hon. friend the Member for Wimbledon proposes that the change should apply equally to the Local Government Board. It was inevitable that he should make the Amendment, because it was the policy of the Government of which I was a member. We were in favour of raising the status of both, but I am certain that my hon. friend does not mean by that, that if the Government will not do both he will not support the Motion for raising the status of the one, and assume a dog-in-the-manger attitude towards the Board of Trade. It is not necessary to point out distinctions in the position of that Department, but it might be done without minimising the importance of others. In many ways the vital interests of the country are affected by the way in which the business of the Board of Trade is conducted. That Department deals not only with trade in the United Kingdom, but under the principle established by the late Government, with branches all over the Empire, and I would remind the House that it was found expedient, when Mr. Gerald Balfour was at the Department and was arranging the Commercial Treaty with Roumania, to send the head of the Commercial Department to assist in the matter, on the ground that he was better able to do so than anybody else, because, owing to ramifications of the Board of Trade, he knew more about it. The next Amendment is that of the hon. Member for Glasgow, who suggests an inquiry into the duties assigned to the Board of Trade, the Home Office, and the Local Government Board, and to this I personally have no objection with a view to introducing something nearer equality in Cabinet position, even if it is necessary to cut oft' something from above. I see no reason for the distinctions in the Cabinet. But the House must bear in mind that such an inquiry would take a long time, and if there is a strong case for this change on its merits we should urge the Government to make the change irrespective of what might be done in other Departments later. I do not believe it will be found practicable or desirable to separate labour from the work of other Departments, and if there is an idea that one Minister should advocate the claims of labour and that a Minister of Commerce should have charge of the interests of employers, that would be the worst possible change. It would put an end to the work of conciliation and be extremely undesirable. Possibly it might be urged that the head of the Board of Trade should be a business man. That view I have never held. In such a position there should be the best man of ability and character available apart from what his training may have been. Experience has shown there is no necessity for any restriction of the kind. What is the strongest ground for making this change? It is that the President of the Board of Trade stands always between capital and labour in any dispute that may arise, and no Minister of the Crown holds a position in which more depends upon the skill and judgment with which his duties are carried out. The success of his conciliation powers depends as much on the Minister's personality as upon the office which he holds. In the railway dispute there was an illustration of that. We all of us know that the President of the Board of Trade is a man of ability and courage, and both sides know that the position he took up was the position of the Government; and the fact that there could be no attempt to get behind him to the Government made the right hon. Gentleman's task the easier. On all grounds it is desirable there should be a man of the first rank at the head of the Board of Trade. Many distinguished men have filled the position in the past, but they have all been on their way up, they have never come back, and a man of an entirely different class might be there on another occasion. It is no disparagement to say that Cabinet Ministers are not all heaven-born statesmen. There is a head and a tail, and the point to consider is whether this Department should be under the head or the tail. I hope hon. Gentlemen who take part in this discussion will put away from their minds whether or not other Departments should also be raised, and consider whether they have a strong enough case now to allow this change to be made.

Amendment proposed— At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'But we humbly beg to represent to Your Majesty that in the interests of the trade and commerce of the United Kingdom it is highly important that the status of the Board of Trade should be raised, and that it should be placed on a par with the office of a Secretary of State.' "—(Sir William Holland.)

Question proposed, "That these words be there added."


I am of opinion that it is a question whether this subject, which is not a matter for Party discussion, is conveniently raised in the form of an Amendment to the Address, but I do not complain that my hon. friend has availed himself of the opportunity. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment has dwelt on the personal aspect of the matter, but that is rather to be deprecated. True, Cabinet Ministers are not all heaven-born, nor are Under Secretaries or any class of politicians; but all in varying degree endeavour to make their contributions to the common stock. I am anxious in the few remarks I am going to make upon the matter to take it entirely out of the sphere of controversy. The arguments of my hon. friend last night went not so much to the political head of the Department as to the Department itself. As to the expediency of changing the title of the holders of the office, that, to my mind, is of very little importance. What is really of importance is that a Department such as the Board of Trade, which, by general consent, has aggregated a number of the most important functions of the State, and which comes in contact with so many different bodies, and with our commercial interests both at home and abroad, should no longer be considered as being in a position of subordination as regards status to other ancient offices which, perhaps, in the course of time have not developed to the same extent, nor shown the same amount of useful activity. So far as the present holders of the offices referred to in the various Amendments are concerned, the President of the Board of Trade and the President of the Local Government Board,—I know from what they have said that it is their intention that any change which the House should ultimately agree to make in the status of those Departments should not affect in any way their own personal emoluments. I pass from that to what is really the case presented by my hon. friend. I agree, in the main, with what he has said. I think the case has been made out, or a case can be made out, for what is called raising the status of the Board of Trade; but, as I said a moment ago, that is a matter which does not so much affect the head of the Department as the whole of its personnel. It is a very great hardship in the present arrangements of our Civil Service that officers who are performing important duties in a Department like the Board of Trade, duties as responsible and as delicate, and certainly as laborious as those of any other Department, are, from hierarchical rules of service, put in an inferior position, as regards not only emoluments, but also status. It is far more important in their interests than in the interests of the transient and embarrassed phantom who, from time to time, is nominally and ostensibly at their head. It is far more in the interests of getting the best men for the work, and for the most efficient discharge of these duties, that changes of this kind should be advocated. As I have; said, a prima facie case has been mach out in regard to the Board of Trade; but I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that it is possible to treat that Department by itself and separate it from all the other Departments. I do not think it is possible to do it. We all feel that it is not merely sentiment, that it is not merely prejudice, for when gentlemen like my right hon. friend the Member for Wimbledon or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, who formerly discharged with conspicuous ability the duties of President of the Local Government Board, come forward and say: "You must take into account the Local Government Board also, when dealing with the Board of Trade," they are thinking most not of their own personal position, but rightly, properly, and legitimately of the great work which they know is being done by officers in that Department, and of the new and invidious distinctions which would be created if we raised the status of the Board of Trade and did nothing for the Local Government Board. I am not using that as an argument against dealing with the Board of Trade, but I do say that we cannot deal with these matters separately. Looking at the Paper I see another Amendment which I believe represents the views of Chambers of Agriculture, proposing that similar treatment should be given to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. Then there is an Amendment by my hon. friend behind me, on which, as a Scottish Member, I should have very great difficulty in expressing an adverse opinion, with reference to the Scottish Office. Various other offices, I believe, are mentioned in the Amendments, and if the matter is to proceed to a conclusion, we will have to consider what is the proper course for the Government and the House to take under the circumstances. I think I ought to say this also. My hon. friend the Member for Glasgow has an Amendment which I do not read quite in the same sense as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I cannot think that my hon. friend means, or those who are associated with him mean, that we should bring all the duties relating to labour subjects into one Department. I do not think he means to put that in any partisan spirit as representing labour distinguished from capital, and I cannot imagine a proposal which would be more hostile to the real interests of labour. But I read my hon. friend's proposal in a totally different sense. I read it to mean rather that the time has come when we should' group under the head of one Department the various subjects which are connected with it. I will give one illustration, which I think will probably bring out my hon. friend's intention. I was for some time at the Home Office, where there is, among its Departments, a Department of Mines. Across the road, the Board of Trade has under its control and supervision the Department of Merchant Shipping and Harbours and Railways. From a scientific and logical point of view, it is very difficult to justify the segregation of these various subjects, which really touch one another at a thousand points, and as to which any Ministers who deal with them ought to have a common policy. But, as it is, they are dealt with by the heads of different Departments; and I imagine it is with the object of dealing with that state of things that my hon. friend has given notice of his Amendment. Is not the general inference to be drawn—an inference which I think the House, with almost unanimous consent, will draw from the considerations which I have ventured to lay before them—that the time has come when an inquiry ought to be made into the whole matter of the allocation of functions, and the relative status and emoluments of one Department compared with others, with a view to seeing whether we cannot arrive—as I think we can by general agreement—at a change which would redistribute the duties of the Departments more scientifically, which would remove invidious distinctions, and which would tend to the advantage and efficiency of the public service? If the House agrees with that view, as I rather think it does, I would suggest that my hon. friend might be content with this very useful discussion and not press his Amendment.

MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)

I entirely agree with the suggestion which has come from the Government. While I fully admit what has been stated by the mover and seconder, yet as one who has been associated with a particular Department, I feel that one obtains a knowledge of its work and business which cannot be possessed by anybody who has not served. I have had the fortune to serve for ten years as Secretary and as President of the Local Government Board, and if the Amendment had stood by itself, it would have been my duty as well as my pleasure to put before the House to the best of my ability the claims of the Local Government Board to consideration. But that duty is rendered unnecessary by the announcement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made, in the first place that the whole question is to be the subject of an inquiry; and, in the second place, which in my judgment is the most vital part of the Chancellor's statement, that the inquiry is not to be limited merely to the status of one Department, or the claims of an individual to special recognition, but is to include the possibility of redistribution of the duties of the different Departments, so that in future they shall be allotted in a rather more businesslike and scientific fashion than they are at present. I entirely agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the personal aspect of the case is not by any means the most important; indeed, it is hardly worthy consideration; but still, I think the personal aspect cannot be altogether excluded. The right hon. Gentleman will remember occasions when Government questions of grave importance connected with legislation have been in passage through a Department, and when something occurred in the Government which led to the vacating of one of the higher offices. In such circumstances it would be only proper and reasonable that the occupant of a subordinate position—I suggest this now for consideration—should feel that he was entitled to promotion, and if he did not get the office it would be regarded as a slur in his particular case. But that must be the case so long as there is this great distinction between the different offices. I may be permitted to say one word on the Chancellor's argument as to the personnel of the Departments, as a whole. The Local Government Board, the Board of Trade, and certain other Departments of the permanent Civil Service, are doing the same work. They have letters dealing with the same subjects, the same kind of operation is gone through, the same extensive operations are embarked upon as in other Departments, yet the work is not only done at a different salary by men who have given their whole fives to the work, but they have a different pension when the time comes for them to retire. That, I submit, cannot be fair in regard to civil servants who fill these great Public Departments. Therefore, I heard with the greatest satisfaction the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement that the inquiry will not be limited to one Department; and I hope the terms of reference will be wide enough to enable full investigation to be made into the duties and emoluments of the respective Departments. May I say one word with regard to the Chancellor's announcement in regard to the President of the Board of Trade and the President of the Local Government Board? We, when in office, made proposals which were more limited in their character, and I am now very glad that they should be reconsidered. In connection with those proposals we had to announce that the existing holders of offices would not take advantage of any improvement in the position of their respective Departments. I was at the time one of the holders of office who felt that we could not recommend a change of that kind without basing our arguments on a self-denying attitude, saying: "If Parliament does it, we will not benefit from it." But I must point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that at that time we were getting, at all events, towards the end of the Parliament. There is this difference on the present occasion, that we are only in the middle of the Parliament; so, if the thing is right, if the Government decide to do it, and if Parliament approves of this change being effected, obviously it would be right that the existing holders of these offices should not be bound by any precedent which may have been set; and I earnestly hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will do his best to press upon his colleagues the abandonment of this policy of self-denial, in respect of a change which, in the circumstances, is one of justice, not in regard to themselves only, but in regard to the work of the departments over which they preside. And if the change is made, I hope it will be as soon as the Government are able to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee. As far as we are concerned, we cordially support the suggestion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made, and I sincerely hope that out of this inquiry may come proposals which will lead to the removal of an injustice which I think has pressed hardly upon some of the most hard-worked Departments of the State.

SIR J. RANDLES (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

said he would like to emphasise one view of the question which he was inclined to think might be overlooked. They had heard it stated that the initiation of this movement had come very largely from the Chambers of Commerce. He could not speak with any authority on that side of the question, but he would point out that when the Associated Chambers of Commerce passed the resolution which bore on this question they pointed out the increasing difficulty of promoting British trade particularly owing to the active assistance given by foreign Governments to their own traders, and they urged the Government to bring in at an early date the Bill foreshadowed in the King's Speech of 1905 for the conversion of the office of the Board of Trade into the Department of a Minister for Commerce with the object of extending and increasing its sphere of influence. If a business man had business relations abroad he might have to deal with the Colonial, the Foreign, or the India Office on a purely commercial question, and it was very desirable that there should be a Minister for Commerce with such status, and with such influence and recognised authority for interfering that he might be legitimately approached by a business man, so that through him such representations as might be necessary could be made to the other Departments. In his view it was necessary that the status of the Department should be improved, and that they should have more effective service from it. In these days trade was being worked by widespread organisations and combinations of employers and workmen. The system of small traders was disappearing, and large manufacturers and merchants found it necessary to work together in groups. The same applied to labour and industry. These organisations on either side would more and more require the services of a Minister of State to carry through negotiations which they had failed to bring to a successful issue, and a Minister for Commerce with status and authority might prevent conflicts between these organisations. The hon. Baronet who moved the Motion had pointed out how effective the Patent Laws had been in the reduction of unemployment in certain industries. That was a splendid illustration of the way in which a business man in office at the head of a State Department was able by an intelligent appreciation of commercial facts to bring into operation the powers which his office gave him in order to assist business men. A Minister for Commerce would do much for the trade interests of the country. In view of the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised a full inquiry into the matter he did not think it necessary to say anything further except to impress upon the Government the importance of looking at the question, not only from the official point of view, but from the point of view of those who had initiated this movement, the Chambers of Commerce, the representatives of industry, and to do what they could to increase the efficiency of the Department and to give it such a position in the eyes of the commercial and industrial world that they might more and more look to it for such help as the Government could give. He was very glad to hear the pronouncement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made.

MR. BARNES (Glasgow, Blackfriars)

said it was not his intention to intervene for more than a few moments, but he wanted to state the position of the Labour Party. It had been said by the late Secretary to the Board of Trade that they wanted to put a man forward as Minister for Labour or to collect all those matters pertaining to labour and put them under the charge of one man who should be in some sense a partisan or an advocate of labour claims in the Government Department. It had been put on the other side by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they had in their mind that these matters appertaining to labour should be governed by and put in charge of a Minister for Labour. That was the view that they had in their mind. They had not in mind that partisanship should be perpetuated in the Government or that there should be a man advocating the claims of labour and another advocating the claims of capital inside the Government, but that those matters appertaining to labour that were at present dealt with by conflicting and overlapping authorities and therefore inefficiently, should be dealt with under one head, in the interests not only of labour but of the community as a whole. So far as he had been able I to gather the views of the Government, they would not be disposed to accept all that had been said. From the speech of the mover of the Amendment he rather gathered that it was more a personal matter than anything else, a sort of tribute to the manner in which the President of the Board of Trade had managed to settle certain difficulties. But as he gathered now what was involved was not only a larger salary to the President but larger salaries from the top to the bottom of all in the Board of Trade, which was another matter altogether, and he would not like to be pledged to any proposal of that character. He remembered the Member for Hoxton attributing to the Member for Battersea the idea that no man was worth more than £500 a year. The statement was first made by a man who preceded both those hon. Members and who was perhaps a better man than either, a gentleman who had represented Walworth in that House and who had held it as a firm conviction that men who got more than £500 got it because of the economic dependence and lack of power of those who had to be content with a good deal less. He thought a very good case had to be shown before they as a Party could assent to this wholesale increase of salaries from top to bottom of the Board of Trade or any other Department.

MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

asked whether it was proposed to appoint a Committee of the House to inquire into the subject.


It is obviously desirable that it should be in the first instance a Departmental Committee. Any proposal they make will have to be sanctioned by the House.


hoped the inquiry would be held forthwith, and that, if possible, they would have the Report during the present session. The matter was considered one of very great importance by the commercial classes of the country. It had been before the Chambers of Commerce for years, and they considered that the time had come to do away with the present obsolete system under which the salary was the same as was in vogue in the time of George IV.

MR. BARNARD (Kidderminster)

welcomed what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said as to the consideration that would be given to all the ideas which these various Amendments suggested. He was surprised and regretted that the Member for South Dublin, whilst alluding to the various offices which he had held, seemed altogether to forget the Board of Agriculture. As he had been asked by the Central Chambers of Agriculture to say a word he would like to tell the House that they felt that the whole tendency of modern legislation perhaps necessarily, had been to cater more for trade and commerce for the towns than for the rural districts. He offered no complaint except that if he had moved the Amendment which stood in his name he would have reminded the House more in detail that there was a very strong reason why agriculture should be represented in a powerful manner and that the Department should occupy a high status, because in the proposed legislation they saw that the question of their getting back to the land was always being urged. He reminded the House of a remark made by the President of the Local Government Board that he would give ten years of his life if the effect of that measure might be to take the people back to the land. He quite agreed with him. But while he desired that to happen it appeared a reasonable proposition that if the attempt at legislation touching the land was largely prompted by motives of this kind regarding great social problems, it was a little bit hard that the great agricultural centres should be asked to tax themselves 1d. in the £ for such objects. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin did not mention agriculture. The Central Chamber felt that it was too often forgotten and overlooked. For his part he welcomed what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, and he thanked him very much.

MR. MORTON (Sutherland)

said it was somewhat remarkable that although yesterday the Government cleverly got rid of an Amendment asking them to consider their expenditure in regard to armaments. They had found time for the consideration of an increased expenditure on themselves or some future Ministers. Although it was not a proposition to increase the salaries of the present Ministers it meant an increased expenditure in the future. Instead of raising the salary of the President of the Board of Trade to £5,000 he thought a better course would be to bring down the salaries of some other Minister to £2,000. They had been told that this was a question of status. His opinion was that that was all humbug and was simply being used to get an addition of £3,000 to the present salaries. The question of status was settled when a Minister was made a Member of the Cabinet, for they all had the same status. Occasionally the President of the Board of Trade and the President of the Local Government Board were not Members of the Cabinet and then their status was not so great as that of Cabinet Ministers. It was said that other countries paid their Ministers more than this country did but he did not believe that that statement was correct. The proper comparison was to compare the total payments to all Ministers. In this country the total paid to Ministers amounted to about £180,000 per annum, and that was the sum that changed hands when parties crossed over from one side of the House to the other. He did not know of any other country which had such a large expenditure as £180,000 a year upon Ministers. ["Yes."] The mover of the Amendment said nothing about the status of the Archbishop of Canterbury.


The position of the Archbishop is wholly irrelevant to this discussion.


said that the Archbishop was one of the Commissioners on the Board of Trade, and he (Mr. Morton) hoped that the result of the inquiry might lead to his removal, as the business of the Board of Trade was quite out of his line. They had been told that they ought to make this change on account of the settlement of the railway dispute by the Board of Trade. He was glad a strike was prevented, although he could not say that in his opinion the question had been settled satisfactorily. The only thing that had happened so far was that railway fares had been increased, more especially week-end tickets to Scotland, by some 20 or 30 per cent. He did not know whether there had been a secret deal between the railway companies and the Board of Trade-under which this increase in fares was to be allowed. It had been said that this increase of salaries should be dealt with separately. That was all very well, but if they allowed it in one they would have to allow it in the other departments. No doubt the President of the Local Government Board would think that he was as much entitled to an increase as any other Minister, and the same view might also be taken by the President of the Board of Agriculture, the Secretary for Scotland, the First Commissioner of Works, and the President of the Board of Education. Probably the Postmaster-General would make a similar claim. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the salaries of some of the permanent officials ought also to be considered during the promised inquiry. His experience of these officials was that they were all paid exceedingly well, and the House ought not to increase salaries when financial affairs were in such a bad state in this country, and when the income-tax remained at 1s. in the £. [An HON. MEMBER: Ninepence.] He knew it was partly at nine pence but it was said that he Chancellor of the Exchequer would get as much out of the ninepence as he received when it was 1s., so that did not make any difference. All other people's salaries had been reduced owing to increased taxation and other charges, and in the face of that fact was it right that they should now consider an increase of the salaries of State officials? When they were proposing to spend other people's money in this way they ought to consider the state of the country and the absolute necessity of practising economy in every way. The extraordinary increase from £40,000,000 to £50,000,000 in the expense of governing the country since 1895, could not possibly be kept up, and in the interests of the country it must be reduced. If they were going to increase salaries all round, how could the Government possibly carry out the pledges which had been given in regard to economy?


said that after the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.

MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)

asked if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could give the House any indication as to the nature of the proposed inquiry? He assumed that it would not be by a Parliamentary Committee.


No, it will not be a Parliamentary Committee.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)

, in moving an Amendment to the Address, expressing regret that His Majesty's Plenipotentiaries at the Hague Conference were not authorised to forward the reduction of international armaments by assenting to the principle of the immunity of enemy merchant vessels, other than carriers of contraband, in time of war, said: This Amendment raises a question on which a strong, and I think I might almost say with out any inaccuracy, unanimous opinion has long been held among Chambers of Commerce in this country, and generally among the commercial community. I do not, of course, desire to suggest that in this and other cognate questions there may not be considerations of such paramountcy as to over-ride the views of the commercial community, but the circumstance that there has been for many years unanimity so complete is one which I think entitles the proposal I bring forward to the careful consideration of the House. I am most anxious to make it clear that the Amendment is not in any sense a party one, and that it, is not brought forward in any party spirit. Indeed, I know that it will not secure the assent of a considerable number of my friends with whom I commonly vote. I am so anxious that it should not be supposed that there is any party tinge in the Amendment that I do not propose to carry it to a division, but merley to initiate a debate which I hope may usefully guide public opinion on one of the most pressing questions of maritime policy. Everyone, of course, agrees that the pressure of armaments is growing more and more intolerable among the civilised countries of the world, and the only difference of opinion, if there is a difference of opinion, between the two sides of the House with respect to the proposal brought forward in the Amendment of which the hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs gave notice † is as to the possibility of effecting any change on the lines on which the hon. Gentleman and his friends proposed to proceed. The view which he and. I believe, many others hold is that no mitigation of the present standard of armaments is likely to be obtained by a general or merely abstract declaration. In other words, the only prospect of obtaining a reduction in the pressure of national armaments, is one which depends on a concrete modification of the circumstances which exist to-day, and which lead other nations to think that their interests necessarily demand armaments on the scale presently maintained. The Prime Minister lately contributed to the Nation † The Amendment referred to was as follows:—" But, while rejoicing that Your Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers continue to be friendly, we humbly express our regret that there is no indication of any intention to reduce expenditure on armaments. an article which I read with very great interest, and at the conclusion of that article dealing with the Navy and with the proposals for reduction which it was proposed to put forward at the Hague Conference, he said— It has been suggested that our example will count for nothing because our preponderant naval position will remain unimpaired. The sea power of this country implies no challenge to any single State or group of States. I am persuaded that throughout the world that power is recognised as non-aggressive and innocent of design against the commercial freedom of other States. The only comment I can make upon that is that under the existing cricumstances it is profoundly untrue that, so far as Continental nations are concerned, they regard our naval power as non-aggressive and as innocent of design against their own mercantile marine. The proposition is capable of very simple statement. The statement always put forward by the Admiralty in defence of their policy has been that we possess in the maintenance of the existing Navy an extremely valuable weapon, which is likely to prevent the outbreak of war simply because of the extreme risk which foreign nations would run, having regard to our great maritime superiority of strength and to the fact that we should be able to destroy their mercantile marine or confine their ships to harbours. To say that we cannot agree to a modification of the existing practice because it supplies us with a weapon so powerful that we could destroy their commerce, and to say at the same time that the existence of the Fleet at its present strength supplies no menace at all to Continental Powers is a clear contradiction in terms. I do not desire to discuss this proposal in any way upon a humanitarian basis. It is quite clear that, so far as humanity is concerned, there is nothing inhumane in the maintenance of the existing system. Nor is it an effective method of argument to rest the case for immunity from war upon the supposed analogy between land and sea warfare. In point of fact it is not possible to discuss it by reference to that analogy. The question is—should the existing practice be maintained on its own merits and not in reference to the interests of other countries? I venture to ask the House to consider what advantage the existing system confers upon us, and in the second place what advantage it confers upon our possible enemies, and in relation to the second question, what disadvantage it imposes on us. First of all what advantage do we at the present time derive from the maintenance of the system so strong and so obvious as ought to prevent us from effecting a change. In considering the advantage it is necessary to make one or two preliminary hypotheses. The first hypothesis is the naval supremacy of this country, and the second that we have effectually succeeded in blockading the whole of the coast. These are the circumstances in which the advantage we might gain would most strongly exist. Given these two elements we could on the outbreak of war suppress the carrying trade of any opponent with which we might be likely to be engaged in war. The first observation on that point is that, although it is very true if you suppose the opponent is either France or Germany, it is far from being true or obvious if you suppose that the country with which you are engaged in warfare is not a country east of the Straits of Dover, but some distant-Power. Take the case for instance of Japan or the United States of America. It is perfectly clear that this country cannot be in a position to police seas so distant in such a way as to make it certain that we can suppress the whole, or a considerable part, of the carrying trade of our opponents just as if the Power with which we were engaged were France or Germany. But I am willing to assume that we have been successful in capturing part of the fleet of the enemy with whom we are engaged, and also in confining a considerable portion of their mercantile marine to harbours. So far as any Power with whom we are likely to be engaged is concerned, although that would be a serious blow to them, it would not be a paralysing blow, and it would most certainly not be a destructive blow. Let us consider it first of all in connection with the question of food. So far as food supply is concerned, any opponent would be perfectly able to obtain their own food with almost as much freedom and ease as at the present time. In the first place, they could obtain it in neutral bottoms unless contraband of war, and they could also obtain it through railway sources. Take the case of Germany. Apart from the fact that that country is able to supply the population with a very much larger proportion of the necessary food from its own soil it would also be able to carry in the balance without very serious difficulty by railway. There would not be any insuperable difficulty so far as Germany is concerned, because the oversea trade would come through Dutch and Belgian ports. So far as the commerce of the country other than the food supply is concerned, it is clear in the same way that the effect on such countries would not in any way be as disastrous as to this country. Dealing with general merchandise, although there would, of course, be temporary inconvenience and dislocation, in the same way it could be conveyed by land transit. If that be so, it becomes necessary to ask what is the effectiveness of the blow which is considered so important. Let us ask the Admiralty clearly and explicitly to state the great advantages this country would obtain by the maintenance of the existing practice. Inquiries made in this country and in France and Germany enable us to pronounce a view which, though not so authoritative as the Admiralty view must be, is one which is commonly held by persons other than naval experts. Their view is that the immediate prospect on the outbreak of war with France or Germany would be twofold. In the first place, a considerable part of the seagoing Fleets of these countries would remain in harbour, and, in the second place, a great part of their trade would be carried in neutral bottoms. The disadvantage of that to France and Germany would be obvious. In the first place, they would have to pay additional freight, and, in the second place, for a considerable period they would be inconvencied by the suspension of the carrying trade. Captures would not be considerable even if our supremacy were effectively asserted. The extreme mischief which could be caused to France or Germany would be the temporary dislocation of their carrying trade, which would be partly transferred to neutral bottoms and partly borne by land transport. Their food supply and the importation of raw materials would not be fatally affected. We are told—and it was said, this argument carried great weight with the Admiralty—that the knowledge of France and Germany that at the outbreak of hostilities we might strike a serious blow at their mercantile marine was one of the greatest guarantees of peace. The answer to that is that it would have no such effect. You cannot give a greater guarantee to other countries for peace than the possibility of destroying a powerful and costly Navy costing hundreds of millions of pounds on which sea power depends. You cannot say to Continental countries who have put this mighty and inplacable Armadas to the hazard that a further guarantee of peace is that they may suffer from some temporary dislocation of trade. As long as this country maintains the existing system we can never go to other countries with I an appearance of good faith and say that we propose a general reduction of military armaments. Let me ask the House to consider what is the effect of the existing system as far as we are concerned. And here an obvious reflection occurs at once, and that is that we have more to lose and more to protect than any other Power in the world. This country possesses half the merchant tonnage of the world—very nearly twice the tonnage of the United States and nearly five times that of Germany. What would be the effect on our trade at the outbreak of war? I assume again that this country maintains an effective naval supremacy. Let me remark in passing that since the I Napoleonic wars the existing system has not been tested. The hypothesis is that if we maintain the supremacy of our fleet there would be no danger of an organised attack on our commerce. But the career of the "Alabama" shows that although there might not be an organised attempt to destroy our merchant shipping it is possible by means of swift cruisers to inflict such an amount of injury on our carrying trade as would be, if not irreparable, at least very great. It may be said that the Admiralty can take precautions on the outbreak of war for the protection of our merchant vessels; but it was pointed out in the Report of the recent Commission on Food I Supply that if a portion of the Naval forces at our disposal were deflected from the I main operations of the war for any purpose whatever, the general conduct of the war might be injuriously affected. It is clear that without such protection by the Fleet many English vessels might be destroyed by single enemy cruisers. The Commission considered what the effect of that liability would be upon the interests of this country. They said, in the first place, that the destruction of such vessels would be extremely serious so far as the price of food and raw materials was concerned. The result would be panic prices for both food and raw material. The commercial disaster was not exhausted by that statement, because the experience of previous wars showed that the immediate effect would be the inflation of the rates of insurance and the derangement of business in every class of the community. Therefore, in the first place, we have no inconsiderable risk of the capture of our mercantile marine; inasmuch as the fleet could not afford complete protection to our carrying trade, and in the second place, the price of food and raw materials would be incalculably enhanced. As to the price of food. Since the Declaration of Paris food carried in neutral bottoms would be immune from capture. But there was uncertainty is to the proportion of such bottoms to the total number of importing vessels. The Lords of the Admiralty have taken into consideration interference with our food supply as one of the problems which deserve constant and careful attention. In spite of comparative immunity so far as a portion of our food supplies carried in neutral bottoms is concerned, it is clear that we should otherwise be subject to the greatest risks. I ask what that might mean? So far as the American supply is concerned, some portion of it might be carried in neutral bottoms, but the great share of the American supply is at present carried in British bottoms, and would in the event of war be carried in British bottoms liable to capture. So far as the Australian and Canadian supplies—and these are growing—and the Indian supply are concerned, they would be carried in British bottoms liable to capture. The mere risk or liability to capture would enormously increase the rates of insurance and the effect would be one of the greatest conceivable misfortunes to this country. The figures of the amount of our food which is imported are very striking. Eighty per cent. of our total wheat supplies is imported, 40 per cent. of our meat, 60 per cent. of our bacon, 50 per cent. of our cheese, and 70 percent, of our butter, so that all those necessary means of existence would be exposed to the risk of capture. But it is not merely the case of our food supply; there is the case of the raw materials for our manufactures. The risk of capture of these would cause an immediate paralysis of our commerce on the outbreak of a naval war. Hon. Members for Manchester and Liverpool are well aware that practically the whole of our cotton and almost all our wool are imported from abroad by over-sea routes and the great proportion is carried in British ships, so that apart from the pressure on food on the outbreak of war every mill in Lancashire and Yorkshire would be distressed, and every operative in them would be exposed to the total cessation of employment. Many of these problems are dealt with as if history had not advanced since the days of the Napoleonic Wars. The Lord Chancellor before he reached his present high office wrote a very able letter to The Times—if I may be pardoned the impertinence of saying so—in which he pointed out that in old days it was a distinguishing circumstance that the land routes of Continental countries had not been '" developed. But now that these land routes have been developed you might by one stroke destroy the whole sea-going adit to the markets of Continental countries, but you would not make it impossible for them to live and carry on their business. But with us the result would be very different if an effective blow was struck at our shipping. When it was contended that the effective method of making peace in the days of. Louis, XV. and Napoleon was the destruction of the mercantile marine because the neutral flag did not protect goods carried by sea and land transport was impracticable, the answer was that; we had not then the Declaration of Paris. That Declaration was accepted formally by all the great Powers except the United States, who, however, acted upon it in recent wars. Before that Declaration was agreed to a belligerent was at liberty not only to destroy the merchant vessels of the enemy, but also to detain the vessels of neutrals which contained the enemy's goods, and to seize these goods. Until that rule was altered by the Declaration of Paris it was a most powerful weapon in the hands of a belligerent. Supposing a war broke out to-morrow you would be able but for that Declaration not only to capture the merchant vessels of your enemy and seize their cargoes, but also to prevent their commerce being carried in neutral bottoms, so that you could strike a decisive blow at their trade. Imagine what that would mean if you struck that blow at Germany or America. You would actually prevent any of their trade being carried on at all, because you would say that not one single pound of American or German merchandise should be carried at sea without risk of capture. You then would strike a paralysing blow at the commerce of America or Germany, but the moment we conceded as we did by the Declaration of Paris the right of neutral vessels to carry the goods of our enemies, the practice to which I have alluded became an anachronism, which is of little advantage and indeed "no small disadvantage to this country on the outbreak of war. I should like to call the attention of the House to the circumstance that the views I am pressing upon it have received the support of men of all parties whose opinions are worthy of support. That I think will not be disputed. It is not unworthy of note also, that Mill, who gave serious study to this question, was altogether opposed to the Declaration of Paris, and that he altogether resisted the extension of the immunities I have described; but he also took the view that the moment you had allowed the principle of free ships, free goods, it was desirable to carry the principle further and prevent the whole mercantile marine being captured in time of war. The expressed desire of Germany has never wavered from the earliest days. In 1866 when Germany was at war with Italy and Austria, by arrangement between the belligerent Powers, it was agreed that this practice should be observed, and the German Chancellor aid it down recently that the German policy has undergone no modification. It is undisputed that at the Hague Conference the assent of Germany would not have been withheld had the proposal I make been brought forward. As far as the United States of America are concerned, they have always qualified the Declaration of Paris by saying that they would agree to the abolition of privateering if the immunity from capture was applied to all ships, and the Marcy amendment still continues to represent the deliberate policy of the United States. That very experienced stratagist, Captain Mahon, also at one time expressed the views which have been held by so many experts on this subject, and which I have attempted to lay before the House, though I am aware that he has since modified them. I would ask the House to consider one further observation on the general question, and it is this. When we are told that we can strike a blow at the commerce of our enemies, have those who made that statement any impression of the condition of things prevailing in regard to maritime and fire insurance? The editor of the Economist in a very ingenious speech took an extravagant illustration in order to avoid any misunderstanding. He said supposing that Germany and England together were bombarding San Francisco, and in consequence a fire broke out comparable to the fire which followed the recent earthquake. The result of that fire was to cause many millions of pounds of damage, and interesting questions of international insurance would arise if the fire had broken out in consequence of bombardment. In that case England would have paid £8,000,000 of the insurance and Germany £3,000,000. The result of bombarding the town, therefore, would have been that £11,000,000 would have been paid by underwriters of the bombarding countries. If you apply that illustration to maritime underwriters of mercantile insurances, the result is still more remarkable. It is sufficient for me to say that a large percentage of the mercantile insurance of the world is done in London. So that in order to strike a really damaging blow at the enemy we are face to face with this problem: first of all, he may not bring his ships out of harbour at all; secondly, he may carry his merchandise in foreign ships which are protected; and thirdly, if he does bring his ships out of harbour and you destroy them, English underwriters have to pay a large proportion of the damage. These considerations suggest reasons why the change should be made. So long ago as the days of Lord Palmerston the force of this argument was so clearly felt that Lord Palmerston said— I cannot help hoping that those principles of war which are applied to hostilities by land, may be extended to hostilities by sea, so that private property shall no longer be the object of aggression on either side. I do not think that Lord Palmerston can be said to have been in favour of every country but his own. The Secretary to the Admiralty in his pre-official days expressed himself with most admirable cogency on this subject. Speaking of the proposed Peace Conference, he stated his views in the following forcible and temperate language— Why should there be panic and consequent rise in prices? Why should there be any need for considering any of the numerous and costly experiments which the Commission his had under consideration? The answer is that the danger arises almost entirely from the perpetuation of the usages of 'International Law' permitting a belligerent to seize and hold the defenceless and inoffensive private merchantman plying his beneficial trade on the high seas. That is the opinion of the Secretary to the Admiralty before the Hague Conference, and the Lord Chancellor also said— Last year President Roosevelt declared in favour of a new International Conference at the Hague, and notified that, among other matters for deliberation, the United States intended again to press this very subject on the attention of the Powers. Unquestionably, the American President, with the immense authority he now wields, will exert every effort to attain his point. I trust that His Majesty's Government will avail themselves of this unique opportunity. I urge it not upon any ground of sentiment or of humanity (indeed, no operation of war inflicts less suffering than the capture of unarmed vessels at sea) but upon the ground that in the balance of argument, coolly weighed, the interests of Great Britain will gain much from a change long and eagerly desired by the great majority of other Powers. One is surprised and disappointed to find the proposal so commended before the Government came into office, and with which I and others on this side of the House have long had a warm sympathy—it is a little disappointing to discover that the instructions given through the mouth of the Secretary of State to the Plenipotentiaries of the Hague Conference were so extremely uncompromising in their character, and so exceedingly destructive of the rational argument upon which members of the Government purported to base their position. I think I shall have done justice to the instructions given by His Majesty's Government and to the grounds upon which they purported to base themselves, by saying that although it seemed to them for other reasons the adoption of this immunity is very much to be desired, first from the humanitarian point of view, and in the second place, as far as the material interests of this country are concerned, yet because this concession would destroy the character and usefulness of the commercial blockade it cannot be conceded. There is no other reason given, and I would ask the House to consider what the force of that argument is. What is the commercial blockade? It is a comparatively new doctrine of very doubtful legality, and one in regard to which I venture to say as far as this country is concerned, there is the very gravest doubt whether if we were engaged to-morrow in a large war the great countries of the world would recognise it. Can it possibly be, said that if England were at war with the United States of America, it would be possible for this country to proclaim a blockade of the whole of the Californian seaboard, when the whole operations of the belligerents were confined to the frontiers of Canada? I do not think the Powers will assent to that if the pretensions of commercial blockade are maintained in their present shape. As it at present exists it is enforced on neutral ships. Supposing a war broke out between Germany and the United States, and Germany declared a commercial blockade of American ports, the shipping which would be most interfered with would be English shipping, and disputes and disturbance would arise. There is one concluding observation that I have to make on what is believed to be the position of the Admiralty in this matter. It would be idle and foolish not to treat with the greatest possible respect the opinion of the Admiralty. As we are not yet aware what position they take up, I am not going, to ask the House to divide on this occasion. But when we are asked to consider what the Admiralty's view upon this question is, we are surely entitled to make one or two observations as to what the position of the Admiralty has been in the past in relation to proposed reforms. It will be in the recollection of the House that many years ago the Admiralty produced cogent, convincing, and conclusive arguments to show that steam could not be adapted to the use of ships of war. Shortly afterwards they produced another statement conclusively proving that armour plates could never possibly be used for ships of war. The Admiralty therefore, having made mistakes in matters of this kind, which were proper matters for naval experts, must not be supposed immune from the possibility of mistake in a case which is not a question for naval experts, apart from what is called the strategic problem. I do not claim to be an expert in this matter, but I do say that apart from the strategic problem it is a commercial problem affecting all the large towns and seaports of this country; further, it is a political problem deeply and vitally concerning Members of this House. I have no desire to bring forward this question in any spirit of controversy, but merely as a question deserving the careful consideration of this House, and therefore I propose to withdraw the Amendment, but I trust, although there can be no division upon it on this occasion, there will be a discussion upon it which will result in some explanation from the Government as to the line they take, and some declaration as to whether there shall not be a Committee to inquire into the whole question. It is in this spirit I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.

MR. J. M. ROBERTSON (Northumberland, Tyneside)

It seems to me to be a good augury for pacific developments in the future that the Amendment which I now rise to second should be moved from the other side of the House. I fear the hon. Member who moved it is in a minority in his Party on this matter, but quite apart from his eloquence, the strength of the case he has put forward is such, that I venture to predict a rapidly increasing acceptance of it among all parties. In any case the hon and learned Member has given the Government an opportunity of defending, themselves. I can assure Ministers that the instructions they gave to their representative at the Hague Conference upon this subject caused feelings of surprise and sorrow to many of their warmest supporters. In 1906 a Motion was moved from these benches which made for the restriction of armaments, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs told us that the Government not only accepted, but welcomed the Motion. Then or later, too, he drew a very moving picture of the nations reeling under the self-imposed burdens of their armaments. Yet in the face of that statement Ministers sent to the Hague Conference instructions which did more than anything else could have done to prevent that which we so much desired. I do not think the hon. Member who moved this Amendment treated the despatch quite fairly when he; represented the whole case of the Government as consisting in the argument that if you do away with the commercial blockade you at once remove one incentive to expenditure on armaments. The last paragraph of the despatch reads— At the present time they are unable to assent to a resolution which might, under existing conditions, so limit the prospective liability of war as to remove some of the considerations which now restrain public opinion from contemplating it, and might after the outbreak war tend to prolong it. Here we have a further contention. It is to be noted, however, that the first paragraph of the despatch flatly contradicts this, inasmuch as it expressly affirms that every limitation of the sphere of war tends to discourage all war; so that perhaps the somewhat incoherent character of the despatch justifies my hon. friend in arguing as he did. Behind the Ministers in this matter. I understand, are those mysterious and awful powers, the experts. Well, experts so far as I have been able to ascertain are persons who claim, by status, the right to make assertions without proving them. But the experts have no jurisdiction in a matter of this kind. It is not a matter of naval technique. It is a national question. We know that the various functions of the State re-act and interact upon each other, and as medical men assure us that a multitude of nervous disorders may be set up by the overstrain of the eye, so multitudes of evils may be set up by the overstrain of a particular function of the State. It is for that reason that we must set ourselves up to be our own experts on this occasion. The concluding paragraph of the despatch really amounts to this, that we insist upon retaining the right of capture of private property in time of war, because it is the only way in which we can do serious harm to the enemy with whom we are at war. Of what kind of war could the Government have been thinking when they wrote that paragraph? They could not have been thinking of our experience in the war in South Africa, or the Afghan war, and if they were thinking of a war with Russia, I do not see the force of the paragraph. The expenditure of the Indian Army is adjusted even now to the old fear that Russia will invade India. That fear still holds, even when Russia is oppressed and torn by internal discussions. Still if there is anything in that fear the Government could hardly argue that what we could do to the commerce of Russia if we were at war with her would be of any consideration whatever. In point of fact, when we consider such arguments we are forced to the conclusion that our vast Navy is to an indefinite extent a needless burden forced upon us by the fact that the Government refuses to give up in agreement with other nations the right of capture at sea. Naval experts argue on the one hand that we cannot be made to suffer at sea as we did in old times. In the old wars our commerce suffered very heavily indeed, but naval experts argue that that could not happen to-day; that no enemy that we could have, could have such facilities for taking prizes to port as would countervail the naval advantages that would accrue to us. But if that be true, if the enemy cannot injure us as they formerly could, on what grounds is our Navy still maintained? Looking at the matter in the light of merely lay common-sense, taking the modern conditions into consideration, we are led to the fact that this country, having the largest number of ports and the largest navy, could do more damage to the commerce of other nations than they could do to ours. If that be a reasonable inference, two things follow. First, that the enemy cannot do us much, harm, and the argument that we need a huge navy to protect our commerce falls to the ground. But if it still holds good that we can greatly injure the enemy, then we have the clearest possible ground for foreign Powers re" fusing to decrease their armaments. I venture to say that on a survey of the whole Hague Conference we stand convicted of an impossible proposal. After all the assurances given us by His Majesty's Ministers, we send a representative to the Conference to ask the other Powers to take a great step towards disarmament, while we will not yield that particular claim, which is a far more serious thing than disarmament itself. The other Powers feel that their commerce will suffer enormously from our power of making prizes, and yet, while we maintain our claim, we affect sorrowful surprise at their refusal to check their preparations. All such Hague Conferences must be a failure until we reconsider our position in regard to capture at sea. Another argument of the experts about our commerce, is that our Navy exists not for the purpose of protecting it in time of war, but for defending us from invasion. If that be so, it is clear that the argument that we need a huge navy in order to defend our food supply is an imposture and should be abandoned. However, from any point of view, it cannot be disputed that we have a large number of vessels built for the express purpose of defending our commerce in time of war. The building of cruisers has always been excused on the score that they are needed for the defence of vessels bringing food supplies to this country in time of war. These cruisers have no excuse for their existence if you will fairly face the-dilemma into which the Government are forced in this matter. If they will act upon the fair statement of the case by other naval Powers, they will agree to the abandonment of this somewhat barbarous exception. They are insisting on a course—to use the expression, which I strongly endorse, of the Prime Minister—which is one of the "methods of barbarism" in regard to naval warfare, when they have abandoned it in land warfare. I mean the existence of the right of capture of private commerce. If you are going to capture private commerce on the sea, why not plunder it on the land? I am not going to contend that in time of war you do not break the laws that are agreed upon, but that is part of the general argument against war. His Majesty's Ministers themselves admit, in their own despatch, that nothing tends so much as a step towards the limitation of war, to limit the possibilities of war altogether. As regards the concrete situation with the Powers of Europe, it is this. On the one hand we see Germany increasing her naval armaments; and we say that it is necesary that, for every keel that Germany lays down, we must lay down two. This assumes that the action of Germany is aggressive. I say that we have no right to assume that the action of Germany is aggressive until you abandon this position about the seizure of commerce in time of war. If His Majesty's Ministers only agree to that, then, if Germany continued to lay down other ships, you might say that their attitude was aggressive; but Germany has the right to do this in self defence so long as you maintain that barbarous claim, not justified in the eyes of the world and not justified in the eyes of that large and weighty section of the Government's supporters who care very strongly indeed about restraining ail armaments and wasteful expenditure of all kinds. The despatch to which I have alluded finally suggests that His Majesty's Government would be ready to consider the matter, with other European Powers, if they showed any disposition to reduce their great armies. That is not a resonable proposition in the circumstances. The great armies of the European Powers surely exist, in the opinion of those Powers, for their protection against each other. You cannot rationally say that the armies of Russia, Germany and France are armies formed for any agression against this country. They are an expression of the jealousies of these nations towards each other. We have no right to go to them and say "You must abandon your jealousy of each other and reduce your great armies before you can expect us to give up the right of capture of commerce at sea." The despatch from first to last is unsatisfactory, and, as I have already suggested, incoherent. The sole result, the one outstanding result we have obtained from the Hague Conference is the proposed creation of an international prize court, which instead of being a matter of satisfaction, is rather a symbol of failure to get the reality. We asked for bread, and we have got a stone. In making this protest we have the approval of a very large section of those who wish to give loyal support to His Majesty's Ministers; and on an occasion such as this, when a proposal is put forward in a non-partisan sense by a representative of a small minority on the other side, I trust His Majesty's Ministers will recognise that in this matter their own supporters have a right to the explanation that will be necessary to meet the very serious character of the case.

Amendment proposed— At the end of the Question, to add the words, "But we humbly express our regret that Your Majesty's Plenipotentiaries fit the Hague Conference were not authorised to forward the reduction of international armaments by assenting to the principle of the immunity of enemy merchant vessels, other than carriers of contraband, in time of war."—(Mr. Frederick Edwin Smith).

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)

said the mover of the Amendment had told them that he submitted it in no party spirit, and that so far as he was concerned he did not intend to press it to a division. He had been very glad to hear that, because, although he was very grateful to his hon. friend for having raised this subject, which was of fundamental importance, he, for his part, was bound to say that he entirely disagreed with the position that he occupied upon this matter, and that so far from thinking that the action of the Government had been reprehensible, he, for one, took the view that the action of His Majesty's Government in resisting the pressure which he was sure had been brought to bear upon them, pressure of a very shrewd and intimate character which they must have felt difficulty in resisting, was, perhaps, the one action throughout the whole of their administration for which they really deserved the gratitude of their countrymen. He had listened with interest to the speech of his hon. friend, who had given great attention to this subject and was a great authority upon it. He understood that he had even written a book on international law; and it was, of course, a well-known maxim that anyone that had written a book on any subject was ipso facto an authority on that subject, irrespective of the contents of the book. But it seemed to him that some of the arguments which his hon. friend had used lacked that finish and precision which they always expected from him in that House. Indeed, he had come to the conclusion that like the hon. Member opposite, his hon. friend had not realised the full meaning and effect of his own Amendment, be the result of the adoption of the policy advocated by the Amendment. They were asked to express regret that His Majesty's Government had not shown a readiness to pledge this country without the consent of that House—for let them not forget that our plenipotentiaries at the Hague were empowered and instructed without reference to that House—to the principle of the immunity of private property from capture at sea; and there was a suggestion that, if the Government had expressed that readiness, in some way the cause of international disarmament would have been furthered. He confessed that he was not in the least sanguine about the prospects of that cause. But hon. Gentlemen opposite were sanguine about it; and there might be some among them who would be inclined to support this Amendment in the belief that, by so doing, they would be helping the cause of peace. To them he would point out that there was no question here of peace. This Amendment was concerned with war; and the question it raised was, war having broken out, and being in fact in existence, by what methods and on what principles should it be conducted? That and that alone was the question raised. For his part he wished to say quite clearly and at once that in his view the adoption of the principle advocated by his hon. friend would not only not avoid war, but its acceptance would really remove perhaps the greatest of all obstacles to war, would render war, not less likely, but far more likely, would render war not shorter but longer in duration, and above all would render war enormously less humane than it was under the present system. The object of war was not to kill men and to capture property; these were the means not the objects of war. The object of war was to reduce the Government of one's enemy to submission; and this was effected by subjecting it to the stress of material injury. The process was effectual only in proportion to the injury inflicted, and if there was no injury there was no effect. But if they were to consider, as they were now invited to consider, what injuries were to be allowed in war, and what forbidden, then, in the interests of neutrals, of humanity and of the world, those acts and injuries of war which produced the desired effect most quickly, most effectively and most mercifully were, surely, to be preferred. And, if that principle were accepted, there was no case for this Amendment. For, of all the injuries of which war consisted, capture of property upon the high seas was at once by far the most effective and the most humane. His hon. friend was very solicitous of the interests of private property. Why did he not extend his solicitude to private property upon land? Was private property upon sea more sacred in the eyes of the friends of the Amendment than private property on land? On land the injuries of war were effected by invading territory, capturing towns, occupying provinces, seizing and destroying private property wherever it was necessary, by preventing anybody, even neutrals, from carrying on any trade, even non - contraband, in the occupied territory, by appropriating taxes and by depriving the Government of all its resources in men, material and money in order to reduce it to submission. Private property at sea was to be immune, and we were to propose it. Had any land Power ever proposed that private property should be immune from capture on land? He had there proclamations which had been made by generals commanding armies not so very long ago, and which were of the most ferocious and merciless description. In 1870 a great American General had advised Prince Bismarck as to his true policy in the then forthcoming war. "The proper strategy," he said, "consists in the first place in inflicting as telling blows as possible upon the enemy's army, and then in causing the inhabitants so much suffering that they must long for peace, and force their Government to demand it. The people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war." Such was the tenderness with which private property was regarded by those whose power is on the land. And hon. Members would remember the famous phrase applied to the condition of the Shenandoah Valley after the armies had passed over it, across which, it was said, not even a crow could fly unless it carried its rations in its beak. It was, indeed, impossible to wage war upon land without violating private property. They could not march an army without traversing private fields, occupying private houses, requisitioning private forage and provisions, and no Government could wage war at all except by taking by force the private property of its own citizens in the shape of taxes. And after all even the life of a soldier was his private life. This distinction which was sought to be set up between private property and all other property of the nation, individually and collectively, could not really be maintained. On land private property was ruthlessly and inevitably trampled upon. Yet it had never been suggested that it should be immune; for the simple reason that were this to be conceded, war on land would be abolished altogether. But what was true of the land was equally true of the sea, and the adoption of his hon. friend's suggestion was really a suggestion that war on sea ought to be abolished altogether and that such war as was allowed to take place in future should take place not on the sea at all but upon land. Let them consider for a moment the contrast between war and the capture of private property at sea and on land. At sea there were no towns and no provinces, and there was no possible field for operations except the property and supplies of the enemy. That property was not the small store of the cottager or the little crops of miserable inhabitants. It was the property of individuals necessarily rich, and it was in charge of strong and robust men to whose existences it was not essential. Nevertheless, it was of the most valuable kind to the enemy, and in its most compact and convenient form. On land, whenever an army or invading force came up against private property, the whole black array of human passions was let loose. Any military commander might declare that it was necessary to take this or that and might thereupon take it without trial or investigation, without hearing any defence, and with all the incidents of horror well known to-any one who had made any study of war. But how enormous was the contrast at sea. The capture of private property at sea was absolutely destitute of all the horrors of bloodshed and carnage which distinguished it on land. No blood was shed, no bulk was broken, no property was destroyed. The seizure was made, the ship was brought in, and an impartial tribunal considered whether or not the case was good and whether the prize was a good prize. Compared with the operations of a land force, who would say that this was not humane, merciful, and yet effective in the highest degree? He wondered if hon. Gentlemen bad considered the only two cases in which war had been entered into on the clear understanding that private property was not to be captured—the Crimean War and the Franco-Prussian War. Those wars had shown what his hon. friend had forgotten; namely, that war on land could be declined, because it must, sooner or later, take the form of invasion, and the invasion must be resisted. But, if private property was to be sacred war at sea could be declined. Any power conscious of naval inferiority need only sink her ships in the mouths of harbours or keep them in port under the guns of fortifications and out of reach of any naval force which the enemy could bring against them. There was no need, if private property was to be immune, to send out a fleet at all. Suppose we were at war with France or with Germany, or with any other great country. What would France have to do that would force her to send her fleet out? What was the object of cruising if there was nothing to protect? Why break blockades when all blockade was ineffective? Nothing remained between the two countries but a fleet action, and why should the inferior country risk a fleet action without any earthly advantage to fight for? The truth was that once the principle advocated by his hon. friend was agreed to the British fleet and all other fleets would indeed become what the seconder of the Amendment had frankly avowed he wished them to become a needless and a senseless burden. But his hon. friend said, "consider the advantages to us. This country is absolutely de pendent upon an enormous and widespread commerce. Look what a splendid thing it would be if during war this country could be assured that the whole of its commerce was safe." It was perfectly true we should gain an absolute security for all our sea-borne trade. But, in the view of everyone who had seriously considered this matter the vast proportion of our seaborne trade was already secure. The fact that it was spread all over the oceans of the world, its immensity, and the fact that we had 1,000 miles of coastline which all the fleets in the world could not blockade, afforded ample security for the safety of all but an extremely small fraction of our oversea trade. What we should gain, therefore, would only be the security of that small and almost negligible fraction. But what would our enemy gain? He would gain every advantage that the most wily statesman representing any country could possibly desire. The enemy could not strike us seriously at sea, and he would give that up. We could strike him seriously at sea, and we should give that up. His sacrifice would be small and illusory; ours would be huge and vital. There could be no advantage to us in such a bargain. His hon. friend had said that things had changed because now there were a great many railways whereas formerly everything was carried by sea. He ventured to urge that the only real road for trade on this globe was the sea. All overland transport merely fed the sea. The proportion of the whole of the stuff' that was moved about the surface of the earth by sea as compared with that moved by land was not decreasing, but increasing. The cost of freight by land was something like twelve or thirteen times as much as the cost of freight by sea. The railways in Egypt were worked by Welsh coal, which since it went to them by sea was bought by them cheaper than the same coal could be bought by the Brighton and South Coast Railway; and if it were true, as his hon. friend alleged, that the power we have at sea would merely force our enemy to divert his trade from the sea to the land, then that power was not only enormous, but it had a tremendous and humane effect in reducing the Government who set out on war to their submission. The strange distinction suggested by his hon. friend could not be maintained. His view was that, while the citizen was to give his taxes, and the soldier and sailor his life, the trader was to be a sort of privileged class, not only not sharing the burdens of war, but actually increasing his profits out of the national distress which be would be assisting at a profit to perpetuate and prolong. That was the real meaning of this suggestion. And those who, knowing as they must know, that war could only be effectual at sea or on land when it was directed against property, claimed that their country was to give up her power to capture from the enemy in order that they might be protected from capture by the enemy, who claimed to be personally at peace though nationally at war, claimed in effect to be in their country but not of it. When a Government declared war, the whole country which it represented was at war, and every individual was bound to take his share and bear his burden. If the citizen gave his money, the soldier his life and the trader his goods, it was but that the money, the lives and the goods of their fellow-citizens should be secured to them, and no man could refuse that sacrifice without abjuring his citizenship. Of all the incidents of war, the capture of property at sea was at once the most effective and the most humane. If his hon. friend would bring in a Motion to abolish all war, well and good. But, till then, he hoped the House of Commons would never agree to a principle which would not only bind the right arm of this country behind her back in the hour of her great extremity, but which also by abolishing, as it would abolish, war upon the sea, would simply intensify, aggravate, perpetuate and prolong the far greater horrors of war upon the land.


It will probably be for the convenience of the House that I should state as succinctly as I can what has been the view of those concerned mainly in expanding the instructions of the Hague delegates, already before the House, and now called in question by the mover and seconder. I will ask the House to bear in mind that this Motion first appeared on the Paper, not as a substantive Motion at all, but as an Amendment to another Motion of greater scope and of very great importance. It has suddenly become a substantive Motion, and it has come before the House as such at exceedingly short notice, This question of the immunity of private property from capture at sea has received very careful attention on the part of the Government, and specially on the part of those particular departments of the Government which are most concerned in it, which in this case are the Admiralty and the Board of Trade. But the attitude of the Government as a whole is, no doubt, expressed in the instructions to the delegates at The Hague, and I submit to the House that on a subject of this importance—which, I admit, is one of very great complexity—the House should not on a debate taken at such short notice come to any decision which would tend to reverse what has for so long been the traditional practice of this House.


asked whether another opportunity would be given to consider the questions arising out of this particular branch of the subject with which they were connected, though not within the terms of the present Amendment.


I assume that there will be an opportunity—indeed more than one opportunity—on which this particular question can be raised.

First of all, let me say, shortly, that as regards the reduction of armaments, I do not for a moment believe that the attitude of the Government on the question of the immunity of private property from capture at sea has had the remotest effect on the prospect of the reduction of armaments before The Hague Conference. The House should bear in mind that long before the Conference met the anxiety of the Government and their desire in regard to the reduction of armaments being promoted was declared in the House, declared by the Prime Minister in the most explicit terms, declared by me also in a debate in the House in terms not less explicit; and anyone who either heard or read that speech cannot doubt the earnestness of the Government with regard to the question of the reduction of armaments. Our earnestness was stated before the question of the immunity of private property from capture at sea was raised at all. It is complained that we did not follow up this statement with the same vigour at The Hague Conference as that with which we had previously expressed our views in the House. But our views were known to other Powers, and we deliberately expressed them in this. House beforehand in order that the feeling of the other Powers-might be tested, and in order to know in advance to what extent it was possible to make progress at The Hague Conference. Because, in questions of this kind, it is-much better that the invitation should in the first instance be addressed indirectly to other Powers, as it can be by a statement in this House. In that way you can find out how much other Powers are prepared to accept, and how far they will go. They do not thank you if, before you have taken any steps of this kind, and given an opportunity for the expression of opinion, you address an invitation to them which they might not be prepared to receive, and which is simply embarrassing. It became perfectly clear before the Conference met that the general consent of the Powers would not go beyond a certain very limited point in the limitation of armaments; and if we had pressed it further at the Conference we should have introduced an element of friction and discord which would have been the furthest possible from our desire. The hon. Member for Tyneside says that that is our fault, because of our attitude on this question of the immunity of private property from capture. His first point is that when we did address this invitation or express this hope, if we had at the same time only expressed ourselves willing to give up the right of capture at sea, we should have met with a much more favourable reception from other Powers than we did. The hon. Member for Tyneside is not in a position to speak on behalf of the other Powers. We made our views known long before the Conference and it was known that this question of immunity from capture would be raised. Why did not the other Powers raise the point then? We had no indication from any Power that on this question of capture turned the question of reduction of armaments, or that their disposition with regard to armaments would be in any way affected by it. If that was so, and if no other Power gave an indication that they regarded it as a material point in the reduction of armaments, then I think it is an assumption not fair to His Majesty's Government to put on them the responsibility for not getting a better response from the other Powers. Those who have read the instructions to the Hague delegates to the end—not merely the first two paragraphs—will realise that His Majesty's Government have left the door open to them or to their successors to reconsider this question, should there be a real indication on the part of the Powers generally that it is likely to become a material point in effecting such a reduction of armaments as would really tend to diminish the apprehension of war. But until a Conference does meet in which it is apparent from the declared opinions of other Powers that reduction of armaments may make such progress as that, till then we have to consider the situation as it is to-day; and it is on that ground alone that we can discuss it effectively this evening. The hon. Member for Liverpool has said that we should gain by a declaration, signed by ourselves and other Powers, that private property at sea is to be immune from capture; and the hon. Member for Tyneside said that, if that declaration were made, we should be able to reduce a considerable amount of our Navy which is now maintained for the purpose of protecting British commerce. British sea commerce, the British mercantile marine, is the great prize of the world. Would you really be prepared, even if the Hague Conference had come to a decision, and firmly as every other Power might be resolved to keep it—would you really be quite safe if you so decreased the British Navy in consequence of such an agreement that in case of war you would not have the means to protect your mercantile marine? The hon. Member for Liverpool said that the Declaration of Paris is analagous to a declaration of this kind, and that it has been observed. But there is this distinction between the two. The Declaration of Paris interests every neutral. If either of two belligerents violates the Declaration of Paris, he damages the interests of a neutral and makes the neutral take common cause against him. But the immunity of private property at sea would not affect neutrals, but the two belligerents only; and you cannot rely on a treaty which affects only belligerents being kept in time of war, with the same certainty that you can rely on rules the enforcement of which interests equally neutrals and belligerents. As to insurance, the hon. Member for Liverpool said the British firms are greatly interested in the insurance of foreign mercantile marine, and that if we were at war with a Great Power the British insurance interest in the mercantile marine of that Power would be equivalent to a half of the whole. The hon. Member gave the hypothetical instance of a bombardment of San Francisco by the British Fleet, and said that if we, did that we should be destroying the property of our own insurance companies. There is no analogy between the two cases. Bombardment destroys property; but the question we are discussing is one of the capture of property. But let us assume that you are at war with a foreign Power, and that its merchant shipping has been captured by the British Fleet. That is not destroyed. The value of the property is there. If it is captured by your own Government how is your own insurance company to lose? [An HON. MEMBER: Would they get it?) I assume that the British Government would see that British commercial interests did not suffer by the acts of their own Fleet.

MR. HARMOOD-BANNER (Liverpool, Everton)

What of the "Knight Commander"?


That is a different case. We were neutral in that case. I hold that our case is an exceedingly strong one; but we were neutral. If we were a belligerent, from the mere fact of our being in possession of the property we should be in a position to dispose of it as we pleased. If we returned it, there would be no claim on the insurance company, and if we kept it we could recoup the insurance company as we pleased. As to the point of humanity raised by the hon. Member for Tyneside, I cannot see that humanity comes into this question of the capture of private property at sea.


I spoke of "methods of barbarism." I was thinking of the ethics and not of the cruelty of the act.


I find it difficult in questions of war, to deal with ethics apart from humanity. Humanity does, to some extent, make its voice heard in time of war; and all nations more or less—some more and some less—admit certain rules in regard to war. But there is an old Latin proverb which says that even laws are silent during war, and the voice of ethics must be a very small voice indeed. I am quite willing, if the hon. Member desires it, to accept that as an instance of what a disagreeable and undesirable thing war is. I do not mean to urge that ethics should be put on one side. One of the great drawbacks to all war is that a great deal of that on which we set most store in the conduct of human life is set on one side. But I have always assumed, when I have heard the phrase "methods of barbarism" used, that it was used, not in an ethical sense, but from a point of view of humanity.


It was used in the destruction of property.


During the Boer War, when that expression was used—and the Prime Minister will correct me if I am wrong—events were taking place in South Africa which had raised far more than ethical considerations. Certainly the phrase was accepted at the time as having been used in the interests of humanity, and the results which followed and the intention which was shown after that phrase had been used were directed to the interests of humanity. But when we come to the immunity of private property from capture at sea, surely it is humane—if you grant the assumption that by destroying property you can shorten the war and save life. The destruction of property or life, of course, is one of the lamentable consequences of war; but if you have to choose between the two, there is no doubt that, in the interests of humanity, the destruction of property is more humane than the destruction of life. As far as we are concerned in this country, our means of bringing a war to a conclusion rests entirely on our sea power. I do not believe that the analogy between the sea and the land is a complete one. The sea is the means of communication of our enemy; and if private property is to be immune from capture, it means this—that in time of war with a Great Power we must leave the means of communication of our enemy open and undisturbed It means that out of his ports his trade is to go without let or hindrance, because the hon. Member for Tyneside admitted that the commercial blockade went with this question, and you could not separate one from the other. If you give up the blockade, as has been assumed in this debate, as well as assent to the immunity of private property from capture at sea, think what the situation would be when we went to war with a Great Power. Let us assume that the British Navy is superior to that of the other Power. The navy of the other Power retires into its ports under its own guns, out of reach of our navy. You can prevent it coming out, but you cannot blockade the enemy's port, you may not interfere with their merchant vessels when they come out to sea to trade. The whole trade of any great Continental country with which we are at war would proceed undisturbed the whole time, and I do not see how the war would ever come to an end. The hon. Member for Liverpool quoted a dictum of Lord Palmerston. He is not quite up-to-date. Lord Palmerston expressed a later opinion than that. He said in 1862 that if this country consented to the immunity of private property from capture at sea it would be guilty of an act of political suicide. I should not have brought any quotation into this debate as an authority on the present situation, but as Lord Palmerston has been quoted, I think it only fair we should have what was his later, as I believe, his more considered opinion. With regard to the great Continental armies and the bearing they have on this question, the hon. Member for Tyneside said that the motive for those great armies is mainly their rivalry with each other rather than any designs upon this country. I have no doubt that in the main that is true. But the great armies exist, and whatever the motives of creating them were, there is no limit to the use which might be made of them. They could be used no doubt under certain conditions as an offensive weapon against this country. I should like to read one passage from the instructions to The Hague delegates on that point. The hon. Member for Liverpool astonished me rather by reading the first two paragraphs of the instructions to The Hague delegates, which state the arguments from both sides, and having read those he omitted to give the conclusion and the justification for it contained in a further paragraph. It is this:— The British Navy is the only offensive weapon which Great Britain has against Continental Powers. The latter have a double means of offence. They have their navies and they have their powerful armies. During recent years the proportion between the British Army and the great Continental Armies has come to be such that the British Army operating alone could not be regarded as a means of offence against the mainland of a great Continental Power. For her ability to bring pressure to bear upon her enemies in war Great Britain has therefore to rely on the Navy alone. His Majesty's Government cannot, therefore, authorize you to agree to any resolutions which would diminish the effective means which the Navy has for bringing pressure to bear upon our enemy. That relates to the conduct of war, but it has its bearing also upon the probability of war. The mercantile marine of other countries is growing. The growth of that mercantile marine is every day becoming a greater guarantee for peace. As each foreign country developes its mercantile marine, that mercantile marine and the interests depending upon it become in that country a factor in its public opinion which makes for peace. But if you declare that private property is to be immune from capture at sea you very much weaken that factor for peace. What you do in effect is this. You give other countries to understand that as far as Great Britain is concerned, which has only the Navy as an offensive weapon, they will be able to make war if they please upon the principles of limited liability. There is much food for thought in that phrase. Limited liability encourages speculation. Speculation within due bounds is healthy for commerce and as long as it is healthy, that quality goes in commerce by the name of enterprise; when it passes these limits it is called speculation. Anyhow, that particular clement which has to be encouraged by limited liability, whether you call it enterprise or speculation, has no doubt played a considerable part in developing trade; but I would not for worlds do anything which might encourage speculation in war. And if you are to come to a sudden resolution, when there is, as far as we know, no prospect that other nations are prepared to follow rapidly in the reduction of armaments, to deprive the British Navy of the power of bringing any pressure to bear on the mercantile marine of a foreign country, I am not sure that you may not be giving to some other great countries an incentive not to diminish but to increase their armaments. Certainly it is open to very serious question whether you will be diminishing the risks and the probability of war. The British Empire—this enormous Empire, with its small centre on which the whole defence of the Empire depends—is, as is constantly said, unique in the history of the world. It is a tremendous obligation; it might if we were weak become a tremendous temptation. If we were to put ourselves in this position of having only our Navy to rely upon as an offensive weapon and yet cutting ourselves off from any power of bringing pressure to bear through it, it would be possible for some Great Power to go to war with us with exceedingly little risk to themselves. Think what it means. Their navy is safe in its defended port. Our Navy is keeping the sea and preventing this navy coming out. Subject to that there is no disturbance whatever of international life. The whole trade of the hostile country goes on, its ships comes into our ports carrying on trade, no one interfering with them—we could not interfere with them—and we are entirely unable to interfere with its land trade, because our Army is too small a weapon to be used alone against a Continental Power. The risk is minimized to a degree which, in my opinion, might be dangerous. You will, perhaps, say, is it likely that any Power would wish to undertake even that minimized risk? At the present moment I believe we have the good will of the world, and I do not believe there is a single Great Power which entertains hostile designs against us, and it is, of course, the business of the Government of the day to do their best to maintain those friendly relations. I would not for a moment have it to be supposed that I think there is anything in the situation on the Continent at the present moment which makes me talk with any unusual apprehension of the risk or probability of war. I am discussing this purely from the academic point of view; but I do wish to make the point that, supposing the change were made, the risk in war with us would be exceedingly small to any great Euorpean Power. But what would the risk to us be? As long as our Navy could contain the navy of the other Power no doubt we should not suffer ourselves. But the war would go on for a very long time.


Only a state of war.


That would be much the same as war. That is to say, the other Power would remain in a position ready to take advantage of any slip. What would be the risk to us? We should not suffer so long as our Navy contained the navy of the other Power; but supposing other complications arose while the war was going on, supposing some great stroke of bad luck, same piece of ineptitude, any of those things to which human nature is liable, occurred, and supposing our Navy did lose command of the sea, what would be before us? Not only defeat, but conquest. Now I think a state of things under which, if you are at war with a great European Power, the war might be indefinitely prolonged at a mimimum of risk to the other Power, whilst in the event of something unforeseen or uufortunate happening, there would be on the horizon—if you like distant, remote, but still possible—this enormous risk to ourselves, would be a very serious situation. The whole subject was carefully considered in conjunction with the departments specially concerned before the instructions were sent to the Hague delegates. The hon. Member for Tyneside maintains that by changing our attitude on this question we could create such a situation that it would lead to a real reduction of armaments. We have had no indication from other Powers that it would be so. We must take the situation as we find it. Whatever may happen in the future, whatever changes in opinion the future consideration of this question may bring, the Government must at the present time and under the present conditions stand by the instructions it has issued to the Hague delegates; and we cannot at present, consistently with the safety of the country, take the risks which, in our opinion, might be involved in making the change which is pressed for by the hon. Member for Liverpool.

MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire E.)

I rise to say that I am in hearty agreement with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I will not even criticise the single sentence in it, which he was betrayed into by an interruption from an hon. Member below the Gangway, which otherwise would give rise to criticism on our part, and I leave the gloss which the latest commentator has put upon an unhappy phrase of the Prime Minister's without any comment. I do not wish to convert into a Party debate a serious discussion on a non-party subject, upon what we think is a very grave issue. I therefore hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I am wanting in the courage of my opinions, when I decline to take up the challenge which I do not think he wanted to throw down. [Sir E. GREY was understood to assent.] There was only one passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech which I noted with any anxiety. It was when he suggested that the Government, although they did not give any countenance to this proposal, none the less let it be open for future consideration. If that statement had stood alone I should have considered it ominous, but after listening to the subsequent arguments which the right hon. Gentleman advanced, I do not think we need be alarmed. I cannot conceive that this country will ever be willing to part with what has been its great traditional weapon in naval warfare. I do not see how, if we were to part with that weapon, we could have any influence to secure peace, how we could wage war if it broke out, or how we could terminate a state of war once it had arisen. My hon. and learned friend who brought forward the Amendment has disclaimed taking such action on humanitarian grounds, but has declared that his object is to forward the reduction of international armament. Does my hon. and learned friend really believe that the reduction of international armament would be forwarded by the adoption of the proposal which he has embodied in his Amendment? The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment endeavoured to establish the proposition that as one of the objects for which our Navy existed was the protection of our commerce, therefore if our commerce was guaranteed free from attack, we could do away with part of our Navy. I think the arguments of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs have disposed of that contention already, and although it is perfectly true that one of the objects for which the Navy exists is the protection of our commerce, yet the real object of its existence is the maintenance of our supremacy on the seas, and the mere fact that our commerce was protected in other ways would not enable us to do away with that supremacy or reduce our Navy, although it might lead to an alteration in the type of one or two of our vessels. But even my hon. and learned friend had to make an exception, and he has made an exception in the case of carriers of contraband. What does that mean? It means that there would be at once an enormous extension of contraband and contraband at the present time is one of the thorniest and most difficult questions of international law. Every nation has its own definition of contraband. We have ourselves protested against the definition of contraband given by every belligerent, and you cannot have a question more likely to embitter the relations of one belligerent with another or more likely to imperil the relations of belligerents with neutrals than one which deals with the definition of contraband and prevents one belligerent from dealing with the private property of the other except on the ground that it is contraband. If we once start this, I venture to say that an enormous extension of contraband would do away with much of the advantage which those who support the the proposal expect to obtain from it, and at the same time it would enormously complicate the issues of war and render our relations with neutrals much more difficult. As an effective naval weapon, the right to search for and seize contraband is not to be ranked with the right to capture, to bring into port, and to condemn the vessels of the enemy. The whole trend and development of the mercantile marine renders the right to search much less valuable than in the old days. The building of enormous vessels with thousands of tons of cargo has rendered the right to search practically nugatory, unless we can bring the vessels into port, break bulk, and turn out the cargo, a far too risky and expensive a proceeding. In my opinion the right to search for contraband and the right to capture contraband is but a weak way in comparison with that which we are asked to abandon. I do not propose to deal with the effect upon our enemies of the exercise by us of this power, but what my hon. and learned friend contended, taking various illustrations, was that we could practically do no injury to foreign powers by its exercise. I think that was sufficiently answered, at any rate to my mind, by the arguments which have fallen from the hon. member for Norwood, which are conclusive on that point. You would gradually establish by the adoption of this scheme of the Amendment a more favoured condition for private property and other commerce passing by sea than is now enjoyed by private property passing by land. There has been some discussion as to the way in which private property passing on land may be seized, but everybody knows that, apart from seizure, there is a vast destruction of property necessarily involved in war on land, which falls upon the inhabitants of the country. Everybody knows that the invading army will seize all means of communication and block the main routes. But while he can do that on land, the power on the other side, if it has a superior naval force, is prevented from using it. I do not think that this is a more humane way of proceeding than that which exists at present. But it is said that this weapon is somewhat of a boomerang and that if we seize vessels at sea we should probably fine our own insurance companies. The Secretary of State fully answered that. At all events, when war breaks out, the companies cannot, during the duration of it, make any payment to the enemy; whether they could make any payment at all when the property has been seized by us as an act of war, I am not lawyer enough to say, but the enemy will be out of his money while the war lasts, as we should not permit an English insurance company to make a payment to a foreign merchant vessel because the ship had been seized by the King's forces. But more than that, no such insurance could possibly take place after war had broken out. No such insurance would be likely to take place when relations were strained, and this argument, at its best, can only apply to so much of a foreign nation's merchantile marine as is habitually insured against war risks, year in and year out, when no war appears imminent. I have had occasion to hear a good deal of evidence on the subject of insurance of late, before a Treasury Committee of which I am the Chairman, and if I may judge by that evidence, I should say that the proportion of the mercantile marine of any nation, our own included, which is habitually insured against war risks in peace time is very small indeed. I think, therefore, my hon. friend has raised a bogey which need not frighten us, and I think he exaggerated the risks which we run at present. The same is true in regard to the general risks to the trade and commerce of this country from any attacks which foreign navies or foreign cruisers can make upon it, providing that we maintain our supremacy at sea. If our supremacy at sea is once in doubt, however, the whole of our mercantile marine may go; but provided we maintain that supremacy, though it is perfectly true that you cannot guarantee every ship, or safeguard every cargo, I do not believe that the risk is very great. I believe, differing from the hon. Member for the Tyneside Division, that the experience of the great French War showed that in the long run the risk to our commerce is very small and perhaps during the time of the war rather fell than rose; but you may have individual captures to a considerable amount and heavy losses; yet the proportion which they boar to the whole of our sea-borne commerce will be so small that the disturbance of our trade and industry will not be anything like what is anticipated, and the mere protection of a vessel at sea, even though it may belong to a belligrent will not do away with all those causes which tend to bring about industrial crises in the time of war. Under these circumstances and holding these views very strongly, as I said at the beginning of my speech, I only rose to express the pleasure with which I listened to the right hon. Gentleman and to express my earnest hope that he and the Government will maintain upon this question the attitude to which he has given expression to-night and which I believe to be essential to our national security on the grounds he has mentioned, and essential to the maintenance by us of that power which is necessary for the purposes of war with other great military nations, even if the operations take place at sea.

COLONEL SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)

said he joined with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in saying with what pleasure he listened to the speech of his right hon. friend, but unlike him hs was not convinced. He knew that those who agreed with the hon. Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool were a small minority, but he was not in the least convinced that they were not right that on the score of national peace, and still more of national safety, it would be wise to adopt the suggestion made in the Amendment and exempt enemies' ships from capture in time of war. The hon. Member for Norwood had said that they could not make war less likely by making it less horrible. It was said that the great thing in war was to make the damage done as great as possible, but that cut at the root of the whole of the argument upon which the Geneva Convention was based. If that argument were to prevail no one would ever enter into a Geneva Convention or assent to the proposals made at The Hague Conference to mitigate the damage done and the horrors caused by war, especially to neutrals and non-combatants. What he submitted was that this was an argument which would not hold water. We had gone past the day when it could be said "we will make war as horrible as possible and we shall make it less likely."


said he understood that the hon. Member imputed that he had advocated the retention of the present system in order to make war more horrible, but his whole argument was that the acceptance of the hon. Member's Amendment would not diminish the horrors of war but make it more horrible.


did not think the hon. Member for Norwood was right in his suggestion that the present system made war more humane because it made it swifter. In the time of the French War we had this right of capture, but that war, with one short interval, went on for twenty years. Again, the Civil War in America, in which considerable property was destroyed, was not swifter on that account. It went on for five years. He believed that all such efforts to bring war to an end were futile and foredoomed to failure; by these attempts to destroy property, or to hurt or kill non-combatants, war would not be shortened, but would tend to be prolonged. This question was raised in the last war. It was said that the war would be shortened if it were made horrible. On that occasion all the officers engaged were of opinion that that would prolong it, and that all farm-burning and general devastation was a crass error. Another theory put forward was that the men who were fighting on lane could both loot and fight at the same time. He was much interested in the argument of the hon. Member for Nor wood, that the object of damaging was to make war more unlikely. There was a great soldier—he believed the greatest England over had—who had said, "My troops will either loot or fight, but will not do both." The same spirit was to be found in a stronger degree in the Navy. Our Fleet depended not so much on the number of our ships as on the men who manned them; and once the idea was instilled into their minds that nothing was to be gained by war but sacrifice on their part for their country that spirit would be greatly increased. His hon. friend had spoken of a hypothetical case of this country being at war with Germany or France, and had said that what would then happen would be that the enemy's fleet being bottled up in their ports they were not likely to escape. Was such a thing likely to happen? It had been disproved again and again. No fleet could be wholly bottled up, though some ships would be. All slow ships and sailing ships could be eliminated from the calculation, so that the House only had to see what was the position of the fast steam ships. We owned about three-fourths of the fast, or the moderately fast, steam ships in the world. That meant that in an engagement we might have a two-Power standard against our adversary, but we had six or seven ships liable to capture against their one. Therefore the country which had most to lose, and had not so great a chance of defending its own, was ourselves. Supposing it was a land war and not sea war, and supposing we were fighting in a country in which there were five houses, four of which belonged to us and one to the other side, and it became a question of whether they should be destroyed, the hon. Member would at once agree that it would be the height of folly not to join in an agreement to prevent their destruction. If that was so on land, did not the same argument apply to the sea? If that were true of the arithmetical calculation, what about the goods in the ships which did not come into the enemy's ports? We could not effectively blockade the ports of a possible enemy without enforcing war on two of his small neighbours, because a great many of the sea-borne goods which passed through to our possible enemy went by way of the land frontiers of neutral countries. Beyond this there was the fact that these countries had large land frontiers which we had not. Our frontiers were all sea and were all exposed to the enemy's ships, so that however the question of capture was regarded the arguments in favour of preventing capture were overwhelming. But, said the hon. Gentleman, the mercantile marine was the greatest prize in the world and he asked how could the enemy be trusted to respect that marine. He (Colonel Seely) did not for a moment say that we could greatly reduce the Navy, but he could say that when the enemy desired to attack our marine in such circumstances he would immediately become the enemy of the whole world unless, indeed, the whole world was combined against us. Believing as he did that our sailors would either loot or fight but would not do both, and believing that they should be asked to fight only and that in that lay the safety of this country he asked the House to support this Amendment.

MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)

said the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had covered the ground so completely in the lucid and admirable statement he had made upon the subject that he did not propose to traverse it again. What he wished to do was to rebut what he believed to be the foolish arguments that had been adduced by various speakers in the course of the debate. The hon. and gallant Member for the Abercrombie Division of Liverpool drew, he thought, a false parallel between the right to capture private property at sea and the Geneva Convention, but he could not see the force of the parallel, for the Geneva Convention did not in the least degree impair the power of a belligerent to bring a war to a successful and speedy conclusion, where as if we deprived ourselves of the right of capture we should undoubtedly deprive ourselves of the greatest possible resource we had for bringing war to an end. The hon. and gallant Member had said that if we were fighting in a land where we had five houses and the enemy one it would be an advantage to us if there was an agreement to exempt those houses from destruction; but if the enemy was unable to get at our houses and we could get at his we should sacrifice a great deal by such an agreement. With regard to the admirable argument of the hon. Member for Norwood, he would point out that if the enemy's fleet chose to remain in their harbours our own fleet would, whilst awaiting them, be subjected to attacks from their floating mines and torpedo craft and we might lose one third of our fleet by that means, as the Japanese did; and under such circumstances it was quite possible for the weaker naval power to get the command of the sea against us. But he submitted that this would be the very worst possible time to approach foreign powers upon the question of exempting private property, for the reason that we had never been so badly off for cruisers suitable for the attack or defence of commerce for many years past. We had thirty-nine building in 1904, we had none now. The Germans had no less than nineteen unarmoured cruisers, built and building, of over twenty-two knots, and ten of them were over twenty-four knots. We had only six unarmoured cruisers of over twenty-two knots, and all of them were of less than twenty-three knots speed. By attacking commerce the Germans could, as an operation of war, force us to break up the concentration of our large armoured ships, as in the absence of other suitable fast small vessels we should have to send our big cruisers to chase their small commerce destroyers. He had the German view on this subject contained in an article, which, among others, from a symposium of representatives of different nations, he himself being one of the contributors, appeared in the "North American Review "in August of 1905. The article was by Captain Yon Usler, and the following was the passage which he desired to quote:— The right to take prizes is the most effective, and often the only possible instrument of war, when the opponent, after the destruction or investment of his force", does not consent to make peace. To permit the exercise of this right only in the case of a blockade, would be to concede special advantages to the stronger maritime Power and to the state with an extensive coast-line. That showed pretty clearly the German point of view. The position under this amendment would be very inconsistent. Under contraband of war we should be able to seize timber that might be used for railways because railways can transport troops, but we should not be allowed to seize merchant ships which might later on be used for the transport of German troops to all parts of the British Empire, either as raids or invasions. That seemed a very inconsistent and very absurd state of affairs.

MR. LEVERTON HARRIS (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)

said that such ships would be belligerents at once.


said he understood that the proposition was that merchant ships only became belligerent when transporting troops, and they could not be belligerent when not transporting troops under this Amendment. The hon. Member for Tyneside had spoken of the little influence which such operations against private commerce possessed in war. He would say that the whole of the operations of the French armies and Napoleon's downfall were brought about through the seizure of private property by Great Britian. He would by go even further and say that if we had seized in 1794 the great convoy from America which rescued France from famine we could have brought the war to an end in that year. He also took note of the fact that it was this convoy's being liable to seizure by the English which induced the French Directory to send out their fleet under Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, with whom Howe fought the battle of 1794. Nothing brought the French fleet out except the paramount necessity of rescuing the convoy which was liable to seizure by the English Fleet. He felt that if the convoy had been seized the war would have been over.


said these provisions for the enemy would be clearly contraband of war if destined for art-invested region, and therefore liable to seizure.


said he understood that the food supply was to rescue the nation from famine. It was for the supply of the whole nation and not for the army. While the hon. Member for Tyneside spoke of the opinions of experts as being too precise, the hon. Member the mover of the Amendment was, on the other hand, a little too much impressed by the force of law. If the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke on the side of the lawyers, the hon. Member for Tyneside, who on these matters was an expert in humanitarian principles, might be supposed to be on the side of the angels, and a combination of lawyers and angels was a very strong one indeed. Although the hon. Member for Tyneside might be on the side of the angels, it did not make him any more accurate in his assertions. The hon. Member showed what terrible risk our commerce ran in previous wars, but he denied that statement altogether. The only time when our commerce was without naval defence was in the Mediterranean in 1796 and then it ceased altogether in those waters. For the purpose of his work as lecturer to the senior officers of the Naval War Course he had worked out the figures of the loss of vessels during the whole period of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, and the loss was only 2.36 of the whole of our shipping, so that the risks of war were less than the risks of navigation. He would concede this point, however, that he did not think England would put in force her power to attack commerce until she had so far won the war as to be able to blockade the enemy; but under no conceivable circumstances could he imagine the Government yielding the power to blockade the enemy. He would go further than that, and say that if we were at war with Germany and we found the commerce of Germany was being put through the ports of Holland and Belgium, we should at once order them to pass a non-intercourse Act or we would blockade their ports as well. For self-preservation we should have to do it, and the English people would demand that we should do it. To show the immunity which adequate naval defence gave to commerce he mentioned that the Japanese, within a thousand miles of Port Arthur, were transporting their troops in merchant vessels, in single ships, or in two or three ships, while the Russians were completely bottled up. The loss which the Japanese sustained was less than the ordinary risks of navigation. The hon. Member for Tyneside had said that the only reason for building cruisers was the defence of our commerce, but that showed the sort of assertions which were made in regard to this matter. Cruisers were necessary to the Fleet; they were the scouts; and the Fleet without scouts would be like a blind man without a dog. He thought the argument of the seconder of the Amendment about the increased cost of the Navy through the building of cruisers for the defence of commerce fell to the ground. The number of cruisers possessed by the Navy was mainly decided by the number of cruisers possessed by our opponents, and he did not see that anything could be saved in the way of cruisers through the exemptions of private property from capture at sea. The remark was made by the seconder of the Amendment that blockading would not bring a war to an end. But he thought it would stand I a very good chance. At any rate, while we were in a position to impose a mercantile blockade on an enemy, undoubtedly our own commerce and industries went on safely, and workmen did not in any way starve, but went on, as in peace time, with their avocations. All that time the enemy suffered, and the conditions were so favourable to one side and unfavourable to the other that we could last out, and "he that endureth to the end shall be saved." He did not for one moment believe that the result of the discussions at The Hague Conference was in the slightest degree influenced by His Majesty's Government's refusing the exemption of private property from seizure at sea. He believed that where there was a failure at The Hague Conference—if there were a failure, though he was not prepared to admit that the Government could have done more—it was due to the humanitarian and sentimental side insisting on the Government's making the main plank of their platform the reduction of armaments. The waste of time and loss of prestige involved, and the absolute want of success of that proposal, he thought were responsible for any failure to achieve more at The Hague Conference.


said if he had little knowledge of international law, he had some experience of shipping affairs, and that must be his reason for venturing to trespass upon the time of the House. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs had certainly made a very novel and startling proposition when he said that belligerent vessels which were insured here and which happened to be captured by our Fleet would receive, so far as the underwriters were concerned, the consideration and protection of the Government. That proposition opened up a very wide area into which he did not intend to enter; but surely the right hon. Gentleman could not have been serious in saying this, because the effect would be to give to the underwriters of belligerent vessels greater advantage than the underwriters on our side would enjoy. The situation would be a very strange one if foreign vessels could be insured at lower rates than British vessels in our own country. The question was how far the freedom of belligerent tonnage from capture at sea affected the industrial population of this country the advantages of warfare after all were only comparative. Practically the whole of the raw material which we used in our three staple industries, viz.: cotton, wool and iron, had to be imported from abroad. Those three great industries and those employed in them had to depend for their employment upon being able to compete with foreign nations in the production of finished articles in which that raw material were used. If they raised the cost of raw cotton by 20 per cent. or added 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. to the cost of wool or doubled the price of iron ore—and it could be proved that the ordinary rates of war risk premium would raise them quite to that extent—if they prevented the manufacturers of this country from competing with the manufacturers producing similar articles in foreign countries what would be the result? They would throw out of employment hundreds of thousands, he might say millions of hands, who were employed in this country, simply by reason of the fact that they were unable to obtain raw material at a sufficiently low price to enable them to make those particular manufactured articles in competition with their great industrial rivals. That was a state of affairs which would be brought about by any change in the situation which British shipping enjoyed at the present moment in time of war. It should not be overlooked that our vessels would have to bear as belligerent vessels the heavy burden of war risk insurance. It was quite true that our opponents would have to bear the same burden, but whilst the two countries might be crippled, in the case of this country they would have to meet the severe competition of every neutral manufacturing country in the world. They were told that they had really nothing to fear from the price of raw material being raised or by bringing about a scarcity of food or food at very high prices, because this country could command the services of neutral vessels which would not be liable to the high rates of marine insurance. That was perfectly true, but there was a fallacy in that argument, viz. that the neutral shipowner would do his utmost to obtain the highest possible freight he could get, and the consequence would be that the neutral shipowner would only accept cargo at a price very closely approximating to the price which British shipowners would be willing to pay. So that while the material gain to the importer of raw material would be apparent there would be a violent tendency to shift the whole of the shipping trade out of the custody of British shipowners into the hands of neutral shipowners, and in that fact alone lay one of the greatest dangers they had to face. Again they were told by other critics that they had really no great cause for alarm, that they did not need to fear that the price of raw material was going to be raised or that they were going to have a starving population clamoring for food and employment, because this country had a sufficiently powerful Navy to protect our shipping. Anyone who had carefully studied the naval manœuvres of 1906 which were directed to elucidating the question of commercial supremacy at sea, and anyone who had studied the report of the Food Commission, must have been struck by the very inadequate protection predicted in that report and what from the result of those manœuvres they might expect to happen to our shipping in time of war. They could not look to the Navy for much protection to British shipping in time of war. His hon. friend had read a quotation from a memorandum of the Food Supply Commission in which it was admitted that in a state of warfare it might prejudice the course of warlike operations to have to detach vessels to take care of our commerce and oversea trade. Under those circumstances, seeing that this country had so much more to lose and was more dependent upon sea trade, and bearing in mind that the whole of our raw material—our cotton and the raw material of other staple trades—and four-fifths of our fond supply had to be imported, he ventured to think that if the present custom were amended and belligerent vessels were made immune from capture this country would be the greatest gainer, and it would be our adversaries who would suffer. We should also protect ourselves from those very great liabilities which might arise from unemployment and shortage of food, and be able at the same time to carry on a war with far greater feelings of security than under the present dispensation.

MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)

said the hon. Member for King's Lynn had described this Amendment as having been moved by a lawyer and seconded by an angel. There was another comparison with the word angel which the hon. Member had not ventured to make. He thought the action of the mover of the Amendment was at any rate full of craft and subtlety, and he must have been astonished to find himself in company with the hon. Member for Tyne side. Perhaps the hon. Member for Liverpool thought it was good Parliamentary tactics to drive a wedge between Members on the Liberal Benches who might not be wholly of one mind. It was an amazing thing that a Motion like this, the object of which was to cause this country to throw aside the greatest weapon it possessed for its own defence and o abandon a position which other nations were striving with all their might to attain, could be seriously moved. It could not be denied that such a proposal as had been made, if it had been carried by the Hague Conference, would have compelled this nation to fight with one of its hands tied behind its back. The hon. Member for Norwood had said that the omission, and he hoped the refusal of the Government, to put forward any such proposal or support it, was the one act they had done since they came into office for which they deserved well. In his opinion if that had been their only act, they would have deserved well, but he did not agree that it was their only act. They had refused to accept any such proposal, although considerable pressure was put upon them, for they knew had they done so, this country would have suffered and their rivals would have profited. In all national conventions of this sort the object generally was that we should submit to conditions by which this country was prejudiced, and other nations would profit. This was conspicuously so in regard to any limitations of our action at sea. Whatever might have been the object of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, the object of the hon. Member for Tyneside was crystal clear as day, because he wished to reduce the Navy to comparatively small dimensions. If the Navy was largely reduced he ventured to say that our trade would be reduced, and then he did not know where the money was to come from, not only for old-age pensions but for their daily bread. He could not see that any advantage could result from such a proposal as that which had been brought forward. The various combinations of interests which had come together in support of this Amendment made him rather inclined to suspect that there was something behind it which was not contained in the speech of the mover.


No, no.


said it could not be denied that that was sometimes the case, but supposing an agreement like this had been brought forward at the Hague Convention, supposing it had been pressed by the British representatives and had been accepted by the other nations. Was it supposed that if this country was engaged in war we should carry out such a stipulation? When nations were at war everything that impeded bringing the war to a successful conclusion would be and should be disregarded. Even when nations were not at war they tried to abrogate treaties and agreements as soon as ever they could, and if that was not so he confessed that he very indifferently understood what had been going on amongst the nations of the world. What advantage would it be to the world and the cause of peace if this country descended from its great position of pride and preeminence? At present their Navy was the greatest power they could exercise in the interests of peace; but supposing they descended from that powerful position, and their power went into the hands of some more aggressive nation who would not use it so wisely as this country had done in the past! He did not know upon what ground it was supposed that the British nation was to be able to keep the best of everything without being able to defend it, and fight for it. On what earthly grounds was it to be supposed this country could maintain its ground, if they accepted such a proposal as that which had been put forward? No, they could not afford to dispense with their power of defence which other nations found absolutely necessary to maintain. The hon. Member for the Abercromby Division had advanced several most debatable propositions, and then by way of making it clear that he was right, he said that ninety-nine men out of every hundred would agree with him. Most of them would like to think that that was the case in regard to any remarks they made. The hon. Member stated that they ought not to exasperate the enemy, and he also stated that it was impossible to fight and loot. Nothing more absurd could be suggested. In war the object was to exasperate the enemy, and that the usual thing to do was to fight first and loot afterwards. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Abereromby's argument in regard to our impotence for maintaining a blockade. It was said that this country had no land frontier to defend, but he would like to remind the House that they had frontiers extending over a distance of nearly 20,000 miles in three continents. It had been said that our mercantile marine could be protected better by diplomacy, and one hon. Member had written a book in which he stated that our rights could be satisfactorily defended by treaties. Whatever could have been the original intention of this Amendment, there was no doubt that it had eventuated in the debate upon the reduction of armaments. The discussion, however, had served this good purpose—it had swept the technicalities away from the Motion and left the chief issue clear. This country was in a great position of power and pre-eminence and had command of the sea at present, and acceptance of this proposal would lead to our losing that great position and it would mean a diminution of our power and preeminence in the world.

MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

said he regarded this question as one of the most important the House could possibly deal with. It concerned the fate of nations, the position of our nation, the strength of our armaments and the management of them. It had been said by the hon. Member for King's Lynn that the Germans had a number of very swift battleships which would be able to prey upon our trade. How that supported the view that our trade should be left open to attack he did not know. He would have thought it was a very powerful argument for rendering our mercantile vessels immune from attack. The only doubt he had in his mind was whether the nations of the world would agree to make the merchandise of the sea immune from attack. The hon. Member for the Abercromby Division had shown that five out of six of the fast steamers were ours, and if they were safe from attack then war might go on with very little damage to us. The Foreign Secretary had put forward another view of the question, which he thought somewhat inconclusive. The right hon. Gentleman imagined that if war broke out between us and a Continental Power, with our great superiority in battleships we could drive the enemy's vessels into port and blockade them while the trade of that nation went on unimpeded; that by that means we should not destroy the enemy's power, but that it would be quite happy even though there was a state of war; that if that state of things went on for a long time there might be some great ineptitude on the part of the British Government, that our Navy would gradually be destroyed, and as a result of the enemy noing nothing we would soon find ourselves in a minority as to sea power, and be at the mercy of foreign Powers. He suggested that what would happen would be this. Our Navy having driven the enemy's navy under shelter of her ports, our trade going on without interruption, we should proceed to make a large army of two millions, make artillery superior to any other nation, because we had the best works in the world, and additional ships and after some years construct an overwhelming force, and instead of being in a worse position we should be in a much better one. The only possible danger was in ease the war came to a sudden conclusion an enemy having an army five times as large as ours might get past our fleet and on to our shores. That was the only contingency they had to fear, but something else would probably happen. The war having begun and the enemy's fleet being driven under the shelter of its fortress guns, having been face to face for three or four months with our fleet without doing any particular harm, it might happen that the feelings of anger which prompted the war would subside and that feelings of common sense might arise and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the business men in both states would say to themselves, "This is rather silly; we are not conquering; it is true we are not suffering very much, but would it not be much more sensible if we made peace?" If instead of that both nations had been destroying commerce and raising fears and the most angry passions by inflicting serious damage, starving each other, and partially ruining their merchants and shopkeepers—such a feeling would not tend towards peace but towards exasperation. Let the House observe what took place during the American War. There the Northern States had mastery of the sea, and they were able to blockade all the ports of the Confederacy. Some cruisers slipped out unobserved and they were able to sweep the commerce off the northern sea. One great complaint the Americans had against this country was that nearly all the ships carrying their goods were flying the British flag. With all their superior naval force in the war he had referred to, the right to capture private merchandise at sea did not have the effect of terminating the war. If the Northern States had not destroyed the trade of the Confederacy, the feelings between the North and South might not have been exasperated, and it was highly probable the war might have been concluded in a much more satisfactory manner. It was admitted, he thought, by everybody that the attempt to bring the war in South Africa to a close by destroying farms only lengthened the war by eighteen months. The Boers for a long time were anxious for peace, and they would have accepted almost any terms, but when the barbarous policy of destroying their homes was resorted to they were prepared to die in defence of them. The speech of the hon. Member for Norwood was a carefully reasoned piece of logic, and it was most interesting to listen to. If an acute reasoner came to a wrong conclusion it meant that, he started with a wrong premise. The hon. Member started with the premise that the object of war was to bring the enemy to submission, and his second premise was that the way to bring the enemy to submission was to harass, impoverish, and ruin them. The hon. Member argued that we must not take away from ourselves any means of harassing, impoverishing, and ruining the enemy. As to the first premise, he fully admitted that the object generally put forward by those who declared war was that they desired to bring the enemy to submission. But what was the real object? It was not that which was put forward. The real object of almost every war was to have a fight. The desire to have a fight was in human nature. It was so in every election and in all the Party debates in this House. That strong desire to have a contest was one of the factors to be considered. It would be a very long time indeed, before this strong human passion—the second strongest, if not the strongest—would be put an end to by the more reasonable portion of the human race. He did not think that people who went to war very carefully considered pros and cons. They said in regard to the enemy: "He has insulted us, and now we will kill him or die." That was no reason why in time of peace when their intellectual qualities were governing their lives they should not make rules which would help in the hours of passion to reduce the damage they might do to each other. There was no reason why war should be conducted by methods of barbarism. He would say that under certain limitations a war might be a very interesting spectacle, but in order that it might be so it must be conducted according to the rules of chivalry. If they were to have wars, let them be conducted in a chivalrous fashion, and let them avoid the infliction of needless misery on women, children, and non-combatants. In the days of the Wars of the Roses, owing in a great measure to the action of the heads of the Church, barbarous methods of conducting war were put an end to. The knights on both sides had a chivalrous feeling towards the peasanty, and they did not interfere with husbandmen. After their contests they went home—or those that were left. That kind of war was much less likely to do harm, to excite revenge, or to encourage the fighting spirit than the cruel war which involved the destruction of the enemy by any and every means, and turned the fighting quality into a quality of pure devilry. If they were to make any advance at all in the qualities of the human race they must try to subdue their natural devilment, their natural cruelty, and their natural desire to win at any price. The idea that a war could be finished sooner by making it horrible was an entirely mistaken one. He thought that all history showed that that was not the way in which to finish a war. Was the British Empire to be maintained by saying to other people, "Now we choose to make war, and we will pursue that war with the sole object of destroying our opponents by any means whatsoever"? To do so would be to lower the dignity of the human race. He thought they ought to order their lives in time of war with due regard to the religion they professed. He thought it would be an advantage to the nation if they could get the Government to accept the principle put forward by the mover of the Amendment.


asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.


I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name: "But humbly represents to Your Majesty that this House regrets that Your Majesty's Government has not taken advantage of its opportunities to safeguard the interests of retrenched civil servants of the Transvaal administration and secure for them due compensation and pension." This is not the first time that this question has been raised in the House, and I sincerely and honestly hope that it is the last. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but I hope that because I trust that the Under-Secretary for the Colonies will be able to give such an answer to my appeal and the appeal of those associated with me that no further effort in this House will be necessary to secure justice to the retrenched civil servants of the Transvaal. It is remarkable that those who were unfortunately deprived of their posts in the Transvaal took up so dignified a position. In that they have preserved the best traditions of the Civil Service of Great Britain. A good many of them believe that they have been badly used and inadequately compensated, and that in not being granted a pension the great traditions of this country and Empire in regard to Civil Service have been very seriously invaded. Although upwards of 400 administrative civil servants in the Transvaal have been retrenched, and between 3,000 and 4,000 railway servants and constabulary, I think it is remarkable that in the newspaper Press there have been so few complaints, and such complaints as have been made have shown extraordinary forbearance. I do not think that this House and the country who are responsible for these civil servants can afford that they should continue appealing in vain for justice. When this question was first brought forward the appeal was made from both sides of the House, and I do not think that a single Member desires that re-trenched civil servants in the Transvaal or any other Colony should not receive their due rights. Before the Constitution was given to the Transvaal we appealed that the Government should make it a condition that the interests of the civil servants should be protected and shepherded. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies made a sympathetic reply, as did Lord Elgin in another place; and we were led to believe, not by direct statement but by implication, that the interests of these civil servants would be duly protected. I think that the Under-Secretary will agree with me that they have not been protected. Whether that is the fault of this Government or of the Transvaal Government is a matter that is open to debate; but I venture to say that this Government had it in its power to secure for the civil servants of the Transvaal compensation and pension which would be adequate and proper. That was before the Constitution was granted. But another opportunity occurred when the £5,000,000 loan was guaranteed by this House and the Government. What was the result of their inaction and hesitation to protect the interests of these civil servants? In no case has an arrangement been made by which they have received what has been granted in any other Colony on whom self-government was conferred. The civil servants of the country deserve the warmest and strongest support that can be given them by the people and the members of the administration. The reputations of many Members of this House have been made by these efficient, expert men, whose knowledge, information, integrity and sound judgment have protected and shepherded Ministers from mistakes. Though unknown to or forgotten by the public, their services should never be forgotten by those to whom they have given faithful service and whose administrative success they have helped to secure. I suppose that no civil servants ever worked under such trying conditions as the Transvaal civil servants. Some hon. Members in the House know something of the difficulty attending the first efforts at reconstruction of the Government of the Transvaal and its commerce, industry, finance, education and land settlement which had been overturned by the war. These men's business habits, industry, and indomitable will were acknowledged by Lord Milner when he set himself to work to build up again a successful administration in the Transvaal. The result is that with one exception the administration of the Transvaal can be pronounced a complete success, although they were unfortunate enough not to have the support and co-operation of their Boer fellow-subjects who withheld themselves from all participation in the government of the colony until full responsible government was given to it. Under such extraordinary difficulties these civil servants succeeded in an extraordinary fashion; but all that they have received in most cases when their services were dispensed with has been a month's salary for every year of service. No pension has been granted, although most of the men took their families to the Transvaal and founded a home on the distinct understanding that it was a permanent engagement with a pension at the end of their period of service. I have received a letter from a man in the Transvaal who says that his retrenchment bears extraordinarily hard upon him, for all the compensation he received for his means of subsistence being cut off from him and the loss he had sustained by the disposal of his property was £125. Cases have come before me of letters written to some of these civil servants from the Colonial Office, to the effect that their employment would be permanent and pensionable—for instance, in the case of officers engaged in Australia and Canada. The Australian and Canadian Governments were asked to engage men for these posts, they were employed and they were told that their occupations would be both permanent and pensionable.


I must interrupt the hon. Gentleman and ask by whom the letters were written. He was quoting a particular case of a Transvaal Constabulary man who had been retrenched. I ask the question because it is most important that the Government should maintain and carry out all the pledges it has given.


Does the right hon. Gentleman ask me to give the name of the officer? In this particular instance which I was quoting I do not know who wrote, but I have in my mind several others. I have a case here in which there is a letter from the Colonial Office using these words: "The salary of the appointment is" so-and-so "and it is permanent and pensionable." That letter I saw.


The hon. Gentleman must attach the specific cases to a specific promise, but he quotes a hard case suppressing names and then he quotes a letter in regard to a case that is entirely distinct. I think he should state the cases in a definite way.


I think my position is quite clear. It is quite impossible for me to give names of correspondents. All I stated was that a letter of this kind has been received.


Who was it sent by?


By an official of the Colonial Office. I am stating an incident known to me, and there are other incidents which are well known. It is impossible of course to state the names of men who at the present time are appealing for employment to the Colonial Office. I think it would predudice their case.


It cannot prejudice their case.


I am not entitled to use their names, but I am entitled to use an illustration and to say that the illustration which I quote is accurate and that the letter came from the Colonial Office.


I am very reluctant to interrupt, but if the hon. Gentleman can show a specific promise in writing, written from the Colonial Office in the name of the Secretary of State by a responsible official in regard to any particular person, so far from prejudicing that person it will probably secure the pension he desires.


I am glad to hear that, but there are cases at the present time of officers who were engaged in Canada or Australia and who were engaged on the definite understanding that their offices would be permanent and pensionable. The right hon. Gentleman will not dispute that the Constabulary were promised by the Government of the Transvaal official employment which was permanent and pensionable. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will dispute that. I think the right hon. Gentleman if he will look further will find that a circular was issued stating that the employment would be permanent and pensionable, and that has never been disputed by the Government of the Transvaal. Indeed, Sir Arthur Lawley (late Lieutenant Governor of the Transvaal) speaking at Pretoria on 1st December, 1905, said— You must treat the men who are in the service to-day fairly, justly and generously. Many of them came from other countries, after long and honourable records of public service. Others have ignored opportunities and have preferred to serve their country and, at the same time, to be assured (as they have every right to be assured) that their positions would be permanent and pensionable. These men had acquired vested rights, the country was under an obligation to them, and he had sufficient confidence in his country that these obligations would be fulfilled. Lord Selborne, at a meeting of the Inter-Colonial Council on 30th May, 1906, said— We ask you to sanction pension regulations…to fulfil those hopes which had been admitted and encouraged that their services would be pensionable. Sir Richard Solomon speaking at the Legislative Council on 25th May, 1906, said that— Although a pensions ordinance had been drafted assuring the status and tenure of office of members of the Civil Service and providing for their pensions, it would not be introduced that session. It might safely be left to the men of that country to protect the position of members of the Civil Service. It has never been disputed by those who are in authority in the Transvaal that the civil servants engaged by the Colonial Office and those acting with the Colonial Office in the Transvaal believed and were told that their positions would be permanent and pensionable, and surely a legal duty rests upon this Government to see that justice is done. But a duty far beyond a legal duty rests upon them. There is a moral duty and a moral obligation resting upon them to see that justice is done to these civil servants. Consider the position of the civil servant. A man of education, of knowledge, and of skill goes out to the Transvaal and takes upon himself some very important judicial or administrative duty. He marries or he brings his family out. He purchases furniture or has it conveyed out to him and he establishes himself in the full belief that he will be there permanently. But then it happens that the service becomes overstocked. I am not quarrelling with retrenchment. I believe that that retrenchment was necessary, but there may be differences of opinion as to the way it was carried out. Into that I do not wish to enter, because I do not want to be controversial. But the retrenchment we will say is necessary. What is the position of a man who has not a profession in the ordinary sense of the term? He is not a lawyer, doctor, or civil engineer, who can return to this country and enter into competition for the thousands of openings that occur here or in other portions of the Empire. The openings for him are very few; but he comes back to this country and goes to the Colonial Office and asks that he may be given "employment in West Africa, East Africa, or elsewhere. The reply is that the openings are very few, but I venture to say that this Government is in honour bound and this country is also in honour bound to see that these men if they cannot get work in the Colonial service are given openings in other Departments of the State. These civil servants have received compensation and been dismissed, but their compensation has not carried them home. There are cases in which the compensation has been so small that men have been able to send their wives and families home second class, but have had to work their way home themselves. That no doubt is very creditable to them but not to the Government or the country. No Government and no country can afford that their civil servants should be placed in such a position. These are honest hard-working men who in the Transvaal have received not very high salaries, which they have exhausted in consequence of the great cost of living, and they find themselves dismissed, with a miserable compensation, and told to go back to the land from which they came, where there is no opening for them. I believe I am representing common sense and the sense of justice of this House, when I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he and his colleagues really lost a great opportunity when, on granting the Constitution, they did not arrange definitely for the compensation and pensions of these civil servants, and when later upon guaranteeing the loan they did not then make it a condition. But is it too late? I do not think so, for General Botha himself, who has always acknowledged the claims of these civil servants, said in a speech in June, 1907— It is a matter of regret to the Government that it will not be possible to introduce a Pension Bill or Civil Servants Bill during this session. The reorganisation of the Civil Service, which is one of the most important tasks confronting the Government, is still proceeding, and we feel that until the reorganisation is complete the present state of affairs as regards civil servants should not be disturbed. Next year these measures will be brought forward by the Government. In the meantime the Government will inquire into the equitable claims of the servants of the late South African Republic for pensions for loss of office, in order that Parliament may be able to see what financial liability such claims for recognition may afford. I fancy the last sentence will not strike the House very agreeably, but they will see by that statement that the present Prime Minister recognises the responsibility. The late Lieutenant-Governor has recognised it, and the late Attorney-General, and the acting Lieutenant-Governor of the Transvaal have also recognised it. In face of the fact that a Pension Bill is to be brought in and considered, seeing the influence the present Government has with the Transvaal, I submit that the time has come for them now, this year, to take an opportunity, not to intervene, not to intercede, but strongly to insist that these men who have been, let us say unwittingly, wronged should be righted. That they have been wronged I am as certain of as that I am here; that they have been unwittingly wronged I sincerely hope. But it is for the Government to show its good will, and I cannot but feel that this Government who have in the past shown such sympathy for those not of our own race will feel that they cannot possibly afford to show a lack of sympathy with those of our own race in so hard a case. I said I did not wish to be controversial, and I do not wish to be, but let me point out in what way the Government could make representations. For instance, the Constabulary is being retrenched, and the duties which have been done by them are now being done by another body altogether, that is the field cornets. Now what are the duties of the Constabulary? The right hon. Gentleman knows thoroughly well what they are. Those duties are now being taken over by the field comets who receive less salary, because there are more of them. Now, of seventy-three appointments to the Field Cornet regiment only two bear English names. I hope that the House will realise that the officers of the constabulary in the Transvaal devoted themselves to learning the Dutch language. They could not fill all these duties which they had to fulfil without a knowledge of the Dutch language, yet of seventy-two men who are to take their place and perform these duties two only bear English names. I ask that in this change British men who are liked by the people should receive a fair proportion of the positions. Throughout the Colony the constabulary are respected and beloved for their justice, and new men are being appointed to take their place whose chief qualification is that they are Dutchmen.


I deny it.


The hon. Gentleman denies it. Well, he will have an opportunity of controverting what I have said. I am sorry that anything I have said should call for denial, because I have been very careful to state nothing but what is actual fact. Out of 111 appointments seventy-nine are old civil servants and thirty-two are new. Out of eighty-two officials twenty-eight are old and fifty-four are new. That is to say, that the Colonial Government has gone outside the old service for its men. I do not say the Boers have been taken because they are Boers. But what I do say is that it is the duty of the Transvaal Government to preserve in its service, except in case of misdemeanour, those men who have faithfully served the country and who have nobly done their duty. Before I sit down, I want to make one more statement, and that is that the Imperial Government is bound to intercede in the case of the Transvaal Civil Servants if they base their action concerning the granting of the Constitution upon the Report of the West Ridgway Committee. Because it is known that the West Ridgway Committee was greatly concerned for the future welfare of the civil servants of the Transvaal. It is well known that the Committee made certain recommendations, and I hope the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies will be able to-night to state what those recommendations were concerning the civil servants. I state categorically in this House that the West Ridgway Committee were very greatly concerned for the welfare of these civil: servants in the Transvaal, and made certain recommendations which, if carried out, would have prevented at the present time the great discontent and feeling of wrong from which these retrenched civil servants are suffering. This Government granted the Transvaal Constitution on the Report of the West Ridgway Committee, which the Prime Minister said was sent out to gain information to enable the Government to form an opinion. In every other case they took the advice of the West Ridgway Committee, but in this particular case they did not. They did not act on a single recommendation which the Committee made with regard to these civil servants.


asked where the hon. Gentleman obtained his information. The Report of the West Ridgway Committee was an entirely secret and confidential document, and he would like to know how the hon. Gentleman could know upon what point the Government had diverged from that Report.


I have stated the point upon which the Government have diverged from the Report, and if necessary will state it again.


I desire to ask the hon. Gentleman how he knows.


It is for the right hon. Gentleman to deny the statements I have made if he finds they are inaccurate, but it has come to my knowledge that they have diverged from the recommendations of that Report. The West Ridgway Report has not been confined, any more than previous confidential Reports, to the knowledge and use of one particular department. I did not get my information from the Colonial Office or any official source.


Will the hon. Baronet tell the House the source from which he did obtain it?


If the hon. Gentleman challenges my statements I will ask Sir West Ridgway whether they are not true. It is regrettable that in this case, which calls for British sympathy and action, the Government should take the stand they do. Their action warrants me and those who think with me in asking them to do their utmost for these civil servants for whom we speak to-night. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, because I think it is not yet too late, first, that the Government should press upon the Transvaal Government the necessity for the Pensions Ordnance being passed through the Transvaal Legislature—because, after all, this Government is primarily responsible for the appointing of this Civil Service. It may have been a mistake, but we ourselves are bound to carry out this pledge to the men who trusted us. It is an Imperial responsibility that cannot be dropped. I therefore ask the Government to intercede and press for the passing of the forthcoming Pensions Bill, and most earnestly to intervene and enable these civil servants in the Transvaal who have been retrenched and who have to begin again, if not in the Transvaal in other parts of the world, to do so in such a way that a stigma shall not rest upon the Government, and that men who have done well shall not be able to go abroad and say: "We worked well, we laboured, and we fought, and our reward was starvation." I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.

MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)

said that in seconding the Amendment he did not wish to exploit mere Party advantages. The Party with which he was associated had criticised strongly in the past the Transvaal policy of the Government. Of course the situation of these civil servants arose directly out of that policy, but he did not think it would be patriotic to try and get Party advantages out of it at this time. In consequence they had refrained ever since the Constitution had been granted from making attacks which might and would, perhaps, prevent the ultimate success of the Transvaal Colony, and they did not desire now to pursue any different course. But they did want to plead very earnestly for the positions of these men. There were a considerable number of them. They took the service with the clear understanding in many cases that the employment was permanent and pensionable. That was quite certain from what his hon. friend had quoted from the speeches of Sir Arthur Lawley and Lord Selborne. Therefore it was only right that the Government should keep the word of its agents. Sir Arthur Lawley's language was so clear and so concise that, coming as it did from the Colonial Office, in his opinion, it constituted a pledge to these men. That being so, he thought it was only right that the Government should take the case in hand. We wanted men in very difficult circumstances and we got them. Many of them gave up opportunities and employment at home for the service of their country. They went out to cope with difficult circumstances, to take part in what was always a very responsible matter—the starting of a new Government—and under those circumstances it was only just and fair that they should be given some chances of compensation for the position in which they were now placed. He ventured to think that men who had sacrificed their prospects of promotion and the best years of their life under these conditions, who were placed in their present position through no fault of their own, and who, in some cases, were too old to start afresh on coming back to this country, deserved well of their country, and ought to be granted the conditions under which they took their office. He did not want to make any Party capital out of the matter. It was merely a question of justice, and it was upon the grounds of justice that they pleaded their cause. They were our own people, kith and kin British, and it must be somewhat galling to them to see ex-burghers and others, who fought against this country, put in their places; but they had been dignified and had not made undue protest or any scene. They had been forbearing, and now they asked them to put their case before the House. He thought it was only right and fair, before it was too late, that the Government should do something for them and should endeavour to safeguard and right their position. There were many of them who had been discharged with one month's salary for every year they had served. That was a very small sum considering the positions they had given up. There were many more cases to come, because the inter colonial council would come to an end next June. It meant that a number more of these servants ran the risk of being discharged with equally little compensation and absolutely no pension. In view of their numbers, of what they had given up to go out and start the Government in the Transvaal, and of the promises and conditions under which they understood they were serving, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for the Colonies would give a fair consideration to their case.

Amendment proposed— At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that this House regrets that Your Majesty's Government has not taken advantage of its opportunities to safeguard the interests of retrenched civil servants of the Transvaal Administration and secure for them due compensation and pension.' "—(Sir Gilbert Parker.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

said that, as an old official of the Transvaal, he would like to thank the hon. Member for Graves-end for the very moderate and nonpartisan way in which he had always presented the case of the Transvaal Civil servants to the House. He would not go so far as to say that he thought the Transvaal Civil servants had a legal claim against His Majesty's Government, but in the absence of any legal claims the moral claim against the Government became stronger. He recollected very well that each year he served in the Transvaal brought a promise of a Pension Bill, and they were told that their position would be legalised. But the Pension Law was never passed, and they recognised that legally they were absolutely stranded if they lost office. Therefore, he did not think, unless there were specific cases of promise, that they could go so far as to say they had any legal claim on the Government for compensation. He wished to give the House some idea of the manner in which the officials had been retrenched, for that was the chief ground of their claim upon this country. They had been retrenched because South Africa was in a very low financial position. He did not believe they were retrenched because they were English or because they fought against the late Repubilc, but in the first place because the country was in a bad way, and they had to cut down the Civil Service. Unfortunately, the Transvaal Government, being composed of business-men, cut out all those men first who had no claims to pensions, and left in all the old Boer officials who had come from Cape Colony and Natal. That was the reason why all the English members of the Transvaal Civil Service had come home. He did not say it was the only reason; but the chief reason had undoubtedly been economy. There was another reason which he thought the House ought also to understand. Many of the English officials were in a semi-judicial position. They had to administer justice or perform executive duties, and they thus became not only in intimate relation with the native population, but even in hostile contact with it. One could not administer justice without exciting heated animosity on the part of the people he was called upon to judge, and months before the General Election in the Transvaal, and months before the officials were retrenched, it was common talk in the districts that they were going to be retrenched. Although they were in a judicial position, they therefore had the feeling that every one of their decisions would have a serious effect upon their future. Some of them tried to please the natives in order to keep their position, but, he thanked God, the majority of them being English first took care that no personal advantage should have the slightest influence upon their judicial actions and executive functions. It was those men, in particular, who had walked straight, and had not deviated from the narrow paths of uprightness, who had the greatest claim on the Government. He knew one resident magistrate who had occasion to suspend a local attorney, and forbid him to practice in his court. That attorney put it about the town that he would get rid of the magistarte at the first opportunity. The magistrate was retrenched and sent home. There were other cases nearly as bad where the Het Volk had threatened civil servants, and had then proceeded to get rid of them, because they administered justice without fear or favour. He recognised that the Colonial Office could not absorb the whole of these civil servants at once, and many of them were not pre-eminently suited for Colonial Office work; but he thought other Departments of the Government should make an effort to absorb them. They could be employed by the Home Office in the charge of gaols, and as inspectors by the Local Government Board, by the Commissioner of Works, and in numerous other vacancies as they occurred in the various Departments; and he thought the effort should be made for the country's own good fame, not only here, but in the Colonies as well, to find work for those who were now stranded. It was really an appeal ad misericordiam, but he hoped His Majesty's Government would consider the claim these people had upon them, and do their best to find posts for all those who had been retrenched.


I had hopes that the Colonial Office would escape this Amendment. There were two other Amendments relating to Colonial matters on the Paper. I am glad we are relieved from the necessity of debating either of those, and I venture to believe that in this new matter which is now brought forward it will be found that at any rate the subject is not one which need lead to any acute or bitter controversy. I have no reason to complain of the speeches made on the other side, certainly not of the speech made by the hon. Gentleman opposite, if I may say so without effrontery—quite one of the best speeches I have had the pleasure of hearing him deliver on Colonial matters. Only on one point do I criticise him. He referred to a secret and confidential Report of the Government. If he has seen a copy of that Report, he has seen it inconsequence of a breach of confidence, and it is his duty to denounce the person who has shown it him. I am not going to say in answer to his question whether the Government policy is or is not in accordance with this or that particular in the Report. I do not think a confidential Report, which the Government desire to keep secret and which the House of Commons has desired should be kept secret, should be quoted in the House and Ministers dared to say whether this or that particular is correct. I dare say the hon. Gentleman did not realise the seriousness of some of his remarks.


The right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say perhaps, that I have not read the whole of the Ridgeway Report, and it did not come into my hands improperly. My sources of information were not improper sources.


The fact remains that the House of Commons has decided upon the advice of the Government that this Report should remain a secret Paper, the property of the State; as much the property of hon. Gentlemen opposite when they come into power as it is now of the present Government. The House has heard the hon. Gentleman admit that he has read a part of the Report. I do not wish, however, to press the point. Every one knows that English public life has many shades, and that contrasts are not always sharp black and white. But I do object—not to put it as a serious hostile point—to the style of controversy which quotes a secret document and challenges the Government to say whether it is in some respect correct. Now I come to the question the hon. Gentleman has raised. The question raised is divided into two parts, the position of the civil servants and the policy of the Government which has retrenched them. These are the two parts. It is very easy indeed to make out a case of hardship. There are hardships. Life is full of hard cases. There are unemployed not only in the Transvaal Civil Service, but all though the whole system of our society there are persons who indulge hopes that their employment will be constant and their progress steady until at the end of their lives they will be assured of pensions. Such good fortune does not happen to the vast run of humanity. Nearly the whole mass of humanity have to face a much more bitter problem of life than that. I submit with great respect—no unkind word shall pass from my lips on the subject of the retrenched civil servants—but before we embark on a great movement of sympathy with particular civil servants who have been retrenched, we should affirm the general proposition that the State is not obliged to do more for any person who contracts with it than the contract specifically says. Policy may temper the application of that rule, but if you are to take up a general position on behalf of the State you are bound only by the letter of the contract. I would much rather put forward the other point of view. It is a more grateful and more easy point of view to put forward. I only submit what were the obligations which were contracted in respect of these civil servants and the way in which they have been met. But the House knows perfectly well how the Transvaal Civil Service was formed. The country was devastated. After the war was over the devastation of the country continued. During the last period of the war the Civil Service had to be created. Persons were collected from all parts—persons of different ages and different professions were brought into that Civil Service, and from the very beginning it was an abnormal service, a service essentially to meet an emergency and essentially characterised by an element of impermanence. That I do not think is denied by anyone. There were three main classes of civil servants. There were those who were transferred from the British service to the Transvaal Civil Service—that is to say men who had pensionable offices at home who were moved into the Transvaal service. Those I call the transferred civil servants. Then there were persons who were not transferred but engaged to meet the emergency, but who nevertheless belonged to what might be called the established Civil Service of the Transvaal; and in addition there was a great number of unestablished and temporary appointments. Such was the Civil Service of the Transvaal. The transferred civil servants—the men who had pensionable offices and an assured position in the British Civil Service, and had been transferred, have in all cases received pensions or employment since the change of administration. The unestablished and temporary civil servants were bound by the very nature of their appointment. They were engaged for a temporary period, and when that temporary period of employment was over they were removed from their appointments, and the Government service went on without them. That is a position which confronts people in every other walk of life. It confronts the engineer, the lawyer, the Minister of the Crown. All engaged on essentially temporary employment are liable on the withdrawal of the employment, if the conditions are temporary, to have to take their place in the ordinary struggle of life, which in the present organisation of society is the rough rule of the road. I turn to the class of non-transferred but established civil servants. In 1905 a Commission was appointed by the Government of the Transvaal. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman was in office in 1905 or not. At any rate I am sure he will accept all responsibility for the acts of his predecessor. Under the right hon. Gentleman's Government the Transvaal appointed a Commission to investigate the whole conditions of the Civil Service there, and the Commission was headed by an eminent Transvaal Judge. The Commission proposed a pension scheme for the Civil Service, and advocated certain reductions. That pension scheme was in essence this: Every civil servant should make a contribution from his pay towards his pension. These contributions should go towards a fund. Towards that fund the Government of the Transvaal should contribute pound for pound, and the resulting fund should be a pool from which the pensions of the Civil servants should be drawn. But the Commission recommended that the Government should decline to guarantee the solvency of the fund—that they should invest the money and guarantee the interest on the investment, contribute pound for pound for the money subscribed by the civil servants, but should not be held responsible that the fund so accumulated would be adequate for the pensionable aspirations and claims of the civil servants. The Government declined to accept its solvency. When it became clear that a change of administration was in prospect in the Transvaal the established civil servants were offered a pension scheme on the basis of the Commissioner's Report. They refused it specifically, and the main ground of refusal was the fact that the Government would not guarantee the solvency of the fund. They said they would prefer to trust themselves to the decision of the newly-elected Legislature. That was their choice on the issue that was presented to them. The Crown Colony Government under Lord Selborne, for which we were then responsible, debated whether it would be better to pass another pension law meeting the views of the Civil servants, and departing from the recommendations of the Commission. They came to the conclusion that such a law could not be passed except by the over-riding of every unofficial representative of the Legislative Council, most of whom had been appointed under the tenure of the right hon. Gentleman. Most of the prominent men he had been relying on for the Government of the Transvaal were opposed to the institution of a pension scheme which departed from the recommendation of the Judges Commission. That being so, we passed into responsible government on that basis. What has happened since reponsible Government has been established? One would think to hear the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that all the British civil servants in the Transvaal had been summarily dismissed from their offices and their places filled up by others. The impression produced on the House was that a tremendous expulsion of British civil servants had followed and—although I was very glad to notice that no imputation of unfairness was urged against the Transvaal Government—that a vast revolution had taken place in the Government service. Under the Government of General Botha, between 1st May, and 1st October, 1907, 144 established civil servants, so called, had been retrenched or discharged. I think about ten or twelve of them had been discharged and their places filled and the remaining 120 odd had been retrenched from the service. In 1903–1904, 187 civil servants holding on exactly the same tenure; facing exactly the same problem of life, exposed to exactly the same difficulties and privations on the termination of their employment were discharged by Lord Milner from the Transvaal in pursuance of a policy of retrenchment which was forced upon them by the shrinkage in the revenues of the country and by the necessity of readjusting the Civil Service to normal conditions. The conditions under which these two sets of Civil servants have been discharged are precisely the same. I am not here to say whether they are adequate or not. All I say is that under Lord Milner and the right hon. Gentleman or the Member for West Birmingham, who preceded him, there were 187 members of the Transvaal Civil Service who had been engaged for service in the country discharged and 144 discharged by General Botha in the period I have mentioned on precisely the same conditions. What are those conditions? I am shocked to tell the House that the conditions are those which by law were guaranteed. I do not wish in the least to say these are not hard conditions. They are hard conditions, but they are not harder than those of many men in the ordinary rough and tumble of life—

  1. (a) If the officer show can an undertaking in writing—oral assurances must be rejected—given him on his appointment that he was engaged as a member of the permanent staff.
  2. (b) If the officer is of a class which, as a whole, or the clear majority of which, the Public Service Commission treat as established, even if he is supernumerary in that class.
may be granted a gratuity on retrenchment on the following terms— One month's salary for each year of service calculated on the basis of the officer's average annual salary for three years immediately preceding his retirement and a proportionate gratuity for periods of service of less than a year, provided that an officer had completed one year's service; and a gratuity in lieu of vacation (but not occasional) leave admissible to him at the date of retrenchment. These were the terms on which the reorganisation was conducted by Lord Milner and by General Botha. It may be said they are hard terms, but I am anxious to submit that it does not lie with those who supported the previous retrenchment to accuse us of hard terms, nor does, any impeachment lie against the Transvaal Government, who carried out strictly the terms which, their predecessors had imposed. Then I come to the constabulary. The hon. Member for Gravesend said the constabulary was engaged as a permanent and pensionable force. That is one of those half truths which are extremely difficult to meet. Persons have been allowed to enter the constabulary on the understanding that if they served for a lengthy period of time they would receive a pension, but a provision was inserted in the terms of their engagement that if at an earlier period it was desirable to reduce or retrench the force it should so be reduced or retrenched, and, not having qualified they should not receive a pension. The regulations say:—
  1. 1. A superannuation allowance shall be granted, on retirement, to a member of the Force who has attained the age of fifty years.
    • If a Commissioned Officer of the Force ceases to be employed through the abolition of his own or another office, or through a reduction of establishment, or through a reorganisation in the Force, he shall be entitled—
      1. (a) If his serivce is less than ten years to a gratuity equal to one month's average salary for each year of service.
      2. (b) If his service is ten years or more, either to a gratuity equal to one month's average salary for each year of service, or to an annuity equal to one-fiftieth of his average salary for each year of service, but not so as to exceed three-fifths of his average salary, as the High Commissioner and Governor may determine.
  2. 2. If a member of the Force lose his life from an injury received by him in the execution of duty involving special risk, and as a result of such duty, whether death occurs immediately or within a year after the injury, his widow and minor children, if any, shall be paid either a gratuity equal to one month's average salary for each year of service, rendered by the deceased, or an annuity equal to one-fiftieth of his average salary for each year of service, but not so as to exceed three-fifths of his average salary. Provided that, for the purposes of this Section, the deceased's services shall be deemed to be his actual service enhanced by the number of years, if any, by which his age at death falls short of fifty. Provided also that, if a gratuity under Section 3 had been granted to the deceased, it shall be deducted in convenient instalments from the payments made under this Section.
  3. 3. No pension shall be granted to members of the Force except upon condition that it is liable to be forfeited and may be withdrawn by the High Commissioner and Governor in any of the following cases:—
    1. (a) On conviction of the grantee of any crime or offence.
    2. (b) On his knowingly associating with suspected persons, thieves, or other offenders.
    3. (c) On his refusing to resume his duties in his former office when required to do so by the High Commissioner and Governor in accordance with any regulations made under Proclamation No. 24 of 1900.
    4. 1200
    5. (d) If he shall make use of the fact of his former employment in the Force in a manner which the High Commissioner and Governor considers to be improper.
  4. 4. Any member of the Force who has attained the age of forty years, and who has served with diligence and fidelity for not less than twenty years, shall be entitled to retire upon a gratuity at the rate of one month's average salary for every year of service.
  5. 5. In the calculation of gratuities or annuities under these Regulations "Salary" means consolidated pay only and does not include allowances or any other emoluments, and "average salary "means the average of the salary drawn by a member of the Force during the last three years of his service or during this whole service, whichever may be the shorter-period.
  6. 6. An annuity granted under Section 4 to a widow or minor child shall cease, in the ease of the widow on re-marriage, in the case of a son at the age of twenty-one, and in the case of a daughter at the age of twenty-one or on marriage if earlier. Such annuities may be withdrawn by the High Commissioner and Governor in the event of mis-behaviour.
  7. 7. Any member of the Force who has been discharged or dismissed therefrom for misconduct shall not be entitled to any pension, gratuity, or allowance.
  8. 8. The High Commissioner and Governor may permit the period of service of any member of an existing Police Force who shall be appointed to serve in the South African Constabulary to be reckoned for the computation of pension or gratuity under these Regulations.
The House will see that the pensionable claim of these constabulary officers and men was only operative in the event of their service for a very long period of time, whereas full permission was taken to dispense with them after they had served for a shorter period. I can only say that in these respects the rule had been most strictly followed. It is not conceivable that any British Government would allow its promise to any individual to be broken. If a promise had been made and could be proved in writing in respect to any individual the Government is bound, it goes without saying, to perform it. But this Government and the, Transvaal, like any other Government in the world, is not obliged to go in respect to law or equity beyond the limits of its legal obligations. When I have said that I say that as far as the Colonial Office is concerned we will do our very utmost to employ valuable public servants who have been retrenched or have lost their employment in the Transvaal as far as the patronage of the Colonial Office will go. We cannot undertake to appoint a man to a position for which he is not suited in another Colony, but as far as we can, and we have already done something, we will endeavour to meet hard cases. I feel very strongly on this subject myself, taking as I do a great pride in the Transvaal settlement, and I should be very sorry if a comparatively small number of individuals went out and felt they had a grievance and suffered through an arrangement which on the whole has been vastly beneficial. I agree with what has been said by the hon. Gentleman. I hope every Department of the State will co-operate, because the patronage of the Colonial Office is limited, in trying to find employment for really suitable men. Some of these are extremely good men. They have had their chance, through the organisation of the Transvaal Civil Service, of coming forward and showing their quality. The Government might, I think, gain advantage in finding employment for them in other Departments. That I put, not as a matter of right, not as a matter which may be urged as a claim against the Government, but as a matter of sensible, reasonable, and indulgent administration. I have said what I wished to say on the subject of the Transvaal Civil servants. I believe the Transvaal Government is going to introduce a pension system. I do not know what the policy of that Government will be any more than I know what the policy of the Australian Commonwealth will be, and I do not feel entitled too narrowly to inquire, but I have heard from sources of information which are open to me that the Government contemplate introducing a pension system which will protect their established Civil servants in a proper manner, and it is their interest to do so, because if they do not have a pensionable established Civil Service they will not have a good established Civil Service. They know perfectly well that they must give security of tenure to obtain the services of really able men. But there is another aspect, on which I will say a word before I sit down, of the question of the Transvaal Government. I was very glad to notice that hon. Gentlemen who have spoken made no charge of racial animosity against the Transvaal Government. Such a charge has been widely made outside the House and has given considerable pain in the quarters to which it applied. There is nothing more untrue than to say that the Transvaal Government dismissed British subjects in order to to fill their places with Dutchmen. General Botha said on 14th October, at Randfontein that— No Englishman had ever been dismissed to make room for a Dutchman. The unhappy policy of retrenchment was inherited from their predecessors and had been carried out not by Boers but by Englishmen who had started the policy long before they could bring any opinion to bear upon it. He would like to say emphatically that no Englishman had been retrenched to make room for a Dutchman. These statements are borne out by the figures which have been committed to me and which I put before the House with what authority the Colonial Office and the right hon. Gentleman may claim. One hundred and forty-four retrenchments have been made in the period which I have mentioned. These retrenchments have been absolute retrenchments, by which I mean it has not been a question of getting out one set of servants on account of their being Englishmen and filling the places with. Dutchmen. There have been net reductions in the scale of the Civil Service dictated by a more prudent financial administration. The number of British and Dutch Civil Servants in the Transvaal in the established branches, excluding minor officials in the police, prisons, and education departments, is at present about 1,600. At the present moment after the retrenchments have been affected there are 1,198 English officials, judging from their names and as far as their history could be traced; 407 are Dutch. That proportion obtains in a country where the two races are at least on an equality with respect to population. Since the Transvaal Government has been in office, a number of offices have fallen vacant and persons have been removed or retired. How have these appointments been filled? Since 1st March, 1907, 221 new clerical appointments have been made, not in increase of the Civil Service, but in the ordinary course of administration. Of these appointments, 104 persons of Dutch, and Colonial nationality, and 117 of British and Irish nationality have been appointed to these places in a Civil Service which already exceeds by, I believe, nearly three to one the proportion of English to Dutch. That has been done by a Government which is no doubt pre-ponderatingly Dutch in its character and complexion. I think it is only due that it should be known that, whatever hardship there may have been to individuals, there has been no unfair ousting of Englishmen to replace them by Dutchmen. Everyone knows that the Transvaal is a self-governing Colony. They are entitled if they can get the consent of their Parliament to make whatever arrangements they choose for their Civil Service, and so long as I speak for Colonial affairs in this House, I will always endeavour to defend it in the exercise of its legitimate rights given it solemnly by Parliament.

MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)

I am sure the House will forgive me for mentioning a personal matter. The right hon. Gentleman in connection with a certain portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Gravesend said something with regard to improper conduct. I do not know what the facts are. I have not had an opportunity of inquiring since the charge was made. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman made it very vigorously or persisted in it, but the House will allow me to say I am perfectly certain, even without investigating the facts, that my hon. friend behind me would never do anything but what was perfectly straightforward. I do not wish for a moment to speak in a controversial manner upon the case which has been presented to the House. The right hon. Gentleman occupied a very considerable portion of his observations—I think he recognises that he did—in meeting charges, which had not been made on this side of the House. Not a word has been said or will be said on the present occasion of any charge against General Botha's Government of undue racialism. Not a word will be said against the policy of retrenchment of the Civil Service. We are all agreed that the economic condition of the Transvaal, no matter what the cause of it is, is not one that enables anybody who is conversant with the circumstances to stand here and say that the policy of retrenchment and economy is not necessary. Therefore, I need not trouble myself with that considerable portion of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks in which he justified the policy of retrenchment, which has not been attacked, and justified General Botha's Government as not having been racial when nobody in this de ate has alleged that it is. I do not complain of the right hon. Gentleman endeavouring to meet any charges, if he thinks it important, that have been made outside. Let me put to the House what I consider the position. I consider the position is this, that towards a numerous class of civil servants in the Transvaal at this present moment the British Government is under an honourable obligation to fulfil pledges. I do not think that is disputed by the right hon. Gentleman. I went out during the war on a commission to find out the condition of affairs with regard to the obligations of the Boer Republic after the annexation of the two Republics. In every case the commission of which I was Chairman recommended that the obligations which had been entered into by President Kruger's Government, if entered into under circumstances of good faith, and unless forfeited by misconduct, should be honourably fulfilled by the British Government. Of course, it is perfectly obvious that that must be the position at the present moment of the British Government, which by its own act has made the country independent, or practically independent, of the British Government. What is the situation? I asked a question the day before yesterday, and it was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman to be a typical case. I take the case of Major McInerny, who had been carrying on practice as a barrister in Melbourne. He left with the Victorian contingent in 1899, he fought in the, war and was seriously wounded, and after he had recovered from his wounds he sat as president of the Court of Martial Law at Pretoria. He afterwards was appointed to the position of resident magistrate at Krugersdorp. After that he was entrusted with what was undoubtedly as laborious and thankless a task as any British subject could engage in in the Transvaal. He went into the claims for compensation on the military receipts which amounted, I believe, to £9,500,000. I think the work of that commission took two or three years, and he fulfilled it with the congratulations of everybody concerned. He was mentioned honourably in the despatches, and at the close of that work he returned to his duties as resident magistrate. This man had bled for the country, and he had worked for it as few men have worked in any part of the Empire. He was retired in September, 1907, as I understand without any pension at all. I shall read in his own words the circumstances of the case. Before the dissolution of the Pretoria High Court the Attorney-General, Sir Richard Solomon (then styled Legal Adviser) wrote informing me of the proposal to dissolve the High Court and inviting me to accept the office of Resident Magistrate under the Civil Administration. I called on Sir Richard Solomon and we discussed the status of the office of resident magistrate; I told him that I was a barrister in active practice in Melbourne and that his offer required careful consideration as acceptance of it would mean the abandonment of my practice and the opening of an entirely new career; that I was disposed to entertain his offer as I was inclined to believe that the conditions of the country would afford opportunities for men possessed of administrative power and I asked him what would be the tenure of the office, would it be the usual tenure during good behaviour. 'Yes, the usual tenure of Quamdiu se bene gesserit.' I then asked him would the office have pension rights, he replied that pension provision had not yet been made but the usual and proper pension provision would be made. The right hon. Gentleman told me yesterday that that was a typical case. Let me point out to the House that that is a case which is not covered by the remarks he has made. I have not the exact date, but the appointment was made in 1902 or 1903. The situation is this. There is no pension law at present in existence. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] The right hon. Gentleman has already told the House, but I do not think he has stated quite fully why that was so. He must take the policy of the late Government as a whole, and not separate it. So long as the Government of the Transvaal was not self-government no doubt there was control from this country. The representatives of the King in South Africa formally promised that a pension ordinance should be introduced by the representative Government, not by the responsible Government; and when the British Government thought it desirable to give self-government to the Transvaal they were under an honourable obligation to provide that the civil servants should not be handed over to the responsible Government without security.


The language used by the British Commissioners with regard to the promise of pensions was held to have been redeemed when the definite offer to submit a pension ordinance to the Crown Colony administration was made. That definite offer was refused by the civil servants of the Transvaal, and they deliberately preferred to trust themselves to the decision of the newly-elected Legislature.


I do not think that is a strictly accurate statement. It was in July 1905 when Sir Arthur Lawley made the extremely strong statement which has already been quoted. No notice whatever had then been given that self-government would be granted, and, therefore, the promise which was made by his Majesty's representative was that a pension ordinance should be passed by a Government in which this country still retained control. There is the difference. His Majesty's Government thought it right to reverse that policy without imposing terms that the promise would be fulfilled. I warned the Government in the most emphatic manner that this was a question which they ought to provide for when giving self-government. I warned them that there were serious questions which they ought not to throw on the shoulders of a young legislature. I warned them that there were difficulties impending with respect to British Indians. They ran past all these danger signals, and the House knows perfectly well what has happened. Again after they granted self-government they had another opportunity of helping civil servants. The Transvaal Government were in need of a loan, and they came and asked for the credit of this country to support them in. obtaining £5,000,000. Surely it would have been common prudence to have said that if they wanted money we would give them our support, but that we could only do so on condition that the pledges given to the civil servants would be fulfilled. The House must not mistake me, I am not making the slightest charge against General Botha's Government. They were not his pledges; they were the pledges of the British Government. I have considerable sympathy with General Botha in the matter. What is the position he took up? Speaking on 14th June, 1907, in the Transvaal Legislative Assembly, General Botha said— It is a matter of regret to the Government that it will not be possible to introduce a Pensions Bill or a Civil Service Bill during this session. The re-organisation of the Civil Service which is one of the most important tasks confronting the Government is still proceeding, and we feel until that re-organisation is complete, the present state of affairs as regards the Civil Service should not be disturbed. Next year, however, these measures will be brought forward by the Government. In the meantime the Government will also inquire into the equitable claims of the servants of the late South African Republic to compensation for loss of office in order that Parliament will be in a position to see what financial liability the recognition of such claims will involve. The House will see that he expected formidable claims would be made on the Transvaal Government by his own countrymen who formerly held posts under President Kruger. The House must see it is not easy, in fact it is difficult, for General Botha to look upon the claims of British civil servants with as liberal and generous a mind as we should desire to him do. Therefore, it comes back to this that His Majesty's Government are bound to see that the obligations formally expressed by the King's representative should be fulfilled. I venture to say that this country, great and powerful though it is, cannot afford to disappoint the legitimate expectations of those who have bled for her and worked for her. I think the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the admiration with which he has observed the work of the civil servants of the Crown in East Africa. If any idea were to invade the ranks of that splendid service that the British Government, even at some cost here, are not going to fulfil their promises towards comrades and countrymen of their own who had laboured under difficult circumstances for their country, it will produce a feeling throughout the whole of the Empire which. I am sure, this Government would be the last to wish to arouse. This country cannot afford to weaken the firm belief of every British citizen who has hitherto served and fought for the Government abroad that the obligations of the Government will not be technically and nicely examined, but that they will be conscientiously and liberally fulfilled. But, I ought to say, that after the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, and with his promise of faithful consideration to any case in which a pledge has been distinctly brought home, and to his further pledge that consideration will be given to these cases, not merely by the Colonial Office, but by other Departments, I would not wish to proceed with this vote of censure; and if my hon. friend will accept my advice, though we receive full liberty to recur to this question on other occasions if necessary, I will venture to ask him to withdraw his Motion.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)

I desire to move the Amendment standing in my name with reference to the critical condition of the hop industry involving a great diminution in rural employment and requiring urgent and remedial consideration from the Government. The subject of this Motion is not unknown to a good many Members of the House. It is one of great interest, and has received the attention of the House before this. I do not know whether the Government are really aware of the particularly critical condition which has fallen on the hop industry, and I am quite sure that I can enlist their sympathy and consideration, knowing full well all that they have done during the time they have been in office to encourage the cultivation of the soil and bring back population to the land. No one will gainsay that the cultivation of hops provides undoubtedly a larger amount of employment than any other industry. In 1887, this matter was referred to by the late Lord Salisbury, when he spoke of hop growing as one of the most flourishing and important agricultural industries of the country and one which we can ill-afford to lose. It had been well pointed out, said Lord Salisbury, that the industry had great claims on the good-will and consideration of all those who were in a position to benefit it, and its displacement would be more serious than in the case of any other branch of of agricultural industry. That is the claim which I put forward. Of all the authorities connected with the cultivation of hops, the landowners probably at this time may not be so anxious to continue it, because, owing to the scientific manner in which the industry is carried on, a large amount of capital is required, and it is not likely that the landowners will, on that account, encourage the cultivation of the crop. As far as the occupiers are concerned, these have had of late years difficulty in making profits. Besides, the crop is a very speculative one, and many occupiers think that it would be better to turn to fruit cultivation, for which the hop gardens are admirably suitable. The class most seriously affected right through the county of Kent, a district which I represent, by the depression which has fallen upon the industry is the labour connected with the cultivation of hops. Anybody who knows the facts will acknowledge that the rural villages of Kent have been most flourishing, and of quite a different character from villages in other parts of the country. That is due to the enormous amount of labour which the cultivation of hops has employed. This is not confined to labour on the spot, for there is undoubtedly all through the year labour engaged preparing poles in the underwood plantations, which really forms part of the hop industry. Again, it affords an enormous amount of labour to large numbers of men, women, and children who come from the East End of London during the hop-picking season to obtain a most beneficial change of air, to add considerably to their means of subsistence, and carry back health and prosperity to their abodes in town. Now, this industry is not one which can be dealt with by the particular plan put forward by the Government last year. The Small Holdings Act will not meet the difficulties in this case. The Government were willing last year to pursue the experiment of small holdings, and to give to the small holders very considerable advantages amounting almost to a bounty. They said that a small holding required something like fifty acres, and an allotment probably five acres to put a man into a satisfactory position to earn a comfortable subsistence even with other work. But look at the difference in reference to hops. Between two and three acres under the cultivation of hops will provide work for a man and his family for the whole year. If that be so, it will be seen what an enormous advantage it is to encourage this particular industry if we want to secure the greatest productivity of the soil, and bring back the labourers to the land. At all events, there are very special circumstances why the Government should give special consideration in dealing with the matter. As I have said, this is not the first time that the hop industry has been brought before the attention of the House. In 1857 there was an inquiry by Select Committee, and that Committee considered very carefully the position of the trade in hops, which was then, of course, subjected to both Customs and Excise duties. The Committee unanimously accepted the statement put forward by many witnesses, that if the duties on hops which then existed were either modified or abolished, it would eventually prove fatal to the industry. In 1890 another Committee was appointed to inquire into the cause" of the steady decrease of the industry, and the serious displacement of labour thereby occasioned; but they failed to discover any special solution of the difficulty, and rather rode off in their Report on the expression of a hope that more favourable times were coming. That hope has not been realised, although occasionally a favourable season has been experienced. The acreage under cultivation of hops has declined from 71,000 to 45,000 acres, and probably 10 per cent. of the area will go out of cultivation this year. At one time hops were grown in thirty-six counties-in England, Scotland and Wales; now they are only grown in eight counties, but nearly the whole of the cultivation is confined to the county of Kent. The industry suffers very specially from one particular cause, viz., that the prices of hops are more easily depressed than those of almost any other crop produced in the country. It is much more easy to cause a depression in the hop trade and to bring the prices down below the value than in any other industry. The only possible way of carrying on this industry at a profit is to equalise matters. In bountiful years hop growers know that the prices will be small and there is very little chance of being able to get any large prices for their produce, but in years of greater scarcity, prices rise, and this enables them to balance matters. Since the foreign importation of hops and substitutes for brewing beer the prices have become equalised in the good and the bad years, so that, as the Field newspaper said a few days ago, in this year the average loss on the acreage of hops grown in Kent is something like £14, and in some cases it amounts to £20 per acre. Under these circumstances it is almost impossible to carry on this industry unless some very serious help can be given in one way or another. Is it desirable that the industry should entirely go out, and that we should depend for one of our oldest British industries entirely upon foreign supply? Everyone knows the remedy that ninety-nine out of every 100 hop-growers will put forward, viz., tariff reform; but I cannot expect the present Government to consider that for a moment, and I do not apprehend that this forms in any sense a part of that agitation. I am only bringing this forward because it is really a strong question which ought to concern the Government of the country on account of its vast importance to the people engaged in the industry. But nobody can deny that that is a remedy which is put forward and always has been put forward, and was the subject of evidence before the Committee in 1857. It was the subject for the consideration of the Committee in 1870, long before the agitation for tariff reform arose. Therefore one cannot help mentioning this; but if the Government will not approach the one remedy which is the best for the industry, it is possible to ask them to consider any other remedy which will deal with the evil or to promulgate inquiries to see if it is not possible to help the industry in any way. If it cannot be helped by duty perhaps the Government will consider whether it cannot be helped by some form of bounty. They have considered the question in regard to sugar and have not felt it desirable in the interests of the country to put a stop to the bounty in that case. Therefore they might think it desirable to help the hop industry in the same way. There are smaller remedies which we, as hop growers, want, and which we propose laying before the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I thank for his courtesy in allowing us to put them before him, which will be much better than going into them at the present moment. In the course of the fiscal agitation it has always been stated that if duties are put on they are eventually paid by the consumer, but there is no trade more heavily harassed by duties than the licensed victuallers' trade. The beer duty has been raised again and again, and I think it can be proved very clearly that the consumer has not been the person who has borne the burden of the tax which has come upon the producers and growers of hops raid barley. We hear of legislation in connection with the licensing trade, and I would most earnestly urge that no further burdens should be thrown upon the real old English drink of beer so far as it is composed of the good wholesome ingredients which used to be considered to be the essentials of beer, viz., barley and hops. A very heavy burden is at present placed on two of the oldest industries in the land, namely, the production of barley and hops. I do not think anybody who has not gone through the districts can realise the enormous importance of this industry, and it is one of those which calls for special consideration at the hands of the State. If the Government cannot give the remedy which is put forward by hop growers, then we can at least ask them to receive with the greatest sympathy any proposals that may be put forward for the alteration of the position. I beg to move.

MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)

I rise to second the Amendment, and I shall do it very briefly, because I have reason to believe that His Majesty's Government have every desire to take a sympathetic view of this matter, and I do not wish to go into the very extended argument that I had prepared. But there is one point that I would just touch upon, and that is the question of casual employment, in the hop fields. Quite apart from permanent employment the number of those who are engaged in casual employment, and who come down from London, even now is something like 250,000, and in the days when the hop industry was at its best it was very nearly half a million. I am not including the children, but I think that one of the greatest arguments in favour of maintaining the hop industry is the enormous benefit that is conferred on the children who come from the slums. If any hon. Member has lived as I have in the hop districts and seen the change in these children after six weeks in the open air and sunshine he will realise how important it is and how much it means in the way of health to them. In many cases it may mean even life to them. I will not go at any length into the question, as I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to make an announcement to-night, and I will bring forward any arguments I have at the deputation. I should like, however, to urge the Government to lose no time in carrying through their intention, because I can assure them that the matter is very pressing indeed. Grubbing is now going on on a very large scale, and if something is not done to induce the hop grower to keep up his plantation of hops, it is not too much to say that hundreds and thousands of acres will go out of cultivation. I beg to second.

Amendment proposed— At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the critical condition of the hop industry, which involves so great a diminution in rural employment, requires urgent and remedial consideration from Your Majesty's Government.' "—(Mr. Laurence Hardy.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


I can assure both hon. Gentlemen who have presented their case and who have put it so pointedly before the House that they have the full sympathy of His Majesty's Government in what I am sorry to say is not only the unimprovement of this industry of recent years, but in many respects its deterioration. I do not want to go into the special circumstances which have created this state of things, but I wish to enter a caveat against the possibility of benefiting the hop industry by the introduction of a protective duty. At the same time I feel that the matter is one which is ripe for investigation. The last committee which sat on this subject was 1890, and I should suggest that this Motion might be withdrawn, the Government consenting to appoint at the earliest possible moment a Select Committee of this House to try to discover some means of remedying the evils complained of. I think if we could set up an inquiry of that kind representing all those concerned, we might at last find some practical remedy for the grievance of which complaint has been made. If the hon. Gentleman will accept that assurance and withdraw the Amendment the Committee shall be appointed at the earliest possible moment.

MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS (Kent, St. Augustine's)

who was indistinctly heard, was understood to say: I myself am very greatly interested in this question. We are very anxious to keep our labourers at home upon the land, and we are anxious to see any prospect of their conditions being so improved as to enable them to stay upon the land. My hon. friends who have brought this Motion forward have pressed the Government to give not only their sympathy but their serious attention to this matter. I had hoped that the hon. Baronet who represents the Board of Agriculture might have been able to tell us whether anything was being done in his Department in this connection. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has promised us a Committee to inquire into the whole question of this depressed industry, and so far as I am concerned I am quite prepared to accept that offer. I advise my hon. friends to accept the proposal that has been made. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will allow us to see the reference he proposes to draw up, and as we have not been able ourselves to suggest any real remedy, I do not think we can press this question more strongly upon the right hon. Gentleman. I do not agree entirely with his caveat, I think some alteration might be effected by the rearrangement of the customs duties. I will not, however, press that now, but conclude my few remarks by thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the Select Committee which he has promised us and expressing the hope that my hon. friends will now withdraw the Amendment.

MR. ROWLANDS (Kent, Dartford)

said on behalf of his colleagues on the Ministerial side of the House who represented constituencies where this industry was carried on, that it would give

him great satisfaction to have the opportunity of having the whole of this question thrashed out by the Select Committee which had been promised by the right hon. Gentleman. Such a Committee would give the opportunity for anyone who thought they had a remedy to put forward their views of the way in which this industry might be placed in a satisfactory position.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

Debate arising,

Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put.

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes, 249; Noes, 62. (Division List No. 6.)

Acland, Francis Dyke Cobbold, Felix Thornley Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E
Ainsworth, John Stirling Collins, Stephens (Lambeth) Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch Collins, Sir W. J. (S. Pancras, W Haworth, Arthur A.
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Hayden, John Patrick
Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry Cooper, G. J. Hedges, A. Paget
Astbury, John Meir Corbett, CH (Sussex. E. Grinstd Helme, Norval Watson
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Hemmerde, Edward George
Barker, John Cowan, W. H. Henderson, Arthur (Durham)
Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset) Cremer, Sir William Randal Higham, John Sharp
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Crossley, William J. Hobart, Sir Robert
Barnard, E. B. Cullinan, J. Hodge, John
Barnes, G. N. Dalziel, James Henry Hogan, Michael
Beale, W. P. Davies, Timothy (Fulham) Holland, Sir William Henry
Beauchamp, E. Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Holt, Richard Durning
Beaumont, Hon. Hubert Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh) Hove, W. Bateman (Somerset, N
Beck A Cecil Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Horniman, Emslie John
Bell Richard Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall Horridge, Thomas Gardner
Bellairs, Carlyon Edwards, Clement (Denbigh) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey
Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo. Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Hudson, Walter
Berridge, T. H. D. Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Hyde, Clarendon
Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romf'rd Elibank, Master of Idris, T. H. W.
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward Illingworth, Percy H.
Bowerman, C. W. Esslemont, George Birnie Jackson, R. S.
Branch, James Everett, R. Lacey Jones, William (Carnarvonshire
Bright, J. A. Fenwick, Charles Jowett, F. W.
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lanes., Leigh) Ffrench, Peter Kearley, Hudson E.
Brodie, H. C. Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Kekewich, Sir George
Brunner, Rt Hn Sir J. T. (Cheshire Fuller, John Michael F. Kelley, George D.
Buckmaster, Stanley O. Fullerton, Hugh Kennedy, Vincent Paul
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Gill, A. H. Kincaid-Smith, Captain
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John King, Alfred John (Knutsford)
Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Chas. Gooch, George Peabody Lambert, George
Byles, William Pollard Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Lament, George
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Griffith, Ellis J. Law, Hugh H. (Donegal, W.)
Causton, Rt Hn. Richard Knight Gurdon, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Brampton Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E
Cawley, Sir Frederick Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Hall, Frederick Lehmann, R. C.
Cheetham, John Frederick Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) Lewis, John Herbert
Clough, William Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David
Clynes, J. R. Harvey, A. G. G (Rochdale) Lough, Thomas
Lupton, Arnold Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek) Strachey, Sir Edward
Luttrell, Hugh Fownes Pearson, W. H. M. (Suffolk, Eye) Straus, B. S. (Mile End)
Lyell, Charles Henry Phillipps, Col. Ivor (S'th'mpton Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)
Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Phillipps, J. Wynford (Pembroke Stuart, James (Sunderland)
Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs Pollard, Dr. Summerbell, T.
Mackarness, Frederic C. Power, Patrick Joseph Sutherland, J. E.
Maclean, Donald Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford, E. Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E
Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Radford, G. H. Toulmin, George
MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S. Rainy, N. Rolland Trevelyan, Charles Philips
M'Callum, John M. Raphael, Herbert H. Verney, F. W.
M'Crae, George Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro' Vivian, Henry
M'Kean, John Redmond, William (Clare) Wadsworth, J.
M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Rees, J. D. Walters, John Tudor
M'Killop, W. Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mptn Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent
M'Micking, Major G. Richardson, A. Ward, W. Dudley (Southampt'n
Maddison, Frederick Ridsdale, E. A. Waring, Walter
Mallet, Charles E. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Warner Thomas Courtenay T.
Manfield, Harry (Northants) Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Wason, Rt. Hn. E (Clackmannan
Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston Roberts, John H. (Denbighs) Waterlow, D. S.
Marnham, F. J. Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside) Watt, Henry A.
Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry) Robinson, S. Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Massie, J. Roe, Sir Thomas Whitbread, Howard
Masterman, C. F. G. Rogers, F. E. Newman White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Menzies, Walter Rose, Charles Day White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)
Micklem, Nathaniel Rowlands, J. White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Mond, A. Runciman, Walter White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Montagu, E. S. Russell, T. W. Whitehead, Rowland
Montgomery, H. G. Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland) Whitley John Henry, (Halifax)
Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall) Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Wiles, Thomas
Morrell, Philip Scarisbrick, T. T. L. Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
Morse, L. L. Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne Williams Llewelyn (Carmarth'n
Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Sears, J. E. Williamson, A.
Murray, James Seaverns, J. H. Wills, Arthur Walters
Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw) Seely, Colonel Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Newnes, Sir George (Swansea) Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford) Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)
Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.) Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Nolan, Joseph Shipman, Dr. John G. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Norton, Capt. Cecil William Silcock, Thomas Ball Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Nuttall, Harry Simon, John Allsebrook
O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John TELLERS POR THE AYES—
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.
O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.
Parker, James (Halifax) Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)
Paulton, James Mellor Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)
Balcarres, Lord Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers. Nannetti, Joseph P.
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Duffy, William J. Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Fletcher, J. S. Nield, Herbert
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Gibbs, G. A. Bristol, (West) O'Malley, William
Bowles, G. Stewart Guinness, Walter Edward Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington
Boyle, Sir Edward Gwynn, Stephen Lucius Percy, Earl
Brace, William Halpin, J. Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Bridgeman, W. Clive Hamilton, Marquess of Roche, John (Galway, East)
Bull, Sir William James Hardy, Laurence (Kent Ashford Rutherford, John (Lancashire)
Carlile, E. Hildred Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury) Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey. Jenkins, J. Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Keswick, William Starkey, John R.
Clancy, John Joseph Lardner, James Carrige Rushe Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Clark, George Smith (Belast, N. Lowe, Sir Francis William Thornton, Percy M.
Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid.)
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Mac Veigh, Charles, (Donegal, E. Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Magnus, Sir Philip Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)
Courthope, G. Loyd Meagher, Michael
Cross, Alexander Meehan, Patrick A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Dalrymple, Viscount Morrison-Bell, Captain Viscount Valentia and Mr. Forster.
Devlin, Joseph Murphy, John (Kerry, East)

Main Question put accordingly, and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—

"Most Gracious Sovereign,

"We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

To be presented by Privy Council and Members of His Majesty's Household.

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